Tuesday, November 29, 2016

games, part 22


by harold p sternhagen writing as "ralph desmond"

being a sequel to fun

illustrated by konrad kraus

originally appeared in the july through october 1952 issues of walloping midnight stories magazine

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here





jenny opened the cellar door.

she listened for a few seconds, but she could not hear rosie and her friend - what was her name? sally? - talking.

maybe they were asleep. not that it mattered now,

jenny pulled the cord on the overhead bulb and started down the stairs.

the friend was asleep, curled up on a rug.


rosie was awake, leaning against the wall beside the furnace. she looked up when jenny approached her.

“what’s up?” rosie asked. she seemed kind of subdued, which was good.

“brenda knows you are down here. i didn't tell her, she must have heard you.”

“oh.” rosie just shrugged. “well, kid, you tried, and i appreciate it. “


“but you can stay - for the night anyway, or maybe until the storm is over.”

“oh? that’s nice.” rosie stretched and yawned,

“brenda says you can come upstairs, she says you can make yourselves useful - whatever that means.”

rosie laughed. “what does it mean?”

“i don’t know, but you should at least get a slice of pie out of it.”


“that sounds good.” rosie got to her feet. “and maybe a smoke? i could really use a smoke.”

“you’ll have to ask brenda,” jenny told her.

rosie looked down at the sleeping sal. “i’d leave her down here but we would probably forget all about her.” she gave her a kick.

“come on, sleeping beauty. we have to earn our keep. for once in your life.”

*


hal sat in the darkened parlor, listening to the wind and feeling bad about how unfair life was, and how he could never catch a break.

he had turned the radio off, because he could not really hear it over the roar of the wind and rain.

he decided to smoke one more cigarette and then find his room and turn in.

as he was lighting up, he heard someone behind him in the kitchen.


the landlady had said she was going to bed. hal got up and looked behind him.

then the light in the kitchen went on, and hal entered it.

brenda was there. she had some blankets and some other stuff in her arms and was putting them - candles, a couple of flashlights - on the kitchen table.

“i thought you were going to bed, ” hal said.


“i was,” said brenda,” but with the way this storm is going i thought i would get some things together, just in case.”

“just in case - just in case what?”

“just in case the lights go out or the windows get blown in. just a precaution.”

“that doesn’t sound very reassuring.”

“just being on the safe side.”


“jeez,” hal whined, “the whole point of stopping here was because we thought we would be safe, now you are telling me we are all going to get blown away anyway?”

“i can’t control the wind. i tell you what, crybaby, if we all get blown away i will give you your money back, how’s that? as we are flying through the air i will throw you your money and you can see if you can catch it,”


hal was trying to think of something smart to say, when the door behind brenda opened and jenny came in, followed by rosie and then by a stumbling sal, rubbing her eyes.

hal looked past jenny and saw rosie.

rosie looked up and saw hal.

“you!” hal exclaimed.

“you!” rosie gasped.

the two of them stared at each other. brenda, jenny, and sal looked at them curiously.

finally rosie spoke. “you got a smoke?” she asked hal.

*


“who’s that?” julie asked. “were you expecting somebody?”

“no,” edna answered. “it must be some poor traveler, seeking shelter from the storm.”

edna got up and went to the door. she opened it cautiously, and had to hold on tight to keep the wind from knocking it back into her and knocking her down.

a man stood in the doorway. a thin, middle aged man dressed in heavy rain gear, including plastic covering on his fedora.


from under the plastic-covered hat, edna could barely see his face.

working all her years in the bus station, edna had seen her share of mean and nasty faces, but she thought this might be the meanest and nastiest she had ever seen. not the most dangerous looking - not by a long shot - but just the most purely mean and nasty.

“can i help you?” edna asked the man.


“are you the lady that works at the bus station?” he asked.

“i work at the bus station, i am a lady that works at the bus station. and who might you be?”

“my name is garver, george garver. i believe you have my bride here. i’ve come to claim her.”


(to be continued)






Monday, November 21, 2016

games, part 21


by harold p sternhagen writing as "ralph desmond"

being a sequel to fun

illustrated by konrad kraus

originally appeared in the july through october 1952 issues of walloping midnight stories magazine

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here





the professor tried to get up.

he was covered with mud. his glasses were covered with mud and he lifted his face to the rain to try to to get the glasses washed off.

he still could barely see anything, but he could see, dimly, the lights in the house.

the mud seemed to be pulling him down like a living, vengeful thing.

was this the end of all his dreams, all his mad dreams of love and fame and glory….


with a superhuman effort he got to his feet and staggered to the house… the empty house, now that the old woman and the handyman were dead, and the hitchhiker bob had taken to his cowardly heels…

suddenly it hit him. did he really know the house was empty? it was a big house, there could be servants, there could be anybody in it. just because there were no lights on, there could be people in there sleeping…

or watching him from the windows…


but he didn’t care. all he wanted was to get inside, to get cleaned up and dried off and warm…

if someone was in there and they found him and they called the police and they took him back to the nuthouse or to prison or they hanged him for killing the old lady and the handyman even though he didn’t really do it…

or if they found out about the time back in oklahoma city, or what happened in flagstaff arizona…


he didn’t care.

he just didn’t care.

he made it into the house.

it was a struggle, but he managed to close the door behind him.

ahhh… the warmth… he could still hear the wind, but it was no longer beating right on him.

at this point, the professor had forgotten all about the money in the cellar.

he began crawling up the stairs, in search of a shower and some clothes.

*


bob headed down the road.

at first he was happy to put the old house and the professor and the two bodies behind him.

he had gotten wet before.

and somebody always came along to give him a ride.

but as he walked along he was getting wetter than he ever had been before. his clothes were so soaked through and stuck to his skin it was like he did not even have any clothes on.


and the wind actually knocked him over a few times. not by surprise, when he was actually bracing himself against it.

how he wished he had a hat! losing his hat - that was what had started this whole mess to begin with!

and there were no cars on the road - none at all.

as bob walked along he forgot all about the professor and the old house and the two unfortunate humans who had met their untimely ends.


the road was dark and empty. he knew he would come to a town and some houses eventually.

he always had.

he decided to knock on the door of the first house he saw that had a light on.

someone in this great land of ours, bob thought, must give a poor traveler shelter from the storm.


“this great land of ours” was a phrase bob had heard once on the radio, from president franklin d roosevelt or some other windbag, and it had stuck in his mind and floated to its surface every so often.

surely someone in this great land of ours would be willing to give a poor traveler shelter from the storm…

*

edna sipped her ginger ale and listened attentively as julie continued her description of the best selling novel she planned on writing.


the wind and rain were howling outside, but they were as snug as two bugs in a hundred dollar persian rug.

“yolina is often stopped in the street by other girls and women in the women’s city and told how beautiful she is and that she should enter the annual competition to be queen of the city.

if she were elected queen of the city, or even one of the queen’s seven handmaidens, then she could stay in the women’s city and not have to marry a bullfighter or a cowboy or a deep-sea diver and spend her life baking pies and cakes and cookies.


all the girls and women who stop yolina in the street say the same thing - that if she could only get rid of the blue bullet hole looking birthmark on her forehead she could be queen forever or at least for a few years until she starts to lose her looks…”

edna wondered how all the women continued to live in the women’s city if they were all married to the bullfighters, etc, but she took another sip of ginger ale and did not interrupt julie.


julie continued, “and yolina smiles politely but does not tell them the story behind the blue birthmark. one day when yolina was thirteen years old she had come home and found a mysterious letter addressed to herself. her mother was not home and the letter was lying on the floor in front of the mail slot…”

suddenly julie’s recital was interrupted by a pounding on the door. at first edna and julie could hardly hear it over the howling of the wind, but when julie fell silent, they realized it was indeed someone at the door.

“who’s that?” julie asked. “were you expecting somebody?”

“no,” edna answered. “it must be some poor traveler, seeking shelter from the storm.”


part 22






Thursday, November 10, 2016

games, part 20


by harold p sternhagen writing as "ralph desmond"

being a sequel to fun

illustrated by konrad kraus

originally appeared in the july through october 1952 issues of walloping midnight stories magazine

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here




“you’re all right?” the professor shouted at bob. “what about my car? what about - what about everything?”


bob stopped waving his arms, but kept coming up the hill.

he looked at the professor, and the professor looked at him.

they both lost track of time as they stood in the rain, thinking their thoughts.

“we better get out of here,” bob finally said. “before somebody comes along.”

“and sees those bodies.” he added when the professor made no reply.


“who is we?” the professor finally asked. “you killed them, i didn’t.”

“they were accidents,” said bob. “i didn’t even touch the guy, he just fell off the ladder.”

“that’s what you say,” the professor said. “i didn’t see anything.”

bob stared at the professor. “i thought you were my pal. ”

“i don’t know what gave you that idea.”


he is bigger and stronger than me, the professor thought. and he might have the proverbial strength of a madman!

the professor turned the full force of his cosmic mind power on bob, and after a while bob turned and walked back down the hill.

the professor chuckled as he watched bob walk past the two wrecked vehicles and down the road in the rain.

ha ha, the poor fool, he thought, he doesn’t know about the million dollars in the basement!


the million dollars that is now all mine, because the old lady has been so conveniently done away with…

ha, ha, ha!

the professor felt in his pocket for the note mrs morris had given him with the directions to the treasure in the basement. it was there, and its crinkled satisfyingly in his fingers.

he turned and headed back to the house. he noticed the old lady’s body lying on the ground.

should he just leave it there? would anybody driving by see it? probably not.


and the handyman’s body, lying up against the house, who would see that?

especially in this storm.

but the two wrecked cars at the bottom of the hill - somebody might well notice those.

the professor looked back down the hill at the cars. was there any chance either of them could be moved? it sure did not look like it. should he waste time checking?


precious time he could be using digging up the million dollars?

suddenly he had an inspiration. an inspiration of the type that had served him well in so many similar situations before.

he would drag the two bodies down the hill. and if the cars could not be moved, and he suspected they could not, he would put one body in each of the two cars, and if the police or any other nosey parkers came along, they would just assume that they had crashed together.

with luck, nobody would even come up the hill and ask if he had heard anything.

and if they did… well, he would think up something. say that it was his house, that he was taking a nap, had not heard anything…


or maybe he would be down in the basement digging up the money when the police came, and he could tell them he was changing a fuse….

it would all work out. and he would be rich!

he came up to mrs morris’s body on the driveway. he reached down and began tugging on it.

damn! it was heavier than he expected. and the handyman’s body would be even heavier.


maybe he should have kept bob around to help him. he could always have gotten rid of him later, one way or another.

oh well, he could not be expected to think of everything.

he started dragging the old lady’s body down the hill. it was slow work.

suddenly he slipped and lost his grip on the body and fell face first in the mud.

the wind was knocked out of him, and he lost consciousness.

he did not know how long he lay there…


when he regained consciousness , the storm was howling around him more ferociously than ever.

he was covered with mud from head to foot.

he looked back at the house and had one thought.

to get inside.

he tried to get up.


part 21






Thursday, November 3, 2016

games, part 19


by harold p sternhagen writing as "ralph desmond"

being a sequel to fun

illustrated by konrad kraus

originally appeared in the july through october 1952 issues of walloping midnight stories magazine

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here




"just hold the ladder steady,” porterfield told bob. “do you think you can do that?”

bob’s answer was lost in the wind.


when he was almost at the top of the ladder, porterfield was hit in the face with another gust of wind and his nerve failed him. there is no way, he thought, i will ever be able to board up all these windows. i should have started hours ago.

i am wasting time. i should be thinking of a way to murder the old lady and pin the blame on these two fellows - these two madmen. it is all well enough to have a general plan…


holding on to the ladder with his left hand, the hand he had the hammer in, and clutching the board under this left arm, he slowly reached with his right hand into his shirt pocket for a nail…

the board under his arm slipped loose and clattered down the ladder.

bob jumped to the side, and as he did, he pushed the ladder away and it began to sway and then fell over …

porterfield crashed to the ground and broke his neck. he was killed instantly.


bob stared at porterfield’s body lying in the soggy ground. he did not know for how long.

finally the cold rain penetrated his consciousness.

bob had been down this road before.

he knew that nobody would believe he had not killed porterfield on purpose.

he had to get away.


where was the professor? and could he trust the professor?

the professor’s car was at the bottom of the hill. the professor must have the keys.

but even if bob could somehow get the keys from the professor, he, bob, was not a good driver under the best conditions because his mind wandered and he could not keep it on the road.

and the rain and wind were worse than ever.

bob looked around and saw a dark shape - it was the dead man’s car.

the dead man - pete or pat or whatever he said his name was - must have the keys in his pocket.

bob decided to risk it. what choice did he have?

*


mrs morris watched as the professor made his way down the hall to the cellar door. he was not walking like a man with a purpose.

maybe i should go down with him, she thought, just see that he gets properly started.

she decided to take a quick peek outside, to see if porterfield and the young man were as busy as they should be.


clutching her dressing gown around her, she made her way to the front door.

a savage blast of wind and rain smacked her in the face when she opened the door.

she started to try to close the door when she heard a car’s engine starting.

was porterfield leaving? why?

mrs morris ran out into the driveway. suddenly she was blinded by the headlights of porterfield’s car coming right at her.

bob, who had not been able to figure out how to turn on the windshield wipers, never saw her.

*


the professor, after opening the cellar door, could not find a light switch at the head of the stairs.

he had forgotten that the old lady had told him not to use it, and in any case, he was not about to descend into the pitch dark cellar with no light at all.

as he turned back down the hall, he felt the blast of the wind coning through the open front door.


then he heard a loud whacking sound and the screech of a car’s wheels on gravel.

he rushed outside. he almost tripped on the body of the old lady.

bob had missed the sloping driveway and porterfield’s car was bouncing and skidding down the hill.

with a tremendous crash porterfield’s car hit the professor’s car parked at the bottom of the hill.


the professor looked around. in addition to mrs morris’s body, he saw porterfield’s body and the fallen ladder beside the house.

the professor started down the hill , toward the wreck of the two cars.

he heard a voice,

bob was coming up the hill. waving his arms and crying, “i’m all right! i’m all right!”


“you’re all right?” the professor shouted at bob. “what about my car? what about - what about everything?”

as he stood in the wind and rain, the professor took solace in a thought he had had many times before.

it was not just himself who was mad, it was the world.


part 20