Friday, June 3, 2011

10. "Olaf, or Fifty Million Frenchmen"

by Horace P.Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo*

illustrated by rhoda penmarq and roy dismas

*Ass’t Professor of Classics, Phys. Ed., and Civics, Olney Community College; editor of The World Is My Oyster: The Memoirs of Horace P. Sternwall, Vol. 1.

click here for previous episode, here to start at the beginning

Carol knew she was being foolish, but, no matter, she couldn’t go back to Estelle’s, she would rather die, simply die. She went up the steps of the Hotel St Crispian. An aged doorman opened the door for her.

“Good evening, Miss.”


"I said, ‘Good evening, miss.’”

“Oh. Yes. Quite. Tell me, sir -- may I ask you a personal question.”

“I am an open book, ma’am.”

“Have you been working here long?”

“I have had the honor of working at the St Crispian for -- oh, my, let me just do the maths for a moment --”

“Take your time.”

“Minus nine -- um, let me see, that would make it thirty-, no, forty-, forty-one years. Yes, forty one-years this autumn.”

“Oh my, that is a long time.”

“A lifetime, madame. But a rich lifetime.”

“I admire your attitude.”

“My attitude?”

“Your outlook, shall we say.”

“Oh. Yes. My -- my Weltanschauung.”

“Yeah. I would go mad if I had your job.”

“Perhaps I have gone mad.”

“Yes, perhaps. But let me ask you since you’ve been working here so long, do you happen to know a man named Stanley Slade?”

“Mr. Slade? Oh, but of course I know him. A wonderful gentleman.”

“I mean Stanley Slade the infamous jewel thief. The one who just escaped from Sing Sing.”

“Yes, the same. A true gentleman of the old school.”

“I see. Well, this may sound silly of me to ask, but you didn’t see him come in here tonight, did you?”

“Mr. Slade?”

“Yes. You didn’t see him tonight, did you?”

“Well -- that’s very difficult to say.”

“In what way?”

“In the way that if I had seen him then I’m not sure if I would feel at liberty to disclose such knowledge.”

“To just anyone you mean.”

“Well, I shouldn’t like to say it quite that way.”

“You mean what if I were a policewoman. Or an agent of the Pinkertons or some such.”

“Since you press me, I must say, yes, this is the predicament I should find myself in. Were one to ask me. Even such a nice-looking and presentable young lady as yourself, miss.”

“What if I were to assure you that I’m no cop.”

“Nor a Pinkerton?”

“Nor any other sort of detective. But simply a plain ordinary woman who wants to help Mr. Slade.”

“To help him, you say?”

“Yes. Because if you have seen him then he is in the gravest danger and I must warn him at once, as soon as possible.”

“You seem sincere.”

“I am.”

“I’ll tell you this then. I haven’t seen him.”

“Which is just what you’d say if you did think I was a cop.”

“True. But I’ll also say this. Why don’t you come inside? Have a cup of coffee at the coffee shop. Or, better yet, a cocktail in the Prince Hal Room. Sit, relax, enjoy the music.”

“Oh, do you have a good orchestra here?”

“Oh, excellent. Tony Winston & his Winstonians, and tonight is the début of Tony’s new vocalist, the lovely Miss Shirley De La Salle, fresh from her tour of the southern states in Mr. Porter’s Fifty Million Frenchmen.”


“Have a cocktail and I shall ask around. If I hear anything I’ll send the bellboy called Jake to come and summon you.”

“Well, okay.”

“But please understand -- perhaps, and most likely, I shall hear nothing.”

“Yeah, sure. Do you want my name, to give to this bellhop?”

“Oh, that won’t be necessary, ma’am. I shall simply send Jake to summon the attractive lady in white, with ringlets of pure spun gold.”

“You’re a sweetheart. What’s your name?”


“Olaf, I’m Carol.”

“Very pleased to meet you, Miss Carol.”

“Which way to the bar?”

“Through the lobby to the right. The Prince Hal Room, you can’t miss it.”

“Thanks, Olaf. You’re a pal.”

“You’re very welcome, Miss Carol.”

Carol walked off through the lobby.

Olaf, still holding the door open, saw a young man coming up the steps.

“Good evening, Mr. Collinson.”

“Oh, hiya, Olaf, how’s it going?”

“Quite well, sir. And you?”

“Well, I’ll tell you, Olaf, I’ve been better.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that, sir. That is to say, not that you’ve been better, but that you now apparently are worse.”

The End of Chapter 10

11. galapagos tangerine


kathleenmaher said...

Wonderful inside and out, rhoda. true colors.
and horace? It's frightening when someone announces he or she is a cop, and equally frightening when someone feels compelled to say that he or she is not.

Jason Gusmann said...

this is so great. i want to live in the st. crispian world.

Dan Leo said...

I'll meet all you guys for cocktails before the band starts.