Thursday, July 21, 2011

19. gramercy 7 - 5316

by manfred skyline

illustrated by rhoda penmarq
and roy dismas

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

"collinson residence."

"mister collinson, please."

"which mister collinson would you like to speak to, sir?"

"uh - the mister collinson that got arrested the other night, on various and sundry charges the primary of which was white slavery. that mister collinson."

"i see. are you with the press, sir?"


"i rejoice to hear it. might you be a member of the legal fraternity?"

"no, but i was recommended to call by a lawyer. my name is vance, victor vance and i am a fully licensed private investigator. mister wiley suggested that i call. mister collinson is expecting someone recommended by mister will wiley and that's me. am i making myself clear?"

"perfectly , sir."


"do you have a telephone number where you can be reached?"

"yeah - gramercy 7 - 5316."

"thank you. i hope i am not being rude, sir, but might that be a pay phone?'

"no, it's a perfectly respectable bar and grill. al's bar. have him ask for vic vance. if i ain't here, ask for lou gracchus."

"yes, sir."

"you sure you got all that?"

"taking messages on the phone is something i am quite adept at, sir. it's my road game, as we used to say in the circus."

vic handed the phone back to al. "you know, for a butler that guy wasn't half snooty."

"maybe he wasn't the butler. did he say he was the butler? did he say, hello, i'm the butler?"

"uh - no, he didn't, now that you mention it."

"maybe he was the chauffeur, or the pastry cook or something, and he was just walking by and picked up the phone. ever think of that?"

"not like you, al, thinking all the time. but you know, he sounded like a butler. he just didn't have that chauffeur or pastry cook ring to him."

"i defer to your judgment in these matters."

"but you amaze me, al, the way you always think things through. you should have been a detective, you know that?"

"too much moving around. i like to stay in one spot."


"is that right?"

"that's right. rats, mice - people think they move all over the city but they find a good spot and stick with it. turtles, snakes, gorillas, monkeys - it's only dogs, cats and people that move around. "

"yeah? what about the swallows - don't they go back to capistrano?"

"they are birds - not terrestrial creatures. birds and fish don't count."

"oh. and you figured that out all by yourself."

"not exactly. there was a professor used to come in here, he told me about it. professor ogleby."

"ogleby? isn't he one of those guys that hangs out with the d a and helps him solve cases?"

"he was involved in a case or two. an interesting guy, very educational to talk to. thought things through. and a paying customer, too."

"so ogleby used to come in here? i guess that was before he started seeing the town and making the rounds with the d a and the police commissioner."

"i used to get a better class of customer. a much better class of customer."

"you know, i don't have much use for a guy like that. sure, he can think things through in the front parlor with a cup of tea in his hand, but put him in a dark alley with some gorilla coming at him with a machete, what's he going to do then?"

"show some common sense and run?"

the phone rang. al picked it up.

"al's bar. yeah, he's here. right here."


"come in, gentlemen. mister vance and mister gracchus, is it not?"

"it sure is."

"mister conrad is expecting you."

"we're a little early."

"he told me to bring you to the study as soon as you arrived."

"lead the way."

williams led the two detectives down the hall to the back of the townhouse.

"was it was you i was talking to on the phone?"

"indeed it was, sir."

"what's your name - soames?"

"williams, sir."

"i thought all butlers were named soames. ha ha just kidding. you know, williams, under that butlerish exterior you look like a guy who is not totally unacquainted with a good time. am i right?"

"here we are, sir. perhaps we can continue this discussion after you are finished
with mister conrad." williams rapped on the study door. after half a minute conrad opened it and stared at williams blankly.

"the two private investigators, sir."

"of course." conrad rubbed his left eye and sighed. "of course. i'm afraid i fell asleep in jethro's comfy chair. come in gentlemen, come in."

the two detectives looked around. there were so many chairs in the room they could hardly maneuver into it. every chair had a standing ashtray or a small table with an ashtray beside it. in the back of the room an enormous rolltop desk stood beside a single small window.


"this is my cousin jethro's preserve. he was kind enough to let me use it. it's a bit cluttered, but i don't want to disturb it. it is his territory."

"not a problem."

"i thought we could have complete privacy in here."

"sure." vance turned and winked at williams, who was still standing at the door. "we know what these servants can be like."

"can williams bring you gentlemen a drink?"

"scotch and a little soda."

"scotch and even less water."

"i don't suppose either of you gentlemen want ice?"

"williams, you're a mind-reader."

williams left and closed the door behind him. conrad sat down in the biggest chair, which was beside the door and facing the window. he rubbed his eyes again.

"you know, i just fell asleep, and when i woke up i thought this whole thing might be a crazy dream. but i guess not."

"doesn't look that way," vance agreed.

gracchus sat down and dinged his finger on the ashtray beside his chair. "i guess we can smoke, huh?"

"of course. in fact, i know jethro has some boxes of cigars in here somewhere. good ones, too -"

"i'm sure they are. we're good with cigarettes, thanks." vance took a pack of chesterfields out of his pocket.

"maybe when we leave you can give us a couple," gracchus added.

"that's a good idea."

vance looked around the room again before sitting down, "is jethro a lawyer?" he asked.

"no, jethro is - jethro is not a lawyer." conrad settled back in the big chair. " i might as well begin with my story."

"it's what we're here for."

chapter 20: wolverington


Jason Gusmann said...

why are you not rich and fucking famous?

Dan Leo said...

rhoda, Jason gets the "comment of the year" award!

rhoda said...

i don't know, maybe i don't hang out with the right people (just kidding)

i agree. but don't forget, we still have 5 months to hear from harold bloom