Thursday, August 11, 2011

23. the conspirators

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by rhoda penmarq and konrad kraus

editorial assistant: Dan Leo*


*editor of sidewalks of doom, streets of despair; a critical analysis of the early stories and novels of horace p sternwall



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












hyacinth was almost at the elevator when she heard voices behind her. the door to the suite across the hall had opened and she heard the squawking tones of miss charlton and her crony lord wolverington. well, there was nothing for it, she couldn't turn back. she pressed the button beside the elevator - it was the top floor, there was only a down button - and turned around.

the door to miss charlton's suite had closed. a young man hyacinth had seen once or twice before - probably a relative - he certainly didn't look like a salesman or a lawyer or a gigolo - had emerged and was approaching the elevator.

"good evening." hyacinth flashed him her best smile, but he only nodded, barely smiling, in return, "good evening."

ordinarily hyacinth would have said something like "why so glum, chum?" but she was too nervous. she leaned against the wall and crossed her arms. the young man looked back down the hall, completely indifferent to her. hyacinth had never seen him so close up before and had not realized how completely he had m-o-n-e-y stamped all over him.


his suit was so good she could hardly refrain from reaching out and feeling the texture. but it also looked like he had slept in it or at least didn't bother taking any great care of it. she had heard that miss charlton was connected to real money, but you heard that about two thirds of the people in new york.

the elevator dinged and the door opened, revealing mortimer. he gave a slight start of surprise at seeing hyacinth. she quickly entered the car before the young man, and gave mortimer a smile and a look worth a million words, the first of which were - "don't say anything, i'll explain everything when no one else can hear us".

mortimer nodded, stone-faced, then addressed the young man, "hello again, mister collinson."

"hello again, mortimer." conrad moved to the back of the elevator.

collinson! of the gramercy park collinsons? hyacinth would ask around. she would ask her friend rita - rita the register - who knew everything about such things. that is, she would ask her if she, hyacinth, wasn't in jail... what a night! what a situation!


the elevator made it to to the ground floor without picking up any more passengers. hyacinth stepped out quickly to make way for conrad, who emerged but couldn't seem to decide where he wanted to go. he looked toward the outer door - he caught hyacinth's eye and she gave him a slight smile - then turned and headed for the prince hal room.

when he was out of sight hyacinth exhaled and grabbed mortimer's arm. "mortimer, you have to help us - me - out,"

"sure."

"well, i didn't mean you have to - "

"but i will."

"thank you. listen, when do you get off?"

"at four o'clock"

"and you don't have to be anywhere else?"


mortimer hesitated. "no."

"perfect. all right, come up to my room then. we - we'll be waiting." hyacinth looked around and although she didn't see anybody, added in a louder tone, "well, i guess i'll go out and get that fresh air now."

"wait."

"what? "

"we don't have to wait until four o'clock. i can get you the key - a key - to room 603."

"which is - ?"

"it's the room bernstein or nolan or the other house dicks use to stash people - when certain unfortunate occurrences make such a situation advisable, if you get my drift."

"yes, i get your drift."

"i'll bring it up as soon as i can."

"good, good." hyacinth looked around.


"one more thing."

"what?"

"olaf. you can trust him. maybe we should get him involved in this."

"um- i'll tell you what, bring the key up and we'll decide then."

"o k."

"all right. now i really need that breath of air. oh, another thing."

"yeah?"

"if anyone asks you about jake, you haven't seen him."

mortimer laughed. "well, i haven't."

"exactly. don't try to make anything up."

"hey, i know better than that. the best story is no story, because you can't pick it apart."


***


"good evening."

"good evening, miss wilde." olaf had been nodding off at the back door but snapped fully awake. "a beautiful night."

"it certainly is."

olaf looked at her uncertainly. "can i get you a cab?"

"oh, no, no. i just came out for a breath of air. i am just going to walk around the block. half a block - i'll probably go back in the front door."

olaf nodded. "be careful."

"i'll scream if i need help."

"and i'll come running."

***


"mortimer."

"mister nolan."

"i'm looking for jake."

"mister bernstein was looking for jake."

"you took him up to the actress's room about thirty minutes ago?"

"indeed i did."

"and haven't seen him since?"

"nope."

"eighth floor, please."

***


"hey, sweetie! you cold? walking around like that? you should let me warm you up! ha, ha!"

hyacinth started a little - not at the words - pretty mild to say the least - but she had walked right past the guy without seeing him in the shadows.

"hey, don't you know your old friends?"

she froze. that voice - it did sound familiar. but when she turned around there was no one there.

***


hyacinth felt a little better by the time she walked around to the front door. the new, young desk clerk gave a slight start at seeing her enter without a hat or coat and she smiled and glided past him. she couldn't remember his name but he was obviously hopelessly in love with her. for a second she thought of enlisting him in the cause, but no - he was way way too green. she crossed the lobby, casually glancing around for nolan in his favorite chair - he wasn't there!

he could be anywhere, she thought, or it might be his night off and one of the other dicks on - they were usually found in the bar.

no sense panicking. but by the time she reached the elevator again the good mood from the walk around the block had vanished.

how had she gotten into this situation? how had it ever come to this?


24. "End of the Line"







1 comment:

kathleenmaher said...

I should have mentioned this earlier but I love flower names. I seriously contemplated "Columbine" for my daughter (who took up and has now dropped "Lily".) Her father seriously contemplated "Ursula." She ended up with a very pretty boy's name.