Sunday, May 25, 2014

mysterious woman, part 2

by fred flynn

illustrated by konrad kraus and roy dismas

originally appeared in the november-december 1948 issue of strangely thrilling tales

part two of three

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for part one, click here

"the child of satan. if not satan herself."

chester didn't know what to say.

madame gogol handed the photo of his wife joanna back to him.

suddenly the whole thing seemed ridiculous. the whole thing about joanna being in contact with the spirit world.

or consorting with demons. or being, according to madame gogol, satan herself.

maybe he should just forget all about it.

really, what was he doing here ? sitting in this little room - what exactly was it, anyway? a tea room? the woman had served him tea, but there were no menus or prices displayed anywhere , that he could see, and just one table, the one they were sitting at.

a fortune telling establishment? there was no sign outside the door, and no crystal ball on the table.

he wished he was back in his nice warm apartment on alameda street, listening to the radio. if he got back home on time maybe he could catch "lights out".

he had missed bing crosby's chesterfield hour to go on this wild goose chase.

last week judy garland had been bing's guest. maybe she had been on again this week. now he had missed it. it had probably been a great show. and since time never returned, now he would never hear it.

yes, he wished he was back in the apartment listening to the radio, sipping a nice whiskey and soda.

joanna would be sulking around, but so what?

joanna wasn't a demon or satan, just a no good cold hearted bitch who had married him so she wouldn't have to get a job herself, and now was sick of him.

she would probably divorce him if she could find a good reason, and stick him like a pig for alimony.

the old old story, that he shared with millions of other poor saps.

suddenly chester realized that madame gogol was staring at him.

neither of them had said a word for about two minutes. the rain was beating a little harder on the window.

he felt he had to say something.

"um - what would you recommend that i do in this situation?" he asked.

"i am afraid that dealing with demons and satan is not my - my expertise. not even - what is the expression - my road game."


"but i can give you the address of someone who might be able to help you."

of course, thought chester. "is there a charge for this information?" he asked with a polite smile.

"oh no, sir, none at all!" replied madame gogol, with just a hint of being offended by the offer.

"well, thank you, then," chester replied. "do i owe you anything at all for this consultation?"

"oh, no, nothing. i am just sorry i could not have been more help. here, let me write down the address for you. miss glassworthy is the name of the person you want to see."

glassworthy - the name sounded familiar. a friend of joanna's? joanna did not have many friends. those she had were women like herself - bitchy and boring, and they blurred together in chester's mind.

joanna had a friend who was some kind of authority on satan?

a piece of paper and a thick pencil suddenly appeared in madame gogol's hand from somewhere in the folds of her robes and she quickly scratched a note and handed it to chester.

chester glanced at it. the address was on 16th street, not that far from his apartment ! probably just on the other side of seals stadium, which his apartment faced.

"do you think miss glassworthy would be available at this time of night?"

"oh yes - if she is available at all. she is very much a night person - not a day person at all."

"i see." chester took his wallet out and slipped the piece of paper into it. he glanced out the window. the rain was steady now.

"well, thank you. thank you very much. could i ask one more thing of you? could you call me a cab?"

"oh, i am sorry but i do not have a phone."

she didn't have a phone? chester remembered the detective moran saying she might not have a phone.

"but -" madame gogol continued . "there are pay phones up on fisherman's wharf. quite a few of them."

"well, thank you again." chester got up and looked around for his umbrella. he patted his pocket to mark sure that his wallet was safely in it.

the umbrella was right beside the door. chester went over and picked it up.

"the phones don't all work all the time, " madame gogol said from behind him. "try the one in front of the how do you know museum. i use it regularly, it always works."

chester nodded at her over his shoulder, and then he was out the door and back out on powell street.

the rain was coming hard a little harder and the temperature had dropped. with a slight groan chester opened his umbrella and headed for fishermans wharf without looking back.

it must be later than i thought, chester muttered to himself.

fishermans wharf seemed completely deserted. the fog was thick, and chester could not see the shadow of alcatraz in the bay.

all the little shops and cafes and souvenir stands and "museums" were closed.

i won't get home on time to hear "lights out" now, chester thought.

he headed for the covered arcade where the "museums" were located.

suddenly a figure loomed up out of the fog. chester was startled, and his umbrella shook in his hand, causing some water to splash into his left eye.

"hey pal, spare a dime?"

just a bum. chester brushed past him.

"hey, that wasn't very polite! " the bum called after him. "don't you know who i am?"

chester found the "how do you know" museum among the line of museums. a poster in front of it displayed a crude drawing of a grinning skeleton and in big red letters the question "how do you know life isn't really death?" . and in smaller, gold letters beneath it " the secret of blackbeard's treasure." and a picture of a giant lizard or dinosaur.

there were two phone booths between the how do you know museum and the next one , " the museum of perplexity". chester folded his umbrella and put it under his arm and started to reach into his pocket for a dime.

and realized that the bum, whom he had thought he had left behind, was right behind him.

chester turned to face him. he looked bigger and meaner than chester had first thought.

close up, he looked a bit familiar, but chester quickly realized why. he looked like a picture in a book. chester enjoyed reading books about desperate and violent men and he had been reading a book about the fabled desperado jack slade.

"i asked you, don't you know who i am?" the bum who looked like the picture of jack slade repeated.

"no," chester answered him, "i do not know."

suddenly the bum's manner changed. his face fell and he looked down at his feet. "that's sad, " he mumbled. "that's really sad." then he looked back up at chester. "you sure you don't want to give me a dime? how about a nickel?"

"no," chester replied, in a firmer tone. "absolutely not."

"all right, all right." the bum - who chester now thought of as "slade" - turned away. his sad face in the darkness looked like a clowns. he headed back toward the bay, muttering to himself.

chester felt proud of himself for being so decisive. and in the middle of the night, with no police or other law-abiding citizens around. he turned to enter the phone booth and reached into his pocket.

there was no change in his pocket.

he picked up the phone. there was no dial tone.

he tried dialing operator. nothing. he would need a dime.

"jack slade" had taken a seat on a bench on the wharf that was somewhat sheltered by an overhang. chester could just make him out in the darkness.

chester put his umbrella back up and left the arcade and approached "jack".

"uh - excuse me!" chester called to him in the most jovial tone he could manage.

"yeah? something i can do for you?"

"i know this must seem pretty ridiculous - heh, heh - but could you lend me a dime? heh, heh."


"yes, i just realized i don't have a dime - that i need to make my phone call."

jack looked up at him. "that's a crying shame."

"look here - i tell you what i'll do - i'll give you a dollar - you give me fifty cents change. how does that sound? you won't get a deal like that every day. or night."

"sorry, mister, you insulted me. you didn't even know my name. i have my pride."

"i'll give you the dollar for the dime. what do you say? i can't say fairer than that."

"no, i'm sorry."

"do you have a dime?"

"what kind of a question is that? who are you to ask me a question like that? you admitted you don't even know me." jack turned his face away from chester.

chester gave up. he walked back toward the arcade.

the rain kept falling. a wind began blowing in from the bay.

now what?


No comments: