Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"to scale the ramparts of crime", conclusion

by horace p sternwall

illustrated by eddie el greco and danny delacroix

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

part two of two

for part one, click here

to begin the Gwendolyn stories, click here

dear elizabeth,

i trust you got my previous letter. perhaps you are getting the two letters at once, and can read this thrilling narrative all at one go.

to continue with my tale - as i indicated, nothing much was wrong with mister sternhagen - except, apparently, a broken heart. now, my dear, i do not wish to profess to be more "worldly wise" than i may be - or you may be, but really, i wonder how many people actually die of broken hearts? it seems that the poor wretch was infatuated with the old singer and the sight of the new one was the last nail in the coffin of his heart (how is that for a sparkling phrase?) and he swooned to the floor and took the table down with him.

as serge , in his "doctor" impersonation, was assuring mister nolan and mister bernstein (the hotel manager who i suppose was on hand for the singer's debut) that everything was under control, my attention was focused on the young lady who was at the table with him and who was complaining loudly to anyone who would listen about the drink that was spilled on her dress.

no one except me was paying any attention to her, even though she was cussing up a storm. "turning the air blue" i believe is the time-honored term.

then somebody says to her, "oh, sniffy, shut up. nobody wants to hear it".

i look and see a skinny red headed person in a black turtleneck sweater, and i suddenly realize, oh yes, i have seen these two before - in the all night automat.

they aren't regulars like betty or the two bills, but i have seen them a few times, when i am doing my homework there late at night. not out and out junkies, but a couple of "bohemians" - or, what is the new word - "hipsters"! that is the word, hipsters, usually trying to buy some "gage". (stay close to me, my dear, and you will be conversant with all of the most up-to-date argot).

then serge and mister nolan and raoul finally get the table back up and mister sternhagen sort of upright in his chair and mister bernstein finally notices "sniffy" and her wet dress and he says to her, "the hotel will be happy to give you another drink, miss."

"a drink! " and she "turns the air blue" again. "what about my dress?"

and mister bernstein, who is kind of a nasty person though he tries to maintain "a polite veneer" - maybe that is what managing a hotel does to you - looks at her dress which does not seem to have been bought that morning at saks or bergdof goodmans - and says "what about your dress?"

"it's got a drink all over it , you -----" and she turns the air maybe purple or mauve.

mister b: "it will dry out."

sniffy: "it will have a stain on it. i'll have to take it to the cleaners."

and mister b sighs and says, "send us the bill. with a note that says -"

but she does not let him finish. "a bill ! " she turns the air purpler or mauver or maybe chartreuse. " how about settling this right now with some cash in my hot little hand?"

and now i begin to think, oho, i like your style my dear, at least you know how to quickly seize an advantage, small as it may be.

mister bernstein pulls out his wallet and very slowly takes out two one dollar bills and hands them to her.

and sniffy sort of sniffs at them, and he gives her a third one and says, nasty like, "i am sure this will cover it."

she hesitates but says, "thank you." then she says to the redheaded man, "come on, rooster, let's blow this cheap dump."

he says, "but i want to hear the new canary."

sniffy: "you can hear her tomorrow night. she will probably be here for twenty years."

at this point, just to be saying something and so they will notice me, i say something like , "oh you should stay. i am sure the singer will give an absolutely bang up performance after all this excitement."

and sniffy turns and looks at me like i am a two-headed lizard that started crawling up her leg. "excuse me?"

and i say, "and you should try the food here, too. i especially recommend the lobster thermidor and the beef wellington."

"who are you, the restaurant critic for the new york times?" she turns to "rooster" and says "you see that, even kids are hustling you these days" and she starts to turn the air green and mister nolan says -

"now, missy, that's no way to be speaking to a child, especially my little princess."

and sniffy rolls her eyes and grabs rooster by the arm and says "come on" and she drags him away and they both leave and that is the last i see of them that night.

serge and i go back to our table and i will not bore you with further particulars of the evening except to say that the more i thought about it, the more sniffy and her friend seemed like the perfect grownups for us as i explained before and i knew where i might run into them again.

oh, and the new singer sounded exactly like the old one so maybe poor mister sternhagen can conceive a hopeless passion for her too.

(taking a break here, for a refreshing ice cold glass of coca-cola)

so - ruth and i did our homework and hung out at the automat the next night but no sign of sniffy and rooster.

i decided to give it another try and last night i go to the automat by myself and aha! - there they are. sitting by the window at the far end away from the door. with their heads together as if they are plotting the best way to "score" some "tea" for nine dollars and fifty cents instead of ten dollars.

i get my creampuff and hot chocolate and put them down on a table with my books and ask betty, who is at the next table with her cat, if she will keep an eye on everything for me - and i go back to sniffy and rooster's table and walk right up to them and say -

"remember me?"

sniffy looks at me blankly and rooster says - "it's the restaurant critic from the new york times".

sniffy: "oh, right. what are you doing here, kid, shouldn't you be at voisin's or la grenouille?"

me: "do you mind of i sit down?"

rooster: "suit yourself, kid."

and sniffy says, "what are you doing, selling peanut brittle?"

and i sit down and say, "no. i am selling something much better than that. in fact, the most valuable thing of all."

rooster: "oh, and what might that be?"

me: "dreams"

and they both laugh and i know i have their attention at least.

well, my dear, this letter is going on too long so i will not give you an exact account at this time, i will just say i got them interested in my proposal and particularly in my idea for a new caper over in brooklyn heights, which i will give you the details of when you return to new york, as they are too sensitive to be confided to the post.

as for our two new confederates, if all goes well you meet them on your return, suffice to say the more i know the more perfect they seem for our purposes.

sniffy is an assistant instructor at the new school who has been there for years without being promoted, and rooster is a fact-checker at the new yorker, likewise there for years with no promotion in sight.

rooster volunteered that he is a poet, which made my heart sink a little and did not give me a lot of confidence as to whether he would "come up trumps" in a tight spot, but what can i say, nobody is perfect and you can not have every thing, not even egg in your beer or frosting on all your cupcakes.

and with these deep thoughts i conclude,

until we meet again,

your pal,


"Gang War"

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