Wednesday, October 29, 2014

fun, part 2

by harold p sternhagen writing as "ralph desmond"

as originally appearing in the july-august 1951 issue of sinister destinies magazine

illustrated by konrad kraus and roy dismas

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for part one, click here

the man who had called himself "humphrey p strawfeather" in the coffee shop began walking up broadway.

i shouldn't let myself get riled up, he told himself for the ten thousandth time.

especially by people like that.

"humphrey" hated the whole human race , including himself, but he especially hated rich people and people who thought they were better than anybody else.

he tried to look in the reflections in the windows he passed to see if anybody was following him, but the way the sun was shining he could not do it very well.

this was something he did all the time, because you never knew who was after you.

there was a little park further up broadway where he could do a little panhandling.

then maybe he would catch a bus up to the polo grounds. the giants' game would just be getting over, he could panhandle there too.

he didn't really like to panhandle.

or snatch purses and run, though he did that sometimes too.

he would much rather kill people and take their money. that way he could think of himself as a noble beast of prey prowling the jungle of the city, and not just a pathetic bum.

but he had learned you couldn't kill somebody every single day.

even though there were so many people in the world - way too many.

with these familiar thoughts he wended his way toward morningside heights.

he remembered the danish he had put in his pocket when he let himself get riled up and left the coffee shop.

he took it out and started chewing on it as he walked. it was a little soggy from being wrapped in the handkerchief he had put under his teacup.

"hey, aloysius!" the squeaky voice was right at his elbow. was it talking to him? "aloysius" might have been a name he used.

he used a different name every day. or every time somebody asked him his name. it was like camouflaging himself in the jungle, even though the cops had his fingerprints.

"you look like a dingbat, aloysius, walking along eating a danish pastry in the street. you'll get crumbs all over the street. it's not something respectable people do."

he looked down. a wrinkle faced little person wearing a long stocking cap like santa claus was walking beside him. he couldn't tell if it was male or female. probably male, even with the squeaky voice.

for some reason the little person didn't rile him up. instead he laughed. "do i know you?" he asked, coming as close as he could to smiling.

"aloysius b cadwaller. that's you, right? who could forget a name like that?"

"i might be."

"we was in the tombs together, in the big snowstorm, remember?"

"oh, yeah." humphrey-aloysius looked down at the little man. he remembered being in the tombs in the great snowstorm in 1947, but he didn't remember him.

"jeez, those were the days huh? when they let us out to shovel? with those big shovels? they were made out of pure lead!"

"yeah, right." humphrey-aloysius took another bite of his soggy danish. he kept walking, and the little man kept pace beside him.

"what was that cop's name - that was in charge of us? big irish guy."

"i don't know - how about o'reilly?"

"naw, that wasn't it. it was - it was - "

"cornelius patrick mcshanahan o'shaughnessy."

"now you're being a wise guy. i don't remember you as a wise guy, aloysius."

they crossed w 114th street . humphrey-aloysius looked back over his shoulder .

and saw roselle. she was only about twenty-five feet behind him.

she smiled at him.

he knew right away she was following him.

why? he couldn't be more surprised if eleanor roosevelt or gloria vanderbilt was following him.

had she actually followed him for almost three new york blocks just to annoy him?

he could make mistakes about things, but she couldn't be a cop.

a reporter? he had a little bit of experience with reporters, but she wasn't a reporter any more than she was a cop.

and he'd seen her before, with her boy friend or husband, he was sure of it.

what could she want from him? and where was the boy friend?

she smiled again and came right up to him. "hello, humphrey."

he was still too surprised to be riled up.

"you forgot something, humphrey."

all right, he'd play along for now.

"what did i forget, lady?"

roselle looked him in the eye. "you forgot how much i wanted to be your pal."


roselle looked down at the little man in the stocking cap. "who's your friend?"

"joe", said humphrey.

"everybody has a friend named joe," roselle replied.

the little man spoke up. "that's because happiness is just a guy named joe," he said, staring at roselle.

"why, of course."

"but it's not my name. my name is buddy. buddy bashon. at your service."

people continued to pass by the curiously assorted trio without glancing at them.

"i'm so pleased to meet you," roselle told buddy. "any friend of humphrey's is a friend of mine."

buddy just stared at her.

his first surprise over, humphrey started to revert to his old self.

"what exactly do you want, lady?"

"i told you - i want to be your friend."

"you want something from me. you are trying to set me up for something."

"i am." roselle smiled. "something for both of us. and i don't take no for an answer. i mean to have my way."

humphrey laughed, a little uncertainly, and looked around.

a police car went by, heading downtown. it stopped at the light on 114th street.

"i think i'll walk away, lady. it was nice talking to you."

"there is a police car right over there."

"so? i didn't do nothing."

"i'll tell them you did. i'll tell them you did something nasty. who are they going to believe, you or me?"

"you don't have any witnesses."

"i don't need them." roselle looked back at the police car. the light had changed and it was pulling out. "at the very least they'll throw you in jail overnight."

"they are gone."

roselle laughed. "what are they, the only police in new york? come on, humphrey, i'm just trying to be your friend."

"what about me?" buddy asked. "can i be your friend?"

"why not? but i really want humphrey to be my friend. i have my little heart set on it. come on, humphrey, don't be difficult."

"this is crazy. you're crazy. why are you picking on me like this?"

"there's a nice little diner over there, let's go and over a grab a seat. i'll bet they have the most wonderful hamburgers. my treat, of course."

for the first time humphrey wavered. "how about a steak sandwich?"

"how about one? let's go."

roselle walked into the slow moving traffic on broadway. horns honked but the are stopped.

humphrey followed her and buddy followed him.


jerry was making good on his determination to have a few drinks.

"nother. another."

"i don't know, pal. you look like you might have had enough."

"hey, the day is young. it's only - it's only the afternoon. "

"it's quarter to three, if you could read the clock."

"it's quarter to three, there's no one on the place except you and me. so set em up, joe..."

"quarter to three in the afternoon."

"i know, there's too much light in here. can't you draw the shades a little tighter."

"you got enough money for a cab to take you home? just in case you need it, i mean."

"do i have enough money for a cab? buddy, i got enough money to buy every cab in new york and line them up from here to yonkers - line them up from here to yonkers for a parade to take me home ..."

"okay, you've made your point."

"i've had a hard day. you know what happened to me today?"


"i got treated like dirt."

"people are like that sometimes."

"people looking at me sideways with their beady little eyes - i knew what they were thinking - thinking i didn't really belong there - i didn't know anything - "

"but what do they know, right?'

"treating me like garbage just because i'm worth forty-five million dollars."

"look here, you sure you don't want that cab?"

"no, i want another drink."


roselle flicked some ashes into the saucer of her coffee cup.

humphrey and buddy were finishing up their steak sandwiches. buddy had a big smear of ketchup on his left cheek.

no one else was in the diner. the waitress who had served them was not in sight.

roselle had only had coffee.

"you sure you don't want anything?" humphrey asked her.

"no, i'm just enjoying watching you two eat."

"how about some dessert?" buddy asked.

"dessert?" roselle reached into the purse she had beside her on the seat in the booth. "i tell you what." roselle took a dollar out of the purse. "why don't you go over to that drugstore on the corner and buy me a couple of packs of cigarettes. tareytons. when you get back, i'll buy you some dessert, how's that? chocolate cake, strawberry shortcake, whatever they got.".

"sure. what if they don't have tareytons?"

"chesterfields. get chesterfields." roselle handed buddy the dollar. "and look here - take your time. take a little walk, get some fresh air. you're a growing boy, you look like you need it."

"sure, sure, i get it. i get your drift. " buddy stood up and carefully folded the dollar and put it in his coat pocket.

roselle turned and watched buddy as he went out the door.

"how much can you trust him?" she asked humphrey when the door was closed.

"trust him? i don't even know him. any more than i know you. he just came up to me on the street, just now."

"i see. i thought he was your old pal."

"nah, he's just along for the ride. he said he recognized me, i didn't recognize him."

humphrey looked around. the waitress had not returned behind the counter.

"so what is all this? you keep talking about fun. what kind of fun exactly?"

roselle took her time lighting the next to last cigarette in her pack.

"humphrey, i think you must have guessed what kind of fun i'm talking about. it can only be one thing."

she blew a smoke ring.

"i want you to murder my husband."


part 3

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