Tuesday, January 27, 2015

fun, part 8

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

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for previous episode of "fun" , click here

to begin "fun", click here

in our previous chapters, we met jerry and roselle winfield, socialites and slummers extraordinaire.

roselle has enticed the drifter "humphey p strawfeather" to help her murder jerry.

jerry has intuited that roselle intends to kill him.

and he seeks to locate his old army buddy "whitey" wilson to help him avoid this fate, perhaps by murdering roselle.


there was a roadblock up ahead.

nicholas ii and john dillinger had escaped from alcatraz and the police were stopping every car on the road.

fog kept drifting in and out of the back seat of the 1946 desoto.

jerry tried to sit up but he couldn't. it just wasn't worth the effort.

it all came back to him - paying pandora, the fat lady from the diner, $250 to drive him to rochester to find whitey wilson...

it had seemed like a good idea at the time.

or was it $25,000? maybe that wasn’t such a great idea. not that jerry couldn’t afford it, but you didn’t want to put ideas in people’s heads… uncle walter taught him that, along with so many other things…

jerry still could not pull himself upright from the back seat of the desoto, but he turned his head around 270 degrees and looked up over the back of the front seat.

pandora was in the passenger seat, blowing smoke rings.

and driving - actually not driving because there was the roadblock up ahead, but sitting behind the wheel, was - a gorilla? a bear? - something big, whose head scraped the ceiling of the car.

what the…?

“who’s he?” jerry tried to ask, but it came out a whisper.

but pandora heard him and answered right away.

“this is frankie. he was hitching outside binghamton so i picked him up. to spell me with the driving.”

“i could’ve done that.”

pandora laughed. “i don’t think so, pal. not in the shape you were in.”

now jerry was in the front seat, beside the passenger seat window, with pandora between him and frankie. he glanced over at frankie, but still could not figure out if he was a bear or a gorilla or what. some kind of beast, or monster. he was wearing a nice suit, though the stripes were a little wide for jerry’s taste.

there were more lights outside the car now. jerry could feel people shouting.

a couple of state troopers with big hats were shining flashlights into the windows.

pandora explained. “hitler and john dillinger escaped from sing sing.”

“i know all about it,” jerry told her.

“you know all about it?” frankie asked him. “why, are you in with them?” frankie had a smooth voice, like a radio announcer.

jerry didn’t answer. he turned away and looked out the window. then he was standing outside the car, watching the state troopers coming toward them with their flashlights.

the troopers made the driver ahead of them get out and open his trunk. the driver looked like hitler but it was hard to tell because his face was covered by a scarf.

pandora got out of the car and stood beside jerry.

“they are holding amelia earhart hostage in a cabin in the pines,” she told jerry.

“i know,” jerry said.

inside the car frankie started singing “they are holding amelia earhart hostage… in a cabin in the pines…” jerry recognized the tune, but could not quite place it.

jerry and pandora were back in the car. it started to snow.

now two troopers approached the car. they were herbert hoover … or maybe it was wendell willkie … and franklin d roosevelt.

franklin d roosevelt stuck his face in the car window. his cigarette in his cigarette holder almost hit jerry in the face.

“howdy, folks. i guess you know why we are here…”

jerry woke up.

he was stretched across the back seat of the de soto. pandora was driving.

there was nobody else in the car. jerry sat up. he felt stiff, and his right arm was asleep.

it was pitch dark outside. jerry couldn’t see anything - trees, houses, anything.

pandora was humming a tune - “chattanooga choo-choo”. the radio was off.

“where are we?” jerry asked.

“almost in syracuse.”

“what time is it?”

“he clock on this thing is broken. it ’s about three o’clock.”

“why is it so dark out?” jerry leaned against the window behind pandora, shaking his buzzing right arm.

“because it’s still night time.”

“did you pick up a hitchhiker?’

“a hitchhiker? hell no, i didn’t pick up any hitchhiker.” pandora laughed. “why would i pick up a hitchhiker?”

“um - i thought you might - to spell you with the driving.”

“no, i’m doing just fine by myself, thank you very much. we’re making good time, right on schedule.”

jerry looked back and saw some lights.

it was a bus, a greyhound or trailways bus, and it swiftly moved up and passed them.

jerry felt a little better. the bus had reassured him that he and pandora were not the only people left in the world.

he felt better about everything. if she was going to kill me and dump me somewhere, she would have done it by now, he thought.

“can you turn the radio on?”

“i tried, there’s nothing but static. hey, want to stop in syracuse? get a cup of coffee or a bite to eat?”


“we won’t go all the way into the city, just see if some place is open right outside it. there’s got to be some little place.”

“sure, sure.”

“you sound like you’re still tired. go back to sleep.”


pandora was shaking jerry awake.

“where are we?”

“syracuse. or just outside it.”

jerry was fully awake. he had not been sleeping that soundly. the car was parked outside a dimly lit little diner beside a one-pump gas station.

it was still completely dark.

pandora opened a screen door and a door behind it and entered the diner.

jerry found his hat on the floor and put it on. he got out of the car and looked around. there were no other buildings in sight. he saw some trees and the highway beyond the gas station.

a little open-sided truck, like a milk truck, emerged from behind the trees.

jerry lit a cigarette and watched the truck pull up beside the desoto.

a little farmerish looking guy, with thinning hair and rimless glasses falling down his nose, got out of the truck. he had a little metal case with milk bottles in one hand and a bound stack of newspapers in the other.

he tossed the newspapers onto the ground beside the door of the diner.

jerry could see the headline:


“can i buy a copy?” jerry asked the milk truck driver.

the guy looked at him. “really in a hurry for the news, huh?”

jerry felt something vaguely accusatory in his tone. he shrugged. “i just want something to read with my coffee.”

“no problem, pal.” the little man slipped a paper out of the bundle. “that will be one american nickel.”

part 9

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