Tuesday, February 10, 2015

fun, part 9

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.

stopping outside of syracuse with his new acquaintance pandora wilson on his way to meet whitey in rochester, he buys a newspaper with a sensational headline.


it was with a strange feeling of foreboding that jerry folded the newspaper he had just purchased from the milk truck driver, and followed pandora into the dimly lit little diner.

there were no other customers in the diner. a tall thin waitress was taking pandora's order, which seemed to be a large one.

there were five stools at the counter. jerry took the one nearest the door. pandora was seated at the one second furthest from the door.

jerry didn't want to read about the hideous murder of the socialite just yet. he placed the paper face down on the counter and waited for the waitress.

the back page of the paper indicated that the yankees had lost to the st louis browns 6-4 despite two home runs by joe dimaggio. and the giants had beaten the phillies 2-0 in ten innings on a home run by johnny mize.

jerry heard the milk truck pull away. the driver had not entered the diner, but left his milk bottles and papers outside. jerry felt a curious relief that he was gone.

the waitress was standing in front of him, with her pencil ready over her little order pad. she was one of the tallest and skinniest women jerry had ever seen. she had dark sad eyes, like she had been alive for ten thousand years and never met a person she could trust.

"how about you, mister?" she asked. "you want a big breakfast like your lady friend?"

suddenly jerry was hungry. and eating would postpone turning the paper over and reading about the hideous murder of the socialite.

"yes, i'll have what she's having," he told the waitress.

"that's three eggs sunny side, pancakes, hash browns, toast, orange juice and coffee."

"yes, that sounds good."

"what kind of jam you want on your toast? strawberry"?"

"strawberry's my favorite."

"you want syrup or jam on your pancakes? both? ”

"uh - jam. strawberry jam."

"you want your coffee now?"


the waitress moved away. she brought jerry his coffee and then went over to the grill and started on the orders.

jerry put some cream in his coffee and then took out his cigarettes and lit one. pandora was already puffing away, staring into space. jerry felt grateful that she wasn't in a talkative mood.

the waitress was not talking either. it was very quiet, except for the hiss of the eggs and pancake batter hitting the grill.

the face of johnny mize looked up at jerry from the back page of the paper.

as if it had a mind of his own, jerry's hand turned the paper over. the headline hadn't changed. it still read:


by mac o’connell

violent death took a holiday from the back alleys and waterfronts of the city last night, and planted his bloody flag in the uppermost peaks of manhattan’s haute monde - with a grisly murder that would have shocked the most jaded rat scurrying through the darkest catacombs of gotham.

a body discovered in an alley off 15th avenue in brooklyn, a few blocks from the bay ridge parkway, was identified by police as that of mrs roselle gray winfield, of east 85th street. mrs winfield was the daughter of the late chester b “buck” gray and heiress and sole owner of gray shipping lines - but that, according to our sources, was only the “first page in her impressive portfolio” of blue chip properties.

mrs winfield had until a few years ago been a prominent figure in the society pages of the local fishwraps - but had not been seen and heard so much of lately by those who make it their business to see and hear.

according to police, a drivers license and passport led to quick identification of the body, despite its seriously mangled condition, and her identity was confirmed by a member of the gray family.

a spokesman for the gray family declined any comment on the circumstances, nor did they make any immediate offer of a reward for information relating to the murder.

police have so far been unsuccessful in trying to contact the deceased’s husband, jerome “jerry” winfield, of the winfield mines family. whether mr winfield is considered a suspect, or may be thought to be a victim of foul play himself, the police declined to say.

“this is a murder case like any other, “ detective harold hogan told this reporter with a straight face. “ we treat every case the same, whether the victim is a scrubwoman or a dame that wears two mink coats to bed.”

this reporter did succeed in talking to joseph parker, a doorman at the swanky apartment house on east 85th street that the winfields call one of their many homes. according to parker, a former standout lefthanded pitcher at charles g dawes high school in the north bronx and a former radioman in the 25th infantry division during the late hostilities in the pacific, mrs winfield was visited earlier in the evening by a person previously unknown to parker, who identified herself as mrs winfield’s former high school algebra teacher. parker thought it was a gag or that the woman was a crank, but mrs winfield had her admitted, and shortly thereafter left the building in the company of the erstwhile pedagogue.

she was never seen alive again!

anyone with information regarding mrs wnfield’s subsequent whereabouts, or the identity of the supposed algebra teacher, or where jerry winfield might be found, is urged to contact the police.

the police are, of course, treating this case as just another murder.

and if you believe that, i got a nice selection of bridges for you, and a hot tip on the belmont in 1956.

more on this story on page 16

jerry didn’t want to read more on this story. he folded the paper back up and put it back on the counter with the back sports page facing up. his hands shook slightly.

he wanted to light another cigarette - the one he had been smoking had burned down to his fingers - but he was afraid his hands would shake too much.

the waitress put his glass of orange juice and his plate of toast down in front of him. she moved an ashtray in front of him, and he put the tiny smoking butt out in it.

“more coffee?”

“yes, please.” jerry managed to keep the tremor out of his voice.

“you through with that paper?” pandora asked him. she stuffed almost a whole piece of toast into her mouth.

what could he say? he had folded it up.

“how did the giants do?” pandora asked.

“they won. mize hit a homer.”

“about time. he’s been in a slump.” pandora finished her first piece of toast and picked up another. “they got the races in that paper?”

“probably.” with an effort jerry opened up to the back pages. “here you go.” he folded the paper carefully so that the two full pages of racing results showed front and back, and shoved the paper down the counter to pandora.

he took as deep a breath as he could without being obvious about it, and lit a cigarette.

what was he nervous about anyway? he didn’t kill roselle. he didn’t know who did.

but would the police believe him? would anybody believe him?

nobody ever had.

in his whole life, nobody ever had.

part 10

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