Tuesday, March 10, 2015

fun, part 11

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.

jerry suspects 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.

a body identified as roselle's has been discovered in an alley in brooklyn.


the desoto sped through the night. it was the only car on the highway.

"don't go so fast," jerry told pandora.

"why, don't you want to get where you're going?"

"i don't want to get stopped for speeding."

"when was the last time you saw a speed limit sign?" pandora asked. "besides, everybody in the world is asleep but us."

jerry looked out the window. he had to admit it looked like they were the only people awake in upstate new york . “well, you never know.”

“if some rube cop is out here and is actually awake and looking to stop people, he’ll stop us if we’re going forty. but hey, you’re paying.” pandora slowed down a little.

“thank you.”

jerry was still nervous. he had felt relieved back in the diner when pandora had only looked at the racing and sports pages in the newspaper and not turned to the front page before giving it back to him.

now he was starting to wonder - should he even look whitey up? if whitey knew there was a reward for him… would he hesitate to collect? not the whitey he had known back in louisiana.

and even it turned out there was no reward, from the gray family or anybody else, what could whitey do for him now, or he for whitey?

the whole point of this excursion was to take care of roselle, and she had been taken care of.

but if he just told pandora to turn around now, wouldn’t she get suspicious?

and where would he tell her to take him?

this being wanted by the police made his head hurt.

jerry decided to just let pandora drop him off and he would take it from there.

they approached a sign.

it said - rochester - 40 miles.

jerry lit another cigarette. they drove the rest of the rest of the way to rochester in silence.

it was still dark when they got to the city limits, though it would not be for much longer.

“all right, you know how to get there from here?” pandora asked.

“no, we’ll have to find a gas station or a diner and get directions.”

“all right.”

“i tell you what.” jerry said. “why don’t you just drop me off at a diner, and i’ll get a cab when it’s light.”

pandora laughed. “no, it might be all the way across town. we’ve come this far, we might as well ask somebody. it might be across town, it might be right over there.”

jerry just wanted to get rid of her, but he didn’t want to make her suspicious either. “all right.”

pandora drove the desoto down a couple of dark streets.

they saw a gas station on a corner. but it was closed.

they drove around some more. everything was dark. “we didn’t time this too good,” pandora said.

“no, we didn’t,” jerry agreed.

what jerry didn’t know was that pandora had noticed the headline -

“hideous murder of socialite” - when jerry bought the paper and had also sensed how nervous he was. and that she had grabbed the paper off the counter where he had left it as she followed him out the door of the diner outside syracuse.

she was curious. she was a naturally curious person.

they saw a man walking along the street, a bit unsteadily. he was walking away from them.

“what is the name of the street you want?” pandora asked. “i know you wrote it down.”

“jefferson st. 44 jefferson st.”

pandora pulled up beside the unsteady man. seen close up, he looked like a fairly respectable citizen, but a bit undernourished and unfocused.

jerry rolled his window down. cold air rushed into the car.

“hey, buddy - “

the thin man turned and looked at jerry, astonished and a little annoyed, as if he had just been awakened from a beautiful dream.

“you know where jefferson street is?” jerry asked.

the man stared at jerry for three seconds. “straight ahead,” he finally said.

“ask him how far ahead,” pandora told jerry. he hesitated and she shouted to the man herself, “how far ahead?”

“i don’t know. a mile, two miles, three miles. it’s hard to tell in the dark.”

“thank you,” jerry told the man. “thank you very much.”

“but it is straight ahead?” pandora leaned back and asked the man.

“yes, straight ahead,” the thin man answered in almost a whisper.

“thank you!” pandora straightened up and they moved off.

the thin man shouted something after them but they couldn’t hear what he was saying.

pandora drove slowly, so that they could read the street signs.

they came to jefferson street almost immediately.

pandora turned down it. it was very dark. there were some street lights but they were not on.

the street was mostly stores, closed. there were a few brownstone buildings that might be apartments. a white sign was barely visible in one window - probably “rooms for rent”.

“let me out,” said jerry. “i’ll check the numbers.”

pandora pulled the desoto up to the curb beside one of the brownstones. jerry got out. he squinted up at the front door.

it was number 48. a pawn shop beside it, with rooms over it, was number 46. another brownstone on the other side had to be 44. no lights were on in 44.

jerry went back to the car. “this is it,” he told pandora. he looked down the street. “down on the corner there, see it, there’s a light on, it must be an all night place.”

“get in, we’ll find out.”

joe’s diner was indeed open - a sign in the window said so. jerry got out of the car again. he hesitated.

“you want to come in, grab a cup of coffee before you go back?”

“no, “ pandora answered, “ i’ll probably stop in that place in syracuse.”

jerry had paid her in advance. “so long then. thank you.”

“good luck.”

pandora watched jerry enter joe’s diner. then she moved on, took the next right.

and circled back to where she was a half block down from joe’s diner and could see jerry if and when he left. she turned the lights and the motor off.

she lit a cigarette and took the newspaper with the headline out of her bag and waited for her eyes to adjust to where she could read it in the little light coming from the building she had parked beside - another pawn shop. she had pretty good night vision. and she was curious.

she was a naturally curious person.


jerry breathed a sigh of relief watching the tail lights of the desoto disappear.

but as soon as they were gone he felt fear, close to panic, again.

and cold. the air was cold, with a touch of fog.

now what?

he pushed open the door of joe’s diner. a bell tinkled above him.

joe’s seemed empty.

“anybody home?” he called.

“be right with you,” he heard a voice call. the voice sounded familiar.

a door in the rear opened and a man stepped out.

it was whitey.

part 12

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