Tuesday, March 24, 2015

fun, part 12

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.

he arrives in rochester in the early morning hours and enters an all night diner...


the diner was very quiet and jerry could hear the waves of panic roaring in his brain.


jerry was more astonished than he would have been if he had not thought about whitey since the last time he saw him in louisiana.

and now he didn’t want to see him!

jerry froze. whitey, drying his hands on a towel, stepped closer to him.

for a split second jerry thought of pretending to not recognize whitey and hoping whitey didn’t recognize him.

whitey smiled.

and jerry knew from the expression in whitey’s blue eyes that it was no use.

whitey didn’t seem surprised to see him. of course that was just the way he had been back in the army - never giving anything away.

“well, lieutenant, “ whitey finally spoke after giving jerry a long slow smile, “i’ve been sort of expecting you.”

“you have?” jerry asked him. he felt totally bewildered. was this all a dream?

“why not? you called me in pinkerville, didn’t you? got my aunt pearl. you wanted to know where i was, so i figured you might come looking for me.”

of course! jerry felt like a complete idiot, like he was losing his mind.

whitey laughed, that short little laugh jerry now remembered, not mean, but not really friendly either.

“you feeling all right? maybe you should sit down.” whitey pointed to the row of empty stools at the lunch counter. “sit down, i’ll get you a cup of coffee.”

“ thanks.” jerry sat down on the nearest stool. he suddenly felt faint, and his vision blurred a little.

whitey walked around and went behind the counter. he got a cup and filled it from a machine.

jerry looked around. it seemed like days ago he had gone into the diner on west end avenue were he had tried to call whitey in north carolina and where he had met pandora.

and then there was the diner he and pandora had stopped at outside syracuse where he had read about roselle.

and now this place. was the whole world just one big all night diner? was life a dream?

whitey was saying something. “this stuff might not be the freshest. you might want to put something in it.”

jerry’s head was clearing a little now that he was seated. “no, black is all right.”

“i wasn’t talking about cream and sugar.” whitey reached under the counter and produced a half pint of whiskey - jerry assumed it was whiskey although it was unlabeled. “just a touch.”

jerry felt better just seeing the bottle. “sure, thanks. just a touch.”

the cup was half full of thick black coffee and whitey filled it to the top with the booze.

jerry grabbed it with two hands and drank it down. even cut in half by the foul coffee the whiskey - or whatever it was - burned his throat going down.

“ahhh - i needed that.”

“glad to be of service.” whitey smiled again. “so how did you find me here? at this time of night?”

“i didn’t. i mean - i found your address but i just came in here to wait until it got light before i rang your bell. i just happened to come in here. i was surprised to see you.”

whitey nodded. “ yeah, that makes sense. so what can i do for you? why don’t we go over in a booth over there, get more comfortable?”

“all right.”

“want more coffee?”

“yes. but just coffee this time.” i better keep a clear head, jerry thought. though it might be a little late for that.

“want anything to eat? this is a diner.”

“no, i just ate.”

when they got in the booth, jerry’s mind drew a complete blank. he realized there was no way he could concoct a plausible story about what he was doing there that would convince whitey and let him just get away without really telling him anything.

so he told him everything.


back in the desoto, in the shadows half a block down from the diner, pandora’s brain was racing.

full speed ahead.

she had read the story about roselle’s murder - and the police looking for jerry - three times.

there was a picture of jerry - not a very large or recent or good one. she couldn’t tell just from the picture.

but it had to be him. everything fit. his nervousness, the whole crazy thing of paying her to drive him over 300 miles in the middle of the night.

where she met him was not that far from the address the couple lived at, according to the story.

and most of all, the way he had not wanted her to see the paper back in the diner in syracuse.

the big thing - the only thing that mattered - he was rich.

maybe not as rich as the paper said - pandora knew the papers would exaggerate to make a good story - but he had to be pretty rich. she had already figured that out, just from the way he acted.

there had to be an angle. nothing so crude as just shaking him down.

he must need someone to help him. otherwise why would he be running like this?

that’s right, he needed a friend. everybody needs a friend in this big bad world.

especially rich guys running from the law.

she would be his friend. his best friend in the world. for the right price.

could she handle him? after all, he had killed his wife.

pandora knew there were guys she couldn’t handle, not on her own anyway. tough guys.

real tough guys.

which description she was sure jerry did not fit.

pandora’s eyes narrowed. the big thing now was - keep him in sight.

then it hit her - was she sure he was still in the diner? she had tried to keep one eye on the diner while she read the paper - which she had to concentrate on to read in the dim light from the pawn shop -

but he might have slipped out. just slipped out. like a cool breeze, not even worrying if anyone was watching.

but why would he?

she could see the diner and its front door but she could not see if he was still in there.

front door! maybe he had gone out the back. maybe this was not the street he wanted at all. maybe he had deliberately ditched her and was long gone. that hadn’t crossed her mind.

she had to know. she couldn’t just sit there like an idiot if he was miles away.

she took out a cigarette and lit it, to try to calm herself.

there was nothing else for it - she had to get out and look.

she slowly opened the car door and stepped out. jeez, it had got cold!

she tossed the barely smoked cigarette away and pulled her coat tighter around her.

as she approached the diner she got more nervous - she couldn’t see anyone inside it at all.

she went right up to the window.

there was nobody seated at the counter.

there was nobody behind the counter.

there were some booths, but she couldn’t see into them.

she slowly opened the door.

part 13

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