Wednesday, April 8, 2015

fun, part 13

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.

earlier that evening roselle had been seen leaving her apartment with a mysterious stranger...


the figure that emerged was tall, wearing a long ratty-looking black coat and a flat black hat with a long veil covering its face. it clutched an enormous black purse in two bony hands.

is it a man? roselle wondered.

“hello, miss wilson. it’s such a pleasure to see you again, after all these years.”

“and it is so wonderful to see you, dear,” “miss wilson” answered, in a high, fluttery voice.

roselle wanted to laugh, but she also felt a sudden cold tremor of fear.

“are you not going to invite me inside?” miss wilson asked in the same obviously fake voice..

roselle felt a colder stab of fear, which she quickly suppressed. what was she doing, losing her nerve? like jerry? she wasn’t jerry, that was for sure.

“sure, come right in.” roselle stepped aside and waved “miss wilson” into the apartment.

“nice place,” miss wilson announced in a more normal voice - and a woman’s voice - as she surveyed the sitting room and the bar with her back to roselle. she took off her black hat with its veil and sailed it across the room onto a sofa.

roselle thought she recognized the voice…

miss wilson placed her big handbag on the coffee table in the center of the room. then she took her long black coat off and without turning around handed it to roselle.

“it’s not as dirty as it looks,” she told roselle, “but maybe you don’t want it on your lovely furniture.”

now roselle did recognize the voice.

miss wilson picked the big handbag off the coffee table and put it on the left side of the sofa beside her hat. then she turned and sat down on the right side of the sofa, facing roselle.

she smiled and took off her long bony hands, which were revealed to be gloves. then, still staring at and smiling at roselle, she reached down and took off her shoes - black square-toed boots that might have been worn by carrie nation and that had added at least two inches to her height.

with her disguise completely removed, the visitor was now a young woman who could have been roselle’s twin. only the color of her hair - blonde - was noticeably different.

“hello, agnes.” roselle tossed the coat she had been handed on to a chair beside the bar. she kept her eyes on the bag on the sofa. “make yourself comfortable, why don’t you?”

“surprised to see me?” agnes asked.

“a little.”

“a little. that’s a big admission, from you.” agnes noticed roselle’s eyes fixed on the bag. “ha, ha! do you think i have a gun in here?”

“well, do you?”

“as a matter of fact, i do. i have one in the bag, and a little one in my pocket.” agnes smiled . “but i’m not going to shoot you.” she reached into the bag, kept her hand in it for three full seconds with her eyes on roselle , and took out - a box of players cigarettes.

she wiggled her stockinged toes at roselle. “if i was going to shoot you, would i make myself so comfortable?”

“i don’t know what you want or what you are doing,” roselle answered. “do you want a drink?”

“i will have one, thank you. just one. are you still a lush?”

“i have a drink when i want one.”

“how nice. i suppose you have a lot of things when you want one.” agnes lit a cigarette and pulled an ashtray closer to herself on the coffee table.

roselle turned to the bar, the first time she had turned her back on agnes since she arrived. “what kind of drink would you like?”

agnes shrugged. “whatever you’re having.”

roselle poured herself a glass of straight gin, because she needed it. she decided to give agnes one too, to maybe befuddle her.

“so what is this all about, agnes? i am not in any particular hurry, but you know i was never one for polite talk about nothing.”

“i just dropped by to see you.”

“in a halloween costume? and using a fake name?” roselle handed agnes her glass of gin.

agnes looked at the glass as if it might bite her and took a small sip and put it down on the table.

roselle sat down. “is this about the lawsuit?”

when they were both fourteen years old, roselle and her cousin agnes had been two of the named parties in an intrafamily lawsuit that neither of them could make head or tail of.

but they did understand that in the end roselle had the largest single chunk of the family fortune and agnes had almost nothing.

“oh no, no. that’s ancient history.” agnes sighed theatrically. “and besides, we were just teenagers. it was the adults and the lawyers who were to blame for everything. i can’t blame you. right?”

“mm.” roselle took a big swig of her gin, and it felt so good she took another. “so what do you want?”, she asked, in a little nastier tone than she had intended.

“mmm. mmm !.” agnes flared up. “it’s easy for you to go mmm mmmm! i’m the one who was left with nothing!”

roselle’s eyes went back to the bag that supposedly had the gun in it . but she just took another, smaller sip of gin.

“did you ever know just how poor i was ?” agnes continued. “or care? i was left with less than a million dollars!”

roselle was a little surprised by this revelation but just nodded. “yes, but -“ she started to say, but agnes interrupted her.

“do you realize what kind of people i’ve had to associate with all these years? people who don’t even have servants!” agnes’s eyes glistened. “people who - who have actually been servants themselves!”

roselle repressed a laugh. “but agnes, sometimes people who don’t have any money can be actually be kind of interesting . and fun. you can have have fun with them - “

“of course you can have fun with them - if you have money yourself and can tell them what to do you can have fun with them!”

suddenly a terrible thought flashed on roselle. “you didn’t - you never had to work for a living, did you?”

“oh, no, no, i never sunk that low!” agnes sniffled, looked at the drink on the table, but did not pick it up. instead she took another cigarette from her box and lit it from the one she had been smoking.

“i am glad to hear it.” roselle took a deep breath. “so - what do you want ?”

“you remember how when we were kids you used to talk about how much you wanted excitement? how you didn’t want to just spend your life drinking and riding horses and going sailing like ordinary people but wanted some real excitement?”

where is this going, roselle wondered. “uh - we say a lot of silly things when we are kids.”

agnes laughed. “i know you kind of skipped over the part about not spending your life drinking. but what about the rest of it? you want some excitement?”

“excitement doing what? look, do you want some money? if you do, why don’t you just say so?”

“no, i don’t want you to give me money. i have too much self-respect for that, thank you. i want you to help me get some money.”

“and how am i going to do that?” roselle asked.

“i have a way to get some money. but i need someone to help me. and i have decided that person is you, dear roselle. i am giving you a chance to make some small amends for the terrible wrong done me as a child.”

“what if i don’t want to? and what are we going to do, and where?”

“don’t want to?” agnes picked up the bag . “then i might have to show you just how serious i am. but we don’t want that, do we?”

roselle took another sip of gin.

“come on,” agnes said. “it will be exciting. we have to meet some dangerous characters. you’ll like that, won’t you? the kind of dangerous characters you meet when fortune forces you to walk on the dark side, as i have been. isn’t that what you always wanted?”

she is right, thought roselle, even though she is an idiot. it is what i have always wanted.

“are you going to put your witch costume back on?” she asked agnes.

“of course. it is all part of the game.”

“all right. you put your costume back on and i’ll finish my drink.” and maybe another, roselle told herself.

“and then we’ll go?” agnes asked.

“and then we’ll go. it sounds like it might be fun.”

part 14

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