Tuesday, April 21, 2015

fun, part 14

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.

arriving in rochester in the early hours of morning, jerry enters an all-night diner and discovers whitey...


whitey wilson prided himself on being able to think on his feet and to always look at things from every angle. and never to be taken by surprise, or to fall for the same trick twice. or maybe even once.

but he was having a hard time making head or tail out of jerry's story.

and after listening to it, he wasn't really sure he wanted to listen to it again to see if it made more sense the second time.

he did know - or was pretty sure of - one thing. and he kept reminding himself of it as jerry rambled on.

jerry was rich. not rich like a doctor or a lawyer or a guy with a furniture store, but really rich. rich rich, i don't know how much money i have rich.

there had to be a way to make something out of all this - whatever it was.

so he didn't want to let jerry out of his sight until he figured out exactly what it was and what he might make out of it.

jerry had caught whitey at a bad time in one way. his various plans - and whitey always had many and various things going - had not been working out as well as they might lately.

but in another way it was a good time. because whitey needed a lucky break after all his bad ones and this might be it.

and he had some time on his hands because a few things he was working on had fallen through.

suddenly it was quiet in the diner. whitey realized that jerry had finished his story.

whitey glanced over at the counter . it was after four o'clock in the morning. the diner was empty except for whitey and jerry.

they were seated in a booth so that anyone looking in from the front door on jefferson street would not see them.

maxie, the morning guy, usually came in at five but whitey had given him the day off and was planning to work the counter himself until the afternoon.

" you want another cup of coffee?" whitey asked jerry. jerry now looked like he was going to fall asleep.

jerry rubbed his eyes. "uh, no, i just want - i want -"

"to get some sleep?"

"yes." jerry looked around. he looked at the door at the back of the diner that whitey had emerged from when jerry walked in. "you have a cot in the back room there?"

"ha ha. no, i got a couple of rooming houses right around here. i'll take you over to one of them. get you settled in."

"oh." suddenly all jerry wanted to do was sleep. to actually go to sleep in a bed, even in the crummiest rooming house in north america, sounded like the most wonderful thing in the world. if only he could sleep, he didn't care what happened after that.

but it somehow seemed odd to him that whitey would own the diner and a couple of rooming houses too. "you -uh - you own this town?" he asked him.

whitey laughed. "i don't own the city of rochester. i have - i have a few properties."

jerry nodded. he had had a vague idea of whitey wearing a tuxedo and operating some kind of gambling establishment - a roadhouse "out on the outskirts of town" or maybe a gambling ship.

but where would there be a gambling ship in rochester new york?

whitey looked over at the clock. "let me get the 'closed' sign. " he stood up. "i'll take you over and then come back." he hesitated. "i wonder if i should call ruby."

"who's ruby?"

"she runs the rooming house for me. i'll just put a note under her door, let her know i put you in one of the rooms."

jerry just shrugged. he looked own at his empty coffee cup and pushed it away.

whitey headed for the counter to retrieve the "closed" sign. just as he did he heard the front door start to open.

it opened so slowly the bell above the door hardly sounded.

a woman - a young, fat woman - stood in the doorway staring intently at whitey.

"i'm just closing up."

"i just want a cup of coffee." pandora's eyes roved over the diner. she tried to not be obvious about it. she hadn't come far enough inside to see jerry in the booth.

"come on." pandora took another step inside. "you got a minimum? i'll pay the minimum. i'l pay a dollar. for just one cup."

"a whole dollar, huh?" whitey looked back at jerry. he was face down in the booth, apparently asleep.

"okay, big spender. come on in. make yourself at home." whitey pointed to a stool at the counter. "i tell you what, for your dollar, i'll throw in a slice of pie. guaranteed to be not more than a month old."

"thank you." pandora could now see jerry in the booth. staying turned toward him, she sat down and put her purse on the counter.

"you want apple pie or pumpkin?"


"the pumpkin lasts better."

"okay, i'll have pumpkin."

whitey slid the coffee toward pandora. "i see you are easy to get along with."

"very." pandora was staring at the sleeping jerry. "you were closing up, with this guy sleeping here?" she picked the coffee up and took a sip. "not that it's any business of mine."

"oh, he's harmless. he's - he's a local character. i let him sleep here all the time. he wouldn't rob me. or hurt a fly."

pandora took her cigarettes out of her purse. "nice suit he's wearing, for a local character."

"yeah, it is." whitey had taken the slice of pumpkin pie out of the little rack on the counter and put it down. "what are you, a detective?"

"i'm just observant." pandora turned away from looking at jerry. "it's kind of my hobby - training my brain to be observant."

then it hit whitey. of course! how could he be so stupid? he must have been half asleep himself.

"you're the dame who drove him up here."

pandora could not keep the surprise out of her eyes. her hand shook a little as she grabbed an ashtray and pulled it toward her.

whitey laughed. "yeah, he told me everything." when pandora didn't answer, he went on. "he's an old pal of mine."

"sure." pandora had recovered herself. "now i get it. you're the old pal he came up here to see."

"ha. i guess he told you his whole story, too."

"he told me some things."

whitey shook his head. "i guess he never learned to keep his stories to himself. i guess they don't teach that, at princeton or on those ocean cruises."

they both turned and looked at jerry. "look at him, " said pandora. "sleeping like a baby. a big fat baby, wearing a little golden sailor suit."

the tumblers in whitey's brain were falling into place. maybe i can work with this dame, he thought, at least for a while.

"he looks like a big pie," he told pandora. "a big fat pie with slices for everybody. what did you say your name was?"

"wilson. pandora wilson."

"well, miss wilson, have some more pie. i think there's enough to go around. don't you?"

pandora blew a smoke ring. "sure. and when we finish the pie, we can have some golden goose."

"some fatted calf."

"some whatchamacallit that falls from heaven."

"yeah. right on the boy on the burning deck."

"with alladin's lamp in his back pocket."

"ha ha. i see we understand each other, miss wilson."

"you can call me pandora. you must be whitey, right?"

"that's me." whitey looked past pandora out the door. it was still pitch dark outside. "well, pandora, its getting late."

"no, it's early yet. and you know what they say."

"no, what do they say?'

"the squeaky bird gets the greasy worm."

part 15

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