Wednesday, May 6, 2015

fun, part 16

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...


do they always talk like this, roselle wondered. what a couple of bores. especially him.

they are probably going to kill me, and they are just boring.

the light was still red. on a sudden impulse, roselle grabbed her purse and opened the door and stepped out onto the middle of the street. there were two lanes of traffic between her and the sidewalk.

the light changed and she ran in front of another cab and a limo onto the curb as their horns blared at her.

safely reaching the sidewalk she turned and saw the green cab, with the car behind it blasting its horn, move across 47th street.

ha ha! well, roselle thought, i guess i didn’t want any more excitement than that after all.

that was enough excitement for one night. she was conscious of the rain on her face.

it was good to be alive!

roselle started walking back uptown. she kept glancing over her shoulder to see if agnes had gotten out of the cab and was following her.

after half a block she decided she was safe.

she decided to celebrate.

she went into the first bar she came to. she didn’t recognize it, t looked like just another bar, not high class, not a complete dump.

but it was kind of dark. the bar itself was long, with only one patron at the far end, talking to the one bartender.

roselle was in no hurry. the bar was pleasantly cool and dry. she took her hat off and tossed it on the seat beside her. she took her cigarettes and lighter out of her purse.

she reached deeper into the purse for her wallet. she rummaged around for it.

it was gone.


“what now, genius?” maxie asked agnes as he was forced to move the cab across 47th street in the flow of traffic.

“don’t worry about it. we can still make this work.”

“you think so? omar is not going to be too pleased. you sure you don’t want to go back and try to catch her?”

“that wouldn’t work.” agnes blew some smoke out the window. “i never did think she would come with us. i was surprised she did. but i got what i wanted.”

“oh?” maxie glanced back.

agnes held up the wallet she had lifted from roselle’s purse. “we can use this.”

“for what? has it got a million dollars in it?”

“i will use it to impersonate her.”

maxie laughed. “and who is going to impersonate you?”

“maybe nobody. maybe gloria.”

“gloria! if she is half sober.”

a jaywalker ran in front of the cab and maxie hit his brakes and blasted his horn.

“you can impersonate me,” agnes went on. “or omar can.”

“go ahead, joke about it. i don’t think omar is going to be happy.”

“i’ll worry about omar. just drive. get us back to brooklyn in one piece.”


what a bloody nuisance, roselle thought, after emptying the purse on the bar to make sure the wallet was gone. nothing else seemed to be missing. she had her change purse, with enough in it for at least a couple of drinks.

and to call jerry. he should have returned to the apartment by now.

roselle put everything back in her purse and picked it up and headed for the phone booth in a dark corner at the other end of the bar.

as she passed the solitary drinker and the bartender the drinker glanced up at her. she thought he looked familiar. but he didm’t say anything to her.

roselle closed the door of the booth and dropped her dime and called jerry.

the phone rang and rang. either jerry was not back yet or he was dead drunk, more likely the latter.

“your party is not answering,” the operator’s voice came on.

“thank you, i will try later.” roselle retrieved her dime when it fell down, and opened the door of the booth.

“roselle! roselle gray!”

so the drinker recognized her after all.

the man swiveled around on his stool to face her. “don’t you remember me? blackie - blackie bascomb.”

roselle sort of remembered him. she gave him her best half-hearted effort at a friendly smile. blackie bascomb. from newport? from richmond?

blackie - did he have a real first name or ever use one? - must have been her own age, but looked at least ten years older, surely from drink. he sported a pencil mustache and slicked back hair in the style of pre-war days.

“of course, blackie. how could i forget you?” roselle sat down on the stool beside him. “why don’t you buy a lady a drink?”

“of course.” blackie smiled uncertainly, showing a fine set of dentures. probably had his teeth knocked out in a fight. now roselle remembered - blackie had always been a fighter, but not much of one.

“you can buy me a lot of drinks, if you like.” roselle almost laughed in blackie’s confused face. “i lost my wallet. honest. “ she smiled. “ i will pay you back, if you like.”

“yes, yes, of course. but - look here - why don’t you open a tab here.” blackie turned to the bartender, who had been watching and listening with a dead pan. “look here, joe, i can vouch for this lady.”

“can you, mister bascomb?”

“she’s - she’s a gray - of the shipping empire grays. she’s got enough money to burn every wet mule in the state of kentucky and the state of tennessee too, ha ha!”

“if it’s all the same, mister bascomb, i think we will put the lady’s drinks on your tab, and you can adjust the matter between yourselves.”

“right, right,” blackie glanced at roselle. if she was insulted, she was not showing it. “well, what will you have?”

“a green thunderbolt.”

“i’m sorry, miss,” said the bartender. “but i am not familiar with that particular drink.”

“fill a clean glass with absinthe.”

“very good.”

“and another maritini for me, joe,” blackie added.

joe turned away to get the drinks. roselle once again took her cigarettes out.

“well, blackie, old boy, what have you been up to?”

“ah - there was a war, you know.”

christ, thought roselle, i’m in for it now.

part 17

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