Wednesday, May 13, 2015

fun, part 17

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...


ruby couldn’t sleep.

the rooming house was quiet.

she had a hard time sleeping when it was quiet because it gave her the creeps, and she had a hard time sleeping when any of the roomers were making noise.

she squinted at her alarm clock in the moonlight. almost five o’clock.

she might as well get up.

get up and make coffee and think about her troubles. before the day started and she had to deal with the stupid roomers and their moronic complaints and problems.

it was still dark out. it wouldn’t be for much longer.

she wondered if whitey would drop by - to check up on her, although he wouldn’t come out and say so - when he finished his shift at the diner.

whenever that was. she never bothered to try to keep track.

whitey! ruby didn’t feel like looking at his stupid face.

with a groan, ruby got herself out of bed and put on her bathrobe.

she switched on the little lamp beside the bed. giving herself just enough light to see by and not have to look at the crummy room.

she switched the hot plate on and started to make coffee.

the hot plate! every time she turned on or looked at the hot plate she wanted to throw it through the window.

the hot plate, as much as anything, signified to ruby the crumminess of her existence.

she deserved butlers and maids and a swimming pool, not a goddamned hot plate that she had to make her own lousy coffee on!

it was all that loser whitey’s fault. and to think she had had such big plans for him.

running his lousy diners and rooming houses, not enough nerve to run more than a little numbers or bookmaking on the side…

and so far as ruby could see, not even trying to set up a big score...

the coffee was ready. ruby poured herself a cup and lit her first cigarette of the day.

ruby always waited until her coffee was ready before she lit up. only slobs and hillbillies lit up first thing when they got out of bed. her mama had taught her that.

of course if she had a maid to bring her her coffee - like she should have - maybe she would light up if the maid was slow.

of course if the maid was slow she wouldn’t last long...

ruby sat down beside the window but didn’t open it or open the curtains.

she could hear a few cars and trucks go by outside.

a big score, she thought for the thousandth time.

that was the difference between whitey and frankie. of course there were a lot of differences between whitey and frankie - didn’t she know it - but that was the biggest one.

frankie was always looking for the big score. he lived for the big score.

not like mister creep along, look both ways before you cross the street whitey.

poor frankie, doing forty to sixty in the kentucky state penitentiary. how ruby wished she was close enough to go visit him. and to think she had been dumb enough to believe whitey and his big talk about trying to spring frankie…

ruby had stopped pestering whitey about it and of course whitey himself never brought the subject up.

so poor frankie was left to rot, while whitey, who wasn’t anywhere close to half the man, walked down the street whistling, free as a little bird.

it just wasn’t right. but ruby knew one thing.

she knew how to bide her time.

was that someone at the front door? ruby listened.

the front door had opened. there was somebody outside in the hall.

ruby didn’t like being on the first floor but whitey insisted because she was running the place.

it had to be whitey. none of the roomers, if they were coming in this late, would be that quiet.

ruby got up and opened her door a crack and peeked out.

it was whitey, and he had two people with him. a man and a woman. the three of them filled the small hallway, especially as the woman was so fat.

it looked like whitey and the woman were trying to help the man up the stairs. though they were not actually carrying him.

ruby tightened her bathrobe around her waist. she stepped out in to the hall.

whitey didn’t bat an eye when he saw her. “hey ruby, you’re up. we didn’t want to disturb you.”

“who’s we? and what’s going on?”

“i was going to leave a note under your door. i’d like you to meet a couple of friends of mine -

this is jerry and this is pandora. they’ll be staying for a few days at least.”

pandora? what kind of name was that? pandora smiled brightly at ruby and jerry kind of nodded, but maybe he was just swaying on his feet.

ruby was getting a closer look at the newcomers. the guy wasn’t half bad looking, and wearing a good, though wrinkled suit. a really good suit, like aly khan or the duke of windsor would wear.

ruby was an avid reader of life and look magazines.

the woman was not so well dressed. she looked like a big city person, kind of silly with her little beret, like she thought she was in paris or someplace. and what a hippo! ruby was glad she was running just a rooming house and not a boarding house so she wouldn’t have to try to feed the creature.

“charmed, i’m sure,” ruby finally answered. “what rooms are you putting them in?”

“number 8. it’s empty, right?” number 8, on the second floor, was one of the few rooms that could be called a double.

“you’re putting them both in number 8? are they married?”

whitey rolled his eyes. both he and pandora laughed. “uh - not that i heard.”

“it’s not funny,” ruby told whitey. “you’re the one who wants me to run a respectable place. i’m the one who will get rousted for running a disreputable place - “

“what’s this about disreputable?” jerry blurted out.

whitey patted him on the shoulder. “nothing, old boy. everything is o k. look,” he said to ruby, “if you are worried about it i can get doc or pop over here later today with a license and a bible and they can get married. all right?”

he glanced over at pandora but she looked greatly amused by the whole thing. “i don’t think j edgar hoover will be here before then, do you?”

“why can’t they just get separate rooms?” ruby insisted.

“uh - maybe we can,” pandora answered. “why don’t we just get jerry here up to the room - he’s tired - “

“yeah, i see his type of tired every day.”

pandora ignored this. “ and then we will come down and talk about it.”

“that’s a great idea,” whitey added. he looked at ruby. “we will be back down and explain everything.”

ruby shrugged. “whatever you say. you own the place.”

“we’ll explain everything,” whitey repeated. he turned to jerry. “you all right there, buddy?”

but jerry had passed out again, and pandora was holding him up.

“this could be the start of something big,” whitey told ruby.

part 18

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