Tuesday, July 28, 2015

darkness, my home town - part 5

by fred flynn

illustrated by roy dismas

originally appeared in the june 1949 issue of frontiers of space magazine

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

to begin at the beginning, click here

click here for previous episode

jerry murphy has returned to chicago from a hitch in deep space, to discover that his uncle stan has been framed for murder - and is headed for the chair!

now jerry has to dig something up to save him - fast!

he grabs a cab to the east side, hoping to find something before it is too late.

first stop, the late packy miller's flower shop...


terry rapped on the back door of the flower shop.

george the gimp was not at home or was not answering.

terry rapped a little harder. still no response.

there was a dirty, cracked window beside the door. she peered into it.

“i can’t see anything,” she told jerry.

“try rapping on the window,” he told her.

“i don’t want to break it. it is already cracked.”

“here, let me look.”

terry stood aside and jerry tried to look in the window.

“you want those flowers real bad,” terry laughed.

jerry didn’t bother answering. he knew that all pretense of buying flowers was gone - if terry had believed him for one second to begin with - and he didn’t care what she or anybody else thought.

time was running out.

but he could not see anything in the window - not a shadow, a glimmer of light, nothing.

he tried opening the window. it did not lift.

“whoa, pardner, “ terry exclaimed. “that’s breaking and entering. i don’t think red fuller would appreciate that.”

jerry ignored her. he tried the handle of the door.

it opened right away.

jerry stepped in. it was pitch dark. he hesitated, but his eyes hardly adjusted.

“anybody here?” he called. no answer.

he turned back to terry. “you want to help me?”

“hell no. and i ain’t going to wait all night for you either.” but terry leaned in and called, “hey george, you in here?”

no answer.

“now, i’m curious.” terry said. she moved a little closer to the doorway.

“you got a flashlight?” jerry asked her. “you must have one in your glove compartment.”

“look for a light switch,” she answered. “there’s got to be one near the door.”

jerry tried, but could not find a switch. he took a cautious step inside. he bumped against something - probably a table.

his eyes made out the table and some small objects on it. he fumbled gingerly among the objects.

no flashlight - but he felt something small and papery.

he held it up, back towards the doorway to see it.

a matchbook.

without stopping to think, he lit one of the little matches.

it gave just enough light to see a doorway about twenty feet away, across a bare cement floor.

he lit another match and headed across the floor.

behind him, he heard terry close the door they had entered. he could see her shadow in the light from the sputtering match, but she did not follow him to the second door.

jerry pulled open the second door.

he could barely make out a naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling. he reached up, found a string, and pulled on it.

dim, flickering light from the bulb showed him he was in a bare little room, not much more than a closet.

a cot was shoved up against the back wall. a huddled, motionless form lay on it.

this has got to be george the gimp, jerry thought.

terry had finally followed him. she was looking over his shoulder.

“is this the guy we want? “ jerry asked.

“that’s him. and he looks awful sound asleep,” she said. “looks real peaceful, don’t he?”

“let’s find out how peaceful he is,” jerry answered. i shouldn’t get fingerprints on him, he thought. he took a handkerchief out of his pocket and with it wrapped around his hand, he rolled george the gimp off the cot on to the floor.

there was a knife sticking out of his back!

jerry and terry stared at the body for a few seconds.

“want to stick around now?” terry asked. “you know, look around, see if there are any more bodies?”

jerry didn’t answer. why not, he thought, what have i got to lose?

“let me point out,” terry said, “that we didn’t make much noise or show much light, but we must have made some.”

jerry came to his senses. “yeah, you are right.”

“the cops could be on their way right now,” terry added. “or maybe somebody even gave red fuller a call, in stalingrad. he could call back and have someone getting out here right now.”

“all right, you convinced me.”

jerry pulled the cord on the light, plunging the little room, and the room outside, into total blackness again.

they got back outside and into the cab. as soon as they pulled back out onto the street, terry put the lights back on. jerry stiffened a little when she did.

“looks suspicious if you leave them off,” she said.

“yeah, right.”

“so, where to? still want to buy those flowers?”

“you know i wasn’t buying any flowers,” jerry answered wearily.

“ha ha, honesty is finally the best policy. but, seriously, where do you want to go? back downtown? drive around the beautiful east side? ”

before jerry could answer, they saw headlights up ahead. they were both silent as the car approached and roared past them.

it was a police car! headed right back to the flower shop.

at full speed but with no siren.

terry looked back in the rear view mirror. “i think we better get back on mrs murphy’s boulevard - in any direction. you don’t want to get trapped in these nasty little streets.”

“sure, why not?” jerry’s mind was a blank. he slumped back in the seat.

“mind telling me what this all about?” terry asked. they had come to a wider street and now she speeded up, back toward the boulevard.

jerry couldn’t think of anything to tell her except the truth, so he told her what he knew. which, as he told it, he realized again was not very much.

“yeah, i figured it was something like that,“ terry told him when he finished his brief recital.

“now can i ask you a question?” jerry asked.


“how come you are being so helpful?”

“who’s helpful? i’m just running up a fare. by the way, i hope you have all the back space pay i figure you for.”

jerry shook his head. “don’t worry, i got it. there’s got to be more than that. why risk even being seen with me? if red fuller is out to get me. why not just stop the cab and tell me to get out? that would seem the sensible thing to do.”

“it’s a slow night. i need the fare.”

they were back on the boulevard. jerry thought they were still heading out of downtown but he was not sure. “all right, have it your way.”

“ha, ha, no it ain’t just the fare. i got my own beef with red fuller, see. and especially against his pro-ta -gee that punk chicago jimmy kelly. so i figure anything that might bring down them down - or maybe just embarrass them a little, i’m in. you get my drift?”

jerry was not sure he believed her, but what could he say? “so you are in with me all the way, huh?”

terry laughed. “well, i don’t know about all the way, my friend. that covers a lot of territory. let’s just say i’m with you for now, how’s that?”

“i guess it will have to do,” jerry told her. “where are we headed, by the way?”

“right now? toward the old south side. you got someplace else in mind?”

“not really. that was the only lead i had - and you see how it turned out.”

“you got nothing else at all, huh?”

“no - wait! it probably doesn’t amount to much.” jerry reached into his pocket and took out the matchbook he had picked up in the back room of the flower shop.

he leaned over the front seat to read the matchbook cover by the dashboard light.

“it says - ‘borgia’s - fine food and drink - 2213 north -“

“oh yeah, chuck borgia’s place - over on the north side.”

“you know it?”

“i know where it is - not a place for sober and hardworking citizens - or citizens without big bankrolls.”

“would it be open?”

“it might be, ”

“let’s try it. i can’t think of anyplace better.”

“ha, ha! you can think of lots of places better - like anyplace in chicago - or the world.”

“let’s go then.”

“all right, space boy, you asked for it. as soon as i can turn around - up at that next light.”

jerry leaned back. “and on the way you can tell me what you know about chuck borgia.”

“not much - he’s kind of a mysterious figure.”

part 6

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