Monday, July 13, 2015

fun, part 21

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...

jerry tells his tale to whitey, who prevails on him to stop at a boarding house owned by whitey and run for him by ruby ...


whitey and pandora got jerry up the stairs and into room number 8 and left him passed out on the bed.

then they came back down to ruby’s room. ruby felt obliged to offer them coffee, which they accepted.

as ruby was making the coffee, whitey began expounding - “thinking aloud” as he put it - on the possibilities presented by the existence and situation of jerry.

as she listened to whitey ruby was not impressed.

she was not impressed by much of anything whitey said or did any more.

she had decided he was a loser and a blowhard. but for now she was sort of stuck with him.

she brought whitey and pandora their coffee and sat down at the kitchen table with them. it made for a cozy little group, especially with the whale pandora taking up so much space.

ruby took a sip of her own coffee, put it down and rubbed her eyes. “look, “ she interrupted whitey, “i hate to sound thick, but can you start over? i didn’t quite hear what you said at first, and what you’re saying doesn’t - i mean, who is this guy exactly and what is he doing here?”

if whitey was annoyed, he didn’t show it. “this guy was my commanding officer in the army - for about a year. the rich guy. i must have told you about him before.”

“mm.” ruby just nodded. she blanked out all stories about the war - from anybody who wanted to tell her one. she had taken no part in the war herself, not as a rosie the riveter or as any g i’s lonely wife or sweetie or in any other way, and she was sick of the stories of those who had.

whitey continued, giving ruby the details of jerry’s doings as he understood them from jerry himself, and from pandora.

“and you are sure he killed his wife?” ruby asked.

pandora had already taken the newspaper out of her purse and now she handed it to ruby.

ruby skimmed through the paper. she tried to think as she read it. she didn’t like pandora’s looks or anything else about her. whitey seemed awfully chummy with her. had he really just met her? ruby had been trying to think of a way to get away from whitey. but the thought that he would dump her - especially for this eyelash-fluttering ton of fun - did not sit well with her.

ruby put the paper down and took out her cigarettes and lit one to give her time to collect her thoughts.

“well?” whitey asked her.

“you know what i think this guy needs?” ruby said.

“tell us.”

“a lawyer. not you or me - or us - ” - ruby’s gaze flickered over pandora - “but a lawyer. and he can afford one, right?”

whitey glanced at pandora. “yeah, he can afford one. he can afford a whole law firm. but he don’t seem to want one. he never said the word lawyer to me.”

“but he’s drunk, isn’t he? when he sobers up, he’ll come to his senses and want a lawyer.”

“he didn’t seem that drunk to me,” said whitey. “scared and confused, yeah, but not drunk.”

“he wasn’t even that drunk when i met him hours ago, “ said pandora. “maybe a little buzz on, that’s all. and then he slept in the car on the way up here. i’m surprised he passed out again. it must be the strain from all that excitement.”

“i think we should at least consider some possibilities,” said whitey. “it can’t hurt.”

“since fate has dropped him in our laps,” added pandora. “you don’t get chances like this every day.”

that’s right, fatso, agree with everything he says. aloud ruby said, “all right, let’s hear these great ideas.”

“what i was thinking,” whitey said, “was kidnaping him. i mean, that’s what you do with rich people, right?”

yes, ruby thought, and go to the chair like the poor slob who kidnaped the lindbergh baby. “kidnap him?”

“i mean, not really, because he would be in on it. but it would be a way to get some of his money without him having to give himself up.” whitey looked pleased with himself for this answer.

“that sounds good to me,” pandora said. “it sounds like money for everybody.”

“of course,” whitey quickly added, “we would have to really plan it, think it through.”

“and he’d be in on it himself, right?” asked ruby. she still didn’t like it - not one bit.

“that would be the first plan,” whitey answered. “the starting point.”

ruby nodded. there was, she decided, no sense arguing at this point.


jerry had awakened almost as soon as whitey and pandora had left him.

he had crept back down the stairs.

standing outside the door, he had overheard everything the three of them had said.

kidnaping him! despite whitey’s and pandora’s assurances to ruby that he, jerry, would be “in on it” - as a “starting point!” - the word sent cold chills down his spine.

what a fool he had been - to trust either of them. or anybody. even for a minute.

they were like the rest of the stinking human race - only out for themselves. even if they didn’t “kidnap” him, they surely meant him no good.

he had to get away - now.

he looked down the short hall at the front door. could he open it without them hearing it? the door looked heavy - almost certain to creak - loudly.

he turned and on tiptoe, went back up the stairs and to room 8.

he had not closed the door to the room, so it made no sound as he slipped back into it.

there was a window, already open a crack. he carefully opened it wider.

he was in luck. the ground in the small back yard was higher than the street at the front door. although he was on the second floor, it was effectively only a one story drop.

he threw his hat out the window and squeezed himself out after it. holding on to the sill with two hands, it was only a drop of a couple of feet.

there was a fence, about five and a half feet high, separating the yard from the yard of another building behind it. his heart pounding, jerry scrambled over it. he scraped his face and hands a little bit, but did not even notice.

careful not to trip over anything, he made his way past a trash can on the side of this building and out on to the street.

jerry fled.

he had no idea where he was. dawn was coming up. but there were still no cars in the street.

he didn’t know if that was good or bad.

there was a hint of rain in the air.

he decided not to call attention to himself by running. besides, he knew he would quickly be winded.

he wanted to get back to the highway, but did not know if he was headed in the right direction.

one thing he did know.

he was lost - lost and damned forever.

without a friend in the world. just like always.

but now he had no money. and no name.


just the shoes he was running away in.

this was how it was going to be.

always on the run. always moving.

always looking over his shoulder. forever.


suddenly he thought he could make out an overpass ahead. it must be the highway!

maybe his luck was turning. he started walking a little faster.

a car passed him, heading in his direction.

the car - a shiny black studebaker - slowed down and then stopped.

jerry slowed his own pace a little, drew level with it.

a deep voice emerged from the studebaker. “hey pal, want a lift?”

part 22

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