Thursday, September 10, 2015

darkness, my home town - part 8

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.

a stop at the late packy miller's flower shop is a dead end....

but a dropped matchbook points to the lair of the mysterious chuck borgia, who proves affable enough until...


is that right, kid?’ chuck finally asked, almost in a whisper, “you came to see me about red fuller?”

there was no sound except the announcer’s voice calling the undercard fight on the television .

other than that it was so quiet that an ant halfway across the floor aiming for a drop of spilled liquor stopped and raced back to his crack in the wall.

but jerry was used to silence - the silence of deep space.

“if red fuller had anything to do with railroading stan murphy, then yes, mr borgia, that is what i wanted to see you about,” jerry answered .

chuck raised his eyebrows and gave jerry a little smile as if he appreciated his frankness. “that’s all very well, kid, but why now - at this time of night and with the big fight on and all?”

“because i don’t have much time,” jerry told him.

“no?” chuck glanced at the group at the round table. “it can’t wait until tomorrow - tomorrow when it is daylight and the world is up and about?”

“no,” jerry answered. “it has to be tonight.”

“and why is that?”

“because stan is going to the chair in about two hours - at midnight.”

“you don’t say so.” chuck took a sip of his drink. he looked over at the table. “is that right, judge? is the guy going to the chair tonight?”

the “judge” laughed. “i don’t know, chuck. people go to the chair every night, all over the world. i might send a guy to the chair once in a while myself, but it’s not my job to keep track .”

terry, seated beside jerry, piped up. “send a guy to the chair once in a while! you wouldn’t have just happened to have sent his uncle to the chair, huh?”

the judge laughed again. the adam’s apple in his long neck bobbed up and down. “no, miss, i did not.” he took a cigar out of his breast pocket and inspected it. “and anticipating your next question - i do not remember who did - assuming i ever knew it at all.”

the little man that chuck had addressed as “maury” and identified as his lawyer, now leaned forward and spoke to jerry. “this is all very well, young man, but what does it have to do with my client? “

“maybe, not much,” jerry admitted.

“oh, maybe not much,” maury replied. “how about a little, then? or maybe nothing at all?”

“you see,” jerry said, “i’m desperate…”

“oh ho! desperate!” the little lawyer waved his big cigar at jerry. “not a good thing to admit, young fellow, but go on - please, go on.”

“i was looking for red fuller tonight - and i didn’t find him.”

maury shrugged. no one else spoke, but all eyes were on jerry.

“but i found this .“ jerry produced the matchbook he had found on the corpse at the flower shop. he put it on the bar in front of chuck. he did not mention that he had taken it off a dead body.

chuck looked at it. “is there any writing or anything in it?”

jerry had, at terry’s suggestion, checked the inside of the matchbook. “no, it’s just what you see.”

chuck laughed. “and that’s it? everybody in chicago has one of those.” he turned to the table. “or so my business manager tells me.” he did not pick up the matchbook, and jerry, after a moment’s hesitation, took it back.

“that’s great, kid,” chuck went on. “really impressive. you should give lessons to sherlock holmes and bulldog drummond and professor einstein. you know, i’m sorry about your uncle and all, but i really don’t see any connection here. any connection at all. but thank you for diverting us while we sit here waiting for the main event. “

“which should be coming up right about now,” said the big guy at the table that jerry had taken for a bodyguard.

“no,” said the bartender, who had been the only person watching the screen . “they got one more prelim after this one.”

“in that case,” said chuck, “let’s have another round. including for our two guests here.”

jerry felt defeated. he had no idea what to do or where to go next. he wondered if he should get up and leave, but before he could make a move, terry spoke up again.

“i got a question,” she said.

“for who?” chuck asked, a little impatiently.

“for anybody who can answer it. you, sir, over there, you are a judge, right?”

“i am indeed, miss.” the judge smiled over at terry, but did not, jerry noticed, identify himself further.

“all right, let’s suppose, just suppose, that jerry here can come up with some new evidence in the next couple of hours - “

the judge nodded, and smiled tolerantly.

“ - what would he do with it? who can he go to - the governor?”

“no, miss, the governor has nothing to do with it. the appeals court in this case would be in rio de janiero, which handles all the appeals in the western hemisphere.”

“that’s right,” jerry said. “that’’s what i was told by - that’s what somebody told me - brazil.”

“so,” the judge went on smoothly, seeming to enjoy himself, “assuming that you knew the number to call in brazil - “

“we could get it from information,” put in terry.

“ - you would have to call brazil. of course, if you had never called before, you would probably get a secretary - if you were lucky, at this time of night.”

jerry felt his heart sink. but terry pressed on.

“suppose you knew somebody in brazil?” she said, looking at chuck borgia.

“don’t look at me, “ said chuck. “i’m a chicago guy. i stay home, i don’t know anybody in brazil.”

the judge smiled at terry, and took a puff of his cigar.

it’s hopeless, thought jerry.

then the woman in the black evening gown spoke. “you know, young man, there is still something you can do. if you have the nerve.” she took a sip of the fresh drink the bartender, who was handing the drinks for the new round to the five people at the table, had just put in front of her.

“what?” jerry asked.

“i’ll tell you later,” the woman replied. “after the fight. i mean, we all came here to watch the fight, isn’t that right, chuck?”

“that’s right, lily.”

“wait!” exclaimed jerry. “but time is running out! every minute counts.”

“no it does not,” lily answered coolly. “look, we can’t save your friend - your uncle, or whatever he is, tonight. you are right, it is too late for that. but we can save him.”

“are you -“

“am i serious? yes, i am serious. just be patient, and you will see how serious i am.”

jerry was not that close to the woman, but he could feel her eyes on him.

it sounded crazy, but what other chance did he have?

finished at the table, the bartender faced jerry and terry.

“you want refills?” he asked them.

“i’ll have another ginger ale,” said terry. she glanced at jerry and the draft beer he had hardly touched “and i think you better have a ginger ale, too.”

“you’re right. a ginger ale for me,” jerry told the glowering bartender.

chuck borgia laughed.

part 9

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