Monday, January 4, 2016

the golden gumdrop caper, part 12

by manfred skyline

illustrated by roy dismas and konrad kraus

originally appeared in the june through september 1956 issues of last stop - excitement magazine

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

in our previous chapters, we met the international jewel thief stanley slade, recently recaptured after a daring escape from prison, and the notorious adventuress angie ricardo, recently sentenced to a long term in a federal penitentiary. angie has been contacted by mysterious personages, including the "thin man"... who propose to get her released, for their own purposes...,

in the four preceding chapters we met the somewhat down on his luck artist pete palomine, who approaches the art dealer and gallery owner cosima collinson with a tale of wonders... as pete tells his tale, cosima notices a suspicious character lurking outside , and calls the police...

when vorch saw the woman looking down at him from the third floor window, he waited fifteen seconds and then moved away down madison ave toward 85th st at a normal pace, keeping close to the sides of the buildings.

he had followed pete palomine to the townhouse but who knew when he might be coming out? vorch had the address and he would check up on it tomorrow to see who lived there, see if it might be useful to him in his dealing with palomine.

vorch was patient. he never hurried anything unless it was absolutely necessary.

his caution proved fortuitous. he saw a police car approaching from a block away. just cruising, with no siren or flashing lights. in response to a call from the woman in the window?

there was a narrow alley just ahead, between two townhouses. he decided not to duck into it. the police car might not spot him, but why risk looking suspicious?

he had done nothing wrong. his papers were in order, there was nothing of an incriminating nature on his person.

surely he had nothing to fear from the american police, whose courtesy and docility never ceased to amaze him. sometimes they picked you up, asked some questions, never laid a finger on you!

in any case, the police car passed him by. whether because the lone policeman in it did not see him in the shadows against the wall, or because he excited no suspicion, vorch did not know.

he did not look back. he crossed the street when he reached 85th and headed east toward park avenue.


with spence in the back seat, officer donnelly cruised around the block bounded by 86th st, 5th avenue, 87th st, and madison avenue. then he headed south and circled the next block , going west on 85th.

he didn’t see anybody, suspicious or otherwise. he decided to radio back.

“donnelly here. is that you, connolly?”

“this is connolly. find anything?”

“i got a suspect, of sorts.”

“of sorts? what does that mean? what sort?”

“he’s just a bum - an old friend. he’s harmless.”

“but he was outside the collinson house?”

donnelly glanced back at spence. “he was in the vicinity. but i -“

“book him.”

“i don’t know.”

“i know. just book him. book him for the night for vagrancy. so i can tell the dame we did.”

“all right.” donnelly put the receiver back on the dash. “i did what i could, old pal.” he said over his shoulder to spence.

“you didn’t try very hard. you didn’t sound very convincing,” spence answered.

“convincing! who am i, william j fallon? you wanted a speech about the rights of man? boy! some people will complain if you hang them with a brand new rope.”

spence looked out the window and sighed. “so you are taking me to the station?”

“yeah, but i didn’t say when, did i? i’ll take you down just before closing time, you can hang in the station for about half an hour and then they will let you go, how does that sound?”

“all right, i guess. so what do you want from me?”

“nothing! we’ll just talk about old times. of course anything you might tell me about anything will be appreciated, you know how it is.”

“i know how it is. you gonna buy me a cup of coffee?”

“of course. what are friends for? and a doughnut, too, what do you think of that?”

“i’m hungry, how about two doughnuts?”

“two doughnuts it is,” donnelly laughed. “you drive a hard bargain, my friend. we’ll just drive around a little first, see if we can’t find this bad man you saw.”


meanwhile, at the collinson townhouse, pete palomine resumed his tale:

prince joto was torn between despair at forever losing the love of green star, and a burning determination to somehow escape the mines, no matter what the odds.

sentenced to slavery in the mines, he volunteered to work in the lowest and most dangerous part of the mine being dug to the center of the earth.

there were fewer guards in the lowest depths, because it was thought impossible for anyone to escape anyway, and such guards as there were were often careless and lackadaisical. joto felt that surely this could be turned to his advantage.

so it came about that joto and five of his fellows, accompanied by a single sleepy-eyed guard, were starting to dig a new shaft, straight down into a newly discovered seam of soft rock, when joto’s pick suddenly broke through the rock, leaving a gaping black hole and sending a cascade of rock fragments descending into the depths…

joto almost fell headlong onto the hole, but barely kept his footing and was seized from behind by moro, his stoutest companion, a young man of good family who had been sentenced to the mines after killing a young imperial prince in an affair of honor.

it was long seconds before they heard some of the falling fragments echo back. it was obviously a very deep fissure, but such had been found before, and there was a protocol for dealing with them.

the guard, named buppo, did not like his routine disturbed. but with an ill grace he asked for a volunteer to go back and get a length of rope, with which one if the crew could be lowered into the hole.

perci, a slight and somewhat effeminate young man who was the object of the casual cruelties and occasional kindnesses of the crew, quickly spoke up and was sent back up the shaft to get a rope.

joto volunteered to make the descent when the rope was obtained, but was hotly disputed by moro.

“no, my friend, i insist!” cried joto. “you have done enough for this day, by rescuing me from the depths already. it is my turn now. but,” he added graciously, “on the next such occasion you may do the honors, if it please you.”

moro attempted to argue, and spewed forth a passionate declaration of love and gratitude toward joto, but joto remained smilingly adamant.

kardo, a shaggy-browed villain who was the bully of the group, crowed with laughter. “listen to these two fine specimens! you would think them still strutting around the court, with feathers in their curly hair, instead of groveling in the wormy muck of the world with such scum as us !”

joto and moro ignored him. silence enveloped the little group, undisturbed even by the usual moisture dripping from the walls.

after a while, perci returned with a suspiciously short length of rope.

buppo thrust the rope at joto. “no more talk! go, my fine hero!”


proceeding at his steady pace, and never looking back, vorch reached lexington avenue.

he entered a little all-night coffee shop he had frequented before. it was empty, except for the sleepy, sharp-faced woman behind the counter.

“tea, if you please,” vorch asked the woman with a slightly truculent air. he had found that americans, for some strange reason, regarded tea as somehow womanly compared to coffee - probably because there was no real tea to be found in the country.

“it will take a while,” the woman told him. “i will have to make it.”

“i am in no hurry,” vorch replied.

“want anything with it?” the woman pointed to a case with doughnuts and other pastries.

there was a selection of over a dozen items - a dozen items to choose from, in a place frequented by vagrants and beggars!

vorch pointed to what he knew was called a “danish pastry”.

“you want lemon or cherry?” the woman asked.

lemon or cherry! as if he were the archduchess of austria! “cherry, please.”

vorch was finally seated away from the window with his pitifully weak tea and his cherry pastry, when the door opened.

a young policeman entered. he had one of those smirking new york faces vorch so detested.

he was accompanied by the rabbity little fellow vorch had seen outside the townhouse on 86th street.

part 13

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