Friday, April 22, 2016

the golden gumdrop caper, part 21

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

the traffic out of yonkers was not too bad, although the morning was well along.

angie drove carefully, as little as she liked to do so and as much as she wanted to ditch the desoto.

the two girls had dozed off in the back seat, but salome woke up as they crossed the broadway bridge into manhattan.

salome looked out the window. “a lot of cars are passing us,” she told angie.

“there are a lot of cars on the road.”

“can’t you go faster?”

“i could, but i’d rather not. sit back and enjoy the scenery.”

“it’s all scenery i’ve seen before.”

“look at it again. see if it’s changed.”

salome was quiet for a few seconds and then said, “i’m hungry.”

“hungry! you just ate!”

“a coke and a candy bar! you call that eating? i thought maybe you could treat us to a square meal.”

“so you want to stop now?” they hit a red light and stopped and angie turned around. “two seconds ago you wanted to speed up - now you want to stop. which is it?”

“whichever gets me something to eat first.”

the light turned green. angie turned back around. “i know a place we can stop. down on the west side. i want to talk to the guy who runs it, if he’s there.”

“is the food good?” salome asked.

“no, honey, the food is not good. it stinks. they have the worst coffee in new york, and they are proud of it. they’ll make you an omelet out of eggs they buy that are two or three years old. and a nice chicken salad sandwich, but the chicken might be fresh off the wharf, if you get my drift.”

“ha, ha. i think you are funning me now, miss brown. why would a person eat in such a place?”

pippi had woken up, and heard the last of the conversation. “sally will feed us,” she said, rubbing her eyes. “she’ll feed us good.”

“better than miss brown’s friend, with his nasty three year old eggs and such?”

“oh, yes.” pippi stretched and looked out the window. “where are we?’

“hudson heights,” angie answered. “we should be down in the bowery in less than an hour. if we drive carefully and don’t get stopped by the police for any reason, which i am sure none of us want, do we?”

“o k, miss brown, you made your point,” salome told her.

“then i guess we will just drive on through,” angie said, “and i can go back and see my friend later.”

they drove in silence for a while.

“this friend of yours on the bowery,” angie asked pippi. “are you sure she will be there?”

“if she isn’t, she won’t be far away. she sticks to the neighborhood, pretty much. she’s getting old.”

“and she’s just - your friend? she’s not your aunt or anything?”

“we’ve known each other for a while. we do some preaching together, and spread the word together.”

“i see.” angie did not see, but she just said, “ now does she operate some kind of boarding house, or rent rooms?’

“rent rooms?” pippi answered. “no, she doesn’t rent rooms.” she thought for a second. “but she might know somebody that does.”

“why do you ask,” salome put in. “you looking for some place to stay?”

“i might be.”

“why, don’t you have any friends to take you in?”

what a little nosey parker, angie thought. “i have friends but i don’t want to put them out. and i want it to be a surprise when i see them. if i decide i want to see them. you know how it is.”

“there are a couple of little hotels right near sally’s place,” pippi said.

angie laughed. “you mean flophouses.”

“you won’t find the mighty ones of the earth within their walls,” pippi agreed. “ but we’ll find something for you. sally knows the neighborhood. and so do i.”

bleecker and the bowery, thought angie. a little too close to some of her old territory for comfort. but it looked like the best she could do for the moment.

she just needed someplace to lay low for a few days before meeting up with dick richmond at red’s diner.


“here we are,” said pippi. she pointed to the window of a basement apartment. there was a sign in the window with a cross on it, and some lettering angie couldn’t make out.

“why don’t you get out and make sure your friend is here,” angie told her.

the two girls got out and approached the basement stairs. angie looked around.

she was parked in front of a bar. bob’s bowery bar. she vaguely remembered being inside it a couple of times, at night. not the most elegant place, and the daylight wasn’t doing it any favors.

there was a little space behind the bar. should she take a chance on parking in it? she decided not to.

salome was waving at her. just below her the door to the basement apartment was open.

angie got out of the car. she blinked in the sunlight. how she wished she could get rid of the car, which she felt was cursed and unlucky.

she went through the door of the apartment and closed it softly behind her. pippi was talking to her friend sally - an older black woman, who regarded angie with no friendly gaze.

“this is miss brown,” pippi introduced her. “who the lord sent to give us a ride from yonkers.”

“and is looking for a place to stay,” added salome, who had taken her hat and coat off and made herself comfortable in a comfortable looking chair beside a small round table.

“yes. and i can pay,” angie added quickly. “ i will stay in a hotel if i have to, but i thought - a nice quiet room in a house would be better, if i can find one.”

sally’s look softened a little. “we might find something. you know there are some nice hotels not too far off - like the hotel st crispian, just a couple of blocks west.”

the last place in the world i want to go near, angie thought, but she smiled at sally and said, “maybe, but i would prefer a quiet little room.”

“well - we’ll see. but make yourself at home, miss brown. i am just going to get these girls something to eat, and you are welcome to share in it too.”

“thank you very much.” as sally started to turn away, angie noticed a pile of pamphlets on the round table. she smiled and picked one up. “you know, these bring back memories.”

“oh!” sally looked at angie sharply. “of what?”

“i used to hand out pamphlets like these in the street myself.”

“really?’ a gleam of sympathy showed behind sally’s thick glasses. “and for what church?”

“oh, it wasn’t exactly a church. well, i suppose it was kind of a church.”

“kind of a church? what might that be?”

“well, it was a little political party my sister started - the people’s united resistance party -“

“you mean you were a communist!”

“well, no, not exactly communist - “

“not exactly communist! and you compare that to a church!” angie could see that sally was really shocked, and that pippi was a little bit shocked at her statements.

salome looked like she was trying not to laugh.

“i just meant, “ angie said. “that it was sort of the same, passing out leaflets and stopping people in the street, and making speeches - i was just a little child, younger than these girls are now, i was led astray… i left that all behind, a long time ago… i didn’t mean to upset you…”

sally stared at her for a few seconds more, and then laughed. “well, miss brown, we all find our own paths through this mysterious world, and sometimes the light is bright, and sometimes dim.” she pointed to a chair in the corner. “but, please, make yourself at home.”

part 22

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