Wednesday, May 18, 2016

the golden gumdrop caper, part 23

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

pippi’s friend sally was able to find angie a room to rent, from one of the members of sally’s little congregation.

it was on bleecker st near lafayette, above a pawn shop, and angie paid twelve dollars up front for two weeks.

a perfect spot to dream of scoring millions.

the congregation lady, who ran the pawn shop wth her husband, directed angie to a parking lot on crosby st where she was could park the desoto.

after some consideration, angie had decided to keep the car, even though it made her nervous.

she did not want to fritter her money away on cabs, or be reduced to taking the subway or buses.

the people - or person, if the lawyer dick richmond was to be believed - who had been able to spring her from the women’s reformatory - surely they could provide her with a safe car.

and she had seen no sign that she had been followed or spotted.

she felt she could trust ruth barry, who might not have even seen the car.

after leaving the car in the lot, she returned to the little room over the pawn shop, pulled the shade on the single window, and slept for twenty-four hours.


“where’s golden girl?” marrero asked iron mask.

angie’s dorm mates were puzzled by her absence, but only marrero and collins were interested enough to ask about it.

they felt, as they did about a lot of things, that some kind of fast one was being pulled.

iron mask didn’t look up from the paperback book she was reading. “you mean ricardo? she’s sick.’

“i didn’t hear nothing. and nobody else did either.”

“i guess you’re a sound sleeper. that’s what happens when you have a clean life and gets lots of exercise.”

“so she’s in the infirmary?”

iron mask hesitated. “i heard she got taken outside.”

“you don’t say. she must have been pretty sick.”

iron mask finally glanced up at marrero. “i guess she must have been.”

marrero met iron mask’s gaze. “did she have something we are all going to get?”

“i couldn’t say. i’m not a doctor.”

“did they say it was contagious - what she had?”

“not that i heard.”

“i don’t want to get sick,” marrero persisted.

iron mask looked back down at her book. “don’t worry. if you do, we’ll take good care of you. just like we always do.”

“maybe princess was pregnant.”

iron mask laughed. “did she look pregnant? and if you don’t mind may asking, madam, what business is it of yours?”

“i’m just nosey.”

“well, run along, nosey, and get some of that good exercise that makes you sleep good at night.”

“you mean in the yard?” marrero asked. “you’ll give me a pass right now to go out in the yard?”

“yeah, i’ll get you a pass to go in the yard. for one hour.” iron mask reached for her phone. “because you’ve been such a good girl.”

collins had been hanging back behind marrero during the whole conversation. now she spoke up. “can i have one too?”

iron mask looked at collins. “you can have one after she comes back.”

“thank you,” collins answered.

marrero looked back at collins. the two of them were able to communicate with few or no words, and the look marrero now gave collins said -

“something is going on here.”


angie woke up.

it wasn’t a dream. she was in the little room, so all the other stuff must have happened too.

she sat up and rubbed her eyes. she was not sure what time it was, but she felt she had slept for a while and from the sunlight coming through beneath the shade, it must be the next afternoon - friday afternoon.

and she was not to meet dick richmond at red’s diner until monday. she had been careful to leave enough time, but now wished she had made it sooner.

she had been so beat after parking the car that she had not even gone to a drugstore to buy some soap or toothpaste.

she got up and got a glass of water from the little sink in the room and rinsed her mouth out. the bathroom was down the hall.

a good place to dream of scoring millions.

she wasn’t particularly hungry. she decided to get a cup of coffee - with two or three refills - and a doughnut or a piece of pie, and then find a drugstore and get what she needed - including some black or brown hair dye.

the dye job wouldn’t be much, but it would be worth it.

there was a side staircase that she could go down without going into the pawn shop.

when she got down to the street she found salome sitting on the sidewalk outside the pawn shop.

salome jumped up when she saw angie. “miss brown! did you have a nice nap?”

“i did, thank you.” had angie asked the girl to wait for her? she didn’t think so. she started walking east, back toward broadway and the bowery, and nodded to salome to follow her.

“where are we headed?” salome asked her.

“the first place i can get a cup of coffee.”

“there’s a place i know just down here. they got good jelly doughnuts. you can buy me one.”

“sure, why not? where’s your friend?”

“you mean pip. oh, her and her friend sally, they were talking on about saving souls and such.”

angie laughed. “and you - you didn’t want your soul saved?”

“maybe not right now, this morning. i thought i’d get some fresh air, and check up on you, miss brown. see how you were doing, you know? we didn’t know if you were dead, or just sleeping. “

“thank you, that was very thoughtful.”

they walked a little way without speaking.

“look here,” angie finally said. “this pippi - and all this stuff about the lord and saving souls - is she on the level?”

“ha, ha! i guess so. i got to know her pretty good up at the school. it’s like she’s two different people in one. she can rob and steal and con with the best of them, but then she gets on about the lord and that’s real too, know what i mean?”

“i’ve known people like that,” angie said. “they are two people, or even three or four. a lot of people are like that. i think most people are like that.”

“if you say so, miss brown. but here we are.”

the coffee shop had a sign above it, but it was faded and angie couldn’t read it with the noonday sun glinting off it.

salome pushed the door open, and angie followed her in.

part 24

Saturday, May 7, 2016

the golden gumdrop caper, part 22

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

"i have a few little items here that have come my way. maybe you can give me your opinion of them.”

hyacinth wilde prided herself on her ability to read people. especially her ability to read those transparent creatures, men.

she carefully watched phil wheeler’s face as he looked over the jewelry she had selected from the cache in stan slade’s trunk, which he had left in her safekeeping.

stan had left it wth her several years ago, but it was only a few months ago that he had opened it and revealed its contents.

but poor stan was back in the pen for a good long stretch, and the jewels were not doing him or anybody else any good. hyacinth had taken it on herself to at least find out how much good they might do anybody.

phil wheeler had a pretty good poker face - which was only to be expected considering the kind of guy he was - but hyacinth thought he looked a bit surprised at the items - some rings, pendants, brooches - that she showed him, as if they were better than he had expected.

but when he looked at the last item - a medium sized golden pearl. not set in anything, in a small plain wooden box, that hyacinth had hesitated about bringing - the poker face almost vanished, and a flash of genuine consternation appeared on his smooth face.

hyacinth waited for him to say something.

phil wheeler pushed the little box with the golden pearl to one side. he pointed to the other items.

“this is good stuff. really good stuff. i don’t suppose you want to tell me where you got it.”

“i’d rather not,” hyacinth replied evenly. “of course, you are free to guess.”

“ha ha. well, this is a little too much for me to handle personally. but i can tell you who might be interested.”


“ever heard of manny caruso?”

“i might have. i hear so many names.” hyacinth was mildly annoyed, but didn’t show it. i go to this character, she thought, he sends me to this manny person, will manny just send me to someone else?

aloud she said, “do you think this manny will actually give me something for them - if he likes them, i mean? does he actually deal with these things himself?”

phil seemed mildly surprised by her question. “oh yes, manny - manny is the guy to go to. if you have really good stuff. he was a good friend of stan slade’s, but i suppose that’s neither here nor there.”

“no, it isn’t. do you have a number for manny?”

“yes.” phil wheeler produced a card and a small pen. the card read “philip wheeler - dealer in specialties” with the motto “finding anything for anybody”. he uncapped the pen and wrote something on the back of the card.

hyacinth took the card and glanced at it. he had just written manny caruso’s name and a gramercy phone number.

“thank you.” she nodded at the little box with the golden pearl in it. “i notice you sort of set that aside.”

“yes, yes, i did. this is - different. if it is what i think it is.”

“different how?”

“well - uh - if i tell you it might sound kind of dramatic.”

“that’s all right, drama is what i do for a living.”

phil looked down at the box. “well, if, as i say, this is what i think it is, it could get you a lot, really a lot of money, - or - “

“or what?”

“or it could get you killed.”

hyacinth laughed. “how dramatic.”

“what did i tell you? but i’m serious.”

“and would our friend manny be interested in it - even though it might get him killed?”

phil shrugged. “i can’t speak for him - but i don’t think he would. i really don’t think he would.”

“in that case , what would you suggest?”

“what would i suggest? i tell you, if this thing was in my possession, i would consider throwing it in the river, or maybe tossing it in a trash can in the subway.”

“ha ha. if you don’t mind my saying so, that sounds like kind of a scaredy-cat attitude. “

phil did not look offended. “i just don’t think the odds of getting anything out of it are worth the risks.”

“this thing must have quite a story attached to it.”

“it has a lot of stories attached to it - i probably haven’t heard half of them.”

“all right. but just suppose i wanted to take the risk - or if i’m just curious - then what?”

phil hesitated. “i can only think of one person who might be interested, that you might want to try to get to. mister carbo - ever hear the name?’

“it doesn’t mean anything to me. so do you have his number?”

“no, i do not have his number. he might not even have a number. but i can put you in touch with a guy who might put you in touch with a guy who might put you in touch with mister carbo.”

phil’s card was still on the table and hyacinth pushed it toward him.

phil took his pen back out and wrote some more on the card. “this is eddie miller’s number. tell him you want to get to mister carbo. but i would appreciate it if you didn’t say i gave you his number. you can if he insists, but i don’t think he will.”

“this mister carbo sounds very mysterious,” hyacinth said. “does he live in a castle somewhere, on a mountaintop or in the middle of the desert?”

phil laughed. “he just might.”

“or on an island in the middle if the ocean? surrounded by bodyguards with scimitars in their belts?”

“nobody knows.”

suddenly hyacinth felt tired. what a lot of nonsense, she thought. she would phone manny caruso, but all this rigmarole with mister carbo - who could be bothered?

“you’ve been very helpful,” she told phil wheeler. “what did i owe you for your trouble?”

“oh, nothing, nothing. if you work something out with many caruso, and he makes something out of it, he will take care of me.”

“oh come now, who knows how long that will take? i wouldn’t want you thinking i was a cheapskate who wanted something for nothing, or telling people i was. how does five hundred sound?”

“if you insist.”

“come around to the hotel - the hotel st crispian - make it the day after tomorrow. i will leave an envelope at the front desk for you.”

“thank you, that’s very generous.”

“i see we have both managed to finish our drinks. one for the road?”


“oh, by the way, “ hyacinth said, when they had their fresh drinks in front of them, “if i do try to contact this eddie miller, what would i say i had? would he know what i was talking about? does the thing have a name?”

phil took a sip of his drink. “yes, it has a name. the ‘golden gumdrop’.”


mister carbo was slightly agitated.

he got up from his polished desk and stood and looked out the picture window of his office.

at the rolling gray waves of the atlantic crashing on the pebbled shore of his island.

he felt the full weight of his solitude.

mister carbo was the loneliest man in the world.

with the loneliest job in the world.

he was the ruler of the world - or at least, the agent of the real rulers of the world.

in the digest of world news that had been brought to him that morning, a small item had caught his eye .

one that affected him “personally” as few things did.

his old enemy sylvester mcdonnell jefferson - “the thin man” - whom he had managed to forget about for so many years - had been found dead.

under the proverbial “mysterious circumstances”, of course.

as if all circumstances were not mysterious!


part 23