Thursday, June 23, 2016

games, part 2

by harold p sternhagen writing as "ralph desmond"

being a sequel to fun

illustrated by konrad kraus

originally appeared in the july through october 1952 issues of walloping midnight stories magazine

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

part two

for part one, click here

julie, a girl who wanted something to remember…

mrs smith woke up. it was just beginning to get light.

she had slept better than she had expected to, under the circumstances.

this was the morning. the one she had been waiting for.

she just hoped julie would get up on time, and not have to be dragged out of bed.

then she heard someone moving in the kitchen.

for a second she thought it must be an intruder, or george come back after all these years…

and then she realized it must be julie. that she had actually gotten up by herself - early!

maybe julie was nervous about the upcoming day. as she might well be, although she always slept like a mountain range.

mrs smith got up and put her bathrobe on and went over and opened the bedroom door a crack.

“is that you, julie?” she asked.

“yes, mother, ” julie answered in an even voice. a lot of people would say something like “who else would it be?” but julie was not one of those people.

mrs smith felt hugely relieved. everything was going be all right.

they would get through the day as planned - and then - hallelujah! - she would be rid of julie.

mrs smith decided to have a cup of coffee before getting dressed.

julie was seated at the kitchen table with a big plate of ham and eggs and pancakes in front of her. she did not look like she had been crying or was otherwise distressed.

maybe she was finally coming around to accepting her fate - or even looking forward to it. that would be nice!

mrs smith put the kettle on to make herself coffee. julie never drank coffee, just endless big glasses of milk.

mrs smith started to make some remark about the coming day but thought better of it. let well enough alone!

when they finished breakfast, and mrs smith got dressed, mrs smith would then drive julie to the bus station, in plenty of time to catch the 9 o’clock bus to thomasville, where she would get a connecting bus to the city.

waiting for julie in the city would be her new husband - well of course he will be her new husband, mrs smith thought, she’s never had an old one - whom neither julie nor mrs smith had ever seen, except in a smudgy photograph.

the blurry photo might have aroused suspicions in someone less trusting than julie, or less determined to see things through than mrs smith.

all contact and negotiations with the new husband, mister garver, had been made by mrs smith, and the deal had been sealed in a letter they had received three days ago.

on the night before, julie had gotten all packed and ready to go.

lord knew it was surely an old fashioned way to get your business done in this modern age, but what could mrs smith do?

looking at julie now, packing away the pancakes, mrs smith thought yet again - maybe if only the girl didn’t eat so much!. enough for three hired men on a windy day in haying time.

but there you had it. julie was nineteen years old, out of school almost two whole years, and showed no sign of either catching a husband or being able to hold a job.

the girl was not too bad looking, neither good looking nor ugly, and so far, neither fat nor thin. although surely that last would change if mr garver allowed her to keep feeding her face the way mrs smith had.

she had had several jobs, but none had lasted more than a few weeks. although she had usually showed up on time, and was never rude or argued with either her employers or any customers, her daydreamy ways - she would just stop what she was doing - even if it was bringing an order to some customers in a diner - quickly proved her undoing.

and they had no relatives close enough to take her on and keep her because she was family.

so julie just sat around. with nothing much to do, now that they had sold what was left of the farm. mrs smith continued to give her a small allowance, like she was still a little girl, and julie spent most of it on comic books. mostly romance comics, but she liked walt disney comics and archie comics too.

mrs smith was just stirring some cream into her coffee when julie put her fork down and announced “i’m ready, mother. whenever you are.” which was a long speech for her.

“well, that’s nice, dear. just let me finish my coffee.” mrs smith decided to take her while the taking was good and have her own breakfast when she got back.


watching the bus pull out from thomasville - thank goodness it had been on time! - mrs smith shed a few tears.

it occurred to her that neither of them had mentioned writing to each other.

mrs smith decided, if she didn’t hear from julie or mister garver in two weeks, she would send a short note or a postcard to mister garver.


six p m, the busiest time of day at the bus station.

edna had first served the girl a strawberry ice cream sundae almost five hours ago. since then she had continued to sit there, hardly looking at the clock on the wall, and ordered a couple of glasses of milk and a cup of tea.

the girl looked kind of country, though of course you never saw any real country folk any more.

it was not that unusual for someone to wait long hours for someone to pick them up at the bus station.

but after a couple of hours, edna had asked her, friendly like - “waiting for someone, honey?”

and the girl had answered politely, “yes. my husband.” but she did not seem inclined to talk, and it was pretty busy, so edna left her alone.

when edna finished her shift at ten o’clock the girl was still sitting there.

part 3

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


by harold p sternhagen writing as "ralph desmond"

being a sequel to fun

illustrated by konrad kraus

originally appeared in the july through october 1952 issues of walloping midnight stories magazine

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

part one

they all came together in the abandoned house in the storm…

bob, a guy who wanted to forget…

julie, a girl who wanted something to remember…

the professor, who knew things that should never be known…

sultry cindy, with her soft curves and man-devouring eyes…

hal, who liked to call the shots…

duke, who did not have much to say…

and the wild card was rosie…. drunken rosie, who had seen it all, who had been born in a penthouse and been blown into the gutter… and who knew every trick in the book… or did she?


it all started on a dark highway, somewhere between rochester new york and los gatos new mexico.

a lone hitchhiker by the side of an empty field.

the hitchhiker’s name was bob.

he was just a guy.

i should not have walked out this far, bob thought. i should have stayed on the outskirts of town, where i could turn back and find a flop if i couldn’t get a ride.

a cold wind picked up, and he turned his collar up and pulled the lapels of his cheap blue suit tighter across his chest.

he had lost his hat somewhere outside syracuse new york. it made it that much harder to get a ride, because who is going to pick up a bum that does not even have a hat?

the next town he came to he would find the first guy he came to lying in the gutter and steal his hat. any hat would do, even a flat brimmed straw.

he had just never looked good in a flat brimmed straw. he was a panama guy from way back.

or maybe he would come to a jungle and could steal one there - maybe even fight for one if he had to.

he could still fight with the best of them.

but he didn’t see any sign of a jungle. he had heard there were not any in this part of the world and so far it had turned out to be true.

he walked on.

and on.

he started to get sleepy. but he did not want to sleep out on the ground.

bob was as tough as they came, and had seen and done it all, but he hated sleeping on the ground. he would rather spend the night in the crummiest flophouse in the western hemisphere… or back in the booby hatch… than sleep outdoors in the dirt.

under the moon.

there was nothing out here. it was like being on the moon.

a thought hit him. maybe he was on the moon!

maybe roosevelt had had him transported to the moon. it would be just like him.

then he heard a car. coming up behind him.

still a ways away, but he could hear it in the empty night.

he decided to jump right in front of it if he had to.

he waited. here it came….

and slowed down. he did not have to jump in front of it.

the car stopped. it was an old one, a black 1940 packard four door sedan, but clean and looked and sounded in good shape.

it brought back some memory to bob… a black car… the nut house…

but nothing to stop him from opening the car door.

“where you headed?” the driver asked.


“get in.”

bob got in. he remembered to say thank you, something he did not always do.

the driver was a middle aged man, smoking a pipe, so bob knew right away he was a professor.

the guy was not a doctor, because he did not have the blue light around him that doctors have. bob had a lot of experience of doctors and knew all about them.

“how far west you headed?” the professor asked.

“far as i have to,” bob answered. he thought that was a pretty good answer, and it was, because the professor laughed.

“getting away from something, eh?’” the professor asked. he talked easily with the pipe in his mouth.

yes, bob was getting away from something — the loony bin, but he was not about to let that on.

“ a dame,” bob answered, and the professor laughed right on cue.

it was easy to make up stories about dames, because they were all the same. still, bob would not tell a story unless the professor asked him to.

telling the guy a story would be better than being asked to drive, though. bob was not a very good driver. especially on long stretches, because his mind wandered.

he would get to thinking about roosevelt, and lindbergh, and hitler, and all the wrongs that had been done to him, and he would drive right off the road and into a river.

when bob had first escaped and taken to the road, the war had just ended and almost everybody he met had stories about the war.

bob had eventually realized that a lot of the guys’ stories were made up, and he started telling his own stories. why not? he was just as good as anybody.

just because he had been locked up in the nut house, when there was not even anything wrong with him, just because he knew the truth about roosevelt, that did not mean he could not have been in the war if he had the chance, and parachuted into hirohito’s mountain fortress with a bayonet and a grenade in his teeth with the best of them.

but he also quickly found out that the guys who really had been in the war could spot him a mile away, so he went back to stories about robbing banks, sometimes with john dillinger, sometimes by himself, and stories about women.

“you’re kind of quiet,” the professor said, interrupting bob’s drifting thoughts. “you sleepy?”

bob sat up. “not particularly.”

“i’m a professor,” the professor said, but bob already knew that. “a college professor. i drive around the country. listening to people tell their stories. and also, if people talk, that helps me keep awake.”

“you could listen to the radio,” bob said.

“that puts me to sleep. and you can’t get it this far out of town, anyway. i like to listen to stories. and you know what?”

“no, what?”

“i don’t even care if the stories are true. ha, ha!” the pipe bobbed a little in his teeth when he laughed, but did not fall out.

“why don’t you tell me about that dame you are running away from?” the professor added.

“sure,” bob agreed. and he started telling a made-up story about a made-up dame. her name was sally, and she slung hash in a little diner outside fredericksburg maryland… and she had a set of curves you wouldn’t believe…

part 2

Friday, June 3, 2016

the golden gumdrop caper, part 24

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

mister carbo was the loneliest man in the world.

but sometimes he wished he was just a little bit lonelier.

like when he was expecting a visit from the ambassador.

mr carbo thought of his visitor as “the ambassador” even though he had never taken the same form twice, and he, carbo, had no way of telling whether it was the same creature talking different forms, or a different creature each time.

after reading of the demise of his old rival sylvester mcdonnell jefferson he expected a visit from the ambassador.

jefferson had been one of the final four candidates for the position of ruler of the world, along with himself, vorch, and jian.

when the position had opened, and the protocol for the final selection had been explained to them, carbo and jian had sided with vorch, effectively freezing out jefferson, who had not taken his defeat in a sportsmanlike manner.

and then vorch had no sooner been installed when he abdicated his post! and disappeared.

jian also disappeared.

and so carbo succeeded to his lonely post.

as the federation took little notice of the planet except under extreme circumstances, carbo felt he had little to fear from the still embittered jefferson - who, so far as he knew, had no way to contact the federation or its ambassador or ambassadors.

and yet jefferson’s death filled carbo with a strange foreboding. he felt sure he would receive a visit.

how he regretted ever coming into contact with the federation!

rain began to fall on the wide window of mister carbo’s office.

a light fog came off the ocean onto the island.

like the fog on the adriatic sea the night he had been introduced to vorch and jian and jefferson…


none of them ever knew why they had been selected.

the ambassador had merely stated, quietly but with absolute assurance, that the reason was beyond the comprehension of their human brains.

after the innkeeper had brought them their wine and retired, the ambassador explained that the four of them had been selected - to decide between themselves - by agreement or contest, whichever they preferred - who would be the “ruler” of earth - subject to the oversight of the federation.

vorch - a thug from the back alleys of baku - had asked - “why not just pick one of us yourselves?”

“we have our reasons,” the ambassador had replied placidly.

the four had looked around at each other.

“and when he has been selected,” jian - as wily an oriental as ever lurked in an alley or behind an opium den - had then asked - “do the other three become his lieutenants?”

“no, but the others will simply go about their business.” the ambassador took a sip of his wine, which strangely enough, he seemed to enjoy the taste of. “but - if anything should befall the chosen one in the next ten years, one of the others will then replace him.”

the four considered this. jefferson asked - “does all this have anything to do with the war?” at that time the russians were just beginning their encirclement of the germans at stalingrad.

“no, no! we care nothing about such things,” the ambassador quickly replied with a laugh.

“well then,” carbo spoke for the first time. “what are the duties involved in this position?”

“and what are the benefits?” jefferson quickly added.

the ambassador began to explain.

outside in the fog a tugboat hooted….


mister carbo looked out into the rain.

sure enough, a small boat appeared on the horizon. who could it be but the ambassador?

there was a small safe in the corner of the office.

although mister carbo had no reason to think its contents had been disturbed, he went over and began to open it with the combination known only to himself.

just to be absolutely sure, if the ambassador should ask him about it…


“the golden gumdrop.”

“it could get you killed.”

what a lot of hooey!

on returning to the hotel st crispian, hyacinth had dropped into the prince hal room for another night cap - and another one for the road before taking the elevator up to her suite.

instead of mellowing her, the drinks had left her more annoyed than ever with phil wheeler and his mysterious and portentous warnings.

she tossed the jewels she had taken to the meeting, including the infamous “gumdrop”, on the bed, and then flopped down on the bed herself.

she had half a mind to toss the “gumdrop” into the trash or out the window.

but then she had a better idea.

in a couple of weeks she was taking a train to pittsburgh for a “special two-week engagement” of angus strongbow’s “softly go the damned”.

when she was in pittsburgh, she would go to the first pawnshop she could find and just take whatever she was offered. well, maybe haggle a little bit, just so the guy behind the counter wouldn’t get suspicious.

yes, that was a good plan.

she yawned, and fell asleep.

(to be continued)