Friday, July 15, 2016

games, part 5

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

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

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…

i don’t know, “ said cindy. “it sounds kind of complicated.”

hal looked at her like he wanted to smack her. but that was how he always looked. “what’s complicated about it?” he tapped his finger on the newspaper on the table in front of him. “‘help wanted. maid of all work’ what’s complicated about that?”

cindy blew a perfect smoke ring. it drifted up to the rough wooden ceiling of the truck stop. “it doesn’t say what all kind of work it is.”

“what do you care? doing dishes and making beds, probably. it’s only for a week while we case the joint.”

cindy blew some more smoke and took a sip of her coffee. “maybe they want me to dig ditches. i ain’t digging no ditches, not even for a week.”

“if they wanted someone to dig ditches, would they ask for a maid? would they?” hal glanced over at duke. “am i right?”

“i don’t know, “ duke mumbled. “you see some strange things in want ads. there was this buddy of mine back in memphis and he saw this job for a chauffeur. so he goes out to this big mansion outside of town and do you know what the guy wanted?’

“yes, we do know what he wanted,” hal said. “because you’ve told us that story before.”

“oh.” duke hung his head. he was always telling the same stories, and saying the same things.

“and it was disgusting the first time you told it,” cindy added. “so don’t tell it again.”

“i’m sorry.” duke hung his head lower.

“don’t be sorry,” hal told him. “she don’t have to talk to you like that. give her a smack if she gives you any more lip like that.”

“heh heh. she’s your girl, hal.” duke edged a little away from cindy.

“that’s o k, you got my permission.”

cindy rolled her eyes, and smirked and tapped some ash into the saucer of her coffee cup, but did not say anything.

the trio were sitting in a booth in the corner of the truck stop, as far away from the waitress behind the counter as they could. although cindy was hal’s girl, she and duke were sitting side by side across from hal, because hal liked room to spread out.

the truck stop was otherwise empty except for the waitress, who was leaning across the counter reading look magazine.

suddenly the door opened and a man walked in. the door closed behind him with a wind-blown bang.

hal looked out the window. there was a car parked down by the highway beside the solitary gas pump. it didn’t have a light on top of it but in the darkness he could just make out the word “sheriff” in faded white letters on the side.

the man who had entered looked like a sheriff, with a bushy but neat mustache and a brown leather jacket with a fur collar. but no badge.

“evening, sheriff,” the waitress put her look magazine face down in the counter and went over to the coffee machine.

“evening, samantha.” there was a little glass case on the counter with slices of pie in it and the sheriff opened it and helped himself to a messy looking slice of blueberry pie. then he reached around behind the counter and took out a fork.

“big storm coming,” the sheriff announced as he inspected the fork and samantha brought over a mug of coffee.

“so i hear.” samantha did not sound too excited or interested. she turned her look magazine back over.

the sheriff put two heaping spoonfuls of sugar into his coffee. “shouldn’t be here before daybreak though.” as he spoke he looked over at the threesome in the corner, who had fallen silent.

“i get off at six,” said samantha, turning the page of her magazine.

but the sheriff was already heading over to hal, cindy, and duke. keeping his eyes on them all the way.

“evening, folks.” the sheriff put his pie and coffee down on a table across from their booth. he did not sit down.

“good evening to you,” hal answered in a confident, friendly voice.

“passing through?”

“probably,” hal replied.


“well, we are headed west, looking for work, but if we could find something here, you know… “

the sheriff shook his head. “not much work around here, even when times are good.”

cindy leaned across the booth and asked with a smile, “do you know everybody around here?” she gave the sheriff her best look, and got the effect she had on most men - turning his brains and manly instincts into a whirlpool of bubbling sludge.

“well, miss - i’m the sheriff, by the way.”


“yes, my name is sheriff james brown. most sheriffs are named john brown, but i am sheriff james brown, ha ha.”

“that’s funny,” cindy agreed.

“look here,” hal said to the sheriff, “if you are the sheriff, it must be for the whole county, right? not just this town?”

“that’s right,” the sheriff answered, pulling his eyes away from cindy.

hal tapped his newspaper. “ever hear of a mrs elizabeth morris - of -“ he consulted the paper. “of simmonsville?”

the sheriff looked startled. “of course - at the old morris place. everybody knows mrs morris. what - don’t tell me she’s advertising for help again?”

“i guess she is,” said hal. “it is right here in black and white. my sister here was thinking she might apply . and we thought maybe the lady could use a couple of hired men too - no harm in asking.”

the sheriff laughed. “no harm in asking. but old lizzie has a mighty hard time keeping help. and do you know why?”

“no, why?” cindy asked.

“because she wants to pay what she’d pay if mckinley was still president. in fact what she would really like is to pay what her grandfather paid his slaves before the war between the states.”

“oh,” hal said, with a look of disappointment. but it was exactly what he wanted to hear - that the crazy old woman really was a miser - and must have a fortune stashed away in her house!

“no,” sheriff james brown continued. “i would advise you folks to continue on your way. there is a big storm heading this way, and you just might want to stay ahead of it.”

“a big storm!” exclaimed cindy. “how big?”

“might be mighty big. you wouldn’t want to be out on the road. with the wind blowing straight across the plain."

hal looked thoughtful. “in that case, maybe we should hole up somewhere. would you know someplace we could stay, sheriff?”

“well, there is mrs baxter’s place, in bainville, about twenty miles down the road.” the sheriff hesitated. “she runs a real respectable place.”

“we wouldn’t stay in any other kind,” said cindy.

the sheriff flushed slightly. “so you are brother and sister, eh? and what about you, young fellow?” he asked duke. “are you family, too?”

“just a friend,” duke told him.

“a friend, hey? don’t tell me, i bet you two fellows were in the service together.”

“not exactly,” hal told him.

“not exactly?”

“no, we played football together. at florida state.”

“florida state, eh?’ the sherif chuckled. “you don’t hear much about football at florida state.”

“well, “ said hal, “we weren’t fordham or notre dame, but we did play football.”

“we always gave two hundred percent,” duke added.

“i played a little football myself,” said sheriff james brown.

outside, the wind began to howl. cindy lit another cigarette.

part 6

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