Friday, September 2, 2016

games, part 12

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

“is that you, porterfield?”

“of course, it is i, mrs morris, who else would it be?”

“but i fired you, porterfield, yesterday. don’t you remember? i told you to leave and never darken my hearth again.”

“of course i remember, mrs morris. i remember all the times you fired me - at least all the times this month.”

porterfield, the long time butler-handyman-factotum of the old morris house, entered mrs morris’s bedroom. he had a bunch of wooden boards under his arm, and a hammer in his hand.

mrs morris was in bed, where she spent most of her life, under the same heavy blankets she burrowed under in all weathers and seasons. a pink shaded lamp on a small table beside the bed provided the only light in the room. a pile of novels by mary roberts rinehart and john dickson carr teetered on the edge of the table.

porterfield turned on a standing lamp beside the door, lighting up the room somewhat.

mrs morris noticed the boards under porterfield’s arm. “what do you think you are doing?”

“just preparing for the storm, mrs morris,” porterfield replied, “the one i have been telling you about for the last twenty-four hours.” he placed half the pile of boards under one of the two windows in the room - it was a corner room - and the other half under the window on the other side of the room.

“i hope you are not going to start banging nails at this time of night. i won’t have it. and i want you out of here in an hour or i will call the sheriff.”

“just a precaution for now. just being prepared. in case the storm gets really bad, these will be here and ready.”

“pooh. i know you. any excuse to cause a fuss, and especially any excuse to make a lot of noise and exasperate my nerves.”

“the correct term is ‘exacerbate my nerves’, mrs morris.” porterfield placed the hammer on the windowsill. he took some nails out of his pocket.

“i will not have you correcting my grammar, “ mrs morris told him. “you are fired. i want you out of here by morning, storm or no storm.”

porterfield started to put some nails on the windowsill beside the hammer, thought better of it, and put the nails back in his pocket.

“i am going to take a run into simmonsville,” he told mrs morris. “pick up some things we might need if the storm lasts a while.”

“will the store be open? at this time of night?”

“oh, of course. old burley loves these situations. he will be open all night, doing a land office business. do you want something before i go? a glass of milk, or a cup of tea?”

“a cup of tea would be nice. but then you are fired. i don’t want to see your foolish face again after that.”

porterfield switched the standing lamp off and started to leave the room.

“oh, one more thing,” he said to mrs morris, with his hand on the doorknob.

“what?” she asked sharply.

“i put those advertisements in the papers for a new maid. but i haven’t heard anything yet. and nobody has come by.”

mrs morris just nodded, and porterfield left the room and closed the door behind him.

mrs morris resumed reading the problem of the green capsule by john dickson carr.

porterfield made his way down the dark hallway, humming a happy tune. he was in a good mood, as the storm was giving him something to do.

something to break up the monotony and increasing frustration bordering on despair of his existence.

porterfield had installed himself, and maintained his position, as a functionary and servant - often the only servant - in the vast, gloomy, largely empty “old morris house” after the legendarily miserly old mister morris had died.

old morris had been quite a bit older than his wife when he died, and now she was old.

porterfield had spent the years searching the house and the grounds for the fortune “everybody knew” old morris - who disdained the modern institution of banking - had left behind.

others had had the same idea. porterfield had taken care of them.

but so far all his searches and machinations had been in vain.


back at the three roads truck stop, sheriff james brown sipped his black coffee and gazed out into the night.

the stop was now empty except for samantha behind the counter - who had finished with her look magazine and was staring into space - and the sheriff. the sheriff knew that samantha was not much for conversation with folks she knew, although she could be as friendly as she had to be with the truckers and other people passing through.

but he was in a good mood. talking with those two young fellows about football had put him in a good mood.

a couple of fine young fellows, the salt of the earth. how mistaken he had been in taking them for a couple of hoodlums at first glance!

he had enjoyed talking football with them and was only sorry he had not found a way to bring the conversation around to the war, and his, the sheriff’s, participation in it.

as he had told them, he did not like their chances at lizzie morris’s but he hoped they and the smaller fellow’s sister - what a peach! - found some honest employment down the road.

now he could see the lights of a car pulling into the lot outside. it looked like the left headlight was cracked.

he watched as a couple of people got out of the low slung vehicle. a tall man with from the driver’s seat and a much shorter person - probably female - from the passenger seat.

as the pair headed through the shadows to the door of the truck stop the sheriff thought he recognized the slouching gait of the man.

an alarm went off in his head and his good mood evaporated like the steam from a cup of coffee in a snowstorm.

tomeys! probably a couple of damned tomeys!

the tomeys were a low down clan of no-goods that were the curse of the county since anybody could remember.

harder to get rid of than raccoons or woodchucks.

the door opened and sure enough there was the worst of the lot - carl “lobo” tomey - along with a girl, “little red” tomey, one of his sisters or cousins or whatever - you never knew with the tomeys - walking in as easy as you please and looking right at the sheriff with all the sass in nebraska.

“howdy there, sheriff. you’re looking well,” lobo greeted him. at least he didn’t offer to shake hands.

“you looking for me, lobo?”

“hell, no. but we seen your car outside so we figured you was in here.”

“haven’t seen you for a while,” the sheriff said. “just passing through?”

“maybe. maybe. depends how hospitable folks are. you know how it is.”

“yeah, i know how it is.”

part 13

No comments: