Friday, October 14, 2016

games, part 16

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

but as they got closer, suddenly a beautiful thought entered porterfield’s brain.

maybe, he thought, i have been waiting for these gentry for years. maybe they are the pawns of fate, come to save me.

for years porterfeld had dreamed of murdering mrs morris, so that he would finally have a completely free hand to ransack the house for her hidden wealth.

and if he found nothing, then he could just be on his way.

but had never been able to get up the nerve, telling himself that he would be too obvious a suspect.

but a passing tramp, or a couple of passing tramps … if only they would come along at the exactly right time! and if he, porterfield , could somehow manipulate them into murdering mrs morris…

he could always try making up a story about tramps, but he knew that when the police found no trace of them, that would make him, porterfield, who had told the story, even more of an obvious suspect.

but now, suddenly, these two had come along!

and the storm! perfect cover!

not that he would try to get them to murder mrs morris. he would have to do that himself. but they would be there - “trapped” by the storm! ha, ha!

all this ran through porterfield’s brain in less than a minute. he watched from the shelter of the side of the side of the house as the two men made their stumbling way up the hill. t he wind was in their faces, and they made slow progress.

as they came closer, he saw that they did not quite fit the idea of “tramps” he had always had in his mind - circus clown looking fellows with battered hats and big red noses.

the taller, younger one looked like one of the old fashioned “hired men” that walked the roads in the years before the war.

and the shorter one, that he was helping along, looked like - well, he did not look like, porterfield could see right away that he was a professor.

so maybe they were not bums after all. maybe the younger one was the professor’s chauffeur, though he did not look like one.

porterfield would just have to play it by ear.

friendliness was not something porterfied was very good at, but he gave it a try.

“howdy, fellows!” he shouted. “mighty rough night, eh?”

“i guess,“ the younger one replied. he released his hold on the older one, who, once he had reached the shelter of the house, seemed perfectly capable of standing his own two feet.

“say,” porterfield continued, “how would you two fellows like to give me a hand? i’ll make it worth your while.”

“maybe,” the younger one answered . he was looking at the door and the windows as if he would like to get behind them. sheltered as they were, the wind was still whipping around them and they were all three still getting wet.

the older man - the professor - had wiped the rain from his glasses and was looking around and up at the house with an expression of polite curiosity.

“i could use some help going around and making sure all these windows are boarded up,” porterfield said. “i’ll get a ladder. and then when we are done you can come in and dry off and have some hot coffee or cider and maybe even a slice of pie, how does that sound?”

the younger man looked up at the big house with its rows of windows. “i could do that,” he answered without enthusiasm. “i don’t know if he could.”

“i am afraid of heights,” the professor said matter-of -factly. “and i always fall off ladders.”

“ha, ha! well in that case, sir, why don’t you just step inside and make yourself at home. and i will get the ladder and this stout young fellow and myself will see to the windows. my name is pete, by the way, pete porterfield.”

“my name is bob,” said the younger man.

“pleased to make your acquaintance, bob. and are you - this gentleman’s chauffeur?”

“no,” said bob. “I’m just a guy.”

“ just a guy. well, nothing wrong with that. and you, sir, if my eyes don’t deceive me i take it you are a professor of some sort.”

as if to conform porterfield’s surmise, the professor took his pipe out of his pocket.

“ha, ha! a professor! yes, young man, you have hit the nail! yes, you have hit the nail, but not right on the head, only halfway on the head! and do you know why that is!”

an odd duck, thought porterfield, but he figured most professors were. “no, sir, why is that?”

“because being a professor is just the outward form i have taken on my visit to this universe.”

“i see.” why, thought porterfield, he’s crazy.

“yes,” the professor continued, “i am actually the emperor ton-wa xviii, of the empire of betelgeuse. and i have been cast into this world by my evil witch of a wife.”

porterfield could see that the younger man was surprised by this declaration. why, he is as crazy as a bedbug, he thought. maybe they both are - they are a couple of inmates escaped from an asylum!

how perfect is this!

“well sir, that is good to know, “ porterfield answered with a genuine smile. “but look here, we are getting wet, why don’t you come in, come in.” he opened the door behind him and held it open as bob and the professor entered.

porterfield led them into a large front room and switched on a lamp. except that there was no rain falling in it, it was almost as dreary and cold in the room as it had been outside.

“make yourself at home, sir.” porterfield told the professor. he pointed to a large fireplace. “make yourself a fire. make yourself a fire while young bob here and myself see to the windows.”

the professor looked doubtfully at the fireplace. he made no move toward it, but sank down on a large couch, with a curiously defeated air as if his declaration of being the emperor ton-wa xviii had taken something out of him.

there was a staircase on the side of the room leading up to a darkened balcony.

suddenly a shadowy figure appeared on the balcony. it was mrs morris.

“what are you doing, porterfield,” she cried. “who are these people?”

“why, just a couple of travelers, mrs morris, “ porterfield answered with an attempt at a hearty laugh, “a couple of weary travelers seeking shelter from - “

“you can’t fool me, porterfield! you brought them here to murder me!”

“ha, ha! now, mrs morris - “

“i know your sly ways, porterfield! you don’t fool me! you brought them here to murder me!,” mrs morris screamed. “help! help ! murder! murder!

part 17

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