Friday, October 21, 2016

games, part 17

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

“you brought then here to murder me!,” mrs morris screamed. “help! help! murder! murder!”

“now, mrs morris,” porterfied looked up at the balcony. “you know these gentlemen don’t know your sense of fun…”

“i’m going to call the police!” mrs morris shouted. “you can’t stop me!”

“yes, mrs morris, why don’t you do that? ha, ha!” porterfield turned to bob and the professor as mrs morris left the balcony and retreated to her room. “ha, ha! quite batty, as you can plainly see, gentlemen.”

bob and the professor were both staring at the empty balcony.

“did you bring us here to murder her?” bob asked in a matter of fact voice.

“of course not! what a thought!” porterfield laughed as heartily as he could manage. “ did i say anything about a murder? the poor old thing is quite mad, that’s all!”

“well, you never know, “ bob answered. “it didn’t hurt to ask, did it?”

“no, i suppose not.” this was getting very strange, porterfield thought. maybe they really are both mad and escaped from an asylum.

“i’ve seen and done things too terrible to be believed,” bob continued.

“well, that’s good,” porterfield answered with a chuckle. “then you must be a pretty capable fellow. so why don’t we get cracking and board those windows up, eh?”

“killing a little old lady would be all in a day’s work for me, “ bob said. “you wouldn’t believe the things i’ve done.”

the professor, seated on the couch, seemed to be paying no attention to the conversation between bob and porrterfield, but was staring into the unlit fireplace.

“heh, heh, i see you have a dry sense of humor, young man.” porterfield put his hand gently - very gently - on bob’s elbow, and began steering him out of the room. “but those boards won’t nail themselves up.”

porterfield looked back at the professor. “make yourself a fire, sir. everything you need is there. we will expect a roaring warm fire when we come back inside, won’t we, bob?”

neither bob nor the professor responded, and porterfield left the professor to his thoughts and led bob back outside.

porterfield’s own thoughts were in a whirl. first off, had mrs morris actually called the police? probably not, but she might have. and if she had, it was not likely that the police would come out, especially on such a night.

mrs morris would go for months without actually calling the police on porterfield, no matter how much she threatened to. and then she would call every night for three weeks, and they would come out a few times the first week - if it was a slow night and they were really bored.

all well and good. at the same time, did he really want her calling the police on the very night he decided to actually get rid of her?

what if somebody besides the local sheriff and police, who were familiar with mrs morris’s cracked ways, got involved in the investigation of her demise? some smart-alecky district attorney from the state capital, looking to make his mark? could porterfield palm the two madmen off on him?

what a dilemma! these two fellows were so perfect! so perfect! the chance he had been waiting for!

he would have to determine if mrs morris had called the police. just the fact that they did not show up would not show she had not called.

why was everything so difficult? why was life so unfair?

porterfield pushed the foot door open against the wind, and a blast of rain hit him and bob in their faces.


the professor continued to stare into the dead fireplace.

he did not need a fire to stare into the flames.

he thought of his life, of all his past lives, on earth, in the golden empire of betelgeuse, and in all the other universes and dimensions he had passed through.

of all the kingdoms he had conquered, and of all the women who had betrayed him, and the comrades who had stabbed him in the back…

he dd not make a move to light a fire, but after a while he awoke from his reverie enough to try to light his pipe.

after a few attempts he succeeded, and took a long satisfying puff.

as he did so he felt someone sitting beside him on the couch.

it was mrs morris.

mrs morris, clutching the collar of a heavy blue dressing gown, and staring at him with large red-veined eyes.

“good evening, madam,” the professor addressed her in his most suave manner. “i thank you for your hospitality.”

“hospitality be damned,” she hissed. “and there is nothing good about it.”

“it is a bit inclement,” the professor agreed.

“porterfield - he wants you to murder me, doesn’t he?”

“the young fellow who let us in? why no, he didn’t mention anything of the sort. seemed rather a pleasant chap, in fact, though perhaps a bit intense.”

“intent on murdering me, you mean.” mrs morris stared at the professor. “do you have a car? you must have come here in a car.”

“why yes, i do. parked at the bottom of the hill. the rather steep hill, if i do say so.”

“good, good.” mrs morris leaned closer to the professor. “i have a secret.”

“we all have secrets, madam.”

“yes, yes.” mrs morris shifted on the couch closer to the professor. “secrets, secrets! you are mad, aren’t you?”

the professor waved his pipe. “madness does not exist in nature,” he answered calmly. “only in the eyes of the soulless clinician.”

“quite so! ha,ha! yes, you’ll do! i see that you, like me, have penetrated to the secret heart of things.”

“i make some effort in that regard.”

“listen! do you know what i have hidden in the basement?’”

“no, madam, why don’t you tell me?”

“a million dollars!” mrs morris looked around the dark room after making this announcement.

“a tidy sum,” the professor agreed.

“tidy enough enough to get me murdered in my bed.” mrs morris grabbed the professor’s arm. “by porterfield and - that young man who came in with you, what is he to you?”

“why, nothing. just a young fellow i picked up on the road a couple of hours ago. i had never seen him before in my life.”

“good, good,” mrs morris tightened her grip on the professor. “now, listen to me….”

part 18

No comments: