Thursday, October 27, 2016

games, part 18

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

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

there is a million dollars hidden in the basement..”

“yes, you already mentioned that,” said the professor.

“did i? it must be because i can’t impress on you strongly enough the seriousness of the situation. we, you and i, have to get that million dollars. and when we have it, we have to get in that car you say you have, and go far, far away… you do have that car, do you not?”

“yes, of course. parked at the bottom of the hill. but…” the professor looked over at the windows, where the rain was streaming harder than ever. “… why now? it is a rather inclement night…”

mrs morris glared at him. “why, don’t you want half a million dollars? half a million, just to help me get out of here!”

“that’s very generous of you.” the professor looked down at his shoes, which were still soaked. “but, why now? tonight, of all nights?’

“because, you fool, tonight of all nights is the night porterfield has been waiting for! yes, don’t look so surprised, that nice young man who let you in - all he has thought about for twenty years is how to murder me and steal my money! and tonight is the perfect night! even now, i guarantee it, he is talking to that young fellow who came with you and he is offering him something - probably a dollar, whatever he would offer him to chop some wood - to kill me. so we have to act quickly!”

“but -“ the professor looked around the dark room. “what exactly do you want? where is this - this million dollars?”

“in the cellar, where else would it be?”

“of course, in the cellar.”

“listen carefully. at the end of the hallway over there - go all the way down to your left - is the door to the cellar. go down the stairs and go to the far left corner. away from the stairs, not behind them. then, take twenty paces to your right, and seven paces backward toward the stairs - “

“i can’t remember all that,” cried the professor. “i can’t remember my own name half the time!”

“i wrote it down,” ms morris told him. she took a folded scrap of paper out of the pocket of her dressing own and stuck it in the professor’s hand. “here. now when you have marked the spot, go over behind the boiler and you will find a shovel - “

“wait,” the professor interrupted her, “will i be able to see what i am doing? do you have a flashlight i can use?’”

“there is a light switch but don’t use it! just let your eyes get accustomed to the dark. we don’t want porterfield to see that you are down there - then the game would be up!”

“but - but - in the dark - digging with a shovel - i’m an old man, i am not used to strenuous exercise - in fact i never was, even as a young fellow -“

“you can do it! listen! do you think porterfield will leave any witnesses? he will murder you too, once he has the money! the world is an evil place, filled with evil people, and porterfield is the most evil of them all! he will kill you as soon as look at you!”

“can’t - can’t you come with me? then you can just show me what to do.”

“no, no, if porterfield comes back inside i will have to hold him here, and keep him talking while you are digging. now go!”

“all right, all right. but, there is just one thing - “

“what now? you know, i am starting to think you are not much of a man. and don’t want that half a million dollars. what is it now?”

“i - i have a confession to make.”

mrs morris glared at the professor. “and what is this terrible confession, that it can’t wait?”

“i am not really a professor.”

“sir, i did not know you were a professor. i don’t care if you are a professor or an organ grinder or william mckinley returned from the dead.” mrs morris grabbed the professor’s arm more tightly and pushed him to his feet. “go. do as you are told!”

the professor stumbled toward the door and into the hallway. he turned to his right.

“left, left!,” mrs morris shouted.


outside, porterfield and bob had found a ladder, and managed, against the wind, to get it placed against the side of the house.

they had a pile of boards at their feet, but the wind was blowing even those around.

porterfield looked up at the side of the house. he wondered if trying to board up the windows was not a hopeless cause.

he started up the ladder with a board, a hammer, and some nails in his shirt pocket.

“just hold the ladder steady,” he told bob. “do you think you can do that?”

bob’s answer was lost in the wind.


the boarding house continued to shake as brenda made her way up the stairs to her room on the third floor.

she noticed that light was coming through the bottom of the door of cindy’s room.

brenda got into her own room. she wondered if she should even try to get to sleep.

she sat down on the bed and lit a cigarette. as she did, a fresh blast of wind, stronger than any that had gone before, shook the house.

she got up and went back into the hallway. she went up a short flight of stairs up to the attic and jenny’s room. there was a light under jenny’s door.

brenda rapped on the door. jenny had heard her coming up the stairs, and opened it right away.

“what?” jenny asked.

“this is getting pretty bad. we better get some blankets and candles ready just in case.”

“just in case, for what?”

“in case the whole house gets blown in and we all have to go down in the cellar.”

“oh, i don’t think - “

“i don’t care what you think, jenny, it’s just a precaution, so let’s just do it.”

“but - “

“i know you let some of your bum friends into the cellar, i could hear them. is that what you are worried about?”

“oh. can they - “

“yeah, that can stay. for tonight. in fact, why don’t you go get them, maybe they can make themselves useful. how many of them are there, by the way?”

jenny got a little red. “just two.”

“good, go get them. let them sit in the kitchen, then meet me in the laundry room.”

“what about miss jones and mister black?” jenny asked.

“i will worry about miss jones and mister black.”

part 19

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