Tuesday, October 2, 2018

the golden gumdrop caper, part 25

by manfred skyline

illustrated by roy dismas and konrad kraus

originally appeared in the june through september 1956 issues of last stop - excitement magazine

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

the train to pittsburgh had run a little late, and by the time hyacinth wilde retrieved her bags, had them hauled them out to the sidewalk by a redcap, engaged a cab a cab to the hotel, and seen the bags put in the trunk of the cab, she was about ready to wait until the next day to go in search of a pawnshop.

but once she was safely in the back seat of the cab, she decided that the show would go on, and she would just get it over with.

the driver was an older man with a red veined face and a weary look about him. he had seemed a bit awed by hyacinth’s regal bearing, even though she had been polite enough and showed no impatience when he had struggled with her villainous baggage.

“what’s your name?” hyacinth asked him as they finally pulled away from the curb.

“joe, miss.”

“you know this town pretty well, joe?”

“i’ve lived here all my life, miss, and driven a cab for thirty years.”

“then you must know where i can find a pawn shop.”

“i do, indeed, miss, i know where every pawn shop in town is.”

“great. then take me to the nearest one, please.”

“oh, you don’t want the nearest one. you want a good one, i know a good one, the best.”

probably his brother-in-law’s, she thought, or one he gets a little kickback from. “all right,” she told him, “as long as it is not too out of the way.”

“it is not at all out of the way, miss. it is just a few blocks away.”

“fine. as long as it is just a few blocks.”

“should i wait for you, miss? when we get there?”

“yes, please.”

the pawn shop was indeed only a couple of blocks away. so far, so good. hyacinth had not been to a pawn shop in years, but the “best” one - “ace loans” - looked like all the ones she remembered. it all came back to her as she entered the shop, but did not bring a tear to her eye.

the little man behind the counter was right out of central casting. almost surely the proprietor himself. this is all very smooth, hyacinth thought, everything is going to be all right, what was i worrying about?

“can i help you, miss?”

“yes. i have an item here. it belonged to my aunt, who passed away recently. she left it to me, along with some items of purely sentimental value.”

the little man nodded.

“i have no idea what it is worth, if anything,” hyacinth gave the little man her best smile.

“may i see it?”

hyacinth produced the golden gumdrop, which she had wrapped in a plain white handkerchief.

the little man picked it up casually. and then - he got the same look on his face phil wheeler had when hyacinth had shown him the gumdrop. even more so - he actually looked a little frightened.

hyacinth could see him making an effort not to look up sharply at her.

“i don’t think i can give you anything for this, miss.”

all right, she thought, that is enough of this. i am not going to spend my life trying to get a few dollars for this thing.

“i see. well, it probably had some sentimental value for my aunt.”

“no doubt. but i could not ask any kind of price for it myself. you understand. “

“yes. well, thank you for your time.”

hyacinth went back outside to the waiting cab.

“that was quick, miss,” joe observed as he opened the door for her.

“yes, it was.”

“old jonah knows his business.”

“yes, he does. take me to the hotel, please.”


after seeing her bags up to her room, hyacinth went down to the hotel bar.

“i have a question for you,” she said to the bartender, after he placed her double martini in front of her.

“yes, miss?”

“are there any rivers in this town?”

the bartender laughed politely, as if hyacinth had made a little joke. “indeed there are, miss. pittsburgh is known of the city of three rivers.”

“you don’t say so. any of them right around the corner?”

“the monongohela is two blocks away. “ the bartender smiled. “i hope you are not thinking of jumping into it?”

“ha ha. no, i just - i just like to walk beside rivers at night. it is very soothing, and i get a good night’s sleep.”

“well, that is all right then.”


hyacinth watched as the golden gumdrop descended into the depths of the mononghohela river.

so much for that, she thought.

she went back to the hotel, and true to her word, got a good night’s sleep.

but how deep is any river?

the end