Saturday, November 18, 2017

prizes - 39. local woman sues financial empire

by harold p sternhagen

being a sequel to fun and games

part thirty-nine of thirty-nine

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

from the low plains gazette, september 9, 1954:

local woman sues financial empire

papers were filed in federal court today on behalf of sarah james, daughter of deceased longtime local businessman and philanthropist jonah james, seeking unspecified damages against the gray shipping company, of new york and san francisco.

the suit alleges fraud against the deceased jonah james by the deceased founder of the gray shipping company, walter “buck” gray.

jonah james was the founder of the town of jamestown and was for many years its most prominent citizen, as well as a familiar figure in the streets and lanes of the town, often accompanied by his faithful wolfhound.

jonah james came to an untimely end in december 1923, robbed and murdered, apparently by a wayfaring tramp, as he walked alone at night on the outskirts of town, something he was in the habit of doing, despite his advanced age. the case remains unsolved.

representatives of miss sarah james declined to comment or provide details on the pending lawsuit, assuring our correspondent that they were content to “let the law take its course” and that they were certain “justice would be done.”

the end of "prizes"

Friday, November 17, 2017

prizes - 38. the road

by harold p sternhagen

being a sequel to fun and games

part thirty-eight of thirty-nine

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

rosie came up the road.

the sun was shining.

the big storm had passed, and the county had done a halfway decent job of cleaning up after it, so there were not a lot of branches and debris on the road, just a few puddles.

two things had happened. the hobo jungle by the railroad had been pretty much blown away.

and the big news was - that the old morris house had completely collapsed, leaving a big heap of ruins - not “smoking ruins”, because the rain had soaked them pretty good - where it had stood for years.

some of the bums from the hobo jungle, and other assorted riffraff and scavengers, had flocked to the scene , trying to find some of the money old mrs morris was reputed to have hidden, or anything else they could carry away, and the sheriff had posted a couple of men to try to keep them away.

as rosie approached the three roads truck stop she saw the sheriff’s car parked outside it, and sheriff james brown standing in front of it, looking up and down the road.

“howdy, sheriff,” rosie greeted him.

“howdy, rosie.” the sheriff seemed in a better mood than usual, and he almost smiled at rosie. “what’s that you got there?”

“just a bag.” rosie had a old potato sack slung over her shoulder. it was almost empty. the sack, and the few contents - a sandwich , a couple of apples, a slice of pumpkin pie wrapped in a piece of newspaper, and a small bottle of moxie - had been bequeathed to her by her friend jenny, back at the boarding house where rosie had been given shelter from the storm.

“you wouldn’t by chance be fixing to fill up that sack up at the old morris house, would you?”

“what are you talking about, sheriff? the old morris house? old lady morris ain’t given out no handouts since samson had a haircut.”

the sheriff briefly explained that the old morris house had collapsed in the storm. “but. it’s still private property, though we ain’t sure just whose private property it is now, and we can’t have no human vultures congregating and looking for buried treasure, if you get my drift.”

“well, that’s mighty interesting,” said rosie. “but it ain’t nothing to me. i never believed any of them stories about the old lady’s money no way. i may be a fool, but i ain’t that particular type of fool.”

“well, i am glad to hear that, rosie. but if you ain’t going to the morris place, where are you going, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“just down the road.”

“just down the road? how far down the road?”

“a far piece.”

“you mean you’re leaving town? for good?”

“that’s the size of it.” rosie turned and looked down the road. “i figure it’s time to move on. that storm was a sign, it seemed to me. so i’m heading out.”

i wish some of the other bums in town would take it as a sign, thought the sheriff, but he did not say so out loud. “well, i wish you well, rosie. i hope you find a pot of gold and the peace that passeth understanding, and all that.”

“thank you, sheriff.” and rosie turned to go, but as she did, they both heard a shout from down the road the way rosie had come.

rosie and the sheriff looked back down the road and saw a figure approaching and waving,

“hey, rosie, wait up!”

it was susquehanna sal, another denizen of the blown away hobo jungle, who, like rosie, had spent the night at the boarding house.

as sal approached, she was swinging a sack similar to rosie’s and had a big smile on her face.

her smile disappeared briefly when the sheriff told her about the old morris place, and gave her the same warning about it that he had given rosie.

“i wouldn’t take nothing that wasn’t mine, sheriff,” sal protested. “ mean as that old lady was.”

“i’m glad to hear it. rosie here is leaving town, did you know that?”

“yeah, she told me.”

“how about you, you leaving town too?”

“no, where would i go?” sal turned to rosie. “but i’ll walk you as far as the old morris place. just to take a look at it.” she glanced at the sheriff. “out of curiosity, you know.”

“suit yourself,” rosie shrugged. the two of them started down the road, under the sheriff’s gaze.

sal shook her sack as they walked along. “that jenny kid, she’s the salt if the earth! she gave me a sandwich, some apples, some pie and a soda pop and she don’t even know me! and the sun is out, and it’s a great life, wouldn’t you say?”

“i guess it doesn’t take much to make some people happy,” rosie answered.

“yeah, that jenny, she’s a trump all right!”

rosie laughed. “a trump! where did you get that word?”

“i don’t know, some old movie with leslie howard or somebody. what, you think i’ve never been to a movie?”

rosie laughed again, but didn’t answer.

they walked along. the sun rose in the sky. some birds flew over their heads.

39. local woman sues financial empire

Thursday, November 16, 2017

prizes - 37. a great day to be alive

by harold p sternhagen

being a sequel to fun and games

part thirty-seven of thirty-nine

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

the shabby man took his time drinking his tea, but finally finished it.

tomo was ignoring him, not even showing any irritation.

“well, pal, it was nice talking to you,” the shabby man said.

“i’m glad you enjoyed it,” tomo answered.

“maybe we’ll meet again some time.”

“i hope not.”

“but you never know,.” the shabby man said.

“no, you never do,” tomo agreed.

“strawfeather’s the name, humphrey p strawfeather. maybe you’ll hear from me.”

“good-bye, humphrey.”

“do you have a name?”


“o k, pal, see you around.”

tomo did not respond with even a nod.


the man who had told tomo that his name was humphrey p strawfeather walked up sixth avenue towards times square.

he was in a bad mood. after a flicker of excitement at thinking he might be on to something when he saw the girl who looked like the crazy dame who had accosted him on broadway.

he had made a mistake talking to tomo. he should have taken his time, followed the girl and tried to figure out what was what.

but now the chauffeur - and surely bodyguard too, and probably not one who just used his fists - was wise to him.

humphrey had finally stopped thinking about this encounter with the crazy rich dame.

but now she was back - at least in his head.

what was she, some kind of curse put on him by fate?

as humphrey walked along a phrase popped into his head, one that often did when he was in a particularly foul mood.

a phrase he had heard once, either in a movie or on a radio show, and that he could never shake.

a great day to be alive.

yeah, a great day to be alive.

maybe for some people. but never for him.

he came to a little strip of grass with a bench on it, at a bus stop. with nothing better to do, and no particular place to go, he sat down on it.

he noticed something stuck in the slats of the bench.

it was a crackerjack box. an actual box, not flattened out.

he had not seen one in years. he almost got a laugh out of it.

there were prizes in them, right? so, what was his prize?

he took the box and shook it, and then looked inside it.

it was empty.

38. the road

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

prizes - 36. confidences

by harold p sternhagen

being a sequel to fun and games

part thirty-six of thirty-nine

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

tomo or no tomo, agnes decided to get right to the point with minerva. she knew tomo had hearing like a mountain lion, and keeping her voice low might be a waste of time, but she did so anyway.

“there was a story that came to my attention,” agnes began in her low growl, “maybe to yours too. about the granddaughter or something of some fellow in cow country who is alleging fraud by grandfather gray about a hundred years ago and wanting - i guess wanting pretty much the whole family fortune.”

“as a matter of fact, i did see it,” minerva replied after a slight hesitation. “but it is, just - just nonsense. nonsense like that pops up every week. it keeps the lawyers occupied. you wanted to see me just about that?”

”but you did notice it?” agnes asked. “something about it caught your attention, did it not, not like what you call the usual nonsense? you knew right away what i was talking about - busy as you must be, eh?”

minerva hesitated again. “yes, i suppose it did. one of the lawyers brought it to my attention,” she lied, “and something about it - there was just something about it. do you know anything in particular about it, that you come running to me like this?”

“no, i was just like you, i thought there was something i could not put my finger on, that it rang some kind of bell. do you plan on doing anything about it, or looking into it yourself.”

“i had not,” minerva lied again. “i suppose the lawyers will have to file some kind of papers, as a formality. i had forgotten about it - until you came along.”

agnes knew minerva was lying. “that is reassuring,” she answered, “thank you.” she took her cigarettes out of her handbag and began lighting one.

“why are you so interested, anyway?” minerva asked. she did not need to say out loud, “it’s my money, not yours.”

“just checking, dear,” agnes answered. “those of us who only get the crumbs like to keep track of what is on the table.”

“i suppose so. but then i am not like you, agnes.”


“no, i don’t really care anything about money. i would be perfectly happy to live on three or four million a year.”

agnes laughed. “really? i heard you were quite keen on going to the office every day. running the empire your own little self.”

“it is something to do. it keeps me busy.”

“you could carry on the family traditions - drink, get a nice tan, all that.”

“pooh. not i, thank you.”

“you could take up painting, or write a novel.”

“i would hope i think better of myself than that.”

agnes had almost forgotten tomo. she glanced back at him. he seemed to be having a conversation with a bummy looking fellow who had seated himself at his table.

agnes had been surprised that minerva had so readily admitted to an interest in the lawsuit in the boondocks. she, agnes, had thought it foolishness on the countess’s part and had only been humoring her. now her own interest was aroused. very much aroused.

and minerva, hearing of agnes’s interest, was now more determined than ever to have the case investigated.

minerva finished her coffee and her creampuff. “i don’t mean to be rude, but i have some things i have to get back to.”

“a little rudeness never hurt anybody,” agnes assured her.

37. a great day to be alive

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

prizes - 35. "ain't that something?"

by harold p sternhagen

being a sequel to fun and games

part thirty-five of thirty-nine

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

as agnes had predicted, jack’s coffee shop was crowded at noon, so she and minerva ended up going to a little automat around the corner on 35th street.

“you can always get a seat in this place, “ minerva assured agnes. “the coffee isn’t very good.”

tomo, who had parked the countess’s limousine in front of the gray building , followed them. he was not wearing his chauffeur’s uniform, and trailed them with practiced discretion. but he need not have bothered, as minerva was completely oblivious to him.

despite minerva’s admonition about the coffee, she and agnes each got a cup, and minerva bought a creampuff and agnes a slice of cheesecake and they sat at a small table in the corner furthest from the door.

tomo was right behind them, and got a cup of coffee and sat at a table in front of the window, looking out at sixth avenue. although he had his back to agnes and minerva, agnes knew he would not miss a thing.

agnes found this a little annoying. in spite of the countess’s instructions to her to be discreet in her questioning of minerva, she wanted to just get it over with and get right to the point by asking minerva if she knew or cared about the lawsuit out in the sticks that the countess professed to be so concerned about. she had brought the clipping from the “low plains gazette” to show minerva, but with tomo watching …

“so,” minerva began. “what is all this mystery about?”


tomo, over at his table, had his attention distracted by a man who appeared at his table. a table that seated three or four, but at which tomo had been sitting alone.

“mind if i sit here?” the man asked, in a tone that was neither polite nor otherwise.

“i don’t own the establishment,” tomo answered.

“i didn’t think so,” the man answered and sat down. he had a cup of tea in his hand and carefully placed it on the table.

tomo considered his new companion. thin, shabbily dressed, not quite a total bum, with a real mean look in his eyes. a man who looked like he would be at home in the proverbial dark alleys. a type more familiar to tomo in europe and north africa than in the states.

the shabby man looked tomo in the eyes. “i know you.”

“i don’t think so, “ tomo answered. as he was talking to the shabby man he watched agnes and minerva in the reflection in the window beside him. so far, they seemed to be getting along politely enough.

“i don’t mean i ever met you before,” the man continued. he took a spoon and squeezed the teabag against the size of his cup with it. “but i still know you. you know what i mean?”


“those two dames you are looking at in the glass. you followed them in here, didn’t you?”

tomo laughed in the man’s face. “what if i did?”

“some people might think you are up to no good.”

“they might if i did not work for one of them.”

for the first time the shabby man looked a little unsure of himself.

“i’m a chauffeur,” tomo said. “not that it is any of your business.”

“you’re not wearing a uniform.”

tomo did not bother to answer.

“yeah,” the man said, recovering himself. “you kind of look like a chauffeur.”

“you kind of look like a lowlife crumbbum who does not know what is good for him.”

the shabby man laughed. “yeah, you got me there.” he took a sip of his tea. “which one do you work for - the blonde or the younger one?”

“it’s no concern of yours.”

“let me tell you a story,” the shabby man laughed. “you like stories?”

“it depends.” tomo had had more than enough of the man, but did not want to call any kind of attention to the two of them.

“i never saw you before, but the younger dame - she reminds me of someone. looks like someone i had what you might call a strange encounter with a few years back.”

tomo did not bother to answer, but the man continued. “a few years ago i was walking down broadway, and this rich dame that looked just like her - not her, she’s too young , but could have been her sister - comes up to me and what do you think she wants?”

“i could never guess.”

the shabby man lowered his voice. “she wanted me to kill her husband! she was going to pay me to kill her husband and gave me a down payment. ain’t that something? what do you think of that?”

“and did you kill the husband?” tomo asked in a normal tone of voice.

“no, it didn’t work out. i was supposed to meet up with her to get the details, but she never showed.”

tomo snickered. “how sad.”

“but that ain’t the end of the story - not by a long shot. because a few days later, i pick up a paper somewhere, and what do you think? there was a picture of the dame in it, and she had been killed herself! over in brooklyn, i think it was. but that still ain’t the end. because a while after that - a couple of months maybe - i pick up another paper and there she is again, and now they are saying maybe she’s not dead after all. all very mysterious.”

“life is mysterious,” tomo replied.

“and that younger dame over there, i swear she looks just like her.”

“yes, people look alike sometimes.”

the shabby man seemed to have nothing more to say, and tomo did not encourage him, and they fell silent.

36. confidences

Monday, November 13, 2017

prizes - 34. agnes and minerva

by harold p sternhagen

being a sequel to fun and games

part thirty-four of thirty-nine

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

“i have miss agnes miller on line two, miss gray..”

“put her through,” minerva replied promptly. she took her reading glasses off and her pencil down, glad of any diversion after two hours of reading reports.

“hello, minerva. i hope i am not interrupting anything.”

“nothing very interesting. what can i do for you, agnes dear?”

“i thought we should meet and have a little chat.”

“about anything in particular?”

“yes, something in particular, though it may not be that important.”

“so it is not urgent?”

“maybe not, but i would like to see you in person. it won’t take long, and we can meet anywhere you like.”

“anywhere?” minerva raised her eyes to the window of the corner office she had commandeered in the gray headquarters when she had come into her inheritance. it was a dreary day outside. it looked like it might rain a little bit. there were sometimes birds on the ledges she liked to think she recognized, but none were there on this day.

“well, not in chicago or philadelphia.,” agnes was saying. “ i thought we might meet somewhere for dinner - “

“how about the coffee shop across the street?” minerva interrupted. “ you know the one i mean? it’s called jack’s or jake’s or something but there is no sign.”

“yes, i know it. doesn’t it get kind of crowded in the middle of the day? unless you want to meet later, around three o’clock.”

“i have something scheduled at three,” minerva lied. “i would rather meet at noon. if jack’s is busy, we can go somewhere else. like the automat.”

“very well,” agnes agreed. “whatever suits you. i will see you at noon.”

“until then.” minerva put the phone down. she was a little surprised that agnes had not argued a little more about the time and place, because agnes always like to argue, about anything and everything.

i should have argued more, agnes thought as she put the phone down on her end. she might get a little suspicious if i am too nice.

but agnes did not really care. she thought the meeting a waste of time anyway, and was only arranging it to humor the countess.

“well?’ tomo asked. he had listened to the brief exchange from the shadows of a couch against the wall of agnes’s apartment. he always sat in shadows if he could.

agnes described the conversation.

“i know the place she’s talking about,” tomo said. he laughed. “that’s easy enough. i thought she might want to meet in some place like bayonne or perth amboy.”

“minerva is not the type to arrange meetings in bayonne or perth amboy.”

“no, i guess not.”

35. "ain't that something?"

Sunday, November 12, 2017

prizes - 33. tea with the countess

by harold p sternhagen

being a sequel to fun and games

part thirty-three of thirty-nine

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

agnes had tea with the countess every monday and thursday afternoon, in the countess’s little apartment on 88th street.

agnes could never gauge the countess’s moods, or tell if she had anything particular to say, until the countess had taken the first sips of her tea and opened her mouth to speak.

“i am disappointed in you, agnes, very disappointed,” the countess began, on this particular gray october afternoon.

“about what?” agnes replied after swallowing her small forkful of chocolate torte.

“about the progress of your claim against minerva, of course.”

“there are only three months to go until roselle can be pronounced dead. i thought we had agreed to wait until then before we made any moves.”

“we did agree. against my better judgment, but i did agree. however, something has come up.”

“oh?” agnes attempted to maintain her usual languid manner, but could not help sitting up a little straighter in her chair. “has there been some supposed sighting of roselle?”

“of course not. had there been, i would have summoned you at once, not waited until our regular tete-a-tete.”

agnes relaxed. “well, then?”

“take a look at this.” the countess produced a page of a newspaper from - somewhere. she had always had a knack for concealing items which she could suddenly produce “out of nowhere’.

the countess did not hand the newspaper to agnes but announced. “tomo found this.”

and at the sound of his name, tomo appeared out of the shadows, as he always did.

the countess gave the newspaper to tomo, who in turn handed it to agnes.

“the low plains gazette.” agnes read the banner of the paper. “what am i supposed to be looking at here?”

“the story on the lower left,” tomo told her. “family of slain man, and so forth.”

“ah.” agnes ran her eye over the paper. “continued on page 2.” she turned the single page over and read some more.

“and, that is it?” she asked when she was finished. she looked up at tomo, and them at the countess.

“that is all we know,” said the countess. “i wish to know more.”

“but it is all nonsense,” agnes replied. “and nothing to do with roselle.”

“no, not directly, but it could affect the whole gray empire.”

“pooh! this is nothing. stuff like this comes up every week. every day. simpson and simpson must have a press clipping service, they must have seen it, let them handle it.”

“i am sure they will - on minerva’s behalf,” the countess replied, with the slightest hint of annoyance. “i wish to be informed on our behalf.”

agnes shrugged. “you are the one who has the means to do that.”

“for reasons of my own, i wish you to handle it.”

“fine. any suggestions?”

“i have more than a suggestion. i wish you to contact minerva directly.”


“arrange a meeting. let her choose the place. when it has been arranged, let me know the time and place. tomo will be waiting for you outside and will bring you directly to me to report. i trust you to be able to question her with some discretion.”

“i trust myself to do it too.”


agnes stuck her fork back into her chocolate torte. “it shall be done.”

the countess did not smile, but tomo did, ever so slightly.

34. agnes and minerva

Saturday, November 11, 2017


prizes - 32. roselle and agnes

by harold p sternhagen

being a sequel to fun and games

part thirty-two of thirty-nine

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

four months, two weeks and three days from today, miss green began, will mark the seventh anniversary of the death or disappearance of roselle winfield, nee gray.

roselle winfield was the daughter of the late” buck” gray, and heiress and owner of gray shipping lines, the central component or “crown jewel” of the extensive gray empire. she was married to gerald “jerry” winfield, a man her own age whose private fortune was not the equal of hers, but in the same league.

both jerry and roselle, but especially jerry, preferred enjoying their money to involving themselves in managing it on a day to day basis. roselle kept some tabs on what was done with her money, jerry not so much.

the severely mutilated body of a woman was found near the bay ridge parkway in brooklyn. the body contained the drivers license and other identification belonging to roselle winfield.

a first cousin of roselle winfield’s, davenportia simmons nee gray, identified the body as roselle winfield’s, and this identification was not challenged - at the time.

jerry winfield disappeared at the same time, and it was widely assumed that he had either murdered roselle or been murdered himself, with opinion split about evenly as to both possibilities.

the marriage contract of jerry and roselle was clear that neither was the heir of the other. provisions were made for possible children, but there never were any. therefore jerry’s money was not the subject of any concern or conflict within the gray family.

but roselle’s was. especially by agnes miller.

at the name “agnes miller” minerva’s eyes narrowed, and miss green thought she might interrupt, but she did not, and miss green continued.

agnes miller was a couple of years younger than roselle, and a first cousin. she was the daughter of buck gray’s younger sister judith “crazy judy” gray , and the notorious “mack” miller, a financier who had “turned wall street into his private shooting gallery” before the war, and who was shot and killed by a disgruntled former partner.

agnes’s interests in the gray estate had previously been ruled against by the courts, when she and roselle had been teenagers, but with the death of roselle , the adult agnes and her attorneys returned to the charge.

the gray family was united against agnes, whom they considered unstable and capable of sinking the entire gray estate, and at some point the idea was broached that perhaps roselle was not really dead.

attorneys for agnes took up the challenge, and after lengthy charges, countercharges, injunctions, and injunctions against injunctions, the body presumed to be roselle’s was exhumed and pronounced not to be hers. this judgment was accepted by most, but not all, involved.

with roselle now officially “disappeared” and not dead, the question now became whether she would be pronounced dead after seven years. before the seven years are up, a person is considered alive unless evidence can be brought forth otherwise, but after seven years the reverse is true, and they are considered dead unless evidence is brought forth that they are alive.

for roselle to be declared dead would be an advantage for agnes, but in no way a decisive one. and there the matter stands.

miss green took a sip of water. “would you say,” she asked minerva, “that that is a fair assessment of the case?”

“fair enough,” minerva replied. “i would only add that something more than being ‘unstable’ is involved with agnes. she is, and aways has been, involved with some very questionable people, people on the proverbial ‘seven continents’, very questionable people. but that need not concern us here.

what does concern us today is what i have here.”

minerva took her handbag off the conference table and opened it.

33. tea with the countess

Friday, November 10, 2017

prizes - 31. miss green

by harold p sternhagen

being a sequel to fun and games

part thirty-one of thirty-nine

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

to the family, and to the people who had known her all her life, minerva was still the same amusingly willful child she had always been. the fact that she had inherited the largest share of the gray family fortune on her eighteenth birthday had hardly changed anything.

but to the people employed in the branches of the gray empire, and by other people, such as lawyers, retained by the empire, there was nothing either childish or amusing about minerva. to them she was the dread “miss gray”, demanding, nasty, and scary.

so there was some expectation of fireworks, or at least unpleasantness, by the minions of simpson, simpson, and macarthur, when minerva showed up at their office, after the briefest of notice, and mr mansfield was not there to greet her.

but on this occasion minerva was gracious enough, or indifferent enough, and acknowledged to the young woman who had been waiting there to greet her that she, minerva, had indeed appeared on somewhat short notice.

“in that case,” said the young woman, “perhaps i can help you.”

minerva raised her eyebrows.

“my name is genevieve green, and i am a new junior partner at simpson simpson and macarthur. i just came on board this week.”

“so you’re a lawyer?”

“yes, i am.”

she must be the first woman lawyer at simpson simpson and macarthur, thought minerva. minerva neither approved nor disapproved, but was slightly intrigued.

“i have your file,” miss green went on. “and i have the file regarding roselle winfield, as mr mansfield’s note indicated - “

“yes, that’s all very well,” minerva interrupted her. “i am sure you can help me.” they were within the hearing of the receptionist, and minerva never liked to talk in front of servants.

“follow me, then,” miss green said, and she led minerva down a corridor to the firm’s main conference room, with which minerva was very familiar.

the curtains had been pulled back on the long window of the conference room, revealing the overcast day outside.

a couple of thick file folders lay on the long conference table.

minerva took the seat at the head of the table.

“would you like tea or coffee or anything else?” miss green asked.

“no thank you.”

miss green closed the door behind them.

a seagull landed on the ledge of the window and regarded miss green as she sat down in the chair close to the two file folders.

miss green had been told that minerva did not care for small talk, so she opened one of the folders and got down to business.

“i have been reading the file on roselle winfield,” miss green began, “and i must say - “ she looked directly at minerva - “it is certainly a singular story.”

“yes, it is,” minerva replied. “and mr mansfield is thoroughly familiar with it.” and well paid for being so, she thought, but did not say so aloud.

“would you mind, then,” miss green asked with a touch of hesitation, “if i just gave a quick - very quick precis of it - just so that we can be sure i know the background to what you have to tell me?”

“go right ahead,” minerva answered.

and minerva, and the seagull on the ledge, both regarded miss green impassively as she began.

32. roselle and agnes

Thursday, November 9, 2017

prizes - 30. minerva

by harold p sternhagen

being a sequel to fun and games

part thirty of thirty-nine

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

minerva gray had that look in her eye.

ophelia did not want to get her started, so she simply nodded to minerva when she sat down at the breakfast table.

ophelia knew that the most inoffensive remark might get minerva going, even remarks that deliberately avoided the subjects minerva was fixated on.

but ophelia was to be disappointed, for minerva’s first remark as she reached for the toast was -

“i am going to see mansfield today.”

mansfield was one of the gray family’s better renumerated lawyers, and had spent much of his life involved in their disputes and differences over who owned what. disputes sometimes carried on or even settled In a civilized manner, sometimes in a not so civilized manner. of course in the more bitter disputes “outside” lawyers were called in by aggrieved parties, but the firm of simpson, simpson, and macarthur, in which mansfield was a senior partner, maintained its position as “the family’s” law firm.

“i thought,” said ophelia, “you were going to wait until - until a few months before - before -“ she could not bring herself to actually refer to the event she thought minerva had in mind.

“something has come up,“ minerva announced in her positive way. “i have heard something.”

“oh?” ophelia did not like the sound of that. if minerva had “heard something” it must have been from the private detective she had hired.

ophelia did not approve of an eighteen year old girl’s employing private detectives, but what could she do? it was the modern age.

“did you hear this ’something’ from your - mister gardner?” ophelia managed to ask.

“ha, ha! oh mother, you don’t have to say his name in that voice!”

“well, he is a - private detective.”

“i’ve explained to you, he is just a kind of clerk, who sits in a little office and reads through newspapers all day. he is no more likely to ‘pack a rod’ as they say in the moves, or get in a gunfight with gangsters than you are.”

ophelia sighed. “be that as it may, my dear, what did the fellow have to say?”

“he found a story about very interesting case in - in indiana or montana or one of those places.”

“and it was about roselle?” ophelia asked hesitantly. but it couldn’t be about roselle, she thought even as she said it, because then minerva would be more excited than she was.

“oh no. but it is about a murder case out there - the murder of a man whose family sued great-uncle walter over a patent back in the bronze age - a patent involving the shipping line. apparently some of the dead man’s relatives believe he was murdered by uncle walter - though of course they don’t come right out and say it.”

“how tiresome. and why does that interest you?” so it is not about roselle, ophelia though thankfully, and wished she had not uttered roselle’s name.

“why should i not be interested?” minerva demanded, as she poured too much sugar into her coffee. “after all, i am the major stockholder now.” minerva had become the major stockholder in the sprawling gray empire, on her eighteenth birthday several months before.

“maybe mansfield already knows about it,” ophelia offered.

“maybe he does. if he does, i just want to hold his feet to the fire about it.”

“of course, dear.” ophelia decided to drop the subject.

ophelia was old school. she felt that as long as a woman had even just a few million of her own, she should let the menfolk, and the lawyers and the accountants, worry about money.

31. miss green

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

prizes - 29. creampuffs in the morning

by harold p sternhagen

being a sequel to fun and games

part twenty-nine of thirty-nine

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

lefty woke up.

he had been dreaming, as he often did, about being back in the pen.

the bus was in the lincoln tunnel, moving right along.

in a few minutes it would be in the port authority terminal.

the events of the bus ride came back to him. the driver making him check the bag with the frammis in it, the two punks - he could see one of them in front of him, slouched in his seat with his leg sticking out into the aisle - the girl with the flower in her hair, his own nervousness about somehow losing the frammis…

with the night over, and the end of the trip in sight, he felt a great relief…

it would all be over soon. duke would tell him what a great job he had done - well, maybe not, but at least he would not give him any grief - and they would walk out into the sunshine of 41st street, with the bag and the frammis safe in duke’s hands, and find an automat where he could get a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice and a creampuff.

lefty liked creampuffs, especially first thing in the morning.

the bus entered the terminal and pulled into its parking space behind the glass door that led to the waiting area.

duke and frankie and judy were nowhere in sight.

lefty was one of the last persons off the bus. the driver had already lifted the door of the luggage bay and was pulling the bags out onto the concrete where they were quickly grabbed by the passengers.

lefty saw his bag, one of only four left, and reached for it.

right away he knew something was wrong.

it was not his bag. it looked like his bag, plain brown and about the same size as his, but it was not his. and it had no lock on it.

and it was light. very light.

it was a zippered bag, and lefty pulled the zipper open and looked inside.

it was empty.

30. minerva