Friday, August 31, 2012

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 315: pickled

Somewhere in a dubious district near the waterfront in old Singapore, we left our heroes Arnold Schnabel and Big Ben Blagwell squeezed together uncomfortably in a pink velvet love seat in the grandiose chambers of the imperious Madame Chang.

Once again we turn the narration over to Ben...

(Please click here to read our previous thrilling episode; if you’ve finally finished reading all of Balzac’
s La Comédie humaine in the original French then you may go here to go start at the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 72-volume memoir.)

“Let’s face it, when it comes to the sheer volume of verbiage this guy churned out, Arnold Schnabel made even Balzac look like a piker.” -- Harold Bloom, in Boxing Illustrated.

So, I scrunched back into the love seat, trying to get comfortable while not squeezing too close against Arnie, and then after I got kind of settled in I took a good drag on my Sweet Caporal.

“Are you quite ready for me to begin, big guy?” said Madame Chang, taking a drag on her own cancer stick. “Sitting comfortably? Done fidgeting?”

“Well, it’s just kind of a tight fit, Madame Chang,” I said. “Maybe it would be better if Arnie could sit in one of these other chairs, and then I could like spread out a bit more here.”

“You’ll both stay right where you are,” she said.

“Yes, don’t let them separate,” said Mojo. “He’s probably got something up his sleeve.”

“Hey, nothing up my sleeves but a pair of brawny tattooed biceps, Mojo,” I said. “Did you ever see me crack walnuts in them?”

“Yes, I’ve seen your pathetic parlor tricks too many times to count, mon cher Benjamin,” he said, and I should mention he still had that Luger on us, holding it upright on that fancy enameled low table that he was sitting in front of.

“Both of you, cease your prattle,” said Madame Chang.

“He started it,” I said.

“That’s it, always shift the blame,” said Mojo. “Just like with that caper in Rangoon, with the Monkey of Gold.”

“What?” I said. “Rangoon? The Monkey of Gold? Are you kidding me?”

“Silence!” yelled Madame Chang, and now she raised her little automatic and moved it back and forth from Mojo to me. “Or I swear on my ancestors I’ll plug you both!”

I shut right up. I’m no hero, and neither is Mojo, because he clammed up, too.

“Okay, then,” said Madame Chang. “Now, to begin. Oh.”

She said that last “Oh,” because of a heavy approaching thudding, creaking the floorboards, sort of like Frankenstein’s monster was maybe joining the party, but then out of some shadows old Futuyama came lumbering toward us, holding a big ornate silver tray over his big naked gut.

“Yes, thank you, Futuyama,” said Madame Chang, “on the table, please. And pour a cup of tea for me and Mr. Schnabel, if you will.”

Futuyama grunted something, and the next minute or so was taken up with him laying down the tray, pouring tea in fancy china cups for Madame Chang and Arnie, bringing a cup and saucer to the Madame, and then laying a pousse-café in front of Mojo and what I hoped was a Planter’s Punch with a float of ‘151’ in front of me. Oddly enough, with all the fancy other crap in this joint, the cocktail napkins he put our drinks on were just those cheap paper ones that have the spicy cartoons on them. Go figure. Maybe Madame Chang got a deal on them. Or maybe her taste wasn’t all that fancy after all. To tell the truth I didn’t give a damn. Just making an observation, that’s all, just like those real writers do in the magazines. You can read something into it if you want or just put it the hell out of your mind forever, it’s all the same to me.

I bent forward over my gut and reached down and snagged my drink up. It was in one of those tall fancy glasses with all different colors swirling all over it with gold-paint designs and glass that had little dimples all over it. I hate these kinds of glasses because I always get the urge to squeeze them just to see if they’ll break in my hand, but I knew I’d have to fight off that urge in the present circumstances. It didn’t have an umbrella in it, but that was okay by me. You can’t drink a paper umbrella. It did have what looked like a fresh maraschino cherry floating in it, so that was a nice touch, and it had a freshly-cut wedge of lime on the rim of the glass, also a nice touch. It had one of those black plastic straws, too, so I took a preliminary sip through it.

It was surprisingly good.

“Hey, Futuyama,” I said, “if I’m pronouncing your name right, this is a damn good Planter’s!”

He grunted.

“How’s your pousse-café, Mojo?” I said. His drink did look good, it was in a narrow but really tall stemmed glass and it must must have had at least six layers, red, yellow, black, purple, gold, green, something like that.

“Well, I’ll tell you in a second,” he said, and he took a sip through his straw, making one layer disappear. “Oh, splendid,” he said, licking his lips. “Yes indeed quite splendid, Futuyama, domo arigato!”

“Great,” said Madame Chang.

Arnie was already slurping his tea down like there was no tomorrow -- I’m like that too after someone’s slipped me a Mickey, it makes you really thirsty when you’re coming out of it.

“Mr. Schnabel, your tea is to your liking? Perhaps you would like some sugar?”

“Oh, no, this is swell, thank you,” he said. “I wonder if I could have some more.”

“Help yourself, and may I compliment you on your good manners. Unlike some people in this room.”

I don’t know who the hell she thought she was talking about, but Arnie leaned forward, picked up the big fancy tea pot with all flowers and castles and maidens on it and poured himself another cup, and as he leaned forward I saw the butt of Maxine’s Chief’s Special sticking out from the back vent of his suit jacket, I had forgotten all about that little snubby, even if it was me who had stuck it there, but I would try not to forget about it from now on.

“So, now,” said Madame Chang, after taking a ladylike sip from her own cup, “if everyone is happy with their beverages I will at long last continue. Futuyama, stand by, and keep an eye on these two, especially the big one. What the hell is your name again?”

“Me?” I said, I really wasn’t sure if she was talking to me on account of I was concentrating on my drink.

“Yes, you, gorilla,” she said.

“Blagwell, ma’am. Ben Blagwell, but everybody calls me Big Ben Blagwell, on account of --”

“Shut up,” she said.

“Only saying,” I said.

“Futuyama,” said Madame Chang. “If this big lout interrupts me one more time while I’m speaking I want you to pick him up and throw him across the room.”

Futuyama grunted, and looked at me like he hadn’t eaten since yesterday and I was the side of beef he normally put away for dinner.

I know when to keep my trap shut, and so, except to stick that straw in it so I could keep slurping down that Planter’s-with-a-float, that’s what I did.

“So,” said Madame Chang, “to explain then why I had Mojo slip Mr. Schnabel what you Americans call a ‘Mickey’ and drag him here while you, Mr. Bragwell --”

“Blagwell,” I said.

“This is your last warning,” she said. “Next time, no warning, and Futuyama’s going to pick you up and toss you against a wall like you were an overgrown rag doll.”

Futuyama grunted, staring at me, and rubbing his enormous paws together.

“Sorry,” I said.

“So,” said Madame Chang, “the reasons I say that I had Mojo drug Mr. Schnabel and drag him here to my chambers, whilst you, Mr. Bagwell --”

She gave me that black mamba look, and I think she might have said my name wrong just to test me, but, believe me, I let it go, the size of that Futuyama guy looming just to my left there like Godzilla’s kid brother.

After a pretty big pause, just to give me plenty of time to say something stupid again, Madame Chang continued:

“-- whilst you were making what I believe you Americans call ‘whoopee’ with the lovely chanteuse Maxine -- yes, my reasons are quite simple really…”

She went on like that, giving it a bit of a build-up the way dames do. They’re always like that. Just when they say they’re going to lay it all out nice and clear and concise they still have to beat around the bush for a while, just to keep you in suspense, or maybe just because they like to run their mouths off all the time, and meanwhile I’m thinking, okay, no doubt about it, Arnie and I were in a pickle all right.

We had Mojo right across the table from us, holding that damn Luger on us, and kind of slowly tracking it back and forth between Arnie and me. And we had Madame Chang a little to the left and behind him, in her big chair, with that little automatic sitting on the chair arm where she could grab it in a jiffy, and scariest of all, that big bruiser Futuyama standing over to my left at the other end of the low table, and even though I couldn’t see a rod on him anywhere he looked like he didn’t need a roscoe to do his killing.

It was a pickle all right, and I took another good sip of my Planter’s.

Now mind you, I’ve been in many pickles before.

Many, multiples pickles.

My life has been like one of those big old barrels of big fat Kosher pickles in the Jewish delis back home in the Lower East Side, those grimy, stinking, crime-ridden streets that turned me into the freebooting adventuring rough-and-tumble adventuring fellow I am today.


How are these for pickles?

Captured and caged by bloodthirsty jungle cannibal girls up in the Amazon rain forest…

Chained in the love pit of some Yakuza geisha killer wantons in a Yokohama den of lust…

Shackled in the hold of some lusty Lesbian pirates in the Straits of Malacca…

Plenty of pickles I’ve been in.

That’s kind of what I do, really.

I get in pickles. And then I get out of them.

That’s me.

I wasn’t really too worried about this Madame Chang dame and her pals. For one thing, I could tell that she liked me. I mean really liked me. As in she wanted to play hide-the-salami with me in the very near future, something she wouldn’t be able to do if she plugged me between the eyes with that little automatic of hers, which looked like one of those Kraut pocket Mausers that one of these SS sadist harlots had threatened to shove up my behind in this castle of torture on the Rhine I wound up in one time.

So, yeah, I mean, no, I wasn’t overly concerned about me and Arnie in our present situation, especially seeing as how that snubnose was still stuck in the back of Arnie’s trousers. And as soon as the time was ripe I’d stick my hand back there and pull that baby out, and we’d soon see who was left alive after the shooting was done.

“So, you see, Mr. Bogwell --” said Madame Chang.

I looked up from my drink.

“Yes?” I said.

“You see now,” she said, “why it was I had Mojo bring Mr. Schnabel here, and by whatever means necessary.”

Okay, there, I had done it again, somebody had told me to pay attention to what they were going to say, and I had gotten distracted, gone off on my own mental tangent, and I had no idea what the hell they had been talking about, so naturally, I just blew out a nice plume of Sweet Caporal smoke and said:

“Sure, Madame Chang. I understand. You were just doing what you had to do.”

“What?” she said.

“I said,” I said, “I mean, uh, you were just, you know, doing what you, like, had to do?”

“Madame Chang,” she said, saying it like she meant it even more than she usually said whatever she was saying, “doesn’t have to do anything!”

“Uh, yeah, sure, Madame Chang,” I said, because I was starting to realize that this broad had this thing in common with every other broad in the world, and that was that you were a hell of a lot better off just agreeing with them, even if you didn’t know what the hell they were talking about and what the hell you were agreeing to. “Absolutely,” I added. “A hundred percent.”

“Madame Chang,” she said, “does what she wants to do.”

“As well you should,” I said.

“I wasn’t asking your opinion,” she said.

“Right,” I said. “Absolutely.”

“But now, Mr. Bongwell,” she said, “now that you know why I had Mojo bring Mr. Schnabel here, you are perhaps wondering why I have kept you alive? At least so far.”

“Well,” I said, after taking another good slurp of my Planter’s, and I had to hand it to Futuyama, I don’t know what his secret was, but it was a pretty good Planter’s with a float, and I’ve drunk about twenty thousand of them in my time, “I guess I was a little curious about that,” I said, although I was pretty sure I knew why: she wanted my body.

“I will tell you why,” she said.

And while she went into her preamble bit -- because like I said before, she was just another dame when it came to getting to the goddam point, not that some men aren’t like that either, but not me -- me? I’m a straight shooter, I mean if I have something to say I just get right to the point without a lot of fussing around, but, hey, that’s just me -- what was I saying? Oh, right, so while she’s going through her little warm-up, I checked her out, and I mean I checked her out good, all the time sort of nodding my head as if I was agreeing with every damn thing she said, whatever the hell it was she was saying while I was checking her out.

That smooth white skin, as smooth and white as the teacup she held in her dainty fingers with rings on nearly every one of them, and you could bet they weren’t the kind of rings they sell at Woolworth’s, and neither were those gold bracelets on her skinny little wrists and those pearls roped around that snow-white neck that was no wider around than my forearm.

And this black silk dress she had on, with all sorts of different-colored embroidery and little shiny beads and buttons, with this slit up one side so you could see her smooth slender white gam all the way up to her thigh, which naturally just made me want me to pull it right off her.

And those eyes, those black mamba snake eyes, that looked like they’d just as soon see you dead instead of lounging back in a pink love seat with your buddy slurping down a Planter’s Punch with a float of ‘151’ and enjoying your Sweet Caporal, those eyes just made me want to stare into them while I was giving her the Blagwell Special, which is when I try to keep it going by thinking about the top twenty best meals I’ve had instead of what I’m doing, in order to prolong the lady’s ecstasies.

And those lips, painted the color of fresh-spilled blood -- I’d be willing to bet anything she was the kind of dame who liked to bite, and bite hard, until she drew blood, real blood.

Hoo boy.

I didn’t care if she was a hundred and ninety-eight years old like she said. She looked okay to me, and anyway, who was I to be particular?

“And so, Mr. Bragwell,” she said, “you now see why I have kept you alive, if only provisionally and for the time being.”

“Uh, sure,” I said.

Damn, I had done it again.

I had forgotten to pay attention and I didn’t have the faintest idea what I had missed.

I just hoped it wasn’t anything too important.

(Continued here, and not just for our own sake, but also for the sake of generations still unborn, just in case anyone is still reading anything by then.)

(Kindly turn to the right-hand column of this page to find a scientifically-updated listing of links to all other legally-approved chapters of Arnold Schnabel’s
Railroad Train To Heaven©. All contents vetted and approved by the Department of Inoffensive Literature. The painting is by Margaret Brundage.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian: chapter 71

"ten grand to Bora Bora"

by Horace P. Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo*

illustrated by roy dismas and rhoda penmarq

*Associate Professor of Middle English, Assistant Badminton Coach, Olney Community College; editor of The Final Furlough: Previously Uncollected Stories of War, by Horace P. Sternwall; Olney Community College Press, “The Obscure Modern Masters Project”.


It is past midnight in the great unsleeping city, and a man of about thirty years of age strides determinedly down Seventh Avenue.

The man’s name is Michael Chandler, although his wife calls him Henry.

Not fifteen minutes ago he had been on the verge of passing out -- not only from having drunk nine Old Fashioneds, but also because of the natural weariness incurred from having worked over fifty hours that week drawing up unbelievably tedious legal contracts, and from spending the present evening in the company of people even more boring than he was -- and Michael, unlike a true, dyed-in-the-wool master bore, knew himself to be a fairly boring fellow.

No, Michael was wide awake now, in fact he felt more awake than he had ever felt in his life, and he walked quickly and steadily, staggering and weaving not in the least. He felt his manly stride gobbling up the six or seven blocks from Henry and Estelle’s building to his destination, the venerable Hotel St Crispian, and these were his thoughts as they rioted through his brain:

Ten grand.

Ten thousand dollars.

Ten thousand simoleons...

for complete episode, click here

Friday, August 24, 2012

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 314: mamba

Let’s return to a certain obscure building off a dark alleyway not far from the docks of Singapore and rejoin our hero Arnold Schnabel and his faithful “Dr Watson” Big Ben Blagwell, in the grandiose chambers of the mysterious and exotic Madame Chang…

(Kindly go here to read our most previous chapter; if you’re really serious about finding a new way to waste your time then click here to go back to the barely-remembered beginnings of this Gold View Award™-winning 39-volume memoir.)

“As often as Arnold Schnabel seems to descend to the depths of pulp penny-dreadful authors like Horace P. Sternwall or Fred Flynn (just to name two of his avowed favorites), just so often does he ascend to the heights of a Proust or a Joyce, two authors of whom it is extremely doubtful he ever read a single word.” -- Harold Bloom, in the
Cape May County Herald.

But then she glanced at me, still holding that little automatic on me you understand. “Unless you would prefer something a little stronger, big fellow?”

“How about a Planter’s Punch, with a float of “151” rum,” I said.

She looked at me for about half a minute, like she was trying to decide which of my eyes to put a slug into.

Then she said to the big oriental guy, “You heard him, Futuyama, Planter’s Punch with a float of ‘151’ rum. And tea for three.”

“Oh, I wonder, Madame Chang,” said Mojo, “might I possibly impinge on your hospitality if it’s not too much trouble by requesting a pousse-café? It’s only that if I drink tea this late it keeps me up all night you see.”

“What about green tea, or white tea?” said Madame Chang. “Very low in caffeine, full of nutrients.”

“Oh, I’m afraid even green and white teas give me the most horrid insomnia.”

Now Madame Chang gave Mojo her thirty-second stare, but at least she wasn’t holding her rod on him.

“You’re really too much, Mojo,” said Madame Chang. “Why don’t you just come right out and say you want a free goddamn drink?”

I noticed that Mojo was sweating, even though it was strangely cool in this room.

“But, but, but --” he said.

“Don’t ‘but’ me. I only want you to say that you want a free drink and not to hand me a lot of crap about about tea keeping you up at night.”

“But, you know, Madame Chang, out of my own humble pocket I already had to buy these two chaps some several drinks tonight --” he said.

“Say it.”

“I bought this one here two quite dear Planter's Punches, or was it three?” he said, looking at me.

“Hey, I wasn’t counting, pal,” I said. My Sweet Caporal was almost down to a burning nub and I looked around for an ashtray.

“Let’s say I bought him three, then,” said Mojo. “And I also bought Arnold --”

“Say it,” said Madame Chang.

“Oh, very well,” he said. He took his handkerchief out of the breast pocket of his suit jacket and mopped his forehead. “I want a free drink. There, are you happy, Madame Chang?”

“I don’t know the meaning of the word happy,” she said.

There was a vase over near the doorway so I stepped toward it with my Caporal butt.

“Where the hell are you going?” said Madame Chang.

“Just gonna dump my butt,” I said.

“In my priceless Ming vase you’re gonna dump your cigarette butt.”

“So -- it’s not for cigarettes?” I said.

“Is it filled with sand?”

I took a step closer and looked into it.

“No,” I said. “No sand.”

“Then it’s not for cigarettes.”

“Sorry,” I said.

She looked at Arnie, and wiggled her automatic up and down. “What about you, sleeping beauty? I suppose you want a frozen mango daiquiri? With a cherry on top.”

“Just some tea, please,” he said. “Thank you.”

“Chinese black tea okay?”

“Is that like the kind you get in Chinese restaurants?”

“Yes, but better. I get mine delivered special. I don’t drink that swill they serve in Chinese restaurants.”

“That’s fine then,” he said.

“Okay,” said Madame Chang. “Now that we got all that straight. Tea for two, Futuyama, plus one pousse-café, and a Planter’s Punch for the nautical Paul Bunyan here.”

“With a float of ‘151’,” I said. “Just pour like half-a-shot over an inverted spoon and let it float on top of the drink.”

Futuyama looked at Madame Chang.

“Whatever,” she said.

Futuyama bowed to her and then turned and lumbered away. The guy was so big you could feel the floor vibrating under the oriental carpet we were standing on with each step he took.

“Come, let us sit,” said Madame Chang.

She waved her gun toward the middle of this big room we were in, to an area where there was a long low lacquered table and some chairs and divans and couches and smaller tables. When we got there Madame Chang pointed the gun at a sort of pink velvet love seat and said, “You two, sit there where I can keep an eye on you.”

Neither Arnie or I were in any position to argue, so we sat down in the love seat, even though it was a tight fit, me being such a big muscular guy and all. Fortunately there was a standing ashtray on my side and I was finally able to get rid of my Caporal butt before it could totally burn the flesh off my thumb and finger.

“May I sit, Madame Chang?” said Mojo. “I must say I still feel somewhat dazed and not a little in pain after being so mercilessly cold-cocked by that big brute --”

“Mojo,” said Madame Chang.

“Yes, Madame Chang?”

“Do me a favor, will you?”

“Of course, Madame Chang.”

“Go over to that footstool there,” she gestured to a brocaded footstool opposite me and Arnie on the other side of the low table. “That’s about your size.”

Mojo walked over to the footstool and then looked at her, all expectant like.

“Now sit down on that stool and shut the hell up,” said Madame Chang.

“Of course, Madame Chang,” said Mojo, and he sat down on it. Poor little guy, as low as the table was you could still only see his head and chest over it. But he kept his Luger on me and Arnie, he didn’t forget about that.

Madame Chang sat herself down in a really fancy armchair to the left of Mojo, all red velvet and gold and I don’t know, I can’t describe those kinds of things. It looked like something maybe a queen would sit in, not a throne exactly, but just a really fancy queen’s chair for when she was sitting around the coffee table shooting the breeze with her friends the dukes and duchesses, like that. Except more Chinese. Like a Chinese queen’s chair. Back when they had queens in China instead of commissars. So I guess it was kind of like a commissar’s chair.

“So,” she said -- and she kept us waiting while she laid her automatic on the arm of her chair, took a cigarette out of an enameled box on a little table next to her chair, and lit herself up with a table lighter in the shape of a dragon -- “you gentlemen are probably wondering what all this intrigue is in aid of?”

“Well, Madame Chang,” I said, and I leaned away a bit from Arnie so I could get my Sweet Caporals out of my Hawaiian shirt-pocket, and now I’m wondering, am I supposed to keep mentioning that I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt? Or is once enough? Maybe just once in a while? Well, anyway, yeah, it was the same Hawaiian shirt I’d been wearing all night, and I leaned away from Arnie so I could get my cigarettes out of the pocket, on account of Arnie was sitting to my right and we were so scrunched together on that love seat. It feels funny calling it a love seat. But let’s face it, that’s what it was, so I guess I’m stuck with it. Anyway, I took the cigarettes out, gave them a shake and popped one into my trap.

“What?” said Madame Chang. “Finish your sentence please.”

There you go, I had been so busy thinking about my Hawaiian shirt and everything that I forgot to finish my thought. I’ll bet those real writer fellows don’t have these problems.

“Come on, spit it out,” she said.

“I forget what I was going to say,” I said. I took out the Musso & Frank’s matches and gave myself a light, doing it my usual way, cupping my big hamlike fists around the flame like I was standing on the deck of a junk in the South China Sea in the middle of a bad typhoon, even though I was indoors, that’s just me. “So, please, continue with what you were saying, Madame Chang.”

“I was saying I suppose you gentlemen are wondering what all this intrigue is in aid of.”

“Oh, right,” I said. “That’s what I was going to say.”

I waved the match out and tossed it at the ashtray. I missed. I was tempted to get up and pick it up off the rug, but I was hoping Madame Chang hadn’t noticed.

“What,” said Madame Chang. “What were you going to say.”

She said it like that, kind of without a question mark if you know what I mean. Looking at me the way a black mamba out in the Belgian Congo once looked at me, but that’s another story I guess.

“What was I going to say?” I said.

“Yes,” she said. “Before you threw your match on my expensive rug.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Madame Chang,” I said, and I started to heave myself up from the love seat, “I’ll get it --”

“Sit back down,” she said.

“Um, okay,” I said, and I sat the hell back down, trying not to squash Arnie while I did it.

“Go on,” she said.

“Go ‘on’…” I said, kind of with the three dots like that, like maybe she had said something in one of those obscure Chinese dialects that I’m not too familiar with.

“Yes, please finish what you were saying. We wait with bated breath.”

“I kind of forget what I was going to say,” I said, taking a drag of my Sweet Caporal, probably one of those drags those writer fellows call a “pensive” drag.

“Again,” she said.

“Yeah. Again,” I said.

I not only heard Arnie sigh, I could feel him sigh. It was like a full-body sigh if you know what I mean.

Madame Chang lifted her automatic up off the arm of her chair, and just kind of looked at it.

“Oh, I know what I was going to say,” I said, in a hurry, just like the way I jumped into the Congo River in a hurry that time with the black mamba, “I was going to say, Madame Chang, yeah, I was wondering what all the intrigue is in aid of. Weren’t you, Arnie?”

“Yeah,” he said, although for some reason he didn’t sound too interested. “Sure.”

“What?” I said. “What’s the matter, pal?”

He looked at me, turning his head a bit, looking out of the corner of his eye like, and then he sighed again.

“Nothing, Ben,” he said.

“Still feeling a little groggy from that Mickey that Mojo slipped you, huh?”

“Yes, a little,” he said.

“Some of that nice hot black tea will perk you right up, buddy, won’t it, Madame Chang?”

“Do you see?” said Mojo, turning to look at Madame Chang. “Now do you see what a great idiot he is?”

“I’m not blind,” she said. “Or deaf. You just keep your eyes front, little man, and your pudgy little finger on that Luger trigger.”

“Certainly, Madame Chang,” said Mojo. “I was only saying --”

“Silence!” she said. “It’s bad enough I have to listen to the big galoot, I don’t need to hear your midget’s drivel as well!”

“I was only saying,” said Mojo.

“I know what you were saying. He’s an idiot. So shut up.”

“Sorry,” he said.

So, I’m thinking right here, these two might be in league with each other in whatever deadly intrigue was going on here, but they sure didn’t get along too well together. I made a mental note of that. This is what you got to do in the deadly intrigue game. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open, and make mental notes. If you’ve got a notepad and a pencil, maybe jot them down. Otherwise, just try to remember them.

“So,” I said, “getting back to the deadly intrigue business, Madame Chang --”

“The 'deadly' intrigue?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I mean, I assume it’s deadly. Correct me if I’m wrong.”

“No,” she said. “You could say it’s deadly all right.”

“Okay,” I said, and I blew out a big cloud of Sweet Caporal smoke, because that’s a good thing to do when you’re about to say something more than a how-do-ya-do, “so, this deadly intrigue, what’s the scoop? I thought we were gonna pull off some kind of caper with Mojo here, and with the scratch from the caper we were gonna pay you to get Arnie back to his supposedly real world.”

Arnie sighed again.

“What?” I said.

“Nothing,” he said. “Go on, Ben.”

“Okay,” I said. “But instead of a caper, Mojo drugs Arnie while I’m making whoopee with a lady friend and drags him to your pad. I don’t get it. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t get it. It’s like when you’re reading a serial book bonus in one of them men’s adventure magazines and you miss an issue. Like, what the hell’s going on, y’know?”

She finally put the automatic back down on the chair arm. So that was a relief.

She took one of those pensive kinds of drags from her own cigarette, and let the smoke out, slow.

“Very well,” she said. “I will tell you what the hell’s going on. Try to pay attention, because I don’t like to repeat myself.”

“All ears I am,” I said, hoping it wasn’t all going to be too complicated or boring. “Fire away, Madame Chang. I mean, not literally speaking if you know what I mean. Heh heh.”

I knew I had to be careful with this broad.

She was really very touchy.

(Continued here, and. at this rate, for approximately twenty-seven more years.)

(Please look to the right-hand column of this page to find a fairly frequently-updated listing of links to all other officially-released chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. Soon to be a glorious Technicolor extravaganza featuring Dick Powell as Arnold, Alan Hale as Ben, and Anna May Wong as Madame Chang; musical numbers composed by Irving Berlin; a Busby Berkeley Production for MGM.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

tales of the hotel st crispian: chapter 70

"the procedures of pete palomine"

by manfred skyline

illustrated by roy dismas and rhoda penmarq

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

"yes, of course," cosima answered. "as i said, pete has brought a lot of the opprobrium down on himself quite deliberately, in order to generate controversy and publicity. and has, i am sure, exaggerated the extent he uses the techniques he describes." she laughed. "when he talks of 'hypnotizing' his subjects - or apprentices or collaborators or whatever he calls them, he neglects to mention that he has no expertise in hypnosis. he may go through the motions of hypnotizing them, and they may humor him - you get the idea."

fortescue nodded politely.

"if he is hypnotizing these people," cosima went on, "i am sure he does it much more efficiently with bottles of scotch or sticks of tea."

"so he has these - apprentices or collaborators - doing how much of the work exactly?"

"until quite recently," cosima replied drily, "all of it."

"i see." fortescue nodded politely and picked a cup up from the coffee service that lay between them.

"of course, as he points out whenever pressed on the subject, the use of apprentices could hardly be a more time-honored procedure."

"indeed. but do the buyers in today's market accept that? excuse me for saying so, but i have noticed that the yankee mentality has a partiality for what it is regards as the "real thing".

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