The Black Pearls

The Strand, October, 1948

Today’s inspiration from the Time Capsule comes courtesy of The Strand, October 1948. I used captions of illustrations from several different stories in this edition of The Strand to start off a new story. The first five sentences as well as “a stealthy encroachment of chill into his bones” are borrowed captions.

 

The Strand, October, 1948

The Strand, October, 1948

 

*****

Morley sprang up, dark-veined with rage.

Even Slick was startled. “It’s an impossible job,” he said.

The room was ice-cold and dark.

The figure on the bed came suddenly to life. “Did you not hear me? Go,” he ordered, sitting up and pointing a bony yet commanding finger at the door. “Get the Countess. Bring her here.”

“You’d put us in danger again, Squinty? You can’t ask us to bring the Countess here,” said Morley. “What about her bodyguards? And her husband’s spies? They’re everywhere. And they’re well-armed. Didn’t we go through enough getting hold of those pearls for you?”

“I said, bring her here.” Squinty sank back into his pillows.

Morley’s veins throbbed. The Countess! The rustle of her silken dress. The smooth slope of her bare shoulder. Her creamy neck. The string of black pearls around it! Each pearl a perfection!

Oh, how the very memory of those pearls caused a stealthy encroachment of chill into his bones.

“The Countess! The Countess! Always the Countess!” snarled Morley. “Why don’t you think of us for once?”

“You?” Squinty gave a feeble laugh. “Think of you?”

Morley ground his teeth, or what was left of them. He cursed the night he’d run into Squinty in a low-down tavern on the wharf. If only he could have foreseen how he’d end up paying for those free drinks!

*****

I particularly enjoyed a section in The Strand called “Useless Information.” Did you know, for instance, that “The first Victoria Crosses were made of bronze obtained from Russian guns captured during the Crimean War”? Or that “In flight the wings of the common house-fly make more than 300 vibrations per second”? Or that, because of an earthquake “In 1158 the river Thames ‘was dryed uppe, that all London might walk over the same dry-shod'”?

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