top of page

EW Farnsworth

Gypsy John

Dr. Wilson F.  Engel, III, writing as E. W. Farnsworth, is a frequent contributor to anthologies, lives and writes in Arizona.  Over eighty of his short stories were published at a variety of venues in 2015.  Also published in 2015 were his collected Arizona westerns (Desert Sun, Red Blood), his global mystery/thriller (Bitcoin Fandango), his John Fulghum Mysteries about a hard-boiled Boston detective and Engaging Rachel, an Anderson romance/thriller.    

For updates please see

Gypsy John filled the bird feeder and cat bowls on the back porch of his first floor tenement apartment.  He did this every morning at exactly six o’clock.  Half an hour later, he haunted the streets within a twenty-block radius blending into the background, watching. 

An undercover police informant’s existence lay in the shadows.  Visibility meant danger and death.  Gypsy John had no idea when he would have to move to another part of the city.  He had a sixth sense about such things.  If he got the feeling he was being observed closely, he immediately dropped what he was doing and relocated.  Always on the move, he had few attachments.  His occasional birds and cats were companions for mutual convenience.  His human contacts were rare, accidental and ephemeral.  Charlie was the one exception.

Gypsy John had discovered the teenage girl huddled and sweating in the back doorway to his apartment late one evening.  She had a green feather in her brown leather hat.  Her jean pants and jacket had seen a lot of wear.  Everything she owned was in a grab bag slung over her shoulder.  She said she had nowhere else to go.  He shrugged and let her flop at his place.  She occupied a small area in the corner of his living room.   Like him, she prowled the city during the daylight hours.  Like him, she kept her belongings minimal so she could escape in an instant.  Charly was a lot, he thought, like the alley cats that came to feed on his porch.

They did not talk much.  At the beginning he told her he might be gone at any time.  She told him the same applied for her. 

After he gave her a spare key to his backdoor, she carved out a life with the least imposition.  What she used in his apartment, she returned as she found it.  She managed to supply her basic needs, including mary jane and food though he let her know she was welcome to share the food he had.  They shared the same bathroom, toilet and shower, but not at the same time.  Neither was modest about walking around the apartment nude at all hours of the night.  They had one unspoken rule: No questions. 

Charly did not interfere with Gypsy John’s feeding of his porch creatures.  She did, however, take a fancy to the Siamese cat he called Rinaldo.  The feral cat was so wild it hissed at other cats and all humans, except Charly.  Rinaldo would allow Charly to pick him up and pet him.  Gypsy John thought the cat and the girl had identical blue eyes.  Anyway, they had an understanding.  Some nights Rinaldo would enter the apartment with Charly and sleep curled up on the floor beside her.  That turned out to be a good thing for both Charly and Gypsy John.

One night the cat awoke alarmed and kneaded the girl’s arm.  Charly heard someone fiddling with the back door knob.  She crawled back to wake Gypsy John.  He became  immediately alert and crept to the door to investigate.  He listened for a moment.  Then he went out his front door with his knife drawn.  He snuck around the building to surprise the would-be intruder. 

The man trying to jimmy the door had a gun.  Gypsy John’s knife made quick work of the intruder, whose corpse he dragged to the dumpster a block away.  When he returned to the apartment, he told Charly that everything was okay.  She told him they owed their lives to Rinaldo.  She asked no questions about how her host had handled the situation.  It was just as well.

The next morning at his scheduled rendezvous with Officer Johnson his police contact, Gypsy John reported a major drug deal was coming down.  He explained how street suppliers were going to be involved.  Additionally, he reported he was being watched.  He asked whether his undercover identity had been compromised.  Johnson replied that Gypsy John’s identity and role were considered police confidential; no one outside a handful of high-level officers knew who he was, much less what he did.  Even so, from that time Gypsy John kept his bag packed.   He told Charly he might have to leave at any time.  She said she was going with him wherever he was heading and Rinaldo was coming with them.  He shrugged.  He knew she would do what she wanted to do, no matter what.

Gypsy John decided to stand watch in his living room.  He slept with his gun and knife beside him.  Rinaldo meowed around midnight and kneaded Charly’s arm.  When she was sure Gypsy John was awake, Charly went to the bathroom.  Rinaldo followed her.

The door crashed inward and two men came through the opening with their guns drawn.  Gypsy John shot both men in the head before they had a chance to get their bearings.  From the alley he heard whispers.  He knew his fight was not over.  He changed position and picked up the guns of the two dead assailants as he did so.  Charly slipped beside him and asked for a loaded weapon.

Gypsy John flipped the safety off one weapon and handed it to the girl.  She expertly checked the weapon and took position on the other side of the room so they would have the entire entry covered.  She was in position when three men rushed the doorway.  Charly shot the first man coming through.  Gypsy John killed the second.  The third man dove through the opening and, one gun in each hand, fired blindly into the room.  Gypsy John and Charly shot him simultaneously from their two angles.  They waited for other invaders but none came.  Gypsy John recognized one dead intruder as Officer Johnson.

Someone must have dialed 911 because streets on all sides of the tenement were full of flashing lights.  Gypsy John had practiced what to do next. 

He signaled Charly to follow.  She grabbed the cat and ran after him.


bottom of page