|T O P I C R E V I E W
||Posted - 01/03/2005 : 12:09:25
Back to Black
by Gorgolo Chick
Rating: PG for violence
Disclaimer: The Wild Wild West and its characters do not belong to me in any way, and I write about them solely for entertainment. I make no profit and intend no infringement.
Summary: Answer to a challenge to write a Wild Wild West story that goes “From Blackout to Blackout”.
Pulling out of the blackness is gut-twisting, almost more so than the explosive pain that awakens in my head just afterwards. I feel ill and in pain, dizzy before I even open my eyes. Breathing hurts, too. I’m wet, soaked through. Almost together I discover the taste of salt in my mouth and the overpowering scent of dead fish in my nostrils.
I’m cold, wet, hurt and miserable. Somewhere in what little mind I seem to have, something is telling me that I’m also in danger.
I stagger to my feet and brush the worst of the seawater out of my eyes. I spot a heavy wooden packing crate standing right beside me fast enough to lean on it instead of falling back down.
Then I figure out that the roaring in my ears isn’t all in my head. I shake my head – big mistake – and finally manage to focus on the massive brawl going on down the dock from where I just woke up.
There must be about seven or eight burly dockworker types trying to lay their hands on a man in tight blue clothes… JIM! That’s too many for even my rough-and-tumble partner to win against without a little help.
I may not be in any shape to join the fight, but I can still even the odds a bit, there. I stumble my way to a stack of crates marked ‘Engine Parts’ that are towering over the battle scene. I drag a good-sized lump of explosive out of one of my special pockets and cram it against the near edge of the bottom center crate. A piece of fuse and a match out of a waterproof pack later, and I yell “Coming down” and try to run for cover.
When it all goes ‘BOOM’ I almost pass out again, but I’m too worried about Jim to let that happen. I know he should have had no problem ducking the avalanche I just caused, with fair warning like I gave him, but still…
I drag myself far enough along the dock until I can see that blue-clad form landing like an avalanche all his own on the last pair of his attackers. We win again. Then he looks around in my direction.
I really want to watch my partner come over to me, but he keeps wavering and spinning out of my line of vision.
“Arte!” All of the sudden he’s there, lifting me off of the cold hard dock. “Come on, Arte, hang in there, I’ll get you to a doctor.”
“Get me back to the train for some dry clothes and a warm bed and I’ll be fine.” Well, I tried to say that firmly, but it sounded pretty slurred to me. I wish he’d stop pushing so hard against my side that way. It hurts like hell when he does that.
“Don’t fight me, Artemus. I’ve got to get this bleeding stopped. Bullet went right through you, I think, but there’s no way to tell how much damage it did.”
I look down and see Jim’s hands covered in scarlet – my blood. Now I remember the bullet hitting me as I was trying to examine the strange marks on the planks right at the edge of the dock. That and the shock of the waters of San Francisco Bay closing over me.
That’s what James West and I are all about, in the end – always being there when your partner needs you.
I just hope Jim doesn’t need me for a while, because it feels like he just lost his grip on me. Anyway, I’m falling back into…
|18 L A T E S T R E P L I E S (Newest First)
||Posted - 09/23/2007 : 17:11:24
Victoria got up and lit a candle. She made her way to mirror to make sure she looked the part. Kimberly stood behind her.
"Must you go without me?" Kimberly complained.
"You botched it the last time, sister dear. The doctor wanted the real pro to lure Mr. West here."
"But sister, if we are both there we can do as the doctor requests and I can get back into his graces."
"Kimberly," Victoria held her head and closed her eyes. "Why do you always invade my thoughts when I'm thinking my plans out. The doctor prefers me. He always has, ever since New Orleans when you botched it and we had to leave. I'm surprised he still wants you around."
"Victoria you know I would never botch it. IT was an accident. The doctor got his blood and I mine."
"Shssh." Victoria blew out the candle and headed out into the darkness.
||Posted - 06/04/2007 : 19:04:32
I would end the life of those Secret Service agents. They would not interfere with me again. If they just knew the pain the horrible pain I am in without the serum. No they wouldn’t understand how could they. The thought came to me as if by divine grace I would have Kimberly bring West to me and his blood will make my next injection, with him out of the way I can have his partner destroyed as well.
Wait reality hits me, If I kill these two I will have to move my network again, but that is a given now, so why not, it is such a simple end to a complex problem.
I ring the bell next to my night stand and in walks my faithful servant Victoria, she has been with me since New Orleans and knows how to keep her sister in line.
Victoria bows “Yes my lady”
“Have the Secret service agent named West brought to me.”
“The Dark Lord commands it he will be our next victim, his blood will please the Dark Lord.”
“Yes My Lady.” Victoria bows and leaves she must tell her sister the new plan, Kimberly would not like it but then again the Doctor was the voice of the Dark Lord and they would do what was asked of them.
I lay down to rest while I can. Blowing out the candle and the room goes black.
||Posted - 08/25/2006 : 01:57:12
My abdominal pains had increased to an almost intolerable level. Finally...enough serum had filled the test tube to provide me with another injection! Hastily, I filled the syringe to the proper amount. Just a few more moments and I'll be free of this agony. Injecting the cold needle into my pale arm, I could feel the precious fluid entering my bloodstream.
Blood...the essence of life which has caused me so much misery and pain for so long.
Medical science calls it porphyria...I call it Hell. As a young girl, I loved to play in the outdoors... basking in the warm glow of the midday sun. Shortly after becoming a young woman, this damnable disease caused even the slightest amount of time in the sunlight to produce horrible blisters on my exposed skin. My frequent bouts of vomiting and excruciating abdominal pains are some of the worst signs of porphyria. This disease has also been known to cause hallucinations and paranoia in some people...
But not me.
A few years ago, I discovered how to synthesize a serum from fresh human blood that can relieve the symptoms of this disease...if only temporarily. It takes a great amount of blood to produce enough serum for one injection. I had to conceive of a way to acquire large amounts of fresh human blood...and I saw no legal way of doing it.
Elizabeth Bathory was a 17th century Hungarian countess with a rather nasty reputation. She was perversely obsessive about losing her beauty to the ravages of time. Elizabeth Bathory had her servants kill over 600 young women so that the countess could bathe in their blood to retain her youthful beauty. She was also said to have delved into the Dark Arts.
In New Orleans, I was able to set up a cult of loyal followers. In return for their undying allegiance, I promised them the secret to eternal youth...such gullible young minds. Things were going very well for a time...sacrificing young women in the name of the Dark Prince...
Until those relentless Secret Service agents spoiled my operation!
Relocating my cult to San Francisco, I thought a slightly different strategy might be in order. Instead of just young women, I told my followers that the Dark Prince would grant eternal youth for any human sacrifice...young or old, male or female. I also invented a smaller blood pump to make the blood extraction faster and easier. Unfortunately, my followers continue to use those satanic symbols at the site of their sacrifice.
And now those Secret Service agents are back!
||Posted - 08/19/2006 : 10:41:52
James West had seen her before, of that he was certain. But where and why? It wasn't a good feeling, but it wasn't exactly a pit-forming feeling either. He had quite a number of encounters with curly-haired redheads before. This one though he couldn't place. It was the sound of her voice that was familiar. Where had he seen her before? She was on the wrong side of the law, but he would remember locking up something with such deadly beauty, wouldn't he? Why was there a faint bell ringing in the back of his head? Kimberly Strange... the name wasn't familiar. It was possible that he hadn't known her name before. He was starting to get frustrated trying to figure out who this deadly beauty was. Maybe a change of subject and letting the thought rest would help bring this ghost of a memory to the surface.
Blood. That's what this case was about. Murdering to collect blood it appeared. How was the blood being collected and why? James West thought back on his former assignments. Once in a great while he and Artie would be assigned to and stop people with perverted ideas about the human body. One collected brains, their nemesis Dr. Loveless and one or two others liked to play with electricity, which coincidently ended up in the electrocution of his partner more than once. Quite a few experimented with mind control. And one... collected blood...
The ghost memory was beginning to take on a more solid shape. New Orleans, he and Artie were assigned a very disturbing case of missing women. They found themselves plunged into the middle of a cult that killed women and harvested their blood. Jim West swallowed down the sickening feeling that was threatening to overcome him. He and Artie had herded the still living girls to safety then blew up the earthly h*ll. That was it! That was where he had seen the beautiful redhead! She was wearing the emerald robe of the cult and her red curls fell out the sides of the hood as she had cut the ropes of him and his partner. In the chaos afterwards she had disappeared. Was this the same group? If it was, they now included the blood of men and had a more portable machine to gather and contain the blood. And what exactly is Kimberly Strange's connection in this case, and what had it been in the other one? More questions that needed answers. Since his partner had been shot, the case had slowed to a snail's pace. Now he had a link. He needed to find Kimberly Strange.
*sigh...where's MY Ross Martin?
||Posted - 04/27/2006 : 14:27:06
Drums. Pounding, insistent, and evil. I know I’m lost in a morphine whirl, but I’m trying to find reality again.
Is the pounding my heart – or my head – or something surrounding me, trying to get in? Some part of what I believe is myself begins to gibber in terror, telling me that I am encompassed by waves of darkness, heat and blood. I’ve been here before, on a long, dark night of horror when my partner and I were too successful in tracking a gang of villains through the filthiest quarter there is in New Orleans.
But we escaped; I escaped. I know I did.
Unless this is the reality and our escape was a momentary dream. Did I so desperately want to return to the train and a sane world where we battled foes I could understand; did I want that so desperately that I made myself imagine the intervening years of normalcy?
Funny; my brain balks there for a moment at calling my work side-by-side with Jim West ‘normalcy’. That mental double-take makes me veer back in the direction of what I must believe are more recent memories. These are memories of our current case, in San Francisco rather than semi-mystic New Orleans. I remember now being shot, the smell and taste of seawater, and yes, there again I remember believing I have been given a dose of morphine.
The New Orleans memory becomes the more distant, losing the worst of it’s power and immediacy. None of the horror goes, though. But now I catch hold of a common thread which binds my ‘then’ and ‘now’ to each other. The blood, and those strange marking are what let the morphine plunge me back into that distant night.
And as a recognizable memory, I can begin to deal with it, if not actually make sense of it yet. I remember blood, and marks. Blood, heat, pounding drums and chanting; screams and whirling bodies. So many young girls screaming in terror in the night as they were …. I shudder away from the mental image of what I once witnessed. Their blood everywhere, used to draw those strange markings over and over again.
But I remember, too, the tall, red-haired woman in emerald robes who appeared between Jim and I where we were bound, and cut us free. What she did next… I don’t know. But she drew off the leaders of whatever that was, and enough of the muscle that James and I were able to rescue the surviving girls and take them out of there.
Afterward we never found any sign of what had happened.
||Posted - 03/03/2006 : 13:20:28
Jim was wide awake. He had slept very little in the last two days, but anger and adrenaline made him as alert as a rattlesnake, and just as dangerous. Two new guards stood outside the door to the hospital room, but this protection provided a very small sense of security. Whoever had tried to kill Artemus – again – was determined, and extremely capable of doing so. It would be more than difficult to protect his partner.
And why did they want to kill him so badly? What did they think he knew that was so important? And what had happened to the body of the assailant? Dead men don’t run that fast.
The agent looked over at his partner, who was sleeping quite peacefully. Artie didn’t even seem to be aware of how close he had been to never waking up. He was far from safe now, and Jim knew a speedy end to this case would be the only real protection for his friend.
But where to start? The marks on the dock had disappeared, as had the woman who tried to kill him. She looked familiar, but then he had known so many women, and their memories had begun to blur over time.What piece of the puzzle was he missing? What was the next step?
Jim leaned back in the chair, stretching his arms above his head, and then relaxing with a sigh. He needed Artie’s input on this one, as he always did. They approached these mysteries from different directions, but usually came up with the same results. Jim had literally bet his life on that equation more than once.
He looked over at his friend again and was startled to see Artie watching him with focused attention.
“Yeah, Artie, it’s me,” he said as he leaned forward in the chair. “How do you feel?”
“Not . . . too well. What happened?”
“You don’t remember? I’m a little disappointed.” Actually, Jim was very disappointed. “I need you to remember the marks you saw on the dock – can you remember anything?”
Artie stirred slightly under the blankets, and he slowly gazed around the room. “Dock? I don’t understand . . . a dock?”
“We were on the docks in San Francisco,” Jim said, hoping to jog his partner’s memory,” and you spotted some marks of some kind just before you were shot.”
“I was shot?”
“I’m afraid so – but you don’t remember anything about the marks?”
“What is this place?”
Jim sighed. He wasn’t going to get anything out of Artie just yet.
“You’re in the hospital – in San Francisco. You were badly wounded – I even loaned you some of my blood for a transfusion. I’ll have to ask you to give it back.”
Artie looked at Jim and gave him a small grin. “I have some of your blood? Will it make me better with women?”
“Frankly, Artie, it couldn’t make you any worse.”
Artie smiled and closed his eyes. “I’m sorry I can’t remember. I don’t really know . . .”
He was quiet for a long time, and Jim was sure he had fallen asleep again. He sat back in the chair and searched his memory for the identity of that woman. He knew her, but some how she was changed.
“. . .marks? I remember some marks. They were . . . just like some I remember from New Orleans – you remember?”
Jim jumped forward, startled. “Artie! What about the marks? Artie?”
But Artemus Gordon was fast asleep.
||Posted - 08/29/2005 : 07:29:12
Her breath froze in her throat and she slowly opened her eyes.
"Oops!"said Victoria, with a smile. "I missed."
"God, you scared me to death!" Kimberly managed to choke out. "Why?!"
"I am sorry but I wanted to impress upon you how dire both of our positions are right now. If you fail, I fail, and a quick bullet to the heart would be the least of our worries. I have sent someone to take care of Gordon, but West is still alive. If you can't or don't want to do this job, let me know now, and I'll find someone else."
Kimberly let out a deep breath and leaned against thne bureau. "I really want to do West. He is difficult, but killing him will be such a pleasure."
There was a silence between the two sisters.
"I know it's life or death," murmurred Kimberly.
Victoria gazed at her for a moment. "I hope so, Sister. I sincerely hope so."
||Posted - 08/26/2005 : 17:00:16
The figure that entered the room finished his business with the sleeping visitor, now slumped back in the chair, then turned his attention to the patient lying in bed. In the dim light cast by the room's single kerosene lamp, the shadow lifted his hands, carefully drawing amber liquid from its ampule into the large glass syringe with its even larger needle. That done, the figure moved steadily toward Artemus in bed, whose arm was lying exposed above the coverlet.
Trying to open his heavy eyelids, Artemus watched his attendant through a bleary fog. The figure lifted Gordon's arm, tucking the hand into an armpit.
Don't these fellows know I've been shot up enough? I'm sore, but I could sleep—if only that elephant would pipe down. What is the capital of Manitoba, anyway?
The attendant professionally guided the needle to Gordon's vein, just above the wrist.
BAM! The door to the room flew off its hinges.
From this point on, everything was a blur of manic frenzy, even if not viewed through a morphine haze. It was over in a minute, yet stretched for hours in slow motion.
West bounded into the room headfirst, grabbing the assassin from behind. Both went sprawling across the hospital bed onto the floor on the side nearest the window.
Artemus shifted uncomfortably, then addressed his audience:
"Ladies and gentlemen, if you please would not rush the platform, I should be delighted to honor your request for another recitation from the Bard.
"'All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances. . . .
West and his adversary scrambled to their feet, gouging and punching. The madman drew a Bowie knife from a holster inside his boot and lunged toward West, who grabbed a pillow that took the blow. The pillow yanked the knife from its owner's hand, erupting a blizzard of feathers. The assailant went straight for West's throat, grabbing it with beefy fingers.
"'As, first the infant/Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms . . .
West began to gurgle involuntarily, before taking his sharp elbows straight onto his attacker's sweaty head. The man screamed, before a punch in the gut sent him staggering backwards into the room.
"'And the whining schoolboy, with his satchel/And shining face, creeping like snail /unwillingly to school. . . .
The attacker grasped a scalpel from the floor, where it had fallen from an upended table. He threw it straight at West. The blade caught West's shirt-sleeve, just missing but pinning the agent's arm to a highboy medicine cabinet. Again the attacker lunged at his prey, gasping obscenities.
"'Then the soldier/Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,/Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel . . .
Attached to the tall cabinet, West brought it down on his enemy, ripping himself free in the maneuver.
"'. . . Seeking the bubble reputation/Even in the cannon's mouth."
Up came the figure from the floor, now brandishing a weird, projectile torch that he ignited and aimed at the agent. Amid the feathered flurry, West grabbed the lamp—somehow still upright on its table—shattered the globe and wick from its base, and hurled the keresone onto his attcker. A river of fire spewed backwards into its owner, igniting his clothes into an instant inferno.
"'Full of wise saws and modern instances; and so he plays his part. . . .
The assailant, now a human torch, miserably howled in a hoarse voice.
"'. . . a world too wide/For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice./Turning again toward childish treble, pipes/And whistles in his sound. . . .
The flaming figure staggered blindly toward the window, lost all balance, and crashed through its glass and framing, out of the room, illuminating his fast plummet downward.
"'Last scene of all,/That ends this strange eventful history,/Is second childishness and mere oblivion . . .
Dripping with sweat, oil, and the slime of San Francisco Bay, West moved unsteadily to the newly created cavity, to behold with grim satisfaction the smoldering body splayed on the street below,
"'Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.'"
West returned to the patient's bedside. For the first time, Artemus opened his eyes wide to recognize his partner.
"Jim, you're one wet mess. Didn't I tell you to watch out for that elephant?
"'Thank you, thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Your enthusiastic applause warms this poor player's heart. Thank you, and good night."
With that, Mr. Gordon smiled broadly, drifting back into unconsciousness. And Mr. West sat himself down in the chair formerly occupied by the inert colleague sprawled at his feet.
||Posted - 08/25/2005 : 21:03:38
My visitor, if one would call it that, seems to be related to the abdominal snowman and has the temper too! Somewhere in my body I feel a sudden pain... slowly the room around me goes back to familiar black
What does my partner want with me now? Can't he let a man convert molarity to moles in peace?
Unwillingly I open my eyes and gaze about me. "Shut up, Jim. I'm having a conversation with the Prince of Persia in my head."
I hear my partner sigh exasperatedly. He never was a patient one, that James. "You might want to watch out for that pink elephant squirting water behind you."
Jimmy-boy cursed loudly. Can't say I didn't warn him. While Jim's busy with the elephant, I close my eyes and go back to the delightful conversation I was having with Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare. Quite an honor being asked to join his tap-dancing troupe. Maybe after I take a little nap I'll...
||Posted - 08/25/2005 : 12:00:22
It’s dark and rather cold, and I am quite frankly miserable. I can’t seem to think straight, and I don’t think I can much blame the pain that is now reasonably in the background. I hate not being able to think, to reason, to explain to myself. Even more, I hate not being sure I’m remembering what happened correctly. Especially since I have the distinct impression that my Great Aunt Maude was here. That lets me know that at least some of what I think I remember happening has to be figments of my imagination. How much of what I’m seeing and hearing and thinking now is created out of my mind?
Like that guy asleep in a chair next to the door. Even in the dim light in the room I can see that he’s blond and large framed, so it certainly isn’t my partner, whom I would expect if someone were foolish enough to waste their time watching over me in a hospital. Then again, I keep thinking I’ve seen him in Colonel Richmond’s company, so maybe he not only is really there, but he’s there for a purpose.
That suggests a case. And if Jim’s not here, than he’s either working on the case, or he’s gone missing and they’re hoping I can supply a clue to where and why. I worry about that possibility more because the last memory I can pull up that I’m pretty sure is real is of Jim in trouble and me not able to be much help because I’m wounded. Since I am, in fact, wounded, that one seems reasonably likely.
Curse that doctor and his morphine. I’ve been in enough opium dens to know that opiates like morphine really mess with a man’s perceptions. How do I sort out reality and fact?
Like the way the door is opening slowly and quietly. Hospital staff are always in a hurry, aren’t they? Why would any legitimate visitor come in shadows, like that? So am I watching a figment of my imagination standing over a second, sleeping, figment? Or do I really see a moment of weak struggle before that sleeper goes even more limp? And do I now see that shadowy figure drifting toward me with infinite slowness, leering at me behind raised, claw-like hands?
So, I spotted that Victoria told her sister that her miss on killing Gordon was being taken care of in that last installment. I haven't totally wiped out the possibilities of someone exploring morphine-induced whatever's. Next?
||Posted - 08/16/2005 : 13:25:58
It wasn't the wind. And the figure in the room with Kimberly Strange made no attempt to light kerosene lamp beside.
"Good evening, Kimberly."
"You nearly scared the life out of me. How did you get in here?"
"I've been waiting for you."
"Well, light the lamp then. You don't expect us to stand here chattering in the dark."
"No, of course not." The figure did not move at all.
Kimberly paused, confused. "I guess you should know how it went."
"I already do. You don't really think that the evening's proceedings have gone unobserved, do you. That would be foolish, and our mutual employer is no fool."
Kimberly took this in. She was accustomed to being the stalker, not the prey, and did not appreciate the reveral of roles. "So she has been spying on me tonight."
"Then I don't have to tell you that I nailed one of them."
"You may have taken your hammer to him. Unfortunately, dear heart, you didn't drive the nail home."
"What do you mean? Gordon is dead."
"No, dearest. You creased him but you didn't kill him. That, as we speak, is being tended to. But what a stupid waste of personnel for such a simple assignment."
Kimberly swallowed, involuntarily. Her eyes were growing accustomed to the darkness.
"Dearest, you know that the doctor deplores waste. And stupidity is beyond the pale."
"What stupidity?" Kimberly protested. "Anyone can miss a moving target."
"Yes, but it takes genuine stupidity to emerge from the shadows, trying to drop Mr. West at close range. Now, sad to say, he has seen your face."
"I'm sure he didn't recognize me."
"If not, he will. It's only a matter of time before he puts the pieces together. A bottle of hair-dye will not stand between West and the woman he once knew as Elaine. And it certainly will not erase from his memory his warm, intimate dinner at the home of 'Jennifer Wingate.'"
Kimberly said nothing.
"Captain Coffin was an idiot, you know. You got lucky. Had you been a man, he'd have strangled you in that grotto on the spot. But he was an incorrigible fool for a pretty face, even one that he couldn't see. Blind as they were, his eyes could see more than his bad judgment ever let him.
"Dr. Hemophilus, however, is susceptible to no such sentiment. That means, my dear, that your luck has now run out."
Kimberly nodded, as though in a trance. "I see. Thank you for warning me."
"What are sisters for?" Silently, the figure raised her arm upward. Even in the room's dim glow, Kimberly knew that her sister was pointing a gun at her.
"Victoria, you can't. You wouldn't kill your own sister."
"Cain was a brother. Like him, and like the doctor, I too am untrammeled by sentiment,"
"That's a very small derringer."
"No bigger than your brains. When properly used, it is a good deal more effective.
"Dear Kimberly—Happy Trails to you."
||Posted - 08/16/2005 : 08:02:27
Kimberly looked in the mirror as she towel dried her hair by candlelight. He had not recognized her - she was sure of that. But again, men like that rarely remembered such things.
But she remembered, and that would make killing him so much easier. It was just another job her sister, Victoria, had given her, and she had always been successful. That would be no problem, but Victoria's client was another story. Dr. Globinia Hemophilus was a woman she did not want to cross.
Suddenly, the candle went out, leaving her in darkness.
Oh God, she thought, I hope that was the wind.
||Posted - 08/11/2005 : 16:01:43
West returned to the dockyard, the night wind whipping his cape and its drizzle creasing his eyes. Somewhere a foghorn mourned, as buoy-bells answered.
He stared down into the gaping holes, yawning beside the bloodless body. Staring down through drapes of fog, into the black waters churning below.
Immediately behind him, West heard the unmistakable click of a rifle being cocked.
Smoothly, with his right hand he pulled the cord across his breastbone, untying his cape. With his left, he caught his cape as it fell. Twirling it behind him, he caught the rifle, pulled it out of unseen hands, then knelt as the weapon went off, literally half-cocked. Without waiting to hear it clatter to the floor, West vaulted himself backward to kick his assailant.
He found himself landing on top of a woman. Not, for him, an uncharacteristic position, though the circumstances were unusual.
In the gaslight and sea-spray, he could see that she was chestnut-haired and stunningly beautiful. They always were. A professional compensation, like harazrdous duty pay. And most of them were as hazardous as they were stunning. She seemed oddly familiar.
"You can get off me now, if you don't mind," she said firmly.
"I do mind. Who are you?"
"None of your business."
West yanked her hair, hard. "Your gun just made it my business."
He gave her hair another jerk.
"Strange," she grimaced. "Kimberly Strange."
"West. James West."
"How do you know?"
"Now will you get off me?"
Silently but carefully, West stood up and helped the woman to her feet. Underneath her wind-whipped cloak was a figure as impressive as its owner's face. Where had he seen her before?
"I'm still listening. Who hired you to kill me?"
"Sorry. If I tell you, he'll kill me."
Calmly, West drew his pistol and pointed it straight to her nose. "And I'll kill you if you don't."
"You're bluffing. You won't pull that trigger."
West thumbed back the hammer with a cold click. "Try me."
She studied West's hard eyes. Then she said, "His name is Dr. Hemophilus. Satisfied?"
"Not until you answer some more questions. Like who is this gentleman lying at our feet?"
"I've no idea. He was only a guinea pig. Any of the scum in this town would have done."
"How did he die?"
"I don't know. It has something to do with the doctor's machinery. It's like a pump that — "
"Draws the blood out of man's body?"
She nodded, grimly.
"Why? For what purpose?"
"I never asked and didn't care to know."
"What happened to the flooring here?"
"After they've . . . finished, they lower the machine into a freight-boat. And if there's any leakage—"
"The blood is dissolved into the sea," West completed the sentence.
"Where do I find Dr. Hemophilus?"
"I don't know. Honestly."
Where had he seen her? "How were you going to be paid for killing me and my partner?"
"I was to take proof of your deaths to a prearranged location. There I would be paid."
"What kind of proof?"
For the first time, she smiled. "He left that for me to decide."
"And the prearranged location?"
"A mortuary on Post Street. The Happy Trails Funeral Parlor."
"All right. Time to go."
"Just what I was thinking."
And with that, the woman dove into the wide open mouth in the dock's floor.
Startled, West threw off his coat, vest, ascot, and shirt, and went into the sea after her.
God, it was cold. He came up for air, jerking his head in different directions, searching for orientation, searching for her. In time, assorted pieces of ladies' apparel drifted toward and then past him: shoes, skirt, blouse. But no sign of Kimberly Strange.
||Posted - 08/11/2005 : 13:30:32
I'm heading for the docks yet again after my dream. I made one quick trip back after the doctors started working on my partner. For one thing, I had to DO something, not sit and wait for them to figure out if he was going to be okay. Also, it was important to me to try to pick up on whatever clue it was that apparently got him shot.
I knew all along that the scene would be cleaned up by the time I got there. There's a definite intelligence behind this case. But what I hadn't expected was that several planks - those Arte had been examing - would be gone. All that was left was a set of clean cuts and a gaping hole. Which makes a seriously wounded man the only source left for working that lead.
I wonder, why go to all the trouble to remove the planks instead of removing the marks? Was there something in their meaning that was that important?
But that line of investigation is a dead end until Artemus is back in action to work it. Assuming he got a good enough look and can remember what was there. Meanwhile, I'm on a different angle. We were seen going over old ground, namely the site of killing number three. That tells me somebody is either watching all the crime scenes or, more likely in my mind, they have some other reason to be in this particular area.
This time I'm going back looking for trouble, and I don't doubt for a moment someone is going to be around to hand it to me. They just don't know the sort of trouble I'm bringing to them.
||Posted - 01/26/2005 : 13:06:37
She was certain of one thing - she had been foolish. She had been so certain no one would notice, let alone recognize, the meaning of the figures on the dock. They were so obscure! She smugly assumed only she would know. Foolish - that was not like her.
However, problems arise on any project, and she knew to remain calm and attend to the clean up. The two men on the dock had been government agents. She didn't like seeing the Feds involved, but she had contacts - powerful contacts - who owed her favors. This could be taken care of quietly.
"My employer will be very, very unhappy if I fail at this," she said to herself, and the thought made her shiver. Her employer was very unforgiving to people who made him unhappy.
||Posted - 01/22/2005 : 22:21:45
Maybe I can give a little more direction to this. Just remember, folks, anyone may feel free to take this story in whatever direction they wish - well, hopefully keeping a reasonably sensible ongoing storyline! Anyway, here's an inspiration that struck me. Hopefully, it will start the plot bunnies nibbling on more who desire to tell a part of the story.
I wake up in the dim quasi-light of pre-dawn from the sort of dreams I never have. Dreams of my hands covered with blood.
I’ve killed in my life. More than once. I gave up my boyhood to what I pray was the only civil war my country will ever have to survive. That I fought for the winning side doesn’t make the memories any less difficult. That it was fought with cannon and rifles instead of with swords and maces didn’t mean that I, and many others, didn’t see the faces of those we slew.
And there was also the blood of our own comrades. As an officer, I was responsible for my men, and in my book an officer doesn’t stand back and leave the dirty work to his underlings, but goes where he is needed, even into the surgery tents in the midst of post battle cleanup. I’ve had the smashed leg of one of my soldiers handed to me by a harried surgeon, with instruction to toss it on the pile outside the tent.
And since the war, as an agent of our government, I’ve fought another kind of war. In this war the numbers involved have been far fewer, but the battles no less bloody.
Death and I are not strangers.
Not even the death of my partner. Not, as it has turned out, the actual, factual death, to be sure. But I didn’t always know that at the time. Hell, we’ve both been injured on duty many times before, and we’ve each staunched the wounds of the other. So last night wasn’t something new, as far as I can tell. Except that after I let Colonel Richmond talk me into leaving the hospital, I spent the night dreaming of Artemus’ blood covering my hands.
Maybe I’m just getting too old for this sort of thing.
Or maybe –
I suddenly remember something Artemus was telling me yesterday evening. It was just before the case blew up in our faces. It was about blood.
“Look, Jim,” he’d had an intense look on his face. It was part puzzlement and part that marvelous mind of his leading him into avenues most men wouldn’t have the imagination to consider. “I think there’s something more to these deaths than just cruelty and torture. These people are being bled with a purpose. What Earthly purpose that could be, I can’t imagine, but I’m certain there is one. Whomever is behind all of this isn’t just killing indiscriminately, and he’s bleeding his victims out for some specific reason. Twisted, I’ll gladly admit, but a specific reason nonetheless.”
“Okay, Arte, I’m willing to buy that.” I knew better than to argue with a hunch. Hunches can sometimes be the only real guide a man has when he’s dealing with the sort of bizarre case we’re facing. “But where does that get us?”
“I think,” Arte still had that pondering expression. “I think it gets us going back over the scenes where the bodies were discovered. Maybe there’s something there, something that seems trivial, that can start us on a trail.” He stopped and looked me square in the face. “I think it has to be something to do with the blood.”
So back we went. We started at the old dock where the third victim has been found. He’d been bled dry, even though there wasn’t much in the way of blood at the scene. The police theory was that he’d been murdered somewhere else and later dumped at the dock to get rid of the body.
“Lucky no one seems to have bothered to come back and clean up,” Artemus commented shortly after we got there. “See, you can see evidence of some blood here and there.” His brows furrowed as he looked about. “Do you see it, James?” His voice had a note of unease in it when he asked me that question. “I don’t think the old man was killed somewhere else and then later dumped here. I think this is where it all took place. Look at these crates –“
It didn’t take me long to catch on to what Artemus was talking about. When a man’s arteries are cut, the blood doesn’t just quietly flow out. It fountains, it spurts, it sprays all around. It’s a very messy way to die.
“Well, then,” I had to ask. “Where the hell is all the blood? This looks like …” It took me a moment to accept what we were seeing. “This looks an awful lot like the cast-off of where somebody bled out a steer and…” It’s not often I have trouble finishing a statement.
“Somebody collected the blood.” Artemus looked about as spooked as I was beginning to feel. “But why on Earth would someone want to do that?” Just about as soon as he finished asking me what was plainly a rhetorical question, he was distracted.
“Now what in blazes is that?” Artemus darted over to the edge of the dock, right where it overhung the cold open waters of San Francisco Bay, almost the furthest point from the shore. “Jim, this isn’t just blood splatter, there are marks here --”
That was when I heard the crack of a rifle fired from somewhere behind us, somewhere back toward the warehouses these docks served. I didn’t have time to search for it’s source, though, because my partner cried out, clutched at his side, and toppled off the dock.
I dove straight in after him, and got lucky despite the blackness of the water. I doubt he had time to swallow much of that mucky water before I got a grip on him and dragged him to the surface. Anyway, he was coughing it up pretty good, even if he didn’t seem to be aware of what was going on, certainly not enough to be much help to me as I scrambled up the half-rotted ladder attached to the one of the piers supporting the dock, and pulled him back onto the dock.
Which was when I was jumped by a couple of guys, the lead pair of a gang of dockworkers who were pounding our way from shore.
||Posted - 01/10/2005 : 13:26:45
A chill breeze and a hand on his shoulder is what awoke Secret Service Agent James West. It took him a moment to realize that the hand belonged to his superior Colonel Richmond and the chill breeze was coming from the hospital room window.
"Go back to the train and get some sleep Jim. Gordon's going to be fine the doctor says," Richmond ran a critical eye over his obviously worse-for-the-wear agent.
Why were all hospitals cold? You'd think that they would be warm for their patients. West massaged his sore neck and then closed the window.
"Did he say anything about the marks," West asked hopefully.
Richmond shook his head, "he hasn't woken up since the doctor gave him that shot. Go back to the train now. I'll let you know if Gordon remembers anything when he wakes up." Stubborn man. Stubborn men, Richmond corrected himself. To his surprise though, West did not put up much of an argument to stay by his partner's side or go running out into the night.
West nodded as he rolled his shoulders, "okay. I'll be back in the morning. If he says anything, anything at all, or he needs me, send for me right away."
Frustrated, cold, hungry and tired, West trudged back to the train he and Artie called home. What were those strange marks that Artemus had pointed out? What was so important that they had to almost kill his partner to shut him up?
James West slipped into a fitful sleep with the question of 'why?' running through his mind.
*sigh...where's MY Ross Martin?
||Posted - 01/10/2005 : 11:51:13
Posted for and written by: MaudeB (not Admin!)
Back to Black II
I can’t quite wake up – God, there is a lot of pain somewhere – I can’t quite focus. I hear voices . . . but I’m not sure I recognize them. Maybe sleep will help . . . that would be good.
I’m suddenly wide awake – the pain is bad – what is going on? Where am I? There’s Jim . . . and he’s saying something about “marks on the planks.” What does that mean? A strange voice says, “morphine”, and that could be good. I have always wondered . . . . .
Pain again, but not as bad. I see Jim, Colonel Richmond and great aunt Maude – which is odd because she’s been dead for 5 years. Must be the effects of morphine. I wonder if anyone has done a paper on that. But Jim asks me about marks on the dock I was examining – what . . . what marks? James, my boy, you’re going to have to be more specific than that. The old noggin is not working well – I can’t even get my words out. Maybe more sleep. You know, a good brandy would work wonders – I think. But . . . .
(Now, perhaps another fan can do the next ficette, and another after that. It could be fun! Just keep it short.)