SS novice field agent
Posted - 09/08/2007 : 14:50:20
| The Night of the Empty Grave
Although only twenty-four, Stacy McCallister had already done a lot of living, and had more than her share of rough times. She had been left to fend for herself at an early age, and although that was difficult it at least freed her from the grips of an abusive father and neglectful mother. She possessed both great looks and a wonderful intellect, but had not been allowed to develop the latter, as her first concern very early on had been making money as quickly as possible, and she could not spare the time required to develop her mind while being forced to deprive herself of food. She worked at the ‘Game Works’ saloon and gambling hall in Kansas City, and her main job six nights a week was enticing the male patrons to drink and gamble more than they were inclined to on their own. Tonight was quite different than her usual nights, as she was upstairs, sitting outside a private room that presently held three occupants, where as most nights she was downstairs with the less gentile men, allowing herself to be groped and pawed at while smiling and laughing at their unfunny jokes. Yes, tonight was very different. Soon after she arrived this evening her boss had instructed her to go upstairs and wait by the small empty room, and she had witnessed the arrivals of three gentlemen at different times, all of whom showed her a courtesy most of the men she dealt with did not. She had been told not to bother the men, but to be available in case they requested anything to drink. And here she sat, wondering who these fine looking men were, and what they were talking about now that the third had recently arrived. Although the door was closed, Stacy changed seats and was now just outside of the closed door, vainly listening to the restrained voices of the gentlemen inside while trying to tune out the sounds from below. She could not hear everything, but did pick up occasional words:
“But sir…West…Colonel…where?…West…danger…fanatic…Richmond…not much time…imminent…fearful…West…now listen…help…Gordon…”
She heard the sounds of one of the chairs wooden legs dragging against the planks of the floor, and silently slid back over to her original seat.
“Miss,” the older of the three gentlemen said, as he opened the door, “may we bother you for something to drink? A nice smooth bourbon…and three glasses please, dear.”
Colonel Richmond had made eye contact with Stacy, which she was not used to, and had spoken to her as if she was a real person, which also was an infrequent occurrence at ‘Game Works’. He had made his request and smiled as he returned to the room, which also made her feel like she was somebody, not just a hustler of drinks. She had attentively reciprocated with a smile of her own, and flew down the stairs toward the crowded bar, pushing her way through the mass of dirty and sweaty men, who bore no resemblance to the trio upstairs.
“Max!” Stacy yelled, bourbon for the group upstairs. “Make it the good stuff, they’ve got the money,” she felt of tinge of guilt as the words were leaving her lips, as she realized that they not only had the money, but more importantly they also had the style and class, and she privately scolded herself for reverting back to her usual ways.
Max brought her a bottle, and Stacy had secured the three glasses as she had waited. She ignored the hand on her bottom as the crowd descended upon her, and dealt with it by simply walking away. She ascended the stairs and lightly tapped at the door, having placed the glasses on the table just outside. She simultaneously opened the door as she knocked, then retrieved the glasses to go with the bottle. Three sets of eyes renewed acquaintance with the young beauty, and she smiled at everyone, meeting each one of their eyes momentarily.
“Why thank you so much, young lady,” Colonel Richmond said. “That ought to take the chill off of a cold night. Are you comfortable out there? I hate to think of you going to all of this trouble for us.”
“Me?” Stacy asked. “Why…why, yes, I am…that was real nice of you to ask, though. Real nice.”
She backed out of the room, flattered more so than she had been in longer than she could remember, and the three gentlemen sat back in their chairs. Her head was spinning as she thought of what it would have been like if she had ever been with a real gentleman, not the usual group of men she was relentlessly exposed to. She sat down again, away from the door, and thought of the three men only a few feet away from her, but a world apart. They were all dressed so elegantly, and all possessed not only strong and handsome faces but the manners of such refined gentlemen. Each one of them had acknowledged her as they had arrived, first the older man, then the two younger. They had each made her feel special, as if she were a real lady and not just a girl who worked in a saloon. She wondered what they were talking about, but decided not to change seats this time, but to introspectively look at herself in the mirror that hung on the wall opposite to where she sat. She did not like what she saw.
Inside the private room, Colonel Richmond continued alerting the two agents of the dire situation they now faced, and he was giving them all the details acquired up to this point. They were both stoically absorbing the information as their minds raced toward possible avenues they might take, each one thinking independently but blurting out ideas that would then be added onto by the other, refining the thoughts of one into the thoughts of two.
“We can be in Mobile tomorrow morning,” Gordon stated, “we can work out the details on the train. Time is being wasted here, sir, I think you’ve given us all the information we need.”
“If it hadn’t been a holiday,” Richmond pointed out, “we wouldn’t have had to gather the two of you from opposite ends of the country…and we would have been aware of his disappearance sooner. Thank God he got that message to us…somehow…”
Gordon looked at his fellow agent. “Do you think he’s still alive? I just feel that we should have been on this sooner, that we have made things so much worse…by being so damned stupid.”
“We’ll find him, and he’ll be fine,” speaking to Gordon but looking at Colonel Richmond as he spoke. “I know he’ll be fine.”
Stacy’s daydreaming was interrupted by the door opening and the three men exiting. She had no idea who the gentlemen were, or what they were talking about, but she knew they made her feel like a lady again, and she was so grateful for that. She smiled as they passed her, tipping their hats and thanking her, each one again looking into the eyes of a lady! She wished she knew their names. She watched them descend the staircase, and she knew she was soon to be relegated to her duties below, but those three men had made her feel like a lady, at least for an hour. She went inside and collected the generous amount of money left on the table, and picked up their glasses and the remainder of the bourbon. She would never again set her eyes on Colonel Richmond, Artemus Gordon, or Jeremy Pike; and she would never know that their conversation tonight concerned someone named James West, and their hopes that he could be located…and if found, that he would still be alive.
The Wanderer slowly pulled away from the Kansas City station, with Gordon and Pike inside, in quest of their friend and fellow agent James West. The two agents were familiar with each other, but had never worked together in the field. Gordon knew that Pike had worked with West before, and had heard glowing reports from his partner of Pike’s abilities.
“A lot has happened in the last ten hours,” Pike said, breaking the momentary silence. “Where were you when the Colonel reached you?”
Gordon stopped staring at his folded hands, and looked up. “Topeka. There was a girl I met there some time ago…and we…renewed acquaintances, you could say,” he laughed, breaking the tension in the car. “I didn’t have much time to…put things in order,” Gordon struggled with his choice of words, “and…since I really had no idea of the seriousness of the Colonel’s message…and imagined I would be able to return to Topeka…well…not thinking it was any dire emergency…”
“No!” Pike interrupted, “you’re not telling me she’s still here, are you?”
“Well,” Gordon stammered, “since I thought we’d be going back to Topeka, and she really did like the train, I thought we would slide over to Kansas City, then I could take her back to Topeka, then take care of the Colonel’s request…he wasn’t very clear at all with his message, now was he?”
Pike laughed, and the moment brought the two agents closer together. “No, that he wasn’t, that he wasn’t. Artie, are you going to introduce me to your,” he paused, “friend.”
Gordon sheepishly looked at Pike, shrugged his shoulders, then helplessly explained. “Uh, Jeremy…I would, if I could, but you see, she’s sound asleep, in what would be your bed…I’m going to have to ask you to, you know, when the need for sleep arises, to maybe,” Gordon looked around the sitting area, “to maybe…I mean, we’ve got extra blankets and all, and that sofa you’re sitting on, much more comfortable than the beds we’ve got up front, much more comfortable, so you see, if you could just kind of accept that your bed will be a little more narrow than you had expected, but much more comfortable,” he exaggerated, “much more comfortable, well if you can just spend this ‘one’ night on the sofa…” Gordon helplessly looked at Pike, waiting for some assistance, any sign of compassion to put him out of his misery at having to explain this awkward situation, and only received a stern look back from a very tired looking Pike, until he could contain his emotions no more, and burst out laughing.
“Artie, you old devil,” Pike said while standing up and patting Gordon on the shoulder. “I would not think of intruding tonight. What do you think she’ll say when the train stops and she’s further away from home than she expects, I mean Mobile is a long way from Topeka.”
“That’s what I’m not looking forward to having to explain to her, Jeremy,” Gordon laughed.
The diversion did them both good, and they soon delved back into the disappearance of West, and what facts Colonel Richmond had shared with them in Kansas City.
“Jeremy, the only message received was a short telegram from a,” he looked at his notepad, “from a Lucy Hayes in Mobile. Says she can be reached at Doctor Pritchert’s office in town. Doctor Pritchert treated a gunshot victim, brought in late two nights ago, pretty bad wound, but the bullet was successfully removed. Told her his name and to contact Colonel Richmond. That’s it.” Gordon once again looked worried.
“All right, let’s make ourselves useful, we don’t want to waste time worrying. I’m going to check with the telegraph office in Mobile, to find out exactly where Pritchert’s office is, might save us some time. I’ll get the sheriff involved in this also, give him a heads up on our arrival, and see if he has any information on Jim.”
“You’re right,” Gordon said apologetically, “it’s just so personal for me this time, but you’re right. I can’t help Jim by sitting around worrying. I’ll look through our recent cases, see if there were any direct or indirect ties to Mobile, or the Gulf region. Nothing jumps out at me now, but maybe my memory will be refreshed if I do some research.”
“You know, Artie, at least they want him kept alive, that’s a plus. Why else would they have treated his gunshot wound.”
“Yes,” Gordon answered, while already scanning the reports of past cases, “that certainly is a plus. Let’s hope that doesn’t change.”
West was in complete darkness. Not the sort of darkness one is used to, but the darkness of death. He awkwardly maneuvered his right hand in front of his eyes, resting only inches away, but could see nothing. Nothing but black, everywhere he looked. He turned his head to the left and right, and using his two legs he again pressed them against the wooden crate that contained his wounded body. He had been buried alive, and as much as he would push against the wooden box, to the side or top, there was no give. He had felt cool air from time to time, and some degree of light, not much, but some, but that had only happened twice. At least while he was conscious it had happened twice, it was possible it had happened more than that. He had no idea how long he had been buried. He remembered the pretty nurse, Lucy her name was, he thought, but he had been so groggy when in her presence that he was not sure if he had asked her to help him or not, or even if he had whether or not she would make any attempt to. Why should she? Who was he to her? Just another ‘bad man’ with a bullet to remove. Why would she believe anything he said, she must hear so many preposterous stories from so many liars, why believe him? He again pushed with his right arm against the top of the box, unable to move his left arm as his left shoulder had been hit by the bullet. He tried to bend his knees and get some leverage to apply pressure with both his hand and his feet, but the space was too confining. His legs could only push to the sides of the box. He tried to recall what had happened, how he ended up here, but his mind was still foggy as to what was going on. He was also very tired, as a loss of blood had been coupled with interrupted sleep these last few days, and soon he once again lost consciousness.
The long train ride continued, with very little positive results achieved by either agent. Pike had received a response from the sheriff, and he had not had any contact with anyone of West’s description. They knew the location of Doctor Pritchert’s office, but had not received a response from either the doctor or his nurse. Gordon had set aside report after report with no success, until he finally lingered on the case of Herbert Magwitch, who West had put away five years ago for the kidnapping of the daughter of one of the US Senator’s from the state of Alabama. He had been sentenced to life in prison thanks to the actions of West, and as the years had passed his case had been slowly forgotten by Gordon.
“Jeremy,” Gordon suddenly said, causing Pike to open his eyes as he had tried to get some sleep before their arrival in Mobile. “Look here! Remember the kidnapping of Senator Berkley’s daughter five years ago. Jim worked that case, I wasn’t involved, but I now recollect that the body of the poor girl was found in Mobile. He knew it was Magwitch, but through a brilliant and highly paid defense attorney, Magwitch was able to avoid the death penalty, here it is, sentenced to life in prison,” said while Pike walked over to and looked at the writings of the case. Pike leaned over Gordon’s chair as Gordon continued the narrative. “Her buried body was discovered in an abandoned house near the Gulf, obviously having meant to have kept her alive, but failing miserably,” Gordon added. “Magwitch was tracked down by Agent James West which led to the discovery of the grave, but there was some doubt raised as to the individual’s guilt. Apparently his attorney was able to convince at least one member of the jury that ‘possibly’ he was not guilty, so therefore the lack of being sent to his death.” Gordon looked up at Pike. “He was sent to the federal prison in Montgomery.”
“Let me send them a telegram inquiring about Mr. Magwitch, just to make sure he’s still being taken care of by the warden and guards,” Pike said. “We want to know if he’s the one we need to find or not. Let’s hope so, as then we know who to be looking for.”
“Yes…but his last victim didn’t live to see the light of day. An autopsy of Miss Berkley revealed that she died of asphyxiation. If it is Magwitch, we’ve got to get there as quickly as possible,” Gordon said while looking out the window at the beginnings of the sun rising over the Alabama countryside. He grabbed the communication pipe to the engineer. “Cobb, how soon before we reach Mobile?” he shouted, obviously irritated by fear and frustration, coupled with a lack of sleep.
“A little less than two hours, Mr. Gordon,” came the immediate reply.
“Make it a little more than one hour! Move!” Gordon shouted back.
West woke up with the blast of cool air hitting his face. His sense of sight, having been deprived any input from the outside world for so long, now relished the appearance of a slight amount of grainy grey shadows filtering through the tiny opening that provided the burst of fresh air that had revived him. Although he now heard only silence, he was certain he had heard voices a moment before. He knew he had, and one of them, the deeper one, he knew from before. But where had he last heard that voice, and to whom did it belong?
The slight distraction over, and now again enveloped in total darkness, West began to remember what had happened, and how he had ended up here:
He and Artie were both on holiday, and the time off of work was being relished by both. As much as they enjoyed each other’s company, they had parted in Saint Louis, with Artie telling Jim that he was off to visit a sick Aunt in Topeka, while Jim ventured southeast to Atlanta to meet up with Frank Harper, a fellow agent who had invited him to spend time with he and his wife. Jim had not seen Frank for at least two years, and was anxious to meet his new wife. The train followed Artie to Topeka, as he had explained to Jim how much his sick Aunt wanted to see his much talked about moving office, and Jim had taken a series of stage coaches from Saint Louis, where he and Artie had separated. Jim had gotten as far as Chattanooga, when while waiting for the next stage he was ambushed. He now vividly replayed the attack in his mind:
‘I was waiting in the station, I know I closed my eyes off and on, but there wasn’t much time to think too much about sleep. I had really had more than my share of that on the coaches. I had thought of purchasing a gift for Frank and Michelle, but not being a very good shopper I decided to postpone that ordeal. I remember the stage pulling up, and although I knew a few people were waiting for the same stage as I was, they were nowhere in sight. I ventured outside, mentioned to the driver that there were more passengers, and he answered me without looking my way, saying that he’d wait. I went inside, leaned back against the seat, and then the doors instantly locked and bars slid down where open windows had been seconds before. The gas must have worked fast, as I was quickly knocked out. Although mostly unconscious for the trip, I did have the sensation of the coach bumping up and down repeatedly. Perhaps the drug they used was weaker than they thought, but when we stopped and they opened the door to pull out what they imagined would be my unmoving body, I did my best to fight them off. There were four, with one, the driver I think, who was a very large man, and kept his face hidden from me as well as he could, never getting down from the coach, but giving orders to the others. After doing my best with the three on the ground, I attempted to dart into the woods, but was shot, instantly being brought down. I don’t remember anything else except, when that lovely girl and the doctor were working on me, I momentarily awakened, and I talked to her for a few seconds. I believe I told her who I was and what had happened, but I can’t be sure. Soon enough, the doctor injected something in me and I was unaware of everything again. Until from time to time, I again was inside the coach, traveling the bumpy roads once more. Mostly I was out of it, but I did wake occasionally. Perhaps the combination of the anesthesia and the drug they had used on me prevented any further attempts at escape. I vaguely remember being dragged out of the coach, into an old house, a house I had seen before possibly, near the beach, , as I could smell the saltwater quite clearly, but kept losing my battle with consciousness, and then I found myself inside this box. I must be buried alive! And there is no way out. Why does he keep me alive? Who is he? Who does that voice belong to? How long have I been here? That voice sounds so familiar. But who is it?’
The door opened from the front compartment, and Gordon and Pike were joined by Marilyn Ordonez, a Costa Rican beauty, who bore little resemblance to Artie’s old, sick Aunt.
“Where are we?” A confused Marilyn asked, covered only by the red silk sheet she had been sleeping on. She looked at Artie and then Jeremy, smiled at both, and made no attempt to further cover up her unclothed body. She stood all of five feet two inches tall, 115 pounds, had long brown hair that matched her eyes, and the most beautiful tan skin either man had ever seen. “Artie, baby, are we home?”
Pike looked down at whatever paper he held in his hand, and immediately became engrossed in it, not daring to get involved in this one, as Gordon stood and approached Marilyn.
“Marilyn, darling, you look exquisite in the morning light. Have I ever told you that? Just amazing. Jeremy, doesn’t she look exquisite?” Gordon begged, looking back toward Pike, hoping for his help once this Latin goddess let loose her temper upon him. “Jeremy?”
“Uh…yes…why, yes, just exquisite,” Pike stuttered, and then immediately tried to again immerse himself in the paper he looked at, which was blank, and was available so he could write down the response from the federal prison in Montgomery.
“Who is your friend, Artie? Is this Mr. West, the Mr. West I have heard so much about. The one you have told me about, you know, the one you have saved over and over again. The one that never listens to you, that you have to lead by the hand. Is this him?”
Never before has a blank sheet of paper so engrossed a Secret Service Agent, as Pike would not take his eyes off of it. In fact, it appeared as if he tried to wrap the paper around himself as Marilyn had wrapped the silk sheet around herself, as he looked deeper and deeper into the white paper. Just then, Cobb announced that they were pulling into Mobile, and Gordon hung his head, a defeated man, and he prayed he would not want a response, but without hearing anything, he shouted louder, and added Alabama to Mobile.
“What?” Screamed Marilyn, simultaneously loosing her sheet and temper. “Did he say Mobile, Alabama? What have you done with me? Are you taking me away from my mama and papa? You bad, bad man.” Hurricane Marilyn had reached shore, battering Mobile and all who stood in her way, and Pike did his best to remain a gentleman as an unclothed Marilyn hollered and yelled at poor Artemus, unleashing all of her Latin fury on to him, as he meekly tried to fend off her attacks with apologies, giving up as she launched into an assault on him in her native Spanish, and he grabbed Pike and they both ran out the back door of the Wanderer, being cursed the whole time, as some of the early risers in the city of Mobile witnessed a tiny naked Costa Rican beauty chasing two big strong United States Secret Service Agents down the street, running for their lives.
Herbert Magwitch wanted to hear something. He was growing frustrated that West had not responded to any of his taunts. He wanted West to know who had sealed him in his grave, and as long as he knew, as long as he could enjoy his death, he would be satisfied. It was simply not fair that West had not responded yet. The drugs had to have worn off hours ago. He hoped that West was not already dead, as that would take away the enjoyment of hearing West beg for mercy, pleading with him to free him from his grave. As he pondered the situation, he could hardly wait to return to the site of the burial, and again attempt to talk with the man who made his last five years so miserable.
The grey light again entered West’s private hell, and the refreshing air brought instant relief. He once again heard the voice, but clearly this time. “West, are you still alive?”
“Who wants to know,” he answered while searching the recesses of his mind, trying to place that voice.
And now much more excited. “West! You are down there! I thought we buried a dead man, we wouldn’t want t do that, now would we,” Magwitch laughed. “Are you comfortable? Can I get you anything? Maybe a pillow.” Magwitch could hardly contain himself now, and the large man laughed incessantly, breathing through his mouth to try to supply himself with the oxygen his large girth required. “You know, I’ve waited a long time to bury you, Mr. West, but time heals all wounds, and I am so gratified to be sending you to your Maker.”
“Why didn’t you just let me die when you shot me? Why would you fix me up so you could kill me?”
“Ah, but Mr. West, your government does that all the time, preserving the health of prisoners on death row, just so they can hang them at the appointed time. I learned from the people you sent me to be with.”
“Magwitch. I should have known. I didn’t send you anywhere, you were the cause of the death of the Senator’s daughter and you put yourself in prison. I just held the door open for you.” A defiant West responded.
“Do you know, Mr. West, that I haven’t decided how I’m going to kill you. I can simply walk away without closing up this hole, and then you would slowly die of thirst, succumbing to it well before you would die of hunger. Or I can close up the hole, and you will suffocate within four hours. Or I can use the hole to possibly…I don’t know, do you like the smell of the saltwater, so fresh and clean. I can pour gallons and gallons of water down this hole, and you would suffer the fate of drowning. That would be a rough one, wouldn’t it Mr. West? Or possibly, I can poor fire ants down inside, you know they are prevalent in the South, don’t you? Or possibly poisonous snakes, or scorpions, which could repeatedly sting you until your skin feels that it is on fire. Then you might beg me to kill you. I think I will keep you around a bit longer, just to keep you guessing.” As Magwitch laughed the hole was closed up and the light and sounds disappeared.
Pike ran into the telegraph office, and Gordon continued around the corner to meet with either Doctor Pritchert or Lucy Hayes, or preferably both.
“I need to send a telegram, right away,” Pike announced, as he entered the office.
“Sure, just write down what you want me to send, and I’ll get around to it,” a slow moving turtle of a man answered.
“Get out of the way!” Pike screamed, as he pulled the diminutive man out of the chair and instantly began sending the message to the prison. They had not heard a response yet, and Pike hoped a second request would give them the answer they needed. Almost instantly, the response came, complete with an apology for not following through with the previously requested answer. Pike wrote nothing down, and the slow moving man marveled at how fast Pike’s fingers rattled off his reply. Pike slammed down a silver dollar as he left the confused man behind.
Gordon had climbed the staircase that wrapped around the north side of the doctor’s office, and knocked on the door as he tried turning the knob. The door opened and he already found two patients inside the outer office, waiting to be admitted to see the Doctor. He approached the pretty girl who appeared to be his assistant.
“Miss, my name is Artemus Gordon, and I believe you are Lucy Hayes, is that correct?”
“Yes, it is,” a confused Lucy answered. “Have I ever seen you before?”
“No, I don’t believe so,” he politely answered, while taking in the dirty looks sent his way by the waiting patients, fearful of his attempts to step to the front of the line. “I work with James West, he’s the man you and the Doctor took the bullet out of two nights ago. Colonel Richmond sent me here to talk to you.”
“Then it was true,” an astonished Lucy exclaimed. “I wasn’t sure if he was telling me the truth or not, but I trusted him. Something about those beautiful green eyes of his, he could look right through me.”
“Yes, and thank you so much for helping him. He’s a federal agent, I need to know anything you can tell me about who brought him in here, what the arrangements were, possibly anything you heard the others talking about, where they might possibly be heading, anything you can tell me about that night. And I’ll need Doctor Pritchert to be in on this also, if you would be so kind as to tell him someone from the government is here to talk with him.”
Gordon’s manners and tact scored points with Lucy, and the knowledge that the poor man from the other night had told her the truth made her all the more anxious to follow through on Gordon’s request. As Lucy disappeared behind the Doctor’s office door, Gordon again was the recipient of glares and stares from the two, and he moved his eyes back and forth from the ceiling to the floor, while feverishly running his fingers over the brim of his hat he held. Just then the door opened, and Pike burst into the outer office.
“Artie, it’s him. I just got confirmation from Montgomery. He escaped less than two weeks ago.” Pike noticed the icy stares from the other patients, and looked confused, but Gordon slightly shook his head signifying that he shouldn’t pay it any attention.
“Doctor Pritchert will see you Mr. Gordon,” Lucy announced, as the waiting patients sunk deeper into their chairs. “Is this gentleman with you?”
“Yes, he’s my partner, Jeremy Pike.”
“Fine, the two of you can come this way.”
West again saw the light and felt the refreshing air. The saltwater smelled closer than before.
“Now, you get to drown, Mr. West!” And with that sinister comment, water began pouring through the hole hitting West in the face. Helpless, he turned to the side and began to hold his breath, but then the water stopped and the laughter started. “Oh, Mr. West, we don’t want to kill you so soon, we just want to play a fun little game with you, to try to scare the tough Secret Service Agent. I wish I could have seen your face, as I’m sure it showed much fear, as I can smell the terror now.” Magwitch pressed his mouth over the opening and spit into West’s grave, laughing as he once again closed the opening.
With their plan set in motion, Gordon and Pike walked along the coastline, both donning very prim and proper grey tweed English suits, complete with hats and glasses, journals, butterfly nets, magnifying glasses, and endlessly pontificated as loudly as they both could the possible finding of the very rare and endangered Great Scottish Moose Butterfly, many years extinct in Scotland but having been seen once in Tanzania, twice in Bolivia, three times in Hungary, and now, possibly, if they could only pinch themselves to make sure they were not dreaming, possibly right here on the Gulf Coast near Mobile, Alabama. They continued to shout at each other, although they were mere feet apart, and soon the four men around the house curiously watched this spectacle, unsure whether to ignore the strange men (which seemed impossible) laugh at them (which seemed probable) or have some fun with them (which won out over the prior two).
“Let’s have some fun with these kooks,” Magwitch said. “Follow me, boys.”
“Here they come, Artie,” Pike mumbled under his breath.
“I see them, right on cue,” answered Gordon quietly.
“Hey, you two…men…” Magwitch laughed. “What are you doing? This is private property, can’t you read the signs?”
With that, the two startled English gentlemen, looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and continued to argue over whether there was a proven sighting in Nigeria, or if it had only been rumor.
“Hey, you guys don’t listen too well, do you?” Magwitch continued. “This is my property. What in the world are you two up to, anyway?”
“Why, we’re hunting the Great Scottish Moose Butterfly, of course. I thought that would be rather obvious,” a puzzled looking Gordon answered. “And this dunderhead…”
“Dunderhead!” Shouted Pike.
“Yes! And this dunderhead had one within meters of his net, but failed to thrust properly and only captured a common brown moth. Utterly inexcusable, Malcolm!”
A defeated looking Pike lowered his eyes in front of his superior partner, accepting his public scolding. “I’m sorry, Theodore. It won’t happen again. Next time, when I thrust I will remember the great butterfly hunter Oswald Davies and try to make him proud of my actions.”
The guard of the four being completely lowered, and three of them staring dumbfounded at the spectacle of the two English butterfly hunters on the beach, with their mouths hung open unsure if what they saw was true, Gordon signaled Pike that they were ripe for the picking.
“Have you gentlemen ever seen the Great Scottish Moose Butterfly?” Gordon harmlessly asked.
“No, I don’t believe we have,” Magwitch answered. “Have any of you boys ever seen one of those…what was it…one of those bugs these two…men…are looking for?” Magwitch turned waiting for a response, and saw the open mouthed dumbfounded looks on all three faces.
“I have a picture of one, right here,” Gordon announced, as he pulled a huge book from beneath his left arm. “She’s a real beauty, gather round boys.”
With that the three eagerly surrounded Gordon, and he carefully opened up the book to the correct page, and when the three of them leaned in to get a real close look, at the Great Scottish Moose Butterfly, red smoke engulfed the three open mouthed fools, who immediately succumbed to its effects, and collapsed on the beach. Magwitch reached for his gun, but Pike this time did thrust properly as he snagged the head of Magwitch in his net, yanking him down to the sand as hard as he could, ending all thoughts of any heroic action by Magwitch or his three cohorts.
“I say, old chap,” Gordon continued in character, “I believe you’ve caught one.”
“Yes, and this one’s going to talk, real fast, unless he wants to meet an untimely death,” Pike said while pointing Magwitch’s gun directly at his head. “Now, where is Jim West?”
“Over there,” a humbled Magwitch admitted. “In the house.”
“Well, you just get up and show us ‘where’ in the house,” an angry Gordon added.
The three ran over to the house, with a very winded Magwitch coughing and gasping for air. “There, over there,” Magwitch said as he pointed to the sand covered floor, with the tube protruding above the sand.
Gordon pulled the cap off of the tube, as Pike and Magwitch traded turns removing spade full’s of the loose but heavy wet sand.
“Jim, can you hear me, we’re going to get you out, hold on,” Gordon shouted through the tube. “Jim?”
“Artie! I’m fine! It’s great to hear your voice. Just great.”
Soon all the sand was removed from the top of West’s temporary grave, and he was reunited with both Gordon and Pike, gratefully hugging each man.
The five sat down to dinner, about to partake of a wonderful meal. Everybody was happy, and everybody was hungry, which makes for a great combination when friends are together.
“And how was your elderly Aunt, Artie?” West innocently asked.
“Can we talk about that later Jim,” Artie whispered.
“Jim, Artie has told Marilyn all about your exploits, and she is quite an authority on your adventures with Artie, isn’t that right?” Pike told West and asked Marilyn simultaneously.
“Jeremy, can we discuss all of that later,” Artie quietly begged Pike.
“Yes, Artie has a sick old Aunt in Topeka,” Jim added.
“Later, Jim, later,” Artie smiled.
“In Topeka?” Marilyn gasped. “I live in Topeka, why have you not told me of her?”
“I will darling, I promise, but later. You do look ravishing in the moonlight, have I ever told you that?”
“Mr. Gordon, what sickness does your Aunt suffer from, I mean perhaps I could offer you some medical advice when dealing with her?” Lucy enquired.
“Yes, Lucy dear, perhaps we can discuss that some time later, right now just doesn’t seem like a good time, now does it,” Gordon pleaded.
“Why can’t Mr. West ever do anything right? He looks very strong to me. And you are his boss, is that what you said?” Marilyn continued.
“Oh, this Mr. West? No, you misunderstood, darling. I’ll explain it later. There was another Mr. West I used to work with, please, allow me to explain later,” Gordon nervously said, perspiration beading on his forehead.
At that moment the waiter appeared, and Gordon could have leapt from his seat to hug the man for saving him from the turn their conversation had taken.
“Folks, I’d like to talk all night, but dinner is served,” Gordon beamed. He then looked at the waiter, who sadly stared back at him. “Dinner is served, isn’t it?” The waiter slightly shook his head. “Dinner…is…not…What do you mean it’s not ready!” Gordon gasped.
“I am so sorry, gentlemen, and ladies. Our chef is very particular, and I was about to bring it out, and you see, he noticed one of the pheasant’s was ever so slightly overdone, just the breast part, right here,” the waiter stated, as he touched his heart. “He apologizes profusely.”
“Just one! Just one was overdone! I’ll take that one! Please! Ask him to allow you to bring them out, and just make sure I get the slightly overdone pheasant,” Gordon pleaded. “I promise, I love having fowl a bit on the overdone side. I really do, my good man.”
“But he is a consummate professional, he has already discarded everybody’s main courses and has begun again. He begs you all to be patient, he already has them started again, and he promised me, within twenty-five minutes you will all be served. I am so sorry,” said while walking backwards to the kitchen and bowing at the honored guests.
Artemus Gordon sank into his seat, looked left and saw Lucy Hayes and James West staring at him, looked right and saw Marilyn Ordonez and Jeremy Pike staring at him, folded his hands and began to pray.
“Heavenly Father, as we say Grace this evening, we recognize that we all have much to be thankful for, and this may take some time, perhaps twenty, maybe even twenty-five minutes, but I don’t want to leave anything out…”
“Don’t forget to ask Him to watch after your poor sick Aunt,” Marilyn said as she pulled her Rosary out.
West and Pike suppressed a laugh, as Gordon indignantly looked at them both.
“Please, gentlemen. I’m praying.”