SS novice field agent
Posted - 09/22/2007 : 17:20:02
| THE NIGHT OF SATAN’S LAUGH
There was no getting around it. He was dead and in hell. He could feel the heat against his clammy flesh, threatening to make both head and body explode. He saw such terrible images … Satan was laughing at him as he ran …
Dear God, what had he done to deserve this torment?
Oh yes, he remembered now. He had … had killed his best friend. Why? Why did he do it? Even Artemus, as he lay dying in his arms, asked him this question.
Hate. There it was. Right out in the open. For a split second, long enough to pull a trigger, he hated his loyal partner, the man who was like a brother to him, enough to kill.
No! No! No! It wasn’t true!
He raised his arms above his head, the hands dropping to press tightly against his ears, trying to block out the Devil’s mocking laughter. Oh, how his head hurt! The pain and suffering …The knowledge of what he had done … it was just too much to endure ….!
“Wake up, Jim.”
The voice was suddenly soothing.
“He’ll be fine now. The fever’s broken.” said another.
A fever? Were they talking about him? Had he been ill?
The gentle voice said ‘yes’ when he asked the question. Then: “We’re taking you to a hospital in San Francisco, Jim. The doc here says you have a concussion, possibly a fractured skull. Do you understand me?”
They were on the train. Yes. He could hear the whistle blowing and feel the movement of the rails under his mattress, beneath the train. It was taking them to California … but wait. Weren’t they supposed to go to the great state of Washington? What happened?
“It happened in Oregon. You were hit on the back of the head with a rather large piece of lumber …” the now familiar voice answered his unasked question, “For awhile we thought you were a goner, buddy. It’s a good thing you have such a hard head. Anyone else would be pushing up daisies by now …”
“Practically indestructible.” West murmured, recalling something someone once said to him, lifting a hand to touch the bandages covering his hair. As he did this, the image before him focused into the single form of a man. He wasn’t just a voice. He was flesh and blood. “Artie?”
West paused and looked over his friend’s shoulder, at the man watching him. Perhaps he was just suffering the ill effects from the nightmare but he did not want the doctor (… Loveless?) about. He did not know him and he did not trust him.
The doctor seemed to sense this. Politely, he excused himself.
“What’s the matter, Jim?” There was genuine concern in Artemus’ sensitive brown eyes.
“I had a terrible dream … or memory.”
Artie nodded, “I know. I sat up with you most of the night and you were restless. You kept yelling ‘No!’ and once you mentioned something about demons. But it was just brought on by the fever, Jim.”
“You were there too …”
“Was I?” Artemus chuckled, “No doubt rescuing a lovely young damsel in distress.”
West told his partner about most of the nightmare but stopped just short of telling him that he, James T. West, pulled the trigger. He was still, after all this time, uncomfortable about that.
“And the laughter?” Artie asked.
“I thought it might be Satan. In retrospect I think it was Dr. Loveless.”
“You weren’t that far off, Jim.”
Thy both chuckled softly at that. It hurt West’s head but it felt good.
“Well, James My Boy …” Agent Gordon moved to the door of West’s bedroom compartment, “Now that you are on the mend I think I’ll make you some of my Aunt Maud’s special broth. You haven’t eaten in a couple days and, once you get to the hospital, you may not want to eat again …” There was a gently amused smile on his face, disguising the fatigue and indisputable worry Artemus had felt over the last twenty four hours.
“Artie.” West lifted his head from the pillow.
West looked at his friend for awhile as he stood, his hand resting on the decorative door handle, before saying: “Thank you …”
“My pleasure.” Artie smiled once again and left the room, closing the door behind him.
West laid his head on the pillow once again and finished what he really wanted to say: “… for being here for me.”
This time, when he closed his eyes, West dreamed of only good things … and her name was Lottie.
West: "How did you get into the Secret Service with hayfever?"
Gordon: "I kept it a secret."
TNOT HANGMAN, S-3.