SS senior field agent
Posted - 07/17/2012 : 09:52:05
| THE NIGHT OF THE MEMORY THIEF
Memoria est thesaurus omnium rerum e custos.
[Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.]
— De Oratore (I, 5), Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero), 106-43 BC), Roman philosopher, statesman, and orator
“Mr. West! Where is he? In twenty-four hours, the trial is scheduled to begin!”
Jim West stood in front of the desk, his eyes fixed on the gold watch in the speaker’s hand, while his own hands were balled into fists at his side as he attempted to hold his temper… and failed. Stepping forward, he leaned those fists on the desk, and glared. “Mr. Deering. I… do… not… know… where he is! I have been searching for more than seventy-two hours. He has vanished! For all I know, he’s at the bottom of the bay…!”
His voice rose with each word as he felt himself slipping into a rage he could not control, unable to hold it back. Then a soft but firm hand pressed against his shoulder.
Closing his eyes, and drawing a deep breath, Jim stepped back, glancing behind him at the gray-haired man with the stern, yet understanding eyes. “I’m sorry, colonel.” He turned back to the man behind the desk. “My apologies, Mr. Deering. I… I just ….”
Claude Deering got to his feet, an imposing man with snow-white hair although he was barely forty-five, and crystal blue eyes that could sometimes seem to cut into a man’s soul, especially if that man was sitting in the witness box. “No, it is I who should apologize, Mr. West. We are all exhausted, but I know it has been harder on you than any of us. He is your partner… your friend. But it’s so important…”
Jim nodded, rubbing a hand over his unshaven face. Lately it had become harder to think. “I know how important it is. And so does Artemus. That’s what… that’s why I know something has happened. He would not have gone off like this, not with this trial pending.”
Colonel James Richmond stepped alongside him now, casting a long glance at his superb agent, noting the disheveled attire and the dark circles under his eyes. “Jim, when did you eat last? When did you sleep?”
Jim shook his head. “I don't know. I’m all right.”
“No, you’re not.” However, Richmond knew that it would be useless to even order West to step back and take care of himself. Artemus Gordon had been missing for three days now. He had not returned after an evening with friends and as Jim said, vanished. The colonel looked at Deering, the man in charge of prosecuting Dennis Clegg. “And there’s no chance of postponing the trial?”
Deering sank back into his chair with a gusty sigh. “I have spoken to Judge Rundell twice. He refuses. I have heard that he might be corrupt, but…”
“Clegg paid him,” Jim growled.
“That’s the only reason I can come up with,” Deering nodded. “Rundell has delayed other trials for lesser reasons in the past. Of course, if we don’t find Gordon, it doesn’t matter anyway.”
“I’ll find him,” Jim West snapped, and started to turn toward the office door.
At that moment a rap sounded on that door and it opened. Lloyd Morris did not look quite as haggard and exhausted as Jim West, but his appearance revealed he too had been sleeping in his clothes, if he slept at all. “Pardon me, Mr. Deering, Colonel Richmond. Jim, he’s been found.”
Jim took two long strides and grasped the San Francisco police detective’s shoulders with both hands. “Where? How is he?” He almost did not want the answer to the last question.
“He’s alive,” Morris replied, quite aware that that would be the information Jim wanted most. He saw the pure relief in the green eyes and went on quickly. “He was found wandering on the wharves early this morning.”
“Early this morning?” Richmond came forward. “Why haven’t we heard until now?”
“Because no one knew who he was,” the lieutenant replied quietly. “He had no identification on him.”
“But didn’t Artie…?” Jim frowned. “Was he unconscious?” No, Lloyd said he was wandering…
“He has amnesia, Jim. He can’t remember his name or anything else. When a nurse came on duty around mid morning, she recognized him, having treated him on another occasion. The hospital immediately sent word to us.”
“Amnesia!” Claude Deering had joined the others near the door. “That means…”
Jim glanced at him. “That he might not remember the incident with Dennis Clegg. I suffered amnesia a couple of years ago after a bullet clipped me on the head. It lasted until I saw a familiar face—Artie’s. Come on, Lloyd.”
Jim realized during the ride in the police vehicle that they should have waited for the colonel and Mr. Deering, but he had not been thinking any more clearly about that than he had when he nearly lost his grip on his temper a few minutes before. His only thought was to reach the hospital on Potrero Avenue and the friend he had been searching for. The colonel would flag down a hack, no doubt.
They had returned to San Francisco earlier this week so that Artemus Gordon could testify at the trial of Dennis Clegg, a man the San Francisco police and others very much wanted to convict. Clegg was the son of Bartholomew Clegg, an extremely wealthy and influential man in the city these days. Few people wanted to cross him, and few got the opportunity. If one did, very likely one would end up ruined or dead.
Over the past seven years, five women—prostitutes—had been found dead after a visit from the younger Clegg. Twice the city thought enough proof and witnesses were available for a conviction; twice those witnesses had recanted their stories, and the proof vanished from police files. They had been forced to release Clegg.
On their last visit to San Francisco, Artemus had had occasion to call on a man staying at a rundown hotel near the Barbary Coast late one night to ask some questions about a crime being investigated. He had emerged from that man’s room just as Dennis Clegg came out of a door further down the hall. Artemus recognized him from a previous encounter. Clegg had seen him and had raced to the stairway, leaving the door of the room open.
Artie heard a cry for help from that room, and found a woman bleeding badly from knife wounds. She lived long enough to tell the agent that Clegg had assaulted her. Dennis Clegg was arrested the next day, and the district attorney’s office was exultant. They had a witness who would not be bought or scared off.
Artemus had specifically asked Colonel Richmond to keep their schedule clear so that he would be available to testify in person at the trial. Richmond agreed, and actually traveled to the bayside city with them. He too had heard of the Cleggs and wanted to see the younger man pay for his heinous crimes.
Upon arriving at the hospital, Jim and Lloyd had to pause at the front desk to learn where Gordon’s room was, and then both raced up the stairs to the second floor. A doctor Jim knew was standing in the hallway outside a closed door.
“Dr. Davidson. How is he?”
“Strange case, Mr. West. I’ve dealt with amnesia cases before, and they have almost all been caused by a blow to the head. A couple cases were due to traumatic experiences. Mr. Gordon shows no injuries whatsoever. Not to his head, nor anywhere else on his body. There’s no explanation for it.”
“Perhaps seeing me will bring him back.”
“Perhaps. Go on in. I had him sedated earlier because he was quite agitated over his condition. But he’s awake now and has had some food and coffee. Please, if he does become over excited again, summon me.”
With a nod, Jim stepped to the door, grasped the handle and stepped inside, aware that Morris was following but not looking back. The man he knew as Artemus Gordon was sitting against some pillows, the whiteness of the hospital gown and bed linens striking in contrast to the tan of his face and the darkness of his hair and unshaven jaw. Like me, Jim mused, he doesn’t seem to have had time or inclination to shave…
The brown eyes gazed at him blankly. “Are you… someone I know?”
Jim moved to the side of the bed and kept his voice carefully calm. “I’m Jim West… your partner. This is Lloyd Morris. He’s a friend of ours and a police officer.”
Artie’s eyes went to each of them, but the puzzled expression increased. “I don’t remember you.”
“What do you remember?”
He shook his head. “Nothing. Nothing except walking in the fog, wondering where I was, where I was supposed to go… and who I was.” He looked up at Jim. “My partner in what?”
“We are agents of the United States Secret Service. We work together.”
“Oh. The doctor mentioned the Secret Service.” Again he shook his head. “It means… nothing. I don’t remember.”
Morris stepped forward. “You don’t remember how you came to be on the wharves?”
“No. What is my name again?”
“Artemus Gordon,” Jim replied.
The man on the bed shook his head. “Strange name. Have you known me long?”
“Over ten years. We met during the war when General Grant sent us on a mission together.”
“Mission?” Artie’s frown was deep. “What does that mean?” Worry appeared in his gaze.
Jim took a breath, holding his patience. One part of him wanted to grab Artie by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. He knew that would not do any good, remembering his own experience with a loss of memory. “During the war we worked as agents for the Union Army. Do… do you remember the war? Any of it?”
Artemus shook his head. “No. The Civil War?” One of the hands resting on the coverlet grasped some of the material, forming a fist around it.
Jim felt a spark of hope. “Yes. You know about it?”
“I… seem to. But as though I read about it. I was there?”
“You were there,” Jim said softly again fighting his disappointment. “Does the name Mamie Dervin mean anything?”
“No. Should it?”
Jim did not answer immediately, his frustration mounting, Lloyd Morris stepped in. “You were to be a star witness in the trial of her murderer. She was a prostitute murdered in a hotel you were visiting. You saw the murderer and heard the dying woman tell you his name.”
Artie closed his eyes tightly then put his free hand over them for a moment. “My god,” he murmured. Now he opened his eyes and looked at them. Both hands clutched at the cover now, the knuckles almost as white as the material. “Is that why you are so interested in my recovery?”
“No!” Jim cried. “You’re our friend. My best friend. My partner!”
The man on the bed sighed heavily. “Well, I’m sorry, I don’t remember anything.”
“What about Lily?” Jim tried.
Artie’s brown eyes were still puzzled. “Another prostitute?”
Jim did not smile. “Your fiancée, Lily Fortune.”
“My… fiancée? I don’t remember her… I just don’t remember anything!”
Jim saw that the agitation was increasing as Davidson had mentioned, and was about to tell Lloyd that perhaps they should allow Artie to rest a bit, when the door opened to admit Colonel Richmond and Claude Deering. Richmond came to the foot of the bed.
“Our boss,” Jim said, wearily. He realized that while Artie was frightened by his inability to remember, his own fatigue was going to cause him to lose his patience soon, even while aware that none of this was Artie’s fault; he was not faking his condition, of that Jim was positive.
“I’m Colonel James Richmond, head of the Secret Service.”
“Oh. Well, sorry, I don’t remember you either.”
The edge was still in Artie’s voice. Jim said, “Let’s go out into the hall, Colonel.” He jerked his head at Morris and Deering and led the way, closing the door. “He doesn’t remember anything. Not me, not Lloyd. Not even Lily.”
“What do they think caused the amnesia?” Deering asked.
“The doctor doesn’t know. There are no signs of a blow to the head. Other than being disheveled and disoriented—and the amnesia of course—he seems to be in fine shape.”
The doctor in question emerged from a door down the hall, and Richmond and the lawyer went to him immediately. Jim lowered his head, gazing at the worn floor. Lloyd was quiet a long moment before he spoke.
“Jim, you need to get some rest.”
Lifting his head, Jim shook it. “No. I’ve got to find out what happened to Artie.”
Lloyd grasped his arm. “You may not realize it, but you are swaying on your feet. You’re going to collapse. Go back to the hotel.”
“Excellent idea,” Richmond said, returning. “Jim, you are not going to be much help in your condition. Morris, will you arrange for a police guard on Gordon’s room?”
“Absolutely, sir. Right away.”
“Another thing,” Deering put in, “we’d better keep this as quiet as possible. I just asked the doctor to warn the staff.”
“And I’ll tell the officer who found him,” Morris nodded. “He’s a good man and not prone to gossip so he probably hasn’t told anyone else yet. Especially not the newspapers.” They had managed to keep Gordon’s disappearance out of the papers, even while realizing that public knowledge might be of some help. Nonetheless, they did not want Clegg’s family and lawyer to know about it.
“We just have to hope,” Deering said, “that after a full night of rest, Mr. Gordon will regain his memory. It’s our only hope.”
Jim finally agreed that he would sleep a couple of hours, especially when Lloyd assured him that Artie would not only be protected, that Jim would be summoned if anything new occurred. So he went to his hotel, pulled off his boots and lay down on the bed. He awakened into dim light, and only after several minutes did he realize the hour was early morning. He had slept almost sixteen hours.
He had to admit, as he washed up and shaved, that he felt a good deal better. He was also very hungry. Although hating to “waste” the time, he paused in the hotel dining room for a good breakfast then left the hotel to take a hack to the hospital. The streets were relatively quiet so the vehicle made good time. Jim tossed a coin to the driver and sprinted into the hospital, up the stairs, and down the corridor.
He was pleased to see that the young policeman sitting on a chair outside the door was wide-awake. Jim showed him his credentials and entered the room. He was not surprised to find Artemus awake. But he was disappointed to realize that nothing had changed. The expression in the brown eyes revealed that. The only physical alteration was that he had shaved, or been shaved, his jaw now showing only the usual overnight growth.
“West, isn’t it?” Artie said, pushing himself up on his elbows.
“Jim.” Jim quickly moved to secure the pillows behind Artie’s back. “How do you feel?”
“No different. I can’t remember anything more than what I told you before. Just finding myself wandering around, with no idea who I was or where I was or…”
Jim put a hand on Artie’s arm, resting on the bed. “Take it easy. I know the feeling. But it’ll come back. I’m sure.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Well… it usually does. My memory returned when I saw you in difficulty. You also experienced a memory loss due to a blow on the head a while back.” (See The Night of the Forgotten Mind.) Jim took a few minutes to relate both incidents to the patient, watching closely to see if anything registered in Artie’s eyes to indicate any of it was familiar. The only expression was disgruntlement.
“Perhaps you should bring someone in to point a gun at you.”
Jim had to smile, not only because of the humorous remark, but because it sounded so much like Artie. His Artie. “From what I’ve heard about amnesia—from what you read up on and told me after I suffered the bout—little is known about the causes or cures. Most people recover their memories.”
“Most. What about the ones that don’t?”
“I guess… they just build a new life. But that’s not going to happen, Artie. You’ll get your life back. I promise.”
Artie’s smile was faint. “I have the sense I should trust you but… I don't know you.”
“I’ll tell you what. Why don’t I sit down and tell you as much as I can about your life, our lives together. Who knows, something might light the spark.”
“All right. I’m sure a nurse is going to show up soon but until then… go ahead.”
For about forty-five minutes, Jim talked about their lives as agents. Not so much about the cases they had worked on, but the train, the travel, how Artemus used disguises. He talked, even though again he saw clearly that none of it was registering with the amnesiac. Artemus listened, but did not react. None of it meant anything to him, other than as a story. Again Jim saw the disappointment.
When a nurse came in with a pitcher of hot water and took the shaving and washing items from a cupboard in the room, Jim went out to seek the doctor, whom the nurse said had just arrived and was preparing to make his rounds. Davidson greeted Jim cordially in his small office.
“You’re here early. And I must say you look a great deal better than you did yesterday.”
“I feel better, doctor. I’ve been talking to Artemus. He… doesn’t seem changed.”
The physician shook his head. “It is perhaps the strangest case I’ve ever encountered. I checked him physically again and still cannot find a bruise or bump that would suggest he had been struck on the head. Knowing the kind of work you and Mr. Gordon do, I cannot imagine a traumatic experience that could have induced the condition.”
“He was missing over three days, doctor. I’ve got to find out where he was those three days. The clothes he was wearing…”
“They are in his room, in the bureau. I have to say I didn’t think they resembled what he normally wore. Had he gone out in disguise?”
“No. We had run into some old friends of his from his acting days earlier, and he arranged to spend the evening with them. I had other plans. I was not aware he had not returned when I went to bed. We were not expecting trouble. I found his room empty, the bed undisturbed in the morning. The night clerk had not seen him return. I asked in the establishments in the area that had been open late, but no one remembered seeing him.
“I eventually found the three men he had been with. They said that after their dinner and a few drinks while they reminisced, they had hailed a cab that took them first to their hotel, while Artemus traveled on to his. That was the last they saw of him.”
“You think someone kidnapped him?”
“That’s the only explanation I can come up with. I tracked down the hack and the driver remembered leaving Artie in front of the hotel. And that’s that.”
Dr. Davidson frowned. “I know that Mr. Gordon was scheduled to testify in the Clegg trial today. If Bart Clegg had him kidnapped, why…?”
Jim was shaking his head. “Clegg would know that if anything happened to the key witness, a government agent, he would be under intense scrutiny. My original thought was if it was the Cleggs behind it, that they would hold Artie until after the trial.”
“But instead he was found with amnesia, and no explanation for it. I’m going to keep him here at least one more day, Mr. West, and do some more examining. I might have missed something, but I doubt it.”
Jim returned to Artemus's room and was only slightly surprised to find Colonel Richmond present. He turned as Jim entered. “You look rested, Jim.”
Jim’s smile was rueful. “I guess I needed it.” His eyes asked a question and the colonel shook his head.
“I told Artemus a little about the first time I met him, but…”
“It’s like you’re talking about a stranger,” Artie said from the bed. “In fact, you are strangers to me!” His voice was sharp with anger.
Richmond consulted his pocket watch. “The trial starts in two hours.”
“It looks like Clegg is going to win… again.”
“Look, I was thinking of something.”
Both men turned to the one in the bed. “What do you mean, Artie?”
“I am sure I told you and the lawyer everything I saw that night. Why can’t you tell me what that was? Then I can testify…”
Jim looked at the colonel and shook his head, and the colonel nodded. “It wouldn’t work, Artemus,” Richmond said.
Jim stepped closer to the bed. “Bartholomew Clegg is a very clever man, and a rich one. He hired the best lawyer in San Francisco, Joshua Kassell. You know him as well as I do… ordinarily. We’ve both been subject to his cross-examination. Normally, you would handle him without a misstep. But if you are only rehearsed in the obvious, he’ll trip you easily. You need the details that we don’t have.”
“Claude Deering was going to speak to Judge Rundell again this morning, but he didn’t have much hope.” Richmond’s tone was somber.
Wrath stirred in Jim. “And Dennis Clegg will be free to kill again.”
That widened Artie’s eyes and he asked what Jim meant. When Jim explained about the previous killings and attempts to convict, Artemus displayed the same ire. He demanded to be allowed to at least attempt to testify, but both his partner and the colonel again refused.
“It just wouldn’t do any good, Artie. Unless you could swear that you saw Clegg, and repeat the woman’s dying words… it wouldn’t do any good. And as I said, Kassell would tear you apart in seconds. Especially if he knows you actually have amnesia.”
“How would he know?”
Jim shook his head. “I don't know, but I plan to find out.”
Power, like the diamond, dazzles the beholder, and also the wearer; it dignifies meanness; it magnifies littleness; to what is contemptible, it gives authority; to what is low, exaltation.
—Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832), English sportsman and author
Jim was standing in the courthouse hallway outside the room where the trial was scheduled when he saw Bartholomew Clegg enter. Years of gluttony and venality had taken their toll on Clegg. His torso ballooned under the expensively tailored suits; his jowls sagged, unsuccessfully disguised by the graying bushy sideburns that extended down his jaw.
A woman clutched either arm. On the left was his daughter-in-law, Dennis’s wife, whom gossip said that Clegg purchased from her well-thought of but impecunious family to lend some respectability to the playboy son. Olivia Clegg was a rather plain looking woman. Wagging tongues also said that after she bore the next heir, Dennis Clegg had nothing further to do with her.
The woman on the right was Bart Clegg’s latest mistress, one of a string that went back to before Mrs. Clegg died several years ago. Jim had met Lottie Eversole a long time ago in the saloon where she had been working on the Barbary Coast. He had quickly discerned that she had little interest in “working men,” her sights set on the wealthier patrons. She had finally landed Bart Clegg—for now.
Following Clegg were two of the beefy men he kept around as “bodyguards.” They had the look of thugs, distinctly uncomfortable in the suits Clegg apparently had them wear. The police department long suspected that these “bodyguards” served other functions for the Clegg machine, but nothing had ever been proven.
Jim kept his gaze on Clegg, expressionless, and as the powerful man moved by him, Clegg turned his head and looked at him. Jim forced himself to remain stoic, even as his thoughts raced. He knows! He knows what happened to Artie! The gleam in Clegg’s beady eyes was revealing. Bart Clegg knew that his son was going to be acquitted, and he knew why.
The question was, Jim realized, why? Or how? How could Clegg have had anything to do with Artie’s amnesia? If Artie had been beaten, had suffered a head wound, the story would be different. But that had apparently not been the case. Artie had been kidnapped. Jim had no doubt of that. And when he was released on the docks, he had amnesia.
Gone—glimmering through the dream of things that were.
—Childe Harold (canto II, st. 2), Lord Byron (George Gordon Noel Byron; 1788-1824), English poet
He looked up from the newspaper he had been reading, brought along with his lunch by the friendly nurse, an older woman who told him she had treated him on a previous occasion. The man who said his name was Jim West, who said he was his best friend and partner, entered, face sober.
“I take it things did not go well.”
Jim sighed, moving to sit on the bed as Artemus was now on a chair near the window, wearing a rather faded robe. “Took the jury about fifteen minutes to find him not guilty. Nothing else they could do—whether Clegg had gotten to any of them or not. The prosecution had no case—no evidence, no witness.” He would not soon forget the gloating gleefulness of Dennis Clegg, his father and minions; nor the somber expression on Olivia Clegg’s face as she also watched the celebration.
“Artie, it’s not your fault!”
“It is if I can’t remember the testimony I was to give to convict this bastard!”
Jim saw the anger flash in his partner’s eyes. “Well, it’s done. We just have to hope that he can be stopped before he kills the next one.”
“You said this Mamie was the sixth one?”
“That are known. He obviously doesn’t kill every prostitute he engages. He’s well known to frequent the bordellos all around the area.”
Artie frowned. “Why don’t the women avoid him?”
Jim shrugged. “He pays well, apparently. And since he does not kill every woman—and we have no idea why he chooses the ones he does kill—I’m sure each one feels relatively safe, and that the risk is worth taking. Not only that, but old man Clegg occasionally selects a mistress from these types of women. I have no doubt that all are hoping the younger Clegg will follow in his father’s footsteps.”
Artie looked out the window, where the view was of the roof of a one-story building next door, with some trees beyond. He wondered if that was a park. In his “other life” he probably knew. Then he brought his gaze back. “Did we ever have dealings with a small man—a dwarf, I guess… we did?” He saw West’s eyes widen.
“We did. Why? Are you remembering?”
With a rueful smile, Artie shook his head. “I fell asleep after breakfast and had a dream about this man. Who is he?”
“Loveless! Strange name. Friend or foe?”
“Foe, definitely. When we first encountered him, right here in San Francisco, he was plotting to regain some land that he claimed was legally his, desert land in southern California. He said it had belonged to his Mexican grandmother, and he should have inherited it. He planned to set off explosions that might kill five thousand people every week until he received the land.”
“Good lord! Five thousand people? Is he crazy?”
“That’s putting it mildly. We were able to stop him, and in subsequent encounters, halt other bizarre plans to conquer or destroy the country. Of late, he has become obsessed with killing the two of us. What was your dream about?”
“It’s very hazy. I mean, I seemed to be looking through a fog at him, a fog that got more and more dense. He talked to me but I could not grasp his words. It was a very frustrating dream.”
Jim shook his head. “Doesn’t sound like anything that ever happened. But it must mean that that particular memory—of Miguelito Loveless at least—is still in your brain. What’s wrong with your arm?”
Artie looked down. He had not been aware that he had been reaching over to rub his left arm, inside the elbow, with his right hand. “Oh. A spot itches there, I guess.”
“Itches? Insect bite?” Jim got up and stepped over to his partner. He pushed up the sleeve of the robe to the elbow, leaning to peer closely at the arm, and then touch it with his fingers. “Doesn’t feel or look like an insect bite. It’s slightly warm.” He could see small red dots on the skin. “I think I’ll go get Dr. Davidson to look at it.”
“That’s not necessary…” Artie began, but Jim was already striding out the door. He almost wished he had not mentioned the dream now, after seeing the brief hope that appeared in the green eyes. The colonel, Richmond was his name, had told him what a close friend Jim West was to Artemus Gordon. Artie—for he found it easy to think of himself by this name—realized he did experience a comfort level with West that he did not with anyone else who had come to visit, including the colonel and policeman Morris. They were his friends, he had no doubt, but not to the extent of the friendship he and Jim West shared.
I’ve got to remember. I’ve got to get back to it…
The door opened again and West returned, trailed by Dr. Davidson, who immediately crossed to lean down by Artie and inspect the arm. “I must admit I completely overlooked these. Or else they are just starting to show some inflammation. I believe you are correct, Mr. West. Hypodermic needle marks.”
“Needle!” Artie exclaimed, startled.
Jim nodded. “I’m wondering if whoever kidnapped you injected you with drugs to keep you sedated.” Jim paused, hesitating to ask the question on his mind, then plunged ahead. “Doctor, have you ever heard of a drug that could cause amnesia?”
Davidson shook his head soberly. “No. Nothing I’ve ever seen in the journals, or heard of otherwise. And as to whether sedatives—perhaps a mild overdose—might cause such a thing, I’ve never heard of that either. But I suppose it could be possible.” He looked down at Artemus. “I’ll send a nurse in to clean that area with alcohol and apply some calamine to ease the irritation.”
As the doctor departed, Jim stared at the closed door for a long moment then began to pace the room, seeming to have forgotten the room’s other occupant. Artemus watched him for a couple of minutes, noting the intense concentration, the way he clutched his hands tightly behind his back.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked finally.
Jim halted, slightly startled by the voice. “Loveless.”
“The man I dreamed about?”
Jim returned to sit on the edge of the bed, leaning forward. “He is a genius, Artie; an utter genius. The devices he has invented… some of them seem absolutely impossible, and should be impossible. He dabbles with chemistry too, drugs.”
Artie’s eyes narrowed. “You think he could have invented something that… causes amnesia?”
Jim’s sigh was noisy. “I don't know. I don't even know where he is; every time we encounter him, he slips away. Several times we thought he must be dead, but he pops up elsewhere. I’m going to ask Lloyd Morris to have his men canvass the city and find out if he’s been seen anywhere. And I’ll do some looking myself.”
Artie stood up. “I’ll come with you.”
Jim rose. “I don't know, Artie…”
“Look, you’ve been saying I’m your friend, your partner. Can you think of a better way to revive my memory than to have me work alongside you? To fit back into… whatever we did together? You said I used disguises.”
“Yes. You used them extremely successfully due to your acting background. But you don’t remember that either.”
“No, I don’t. But I suspect it’s something intuitive. If I had been a dancer, say, I could probably still dance. Bring me a violin. You said I play one. I’ll wager I still can.”
Jim’s green eyes met the brown ones for a long moment, and he had to smile. He saw and heard the traces of his “lost” friend in the gaze, and in the words. “All right. Dr. Davidson wants you to stay one more night, and who knows, you may even start to remember more after another good sleep. I’ll bring you some clothes from your hotel room tonight, and then pick you up in the morning.”
“Very well. But James my boy, do not go off gallivanting through the dark alleys on your own. Wait for me.”
Jim was halfway down the stairs to the first floor and the exit when it hit him: “James my boy,” Artie’s pet phrase to address him at certain times. The whole statement, the warning to wait for him, sounded much more like the Artemus Jim knew. Could it be possible that his memory was returning?
Jim resisted the urge to go bounding back up the stairs to talk to Artie further. He knew from his own experience that the harder one tried to remember, the more difficult it became. No, I need to go talk to Lloyd and a few other people. Despite Artie’s caution, I have to put some feelers out there with certain persons.
James: Thanks, Artie.
Artemus: "Thanks Artie"! Is that all you can say to me? I've just come back from the grave, risen like Lazarus, and that's what you say? "Thanks, Artie"?
James: Thanks, Artie.
Artemus: It's a pleasure.
- TNOT Pistoleros
SS senior field agent
Posted - 07/17/2012 : 09:53:32
“Loveless? Are you sure, Jim?”
Jim West grimaced as he gazed across the scarred desk. “No, I’m not sure, Lloyd. I’m grasping at straws. Artie had a strange dream about Loveless. He has hypodermic puncture marks on his arm. Loveless is the one person in the world who I believe could come up with a way to cause amnesia, possibly using drugs.”
Lloyd Morris smiled slightly. “Seems like pretty solid reasoning, actually; or as solid as we have right now. The doctor can’t come up with any other cause for the amnesia?”
“No. No concussion. No bruises at all. And as he pointed out, what event would be so traumatic for a man like Artemus Gordon, considering all he’s endured and seen in this world, to cause him to lose his memory?”
“Yeah. All right, I’ll put the word out.”
“I detoured to the Barbary Coast on my way here and spoke to a couple of fellows who usually know everything that’s going on in the underworld in this city. They had not heard of anything, but I paid them well enough—with a promise of more—that they’ll contact me if something comes up.”
“I’ll tell my men to not only keep a watch out for anyone fitting the description of Loveless—or either of his usual traveling companions—and also to ask around. Even Loveless can’t hide forever.”
“Sometimes I wonder about that,” Jim retorted wryly. “At times I have to think he has actually invented some manner of invisibility.”
“Let’s hope not!”
Jim chuckled then, getting to his feet. “I’m going back to the hotel and get some things for Artie. And probably get some dinner before I go back to the hospital. I missed lunch. Didn’t have an appetite at the time.”
“I know what you mean. That court business made me want to go find the nearest bar. But I knew Betty would have her rolling pin out if I did that so…”
“So you came back to work like a good husband and policeman.”
Morris sighed. “It’s hard to be both sometimes, Jim.”
With a wave, Jim exited the office and made his way out of the building. He hailed a cab to take him back to the hotel he and Artemus had registered in their first night. This was one of the few hotels they used when it became more expedient to stay in the city rather than in the Wanderer, which was parked in the railroad yards now.
I should probably take Artie to the train tomorrow, introduce him, so to speak, to the crew if they are around, let him see his compartment, the lab… who knows, something as simple as that may spark his memory.
Even as he had that thought while entering the hotel, Jim wondered. If drugs caused the amnesia, had the injection damaged the brain in some manner so that the memory could never return? Not fully, anyway. When he had suffered amnesia after the shot grazed his head, he had retained certain instincts. He had known how to fight and how to handle a gun. Quite possibly Artie could, as he claimed, step into a new disguised role as he had so many times in the past. But would he ever fully be Artie again?
As he stepped into the lobby, Jim became aware of a lot of noise emanating from one of the larger private dining rooms that opened off the lobby. He noticed a waiter hurrying from the kitchen area toward that door, carrying a tray with platters of hors d’oeuvres. He also saw the sour, almost angry expression on the face of the clerk behind the desk when he approached to get his room key.
“What’s going on?”
Henry Barlow’s scowl deepened. “Clegg.”
Surprised, Jim looked back toward the closed door for a moment. “Clegg?”
“Yeah. They are celebrating the trial verdict. And do you know, old man Clegg reserved the ballroom over a week ago!”
Jim accepted the key Barlow pulled from the rack behind him. “He did, huh? Must have been pretty confident.”
“Well, why not? He gets the boy off every time, doesn’t he? If Mr. Gordon hadn’t vanished…” The clerk paused. “Sorry, Mr. West. Don’t mean to remind you of that.” Barlow knew of the disappearance because personnel of the hotel had been questioned closely. He did not, however, know that Artie had reappeared without his memory.
“That’s all right, Henry. We’re making progress there.”
“Oh I’m so glad to hear that. I certainly hope Mr. Gordon returns safely.”
In his room, Jim went through the connecting door into Artie’s room and packed the necessary items into the satchel Artie had brought from the train. He lay down on the bed awhile, his thoughts roaming hither and yon about the current situation and trying to come up with answers. When nothing came to the fore, he rose, washed his face in the basin, and went downstairs, where he left the satchel at the desk before going into the restaurant. The sounds of the boisterous celebration were still emerging from the private room, and Jim occasionally saw people coming and going to that room. The party was going to go on for some time, it seemed.
He had finished his meal, ordered a slice of pie and was waiting for it when Dennis Clegg entered the restaurant from the lobby. Clinging to Clegg’s arm was a buxom young woman in a tight satin dress and too much makeup on her face. Jim barely glanced at them, picking up his newly freshened cup of coffee and taking a swallow.
Clegg swaggered up to his table. “Hey, West. Why doncha come join the party?” Dennis Clegg might have once been a handsome man, with his curly blonde hair and blue eyes. But the years of dissolution had taken its toll, despite he was barely over thirty now. His skin was sallow, the eyes were bloodshot; his body was soft and already tending toward paunchiness. If he lived as long as his father, Jim mused, no doubt he would look the same as that bloated slug.
“No, thanks. I’ve just eaten.”
Clegg frowned slightly, obviously trying to decide whether he had been insulted. The woman, whom Jim saw was much younger than she was trying to look, swayed toward the table. “Mr. West, you really should join us. We are having such a wonderful time. So much to celebrate. And we certainly could use another fine-looking man.” She giggled while Clegg’s frown turned into a scowl.
“You keep your mouth shut, Flora!”
Nonetheless, Flora released his arm and plopped herself down in the chair beside Jim, leaning toward him. Jim could smell the aroma of her cheap perfume as well as the alcohol she had consumed. “Woncha come, Mr. West? I’d so like to dance with you.” She batted her mascara-thickened lashes.
Clegg’s move was swift and unexpected. His fist lashed out and struck Flora on the side of the face. With a scream of pain and fear, she fell backwards, chair and all, collapsing in a pile of satin and lacy underpinnings. Jim jumped to his feet to first go to her, seeing the blood streaming from her mouth. She was sobbing as he helped her to right the chair and sit in it, and handed her one of the napkins from his table.
“Keep your hands off my whore, West!”
Jim turned to him with a cold expression. “I’d suggest you do the same, Clegg. Miss Flora, do you want to press charges?”
Her eyes widened. “Oh, no, no!” she mumbled into the napkin, terrified gaze on Dennis Clegg.
Clegg started to reach for her, but Jim stepped forward and pushed the hand away. “I don't think she’s quite ready to return to the ballroom yet. Fred!” he called to a waiter who had come out after hearing the commotion. “Some water and ice, right away!”
“Yes, sir, Mr. West!” The waiter hurried back into the kitchen. Only three other diners had been present at this early hour, and those three men had risen from their chairs at the table across the way, now watching. Jim realized he recognized two he had not been able to see clearly earlier due to the angle of their chairs.
“You keep your nose out of my business, West,” Clegg snarled. “You and your partner already know what happens when you mess with the Clegg family.”
Jim’s icy gaze met Clegg’s, and the latter’s flickered. “You seem to be able to assault women pretty easily. I suppose that’s about all you can do.”
Clegg swung then, his fist heading wildly toward Jim’s chin. Jim easily dodged it, stepped forward to drive a right into Clegg’s soft belly, and the left to the jaw. Dennis Clegg staggered and sat down against a table leg, his eyes glazed as blood now streamed from his own mouth. Flora continued to look on, wide-eyed, the napkin she held now covering a chunk of ice that she pressed against her face.
“What’s going on here!” Bartholomew Clegg thundered as he strode into the restaurant, followed by three of his thugs. “West! I’ll have you arrested for assault! On a woman, of all things!”
Before Jim could reply, one of the three witnesses walked forward. “Bart, your son hit the young woman. He also attempted to strike Mr. West, who only defended himself.”
The elder Clegg’s face flushed. “Why… er… thank you, Walter. Thank you for putting things straight. Tud, Lowell, help Dennis up. And Miss er… Miss…”
“The lady has accepted an offer to have coffee with me,” Jim said mildly as Flora’s face registered renewed fear. “Mr. Van Houten, thank you. I’m afraid I didn’t recognize you sitting over there. And Mr. Rader. Good to see you.”
Van Houten smiled, holding out a hand to the agent. “Nice seeing you, James. Bart, is there anything else we can do for you?”
Walter Van Houten was one of the few men in San Francisco who could match Bart Clegg in money and power almost evenly, and Clegg obviously knew it. However, Van Houten was known to be an honest and relatively clean-living man in comparison. Clegg did not want to get on his bad side. George Rader was only slightly lower in scale.
Clegg cleared his throat as his two henchmen had pulled Dennis to his feet and were dragging him out of the restaurant. “Well, sorry if Dennis inconvenienced you, Mr. West. Come into the ballroom and have a glass of champagne, why don’t you?”
“No thank you.”
Clegg lumbered out with his remaining man. Jim had a few more words with Van Houten and Rader, thanking them again, before they returned to their table. He then sat down with Flora. The waiter brought fresh coffee for both and Jim’s pie. Flora refused the food when offered.
“Has he struck you before, Flora?”
She shook her head. “He was always so nice…”
“But you knew about the other women.”
Now her head came up slightly. “He was never convicted.” The tone of her voice was not as strong as she would have preferred, he was sure.
“True enough. How old are you?”
The query seemed to surprise her. “Why… I’m twenty-one.”
Jim smiled. “More like sixteen. Where are you from?”
“I think you should go back there.”
“I can’t! No one is left there.” Tears started spilling, smearing the mascara even more.
“Flora, you know as well as I do that if you stay in San Francisco, Dennis Clegg will…”
“Yeah, I know,” she sniffled, taking the handkerchief Jim offered. “But I ain’t got no one in Fresno no more. That’s why I left.”
“Have you kin anywhere?”
“An aunt in Idaho. I came here to earn money so I could go there. But… well…”
“I know,” Jim said gently. She was not the first girl to come to the big city seeking honest employment that ended up in her position. “Drink your coffee, Flora. Then I want you to go to your lodgings, pack your belongings, and take the next train to Idaho.”
“I don’t have no money!” she blubbered.
Smiling slightly, Jim withdrew his wallet and extracted a couple of bills, which he pressed into her hand. “Now go, Flora. I’m pretty sure there is a train north this evening. I don’t want ever to see you in San Francisco again. If I do, I’ll turn you over my knee and spank you.”
The tears faded as she clutched the money, a smile bringing honest youthfulness back to her face. “Mr. West, you are an angel.”
“I doubt that!”
She hugged him then, promising that she would follow his instructions. She knew as well as Jim did that if she remained in this city, Dennis would hunt her down. He thought that she was frightened enough to leave as bade. The last thing he wanted to hear was that this young girl had been found in a squalid hotel room or dark alley with her throat cut.
The leaves of memory seemed to make
A mournful rustling in the dark.
— The Fire of Drift-Wood, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), American poet and scholar
“How’d you get that blood on your cuff?”
Jim turned from the window where he had been gazing out at the street. “What?”
Artemus slipped off the bed and stepped toward him, taking his arm and turning it to display the dark splatters at the cuff of the shirtsleeve on Jim’s right arm. “This. Blood.”
Jim looked at his wrist. Must be Flora’s, when I was helping her up. “Oh. It’s nothing.”
“Um-hmm. I know when you are prevaricating, James. Where did it come from?”
Jim again concentrated on the stain, keeping his head down for a moment, primarily to hide the elation he was feeling. Once more Artie had spoken obliquely of the past… as if he was remembering. He did not want to get Artie’s hopes up, or his own. After a moment, he lifted his gaze and told Artie what had occurred in the hotel’s restaurant.
Artie sat down on the edge of the bed again. Jim had brought the satchel containing his clothes, and they were now hanging on hooks on the wall. Nothing looked familiar, although Jim had told him that the cut of the coat and the deep wine color were favorites. “Those Cleggs must be real bastards,” he commented.
“That’s putting it mildly. I’m glad Mr. Van Houten was there to step up for me. Knowing Clegg, he probably would have had me hauled to the nearest station. And who knows what would have happened to Flora. I’m half wondering if I should have made sure she got to the train safely.”
Artemus shook his head. “I think you did right. If you had escorted her out, chances are Clegg would have had someone follow and possibly have noted which train she boarded. Sounds to me she had a good scare and will go through with it.”
“I hope so. Artie, I’ve been thinking. Tomorrow after I pick you up…”
“We get a good breakfast.”
Jim chuckled. “The hospital food does not suit your delicate palate, I presume.”
“It’s edible. That’s about all I can say about it.”
Again Jim was secretly pleased. Artemus liked good food. “We can go to Bateman’s, down the street. But then I think we should go out to the Wanderer.”
“That’s the train?”
“You think it might help me regain my memory?”
“I don't know, Artie. I told you how seeing you in potential danger brought my memory back. The other time when you lost your memory, I shot you.”
“Yeah, so you told me.” Artie unconsciously rubbed his arm, where he had seen the faint scar of that wound. “Let’s not repeat that.”
Jim grinned. “I hope not to. But what I mean is no special trigger seems to work all the time. Possibly stepping into the Wanderer, seeing your home, might help.”
“I am willing to do anything. What about this Dr. Loveless?”
“I’ve put the word out, and so has Lloyd. Lloyd Morris. Loveless is very good at staying out of sight, but because of his unusual appearance, when people do see him, they tend to remember him. That’s what I’m hoping for. Plus, sometimes he travels with a giant named Voltaire.”
“Yeah. He’s around seven feet tall. Tough to handle, as you might imagine.”
“Jim, why would this Loveless want to do something to cause me to lose my memory? Is he in cahoots with this Clegg?”
“It seems unlikely. Clegg would seem to be the sort of man Loveless despises. However, if Clegg paid him…”
“I see. Does Loveless usually do that sort of thing? Hire himself out, I mean?”
“Not to my knowledge. Not unless he’s strapped for funds. Clegg could pay quite a bit. As I understand it, he was a smuggler on the east coast before the war—smuggled everything from rum to slaves. Then during the war he had several blockade-runners that broke through to southern ports, and of course sold whatever goods he brought in at exorbitant prices. Then he came to California and continued to have the golden touch, so to speak. He was suspected of killing a couple of men to gain control of their companies, but, like his son, never convicted.”
“Nice fellow. Did we ever…?”
Jim was shaking his head. “He never committed a federal crime, or at least not that the department ever heard of. We did have a couple of confrontations with him, and with Dennis over the last few years. He once tried to hire you.”
“Because you’re a very clever man, Artemus. You told me at the time that he offered you a hundred thousand dollars up front to come work for him.”
“And I turned him down?”
“Apparently with a few choice words. I’m sure that Clegg very much enjoyed causing you, and the department, the embarrassment of your disappearance and amnesia. If he was behind it, which I have to believe he was.”
Artie sighed, pushing himself onto the bed to lean back against the pillows at the head. “This is maddening, James, hearing you tell me all these things and it’s like you are talking about someone else. It’s all fiction to me.”
“Believe me, I know exactly how you feel, Artie. When Cloris was able to find out my last name and told me, I almost couldn’t believe her. It meant nothing to me. I believed she had to be wrong. But don’t give up. I know that somewhere along the way, we’re going to hit on the signal that will restore your memory.”
“You don't think that drug will simply wear off?”
“That’s some of what I’d like to talk to Miguelito about.”
The leafy blossoming present time springs from the whole past, remembered and unrememberable.
—Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist and philosopher
Stepping out of the hack, Artemus stared at the ornate wrought iron on the rear platform of the train car. “Pretty fancy.”
Jim paid the driver and turned to him. “Wait until you see the inside.” I hope that something inside rings a bell inside your brain, pal. It was unnerving to consider that if indeed Loveless was behind Artie’s condition, it could be permanent—or at least until Loveless produced an antidote. We have to find Loveless, and if it’s not him involved, find out who it is! But Jim could not believe that any other man would have the genius to develop such a serum.
Jim preceded his partner to the platform and used his key on the door, stepping inside and moving over to allow Artie to come in—and watched his face. All he saw was amazement.
“We live in this?”
“Yep. Most of the time.”
Artie walked further in and continued to look around. He saw the “books” on the desk. “What’s that?” Jim opened the case to display the telegraph key. “Clever,” Artie murmured. “I guess I know Morse code?”
“You do. Or did.” As if on signal, the key clattered. “See if you can read this as it comes in.” Jim sat down, tapped out the greeting, and took a pad of paper to record the message. He did not look up until he acknowledged receipt. “Well?”
“Yeah… it’s an odd feeling, but I can understand. Someone named Harper wants to contact Colonel Richmond confidentially.”
“That’s Frank Harper, another agent. We sometimes work with him.” Jim stood up. “I’ll tell the colonel back in town and he’ll come out here to contact Frank. One of the crew will have to send it for him if I’m not here, I guess. The colonel is not too deft where the code or the telegraph key is concerned.”
Artie frowned as he stared down at the still visible key. “But we know the code… because of the war?”
“Exactly. When we were on assignment, it was sometimes necessary to tap into wires to send messages.”
Now Artemus rubbed his forehead. “It’s still like you’re talking about someone else, Jim. I’m sorry.”
Jim patted his friend’s shoulder. “I’m not giving up yet. Come on.”
They toured the train, from the galley to the lab car. Jim opened the door to Artie’s compartment and allowed him to step inside. The now recognizable expression remained on Artemus's face: nothing was familiar to him. He picked up the framed picture on the small stand beside the bed.
“Is this… Lily?”
“That’s Lily Fortune. A childhood friend you reconnected with and plan to marry.”
“I guess I’m a lucky man. She’s beautiful.” Artie sighed noisily.
“She is indeed. Beautiful, intelligent, courageous. She even helped on a couple of cases.”
Artemus continued to gaze at the picture of the smiling woman, noting the signature with the affectionate note on one corner. Nothing. She could be anyone I saw on the street or encountered at a party. Yet the smile, the note, tells me that Jim is right. She loves me. My God, what if I can’t remember her!
Jim saw the troubled expression enter Artie’s brown eyes and put a hand on his arm. “You all right?”
“Yeah.” Artie sighed. “Just… wondering what’s going to become of me.”
The grip on his arm tightened. “You’re going to regain your memory and your life. I promise.” Jim let his hand drop. “Let’s go see some more of the train.”
As they stepped out into the passageway, Artie asked, “What about you? Are you married?”
Jim laughed. “No. I’m not the marrying kind.”
“Not even a sweetheart?”
Artie followed him to the next car, thinking about what he had just seen and heard. Jim had quickly turned away when asked about a sweetheart, and the negative word was terse, even taut. I should know why. Something in that question caused him pain. In my… other life, I would know. Of all the revelations thus far, this one caused a deep sadness in Artemus Gordon. Jim West was his best friend. Several persons, including Colonel Richmond, had passed on that information to him. And now I don’t know any better than to ask a stupid, hurtful question!
Artie displayed particular interest in the laboratory, yet nothing was familiar to him. Jim could see that Artemus was almost as disappointed as he was, so he was careful with what he said, staying as positive as he could. Leaving the train, they made their way across the rail yard to an area where stock waited to be shipped, where their two horses were kept while their owners were busy in the city.
The big chestnut came up to Artie immediately. “She wants something,” Artie said, frowning as she snuffled at his hand.
Jim grinned and reached inside his coat for a couple of lumps of sugar that he had picked up in the galley. “This is what she’s looking for.”
Artie fed the sweet to the mare, and eyed the shiny black that was prancing about nearby. “I take it that one is yours.”
“Yeah. He’s not going to beg.” Jim produced half an apple and held it out, whereby the stallion immediately approached the fence to delicately take it from his hand.
Laughing, the two men left the corral and made their way to the railroad station. All the way along workers waved and called out to them.
“I guess we’re well known here,” Artie commented as a waved back to a man who called him by name.
“I’d say so,” Jim chuckled. “We end up in San Francisco quite often.”
They caught a hack in front of the depot and headed for the police station, where they entered Lloyd Morris’s office. The sergeant looked up hopefully, and Jim shook his head to let him know that the memory had not yet returned. “Anything on Loveless?”
“Yeah, actually. An officer remembers seeing two men near Rincon Point. He noticed them because one was very tall and the other very short.”
“When was this?”
“Close to a week ago now.”
“Rincon Point,” Jim murmured, going to the map on the wall opposite Lloyd’s desk and staring at it. The particular geographic location was near the wharves: typical spot for Loveless to take as a headquarters. Although the buildings were rundown, no doubt he had found himself a spot to furnish in comfort and luxury, as well as secrecy.
“What are you thinking, Jim?” Artie asked behind him.
Jim turned. “We’ll need Lloyd’s help.” He looked at the policeman. “Can you assign some men—or even volunteers—in civilian garb to loiter or stroll through that area to watch for one of the three? They have to emerge at some point, to get food or other supplies.”
Morris was nodding. “I know quite a few officers who were pretty irate that Dennis Clegg got off again. Even if finding Loveless and proving he did something to Artemus won’t hang Clegg, it might slow him and his father down.”
“Kidnapping and conspiracy, for a start,” Artie said.
Jim quickly caught Lloyd’s glance to warn him visually not to comment. Artie’s remark sounded indeed as though he was remembering the rules of law he had learned while working as a federal agent. They had sat in on many trials, most of which they were official witnesses, but occasionally out of support for the arresting agent. Artie liked to say they were getting a free education in the legal system.
“Thanks, Lloyd,” Jim said then. “I think I’ll go take a look around down there as well.”
“You mean we will take a look around,” Artie amended. “I’m perfectly well, Jim. Except for my memory, of course.”
“Do you think that’s wise?” Morris asked, getting to his feet. “If Loveless sees you…”
“It might make him nervous,” Jim replied. “You know as well as we do, Lloyd, that nervous criminals often make mistakes.”
“They also make desperate moves!” the policeman retorted.
By our remembrances of days foregone.
—All’s Well that Ends Well (Act 1, scene 3), William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English dramatist and poet
“Tell me more about Dr. Loveless,” Artie urged as they settled into the hack after giving the driver instructions.
“He’s an amazing man. I don't know how many degrees he has, but among them is at least one Ph.D. In some areas, I believe he may be self-educated, learning through reading and doing. He has created numerous weapons of destruction, including powerful explosives, and mind-altering drugs that could cause mayhem if released to the public. Perhaps his most amazing creations were the paintings.”
Jim went on to describe how both of them had traveled to another dimension through paintings created by Loveless. Artie listened open mouthed, finally shaking his head as Jim concluded. “I have no doubt he will rebuild that mechanism again, or another new one we have not seen yet. Perhaps that’s why he might need funds. We have not had any information lately that he might have been involved in a robbery.”
“Incredible,” Artemus murmured. “To think, we’ve been able to stop him!”
“So far,” Jim sighed. “Every time, it’s an extremely difficult and dangerous task, and becoming more so because of Loveless’s hatred. He wants us dead, certain that if we were out of the way, he could succeed with one of his insane plots. Yet….”
“Artie, sometimes I think he enjoys tangling with us. He has mentioned a couple of times about the ‘game’ he wants us to play. We have to cooperate and try to stop him, which of course is our purpose. But I often wonder if he deliberately makes missteps to allow us to escape his clutches, so that a new game can begin.”
“What about you?”
Artie leaned forward in the seat, elbows on his knees. “I see something in you, Jim, when you talk about Loveless. Do you like the game as well?”
Jim looked out the window of the hack for a long moment before turning his attention back to Artie. “I once wondered aloud, to you, whether it was true that hate is as strong a bond as love. We thought he had drowned in a pond, and I suddenly realized I would miss him. In many ways, he is a very compelling man. The real tragedy is that he turned his talents to the wrong side. The good he could have done for mankind…” Again his gaze shifted to the passing scenery beyond the window.
Artie, in turn, gazed at the man sitting across from him in the hack. What a complex man! And somehow I became his best friend. What kind of man am I that he should care for me? His fists unconsciously tightened. If it is true that this Dr. Loveless is the cause of my condition, I certainly have a reason to hate him. Apparently my only salvation is this selfsame doctor, if indeed he has created an antidote…
Jim brought his attention back inside the coach, aware that his thoughts had been drifting miles and years away. “Yes?”
“Do you think… if Loveless created my amnesia… will he have a cure?”
Jim sighed heavily. “All I know is that in previous instances, such as the one I told you about where he was able to reduce humans in size, he had an antidote. I am not sure if that is because he fears an error by which he might become infected by his own creations, or only to confirm his own genius, that he can kill or cure.”
“Or perhaps to sell to someone who has been infected.”
The halting of the coach cut off further conversation. Jim had instructed the driver to stop a couple of blocks away from the region they wanted to investigate. Climbing out, he paid the driver and they stepped to the sidewalk. This particular neighborhood was only slightly more respectable and prosperous than the one where Loveless had been spied.
They stood on the walkway looking around for a few moments, then Jim turned to start walking, but Artie caught his arm. “Jim, this Rincon Point area, do they have stores?” He was looking at a hardware store across the way.
Jim paused and glanced around. “No. Only saloons and a couple of whorehouses, along with some warehouses and a ship chandler or two. Good thinking. This is where they would likely come for food and other supplies. Let’s go ask some questions.”
They walked across to the hardware store, where the clerk did not recognize the descriptions given him of a very tall man, a very short man, or a lovely dark-haired woman. The same responses came from the employees of the next two establishments. The fourth was a grocery store, where a Mexican man stood behind the counter.
“Buenas dias, senores!”
“¿Habla usted inglés?” Jim asked.
“No señor. Lo siento.”
Jim grimaced slightly. He understood Spanish better than he spoke it. But before he could say anything further, Artemus began speaking in the clerk’s native language. Jim remained silent, barely holding back his grin. It had not occurred to him that Artie would retain his knowledge of language. He understood enough as the conversation proceeded to realize that the storekeeper had indeed seen a lovely dark-haired woman with a charming smile.
When the conversation ended, Jim bought some cigars, refusing the change from the large bill he handed over. He and Artemus stepped outside. “So Antoinette has been here.”
“Yes. She comes almost every evening just before closing time—which is at nine—to buy some food items, apparently for the next day. Jim, I speak Spanish!”
Jim chuckled. “You also speak fluent Russian, German, Italian, French…”
“Perhaps the amazing thing is that you remembered your Spanish now.”
“Yeah.” Artemus was silent a moment. “It just came out naturally. I understood what he said, and I knew how to answer him.”
“I’m not sure what it means,” Jim mused. He pulled out his pocket watch. “It’s barely two o’clock.”
“And I’m hungry.”
“Of course,” Jim grinned. “We have no idea where Loveless is holed up, but if we come back later tonight, we may be able to follow Antoinette.”
“Good idea. Where can we get something to eat around here?”
“I don't think you want to eat in any of these establishments, Artie. Let’s walk toward town and find a cab. We can have some lunch, then go talk to Lloyd Morris.”
“What about the colonel?” Artie asked as they began walking.
“He’s in the same hotel as we are. We can stop in after lunch, and if he’s there, deliver the message as well as bring him up to date.”
After about three blocks, they encountered an empty cab and hailed it, directing the driver to a midtown restaurant. Inside, they sat across from each other. They spoke a few minutes about the possibility of locating Loveless, and then fell silent. Jim noticed that his partner’s visage grew more and more somber with whatever he was thinking.
“What’s on your mind?”
Artemus jerked his head up. “What?”
“Obviously something not very pleasant. I can only assume you are wondering what will happen if you don’t regain your memory. I recall having similar thoughts.”
Artie sighed. “I just—can I be an effective Secret Service agent if I don’t get back to… normal?”
“I for one am perfectly willing to give you that chance.”
Artie smiled briefly then grimaced. “What about the colonel? And other higher ups?”
“I can’t answer for them. My advice is to not stew about it too much. We’re going to find Loveless and learn what he did to cause your amnesia.”
“Force him to fix it.”
Artie cocked his head. “From what you’ve told me about him, I get the idea he is not easily coerced.”
Now Jim’s countenance became grim. “He’ll come up with the answers on this one. I promise.”
Sweet is revenge—especially to women.
—Don Juan (canto I, st. 124), Lord Byron (George Gordon Noel Byron; 1788-1824), English poet
Artie was pleased to be told by Jim—and one of the waiters—that the Hangtown Fry he had ordered at Tadich’s Grill was one of his favorite meals, something he ordered at every possible opportunity when they spent time in San Francisco. “I obviously have good taste,” he grinned as Jim dug into the steak he had ordered. “A beautiful fiancée, and this magnificent dish.” His smile faded. “I’d like both better if I could remember them.”
Jim wished he could assure his friend with one hundred percent of honesty that his memory would be returning. So much depended on finding Loveless’s lair… and then ascertaining if their suspicions were correct. A slight possibility existed that the sightings reported were not Loveless, Voltaire, and Antoinette at all, but Jim refused to dwell on that. For three people matching those descriptions to be spotted in a particular location seemed to place the odds in the favor of them being the three fugitives.
Finishing the meal, they walked to their hotel, just a few blocks away, where a message awaited them from Colonel Richmond. He had been called back to Washington on an urgent matter, and had caught the next train heading east. He urged them to keep him posted on developments.
“He’ll get Harper’s message eventually. This might make it somewhat easier,” Jim commented as they mounted the stairs. “With the colonel here, I would have felt compelled to let him in on plans—at least portions of them.”
“James!” Artie paused as they gained the second floor passageway. “Are you insinuating that we sometimes go against the book?” His eyes were wide, but with an amused glint in the brown depths.
Jim grinned. “Sometimes. And sometimes the colonel turns his gaze the other way—but not always.”
Entering their adjoining rooms, and knowing the remainder of the day could be strenuous, and long, they lay down on their beds to relax a while. Jim had just dozed off when a rap sounded on his door. Cautious as ever, he pulled the small pistol from the inside of his jacket where he had placed it on the chair, and approached the door. Opening it with the gun held behind him, he was startled to find a woman standing in the hall.
She was heavily veiled, and wearing a light cloak that disguised almost all but her height, which revealed her to be a rather petite woman. “Mr. West?”
“Yes. Can I help you?” Jim was still on his guard.
A gloved hand emerged from inside the cloak bearing a rather thick envelope. “This is for you.”
Jim accepted it, glancing to see that no name was written on the outside. “What is it? Who is it from?”
Without speaking, the woman turned and walked toward the stairway. Jim moved out slightly to watch her and to look both directions. No one else was in sight. Stepping back, he closed the door. Artie was in the adjoining doorway, a gun in hand.
“Don’t know yet.” Jim put the pistol on the bed and carefully opened the envelope, extracting a number of folded papers. Glancing at the first one, he muttered an amazed, “Damn!” and handed it to Artie.
“Loveless? Is this his handwriting?”
“It certainly is! Now I know who the woman was.”
“Olivia Clegg, Bart’s daughter-in-law… Dennis’s wife.”
Artie looked down at the paper he held, which was a letter, handwritten, stating a price for “performing requested services.” “Why would she turn these over to you?”
Jim had been leafing through the letters, which were all apparently responses from Loveless to correspondence from Bartholomew Clegg, clarifying the “job” to be done, assuring Clegg that the system was foolproof, and making arrangements for payment. At no time was the name of Artemus Gordon mentioned, but it had to have been in the letters Clegg wrote to the doctor.
“From what I’ve heard, Olivia hates both of them. Her father was in desperate financial shape and accepted payment for his daughter. Since the birth of her son, she’s pretty much been the little boy’s nursemaid and nothing else in the household, remaining at Bart’s orders because he wants to put on a show that his son is happily—and respectably—married.”
Artie handed the letter back. “Are there names named?”
“Only Loveless and Clegg. I’m not sure if they’d be enough to gain any convictions. But they certainly can put a dent in Clegg’s reputation! I think we should take these to the police department and ask Lloyd to lock them up.”
James: Thanks, Artie.
Artemus: "Thanks Artie"! Is that all you can say to me? I've just come back from the grave, risen like Lazarus, and that's what you say? "Thanks, Artie"?
James: Thanks, Artie.
Artemus: It's a pleasure.
- TNOT Pistoleros
SS senior field agent
Posted - 07/17/2012 : 09:54:57
Lloyd Morris was as astonished as they had been when he leafed through the letters. “My God! It looks like Clegg started planning this a few days after Dennis was arrested for the murder. I wonder how he knew where to contact Loveless.”
Jim shook his head. “That’s hard to say. Difficult to believe Loveless would consider Clegg a friend. He usually despises such venal men.”
“But he doesn’t say no to the money,” Artie put in.
“Exactly,” Jim nodded thoughtfully. “Loveless might actually be low on funds, as we speculated before.”
Morris went to open a safe in the corner of his office. “You know, I had heard once that Clegg held onto every piece of correspondence he ever received. I found that hard to believe, because some could be telling evidence if it ever got out of his hands. But this seems to indicate the rumor could be true.”
“Some men are that arrogant,” Jim said. “He probably feels he is untouchable by the law. And perhaps he hoped to use the letters against Loveless one day—although he might be biting off more than he could ever hope to chew if he tried that!”
“Olivia Clegg must be pretty desperate,” Morris said, slamming the safe’s door shut and spinning the dial. “If Bart or Dennis ever realizes she took them…”
“Which is a very good reason to get this business taken care of as soon as possible,” Artie said. “If I can get my memory back, perhaps I know who kidnapped me.”
“And if they can be traced to Clegg…” Lloyd nodded. “What are your plans?”
For the next two hours, the three men discussed their strategy for the upcoming night. Morris spent some time talking to other officers to arrange for their participation in the venture. By the time Jim and Artie departed, they had matters organized as well as could be done without yet knowing, first, whether the woman reported to have visited the store was actually Antoinette, and second, if they would be able to trail her to Loveless’s current lair.
“Now all we need is Antoinette’s cooperation,” Jim commented as they left the building.
“The storekeeper said she came every evening,” Artie responded. They were heading for their hotel again, with time to kill before the evening’s foray. “I presume she picks up items for the next day’s meals. If this Voltaire is as large as you claim, I expect keeping enough food on hand is quite a chore.”
“He’s big all right,” Jim nodded. “And extremely strong. He’s also very loyal to Loveless, as is Antoinette.”
“What a trio they must make,” Artie mused. “Any idea how they came to be together?”
“Not much. We’ve never been able to locate surnames for either Antoinette or Voltaire, and very little is known of Loveless’s background. He has several legitimate university degrees, but the records of the schools don’t show much beyond the awarding of the degrees. One professor we talked to remembered Loveless, and said that he had merely taken the examinations required. Which would not surprise me. His brilliance is beyond compare.”
“What caused him to be a criminal?”
Jim shook his head. “Another mystery. He’s very bitter about his own physical status, as well as that claim that the state of California stole land that belonged to his grandmother. It’s a shame because that genius of his could have benefited mankind. He has published in science journals, but I have no doubt he knows a lot more than he has made public. Of course, he has also been ridiculed for some of his notions.”
The cab halted in front of the hotel, and both men climbed out. Jim handed the driver his fare, then they entered through the doors. Jim put a hand on Artie’s arm. “That’s Dennis Clegg. The blond one.”
Several men were in a raucous conversation near the door that led to the hotel’s restaurant. Artie glanced their way a couple of times as he followed Jim to the hotel’s desk, half hoping that finally seeing the man he saw leaving a murder scene might do something to prompt his memory. Nothing happened. Clegg was as complete a stranger as his companions, who were brawny men, looking out of place in a hotel this fine, as well as in the business suits they wore.
At the desk Henry handed Jim their keys, casting a meaningful glance toward the group. “They’ve been hanging around for better than an hour. I suspect they mean trouble, Mr. West.”
“You could be right, Henry,” Jim replied with a smile as he and Artie headed for the stairway.
They had not crossed half of the distance when Clegg and his friends strode toward them. “Well, look-it here! He came out of hiding! Guess you knew you wouldn’t get away with lyin’ about me, eh, Gordon?”
Artie saw the dark bruise on Dennis Clegg’s jaw, a souvenir of yesterday’s encounter with Jim. “You and I both know what really happened, Clegg.”
For just one moment Clegg’s bloodshot eyes narrowed. Jim stood by, waiting and wary. Clegg was trying to figure out just exactly what Artemus meant. Very likely, considering the lateness of the afternoon, Clegg and his friends had spent some time in the restaurant bar, or one in the neighborhood.
Clegg hitched up his trousers. “The truth is you were going to lie about me in court, Gordon. I don’t like that. Good thing your yellow nature got the best of you and you hid out.”
“Only time will reveal the truth,” Artie said, in that even voice. He could see that his demeanor puzzled Clegg. No doubt he had spoken less insulting words to his bar cronies and got a fight started easily. “Let’s go, Jim.”
Clegg grabbed his arm. “Wait a minute! I ain’t through with you, Gordon!”
“Yes, you are,” Jim snapped, swinging his arm so that it came up under Clegg’s, slamming bone against bone and forcing Clegg to release Artie, with a cry of pain.
One of the bigger men reached inside his coat, but Artie was faster, bringing out the pistol he had donned during their earlier time at the hotel. “That’s enough, gentlemen. This is a respectable establishment. If you want to brawl, the Barbary Coast is the place for you.”
Jim barely bit back a grin as he watched the men reluctantly head for the front door, casting dark glances behind them. Loveless—or someone—may have stolen Artie’s memory, but he’s still Artie!
Artemus looked down at the pistol he still held, and then rather sheepishly at Jim. “That just kind of happened.”
Jim clapped him on the shoulder. “If you hadn’t, I would have. Those boys weren’t going to listen to anything else.” They headed for the stairs again. “Pretty obvious that they came here looking for trouble.”
“And we obliged by returning to the hotel.”
“Artie, it’s not our habit to avoid trouble.”
“Not your habit,” Artie grinned. “I’m not so sure about me!”
Night is a stealthy, evil Raven,
Wrapt to the eyes in his black wings.
—Day and Night, Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907), America poet, novelist, and essayist
Dense, low fog had rolled in with the setting of the sun, both a blessing and a curse as far as Jim was concerned. The fog would make it easier for him and Artie to stay out of sight if indeed they espied Antoinette and followed her to Loveless’s lair. However, the same advantage could hold for Antoinette. They might have to stay closer than they normally would in order not to lose her.
After checking in once more with Lloyd Morris, the agents took a cab, from which they disembarked a good six blocks from the store where Antoinette was said to do her marketing. With no saloons in this area, the streets were quiet, only a few people hurrying along to take care of business somewhere. Neither man spoke as they walked briskly themselves toward their destination.
Artemus glanced at the man alongside him a couple of times. I know we have done this many times, setting out together to trap a criminal. If only I could remember. I’m afraid I’m going to fail Jim at the crucial moment because I won’t know what to do! Yet, he remembered the moment in the hotel lobby a few hours ago when he automatically drew his pistol at the right moment to stop further problems. Perhaps any man would have done that, not just a Secret Service agent. Nevertheless, it felt very natural, the proper thing to do at that time—and not rare. I’ve held that pistol many times, along with other guns. The initialed six-gun in the hand-tooled gun belt and holster that is in my hotel room also feels quite at home in my hand.
How strange it was to know—and yet not know—that he had led such a life. Jim, Sergeant Morris, and Colonel Richmond had told him quite a bit about his past. Even the nurse in the hospital had been able to tell him about a scar on his arm; she had been the one to tend to the original wound a couple of years earlier.
Yet, none of it means anything to me. They are talking about a stranger. Nevertheless, Artie knew that deep inside him, he wanted to help James West, and not merely because they were seeking the man who may have caused his loss of memory. This man means something to me—and I can tell he cares about me. We are friends. Artemus had felt that almost from the moment James West entered the hospital room and spoke to him.
Jim paused, realizing that Artie had stopped in his tracks. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m—do you think you should get someone else to help you tonight?”
Jim smiled. “Artie, this is all set up. All you have to do is go get Lloyd and his men. With twenty or thirty police officers surrounding Loveless’s headquarters, wherever it is, we should have no trouble. And even if we did have trouble, I would want no one other than you at my side—with or without your memory.”
They had noticed an alley on the opposite side of the street from the store, so they stepped into the deeper darkness of that alley, and waited. After about twenty minutes, Jim murmured, “There she is.”
“That’s her?” Artie peered at the slender woman who had just entered the illumination of the street lamp outside the store.
“That’s her. That’s Antoinette. Sure hope that clerk doesn’t blab.”
“I warned him.”
They watched and waited. Antoinette entered the market, and they could dimly see her through the fog and the not exactly sparkling windows of the store, as she moved about putting items in her basket. After a few minutes, she went to the counter and closed the transaction, then headed for the front door.
Antoinette paused on the front porch of the store to pull the hood of her cloak over her head then walked rapidly in the direction from which she had originally come. West and Gordon waited until she was about half a block along and then headed out after her, walking as carefully as they could, aware of how loud their boot heels could be striking the sidewalk.
“Too bad we didn’t don moccasins,” Artie muttered.
Jim chuckled softly but did not respond, his attention on the shadowy figure moving ahead of them. The fog swirled, thicker in some spots than others. The street lamps were few and far between in this area. No other people were out and about now, or if they were, they remained silently in the dark shadows. Jim was alert to the possibility of an ambush, and thought his companion was as well. Artie’s instincts were there, if his memory was not.
About three blocks from the store, Antoinette paused alongside what appeared to be an old, rather small warehouse that abutted one of the old piers in this area. A nearby buoy was clanging out in the bay. She rapped on the door and after a few seconds it was opened. Momentarily, light flooded the area, and Jim saw the small form of the man who had opened the door.
“Is that Loveless?” Artie whispered.
“That’s him.” Jim turned and walked back down the street, where he stepped into an alley, Artie following. “I’ll stay here and watch. You go fetch Lloyd and his men.”
“I don’t know, Jim…”
Jim looked around, surprised. “Artie, that was the plan we arranged.”
“I know, but—Jim, I just don't think you should be here alone. Come with me and we’ll come back together with the police squad.”
Jim shook his head, puzzled. “No. We have no idea what’s going on in there. They might be packing up to leave. If that happens before you get back. I’ll be able to follow them. Now beat it!”
Reluctantly, Artemus nodded, and headed back the direction they had come from. He did not understand the sense of foreboding he was feeling. Was it something Artemus Gordon experienced before? No one had mentioned such a thing to him. However, he had been a part of the planning, and he knew—and had approved—what had been laid out. The idea was that Morris’s men would surround whatever building Loveless was in, making it impossible for him to escape.
He quickened his steps. The sooner I get back here with those policemen, the better!
There is philosophy in the remark that every man has in his own life follies enough, in the performance of his duty deficiencies enough, in his own mind trouble enough, without being curious after the affairs of others.
—Charles Dibdin (1745-1814), English bard, actor, dramatist, and songwriter
Jim crouched in the alley in a position where he could see the door and front of the building Antoinette had entered. A little further down from the door was a window, shuttered, but with gaps through which light emitted. Occasionally he thought he saw a shadow pass inside, blocking the light momentarily. The movement was often enough to pique his interest.
Something is going on, he mused. Could they be packing up to depart? In the meeting with Morris, they had decided that at least a half an hour was going to be needed to get the police in position, possibly longer if Antoinette led them any distance from the store. He thought the original estimate was about right. But if Loveless leaves any time soon, we might lose him in this fog, particularly with his history of being able to vanish!
With that thought, he rose and walked swiftly toward the small building, keeping to the shadows. Upon reaching the building wall, he paused and waited a few seconds, listening and watching. When nothing occurred to indicate he had been noticed, Jim moved quietly toward that window. As he had guessed from a distance, the biggest crack in the shutters was a little more than a half-inch wide, and he pressed his face against it to peer inside.
The sharp odor assailed his nostrils almost instantly, and he spun away. Too late, however. He felt the sidewalk tipping under his feet, and then his legs seemed to turn to jelly as blackness closed it. He did not feel the slam of the hard walkway against his body.
This is stupid!
Artemus Gordon peered around in the thick, swirling fog. Maybe he could blame it on his amnesia, but whatever, he was lost, disoriented in the heavy mist. He had studied the map in Lloyd Morris’s office, had—he thought—memorized the street names. But now, just three blocks from where he had departed from Jim West, nothing looked right. The street sign was not the one he thought he should see.
Where did I go wrong? He had not even passed the grocery store again. Antoinette had made one turn… I think. With a sigh, Artie turned and headed back to where he left his partner. At least I think I can find him. Jim is never going to let me live this down! He smiled wryly and shook his head as he turned to head back to where Jim was waiting. That’s a strange thought to have. I guess we have a relationship where we like to gibe each other.
Walking briskly, he reached the corner of the street where he knew the alley was located, paused and peeked around to make certain no one was in sight. Artie gasped audibly at what he saw down the way at the old building. The door was standing open, and he could see the silhouette of the small man against the light behind him. Loveless was peering out and saying something, although Artie could not catch the words.
What Loveless was watching was the largest man Artie had ever seen—at least since awakening on the pier a few days ago—who was lifting a limp form into his massive arms. Jim! Jim West was unconscious as Voltaire carried him as an ordinary man might a child. What the hell happened?
Artie’s first inclination was to draw his gun and run toward the building. He knew instantly however that he was too far away, and both Loveless and Voltaire could get inside before he could get near enough. He could not shoot for fear of hitting Jim. So he remained in the darkness, watching as the giant carried Jim inside and Loveless followed, closing the door.
Artie took a deep breath. Maybe at another time he would have attempted to rescue Jim alone. But this was not another time. He was not the same man. I know certain things I can do, and will do, but I also know I need some help. This time I have to find Morris and his men!
Malice is of the boomerang character, and is apt to turn upon the projector.
—William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), English novelist, satirist, and critic
“Good evening, Mr. West. How nice to have you with us again. How do you like the new anesthetic I developed?” Miguelito Loveless inquired, standing at the foot of the chair, smiling broadly.
Jim did not reply immediately. He had opened his eyes and found himself inside the rather cavernous building, with its high ceilings. He had been almost instantly alert, with none of the after effects he had experienced upon being subjected to other gases and drugs. What he realized first was that he could not move. He was in a chair that resembled a barber’s chair, one that the back could be lowered and raised. His wrists were lashed to the arms, his legs to the footrest, and another strap was secured around his upper arms and chest.
“It has a bad smell,” he said finally.
Loveless giggled. “Yes, that is something I have to work on. But it is so powerful, only one whiff is needed, as you quickly discerned. And now, you are awake, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. You see, Mr. West, I know you all too well.”
“So it seems.”
Again Loveless tittered. “I deliberately allowed myself and my companions to be seen, knowing that word would reach you eventually and bring you to me. I knew your curiosity would lead you to the window, which I had all prepared. And you complied perfectly.”
“I always aim to please.” Jim moved his limbs to discover what freedom he had under the bonds—and found he had none. They were very secure and strong. “What did you do to Artemus?”
“Ah! Another rather recent discovery. A drug that paralyzes certain areas of the brain, the regions involved with memory. Three injections are required, but the results are perfect… and permanent.”
Jim worked to keep his expression stoic. “Not exactly.”
Loveless frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I mean that Artie has certain memories, and I have no doubt he’s eventually going to regain them all.”
“Nonsense!” the little doctor glowered. “I’ve tested and re-tested the serum on animals and humans. The amnesia is permanent. The only release is this.” He turned and stalked over to a small cabinet beside a table covered with all manner of chemical and scientific paraphernalia, opening a door and turning with a vial about three inches tall in his hand. The vial contained a deep yellow liquid. “This is the antidote, Mr. West. You know I always challenge myself to prepare the antidote to any of my discoveries.”
And we counted on it. “Nevertheless, Artemus has regained certain memories.”
“Oh, I’m not going to tell you.”
Loveless had put the vial back in the cabinet. “Because they didn’t happen!” He stared hard at Jim.
“Yes, they happened. But if I tell you, it might give you an opportunity to perfect your serum further, and I don’t want that.”
Loveless came towards him again. “How is Mr. Gordon? Still in the hospital, I presume.”
Jim found it difficult to keep the surprise from his face, so he created another fib. “No, he’s been released from the hospital, but is resting in his hotel room. Doctor’s orders.” I’m amazed he is unaware that Artie has been out and about! He decided to change the subject. “I assume Clegg paid you well for your services.”
An expression of distaste crossed the doctor’s features. “He did. Believe me, had I not been short of funds, I never would have considered dealing with such a… a creature!”
“O, how the mighty have fallen.”
Loveless sniffed. “It’s temporary, I assure you. I have plans. Before long I will no longer have monetary difficulties, and never will again.”
“Oh? You discovered a diamond mine?”
Loveless snickered. “You could say that. I would love to give you the details, Mr. West, but I have no doubt that someone—if not Mr. Gordon, then the San Francisco police—know where you are. So we must hasten along. I imagine you are interested in what is in store for you.”
“I have given a great deal of thought to your fate, Mr. West. My first inclination, of course, was to administer the amnesia drug, so that both you and Mr. Gordon would be lost to the Secret Service—at least all your memories of your past exploits. But upon consideration, I realize that would be most unsatisfactory. It’s only fair that at least one of you remember the unjust treatment you have given me over the last few years, preventing me from carrying out my plans to improve this world.
“Thus I have decided on a simple surgical procedure. I will destroy your optical and auditory nerves, leaving you deaf and blind. But your mind will be intact. You will have hours… days… years to remember all the sins you committed against me. Remember and regret…”
Loveless was watching him closely, looking for a reaction, and Jim strove to retain his impassive demeanor against the chill he experienced, forcing his hands, which wanted to curl in to tense fists as he listened, to relax. “That does sound interesting.”
The doctor’s eyes narrowed. “You don’t fool me, Mr. West. I know you are not the man of stone as you attempt to portray. You cannot look upon living the remainder of your years as a near helpless invalid with equanimity!”
“I don’t seem to have a choice.” The only hope was that Artie was able to reach Morris and bring the cadre of officers. Jim had no idea how long he had been unconscious. Had enough time elapsed for the maneuver to occur? Even if the police demanded Loveless’s surrender, he now had a very valuable hostage…
“No, you do not have a choice!” the doctor snarled. “Antoinette will assist me. The procedure will be quick. We shall leave you here to be found by whomever you told where you were going tonight. Another surgeon can take care of your…”
The sudden knock on the door surprised Loveless. He spun around, stared at the door a few seconds, then called out to Antoinette and Voltaire, who emerged through a door on the far wall. Jim had not really noticed that door; perhaps they had set up living quarters there. The interior of this room appeared to be primarily Loveless’s laboratory.
“Antoinette, answer it and send whoever it is away. Voltaire, stand beside the door… just in case!” He turned to face Jim, pulling a small pistol from inside his coat. “Not a peep from you, Mr. West, or both you and whoever is knocking will be dead.”
Jim waited, somewhat puzzled. In none of the plans had it been decided that anyone would rap on the door. The idea was for the police to surround the building and then someone—himself, Artie, or Morris—would use a megaphone to warn Loveless to surrender. Of course, nothing in the plan had called for Jim West to be captured!
Antoinette opened the door and before she could speak an insistent older man’s voice was heard. “Where’s Snake-eyed Charlie, Missy? I gotta talk to him right away.”
“No one here goes by that name. I’m afraid you have the wrong house.” Jim could not see who was at the door but he did see Antoinette start to push the door shut, only to have a hand clad in a ragged glove halt its movement.
“No, siree, young lady! I know he’s here! He ain’t a-gonna get out of paying me this time! Where is he?”
Antoinette stumbled back slightly as the visitor pushed his way in. Jim saw an old man with dirty gray hair, and equally soiled and ragged garb, an uncut mustache and beard covering most of the lower half of his face. A battered hat with a lifeless brim sagged down over his forehead. Only his eyes were partially visible. Brown eyes.
Jim was relieved, puzzled… and angry. What’s going on? Artie, what the devil are you doing?
“Sir!” Stuffing his pistol in his pocket, Loveless strode forward to stop the old man. “How dare you barge into a private residence?”
“Private residence, eh, sonny? This here is Snake-eyed Charlie’s den. I been here more than once. Where is he? What’re you doing here? What’s going on with that fella?” He pointed to Jim, secured in the chair. Voltaire moved to hover over the intruder, waiting for a signal from his master.
Loveless was obviously striving to keep his patience, not wanting to cause an uproar that might attract anyone else passing by. “I am a doctor. That young man is my patient. Now you are very mistaken. If this was once your friend’s home…”
“Friend! Snake-eyed Charlie ain’t nobody’s friend! Why, he owes me twenty cucumbers and I want it right now!”
Loveless blinked. “Twenty cucumbers?”
“Cabbage! Clams! Legal tender! Whatsa matter, little fellow, you been hiding your head in a barrel all yer life?” Artie moved further into the room, staring around. “What did you do with alla Charlie’s stuff? He’s gonna kill you if you lost his collection of girlie pictures.” He paused by Jim and looked at him. “You getting’ yourself cut up, sonny? Seems to me this ain’t a good place. I don’t ‘bide much by horse-pitals, but sure seems like it would be better to have some pretty nurses around! Hee-hee-hee!”
“Old man!” Loveless all but shouted. “You must get out of here! You are in the wrong place. I rented this building. Your fr… acquaintance must be elsewhere.”
“Not likely,” Artie said, straightening his hunched body and producing a pistol from his own pocket. “Now the three of you just stay put. You all right, Jim?”
“Yeah. Just get me out of here.”
“Gordon!” Loveless screeched. “It can’t be you!”
Artie pulled the beard off and then the hat and wig. “It’s me, doctor. You’re looking well. And Antoinette, as lovely as ever.” She had closed the door and now stood alongside Voltaire, both gaping.
“You—you don’t remember us!” Loveless cried.
“Of course, I do, doctor. You are unforgettable.” Artie glanced around quickly and spotted a scalpel on a small table. He picked it up and *****ed the leather confining Jim’s right wrist. He then put the scalpel in Jim’s hand. “Now, everyone remain where you are. I’m going to open the door and summon my friends, the police.”
He took one step toward the door, as Jim began to cut the strap on his left wrist. Artie kept his eyes on the trio, who were standing about five feet apart now, with Antoinette and Voltaire still side by side. Loveless seemed frozen, by rage or surprise or both. But suddenly, as Artie started his second step, Loveless moved. Seizing a small glass bottle from a table next to him, he hurled it to the floor. Immediately flames shot up from the floor.
“Come on, come on!” Loveless yelled and ran toward the back of the warehouse, toward the door on that far wall.
“Get them, Artie!” Jim urged as he leaned forward to cut his final bonds, the strap around his legs. The fire was small, and appeared to be exhausting its own fuel almost immediately, not igniting the wooden floor under it. Nevertheless, it created a distraction and a momentary barrier.
Artie evaded the flames and sprinted across the room. He grabbed the door handle and jerked. It was locked. A moment later, Jim joined him, after throwing a blanket he found nearby over the dying flames. He pulled his picklock from his lapel, and knelt by the door.
“I’ll go warn Morris,” Artie said, laying the pistol on the floor beside Jim before he turned back toward the outer door.
The door lock yielded easily. Jim grabbed the pistol and jerked the door open, stepping inside warily. As he had suspected, this room was living quarters. A table, a few chairs and a small stove were at one side. The opposite held beds with crude curtains separating them. Very primitive quarters for Loveless’s tastes. The thought flitted through his mind as he glanced around. Other than the furnishings, the room was empty.
“Where are they?” Lloyd Morris asked as he and Artie came to the door of the room.
Jim turned, anger on his face. “They couldn’t have gone out those windows.” He waved the pistol toward three small windows that were near the ceiling, and much too small for anyone, particularly the size of Voltaire, to squeeze through.
“I’ll get my men alerted,” Morris said. “We’ve got the place surrounded. They can’t get out.”
“Want to bet?” Jim muttered.
He and Artemus spent the next ten minutes inspecting the walls and floor of the room. Finally, Artie found a small indentation in the floor. When he inserted his finger in it, he was able to lift a trap door, a door invisible otherwise. Jim stepped over to look down at the water from the bay that was sloshing against a rock wall underneath.
He expelled a loud breath. “They had a boat down there. Lord knows where they are by now.” He knew they could have easily slipped out into the bay without being seen by the police.
“If the big fellow is rowing, they are traveling rapidly too,” Artie murmured. He looked at Jim. “I guess that’s it.”
Jim frowned. “What?”
Artie touched his head with one finger. “My memory. It stays gone.”
Jim did not reply immediately, striding out into the open area again, Artie following. Jim glanced back. “You did a pretty good job of pretending you had your memory. Fooled Loveless.”
“Well, you did say I was an actor. Maybe I can go back to that profession.”
“Maybe.” Jim opened the small cupboard and brought out the small vial with the yellow liquid.
“Loveless indicated it was the antidote to the amnesia.”
Artie’s face lit up. “Yeah? Let’s get at it then!” He started pulling off his tattered coat.
“Where did you get your disguise?” Jim asked, his fist closing around the bottle. “How did you know I was inside here?”
“Well, I will shamefacedly admit that I got lost on my first try to go get Morris. I came back to ask you directions again—and saw Voltaire carrying you inside. So I headed out again, and this time I was able to find a man on the street who pointed me right. When I found Morris and told him what happened, we decided I should enter in disguise to distract Loveless. An old derelict was wandering on the street nearby and I traded my fine wine-colored suit for this charming outfit. The mother of one of the cops has a wig-making shop a few blocks from where we were, and I sent him to get the hair. Why are you stalling?”
Jim grimaced. Amnesia or not, Artie could still read him. He opened his hand to display the bottle. “Artie, Loveless is very… tricky. Conniving. He told me this was the antidote, but it could be a poison.”
Now Artemus took the bottle from Jim’s hand and studied a small paper label that had been stuck to one side. “No, I think this is it, Jim. Look. ‘Am-ant’… that stands for amnesia antidote.”
“Maybe. Maybe we should get it tested.”
Artie gazed at him. “Jim, you’ve told me how brilliant Loveless is and how his discoveries are years, generations, ahead of any other scientist. Even if we had it analyzed, what would they come up with? A bunch of chemicals that mean nothing, perhaps even one that is poison in some circumstances. It’s my memory, Jim. I want it back. Now.”
Jim looked at him a long moment, then turned to open a couple of drawers on the nearby tables, coming up with a hypodermic needle. Again he hesitated. “We don't know the dosage.”
“You sure can come up with the excuses, James. Look.” He held up the bottle. “See these scoring marks? I’m willing to bet that each one measures a single dose.”
Jim nodded, feeling somewhat better but not entirely convinced. “Loveless said three doses of the amnesia-causing drug were needed, over three days.”
“That might explain why I saw him in a fog in my dream. Perhaps after one or two, everything was blurred. Here.”
Jim took the bottle from him and watched as Artie rolled up his left sleeve. As he did, Morris came in to report that, as expected, the trio had vanished. He then saw the bottle and hypodermic needle. “What’s going on?”
“We’ve got the antidote,” Artie beamed, “and Jim is going to inject me.”
“Are you sure?”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell Artie…”
“And I told you, it’s my memory, my life. I do not want to live out my days as a stranger to myself, to my friends, to the woman who loves me. If you don’t want to do the injection, Jim, I will. It’ll be awkward but…”
“No,” Jim sighed. “I’ll do it. Sit on that chair.” He indicated the one he had been secured to.
“Jim, it’s going to be all right,” Artie spoke confidently, far more confidently than he felt. Nonetheless, he knew that all his arguments were valid. Of course, I don’t remember Miguelito Loveless as well as Jim does; he knows the little maniac better than I do at this point. He could be right. But we’ll never know unless we try.
Jim carefully filled the syringe and ejected a small drop to ensure no air bubbles were in the needle. Artie placed his arm on the armrest, the crook of his elbow where the other red marks had appeared, facing up. He glanced at Lloyd Morris’s somber face then looked at his partner. He saw the assuredness and encouragement in Artie’s eyes.
Pressing the point of the sharp needle into the vein, he pushed the plunger. Almost instantly Artie drew in a deep breath, his eyes widening as if in surprise. And then he collapsed against the opposite side of the chair.
“Oh, God, no!” Jim moaned, throwing the hypodermic down and grabbing for his friend. Morris moved more quickly, seizing Artie’s wrist.
“There’s still a pulse, Jim.”
Jim eased Artie back onto the chair and placed his ear against his friend’s chest. He could immediately hear the strong, even beat of the heart. Jim let out a sigh of relief. “For whatever reason, it caused him to pass out.”
“For how long?”
Jim shook his head. “We’ll have to wait and see. Lloyd, maybe you could send a man for an ambulance…”
Even as he spoke, Artie moved, moaning lightly, his eyes fluttering. They opened and he looked around. “What’s going on, Jim?”
“Good question, Artie,” Jim replied, his fists clenched at his side. “How are you?”
Artie stared at him, eyes narrowing now. “I’m fine. I’m fine, Jim! Hi, Lloyd! How are you? How’s Betty? How’s Emmaline?”
The sergeant grinned. He had not mentioned his little daughter’s name to Artie previously. “They are fine!”
Artie slid out of the chair, grasping one of the arms for a moment, but getting his bearings quickly. “I remember, Jim. I remember everything, including what happened that night when I left the hotel.”
As Jim had learned, he had continued in the hack from the hotel of his friends to his own. Upon disembarking and paying the driver, he heard someone cry for help just as the cab drove off. He quickly realized the call was coming from the alley next to the hotel. Drawing his gun, he had cautiously entered the darkness, but almost immediately was seized from behind and disarmed, then hustled to the back of the alley where a carriage awaited.
“Three men kidnapped me,” he said, “and one of them was definitely one of the thugs I saw with Dennis Clegg earlier today.”
“That’s no surprise,” Jim growled.
Artie had been brought to this building, where he encountered Loveless. After being strapped in the chair, the thugs left. “Loveless told me exactly what he was going to do, and he also showed me that bottle of the antidote, very happily explaining that it would never be given to me. He then injected me with another serum, which caused me to pass out. From then on, everything is hazy. I remember at least one more injection, and then finally awakening on the pier in the darkness.”
“Did Loveless mention Clegg at all?” Jim asked.
“No. He said only that he was being paid very well to wipe out my memory. I recall thinking that it must have something to do with the testimony I was supposed to give, but at the time, I did not know that the men who grabbed me were connected to Clegg.” Anger crossed Artie’s handsome face. “And it worked. Dennis Clegg was acquitted. He can’t be tried again.”
“Not for that killing,” Jim nodded. “But we have those letters from Loveless to Clegg. I wonder if we can find anything else here.”
“Loveless is not known for leaving evidence around.”
“I know. But normally he doesn’t depart in such haste from a setup like this. He did not expect what happened. A search won’t do any harm.”
As they began the search, a policeman entered to inform Morris that they had covered the neighborhood for blocks in all directions with no sign of Loveless and his companions. The Navy had been alerted to watch for the rowboat. Artemus laughed as he heard that.
“Sometimes I think Loveless has also invented an invisibility serum. He won’t be found. Not in San Francisco this time.”
Jim concurred as he dug through a drawer that appeared to contain only scientific notes. The search seemed fruitless, yet it had to be done. Even if they did not find evidence to connect Loveless with Clegg, something else might be of use. Artie would be interested in the scientific notes, he was certain; whether Artie or anyone else could make sense of them remained to be seen.
About an hour after they began the search, Lloyd found a large manila envelope tacked to the under side of a chair in the living quarters. He was grinning as he brought it back to the larger room. “You’re going to love this!”
And they did. The envelope contained several letters in the handwriting of, and signed by, Bartholomew Clegg. The content was even more damning. He explicitly asked for Loveless’s assistance in preventing one Artemus Gordon from testifying in a murder trial involving his son. “‘Gordon saw my son leaving the scene, and with his credibility, I have no doubt Dennis would be convicted,’” Jim read. “‘I doubt I can buy or scare Gordon off as I was able to do with witnesses to the previous murders Dennis committed.’”
“And look at this,” Artie crowed, pointing to a letter he held. “‘I don’t want Gordon killed because it would be traced right back to me. The government would get involved, and that would not be good.’ You were right about that, Jim.”
Jim was grinning. “We might not get Dennis for murder, but we can get the old man for conspiracy!”
A man’s real possession is his memory. In nothing else is he rich, in nothing else is he poor.
—Alexander Smith (1830-1867), Scottish poet and essayist
“Dinner is served!” Artemus announced grandly as he pushed through the swinging door from the galley into the parlor car area, bearing the platter of perfectly golden roast chicken, surrounded by vegetables. Behind him, Lily Fortune followed with a tray of bowls containing other courses.
Artie put the platter in the middle of the previously prepared table and turned to look at his partner, who was standing by the desk, frowning as he stared at a sheet of paper he held. “I heard the key clicking. Bad news?”
Jim looked up then, his expression momentarily blank. “What? Oh, no. Good news. It’s from Lloyd. Dennis Clegg has been sentenced to hang. The testimony of those who came forward now that they know Bart Clegg is in prison and can’t harm them was plenty for the jury. He also says that Olivia Clegg is selling the house and other properties in and around San Francisco, returning what she can to those swindled by the Cleggs. She plans to move to the central valley. Seems she has reconnected with an old swain.”
“That is good news,” Lily smiled. “San Francisco will be so much better off without Bart Clegg!”
“Then why the frown?” Artie asked as he picked up the sharp knife and a fork to begin carving the chicken.
Jim came to the table and began to pour the wine. “I was thinking about what Loveless said, that he had a plan to reap a fortune and would never lack for funds again.”
“That could mean anything,” Artie pointed out, delicately removing a leg from the carcass. “How many times has he had foolproof plans?”
“I know,” Jim sighed. “I just can’t help but wonder and worry. The chance always exists that someday he’s going to succeed.”
“Not if we can help it!” Artie proclaimed. “Now forget about that and enjoy our meal. Be particularly grateful that I have my full memory back, including my expertise in the kitchen!”
Jim had to grin. “Yeah, that was certainly something I worried a lot about!”
“Then dig in! Don’t let it get cold.”
“I would like to propose a toast first,” Lily said, after Jim helped her be seated and he took his own chair. She lifted her glass, as did the two men. “To memory… ‘a paradise out of which fate cannot drive us.’”
“Dumas fils,” Jim murmured as he lifted his glass and drank.
Both Lily and Artemus lowered their glasses, looked at each other then looked at Jim. “Dumas fils?” Artie echoed. Lily had quoted author Alexander Dumas, son of the same-named Dumas pere. Neither had expected James West to recognize it as such.
Jim lifted an eyebrow. “Well, I do read occasionally, you know. And I do have a memory.”
Artie chuckled, lifting his glass again. “I’ll drink to that!”
In our lonely hours we awake those sleeping images with which our memories are stored, and vitalize them again.
—Comtesse de Genlis, Stephanie-Felicite du Crest de Saint-Aubin (1746-1830), French educator and writer of memoirs
James: Thanks, Artie.
Artemus: "Thanks Artie"! Is that all you can say to me? I've just come back from the grave, risen like Lazarus, and that's what you say? "Thanks, Artie"?
James: Thanks, Artie.
Artemus: It's a pleasure.
- TNOT Pistoleros