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Wednesday, 22nd October, 2003, 03:20 PM #201
piratecat vs. sparky
round 2, try 2
72 hours from this post!
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Thursday, 23rd October, 2003, 06:53 PM #202
hints? comments? someone know what the line is?
Thursday, 23rd October, 2003, 06:54 PM #203
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
I'm too busy twitching. Can I go back to the jumpy guy in the car seat?
Thursday, 23rd October, 2003, 07:00 PM #204
i actually considered posting 4 pics for this round. then letting each persons opponent post their 5th.Originally Posted by Piratecat
it has a certain odor of RB that tickles me
Thursday, 23rd October, 2003, 09:54 PM #205
Gallant (Lvl 3)
I'm sure it's debatable, but aren't nut.jpg and suit.jpg mixed up?
Thursday, 23rd October, 2003, 10:00 PM #206
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
No, Sparky. That's actually a 6' tall hyperintelligent peanut in the diving suit. It's fleeing from the genetic manipulation labs of the Planters company. *grin*
Bonus competitor points if you steal that idea for your story.
Friday, 24th October, 2003, 12:43 AM #207
naw, the one pic caught my eye because of the bad suit. and "nut" is the guy who wanted to walk across the bottom of loch ness. (he pulled if off too if i am not mistaken)Originally Posted by Sparky
but i will note the pompous attitude of your post, and the judge taunting.
Saturday, 25th October, 2003, 12:21 AM #208
hopin' to see you writers bright and early
Saturday, 25th October, 2003, 08:23 AM #209
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
Sparky vs. Piratecat
I was sitting behind my desk when she walked into the room. To tell the truth, she didn’t walk; she slid, moving through the doorway like a dancer on a sleazy stage. My eyes devoured her, taking in every last detail as she paused in the doorway and looked around with a disapproving sniff. She even looked a little familiar, but I chalked that up to too much time with the magazines I keep in the filing cabinet’s top drawer.
“My office isn’t much to look at,” I leered, “but I don’t do my best work here. Who are you, doll?” I sat up and stuffed the pint bottle of bourbon into a half-open drawer. Best to make a good first impression.
She didn’t answer my question. Still looking around as if she was going to have to pull on rubber gloves before touching anything, she took off her hat and fixed me with an imperious stare from icy blue eyes. “Are you Louis Meyer Covington the third?” Her voice was like soiled silk, her accent Swedish, and I felt a shiver run up my spine.
“In the flesh, lady. Of Covington Investigations, the finest joint you’ll find south of New York. Call me Louie.”
This time, she really did sniff. I could hear her. “That’s hard to believe. But you come highly recommended. Very highly recommended, from some very hard-to-please people who have had some very odd problems.” She fixed me with that icicle stare, and I felt like a butterfly pinned up against some kid’s collecting book. I grinned nonchalantly and ground out my cigar. It’s never a good idea to let them feel superior to you, even when they come from rarefied breeding stock.
“I do good work in a very specialized field. I’m discrete and open-minded when it comes to phenomena. I also get paid a hundred and fifty bucks an hour plus expenses, so if you only came here to insult me, consider the meter ticking.” My chair creaked as I leaned back again and studied her over the bridge of my nose. A faint sheen of sweat, a nervous crease by her perfect lips; she was worried, or I was a two-bit Ghostbuster in a third-rate movie. I like to see worried, because desperate people always pay better and I still had a raftload of gambling debts that Knuckles Tony was going to try to collect on next Friday. With no other work in sight, I needed this bird, but I’d hate for her to guess that. “You didn’t say your name.”
She brushed a pile of papers off the moth-eaten chair and slid into the seat. My chest tightened as I watched her move. “You’re right. I didn’t.” She took a big breath, which wouldn’t have pleased my cardiologist any, and the look on her face announced to one and all that she’d decided to spill the beans. I was ready with an old fountain pen and a tablet of paper, and I took down her every word. “My name is Katarina Lenter. I’m…” She waved one long, perfect hand in agitation. “This will sound stupid.”
Lenter? Sounded familiar, but alcohol-fogged memories are never reliable. I smiled greasily, showing yellowed teeth. She recoiled a bit, but I’m used to that. “Probably.”
She steeled herself and went on. “I’m being haunted by the ghost of my husband.”
I pointed with a stubby finger. “No wedding ring.”
She scowled, and even that set my degenerate little heart racing. “I took it off after the funeral. He’s been dead for two weeks. I’m a widow, I’m in mourning, and I want him to finally be able to truly rest.”
Mourning? She, with her mink stole and tailored suit and dangling diamonds and stylish makeup, was in mourning? Sure she was. I eyed her, and decided that at least the suit was black. Well, dark. Well, darkish… if you squinted in bad light. I decided that there hadn’t been a lot of love lost between the two of them.
“When did he die? How did he die? And who was he?”
“His name was Fritz…” but by then I’d made the connection. Fritz Lenter: multi-millionaire power broker of a half-dozen different industries. Old bastard, looked like a two-bit bum even as he kept a trophy wife and a half dozen mistresses and four different mansions in three different countries. No wonder she looked familiar. I was suddenly sorry that I’d already stated my standard fee. No one knew how Lenter did it, but he was known for pulling together deals that everyone had thought were impossible.
I looked back at the trophy wife that I was suddenly on a first name basis with, even as she slid a photo across the desk to me.
“A helicopter took this.” If there was any grief in her silken voice, I couldn’t detect it. “I’m sure you read about it in the paper. He was out in the bay with a small crew, testing new propulsion equipment on one of his company’s ships. There was an explosion, no one knows why. Most of the crew got away. But not Fritz.” She worked a false sob into her little speech, and dabbed a monogrammed hankie at an imaginary tear. Then her voice snapped right back to a business tone. “And now he’s dead, but the lawyers say I get nothing because there’s no body. And my darling is haunting me every time I try to sleep. I keep seeing him there, below decks in the ship, and he doesn’t look happy. It’s just horrible.”
“Kararina, can ya blame him?”
Her voice came like a whip. “Mrs. Lenter.”
Well, that just doubled my price. Guess I wasn’t on a first name basis after all. “Mrs. Lenter, can you blame him?”
Her voice took on that false pleading tone again, and she laid one flawless and bejeweled hand on top of my own hairy mitt. She hardly even flinched. “I hate to think of his spirit as unhappy, or trapped between worlds. I think it’s because he doesn’t have the benefit of a proper burial. So Louie, I want you to put his ghost to rest. If that means swimming down there yourself and bringing back his corpse, I want you to do it.” She smiled a thousand watt smile that lit up the whole back of the office, but I could feel her lacquered nails digging into my flesh. “I can pay your fees, and your expenses, and a big fat bonus, and I can be very friendly to people who are friendly to me. It’s a hard job, but money is no object.”
I grabbed her own hand with mine, and felt her shiver as I pulled her closer. Must be my raw sex appeal. “Then you got a deal, doll. I’m on the case.”
She let out a long breath of air, and I suddenly needed to wipe sweat from my forehead. “Just do it quickly, darling.” She pulled out a hand compact and examined her reflection in the tiny mirror. “I think the lack of sleep is giving me wrinkles.”
* * *
The first step after getting her advance deposit was to check with Hitesh. My charming new client was clearly as false as a sackful of campaign promises, but I needed to understand exactly where it was she stood. The spirit world can be a fairly dicey place, and it does no good to piss off the wrong people. Hitesh was my interpreter to the foreign land of death.
His parlor smelled like moth balls and spices. I glanced at the painting over the fire place, showing him back in his performing days down on the pier so many years ago. Creepy as hell, and that powder blue tuxedo didn’t do a thing for him; he looked like he was attending the New Delhi junior prom after being desperate enough to carve his date himself. Then the sound of the electric wheelchair caught my ear, and I turned to watch him roll in past the dangling curtain. As always, his two marionettes were sitting lifelessly in his lap, flopped sideways as Hitesh maneuvered the wheelchair around a dusty coffee table.
“Hitesh! It’s good to see you!” I meant it, too. The old bastard was on his last legs, but for a business associate we had a very close relationship.
“Likewise, you old thug. I don’t suppose that you have come to tell me that you have given up investigations once and for all, and wish to settle down as a shabby greengrocer?” His voice was weak and scratchy from the cancer he’d beaten three years back, but you could still make out the Indian lilt. It always made me smile.
“Nah, I got a live one here. So to speak. I got some dame who claims her husband is haunting her. Dead two weeks in a boat accident, and this bird wants to inherit. I need to know the lay of the land.”
Hitesh frowned, his wispy little mustache bending beneath his nose. He spoke in a croak. “Louie, you’re dealing with dangerous forces. Ghost are real, you know it as much as I. You shouldn’t get involved.”
“I am, though. Let me speak to Luke and Lucille.”
He shook his head feebly. “It’s a bad idea, and you…” His head rolled back on his skinny neck, and in his lap both marionettes suddenly sat straight up. I could see Hitesh’s arms holding them upright, but my friend didn’t otherwise seem to be conscious.
“We are here.” Luke’s hiss was eerie, and loud, and nothing like Hitesh’s normal voice. I’ll never understand how he does this.
“We are.” Lucille, the female marionette, turned her wide painted eyes to stare at me. Her little hinged mouth moved up and down as if on its own accord. “Louis. Four years two months ten days until you die, you know.”
“Yeah, so you told me last time. And the time before that. I got it written down in my daytimer.”
“You seek knowledge from Lucille’s third eye.” Luke stated it as a fact, not as a question. The fake eyelids blinked. “But we can not help you.”
I sat up. “Why the hell not? You helped me last time. I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to do for Hitesh. He’s happy, you’re happy, why the sudden grief?” My voice began to rise unreasonably. Talking to spooky puppets always does that to me, every single time.
Lucille swiveled her wooden head. “Because the man whose spirit to seek to becalm is not on this side. He is not with us.”
I stared at her, for a moment almost forgetting that I was talking to the equivalent of a couple of haunted fireplace logs. “What do you mean, not with you? Are you saying that he’s…” A glimmer of light dawned, and I began putting two and two together. “Oh, I get it. Son of a bitch. Yeah, I think I understand.”
Both wooden puppets stared at me impassively.
“Fair enough. Lucille, say hi to Myrna for me if you get a chance. I still miss her. You two need me to do anything for your medium?”
Their mouths moved together, their voices mingled, and Hitesh never once moved his lips. “No.”
“Then thank you. I’m done here.” They slumped over, and Hitesh groggily raised his head.
“Did they…” He swallowed drily and continued in his faint and raspy voice. “Did you learn anything?”
I patted my friend on the shoulder. “Nothing important, and that told me a lot. Thanks again, bud. I’ll let myself out, but I’ll be back next week with steaks. I think I’m about to earn myself a big fat fee.”
As I clicked the front door shut behind me I could still hear him croaking from the parlor in his ruined voice, something about no beef. “I got no beef with you, either,” I yelled, and I started down the front steps. I figure it’s good to keep people guessing. Anyways, I had a lot to do, and a damned short time limit to do it in.
* * *
I know a lot of people in this town, and most of them aren’t the kind of joe that you’d want to invite to a cocktail party. That’s how I bought myself surreptitious access to the local Navy base. I figured that if anyone had what I needed it would be them, and I didn’t have time to screw around. It cost me a lot of cabbage, but Mrs. Lenter was paying the expenses and I didn’t figure she’d miss the scratch. I spent the rest of my advance on a trip to see Knuckles Tony; easy come, easy go, and I bought a service that I thought I’d really need.
Smuggled in past the gate guards at the Navy base, I had the waterfront warehouse pretty much to myself in those wee hours of the morning. The diving suit fitted me well enough, and I had double checked to make sure that I’d gotten the coordinates of Lenter’s sunken ship correct. I didn’t really think that I’d have a chance to steal – ah, appropriate – more Navy equipment if I got lost the first time out.
I was damn clumsy when I waddled out of the warehouse down towards the water. Gearing up had taken me longer than I had expected it to, and dawn was clawing its way up over the horizon like a drowning man headed for the surface. Unfortunately, in the morning light you’d have to be deaf and blind to miss a short man in a dive suit, especially when he trips over a curb and ends up face down in a puddle. It just wasn’t my day, and the guard on duty turned out to have his faculties intact.
Feet already in the water and extra air tanks weighing me down, I slowly turned my head. Some young stallion with a chin like a roman legionnaire was staring at me with rabbit-wide eyes. His rifle was low by his hip, his helmet planted firmly on his head, and his various grenades strung from a bandolier across his chest. I clucked my tongue at him condescendingly, and that just confused him.
“What’s with the helmet, son? Nothing’s going to hit you on the head out here. You look a bit foolish.” I grinned rudely. “Your mother would be laughing right about now.” Meanwhile, I manipulated what little art I’d picked up over the years. Slowly, carefully… Sweat popped up on my forehead, but he was too far away to tell. It’s all about synchronicity and coincidence, if you do it right. Work the percentages. Make things happen, because they’ve always been that way but no one noticed. That’s true magic.
“You’re trespassing on a US Navy base!” His voice cracked, and he fought it back down. “You’re under arrest, sir. Step out of the water.”
*Click* Like the silver ball on a roulette table snapping into my number, the percentages clicked into place. I’d done what I needed to do. Despite the exhaustion, the feeling was incredible, and I could see how penny ante sorcerers get hooked on this stuff.
I shook my head in mock sorrow. “Sorry, boy. I don’t have time. And anyways, what are you going to do? Shoot me? I doubt it.”
“Nah. You’ll try to, but you won’t be able to see anything. Your rifle strap has gotten tangled with that tear gas grenade.”
Really, he should have at least looked. But instead he snapped the rifle up to firing position, and I heard him swear as the gas grenade went off. I’d even warned him. I left my young friend flopping around on the beach as I strode out into the water. Working the art takes it out of me and I had a long way to swim, even with the small diving sled I’d taken. The waves closed over my head, my breath rasped in my ears, and I settled in for a long haul.
* * *
The inside of the ship was freezing.
As I had expected, I found it about 200 feet down and partially destroyed. Only the bow was shattered, though. I dragged my tired body through a watertight door that I sealed behind me, and then let myself into the still dry portion of the ship. I took a cautious breath; the air was musty but still breathable if I kept my oxygen tanks handy. That amazed me, but I was already working hard for my $150 an hour, so I didn’t argue. Laboriously, I clambered in and set to searching.
I shouldn’t have bothered. At first it was just a headache. Then, there was the pain of something alive trying to claw through my skull. I think I screamed, high and shrill like my mother always teased me about, and I felt something scrabble into place inside my brain. It was gibbering something about freedom and air, and I suddenly wanted to obey it and grant the spirit its every desire.
I’ve got no patience for that kind of crap. I mouthed an incantation of Er’Kut’lu that I’d picked up last year from a Haitian bokor. The words flung the presence from me, and I caught a glimpse of it as it skittered away in surprise. It looked like a bearded old man. It looked like Fritz Lenter. With an untrained spirit assertion like that, no wonder the guy was such a successful businessman.
I finally found Fritz Lenter’s body in the ship’s tank farm, the hold where oxygen and helium had been stored. Most of the oxygen containers had been emptied to keep him alive, and his body stood stiffly in the corner of the room. He was bundled up head to toe to ward off the cold, and I started to actually greet him… but apparently good breeding and good manners don’t survive two weeks entombed in a silent ship, because he didn’t exactly try to shake my hand. Instead, his eyes flashed insanely while his twisted spirit shrieked towards my face. This time I was ready for him, and a simple warding gesture of Bur’ok was enough to fling him back. He may have been powerful, but he had no real finesse.
I strode forward, grabbed Lenter by the jacket and slapped my open hand across his face twice. Spittle flew loosely from his sagging mouth, and his breath steamed in the cold. “Snap out of it, Lenter! You’re still alive, and I’m here to rescue you. But I’ll damn well leave you here to die if you don’t stop these simple tricks!”
His eyes were unfocused. “You have her stink on you,” he mumbled incoherently. I could still feel his psyche nosing around my head, looking for any vulnerability. I slapped him again. “She…” His eyes focused as his spirit returned to his body and his madness receeded. “She set the explosion. That woman! She tried to kill me. I saw it in her dreams.”
“Your wife?” I steadied him on shaky feet. He nodded, and I can’t say I was especially surprised. “I suspected as much. She wanted you proven dead, but when I found out that you hadn’t died I had to assume that you were still alive down here. I came as soon as I could.”
Lenter took a deep gulp of the thin air, started to cough, and I offered him my oxygen tank. “I’ve got another one of these, and a fellow named Knuckles Tony who’s going to meet us at these coordinates an hour from now, in a boat.” Lenter looked at me with amazed eyes.
“You’re,” he coughed and tried again, “you’re double-crossing her?”
I shook my head and grinned evilly. “No, Fritz. She’s paying me to bring back your body and stop your spirit from haunting her. I intend to do that. She never specified that you had to be dead. After that, I want nothing to do with her. She’s a dangerous kind of woman.” He nodded. “The question for you is,” and I felt just like a shark coming in for the kill, “how much money I can spend in the next four years, and how quickly you intend to pay it to me. You know. For services rendered.”
He met my eyes, and he nodded again. We started to talk, and the next hour just flew by.
Saturday, 25th October, 2003, 08:36 AM #210
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
And... done! I knew I'd never get up early to post it on time, so I thought I'd finish it off tonight. This is the first time I've ever tried to write from a first person perspective. It's fun.