And yet another Monday rears its ugly head! While I sympathize with you, Dear Readers, for having to say goodbye to the pleasures of the weekend and face the daunting prospect of another work week, I have to say, I don’t always feel the same. Mondays are Fiction Days here in the darkest jungles of Appalachia, and that’s always a treat for me.
First off, remember back when I started this blog, I mentioned that I write audio drama? One of those shows, The Blackburn Gaslight Adventures, is Steampunk set during the American Civil War. I spent my weekend mixing the audio, and the show goes live today! It’s the second installment on a story called Family Matters. It should have gone up a couple months ago, but the death of my mother, God rest her soul, threw my life into turmoil and my schedule into limbo. Anyway, I’m back on schedule now, and the newest episode goes live sometime this afternoon! Check here for more information (btw: I play one of the characters, Maria; she’s such a bitch, I just couldn’t resist! Bad guys are so much fun to play! And before you ask, yes, the accent is genuine; I’m a writer, not an actor).
Now, with that announcement finished, onward to fiction! Today we have the next installment of the adventures of Paul and Ellie. Will they be able to stop the Nazi operatives? Will Little Amelia be carried off? Will she do something unthinkable? Enough suspense, let’s go find out, now, in Part 6 of Errand….
Errand, Part 6
Ellie looked up at Paul. “What do we do first?” she said, her voice tense.
Paul reached into his jacket pocket, and pulled out a pistol. “Do you know how to use one of these?”
Ellie rolled her eyes. “Look who you’re talking to.” With a practiced flick of her wrist, the revolver’s cylinder clicked open, revealing six bullets slotted into it; fully loaded. With another practice flick, the cylinder clicked back into place. The gun felt firm, good in her grip; she thumbed the hammer back, then pulled the trigger enough to release the hammer and let her thumb lower it back into place again without firing. The action was smooth, the trigger not too tight. It would do for now. She held out her hand. “Ammo.”
Paul, who had been watching this procedure without comment, now produced a box of ammunition, which he handed over to Ellie. She slipped it into her pocket.
Boom! There was another deafening thump against the door. To Ellie it sounded like they were trying to knock it down by brute force. It would take them a while at this rate. The door was thick oak, black with age.
But eventually they could get through, and all three of them knew it. “Miss Perdue, you say there are other rooms?” Paul said.
“Yes,” said Amelia. She turned, pointing one tiny hand toward a door to the left of the fireplace. “My bedroom is through there. You can get to the bath and the bookroom through the bedroom,” she said.
“Go, hide in there. Lock the door behind you, and don’t open it until this is all over,” said Paul.
“Wait!” Ellie said. “Why are we sending her away? If she’s as powerful as you say, can’t she stay and help?” Ellie turned to Amelia. “Can you make these men go Away, like your friend did?”
Amelia shook her head. “I know how, but I don’t have the power. Liesl is older than me. She has more strength and practice.”
Boom! Ellie looked back. The door shivered with the force of the blow, and plaster dusted down. The door itself might hold a while longer, but the frame it was set into was not going to survive many more blows like that one. If the door fell down – no, when the door fell down, it was only a matter of time now – it would hit both her and Paul. Ellie caught at Paul’s sleeve and pulled him deeper into the room, away from the door.
Paul jerked his sleeve out of Ellie’s grip as soon as they had turned to face the door. “We don’t have time to argue about this,” he said softly. “I’m not taking a child into battle.”
“You were the one who was so disturbed by the fact this girl exists. She has serious power, more than you, a hell of a lot more than me,” Ellie hissed. “If she can help, then let her!”
“Our job is to protect her, not to draw her into a standoff with dangerous men!” snapped Paul. “Or have you already forgotten Mr. Llewelyn’s condition when we last saw him?”
“No, I didn’t forget! But there are what, four or five of them? There are only two of –” started Ellie. She was interrupted by a third boom!, the loudest so far. It didn’t sound like somebody throwing themselves against a door; it sounded like a bomb going off. Red and yellow tinged smoke billowed into the room, obscuring Ellie’s sight and burning her throat and lungs with a sulfurous stench. She pointed Paul’s pistol at the heart of the smoke. Both she and Paul took a step back, and Ellie nearly stumbled over Amelia, who had not moved from her spot on the rug.
Paul looked back. “Miss Perdue, run! Now!” he barked.
“No!” said both Amelia and Ellie in practically the same voice.
“Too late now,” Amelia continued. She nodded toward the door.
The smoke had cleared enough to see that the door no longer barred the opening. It lay on the floor in three smoldering pieces. Four men had already entered through the gap and ranged themselves in a line along that wall. They all looked alike: young, blond, fit young men, wearing nondescript grey or blue suits, homburg hats, trenchcoats. Each of them pointed pistols at Paul and Ellie.
A fifth man stood in the doorway. He was older than his companions, with reddish brown hair over a fortyish face. He wore a natty blue pinstriped suit, gray kid gloves, a camel coat, and a bowler hat and carried an ebony and crystal cane in one hand, and a small black doctor’s bag in the other. He stepped into the room, moving with casual confidence, pushing aside a fragment of broken door with the cane
“Mr. Richmond, an honor,” he said in a warm baritone; his speech had only the barest hint of a German accent. “Allow me to introduce myself. August Hartmann, at your service.” He bowed his head slightly.
“Herr Hartmann,” said Paul.
“Aren’t you supposed to click your heels together and say ‘Skull’ or something? Or do you just salute Hitler nowadays?” said Ellie.
Hartmann frowned down at Ellie, as though he were seeing her for the first time. His mouth twisted into a moue of distaste. “Miss Waite, how unpleasant to meet you,” he said. He waved the head of the cane in a shooing gesture. “Do, go play with the other barbarians and let the adults talk.”
Ellie tightened the grip on Paul’s pistol, but resisted the temptation to shoot this German jerk right between the eyes. Instead, she turned her gaze toward the young men ranged around their leader. They were all holding steady, waiting for orders. Ellie pointed her gun at each one in turn, doing her best to cover them all. It wasn’t going to work; there were too many to cover. Her breath was coming fast now, almost in gasps, and her heartrate was humming with adrenaline. She took a deep breath, trying to force herself to calm down. Face to face battles were never part of her repertoire when she was a thief; she didn’t think she’d ever get used to them. Not that she wanted to.
Beside her, Paul spoke. “You can’t have the girl, Herr Hartmann,” he said. “Surrender yourself into my custody, and I’ll see you and your men are treated fairly.”
Hartmann chuckled softly, a sound that sent shivers of real fear down Ellie’s spine. “Oh, Mr. Richmond, I’m not leaving without the girl, and you’re not powerful enough to stop me,” he said. “I know of you. You’re skilled in the art, but you’re not in my league. I suggest you take your American girlfriend and leave, before one of you gets hurt.”
Paul answered by raising his hands, palms toward Hartmann and his men. He started whispering under his breath, words that Ellie didn’t recognize, words that tingled in her ears, and gave her the feeling of a million ants running over her skin. His hands began to glow with a blue light, and arcs of blue electricity leapt between his outstretched fingers.
Hartmann sighed. “This is a mistake, Mr. Richmond,” he said. “A deadly mistake.” He dropped the medical bag he carried, and raised his cane. He began to hum, a tuneless sound that morphed into sounds that no human voice should have been capable of producing. Ellie felt her stomach roil at the sound. She pushed down the urge to retch.
The gunmen with Hartmann, taking their cue from Paul and Hartmann’s preoccupation with one another, began to spread out, circling around to flank Paul and Ellie. Ellie stepped back instantly, grabbing Amelia’s hand and pulling her close.
“Get ready, honey. Things are about to get ugly.”
Okay, that’s it for today. Tune in next week for the thrilling conclusion of Errand! In the meantime, I’ll be back on Wednesday for more Dieselpunk, Steampunk and New Pulp fun. If you’re enjoying what you see here on the blog, don’t forget to comment, share, tweet. Your feedback is like heroin for me, so please, hook me up! And if you have a recommendation for Fun Friday, do send it to the email listed on my About AJ page. If you’re doing something cool in the Dieselpunk, Steampunk or New Pulp fields, let me know, and I’ll feature it here on the blog.
That’s it from me today! See you on Wednesday!