When I came to, I found myself tied to a chair underneath a dock along the Miskaton River. A precarious position to be sure, but it was a rickety thing and at least they hadn’t tied me to one of the supports holding up the pier. Their mistake.
They stood about ten yards away, whispering harshly at one another. The sun hung low over the trees on the other side of the river, casting a reddish yellow hue over everything. A boat was moored nearby, creaking as it rocked on the gentle waves of the river. It had a small Blackwood motor strapped to its aft. Might make a good escape.
“She’s awake,” the Monteddorian said, in Monteddorian. Bianca brushed past him and stalked toward me, brandishing her six shooter. She seemed much less jittery and much healthier since the last time I’d seen her. Judging from the new meat on her bones, I’d say she’d kicked her habit.
“Agent Sinclaire,” she said, crouching in front of me. “That’s right, we know who you are. You leave quite a trail, for a spy.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“You aren’t very good at it, are you?”
I shrugged. “Well, I’m still alive. And I get results.”
“Yeah, I suppose there’s some truth to that. Could also be luck. Too bad that’s about to run out, too.”
“I’ve been told that before, too.”
Bianca had been pretty calm up to this point, but I saw that old rage flare up in her eyes when I said that.
“So, tell me,” I said. “What is it the Cartographers want?”
Bianca looked back at her compatriot. He shrugged.
“Yeah. That’s right. I know who you are, as well. Now that we all know each other, let’s hash this out.”
I didn’t see any reason not to tell them. Hell, they probably already knew. And a little conversation might just have bought me some time to get loose.
“There’s nothing to hash out,” Bianca said. “You’re going to Lelina. We can’t have that. And since you’re the kind of person who, once they’ve made their mind up about something, can’t be dissuaded, well, we’re just going to have to kill you.”
She thumbed the hammer back on her revolver and put it to my forehead.
“So why even bother with this?” I asked, fighting against my restraints. I think I did a fairly decent job keeping cool, even though I was sort of freaking out on the inside.
“That? That was Hector’s idea.” She threw her head back to indicate the Monteddorian. “He’s a big softy. Doesn’t think killing you is necessary. And he’s right. It isn’t. I just want to.”
The entire time Bianca was talking, I’d been worming around in my restraints. One of the legs on the chair seemed fairly loose, but when I strained against it to kick out, it didn’t break. Bianca noticed, and started laughing. It really was quite embarrassing.
While she was laughing, a gun shot rang out, but it wasn’t from Bianca’s weapon. Behind her, I heard Hector cry out and fall, clutching his arm.
“Bianca!” He yelled. “Take cover!”
Another shot took the pistol out of Bianca’s hand. I kicked again. This time, the right leg of the chair broke. I drove my foot forward, right into Bianca’s knee. I heard a pop and she went down, howling in pain.
A third shot hit the rear right leg of my chair. So, this wasn’t some valiant rescue. Whoever was shooting was trying to wipe us all out.
The chair fell to the right, and I landed on my side in the wet sand. I looked up, trying to find the source of the shots. I saw only a blur as the shooter moved between posts, the shadow of a person almost tall enough to have to duck under the pier. The figure was wearing a duster.
More gunshots rang out, much more closely. Hector was back up and firing, moving toward Bianca. He picked her up and put her on his shoulders.
“Time to go, girl,” he said, holstering one gun and pulling another. The mystery shooter peeked out and Hector fired. His shot splintered the post by the shooter’s head, driving the shooter back.
“Wait!” Bianca said. “Kill the ginger!”
“No, Bianca,” Hector said. I was grateful for that.
Hector ignored her and carried her out from under the pier and up over the river bank, firing, as he went. While he kept the mystery shooter engaged, I fought against the chair. Not exactly my most glorious battle, but a fierce one nonetheless. I proved victorious just as Hector made it to safety. That left the mysterious stranger to focus on me.
Bullets began throwing up wet sand around me. I rolled away, grabbing Bianca’s revolver as I did. Judging by the mystery shooter’s rate of fire, he or she was using a revolver as well, or maybe a repeating rifle. Was it another Cartographer? Or an extremely wealthy bounty hunter?
Whoever it was, they weren’t going after Hector and Bianca, which meant I was the ultimate target. That wasn’t good.
I took cover behind a post and blind fired a couple of shots. That left me with four, assuming Bianca had kept her weapon loaded. I looked over at the motor boat. Now that I was closer to it I could see that it wasn’t in the best of shape, but it was still my best bet.
I peeked around my post. The mysterious shooter was moving forward and looked to be reloading. I could also tell from the way the shooter was walking that it was a woman, at least six feet tall with long, black hair. She looked familiar.
I took the time her reloading afforded me to move to the next post. She finished her reload, aimed, and fired. Her speed was frightening, almost inhuman. I felt a bullet wiz past my ear, and the only reason it didn’t take my head off was because I slipped at the last second.
I was in some serious trouble.
I made it behind cover and looked once again at the boat. I didn’t think it was going to do me any good. The woman was close enough and fast enough that I’d be dead before I got the motor started, assuming the motor even worked. I had to stand and fight.
I raised the gun and thumbed the hammer back, then turned to face the post I was hiding behind. I didn’t know where she was and I was afraid to sneak a peek.
“Um, pardon me?” I said, maybe thinking I could get her to talk. Villains loved to talk, as Bianca had just displayed. “But would you mind telling me just who the hell you are?”
She answered me with a bullet that went straight through a rotting spot in the post above my head.
“Alright then,” said, more to myself than to her. “Someone who wants me dead and…that’s about it.”
I faked right, poking out just far enough to draw her fire. Two bullets struck the post. One of them grazed my shoulder as I pulled back, but I barely felt it as I came around the left side. I had to search to find her…she already had me.
Her bullet hit me in the left thigh. I cried out and fired wildly as I fell. One of my three bullets hit her in the upper left arm.
Each of us had one bullet left. Seeing that she was already recovering, and knowing that she was faster, I didn’t try to aim and fire. I just started moving, rolling to the right to try and get behind the nearest post. Sand and salt water burned like fire in the wounds in my leg and shoulder. I heard the cough of her revolver and felt pain bite deep in my side, right between my lower ribs.
I stopped rolling and raised the gun. She wasn’t reloading.
Why wasn’t she reloading?
She lifted her off hand and a small pistol shot out of her sleeve into her palm. That so wasn’t fair.
I aimed for her chest and fired. The bullet struck, knocking her back. The tiny pistol went off with a ridiculous little pop. The bullet hit the water right next to my head with a ridiculous little plop. That ridiculous little pop and plop was nearly the last thing I heard.
I sat up, my ribs and my leg screaming at me as I did. They weren’t fatal wounds, and what scared me most was the thought that they had been intentionally non-fatal. The woman had been playing with me, like a cat with a mouse.
I didn’t bother checking whether she was alive or dead; I didn’t go anywhere near her, for fear that she had some other trick up her sleeve. Instead, I just popped one of my little sleeping pills and threw it next to her. As it went off and the brown smoke engulfed the body, she didn’t move or thrash. Perhaps she was dead; perhaps she was just really committed to the idea of baiting me toward her. I can’t say I cared. I needed to get the hell away from her as soon as possible.
I backed slowly away and got in the boat. The motor started on the first try, but there was no doubt in my mind that had I tried it while under fire it would have coughed and sputtered and put up a fight.
I guided the boat out onto the water and headed south, not once looking back. I’d had my share of Docryville.