Larry Winchester, the acclaimed (“makes Hemingway look effete” -- Harold Bloom) author of this Costco Award-winning epic, now switches back once again to the inimitable voice of that suave adventurer Dick Ridpath:
(Click hereto read our previous episode; latecomers to the party may go hereto return to the beginning.)
The weird thing about the insides of these saucers -- and, yes, it’s true, they really are shaped kind of like upside-down saucers, or like frisbees rather -- well, I should say one of the many weird things about these saucers is that they’re a hell of a lot bigger on the inside than they seem to be on the outside. Don’t ask me how this is.
So, we go up this ramp, following the sailor boy -- never did catch his real name (if they have real names), me, then Daphne, then, hustling up behind us, Harvey. He had changed his mind about coming, and this felt right to me somehow.
So we’re in this small sort of anteroom, bathed in this soft purple light, and the sailor presses a couple of buttons on the wall and the ramp slides back up into the ship and the port door slides shut, and then he presses another button and this door in front of us starts sliding slowly up into the ceiling, just like in a science fiction movie; and I noticed this odd smell I remembered from somewhere before, kind of like an old attic filled with moldy oldSaturday Evening Posts, but there was a new smell, like scorched mercury, and a smell of gunshot and then -- uh-oh --
There’s Hans and Marlene crouched in front of us in the hallway on the other side of this doorway, covering us with automatic pistols.
Hans of course goes “Halt!”
And there off to the the side we see these two little outer space guys, lying there stone dead in this purplish illumination which seemed to glow from the curving walls themselves. The little fellows were wearing dungaree overalls, and they had holes through their heads. You could see this phosphorescent green blood pooled all around their heads, and bits of greenish-grey glowing brain matter splattered across the deck.
Fucking Hans and Marlene.
Well, the little sailor guy freaks totally out. He just leaps through the air at Hans making this eerie sort of high-pitched peeping sound, and as he’s leaping Hans is shooting his pistol at him and so is Marlene and I yank out my Browning and as I rack the slide I see Marlene swinging over at me now just as the sailor’s bullet-riddled body hits the deck in between her and Hans, and I cock the hammer and fire just as she fires and she gets me below the right shoulder but I hit her in the side and she falls back on her ass and I do too and I hear more shots and I’ve dropped my gun and it’s skidded away and bullets are ricocheting all over the damn walls and I’m trying to reach my gun but it’s like one of those dreams where you’re trying to do something but you just can’t do it. And then I almost reach the gun and someone shoves it away with his foot, and I look up and it’s Hans and he’s pointing his pistol at my face, and everything is quiet now.
I sit up. I look around and Daphne’s just standing there to my left, goggle-eyed, white in the face. The sailor guy’s lying on the deck in his own puddle of green blood. Poor Harvey’s lying there near Daphne in a pool of red blood, his pistol on the deck a few feet away from him. But, as I later learned, Harvey had gotten Marlene all right, she was sprawled out there in the hall with a hole in her forehead and her brains and blood all mingled with that of the two little guys in overalls.
“Mrs. Ridpath,” says Hans, and he swings his gun over at her, “would you step this way, please.”
Daphne comes over and Hans goes, “Now, please to sit down next to Commander Ridpath where I can keep the eye on the both of you.”
“But it’s all bloody down there,” says Daphne. “I’m not going to sit in all that blood.”
“But it is your husband’s blood.”
“I don’t care whose blood it is, I’m not sitting in it.”
You could tell Hans wasn’t used to dealing with someone of Daphne’s calibre.
“Please then, to -- to -- duck? -- how you say?”
The bastard glances at me for help.
“He wants you to crouch down,” I said, teeth gritted needless to add.
“Yes, to crouch down,” he says.
“Well, all right,” says Daphne, and she kind of delicately hunkers down near me, but not so near that her shoes are in this ever-growing pool of blood spreading out all around me.
“Right, then,” says Hans. “Now. Mr. Ridpath, please do not force me to kill your lovely and fastidious wife in some particularly slow and painful fashion.”
Yeah, sure. As if either of us was going to walk out of there if this creep had any say in the matter.
“All you need do is answer some few questions for me,” he said.
So predictable this guy.
“Can I get a cigarette, Hans?”
“Oh, certainly, as you Americans say, smoke them if you have them.”
Here’s the thing. I had grabbed that little .38 Airweight to give to Daphne but I had forgotten to give it to her. It was still in the left side pocket of my peacoat. Now on the one hand I knew there was no way I was going to get it out and plug this asshole before he shot me again at least once, but on the other hand maybe I could get him, too. And then at least Daphne might get away. I wasn’t trying to be a hero especially. It was just I knew we were both dead meat anyway if I didn’t try some damn thing.
If only there were some way to distract this motherfucker for one second.
I patted my inside shirt pocket as if I weren’t sure where my cigarettes were. He puts the muzzle of his nine-millimetre practically right up against my forehead.
I pull out the little transistor radio with the bullet hole through it.
“What is that?”
“It’s a radio, Hans. You want it?”
Now would be a good time for it to start speaking that incomprehensible space language, but no dice.
“Put it on the floor, please, Mr. Ridpath.”
I did what he said to do.
“Now take out your cigarettes before I lose my patience and shoot your wife in the knee.”
“Stay cool, Hans.”
Actually my cigarette case was in my inside coat pocket. But I slowly dipped my hand into the left pocket, the one where the gun was, glancing at Daphne as I did so. She nodded ever so slightly.
Sometimes time slows down, or bends, or stops, or moves at the speed of light. Other times time explodes, and this is what happened now. Daphne had on this big goofy black plastic newsboy’s cap from Mary Quant’s on Carnaby Street. It had these little tiny flashing light bulbs all over it, the batteries were inserted at the base of the bill, and you turned the lights on with a little button on one side. So what she did now was she touched the button and of course all the little multi-colored lights came on, twinkling off and on, and Hans looks at it like “What the fuck!” and I fire the Airweight right through the cloth of my coat, and I get Hans in the belly but he fires almost at the same time, getting me in the left lung, and I fall back, the gun flying out of my hand, and I’m waiting for the next shot, he’s standing over me, one hand on his belly with blood burbling through his fingers, looking very pissed off, and he’s about to give me thecoup de grâcewhenbang,a burst of scarlet blood blossoms out from the side of his head and he takes one step forward and then falls on top of me like the sack of shit he was.
I push him off and I look over and there’s Daphne on her knees by Harvey with his smoking pistol in her hand, that wacky hat now on the floor over there still just blinking away.
I’ve said it a thousand times but this woman is worth her weight in gold.
The only problem being this second hole in me now making this really disconcerting sucking noise, and blood just gushing out of me.