The small room was dark and silent. The walls were bare and the only furniture was a metal chair. An unconscious man was strapped to it. Other than several needle marks in his arm, he was unscathed.
There was the sound of keys going into locks and the door swung opened. Two identically dressed tall men came into the room; one turned on the light and the other threw a bucket of water over the captive. He awoke, sputtering and disoriented.
“Bloody hell! Where the blazes am I? Who the hell…”
The two men stood, arms crossed, flanking the doorway, as a third man entered. He wore a three piece suit of an unusual material and had dark glasses on, his hair was snow white. The man in the chair suddenly remembered where he was and whose prisoner he was. The water dripping off his face mingled with sweat.
“Well, Mr. Wilson, looks like your little charade is at an end. You, a herpetologist, really. What do you and your masters at MI6 take me for?” The man know only as the Baron, the world’s most notorious and elusive animal smuggler, spoke in a smooth, lightly accented voice. He saw the fear in Wilson’s eyes.
“You needn’t worry about torture. We’ve extracted all we need using various drugs.” The Baron gestured at the marks on Wilson’s arm. He removed his glasses and put them in his jacket pocket, then gave the jacket a light pat.
“100% penguin feather. Took six months for my tailors to make.” Wilson didn’t hear what the Baron said because he was staring at his dark eyes. There was something very wrong with them. The Baron noticed his gaze. “Ah, yes. You are noticing that I have no eyelids. Hence the glasses. A rather unpleasant incident involving a drug cartel and some army ants in South America. Thank God it was just the eyelids. Excuse me.” He turned away and put in some eye drops, then gestured at one of his henchmen, who stepped out of the room and returned with a small box.
“During our interrogation, we found out the creature which you most feared. It’s usually the same, snakes and insects. Alas, Mr. Wilson, we have no sharks at the moment. However, we do have your second choice.”
Wilson’s face was white with fear. “You’re mad Baron. There will be others…you can’t get away with this!”
“Perhaps. There are several species of scorpions in the box, a kind of grab bag of venomy death. The Deathstalker is my favorite.” The Baron’s henchman removed the bottom of the box and fit it over Wilson’s head. “Goodbye Mr. Wilson.”
The three men left, closing the door, muffling the screams.
At the same time, Chance Nitro and Humility Go were in a chartered jet 10,000 feet over the North Sea. Chance, still recovering from the injuries inflicted by the Cossacks, had his feet propped up on the plush leather seat, nursing a vodka tonic and perusing the Baron’s file. Humility, in a brown crushed velvet suit, sat across the aisle, sipping a gimlet and reading Henry V.
“Hey Hum, did you know he’s not a real Baron?” Chance asked. She didn’t answer. “Speaking of titles, did you know I’m a Count in Warsaw? Unofficially, at least. Maybe if this caper goes well, we’ll get knighted. Sir Nitro.” Chance grinned widely. “I like that.”
Humility’s left eyebrow arched slightly. “It sounds like an adult film star name.”
“I like it even more.” The Russian stewardess, dressed in a 1960s style baby blue uniform, came down the aisle. “Hey Svetlana, what do you think of the name Sir Nitro?” Chanced asked her. She smiled politely.
“Why not? Say, was it you Ruskies or the Poles who invented vodka?”
“The Russians. It means little water.”
“Nice work. Too bad about the Communism thing. Workers of the world my ass.” Chance chuckled. “Hey, raise your hand if you won the Cold War?” His hand shot up in the air. Humility glared at him. “Sorry. No hard feelings.” Svetlana smiled thinly at Chance and left for the galley.
“You may have to reign in the famed Nitro charms for the Baron’s ball,” Humility said.
“Can the ocean reign in its waves?” Chance drained his glass and set it down with a thunk. He looked down at the dossier. “Apparently the Baron keeps six Hong Kong tailors on staff at all times. And his diet includes monkey glands and ground up rhino horns. Supposedly they help potency. I wish I could get something to decrease my potency.” He winked at Svetlana, who had returned with his drink. “So possession of some of these animals isn’t enough?”
“It is, but they want to snare all the buyers too.”
“I don’t see why we can’t just nuke the place.”
“We are trying to save the animals too.”
“Sure, the animals.”
“We’ll be landing shortly,” Svetlana said. Chance nodded in thanks and buckled his seatbelt.
At Heathrow, they were greeted by a diminutive, elderly chauffer. “Ms. Go, Mr. Nitro. I hope your flight was pleasant. My name is Arthur, I’ll be your driver today.”
Chance vigorously shook his hand. “Hello Arthur old boy. How’s tricks in the old country? Queen still kicking? I saw that movie about her. She was not looking good. What’s our ride today?”
“A Rolls Royce Phantom sir.”
“Sweet. Let’s roll.”
Thirty minutes later, Chance and Humility sat in a non-descript office building in the East End. A portrait of the Queen hung crookedly on the wall. With them were Thomas Hyde-Smith, MI6’s deputy head of the animal crimes unit, Jean-Luc Vague of Interpol, and Ralph Davies, a zoologist at the University of London. Hyde-Smith, a middle aged man with a tweed suit and bad teeth, was smoking a pipe and explaining the details of the Baron’s operations.
“He has a network of local poachers, but he and his men are present on nearly every operation, which should make it easy to catch him, but he’s a cagey bastard. More recently, he’s been funding various paramilitary groups and terrorist organizations to protect his smuggling syndicate.” Hyde-Smith looked at Chance. “Your home security chaps aren’t happy about that. We had one of our lads infiltrate his organization, but he’s, eh, gone missing.”
Vague, a diminutive, dark eyed Frenchman, stood up and said, “Now about the ball…”
“Can I do an accent?” Chance asked.
“An accent? Maybe French, like yours.” Vague looked at him askance.
“Funny you should mention that Monsieur Nitro. The ball is tres exclusive. Invite only for his top clients. Your government took a Texan into custody…” Hyde-Smith handed him a paper. “Oui, a Mr. Sam Huston Walker. A cattle man with an enormous ranch. He brings clients out for an annual big game hunt; lions, tigers, even rhinos…”
“Supplied by the Baron,” Chance interjected.
“Oui. He also employed many illegal immigrants, which is why your people arrested him. You and Mademoiselle Go will be posing as Huston and his wife.”
“Texans?” Humility said with unalloyed contempt.
“Yee-ha!” Chance yelped, slapping his thigh. “You know I was in drama club in high school. We did Brigadoon.”
“Really?” Humility and Vague said simultaneously.
“Yeah, why? Oh, you think a masculine man-man like me wouldn’t act? Acting’s full of tough guys like Burt Lancaster, Steve McQueen, and Rock Hudson.” He paused. “That’s a great name.”
“Who am I?” Humility asked with obvious anxiety.
Vague looked at the paper. “Eh…Cissy Maybeline.”
Hyde-Smith relit his pipe and said, “Now we’ll have to outfit you in appropriate attire. We’ll get some measurements later on. And Mr. Davies will take you to the London Zoo, familiarize you with some animals, help you get the, eh, lingo down.”
“But I’m from Texas,” Chance said. “I know what I need to know.”
The heretofore silent Davies, who hadn’t been able to take his eyes off of Humility, bowed slightly at the pair. “Well then, shall we? I’ve taken the liberty of securing us tickets for Gorilla Kingdom. It’s terribly popular.”
“Lead the way son. Let’s see some big ass monkeys.”
“Lesson number one Davies, don’t contradict a Texan.”
“You’re not going to shoot me or anything?”
Chance burst out laughing and slapped Davies hard on the shoulder. “Just yanking your chain Davies. You Brits are so uptight. Comin’ Cissy May?”
He squinted. “Just call me Daddy. Yee-ha!” They followed Davies out to the door and down to the waiting Rolls Royce.
Next Episode…Disguises! Amazing clothes! Hidden mansions! A wild ball!
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED