There was an unnatural hush in the great ballroom. None of the wealthy guests, decked out in their animal attire, moved. Even the orangutan playing the piano had stopped. The silence was only broken by the low growl of a caged tiger. All eyes were fixed on one man, dressed in a snakeskin suit, silver six shooters in each hand like an Old West gunfighter. The man was Chance Nitro and this was his High Noon.
One of the Baron’s guards yelled out, “He’s bluffing. His guns are empty!” There was a murmur of surprise and jumpsuit clad men with rifles moved towards Chance. The crowd cleared to let them through. The one who had exposed him said, “Game over cowboy. Let’s go quietly now.”
Chance grinned broadly, spit out his toothpick, said, “I reloaded in the tunnel. Remember the Alamo bitches.” He shot them both in the head.
And then all hell broke loose.
The guests started yelling and looking for exits, trays were dropped, glasses shattered, peacock tails were trampled, tranquilizer darts whizzed past Chance’s head. He shot wildly into the air and then took aim at the Baron, but he had vanished. He spun around and shot another guard in the leg. The guard got off one shot, which knocked off Chance’s beaver fur cowboy hat.
“Damn!” He spat and shot the guard in the other leg. A silver serving tray came spinning through the air from across the room. Chance ducked and the tray slammed into the guard creeping up on him. He spotted Humility by the aquarium. She did several flips-no small feet given her high heels-and landed on a guard’s shoulders. She clamped his neck with her muscular legs and gave it a twist. There was a sickening crack and he crumpled. She rolled off the corpse and swept the legs of the man running towards her. As he fell, she executed a swift kick to his throat. He was unconscious when he hit the floor. Chance ran over to her and gave her a hand up.
“Good work Hum.”
“Where’s The Baron?”
“There!” Chance pointed at a scrum-like group, with the Baron in the middle, moving up a marble stair case. He squeezed off a few shots, but they only momentarily slowed them. Chance and Humility sprinted towards them, hurdling over an ocelot and a passed out guest. Humility kicked off her heels and stooped to pick up a wine bottle.
They reached the stairs, dodging darts and bullets, and Chance went down in a crouch and shot the men closest to him. Humility smashed the bottle on the wall and launched herself into the gaggle of guards.
“Get them you fools!” The Baron, still clutching his ocelot Rio, yelled, pushing several of his men at them. One landed on Chance, knocking his guns loose. He was on his back, choking him with large, hairy hands. Chance brought one of his boots back and caught the man in the shin with his spur. He let go. Chance jerked the spur loose, unleashing a spurt of blood, and kicked the man hard in the face. Humility emerged from the pile like a lethal phoenix, viciously wielding the broken bottle and drawing blood with every thrust. It was over in seconds and she stood like a samurai, surrounded by bodies, her make up running, fur dress torn and spattered with blood.
“Whoa.” Chance said. He picked up his pistols. Humility threw the bottle down.
“There’s one more by the penguins. You get the Baron.”
“Word. He’s mine.” Chance ran up the stairs into a long hallway lined with mounted animal heads. The Baron was half way down it. Chance took a shot and hit him in the leg. The Baron clutched it, but did not fall. Chance honed in on him.
“Your goons are all dead. Just you and me Baron. Mano y mano. Or should I say mano y douchebag, bastard son of a bitch?”
The Baron smiled. “Very amusing. I congratulate you Mr. Nitro, I seem to have underestimated you and Ms. Go. Catch!” He threw Rio at Chance. Chance dropped the pistols and caught the spotted cat. When he recovered, the Baron had a small crossbow pointed at him. It was loaded with a hypodermic needle instead of a bolt.
“Endgame, Mr. Nitro.” He fired and the needle hit Chance in the arm. “A special cocktail of snake venom. You’ve got about 10 minutes. Farewell.” The Baron pushed a button on the wall and a clear, pneumatic tube emerged from the ceiling. He gave a little wave as it sucked him up. Chance’s legs wobbled and he leaned against the wall. Rio yawned and licked his hand.
Meanwhile in the ball room, Humility faced down the one remaining guard. She had picked up a rifle, he had picked up something else.
“Drop it or the penguin gets it.” The black and white bird looked curiously at his captor.
“Put him down if you want to live.”
“You’ll never get out of here alive. The whole place is wired.” He gripped the penguin tighter and it promptly took a chunk out of his thumb. He screamed and dropped the bird. Humility immediately shot the man in the eye with a dart. The penguin landed harmlessly and waddled over to Humility. She reached down it gave it a pat on the head. There was an explosion and the MI6 commando team came pouring through a hole in the wall. Hyde-Smith, Vague, and zoologist Ralph Davies came after them.
“I wondered if you’d show up,” Humility said to them.
“No need to be testy,” Hyde-Smith said. “Your transmitters weren’t, ahem, transmitting. Perhaps it being underground or something. It was Alfred who doubled back and told us about the cottage entrance.” He looked around. “I say, looks like you’ve managed without our help. Where’s Nitro?”
“After the Baron.”
Chance was sweating and his throat was tight. He threw off his jacket and lurched towards the pneumatic tube, which whooshed him up. It spit him out in a large cave, lined with cages, all full of animals. There was a trail of blood on the floor and he followed it. He spotted a pair of dark glasses.
“Come out you coward. I may barely be able to move, but I’ll spit all over you, you…” Chance couldn’t speak any more and fell to his knees, the sweat pouring off his face. When he looked up he was faced with the Baron, standing next to a huge African elephant. His seal fur pant leg was soaked in blood and he held an elephant training stick called an ankus.
“What’s up with your eyes?” Chance gasped, vision blurring.
The Baron prodded the massive pachyderm with the ankus and hissed, “Kill Tusky, kill!” The beast hesitated and the Baron prodded it harder. “Damn you, smash him!”
Chance struggled to stay conscious. He stared at the elephant hard. It stared by back at him. The elephant took a step towards him. Chance blinked several times, made a clicking noise, and tugged his left ear. The elephant seemed to understand and it lowered its massive head and caught the Baron in the chest with his tusk. He lifted the screaming Baron up and balanced him, like a beach ball,for a moment before casually tossing him twenty feet. The Baron’s broken body was still except for his faint breathing. The elephant let out a deafening trumpet, reared up on his hind legs, and then trampled the Baron into the floor.
“Good elephant.” Chance smiled and passed out.
When he came to, familiar, concerned faces hovered above him. Davies squatted next to him a needle.
“That was a close thing old boy. Luckily, I found an antidote. Thankfully your jacket prevented the syringe from going all the way in. Otherwise…”
Davies helped him to his feet. Hyde-Smith and Vague both shook his hand. Even Humility was smiling. A commando walked up to the party and saluted.
“We had to use a wet dry vac to suck up what was left of the Baron. Strewth.”
“How did the elephant kill the Baron?” Davies asked Chance.
“I learned an elephant attack code from a villager in Botswana. Never thought I’d use it. Thanks Tomota.”
“Good show, good show,” Hyde-Smith said, handing out Punch cigars
“Do we get medals or something?”
“I think we can arrange something.” Vague said. “Maybe a Croix de Guerre?”
“I don’t know what that it is, but OK. You’re alright Frenchy. I don’t care what they say. They’ll always be French fries to me.”
Chance felt something on his leg and looked down to see the penguin Humility had saved enthusiastically humping his snakeskin boot.
“He seems to have taken a shine to humans. We can’t send him back to the wild now. He won’t survive.” Davies says.
“Shouldn’t we get him to an iceberg somewhere?” Chance asked.
“Actually these penguins live on the coast of South America…”
“At least the polar bears won’t eat him.”
“Actually, the two species live in different hemispheres…”
“God Davies, cram the zoo lectures! We just killed a bunch of bad guys, busted an international smuggling ring, and saved some animals. I need a shower, a girl, and ginormous steak.” He shook his head and lit his cigar with a piece of flaming rubble. “Too bad you Brits can’t cook.”
Humility brought over an intact tray of drinks and they toasted. The penguin had finished his business and was looking up at them. Chance crouched down, thought for a minute and said, “I think I’ll call him Freedom.” He stood up and adjusted his snake belt. “Come on Freedom, let’s go home.”
Join Chance & Humility in their next adventure…The Apocalypse Gambit!
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Portland Fiction Project
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