Number 2 Penny Dreadful:
“The Life and Crimes of Lockhart and Doppler”
Beasts. Part Three
Shouted commands, gunfire, roaring. Searing streaks of flame set bushes alight. Clods of earth flew upwards. Someone screamed. Doppler and I sat with our backs against the rock biding our time. She toyed with a shiny button on a small square box expectantly.
“Major! Behind you!”
Repeated firings of a blaster, an agonising roar- silence.
I peeked over the top of our cover. Two beasts lay sprawled in the churned grass. A chap I recognised from photographs; military, smart, dark moustache and hair was directing three others, the hunting party was small (but perfectly formed), one young chap carried a canvas and rope over to the Major, laying it on the knoll before the beasts’ heads, then hooking his arm around a limping chum, hefted him away from the killing field. Another was cleaning gore that had splattered his face and outfit. The four, making ready to clear up…
Doppler depressed the shiny button. A series of explosions shattered the treeline a hundred yards away. The men all raced towards their two vehicles they had arrived in. We waited until they were out of sight, sprinted across the glade and immediately began hacking at the neck of one of the creatures. Wyvern have quite slender necks and with two of us at it, it took no time at all before we had a head bundled in the conveniently donated canvas, tied with the rope and hauled into the trees. Behind us we could hear the bellows of the Major. Doppler climbed a tree like a monkey, utilising her spider gloves, I threw the rope end and she hauled the bundle up into the canopy whilst I clambered up another tree. Doppler had rested the bound head in a crook high up, concealed from ground view. We sat tight.
Through the branches and leaves I could just make out three returning figures, they had pistols drawn as they scanned the grassy knoll to no avail. The Major paused before the decapitated dragon-like form, lips pressed tight, he scanned the horizon and tree line for movement. He glared, something –someone, was on their patch. He made hand gestures to the other two men, they spread out as he crouched to study the marks left in the earth, boot prints and drag marks. He straightened, following the trail with his eyes. It petered out in amongst the trees. I couldn’t see Doppler myself through the cover, even though I knew exactly which tree she was in, her green and brown outfit making perfect camouflage. I knew the Major was a hunter, a soldier – how long before he gave up or spotted us?
“Show your bloody selves, you filthy thieves!”
He roared, then fired a warning shot overhead. Birds flung themselves skywards in a clamour of caws, peeps and twitters. We sat tight.
He stomped back towards the remains and directed his two companions in the clear up operations. I lay back on my branch and grinned to myself.
Of course, we had not actually damaged the vehicles of the hunting party, well, maybe a little, nothing a reasonable engineer couldn’t cope with in the field. I had been quite definite about this, Doppler had wanted to use her new explosive device to maximum effect, but I had argued that if we left them mobile, they would leave quicker, plus, I didn’t fancy having to come face to face with Major Jack Union in the future and explaining ourselves regarding criminal damages to vehicles that may, or may not, belong to the Royal Order of Dragons. However, they had no intention of leaving immediately. They set up camp! As evening drew on they even lit a bloody fire! Toasting forks with slices of muffin appeared. My mouth watered. Realising we were in for a long night, I had lashed myself to my branch with my bullwhip. I desperately wanted a cigarette, but wisely refrained, didn’t want to give them a sniff of us. My back and backside were going numb, I pulled my gloves on and collar up as evening turned chilly. Pulling my Nitro goggles down, I peered towards the company. The one with the leg injury was fitfully sleeping, although I could not hear what was being said; the fact that the others regularly looked towards him spoke of concern. Would they really hang around whilst their colleague was gammy? The Major recurrently glanced towards the trees, moodily throwing things into the flames. What felt like ages later, he seemed to reach a conclusion. Throwing water over the small camp fire and stomping on the remains, the unhappy party packed up and headed for their vehicles; soon to be heard driving off into the night.
Now. You might think it was time to get down, but I’ve known some soldiers and hunters in my time, (not necessarily in the manner you may think) and they are not stupid. I was convinced that someone would be left behind, and so, we waited some more. Waited, watched and listened. They could only allow for one person to remain, as two vehicles had left –two drivers, and one chap was injured –three chaps, and so I assumed (Rule #fifteen; always assume your adversary is as shifty as yourself) someone was waiting and watching. I used my goggles again to concentrate on the area opposite the grassy embankment. There was some faint rustlings as of a giant bird ruffling its feathers from high up. Doppler? I thought I caught the slightest of movements in the area of the once parked vehicles. He would have night goggles too, I guessed. I slowly undid my whip, rubbed my legs and rump, and then began to slowly, ever so cautiously, descend the tree.
I now saw Doppler, standing about fifteen feet to my left, gloveless, topless, and skirtless! I stopped, immobile, stunned. All my protective instincts itched to call out to her, to cover up! Hide! My animal instincts told me to pipe down and remain quiet. She raised her hands in surrender and moved from the tree cover. As I watched, a male figure emerged from the trees opposite, rifle held at waist height, aimed at Doppler. Her pale undergarments gleamed in the moonlight as she gently moved towards him, her calf length boots her only protection. It was the youngest member of the hunting party and he, quite rightly, glanced nervously about him.
“W…where is it?” he demanded, “The wyvern head. Where is it, and whoever else you were with?” his voice quavered, straining to sound authorative.
“Please, don’t shoot me.” Doppler spoke in her most girly of voices, “They made me do it, they’ve gone and left me here. I’m all alone. I…I’m scared.”
She affected a gentle weeping. The gap between them had reduced considerably. The point of the rifle quivered ever so slightly, I was impressed he was still pointing it at her to be honest. He had begun to hold it more as a protection than weapon.
“Where…where are your clothes? What happened to your clothes? Stay there, I will shoot you know.”
“My names Theodora, what’s yours?” she delicately sniffed. “Will you help me? Please?”
The poor lad didn’t have anything or anyone to fall back on. He had obviously expected to be testing his mettle against something nasty, beast or man, which would mean he could shoot and kill, without guilt, without scruple, without hesitation. Instead, before him stood a very young female, in her unmentionables; I would bet my life savings he had never seen beneath a woman’s blouse before. The rifle raised across his body.
“Will, my name’s Will.”
“Then will you help me, Will?”
Doppler’s voice had lowered, I strained to hear as she whispered,
“You will tell them how you saved me.” Closer “You will be a hero.” Closer. “You will…”
She was close enough to lean forwards and kiss him. His body impulsively bent to her, the barrel of the rifle raised high between them, Doppler stroked her own hair. And before the poor boy could even remember the name Jack Robinson, she had stabbed him in the neck with her lethal little syringe. Will goggled, staggered and stumbled back, pointed his rifle and fired…
To be continued…