Sorry folks, no pictures just now, but I have a Desert Hare short story to share. A sort of draft for a potentially comic worthy tale. Will I get to it? We'll have to wait and see.
Opening mid-adventure, the Desert Hare, decked out in her leather jacket, boots, jungle dungarees and work-shirt, is being chased through catacombs by a snake made of rotting human skeletons. She's battling it, but like a dream, nothing seems to be happening. Everything she uses to defend herself crumbles into dust. Edging backward, she stumbles into an open pit and falls onto a body. To her shock, it's her own body, unconscious and laying in the pit. She realizes she's been hallucinating.
She shakes the limp body, trying to wake herself up, as the skeleton says cryptic things about a son who is not dead.
"What son, what are you talking about?" she retorts, becoming increasingly annoyed.
"your son..." it whispers.
She breaks out of the trance, finding herself laying in the open pit. A boot comes down toward her, but smashes a skull with candles in its eyes near her head. The boot belongs to her friend Beto, who helps her out of the pit. She stares into the empty dark of the catacombs, bewildered.
Next scene, they're both sitting in her parlor, talking about the experience. They're at a home of hers in a small town in California. The rest of the expedition went off without a hitch, but Mary Ellen can't seem to shake the strange experience in the pit. They still don't know how she got there. Beto says good-night and goes home. Mary Ellen begins to write out her questions at the typewriter. What did the hallucination mean? She gets up from her desk and moves towards a small table near her couch. The table has photos of herself and friends, from various periods, but she opens a small drawer in the table. Inside, a framed photograph lays face down under a tattered cloth.
A bomb goes off at her desk.
She has narrowly escaped being blown to bits. A trio of men enter through a smouldering hole in her wall. Grabbing one of her guns, ever at hand, she shoots one of them, and the other two, startled, jump back through the hole. She gives chase, but not before taking a strange brooch off the lapel of the body in her living room.
On foot, she follows the three men to a rail yard where they hop a moving train. The train gathers speed and is moving too fast for her to continue the chase by the time she gets close enough. The lead man yells to her to stop chasing them or else some harm will come to her "son". She's startled, but manages to shoot one of them in the leg before they get too far down the line. Lost in thought, she returns home.
Now she's on a quest to find out why her enemies keep alluding a son she knows she doesn't have. Beto returns to her house, and she confides in him that years ago while she was in Mexico, a man did get her pregnant. She had given birth, but soon after the man and the infant were killed in an accident.
"They must think they know something about you, but they're obviously wrong", Beto insists.
She shows Beto the brooch. In Russian, marching around the border, are the words "Order of the Knights of the Thrice Nine Kingdom" Her assailants seem to belong to a spy ring with a preoccupation with Russian fairy tales.
Beto helps her get rid of the body. They search his pockets, and decipher a note that seems to be an order for the dead man to meet a contact at such-and-such a place at so-and-so a time, that same night.
Mary Ellen goes to the place, an empty restaurant, and finds a plump waxen faced man waiting at a table. She confronts him with the brooch. He acts as if she's crazy, but is obviously scared for his life. He overturns the table and runs out, but she gives chase easily. She catches the man, and then breaks his arm while pinning him to the ground in an alley. In return for not killing him, or harming him further, he promises to lead her to her would-be killers' hide out.
He leads her to a church, and, inside, shows her the door to a secret chamber. He opens the door and leads her in. He finds himself in front of the two remaining men who had tried to bomb the Desert Hare. He sheepishly apologizes for leading her to them, but they ask
"lead who? are you drunk? you're alone. What are you doing here?"
Then she comes out of the shadows behind one of the men, holding a gun to his ribs.
"Think of your son! If we're not heard from, they will kill him" he says
"I don't have a son. Why don't you think of your life. Who sent you to kill me."
But the other man, the one she had shot in the leg, throws a smoke bomb on the ground. She backs against a wall with her hostage, but a shot rings out and blood starts spreading out on the hostage's chest.
Laughter comes out of the smoke. The Desert Hare tries to remain cool, crouching down with her gun at the ready. Then a cackling skull, followed by rotting human remains, comes out of the smoke. She darts out of the chamber and into the church, which is filling up with smoke. The snake of human skeletons coils into the room.
"How can you be so sure they died in the accident?" its hollow echoing voice taunts "you never found out, you never looked, you never wanted to know. but I know!"
Mary Ellen dodges its attacks, while trying to pinch herself, wake herself up.
The waxy fat man comes out of the smoke, seemingly tormented by his own hallucinations, and knocks into Mary Ellen. They slam into a wall, and she knocks her head. When she looks up again, the skeleton-snake is fading out, and through it she can see the man with the shot leg, wearing a gas mask and using an apparatus to pump smoke through a skull with lit candles. She takes a shot at him and breaks the skull, interrupting him mid sentence.
The man limps away, surprised. She follows him out into the alley, kicking him in his shot leg. He goes down.
Standing on the leg, she questions him.
"What do you know about my son? "
"nothing," he pleads, "nothing really. we were supplied with information in your dossier. You can find it on the table in the chamber. But there's no real information there. "
"why were you ordered to kill me? "
"if we were, you'd be dead. We were ordered to scare you. But we're a cell. We know nothing else, and you'll get nothing more out of me. I will tell you, though, that you've made a mistake in following us down the rabbit hole. The Knights of the Thrice Nine Kingdom are a powerful enemy. Goodbye..." he crunches a hidden cyanide pill. "Good luck, if your son really is alive. "
Mary Ellen calmly reaches into his mouth and scoops out the foam, like retrieving something that a dog shouldn't be eating. The man starts vomiting.
"You'll live," she says coolly, "but you won't be happy about it."
Beto arrives in a car and hauls the man into the back seat.
"I'll see you in the hospital, I have a few more questions for you" she tells the man.
He seems incredibly frightened, but is rendered dumb by the non-fatal dose of cyanide.
Beto pats her on the shoulder and climbs into the car himself. For a moment, she stands in the fog, near the church, alone, and wondering.
Later, again in her parlor, she's looking at a framed picture. Beto is there, reading her dossier, and laughing.
"What they got right is mostly frivolous, but what they got wrong..." he says. "Smuggling subversive literature into Moscow! Why, I'm appalled you would do such a thing. What were you reading?"
"Dracula, I think...."
"was that even banned in the Soviet Union?"
"it doesn't matter...He was right, you know, I didn't find out" she says, "I didn't want to know. "
"From what you've told me, that accident was nothing to walk away from. Don't read too much into the stories that spies tell you. "
"don't believe too closely everything I tell you, Beto. I trust you, but I lie to myself more than to anyone else. ...What if he is alive. "
"do I detect a vulnerability in the great Desert Hare? "
"oh, go home Beto."
"I will, but you should try to sleep. Don't dwell on this any more today. Not until we find out something concrete. Something that isn't told to us by professional lairs.
"You're right of course. Good night Roberto, or good morning."
"sleep well Mary Ellen. "
Alone, Mary Ellen stares thoughtfully at the framed photo. In it, a young woman in braids, with sullen eyes, sits for a portrait with a swaddled infant on her knee. Standing next to her is a handsome, older, man with a large black mustache. Barely discernible on the lapel of his frock-coat is a brooch. Nothing on it is legible, but its outline matches the shape of the pins worn by the Knights of the Order of the Thrice-Nine Kingdom...
To Be Continued!
Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your feedback.