Chapter 03 [Revised]: A Case of Identities and Loyalties

“Had to get you all to myself, honey,” she purred. “Because, you know… you’re Guinevere. Or so I hear.”

She put a red-gloved finger to her pursed lips, eyes wide in Betty Boop surprise. “How lucky for me! It’s awfully convenient that the new Guinevere just happens to be in town when the old one dies under murderous circumstances days before Arthur begins his ascent towards the throne. Awfully convenient for the Red-Handed League’s hidden spy, anyway - that’d be me - that the new Guinevere is a terrible judge of character.”

I couldn’t read a thing off of her. My supposedly fine-tuned sense of other people putting on an act wasn’t going off at all. But she was so over the top!

“You’re not-“ I started.

Prove it,” she snapped. She turned to her beefcake.

"Kill her..."

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Chapter 02 [Revised]: The Red-Handed League

It was with no small annoyance that I glanced at the hall clock approaching the Starbucks at CIA Headquarters the next morning.  Nine-oh-three on the dot.

 

I crossed my arms irritably, then uncrossed them, and then recrossed them.  The damned green jacket wasn’t just unfashionable: its bulk seemed to make my skin not fit my frame.  Nothing was comfortable.

 

Naturally, my fidgeting attracted no attention, because, well... Green Shirt.  I'd heard others tell stories of how thoroughly we were ignored.  One woman swore that she'd been on an elevator with a couple who started making out right there in front of her one evening.  I was pretty sure it wasn't true, but at times it was easy to believe.

 

Impressions flickered across my eyeballs.  Familiar faces that weren’t.  That man in the silver tie… was that…?  Nah.  And then there was the woman in the cute pumps with matching yellow earrings.  She could have been my seventh grade English teacher, except that she didn’t have the same funny walk.

 

It was happening again.  Everywhere I looked, I saw someone I almost recognized.  I rubbed my eyes.  Sleep deprivation, had to be: I’d barely slept last night.  And now I was to meet the mystery man with the funnyname right when he’d said I would.  I wondered who he would look like.

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Chapter 01 [Revised]: A Study in Shamrock

"Rache", shone the word on the screen.  The message hadn't been sent... at least not over cellular networks.  It was there on the phone: that word, and my phone number, a number that I hadn't given out.

It was a message… a message for me.

Well then, Holmes.  The game is afoot.

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Chapter 19: No Man

A hand clad in black mail clawed its way up from the ground.  Its armored fingers sank into the earth at Arthur's feet, and he hopped quickly back, eyes flickering to Vivian. 

"What the-?"

Another hand surged forth, and a black helm followed it.  Out of the soil rose a knight whose face was fully covered by a giant, ebony helmet.  He was huge, strangely-proportioned, terrifying.  His armor was covered in spikes and skulls.  As he stood fully erect, he drew forth a black sword easily six inches wide, inlaid with the insignia of death.  He pushed its tip into the earth and rested his hands on its pommel.  When he spoke, his voice boomed out as if from the grave. 

"None shall pass."  The knight stood between Arthur and the stone.

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Chapter 18: Second Star

A police cruiser had caromed onto the highway from a ramp just ahead of us, and was now alongside.  “Pull over!” the loudspeaker barked.  “Pull over now!”

“Is this thing insured?” I asked with a grin.  Before Doyle could respond, I eased onto the brake as fast as I dared, while steering into the car alongside.  He didn’t have time to react: my front passenger side clipped his rear.  His back end fished out to the right, and then to the left as he lost control.  He spun away from us and was gone.

My tires chirped.  I corrected.  We drove.

Possible?  Probably not.  Don’t try this at home, kids.

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Chapter 17: Tumbling After

Your friend Vivian...


The next thing I became aware of was the noise.  It was a mix of a bandsaw and a baby’s howling, but underneath it all I could hear a woman’s voice.  She started off begging for someone to stop, stop, please, stop.  Then came the screaming, mixing the unmistakable tones of pain in with a baby’s fear.  Then, sobbing.  Something… something about the way she begged, the wet, throaty pleas and the punctuated grunting that went along with it, you could just tell that she was being raped.  Raped and beaten.

Then it began again.  The way that it looped, I knew it was a recording.

But the pit in my stomach didn’t.  I squeezed my thighs together, and realized that the way my legs were shackled, it wouldn’t matter if I did.  I was exposed.  Vulnerable.  They could have whatever they wanted from me.

Slowly, I also became aware of the smell of vomit.  It grew in strength, as if it were being dumped by the gallon in here with me.  I fought hard to avoid adding my own.  Just as I was starting to get used to it, there came a new odor: feces.  Soon followed the gut-wrenching putrescence of rotting meat.  I forced myself to control my breathing, counting out my exhales and inhales.  The bag was tied firmly at my neck: not cutting off circulation, but if I threw up it would just be in my face until my captors removed it.

..is really my friend Vivian.

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