New Fiction: The Vocalist (Part 7)
January 14, 2002
Continuing our tale of THE VOCALIST
The physical act of moving his adversary from the dining room onto the rooftop of B&B’s mansion had taken considerable effort on the Scallion’s behalf. The Scallion was ever aware that, should the gag over the Vocalist’s mouth slip loose, his carefully laid plans could, at the very least, be disrupted. Despite the Scallion’s conceit, he firmly knew the Vocalist to be a worthy adversary. It bothered him to have acted in such a common fashion—he’d untied Trevor and forced him to the rooftop at gunpoint. Such ignoble acts were for lesser criminals, he knew, but with B&B elsewhere, he’d had little choice in the matter. Besides, he knew he was above the others—the common criminals—and he would show them—show the world that there was nothing common about the Scallion. Trevor had initially refused to move, for he realized the Scallion was above killing, at least by a means so ordinary as a firearm. But Trevor also realized that being atop the roof was considerably better than remaining indoors—he thought it certainly increased his chances of defeating the Scallion, though exactly how he formulated that theory he could not say.
Although he’d previously bitten and swallowed a small piece of the poison apple that was lodged in his mouth, he’d not continued with this initial plan of eating the bitter fruit in hopes that he could use his Vocalist abilities to best his foe before the poison’s effect consumed him body and soul. Atop the roof looking east the city skyline lit the night sky like colored pegs the Lite Brite he’d owned as a child. The various skyscrapers, bridges, and neon signs glowed like a thousand shimmering stars. Trevor was again bound to a chair, and was seated approximately 10 feet distant from the Scallion who stood proudly next to his weapon of mass reduction. The device was unlike anything Trevor had seen, though in the back of his mind he realized that he had seen it, or rather a blueprint of it, at the library. However, seeing the 3-dimensional finished item was an altogether different experience from the diagram that was but a lingering memory. It looked somewhat like a Hi-Fi stereo rack system that had been customized for evil intent. Two, 3-foot-high loudspeakers were positioned on either side of the weapon facing toward the city. The Scallion depressed a ridiculously oversized “Power” lever (penis substitute, Trevor quickly thought) and the machinery began to hum like a thousand thousand honeybees.
“I really, sincerely, wish it were unnecessary to render you in a state that forbids speech. I realize that a man of your caliber--of your refinement (unlike that imbecile of a “partner” with whom I am allied)--would appreciate that which I have wrought through science and my own unparalleled genius.” The Scallion’s cape ruffled in the wind as if in agreement.
Trevor looked his adversary in the eyes, attempting to convey a sense of understanding, a nonverbal bonding that said, “Yea, I’m right there with you pal. Now what say you undo these restraints and we appreciate your insanity together, m’kay?” at which point they would laugh about a recent Dilbert cartoon and share a bowl of Jell-O brand instant pudding.
“You would relate to my intellect—whereas my short-tempered, dim-witted companion sees it as nothing more than a toy. Though perhaps, in the most remedial way, it is. And if that is true, would that not make me the luckiest boy in the world? Why? Because I…get…to…play…with…it.” He spoke each word slowly and in a child-like manner to emphasize his point.
Trevor had been twisting his wrists, bit by bit, in an effort to hopefully work loose the ropes by which he was bound, but they’d not loosened in the least. The poison apple remained lodged in his throat, and he, a conscious Snow White, began counting his options, of which there was but one.
The bedroom floor was littered with broken glass and other twisted objects. She knocked over a chest of drawers—an antique bequeathed to her by her grandmother more than 15 years ago—to force a barrier between herself and B&B. It afforded her one, perhaps two, seconds. She threw a snow globe at him and missed. Its shattered remains stained the wall above the bed. Jones the cat, who’d been roused from a comfortable sleep the likes of which only cats experience, darted under the bed with the speed of a mongoose. Marcia wished for a moment that she’d had that option. She ran from the bedroom into the living room.
It occurred to Marcia that she should at least cry out for help; she began to scream.
B&B reached out in the darkness and found the flimsy material of her nightshirt. He pulled at the material, knocking Marcia off balance. She tumbled onto the hardwood floor. B&B dropped fast atop her as she lay face down on the floor. Marcia flailed her arms wildly for something—anything—that she might use defensively to her advantage. B&B grabbed hold of Marcia’s right shoulder and turned her over so that the two were face to face. His weight was nearly unbearable and she had to struggle for breath.
“We got the Vocalist. You’re coming with me.”
The vase had been a wedding present given to them by Trevor’s Uncle Bart, a real estate agent, who’d flown in from Anchorage for the occasion. It had been hand-made by one of Bart’s clients and weighed more than five pounds. She struck the left side of B&B’s face with brute force and he cried out in simultaneous anguish and anger. Marcia managed to escape out from under him and hurried to her feet. She staggered across the floor, tripping over the antique coffee table she and Trevor had purchased at a flea market and refinished two summers ago. She’d argued that the table was too bulky and that thought suddenly returned to the forefront of her memory as her ankle throbbed in pain. B&B held his big beefy face with his big beefy hands. His world felt suddenly compressed, as if his head had been forced through a mouse hole. He teetered on the cliff’s edge of the Ocean Unconscious while Marcia staggered and limped toward the kitchen. He rose quickly if not unsteadily and pursued his fleeing quarry.
Marcia felt the pain rip through her right arm and in seconds it was a network of numbed nerve endings and useless musculature as Mr. Black & Blue pressed a physically-triggered assault that was true to his name. The steak knife Marcia had picked up from the kitchen counter dropped to the floor from lifeless fingers. He was within arm’s length once again. With her left arm she grasped the small canister next to the sink. The powdered cleanser hit him squarely in the eyes causing temporary, painful blindness. The advantage momentarily gained, Marcia held retained it by striking out with whatever objects were in reach. The vodka bottle proved most effective and, within seconds, B&B drifted into Absolut unconsciousness.
When he awoke it was with arms and legs bound by piano wire. Struggle though he did, he could not move; in fact, struggling produced considerable pain as the metal wire dug through the flesh of his wrists until he was forced to cease resistance. He was aware of a feeling of wetness, and found that he was, in fact, seated in a partially filled bathtub. Marcia, whose numbness had subsided while B&B was unconscious, had dressed. She wore faded blue jeans and a black angora sweater. She sat on the footstool she’d brought into the bathroom. In her hand she held a GE electric hair dryer, which buzzed quietly on its lowest setting. She held the hair dryer with an extended hand, so that it hovered above the water-filled tub.
“Before you think of attacking me again with your mind, you may want to consider what will happen should I drop this hair dryer. I honestly believe it might slip from my hand and fall into the water and burn your sorry ass.”
“What do you want?” B&B asked, knowing he’d been outdone.
It was going to be wonderful. A kingdom, reduced to ship-in-a-bottle proportions, and under his command. Tiny cities, each under his rule, his authority. It was going to be exquisite. The transistors hummed, their electrical outputs increasing in magnitude with each passing second. The lights atop the device were aglow with discotheque brilliance. Yet, something wasn’t quite right. Despite the excitement of his self-named sub-atomic minimization particle disruption transmitter, despite the glow-glow lights, the Frankensteinesque laboratory hums of machinery, the thrill of knowing his plans were coming into fruition with his do-gooder arch-enemy helpless to stop him—something…wasn’t…quite…right. The doubt pressed its way further and further into the caverns of his mind with the determination of an ant returning to its nest with a grain of sugar and sudden thoughts rocketed through his head: Your cape is imperfect. You look like an amateur. An amateur king. He quickly dismissed the thoughts, countering each one quickly with rationalizations.
Close by—close enough to make a difference but otherwise helpless to do so—Trevor calculated the reality of the threat. He then said a prayer and asked that God watch over Marcia and began to masticate the poison fruit wedged into his mouth. He did not understand the nature of the poison, and he hoped it would be slow-acting to enable him to act. The fruit tasted bitter (was it the poison he was tasting?) and there was still the matter of the electrical tape covering his mouth, as well as the genuine reality (and fear) that he might choke on the apple. Thus, he breathed slowly through his nostrils and bit up and down as quickly and carefully as time allowed.
The Scallion adjusted the controls to his mad machinery. There it was again. Eating at him like a tick burrowing into a dog’s hide. A doubt that had nothing to do with the sub-atomic minimization particle disruption transmitter’s workability—he’d successfully demonstrated its effectiveness on a chartered bus and its passengers. He was standing poised on the brink of success—success not even dreamed about by his legendary super-criminal contemporaries such as Dr. Mortalis, The Atom Thumb, and Penny Lane. His arch nemesis forced to watch his rise to omnipotence. BUT SOMETHING WAS NOT QUITE RIGHT!
As Trevor continued to ingest the apple, tears began to stream down his face—tears the likes of which are commonly associated with onions. He realized that he’d bitten into the apple’s core, and at its core was most certainly a poison whose ingredients included raw onion, the unseen fumes of which had triggered the unconscious and all-too-common reaction of…watery eyes. Trevor tried to swallow the remainder of the apple in large bits, hoping to slow the poison’s effect, and hoping not to gag from the pungency and fetid flavor that was inundating his taste buds. He’d been oblivious to the Scallion for several minutes, but noticed from the corner of his teary eyes that his adversary’s facial expression had changed from one that radiated confidence to one that looked akin to a nuclear regulatory inspector at Three Mile Island circa 1979.
He spoke the words aloud, but in a tone of voice that was low and was dwarfed by the noise of the machinery: Master of the world. But he followed the statement with questions: “Master of what world? A world of miniature cities? Of Lilliputian populaces? My personal collection of Kandors?” And he suddenly realized the flaw in his schemes and plans. He was the Scallion. The reputed master of all things onion. As such, any show of power ought—should—MUST—be characterized, symbolized, epitomized by the onion. In the annals of a shrunken world’s history, how would miniature historians associate the shrinking of the world’s cities with the man who held dominion over the onion? They could not, and he realized this with rapid clarity as if, after years of having felt a pimple at the end of his nose he’d suddenly been given a mirror with which to see it. The reduction of the world’s cities was an act befitting the Mad Shrinker, Reducto, or any variety of mad super-villain whose modus opprendi thematically matched the deed. It was not, however, befitting of one who had assumed the name, the mantle, of the Scallion. As he sat down next to the sub-atomic minimization particle disruption transmitter, his face held the sadness of a child who’d unexpectedly discovered that there was no Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown—it was just a smart-ass beagle.
Ten feet distant, his eyes blurred with tears, Trevor painfully swallowed the last of the poison apple.
NEXT: THE VOCALIST conludes!
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