Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Confident Woman, Part 2 (Conclusion)

(Continued from Part 1)

I walked briskly down the cobblestone lane, not wanting to be late for my appointment. I stopped in front of an undistinguished door and checked the house number, then knocked on the door.

This was far from a difficult case. I had been summoned by the parents of a missing young lady. The police were uninterested in the case, suggesting that the lady eloped with a gentleman friend and would eventually turn up, a ring on her finger. Or not, but without a body in hand they were disinclined to spare the resources to look. The missing lady's mother mentioned that her daughter was determined to find employment, which led me to the Caledon Gazette and the help-wanted advertisements for the past several days. A search of the lady's room uncovered a similar stack of help-wanted pages, and some of the particulars were circled in blue ink. Most of those were no longer included in the most recent issue of the Gazette,  and it was quick work to satisfy myself that those jobs had been filled by someone other than our missing person. Several advertisements continued into the most recent issue, suggesting an ongoing vacancy. I had visited the premises of several of those advertisers and convinced myself that the missing lady had not been to any of them. This blank door was my next stop.

The door opened. "Yes?"

"Dr. Bak? I'm here in response to advertisement."

"Excellent. Do come in." I followed him into the anteroom, then to his laboratory. Among the various chemical odors, I detected the distinct aroma of burning flesh. I felt confident that this was where my client's daughter met her fate, and my stomach dropped when I thought of having to tell her parents that she would not be returning. "Please put on the clothing I have prepared for you and we can get started."

I had anticipated that the young woman's disappearance was the result of foul play and I had taken precautions. What I did not anticipate was how quickly the scientist would take me into his laboratory and begin his grotesque experiments. I stalled as long as I could, but Dr. Bak angrily ordered me to hurry, so I took the bundle of clothes and changed into the workman's smock and loose trousers. Perhaps unwisely, I had taken no weapon with me, believing that things would be worse for me if a weapon were discovered upon me.

"This is an unusual laboratory," I commented when I returned in my new clothing. "What sort of experiments do you conduct here?"

"I am a scientist of the human mind. Never mind that now, though. As you can see, I am in a hurry. Time is short, and I have none to waste explaining myself to an uneducated girl such as you."

Uneducated? Miss Dorris would have had this man's guts for garters had she heard him say that. My old headmistress was unlikely to rescue me at this point, however, so I nodded meekly and walked to the laboratory table. Rather than climbing on the table, however, I feigned a swoon, grabbing the side of the table to keep myself upright just before my head hit the slab. "I feel faint, Doctor. Perhaps I could have a glass of water before we begin?"

He gave an exasperated sigh. "Incompetent girl! You seem to be the worst of the lot. Never mind your faint head or your glass of water. We shall be done shortly, and then we can see about your needs. If you cannot lie on the table on your own power, I shall have to place you there."

So much for that ploy. I hoisted myself onto the table. How much time had elapsed since I had entered the house? Dr. Bak approached to strap me in. I thrashed on the table, not having to feign the fear in my eyes. He looked disgusted and back-handed me across the face. Momentarily stunned, I could not resist as he buckled my arms and then my legs into place. He then added the electrodes, and finished by stuffing the gag in my mouth. Striding to the control panel, he started adjusting various dials.

A tremendous crash upstairs penetrated even the well-insulated laboratory. That was the front door, I surmised. Other, somewhat more subdued crashes followed as door after door opened. Dr. Bak looked up at the first noise but then returned to the control panel, moving even more quickly as he made his final preparations.

The door to the cellar banged open and a familiar voice called down. "Rhianon? Are you there?" The voice belonged to Caledon police sergeant Natalie Bishop, a muscular woman with a mechanical arm, an icy-cold stare, a deep scar across her face, and a surprisingly warm smile. Sergeant Bishop was my close friend and, in this escapade, my cavalry. I tried to signal my presence, but the gag was effective and I could make no sound. Natalie decided to try the cellar anyway, and I heard her heavy boots making their way down the stairs. She appeared in the doorway and took in the scene in an instant.

The doctor moved to provide power to his apparatus and restart his insane experiment. Natalie's reflexes were faster, however. In an instant a large police revolver appeared in her right hand. Her mechanical arm remained steady as she pulled the trigger twice. Dr. Bak jerked backward, falling to the hard floor, blood pooling around his chest.

"I seem to be just in time," said Natalie, removing the gag and unbuckling the straps.

"Your timing is as perfect as ever," I said, my voice shaky.

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