Serial Saturday: Nightmare Engine of Doom Part 3 – A Discussion of Serials

Enzo tried to convince me that he’d had us board the wrong airship because of some sort of premonition, but I wasn’t particularly interested in his rationalizations. I was more concerned about whether the explosion of the Spirit of Ontario had had something to do with us. It would have been an extreme act, of course, for someone to sabotage a whole dirigible, killing who knows how many innocent bystanders, but our enemies had done worse. It would seem to imply that someone had not only sent a harpoon-wielding assassin, but blown up our conveyance as some sort of backup plan. Of course, the airship explosion could have been an accident, but more worrisome was the possibility that we’d been the target of two assassination attempts from separate enemies.

The only good news, that I could see, was that anyone who was after Enzo and me would now be sure we were dead, whereas we were still miraculously alive, thanks to Enzo’s bungling. Perhaps his whole reputation as a formidable agent, a reputation I’d heard snatches of here and there, was built on luck alone. This was not a cheering thought, and I fell to brooding as I tried to recall whether I had heard anything about other partners of Enzo, and he chattered away about his “feelings” and “premonitions”. I seemed to recall something about an operative he’d worked with being killed in a freak trouser-press accident, now that I thought about it, and another disappearing somewhere in Bolivia. I shook off these grim thoughts to focus on another problem.

“So we’re heading for Topeka,” I said, interrupting Enzo’s flow of blather. “How do we get from there to Saskatoon?”

Enzo shrugged. “Saskatoon? ” Enzo replied. “Saskatooooon…airship, I suppose. Or the train. The Countess will wait for us.”

“But how much more damage will she do while we take a grand tour of the Midwest and Canada?” I asked.

Enzo drained his gin and tonic. “No more than she would have if we’d been harpooned or exploded.”

It was a good point.

“Perhaps,” I said, a notion occurring to me. “Perhaps…now, hear me out–perhaps we should let whomever attempted to kill us, and we must assume it is the Countess–perhaps we should let them think they succeeded! We shall be ghosts, stealing upon our target all unawares. We shall be free to move, and act. Let our antagonist think they have succeeded, until we pounce!” I clapped my hands together as I made this last point, by way of emphasis.

Enzo stared at me for a long while, until I began to wonder whether he had slipped into some sort of drunken stupor.

“Been reading the penny dreadfuls, have you?” he asked at last.

“Beg pardon?”

“You sound like whassisname, Jack Scamperflit, or Scazzerschmit. Smaacker…Slapfer…whatever. That stupid serial about the steam car racer. Pretends he’s dead every other story. So’s he can move freely against the other steam car racers, the French ones who always try to kill ‘im off so’s they can finally win a race.”

“You seem to have a fine knowledge of the Jack Scamarack Chronicles,” I said coldly.

” Scamarack ! That’s the name, yes.” Enzo tipped back his glass, ice clinking against his teeth, then set it down to look about contentedly.

“At any rate, just because Jack Scamarack does something doesn’t mean it is impossible,” I said. “Fiction can often tell us deep truths, you know.”

Enzo snorted. “Oh, by all means. I look forward to defending the virtue of six or seven damsels in distress, as well. No sense in letting it all go to waste.” He leered about the cabin, apparently looking for a virtuous maiden. “Where’s that sky stewardess? Perhaps she needs to be rescued from someone holding the deed to her house and planning to throw her and her grandfather out into the snowy street. Or perhaps she can freshen up my damn drink at any rate.”

The stewardess appeared at that very moment, and I was trying to come up with a way to signal her to water down Enzo’s drink, but the stricken expression on her face stopped me.

“Can anyone here pilot a dirigible?” she asked.


Copyright © 2011 SM Williams

~ by smwilliams on October 22, 2011.