The Ink Chase
A Serial in eight parts
I jumped at a voice that suddenly came from the far corner, addressing me.
“Welcome, Governor David Barry, to the humble abode of Chedipe. At long last, we have the pleasure of making this acquaintance.” A deathly white lady dressed in yarns of indigo silk, emblazoned with black flowers, was seated on a throne of gnarled bark draped in mangrove branches. At her feet was a glistening crocodile skin.
“Was it you that had me brought in here?”
“Yes, it took some convincing though. No harm done, I suppose?”
“Why did you do it? Who are you? What unearthly place is this? Who was that creature? What do you want of me?”
“Easy, David. Since you do not believe in the civilized courtesies of a longwinded, formal introduction, I shall come straight to the point, as you choose. I need someone you have in your care—a raving-mad scientist, an alchemist with sharp practice.”
“Who?” Did I know of anyone like that? I figured not—there’d been a mistake – a misunderstanding. Surely she wanted someone else.
“A villain that goes by the name of Harry Harlow—Dr. Harlow.”
“Beats me if I know such a man.”
“His parole papers are lying on your desk, Governor, rejected by the parole committee. I want you to overrule the recommendation and release him.”
“I don’t remember him. What possible use could you have of a common convict, an outcast, in this sorry world of yours? You seem pretty able to ferret people out with your dark minions—he must be incarcerated on the islands—why don’t you get a gofer out there and heave-ho him yourself?”
“My ink doesn’t work on water, Mr. Barry. It mixes, it thins. And that’s where you come in—you will bring him to me.”
“Ha! As if!”
“Then I’m afraid I can’t let you leave here. You could linger awhile, and keep me company.”
I fidgeted. “You can’t stop me!”
“Oh, really?” she waved an arm and a spill of blue ink appeared at my feet and touched my toes. A jab of pain took my breath away, as I felt my metatarsals freezing and cracking up. I removed my shoe and flung it—my foot had turned blue and lifeless and it seemed it was about to snap off.
“Okay, okay, I get it,” I yelled.
She waved her fingers languorously and the pain disappeared. Color returned to my foot and it became comfortingly warm and alive again.
“I hope you understand I mean serious business Mr. Barry.”
“Yes – but how can you be sure I would return here once you let me go?”
She sighed wearily. “I knew you would require an incentive—how’s Diane doing by the way, Mr. Barry?”
“How do you know…leave her out of this—you Ched…Chedipe!”
“But we can’t, you see. She’s now very much part of the plot—my vile design—as you would put it. Has she been keeping well lately?”
“No, she hasn’t—if you should have anything to do with her!”
“Here, give her this.” she tossed me a vial with a colorless liquid in it. “It will make her instantly better—and the baby will be safe. My ink has touched her—albeit unwittingly. Beware. The vial contains only a couple of doses, not a permanent cure. When Dr. Harlow is beside me, you shall have the permanent dose—and Diane and the baby can be on their way, without a care in the world.”
“What if you don’t keep your word?”
“What if I do? You will never know until you carry out your little errand, Mr. Barry. Now please be gone, this tiresome conversation is killing me.” She tilted her head to a side and closed her eyes. The rustling rose beside me again—the shadows were back, beckoning me to leave. I pocketed the vial and rushed home to Diane to give the spell.
To be continued