Monday, October 6, 2008

Blood is Thicker than Water: Doyle and Simpson Versus Lalaurie

Doyle, Simpson, and Marie made their way through the streets, just as countless others had done after the lecture. Doyle, hands deep in his pockets, was sulky about the debate’s outcome. “Forte should’ve taken the pudgy little blighter!” he commented.

Simpson shrugged his shoulders. “Broadstead has truth on his side, you know. And logic. And a mean left hook.”

“I still think Forte could have taken him out.”

Simpson sighed. Was Doyle always to confuse a cause with a man? How entirely illogical! He felt, perhaps, he should have a serious talk with Doyle if the young man continued to plot his adventures. After all, we did not wish to continually muddle facts with emotion, did we? “Miss LaVeau,” Simpson said, his mind fully capable of working on two problems at once, “here is where we part ways.”

“Yes, I know.” The woman moved toward Congo Square, and her traditional home. Simpson and Doyle continued their walk.

“I still think we should go with her,” said Doyle.

“Yes,” Simpson scoffed. “What an undercover agent you’d make in the black districts. Indeed, this is a place she must go by herself.”

“You don’t have to be sarcastic about it,” Doyle returned.

“Do not worry about me,” Marie walked back to them briefly. “I am going among friends.” She pressed Doyle’s hand reassuringly, and walked away from the two men, fading into the dark. Doyle and Simpson moved on toward their hotel. The streets were busy as New Orleans reveled its Saturday night away. Doyle found the rush of the people fascinating, and occasionally stopped to look at some crowd or other. Simpson quickly prodded him along. He knew these revelers would rise piously Sunday morning, get church over with, and begin their useless pastimes again. What a waste, he decided resolutely.

The two men entered their hotel. Doyle pulled his key out to pen the door, but Simpson blocked the keyhole with his hand. “We have a visitor inside,” Simpson remarked.

Doyle raised an eyebrow to the detective. “Then perhaps you’d care to go first?”

“No. Do you have that service revolver in your pocket?”

“Always.” Doyle placed his hand in his pocket to feel the reassuring pistol.”

“Have it handy, then. In you go.”

Doyle turned they key in the lock, and then pushed the door open. He stood in the hallway for a second to let his eyes become accustomed to the gloom of the room. Some light reflected up from the street. The room appeared empty. Doyle gripped the revolver in his pocket more firmly. Entering the room, he peeked behind the chairs, perused the bedrooms, and even looked up the chimney flue. No one. He relaxed his hold on the revolver. “There doesn’t appear to be anyone here, Simpson.”

The man tackled him. Doyle felt a great weight on top of him, crushing the air out of him, strangling his neck. He’d felt hands like that around his neck only once before, and that time was also Simpson’s fault. Simpson had paired him up against one of the bigger criminals in the East End. Then, Doyle had been standing up, facing the brute, so he had used some of his army training, and dispatched an effective punch to the brute’s kidneys. Now his assailant was on top of him, and Doyle’s own arms were pinned. Doyle felt as though his head would explode. He could hear his own blood rushing in his ears.

“So, detective, how do you feel now that you can’t protect those you value from us? I could crush this man’s windpipe without a thought.”

Doyle’s chest was grinding into the floor. He hoped Simpson had a clever idea. He himself could do nothing.

“I don’t deal with underlings, Monsieur,” Doyle heard Simpson say. “Where is Madame?”

The creature on Doyle’s back drove its knee deeper into Doyle’s spine. Doyle cried out in pain, and the creature slammed Doyle’s head into the floor. “You would do well to deal with me now, Simpson!” Doyle heartily agreed at this point. He saw his own blood begin to puddle onto the floor.

“Lalaurie,” Simpson’s voice was even, “we shouldn’t destroy each other. Not yet. Where’s the sport, the challenge, in this ambush?”

“You notice, I’m not destroying you. Not yet. But you’ll get your just desserts, just like this one will now.”

Doyle felt sure he would die. The hands tightened more around his neck and the floor began to disappear between black flashes. Then there was a tinkling noise, and heat. Doyle felt himself burning, and the weight was suddenly off him—Thank God! There was a horrendous crash, and then Simpson had Doyle wrapped in the drapes, rolling out the flames on his back.

“Come along, Arthur!” Simpson was saying, “Stop burning, man! There’s a good lad!”

Doyle gulped down good, clean gasps of air. In the back of his mind, he imagined the ruin of his suit. “What was that?” he managed to croak.

“Monsieur Lalaurie.” Don’t talk. I’m sorry I let you in first.”

Doyle smiled. “My first brush with the supernatural. How thrilling.”

“Nothing appears to be permanently injured?”

“Oh no.” Doyle had discovered the blood was coming from his nose. His chest felt on fire, but his fingers were already checking his rib cage. Bruised perhaps, but not broken. “What did you do to him?”

“I lit up the lamp while we were chatting. I threw it on him. My, but he went up!”

“Is he dead?”

“He wasn’t when he broke out the window. We can hope so. But these Lalauries—so unpredictable!”

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