Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dark World: A Slight Detour

(The story begins here.)
(The last recap is here.)

The gun was not simply floating in midair. It was held by a hand attached to a wrist, arm, and so forth in a conventional manner. Out of this assemblage, it was the face that Darren found familiar.

“Rosa, put that gun away before you hurt someone.”

The face almost smiled. “That is why I—” The eyes widened. “Darren?”

“Yes, Darren: the Darren who saved your life seven times—eight, counting the snakes, though Clio would have saved you herself in another second or two. This is Doctor Victor Fleming, a friend who is tending to Clio at the moment. Where have you been all this time?”

“Miss FitzHugh told me to let her deal with the visitors by herself, so I stayed back. When I heard her screams, I went for a gun and—oh, I did call the police briefly.”

“We would have had plenty of time to murder the young lady and leave by the time you got here,” Dr. Fleming observed.

“Rosa isn’t the impulsive type,” Darren replied, “except when it comes to pointing guns. I’ve lost track of how many times she’s been told not to touch them.”

Rosa scowled and handed Darren the weapon. The expression suited her: one hears of rooms furnished in Spartan style, and Rosa apparently had the same decorator. She was designed for efficiency, not aesthetics or comfort, and her drab costume likely made her look older than she was.

“To return to what happened here,” Dr. Fleming continued, “presumably your friend walked in and found the room occupied: she screamed almost immediately after the door closed. A struggle ensued, and she was struck in the head—that’s why her last scream broke off so suddenly. Such a blow would have incapacitated a normal woman—a lot of men, for that matter—but she was evidently still standing and trying to resist, however feebly. Her attacker decided to strangle her from behind—”

“Why not start with strangling?” Darren asked.

“Her screams were too strong for that, initially. No, these marks were made at the end of the struggle.”

“True, and that first scream was angry, not frightened: he didn’t catch her from behind.”

“Correct. What happened next, I can’t imagine.”

“I can,” Darren said pensively, “but I’m not sure it’s possible. The shutters open much more slowly than they close, so any exit through the window would have required more time than…” He paused. “Unless it was done in separate stages; I hadn’t thought of that. Was she incapacitated by the blow?”

“She probably didn’t do much fighting afterward, though I suppose she might have already injured him as well. Was she much of a fighter?”

“Not in the usual sense—she was no boxer. But she could do well enough in other ways, given the chance.”

Just then a racket from below announced the arrival of the police, and a groan from nearby announced the returning consciousness of the victim.

Next: Missing, Presumed Fled

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