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Edge of Midnight Monday: The Terrible Tong and the Collapsed Cliff

by Azrael

Case One – The Death of Harry Fontaine

Chapter Nine – The Terrible Tong and the Collapsed Cliff

Early Afternoon, 30th October, 1949

POV: Shirley Homes

The situation certainly was sticky, stickier than a kid enjoying their Halloween hoard. As Bill and I rounded the bend we could see James’ car in the distance, being pushed closer to the edge of the cliff by the large gaunt. Bill approached it as fast as he was able, but going uphill was a struggle for his car. The Tong fish van behind us also held a pack of troubles that we didn’t need to deal with when we got to the end of the road. I couldn’t do anything to help James from here, so I decided to try and slow down the van behind us. Winding down the window I turned in the seat, so I could find my target through the rear window. My heart sank as I saw the golden goons hanging out of the van all held tommy guns pointed at us. I hoped to incapacitate the driver or van giving Bill a chance to pull away from them. Holding my arm out the window I aimed at the man behind the wheel, squeezing the trigger of my Webley and Scott… Just as the car jolted over a pothole. I tried to keep my hand steady, but realised my aim had been off as I saw steam start to spew out of the engine. I guess I’d hit the radiator, but the van didn’t noticeably start to slow down.

The Tongs returned fire, sending a spray of bullets across the back and behind the car. The dirt from the road erupted in plumes around us, however they were as unsuccessful as I was, and fortunately Bill’s car wasn’t damaged. My heart started to race… we seemed heavily out-gunned, and with no plan for helping James once we got to him… Still, Bill and I were determined to do what we could. Taking a deep breath to help keep my arm steady I shot towards the driver again. I was gratified to see the windshield shatter as my bullet went through. A fraction of a second later the whole thing shattered apart and fell away, I realised this was because the driver had used his fist to clear it out of the way. At least I could see the spread of red on his shoulder where I’d shot him – hopefully that would go some way to slowing them down…

My assessment of the situation was suddenly interrupted as the other Tongs opened fire on us again. I feared the worst as I heard the metallic ping of bullets hitting the car. The adrenaline was rushing around my system and I had a moment of blind panic, expecting bullets to come flying at me… however none came. I guess the recoil on those tommys must make them hard to handle, and the slight golden men were having trouble aiming them well. Maybe they weren’t the immediate threat I’d feared. I glanced over my shoulder and saw that in those few seconds we’d made progress and were beginning to approach James and his pair of captors. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to take out the large gaunt from this distance with only 4 bullets left loaded, and he was distracted at the moment. The tong next to him was on the look out and already had his gun to hand. I sat around to face the front again and took aim. However as we had closed the distance he could see us more clearly and ducked out of the way as I pulled my trigger. My frustration turned quickly to fear as I saw him bob up again from behind Petunia, and holding his tommy gun firmly he let loose a spray of bullets across Bill’s windshield. I sat paralysed as I saw the bullets chip the glass as they worked their way from side to side. They ricocheted off, however, and I thought that we’d been lucky once again… until the glass suddenly cracked, and I heard a loud grunt from Bill. Looking over at him I saw blood seep out of a wound in his chest. With a determined look on his face he used a spare hand to push through the glass to clear his view and continued to drive. Hopefully he wasn’t too badly hurt, and now that I could hold my gun directly out in front of me to aim my last few shots could really count.

The human Tong in front was still fairly well hidden behind Petunia, which was getting worryingly close to the edge of the cliff. I changed targets to the gaunt, my shot ringing out as I pulled back hard on the trigger. I was rewarded by seeing a spray of blood emerge from his back as my bullet tore through his flesh. He noticeably baulked, but resumed pushing James’ car.

My moment of elation was short lived however, I heard a bullet ring out and the shattering of glass again as the Tongs from the van shot out Bill’s rear window. The next bullet hit me, clipping my collar bone, sending waves of pain through my arm. It was a deep graze and I gritted my teeth, willing the pain to ebb away to a tolerable level.

I opened my eyes in time to see the Tong in front of us send out another spray of bullets. Standing firm on the ground his aim wasn’t hindered, nor was there glass to protect us any longer, and his sweep hit both Bill and I. I cried aloud in pain – what I’d felt before was nothing compared to this. Looking down I saw with horror the huge wound in my chest, blood pouring out of it. The shock of it made me feel giddy, but I tried hard to stay focused. “I wonder if I can put the dress repair and cleaning bill on my expenses for Valentine…” I found myself thinking, as if my mind wanted to distance itself from the intense agony in my body. Aiming again I squeezed off another shot towards Nick. Despite being the larger target my aim was off as I felt my arms weakening, and only grazed him – not even giving him pause.

The situation seemed pretty desperate; we were fighting a losing battle, when things took a turn for the worse. Almost simultaneously we took another round of bullets from the Tong standing by Petunia, hitting both Bill and myself. Now my shoulder was throbbing and the entire upper half of my body felt racked with pain. Not an instant later it was intensified as the car was rammed on the side by the Tong van. I didn’t see it coming and hadn’t braced – the impact slammed the side of the car into me, it felt as if the van had driven straight into me. I gasped from the pain, my head was beginning to swim, I forced it to clear as I took stock of what was going on; they were using the van to try and push Bill and I off the cliff!

I had one bullet left – one chance to stop these goons. Taking as deep a breath as I could manage I grabbed hold of the seatbelt and gathering the remains of my strength I pushed my way forward and partially through the windshield. It was the only way I was going to get a chance to aim at the driver and give Bill a chance to free the car. I raised my gun and fired… but the last ditch attempt failed as the shot went high and just hit the roof of the driver’s cab. My arm slumped down, I saw the tongs raising their guns to me and tried to pull myself back into the shelter of the car. As I tugged on the seatbelt the earlier bullet wound in my shoulder erupted in pain as I tried to use tendons that were now shredded to pieces. I saw the barrel of the gun aiming at me, and then… nothing.

In the rapidly fading world I felt my hand loose its grip on the seatbelt, and my body slide down off the bonnet, leaving a wet, slick trail of blood, as my mind slid into unconsciousness.

I couldn’t help but wonder in the last few moments what would have happened if I hadn’t run out of bullets, or on Jake Bullet…

****************************************************

One at a time my senses returned to me. I first noticed the salty, metallic tang in my mouth. The sharp taste of blood brought back a slew of images; shot after shot ripping into me, the van slamming into the car, the barrel of the tommy gun… but despite all that it seemed I was still here, able to think, wherever here was. The feeling in my fingers suddenly registered, I was lying on fabric that was clammy, and a little sticky. As feeling returned my body started to ache all over, it was as if every part of my skin was tender and bruised, not to mention how shredded my entire torso felt.

A voice came through my cloudy thoughts. “This is the one I pulled from her chest, as you can see it’s the least deformed bullet.” The voice had a strange accent I couldn’t place, and although it sounded hazy I realised there was someone nearby. I forced my eyes open, I had to know where I was and with whom. An icy thought of fear ran through my mind – had I been captured by the Tongs? Where were James and Bill? My vision was fuzzy, at first I could only make out I was in a small room, with two people as indistinct blurs. “She’s coming around” said the closer one, the same voice I’d heard before, but still unfamiliar. I blinked a few times, willing my sight to clear up. I couldn’t make out too many details yet, but I noticed the further one slip something into his breast pocket before turning to face me, the black fedora casting a shadow over his face. My view was suddenly obscured by the other man who leant in close towards me. “What’s your name?” he asked me. “Shirley. Who are you?” I replied, as I still didn’t recognise him. Ignoring my question he performed some more tests, asking me other things to test my perceptions. He gave a curt nod as it seemed my answers satisfied him, then left.

I was finally able to focus on the room’s other occupant. I gave an inward groan as I recognised Jake Bullet. Not only that, but I realised I was in his bedroom. He continued to stand for a few moments, sipping at a single malt, casually looking down at me with a slight smirk just pulling the corners of his lips. He took another mouthful of the whiskey, then offered it to me. I sure could have done with something to ease the pain throughout my body, so I went to sit up – or at least try to. Searing jets of agony lanced all over, and the newly places stitches strained and pulled at my damaged flesh. I rested back down on the bed, eliciting a slight chuckle from Jake. I was saved from saying anything to him however, as James called through the door which had been left open. “Are you all right, Shirley?” Tilting my head I could see him lying at an odd angle on the sofa. I had no idea what had happened to him, but there weren’t many visible signs of what he’d gone through since vanishing at the bar. I asked him in return how he was and we chatted briefly. Much as I wanted to I couldn’t ignore the dominant presence of Jake though, and looking back finally made eye contact with him. He was looking at me coldly, although I thought I could detect a slight trace of amusement at my situation. “How did I get back here?” I asked him. Part of me was hoping that he wouldn’t have had anything to do with it, apart from opening the door, but that was outdone by my natural curiosity and disbelief that he’d been there. He gave a snide comment about not needing his help, and how Bill had been adequate assistance. I guess I had that one coming, but still, even if he had been there it was no guarantee I wouldn’t have ended up this badly hurt. I didn’t have the strength to argue though, I just wanted some answers. “What happened?” I tried again. Jake took a step nearer, and fixed me with his penetrating gaze, holding my eyes for a long moment before answering, “don’t underestimate me”. I looked away, wanting to know, but too groggy and tired to extract information out of him. “Okay” I murmured weakly, wishing I could give a more fiery response. I guess James had heard the question, as he began to explain what had happened, he started going on about collapsing cliffs, Nick being killed, a boat… it all seemed rather fantastic – too surreal to take in.

When James paused Jake went out and picked him up off the sofa, carrying him through to the bedroom and putting him in a small armchair. After having unceremoniously dumped him he strode out, no doubt to conduct what other nefarious business he had.

POV: Jake Bullet

I slammed the door shut behind me, putting a finger over my lips to instruct Leo and Rocky to be quiet. I gestured at Donnie and towards the bathroom. I wanted the kid out of the way, and I didn’t want him getting to know my voice too well. I didn’t know for sure yet if he had betrayed the Pattersons – and I didn’t want to have to find out he was innocent and have to kill him anyway for knowing who’d kidnapped him.

I throw a look at Leo, but the conversation I need to have with him can wait for a better time. Right now I have to do some thinking, some fast thinking!

James is out there, and in serious trouble. Now, on a normal day this wouldn’t be a problem for me. The only good warlock is a dead warlock, and I don’t really care who’s responsible for the death of one. However, this might be James’ lucky day, as there are several reasons why I should help him. The least significant reason is that I owe him one – and that alone I could blow off without having nightmares. The complication comes from who is trying to kill him, and why. This is tied up with Harry’s murder, and if I can discover who is trying to kill James, I might be one step closer to finding Harry’s killer. Plus the very fact that Shirley spurned my help has me itching to prove she can’t do this alone.

I can understand why she might be uncomfortable around me, but I can’t understand why she’d risk James’ life over it – I thought she was a little too soft hearted for that. Maybe she’s hardening up.

I stalk into the back room and slump on the bed, pick up the phone, and place a call. A few minutes later I have an appointment with some Patterson guys out at the dock.

I step back into the main room, calmer and more focused than before. I tell Leo and Rocky that I’m going out to deal with this James ‘situation’ and that they are to wait here and keep an eye on the prisoners.

I drive my car as fast as I dare drive it, heading to a particular spot on the docks. I meet three Patterson guys who lead me to a small boat.

“Hey, you’re Jake?” one of them asks.

“Yep, that’s me. We all set?” I ask.

“Well here’s the boat, the boss said the boat’s yours, and you can borrow us lot for a few hours. What’s cooking?” he responds.

I explain the plan to him. That there are some Tong goons up to no good, and the chances are they’re trying to dump someone out at sea. With the boat we should be able to head out and hopefully spot a Tong boat, or something.

“It’s a long shot – but it’s worth it if we can catch those Tongs up to no good and teach them a lesson or two” I say, and step into the boat.

I sit down and let the experts ‘drive’ the boat. We head out along the coast and out to sea a little, all of us scanning the horizon for any signs.

One of the guys thrusts out his arm, rocking the boat, pointing with a shout, “There, there’s something!”

We all turn to look, and up on a cliff we can see a car all too close to the edge. Very suspicious!

I sit impatiently in the boat as it races over the waves towards the beach, salt spray wetting my hair as I lean forwards with anticipation. The boat smacks into the beach, and I’m already leaping out, shouting for two of the guys to come with me as I race towards the steep footpath leading up to the cliff. We’re out of direct line of sight for a few minutes, having to listen to the whine of a car engine straining, the sound of rapid staccato gunfire answered with lone shots of a revolver. I can’t see the firefight, but I recognise Shirley’s gun, and it sounds as if she’s outmatched.

The three of us finally reach the top of the cliff, half way there now, and within line of sight. Just in time to see James struggling out of the car that a huge Gaunt is trying to push off the cliff, and to see the car that Bill and Shirley are in get smashed into by a van that starts trying to shove them to the cliff as well.

Things are looking worse than they sounded, and I’m still out of range with my gun. While racing to try and get there faster, with the two Patterson guys following behind me, I can see Shirley leaning out through the broken windscreen of the car, trying to shoot at the driver of the van, only to take a hail of bullets from a tommy gun, and get thrown out of the car, dropping like a sack of potatoes to the floor. I feel a chill run through me, rapidly followed by anger. I should have insisted on going with her. I should have been there to stop her getting killed, rather than trying to show off with a last minute rescue.

I’m just getting into range when I see the edge of the cliff suddenly give way. James’ car crashing over the edge, the land just falling away under it, dragging the huge Gaunt with it, James just safely a few metres away from the crumbling landscape.

There are three tommy gun totting tongs advancing on Bill and James when I start shooting, the guys with me following suit. One of the tongs shouts out for us to stop shooting or he caps Bill in the head. Well, as I say, the only good gaunt is a dead Gaunt, so I don’t stop shooting. I’m happy for Bill to take one in the head.

Two things seem to happen at once. The tommy gun of the tong holding it to Bill’s head seems to explode into dust, and at the same time James droops to the floor. My guess is that there’s some magic at work. This has the tongs off guard, and me and the boys quickly get them onto their knees and eliminate any immediate threat.

I give James and Shirley a quick glance, I’m not sure there’s anything I can do for either of them. Shirley seems on the verge of death, and James seems quite lucid and otherwise uninjured. I consider for a moment trying to wake Shirley up, see if she has any last words, but it’s probably a mercy that she’s unconscious.

I walk over to the new edge of the cliff, looking down to see Nick the Nail, the huge Gaunt, holding on to an exposed root. He begs me for my help, and I tantalise him with the idea that I might offer him some. He confesses to the murder of Harry, hired by Mr G to do so, and all because Mr G’s wife had hired Harry to investigate a suspicious of infidelity. Poor Harry. I aim my gun right into Nick the Nail’s face, and pull the trigger, sending him cursing down to the rocks below.

I turn by back as he plummets to his death and eye Bill the Gaunt. It’d be so easy to plug him and throw him to his death too. Maybe he sees the look in my eye, and he quickly suggests he might be able to do something for Shirley. He’s desperate, he must be, there’s no way a Gaunt would be able to do anything. I feel like killing him just for the momentary surge of hope he gave me. But he looks sincere, and I give him the nod.

He’s leaning over her doing something, and I distract myself by getting the boys to help me load James into the Tong’s truck.

When James is loaded up, I turn on Bill. My trigger finger is itching, but when I look down I can see he’s actually managing to do something for Shirley. Maybe she wasn’t as far gone as I thought, or maybe this Gaunt was just so desperate he lucked out.

While he’s trying to patch Shirley up, I instruct the Patteron goons with me to dispose of all the tongs. They’re not quite sure what I mean, and I explain that they should pick them up and throw them off the cliff. Once that is done I turn back to Bill.

I decide I’m going to let him live, and so I tell Bill to get into his own car and get the hell away from here. Shirley is carefully placed in the van, and I send the Patterson goons back to the boat to get it out of here while I drive the van. A hospital is no good. Too many questions. So back to my place.

I burst back into my office, startling Leo and Rocky as i shout at them to go and get Shirley from the van, and I straighten up the blankets on my bed nervously as Rocky and Leo bring her through and lay her on it. The pair of them are horrified, Rocky almost close to tears. They want to know what happened, but there’s no time. I send them back to the van to bring through James, telling them to put him on the sofa while I pick up the phone.

I ring up Silas and ask him if he can have a surgeon sent around. I’m pacing nervously while waiting, sending Leo out to move the van, trying to get Rocky to stop babbling. I can’t help look down at Shirley, laying once more in my bed, helpless and at my mercy. This time I was going to make sure that she was looked after right.

The doctor arrives after what seems like hours, and I show him to where Shirley is. He wants me to give him space, but I refuse to leave the room, passing his instructions for towels, hot water, and whisky on to Leo and Rocky.

I can’t help but admire the skill of the man, carefully plucking out each and every bullet and sewing the wounds up with a dexterous stitch. He finds one bullet that has barely deformed, offering it to me as a souvenir. I’m irritated that he has time to joke, but I bite back any comments, I can see he’s doing a good job.

After hours of work he’s finally done, sipping on a glass of whisky and bringing Shirley around to try and count how many fingers he is holding up. Slowly the tension on the evening fades away, turning into relief that Shirley is going to be ok. The relief didn’t last long, turning into anger at quite how close she came to getting herself killed.

With his job done, the doctor departs, leaving me alone with Shirley for a moment.

James is shouting questions to her from outside, and Shirley is responding, but finally she turns to me.

“What happened?” Shirley asks.

“It seems that Bill wasn’t all the help you needed after all” I respond dryly, managing to keep my tone from getting angry, but not being able to quite take the grimace off my face.

“How did I get here?” she mumbles. “It seems like you did need my help after all” I snipped back.

“What happened?” she asked again, and outside from the sofa James was shouting back an answer, telling her how it had all been going to hell and that I had turned up to save their bacon.

However my only answer is to lean closer and whisper, “Don’t underestimate me.”

I can see she wants to talk more, she wants answers. But I’m not prepared to talk to her right now. James seems to be stuck here until he recovers, so I carry James through to the bedroom and prop him up in a chair so the pair of them can talk. I shut the door behind me, and look at the bathroom door. I have some anger management issues to work through, and this seems to be a good time to work on them.

“Rocky, bring out Donnie. Keep him blindfolded and sit him down” I instruct, voice bubbling with vehement intent.

Originally authored by: Alice, & Azrael


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