The Vocalist – Chapter 8

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’ve taken a bit of time away from the blog to edit and complete the Milton Workshop’s debut anthology, Halloween Party 2017. I now have a bit of a respite before starting work on the winter anthology, Solstice, so what better way to spend that time than rewrite some older work? Heavy edits and rewriting once again, as I’ve cut nearly 1,000 words of clutter. Now on with the show…

BENEATH HIS COSTUME THE SCALLION was sweating. A lot. The act of physically moving his adversary from the dining room onto the rooftop of Mr. Black and Blue’s mansion had taken more effort than he’d expected. Beads of perspiration trickled down the back of his spine and showed no sign of stopping. Too much effort expended. The cool outdoor air helped but not nearly enough. The plan had been to simply escort Trevor, at gunpoint, to the roof. But groggy from having consumed part of a poisoned apple, Trevor was barely able to stand, much less climb stairs. The Scallion dragged him, and the effort had left him a perspiring mess. Trevor, his hands bound, lay on the roof, staring at the stars. He inhaled and exhaled slowly, trying to regain composure, but soon blacked out.

Despite The Scallion’s conceit, he considered Trevor a worthy opponent. But he also knew that as long as Trevor was gagged, he couldn’t tap into his vocal powers.  Atop the roof and looking east, Combustible’s skyline ignited the evening sky in a myriad of color. The skyscrapers, bridges, and neon signs glowed like a thousand shimmering stars. The Scallion smiled, though not only because his perspiration had ceased.

Trevor awoke bound to a chair and seated several feet from The Scallion, who stood proudly next to his weapon of mass reduction. The device was unlike anything Trevor had seen. He had a vague recollection of its blueprint, which he’d stumbled upon at the Combustible Public Library. The finished product, however, was an altogether different experience. There was nothing weapon-like about it. To the uninitiated, the reduction weapon resembled a stereo rack system. Quad loudspeakers were positioned in each direction with wiring that connected to a rectangular command console fashioned atop an old wooden lectern. The Scallion gleefully depressed an over-sized button labeled POWER and the machinery began to hum rhythmically.
“I really, sincerely, wish it were unnecessary to gag you. Unlike my imbecile partner, I suspect you’d appreciate that which I have wrought through science and my own unparalleled genius.”
Trevor nodded.
“You agree. Of course you do. You understand me on a level that my short-tempered, dim-witted companion cannot. He sees this device as little more than a toy, though perhaps on some level it is. I never was good at sharing toys.”
Trevor’s attempts to loosen the rope that bound his wrists yielded no return. The poison apple was still lodged within in his mouth and his mouth was covered with duct tape. He considered his options and realized there was but one.

The bedroom was dark and its floor littered with broken glass and other twisted objects. Marcia knocked over a chest of drawers—an antique bequeathed to her by her grandmother more than 15 years ago—to force a barrier between herself and her adversary. It afforded her a two-second respite. She threw a snow globe but missed. It shattered against the wall above the bed. Jones woke from a deep feline sleep and darted beneath the bed in terror. Marcia envied his agility and ran toward the living room.
Why am I not screaming? she thought, and began to scream.
Mr. Black and Blue reached out in the darkness. His ham hands found the flimsy material of her nightshirt and knocked Marcia off balance. She tumbled to the floor. He was atop her within seconds, his weight pressing upon her small frame.
“We got the Vocalist. You’re coming with me.”
The vase, a tacky glass construct adorned in gold-plated stripes and weighing five pounds, had been a wedding present from Trevor’s uncle, a real estate agent who’d flown in from Anchorage for the occasion. She’d never much cared for it, and as she struck the left side of Mr. Black and Blue’s face with brute force, she couldn’t help but laugh at his cries of anguish. Marcia quickly hurried to her feet and staggered across the floor, crashing her left knee against an oversize antique coffee table she and Trevor had purchased at a flea market two summers ago. Mr. Black and Blue held his big beefy face with his big beefy hands. His equilibrium was shot. He teetered on the edge of unconsciousness while Marcia staggered and limped toward the kitchen and found the knife drawer. He rose slowly and staggered after his fleeing quarry.
The pain shot through Marcia’s right arm like shrapnel. The limb was instantly numb as Mr. Black and Blue pressed a physically triggered assault that was true to his name. The knife dropped from Marcia’s lifeless fingers. He advanced. Her left arm flailed and she found a small canister adjacent to the sink. The powdered cleanser hit him squarely in the eyes causing temporary albeit painful blindness. The advantage gained, Marcia attacked with found objects. The vodka bottle to the skull sent her assailant into Absolut unconsciousness.

When he awoke it was with arms and legs bound by piano wire. Struggling only increased the pain as the metal wire dug through the flesh of his wrists. He became aware of the sensation of wetness, and found that he was seated in a partially filled bathtub. Marcia, whose numbness had subsided while during Mr. Black and Blue’s unconscious, had been busy. She was dressed in faded jeans and a black angora sweater. She stood next to the bathtub, an electric hair dryer in her left hand and set to low, buzzed softly. She extended her hand so that the hair dryer hovered directly above the water-filled tub.
“Part of me feels like dropping this right now and frying your ugly ass.”
“What do you want?” Mr. Black and Blue said.
“You know what I want. Where’s Trevor?”

It was going to be wonderful. A kingdom, dozens of cities, reduced to ship-in-a-bottle proportions, under his command. It was going to be exquisite. The transistors hummed, their electrical outputs increasing in magnitude with each passing second. The lights atop the lectern glowed with discotheque brilliance. Yet, something wasn’t quite right. Despite the excitement of witnessing his self-named sub-atomic minimization particle disruption transmitter in action, despite the glow-glow lights, the laboratory hum of machinery, and the added thrill of forcing his arch enemy to witness it all, something was wrong. Doubt crept deeper into the caverns of his mind as a gust of wind ruffled his cape. The cape. It’s imperfect. A great big burn right on it for all your subjects to see. You look like an amateur, they’ll say. An amateur king. He shoved the thoughts into a tiny box and closed the lid.
Nearby but still restrained, Trevor began to chew chew upon the poison fruit wedged into his mouth. A partial dose of the poison had felt like a dozen simultaneous hangovers. He knew he’d need to move quickly. The fruit tasted bitter and there was still the matter of the electrical tape covering his mouth. He breathed slowly through his nostrils and bit up and down as quickly and carefully (wouldn’t be much help if he choked to death) as time allowed.
The Scallion adjusted the controls to his mad machinery. Doubt lifted the lid and escaped from its box. A doubt that had nothing to do with the sub-atomic minimization particle disruption transmitter—he’d successfully demonstrated its effectiveness on a crowded passenger bus. He was standing poised on the brink of a success not even dreamed about by his super-criminal contemporaries such as Dr. Mortalis, The Atom Thumb, and Penny Lane. But doubt was along for the ride and wasn’t about to request a bathroom stop.
Tears streaked down Trevor’s face as he continued to ingest the poison fruit, tears resulting from exposure to syn-propanethial-S-oxide, the chemical irritant found within onions. He realized that he’d bitten into the apple’s core, and that whatever poison awaited contained a degree of raw onion. Trevor tried to swallow the remainder of the apple in large bits, hoping that might slow the poison’s effect. He’d been oblivious to The Scallion for several minutes, and suddenly noticed that something was amiss.
“Master of the world,” The Scallion said, his voice nearly lost to the increasingly loud noise of machinery. “But what world? A world of miniature cities? Of Lilliputian populaces?” The Scallion suddenly realized a horrible flaw within his schemes and plans, a flaw that was far more critical than a maligned cape. He was The Scallion. The reputed master of all things onion. As such, any demonstration of power ought should, at a minimum, be characterized, symbolized, epitomized by the onion. In the annals of a shrunken world’s history, how would miniature historians equate the shrinking of a city with the man who held dominion over the onion? It wasn’t possible, and he realized this with rapid clarity as if, after years of having felt a wart on his nose he’d suddenly been given a mirror with which to see it. The reduction of the world’s cities was an act befitting The Mad Shrinker, Reducto, or any variety of super-villain whose modus operandi symbolically matched the deed. It was not befitting of one who had assumed the name, the mantle, of The Scallion. He sat down slowly next to the sub-atomic minimization particle disruption transmitter and wondering if the situation was salvageable.
Ten feet distant, his eyes blurred from a litany of tears, Trevor painfully swallowed the last pieces of the poison apple.

NEXT: Our story concludes.

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