15 October 2007
Lance and I watched for a few more minutes as the posse of men rampaged through the Red Rump tribe’s campsite, then we withdrew from our vantage point atop Cockshaft Canyon to formulate a plan to overcome this group of horseback bastards.
“I say we go down there, guns ablazin’, and shoot each an’ every one of ‘em dead,” Lance snarled, drawing his pistol from it’s holster.
“An excellent plan, Lance, however it falls down on one crucial point. There are but two of us, and at least twelve of them. By the time we had shot off our first round we’d be riddled so full of holes they could use our corpses to strain spaghetti.”
“Oh. Right.” Lance fell silent, his brow knotted in deep concentration. “Okay, then, what about we get a big ol’ cannon, wheel it up to the edge of the canyon and BOOM! Blow ‘em all to kingdom come?”
“Hmmm.” I mused. “I think that plan is possibly even more asinine than your first.”
“Ass-what?” said Lance.
“Never mind,” I sighed. “Now do be quiet, and let me think so that I may formulate a plan that is not completely and utterly bent.”
My silent ruminations were not to be forthcoming, however, as a loud voice broke into my thoughts from the valley below.
“LIKELY!” came the voice. “LIKELY!”
“Is he talking to you or me?” I said to Lance. Lance shrugged.
“LIKELY! I KNOW YOU’RE UP THERE! JUST COME ON DOWN, AND WE’LL HAVE A LITTLE TALK, MAN-TO-MAN!”
I froze. I recognised that voice from somewhere. The lilting, sing-song cadence and slight Welsh accent…
I shan’t bore you with the details of my flashback, except to say it was in black and white, entirely in slow motion, and surprisingly dull. The upshot of it all was that I had indeed heard this voice from someone somewhere before, and that somewhere was aboard the HMS Bastard, where I had began my journey to America, and the someone was it’s captain – Huw Anchor.
What in the name of Thor’s mighty hammer was that swine doing here?
I crawled back to the precipice and peered over the top. Surely enough, there was the smartly-dressed form of the captain, flanked by two other familiar faces, Renchard Dirigible, his second-in-command and Jean des Lunettes, the awful Frenchman I had met while dining with the captain aboard the HMS Bastard.
“Well bugger me sideways,” I exclaimed quietly. “I have met these fiends before! What a small world it is, eh Lance?” There was no reply. “Lance?”
My finely-tuned sense of danger told me something was amiss, so I gently pulled out the antique pistol Ludlow had given me, and quickly spun round, holding the gun out on front of me. I saw Lance, on his knees, head bowed, in front of a burly figure who was pointing a rifle at the back of my poor brother’s head.
“Mr. Anchor wishes to see you both,” the figure growled. “Dead or alive, it makes no difference.”
“Tell him I shall see him…IN HELL!” I roared, squeezing the trigger of the pistol. Nothing happened, save for a dull thud as the hammer clicked into place. I silently cursed Ludlow for having lumbered me with a useless weapon, and gently rose to my feet, hands in the air.
“Or, we can see him now, I suppose,” I sighed.
“Oh! Your lordship! How lovely to see you again!” Anchor cried, as we entered the campsite. “It has been much too long. I do hope there are no hard feelings about the whole trying-to-kill-you-by-ploughing-our-ship-into-an-iceberg business?”
“Oh, not at all, Mr. Wanker. The sea-breeze did me the world of good, I shouldn’t wonder. Now if you do not mind, can you please tell me what in the name of Prince Albert’s golden cock-ring is going on here?”
“Certainly,” said Anchor, sitting himself down on one of the tribe’s comfortable sofas. “It is the least I can do, before I have you shot dead by my accomplice Herman, over there,” he indicated to the burly fellow behind me, who jabbed his rifle into my back on cue.
“Charmed,” I said.
“You are a well-travelled man, are you not, your lordship? I too travel a lot, but alas all I ever get to see of the various countries I encounter is the coast, before I am off again on another voyage. So, when my annual holiday came around this year, I decided to take in some of the sights of this great nation, and get to know it a little better. My holiday took me to some rather obscure, peculiar little places, such as a small town called Around Here, in Dinkle County. My! That was a rather colourful little township, I must say. Anyway, I was relaxing in a bar there, when I overheard two men engaged in a hushed discussion about the recent discovery of a large stash of gold, and what to do with it. One of these men was your brother, here, the other was an old fellow who seemed to be the one who had made the discovery.
“Now, an opportunity like this does not come along every day, your lordship, and I decided I wanted this gold for myself. So I assembled together this group of easily-bribed men from the town, and we paid this old man a visit, with a view to wringing the location of the gold from him. Unfortunately, he was not forthcoming with the information, so I…”
“You killed him, ya lily-livered piece o’ shit!” snapped Lance, angrily. Anchor motioned to Herman, who responded by smashing Lance in the back of the head with his rifle butt. Lance howled in pain.
“Please, do not interrupt me when I am telling my story. It is really very rude, you know,” Anchor droned. “Now, where was I? Ah, yes! So, I decided to terminate the discussion with the old man, and thought I might be able to learn the location of the gold from his partner, the incredibly rude Lance Likely, here. Unfortunately, tracking Lance down was rather tricky, and despite my best efforts he remained an elusive character. Eventually I had to give up and return to England, and back to work.
“But happily, Lady Luck seemed to smile down upon me, for when I returned to duty on the HMS Bastard I saw that one of my passengers was another Likely – your good self, Lord Likely. This could not be mere coincidence, I thought, and I reasoned that this man had to be connected with the other Likely in United States. So, I informed the most trusted members of my crew about the whole affair, offered them a share of the bounty and together we decided to ransack your cabin to glean further information. We abducted your man-servant so that you would think the sole purpose of the raid on your lodgings was for a kidnapping, and would not get suspicious of our real intentions, and then we turned the place over. There we found the letter of distress from yet anther Likely, your American half-brother Ludlow, so we made a note of his address and decided that when we got to America, we would pay him a visit.”
“Why didn’t you just follow me?” I asked.
“Mr. Dirigible here informed me that you were somewhat of an adventurer and detective, who had defeated countless criminals and miscreants over the years. We reasoned that only you could possibly scupper our plans, and we would fare better leaning on this Ludlow fellow instead. So, we agreed to sink the HMS Bastard with you on it, lest you interfere with our plans.”
“Of course, that was after your first attempt on my life failed, when I overcame your hired goon Doctor Corkscrews,” I remarked.
“Doctor who?” Anchor asked, genuinely surprised. “We did not hire anyone to kill you, your lordship. We already had our scheme all set out.”
I was confused. I had been sure Doctor Corkscrews was part of this terrible business, yet he was not. I was reminded of an earlier mystery, where my carriage had been shunted off the road by persons unknown, and where I had received a note threatening violence upon my lordly form, of which both instances had proved to be unrelated to the mystery at hand. Was someone else following me and trying to end my precious life? And if so, who? And why would anyone wish harm upon my wondrous self? This sort of thing was happening far too frequently for my liking, and further contemplation would be needed. However, for now I had to focus on my current predicament.
“Anyway, your lordship, thinking we had finally dispatched you, we headed off to see your brother Ludlow, hoping to persuade him to tell us how to find the ever-elusive Lance.”
“Ha! That is where you miscalculated, I fear. Ludlow would not give up such information freely. Blood is thicker than water, and – “
“Oh, you are quite right,” Anchor interrupted. “He did not give it up freely. But every man has his price, your lordship.”
“Not Ludlow,” I sneered. “He is a good, honest and decent man. If he told you anything, I will eat my hat.”
“Well, you shall dine well tonight then,” Anchor said dryly. “Isn’t that right, Mr. Likely?”
An all-too familiar figure stepped out from the shadows, his head lowered in shame. It was Ludlow. I felt my heart sink.
“I…I am sorry, Lordy,” Ludlow said, avoiding my furious gaze. “They offered me a lot of money, which helped me to get my book published…I just couldn’t refuse…please, forgive me.”
“Oh, Ludlow,” I shook my head sadly. “You utter, utter cunt.”
- Lord Likely.