Two-Fisted Tales

Tales of Mystery and Adventure



 

The Long Arm of the Law
A Weird Western Tale

(Part 2)

By D.K. Latta
About the author


His shirt was off and his left shoulder ended in a stump, but it was not bleeding. The strange, purple skin had pulled over it, sealing any wound. He was sprawled in a corner, his right wrist bound by a coarse rope to a silver bar running from floor to ceiling. He inhaled sharply between his teeth as he took in his surroundings. He was in the cellar of the big house. At least, that was what he assumed given the last words he remembered hearing.

A table running along one wall was decked out with apparatus that might be at home in a chemist's laboratory: beakers, Bunsen burners, microscopes. There were other objects on the table he was unable to identify. A silver box, for one, the size of a bread box with a row of lights across its face blinking on and off in random patterns. Beside it, a transparent sheet of what looked to be glass stood alone, glowing numbers scrolling across its face from no source he could distinguish. There were other oddities. Chairs that looked just slightly...off. A painting hanging crookedly on one wall that induced a minor headache just by his looking at it.

He espied his gun belt propped against one leg of the table.

Four men crouched over another table, muttering amongst themselves while a lamp blasted a beam of light onto the table top. This light was unwavering, unlike candle or gaslight. On the table was the purple and yellow-spotted arm. His arm.

Forcing his mind to focus, to push away all the strangeness and distractions, he turned to the rope about his wrist. It was crudely tied, as if done rather absently. With his teeth he began to pull loose the knot. He felt the pressure relax on his wrist just as one of the men straightened, shaking his head. He immediately ceased his actions.

"DNA scan confirms it," spoke the first man, tall and broad-shouldered.

"Impossible. How did he get it? Attach it?"

The tall man shrugged. "Let's ask our guest." He started to cross the room, then stopped on seeing the Canadian was awake. "Well, now. You've got a few questions to answer, don't you? Like who the Hell are you and how'd you get that arm?"

He glared silently at his interrogator.

The tall man grinned. "Don't think for a minute that you can tough us out, fellah. I go by the name of Jeremiah Thomson, but my real name is Klina, and I know ways to cause pain you couldn't even imagine. So let's try and avoid any unpleasantness. Are you the one who killed Farley Hayes and Carl Grubber?"

Quietly, he said, "And Walter Caswell."

Jeremiah Thomson started, his jaw sagging for just a moment. "Caswell's dead? Just who the Hell are you?"

"A lawman."

One of the men around the table laughed. Another one said, "We know all about lawmen, mister. Jeremiah used to be one."

"Shut up," Thomson said flatly. "This here arm belonged to a lawman, one a good sight more tenacious than anything you've got on this backwoods planet of yours." Seeing the shock in his eyes, Thomson nodded. "It's true. We'd just about run out of places to hide within the Allied Worlds, so we came here, figuring there'd be enough opportunities to keep us amused among you dimwitted, monkey-evolved barbarians -- once we did a bit of molecular-rearrangement to blend in with the local colour, and realigned our vocabulary patterns. But a lawman was hard on our heels."

"Czio," he muttered, understanding beginning to dawn.

"That's right. His name was Czio and he'd hunted us from one end of the Alliance to another. We lured him into an ambush and cut him to pieces with a laser barrage -- not that I expect you to know what a laser is. Just think of it as sunlight that can kill. What I want to know is: how'd you get his arm? I wasn't aware you people had that kind of surgical skill -- nor why you'd even want the damn thing in the first place."

"I didn't." He stopped, then realized there was no point in hiding anything from these...whatever they were. "I stumbled upon where you killed him. Passed out. And when I awoke, I had the arm."

"Jipoos'n," muttered one of them, his features going ashen.

"Shut up, damn you!" snapped Thomson. "There's no such thing as jipoos'n." He looked at the man crouched in the corner. "I don't believe in ghosts. You're lying, earthman. I don't know why or what you hope to gain, but I'll get the truth from you even if I have to wring it from your- "

The Canadian had heard enough. He yanked his hand free of the loosened rope and sprang forward, rolling, and coming to a stop before the table with the beakers. His gun rustled as he slipped it free of the holster.

"Get him!"

One of them leapt at him and his gun spat death, roaring like an angry mountain cat. Yellow blood geysered into the air as the man clutched at his throat and fell gurgling to his knees. Suddenly Thomson had him by the throat, wrenching him to his feet. His gun was slapped effortlessly from his hand. He struggled, helpless before Jeremiah Thomson's greater strength, colours flashing before his eyes as his lungs burned without air. He wheezed once.

Someone else screamed.

Dimly, he thought that that was odd -- after all, he was the one dying. Then a purple blur shot by, smacking Thomson across the face. The tall man staggered back and he dropped to the ground, gagging. Through the fireworks across his retina, he saw the purple arm flopped ungainly across the floor, twitching. It seemed almost to be imploring him.

Thomson was shouting hysterically. "Get the laser wand! Cut it to pieces! Cut them both to pieces!"

The Canadian nodded slowly, for the first time truly understanding. "Yes," he said. "Do it."

The arm spasmed and flung itself toward him. Its severed end slapped wetly against his stump and he felt a burning warmth, then a surge of energy. Suddenly he could flex his left fingers again.

A beam of light shot by his face, scorching the very air. The alien hand shot out, grabbing the gun, turning, aiming, firing, in less time than it took him to even register the movement. The man with the "laser wand" snapped back, arms flailing. He brought down the third man in barely a microsecond.

Roaring, Thomson charged at him, a big chair in his hands raised above his head to smash the Canadian's brains out. The arm flickered like purple lightning and the gun barked twice more. Thomson's knees went out from under him and he drove into the floor, skidding a half-foot. He did not move again.

* * *

He sat astride his horse and watched the flames consume the house, dancing yellow and red tongues against the inky night sky. He dragged off his hat with his right hand, blotting the sweat from his brow with his sleeve, then twitched the reins with his left hand. His horse started lazily away from the blaze.

Together, the two lawmen continued west.

The End.


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The Long Arm of the Law is copyright D.K. Latta. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)