Durocha P.I. 007

Diana awoke slowly and much to her chagrin her first thought was of North and how he must have felt similar waking up in that room of Charles Mandell. Her head ached and opening her eyes took some effort, but she was greatful the room simmed to be dimly lit aside from a few low lights. She tried to move, but the agent found herself lying on a painfully hard table and her wrists tightly clamped near her head. Above her, attached to the ceiling, looked like a terribly rusty old axe or some sort of antique blade that looked like it belonged in a wax theatre.

“Well that’s original…” she muttered with sarcasm towards the whole scene. It probably wasn’t even real.

“Thank you. I do believe it’s a nice touch to use real bodies in the haunted house.” Startled by the voice Diana tilted her head with much effort towards the sound. The gypsy stood nearby dressed in full costume and wore the most horribly self-satisfied smirk. “And yes, it is real. I am so glad you made sure to be in costume for your final performance!” Giving a wicked chuckle she flipped a switch near the door and the blade at the ceiling slowly began moving back and forth as it lowered.

Diana blinked at the woman and then back at the swing blade with surprise. Was she serious?! People said carnival workers were eccentric, but this was just insane! Where the devil was North when he could be useful… and why was she always stuck in a dress! “You can’t just kill someone like this! Someone is bound to realize I am not just a display!”

Her pleading was only met with another laugh! “Oh, but you see, the haunted house is shut down for repairs. No one is going to find you in here for weeks. Enjoy your last moments!” Snickering with self important glee, the gypsy flipped off the lights and exited through the door. Diana could hear the bolt of a lock being shut behind it as she muttered to the darkness.

“This is going to suck…”

“So, uh, what happened to you?” A driver asked, turning to the passenger seat of his truck where a wet, muddy, beaten and bruised North sat. He managed to flag down a moving van and hitched a ride to the fair, though he wasn’t in the talking mood at the moment. Finding Diana was the only thing on his mind and he didn’t ever hear the driver. “Hey, you ok?”

“What? Oh, yeah … uh, fine.” North didn’t even sound like he was listening. The driver just shrugged and continued down the road, heading closer to the fairgrounds. North continued looking out the window, unable to thing of anything but the missing agent. Where was she? What were they doing to her? How was he going to find her and would he find her alive?

On the horizon, the familiar shape of a Ferris wheel began to show up through the light fog that was settling in. They were only a few hundred feet away when North told the driver to stop, telling him he would walk the rest of the way; a habit of North’s when he was an uninvited guest. The driver complied, pulling over to the curb and letting North out. With a quick wave the van disappeared over a hill and the detective was left alone.

“Ok, now to get inside.” North said to himself. He was alone on the sidewalk; another large field occupied the area across the street – A good of place of any to get in. Or it would have been if it weren’t for the tall, temporary fence they put up, or the barbed wire topping it off. Great. North rubbed his chin, hoping to think of a way to get in.

Maybe he was over complicating things. After all, it was just a carnival; it’s not like there are security clowns on patrol or anything like that. It’s just a fair – a fair filled with murderous clowns, but a fair none the less. With a nod, North decided he might as well try the simple way. Not like they were going to refuse him or anything.

“Sorry, sir, we can’t let you in.” The ticket vendor told North. North himself couldn’t understand why, all he did was come up to the stand and he was instantly turned down. Did they have his picture up? Were they watching him now? “We can’t admit the homeless.”

Homeless?! Sure, North was a little dirty and his coat was tattered and ripped, but he didn’t look like a bum! Well, ok, so he didn’t exactly look upper class either. “Look, here’s five dollars. I need to get in.”

“That’s the fare for children. It’s ten for adults.” The ticket boy said, resting his head on his hand.

“I – don’t have ten. Look, I really need to get in. There’s someone in trouble and I have to find her.”

“If you give us her name, we’ll announce it on the loud speaker, ok? But you’re not getting in!” North couldn’t let them call her name out, then they’d know he was there.

“Fine, I’m leaving, ok?” He said with a huff and walked off. The next person walked up the register and was about to shell out money when all of a sudden North bolted by and took a flying leap over the turn isle. The result was him taking a face plant into the mud again, but he didn’t stop to think about that before jumping up and dashing into the park.

Should have taken the fence, North! He thought as he ran past the crowd and ducked behind a tent. Taking a moment to catch his breath, he peeked back around to see if anyone was following. Luckily, there wasn’t anyone there, just a few confused bystanders wondering what he was doing. And that’s when he saw her, the woman that was pointing the gun at Diana! She was coming out of the maintenance door of one of the attractions and North hoped to god the agent was in there, too.

Wasting no time, he made a run through the crowd again for the door, only to find it locked. The woman had the keys no doubt, and getting them from her was just going to waste time. He was going to have to get in on his own. Taking a step back, the detective took a deep breath and swung his foot at the door; only for it to turn out less sturdy than he believed. As soon as he kicked the door, the hinges gave out and the entire thing collapsed, once again causing North to topple to the ground in a most unpleasant position.

With a groan, the battered detective rose up and limped down the hall to the second door, which luckily was locked from his side. Opening the door, North could only hear what sounded like something swinging through the air followed by a metallic click.

Diana grit her everytime she felt the breeze left by the swinging blade. How did she always fall in to the most bizzare situations? As tempting as it weas, she couldn’t really blame North for this one, it her idea to take on a case suggested by some crazy woman in a bakery shop. Now she was clamped to a table in the dark about to be chopped in half by antique torture equipment! What the devil kind of people lug around this kind of stuff anyhow?!

“Where’s a light switch?” North said out loud, his voice echoing in the room.

North!” The agent was flooded with relief at the sound of her partner, but that quickly with another frantic jolt. Heaven forbid he flips the wrong switch and she meets her end sooner than expected! “It’s by the door, but for the love of god, don’t flip the wrong one!”

As soon as North heard Diana’s voice he quickly entered the room and looked next to the door. The light switch was easy enough to find since it was the closest to the opening. Flipping it, several dim lights flickered on around them, illuminating the room to some degree.

“Don’t worry, Diana.” North said, still facing away from her. “It’s going to be all … right?!” When he turned around, he finally saw the massive blade swinging through the air, inching its way down towards the agent, and it only had little over a foot to go. Now he knew what she meant by not throwing the wrong switch! He quickly went back to the board to find which one shut off the mechanism only to discover dozens upon dozens of switches. The whole attraction must have been run from this thing!

Since they were either unlabeled or had two letter descriptions, North was unable to locate the pendulum’s shut off. “Damn!” And gave up on that. He was going to have to get her out himself! Quickly dashing over to the tied down Diana, North found her hands tied by her hands with leather straps. “Don’t worry, Diana.” He said. “I’m going to get you out of this!” The binds around the agent’s hands were tight and the axe was inches closer now, time was running short. The detective wasted no time in undoing the straps, though it seemed they were prepared for someone to come for her as all five loops where wrapped around her wrists tightly, but in seconds North was already through three of them.

“Do you have to be so dramatic?!” she shouted up at him, keeping a frantic eye at the swinging blade. Now really wasn’t the time for him to recite cheesy lines from every comic known to man! Muttering for him to hurry, she twisted her hands as North loosened the binds attempting to get herself free just that wee bit faster. She sucked in a breath when the pendulum swung only a few inches from her waist.

As it swung closer still, her hands were finally free and she rolled off the table with a yelp just as mental sliced in to the ancient wood. Diana stood on shaky feet as she winced and brushed her hand across her side, retrieving it to see a streak of blood. “Oh hell…” Granted it was only a small scratch, but if there was anything worse than seeing blood it ws her own blood! Paling she reached out to lean against the table but she did something stupid like faint.

“You’re late…”

“Late?” North said with a painful sigh. “Excuse me if I didn’t arrive in the nick of time, but I didn’t exactly get a direct ride here like you.” He leaned up against the table as well, the effects of all the crashes and falls finally showing their stuff; he was hurting. That’s when he noticed the red streak on Diana’s hand and the cut on her waist. He really didn’t get there on time.

“Hey, are you ok?” He asked and stood up again to check on her. He knew she wouldn’t like him examining her like he wanted, but could tell from his position it wasn’t too serious, yet Diana didn’t seem too happy about it. She even looked a bit pale after seeing it! “You don’t look too good, Agent.” The detective felt a bit guilty now for not getting there sooner.

If the room would stop spinning she’d be just fine! “I was nearly mincemeat,” she muttered, “I think I look pretty good under the circumstances.” Diana cast him an examining glance. North didn’t look much better… infact he looked like he got into a fight with a mudpuddle and lost. At least she had the satisfaction of knowing he wasn’t pracing around at his leisure.

Now that she had a better view of the place, the agent decided the quicker they got out of there the better! Aside from her new friend, the swinging axe of doom, there were other old looking sets straight out of a dungeon torture chamber. If the one was real, she really didn’t want to stick around long enough to find out about the rest.

But, she wasn’t about to leave without her gun. …And maybe information for the case too. If she could stop staring crosseyed at the blood on her hand.

A distraction was need, and nothing was a better distraction than picking on North. “I’m going to take a wild guess and say you completly botched being undercover…”

“Well, they’re not going to be too happy if they see me again.” North said admittingly. “But I’m not the only one who’s going to get some bad attention walking around.” He threw in, making sure Diana remembered she was the one captured by clowns. They wouldn’t be in this mess if she didn’t have to play dress up back at the bar.

“And we’re going to stick out if we walk around the park. They’re probably already keeping an eye out for me and it’s not exactly hard to spot you in – that.” Nodding to her getup. They were going to have to avoid being seen if they wanted to get around the park, and neither of them wanted to stay in that room. There had to be another way out of there besides the door that led back outside into the crowd, or at least took them to another exit.

Diana looked down at the dress again and sighed. It was a brilliant idea at the time! It’s not like she counted on getting kidnapped or anything. “Still, while we’re here we might as well do some investigating.” He was right, though. They couldn’t walk around looking like a hobo and a bloody prom queen.

“We’ll wait until the carnival closes and look around. But not in here.” She was feeling better, and she would like to keep it that way. Risking anyone coming back and finding her still in one peice didn’t seem like a good idea.

“Good idea.” North said. “But – we shouldn’t go back out that way.” Motioning towards the door he came through. “It leads back into the park and there’s nothing to hide behind.” Looking around, North hoped another exit would be obvious, after all, they were in the back room where the attraction was run, there had to be another way out.

North stepped down from the platform where the table was located and began examining the walls only to find out that there were obvious doors, just eerily decorated backdrops. “I’m not finding anything, you agent?” He called out, continuing across the room into the dimly lit area in back. It was getting harder to see now thanks to the bad lighting, but the detective continued to search for that door.

Finally, he came across some hinges attached to an unmarked door, only there was no knob. North pushed slightly but it did not give way. “Hey, Diana?” He shouted over to her from across the room. But as the detective was not paying attention, the door slowly opened towards him and bumped into his boot. North slowly turned his head back to the opening only to see a tall man standing there covered in mud.

With a startle and without thinking, North raised his fist to knock out whoever it was when he saw the man do the same thing. That’s when he realized what he was looking at had been his own reflection in a mirror. When he opened the door, he found there to be a mirror on that as well and that he’d discovered their way into the scare house. The hall of mirrors to be exact.

“Agent! I, uh, found a way…”

“Only a bunch of freaky junk.” Diana muttered to his first question, finding herself distracted by another torture contraption. Hanging upside down for hours might’ve been worse than being chopped in half! Pay little mind to North in the back, a small box tucked away in a corner behind some ropes and levers caught her attention. Stepping over some strategically placed plastic dummies, she leaned over and reached. The blasted thing seemed to be stuck in the corner, but once she gave it a good tug it slipped catching her off balance and tummbled backwards in to one of the levers. Much to her surprise the whole wall tilted open, and she was sent sprawling in to the floor! Before she could hop up or call for North, it swung itself closed again.

“Well, damn… ” the agent looked around and much to her changrin she found herself staring at her own reflection in a tall mirror. Lots of mirrors for that matter. And she looked like hell! “Ugh… great. Diana Jones and the House of Mirrors…” Diana at least tried to straighten her hair before casting her glance towards the box again. It looked like a jewely box or maybe something to save your change in, but it was locked shut. Maybe it wasn’t anything useful, but people don’t tend to hide tiny boxes in haunted houses ran by psycho clowns and homicidal gypsies.

Now to rescue North before he got himself in any more trouble!

“Agent?” North called out again when he didn’t get a response. Looking back, he discovered Diana was nowhere to be seen and there was no trace of her! He was about to go investigate when he heard someone outside through the door, apparently they had seen his handiwork and they weren’t happy about. Quickly ducking through his newly discovered door, North entered the mirrored halls as well, only he ended up all the way on the other side from Diana; and the mirrors were freshly polished it seemed.

North wandered in a bit when he heard a click behind him – The door! He quickly pushed on it again, but there was no opening it from this side at all. It was almost like the door disappeared all together! Damn. North thought as he decided to wander about. Or at least tried to before walking into what he thought was the hallway, only to see a smudge in the mirror. He turned to walk down the real hall when he slammed into a glass panel blocking the way. This wasn’t fun – this was sadistic!

The agent had a better way of navigating the mirror maze instead of running in to everything in sight. Holding a hand out in front of her, she easily avoiding colliding with her reflection and made sure to put as many smudges on the mirrors as she could. That way she’d know exactly where she had been and where she needed to try next.

Now if the place wasn’t drafty as hell and giving her the creeps. Her gun was missing, so was her partner, and she was stuck in a flimsy dress and a pair of heeled boots. Why didn’t she think these bright ideas of hers through just a little farther? She could have at least been kidnapped in a decent pair of jeans!

Diana gave a startled gasp as she rounded a corner and came face to face with the clown kidnapper! As she staggared backwards and hit the glass mirror she was relieved to see it was only his reflection bouncing off the walls… but where the devil was he? Worse yet, if she could see him he could see her…

“Jesus christ…” she growled at the mirrors before pushing off to look for the exit a little bit faster!

“This is ridiculous.” North mumbled, now holding his hands out in front of him to avoid anymore painful meetings with glass. “Who could enjoy a thing like this, anyway?” He slowly made his way through the maze, not knowing where he’d end up or where Diana was. For all he knew, she was back in the prop room, wondering where he was as well. He traveled all over town, broke into a carnival and nearly killed himself in the meantime for Diana and he loses her to a secret door. And he didn’t even have the energy to kick it down, much less wanted to pull broken glass out of his rear end for the rest of his life if it ended up like the last door he tried to play super hero on.

Making his way further into the reflective hell, North heard what sounded like a thump echo through the maze. He wanted to call out, but at the same time, didn’t want to alert anyone if it wasn’t Diana. So instead, North picked up the pace a little but, bringing his collision with a mirror down to a minimum and hot footed it towards the noise.

“HEY! I founds them!” The clown shouted out after seeing Diana. “One of them’s in the house of mirrors!” Some one else shouted back, but Diana couldn’t make out his voice through the maze – And the Gypsy was not accounted for, either. “Gotcha, girly.” The clown smiled from his unknown whereabouts and moved out of sight.

North had heard all the commotion and was already rushing though the maze, now able to make his way faster thanks to the smudges Diana left on the mirrors. It didn’t take him long too finally catch sigh of the agent’s reflection, and he knew he would find her just around one of the corners.

That was just completly unfair! They knew where all the special little doors were! Diana hated mirror houses and if anything made it worse, it was crazy clowns and secret doors. It was like a fun house but without all the the fun

Rounding a corner Diana spotted another strange reflection, this time startling her enough to crack her fist against the glass. “Ow, Jesus!” Stummbling backwards to nurse her knuckles she ran in to the real figure, and almost gave gave him a good elbow to the ribs until she realized it was North!

“Where do you get off scaring the hell out of me!”

When North found Diana, he wanted to make sure she was safe, she was all right and un-injured – until she made her comment. Then he wanted to know what her problem was. “I was lost – I mean, I was…” He was never good with witty retorts. “Look, we have to get out of here.” And before the agent could protest or get a word in, North grabbed her arm and dragged her back the way he came.

They quickly passed through the maze without much trouble; easily avoiding mirrors now that North was calmer. “I think I wasn’t too far from the exit when I came in.” he said, finding the mirror with his face-print on it, though, trying to keep Diana’s attention away from it. “Only a bit more and we’ll be out of this mess.”

After only a few more feet of the twisting maze, the duo found themselves in a new room. A large, tall room filled with – darkness. North could barely see in front of him as he walked slowly towards anything. Suddenly the mirror room wasn’t so bad. Should have flipped on the lights back there. “I don’t think they followed us, Diana.” And just as he finished he heard a click and the cold barrel of a gun press up against the back of his head.

“You’re right.” The voice of the gypsy sounded from behind him. “We were waiting this whole time. Did you really think you could escape us in our own ‘House of Horrors’?” Suddenly the lights began to glow above them, almost as if on cue, and a layer of fake mist covered the floor.

North, with his arms up, turned his head a little. “Well, I was hoping we cou-”

“Shut up, it was a hypothetical question! Idiot!” The gypsy woman said. “You can never escape Madame Thorn in the vines of her garden of mystery!” The cheesy line made the two detectives cringe.

“But, you have a gun, that’s not re-”

“SHUT UP!” Thorn shouted, giving North a good whack with the butt of the gun. “I was being dramatic. I was meant for the silver screen! But instead I get stuck doing side shows for morons who don’t appreciate the fine arts!” For good measure, and out of frustration, she beat the gun into the back of North’s head again.

“The others will be here soon, so don’t either of you try anything.”

Diana stared at the mist filled room with some contempt. A former actress in a house of horrors and a posse of clowns. The agent tried to remember if she had ever landed herself in a situation as rediculous as this one. Glancing over her shoulder at the gypsy she growled! “That’s my gun, you crazy bi-”

“We’ve got the rope!” The clown kidnapper followed by a couple others in full costume entered carrying rounds of rope and dragging behind them a rather heavy looking stage light. “It will be our best scene yet. Drama, murder, and lots of electricity.”

The agent couldn’t help but watch with some curiosity as the clowns strung the light up from the ceiling with the rope. She was going to open her mouth to quest when on snatched her by the arm and drug her to a spot just under the light. For a moment she thought they were just going to do something silly like drop the thing on her head but the clown gave her a hard shove and she tummbled backwards giving a shriek through a hole in the floor! Diana landed with a splash and a good loud curse in icy cold water at the bottom in a shallow pool of water.

“What the hell kind of stupid idea is this?” She shouted back up, finding no way to climb out on her own. The walls were smooth and too high for her to get a good jump in.

At the top there was some snickering, as one end of the rope attached to the hanging light was wrapped and tied aroudn North’s waist. “Allow me to explain.” Madam Thorn’s brother and college boasted as he flurished a hand towards the contraption. “One of my newest stunt designs, Only… in this stunt the subject will not escape!”

“Note how the light dangles preciously over the pool of water! What is left to do is switch on the power,” he did so by plugging the light’s cord in to the wall, “and unwrap the safty rope.” Hovering his hand over a bit of rope that seemed to be holding the light up, he gave a nasty grin. “Subject A will valiantly try to holding the light from falling in to the pool of water containing Subject B. For if he fails…. BZZZT! No more Subject B.”

North didn’t know what to make of the situation. Their captures had caught them escaping from one dramatic stunt only to but them in another. This one not exactly is the most impressive yet. It was more the equivalent of throwing a giant toaster into a bigger bathtub. North was quickly figuring out why they both were working in this two-bit carnival rather than some big-budget film. While they were seemingly clever, the two were getting lost in some kind of fantasy as they toyed with the detectives.

The clown from before, whose makeup was now crudely smeared off his face, handed North the cord to the light above, giving him a smirk. The battered detective took the long rope, only to find out it was heavier than he though, almost letting it slip out of his hands right there!

“Oh, that was a close one!” The chubby man commented with a crude chuckle.

This is insane. North couldn’t help thinking. There he was with Diana’s life literally in his hands. Not that this wasn’t all her fault in the first place. “Have you two ever stopped to thing this is, I don’t know, a little insane?” He asked honestly. “I mean, even if I did let the light slip, then what?”

“Then I kill you.” Madame Thourn pressed Diana’s .45 into the back of North’s skull. It wasn’t exactly as dramatic as his partner’s possible demise.

“Makes … sense.” North’s reply lacking any sort of wit. He glanced down at the pool of water where Diana treaded and just didn’t know how they were going to get out of this one.

“How long are we supposed to wait until he drops the damn thing?” Diana called up impatiently from the pool. North almost letting it slip gave her a good startle, but she wasn’t about to let any of them know that! Still, they could all be standing for hours waiting for it to go and the water was uncomfortably cold!

“Quiet!” the cleaned up clown barked before looking confused. “Uh, hey… How long is this supposed to take?”

Madam Thorn was unamused until her scowl turned in to a terrible smile. “You’re right. Speed it up a bit.”

On cue, the burly man sauntered up to North and gave him a rather harsh punch to the gut! As the detective doubled over the rope slide to his hands and the light fell from the ceiling!

Diana gave shout and covered her head as the light tummbled but as it crashed, she didn’t feel biting shock… or much of anything but the cold of the water! As she looked up, the light had crashed inches away from the opening of the fit. The precarious death trap failing miserably.

“Oh, that was brilliant…”

He may have been a short and not all that healthy looking man, but the clown could hit. And hit hard! On the floor, North watched in horror as the fixture fell towards the pool of water, helpless to do anything about it! He was filled with fear, sadness, anger – until the light crashed down several inches from it’s mark, only a few shards of glass made their way to the pool of water.

North couldn’t help sigh and let his head fall back in relief. Diana was safe for the time being and the two were alive for a while longer. Suddenly, the sound of arguing erupted in the room.

“You FOOL!” Madame Thourn shouted to the clown. “Can you do nothing right, Nicolas?”

“Don’t you yell at me, it looked right from where I’m standing!” He scolded back. “And it’s Garbonzo here!”

Madame Thourn threw her hands up in anger. “I should have known better than to trust a cross-eyes idiot like you!”

As the siblings continued to bicker, North watched them and couldn’t help but feel a little familiarity with the arguing. The stout, little man, Nicolas, was waving his arms around violently now as he shouted at his sister, causing his shirt to lift up past his waistline. Not the prettiest sight, but North caught something black and metallic sticking out of the back of his pants. A gun!

Probably his only chance to make a move, the detective scrambled to his feet and relieved Nicolas of his pistol before grabbing him and putting the clown in a police hold. Either he was quick, or the other two were slow, but North managed to pull off the stunt without getting shot or having it backfire! North quickly pointed the gun at the clown’s head and threatened the woman across the room.

“Ok, put the gun down!” North barked, trying his best to sound – demanding.

Well that was a change of pace! The detective was acting like a detective! That was fairly interesting! Not that she could really see what was going on above aside from flittering shadows. However, she could hear and from what she heard North was doing an excellent job!

“Damn straight! Put the gun down and get me out of here!” It’s not like she could do more than sound mad!

Madam Thourn simply laughed casting North and her captured brother a rather sardonic smile. “You think I care? Shoot him! He’s no good to me anyway! Meanwhile I’m going to finish what the idiot couldn’t do and kill you both!” To prove her point, she inched closer to the pool with Diana’s gun still aimed.

Diana scoffed! “How about giving me back my gun you bloody cow!”

Madame Thourn’s reply wasn’t quite the one North was hoping for, seeing as he was quickly running out of ideas. Not only that, but Diana’s constant taunting wasn’t buying him any time. “Diana?” North said softly, hoping to get her attention. But the wading agent didn’t seem to hear him and instead, continued to make remarks about the situation.

When the gun-toting woman began to move towards the small pool, it was more than obvious that’s the detective’s plan wasn’t working out all that well. Maybe he shouldn’t be patting himself on the back after all. But when Diana began to insult Madame Thourn, that’s when North knew he had to do something or they’d have a dead agent to fish out.

“Diana! Would you just – shut up for a moment! You’re not helping!” He sounded so surprisingly convincing, one might think he was actually angry. They might not be too far from the truth, either.

“Why don’t you-… what?!” started Diana with a bit of shock! Despite that urge to tell him to stuff it, she shut her mouth mouth quickly at the warning and backed against the far end of the pool to see if she could catch a glimpse of the struggle over the edge. As her back hit the glass of the tank she could see the barrel of her gun peering back at her.

The Madame Thourn had stepped to the edge of the pool with Diana’s .45 aimed down at the agent as she kept a wary eye on North and her good for nothing brother. “Nicolas, do something useful and take the stupid gun!” Not caring whether or not her orders were carried at she aimed at the agent below and fired the gun!

Diana shrieked as she ducked only to find herself swept by the water as the bullet shattered the tank’s glass, sending both water, glass and agent splashing to the floor. Above the petite madame found herself sent backwards by the kickback of the gun!

As the gun went off, North didn’t know what to do first. On one hand, he wanted to quickly jump down to the tank below and make sure Diana was ok, but with her gun still in the clasp of Madame Thourn, she could still get a shot off before he made his way down. He was going to have to do something to keep her from firing at him! And then an idea came to North.

“How much do you weigh?” He asked Nicolas without thinking about the situation they were in.

The clown man could only muster a “What?” in reply to North’s odd question.

“Uhh – nevermind.” North said, not wanting to waist anymore time. He released Nicolas quickly before giving him a stiff shove towards the fallen woman, sending the stocky man crashing down on top of her! This gave the detective the window of oppertunity he needed to get over to the tank and jump down inside to find the agent in the dark underpaths. The wireing and other electronics littering the area probably meant this was some sort of matinence tunnel under the attraction. The path beyond them was pitch blck, but the sounds of struggle coming from above told them they didn’t have much time to worry about anything in there.

“Arg!” Madame Thourn shouted, obviously in some distress. “Get off me you fat, little man!”

Rats!” Diana shouted as she managed to shuffle to her feet and she didn’t just mean it as a curse! Skittering across the floor around corners were several of the nasty little things forraging for whatever carnival scraps they could find. “Jesus Christ… I’ve fallen in to hell!”

She back up, fully intended to return the way she came, more willing to face a crazy woman with a pistol than a mob of hungry rats when she turned and ran in to North!

“I’m not going that way! I’m going back for my gun!”

Diana would have turned back right then and there, except there was the bulkier North McCoy blocking her path, and there was no room for her to squeeze around him. No amount of pushing or shoving was going to move the detective as, once in a rare while, he wasn’t going to concede to Diana’s wishes. Not when she was going to risk her life because of some silly fear.

“No, Diana!” North grunted, pushing against her. “You’re not – going back!” Grabbing the arm she was using for support, he managed to force her a few more inches into the tunnle. But she definitly didn’t want to go anywhere near the hairy creatures. The dectective was begining to get fed up with her protest when he could hear the two siblings quarreling behind them.

“Here!” The Madame’s voice echoed down the tunnel. “Take the gun! You can shoot right, can’t you?” Nicolas was already after them! North looked around frantically when he saw the outline of a hatch, and sunlight behind it! And – a clutter of rats infront of it. He was going to have to get Diana to make her way through it or they weren’t going to come out that tunnel alive, or at all for that matter.

“Look, Diana just-” The detective paused for a moment to thing. “Just close your eyes and think you’re crawling over a rug or … something.”

“Son of a bitch!” Generally she thought cursing was a little over the top but for this occassion she was making an exception. Several, loud, very unladylike exceptions. North wasn’t going to let her go back, and hell… he was right! The circus freaks were well on their way to following. Grin and bare was what she’d have to do… or in this case close her eyes and curse like a sailor!

Keeping a death grip on North’s arm she walked very reluctantly through the tunnel stummbled here and there, as well as giving a very noticable cringe as something unknown and furry scurried over her foot. “This is horrible… horrible!”

Nicolas had finally charged his way in to the tunnel, aiming the gun at the fleeing pair. “Stop!” A call from above shouted ‘Just shoot them, stupid!!’ Growling at his bossy sibling he fired a shot down the tunnel just barely missing the agent and detective!

“Duck!” North souted, which was a confusing comment since they were already crawling through the last few feet of the passage way. Luckly for them, Nicolas couldn’t shoot properly, the shot he fired struck the wooden boards that roofed the tunnel. The bullet must have struck a sandbag or something that was being stored above because a steam of sand began pouring down, blocking the path behind then. A stroke of luck for the two! The muffeled sounds of obsenities could be heard behind them.

With a final push, the two detectives manages to force their way through the hatch and out of the tunnle into broad daylight – as well as right in the middle of the fairgrounds where many stopped to look at the two piled on top of one another. Realizing the situation, North quickly scmpered off the agent and got to his feet, offering her a hand to hers.

“C’mon.” North said, knowing the side-show siblings wouldn’t be far behind. “We shold get out of here.” Normally he would be more caring about just pulling her through a pit of rats, but getting out of there before they were captured, again, was just more important at the moment.

Allowing North to pull her up, she was more than glad to be out of the tunnel of rats and had very little argument about leaving the carnival as soon as possible. She just would have preffered to leave with her gun.

Muttering about getting some well deserved revenge later, the disasterous looking agent and the not much better off detective tried to sneak their way through the fair grounds as inconspiciously as possible. Looking like a mauled showgirl and a scuzzy hobo, however made it rather hard to go unnoticed! By the time they reached the back gate, the posted watch seemed to be no where in sight and they could slip out without any argument or added scuffles.

“That went brilliantly well…” she growled, pulling off the heeled shoes she should have thought to lose hours ago. Was there some sort of automatic shutoff button for women to forget to remove impossible shoes during dangerous situations?

By the time they were able to lose themselves in a maze of plazas, motels and stripmalls, North and Diana were obviously hurting. The detective was covered in mud, grime and blood, not to mention he was now walking with a limp. And for the first time in he didn’t know how long, he wanted to take a bath. And he doubted Diana was any differnt.

It was now getting late, the time of day where the streetlights come on but there was still a sliver of sun in the west and the two were a long way from home. Not that North was too set on getting back there now, not with a pair of crazies like the Thourn siblings still out and about, but going back to the carneval was suicide and it was against his better judement, but calling the cops wasn’t an option. They still needed to do something though, Cathy Young and was now missing along with her boyfriend now, and they were running out of ideas.

Or at least they were until the throught struck North. “The motel room…” He mumbled. Diana gave his a glance, her look questioning what he said well enough. “What about the motel room? We might find something there that’ll give us – something.” It was a good enough lead, at least. The clown and gypsy had left in such a hurry, there’s a chance they would have left behind any clues as to what they were up to.

“God, I could kiss you…” she was so exasperted with, well, everything, she hadn’t thought about going back to the motel room. Granted that could have been done later but it would have required them returning to North’s apartment. If Diana had to walk another mile covered in blood, dirt, and wearing that impossible dress, she was going to scream. It was just bonus they could do some clue snooping as well! Cathy Young wasn’t there for the Madam, she could likely come back. Maybe. Hopefully.

“Oh… oh! Muaha ha!” her outburst was so random, it would have been easy to assume that she had completly lost her mind! Instead Diana dug in the front of her dress until she pulled out a tiny rather simple looking box. If the dress was good for anything, it had at least just enough extra room to stash something without looking bizzare. “I found this in a really strange spot. Not really something you’d think to see stashed away in a dark dungeon corner…”

Diana’s first comment didn’t quite catch North as offguard as it probably should have. Without all the excitement of being chased and shot at, it finally dawned on him just how worn out he really was. All he could muster up was a soft “Hmm…” in reply. Normally, he’d love to give some clever reply, but tonight was going to have to wait.

At least, that’s what he thought when the agent began giggling like mad out of no where all of a sudden. North thought maybe the stress was getting to her until she produced a small container, only slightly larger than one of those cheap ring boxes you’d find at a jewelry store, complete with a little key hole as well.

“Here.” North said, holding out his hand after Diana finished looking it over. “Let’s take a look at your box.” It was simple enough, he thought, in fact it looked like it would pop upen with a paperclip or a screwdriver. The lock was more of a novelty than a security device.

“So, you just took this, huh?” North said, slightly dissaproving at his partner’s ease of being a theif. Even if it was from a bunch of crazy clowns. “Well, just hang on to this until we get back to the motel. We can figure out what to do from there.” He reached over to hand Diana back the trinket when he remembered she was hiding it in her dress. She didn’t exactly have many storage places on her at the moment. Slowly retracting his hand, the detective slid the box into his own pocked with an awkward grin.

“I’ll – just hang onto it.”

Raising an eyebrow at his comment she tried not to look overly insulted. “After nearly being chopped in half by a couple of nuts, when finding randomly hidden objects you don’t generally think ‘I’ll come back for this later!’” It’s not like she lifted things from people all the time… often. Under the circumstances it was a good idea!

A few minutes of walking brought them back to the hotel. No freaky clown cars were in sight and the door to Cathy Young’s room was unlock, and the room empty but ranshacked. It seemed the earlier guests had shaken the place up trying to find whatever it was they were looking for.

Diana wanted to immediatly fall in to bed at the sight of it, but duty came first. Even if the place was a mess, a trained professional find something useful. Just… blessed sleep! But the case… but sleep!

“Why did I think think was a good idea…” she muttered under her breath.

The Thourn siblings certainly didn’t care if anyone knew they were there; the place was a mess! There was practically nothing right side-up in the room. Papers were strewn all over the floor, lamps knocked over, bed sheet balled in a corner, and even the wicker chair was on its side. The large mess gave good indication that they never found what they were looking for before North and Diana showed up. At least that’s what the detective was hoping for before they began snooping around for anything.

Before anything, though, North wanted to take a load off his feet. The first thing he did was sit down on the bed with a heavy plop – which wasn’t as comfortable as he hoped; more along the lines of a soft cinder block. But for now it would have to do. “So…” North’s voice raised softly as he glanced around at the mess. He had no idea where to start and more he looked, the less he really wanted to jump into it. “Where should we begin?”

When he looked back as his partner, he noticed something that had completely slipped his mind – the slit on the dress! And not the one the designer meant to have there. “On second though.” North stood up. “Why don’t you do look at that cut of yours. I’ll start out here.”

“Cut?” Diana looked down at her side and immediatly wished she hadn’t. The bleeding had stopped, though it still looked a mess. Still blood was never something she wanted to see, especially her own. “It’s not that bad,” she muttered, while sweeping up a phone book from the floor. The sudden motion made her head spin and she layed a hand on the desk to balance herself.

“Guess it wouldn’t hur-… The hell am I suppose to wear?!” she gave North a arduous look. The dress was on it’s last legs, not that it was the most.. appropriate thing to be wearing at the time. The thought of borrowing another woman’s clothes also didn’t seem appealing, not that she could see anything reasonable thrown about the room. “Nevermind.” snatching up a rummpled sheet from the bed, Diana marched towards the bathroom.

“Try to get that box open…”

“Just go…” North said as he was already shuffeling through some of the papers strewn across the floor. There wasn’t anything of much intrest, just some odd files and the like. Nothing relating to clowns or circuses or anything! When Diana mentioned the box again, the detective took it from his pocket and gave it another quick lookover. Still nothing very interesting and he still didn’t get why she felt the need to swipe it. So it was out of place? He was going to have to make sure everying in his apartment matched if she was going to stick around then.

Setting that aside, North continued to look through some of the papers on the lamp table, a little more closly now. He was beginning to catch a reaccuring name in a lot of them; Jimmy Stine. Who, according to these papers he was some sort of director, but North had never heard of him personally. Then again, he hadn’t seen a movie in years, so what did he know? Putting those aside where he could find them later, the detective noticed a strangly neat section of the room, perhaps where they intterupted the sibling’s search. It was worth a look at least, as if they didn’t find anything anywhere else, mayby it was there.

“Might even find a way to get into that box.” North mused to himself. Sure, it was inlikely, but there had to be something of interest in this room if the clowns were searching so violently through it. Thus, the detective begane opening drawers one by one, much neater than the previous inspectors, however.

Closing the door behind her, Diana hung the sheet up with the towels so it wouldn’t be a mess on the floor before she turned her sights to her reflection in the mirror. Grimacing at her less than attractive appearance she immediantly removed the dress with elation!

It took longer than she would have liked to get herself free from the dirt and blood, but she had finally cleaned and patched herself up before wrapping the sheet around her. She could have put the dress back on, but the sheet seemed more pleasant for the time being. North would have to understand!

Stepping out of the bathroom, North was no where to be seen, however. “Better not have abandoned me…”

When Diana walked back out of the bathroom, North was well on his wat to the front office of the motel. He thought he might as well had figured out who to room was registered to. If it was Cathy Young, maybe she left a message at the desk as to where she went. Afterall, all her stuff was still there.

After a short discussion with the manager, and a long argument over whether North was really a detective, he got his answers. Jimmy Stine was the name. So apparently these clowns were after him and Cathy just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Luck North and Diana often shared. With that little tibit, North gave a quick ‘thank you’ and headed back to the room.

“Stine, huh?” North said to himself, unable to really think quietly. “So who would want to kill a movie director?” He was deep in thought. So deep he didn’t even think to knock before bursting back into the room where Diana was messing about in a bed sheet!

When North looked up and caught a glimpse at Diana, he remained quiet for a second, raised an eyebrow – and wasn’t as surprised as he thought he would be. Shrugging it off for the time being, North picked up the papers with Stine’s name on them and handed one to Diana.

“You wouldn’t happen to recognize that name, would you?” He asked, still rather quiet about Diana’s attire. “Apparently he’s the one the room’s rented to. Whatever the clowns were looking for was his, not Cathy’s.”

Diana was startled as North burst in to the room! Damn, he was lucky she didn’t have her gun on her or he’d have a bullet through his brain! He also made no mention of her current attire, which for a brief miniscul second wounded her feminine pride. She didn’t look nice dressed up in a bed sheet? Bah!

Jimmy Stine, though did ring a bell. “Sounds familiar, I guess. At least I’ve heard it somewhere before.” She caught the TV out of the corner of her eye before it finally came to her! “Oh jeeze… that guy is a cheesy romance flick director! I er… have seen a movie or two.” Actually she rather enjoyed renting those b-movie flicks, but North McCoy didn’t need to know about that!

“While you were galavanting around I did manage to find something useful myself!” she held up a very tiny key hooked on to a bracelet chain. “Dropped behind the dresser. Probably Miss Cathy’s and probably opens that box.”

“Movie directer, huh?” North said, not bothering to mention the more embaressed tone near the end of the sentence. He seemed more focused on the case than anything else at the moment, even a sheet clad agent! Plopping down on the hard bed again, North got a little more settled this time; the doors were locked as were the windows. If anyone did come, they’d have to try a bit harder than before.

“Anyway, let me see that key.” He questioned and took it from Diana. It did look like a perfect match for the little case and finding it here made more sense than a lot of other things they’ve been through. While not too eager to get it open as Diana, but he still wondered what was inside it. A little big for a ring, too small for money, what could it have that was so important?

“Well…” North said and picked up the box. “Shall we?” Sliding the key into place, the detective gave of good turn until the little mechanics inside clicked and the lid popped opened a little. With one more glance at eachother, North opened the lid to reveal – another key.

Of course, this key was much larger and nicer key. Shapd like one of those old time ones with the rather nicely designed ivory tip. “This isn’t helpful at all.” North sounded almost dissapointed. “But it does seem to go alone with the rest of tonights events. Just one more question after another. Any clue, Agent?” He handed her the larger key, this time actually taking notice of her now that we was ettled down a bit more.

Maybe it was just taking longer instead…

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