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Whizzle's Classic SF Stories
by Today's Authors In the Style of Yesterday's Giants
All Bill Hillman Contributions Copyright 1997-1999
by Bill and Sue-On Hillman, Inc.
Maple Grove Productions
THE RATNAZ FILES: Book II
Continued from Ratnaz Files I found at
Whizzle and ERB MOTES & QUOTES XV
CHAPTER CONTENTSWHIZZLE PULP CONTRIBUTORS
CHAPTER 21: El Rancho Ratnaza --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 22: “You’re a Lucky Girl...Bertha La Rapo!” --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 23: The Terrible Game A-Foot --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 24: The Hair Rage of the Desert --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 25: Into the Depths --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 26: The Dancing Girl of the Leper Guy..or.. --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 27: The Prize Chump of Helium --Tangor
CHAPTER 28: Together--Again! --Tangor
CHAPTER 29: The City of Ancient Heads --Tangor
CHAPTER 30: The Case of the Speckled Do-Do --Tangor
CHAPTER 31: The Eternal Barbarian --Tangor
CHAPTER 32: Twenty Inches Under the Sea --Tangor
CHAPTER 33: The Best Little Chicken Ranch in Tappan Range--
Bill Hillman & -- Robin Hillman
CHAPTER 34: Escape from the City of Ancient Heads --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 35: Alone in the City of Mummies --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 36: Ratnaz and the Forbidden Valley --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 37: At the Mercy of the Elements --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 38: "I escape the pit." --Tangor
CHAPTER 39: Midnight At The Oasis --Tangor
CHAPTER 40: The Origin of the Lord of The Leaves,
The Mystery Explained --Tangor
To be continued...in Book III
CHAPTER 21: El Rancho Ratnaza --Bill Hillman
Lord of the Roost
Edgar Nyce had moved out to Southern California from the windy city many decades before, to take proud ownership of a sprawling tract of rangeland with canyons radiating out from a high rugged hill. Ed chose the hill as the site on which to build a mansion which he funded with royalties from his pulp fiction creations. A short time after he had modified the ranch to his specifications -- a ranch he called Ratnaza, after "you-know-who" -- a mystery lady moved into an abandoned range cabin down by the tar pits. Here, nestled away from prying eyes her main source of income ostensibly was a small chicken ranch. When Ed hit on harder times, he gradually subdivided most of the range land, and for some strange reason, the whole area became the Mecca for dozens of other chicken ranchers.
From Ed's perch in the hilltop mansion, he could look out in all directions over a red sea of fowl since Rhode Island Reds were the bird of choice of the ranchers. Years later, Ed used the income from these poultry subdivisions to implement a grand and glorious plan...he would build a theme park -- featuring all the fantasy lands and characters from his books -- on what remained of the once sprawling El Rancho Ratnaza.
It’s a Nyce World After All?
Phase one of the theme park plan involved expanding a natural cave site he had discovered in the rocky crag beside the mansion. -- a cave which he christened the Ratz Cave, again in honour of the famous character he had created in his books. This attraction would take the form of a guided ride through caverns which would feature miniature animated versions of his many fictional characters -- all positioned in scenarios drawn from the many fantasy worlds he had created. At the cave entrance he designed an elaborate facade, rife with animation and colour. Ed himself wrote a song: "It's a Nyce World After All" and a huge sound system was built to play the ditty non-stop.
Ed's dream was not to be, as Brace Bozhart called in old debts and foreclosed on what remained of the ranch property. To appease his renegade half brother, or perhaps for other reasons known only to Boz, he signed the deed to the mortgage-ridden property over to his half-Chinese half-sibling, Bryce Lee. Ed was evicted and took up residence in a modest bungalow on nearby Ventura Boulevard -- downwind from the chicken fields.
Sadly, the attraction, although near completion, never opened its doors to the public, as Bozhart sold away exclusive franchise rights to Nick Miser’s Rodentland -- the giant world-famous studio theme park. Ed’s original prototype of what would become a very famous attraction for Rodentland, was soon forgotten...a demise hastened by the wild growth of a decorative fronting hedge. The bushes soon grew into a tall and near-impenetrable thorn hedge that almost completely hid the facade and cave entrance.
The Ratz Cave
Realizing that the cave was an ideal base for their fight against crime, Bryce and his young Canadian sidekick created the secret personae Yellow Jacket and Slay-Toe, and moved in. The new owners pushed aside most of the miniature attractions within the cave to make room to store all their crime fighting toys, including the powerful Jacketmobile and the new sleek, black F-16 fighter jet. The one thing they were never able modify, however, was the incessant theme music which had been looped to play 24 hours a day through the massive sound system.
The masked zoot-suited crusader raised his voice to be heard over the cutesy chorus of toddlers singing "It's a Nyce world after all...." to try to get the attention of his companion who stood decked out in a yellow silk flight suit, leather helmet and goggles.
For a second time he shouted, "This is it Splay-Toe...the day you've been waiting for... Splay-Toe! ... Listen up!"
The begoggled companion, who had been singing and swaying with the music, took a long enough break to reply: "No sweat, Bryce. I could make this first solo flight with my eyes closed. Has old Hitchcock got the F-16 fueled yet? `...a Nyce, Nyce world. It's a Nyce...' ...awright, awright, I'm listnin'. Where's the bird?"
The two men glanced toward the huge animated facade of the Ratz Cave in time to see a portly, triple-chinned old gentleman in butler attire, appear at the entrance. He was straining and lunging in a specially made harness which was linked to a taut chain stretched out and attached to some heavy object still hidden from view in the cave.The duo waited expectantly. The sight of the sleek, unmarked black F-16 easing its way out of the Ratz Cave, around the thorn forest, and to the improvised runway was breathtaking.
The Yellow Man Gets...and Loses His Wings
An even more thrilling event transpired a short time later as a very proud Yellow Jacket watched his young protege race the craft down the runway and up into the sun -- clipping the top off the row of thorn hedges as he climbed..
"Ye-Ess! Loop the loop baby. Wow, if Bryce could see me, I bet that.....yikes...what in hell?...BB Inc.....that's Bozhart's private jet....ooo yah!...Will I have a surprise for Bryce...gotta crank this baby around....arm the missiles...here we go...locked in...now...Fire..."
As the young daredevil released the missile which he thought would precipitate an end to all of his masked friend's problems, a large square object, surrounded by an escort of wildly flapping birds, rocketed up into the path of the missile. Splay-Toe had no time to duck as a feathered creature smashed through the canopy and attached itself to his flight goggles. The startled, gasping pilot felt consciousness fast slipping away. The last thing he remembered, as the aircraft went into a screaming dive, was an explosion, the whole world turning red, and his own frantic groping for the seat ejection trigger.
CHAPTER 22: “You’re a Lucky Girl
...Bertha La Ropa!” --Bill Hillman
As a young woman back in windy Chicago, Bertha La Ropa had dreamed of someday moving to California... and living on a chicken ranch of her very own. That dream had come true, thanks to the generosity of her old friend Edgar Nyce who provided a piece of property on his Ratnaza Ranch. And, many a lonely night thereafter, Ed had come down from the hill to help her with her pullets. But ever since Ed had fallen on hard times and had been forced out of the hilltop mansion, his visits had become fewer and farther between, and she had started to look forward, more and more, to the visits from the new occupants of the mansion -- especially that nice young red-haired man from Canada with the Chinese accent and big cleaver.
Income from the chicken operation was somewhat meager, but luckily Bertha had been able to supplement her poultry income with pin money garnered from modeling fees. She had spent long hours over the years in the drafty studio of Allen J. St. Jaques, posing in various stages of undress for his paintings of heroines, which he sold as illustrations for Ed's books. But alas, those days were behind her as her figure -- largely because of a steady diet egg sandwiches and cheese omelettes -- had grown too Rubinesque, even for St. Jaques' tastes.
Shadows from the Black Lagoon
Bertha was tired -- she had been up all night again. The situation was getting worse. When she first moved here, the nearby tar pits were quiet ...but now... they seemed to be the source of regular raids on her chickens. Every night, ominous, grotesque shadows and unearthly prehistoric sounds haunted the wooded path between her beloved fowl house and the mysterious La Gaspack Tar Pits. Today, not even the irregular and ominous sounds of two jet aircraft overhead tempted her to look up from her work as she rushed through the daily chore of decapitating birds for market. With just a half dozen left she started in to an impatient count down: "Chop Chick 6...Chop Chick 5...Chop Chick 4...Chop Chick 3...Chop Chick 2... Chop Chick 1...."
Bertha was almost thrown from her feet as the ground shook from a mighty explosion. She looked on in helpless anguish as a billowing cloud of flame and smoke appeared under her clapboard chicken coop and the whole structure was propelled into the sky leaving a vapour trail of feathers, eggs, ammonia gases, and droppings. This was followed by a shock wave which covered her in feathers and tar droplets...followed by yet another wave which dropped a torrent of bank notes and coins.
Bertha, suddenly in molting blackface, cried out in disbelief, "No! Deja... Deja Vu! ....Not Again!...Ed---GAR!!!?!!!
CHAPTER 23: The Terrible Game A-Foot
(Wherein Our Intrepid Sleuth Plays A-Hand, Looks
A-Head Is Set A-Back
Cabyns was confused. With flashes of lights still exploding on his retinas and his ears still ringing from the exploding fireball that seconds ago had exploded outside the portside window of Bozhart's speeding jet, he sat whiteknuckled and rigid in his seat. Cabyns settled back into the cushions and humphed: "Crazy country."
Seconds before he had faced certain death as a menacing renegade F-16 launched a deadly missile in his direction. It was then that the hallucinations began: Looking closer at the fighter jet he saw it was being flown by a red chicken, on the horizon far beyond he could just make out the apparition of a cow that appeared to be piloting an old tin lizzie lorry, coming up to intercept the missile was a rocket designed to look like a chicken coop -- and flown by chicken astronauts...and all of this taking place in an inverted hailstorm of gold coins and gobs of black tar. Then the whole fantasy scene seemed to explode and suddenly the sky was clear as the aircraft raced eastwards toward Bozhart's secret desert headquarters.
The Klezmar Kings
His resolve to maintain a clear head for his meeting with Bozhart seemed pointless now. "Datsun ...my briar...and THE pouch...if you please."
Datsun produced the notorious pouch and passed it to the sleuth. Cabyns' habit had progressed to the stage that he was now using a battery-powered, automatic injector. With shaky hand he loaded the contents of a foil-covered package into the dispensing injector, raised the device to his mouth and in rapid succession flicked a strong dose of three Pez pellets into the waiting orifice.
"Ohhhhh...I needed that!" crooned a much-relaxed Cabyns. He then took his favourite custom-made briar pipe...lovingly hand-crafted by the resident flute artiste in the exclusive inner sanctum of Wing Music in Bromley, Kent. He clenched the long, discolored pipe between his teeth and ran his fingers over the sound holes which were aligned along the length of the pipe.
"Care to join me, Datsun? Bring out the old licorice stick."
Dr. Datsun opened his small black valise and produced a vintage ebony Clarinet. Noticing a guitar case that had fallen from its stowed position during the squirmish with the F-16, Cabyns urged Billman to join in on guitar. Boz's trusted lieutenant expressed reluctance but was eventually coaxed into opening the case -- only to reveal not a guitar, but an ornate Gibson 5-string banjo, complete with Scruggs pegs.
"I say Master Hillie...we were led to believe that you were a guitar player," blurted the surprised Datson
"Well ahhh...I...ahhh...," the blond Canuck stammered.
All three had a sudden unexplainable urge to burst simultaneously into a rousing Klezmar version of the "Theme from the Beverly Hillbillies." Mesmerized by their music, the musicians were oblivious to the passage of time and carried their spontaneous jam to a fever pitch. It was this scene then that Brace Bozhart walked in on after meeting the aircraft on the reception tarmac of his secret Death Valley airport.
Later, in the private chambers of his elaborate underground office complex, Bozhart removed his prescription earplugs and settled in for a crucial meeting with his old English ally over a competitive game of Pinochle. While dealing the opening hand, he whispered:
"Careful my friend...the walls have ears. Cabyns...this is serious. Things have not being going smoothly of late. I don't know who I can trust anymore...strange doings are at hand. Even my right hand man Hillie is suspect. Wanna know how he got that sissy name? Back in the '40s, just before he was born, his old lady was really hooked on some Pittsburgh radio station, WENN or some damn thing -- the only station that their Atwater Kent could pick up on their good for nothin' farm out in the sticks. Well, when she had the kid, the first voice she heard was some ham actress on there named Hillary Booth. So she saddled kid with a stupid girlie moniker. You know, when I took him in he was a starving, one-legged, banjo picking, son of a West Virginia sharecropper. He was useful to me because of his blind loyalty and his expertise in Tai Chi -- despite the fact that he was slowed down considerably by his wooden leg. But now the blighter is telling everyone he's some kind of a boxing Canuck -- he's flipped, I tell ya Herlock. But now, let's get down to this business about..."
The deep conversation between the two card players came to an abrupt and unceremonious halt as they turned their attention to the office door which suddenly burst into splinters. Racing across the room from the demolished entrance came a harpoon-wielding, peg-legged man who was pointing behind them at the wall-to-wall plate glass window which offered a panoramic view of the gigantic BB Inc. pool.
"Thar she blows Cap'n...It’s the Great White, eh...Break out the harpoons! All hands..." screamed the man in a heavy Canadian accent.
CHAPTER 24: The Hair Rage of the Desert
Where The Trail Ends
Kojak Morris and Mars Markus stared in disbelief . All that remained of Dee Dee Morris -- Princess of Bars -- was her charm bracelet. And the tracks ended here at the twin towers of Helium Supply...she had disappeared!
"What's the problem yung fellers? Wooz-ya lookin' fer?” came a voice from across the yard.
The two men spun around to face a curious sight. A clean-shaven, well-manicured old codger, in ragged gray clothing, sat astride a small burro. In tow, he led another burro, heavily loaded with an arsenal of weapons...and a charred and singed milk cow sporting the brand “Cows 2-U” which had been burned into the left rump. Most unusual, however, was geezer's hair do - his long gray hair was done in a style that featured unique permanent waves closely resembling that worn by many of the Hollywood stars.
Seeming to sense the cause of their concern, the old galoot squinted his laughing gray eyes and offered some information: "The filly went thataway...under the cow...look...up...way o'er thar...driftin' out tward Death Valley." The trio stared into the darkening skies and were horrified to see a terrific explosion beneath the far-off bovine airship. The last image they had of the ship was lost in a billowing cloud of exploding gases.
As one, the two worried men turned and ran toward the Fiesta. Overzealous Mars Markus hit his head on the rear view mirror as he reached to start the engine. With a curse he twisted the key with such force that it broke in the ignition. Now totally frustrated, he pounded the steering wheel -- an irresponsible action which resulted in an explosion that engulfed both driver and passenger in a cloud of carbon dioxide gases and a cocoon of mushrooming rubber-- Markus had inadvertently deployed the Fiesta’s custom-made airbags. The situation looked hopeless as the men painfully extricated themselves from the now-derelict auto, but the old desert prospector saved the day.
M&M The Riders
“Lookin' to hitch a ride gents? Just bot them thar critters today. Got a good deal from some old guy wandrin' round in his underpants. Hop aboard ole bossie there...she's a fine sturdy cow.”
Showing some trepidation the two men prepared to mount the beast. Suddenly recalling something he had been told earlier, old Zany leapt into action. “Hold on there young fellers...O’Leery here’s got a nasty kick with her hind hoofs.”
The teller of tall tales pulled a miner’s shovel from his pack, went through a couple warm-up swings and soundly whacked the devious devil mount on her scheming snout. The dazed animal had met her match.
Knowing there was no time to lose, the Zany Grany rescue caravan soon was thundering out through the red-oxide decorated east gates of the ancient Helium Works. Morris and Marcus led the way by spurring their shared mount to a breakneck trot -- stirring up clouds of red dust as they charged across the abandoned parking lot. Would they be too late to rescue the divine Dee Dee Morris, Princess of Bars?
CHAPTER 25: Into the Depths --Bill Hillman
The Outlaw of Porn
Ratnaz and Bertie stood amazed as the taxi drove away leaving them without conveyance. With a curse, Ratnaz was in hot pursuit. Realizing the futility of such a chase, Bertie took a moment to examine the oilskin packet she had retrieved from Bozhart’s safety deposit box. Placed in no particular order among the rare gems and large denomination bills were documents detailing his many shady business dealings, as well as an abundance of photographs of well-known celebrities in compromising positions. Bertie’s expertise born of years of espionage work led her to a secret inner pocket in which was hidden a computer diskette. On the label was a cryptic code that only the fiendishly clever Brace Bozhart could have devised: http://www.docker.com/~hillmanjr/bananarchy.html
Obviously this would have to be taken to a Cray supercomputer for decrypting.
Ratnaz Becomes a Beast Again
Bertie’s investigation was interrupted by a loud explosion from the direction of La Gaspack Tar Pits, but before she had time to ponder the cause of it her attention was turned to the approach of a panting, dusty and staggering figure, clad only in leopard skin patterned bikini underwear.
“Ratz?” she asked in a faltering voice.
The reply was an unintelligible “!($#,!((&,!” so she directed his attention to a strange scenario unfolding before them in the sky above.
High overhead they saw two aircraft converge, and after an explosion the smaller of the two planes hurtled to the ground. At the last minute they saw the pilot eject and they waited with bated breath for his parachute to open. Open it did, but apparently the luckless parachutist was headed for the dreaded tar pits. The daring duo raced to his rescue.
The Gaspak Tar Pits
By the time they reached the lake of black goo, the aviator was sinking fast and was screaming for help in some unfamiliar language. Only after the rescuers were up to their knees in the steaming primeval pitch did they realize that their efforts could be to no avail -- the poor unfortunate had sunk beneath the surface leaving a gurgle of dark bubbles. As the defeated pair turned to retreat to the shore they were met with the roar of a large yellow car racing toward them. The masked man at the wheel ordered them into the rear passenger seat and to their horror he then slammed the gear shift into low gear, pumped the accelerator to the floor and aimed the powerful machine directly into the pits. The passengers huddled in horror as tar engulfed the windows of the sinking car. Ratnaz and Bertie were at the mercy of a madman.
CHAPTER 26: The Dancing Girl of the Leper Guy
(Note to All-Gory editor:I can’t figure out what to call this chapter but I’ve always liked this title --or-- Gone with the Wind is a good one too -- my mother likes IT.-- BH)
An advancing chain reaction of exploding gases trailed and rocked the Pellucifer Burrower as the wayward burrowing craft broke through the reinforced concrete walls of the underground Ratnaza sewage treatment reservoir. Shock waves from the blast carried the machine ever deeper into the foul excremental sludge. Thankful for the sanctity of the waterproof cabin, the passengers deployed every means possible to gain command of their wildly out-of-control earthship.
Edgar Nyce, momentarily overcome by the revolting odour of sewage which permeated the cabin, for some reason noticed that his thoughts turned to Ratnaz. “Jeeze,” he thought. “What would that clown do in a situation like this?”
“Damn it Nyce...What were you thinkin’ of...keep your soddin’ hands off me controls! Ya really done it now,” threatened Carson Nappie, the designer of this scientific marvel of engineering and the only one who knew how to manage the complex controls.
Edgar Nyce’s unfortunate blunder at the controls had resulted in an explosion that appeared to have damaged the depth and direction fins. Not only that, they soon realized that the blast had opened rifts along some of the notorious subterranean California faults. . They used the remaining facility of the Burrower to follow this huge complex pattern of fault lines -- looking all the while for an opening to the surface and hoping that the transpired events would not trigger a major earthquake.
The cockpit compass readings told them they were going east and the distance indicator suggested that they must have travelled hundreds of miles. Realizing the serious nature of their predicament, the three men had given up all hope of survival when the Burrower broke through a concrete wall and their machine came to a rest at the bottom of the clear blue waters of a what appeared to be a shallow lake. Lord Greatstrokes heaved a sigh of relief. The euphoria experienced by the English Lord proved to be short lived, however. The first sight that met the three adventurers as they peered through the charred and scorched front navigation port sent shivers down their spines.
They could see through the forboding waters a screaming, peg-legged wild man charging at them while brandishing a deadly harpoon!
-- This could be the end of the story! I haven’t been paid yet.
CHAPTER 27: The Prize Chump of Helium --Tangor
When Splay-Toe's American made Sidewinder mistargeted the Jed of Clampett dirigble, Dan Darter ducked. Dee Dee Morris, however, watched with horrorifed fascination as the missile tore through the flimsy helium filled cow bag and explored seconds later. The fireball and concussion drove the mortally wounded dirible into the path of the supersonic F-16. Realizing they were about to die, Dee Dee Morris suddenly wanted to live more than anything. If only they could achieve a few feet of altitude they might survive.
Thought became action. The spunky girl reached down and, with both hands, flipped the Ozarkian loveseat off the rear of the rusted automobile. Where she got the strength Dee Dee could never say, but the ejection of the heavy piece shot the Clampett dirgible several dozen feet into the air.
The F-16 did not fare so well. The sleek aircraft slammed into the falling sofa, ripping off one wing and half of the tail assembly. Dee Dee turned to watch the aircraft plunging to the ground, but did not see it crash, or if the pilot bailed out as their own situation worsened. A loud ripping noise overhead revealed that the gas bag was disintegrating. The composit aircraft was descending rapidly toward the Califonia landscape.
"Hold together!" the girl prayed. "Please hold together!"
The cow-shaped ballon shrank at an alarming rate and the ground seemed to be approaching awfully fast.
"Do something, Dan!" Kojak Morris' daughter demanded. "Be a man!"
Darter looked up from the floorboard, where he cowered in a fetal position, weeping. "We're going to die! We're going to die!" he wailed incessantly.
With a scowl of disgust, Dee Dee ignored the panicked warrior and began throwing everything overboard that she could. Her frantic exercise proved to be working, the descent slowed. A capricious wind at the lower altitude carried the Clampett dirgible along at a good clip. Looking over the side, Dee Dee noticed that large sections of the city below were blacked out. She could not tell where they were headed.
Though it seemed longer, moments later the skinny, spoked wheels of the antique auto crashed through tree tops, slowing the vehicle and bringing them closer to earth. Dee Dee watched carefully, looking for an appropriate time and place to jump out. A belated spasm of conscience forced the young girl to grab Darter by the collar and haul him erect.
"When I say, we jump. Got it?"
Darter, eyes distended with terror, could only nod.
In the darkness below, Dee Dee saw what she thought to be a man. The truck was low to the ground and they were headed straight for him!
"Look out!" Dee Dee shouted a warning, but it was too late. The running board bashed into the big man's head, knocking him to the ground. Moritifed, Dee Dee looked behind and was relieved to see the man sitting up, rubbing his head. She turned her attention to their own dilemma.
Dan Darter, having come to his senses, spoke lucidly for the first time in minutes. "I know this place. We're near La Gaspack tar pits."
The damaged dirigible went to ground, but the landing was soft--too soft! Dee Dee accurately observed: "Near? Hell, we're in the middle of it!"
CHAPTER 28: Together--Again! --Tangor
Bryce Lee Bozhart, the Yellow Jacket, gunned the powerful car from the Ratz Cave as soon as the explosion in the sky occurred. The intervening distance was covered rapidly, and as he neared the La Gaspack tar pits, brilliant headlights revealed Bertie Ketchum. Not far away, running toward her, was Ratz, but radically altered since the last time Bryce saw him.
"Into the car!" the Yellow Jacket commanded.
Bertie pulled Ratnaz inside. Bryce looked over his shoulder. "What's wrong with him?"
"Bump on the head," she replied, petting the drooling Ratnaz like a large puppy. "He's harmless in this state. Happens rather frequently."
"Watch him, I'm going after Splay-Toe!"
Bertie Ketchum screamed when she realized what the zoot-suited crime fighter intended. The sleek Yellowjacketmobile plunged into the tarry mass!
Ratnaz didn't seem to notice. He was checking for fleas in Bertie's hair.
Bryce, his voice filled with authority, silenced Bertie Ketchum. "Shut up! You're in no danger. The Yellowjacketmobile doubles as a submarine when necessary."
As the car sank deeper, Bertie's fear subsided when nothing untoward happened. But she did scream again when a man's body, clad in a yellow silk flight suit, though it wasn't very yellow now, slammed into the windshield.
Bryce, having all he could handle, reached back to slap Bertie and clobbered Ratnaz instead.
Ratnaz shook his head, coming out of a daze. The first thing he saw was his briefs. "Oh, no! Not again!"
Bertie threw her arms around the Lord of the Leaves with relief. "Thank goodness! The last time that happened to you wouldn't come down from the trees for weeks!"
Ratz was touched. "I didn't know youse kept tabs on me, Bertie, but gee, yer sucha swell dame!"
Bryce, meanwhile, had surfaced the now besmearedYellowjacketmobile. "Pipe down, you two," the masked crime fighter commanded. "Five sentences in a row ending in exclamation points is not allowed!"
The vine swinger chuckled. "That's six, shame on you."
The Yellow Jacket ignored the man--when he was right, he was right. Steering the vehicle, with Splay-Toe on the hood, Bryce Lee Bozhart droveout of La Gaspack onto solid ground. Leaving the reunited love-birds in the back seat, the masked crusader leapt out to assist his trusty sidekick--who received a kick as soon he knew Splay-Toe was uninjured.
"What the hell happened up there?" Bryce demanded.
Splay-Toe, looking more like Amos or Andy, lowered his head. "I had him in my sights, boss."
"Brace Bozhart. Just as I got a rocket off, this cow gets in the way and then dumps a sofa on me."
"Hmm," the Yellow Jacket hummed. "Your injuries must be more serious than I thought. Get in the car. We'll sort this out back at the cave. First, we have to drop off those two."
Splay-Toe looked toward the car. "Who?"
Bryce's intense gaze followed the psuedo-Oriental's. The back seat was empty!
CHAPTER 29: The City of Ancient Heads --Tangor
Zany Grany forced cow and burros into a fast stroll using a combination of colorful, though exceedingly blasphemous language and a stick with a carrot dangling from a string. "Hold yer water, gents," the old man cackled. "The wind's about to go rippin' past your face."
Kojak Morris impatiently waited. "Drats!" he ejaculated, jumping down from the cow. "Let's go, Mars, we can make better time on foot!" The old man proceeded to demonstrate, pulling rapidly away.
"Thanks, old timer," Mars Markus said to Zany Grany and took out after the disappearing father.
Daisy: Built For Two
They hadn't travelled very far when they came across a tandem bicycle chained to a darkened lamp post. It only took a moment for the powerfully-built fighting barman to break the chain. An instant later the thieves in the cause of justice raced away.
"This is more like it," Kojak gasped, pedaling hard behind Markus' broad back. "Hurry, man, my daughter may be in mortal danger."
This was the big man's intent, and toward that end he bent every effort. Through the strangely deserted streets the duo passed on whispering tires. Yet, even as they traveled, Mars Markus wondered where everybody was. Then he remembered, Star Trek: Voyager was on and since they added that voluptuous Borg female, no red-blooded man missed it.
This knowledge heartened the man of bars, for it meant no traffic would impede their swift journey; yet, even as that thought passed, there was a group of strange looking men blocking the road! There was no way around them, and he couldn't just crash through them, so Markus was forced to slow and to eventually stop.
The leader, a tall skinny oldster wearing a fantastically-colored shirt and wide-bottomed jeans seemed untroubled by the many strands of beads around his neck. Upon his head was a bandana or turban, Markus was not quite sure which, that topped a mass of incredibly long white hair. The other members of his party were near the same advanced age and similarly dressed. They seemed to be passing lit cigarettes amongst themselves. The leader raised a hand in benidiction, thumb, third and fourth fingers clasped with index and middle upraised the shape of a "v", and said "Peace, brother. Love. It's a beautiful night. Slow down, smell the roses, man. Groovy."
"I wish I could," Markus tried to be polite, "but I am in a hurry. Please move aside."
"Uncool, man. Very uncool. Like, what's the rush?"
One of the other members of the eeire band laughed. "Rush? Yeah, man, I could use a rush!"
Somebody else said, "Far out!"
"Chill out, night rider man. Have a toke of the love weed," another offered.
Markus would have none of the pungent smoke, whereupon the leader frowned. "Bad vibes, dude. Relax, that's the only way love will come to you."
Markus, his temper strained, replied, "Love is not what I have in mind at the moment."
The leader of the ancient heads, long ago evicted from San Francisco, became agitated. "Hey, man, that sounds like a threat!"
"Take it any way you like, just get out of the way!" Kojak Morris shouted.
"Uncool." Looking at his flock, the leader said, "It is time, my friends. It is time we march upon hurry and progress. Far out, dudes, it is time we take action!"
Whereupon the determined and silent group closed in upon the men astride the bicycle.
CHAPTER 30: The Case of the Speckled Do-Do
Hillie Billman jabbed at the monstrous device in the swimming pool--now rapidly draining through the large shaft in the side. "Avast ye demon of the deep! Drink deep of this blade, for I am Ishmael!"
Herlock Cabyns scratched his chin in amazement. The one-legged banjo-picking Canuk was transformed into a ineffectual and ludicrous hero. "Can't you do something, Brace?" he asked. "The man will hurt himself."
Taking Cabyns and Datsun by the arm, Brace Bozhart ushered his guests back into the house and out the front door where a long limosine was parked. The driver, a shapely lady who gazed a Brace with adoring eyes, closed the passenger door behind them and entered the front.
"Where to, Mr. Bozhart?" The way the woman fluttered her eyes indicated where she'd like to take the wealthy man.
Brace, ever the gentleman and faithful to his wife, at least in the presence of witnesses, said, "The vacation house."
Datsun looked out the rear window as the expensive car departed. "What about young Hilary? What's to become of him?"
Brace Bozhart narrowed his eyes. "That's Hillie's lookout. After tonight, I really do not care. Do you now see how serious this is, Cabyns? Have you nothing to offer at this time?"
Cabyns swiftly offered his automatic pez dispenser. "Take two, they will calm your nerves. Do not fret, Bozhart, Datsun and I will get to the bottom of this.
Meanwhile, back at the pond, Hillie Billman, who now thought himself Ishmael, clanged his blunt harpoon against the earth mole's tough exterior. He waded deeper into the water, seeking a vital spot in the huge animal of his perception. Again and again the harpoon struck, only to be turned aside by the heavy armor.
Billman shouted his rage, drawing back a powerful arm to deliver what surely must be the death blow, and slipped in the out-rushing water and was sucked into the flow. He disappeared into the dark tunnel, still cursing, still waving his harpoon.
CHAPTER 31: The Eternal Barbarian --Tangor
Bertie struggled in Ratnaz's tight embrace. His large hand covered her mouth, reventing any outcry. Into the darkness away from the filthy Yellowjackemobile the Lord of the Leaves carried the struggling woman. When they were well away, and especially after Bertie managed to get a painful grip on the big man's crotch, Ratnaz put Ketchum on her feet and released her. Bertie, however, retained her hold. "You big idiot! I don't take that from any man."
"Let up a little, wontcha, kid? I didn't have time to explain and I didn't want an argument." Eyes crossed, legs bent, Ratnaz pleaded. "Please release the family jewels, o! par! don! me!" he whimpered as Bertie tightened her grip.
"Like you said a few hours ago, talk fast and keep it funny." She released him--and found a part of her mind occupied with the warmth of the big man's gonads heating her palm.
Even though the city lights were out and no moon filled the sky, Bertie's eyes shone with inner fire. Ratnaz massaged himself gingerly. "I don't trust dat guy. The polooka tossed me outta dat car oncet today. He's got it in for old Boz fer some reason."
"Sounds like a man after my own heart," Bertie said.
Ratz shook his head, slowly straightening up. Looking down at her face, he continued. "I think dere's more goin' on here than meets da eye. Big fires, explosions on the ground and in the sky, Spaid, Spillway and Slammer wasted...that funny Oriental in the tar pit...Yellow Jacket can't be doin' all dat. Dere's somethin' bigger goin' on."
The retired seductress spy considered the man's earnest words. "Maybe that last conk on the head did you some good, honey. That's mighty smart thinking." Then she slapped him. "And you'll get more of that if you ever drag me off like that again!"
Ratnaz wilted. He was a small boy in an instant. "Does dat mean youse and meese ain't gonna..."
Bertie stepped close, smiling gently. "Dear, I may be angry, but I still love you. Sure, it's going to happen. Sooner or later, some time during this episodic lurid adventure pulp, we'll tango at the Kit Kat."
The Lord of the Leaves brightened. "Dat's a relief! I thought youse was really mad."
Bertie linked her arm with his as they began to walk back toward the city proper. "What's the game plan, Ratz? This was your idea. Surely you have something in mind....besides that," she laughed at his goofy leer.
"Well, I wuz thinkin' that if youse can take me down, dere's only one person who can take down Brace Bozhart."
"Jane Porker, his wife."
CHAPTER 32: Twenty Inches Under the Sea
"What is that infernal clanking?" Devon McGuinness shouted.
"I dinno, Lard," Carmon Nappie covered his ears against the reverbrating echoes. "It's outside!"
"I know that, you dolt," Greatstrokes scowled. "What happened to the Pellucifar Burrower? We have no forward motion."
Nappie looked at the guages. "Fuel cell one is empty."
Edgar Nyce was beneath the burrower's hatch. "Well, it has been pleasant, fellows, but I think I'll get off here." Greatstrokes looked at the old author with a frown. "I think not, OB." The English lord pulled a dark snub-nosed pistol from his hip pocket. Aiming it at Ed Nyce, Greatstrokes motioned for the man to sit down. "Switch to the second fuel cell, Nappie---and clear that overdrive instruction our stupid friend entered into the computer."
Ed narrowed his eyes, distrusting the man holding the gun. "What are you going to do with me?"
"I'm going to make you famous, OB, even more famous than that decrepit hero of yours. You see, you are going to help us rob banks tonight--and we'll let you take the credit!"
The loud banging outside the ship had ceased. Carmon Nappie switched the fuel lines and started the engine. The heavy treads began rolling, and for an instant Lord Greatstrokes was unbalanced. Ed leaped upon the mad dog Englishman and wrestled for control of the weapon. But Greatstrokes was younger, larger, and stronger. The muzzle of the gun slowly came close to Edgar Nyce's gray-haired temple. Beads of sweat popped out on the author's terrified face as Greatstrokes' finger tightened on the trigger.
Meanwhile, as the Pellucifar Burrower and its desperate passengers began to drill into the earth, a yellow 1966 Camero pulled away from the scene.
To be continued...if the Whizzle boss guy can weasle some cash out of his mother-in-law to pay our office rent.
CHAPTER 33: The Best Little Chicken Ranch in Tappan Range
Madame Jane Porker
A small herd of mangy wild burros looked up from their unending quest for sustenance from the meager resources of Death Valley and let their jaded gaze follow the cloud of dust chasing a long limousine as it sped along a rutted, well-used desert road snaking across the Tappan Range.
The dust-covered luxury vehicle rattled over a Texas gate and through a timber arch from which hung a swinging weather-beaten sign heralding entry to the famed Chicken Ranch Vacation House. Tethered over the main building strained a giant helium-filled balloon which had been manufactured in the almost ludicrous image of a scarlet chicken.
Without slowing, the limo sped past the main entrance, sending a bombardment of dust over the front verandah - momentarily blocking from view the garish display of red lights and the cursing young ladies who were lounging on the weathered steps in various stages of undress.
The comely driver pulled up to a private entrance at the rear whereupon she quickly adjusted her leather microskirt and diaphanous blouse and checked her makeup in the rear view mirror. Exiting she moved fetchingly to the rear of the many-doored automobile where she ceremoniously opened a door to assist her three passengers onto the gravel driveway. The girl’s hand lingered on the arm of the last man to leave the car.
“Get your hands off my man, you Bimbo!” bellowed the husky voice of a heavy set, matronly woman who had just appeared around the corner of the building.
“Why Mr. Cabyns, it’s Ma Kettle,” whispered the eldest of the three men standing in the driveway.
The blonde driver hastened to neutral ground at the front of the limo, obediently answering with, “Yes, Madame Jane.”
“Gentlemen, you’ve met my wife, the lovely Jane Porker,” introduced the owner of the limo who then turned to motion to his two travel companions. “And Jane, you remember Mr. Cabyns and Dr. Da...ooof:” The man was interrupted in mid sentence by a heavy blow from a riding crop across his ample buttocks . He flinched and turned in time to see the love of his life in hot pursuit of the blonde chauffeur. “Ah...Gentlemen, I believe a storm is brewing. Perhaps we should retire to my private quarters.”
Terror in the Inner Sanctum
Brace Bozhart led his British guests, Herlock Cabyns and Dr. Datsun into his desert headquarters. The visitors stood amazed in the midst of the internal grandeur of the structure which had displayed such a shoddy barnwood exterior. After positioning his cohorts around the huge computer control desk, Bozhart was soon detailing his master plan for world anarchy.
Bozhart started by presenting the technical description of his elaborate computer system with which he had assembled his nefarious plan for world domination: “What you see here my dear Cabyns is a state-of-the-art Radio Shack, Asian imported, IBM-XT compatible computer with a super fast 8 megahertz microprocessor. I have recently added a massive 10 inch monochrome display monitor and have installed a built-in storage device which stores everything - DIGITALLY - on this 3 1/2 inch floppy DOUBLE DENSITY DISKETTE! ...And are you ready for my crowning achievement? ...I have ingeniously jury-rigged the machine via this telephone cable so that it is linked to nearly every other computer system in the world!!!” Bozhart’s voice was rising to a fever pitch.
The response from the famous sleuth and his able assistant was an involuntary gasp. All of the high tech talk had gone completely over the heads of these internationally renowned investigators, but they were visibly impressed.
“I say Cabyns...the man is absolutely amazing,” exclaimed an awestruck Dr. Datsun to his colleague.
Cabyns stared in open-mouthed admiration of the technical expertise of this genius among men. “Incredible achievement Mr. Bozhart!”
The genius then set both forefingers to work. Employing a laborious, determined “hunt and peck” typing technique, Brace Bozhart proceeded to enter secret codes.
Despite the breakneck speed at which the codes flashed up on the screen, Cabyns’ trained eye for detail mentally stored away the encrypted entries. BANANARCHY seemed to be the code word. Following this was an incredibly complex main code line which Cabyns’ straining eyes made out to be:
A few more key strokes beyond the ken of even the master sleuth brought forth information which would certainly have instilled terror into the hearts of the heads of all peace-loving nations of the world.
Bananarchy (Top Secret - For Your Eyes Only)
(The Partial Text of Brace Bozhart’s Bananarchist’s Handbook)
'Gorilla' Bananarchy Tactics
Every good bananarchist should have at least 20 pounds of bananas in his fridge. All bananarchy weapons listed below are the result of much research, preparation, and experimentation on the properties of bananas. Should you decide to become a bananarchist, I suggest you purchase a book on bananas.
The Banana Blade
The banana blade is a dangerous weapon in the hand of a skilled bananarchist. Materials: 1 Frozen Banana & 1 Carving Knife The banana blade is far superior to a regular knife. It can be designed quickly for the job at hand, and if you are ever caught, it IS edible. Once the banana has been frozen solid, you may then carve it into the desired shape. Remember: The banana blade must be used quickly before it thaws.
The Banana Mine
Watch where you step! A banana peel is a very inconspicuous weapon. The common tourist may mistake it for a simple pile of refuse or a discarded food item but beware, the banana mine can cause serious damage if positioned correctly in a highly trafficked area.
The Banana Bomb
The banana bomb is a stable high explosive, so it can be jarred or dropped without exploding. To detonate it, you use an electrical charge. Materials: 3 Peeled Bananas -- 1 Potato Masher -- 1 Cookie Sheet Mash up the bananas really well using the potato masher. Then form the bananas into the desired shape. Plop the mass onto the cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Usage: Connect an electric detonator to the Banana Bomb. Stay at least 20 feet away from the bomb when detonating.
Banana Pudding Napalm
Banana Pudding Napalm is a highly flammable mixture, and when it's finished burning, you've got banana survival cookies! Materials: 5 Unpeeled Bananas -- 1 Blender -- 1 Container Mix up the bananas in a blender until a thick paste is formed. Pour the mixture into a container. Usage: Pour the pudding on the intended surface, and light it up!
Banana Thermite is created from a chemical reaction between bananas, and aluminum. Materials: 1 unpeeled Banana -- 30 cm square sheet of aluminum foil -- a sparkler (the kind you get on birthday cakes) Wrap the banana entirely in aluminum foil. Push the sparkler halfway through banana. Usage: Place the banana on the intended surface, and light the sparkler. The substance created will melt through anything.
-- Robin Hillman
(Chapter 33 Concluded)
A Terrible Secret
The potential ramifications of this evil document were staggering. Cabyns could not contain himself. “Datsun...THE packet...quickly!”
It was during moments like this that Cabyns’ addiction reached a state beyond his control. He injected a large number of the Pez pellets through his trembling lips and settled back into his chair while the euphoric waves of contented pleasure washed through his lean and aged body.
“I fear that the work I have put into compiling this powerful information shall go for naught if we can not find a supply of the secret ingredient for these weapons,” Bozhart continued. “There is only one known variety of this yellow fruit that is totally suitable for weapons use. We must find the location of a secret valley hidden somewhere in the African interior. Only two men know the way into this valley -- one is a missing mystery aviator who went through untold, despicable tortures while imprisoned there, but somehow escaped. But there is only one known person who has a map -- we must stop at nothing to wrest it from him -- that man is Edgar Nyce!”
As the name of his arch enemy slid from his lips, an ominous shadow moved across the dome skylight above and a woman’s frantic screams could be heard over the howling desert winds: “Brace!...Help!”
CHAPTER 34: Escape from the City of Ancient Heads --Bill Hillman
Butch and Sundance Ride Again
As the ancient heads, a group that somehow had escaped the advance of evolution, circled and closed in on Kojak Morris and Mars Markus, the men smiled and glanced at one another as they had done prior to so many battles before. Still balancing on the wobbly tandem bicycle that they shared, Markus boasted, “We still live, my old friend!” and he strained to push his shirt sleeves up past his bulging biceps. He then took a battle position by spinning around on his seat so that he and Morris were back to back. With Morris steering and Markus pedaling backwards, they raced their two-wheeled mount in a tight circle to keep the enemy at bay.
Kojack shouted, “Remember the Bijoux, Mars...1, 2, 3,” and with warrior bravado they burst into a fighting song they had sung so often in their prime: “Daisy, Daisy, give me your... ...on a bicycle built for two...”
The ancient heads were taken aback. The melody triggered memories long forgotten which prompted a collective resounding response of: “Right On, Man...HAL rides again...Too cool...2001...Wow.”
Not having complete faith in the holding power of their guru abilities, the two veterans of untold bar wars changed their song after a few choruses: “Raindrops keep falling from my head, but...”
“Far out man...1969...cool...Katharine Ross...Hey! the Sundance Kid...too much....” As one, the assemblage burst into applause, assumed lotus positions, and mumbled along with the lyrics. Unfortunately for the revelers, their venture into song was washed out by a sudden cloudburst which appeared as if on cue. The nostalgic songsters were soaked under a deluge of raindrops.
The cyclists took advantage of the confusion to disembark and to ease their way out through the drenched crowd on foot. “Touch the sky man...Manson’s back...They’re prophets man... Hey! Anybody know ‘Feelings’“ were the fading words they heard from the born-again hipsters as they continued their odyssey.
Return of the Living Dead
As the victorious gladiators resumed their reckless race through the rain-soaked streets they noticed that the deserted city was coming alive again. With the conclusion of the weekly showing of Star Trek: Voyager came a partial return to normalcy as mobs of Seven of Nine worshippers spilled into the street, wandering Borg-like in the face of wind-driven beads of rain.
The increasingly frantic pair jostled their way through the wild-eyed masses of video zombies until they found another vehicle to commandeer -- this time it was a multi-coloured but rusted Volkswagen van of ancient vintage. Although the rain was subsiding, the winds were taking on gale-like proportions which rocked the van as the indomitable rescuers sped eastward on their mission to rescue the incomparable Dee Dee Morris. They had travelled only a short distance before being startled by a loud unearthly moan emanating from the rear of the van.
CHAPTER 35: Alone in the City of Mummies
or Showdown with the King of the Cowboys at Victorville --Bill Hillman
“Dang fickle fools,” cursed Zany Grany as he turned his back on the more than slightly comical sight of two oversized men struggling to navigate a wobble-wheeled tandem bicycle.
Zany and his entourage of cow and burros struck out for the desert. “We’re goin’ home me lovelies. Had ‘nuff them galldurned emtpy-headed city slickers ain’t we pards,” he chortled in glee.
Shortly after reaching the desert lands, however, the weaver of tales found himself battling for his life in the face of a sudden and blinding desert sand storm. Struggling to find shelter he looked up to see a giant palomino rearing above him. After skillfully deking to one side of the towering monster, he could barely make out the shape of a large building. A few deft swings of his miner’s pick axe opened the sealed entrance way and Zany led his loyal followers into the unnatural chill of a chamber bathed in Cimmerian darkness. A hastily lit torch revealed a scene which made his blood run cold.
The grizzled raconteur stood in an eerie tomb surrounded by terrifying animals and glassy-eyed people who appeared frozen into a state of suspended animation. Weapons of destruction hung from the foreboding walls and a smaller version of the palomino that had attacked him earlier stood poised on hind legs, its evil eyes suggesting that it might revive at any time to attack him with murderous flailing hoofs.
Back edged the the shaken old storyteller until he came to a huge ornately carved door. A quick inspection revealed that it was decorated with two ornately carved letters: RR. In need of water and believing this to be an entrance to a rest room, Zany turned and burst through the heavy doors -- only to find himself again facing the raging sandstorm which had engulfed the hostile plains of the Tappan Range.
A sudden panic swept over the oldtimer. He mounted his faithful burro but his race to escape the terrors which lay behind took an unexpected turn. Giant talons from above cruelly dug into the flesh of both man and beast as they were lifted high above the blowing sand which still covered the desert surface in a shroud of mystery.
CHAPTER 36: Ratnaz and the Forbidden Valley
King Dong and the Goat Kid
Ed’s life passed before his eyes. He wished once more that Ratnaz were here. Thoughts turned to Ratnaz and away from the cold reality of the deadly weapon pressed to his throbbing temple. Despite all his faults, Ratz was the closest thing Ed had to a son. His mind raced back to a time so long ago. Ed had funded a safari to the unexplored heart of Africa, hoping to find research material for his adventure stories. He had been intrigued by incredible native stories about a hidden valley lost deep in the heart of the Dark Continent: ...tales of a giant three-legged ape - King Dong ...of cruel barbaric tribesmen of unusual physical proportions...of human and animal sacrifices to the gargantuan ape ...of bananas with unbelievable properties. Perhaps most intriguing to Ed were the legends of a white boy - the only survivor of a plane crash - who had been raised with the tribe’s sacrificial goats. He had earned the name Ratnaz, which in the native tongue meant Goat Kid. His duties were to lead goats out beyond the giant walls of the village and to tie them to a huge sacrificial altar in hopes of appeasing the ape god - Dong. Eventually he came to be feared and despised as a traitor by the goats who had so lovingly raised him as one of their own. This rejection led him to spend more and more time with the three-legged giant ape from whom he learned the ways of the Great Dong Apes.
The Valley of Death
When Ed stumbled upon the village, Ratnaz was about to lead a captive white aviator to the sacrificial altar as an offering to the giant ape. Ed rescued both men before Dong arrived, but in the ensuing battle with the tribe, the aviator was recaptured. When Ed made his way back to civilization, all he had to show for his efforts were the Goat-Kid / Ape-Boy, a bunch of magic bananas, a map and an aviator’s leather helmet with the name Darter finger-printed onto the temple. Stories of these daring exploits...and more...found their way into Ed’s books of course, but he kept the location of the valley a closely guarded secret.
A loud explosion reverberated through the Pellucifer Burrower and Ed realized that he was about to meet his maker.
CHAPTER 37: At the Mercy of the Elements
Flight of the Phoenix
Ever-resourceful Dee Dee Morris assessed in an instant, the dire situation which she and her comatose companion now faced after their crash landing into the dreaded La Gaspack Tar Pits. The makeshift gondola of their airship was sinking rapidly in the putrid pitch while the still-attached but now deflated bovine-shaped buoyancy sac was completely covered in the sticky mire. Dee reached for the one remaining full Helium tank in the horde that her abductor had absconded from her father’s Helium Supply. Wasting no time, she connected the tank to the air sac, hoping that the coating of tar from the pits had patched the large tears in the fabric. As the balloon gained buoyancy she drew her trusty Swiss knife from her lacy garter and cut the affixing lengths of hemp twine. The princess clung to an appendage of the one-time Holstein -- now resurrected as a Black Angus -- as it started to rise above the predacious pitch. She then groped for the whimpering Darter only to see him sink ineffectually beneath the primeval sludge. The girl almost lost her grip on her only hope for rescue as the advance winds heralding an approaching storm launched the makeshift airship into a wild flight across toward the ancient sea bottoms of the California desert.
A short distance away, Bertha La Rapo, the feathers stuck to her besmirched face fluttering in the wind, halted in mid-scream to rub her eyes as she saw a flying black cow sail by overhead.There appeared to be a kicking figure of a desperate girl trailing behind -- frantically clinging to the swinging tail of the airborne beast.
Meanwhile, many miles to the west, Hillie Billman struggled to keep his head above water as he fought the raging currents of a powerful underground stream which was carrying him ever deeper into the depths of the ancient planet.
CHAPTER 38: "I escape the pit." --Tangor
Dan Darter slipped and clawed his way to the hood of the submerged Clampett Mobile. A putrid stench, created over millions of years of decompositon and geologic forces, assaulted his nostrils. "Dee Dee!" the frantic man shouted, but the girl of his dreams was well away, dangling from the rejuventated gas cow. "Dee Dee!" he whimpered, wondering how long he could maintain his position chest deep in the sticky morass.
He knew he was going to die. So many times he had escaped death, not only as a crack officer in the U. S. Military (before his dishonorable discharge for something so heinous that even Dan Darter refused to recall the offense), but as a highly paid mercenary in trouble spots all over the world. For a time he had been a strike breaker, a traffic cop in Rome, a body guard for a now deceased rock star, a kindergarten school teacher (his toughest assignment), a White House Aide under Slick Willie (until caught dipping into the campaign contributions), a gaucho of the South American pampas with the code name Uno Uno Siete, a fighter pilot in the Pago Pago Airforce, a chain-link fencing instructor for Sears Roebuck (the result of which was his unusually flattened thumbs), a double double agent at the Kremlin (whose reports were so confusing to both sides that Yeltsen pitched Communism and embraced Capitalism), a bouncer at a local whorehouse, then, just two years back, the stint with the Ugandan Airforce, his adventure in the wilds of Africa, of which he only had fleeting visions, usually nightmares, coupled with a nagging suspicion that if he could only remember, he would be the world's most powerful man. This Jack-of-All-Trades was a master of One: Survivial. Somehow, throughout his checkered past, Dan Darter had always survived--but it now looked like the end.
And the end hit him in the head. "Ouch!" Darter cried.
The "end" was attached to 3/8th inch poly rope, bright orange in color, which lay on top of the black tar. Stunned, Dan Darter picked up the rope and stared at it. A car honking, American obviously since it was in the key of F, drew his attention. On the firm ground, perhaps 50 feet away, a light colored, perhaps lemon-colored, low-slung 1966 Camero was at the verge of the La Gaspack tar pit. An indistinct figure made wrapping motions, suggesting Darter secure the rope at his waist. The desperate man was quick to follow through and waved when he was prepared.
The figure, which could have been male or female, entered the car. An instant later the brake lights came on, then shifted through reverse to drive. The engine revved, and continued revving--which caused Darter no small concern! Before he could shout a warning, the rear tires commenced to spin, throwing great gouts of tar-saturated dirt and grass in a huge rooster tail. Darter barely had time to close his eyes and cover his mouth and nose before the rope jerked taut and pulled him, skipping and splashing, across the viscous surface. A jarring thud on stiff weeds told the mercenary that he was free of the tar pit, but his gratitude turned to terror when the vehicle did not stop!
Dan Darter's bruised and battered body followed the Camero as willingly as a dog on a leash suddenly presented with an intriguing fire hydrant. He wanted to stop, the leash holder wanted to go!
Fearing for his life as the speed increased, Darter feverishly struggled with the slippery, tar-impregnated rope. Rolling from side to side, certain he would end with brains dashed out on some solid object, the man labored mightly until the knot loosened and he lost momentum. The rope burned his waist and skin, still attached ot the speeding car. The Camero accelerated into the night, the tail lights eventually disappearing over a low hill.
Checking for broken bones, Darter was elated there were none, though he'd feel the bashing for days. Scratching his head over the near-fatal rescue, Dan mused, "Well, maybe mama was right--never accept rides from strangers."
Clearing his head with lungfuls of air he had thought short-lived just moments before, Darter thought of Dee Dee Morris and the runaway cow. He knew he should go after her, but decided he needed a bath instead.
CHAPTER 39: Midnight At The Oasis --Tangor
Ratz and Bertie topped a grade and looked toward Ratzana, which appeared to be engulfed in flames! Obviously the warehouse fire had spread from Edgar Nyce's bungalo and barn to surrounding buildings. A great column of smoke obscured the night sky, black clouds that occasionally reflected the hungry orange flames beneath.
Bertie leaned against her hero. "There's no going back, Ratz. It's all gone."
The Lord of the Leaves gave the lady a squeeze. "We still live, baby. An' as long as dey's life, dey's hope--unless we get a Santa Anna tonight."
"I'm so tired," Bertie sighed. "It's been a helluva night." In truth, the woman looked totally worn out.
Ratnaz pulled her close, supporting the woman with his huge arm. The slight layer of fat over his long-abused body concealed the once powerful muscles which had been his claim to fame in the Ed Nyce commercial potboilers. At least he was in better shape with the fans than that other jungle fellow (http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Rampart/4437/tarzan1.html).
"Let's get a room," Ratnaz suggested. "I need clothes, a pack of Camels an' a few brewski's. Whatcha say, Bertie?"
"Throw in a steak and you're on.
The couple checked into one of those common motor inns found along the major California highways. The desk clerk, a myopic old man who probably worked as a cast extra on Perry Mason episodes in the 1950's (he even looked like he was in black and white!) didn't comment on Ratnaz's brief attire or the strikingly handsome woman who produced an American Express to pay the room. The desk clerk's son, sixteen or so, was rousted from in front of the TV to run errands for the new guests. He grinned at the Lord of the Leaves, not recognizing him, and produced a sharp, clear, and enthusiastic wolf whistle for Bertie.
She made him feel like a million by patting his cheek and leaning close enough for the front of the low cut dress to reveal the flesh above her tight bra. "And please hurry, Jimmie Deardon, we need a real efficiency expert just now."
Ratz was in the shower when Deardon returned. He deposited the clothes and takeout dinners on the double bed. Bertie pressed a fiver into his palm and her warm lips on his cheek. "Think you can sneak a couple of brews and a pack of Camels for us?"
"Yes, ma'am!" Jimmie asserted. "Be right back!"
When the boy returned, Ratnaz, his mane of thick black hair plastered to his skull from his recent bath, had donned pants and was struggling into a too tight polo shirt. He looked the other way when Bertie again thanked the youth with a demure kiss. The woman linked arms with Deardon and ushered him out the door.
After closing the door, Bertie tossed the cigarettes on the bed. Ratz immediately tore off the cellophane and lit up. With the burning cylinder dangling from his mouth, he looked at the pack and sighed. "I sure miss that Joe fellow. Sure made smoking these things fun."
The jungle man sat on the bed, tearing open paper sacks to get at the food--after popping the top on a cold beer and downing half. He looked sideways at Bertie, a slight frown on his lips. "Youse like 'em young, does ya?" he said, referring to the love-struck Jimmie Deardon.
Bertie laughed as distant thunder rolled across the land. "Oh, Ratz! You're such a dear! I play with boys, but I make love to men." The way she looked at him was as unambigous as a woman ever gets. "Do you really want to eat that silly old sandwich or would you rather..." Bertie reached behind and undid her zipper. The dress slid off her shapely form and ended in a limp pile at her feet. The shimmering slip encasing her healthy, young body seemed ignited by fire in the red glow of dirty lamps on either side of the bed.
The roast beef sandwich paused on its way to the Lord of the Leaves open mouth. "Rather what?" he asked with arched brow, very interested in Bertie's answer.
It was not long in coming. Bertie langorously knelt on the bed, her firm body moving gracefully toward the headboard. She smiled seductively, filled with yearning, and reached back to unscrew the lampshape to expose the bare bulb. The room was suddenly lit with harsh light. Her shadow, and his, were starkly etched on the opposite wall. Clasping her hands together, the woman leaned forward, lips parted breathlessly, and wiggled two fingers. "What is it?" she asked the man. "What do you see?"
Ratz followed her gaze to the shadow on the wall and gasped. "It is hara the bunny, my favorite jungle food!" Putting down his sandwich, the cold beer forgotten, he clasped hands near the light bulb and created a fearsome shadow. "See, it is puma the mountain lion, and he's going to eat youse up!" At which point the shadow feline pounced on the shadow bunny.
The two lovers engaged in multiple shadow charades, ate sandwiches, smoked cigarettes and consumed beer until the wee hours of the morning, secure inside their cheap, but cozy, motel room as a freak storm battered the burning city.
CHAPTER 40: The Origin of the Lord of The Leaves, The Mystery Explained --Tangor
Though the gun in Devon McGuinness' hand pressed hard against Edgar Nyce's furrowed brow, the aged author could not dispell the flashback to a similar time when his life had been in danger.
Getting Dan Darter and Goat Boy out of the jungle had not been an easy task. Cutting Darter loose and getting Ratnaz to cooperate had been the easy part.
Ratnaz had been told by the villagers that white men were evil. That the white man brought progress and industrialization, and taxes and tarrifs and telephones. These were things to be despised, especially the latter as daughters would get on the family instrument and remain there chatting with their girlfriends until threatened with being sent along with the next scheduled sacrifice of sacred goats. Most annoying of all was the party line, which was all the natives could obtain in their wilderness location. No business could be conducted at night because of teenaged daughters, and no business could be done during the day because wives passed time with other wives, and no man of the tribe, no sane man, ever contradicted a wife!
This terrible evil, more evil than thong bikinis and cheap flip-flops, was hammered into the young Ratnaz's head. At times a hammer was actually used, which explained the slight impairment which marked the Lord of the Leaves' speech throughout his career as a pulp fiction hero. Nonetheless, the white boy had been taken into the tribe, primarily because no one liked to shovel goat manure--and he thought himself one of the tribe until the day he met King Dong.
King Dong came upon Ratnaz one hot, steamy, afternoon as the boy was securing a sacrifical goat to the stout pole embedded in the jungle loam. He was a fearsome beast, perhaps 160 pounds in weight, with black fur and a silver beard. Fearsome canines protruded from a low slung jaw and his frame was powered by muscles that were incredibly strong despite the creature's lean look.
"Bee's wax!" the mighty King Dong challenged. "Pneumatic Overdrive! Bull Market! Sophia Lornadoon!"
Terrified by the fantastic creature, whose natural state revealed why it was known as the three-legged ape, Ratnaz had backed away until he bumped into a tree. Quick as a flash the youth climbed high to escape which appeared to be certain death!
King Dong placed human-like hands on his narrow, almost non-existent hips and screamed, "Golf pro! Gopher hole! Hole in one!"
Since the monstrous creature had made no hostile advances, the Goat Boy of the Mambobasa tribe became intrigued. Tentatively he uttered two words he'd learned on the party line. "Bake sale!"
The fearsome ape-like beast became less agressive at the boy's response. "Free beer?" it queried.
Ratnaz picked two more words heard in casual conversation: "Bill Clinton," whereupon King Dong fell to the ground rolling with laughter! A moment later the fearsome creature dusted himself and untied the frightened goat. Waving at Ratnaz, King Dong entered the deep shadows beneath the mighty trees.
In the weeks that followed, Ratnaz faithfully delivered goats to the appointed place, but instead of hurrying away, he remained to watch the strange beast. He hid in the trees and took to trailing the elusive King Dong, who often stumbled over the appendage which gave rise ot his name among the Mambobasa. It was this method of travel which earned Ratnaz the title Lord of the Leaves, because he became very adept at tree traversing. He maintained that skill until he developed a taste for cheap beer and wine, which had a detrimental effect upon his equilibrium.
All this went through Ed Nyce's mind as the hard muzzle pressed against his brain. McGuinness shouted to Carmon Nappie to "follow the plan," whatever the hell that meant. Though he struggled for his life against the more powerful English lord, Nyce lapsed into further reverie.
Ratnaz eventually located King Dong's lair. It was a cave-factory where he used the goats to produce a sharp and highly desired cheese for which natives of the Rhumbabasa tribe traded "magic bananas." King Dong then traded the "magic bananas" with the Tangobasa tribe who imported rare and collectible Frank Sinatra albums--the possession of which was the beast man's sole vice.
King Dong, on one trip back from the goat post, stopped in the middle of his journey and called out. "Come on down, Ratnaz. It's time you and me had a talk."
Sheepish at having been found out, the boy did as bid. After that the Scourge of the Jungle and the Lord of the Leaves spent a great deal of time together. Since they had the party line language in common, it did not take long for a deep and lasting friendship to develop. Toward the end, not long after the Nyce safari entered the lands of the Mambobasa, Rhumbabasa and Tangobasa, Ratnaz discovered the secret of King Dong.
"I'm a hairy guy, kid," King Dong stroked his chest fur. "And I got a big one," but he was polite and didn't stroke that. "And for a long time I didn't know what to do in life. Back home in Maine I tried my hand at everything, but nobody would keep the 'furry guy' for long. Made problems with their medical insurance since I regularly came down with mange.
"So I moved to the West Coast and fell in with the wrong crowd. With my looks, and other attributes, I ended up in films, but let me tell you, kid, they weren't the kind of films you would take your mother to see. That's where the name came from. It's followed me everywhere."
"If that's not your real name, what is it?" Ratnaz had asked.
"In the language of the Mambobasa, Rhumbabasa and Tangobasa it means 'supreme justice.'"
"You mean 'Clarence T...'"
"Don't say it," King Dong growled. "I don't use that name anymore. King Dong is what I am, and let's leave it at that!"
Days later Dan Darter's Ugandan biplane had crashed in the jungle. A head injury had relieved the man of his wits. The Mambobasa, who found Darter hanging upside down in the treed aircraft, decided sacrificing him to King Dong would greatly appease the evil spirit. Ed Nyce had tried to tell them Darter wasn't meant for their savage rites but to no avail. Thus, on the afternoon that Ratnaz had led the mindless Darter to the goat post, Ed Nyce followed.
Their harrowing escape from the vengeful Mambobasa tribe was one that Ed had always meant to write but never got around to it. Now, with the straining figure of the enraged Devon McGuinness, Lord Greatstrokes, Englishman by birth, villian by natural bent, bent over him, he knew the chance of cranking out more Ratnaz stories bordered on slim and none.
"You're a vile bastard, Devon McGuinnes. I hope you burn in hell!" Ed screamed, knowing the end was near.
Lord Greatstrokes blinked twice, and growled, "Take that, you pompous ass!" He pulled the trigger.
The scream in Ed Nyce's throat died a-borning, for it was not a steel-jacketed projectile that splashed into his skull, it was a stream of water! Sputtering, Ed stopped struggling and Greatstrokes moved away.
Grinning, Greatstrokes offered the water pistol to Nyce. "Take your revenge, sir, if you dare!"
Ed ignored the realistic-looking toy. "You're a real card, McGuinnes. Mind telling me why you have a toddler's plaything in your possession?"
"Not at all, Nyce, since you have no choice but to join our enterprise. The 'toy' will be used to introduce a saline mixture into the security systems of bank vaults. It is ordinary Pacific seawater, but it will wreak untold havoc on electronic circuits." McGuinness shot Ed in the eye one last time before putting the water pistol away. "Join us, and you can be a rich man. You might even make enough to pay off Brace Bozhart and buy back the affection of Enna."
"Hell," Ed calculated, "If I forget the old broad, I'd end up with a profit and no nagging. Okay, Greatstokes," Nyce extended his hand, "you've got a partner."
McGuinness smoothly smiled, accepting the handshake with a hearty grip. "I knew there was a businessman hiding in there somewhere. This is one get-rich quick scheme that will really work."
"I'll believe it when I see it," Edgar Nyce replied.
To Be Continued in the Ratnaz Files Book III
"Classic SF Stories by Today's Authors In the Style of Yesterday's Giants"
The tribulations of a pulp author in the electronic age
as told to Tangor and Bill Hillman