Last time: our intrepid heroine, swindled heiress and mountain climber, Lucy Burkhampton, has been flung from a cliff by her evil nemesis, Lord Diehardt, after the two of them discover that their lives are actually fictional and being written by a crazed author reaching the end of his tether at the end of a long project. Will she plummet to her death in the fog? Will Lord Diehardt escape? Will the writer make it all the way to end of this one? To find out, read on…
All was fog and rushing air. Lucy waved her arms, desperately trying to grab a handhold. This was a cliff, after all. Whenever she had been thrown from a cliff before she had always found a well-rooted sapling, a tough tussock, or a passing eagle to grab hold of.
But this time… nothing.
But the expected agony of her well-muscled back impacting on unyielding rocks never came. She simply fell.
Or did she? The wind was rushing yes, but maybe it was blowing. In the fog it was impossible to tell, but maybe she wasn’t falling at all. Maybe she was floating inside a gale.
She didn’t know how that might be possible, but it didn’t mean that it wasn’t.
She was standing on a street, but it wasn’t like any street she recognised. The sudden shift from falling to standing made her dizzy and she went to one knee. Her hand planted in the dust, and it was dust.
She looked around and saw wooden buildings, with long board-lined porches and hitching rails for horses.
The street was empty, and then a man in black stepped out from the shadows of the saloon. His silver spurs winked and glinted in the sun, jangling a jagged carillon with every step.
He stopped in the middle of the road and faced her.
Lucy pushed herself to her feet and stared down the length of the street to the threatening figure. As her eyes adjusted to the hot sun beating down on her, she made out more figures, cowering inside doorways and windows; watching.
“Burkhampton!” came the shout from the figure.
She recognised the voice. Of course she did. She had spoken to him only moments before he threw her from the cliff and she ended up… here. It was Lord Diehardt, but dressed in a way unlike any way she had ever seen him dressed before.
Head to toe in black, with a black hat, black boots and black guns hanging from a black gunbelt, he looked like nothing more than a cowboy.
As her brain finally caught up with her sudden transition, she realised that his dress was entirely appropriate for the situation, and she found her hand reaching to her side where she found a gun nestled in its holster. Her other hand rose to her head where she found a broad-brimmed hat settled over her lustrous hair.
It shouldn’t have made any sense, but she found that in a way it did.
“What?” she finally remembered to reply.
“I’m calling you out!” Diehardt shouted in a drawl.
She looked around her. “What does that mean?” she replied.
She could see his shoulders slump in exasperation.
“It means that you have to draw, and we see who survives!” he continued in his normal clipped, educated tones.
She nodded. That was pretty much what she’d expected.
“Why?” she called.
Another slump. At this rate her questions were going to render him prostrate before she even had a chance to do so with her gun.
“Because that’s what we do!” he called back.
Before she could ask another question, he continued. “You were right! When we talked! You were right! None of it’s real! We do what we’re told! But this is what we’re told to do! If it was Mars we’d have space-guns! But it’s not! So, draw, you mangy cur!”
With these last words, his hand dropped to his belt and, in a blur, she saw the barrel of his gun rise into view.
Her own hand was moving without her even exercising any volition. The gun felt good in her hand, felt right. She straightened her arm and pulled the trigger.
Will our heroine have outgunned her nemesis? Will she survive this duel? Will she endure only to find herself in yet another precarious situation which she will then escape through some tenuous scheme? Tune in next time, if there is a next time, to find out…