Author's Note: Sorry to intrude but I feel this fic. needs a little preamble. It's a fanfiction based in the world of Jasper Fforde's Bookworld novels. Don't worry – you'll soon get into the swing of it. Basically, I thought it would be fun to introduce WoT to Fforde's world. Here's the result. Hope you enjoy. Oh, and I love reviews.
Disclaimer: To Robert Jordan, Stephen King, Michael Moorcock, Bram Stoker, J.K. Rowling, Catherine Cookson, Daphne du Maurier, Thomas Hardy, J R R Tolkien and any other authors I embarrassed in this chapter, I extend my profuse apologies. I make no profit from this and beg your humble forgiveness.
To Jasper Fforde, I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate your book release in the US (grovel grovel). I would also like to point out that I am Welsh and suing me would be like suing your own kith and kin. Also, I love your work and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Oh, and sorry about all the mistakes.
Liberty Belle, Dirk Tensile, Neil Downe and GG1 are products of my inferior brain. Jherek Carnelian, unsurprisingly, is not (see above: Moorcock).
A Brief History and Even Briefer Introduction to our Heroine:
It is the not too distant future. Through means understood by only a secret few, the barrier between reality and fiction has blurred.
Strife sometimes surfaces when fictional characters, dissatisfied or jaded by their confines, find the means to escape their native prose – to PageRun.
A secret division known as Jurisfiction are the peacemakers of Bookworld, their tireless agents striving for the safety of Outlanders and literary creations alike.
This is the story of one such agent....
I'm in. Jurisfiction liked that interview tip you gave me. Thanks to pneumatic cleavage, I start Thursday.
No more SpecOps; am most excited. Can hear boss coming now with new partner (partner!)
Got to dash – about to get briefed on first assignment.
Jurisfiction Agent Liberty Belle (got a nice ring to it. Ha ha)
P.S. Thanks for the muffins. Blueberry next time, eh?
My mother framed that letter. It's still there, mouldering in an artexed corridor (below a shopping channel print of Vegas-years Elvis and a commemorative plate of Princess Di).
Two days after I sent it, my partner was killed.
No, not my fault, but as good as. A first-rate agent watches their partners back. Unfortunately - for him anyway - I was too busy watching his arse.
Chapter One – The Overlook Oversight
'It wasn't my fault. Not really. As far as we knew, Torrance was the enemy and I....well, I was distracted. Who wouldn't be? The snake was wrapped around my bloody throat. What? Oh, fire-hose – whatever. Anyway, it was my first case. Shit, what kind of idiot sends a rookie into a bloody King book anyway?'
An Overview of the Overlook Oversight - Transcript of Agent Liberty Belle.
I dredged a smile - it felt pale and watery as the snowy landscape – but Tensile had already shucked free of the jeep.
I threw a glance to the back seat. Wendy and Danny Torrance were huddled in a flump of blankets. They had fallen silent over an hour ago when I-Spy degenerated into a steady stream of 'I spy something beginning with S's.
'All right, there?' I asked cheerily. 'Don't worry, we're only out to stun him. He'll be right as rain in no time.'
'Tony says that's a crock.'
Tony's a little shit, I thought privately. I smiled at Danny. 'Don't worry. We're Jurisfiction.'
Danny began to cry.
I slid from the jeep and looked helplessly at Tensile who bent to the window to flash his GI-gimp grin.
'It'll be alright, kiddo. Me and your daddy are just going to have a little talk.'
Luckily, Danny couldn't see Tensile's hand patting his gun-belt.
My new partner was a complement to the rugged Colorado terrain; large, imposing. Manly. I felt myself blush and willed the chill to cool my cheeks. Snow crunched beneath out boots as we headed for the hotel, a sound like soft growls.
'What was the brief again?'
I fumbled for the manilla pocket. Paper spilled onto the snow. I blushed harder. 'Jack Torrance. Male, aged 36. Temporary caretaker for the cold season.'
Tensile grunted and peered at the sky. 'It's going to snow. Let's this freakshow on the road.'
He had a habit of doing that, snapping off memorable sound bytes. To Dirk Tensile, every day was a chance to be the next sub-literary hero.
Still, he had the physique for it, I mused as I tromped in his crusty footsteps. Then we rounded a snow-mound and all lechery puffed from my excited mind.
There, radiating menace in pulsing waves, a five-star, bling-beast of evil, was the Overlook Hotel.
Tensile was busy strapping all sorts of armaments to his honed physique. I nabbed a glimpse of a bastard crossbow, a shiny-bright grenade and something that looked suspiciously like a sawn-off Uzi.
'Are you sure all that's necessary? I thought the orders were to detain.'
Tensile squared his already geometric jaw. 'Have you dealt with a PageRunner before?'
'A King PageRunner?'
A hefty gun dropped into my hand.
'You'll need it.'
I wobbled after my partner, trying not to smirk at the connotations of a large Glock being slapped into my palm. As I simultaneously wrestled to keep my eyes from Tensile's implausibly taut rear, I realized I was nearing entendre overload.
Tensile stopped and pumped his weapon with a slick stroke.
Tensile scowled. 'Let's roll.'
Fluffy snow had begun to fall by the time we reached the Overlook's doors. From within came a strange bellowing, the sort a niggly rhino might make if it stepped on something pointy.
'Torrance,' my partner growled as we crouched on the steps. It seemed hammer-happy-Jack was Tensile's newest mortal foe.
I fumbled at my gun, eager for that buff butt to be front of me again – the view was a balm to my rookie nerves.
I was about to suggest toeing the door open for a sneaky peek when Tensile charged into the lobby, guns a-blaze.
'Shit.' I staggered forward, Glock at the ready.
By the time Tensile had relieved himself of some testosterone, the lobby looked like a cheap reproduction of a Seurat.
Tensile winked at me through the gun smoke. 'That should get his attention.'
As the last, strangled consonant faded, pounding footsteps sounded overhead.
'Get back, Belle.' Tensile reloaded with practiced ease. 'This is between me and Torrance.'
'Eh? You'd never even heard of him befor—'
'Yeah.' Tensile found a cigar and lit it on the nib of his flame-thrower. 'Just me and old Jacky-boy,' he growled, sucking on the big Cuban (my entendre meter was climbing again). 'Mano a mano.'
I sighed and slumped next to a brass-nozzled fire-hose.
There were more grunts and rumbles from upstairs. Tensile was pacing like a caged wolf. With a flame-thrower. And a cigar in its muzzle....I scrapped the analogy.
The frantic sounds faded at Tensile's roar.
'Get down here you homicidal piece of shit!'
'Right, that's it!'
Tensile roared up the stairs, tight buttocks working like two eggs in a handkerchief.
I sighed, though it was hardly audible in the gunfire. 'Just you and me, eh?' I asked of the fire-hose.
It ignored me.
'I mean, you look like a decent sort of bloke.' I edged closer. 'Is it really that hard for a man to pay his partner a compliment?'
The fire hose declined to comment.
'After all, I can admit he's got a nice arse. Why can't he do the same? I do squats you know. My glutes are like iron. See?'
The fire hose nodded.
'Thank you. I'm glad someone agrees with....'
The fire hose was still nodding, more vigorously now. I backed away as the brass nozzle fell from its cradle with a loud thump. Upstairs, the gunfire had stopped.
'Shit!' Tensile came flying down the stairs, dragging a draggled man with wild eyes.
'Belle, move it! It's not Torrance! It's the—'
'Hotel?' I volunteered as the fire hose slinked about my neck. The brass was very cold.
Tensile all but booted a horrified Torrance through the door. 'Don't stop 'til you get to the jeep.'
Old Jack looked like he might keep going 'til he reached Wisconsin.
'Belle!' Tensile flung himself on his knees and began to wrestle with the hose. 'Hold on...just...hold...on.'
I had to appreciate the way he was throwing himself into the role.
With his square, sweating jaw in such proximity, I tried to look as winning as possible. My face was turning puce. Luckily, that would set off my regimental yellow gilet nicely.
'Damn it, Belle. Why you? Why now?'
Why what? I made a questioning mfftl sound.
He heaved a manly sob. 'Damn it, Liberty. I love you!'
I gave a demure 'gerwuffle.'
'I should have known the bastard would use you to hurt me.'
Yes, he was really enjoying himself now.
'Damn this hotel. Damn it to hell.'
Through my imminent loss of consciousness, I could hear a strange whooshing, the sound of too much pressure escaping too small a gap. It did not bode well.
I racked my fading brain. I had read The Shining once, during my obligatory maudlin phase. The sound was tickling my familiarity button.
'Don't go towards the light, Liberty. Don't leave me (sob!) alone.'
I grunted and fumbled for my belt. The hose was really getting snug now. My fingers grazed cool steel, trembled, then grasped a knife hilt.
I brandished the blade at Tensile. Unfortunately, he was too lost in his grief to take much notice.
'Belle,' he was sobbing, all attempts to free me forgotten. 'My beautiful Belle.'
I poked the knife at his thigh.
'AowAAOW! What did you do that for?' I slapped the dagger into his palm and mimed a sawing motion. He got the hint.
Several moments later, and free of the murderous hose, I flittered my lashes expectantly.
'Agent Belle, there's something I should tell you.' Tensile dragged a deep breath. 'I love you too much to involve you in my world. My terrible, dangerous world.'
It was all suitably melodramatic. If not for the annoying hissing sound, I would have been crushed.
'Farewell, my lost love.' He planted a lingering kiss on my cheek. 'Let us never speak of this again.'
'Can we go now?'
My partner in work, not love, bounded to his feet. 'Let's rock.'
Hands clasped, we made good our flight from the demonic hotel. In the distance, I could see Torrance, still running like a startled quail. We were gaining on the former psychopath when Tensile let go of my hand. I spun to see him charging back towards the Overlook.
'Tensile, you nut! What're you doing?'
'Never leave a man behind.'
In the distant snow was an Uzi-shaped speck.
'It's a bloody gun.'
But my partner ran on still, legs pumping. At the gaping doors he lunged into an expert dive, rolled, and righted himself, trusty Uzi in fist. He started to run back to me, a big, mush-eating grin on his handsome face. And that was when the world exploded.
I missed the funeral.
They buried Tensile – well, what they found of him - with his beloved Uzi. From what I gathered, it was quite a big affair.
The Overlook was refurbished for the new print editions although the blast seemed to have flambéed the resident evil. Apparently, King's supernatural opus is now 42 per cent less frightening. The fans are not pleased.
Needless to say, it was a fiasco.
My boss, Neil Downe, got the mother of all bollockings, Jack Torrance won an apology and Tensile's mother got an all-inclusive break in a Catherine Cookson of her choice.
I was left with a broken arm, a sea of blisters and a steady stream of visitors. And once the hospital niceties were over, the real fun began.
I got off lightly; whispering threats of demotion gave way to a formal warning, mainly due to the fact Tensile was a complete cretin with delusions of hero-dom and wholly unsuitable for a newbie like me.
After a few handshakes, I was bundled into a du Maurier novel to languish in deepest Cornwall. After several hundred cream-lathered scones, I was ready to return. Text Grand Central declined, politely of course, stating that I needed the recuperation. Then I managed to get involved with some rowdies at the Jamaica Inn - the authorities sagely decreed that my languishment was over.
It was four months after the Overlook Oversight (as the event came to be affectionately known) that Neil Downe, my ova-shaped superior, finally stepped into my poky office.
'Agent Belle. We have an assignment for you.'
I looked up from my over-stirred coffee. 'Jurisfiction?'
Sweat popped onto my upper lip. 'Not King.'
'No, Belle. This one should be a little less spectacular.'
I eyed him warily as he sat down and offered a nervous smile. 'Have you ever heard of an Oliver Rigby Junior?'
'So, I'm going to get another partner?'
'Absolutely. Can't let you go this one alone.'
Neil and I were walking through level 23 of the Great Library, home to such colossi as Wuthering Heights, War and Peace and Where's Waldo.
'What about my new mentor?'
After four months of limbo, I still hadn't been assigned one. My previous advisor had buggered off back to Middle Earth. Don't believe the bull – Hobbits are flighty. And susceptible to kleptomania. I lost count of the amount of stilettos the stumpy git pinched from me.
'Yes,' sighed Neil. 'It was a shame about Bilbo. Well, Bilbette.' We both studiously avoided one another's gaze. 'Let's just hope he'll be happy.'
'So, who is my new guru?'
'Could this be she?' exclaimed a loud voice. 'Is this the creature who shall receive my humble tutelage?'
'You have got to be taking the piss.'
Neil gave me a muted smile as a slender young man bounded down the corridor.
'Miss Belle, it is beyond a pleasure to meet you,' the bouncy bloke exclaimed, grasping my hand and pumping it with vigour. His tall hat bobbed alarmingly. 'I was ill prepared for your loveliness. Mister Downe, glorious benefactor, why did you not tell me? This is a delight. An absolute delight!'
'Mister Carnelian.' I managed a smile as I extracted my hand. 'I believe Mister Downe and I have some matters to discuss before the arrangement becomes final.'
'Oh.' Mister Carnelian looked distinctly crestfallen. 'Are you not happy with the proposition? I had hoped...' He trailed into silence, blue-green carnation wilting on his lapel.
I hauled Neil aside. 'What are my options?'
'Alec d'Urberville,' Neil began, ticking off his fingers. 'Simon Renfield.'
'Some Sirius fellow and our dear Jherek Carnelian here.'
'Sirius? Sirius Black?'
'I believe so.'
I pondered that for a bit. I had met Black once at a Halloween party. He had done his animus trick. I had been impressed – his nose had been very cold.
'Who will our favourite dandy end up with if not me?'
'Gail?' I exclaimed. 'She'll ravage him.'
I turned to Mister Carnelian and his wilting flower. He looked very dapper, but then, on the few occasions I had seen him cavorting through the corridors, he usually did.
His waistcoat was a deep emerald today, his frock-coat and suit a fetching shade of claret. Only his top hat spoiled the ensemble, being of a rather virulent yellow. His pale, handsome face was downcast as his dark eyes fixed upon the carpet.
'Mister Carnelian, the discussion has found a resolution.' I held out my still thrumming hand. 'Say hello to your new student.'
'Oh, this is excellent news! My lady Belle, most beautiful of tolling implements, I promise to do my very best. I am versed in the nuances of moral fiber and virtue and can decipher many of your strange markings known as words. I feel we shall be marvelous together. Yes, most marvelous.'
I smiled as my hand took another righteous pummeling. 'Please Mister Carnelian, call me Libby.'
'Libby, how delightful! How wonderful and beautiful and....virtuous! You must call me Jherek. I insist.'
His ebullience seemed to be catching. I was smiling almost as foolishly as I retrieved my hand. He really was quite handsome.
'Oh, my dear Amelia,' Jherek declared to no one in particular, a rapt expression on his artfully pale face. 'How happy you will be that I have found symbiosis at last.'
'Why, my beloved wife, of course.'
'Darling of the multiverse, luminescence of my heart. My beautiful Amelia.' He sighed.
'Why didn't you tell me he was married?' I hissed at Neil, who appeared to be enjoying himself immensely.
Neil just shrugged.
After depositing a kiss on my flushed hand, Jherek beamed at the pair of us.
'I confess I had hoped this would be the outcome. As such, I have brought just the fellow to substitute that Page-Bounder.'
'Page-Runner, Mister Carnelian?'
'Quite, Mister Downe.' Jherek waved at a young, red-headed fellow loitering by a third-rate Gandalf clone. 'May I introduce Master GG1.'
'A GG1.' Neil muttered. 'Generic Ginger, first class. Very useful.'
The young man shuffled forward, his ears pink. They clashed horribly with his red hair.
I pasted a smile. 'Hullo. Name's Agent Belle. Credentials?'
'Goblet of Fire,' piped GG1. 'Stand-in for the eldest Weasley boy after that incident with a Common Welsh Green.'
'Bit of a jump to schizophrenic maniac.' I thumbed my lip thoughtfully. 'Sure you're up to it?'
'I've been practicing all night.' GG1 a-hemmed hemmed dramatically. 'Light, Ilyena. Nooooo!'
Carnelian and I applauded as GG1 rose and dusted off his knees.
'Oh, that was simply splendid, my titian titan,' exclaimed Jherek.
The ginger boy grinned rather foolishly.
'Right,' announced Neil. 'We have our mission, our faux-Rand and our fearless tutor.'
At this, Carnelian threw me a dazzling grin.
'Are we all set?'
I checked my belt. The Uzi was nice and snug. 'Let's get this freak show on the road.'