Disclaimer: Characters are owned by the very talented Messrs Preston and Child. I'm just borrowing them for a bit of fun.
Author's Note: This was written for a fanfic contest on the unofficial Preston/Child fan discussion site. The prompt was to take a part of one of the stories that was alluded to, but never actually seen, and write our own interpretation. This scene was from Dance of Death
"Charles? Are you alright?"
Charles DuChamp struggled against the blackness that had enveloped him with such sickening swiftness. He tried to open his eyes, but the pain forced them to stay shut.
The voice came again, more insistent, but also familiar.
"Charles? Charles?" A cool, dry hand touched his face. "Wake up, Charles." The voice, soft, mellifluous, with a syrupy New Orleans accent, started to break through the fog that clouded DuChamp's brain. A sudden surge of elation coursed through his heart when he finally thought he recognized the voice.
"Aloysius?" whispered DuChamp. "Is that you? I thought—." He opened his eyes to stare at the man bending over him, and cold dread cut through him like a knife.
"I'm afraid not, Charles. Aloysius is otherwise…occupied."
"Diogenes. B-b-but…you're supposed to be--."
"Dead? Such rumors have been greatly exaggerated, I'm afraid."
DuChamp, his heart pounding in his chest, struggled to back away from Diogenes, but his limbs failed him.
"What have you done to Aloysius? I haven't heard from him since--."
"Since he went to Italy, six weeks ago? It seems my brother got himself into a bit of a tight spot. Lucky for him I was there to help."
Diogenes laughed. "Oh, no, he's fine. No need to worry, Charles."
"But you…he said you would--."
"Kill him? Of course not! Actually, we've had a bit of a reconciliation. All of that bad blood is in the past, I assure you." DuChamp stared into Diogenes' one good eye, trying to read the expression it held.
"As a matter of fact, I'm here at his request. He insisted a check up on you, and it appears his concerns were justified. What happened?"
DuChamp shuddered. "I'm not sure. I—."
"Let's get you somewhere more comfortable first. Here. Let me help you." Diogenes offered a hand to DuChamp, who stared at it for a minute before raising his own. Diogenes grabbed his hand and pulled him to his feet. The sudden movement caused the pain to come rushing back, and DuChamp swayed. He felt a strong arm grip his shoulder as Diogenes guided him to the sofa.
"Thank you." The dread he had felt had diminished, but small alarm bells were still ringing in his brain. He was not yet sure he could trust this man, especially after all the things Aloysius had told him.
"My pleasure. That cut on you head looks rather nasty. I should tend to it immediately. Do you have first aid supplies?"
"In the cabinet…under the bathroom sink." The room started to tilt, and DuChamp gingerly leaned back on the sofa and closed his eyes. Soon he noticed an unnatural chill in the air, and the traffic sounds seemed louder than usual. He opened his eyes and saw that the window above the dining table was shattered, the glass scattered over the dark wooden surface of the table. He groaned.
"What is the matter?" Diogenes' voice echoed slightly from within the confines of the bathroom.
"A break in. The window…"
Diogenes reappeared in the doorway and he quickly surveyed the damage.
"A pity. Does anything appear to be missing?"
DuChamp studied the room through his haze of pain. "No, I don't believe so. I must have interrupted the intruder before he could finish.
"And that is who hit you?"
"I…guess. Everything happened to fast. It's still rather hazy."
Diogenes knelt down next to the sofa and began to tear open packages of bandages. DuChamp noticed he was already wearing latex gloves.
"One cannot be too careful, you know," said Diogenes when he noticed DuChamp's gaze. The alarm bells started to ring louder in DuChamp's brain. He was fairly sure he had no gloves among his first aid supplies.
Diogenes began to dab at the wound with one of the gauze pads. His touch was surprisingly gentle, but DuChamp winced and ground his teeth against the pain.
"I think I need to get to a hospital. The cut feels very bad."
"Head wounds always appear worse than they are. Let me get you something for the pain." Diogenes reached into his coat pocket and withdrew a small vial. He twisted the cap open and started to apply the clear liquid with a small foam pad that had been concealed in the lid.
"What…?" DuChamp tried to draw away, but the cool liquid eased the pain almost immediately. With a sigh of relief, he sank back against the sofa.
"Wonderful, isn't it? A topical antiseptic and analgesic. If I can refrain from modesty for a brief moment, I must tell you that it is my own formulation."
"Your own…" A delightful feeling of lightness was creeping through DuChamp's limbs. The pain all but gone, and the floating, relaxed feeling had replaced the tightness of dread in his heart. The alarm bells had faded completely.
"I have always had an interest in chemistry. Considering our family history, it really should not be much of a surprise. Great Grand Uncle Antoine, for example, was particularly talented in that area."
"Antoine…I don't remember…Aloysius mentioning him…" DuChamp's feeling of euphoria made it difficult for him to focus on Diogenes' words.
"Also not surprising. Aloysius never shared the great pride in our family history that I have always felt. Then again, he always was the odd one in the family. Eschewing the life of a gentleman scholar for work in law enforcement." Diogenes pronounced those last two words with an air of amused disgust.
"But he…worked for a very important…branch…the FBI…" DuChamp found it more and more difficult to follow his own line of thought. The feeling of lightness was intoxicating.
"All that fine education wasted. Not that his chosen area of study was all that prestigious. Anthropology, of all things." Diogenes chuckled. "A prime example of Man's greatest conceit."
"That Man finds himself worthy of study, of course. Especially when the whole thing is a sham."
"Why…do you say that?"
"Now Charles, why do you think? The early years, all the theories bandied about, were merely an excuse to repress those the ruling class did not deem worthy. So called 'primitive' societies were exploited and denigrated in the name of European supremacy. A true pity, considering what these so called 'primitives' had at their disposal, all the knowledge they had acquired."
"I don't…understand." DuChamp noticed that Diogenes was working a thick, blue-black cord into a complicated series of knots. He tried to follow the twists and turns, but soon abandoned the task. The colors of the knots seemed to twist and sway around Diogenes' long, nimble fingers.
"Their knowledge of the natural world. Botanical and taxonomic understandings far beyond those of the most 'advanced' European. Understandings of the pharmacological effects of thousands of plant specimens. Analgesics, anticonvulsants, stimulants, narcotics, and of course…hallucinogens." Diogenes produced another length of rope and a knife. He continued to speak in a low, soothing, hypnotic voice as he ran the blade of the knife lightly over the center of the rope.
"Hallucinogens…?" DuChamp tried to concentrate, but the lights reflecting of the knife blade distracted him as the bounced and shimmered and melted into the darker hues of the rope. He had never before seen anything so beautiful.
"The desire to alter one's reality is strong, isn't it, Charles? For centuries, cultures all over the world have used these powerful substances to see spirits, or to understand instructions from their gods, or even to understand themselves. But these quests always come with a price, don't they? One loses touch with the world at one's own peril. This is why we fear as well as adore them. We celebrate them in art, in music, in legends. Such powerful things, often hidden in such unassuming hosts: mold, fungi, cacti. Others are hidden in things of beauty."
"Take, for example, shanin. A quite attractive species of petunia, violacea, found in South America. The natives of Ecuador have used it for millennia. Related to nightshade, it contains a potent hallucinogen which gives the user the feeling of lightness, of soaring through the air, of flight."
DuChamp rose from sofa and walked toward the window. He felt the cold floor beneath his bare feet, yet at the same time he seemed to float above it. Diogenes stood behind him and gently pulled DuChamp's arms back, binding them with the black rope. DuChamp offered no resistance.
"An interesting thing about this shanin: the actual compound which produces the sensation was not until very recently identified. It is not an alkaloid, like psilocin or ergotamine. It can't be detected by colormetric screening tests. In fact, only one person has correctly identified, extracted, and isolated the compound. I have, in fact, also found the best method for introducing the compound: it makes a wonderful topical anesthetic…
DuChamp did not feel the rope placed around his neck. He stared in wonder out the window, and the sky, which should have been a dull grey in the January sunlight, was a deep, dark midnight blue, dotted with brilliant points of light.
"Like…diamonds…" he said, his voice soft yet jubilant. He barely felt Diogenes' hand as he guided him up onto the table. He did not feel the shards of glass that sliced his heels as he slowly walked towards the window.
"Yes," said Diogenes with a smile, "like diamonds." He backed toward the door and examined the room to make sure everything was in place.
DuChamp turned, walked back to the end of the table and then turned again. Suddenly, he charged towards the opening, a look of dreamy determination on his face.
Diogenes stood expectantly and watched as the rope holding DuChamp went taunt, and when it snapped, he exited the apartment singing softly to himself…
I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away…
OK, so I borrowed a snippet from R. Kelly, too. Please don't sue, I'll behave.