Emma Valentine is back, this time as the governor's wife. She has a whole new cohort of feminist activists, and this time they are way more prepared...

The Night of the Amorous Antidote

Disclaimer: I don't own much, especially Jim or Artie. Enjoy!

James West peered out the window of the parlor car, the familiar Kansas landscape making his stomach curl. He turned around and studied his partner, Artemus Gordon instead. Artie was wrestling a message out of the telegraph; it hadn't been working properly for quite some time now. The train was due to be in Washington for repairs (and Jim and Artie for an extended vacation), but one assignment after another kept popping up, each of them topping the former. First, there was the murder of Allen Krans, a local cattle baron. Then, there the identical murder of Colonel Fargut, formerly of the US Army. The governor of Kansas, Mike Wells, had called on the resources of the secret service, and Jim was in no mood to collaborate with him. If the man was stupid enough to take the former convict Emma Valentine as a wife, then he deserved whatever he got.

Rumor had it that the governor had visited the state penitentiary to issue a pardon for a person who had been wrongfully accused. There, he had become acquainted with Emma Valentine, and her charm had won him over. She convinced him that she too was innocent, though she had been testified against by both James West and Artemus Gordon. And, for reasons unknown, the governor chose to believe her. She was pardoned, and the two were married at a gaudy celebration three months later. Sighing, Jim turned his attention once again to the telegraph his partner was trying to resurrect.

"Will it live?" he asked curiously.

"It might, if you hadn't let it get filled with bullets on our last mission," Artie curtly replied.

Jim shrugged. "It wasn't my fault those thugs turned up a half-hour early. Besides, inviting them here to trap them was your idea."

"Well, next time, go play outside." A sudden spark sizzled out of the dying machine, and Artie jumped back, sucking on his finger. "Damn telegraph!" he shouted.

The telegraph gave one last groan and let out a small wisp of black smoke. "Aww, you shouldn't have said that, Artie. Look, you hurt its feelings." Artie glared at Jim and sent him a menacing growl.

"It's time to get going anyway," Jim grinned. "We have our meeting with Governor Mike Wells in about a half an hour."

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Governor Mike Wells lived in the best house in Kansas City. Originally the first building built; its structure had changed over the ages, giving it an air of dignity, superiority, and even a little malice. However, the latter could also be because of the arrival of the newest element in the house. Mike Wells himself was a portly figure, and was not at all attractive. After five minutes of speaking with him, Artie realized that the only thing Mike could really offer anyone was money. "Emma must have been pretty desperate," Artie whispered to Jim. Jim nodded, and, the pleasantries being over, dove right into the question at hand. "Governor Wells, the reports on the murders say that the victims were killed with some sort of poison, yet no one knows how this poison was contracted?"

Mike scratched his head and shrugged. "The poison had to be in the wine; perhaps the murderer switched the bottles. I can't think of any other way a body would acquire poison, would you?"

"I can think of a dozen ways," Artie whispered under his breath. Jim gave him a nudge. "Sir, we know what the sheriff's report said. All the background work on this case is done already. However, it would be really helpful if you knew anything else at all; some fact that escaped the report..."

Mike shrugged thoughtfully and shook his head. "Nope. Near as I can reckon, the bodies are just bodies..." Suddenly, a shadow fell across the doorway into the room. "Mike, dearest, what about the strange notes found on the two bodies?"

Jim looked up cockily as Emma Valentine gracefully slithered into the room. She wore her usual pink and red velvet dress and carried a red heart-shaped sketchbook in her hands. She looked the picture of a perfectly contented housewife... but Jim knew better.

"Is it just me, or do I hear the death march playing," Artie muttered. Jim sighed.

"Though I don't approve of your marrying such a 'young woman'," Jim started, pausing to let his insult take full effect, "I must say that a misuse of public power makes you an even more distasteful public figure, Governor Wells."

Mike scowled, the insult hitting him after a few seconds. "Now just see here, Mr. West. Emma is a good woman. She just wanted the best for her girls. But now, all's taken care of. She even has some clues that may unravel this mystery of yours."

"I'll bet she does," growled Artie.

"Mr. Gordon," Emma purred, her eyes flashing like a tigress but her smile smooth as honey, "let's let bygones be bygones. I do in fact have some information that may be of some interest...both of these men held in their hands little love letters from a secret admirer."

"You mean valentines," said Artie.

"I say love letters, you say valentines."

"Governor, isn't this completely obvious! Your wife is a killer, and she's out to prove just how dangerous she really is!"

"No, she ain't dangerous," the governor huffed angrily. "Someone's trying to frame her, and I won't let it happen again!"

Artie clamped his mouth shut and glowered angrily; Jim hastily stepped in.

"Sir, we can't make you believe what facts have already proven. But if you have even an ounce of wisdom, I'd suggest you put a guard on your wife."

The governor scowled. "My wife don't need a guard," he spat. Then, he turned on his heel and left the room.

Emma walked purposefully up to Jim. "I look forward to playing with you again," she smiled. Then, she also turned on her heel and stalked out.

"Now that was a threat, Jim. What are we going to do?!"

Jim grinned. "We'll let her make the first move."

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For two days, nothing extraordinary really happened. Jim began to wonder if Emma was going to bide her time till the agents left. If she didn't make a move, there would be no way to convict her. And then, on the third day, it came by parcel post. A valentine.

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"What is the meaning of this!" demanded a enraged Governor Mike Wells as Jim and Artie burst into his study. "I never admit anyone after seven o'clock!"

"We have received a valentine in the mail!" Artie shouted.

"Well, good! Maybe it means someone out there loves ya!"

"No, Governor, you don't understand," Jim placated. "The valentine sent to us is just like the other valentines sent to the men... only the sender is none other than Emma Valentine Wells!"

"Lemme see that!" The Governor squinted as Artie handed him the card, but before he could reach it, a familiar commanding shape graced the room.

"Am I being accused again?" Emma sighed as she walked into the room. "I thought you had better things to do than stick around Kansas city and torment me."

"Ah ha!" Artie exclaimed dramatically, his showboating getting the better of him. "What do you have to say about this?" He handed the valentine out towards Emma. Slowly, she reached out a dainty gloved hand and grasped the valentine. Then, with a smooth and split-second gesture, she whipped the valentine fiercely out of Artemus's hand.

"Ow!" he grimaced as a thin line of blood welled up along his hand where the valentine had cut him.

"Oh, I'm dreadfully sorry," said Emma in a voice that was indeed dreadful. "Paper-cuts always smart. I had many experiences with those during my secretary days."

As Artie glowered and held his handkerchief over his hand, Emma studied the valentine. Finally, she put down her reading glasses and shook her head. "This, gentlemen, is not my signature. Not that I would have sent either of you a valentine anyway, when I am so happily married. Look, see for yourselves."

With that, Emma wrote her name in a loose, flowing script, polished and smooth through years of practice. One glance told Jim that even if Emma had practiced different signatures, it could not be her hand that signed in the squished, strait and daggered writing that appeared on the valentine.

Miraculously, this contradiction in writing style did not completely fail to go over the Governor's head. With a curious glance, Mike looked up and said, "That can't be my Emma's writing. See, I told you someone's out to frame her."

"Yes," Emma chipped in, as she handed the valentine back to Artie. "And I suggest that you find whoever that is before another murder is to be made." Jim turned to the governor to plead the suspicious case, but the governor just growled and said, "Now you two varmints git, before I telegraph the secret service and let them know what a mess you've made of this case."

With that, Jim and Artie were politely hustled to the door.

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It was later that evening, and Jim and Artie were sitting in the parlor car, scowling. "It's a pity we can't make up a charge to convict her on," Artie grinned slyly. Jim shook his head irritably. "Let's not dwell on evidence we don't have," Jim sighed. "Let's look and see what we do have." Artie nodded, then began to cough. He wheezed for a few minutes, then finally began to breathe normally again. "Artie? Your hay fever getting the better of you?"

"Naw," Artie replied. "You know, it's a funny thing. I only started coughing after we left the governor. I guess Emma makes me break out into hives."

Jim laughed, but the small alarm that was always in the back of his mind began to ring. "Are you sure you're alright? You look really pale."

"I'm fine."

Jim shrugged, forcing the alarm bells to shut off. "Well, as I was saying..."

Suddenly, the train door burst open. In came a young woman wearing a beautiful blue silk dress. "Pardon me," she whispered, her voice coming out shaky and soft. "But is this the residence of James West and Artemus Gordon?"

"It sure is, mam," Artie replied, tipping his hat to their large eyed, fair haired visitor.

"I knew it was," she replied, her voice getting stronger. "My name is... well, that is unimportant now. What I really need to say is..." With that, the young woman's voice faltered again, and she looked on the verge of fainting.

"Come over here and sit down," Jim smiled. "And just start from the beginning."

"Well," the woman began, "I am a scientist. I worked for Dr. Howard, in Princeton. I was his lab assistant. Only on the side, though. I mostly did secretarial work. You see, women scientists are greatly frowned upon. But every now and then I would use whatever leftover chemicals he had and I would experiment. I...I made a poison. I wanted to sell it to use for killing common pests...rats...snakes, you know. But..." Again, the woman fell to moaning and almost broke into sobs. It took a few minutes of Jim's special crying female care to get her to calm down again and resume her story. "When Dr. Howard found out what I had created," she faltered, "He took my new improvement and sold it as his own! I was furious with him! I vowed to get back my invention, no matter what the cost. I wrote a letter and published it, hoping to disgrace him. All that letter did was get me jeered out of my job. I came back to Kansas City because my family is here. But then..." At this, the woman's eyes darted back in forth, as if some invisible wraith haunted her. After a long look around, she continued her narrative. "I received a letter from a woman who read my article in the paper. She stated that she was a journalist and that she wondered if I could make a poison even more potent than the one I made before... provided I had the right materials, of course. I told her I could and she provided me with a lab and everything. I thought it was just an ordinary experiment...and I went a little overboard...and I made a poison that could kill men only."

"Men only? How on earth did you manage that?" Artie asked, amazed at her confession.

"The poison feeds on something only found in men's bodies; I don't know what it is. The female rats got very sick, but all of them recovered. The male rats all died." The woman looked sullenly at the two agents, her eyes rimmed with tears. "It was a mistake; a glitch I tell you. I told my sponsor the poison was worthless in any case, because it is the female rats you want dead if you have a bad infestation. But my sponsor loved the idea. Before I knew what was really going on, she took my poison. I knew then that she was no journalist out to get her big story. I knew she was crazy, bent on destruction. I heard you were in town, and I came to see if you would help me...undo what I had done." With that, she fell to crying again, and Jim and Artie were shooting incredulous looks across the room. It was Artie that finally comforted the sobs this time.

"Mam," he began, "It would really help us if you could tell us how this woman has been using your poison...have you ever seen this woman?"

"No," she replied, "everything was done by mail. But I do know her address; it's how I sent her my replies. And my poison; that was stolen at night when I was asleep. I have no idea who could have done it."

Artie nodded, and then, after a pause, asked, "Mam, how does this poison work?"

The woman smiled a little. "You see," she began, "It is a liquid that dries into a powder. Paper is soaked in the liquid, and then the paper becomes hard; like a card. The rats chew it and it gets into their system and kills them."

Artie blinked, his brown eyes filling up with barely restrained panic. Jim watched him curiously, feeling Artie's sudden mood change roll off him like waves. "Mam, one more question...can the poison kill through skin, or does it have to enter the body?"

The woman gave a little shrug. "The powder is able to be washed off; it can't infect through skin. But if you held the card and then ate, or blew your nose, or coughed and put your hand up and inhaled it...there are many ways you could get it into your system."

Artie turned and looked at Jim, his brown eyes fearful but his voice steady. "Jim, I know how our victims got poisoned...it was the valentines themselves!" Jim nodded at Artie, and turned around to their visitor.

"Can you lead me to the address of your employer?" he asked. The woman nodded. Jim smiled and said, "Good. Why don't you step out for a minute and get some fresh air. That will calm you down. I'll be with you by and by." The woman smiled gratefully and stood up, her blue folds rustling. Silently, she moved towards the door, and when she was out Jim turned his attention to Artie.

"Did you touch the valentine?" Artie queried.

"I don't think so," Jim replied. "It came in the post and you opened the envelope. We then took it to the Governor, but you kept it the whole time."

"Yes, that's what I remember," Artie sighed, sinking into a chair. Jim frowned.

"Artie, what's the matter? You look like you've seen a ghost."

"I'll be a ghost soon, Jim."

"We didn't eat or anything like that..." Jim's protest died in his throat as Artie stretched out his hand, the paper cut still a red line across his pale skin. Fear rose into his verdant eyes as he looked at his partner.

"Artie..." he whispered.

"Jim, here's what we're going to do," Artie gulped. "You go with that girl and put whoever is behind all this behind bars. I'll stay here...I've got the valentine still; I have the poison. I will make an antidote."

Jim stared at Artie, unsure of what to do. On one hand, he might gain evidence to convict Emma Valentine! But on the other hand, his best friend was slowly dying. Torn, he mechanically grabbed his gun and climbed into his jacket. Artie gave Jim a wry glance. "After all," he said, trying to lighten the mood, "you're always the perfect ladies man. Also, you're a horrible help in the lab." Jim grinned, Artie's comment bringing him back to the reality at hand. Artie was an excellent chemist; Jim had confidence that he could solve any problem. And besides, lab work was not Jim's strength. He might just inadvertently mess up Artie's solution, and then he would be responsible for the death of his friend. Better to be where he could do the most good. Slowly, he walked to the door. "Good luck, Artie," he said as he exited out of the parlor car into the cool night air. And when he was sure Jim was gone, Artie began to shiver.

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Artie had been working for what seemed like hours. At first, he just noticed the poison acting like symptoms of a cold. But then his ears began to ring, and his eyes began to get fuzzy, and everything seemed like it was far away and yet very sharp and pointy. Artie knew the poison was affecting him, and so he worked with all the feverishness he could muster. He had figured out that the woman's poison had a protein in it akin to rattlesnake venom, but what it attacked in a man's body and not a woman's Artie had no clue. "If I can just neutralize the proteins," he thought, "then I could make an antidote." However, it didn't look as if he'd have the opportunity. Artie felt a spasm of pain strike in his stomach, and he crumpled, still clinging onto the lab table. Exhausted by only a few hours of work at the most, Artie gave a tired sigh. If he'd just close his eyes...if he'd just give in...Artie let go of the table and slumped to the floor. And then, just as his thoughts were fading, a very familiar voice cut like a knife through the haze that was starting to gather and jolted him back to reality. A hellish reality.

"Why, hello Mr. Gordon."

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Jim followed the woman through quite the network of alleyways. Kansas city was a big place; grown out of nothing and growing bigger still from nothing. Though he was uneasy at the long walk, he felt comforted by the fact that at the end he'd find out who was behind all this for once and for all. The woman finally led Jim up a steep set of stairs and through a wooden door into a small office. The office was bare except for a small printing press, a desk, and a single chair. And a rather portly figure, unrecognizable in the dim light, graced the chair.

Slam! In one quick movement, the woman had shut and bolted the door. Jim drew out his gun but it was to no avail; he heard the click of a gun prepared to fire. Sighing, Jim turned towards the desk, as the dark figure rose and kept the gun trained on him. "Delilah! Lights please!" the man snarled to the woman scientist.

"So that's your name," said Jim. "Delilah. How appropriate."

The woman lit a lantern on the wall, and suddenly the room filled with a bright blazing light; brighter than what should have come from a kerosene lamp. "Like it?" Delilah laughed. "Just more of my improvements. I found a way to make oil burn better." Jim blinked furiously, his eyes trying to get used to the light. Suddenly, he felt hands upon him! Quickly he punched this way and that, but it was no use. He couldn't see well enough to come in contact with any of his enemies. And then Jim felt a bottle crash down on his head, drowning him in darkness once more.

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Artie stared in amazement as none other than Dr. Miguelito Loveless sat on a stool in his laboratory, gleefully glaring at him like a nightmarish imp. "Loveless," Artie spat, "I should have known you were behind this all along. Only one scientist can make such a specific poison."

Loveless grinned in amusement, then slowly shook his head. "Mr. Gordon, as much as I appreciate the compliment, you are in error. I did not make that poison. And no, I am not in this scheme, or whatever brought you this... affliction. I have better things to do than mingle with substandard villains. I am merely... a shadow, no... a dream. A hallucination." Artie stared at Loveless dumbfounded for a moment, and then reached out and touched his leg. It felt solid.

"Why do you feel real?" Artie questioned, his suspicions rising with every realistic breath that Loveless took.

"I seem real to you because, for these few moments, I am in fact real to you. I was pulled out of your brain at a last ditch attempt to help you solve a problem... and a chemistry problem at that."

Artie sneered, "Why would my brain call you up of all people?"

Loveless laughed. "Because, I am the better chemist! You know that I can solve anything, and when you got stuck, you said to yourself, 'How would Loveless solve this problem?' Your mind, seeing this as its last resort, conjured me up and now I am here to assist you."

Artie looked at the little man suspiciously. "Would you help me?" he asked. Loveless laughed. "I have no desire to see you die, Mr. Gordon. I respect you as a fellow scientist and I look forward to working with you. Besides," he continued, his grin growing more sinister as he leaned forward on the stool towards Artie, "I want the pleasure of killing you myself." Artie gulped and nodded, his wry humor coming back to him. "That makes sense," he admitted. Loveless smiled. "Now, get off the floor!," he commanded. "We have work to do."

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Jim woke with a start, punching as if he were still in the fight. But, as he looked around, he noticed that he was alone and the fight was long since over. Blinking away the throb in his head from where the bottle hit him, Jim saw that he was imprisoned in a cage hanging from the ceiling. He sighed as he rose to his feet, the ground swaying under him. "Don't you villains have any original ideas!?" he muttered. "This is the third time I've been given the canary treatment!" As his eyes adjusted to the brighter-than-normal light, Jim noticed he was in a big building... a warehouse, or perhaps an old stable. The building had been entirely gutted, and several empty cages hung from the ceiling. Below, an impressive laboratory that would have made Artie drool was busily humming. Several women in lab coats were carrying out experiments, and in the center of the lab stood Delilah, directing activity like a queen bee. "Well, at least she didn't lie about being a chemist," he thought.

"Pretty amazing, isn't it," a voice said beside him. Jim jumped up, startled, only to crash into the side of his cage when it rolled under his unbalanced weight. When he finally was able to balance again, Jim looked into the direction of the voice he had heard. He noticed a cage that he hadn't seen before; a cage that was hidden in the shadows. And in the cage sat a very familiar man... "Governor Wells?" asked Jim incredulously.

"Yeh," he snorted, "the real one."

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Artie threw a frustrated look at Loveless as the concoction he and Loveless were brewing suddenly exploded. "I thought you said you were here to help me," he growled. "Patience, Mr. Gordon," Loveless said through gritted teeth. "We've come a long way. Certainly we've come along much farther than you would have gotten on your own."

Artie grinned bemusedly. "Yes, but I thought you were such a brilliant chemist; you could solve any problem in minutes!"

Loveless rolled his eyes. "This is still your brain, Mr. Gordon, I am limited to the things you know... which is not much."

Artie growled, "Well, you don't have to spend your valuable laboratory time coming up with new ways to explode things, either," he retorted.

Loveless smiled. "Yes, I suppose that is true. I don't have to spend my time rescuing my partner again and again either." The two began to work in an almost companionable silence when a softer voice penetrated their new musings. "Perhaps I can help as well, Mr. Gordon."

Artie looked up in shock as Dr. Faustina entered the room, her doctor bag filled with bizarre and strange instruments. "Who is that?" queried Loveless.

"A woman Jim and I met in New Orleans," Artie replied.

Loveless sighed, "you two meet the neatest people."

Artie grimaced as Faustina moved closer. "Well, thanks for your offer," Artie grinned, "but we don't need any bodies brought back to life today, so..."

Loveless stared at Faustina in awe. "You can make your own minions?" he asked wondrously. Artie rolled his eyes. "Okay, time out!" he bellowed. "Faustina, why aren't you in jail where you belong?"

Dr. Faustina smiled sweetly. "I've been given a quick reprieve...to come and assist you, much like Dr. Loveless has done."

Artie nodded in understanding. "So, you are from my mind too."

Faustina grinned. "This problem needs a female touch... you need to find a catalyst that actually works for the elements in your body without working against the poison itself. And I have just the idea..."

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Jim stared aghast at the man in the cage. He looked almost exactly like the current Governor Wells, except for the fact that he had a fierce intelligence burning in his eyes and a shrewd look that all public figures get sooner or later. "Brothers...?" ventured Jim.

"Twin," the man growled. "Mr. West, this is a very valuable piece if information in life... never go into public office if you have a twin brother." Despite their situation, Jim laughed. He then introduced himself to the governor. The two men regarded each other for a moment, and then the Governor asked, "How did you end up getting caught?"

Jim scowled. "I listened to a chemist," he replied. The governor laughed. Jim looked at him and asked, "So, who is behind it all?"

The governor shrugged. "Who else?" he replied, pointing to a corner of the warehouse. Jim followed his gaze and saw another sight that his eyes had missed earlier. Sitting in a corner, on a golden throne made of hearts, was none other than Emma Valentine.

Seeing that the two men were awake and looking at her, Emma Valentine rose up and strutted across the floor to the two men. She climbed a small staircase made of boxes until she was about eye level with them and graced them with an evil grin. "Well, Mr. West, what do you make of our facilities here?"

Jim shrugged. "I thought it would be better decorated, "he replied. "After all, your old place was much nicer."

"Much nicer! Mr. West, this is much more functional. When I rise to become the supreme empress of this nation, I will turn this place into a museum! This will be a place of joy for all females; the day the world ridded itself of men."

Jim blinked confusedly. "But if there are no men... how can the world continue?"

Emma smiled. "Oh, we'll keep a few. Anyone who doesn't oppose the new order will be allowed to survive. But survive only, I've learned my lesson from the last time. Women can never trust any men."

The governor snorted. "Does my brother know this?"

Emma laughed. "Does your brother know anything? True, he is more stupid than the average man... but then again men as a group are rather stupid."

Jim rolled his eyes and sighed. "Is is just me, or is this sounding old and boring?"

Emma gave a sinister smile. "Well, if this is too boring for you, Mr. West, then I have a new thought for you to digest. You partner, who is desperately trying to come up with an antidote (so Delilah has told me), is in his final stage of life... right about now. He has fifteen minutes left of consciousness, and then about two hours of coma, and then...death." As Jim's eyes opened wider in panic, Emma pulled out a small vile and stood it up carefully on the pillar of wooden boxes. "And this, Mr. West, is the antidote."

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Artie looked around the blurring room, his mind amazingly clear for the way his vision was failing. As if from a distance, he could hear Loveless and Faustina arguing.

"This has to work!" shouted Loveless. "There is no more time! Mr. Gordon's pulse is rapidly slowing!"

"But it's not quite ready yet... something is missing!"

As if in a dream, Artie saw a third Doctor enter the room.

"Dr. Franconium!" the two shouted in unison as the menacing figure entered the room. The man moved swiftly over to the table and grabbed Artie's wrist, taking the pulse. He then turned on the two scientists and asked, in a thick German accent, "What have you two been doing? Playing all this time? The man is dying. Here, I will show you the proper way to distil this solution.

From then on, things went very oddly with Artie. It was as if he were in two realities. In one reality, he was moving his hands and refining the antidote in his final steps, while in the other reality three scientists buzzed and argued around him while he felt his life slowly slipping away. "Jim," he whispered, his eye tearing up, "I don't think this will work."

Suddenly, the two realities blurred into one. A cup was in his hand, filled to the brim with the antidote. "Drink it NOW!" shouted Loveless, and with a wordless toast Artie downed the horrible tasting liquid. It felt like liquid fire shot through his veins, and for a detached moment Artie wondered if he were on fire. Then, as he fell once again into darkness, he heard Loveless sigh. "We failed," Franconium lamented. "Now James West won't be any fun to fight anymore," Loveless tonelessly said. Faustina crying was the last thing Artie heard before a thicker blackness than anything he had ever known before enveloped him.

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As soon as Emma had tortured Jim with that statement, she demanded that all work be stopped and that everyone go home for the noon-day break. Jim, unsure of the time, blinked disorientedly as the warehouse doors were opened and the work crew filed out. "I must have been unconscious for quite a while," he muttered.

"You're lucky you ain't dead," the Governor stated. "My brother is a lot stronger than he looks." Jim nodded grimly. So that was the dark familiar figure in the room! "What does Emma intend now, I wonder?" the governor queried.

Jim looked around grimly. "She wants me to try and escape so that I can go save my partner," he scowled. "That's what she's waiting for. She knows I have hidden devices, so she is waiting to see what they are so she can confiscate them."

"So, what do we do?" asked the Governor.

"What can we do," began Jim as he studied the antidote, just beyond his reach, "but wait?"

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And wait they did. Jim forced himself to stay put, languidly swinging his cage and making small talk with the governor. Two hours had passed. It felt like forever. The governor looked at Jim with a worried frown. "You suppose your partner's alright?" he asked after a while. Jim grinned confidently. "Governor, you don't know Artie. If anyone could make that antidote, he could!" The governor nodded, reassured by Jim's confidence, and Jim congratulated himself for hiding his inner feelings. Inside, Jim was panicked and more worried than he'd ever been. Artie was brilliant, that was true, but Artie may not have had the time needed to come up with the antidote. And yet here was the antidote, right in front of them! But knowing Emma Valentine, the vial probably contained anything but the antidote. Jim was sweating, the weight of his trust in his friend competing with the knowledge that he may have killed his own partner. He had left Artie to fend for himself... but that is what Artie had wanted. "Damn your heroics, Artie!" thought Jim in one of his greater moments of panic. "I should have never have left you!" But he forced himself to calm down; surely Artie could figure it out. He had to. Jim didn't give Artie nearly the credit he deserved; Artie would pull through. "In fact," Jim thought with chagrin, "he'll probably be around to rescue me before I can make my escape.

Jim and the governor were just remarking on what a long lunch break the girls had when an angry Emma Valentine stormed through the door, her cohort of females and the Governor's brother behind her. "You fiend," she growled as she rose once again on her throne of crates. "You have let your partner die! Where is this brotherhood of yours now, Mr. West? Where is your honor?"

"It's probably having tea with yours," Jim answered. Emma scowled. "Men! The world will be well rid of you!"

Out of the corner of his eye, Jim saw the Governor begin to swing his cage. Jim saw what the governor had in mind; he turned his attention fully on Emma Valentine. "How dare you question my honor," he scowled. "Look at yours! Forcing these poor innocent females to submit to that iron will of yours... what about the women who truly love their husbands? What about the women who don't want to be in control?"

"Every woman wants to be in control!" Emma spat. "And those who don't should be boiled in oil. Too long we have wavered without taking what is ours...ahhh!" While Jim hade been distracting Emma, the Governor had been swinging his cage. With one last powerful swing, he swung his cage over to the boxes and ever-so-gently hit her. Emma went flying out over the chemistry lab below. The boxes weren't stacked very high, but Emma fell into a tub of boiling something. Her shrieks would last forever in Jim's nightmares.

With their leader down, the women scattered, panicked; reminiscent of a hive that had lost its queen bee. "There, she has passed her own sentence," the Governor mused as Jim easily picked the lock of his cage and opened the governor's as well. "She asked for it, and she has got it. Now, before anything else happens, lets go round up that cohort of females and that deceptive brother of mine."

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It was night when Jim finally reached the train. The afternoon had been spent rounding up all the women involved. Delilah and the Governor's brother had been sent on the stage to a federal prison, while the other women awaited in the Kansas city jailhouse for their sentences to be passed. Many of them had said that Emma had forced them into serving her, either through blackmail or threats or the like. Sounded just like something Emma would do. Hopefully, their sentences would be rather light; after all, they had their own problems at home to contend with.

As Jim rode up to the stable car, he noticed the train's engineer, Orrin Cobb, standing pensively in the doorway. "Mr. West!" he called. "Where in the blazes have you been!"

Jim leapt off Black Jack and looked at Orrin, apprehension in his eyes. "How's Artie?" he asked, his stomach full of butterflies. Orrin scowled. "You tell me. He's locked himself in that lab of yours, and he refused to let any of us in. We tried to pick the lock, but you know how inventive he is."

Jim ran through the stable car into the kitchen car and skidded to a stop right in front of the lab door. Without hesitation, he pulled his gun out and shot the lock off. Then, he put the smallest amount of putty in the broken lock and burned it until the intricate metal inner lock was melted. Silently, the door swung open.

Dread filled Jims stomach now, making it feel as if he had swallowed a boulder. He entered the lab car, afraid of what he would see, and slowly he lit the lamp by the door.

Artie was sitting up against the wall, his head in his hands. Slowly he lifted up his head. "Hey Jim," he said weakly. Artie's eyes were swollen and red, and his skin was extraordinarily pale, but he was alive! Jim ran over to his partner anxiously and looked him over, studying to see if he was truly going to make it. "You okay, Artie?" he asked, his green eyes boring into Artie's brown ones. Artie smiled weakly. "Jim, you've just got to try that antidote! I tell you, whiskey'll never seem the same to me again!"