Whispers in the Dark
"God is dead" said the words of his book, and although most would claim that the heretic who wrote the blasphemy that is The Grey Science would forever rot in the deeps of hell, a certain rodent was certain that this man – this human – must indeed be one of the greatest minds of their time.
Picking up the bottle of whine on the table next to him, he dared pour himself another glass. He no longer cared that this was to be his tenth glass, nor that his henchman were currently making too much racket after he explicitly told them to be quiet. He just kept on reading, faithfully ignoring the mindless chatter his door could not block.
"Right, so, you got the stuff?"
"I… I got the rock!"
"And I have the ropes!"
"Good men. Now, what did tha' boss said we ought to do?"
There was a pause then. It was clear that his henchmen were thinking really hard – quite a feat for such clueless creatures. Setting the new empty glass back on the table, he returned to his big armchair by the fire, picking up on his reading from where he left off.
"Ah! I know! We tie this end of the rope to the rock, then the other one to chubby…"
"Good, good – then what?"
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?
"We… AH! We throw them in the river!"
"God job, lad! Seems the boss was wrong – you do have something in between those ears of yours after all."
What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves?
"Shall we do it now? I wanna eat and get home before the storm's here."
"The sooner we get moving, the sooner we can eat. Bill, can ya' get the rock up to chubby's cell?"
What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
"OUCH!!!! Bill, you IDIOT!!! You caught my FOOT!!! I'm gonna KILL YOU!!!"
The three henchmen hushed the instant the door to their boss's room creaked open and as they all took in the annoyed expression on the large rat's face, they scrambled away as quickly as they possibly could. Their boss was a classy and sophisticated person, but when angered… well… safe to say that none were able to forget what he did during Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee.
Their boss smirked. It seems that even the servus could learn something from the rector.
Ever since his "miraculous" return, Professor Patrick James Ratigan kept on stunning the criminal underworld of London: firstly with the fact that he was still alive after falling of Big Ben, and secondly because he still had the power to take up his role of Napoleon of Crime as Basil of Baker Street had so generously dubbed him.
Ratigan was pacing his study, his previous good mood now completely gone. Basil of Baker street… Ohh, what a horrible name! Ratigan still couldn't quite figure out how that insufferable pipsqueak managed to escape him – twice! And in the same day, no less! After all his efforts, after all the careful planning… that little vermin ruined everything, meaning that after all his troubles Ratigan was left with nothing… other then a disgusting photograph he refused to get rid off.
Oh… if only that little thing wouldn't have lived in a house with so many humans…
He turned to the picture in question, one he had pinned above his fireplace, and let out a curse as colorful as a sailor's.
How he wanted to rip the offending thing to shreds and then feed the pieces to his fire, to simply get rid of it! It was so painfully to just take it off and rip … But no matter how much he wanted that, he couldn't. He had to keep it as a reminder that he was not perfect, that there will always be someone better then him out there and that he should never underestimate someone because they were smaller or weaker than he was.
It was a lesson he needed to learn, for he seamed to have forgotten that such a mistake had cost him his life not just once in the past… and had also made him lose his only real reason for living.
"God is most certainly dead…" he muttered, his anger for the detective diminishing … if only slightly so. Filling himself another glass of wine, he looked at the picture and found himself agreeing with the theories of some German human. "Scandalous" would be the proper word most rodents would use in this situation, but he actually found one Friedrich Nietzsche (1) to have quite an original way of thinking things through – and Ratigan loved this new way of thinking – human or not. Too bad the guy went loony.
After all, when you reach an age such as his even a preacher would start having doubts concerning God's existence, and Ratigan saw proof of His absence every day. Yes, for Ratigan, God was dead – for if he was alive, could He ever find it in His heart to torture him so? If He existed, could He really be so cruel as to turn a blind eye to all his silent pleas for help?
Well, no need to strain his brain to think up any other answers except the ones he already had. Best just try and relax and maybe entertain himself with another glass of wine and the plotting of a certain detective's demise.
It could have worked too, had his peaceful silence remained undisturbed by a particularly loud CRASH coming from one of the human rooms from above his own.
"Fidget!" he bellowed in exasperation. "What are you idiots doing up there?! I though I told you to be dispose of the garbage silently!"
Fidget, barely managing to avoid the glass that was aimed at his head, did all he possibly could not to fidget. He didn't like it when his boss was angry… especially when he seamed to be angry with him. "I – I donno boss! It, it, it's not us! Honest, it ain't! May-maybe the humans are back!"
"You fool! The humans left for India now a week ago. They will most certainly not be back for another several months at least." And although it occurred to him, he refused to acknowledge the possibility of another trespasser. "Now confess: which one of your buddies disobeyed my orders and wondered into the human rooms?"
Fidget was panicking. He needed to say something, and fast. The boss will most certainly punish him if he won't. "But… but I really not know boss! None of the boys gone up! We only do what you told us! None went up. Honest!"
By the time the bad finished, Ratigan was already massaging his aching temples. To think that this babbling creature was in fact the brightest among his men was a depressing fact. But at least he knew that this one knew better then to lie to him. Still, that didn't mean that whoever was up there would pay dearly for interrupting him from plotting his revenge.
Shoving the little bat out of his way, Ratigan left the room to have a world with a henchman that was bound to lose a couple of teeth.
Or at least, that was his intention.
Up in the human rooms of the human rooms of the villa, Sherringford Basil was silently envying the bats and their good orientation skills. Upon entering the villa, the first thing she noticed was that the pace was dark… very dark at that … and terribly cold, as well.
Now, she took pride in that fact that she had a pretty good eyesight considering the straining lifestyle she lead, but even so all she was able to make out were the silhouettes or a table and a couple of chairs and maybe some windows, so it was of little surprise to her when she walked right into… something, effectively hurting her foot and breaking what she supposed was a vase in the process.
"Confounded!" she said, scolding herself for rushing into things. She was a private consulting detective, for heaven's sake! She knew better! And she also knew that enough was enough! "Time to bring some light on the subject" and with that, she took out a match and lit it up, the little piece of wood now casting a dull light around her. It wasn't of much help, but it was of some help. At least now she wouldn't walk right into a wall. She only hoped that the few matches she had left were going to be enough to find Dawson.
Speaking of the doctor, where could he possibly be? Taking into account everything that she managed to deduce, Dawson was hurt and most certainly exhausted from both shock and pain. He couldn't have gone too far … In fact she was surprised she hadn't found him yet. She was certain she would have found him somewhere near the entrance.
"Dawson?" she called out, taking a good look around her.
White drapes covered various pieces of furniture and she could smell mold, meaning that the place had not been properly ventilated in some time. Hmm… a big, imposing house, devoid of humans… the perfect place for a rodent to call 'home'.
Suddenly, rushing things didn't sound like such a bad idea anymore.
"Dawson?" she called again, lighting another match. "Dawson? Doctor, where are you?" She kept calling for some time now, wondering from one room into another, searching in every crack and corner. Nobody answered her calls.
"Goddamn it, David Dawson, where are you!" she yelled out in frustration, her voice echoing in the empty house. Very well… maybe shouting was not such a good idea… especially since she could have sworn that she heard something move. It sounded like footsteps, or more precisely the footsteps of a pretty heavy individual – possibly a… rat…
For a moment all logic left her and she was this close to running out of that house then and there had her mind not come up with the possibility that the one making those sounds could be Dawson.
Pushing her fear to the back of her head, she swallowed hard and set in search of the source of those footsteps. I needed not say that she was not at all thrilled when she found that the footsteps were leading her to the cellar. She was even less thrilled when, once down there, the sound of moving feet ceased completely.
With no other sound to guide her, she decided that it was time to start calling for the doctor again. "Dawson?" she said as another match died on her, sending her once again into darkness. Annoyed, she opened her matchbox, finding just two more matchsticks in it. "Well, might as well make it count." and with that, she lit one of them up.
"Doctor?" she called out, not even bothering to hide the desperation in her voice. If she couldn't find him now, then there were little chances of finding him at all. "Dawson, please! Can you hear me?!"
Her name was spoken in a voice so weak the detective barely heard it, but even so, it was no mistaking who its owner was. "Dawson!"
No other signs or calls were needed. That weak voice was enough for Basil to take the last couple of steps needed to reach the doctor – whom to her horror was locked into an old bird cadge. The older mouse was too still for her liking, lying on one side and apparently muttering nonsense, like he was having a dream.
"Dawson!" she yelled out, forgetting in her worry to mask her voice. Trying to open the lock to the cage, she tried to bring the good doctor's mind back to his body. "Dawson, please wake up! You know as well as I do what can happen if you fall asleep in this cold. Dawson, WAKE UP!"
The doctor turned and murmured something incorrigible. He seamed to be fighting to open up his eyes, but was failing miserably. Panicked, Basil dropped the lock in favor of rushing over to the other side of the cage to be closer to her friend.
"Dawson, please wake up! You can't fall asleep now! Wake up! David! Wake up!"
The use of his first name seamed to have a visible effect on the doctor. Grumpily, he had finally opened his eyes, taking his time to have them to bring the room back into focus.
"B-Basil?" he asked, thinking for a moment that his eyes were playing tricks on him. "Basil… what… how?"
The detective, always a practical mouse, moved back to the cage's lock, trying to get it open before the matchstick burned down completely. But just as her paw touched the lock, Dawson's larger, colder one stopped her from attempting to open it.
"Basil… Sherry, listen to me!" he had told her with such fear and desperation in his voice that Basil involuntarily drew back in shock. "You need to get out of here. Now, before they come back!"
They? Basil instantly became angry. Her friend was shivering from ears to tail and appeared to be nursing a broken knee, and somebody – instead of helping him – placed him in a bird cage?
"Who's done this to you?"
"No time for answers!" he all but shouted. "You must go now!"
"Do not be foolish! I'm getting you out right now then we'll be out of here …" she stopped, for while attempting to calm down her friend, she started searching in her bag for something she could use as a skeleton key, but instead of what she expected to find (some food, some bandages or other related things) she came across something fluffy. Pulling said 'thing' out, she felt murderous.
"YOU!" she yelled at the pesky bee that's been causing her trouble all day long. How did it even get in her bag?! "Wha-"
Basil would have given the creature a scolding it would never forget, but that proved to be impossible for several things happened simultaneously in that instant. Something, something enormous, seized her shoulder and wrenched her around. The matchstick he had been holding flipped from her fingers, going dead in the process and thus leaving the darkness claim the room once more. There was a roar around her, a sound of pure anger that somehow managed to form itself into words: "What are you doing here?"
She could hear Dawson screaming, ordering her to run, but she was unable to do so. That voice that asked that question… she could recognize that voice anywhere, but she refused to believe that he could still be alive. It was simply not possible.
"Who … Who are you?" she manages to ask and even in the darkness she could have sworn she felt the stranger lift an eyebrow. With unsteady fingers, Basil searched her pockets for the matchbox while the figure, like it was sensing her distress, merely chuckled.
"It's not polite to answer a question with a question, my good man." The figure had said in a sickening sweet voice. Basil gulped, and tried to tell herself that it could not be the same voice that still haunted Basil's nightmares. It simply could not.
The figure started pacing – she could hear the echo of its footsteps on the cold stone floor. Apparently, it was still waiting for an answer. Barely managing to keep her voice from shaking, she said: "I have come for my friend. Did you lock him in this cage?"
"What if I did?" the figure answered in the same sweet tone.
Where was that match? "Then I demand you set him free." She said with determination, making the figure launch into a fit of maniacal laughter. Apart from that, Basil could hear more footsteps coming towards them, footsteps that soon transform into laughter, and from somewhere where she couldn't quite point out, a creature that she could identify as a pent-legged bat came in, an old sewer lamp in hand.
"Just what…" the figure began to say, moving closer to her "… makes you think that you have the authority to ask such a thing of me, detective?" The way he had said that, so much like her former enemy, scared her beyond reason. There was no way that someone could have survived that fall! But there were certain aspects… certain details, she couldn't quite miss. With the aid of the light Fidget had brought with him she could now make out some general aspects of the mysterious figure. For starters: it was tall – very tall… and large… almost like a… rat…
"Such a minuscule creature such as yourself… Why, if anyone with half your brains would hear of such a thing he would most certainly claim that you have lost your marbles. Though, from the expression on your face that is not quite so far from the truth."
In the middle of the stranger's rant, Basil managed to locate her matchbox and with shaking hands, she lit up her very last match. What she saw then, made her immediately drop it in pure horror: the eyes of one professor Patrick James Ratigan were examining her every move and gesture.
"What is wrong, old fellow? You look as if you have seen a ghost."
"I believe I have" Basil had muttered those words without actually thinking them. Ratigan has burst into a whole new laughing fit at that.
"Well…" Ratigan said after calming down. "I do believe that my appearance was rather… shocking, wouldn't you agree? I thought so. Well, it was bound to come out sooner or later anyway. After all, I was planning on inviting you over for a visit these days, but it appeared you saved me the trouble of sending out the invitation. Knowing the weather and the fishes, it would have floated to Scotland Yard in about a week's time." He eyed the doctor at that, and Basil couldn't stop from shaking. She knew very well what he meant by that.
Dawson's hand shot from between the bars of the bird cage and caught Basil's upper arm. She turned to him and saw the fear in his eyes as he shook his head, begging her to leave him, to run while she still could. But after just one look at his bloodshot eyes and tired expression, she knew that running alone was not an option anymore. If she was to leave Dawson there, there were no guarantees that he would live till morning. Plus, Ratigan wouldn't ever leave her go just like that. She did the math: escape for her was impossible unless she wanted the doctor's blood on her hands. But maybe, just maybe, she could change things concerning her friend's condition…
"I'm happy I saved you the trouble, Ratigan. But now that I am here I see no reason for you to keep Dawson down here as well. You have what you wanted, so why not let him go?" she asked him, showing more bravery then she ever thought she could manage.
Ratigan quirked an eyebrow "After my men went to all this trouble to find the stamps and envelope?" He motioned at two of his henchmen who were holding up a large rock and rope.
"You did say that you had no need of sending an invitation any longer, meaning that he has no further use of him. So why not just let him go?"
Ratigan laughed. "Oh, my dear detective, you're quite the laugh, I must say … But just for the sake of amusement, tell me: what reason would I have to simply let him go? He did pretty much barge into my house, so as master of this place, I have the right to punish trespassers as I see fit. And now that I think about it, Felicia has been looking pretty thin lately. A little snack would do her well."
The thought of that cat looking thin seamed pretty much impossible, but for the moment she needed to stick to her plan. "Be as it may, Ratigan, but if you will simply kill us now then your victory will never be complete."
All joy seamed to drain off of Ratigan's face, making enough room for his anger and annoyance as well as mild curiosity to take full display. "And why is that, I ask?"
"Because this – " she motioned around her. " – was pure chance. You had no idea I would be here, and nether did I. Nobody was prepared for what is happening here now, and you know that simply taking advantage of the situation will never do. A victory will not be complete unless one fully outwits the other or one of us shall admit defeat."
The larger rodent looked thoughtful at her words. Apparently, he was seeing the logic in the detective's words. After all – this was pretty much their game, and it was the last thing he had to occupy his time with.
"Very well" he said finally. "What do you propose?"
"I'll make a barging with you." She said simply. "I'll admit defeat, name you winner in front of any person you choose me to do so, and all out of my own free will – if you agree to release Dawson and see that he reaches home safely."
"Sherry, NO! You don't know what you're saying!" Dawson screamed, pulling at her sleeve, but Basil wouldn't let her stray eyes off of Ratigan.
"You know…" the larger rodent said "You have a lot of guts for a measly little pipsqueak. I could slice you to bits right here and now, after feeding chubby there to Felicia, that is. I could also mutilate you beyond recognition before sending your corpse to Scotland Yard and much, much worse… Are you not scared at all?"
Truth be told, Basil was doing everything she could not to show how perfectly petrified she was.
"But I'll admit, that offer of yours is quite tempting…" he paused to light his cigarette and when he was putting the steel lighter away she noticed there was a symbol on its surface. But she had no time to analyze that little bit of information for Ratigan, with a devious glow in his eyes, quickly continued: "I'll say what we're going to do here. You must promise me – no, better yet: you give me your word as the greatest detective in all of Mousedom that you shall stay here, as my prisoner, as my trophy, for the remaining of my lifetime, and I will let chubby go and tell everyone what has become of the great Basil of Baker Street."
During all this time, Dawson has been looking between the two foes in awe. He could not believe that Basil was willing to throw away all she had worked to hard to achieve for him. She was still so young, and now when things in her life seamed to have turned for the better this happens. But she could still get out. The doctor could create a diversion and she could somehow get… but she wouldn't.
One last time, he tried to reason with her. "Sherry… please don't do it!" he begged, but Basil merely turned to look at him and offered him a weak, sad smile. She squeezed his hand, probably to give him hope, but he knew that once she started approaching Ratigan with an air of determination he could not believe she was capable of showing, he knew that her mind was made up.
"Do we have a deal?" asked Ratigan with a grin on his face.
Bringing up all the courage she had left, she forced herself to say the most painful four words she ever had to say. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath, and silently prayed to whatever force that existed up there that Dawson will be able to forgive her.
"You have my word."
"Done!" He cried, letting out a roar of victory. She felt, rather than saw, some of his henchmen move past her, heard them unlock the birdcage door and heard them drag Dawson away, despite the doctor's protests. She no longer had the strength to look at him, had no more hope to try and give to him. Laughs and cries of "congratulations boss" could be heard all around her and the smell of champagne could be felt in the air. As Dawson's cries started to die down in the distance, she continued to remain stiff and perfectly still, hardly even breather, for she knew that if she did anything else, she might simply break down.
The humiliation was more then her honor could bear, but it was well worth it, for at least Dawson was now free…
"Well now, detective" Ratigan said in his sweet voice, intending to add a little more salt to the pain he knew his enemy was feeling "I do believe a celebration of my victory is in order. But first, can I hear those two beautiful words again?"
Her response was automatic: "You won"
"Pardon me, I do believe I did not quite catch that." But the grin on his face said otherwise. Still, he cupped his ear with a hand for effect, despite the fact that Basil couldn't see it. The room became silent.
"You won!" she all but screamed, causing Ratigan and his men explode into new fits of laughter.
"Yes, yes, detective, I know. But now it's getting late and as much as I know these boys would like to party until morning, I recon it's time I take you to your room."
That opened her eyes.
"My… room?" maybe she heard wrong or maybe Ratigan was toying with her. She noticed that he was grinning, but she could read no sign of deception.
"But of course!" was his response, as if it was completely natural. "Now, don't tell me you believed that I would keep you in this old birdcage, now did you?"
She started to nod, but after the look Ratigan gave her she immediately started to shake her head.
"Good man. Now, come with me. Fidget, you come along too. The rest of you, prepare for the party!"
A carouse of "yeses" erupted from his men, and last Basil saw of them as she was lead by Ratigan out of the cellar, they were indeed preparing for a party.
"Now –" Ratigan said "While you're living with us, I expect you to be on your best behavior. That means no escaping, no angering me and no complaining. You shall receive one meal per day so I suggest you eat it. Also, I shall be summoning from time to time for entertainment purposes, so I do hope you're not too fond of sleep. If you need anything else, like say, a book to read or something, then ask your guard. If he'll be feeling generous, then maybe he will actually do what you ask."
Basil was listening, but she was not really hearing. Honestly, she didn't really care what was happening any more. As Ratigan and Fidget guided her around the villa, she kept her eyes down, only occasionally lifting them up in order to see where they were. Apparently, her new "room" was located somewhere in the attic, at the highest point of the building. Ratigan must be aware of her newly developed fear of heights, and was taking full advantage of it to torture her further.
"Ah, here we are now!" he said at last, pointing to mouse-sized door. "Now, I'm guessing we covered all grounds… Any questions, pet?"
She tried not to cringe at that. She also wanted to say "no" more then she would ever be able to admit, but she did have a question: "Yes. I… did not see any women among your henchmen…"
"Oh, please do not tell me you are like those lowlifes, detective. I had a higher opinion of you –"
"No." she cut off his teasing. "But it's just… I'm curious."
"Well, let's just say that my men are not the perfect type of company a lady would be most comfortable with. Not to mention that the last two female members of my gang hardly managed to survive a few hours. And I'm not talking about Felicia and her appetite." Basil felt the blood drain from her face. She couldn't be happier for fur, for if Ratigan was to see her pale…
"And if that's all…" she immediately nodded. "I do believe it's time I bid you good night. Fidget here will bring you something later. "
Basil stood stock-still as the door slammed behind her. Nausea swept over her, and she barely contained the urge to vomit. Using the door for support, she slowly slid to the floor. Oh, she so hoped that Dawson would be fine, and that someone like Clawes will figure out what the clue she had slipped into the doctor's pocket meant.
Tired, hurting and psychologically drained, she did what she hasn't done since she was a child: she cried.
(1) Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a 19th-century German philosopher and classical philologist. He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, using a distinctive German-language style and displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism. I personally both hate and love his theories, and I feel that his controversial works could easily be embraced by one such a Ratigan (I mean, come on! It's painfully obvious!). And yes, he did suffer a mental breakdown on January 3, 1889. Also, note: all quotes used in this chapter are taken from his work, The Madman (section 125).
Dearest me! Ratigan has made an appearance! And what do you know, he reads Nietzsche! If you are to ask me, it makes sense. Nietzsche's philosophy is a harsh, almost cruel vision of life and of our society and Ratigan looks like the anarchic one - one willing to be a 'god' among the followers. But now comes the mystery:
How exactly did Ratigan survive? And how will Basil manage to survive in this enviorment? Will Dawson really make it home all-right, or has Basil's sacrifice been in vain? And what of the murders? For the answer to all these questions and more, we shall meet again in the next chapter - two weeks from now.
Reviews are always welcome and greatly appreciated!