Night of the Big Mess

For three days the Wanderer sat patiently waiting for the return of Artemus Gordon. I not so patiently waited as well for his delayed return. I had nothing to worry about, because I knew where he was and what he was doing. But it was the waiting I disliked, for I had nowhere to go and no one to see. Artemus had promised to be gone only a day but that turned into three, and the last telegram I received stated he had no idea how long it was going to take for this court case to wrap up.

But James West is not a man you can keep cooped up for three days with nothing to do. Boredom overtook me quickly, I'm sorry to say, and by the third day I couldn't take it any longer. I needed something to do, and that something needed to involve using up tons of energy. I was on edge and jumped at every little noise dying for something to do. I finally decided to practice a few new steps I had observed from the last mission I was on. Not that it sounded entertaining, but I knew that it would use up most of my built up energy. So I cleared the living room and made ready to begin. Looking about the room, I was happy with my handy work, and I ran through some step but quickly got bored. I knew I would, doing it alone is never as much fun as doing it with Artie. I decided to liven up my time, and try something with a glass bottle, so I walked down the hall to Artemus' lab in search of an empty one. Big mistake.

Something he was working on was laid out all over his lab table, and intrigued by its unusual form I went to have a look. He had the oddest looking things lying on that table, and I couldn't help myself, I had to touch one. Biggest mistake I have ever made. That piece of metal sent shock waves up my arm and sent me flying backwards into the hutch. I smacked it so hard it wobbled and sent its contents crashing to the floor. Liquid dripped everywhere, all over the counter, on the floor, and don't ask me how, but it was even dripping from the ceiling. I was encircled in shards of glass, some of which had entered my already burned hand.

"Oh boy," I muttered, clutching the wrist of my wounded hand. "Artie's going to kill me."

Carefully stepping around the mess I headed for the kitchen. After gingerly washing my hand, I wrapped it loosely. I was going to look at it better latter, after I finished cleaning up Artie's lab. Going back into the room, I thought the mess looked worse than before. Sighing I grabbed a broom and begin to sweep up the shards of glass. It took me awhile, and my hand felt like it was on fire, but I shrugged it off. With the sweeping done, I was just about start mopping, when a voice boomed out from the parlor.

"I'm Back!"

I froze, then scrambled for the parlor.

"Artie! I wasn't excepting you so soon," I stood half in the door, with my hand hidden behind the trim.

"Yeah," he sighed. "The judge let me go, said that my testimony and written statement was enough." He got himself a drink and sat on the couch. "Why's the furniture up against the walls?"

"Oh, I was just passing the time of day. Thought I'd work out a little."

"I see," he nodded his head and downed his drink. Slowly rising he got to his feet, replaced his glass and started for me.

"Where're you going?" I looked at him worried.

"To my room. I want to lie down for a while. Is there a problem with that?" He looked at me strangely.

"Oh, no," I smiled sheepishly and he smiled unsurely back.

Brushing passed me he gave me one last look over his shoulder, then went into his room. Letting out a sigh, I quickly put the living room back together, then started for the lab. I paused at his door and heard a snore from within. Creeping past I went back to the lab and started to mop up the mess on the floor, counters, and ceiling. An hour later I had the room mopped and, for the most part, back in order. My only problem now was his shelf was completely empty.

"Great, what am I going to do about that?" I mumbled. My hand had swollen slightly, and I knew there was still glass in it.

"Jim? Jim? Are you around?"

I dashed quickly out of the lab just in time to meet Artie coming down the hall.

"There you are, I was beginning to think you had run off." He smiled.

"No," I smiled back. "Just busy. Hey do you want something to eat? Cuz I'm starved."

I guided him away from his lab and for the kitchen, hiding my hand as we went.

"Jim, are you all right?" He looked at me concerned. "You're acting rather peculiar."

"What? I'm fine, what would make you think otherwise?" I answered trying to pretend normal, he didn't look convinced.

"Jim, don't ever go into acting, because you're terrible at it." He gave me a stern look.

"Artie, would I ever try to fool you?" I turned my back and started some coffee.

"Oh boy," he sighed. "Now I know something's up."

I turned, ready to defend myself, but he raised his hand.

"Never mind, Jim. I have some stuff awaiting my attention in my lab, so I think I'll go have a look at them. Call me when the coffee's done."

He started to leave, and I paniced.

"No!" I yelled. He stopped and gave me another strange look. "I mean, you make better coffee than I do, and I just thought it might taste better if you made it."

He tossed this around for a moment then gave a crooked smile. "I guess you're right. Fine, I'll make it."

He moved over to me, and I moved out of his way, taking care to hide my hand. Slipping out of the kitchen I headed back to the lab, and once again faced the problem of what to do about the empty shelves. Not thinking of a solution, I was about to go tell him, when suddenly my eyes lit upon a couple of boxes stacked in the corner, and I remembered that Artie had just gotten a supply of chemicals. Walking to them I opened the first box and sighed happily as I found it was full of glass bottles. Grabbing some of them I started to refill the empty cabinet.

"Jim, coffee's done," Artie called.

Swearing, I quickly exited the room and made for the parlor. Artie was there just finishing up a cup. He smiled upon my entry and poured me a cup. I sat and carefully sipped it.

"Hey, Jim? What'd you do to your hand?"

I choked on my coffee, and set the cup down.

He frowned at me, "James West, are you going to tell me what you're up to, or am I going to have to find out for myself?" he snapped, his eyes narrowing.

"Nothing! I haven't been up to anything. I've been bored for three whole days, and lately my nerves have been on edge."

He stared at me for a few more moments before deciding my answer was acceptable.

"Well, I am sorry about my delayed return. Now, I think I'll go to my lab and have a look at things."

"So soon?" I jumped up. "I mean I haven't had company in days and I thought it might be nice to hear how the case went."

"Jim, you don't want to hear about the case any more than I want to tell it, and if I didn't know better I'd think you're trying to keep me from going to my lab," he glared at me.

"No," I answered quickly, maybe too quickly.

He smiled and marched out the door.

"I'm doomed." I sighed. But before he got even half way down the hall, the telegraph key clicked to life.

It was Richmond, and he wanted Artie, who came marching back into the room and answered the telegraph. I smiled inwardly at my good fortune and slipped back to the lab. Quickly I finished filling the shelves and had everything back to normal, just as he walked into the room, and looked at me suspiciously.

"What are you doing in here?"

"Oh, nothing." I smiled and leaned my good hand on his lab table.

"WATCH IT!" Artie yelled as my hand landed on that piece of metal. That current of electricity ran through my arm again, and I was again thrown backwards, that time against the wall.

"Jim!" he scooped me up. "Jim, are you alright?"

"Oh," I moaned, and surveyed my other hand which was now burnt.

"Come here." He dragged me to my feet, and took me too the kitchen. Slowly he washed my burnt hand, and then wrapped it up. Still dazed from slamming against the wall I didn't realize until it was too late that he was taking the bandaged off my other hand and was inspecting it.

"What have you been doing?" he grabbed a needle and started digging glass out of my hand. "What did you get on your hand?"

"I don't know," I sighed, wishing I could just melt away. "Something from your lab fell on it."

"Do you know what it was?" he looked worried now.

"No, and I couldn't show you either, because more than one something fell."

He crooked an eyebrow. "Oh? And just what were you doing?"

I sighed, all my careful work for nothing. "I fell against your cabinet, and kinda spilled its contents on the floor."

He smiled, "Now I know why you've been acting strange. Well, since I don't know what you got into, I'll just have to hope for the best. But I think I will take every precaution." He left for a moment, then came back with a bottle. He poured the evil smelling stuff on my hand, and it burned. Finally after he was all done, we went to sit on the couch in the parlor.

"So you're not mad?" I asked the question I had been dreading.

He smiled sadly, "No, I'm not mad. I might have been if I had caught you in the act, but I'd say you've had a sufficient punishment."

"Oh thanks." I groaned looking at my two bandaged hands, one of which was really starting to hurt.

"Let's just hope you're well again when we reach Washington."

"We're going to Washington?"

"Yeah, forgot to tell you. Richmond wants us back right away, and from the looks of things, I'd say you're going to be feeling sicker than a dog for the next few days."

I groaned, "Artie, for as long as I live, I ain't stepping another foot in your lab." I was starting to feel sick.

He laughed, "No, I don't think you will."

Artemus' prediction was correct. I was sicker than a dog for most of the trip back to Washington, and looked terrible when we finally got there. Richmond greeted us with a concerned look at me, and I was later lectured for getting sick. Strange man, Richmond. He seemed to think Artie and I are above such things. Anyway, he let us go, and to this day I have never stepped a foot in Artie's lab, without an invitation.