Night of the Look
"Jim, I feel sick," Artemus moaned, leaning heavily on Jim.
"Oh, come on, Artie, it's not that bad." Jim coaxed as he tried to support his partner.
"No, really, I feel terrible."
He certainly didn't look very good, but Jim wasn't going to let him get away with it that easily. Artemus wouldn't have been complaining if there was something really wrong.
"Look, just a few more doors, we're almost there." He dragged his friend a few more feet until Artie fell onto a bench.
"I gotta rest," he gasped, leaning back against the wall.
"Really, Artie! I've never seen anything so childish."
"Childish! Jim, he's going to skin me alive and you know it!" Artie huffed.
"I still don't see why you had to make yourself sick over the matter."
"You think I worked myself up into this state?" he scoffed.
"I don't see any other logical explanation," Jim replied smugly.
"Shows how much you know! Oh!" He put his hand on his head. "I think I'm going to be sick."
"Oh no, you won't. I have no idea how much they spent on the carpet, but I can bet they won't forgive you if you got it dirty."
Artie cracked a smile, "Jim, always the practical one. Do you think Grant would let us leave right now?"
"That's Mr. Grant to you, and no, he won't let you go right now!" The President's voice boomed down the hall and his eyes narrowed on his two agents.
Jim instinctively straightened in his chair and sent a worried look in Artemus' direction.
"Oh, boy," he whispered. "We're in for it now."
"Told you we were," Artie whispered back as he stumbled to his feet.
The President had gone back into his office and the agents struggled for the door.
"Hey Artie, maybe if you play really sick and give him your look, he'd let us off easy."
"What look?" Artemus stopped in mid-stride.
"You know. The one you always give me when you want something. That sorry little face you always put on."
"Oh, that one." He smiled. "I'll try my best, but I don't think it'll work with the Old Man."
"Shhh! He's angry enough, if he heard you calling him that…"
They stumbled up to the door, and Artemus pushed himself upright and managed to walk into the room on his own accord. Grant was marching back and forth and for a whole minute ignored the presences of his two agents. Finally glancing up, he noticed that Mr. Gordon looked about ready to fall, so he gruffly told them to sit.
"Do you know, gentlemen, how much money you have spent in the past six weeks?" Grant's voice was barely above a whisper as he choked on his own fury.
"With all due respect, sir, the expenditures were all necessary, and we didn't spend over the budget." Jim tried to soothe him.
"Mr. West, do you realize that the grand total of your expenditures comes to sixteen thousand, four hundred fifty-seven dollars and sixty three cents!"
"What?" Jim looked at the man sharply. "Mr. President, there must be a mistake! Artie keeps a record of everything we spend, and I know it couldn't have been anything over five thousand."
"You'd better hope there's been a mistake, because if there has not, you and Mr. Gordon will be paying this out of your own pocket."
Jim casted a glance in Artie's direction and was astounded when he found him asleep. The President noticed it too, and he walked over and kicked his feet.
"Mr. Gordon, do try to stay awake." Grant was inches from his face.
"I'm sorry, sir, it won't happen again," Artemus looked up innocently, and he smiled apologetically.
"See that it doesn't." He walked back behind his desk and sat heavily in his chair. "Now, as I was saying, if you do have a record, then all we have to do is compare the two."
"I don't think that is necessary, sir," Artie replied. "I sent you the balance and I know there's no mistake. We did spend that much."
"Then you'd better have an explanation." Grant's eyes narrowed.
"Sir, the only explanation I can offer is that I was carless in my lab, and most of the money spent was in repairs for the train."
Jim looked at his partner puzzled, He knew Artie was lying, but why was he was, Jim did not know. A sweat had broken out on Artie's forehead, and he had gone paler.
Grant saw the look that Jim gave Artie, and knew that something was amiss.
"Nice try, Mr. Gordon, but unless you tell me where all this money went, you'll be paying for it." He got up from his chair and went to get a drink.
"I really am sorry, sir," Artie mumbled as the President passed.
Grant looked down at his agent and for a moment was stopped by those soft brown eyes which seemed to be pleading with him. Slowly Grant got his drink and was again stopped by Artie's expression. Clearing his throat, he sat back in his chair and watched his drink for some moments.
"Do you have nothing else to say for yourselves?" Grant finally glanced up from his glass.
"No, sir," Artie answered before Jim could speak.
Grant frowned. Artie still had that pleading look on his face and, for some reason, Grant couldn't make himself angry at him.
"Then I shall expect the two of you to pay half; the Government will cover the rest." Grant passed out his judgment with a slight surprise to himself at his lenience.
"Yes, sir." The two were on their feet and heading for the door.
Grant made no comment as they left, merely shook his head in wonderment as the door closed.
Artie crumbled as soon as the door shut and Jim caught him frowning, "Artie I know for a fact we didn't spent that money."
"I'll explain when we get back to the train," he grumbled as he tried to stay upright.
"And if you don't mind telling me, how on earth did you make yourself sick in three hours? You were the epitome of health when you got up this morning."
"I thought you had that figured out," Artie mocked dryly.
"So did I."
Making it to the street, they hailed a coach and the two stumbled in. It quickly had them back to the Wanderer, and after Artie was settled, Jim lit into him.
"Who spent the money?"
"Jeremy Pike," Artie answered without hesitation. "We spent about three thousand five hundred, and he spent the rest."
"And why are we paying for Pike's bill?"
"Because I owed him a favor and this was his dues."
"Oh, it was was it? Why did you agree to it?" His face was pale with anger.
"I didn't really have much say in the matter. I had promised him if he ever needed anything, just ask and I'd do it. Unfortunately, I never foresaw him asking me to do anything like this." Artie sighed and laid his head against the cushion.
"And then there's the question of you. How on earth did you make yourself sick?"
Artemus winced, "Are you sure you want to know?"
"I accidentally swallowed a bit of acid I had sitting on my lab table."
"Artie!" Jim threw up his hands exasperatedly. "How did you manage that?"
"I had a cup of coffee on my lab table, and somehow the acid fell over into it. I didn't see it until after I had downed my drink. But don't worry, there wasn't anything in there that'll kill me; I'm just kinda sick."
"Kinda! Artie you can't even stand on your own."
"Bosh, I'll be fine. Our real problem now is getting even with Jeremy."
"Oh, and getting even we shall," Jim spat.
"Yes, but how?"
"I don't…Hey!" Jim smiled. "Didn't Jeremy just get back from a mission?"
"Yesterday." Artie agreed.
"Then he'll have a report he'll be handing in," Jim smiled mischievously. "I think I'll run down to the White House ."
Artie, now catching on, smiled. "You do that and while you're gone I'll sharpen up some pencils."
Two hours later, Jim came huffing back into the car and produced a manila folder.
"I was being to think I wasn't in time. But I was able to intercept the page, just as he was taking it up to Grant," Jim puffed as he joined his partner at the table.
"Think he'll tell?"
"Not with my twenty he won't. You're looking a lot better," Jim observed as Artie glanced through the file.
"Yes ,well, I just needed to get it out of my system."
"Oh, I see." Jim smiled, then took half of the report from Artie. "He writes very thoroughly. Remind me to have him write my reports from on," Jim mused as he skimmed through it.
"Maybe too thoroughly," Artie smiled and drew a line through a sentence, then with an arrow, he wrote over to the side, "I hate this job!" and drew a frowning face next to it.
Jim smiled and crossed out a sentence of his own and wrote, "The Old Man wouldn't like this."
This continued on until there was hardly a sentence that hadn't been crossed out, and something else added. Then Artie made sure that the hand writing was somewhat passible as Jeremy's, and neatly put it back in the manila folder.
"Now I think it is ready for delivery." Jim smiled.
"Yes, but not tonight." Artie yawned. "We can take it over tomorrow."
The clock struck three and Jim was inclined to agree. They were up early the next morning and arrived at the White House around nine o'clock. Side by side they walked down the long hall heading for the President's office.
"Why, hello!" a voice too familiar called from behind.
"Hello, Jeremy," Artie greeted, turning.
"Fancy seeing you here," Jeremy smiled.
"Yes. What are you doing here?" Jim asked.
"Oh, Mr. President wanted to congratulate me on a job well done, he told me he was looking forward to reading my report." Pike smiled smugly. "I heard that you two were here with the President yesterday."
"Yes, we were," Jim replied shortly.
"I heard he wasn't very happy with you, something about overspending?" Jeremy gloated.
Jim, no longer able to contain himself, grabbed Pike by his collar and pushed him up against the wall.
"Think it's funny, Jeremy?" his eyes narrowed.
Artie rolled his eyes as Jeremy fumbled for words. Patiently Artie waited for Jim to finish his lecture so that they might complete their first task, but as he was waiting a page walked by with reports for the President and Artie slipped his on top.
Jim's hand had started to draw back in a punch and Artemus decided it was time to end the dispute. Catching his friend's arm before he could smash Jeremy's face, he tried to smooth things over.
"C'mon, Jim. If you hit him, we'll get into more trouble."
"Artie, let me pummel him," Jim pleaded, still pinning his foe to the wall.
"Not right now. Wait until you have him all alone."
"C'mon fellows, can't you take a joke?" Jeremy pleaded, suddenly becoming scared.
"A joke! You call getting us in trouble for your stupidity, a joke?" Jim spat.
"Jim, lower your voice. You don't want the President to hear you," Artie whispered as he sent a cautious glance in the direction of Grant's office.
Jim let go of Jeremy and backed away frowning. Pike straightened his jacket and smiled smugly.
"Sorry to get you two in trouble, but a promise is a promise." Jeremy tipped his hat to them and started down the hall.
"That no good, conniving―"
"Forget it, Jim. We got him back."
He smiled. "You're right!"
They started down the hall after Jeremy when suddenly a door slammed open.
"Mr. Pike!" the President yelled down the hall when he saw Jeremy.
Pike turned, puzzled.
"What is the meaning of handing in a report like this!" Grant bellowed at Jeremy.
"Mr. President, sir, I don't know what you are talking about." Jeremy looked perplexed.
"Get yourself into my office now!" Grant disappeared back into his office, slamming the door behind him.
Jeremy started for the door, worry clearly etched on his face.
"Someone's in trouble now," Jim smiled as Jeremy passed.
"If I ever find out you two had something to do with this, I'll―"
"You'll what, Jeremy?" Artemus interrupted.
Jeremy looked from one face to the other and decided it wasn't worth it. Mumbling something, he hurried down the hall and cautiously entered the President's office.
"I don't think he'll try anything on us again," Jim smiled.
"Nope," Artie agreed. "I don't think he will."
Smiling, they continued on their way out of the building with the angry voice of Grant trailing behind them.