Act 8 - The Running Gunfight
Carlotta watched from the candle lit table near the stage as Betty Lee Jones finished her night club routine, retiring through the curtain amidst rapturous applause and whistles from the delighted guests. Before the curtain swished back into place, the intelligent young woman observing the singer from the shadow enhanced glow of the flickering candles, just had time to spot her depart through a small door at the back of the stage.
Carlotta rose gracefully from her table, and glided swiftly and smoothly over to a set of doors near where the singer had vanished. Miss Jones was probably heading for the back room to change for a later act, and Carlotta was intent on intercepting the club performer if she could... the less fuss the better.
Carlotta steps through the door.
Carlotta was pleased to find the first door was unlocked, and she quickly slipped through into an adjoining passageway, closing the door behind her. If she'd had time even once to look back over her shoulder, she would have noticed a rather unpleasant, weasel faced looking man moving towards the same door with predatory intent etched menacing on his rough visage.
Carlotta was in luck. As she had suspected, the small door at the back of the stage by which the singer had exited the podium led directly to a series of back stage passages Carlotta had herself just entered. Betty Lee Jones was walking down a set of wooden steps towards her, several paces ahead; but the singer paused on the steps when she spotted Carlotta hurrying towards her, and uncertainty furrowed her brow.
"Um, excuse me.... I don't think you're meant to be here; the ladies rest rooms are actually on the other side of the hall."
"Miss Betty Lee Jones?" Carlotta enquired, still walking towards the woman. A flicker of a smile played across her lips, and she allowed her hands to rest casually at her side to show peaceful intend.
The woman replied cautiously. "Yes... yes that's me."
Comprehension suddenly filled the singer's face, and she added. "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm really too tired to sign any autographs this evening, please come back tomo...." But her voice faded to silence and her eyes filled with fear when Carlotta, now almost toe to toe with her, suddenly grabbed her firmly by the arm and guided them both through another door at the bottom of the stairs.
Carlotta did a complete spot check of the place they had entered, all in less time than it would have taken to blink. Good! They were in a dressing room suite.
"Really, what's the meaning of th..."
Carlotta cut her dead. "Miss Jones, you don't know me, and who I am is not important in any case, but I am someone who has good reason to have no love for your employers, and I'd like to ask you a few questions, if I may."
The singer licked her lips and rubbed her arm where Carlotta had pinched it manhandling her roughly through the door.
"Oh! I'm not sure this is such a good idea, this could be very dangerous to both you and m...."
Again Carlotta cut her off in mid sentence.
"Please, there's no time for this. That brand you bear on your neck, it's similar to one I also carry, though I had the brand mark removed, and now all you can see is an angry scar."
Carlotta unfastened the top buttons on her jacket, momentarily lowered the material enough to reveal a large unpleasant looking welt on her right shoulder.
"I have similar scars running down my right lower leg... acid etched into my skin, courtesy of a certain she-cat who I believe frequents this establishment from time to time."
Betty gasped and a hand flew to her mouth."Oh my God, she did that to you. Why, what did you do to ask for that?"
Carlotta shrugged, re-fastening the buttons on her blouse, and looked the singer square in the eyes for a second. "What did any of us do to wrong that monster...? Me, I double crossed her once; bad mistake I guess. But I intend to make the retribution for all her deeds, something she will deeply regret for a very long time indeed."
The singer walked over to a dresser, opened a draw and removed a bottle of whisky. Carlotta suddenly realised that, as luck would have it, the door she had forced Miss Jones through actually led into part of the singer's own changing room suite.
Good! Less chance of being disturbed.
Betty Lee Jones poured a large measure into an unclean cup at the back of the dresser, clasping it with both hands to reduce the shaking.
"Will you kill her?" Miss Jones enquired, her back was to Carlotta so only her reflection could be seen looking beseechingly into Carlotta's own mirror reflected eyes.
Carlotta saw fear in the singer's face, and a longing, lost expression of hope, as though to her, Carlotta might be her salvation and her personal dark angel of vengeance.
"She's never alone in this place... and watch out for her side kick, Greka... that one's never too far from her side."
Carlotta frowned, not understanding what the singer was saying to her.
"What do you mean Miss Jones, the woman I'm looking for goes by the name Nancy Drew. And I believe she frequents this place from time to time. I had thought you might be able to fill me in some more about her movements... perhaps explain how you too got embroiled with this hateful creature?"
Betty Lee Jones turned and looked at the stranger in her room with an expression of disbelief on her face.
"You mean to say, you don't know?"
"Know what Miss Jones?"
"Nancy Drew the gun toting gun moll, and the night club owner Miss Edwina De Winter, are one and the same person! The German cleaned up her street act... fell in love with her, they say... then set her up with her very own business. Supposedly legitimate, but actually a front for some of his other less civilised dealings."
Miss Jones poured herself another drink, and swallowed a large gulp.
"Girl, if you're going up against De Winter, you need to know what you're getting yourself into; or you'll going to end up buried up to your neck in this rot."
Carlotta nodded slowly as comprehension flooded her senses.
"How did you get mixed up in all this?" Carlotta asked, looking longingly at the drink in the singer's hand.
The night club entertainer kindly handed the cup to the stranger. "I was foolish. I tried working for someone else... better conditions, better wages. After De Winter and her gang had finished with me, my fiance lay murdered in cold blood, and like so many others here I became her property to use at will."
Suddenly, a door burst open and a white suited individual stepped smoothly inside and closed the portal behind him. He waved a rod menacingly at the two women, obviously enjoying his dramatic entrance and the power he wielded in his hand. The singer gasped in shock.
"Aaaah, I see you have a guest, my dear."
He smiled wickedly at Miss Jones.
But Carlotta was fast, faster than any dame the sadistic little hood was used to dealing with, and with the speed of a striking viper, she hurled the drink she was carrying into the face of the newcomer. The cup caught the man square between the eyes, momentarily blinding him. But this was all the time Carlotta needed.
With a lightning fast series of blows she disarmed the-would-be assailant and knocked him unconscious and lying in a clumsy heap on the floor.
"We have to go... now!" Carlotta insisted urgently to her companion.
"But...!" Miss Jones started to protest.
"No time now, if you stay, they will kill you!" Carlotta reasoned in a level tone.
The singer nodded in silent comprehension, and followed the strange self assured woman out of the changing room without arguing further. As she passed the prone body of Greko, she leaned forward and spat into his unconscious face. Almost as an afterthought, she retrieved the revolver which lay unused at his side and hurried to catch up with her new found saviour.
Together they made their way out the back of the building.
The following skirmish battle report was played out using the IN-RADIC solo game system.
My, my, Carlotta was in a scrape this time, and she would need every ounce of her legendary skill to escape unscathed from the dangerous situation she was in. I decided not to use the Plot Aid Card Deck this time, as the situation didn't really seem to call for it. The encounter was cut and dry, a straight forward escape in one piece scenario. So I laid out the appropriate playing area in a way which seemed pleasing to me (the back alleyways leading away from The De Winter club), and away I went - game on.
Leaving quickly and quietly by the back entrance of The De Winter club, Carlotta and Miss Betty Lee Jones run straight into a couple of hoods smoking cigarettes and sharing a private joke with one another. A car engine is running and the pair have obviously been charged with backing the machine into the club's private garage.
Carlotta is undecided what to do for a moment, unsure whether these are enemies or merely innocent bystanders. But Miss Jones gasps in fright, and in a hoarse whisper calls to Carlotta.
"Look out, they're Greko's boys!"
The two hoods briefly exchange glances, then in unison start to raise their weapons in the direction of the two girls. Darn! A few of Greko's dogs are on the loose.
Without pausing for a second thought, Carlotta raises her 9mm Luger and fires off a series of shots. One of the De Winter boys goes down in a shower of lead... his weapon clattering noisily to the ground beside him.
But the two bit hood in pin striped suit nearest to Carlotta and Miss Jones presses the trigger of his Tommy Gun and a withering hail of flame and bullets spurts from the barrel of his deadly Widow Maker.
Miss Jones is fortunate, and dives to one side, finding cover amongst a collection of dustbins and empty boxes. But Carlotta Wynn is strafed along the side by a poison wind of flying shards.
She cries out in pain, momentarily aware that at least a couple of dummies have pierced her left side, and another passes clean through her shoulder. But she knows if she tries to hide now, she and her companion are as good as dead and buried.
Standing her ground, expecting the hard impact of a killer round to smash into her body at any moment, stealing her life away in an agonising explosion of pain... she pulls her own weapon round to bear on her enemy, and plants three well aimed rounds into her would be assassin - one in the groin, a second in the chest, and the next piece de resistance takes him square between the eyes.
A look of shock and surprise fills his face, and with his finger still fully depressed on the trigger of his machine gun, he slumps slowly to the ground and stops moving. His weapon ceases to spit fire only when the magazine feed is empty.
"Come on, let's go!" Carlotta screams over to the singer, biting back the piercing pain which threatens to overcome her. She is aware the alley will be teaming with De Winter boys any moment now.
Indeed, no sooner have they begun to run down the nearest side street, when the back doors of the club burst open and a flood of dangerous looking hired hands start to file out of the building and into the Parking Lott... led by a very angry looking Greko, who issues a stream of orders to his men.
As the girls tear down the side street, the foremost hood, hot in pursuit, raises a rod and snaps a few rounds after the girls. Miss Jones falls to the ground - dead before her body even hits the cold hard stone. Carlotta slows down for a moment, looks over her shoulder, instantly sizes up the situation, and with a pang of regret, speeds up and continues to run for her life... leaving a trail of blood splashes on the side walk behind her.
© 2008, Stephen A Gilbert