The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire
Episode 10 - Dr. Artemus M. Thornton, Professor of... Something or Other
THE ADVANTAGE OF four -- or perhaps five -- magaritas was that Thorny did not yet feel terrible, although the joy of the beverage was waning. He sat on a bench in a dark and dingy tavern, next to the poor peasant girl whose name he believed was Lina.
Before him was that prissy, mustache-twirling officer, whose name was something like Colonel Pookie-wookie, but Thorny had learned not to call him that. Thorny rubbed his bruised and swollen ear, and thought he would like to fall asleep, but he knew they wouldn't like that one little bit.
The colonel took his time examining the contents of Thorny's wallet, and then finally signaled to one of his men, who yanked Thorny to his feet and shoved him to stand by the table.
"Your name?" asked the colonel.
"Doctor Artemus M. Thornton, Full Tenured Professor!" declared Thorny, who was tired of being pushed around. "And I am a U. S. citizen!"
The colonel, unimpressed, paused to take a note. There was a sound over by the door to the room, however, and Thorny turned to see if someone was impressed over there.
Apparently so. That big Captain fellow made a small sound -- somewhere between "ah!" and "hmm?" -- and he ambled across the room with a rolling, limping gait that reminded Thorny of the pitching deck of a ship. And given the margaritas, Thorny realized the floor itself also reminded him of a pitching deck of a ship.
"Doctor?" said the captain. "And professor? Then you are a specialist?"
"Professor Doctor Artemus M. Thornton, at your service," said Thorny. "The M stands for... something that starts with an M."
The fact was Thorny didn't have a middle name. His parents had been neglectful of that, and sometimes when Thorny was feeling vulnerable or inadequate, such as now, he added a letter at random just to sound more important.
But no one questioned the M. The captain and Colonel Pookie-something were busy arguing in that funny language they spoke.
Thorny staggered back to the bench and whispered to the girl.
"What are they saying?"
"The captain says that his orders outrank the colonel's authority, and he wants you released into his custody."
"Really?" said Thorny. "What are his orders? They don't involve shooting me or anything, do they?"
"No. the captain says he is to secure all of the train wreck victims and the contents of the train, because it is a matter of national security. Ah, the orders are straight from the Supreme Committee! The passengers are of diplomatic importance."
The colonel turned red and pounded the desk, and shouted and then turned to his soldiers and shouted more.
The soldiers stepped forward, hands on weapons, but the captain just said something soft and sweet, with a shrug and a gesture. The soldiers backed off and the colonel did too, his face red.
"What did he say?"
The girl sat -- rigid and bright eyed -- with her mouth a little open.
"The captain invited them to have a drink," she said, slowly at first, but then her voice became eager. "And he said the colonel can have him arrested when High Commissioner Vshtin arrives to take charge. Vshtin is coming here!"
Unfortunately, her rising voice drew the attention of the disgruntled colonel.
"What are you saying to each other?" he said sharply.
"Nothing," said the girl.
"She was only translating what you were saying," said Thorny.
"That is none of your business!" said the colonel. And he went over and grabbed the girl by the arm.
"Hey!" said Thorny, and he tried to get up gallantly to defend her, but someone shoved him back into his chair. It might have been gravity. He called to the captain. "Are you going to allow that?"
The captain squinted and did not move. The colonel turned on him.
"You have no say," he said. "She is not a passenger from the train. You cannot wave your orders at me. She is in my custody, and you will not interfere!"
The captain shrugged his great shoulders, and threw wide his hands.
"I have enough trouble," he said.
"You will have more if he proves to be a spy!" declared the colonel and he shoved the girl ahead of him into the next room. The captain lumbered over to Thorny and leaned in to look close.
"I am Captain Rozinshura," he began.
"Captain Rosey-posey! What a coincidence. They call me Professor Thorny!"
"I think you are drunk, Professor Thorny," said Rozinshura gravely. "I must fix this."
Stay Tuned for Episode Eleven: "Alex Takes the Direct Route"
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