The Jester: Laughter in the Dark, Chapter 2: Something Small

by CSyphrett

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Martin Kincaid was a trusted aide to United States Congressman Hugh Langley, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The day after Willie Schultz made his escape from the Nazi Ray, Kincaid quietly listened to the radio and began to decide what reports to send home to the Fatherland.

He stood and put his drink down, then walked into his bedroom. Opening a drawer and pulling out a gun, he placed it to his head and pulled the trigger.

All over the world, double agents inexplicably committed suicide to the strains of Benny Goodman’s clarinet. There was no explanation or warning. Panic threatened to sweep through the German intelligence apparatus.

One man knew what happened and thought it a great joke. He listened in his lair and laughed while Colonel Krause led the hunt for his shadowy presence. He liked Krause better than Wolf. Maybe he should get the good colonel some type of present for all his efforts. Something explosive, perhaps.

***

Wilhelm Schultz had switched automobiles several times since his escape from the Ray. He regretted not finishing the job, since the laser-powered maniac was bound to come after him again.

He pulled into a space in front of a pub, got out, and went inside. A drink and a phone call would give him some kind of perspective on his situation. Willie ordered a beer and took it over to the phone kiosk on the wall. He put a few shillings in and dialed the number for check-in.

“Code please,” said the mechanical voice.

“Seven-One-One,” said Willie, watching the pub and sipping his beer.

“Meeting,” said the mechanical voice. “Park. End of messages.” Willie replaced the phone and finished his beer. Surely they knew he was hot right now. The Ray was not known for having a relaxed and friendly approach to combatants. He was known, however, for his petty vindictiveness.

Willie went and hired a taxi to carry him to Hyde Park. There, he wandered around until a man wearing a tan derby fell in beside him. The man carried a bag of bread crumbs to blend in with the scenery. He had deep set eyes and thin brown hair, and his fingers were delicate and long.

“Hello, Mr. Schultz,” the newcomer said. “Something has come up, and we need your special talents for seizing lorries.”

“There are plenty of others,” said Willie, falling in beside the underground agent. “The Ray is looking for me.”

“We know,” said the agent, throwing the bread out for the birds. “We believe a man named Constanza turned you in.”

“Why?” asked Willie. “I don’t know any Constanza.”

“He was associated with the salvage yard,” the agent said. “We now think he was also a mole or some hanger-on for the Nazis, because he turned up as one of those strange suicides.”

“Strange suicides?” asked Willie.

“As far as intelligence can tell, a swath of moles and infiltrators committed suicide around the world. The wave coincided with a radio signal broadcast from London.”

“The Jester,” said Willie.

“We think so,” said the agent. “Is this Jester approachable?”

Willie Schultz looked at the man as if he had said that the moon was made of gold and had engines to govern its orbit. “He’s a madman. I doubt he is going to voluntarily come out of the cold for the resistance.”

“He might come in for you,” said the agent. “He has helped you more than anyone else.”

“No, he has used me like a pawn to get what he wanted,” said Willie. “I don’t think he actually cares about the impact of his little jokes on other people other than incidental stuff.”

“What do you expect him to do next, then?”

Willie had to take time to think about that. Where would he attack if he were a genius madman with seemingly infinite resources? He thought about it as he walked along.

The Jester’s most common area of attack seemed to be at the administration. He seemed to restrict loss of life for the most part, like he had at Blackgate. Willie knew that was an important detail, although he didn’t know why.

The suicide wave seemed wrong, somehow. Why would he go out of his way to kill dozens of double agents? Maybe that was an accident — an accident on a scale that Willie could only faintly imagine.

“I think he’ll do something small,” said Willie. “Something that we won’t know is the Jester. That will lead to something big that will have his prints all over it.”

“I’ll ask for an alert to be put out,” said the resistance man. “Hopefully, we will be able to take advantage of whatever happens to help us.”

“I doubt it,” said Willie. “The Jester has his own agenda. I doubt anything he has done for the resistance was done to help us.”

“Collateral damage?” asked the contact.

“Yes,” said Willie.

“I’ll give my report, and hopefully a plan will present itself to us. A way to use this Jester as a wedge.”

“Good luck, Quiller,” said Willie.

The agent tipped his derby hat. “Good luck, Willie,” he said as he walked away.

***

North of London stood the small village of Lucking Hill. The Occupation had taken over the town and converted it to a supply depot and garrison.

He arrived the day after Willie’s meeting. It was nothing for him to gain access to the depot’s files and shipping invoices. That gave him a picture of the supply lines that headquarters didn’t have in the filched files he had read.

Something then attracted his attention. A prototype was being shipped north over the Scottish border. If the new weapon worked, Lucking Hill was to clear a space for them and add them to the inventory. There was no mention of what kind of weapon it was. Deciding that a look at this new weapon was necessary, he secured the shipping route and left the base in his disguise.

Hours later, his victim was found at home, tied to his bed with a yellow smiley face that glowed in the dark. The hardened attendants winced when they saw that ghastly caricature attached to a once-breathing human being.

***

Ernest McGoohan would have been glad to be rid of whatever he was driving around the countryside in the back of his lorry. While one armored car led his truck and another guarded the back of the convoy, he kept his eyes on the road. Everyone knew 711 ambushed transports all the time. He had heard that one of the drivers had broken his neck when he was thrown from his truck.

A figure appeared in the road ahead, but the armored car did not slow down. Orders were to drive around or through anything blocking the road.

“Don’t stop,” McGoohan muttered to himself as he floored it. The road ahead of the driver lit up as the lead armor car was torn into twain.

McGoohan slammed his head into the front window glass as his truck rammed the pieces left from the forward security element. Then the rear guard ran into the back of the truck. The driver heard a second explosion as the other security force went up in smoke and fire.

“Truck driver, please exit your vehicle before it is too late,” said a voice on a loudspeaker.

McGoohan heard the near-silent flap of rotor blades as a black helicopter dropped out of the sky. He threw the door open and jumped for safety as a large hook on a cable reached down from the helicopter and ensnared the truck.

As he watched from the ground, helicopter and truck vanished into the night sky above.

***

Colonel Joseph Krause took the news in his usual calm way. “Please tell the Ray to intercept a black helicopter carrying one of our transport trucks,” Krause said. “Tell him return on equity is three.” The assistant, Sergeant Freling, ran from the room after receiving the message to relay.

Krause listened to the reports from the field as he waited for results. The Ray was over the incident area in a minute after receiving his order. He could see troops conducting their search on the ground and jets in the sky. A cargo helicopter doesn’t just disappear, he thought. Where could it be?

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