David Dykstal

Carmine was awake but knew she was drugged. “Some sort of opiate,” she mused. Breathing was a little easier now that it was taking effect, but oh, so sleepy. But she forced herself to stay awake. She was worried. She had failed and failure in her business was not tolerated.

Mark and Betty joined Lt. Davis for the ride back to the hospital. “Carmine has threads everywhere,” Davis was saying, “There are the usual suspects: Russia, China, Iran, even North Korea, but she works both sides, apparently the CIA has used her on more than one occasion.”

Carmine was waking up. She was in real pain. “She’s breathing on her own now,” she heard someone say. “Yeah,” she thought, “but every breath hurts like hell. This must be Hell. Not like I imagined.” She groaned. “That second dose must have worked,” the voice said. “Huh? Dose?”

Davis continued, “There’s a lot we know about Carmine, but there’s a lot more we don’t. My friends at the FBI have hinted as much. I’ve already called them in.” Betty calmed down a little, “Davis, I trust you. Your record is better than most, even better than your FBI friends.”

Davis turned to Mark and Betty, “I’m gonna need details.” Mark told his bit then Betty hers. Betty was shaking with rage as she recounted Carmine’s words and added, “She’s got to be lying! There’s no way she could have engineered that crash!” “Don’t be too sure,” countered Davis.

An EMT hooked Carmine up to oxygen and continued to work on her. About two minutes later he gave a thumbs up. “Heartbeat!” As the team prepared her for transfer to the ER, carefully storing the dart pouch and antidote, Lt. Davis said, “Guard’s already at the ER.” #mbnov++

Betty called 911 while Mark continued CPR. It didn’t take long, perhaps 10 minutes. The EMTs arrived and took over. Lt. Davis arrived and barked at the EMTs. “I’ll post a guard in the ER. She’ll be extremely dangerous if she lives. Look for the poison she’s got on her.” #mbnov++

Carmine had stopped breathing. Betty checked for a pulse. Nothing.

She started CPR. “Wake up! Damn it!” she muttered between breaths.

She felt Carmine’s ribs crack under the pressure of her pumping.

Five minutes passed, then ten. She was exhausted.

Mark took over.


Carmine coughed and swallowed.

Betty unlocked her phone and handed it to Mark, “Call Lt. Davis. Get him here ASAP.”

Mark protested, “It’s nearly one a.m.!”

“I don’t care. Wake him up. Tell him we have Carmine. He’ll come.”

Betty turned her attention back to Carmine.


“Don’t be an idiot,” Betty hissed at Mark, “of course I’m going to try.” She bent down to Carmine’s mouth. She was breathing, but it almost not noticeable. She unstopped one of the vials and slowly poured the contents in hoping Carmine would swallow and not aspirate. ##mbnov++

Betty made it to the end of the path. One car. The keys worked. Six vials in the back seat. Grabbing three she ran back to the clearing. “She’s gone.” Mark said. “The hell she is!” said Betty. Mark was bewildered. “You’re not really going to try to save her, are you?” #mbnov++

Mark said, “She’s not going to last much longer.” Carmine’s breathing was becoming shallow. Betty remembered a verse from childhood about forgiving the unforgivable. Taking a chance, she rummaged through Carmine’s pockets, found her car keys, and sprinted down the path. #mbnov++

Carmine was speaking very slowly and deliberately now, but with a touch of pride still in her voice. “It was me. I killed Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. One of my better jobs. Got paid well too.” She gave a little laugh. Mark held her wrist checking her pulse. #mbnov++

Betty felt Carmine’s resistance fade but finished tying her hands behind her back with the strips cut from Mark’s shirt and turned her over. Carmine laughed softly. It was evil, like the knock of death upon a door. Carmine spoke with effort, “You don’t know, do you?” #mbnov++

Carmine stiffened. One of the darts in the pouch had pierced her thigh and it was obvious that Mark had used all the antidote. Her life swam before her eyes. In one sweeping panoramic view she saw it all: the assassinations, the spying, the extortion, the treason. #mbnov++

Carmine ran quickly up the path toward the clearing then went sprawling face first into the dirt, tripped by a strand of platinum wire across the path. Betty was on her in an instant, but Carmine had a horrible feeling something worse than being ambushed had happened. #mbnov++

Betty began to tease apart the platinum wire from the necklace ending up with two six foot strands. “We’ll use this,” she whispered. Mark was quick to see. “Fantastic!” he mouthed, “It just might work!” He took off his dress shirt and cut it into strips using the knife. #mbnov

Betty helped Mark up and they stumbled into the nearby brush that covered this section of the property. “Ok, Miss Beresford, do we have any ideas on how to stop Carmine?” She rummaged through her sleuth bag and pulled out a Swiss Army knife and her sapphire necklace. #mbnov

Carmine quickened her pace to get back to the car for more darts. “I love that these don’t leave any trace in the system. I’ve got to go back and take care of that rich Beresford bitch too before she causes trouble. I’ve heard she’s even more dangerous than her mum.” #mbnov

Betty was rightfully angry. She hadn’t expected someone as dangerous as Carmine to be in the mix. “She’ll be back to make sure you’re dead,” she told Mark. “We have to hide. Can you stand? It’s dark now. We don’t need to go far.” “I think I can hobble a bit,” said Mark. #mbnov

Mark’s voice was recovering. “Carmine was going to turn double agent. Those plans were going to help secure the grid from attack. Turns out Carmine’s a snake.” Betty reproached him, “Damnit Mark, you sexist twit. We’re partners. You have to tell me about this stuff.” #mbnov

Carmine felt a sudden chill of recognition. “Betty Beresford, damn, that’s her name. I did a contract on her parents three years ago. Those two private dicks were getting too good and the boss didn’t like it. Called their company ‘Partners in Crime’ if I remember right.” #mbnov

Betty stroked Mark’s forehead, “Mark, it’s me, Betty.” Mark calmed down when he recognized her but was still agitated. “It was Carmine,” he croaked. The name sent a chill through Betty. They were on their own in a woebegone spot far from help. “Carmine,” she whispered. #mbnov

Carmine was nearly all the way down the path to her car, thinking of a little tune to hum as she went along. “My boss will be pleased to hear of Mark’s demise,” she thought. But something suddenly tugged at her memory. What was it that Mark had said once about his fiancé? #mbnov

Mark’s vision began to clear. It was no longer like looking down a hollow tube. He felt the paralysis that had started gripping his chest ease, but his head still felt like he had gulped down three double martinis. He looked at Betty and didn’t recognize her. He panicked. #mbnov