Chapter IX: Hello there, I'm Mr Gimble!On the way to Gimble's Prosthetics, I made a quick detour to the Pawn Shop. Had a few things I wanted to sell off, and a few things I wanted to pick up.
'Little bit of both, Tripp, little bit of both. Got these rings here...now, about buying. I like a little bit of bang for my buck, if you catch my meaning. What have you got for me?'
'Don't worry, I'm a friend of Mercurio's. He said he'd ring ahead, let you know I was coming.'
'Understood Tripp, my lips are sealed. Now what've you got?'
Precious little was the answer. A neat serrated knife which I just had to have, and a few rounds for the .38. Hardly worth the trip, but you never knew what was coming.
'As a whistle Tripp. Catch you later.'
Now, according to Gimble, his office was off to the right from here. I walked past the carpark, coming slowly to a dead-end. Was this some kind of joke?
Light reflected from the lamp-post glinted off the metallic sign. Gimble's Prosthetics. A set of stairs led down to a below-ground door with a buzzer. Hardly the most professional outfit in town. I hit the button on the intercom.
'Hi there Mr Gimble', I said, overplaying a youthfully excited tone. 'I spoke to you earlier about the modelling?'
The electronic lock clicked, and I pushed the door open, coming into the main office. Unlike most places in Santa Monica, this one was clean, brightly lit. A stack of surprisingly recent magazines sat on the table in the waiting room, with a complimentary coffee machine in a corner. A man I assumed to be Mr Gimble stood up as I entered. He seemed professional, with his trousers, freshly pressed white shirt and tie. Clean shaven with carefully brushed hair, he seemed the typical, if perhaps exuberant, practitioner. He smiled broadly.
The man's words tumbled over themselves, his obvious excitement shining through. To a slightly uncomfortable level. Even as a dark creature of the night, he who shuns the dawn, Wampyre, I wanted to be elsewhere.
'Uh, good, I think. You're Mr Gimble?'
'I see. So, what exactly is it you do here Stan?'
I looked down, happening to notice something. I kicked myself for not paying more attention when I walked in. In place of a right arm, Gimble himself had a somewhat bizarre prosthetic which ended in a gripping claw.
'You look like you could use a little help yourself.'
There. A slight twitch to the side of the lip. Slightly wide eyes. Something was definitely not right here.
'Sure, I have the time.'
Gimble's eyes grew slightly wider.
'Go on', I urged.
I looked at Gimble in sick disbelief.
Gimble carried on talking as if I hadn't interrupted.
Everyone in this town is completely deranged. Well, I've got a good idea where McGee and Carson will be...better keep this nutter focused.
'That's...fascinating, Stan. You're truly dedicated to your work.'
Gimble grinned almost shyly, apparently thrilled by this 'praise'. I continued.
'Now, how about that modelling you wanted me to do?'
'Oh, of course! Of course!' Gimble stood to attention, snapped back to reality. Or, as close to reality as he seemed to get. He gestured to the stairs to a lower level.
'I'll just get everything set up, give me a few minutes, then follow me down.'
Mr Gimble trotted down the stairs humming to himself. I immediately followed, stealthily keeping a safe distance. Doors lined the walls to either side as we came to small plateaus.
Nothing seemed particularly out of the ordinary in the first room. An operating chair and some medical drills were carefully laid out, the floors scrubbed and free of dust.
'Must be where he attaches the prosthetics.' All in all, so far there was nothing particularly worrying.
That changed with the next room.
I quickly glanced at the book. It showed various pictures of bones and muscle forms. Closing it, I looked at the title. 'Human dissection.'
Now, that would be done at a hospital, wouldn't it? The saws, knives and vicegrips were well polished, yet obviously well used. Various diagrams were attached to the wall. One of a human arm, one a bisected view of the womb.
'Can't imagine a prothetic womb being necessary...'
I hurried down to the next floor, quietly opening the next door I found.
Obviously Mr Gimble wasn't that tidy after all. I smelt the air. The blood was fresh. Maybe a few hours old. I didn't think I'd have much hope of finding anyone alive here. I closed the door and walked down to the bottom floor, into a large square room. Two cells were built into the wall on the left, with a large operating table in the very centre of the room. I stepped towards the cells, seeing movement from one.
'Why, that wouldn't be Gimble would it?' I asked with feigned shock.
An inhuman shreek came from behind us, as two double-doors were flung open violently. I looked at Gimble, my jaw dropping, my shock no longer feigned.
It was! I laughed out loud. Gimble was racing towards me brandishing a severed arm. Some blood still oozed from the end where he gripped the bone like a handle. Still fresh.
'Mr Gimble', I asked, deciding formality was the best approach. Thwack. 'Why are you hitting me-', thwack, 'with a severed arm?'
Gimble did not respond, beyond more grunts and shrieks. He raised the arm again, and backhanded me with the fist at the end. I reeled slightly from the blow, unfortunately unable to contain my laughter any longer. This was ridiculous.
'Gimble, I'm going to have to-', thwap, thwap, thwap, 'ask you to stop. This isn't achieving anything.'
I stepped back quickly as the fist came thrusting towards my face again. The man wasn't going to listen to reason. He jumped up and down on the spot, spitting with rage. Carson was staring at us as if we were both mad.
'Why are you fucking laughing?', he screamed, his voice breaking. 'Fucking stop him man!'
I turned to Carson.
'Would you mind?', I politely asked, feeling the knuckles rapping across the back of my head. 'Mr Gimble and I-' SLAP! 'are trying to have-'. Alright, that last one hurt a little. I turned back to Gimble.
'That does it, Stan. I see civility is getting me nowhere.'
I responded finally with a backhand of my own, sending Gimble sprawling across the floor.
He groggily stood up, making a bizarre keening sound. Holding his hand on the handle of the double doors to steady himself, Gimble tried to work up his rage once more. I slowly drew the combat knife from my belt, stepping menacingly towards Gimble. He backed up, shoulders hitting the wall as I came closer, frightening him back into a tiny semblance of normality. I stepped closer so we were eye to eye.
I felt his skin against my hand as I thrust the knife hilt deep into the maniac.
'Ouch', I said, sympathising with his pain. 'That looks bad.'
I twisted the knife, turning it from side to side to make the wound a little deeper. Gimble squealed in pain, collapsing, but my other hand held him by the shoulder, keeping him upright. I levered the knife upwards a little, inflicting just that little bit more pain.
'Hmm. I wonder whether they make prosthetics for that? What do you think Stan?' I paused. 'Stan?' The lifeless eyes stared back at me, the mouth a silent 'O' of terror.
'Oh dear. Never mind.'
I removed the knife, wiping it on Gimbles shirt, replacing it in my belt. I turned back to the cell, pulling the lever to unlock the door.
'Ah, I said. So you'd be Carson.'
'Kilpatrick was missing you. I just couldn't stand to see him pining away like that, so I said I'd track you down.'
'Well', I responded. 'He did say he had a job he wanted you to do, that he needed a capable bounty hunter for.'
Carson stepped back, holding up his hands.
'That's tough man. What are you going to do now?'
'Dunno', he said forlornly. 'What work is there for a bounty hunter without a trigger finger? It's not like we've got social security to fall back on.'
An idea struck me. I grinned at Carson, patting him on the shoulder.
'There's money in non-fiction these days, big man. I'm sure there's a desparate writer in a garret somewhere just waiting to write a biography about bloodshed and vendetta's.'
Carson looked off into the distance, a smile slowly starting to spread across his face. He turned to me.
'Yeah man, not a bad idea. Not a bad idea at all.' He looked down at the body of Gimble, then squatted down to pick up the severed arm. 'Might keep a souvenier. See you around!'
Carson ran out of the building, keeping his eyes carefully away from the next cell. Curious, I looked inside.
Look on the bright side, Mr Mcgee. At least you won't need a bail bond.