View Full Version : Fonziebirds: Drastic Measures
05-25-2005, 12:44 PM
A gleaming, silver and blue rocket streaked over a shimmering, turquoise ocean. It appeared to be almost invisible, as it reflected the midday sun in a blinding flash. If you had blinked, you would have missed it, for this magnificent craft was the fastest in the world. Its jet engines blazed streams of fire across a cloudless blue sky. Fonziebird One was the impressive scout craft belonging to International Rescue. It was the first to reach the scene of a disaster, and it was required on almost every rescue mission.
Pilot Warren Scott Tracy a.k.a 'Potsie', flew wearily over his Pacific island home. He opened a communication channel and radioed his father Howard Jefferson, who was waiting at their base.
"This is Fonziebird One, requesting permission to land."
"Permission granted. Good work, Potsie."
Fonziebird One hovered in the sky, as the mighty craft resumed an upright position. Potsie then fired the retros, and began a reverse descent into what appeared to be the family's swimming pool. With a churning, grating sound, powerful motors hauled the pool, plus several tons of water to one side to reveal a hidden underground chamber. With expert precision, Potsie manoeuvred his craft into the docking position, where it was secured firmly by mechanical clamps. While it was being trundled back into it's pre- launch position, Potsie took off his sweat-stained uniform, placed it in a laundry bag and changed back into civilian clothes. As he left, he secured the hatch and stepped out onto the gantry. Although he was exhausted, he felt a smug sense of satisfaction - another job well done and another success for International Rescue. He stepped from the gantry and stood with his back against the wall. He then grasped two fake lamp brackets, which activated a swivel mechanism. A section of the wall turned around and Potsie found himself once again in the living room and operations centre of Tracy Villa - The secret headquarters of International Rescue.
One of his younger brothers was engrossed in a chess match with a studious looking young man who was clearly winning the game.
"That's checkmate, I believe, Richie."
"Aw sucks!" The copper haired young man slammed down his last remaining chess piece in submission. "I don't know why I bother. You always wipe the floor with me."
"But that was quite a challenging game, Richie. You're getting better each time. You can beat Chachi and sometimes Ralph."
"Huh. Anyone can beat Chachi." retorted Richard Gordon Tracy a.k.a 'Richie' earning him a sulky glare from the youngest member of the family, who for once bit his tongue and chose to ignore the remark.
"Oh. Hello, Potsie," acknowledged their father Howard, who was sitting at his desk shuffling some papers. "Ralph's on his way home. So everything went smoothly?"
Potsie yawned and slumped into an armchair "Yeah, no problems. We managed to locate the potholers, and we were able to use the Mole to get part of the way to them. They were just kids, about Chachi's age. You know it never ceases to amaze me how stupid some people can be. After a night of torrential rain, these silly kids decided to go pot holing. They took one torch between the four of them, a few mars bars and a bottle of mineral water. They were totally ill equipped and dressed only in jeans, sneakers and cagoules."
"Bet you gave them a piece of your mind then, Potsie," interrupted Charles Alan Tracy a.k.a 'Chachi', who had been on the receiving end of Potsie's sharp tongue many times himself. Chachi had a somewhat reckless nature, which tended to land him in trouble. It was usually Potsie who managed to get him out of it, but he knew that Potsie's bark was worse than his bite
Potsie felt a little guilty, remembering how one of the rescued potholers, a young girl of about seventeen, had burst into tears. He then softened and patted her on the shoulder, as he led them all to a waiting ambulance.
"Well, they knew nothing about the geography of the area they were exploring," he continued. "The rock was particularly porous in the area where they were trapped. Part of the tunnel collapsed due to the weight of the waterlogged soil."
"Wasn't it risky to use the Mole then?" interjected Howard.
"No. We went through a layer of rock and came in as close as we could. Then Ralph had to use the suction equipment to remove the earth blocking their escape route. We were worried about water getting into the Mole's circuits. When we reached those kids, they were up to their necks in water."
"Was anyone hurt?" asked Howard.
"No. They were cold and hungry and pretty scared but a night in the local hospital will soon see them okay. I just hope they have learned their lesson. If people took the right precautions and a bit of time to check the weather conditions before embarking on their so called adventures, then there would be fewer calls on our services."
"Overworked and underpaid, eh, Potsie?" teased Chachi.
Potsie was too tired to rise to the bait.
"You do look tired, Son. You've been up all night. That's the second rescue you have been on, and it's not even lunchtime. Try and grab some rest," suggested Howard. "I'll call you when lunch is ready."
Potsie acknowledged weakly. He was looking forward to a hot shower, lunch, and an opportunity to catch up on the sleep he had missed. He made his way to the privacy of his room. He wanted to just collapse on to his bed and sleep for a solid eight hours but he was aware that his discarded uniform was filthy, and his hair and face, caked with mud. Flinging the bag of clothes into the laundry basket, he walked to the bathroom and ran the shower. While the warm water was massaging his aching shoulders, he heard the distinctive whine of Fonziebird Two’s powerful engines as it came in to land on the palm fringed runway. Ralph would be even more exhausted than he was.
Both of them had been called out the previous evening. Firstly to the Australian Outback, where a bush fire was raging out of control. The authorities had realised they were fighting a losing battle. Their equipment was having little effect on the ferocity of the flames. They called for assistance from International Rescue when the fire threatened to engulf a nearby town. Several homes had already been destroyed and the town's remaining inhabitants had been advised to pack their most prized possessions and then evacuate the area as quickly as possible. A few stubborn people had refused to move but the main concern was the local hospital. It lay right in the path of the fire and many of its patients were recovering from major surgery and were too ill to be moved.
Potsie had been first on the scene to assess the situation and then set up a mobile control unit. He was swiftly followed by Richie and Ralph in Fonziebird Two, which carried a pod containing the Firefly, water cannons and earth moving equipment. The fire authorities had been battling for hours. Ralph and Richie realised that not even their far more sophisticated equipment could quell the firestorm swirling around them. As soon as one blaze was extinguished, another sprang up to take its place. The fire was merely playing leapfrog with them.
Richie had been assigned to the Firefly. He was alarmed at the speed the fire was travelling. Ralph noted the rising panic in Richie's voice as he reported that fires were springing up all around him, threatening to encircle him. The exterior of the firefly became almost red hot and the temperature inside the cab was threatening to overwhelm him. Potsie, who was monitoring the conversation, could hear Richie's voice becoming weaker. Richie felt as if he was being baked alive! Potsie immediately ordered him to pull out. Richie swiftly reversed the Firefly to safety but when he tried to open the door of the cab, he cried out in agony. The metal handle on the inside was red hot. When Richie pulled his sleeve away, he saw an ugly red burn puckering the palm of his hand. He pulled his sleeve over his other hand and managed to open the door. Wheezing and gasping, he tumbled on to the scorched ground.
Richie declined the offer of medical assistance and despite his injury, refused to stand down. The fire was hurtling nearer to the hospital and every available pair of hands was needed. After a brief consultation with his brothers, Potsie decided that they would use the earth moving machines to create a barrier around the hospital. Then they would try to alter the course of the fire and force the flames to retreat down an already scorched path of destruction.
It had taken several more hours to get the blaze under control. Eventually the raging inferno had dwindled to a manageable fire, which could be left in the hands of the local authorities. Tired and dirty, Ralph, Richie and Potsie headed for home. Just as they were nearing the island, Arthur John Tracy a.k.a 'Fonzie' had radioed with another call to rescue the trapped potholers. Potsie flew directly to the scene. Ralph landed briefly to drop off Richie, who had sustained superficial burns to his right hand and to exchange the pod containing fire-fighting equipment for the one containing the Mole and underground rescue equipment. Then he too, flew off to join his brother.
Ralph entered the room, twenty minutes after Potsie and just as dirty. As he walked in, one of a row of portraits on the wall started to flash. It was the portrait of his brother Fonzie on board Fonziebird Five.
Ralph groaned and clapped a grimy hand to his sweat stained brow. "Surely not three in a row!"
"Go ahead, Fonzie." announced Howard.
"Yo, Dad, I'm receiving a faint call that appears to be coming from a remote island in the Scottish group known as the Western or Hebridean Islands. A man has reported seeing a plane crash into the sea. He says that he has not been able to contact the coast guard as the island has no electricity and the batteries on his radio are low."
"Did you receive any calls from the plane before it went down?"
"Negative. There must have been a sudden malfunction. I have checked with the coastguard and they have not received any calls."
"Hmmm." murmured Howard thoughtfully.
"Are we going to respond, Dad?" queried Fonzie. "I was informed by the coastguard that they are experiencing dense freezing fog. They won't be able to safely mount a rescue unless visibility improves... by then the crew will almost certainly be dead."
"Okay, Fonzie. We're on our way!" Howard hit the alarm button.
"Just our luck. They say accidents always happen in threes." complained Ralph, swiftly downing a mug of coffee that his father's servant Marion Kyrano had just brought in.
"My god, Ralph, that's tough! You don't even have time for a shower or a shave." Al said. Richie glanced at Chachi and saw a smile flicker across his lips.
Chachi's face cracked into a broad grin, he tried to suppress a chuckle. Richie, who seemed to have an almost telepathic link with his younger brother (not to mention the same type of schoolboy humour) laughed out loud and earned a swift rebuke from his father.
"Richard," snapped Howard. "I'm sure there is something useful you could be doing, even with an injured hand. Marion could do with some help in the kitchen."
"Yes, Sir." replied Richie meekly and bit his lip to stop himself laughing again.
Howard turned his attention to Ralph. "Go and get yourself cleaned up. Potsie will go and make an initial assessment. If the plane has deliberately ditched into the sea, there may have been time for the crew to don lifejackets. If they have managed to escape they won't last long in the water. Fonziebird One will be able to use heat-seeking equipment to locate them. Chachi, you can go with Potsie to operate the winch and the camera."
"F.O.N.Z, Dad. I can also give him a prod if he starts to doze off at the controls."
Chachi raced toward the passenger lift. He was the pilot of Fonziebird Three, a huge red space rocket. But as rescues in space were few and far between, he shared duties on board Fonziebird five with Fonzie and assisted Ralph and Potsie when required.
Potsie dashed into the room looking dishevelled. His hair was still wet from his shower and standing up in spikes. "I'm on my way, Dad. Tell the Fonz to fill me in with the details."
"Sorry, Potsie," apologised Howard. "I know you've just got in but it's just one of those days."
Potsie shrugged and grabbed the lamp brackets which swung him out of sight.
Joanie who had been sitting, quietly reading, on the balcony, noisily slammed her book shut, prompting Howard to glance in her direction. She regarded him with a stare.
"Something on your mind, Joanie?"
"Well since you ask.... yes. Can't you see that Potsie's plain exhausted? He went out twice yesterday and that's his third call out in the last twelve hours. You're not glued to that seat behind your desk, Mr Tracy!"
05-27-2005, 10:29 AM
Potsie accelerated to a maximum 7,000 mph as he crossed the equator and flew north.
"How long will it take to reach the Western Islands?” asked Chachi from the cramped passenger seat.
"About another hour, I guess. I should start thinking about getting some warm clothes on. It's the depths of winter in that part of the world."
Fonziebird One was equipped for every change in climate. It carried all weather protective clothing, skiwear and climbing equipment. Plus several changes of clothes and uniforms.
"Perhaps we could look in on Lori Beth after the rescue." suggested Chachi.
"We'll see. We can't just go landing on her front lawn; she's got her cover to maintain. But it would be nice to see her again."
Chachi switched on the navigational computer and called up a map of the Western Islands. He began to study it intently. After a while, Potsie called to him.
"Hey, Chach, you've gone quiet. I need you to keep talking to keep me awake."
"Oh, I was just looking at the map. There's a heck of a lot of islands here. Can you call up the Fonz and ask him if he's been able to pinpoint the transmission of that call?"
"Why don't you call him yourself?"
Chachi flicked a switch and Fonzie's face appeared on the screen.
"Yo, Chach, I suppose you want to know if I've been able get a fix on that call."
"Sure, Fonz. We should reach the British Isles in another hour."
"Well no, Chach, I ain't."
Chachi was taken aback. The instrumentation on board Fonziebird Five was almost capable of picking up a needle in a haystack and Fonzie was usually super-efficient.
"Maybe due of interference. It could be due to the storm they had earlier. The transmission was very brief and I was unable to track it. The guy I spoke to had a strange accent."
"Scottish?" cut in Chachi.
"Yeah, some strange mangled dialect, anyway, he said that he had no electricity and the batteries on his radio were low. Then I lost him completely but I've managed to narrow it down a bit. The call came from somewhere in a group of islands in the South."
"Yeah, I've got them.... Talk about a drop in the ocean."
"Sorry. It's the best I can do. They're all uninhabited as far as I know. Used to be a testing ground for chemical weapons in the early part of the 1940s."
"Chemical weapons! Are they clean?" asked Chachi in alarm.
"Yeah, they've been cleared. I checked them out with the British Government and they've been deemed safe for habitation but they've just been left to let nature take its course."
"Okay, Fonz. Thanks."
"Good luck." Fonzie prepared to sign off but Chachi called him back.
"Oh, Fonz, before you go, has anyone else reported seeing the plane go down?"
"Well, no. Now that you mention it, they haven't. Well, not to me anyway."
"Don't you think that's weird? When a plane goes down, surely there's more than one witness."
"I don't know, Chach. We're talking about a remote area here."
"Well, has anyone reported a plane missing?"
"Not as far as I know. Do you want me to check with the coastguard?"
"Yes," replied Chachi. "Yes, I do."
"What's wrong, Chach?" asked Potsie. "You sound a little wary."
"I dunno. It's just an uneasy feeling. Call it bad vibes."
An hour later, Potsie was flying over the British Isles. He cut to cruising speed and swooped in low over the Hebridean Sea. The islands were shrouded by a thick mist. He opened a channel to his father.
"Go ahead, Potsie." instructed Howard.
"We've arrived at the rescue location. The time is 16.45, Greenwich Mean Time. There's dense fog, visibility is poor and it's nearly dusk. I'm going in for another sweep with the thermal camera to see if we can detect any survivors. To be honest I have my doubts."
"I'll go down and operate the camera," volunteered Chachi. "Keep her steady for me."
Chachi left the cockpit and made his way to the hold. He opened a hatch in the side of Fonziebird One and released the remote controlled camera. Using his instruments, he guided it down to the shallow, rocky seabed surrounding the small cluster of islands.
This is going to take some time, thought Chachi. He had one eye on a screen relaying pictures from the seabed and his other on the screen next to it magnifying pictures of the coastline Potsie was flying over. He was hoping to spot a life raft or a dinghy or even a body washed up on a beach.
After nearly an hour of painstaking searching in murky water, there was still nothing. Potsie called back to base. "We've just completed another search of the area and found nothing."
"Not even any signs of wreckage?"
"No nothing at all. The mist is so thick, it's hard to see anything."
"It could be that Fonzie's caller was mistaken. Fonzie's been unable to re-connect with the caller so it may even be a hoax."
"That's all we need. Some time wasting idiot, who just wants to bring a bit of excitement into his sad little life."
"Okay, Son. Call it a day and get back."
Suddenly, the camera picked up a small light aircraft lying on its side on a rocky ledge. Chachi called out to Potsie. "I've got it, Potsie. I'm relaying the picture to you now."
"Any signs of life?"
"Negative. If there is anyone in that plane, they're dead."
"Can you get me a better picture? It's a bit fuzzy. I'll go lower and try to keep steady."
"Okay, Potsie, I'll bring the camera round to the front of the plane. There may be bodies trapped inside."
"Can you see anything?"
"No, Potsie. I can't see anyone. The plane's empty... Hey wait, what's that? ... No, it's just debris. Oh, that's a better picture. The plane looks rusty. Potsie, this plane isn't the one. It's rusty and covered with barnacles. It looks like a military plane, a relic from the Second World War. It’s..."
Chachi was unable to finish his sentence. A sudden explosion rendered him deaf and he felt as if he was flying in slow motion. Then his head struck something hard and he lost consciousness.
Potsie desperately battled to regain control of Fonziebird One. Beads of perspiration formed on his brow. The unexplained explosion had thrown the craft into a spin. He knew that he was going to have to make a forced landing. He had the choice between land or sea. The sea would be freezing. The pounding waves concealed dangerous rocks. Even if they managed to avoid injury without a protective wetsuit, both he and Chachi would succumb to the cold. Land would be the better choice; he knew that he had to keep the nose cone up to avoid a fatal crash landing. He looked around desperately for a clump of trees to cushion his landing but the best thing he could find was a dense clump of bushes. If he could manoeuvre Fonziebird One towards them, they might stand a better chance of escaping unharmed. The ground was getting nearer all the time.
"Hold on, Chach," he called. "It's gonna get bumpy."
05-31-2005, 07:15 AM
Peering from the cover of a camouflaged bunker, a pair of dark brown evil eyes peered into binoculars, and watched with smug satisfaction as Potsie wrestled to gain control of his stricken craft. An overweight middle-aged man of Italian appearance gave a slow sinister smile.
"Good, good. My plan's working."
The Candy Man was an archenemy of International Rescue and the evil half-brother of Howard Tracy's loyal assistant, Marion Kyrano. He had always coveted Fonziebird One but today, his quarry was Fonziebird Two. The booby trap placed in the old warplane had been intended to disable Fonziebird One, rather than to destroy it. Although the Candy Man hated it's pilot, he was aware that he would be a useful person to have in his power. Besides, he knew that when one Fonziebird arrived, the other would not be far behind. All he had to do was wait.
He retreated to his makeshift hideout, a disused underground bunker, a relic from World War 2. One of the rooms stored crude protective clothing and breathing apparatus, now regarded as museum pieces. In another room, black drums of oil were stored next to sealed red drums piled high to the ceiling. Bold black writing on each of the red drums read 'DANGER TOXIC CHEMICALS'.
The Candy Man drummed his fingers impatiently on a table and cursed to himself. He was not in the best of moods. He realised he had been double-crossed and was plotting his revenge. A crooked Government Official who had been ordered to destroy the stockpile of chemicals had seen an opportunity to line his own pockets. He sold the cache to a terrorist organisation. The leader of that organisation, the Candy Man himself - had been assured that transport for this cargo would be taken care of. The promised ship should have arrived yesterday but there was still no sign of it. The Government Official appeared to have vanished from the face of the Earth. The Candy Man mentally added his name to the many others on his hit list. But one name topped that list - International Rescue and in particular Warren Scott Tracy a.k.a 'Potsie'. The Candy Man, who gained his name from his ability to disguise his appearance, donned a battered oilskin coat and muddy boots. Then he placed a latex mask over his face and topped it with a tousled brown wig. He squeezed his ample form through a hatch at the top of his bunker, and watched as Fonziebird One, trailing smoke and flames, neared the ground.
Potsie closed his eyes. This was it. He aimed for the clump of bushes and hoped for the best. He braced himself for the impact. He heard a scraping, grating noise as Fonziebird One dragged along through the foliage, then it's tail hit the ground. A sudden jolt reverberated up his spine. He felt a sharp pain in the back of his neck and cried out as a fire extinguisher fell from its mounting and smashed across his console, catching his left wrist.
"Ow! Oh great! There goes my communicator."
He winced as he moved his head and began to feel a little dizzy. He held the bridge of his nose until the dizziness subsided. His neck was hurting. He massaged it and rotated his shoulders. Then he wiggled his fingers and toes. He was still in one piece but the same could not be said of the radio. It shorted out in a shower of blue sparks and the whole console panel went dead. Suddenly, Potsie snapped to his senses and remembered that Chachi was still in the hold.
"Chachi?" he called as he began to unbuckle his seatbelt. "Are you okay?" Receiving no reply, he was just about to check on his brother when he heard a voice calling to him from outside.
"Hey! Are you alright in there?"
Potsie peered through the window. The stranger emerged from out of the mist. "Are you alright?" he repeated.
Potsie opened the hatch and called out to the man who was hurrying towards him. "Yeah, I think so. Do you know where I can find a phone or a radio?"
The man stopped about four feet in front of Potsie. He gave a twisted smile, raised his arm and fired a knockout dart into Potsie's neck. Potsie had the sensation of being stung by a bee. He looked at his shoulder and pulled out a tiny dart. He just had time to utter a quizzical "Why?"
He toppled from his cockpit. He was unconscious when he hit the ground.
05-31-2005, 07:43 AM
At the stately home of generations of the Creighton-Ward family, Laura Elizabeth Creighton-Ward a.k.a 'Lori Beth' was supervising the last minute preparations for one of Milwaukee's most important social events.
This year it had fallen to her to organise the Candlelight evening soiree in order to raise funds for the church roof. One hundred thousand dollars was needed. Lori Beth sighed. She had sold just thirty-five tickets.
"Now should we arrange the chairs in a semi circle, Tom? Less formal, I think."
Her assistant, Thomas Aloysius Parker a.k.a 'Tom', carried on, obliviously arranging the chairs in regimental lines.
"Tom.... I said..." began Lori Beth and then she stopped, realising that Tom was still ignoring her.
"Tom!" she called sharply.
He jumped smartly to attention and began to pull wads of cotton wool from his ears. "What was that, Lori. I didn't quite catch what you said."
Lori Beth smiled. She couldn't blame Tom for his Brooklyn accent. The voice of Marjorie Cholmondley-Brown had the musical resonance of fingernails being scraped across a blackboard. As chairperson of the Women's Institute, Church Council and almost every other charity in Milwaukee, she took it upon herself to offer her services as soprano every year. No one dared refuse her. In spite of her domineering character, she was what was known as a 'good egg'. But this year's ticket sales had sadly reflected the public opinion of her dubious talents.
"Laura Elizabeth, my dear," boomed the sturdy middle-aged lady as she strode noisily across the wooden drawing room floor. Tom noticed a line of chairs vibrating as if registering the after effects of a small earth tremor. "Laura Elizabeth, how lovely to see you again."
Lori Beth felt herself being clasped to the tweedy bosom of Miss Cholmondley-Brown who smelled like a dog. Trying to disentangle herself from the old girl's vice-like grip, she gesticulated to Tom to take her coat.
"Thank you, Thomas." Miss Cholmondley-Brown thrust a heavy overcoat into his arms. Then she opened her purse and took out a throat spray. "I hope we get a good turn out, tonight."
"Yes, so do I."
"I think I will have another little practice session. Go through a few scales to lubricate my vocal cords," Tom groaned. "I hope we have an audience who are able to appreciate the art of music," continued Miss Cholmondley-Brown. "You know, Laura Elizabeth, the last time I did a recital, my aria was completely ruined by one of those infernal mobile telephones."
"Oh god, excuse me, Miss Cholmondley-Brown," interrupted Lori Beth. "I need to go over some last minute details with the kitchen staff. Tom'll to see to your needs, But you'll have to speak up, he's a little hard of hearing."
Lori Beth allowed herself another wry smile as she heard Miss Cholmondley-Brown's voice haltingly barking out orders to Tom Parker.
Marion Kyrano was in a quandary. The meat was almost cooked and the vegetables would be past their best if she waited any longer before she dished up the dinner. Should they eat now or wait for Potsie and Chachi to return? She decided that the decision should be up to Howard.
"I would wait awhile. They should be on their way home now. I'll give them a call," Howard was surprised when he received no answer. "That's odd. I told them to head for home nearly an hour ago. I can't raise them on the radio. Maybe they have found something after all."
"You could try Potsie's communicator." suggested Ralph.
"I don't know why Potsie didn't keep me informed... Base to Potsie, are you receiving me?" Still there was no answer. "Base to Potsie... Come in, Potsie... damnit, nothing." uttered Howard after a pause.
Ralph and Marion exchanged anxious glances. "Mr Charles," suggested Marion. "Try Mr Charles."
Again there was no reply. An ominous silence fell upon the Tracy's living room. It was broken by Howard. "I don't like it. I'm going to call Fonzie and see if he can get a fix on them."
Fonzie's handsome face darkened as Howard relayed his concerns. Looking at a map on his computer screen, he magnified an image and projected it to Fonzie. It showed a series of co-ordinates and a circle where the lines crossed.
"I can confirm that Fonziebird One's still in the Hebrides. It ain't moving so it must be on the ground."
This was the news that Howard did not want to hear.
"Dad.." began Ralph shakily, not wanting to voice what all the others were thinking. "You don't think that Fonziebird One could have crashed. Potsie reported dense fog and bad visibility...."
"Ralph...." cried Marion and Joanie wringing their hands.
"Now don't lets go jumping to any conclusions. There may have been some sort of malfunction or some radio black spot…"
Howard was trying to clutch at straws. Ralph interrupted "But, Dad, they don't answer their communicators. Fonziebird One's on the ground with it's radio dead. It paints a bleak picture, I'm going over there."
Joanie looked accusingly at Howard. "Potsie was tired. He should never have gone on that mission. Men make mistakes when they are tired."
She left the room with tears springing to her eyes. Tonight's dinner would be consigned to the trash.
Howard put his head in his hands. Joanie was right. He couldn't bear to think that something terrible might have happened to Potsie and Chachi. Seeing his father's distress, Richie walked over and put his hand on Howard's shoulder.
"Don't blame yourself, Dad. I doubt if you could have stopped Potsie going out. He was like a shot from a gun. Potsie's a first class pilot. He doesn't make mistakes, he's the best."
Howard patted Richie's bandaged hand. "You're all the best but at the end of the day, you're only human. Sometimes I forget that. I'm sorry."
"It'll probably take Ralph about five hours to reach the Outer Hebrides but I know someone who could get there sooner."
"You're right, Richard. I'll call Lori Beth."
By eight forty-five, the evening and Miss Cholmondley-Brown were in full swing. She had just warbled her way through 'Mack the Knife' and was now proceeding to murder what was supposed to be a moving love song. Lori Beth wished that Tom had left her some of his cotton wool. She felt sure that the poor audience would gladly pay the cost of the church roof repairs just to deaden the noise. She suddenly became aware of a harsh bleeping noise coming from her silver teapot. Miss Cholmondley-Brown, who had ears as sharp as the Labradors she bred, stopped singing abruptly and glared at her audience. A large vein in her forehead started to twitch.
"I thought I had told you all to switch off your mobile phones!" she bellowed.
All eyes turned towards Lori Beth. She reddened and placed the offending teapot in Tom's hands. "Another refill I think if you please, Tom."
Tom pulled the wadding from his ears. "Has the old bat... I mean Miss Cholmondley-Brown finished her singin'?"
"Yeah, Tom. I think this evening will have to be brought to a close."
Once he had left the crowded room, Tom twisted the lid of the teapot to reveal Howard Tracy's voice. "I'm afraid Lori's a bit tied up on account of her soiree."
"It's some sort of musical bash for charity."
"Well, I need to speak to her urgently." demanded Howard.
"Sure thing, Mr Tracy."
As he opened the wood-panelled drawing room doors, Tom could see Lori Beth pointing toward the smoke alarm and apologising profusely. When she saw Tom, she realised that she was needed urgently.
"Oh man. This isn't the best of times. Tell Mr Tracy I'll be with him shortly." She clapped her hands to command the attention of her muttering guests.
"I'd like to thank Miss Cholmondley-Brown, our female singer, the Veronica Sommers Big Band and also Charles Proctor, our male singer. Now if you'd all like to take a break, you'll find refreshments available at the far end of the room."
She practically ran from the room. "This evening couldn't possibly get any worse," she cringed. "Hi, Mr Tracy, what can I do for you?"
"Lori Beth, I need your help. Fonziebird One has been disabled while flying over the Hebrides. I've lost contact with Potsie. He has Chachi on board as well and I can't raise either of them. I'm afraid they might have crashed."
"Tom, get the Cadillac."
"Is it trouble, Lori?"
"Yeah, Tom, I'm afraid it is."
"But what about Miss Cholmondley-what's her name and her soiree?"
"We'll have to take drastic measures, I'm afraid."
"What's this about a soiree?" asked Howard.
"I've got thirty-five guests and a disgruntled Big Band, as well as it's singers, to get rid of. But I'll try to get there as soon as I can. Don't worry, Mr Tracy, both your boys are tough and resourceful."
Lori Beth opened a cupboard door beneath the stairs and pressed a red button. "Oh man. The things I do for International Rescue. This'll ruin my social standing."
Almost immediately, a high-pitched shriek emitted from the drawing room. Lori Beth cast her eyes towards heaven and steeled herself to re-enter the room. She was met by a sight that would not been out of place in an Ibizan nightclub. The cream of Milwaukee's Upper Class stood dripping with foam which was being sprayed from sprinklers concealed in the ornately carved ceiling panels. A few guests had hurriedly departed.
"I apologise," announced Lori Beth amidst the confusion. "There's been a malfunction in the computer system that controls the fire precautions. I will, of course, refund all ticket money and compensate you all for the damage to your clothes."
"Wouldn't hear of it, Lori." smiled Brad Metcalfe as he pressed a cheque for ten thousand dollars into her hands.
Miss Cholmondley-Brown was still shrieking while an avalanche of foam slid down her ample bosom like melting snow on the roof of an Alpine ski chalet.
"Nice touch, Lori," said Fred Marple, the local wide-boy-turned-multi millionaire. "It's a pity it couldn't have appened a bit earlier in the evening. My ears are still ringing."
And he too handed her a cheque.
By the time Tom drove the Cadillac around to the front door, all the guests had departed and Lori Beth was holding cheques to the value of thirty thousand dollars.
Tom gave a discreet cough. "I think we should go now, Lori."
"Okay, Tom, I just need to change into something a little more practical."
Lori Beth swept upstairs in her pink gown and returned five minutes later wearing a pink sweater, a white blouse, a black skirt, an orange scarf, brown boots and a brown warm full-length woollen coat. She closed the door on the sticky mess that littered her drawing room and set off for the highlands.
"What about your paintings, Lori? They'll be ruined."
"They're reproductions, Tom. The real Canelettos are in the safe. But Ralph'll get cross with me. It took him ages to copy them and they were good enough to fool many people. Oh damnit, I suppose I better call the cleaners back."
The tyres of the six-wheeled pink Cadillac crunched down the gravel drive towards the automatic gates. Tom put his foot down along the tree-lined avenue which lead up to the Creighton-Ward Manor.
Soon the fields and hedges of rural Wisconsin were hurtling past in a blur as Tom made for the main north/south motorway. When he reached the interchange, he was saluted by the tollbooth official and waved across to the red lane. There were ten lanes in each direction and each was colour coded. The red lane was for the sole use of emergency vehicles and special services such as the Federal Agents Bureau and Police. With his foot hard down to the floor, Tom accelerated the car to its maximum 400kph speed. They would be at London airport in five minutes, where a plane was waiting to whisk them and FONZ 1 to Glasgow. Allowing for the sea crossing, they would reach the islands in less than two hours.
Tom began to sing to himself. "Oh, you take the high road and I'll take the low road and I'll be in Scotland afore ye."
"Tom, do you still have any of that cotton wool?"
05-31-2005, 08:40 AM
Chachi opened his eyes groggily. He was upside down in the hold of Fonziebird One. He winced as he moved, his whole body felt bruised and he was sure that he must have broken something.
"Potsie," he called. "Potsie, are you okay?"
When there was no reply, Chachi felt alarmed. The last thing he remembered was hearing an explosion and being hurled across the cargo bay. He stood up and reeled as a wave of nausea and dizziness engulfed him. He sat down and put his head in his hands. He felt a sticky mass of congealed blood on his forehead. After a while, he tried to stand again, a little more slowly this time. His legs felt as if they belonged to someone else. Shakily, he made his way towards the cockpit. He paused behind the closed door, his heart suddenly pounding. He began to feel very sick. He figured that since his brother had not answered him, he must have been injured. Or perhaps even worse. Chachi was afraid of what he would find. Fighting to get a grip on himself, he pushed against the door. It swung open. To Chachi's relief, he found that the cockpit was undamaged. But his relief soon turned to anger when he found that Potsie was nowhere to be seen.
"Potsie, where the hell are you?" he yelled then he whimpered as a stabbing pain shot through his skull. Chachi saw that the hatch was open but all he could see outside was pitch darkness and a wall of thick fog.
"Potsie, are you out there?"
He leaned out of Fonziebird One, lost his balance and felt himself tumble a few feet. "Whoooooaaaaa. Owowow... OW!"
He felt his body being jabbed all over. Fonziebird One had come to rest on top of a clump of gorse bushes. As he stood up, he heard the sound of material ripping. He felt cold air rushing through the loose flap of his torn uniform. He rubbed the back of his sore and exposed thigh. His boots had saved his lower legs and his padded jacket had protected his upper body from the needle sharp thorns. But his face was badly scratched and beginning to smart. Chachi's discomfort was outweighed by the sense of urgency in finding Potsie before he succumbed to hypothermia.
The fog was beginning to freeze now. Chachi could see his breath in front of him as he exhaled. He thought that Potsie might have sustained head injuries in the crash and was probably wandering around in a daze. If Potsie was injured, he would be vulnerable. Chachi didn't feel too good himself. His ears were still ringing from the explosion and his head was throbbing. His sight was hampered by darkness, murky weather and the double vision he suffered when he moved his head from side to side. He cursed himself for forgetting to grab a torch. He didn't relish the thought of climbing back over those bushes to fetch one; besides he wouldn't be able to assess the damage to Fonziebird One until morning.
He called Potsie's name several times but was answered only by eerie silence penetrated by the calls of passing seagulls. He walked a short distance from Fonziebird One. When he looked back, it had been completely engulfed by the fog. Chachi realised that it would be very easy for him to get lost. He took out a pocket compass and headed north. He decided to walk in a straight line counting his paces as he went. He could see no more than a few feet ahead of him. The ground beneath him was hard and uneven. He tripped over a protruding granite rock and fell spread-eagled on the ground. He picked himself up but had only gone a few yards when he stumbled again. His legs felt wobbly. Icy drizzle stung his lacerated face.
Chachi stumbled around blindly calling Potsie's name for nearly half an hour until he felt his feet sink into one of the many soft bogs that lurked on the island to trap the unwary traveller. He could feel the water pouring over the tops of his boots and soaking into his socks. His toes went numb. The more he struggled to free himself, the harder the mud pulled him down. He managed to extricate his right leg and step onto solid ground but his left leg was still stuck fast. He leaned over and grasped a clump of coarse grass. As he pulled, he felt his left leg slide out of his boot which disappeared into the oozing, sucking mud. He thanked God that his left foot was half a shoe size smaller than his right. He toppled sideways and swore out loud when he wricked his ankle. He lay with tears in his eyes and punched the ground in rage and frustration. He was soaked to the skin and shivering violently. His numbed brain started to kick in with an instinct of self-preservation. Chachi realised that he was in danger of suffering hypothermia himself and reluctantly limped back to Fonziebird One. As he was gingerly making his way back across the gorse bushes, his hand felt a piece of cloth that seemed to be caught on the thorns. He pulled and found himself holding a blue sash with the insignia of International Rescue!
Howard Tracy, was sitting, as usual, at his desk. He was dishevelled and ashen-faced. Joanie had just brought him another cup of coffee. When Chachi's portrait started to flash, she gave a gasp and almost dropped the cup in Howard's lap. Howard switched on the microphone and the picture changed to reveal Chachi's lacerated face lit by the dim emergency lighting in the cockpit of Fonziebird One.
"Thank God, Chachi. We were worried sick. Where's Potsie?" asked Howard.
Joanie rushed towards the screen and ran her fingers over the scratches and bruises on the image of Chachi's face. Tears sprang to her eyes. "Oh, Chachi. I was so worried about you."
"I'm okay, Joanie. It's Potsie I'm worried about."
"What happened? We couldn't contact you. What's happened to Potsie? Is he hurt?"
"I don't know, Dad. He's disappeared. There was some sort of explosion and I was knocked out. When I came to, Potsie was gone."
"But that's completely out of character. He'd never have left you unconscious like that."
"I think someone's taken him. I found his sash hooked up on the gorse bushes. There's no sign of him. There's no sign of anyone. It's eerie, no lights, no houses... It's just like being in a black hole." Chachi's voice began to falter.
"Steady, Chachi. Just sit tight. Fonzie managed to get a fix on you and Tom and Lori Beth'll be able to get to you sooner than Ralph. I'm sending him and Al to assess the damage to Fonziebird One."
"I need to keep looking for Potsie, Dad. He'll freeze out there."
"No, Chachi, you're in no condition to go anywhere. We'll find Potsie, don't you worry. His military background has trained him to survive in situations like this. Now try to relax. You look pretty shaken up. Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yeah. Just sore. I'll grab a couple of painkillers from the first aid box."
"You need to rest, Chachi. That's an order. You could have concussion. Stay put until Lori Beth and Tom get there and be on your guard."
"Take care of yourself, Chachi." called Joanie.
"Yeah. I'll see you soon."
With FONZ1 secured tightly in the hold of the private jet, Lori Beth knew that she would just have time for another cup of tea before they landed in Scotland.
"It's a murky misty night." observed the pilot as they neared Prestwick airport.
"The famous Scotch mist," quipped Lori Beth. "It's ruined some of Major Fanshawe's grouse shooting parties."
"How are you intending to travel to the Western Islands, Miss Creigthon-Ward? You're not likely to get a ferry in this weather. And there's no runway for a plane. A helicopter would be tricky to land in this mist."
"Oh, we've got ways and means," replied Lori Beth replacing a fine bone china cup back on its saucer. "Thanks for your swift journey. Come on, Tom, there's no time to loose."
Tom trundled FONZ1 down a ramp and steered towards the coast. Some of the roads were a little narrower than he was used to but his driving skills could not be matched. As he cornered at break-neck speed, Lori Beth did not have so much as a hair out of place. Presently, the road stopped at a jetty. Lori Beth peered out into a grey nothingness.
"Preparin' to launch, Lori," announced Tom. "And switchin' to radar."
"Good going, Tom."
Tom revved up the engine and drove straight into the sea. FONZ1 bobbed up and down on the waves until he retracted the wheels and lowered the hydrofoils. Soon they were speeding away into the night.
05-31-2005, 09:04 AM
Potsie regained consciousness in a dank, musty smelling room, dimly lit by a hurricane lamp placed on an upturned oil drum. Its anaemic light illuminated fungus growing on the damp ceiling. He tried to focus his eyes. He was lying on a cold, hard floor and when he tried to get up, he felt as if his spine had been removed and replaced by a rod. He raised his head and a sharp stabbing pain shot through the back of his neck. He remembered struggling to land Fonziebird One but he didn't know how long he had been unconscious. As his eyes peered into the shadows trying to make sense of his surroundings, he realised that he was not alone. In a gloomy corner, a man sat silently observing him.
"How did I get here?" asked Potsie hoarsely.
"You passed out. I brought you here." replied the man in a thick American accent.
That voice seemed familiar to Potsie. "You..." he shouted springing to his feet. "You drugged me... Why you little..."
Potsie made a move to try to tackle his captor but stopped abruptly in his tracks, as the man began to peel off his face. Underneath a latex mask, this man had a dark swarthy complexion and when he took off his wig and stepped into the light, it shone on his smooth dark hair. He laughed at the startled expression on Potsie's face.
"Now do you recognise me?"
"The Candy Man." growled Potsie.
The man's eyes started to burn with an evil intensity "Not so brave now without your marvellous machines and gadgets. Your friends may be on their way to find you but I'll be waiting for them."
Potsie's hand reached for his handgun.
"Looking for this?" taunted the Candy Man waving the gun at him. Potsie tried to lash out and made the mistake of looking into the Candy Man's dark eyes. He could feel them burning into him and he found that he was unable to look away. The Candy Man pointed the gun at Potsie's head and motioned him towards an opening in the floor. He instructed Potsie to climb down the ladder to the ground floor. Potsie was strangely compliant. When he was halfway down the ladder, he snapped to his senses again and made a grab at the Candy Man's leg to try to dislodge him. The Candy Man anticipated his move and aimed a kick at Potsie's leg. Potsie half tumbled and half slid the rest of the way down the ladder. He landed heavily and winced.
"You won't get away with this." he snarled.
The Candy Man laughed. "There's no-one to help you now. It's just the two of us and what better way to spend a murky Scottish evening that with a cosy fireside chat."
Potsie averted his eyes. The Hood continued "But of course, you'll have to imagine the fireside, I'm afraid we are forty feet below ground and the walls here are eight feet thick. None of your friend's little tracking devices will be able to find you down here."
"Go to Hell." spat Potsie.
"Now you're abusing my hospitality. I offer you shelter in my humble surroundings and this is how you repay me?" mocked the Candy Man.
Potsie tried to tackle him again and found his eyes locked in the Candy Man's hypnotic unblinking stare. "If you don't like your surroundings, you can be else where. Just look into my eyes and imagine, for instance, that you are on a warm tropical island... shall we say somewhere in the Pacific..."
Potsie was alarmed to feel himself back on his island home. He began to relax; he even started to feel warmer. The pain in his body was easing.
"No, I'm not playing your little games." He began to count aloud to try to focus his mind. "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten…"
"…Eleven, twelve, thirteen.” mocked the Candy Man.
Potsie winced as the pain returned to his back.
"You look uncomfortable, are you suffering pain?"
Potsie carried on counting.
"Are you sure that you're not in pain?"
The Candy Man laughed at Potsie winced again. "You seem in quite a lot of pain... terrible pain... in fact, unbearable pain..."
Potsie began to writhe and cry out "Twenty-two... twenty-three... aaaaaaahhh." Potsie was afraid that he was loosing the battle. "Twenty-five... twenty-six... twenty-seven..."
"Now I can make that pain go away but you'll have to do something for me in return."
"GO...TO...HELL...." repeated Potsie through gritted teeth and then cried out as another wave of pain racked his body.
"You'll succumb in the end. They all do. It can either be sooner or later but I warn you, later would be the more painful of your options."
"No... I ... won't.... twenty-eight ... twenty..."
Potsie could feel his conscious mind slipping away from him. The pain was becoming harder to bear. He opened his mouth to count but he couldn't remember what number came after twenty-nine. He reached into the pocket of his uniform and took hold of a small capsule. He popped it into his mouth and bit hard. He gagged as a foul tasting liquid trickled down his throat.
The Candy Man sprinted over to Potsie and grabbed him by the shoulders. "No. You can't do this. What have you taken?"
Potsie attempted a self-satisfied smile. The Candy Man struck him on the side of his face. Potsie could taste blood in his mouth. "What have you taken? Was it a suicide pill?"
Potsie's eyes glazed over and he swayed slightly.
The Candy Man began to shake him violently. Although he hated the pilot of Fonziebird One, he desperately needed him. He had come so close to possessing him. What was so important about that organisation, that a man would be prepared to sacrifice his life to protect its secrecy? International Rescue did not seek power or riches. They risked their lives for the good of mankind. The Candy Man could not understand why. He cursed out loud and delivered Potsie a departing blow to the ribcage. Then he flung him onto the ground like a sack of potatoes.
"Die then, Warren."
As they neared the coastline, Tom cut the engines to FONZ1, retracted the hydrofoils and the Cadillac glided stealthily into a small bay. When he felt solid ground beneath him, he flicked a switch and lowered the wheels, turning FONZ1 back into a car again. He felt its wheels take a grip on the smooth sand.
"Will we need the caterpillar tracks?" asked Lori Beth.
"I'm not sure. I'll see how she grips, Lori."
"It looks quite steep. I can't see any sign of the road."
"They don't have no proper roads here. Hold on to your butt, Lori. It's gonna be a bumpy ride."
FONZ1 started to climb steadily over rough sand dunes. Lori Beth had to hold onto the door handle to avoid bouncing all over the back seat.
"Sorry, Lori. It must be uncomfy for you."
"It can't be helped. Now tell me which way does our navigational computer tell us to go?"
"Well I've downloaded the Fonz's co-ordinates and the computer's suggesting that Fonziebird one lies about a couple of miles due north east. Shall I go there first or do you want me to scout around and see if I can pick up any signs of Potsie?"
"Chachi'll be alright where he is for a while. But Potsie might have been concussed, he could be wandering about in this fog."
"Well, it's pitch dark out there. Not a light to be seen. If he's wanderin' about out there, I won’t see him 'til I ran over him."
"Poor Potsie. I hope he's okay. You're right, Tom, you've got a point, there's very little visibility. Switch on the sensors. They can detect body heat up to the range of ten metres."
"Oh man, it's a real pea-shooter of a night." muttered Tom.
After they had been searching for about an hour, Tom muttered again.
"What did you say, Tom?"
"I said, 'Crud, what's that?' Lori."
"Have you found something?"
"There's some sort of solid wall beneath us. The sensors can't penetrate it."
"They must be the remains of the old war time bunkers. They were built when there was the danger of nuclear war with the Middle East. Fortunately, they weren't needed but I think they've been used for storing hazardous materials."
"Nuclear waste?" asked Tom in alarm.
"Don't worry. It was safely disposed of 3 years ago. The islands have a clean bill of health and when the land has recovered enough to sustain animal life, then they'll be inhabited again."
"I think we've covered most of the island with the sensors. There's still no sign of Potsie."
"I fear he may be held captive in one of these bunkers."
"Do you want me to go in and have a look?"
"No. That's just what we do not do. If Potsie's being held in there, we don't know how many people we are dealing with. We only hope that he's being treated well. At least, he's not freezing to death on the moor. Let's go and see how Chachi is."
Chachi had changed out of his wet uniform into casual clothes. He was wearing his dark green jacket, ornage T-shirt, blue jeans, black sneakers and an overcoat but could still not get warm. He sat hunched up in a blanket with his head in his hands in front of the console on board Fonziebird One. He looked in a foul mood. He did not even smile when Tom and Lori Beth arrived.
"You don't look pleased to see us, Chachi." noted Lori Beth.
"I thought you would be here over an hour ago." replied Chachi sulkily.
"Well, we conducted a thorough search of the island first to see if there was any sign of Potsie."
Chachi looked hopeful when he asked "Did you find him?"
"No, I'm afraid not. I'm sure that wherever he is, he's being held against his will."
"I could've been out there looking," complained Chachi. "For the last three hours, I've been sitting here helpless while Potsie was probably in danger. I could have done something if Dad had let me."
"Chachi, your dad was right. We don't not know how many men are holding Potsie or where he might be. He could've even been taken off this island. But I doubt very much if anyone would be foolish enough to venture out in this weather."
"Well we did." chimed in Tom.
"But thanks to Al, we've got a few technological advantages."
"But I felt so useless just waiting here. I was wasting valuable time."
"Your dad was worried about you. You sustained a head injury and possibly concussion. What use would you have been to Potsie if you collapsed. Your dad would then have two sons to worry about. Look at you, you haven't even cleaned the cuts on your face."
Chachi grunted. Lori Beth put his petulance down to anxiety and discomfort. She opened the first aid box and began to dab antiseptic on his swollen face.
"I don't know why my dad still treats me like a kid.... OW ! OW! ... That hurts... That stings... Stop it... What is that stuff you're putting on me?"
"Stop fussing, it's just antiseptic."
"WELL IT STINGS."
06-01-2005, 11:41 AM
The Candy Man aimed a kick at Potsie's crumpled form as he lay motionless on the floor. He hadn't moved since the Candy Man had flung him down. The pilot of Fonziebird One must be dead. The Candy Man, although not a man given to many emotions, was angry at being thwarted. He came so close to possessing Potsie's mind and drawing out all the valuable information it stored. The crippled Fonziebird craft was out there for the taking but useless without a pilot to fly it. It would be no use for his cargo of chemicals.
The Candy Man cursed to himself. He thought about kicking Potsie again just for the hell of it, but decided that kicking a lifeless man was a waste of energy. He liked to see his victims suffer as he inflicted pain. He was excited by their fear. He wanted to possess the very soul without that the body was useless.
The Candy Man began to hatch plans to trap Fonziebird Two. The best he could hope for would be that International Rescue would send the other craft to recover Fonziebird One. It was now two o’clock in the morning and even the Candy Man had to sleep like other mortals. He extinguished the hurricane lamp and climbed into his sleeping bag. A few minutes later, he fell asleep.
Potsie opened his eyes. He had been holding his breath, praying that the Hood would not check his pulse or fire a shot into him just to make sure that he was dead. His recollections were hazy and confused but one thing he knew for sure was that he would be in grave danger if he stayed where he was. Potsie knew that this man wanted to harm him for some reason or other. He was still sore from the beating he had been given. He could hear a low rumbling noise coming from the corner or the room. It was the rhythmic snoring of the Candy Man in a deep sleep. Now was his chance to escape.
Potsie tiptoed across the room until he reached the ladder. He stepped onto the bottom rung; it squeaked and the Candy Man stirred. Potsie missed out three rungs and climbed to the fifth. That one squeaked as well. He froze as the Candy Man snorted and then rolled over. When Potsie cautiously reached the top of the ladder, he tiptoed across the floor. He could see steps leading to the escape hatch. It was a heavy metal door with an airtight seal. He knew that operating the rusty driving wheel style handle was going to be noisy and cumbersome. The Candy Man was still sleeping soundly down below. Potsie decided that he was going to have to create something to use as a distraction in case the Candy Man awoke before he was able to escape. Potsie could feel that his back was injured and felt sure he would not be able to run very fast. He glanced around him and noticed the barrels of oil stored in a corner. In spite of his pain, he managed to manhandle a couple them. Rolling them across the floor as quietly as he could, he placed them at the top of the ladder ready to hurl down onto the Candy Man. Then he noticed that one of the barrels had corroded and a pool of oil had seeped onto the floor. He angled the damaged barrel so that it oozed its greasy contents steadily down the escape ladder. He also decided to put the oil to good use and used it to lubricate the door handle. It worked a treat and the wheel turned smoothly. With a final crank, the hatch opened and Potsie made his escape.
He shivered as the freezing fog enveloped his body like a shroud. He could feel his aching back starting to lock up. His first instinct was to get as far away as he could but he could see nothing. The night was pitch black and the fog was like a wall in front of him. His mind may have been confused but his reasoning was as sharp as ever. He closed the hatch behind him and then searched for the heaviest rocks he could possibly move. He grunted and groaned as he dragged them into place on top of the escape hatch building them up to resemble a 'cairn' like the old Celtic burial ground markers. Satisfied that this would thwart his enemy from following him, Potsie began to search for shelter from the icy cold.
06-01-2005, 12:37 PM
Potsie stirred in his sleep. He was aware of someone nudging him. He gritted his teeth in anticipation of another beating and wrapped his arms protectively over his chest. Then he felt something wet touch his face. A large pink tongue was licking his hair
"Wooooaaaaaaaar." He opened his eyes and sat bolt upright.
"Mmwaaaaah." The long-horned, highland cow was just as startled to see Potsie rise from its breakfast. It snorted and backed away to join the rest of the herd, who formed a circle around the hay bales where Potsie had taken shelter for the night. They fixed him with bovine stares.
Potsie stood up and grimaced as sharp stabbing pains shot through his spine. His legs felt like they had turned to jelly. He brushed hay from his face and hair. When he exhaled, he could see his breath freezing in the chilly air. The dawn was just breaking and Potsie was able to see some of the surrounding countryside through a thin veil of mist. The farm buildings looked derelict and deserted, the animals somewhat neglected. There were no landmarks to act as bearings. He had no idea where he had come from or for how long he had stumbled around in the darkness. He felt sore, cold and hungry. He knew it was important to keep moving. His military training had finely honed his survival instincts. The only thing he remembered was being attacked by a man who wanted information from him. He knew he was in enemy territory and needed to keep his wits about him.
Ralph and Al had arrived on the island during the night but they waited until daybreak, to carry out an assessment of the damage sustained by Fonziebird One. On board Fonziebird Two, Lori Beth cooked breakfast, Tom was already tucking in but Al declined and donned his hat, coat and gloves. He was keen to go outside and get started. Ralph was tempted by the smell of sizzling bacon. He promised to join Al after he had eaten his bacon sandwich. Chachi was still soundly sleeping in a bunk in the medical bay. Ralph wanted to wake him but Lori Beth requested that Chachi should be allowed a lie-in.
Ralph climbed down from Fonziebird Two and walked over to Al who was inspecting the tail section. "What's the damage?"
"It doesn't look too bad. It's lucky those bushes were so dense."
"I don't think Chach would agree with you there."
"Should we make a start on the repairs?"
"Not just yet. Our priority's to find Potsie. He must be around here somewhere. It's not a big island."
"Should we take Fonziebird Two?"
"It'll be tricky flying low. There are still patches of this mist around and if Potise's still being held, we don't want to alert his captor to our presence We'll go on foot. Lori Beth can stay here while we take Chachi and Tom and make a detailed search."
"Th's assuming Potsie's still on the island." replied Al.
They had now been joined by Lori Beth who was towel drying her wet hair after taking a shower. "Well, I didn't hear anything during the night," she added. "I was too uncomfortable to sleep properly and I'm sure if a plane or helicopter had taken off, I would have heard it."
"He could've been taken by sea."
Ralph interrupted "Well, let's not waste time deliberating. Let's wake Chach up and begin the search."
"Is Chachi going to be fit enough to help?"
"He's not concussed. He's pretty thick-skulled... He's just sore and grumpy."
"I heard that," snapped Chachi pulling on his coat. "I'm right with you. Let's go."
"Good. We'll fan out and keep in touch at all times." ordered Ralph.
Ralph had been searching the moor land for two hours. He came across a few deserted settlements and a dilapidated hay barn but still no sign of Potsie. The cold was beginning to eat into his bones. He blew in to his hands and rubbed them together. He stopped and raised his left arm to speak into his wristwatch communicator.
"Any sign of him, Chach?"
"How about you, Tom?"
"No, nothin', Ralphie."
"How about you, Al, any luck?"
"No, Ralpn, no sign of him."
Ralph sighed "Thanks, Al... Hey, Al.... wait a minute, I think I can see something... Yes, there's someone over by those bushes."
"Be careful, Ralph."
But Ralph was already bounding across. "Pots! Is that you, Pots?"
Potsie stopped in his tracks at the sound of another voice.... an American voice but his hand still went instinctively for his gun. When he realised that it was not there, he steeled himself for hand to hand combat. The man approaching him didn't look hostile; on the contrary he looked delighted to see him. But Potsie was suspicious.
"Don't come any closer." he growled.
"Pots, thank god. What happened? Are you okay?"
Potsie looked at him without recognition. His face was dirty and smeared with blood. His chin was covered in rough stubble.
"Are you okay, Potsie?" repeated Ralph as he advanced towards him.
"Stay back." warned Potsie.
"Pots, it's me... Ralph."
"Look, let’s get you back to Fonziebird One before you freeze to death." Ralph attempted to take Potsie by the arm. Quick as a flash, Potsie twisted Ralph's arm up behind his back, and threw him face down on the ground. Ralph spat out a mouthful of mud.
"Ow, Pots! You're hurting me! What the hell's gone into you?"
Potsie then noticed that this man was wearing the same uniform as he was. He loosened his grip. Ralph sat up and rubbed his shoulder. "What did you do that for?"
"Are you part of my unit?" asked Potsie.
"What are you talking about?"
Potsie's eyes flashed angrily again "Who are you?"
Ralph made an attempt to try to placate him. "Pots, you know who I am, I'm your brother," Potsie looked blank. "Pots, you crashed, you're injured, let me help you."
Potsie suddenly became animated and began firing questions like a machine gun. "What's your name? What's your number? Which unit are you with?"
"I'm Ralph Virgil Tracy. I don't have a number and we're both with International Rescue."
"International Rescue?" echoed Potsie.
"Don't you remember anything, Pots?" Ralph was now quite worried. He was sure that Potsie must have taken a hefty knock on the head.
"What did you call me?" asked Potsie.
"Pots. Your full name is Warren Scott Tracy but we call you either 'Potsie' or 'Pots'."
"What country are we in?"
Ralph caught the dubious look on Potsie's face and for a moment, he thought that his brother was going to try to deck him again.
"We're on an uninhabited island in the Western Isles. They're off the coast of Scotland. You crash-landed. Do you remember?"
Potsie remembered nothing but there was something about this bewildered young man that made Potsie warm to him. He suddenly decided to trust Ralph. He put a hand on Ralph's shoulder and said solemnly "We're behind enemy lines. I was captured and knocked about a bit but I managed to escape. Where are the others?"
Ralph decided to play along with Potsie's delusion. "They're safe. I'll take you to them, Pots." And with that, Ralph gently took his arm and led him away.
While they were making their way back to the Fonziebird craft, Ralph realised that Potsie had absolutely no recollection of International Rescue or his family. His moods swung from profound confusion to quick agitation. Ralph had tried to contact the others and warn them of Potsie's condition but he was afraid of arousing his brother's suspicion. He left his communicator open hoping that the others would pick up snippets of their somewhat bizarre conversation.
When they reached Fonziebirds One and Two, Chachi saw them coming and ran up to greet them. "Man, Potsie, It's good to see you but I don't know what kind of trip you're on. Have you been at the magic mushrooms?"
Potsie stiffened. "Who's he?"
"Our youngest brother Charles Alan a.k.a 'Chachi', I'm afraid."
Potsie looked blank and then he noticed the Fonziebird craft. He looked as if he was seeing them for the first time in his life. His expression registered awe and amazement. Then he began to look fearful.
"Who are you? Where are you from?" He started to struggle, lashing out at both Chachi and Ralph.
"Al, we've got trouble!" yelled Chachi.
Al dashed over to Chachi and Ralph who were struggling to restrain Potsie. He took a hypodermic syringe and injected Potsie in the forearm. Potsie stopped fighting and sank to his knees. Lori Beth ran to his side and took hold of his hand. Potsie stopped struggling but his eyes were darting backwards and forwards in panic as he scanned the now unfamiliar faces in front of him.
"You're among friends, Potsie," Lori Beth purred. "You're going to be okay."
Chachi and Ralph helped Scott into Fonziebird Two and laid him down on one of the bunks in the medical bay. Potsie was now passive but his eyes were full of fear and bewilderment. His brothers hated to see him looking so vulnerable. Lori Beth started to gently bathe his face with warm water.
"What happened to him, Ralph?" asked Chachi. "He looked at us as if we had just touched down from Venus in a couple of flying saucers."
Al took a small torch and shone it into Potsie's eyes. Both of his pupils reacted.
"There's no sign of any head injury but he looks as if he has taken a beating," Potsie's eyelids flickered, Al's medication had now began to take effect. Potsie mumbled incoherently as he drifted off to sleep. Al called to Ralph "Help me get his uniform off so I can examine him."
Al gently rolled Potsie on to his side and Ralph began to unfasten his uniform. He grimaced at the sight of his brother's injuries. The area around Potsie's spine was badly bruised and his chest was tender and swollen.
"Some of his injuries could've been caused by the crash but these bruises around the chest and ribs are fresh. Someone has also delivered a hefty punch to his face and split his lip."
Ralph looked pained. "Who could have done this to him?... and why?"
"I think Chachi's initial suspicion about the er authenticity of the rescue call has proven correct. I believe the craft was lured here and it doesn't take two guesses to figure out by whom."
"The Candy Man," shouted Chachi. "He must have booby-trapped the wreckage of that old fighter plane."
"Chachi, Chachi, Chachi, it would seem so. He's been determined to pay International Rescue back for the attack on his hideout and the destruction of his opium crop."
"Do you think Potsie's been hypnotised? Would that account for his loss of memory?"
"Perhaps but I believe he may have taken an amnesia capsule."
"What's an amnesia capsule?" asked Ralph.
"It's something I developed a few months ago," explained Al. "Potsie volunteered to test it for me, should an occasion present itself."
"I don't get it," said Ralph. "Did Dad know about this?"
"Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, he consented to the test."
Ralph looked perplexed. "Why didn't he tell the rest of us?"
"Remember when the Candy Man captured Joanie and Marion?"
"Yeah," snapped Chachi. "Potsie and I got them out."
"Well, marion came to me and told me that she was frightened of the Candy Man's hypnotic er power. She confessed that she had come very close to revealing our secrets. She felt guilty and ashamed."
"None of us would blame her. I know Dad won't. The Candy Man's mentally tortured her and she was threatening Joanie." said Ralph in defence.
Al continued "She felt ashamed that she can't be as strong as Joanie was. She said that she had been prepared to face death, rather than divulge any of your secrets."
"Did that guy threaten to torture Joanie?" asked Lori Beth.
"Marion told me the Candy Man hypnotised Joanie and that he was going to keep her as his .... I'm sorry, Chachi, I know this is going to be difficult. H-he wanted her ..."
"Yeah, I get the picture." growled Chachi. He then uttered an obscenity and punched the wall.
"I hope that made you feel better, Chachi." said Lori Beth.
Chachi calmed down and apologised for his outburst.
"Well, to cut a long story short," continued Al. "Marion wanted me to work on a serum that would erase the memory. So that if she were to be captured again, she won't be able to divulge any secrets because there would be none left in her memory. She helped me to blend the correct plant extracts and together, we made a few capsules. She and Joanie each have one and so did Potsie. They were only meant to be used as a last possible resort rather like a suicide pill in the last world war."
"A suicide pill!" cried Chachi in alarm.
"Oh, don't worry, Chachi. The serum won't harm Potsie."
"But when's he going to get his memory back?" asked Ralph.
"Oh, he won't...." Ralph and Chachi gasped. "Not until I give him the antidote which I have right here." Al proceeded to inject Potsie's forearm with a yellow liquid.
"Are you sure this'll work, Al?" asked Ralph.
"No," replied Al. "This is the first time it's been tested. There's no telling how long it'll take to work."
"When can we expect him to get back to normal?"
"It could be a couple of days or a couple of weeks or maybe months."
"Months," Ralph exploded. "What are we going to do with him? When this sedative starts to wear off, he may try to attack us again. The poor guy doesn't know who he is or where he is. He's confused and paranoid."
"Why does it take so long for this stuff to work?" voiced Chachi.
"Because each individual is different. Take Potsie for instance, he's got twenty one years of memories stored in his brain. Some are good, some bad and some traumatic. He saw active service in the East Asian conflict. He's like a computer that has crashed. His neurons will have to regenerate, remake their connections. It would be dangerous for Potsie to regain those memories all at once. It would be too much for the brain to handle. It could cause long term psychological damage."
"You mean it could send him mad?" cried Ralph in alarm.
"You saw his reaction when he saw Fonziebirds One and Two. He didn't recognise his own craft. You were right, Chachi. To him, they were 'alien' craft. He didn't trust us. We've got to let him rest and recover his memory in his own good time. No matter how long it takes."
"I'll have to tell Dad, we'll have to get Potsie to a hospital." Ralph was already on the radio. He was angry with his father for not telling him about the amnesia drug. Howard was tremendously relieved to hear that Potsie was safe but to Ralph's amazement, he did not want Potsie admitted to a hospital. In his present state, Potsie could be considered a security risk.
"It would be better if me and Tom took him back to Milwaukee," volunteered Lori Beth. "We can look after him."
"How will you handle him if he gets violent again?" asked Ralph.
"Oh, he won't. Potsie would never hit a woman."
While Tom loaded FONZ1 into the pod, Ralph and Al made sure that Potsie would be comfortable on the journey. They checked his spine for any signs of serious injury and then they changed him into clean, warm civilian clothing. Al placed a surgical collar around his neck to help ease his whiplash injury. Then he strapped Potsie securely into his bed and clipped a monitor to one of his fingers. Satisfied that Potsie's heartbeat and pulse were regular and that his breathing was unhindered, Al walked back to the cabin of Fonziebird Two. Lori Beth and Tom took their places in the passenger seats and strapped themselves in ready for take off. Al and Chachi jumped down from the cabin and made their way over to Fonziebird One to begin repair work.
Ralph took his place at the controls of Fonziebird Two and depressed a black button. Slowly, Fonziebird Two descended on the pod, retracting its stilt like legs. With the pod safely secured, Ralph fired up the booster rockets.
"Don't take too long, Ralph. We need another pair of hands here." called Chachi as Fonziebird Two lifted off the ground and headed out to sea.
The interior of Fonziebird One was bitterly cold. Chachi blew into his hands and stamped his feet. Al removed the cover of the console and pulled out a tangle of wires like spaghetti from a saucepan. He began to mutter to himself as was his habit when he was engrossed in a job.
"Ah ha! Yes, I see what's wrong. F-fetch me a screwdriver, Chachi. Oh, and a torch would be handy too. Oh and Chachi, could you disentangle the blue wires from the orange ones?"
"Sure, Al. Would you like me to pedal a unicycle as well?" But as usual, Chachi's sarcasm was lost on Al.
After an hour, they had managed to remove a section of melted, damaged cables and Al was preparing to repair one of the circuits.
"How long will it take to fix all this?" asked Chachi.
"We've got a good day's work ahead of us."
"Oh great! I've had my fill of this place. How do the people in this part of the world put up with this damp, cold weather? It goes right through you. Hurry up and get the heating back on."
"Many hands make light work, Chachi."
Chachi pouted and complained as the screwdriver slipped from his numbed fingers. One of the draw-backs of life on a balmy tropical islands was that Chachi felt the cold. Especially the damp cloying kind that these Islands were prone to. "I'm trying, Al but my hands are numb. It's just too cold." Al chose to ignore his complaints.
An hour and a half later, they heard the familiar whine of Fonziebird Two's engines. Al briefly glanced up from his work. "Well, at least Ralph's back."
"Good, I hope he's brought some more food with him, I'm starving." Chachi waved as Fonziebird Two landed beside them. He saw Ralph alight from the cockpit and then nervously look around him.
"Do you suppose the guy who took Potsie's out there watching us?" asked Chachi.
"It's something I'd rather not think about!" replied Al tinkering with his screwdriver. Ralph entered and voiced the same concerns as Chachi.
"Oh, hi, Ralph. How was Potsie when you left him?" inquired Chachi.
"He woke up when we reached Lori Beth's place. He's still mildly sedated but he's a lot calmer now. He wasn't very happy about that collar around his neck. He was able to talk to me for a while. He told me that all he could remember was being held in a darkened room. He said that it smelled as if it was underground. He mumbled something about protective suits and drums of chemicals."
"What about the guy who attacked him? Did he say whether it was the Candy Man?"
"He told me that he remembered a guy slapping him in the face and then punching him in the ribs. The guy hurled him to the floor. He said that this guy seemed to think he was dead so he pretended to be."
"Did he get a good look at his face?"
"He said it was dark but he remembered the man's eyes. Intensive staring eyes and dark hair which was balding at the crown. So there's no doubt about it, the Candy Man's here on this island."
"Should we call Dad? Maybe we can finish him off for good this time."
"You forget, Chach: we're a rescue organisation, not an International crime fighting outfit. We don't have the authority to 'finish him off' as you put it. I believe it's more commonly known as murder. We're supposed to save lives, even criminal lives."
"Scum like that doesn't deserve to live." spat Chachi.
"Dad disagrees. I spoke to him while I was at Lori Beth's and he's placed the matter in the hands of the Federal Agents Bureau. They've already arrested a high ranking Government Official on suspicion of supplying chemicals to a known terrorist. That terrorist has been identified as the Candy Man. I've been told that the army plans to storm this island to arrest him and destroy the chemical hoard."
"Huh! I wish I could get my hands on him."
"What would you do, Chach? You saw what happened to Potsie. You would be a fool to go chasing after him. You don't know what you are up against. Marion says that he is the most evil man in the world. She believes that he's in league with the devil."
"As a scientist, I don't hold with superstition," put in Al. "But you'll be pleased to know that I've fixed the er circuit that activates the defence shield. If the Candy Man tries to er steal any of our machines, he'll have a bit of a shock coming to him."
"I won't feel safe until he's behind bars. In fact, I won't even feel safe then," said Ralph. "He's managed to escape from some pretty inaccessible places. He's a pretty slippery character!"
The Candy Man awoke refreshed after a solid seven hour sleep. He had only one priority - to set a trap for Fonziebird Two. For this, he would require the dead pilot's body. He would place it where his colleague would find it and then detonate a canister containing paralysing nerve gas. He was going to ensure that this pilot would not be able to take a suicide capsule before he was properly brainwashed.
There was no light underground so the Candy Man switched on his torch. As he struggled out of his sleeping bag, his hands touched a slippery substance. He stood up but his legs immediately slipped from underneath him and he landed on his fat butt. He muttered a string of Italian curses. When he managed to light the hurricane lamp, he saw that the floor was covered in a pool of oil. But even worse, the Fonziebird pilot had gone. The Candy Man bellowed with rage.
"Curse you, International Rescue! A million curses upon you!"
He ran towards the ladder, slipped over and cursed again. The ladder was thirty feet high. The Candy Man started to climb the rungs, but promptly slid down them again. It was then that he noticed the corroded oil drum strategically placed so that it's contents would lubricate his only means of escape. He cursed the pilot of Fonziebird One and wished he had beaten him to a pulp when he had the chance.
Seven hours later, Al, Chachi and Ralph were finishing off the repairs.
"There. We're just about done," said Al. "We've got all our circuits back on."
"What about external damage?" asked Chachi.
"Nothing too serious, thank god. Potsie chose a good position to put her down. Those dense bushes acted as a cushion absorbing the impact. One of the tail fins has sheared off and the other is a bit bent but it shouldn't affect the way she handles."
"Hey, will you look at this?" called Ralph. Glancing up at the sky, he could see ten large military helicopters descending on the island. When they landed, soldiers in bullet-proof combat gear ran forward with guns at the ready. They were followed by an army decontamination unit.
"Let's hope they catch the ..." began Chachi.
"I think it's time for us to go," interrupted Ralph. "Al, you go with Chachi in Fonziebird One in case he has any trouble handling her."
"What do you mean ' any trouble handling her'? I'm as good a pilot as Potsie is." retorted Chachi.
"And you're about as prickly as that gorse bush." called Ralph climbing into Fonziebird Two.
"Race you home!" yelled Chachi.
06-01-2005, 12:38 PM
Tom carried a tray of uneaten food back to the kitchen. All the time he had known Potsie, he had never known him to refuse a meal. 'Hollow legs' his brothers called him.
"It ain't your cookin', Jennifer," Tom explained to the cook. "'He just ain't been himself since his accident."
"I thought he was looking a bit better."
"Physically, yeah. But Lori's worried. It's been nearly two weeks now and he still ain't got his memory back."
"What about all those doctors Lori Beth called in? Can't they do anything?"
"No. They say that his memory'll either come back in it's own good time or maybe not at all."
"Poor Potsie, it must be dreadful not knowing your family, or who you are. I know there are some things I would rather forget about my late father. But then we had good times as well as bad times. I suppose the poor man can't even remember what his favourite food is. If he's going to be staying for a long time, I'd better find out what these West Coast boys like to eat."
Potsie had spent the first few days resting in his room while he recovered from his injuries. His feelings of confusion and paranoia subsided when he realised that no harm was going to come to him in the peace and tranquillity of a rural Midwest American city. His fears only returned at night when he re-lived long buried emotions, during flashbacks of his combat experiences. His bravery had saved many of his colleagues lives when their plane was shot down over enemy territory but there was a part of Potsie's memory that would never be erased - the faces of the men Potsie had not been able to save. They would remain etched in his memory for the rest of his life.
Shortly after the accident, Howard had flown to Milwaukee to be with Potsie. On seeing his son, Howard wanted to put his arms around him, and pull him in to a bear hug but Potsie stood up and offered his hand as if he was politely welcoming a stranger. They shook hands and sat side by side on a sofa in Lori Beth's Drawing Room. There was an awkward silence. Howard handed Potsie a box of video tapes, hoping that they would trigger something in his memory. Potsie watched them impassively, reduced to the role of a curious bystander as precious childhood moments were re-played before him. He pressed the 'pause' button on the remote control to freeze the image of a beautiful woman on the screen. Then asked his father "Who is she?"
Howard swallowed hard and replied "She was your mother, Potsie."
Potsie simply replied "Oh."
It was more than Howard could stand. "For Pete's sake, Potsie! Does none of this mean anything to you?"
Potsie had meekly apologised. "I'm sorry, sir. I don't know what you want me to say."
Howard shook his head and walked out of the room.
Lori Beth told Howard that Potsie could stay as long as he wanted. He was the perfect house guest. Howard was faced with a dilemma. He wanted to take Potsie back home to Tracy Island but he also had to run International Rescue. Potsie had been told that he was a pilot but he still no recollections of ever belonging to International Rescue and had not even asked if Al and Ralph had been able to repair Fonziebird One. He had asked where he lived but Howard was afraid to tell him about Tracy Island and International Rescue, in case he became a threat to security. Potsie showed no signs of wanting to return to his home. He no longer felt part of his family or their organisation. He existed only in the present and in his 'present' life all he knew was that he was living in a magnificent stately home with a beautiful brunette chick who cared for him. It was agreed that Potsie would stay with Lori Beth for a little while longer. Reluctantly, Howard flew home.
A month later, Potsie had come to terms with his memory loss and spent most of his time trying to get to know his family again. Richie, the joker of the family made him laugh. Fonzie, the quiet intellectual played chess with him over the satellite link. Chachi tried his best to engage Potsie in friendly banter, but the conversations between them were awkward and neither understood why. Ralph was the only one Potsie felt he had known all of his life. He felt the same about Joanie and Marion and spent hours listening to her recollections about his childhood. As well as learning that his mother had died when Chachi was eight years old, he was told about his childhood in the city of Los Angeles and the day he fell out of a tree and broke his leg. His father recalled his first day at school, his first girlfriend and happy family holidays. His father spoke with pride about his college achievements and his award for bravery. But to Potsie, it all seemed like someone else's life.
Back on Tracy island, Howard called a family meeting to decide who would fill Potsie's position while he was indisposed. It was decided that Chachi and Fonzie would alternate piloting Fonziebird One as well as manning the space station. Fonzie would assist Chachi with rescues in space and double crew where required. Howard was dismayed at the thought of Potsie being edited out of an organisation he had been so vital to.
"Is there anything else we can do to help Potsie?" he asked Al.
"I've administered an antidote to the serum but it hasn't been tested. Potsie was the first guinea pig, so to speak. He knew the risks when he volunteered to test the amnesia drug but of course we all hoped that the occasion would never arise."
"If I may say something," Marion stood up and in a solemn voice began to describe the extent of the Candy Man's hypnotic powers drawing from her own experiences. She concluded by saying that taking the drug had probably saved Potsie's life and that if the Candy Man were to ever get hold of International Rescue's aircraft then he would have the power to hold the world to ransom.
"I must agree then that the drug has proven to be a success." said Howard.
Ralph was not so sure. "I think Potsie's alive because the Candy Man thought that he was taking a suicide pill. One of the few things that Potsie remembers is this guy hitting and shaking him and demanding to know what he had taken. He then punched Potsie to the floor and assumed that he'd die."
"Well, at least it bought him time to escape."
"I'm not so sure it would work a second time. The Candy Man would be smart to it and would probably kill any one of us for the hell of it." replied Ralph.
"I say we should have finished him off while we had the chance." cut in Chachi.
"Now we've been through all that before, Chachi," said Howard sternly. "We don't have Government Authority to 'take people out' however evil they are. We save human life. All human life."
"I doubt whether anyone would have shed any tears." muttered Chachi.
"That's all I have to say, Chachi," continued Howard. "The military police and secret service dealt with the matter in their own way."
"Yeah, they let him slip right through their fingers." said Richie in disgust.
"Well according to Potsie, he was a pretty oily character." chimed in Chachi earning a reproachful look from his father.
Marion stood up again. "That man's my half-brother. He's evil, there's no doubt about that but he also has my mother's blood in his veins. She was a good, kind person. I believe that good can overcome evil. I don't want to see him killed. To murder him would bring us down to his level."
Chachi and Richie looked at the floor, shame-faced. A silence fell upon the room. Of all people, Marion was the one who had the most reasons for wanting the Candy Man dead. The Candy Man had killed their mother, brainwashed Marion and falsely claimed her inheritance. Six months ago, Marion and Joanie had been captured and taken to the Candy Man's Milwaukee hideout where they were mentally and physically tortured. Chachi's feelings were still raw but if Marion could show compassion and forgiveness, then surely he could. But try as he might, he knew that if he were to ever meet the Candy Man face to face, one of them would die.
On a crisp February morning, Lori Beth saddled up Elvis, her dapple grey gelding. Potsie gently stroked the nose of a handsome black stallion, before climbing onto the saddle.
"Are you sure your back is up to this?" inquired Lori Beth.
"It's fine," answered Potsie and he dug his heels in to the horse's flank. It galloped across the paddock and out on to rimy, ploughed fields. Lori Beth's horse swiftly cantered after him and eventually managed to catch him up by the entrance to Phfister Park.
"I see you haven't forgotten how to ride." she called.
Potsie smiled. He looked more relaxed than Lori Beth had seen in days. His old sparkle was beginning to return. Lori Beth suspected that he rather enjoyed playing the role of a Milwaukee gentleman but she knew the longer he stayed, the less enthusiastic he would be to return to Tracy island.
On his last visit, Howard decided to tell Potsie about International Rescue. Potsie was surprised to learn that he had been the pilot of such a powerful machine as Fonziebird One. However, this knowledge seemed to make him less inclined to return home.
"Potsie, your dad told me he'll be flying over again tomorrow."
"Oh really?" he remarked and then added "That'll be cool." but only because he felt required to say something else.
"Can you remember anything at all about your family? It's been over a month now. Al said that the antidote should have started to work by now."
Potsie looked blank. "Maybe I should take another shot of it. I recall odd snippets of things but nothing I can make sense of. I know my dad wants me to come home, but...."
He let his sentence trail off into nothing, unable to voice his worst fears - that he was afraid of being a failure. His face darkened. He kicked his horse and galloped away. Lori Beth felt annoyed at herself for pushing him. It was obviously going to take longer than Al or Howard had anticipated.
"Look, Potsie, I'm sorry," she said after she had caught up with him again. "I didn't mean to push you."
"Not trying to get rid of me, are you?" he grinned.
"You know you're welcome to stay as long as you like. I'm just afraid that the longer you stay, the further away you'll grow from your family. They're the most important part of your life. I'm an only child. My childhood was spent with servants and nannies in Seattle and then in school and college in Milwaukee. You've got your brothers and your father. I still miss my parents. They were very busy people and I wish I could've had more time with them."
Potsie looked downcast "You're right, Lori Beth. I've got to face facts. My memory may never return. I can't hide here forever."
"You can start over again. You must have faith in yourself. You can learn to fly Fonziebird One again and once you're up there, you might find that you never really forgot how to. Just like riding a horse, it's probably second nature to you."
"Yeah, well, there's a difference between falling off a horse and falling out of the sky."
"You can do it, Potise. You may not have your memory but you still have your strength of character. Look at Richie, he had to learn how to walk again after the dreadful injuries he sustained in a hydrofoil accident and he did it because he had the support and encouragement of a loving family. Don't push them away. You can learn it all again and you can be the best again."
Potsie felt uplifted and for a moment, he wanted to take Lori Beth in to his arms and kiss her. She reached across and touched his hand. "Come on, I know the perfect place for lunch."
"Good, I'm starved." replied Potsie.
Side by side, the horses trotted down the main street of a small picturesque Hamlet. Its pretty, thatched cottages were covered with a dusting of snow.
"Wow, I thought places like this only existed on the front of Christmas cards." remarked Potsie.
"They are very few and far between," said Lori Beth sadly. "Hamlets like these are being slowly strangled by motorway development. The locals have fought tooth and nail to prevent one being built over the fields we've just ridden across but then the locals have an indestructible weapon... Miss Cholmondley-Brown. If there was a contest between her and a bulldozer, my money would be on her."
Potsie laughed "Sounds quite a formidable character."
They stopped at Arnold's Drive-In and tied their horses to a fence.
"Arnold, burger sounds like a great apitiser... Oh god! Speak of the devil!" Lori Beth had spotted a large lady being dragged along by six boisterous Labradors. She looked around in desperation but there was nowhere to hide. Lori Beth pondered upon her fate - perhaps it was to be death by Labradors. Four of the dogs were now upon her, probing her with their cold, wet noses. It was all she could do to remain on her feet.
"Down, Badger... Stop that, Monty... Oh, Laura Elisabeth dear, I'm so glad to see you..."
"Miss Cholomonley-Brown!" exclaimed Lori Beth and kissed the air a few inches to the right of Miss Cholmondley-Brown's left ear.
"I hope you've managed to sort out that problem with your sprinkler system. All your beautiful paintings and carpets. I hope they weren't ruined."
Lori Beth looked shamefaced "No. fortunately, they were saved. I hope your dress wasn't ruined. I'm sorry."
"No need for apologies, my dear. In spite of the mishap, the evening seemed to be a success. But I feel that the audience were cheated. I was saving the best of my programme for the second half. So I've agreed to repeat my performance at the Phfister Hall tonight. There are a couple of other musical acts on before me and it promises to be an exciting evening. I recall sending you an invitation a few days ago but your staff told me you'd gone away. I hope to see you there and you must bring along your handsome young man."
"Oh but...." Lori Beth began to protest.
"I insist," said Miss Cholmondley-Brown. "I'll see you both at 7.30." She disentangled herself from her dog leads and strode off down the path. Lori Beth put her head in her hands.
"What was that all about?" asked Potsie.
"We don't have to go. I'll say that you were sick. I'll make some excuse."
"Believe me, Miss Cholmondley-Brown's singing isn't something I'd wish on my worst enemy."
"But won't she be offended? She seemed like a sweet old lady."
Lori Beth sighed "Yeah, her heart's in the right place and you're right, Potsie, she'll be really offended."
"Then we'll go." he decided.
"Oh man!" sighed Lori Beth again and then she noticed that Potsie was giving her a rather peculiar look.
"Lori Beth...." he began hesitantly. "Have we...? I mean ... before I lost my memory... Did we ever have...?"
Lori Beth linked arms with him as they walked towards the door. "We've always been and always will be very good friends."
At 7.15 pm, Tom drove the pink 1954 Cadillac up to the Pfhister Hall. With a beaming smile on his face, he leapt out of the driving seat to open the rear car door. Lori Beth swept out of the car wearing a pink sequined gown underneath a white fur coat. Potsie was handsomely attired in a hired evening suit.
"Have a cool evenin', Lori."
Lori Beth, realising that this was sarcasm, responded with a stony stare. Potsie replied jauntily "Thanks, Tom."
"Not at all, thanks. Sooner you than me." he added under his breath.
They were ushered to their seats and handed the programme for the evenings entertainment.
"There is a God!" exclaimed a man two seats behind them.
Opening the programme, Lori Beth saw a hastily added amendment. 'Our band singer Miss Marjorie Cholmondley-Brown regrets that she'll be unable to perform tonight owing to a bout of laryngitis. Her place will be taken by the talented pianist Jerry Lee Lewis.'
"Well, it seems we are in for a treat this evening. Ralph'll be really jealous. He's a big fan of his. I knew he was touring here but since he married his 13 year old second cousin 3 years ago, his career's gone downhill. He last played in Chicago. What luck to see him here in Milwaukee."
The first musical act featured Leather and the Suedes performing their song Devil Gate Drive. Potsie knew that like himself, Leather was a big fan of Elvis Presley. But when Jerry Lee Lewis walked on to the stage wearing a dark blue blazer and gray slacks, Potsie sat up and took notice. When he took his position at the grand piano and began to play, Potsie felt the back of his neck start to tingle. He was as wild as he was talented. His fair hair tumbled near his face as he played Great Balls Of Fire with a passion. The audience was rapt. Potsie closed his eyes and let the music take him over. There was something familiar about the raw song he was playing. It evoked feelings of love and making out. He began to see pictures forming in his mind.
He could picture his grandfather harvesting ripe ears of corn under blazing blue skies. His grandmother baking apple pies and his mother Marion sitting at her piano with Ralph by her side, teaching him how to play. She taught Fonzie as well but Potsie had never really been interested. Now he regretted that. He remembered his father taking him to his mother's first public concert. She wore a blue satin dress and looked so much like a female version of the man playing for him now, that a lump formed in his throat. The young Potsie felt immensely proud of his mother and at the end of the concert, she stood up, looking radiant even in the fifth month of her pregnancy and blew him a kiss.
Slowly, the mist started to clear from his mind and his memory began to return. The final piece of music built up to a crescendo, it was like listening to a storm, first the calm and then the fury and chaos. Potsie remembered the tornado of Los Angeles that struck with speed and devastation. He could remember sitting underneath a table with his frightened younger brothers while his mother sang to them to calm their fears. Then he remembered the day when his father came home from the hospital carrying a crying eight year old Chachi, who seemed to be raging at the unfairness, of having his mother snatched away, before she could even hold him. Life was never the same after that. Potsie remembered his 13 year old brother Fonzie asking God if he could allow their mom to watch over the especially 9 year old Richie and Chachi.
When the music stopped, Potsie was overwhelmed by a tide of emotions. He could feel tears pricking his eyes. He got up and walked out. Lori Beth found him sitting alone on a bench in the cold night air. She said nothing but sat down and put her arms around him. After a while, Potsie spoke in a clear decisive voice.
"Thanks for all you've done for me. I wanna go home now. I must call Dad, I need to call all of them especially Chachi. I left him alone and injured after we crash-landed."
"Well, he's fine now. You've been talking to him."
"Yeah, well, it was pretty. Sometimes I just couldn't figure him out. He can be so reckless at times. Almost as if he had some kind of death wish. When we were kids, I was always getting him out of scrapes. I guess I understand him a little better now. When I saw service in East Asia, I saw friends of mine killed. I felt guilty for surviving when they didn't. Chachi's had to live with the fact that he survived and Mom didn't."
"Your experiences in life, whether good or bad, shape you as a person."
"Yeah, that's what Marion says. Boy, am I looking forward to tasting her cooking again! No offence to Jennifer but she seems to think that all I can eat are hamburgers and fries."
Lori Beth laughed "Welcome back, Potsie."
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