The High Wire (4)
November 22, 2014
HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize William Haggard’s 1963 novel The High Wire, the fifth title in his acclaimed Col. Charles Russell espionage adventure series — which, at the time, was considered by critics (if not the general public) superior to Ian Fleming’s Bond series. “Haggard lacked Fleming’s snooty dilettantism, and was better at creating subtle layers of political intrigue,” Christopher Fowler has written. “Haggard treats his women with more respect, too. They are investigators and heroines with lives of their own. As for exoticism, try Haggard’s character Miss Borrodaile, the elegant, black-clad, former French Resistance fighter with a steel foot.” Under the editorship of HILOBROW’s Joshua Glenn, the Save the Adventure book club will reissue The High Wire as an e-book for the first time ever. Enjoy!
Rex had taken Mary Francom to dinner in Soho. He was fond of rice and they were eating it — not curry for there was also wine. She noticed that he drank very little and she sensed that he wasn’t at ease. They had eaten together twice before and twice he had been relaxed. Both had been happy evenings, enjoyable and something more. But this evening he was tense, forcing himself into action which he had already decided but still found difficult. At length he said: ‘You remember Francis de Fleury?’
That put it, she thought, with delicacy.
‘I still remember him.’
That put it, she thought, with the candour she felt she owed him. She hated deception for she had seen too much of it.
‘And you’ll have heard of a place called Maldington. I’ve already told you I work there because there isn’t any point in hiding it. Anybody who wanted to could easily find that out. And you’ll have heard rumours about Maldington.’
‘Rumours,’ she said, ‘and a good deal of gossip.’
‘Yes. But you told me what de Fleury’s job was. I was alone at Sestriere and I’d just been appointed to Maldington. That wasn’t yet common knowledge but there was nothing secret about the appointment itself, and I suppose it’s quite possible that a man in de Fleury’s position could hear about it sooner than most. So I was alone at Sestriere on a holiday, and de Fleury knocks my drink over.’ Rex hesitated, then went on: ‘It’s occurred to me that he paid me a lot of attention for a man whose drink he’d spilt.’
‘Sestriere is a resort. Perhaps he liked you.’ She smiled. ‘You’re rather a modest man.’
‘I’m afraid I was a foolish one.’ He looked at her directly but her eyes told him nothing. It was a difficult face to read, serene but determined. The determination he accepted for she’d told him her story. The serenity still surprised him, but he admired it too.
‘Go on,’ she said.
‘I drank to much. Not a skinful — nothing, I dare say, for a man accustomed to champagne — but a little too much for me. It’s my impression I talked stupidly.’
The elegant black eyebrows straightened in reflection. He knew she was thinking it over, considering a decision of her own. She was considering her loyalties, though Rex didn’t know it. She worked for the Security Executive and personal feeling was something outside her contract. It was in fact fatal to any agent, but she would have admitted that with Rex Hadley emotions weren’t wholly absent. She’d leave it at that whilst she could. Choosing her words she said deliberately: ‘I think you’re right in guessing de Fleury knew about Maldington. I mean that you’d been posted there.’
‘And I talked foolishly about the place? I was — well, insecure?’
She didn’t answer him.
‘You must tell me,’ he said. He had noticed her hesitation, misunderstanding it. She was a courteous woman; she wouldn’t wish to wound a host. He said again sharply: ‘Tell me.’
‘You mentioned a Project A.’
She saw his face fall, harden again grimly. She knew he was shaken, but his voice was normal. That she respected.
‘I didn’t realize it was as bad as that.’
‘Why so bad?’
‘I talked about Maldington — and Project A?’
‘Not quite. It was de Fleury who mentioned Maldington. You talked about yourself a bit, a brand new job you were obviously looking forward to.’
‘But I mentioned Project A?’
‘Is that so serious?’
‘Not in itself, perhaps. Project A or Plan Twenty-Seven — in itself it gives nothing away beyond a codename. But I’d just been appointed to Maldington and nobody believes that it’s really an engineering shop. And the first thing I do is to confirm to three strangers, one of them the military attaché of a not too co-operative Power, that whatever is going on there is secret enough to rate a codeword. That puts it at the lowest.’
‘But why put it higher? I can see that you are.’
He didn’t deny it. ‘What I actually said — that’s over and beyond recall. But it wouldn’t be good for me if anybody repeated it. If they went to my chairman or even higher I’d be lucky to last the day. It wasn’t exactly sensible, not something to make a top man trust me. I get put into my first big job, and promptly I drop one. Nothing fatal but undeniably silly.’ Rex shook his head. ‘I know what I’d do myself: I’d play it safe and get rid of Hadley quickly. I’d feel I was obliged to. There were yourself and Cohn and de Fleury —’
‘You seem to be trusting me.’
‘And Julian Cohn is dead.’
‘I didn’t know that. I’ve been terribly busy. I haven’t read a newspaper for days.’
‘It was a street accident. They brought him to my nursing home and there he died.’
It had been an hour ago and she had reported to Robert Mortimer. Cohn hadn’t spoken for he hadn’t recovered consciousness. Mortimer had been disappointed but not, she felt, excessively. Major Mortimer knew something.
‘Which leaves Francis de Fleury, a military attaché….’
Mary said quietly: ‘You’ve something to tell me.’
She liked it that he didn’t waste time in comment. He took from his pocket a letter and an invitation card, handing her both. She read them carefully; said with an equal care: ‘I could guess what you’re wondering.’
‘You don’t think I’m jumping to conclusions? You don’t think I’m scared of nothing?’
She shook her head slowly.
“Then you know de Fleury, you know him well.’ It was a statement, quite without private overtones, and for an instant she resented it. She was de Fleury’s mistress and Rex was accepting it, coming to de Fleury’s mistress for an opinion about the man. She said equally impersonally: ‘Oh yes, I know him well.’
“Then you’ll know about diplomats too. Do you think he’d ask me to a party simply because he liked me? On the face of it I’m a casual pick-up in the snow, a sort of shipboard acquaintance. And you know how long they last.’
‘I think you should go just the same.’
She accepted coffee and drank it thoughtfully. ‘In your place I’d want to bring it to a head; I’d want to test him. Suppose you go and nothing happens, nothing of what we’re thinking. So home you go a happy man. And if Francis should start something, if he should move….’
Her voice died away and he had to prompt her. ‘Yes?’
‘You’ll know what you’re in for and that’s always an advantage. You’ll know where you are.’
‘I’ll be finished,’ he said simply.
‘No, Rex, you won’t be finished.’
She had looked away, smiling a smile he hadn’t seen before. When it was spent she turned to him. The oblique timeless smile, the smile of another race, had puzzled him, but now she was serene again. Rex Hadley drew strength from her. She said again: ‘No, Rex, you wouldn’t be finished. You’re a very nice man. You’re considerate and kind and English.’ Her voice changed unexpectedly. ‘And God, how I’d hate to be your enemy.’
‘You’ll never be that.’ He shook her hand but she slipped it away. It wasn’t the moment and perhaps it never would be.
Mary Francom was a scrupulous woman.
He put her into a taxi and this time she took his hand. ‘Tell me what happens, Rex. Keep me in touch. I’ve friends and some useful contacts. I’ve a certain profession.’
‘If you mean about de Fleury I could soon put an end to that.’
She shut the door and he heard her laugh. The sound of it astonished him. Out of the window she waved at him gaily. ‘But you don’t know what I’m talking about. You haven’t an idea.’
Rex walked to the garage where he had parked his modest car, driving back to Maldington reflectively. It was his hunch that an evening at de Fleury’s wouldn’t be a pleasant one: de Fleury would — what had Mary called it? — move. Rex hadn’t a plan but he did have a certain solace. At least he’d made his mind up, or Mary had made it for him. For that he was grateful.
Mary Francom sat in her taxi twisting a glove. It wasn’t a gesture she often indulged and she was quite unconscious of it now. She was thinking about Englishmen, trying not to think of Rex as English…. An extraordinary breed. You told them your private story, the loss of property and, worse, the right to work; hunger and maybe prison; finally the night journey through the wire and minefields, horrible ex-German things which jumped three feet to blow your crutch out. You told them the story and their faces darkened in anger. It was an injustice — wrong. But somehow they didn’t feel it. Why indeed should they? They hadn’t been invaded for a thousand years. Of course they’d been mercilessly bombed, but next morning, when they’d swept the glass up, there they still were. There the survivors were — no tanks in the streets, no alien gestapo. You told them what the other thing was like, you made them angry, but it was an impersonal anger, the good man’s horror of an evident evil. They didn’t experience for they didn’t know.
Mary lit a cigarette with quick movements which Rex would not have recognized. It was easy to think of England as a sort of open zoo, an offshore island for fortunate non-Continental animals. It was easy but it was misleading. Rex Hadley, for instance. She’d meant it when she’d said she’d hate to be his enemy.
The oddest men. To women of another race they sometimes seemed less than human. But when you began to look at one, when he engaged you….
A woman of another race frowned suddenly. ‘Keep me in touch,’ she’d said, ‘I’ve some friends and some useful contacts.’ But she was deeper in than that. She worked for the Security Executive and that meant watching de Fleury. Which meant living with him, taking him, doing what the Executive secretly paid her to do.
It also meant deceiving Rex, or at least the obligation to say nothing. Agents mustn’t disclose themselves — that was elementary but absolute. She sighed unhappily. She’d have to pick the hand up, Rex and all. She could guess what de Fleury would do for she’d seen the instrument. It was her business to recognize such things. She had known what it was and now it frightened her. It had been beautifully made and very small. It would go into an inside pocket easily.
She didn’t doubt it had.
Rex Hadley arrived at His Excellency’s cocktail party rather later than he had intended, for he had been delayed at Maldington. His three top scientists had nobbled him. He had listened carefully though he didn’t expect to understand them. He didn’t understand the language of pure science but he could adequately translate it. His business was to translate it in terms of machines and power, and, if the thing came off, finally into production. So he had listened patiently, but with a slowly sinking spirit. For this wasn’t a move forward or anything like it, it was simply a scientists’ quarrel. It was Rex’s experience that the jealousies of top scientists were petty and even childish. He accepted the fact as an occupational risk of their profession, but acceptance didn’t make it easier to live with. So he listened with patience and he finally decided; he sent them away, not happy, but at least to work again. He would have confessed to disappointment.
Now he walked into the embassy, leaving his coat in the cloakroom. He had been to embassy parties before and had acquired a certain nose for them. They were given in huge old houses in South West One, something between an institute and a very grand undertaker’s. As at an undertaker’s life was quite absent. Nobody lived in these Victorian palaces though one or two might work there. The food came from caterers, the wine from the country concerned. Even when it was importable. Some wine-snob might take to it (‘I picked this up from the Ruritanian embassy — how do you like it?’) and no chance of advertisement could nowadays be ignored.
But Rex knew at once that this wasn’t that sort of party. This would be well above average, for the embassy belonged to a Power which, if formidably decayed, still knew that it was civilized. Flowers had been used, but sparingly, and all of them were good. There weren’t many servants but those there were were native to the house. There was even a smell of cooking, faint but reassuring. When an embassy cooked its own cocktail-eats the party would be exceptional.
Francis de Fleury met him at the head of the splendid staircase. ‘I’m delighted you could come,’ he said. ‘The ambassador’s been called away, so I’m sorry you won’t meet him.’ He led the way to a magnificent sideboard, casual but superbly stocked, taking a bottle by the neck. ‘Champagne? I remember you like it.’
Rex said deliberately: ‘I have to watch champagne.’
‘Really? But this one won’t damage you.’ De Fleury passed the wineglass, beckoning to a youngish couple. They crossed the room quickly and de Fleury introduced them. ‘Well, I must go to work again. Of course we’ll be meeting later.’
He drifted away.
Rex chatted easily but he wasn’t quite at ease. … ‘Champagne? I remember you like it,’ and ‘This one won’t damage you.’ It might have meant nothing or it might have been considered. Rex sipped the wine slowly.
It was already late and the room was emptying. Presently de Fleury came back again. ‘I think we could excuse ourselves, I think we could go on. You know where I live.’
‘I’m afraid I don’t.’
It was true. De Fleury’s letter had been written on official paper.
De Fleury told him politely. ‘Would you like me to write it down?’
…The damned man’s pretty sure of himself. He’s trying to get me down, one up himself; he’s trying to soften me.
Rex went to his car and drove to Chelsea. De Fleury’s flat was just off Cheyne Walk, and Rex at last found parking space in Flood Street. He locked the car and walked back quickly. He was excited but not afraid.
The flat was in an Edwardian block, old-fashioned but not uncomfortable. De Fleury let Rex in himself, direct into a corridor. On the right were the principal rooms — dining-room first, then living-room, then the main bedroom. To the left were the other bedrooms and, in the arm of an L at the end of the corridor, bathroom and kitchen. Francis de Fleury led the way into the dining-room.
The cold table was of a simple excellence but Rex was surprised at the company. To begin with it was a much smaller gathering than he had imagined, for there were only three couples present. One he had met at the embassy, the man a colleague of de Fleury’s though his junior. The other two hadn’t been there — Rex was sure of it. The two women were quietly dressed, but they had an air of cold competence which, twenty years before, Rex felt he could have placed precisely. Today he wasn’t so sure. Nor were their men what he would have expected in a military attaché’s flat. Their linen was clean and they were polite with a faintly ironical detachment, but clearly they weren’t social in any sense at all. They had muscular figures and they, moved with an athlete’s balance. Rex was reminded of films which he had seen pre-war, films about Chicago and a gangster’s bodyguard. But these men were quiet, contemporary. It was certain they weren’t gorillas but they might have been a retinue. They weren’t there for nothing.
They ate their supper talking of nothing in particular. There was more champagne but Rex declined. He noticed that de Fleury didn’t press him. Nobody was paying him special attention but he was conscious that he was central. The others had been told about him, knew.
Knew what? He’d soon find out
Presently de Fleury looked at his watch. ‘It’s half past ten and there’s an hour to kill. I’ll run you some films.’ He turned to Rex Hadley. ‘This,’ he said deliberately, ‘this you’ll find interesting.’
They went into the living-room. There were already a screen and projector readied. They sat down in two rows and de Fleury turned the lights out. He showed them snow scenes — Sestriere and much else. It was very good photography. They watched for perhaps a quarter of an hour, then de Fleury broke the silence.
‘Rather good, don’t you think?’
The man beside Rex said promptly: ‘It’s a pity there’s no sound.’
The three women rose instantly and the man from the embassy. The words had been a cue.
‘We must be going now.’
Rex rose in turn. ‘I think I must be going too. I’ve a long drive home.’
The man at his side had risen too. ‘Not yet,’ he said. His hand on Rex’s shoulder was polite but firm.
Rex Hadley sat down again.
De Fleury showed the others out, came back into the living-room. ‘Somebody was saying it was a pity we had no sound?’
‘Yes, I said that.’
‘But we have. I made a tape at Sestriere, a very good one too.’ Rex heard a tape recorder start, a preliminary blurr of voices.
The front door bell rang suddenly.
De Fleury switched the recorder off, walking away swearing. When he returned it was with Mary Francom. She seemed to be tight and de Fleury was saying icily: ‘But it’s Thursday, I assure you.’
‘Thursday or Friday, all the same to Mary.’
‘Not the same to me.’
Mary looked round the room. ‘Of course if you’ve got grand friends….’
‘I wouldn’t call them that. Mr Hadley, perhaps. You know Mr Hadley — you met at Sestriere.’
‘Hiya,’ she said.
Rex bowed uncertainly. He couldn’t make it out.
‘Now give a girl a drink.’
‘I really think —’
‘Give a girl a nightcap.’
De Fleury shrugged, going back to the dining-room, returning with a wineglass. ‘Drink that and beat it.’
‘Pretty manners tonight.’
‘I told you it was Thursday.’
‘Oh, all right. I can take a polished hint.’ Mary finished the wine. ‘Good night,’ she said. She turned unsteadily and de Fleury went with her. At the front door there was an exchange of unpleasantries in a language Rex didn’t know.
He heard the door shut crisply.
On the landing Mary waited. When she could hear that a tape recorder had started again she took her shoes off and, from her bag, her key. She let herself into the flat again, moving noiselessly down the corridor, carrying her shoes. The living-room was open still but nobody was facing it. She slipped past it silently, going on to the bedroom next door. She was perfectly sober but she put herself to bed. She knew where her things were.
She left the door open, settling to listen intently.
The blurr of voices from the tape machine began again, cleared suddenly to recognizable speech. There was de Fleury’s but there was also Rex’s.
It was a good deal worse than he had feared. He knew that tape recordings could be forged, but this one hadn’t been fabricated, only edited with wicked skill. He heard himself say Project A, a bitter confirmation, and Maldington was mentioned too, not by himself but by de Fleury. Not that it mattered. The interpolation had been cunningly done, the clear impression was that de Fleury had asked questions about Maldington and that Rex had answered them. There were cunning repetitions, sentences out of context, a good deal of laughter much louder than Rex’s normal laugh. The tape ran three minutes but it was wholly damning. It was the tape of a drunken braggart talking inexcusably.
De Fleury ran it twice, his eyes never leaving Rex’s. Then he said coldly: ‘I think you’ll understand.’
Rex didn’t answer. There was nothing to say.
‘But we’d better have it clear — unmistakably clear. I want everything you do at Maldington — but everything. How you’re progressing and what you’ve found. And how you plan to exploit your breaks.’
Rex Hadley had risen. ‘You do?’
De Fleury pointed at the tape machine. ‘You know what that could do to you. In your sort of job things don’t depend on proof, on persuading some court that evidence is genuine. The slightest suspicion would be enough. The slightest sus picion and —’
‘I dare say you’re right.’
‘I know I’m right.’ De Fleury walked to the door, holding it in dismissal. ‘Every week at first, please, and more frequently later. That depends on how it goes. I’ll decide that. You’ll always find me here on Thursday evenings.’ He looked at the other two men, and his confident voice changed smoothly to menace. ‘You’ll always find us here.’
‘All of you?’
‘All that I need. I’ve friends, you see, and you’d do well to remember it. Just in case it crossed your mind that I was bluffing. So I’ve friends and you haven’t. If it came to any unpleasantness you can’t get help. You don’t dare tell a soul a thing. You’re quite alone. Good night.’
Rex walked to his car in Flood Street, driving back to Maldington. De Fleury had been impressively sure of himself; he’d gone to the limit at once. The limit of demand but not of action. This was only the start.
Half an hour later de Fleury went to bed. He had allowed himself a final drink, considering he had earned it. He walked into his bedroom and stopped in his tracks. Then he went to the bed and shook Mary Francom roughly.
‘What are you doing here?’
She looked at him through sleep-dimmed eyes. She’d been rubbing them for some time.
‘I was asleep.’
He swore at her, went back into the living-room. She heard the tape recorder start, then de Fleury returned to the bedside. The voices were very clear. For an instant he listened, then strode away quickly. The recorder stopped and he was back again.
‘You left the door open?’
‘I don’t sleep in public. You’ve just opened it yourself.’
He muttered and stalked away again, starting the machine once more, and when he returned he shut the door behind him. Now the voices were audible but not the words.
‘Francis, what are you playing at?’
He looked at her in fury. ‘You’re sure you were asleep?’
‘Of course I was. I was tight as a tick and I couldn’t find a taxi. I had to sleep it off.’
‘I’ve never seen you tight before.’
‘You’ve never seen me desperate. Sometimes it all comes back at me and then I drink.’
He looked at her again. She was warm with sleep, warm and a woman and she still seemed a little drunk.
Under the sheet she moved deliberately. It was suddenly tight around her. ‘Francis….’
He began to undress.
She’d never been more charming, for Miss Francom owned a private pride. When she must do a thing at least she would do it well.
RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION: “Radium Age” is HILOBROW’s name for the 1904–33 era, which saw the discovery of radioactivity, the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. This era also saw the publication of genre-shattering writing by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Karel Čapek, H.P. Lovecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Philip Gordon Wylie, and other pioneers of post-Verne/Wells, pre-Golden Age “science fiction.” More info here.
READ GORGEOUS PAPERBACKS: HiLoBooks has reissued the following 10 obscure but amazing Radium Age science fiction novels in beautiful print editions: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, J.D. Beresford’s Goslings, E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man, Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage, and Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.
SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable |
Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpoole’s The Man Who Lost Himself | P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith | Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” | Houdini and Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” | Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sussex Vampire”.
ORIGINAL FICTION: HILOBROW has serialized three novels: James Parker’s The Ballad of Cocky The Fox (“a proof-of-concept that serialization can work on the Internet” — The Atlantic); Karinne Keithley Syers’s Linda Linda Linda (which includes original music); and Robert Waldron’s roman à clef The School on the Fens. We also publish original stories and comics. These include: Matthew Battles’s stories “Gita Nova“, “Makes the Man,” “Imago,” “Camera Lucida,” “A Simple Message”, “Children of the Volcano”, “The Gnomon”, “Billable Memories”, “For Provisional Description of Superficial Features”, “The Dogs in the Trees”, “The Sovereignties of Invention”, and “Survivor: The Island of Dr. Moreau”; several of these later appeared in the collection The Sovereignties of Invention | Peggy Nelson’s “Mood Indigo“, “Top Kill Fail“, and “Mercerism” | Annalee Newitz’s “The Great Oxygen Race” | Flourish Klink’s Star Trek fanfic “Conference Comms” | Charlie Mitchell’s “A Fantasy Land” | Charlie Mitchell’s “Sentinels” | Joshua Glenn’s “The Lawless One”, and the mashup story “Zarathustra vs. Swamp Thing” | Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri’s Idoru Jones comics | John Holbo’s “Sugarplum Squeampunk” | “Another Corporate Death” (1) and “Another Corporate Death” (2) by Mike Fleisch | Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Frank Fiorentino’s graphic novel “The Song of Otto” (excerpt) | John Holbo’s graphic novel On Beyond Zarathustra (excerpt) | “Manoj” and “Josh” by Vijay Balakrishnan | “Verge” by Chris Rossi, and his audio novel Low Priority Hero | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD (1.408-415) by Flourish Klink | EPIC WINS: THE KALEVALA (3.1-278) by James Parker | EPIC WINS: THE ARGONAUTICA (2.815-834) by Joshua Glenn | EPIC WINS: THE MYTH OF THE ELK by Matthew Battles | TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN CONTEST: Charles Pappas, “The Law” | CATASTROPHE CONTEST: Timothy Raymond, “Hem and the Flood” | TELEPATHY CONTEST: Rachel Ellis Adams, “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | OIL SPILL CONTEST: A.E. Smith, “Sound Thinking | LITTLE NEMO CAPTION CONTEST: Joe Lyons, “Necronomicon” | SPOOKY-KOOKY CONTEST: Tucker Cummings, “Well Marbled” | INVENT-A-HERO CONTEST: TG Gibbon, “The Firefly” | FANFICTION CONTEST: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”