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Dinner Party of the Little Death: A Gossamer Ghost Peril

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BettyDreadful
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Hey, folks! Here with my latest story of Margo Fox, the Gossamer Ghost! Hope folks enjoy this one- as always, any and all comments, criticism & concerns are welcome!




DINNER PARTY OF THE LITTLE DEATH:
A Gossamer Ghost Peril
By Betty Dreadful



It was late in the evening, usually around the time that Margo Fox was getting off of work and getting away from her overbearing brute of a boss, Elana Lange. Tonight, however, Margo was driving the company car up the long driveway of the Holme House, on a lonely hill within the city, with her brute of a boss in tow. As an intern for CitiChannel News, Margo’s job roles were fairly well-defined: assisting in compiling and presenting information to the news editors and anchors, fact checking, copy editing, and, yes, some light errands. Generally, not chauffeur service. Unfortunately, no one cleared this with Ms. Lange.

“It would be nice,” Lange said loudly, while staring out the window, “if we were able to make it to the dinner, tonight …”

“W-we’re heading up the driveway now, Miss Lange,” Margo said, white-knuckling the steering wheel. The young woman hated driving, even when she didn’t have her overbearing boss breathing down her neck.

“Free lesson, Margo,” Lange said, “the best time to get the story is before your subject actually starts talking. ‘The event’ is never what’s advertised on the press release. One of these days, some of my knowledge is going to make its way through that thick black mop on your head, God as my witness …”

Struggling to bite back a reply, Margo quietly drove her boss up toward the front gate. Tonight was a special engagement, the opening of the Holme House to the public for the first time in over twenty years. The Holme family was one a staple of the society pages, philanthropists and captains of industry for generations. All of which changed when they suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, went quiet.

The car went through the uphill drive, framed by old pine trees thick enough to make one forget that the Holme House was located toward the center of the city. Margo tried hard not to let on how impressed she was, as the house itself came into view. A mansion that bordered on being a castle, the Holme House was four stories tall, with a gray stone exterior. Stately stained glass windows decorated the exterior, wide windows letting a swath of light spill out over the circular drive. Slowly, Margo pulled in and parked the car among the other guests.

“Not terrible,” Lange said, “if one is into looking old …”

Margo choked back any comment, instead simply parking and taking a deep breath. World-weary reporter Elana Lange might not have been terribly impressed, but Margo could hardly hold back her excitement at stepping into such a major part of local history. Her eyes traveled up one side of the building to another, taking in every detail.

Stepping out of the car, Margo took a moment to adjust her dress, a slinky black number low-cut to give a generous view of her cleavage, with a slit up the side that gave a peek at her smooth legs, all the way up to her hip. Margo carried a white leather bag that complimented her long opera gloves and the pearl necklace she picked out especially for this evening. For once, Margo thought, perhaps she could dress to impress as herself. The kind of bold fashion choice the young woman usually left to her alter ego …

Margo’s jaw dropped slightly, however, when she saw Elana Lange step out of the back seat. Margo hadn’t gotten a good look at her boss when Lange had gotten into the car, but the local news anchor had dressed to the nines, tonight. Lange wore a rich red dress, made of a shimmering material, sheer in panels across her chest and hips to reveal just enough of her body to be enticing. The daring red number was cut to expose her back and shoulders, fastened with a strap that ran around her slender neck with some gold bands. Poised, graceful, Lange looked more like a runway model than a reporter, tonight. In an instant, Margo’s ample chest deflated as her confidence evaporated.

“Stand up straight, Margo,” Lange said, “you get one chance to make a good first impression, and you might still have a chance with someone, I’m sure.” Margo was silent for the rest of the walk to the front door.

There, the oak double doors creaked open slowly. Margo would have laughed, if she weren’t so damned intimidated, at the sight of the doorman: he was like something out of a horror movie, or out of one of the Gossamer Ghost’s recent cases. A lumbering man, with sunken eyes and black hair matted over his forehead.

“Thank you, Lurch,” Elana said, brushing him off.

The party was already well attended, guests mingling with one another. To Margo’s great relief, Elana instantly found someone high enough on the social ladder for her to latch onto, and was gone in seconds. Which left Margo to reach for a champagne glass from a nearby table, to calm her nerves. Margo couldn’t help but find it strange, how things like this still managed to stress her out. Especially considering her usual nocturnal activities. Parties and networking were ridiculously difficult as Margo Fox; stripping down to the skimpy lingerie and dramatic mask of the Gossamer Ghost and saving the day, however, felt amazing. Go figure.

Margo snapped out of it when she saw a familiar face: across the lobby, smiling graciously as she excused herself from a conversation, was a young woman who was recently getting a good deal of attention: Tandy Rue, so-called “prodigy detective” who had been capturing many a recent headline! Despite being a freshman in college, Rue had managed to find herself in the right place at the right time to impress many with her ability to stumble into- and then out of- criminal case after criminal case.

“P-pardon me,” Margo said, waving her hand toward Rue, “Ms. Rue? Ms. Rue, do you have a moment?”

“Oh, hello!” Tandy said, turning. Her pert blonde locks bounced around her neck, as she turned to face Margo. “Pleased to meet you, miss …?”

“Margo Fox, CitiChannel News,” Margo said, offering her hand. Tandy took it.

“Oh, yes! You folks ran a wonderful piece on me, after I solved the mystery of the Felonious Fragrance! Thank you ever so much, for that! My mum was delighted to see it.”

“Well, thank you,” Margo smiled. “So impressed with your work! It’s interesting to see a young woman make such a dent in our local crime scene. Well, that is, a second young woman …” Margo couldn’t help but grin, as she made reference to her own career as the Gossamer Ghost. Chest swelling with pride, Margo found focusing on her second life this way helped to calm her jangled nerves.

“Oh, haha, yes,” Tandy said, with a shrug, “well, I suppose it is nice, that I’m not the only one trying to make a difference. And it must be nice for folks to know that someone is taking care of these things while managing to keep her clothes on!”

“Ha. Ha ha.” Margo gave a forced laugh. “Yes, well,” Margo didn’t know what to say, at that point, as any future prospects of a Gossamer Ghost/Tandy Rue collaboration went up in immediate smoke.

“I mean, really,” Tandy laughed, “with all the creeps and ghouls wandering around this city, how humiliating must it be that this ‘Gossamer Ghost’ is most likely to just up and die of exposure!”

“Ha. Stop. You’re too much.”

Fortunately, the ringing of a bell sounded through the room and gave Tandy Rue cause to stop. The party guests turned their attentions upward, toward the head of the staircase. There stood a man in a well-pressed black tuxedo, clutching a fork in one hand and a wine glass in the other. Immediately, he was recognized as Alexander St. Ange-Holme, patriarch of tonight’s hosting family, despite his years away from the public eye. St. Ange-Holme looked down at the assembled guests without emotion.

“Thank you all,” he said, “for coming to the re-introduction of the Holme House. It’s been far too long since this old place has seen guests like this. And such a distinguished group …” the man’s eyes scanned the party. Margo looked up at him, wondering what could be going through his mind, with such an impassive stare.

“A group that was hand-selected for tonight. Key figureheads, vital to both the welfare of this city, and to the continued legacy of the St. Ange-Holmes, such as it is …”

“He doesn’t mean you, you’re my plus one,” Elana whispered over Margo’s shoulder. Margo froze, unsure of where Elana had even been, a second ago.

“But that is why we’re here, I suppose,” St. Ange-Holme continued, “to address that legacy. What the future holds for it. What the future holds for us all. I suppose I’m rambling. Old men will do, after all. Old men, near the end …

“So please, resume your drinking, your mingling. I assure you,” St. Ange-Holme sipped from his drink, “all will become quite clear, in time.” A confused murmur went through the assembled guests. St. Ange-Holme cleared his throat, placed his glass down on the banister, and without further incident, dropped flat on his face, dead.

A collective gasp ran through the crowd, a few voices raising into a shocked scream. Immediately, a few guests tried to rush the door.

“It’s locked!” called out a voice, an older man pushing against the door. Others joined him, and still the heavy thing wouldn’t budge.

“Did-did he just die?” Margo gasped.

“It would seem that way,” Tandy Rue replied, “unless it was- murder!” Margo’s eyes narrowed in irritation.

Meanwhile, other guests began to test the windows, as well as the doors leading to the back garden. None of them would budge, all proving resilient to attempts to break through or crack them open. For now, it seemed the party was a captive audience. Margo scanned the party goers in attendance; no sign of the lanky doorman. Margo held her leather satchel tight.

“Everyone, circle up,” called out a voice. Margo looked to see Police Commissioner Cage, taking center stage in the crowd. Cage had been a stalwart enemy of the Gossamer Ghost in the past- to the point of having an unseemly fixation on the buxom young vigilante- but Margo couldn’t help but feel he was a natural leader. If there was anyone that these snooty, society-page stuffed shirts were going to listen to, it certainly wasn’t Margo Fox!

“All of you keep close,” Cage said, “until we’ve got this thing figured out. I need somebody to go check on Alexander, up there …” The assembled party exchanged nervous looks, until one young man stepped up. Slowly, he walked up the stairs. Leaning down, he placed two fingers on St.Ange-Holme’s neck, confirming the grim truth that the man was dead. Standing, the young man went to signal to the others, but stopped in his tracks … before tumbling end over end, down the spiral staircase to the floor below!

Horrified screams echoed through the hallway, as many panicked. Margo took one look at the young man, and saw the dart protruding from his neck. Around her, no one was paying any mind to Cage’s attempts to control the chaos- the room erupted, with nearly everyone scrambling to get away! Various party goers ducked into assorted rooms and down dark hallways, the exit doors and windows still seemingly impassible.

The chaos was foolish, but Margo couldn’t help but feel somewhat grateful. Pulling her bag close, this gave her the perfect opportunity to get the privacy she needed to change into the Gossamer Ghost!

Or at least it would have, if a vice-like grip didn’t immediately clamp down on Margo’s slender arm. Margo spun around in shock, only to see Elana Lange gripping her tightly.

“I’m not letting you panic and die in here, just to leave me to drive myself home, dear,” Elana said. There was actually something of a smile on her face, as if Elana Lange were actually making a joke. “Stay close to me, if you want to get out of this alive!” Margo’s face reddened; she was confident she could handle whatever this was, but there was no way she could do it without changing!

No further darts came down, but the damage was already done. The party in a full panic, people disappearing down whatever doors they could open, whatever hallways they could find. Elana Lange’s fingers tightened around Margo’s arm until she could almost feel a bruise forming!

The two newswomen took the nearest open corridor. The panic of the guests had left the mansion in chaos, no one having a moment to think. St. Agne-Holme dropping dead was one thing, but the poison dart? Margo wished she’d had a chance to inspect it, but there was no way to escape Lange. Turning a corner, the two ducked into a quiet room.

“This should give me a chance to think,” Lange said, shaking her head.

“R-right,” Margo stammered, unable to believe that she was saddled with her least favorite person in the world at a time like this. Margo was so distracted, in fact, that she didn’t even see the body on the floor, until she tripped right over it! “Whoop!”

Margo fell sprawled out to the floor, legs spread wide, managing to rip the slit in her dress even further up her thigh! Looking back, Margo’s eyes widened in horror as she saw the body of one of the party guests, her face a grim mask of death!

“Oh, God!” Margo cried out. She looked around the room: there was no obvious signs of a struggle, no other person in the room. A quick- and squeamish- look at the body revealed that there was no dart in the woman’s neck. Whatever had killed her was some new, undiscovered horror.

“Get up, Margo,” Lange hissed. “For pity’s sake, you’re embarrassing the both of us!” Margo could see fear in Lange’s eyes, which only seemed to fuel her usual anger. “Leave this poor woman be, there’s obviously nothing here that can help us!” In a flash, Lange turned on one of her imposingly high heels, and stormed out of the room.

“W-wait,” Margo muttered, failing to get herself upright. There was something strange going on, as Margo’s limbs began to feel heavy. Her eyelids fluttered, and Margo found herself suppressing a yawn. Her body felt sluggish and tired, suddenly. Without the distraction of Lange, Margo began to listen, and heard a faint sound like the rushing of air. Glancing around the darkened room, Margo spied a small spigot, tucked away among otherwise innocuous wall reliefs. She sniffed the air- gas!

“Oh,” Margo said, trying harder to push herself up, “oh, no …” It didn’t take a keen deductive mind to suss out the trick, here. The room was filling with poison gas! The poor victim laid out next to Margo was the first victim, and now it seemed the heroine would be the next to meet that grim fate! “M-miss Lange …” Margo tried to call out, but her voice was faint, her words drowned out in a yawn. Clutching her bag, Margo pushed herself up to her feet, took a step, then fell to the ground. Motionless, the poor girl felt her consciousness fading away. She felt too dazed for fear, even, her final thoughts as she drifted off to slumber being that this would be her end, the Gossamer Ghost meeting her demise without even a chance to put up a fight!

Body limp, mind completely drifted off to slumber, Margo was unaware of the small footfalls that stepped up to her limp body. The same feet that gave Margo’s round ass a tentative poke, an unconscious jiggle being her only response. She was similarly unaware of the larger feet that would come down next, before rough hands picked up her helpless body, cradling her in powerful arms, and carrying her off into the dark …

+++++

Margo awoke with a pounding headache, as she moaned and groaned in dawning consciousness. Slowly, it dawned on the poor girl that she’d survived the gas, somehow. Perhaps because the door was open, as it hadn’t been for the poor victim on the floor?

Margo tried to move, but found her wrists restrained! Taking a moment to gather herself, Margo felt handcuffs against her slender wrists. Bound against a thick lead pipe, Margo could see that she was in the basement of the mansion, surrounded by dust and crates. Hands bound above her head, Margo writhed and struggled to pull herself free. Desperate, she nearly shook herself out of her dress, but had no success in getting herself free!

“Damn,” Margo sighed. She tried to focus on the positive: at least she was still alive!

“I wouldn’t do too much of that, now” a voice said, from out of the dark. “That pipeline is a main avenue for my signature gas. You were lucky to survive it once, but don’t count on it happening again …” Margo gasped as a small man, no taller than three and a half feet and dressed in a sharply tailored tuxedo, stepped out of the shadows. His features were handsome, though set with a grim determination, and his hair and goatee well-trimmed. “I’ve been wondering who you are …”

“That makes two of us, then,” Margo said, trying to hide her mounting fear behind a tough face.

“Hm, well,” the little man said, “the difference being of course that this is my house. My party. My rules, and my guest list. I have very specific reasons for having everyone here, tonight. Everyone except you. So, young lady, tell me how you got here!”

“I … my name is Margo Fox,” Margo said, “I-I’m with CitiChannel News, a-as a guest of-”

“Ah,” he interrupted Margo’s nervous rambling, “you’re here with Elana Lange, then. Of course that woman assumes she can bring a plus one.” Margo was writhing in agony, at the moment. Bereft of costume, trapped against this gas line, she was powerless against her captor. She only hoped that he hadn’t yet investigated her satchel bag …

“You know, I’ve yet to catch up with Ms. Lange. Not that it matters. My house, my rules … the best part is, I can do my work at my leisure. And I am enjoying the cat and mouse, going on …”

“Wh-who are you?” Margo demanded, again, “Why are you doing this?”

“Me? I’m the bastard son of the St. Agne-Holme family. Chemist, by trade. Trained in France, an intellectual prodigy that the old man simply couldn’t allow to be seen in public. Not until tonight, that is. So glad he could at least be there for the start of things.

“You- did you kill him?”

“He knew the end was coming. Overdue, really, with all he’d done. He knew there was no stopping his last, bastard son. Not any more. Not when I’d grown so ambitious, and so bitter. Better for him to die on those steps, one final drink in hand, than to bear what was coming next.”

“What are you talking about?”

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” the little man continued, “my specialty was in perfume. Scents. It was your own news channel that ruined that for me. That little twit, the girl detective, found out that my compounds carried an unproven ingredient, a toxin. The expose, the ‘Case of the Felonious Fragrance,’ ruined me, before I could even get to market. Before I could prove my talent. Between that and the indignities my family suffered at the hands of those blue bloods upstairs, this was really the only way this could have ended.”

“Then- then you’re-”

“No names, dear, I’m done with St. Ange-Holme, now. That line is dead. The fortune has dwindled and is gone. Now, I call myself something new. I debut, tonight, as Le Petite Mort. A name the city will never forget. But now, the question …”

“W-what?” Margo asked, entire body tensing as she recoiled from Petite Mort.

“Of what to do with you, my dear. So pretty … seems a shame to simply let you rot with the rest of those impending carcasses, upstairs. This place wouldn’t have to be your tomb …”

Clearly, Margo realized, the creep hadn’t been through her bags, yet. If he’d found what she had stashed there, it wouldn’t be a question of what to do with her- The Gossamer Ghost would be dead already!

“Come closer,” Margo said, biting her lip. She tried to look at him with a come-hither stare. A bluff she’d attempted and succeeded in numerous times as the Ghost, but found herself struggling with as Margo Fox.

“Hm,” Petite Mort said, “I think not, girl. Clumsy attempt at seduction, really, a shame. Oh well, c’est la vie. I suppose I step out onto that world stage alone, then …” Without another word, the small man reached out and turned a knob on the wall. The familiar rush of gas sounded out in the basement. Saluting her, Petite Mort started up the stairs, leaving Margo to perish in the dank dungeon!

As death traps went, it wasn’t the most clever Margo had ever seen, but it was deadly in its simplicity. Still handcuffed to the pipe, Margo simply had to wait until the gas filled this enclosed space, and that would be the end of her!

Margo quickly formed a plan, but it was a gamble. Looking down, she could see space between the pipe and the cement flooring. Perhaps even enough to get some movement. Margo stretched her body long and lean, arching her spine until she couldn’t help but moan, a little, trying to reach for the spigot with her foot. Margo kicked off her high-heeled shoe, and extended her toes. If she could only reach!

The noxious odor of the gas was already seeping into Margo’s nostrils. Her eyes watered, as her desperation began to mount. Fortunately, it appeared Petite Mort had underestimated the young woman. Balancing on one foot, extending her body as far as it would allow her, Margo wrapped one toe of her struggling foot around the spigot, and twisted it shut!

Margo’s chest heaved against her low-cut dress, as she breathed a sigh of relief. She still had to get free, but the most immediate threat had passed. The young adventurer bit her lip, preparing herself for what would come next.

Choking back a loud whimper, Margo twisted her wrist, managing to slip it out of place just long enough to escape the handcuffs! Gasping, Margo popped the joint back in, free from the manacle. Hot tears ran down her cheeks, but Margo knew she couldn’t slow down now.

Looking around the basement, Margo saw her bag slumped against some crates. On wobbly feet, Margo walked there. Unfastening the straps, Margo let her black dress tumble to the floor, revealing her bare, hourglass figure. Unzipping the satchel, Margo pulled out the lace fabric of the Gossamer Ghost’s costume, as well as her signature gray cape. Margo smiled- perhaps it was time for her to invite her own unexpected “plus one” to the event!

+++++

The chaos of the house was dying down, but only as more of the guests did the same. Rooms had become tombs, as Petite Mort's perceived enemies fell to the his makeshift gas chambers.

The cruel dwarf visited each of them in turn, admiring his handiwork. If anyone survived to report these events, Petite Mort could only imagine the horror of the society page writers come morning.

“Shame I had to kill that pretty little thing in the basement,” Mort mused to himself, “she looked as though she’d have been able to put a voice to the horrors, here tonight … I suppose one cannot have everything one wants ...”

“Stop right there!” A female voice shouted, from down the hall. Petite Mort turned to see a young woman standing at the end of the hallway. Hands on her hips, feet spread wide for a strong stance. Still, Tandy Rue did not exactly cut an imposing figure.

“Hm,” Mort said, with a nod, “I suppose I could take a moment out. For you at least, Ms. Rue. So tell me, what have you been up to since that Felonious Fragrance case? Keeping yourself busy?” As he spoke, the man’s tiny hands were hard at work in his coat. He didn’t take his eyes off Tandy for a moment.

“All of these people, dead! Gassed, by the active toxin I found in that Felonious Fragrance substance, all that time ago! You- you’re the murderer!”

“I-I … Yes …” Petite Mort nodded, unsure of how that had been in question, “Well … deduced? So, my girl, with a keen mind like that, what do you have planned next? Now that you’ve gone and cornered your murderer, and all that …”

“Oh! Well, now you’ll turn yourself in, I would imagine. You’re found out, no sense running from your crimes!”

Petite Mort shook his head. “Adorable,” he said, pulling a long dart from within his jacket. “Well, my girl, I don’t think I’ll do much running, from here. And you won’t either, though you’re welcome to try. Though I must say, it’s amazing that you actually played such a crucial part in my fall from grace. Even more amazing that you thought you’d somehow stop my decent into … well, whatever it is when you start calling yourself Petite Mort and murdering your way through the society pages.”

Tandy’s chest swelled as she gasped, the gleam of the long dart catching her eye. The same sort of dart that had killed Mr. Sante-Holme earlier that evening!

“Go ahead, little girl,” Mort said, “go ahead and run. You’ve interfered in my plans for the final time, and the sheer idiocy of thinking you could stop me is going to cost you dearly! Now you can simply lie back and wait to die, your last thoughts on your absolute failure to stop me!” Frozen in place, Tandy proved an easy target for the poison dart- sailing through the air, sinking into the tender flesh of her shoulder, and sending the poor thing tumbling to the ground!

Tandy had a look of wide-eyed bewilderment on her face, as her fingers began to tap around her neck, where the dart had pierced her. The young woman’s wide eyes fluttered shut, her mouth hung slightly agape in confusion.

“N-no way … I …” Tandy fingered at the dart, before stumbling backward, and falling limply to the ground.

“Ha,” chuckled the wicked little man, “there you go! Hard to believe a little idiot like you was ever a thorn in my side … Fitting you fall at the start of my new life! All of your good press, all of the attention you got made you cocky … just to end with you dying slowly, at my feet!”

“That’s not how it’s ending, you bastard!” Called out another voice. At the edge of the hallway emerged the Gossamer Ghost, in all of her costumed glory. Margo Fox’s ample figure was hugged by the white lace costume, which bound her body tightly while still revealing her breathtaking curves. Margo’s cloak swept around behind her back, adding an impressive flourish to her emergence from the shadows!

“Well, so many unexpected guests, tonight!” Petite Mort said, with an edge to his voice, “And such a famous one! The Gossamer Ghost, yes? Perhaps the only ‘crime fighter’ in this entire city that’s less effective than the lump of failure at my feet!”

“I’m giving you one chance,” the Ghost said, reaching into her cloak, “step away from her, you little creep!”

“Oh, is that how it is? ‘Little’ creep?”

“Th-that’s not what I-” Margo looked shocked, stepping back defensively.

“Ha!” Petite Mort laughed, lunging toward the wall- the diminutive murderer making a break for it while the Ghost was thrown off guard.

“Dammit!” Margo snapped, flustered with how easily Mort had managed to throw her off-guard. Drawing one of her throwing discs from her cloak, Margo gave chase. Petite Mort was surprisingly nimble, forcing Margo to run full-tilt just to keep up! Each bounding step threatened to leave Margo spilling out of her costume, but she couldn’t let this madman get away!

Unfortunately, Margo’s haste would end up costing her dearly. As she rounded the next corner, eyes darting side to side, she finally spied Petite Mort all too late. Margo wasn’t prepared as a quick burst of Mort's debilitating gas was fired out from a wall vent. The small cloud burst straight into Margo’s face, seeping up into her mouth and nose before she even knew what hit her!

“Oh!” Margo cried out, “D-damn! Oohh …” Margo was struggling. Her eyes were beginning to water. Margo could hardly believe she’d been so stupid! Lured straight into a trap, falling prey to almost the exact same trick that had knocked her out before. And this time, Margo wouldn’t have the fortune of Petite Mort not knowing who she was, or why he shouldn’t let her live.

“Wh-where are you, you bastard?” Margo said, her voice a low whimper. Margo could feel her limbs getting heavy, her eyelids beginning to drop. Through straining and watering eyes, Margo found herself unable to see where Mort was hiding. What she did find, however, was something far worse- approaching her from the shadows was Elana Lange, CitiChannel News Reporter and avowed enemy of the Gossamer Ghost!

“No, not now …” Margo whined.

“You,” Elana shouted, “you did this! Unbelievable!” Lange was moving in hard and fast, making Margo recoil. If the Gossamer Ghost succumbed to this gas now, it would leave her helpless before Elana Lange. Margo could already imagine Lange peeling the mask off her sleeping face, exposing her identity to the entire world! Ending Margo’s crimefighting career, her entire life as she knew it, in absolute humiliation!

“Th-the killer … he’s still … near …” Margo fought to force the words out of her throat. Her head felt lighter and lighter with every word, making it hard to move or even think. Elana lunged for her, managing to catch a fistful of the young vigilante’s hair beneath her hood. “Oooww!” Margo whined, as her scalp was pulled and yanked at!

“I knew from the first night you started tramping around this city that you were up to no good! Now strutting around all night isn’t enough for you, is it? This how you get your thrills now, Ghost?” Margo tried to pull back, but Lange had her fast. Margo’s hood came spilling down over her shoulders, but at least her mask remained fastened. Margo’s eyes were wide open in a panic. Gassed, nearly unconscious, she was just second away from having her identity exposed by the person in the city most eager and able to ruin her life with it!

Margo squealed as Lange yanked on her hair, leaving Margo no choice but to push Elana over and tumble down on top of her. Margo rolled and twisted to get out of Elana’s grip, to no avail. Their bodies became intertwined, Margo feeling Elana’s writhing figure beneath her as she tried to buck and roll her away. Desperate, Margo began scratching, even if her gloves kept her from breaking skin. Elana returned the favor, a sharp scratch catching Margo right above one of her heaving breasts and making her cry out. The two women were a flailing mess, scratching and shouting. One of the straps of Elana’s dress snapped, a stretch of Margo’s dangling lace tore and exposed her soft abs. Eventually, dazed, Margo was able to pull herself away from the catfight, leaving her panting on her hands and knees. Elana was struggling to push herself up, chest heaving as she barely contained her seething anger!

Stunned, Margo stumbled back up to her feet and loomed over Elana- until the reporter thrust her legs out with a double kick that sank hard into Margo’s belly!

“Oooofff!” Margo groaned, as the kick sent her sprawling backward.

Sucking wind and groaning in agony, Margo tumbled all the way back to the wall. Gritting her teeth, Margo realized that it was her boss she was having a dazed catfight with. Worse, Margo was losing!

As Margo tumbled back, however, she caught flashes of movement. Petite Mort arrived, joined by “Lurch” from the beginning of the evening. The doorman was easily able to restrain Elana as she struggled up to her feet. The Ghost wasn’t caught, but she was in no shape to fight. Instead, she could only tumble. Barely conscious, Margo felt around the wall, looking for anything that might help. As she saw Petite Mort take aim with another of his deadly darts, Margo’s fingers stumbled on something vital- a small metal door! The Holme House was old enough, Margo ventured that this had to be a laundry shoot! As Petite Mort let the deadly weapon fly, Margo swung the door open wide, catching the dart. Having to think fast, and not having the strength left to think hard, Margo took a desperate move to escape- throwing her dizzying body headfirst down the laundry chute, falling fast into the unknown dark to get away from the murderer that was poised to take her life! Consciousness fading, wind rushing over her bare skin, Margo let herself tumble both figuratively and literally into the abyss.

+++++

“Ooohh …” Margo moaned, as she began to come to. Drowsy, Margo struggled to lift her head. Having taken a tumble through the laundry chute, Margo blinked her wide eyes and realized she’d ended up in an obvious spot- a well stocked laundry hamper! The buxom, aching vigilante let her body sink into the soft linens, the only moment of rest she’d gotten all night.

“Nnnh,” Margo moaned, as she pushed herself out of the bin of sheets. The Gossamer Ghost knew she couldn’t give herself long to rest, here. There were still several of the city’s elite upstairs, and surely Petite Mort wouldn’t waste any more time before fulfilling his sick revenge fantasy!

“Damn,” Margo moaned, pushing herself up onto her knees, “lucky this was here, but that was still a hell of a fall …” Before she could get herself out of the laundry, however, things took yet another turn for the worse, as a white strip of fabric wrapped around her throat!

“Uuuhnn!” Margo gasped, feeling the fabric wrap around her slender throat. Turning, she saw “Lurch” looming over her! The brute pulled the squirming and struggling Margo out of the laundry bin with some effort. Margo kicked and bucked her body, but just couldn’t get him to release his grip!

Mort had sent his servant down here to finish the job. Meaning that Elana Lange and anyone else still living upstairs was alone with the creepy little killer! Margo continued to struggle and squirm, as the sheet tightened around her, cutting off her air. Margo kicked her legs, hoping to flip “Lurch” over. Immediately, she could see that she was failing. He was strong, sure, but Margo was also still struggling to wake up, and had just squirmed her way out of a laundry bin. Things were looking grim, and would look worse for those upstairs if the Gossamer Ghost couldn’t get herself out of this one!

“Hhhnnk, hhh,” Margo grunted, eyes opened wide in fear. Her face was growing pale, for lack of oxygen. Her body trembled as she struggled for air. Slowly, Margo released her grip on Lurch’s neck, letting her hand slip down to a pocket in her cloak, from which she pulled a small package. With the last bit of strength the Gossamer Ghost had left, she swung the pack behind her and connected hard with her captor’s face!

The pack exploded, leaving Lurch reeling. Margo dropped, the grip around her throat finally going slack. It was hard for Margo to resist taking a deep breath, leaving her with a lungful of the smoke packet as well. Margo’s brilliant friend “Mad” Maggie Annis had developed these compress smoke-bombs for the Ghost to cover her daring escapes, but they often proved just as effective when applied directly to whomever Margo was escaping from!

The crime fighter fell to her knees, gasping as color returned to her face. Margo’s chest heaved against her costume, as she struggled to get back up to a knee. She looked over her shoulder, seeing the lumbering manservant choke on the smoke from her compress-bomb. Off-balance, it was simple work for Margo to deliver a hard kick to the gut, take him by the wrist, then flip him clear into one of heavy basement walls!

“Twice, you bastards nearly killed me,” Margo said, “in this stinking rotten basement! Forget scandal, this family’s real problem is they don’t know how to take a girl somewhere nice!” Despite her bravado, Margo’s mind was racing. There were still people upstairs that needed her, she had to assume. Or that Petite Mort wouldn’t rest, until he knew that she was dead.

The Gossamer Ghost had to act fast, and put an end to this. All night, Petite Mort had the advantage, fighting in his own home. Rigged from wall to wall with debilitating traps, to which Margo had already fallen prey far too many times. Margo knew her luck would run out eventually, and then Petite Mort would have the last laugh. Looking around the basement, the wheels were turning in Margo’s head. A plan began to form, one that would be her salvation- or her final, shameful demise!

+++++

Petite Mort had finally placed everything into position for his final act- his “grand guignol,” the climax of the evening. The final surviving guests were those that Mort had specifically chosen to spare his most lethal fragrances- Elana Lange, the reporter who had exposed him. Commissioner Cage, who had made the Felonious Fragrance case a key part of his public image. A few city councilors, who had played parts in his family’s downfall. Even that insipid Tandy Rue had survived, darted earlier with a far less lethal dosage of Petite Mort's venom than others had faced.

All so that they could be brought to the Holme’s House Solarium. An enclosed deck, filled with beautiful, colorful plants from all over the globe, which Petite Mort had groomed for his dark purposes. Each person had been gassed and bound, brought to this room over the course of the evening, while the more expendable had been disposed of. Now, each of them squirmed against their restraints. Evening finery, from tuxedos to shimmering dresses, were distressed and ragged, the hardships put on them by Petite Mort, enough to destroy their high-class dignity.

Elana Lange looked worse for the wear, especially after her catfight with the Gossamer Ghost. Her blonde locks, usually immaculately up-swept, were tumbling around her sweat-marred face. The strings of her dress had long since given up, her dress barely clinging to her body.

“At least I’ll outlive that bitch …” Elana said, glaring at the rest of the room.

“Language,” Tandy scolded her, “we’re going to get out of this, there’s no need for that kind of-”

“What the hell did you just say to me,” Elana said, “you prissy little Pollyanna princess?”

“Quiet, you dumb broads, I’m trying to think!” Said Commissioner Cage, his voice cutting over the din.

“Excuse you!” Both women shot at him, with venomous glares.

“Haha, delightful,” Petite Mort said, taking his place at the center of the room. His captives were arranged in a semicircle, with him at the epicenter. “I must thank you all for tonight being such a joy, I really must! But, just like my aspirations at a normal life, all good things must come to an end. And I believe you’ll truly appreciate the one I’ve concocted for all of you.

“You see, my downfall from polite society came because not a one of you could keep your damned mouths closed. Now, you’ve all seen the effect of my wonderful gases, the very fragrances of death that you have made my focus! Well, I’ve devised something special. This Solarium, you see, is an enclosed environment. The only way to grow some of these plants in this part of the country, you see. Now, there’s enough oxygen in this room to survive, though it’s being slowly replaced by a heavy gas of my own design. You won’t suffocate, though … if you take care. All you have to do … Is keep. Your damned. Mouths. Shut.”

“You’re a madman, Holme!” Commissioner Cage said, putting as much bass into his voice as he could muster.

“Quiet, Mister Cage,” Tandy said, “there’s no need to yell!”

“You dumb fucking bitch,” Elana said, “who told you could talk? Not just here, where it will literally kill us, but ever? Who the hell gave you that permission?”

The bickering continued. Chuckling to himself, Petite Mort pulled up a wrought-iron garden chair, and sat. He pulled a re-breather up to his face, held it to his mouth like a wine sifter, and awaited the inevitable.

The only thing that distracted him from his impending victory was the sound of shuffling feet. Turning, he looked to see the lanky, tuxedo-clad figure of his manservant walking toward him.

“What are you doing?” Mort asked, confused, “You know you were supposed to stay out of here, after disposing of that half-naked harlot! What on earth are you doing here?” Without another word, “Lurch” continued forward.

“You’re throwing off the ratio, you idiot,” Mort said, getting out of his chair, “I expect a good damned explanation for this-” It wasn’t until “Lurch” was right on top of him that Petite Mort realized something was amiss. His servant’s gait was off, his suit wasn’t fitting correctly. His shoulders were far more slender, and his hips were far more full …

“No …”

“Afraid so!” Within her disguise, the Gossamer Ghost was beaming. With a swing of her hips, Margo kicked out hard with her legs, swinging makeshift stilts directly into Petite Mort's face! The small killer went tumbling backward, grunting and groaning with every skip across the tile! The stilt cracked and splintered, leaving Margo stumbling for a second as she shook it off.

Having had a few moments to herself in that dark basement, Margo took what was at hand to fashion her disguise: some thin wood from the crates for stilts, the suit of the large-framed servant and some padding from the laundry chute- all it took to get herself in striking range of Petite Mort before he could spring another of his traps.

“N-no! You were supposed to be dead!” Elana Lange wailed, upon seeing the Ghost. Margo was stripping off her disguise, peeling off layer after layer until the Gossamer Ghost, in all her glory, was all that remained. With Petite Mort lying sprawled out at her feet.

“Oh come on, now,” Margo teased, “you can’t be too miserable! Imagine the expose when you report on the Gossamer Ghost saving your life!”

“Why can’t you keep your darn clothes on?” Tandy said, with a sneer.

“You literally couldn’t stop talking when your life depended on it! Stop talking.”

Petite Mort, meanwhile, was trying to utilize the moment to get some space. At least, until Margo planted her foot on his back, pinning him.

“I don’t suppose,” Mort said, “you could have had the good decency to die, could you?”

“What about her looks decent!” An indignant Tandy Rue interjected.

“What the he-” Margo started, but the momentary distraction gave Petite Mort just enough room to roll, squirming out of her grasp and sending the Ghost tumbling! “Oh!” Margo squealed, coming down hard. Their roles were quickly reversed, with Margo flat on her back and the killer looming over her!

“That’s it,” Petite Mort said, clasping the re-breather over his face, “you can just die with the rest of them, you incompetent twit! The entire time that you’ve been here, you’ve been sucking up the precious air that these idiots were already wasting! You’ll run out soon, the air in your lungs replaced by my insidious handiwork! All you’ve accomplished is to die here, at my feet, alongside the rest of these idiots!” As he spoke, Petite Mort rose to his full height, squaring his shoulders, waiting to see the look of horror on Margo’s face as her grim fate sank in!

Sure enough, Margo’s eyes widened. She gasped, a horrible choking noise coming from her throat. Hand clasped over her neck, Margo clutched at her throat and gasped for air. Her body shook, slightly, trembling, in the throes of suffocation- until she began laughing!

“Wh-what?” Petite Mort said, wide-eyed.

“That insufferable bitch,” Elana Lange said, shoulders falling as she realized she wasn’t actually watching the hated Gossamer Ghost die in front of her.

“Yeah, no,” Margo said, through a deep smirk, “you tried to kill me in that scummy basement of yours twice, tonight. You might as well have just given me the keys to this place. I took your creepy manservant out with more than enough time to shut down the valves, before coming up! There’s a whole lot of poison nothing coming out of those vents, you little creep!”

“N-no, no!” Petite Mort gasped, backing away from the Gossamer Ghost as she rolled back up to her feet. “You can’t do this! It was all finished! You were finished! I’d killed all of you!”

“You’re not killing anyone else, you sick bastard!” Margo said, slowly approaching the mad dwarf. She kept a trained eye on him, as the pair backed toward the large windows of the solarium. In a flash, Petite Mort's hand went into his jacket, pulling out another of the poison darts he’d put to good use, that night. Fortunately, Margo Fox was just that much quicker on the draw- pulling a discus from her cloak, Margo whipped it square at the chest of Petite Mort.

Petite Mort had tried to jump, to get some reach before letting fly with the fatal dart- a tactical misstep that would be his undoing! Margo’s throw hit Petite Mort dead center, knocking the small man backward- straight through the glass window panes!

“Wait!” Margo cried out, lunging forward with her arm extended, missing Petite Mort's fingers by mere inches as he went flying out the window!

“Nnnooo!’ Petite Mort cried out, as he went flailing out into the night sky, and went tumbling down to the rocky wilderness behind the Holme House. Margo had known she had him dead to rights, now, but hadn’t wanted things to end like this!

A quiet fell over the room. Margo sighed. Now, finally, the would-be victims of Petite Mort fell silent. Margo pushed herself up and took a deep breath. The Gossamer Ghost felt more than done with Elana Lange, Tandy Rue and the entire lot of them. People that would have no gratitude for the vivacious young vigilante who had just saved their lives. Without a word, Margo threw herself out the window. She would search for Petite Mort's remains, but when she didn’t find him it was time to secret her way back into the house.

The grim work of the evening was done, but there was still more to come. Margo had to make certain that she was back in her slinky black dress, before Elana Lange and Commissioner Cage had managed to free themselves. Lange “found” Margo as Commissioner Cage put in a call to the proper authorities. Margo feigned ignorance, pretending it was just luck that allowed her to survive all night on the cold floor. Elana Lange could never know her plucky young intern had not only survived the deadly gas, survived fight after fight with the murderous Holme heir, and even endured a cat fight with her, all to end up saving the newswoman’s life!

It was a long night ahead, so Margo tried to ignore the various aches and pains in her body. Police questioning was intensive, but easy enough to bear. Less so, however, were listening to the answers of other. Tandy Rue took credit for uncovering the murderer, as Elana Lange tried to pin the evening’s nightmare on the Gossamer Ghost!

Wrapped up tight in a heavy blanket given to her by a kindly paramedic, Margo flushed bright red and huffed. Listening to these blowhards simultaneously write her off and vilify her, it was difficult for Margo to sort out her own feelings. Looking back at Tandy Rue and Elana Lange’s haunted faces, however, Margo knew the truth. Both women knew they owed their lives to the Gossamer Ghost. For tonight, that would be enough!

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Disciple
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Post 4 months ago

My, oh my, what a yarn! My only complaint is that it might have been more apropos to post it 'round Halloween!

(Extra points on the villain's handle. It might be the most high-class joke I've ever seen in our fine genre...)

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BettyDreadful
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Post 4 months ago

Disciple wrote:
4 months ago
My, oh my, what a yarn! My only complaint is that it might have been more apropos to post it 'round Halloween!

(Extra points on the villain's handle. It might be the most high-class joke I've ever seen in our fine genre...)
Hey, thank you for the feedback! Could have been fun as a Halloween tale, you're right- I'll just have to try and come up with a good one, for when the holiday does roll around ;)

Also, super appreciative that you liked the joke in the name, and thanks for the sweet compliment! Not going to lie, I was kind of a bit too proud of that one!

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Post 2 months ago

Another fun tale well told. I enjoyed Mort's banter throughout the story, and I thought the setting was well used. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's a definite flavour to these stories that clearly marks them out as your own.

I wonder what ghastly villain awaits Margo in her next adventure.
Lost in the night, and there is no morning.

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