THE DEADLY PLAN OF DOCTOR POX!
© 2008 Rick Hutchins
"Call me Doctor Pox, my dear," said the man in the scarlet cloak and theatrical tragedy mask, as he finished binding her wrists behind her back. Beneath the cloak, his proper British attire was spattered with mud from hard-riding the buckboard through the night.
"How dare you?!" she cried for the millionth time. "My father is Colonel...."
"I know your father!" screamed Doctor Pox, silencing her. He quickly regained his composure. "My dear Sybil."
Turning on his heel, the madman marched off to a dark corner of the barn, out of the small circle of light cast by the single kerosene lamp.
Sybil struggled against the leather straps that bound her to the wooden beam, but to no avail. Her light blue Polonaise gown had been torn to shreds in the struggle and her low-cut bodice had been ripped, exposing an unseemly amount of decolletage. Strands of brown hair fell in her face, her bonnet having been lost in the kidnaping.
Doctor Pox reappeared from the shadows, dragging something heavy through the dirt and straw. "Yes, my dear," he said, "I met the esteemed Colonel Willing during the Siege of Boston. He was so proud of his cannon upon Dorchester Heights. So proud of his ruffian irregulars who guarded the roads."
He was dragging a large wooden coach trunk with iron braces; huffing and puffing, he positioned it three feet in front of Sybil. Raising his theatrical tragedy mask, which seemed wrought of copper, to her face, he said, "It is my tender sentiment for your father which has brought you here."
With a flourish of his scarlet cloak, the doctor turned and flung open the top of the trunk.
When Sybil saw what was inside, she screamed.
And with that, the barn doors burst open and in strode a tall and stately figure.
"Goodman America!" gasped Sybil.
His face entirely masked by white cloth, the famed mystery man was dressed in a waistcoat and tricorn hat of brightest blue; his vest bore thirteen red and white stripes. His breeches were midnight black, as were his rugged highwayman boots. The knob of his walking stick and the rattlesnake insignia on his hat were rumored to be of pure silver, smithed by Paul Revere himself.
"Surrender, Doctor Pox!" he commanded.
"Never!" replied the madman, drawing a flintlock pistol from beneath his scarlet cloak.
But Goodman America was upon him in an instant and knocked the weapon from his hand before he could fire. The two masked men faced off, circling each other warily, preparing for hand-to-hand combat.
Grimacing with disgust, Sybil reached out with her foot-she had lost her shoes in the scuffle as well-and knocked the coach trunk shut with her stockinged toe.
The noise distracted Doctor Pox for but a moment, but it was enough for Goodman America to throw a punch. The mighty blow knocked the theatrical tragedy mask from the madman's face.
Both Sybil and Goodman America recoiled in horror, for that face was so hideously scarred and twisted that it was barely human.
"Look then!" shrieked the doctor. "Look upon the face of Doctor Silas Conduct! See what the smallpox epidemic of the Siege of Boston did to me! If Colonel Josiah Willing had let us pass that night, I would not be thus disfigured-and my beloved wife would not be DEAD!"
He pointed savagely at the coach trunk.
"But when the bits and pieces of the rotting human remains in that trunk, raging with smallpox, are added to the food and water of the Continental Army, then so too will the American rabble die! And the daughter of my most hated enemy will be the first to...."
The silver knob of Goodman America's walking stick struck the doctor's temple sharply, and he fell unconscious to the ground.
"Don't tread on us," said Goodman America.
Drawing an officer's saber from a scabbard hidden beneath his blue waistcoat, he quickly went to work cutting the leather straps that bound Sybil Willing.
"Hurry!" she cried. "We must get away from that horrid trunk!"
As Sybil ran ahead through the open barn doors in her stockinged feet, the masked Patriot grabbed Doctor Pox by the cloak and dragged him out into the night.
"Wait here," he told Sybil, as he dropped the doctor's body in the dirt and ran back into the barn.
Taking the kerosene lamp from its hook by the door, Goodman America smashed it upon the coach trunk. Within seconds, flames had engulfed the trunk and begun to spread to the straw and wooden beams.
Returning to the barnyard, as the flames rose into the night sky behind him, the Revolutionary Hero looked around.
"Where has Doctor Pox gone?" he asked.
"He ran off across the fields," answered Sybil. "But no matter! When that madman kidnapped me, my gentleman friend, Mister Nathan Hand, was knocked to the street and hurt. He is a man of learning, not combat, and I fear for him!"
"Then rest your fears," said Goodman America. "I have already seen to Mister Hand and he is even now being tended to by the Sons of Liberty in their meeting place."
"Thank God!" cried Sybil.
And beneath his white mask, Nathan Hand smiled.
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