Jim awoke slowly; his head was killing him and he didn't know why. He and Artemus had just concluded their most recent case, managing to recover Professor McMadden's secret formula before Major Wilkes could analyze or replicate it, handed the documents off to Colonel Richmond, and then celebrated with a few drinks. He remembered leaving the train with the lovely Greta afterwards and, as they rode into town, recounting the story of how he'd barely escaped being trapped in the tunnel collapse that had killed the Major and his men, but that was all. He had no recollection of dining with her or escorting her home, let alone doing anything that would result in him feeling as terrible as he did right now.
What had happened to him? Where was he? Why was he so cold and stiff?
"I know you've regained consciousness, Mister West, there is no need to pretend otherwise. I strongly suggest you open your eyes and see your accommodations while you still have a chance."
Giving up the pretense of still being asleep, Jim did as he was asked; placating criminals was always the best tactic to take when still assessing the situation after all. He was lying on the floor of a small cell, chained to the wall by manacles on both his hands and feet. A candle sat in a sconce on the opposite wall, its flickering providing just enough light to see the room was empty save it, Jim, and Major Wilkes.
"Wilkes. I see you survived that cave-in after all. Was it all part of your plan then, to make everyone think it had kill you and your men?"
"Very good, Mister West, that was indeed to be the case. I was supposed to have left for New York by now and been on my way to Europe by the end of the month. I had expected the explosives I planted would cause enough damage that not only were my men and I assumed dead, but it would have rid the world of you as well. When I discovered that was not the case, I was forced to delay my trip and return here to take care of you myself."
"I'm honored." Jim made sure to sound as unimpressed and bored as possible. Wilkes was a grandstander and had been easily defeated before, he was certain this time would be no different.
"You should be. You should also be less self-assured and more concerned. I realize you were recently heavily drugged and I do apologize for that, I fear dear sweet Greta might have used a little too high a dose in her haste, but perhaps you have not noticed that I have removed from your person all those wonderful little gadgets that you normally rely upon to make your escape from these sorts of predicaments."
To his horror, Jim realized Wilkes was right. His gun belt was missing, as expected, but his jacket, knife sheath, hat, belt and boots had been removed along with all the items they contained. "If you think that will stop me," he began.
"No, I know it will stop you," Wilkes interrupted. "How often have you relied upon the lock picks you keep under the lapel of your jacket? Or the flares from your belt? How many times did you use the spring loaded knife in your boot or any one of the plethora of devices hidden in its hollowed-out heel? I'm no idiot, Mister West. You foiled my attempt to control McMadden's formula and I will not be denied my revenge."
Jim straightened, refusing to look even slightly cowed or intimidated. "You won't get away with this."
"That is where you are wrong. I already have."
"Mister Gordon will not be riding to your rescue. His part in the ruination of my recent plans was relatively minor so I felt no need to make him suffer, my sniper assured me his death was quick. You on the other hand…." Wilkes gestured to the barren room. "This will be your tomb, Mister West. Even if you somehow manage to relieve yourself of the manacles, the door is wrought iron and will be barred shut. I can only hope death by dehydration is as painful as I've heard it is. Now," he said, turning for the door, "I shall take my leave of you."
"When I get out of this I'll be coming for you," West warned.
Wilkes laughed. "Never let it be said you do not possess a fighting spirit, even when facing insurmountable odds. Goodbye, Mister West." With a final, exaggerated bow, he left the room, the door slamming shut with a clang behind him.
After waiting several minutes in case Wilkes came back to gloat further, Jim reached for the waistband of his pants. It took a few moments and quite a bit of awkward maneuvering, but eventually he managed to rip out the basting stitch that kept the false lining in place and remove the piece of thin, flexible wire that he kept hidden in the resulting pocket. It wasn't as useful as the longer piece that lived in his hat band, but it was all he had so it would have to do.
Unfortunately, the way the manacles were fastened around his wrists meant he was unable to achieve the right angle to use the wire to saw through them, but he was able to turn enough to reach around and work on the chain where it attached to the wall. It was slow going though and he was barely halfway through one of the links when the candle sputtered and went out. "That's great, just great," he muttered to himself as he continued working in complete darkness.
Hours later, when Jim had just about gotten all the way through the chain, the door flew open with a bang. Completely blinded by the sudden light, Jim automatically crouched down into a defensive stance before he registered it was Artemus in the doorway, shouting his name.
"Jim! Thank god. I was afraid he'd killed you."
"Artie? But he said you were dead!"
"That sniper?" he scoffed. "A little simple misdirection on my part led him to think he got me, then I just followed him back here."
"What about Wilkes?"
Artemus reached for the manacles, examining them with a critical eye. "Hmm? Oh, he's been taken care of. Now who do you say we get you out of these?"
"That would be great." Jim watched Artemus work for a few minutes before adding, "I'm glad you're all right, Artie. And thanks, thanks for the rescue."
Artemus dismissed Jim's gratitude with a wave of his hand. "What else was I going to do? You wouldn’t want me to have to break in a whole new partner, would you? Do you have any idea how much work that would be? Who has time for that?"
"Not you, definitely not you."
"Definitely not," Aretmus said. And if he happened to notice the stupid grin on Jim's face? Well, he was nice enough not to comment on it.