The Imperiled Actress
As soon as the chain stabilized, Thelonius began the climb up towards the tip of the pylon. Celeste opened her eyes and looked down to see that the far end of the chain disappeared into the inferno of the zeppelin’s wreckage. But there was something else on the chain below: the Nazi trooper she had pushed out the window. He must have followed them around the outside of the zeppelin’s hull, because he was now climbing up out of the smoke after them, his eyes burning with murderous intent.
Under other conditions, the trooper would not have been nearly as swift a climber as Thelonius, but he was not carrying another person on his back and so he drew nearer foot by foot. Now beyond the need to exercise caution around his flammable airship, he drew his pistol and aimed up at them.
There was nowhere to hide and no way to dodge. Their only hope was to get to the top before being shot down.
Twenty feet away. The first shot cracked through the air, coming so close that Celeste could hear it whistle past her ear. The second shot followed almost immediately, and this one struck the pylon ahead of them and rained masonry chips dust down into their eyes.
Two more shots, one of them passing through a fold in Celeste’s oversized uniform. She glanced back down to see that the trooper was catching up to them even after pausing to shoot. Thelonius strained to reach the top, but his arms and legs were quivering with exhaustion.
The trooper fired again, and Celeste could feel a dull, wet thump followed almost immediately by the chimp-man’s agonized yelp. His hands came loose from the chain, and Celeste dropped into freefall.