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Twins in Death: Chapter Eleven

Chapter Eleven

Kestrel’s Tale

 

 

October 26th, 2002

10:15 p.m.

           

            The mansion had several libraries, small dark rooms with dark wood paneling and huge over stuffed chairs. These were close and vaguely claustrophobic rooms, comfortable as a rabbit’s hole in winter. One could easily take a blanket from the chests which sat in each one of them, curl up in a huge chair and spend the rest of one’s life reading. They were small rooms, designed for the reading of small books for comfort.

 

            The main library was huge, spanning more than three floors she supposed. Its walls were covered with books; many that had been read many times. The floor had three half-circle rings of bookshelves, filled with books of every description. It had a long shelf which served as the second floor and the shelves on the second floor went up high enough for a person to need a ladder since the second floor was also a third floor. It was much like the walkways along the side of the ballroom. The library, in fact, had a long tube like hall, which linked it to the ballroom. The library was the twin of the ballroom, save that the library was filled with books while the ballroom was a large space for dancing.

 

            Kestrel looked with awe at all the books. There were just so many. There were huge mahogany tables set around the marble floor, which was a slightly darker version of what the ballroom floor had. The Weirdo walked into the room and to the largest table. There were small computers at almost each table. She looked at them closely and noticed that they were actually all just terminals. They weren’t separate from where ever the main computer was. They were linked together by a network, which linked all the computers in the house. The Weirdo and Tommy had designed and built the network by themselves.

 

            “My lord…” She said as she looked at the great window, which would have been a great sight during the day.

 

            “Yeah.” The Weirdo said unimpressed.

 

            As they approached they saw Tommy and Jack, the two men older looking than The Weirdo, who appeared to only be just out of his twenties. They were discussing times past, she could tell just by the looks on their faces. Men have a very distinct look when nostalgia has taken over. Women do too, but men don’t hide it, they go for it jumping with both feet. Their eyes glaze over, and unfocused. You could tell they were no longer looking at anything but shadows.

 

            “Savoy Ballroom.” Tommy said. “I think it was nineteen thirty eight. Chick Webb and Count Baise. That was the battle to end all battles.”

 

            “Where as I will allow the battleground and the home team.” Jack conceded. “It was Goodman against Webb that was the greatest of all fights.”

 

            She didn’t know the names they was talking about, a count and a chick? Was this a fight between a chicken farmer and nobility? Was this a great war, or maybe a gang fight? Was there some sort of historical battle they were discussing? She searched the dim memories of the few history classes that she had taken over the years. Mostly they comprised of being very bored and thinking that she had been there for most of it so she shouldn’t have to learn it. The names sounded vaguely familiar, like she should know who they were. She looked at The Weirdo with a questioning glance.

 

            “What are they talking about?” She asked.

 

            “Sounds like they’re once again trying to figure out the best night of Swing music ever.”

           

            “What?”

 

            “Swing.” The Weirdo said. “Type of jazz. Chick Webb was a hunch backed drum player who could blow the spandex off any of the losers trying to pretend to be drummers today. Hell of a guy too.”

 

            “Do they discuss this a lot? Do they play records for judgment?”

 

            “They were there.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “When did this thing happen?” She asked,

 

            “Late thirties, sometime I think.” He said. “Something like that.”

 

            “During their late thirties?”

 

            “No, the late nineteen thirties.”

 

            “They’re not old enough.” She said shaking her head in denial.

 

            “They’re older than they look.” He said and then added somewhat knowingly. “We all are, aren’t we?”

 

            “Oh.” She said, and let the matter fall from there.

 

            “I suppose this is going to be about Loki.” Tommy said. As Judy and Sheila came in and sat down at the table.

 

            “It would appear he’s not going to go away without us killing him.” The Weirdo said.

 

            Marla and Mrs. Pendleton came in together, looking bewildered and tired.  The Weirdo glanced at them and waited until they sat to continue. He looked at them and couldn’t really come up with a good reason to go on. After a moment’s thought it all seemed so irrational, the entire thing. That he should go pick this woman up in the woods; that he could suddenly be seized with the notion that taking the fight to Loki was the only way to get this thing between them over with. He could feel something, Grandma perhaps, prodding him to continue. He couldn’t see why he should though since it was stupid. He took in a deep breath and let it out.

 

            “You know the gang activity has been steadily going down all summer.” Tommy said. “There has been activity, but it’s like some one has been reigning them in.”

 

            “The Mouse is out there every night.” The Weirdo said. “The Blue Weasel, even those silly sluts, what do they call themselves?”

 

            “Are you referring to The Glams?” Jack asked.

 

            “They the ones who look like they use double sided tape to keep their outfits on?”

 

            “Yes.”

 

            “Then they are who I’m referring to.” The Weirdo said. “They couldn’t keep the crime levels down.”

 

            “Crime levels aren’t being kept down.” Tommy said.

 

            “No?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            Tommy looked at him for a long moment, thinking that there was a time The Weirdo would have smacked himself around for not knowing such a thing. He thought that The Weirdo did look amazingly tired though, and this had been the first time he had even raised his head up from his misery in six months. It was for reasons like this that Tommy thought he should treat The Weirdo with kid gloves.

 

            “I saw members of three rival gangs walking together, talking amongst themselves.” Tommy said. “They were at war a very little while ago, and now they’re talking together quietly.”

 

            “I see.” The Weirdo said, feeling as if his head might explode at any moment. It had been enough, just those few words, to make his head begin to pound again.

 

            “You all right?” Marla asked, noticing The Weirdo’s discomfort.

 

            “Fabulous.” The Weirdo said, letting his head fall into the table. “I think we’re in trouble.”

 

            “Oh?” Tommy asked, trying to see if The Weirdo had gotten to the same place he had.

 

            “Yes.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Why?” He felt he was pressing his luck asking, but he had to.

 

            “Because Loki is gathering them together.” The Weirdo said, “He’s getting them together for a purpose.”

 

            “How do you know?” Max asked.

 

            “It’s what I would do.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “What’s the purpose?” Jack asked.

 

            “I don’t know.” The Weirdo said. “The problem is the guy is full blown batshit crazy. That makes things a little hard to predict, we can’t follow the same rules as normal. We could try to shake up the hierarchy, but I think they’ve probably become convinced he’s a god. That’s what he intimated anyway.”

 

            “Why can’t we just kill him?” Kestrel asked. “If we kill him, they’ll all go away right?”

 

            “Now there’s a thought.” Max said.

 

            “Possibly.” The Weirdo said. “Gonna take a lot to kill him though.”

 

            “How would you go about that?” Marla asked.

 

            “You had problems before didn’t you?” Mrs. Pendleton added.

 

            “Yes.” The Weirdo said. “And thank you for pointing out my deficiencies.”

 

            “I’m only asking.” She said.

 

            “That is what worries me.” The Weirdo said. “The difficulty in that is that I shot him in the face and his head grew back.”

 

            “Maybe it’s because there was just one of you.” Judy said.

 

            “Pardon?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “If he could concentrate, maybe he could use magic to keep himself from dying. If you could gang up on him, you could maybe take him out. He can’t keep his mind on everything at once.”

 

            “Either that or there’s some sort of force behind him that we don’t know about.” Max said.

 

            “Gang up on him.” The Weirdo said as if trying to get a grasp on the concept.

 

            “Yeah.” Judy said.

 

            “We’ve never ganged up on anybody before.” The Weirdo said. “We’re usually the ones to get ganged up on.”

 

            “If we can kill him.” Kestrel said. “I’m not too concerned.”

 

            “We can make him bleed.” The Weirdo said. “But as this isn’t a John McTiernan movie, I’m not sure that necessarily means we can kill him.”

 

            “We can slow him down a bit.” Jack said. “And find a way to kill him.”

 

            “Maybe.” The Weirdo said. “It’s worth a try I suppose.”

 

            “When do we start?” Max asked.

 

            “Tomorrow.” The Weirdo said pushing his chair back and standing up. “I’m going to try to get some sleep.”

 

            Tommy noticed as he stood that The Weirdo’s hands shook ever so slightly as he did. He looked like he might collapse at any moment, that the weight of the world might crush him right there on the spot. You would have to have known him for as long as Tommy did to see this though, it wasn’t really perceptible to the normal eye. The Weirdo caught Tommy’s eye and the ever so slight tremor in his hand stopped. He stood up straight and walked away from the table. He might have been able to hide his hands from shaking, but he couldn’t prevent the pained movement of his walk. Tommy watched him walk from the room and looked at Jack, who looked back at him.

 

            The Weirdo left the room and to all accounts would have gone to bed, as the rest of them did one by one.

 

 

October 27th, 2002

9:51 a.m.

 

            Margaret Palnit was a kind-hearted woman; she thought the best of most people. She thought most people were trying to be good at heart. She had only the nicest thought about the young man sitting in the waiting room right now. She had been surprised when he came in. They were about to close but she managed to keep Dale around for a few extra minutes for him. The look of worry in those blue eyes, it was something she thought Dale should see.

 

            He was chewing his thumb in a way that she found completely adorable. Had she been but a few years younger… ah youth. He had come into the doll hospital, nearly in tears about his bear. It was a good teddy bear, but one that had seen a lot of action. The fact that the seams had burst in two places, had terrified him. He looked like he still might burst into tears.

           

            It was that sort of thing that kept Dale from just saying he’d take care of it tomorrow. The young man was blonde and Dale did have a weakness for pretty, blonde boys. This boy was exceptionally pretty too, with his bright blue eyes and light hair. Dale had felt his heart going pitter pat when he saw him and told the young man to sit down and he’d take care of it while the man waited.

 

            Dale, a young man, was working on the bear. He liked the bear, and had been very careful about how he dealt with it. It was an old bear, made in one of the better workshops of Vermont. Dale had a way with old toys, especially soft toys like this one. His genius was unsurpassed in all of New York, if there was legend about toy repair, he’d have been a legend. The problem was there were no legends about toy repair, so he was no such legend.

 

            He was being careful and thorough, which meant this was taking some time. It wasn’t so much that the damage was so bad, just a couple of popped seams. The job could be done by a mother with a piece of thick thread, but he wanted to get the job done right. It had meant opening the bear up completely, and removing all the stuffing from it. While removing the stuffing he had found the small black device.

 

            Dale had taken electrical engineering in college, and he knew what didn’t belong in a teddy bear. He took a set of screwdrivers used for some of the dolls and took the device apart. He thought it might be some sort of tracking device, or at least it was a kind of transmitter. He thought that some one must be spying on the beautiful young man who had an unnatural attraction to the bear. He looked at the tracker and thought about it. He could yank the battery, but then they’d know that the signal had stopped here, which might bring who ever was tracking him. He closed the cover on the device and carefully screwed it back into place. He looked at it for a moment and tossed it in the garbage. Let them wonder what this young man was doing on a garbage scow on his way to Jersey.

 

            He sewed the bear back together and carefully restuffed him with a mixture of the original stuffing and new cotton. He wanted the man to have his bear smell the same and he knew that if he used all new stuffing the feeling and smell would be different. He began to close the bear up, carefully putting each seam back into place. It was a job he had to be careful at, in order to give the young man not a bear that was as good as new, but rather as good as yesterday.

 

            Margaret had tried to engage him in conversation but neither of them was very good at it. After a few more minutes, Dale came out, the bear in hand. Virgil jumped up, and tears did spill from his eye as Dale thought they might. He wanted to shout as Dale presented Marty to him. He kissed Dale on the cheek and hugged Marty fiercely.

           

            He thanked them, paid and was about to leave when Dale decided to make a try for it. As Virgil got to the door, he called out to him.

 

            “Hey, if you’ve got the time.” Dale said grabbing a flyer that Margaret let him put in the shop. “There’s a party for Halloween at this club.”

 

            “I think I’d like that.” Virgil sad. “You’ll be there?”

           

            “Sure, man.” Dale said.

           

            “Okay, I’ll try.” And Virgil left.

 

            When the door closed, Dale faux fainted and breezed himself with his hand. He had been quite taken from the lovely man’s advance.

 

            “Why are they always gay?” Margaret asked.

 

            “They’re not all gay.” Dale said. “Some of them are married.”

 

            The both of them laughed at that, they laughed a while about it.

 

            Had they known that a post hypnotic suggestion had prompted Virgil to always keep the bear with him, they might not have laughed. They could have laughed though, since the reason Virgil was to keep the bear was currently sitting in a garbage bin in the back of the shop and by two the next day would be on the way to Jersey. Unless you knew that Virgil’s bear had been torn and repaired, you wouldn’t know about the removal.

 

 

April 5th, 734 ad.

1:19 p.m.

Ireland

 

            Heather sat motionless with shock next to the dead body of her mother, covered in filth and blood. The sounds of hooves were departing far behind her, fading away as the killers left. Her wide green eyes took in the carnage uncomprehendingly, the shattered world soaked in blood. She watched as a few surviving villagers began to pick their way through the bodies of the dead and nearly dead, trying to find something worth saving. The Nordic bastards had been thorough, killing everyone they could. They had carried off several members of the village instead of killing them.

 

            The cross bearers hadn’t been able to save them. No one had been able to save them. The Jesus, which her parents had begun to pray to, had done nothing. If anything, the traveling warriors were a punishment from the pagan lords that they had abandoned. The Jesus was obviously a flaccid, impotent God without any power to protect the flock, as he called them. The cross people had come, taken away Eoster and Odin from them and this had been their judgment.

 

            She watched as the Jesus people walked around in their dark clothes, checking each member of the flock, to see if they were dead or not. Finding one dead body after another in the remains of the village. They were probably going to kill anyone who survived, to lessen the talk that the pagan gods were angry about this Jesus business.

 

            Heather knew that she should call to them, she wanted to call to them, but she couldn’t find her voice.  She couldn’t even cry, but watched silently as they began building pyres and the village’s last living Druid priests began consigning the dead to the flames.

 

            From the forest outside the ruined village an old woman spotted the motionless child.  After a quick glance to make sure no one was looking, the woman made her way to the girl and picked her up.  Unresisting, uncaring, Heather was carried to a rude hovel some distance from the village. The old woman smelled bad, like the smell of a burning rotten egg.

 

            The old woman turned out to be an alchemist with a fascination for living subjects. She had gone as far as she could with the experiments she had been conducting on animals. She had managed to meld two animals and had made a cat that had several aspects of a bird. Most of her creatures died soon after they were changed, a few flourished to produce young of their own.

 

            The child was two years old at most. She was far too young to ever remember anything else. It was in fact a golden opportunity. She was kept drugged while the old woman did subtle things with her body and mind. Then one day, everything changed. The old woman discovered a tiny kestrel, barely fledged, with a broken wing dragging itself over the ground outside her cottage. It would obviously die if left alone. Her eye fell upon the child as she brought the crippled bird inside, and an idea struck her. As soon as the bird’s wing was mended, she began experimenting.

 

            Heather did not understand what was happening to her.  Her days were a blend of hazy dreams and pain, and she began to have strange thoughts about flying and eating mice and grasshoppers. She could hear better than before, and the horrible smell of the cottage didn’t seem to bother her as much. Finally, after nearly a month, the pain ceased and the alchemist stopped drugging her. The tiny child opened golden eyes, and Kestrel was born.

 

 

October 27th, 2002

2:41 a.m.

 

            Kestrel woke up, and for a moment she couldn’t remember where she was. She ran her fingers across the sheets, which were of a much higher quality, and thus more expensive than the ones she had at home. If the sheets where more expensive here, then she probably wasn’t in a prison. Prisons weren’t known for having bed sheets with high thread counts. She slowly sat up and looked around, the bed was much too large for a prison anyway. This must not be a prison, no matter how much her mind worried it might be. She patted around the nightstand for a lamp, found one and turned it on.

 

            If her brain refused to take the evidence of her fingers, it was going to be forced to believe her eyes. Prisons, in her very limited experience of bailing people out, were not appointed with dark oak and mahogany furniture. Though she had never seen the inside of a cell herself, she was fairly certain that large four posted beds were not what the inmates slept on. She set her feet down on the floor and noticed the Persian rug under her feet seemed to not be made of polyester. Upon getting on her hands and knees she saw that it was in fact made of rough silk. She’d stolen one just like this once. No, this certainly wasn’t a prison. She stood up and walked across the hardwood floor towards the door and saw a man with a gun in the hallway.

 

            Maybe she was in a prison after all. She opened the door very slightly and looked out at the man holding the pistol in his hand. He was holding the gun at his side, in an attempt to look somewhat innocuous, but failing miserably. She saw his face and remembered where she was and who she was looking at. The tall blonde man’s face conjured up a name, Jack Uniton, and that brought forth the full reminder of where she was and what had been happening.

 

            The last couple of days didn’t come back in a wash, so much as she snapped into alertness. She slowly opened the door and Jack’s eyes moved towards the door. The gun shifted to a different position, but it didn’t raise up. There was a sense of worry in what were normally clear eyes. He shifted the gun again, so it was behind his back and ran his left hand over his hair to attempt to straighten it.

 

            “Hello.” He said quickly. “What are you doing up at this hour?”

 

            “Are we under attack?” She asked.

 

            “No.” He said shaking his head, “Why would you think that?”

 

            “You’ve got a gun.” She said indicating with a finger.

 

            “Ah.” He said pulling the handgun out from behind his back and smiling at it. “Yes.”

 

            “So.” She said, trying to decide how this conversation should go.

 

            “It’s because of Cambodia.” He said with a heavy sigh.

 

            “Cambodia?”

 

            “You remember the Genocide in Cambodia?”

 

            “Not really.” She said.

 

            “No, I guess you were too young.” He said looking at the gun. “Well there was one, and a few of us had to go down there and sort it out.”

 

            “Oh.” She said.

 

            “I’m getting to why I’m wandering around the house twenty four years later.” He said suddenly. “At least this time.”

 

            “I didn’t say anything.” She said.

 

            “I know,” He said, “The Weirdo would have asked in another three seconds though. If you hang around for a while you’ll find that you start to anticipate his little foibles.”

 

            “I see.” She said, “So Cambodia?”

 

            “It was pretty terrible.” He said. “That and the fighting. We didn’t just sweep in and fix everything in a day after all. It was a small war down there. Superheroes against people, but still a war. Nasty war, jungle fighting.”

 

            “Okay.” She nodded, trying to encourage him to link that to the current situation.

 

            “Well sometimes people who’ve seen enough terrible things don’t sleep so good. Sometimes people have dreams about being in the jungle in Cambodia, like tonight.” He said. “And sometimes if you’ve been doing a violent job long enough you’ve served two monarchs, it rubs off on you. You get nightmares, and you’ve got to run a quick sweep of the house to satisfy your nightmare addled paranoia that there aren’t people in the house.”

 

            “Is it always Cambodia?”

 

            “No.” He said shaking his head. “Sometimes it’s a prison camp in Korea, sometimes a castle in Germany, sometimes it’s Detroit during the riots. Always someplace interesting and exciting though.”

 

“And then you need to check around the house real quick?”

 

“Yes.” He said. “I’m sure that sounds a bit crazy.”

           

            “No.” She said. “Well only a little. I’ve had some days where being paranoid is what saved me.”

 

            “So you understand.”

 

            “Out of curiosity.” She said. “How many times have you done this and it wasn’t just paranoia?”

 

            “Three times.” He said. “About every ten years or so. Once in the sixties, once in the seventies, once in the eighties. So you see I’m way over due.”

 

            “Yeah, I can see that would be worrying.” She nodded and then calculated in her head. “Wait, Cambodia wasn’t even that long ago. If it was twenty years ago.”

 

            “I didn’t say it started then.” He said. “I said that’s where we were tonight.”

 

            “Right.” She nodded. “So this has really been going on for…”

 

            “About fifty years or so.” He said.

 

            “Do the rest of the guys have this thing?”

 

            “Tommy just has places he avoids a lot.” Jack said setting the pistol down on the table next to him. “I don’t know about nightmares.”

 

            “What about The Weirdo?” She asked. “Does he have bad dreams or paranoia or anything?”

 

            “Are you kidding?” Jack asked. “He would have to be afraid of something to have those fears come to him in his sleep. In order for things that affected him to come back to him, something would have to affect him in the first place.”

 

            “He’s not afraid of anything? Nothing affects him?”

 

            “The Weirdo is so cold, scientists could use him to calculate absolute zero.” Jack said, “He’s so hard he can crush diamonds between his fingers.”

 

            “So no nightmares?”

 

            “No.” Jack said. “The Weirdo doesn’t have nightmares, he just causes them.”

 

 

October 27th, 2002

10:01 a.m.

 

            The faces, those empty faces, looking at him with such agony. He had let them die, and they were here to wail their displeasure at him. He tried to get away, but he couldn’t. Once again his body was frozen, and now the screams came louder. They were standing right in front of him, his paralyzed form unable to look away. The little girl who had been thinking about clown fish, the one with half her head missing, stood before him and wept with her remaining eye. She suddenly opened her mouth and the scream that came carried the weight of a thousand preventable tragedies.

 

            The lights flashed off the faces of those he hadn’t saved, the screams filled his ears and the tears fell onto his face. He tried to break free; to tell himself it was a dream, but he knew this time it wasn’t…

 

And then he awoke.

 

            The Weirdo sat up and looked at the clock. He would have groaned if he was capable of such an action. He was physically able, but he avoided such superfluous pleas for sympathy. The problem with having learned to control your emotions and reactions to nearly a molecular level is that you don’t groan at the clock. He already had his own sympathy, and there was no one else to try to get it from. He did glare at it and then spoke to it, which may or may not prove my point.

 

            “I hate you.” He said simply.

 

            The problem had been that he had spent the last ten hours or so since he had finally laid down in bed waking up every ten minuets or so. He hadn’t actually gotten what you would call sleep, waking up every ten minutes isn’t sleeping. Having repeated bouts of paralysis wasn’t restful either. He had decided this time he would simply give up and let it go. He hadn’t wanted to, he wanted to burrow into the blankets and pillows and sleep out the winter. Let the world end, so long as he could sleep, just to have a restful sleep.

 

            There hadn’t been a lot of sleep, not ever. Sleep was something he generally did when he fell over, or in small bursts. He hadn’t ever been the sort of person for whom sleep was an easy thing. He wanted so much to sleep, yet that would never come. There must have been something he was doing wrong, something that made it so he couldn’t sleep. He secretly believed he knew what it was, but they wouldn’t let him quit that.

 

            His feet swung out over the ledge of the bed and he let himself gently down onto the floor. He reflected that if he wanted to work for a living there were better ways to go about it. He then reflected that he didn’t like orchids, didn’t have a smart honey of a wife, or a dog named Pearl, so no, there probably wasn’t.  He could have sold hot dogs from a cart on Thirty-Second Avenue. No, because that would require standing out in the cold.

 

            He shook his head and looked at Bagheera, who was laid lengthwise across what had been Shannon’s side of the bed. The cat lifted his head and let out a small meow to The Weirdo, and then lay back down and stretched his entire body out. The tiny paws extended their claws as the cat stretched every inch of his body.

 

            “Sure it’s fine for you.” The Weirdo said. “You can just go back to sleep and keep going back to sleep.”

 

            He stood up and decided the only thing he could do was to go down and do the amazingly stupid thing they had discussed the night before. He looked at the door to the bathroom and decided that a shower was probably in order. There was no sense in running around to get killed (must jump) if he smelled bad. He walked towards the bathroom, ready to wash the filth from his body.

 

 

October 27th, 2002

11:26 a.m.

 

            They were waiting for him when he came downstairs, reading newspapers and watching television. He looked at them all, just waiting for him. Jack’s armor sat ready for The Weirdo so he could just throw the pieces on when he came down. The Weirdo looked around at the four of them, and his eye fell on Kestrel.

 

            “Do you have a gun?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “I lost it.” She said.

 

            “Well let’s get you a gun.” The Weirdo said. “And then we can all get moving, start a few patrols or something.”

 

            “Okay.” She said.

 

            “Should I come?” Max asked.

 

            “You get the cars warmed up.” The Weirdo said. “This will only take a couple of minutes.”

 

 

October 27th, 2002

11:31 a.m.

           

            She felt that there was something oddly familiar about this place, this deep underground complex he called the Hole. It almost felt like a place she could call home, if she liked living underground. She seemed to know where he was going as he walked, like she already knew the layout. It was as if she knew which way he was going to turn at every corner. There would normally be conversation she felt, there would be a discussion between the two of them about something important. Now though there was a wall up that wasn’t letting them talk yet. 

 

            The door he stopped at was as non-descript gray as the rest, but the small plaque on it said armory. They came into a room with a shooting range and weapons on the wall. The armory contained more than firearms, though. It was also filled with ancient weapons, like poleaxes, swords, and clubs. She looked around the odd museum of death implements. He pulled out a small duparoh case and unzipped it. He removed an automatic pistol and held it up for her.

 

            “This is a Beretta 92s-1. Nine millimeter, parabellum, fifteen shot magazine.” He handed the pistol to her. “It’s good if you want to put three or four shots on top of each other, but pretty useless really.”

 

            “You sure about that?”

 

            “The army uses it, can’t be all good.” He said with a wry smile.

 

            He then opened a drawer and pulled a revolver out and a speed loader with long wide bullets. The gun had a long steel barrel and wood scales on the handle. He flicked the chamber open, slid the bullets into the gun and snapped the revolving chamber closed again. He held the gun towards her with the butt out first. She looked at it and reached for it, the long barrel seemed to go on forever. It was heavier than she had been anticipating. She looked at the gun and then, him.

 

            “This.” He said firmly, “Is a Smith and Wesson five hundred, the most powerful mass produced handgun in the world.”

 

            “I need this?” She asked.

 

            “It’s for penis envy.” He said.

 

            “I don’t have penis envy.” She said.

 

            “Well, everyone will think you do.” He said smiling brightly. “Soon as they see you waving this thing around.”

 

            “Why would a person need something like that?” She asked. “Can you give me a reason?”

 

            “Okay.” The Weirdo said hefting up the small automatic and looking at the targets. “Watch.”

 

            A target came across the runners that were arranged on the range. He fired at one three times and put three bullets respectively close to each other over the targets heart. He then set the gun down on the counter before him and looked at her as he stopped the mobile target in the middle of the range.

 

            “Not bad.” She said. “Good bunching.”

 

            “Yeah.” The Weirdo said. “I would have killed him with three shots like that.”

 

            He then took the big Smith and Wesson from her and fired one round at the target. The sound was different for a start, it sounded like the end of the world. It was the loudest bang she had heard up to that point she thought. The bullet that flew from the weapon tore a huge hole in the target. He then set the gun down and looked at the target, the large hole flapping gently.

 

            “See if you have the right caliber, then you can just hit them once and kill them. You don’t need three shots if you’ve got the right gun. Bigger bore and it’s a magnum load so it moves fast.”

 

            “So what do you suggest?” She asked.

 

            “A combination of what works.” He said. “The five hundred and the nine work pretty well together, that way if you somehow manage to miss with one you can cover with the other.”

 

            “Do you have holsters for that shoulder cannon?” She asked.

 

            “Yeah.” He said pointing at a rack. “You can have leather or duparoh, help yourself.”

 

            She took a duparoh holster and got both guns arranged on her person, the Beretta slipped behind her and the revolver under her right arm. She hadn’t actually worn a gun in a long time though and she said so. He seemed to not even be listening, but she thought he must be observing everything she said and did.

 

            “You ever actually shot someone?” he asked.

 

            “Well.” She started, “I shot at a guy in Zurich once. Over his head I mean, I didn’t want to hurt him or anything.”

 

            “Okay.” He said, touching his forehead and shaking his head very slightly.

 

            “How many people have you shot?” She asked, suddenly defensive.

 

            He stopped at the tone of her voice, and then sighed. He looked at her, with a look of resignation. There was a look there that told her that she didn’t really want to know the answer to her question, but he was going to give it anyway. She had asked, and he couldn’t go around not answering questions.

 

            “It would be untrue to claim that I’ve lost track,” He said, in a tone that was designed not to impress anything what ever “But I will admit that I’d have to get a piece of paper and a pen and give it some thought.”

 

            “Oh.” She said, realizing that he didn’t care if she believed him or not, which was a sure sign of honesty.

 

            With that he turned away and led her out of the room, pointing with his finger. They came out of The Hole and up into the house through the same route they had descended down. They exited at the back of the house and found the car before them.

 

            “Wasn’t that car in the front of the house?”

 

            “Yup.” He said.

           

            “And now its back here?

 

            “Yup.”

 

            “It just moved on its own?”

           

            “Yup.”

 

            “Incredible.” She said.

           

            “Not really. She likes me.” He flashed her a quick smile.

           

            “Your car is a she?” She asked. “And she likes you?”

           

            “Mmm hmm.” He said getting in.

           

            “I don’t understand any of this.”

           

            “Don’t let that stop you, or we won’t get anywhere.”

 

            They got into the car and Kestrel found that when she got into the car, the view had changed. She looked out the window after the door closed and saw that she was on the street again. She opened the door and found that she was still on the street. She got back into the car and looked at The Weirdo who was flipping through a case of small mini disks. Her mouth dropping open and words which were trying to come out.

 

            “What?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “Never mind.” She said buckling her seat belt. “I’m tired of trying to figure you out.”

 

            “I thought as much.” He said starting the car.

 

            “Where are we off to?”

 

            “Well,” He said as he drove through the road, “Loki’s going to be looking for that stuff of his.”

 

            “And?”

 

            “And… He’s going to show his face and most likely be shot down by a gun I own.”

 

            “You want him dead?” She said.

 

            “Don’t you?”

 

            “You don’t have any reason.” She said. “Mine’s my own. You haven’t any reason to kill him.”

 

            “He’s using my face.” The Weirdo said. “Besides there’s something else, something I’m not sure of yet.”

 

            “You’re a strange man, Weirdo.”

 

            “Nothing escapes you does it?”

 

           

October 27th, 2002

6:22 p.m.

 

            The entire day had been more or less a washout and the group had split up to try to cover more area. The Weirdo had become more and more despondent as he couldn’t even begin to locate anyone. It was as if he couldn’t find anyone in the entire city, which was a bit hard to understand. He normally could find any person in the world, but he was unable to find Loki, wherever he was.

 

            Today he’d been unable to find anyone, even a rat that might spill the location, and this was frustrating him. Somehow, whatever influence Loki had, it was spreading and The Weirdo was unable to find Loki anywhere. Had he known though, he would have at least been a little glad to know Loki was having the same sort of trouble and was unable to find him. He eventually began to try and think of a way around the problem, trying to decide if there was a way to sense the presence of Loki by looking for changes in the area around him.

 

            The Weirdo was dealing with it better than Loki was though. Loki was exploding with rage, trying not to cause too much trouble. He knew that if he started trouble, then he would have the exposed position. He wanted to get the drop of them, not the other way around. It was in the early evening that he finally got the chance he was looking for.

 

            That kid that was with The Weirdo was beating the hell out of some of the guys who were supposed to be delivering his drugs. He was doing a pretty good job of it too for the numbers he was facing on his own. There were five of them, one to sell and four to mind, and he was taking them on empty handed. They had been armed with guns but he had disarmed them quickly and now seemed to be simply exercising in a figurative and literal sense.

 

            The kid was good, fast, and strong. He might not have a true sense of his worth yet, but one day he would be great. There wasn’t even a chance for the five of Loki’s boys. The worst part about it was that woman he had missed was with him. She wasn’t helping in the fight, beyond whacking a few of the boys across the back of the head with the butt of a pistol now and then.

 

            He looked down on the young dark haired lad, moving with such grace and ease. Loki had been following the boy because he had a feeling about the kid. It felt like he was supposed to do something to the boy. He just couldn’t manage to get clear in his head was he supposed to teach him, kill him, fuck him, what? Loki watched from the stairs, which lead to the roof. The kid knocked the last of the men to the ground and stood over him.

 

            “Yoo Hoo!” Loki yelled. “Up here, sweetheart.”

 

            “What’s one more?” Max said shrugging. He couldn’t see the man who was in the shadows of the stairs

 

            “Such exuberance.” Loki said moving into the light of the open door.

 

            “Do you crooks all use the same vocabulary expansion tapes or something?” Max asked. “I mean, I keep hearing exuberance all the time.”

 

            “Such sophomoric talk from such a young lad.” Loki said, struggling to find a cool word for his next speech.

 

            He went out the door, and unto the roof. Max followed up the stairs and reached behind his back drawing the Beretta as he carefully crossed out the doorway. Loki leapt from the top of the doorway. He landed about nine feet away from Max, raised his razor and swung it about at him.

           

            “What the fuck?” Max asked, his voice displaying his shock.

           

            “Don’t you know me?”

           

            “You look just like him.” Max said, his gun hand pointed at the floor.

 

            It was with a sudden shock that he remembered The Weirdo’s most important rule, don’t fuck around, just shoot. He raised his gun up and squeezed off a shot with pretty good aim. Loki’s head banked back. He held what was left of his head as blood poured out of his wound. His head closed up and the wound was forgotten.

 

            “Ouch.” Loki said mockingly.

 

            He began to run towards Max, the blade glittering in the bright sunlight. Max, sadly, had forgotten the just shoot rule momentarily. He stood in shock and watched as the red figure just came inexorably closer and closer to him. He came to his senses just as Loki was about to strike him in the chest.

 

            “Oh, shit.” Max said as he was tackled to the ground.

 

            The blade came down for Max’s face, but he managed to move before it struck. Max’s hand raised and grabbed the left hand of the demented lunatic to hold the blade back. He raised his left knee into Loki’s groin and watched Loki’s face tighten for a moment. He rolled Loki off him and moved to his feet quickly to grab his gun. The clone had closed his razor and slipped it into his pocket while Max ran around. Max lifted his pistol and fired three shots that struck Loki in the general area of his chest. Loki barely seemed to notice.

           

            “Now that hurt.” Loki said as the wounds closed up.

           

            “Fuck.” Max said, as The Weirdo with the red clothes began to walk forward.

           

            “This is too damn simple.” Loki complained, as he pulled out the straight razor again and flicked it open.

 

            “Not everyone is.” Kestrel said.

 

            “Does he fuck as good as me, girl?” Loki asked as he looked at her.

 

            She stood on the edge of the wall with her hands at her side, waiting. Max saw her face when he said that, registered her shock, utter surprise and disgust. He had only had a hint of what had happened before, now he thought maybe he understood. She drew out her knife and was about to challenge him. The Weirdo came up onto the roof, finding that his plan of watching everyone else instead of the one person he couldn’t find had worked.

 

            “I cut you open the last time.” She said.

 

            The Weirdo wanted to hit her himself, she was holding that little knife in her hand. He’d given her two guns for just such an occasion. He wasn’t going to sit and watch as she got gutted while she had a gun on her side. He pulled out his pistol and looked for an opening. She was between the two of them though, and he was sure that telling her to get out of the way would only distract her to Loki’s advantage.

 

            “Oh yes.” Loki gave Max a kick in the chest and sent him flying to the ground “Come on, bitch. I want that rematch.”

 

            She rushed him and he came to her without hurry or fuss. His arm came out in a wide arc that any idiot could have dodged. She did, but the blade came too close to cutting her face. She stabbed forth suddenly and the knife stuck in Loki’s chest. He twisted his body away and her grip of the knife slipped. She fell to the floor of the building’s roof and looked up as Loki yanked the knife from his chest. Kestrel’s eyes met his as he tossed her knife carelessly to one side. She then looked at The Weirdo, who was standing behind Loki with his gun aimed. 

 

            There was a loud crack as a forty-five caliber slug smashed into Loki’s hip bone and made him do an odd little hop before falling to the ground. Max had gotten his wind back and came towards Loki with a gun in each hand and fired a round from each weapon into his back. Kestrel was surprised how loud the sounds weren’t. She had been around guns in the past but they were rarely fired. These were small little sounds compared to those on TV. There was a moment of silence after they were fired, just long enough for them to breathe a sigh of relief.

    

            “Children.” Loki said pushing himself up.

 

            He began to rush towards The Weirdo, who still had his gun aimed. The Weirdo fired three rounds into Loki, which at least had the effect of slowing him down for a moment. He didn’t fall but he was slowed, which surprised The Weirdo. A forty-five caliber round should at least have knocked him off his feet. Max came forth and began to pump round after round into Loki, shooting like a true John Woo hero. Both guns blazed away for a full ten seconds, driving Loki back to the ledge before going empty.

 

            It was at this time that Kestrel had finally gotten control of her self enough to remember the Smith and Wesson she had under her arm. She drew it out from the holster, aimed for the center of Loki’s chest and fired. She had not been prepared for the kick of the weapon and wondered if perhaps she had broken her wrist for a moment.

 

            Loki for his part was already at the ledge and the extra impact of the five hundred round sent him flying from the roof.  He plummeted down to the street where he made an interesting thud sound that a person can only make when they are already holding about seventeen bullets in them. It was a bit like tossing a large canvas sack of laundry out of a window along with a fist full of change if you’re interested in reproducing the sound.

 

            “Did I kill him?” She asked.  

 

            “I certainly hope so.” The Weirdo said holstering his gun under his arm. “But I’m sure he’s just been slowed down a bit.”

           

            “Sodbuster? We’re at fifty eight and forty.” Max said into a small pen like device. “Small altercation with target.”

           

            “I’ll be there in a sec.” Jack said. “I’m near.”

 

            “We need you to come and take Loki’s body, too Doc.” The Weirdo said and pushed a different button. “You got that Doc?”

           

            “In a few minutes.” Doctor Crazy said after a moment’s pause.

           

            “What’s going on?” Kestrel asked.

           

            “Doc’s gonna take the body away.” He began to walk down the stairs and was met by Jack who was walking up the fire escape.

           

            “Right.” Jack said looking at the corner of the building. “Did you shoot down a guy in red?”

 

            “Is he still down there?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “No.” Jack said. “He was trying to fly but couldn’t get more than a foot off the ground.”

           

            “Did you shoot him?”

           

            “He was moving pretty fast.” Jack said. “There are a lot of pedestrians about down there.”

 

            “So no is the answer I’m looking for here.” The Weirdo said.

           

            “What was that?” Jack asked.

 

            “Nothing.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Sounded like a smart ass remark for not firing a hand gun at a moving target which would almost ensure innocent people would get hurt.” Jack said. “Is that what you said?”

 

            “Not a bit of it.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “That’s funny because it sounded like that from here.”

 

            “Well you’re clearly mistaken.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “I’m pretty sure that’s what I heard.”

 

            “Nope.” The Weirdo said shaking his head. “It was merely a grumble of frustration.”

 

            “Sure?”

 

            “Sure.”

           

            “Alright then.” Jack said nodding

 

            “You two always play like this?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “Pretty much.” The Weirdo said smiling at Jack.

 

            “We don’t want him thinking he’s in charge or anything.” Jack said. “He’d get a swelled head if we did.

 

            “I see.” She said looking at the both of them.

 

            She could see the differences in the face of the red boy and his older “brother”. They were subtle, thin lines, which had formed over The Weirdo’s face that Loki’s hadn’t. It made her feel better somehow, helped to keep them separate in her mind. She trusted The Weirdo, but it was hard not to see the man who frightened her in him. Loki’s face had some dark view of fear and anger. Something scared The Weirdo about that. She had a sudden flash of thought, a bit of vision that had come to her. She wanted that red freak dead because of that flash.

 

            A large white panel truck drove up the street and pulled over near them. A man with tousled hair and semi sad expression got out of the truck and walked towards them. He looked around at the four of them and then at the ground.

 

            “Where is this body I’m supposed to take?”

 

            Dr. Crazy looked either older or younger than Kestrel had expected. She was expecting either a crazy old man or someone about the same age, as the rest of the group appeared to be. This was a middle-aged man though, with more brown in his hair than white, although age was beginning to creep in.

 

            “He got up and walked away, sorry Doc.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “So less dead than advertised?” Doc asked. “Is there anything I can do?”

 

            “What can you do about flashbacks?” The Weirdo asked looking at Kestrel.

           

            “What are you having flashbacks about?” Crazy asked him.

 

            “Not me.” The Weirdo said pointing at Kestrel.

 

            “How do you know that?” She asked suddenly.

 

            “He knows everything.” Doc said with a sad tone. “Except those very few things that can destroy the world. Come with me.”

           

            “What?” She asked. “What the hell are you talking about?”

 

            “You’re repressing memories that should be opened.” The Weirdo said. “Every time you have a flashback, I get a splitting headache from the event.”

 

            “Do you always tell people these things?” She asked. “I mean just like that.”

 

            “Of course.” He said nodding. “Come on. We’ll see what he can do.”

 

 

October 27th, 2002

9:31 p.m.

 

            In the depths of the underground fortress known as The Hole a man named Doctor Crazy worked out of a lab which was not only antiseptically clean, but also made state of the art look sub-prehistoric. The one thing most noticeable was that the lab wasn’t the mad scientist’s lab. Dr. Crazy kept it well lit and his notes organized. Crazy wasn’t his real last name but after too many electric shock therapy sessions, who could tell what it was. He ran his fingers through his hair, and looked around for his spectacles. He saw them and picked up his glasses from the lab table.

 

            “What is this place?” She asked looking around

 

            “This is home.” Crazy said slipping his glasses on.

 

            “You sleep here, underground?” She asked

 

            “There’s no need to go upstairs.” He said. “Weirdo sends me what I need.  I don’t have to worry about going upstairs, ‘cept for my walks.”

 

            “Walks?”

 

            “I go upstairs every day or so for a walk in the fresh air.”

 

            “So why are we here?” She asked.

 

            “We said already.” The Weirdo said. “Those flashbacks keep giving me a headache. You’ve got all this stuff that needs to be looked into.”

 

            He pulled a large plastic sheet from the apparatus, and revealed the device. The apparatus mainly consisted of a bed-like table and a piece of plastic, which slipped over the forehead.  There were wires and switches leading from it to another device, and a large bank of computers and other devices and something that looked like a water cooler filled with green Jell-O. It all looked like something a mad doctor would stand over declaring that it was alive, ALIVE!

 

            “What in the name of the gods is that?”

 

            “It a machine.” Doc said. “It’s a… brain machine.”

 

            “You don’t know what its called do you?” The Weirdo said looking at him.

 

            “Well… ah, ya see, ah, no.” Crazy said. “But I can tell you what it does.”

 

            “Where did you come from?” Kestrel asked The Weirdo.

 

            “I came over the Viaduct.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Why a duck?” Crazy asked.

 

            “Because if this bit goes any further we get sued for copyright infringement.”

           

            “Have I missed something?” She asked.

 

            “You might say that.” The Weirdo said, “How’s the thingy working today?”

           

            “It’s okay,” Crazy said, he smiled a grin that said the next thing he was going to say would sound perfectly insane on television but truly idiotic in person. “As far as a whachamacalit can work.”

 

            “Climb in.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Are you mad?” Kestrel asked the two men. The two exchanged a glance at each other and then looked at her. “Okay that was a dumb question.”

 

            “Right,” The Weirdo said. “So climb in.”

 

            “Oh no,” she shook her head, backing away. “There is no way in hell you are getting me to sit in that contraption.  I don’t care what you say, it ain’t gonna happen.”

 

            A few moments later Kestrel was strapped into a very comfortable seat, which had several electrodes touching to her back and arms. She had a small collar strapped around her forehead. She looked at a screen, which sat at the other end of the room. Crazy picked up a black sleep mask and placed it over her eyes. He took a pair of foam ear plugs and pushed them into her ears.

           

            “What’s with the plugs and mask?” The Weirdo asked.

           

            “So that she can’t hear or see us talking.”

 

            “Is that all?” She asked pulling one of the plugs out.

           

            “Mostly.” Crazy said. “I mean it also will prevent you from having sensory overload.”

           

            “But mostly you want to talk about her and have her not able to listen?”

            “Don’t you?”

 

            He slid a pair of large sound eliminating earphones over her head. He then slipped the eye mask over her eyes, hoping to keep as much sensory data from coming up as possible. He checked the screens of the device and then made a few small adjustments to the mask and headphones and checked again. This time he nodded to himself with approval and began to switch things on.

           

            “Now is this just going to be like a movie?” The Weirdo asked. “Or what? How is it going to be for her?”

 

            “Why do you ask?”

 

            “We’re talking some considerable trauma here.” The Weirdo said calmly.

 

            “I can keep her chemical levels kept in check.” Doc said tapping a device. “Most emotions are just chemical reactions in the brain anyway. This machine will regulate the flow of chemicals that are a result of certain memories. I’m not going to let anyone have a panic attack in my chair.”

 

            “What’s that going to do to her emotional connection to the memories?” The Weirdo asked. “I mean when this is done?”

 

            “It’ll reduce them.” Doc said looking at a few screens and making a few adjustments. “The pain won’t be so bad any more. I could remove the emotional response completely, but I’m fairly certain that would cause damage to the whole mind. I wouldn’t want to give her a lobotomy or anything, just a few gentle prods in a less painful direction.”

 

            “Hmm.” The Weirdo said thinking over what Doc was saying. “Okay, switch it on.”

 

            “We’ll be able to see it, sort of.” Doc said. “You sure you wanna stick around for this?”

 

            “Might as well.” The Weirdo said.

 

            Doctor Crazy began to manipulate the machine’s controls to find the hidden bits of her brain. The black screen showed the scene as it had played out in her mind, exactly as she had seen it. If The Weirdo were a different person, he would have looked away. The face was his face after all, which made it look like it was him cutting Kestrel’s father behind his knees and causing him to fall. It was his mouth that bit at her mother’s ear and tore a part of it away before killing her. It was his body that forced its way into the young woman’s body.

 

            Unfortunately, The Weirdo was the sort of person who had to watch. If there was something to be recorded, he would view it and his brain would record it. That was what it was like being in his head though, he had to look, and he had to record. There was no other option.

           

            After that occasion had passed though, Doc found something else in her head. It was enough for Doc to actually have to stop and marvel at it. He had to maneuver the three dimensional computer representation around it, and examine it slowly before he even recognized what it was.

 

            “Holy shit.” He pointed at the screen. “Look here.”

           

            “What is that?”

           

            “An incredible amount of hidden information.”

           

            “What is it though?”

           

            “Let’s see.”

 

            They started to move into the cloud of hidden memory and let the machines process it slowly. The Weirdo watched as the days and nights of her memory danced by, in a sort of quickstep motion. He watched as the girl was raised as just another of the old woman’s creatures.  She learned how to change her shape by accident, and tried to flee the ancient alchemist.  The old woman had caught her and kept her though, sealing her up in a sort of magical tomb in a cave, protecting Kestrel from time and age.

 

            Clearly the old woman was either killed or died before letting her out because it was centuries before she knew anything. Some mining or building required some blasting and part of the cave she had been sealed into had to go. The cave was blown open and out she came, like a beetle sealed for millennia in an Egyptian crypt.

 

            The girl came out, crying out in a dialect of ancient Gaelic for a mother she could no longer remember.  A young couple, recently married and picnicking nearby, heard the frightened cries, and thinking the child had been trapped in the slide, rushed to help her.  The girl they found was dressed in a patchwork dress made from poorly cured leather hides.  She didn’t speak a word of English. The couple, Gwendolyn and Daffyd McLeary, had to find a scholar in ancient languages before they could even talk to the child.  Not that it did them any good since after eighteen hundred years the only thing that she could remember about herself was that her name was Kestrel.

 

            The media had a field day of course and The Weirdo remembered something about this story. The newspapers called her a miracle, the tabloids an alien, and the scientists an opportunity. The McLeary’s got dozens of phone calls a day and a crowd of people camped out on their front lawn. It wasn’t very long before Gwen had had enough. She had her husband change their phone number, and she chased the throng off their property with a garden hose. They had restraining orders put out on the newsmen.

 

            Eventually Omega and The Secret Seven showed up and explained to the media their wish to give these people their privacy. As this was the height of Omega’s presence as a media figure, his wishes were more or less granted. The Secret Seven of course made sure that the few who tried to invade their privacy were made to wish they had never heard of this Kestrel girl.

 

            Gwen and Daffyd arranged to adopt Kestrel, and began teaching her English themselves.  They grew to love her dearly, and it was mainly for her sake that they finally decided to sell everything and move to America.  Both of them felt that their daughter deserved to grow up somewhere that she wasn’t known as a freak of nature.  Gwen had relatives in New York, who discovered a lovely old home on Long Island. They moved as soon as they could afford it, and Daffyd reopened his jewelry business.

 

            Then, a few years later came Loki. The Weirdo told Dr. Crazy to stop at that part, examining the door as it split open. The Weirdo told Doc to break the emotional connection to the memory. They watched the rest of the movies, The Weirdo watching as she grew into an accomplished thief and through to today. The images faded from the screen, and Dr. Crazy switched the machine off, helping Kestrel out of web of electrodes.

           

            “How do you feel?” Crazy asked her.

 

            “I think I want to be alone for a while,” she told the doctor softly, her eyes distant.  Then she paused.  “I won’t forget everything again, will I?”

 

            “You shouldn’t,” he said thoughtfully.  “Your mind was about ready to live with those memories anyway, if you were flashing them.”

           

            “Thank you.”  She nodded to The Weirdo as she walked away.

           

            Crazy whistled softly.

 

            “Never thought I’d find that. That little girl has had a rather full life.”

           

            “It’s not every day you see such things.” The Weirdo agreed.

           

            “I thought you did.” Doctor Crazy said flipping through some notes.

           

            “Most days, but not every one.”

           

            “I still say cracking your mind open would help you, too.” Crazy said. “An amazing wealth of information.”

 

            “There are things not meant to be found.” The Weirdo said. “Is she going to forget things again?”

 

            “She might.” He admitted. “Forgetting is her self defense. She’s set up to forget things, to just block them out. I’m not going to stand here and pretend that she’ll never forget them again.”

 

            “I think we might want to take this thing apart sometime.” The Weirdo said. “I’m not really comfortable with it.”

 

            “You always said I could make what I like.” Dr. Crazy said.

 

            “I know.” The Weirdo said. “I didn’t say I would, I said I want to.”

 

 

October 27th, 2002

10:05 p.m.

 

            Kestrel sat on the edge of a clear pool, dangling her feet in the chill water. The cold didn’t bother her, never had. She wondered if that was part of the long dead alchemist’s legacy to her. The old woman had been crazy, utterly without morals, but she had undeniably been brilliant. Without her meddling, Heather would have been dust for centuries, and Kestrel never would have existed. What would it have been like, she wondered, to have human-poor eyesight and hearing, to perhaps have needed glasses or a hearing aid?  Not that she would have been able to get either of them those few hundred years after Christ. She glanced at her reflection on the surface of the water. Would she have been taller? Heather had been born with green eyes. She remembered that now. What would she have been like, if she had been allowed to grow up?

 

            Kestrel shook her head suddenly; it was useless thinking about it.  She’d have been barefoot and pregnant at fourteen, if she wasn’t killed in another Nordic raid or by some pestilence. She was here now anyway, not there. It was useless to think about might have beens. It was true that she couldn’t exactly ask the old alchemist what changes had been made to her, but Dr. Crazy could probably figure it out, if she asked him to try.

 

            Dr. Crazy. 

 

            The name fit, she supposed; everything was crazy here.  And yet she found herself trusting them, liking them.  Even The Weirdo, as consistent as the weather and as wild-tempered; the little incident on the pier seemed almost to be friendly banter, like when kittens wrestle with each other. She had only seen a bit of his other side, for just a moment, but it had been enough.

           

            “Hi.” Max said walking in.

           

            “Hi.” She said.

           

            “You sure gave them what for today.”

           

            “Thanks.”

           

            “You wanna go get some food? My treat.”

           

            “Sure.”

 

 

October 27th, 2002

10:25 p.m.

 

            They were sitting in a good steak restaurant, one that Max had come to a few weeks ago with Tommy. A waitress had just taken their order and now they had nothing else to do but to sit across from each other and look at their drinks. The other patrons moved about in a quiet crowded way. There was something about all the people around them like this. While they were surrounded, no one was really interested in them, so they had complete privacy.

 

            “So what’s your story?” Kestrel asked.

 

            “The whole tale?”  Max asked setting down the water he had just taken a drink form.  “Mom had me when she was a kid, far too young really. Told me every day how if her religion didn’t prevent it she would have aborted me. I think she probably would have killed me if she had the courage. She hated me. She died when I was young, killed by a drug dealer.  I lived on the streets for about a year and oddly enough I spent a lot of that time making things hard for drug dealers.  It’s amazing how much information they’ll take from an anonymous tip.”

 

            “Is any of that true?” She asked incredulous about the speed and dispassion he used to tell the story.

 

            “No, not really.” He said shackling his head and smiling. “Mom did have me young, and she would have gotten an abortion if the law of God had allowed it, but I think beyond that she loved me. She was a heroin junkie, had it really bad. She died eventually of an overdose, and that was it for me and mom. I try to make up other tales on occasion, but I’m not a good liar.”

 

            “It’s okay.” She said.

 

            “Thanks.” He said.

 

            “And you met up with The Weirdo how?”

 

            “He and I were trying to get an angle on the same people.  He was surprise by the fact that someone else was there.  He was equally surprised when I shot a dealer who nearly shot him. Didn’t kill the guy, just shot him in the leg, hurt him bad enough to distract him.”

 

            “Yeah? So then The Weirdo took you in?”

 

            “Tommy and Chip convinced him.” Max said. “Tommy was watching and told him that I might be a good kid. That was when Chip was still around. He was a decent guy. Tommy’s the one who started teaching me how to do things. Then, after a while, The Weirdo took me under his wing. He was teaching me and Chip about the job while we were killing gangsters. He made me his apprentice as he put it. Keeps telling me that one day all this will be mine.”

 

            He laughed at that. A look of rueful exhaustion ran across his face and she thought that there must have been some hardships in his life. There was a young man there, but there was also a weather beaten old man in there as well. She wondered if anyone in that house was who they seemed to be at first.

 

            “You don’t believe him?”

 

            “I can’t say why.” He said. “But for some reason I can’t see it happening. I think that the house will be gone before I get a chance to inherit. I keep thinking that maybe he actually believes I’m supposed to be something greater. I have no idea what that is, but you gets clues.”

 

            “Now you’ve mentioned Chip twice, whose he?”

 

            “He was my friend, and he betrayed us all.” Max said, and his face darkened slightly. “He tried to kill me, shot me in the chest. The Weirdo had insisted I wear this Kevlar and titanium vest under my clothes that night. Broke my collarbone, a couple of ribs, and hurt my arm really bad. They pulled me out of the river and saved me. This was just last December actually.”

 

            “What happened to Chip?” She asked.

 

            “Christmas day I caught up with him. One bullet through the head and down he went. Except, unlike Loki, he didn’t get up. God, I puked up everything I ever ate after that. For like, days. The Weirdo had left Chip to me, said whatever I did he’d stand behind. If I had just let Chip go The Weirdo told me he would have said that was the end of it. It didn’t work out like that and I think he knew it.” He rubbed his nose slightly and picked up his glass again. Kestrel noticed that he was doing almost everything that required him to pick up more than a few ounces with his right hand. The wound must still give him trouble.

 

            “So, what is his story anyway?” She asked. “I mean I read about The Weirdo a little as a kid, is this the same person?”

 

            “I’ve no idea about a lot of it really. He is the same person who was around using the name in the thirties though, I can tell you that. All I know about him before I met him is just the normal stuff that they print about him every time they do a magazine story. About the only thing I know about his past was that his parents were killed when he was young. That’s what sent him to this line of work, the dark side ya know? Revenge, anger, fear, depression.”

           

            “Doesn’t sound like the optimal environment for a young man.” She said as a waitress brought them their steaks.

 

            “You know he just appeared one day? He recruited Tommy and Jack and the three of them began to gun down every gangster they could find. When the FBI was saying there was no organized crime, they were smashing the organization. There was a cowboy with them too, but he died.”

 

            “But what about now?” She asked. “How does he show up now?”

 

            “He vanished one day, and then just reappeared a few years ago. He found Jack and Tommy again, made Tommy young with some magic elixir, found Jack, and began again. He says that he had been transported through time and space to the greatest trainers and teachers that ever there were. He’d been taught everything he’d ever need to know.”

           

            “Why?”

           

            “You ever read Nietzsche?” He asked. “The concept of the ubermench?”

           

            “I think I’ve heard of it.”

 

            “I think that’s what they were trying to make.” Max said. “The Weirdo says most his power is just practice and knowing how to do things. He says that anything he does can be learned, practiced and performed by someone with the right will power.”

 

            “Is that true?”

 

            “Maybe partially.” Max said. “I think it would help if you had his genetic template. They improved on him greatly though I can tell you that. Most of what he does comes out of learning and practice. They taught him a lot of stuff.”

           

            “They who?”

           

            “I don’t know.” He said. “No one tells me much of anything.”

           

            “Can’t be a very good environment for a young man though.” She said.

 

            Max took the knife and fork next to his plate and cut into his steak, the red juices flowing over the plate from the browned outsides and the pink center. The juices ran into the fries and he mentally subtracted them from the fries he would actually get to eat, since soggy fries are undeniably nasty. He put the first piece in his mouth and closed his eyes with obvious pleasure.

 

            “It’s been alright.” Max said. “I’ve been doing alright. It’s really been okay. I’ve been doing the good work with these guys for the last three years or so. It’s not bad really.”

 

            “You kill a lot?”

 

            “No.” Max said. “A few times, in defense.”

 

            “Just defense?”

 

            “Just defense.” He said. “I can’t manage like The Weirdo or Tommy can. Tommy was a costumed hero before The Weirdo came along and he was in the OSS and then the CIA after The Weirdo vanished, you know.”

 

            “Was he?”

 

            “Yeah.” Max said. “He’s the only guy who might be smarter than The Weirdo. They’re both so cold about killing and they can be scary sometimes. He’s a psychic too, ya know, possibly the most powerful ever. Now he’s bedding the two girls, you might have seen them, blonde and a red head.”

 

            “And that’s not for you?”

 

            “I’d be delighted to go to bed with two women like that.” He said.

 

            “I meant the killing.” She said. “The psychic angle perhaps.”

 

            “Oh.” He said. “No, I’m not psychic, not a killer. Jack says that I’ve got too much respect for life to destroy it. I don’t think he likes killing either, even though he has to do it sometimes. Tommy might not like it, but he’ll do it without question.”

           

            “And The Weirdo?”

 

            “Sometimes I think he likes it. I think he wants to kill, I think he’s built for it.”

           

            “Really?”

 

            “I don’t mean like he’s a psycho or anything like that. I mean there’s something about him that says he was designed for destruction. It’s like when the Gods made him, and they were ancient gods mind you, they built him for a purpose. Most people are just born and decide a way to go, his was set out in the design phase. They didn’t give him even the slightest bit of a chance.”

           

            “You believe that?”

           

            “I believe a higher power sent him here to complete a task. He’s got something he’s got to do; or something like that. He’s got to be able to do a thing before he can be free.”

           

            “You believe in gods then?”

           

            “Some sort of Gods.” He said. “We’ve had contact with at least one or two pagan gods over time. The Weirdo himself was propositioned by Eoster, and we’ve met others. And there was Cydrill.”

           

            “Cydrill?”

           

            “He’s a sort of God of Autumn, or immortal, or something. He’s the grandson of the spirit of the woods or something, I know he can control weather and things. I think he’s some sort of God, he’s The Weirdo’s Grandfather at any rate. He’s this great big muscular giant who can cause the winds to change and stuff.”

           

            “I see.” She said.

           

            “I’ve been talking a lot about our guys huh?” He smiled, “I’ve suddenly turned into exposition boy.”

           

            “That’s alright.” She said.

           

            “Well why don’t you tell me your story?”

 

            “Sure.” She said setting her knife down and beginning.

 

 

December 22nd, 2001

12:21 p.m.

 

            It was cold outside, even though the snow wasn’t falling, just pattering against the window where the wind blew it. It was a bleak outlook for the rest of the dark year. In the house, in this particular study, the air felt cold. They were all there, Jack and Tommy, Max and Chip, and of course The Weirdo.

 

            Max and Chip looked at The Weirdo as he looked at Tommy and the two girls on the couch. They weren’t actually girls, but the word seemed to fit them better than young women did. There was something about each of them, a sexuality that went deeper than their physical beauty and tight bodies. The Weirdo was being patient as Tommy explained the trip that had gotten them here. Had Max or Chip done this, The Weirdo would have probably bawled them out something fierce. Max could see The Weirdo wasn’t terribly pleased as it was, but Tommy had earned his chance at an explanation. Jack didn’t look at any of them, just sat at the desk with his feet up reading a magazine.

 

            “So you brought them here?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “Yes.” Tommy said.

 

            “Because they’re cute?” The Weirdo asked

 

            “Partially.” Tommy said. “But really where else did they have to go?”

 

            “Judy.” The Weirdo said turning towards the red haired girl. “You said Vena was here to finish us off?”

 

            “That’s right.” Judy said. “The syndicate hired her.”

 

            “And we can’t kill her?” Chip asked.

 

            “It’s complicated.” Tommy said.

 

            “Yes I know.” The Weirdo said. “Something about passing through the Darkened Hall freezes a person.”

 

            “We didn’t tell you about the hall.” Sheila said.

 

            “Didn’t you?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “No.” She said.

 

            Max sat up and looked expectantly around, wondering what was going on. Jack looked at him and winked, then went back to his article. He looked at The Weirdo, who could have been about to revel the fact that low interest mutual funds were the way to go for long-term investment profits.

 

            “I met with a man today.” The Weirdo said. “Had an interestingly long conversation with him. His name was Dagron Piedmont.”

 

            The Weirdo noticed how Judy and Sheila were both shaken by the mention of the name but pretended not to be. Now was not the time to act like you were observant. Now was the time to continue playing the cards you already had in your hand.

 

            “He works for an ancient Lord of Nature from the land of Asitania. Name of Cydrill Blackheart.”

 

            “Cydrill’s here?” Judy asked.

 

            “He is in this house.” The Weirdo said. “He has come looking for Vena.”

 

            “So he’s come looking for us?” Judy asked.

 

            “Didn’t mention you two.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “What’s going on?” Tommy asked.

 

            “It’s a long story.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Yeah I bet, spill it.” Tommy’s voice had an edge that was unusual.

 

            “That’s not a very diplomatic way to get me to tell.”

 

            “Spill it or I’ll spill you.” Tommy said.

 

            “What does that even mean?”

 

            “It means tell me what you know.” Tommy said. “Or I’ll do something.”

 

            “What?”

 

            “I dunno I was hoping my intimidating presence would win you over.”

 

            “You have an intimidating presence?” Jack asked looking up from the magazine. “This is new.”

 

            “Shut up.” Tommy suggested.

 

            “Cydrill Blackheart is a member of my extended family.” The Weirdo said. “It’s a complicated story but he came from another place and they passed through some sort of portal to get here, causing them to become immortal.”

 

            “But Cydrill knows how to kill us.” Judy said beginning to panic. “He’s come to kill us.”

 

            “He hasn’t come for you at all.” The Weirdo said. “He wants to settle up with her.”

 

            “Then what about us?” Sheila asked.

 

            “I don’t know.” The Weirdo said, looking at Tommy. “What about them?”

 

            “They haven’t got anywhere else to go.” Tommy said. “As I said before.”

 

            “And we have rooms.” The Weirdo said.

 

            “Yes.” Tommy said nodding.

 

            “Okay.” The Weirdo said. “Ask Shannon if she can help them find some more appropriate clothes though, okay?”

 

            “Sure.” Tommy said.

 

            “And now you will all leave save for Tommy and Jack.” The Weirdo said. It was not a suggestion, but rather it was a command.

 

            “Why do we have to go?” Chip asked as he stood up.

 

            “Grown-up talk.” The Weirdo said. “Max, go introduce the ladies to Shannon please.”

 

            “Sure.” Max said and walked out of the room after the two women.

 

            He looked at a moment at Chip, who seemed to be angry, though it was always hard to tell. You couldn’t follow his eyes shifting since they were completely black like those of a small bird. Chip followed Max out though and nothing more was said about it at that moment. When the door closed The Weirdo looked at Jack and Tommy.

 

            “You think they know?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “No.” Tommy said. “If they knew that Cydrill’s been hanging around as he had, they would have been less surprised.”

 

            “Okay.” The Weirdo said. “Did they know that we’ve known Cydrill longer than today?”

 

            “No.” Tommy said. “They think you just met him today.”

           

            “Carefully worded story-telling that was.” Jack said,

           

            “Thank you.” The Weirdo nodded slightly.

 

            “They’re hiring out immortals to kill us.” Jack said setting the magazine down. “Is that a final cry of desperation?”

 

            “Well that doesn’t matter so much.” The Weirdo said. “All we need to do is draw her out so Cydrill can get her and away we go.”

           

“So what about the girls?” Tommy asked.

 

            “What about them? Cydrill isn’t interested in them, so what do we care?” Jack asked, watching Tommy’s face carefully.

 

            “What do we do with them?” Tommy asked, a little exasperated.

 

             “What do you want to do with them?” The Weirdo asked, trying to sound as neutral as he could.

 

            “Answer that very carefully.” Jack said enjoying the look on Tommy’s face.

 

            “I don’t think they’ve ever been told how to live.” Tommy said. “If we are to believe what we’ve been told, they’re five thousand years old and couldn’t manage a cross town bus trip without specific instructions and tokens in hand.”

 

            “Are they incapable?” The Weirdo asked, still trying to sound neutral.

 

            “No, just no one has ever taught them anything.” Tommy said, trying not to sound desperate about keeping them.

 

            “What do you think?” The Weirdo asked Jack.

 

            “You can’t turn them out into the snow.” Jack said leaning back in the chair. “And I think Tommy likes them. They must have shown him quite a time.”

 

            “Tread carefully Jack.” Tommy warned, slitting his eyes dramatically.

 

            “This is careful.” Jack said smiling broadly.

 

            “So we’re going to spend our time killing baddies and taking in orphans?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “Just the hot ones.” Jack said.

 

            “The hot baddies or the hot orphans?” The Weirdo asked.

 

            “Both.” Jack said.

 

            “Some baddies aren’t hot.”

 

            “Terribly inconsiderate of them.” Jack opined. “It’s not very nice to be bad and not hot either, that enforces the long held stereotype that only hot sexy people can be good and only ugly people can be evil.”

 

            “If we kill the hot baddies though, we’re causing ugly evil by natural selection.”

 

            “That is a pisser.” Jack said. “I guess we take in the hot bi-sexual orphans that are willing to sleep with Tommy, for whatever reason that they do, and we kill all the baddies.”

 

            The Weirdo sucked in his full lips and bit down on the lower one, letting it slide out slowly. He finally made a smacking sound that meant a conclusion had been reached. He looked from the snow pattering against the windowpanes and towards Tommy.

 

            “Good enough I suppose.” The Weirdo said. “So we’ll keep them around.”

 

            “Goodie.” Tommy said coldly. “I’m delighted we’ve decided on that.”

 

            “Aren’t you?” The Weirdo asked brightly, smiling with broad innocence. “I think we’re going to have to advance the plans if they’re sending people against us.”

 

            “When you say advance?” Tommy asked.

 

            “Been doing this for a couple of years.” The Weirdo said. “I’ve got an idea that we need to end this. A few big hits and we end this.”

 

            “If you say so.” Tommy said.

 

 

October 28th, 2004

12:01 a.m.

 

            “Are your little hellions on track?” The Gray Man asked.

 

            “They are.” Loki said.

 

            “I’ve got something for you.” The older man said.

 

            “Have you now?” Loki asked.

 

            “It’s time this thing between you and your brother was settled.” The man in gray said. “Virgil is here, he can track you.”     

 

            “Virgil?” Loki asked. “He’s here?”

 

            “Yeah.” The Gray Man felt his stomach turn on him again and he was going to betray everything again. “The only way you’re going get away from Virgil is to give him another target.”

 

            “You mean The Weirdo.” Loki said.

 

            “I do.” The Gray man said.

 

            His heart sank at the thought, but he knew it had to be. This had to happen to The Weirdo or nothing else was going to work. He hated the idea of selling the boy out, but it was such a necessity. He gritted his teeth for a moment and sighed, then told Loki the plan.

 

            “Can you arrange it?” Loki asked.

 

            “You can get Virgil there by being there. I can get The Weirdo there by Virgil being there.” He could feel himself turning a knife in his own side. “You just have to be there and be ready to stop Virgil from killing you.”

 

            “I’ll be ready.” Loki said.

 

            “I hope so.”

 

           

October 28th, 2002

2:10 a.m.

 

            The Weirdo had tried to go to bed, even if sleep wasn’t coming easily. He actually managed to go to sleep finally though. His head rested softly on the pillow, and then the sound came. Something was sliding across the marble floor, which caused him to wake up suddenly. He looked and saw the sparkling in the dark. He looked to the windows and thought for a moment that he had seen the tiniest swatch of gray fabric on the balcony. He ran out and found no one on the balcony but himself. He switched a light on and saw what was sparkling. A diamond broach with invisible settings. He picked it up, and heard those words in his head again, only slightly different now.

 

            Time to jump soon.

 

            “I actually thought I could sleep through it.” He said. “Fuck.”

 

© 2012 Autumn Knight Productions

 

August 7, 2013 - Posted by | Fiction | ,

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