The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part VI -- Cats Eyes
by Henry Wyckoff
Lenny took a deep sip of tea. Although he had promised to
tell a tale in 'just a moment', he had in fact taken quite a
long time. The reason for this was because he insisted on
taking a shower first, and then shaving the weeks of beard
and hair away. Connor looked at Duncan with amusement as
Lenny had his own way around the boat, and Amanda looked at
this all with annoyance, as if someone was invading her own
personal space. Connor winked at her, and she glared right
back, sticking out her tongue at him. That was when Duncan
raised his eyebrow.
The three had to admit, however, that the wait was well worth it. After he cleaned himself up, Lenny looked more like an immaculate Tibetan monk than a traveller one step from death. His thinness became less of a starved-look, and more of a noble disdain for comfort. His sharp eyes became less dagger-like and opportunistic, and more the alert eyes of a man who has trained his whole being to see the truth in everything. All in all, he was a different man, if only because his appearance had changed.
He was now living in tranquillity as he sipped his tea. Sitting on a reed mat that Connor had pulled out -- he was more in tune with other customs than Amanda or Duncan -- Lenny gazed on the others, who were sitting quite uncomfortably on their own reed mats, and a subtle smile crept up on his face.
"I promised you a tale, did I not?" smiled Lenny. "Then listen well, because I don't want you to ask any questions until I am done. Understood?" They all nodded, indignation in their faces for his fatherly attitude. "Good. I have kept my eyes on what you and Sharpe had been doing for the last few years, and so I will not repeat what you already know. This is something you do not know, and will probably not believe once you hear it. And though I know you are all impatient, you must bear with me and hear the background behind it.
"A century ago, there was a boy born of ordinary parents who lived an unordinary life. As a young boy, he was... touched... by the gods, so to speak. As a young man, he displayed talents that were frightening to the very Christian, uneducated, and superstitious farmers of New England -- I have never learned whether it was New Hampshire or Vermont. He was said to know everything, to see into the future, and to know everything about an object or person just by touching it.
"That's a parlor trick when it comes down to it, but neither he nor his neighbors knew it, so he left... with a secret godfather that he never knew about. Would you be surprised to learn that it was Heimdall?" He noted their looks of confusion and continued. "They went north into the farthest reaches of Canada, where the young man found his dark inheritance. He found a spear that awakened a hidden potential inside of him, a potential that took him over. He killed Heimdall and went on his merry way.
"Heimdall found Odin several years later -- which is what this young man became -- and killed him, throwing his spear into the ocean, but it is what happened in the years in between that is crucial...
"Odin had become a legendary adventurer, traveling the whole of North America, from coast to coast, and inland to the heart. He was the perfect actor, playing many different roles in his quest. I don't even know if he was aware of it, but it's neither here nor there... After years of fruitless searching, he entered the lands of the Hopi with a group of outlaws following his trail of coins and his promise of more.
"He found his way into a sacred cave, hidden in an even more sacred and well-guarded canyon, where he stole a black orb. An obsidian orb said to have come from the Aztecs, and is called the Seed. They named it very aptly.
"Odin took it with him, leaving every outlaw with him dead and buried inside the cave. He even blasted it shut with dynamite, which is why I have been able to uncover the evidence of his treachery. He traveled to San Francisco, where he took a ship to Paris. There, he gave the orb to an old friend, and left again. His friend soon died, and from there the orb was passed on to the Museum."
Lenny sighed in irritation, "I suppose there was nothing to be done, but the Parisians made the worst mistake in accepting the orb... I suppose they're no worse than the Viennese in accepting the Spear. Perhaps there is a destiny involved, but it's a dark one. Only a few years after the orb found its way to the Museum, it germinated."
Lenny took a deep sip of tea and waited in deliberation, "Think back over the last century. Can you think about any differences between this and the last? It's not the wars, nor the earthquakes, nor the change in technology. ...It's the fear and hopelessness in everyone's lives -- including yours! I can remember a time when even the lowliest pariah had as much hope as the most privileged king, but now we are all held in common by our fear and hopelessness.
"That, my friends, is why I have come. The Seed must be destroyed, and I need your help. Perhaps by destroying the Seed, we will strike a blow against the Invisible Ones. I don't know if they created the Seed, but they most definitely have taken advantage of it."
He stood up, "I need all of your help. It needs to be stolen from its case, which is why I need you, Amanda." He looked gravely at Duncan and Connor, "And those who guard it must be killed while we retrieve the Seed and destroy it. Now, I believe you all have questions for me?"
That was a severe understatement. All three of them were talking at once, and the one theme that clearly shot through was, "You're totally nuts!"
//They'll see it my way soon enough...// Lenny leaned back, waiting patiently for them to gather their thoughts and speak one at a time.
* * *
Peter Caine was sipping coffee, against the wishes of the
inner voice that sounded a lot like his father. He snorted,
trying to rub the exhaustion from his face. //At least I'm
not getting drunk at a bar...// He would have talked to his
father about this most bizarre case, but his father was not
available -- apparently he was on some vision quest, or what-not. It didn't matter anyway.
When he opened his eyes through his fingers, he saw a sight that he'd rather not. It was a very sober Axer Carrick, joking around with another scary individual -- //It's the lumberjack from the warehouse!// -- both getting triple espressos and talking excitedly in some language he didn't recognize.
His eyes were far too trained for him to ignore the obvious signs of weapons underneath their coats. A sword on each of them, and Axer was packing two guns and some ammo. Peter remained relaxed, since he knew they weren't here to rob the coffee shop.
//I never figured Axer for an immortal, but I'm not surprised. Two drunks should have died for all the liquor I saw him slam down in one evening alone.//
He knew it would be useless to do anything about them because they lived in that 'other world' his father lived in... and a world that he himself was living in more and more despite his unwillingness. He looked at his hands, thinking about how much he'd gone through in the last few years since he'd met his father once more.
//Please, don't let this be another sign. It's bad enough having to deal with Powys once more...//
Axer walked towards Peter, and recognized him immediately. "Hey, Detective, what's going on?" Axer looked at his friend, "Heimdall, this is my friend, Detective Caine... or sort of. Actually, I seem to remember him from several drunken bouts, and when I'm in one of those, everyone's my friend."
Heimdall doubled over laughing while Peter looked at Axer -- now seating himself -- in annoyance. When he looked back up, something seemed to change in his care-free expression. It was recognition as well. "Maybe he's concerned because he knows us. Don't you, Detective?"
Peter nodded. "I remember you from the warehouse -- you were with Powys. And I know that you, Axer, are an immortal."
Axer leaned back with a stunned expression. "That's a hell of a slip punch -- usually, I'm the one who tells someone else!" He leaned forward, "So, what are you going to do about it?"
Peter shook his head sadly, "There's nothing I can do about it. I'd like to see the look on the Captain's face when I bring you two in because you can't get killed. That'll go really good!"
Axer laughed loudly at that one. "I'd like to see it too." His face grew graver all of a sudden. "I understand you were at the warehouse a few days ago, when the blackboxmen got into a shoot-out."
"How did you know that?" Peter was pretty shocked. He hadn't figured it would be a secret, but he also hadn't figured it would be common knowledge.
"Word gets around. I was wondering if you've managed to uncover any more material."
Peter looked hesitant.
"Come on! Inquiring people want to know!"
//Yeah -- and the stuff I'll tell him belongs in the Enquirer! But what the hell -- he's an immortal!// "Only odds and ends. I take it you're familiar with a lot of the case?"
"A lot of it," Axer nodded softly. "I'm just curious what you dug up."
Peter paused a few moments, collecting his thoughts. "Nothing directly connected to it, but a few things that are linked. Do you know an Interpol agent named Alan Powys?"
"He's an ex-agent. But yes, I know him."
"He's out of Interpol?!" Peter was shocked by that. He stopped himself. "He didn't tell me that... Anyway, I met him earlier this morning, and he let me in on this crazy stuff about Invisible Ones, a war, and..." He trailed off, rubbing his face. "The guy's lost his marbles."
"Pull your head out of your hands!" commanded Axer, his voice switching into a drill-instructor's. "I'll have you know that he's damned right about everything, and I need to know whatever he told you."
Peter looked at both Heimdall and Axer, and shook his head once more. //I can't believe this is happening!//
At that moment, there was a disruption in the coffee house. An artist-drifter, the weeks of grime on her starved face, stood on a chair and started yelling, "Charms of Baldur! I have Charms of Baldur! Charms to ward off sickness and hunger! Charms to bring love into your life! Charms to ward off your enemies!" Her eyes were full of zeal, as if she truly believed in it.
To Peter's horror, everyone here -- people that he thought were respectable people -- were soaking it all up. Their eyes were widening, and within moments, they were scrambling for a bunch of cheap bracelets.
Axer shook his head, "I thought I left that world. I really did..."
Heimdall's expression was one of rage, but he said nothing.
Peter stood up, but Axer firmly shoved him back down. "There's nothing you can do about it. I think Powys was right when he said that even the mortals are changing in preparation for this war -- unconsciously grabbing for any floating debris in the water."
Axer could feel Heimdall pull back his chair, and stopped him as well. "If you want a stop to this, let me do it. I've had *lots* of experience. Believe me."
Heimdall nodded, looking at Peter as Axer walked over to the Charm saleswoman.
The woman seemed to sense Axer's approach, because she picked him out of the mob of people. Her eyes glazed over as if she were suddenly possessed, and she spoke in a raspy voice. A masculine voice. "I see the Stone has been revealed. The landslide has removed the cover, and what was once shall be again."
Axer smiled grandly. //I can play this game too. Question is, how did you get your information?// "What do you claim to be?"
"I am Uri, Disciple of Baldur, spreading his word and his care throughout the world. The Christian God and his weak son have proved themselves to be either nonexistent or liars. Baldur is real, and shows it by doing real things for the world."
"So Baldur shows himself through these charms?"
"Yes," nodded Uri.
"Then he wouldn't mind if I did *this*?" Axer simultaneously grabbed a charm and smashed it on the table, breaking the cheap thing. "Where's the bolt of lightning? Where is Baldur's wrath?" Uri looked as shocked as everyone else in the coffee shop. "What good is a charm if it can't even defend itself?"
The folks in the coffee shop started to look confused, looking at one another, as if they had all woken up from a dream.
Axer stood close to Uri, who began to look very, very afraid. He whispered to her, "I'll be the first to admit that you're a good hypnotist, but you're stepping too far out of your field."
Uri whispered back, "How would you know?"
Axer smiled viciously, "I'm having coffee with Heimdall, right over there." He pointed over to Heimdall, who smiled and waved. Axer looked back at Uri, "It's your move."
Uri made a face, then grabbed her stuff and left. The coffee shop returned to its usual state of being.
Peter looked at Axer in confusion, "Did I miss something there?"
Axer tilted his head a fraction, "No. I'd say you got it. Uri, as she called herself, has a knack for getting a crowd into a certain mood. But mass hypnotism isn't infallible -- all you need is a good heckler, and I've had millennia of experience."
Peter looked at Axer with new respect.
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