by Henry Wyckoff
Duncan kept a convincing poker face as he faced his last opponent, who sat at the opposite side of the table. A Frenchwoman who reminded him of an unlikely mix between Amanda and Hera, Queen of Olympus.
"I call you," Duncan said.
She nodded. "As you wish."
* * * *
"Marie? How can I forget the woman who cleaned out my wallet in a fair poker game? I even remember the hands!" Four tens versus four nines. "What are you doing here?"
She sighed, "It's a long story. Let's just say that I found something totally unexpected. Whether it is good or bad, I don't know. He's a mortal, but there's something about him that I can't quite put my finger on..."
"What do you mean?" Puzzlement rang through his voice.
"He is a young mortal. His license says that he is twenty-five years old, but somehow I believe he is older. In any event, he is attacked me an hour or two ago in the wilderness. Somehow, he knew I was there, and when he learned that I wasn't there to kill him, he attacked me, hoping that I would kill him."
"Do you think that he has the potential of being immortal?"
"I'm not sure," she truly was doubtful. "There is some aura about him, but I don't know if he has the potential. That's why I was hoping that I could bring him to see you. Perhaps you might understand him. I'm not sure I can help him."
She couldn't see Duncan's knowing nod. "Bring him. I'll be at the shop. When are you coming?"
* * * *
True to her word, the van was packed, and an unconscious young man propped in the front passenger seat. She prudently put his weapons in the back, tying his hands and legs together in case he had it in his head to try anything crazy. When she reached Seacouver, he was just beginning to stir. When they reached Duncan's gym, the sun was beginning to rise, and he realized that he was bound.
"What have you done?" Rather than be tense or frightened, he was more curious. "Were you that afraid of me?"
"I was afraid that you might do something unexpected."
"I try to leave the truly innocent out of my suicide attempts." He smiled, "I didn't have the chance to introduce myself. I'm Jay."
"Marie." She was shocked at the total acceptance of his situation. He didn't question it, or seem to mind that he had woken up in another city.
His sudden smile was roguish, "Did I ever tell you that I just adore being tied up? I live for being helpless." At first, she thought it was a bizarre pick-up line until she saw his wiggling fingers. Her suspicions were confirmed after she untied him. "Did I tell you that the pins-and-needles sensation of recirculating blood makes my knees quiver?"
She smiled lopsidedly, "Sorry."
* * * *
Amanda gave Duncan an odd look. "Marie is here, and there's a man with him."
He nodded gravely. "She brought him here because she thinks I can help him."
Her look instantly changed to one of genuine concern, her previous concerns forgotten. "New immortal?"
"She's very sure that he's mortal, but there's something about him that she can't identify."
"This should be interesting," she mused.
Duncan raised his eyebrows, "I take it you've met her?"
She smiled wickedly, "I've had the privilege of meeting her many times."
* * * *
Amanda gazed at the statue longingly -- almost. To most, it would appear as the gaze of a very interested art-lover. To those who knew better, it was the longing of a thief about to do her work.
"I take it that this statue speaks to you?" The speaker was the hostess, the wife of a wealthy banker who was showing the many works of art in the house. One of many means to say to the other local women, 'I have more wealth than you do... so there!' She was not so much a regal woman as she was a woman of presence. Amanda felt a sense of power in her, never mind the fact that this woman was immortal.
It was impossible to tell one immortal apart from another by means of sensation, so Amanda didn't know Marie's age, but she could guess that this woman had either lived a very long time or was one of those few born with a very strong will and direction. Though Marie had a very public face, Amanda could see the steel in the eyes.
"This is the one piece that stands out, though there is nothing here that is not the best." A nice political statement. Amanda was proud of it. Not only is it polite, but in case anyone ever suspected her, they would not know which one she truly planned to grab, if it would be any one item. "It is from the Hellenistic era, is it not?"
"Very good," smiled Marie. "Do you recognize the figure?"
"Alexander the Great." She wasn't old enough to know from first-hand knowledge, but she had seen enough statues to trust her memory.
Amanda thought she sensed an odd shift in Marie's mood. Sadness, perhaps? Oh well. It wasn't important. They moved on to other pieces of art.
It was an hour before dawn when Amanda approached the statue of Alexander. For a moment, she gazed at the statue again. Then she cursed.
Marie strode down the hall, "You are truly an inept thief, Amanda. I saw the look in your eyes. Do you think that I could be led elsewhere by a stupid muscle-bound fop?"
Amanda shrugged. "It was worth a try." A flick of her fingers, and a series of silent firecrackers went off. These were noise-makers of the visual kind, and she knew well enough to keep her eyes shut for a heartbeat.
When Marie could see again, Amanda was gone. The statue was still there. Perhaps she wasn't as bad of a thief as she accused her of being...
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