By MARK SLADE copyright m.s. 2012
Century City is the place where Kate Mcbain and her rogues have their base for business.
They have converted an empty warehouse with three floors. Top floor is where they first host all the relics they find for the museum and Prof. Henders, before it is shipped to the museum. Second floor is living quarters for Kate and her men. Consisting of Graham Longly, her body guard. Ah, Mogulah. Her chief researcher, guide for lands foreign, and master of ten languages. There is Clint Harper. The kid brother of a friend in the police force Kate once was friendly with. Clint is an Arms specialist. He has another specialty, which is letting his mouth get him into trouble.
On the third floor, the basement, is where Kate keeps her God safely in his pine box of fresh dirt. The God Dailis. The God of Vengeance and Death. When he is in his human form, in the day, he is Capt. Rick Cooper. Cooper served in U.S. Army during world war one. He was caught by bullet in the face, which is why he wears a kerchief around his lower part of his face. In the trench one day Cooper was caught in a mustard gas attack. He wasn’t quite dead yet. Another soldier from his unit made sure he was.
This comrade in arms wore a gas mask, went looking for Cooper. He found him lying face down, coughing up his insides, and shot him in the face.
Kate went into the basement to speak with Dailis, or as the Newspapers know him, BLOODFLOWER.
His box was empty. Kate looked everywhere for him. Clint had followed her down to the basement. “What’s the big deal if Cooper is gone?” He stood in the doorway, folded his arms. “Maybe he had a hot date,” He laughed.
“Yes, a twit like you wouldn’t also notice that the Krunell Ring we found in Greece was missing along with Cooper. Who happens to be a God as well!” Kate pushed Clint out of the doorway.
“I love it when a woman is angry.” Clint chuckled.
Mogulah followed Kate up the stairs. “Where do you think he is going?” Mogulah nearly lost his fez, tipped it back on his head with one hand. “He’s a very frail man. He couldn’t have gone far.”
“Oh, he’s still in the city Mogulah. I’m sure Clint and Graham can ask our fellow city dwellers if they’ve seen a man with half a face.”
Clint sighed, rolled his eyes. “We always get stuck with leg work.”
Cooper had found his way to the Golden Lamb club on the east side. It had taken a lot of his energy just to walk two blocks from where the bus had dropped him off. All eyes were on the old man in a trench coat, homburg and red kerchief covering his face. Since it was the dead of winter, not too many people thought it strange. As anyone could feel what a collective thought of all who caught glances of Cooper, he must have been a criminal of some sort.
He was met at the door of the club by a young woman in a top hat and a sequined short skirt. She took Cooper’s homburg and trench coat. “The bar is to the left and the stage show is in the back with the tables,” The girl said. Cooper looked twice. He could have sworn he saw her talking without moving her lips. “My name is Ecko and if I can be of any service feel free to assert yourself.”
She took Cooper by the arm, and with his gimpy leg, Cooper slowly went through the door to the stage in the back of the room. He sat at a table far from the stage. He noticed it was all young girls working in this establishment.
He took his chair and immediately a waitress appeared. “My name is Syrnx. Is there anything I can get you,” Through the smoke that seemed waver past the blond girls face and short bobbed hair, Cooper saw she wore a necklace made from reeds from a river bank.
This made Cooper smile. “Of course,” He said, nodding his head. “Two things: A scotch on the rocks and tell Robertto Panzini I’m here. Capt. Cooper is the name.”
The waitress gave him a inquisitive look.
“Don’t worry, he knows the name.” Cooper ran a hand through his balding head. He looked around, watched the waitress skirt around tables holding host to a full house, mostly men in suits and thick new york accents.
Cooper put his hand in his trouser pocket. The Kruner ring was still there. That had been an easy job. Beat out the millionaire Jacob Stern in a race to dive in the deep waters of the Mediterranean.
From Mogulah’s research, a statue that was spotted by deep sea divers was the statue of Katrine, former lover of the God Zeus. Inside this statue held the Kruner ring. A ring made of Quartz. Clint and Graham had to not only dive for this statue and attach the ropes to pull it up by Kate on the boat, they had to take care of Stern’s men. Daybreak prevented Cooper changing into Dailis.
The curtains raised on the stage. The spotlights appeared, and out of the dark stepped a tall slender man with a goatee in a black tuxedo. A microphone was lowered by a string and the man took it with both hands.
“Here’s your host,” He said with a slight lisp. “Good evening all. My name is Robertto Panzinni. I own the joint. I present the house band, Billie and his Kids. 1-2-3-4!” Panzinni screamed.
Upbeat swing music began with a drum roll and the seven piece horn section raged with a vicarious frenzy. The singer danced in his newly shined shoes and his waxed down sprung into action, sticking out on both sides as he shook his head and his legs kicked in the air as he slid forwards and backwards. Then he heard his cue, another drum roll.
The singer had a golden voice, velvety. He sang: “Mares eat oats and Does eat oats and little Lambs eat ivy.”
The crowd went wild. Catcalls, whistles, clapping their hands, grown men pounding their fists on the tables. Cooper put his hands over his ears. All that ruckus hurt his ears, and he was referring to the music. He stood, asked a waitress as loud as he could for his bill and he would pay as he got his coat and hat.
Panzinni put his hand on the waitress’ shoulder. “No, Capt. Cooper does not pay single cent for his drink. You cant’ leave yet. The music get’s hotter, my friend.”
“That’s what’s driving me out of here,” Cooper quipped. “Really I just came to see you…but if you’re busy with you’re party..”
“Nonsense! Never too busy for a friend.” Panzinni whispered in the young woman’s ear, stole up her skirt with a hand. She giggled and whisked away to the bar.
“Come this way, Captain,” Panzinni took the frail man by the elbow, helping him out of the stage area and down a long hallway toward steps down to a bottom floor. “Do you have what I asked for?”
Cooper stopped short of entering a room with table and six chairs. At the door was two large goons with thick curly hair and thick beards. Cooper looked both of them up and down. “All of that depends if you have what I asked for.”
Panzinni sighed, shrugged his shoulders. “Would I let a friend down?” His lisp becoming more apparent as he spoke to his goons in Greek. They nodded to him in unison. “Of course,” Panzinni urged Cooper in the room. “Our guests will be arriving soon.”
Cooper took a chair at the end of the square table. He took a handkerchief to wipe sweat rolling down to his scarred side of his face under the kerchief. Panzinni met the waitress at the door. He took the tray of bourbon and glasses from her, blew a kiss. She swished away, a huge smile on her face.
“That lady didn’t have to throw her coffee in my face,” Clint wiped the liquid from his left cheek. They were standing in the crowded streets asking anyone questions who would listen.
“No,” Graham patted Clint on the back. “She didn’t have to, but she did. Looked like she enjoyed it as well.”
“Lately I have had that effect on people,” Clint snarled.
Graham laughed. “Lately, you say?”
“Psst….” They heard a voice from around the corner. Then a head would peer round once in awhile.
Graham started to walk to find the voice, Clint grabbed him by the arm. “Wait, it might be a trap,” He said with a serious tone. Graham gave him a look, then laughed.
“Not this time, Clint, old boy.” He walked to the corner, looked around to find a boy of twelve standing there, posing as the toughest man on the street. The boy was dressed in short pants and a cabby hat on his tilted to side, a green and brown scarf around his neck that was too long for his body. He was chewing on a tooth pick and averting his eyes from anyone else eyes.
“Did you say you were looking for somebody? The boy said.
“What’s it to you, rugrat?” Clint stepped in close to the boy.
Graham pulled Clint away by his elbow. “I’ll handle this Clint.”
“Names Paddy, boy- o!” The boy spat his tooth pick at Clint and Graham’s feet.
“I’m sorry, my friend has no tact,” Graham put his hand out for Paddy to shake, instead he just stared at it. “My name is Graham, this is Clint. Nice to meet you Paddy.”
“Yeah, yeah, likewise.” Paddy shook Graham’s hand.
“You have information for us, Paddy?”
“ Lookin’ for a strange lookin’ guy in a trench coat and a red handkerchief across his face. I’ll tell youse guys. For a price.”
“A con job is what this is,” Clint said.
“Tell your dog to heel,” Paddy spread his arms like an eagle ready to pounce.
“Clint, be quiet!” Graham shoved Clint. Clint gave him a hurtful glance. “What’s your price, Paddy?”
“A fiver.” Paddy put his hands up.
“Don’t give this kid five bucks, Graham.” Clint said in Graham’s ears.
“I said shut-up Clint. You better not con me, kid. Or I’ll wipe your snotty nose with my fists. Got it, punk?” Graham pushed Paddy against the brick wall.
Paddy was shocked by this gesture. “I ain’t conning nobody, mister. I swear.”
Graham stared at Paddy a few seconds. He took out a five dollar bill and slapped it in the boy’s hand. “Okay. You’re going to show us where you saw him. Got me?”
“Yeah, yeah. No problem, mister.”
A short stout man in a gray fedora and gray overcoat entered and sat next to Cooper. Panzini appeared, sending his men away, with orders to evacuate the nightclub, all of this spoken in Greek.
“ Ah, Micha. You’ve arrived,” Panzini placed a glass of beer in front of the man. “Cooper, may I present Adolfis Micha.”
Cooper nodded. Micha looked at this man with indifference. “What the hell is this, Panzini?” The man in his early fifties said. “I’ve already paid you this month. Where’d you get the freak?”
“Yes, yes. You have indeed, Micha.” Panzinni sat across from the other two. “And up until now, you were under my protection here in Century City.”
“What do you mean up until now? We don’t need a war do we, Panzini?”
Panzini shrugged. “I don’t think there will be, Micha. You see..there is a need for change in your…grocery business.”
Micha was leering at him. “You do, do you?” Micha had retrieved a snub nose pistol from his overcoat. “Who did you have in mind, Panzini?”
“Claski can handle things…you are not going to need that gun. I’m afraid it’s useless.” Panzini said.
“A gun is never useless,” His fat cheeks became flushed, sweat rolled down his forehead. He felt very unusually hot.
“Do you recognize me,” Cooper said. “We served together in the first great war…”
A moment of clarity crossed Micha’s face. He pulled the trigger, the gun aimed actually at no one. It was rather unintentional. Micha screamed.
Micha felt the yellow fiery smoke exit his overcoat. His eyes began to tear up, then sores formed over them. His skin became irritated, itchy. The vapor had filled his entire body. He convulsed for a few minutes before falling dead to the floor, the gun fell and rolled under the table.
“Well,” Panzini stood, when the yellow vapor cleared the room. “That was easier than I thought. I absolutely feel no grief loosing him as a business partner.”
“I never thought I would track him down,” Cooper said, feeling rather weak, he placed a hand on his head, closed his eyes. “I need to rest a moment.”
Panzini put his hand out. “Of course…but I must insist on the ring.”
Cooper took from his pocket and tossed the chunky square ring to Panzini.
“Now, I am no longer a victim of the curse..I am a God not part, but whole.” Panzini slipped the ring on.
When Cooper reopened his eyes, Panzini had changed. He had grown legs of a goat as well as horns.
Cooper saw the crowd of people in the street when he exited Panzini’s club. In that crowd Clint and Graham emerged, calling his name. Paddy ran after them. Cooper kept walking, they trailed him. Clint ran up in front of him.
“Please, Clint, I’m very tired.”
“You got some angry people after you, and Kate is one of them,” Clint said.
Paddy called out to Graham. “Where’s my fiver?”
Graham handed him the money. “Where’s your folks, kid?”
“That’s not important. What is, is that I can now get my supper,” Paddy disappeared into the dark night.
Clint was left standing there, wondering how a kid got in that situation. He heard Clint say, “Let’s get you home, old man. You know it’s after midnight?”
“Of course I do you fool! I planned it this way. Get your hands off me.”
“I guess a body has to accept it’s situation, no choice,” Graham said. He ran to catch up with Clint and Cooper.