Naranja del Mundo - Orange of the world?
Quiche' 1 220.127.116.11.1
Dance of the Serpent
Victim of Circumstance.
Two days until the festival... I’ve gone through all the CD cases now– Groups I’d never heard of, music I’d never have listened to if it weren’t for the clues that were starting to drive me crazy.
There was nothing else out of the ordinary as far as I could tell. I catalogued them and put the information on disk for easy reference. Then, with nothing else to do– I began unpacking. I put Matt's Daisho back in his room where it belonged.
Then their were the three statues– them I ended up putting around the fireplace mantle. Looking at them I smiled. The crusader: Matt, the Indian Shaman on horseback: Alan, and the conquistador: Andy.
The last one didn’t quite fit. Andy wasn’t a conqueror at least not at first glance he was idealistic and trying to find that pot of gold– maybe it wasn’t as far fetched as I’d thought.
Next I began shelving the books. After, of course, leafing through each one looking for more hidden clues. By the time the last box was emptied the condo was looking a lot more like home to me– the boy’s home. The stark modernistic Dining room, spilling over into a more eclectic Living room. The study now looked more like a library than anything else– well except for the museum of old tech that I setup.
The only things I hadn’t put away were Alan’s collection of artifacts. I figured I should have Mario or Mrs. Walker go over those and tell me what they were.
By the time Case showed up... I was napping on the couch. I woke up when he handed me something to eat and I filled him in on what I’d found.
He smiled and I could tell my excitement wasn’t all that well contained.
“Jess,” he called, trying to get me to slow down. “You don’t have to tell me everything in five minutes...”
I nodded sheepishly and tried to slow down– really. I could tell by his silly grin I hadn’t succeeded. Still, he agrees that the festival is probably where the boys wanted me to go.
It’s a bit annoying– they’ve pretty much booked this cruise and I have to go along for the ride and pray I don’t miss any connections.
Mario came over and went over Alan’s treasure trove. He was quite impressed. He wouldn’t tell me anything about them mind you– just that he was very impressed.
He did tell me that they were not active and should remain that way.
“Mario...” I said softy as I looked at him and then back at the items. “Remember what happened the last time you didn’t tell me things for my own protection.”
It was a low blow, but his attitude brought it all back to me. This isn’t some grand adventure, it’s a nightmare, and the only way to free myself is to finish the journey.
Mario’s head snapped up for a moment and then he nodded, signaling me to follow him into the living room. I sat down and watched as he began pacing back and forth.
It took him a long time, and I realized, maybe he wasn’t protecting me this time– but himself.
“The Aztecs were not the only ones to use blood magic– just the most practiced.”
I looked at him for a moment and nodded, a slight shiver passing through me. “Alan....?”
Mario smiled gently and shook his head. “No... your brother has studied them, not to be like them– but to know how to fight them.”
I nodded slowly. “Tell me about him... about them... about... those things in the other room...”
Mario smiled and sat down next to me. It was a very long talk but in the end I think I understood Alan a lot better than I did before– and the artifacts he’d collected. They were used for blood sacrifices at some time in their existence... but slowly– through time and spells and protecting others from the same sort of fate the souls still bound to the objects were being freed from the horrors that bound them.
It didn’t make sense at first but from what Mario told me– it seems that Alan had suffered at the hands of a blood mage, and had made it his mission to fight them and in this day and age that means Aztechnologies. Somewhere down the line he discovered that the souls of those lost would linger sometimes– their life force not entirely spent. They would become part of the artifact... trapped there until someone could unbind them.
I didn’t understand the process only that it was long and involved. I understand that– its taken me a very long time to free myself– and I still have a ways to go.
I also learned that the artifacts could not be unmade until the last soul was released– otherwise whatever was made from their fragments would remain a thing of evil– and useful to those who practiced the rites.
My thanks to Rat for letting Winterhawk join the fun.. and letting me play instead of just write.
Today was a combination of frustrations, close calls, crushed hopes and ultimate success. To call it an emotional roller coaster would be to add a new level to understatement.
I was up early having dreamed that I'd missed the festival by a week and was finally drifting off to sleep when the alarm went off. I showered and almost forgot to grab something to eat. I was heading out when I thought about it and stopped at the diner. They had a bag waiting for me.
I was about to get rolling when one of the local kids summoned me to the clinic. Trina was swamped and needed help. I swear it felt like I was standing at the dock watching my cruise ship sailing away. Of course I stayed and helped. Things calmed down around 11:00 and I headed out.
All the way there I kept imagining someone walking away with my clue.
Kobe Terrace Park had been transformed into something almost akin to a circus midway. Tents filled with vendors selling memorabilia, CDs and T-shirts spanned the entire area. In the center was a giant canopy covered stage, featuring live bands playing the greatest of the last century in music.
The shear size of it was overwhelming. It was amazing how they'd transformed the park into a small Bazar with alleyways and vendors on every corner. It took me a while to get oriented-- not that it really mattered. What I was looking for was hit or miss, I had no idea what time frame the music came or if it even was considered 'Rock and Roll.'
I started my quest by listening to the bands and going from table to table humming the snippet of song-- no one recognized it. I began to wonder if it really was a clue... or a trick where it should be played backwards. I must have asked two dozen vendors with nothing even resembling luck.
I looked at the sea of vendors and wondered if I’d ever find it. I was about to move on when I noticed a little boy trying to climb a CD rack up ahead of me. It was already starting to tip, but the boy was oblivious to it. I caught it and with the vendor's help managed to right it without dropping anything on the kid’s head.
I looked down at the little boy and was telling him that he really shouldn't climb on things like that when he started bawling his eyes out. You'd have thought that I was killing him from the sound of it. His mother picked that moment to notice he was AWOL and came storming over. She picked up her kid, glaring at me all the while.
I tried to explain, but she just snarled something at me and stormed off. Probably to find security and report some weirdo harassing kids...
I shrugged and turned back to the Vendor who smiled at me as he finished making a sale.
"Thanks," he said.
I grinned, at least somebody noticed. "No prob," I assured him.
"Now, what can I do for you?"
I took a deep breath and explained my situation. I told him I was looking for a recording of a song, that I only remembered the smallest fragment of. It was close enough to the truth and a lot easier to explain than the whole mess.
He smiled and encouraged me to sing it, which I did. He listened intently as I repeated it and shook his head sadly. "Nope sorry, don't recognize it..."
I was about to leave when a man behind me asked about it.
"If you'll forgive my intrusion," he asked in a soft, British-accented voice.
I turned to face the gentleman, and gentleman was definitely the word for him. He was dressed in one of those stylish, kind of baggy suit, and a gray overcoat that looked like real wool. In one hand he held a briefcase and an umbrella was hooked over the other. He seemed rather ‘old fashioned’ which didn’t seem to match his apparent age. I mean I don’t think he was a day over 35.
"The tune sounds very familiar...do you know any of the words?" he asked.
I had to admit I didn't. Hell, I couldn’t even guarantee there were words.
“Are you sure it’s a rock tune,” the vendor asked, not to be outdone.
I shrugged. I mean, Matt likes rock, and the festival was conveniently timed after I was supposed to have found the clues. It all pointed here... but I could be wrong.
“I’m not sure of anything,” I admitted with a chuckle. “I think my brother had it... and I know he likes rock.” I looked around. “Figured it wouldn’t hurt to try here.”
We discussed it a little longer and the vendor simply shrugged apologetically. The British gentleman, who later introduced himself as ‘Hawk’, however swore that it was very familiar.
He asked me if I could narrow down the time frame from it. Again, all I could do was guess. I know Matt likes what’s called ‘Classic Rock’-- music from the 1960's - the late 1970's.
Hawk smiled and told me he had good taste. I nodded, hoping it wasn’t yet another misleading clue– that I hadn’t confused it somehow, but I hadn’t heard that progression in any of the Santana I’d listened to.
After a minute he smiled at me... his eyes were penetrating and yet friendly at the same time. I found myself startled as much by the intensity as the color-- electric blue.
“I hope you don't mind that you've intrigued me now and I won't rest until I know the name of this song."
He offered, very kindly to show me a few places that might be able to help me. Which was exactly what they did. He introduced me to a vendor in the ‘Union Jack’ tent. It turns out that I’d been singing it too slowly. When the man there asked me to speed it up a little, Hawk’s eyes lit up.
He seemed pleased as he suddenly recognized the tune.
“No wonder it sounded familiar,” he stated. “It's Procol Harum. 'Conquistador,' if I don't miss my guess."
The vendor nodded in confirmation.
It turned out that it was not a ‘hot’ item that was carried in any great numbers, but Hawk offered to record the track for me if I couldn’t get a copy of it here.
We arranged to meet at ‘The Library’, a nice little place downtown that sells real books and coffee. I thanked him and he said it was his pleasure to help a fellow classic-rock afficionado.
We talked a little bit and I found out that he was especially interested in British Rock, and was trying to complete his collection of ‘Queen’ and ‘Who’. I figured I’d check through Matt’s collection and maybe give him something for his trouble.
He gave me a card and wrote his telephone number on it. “In case you find a copy of it before six.” he said.
I ended up calling him around 16:30– I’d found one of the albums he’d listed. Of course, there was no ‘Procol Harum’ in Matt’s collection. That would have been too easy.
I ended up asking Case to– watch over me during the meeting, just in case.
The meeting was wonderful, Hawk was a perfect gentleman about the whole thing. And the song... The lyrics almost brought tears to my eyes.
I wanted to give him the disk he’d been looking for, the one I’d snagged from Matt’s collection, but he wouldn’t hear anything about it. He ended up paying me for it. I figure Matt owes me that much.
The expression on his face as he listened to the CD was priceless, and I’d known I’d done the right thing. He’d given me back more than he could possibly know.
After Hawk left I joined Case who was staring at me with that incredulous look he seems to give me all too often.
“Jess,” he asked. “Do you know who that was?”
I shook my head. “Not really, he introduced himself to me as ‘Hawk’.
Case just shook his head.
“Jess,” he said slowly. “That was ‘Winterhawk’... one of the top shadowrunning mages in Seattle..”
I looked at him a minute and then at the CD. “And he likes Rock and Roll, go figure.”
We stayed up late last night. All right– I stayed up late last night and kept Case up listening to the song Hawk ... Winterhawk had given me.
It fit so well, and yet didn’t really make any sense.
Conquistador your stallion stands in need of company
I looked at the statue next to the fireplace and replayed the section of song. It was the first time I really studied the statue. The figure was mounted on the horse– definitely not needing company.
And like some angel's haloed brow
You reek of purity
There were no angels in the boxes I’d unloaded. I wondered if that was part of the clue or just– something in the song that had no bearing on reality. Then again, the boys were no angels, maybe that was the clue.
I see your armor plated breast
Has long since lost its sheen
Armor, showing the signs of age without care. The statue had been cared for, and except for a year’s worth of dust...
And in your death mask face
There are no signs which can be seen
Death mask...an ancient custom, where the impression of the deceased’s face was cast in iron, or bronze... in some cases even gold, so that as the body decomposed, people would still know who the deceased was.
It was the first time the classes I took on death, dying and customs surrounding them even came close to being useful.
There hadn’t been any masks in the boys’ stuff, but again, maybe that was the clue. “There are no signs which can be seen.”
And though I hoped for something to find
I could see no place to unwind
I’ve definitely been hoping for something to find– so far I’ve come up with too many possibilities. I’m beginning to see that that can be worse than finding nothing. Am I supposed to take the lyrics of the song and use them all, or is it just the title of the song... “Conquistador”?
Yeah, I can’t unwind either.
Conquistador a vulture sits, upon your silver sheath
He’s dead, and the vulture is sitting on his armor. Again, nothing in the condo even came close to an image like that– just the simple statue.
And in your rusty scabbard now, the sand has taken seed
Sand and time are now his enemies... slowly reclaiming the things that had been wrought by artisans.
And though your jewel-encrusted blade
Has not been plundered still
In the song his sword is still there, laying untouched– for now. I moved closer to the statue. His sword was still there. I reached out and touched it... nothing happened. The statue was one cast piece. The Conquistador, the horse... everything was one piece. No horses standing alone here.
The sea has washed across your face
And taken of its fill
Again, images of decomposition– I realized, the man in the song had not been buried, merely left where he fell. That was wrong. The conquistadors were Catholic, on a holy quest, much as the crusaders had been. Burial was the right of the just who died serving God. Does this mean he went off on his own, seeking gold instead of remaining pure? But the song says he ‘reeks of purity.’
Conquistador there is no time, I must pay my respect
That’s simple enough, paying respects and moving on.
And though I came to jeer at you
I leave now with regret
Finding no reason to jeer a hated enemy, now that he is gone? Perhaps finding that he was indeed pure.
And as the gloom begins to fall
I see there is no, only all
There was nothing to explain those words– they sounded more zen than anything else– something very different, a world away.
Though you came with sword held high
You did not conquer, only die
He’d hoped to win, high hopes, grand plans... finding only death.
I think I would have stayed there all night, but as I drifted off, Case picked me up and carried me off to bed.
Needless to say, I had some rather weird dreams last night, and none of them made any sense what so ever.
In the morning I went to church. I tried to listen to the sermon, but found myself staring at the statues near the altar. Angels, watching...protecting a symbol of purity.
Purity of heart, of intentions, believing you are doing what is right– But is believing enough?
I pondered that the rest of the day, and on into my shift. Is believing ever really enough?
I was so occupied by the song and trying to figure out what the next clue was that I’d almost completely forgotten about the odd deaths within the Triads, the Mafia and the Yakuza..
...until I got back to work of course. Three more dead, a Yakuza boss, her body guard, and a Triad courier this time. The Yakuza, and her body guard were electrocuted in a freak accident in the bathhouse they frequented. The courier was killed when he suddenly veered to the left into oncoming traffic for no apparent reason.
I thought about how illusions could make you react and started getting nervous again.
Somebody is messing with these people but good. And of course the local star doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere– just a serious of freak accidents really.
I had a brief visit from the Knight Errant warning me to be careful, whatever was happening wasn’t over yet and there were still signs of someone not being too happy with me messing up their plans.
Isn’t that just great? And here I thought I’d just be out risking my life to save others.
Officer Smiley took it in stride, trying to take more of the calls so that I could stay with the truck. I told him that I appreciated what he was trying to do– but I wasn’t going to let them keep me from who and what I am.
He grinned and shook his head. “You really are a hard headed one Miller.”
“That’s the way they raised us,” I quipped back.
The day wasn’t too bad from our end. Even with the strange deaths Tacoma was still one of the quieter assignments. We had a few more overdose calls, a hear attack, an apparent suicide...
The suicide attempt was the worst. Kid tried to asphyxiate himself in his parent’s garage. We got him on oxygen... but its going to take a while to figure out if any serious damage was done. Media got a hold of this one.
Turns out the Kid is a track star at the local highschool– good looking, popular... just the kind you’d profile for something like this– especially if you were hedging your bets with the fact that the kid’s parents were Mafia. I had my suspicions.
I can’t really explain why, but I asked Case for info and in return got another visit from Knight Errant. They told me I was most likely right, but that I really should try and keep a low profile on this thing.
“Kind of hard when they’re getting people on my route,” I told them.
They nodded, but I could tell they were worried. Hell, so am I. It's getting really hard to know who to trust in this. If Tiaka was still around I could ask him, but...
I’m beginning to think I really need a program for this one.
No if ands or buts about it, the Star is in on this and they don’t care who gets in their way. Even Smiley’s pissed and he’s a good company boy.
‘Course its really hard to tow the company line when they’re hurting their own people to follow some hidden agenda set by someone on up the food chain. We got called back to the scene of the ‘attempted suicide,’ and were questioned by several Star detectives.
They were very interested as to why we didn’t believe it was an attempted suicide. The answer was very simple-- people usually don’t attempt suicide by giving themselves a concussion before proceeding with trying to breathe in a garage full of exhaust.
They called me a smartass and told me they could make my life a living hell.
I told them they already had. They were starting to posture again when Smiley and I both smelled natural gas.
Both of us looked up and were moving before we even had a chance to think about it. I started herding the cops out of the garage as he got the door open. Two of the detectives were objecting but as I growled ‘move’, they caught on.
We got clear of the house and were just starting to look around when the gas exploded.
“Another accident!?” I demanded of them.
I think they were surprised too– never thought that the trouble would effect them. I tried to keep the news from Case, but that was impossible. He was there in less than twenty minutes. Of course, he has every right to take over.
Crooked cops and vigilantes comes under the auspice of federal investigations. Of course now, he was getting a lot of cooperation. Nothing like almost being killed to give people religion.
Case assured me things would be all right now, but we both know this isn’t going to get solved over night. And then of course– there’s always the backlash. Someone in the Star declared war on organized crime, its only a matter of time before they figure things out, and retaliate.
The Bahamas are sounding better all the time.
Case is totally amazing. I don't know how he did it, but with the world getting ready to spin out of control, he managed to give it enough counter spin that it never got the momentum it needed to break loose.
He took a big chance, calling a truce between the differing factions trying to get things smoothed over before everything got out of hand.
I of course didn't find out about this until it was all over, which is just as well. I knew something was up, the level of street crimes practically bottomed out. It was as if all the troublemakers in the city had taken a deep breath and held it.
And then– it was over. Calls were coming in and everything was back to normal, with one exception. We got a call to one of the most elite developments in Tacoma– to pick up one final suicide attempt– Gerald Mathias, former Vice-President of Lone Star's Northwest operations. He had tried to poison himself.
I don't know if it was a good thing or a bad thing, but we managed to save him. Case met us at the hospital and wasn't at all surprised that the man had tried it. He didn't say much to me, he just smiled and nodded– letting me know that everything was going to be all right.
I went to the arcade after work and unwound by evaluating Terry and the others. Ray and I had a quick discussion after the session and we both agree that Terry's ready to move to Takoma with me-- Smiley... there's no doubt he's ready for the job. Ray promised he'd make the arrangements.
Afterwards I headed home figuring on a nice quiet evening with Case, but he was too wound up from the day, not that I can blame him. To be perfectly honest I had trouble relaxing after he told me some of what had happened.
Then the man was apologizing for upsetting me. A good round with the heavy bag down at the gym took some of the edge off. A little bit of sparing did the rest.
On the way home he concentrated on critiquing my technique. Once we got inside I staged a rematch. I think we both won that one.