<--Younger | The First New York Magician | Older-->
His hand engulfed mine, and mine aren't small. Despite having waded through New York sewers to reach me, they were clean. I looked up his arm and up at him as I reclaimed my well-compressed fingers. "Kevin? Who the hell are you? No, wait a minute. What the hell are you doing here?"
"Same thing you are, I 'spect. Came looking for the power, didn't 'cha?"
"I came looking-" I stopped, thought about it. "I came looking for whatever called someone here. To Manhattan."
I looked at him, sharply. "Yes."
"Ahhh, me boy. I came looking for the same thing."
"What did you find?" I asked.
* * *
We walked back out to the railway tunnels. Kevin exclaimed in delight at the typewriters and, entreating me to hold his Coleman, salvaged a dusty but unrusted Royal which he carried under one arm with a pleased expression. When we reached the relative open space of the tunnels, he turned uptown without hesitation. I thought about it for a second, then shrugged and followed.
"Ye see, Michel, there's been all manner of trouble with the rivers. All manner. Been up and down the island, these past days, tryin' ta make sense of it." Kevin's accent was odd; it was mostly Irish, but there were strange gutturals in it; occasional odd stops. "What did ye find?"
I couldn't see any reason not to, so I told him about Brian and his companion and the game of Manhattan solitaire that had been laid out before they vanished away. Kevin clucked his tongue thoughtfully when I'd finished. "An' you couldn't read your card? Or the card they said was yours?"
"No. It was blurred. If I tried too hard, it interfered with my vision."
"Ahhhh." Kevin, it seemed, was fond of the almost-pleased sigh as a conversational gambit. I refused to rise to the bait and ask, so we walked a few dozen yards in silence save for the faint tapping of keys in Kevin's typewriter as it swung in his grip.
We emerged into wan daylight. Kevin continued north along the trackway, heading for the water; the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge was visible, swung east/west to allow water traffic through between the Hudson River and the Harlem River Ship Canal. At the water's edge, just off to the side from the tracks, was a black and gray shape. Kevin headed for it and carefully placed the Royal into it; as I came close, I identified a Zodiac boat with the characteristic safety orange color either painted over or replaced by dark plastic. "Hop in, me boy, I'll give ye a lift downtown."
"Hang on." I placed a hand to my chest, found the lumpy outline of Bobbi-Bobbi's spearhead, and closed my eyes. There was the now-familiar crackling sense of direction, faded slightly, and I opened my eyes to see Kevin looking at me calmly. I stepped sideways some five feet, repeated the experiment; sure enough, I was looking at him again. "So, Kevin."
"Before I get in that boat, perhaps you could tell me why my small friend here is very, very insistent that you, in fact, called Hapy here."
"Ah, that's easy."
"Surely." He reached into his waterproof waders. I stepped back quickly, one hand going to my gun, but he froze and looked at me somewhat mournfully.
Kevin withdrew his hand. In it was a bit of paper; an envelope? I reached for it, but he held up his other hand. "In a moment. Let's try this." He placed it on the boat and then stepped away from it. "Now ask yer friend again."
I looked at him suspiciously, then reached for the spearhead again. Opening my eyes, I found myself staring at the envelope. I looked at him, and he nodded. "Be my guest."
The envelope was sized for a greeting card, well-worn, but the photograph inside appeared almost new. I slid it from the paper and flipped it to face me.
A picture of my face stared back at me. I looked at Kevin, who shrugged. "I was lookin' for what called him here too, lad."
"Where'd you get this?"
"I told you. I knew yer gran. She gave it to me some years ago. When I was searchin', I kept comin' up with that picture. I finally kept it on me person, so it wouldn't interfere with me triangulatin'."
I handed him back the picture and quietly got into the Zodiac. Kevin untied a small rope that had held it to a sapling and kicked at the shore, powerfully. We slid into the opaque gray waters of the Harlem River. Once we'd moved some dozen yards, he dropped the outboard into the water and pulled on the starter. It caught instantly, and he dropped into the rudimentary pilot's seat. "Righto, boy. Downtown!"
And with that, the engine sang out a song of gasoline hunger, and we blared off along the Harlem River and the shores of Manhattan.
* * *
We'd reached Roosevelt Island before I could speak. "Why does everything keep coming up me?"
Kevin shouted over the roar of the engine, air and water. "Because yer the one called him, boy."
"I DIDN'T!" My frustration was easily vented, here, where shouting was almost necessary to be heard.
"Didn't say it was deliberate. Was your power, though."
"I don't HAVE power! I can't call the Others! I can just talk to them, and see them!"
"That's not what me boss says, boy."
"Who, then, is your boss?"
Kevin took one paw off the wheel to wave generally around us at the mercury and ebony colored waters. "There!"
"Where they meet!"
I thought about that carefully. Accent, location, where the what meet? The rivers? Then it was clear. "Condatis?"
Kevin nodded cheerfully. "He felt the rivers react when Hapy was called! You don't think you can bring the flood god into Manhattan and have the rivers ignore it, do ya?"
"I didn't bring him!"
"Well, however it went. He felt 'em strain their banks, boy, and he knew somethin' was up, and off I was sent."
We were slowing, pulling to the right and in towards the Manhattan shore. The Manhattan side was curving out into the river ahead of us, the bulge of Alphabet City hidden behind the industrial scarring of the FDR Drive. Kevin's voice was lower, no longer fighting as much engine noise. "Seems pretty sure 'twas you called him, boy. I don't argue with the boss about things like that. Your picture kept answering until I nullified it, then I went walkabout and came up with none other than you yerself."
I hunched in the front of the boat and thought about it somewhat furiously. I'd never had the power to affect the Others by will; only through my deeds and negotiation had I changed their actions or their courses. What had changed?
Then it hit me. I opened my bandolier with fumbling fingers, pulled it out and looked at it, really looked.
The starfield on the Patek Phillipe was glowing, a cloud of unknown origin spread across it. I spun on my seat, holding the watch up in front of me, and saw the starfield rotate behind it as if I was looking through the watch face into empty space. Finally, with some dread, I bent over and held the watch out over the river.
A face wreathed in greenish grey tentacles looked back at me from what might have been water and might have been cosmic gas. The eyes were closed, but I knew they would be enormous, round and brilliant yellow.
I snapped the watch closed and slid it back into my bandolier, hands trembling in fear and apprehension. Kevin slid us up to a crumbling concrete step and held the boat so I could disembark. "Thanks for the lift, Kevin."
"Sometime you need to tell me how you knew Nana."
"Only if you buy the beer." He winked, once, then released the rusty railing. "I'll be watchin' in, Michel. The boss likes this island the way it is."
"Me too, Kevin. Me too." He waved and shot off in a cloud of water spray. I climbed the few steps, crossed a disreputable park, and found myself at the East end of Fourteenth street. Sighing, I started to trudge across town towards home.
Why would Cthulhu give me power? Why would I have called Hapy? What the hell was I going to do now?
I couldn't answer most of those questions. But the last one, well...
I needed a drink.
<--Younger | The First New York Magician | Older-->