<--Younger | The First New York Magician | Older-->

I woke again in a dim but thankfully not dark room. It was full of clutter unidentifiable in the low light; I was lying on a leather sofa with a heavy blanket - almost a tarpaulin - pulled up around me. The sofa was along a wall. Raising my head slightly - all I could manage - I could see several chairs, a low table, and then a cluttered mass of bookshelves marching off towards the other side of the space. I coughed, once.

There was a noise from past my feet. I rolled left and bent my neck down to look past them, since I couldn't manage to lift my head high enough to do so directly. There was a brighter rectangle that indicated another room, and a large shape moving towards me holding something steaming. Kevin knelt by my head and held out one of the large mugs.

"Broth. Drink."

I freed my hands and reached for it, noticing the bandages on my chewed forearm. The mug was earthenware and warm; I clutched it to my cheek for a moment before hesitantly sipping. I coughed again, managing to keep the broth down, but barely; there was lemon and alcohol in there as well, beneath the beef boullion. "Ugh. What is this?"

"Good for ye. Drink it, boy." There was a slurping noise as Kevin demonstrated with his own mug. I slowly worked my body backwards until I was braced against the sofa arm and could swallow more comfortably.

"Where are we?"

"Me place. One of 'em." Kevin drank again, gestured at me meaningfully with his mug. I sipped obediently. "Been here about a day."

"Do they know-"

"Nah. Wasn't anyone there when I bust ye out, looks like."

I thought of something and grimaced. "Damn it. Kevin, you didn't find my bandolier, did you?"

"Didn't grab nothin' but you, boy. Had to get dispensation to do that. Even if I coulda found the irons, probably wouldn't have been allowed."


"Me boss. He's not entirely happy about me intervenin'. I told him us humans tend to stick together; he's buyin' it for the moment. He's got nothin' against ye. But he won't intervene beyond that, an' I'm not to neither."

I sipped broth for a time. Then, "Thanks, Kevin."

The other waved it off. "Nah. Ye owe me one, is all."

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure. Ain't sayin' I'm able t'answer."

"How did you know my gran'mere?"

"Ahh." He smiled, creasing into a grin. "What a woman yer nan was, boy."

"Okay, that's already told me way more than I wanted to know about that part."

"Ha! Don't be a prude, boy. I knew her when she was a young thing, she was. Still all farm French and on fire, too." He whistled appreciatively. "Met her in London in late 'forty-ought. In a bomb shelter, as it turns out."

"Before she came here?"

"Aye. Knew her there for a few months, then she got her papers and shipped out of Liverpool for the U.S. of A. I wasn't to come here for, oh, twenty years or so. Found her again here in New York, mmm, maybe twenty years ago."

"Were you looking?"

"Nah. She found me, truth t' tell. I was workin' downtown at the seaport, and she walks up behind me an' slaps me on me bottom, bold as brass. 'Kevin, you whore,' she says 'fore I can turn around, 'what're you doing here doing honest work?'" He laughed, then drank again. "Hadn't ever expected to see her again, y'know?"

"Did you know my parents?"

"Nah, I never met 'em. They'd passed already, boy. Saw you a few times, she brought you by when you was a young 'un, down at South Street."

"I don't remember."

"Ye wouldn't. I was workin' for me boss by then, he wouldn't have let ye remember. He likes me face to remain me own, not show."

"Huh." I was feeling better; the broth and whatever was in it were performing alchemical miracles on my innards. I struggled sideways and sat up proper on the sofa, pulling the blanket to keep it around my shoulders. "I've been hearing, Kevin, from various people, that Gran'mere had a job I didn't know about."

"Job?" His voice sounded wary.

"More a contract position, really."

"Not sure I know what ye mean."

"Are you sure? I ask because it seems that I, now, hold the contract. But I'm not at all clear as to what the contract says."

He blew out a breath, slowly. "Shite." Another drink. "She hoped it'd miss you, boy. She tried t'keep you out of it."

"Well, she didn't manage." I was too weary to be angry. "Do you know what the hell I'm into?"

"Only generally. And-" he held up a hand as I opened my mouth- "I don't think I'm the best one t' tell ye about it."

"Shit, Kevin-"

"No, boy. You need the clear truth about this, not what-I've-heards. You need to go talk to the contract holder."


"DON'T," he slashed a hand down, cutting me off, "say it. Not here."

I subsided.

"But, yes. Him. You need to find out what you're meant to be in for."

I finished my broth, then looked into the mug glumly. "He'll probably be pissed I lost the talisman, more than anything."

* * *

It took me a week to feel well enough to risk going home. Kevin's place, it turned out, was in Powell's Cove, Queens, underneath a brute of a transshipment warehouse. It must have been within a stone's throw of the water, because once or twice when he left I could faintly hear the rasp of the Zodiac. When I felt up to it, he brought me a trenchcoat which fit me and led me to the front of the building, where a prosaic yellow cab was waiting. I looked at him. "How'd you get a yellow out here?"

He grinned back. "I know his mum." I laughed, shook his hand, and got in. The driver nodded at me and took off through Whitestone, making for the Cross Island Parkway, the Grand Central Parkway, and finally Manhattan Island. I tried to pay him when we pulled up outside my building an hour later, but he wouldn't take my money, saying Kevin had already paid. I thanked him and walked slowly into my lobby.

There didn't seem to be anything out of place, but I rode the elevator up to my apartment in a state of quivering tension. Reaching my floor, I pulled out my keys (thankful that Shu's helpers hadn't emptied my pockets, as well as taking my coat and bandolier) and unlocked my door. Pushing it open, I strode in and came face to face with a figure frozen in the act of walking across my foyer. We both stopped, and looked at each other in surprise.

"Oh," Hapy said.

* * *

Msamaki, it turned out, had family in town. Not knowing what else to do, he'd given Hapy my address. Hapy had shown up, not found me, but found his way into my apartment. How, I didn't ask. You don't ask Elders things like that; it's impolite to bring up the mortal technicalities and they get a pained look and change the subject.

He'd been staying there, though. I was fortunate; as the Flood God, he was a pretty fair housekeeper. He hadn't raided the fridge, of course, but the place looked clean enough to eat off the floor. I thought about it, then decided not to ask.

After getting the story from him, and assuring him that I wasn't angry nor was I about to throw him out, I went into my bedroom (he'd been using the guest room, which spoke well for his anthropomorphic manners) and went to the ceiling of the closet. Pulling down the rubber ceiling mat, I extracted my spare Desert Eagle, six magazines, two stun grenades, the collapsible baton, and a leather thong which held a small cylindrical pouch. Adding my second-favorite trenchcoat from its hangar, I cannoned back up, standing in front of the mirror to ensure I didn't clank inappropriately. The thong looped around my chest, holding the pouch just over my breastbone. I laid my hand over it, once; felt the surge of power answer me, and stood for a few moments before the mirror, the mixed energies flooding through my abused frame. When I was finished, I wasn't healed, but I was a damn sight closer to it than I had been a moment before - as much as I dared. I looked in the mirror, and recognized the expression on my face.


I closed the trenchcoat, pulled a fedora off the dresser (dark gray) and jammed it down onto my head as I strode out into the living room. Hapy was sitting at the table, engrossed with the newspaper; he looked up as I came out. His face brightened. "Sam..." he frowned. "Spade? Sam Spade?"

I looked into the hall mirror. The comparison wasn't too bad. I nodded, once; archetypes are power, and I'd take whatever I could get, wherever I got it. "Yeah, Hapy. Sam Spade." I pulled the Desert Eagle, held a mag in my hand and pressed it to the pouch on my chest that held a small quantity of the Waters of Life and Death, saved back for need such as this. The bullets sang softly in their strait prison of steel and brass, their blunt shapes sponging up the power, the mere jacketed lead shifting imperceptibly.

Could you see them, there, inside their oblong case, they were glowing in the colors outside the rainbow. I grinned at Hapy, with whatever on my face causing him to lean back, and slid the magazine into the big pistol's grip, rubbing it with my palm to ensure it was seated. I holstered the gun.

Then I angled my hat, swung a one-finger salute at Hapy, still sitting at the table in somewhat nervous confusion, and slid out the door.

<--Younger | The First New York Magician | Older-->