When the saloon door burst open Orin the bartender cautioned The Kid, “Don’t look. Thems historians.”
Cautiously, The Kid spun an eye around the filthy den called Rose’s Thorn. A dim hole infested with the dregs of society: smugglers, black market antiquarians, and worst of the worst historians.
To keep the timeline on track, The Kid whispered, “Who are they?”
Orin said, “The one eyed grizzly is Seamus Goldberg -- Irish Jew. Jumped back 88 times to kill Hitler 88 different ways.”
Seamus growled at five men sitting in a corner table. The five vacated. One tried to leave with their whiskey. Seamus snatched the bottle, loosening the man’s grip with a head butt. The Kid flinched. The trio took seats.
Orin went on, “The woman is Katie Jackson. They call her Katie Extinction. She the reason Gandhi killed so many.”
Hearing the name Gandhi, a refugee from 1940s London shivered, muttered a prayer, and downed a tumbler of gin. He gestured for a refill. Orin obliged. He knew the stories about the madman Mahatma. Those were enough to cause nightmares.
Orin finished the lineup, “One with his back to the exit that’s the Professor.”
The Kid nodded, “I heard of him. First fella to wrangle a Phantom Filament.”
Orin said, “With his bare hands, if you believe the stories.”
The Kid slugged back his whiskey, “I don’t, but that don’t mean it ain’t true.”
The Kid sauntered over to the trio. Orin hissed a warning. The Kid ignored him.
Without turning around the Professor said, “First time we had this conversation Seamus broke your jaw. Second time Katie broke ya arm, stabbed you in the neck with the bone.”
The Kid smiled, “Third time’s a charm.”
“No, it isn’t.” The Professor turned, raised a gun, and shot The Kid in the chest.
The Kid smiled, “Lucky thirteen.”
The Professor chuckled, “Take a seat.”
Sitting down, The Kid reached for the whiskey bottle. Katie grabbed it first, and smashed it against the wall. The bar went silent. Orin ran over with a fresh bottle.
“On the house,” he said.
Katie laughed, “When do we ever pay?”
Seamus growled, “Di tsayt iz tayerer fun gelt.”
Katie sneered, “Don’t be getting on that shit road.”
Seamus shrugged, “I figured something smart before we got stupid.”
The Professor looked up at Orin, “You still here?”
Orin hurried off. He shot a look at The Kid who just grinned. Orin shook his head. The bar went back to a low, uneasy murmur – everyone ignoring the corner table, while keeping nervous eyes on it.
The Professor pulled a cigarette from a case. He tapped it against the ornate Art Deco design etched across the surface, a gift from F. Scott Fitzgerald for regularly supplying Zelda with antipsychotics. The Professor didn’t do it for the writer though. He did for, as he saw her, the first American flapper. All the dominoes followed her lead.
Threading the coffin nail between his lips the Professor said, “So, Kid, as I understand it you want us to help you pull some kind of heist.”
“No shit.” -- Katie rolled her eyes. Seamus grunted what might've been a laugh.
The Kid said, “Look. We already had this conversation.”
The Professor blew a cloud of pale blue into the air. Watching for shapes he said, “Ad nauseam, and I don’t care to have it ad infinitum.”
“Then why are we talking?”
Seamus snorted, “Because killing you, beating you into pulp just don’t seem to send the message.”
Katie grabbed The Kid’s ear and hollered into it, “We ain’t interested.”
She shoved him away, and The Kid chuckled. This caused the Professor to cock an eyebrow. He couldn’t get a read on this one. That alone was unusual, however, despite his best efforts the Professor had been unable to track down whichever Resurrection Men kept bringing The Kid back to life. This more than anything else inspired the desire to get to know the young man better.
At a glance The Kid seemed to be merely twenty years old, a wondrous amalgamation of self assured confidence and horizon grasping ambition unaffected by years of real world experience. In other words, a self proclaimed Titan not yet aware of its own fragility, or the withering fact of its own limited proportions. In ripped jeans, leather jacket, and a middle finger T-shirt, The Kid came across as more cliché than genuine rebel; his appearance in stark contrast to the Professor’s own waistcoat and matching pinstriped pants.
Of course, looks didn’t mean everything. Seamus lumbered around in greasy cargo pants and sleeveless t-shirts featuring cartoon characters, while Katie wore anything leather like some pseudo-futuristic primitive, one eye shadowed in electric blue. The Professor didn’t recall a negative opinion of them when they first met, although their reputations told him more than enough. This Kid, though, had no rep.
The Professor remarked, “It’s not a bad idea…”
“Thank you,” The Kid said.
“It’s the worst idea.”
“Ever,” Seamus grunted.
Katie added, “Let me ask you something. Was somebody fucking your brain when you came up with this? Good ol’ fashion dick lobotomy.”
Seamus said, “That would explain things.”
Katie agreed, “It definitely would.”
The Kid forced a smile, “This can be done. It isn’t easy, but with the right crew it can be done.”
The Professor said, “Assuming you can even track down the phantom filament we’d need.”
Leaning forward The Kid whispered, “I already have.”
Katie glanced at the Professor then Seamus. The Hebrew from Howth poured The Kid a drink. Katie leaned back, arms folded across her chest. The Professor gestured for The Kid to go on.
“It wasn’t easy, and I’m not sayin’ that just to brag.” -- he pulled out a small tablet, and opened a file – “There she is.”
The Kid handed the tablet over to the Professor.
“I’ll be damned.”
The trio examined the information on screen. According to the file The Kid had indeed found a reality where Martians existed, and had developed trade relations with Earth thanks to Civil Rights advocate Richard Nixon. Seamus shook his head.
He said, “This could be more fun than when we faked Vincent’s death.”
“Vincent?” The Kid asked.
“Van Gogh,” Katie said.
“You faked Van Gogh’s death?”
Without taking his eyes off the file the Professor said, “He’s on a farm in Australia sucking down a steady stream of antidepressants.”
Katie added, “He paints his greatest hits for us any time we need cash. It’s not exactly forgery.”
The Professor spotted something in the filament. Pointing he said, “Shouldn’t be hard to move this into reality, but the second we do alarms are going to go off.”
“That’s the beauty. We don’t have to be in it for very long.”
Seamus said, “Assuming things go smoothly.”
“Or what you're after even exists,” The Professor added.
The Kid said, “I’ve done the research.”
Katie fired down a shot, “Don’t mean dick. Alternate histories aren’t always accurate. We tried to steal Oscar Wilde’s laptop. Long story short, he wasn’t a writer in that world.”
“Point is,” The Professor brought things back into focus, “Phantom filaments are more full of implication than fact. We go in for something specific, it might not be there.”
“Might not be the way you want it to be,” Seamus added.
Leaning back in his chair The Kid grinned, “Ain’t the risk part of the fun?”
The Professor narrowed his eyes. What he disliked most about this plan pertained to the end game. The previous few times The Kid told them the plan he always left off the final move. Fact of the matter being, the trio hadn’t made it this far taking reckless chances. So he said:
“We wrangle the filament, and then what? All you’ve ever said is we get paid.”
Call it paranoia, but The Kid suspected if he gave up all the details the trio would simply cut him out of the job. With the plan in hand they wouldn’t really need him. However, he figured any reticence on his part wouldn't help things either. There was a bigger picture to consider. He just needed to set things in motion.
The Kid said, “We sell Martian weapons to Charlie Manson and the Jonestown cult.”
PART 2: A MESSY WEB