Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"In the House of Mercury" by: Tommy Hancock

"In the House of Mercury"
by: Tommy Hancock
as published in
Peculiar Adventures #1 


New York City, Today
Benton Klesky watched the repetitive, monotonous waltz begin yet again from his hiding place on the other side of the two-way mirror. His partner leaned across the rickety table, his hammy hands nearly toppling it, and asked their subject the same question he’d asked her for the last 19 hours.
“So, what were you really doing in the middle of Park Avenue at the crack of dawn wearing nothing but the clothes you were born with?”
Klesky crumpled his twenty eighth cigarette on the window ledge in front of him as the prisoner parried into her next move. “You do not listen.” Her voice was distorted, not in any way he’d ever heard, but something he couldn’t quite describe, almost as if his ears were never intended to have heard it. “I have told you, I have warned you of the approaching carnage that brought me here. That put me there. I did not intentionally violate your ‘Park Avenue’. That was my point of arrival, where my B’y’nd run ended.”
“Yeah, yeah.” His bloated partner shook his sweat soaked head back and forth like a frustrated dog on a dead scent. “You are the last of a group of royal body damned guards from Mercury come to warn us of an invasion. You’ve read that line before, sister.” The fat man snatched his battered Styrofoam coffee cup off the table with an unexpected swiftness, and crushed it violently into shreds. As they fell in front of him, he screamed, “For God and Criminy Sakes, Lady, tell me the truth! You were disoriented, out of your head out in the street! Naked!”
“Not totally naked.” Talking aloud, Klesky turned halfway from the viewing window and reached behind him. A shiny new manila folder, lying wide open due to the disheveled pile of older, yellowing pages within it, wavered uneasily on the edge of a chair behind him. Klesky bent and caught the folder as it gave up and fell off the chair. Cursing, he juggled both hands to keep the clippings and reports all in their place. Shuffling it into some organization, he stood straight and pulled from it the one thing the alluring woman across the glass from him had on her body when she was found. The one thing that led Klesky to spend all night crawling through newspaper morgues and police files buried inthe bowels of the city.

Nineteen Hours Ago
“This,” George Redino waved a red and black scrap of something in Benton Klesky’s face, forcing Klesky to look up from his desk. “This,” Redino droned on in his whiskey riddled obese gargle of a voice, “Is all the dame had on her. Not a pair of panties. Not a bra. Not another stitch. Except for this.”
Reaching for the cloth, Klesky laughed. “Sounds like your kind of gal, Georgie. Naked as a newborn and too crazy to care about it. Been awhile since you had one that willing.”
“Nice one, Benny.” Redino pivoted, slowing down to negotiate the swath of his cumbersome girth around the squadroom desks. “I’ll be in the pit with her, making her tell me just why the heck two rookies got lucky enough to collar her in the buff on Park Avenue. Join us if you wanna see how a real cop works.”
“Yeah, Yeah,” Klesky said, draping the cloth out on his desk. “I’ll just show up at your brutality hearing instead.”
As Redino snorted off, Klesky studied what lay in front of him. It was little more than a rag at first glance, but he realized it was more. An emblem. A patch of some sort. Not like a Boy Scout patch, more like something a soldier might wear. It was about four inches across. Klesky turned it with his fingers until he had it the way he thought it would have been worn. It was diamond shaped, black background, red lines forming the diamond. Within the diamond was a yellow circle, a sphere. In the center of the yellow sphere was its little brother, a smaller circle, this one red. Staring at it for a few minutes, Klesky finally reached to the corner of his desk and picked up the crudely typed incident report concerning the most talked about collar of the day.
“Found this morning,” He read aloud, his voice a baritone hum. “Just after 0600. Huddled up, fetal position, on Park Avenue. Black marks around her. Suspected to be tire marks or oil spots.” Klesky hesitated, filed that line in his memory, and read on. “Resisted when two policemen attempted to stand her up. Disoriented, speaking gibberish. Piece of clothing crumpled in her left hand. Both cops talk to her. She slowly gets to speaking where she can be understood. Spouts something about Mercury and demons and gods on Earth.” Klesky’s eyes darted back to the cloth. “Mercury.” He finished, “Detained by the policemen and brought in for questioning and possible mental evaluation.”
“Mercury.” He picked the fragment of material up and rubbed it in his fingers. It was slick, like silk, but not as delicate. The edges were worn, but not tattered. He suspected it had been on a shirt or something and taken off, but there was no sign it had been ripped away. Nothing obvious stained it. Klesky fiddled with it, rolling it in and out of his fingers. There was something about this bit of cloth, something that he remembered, but couldn’t grasp. Something about it and what she said. “Mercury.”
George Redino was exhausted. Klesky could see that. Georgie got exhausted climbing out of bed each morning and wrestling into his pants. But here he’d been nearly twenty hours hammering a woman who, he was sure, should have been in Belleview twelve hours ago. Slurring his words, he bellowed, “You’re gonna tell me that crap again, aren’t you? That you’re from another planet? That you’re here to save the world?”
She raised her head deliberately, her exhausted face revealing itself from a veil of rose red hair. A slight, schoolgirl smirk crossed her lips. Klesky perked up. A new spin in the dance. “You say that,” she said quietly, “as if you live in a world where that might be impossible. You say that with the incredulous naivet√© of a man who does not live in a world where your government knows more about my people and other worlds than you want to believe and where choosing what color eyes your children have will soon be as commonplace as picking the clothes you wear each day...”
“Detective Klesky?”
He shook his head, at first thinking the woman in the interrogation room had spoken to him. Touching the mirror lightly with his fingertips to be sure it was still there, his roving eyes came upon the owner of the oddly similar voice to his prisoner.
She’d entered the room seemingly without even using the door, although Klesky knew he probably just didn’t hear it open. She was tall, taller than his six feet, and curved from her raven black hair down her voluptuous body to her exquisitely crafted legs. Her eyes were sparkling black, black like finely polishedonyx.
“Yes,” he responded, amazed he found his voice at all. “You are Ms. Laraby?”
“Agent Laraby,” she replied huskily. “Government agency.” She walked, very nearly glided over to Klesky’s side. Gesturing with an elegantly thin hand, she asked, “She is the one? The subversive you claim you have?”
“Well...” Klesky stammered, a pang of uncomfortable hitting him. She didn’t even bother flashing a wallet. “Not sure how subversive she is, but we did find her curled up in the middle of a street. She was naked and disoriented, rambling on about being from Mercury, how ‘The House was falling’ and ‘Beyond runs’ and some such. Thought it pure delusion, but...” he looked at his partner and the woman facing off yet again in utter heavy silence, “she’s not wavered from the story she told when we first started grilling her.”
Laraby looked into the interrogation chamber. “That is the story I came all this way to hear.”
Eighteen hours ago
“Tell me a story, Pop.”
Benton Klesky leaned against the counter of the news kiosk just outside the police station. He always ended up there when he had a nagging thought or hit a curve in a case he couldn’t make. Not because he found great inspiration in the racing sheets or tabloids sold there, not even because of the Cuban cigars you could get for ten bucks under the counter. No, Klesky learned long ago that the best resource in a city like New York had to be the people who’d lived there the longest and worked out on the streets most of that life. Pop Nulty was one of those.
“Which one you wanna hear today, Bennie?” Shamus Nulty was a wisp of a man, his skin ruddy red as his hair had once been, when he still had enough to claim hair. He’d manned Pop’s Papers since he was twelve and Pop Grabaldi ran it. “I got stories more than what you can find in any page I sell.”
“I know it, Pop.” Klesky slid the diamond shaped patch onto the counter. “Tell me a story about this.”
Pop Nulty glanced at it, then up at Klesky. “Ask me somethin’ hard, Bennie.”
Instantly awed, Klesky replied, “To be honest, Pop, I thought I just did.”
“Nah.” Nulty reached under the counter and pulled out a half smoked cigar. Putting it in his mouth and not bothering to light it, he said, “What you got there is an emblem. One of those things that you see on the chest of those guys in masks and capes.”
“Heroes?” Klesky picked it up, looked it over again. “This is the symbol of a Hero? Not one I recognize. And we gotta know ‘em all these days. Seems like we trip over one every case we get.”
“This one you wouldn’t know.” Pop matched Klesky’s lean on the counter, his eyes looking up toward the sky. “She’s not been around for a long time. Heckuva lady, though. Elegant, yet tough, a real hellcat. I saw her more than once wrestling with The Idea Man or Dr. Kranium all over the city.”
“Her?” Klesky stood up. “This Hero was a woman?”
Pop Nulty nodded. “’The’ woman most everyone said back then. Tall, flowing auburn hair, the color of leaves turning in the autumn near Albany. She was a knockout. In more ways than one.”
“Did she have a name, Pop?”
“Sure. Called herself Lady Mercury.”
“Again,” Redino wiped his words on his flabby hand as he spoke. “Tell me again how you ended up in a New York street without a stitch on your body.”
She rubbed the back of her bare neck with her now gloved hand. She’d had just enough presence of mind to run when the police lights and human eyes first captured her after her descent. Buying some time in a dark alley, she maneuvered the space about her and materialized a nondescript black bodysuit just before a flock of kill happy ingrates tackled her, slamming her head against a wall. She awoke in the very chair she’d been held prisoner in for nearly a day. Telling the same story word for word again and again. She had no choice. It was why she had risked coming to Earth. And it was the truth.
“My name is T`v’nya,” she said it slowly, knowing the fat man would not understand it. “Tiana in your language. I am a ranking officer and guard of the Mercurian Royal Squadron, once the greatest police force the planet Mercury or this solar system had ever known.”
Klesky watched Laraby as her thin eyebrows arched, a look of inquisitive caution. “That’s just the first unbelievable thing she claims,” Klesky said.

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