Authors: Pat Kelleher
“Oh, that?” Coyote inspected a fingernail. “It was nothing. I heard it was a vendetta. Eros was killed. Aphrodite didn’t take kindly to it. You know what we’re like.”
“That’s what I heard.”
“You mean murdered?”
“Who would murder a god?”
Coyote shook his head. “Deicide. I know.” He leaned forward and looked into Bran’s eyes, hunting the truth. “Who would do that? Murdering gods is a serious business.”
“Aye,” agreed Bran. “Has it come to this, that we turn on ourselves like trapped wolves, gnawing our own leg off in frustration to be free?” He gestured to the window. The original sash was still there, but there was an added frame of aluminium secondary glazing. A fly was buzzing, trapped between the panes. Bran watched it, mesmerised.
“Gods trapped on this plane, like flies between double-glazing and just as impotent for all their angry buzzing,” he said. Bran braced his large hands on the arms of the chair, pressing into the leather as he pushed himself up. “Well, if that’s all.”
The interview was over.
Coyote stepped up and clasped Bran’s hand again. He was disappointed. There was nothing to be gained here. Perhaps this was all the Club was; an Ambrosia den, a place where fallen gods could crawl into their broken dreams and relive the glories of their past.
Coyote had no regrets himself. He never looked back. Well, not often, and only then to make sure nothing was chasing him.
Bran offered an insipid smile. “I’m sorry I can’t be of more help. If I hear of anything, I’ll be sure to let you know. There can’t be many gods who have want of a phallus. Unlike you, most still have hold of their own.”
He supposed he deserved that one.
Bran tugged on a bellpull by the fireplace.
“Someone will show you out.”
They left Bran slumped in the chair, watching the fly in the double-glazing, buzzing angrily and butting the glass.
No, wait. Something Bran had said. Of course. It was so obvious when Coyote thought about it. Perhaps he should have been a detective after all. There
those who had lost their manhoods to misfortune and treachery. Maybe there
a pattern. Maybe
was just the latest victim on the list. He wished he had a corkboard and photos and coloured string. He began to tick them off on mental fingers. Uranus, Odin, Osiris, Mot, Mahadev
Oh, this was glorious. Once he’d questioned everyone, he was so going to summon them to a room like this, all the suspects, when he had some, and reveal who the pecker thief was. Now
was a plan.
S THEY STEPPED
out into the lobby, Coyote heard the distant sound of laughter as a door opened above them somewhere. A party he hadn’t been invited to. He hated that. Usually he’d just invite himself, but he could sense now wasn’t the time.
The cold lobby filled with the warm smell of palm oil and myrrh. Well, that was unexpected. Maybe this hadn’t been a complete waste of time after all.
He watched the bald, tanned man descend. He had a groomed black chin strip of a beard beneath his bottom lip. The mighty Osiris, Egyptian god of the Afterlife. What a judgemental prick.
Coyote smiled. “Fancy seeing you here.”
“I’m a member.”
Coyote’s smile slipped into a smirk. “You can say that again.”
Osiris’s eyes darkened, and it wasn’t just the kohl.
“And you’re not, trickster, which rather begs the question, what
you doing here? You’re a little off your reservation, aren’t you?”
“Well, you know me. Led by my boner. Speaking of which, what about yours? How’s it hanging? Oh, I forgot. As a god of fertility, having to wear a golden strap-on must really chafe. Wait, that’s it, isn’t it? After all that, this is just about plain old penis envy, isn’t it? You know, I’m almost disappointed. You didn’t think I’d figure it out did you? You stole my pecker to replace your own. Back of the net. QED. Well, I want it back. Where is it?”
Osiris glowered at him. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Coyote stepped forward and grabbed Osiris’s crotch. There was the hard arch of the pubic bone against the heel of his hand, but under his fingers, nothing. He held his hand there, a moment longer than he needed. Just because.
The Egyptian’s face contorted with shock and rage. Osiris clenched his fists.
“How. Dare. You. Perhaps you forget what I am.”
“God of the Underworld. King of the Living. Lord of Persons. God of the Staircase. Lord of Terror. Devourer of all Slaughtered Things.”
Coyote raised his eyebrows and shook his head. Gods. Not content with being gods they had to give themselves all these honorifics. As if just
wasn’t enough. Gods and their egos. “So you haven’t got my pecker then?”
Osiris stepped forward and bellowed, spittle flying from his mouth. “No, I haven’t got your bloody member! I wouldn’t stick that rancid disease-ridden thing anywhere near my wife, Isis, after you’ve been using it to whore with nymphs!”
Coyote held up his hands and stepped back. “Whoa. Okay.”
Osiris’s eyes narrowed. “Choose your next words carefully, you totemic savage.”
Coyote couldn’t resist. He leant in, lowering his voice. “In that case, how
that gold strap-on working for you? Just asking. You know, for a friend.”
The front door flung itself open, slamming back on its hinges, the crash echoing about the lobby.
Richard tugged at the sleeve to Coyote’s jacket. “Coyote, I think we should go.”
“Listen to your pet, trickster.”
With that, Coyote put his nose disdainfully in the air and strode towards the door.
“Come, Richard Green. We are done here.”
SIRIS WATCHED HIM
go before gesturing toward the door, slamming it shut behind them. He took the stairs two-by-two up to the landing where he stormed into a room.
“Are you sure we need him alive, Lugh?” he demanded.
The auburn haired god glanced up from his paper, regret in his eyes. “Yes. With the All Fathers having gone to ground, this is tricky enough as it is. So, for the moment, yes, we need him alive. Sorry.”
Osiris dropped into a chair. “Do you think Coyote suspects?”
Lugh folded his paper and put it down. “No. The Roman didn’t get a chance to tell them anything. He’s just a fox nosing about in rubbish bins. He’s an irritant, but ultimately unimportant. It’s all in hand. Don’t worry.”
“Good, and are the Slavic mob happy?”
“Yes, we shipped them another batch yesterday. Thanks for that.”
The Egyptian answered with a distracted grunt.
Despite Lugh’s reassurances, he
Coyote Wings It
out of the Club, it felt as if he’d just stepped from stifling heat into a cool refreshing breeze. For a moment, the relief was palpable. Then he felt a wave of migraine-like nausea. He bent over and threw up in the gutter. A post-vomit sweat prickling his brow in the cool breeze, he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth.
People tutted as they passed by, making judgements, reinforcing prejudices, reaffirming their own petty little mortal perceptions of the world, the one out of which Shu had jolted him. He caught sight of himself in a shop window. Mind you, he wasn’t surprised. He hadn’t had a shower, a shave or a change of clothes since he left Las Vegas. How long ago was that? He didn’t even know. Days? It felt like weeks. This was no way to live. He felt drained and lethargic.
All of a sudden, Coyote tensed. Richard felt his guts tighten. He looked back over his shoulder towards the Club.
Coyote yelled at Richard and bolted off down the street. Overcome with terror, adrenalin pumping, Richard took off after him, as if his life depended on it.
Quarter of a mile away, Richard caught up with Coyote, who was leaning against a railing, waiting for him.
“What... what was all that about?” panted Richard.
Coyote shrugged. “I needed to get you away from there.”
Richard waited for an explanation, but there was none forthcoming. “Fine,” he said, once he’d caught his breath.
Coyote inhaled deeply through his hawk-like nose. “Well I must say, that all went better than I expected.”
Richard looked at him in disbelief. “You pissed people off. No, not people, gods.”
Coyote shrugged. “It’s what I do.”
“In that case, I’m surprised we got out of there in one piece.”
“Well technically, I didn’t, but I’ll let that pass.”
Coyote glanced up and down the street then set off towards the nearest Tube station. “They’re up to something, I can tell,” he said as Richard hurried to keep up. “As sure as gods is gods, some of them are plotting something. Schemes within schemes. Premeditated plotters and schemers are gods.”
Not him though. He was more of a pantser than a plotter.
He also knew trickery when he saw it and there was trickery here, though it was blunt and childish. No finesse. Someone wanted Bran out of the way and easy to control, so they doped him with Ambrosia, and a synthetic impure Ambrosia, at that. Where were they even getting that stuff?
And the way Bran talked about the castratos, did he even know Osiris was there? And as for the Egyptian, how did he know he’d been with nymphs in Vegas? He didn’t like his disparaging remarks about his penis, either. He was a god. It was magic. He never got STDs. Where would the fun be in that?
There was definitely something going on. He would have to go back to find out what. It was very possibly a trap, but that thought just gave him a boner; well, it
have given him a boner and that was frustrating.
Impatient, Coyote strode ahead.
“Come on, Richard Green.”
Richard caught up quickly. “Where are we going?”
“To see Weyland. We’ll pick up my war bundle on the way.”
Coyote put his hand in his back pocket and fished out the business card the Anglo-Saxon had given him. It wasn’t just a rune embossed on the card. It was a set of psychic directions.
As they descended into the Tube station, Coyote took out his phone, his thumb fidgeting over the touch screen as he texted. Shu was going to have a hissy fit.
The thread is fraying.
THEN DON’T LET IT.
Easy for him to say.
HE OLD LADY
followed them at a distance, muttering to herself in a tongue not heard abroad in millennia. Cerridwen always found that this form made her invisible. She could be more commanding in her mother aspect and more alluring when a maiden, but being a crone was like the old days. Rather, people looked on indirectly, out of the corner of their eye. They didn’t linger, as befits gazing on a goddess, although this unfortunately was indifference, not deference. Nevertheless, people parted for her, glancing away, crossing the street to avoid her. Let them think her mad. Mortals were such shallow beings. No wonder they were incapable of seeing the truth.
She followed the trickster and his man down into the underground.
If you wanted a job doing, do it yourself. Osiris and Lugh would tackle him head on. Morrigan would turn the whole of London against him. Besides, they needed him alive for the time being. All they had to do was guarantee his cooperation. The trickster, by his nature, thought only of himself and that was his blind spot. It left his mortal vulnerable. There was no need to tackle the trickster at all.
A young man on a mobile phone stumbled into her. He started to apologise, then his eyes met hers. His brow furrowed and he looked away in revulsion.
Big mistake. Especially today. She may want the trickster alive, but she had no such compunction about this mortal. She turned and watched his back with eyes the colour of raw egg yolk, and bared her two peg teeth. She brought her hand up, like an upturned claw, and squeezed the air.
The young man staggered into the side of the tunnel, to the inconvenience of others as they tried to pass. He slipped down the tiled wall, his skin becoming translucent, yellowed and mottled with liver spots, his bones becoming brittle, his hair thinning. His hip fractured as he hit the ground. His wrist snapped as he put his hand out to steady himself. Arteries furred as the youth drained from him and, one by one, his organs failed.
Cerridwen smiled, full lips framing white teeth, her face now plump and glowing. She lowered her clenched fist, having exchanged decrepitude for pulchritude. The voluptuous middle-aged businesswoman that she had become spared a single glance back as a crowd of curious commuters gathered round the fallen old man. Cerridwen flicked a stray lick of hair back behind her ear and stepped onto the escalators after her prey.
later, Coyote and Richard stood in a dirt road riddled with potholes and oily puddles, looking at the run-down units under railway arches as a train rumbled by overhead. The rune on the business card in Coyote’s hand glowed strongly now, like a red-hot iron. When Coyote had decided to look for Weyland, various portions of the runes began to glow, directing them, like a mystical satnav, glowing stronger the closer they got.
In front of them, faded, flaking white letters on peeling blue paint simply said ‘Smiths’. There was a small door set into the semicircular frontage of the viaduct unit.
Richard jiggled the handle.
“It’s locked. He’s not here.”
“Then we’ll wait.”
“What, for another one of your omens?”
The road was empty. Coyote had gone. Godammit.
Richard turned round, but before he could call out, the door opened. Coyote stepped out and beckoned him inside.
“Jeez, will you stop doing that?”
He followed Coyote into the workshop.
In the light from the doorway, Richard could make out chains hanging from rails above, and in the corner was a workbench and tools; metals shelves full of stacked boxed parts, and in the far corner a little plywood office by a pile of tyres. There were dark patches on the concrete floor, from decades of leaked sump oil. It smelt of rubber, oil and damp brick.