I hope you and yours are enjoying this day of Thanksgiving and that the food is plentiful and the company pleasant. As my way of contributing to what I hope is a wonderful day for you, here's a treat: Chapter Two of "Vril-Ya!" my half of the epic Jim Anthony/Dillon team up of which "The Coming Race" by Josh Reynolds is the other half. Further information about THE VRIL AGENDA can be found here and Chapter One of "Vril-Ya!" can be found here. Read, enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving.
Dillon had said that with no youthful bombast or unnecessary drama. He had said it with certainty that Jim Anthony had heard from men far older and far more world-weary than this boy. Whoever he was, wherever he came from, this Dillon had packed a lot of years into his short life.
Frick bent down and whispered something in Jim’s ear. Jim’s eyes flickered briefly to Dillon’s face, probing every square inch in the time it took for a fly to blink. Jim looked back at Frick and nodded.
“Would you mind leaving us alone, Frick? I have a feeling our young master Dillon has a lot he wants to talk about.”
“Certainly, sir. But if there is anything you require, do not hesitate to summon me.”
Dillon watched him go. “I like him.”
“You should. Frick’s a good man to be on the right side of. You’d be surprised at who he has the ear of and who seeks him out for advice. Many powerful men who steered the destiny of this country and were members of this club have benefited from Frick’s advice.” Jim put his china cup down. “But let’s get back to you. Frick told you your mother was a member of the club?”
“He did, sir. Did you know her?”
“I had long retired by the time she joined. I met her at one of the club ceremonies and functions that I still attend. The one time I spoke to her in depth we traded stories about a mythical place that I knew as Xembala but your mother called Shamballah.”
Dillon smiled. “The City Eternal has many names. Shamballah is the one I know.”
“Fascinating. Are you telling me that you’ve been there?”
“My mother gave her life to see that I reached Shamballah safely. I was raised and taught by The Warmasters of Liguria for seven years. When I turned nineteen I left Shamballah to make my way back to the world. That was two years ago.”
“You’re being awfully free with this information it seems to me.”
Dillon shrugged. “Why not? I will probably never see Shamballah again. It was a miracle that my mother found her way back. She was the first person in five hundred years, man or woman to find their way to Shamballah a second time. And my teachers believe that she did so because of her overwhelming desire to see that I was safe. We were being pursued by…” Dillon’s throat tightened with a surge of emotion. Jim didn’t push.
Dillon got himself under control with a visible effort and continued. “And I realize that if you’re going to help me then I need to trust you and you need to trust me as well. And if everything I’ve heard and read about you is true then I’ve got nothing to fear by telling you about Shamballah.”
Jim motioned for the footman at the door to bring them more tea. To Dillon he said, “have you breakfasted yet?”
“Just some scrambled eggs and toast in the Howard Johnson’s I’m staying at on
“You need more than that to get you going. You’re a big guy. For maximum efficiency your metabolism needs a protein boost in the morning. You’ll have breakfast with me while we talk.”
“Does this mean you’ll teach me?”
“Don’t rush me, youngster. I said we’ll talk and that’s all we’ll do. I’m retired and have been for a long time. I’ve come to enjoy my retirement. Besides, I don’t know a thing about you.”
Dillon’s obvious disappointment dimmed the sparkle in his copper eyes as he said, “I just told you who I was and you said you knew my mother.”
“To be precise I said that I met your mother. That’s a long way from knowing her. And I’ve just met you and you’ve told me a yarn about having been raised in a mythical lost city by an equally mythical group of master martial artists. No, I cannot say with any sort of confidence that I know you at all.”
And now Dillon’s eyes changed. The anger rising in him at Jim’s calm but firm words produced a remarkable effect in the eyes under those severe eyebrows that became even more severe. The friendly, sparkling copper of Dillon’s eyes were no longer sparkling or friendly.
Dillon rose to his feet. “I’m sorry to have wasted your time, then. I’ll take my leave and bid you good day, sir.”
Jim sighed and waved for him to sit back down. “Take it easy, youngster. You’ll live longer if you don’t get mad so quickly. I said we’d talk. That’s what you wanted, wasn’t it?”
“I want you to train me!”
“Baby steps, boy. Baby steps. You’ve gotten an invitation to have breakfast with me. Isn’t that more than what you had an hour ago?”
Dillon mulled that over for about twelve seconds. “I suppose it is.”
“Then there’s no telling what you’ll have in another hour if you exercise a little patience, is there?”
Slowly, Dillon resumed his seat. “No, I suppose there isn’t.”
“Excellent. Then let’s retire to the dining room and have a proper breakfast while we continue our talk.”
The dining room was easily as luxurious and elegant as the rest of the mansion. A spacious room with rich oak paneling and reeded moldings. The vaulted, arched ceiling rose so high over their heads that the dining room actually took up two floors. Jim and Dillon sat across from each other in handcarved Adam style chairs, eating under the watchful, intense gaze of the life sized portrait of Impey Barbicane, the first president of The Baltimore Gun Club which hung over the fireplace. A replica of this portrait hung in every dining room of every branch of the club while the original, quite rightly hung in the main branch of the club located in
“How’s your steak?” Jim asked, while cutting into his own.
“Just fine, sir. Thank you.” And indeed, the young man appeared to have the appetite of a thoroughbred race horse. Jim himself had a more than healthy appetite himself but even he was impressed by the way Dillon shoveled in the grub.
Dillon looked around the dining room. Six other men were also taking their breakfast. Jim had nodded to them as he had entered and had even gone over to shake hands and quietly converse with two of them while the waiters lay out and served the food.
“The first thing I’m curious about is how you made your way to
America. What did you use for money?”
Dillon swallowed a mouthful of food and washed it down with a gulp of apple juice before answering; “I remembered a lot of how the world works before Mother took me to Shamballah so I had a general idea of where to go and what to do. When I left Shamballah I was given a leather bag full of precious gems. Mostly emeralds, rubies, a couple of diamonds. I journeyed to
where I was able to barter and trade some of my jewels for currency. From there I worked passage on tramp steamers
and from there to Africa. I wanted to travel,
get reacquainted with the world. I sold
the rest of my jewels and opened up bank accounts in several cities around the
world, including New York.
I worked odd jobs here and there while
drifting north, making my way up to London.”
“What did you do there?”
“Believe it or not I went to school.” Dillon laughed and for the first time Jim felt that his laugh was genuine. “Most of my formal education came from my father, you see.”
“He was a teacher?”
“He was a genius,” Dillon replied simply. He abruptly switched back to the story he had been telling. “It was in
London that I decided that I needed
training. My enemies are still out
there. The enemies that killed my mother
and my father. They destroyed my people
and my home. The Warmasters taught me a
lot. But I need to know more. A lot more if I’m to find them. If I’m to survive until I find them.”
Dillon reached in his pocket and took out a square of folded paper from a well-worn leather wallet. He passed it over to Jim.
Jim unfolded it and scanned the list of two dozen names. His eyes opened slightly wider. “You’ve just earned a couple more checks in your win column, young sir. I know the names on here. Either personally or I’ve heard of them.”
“Do you think they’ll help me? That they would consent to teach me?”
Jim reached into an inside jacket pocket for a silver pen and smoothed out the paper on the table. He drew lines through some names, put a star next to others and passed the paper back.
Dillon studied the list for a minute. He turned the paper around and pointed at a name that had a line through it. Dillon’s disappointment was obvious. “Why wouldn’t he help me? Of all the people on this list I would imagine that he’d be the last to turn me down.”
“He no longer lives in
New York. Or even in this country. Last I heard he was living down in Central
America. Supposedly he’s built quite the remarkable research complex down there.
It’s also said he married a Mayan princess and has two daughters he’s training
to continue his work.” Jim frowned slightly. “I met him a few times but we
never worked together. Still, for some
odd reason I never understood, some people mistook me for him on occasion. ”
Dillon pointed at another name. “And him?”
“He’s reclusive. Won’t see anybody. He bought a small island off the coast of Maine, built a modest house and lives there very simply, despite his wealth. I’ve tried a few times to see him but he refuses to talk with me or anybody else from the old days. He never remarried or had children. But the children of his associates still carry on his work. His corporation operates on a global scale now.”
“And him?” Dillon pointed at another name which was also had a line through it.
“Leave him alone. Oh, he’s still active. I don’t think he’ll ever stop until somebody kills him. That’s if he can be killed. I worked with him two or three times and quite sincerely I have my doubts. But he’s someone you most certainly should stay away from. He’s...” Jim appeared to be at a loss for words. He finally, waved his hand as if trying to dismiss unwanted memories. “Just leave him alone. Trust me.”
Dillon pointed at still another name, also with a line through it. “And him?”
“He’s insane. Obsessed. Downright fanatical. If he’s still alive. Nobody knows for sure. Not even his wife.”
Dillon sighed as he refolded the paper and put it away. “You’re not being very encouraging.”
“Look, there are a lot of other good people on your list and they can teach you a lot. And you’ll run across others.”
“But what about you? You haven’t said yet if you’ll teach me.”
Jim sighed and picked up his tea cup, sipped before answering. “You want some advice?”
“Go back to school. Get a degree. Become a doctor or an architect or a teacher. You obviously are a young man with exceptional intelligence and an amazing degree of confidence and resourcefulness. Go put those talents to use in a profession where you can immediately see the good that you’re doing. Your life will have infinitely more satisfaction that way.”
Dillon cocked his head to the side, detecting the note of weary resignation in the older man’s voice. “And what about your life? I read up on your career as well as the career of the others on my list. You’ve done an awful lot of good. Hundreds of thousands owe their lives to you.”
Jim munched thoughtfully on buttered toast, thinking of his response before he answered. “I don’t regret the life I’ve lived and I’m proud of the work I’ve done. And still am doing. But my career hasn’t exactly been all glorious fun and excitement. I know that what you read about me and those others makes it seem as if our lives were just one long wonderful adventure. That wasn’t always the case. And we had loved ones to think of as well. Families. Such a life takes a toll on everybody involved.”
“I don’t have a family. Or friends, for that matter. There’s nobody I have to worry about.”
“That will change.” Jim sat back, folding his hands across his still concrete hard stomach. “What exactly is it you want from me, young man?”
“They called you the Super Detective. You were known as a murderist of international renown and expertise. Teach me what you know. It’s that simple.”
“Suppose I do. To what end will you put these skills?”
“As I told you: I intend to find those who killed my mother and father. I have to because they still want to kill me. I have to defend myself. I have to stay alive. The more I learn, the more I know, the better chance I have.”
“Who exactly are these people?”
Dillon’s voice dropped slightly as he said; “In your career have you ever run across Thahali, She Who Wears The Dress of Seven Sorrows?”
And now Dillon did have Jim’s full and undivided attention. “Fascinating. Back in 1956 I had a run in with some of her servants in San Francisco. I had some help from a private eye named George Valentine. We barely survived. Those are some very bad people you’ve gotten mixed up with, son.”
“I have no idea how. All I know is that my parents were her enemies. She destroyed their life’s work and a lot of innocent people. Then she came after them. And I have no doubt that she will come after me.”
Jim fell silent as he turned his gaze to look out the nearest window. Outside that window was a world he had spent fifty years of his life to defend, protect and preserve. It wasn’t a perfect world or even a peaceful one. But it was one worth keeping. He liked his life as it was. But he had to admit: retirement was pretty damn boring at times. And this wouldn’t be getting back into the game. Just passing on some of what he knew. And Jim had to admit that this young man with his stories of Shamballah and his yet unexplained ties to Thahali intrigued him to no end. But there was no reason to tell all that just yet.
“You have anything planned for today?” Jim asked.
“Me? No! Not a thing! Does this mean-“
Jim held up a hand in that firm commanding gesture that stopped Dillon’s gush of words as effectively as if a huge cork had been shoved in his mouth. “It doesn’t mean anything. I’m still thinking about it. But there’s no reason why you can’t come with me while I’m still thinking.”
“Where are we going?”
“There’s someplace I check on whenever I’m in
York. Just let
me have a word with Frick and we’ll be on our way.”
The two men in the black SUV hadn’t been on watch long. They’d just relieved the previous two lookouts that used a similar SUV. They parked across the street from the Gun Club. Whenever a traffic cop charged at them, waving a ticket book, the man on the passenger side would simply flip open his wallet. Whatever it was the traffic cop saw satisfied them as to the legitimacy of their right to park there and they went on their way.
Both men had a disturbing similarity in their features. They were alike enough to pass for brothers with their very blond hair, chiseled features and impressive musculature. Even sitting at rest in their car they gave off the air that they could explode into furious action at any moment.
The driver nudged his partner. “Looks like we’re the lucky ones, eh?”
The passenger nodded and smiled. He picked up a cell phone from the cup holder he had placed it in. He flipped it open. It automatically dialed the number and a strong, vibrant female voice on the other end said; “Report.”
“We have a confirmed visual on Jim Anthony. He’s standing in front of the Gun Club right now. Looks as if he’s waiting for one of the footmen to bring his car round to him.”
“Is he alone?”
“No. There’s a black man with him. Young. Dressed extremely casually. I would say that he’s a janitor or kitchen help from the Gun Club Anthony has engaged to help him do some work.”
“Follow Anthony. Report his every move. Where he goes. Who he speaks to.”
The two men continued to watch as a black Ford Crown
drove up to the front of the club from the garage. The Baltimore Gun Club kept a variety of
vehicles that were at the disposal of the membership when needed. The two men watched Jim and Dillon climb into
the car, Jim behind the wheel. The Crown
Victoria crunched along the driveway. The
gate smoothly drew aside to allow the car to merge into traffic.
The driver started up the SUV and they followed.