Chapter 1: LIVING IN A THRILLER
I met Tazio dellaTerra once, before he became famous as The
Landlord, back in his "wandering superhero hitchhiker days".
He was certainly a hero for me at that time, literally doing
battle with genuine forces of evil, in fact I'd be dead if it
wasn't for him--and so would many others.
It was actually my battle, but he got to tag along and give me a
little technical assistance in the background, sort of as my
Let me introduce myself: Martin Lawrence, British, from Chester
originally, but I had a job with a large publishing agency in
London at that time. I was 36 years old then and working too
hard at that career to have time for family or other frivolities,
travelling out of England a lot. I'd gone into publishing
because I loved books, literature, film-- but found myself mostly
involved in marketing, packaging, the selling of concepts, the
book industry itself.
So I'd been at a series of meetings and conferences in Amsterdam
and Brussels, and on to Paris for a major marketing convention,
when events began to lead up to my desperately needing to meet
Oh yes, this could well be one of those best-selling international
action thrillers of foreign intrigue and suspense, you know: set
in those panoramas of interesting and picturesque European
settings, flashing through airports and train stations, bugged
hotel rooms, trails of traced telephones and Visa cards, lots of
deaths and other entertaining events, with spies and other nasty
underworld villains in hot pursuit.
I was especially fond of that genre until I had to live it out
myself, then it wasn't so much fun at all. So that's not really
the story I want to tell just now; that story is too long, too
complex, too horrible, and actually too clichéd-- I could
simply refer you instead to virtually the same events well
established in film and literature.
For instance, start with almost any novel by Robert Ludlum,
Daschell Hammett, John leCarre, Ian Fleming--or perhaps a movie
by Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, Brian dePalma, it's that
kind of story: some common man (Cary Grant, Sean Connory,
Harrison Ford) becomes suddenly and inexplicably swept up in an
incomprehensible tangle of mysterious events, ruthless attacks,
bizarre murders involving Mafiosos and policemen, spies and
secret agencies; he is set-up, implicated in crimes of which he
cannot prove his innocence, and is forced to flee from the law
and the underworld alike; hiding, dashing desperately through
Europe, from city to city in an effort to survive long enough to
unravel the mystery of who or what is behind the sinister
conspiracy causing all of this to happen.
And of course, as always in that sort of story, there's a
fascinatingly beautiful and desirable young woman who appears
out of nowhere to offer her love and her body to our hero (or
perhaps better, anti-hero). I really don't want to tell that
part of the story, it's simply too embarrassing how totally I
was swept away, but I do have to mention Claire, because she
became my major motivation--to survive long enough to save her
Anyway, all of this led up to me fleeing from Marseille at
midnight and driving like a madman through the Alps, avoiding the
main roads, up a twisty dirt road between Grenoble and
Chambéry, one headlight smashed, bullet holes in my rented
white Fiat, and a bullet hole in me which had stopped bleeding but
was beginning to burn and pound with infection. I hadn't slept
or eaten in 2 days, and I had almost no money left. It was
drizzling rain at 2:30 in the morning and I was absolutely at the
end of my endurance...but I had to meet Claire in Geneve...before
"They" caught up with her and killed her.
I was a sorry mess: dry blood discolored my once-neat suit, my
tie gone, face bruised, as were my knuckles. My expression had
to be a grimace of pain, fear, rage, weariness, determination.
"Claire, Claire, Claire..." was the mantra that kept me going.
And I was driving frantically indeed, much faster than I wanted
to, winding the motor out as far as it could, shifting too
quickly, throwing the car into the curves as fast and as hard as
I could, with no margin for error.
A curve, almost too tight at that speed, and then the road ahead
was straight on for the first time in many kilometers. "Aha!" I
cried and crunched the gas pedal all the way down and held it
there, pushing the poor Fiat up to a maximum 183 kph. Much too
fast for this narrow country road on this rainy night, with only
one headlight, ahead in the darkness this road would soon start
winding up through the mountains.
But I pressed on, chanting "Hang on, Claire, I'm coming..." At
least there was no other traffic to deal with, I was alone on
Well, not quite. Suddenly I could see someone walking alongside
the road up ahead, but with one headlight dead and at such high
speed I was already past the figure before I could react enough
to slow even a little.
But amazingly that person, who should have been no more than a
blur, registered in my vision with absolute clarity. A slender
young person with a wild mane of long black hair, an impression
of great beauty and yet indeterminate sex, wearing thin and
tattered clothes, no shoes--inhuman catlike eyes flashing in the
headlight--lifting a thumb to me as I roared past.
And even more amazing, I found myself braking, slowing down,
stopping. Carefully, not frantically, as if I had lots of time.
Which was crazy, I had no time at all--especially not for a
hitchhiker. I sometimes took up hitchhikers, but this was not
the time for it.
Especially not here, not on a lonely road in the middle of enemy
territory, not when I knew that there was no one I could trust,
as I had learned these last few days. And out here one probably
spoke only French, which I did not. And what about those eyes?
No no, please, no hitchhiker. But by then the car was stopped
"What the bloody hell am I DOING?" I raged at myself, "I don't
And then for some reason I just sat there, idly in the idling
car, totally confused, not understanding what had compelled me to
stop. At the speed which I had passed the hitchhiker he or she
must have been half a kilometer back down the road. I had no
time to sit and wait for someone to walk so far, even if he/she
ran it would take a couple of minutes to reach me...quick, just
drive away before...
But I was fooling myself, I really couldn't go on much longer--
the pain, the fatigue, the loss of blood, even my gas gauge
showed almost empty, I was finished. I crumpled around my
pulsing wound and groaned.
...perhaps I even passed out, for my passenger door opened all
too suddenly and the hitchhiker looked in.
I only caught a glimpse of him, or her or whatever it was,
illuminated by the pale cabin light, before I remembered those
strange catlike eyes I thought I'd seen, and immediately looked
away in terror, collapsing back in my seat, weak and helpless.
In fact I was dying. But the hitchhiker continued to look at me,
saying nothing. For quite a while, really quite spooky, simply
watching in silence as if deciding what to say...or do..to me.
Shift in story-genre here: from a Hitchcock thriller to a Hammer
Films horror film; Curse of the Wolf Man, or Castle of
Dracula, for example. I sensed--knew somehow--that this was
not a real human being who stepped into my car and sat on the
seat next to me, casually studying me bleeding, without speaking
a word of sympathy or concern to me in any language. This was a
monster, a demon of the night.
Chapter 3: HEALINGS & WONDERS
I became very afraid, very sorry for myself: "Oh, why had I ever
stopped? If I die here without making it to Claire, WHO
will save her from Them...?"
"Don't be afraid of me, Martin," a mellow voice that could
have been young or old, male or female, but speaking proper BBC
English with a slight Chester accent--exactly like my own.
"Yes, Lord," I heard myself saying, and although I did wonder how
he/she'd known my name, my fear was instantly gone.
"You're in rather bad shape. The bullet has penetrated liver and
intestine, so e. coli infection has set in. Plasma loss
is also critical, you'd die in 3 hours. Better let me help you,"
the voice said, but without any emotional inflection at all,
rather like Mister Spok from Star Trek.
"Who..who are you?" I asked, still not looking.
"My name is Tazio."
Then I could feel beside me the energy-presence of this being who
had entered the car and seemed to warm it up, as well as my weary
body, like sunlight. Gradually I began to feel better, my pain
receded slightly, there was a throb of energy again.
It was as if the demon of the night in my passenger seat had
revealed itself instead to be an angel, blessing me in the
nearness of its aura. I felt a surge of awe and almost still
didn't dare look.
But look I did, and just as I had sensed, there beside me sat
indeed a creature of extremes: a divinely beautiful young
boy? girl? with long flowing black hair framing an overwhelmingly
intelligent face, exaggeratedly peaked eyebrows, but now I saw--
to my vast relief--that the kid's eyes seemed normal after all...
sort of...I couldn't really focus on them very well.
I blinked once and shook my head to clear my vision, looked again
to be certain, and now could also clearly see that he was a guy,
not a girl. I reckoned that my own eyes had been playing tricks
on me, and with good reason, not having closed them in two days.
But even so, everything was odd about this hitchhiker, who must
have run incredibly fast to have arrived so quickly, yet showed
no sign of breathlessness. And being so totally androgynous and
emotionless. And that this kid unhesitatingly spoke my own
language to me although I was driving a rented car with Spanish
plates through France to Switzerland.
I wiped my hand down over my face, certain that I was delirious,
fantasizing about this kid, my sense of time distorted, seeing
hallucinations, severely disoriented. And no wonder with what I'd
been going through. But I was feeling better now and resolved to
"Look, I'm sorry," I said, "this is a mistake. You can't really
help me, and I can't take you with me--and believe me, you don't
even WANT to come with me. It's too dangerous."
The kid named Tazio looked at me, at my bloody shirt, at the
bullet hole in the windshield, the gas gauge, then simply said,
"You're not going to make it alone anyway."
"I can't get anyone else involved. Sorry, I've got to hurry, no
time to be polite."
"Very well then, we'll dispense with politeness," he said, "I
command you to get out of the car and lie on the ground."
Surprisingly, I obeyed. I staggered out into the rainy night and
lay down on my back in the grassy wet dirt beside the road. My
clothes soaked through immediately and I began to shiver. I
wondered what the hell I was doing; I was already in shock, this
could be suicide, but I simply HAD to obey that kid.
He kneeled beside me in the rain and placed his hand over my
wound. It was very dark, and he was just a silhouette in the
glare of the car's one headlight...until I began to see, or
sort of sense a dim rainbow of light shining around him.
"This may tingle," he told me, "I'm going to draw the Urr up
through you, it's a healing energy, so don't worry, just be
It did tingle, believe me. Suddenly I went from cold and
shivering to hot and sweaty, and every cell in my body seemed
to gorge itself upon a raw life-force that was roaring through
me like a thundering river through a narrow pipe. My mind
overloaded, I was spasmic, all my senses shorted out, and yet I
could isolate the feeling of my wound getting hotter, burning,
and then leveling out, until the pain disappeared into that
chaos of energy.
Then it all stopped. I was lying in the mud in the dark and the
rain, but feeling warm and...well, more than good. Healed,
charged, galvanized. No more pain, not tired, not hungry.
"You'll be all right now," Tazio said, standing and offering a
hand to help me up. I took it and felt the immense power in his
arm effortlessly lift me. He wasn't big, but he was impressively
And once erect I marveled at my own energy, balanced and light
on my feet. "All right? My God man, I feel like...like a
teenager!" I felt for my wound; it was gone, unbroken skin where
it had been.
My perceptions of reality had undergone several shocking
revisions over the last few days due to intrigues and murders,
but nothing like this one. This was the Universe going from
Newtonian to Einsteinian, this was the Revelation of St John,
this was Everything You Know Is Wrong! by a factor of
"You..you've actually...HEALED me!"
"Yes, I know."
"But...but...how can I ever thank you?"
"By giving me a ride. I'm heading towards Geneva, same as you."
"A ride? Of course, anything you want..." then I remembered,
"...oh, but wait, you might not really want this ride. I
wasn't kidding about it being dangerous! You would be better off
not coming with me."
"I insist. You can explain while we drive."
"But I have to drive too fast! I'm really in a hurry, literally
a matter of life and death."
"Then I'll drive, I'm faster than you, believe me."
I believed. "But there are people after me..."
"Yes, I picked up on that. I'm intrigued, I don't mind a little
adventure now and then."
"Listen, these fellows are ruthless KILLERS..."
"Listen, they can't kill me," the hitchhiker named Tazio said
with authority, "now let's get to Geneva, if you're in such a
I didn't argue, in fact I found myself saying "Yes, Lord," again
and slipped into the passenger seat.
Tazio took the wheel, adjusted the seat to his smaller size, put
on the seat belt and checked the mirrors. He seemed almost
overcautious, testing the action in the steering wheel, clutch
pressure. I began to wonder if he actually knew how to drive.
"I used to have a Fiat myself," he said, as if to answer my
He seemed almost ready, then changed his mind, opened the door
and put his left foot down to make contact with the ground.
"Just a minute, that bullet hole in the windshield is
inconvenient," he said, and I saw that faint rainbow glow around
him again as he put a finger to the hole in the glass, rubbing
it, and when he took his finger away the hole was gone and the
windshield was intact again. "There, that's better."
I think my jaw dropped at that little magic trick, wondering
whether I had hallucinated the hole or the whole glass, but not
Nor could I close my mouth when he started driving. "Fast" is
not the word for it. He started out easily, winding gently
through the gears, shifting very precisely, smoothly, until he
was going as fast as I had been when I first passed him. That
seemed to be a pretty good pace, it was raining and the road
began twisting again, so he could hardly drive much faster, I
thought. But it seems that he was just warming up.
I began to be concerned when he started sliding through tight
turns, right out to the edges of the road, since we were in the
mountains now, with some rather nasty consequences if he
miscalculated. And then he started going into blind bends on the
wrong side of the road.
"Uh," I mentioned, "if another car comes from the other
direction, we're dead."
"There is no other car. At least not for about 3 kilometers, we
have a clear path ahead."
"How can you know that?" I challenged.
"I just do. Watch, we'll first meet another car--a grey Audi--in
6 minutes." And he continued to whip through the bends of the
road with machinelike precision, sliding, accelerating, braking
severely, impossibly fast, like the best professional race
driver. Better, obviously infallible.
And absolutely calm while driving flat-out. I would have either
been sweating and straining, or at least having fun, but he was
neither, as if dispassionately driving a milk run.
Six minutes later he slowed for a turn, took the proper lane, and
a grey Audi came suddenly around on the other side, passed us
safely, and was gone into the night.
He didn't say much. But I was of course interested in learning
all I could about this amazing kid, so I tried to make
conversation. "You have an unusual name," I said, "is that like
Tadzio in Thomas Mann's A Death In Venice?"
"More like Tazio Nuvolari, the Italian race driver."
"But you are British?"
"I grew up in Italy, if it matters."
"Oh, hmm. But you neither look nor sound Italian."
"I'm not," he said, and no more about that.
"So you're going to Geneva too?" I asked him.
"Not actually, just bypassing. I'm going to the Matterhorn."
He'd only been wearing a thin tattered shirt and jeans, no
jacket, no shoes, no luggage. I said, "You don't seem to be
equipped to go mountain climbing."
"But I am," he responded.
"You like extreme challenges?"
"Oh, I wouldn't mind any challenge...but the Matterhorn is hardly
that, it's just a potentially interesting place. I like
Here ensued a series of hairpin turns that astounded me. I
wasn't afraid, I already had total confidence in this kid's
talents, but it still seemed unbelievable that anyone could
drive so fast in a standard automobile.
"Well, I have to get to Geneva by morning," I told him.
"Easily done," Tazio said, "but we'll have to stop for petrol in
Chambéry. We can take le Autoroute from there."
"Well, there are a couple of problems," I had to admit, "one
being that I don't have enough money left to fill up the tank or
pay the toll on the Autoroute. The other is that we can't just
take le Autoroute anyway because those killers I mentioned, and
the police, and I think the Russian Mafia, are all watching for
Of course, I was hoping that Tazio would ask me to tell my story.
I was beginning to wonder if he could help me in Geneva.
"Sorry, Martin," he suddenly said, "but I simply have no desire
to fight your battle for you. That's your karma, not mine."
My heart stopped: he was reading my mind!
"I...uh..see.." I stammered, then dropped any pretenses, "Well,
yes, all right, you...guessed rightly, I did wonder if you were
interested in a little adventure, as you put it."
"Oh, I am: the Matterhorn."
"Of course, quite...although I could offer you a battle against
"Then it can't be won, you'd be taking on the world. I know, I've
tried. Besides, you aren't interested in battling Evil, you only
want to rescue your girl friend, so it 's simply a personal matter
"Well, if you put it that way, I suppose that's so."
We drove in silence for a while. Then he went on, "One reason I
don't get involved in people's problems anymore is that they
always become addicted to what I can do for them."
"Yes, well, I'm sure you're right. Not your problem. Myself, I
really don't expect to survive this, but Claire...well, I just
have to make sure They don't get her. That's all it's about for
me now." I shrugged in the dark, "But I can't ask you to help me
further--you've already saved my life and given me the energy to
get to Geneva. Thank you, Tazio. Actually, you're in danger just
being with me--They've murdered everyone else who would have
helped me and Claire out of this mess. Better get away from me
as fast as you can."
"I'm in no danger, don't worry about me."
"Really? You did say they couldn't kill you. I'm curious: why
not? Are you... a super hero or something?"
"Something," he said, "but not a hero, I gave that up."
There was something pensive in that otherwise unemotional voice.
I followed up, "Why?"
"Would YOU want to dedicate your life to an endless and futile
Quest going around righting wrongs, saving people from their own
mistakes, solving their problems, arbitrating their unnecessary
quarrels, leading revolutions against their own corrupt
institutions, fixing things that they'll just break again anyway?"
"Right now, that seems to be pretty much what I'm trying to do. In
my own limited way."
"Well, good luck. I myself lack the motivation."
"God, I wish I lacked motivation," I said, "I'd escape instead
of going to a probable death in Geneva, but I can't just drop it
and run for my own life. And even if I would desert Claire,
They'd still come after me."
There was another long silent spell, I assumed the conversation
was ended, but then Tazio said, "Enjoy your motivation, it's
awful not to have any."
I thought that was a peculiar thing to say, so I waited for him to
go on, which he finally did. "The truth is that I've dropped out
because I don't feel any human passions any more-- hate/love,
anger/sorrow, fear/joy, they're all gone for me, everything is
just neutral--so I'm no longer motivated to great actions."
"Well, that's too bad, for you--and for me. But then, I'm right
in the middle of all those passions," I admitted, "and I wouldn't
say that feeling them is so absolutely marvelous. However, I am
"Indeed you are," he said, looking at me with...what, respect?
"So tell me," he asked, after a while, "just exactly what are you
motivated to do about your problems?"
"Me? Oh...save Claire. That's about it."
"Don't you hate Them?"
"Hate? Oh, I suppose I must, they've been Quite Evil. Although I
don't know who They are, so don't know who to hate. Don't
even know why this is happening to me, it all seems like a great
clerical error. Mostly I just Fear Them, whoever They are."
"You don't want to strike back, punish Them?"
"Punish? hah, that would be ambitious indeed! I'd be satisfied
just stopping them from punishing me! No, they're too big,
there's too many of Them. There's no way to punish Them, the
police are on Their side, governments, religion, the media, the
Tazio looked at me abruptly, and perhaps I even heard a slight
note of interest, "Are you up against the Dark Templars?"
"Templars...? I don't know Who They are. Actually, They seemed
to be various unrelated agencies competing with each other to kill
me, even killing each other in the process. Although one of them
did mention a Grand Master... could be reminiscent of the Knights
Templar and the Crusades..."
Then we were coming into the town of Chambéry. The tank
was almost empty.
It was 3:30 in the morning, everything was closed, but we found
an unattended petrol station with self-serve pumps. Tazio pulled
up to the 93 Octane pump.
The automats could take bills of 50 and 100 francs, neither of
which I had. I was in fact down to 83 francs, all in coins, which
the vendor would not accept. I'd learned to stop using my credit
card, but then my mysterious enemies had jimmied my bank account
somehow so that I could no longer withdraw cash, therefore I was
now stranded without funds.
"Could I...er...loan 100 francs from you?" I asked Tazio,
"Sorry, I've got no cash at all," he admitted, "haven't used it
"Yeah, well... The real drag is that I have a credit card, but
don't dare use it," I said, "every time I do They find me within
"Really? Well, then, go ahead and use it. I would like to see
if the Dark Templars are involved."
"Are you serious? They'll come, Templars or whoever, and they'll
try to kill us."
"I'll deflect them," he said with utter confidence.
"Really? What could you do against Them?"
He looked at me with zero humor, once again devoid of any emotion,
"Oh, it's Them who have no chance against me."
"That sounds like fun."
"No, it's not. It's awful being so superior to everyone. I don't
like to belittle and push people around, not even evil assholes.
But in the words of Anton Artemis, Grand Master of the Dark
Templars--One thing you must learn about Evil, is that it cannot
I felt goose bumps all over.
I looked at him, to ascertain whether or not I could actually
believe this strange hitchhiker--he obviously did have miraculous
talents, but was he perhaps overconfident of his ability to deal
with murderers? They had talents too.
Now under the harsh and remorseless fluorescent lights of a petrol
station I could actually see Tazio for the first time. Up to now
it had been in reflected glare from a headlight, the car's dim
interior bulb, or sitting beside him in the darkness.
His clothes were quite ragged, dirty even, the knees of his pants
almost gone, buttons missing from the thin shirt. His hair was
tangled, uncombed, unless perhaps occasionally with his fingers.
He looked like a hippy who had given up, a bum, a kid who simply
did not care a rat's bum about how he looked. And yet he glowed
with overwhelming health and was absolutely beautiful.
He looked back at me, our eyes met, and then he allowed me to see
him as he really was: that blurry illusion of normal eyes
dissolved; Tazio did indeed have those impossible golden catlike
eyes I had first glimpsed and been frightened by. His pupils were
vertical black slits in irises of flaming golden swirls; inhuman
eyes, beast-eyes, demon-eyes, dangerous frightening full-of-power
eyes. And yet, oddly, quite harmless.
There was no doubt about this, my senses were not rattled now, in
fact I was seeing with better vision than ever before in my life.
I almost became afraid again, but he shook his head, so I wasn't.
But I had to ask, "Uh...excuse me, Tazio, but just exactly what
ARE you? A mutant? A UFO alien? What?"
He studied me as if deciding whether or not to answer, then
shrugged and said, "I'm an Avatar."
"Avatar? You mean as in Hinduism? Rama-Shiva-Krishna? A...god
"Everyone is a god incarnate, they just don't realize it. Avatars
do, god-selves closer to the surface, thus an enhanced race of men
--of whom several are incarnate on Earthlevel at this time: I'm
one of them."
"You will. Use the card, fill the tank, and we'll take le
Autoroute to Geneva."
Chapter 8: MY TALE OF WOE
An Autoroute entrance was only a kilometer from the petrol
station. Tazio drove to the peage booth, and we got a
ticket, and then were up on the A4, six lanes of open motorway
There was no traffic at that time of night, so he took the Fiat up
to top speed at 185kph/115mph and held it there.
Flying along the road again, now with a full tank of gas, sitting
beside a god who had healed me with magical powers, things seemed
almost all right. Certainly better than a few hours before. I
could be in Geneva in 2 hours. I could get to Claire.
Of course, we didn't have enough cash to pay the ticket at the
other end of the Autoroute, and They would probably have hit-men
waiting for us there by then, but I knew that everything had
"All right, Martin, tell me your story."
"I thought you knew it all already, aren't you telepathic or
"I don't actually read minds as if hearing words," he explained,
"it's more like I guess what people are thinking, usually
So I told Tazio of my misadventures. Beginning with how Claire
was at a publisher's convention in Paris, where I had made a
multimedia presentation, during which I'd told a few jokes to
liven things up a bit, and she came up to me afterwards and told
me how funny I'd been, and how erotic that made her feel.
Which had rather amazed me, for she was without exaggeration the
most beautiful and desirable woman in that convention hall
filled with perhaps a thousand people--picture here a Nastassja
Kinski type--cute, French, boyishly short and ruffled dark hair,
stylishly dressed, smart, cultured, really good figure. And I,
well, I'd lost my hair young and was developing the kind of belly
one attains at a desk job combined with innumerable business
dinner appointments for agents and authors, all in the line of
duty of course, as were the martinis. Not obese, but not Cary
Grant either. I was not accustomed to women like Claire flirting
I quickly told her a few more jokes, because she made me feel
rather erotic as well, and because I was alone in Paris--just as
alone as I'd been in London, and getting tired of it--and wonder
of wonders, she took me home.
She was so...nice, and fun too. We had some few wonderful days
together, falling absolutely and overwhelmingly in love, walking
hand-in-hand along the Seine, cooking dinners together, watching
old movies, incessantly making love everywhere...oh, drat, I
wasn't going to go into that. Anyway, all that bliss came to a
After those few days one of her ex-boyfriends showed up at her
apartment, bloody and dying from multiple wounds-- shot, stabbed,
battered-- and he dropped a package onto her floor.
A mysterious package: square, thin, like a book, but sealed and
convincingly marked DO NOT OPEN in every language known to man.
With a notation that promised a great reward to those who
delivered the package-- IN UNOPENED CONDITION --to a certain
monastery outside Barcelona.
And just like in "The Maltese Falcon" everyone was after that
package. We were arrested that night, for the murder of her
boyfriend...and then the Police tried to kill us, just like in
"X-Files" (if they were policemen at all). We got away with the
package, fled from Paris.
And then we traveled a trail of atrocities caused by that
package: the monastery in Spain was blown up an hour before we
arrived; when we unwrapped the package to see what it really was,
there was yet another layer of wrapping, this time with the
message: "DO NOT OPEN if you do not have the proper security
clearance, this Document is TOP SECRET. Unauthorized opening is
punishable by DEATH, deliver to NATO HQ, Brussels..."
But any attempt to deliver this package to some "authority" always
proved to be dangerous, "They" were everywhere. I was almost
killed in Brussels...others were killed. And any attempt to
simply discard the damned thing always ended up with it showing
Finally, I simply ripped off all the layers of warning and secrecy
and came to the core of the package: a Document of some sort, very
old, like a papyrus written in a language I'd never seen. Looked
like chicken scratchings--had this been a novel by HP Lovecraft,
or some very trashy B-horror film, that language would have to be
ancient Aramaic, or something like that. It was unreadable, at
any rate, but there was a yellow sticky Post-It square of paper,
upon which was hand written in English, "To Bearer: deliver this
Document to the Authorized Earthlevel Registration Officer,
Central Bank of Switzerland in Geneva, for final resolution of
"Claire and I had to split up in Prague to throw the villains off
our trail," I told Tazio in finalizing, "she went north, I to
Monaco, where I got shot. We planned to meet in Geneva...so here
"And I still have no idea of what that Document is even about!"
Tazio did not interrupt to clarify any details until I was
finished, then he questioned me thoroughly, then seemed to
know more about what I'd been through than I did.
Finally he asked, "Where is the Document? I'd like to see it."
I hesitated, then said, "Where is the Document? How many times
have I heard that question, just before someone got killed? Sorry
Tazio, but I'm scared to let you know that. I'd be risking your
life and Claire's life, and I won't do that."
"Geneva Poste Restante, under your own name?" he asked, having
guessed where I had sent it anyway, "isn't that blatantly
"Uh...well...not really," I said, giving up any idea of strategic
secrecy, "They don't really seem to care about getting the
Document so much as killing people to get it. They've had plenty
of chances to obtain it--I've even tried to throw it away, it just
shows up later, as if They had sent it back to me. Totally
"Not at all," said Tazio, "it's a game."
Chapter 9: ON LE AUTOROUTE
We were mostly alone on le Autoroute until we shot past Aire de
Annecy, one of the large restaurant and petrol stops along the
motorway, where a dark Mercedes pulled out after us.
Tazio checked the rear view mirror. He'd ignored the few other
cars we'd met, but this one he studied. "It's Them," said, quite
I looked back, amazingly calm myself. They were coming up behind
us, the powerful Mercedes gaining fast. It was too dark to see
how many men were in the car.
"Four men," Tazio said, "armed with Uzis. But no Templars. Swiss
No Templars, did that mean he wasn't interested in helping me?
Well, too bad for us both, I thought, because he was about to get
"Bloody hell, wish I had a gun!" I complained.
"No, Martin," Tazio said sternly, "you may not use a gun when
you're with me. It's not necessary anyway. Now brace yourself,
I'm going to maneuver."
The Mercedes was already in shooting range, but they wanted to be
even closer, they knew they were faster than us. They had us, and
were closing in for the kill.
"Can't you drive faster?" I shouted.
"Not necessary," Tazio said, and I heard the roar of our wind as
he opened the door and stuck his foot out of the car, "we'll stop
instead." And just as the Mercedes loomed up beside us he stamped
his bare foot down on the asphalt at 186 kph.
And then we were stopped. Absolutely stopped, instantly, no
screeching, no sliding, no G-force deceleration, no noise, no
blur, no motion, nothing. We were simply and suddenly...parked,
in the fast lane of le A4 Autoroute. Even the engine was stopped,
lights turned off. Quite peaceful.
The Mercedes was gone, having shot past us at full speed and
accelerating, probably 210 kph, and was still dwindling towards
"Wha..wha..what happened?" I had to ask.
"I transferred our inertia into the earth. Having zero inertia
equals zero velocity."
I was flabbergasted, inclined to argue that it was impossible, and
yet there we were. The Mercedes was out of sight.
"Why don't they come back?"
"They're confused. At that speed they didn't really see us
stop, they thought they saw us disappear. Never even looked
back far enough."
"Well, I'm confused too..."
"Hush!" he commanded urgently, apparently listening to something
I couldn't hear. I obediently hushed and watched him concentrate
intently, until he said, "They're calling in for orders. Call
relayed to Geneva, report forwarded to Prague, Lisbon, Mecca..."
I got out of the car, totally out of my league, just to breathe.
It was very dark and quiet and cold there. I wondered just how
dangerous it was to be stopped in the dark and rain with no lights
in the middle of that six-lane motorway, there had to come traffic
soon. It began to snow lightly. I began to laugh, it was all too
The lights came on and the motor started, so I got back in the
car. Tazio's usually deadpan expression seemed somewhat animated,
he was perhaps slightly excited about something.
"The Dark Templars are involved," he announced, "let's get to
"Pardon me for asking, but how do you know?"
"I can hear radio waves, they reported to their network by mobile
phone, and after a few transfers I caught a voice I know among the
"Does this mean that you're going to help me?"
"You might be helping me," Tazio said, "you have the passionate
motivation I lack."
"What about the Matterhorn?"
"I assume it'll be there later on."
"I thought you didn't want to fight people's battles."
"I don't, especially. But I'm always interested in interfering
with the Templars. Sort of a hobby."
We arrived to Geneva at 6:30 in the morning. Being November, it
was still dark, and beginning to snow. The motorway ended as we
crossed the river Rhône, which we followed to the big lake,
Lac de Genève, and out to the part of town called Montchoisy.
Tazio never asked where I was going to meet Claire, he just drove
to it. In fact, I didn't know where the hotel was myself, I'd
never been in Geneva before. I suggested we stop and pick up a
"Not necessary, I've already memorized a map of the town."
I wondered about that, I didn't have one in the car. "When did
you do that?"
"About five years ago, in school, I liked to study Atlases then."
"But why did you memorize a map of Geneva?"
"It was in the Atlas with the others."
"You memorized the entire Atlas?"
"Yeah, several atlases. I memorized everything in the library. I
was motivated back then, child prodigy stuff."
"I've always liked books too," I told him, "I'm in publishing, you
"Yes, I know," he said, "you wrote that in the beginning of this
All right, he didn't really say that, I'm just teasing you, Dear
Reader, but he was like that. I couldn't tell him anything he
didn't know. He was not easy to talk to--his superior
intelligence was so obvious that I felt like an child trying to
converse with an uninterested adult, even though he was obviously
younger than half my age.
He stopped the car in a side street. "There it is: Hotel
I didn't even bother to ask how he knew which hotel Claire and I
had secretly arranged to meet in, just peered out the fogged
window through the rain to the hotel. "Damn, I hope she's
"She's not," Tazio said, "not at present, anyway. Nor has she
been there in the last day."
This time I just had to ask. "How do you know?"
"Place-history is like memory. I tune in on it, scan it, rather
like remembering what happened in a place as if I'd been there
myself. So I know exactly how many people are in that building,
their ages, their sex, and just how nice they are. No young
woman has gone in or out of there in the last 2 days. But I don't
know if she's left a message or not, we'd have to go in to find
"Well, then I have to go in," I said.
"Of course you do, but it's a trap, so I'd better go with you."
"A trap, you say? What then?"
"Then we've got them where we want them."
"You're very confidant. Do you really know what we're up against?
Because I certainly don't."
"Oh sure, the Dark Templars are old enemies of mine.: they
incorporate and control all the agencies of evil known to man--
Russian Mafia & ex-KGB, Stasi, Italian Cosa Nostra, corrupt
Interpol and CIA agencies, Mossad renegades, Hamas terrorists,
satanic worshippers--all joined together in an evil conspiracy to
assume world domination, etc. Let's go."
Chapter 11: HOTEL VOYAGEUX
Looking to see who might be watching us, I took along my only
remaining suitcase from the car, trying to resemble a casual
traveler with luggage. Of course, beside me walked a long-haired
dirty kid with no shoes, but I was glad to have him along.
It was a small obscure hotel occupying the top 3 floors of an old
5 story building, not especially elegant. There was no elevator,
so we went up a narrow staircase. I observed that it could indeed
be a perfect trap. "They" could not have known about this hotel,
but I'd learned that They had known my every move in advance.
The idea had been to meet Claire in some unconnected place where
no one would think to look for us. A "family hotel" chosen at
random from a telephone book, but since I had never been in Geneva
before, it was an unknown commodity, reservation made from a coin-
operated phone booth. We met no families on the stairs, in fact
it seemed quite desolate.
On the 3rd floor we arrived at a reception desk presided by a
heavy-set false-blonde matron who resembled a brothel Madame.
She looked at me but not at Tazio, and said "Bonjour, Monsieur,"
as if I'd been alone.
"Hello, uh...do you speak English?" I've always been bad at
She shook her head. "Non, seulement français, monsieur."
I looked at Tazio to see if maybe he could speak French. He cocked
his head and looked me back and our eyes locked in. I felt myself
being pulled into those weird slit-pupiled cats-eyes, then a
physical shock as some vast impulse thrust its way into my head,
and I reeled back a step, the contact then broken.
Startled, confused, I looked away from Tazio and turned back to
the matronly receptionist, saying to her, "Uh...uh..bien, je crois
que vouz avez une chambre pour deux réservée à moi. Le nom est
"Lawrence? Ah oui, monsieur, nous avons préparé la chambre
treize pour vous et votre épose."
"Trés bien. Mais je m'attends à ce que mon épose me recontre
ici--est elle ici pas pourtant?"
"Non, monsieur, pas encore de toute façon."
I hardly even noticed that I was speaking French, a language I'd
never been able to muster or master, as easily and naturally as if
it were my own mother-tongue, confirming my reservation and
telling the woman that I was expecting my wife to show up.
"Dites-moi, avez n'importe qui à tou' éprouvé m'appeler au
"Non, monsieur." The matron was businesslike, cool, neither
friendly nor unfriendly. Was she one of Them? I'd learned to
"Mais quelqu'un vous a envoyé un paquet pour vous," she added,
"il est arrivé passée la nuit," taking a package from behind
the counter and laying it upon the countertop before me.
I knew what it was--flat, rectangular, wrapped in plain brown
paper, MARTIN LAWRENCE, CHAMBRE # 13 written across the wrapper
in felt-tip. Back again to haunt me, that damned Document.
My heart almost stopped--this was proof that they knew I would be
here and were closing in even now! I backed away from it, wanted
to run from there, but knew that it was already too late. A trap
"Just take it, Martin," Tazio urged, "I'd like to study it." So I
did, as nonchalantly as I could.
Speaking English to Tazio I said, "Claire should have been here
yesterday. Oh God, if they got her too... I don't know what to
do now, this was the only contact point we had. And if I wait
"We'll take the room and wait," Tazio instructed me, "it's a trap
and the best we can do is spring it."
"Yes, well. Then I suppose it doesn't matter if I use my credit
card at this point."
"No, you're already traced. But we'd want them to trace it
I neither argued nor questioned, just checked in. The matron said
nothing about Tazio, in fact she didn't seem to notice him at all,
so we left her and went together up to the room on the 4th floor.
"There's been a lot of traffic on these stairs last night," he
told me on the way up, "a technical team has bugged the room:
camera behind the mirror, microphone in the telephone, another in
the bathroom. There's also a sniper in the building across the
street, by the way, so avoid the window when we come in."
"Then they must have gotten to Claire and...questioned her," I
said, stopping, almost slumping, " she and I were the only ones
who knew where we should meet."
"Or she could be one of them," Tazio said dispassionately.
"No, she's not!" I said passionately, end of discussion.
We came to the floor and the door. I was scared, this was it--the
showdown. "Is...is there anyone in there?" I asked.
"No," he said and opened the door. "And their camera and
microphones will be all malfunctioning quite soon, so we won't
have to perform for them."
"Why will their equipment be malfunctioning?"
"Electromagnetic fields screw up electronics." He tested contact
between his bare feet and the tiled floor, and I thought I saw
that now-familiar flickering of energy that he called "the Urr".
There was a sudden pulse of static electricity that sent our hair
standing on end.
"There, now they'll spend a little while trying to fix their
system, so we have a few minutes."
He went inside first and pointed to the telephone on a table,
"bug there," he said. And without even looking out the window he
indicated another window across the street, where shutters were
closed. "Sniper there, so watch it."
I entered, avoiding the window. It was a spartan room, a double
bed, small table with two chairs, a bathroom door.
"My god, a bathroom, it's been days!"
Tazio nodded, "Hmm, I might use that too. It's been...weeks."
"Then you can go first," I offered.
"No, you go ahead," he said, "meanwhile I'd like to I see the
"Oh, sure, here." I handed it to him, glad to get it out of my
hands. Tazio opened it up, taking out the Document: several pages
of ancient linen sewn together. When he touched the actual
Document, there was a reflex, almost a flinch, it was the only
time I saw any expression of emotion on his face, a momentary
sneer of disgust.
"Bad vibes?" I asked him.
He nodded. "This thing is innately Evil."
"I could have told you that. Now, I've really got to change out
of this filthy bloody suit and take a shower!"
I went alone into the bathroom. There was a large mirror there,
and when I saw myself in it I almost panicked--I thought it was
That belly of mine I'd described earlier was gone. Or rather,
it was flat, and there was a hint of muscle under the skin that I
hadn't seen since my teen years. Of course I'd hardly eaten or
slept for 3 days, and I had been shot (although it was now hard
to be certain--it was confusing that the wound had healed so
completely), and my body had been running in high gear for a week,
but even so--how could this be? Had Tazio also cured my fat?
Oh, thank you Tazio.
But that was the least shocking change. My face was trim too, and
looked quite rugged with a 3 days stubble, but above that face in
the mirror was something so impossible that I knew I was really in
the Twilight Zone: there was also stubble on my bald head--my hair
was growing back!
When I emerged from the bathroom, literally a new man, I saw that
Tazio was still studying the Document. I assumed that he could
not read those chicken scratchings any more than I could.
Then I thought, who am I kidding? He probably can.
"So, can you decipher it?"
"Oh sure --by the way, it is written in old Aramaic, since you
I had to interrupt. "You're joshing: this really IS a B-movie!"
"...yeah, well," he said, shrugging, "it's a form of Aramaic used
in Israel about the time of Christ. Which is an anachronism,
because this document is not that old, it dates from around 1000
AD, long after that form of writing had expired."
"And...you just happen to be able to read that?"
"Oh, I read everything."
"So what does it say?"
"It's a list..." he went quiet and looked over at the door. "Get
ready, they're coming up the stairs."
"Ready? Oh my God...get ready to do WHAT?"
He stepped back from the door into the room, as if to make himself
less conspicuous standing in plain sight. "You take the lead here,
I'll back you up."
"I can't take the lead! I don't even have a gun, THEY'LL take the
lead! Why can't you just take the lead?--you're the superhero,
"That's why I don't. They have no chance against me--they can't
even threaten me, so I'm not afraid of them, nor am I angry at
them. I told you that I don't like pushing people around, not
even the bad guys. I don't need to confront them, or to be brave--
but YOU do."
"Now you tell me..."
Tazio nodded towards the door just before it silently opened,
without a knock, no key nor doorknob being turned, it just swung
into the room. Two men stepped in, as easily and silently as the
door had opened.
And my heart stopped again. The lead man wore a trench coat and a
fedora hat and I knew who he was. I'd met him before. So have
you, Dear Reader, just think of Max von Sydow in that movie Three
Days of the Condor: Alsatian Gentleman, master professional
killer, cold and methodical, very creepy, frightening. I'd even
spoken with him--Herr Strasbourg, charming man, very erudite,
interesting--right before I discovered that he'd just liquidated
the 5 Belgians who had tried to help Claire and me.
I had also seen the other shorter and darker man before, someone
had called him Basel. He moved briskly into the room and had a
compact machine gun aimed at us. I saw in his eyes that he was
only awaiting the order to shoot.
And in Strasbourg's eyes I saw that he was glad to see me, was
about to finish a good day's work. He looked satisfied, at peace
I couldn't move; a mouse facing the serpent. Until I saw his eyes
change when they focused beyond me, upon Tazio behind me, and
their expressions became...uncertain.
Strasbourg looked at me again, his eyes obviously asking the
question Who's that? A wild card? Or so I guessed,
the way Tazio does. And suddenly I was no longer afraid.
Strasbourg looked at Tazio and ever so slightly nodded his head to
Basel, who raised the machine gun to fire. I guessed again what
he was thinking: Don't know where Lawrence found a friend, but it
was very unkind of him to do so, he's just doomed this unlucky
civilian to being eliminated as a loose end.
But Basel didn't shoot. After a few seconds of silence Strasbourg
turned a puzzled look towards the gunman. "Well?"
"Well what?" asked the other.
"Do it," Strasbourg commanded, "Kill him now."
The gunman pointed the machine gun at Tazio, but couldn't pull the
trigger. He started shaking the gun, as if to loosen it up. "I
can't!" he cried, "there's something wrong!"
Now Herr Strasbourg did reveal a little bit of irritation, "Very
well then, I'll do it myself," he said, drawing a Luger out of his
trench coat and pointing it toward Tazio. But of course he
couldn't fire either.
Tazio said gently, "Freeze, please."
They both became paralyzed.
"Take their guns," Tazio ordered me.
I did so, at first unable to wring the pistol from Strasbourg's
paralytic grip, but Tazio said "Give it to him," and the man
simply handed the pistol to me. Basel gave me his machine gun
with no argument. It went rather well, considering that they were
ruthless professional killers.
I put the pistol in my belt and took a firm grip on the machine
gun, pointing it towards them: now we'd see who had the power of
life and death. I felt the rage that had been buried under the
fear welling forth.
"All right, you bloody bastards," I said, thrusting the machine
gun up to Strasbourg's face, "What have you done with Claire? I'll
kill you if..."
"No guns, Martin. In fact, give them to me."
Tazio took the machine gun, seemed to press it to the pistol, and
with a single wringing motion both weapons were disassembled into
loose metal parts scattering upon the floor. "So that nobody does
anything silly," he said.
"You're being very kind to these...assholes! They've killed my
colleagues, my friends, and maybe Claire... they're working for
an organization that makes the Nazis look a kindergarten class!"
"I know, but I'm not interested in revenge, or even dealing out
I blinked, confused. "So what are you interested in doing?"
"Screwing up their plans, stopping them from hurting anyone else.
Now then," Tazio said to me, "don't you have some problems to sort
out with these men?" He said it as if I was in charge.
I decided to just play it out his way. "Indeed. What about
Claire, Herr Strasbourg?"
The two agents looked at each other in bewilderment. "Claire who?"
Strasbourg asked, "we only had orders to be here and wait for you
to show up."
"To kill me?"
"No, to take you--and the Document--with us to the Finalizing.
Our employers are waiting there."
"And who are they?" I asked.
"Oh, we can't tell you that. Quite confidential, you know."
"I insist," Tazio insisted, from the background.
"Yes Lord," Strasbourg immediately acquiesced, "it was Paragon 3,
a telephone contact. But we've never met him, don't know who he
is, it's all very secure, we even get paid through unlisted Swiss
accounts. No names in our business, you know."
"I think it's time to invite the third member of their team to
join us," Tazio said, going to the window. The sniper across the
street was aiming in at him. He called over, "Hey, Heinrich!"
The man looked up from his rifle sight, confused perhaps that
some unknown target knew his name. "Uh..yeah? What's going on?"
"Change of plans. Put down your rifle and come over here to us,"
The man hesitated, as if trying to resist, then slowly nodded and
began to lay his weapon down. "Ok, I'll be right over," he called
back, turned and went away from the window.
But then he pulled a sneaky little trick: immediately came back to
the window and fired a shot anyway.
I was quite surprised: first, because that man had somehow
disobeyed Tazio's order; and second, because the bullet caught
Tazio square in the chest, driving him backwards to crash upon
the floor in the middle of the room.
My universe turned around once again: I had learned to believe the
impossible fact that this strange boy was a god incarnate,
ostensibly immortal and infallible. And yet there he lay, shot
down by a mortal, bleeding from a mortal wound, writhing in pain.
He had misjudged his own superiority over his opponent, a classic
case of Hubris.
And there I was, now on my own against two professional murderers
who were beginning to realize that they were free to act upon
their own volition once again.
Strasbourg was the first to react, pulling out a stiletto and
moving towards the fallen Tazio, calling to the other, "You take
He had not misjudged his opponents, he knew that Tazio was the
dangerous one who had to be finished off fast, and that I could
easily be dealt with at leisure.
But Basel was still stunned by it all and he had no machine gun
anymore, so he hesitated.
But I did not. And now, at last, I can claim a somewhat heroic
role in this gruesome history. I acted immediately, out of rage
and fear and survival instinct, and kicked that other man in the
balls as hard as I could. Artless, perhaps, but quite effective,
he went down.
Strasbourg was almost upon Tazio as I turned to attack him, I
could only throw all my weight against him to send him staggering
away before he could stab the boy.
But Strasbourg was not as easy an opponent, he recovered his
balance like a ballet dancer and turned to face me, knife held in
a very relaxed and expert manner. He even smiled slightly, a
patient smile for a poor student. "Well," he said, "the worm
I'm no fighter, never was any good at it as a kid, always got
beat up. But there was something different now--since Tazio had
healed me all my senses were sharper, my body more tuned, I was
stronger, faster than I'd ever been before. All I had to do was
Strasbourg cut me across the hand so swiftly that I hadn't even
seen it coming. And he spun and sent a karate kick at my knee
that I only just avoided. I was pressed backwards, almost
stumbling over Tazio in the middle of the floor.
Then Tazio's hand moved, and grabbed my leg. I almost panicked
and kicked away, but then I felt his power--the Urr--rushing up
through my body like a warm wind. So I held my ground there.
Strasbourg hesitated--I think he sensed that the worm had indeed
turned, or perhaps he could even see the faint bluish glow that
surrounded me. My hands were raised in defense, and I saw the
cut he had given me heal and close. This time it was I who
He lunged in with the knife, I caught his wrist with one hand and
that was it. He couldn't budge my hand, no matter how he thrust
and hewed, he was caught and held fast. I tightened my grip and
he began to whimper in pain, the knife rattled to the floor. Our
eyes met and his were frightened now, for we both felt the
strength in my fingers which could simply pinch his own hand off
at the wrist.
My enemy was helpless in my power, I could do anything to him. I
could punish him for everything that had been done to Claire and
me. Kill him, cripple him, crush him, tear him into small pieces,
I had but to choose how awful my revenge would be.
But it's a funny thing: with the power of a god at my disposal, I
also experienced a god's perspective. I could understand why
Tazio did not like to harm people, no matter who--it didn't feel
right to bully something so weak.
However, Strasbourg hit me with his free hand. It was pathetically
feeble, the angle was wrong for him and I was like a tree. So I
slapped him once, just to subdue him, which it certainly did. He
sagged limply to the floor.
Now I could turn to Tazio to see how he was. I didn't expect him
to be dead, not with that energy flowing up from him, nor was he.
The bullet hole in his chest was already closed, and the greater
exit hole out his back was closing rapidly. I couldn't help
thinking about that Schwarzenegger movie Terminator 2 the way
his flesh flowed back into place.
"Are you going to be all right?" I asked.
He nodded, but signaled that he couldn't talk yet. However, he
did sit up, coughed a liter of blood out of his lungs and drew a
ragged breath. "Ah, that's...better," he gasped, then nodded for
me to pay attention to the others.
The agent called Basel was trying to crawl out the door. I ran
over to stop him. But as soon as I lost contact with Tazio the
Urr-power was gone and I was back to normal human condition. Or
almost normal, but still bursting with energy, so I grabbed the
man and dragged him back into the room, dumping him beside
Then I heard someone running up the stairs, hard and fast, heavy
breathing, babbling cries. And the third man, Heinrich the sniper,
crashed in through the open door with an apoplectic expression on
his sweaty reddened face, madness in his eyes, and a pistol waving
wildly in his hand.
"I'm here!" he yelled, "you can't do this to me!--but I'm here!
gotta kill..." he aimed his pistol frantically around the room. I
flinched back, but he saw Tazio instead, and without aiming fired
three shots at the boy.
Tazio's Urr-glow became very intense. He held up his hand and the
three bullets just stopped and dropped easily onto his palm. Then
he coughed "Freeze!" as well as he could, somewhat gargled.
But it worked: Heinrich the sniper stopped firing, locked into
rigidity, and toppled over, unable to stabilize himself. He fell
stiff like a store mannequin, but was still screaming his mad
babble, "Yes, Lord...Satan curse you all! You can't command ME..
yes, Lord...no, Lord!"
"Drop your pistol, Heinrich," Tazio ordered.
"Never! Yes, Lord..no! You cannot command a Templar! Yes.."
"I do so COMMAND you to drop it! Now!"
Heinrich screamed and wheezed and wailed and shuddered, but the
gun finally slipped out of his hand. I ran over and gathered it
up, and handed it to Tazio, who destroyed it like the others.
Heinrich's complaints did not stop.
"All right, Heinrich. Unfreeze."
Heinrich slumped in a sprawl, his wheezing and groaning stopped,
became mere sobbing, "Yes Lord...you bastard!" he ranted weakly.
I looked confused. Tazio explained to me, "That's the brainburn
effect of two conflicting Avatar commands: Heinrich can't obey me
without destroying his own mind, because another Avatar has
commanded him to obedience."
"Another Avatar?" I asked.
"Anton Artemis, Grand Master of the Dark Templars. Heinrich is
one of them--I wasn't expecting that because the other two were
not--which was rather stupid of me, considering that I was sure
the Templars were involved. So he could resist my command, to a
degree, at the cost of great stress..."
"Stress?... great pain!" interjected Heinrich, "my brain was
"...anyway, he got a shot in. Quite impressive, Heinrich."
"I'm a Dark Templar, after all!" he boasted, "Ave Satanas!" But
he still lay there, spent.
"And yet you obeyed me anyway and came over here," Tazio taunted.
"Only to finish you off!"
"Only to obey me, you knew you couldn't finish me off. You do
know who I am, don't you, Heinrich?"
"Of course. You're the accursed Lord Tazio Antichrist."
I suddenly felt those goose bumps again. As if I had crossed into
a place where no mortal man should be...
Tazio stood up, now wholly healed, as if never a bullet had ripped
its way through his chest and heart and lungs, perfect and
powerful. His clothes were a mess, though.
"Well, sorry Heinrich, but you're going to have to endure some
more pain. I know that you're not supposed to divulge Templar
"You evil bastard! I curse you!"
"Look who's talking, a Templar sniper. Now, tell us who gave you
your orders," Tazio ordered him.
The sniper gagged, grabbed his head and rolled around the floor,
kicking his feet spasmodically, gasping as if about to pass out,
"Jer...Jerz...can't say, no, but...yes Lord, Jerzzz...no,
"Cancel that command, Templar," Tazio said, "you've said enough."
The sniper collapsed and sobbed like a child, beaten.
"Jerz.." would be Anton's right hand man, now Captain Jerzy
since Achmet Khaddam left the Templars to become holy. So this
IS top priority."
Heinrich now looked totally dismayed, as if he'd failed some great
test, suggesting that everything Tazio said was quite accurate,
even if I didn't know exactly what was going on.
Strasbourg and Basel were still sitting on the floor, too rattled
to try anything funny. To Strasbourg Tazio said, "You should
report to your contact agent. You may do so now, please."
Strasbourg pulled a mobile telephone out of his pocket. "Yes,
Lord. Uh...what...what may I say?"
"The truth: that you failed. Just don't mention me."
"Yes, Lord." The Alsatian nodded and dialed a number. A phone
rang somewhere in the world.
"Paragon 3. Recording."
"This is Unit 372. Mission compromised. Subject 179A still active
despite engagement. Observing continues, but unable to fulfill
mission at this time due to...interference. Request instructions."
The sniper hung up. "They'll call back. Maybe."
To me Tazio said, "He called a dead-end exchange in Zurich,
transferred to Berlin, not much use. We'll need that return
The phone rang.
"Unit 372. Yes, we are still in observance, but the situation is
Tazio took the phone from Strasbourg and began to speak in Herr
Strasbourg's voice, "...complications due to equipment
malfunction. Yes, we checked our gear, but that's life...yes,
He covered the mouthpiece, "They're tracking in on us with a
satellite system, but that's only fair because I'm tracking in on
their transfer stations too--Zagreb, Milano, Saigon..."
"Satellite system?" I wondered, "but if they already know where
we are, why bother...?"
"Uh...there's another backup team," Heinrich said with an alarmed
expression, "missile-launched biogenetic viral carriers that could
kill this city..."
"...and leave the Document intact, yes, I know," Tazio said
dismissively, "but I've already shorted out their trajectory
banks, so they can't launch..." he shifted to Strasbourg's voice
again and spoke into the phone, "Yes, Unit 372 here. Listen, we
may be able to make a negotiation. Lawrence will bring the
Document in personally for someone named Claire. Is she
available? All right, we wait."
Tazio turned the phone off, looked at Martin. "They're going to
put her on and call back."
I was amazed and overjoyed. "She's ALIVE? Thank God!"
"Just who are you?" Strasbourg asked Tazio, "or rather...WHAT
are you? Heinrich called you Antichrist..."
"Never mind," Tazio said. Then, "Actually, I'm through with you
men. You can go."
"What?" I shouted. The three assassins looked confused as well.
The agent named Basel had obviously been trying all the while to
pull a knife from his sleeve, but he could only get it part way
out before he'd start shuddering and have to put it back. Hard
to trust a bloke like that.
"You're just going to let them go free? They're dedicated
professional killers, if we turn our backs on them they'll just
finish the job!"
"No they won't," Tazio said, "in fact they'll never harm or kill
anyone again. Will you, fellows?"
"No Lord!" they chorused. And then looked at each other in
consternation, realizing that it was true.
"But that's what we DO!" Strasbourg protested.
"And we have enemies who will try to kill us!"
"Fine, it's what you deserve. Better avoid trouble," Tazio said,
with no trace of sympathy, "However, you also have victims and
families of those you have killed. You shall spend the rest of
your lives helping them over the damage you've done to their
lives. Money, physical help, whatever it takes. You each know
what you've done, and to whom, I don't need to spell out the
"You can't do this to us!" Strasbourg complained, "I thought
you didn't believe in punishment-- this is worse than our enemies
"It's not punishment, but a chance to make restitution. Isn't
that better than death or prison?" Tazio asked.
"But we can't do that!" Basel was about to cry, "It'll take all
our money and we can't earn any more!"
"They won't do any of those things anyway," I objected, "once out
of sight they'll just be back after us."
"Oh, they'll do it all right. They have to obey me."
"Against our will," complained Strasbourg.
"No, with all your own will, wholeheartedly. I so command."
The two murderers actually began to weep. "Oh no, everything
we've ever worked for, scrimping and saving, working at this
shitty job to get ahead..."
"I don't believe this!" I had to protest, "Your own employers were
going to blow you away with a disease missile for failure, and you
complain about this?"
"A short clean end..."
"Believe me, I can do worse," Tazio informed them, "once I ordered
a soldier who shot me to feel guilt for every person he had ever
killed, and forbade him to commit suicide. He went mad, must have
been hell. Now go, before I do that to you."
"Yes Lord!" they squeaked, holding up their hands, backing out the
door, and were gone.
Heinrich remained, still sitting on the floor, his tears now dry
but eyes burning with shame. "And what do you do with me?" he
asked, "You cannot command a Templar to be good or to betray the
Dark Templars without destroying him."
"Nor do I so command," Tazio said, "but the next time you will
harm someone, harm yourself instead, that I do command."
The Templar looked confused, as if expecting his brains to burn,
but nothing happened. There was obviously no immediate conflict
with any previous Avatar command. Then dismay filled his face
as he realized that he was checkmated forever.
"Then you invalidate me as a useful agent of the Dark Templars!"
"Not at all. You can still serve the other Templars: polish boots,
sweep the floor..."
"Stooping to Revenge, Antichrist?"
"Well Heinrich, you did shoot me, you know. Now, you run along--
fast as you can--all the way out of town, talk to no one until
Heinrich bolted out the door, and I could hear him crying all the
way down the stairs until he was gone.
I staggered to the bed and sat down. Relieved, disappointed,
amazed, hard to say.
Chapter 17: CLAIRE'S VOICE
The mobile phone rang. Without answering Tazio handed it to me.
"It's for you."
Even more bewildered, I took it, "Lawrence here."
The voice of a frightened angel, "Martin? Oh, is that really
"Claire! You're alive, thank God! Have...have those bastards
"Yes! And They're threatening to kill me...if...if.. do you have
"Yes, I have it here." I observed that Tazio was following the
conversation as if he had a telephone.
"They want you to trade the Document for me, but don't do it!
There's too much at stake--ow! Ow!..." Sobbing. "...Martin,
they're hurting me, I'm afraid..."
Another voice, male, older, took over. "If you want her back alive
you'll bring the Document and come with our agents now."
Tazio took the phone again, speaking in MY voice this time,
"Sorry, but your agents are all eliminated. I'll have to have
some new examples."
"Eliminated? But we were just talking to them."
"They're no longer with us. Any suggestions?"
"Wait there. We'll send...someone."
"Another death squad? No thanks. I'm here in Geneva, I'll come
to you. By the way, you may cancel the false Interpol reports
and reinstate my credit card accounts, please..."
"We're the ones calling the shots here!"
"Then the Document will be destroyed."
"Then we'll kill the woman."
"And the Document will still be destroyed, and your superiors will
reward you as they usually do for failure in such cases. You do
know Captain Jerzy, don't you? Better play along."
"Play along, eh?" The man's voice went away and a woman's screams
could be heard.
"Martin! Help me! This man is going to cut me...aiiiieeee..."
Tazio hung up on her shrieking.
"What are you doing?" I guess I shrieked somewhat as well.
"Claire is one of them, she's a Templar. In fact, she's running
this project, but of course I don't want them to realize that we
"Claire...one of Them? No, impossible! She's just an innocent
person brought into this because she fell in love with me..."
"Not really, she's Sonja Marika Laskrankokov, ostensibly an ex-KGB
agent, now Russian Mafia, but actually a lieutenant in the Dark
Templars. I recognize her voice. You've been set up royally, all
the way along."
"No, it can't be! I mean, it doesn't make sense that she..." I
stared into space, doing the arithmetic, analyzing the events.
"...but even if you were right, it still doesn't make sense: why
"I would guess that you're The Innocent--They need one for a
Sacrifice to Satan," Tazio said, "but anyway you don't need to
worry about Claire, they're not really going to cut her at all.
However, they still want you to die-- with the Document in your
possession, that's the whole point of all this."
"But WHY? What IS that Document?"
Tazio handed it to me without bothering to look at it himself,
for he had already memorized it.
"It reads: Those who present this Document for Certification by
the currently Appointed Earthlevel Registration Officer are hereby
proclaimed Current Champion of the Satanic Games, and are awarded
rank among the Lords of Darkness, and gain access to the advices
"Satanic Games? Earthlevel? Baphomet? Is this for real?"
"The Game itself is old news," Tazio said, "but I didn't know of
this Document until now. The rest of the pages are simply rows
of Certifications, the first signed and sealed in Rome, 1095 AD,
as Pope Urban II initiated the Crusades..."
"The Crusades were a Satanic Game?" I had to ask.
"Definitely. Look," he said, pointing at various certifications,
which were dated in readable Arabic numerals, "there follow
centuries of certifications, page after page, each corresponding
to some great man-made catastrophe-- the sacking of Constantinople
in 1204, deliberate infection starting the Bubonic Plague in 1348,
here begin the Hundred Years War, Thirty Years War, here the
French Revolution in 1789, there's Berlin 1933 the same day the
Reichstag burned and Hitler took power..."
"That's odd," I noticed, "the signatures on almost all of these
certifications--it's the same. How can that be if they were
written over a span of a thousand years?"
A tiny smile passed Tazio's lips, the first I had seen. "Because
they are signed by Ahazverus, the Wandering Jew himself, who has
wandered the Earth since the crucifixion of Christ 2000 years
"Uh, the...Wandering Jew? All right, of course, anything you
say... but anyway, what should we do with this thing?"
"Oh, we'll simply deliver it to the Currently Appointed Earthlevel
Registration Officer and Win the Game ourselves."
Before we left the hotel Tazio took advantage of the bathroom
as well, he was as a bloody a mess as I had been. Also, he'd
obviously been traveling for a while without much creature
comfort, his clothes were actually not much better than rags to
I was quite a bit larger than him, but I offered him a t-shirt and
some jeans and he accepted them. He ripped the ends off the pant
legs to shorten them.
He took off his shirt on the way into the shower. I saw a flash
of slender musculature, as extreme as the rest of him, like some
thoroughbred beast. Elegant, like a dancer, and frighteningly
powerful. I expected that.
But when he stripped and went into the shower I thought I saw a
tail. Long, serpentine, pink and naked. However, that was not
the most shocking. I also saw that he had no sex. Nothing there,
less than a girl. I looked away, almost in shame. The poor guy.
I didn't want to see these things.
It seemed as if the entire hotel was deserted, as if everyone knew
what was going down and had cleared out. There had been shots,
cries, but no investigation. The heavy matron did not come
knocking on the door for an explanation. No police, nothing. Big
When Tazio came out of the shower he took on the clothes I had
given him. They were meager gifts to a god who had saved my life
again and again, the t-shirt was loose and baggy, the pants had to
be held up with a strip he had ripped off from the overlong legs.
But he seemed quite satisfied.
"Clean rags," he said.
"Really not much style there, Tazio. I'd like to buy you some real
clothes when we're done with all this--if we survive."
"Oh, we'll survive. But I really don't care about what I wear..."
then he paused, as if distracted, turning away from me.
"I can just use my credit card," I went on, "It's so far overdrawn
now that it hardly even matters any more. This adventure has been
a real economic catastrophe for...what is it?"
He was looking...no, thinking off into space. "Merda, they've
fooled me again! I must be out of practice."
"There is a third backup system--no wait, it's a rival system!"
"What is it?"
He turned his attention to me. Urgently. "They've launched a
missile at us. Coming in fast."
I'm sure I blanched. "That biological weapon?"
"No, a simple warhead, but it'll blow this building away. And I
don't seem to be able to get into the electronics of it...ah,
because there are no circuits! I can't stop it."
"Can't you just...wish it away, or whatever it is that you do?"
He gave me a funny look, as if I were being silly. Well, I didn't
know how he did all his tricks, seemed like magic to me.
"No! Out now!"
It was a command I had to obey. I turned and rushed for the door,
but Tazio grabbed me by my belt from behind, and I was plucked up
like a child as he ran the other way. I couldn't see what was
happening before we were crashing out through the window in a
spray of shattered glass. I tried to resist when I realized what
he was doing--we were on the 4th floor!
We fell, I backwards, all the way down to the street. I remember
the entire passage, although my life did not flash before my eyes,
just the windows of the building. The wind building speed. I
braced myself for the final impact.
And then we were down. Light as a feather. Tazio's tricks again.
Reminded me of how he'd stopped us on le Autoroute, cancelling
inertia he'd called it. And I was being borne upon his shoulder
and he was running like a gazelle, like a cheetah, like a god...
A shrieking sound overhead. Then a thunderous rupturing of the
building behind us. A really mighty explosion that sent bricks
raining down around us from the sky, great chunks of wood and
cement came crashing down before and behind us, and then we were
engulfed in a swirl of smoke and ash. But nothing touched us.
Tazio stopped and put me down. Debris was still falling down
around us, but we seemed to be in an area of safety. Then I saw
the Urr-glow around us and realized that we were projecting a
force-field that deflected the falling and flying projectiles of
Tazio was looking up into the smoke. "We'd better move to the
right about two meters," he said. We did so, and a few seconds
later an entire several-tons gable structure came crashing down
where we had stood.
This was clearly one of those scenes from almost any real
Hollywood action film: big budget pyrotechnics, blow up an entire
building, absurd waste of money, quite well orchestrated and
choreographed, lots of smoke and fire and noise, wherein the heroes
somehow miraculously survive incredible danger anyway. But now I
was beginning to think, "They should make a movie about THIS
Then it was over. The smoke slowly cleared away and we could see
that the Hotel Voyageaux was gone. Only a stubble of bricks and
flaming timbers remained where it had been.
"Pretty good shooting for no electronics," Tazio remarked, "that
missile came from the Caspian Sea. Wonder if Anton has gotten
There were many people in the street now. This noise had been
noticed. We turned to where my car was parked, hoping to leave
before the crowd got too big. But that poor little white Fiat was
buried and burning under a huge slab of hot brick wall that had
come down upon it from very high and squashed it flat.
And in moments the area was quite full of police cars, ambulances,
TV camera crews. Quite a scene.
"Now what?" I asked as we walked away without attracting any undue
attention, "we've got no car."
"No problem, we'll just hitch," Tazio said, "come on."
I just followed Tazio down the street without complaint or
comment. I mean, why bother?
We came to a major intersection with lots of traffic. I was about
to explain to Tazio "how difficult it is to hitchhike through the
heart of a large city" when Tazio stuck his thumb up and the very
first car screeched to a halt in front of us.
He spoke perfect German to the driver, a handsome young woman in a
business suit, and we got in. He then directed her through
traffic into the center of town and had her stop in front of the
train station, thanked her, we got out and she drove away. I
didn't say a thing, but understood now why I myself had picked
Tazio up the night before.
We followed the signs to the Central Bank two blocks away. Tazio
was concentrating on radio communications going on around us. He
had located several points of danger from various agencies who
were on the lookout for our white Fiat, not yet knowing that it
lay flattened under rubble.
Several kinds of helicopters crossed the sky above us, police cars
seemed to be everywhere, as well as unmarked Mercedeses, each
containing 4 men wearing sunglasses. We walked past enemies
everywhere on our way to the Central Bank, no one noticed us.
I was bursting with energy from walking next to Tazio, who was
charging my battery with the life force radiated by avatars. The
odds against us were so absurd that I found it funny. "Now it
feels like we're in a Blues Brothers movie," I said.
"Never seen one," Tazio said without humor, "but I guess I know
what you mean."
"How is it you can read ancient Aramaic but are totally out of
touch with modern media culture?"
"I dropped out," Tazio admitted, shrugging.
We approached the bank building. Above it hovered an ominous
unmarked black helicopter. "Even the Dark Templars are showing
themselves," Tazio said, "they usually work incognito. This is
"So are you going to snap your fingers and bring it crashing down,
"No, I don't hurt people, you know that."
"But you could take out that helicopter at this range?"
"Oh, sure. When I manipulate electronic fields, shorting out the
ignition of a helicopter motor is easy. Really don't need to snap
We came into view of the restaurant where we were supposed to
exchange the Document for Claire, across the street from the
Central Bank, which was casually surrounded by several groups of
men in suits, all wearing sunglasses.
"You don't need to come along," Tazio said, "this might get too
dangerous for you."
"Wouldn't miss it, Tazio. They've killed too many people, ruined
my life, I'd really like to be there when they get screwed."
"You know that I'm uninterested in punishment."
"I've seen your justice: it's pretty good."
"Okay, let's go."
We walked past the various groups of agents, undercover spies,
Mafia hoods, uniformed policemen, and still no one seemed to
notice us at all. On into the elegant Maxim's Restaurant, past the
reception desk as if invisible to everyone, and directly to a
table in the back of the restaurant.
And at that table sat Claire with an elegant older gentleman,
picture David Niven in one of his few but suave villain roles,
and there were two heavy-set suited guards flanking them.
She still looked beautiful, but there were blue bruises apparent
on her pretty face, otherwise she seemed to be in rather good
shape for a kidnapped and tortured woman. She was talking with
the older man in a manner which hardly seemed totally subjugated,
for she had clearly not yet seen Tazio and me enter the room.
In fact, it seems that no one had, we actually walked right up
before her table and stopped there, unnoticed. Tazio had dropped
back, letting me take the lead, and now I was so close to her that
I could observe her every tiny nuance of expression, watch her
lovely mouth as she spoke to the other man, her eyelids
fluttering--and still she hadn't noticed me.
She was something to see so close: so beautiful, I'd loved her so
much, she was so perfect. But now I could see her for what she
was, the words she spoke to the older man were commands, her eyes
were watching for prey.
"Well, and how are you today, Claire?" I asked. When I spoke, her
head snapped up and she gasped with surprise. The older man and
the guards also reacted as if I had suddenly and magically
appeared before them.
Claire recovered, "M..Martin! You came! I was afraid..."
The older man and the guards were exchanging confused glances, the
Maitre de shrugged to them, as did the other waiters, for no
one had seen me walk in. And they still didn't seem to notice
Tazio at all.
Claire went on, "...afraid you would come. And afraid you
Now the older man regained his composure and took over, "Ah, Mr
Lawrence, you finally made it. We were worried for you...ah, you
DO have the Document?"
The two guards were ready to pounce upon me.
"Of course, no point otherwise," I said loftily, "after all, I'm
here to save Claire, you know: the love of my life, woman of my
dreams, etc etc."
"Well?" said the older man, waiting for the Document to be shown
"Oh, well, I'm deciding if she's worth it. Fate of the world for
the life of one person, and all that."
A slight frown touched Claire's brow, then she said, "Martin,
don't joke--just give it to them! Then take me away from all
"She's right, Lawrence, don't joke," the elegant man snapped his
fingers and the thug nearest Claire moved closer and put a Magnum
.45 to her head, right there in the restaurant, "give us the
"Oh, well I don't have it ON me, of course, that would be foolish
indeed--you'd just take me and it to your little sacrificial altar
somewhere. We all know that I'm dealing with gangsters without
"Oh, we do honor certain things," the gentleman said,
"Really? Now if I were to simply hand you the Document now you'd
actually release Claire and me and let us go on our way?"
"Word of honor," just as the actor David Niven would have said it;
he was rather good, really.
"Then why have you all been so ruthlessly obtuse in the process of
getting the Document? Why not negotiate earlier? Why kill
Claire's ex-boyfriend, the apartment manager, 5 Belgians, a
monastery full of monks, a mailman, and anyone who tried to help
me? Why such extravagant schemes to capture me, hurt me--why not
just bribe me for the Document and let it go at that?"
I knew the answers to all those questions, but I was actually
enjoying playing this scene: especially watching Claire/Sonja's
"Secrecy was paramount," he went on smoothly, "and we were
competing with other agencies. Now we find that we would rather
cooperate. I'm sorry for what you've been through, old chap, but
you did unexpectedly well, and that's all over now. As for
compensation, you want a few million Pounds? Done, it's only
"The truth is that it was all a game," I went on with my own
answers to my own questions, like Sam Spade would have done, "an
exercise in Evil and just plain mean-ness. The Document itself is
quite worthless, written in ancient Aramaic to confuse the
recipient, but it's only true purpose is to be delivered to the
Central Bank for certification of having won this game."
"Oh? You had it translated? Very commendable, Mr Lawrence, but
you are very wrong about the worth of that document. Yes, it's a
game, but we value very much the WINNING of this game. It's rather
like earning a Hollywood Oscar, you see, and therefore worth
considerable amounts of money further along down the line."
The elegant man nodded towards Claire, "so now if you wish to save
the life of your girlfriend..."
"She's not my girlfriend. She's actually Sonja, a Dark Templar, and
she's lied to me and betrayed me all along the line. Please DO
shoot her brains out, then I'll give you the Document."
"Martin!" she squealed, "oh no, it's not true!"
"Oh, come off it, Sonja, you set me up. Why me, by the way?"
"Now listen, Lawrence..." the elegant man was still trying to
steer the show when Claire/Sonja cut him off.
"Oh Clarence, you old dodder, shut up! I'll take over now," she
said in a very bossy and bitchy tone of voice.
Her terror had vanished. "All right, yes. You were chosen by
lottery: circumstantial innocent sacrifice. Bad luck for you."
"No, Sonja, bad luck for you." I was feeling pretty cocky with
Tazio right behind me.
"But now Martin, there's no reason for us to mollycoddle you any
more. We'll simply torture you until you give us the Document.
Gunther the gunman pointed the pistol away from her head and at
"Now, where IS the Document, Martin?" She stood, a long thin
stiletto having miraculously appeared in her hand.
"Very well, I surrender: my assistant has it."
She stepped closer, smiling like the evil succubus she was,
lifting the knife to hurt some part of me. "And where is this
"Oh, he's right behind me. See?"
Everyone looked. Tazio had been there all along, but until now
they had simply not noticed this long-haired androgynous person
wearing baggy oversized clothes, standing in bare feet in Maxine's
Tazio pulled it out of his back pants pocket, somewhat crumpled,
and held it up for all to see. "Document, right here," he
Only Sonja recognized him, shrieking "Lord Tazio the Antichrist!"
She actually turned white, dropped her knife, and fell to the
floor in a posture of total subjugation. She obviously knew
something about him.
The others were confused by this, but they acted with resolution.
David Niven, or rather the old gentleman Clarence, called out,
"Get him!" The gunman pointed his pistol at Tazio, as the other
guard moved in towards him.
But I knew we were living out a Marx Brothers movie now. The guard
couldn't bring himself to even touch Tazio, he became afraid; and
the gunman's pistol swung around and was now pointing at Clarence
"Here's the Document, Martin," Tazio announced, handing it to me,
"you may now deliver it to the bank yourself and thus become the
winner of this game."
"No! You can't do that!" Clarence cried, "It's not for your kind,
you're not even a contestant! It would be meaningless if one of
us doesn't win!"
"It's true that winning this contest of Evil means nothing to me,"
I admitted, "but making all of you LOSE really means a lot."
"You'll never make it; all the other competitors are out there!"
the old gentleman said.
"Yes, we passed them on the way in here," Tazio taunted. "Now, you
men shall each turn yourselves in to the Swiss police and confess
all your crimes. I so command. Bye."
Sobbing, the three left the Restaurant.
Sonja won over her fear enough to looked up from the floor
defiantly. "You can't command ME, Lord Tazio. I have already
been commanded by the Grand Master Himself to be true to the Dark
Templars, if you do so you will burn up my mind and thus break
your promise to your mother not to hurt anyone..."
"Oh, I CAN command you, Sonja, just as long as it doesn't conflict
with any of Anton's other commands and you know that."
She hissed like a cat and sprang up, knife ready. "You may be an
Avatar, Lord Tazio, but I am a Templar, and I will go down
fighting." She attacked, striking at Tazio with her knife.
To no avail, of course, Tazio took her by the knife and led her
around in a circle, like a child, until she released the knife
and it clattered to the floor. She knew that it was hopeless
against the strength of an Avatar, especially this one.
"I command you..." Tazio began --and she froze, knowing that his
spoken command could change her life forever-- "...to be Claire."
Sonja gave a pathetic shriek and crumpled to her knees in defeat,
then began to weep. Tazio released her.
She immediately leaped up and tried to throw herself into my arms.
But I wouldn't hold her, just backed away.
"What the hell are you doing, woman?" I asked.
"Martin, save me from him! I love you, take me away, please!"
"Are you crazy? You killed a lot of people--you were going to
torture me. And then kill me!"
"That wasn't me, that was...HER, that evil bitch Sonja. I never
did like her!"
"Nor do I," I insisted, maneuvering out of her embrace, "and I'm
certainly not going to get involved with her again!"
"But I'm Claire! Your one true love! Sonja is gone!"
"Yeah, sure, until she comes back and kills me. Not interested,
"Oh, but Martin, I really do love you! I'll do anything to make
things right again!"
"Well, good. Go turn yourself in to the police with the others."
She was stunned by that. Then she bowed her head, nodded.
"Anything for you, my love," she said, and left.
Tazio nodded to me and said. "I couldn't command Sonja to betray
the Templars--but you could command Claire."
"Yes, how clever." But I felt a pang of regret anyway as my oh so
beautiful Claire waved goodbye to me, tears running down her face.
The bank was still surrounded as Tazio and I walked in, but one by
one the groups of men just happened to look away as we passed by
As we were about to enter the main door Tazio snapped his fingers,
an in-joke for my sake, and there was a commotion behind us. I
turned to see the black helicopter freeblading down into the
street in an emergency landing because their engine had died.
Men were running out of the way, cars stopping or backing away. It
looked as it was going to land safely if everyone scurried out of
the way. True to form, no one would be hurt. I followed Tazio on
into the building.
We passed the main lobby and went through a door leading to a long
hallway. A security guard addressed us at a checkpoint halfway
down the hall. "This is a restricted area, only for members of
the Bank Authority of Switzerland."
"Of course," Tazio said, "and we are authorized under registration
The guard checked with his computer. He tried to keep his face
impassive, but his eyebrows went up anyway. "Oh, yes SIR, you may
certainly pass, yes, yes, thank you sir!"
"Was that something you got from the Document?" I had to ask.
"No. Anton Artemis has several account numbers in Swiss banks. I
know his numbers."
"And you have no money?"
"I don't steal, even from him. Besides, I don't use money."
At the end of the hall was an ancient oak door, with a bold "Kein
Zutritt" printed upon it. Tazio opened it anyway and
continued on in.
A very very old, very small man sat behind a huge desk. A sign
read Herr Schumacher. He did not look up from the papers he was
studying, not even when we approached and stood before his desk.
He obviously knew that we were there, but there was an attitude of
disdain, he would let us wait.
Until Tazio said, "Shalom, Ahazverus."
Herr Schumacher's head snapped up and thousands of wrinkles
displayed a brief moment of stunned disbelief, then he smiled an
incredibly old but very healthy smile. "Tazio? Don't tell me YOU
have that damned Document?"
"No, but I've been giving Martin Lawrence here a hand in getting
it delivered. Martin, allow me to introduce Ahazverus, the
infamous Wandering Jew."
That was too much; I knew that legend, this could not be. But
Tazio hadn't been untrue yet. And this little man was obviously
"Lawrence? Oh, yes--the supposed Innocent Sacrifice: And you
won? How...how WONDERFUL!" Ahazverus, the 2000 year old Jew
"Tell me, Ahazverus, how can you be involved in all this?" Tazio
asked, "You have no love for Templars or Nazis."
"Well I am, of course, the aforementioned Appointed Earthlevel
Registration Officer. Have been for most of my 2000 years. I'm
required to be impartial to the doings of good or evil and simply
"This Document was written in the year 999 AD--when many
Europeans were convinced that the millennium would bring on the
Biblical Apocalypse, which Satanists regarded as the climax of
their Game. They wanted to score points, so they conceived of
this Document. They've been playing hard and fast ever since for
points before the world ends--which is a thousand years overdue
now, but now they're certain that it's going to be THIS Millennium.
"By the way, Martin," Ahazverus told me, "you do realize that
there is actually no prize here you can use for anything but
accumulation of Evil Points?"
"I want nothing more than to cause Them to lose the contest."
Ahazverus laughed again. "And they HAVE! Oh, this is great!--
all those nasty evil Jew-killing Nazis and Satanists can just go
take a flying fuck for a change! Here--let me stamp that!"
I handed the Document to Ahazverus, which the little man then
stamped with a great red seal, then signed with even greater
enthusiasm. And then the event was registered in a great and
ancient book that lay upon the desk.
"It's officially official now--winner of this season's Exercise
in Evil: Martin Lawrence; the intended Innocent Sacrifice;
Agency...None, civilian! Ah, this is a genuine pleasure!"
The door crashed open, a horde of serious-looking men, all wearing
dark sunglasses and pistols, poured into the room. "Do NOT stamp
that Document, Herr Schumacher!"
"Too late, I HAVE," jeered the little man with insidious
"Gentlemen," Tazio commanded, "I command you each to put your
guns into your mouths."
They did so, and mumbled in unison, "Yeph, Wdord!"
Chapter 24: OFF INTO THE SUNSET
Out on the street nobody tried to stop us, in fact all of the
groups of serious-looking agents were either gone or packing up
gear into cars and driving off, the show was over and they paid us
no attention whatsoever.
Tazio nodded once to me and said, "You'll be all right now, so I'm
going to go now."
"What? Just like that? But I haven't even had a chance to thank
you for...for everything, for saving my life, for screwing Them
"You're welcome. Bye."
I had no answer to that. But I didn't want him to leave me. "Do
you do this often?"
"Not anymore," he said, "it's always the same: whenever I take on
an opponent I always win, they don't have a chance against my
godlike powers, etc. Gets boring, actually almost embarrassing."
"Well, the Templars are hardly very sporting, they don't really
deserve a chance. Why don't you just wipe them out, once and for
all? With your godlike powers it'd be easy. You could just
command them all to be...nice."
"It's not that easy. And there are lots of Templars-- in fact,
there are lots of un-nice people everywhere. Big job, can't be
I had an easy answer. "If I had the power to actually DO it, then
I'd feel some kind of...duty to do so."
He nodded. "I used to feel that, but don't feel it any more, along
with everything else I don't feel."
"But you blew away all those villains without hurting even one,
and you saved lives--especially mine, thanks again-- now don't
tell me you didn't sort of...enjoy it?"
A very little smile. "Well, sure. It was kind of fun."
"So why not continue?"
"I'm just not interested. Look, it was probably just a coincidence
that you drove past me last night--but it might have been Destiny,
either yours or mine."
"Destiny? That I picked you up?"
"Rather that I picked you," he said, "I sensed that you were hurt,
maybe even dying, so I commanded you to stop. Reflex action on my
"But when I found you wounded I was tempted to just walk away-- I
don't like to interfere with the karma of others. Everyone is so
desperate, it becomes tedious. But I felt your passion, that you
had to get to Geneva to rescue your girl friend from the bad guys,
and that sucked me in."
"Too bad she was no good."
"Yeah. That's a shame, Martin. I do know how it is to lose a
really beloved woman."
That struck me as quite strange, considering "his" sexlessness and
rather young age. He gave me that look which told me that he
"guessed" what I was thinking.
"I wasn't always negasex, I was male then. I can be anything I
want--the problem for me is to want to be anything."
"But why would you want to be...negasex? Excuse me, but it
seems to be a problem for you."
There was one of those few fleeting smiles. "It's a paradox:
wanting can be a problem too. For example, WHO should I want?"
Once again I had no answer for him. Instead I said, "Tazio,
listen: I'd dedicate MY life to doing this--stopping these evil
organizations--if I could just help you do it. Maybe I could
give you some drive!"
"You already did, thanks for the ride. But now I've arrived and
it's time to move on."
"What, to the Matterhorn? Then what?"
He looked to the north, where white mountaintops could be seen
beyond the buildings of Geneva. "Who knows? maybe I'll become
motivated later on, but right now I'm more interested in the
geological world than in the world of men."
Then he looked to the south. "Guess I'll walk to Africa next,
there's some formational extremes there that might generate a
last little thrill before my emotional clock spring winds to a
I realized first then just how emotionally crippled this young
person really was, with the powers of a god but with absolutely no
desires to fulfill. No friend his equal. No one to love. Nothing
to live for. I desperately tried to think of something to say to
"You said there were other Avatars."
"Oh, yes. But they're hiding from me, for now at least."
"I don't know, they haven't told me. Probably because they have
arranged a Destiny for me that I won't accept."
Suddenly I knew what that was, and I froze inside, because what
I realized was so Big and Frightening a Revelation that I could
hardly stand it. And so familiar, from the last book of the
Bible, the very Book of Revelations itself. Those Dark Templars
had known, they had called him "Antichrist..."
"Ciao," he said, waved once, and was gone. The next time I saw
Tazio, three years later, he was on television: smiling, masculine
as hell, taking over the world with gusto. But I hardly need to
tell you about that, now that everyone knows his name.
Po Delta, Italy