Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Lion and the Bird

Professor Lyons purposely strode towards the graveyard, his steps brisk, as he raced to get to his destination before the rain started. The storms continued for long stretches of time, on and off again, and now he watched the overcast sky with nervous apprehension.

The visit to see his godson, Matthew, had gone pretty well, but it was cut short by the evacuation of the park after the balloon man went up in flames. He had been perplexed the whole week as to how someone would manage to accomplish this in broad daylight without attracting everyone's attention. The worrisome part of his brain realized that there had been two attempted murders, well one of them successful, and no one seemed particularly alarmed that a potential psychopath was roaming the streets of Collingwood. Still, he mused, the events were at different places, with completely different victims. One by water and one by flame. It was too early to tell if they could be connected.

He reached the wrought-iron gate of the cemetery, relieved that he had made his appointment, and spotted Robin leaning against an ancient looking willow tree, her hand wrapped around a crimson colored umbrella. She had a distressed look on her face and the appearance of someone who wasn't sleeping, evident by the dark circles etched under her eyes.

"Henry!" She exclaimed, gave one nervous glance backwards to make certain that there were no prying eyes. He wasn't used to people calling him that. He pulled his heavy coat tighter around his body. Then he saw that she was carrying a white cardboard box in her other hand.

 "Someone—" Robin said frantically, her thoughts ahead of her words, "They said to give—to give this to you. It's..." She trailed off, and her eyes welled up with fear. She delicately gave him the box, and his stomach dropped as he mentally ran through all the possible things that could be inside. He gingerly opened it, and couldn't help gasping at its' contents.

 A human hand, free of blood or dirt, was wrapped in some plastic material at the bottom of the box. Professor Lyons took one glance and then quickly shut it.

"Robin," He said in a low, urgent voice, "Who gave this to you?"

 "The mailman," She managed to choke out, "This morning. It came with s-special instructions to deliver it to you." She was visibly trembling. "I had to reach in there to get the note." This memory seemed to be the most traumatic for her, and he reached out and put his hand gently on her shoulder to steady her.

"Do you still have it?" He asked softly. She nodded, her beautiful dark hair framing her face, as she pulled out a piece of yellow paper she kept sealed in a zip-lock bag. Professor Lyons put on some white gloves he kept in his coat pocket (it was his line of work), and carefully pulled out the note.

"I AM HERCULES" was all that the note said.

"What does it mean?" Robin asked, looking up at him with wide eyes.

 "Did you make sure no one has been following us?" Professor Lyons asked, ignoring her question.

"I think so," Robin said, hesitating. "I'm so scared. Who's do you think this is? What should we do?"

"I don't know," Professor Lyons admitted, trying not to be shaken. "It doesn't mean anything to me. And I have no idea who's...dismembered body part this is. We need to go to the police."

"No," Robin said forcefully. "No, we can't, it will only complicate things. If Clyde found out I had come down here to Collingwood, he would never speak to me again." Professor Lyons felt a sharp stab in his chest, the mention of her husband's name bringing him a fierce sense of protectiveness.

"We have do a forensics test," Professor Lyons said. "For now, let me keep it, and I will figure out why this was directed at me, and what we should do about it." He paused, staring at her for a little longer than usual. "You need to get away from this town. Far away. Tell Clyde you're visiting your sister or something, and buy a plane ticket. Staying here means danger."

Robin debated this in her head, but didn't commit to any course of action. Suddenly, the wind picked up, and it started pouring again, in heavy tiers like a layer cake. Robin opened her umbrella, and offered him shelter underneath, although he was too tall, and ended up holding it himself.

"I should go," Robin said quietly. "I think I left the windows open."

"Robin," Professor Lyons said, "Promise me you'll stay safe." She nodded, and said said she would call him later that day to give him more information. He had a nervous feeling about this, but there was nothing he could do except watch her walk away through the dark and glistening streets.

Later, he found himself barely enjoying a slice of pizza in the booth nearest the door at the Pizza Palace. Again, he had purposefully selected the place, as he preferred to maintain his anonymity and evade running into any more students wanting to chat about everything, from the paper that was due Wednesday, to the wide assortment of colored ducks, like circus animals, that had mysteriously arrived mid-morning. Their presence ensured that it was practically impossible for any citizen of Collingwood to complete any task without the witness of an enormous pink, yellow, or orange ball of fluff.

"Hello," He said, as a girl with fire-engine red hair walked in. He had seen her at Little Tokyo before, walking around like she was really comfortable with the place. They had a trivial conversation one time, about photographs, or something of that nature, but it seemed she didn't remember him. She simply nodded and sat down in her solitude. He smiled as the waiter drifted over to her, and took a seat across from her. She grinned, and retorted something, but then his attention was focused on something else.

 A very crudely drawn lion had been spray painted in crimson on a brick wall across from the pizza parlor. It was rearing up on it's back legs, and there was what appeared to be a sword stuck in it's neck. He studied it for a moment. Just then, it clicked. Hercules defeated the Nemean lion. Lyons. Whoever had sent the severed hand, was going after him.

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