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Lower East Side, Manhattan Island, New York City, U.S. Present Day, 14:55hrs.

A man walked down a narrow alleyway away from the street, deeper into maze of buildings. Concrete gave way to brick and even to rock. Above and behind him the sounds of a living metropolis faded. The opening bars of a song filtered down with the afternoon sunlight.

There’s somethin’ wrong with the world today
I don’t know what it is
Something’s wrong with our eyes

The gentleman in question wore a perfectly tailored grey suit with a blue tie and spitshine polished shoes. His face did not betray his ethnicity or place of origin. His features where cut straight from the bone, nothing, not even a hair on his well coiffed hair was out of place. Deeper he went into the artifical canyon. A dog rumaging through the trash looked up and ran as if it was kicked. The man paid him no mind. He ignored the pungent smell of refuse and the pools of stangnant water. Nothing seemed able to touch him.

We’re seeing things in a different way
And God knows it ain’t His
It sure ain’t no surprise….

The last bars of the song faded into oblivion. The silent figure reached his destination at the end of the alley. A thin building, wedge between larger tenements rose before him. The sign above the front door read:

Infinity


The dilapidated door yielded to the stranger’s first knock. Stacks of books created a narrow passage way straight to the back of the store. On both sides bookcases filled to capacity lined the walls. Looking up, the stranger saw a walk way that lead to a second floor and more bookcases. To his left a steep staircase lead to a basement with even more books. To his right a dusty glass counter with an mechanical cash register and a bell. His hand hovered over the bell, but before he rang it a voice cried out.

“Please come in. I am in here.”

The stranger moved forward, past dark purple curtains and into the backroom. Sitting on the floor was an woman, as ancient as time itself.  Small, frail and cloaked in crimson shawl. Her milky white eyes looked straight ahead. The man shifted his weight to his right foot. To the casual observer it would appear as a arrogant pose but an expert would see how the man had positioned himself into combat stance with minimum effort. He reached into his coat jacket, retrieved a piece of paper and tossed it to the old woman.

Her voice creaked as she spoke “Now you know I can’t see, let alone read, my boy.”

“No need to read it since you wrote it twenty-five years ago.” The tone of his voice remained steady, almost bored.

“Ah yes, you must be Javier’s brother. How is he?”

“Dead and buried. But you knew that already.”

“Know–” her mouth quivered “no, I didn’t know, but I guessed.”

“So much for being a Seer. Twenty-five years to the day. You told him to come back here and ask you a question.”

“Yes, I did, of course I did. But since he is not here then you will ask me the question, no?”

“Is it back?”

“The blade will soon find a new wielder. The last of his clan will seek redemption and find a cause.”

Seconds passed with nothing said. The stranger’s eyes scanned the scene before him as he waited. Curtains, mats and pillows, but no books. After a long minute he said “Is that all?”

“Yes. That is all I see.  One tends to see the images in the tapestry only when one is caught in the web created by the strands of fate.”

The stranger tossed a small envelope in front of the Seer. “You’re money.”

“Thank you. But you have a question of you’re own, don’t you?”

“How do I deal with the Swordsman?” he asked.

“The simplest way is always the best” she replied.

“Nothing is ever simple in our world.”

“Of course not, and there lies you’re dilemma. You will not defy your nature and that will lead you to define his.”

The stranger opened his mouth and shut it. No need to ask her what she meant, he would only get another cryptic answer. “Thank you for your time.” She nodded as he left. A black limo waited on the other side of the alleyway, rear passenger door open. The stranger boarded and closed the door. The driver sped up into traffic.

“So Julian, what did she tell you” asked the man sitting beside him.

“Nothing we didn’t suspect already.”

“A wasted effort then.”

“Not necessarily, we have confirmation. It is time to act accordingly.”

Pouring himself a glass of bourbon the other continued “Julian, this matter cost us dearly the last time. Remember what happened to poor Javier.”

“Johan, you know full well that we can not ignore this. The Syndicate may believe that this matter is close but we know better.”

“Your call brother. I will support you in whatever you decide. But be careful. A mistake could be the end of all us.”

“I know.” Pressing a button on the door handle Julian spoke “Driver, drop up me at my apartment.”

A voice came through the intercom “Yes Mr. Payton.”

Johan bid his brother farewell “You know I hate that name.”

“We use what we can to survive Johan. You know that.”

Julian walked into the lobby of the co-op. Everyone greeted him with a smile, from the doorman to the elevator operator. The elevator opened directly to the penthouse’s foyer. “Have a nice day Mr. Payton” said the elevator attendant.

With a flash of pearl white teeth Julian said “You too Godfrey.”

The apartment was spacious and spare. The walls were painted in light shades of white, gray and blue. The few pieces of furniture shared a metallic, post-modern look. Julian took off his jacket and shoes, placing them in the right place on a hallway closet. From the bottom of the closet he took out a two small boxes. One of plastic gloves the other had red plastic bags, with a strange triangular shape on the outside. He moved to the main bedroom. Before opening the door he dropped the boxes next to it. He then opened the door. On the bed laid a naked woman in her early twenties. Whatever features Nature had not gifted her with had been shaped to perfection by a surgeon’s knife.

“Julian you’re home.” Julian smiled. She detected danger, like the dog in the alleyway. But it was too late. “Julian was wrong? What’s going on? Wait what are you….No…No, please don’t…NOOOO–” Her screams where cut off by the closing door and suppressed by the soundproofing material in the walls and ceiling. Her sweet screams of terror where for him and him alone.

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