Chapter Three - Of Heads And Shrinkers
Bob was now convinced that the intense, vivid dream he had of being Dick Loudon in an Alice-type world had bled over into his reality. Proof-of-point : Mister Petersen, perhaps the primeval nebbish of all time, was holding himself and Emily at the point of a sword. Bob decided to try and reason with him.
"Mister Petersen--is there any way I can try and reason with you about this?"
Petersen indicated that this was not possible.
"I'm afraid that's not possible, Doctor Hartley. Not since you helped me regain my memories."
"What-what memories did I help you regain? I thought you were trying to regain your confidence."
The little man seemed more excited than either Bob or Emily had ever seen him. He also seemed quite dangerous, which was flatly remarkable.
"Oh, I did, I did. But each time I stood up to my wife and her mother, they just pulled something to push me back down again. They used to be quite inventive. Finally, my dear wife pulled my sword out of storage. She threatened to use it on me, if I spoke up for myself again. This made me very angry indeed. Especially when you consider where she planned to use it."
Bob winced a bit. Emily was more certain that the threat had been a bluff--but when one considered Mrs. Petersen's overall reputation, she did a bit of wincing herself.
"That-that could tend to upset a man."
"Oh, indeed it did. But it was the breakthrough, Doctor Hartley. Just after you left, I remembered that I was once Nimrod."
Bob shook his head. "Mister Petersen, just because Mister Carlin calls you those kinds of names, is no reason to embrace it. I realize that helps with some people, but only in groups, not individuals."
Emily felt her blood grow cold.
"Bob--I think he means that he was the Biblical Nimrod."
Petersen pointed, and nodded. That he did this with his sword was no comfort to the Hartleys.
"Mmm-hmm. I was a great and mighty Hunter before the Lord, back in the days of the Prophets. I became Immortal while defending Jericho. Joshua forgave me, and I rode from village to village, fighting those who would oppose the will of The One. They were made to see the error of their ways."
"You-you converted them?"
"No. Those Baalites always needed killing. Stubborn folks--never willing to listen to reason."
Bob was now truly anxious.
"Boy--don't-don't you just-just hate people like that?"
"Oh, my--yes. But that was nothing compared to my greatest feat. I once single-handedly defeated the four scourges of the early world, as they attempted to invade Jerusalem itself!"
While Bob slowly realized that there was likely no coaxing Petersen out of his delusion, in another hotel room, the almost-octogenarian Sherman T. Potter met with an old friend and close relative.
"Well, Hawkeye and Margaret always floor me with how well they get on. I don't care what anyone says--that was not an inevitable get-together. Way, way away from a sure thing. McIntyre's moaning the way I did, when I hit the mid Five-Oh's. Burns is moderately happy. For him that's to be counted as a miracle. Winchester's blood is blue, his wallet is fat, his head is bald, and his nose is up. Radar is risking his head by taking up with Erin Hunnicutt. BJ and Peg---now those two were always a sure thing, and BJ's just plain enjoying a worry-free retirement. Helps, when the wife's a magic-user. Wish---my Mildred could have been. Lord knows, if I hadn't had Jake around when she passed, I'dve---"
The visitor tried to change the subject.
"How is Jake? Does the Padre still make regular time-visits?"
The retired Colonel was glad his great-Uncle knew him so well. Mildred was still a painful subject.
"He's fine. Seems Garak purchased DS9, to aid in the Cardassian rebuild. After the war, that place made Korea look like River Bend. Jake moved to Bajor proper. He wrote a book about me--'The Boys From Golgotha'. Damn, he's a good kid. But then, he's got good ancestry, doesn't he, Nick?"
Police Sergeant Nicholas Knight of The Chicago PD nodded.
"He has you, my sister, my nephew. All good, good people. Perhaps better than I deserve to be associated with."
Potter pshawed him.
"Would you kindly hang that malarkey out to dry? You're family. You. Ben. Jake. Two sides of time, telling me my kin's always been here, and that they always will be there. And when you reach my age, that's a damned good feeling. Much as I love Radar, that's how much I pity the lad for not having true blood-kin. There's just no substitute. None at all."
For one of the few times in his life, Nick drew back his eyes and fangs playfully.
"Blood will tell, after all."
And when his elder was gone, Potter wiped away a tear, and resolved to see Sidney's friend, Doctor Hartley. Just thinking about Mildred, gone five years, made him need to talk--and not to friends.
Petersen began the tale of his days as Mighty Nimrod.
"You should have seen me, Doctor Hartley. I turned back The Four Horsemen all by my lonesome--all four of them! You know, we're not supposed to fight more than one opponent at a time."
Bob wondered how Petersen's delusion had become mixed in with that of Trapper John McIntyre.
"So--all four of them were there? Not-not just Pestilence?"
Petersen seemed annoyed. This did not seem good.
"Doctor Hartley! They may have a been a group of brutal thugs who made thrones out of human skulls--but they always rode together."
Incredulous, Emily felt compelled to make a comment.
"Human skulls? Wouldn't they crumble if you tried to sit on them? Especially as they dried out."
Bob chimed in with his wife, Petersen's behavior having taken an obvious toll.
"Well honey, I guess, from time to time, they had to get new skulls. Maybe-maybe rotate the skulls. Let the old crumbly ones serve as the foundation."
"Doctor Hartley--my story?"
"Mister Petersen--do you absolutely have to tell this story?"
With one swipe, Petersen took the coat rack in two. Bob looked over.
"That would be--that would be yes, I take it."
YERUSHILIYAM, JUDAEA, 500 BCE
The protector of the Holy City had called upon its Champion. All hoped that he, their only hope, would come in this darkest of all hours.
"Ho, You Nimrod! We are beset pon' by the Four Dark Riders, those Horsemen who ride masked. Will you stand gainst' them?"
The hero, small in stature but mighty of limb, nodded at the Mayor-Protector.
"Are these the only foes you have for me? Feh, then they must do, in these lean times. After all, Goliath is long slain."
As the people cowered inside their homes, and inside the temples, the thundering hoofbeats of nightmare were heard. All averted their gaze, for fear that the hideous sight of such evil might damn them casually.
Slowly but surely, they rode. Four only, but hooping and hollering like they were the largest army ever assembled.
And only one man stood against them.
Pestilence cried out.
"Brothers! So we shall defile the Holiest Of Holies, and take away the city belonging to The One."
"Great shall be our glory, for this thing has never been accomplished ever before, in the annals of man."
"I wish to see their every scroll set fire, that it may amuse me."
"Give me their children--that it may be seen there is no protection gainst' such as we!"
Pestilence cried out, using briefly his true name.
"Is there in this whole land of Judea no one who will challenge the might of Kronos-- Master Of The Night?"
From out of the town, a hero rose.
"I, Nimrod, challenge you, O Kronos! You-and all that you stand for! How will you answer for your crimes?"
Death taunted his brother.
"Your challenge has been met, leader. You dare not refuse it."
Pestilence shook with terror.
"But my brothers--that is Mighty Nimrod! I say, we all four of us move against him together!"
"Though it be gainst our ways, I say thee yea, Brother. Opposed to Nimrod, we may not prevail!"
"Let all four of you come--and it is all four of you that will fall before me!"
And when that Mighty Hunter was done, only once-bold Pestilence remained. He begged for his sinner's life.
"Please, Nimrod--you must spare me, or in my death throes, the world will end, for surely I am The Last Sunset!"
"I say thee nay, and what is more, I say thee never! For your scroll is all written!"
And by and by, and away, and away, Nimrod took the head of the Last Horseman. And there was much rejoicing.
"Know all that the Lands Of The One are protected by Nimrod The Hunter, who shall now be called for Nimrod The Invincible."
1978 Chicago, Not in Judaea
Petersen seemed swept up in his own fantasy.
"On that day--I became the Last of my kind, and received a prize of---"
He then felt the buzz from the approaching Walter O'Reilly. He grew nervous.
"Well, maybe I was a bit hasty in saying that I was the Last. But I one day might be the Last. Doctor Hartley--tell the person outside to go away. Tell him..."
Having been in the army, a cop, a teacher, and a fugitive from wrongheaded justice, Walter O'Reilly knew the value of many things--including steel-toed shoes. It was with these the young telepath and Immortal kicked open the door to the Hartleys' room. With his sword drawn, he pointed at Petersen.
"I'm here fer you, pal. Let's you and me take it outside."
But Petersen let his sword wander near Emily.
"This is none of your business, punk! Declare yourself! I am HB Petersen, once known as Nimrod of The Old Testament."
The man once known as Radar nodded.
"I'll give ya credit. Least ya didn't say you were the Kurgan."
Petersen shook his head.
"Do you get people doing that, too? It gets really annoying, after a while. Why isn't anybody ever Sun Tzu, or Flint, or Telemachus? Its always Kurgan this, and Kurgan that. Kurgan, Kurgan, Kurgan!"
Using the opening, Walter moved forward and stood between Petersen and Emily.
"Our way, Petersen. Not here--we go outside. Not never in public. And not in front of m-o-r-a-l-i-t-y."
Emily now stood next to Bob. She puzzled at Walter's words.
"Not in front of morality?"
Walter shook his head.
"Sorry. Gotta work on my spelling. You heard me, Nimnul. Outside."
Petersen sat down and folded his arms.
"Its Nimrod--and I'm not budging!"
Walter scanned Petersen's thoughts.
"Oh, you'll fight me--once it is I tell these folks what really happened, with you and The Horsemen. Cause it weren't nothin like the yarn you spun, pal!"