Chapter Two - The Endless Summer
After a brief silence, Sidney shrugged and asked the obvious.
"Care to define that? Hell In A Handbasket can mean an awful lot of things."
Connor almost didn't look at him. Freedman realized then how desperate his friend's need really was.
"The ozone layer went. Not faded-went, or in-danger-went. I mean it wasn't there anymore. We finally screwed it away. Skin cancer rates went wild. Nobody could work outside, except at night. I lost my Brenda."
Sidney looked confused, so Connor clarified.
"My wife. I met her while the Kurgan was stalking me. Heh. She's a sword-expert. She wants to meet as many of my friends as she can. I'm not even letting her near Duncan."
"Afraid he'd steal her away?"
"Nah. He has somebody---Tressa, I think her name is. Its been a while since I phoned him. Nah, I won't let her near him, cause he's a bigger pack-rat than me. When George Carlin talked about stuff, he had my kinsman in mind. By the way, did I mention that George took John Corwin's head? Now if he'd just do something about Sam Kinison."
Macleod clearly seemed off his mark.
"It was a different world, Sid. Most of the Immortals I've met were never even born. You. Duncan. Henry Blake. The White Witch. In 1986, there were five of us left. Then, it was just me and Kurgan."
Sidney felt a bit odd over his next question, since it was one that by definition he thought he'd never be able to ask.
"Connor--what was The Prize?"
The elder Highlander felt detached and alone. To Sidney, it seemed like his eyes glazed over.
"I can't remember most of it. What little I do remember makes no sense at all. It was a rememberance of knowledge lost, and yet it was all new. It was a power over everything and everyone--and a complete submission of all my will and being. I touched-----"
He stared at the psychiatrist, with those eyes that sometimes made a sane man question his moorings.
"Sidney, I touched the face of God. I was like a newborn baby tugging at Granpa's beard, and seeing him smile upon me. Then it all went away, and all I could do was cry my eyes out. People cry too damned much nowadays. But I had that right, then and there."
Sidney shook inwardly. Was this interruption the result of Connor's scattered vision? Or was it that even the Prize could only bring fleeting happiness?
"You said that you became mortal."
"You didn't become mortal?"
"No. I became mortal. But for right now, let's talk about something else. I need to talk about something else."
"Connor--I am a busy man. I have other patients."
Connor shook his head.
"Screw you, and screw your other patients, sorceror! You owe me. If I hadn't disabled The Golem you unleashed on this region, no Jew in Europe would have been safe, and their blood would be on your hands."
Sidney Freedman had been born Soolaimon-Ben-Moshe in Ancient Roman-occupied Judaea, circa 30 BC. He had apprenticed to the Kaballic teachers of that time, and married a fine woman with three beautiful daughters that he loved as his own. Then the star came. Three eastern astrologers said it was a great portent of good. Then--the riders came. Three Mounted Riders.
On the request of Herod, the Romans' Judaean puppet, these three--Kronos, Silas, and Caspian--conducted what modern scholars called The Slaughter Of The Innocents. Supposedly, they were searching for a child, later a man called Yeshua, or Jesus. But in fact, they had been searching for their vanished Fourth -- a man called Methos. But the now-bitter Soolaimon-Ben-Moshe knew only that his family was killed and that he arose as an unclean dead thing. For this, he blamed the child, and later sought to punish the man.
Centuries after all this was done with, he was still a lonely man, going by the name Siddig-Ben-Moshe, a name taken from an Arab merchant who taught him how to survive not playing The Game. After a millenium-long sabbatical taken after the destruction of Simon Magus, he reentered Kabbala and eventually became Master Of The Eastern World for that practice. Based in Prague, he used his powers to help the Chosen people survive the multiple and seemingly random purges of that era. Then came Christ's Avengers.
Gathered together by The Holy Roman Emperor from the most virulent, vitriolic anti-Semitic groups, they moved with such brutality that later Russian pogroms were based on these campaigns. The Emperor himself, who had only sought to placate anti-Semitic elements of his own court, lost the ability to control them. When good, tax-paying businesses began to be targeted in Vienna itself, Prague was not far off, treaties and powers aside.
But when they came, and targeted a schoolhouse, Siddig-Ben-Moshe was waiting and ready. Despite pleas from Connor, who had saved a number of the children, Siddig used the spilt blood and awesome anger of the varied Jewish communities to forge a piece of living clay in the shape of a man. The Golem moved in, and Christ's Avengers soon were perhaps facing Christ himself in judgement. But there was a problem with the spell in that it had no counter. Only a holy word written on the giant's nearly unreachable forehead could end its unlife. At great risk, Connor enabled Sid to do just that. Macleod had come to Prague to pay a debt owed by Ramirez. He left owed a debt--which he called in now.
"Alright, alright. We're here til you're done. Now, what do you want to talk about?"
"It was just after VJ day, in my Long Island shop. I met this kid....."
"Are you Russell Nash?"
"Well, I hope I am. Otherwise I've been running this shop for someone else. And I'm just not that generous."
The kid before Connor was a bit of a stiff. Needed a sense of humor.
"Um...yeah. Well, I found this 'Help Wanted' sign outside your shop."
"Oh. Good. Now, put it back on your way out. I wouldn't want anyone to miss seeing it."
As the kid walked away, Connor shook his head and rolled his eyes.
"Stop! If you can pack and unpack crates, you've got the job."
"Really and truly true. May my kilt fly up at the wrong time if I'm lying."
"Oh...was that a joke, too?"
"What's your name, kid?"
Connor looked around.
"Well, I don't see anyone else, so I must be talking to you."
Finally, the kid who looked like he desperately needed what came in a bottle and what came in a dress in huge amounts caught up to the present.
"I'm a medical student. My name is Benjamin Franklin Pierce. But my Dad always called me Hawkeye, after...."
Connor held up a certain book personally autographed by James Fenimore Cooper.
"I know where its from...Hawkeye."