§ 2 Jesse
You’ve heard of Jesse Evans, Jean? No? Not too surprising I guess. Few have, although he is probably the most famous of my tenants. Or infamous, I suppose.
No he was not one of my father’s spirits. Andrews found him, when I was still pretty young. I was having some problems with bullies at the time, and she thought he could help. Which, I suppose, he certainly did.
It was exciting, at first, chanelling a genuine Old West outlaw, a gunfighter. He even ran with Billy the Kidd for a time, then fought against him in the Lincoln County War. He would tell me stories about “the Boys”, the gang of one hundred or so rustlers that he ran in both Mexico and the US – stealing livestock from one country and selling it in the other. I idolized him for a time. But, there were, well, some incidents. One kid in boarding school, a football player, got sent to the hospital. I never got in any trouble (“It wasn’t me!” I said truthfully), but it gave me pause.
The violence, the sadism, however, were not why I stopped chanelling him. After all, that was still his job for me, when it was required. To handle situations precisely like the one in my apartment. To meet violence in kind, and with interest. And Jesse, well, Jesse was good at his job.
The problem was, Jean, that I thought I knew Jesse Evans. Knew who he was, and more importantly, who he wasn’t. But I was very wrong.
I sensed that there was more than met the eye right from the start, I suppose. For an outlaw, he was smart. He was also educated, knew Latin and Greek, had a college degree. What I did not know, however, until about six years ago, was that his father was a student of Thomas Taylor. Yup, that Thomas Taylor, the Neoplatonist. He was basically weaned on Iamblicus and Hermes Trismegistus. To top it off, his mother’s father was a Cherokee medicine man. So he came up in two traditions of power.
Yeah, Jean, I don’t know precisely what happened. How do you throw all of that away to be a rustler, even a rustler chief? I only have bits and pieces, he won’t tell me the whole story. The one thing I do know. He went after big game. Ulun'suti -- "Transparent", the eye of the Uktena, the Horned Serpent. Yes, the crystal of prophecy. I know, nobody was even sure it existed. Tried for it, and failed. He would only say that the Uktena had shown him a vision. No, he won’t talk about it – I can feel the pain there, white hot and nauseating whenever that memory nears. I suspect he has been scarred ever since.
So you see my dilemma, I am sure. The Obol of Mnason is pretty straightforward to operate, once you learn all the bindings and keys. But this ease comes with a risk. If someone you are chanelling ever learns the right sequences, they can displace you in your own body. Yeah, right to the back bench. So chanelling another practitioner, as tempting as it is to gain their secrets, is strictly not part of the program.
Keep in mind, I knew nothing of the Labyrinth then, nothing of their methods. I only knew that Guardians were missing, maybe even dead. I had no idea that a lot of the ones that had gone missing had actually just defected. To protect myself, to protect Anisette, it seemed the only way forward, a risk I had to take.
Yes, thanks Jean, another cup would be great, my throat is dry. Just black is fine.
“No killing, Jesse,” I said internally. “Unless it needs doing.”
I sensed rather than heard a grunt. Then I gave the Obol another turn in my mouth, taking the backseat.
“So how can I help you, gentlemen?” he said, with a maybe just a hint of a Texas accent.
He turned briefly to Anisette, whose eyes widened. She knew who I had summoned alright. She look both frightened, and to my embarrassment, rather relieved. Yeah, oddly, they get along great. He had taught her self-defense, “just sum tricks”, when I was her mentor. He loved her “fire”, he had told me. At the time I thought he meant her passion, but now I wonder if he meant something altogether different. But I digress.
He gave her a strong look, locking eyes. Basically saying, ”Hold.”
“We need the coin, Mr. Wells. Just that. Give us the coin and we will be on our merry way,” said Chubby.
As you might not be too surprised to learn, Jean, the walls of my flat were pretty much dominated by bookshelves. Jesse walked casually, so casually, over to one now, placing himself a bit closer to our guests, and between them and Anisette. They tensed when he started to move, but relaxed when he made no further advance towards them. Instead he just stood there about three feet away from the shelf, not facing them, his hands at his sides, moving his head as if he was scanning the shelves for a title. Blessed with the insider perspective, though, I saw what he was after. There were a pair of round geodes on the middle shelf, beautiful things, the crystals a rare violet. To Jesse, though, they just looked heavy. Real heavy.
“The one on the left, Oct, the close one. That fella, could be some trouble. He has fought, killed for real, and he won’t hesitate. Take, that one out, the other two will freeze, I am guessin’. Best chance we got,” he said internally. I gave the assent.
“Mr. Wells?” Chubby said, “I need an answer.”
Jesse started to whistle tunelessly, still ignoring our guests, but watching them out of the corner of our eyes. Chubby seemed agitated, the other two seemed bemused. Still no one made a move, for what was probably only a minute but seemed like ten.
“Now, Mr. Wells!,” he said finally, ”Or we will be forced to take it from you.”
At last Jesse turned to face them, a smile on his lips.
“You know, boys, I have seen a lot of panhandling in my time. A lot of begging. And I have given out my fair share of coins too. But sorry as you all look, I ain’t given you a buffalo nickel. Panhandlin’ – look, fellas, there’s rules. Rules you should probably learn if you don’t want to catch a beating. This breaks about six or seven that I can think of. So I suggest y’all head back to whatever gutter you rest your head at, study up on your technique, and maybe next time I see you I’ll throw you a dime,” he said.
He let this sink in for second. Then he spat, the range was long, but it landed square in the face of the one on the left. The he laughed. It was not a nice laugh.
When he walked the earth, Jesse Evans was not a large man. He stood all of 5’3”, short even for his day. But what he did not have in size, he made up for in cunning and intimidation, in his ability to spot and exploit the weaknesses of others. Like any good general, he was a master of forcing the fight to happen on his own terms.
Without even a word of warning, the guy just charged. Coming in low for a wrestler’s clench. No doubt he did MMA, or some such. If the guy had half a brain he would have just wiped his face and drawn his gun. But Jesse had the right read, knew exactly how to push. This guy believed completely in his ability to dominate others physically. Someone no one would dare to taunt. And while Nora keeps my body in decent shape, I am sure I looked like a rag doll relative to anyone he sparred with.
Grabbing the geodes, one in each hand, he brought the first one down on the side of the charging man’s head. At about the same time, he brought the second down right at the joint of his elbow. There was a sickening snap! as the bone was shattered there, right before he collapsed in a heap.
And then, staring right in the face of the other two, he crouched down. The guy was out cold. He raised the geode, and with a grin, he broke the other arm.
I am glad I have never been on the other side of that grin, Jean. It took the heart out of you, that grin. A grin that told you that you’re an insect, a bug. That there were no rules, that nothing mattered. What had the Uktena shown him?
Jesse was right, the others froze in horror. At least for a second or two. And that was all that mattered in a fight. A second or two.
Still holding their eyes, he felt for and found the shoulder holster. Calmly, he drew out the automatic pistol, leveling it at them.
“Now, boys, let’s do this the right way. You!” he said, gesturing to the other blonde, “Down on your face! Arms and legs spread.”
He complied instantly, without a word.
“An, get his gun,” he said, not even turning.
She did. Chubby just stood there, watching her, still in shock.
“Oct, you wanna grab the reins? I am guessing you need answers, and I don’t know the questions,” said Jesse internally.
“Yes, thanks Jesse, I owe you,” I said.
“We need to talk, Oct. Face to face. Have us a palaver,” said Jesse.
“Alright, Jesse. Set it up with Andrews,” I replied.
“I’ll stay on deck, Oct, just in case,” he said.
I spit out the coin, spinning it on its edges for a second, before putting it back in my mouth. And then my body was my own again.
I looked at Chubby.
“So, first things first,” I said, gesturing with the gun, “Who are you, and who sent you?”
Chubby opened his mouth, but when he spoke, it wasn’t in English, but Hebrew. No Jean, I don’t recall the words. When I want to read Hebrew I use one of the tenants, I never bothered to learn it myself. Lazy I know.
The sentence he spoke was short however, and commanding. Then he said in English, “With my Third Command, I call upon you, Af. Save me!”
Smoke, a pale blue, rushed out from a ring on his hand, filling the space beside him. Rapidly it coalesced into a human shape, but it was not a human.
Yeah, a Jinn. He summoned a goddamn Jinn.