The stillness was absolute. Small pools of dim, white light glowed inside glass cases and chased late night shadows into the corners of the room. Inside each case was a treasure, hidden away and mostly forgotten by the rest of the world.
A skylight on the roof opened to the muted echo of New York at night, and to the soft whisper of black rope uncoiling to the floor. A masked man, also in black, slid down. Halfway to the floor, he stopped, wrapped one foot in the rope, and let go to hang upside down. A laser light flashed in his gloved hand as he found the security cameras one-by-one and blinded their optics.
The laser was replaced with an aerosol can from his shoulder harness. A light spray of mist downward revealed security lasers only inches above the floor. He studied the pattern for a moment, put the aerosol can away, and curled back to an upright position. His feet made no sound as they settled between the tight lines of the laser grid.
All around him historical treasures, crafted in bygone eras, beckoned from their hermetically sealed security cases. He paid them no mind, intent only on one. His target was humble compared to the gold and jewels on display; to an untrained eye no more than a few sheets of old paper, inked stained and faded.
Carefully, like a dancer in slow motion, he stepped over the laser grid as the tight beams of light were revealed in the aerosol mist. As he drew near, details of old, intricate sketches on the paper came into focus, images of a prototype flying machine. Scrawled at the bottom he noted two signatures; all but unreadable after so many years.
The thief reached for tools on his belt, then froze as the hairs on the back of his neck stood up and a pressure seemed to build behind his eyes. The overhead lights flickered on, bathing the room in fluorescent radiance. The door opened. He spun toward the threat, brushing the laser grid in his startled haste. Alarms sounded all throughout the three story brownstone.
A mountain of a man stood in the doorway. He wore black slacks and a blood red, button up shirt of the finest cut money could buy but any semblance to privilege and wealth ended at his clothes. The sleeves were rolled back to reveal hairy arms corded in muscle. A thick, severely trimmed, salt-and-pepper beard sprouted from his jaw; and odd counterpoint to the short, military buzz of his hair. A single, blue eye glared at the thief. The other was obscured by an eye patch of black leather.
The man raised one hand. A remote was all but hidden in his great paw. He thumbed a button and the alarms stopped blaring. An intense silence fell over the room.
He smiled through his beard with all of the warmth of broken glass. "It's about time." His voice rumbled like distant thunder. "Hello, brother."
The thief looked at the man, then looked around the room, trying and failing to understand what the hell was going on. "Uh....what?" He asked.
He stole a glance upward, judging the distance to the rope and to the roof. The man just chuckled.
"Ah, right.” He pressed another button on the remote. “No more running.” The sky light closed and locked with a soft click. The giant glanced over at the glass case beside the thief. “The lost Wright Brothers patent. Huh. Not what I would have guessed would draw your attention but then…” He grinned and gestured around the room. “That’s why I hedged my bets. Fishing is, after all, all about having the right bait.”
The thief contemplated his options and counted two. One was past the very large man and through the door. The other was out the window and three stories straight down.
“Ah…look, I think you have me confused with someone else. This wasn’t personal. Just business.”
“Not personal?” The jovial expression on the giant’s face vanished like shadow in a brightly lit room. An ugly expression crawled across his features and pulled his mouth into a snarl. “Did you think I had forgotten what you did the last time?”
I have no idea what you are….whoa!” The thief fell back a step as the man reached down on the other side of the doorway and rose with two naked swords in his hands. “Hey buddy…come on. This is crazy. You wouldn’t kill an unarmed man, would you?”
The thief looked down as one of the swords slid across the hardwood to land at his feet.
“Yes, but not today.” The giant rumbled as he began to close the distance between them. “Not you, my brother.”
“What? Now just wait. Hold it. Stop!”
The bearded giant’s roar threatened to shatter armored glass as his sword rose overhead. The thief had no choice. He snatched the other sword up and prepared to fight for his life.
Blades rang as they crashed together. The giant hammered at his foe. The thief parried, stepped, ducked, stepped…and turned to run for his life out the door. He made it three steps before the thrown sword pierced his back and drive him to the floor in an ocean of pain.
“Coward!” The giant spat as he stepped up to the man writhing in his own blood on the floor. “You shame yourself. You shame us all!”
The thief looked at the blood staining his hands and clothes in disbelief. “You fucking stabbed me, you maniac!”
The giant looked at his opponent, also in disbelief. “Yes. And I’m going to cut your fucking head off.” He yanked the sword out of the thief’s body and kicked the other blade over. “Now get up and die with some dignity!”
There was no choice. The thief staggered to his feet with sword in hand. It was kill or be killed.
“Fight me.” The giant growled.
Sword to sword and man to man they fought. The ring of steel echoed through the room.
It wasn’t even close. The giant chased his opponent around the room, battering his sword away and slicing him up one precise stroke at a time. Blood flowed and he grew more furious by the moment.
“You’re not even trying!”
The thief fell back, helpless before superior strength and skill, until he felt his back come up hard against the wall. In disgust, the giant disarmed him with an almost dismissive effort before clubbing him hard in the head with the pommel. He caught the thief by the shirt as he tried to fall, half-conscious and bloody, to the floor and ripped the mask from his face to reveal a young looking, clean faced young man. Dark eyes clouded with pain failed to focus on him. Dark hair was plastered to his skull with sweat.
“Time to die.”
The giant raised his blade and brought it crashing down…on the wall a breath away from the thief's head. Understanding passed across his bearded face and with it, fury. He roared like a animal and spun about, waving the blade with deadly disregard. Glass cases shattered. Priceless artifacts fell broken to the floor.
Quite abruptly, he laughed. It was a hard and bitter sound, like rocks breaking.
“I see now.” He leaned over to glare into the thief’s face. “Did you hope to die in ignorance of your sins? Was that your plan? It won’t save you, brother. You cannot hide from me any longer, not even...in...here.” The giant stabbed his finger hard into the man’s forehead, bouncing his skull off the wall in the process.
He let the thief drop to the floor and scratched thoughtfully at his bearded chin. “You always were the clever one. I admired that about you…once.”
“Who the hell are you?” The thief muttered.
A vicious blow to the head silenced him.
“Hush.” The giant muttered. “I’m thinking.” After a moment, he nodded to himself. “Alrighty then. Plan B.”
He grabbed the thief by the hair and started dragging him across the floor.
“What…what are you doing?’
“Improvising.” The giant grinned, lifted the thief, and shoved him out the window in a shower of glass to hang three stories above the unyielding ground below. He held him aloft with one hand.
“You will not die like this, brother. We have too much history for such an inglorious ending. I will see comprehension in your eyes, and then…I will take your head. So I give you this last gift. Go. Run away if you wish. Hide if you must but either way…you will remember and we shall finally finish this.”
The giant grinned at him. “And to make sure you do…some motivation!”
The thief coughed blood as the sword drove through his stomach and out his back. Then the giant let go. He slid off the bloody steel blade and screamed as the air rushed by and he plummeted down…down. Impact. Agony.
The giant’s voice followed him down into darkness.
“We will meet again, one last time…Highlander.”
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