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The Wilds of New York

Premiered – 1 May 2004 (Beltane)


Chapter 7

Heir Apparent


Dan Sewell Ward


Tina rode in the back seat, alone. Two guards sat in front of her in the second row of seats, while her armed chauffeur maneuvered the limousine through what was humorously referred to as " Siege City " (one of the more rotten cores of the Big Apple). What had once been artist colonies of all manner of description were now semi-warring blocks and "multiple blocks". The latter were cooperative efforts involving two or more city blocks to wall off the intervening streets. The streets therefore became jointly controlled by the residents of the combined blocks. Outside the block fortresses and multiple block battlements, were the common, uncontrolled streets, serving as arteries -- the capillaries having been walled off from public access. The arteries were cleared of virtually all habitation, where even drug pushers as well as anti-drug pushers might be shot on sight. Doors and windows facing the arteries were, as expected, converted to turrets, gun slits, and occasional second-story garbage slides.

Tina's armored limousine moved rapidly down one of the arteries shortly after a sweep by the local authorities to eliminate roadblocks and other subtle hints of why one should stop and alleviate oneself of money, mobility, and sometimes life. A few boxes had been missed by the sweep, but the limo carefully avoided them -- street mines had been known to crop up in items as innocuous as milk cartons. Then taking a wide sweep, the limo turned right into a gated underpass, a former street, fortified with cinder block and a high covered wall, from which guards could control access to the inner, controlled street.

Immediately the limo came to a gate, which was opening even as the auto approached. The limo pulled slowly through the open gate and then stopped before a second gate. The first gate slowly closed. When there was no immediate response from either the limo or the unseen guards, the second gate opened. The limo then drove into a small courtyard, large enough for perhaps four limos parked bumper to bumper, but small enough to eliminate unwarranted misuse of space. There the limo stopped before a third and final gate, while the second gate quickly closed. There was again a minor delay while everyone waited to see what might happen next. Paranoia flourished in Siege City .

Finally, two men entered the walled and gated space from small doorways on either side of the courtyard. They each carried semi-automatic weapons, but appeared to have no expectations of using them. It was not like the limo had any pretense at authority, locked within the turkey shoot and without even enough room to accelerate and crash the third gate. The two men in the courtyard felt no anxiety as they approached the vehicle. The window on the driver's door quietly slipped down, just as one of the men came up to it and peered inside. The man exchanged a few words with the driver, while the second man simply checked out the other side of the limo.

Tina watched the second man through her tinted, one-way glass, wondering what his thoughts were. She might have been surprised to know that he was impressed with what he saw. The limo was not a stylish version just off the assembly line from Detroit . Instead, it was dark and dirty, a couple of obvious patch jobs near the wheels, and in general did not suggest great wealth and power of its occupants. This of course was precisely the point. The man looking it over, knew that there was indeed wealth and power in the back seat, but also enough brains not to flaunt it

An accurate indicator of the times, wealth flaunting had gone out of style in recent years with the demise of such notables as Donald Trump, Michael Milikan, and the like. It had in fact been conclusively proved that wealth flaunting could be detrimental to one's health. But then again, Marie Antoinette could have told us that -- if she had had time to think about it.

Back in Siege City , the first man turned after a few moments, and signaled toward the door from which he had entered the courtyard. Immediately, a man and a woman, both looking like mercenaries with a mission, a potential oxymoron, came out the door and went immediately toward the back door of the limo. Tina knew what was expected of her, and opened her own door without waiting. She was out of the limo and standing, when the man and woman reached her side. Each gave Tina a quick, practiced visual inspection, and then, flanking her, escorted her back to the courtyard door.

Tina could not help but notice that all four of the "security force" members wore the same, dull, drab, olive brown uniforms. It was as if having a dull, drab, olive brown job of carrying a weapon for protection required one to dress accordingly lest one become unaccountably happy and carefree and thus lose the potential for instant intimidation.

Inside, the three moved down a narrow hallway, the man leading, and the woman following Tina. Abruptly he turned a corner and began climbing a three story flight of stairs, completely enclosed in a narrow walled space -- not a single opening on either side. One had the feeling that it had been designed and constructed precisely as a gauntlet run. Near the top, Tina could see over the man's shoulders to where several slits provided protected observation of the entire length of the stairway. No guns protruded through the slits, but it was clear that they could on the right occasion. Then, just prior to reaching the slits, the man stopped by a door set off to the right and announced himself.

The door opened, and two armed women took over as Tina's escort service -- escort services having gone through some major transformations in recent years. The man and woman headed back down the stairs, while the two women silently placed Tina between them and began their own trek through what turned out to be a maze of narrow hallways, with multiple opportunities to take divergent routes. Tina momentarily wondered if there was a Minotaur lurking somewhere within the hallways, but then dismissed the silly thought as she realized that the hallways were really too narrow for a large bull with horns.

After a totally confusing, random walk through a fourth through sixth floor maze, Tina found herself at the bottom of yet another three story flight of stairs. The two women escorts stood aside, and gestured to the stairs. Obviously, Tina was now on her own. Smiling, but receiving no hint of a smile in return, she turned and began climbing the stairs. For just a moment the word "bitches" came to mind, but Tina pushed it aside. As she moved up, she instead directed her thoughts to what a wonderful aerobic workout she was having.

But then she noticed that the stairs were uneven, both the height and width undergoing significant and frequent variations. For a moment she smiled as she realized that this stairwell would be very hard to run up -- one was almost certain to trip or stumble. In fact, walking was no cake walk as Tina had to consciously be aware of each individual step and what would be required to make it to the next step, and the next one.

In planning security systems, a twisted mind is a marvelous asset.

At the top, she stopped before a large metal door, battered and worn, obviously not in mint condition. In six inch high letters she saw what might have been an indicator of the door's contents. In the dim light, she could just make out the letters: NYSA. Tina made a quick assumption they were initials, probably standing for New York ... something or another. Interestingly, Tina's assumption was wrong.

Tina, noticing that nothing was happening, decided to knock on the door. Instead, the door suddenly opened, such that Tina very nearly knocked on the head of the old woman opening it. The woman responded to Tina's raised fist, by gesturing for silence. Tina slowly, self-consciously, lowered her arm, releasing her fist in the process, and stepped inside. Then Tina thought she recognized the woman -- her name was Sybil, if Tina's memory served, and it usually did.

Sybil, or whatever her name was, very quietly closed the door behind Tina and led her guest into another room. It was a nice enough room, but the silence was deafening!! Sybil wore no shoes and fairly glided about everywhere -- as if not quite attached to the earth. Tina wore shoes but a series of overthrown rugs kept any hint of noise out of the local domain. Rather creepy, when she began to think about it.

Sybil then gestured to a small set of cushions, already thoughtfully arranged in a decor appropriate for an orgy and where it was presumed Tina would sit. Tina glanced around the room, noticed that there was nothing even remotely resembling a chair, smiled a frustrated and resigned smile, and managed to plop herself down with minimal maladroitness. There she waited, while Sybil left the room in a strange shuffling gait -- particularly noteworthy from Tina's approximate floor level and the fact that it was absolutely soundless.

For a moment, Tina raised her eyebrows, wondering if her visit was all that wise. Dan had always been strange, but this scenario was proving itself to be the stuff of madness. The limo trip through the momentarily quiet war zone, the armed battalion outside, the voiceless escorts plying their way through the maze, and the final solo climb to Dan's lair had taken its toll on Tina. She was now having serious second thoughts. Sybil and the depressing silence served only to depress her mood even further. Glancing around the room, one with all the charm of a padded cell with decorator colors, Tina began to suspect Dan of having lost all semblance of sanity, falling prey to every occult weirdness available (something which would be hard to do considering the amount of occult weirdness currently available), or worse yet, having joined a rock band.

Dan was another of Zak's illegitimate sons, but one that -- like Herman -- Zak had always fully accepted. Dan's mother, Samantha Davidson, had died during childbirth, and Zak had, surprisingly, taken care of the newborn baby. While Zak had not quite gone to the extreme of taking Dan into his home, he had ensured the child was placed with good foster parents. Zak had even stepped in later when the first set of foster parents had gone slightly nuts. Kids, among other things, can cause that sort of thing.

Somehow, Dan and Zak communicated, despite the fact the two men were parsecs and eons apart. Of course, over the years, Dan had eventually appreciated Zak's distant form of nurturing, and in response, had managed to do some favors for Zak. Zak reciprocated in kind, prompting a similar response from Dan, and the cycle continued.

But the connection between the two opposite extremes had nevertheless puzzled Tina, who had never felt any relation at all with Dan. For a moment, she shuddered. In her eyes, Dan had always been entirely too abrupt and crude. In fact, she knew that today she would have to be especially on her guard against Dan and his multiple overtures. Normally, Tina could simply fix her romantic unavailability in her mind, and every man she encountered thereafter would never even so much as think a suggestive thought. It was not that Tina did not like men; quite the contrary. But Tina had always insisted that she be the one who did the choosing, and under no circumstances would she lose her power to a man. Of course, with Dan, she'd need guard dogs and a photon/fazer shield equivalent to that of the Starship Enterprise. Elementary school had obviously failed to teach Dan the basic meaning of "No!"

Her wariness was interrupted by the beginning of a slight pain in her hip. Tina turned slightly among the cushions, and reaching down, found an empty wine bottle. Her eyes rolled, asking for divine protection and/or understanding, even as she carelessly tossed the wine bottle on to another hill of cushions.

Tina's thoughts returned to Dan, this time her mood one of analysis and thoughtful research. How would one explain such divergent and potentially deviant psychological characteristics in what was supposedly a single family -- or at least, one related by blood? It was a puzzlement. Obviously genetics would be hard pressed to explain it. Dan's mother had died at childbirth and under somewhat mysterious circumstances, but would that do it? Would that make a man slightly bonkers? Are the effects of environment that important? Maybe there was a third alternative.

There was, but the universe wasn't about to tell Tina -- at least, not yet!

Then her thoughts diverged. How had Dan's mother died? Supposedly, Samantha had been healthy enough; there had been no prenatal complications, nothing to suggest a potentially serious problem. The mystery intrigued Tina for just a moment, as she began to plan a strategy for unraveling it.

Tina did not like mysteries -- except perhaps as a challenge to be solved. Mysteries wandering by Tina often had little hope of survival, as she would typically pounce on them and force their disclosure. Irresolvable mysteries, on the other hand, those unlikely to reveal themselves to Tina's investigative blitzkrieg, were something else. They were irritating and totally useless! Tina frowned, both at the concept of a mystery without solution and the fact that the silence in this padded wall, floor and ceiling room was continuing to gnaw at her. Maybe it was this sort of thing that made Dan slightly insane.

Mercifully, a door opened, causing a slight movement of air – the latter being a key ingredient for any manifestation of sound. With a slight rustling, three young women with long hair and light foot steps entered the room. Each wore an off-white, floor-length robe, set off only by a golden chain about the waist. This was matched with a light golden chain woven into their light-colored hair. They carried, in order, a small vase of flowers, an opened bottle of wine, and something which looked suspiciously like Kellogg's' corn flakes.

Tina smiled at them, and as each one set down their charge near Tina, they returned her smile. Then they each rose in turn, and exited by the same door they had entered. The door then closed quietly behind them.

Tina looked around the room again as if hoping for another credible witness, one who could verify what she had just seen. Tina needed a little reassurance. There being no one else, however, Tina could only sigh heavily and venture a taste of the alleged corn flakes. For a moment, she simply tasted it -- cautiously, analyzing it for possible hints of corn and/or aphrodisiacs. Ultimately she concluded that it tasted like corn, but that there was something else as well. It seemed a good idea not to imbibe locally -- some places you couldn't even drink the water! Besides, you could never tell where and with whom these corn flakes had been.

There was another momentary silence. Enough to elicit a disgusted sigh from Tina. Pointless patience was not one of Tina's greater talents.

Then another door opened, and finally , Dan entered. He wore a floor-length purple robe, his long, flowing hair, highlighting it about his shoulders. Even under the robe, it was clear that he was quite thin -- possibly even a hint of anorexia. For a moment, Tina could feel the slightest maternal instinct as she concerned herself momentarily about his health. Then the feeling vanished as he greeted her, his words wreathed in sexual suggestion.

"Hello, Tina. What an absolute delight to see you. You are even lovelier than when we last touched each other's lives."

Tina felt her body warm instantly, each word increasing her temperature by a tenth of a degree (approximately -- it was heard to measure). Fortunately for science and measurement techniques, Tina quickly submerged the feeling with an iron will! Or she tried to. Outwardly, she managed a slight, distant smile, calculated to maintain space between them. Her response joined the attempt at creating space. "Hello, Dan. You're looking thinner."

"So much to do. Hardly have time to eat!" Dan smiled gorgeously, no suggestion that he might have taken offense. Then he moved down onto the cushions next to Tina, not yet attempting a touch, but close enough that Tina felt the warmth of his body from two feet away. "Perhaps now would be a good time." Smoothly, he picked up the corn flakes and offered them to Tina. With his other hand, he produced, seemingly out of thin air, two plain wine glasses. Tina dodged the corn flakes, wondering where the wine glasses had come from. Before she knew it, Dan had set the corn flakes down, and was pouring two glasses of wine -- obviously for the two of them.

Tina instinctively sought to take the offensive. "Why is it so quiet here?"

Dan's reply was matter-of-fact. "There is much to be learned from Silence." Then he had a sudden thought. "Would you like music?"

Tina tried to sound ambivalent. "Sure. Why not?" To herself, she was less casual. 'Anything to drown this silence! she thought.

As if by magic, music flowed into the room. Tina felt an immediate relief. Then an after-immediate 'whoops', as she recognized the composition. 'Wonderful!' she thought, 'Polvetsian Dances! Probably followed by Bolero, or something equally erotic!'

Dan smiled, possibly reading her thoughts.

Tina tried another tactic. "The woman who showed me in..."


Tina swallowed hard but not so as to be overly obvious. "Your mother?" Then to herself, she asked, 'Didn't she die?'

Dan smiled even broader. "No, no. But everyone here calls Sybil, 'Mom'. It's always seemed so fitting." Then he looked intently at Tina. Gently, he asked, "You've never been a mom, have you?"

Tina looked at him for a moment. Quietly, she said, "No," while her thoughts said, 'And I'm not interested in becoming one either -- especially not now and most definitely not by you!' Trying to smile again, she glanced around the room, gesturing to the immediate surroundings. "Why do you live here?" When Dan looked momentarily perplexed, Tina added, "I have an apartment within the city, but nothing quite so... dangerous."

Dan smiled sexily, and leaned slightly toward his quarry. "Danger doesn't excite you?"

Tina frowned, making things as clear as possible. "I am not interested in having sex with you, Dan. No possibility!"

Dan leaned back, obviously hurt and misread. "Who said anything...?"

"All I wanted to know," Tina continued, "Is why you live in this fortress!"

"And you don't?" Dan looked at Tina for a moment, as she thought of her own high-class, maximum security apartment complex. When she grimaced slightly, Dan added, "I live in Siege City because here I an allowed to have my rituals and my friends without any interference. No Bible-thumpers would dare try to cross the battle lines, especially in order to save a few worthless souls such as ours. The surrounding area is, in fact, my first line of defense. It is quite comforting, once you get used to it."

Tina found the logic irrefutable. Meekly, she said, "Oh."

Dan then looked up, as if savoring a momentary feeling of destiny. "I'm here to teach, Tina, to initiate all who will listen and heed. To teach the fate of Isis and Osiris, the female lamenting the fall of her mate into time, the time now when the lovers are reunited in sacred copulation where the male and female become one. The time when John will be raised to the level of avatar along with the Magdalen; when each of us takes on the sex of the other, when male and female merge. It is, in essence, the time of ecstasy."

Tina sat dumbfounded, watching the mystical glow about her half-brother, sensing the divinely inspired fate, the glorious destiny -- wondering, questioning, and asking herself if Dan was even remotely sane.

"The time approaches," Dan said, a mixture of solemnity and anticipation coloring his voice, "When I must descend into the darkest forest, contend with the monsters and evils lurking therein, reach the primordial womb, and return immortality to its rightful place." Dan's eyes fairly glistened with emotion.

Tina made her decision: Dan was not even remotely sane.

Dan, lowered his gaze, glanced about him, and explained to Tina, "As Bill Thompson might have said, it is in the origins of our civilization that we find the overture to its end."

Had Dan's words been an aircraft, they might very well have requested a flyby of Tina's tower -- as they flew directly over her head.

And yet, a seed had been planted; you have to watch out for such things!

For a moment, the two siblings of a sort simply watched one another. Then Dan's smile turned ever so slightly wicked, a fact which Tina picked up on immediately. Gently, he said, "Ecstasy is one of the reasons for living."

"I'm sure," Tina answered, gearing herself for a quick braking on the conversation. "But I think I'll pass."

"What do you have against ecstasy?"

"For you or for me?" Tina gave Dan her best 'I know what you're up to, buddy, and I'm not buying it!'

"How could it be otherwise?"

For a moment, Tina went blank. "What in the world does that mean?"

Dan, assuming everything was obvious, shrugged his shoulders. Matter of factly, he said, "It is what it is. What else could it be?"

Tina wrinkled her eyes, indicating she was on to his plan. Confusion would not be used to manipulate Tina! On the contrary... "That sounds like an excuse for lust and casual sex."

Dan was astounded. " How can sex be casual ?"

Tina was not about to be diverted as she added, "What about AIDS?"

"What about it?" When Tina only threw up her hands in frustration -- without actually lifting her arms -- Dan continued as if discussing the recently boring weather conditions. "If you're thinking about the massive increases in AIDS' cases in the last several years, not to mention all the shams and alleged cures -- I can assure you that neither I nor my friends are so afflicted. Nor have we ever been."

Tina frowned, but with a hint of a smile, conveying that she was not so easily misled.

Dan smiled, unmoved by her incredulous stance. Genuinely, he explained, "Tina! All diseases are psychosomatic! AIDS is no exception! It's just sexual guilt. I have no sexual guilt. Therefore I have no AIDS. Q.E.D."

"Just like that?"

Dan's eyes twinkled. "I also believe in psychosomatic wellness." Then he added, knowing well Tina's Achilles heel, "Just like Zak!"

Tina felt her counter-attack forces rush forward. "Are you kidding!? Zak supports the medical establishment with everything he's..."

"Not any more."

Tina felt the inexorable weight of Dan's simple reply. Somehow it carried an undue authority, a sense that a truth had just slipped into view. Furthermore, there was an awful feeling it would not simply go away and leave Tina in peace.

Dan, taking her recently acquired blank expression to imply that Tina was not ready to play the part of the complete skeptic, continued right along. "Zak's changed. Rather radically, I might add. And it's all for the good." For a moment, Dan merely smiled. Then he added, "And it's time for you as well."

Tina felt herself under a siege. Bleakly, she asked, "To change?"

"Don't you feel it?" When he received no clear confirmation, Dan resorted to logic, Tina's favorite methodology. "You were born March 25, 1955 , right?"

Tina was never enamored with discussions concerning her age, particularly in the last several years. Still, she could not imagine how admitting to her correct birth date could get her into trouble -- even if she knew instinctively that it probably would. But, seeing no way out, she admitted that she had indeed been born on that date.

Dan then explained the obvious. "It's your mid life crisis! Time to rethink, regroup, and change." The obvious was surely obvious, even to Tina!

It took Tina only a moment to rally. "What!?"

Dan explained, "Saturn will oppose your natal Saturn next March. But right now, it's only four degrees away. And Saturn casts a long shadow."

Tina found Dan's explanation incomprehensible, but gathered enough moxy to reply, "Are you kidding me!? Saturn!!? Of all the gobbledy gook!"

"But don't be concerned," Dan added, "You'll have a lot of loving friends to help you through it." Dan's smile was downright unnerving.

Tina shook her head, no longer ready to humor Dan. "You are so full of it!"

"Hey!" Dan gently added. "If you're not into dealing with Inanna , getting into sexuality and admitting its healthiness, then you're going to have to deal with the fiery Lilith. And she don't take no prisoners."

"Fine!" Tina replied, her confidence once again her shield. "I can handle any broad!"

Dan smiled, knowing that Tina had rather completely missed the point. Rather than attempting to continue down that path, however, Dan reverted to a more appealing subject -- for him, anyway. "Enough about such things," he said, offering her the glass of wine, the wine which had been breathing, albeit heavily, for some time now. "Let's talk about us."

Tina sensed an unexpected comfort, seeing that Dan had both his hands full with filled wine glasses. She smiled. "Let's not."

"Good idea," Dan replied, smiling and tossing both wine glasses to either side -- and soaking the cushions at the same time. "Let's not talk at all!" Quickly and expertly, he leaned forward with enough intensity to threaten a bull moose.

Tina panicked. It was perhaps serious panic, or merely very slight panic, depending upon whether one's observation was based on the moment, or later when Tina would relate the episode in a moderately controlled voice. She fell backwards, but had the good sense to quickly realize that was precisely the worst position to take. After a brief, "Oh shit!", she rolled away from Dan, kicking the cornflakes in the direction of one wine glass, where a small portion of the flakes would ultimately be marinated in a relatively expensive grape sauce, laced with the down feathers from a torn cushion.

Dan, however, had not thrown caution to the winds, nor himself totally at Tina. With his sister cowering to one side, looking over her shoulder at him with horror, Dan held his position with one arm supporting his lean frame. He smiled. "Perhaps a meditation," he suggested. Then his smile grew broader.

Tina's face switched to abject suspicion, and then, steely eyed, one arm warding off the leaning tower of Dan , she recovered her shattered dignity and her upright posture. She said nothing at first, not wanting to give credence to any of Dan's ideas. Changing the subject to one of her own liking, she asked, "You said Zak has changed; what did you mean?"

Dan returned to his approximately upright position, his legs automatically crossing themselves into a lotus configuration. Smiling, Dan confided, "Significant changes. For one thing, Zak's become much more sexual."

Tina avoided an audible horse laugh, but her expression gave it away.

Dan continued on, not deigning to notice Tina's apparent lack of belief. "Admittedly, Zak has never been shy at screwing anything in a skirt!" When Tina's eyebrows rose in umbrage, Dan added, "As long as it was politically motivated and he could get away with it." Dan smiled to himself. "I could never understand his preoccupation with appearances."

Tina frowned. "You're saying he just used women?" When Dan seemed to agree, she asked, "Aren't you doing the same? Albeit for possibly other, slightly more obscure reasons?"

It was Dan's turn to be insulted, or at least appear to be. But he answered Tina's charges with complete honesty. "Not at all. I respect women immensely. I help them get in touch with their feelings and true sexual nature and I really care for them. They're important to me." (Well... maybe a little bull...)

Tina's only comment was, "And how!!"

Dan smiled. "Would you like a demonstration? Surely this is a straight forward question for someone who prefers straight-forward… points.”

To which Tina responded with a look of utter frustration.

"It's not," Dan carefully pointed out, with a slight chuckle, "That I'm looking for a quick lay." Tina could only smile, thinking sarcastically that Dan's offer must therefore have been purely out of the kindness of his heart. Or else, he simply didn't want a lay that was quick. Dan, meanwhile, ignored Tina's obvious thoughts, and added, "It's just that I've always felt in my deepest being that you were the one person who would care for my heart, cradle it, and save it from destruction. That would be very important to me."

Momentarily, Tina felt touched. 'What a lovely thing to say,' she thought. Then she caught herself and shook her head, marveling at the master's touch with words. Rallying once again, she said, "Let's get back to Zak."

Dan was never one to beat a dead horse -- unless it was in heat. Instead, he decided to provide Tina with a few morsels. Not the feast that Dan knew was already planned, but rather a small appetizer, a munchie on which Tina could nibble. "Zak did buy up all four of the blocks upon which I reside." When Tina's attention became riveted on Dan, he continued, "Not only the four city blocks, but the intervening streets and intersection, which we've been using illegally as our parking area and main entrance. We are now legal -- although I have no idea how he managed to buy a street from the city."

"Why did he do that?" Tina's phrasing sounded simpler than the question.

"No idea." Dan smiled, pretending total unawareness. "He did offer the deeds to me as sort of an early birthday present." When Tina's eyes widened, he added, "I refused them, of course!"

Tina gasped. "But why!?"

"I resented very much his attempt to make me a landlord! Such a dismal prospect! It's enough to give one heartburn!"

Tina stared for several seconds, trying to understand Dan's total lack of needing to control things. Then she asked, "What did he do then?"

"He placed the deeds in a management trust which is still operating, mind you, and then made certain I understood that if ever the need arose, the trust and trustees were required to adhere to my orders."

"So that you could assume control at any time you wanted it?"


Tina could quickly see Zak's fine hand in accomplishing exactly what he wanted regardless of what anyone else wanted. Then the more significant question arose. Tina voiced it. "But why did Zak do it?"

Dan shrugged his bony shoulders. "Who knows? Perhaps he wanted to settle a debt or two."

'Yes, that could be it,' Tina thought. Thinking intently, she quickly recalled what would likely be the relevant incident. "The time, for example, when you convinced Harrison to call off his vendetta on his mother -- an act which certainly made Zak's life a lot easier."

Dan quickly agreed, "Quite possibly."

Tina then found another question. "So why did you do it? Why did you convince Harrison to call off the dogs? You're not exactly a friend to his mother."

Dan frowned. "Arch enemies, to be quite frank. A wife like Helen is unlikely to look kindly upon the bastard child of her philandering husband." For a moment, a dark, deadly side of Dan crossed his consciousness as he thought deeper. "You would have thought my mother's death would have been enough!"

Tina felt the alternating waves of madness and violence as they flowed across her half-brother. She would have liked to have known more, found a few more pieces of the puzzle, but Dan's foreboding gaze scared the thought away. Instead, she asked, "So why?"

Dan looked up at her, replaying their conversation to find the thread of Tina's question. After a brief silence, he found it and said, "I did it for Harrison . I didn't want to see him get into any more trouble than he already had. The man was playing with fire!"

Tina found the explanation imminently reasonable. It all fit. And it was also clear that Dan was not the heir apparent. 'Zak has settled with him,' Tina thought, 'Dan's been paid off.' She smiled, recognizing her next stop on the tour.

"Speaking of Harrison ," she began, "Where in the world is he now?"

The question brought a look of surprise, as Dan laughed slightly, the visit to his darker side interrupted for the time being. "Here," he said.

Tina was shocked. "Here!!?"

"The adjacent building. In the basement. He has his studio there."

Tina was truly amazed. "I had no idea..."

"Harrison and I are old drinking buddies. We never get too far apart."

"Has Zak been in contact with... your drinking buddy?"

"No idea. I'm afraid you'll have to ask Harrison ."

Tina thought for a moment, knowing she'd have to find her way down to the basement. The prospect of wandering through what seemed like a sophisticated Nintendo game, full of dragons and dungeons and dreary drones did not appeal to her. Nor the fact that she had never felt entirely comfortable around Harrison -- the guy was such a loner! Even when she had been helping him promote some of his work, she had invariably felt ill at ease. Smiling, she asked Dan, "Why don't the two of us go down and visit him?"

Dan smiled, instinctively seeing through Tina's tactic and the attempted lightness in her voice. "You needn't fear Harrison ." Tina started to protest, but Dan simply continued, as if her protests were pure charade (which they were). "He's been secretly in love with you for years. Worships the ground you walk on. You'll never be in any danger with him!"

The shock that now cascaded onto Tina's face was quite real. This was news! For a moment, she struggled with the idea.

Watching her for just a moment, Dan smiled. "The guy has an incredible passion for you. A very beautiful passion, I might add."

Tina was still trying to dodge the bullet. "Wait a minute! What about that girl? Grace what's-her-name? The woman he married!?"

"She's still with him, of course. She acts as his liaison. But it was never the same as the way he felt about you."

Tina still wouldn't have it. "But there was also April Ikaria! He was in love with her!"

"True," Dan agreed. " Harrison always felt that if he could create beauty in his art, why shouldn't he be allowed to marry it? But April was a bit too promiscuous for Harrison . And he loved you more. Really."

Tina suddenly remembered some of the beautiful gifts that Harrison had given her over the years, but it had never occurred to her that there was an underlying, passionate love. Surely he was just expressing his appreciation for her help in promoting his art. Then she turned to Dan again, with her best argument. "He's my brother, for heaven's sake!" Quickly sensing the slight flaw, she quickly corrected herself. "Or at least, my half-brother."

"Maybe not even that," Dan replied. With Tina again finding herself on shifting soil, Dan continued. "I don't think Harrison is Zak's son. I suspect Helen took a lover, just in order to take revenge on Zak's affair with my mother. You and Harrison may not be related blood-wise. There may be no barriers to keep the two of you apart." Dan's smile broadened as Tina's expression took on one part horror and two parts disbelief.

Tina had not been totally unaware of the possibility of Harrison 's relationship to Zak, but the idea of her alleged brother being madly in love with her was really more than she wanted to even consider, much less accept. It was really intolerable to think about having some grown person pining away for you. It wasn't even convenient.

On a more sober note, Dan added, "As for Zak and Harrison, I don't know that those two get along all that well. Harrison has had a grudge against our old man for years, and I can't see Zak dealing with Harrison directly. Let's face it: Zak pretty well considers Harrison to be the ultimate low life -- a sculptor, artist, creative genius. Cripes! Harrison actually works with his hands!"

Tina was only marginally listening to Dan, now. Her thoughts were racing ahead. She had already found out what she needed from Dan, i.e. he was not a contender. She would now confirm that Harrison was not one either. She stood up, only vaguely aware of Dan's questioning look, as he stood up with her. Then she looked around, realizing she would need a guide. "Is there someone...?"

"Reeanna can show you the way to the," Dan smiled, mockingly, "the great dungeon wherein lies the beast... awaiting his beauty."

Tina grimaced a smile, but said nothing. Abruptly, Dan wrapped his arms around her and gave her an affectionate, as opposed to a sexual, hug. Tina was surprised, but then slowly relaxed slightly, realizing that it was a nice feeling. It was a strange feeling, but a nice one.

Such is the way of the world. You can never tell what's going to turn out nice.


Chapter Six – The Wilds of Nepal

Forward to:

Chapter Eight – A Woman Scorned





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