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:iconbigfordworks:
BigfordWorks Featured By Owner Edited Apr 3, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Basel, Switzerland. 25 January 1988.

He checked his watch. 5:55 p.m. He sat back in his chair and took another gulp of wine. Liquid courage after all had seen him through trouble more than once. That and his ability to stonewall bargain. It had of course landed him here, at this restaurant, with an Interpol wire in his white silk shirt.

The meeting had been his to attend all along of course. If only he’d not picked up that hooker. It’s how the cops had got him into this position. The embarrassing details about the prostitute, age and sex, damning facts that, should the church or his enemies ever learn, would destroy him. It was enough for him to agree to a wire. in exchange for two things: All charges against him dropped and that whatever he purchased at the meeting, he could keep. No questions asked.

They balked at his gall of course, tried to play it tough. He was a “famous American” after all. Leader of an International Church that stretched from Texas to Thailand. Details about his “behavior” emerging in the press would be problematic.

But he’d been sweated before. Many times. He knew their leverage but also their weakness. The meeting, which Interpol was CERTAIN was to obtain black market antiquities from a major player in that community, was the next day. He stonewalled, stalled, they had a window to keep if they wanted the bust. He did not. This particular “illegal antiquities dealer” was supposed to be a major player. He knew how badly the cops wanted him and the network he represented.

Not to mention just how wrong they were about the circumstances of the artifacts or Dealer he was scheduled to meet.
And so, concessions made with less than an hour to go he sat in the underground stone lined cavern of a restaurant that had no name because it needed none. It was not overtly advertised.

Nestled underground in a very particular and special corner of Basel It was originally the storehouse and stables of a Roman fortification. Later it was a vaulted underground warehouse of a Gothic Cathedral built in 1019 by one of Basel’s “Bishop-Princes”. Still later a Romanesque structure, which finally burned in the 14th century. It’s large, football length tunnel with regulating stalls and high vaulted ceilings remained under ground and undisturbed until the Reformation when it’s secret was discovered. It’s LOCATION.

Through the centuries the borders of Switzerland, Germany and France had shifted and shrunk, expanded and moved. And IN that time the man-made cavern lay under it all until the border finally split Basel itself into THREE sections in the heart of the city. But not uniformly.

Ronald Wagner sat in the North-West corner of the city, a floor and a half below ground in a wooded area, on the GERMAN side of the restaurant. His private dining room, once a horse stall, was located a quarter of the length of the hundred-yard long restaurant. He’d selected it personally. Access was only through the front entryway door set into waist high oak paneled walls with hand rolled glass panels. Panels with curtains built to close off individual ancient animal and storage stalls into individual rooms. His seat, against the rear wall not only allowed him to survey the staff and patrons (and importantly the undercover Interpol officers) but ensured the dealer’s back was to the door. Ensuring the bust would take him by total surprise. And there was only the one door. But critically: outside that door, and a mere ten yards to the left was a red brick line set into the floor which cut from one wall to the other. The BORDER with SWITZERLAND. One could literally stroll back and forth between the two countries. And waiters, consiglieres and others did so every day, even this minute. More to the point: between extradition and non-extradition countries. That is why the restaurants hand approved patrons were not your average dinner guests. He wanted as many “ways out” of this situation as he could possibly secure.

He heard muffled but raised voices from the next stall through the stone wall. The walls of each section where high and thick enough to ensure privacy for all types of interactions.

His earliest memories were of shouting. From his dad. Eddie. “Edward” later in life when he became “respectable”. Bastard. He remembered looking up at him shouting at someone in his used car lot under the Texas sun. He shouted all the time, face tomato red from the booze. But then he turned shouting into first into a tactic, then into a business, then a calling.

He next thought back on those damned tents. Out there on the plains outside Wichita Falls. His dad, at the pulpit screaming about hellfire, the old women gesticulating along, fanning their body odor at him.

He never did know what happened to ma. She was just gone one day.

His dad had found a niche, he could preach. And his howling about damnation for everyone a “Good honest God-Fearing Texan” righteously hated drew crowds. Allot of crowds. First it had been small groups in tent revivals. Soon it was gyms and auditoriums, then guest preaching at other churches, then, before he’d known it a 600,000-foot stadium church that belonged exclusively to “The Holy Way Church” or in other words, to his dad.

He’d played along of course, learned the trade, been the dutiful son, the son of the “father” of millions across the globe. It seemed a certain type of Nationalist found his dad’s rhetoric appealing.

Of course, it was all his now. Dad dead. Drug overdose with hookers. Covered up of course. Never did find out what happened to those girls. The church’s “people” disappeared them. But no, dad died nobly, at work late, a heart attack while writing sermons. Sure, he did world, you just better believe it.

The election seemed workable when he announced his bid to run. President. “God’s Candidate” they called him. He’d been an international presence before that of course, and at his popularities peak, it was time to strike.

But now here, defeated. Temporarily. Those damn kids. Several “enthusiastic” groups of his followers were on the news in Richmond. Marching like Nazis and calling for forced conversions in the name of the church. HIS church. Violence in the street. There’d been deaths. His “congregants” killing several counter protestors they screamed were “the faithless” in broad daylight on international god-damned T.V.  A stain at the critical hour. It bred doubt, suspicion of the church and by extension him. And that spelled defeat at the polls. It had been close, but decisively not in his favor.

But it was that selfsame strain of congregants, the wild-eyed zealots of his church, who were loyal to the death to him who’d tipped him of this group of “Dealers”. They were the congregants who scared him. Could undo him if he failed to pander to their madness. They’d flocked early to his apocalyptic sermons. They seemed devoted to the idea of mankind’s downfall. A lucrative selling point to preach to old people who were both terrified of the grave and bitter that others would outlive them, but these people seemed more committed to the notion than they would admit, even to him.

God knows how they learned of the people who dealt in this kind of artifact. It had required a mountain of cash and many, many inquiries, middle men and assurances but he’d finally confirmed to his satisfaction: These people might be real. And what they offered might be as well.

So now he was here. Cops be damned he’d get what he’d arranged for. He would live forever goddammit.


A DEALER.
6:00 p.m. and as he looked up his appointment was shown in by a consigliere. He was a remarkably tall man, if a bit slender of build for such height. 6’5” AT LEAST he mused. His face was angular and hawkish with a roman nose and thick widows peaked hair, graying at the temples slicked back with a flourish of the Victorian era. Likewise, his suit was distinctly retro with a blood red and gold floral cravat instead of a tie, against a black brocade waistcoat and dark charcoal suit.

“Mr. Wagner”. He said matter of fact. His voice was deeply baritone. Commanding sure. Of course. But he’d seen charisma and presence before up close before. Many times in fact. And he was immune now. It had been his lifetime stock in trade after all.

“Yes. Please sit.”

“We have reviewed your request and we feel we can meet your needs. You have agreed to our stipulations.” Again, stated as fact. This man was not asking Ronald questions. His manner suggested he had reviewed this transaction inquiry as an assigned case file.

Ronald tensed ever so slightly, thinking back to when he had agreed to those terms and had no reason to think he WOULD break this groups “stipulations” but that was also before police involvement. These conditions outlined the usual “absolute secrecy/discretion” etc with one glaring difference: the price for breaking these terms was mortal. Still, if he could get what he came for, give these dealers up to the cops and get out, how could they really touch him? His security would be assured by the feds and his legions of followers.

“Yes, I have. Tell me, can you really deliver what you promise?”

“Indeed. However precisely how your immortality is gained depends very much on you.”

“Because of my choice?”

“Partly, but also in what you are willing to surrender. “

“Money is no object.”

“Of course. But in addition to the financial transaction I was referring to what aspect of yourself you are willing to give up, part with, or see greatly often permanently altered.”

“I don’t understand.”

“For immortality to be gained, YOU must be as much for sale in one form or another as the items that grant it.”

He would not falter now. He knew mind games when he heard them.

“Shall we proceed?”

“Yes. Please.”

At that the dealer turned in his chair and motioned across the restaurant from their booth. A man pushing a trolley with a large black cloth draped object approached the door. He was dressed in in Traditional Indian dress. His royal blue Turban was the Sikh style, accompanying a rich blue and gold brocaded knee length outer garment and multiple under layers of blue and white silk. His complexion was obviously Indian but what struck Ronald, and took several moments to comprehend, was that this was perhaps one of the UGLIEST men he’d ever seen. In a number of ways: His face was overtly bony, his brow ridges greatly pronounced with wide thick teeth and no chin to speak of. But beyond that what added to the grotesquery was that his face and hands (and he assumed his body?) were covered in a never-ending tattoo pattern. Like the Polynesian tattoos. Only these lines and whirls were very basic. Odd thing, Ronald could swear that as the man soundlessly wheeled in the trolley the tattoos visible on him…. moved. Trick of the eye. The man wheeled the trolley beside an antique sideboard between the wall and dining table. He turned and bowed, smiling to Ronald. Smirking was more like it.

THERE. Right there. The tattoos in the corners of his mouth, they “pulled” back slightly ahead of his smile. The lines in and around his enormous brow, they too seemed a split second AHEAD of his muscle movements. Like a marionette with the strings on the skin. Animating the muscles from the exterior.

He then nodded silently to the Dealer and departed.

“He’s quite the looker”.

“He’s from a very old family. They serve our organization in many capacities. His breadth of historical knowledge alone is beyond price. Though his communication skills are a bit limited.”

“Really why?” Ronald asked not really caring.

“Because he’s not entirely human as you and I know it.”

“What is he?”

“You know his kind as Erectus. A few are still with us. Mainly in our employ. Testament to the lineage and longevity of our enterprise.”

“Shall we review the items?”

He pulled off the silk to reveal a large rectangular chest. Roughly 3x2x2 with antique silver hardware.
Wagner smiled at the obviously-meant-to-be-imposing crest. He was no stranger to showmanship. It had delivered to his dad and then to him a following of hundreds of millions for whom his slightest utterance was the revealed truth of “God”.

“Latin?” He asked. Indeed.

“Yes. The chest is marked in the language of the assigned Dealer.”

“You speak Latin?”

“Indeed.”

“What is it?”

“A container first and foremost. Chosen and modified to its current state due to its inherent ability to “restrain” certain aspects of its cargo.”

“Modified from what?”

“A coffin. An Ossuary to be precise. Meant to house the bones of a very powerful dead man.”

“I thought Ossuary’s were stone or clay.”

“These are some of the first swan boards in human history. Technology invented for this purpose. It was the nature of the wood you see that made its use necessary.”

“And what is that?”

A genetic modification that effected certain Flora as a result of an asteroid impact 65 million years ago.”
“The dinosaur comet?”

“Indeed. Though it was not as lethal to life as currently surmised by modern science. In some rare instances it was ultimately beneficial to life in ways that will surprise you.”

“You said it “restrains” the stuff in it? what do you mean?”

“Some items exert a certain “influence” which can manipulate, shall we say, a person within a certain range. Others have means of “calling out” to parties they wish to be rejoined with. Whom we’d rather not do business with in most cases.”

“Wish to be”? Are they alive?”

“Some most definitely, others are inanimate but still possessed of a “will” of sorts. Others simply give off an emotional or psychological output that can be disconcerting.”

The Dealer passed his hands along the high relief emblems on the front and Ronald heard a catch.

“What’s the significance?” He nodded at the crest as the Dealer swung open a hidden panel to reveal yet more locks.
“Of the crest? It’s a pictographic glyph representation of the motto. Pictures were used long before words.”

“Rex Mortem Servituti?”

“The King of Death to Slavery” or “King Death Enslaved”. Our business after all is bringing Death itself to heel. You do remember why you’re here?”

For the first time Ronald felt sweat tingle across his scalp. Be cool. You’ve got this.
“Now then, the inventory.” Grasping the two rings the Dealer swung the chest open. “20 items. Particularly collected in this chest and tailored to your spectrum of needs.”

The cabinet swung open to reveal two equal sections with a complex array of doors. All different sizes, all tagged with a number and in no discernable order.

“MY spectrum of needs…?”

“We research all our clients and match them with a Dealer who’s inventory best suits his persona. With items that meet some inherent “need” of the client’s mentality. Acquiring a means of immortality is QUITE personal.”
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:icontweakyelf6889:
tweakyELF6889 Featured By Owner May 6, 2018
Love this! VERY engaging/interesting! Keep it up!
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:iconbigfordworks:
BigfordWorks Featured By Owner May 6, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks, I think it's a subject you'll find interesting. ALLOT of the things you may think are "made up" are real historical facts and allot of what you may think are facts are TOTALLY made up!
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