That night my dreams were of who I might be.
A decade previous, I’d woken up in an abandoned warehouse with no memory of anyone or anything, including myself. Beside me was a Heckler and Koch USP compact, with a full magazine of silver bullets. Along with the gun, there had been a wooden cane with a sword inside and a piece of paper with the name Nathan Garrett on it, which I discovered was in my handwriting.
I spent the following year trying to figure out who I, or Nathan Garrett, was. When no results became apparent, I decided to use the name as my own. What I did discover was even more baffling. I understood languages that I could never remember learning—French, Spanish, Japanese and more. I also had an appetite for learning about all periods of history and mythology, although I never saw anything that triggered a memory.
My dreams vanished from my grasp and I woke up in my hotel bed, staring at the ceiling as I reflected on the previous night. The first time I’d used my magic I’d blown a window out of the warehouse, the glass embedded itself deep in the nearest tree trunk. I thought I’d gone mad. It took me that first year to find out what I was—a sorcerer.
After that, I met someone who explained the concept of magic to me. Sorcerers are born with an innate ability to tap into magic, which is passed down from parent to child. Magic is raw energy, which gifts us with a multitude of abilities. For starters, magic makes sorcerers near immortal, keeping us alive for hundreds, even thousands of years. It heals and stops, or at least slows, the aging process.
Although I didn’t know who I was, I took comfort in the knowledge that I at least knew what I was.
The phone beside me rang, waking me out of my trance-like state as I answered the call.
“Hey, Holly,” I said.
“I wake you? Sorry, I figured you’d be up early.”
“Don’t worry about it, I was already up. What can I do for you?”
“Just thought I’d ring to see how it went.”
I’d met Holly about eight years previously when I helped her with the problem of a possessive, soon after ex, husband. My involvement had been an accident, but it just happened that she was part of a rather well-known family, one with connections throughout the underworld. She suggested an alliance. Her dad, a man I’d done work for in the past, told me she’d do a good job. I trusted him, so I trusted Holly, and we’d done well ever since.
“Fine,” I said. “No problems at all.”
“You sound funny, Nate.”
“Not the best night’s sleep. Had a few crappy dreams.”
“Memories coming back?” she asked. She’d always been a little concerned I’d discover that I used to be a cop. And with her family that wouldn’t be the best outcome. Truth be told, that sort of worried me too.
“No, nothing like that.” I swung my legs out of bed. “So you want to meet up? You’ll need to get paid.” Although the job hadn’t gone through Holly, she had helped with background information on the target and so deserved her share.
“I’m meeting my dad for lunch this afternoon. I’ll give you a call later to let you know where.”
“Sounds good, see you later.” I hung up and had a shower. After which, I got dressed in dark combats and a blue t-shirt, before picking up an empty rucksack and deciding to go get paid.
After finishing the previous night’s job in Southampton, I’d driven to London and stayed at a pre-booked hotel room, ditching the Audi on a nearby road. As it was only seven in the morning, I had plenty of time before I needed to meet Holly. She lived in London, not too far from St Paul’s Cathedral, giving her amazing views of one of the most beautiful buildings I’d ever seen. Granted, I only remembered ten years back, but it would have probably been pretty high up the list of impressive structures even with full recall.
Holly usually arranged to meet her dad near her place. There were a lot of restaurants and bars close by, and we regularly used them to meet after a job. It was easy to blend in with all the business workers and lawyers constantly having meetings. My hotel was close to Tottenham Court Road, so it only took five minutes at most to get there on the tube. In fact, it took longer to get through the tube stations than to actually use the train.
I took the Northern line to Embankment, crossed to the District Line and took another tube to Whitechapel. Whitechapel is famous for one reason—Jack the Ripper. Mention the place to almost anyone on earth and their first thoughts will be those six murders back in late eighteen eighty-eight. In a sea of death and horror at the time, people remember only those six. It was probably because he was never caught, but giving publicity to brutal murders and the perpetrator felt… wrong. After a hundred years, the line between murderer and celebrity blurred to the point of nonexistence.
I made my way past the start of the Jack the Ripper tour, where a large group of people were all waiting for their chance to walk in the steps of history. I continued on to an alley about half way down the street. At the end of the alley stood a large, barrel-chested man in a dark suit.
“He know you’re coming?” he asked in a deep voice.
“No, I thought I’d just pop in. It’s been a while since I’ve last had a good girlie chat.”
“Don’t piss about, Nate. You know he gets shitty if I don’t ask.”
“Yes, Jerry, he knows I’m coming.” I glanced at my watch. “Although I’m about two hours early.”
“Ah fucking hell, he doesn’t like that.” Jerry rubbed the dark goatee that was a few inches long, cut to a point to resemble a hairy spear tip. The cogs turned as he thought what might happen if I went in early. “Okay, you can go in, but if he complains I’ll say you threatened me.”
I stared at the almost seven foot tall, three hundred pound frame of the mountain in front of me. If I threatened him I’d better do it from behind a tank. “Say I used mind control on you,” I suggested.
Jerry smiled and moved aside, showing the door he’d been hiding. He pulled back the steel gate with a nasty creak and nodded as I opened the thick wooden door and stepped inside.
On my first trip to Jerry’s boss many years previous, I’d expected the door to lead to a small office or shop. Instead it led to a tiny room with dingy white tiles on all the walls. You could go from one end to the other in about three steps. But Jerry certainly wasn’t trying to stop anyone from gaining entrance to a tiny, dirty hole. His presence was to stop people from using the stairs it contained.
Easily the length of the longest tube station escalators, the stairs started in the tiny room and led down. I followed them as the lights on the stairs flared to life, illuminating the same dingy white tiles lining the walls.
After a few steps the door behind me slammed shut. A rush of air flew over the back of my neck and I sighed.
“You know the whole creepy vibe doesn’t really work well when I’ve been here dozens of times before.” I continued to the bottom of the stairs and out onto an abandoned subway station. It was so old, that no one knew its original name. I’d heard that it wasn’t even on any of the old underground maps. A nice little hidey-hole, tucked away for use only by a select few.
At one end of the small station platform was an archway, which led to the portion between where I was and an identical platform on the other side of the station. It contained a makeshift shop with dozens of items all set out on dark wooden shelves and benches. More items hung from metal hooks, welded to a large metallic grate next to an arch identical to the one I’d walked under. A middle aged man sat behind a large metal desk. He was examining a pocket watch through an eyepiece. His other eye was covered with a black patch.
He looked up at me. “You’re early.” He brushed his long grey hair off his shoulders, revealing a deep scar along one cheek.
I glanced at the huge man sitting in the corner, his arms crossed over his gargantuan chest. He nodded at me once and went back to pretending to be invisible.
“Robert will never speak to you, Nathanial,” the middle-aged man said.
“Too well trained,” I said. “And the name is Nate, or Nathan. You know this, Francis.”
The man smiled and gestured towards the silent bodyguard, who opened his mouth to show a stub where his tongue should have been. “You see, someone cut it off a long time ago. He cannot talk.”
For all the times I’d been to see Francis, his bodyguard’s lack of tongue had never come up before. I just thought he was quiet. “I’m sorry,” I said to Robert. His shrug suggested he’d gotten used to it long ago.
“And why do you care what I call you? Do you even know if Nathan is your real name?”
“No matter what I may have been called, I’m now Nate. That’s real enough for me.”
Francis waved away my concerns. “So, Nate, did you bring it?”
A small smile spread across my lips. “Of course I brought it. You hire me and I deliver.”
I removed the satin pouch from my pocket and placed it on the shining counter by Francis. He hungrily spilled the contents onto a velvet cloth.
“I take it that little book is exactly what you wanted.”
Francis carefully turned the leather bound book over and over in his hands, a smile of glee across his lips. “Do you have any idea what this is?”
“It’s a book. I assume an old, expensive one.”
“It’s a very old copy of the Iliad.”
“Someone wanted a copy of Homer’s Iliad? Couldn’t they get one from the library?”
“A client requested that I find her a copy. A very specific copy in fact.”
“Why that copy?”
Francis shrugged, causing his hair to spill over his shoulders. “No idea. But she paid quarter of a million for it. And for that I don’t ask too many questions.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “Oh yeah, getting paid that much money for an old book is perfectly normal.”
The noise from the man in the corner almost sounded like a chuckle. Francis didn’t seem to find the humour in it. “I did check her out, Nathanial,” he said tersely. “But this book is nearly two thousand years old. The amount of money I was paid for this is but a fraction of its true value.”
I knew Francis was exaggerating, but I decided it was best just to take his point and let him live in his moment of happiness. “So do I get paid then?”
Francis carefully inserted the book back into the pouch and placed it on the counter, which he reached under and withdrew a small black bag. “Fifty grand,” he said. “And more importantly, you no longer owe me any favours.”
I had no concerns that he was going to steal it back from me, or that he’d have his men attack me. That wouldn’t be good for business. Contrary to popular belief, there is honour amongst thieves. It just comes in a green paper form.
Francis had been the man to not only tell me about the world I live in, but also explain magic. He explained that a sorcerer’s magic is bound to two different schools. The first is Elemental—water, earth, fire and air. Most users of magic start in this school, the magic I’d used in my target’s bedroom was air, hence the white glyphs, which crossed over my arms. Each type of magic corresponds to a different colour glyph—orange for fire, green for earth and blue for water.
Sorcerers start by learning one form of magic in the Elemental school. But over time, anywhere from decades to centuries, they can learn a second. In my case the second element I had control over is fire, meaning I was a lot older than my early thirties appearance suggested. This second form can never be the opposite to one already learnt, so I could never learn earth or water magic, no matter how much I tried.
The second school of magic was called Omega magic. The magic is too powerful to be wielded by a novice. For this reason, any sorcerer wishing to use Omega magic is usually millennia old at least. It consisted of mind, matter, shadow and light. As with the Elemental school, each magic corresponded to a different colour, although I wasn’t powerful enough to use any of the four types.
Over the years, I’d heard rumours of a third school. Blood magic. But I’d never found anyone willing or knowledgeable enough to talk about it at length. The only thing I did learn—it scares the shit out of people.
“The robbery isn’t on the news yet,” he said, bringing me out of the memory of his teachings. “How did it go?”
I stuffed the money in my backpack. “Easily. Footballers have too much money.”
Francis chuckled. “Do you have any other jobs on?”
I shook my head. “I plan on relaxing for a few weeks.”
“When you need more work let me know. I can always find something for you to… acquire for me.”
“Enjoy the book,” I told Francis, who hurried away to make a phone call. I said my good-byes and left the station, opening the main entrance door and nodding to Jerry as I stepped back outside into the daylight.
The cold, crisp air was a bit of a shock to the system after the heated underground, but I soon warmed up once I‘d made my way back to the tube station.
As I descended the steps, deep in thought about the possibility of some time off, an attractive young blonde woman bumped into me, brushing her hand against mine. I was about to apologise when suddenly my world started to spin. I steadied myself against the side of the stairwell as a noise rang in my ears. By the time I’d recovered, I’d noticed that the mystery woman hadn’t even paused. She’d continued on her journey up out of the mouth of the tube entrance, vanishing into the increasing crowds above. I darted up the stairs after her, but searching produced no results. I rubbed my hand where she’d touched it and wondered what had just happened. I wasn’t poisoned, I was certain of that, and the noise and dizziness had left me as suddenly as it had arrived. Maybe I was tired, or maybe my memories were beginning to come back. Either way I felt normal once again, so I shook my head and continued on my journey.