The orange ball sailed through the air, splashing through the net as the sound of a buzzer filled the room. It was followed closely by the sound of the bar erupting into cheers.
The red-headed man at sitting alone at the bar table raised his mug and joined in the celebration.
“These aren’t the Celts I once fought, but they are very entertaining,” he thought as he drained his beer.
He signaled the waitress, ordering another round.
While he waited for his new drink, he scanned the bar. The basketball fans were hugging, kissing and drinking in celebration of their team’s miracle win.
The waitress slammed a fresh mug on the table, a huge smile lighting up her face.
“Thanks,” he said.
“You’re welcome Red,” she replied.
Then she kissed him.
No sooner did he reciprocate than she broke the kiss and moved on to the next table.
“Lusty wench,” he muttered as she walked away.
“You’ve still got it.”
He slowly placed the beer on the table and turned to face the voice he’d hoped he’d never hear again.
The newcomer was leaning against the wall. He wore a pair of snakeskin boots, jeans and an El Santo movie t-shirt. His cinnamon skin was pulled taut with muscles. His black hair seemed to absorb the light around him. His eyes flickered yellow.
“You’ve been a hard man to find Thunderer.”
The man with the red hair looked quickly around the bar. None of the patrons had any idea of how much danger they were in right now
“Not hard enough it would seem.”
“I have to admit, I thought you’d be in somewhere a bit more…Slavic.”
The man with the red beard stood and picked up the lunchbox sitting on the table.
“Not here,” he said.
“Still looking out for the mortals?”
“Someone has to.”
“Fine,” said the man in the boots, pushing himself off the wall. “I’ll see you outside. Don’t make me wait. Your father made me wait.”
The man in the boots tossed a gilded eypatch onto the table and walked toward the door.
The man with the beard looked at the patch on the table. His vision blurred briefly. Th he reached into his pocket, dropped a wad of cash on the table and walked out of the bar.
A lone street light cast shadows down the alley.
The man with the red beard opened his lunch box and pulled out a sledgehammer. The lunch box fell to the ground with a tinny echo that echoed down the alley.
“Not quite as impressive as your old one,” said the man in the boots, leaning against a dumpster.
“No, but it gets the job done. I’ve been expecting you.”
He squared up, holding the hammer loosely at his side.
“You have proven extremely difficult to get rid of, unlike the rest of the Aesir.”
“Blame it on the movies.”
“I would, but they really weren’t that good, were they?”
“I really liked the last one.”
“Okay, I’ll give you that,” he said, pushing off of the dumpster. As he did so, his features took on a more reptilian cast.
“I wondered how long you could keep up that illusion, Aztec.”
A single gunshot erupted from the shadows. The man with the red beard’s eyes widened and his hands went to his mid-section. A crimson blossom began to spread across the grey t-shirt he had worn to work that day. The sledgehammer clattered to the ground beside the lunchbox.
“Just long enough for my associate to do that really.”
The man with the red beard dropped to his knees.
“A final gift from your nephew. You just can’t outrun prophecy.”
Another man, clad in green and black, stepped from the shadows. He racked the gun in his hand and fired again. A second wound appeared on the chest of the man with the red beard. He fell backward and slumped against the wall. His breath was ragged. A blood bubble appeared on his lips.
The man with the boots bent down and picked up the hammer. He brought it down on the other man’s skull with a dull, wet crack. Then he tossed the hammer into the dumpster.
“Time to go,” he said to the man with the gun.
He waved his hands in a practiced set of gestures and the two men disappeared from the alley. A single black feather drifted to the ground and came to rest in the rapidly pooling blood.
The man with the red beard blinked twice. He knew his time was almost up. As the edges of his vision began to close in on him, he saw the rainbow and he knew he was going home.