Noah’s Boy – Snippet 29
“What do you mean by the dragon egg,” Kyrie asked, sliding into the booth across from Old Joe. She’d put a bowl of clam chowder in front of him, and slid a plate of souvlaki and gyro meat in beside it. She had put silverware down too, but Old Joe was always whimsical about silverware, using it when he very well felt like and ignoring it or treating it as jewelry the rest of the time.
This was one of the times he’d chosen to ignore it — which was just as well, because the sight of Old Joe with fork and knife twisted into what remained of his hair always made people turn and stare, and Kyrie would much rather they didn’t attract attention just now.
So she tried not to act offended or put off as he drank the clam chowder from the bowl and stuffed meat in his mouth with his fingers. He must have been aware of her disapproval, nonetheless, because he used the napkin on his fingers and lips before answering her. “It’s the knowledge of all the dragons. It always passes to Great Sky Dragon when Great Sky Dragon dies.”
“Uh? What do you mean it passes to him when he dies? Do you mean in the spirit world or something?”
Old Joe shook his head, then resumed stuffing his mouth. Kyrie got up and got a cup of coffee for herself and one for Old Joe. She took a sip of her cup while she waited for him to answer.
“Like,” he said, at last. “Like when the king is dead someone becomes king, so like, the king is dead, long live the king?”
“Oh. The new Great Sky Dragon gets… knowledge? What knowledge?”
“The knowledge of all the sky dragons before. The dragon egg it’s called.” He frowned. “Or was called when the curr– The last Great Sky Dragon inherited.” He reached across and patted her hand, as if he thought she needed reassurance. “A long, long time ago. More time ago than I can count. The other Sky Dragon. Before dragon-boy.”
Perhaps Kyrie had known it all along. Surely she had known it was a danger since she’d heard Bea’s story, but the idea was so preposterous that Kyrie had been keeping it at bay. “I… you mean Tom is the Great Sky Dragon?”
Old Joe nodded. “At least… there seems to be…. Something is not right, but he is, at least, in the place of the Great Sky Dragon right now…” He clacked his teeth together in the way that, in alligator form, always gave the impression that he was laughing. “Acting Great Sky Dragon.”
“But Tom would never accept it,” Kyrie protested. “Tom would never want to be… they’re a criminal organization. He’d never –”
“No,” Old Joe said. “You don’t understand. No choice. No choice for dragon boy. It’s in the blood. The memories follow the blood. It was… built that way when we came to this world.”
“When we came to this world?” Kyrie repeated, as she suddenly had a disturbing vision of Old Joe as a UFO cultist. Besides, she was absolutely sure she hadn’t come to this world, she had been born here.
“When our kind came to this world,” Old Joe said, and again patted her reassuringly.
“We were built so some people would… remember for everyone. And the Great Sky Dragon might be the only line that still goes on that remembers. Part because they keep to themselves, dragons do… ” He frowned. “The rest of us have forgotten. Even I have forgotten, and I was supposed to remember. I was… But dragon-boy has the inheritance in the blood, he has the dragon’s egg, and if he has the pearl…” An odd sound as he put his tongue up between his two widely spaced front teeth and sucked air. “If he figures out how to use the pearl… Then he could remember all that he needs to remember.”
Kyrie’s head reeled. “Built? No, forget that. Just tell me… Why would Tom need to remember anything?”
“Well,” Old Joe’s eyes had a look of faraway remembering, as though looking upon unheard-of vistas. “Our people were hounded from world to world, weren’t they? We came here for refuge, didn’t we? But we must remember, because I can sense their agent among us… Whatever happened to the old Dragon was their doing and unless dragon-boy is ready to stand up to them…”
“Even if he’s ready to stand up to them, but doesn’t know how to… we’ll die in this Earth too, and we’ll be gone forever.”
Two tears ran down the dirt embedded in Old Joe’s face while Kyrie tried to make sense of all of this. Only thing she could know for sure was that Tom was in danger. Tom had been thrust into a position of prominence he didn’t want and he was now in danger because of it.
She fixed Old Joe with a stern gaze. She didn’t know if it would work on him, though she had, in the past, managed to stop him from eating cats and dogs by convincing him that she could see everything he did and that she was not amused. But her gaze and her voice of command worked on the strangest people, even Rafiel. So she stared at Old Joe and said, sternly. “Don’t you dare wander away and disappear. You must talk to Tom about all this. We must go and find him, so you can talk to him.”
“Why would I disappear?” Old Joe asked, in a puzzled tone. “I was coming to talk to dragon boy and you. I got myself clothes for that. And I know where you’ll find him. He’ll be in the place of dragons, of course.”
* * *
The dragons vanished much too quickly and Tom, almost dropping from tiredness, found himself shifting back and being alone in the parking lot, except for two middle aged Chinese gentlemen behind him, Conan to his right side and… He frowned at the girl at the other end of the parking lot. She looked eerily familiar. “Bea,” He said.
“Bea Bao Ryu,” Conan said. “We spent years investigating her family… back when I was… that is, when…”
Tom understood Conan was suddenly afraid of saying that this had happened when he was working for the Great Sky Dragon, because now Tom was the Great Sky Dragon, and so Conan must be working for the triad again. Tom sighed and looked sidelong at Conan, “You know you’re free, right? To do whatever you please, and pursue your bliss with that damned guitar and that ridiculous ten gallon hat of yours?”
Conan gave him a smile, but then the corners of his mouth shook and he looked even more tired than Tom felt, “It’s not that… simple… uh… sire?”
Tom laughed at that, impossible not to. “If you call me your reverence or something like that, I swear I’ll hurt you.”
Conan’s eyes went out to the two corpses on the parking lot. “Like you did them?”
“No.” Tom had almost forgotten what he’d done, but now he shuddered at it, a shudder made worse by his being covered in blood. “No. Conan, I had to do it. Do you think I had a choice?”
“No. I know you didn’t. And I think I know more about this than you do,” Conan said, his voice low, steady, but filled with an odd vibrating tone. “And if I’m right, all of us are going to find ourselves rather short on choices.”
Tom was going to ask Conan what he meant, but at that moment one of the men behind him said, “Sir, if you would.”
Tom turned around. The two middle aged Chinese men, one of whom he — vaguely — remembered meeting at a get-together of owners of local eateries when they’d planned the last “Eat Goldport” weekend, at which people could buy a coupon book then sample several eateries at discounted prices during the weekend, was the owner-of-record of the Three Luck Dragon. A careful search of his memory disclosed the first name Kevin and the family name Jao. Tom said, “Mr. Jao,” and raised his eyebrows.
The man bowed again. “We have quarters prepared for you… and your bride, and we will tell you the whole situation as we know it. What happened to… to your revered ancestor and…” He looked at Conan. “If you trust him, he can join our councils. We gather you trust him, since he’s long been your henchman.”
Tom looked at Conan. “I trust him. But I have no bride. At least no bride here.”
The man beside Mr. Jao cleared his throat, and looked intently at the other side of the parking lot. “Miss Ryu will more than adequately provide dragon –”
“No,” Tom said, with near-horror. Not that he had anything against Bea Ryu, of course. She seemed okay. But she suffered from the terrible handicap of not being Kyrie, and that was insurmountable in his view.
“Uh,” Mr. Jao said. He spoke perfectly unaccented English, which Tom found fascinating, since at the dinner of restaurant owners he’s spoken like a stereotypical Chinese immigrant. Wheels within wheels. He supposed the man would now tell him to whom he was lying and for whom. Maybe. But he didn’t want to know. He had a strong feeling the Triad was into far more shady business than drug running, murder for hire or even hunting down innocent dragon shifters. He had a feeling the business of the triad was far far bigger and more dangerous and dirtier than anything he could have imagined. That feeling was partly from his gathered impressions, while he was in everyone’s mind for that brief moment after…
After what? After the Great Sky Dragon had died? He didn’t know. Instead, what he knew and knew with absolute certainty was that he wanted no part of any of this.
Jao raised his voice and called “Miss Ryu.”
She came. She was good to look at naked. Tom could think that, even while being aware that he’d rather a thousand deaths than marry her. Or anyone but Kyrie.
Bea was slim and shapely, but she walked towards them like a beaten dog. He suddenly remembered she’d just come back from death, and wondered what had managed to make her change and come here. What could have been a strong enough impulse?