Even in the chaos that was modern day New York City,there were places that served as oases of life and calm. Places where people could laugh and relax,free of the grinds of everyday life. Places where nature still ruled all.
One of these places was Stuyvesant Preserve. An artificial neighborhood (if you could call it a neighborhood),built at the dawn of the century,it stood out like a sore thumb amidst the city. Like its bigger relative to the south,Central Park,Stuyvesant Preserve was a landscape made green and verdant,flower banks shining in the Sun. Bike trails lined the parkland like delicate veins,beside of which grew arbors maintained by some of the best gardeners,human or droid,the city could buy.
The Preserve (as its 1,400 permanent residents called it) was centered around four principal landmarks. The first was the Historic Alexander Hamilton House,now a museum. It was maintained by a corps of curators,who organized semi-regular public tours. The second was the impressive bulk of St.Martin’s Church. Built at the beginning of the twentieth century,more than a century and a half earlier,it was on its third female pastor in a row. It had a modern,artistic style that wasn’t found in most churches. The third was Riverside Towers,a modern retirement home. The residents of the Preserve joked that it was “two towers attending a manor house”,from the way it looked. And the fourth was the new Museum of Natural History,which boasted a rock from the Uranian moon Oberon.
One of the residents of the Preserve was Bella Freestone,an emancipated teenager entering her senior year at a nearby high school. You might be wondering why she was emancipated. It wasn’t for hatred of her parents,nor because she was pregnant. No,it was because she wanted a quiet space where she could finish her education in peace,and ‘find herself’. Besides,she knew better than any of her friends how to take care of herself.
Bella was a tall,attractive girl,with blue eyes and a blonde pixie cut that ended not quite all the way to her shoulders. She always had a smile for everyone and a hug for those she knew well. She was a smart girl,currently fifth in her class at her high school. She lived in a well kept brownstone that was one of the oldest houses on the Preserve.
Today,her footsteps took her to St.Celestine’s. St.Celestine’s was a Catholic high school operated by St.Martin’s. It was an attractive Retro Deco-style building with a ‘20s (2020s,mind you) flair to its design. And it just happened to boast a rocket pad,where a tourist rocket was about to land.
As she approached the school,Bella saw a man sitting crosslegged on the ground. He had brown hair,twinkling green eyes,and a handlebar mustache. He was playing a violin,and this is what he sang in his deep voice:
”We are crescent moons, whose light
Banishes the shade of night;
Wheresoever we sit, we bring
Glory to the gathering.
Fate, the traitor, may efface
Wrongfully our pride of place;
Fate may take the most; yet whole
Still abides our pride of soul.”
Bella found herself drawn to him. “Who are you?”
”I am Owen Faulkner,violinist.” With that,he played another tune:
”A palm tree I beheld in al-Rusafa,
Far in the West, far from the palm tree land:
I said: You, like myself, are far away, in a strange land;
How long have I been away from my people!
You grew up in a land where I am a stranger,
And like myself, you live in the farthest corners of the earth:
May the morning clouds refresh you at this distance,
And may abundant rains comfort you forever!”
Bella found $10 in her pocket and handed it to Faulkner.
“I thank you for your gift. May you live well!”
At the edge of the landing field,a small crowd had gathered. According to a map being projected on a communal TV screen,the passenger rocket was over Maryland. Its onboard motors were bringing it in on a slow and steady flight profile. Bella could imagine the 2 g’s of gravitational force the passengers were experiencing right now gently pushing them into their seats.
Soon afterwards,she could see the rocket in the distance,a silver glare against the rising Sun. At an altitude of 12,000 feet,directly over the landing pad,the rocket bled off most of its speed. Then it began its final descent.
But as it approached,Bella heard sirens in the distance. And as it landed,cop cars pulled up. Bella could only watch as her Auntie Eve,her boyfriend’s mother,emerged from the lead car.
Next chapter is from Eve’s POV.
This fic is,lengthwise,more comparable to one of the In Death novellas than one of the main series.
The character of Owen Faulkner is based upon the character of Sherrod Howe from the Adventures of Harriet Potter series.
This is probably the first In Death fic on AO3 featuring Bella Eve.
Chapter 2: Eve I
Death was the most cosmopolitan concept ever,Eve thought as she eyeballed the man lying on the ground. It struck both the rich and the poor,just and unjust,the well-travelled and the stay-at-home,the prince and the pauper. Such was the cycle of life,which was still operative as of September 2077.
Today’s victim was a slim man,about Eve’s own height,with sandy brown hair and bright blue eyes. His mouth was bleeding and his neck was twisted sharply. He wore a blazer with an NYPL clasp holding a plain green necktie,Captain Video underwear,and casual slacks. And unlike most victims,he was alive,though barely.
”Lieutenant,do you have any ID on our vic?”
”Yes,ma’am”,replied ‘Chick’ Turpin. “Marcus Caruso,40,literary critic for the Port Chester Voice. Used to work for the Times,got fired in ‘68 over an issue regarding the coverage of the Parade of Spaceflight. Very,very caustic in his reviews. Had been doing theater reviews on the side,for all sorts of publications.”
”Any potential witnesses?”
”Does the name Isabella Freestone mean anything to you?”
B-Bella? Eve’s mind reeled,then she remembered. As a resident of Stuyvesant Preserve for a year now,Bella would be privy to most of the locals goings-on.
”Can you get her for me?”
A few minutes later,Eve sat across from her goddaughter and began the interview. “Start recording. Standard interview of potential witness-no,observer,probably unrelated-Freestone,Isabella Eve,conducted by Dallas,Captain Eve,godmother of said observer,at 10:58 am on 16 September 2077,regarding NYPSD case 2077-1346,the attempted murder of Caruso,Marcus Davos. Also present are Turpin,Lieutenant Alexander,McMasters,Sublieutenant Deena,and Peabody,Lieutenant Delia. Bella,I’m glad you could come,and I’m sorry that you had to witness this.”
”It’s okay,Auntie Eve. And I’m sorry you had to come out here.”
Eve surveyed Bella. She looked intact enough,with her green sweater from North Face,her DKNY boots,and her conciliatory expression. Bella had never been one to be shaken.
“Have you told Mom about this?”
”Yes,and your Auntie Louise. She’ll be along shortly. So,what did you see?”
”A crowd gathering around someone who had fallen in the sand pits near the school. He looked like he was hurt. He was moaning softly. And then you guys came.”
Peabody took over. “And you saw nothing suspicious prior to this?”
”Not a thing,Lieutenant.”
”Thank you,Bella. I hope you’re alright.”
”Thanks for the sentiment,Aunt Delia. May I have a cup of water? After that I’ll be out of your hair”
Sublieutenant McMasters went over to the AutoChef and gave her one.
Chapter 3: Roarke I
Just an interlude
Back at the Roarke mansion,Seamus Roarke was begging his dad to tell him a story. Roarke laughed “All right,Seamus. Have I got a story for you!
Well, during the time Lóegairos maqui Néilli was the big man at Tara, and so in charge of all holy rites and rituals a body would associate with that position, there came a ship to Ireland.
And the ship was as fast a thing as you’d want to see: So fast it was, that it jumped from the top of one wave to the next without hardly getting wet.
And the ship was as big a thing as you’d want to see: So big it was, that the sea monsters and leviathans would leap out of its way, for fear of getting crushed like a dog by a chariot.
And the ship was as rich a thing as you’d want to see: So rich it was, that its hull was made of gold, its ropes were wound from silver wire, and its cess buckets were cut from giant emeralds and rubies.
Sure, it was a wonderful ship altogether! For as well as all this it had no need for sails, it had just three great golden crosses to make it go so awful fast.
As you’re after knowing about this wonderful ship, it’ll not surprise you at all when I tell you that it took it just the time it takes to boil three eggs to come across the sea from Britain. Though to this day, nobody knows if the eggs were boiled one after the other, or all at the same time.
Well, when this boat landed at Lùghos, three gods got off it, eating their boiled eggs. But mark you now, these were not gods of Ireland, they were gods of the Christians, which are called Saints.
The first of them was called Saint Catroicos, or Patricius to his countrymen. He had the power over snakes.
The second of them was called Saint Jesus. He had the power over water.
The third of them was called Saint Devil. He had the power over fire.
Now, the Saints wanted the Irish to worship them instead of the Tuatha Dea Dananna, so they got to doing all kinds of magic to make everybody forsake their own gods.
Saint Catroicos did three unruly acts, which were: Chasing away the snakes from Ireland, so they could not give advice to our magicians. Stealing the voice of the druid Cartinos, by making shamrocks grow out of his mouth. Tempting noblewomen to wed Saint Jesus, despite him being impotent due to a spear wound.
Saint Jesus did three acts of bribery. He promised free wine to those who worshipped him, and fulfilled his promise by turning his urine into wine. He brought back to life the daughter of the Dovinias after she was sacrificed to Brigita. He walked across Lough Neagh to bring a fish dinner to the Avi Neill.
Saint devil did three acts of temptation and extortion. He offered the world to the Cruithne. He threatened to burn the men of Kil Erani. He offered the throne of Tara to Aillilos Macqui Nathi.
One day the Dagda sickened of seeing these saints and their impious ways, and so he disguised himself as an old man and went to visit their church at Armagh. They were up the front of the church ranting and cutting bits of their flesh off to feed their hungry flock. The Christians were quite wild for it and were running around in the blood of Saint Jesus and rutting like dogs while they fought over the scraps of their gods’ bodies.
The Dagda stood quietly at the back of the church for a few minutes, disgusted by the ritual. Then Saint Devil noticed him.
‘You at the back,’ Said the great horned man. ‘Why are you not joining in the mass?’
For mass is what the Christians call their festival.
‘Oh, no.’ Said the Dagda. ‘I was just wondering to myself which of you saints was the stupidest and most pathetic. I doubt any one of you could even kill an old man like me.’
The gods began to rage at the old man, but he stilled them with a wave of his hand.
‘Now, I’ve decided. Catroicos, you are the most pathetic.’
Enraged, Catroicus used all his powers to conjure a plague of ten thousand snakes, who crawled towards the Dagda, as the Christians screamed in fear.
‘Devil, you are the next most pathetic.’
Saint Devil shrieked with rage and poured fire towards the Dagda, but there were so many snakes in the way that he was as safe as a swaddled babe. The furious saint used up all his powers, but to no avail, all he’d done was make a bonfire of Catroicos’ snakes.
‘And then it is you Jesus, a little stronger than your daft wee buddies, but an impotent fool nonetheless.’
So Jesus too rose to Dagda’s bait and sent a torrent of water which put out the snakefire nicely.
Dagda laughed and stepped back into his own appearance, a great golden beautiful naked man, and he said to the Christian gods.
‘Now Saints, I’ll show you how you should have done it.’
First he sent water to put out Saint Devil’s fire. Then he sent snakes to kill Saint Jesus’ power in the water. Then he sent fire to burn Catroicos like a snake.
So after this was seen by everyone, all but the stupidest Christians came back to the true religion, and the Saints’ bodies were thrown in a pit in Armagh and forgotten, apart from a hidden stone which bears the mark of a fish, a flame and a snake so the druids can find the place of the three gods’ death.
And that is why even today, children play snake, fire, water to decide who gets the biggest apple or goes first in the game of leaping.