Greenmantle [Secure eReader]
Click on image to enlarge.
eBook by Charles de Lint
eBook Category: Fantasy
eBook Description: Just outside of Ottawa, in an ancient wood, there is something walking in the moonlight -- a stag? -- a goat? -- a horned man? -- summoned by the music of the pipes.
Nearby, another man lives a quiet life, trying to avoid those for whom he's killed, and a woman and her daughter struggle to rebuild a shattered life.
Their paths with intertwine as the music touches their dreams.
"It is hard to imagine urban fantasy done better than it is by de Lint at his best."
"In de Lint's capable hands, modern fantasy becomes something other than escapism. It becomes folk song, the stuff of urban myth"
THE PHOENIX GAZETTE
"He shows that, far from being mere escapism, contemporary fantasy can be the deep mythic literature of our time."
THE MAGAZINE OF SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
eBook Publisher: Charles de Lint
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2001
Io Pan! Io Pan! -- ALEISTER CROWLEY,
Come over the sea
From Sicily and from Arcady!
FROM "HYMM TO PAN"
Pan? Pan is dead. Or is that a -- TANITH LEE,
pun -- Pan -- du pain -- bread--
peine -- pain -- the body of Christ?
* * *
MALTA, August 1983
By the time Eddie "the Squeeze" Pinelli was five hours dead, Valenti was on a Boeing 747 halfway across the Atlantic. He sipped the beer that the steward had brought him and stared out the window into the darkness. He usually felt an honest regret that things had to get as far as they did before he was called in, but not this time. Pinelli had been a capo in the New York City Cerone Family, one of Don Cerone's special boys, but now the sonovabitch was dead and the only thing special about him was that those famous fingers of his weren't going to put the squeeze on anyone anymore. That suited Valenti just fine.
Don Magaddino had called the hit -- Valenti's own boss. "It's personal," he'd told Valenti. "That's why I called you, capito? It's between you and me, Tony. Okay? I want that pezzo di merda dead and then we don't talk about this no more."
Eddie had got a little itchy and a lot crazy and put the squeeze on one of the girls the Don kept on the side. Valenti understood. It had been personal for him, too. Not so long ago, Eddie had tried to make a little time with Valenti's woman, Beverly Grant. Only Bev wasn't going to get up and walk away like the Don's girlfriend had when Valenti had walked in on her and Eddie earlier tonight. Bev had taken a twelve-story drop and what was left of her you wouldn't want to see walk away.
Valenti had wanted to take Eddie down so hard then that it hurt, but the Don wouldn't give him the word and a soldier didn't take down a capo without an okay from way up. Così fan tutti -- that was the way of the world. But Valenti was patient. He'd known that sooner or later Eddie, being the asshole he was, would lose it. All Valenti'd had to do was wait.
* * *
After the sweltering oven that was a New York City summer, the Maltese weather was glorious. The air was so clear that he could see for miles across the low hills with their tiered fields being readied for the fall harvest. He had the taxi drop him off at the end of the lane and walked the rest of the way to the villa, taking his time. When he reached the door, he took off his sunglasses and brushed his thick dark hair with his fingers. Then he knocked. Mario opened the door himself.
"Jesus, Tony," he said, his gaze darting nervously behind Valenti then back to his friend's dark features. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Valenti smiled. "Ciao, Mario. That's some welcome. Drop by anytime, you tell me, so here I am and--"
"You're a dead man," Mario cut in. "You know that?"
"What're you talking about? The sun down here driving you a little crazy?"
Mario grabbed his arm and propelled him into the house, slamming the door behind them. "I got a woman here," he said. "I got kids. They come looking for you here, what's going to happen to them, 'ey?"
"You got some problem, Mario?"
"The only problem I got, Tony, is you." He stood back and studied Valenti's face. "You don't know, do you?"
Valenti frowned. "All I know is I came a long way to see you, but you don't look too happy to see me."
"You know the Squeeze is dead?" Mario asked.
"Sure I know that. I'm the one that hit him."
"Madonna mia! You are crazy."
"But not that crazy," Valenti said. "Magaddino called the hit."
"Oh, yeah? And who called the hit on him?"
"Your padrone is dead, Tony, and the word is you hit him. You hit him, you hit that girlfriend of his -- the one with the red hair -- and you hit the Squeeze. And let me tell you, a lot of people, they're not too happy about it, capito? They want your balls, Tony. They called me. I'm retired -- what? Five years now? But still they called me, asking if I've seen you. Asking if I want to make a little money. You know what I'm talking about?"
Valenti stepped away from the door and moved slowly into the villa's spacious living room. He sank into a canvas chair and regarded his friend.
Mario Papale was fifty-eight now, but he wore his years well. His hair was a silvery gray -- had been since he was thirty -- his dark skin even darker than Valenti remembered, tanned from the Mediterranean sun. He was wearing a pair of white cotton trousers and a short-sleeved shirt that was unbuttoned. Watching the way he walked across the room, Valenti knew that the old Fox hadn't lost a thing, retired or not. Maybe you never lost it.
"They called you?" he asked. "That quick?"
"What did you think, Tony?" Mario replied as he sat down in front of him. "This is a cane grosso -- a big shot we're talking about. Not just a soldier like you or me."
"I didn't hit him. Eddie -- yeah. But it wasn't personal. No matter how I felt, I had orders."
"We're talking a padrone is dead here, Tony. Your orders don't mean shit now because Magaddino's dead and you're buying the rap for the hit."
"I've been set up."
Mario didn't say anything for a long moment. He studied Valenti, taking his time about it, then slowly nodded. "Chi lo sa?" he said finally. Who knows? "But I believe you. You never could lie to me, Tony. So what're you gonna do? You need anything? You need money? A piece?"
Valenti shook his head. "I've got a place in Canada -- a safe place. Clean. No one knows who I am."
"Too close," Mario said. "These bastardi'll smell you out like dogs after a bitch in heat. You got to go someplace where when you say you're a soldato they ask what army; not what family, capito?"
"This place I set up years ago, Mario -- just like you told me to, remember? Even in the fratellanza a man needs a place where he doesn't have to worry about his family. I've got money there. And guns."
"They're never gonna stop hunting you down."
Valenti shrugged. "I was getting tired anyway."
"Okay. So it's bullshit. You think I should turn myself over to Ricca's justice?" Ricca Magaddino was the Don's oldest son and stood to inherit his empire.
Mario laughed humorlessly. "This afternoon you're staying with me," he said. "Tonight I drive you to the coast and smuggle you off the island. I know people with a boat. You need papers?"
Valenti shook his head. "These men with the boat\\a133?"
"They're friends -- not cousins."
"Okay. Grazie, Mario. I wouldn't have brought this down on you if I'd known."
"You think I don't know that? Now let's forget this shit. Come vai, 'ey? It's been a couple of years. Talk to me, Tony. Maybe we don't meet again, so we take what time we got, okay?"
* * *
Mario's wife was half his age, a shy, dark-haired woman named Maria who spoke only Maltese. Mario had grinned when introducing her to Valenti. "Mario and Maria -- how you like that, 'ey?" She and the children were staying with her sister in nearby Marsakala when the two men made ready to leave the villa.
"The nights're quiet here," Mario said. "And dark. Just follow me and don't get lost, capito?"
He went into his bedroom and unlocked a chest from which he took a pair of American .38 calibre handguns. Valenti accepted one and nodded his thanks as he thrust it in his belt.
"I hope we don't need these," he said as they went down the hall.
Mario nodded. "My car's got no shocks and the road's the shits," he said, "so maybe you better watch the family jewels, 'ey?"
"Sure," Valenti said with a grin.
Mario hit the lights, throwing the hallway into darkness. Valenti opened the door and the night exploded with sound. The first shot hit Valenti in the shoulder and spun him around. The second and third spat into the doorjamb, showering both men with splinters. A fourth bullet took Valenti's right leg from under him and he fell to the floor.
"Bastardi!" Mario roared. He got off a couple of shots, then slammed the door shut and bolted it. "We're in deep now," he muttered as he glanced down at his friend. Thrusting his gun into his belt, he hoisted Valenti up in a fireman's lift and headed for the back of the house. By the time the soldati broke in the front, the only thing left in the hallway was Valenti's blood.
"Check out back!" one of the dark-suited men ordered, but they already had men out there and he knew no one was going to get through them.
The intruders fanned out through the villa, shooting into closets, then ripping the doors open, kicking apart the beds, checking any place where a man might hide. But they didn't find a thing. Then word came from the back of the villa that both Jimmy Civella and Happy Manzi were dead and did Fucceri want them to check the fields?
"Sure, sure," Louie Fucceri said. They didn't call Papale the Silver Fox just because of his hair. It wouldn't surprise Fucceri if they were halfway to Milan by now. He found a phone that his men had mercifully left intact and put a call in to his capo to report their failure.
* * *
LANARK COUNTY, February 1985
The tire blew on Lance Maxwell's pickup about a half mile past the Darling/Lavant township line. The truck skidded in the slush as Lance brought it to a halt on the side of the dirt road. He got out to check the damage, cursing under his breath.
"Stay, Dooker," he told the big German shepherd that was on the passenger's seat.
He hunkered down for a look, then stood, hitching up his pants. Christ on a cross! You'd think the sucker'd hold out for just a couple more miles till he got home.
"Okay, Dooker," he called to the dog. "Come on down, boy." The German shepherd jumped down from the cab of the pickup and pushed his nose into Lance's hand. "Yeah, yeah. Okay. Go catch yourself a squirrel or something. I got work to do."
He fetched the spare from the back of the pickup, leaned it up against the side panel, then dug out his jack and tire iron from under a mess of cord, tools and canvas. Glancing to see where the dog had got to, he spied Dooker sniffing along the side of the road, back toward the turn-off that led up to French Line. The blow-out had stranded him in front of the old Treasure place. Frank Clayton's weather-beaten "For Sale" sign was still out on the snow-covered lawn. Sure, Frank, he thought. The day somebody buys this craphole from you's the day I stand you for a case of two-four.
Dooker returned to see what he was doing as he got the jack under the back of the truck and started to hoist the vehicle up. "Get outta the way," he told the dog when it got too close.
He hadn't been the one to find old man Treasure -- that joy'd been reserved for Fred Gamble, who'd driven up to collect on a grocery bill but had trooped right into the place along with everybody else after the cops had hauled the body away. You never saw such a thing. Buddy Treasure mustn't have thrown out a newspaper since before the war.
They were piled ceiling-high along the walls of every room and hallway. Thousands of the suckers, all yellowed and stinking the way newspaper does when it gets wet. There were magazines too. Old copies of the Star Weekly -- he hadn't seen them for some time. Life. MacLeans. Time Magazines going back to when most of the cover was just a red border. All kinds. But that wasn't the worst.
It seemed that in the last year Buddy'd decided to stop throwing out his garbage or using the upstairs can when he had to go for a crap. The kitchen had more refuse in it than the town dump. There was mold and shit you didn't even want to think about growing over everything. And talking about shit -- Buddy'd taken to dropping a load in the corner of the living room and wiping his ass with a piece of old yellowed newspaper.
Weird fucker -- no doubt about that. No wonder the missus took up the kids and beelined out of there without a word to nobody.
That was nine, ten years ago now, Lance thought as he removed the blown tire. Longer since the missus took off. Willie Fuller had bought the place from the bank and tried to fix it up but he just couldn't get the stink out of it. He sold it to some out-of-towner who had started to take down the walls, really getting ready to give the place a good going over. But he quit halfway through the job and the place'd been up for grabs ever since, listed with Frank's agency. And the day Frank sold the sucker\\a133
"Shit," he muttered as he studied his spare. The tread was worn as smooth as a baby's ass. Well, it'd get him home. He finished up in a hurry, tossed the old rim with the flaps of tire hanging from it into the back of the truck. The jack and tire iron followed it with a clatter.
"Dook!" he called, looking around for the big shepherd. "Hey. Dooker! Get your ass back here -- double-time."
He spotted the dog over in the field behind the Treasure place. Dooker had his head lifted high like he was listening to something, his broad head tilted to one side as he studied the woods beyond. Lance started to call out again, but then he heard it, too. A quiet sort of piping sound, low and breathy. It made him feel a little strange -- hot, like the way you get when the weather warms up and springtime grabs you by the balls, telling you it's time to make babies.
He took a couple of steps in the direction that the sound was coming from and started to get all sweaty. He was getting hard, his penis pushing up against his jeans. Lanark County, like most of Ontario, was in the middle of one of those February thaws that come up for a few days, then buggers off with a laugh, but that was no reason for him to be feeling the way he was. His penis was so hard it hurt. His chest was all tight and it was hard to breathe. His ears buzzed with the piping sound that came drifting across the fields -- not loud, but it pierced him all the same.
He thought maybe he was going to come right there, right in his pants on the side of the road, but then as suddenly as he'd become aware of the sound, it left him. He staggered to lean weakly against the side of the pickup.
Christ, he thought. That's it. My first honest-to-Jesus heart attack.
He was still weak. It took all of his energy to lift his head and look across the field. He could see Dooker, still listening, still watching the woods though there was nothing there that Lance could see. Then suddenly the big shepherd shook himself, looked around and came bounding back across the snow toward the truck. By the time Dooker was pushing his nose up against Lance's hand, Lance was breathing easier again.
Gotta see the doc, he told himself. No more farting around. He says diet, I'm dieting this time. Jesus.
He called Dooker into the cab, slowly settled in the driver's seat and started the engine up. Giving the fields behind the Treasure place a final considering look, he put the truck into gear and pulled away.
TORONTO, March 1985
The music was contemporary Europop, but the dancer's moves were pure bump-and-grind. The MC had announced her as Tandy Hots: "And Tandy's always randy, boys -- you know what I mean?" Sitting at his table, nursing a beer, Howie Peale figured he knew just what the MC meant.
She couldn't be more than seventeen tops, and that body. Oh, she had the moves down all right. Teasing little moves that made him want to shout along with some of the other guys in the joint, but he held back because he didn't want to look like an asshole to his new friend. Earl Shaw wasn't even watching the show. He was just sitting there, his bull-neck hunched over the table as he leafed through a day-old Toronto Star. He was drinking whiskey -- straight, with a beer chaser.
Howie'd met Earl in the can -- they were both in the Don Jail on drunk and disorderly charges at the time. Right off, Howie knew Earl was his man. Howie wasn't too big and he wasn't too smart. He had survived the street scene by latching onto someone who was both. He'd run errands, do a little of whatever, just to keep on the good side of whoever was his main man at the time. Right now that man was Earl.
Earl was the kind of guy you could really respect. Smart and tough and he didn't take shit from nobody. Even the screws in the can had been a little leery of him. First night they were out, he and Earl hit a gas bar and made off with a clean $243 plus change just by sticking a gun in some pimply-faced kid's nose. Earl'd even split fifty-fifty. No way he was letting go of this gig, Howie thought.
Tandy Hots was down to her G-string and pasties now, moving slowly across the stage until she was right in front of their table.
"They really get off on being up there, huh, Earl?" Howie said. He licked his lips, looking up into the dancer's crotch.
Earl grunted and glanced at her. "Who gives a fuck what they like," he said. "Just so's they do what they're told."
Howie nodded. The dancer moved further down the stage and he tried to imagine a woman like that being his, doing just what he told her to. If they were in a hotel or someplace, just the two of them, instead of this strip joint on Yonge Street... His dreamy mood left him as he sensed Earl stiffen across the table.
"Look at this," Earl said.
He turned the paper around so that Howie could see. There was a photograph of a good-looking woman accepting a check from a Wintario official. She wasn't built like Tandy Hots, Howie thought, but she wasn't bad at all.
He read the caption. Her name was Frances Treasure and she'd just won two hundred grand in the lottery. He shook his head slowly. Jesus. Two hundred grand! And all she was planning to do with it was buy back the place where she'd grown up and fix it up.
"I tell you, Howie," Earl said, "somebody's looking after me."
"What do you mean?"
Earl put his finger down on the photograph. "See this broad?"
"Yeah. Lucky bitch."
"She's my ex," Earl said.
Howie looked at the photo again. "No shit?"
"No shit," Earl said. He looked Howie in the eye. "And you know what I think, Howie, m'man?"
Howie shook his head.
"I figure she owes me," Earl said. "Course, first we got to find her. That could take a little time. But then..." He grinned, a slow and wicked grin that gave him a crazy look. Howie grinned back. Sonovabitch had a weird streak in him a mile wide, no doubt about it, but there was no way Howie was letting go of this gig. Not when the good times were just starting to roll.
"What're we gonna do then?" Howie asked.
Earl's grin grew wider. "Then we're gonna party."
Copyright © 1988 by Charles de Lint