David Cross, the Jack of Diamonds

Russell Figgins

My name is David Cross, and my name is synonymous with magic. From coast to coast and continent to continent, my services are used. I am a wizard of sorts; I prefer to be called a magician, or the Jack of Diamonds, mainly for the tattoo on the underside of my wrist. I provide several services, exorcisms, blessings, and the occasional birthday party for my friend's kids. Anyway, I got a call from my good friend Scott Parker out in Roswell, NM.

Now Scott runs a bar called the Midnight Ace, a bar for the otherworldly creatures like vamps, demons, angels, and once and a while one of the Four will show up or big daddy Lucifer himself will swing by for some vodka. However, I am off topic again. I rode into town on the greyhound and walked the three blocks from the bus depot to the bar.

The whole way I got funny looks from people. I am a tall dude, in a black duster, a Creed t-shirt, tattered blue jeans, and heavy-duty engineer boots. The Midnight Ace was situated between a bookstore and a Starbucks, coffee, reading material, and all manner of inhuman creatures, the perfect mix. The bar itself was relatively normal looking on the outside, blue paintjob, neon sign, the works.

Walking inside I found the place deader than a bone yard. Noon, no ghosts and ghoulies come out to play until dark so there was only Scott behind the bar. Now Scott is a heavyset man from Jersey, usually seen wearing some ugly Hawaiian shirt and cargo shorts, and it is not a pretty sight I tell you.

"Davy boy good to see ya!" he said, running, well more like waddling, around the bar he pulled me into a bear hug and lifted me off the ground. He held me there for a few seconds before putting me down. "How've you been? Haven't seen you since that troll tried to eat all of Trenton."

He has to bring that troll up. Let me set the books straight about this. He got a hold of this book, the Arcane Arcanum, I do not know how the fuck he did it and I do not care, I call it the big book of trouble. It has bound in human flesh and written in the blood of virgins. Anyway, Scott started flipping through the pages and reading things out loud, and did I, mention the book is written in Latin? Because it is, and guess who failed Latin in high school?

The next thing I know a giant troll is tearing stuff up all over the city, eating people, building, you name it. Therefore, I am running down Main Street, yelling every teleportation spell I know, and get this fun fact, if the target does not understand the language, the spell does not affect them. So here I am running down the street, holding a Norwegian to English dictionary, people are screaming and running around, except this one guy, must have been high on something because he's standing there taking pictures with his phone. Long story short, the troll vanished, I saved the day, and Scott left the city.

"So what did you call for?" I asked, climbing up onto a stool.

"Oh yeah I got a job for you." walking back behind the bar he reached down and pulled up two shot glasses and a bottle of whiskey. "This business associate of mine needs help with something."

Filling both shot glasses he pushed one across to me, I drank it quick and grimaced as the burning liquid slid down my throat. "Did he tell you what this something is?"

"No, here's the address." reaching into the front pocket of his shirt Scott pulled out a folded up piece of paper and handed it to me. I opened it and read what it said.

"Germany?" I asked. I had been to Germany several times in the past, once to combat a werewolf that had infected an entire village, then again several years later when a bunch of teenagers unearthed a golem, the stupid kids thought it was cool, until it ripped them limb from limb. "So I have to fly all the way to Germany. Does this guy know how much that'll cost me?"

"Don't worry pal, it's covered." Scott replied, reaching into his back pocket he pulled out a thick yellow envelope. "Courtesy of Mr. Werner Dragomov."

Well long story short I left for the airport and within the hour found myself on a plane to Germany. When I arrived, a car was waiting to take me to the place. Soon we left the city behind and entered the country. The great grey mountains loomed before us as the car motored onward. Eventually the driver stopped and let me out at the foot of a steep wagon trail.

"This is as far as you go my friend," the driver said. "You must walk the rest of the way per Mr. Dragomov's orders."

I watched the car turn around and drive out of sight before turning to the trail and started walking. It seemed to me the further I walked the steeper and muddier the path became. I wondered who Dragomov was and why he needed me, I mean don't get me wrong I am one of the best magicians alive today but there are plenty talented men and women in Germany that are just as good or better than I am. Moreover, why spend over two thousand dollars to get me here.

I soon topped the trail and came face to face with a large castle. It was nestled on a high cliff directly over a large lake; the crystal blue water twinkled in the dying sunlight. The castle itself was impressive, with four large towers and well-maintained ramparts. Truly a collectors dream. Making my way up another steep slope to the castle I came to a large ornate door, a large gargoyle doorknocker glared sightlessly at me.

Grasping it in one hand, I lifted it slightly and slammed it against the door several times. Within seconds, the door swung open to reveal a rail thin bald man dressed in a butler's uniform. The man gave me the once over and stepped aside and ushered me inside. The door opened up into a long corridor, large paintings hung on both sides of the hall, past owners of the castle I thought.

"The master has been expecting you Mr. Cross." the butler said, his voice was firm and had a soft British accent to it. "Now I must warn you that the master is very sensitive about his condition so please try not to stare."

I followed the butler to a closed door at the end of the hall. Opening the door, he stepped inside the room and beckoned me in as well. The study was breathtaking, large bookshelves covered the walls. An ornate fireplace was alight with a roaring fire, a big comfortable chair sat in front of it with the back to us, another rested just to the left of the first.

"Master your guest has arrived," the butler said.

From the chair, a cold voice answered. "Leave us now." I stood rooted to the spot, waiting for the man to stand and address me; he did not. "Please come around in front of me Mr. Cross. In my present condition I have a hard time standing."

Mentally kicking myself at how rude I had been. I made my way to the front of the chair, and was taken back at the sight before me. A great ape sat in the chair, its arms had been removed and replaced by large cybernetic ones, on its head was a device cutting into the creature's skull. However, that was not the worst; cradled in the ape's large robotic arms was a head floating in a jar of green liquid.

"I am sorry if the condition of me and my helper disturb you Mr. Cross but there is nothing I can do to rectify our present situation. Please sit." Dragomov said. I moved to the chair and sat down uneasily, the ape watched me with its glassy piggish eyes; there was no light of life in them, they looked like dusty marbles. "Allow me to introduce myself I am Werner Dragomov, and this is Brutus."

"Nice to meet you." I replied. "So what did you need me for sir? There are plenty of decent magicians in Germany that you could've called and spared paying two thousand dollars getting me here."

"To answer your first question I must ask my own, are you familiar with the American Son?"

"He was some kind of super soldier used against the Nazi's." I replied, let me veer of course slightly and talk about the American Son. It was reputed that he was some good ol' boy that the government stuck inside a battle suit and set him on the Nazi's.

"Yes, I was a scientist for the USSR. I was working on our own version of the American Son battle suit when the original burst into our base and destroyed everything. I was caught in the explosion and my body was severely burned. So much so that my head had to be removed and placed into this jar of special fluid to keep me alive. Brutus was given to me by Hitler himself for all my years of service." I listened intently to this without interrupting. "And to answer your second question, you are the best, and I only use the best."

Without a word or indication, Brutus climbed out of the chair, carefully holding Dragomov in his massive arms, and started. "Follow Mr. Cross, I want you to see what I require of you." I stood and followed the great ape at a slower pace, enough to give me considerable room from the two but enough to keep them close so I would not lose them. I was led deep into the bowels of the large castle, down corridors and long flights of stairs.

I kept silent the whole way. Eventually they led me into a large room where strange machines lined the walls; in the middle was an operating table. A large robotic body lay there, taller than I was with massive arms that ended it great metal fists. The things eyes resembled headlights from a car.

"What is this thing?" I walked over and placed my hand on one of the fists, cold and lifeless as the grave.

"My second chance Mr. Cross." Dragomov replied. "I need you to transfer my conscience into the robot with your magic."

I reached into the pocket of my duster and pulled out a sharpie. I carefully drew the appropriate symbol, the lines overlapped repeatedly and I needed to be precise unless I wanted Dragomov to die. This thought sent a shiver down my spine; did I want him to die? He was a Nazi, one of Hitler's elite. I pushed the thought from my mind and continued with the drawing. When I finished I walked over toward Brutus and reached into the jar to grab Dragomov to place the symbol on his forehead but the ape drew back and bared his massive fangs at me.

"It is alright Brutus." Dragomov soothed. The ape seemed reluctant but he eventually held out the jar. Reaching in I felt the slimy liquid and fought back the urge to vomit as I carefully lifted Dragomov's head up out of the jar. He grew silent and still as I lifted him out, and I worried he was dead until he blinked. I redrew the symbol and placed him down beside the robot body and placed each hand over the two symbols. Taking a deep breath, I began.

The words were foreign to me but came to my lips unheeded. As quickly as it started the job was done. Dragomov's head closed its eyes and that was it. The great robotic body came to life, the great cogs and gears roared to life, the headlight eyes came on and illuminated the rest of the dimly light room. With a quick ease I did not expect the robot rose off the table and stood up with no signs of trouble. Looking around with its great eyes the thing scanned its surroundings, before setting its sights on the head on the table.

"A reminder of what I was." Dragomov's voice issued from the new body. "I detest it so!"

Raising one mallet-sized fist, he brought it crashing down on the head, destroying it in a shower of blood, skull, and brains. Brutus immediately went, pardon the expression, ape shit, letting out a bellow of rage the great ape leaped across the table and tackled the hulking android to the ground and began beating his own robotic limbs against Dragomov's chest.

"Brutus! I command you to stop this at once!" but the order went unheeded. Despite being upgraded to a higher level, Brutus was still just an animal, loyal to Dragomov as he used to be. Now, he just did not understand what was going on. All he knew was that this metal thing destroyed his master, and he must kill it. "I told you to stop you damn ape!"

I watched in silence as Dragomov tried to move and fight off the crazed ape but could not.

"What has happened?" he bellowed. "What did you do wizard?"

"I tricked you that's what!" I exclaimed, my voice had returned and I was mad. "You think I don't know what you plan to do with your new perfect body? You're going to finish what Hitler started, well not on my watch buster!"

Brutus seized both of Dragomov's arms in each of his hands and with great effort, he ripped them off with a roar of triumph. The wires and cables stuck out through the holes in the suit and sparked. The ape was not finished as he threw the arms of his master aside and grasped the head between his fists and started to squeeze.

"Et tu, Brute?" the large head finally caved in from the strain and fell to pieces in the great hands of Brutus. With a roar of triumph, Brutus beat his hands against his chest. I took my leave of that castle, the long walk to the road I did not look back or falter in my step. I just wanted to get out of the country.

I just wanted to go home.