Make me see
By la Halfeline
Written for a charity action to support the WWF, from Flo_Nelja's order inspired by the official adding: "[Belyakov] had worked with Lodz because of a psychic connection Lodz had with Scudder. After trying to cut a side-deal with Scudder in St. Louis, Belyakov never really trusted him again."
Feel free to correct what you think doesn't sound right in your review, as I am a frenchie. Thank you to Wilusa for her precisions on close quotes !
The wind was hissing in his ears, as to remind him he shouldn't have been there. He knew this prank might get him into considerable trouble, if it happened to be discovered, but what he could gain from these powers around him, for good or evil, was worth a few risky initiatives. Despite what he got to think to too many people, he knew perfectly well where he was going while approaching the market place of the town center. He recognized the hoo-ha of the hawkers, the comings and goings of a couple of warehousemen around him, the salty smells of the Mississippi's fish… All to his rejoicing, he tripped over a metallic scrap lying around in the path. He staggered barely on a few steps but a woman was already at his side, her arms draped over his forearm and his back.
"Ya a'ight, sir?"
"Yes, I am. Thank you, madam."
He carried on, seeking a déjà-vu… so to speak. He found it at the next turn. Roasted exhalations. The gentle knocking of knick-knacks clanking together in the squalls. An indefinable, low zoom boring inside his chest. He knew he was there, bustling about behind a stand of exotic curios. He had finally got his hands on him. Henry Scudder. The man he had inadvertently saved from Belyakov's restlessness a few years ago and was now supposed to hunt down for his antagonist. Henry Scudder, the one who had conferred him so much power but had ripped a primordial part of sensibility out of him. Henry Scudder, the runaway. He would be the ruin or the salvation of this tremendous but coward creature; the decision would be its.
He walked up confidently, a firm hold on his cane. He pointed out some trinket hanging on the rough-and-ready cloth roof and asked with a politeness implying a ounce of caustic humor:
"Would you be kind enough to make me see, please?"
He heard the unpacking stop dead.
"Lodz?" murmured a stunned, hushed voice.
The suspense lasted only a moment before steps bolted hurriedly and tripped over cardboard. The mentalist raised his voice but not his tone:
"You do know it is of no use to run now, don't you?"
The sounds of panic froze. Alarm started to stink up the air, though.
"My dear Henry…" he then sighs softly.
"What do you want?" hissed back Scudder. "I know you're Belyakov's pawn, now. Where is he?"
"Things are not always what they seem but I suggest we talk about this in a secluded place, shall we?"
After a few moments of wary silence, the other man eventually enjoined him to follow him. Lodz went beyond the stand and, guided by Scudder's steps, out of the buzzing paths of the market, then up the stairs of a trailer where an other occupant was found.
"Mitch, I gotta show this gentleman our special oddities. Go and watch the stand."
The other employee left the premises. Once in the trailer, the mentalist felt the blazing sunrays concentrated in two small-scale windows, which should plunge the interior in a sort of chiaroscuro. He felt around to lean on a heavy rack. Scudder continued right away, his spite concealing panic :
"So? If you know where I am why didn't he send a couple of thugs to nab me?"
"Imagine for a second that he doesn't know exactly where you are, my friend," answered Lodz with a brief sign of his cane.
He felt his old acquaintance study him with a leery gaze. Yet, no one could flush truth out of his eye, and for good reasons…
"Could it be? Would ya betray him? In which purpose…?"
"If he puts his hands on you, he will mean to kill you."
"So whether you believe it or not, I would be deeply sorry to see you dead, my dear."
"Is that a fact?"
Lodz came closer to him.
"I wonder how you can possibly doubt it," he spitted out severely.
His slightly hurt tone was genuine but Scudder could smell a rat.
"Right, I guess it's true, as it explains the fact that I don't see our man around. What it don't explain, though, is whatcha want from me."
"Don't you know that already?"
He felt Scudder turn away and heard him sigh:
"I can't give ya back yar sight, Lodz."
"Can't you?" he answered accusingly.
His head followed the squeaks of the trailer's floor indicating that Henry was shying away.
"I stopped using my powers after what it did to ya," he declared.
"We both know it is not the truth," just calmly retorted the mentalist.
"It was an accident! I didn't have no choice, the bastards were gonna hang me. … It also ended up in a tragedy, by the way… There is nothing good about them so-called gifts," he protested bitterly.
Lodz pointed him out with his cane.
"You have an opportunity of making something good out of them. You just have to choose it."
"Like I chose to elevate ya?"
"Well you did… make me clairvoyant, he answered while stepping up to him again. The process wasn't completed and there was an unexpected… side effect… but you did confer me a certain kind of greatness, even if it couldn't be yours entirely."
"So you don't regret it?"
That said, he added, both hands clasped on his support:
"Nevertheless, I have to say it was quite a price to pay, especially for the everyday life of a aging man. That is why I came to ask you to heal my eyes, my friend."
"I won't do that no more, Lodz. Never wanted to… I do regret… sincerely."
When he said that, the medium suddenly grabbed his sleeve and exclaimed:
"When will you stop fleeing? Look at you: the hawker prophet… When will you stop shrinking from your responsibilities? … And from me?"
"It would be too risky! With what happened already, who knows? It could be fatal… and I don't want to hurt you more either."
The discussion was held in abeyance again. Scudder had spoken softly and Lodz perceived that his voice wasn't directed at him, indicating he refused to face his old accomplice. The wizard loosened his grip, of which the other man hadn't come out. He turned his back on him and stepped away.
"Well, I must say it is very ungrateful from you!" he fulminated, not completely loosing his temper but still betraying his frustration while caning the floor. "I saved you from him…"
"Your bear saved me…" rectified Henry.
"I am saving you right now!" fiercely retorted Lodz straight away.
The prophet didn't answer. He carried on, bitterly:
"I could have handed you over! That is what he is using me for, you know? It took all my spiritual strengths to keep your exact location to myself, in order to be able to propose you a safe side-deal! Now that's what you call caring. And that is the way to thank me?"
"Lodz, I am grateful. But you can't entirely hold me responsible for what happened to ya and consequently demand that I try to use my abilities on you again. You wanted the power. I'd warned ya. You knew the risks."
Lodz then turned to him and let rip:
"And you agreed to give it to me because you were too coward to assume your condition!"
Once again, Scudder remained silent.
"When it didn't work you left me there, do you remember? After all we had been through together across Europe, after what had happened back then… you took fright and left me in pain, confused and disabled! How about taking a little bit of responsibility for that, Henry?."
The mortified silence persisted. Outside, the wind was still blowing ferociously.
Then, after an interminable time, Lodz felt unsteady hands grope around his upper arms and shoulders.
"I'm sorry… You gotta believe me, I'm truly sorry for everything," whispered Scudder's voice, his shame perceptible.
The latter awkwardly embraced him and hold him without daring to invest him, his hands gripping the seam up his sleeves.
"Henry, my dear…" Lodz surrendered on a reproachful tone.
Wedging his cane between his thumb and palm, he took the fingers off his velvet jacket, brought them in his back and completed the gesture by slightly pulling Scudder to him. A faltering step thudded on the floor.
"I am still there," he reminded him, both to comfort and convince him.
"I regret I spoiled that," gravely declared the prophet.
"We had quite something, hadn't we, partner?" Lodz smiled back.
His free hand cautiously caressed Scudder's spine and his companion's slightly clenched on his shoulder blade. The relief was familiar but now tensed with uncertainty and imbued with stakes.
"Indeed. But I know now that nothing of that kind can possibly make sense for long with me. What with Belyakov on top of it…"
"I will preserve you from Belyakov, if only you give me my sight back. I will follow you. Just like old times," assured the mentalist.
"Don't ever expect anything good from me, Lodz. You should know that by now," maintained the prophet.
The hand of the medium climbed up the nape of his neck and gently felt the dusty, loose curls starting to invade it.
"Come on, my dear, try and put yourself in my place: I don't even get to see you anymore."
Scudder pulled back a little but kept clinging to him, even a bit more desperately, perhaps. With the back of his fingers, Lodz slid along his neck et finally opened his palm delicately on his face. He felt the heavy breath on his thumb.
"Can you imagine what it is to be deprived of such fine features after all I have seen in them?"
He carefully touched along the arch of the eyebrow, recognizing with his thumb the contrite tip of the nose, then his fingers met on the rather strong cheekbone, before fanning out on the flesh of the cheek, eventually reaching the reluctant line in the corner of his mouth.
"You are reduced to picturing."
True to his elegance, the Frenchman simply brushed by the corner of his lips with the tip of his phalanx. The sullen being still hadn't said a thing. As he was leaving his face, however, he felt it strengthen its hold slightly and, soon, Lodz felt the heavy breath again, this time very close. Scudder's lips then took his own, lukewarm and confused, for a harsh but alarmed kiss, the kind that tends not to last.
And yet, something happened that the prophet didn't expect. He was brutally struck by a dazzling, unpleasant light; it shot through his eyelids and put him face to face with the disfigured being he was now kissing. His heart, already hectic, abruptly raced, making him gasp and choke. The intruder didn't let him recoil, grasping him with his one arm and firmly maintaining him under his inquisitive gaze. A both choked and hushed voice then whispered to him, articulating every syllable.
"Henry Scudder. Finally I get to see you again thanks to that blind snake."
"Belyakov!" bristled Scudder, staring at the revolting scars plowing the close facies.
"It was very foolish of him to try and manipulate you into healing him without informing me. And the perfidious thing thought he could get away with it…"
"Leave me alone, Belyakov! I have no intention of using my powers, neither on him nor on anybody else! I won't corrupt anything else around me so why can't you just leave me be?"
"Oh I do know that, Scudder. I do know that and that is why I admire you so."
The dark creature squinted.
Belyakov explained :
"You have a very strong mind… but see: your very self has already started to corrupt this land. The bad crops, the Dust Bowl… all these disorders didn't happen by chance. That is why I have to kill you, Henry Scudder. Your own essence is poisoning the world."
"But I never wanted it to!" he protested vehemently, his face distorted by fury.
The other prophet, for his part, kept calm behind its monstrous look.
"… I am afraid it doesn't change anything. I shall be after you as soon as this little encounter is over. However, as I said: that is why I admire you so."
Hereupon, the ravaged features once again closed in on Scudder, awe-stricken; his antagonist took leave with a long deferent kiss.
Scudder and Lodz both stepped back, out of breath and wide-eyed. The sound of the wind was back in their ears. Asking wasn't necessary for the prophet to know the mentalist had shared the whole intervention of his enemy. He didn't say a word. All Lodz heard was the hurried thumps of his steps and the slam of the trailer's door swung open. That, and the disgrace knell now sounding for him.