Daughter of Heimdall
It's a quiet drive to the University. Something about the scene at the diner didn't add up, least of all the mysterious appearance of the four ready-to-rumble women, none of whom seemed particularly impressed by the little boys playing tipos duros. And Alex North. Typical lawyer, but the gang member had reacted like the Jaws of Life had a lock on his shoulder. Evie sensed that no one would remember those parts of the story, chalking up the resolution to a timely dollop of good sense and the presence of a police detective.
Night classes had let out. A few students were milling about the student union, which was doing its usual beer-and-a-movie night, featuring Spider-Man 2. The sign had been decorated with Halloween-style cobwebs. The academic buildings were quiet. A campus security guard directed her to the Archaeology wing. Janitors were just starting on their rounds and paid her no mind.
"Dr. Fisk?" she asked, entering the lab. She could see the sarcophagus in the next room, the brightly-lit workspace in sharp relief to the dimly-lit office area.
A desk lamp snapped on. "I'm afraid Dr. Fisk has gone home for the evening. You must be Detective Cartwright. I'm Dr. Hall. You're here about the find?"
"Yes. Human remains, I'm told."
"Indeed. Let's go into the lab and you can have a look." Work on the find had stopped with the discovery of the skeleton. "Tell me what you see," Hall asked. "I'm always interested in a different perspective."
Evie noted the obvious. A skeleton, clad in the faded blue serge of a police uniform. Badge left behind, sidearm and walkie-talkie missing. The right hand was gone, the point of separation a clean one at the joint. The uniform evinced several bullet holes - right thigh, right abdomen, right shoulder, but a complete evaluation would be difficult without the body. And what was probably the fatal blow, a depression in the skull - possibly from a pry bar or baseball bat.
Evie had trouble reconciling those injuries with the missing-presumed-dead story that had made the official report. The practice with cold cases was to question everything, re-examine old assumptions, revisit old clues. A police cruiser found in a culvert, its door allegedly torn off by flood waters, the officer driving it believed swept away. There were no readily-available aerial reconnaissance resources in the day, no thermal or FLIR (Forward-Looking InfraRed) cameras to pinpoint the fading heat of a dead body beneath a layer of mud and debris.
The bullet holes didn't follow the model of a gangland execution, but that didn't mean there hadn't been some kind of exchange. Cardinelli is wounded in the open, makes it to his cruiser and takes cover behind the door. About to radio for backup when someone smears him across the pavement. Injury to skull from a point of impact, perhaps the door handle. Loss of hand because his hand was inside the car.
But like the events at the diner, Evie had a feeling there was more to it than that. She pulls her phone out of her pocket and tabs over to the flashlight app. Flipping her phone around so that the light shines into the sarcophagus, she begins peering around, looking for any other bits of bone that may be in the box. As she looks, she says, "That's a mighty clean separation there, at the wrist. Now, my first thought is that he lost the hand when the car door was violently closed on it, but that doesn't seem quite right. There are a ton of little bones in the wrist and a car door isn't meant to slice. It crushes. So, there would be damage to either the ends of the radius and ulna or even some of those little wrist bones (I can never remember all their names) still embedded in the flesh at the base. Without something that actually slices, it's not going to be that clean."
She stops and thinks, "Well, actually, I guess it's possible that it could be that clean if the door slammed further down on the hand and the flesh tore. But, that would mean that all the wrist bones would've had to stay with the hand and none with the arm. Still seems unlikely that you wouldn't wind up with a few of them still hanging around. Heck, could you even cut off a hand with a car door? Is that even possible? How much pressure would it take to do that? Maybe if someone rammed his car door with their own but that would've caused more than just head trauma and a lost hand. There would've been multiple fractures..."
Evie stops and mutters, "Was the hand even found? They didn't have a body so had no idea that a hand was even missing. No need to look for one...but that doesn't mean that one didn't turn up, somewhere, and was never accounted for."
Mentally, she makes a note to do a search for any unidentified body parts turning up around that time.
Turning to Dr. Hall, Evie asks, "Do you have a pair of gloves I could borrow? I'd like to search his pockets." She smiles and adds, "I got the call while I was at a restaurant and didn't run by HQ before coming here. It was late enough that I wasn't sure that anyone would be here if I took the extra time."
Dr. Hall offers a box of disposable gloves. "You've already seen more than most," he says. "I think Carleton has a greater interest in the sarcophagus itself, actually."
The dead man's pockets yield a wallet - a driver's license for Thomas Cardinelli, an assortment of bills totalling fifty-four dollars. A receipt from another diner in town. A photo of a pretty young woman - possibly a girlfriend, as records didn't indicate the officer had been married. And a ring tucked into a utility pouch on his Sam Browne belt. The ring looks to be silver, with no setting. It appears to be a simple coil of rope, and nothing more.
"I suppose you'll want to take those," Hall says, rummaging through a couple of drawers before finding plastic bags that will do for evidence collection.
She gratefully accepts the bags and collects the contents of the pockets. She can examine those more closely, later.
She takes a step back and looks at the sarcophagus itself. Turning to Dr. Hall, she says, "What can you tell me about the sarcophagus? If this is genuine and not some Vegas prop, it's not exactly the sort of thing that shows up in the North American west."
"The sarcophagus is made of meteoric iron. And, yes, it's a single piece. One meteor. Legend claims it was wrought by the Dwarves," Hall says, studyng Evie's face for a reaction. "The inscription was added later, a portion of the Poetic Edda that speaks to Ragnarok. The ultimate battle presaging the End of All Things."
"Fisk doesn't believe in 'fairy tales,' of course, and he's very persuasive," Dr. Hall notes. "He'll prevail with the Board of Regents, the Sarcophagus will end up in a musty basement unless it's found by the right people."
"Wait...Ragnarok...," Evie stops and narrows her eyes at the sarcophagus, her mind making connections. It had been a long time since she had heard the old, Nordic tales but, for some reason, her mind recalls her younger brother reading off the stories during his anthropology studies. Ian was always fascinated by such legends and was eager to share his knowledge.
"And, this is an officer of the law. An officer who is missing his hand, the same as...Tyr? Yeah, it's Tyr. Odin was the one missing an eye..." She crosses her arms and peers at it, "Huh. Well, now...that can't be coincidence."
She rakes her brain, trying to think of any strange, Nordic cults floating around out there but she draws a blank. Anytime she's heard of anyone professing to still worship the Nordic gods, it's been in the context of those New Age folks. They can be a little weird, but generally harmless.
She then realizes what Dr. Hall has said and turns back to him, "Wait. What you said seems to indicate that this sarcophagus is not just some sarcophagus. (Well, anything made of a whole piece of meteoric iron is going to be special, regardless...) But, it sounds like this is a specific,special thing. What is it?"
She glances back at Officer Cardinelli, a touch confused, "Whoever did this...it's symbolic? Someone buried Tyr.."
"I doubt that it's actually Tyr," said Hall. "Gods, or god-like beings, are pretty tough. And the Norse Gods are big on prophecy. Buried in a sarcophagus is not how Tyr's story ends."
"Tyr sacrifices his hand to bind the Fenris Wolf. You're probably right about it being symbolic, however. Today, the phrase is 'send them a message.'"
Evie blinks, caught completely off-guard. This man is speaking as though the gods are real. Or, is he? Her lips clamp down in a thin line of frustration. Normally, life is very clear to her. Oh, certainly, there are mysteries to be solved. However, those mysteries are simply logic puzzles to be turned over and inside out, things to be examined and finally solved.
Standing here, in this man's presence...she's just not sure. Things seem muddled and she has no idea why. No rational being would suggest that all of those legends were real. But, something in him seems to undeniably radiate Truth. And, something inside of her resonates with that.
But, surely...naaaaah. This guy is just a scholar who likes to speak of his specialty as though it's real...Right? she thinks.
Trying to pull her mind back to what she knows, to the rational world, she mutters, "So who is sending the message? And who is it intended for?"
"The gods and their ... agents," Hall said quietly. "You among them, Evie Cartwright. This is more than a cold case. You can see it. And it is no longer safe for you to remain in the dark, daughter."
"I am Heimdall, Guardian of the Bifrost between Asgard and this world," he says. The quiet demeanor of a professorial sort is gone; Hall/Heimdall stands at-ease, with his hands clasped before him - a pose any security or law enforcement professional knows well.
"Say what?" Evie manages to mutter, her jaw falling slack.
In all of her life, she has rarely been really, truly, UTTERLY surprised. But, now...she stands there blinking in shock as her brain scrambles to try and make sense of the conflicting information that her mind and intuition are feeding her.
One the one hand, her brain is doing a fantastic job of giving her the ol' dope-slap, Are you nuts? This guy isn't for real. Who let this nutjob into the lab? The Norse gods and Ragnarok and the World Tree and all that Viking bologna are all just legends!
But, her gut says otherwise. Oh, does it ever object to what her mind is trying to tell her. She can feel the truth of those words ring in her very core. Evie can feel herself want to relax and stand at attention before Heimdall, both her chief and...her father?
"Woah, woah, woah...hold on there, cowboy," she walks over to the desk and pulls out a chair, plopping herself down into it before she does something stupid like falling down.
Evie looks at Heimdall, still trying to reconcile everything within herself. After a few more moments of inner struggle, she manages to beat down the part of her that desperately wants to believe without any kind of proof. The rational part of her brain takes over and she says softly, "Prove it."
The man who claims to be Heimdall spreads his hands, and an aura of soft light comes into being about him.
"You won't remember me. Deirdre and I parted ways before you were born. I've kept an eye on you, from Asgard. A word in the right ear here and there, to make sure your career stayed on track.
"A storm is coming. Perhaps it's Ragnarok, perhaps not. But we're talking about forces that will change the world, and not for the better. So here we are. A little father-daughter chat.
"You're free to choose, of course," he says kindly. "You have to be. Otherwise it's just more of what the other side does, forcing things to be as they want, with mortals as ... toys. Amusements."
At first, Evie crosses her arms and looks skeptical. She's seen plenty of Vegas acts that could easily pull off a soft light show like that. But...
...but what does he have to gain by making these claims if they aren't true? What would be the motivation? True or not, I'd never breathe a word of this to anyone on the force. Regardless of the validity, I'd be laughed out of the office.
Besides that, her gut is still happily telling her that it's true. And her gut is rarely wrong. All of her life, she's had a bit of a sixth sense about things, able to sense trouble before it happens, hearing the truth or lies in the pitch of a voice.
She sighs and runs a hand over her face, "I'm sorry. It's just a lot to take in. I mean, can you blame me for finding it a little tough to believe? Ragnarok...the end of the world...let alone me, the daughter of a god. It's just...well..." Evie makes a vague hand motion, waving as if to indicate something tremendous.
"But, it is true. I guess. My intuition has never steered me wrong before and it's saying that you are Heimdall," as soon as she says the words, as soon as she lets herself entertain the idea that it's not such a far-fetched thing, she begins to relax.
Evie stands up and walks back over to the sarcophagus. She looks down at Officer Cardinelli's body and she knows that there is only one choice that she can make. She is an officer of the law, herself. She stands to protect the innocent, despite the terrible things that have been done by some power-hungry and ignorant people within the law enforcement community.
"This is a message. As such, the choice of Officer Cardinelli wasn't a coincidence, I'm betting. Not just any cop would do. I reckon he was a child of Tyr," she says softly.
"So, I have a new case. Do I have any allies that I can call?" she asks, her choice clear.
"Thomas' death is a warning, and a challenge. The warning is obvious; the forces that would bring Ragnarok and an end to the reign of the gods - the Aesir and other pantheons - are changing the rules. It was once thought that the outright killing of another Scion was out of bounds."
"Rules in a knife fight?" Evie murmured. One of her brothers was always spouting movie lines.
"The challenge was more specific. This sarcophagus was warded against my sight. Not permanently - just long enough to bury it under a building. That's to undermine my authority, and perhaps drive a wedge between myself and Tyr and others."
"You may find that a mundane answer will satisfy your superiors, simply because most mortals have forgotten about us in favor of gods of their own making," Heimdall advised. "Where it leads you, personally, I cannot predict."
"Thomas was, perhaps, a bit over-confident in his abilities; that was, in the end, his undoing. I am pleased you have the sense to recognize this is not a tasking to bear alone. Another of Tyr's sons has found his way to Las Vegas; you have crossed his path before - his name is Alex North. There are others, but the best alliances are built on friendship as well as common purpose. You will find them in short order."
There's a rattling sound. Someone trying the door to the lab; a janitor, most likely.
"I warded the door against mortals," Heimdall smiles. "But we still have much to do."
Evie listens, taking it all in. Several times, she has to smack down the part of her brain that still insists this whole thing is patently insane.
She waits patiently for the rattling to stop and the sounds of footsteps wandering away before she continues. She's positive that the janitor will be back around, soon.
"Other pantheons? Then, the Aesir aren't the only ones that exist...," she mutters softly as she starts taking pictures of the sarcophagus and the body with her phone. It's always good to have photos for later observation, in case something was missed.
"What is the political scene among the gods? I think I remember that Loki was troublemaker for you...us...I guess," it feels strange to include herself in something as vast as the gods and their kin. "What about the other pantheons? Who would want to move forward with something like this?"
She grins over the top of the sarcophagus as she continues to take photos from a kneeling position, close to it to capture details of the writing, "Who'd ya piss off, chief?"
Chief. That feels more comfortable to Evie. It's easier to think of Heimdall as a superior officer than as a father. After all, Jason is the man who raised her. He is the one who let her sit behind the wheel of his vintage cars and make "vroom" noises while he worked, held her when she cried and taught her how to make the most excellent BBQ this side of the Mississippi.
"Most of the gods worshipped by man are real. So are the Titans, the Frost Giants, whatever you want to call them. Ragnarok isn't just a battle of opposing armies, it's a battle for free will."
Heimdall lets the light show dim. "And this is where we need you, our Scions. You are children of this world as well as ours. You have a better grasp of technology and mass media. Frankly, we're a headstrong lot and we need your help."
"But you've a long way to go before you come into your full power," he says. "You're going to need some help."
He takes several items out of the pocket of his lab coat and sets them on the counter beside you. The first is a duplicate of your detective's badge. Then there's a pair of sunglasses. And last, there's a collapsible baton.
"The badge and the glasses will unlock your powers. If you lose them, you lose those powers," he says. "The baton doesn't grant any special powers, but it's a good measure harder than the standard issue. I understand people don't run around with swords any more. Well, most people, anyway."
"I'm afraid there's not an instruction manual. Your powers will grow over time, and you may find you have an affinity for purviews that I do not."
Evie smiles and shakes her head ever so slightly at that answer. It doesn't look like Heimdall is going to offer any insight into how the gods get along. So, she'll just have to do her own research later. Assuming that the old legends are true, it should give her some clues as to who or what would want to bring about such chaos. Wikipedia holds all the answers! She ceases her photography and moves to Heimdall, reverently accepting these completely ordinary looking gifts. But, no matter how unassuming they appear, she can feel an instant connection to them.
"Thank you," she says. Evie takes a moment to shuffle some things around in her purse...well...bag. There's no way it could ever qualify as a purse in most women's eyes. It was big, clunky and entirely utilitarian, with plenty of pockets for carrying whatever she may need. She clears out a pouch and makes sure there is nothing heavy in the nearby compartments before slipping the glasses in. She also takes the time to switch out her mundane badge with her divine badge.
The detective returns her attention to Cardinelli's corpse. Very carefully, she begins combing over him. Not just his pockets, but his blues and everything else. She even turns over his badge and looks at the back of it.
"Sometimes, people who want to send a message also leave a calling card. They want the recipient to to know who they should fear..." she says softly as she carefully moves Cardinelli's bones.
"The gods simply call them the Titans. For the Greek gods, they are their actual forbears; for the Aesir, they aren't what-came-before, but the darkness that comes after. It's like a low pressure system; you can't see it, but there are winds and storms as a physical manifestation," Heimdall says.
"I would start with Armand Roget, the owner of the building where the sarcophagus was found. If he was not directly involved, then perhaps he has associates or sponsors who were."
Evie nods as she continues to look, "Yeah, that's where I was planning on starting after I finished here. But, I figured that I may as well be thorough while I have everything right here in front of me. Considering the circumstances, I don't know if I'll get to see this again. If there are agents working against us, they could well move to have this thing tucked away from sight, now that the message has been delivered, and I might miss a clue."
"Plus," she continues, "I'm guessing that this wasn't placed in the Roget building by a god or titan or whatever. It was probably another child of a god and, as awesome as they may be, I'd imagine that they are just as capable of fucking up a crime scene as anyone else."
"There still might be something tangible in here that could provide a clue."
Evie suddenly realized her mind was sorting through tidbits of forensic expertise, gleaned from the techies at CSI over her career. The size of the bullet holes told her the caliber of weapon - a .45 - and the clean-through shots spoke to jacketed slugs. The placement suggested it was panic fire, rather than targeted, from someone who did not expect resistance, like a police officer and Scion approaching them. The wounds, then, spoke to the action of a second person. A blow to remove Cardinelli's gun hand ... with a weapon imbued by the gods or through magic, explaining the clean cut. But wouldn't Thomas have had similar gifts to hand? The ring, possibly - though Evie was hesitant to try it on. There must be something more. Unable to move the body, she began feeling under the edge of where Cardinelli's torso would have been. And her fingers brushed against something. She paused, probed a bit more, then felt her fingers close upon the haft of a weapon. It had probably been dislodged when the sarcophagus was moved. It was a blade, and she could feel the power in it. Not even age and disuse could hide or diminish the quality of the weapon. And she knew Thomas hadn't been holding his sidearm, but the sword when he was struck down. It hadn't been a simple police matter at all, but the affairs of the gods ...
Evie chews on her bottom lip, trying to decide whether to leave the weapon where it is or take it for safekeeping. On the one hand, a regular person isn't going to be able to do much with it if it is found...and she is sure that it will be once forensics shows up. On the other hand, if it should be discovered by a scion of an enemy (and she doesn't even know who that would be, yet!) then it could possibly be used for great harm.
"Heimdall, these gifts from the gods...could another scion use them? Like, if someone got a hold of my badge, could they use it?" Another thought occurs to her, even as the words are out of her mouth, and she mutters, "But, if they could use Thomas' weapon, why would he be buried with it? Why didn't they take it?"
Maybe the only thing that she has to worry about is what the forensics team would think about a...what? sword? axe? dagger?...hard to tell what it is just by that one touch...being buried with the body. She snorts in amusement at that thought. As if being in a sarcophagus like this is just an everyday thing...The whole thing is so weird that the weapon will probably be written off.
"If you lose a relic, you lose any access it provides. In time, as you grow into your power, you will not need them," Heimdall says. "If, on the other hand, a relic is stolen - taken from you with knowledge of its special qualities - then the thief will have access to those purviews while you do not."
"Depending on the nature of the relic, a Scion may or may not be able to sense where it is. You could mark it with a Vigil Brand, for example, and be able to track it for a day."
Heimdall looks at Cardinelli's skeleton and sighs as if acknowledging a failure on his part. "Thomas' killers didn't take any relics he carried because they felt they had no use for the purviews he had access to. And because the gods are not beyond a bit of Machiavellian design. Think of it like stealing someone's cell phone when it can be tracked via GPS."
"So there's no particular harm in leaving Thomas' sword with him, other than it becomes something that needs to be explained."
"In that case, I'll leave him his things. It's not like the relic will be any weirder than a sarcophagus with runes all along the side," she sighs softly. "Besides, everything should go back to his family. I know it's been a long time and he was already assumed dead, but I'm sure they will be glad to at least have the closure that a body brings."
She glances at the door and says, "I don't think there's much else I can get out of this scene. I should probably skedattle and let the janitor do his job."
Turning, she looks at Heimdall and is truly at a loss as to what to say or do, at this point. All of it, this whole affair, is just...overwhelming. She's not sure how she's supposed to feel or what she should say.
"So, uhhh...see ya around...I...guess," Evie stands there awkwardly.
"If the Norns ordain our paths should cross, they will," is all Heimdall says. "Much may come and go before then."
Whatever glamour or disguise Heimdall held to appear as a professorial sort fades. His lab coat becomes a knight's surcoat that is the kind of white that popular detergent brands promise to deliver. Golden armor gleams beneath it, and the legendary sword Hofung. His aspect brightens until he is wreathed in bright light.
The light fades, and Heimdall is gone.
"Oh, boy," Evie breathes. She makes her way out of the lab.
From his vantage astride the Bifrost, Heimdall watches his daughter briefly. "I am proud of you, daughter. I wish you safe travels, though we both know your road will be dark."