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Bubbling Mud Heads

Sacrifice (working title)

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This story begins, as many good stories do, with a death. The death of an important criminal, though not an extremely flashy one. M. D'Aire, as this criminal was called, had supposedly died in one of a series of conflicts fought across the globe. This news grabbed at the hearts of the criminal and law communities and completely flipped their worldview, it enraged a high detective, awakened an elderly couple in the middle of the night with dread, and broke the heart of a poor middle-aged man.

M. D'Aire had been a part of the notorious, though highly speculated, D'Aire family, which is only the oldest criminal family time had ever known, and the only one able to keep up it's enterprising into the 21st century. Their work resembled not so much the quick and abstract art common among the museums nowdays, nor the crumbly old renaissance styles with it's so carefully trained skills, but a new, simple, and completely modern yet obviously old style filled with so much hidden meaning the critics would find themselves puzzling over it for years. Many lesser gangs had risen and fallen, it has been rumored that the D'Aire house had briefly entertained the thought of working with Al Capone in his early years, but dismissed him early on as 'a flashy youth'.

“Lucky for the D'Aires,” one might here remark, knowing how that history has turned out. However, it is as far from luck as the turkey vulture is from the blakiston's fish owl. If a decent criminal were to rob a bank, steal the money, and hide their tracks, they would have to convince the police and public that the money actually belonged to them. If a D'Aire were to rob a bank, though I can't imagine one of them stooping to so crude a gesture, they would do it in such a way that the law and the people never knew the money even existed. The D'Aires could not be tracked, they could not be traced, yet their invisible presence was clearly there, in the shadows, ever craftily tinkering with the very frames of our lives. The D'Aires knew everything before it happened, and though the regular folk, like you and me, upon hearing their fabled existence pass them off as mere rumor and myth, for the high law, and the very best detectives, they are the real, yet impossible, truth.

The very existence of M. D'Aire rocked the two worlds and even slightly impacted the third. The criminal and legal worlds now had stories, shocking but by far more realistic stories, based off actual events, rather than the obviously false campfire tales usually heard about the D'Aires. The general public, who would not have for one instant believed in their existence, now paused and considered, “perhaps,” their thoughts might say, “Perhaps, one might have existed.” This person, this D'Aire, was the very first in known history that could be traced, almost tracked, whose movements, though as completely invisible as those of it's predecessors, left undeniable ripples, ripples that led back to M. D'Aire. There were even a few rumors about this criminal. The ardent detective, T. Levran, had put together a list of them all in his speculation, and had crossed out the more far-fetched. However, some of those included stated: that 'the 'she-devil' was colder than hell itself,' or ''he' led the charge', on one or another of the vicious battles, 'that fine bastard, slaughtered the lot in cold blood'. A recent tale appeared on the nets of the mighty M. D'Aire:

Once upon a time, there existed a thief so cunning and a murderer so bloody, that the devil himself bowed to his power. The thief was the king of an extensive court, reaching all across the world and he had as many riches as his heart could desire. Yet, the thief was insanely bored with his staff and his riches. So, one day he took all of his most trusted and best advisers, and invited them to a ball. In the thief's underground mansion, the top criminal lords danced away before retiring to a conference. There in the room, the thief announced he was supremely bored with them all, and had decided to start over, in hopes of finding a more exciting game. The advisers, who had heard this sort of tale before from their young master, did not fear, but simply nodded and waited to hear what came next. Yet, to their surprise the cunning thief had no more to say, he simply vanished, leaving them locked in a massive underground death chamber, slowly emptying of oxygen. The criminal lords, advisers, ladies and servants all choked to death. While the evil thief, depositing his massive wealth in an empty yet not completely unused gold mine, disappeared to start his life over, in a new and exciting way. And he lived happily ever after.

The end.

While Levran noted the lack of a name, and the magical appearance or the crude little tale, there were certain startling similarities. For example, an underground mass grave had been recently discovered, where the bodies, of servants, middle and upper class men and women lay together in groups on the ground near assumed exits. The doors had been scratched and bashed in feeble attempts to break them down, and yet the cause of death, was not asphyxiation, but some other unknown method, scientists and even conspiracy theorists could not make heads or tails of. The recent discovery of a large horde of gold bars had been found in an old gold mine used for tourism. A neighboring rancher told the news he had seen smoke coming out of the mine in the past few months and coined the belief that a dragon might have briefly made the mine it's home. There had been many rumors of a D'Aire involvement in the mass grave in both the law and the crime worlds. Yet, this story brought together a few of the frightened theories in a bold statement. 'D'Aires existed, and one was coming.'

Levran was astonished and at the same time incensed that a member of the notorious D'Aires would allow a trail to be speculated, allow stories to emerge, or allow their existence to become more than rumor and myth. To catch a D'Aire, the phrase had once been such an impossibility, and such a rude remark to the clear beauty of the D'Aire involvement, like an ethereal web spun of finest fairy gossamer, and utterly invisible to the naked eye. This work, though cunning and deceptive, could surely not be the work of a D'Aire, and yet, the theory was not without merit. It was possible, and reviewing rumors from some of his more trusted sources, plausible considering the supposed nature of M. D'Aire. Levran was disappointed, his long childhood dream seemed more real to him than ever, and he had vowed that if such a man existed, he, Levran, would find him and uncover his real name before putting him to justice. The fraud, attempting to use the D'Aire name to detail his mischief, must be caught.

When he first heard the news, that M. D'Aire had died, Levran tossed it aside as a groundless rumor. He had half convinced himself that the criminal was a D'Aire, and had faked it's death in order to return to the underground for a brief calm in the music. Of course, being a D'Aire, the criminal could not die. In his other half, Levran speculated that perhaps the criminal had died was proof, that it could not have been a D'Aire, yet that seemed too coincidental a belief to be true. Sitting at his impeccably neat and completely clutter-free desk, sipping his latte and scanning the newspaper, Levran had seen a brief note in the obituaries, "M. D'Aire. cause of death: murder. means of death: burnt at the stake with another wooden stake through the heart. Time of death: April 23rd, at approximately 2:00 o'clock." How this story had not made the front page could only be through unpure means, Levran noted. Some slight decency, a token respect for the D'Aire name, to not allow a member the humiliation of public existence, while still shaming the criminal for it's lack of immortality. Levran, clipped out the obituary for habit's sake, and added it to the less likely of the D'Aire file he now had.

Edited by Bubbling Mud Heads

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Earlier, on a previous night, whilst M. D'Aire was still barely alive, an elderly couple were startled awake by the 4am train from Clifton. Shrieking filled the comfortable apartment as the couple huddled together in their sunken king-sized bed listening. From the first whistle they counted the train's screams hissing and zipping past, the honking of a car alarm outside their apartment, and the cadence of a two voices swirling above, on the next floor, until a last train whistle cut everything off, and the night resumed it's dead silence, as before. The couple sighed, sinking together in grief. This last trick, they knew could not be shaken off. Their child would die, tears filled their throats and shone in their eyes as they allowed a few drops to fall together, onto the blankets. No more could they do for their little one, they had tried to teach the hidden way and it was not accepted. In their hearts they knew that this was for the best for the child, and for the rest of them, that it forever ended it's movements.

In their grief, no noise did they ever make but a small rustle of sheets, and a slight creaking of the bed, and a few taps of the water falling on blankets. Simply their tears, and then comfort, as the couple leaned together and lay back on their giant bed still shivering with repressed grief, the little old couple held each other till they fell back asleep. In the early morning, the great emperor and empress awoke, arose wiping away all traces of their night-time weakness, and conferenced with their advisers on how best to deal with this problem. Another train whistle arrived in the course of their discussion relaying the news of M.'s death as well as a few messes M. had left behind, for the sovereign's to clean up. The old couples sighed inwardly and rose as one, their stern faces perfect reflections of the authority they bore, whilst they swiftly began to make tracks, weaving their webs quietly and subtly throughout their kingdoms. Mrs. D'Aire, for that is what we shall call the great empress, abandoned the body of her child in the tomb where it lay, allowing a small punishment for the one, as an example of it's disgrace. Mr. D'Aire, the high emperor, meanwhile sent emissaries, and diplomats to his child's enemies distracting them with other important news, and setting their minds against new foes.

A brief consternation arose on Mr. D'Aire's features as he pondered what to do with the man left behind in all the mess. Of course they must use him, but how? Consulting with Mrs. D'Aire they thought to give him free reign, he did not know everything, he had only briefly met the three of them, and had only ever seen the face of M. D'Aire. To underestimate was never wise, the D'Aires agreed, yet what harm could he cause?

A short phone call to the man revealed part, a broken heart, a betrayal, by them, and small threat. A threat? Their majesties mentally queried, to us? How could you possibly harm us? Yet the line had ended before this question could be asked, and the D'Aires pondered in silence all they knew. He was the most loyal of all, yet his life had belonged entirely to M. D'Aire, he was the most trusted of M.'s partners, and the only one M. had kept though all it's criminal history. He had been bought by M. as a child, and they had grown up working together. Yet, despite all their history, what did he know that could hurt them? A quick fear crossed Mrs. D'Aires face as an idea of his abilities set in. Catching sight Mr. D'Aire brow wrinkled in response. Understand the enemy, anticipate moves, retreat, react. Shortly the two set out to one of their little hideaways, to better think and be in a starting position for whatever else might take place.

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