OF MAN AND GODS - BOOK THREE - LEGACY OF THE ALLIANCE Greg J Miller
CHAPTER FOUR – THE STRANGER
For Theodore Edgars, the morning of September 12 1947 began much like any other day of the past year or so. It was a Friday, so the weekend was nearly upon him. Not that he felt nearly as enthusiastic about that as days long gone. With nothing else planned for the weekend, it really only meant a couple of days away from the job.
The previous weekend, he'd had his eldest son and his family over for the Labor Day weekend. His daughter had also come around with her children. Though somewhat draining with all his young grandchildren about, the family gathering served to remind him of what he still had. But at the same time, it also reminded him of what time had taken away.
That was the first Labor Day weekend since the passing of his wife. Though less than a full year had passed without her, it still seemed like far less time, after a lifetime together.
More than three years had gone by since they'd lost their second eldest son to that damned war. He'd gone off to fight the Japanese in the Pacific and never returned. Of course, many fathers lost their sons, but that hardly made it any easier at all.
His daughter had also lost her husband in the war. Left to raise her two young children without him. They'd been too young to even remember their father. The second child born only weeks before he'd shipped out. Given that the family business did so well, Theodore would see to it that neither his daughter or his grandchildren would ever go without.
Teddy Jr had been one of the fortunate ones to come back from the war and make it back in one piece. As an engineer stationed in Pearl Harbor, he'd managed to remain far away from the worst of it all. Of course, he'd not been there during that initial attack at the start of America joining the war. He'd only signed up afterward and had been fortunate enough to find himself headed for Hawaii, instead of Europe. Perhaps more fortunate that he'd been mostly stationed on the island, rather than as part of combat deployments.
Though Theodore remained the boss of the business, he'd been seeing to it that Teddy Jr would one day be ready to take over from him. Even though the passage of time and its consequences had taken away some of what he'd hoped for the future, at the least, he felt confident that he would be leaving a lasting legacy for his remaining children.
Of course, he'd always expected to be living out his twilight years in the company of his wife, but that was not to be. He'd never expected to find himself a widower before the age of fifty-five. If not for his work and what he intended to pass to his children, he might have found himself wallowing in despair and melancholy. However, there was no time for that. He wasn't the only one to suffer great loss over the past few years by any stretch and he saw no value in doing anything other than marching onward. One foot after the other.
Leaving the empty house and stepping outside into the cool morning air, he was quickly reminded of just why his hometown was referred to as 'the Windy City'. It wasn't yet a week since the supposed end of summer and it was already cool and gusty some mornings. Of course it wasn't anything like winter, but it was still enough reason to quickly button his coat before making it to the car.
The big black Buick had been a gift to himself a few months back. However, the thrill of the initial purchase had already worn off. It was the first model off the lines since production had started up again after the war. It was a lot like the '41 model', but it was brand new and meant to be better. It certainly cost a pretty penny and not a lot of folk could afford the like, but Theodore was certainly well-heeled and he could likely have spent even more, if he'd really wanted to.
His mind drifted a little along the run to work. A few thoughts of the previous weekend came to mind. The weekend ahead was certainly going to be much quieter and might actually prove to be rather more tedious than restful. In all likelihood, he'd probably be feeling more useful on the job, than bored at home on his own.
Soon enough, he was headed out along Archer Avenue. Up ahead, he turned left into Western Avenue. The Chicago Stock Yards dominated the space along the eastern side of the thoroughfare. His destination was not so far from there.
His business started as something far smaller, back in the bad old days. He'd actually started up with his father, back before he'd died. Back then, they had just two trucks for the small delivery operation. That was a far cry from the operation that he'd built up from such modest beginnings.
'Edgars and Son', the much smaller delivery operation, had eventually grown to become 'Edgars Shipping', with a small fleet of vehicles operating throughout Chicago and the immediate surrounds.
The depression and other troubles plaguing the city nearly broke them, but they came through the hard times and emerged as one of the thriving outfits of the city, then went on to keep growing. All of that achieved without having to deal directly with shadiest operators of the city during that time. At least, as far as he reasonably knew.
The war certainly threatened to create further troubles, but at the same time, it also provided an unexpected boost in other ways and he'd been well positioned to take advantage of that. Certain shortages aside, he'd kept everything going and managed to do far better than he'd ever expected. After all, even with the war effort taking hold of most local manufacturing, goods still needed to get from one place to another and Chicago was one of the largest cities of the United States and a major transport hub. Product moving through rail or via the ports still needed to get to and from those locations. That's where trucks came into it. At least for local distribution and Chicago was a big city. Not to mention all the immediate surrounds.
Though a lot of people still referred to it as 'Edgars', by that time, the business had again changed name. Also, many others really ran most of it by then, but Theodore remained the owner of 'Mid-Westerner Shipping and Freight', with his children also in the business and expected to directly benefit from what he'd established. The business operated local shipping and road transport, also holding contracts with the rail companies and the ports. It wasn't the only operation of its kind in Chicago, but it was easily one of the most successful ones. So long as he didn't over-reach or mishandle things, or consider selling out to any other interests, the family business would surely see to the family's future for years to come.
Heading for the office, Theodore recalled that the meeting he'd previously planned for that morning had been cancelled or deferred. He wasn't even convinced of the value of meeting with that joker from Milwaukee, but he intended to hear him out nonetheless. He was only mildly annoyed that the meeting had been put off. At least, the call had come through early enough on Thursday that it didn't really affect matters too much. That also meant that he was supposedly free to attend to other matters Friday morning.
Normally, if he was too busy, he might have left the interviewing of hopefuls turning up at the office for Junior to handle, but since he unexpectedly had time on his hands, he'd handle it himself. After all, he did like to keep an active hand in what was going on. Even if others really could handle it all without him.
Once he'd had his morning coffee and settled down to peruse the pile of papers stacked on his desk, he'd soon told his assistant to start sending in the first of the applicants on the prepared list, from the waiting room down the hall.
From Junior's notes, he understood that they needed to put on four more drivers, one mechanic and another worker for the warehouse. From the larger number of respondents who'd turned up the other day looking for work, Teddy Junior had already whittled down the pile of applicants to a more manageable list. Instead of needing to look at a huge number of people, there were only twenty-odd hopefuls showing up that morning.
Theodore didn't need to be the one conducting the interviews at all, but he still liked to take the measure of those working for him. At least, whenever the opportunity reasonably allowed for it.
The first three interviews passed fairly quickly. Each of them were locals looking for driver positions. Having already made it through to the short list, each of them seemed fine and he found nothing immediately off about any of them. Without immediately hiring any of them, he'd told them they'd be contacted over following days.
The next one was looking for work as a mechanic. At first, Theodore wasn't too sure about him. He easily had the thickest Irish accent he'd ever heard and he wasn't quite certain that he was speaking English. Even so, he made enough sense of what he'd heard to gain a fair measure of the man and thought he might be fine down in the workshop.
Though he'd been a bit wary of anyone that sounded even slightly German during the war, Theodore wasn't typically one to hold anybody's origins against them. Not usually. By his reckoning, if they were good people and they could do the job, he was fine with most people.
After all, nearly every American came from somewhere else. Or at the least, their parents or grandparents had probably come from somewhere else. By his reckoning, if they'd come all the way to Chicago and they really wanted to make an honest go of it, he was willing to give them a chance to prove themselves. He remembered what it was like to come up from nothing and make something of himself.
Though it could occasionally become a matter of contention with other troublemakers, he was fine with hiring blacks, and now Mexicans, down in the warehouse or workshop. Most of them were good workers and unlikely to intentionally cause any problems. It was usually others more likely cause trouble.
Still with the way things were, he couldn't put them on certain delivery runs without expecting unwanted problems. Though Theodore didn't agree with it, he understood that were still folk who made things difficult. The type that didn't object to knowing that the factories and other places employed all those people who had come up from the south, but only so long as they didn't have to regularly see them or have them living next door.
In any case, Theodore was fine with employing anybody fit for the job, so long as it got the job done and everything kept moving along. The colour of their skin or the country they'd come from didn't greatly influence his opinion any more than it needed to. Even then, only due to consideration of other people with more abrasive attitudes.
The next few interviews passed without anything especially notable. He'd figured that he picked the right one in his mind for the warehouse position and figured that the Irishman with thick accent was likely the best pick for the mechanic. Just about any of the others he'd seen seemed suitable for the driver positions, but he only needed four. Though he'd just about made his choices, he'd not told any of them that they had the job. Added to that, he still had about another five to see before he was done.
After just briefly looking over the paperwork for the next individual, Theodore had him sent into his office. They shook hands and he invited him to take a seat across the other side of his desk. Though he couldn't immediately place why, he'd thought that the man looked just a little odd or something like that.
According to the paperwork, Adam Palko was thirty-nine years old. At a glance, he seemed perhaps a little older than that. Probably because he was balding and because of his rugged features. Though cleanly shaved, he looked like one of those hairy men who would be in need of a shave again before the sun had set for the day. It was only perhaps during another brief glance that Theodore noticed that the man's neck seemed too short for his body. If not for that, he'd more likely stand a few inches over six foot, rather than pulling up a little shorter.
Theodore could see that Palko had applied for the mechanic position. Though he'd already favoured the Irishman for that, he still intended to take the measure of the man.
"Palko… where's that from? Italian or something?"
The other man responded in gruff tone. He seemed to speak with an American accent that was difficult to easily place. It didn't sound like Chicago or New York or anything else that immediately stood out. "Originally from Greece. North of Greece, actually."
Ted raised his eyebrows. "North of Greece?"
"Yeah, think it's part of Yugoslavia now. Where my family originally came from… but I been here for years. I'm American, just like you."
Ted nodded. "Of course. Of course. Just curious. Haven't come across a Palko before."
Adam shrugged. "Ain't got no family in these parts. Just come up from Arizona."
"What part? Phoenix?"
"Flagstaff, originally. Though I did go down to Phoenix for a bit… before coming up here to the big city. Figure there's gotta be more work up here. Main transport city for the mid-west and all."
"Sure is." Theodore responded with a mild grin.
He went on to ask Adam a few more questions regarding his experience as a mechanic over the past few years and hit him up with general queries over the kinds of vehicles he'd worked on. The answers seemed promising. He was starting to shift his opinion over whether Palko or the Irishman would be the best pick. Perhaps the only other thought in mind was that the Irishman had a big family to support and Palko didn't have anyone. Swings and roundabouts on both accounts. A family man was typically better motivated to stay put, but a single man had nothing to keep him from putting in extra hours, when there was a call for that.
Casting an eye over some scribbled notes he'd made, Theodore glanced up toward Palko with a curious look. "What was that?"
The other man looked back with raised bushy eyebrows. "What was what?"
Ted frowned. "Thought you said something… or maybe mumbled… sounded like… dunno, Greek… or something?"
Palko shrugged. "Didn't think I said anything. Not out loud anyways. Only Greek I know is maybe some cursin' I used to hear from the old man. Wouldn't be doing that right this minute, Mister Edgars."
Ted shook his head. "Must be imagining things. Tell you what, Palko… I'm not making any calls today, but you're on my shortlist. So, you should be hearing from us, if the job is yours… or otherwise."
Responding to Theodore's movement, Adam rose from his seat and again took the offered hand. "Thanks for seeing me Mister Edgars. Hope to hear from you real soon."
Theodore returned a curt nod as the other man turned about to be on his way. For no reason that he could immediately place, he thought that there did seem something oddly familiar about that Palko. He thought that maybe he had seen him around somewhere before, or else it was just that he'd seen someone of vaguely similar appearance. Still, that didn't seem right. Since Palko did look like someone who would stand out among other rugged looking balding men of similar age and look. But Chicago was a big place, with a lot of people from a lot of other places. He shook off the passing odd thoughts and turned his mind back toward seeing the remaining applicants waiting down the hall.
Avrum made his way from the offices of Mid-Westerner Shipping and Freight with slightly mixed thoughts. That was the first time he'd used that Palko identity in Chicago for any useful purpose. Of course, the only purpose at hand was to have opportunity to see Edgars up close in conversation.
He'd made a point of only altering his outward appearance very minimally, in order to look as much like himself as reasonably possible.
Given that he was quite short for a Titannian male, he didn't need to shift his form much at all. In fact, all he'd really done was mildly alter his slightly angular earlobes and smooth his features just a little, so that he could readily pass for a thirty-nine year old of some Greek extraction. Really only some minor cosmetics, rather than taxing shapeshifting.
As reasonably anticipated from previous observations and scans, Edgars didn't seem to be Thelemistically active at all. At most, he might've been just very mildly reactive at quite a low level. No more Telepathically receptive than the occasionally odd mundane human that he might come across.
Edgars had seemingly reacted to Avrum's attempt to project a Telepathic message, but obviously just shrugged it off as a possible trick of his imagination, thinking only that he might have heard something unclearly.
Avrum hadn't really been expecting much of anything else. Though he'd entertained the possibility that he might have been recognised, if only vaguely. That's why he really had made the point of maintaining a reasonably familiar appearance for the meeting, in the off chance that it could have sparked a buried memory or the like.
From previous sensor scans that a Remote Oracle examined, he already understood that Edgars wasn't too different from any other human of mixed European descent. Analysis had detected just a couple of likely markers of completely diluted Nereus heritage, as well as the possibility of a Titannian or Selki ancestor somewhere in the very distant past. Of course, being so diluted by so many generations, that hardly added up to anything of note. In that regard, Edgars wasn't notably genetically different from many humans of mixed European heritage, or otherwise especially remarkable at all.
In any case, none of that was what Avrum had been fishing for. He was looking for any sign that Edgars might have any vague inkling of who he'd been during a much earlier time. Not physically of course, but his intrinsic lifeforce.
As he understood it, mundane humans with even fairly negligible Thelemistic potential were still sometimes prone to little moments of ethereal memory intrusion from previous lifetimes. In the case of someone who had continuously lived thousands of years as a longlived individual, that kind of thing could easily tend to prove even more intrusive. More heavily imprinted than that of several much shorter lifetimes.
Avrum had been led to believe that it was the first time in nearly two-thousand years that Edgars' lifeforce had returned to a mortal form. Typically, the longer one lived in a physical form, the longer the time that passed before attaching to a new physical identity. Added to that, there was the tendency of 'like for like'. In a somewhat similar manner, a human lifeforce isn't suited to being born into a lesser mammal like a rodent or the like, or even vice versa.
More than nineteen-hundred years had passed since any Titannian, Terragodaean or any other sort 'Changed race' child had been born into the world. The lifeforces of those of such Thelemistically active heritage had really only just started to be born into mundane humans over the past few decades in any number.
Though Theodore Edgars evidently held no notion of it, it was most likely the first time that he'd again walked the Earth as a living individual since his previous lifetime had drawn to an unfortunate end.
Given what Avrum had learned of Edgars' recent troubles, serving as counterpoint to his business successes, he might have been inclined to merely leave him be. Before losing his wife to a cancer affliction, he'd also lost a son and son-in-law to the recent war.
Though he effectively had another son from a former life buried in a prolonged sleep not so far away, that would be largely meaningless to him without any memory of that previous existence.
Still, from his excursions into future time periods and oblique interactions with other versions of himself, Avrum understood what the future was meant to hold in store for Edgars. It was up to him to find a way to alter that man's path and reintroduce him to what had passed so long before.
He might never quite be the same as the Poseidon that Avrum once knew, but it would be his destiny to effectively leave the life of Theodore Edgars behind and become someone that at least resembled something of the man he'd once been.
Avrum held some idea of what he would likely do, but the road ahead remained difficult to clearly see.