Part 2: The Watchmaker’s Son
You’re probably wondering how a young man from Detroit ended up the Apprentice to one of the physical manifestations of Death. I don’t often like to recall the tale. Mostly because Rasool loves to point out how weak and pathetic I was. Mind you, I was eight. Yet, sharing it helps to strengthen my resolve. It was winter, seventeen years ago, when I lost everything.
My father was a Watchmaker: a profession that would have new meaning as I progressed in my Apprenticeship. His store, Ojo del Tiempo, sat on the corner of an all but abandoned street in downtown Detroit. The tiny storefront brandished an exterior long worn from the bombardment of Michigan’s four seasons. Its large windows were covered in security bars as was the custom for most small businesses in the downtown corridor. Inside, the shop had a single glass counter which housed elegant timepieces of my father’s creation. On the back wall, an etched relief of the Eye of Providence hung high above the counter where my father served his customers. He would always say that the Eye was there for our protection. But, it mostly just hung there looking creepy. Just beneath the relief, was a door that led to a back room. The room itself was relatively bare. There was an old metal desk, probably some cheap find at a garage sale, that sat in the far corner of the room. It held a few monitors that aired security footage of the shop’s interior and exterior. There were a few cases of bottled water, some canned tuna, and a first aid kit. “You can never be too careful, mijo,” dad would say.
All manner of people would come into the shop; my father served them all. He delighted in seeing people appreciate the work of his hands, and I delighted in being with him. It was cold and rainy that day. I was playing with some of my dad’s spare watch parts as I normally did on the slow days. His magnification goggles, too big for me, hung slanted on my forehead. I entertained myself by peering through one of the magnification lenses and placing oversized watch bands on my wrist. My legs rocked back and forth kicking the legs of a stool that was too high for my feet to touch the ground.
The bell over the door rang as a man walked in. There was something strange about him: his long blond hair and reddish beard, perhaps. Maybe it was his eyes. They were a dull gray. I’d seen gray eyes before, but his looked empty.
My dad greeted the man, “Welcome, Sir. It’s coming down pretty hard out there?”
“Yes, it is,” the man replied.
“You’re dry as a bone,” my father said.
The man brandished a smile.
I hadn’t noticed it as quickly as my father did, but the man’s gray suit and black shoes were completely dry. He walked up and down the small store, glanced at me for a moment, then stared into the display case.
My father stood behind the counter in a way that was unusual. Normally, he extended his right hand to customers offering a welcoming handshake. On this occasion, he kept his right hand in his pocket and used his left hand to gesture toward the timepieces within the glass display.
“They’re beautiful. Are they your handiwork?” the man asked.
“Yes,” my father replied. The face that normally beamed with pride whenever a customer acknowledged the work of his hands, seemed unmoved by the man’s praise.
The man lifted his head slowly. His smile melted away and his cold gray eyes met my father’s. “I’m looking for a special timepiece.”
“Well then, you’ve come to the right place,” my father said. “What’s your fancy?”
“The Hand of the Seconds.”
My father’s demeanor shifted. He looked at me, “No importa que pase, no te muevas.”
My legs stopped swaying. No gun. No knife. What did my father see that I hadn’t?
My father turned back toward the man, “All my watches have second hands.”
“Don’t play stupid, Watchmaker. You and your boy needn’t die. Just give me the timepiece.”
I felt my heart beating in my chest. Die?
“So you’re the War Druid, Brogan?” my father asked.
The man’s eyes transitioned from gray to a bright burning white. “Very good…” His hand shot across the counter toward my father.
“Dad,” I slid off the stool. When my feet hit the floor, the magnifying goggles slid off of my head and descended to the ground. It happened so fast. I went from watching Brogan reach for my father’s throat across the room to being held under my father’s left arm near the stool where I’d previously sat. “Dad, how did…”
White flames surrounded Brogan’s extended arm. He turned toward us hurling a ball of white flame at great speed. I heard a click. Everything froze. It was if time itself had stopped. Still under my father’s arm, he ran to the entrance of the panic room. Time seemed to catch up as I saw the white flame previously aimed at us hit the wall, burning through it. My father dropped me and quickly rushed to slam the door shut. Before the door closed, a white ball of flame burned through my father’s chest. As the door shut, the white flames vanished, but my father’s seared wound remained.
He coughed gasping for air.
“Open this door, Watchmaker.” I was shaken by the sound of loud banging on the door and walls to the panic room. I looked up at the monitors. Brogan was hurling balls of white fire at the door, but making no progress. The Eye of Providence which hung above the door was glowing on the camera feed. However, this must have escaped the Druid’s attention as he paid it no concern.
My father’s coughing settled and wheezing took its place, “Mijo.”
Frantic, I looked back at my father. In his right hand, he held pocketwatch. The cover was not that impressive. It was a gold watch that displayed, what I learned later, an image of the Eye of Ra etched on its surface.
He grabbed my hand placed the watch within it. “La Mano de los Segundos. Asegure esto con tu vida,” he said.
At that time, I didn’t understand why my father would tell me to guard a watch. However, I didn’t give it much thought. My father was dying before my eyes, and I wanted to do anything to stop that. I ran to the first aid kit and opened the lid. There were a few bandages. I opened them and tried to bandage the hole in my father’s chest. It did no good.
He grabbed my hand. The wheezing continued. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a cell phone, and dialed a number, but lacked the strength to lift the phone to his ear. “Lo siento, mijo.” The phone slid from his hands and dropped to the floor and his body followed.”
The pounding of flames against the wall persisted.
“Dad? Dad, wake up.” I shook my father’s arm as hard as I could. He wouldn’t wake up. I grabbed the phone from the ground. “Help! Please! Help! He’s not waking up!”
“Stay put. I’m on my way,” a calm voice said before hanging up.
I didn’t know who it was. I didn’t care. I dropped the phone, closed my eyes, and held my father with all of my strength: wishing he would hold me back, but knowing that he wouldn’t. The pounding, still present, caused me to flinch with every occurrence. At some point, my body, exhausted from the day’s events demanded rest. I fell asleep.
I have no memory of when pounding stopped. However, the bell rang above the store’s entrance prompting me to open my eyes and check the security monitors. Brogan was nowhere to be found.
Another man, very different from the Druid, entered the shop just beyond the doorway and stopped surveying the damaged area. He looked up at the Eye of Providence before pulling out a cell phone, dialing a number, and placing it to his ear.
The cell phone which lay on the ground in the panic room, rang. “Hell…hello?” I said.
“You’re safe now. I’m coming in,” the man said.
Before I could remove the phone from my ear, brown sand filled the room seeping through the seams around the door. It gathered in one spot near my dead father and quickly formed the shape of a man. It became flesh and knelt at my father’s side. A Druid with white flames, a dead father, and a man made of sand: I was too traumatized to be shocked. I lowered the phone.
“I’m sorry, friend,” the man said placing his hand on my father’s shoulder. He removed his hand and then turned to look at me. “Do you have it? La Mano de los Segundos?”
I removed the timepiece from my pocket and showed it to him.
He nodded. “David, I know you don’t understand what’s going on. Nevertheless, it now falls to you to protect the timepiece. My name is Rasool. We need to leave here. I need you to come with me.”
All the fear that had previously taken hold of me subsided. I looked at my father, and then I looked at the pocket watch in my hands. Finally, I turned my gaze to Rasool. “Do you know the man with the white fire?”
“His name is Brogan. He…,” Rasool said.
“Will you help me?” I interrupted.
“Help you what?” Rasool asked.
“Will you help me kill the man with the white fire? Help me to kill Brogan.”