Chapter 7 – Russian Roulette
This Vicious Cabaret
They say that there's a broken light for every heart on Broadway.
They say that life's a game, then they take the board away.
They give you masks and costumes and an outline of the story
Then leave you all to improvise their vicious cabaret...
There's a girl who'll push but not shove and is desperate for her father's love
She believes the hand beneath the glove maybe one she needs to hold.
Though she doubts her hosts moralities she decides she is more at ease
In the Land Of Doing What You Please than outside in the cold..
By Alan Moore, from V for Vendetta
Juldeh gazed pensively at Shuttlesworth as they weaved in and out of the evening traffic. To Juldeh's eyes, Shuttlesworth was far too intense for his own good. Juldeh had no idea where they were going; had no idea if he could even trust this strange man. Stella trusted him however, and he trusted her, and so that would have to do for now. The only words Shuttlesworth had uttered since Juldeh first shook his hand were "Call me Jesus." He pronounced "it hay-zeus", and Juldeh had been happy enough to comply with his demand. They'd driven in silence and Juldeh had pondered in great detail the strange, undulating arc of his young life. This was going to be a new adventure, and he would have enough time to contemplate his future later. His immediate focus was on ensuring that he would meet his brothers. The deafening silence eventually forced him out of his reverie.
He was starting to wonder if Jesus would ever speak when he heard him say in a soft voice that scarcely sounded like it could be coming from him, "We'll be in London in about an hour. You really should learn to relax. You're much too tense for one so young."
Juldeh said nothing. Shuttlesworth didn't seem fazed by this. His focus was entirely on the road. Eventually, he repeated, "We'll get to London in less than an hour. It may not be the London you want to be in, but it'll have to do for now."
Juldeh was perturbed by this. He wondered just how much Stella had told Shuttlesworth about him. Eventually, he decided that it didn't matter, so he responded amiably, "I'm very grateful for your help, Mr. Shuttlesworth. Interesting name, by the way. It doesn't quite seem like it fits you, and yet it does."
Shuttlesworth laughed a sonorous laugh that seemed even more out of place than his name. "Mexican mother, British father, but I guess I got most of her genes. I could change my name, but I like being unique."
The ice finally broken, the two men sat in comfortable silence as Shuttlesworth kept the Crown Victoria speeding along at a good clip. Juldeh stayed awake the rest of the trip, marvelling at the vibrancy of the scenery as they left Toronto behind, and reached London. Even late in the evening, the city seemed energetic and busy and thriving. The bright lights blinded him momentarily, but eventually he regained his bearings. He'd travelled as a child, but this was the first time since the twins' births that he'd been in a place such as this. He felt rejuvenated just looking at everything. He'd been apprehensive and unsure about what his next steps would be, but as he gazed at the beauty around him, a plan was dawning on him. He wasn't sure how it would work, but he didn't really have any other options. It would require copious amounts of luck, but he'd always believed in making his own luck. He was confident that he would succeed. All the players were in place, he just needed to set the events in motion.
Shuttlesworth zigzagged confidently through winding, cobbled streets till they reached a quaintly modest house. It was old fashioned, and the lawn that adorned the front yard was clearly meticulously kept, even by the light of the moon. Shuttlesworth parked the crown Victoria in the garage, and ushered Juldeh inside. Juldeh followed him dutifully as he showed him his expansive room in the attic. The bed was meticulously made, and the room was spotless. Juldeh looked around and gave an involuntary whistle. Shuttlesworth smiled.
"You've had a long day, you should probably get some rest. We'll talk some more tomorrow morning. Good night."
With that, he made his exit, leaving Juldeh all alone once again. Juldeh took a look at the luminous display on the watch Stella had given him. It was almost 1am, and the jetlag was starting to take its toll. He lay down on the soft, luxurious bed, and by the time his head touched the plush, downy pillow, he was fast asleep.
The next day...
Juldeh woke up to the wonderful smells of breakfast wafting through the entire house. He followed his nose and his growling stomach to the kitchen. There he saw Shuttlesworth putting the finishing touches on a steaming plate of eggs, bacon and hash browns. There was also a large pot of tea on the table, and he indicated for Juldeh to help himself. Juldeh dutifully obliged. Eventually, Shuttlesworth took the seat beside him and took out an envelope from within his coat pocket.
"Stella wanted me to give this to you. I would have done so last night, but well, I thought you needed some rest."
Juldeh took the envelope and carefully opened it. The first thing he saw was a photograph of Stella standing with her arms around a delicately beautiful older woman. Despite the height difference, the similarities were unmistakeable, and Juldeh guessed this was Stella's mother. They were in front of what looked like the Kremlin square in Moscow, Russia. Stella towered over her mother and had a huge, care-free grin on her face. Inside the envelope was also a letter in carefully scripted penmanship. Juldeh unfolded the paper, and began to read.
If you're reading this letter, then you must be in London by now. You should be safe with Jesus. I trust him with my life, and he's never given me any reason to doubt his loyalty. I know things must be very difficult for you at the moment, but I'll do whatever I can to change that. In a way, I feel responsible for you now. My actions led to this, and hopefully they can lead you out of it. I haven't been completely honest with you, and so I feel I must remedy that. Unfortunately, you've been a pawn in a game that doesn't involve you, and that's not fair. You can ask Jesus to confirm any of these details, but I promise you that all that I have to say is the absolute truth.
My name is Stella. Wednesday is my father. When I was a little girl, he did unspeakably terrible things to me. He was and is a complete monster. I never forgave him for what he did, and I escaped from his evil clutches the first chance I could. I spent my teenage years depending on the kindness of strangers as I searched in vain for my mother, and a place where I belonged. Times were difficult, but I survived using my wits and eventually, through a mixture of serendipity and hard work, I managed to created an invention that provided a gateway to solving a few of the world's problems as well as all of mine. I wish I could disclose to you what it was, but several non-disclosure agreements prevent that.
Suffice to say, money would not ever be a problem for me ever again, and it has opened up avenues for me that I never thought possible. I've made invaluable contacts, and picked up skills that have come in handy numerous times (you did wonder where I got all my toys). I also managed to find my mother, but I never forgot what Wednesday did to me. I'd been keeping tabs on him for a while, waiting to inflict as much pain and suffering to him as he did to my mother and I. Once I realized he was back in Ghana, I realized that was my chance to take him down once and for all. When I discovered that he was grooming an apprentice, I decided that if they were trustworthy enough, I would enlist their help in stopping him. In the process, I would also save them from sharing his fate. You proved yourself brave, resourceful and I decided that I would have to help you. My only regret is that I never shot the devil in the back when I had the chance. This may be a shock to you, but Wednesday escaped from prison, and his whereabouts are currently unknown. You shouldn't worry about him. He is predictable, and his predictability renders him harmless. He'll come after me, and that will be his biggest mistake. You should be safe, however. As far as he knows, you played no part, and were coerced into helping me. I will do everything in my power to ensure that no harm comes to you.
On a more positive note, I plan to spend as much time globetrotting as I can. Russia is really beautiful this time of year. You should be sure to visit one day. I'll make sure to send you a postcard from every country I stop through. It'll be our little tradition. I wish you luck in your search for your brothers. I've given Jesus instructions to help you in any way he can. Take care of yourself and I hope to keep in touch.
Stella Xiao Wu Chen
Juldeh read the letter carefully once again, growing more and more worried with every passing word. The thought of a vengeful Wednesday in search of him put a cold chill through his heart, but he eventually decided that it was no matter to him. If Stella wanted to play Russian roulette, that was her prerogative. This was a conflict between a father and his daughter. It really had nothing to do with him, as Stella had said, and besides, he still had his own destiny to fulfill and nothing would deter him from that.
He arched an eyebrow at Shuttlesworth and asked "how much of this is true?" to which Shuttlesworth replied "I haven't read it. That's not my place, but the Stella I know would never lie. She saved my life once, a long time ago. I owe her a lot, and I gave her my word that I would help you."
"How exactly did she get into all that money? How can she afford all the travel she's been doing?" Juldeh asked quizzically.
"Well, that I can't tell you. She'll tell you that, one day I'm sure, all in good time" Shuttlesworth replied coolly. He continued after a short pause, "We've dallied enough. If you're ever going to do everything you came here to do, we're going to need a plan."
Juldeh cut him off, "well, then we're in luck, because a plan, is exactly what I have."