And then they were down by the carousel again; by, not on and Shadow wondered if the whole thing had been real or a figment of his imagination. Or, he felt the urge to add, both.
“Weren’t we on the carousel?” he asked Mr Nancy.
“No, boy; nobody’s allowed on that carousel. Where you leave your brains?”
“Some guy told me a story about stealing a tiger’s balls, and I was too busy working it out,” replied Shadow, good as telling the truth, he had the feeling he should have listened more closely to Wednesday’s speech, but it was already fading from his mind, the only thing that seemed good and clear was the story.
The old man laughed. Shadow thought he would make a great warm-up guy at a club or something.
And then he stopped laughing.
Something had changed about the carousel room.
There was never a goddamn Mountie in there before. For a moment Shadow wondered if he was a wax work brought in from one of the other rooms of the House on the Rock.
But then Wednesday walked up to the man, “You didn’t join us.”
“You know I can’t, sir, there are regulations against this, and I must observe the rules”
“Yeah. So you’re not joining us.”
“I can’t. I must be impartial, it is my duty and my nature, but I will endeavour not to notice what you might do. And it will be a comfort to have me, for I am not on your side, but you are on mine.”
And that was too cryptic, too crazy and Shadow turned his attention to the guy with him, the regular, normal guy with him. Sure his hair was kind of crazy and too young for the lines about his eyes, but prison had taught Shadow to lay less value in appearances than he had done.
“You know what it going on?”
“You got to be kidding, Fraser just dragged me out of bed and got me to drive here, and the wolf ate my burger…”
Shadow hadn’t notice the wolf sitting at the feet of the Mountie.
“Last time I saw you, you were a woman, all pretty with that blindfold.”
“This is what they believe me to be here, and Mr Wednesday, you will be glad of that blindfold.”
“I miss the sheet you used to wear, and the breasts, obviously.”
“Ah.” That was making as much sense as any conversation with Wednesday, but this time it looked like he met somebody who could play him at his own game, only better, and everything about his boss screamed that they needed to get out fast, ‘cause Wednesday could be a bastard, and this guy was as clean as the driven snow and getting Wednesday pissed.
Shadow turned back to his converstion, as if no time at all had passed.
“and yeah, the wolf ate my burger, but that ain’t too bad ‘cause, yeah, nobody’s shot at us yet, which has to be a record, and it looks like all Fraser wanted to do was talk to Mr One Eye over there, and that’s greatness, ‘cause we can then go and look at the interesting shit. And my old man…”
Fraser, interesting. Shadow read a book on Scots history once he’d got through Herodotos, and the Frasers, that was from fraise, a strawberry like on their crests. So if Mr Wednesday was Mr Wodin, then Fraser was Mr Strawberry. It didn’t make much sense, but then Shadow had been paid not to expect sense, but Strawberries were Red and red seemed to suit the guy.
“…he used to take us on road trips and that’s what it is, a road trip with Fraser, and I can’t think of anything better, or at least, not till we get back to the motel and I introduce him to the delights of room service. You…”
Shadow waited for the inevitable question.
“I don’t have to pay him.”
“He drank my mead.”
“He took my badge and with it my sacred trust.”
The inevitable question didn’t come, no comment about his blood, Indian or otherwise at all, “you’ve got your hair pretty neat. Sure, I don’t know you? Since you’re too cool to be a friend of Fraser’s.”
And then, he bounced on his feet a little and his orange overshirt gapped and Shadow saw the badge and froze.
“Hey, easy, I ain’t here working, and Fraser ain’t here working, and hey, why don’t we talk like we were doing, and what’s your name, ‘cause I can’t keep calling you Guy With Cool Hair, or I’ll give myself a complex or something, and yeah, it doesn’t have to be real or nothing, I’m not going to stick it in some cop database.”
“Hi, I’m Kowalski, and hey, looks like they’re stopped, thank god. Thought your boss was going to whack him one, and then things would have gone not-pretty fast.”
The wolf was nuzzling at Kowalski’s jeans-clad leg, “Okay, mutt, I’m moving. What, you don’t like mutt? Tough, you ate my burger.”
And with that they were gone.
Shadow knew better than to ask Wednesday what that was about, or at least, to ask right now.
“Nice enough,” said Wednesday, “came to warn me about some obstacles. Damn pity that people tore him in two like that.”
The wolf had never left Fraser’s feet the whole time they’d been talking. And then Shadow realised, red and tooth and claw, and Kowalski had taken his badge.