The sign of the alligator had seemed enigmatic at least, a riddle perhaps, when Sebastian first heard it from the bartend Nick Gun. He wondered endlessly what it might mean, if he would recognize it when he saw it. He regretted not asking more about it. It turned out to be a plywood sign. Of an alligator. He noticed it, shortly after arriving in Leeds, fixed to a brick wall four blocks north of the rail station. He stood a block away, just looking at the sign and the weathered door beneath it, for what felt to him as hours but was probably closer to a few minutes.
A homeless man sat on the asphalt next to the door, tipping slightly. It was no wonder why with the bottle of rum in his left hand. There was something about him, though, that first glance overlooked and maybe second or third glances. Sebastian may have thought this homeless man to have simply ran out of steam at close to this location and so settled here for a nap, but he somehow knew it was a guise and the man was guarding the door. The bedraggled man appeared to be sleeping but was not breathing like someone submerged in dream. His eyes appeared closed and his hair half-covered his face, but as Sebastian approached from a small and empty parking lot, clearly, to Sebastian, he was watching. He peered at the old man and felt the peer returned to him through slit of eye and part of hair, feeling the stare as physical like something crawling his skin. Was this one of the men he was supposed to bring the object to, or someone who wanted to take it from him before he could deliver it? The old man appeared suspicious, as Sebastian likely did. This mutual suspicion became a physical thing, felt by both, and Sebastian knew that, and knew that the old man knew it and felt it, too, but both remained quiet. He was about to break the silence when old man looked up then half-spoke and half-gurgled the words, "Git outta here."
"I brought something you might be interested in."
The old man wobbled, tipped a bit, hiccuped. "Coin, is it?"
What were the options? He could see three. He could talk to this man, perhaps be let inside this building or perhaps have the object stolen and some supplemental holes introduced into his head. He could try to get through the door--this scenario also presumably ending about the same time as Sebastian's life--without speaking to the man. Finally, he could just throw some coin and move on with his life. Get rid of this egg shaped device and just move right on. But move on to what?
"Special delivery from a tall, dark, mysterious man."
The inquiring eyes told all, although already there was no doubt he was not actually a homeless man who chose here to swoon against a wall, and though it was well hidden, those were the eyes of an intelligent man.
"It worth something?"
"When a tall, dark, mysterious man has a package delivered by violin playing teenager wearing a trench coat, and when he doesn't even know said person, it is either something very valuable or very dangerous. I get the feeling this might be both."
"Was it Garith?" the man asked with an instaneously clear and articulate voice.
"He never introduced himself."
The old man stood swiftly, clearly in better shape than he had been done-up to appear as, and looked Sebastian up and down.
"And see whom?"
"Just get inside," the man said, then sat on the dirty asphalt, back against the wall and the few weeds that grew there between the exposed foundation and edge of the parking lot, and resumed his act.
Sebastian tried the door, tried it again because it was a rusted old cursed thing, expecting to step into some kind of dungeon-like place full of chains and emaciated servants and shady barbaric characters. Instead, the inside was well-lit with fluorescent lights and the whole place had the comfortable, if sterile, feeling of an office. There was even a receptionist.
Approaching the desk, feeling not only a small amount out of place, Sebastian held his hand to the lump in his coat. Still there. He hadn't checked for a while and the trains are full of lifters.
The receptionist looked at him over the rim of her glasses, "I suppose you want to see Richter."
"I don't know who I want to see. The receiving department, I guess."
She stared at him for a moment, apparently unamused, pushed her bifocals up her nose a notch and then pushed a button on a phone and announced his presense to, Sebastian assumed, Richter. She went back to whatever she had been doing before his arrival. He stood in place. An uncomfortable amount of time of scanning the empty walls and fidgeting in his pockets had passed before she lifted her gaze again and said, blandly, "Through the door behind me."
He went to the door behind her and knocked. Behind him, the receptionist said, "He can't hear you. Go inside." So he did.
"Give it to me," was the welcome he received. A man sat in a leather executive's chair at the side of a large desk, facing the door and Sebastian.
"Richter, I presume?"
"Knowing my name has been the demise of more than one soul. Give it to me."
"What if I said I don't have it on me?"
"Then Garith has erred and you'd better have something in that ridiculous coat that will end your life quicker and less painfully than I will."
Sebastian handed it over. Richter snatched it quickly, placed it inside a padded metal box that had been sitting, open and waiting, on the desk to his side.
"You can go."
"What is that thing, anyway?"
"You make me curious."
"That thing makes me curious. That's why I just asked what it was. Just now I asked that. Remember?"
"I am curious if Garith advised you not to ask questions, or if he did and you are simply ignoring the advice of a man the likes of me would not even cross."
Sebastian had the sudden idea that maybe, just maybe, this man might not be the chummy type.
"I was just curious. That's all. No more questions. Just pay me and I'll be on my way."
"Oh, yes. That." Richter bent, retrieved a small white box, and handed it to Sebastian.
"Thanks." And now he couldn't help himself. "Any chance of telling me what I just delivered? I mean, you don't have to, but if I just delivered the world's smallest nuclear bomb to a really mean guy with a German name, I would like to know. You know, so I know to feel guilty when London explodes or whatever."
Richter stared at him, hard, piercingly. Sebastian stared back unwaveringly for a drawn-out moment, unsure if he was showing confidence or challenging the man. He hoped for the former.
"We can not share our intent with just anyone, son."
"Please? Pretty please?"
"Look at me. A gothic punk kid with a mohawk, a violin, and a bone to pick with pretty much everything... who would believe me?"
"I could name a few that would believe you without question, and in their knowledge that information would likely result in the failure of the conquest this organization has been working toward for dozens of years."
"Conquest? Oh God."
"It is not as you are likely thinking."
"Oh, God. I was kidding when I mentioned London blowing up. I didn't actually think--"
"We are not going to detonate London."
"New York, Paris, Tokyo, whatever place, I didn't actually think I would be responsible for millions of lives lost. I'm seriously thinking about tackling you right now."
Richter seemed unsure of how to take this. Sebastian felt quite unsure about what he was doing. The much larger, sturdy man's forehead wrinkled as he looked up doubtfully from his chair.
"Son, you wouldn't last three seconds--"
"I don't care. Better that than be responsible for millions of deaths."
"We are not going to detonate any city."
Sebastian could not believe his chicanery was working this well. He thought he ought to just go for it. "Then what is it?"
"So you're going to blow up--what? A nature preserve?"
"We are not going to blow up anything. It is a good bomb."
"Oh, a good bomb. Okay then. I was mistaken. Sorry."
Richter hefted the metal box containing the egg shaped bomb in his hand. "This is a bomb that will destroy only evil."
"A bomb that sends out devastating waves of energy which seek out immoral thoughts? Nifty."
"You have it utterly wrong."
Sebastian's heart was racing. His body temperature rose; he hoped the sweat was still a few minutes away. The performance was--astonishingly, considering the severity of this person and the one who had given him the bomb to begin with--working, but he was unsure he wanted to continue. Things had become very serious very quickly. This caused him to think, at the same time, that he should stop what he is doing and forget about everything and also that if he did that he might as well throw in the towel and do that thing that he almost had ten years ago--that thing involving knives and a bathtub, the thing his mother had actually encouraged him to do before she died--because once Richter realized what was happening the man might just decide to torture him for a while before killing him. He decided to go with it.
"How could I? What characteristic can a bomb possibly have that moves it from destructive to productive?"
"The characteristic of being this one."
"Which aspect of that one makes it a good thing?"
"It's purpose. What it will do."
"What will it do?"
"Disable the modern world. Civilization, rather. It will disable modern human civilization."