The 2nd was also Isaac Asimov's birthday and the the Good Doctor and I shared titles. Anne and I, Alabaster McMurdo, and the Peninsula Gang (Parker and Marc Muldoon, KC, and Chin) were all at Mr. Happy's Bar and Grill to raise a toast in his honor. He didn't do much drinking in life so we were doing it for him in rounds, shots, fifths, and jiggers, and for the next three hours, we listened to man himself narrate Foundation from a copy I had of a Bantam Audio production, played on an old Optimus CTR-111 cassette recorder. Every time he said "Foundation," "psychohistory," "Hari Seldon," or "The Seldon Plan," we drank.
Then around 1:36pm, Louie the bartender got a call and when he hung up, tears were streaming down his face and he dropped to his knees behind the bar and screamed "Crom!" and clawed at the sky.
Al and I dove behind the bar to check on the man. I snatched up the phone. It was Duke.
"Glenn Lord's dead," he explained. "Word came in on the Locus website. I had to tell him."
"I understand," I said. "We'll take it from here."
Louie curled up in a fetal position, clutching a bar towel, and began muttering under his breath. The two of us knelt beside him.
"What's he saying?" Al asked.
I bent closer so I could hear better.
"Know, oh prince," Louie rasped in a choked voice, "that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities..."
I straightened. "The Nemedian Chronicles," I said. "It probably helps ease his pain."
Sally, one of the other two servers, hurried to the bar. "What happened?" she said, her brown eyes wide.
"You'll have to take over for a bit," I said to her. "Louie's not well."
Sally peered over the bar and gasped when she saw Louie. "Holy shit! Did we call 9-1-1?"
"No need," I said. "He's just crying, that's all. He needs some time alone."
"Crying? What happened?"
"Glenn Lord died."
"The guy who played Jonathan Kent in the original Superman?" said Parker. "I thought he died a while back?"
"Not Glenn Ford," I said. "Glenn Lord."
"Wait," said Marc. "You mean the guy who sang 'The Heat Is On'? One of the Eagles?"
"That's Glenn Frey," said Al. "He's still alive."
"Isn't Glenn Lord the guy who produced Galactica and Night Man?" said Sally.
"And Automan," chimed in KC.
"Automan rocked!" Chin piped up, a big grin splashed on his face. "Cursor was the bomb!"
"Don't forget Manimal," said Al.
"What's a manimal?" Sally asked.
"Nevermind," I said. "No, not him. That's Glen A. Larson. He's still alive and kicking. Glenn Lord was the literary agent for the Robert E. Howard estate."
"The Conan creator, right?" said Sally.
"That's right," I said.
"How sad. Were they friends?"
"They've met a couple times before," I said, remembering that Louie had been to several Howard Days in Cross Plains as a dues-paying member of the Robert E. Howard Foundation and had met with Lord at least twice.
"I didn't know Louie was such a big Conan fan," Sally said. "Of course, I've only been here for six months. And I've only ever seen the Arnold movie."
"Big Robert Howard fan, really," I said.
Sally nodded then crossed behind the bar to take Louie's place. As she passed him, she frowned. "What's he mumbling?"
"An old West Central Texas Death Anthem," I said not bothering to explain the Nemedian Chronicles, especially if she was only familiar with Arnie's Conan. "Hasn't been heard since the late '30s."
"He said something about shadow-guarded tombs." She shuddered. "Creepy."
"It'll be okay," I said.
I heard footsteps come up nearby, looked up, and saw Anne standing on the other side of the bar. "Back office is ready," she said. "I moved those boxes he had on the couch."
Al and I grabbed Louie by legs and under the armpits and carried him to the back of the bar. His voice was rising and falling now.
"What is that now?" I said, trying to listen to the words.
Al cocked his head for a moment and, when we turned into the back hallway, said, "The Song of Bêlit."
Anne kept the way clear and Al and I finally rustled him into the small back office and set him on the faded green couch. It was here, in his private sanctum, that Louie indulged all things Howard and Conan. A framed print of Frazetta's "The Destroyer" hung above the couch. A short bookcase sat against the wall just to the left of the door was packed with all twelve Lancer/Ace paperbacks, the seven Bantam editions, the four illustrated Ace editions, and half of the fifty Tor editions penned by such luminaries as Steve Perry, Leonard Carpenter, Roland Green, and Robert Jordan (before he lost himself in the Wheel of Time). Across from the door, on top of the desk next to an opened laptop was a stack of materials from the Robert E. Howard Foundation and some copies of Howard manuscripts Louie had told me he'd gotten from the Cross Plains Library. Two neat stacks of boxes sat to one side of the desk.
As soon as we had set him on the couch, Louie turned and buried his face against the cushions.
Anne went to his desk, picked up a photograph in a plain wood frame, and handed it to Louie. It was a photo of Louie standing in front of the Howard house in Cross Plain, Texas. Louie took the photo without saying a word and continued mumbling to himself.
"Let's give him some privacy," said Anne, gesturing toward the door.
Al and I nodded.
We left Louie curled up on the couch, reciting the Nemedian Chronicles once more, and clutching the photograph, and Al, Anne, and I, humming "Riders of Taramis," walked back to the main bar.
Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.