When I was young, my father dreamed that I was running wild through the olive groves between the mountains and the sea. He awoke in our big house with its many rooms and roof of red tile and he was afraid for me. He was a practical man, yet he believed in prophecy. It troubled him, this vision of his motherless child howling in the moonlight so he brought his fabled practicality to bear on it. In my father’s household, there was an old man named Stavros who was purportedly the gardener. As if you could actually grow anything in sun-baked clay and rock that hearty olive and fig trees found hard going. My father decided that in lieu of my other chores, I should be Stavros’ “little helper.” Not that Stavros needed or desired the assistance of a bookish nine-year old. He accepter my apprenticeship with good grace and allowed that I was a capable enough weeder if properly supervised. But he rarely spoke to me except to assign a nominal task. There was no conversation in the garden.
As Professor Charles Xavier looks on, the now feral Logan silently sneaks out of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning and heads into the city. Once there, he leaps from rooftop to rooftop.
Then, one day, after a singularly protracted silence, there was this. “I knew your mother.” I waited, expectant. Was this the preamble to the great untold tale of my father’s house? The story of the woman who bore me, but was never mentioned in my presence? If so, it was not forthcoming. We continued in uncomfortable silence for months until the day my careless hoeing resulted in the death of a sapling. He was distraught, but there was no anger – at least, none directed at me. Still, I sought to deflect the blame, the guilt. “It’s just a plant” said I. “It’s a living thing” he said, “and it’s in our care.”
In a nearby apartment complex, a mother tucks her teenage son into bed. As she does, she removes her own necklace and puts it around his neck. Once she leaves him to slumber, the teenager gets up, gets dressed, pulls a pistol out from underneath his mattress and heads out the fire escape. When he does, he is watched by a shadowy figure on a nearby rooftop.
But I was a clever child! Bookish, as I said. “The weeds!” I blurted. “We kill the weeds, don’t we?” His eyes went blank. And when he spoke the words were doled out like alms to an anchorite. “We kill the weeds, but we are careful to take no pleasure in it.” “How could we enjoy our lamb at Easter, if we saw the butcher smiling as he slit the throat?” “You will find that there are many weeds in the garden of life, little one and they will always sprout up next to the plants we wish to nurture.” “We make our choices, in this world, little one and we act upon them.” We planted a seedling to replace the one that died and with it we buried a fish “to give the tree life and reminds us of him who was a fisher of men.”
When Logan climbs down the building and lands on the street, he is face to face with a blind homeless man in a wheelchair. As the mother passes by, she gives the homeless man some of her spare change and when she sees Logan, she is surprised but gives him a coin as well. Nearby Logan sees the teenager meeting up with his thug friend.
Weeks passed, and it came time to prune the old growth in the north grove. It was midday, and Stavros sent me back to the house to fetch his whetstone. In the garden shed behind the kitchen, I overheard Athos, my father’s bodyguard. He was talking to Cook. He was telling her about Stavros. Stavros the killer. Stavros the cold-blooded. Stavros the avenging angel. How he joined the underground in Crete and fought the fallschirmjaegers. How he learned the art of the fairbourne dagger and the craft of gelignite from the English. How he became the scourge of the Nazis and how his name was betrayed to the Gestapo. Athos told of the day the SS came to the house of Stavros’ family and what they did to his sisters. I shudder to remember the whispered description of how they nailed Stavros’ mother to her front door and hung a sign from her body that read “mother of a mad dog.” Cook was fascinated. She was too young to remember the war, but she had heard little bits and pieces of the legend. Athos told of how Stavros lived up to his epithet. How he slew the Nazis with gun, knife, bomb, and piano wire. How he became an inexorable engine of destruction like some furious revenant returned from across the river of woe to rend and tear any and all who dared to wear the crooked cross.
As a couple with a baby exits a nearby church, a drug deal goes down, perpetrated by a shadowy figure behind a chain-link fence. At that moment, the teenager and his thug friend rush at the drug dealer, guns drawn. In the blink of an eye, the drug dealer pulls out a pistol and pulls the trigger. Before he can shoot his attackers, the thug shoots him dead as the teenager looks on in fear. Even though the drug dealer was unable to stave off the attack, his gunfire hits the blind man in the wheelchair, killing him. When the couple with the baby pass by, they see the man in distress and go to help him. For their efforts, the man and woman are both shot by the thug. Before he can get any further, Logan leaps to action and slashes the thug in the face.
I remember thinking, “Is this their Stavros they speak of?” Stavros, who is pained by the death of weeds? But then, Athos mentioned my mother’s name and told how my father sent her to find Stavros. She was only fifteen at the time, a runner in my father’s resistance cell. She told him he was poaching in my father’s purview and that if he wanted to continue killing Nazis he would have to do so under their father’s command. Stavros had told Athos that they he had laughed so hard he wept but when he cleared his eyes, my mother had drawn a 9mm parabellum and snapped the toggle to chamber a bullet. Stavros looked into my mother’s eyes and saw a reflection of his own. And that is how he came to join my father. I ran back to the north grove, confused, enraged and elated. Could this be the same Stavros? Was everything he told me a lie? Could he, would he tell me about the mother I never knew?
With the thug down, Logan is shot in the shoulder from behind. His attacker – the teen. Logan gives chase and follows him all the way to the train station. On the platform, the teen continues to back away and fire at Logan. Eventually, the platform gives way and the teen stumbles onto the tracks as a train barrels towards him. Seeing the boy’s religious symbol on the necklace around his neck and realizing that it came from the lady who had been nice to him earlier, Logan leaps towards the teen on the track.
But Stavros was nowhere to be found. Instead, there were two strange men with rifles and a diagram of my father’s house. The elder of the two put a knife to my throat and would have killed me outright but the younger one, not much more than a boy, objected. He said they were patriots and not murderers of children. The knife-wielder laughed and put the point under my ear. They were less to him than a lamb at spring culling. Eyes shut tight, I heard the blade bite meat, gristle and bone. A warm wetness splashed my face and there was the tang of copper on their tongue. I suppose I expected an angel when I opened my eyes. Instead there was my would-be slayer lying before me. He would never harm anyone again. Beyond him was Stavros, making sure the other assassin joined his fellow. Was this the same pistol my mother had leveled at him? I heard the snap of the safety disengaged and I cried out, “He is not a weed!”
As the train continues down the track and the pistol falls to the ground below, Logan holds on to the teen by his sweatshirt with one hand and the side of the track with the other. Once on the ground, Logan peers closer at the teen’s necklace with a single claw and silently points for him to go. As the boy looks at the devastation he caused and at his mother holding the baby that just lost his parents, Logan falls to the ground in exhaustion.
Stavros said, “He came to slay your father, little one.” “Not for vendetta, or for honor, but for pasteboard ideas and hollow words.” I whispered, “ He would have spared me. I ask you for his life.” Stavros put up his pistol and the boy fainted. The old gardener knelt to look me in the eye. “This is no mercy,” he said. “The army will take him and he will suffer horribly before they hang him.” A willful and stubborn child, I would not be moved. And so the boy was hidden and the second rifle disposed of. In time, the boy, whose name was Theo, became like a son to Stavros and a great comfort in his old age. When I was leaving for the university, Stavros came with figs and olives. He sat in silence in the kitchen for an hour with a single glass of ouzo. Then came a torrent of words; the litany of his sins, the rubric of his redemption and finally, this: “You will learn much at this Columbia in America, my little Elektra, but there is a truth you were taught me when you were a child and here is old Stavros to teach it back to you.” “Redemption is not free. It must be paid back in kind.” “To whom?” I asked. “To the universe,” he replied.
Realizing mistakes he made that night, the teen heads back to Logan and picks him up. As they begin to leave, they are confronted by the drug dealer. Even though he had been shot, he was wearing a bullet proof vest and therefore survived. Before he can shoot Logan and the teen, he is killed from behind by Elektra, who plunges her sai through his back and out of his stomach. Elektra tells the boy to go and to leave Logan with her. The boy sees his mother handing the baby to the police and decides to do just that. As he leaves, Logan tosses him the same coin that the boy’s mother had given him earlier. The mother, now seeing her son, rushes towards him and gives him a big hug, elated to see him alive.