A few nights ago I managed to conduct an interview with one of New York City’s premier supernatural detective agencies: Montague & Strong. They graciously offered to sit with me, drink some coffee (and tea) while I asked them about their work and lives.
Here is the interview:
I’m sitting at a large table in the back of The Last Gasp Brew- a coffee and tea shop located in lower Manhattan when they walk in. Right away you can see the contrast. Simon stands around six foot tall and has a casual air about him. He’s wearing a leather pea-coat, black jeans and a light gray sweater. His bronze complexion is off-set by the shockingly white hair that sits atop his head. He looks around for a few seconds, sees me, gives me a wave and a smile as he approaches. He slides into the chair opposite me.
Behind him glides in Tristan who looks like he just left a martial arts class. His eyes scan the room and he exudes a quiet danger as he enters the shop. He’s wearing what appears to be a black loose-fitting tai-chi uniform. He’s not as tall as Simon, but his presence makes him appear to fill the space around him. His complexion is darker than Simon’s and his hair is a deep black with gray at the temples.
They sit at the table opposite me, both facing the door. Simon and I shake hands, Tristan gives me a curt nod.
Orlando: Thank you both for meeting me here tonight. I know your schedule is usually busy working cases. I really appreciate it. By the way the coffee here is excellent.
Tristan: You only say that because you haven’t tried the tea. It’s our pleasure. Thank you for having us.
I notice that Tristan has a slight English accent while Simon sounds very ‘New York’.
Simon: No one drinks tea anymore.
Tristan: Except maybe most of the civilized world.
Orlando: Thanks again. I didn’t realize how difficult arranging this interview would be. You two must have some of the busiest schedules in the city.
Simon: Well it’s not like we had a choice – what I mean is you are… you know?
Simon makes some gestures I don’t understand with his hands and Tristan sighs.
Tristan: What he means is that he’s happy to be here answering questions. You’ll have to excuse him, sometimes he’s as tactful as a brick.
Simon looks at Tristan and chuckles. He takes off his coat and reclines in the large wing-back chair. His laugh is infectious and I find myself smiling. Tristan responds with a brief smile, but remains mostly serious and vigilant. I get the impression he has assessed everyone in the shop and found no imminent threats.
Simon: What the worst he can do, Monty? He did make me immortal you know. Try and relax.
I look down at my notes and prepare my first question.
Orlando: About that- you’re immortal?
Simon: The technical term is ‘cursed alive’. Apparently Kali-
Orlando: Kali as in the goddess Kali the destroyer? Shiva’s consort?
Simon: Yeah that one. Well I was on this job for Shiva-
Tristan: Which I told him not to take. I distinctly remember advising you against getting involved with those two.
Simon: Anyway- Shiva asked me to get some information, things I’m not at liberty to discuss. Kali found out what I was doing and lost it. She went ballistic and marked me with this.
Simon shows me the back of his left hand. An intricate design is etched into his skin.
Orlando: What is that?
Simon: It’s called an endless knot. She basically stopped me from aging.
Orlando: I’m not seeing the downside. She made you immortal. You don’t age. This may sound odd, but can you die?
Simon: Can you?
Orlando: Well yes, I haven’t been cursed by an angry goddess.
Simon: Well so can I. The problem is that I wont stay dead. Even worse is that I don’t know how I’ll come back. It’s not something I’m eager to test. You know?
Orlando: I can understand your reluctance.
Tristan: His immortality may be conditional, is what he’s trying to say. He could very well die and return as a goat. Which would be an improvement if you ask me.
Simon: He didn’t ask you, Monty.
Orlando: So you don’t know if you’re really immortal?
Tristan: All the indicators are there and several prominent entities have alluded to his altered state-some more violently than others.
Orlando: What can you tell me about the mark Kali gave you?
Simon: It’s part of the curse. As long as I have this-
He shows me the mark again and it seems to reflect the light around us with a subtle golden hue.
Simon: I’ll be hunted every time I use it..also every time I use it, it gets ‘her’ attention.
Orlando: Her meaning Kali?
Tristan looks up at the ceiling and sighs loudly.
Tristan: Here we go. It’s not every time. Your delusions of grandeur are astounding. The universe doesn’t revolve around Simon Strong.
Simon: Her meaning Karma. I don’t even like saying her name out loud. I never know if she’s close.
Orlando: Karma is female?
Simon: You’ve never heard the saying: “Karma is a bitch?”
Orlando: I think everyone has heard that one.
Simon: You have no idea, trust me.
Orlando: Does it do anything special, the mark?
Simon: Yes it’s a source of endless grief. See what I did there?
Tristan: It causes temporal stasis, but we cant really go into much detail.
Orlando: I understand. So Monty?
Tristan: Tristan please.
I take a moment to check my notes.
Orlando: My apologies I have it here that Simon calls you Monty.
Tristan: Because my friend is a bloody idiot.
Orlando: I see, sorry about that, Tristan. You’re a mage. A magic user?
Simon: Oh not just a mage. He’s a ‘Golden Circle’ mage.
Simon makes air quotes as he says golden circle.
Orlando: A Golden Circle mage?
Tristan: The Golden Circle is the oldest of the mage groups on the planet. They have devoted their lives to the deep study of magic and its connection to all life for the betterment of humanity.
Orlando: That’s some mission and quite admirable.
Simon suppresses a laugh.
Simon: I’m sorry. It’s just that Monty can’t stand them because all they do is study. The mages are forbidden from entering and being part of the world or modern society. Monty is currently AWOL.
Tristan: I’m on extended sabbatical. I believe magic should transcend just study and has practical applications as well.
Simon: That’s what you’re calling it now? How long is the extension-forever? I’ve never heard of a sabbatical lasting ten years. I’m just saying.
Tristan: Next question please.
Orlando: What is that you both do?
Simon: We’re a paranormal detective agency. When things go south, sideways and inside out they call us. We take the cases no one else can or wants to take.
Tristan: We provide a unique service to the city and the supernatural community. We investigate matters our clients prefer to keep discreet and on rare occasions prevent catastrophes.
Orlando: That would be the Montague & Strong Detective Agency? Who named it?
Simon: It was going to be the Strong & Montague Agency for Paranormal Investigations, but Monty bought the sign. I still think my titles sounds better.
Tristan: It doesn’t and also M comes before S.
Orlando: You two have an interesting chemistry. How did you meet?
Simon: A few years ago I was working a case- this was before the whole Kali thing- turns out Monty was working the same case from a different angle. We were dealing with some sorcerers who were kidnapping homeless people for a human sacrifice ring. The Dark Council asked me to look into it and stop the kidnappings. Monty and I teamed up and stopped it. I haven’t been able to get rid of him since then.
Orlando: This is the Council that governs the community of supernatural beings in the city? The one led by Michiko Nakatomi the vampire?
Tristan: You’ve done your research. That information is incredibly difficult to obtain. Yes that’s ‘his’ vampire.
Simon: She’s not my vampire. She is a good acquaintance.
This time it’s Tristan who tries and fails to suppress laughter.
Tristan: The Dark Council is a dangerous and ruthless organization made up of Vampires, Weres and other assorted supernatural beings. All of which can be a threat to humanity. The last thing they do is make ‘acquaintances’. He is madly infatuated with her to his and our detriment.
Simon’s phone rings. He looks down at the number and scowls.
Simon: Excuse me I have to take this. Ramirez- que pasta?
He stands and looks at me apologetically as he begins walking away and speaking.
Orlando: Is that urgent?
Tristan: When it’s Ramirez, it usually is.
Orlando: One last question. Why Simon? It’s obvious you two come from very different circles. Why do you stay together? I’m sure as a Golden Circle mage you could have your pick of partners or join any mage society.
Tristan takes a sip of his tea before speaking. He glances over at his partner who is still on the phone and nods.
Tristan: It’s quite simple really. You’re right I could be in any number of organizations, but I’m here with Simon. He can be and usually is a right pain in the arse. The simple truth is that he’s my friend and I’m his. We look out for each other.
Simon returns, downs his cup of coffee and puts on his jacket.
Simon: Hey, I’m sorry, but we have to roll. Some rogue vampire is terrorizing midtown. Can’t have the tourists be on the menu-bad PR for the city.
Orlando: I understand. Thank you again for your time and sitting with me. Maybe we can do this again when your schedule is less busy?
They both stop, look at me and laugh.
Tristan: I’m certain we can fit it in. Once we sort out dealing with the Dark Council, Ramirez and the NYTF, stopping the random deranged being bent on starting another supernatural war and any other fresh horrors that crop up.
Simon is at the entrance holding the door for Tristan. He has the phone to his ear again.
Simon: Monty, let’s go. Ramirez is having a fit.
He gives me a wave and heads outside.
Tristan and I shake hands as he prepares to leave.
Tristan: Try the tea, you wont regret it. Oh and stay out of Times Square for a few hours.
He heads out of the coffee shop. I watch them jump into a 1967 midnight blue Pontiac GTO parked in front. The engine roars to life and then settles into a purr followed by the screeching of tires as they speed off.
I decide to stay in the Last Gasp a little longer, seeing as how my next assignment was in midtown and order the tea.