Authors: Vincent Zandri
The landscapes are the same. Identical.
I’ll be damned, the true location
of the da Vinci Cave was under my nose the entire time. Under the world’s nose.
The location was depicted on the right-hand side of the mysterious Mona Lisa
while on her left, is the being who created not only the cave, but who quite
possibly, created us. A being from another world, another time, and another
dimension altogether. A being that some, including the Renaissance masters,
confused with God. A being who appeared in so many of their works which dealt
with the birth of Jesus and his death, and even the Annunciation of the Blessed
In the end, even Dan Brown got it
isn’t full of mysteries and questions. It contains the
answers, not the least of which, is our direct connection to the divine.
I replace the photo of
back into the art book, and shove that back into my satchel. Should I make a
point of letting Millen in on my newfound
discovery? My built-in
shit detector tells me to leave it alone. The power that resides there is far
too much for any one man, or country, or species to handle … much less
comprehend. Besides, he’s got a team of divers heading for the lake now. If the
divine beings who control the cave want to be found, that’s their business. Something
tells me, however, that nothing more than an empty lake bed will be discovered.
For better or for worse. But, if you were to ask me, I’d say it’s all for the
Folding what will surely be the
final note from da Vinci, I store it back in the chest pocket on my jacket. I
steal one final glance at the lake and the unspoiled nature that surrounds it,
approach the hill, and begin the steep climb back up to its ancient summit.
New York, New York
Two Weeks Later
“How come we don’t go out for cheeseburgers?” Ava says while piling
her freshly grilled cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, onion, relish,
mayonnaise, mustard, and almost one half of an entire bottle of Heinz 57 (she
needs the other half for her fries). “The Times Square Hard Rock Café makes
like a totally radical cheeseburger.”
I set my plate down on the small
island counter that separates my galley kitchen from the living
room-slash-dining room-slash-writer’s studio. Picking up the ketchup bottle, I
squeeze a reasonable amount onto my burger. When I’m satisfied the burger is
perfect, I pick off a piece and toss it to my pit bull, Lu, who is asleep on
the floor. Not one to sleep through free food, even a small morsel, she lifts
her head, snatches the burger right up.
“Thanks for that, Chase man,” I
hear her say in my head. “Missed you while you were away.”
“Anytime, Lu,” I answer in my head.
“I’ve missed you, too.”
I’ve still got the ketchup bottle
gripped in my hand.
“Hey, don’t use all the good stuff,”
I look her in the eye, then look at
the red sauce that covers her cheeseburger. “You’re kidding, right?”
This evening, the mature-for-her
ten years is wearing a Russian sailor shirt, the sleeves of which extend only
part of the way down her forearms. With her mom and stepdad’s permission, she’s
had her long brown hair highlighted with subtle streaks of green and red, which
makes her look more ‘hip’ or culturally relevant or just plain cool. Or so I’m
told. But then, I don’t exactly have my finger on the pop cultural pulse of the
world. The rest of her outfit is comprised of blue jeans purchased with rips
and tears in the legs (when I was a kid, we earned those rips and tears the
hard way), and a pair of red-wine colored Doc Martens combat boots.
She steals the Heinz 57 from my
hands and squeezes out a stream onto her french-fries.
“Did you know I could skip the
cheeseburger and fries and just eat ketchup?” she says.
“It’s good to compliment your meal
with a little meat and potatoes,” I say. “But, not too much. You don’t want to
drown out the taste of the ketchup.”
Then, realizing I forgot our
drinks, I head back into the kitchen for a bottle of beer for me, and a bottle
of spring water for her. Placing Ava’s water before her, I twist off the cap on
my beer, steal a generous swig, setting the bottle back down on the island
beside my burger. That’s when I catch my daughter eyeing the cold beer.
She wraps her hand around it, lifts
“You mind if I take a sip?” she asks.
“Some of my friends already drink beer.”
Something electric shoots through
my body. The image of Ava, twenty-nine years from now, lying in a hospital bed
in a coma due to excessive alcohol and drug abuse.
“If only someone had told her
when she was young to stay away from the first drink, perhaps she would have
learned to cope without alcohol in her life. She would have been able to move
on after the death of her husband and child without booze and drugs as a
I snatch the beer out of her hand.
Her eyes go wide, her bottom lip
trembles just enough to tell me she might start to cry.
“God, Dad, I was only kidding
I set the beer back down, take her
in my arms, hold her tightly.
“Listen, kid, I didn’t mean to
startle you like that. You’re not getting mixed up in anything, I hope.”
“No, Dad. Some of my friends steal
beer from their parent’s refrigerators. It’s no big deal.”
I release her, look her in the eye.
a big deal,” I
tell her. “Some people shouldn’t drink alcohol at all, and everyone else must
treat it with great respect. Or else … it can kill you, and destroy the
lives of the people who love you.”
“All I wanted was a sip, Dad.”
“That’s all it takes. That’s how it
I grab the beer, dump it out in the
sink. In the fridge I retrieve a bottle of water for myself, set it down.
Sitting myself back on my stool, I pick up my burger two-fisted.
“I’m going to tell you a story
about someone who used to be very close to me, but who ruined her life with
alcohol and drugs.”
While we eat cheeseburgers and
fries on a calm, cool night in New York City, I relay to my daughter her own
tragic story to come, and, in doing so, make it a tragic fiction that most
come to pass …
… God willing.
I’m banking on this: That Leonardo da
Vinci was right.
The future is yours …
… And the future is mine to
create, and that our divine creators were wrong when they insisted we can’t
change it. Because the future is like a canvas, if you don’t like what you see,
you can start over and paint something new on top of what doesn’t work.
Leonardo da Vinci used to do the same thing with his canvases all the time.
I’ve been given a gift by a master
who saw the future. The gift of knowledge … of knowing precisely how my
daughter’s life would turn out if I wasn’t there for her, to show her the way,
to make a difference. And, in turn, Ava—whether she’s aware of it or not—has
been granted a second chance at living her life. A second chance at doing it
right the first time around. If that makes any sense.
When I’ve finished talking, we
devour the rest of our burgers. Even though her plate is practically covered in
red, Ava pours more ketchup on what’s left of her fries. The bottle spits air.
“We’re out of Heinz 57, Dad,” she
“Guess you’re going to have to live
without it for a little while.”
“But I’m addicted to the stuff. My
life without ketchup. Just doesn’t seem worth living, now does it?”
The life my beautiful daughter is
It’s my greatest work of art.
If you enjoyed this Chase Baker Thriller you will also
Shroud Key (A Chase Baker Thriller No. 1)
Baker and the Golden Condor (A Chase Baker Thriller No. 2).
Winner of both the 2015 PWA Shamus Award and the 2015
ITW Thriller Award for Best Original Paperback Novel, Vincent Zandri is the NEW
YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than 20 novels including
THE REMAINS, MOONLIGHT WEEPS, EVERYTHING BURNS, and ORCHARD GROVE. An MFA in
Writing graduate of Vermont College, Zandri’s work is translated in the Dutch,
Russian, French, Italian, and Japanese. Recently, Zandri was the subject of a
major feature by the New York Times. He has also made appearances on Bloomberg
TV and FOX news. In December 2014, Suspense Magazine named Zandri’s, THE SHROUD
KEY, as one of the Best Books of 2014. A freelance photo-journalist and the
author of the popular “lit blog,” The Vincent Zandri Vox, Zandri has written
for Living Ready Magazine, RT, New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, The
Times Union (Albany), Game & Fish Magazine, and many more. He lives in New
York and Florence, Italy.
For more go to
Vincent Zandri © copyright 2016
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brief quotations in printed reviews.
Bear Media 2016
4 Orchard Grove, Albany, NY 12204
Cover design by Elder Lemon Art
Author Photo by Jessica Painter
The characters and events portrayed in this book are
fictitious. Any similarity to a real person, living or dead is coincidental and
not intended by the author.
Published in the United States of America