Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1) (2 page)

BOOK: Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1)
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“You have an important task ahead of you.  It is, in fact, the most critical endeavor of your life and the lives of many others.  For this reason, I am here to help you focus on what is important and disregard that which is not.

“There is a place you need to be and that place is not here,” she said.  What you do not yet see clearly is that you must find your place quickly because you have tasks to see to and a life’s work to discover.”

She removed her hand.  The connection was broken.  Julian sagged visibly, feeling as though she had been supporting him, keeping him from toppling over.

“What are the words, Mr. Blessing? Tell me what echoes you hear.”

“You seem so well informed, why do you need me?”  His voice was brittle.

“For now at least the need, sir, is not mine, but yours.”  Her smile disappeared and her expression turned serious and intense.  “Say the words, Mr. Blessing.  Not for me, but for yourself.  Please, you need to do this. Oblige me quickly before your telephone rings and you are called away.”

Julian looked at the ground.  For months, he had heard the words whispered over and over.  His mind cascaded over the previous months and a sea of emotion welled up inside of him.  Anger, frustration, bitterness, confusion and an aching sadness were all in attendance.  He looked up, then closed his eyes and said in a strangled whisper, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

He opened his eyes and found sympathy and sadness etched on Bridget Bragonier’s face.  She smiled her encouragement and said, “I will leave you so you may take your call in private.”  She took a pen and small notepad from her purse.

“Before you are called back to your office, let me give you the telephone number for our hotel.  It is very near where the professor is lecturing.  We will be in New York only for the week, but do call when you need my help.

“The answers you seek, the direction you need to follow, will be made plain to you shortly.  This much I understand.  I do not know your answers, but you will know them soon.  There are signposts ahead.  Look for them. 

“Do not become distracted by the life you are currently leading, Mr. Blessing.  The price of that distraction is far higher than you know.”

The iPhone in Julian’s pocket went off.  As he reached for it in confusion, Bridget Bragonier smile indulgently, turned and walked away.

“Julian, this is Olivia.  You have to get back here right away,” said the familiar voice of his assistant.  “No one is supposed to know.  I heard about it by accident.  There is something very wrong and you’re not going to be happy about it.”

“What did you say?”  His mind was racing in entirely too many directions.  “Yes, sorry Olivia.  I’ll be there in five minutes.”

Julian pocketed his phone and looked up.  Bridget Bragonier stopped fifty feet away. She turned to look at Julian and her face became serious and her eyes piercing.  Her lips did not move, but her voice touched his mind. Julian felt every thought of hers, every nuance. He was frightened, but the words began to calm him in a way he could not explain.

“Hush and calm your thoughts. Feel my words and believe me when I tell you, you have much to do and not a great deal of time left in which to do it.”

She continued, “
Remember, you will not be able to ignore the life that awaits you for much longer.  Soon you will have to acknowledge the meaning of the echoes you hear.  Allowing them to resonate within you will be the first step toward embracing your new life, the life you deserve and which has always been yours. Believe me, Mr. Blessing, it will be a life worth living, a life worthy of you.

“I have troubled you enough. For the present, I will say only go and be well, Julian Blessing.  We will talk again.”

The lady with the searching gray eyes smiled slightly, turned, and walked off toward the bookstore.

***

Julian walked the few blocks back to his office with labored, unsure steps.  He began to tremble with the effort to keep his secret buried in silence.  He stopped as a tide of humanity flowed around him on the sidewalk.  Eddies of people moved within inches, but he and they never touched, never jostled each other, never knew the other existed.

He looked straight ahead and whispered aloud the words he had kept hidden - the words that haunted his life.  They were the words he had feared, the words of an esoteric chant he did not understand.  He murmured them, “Go now.”

***

A few blocks away, in a corner bookstore by the park, Bridget Bragonier looked up suddenly.  She closed her eyes for a moment and smiled broadly.  The woman said only one word.  It summed up her relief, her satisfaction and her outlook for the future.  “Good.”

Her husband approached with several books tucked under his arm and a sales receipt in his hand.  He was always pleased to see his wife happy.  “Find something interesting, my love?” he asked.

“I find everything interesting, darling” she answered, a smile on her lips and in her voice.  She seemed lost in her thoughts and feelings for a moment and then continued, “especially you.”  She winked at him and he grinned.

Chapter Two
 

Julian walked slowly toward his assistant’s desk and said, “Olivia, let’s take a stroll and you can tell me your secrets. This is turning out to be a day for secrets and bizarre events.” He looked tired, but his smile was relaxed.

The Irishwoman in the park had been right. Saying the words he had denied utterance had been more freeing than he could have imagined. He had no idea what the message was or why he was visited with it, but he felt deeply the change repeating the words had made.

He was unhurried and unconcerned which worried his assistant. Few on Wall Street were anything other than stressed and tense. No one in New York City was ever truly relaxed. It was not a place that tolerated it. Olivia felt sure there was probably a city ordinance forbidding it.

After working with Julian for ten years, she knew he was an anomaly. Although lately Julian had been showing the strain, he was always composed, he always had a plan and he had the unusual ability to stay several steps ahead of everyone else. For her part, she was a brilliant broker’s assistant and a broker in her own right. She and Julian made a team that was one of the most formidable on Wall Street.

Olivia began. “I wouldn’t have called you if it weren’t important. I got wind of something, so I examined your personal brokerage account. You own 50,000 shares of Burton Chemical stock at $15½ - shares you didn’t own yesterday.”

“Do you suppose someone is trying to hide that stock so the SEC auditors don’t find it?” Julian asked and smiled.

“Got it in one, boss. More specifically, our firm’s chairman, Hal Heward has a stake in the auditors not finding that stock in our inventory. Your personal account is another matter.

“Hal’s son-in-law is the president of Burton Chemical and we are busy propping up the stock and issuing doctored buy recommendations. Why are you smiling? Are you feeling alright?”

“Olivia, I can’t really explain it. It’s complicated, but I feel oddly good. I do appreciate your concern though.” Julian smiled and his eyes were alight as a plan began to roll out with each new piece of information his assistant presented.

“Stashing that stock in your account is a perfect solution,” Olivia continued. “The firm makes it look like a normal transaction, and once the auditors are gone, the stock magically disappears from your account and is back in inventory.

“You get your money back and all is right with the world. What makes it really perfect though is if the auditors do find all that stock in your account, the firm will claim you’ve been the one manipulating it all along and they, the poor firm, knew nothing about it.”

“Olivia, what do you think of Burton?”

“It is a dog,” she said. “The firm, and now you, bought it at $15½ and it is selling at $8. It isn’t worth $5. There is a bad smell coming from that stock and everybody on the Street has gotten a whiff.”

“What is it that Burton does again? It’s not a stock I watch even though I now appear to own quite a lot of it, so you’ll understand my curiosity,” Julian said.

“As far as anyone has been able to figure, they don’t do much of anything aside from paying too much for companies. They buy mostly import-export firms that are on the ropes. Burton is very well capitalized, it is cash heavy in fact and it has no debt,” she said.

“So, I’m down $375,000 on what is probably a money-laundering scheme. Seems a bit shady even by brokerage firm standards, don’t you think?”

“Looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, boss,” Olivia responded.

“Good, that’s settled. I don’t like ducks. I’m going to sell my little flock to whoever will buy it. Do you suppose anyone would mind?” Julian asked and grinned.

Olivia stopped and looked with horror into the calm, gray eyes of her boss. “You’re joking? Of course you are. You would have to be insane to sell it. No, honestly, Julian, please don’t look like that.

“The chairman would be homicidal, the SEC will eat your ass off for dumping shit stock in the street and I’m sure there are others who would be more than a bit pissed off. Messing around with this kind of thing is dangerous.

“I say we sit tight and let the firm take the stock back later. Please, tell me you’re joking. Oh my God! You’re not joking.”

“Olivia, not to worry. I am going to sell Burton Chemical to Burton Chemical. I am going to recoup my loss and make a few dollars and I’m going to do it in a very short amount of time.

“The last thing Burton wants is blocks of outside investors asking awkward questions. I’ll sell and they’ll buy. Trust me.”

“Julian, listen, you’re scaring the hell out of me,” Olivia said. “Screw Heward and Burton. They’re nobodies, but there are wise guys or worse involved here. You will be messing with the wrong kind of people. You’ve got to know this is all very bad business – I mean dead-in-a-ditch bad business.”

“Well then, I’ll have to be extra careful won’t I,” Julian said with a smile.

He knew this was a dangerous game. If it worked, he filled a pothole on Wall Street. A worthless stock would be unavailable for casual investors to fall into – at least for a while.

At risk was his life. Julian wasn’t feeling invincible. What he felt was far more powerful than that. He knew Olivia was right. He was mucking about with the wrong kind of people. He did not care and that made him powerful and dangerous and very possibly dead.

Olivia had seen Julian pull rabbits out of hats many times before. This time it was a very large rabbit and a very small hat.

By ten o’clock, it was being whispered on the Street that someone had accumulated a large position in Burton Chemical and was looking for more.

By eleven o’clock, the information was common currency.

By one fifteen, the stock was actively trading at $15.50 and Julian watched the computer in his office record his trades.

By the closing bell Burton had run as high as $21 then fallen back to close at $19. Olivia knocked lightly and entered his office crossing the expanse of thick carpet to his desk. “Julian, I’ve been watching, you’re out of Burton. I hear Hal Heward is looking for you. There is going to be hell to pay, boss. Now what?”

“Olivia, here is a list of three brokerage firms who are desperate to talk with you. Go interview them and see which one you like best. You’ll be taking all of my clients with you so you’ll have plenty of negotiating power behind you.

“It would be safe to say, I am not going to be the flavor of the day around here. It would be best if you made yourself scarce. Besides, you’re too good of a broker to work here.

“Where are you going, boss?”

“Olivia,” Julian sighed. “I really have not the slightest idea.”

***

In his office along the darkened skyline in lower Manhattan, Julian Blessing wondered why no one had yet come to throw him out of the window. He would have given it more thought, but he had recently taken up a nightly ritual of self-castigation and so he began to practice it again.

Julian switched on a lamp and removed three items from his large mahogany desk. He began with an envelope hand addressed by his ex-wife and marked personal and confidential, although it was neither.

He and she had lived semi-detached lives for some time before she filed for divorce. With a house in Connecticut and the apartment in the City, Julian had trouble remembering which was home. Recently he hadn’t invested enough of himself in either place for it to be otherwise.

He lived his life as a perennial stranger, a man never touching or being touched. He saw himself as a constant foreigner, an outsider observing life but never living it.

His wife had sent him a private letter and some personal belongings with the divorce papers. The divorce was a civil formality. The real marriage had been dissolved long ago when he discovered her numerous affairs and her pilfering of their joint bank accounts.

The letter, however, was meant to wound him and it succeeded, but not in the ways she intended. He knew her words were conceived in hatred and awash in resentment. But, it was with a different type of bitterness that Julian re-read the letter.

He found himself obsessed with thoughts of a life half lived. He thought if he read the letter enough times, punished himself enough, it would burn away the results of living his life of half measures. Until then, he wanted his emotions kept raw and painful. Julian was not looking for an easy way out.

Julian,

I wonder if you expected me to leave you. If you didn’t, you are a bigger fool than I thought possible. Still, I know what a nuisance this must be for you. You will be civilized about this divorce business, won't you? Of course, you will. You are renowned for being civilized. Anyway, back to business – I wouldn’t want to waste your precious time.

I am writing to you to tell you a few things about yourself from my point of view. I do have a point of view, darling, even though I doubt you ever noticed.

Julian, even though you are able to make a lot of money – and you are rather good at that – you really are quite a failure on all other areas of life. I just thought you should know that little tidbit.

You are a soulless, plodding coward and a fool and I’m far from alone in that opinion. Most people laugh at you behind your back and no one respects you because you are not worthy of respect. In short, you are a social nightmare. Sadly, it doesn’t end there though. Although I did not always think so, you have become the most unattractive man I’ve ever known. The years have not been kind to you and that isn’t going to change, Julian.

Your lack of social talent and physical distastefulness is only surpassed by your complete lack of talent in bed. You’ve never satisfied me – not that you would have noticed. Is it that you don’t notice such things because they aren’t important to you or is it because you are so very dim? No matter, you were always too wrapped up in yourself and it is because of your selfishness that you will never satisfy any woman. As men go, you are really a rather poor example.

There is no warmth or tenderness about you Julian – and face it, a romantic you are not. You are not the kind of man any woman would want but if you find one that tells you otherwise darling, trust me, she will be lying. It would be better if you used the services of prostitutes because they are expected to lie to their clients. In that way, they are much like stockbrokers, no? Birds of a feather, as they say, no?

That was catty of me, wasn’t it? No matter. That pretty much covers it, don’t you think? Although you probably suspect I want to destroy you financially, that isn’t the case at all. I would very much prefer to see you dead. See what you can do to accommodate my wishes, won’t you?

Good-bye, Julian.

Elspeth

***

Chances lost, loves lost, joys lost, all of them staking their claims for payment in full. For the first time in his life, Julian Blessing had not accrued sufficient assets to pay those bills. The successes in his life were too few and even when squeezed dry, they rendered only drops of satisfaction. “Not enough. It wasn't nearly enough,” he thought.

A symphony of sadness welled up within him. Agonizing regret pulled at his soul. He had loved her once, but when love is moved to the back burner, it always goes cold. He wondered if she ever loved him. He listened in silent sadness to the singular notes of life in a minor key.

Julian cocked his head and walked to his office window. He found himself looking into the distance as if trying to see the possible futures open to him. What he saw was his own distorted reflection and darkness beyond.

It was back, a murmur, an undertone, a whisper in the night. “
Go now
.”

For as long as Julian could remember, he had found it impossible to enjoy life. His existence had always seemed like something that needed to be endured. He found it impossible to fully live his life. Instead, he was an active observer rather than a willing participant.

Each of life's mysteries dissolved beneath his cynical gaze leaving him unsatisfied. To him the grace and depth of life were legends – frequently talked about by others, but never witnessed, at least never as far as he could tell. But he was beginning to learn how important mystery, grace and depth were to a life.

Still, the whispered words plagued him. They had murmured their presence at first. The distant whispering had been ignored. Julian successfully pushed the phrase aside for a while, but time was up and he knew it.

Now the whisper had become a growl. It was definitive, insistent and vaguely menacing. There was no ignoring it this time. Bridget Bragonier had been right about that even if he didn’t know how or why.

He mouthed the words. “Go now.”

***

Julian walked back to his desk as the telephone came alive. He closed his eyes when he saw the caller ID.

“Mr. Blessing, this is Bridget Bragonier. I am sorry I was out when you called. How may I help you?”

“Mrs. Bragonier, I’m running out of time and so I’ll come right to the point. I find myself with a life full of questions without answers not the least of which is why I would call you. You said you could help. How?” Julian asked.

“I can help you immediately by insisting you call me Bridget and I shall call you Julian.” Julian heard Bridget Bragonier’s refined, lyrical voice on the telephone. He heard her smile. She sounded relaxed and welcoming and Julian felt comforted by her confidence. In it, he found a kind of refuge.

Bridget continued. “You are correct, you are nearly out of time. The life you are living is broken, Julian. There is nothing for it, but for you to find another life and to do it soon. I realize this makes little sense to you now. I think it best if you and I could sit and talk for a while.

“You’re wrong, Bridget. It isn’t that all of this makes little sense; it makes no sense at all. Still, in another way you are right – I’ll bet you get that a lot, I mean being right all the time.” Julian heard her softly chuckle. “I suppose I should hear you out in person. I can meet you somewhere tomorrow. Is eight o’clock too early?”

“I do not know if we have that much time. But for now, let us say eight o’clock at Café Bravo. I saw it the other day and it looked decidedly decadent,” Bridget said. Julian could hear her smile.

BOOK: Echoes Through the Mist: A Paranormal Mystery (The Echoes Quartet Book 1)
6.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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