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Authors: Chandler McGrew

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The Remnant

BOOK: The Remnant
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The Remnant

Chandler McGrew

 

 

.

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2012 Chandler McGrew

Distribution of any or all of this work is
strictly forbidden without the express written permission of the
author.

[email protected]

 

 

* * *

I would like to thank my agent, Peter Rubie,
of Fine Print Literary Management for his steadfast support. I
would also like to thank my wife, Rene, for supporting a crazy
notion for so many years (or is it decades) through the ups and the
downs. The term soulmate seems sadly inadequate in describing
you.

.

In this brave new and very democratic
world of digital books authors live or die on fan support. If you
enjoy Crossroads please take a moment to mention it on Facebook or
Twitter. Thank you
. -
Chandler McGrew

.

And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord
God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power
in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall
utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of
truth, to set in order the house of God.

-The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 85
Revealed to Joseph Smith on November 27, 1832

.

Those who can make you believe absurdities
can make you commit atrocities.

-Voltaire

 

 

* * *

A night as bleak and dismal as a
gravedigger’s stare had long fallen, and only a few skittish,
chattering pedestrians peopled the drizzly walks of Manhattan. No
warning lights flashed, no sirens ripped the air, and yet Trace
Wentworth climbed out of his Lexus convertible with a somber sense
of foreboding. The somnolent city had nothing to say to him that he
cared to hear. He had traveled from his home in Texas strictly in
order to deal with the more mundane, business-end of his writing,
to put his latest manuscript to bed, in the parlance of publishing.
Then he had other, more deadly, and probably final plans to
make.

He was a tall, lithe man, immaculately
dressed in a dark suit and milk-white, silk shirt. His shoes were
handmade, but close inspection revealed that they might have
expected better treatment, and his pants had lost their crease, but
occasionally-as now-there was an inner fire in his eyes that most
men would not care to approach too closely.

As he tossed the keys to the valet in front
of the newly renovated Petersen Hotel, a horse’s hooves clopped on
5
th
Avenue behind him. A young couple knotted in each
other’s arms huddled against the light rain in the rear of the
carriage, and Trace felt a tugging at his heart. He could imagine
himself as the young man, but whenever he tried envisioning Ashley
in such a picture grief overcame him. The streetlights and the glow
from a thousand windows overlooking Central Park transformed the
woods beyond into a wonderland of light and shadow in which either
angels or demons might cavort. Trace knew all about demons.

A black Cadillac pulled to the curb before
Trace had a chance to get a look at the driver, and-although the
thought made no more sense than his premonition of doom-he had the
eerie feeling that the driver
wanted
it that way.

"Packing it in early, Mister Wentworth?" said
the valet.

"Yeah, Rudy," said Trace, smiling. "I have
seen the sights. Thanks to your advice I actually visited the
Statue of Liberty for the first time."

"She’s something at night."

Trace handed the kid a ten, slapped him on
the back and headed into the hotel.

Striding purposefully across the thick pile
of the Persian carpet in the lobby and through the brass and glass
double doors of the Reginald Club, he found a dark booth in the
rear. Stretching his lanky legs beneath the table he called for a
double scotch. The piano player happened to be singing a Sinatra
tune about the city, and Trace wondered if everyone in the hotel
was working for the Chamber of Commerce.

When a small, dark complected man, wearing a
black pinstripe suit and thin, gold-rimmed glasses slipped into the
booth Trace was surprised. He didn’t know the man, and his own face
wasn’t well known enough to draw
fans
.

"Can I help you?" he asked, cradling his
glass between both hands.

He wouldn’t have described the man’s eyes as
cagey, but there was a definite wiliness in their watery blue
depths, and something else as well. It wasn’t exactly cocksureness,
but more a deep-rooted sense of serenity or composure. It occurred
to Trace that he had witnessed much the same look on the face of a
mystic in New Mexico who claimed to be in direct communication with
the soul of Brigham Young.

"What’s happened to you, Mister Wentworth?"
asked the man.

His voice was as placid yet deceptive as his
eyes. Trace decided that if the guy was here to invite him to a
poker game he wasn’t playing. By way of answer he downed half his
drink and waved his glass at the bartender, using the back of his
hand to comb aside an errant lock of dark hair that was in need of
a trim.

"You like something to drink?" he muttered at
the little man.

The man shook his head, his face registering
displeasure.

"You have so many gifts," said the man, his
voice a hypnotic singsong. "It is sad to watch you waste them."

"You one of my readers?"

The man shrugged. "Not anymore."

Trace frowned. Men like this might have read
what he’d written, back when he made a lot more money and enjoyed
what he did for a living, before the
Breakup
and its
terrible aftermath
.
In Trace’s mind the word was always
capitalized and italicized. Perhaps the guy would read his new
book. It was the only epitaph he could give Ashley, but it was
going to stir up a hornet’s nest.

"You received the Pulitzer Prize," said the
little man, disgustedly.

"Ancient history."

"Don’t you lust after another?"

Trace shook his head. "I have only one
burning desire, nowadays, and another Pulitzer isn’t it."

Only that wasn’t completely true. He would
have liked another Pulitzer, but Trace’s once peaceful worldview
had changed in one fateful moment, and ever since he had been
focused like a laser on a singular goal. Revenge. It certainly
wasn’t as fulfilling as the love he had lost, but it did provide
its own source of heat. His manuscript was only part of his plan.
After that things got dicey.

"Your latest books bring you no
fulfillment."

Trace shrugged. While working on his
manuscript he had almost inadvertently written three other books
over the past five years on unsolved mysteries, and they had
surprised him by selling well
.
Apparently there were at
least enough people who believed in that hoorah to keep him from
going hungry, but the little guy was right. He hadn’t enjoyed
working on anything he’d written in years. Rage wasn’t fulfillment.
It was simply fuel, a means of reaching a goal.

The manuscript now in his editor’s hands was
even more than that, though. It was both a renewal of his old
journalistic instincts and a requiem for what he had lost. He
needed
to see it published, to see people read it, to see
that the story-so dark and dirty-was exposed to the light of day.
The only reason Trace was in town at all was to meet his editor in
person regarding some last minute changes to the manuscript.

The waiter brought another drink as Trace
finished off his scotch, and the little man ordered a sparkling
water after all.

"Are you ready to discover your destiny?" he
asked after the waiter had disappeared.

Trace granted him a humorless laugh. "I have
no idea what that might be. But I suspect it has something to do
with a hole in the ground."

"Do you believe that would fit the true
you?"

"You don’t want to see the true me. I asked
if I could help you. Get to the point or get thee gone."

The man reached into his jacket pocket and
withdrew an embossed business card, passing it to Trace. Acid-free
linen stock with gold filigree.

Ezekial’s Rare Books

135 Park Ave.

Flat 1

"This should interest me, why?" said Trace,
finally feeling the liquor kicking in.

"Because every man
has
his destiny,
and you do not have all the answers you seek yet," said the man,
accepting the water from the waiter and slipping a twenty dollar
bill atop the tray. He slid Trace’s whiskey glass aside and
replaced it with the water.

"What answers? What is it you think I’m
looking for? I just finished my last book, and I don’t even know
what I’m going to write next. If anything."

"You will be interested in what you find, I
assure you."

"You don’t know anything about me."

"Nauvoo," said the little man.

Trace glared at him. "Who are you?"

"I am only a messenger."

But Trace found that he could not maintain
eye contact for long. There was just something too disconcerting in
the man’s stolid composure. Trace glanced at the water glass and
frowned. Disconcertingly, when he looked up the man was gone. Trace
leaned out of the booth to peer around the bar, but there wasn’t a
sign of him, and no one else appeared to have noted the man’s
passing. The whole meeting had been so weird that for just an
instant Trace wondered if he’d imagined the entire encounter.

But the card in his hand was real enough. He
turned back to the two glasses certain that there was no way he’d
ever ordered water. Finally he shoved the whiskey aside and took a
slug of the cold clear liquid.

Strangely it had a more soothing effect than
the liquor.

 

 

* * *

Two hours deeper into that abysmal night the
city that never slept appeared to be dying. There were no cars on
upper 5
th
Avenue by the time Trace parked in front of
the brownstone, and Trace stared curiously up and down the
residential street and then back at the business card. If Ezekial
had opened a rare bookstore here he was keeping it under wraps
because the zoning board sure didn’t know anything about it, and
there was no sign out front. Even if there had been the store would
certainly have been closed by this hour, but Trace wasn’t here to
shop. He had been unable to sleep after the weird encounter in the
bar had stirred his investigative juices.

The building had no doorman and no buzzer,
and the glass door to the entryway was unlocked. Trace wasn’t a
native New Yorker-in fact he disliked cities in general and this
city in particular-but he was street smart enough to know that even
in this trendy area an unlocked door was an invitation. But there
was none of the usual evidence of invasion inside the foyer, no
graffiti on the walls, no brown paper bags or broken bottles, no
discarded needles. In fact the small area was elegantly appointed
with black marble floor and an expensive cherry side table holding
what looked like-but certainly could not be-a Ming vase filled with
fresh roses.

To Trace’s right there was an elevator and to
his left a single door. The card read Flat 1, and figuring that had
to be this floor, Trace tried the door. Locked. He started to turn
away and then on impulse he knocked. A buzz sounded, then a click.
He swung the door into a narrow room lined floor to ceiling with
unpainted wooden racks sagging beneath dusty hardcover books. A
bare incandescent bulb in the ceiling slashed shadows across the
narrow aisles.

"Hello?" he called, jerking as the door
clicked shut behind him.

There was no answer, and the sound of his
voice told him the room was much larger than he had imagined. As he
passed down the center aisle-his shoulders brushing books on both
sides-he noticed some of the titles.
The Devotional Diamond
Pocket Bible, Australian Flora in Applied Art, The Martial
Achievements of the Scots Nation.
On inspection the spines of
the antique works were barely worn, the cloth covers hardly frayed,
and yet a thin layer of dust revealed that no rare book lovers had
perused the shelves in months, perhaps years.

The
store
had the ambiance of some
crazy hermit’s library. Why it had taken up residence in such a
plush area of residential Manhattan Trace had no inkling, but more
than likely the little man was a kook. Trace had had ample dealings
with the species over the years, but something about this guy and
his strange collection touched a nerve. He reached the end of the
first long row of shelves at an equally narrow cross-corridor.

"Anybody here?" he called as he started up
the next aisle. "Ezekial?"

"Yes, yes," said a familiar voice back amid
the stacks. "This way. Hurry up. We don’t have all night."

BOOK: The Remnant
4.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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