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The killing kind, p.21
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       The Killing Kind, p.21

           John Connolly
 

  It was just after 9:15 A.M. when Anthony Washington’s elevator reached ground level and I emerged at the entrance to Fort Tryon Park. The weather had broken. The thunder had commenced shortly after dawn, the rains following within the hour. It had now been falling continuously for almost four hours, warm, hard rain that had caused umbrellas to sprout up like mushrooms across the city.

  There was no bus waiting at the curb to take visitors to the Cloisters, although it hardly mattered, since I seemed to be the only person heading in that direction. I wrapped my coat around me and began to walk up Margaret Corbin Drive. Outside the small café on the left of the road, a group of sanitation men huddled together, sheltering from the rain while drinking cups of coffee. Above them loomed the remains of Fort Tryon, which defended itself against Hessian troops during the War of Independence with the aid of Margaret Corbin herself, the first American woman to take a soldier’s part in the battle for liberty. I wondered if Margaret Corbin was tough enough to stand against the troops of junkies and muggers who now roamed the scene of her triumph, and figured that she probably was.

  Seconds later, the bulk of the Cloisters was before me, the New Jersey shoreline to my left, traffic streaming across the George Washington Bridge. John D. Rockefeller Jr. had given this land to the city and reserved the hilltop for the construction of a museum of medieval art, which was eventually opened in 1938. Portions of five medieval cloisters were integrated into a single modern building, itself reminiscent of medieval European structures. My father had first taken me there as a child, and it had never ceased to amaze me since. Surrounded by its high central tower and battlements, its arches and pillars, you could briefly feel like a knight-errant, as long as you ignored the fact that you were looking out at the woods of New Jersey, where the only damsels in distress were likely to be robbery victims or unwed mothers.

  I walked up the stairs to the admissions area, paid my $10, and stepped through the entrance door into the Romanesque Hall. There were no other visitors in the rooms; the comparatively early hour and the bad weather had kept most of them away, and I guessed that I was one of only a dozen or so people in the whole museum. I passed slowly through the Fuentidueña Chapel, pausing to admire the apse and the huge crucifix hanging from the ceiling, then made my way through the St.-Guilhem and Cuxa Cloisters toward the Gothic Chapel and the stairs to the lower level.

  I had about ten minutes before I was due to meet Mickey Shine, so I headed for the Treasury, where the museum stored its manuscripts. I entered through the modern glass doors and stood in a room ringed by panels from the choir stalls at Jumièges Abbey. The manuscripts were stored in glass cases and opened at particularly fine examples of the illuminator’s art. I stopped for a time at a beautiful book of hours, but most of my attention was reserved for the visiting exhibits.

  The book of Revelation had been the subject of manuscript illumination since the ninth century, and although Apocalypse cycles were produced originally for monasteries, they were also being made for wealthy secular patrons by the thirteenth century. Some of the finest examples had been gathered together for this exhibition, and images of judgment and punishment filled the room. I spent some time looking at various medieval sinners being devoured, torn apart, or tormented on spikes—or, in the case of the Winchester Psalter depiction of Hell Mouth, all three at once, while a dutiful angel locked the doors from the outside—before passing on to examples of Dürer’s woodcuts, Cranach’s work for Martin Luther’s German translation of the New Testament, and Blake’s visions of red dragons, until I eventually reached the item at the center of the display.

  It was the Cloisters Apocalypse, dating from the early part of the fourteenth century, and the illustration on the opened page was almost identical to that which I had found on the Fellowship’s literature. It depicted a multieyed beast with long, vaguely arachnid legs slaughtering sinners with a spear while Christ and the saints looked on impassively from the right-hand corner of the page. According to the explanatory note in the case, the beast was killing those whose names did not appear in the Lamb of God’s Book of Life. Below it was a translation of an illustrator’s note added in Latin in the margins: “For if the names of the saved are to be recorded in the Book of Life, shall not also the names of the damned be written, and in what place may they be found?”

  I heard the echo of the threat made by Mr. Pudd against Mickey Shine and his family: their names would be written. The question, as the illuminator had posed, was, Written where?

  It was now ten, but I could see no sign of Mickey Shine. I left the Treasury, walked through the Glass Gallery, and opened a small unmarked door that led out into the Trie Cloister. The only sound, apart from the fall of the rain, came from the trickling of water in the fountain at the center of the marble arcades, dominated in turn by a limestone cross. To my right, an opening led out to the exposed Bonnefont Cloister. When I stepped through it, I found myself in a garden, the Hudson River and the New Jersey shoreline in front of me, the tower of the Gothic Chapel to my far right. To my left was the main wall of the Cloisters itself, a drop of maybe twenty feet leading to the ground below. The other two sides of the square consisted of pillared arcades.

  The garden had been planted with shrubs and trees common in medieval times. A quartet of quince trees stood in the middle, the first signs of the yellow fruit now appearing. Valerian was overshadowed by the huge leaves of black mustard; nearby grew caraway and leek, chive and lovage, madder and Our-Lady’s-bedstraw, the last two constituent ingredients in the dyes used by artists for the manuscripts on display in the main body of the museum.

  It took me seconds to notice the new addition to the garden. Against the far wall, beside the entrance to the tower, grew an espaliered pear tree, its shape resembling a menorah. The bare branches were like hooks, six of them growing out from the main artery of the tree. Mickey Shine’s head had been impaled on the very tip of that central artery, turning him to a creature of both flesh and wood. Tendril-like trails of coagulating blood hung from the neck, and the rain damped the pallor of his features as water pooled in the sunken sockets of his eyes. Tattered skin blew softly in the wind, and there was blood around his mouth and ears. His ponytail had been severed during the removal of his head and the loose hair now stuck lankly to his gray-blue skin.

  I was already reaching for my gun when the thin, spiderlike shape of Mr. Pudd emerged from the shadow of the arcade to my right. In his hand he held a Beretta fitted with a suppressor. My hand froze. He told me to move my hands away from my body, slowly. I did.

  “So here we are, Mr. Parker,” he said, and the eyes behind their dark hoods gleamed with a hostile intensity. “I hope you like what I’ve done with the place.”

  His left hand gestured to the tree. Blood and rain pooled at its base, creating a dark reflection of what lay above. I could see Mickey Shine’s face shimmer as the raindrops fell, seeming to add life and expression to his still features.

  “I found Mr. Sheinberg in a nickel-and-dime hotel,” he continued. “When they discover what’s left of him in his bathtub, I fear it will be merely a nickel hotel.”

  And still the rain fell, soaking me through my coat. It would keep the tourists away, and that was what Mr. Pudd wanted.

  “The idea was mine,” he said. “I thought it was appropriately medieval. The execution—and it was an execution—was the work of my . . . associate.”

  Farther to my right, still sheltered by the arcade, the woman with the mutilated throat stood against a pillar, an open rucksack on the stone before her. She was watching us impassively, like Judith after disposing of the head of Holofernes.

  “He struggled a great deal,” elaborated Mr. Pudd, almost distractedly. “But then, we did start from the back. It took us some time to hit the vertebral artery. After that, he didn’t struggle quite so much.”

  The weight of the Smith & Wesson beneath my coat pressed against my skin, like a promise that would never be fulfilled. Mr. Pudd returned his attenti
on fully to me, raising the Beretta slightly as he did so.

  “The Peltier woman stole something from us, Mr. Parker. We want it back.”

  I spoke at last. “You were in my house. You took everything that I had.”

  “You’re lying. And even if you are not, I suspect you know who does have it.”

  “The Apocalypse?” It was a guess, but a good one. Mr. Pudd’s lips twitched once, and then he nodded. “Tell me where it is, and you won’t feel a thing when I kill you.”

  “And if I don’t tell you?” From the corner of my eye, I saw the woman produce a gun and aim it at me. As she moved, so too did Mr. Pudd. His left hand, which had been concealed in the pocket of his coat until then, appeared from the folds. In it, he held a syringe.

  “I’ll shoot you. I won’t kill you, but I will disable you, and then . . .” He raised the syringe and a stream of clear liquid issued from the needle.

  “Is that what you used to kill Epstein?” I asked.

  “No,” he answered. “Compared to what you will endure, the unfortunate Rabbi Epstein passed comfortably into the next world. You’re about to experience a great deal of pain, Mr. Parker.”

  He angled the gun so that it was pointing at my belly, but I wasn’t looking at the gun. Instead, I watched as a tiny red dot appeared on Mr. Pudd’s groin and slowly began to work its way upward. Pudd’s eyes dropped to follow my gaze and his mouth opened in surprise as the dot continued its progress over his chest and neck before stopping in the center of his forehead.

  “You first,” I said, but he was already moving. The first bullet blew away a chunk of his right ear as he loosed off a shot in my direction, the rain hissing beside my face as the heat of the slug warmed the air. Then three more shots came, tearing black holes in his chest. The bullets should have ripped through him, but instead he lurched backward as if he had been punched hard, the impact of the shots sending him tumbling over the wall.

  Shards of stone sprang up close to my left leg and I heard the dull sound of the suppressed shots echoing around the arcade. I drew my gun, dove for the cover of the chapel tower, and fired at the pillar where the woman had been standing, but she had stooped low and was scuttling toward the door to the Glass Gallery, her gun bucking as shots came at her from two directions: from the wall where I stood and from the arcade where Louis’s dark form was moving through the shadows to intercept her. The door to the gallery opened behind her and she disappeared inside. I was about to follow when a bullet whistled past my ear and I dived to the ground, my face buried in the clump of Our-Lady’s-bedstraw. Across from me, Louis leaped over the wall of the arcade as I raised myself up and crawled behind the main wall. I took a deep breath and peered over.

  There was nobody there. Pudd was already gone, a smear of blood on some flattened grass the only indication of his former presence.

  “Follow the woman,” I said. Louis nodded and ran to the gallery, his gun held discreetly by his side. I climbed onto the wall and then jumped, landing heavily on the ground and rolling down the slope. I sprang up quickly when I came to a stop, the gun outstretched, but Pudd was nowhere to be seen. I moved west, following the trail of blood along the main wall of the Cloisters, until somewhere at the far side of the building I heard a shot fired, then another, followed by the squealing of tires. Seconds later, a blue Voyager sped down Margaret Corbin Drive. I ran to the road, hoping for a clear shot, but an MTA bus turned the corner at the same time and I held my fire for fear of hitting the bus or its passengers. The last thing I saw as the Voyager disappeared was a figure slumped forward on the dashboard. I wasn’t certain, but I thought it was Pudd.

  Brushing the grass from my pants and coat, I put my gun away and walked swiftly around to the main entrance. A gray-suited museum guard lay slumped against the wall, surrounded by a crowd of newly arrived French tourists. There was blood on his right arm and leg, but he was conscious. I heard the sound of footsteps on the grass behind me and turned to see Louis standing in the shade of the wall. He had obviously made a full circuit of the complex after pursuing the woman in order to avoid passing through the museum again.

  “Call nine-one-one,” he said, staring up the road the Voyager had taken. “That’s one nasty bitch.”

  “They got away.”

  “No shit. Got myself tangled up in the damn tourists. She shot the guard to make them panic.”

  “We hurt Pudd,” I said. “That’s something.”

  “I hit him in the chest. He should be dead.”

  “He was wearing a vest. The shots blew him off his feet.”

  “Shit,” he hissed. “You planning on staying around?”

  “To explain Mickey Shine’s head on a tree? I don’t think so.”

  We climbed onto the MTA bus, its driver oblivious to the furor at the main door, and sat in separate seats as he pulled away. For a brief moment, as he turned onto the main road, he was able to see the entrance to the Cloisters and the crowd around the fallen guard.

  “Something happen?” he called back to us.

  “I think somebody fainted,” I said.

  “Place ain’t that pretty,” he replied, and he said nothing more until he dropped us at the subway station. There was a cab turning at the curb, and we told the driver to head downtown.

  ∗ ∗ ∗

  I dropped Louis off at the Upper West Side, while I continued down to the Village to collect my overnight bag. When I was done, I dropped into the Strand Book Store on Broadway and found a companion volume for the Cloisters exhibition. Then I sat in a coffee shop on Sixth Avenue, leafing through the illustrations and watching the people go by. Whatever Mickey Shine had guessed or suspected had died with him, but at least I now knew what Grace Peltier had taken from the Fellowship: a book, a record of some kind, which Mr. Pudd acknowledged to be an Apocalypse. But why should a biblical text be so important that Pudd was willing to kill to get it back?

  Rachel was still in Boston, and would join me in Scarborough the following day. She had refused an offer of protection from Angel and an offer of a Colt Pony Pocketlite from Louis. Unbeknownst to her, she was being discreetly watched by a gentleman named Gordon Buntz and one of his associates, Amy Brenner. They’d given me a professional discount, but they were still eating up Jack Mercier’s advance. Meanwhile, Angel was already in Scarborough; he had checked into the Black Point Inn at Prouts Neck, which gave him the freedom to roam around the area without attracting the attention of the Scarborough PD. I’d given him a National Audubon Society field guide to New England; armed with a pair of binoculars, he was now officially the world’s least likely bird-watcher. He had been monitoring Jack Mercier, his house, and his movements since the previous afternoon.

  Outside Balducci’s, a black Lexus SC400 pulled up to the curb. Louis was sitting in the driver’s seat. When I opened the door, Johnny Cash was solemnly intoning the words to Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage.”

  “Nice car,” I said. “Your bank manager recommend it?”

  He shook his head sorrowfully. “Man, I tell you, you need class like a junkie need a hit.”

  I dumped my bag on the leather backseat. It made a satisfyingly dirty sound, although it was nothing compared to the sound Louis made when he saw the mark it left on his upholstery. As we pulled away from the curb, Louis took a huge contraband Cuban cigar from his jacket pocket and proceeded to light up. Thick blue smoke immediately filled the car.

  “Hey!” I said.

  “Fuck you mean, ‘Hey’?”

  “Don’t smoke in the car.”

  “It’s my car.”

  “Your secondary fumes are a danger to my health.”

  Louis choked on a mouthful of smoke before raising one carefully plucked eyebrow in my direction. “You been beaten up, shot twice, drowned, electrocuted, frozen, injected with poisons, three of your damn teeth been kicked out of your head by an old man everybody thought was dead, and you worried about secondary smoke? Secondary smoke ain’t no danger to your health. You a danger to your h
ealth.”

  With that, he returned his attention to his driving.

  I let him smoke the cigar in peace.

  After all, he had a point.

  THE SEARCH FOR SANCTUARY

  Extract from the postgraduate thesis

  of Grace Peltier . . .

  Faulkner’s main claim to fame, apart from his association with Eagle Lake, was as a bookbinder, and particularly as a maker of Apocalypses, ornately illustrated versions of the book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, detailing St. John’s vision of the end of the world and the final judgment. In creating these works, Faulkner was part of a tradition dating back to the Carolingian period of the ninth and tenth centuries, when the earliest surviving illustrated Apocalypse manuscripts were created on the European continent. In the early thirteenth century richly illuminated Apocalypses, with texts and commentaries in Latin and French vernacular, were made in Europe for the powerful and wealthy, including high churchmen and magnates. They continued to be created even after the invention of printing, indicating a continued resonance to the imagery and message of the book itself.

  There are twelve “Faulkner Apocalypses” extant and, according to the records of Faulkner’s supplier of gold leaf, it is unlikely that Faulkner made more than this number. Each book was bound in hand-tooled leather, inlaid with gold, and illustrated by hand by Faulkner, with a distinctive marking on the spine: six horizontal gold lines, set in three sets of two, and the final letter of the Greek alphabet: Ω for omega.

 
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