The Killing Kind, p.33John Connolly
It was a book.
A book of bones.
A great book is like great evil
—CALLIMACHUS (C. 305–C. 240 B.C.)
THE BOOK WAS ABOUT FOURTEEN INCHES LONG and seven inches wide. Six small bones curled horizontally across its spine in three equidistant sets of two. They were slightly yellow and coated with some form of preservative that made them gleam in the sunlight. I wasn’t certain, but I thought they might once have been the ends of ribs. They felt slick to the touch compared to the texture of the material upon which they lay. The cover of the book had been dyed a deep red, through which lines and wrinkles showed. Close to the top left-hand corner, a raised mole stood.
It was human skin. The hide had been dried, then sewn together in patches, using what appeared to be tendon and gut for stitching. When I moved my fingers gently over the cover, I felt not only the pores and lines of the dermis used to construct it but also the shapes of the bones that formed the framework beneath: radius and ulna, I suspected, and probably more ribs. It was as if the book itself had once been a living thing, skin over bone, lacking only flesh and blood to make it whole again.
There was no writing on either the cover or the spine, no indication of what the book might contain. The only marking was the cover illustration, Jansenist in style with its single central motif repeated in each of the four corners: a spider, indented in gold leaf, its eight legs curled inward to hold a single golden key.
Using only the tips of my fingers, I opened the book. Its spine was a human spine, held together with gold wire, the only material used that did not appear to have come from a human body. The pages had been attached to it using more tendon. The inside covers had not been dyed, and the differentiations in the pigments of the various skins used in its construction could be more clearly distinguished. From the top of the spine a bookmark curled down, constructed from lengths of human hair tightly bound, scavenged from bodies that, for reasons of discretion and concealment, could not be marked in more obvious ways.
There were about thirty pages of varying sizes in the book. Two or three were constructed from single patches of skin, twice as large as the book itself. These had been folded, then bound through the fold, creating a double page; other pages had been made up from smaller sections of skin sewn carefully together, some of them no bigger than two or three square inches. The pages varied in thickness; one was so thin that the color of my hand showed through beneath, but others were more thickly layered. Most appeared to be sections taken from the lower back or shoulders, although one page showed the strange sunken hole of a human navel and another bore, close to its center, a shrunken nipple. Like the bifolios of old, the parchments made from goatskin and calfskin used by medieval scribes, one side of the page was smooth where any remaining body hair had been rubbed off, while the other was rough. The smooth sides had been used for the illustrations and the script, so that on any one double page only the right-hand side was filled.
On page after page, in beautiful ornate script, were sections from the book of Revelation: some were complete chapters, others simply quotes used to elaborate upon the meaning of the illustrations contained in the book. The writing was Carolingian in origin, a version of the beautiful clear script inspired by the Anglo-Saxon scholar Alcuin of York, with each italic letter being given its own distinct but simple shape to aid legibility. Faulkner had worked around the natural flaws and holes of the skin, disguising them, where necessary, with a suitable letter or ornamentation. The capital letters on each page were uncials, each one an inch high and carefully created from hundreds of individual pen strokes. Animal and human grotesques cavorted around their bases and stems.
But it was the illustrations that drew the eye. There were echoes of Dürer and Duvet in them, of Blake and Cranach and later artists too: Goerg and Meidner and Masereel. They were not copies of the original illustrations, but variations on a theme. Some were painted in ornate colors, while others used only carbon black mixed with iron gall to create a dense ink that stood out from the page. A version of Hell Mouth drawn from the Winchester Psalter marked the first page, hundreds of tiny bodies twisting in what looked like the jaws of a creature half man, half fish. A greenish tint had been added to the human figures so that they stood out from the skin on which they had been inscribed, and the scales of the fish were marked individually in shades of blue and red. Elsewhere, I found Cranach’s Four Horsemen in red and black; Burgkmair’s Harvest of the World in tones of green and gold; a vision of an arachnid beast, inspired by the twentieth-century artist Edouard Goerg, beside the words, “The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them all, and kill them”; and a richly detailed variation on Duvet’s frontispiece for his 1555 Apocalypse, depicting St. John against a backdrop of a great city, surrounded by emblems of death, including a swan with an arrow in its mouth.
I flicked forward to the last completed illustration, which accompanied a quotation from Revelation 10:10: “And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.” Inspired by Dürer, the illustration depicted, once again, St. John, a sword in one hand as he consumed a representation of the very book I now held in my hand, the human spine and the spider with the key clearly visible as he fed it to himself. An angel watched him, its feet pillars of fire, its head like the sun.
St. John had been drawn in black ink and enormous effort had been expended in detailing the expression on his face. It was a representation of Faulkner as he was in his younger days, reminiscent of the picture of him that I had seen in the newspaper following the discovery of the bodies to the north. There was the same high brow, the same sunken cheeks and almost feminine mouth, the same straight, dark brows. He was swathed in a long white cloak, his left hand raising the sword toward the sky above.
Faulkner was in every illustration. He was one of the Four Horsemen; he was the jaws of hell; he was St. John; he was the beast. Faulkner: judging, tormenting, consuming, killing; creating a book that was both a record of punishment and a punishment in itself; an unveiling and a concealing of the truth; a vanity and a mockery of vanities; a work of art and an act of cannibalism. This was his life’s work, begun when the human weaknesses of his followers displayed themselves and he turned against them, destroying them all with the aid of his brood: the men first, then the women, and finally the children. As he had begun, so he had continued, and the fallen had become part of his great book.
In the bottom right-hand corner of each page, like marginalia, were written names. The pages constructed of a single sheet of skin bore only one name, while those made up of a number of sections contained two, three, or sometimes four names. James Jessop’s name was on the third fragment of skin, his mother’s on the fourth, and his father’s on the fifth. The rest of the Aroostook Baptists took up the majority of the book’s entries, but there were other names too, names that I did not recognize, some of them comparatively recent, judging by the color of the ink on the skin. Alison Beck’s name was not among them. Neither was Al Z’s, or Epstein’s, or Mickey Shine’s. They would all have been added later, once the book had been retrieved, just as Grace Peltier’s name would also have been written, and perhaps my own as well.
I thought back to Jack Mercier and the volume I had been shown in his study, its three double spine markings here transformed from gold to bone. A craftsman like Faulkner would not simply have ceased to make the books he loved so much. The copy presented to Carter Paragon was proof of that. Now it was clear that Faulkner had a wider vision: the creation of a text whose form perfectly mirrored its subject; a book about damnation made up of the bodies of the damned; a record of judgment composed of the remains of those who had been judged.
And Grace had found him. Deborah Mercier, jealous of her husband’s first daughter, had told her of the existence of the new Apocalypse and its source. By
Grace had confronted Paragon with her knowledge of the sale of the Apocalypse, but Paragon was simply a dupe and Grace, clever woman, must have guessed it. He would have been afraid to tell Pudd and Faulkner that he had sold the book, but he would also have been too frightened to tell them nothing of Grace’s visit. And so Grace had watched him and waited for him to panic. Did she follow him north, or wait for them to come to him? I suspected the latter if Paragon had died because he could not tell the Golem of their hiding place. Whatever had occurred, Grace had somehow found her way to the very gates of Faulkner’s own, private hell. And then, when the opportunity arose, she made her way in and managed to escape with this book, a book that contained the truth about the fate of the Aroostook Baptists and, in particular, Elizabeth Jessop. Its theft had forced the Fellowship to respond quickly; while Pudd and the others searched for it, they set about eliminating all those who were moving against them and for whom the work stolen by Grace Peltier would have been a powerful weapon, a task that assumed a new urgency with the discovery of the bodies at St. Froid Lake.
I closed the volume, laid it carefully in its packaging, then ran my hands under the kitchen faucet. When I had cleaned them thoroughly I picked up a towel and turned to face Rachel and Louis.
“Looks like we got a whole new definition of the word ‘crazy,’ ” muttered Louis. “You know what that thing is supposed to be?”
“It’s a record,” I replied. “A journal of deaths, and maybe more than that. It’s an account of the damned, the opposite of the book of life. The Aroostook Baptists are in there, and at least a dozen other names, male and female, all used to create a new Apocalypse.
“And Faulkner made it. His remains weren’t among those found at the grave site; neither were his son’s or those of his daughter. They killed those people, all of them, then used parts of them to create his book. I think the other names are those of people who’ve had the misfortune to cross the Fellowship at some time, or who posed a threat and had to be eliminated. Eventually, parts of Grace and Curtis Peltier, Yossi Epstein, and maybe a piece of Jack Mercier and the others on the boat would have been added, once the book had been retrieved. It would have to be as complete a record as possible, otherwise it would have no meaning.”
“I take it you’re using ‘meaning’ in the loosest possible sense,” said Rachel. Her disgust was obvious.
I was rubbing my hands red on the towel yet still feeling the taint of the book upon me. “Its meaning doesn’t matter,” I said. “This thing is a confession to murder, once it can be traced back to Faulkner.”
“If we can find him,” added Louis. “What’s going to happen when Lutz don’t report back?”
“Then he’ll send someone else, probably Pudd, to find out what happened. He can’t let this book remain out in the world. That’s assuming that our friend with the bald head doesn’t get to him first.”
I thought of what I knew, or suspected, of Faulkner’s hiding place; I knew now that it was to the north, beyond Bangor, close to the coast, and near a lighthouse. There were maybe sixty lighthouses on the Maine coast, most of them automated or unmanned, with a couple given over to civilian use. Of those, probably only a handful were north of Machias.
I knelt down and took the wrapped book in my hands.
“What are you going to do with it?” asked Rachel.
“Nothing,” I replied. “Not yet.”
She moved closer to me and held my gaze. “You want to find him, don’t you? You’re not prepared to let the police do it.”
“He had Lutz and Voisine working for him,” I explained, “and Voisine is still out there somewhere. There could be others as well. If we hand this over to the police and even one of them shares Lutz’s loyalties, then Faulkner will be alerted and he’ll be gone forever. My guess is that he’s already preparing to disappear. He’s probably been planning it ever since the moment the book was lost and certainly since the discovery of the bodies at St. Froid. For that reason, and for Marcy’s safety, we’re going to keep this to ourselves for the present. Marcy?”
She picked up her bag and stood expectantly.
“We’re going to put you somewhere safe. You can call your parents and let them know you’re okay first.”
She nodded. I went outside and called the Colony on the cell phone. Amy answered.
“It’s Charlie Parker,” I said. “I need your help. I have a woman here. I need to stow her out of sight.”
There was silence on the other end of the phone. “What kind of trouble are we talking about?”
But I think she knew.
“I’m close to him, Amy. I can bring this to an end.”
When she answered, I could hear the resignation in her voice. “She can stay in the house.” Women, with the obvious exception of Amy herself, were not usually admitted to the Colony, but there were spare bedrooms in the main house that were sometimes used under exceptional circumstances.
“Thank you. There will be a man with her. He’ll be armed.”
“You know how we feel about guns here, Charlie.”
“I know, but this is Pudd we’re dealing with. I want you to let my friend stay with Marcy until this is over. It’ll be a day or two at most.”
I asked her to take Rachel in as well. She agreed, and I hung up. Marcy made a short call to her mother and then we drove away from the house and into Boothbay. There, we parted. Louis and Rachel would drive south to Scarborough, where Angel would take Marcy Becker and a reluctant Rachel to the Colony. Louis would rejoin me once Marcy and Rachel were in Angel’s care. I kept the book, concealing it carefully beneath the passenger seat of the Mustang.
I drove north as far as Bangor, where I picked up a copy of Thompson’s Maine Lighthouses at Book Marcs bookstore. There were seven lighthouses in the Bold Coast area around Machias, the town in which Marcy Becker had been left while Grace went about her business: Whitlock’s Mill in Calais; East Quoddy at Campobello Island; and farther south, Mulholland Light, West Quoddy, Lubec Channel, Little River, and Machias Seal Island. Machias Seal was too far out to sea to be relevant, which left six.
I called Ross in New York, hoping to light a fire under him, but got only his secretary. I was twenty miles outside Bangor when he called me back.
“I’ve seen Charon’s reports from Maine,” he began. “This part of the investigation was minor stuff, pure legwork. A gay rights activist was killed in the Village in 1991, shot to death in the toilet of a bar on Bleecker; MO matched a similar shooting in Miami. The perp was apprehended but his phone records showed that he made seven calls to the Fellowship in the days preceding the killing. A woman called Torrance told Charon that the guy was a freak and she reported the calls to the cops. A detective named Lutz confirmed that.”
So, if the killer had been working for the Fellowship, they had a cover story. They had reported him to the police before the murder, and Lutz, already their pet policeman, had confirmed it.
“What happened to the killer?”
“His name was Lusky, Barrett Lusky. He made bail and was found dead two days later in a Dumpster in Queens. Gunshot wound to the head.
“Now, according to Charon’s report, he went no farther north than Waterville during his inquiries. But there’s an anomaly: his expenses show a claim for gas purchased in a place called Lubec, about a hundred and fifty miles farther north of Waterville. It’s on the coast.”
“Lubec,” I echoed. It made sense.
“What’s in Lubec?” asked Ross.
“Lighthouses,” I answered. “And a bridge.”
Lubec had three lighthouses. It was also the easternmost town in the United States. From there, the FDR Memorial Bridge stretched across the water to Canada. Lubec was a good ch
But I had underestimated Faulkner, and I had underestimated Pudd. While I closed in on them, they had already taken the most vulnerable one among us, the only one left alone.
They took Angel.
THERE WAS BLOOD ON THE PORCH, and blood on the front door. In the kitchen, cracks radiated through the plaster from a bullet hole in the wall. There was more blood in the hallway, a curving snake trail like the pattern of a sidewinder. The kitchen door had been torn almost off its hinges, and the kitchen window had been shattered by more gunfire.
There were no bodies inside.
Taking Angel was partly a precaution in case we found Marcy Becker first, but also an act of revenge against me personally. They had probably come to finish us off, and when they found only Angel, they took him instead. I thought of Mr. Pudd and the mute with their hands on him, his blood on their clothes and skin as they dragged him from the house. We should never have left him alone. None of us should ever have been alone.
They would never let him live, of course. In the end they would never let any of us live. If they escaped and disappeared from our sight I knew that one day they would reemerge and find us. We could hunt them, but the honeycomb world is deep and intricate and rich with darkness. There are too many places to hide. And so there would be weeks, months, perhaps years of pain and fear, waking from uneasy sleep to each new dawn with the thought that this, at last, might be the day on which they came.
The Killing Kind by John Connolly / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime / Horror have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes