“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
The sea-green BMW turned into the dirt road, drove along slowly and rolled to a stop before a closed metal gate.
The driver’s door creaked open, a stonewash-jeans-clad leg emerged, and out stepped Kenny Snyder.
Standing beside the car, Kenny contemplated the distant ocean. The sun was bright in the cloudless sky and glinting off the waves like a thousand diamonds. One of these days, he told himself, I’ll take a well-deserved holiday and spend every day down there on the beach, sipping a piña colada and breathing in the fresh salty air, far away from all the dead bodies and their foul stench and the dank, dark rooms and freaks and fanatics telling me what to do.
He turned his eyes to a battered sign that read: ‘DEAD END. Private Road. Trespassers prosecuted to the full extent of the law.’ Stooping to pick up a rock, he threw it at the sign and smiled when its clang pierced the silence.
Spying movement in the corner of his eye, he turned north and watched as a car drove the dirt road towards him. It was a sleek yellow Alfa Romeo, with heavily-tinted windows. The car stopped on the other side of the gate.
A man emerged, a tall, well-built man in his mid-forties with short-cropped reddish-blond hair and blue eyes. He was wearing tan chinos and a thick white jumper. Without acknowledging Kenny’s presence, he strode up to the gate, unlocked it and threw it open.
“Got ‘em all?” he called out, walking towards the BMW.
Kenny nodded enthusiastically. “Yessir. As many as I could get.”
The man stopped and sneered at him. He seemed repulsed by what he saw. “I said to get them all.”
Kenny gulped. Ignoring him, the man went up to car and peered inside. On the passenger seat was a jumble of books, some with faded cloth covers, some with cracked leather covers. On the back seat were three cardboard boxes, and next to the boxes, as well as on the floor, lay scattered knives, whips, chains and ropes. Everything looked like it had been thrown into the car in a hurry.
The man straightened and shook his head.
Kenny had stepped around to the passenger side. He opened the door. “I’m sorry, Mr Livingston. Sir. It was dangerous work. The place was crawling with soldiers. I was lucky to get even these.”
“What about Orwell’s?”
“He only had one bookcase. The university was locked down and I don’t know where he kept the rest of his stuff.”
“Well, find out.”
“And go back to the farm and get the rest of Waite’s stuff. Before the damn NSO appropriates it.”
“I want all of it.”
Kenny leaned his arms on the car roof. “They’re due for cremation end of the week. Six of them. I can bring them up on Saturday. After the services are finished.”
“You better. You know how he gets when he’s hungry. You don’t wanna have to take their place, do you?” He smirked at the thought. “Now help me unload this junk.”
They transferred everything to the Alfa Romeo.
“Get out of here.”
“Yes, Mr Livingston.” Jumping in his car, slamming the door shut, Kenny reversed and took off back to Quorn.
Corbin Livingston got back into his own car. He switched on the radio. The reception wasn’t great, but the signal was clear enough to pick out a man’s voice amongst the crackle of static. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past,” preached the evangelist. “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen …”
“Hallelujah,” responded Corbin Livingston, raising his hands from the steering wheel.
Starting the engine, he drove in a tight circle and headed back the way he’d come.
Passing a rusted, bullet-riddled sign that declared, ‘Welcome to Whalen’, he settled in his seat and focused on the purr of the Alfa Romeo beneath him.
“But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses,” continued the evangelist. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
Breathing steadily through his mouth, Corbin tried to blow the toxic filth of Snyder’s memory out of his mind. The man was a toad, a snivelling idiot, but somehow he’d managed to beat the great Wilfred Waite at his own game. He’d weaselled his way into the wizard’s life and then out-manoeuvred him so he could advance his own interests. Interests which now seemed to include Whalen. Corbin snorted. Forget his sins and transgressions? No way in hell! Snyder was a threat and would have to be dealt with – once his usefulness ran past its use-by date.
Shaking his head, he glanced at the books on the seat beside him. “Borellus!” he cried, his face brightening. He reached out and caressed the cover. “Can’t wait to get my hands on you.”