“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 up 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.
He stood for a few moments with his hand on the door, contemplating the distant ocean. The sun was bright in the cloudless sky and glinting off the waves like a thousand diamonds. The fresh sea air blew in his face, reminding him of his youth on the central coast, a misspent youth of loitering in beach car parks and concrete change rooms and stealing whatever wasn’t bolted down. One of these days, he told himself, I’m taking a week off and spending every day out there on the sand, sipping piña coladas and breathing in the fresh salty air, a world away from the dead bodies and their foul stench and the dank, dark rooms and the freaks and fanatics telling me what I can and can’t 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, missed, and cursed under his breath.
He was stooping to pick up another when he spotted something in the corner of his eye. Straightening, 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 and very black tyres. The car came up fast and 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 brown chinos, a white knitted jumper and chunky tan boots, the kind a tradesman might wear. 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 lowered his head and began picking at one of his fingernails. Ignoring him, the man went up to car and peered through the window. On the passenger seat was a jumble of books, some with faded cloth covers, some bound in cracked leather. On the back seat were five cardboard boxes, and next to the boxes, as well as on the floor, lay scattered knives, whips, chains and ropes, as well as the upended box that had fallen over on the way here. Everything looked like it had been thrown into the car in a hurry.
The man grunted and shook his head.
Kenny stepped around to the passenger side and 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 all.”
“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. “Come on, 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. Breathing steadily through his nose, he 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 to advance his own interests. Interests which now seemed to include Whalen. Corbin snorted. Snyder was a threat and would have to be dealt with – once his usefulness ran past its use-by date.
He switched on the engine and pressed the button for the radio. The reception wasn’t great, but the signal was clear enough to pick out a man’s voice, speaking with authority and self-assurance, like he knew the answers to all the world’s problems.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past,” the evangelist preached. “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, raising his hands from the steering wheel.
Releasing the brake, 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 turned up the radio, settled down in his seat and focused his eyes on the road home.
“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.”
“Sins no more,” Corbin repeated, glancing at the books on the seat beside him. “Borellus!” he cried, his face brightening. He reached out and caressed the tattered cloth cover. “Can’t wait to get my hands on you.”
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