Neon Blue (suspense) and This Shoal of Space (SF) by John Argo were the first two e-books ever published online for download, in the history of the world, 1996-7 in innovative weekly serial chapters. More info at the museum pages. If you enjoy this free read, which is offered in the spirit of the Golden Age of the World Wide Web, please consider buying a print or e-book edition as a way of thanking the author. A fine E-book is typically priced at the cost of a latte, yet offers many more hours of enjoyment than a cup of coffee. Thank you (John Argo).
Chapter 18. Hamilton, Conn
Monsignor Vincent Gordon stepped out of the rectory into a cold, clear night. A light scent of snow lay in the air, and a few hard crystalline shreds of white fell here and there, but it was really too cold for a heavy fall. His heavy black shoes crunched on frozen snow as he hastened across the barren grounds of the Church of the Good Shepherd. He was muffled in a scarf and heavy overcoat. A banner of steam trailed from his mouth, lightly scented with scotch.
He drove to the park and with the special credit card returned Hugh's urgent call. Hugh sounded rattled but steely: "Vincent, I'll need your deposit within three days. This is it, man, the clock is ticking. We are to the tenth day, and my friend south of the border is getting frantic."
Vincent bit his lip. Pleading with Hugh Stone would be the wrong move, he knew since the Guzman killing. "I'm getting it together, Hugh. This is going to be the big payoff."
"Vincent, you sound positive. That pleases me very much. Make the deposit as agreed. I'll call you day by day if need be."
Vincent had a heavy feeling in his gut. A thousand times, he kicked himself mentally for getting into this deal. All because of Travignan! Because I am lonely, I sought a friend. Who turns out to have a habit, needs money, gets me involved with drug dealers. Like a fool he had helped Joe, given him money, as a friend. Guzman and the man from out of town, Hugh Stone, had come to visit one day. How had they learned about him? Joe, no doubt. You could twist a weak soul like a sponge. Hugh had threatened, cajoled, finally sold Vincent on this wonderful opportunity to double his money. Then the bust. That fool cop had let Travignan get away. Then Guzman gets murdered in broad daylight and I see what these people really are. Now I am in over my head and Hugh will not let me go. If I rat on him, he rats on me and we are both finished.
And where was Joe anyway? Vincent drove aimlessly, gliding on enigmatic back roads. The car heater kept him warm and dry. From the glove compartment, he nipped at a half-pint hip flask of Canadian Club. He smoked a cigarette, puffing nervously and rapidly. He drove past Travignan's apartment once, twice
no sign of his lamentable friend. It was down to three days then. Time to face destiny, move on.
Parked in the shadows, with the engine running quietly and the window slightly open, he nipped at the whiskey. Father Joe had been his friend, the only person he could confide in because they each shared a secret that threatened to devour them. He pictured Joe: Youthful face, curly hair, alert slightly crazy green eyes. Strumming that guitar. Confessing about his addiction, his hopelessness. Vincent in turn had confessed a little bit about his failings. Had been downhill from there. Money. The root of all evil. Vincent sipped again, coughing at the sting. Travignan. Wasn't really his fault either. Was victim. All victims, dammit. No fault. Like insurance. But Joe, with his boyish enthusiasm. Guitar music. Holy, holy, holy. Ah, such delightful
Swings between depression and elation. Get help
God, Joe, where are you when I need you? We can get out of this together. Good pal, I've got three million buckaroos. Can get you all help y'need. Trust old M'signor Gor'n. Vincent realized he must have dozed off. His head felt woollen and his tongue seemed swollen in an ill-tasting mouth. He slipped the empty bottle out the crack in the window. Opened the window to get air. And saw, in the white snow bowl that was spread before him, the grounds of Sacred Heart Parish, a commotion going on in Joe's apartment.
First he thought it was Joe leading a man and a boy toward the rectory. Then he realized that the man he had thought was Joe was an older man, a priest perhaps. And the boy was a woman, judging from the slightly wider hips and fuller jeans rear end. Vincent coasted along, trying to get a better look without being obvious. They stopped and knocked at the rectory door. It was a bust. He could smell it. Another nail in the coffin of Monsignor Gordon. He accelerated and drove past. He must come up with a plan. And angrily he realized that all the while she had been standing there mocking him, spitting at him, projectile vomiting pints of fire, the Angel of Death.
Copyright © 1996 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.