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 11. Hamilton, Conn
Blue met Eddie for breakfast the next morning at a coffee shop on the Boston Post Road. He slurped his coffee, hunched across from her in a cozy booth. The waitress brought a menu. Blue wrapped her hands around the coffee cup and ordered a ham and cheese omelet. "Blue, you're on your own today. Like I told you, I've got code violations, truants, you name it."
"I can keep busy," she said. And she did. The town looked gray, cold, shuttered, somehow menacing. She crunched across the snow after saying goodbye to Eddie. In the cold sunlight of a winter's day she regarded the golden gleam of a church dome. Not a clue; but what could they do to her, send her back to Manhattan? She began by wandering through the town shopping center, just talking to shop people. The store keepers were friendly. She felt guilty, as though playing hookey; must get to know the town though. She talked, she shopped, lightly for her budget was limited. A poster, a scented bar of soap.
Near a small Episcopal church in the central walking mall, she spied a sign: An E with a W, laurel wreath. She remembered. What's his face, Joe Travelgram, had worn a sweat jacket with that logo. She peered in a store window. Looked like a travel agency inside. A bell tinkled as she entered. "Yes?" asked the woman behind the counter.
"I was wondering what this is," Blue said.
"We are a drug rehab agency."
Blue reeled. "What?"
The woman had large, sympathetic eyes that had seen much suffering. "Are you in trouble?"
Blue stammered: "What, you mean like, drugs, cocaine
"Heroin, you name it."
"I saw the sign. I wondered what it means."
"E for Episcopal. W for winners. It's okay if you're some other religion."
"Is there a counselor named Father Joe Travelgland here?"
"You mean Travignan. Joe. Yes. But he's not a counselor."
She was again startled. "Oh."
"Want to come to a meeting?" The woman offered a signup sheet full of names. Blue spotted the priest's name. "I'll think about it."
She raced to her apartment. Burdened with parcels, she unlocked the door and called Vito. "Vito, can you make a guy named Joe Travignan? He's a priest here in Hamilton."
"Look in the phone book."
"Vito, humor me? Stop giving me gas." She put up her posters and hung a new shower curtain, one with lavish summer flowers against a pale pink background; something to reach out and grab the cold neutral air, dissolving it with Blueness. As
she put the soap by the tub, the phone rang. Vito: "Hey, Blue, that guy you asked me to run a check on? Father Joe Travignan? You may have hit something, I don't know what. National Agency Check came back on the guy. He's a priest all right, legit and all, but he does have a sheet."
"Veeeto!" she squealed.
"Couple of years back in San Francisco, got picked up for possession, also for a small street deal. Heroin, cocaine, marijuana. Probation. It gets interesting. The archdiocese in Frisco cut a deal with the Probation Department. Father Joe was assistant pastor in a parish, was doing good work, the Church wanted to get him back in the fold, can't afford to lose priests. So they agreed to send him to a parish far away, and guess where that turned out to be."
"Sacred Heart, Hamilton, Connecticut."
"Bingo. Tomasi says give you a gold star. Musician, poet, real beatnik from the looks of it. Comes from Akron, Ohio. No juvenile arrests, nice middle-class family. College at Canisius, seminary at Mt. Holyoke, assigned to Frisco, then fucked up. You follow up on this, Blue, let's see where it leads."
Copyright © 1996 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.