Michael barely slept. The idea of being so close to the solution made him uneasy. The city was still quiet when he decided to go back to the shop for the book.
To his surprise, Amanda was already sitting in the main lobby, waiting. She was sitting next to an open fireplace. Michael clenched his fists to a white-knuckled grip, his leg muscles tightening, ready to run.
“Mr. Adams, come join me at the fire, it’s beautiful.”
“No, thanks. I’d rather stay as far away as possible from this.”
“But the fire is lovely.” Her smile was warm.
“Not to me. Has to do with my childhood. I don’t want to get into this.” He tilted his head sideways.
“Fine. Then why are you down here?”
“I think we need to go back to the shop now and not tomorrow,” he said.
“Finally, let’s go,” Amanda said, jumping up from the brown, leather couch.
* * *
Michael was surprised to find the shop door unlocked.
Germans start early.
They stopped at the glass display case and waited. Minutes passed without a sign of the old man.
“Hello?” Michael said with a raised voice.
He looked around.
Eventually Michael and Amanda walked toward the back of the shop. Michael pulled the curtain to the side and entered a small hallway with a closed door on the other end. They entered the room, seeing scattered books and candles everywhere.
“Oh my God!” Amanda blurted out, running over to the body of the old man.
Michael raced over as well. He pushed his fingers into the neck and the wrist of the old man, trying to find a pulse. He was dead, Michael pulled out his mobile phone.
“What are you doing?” Amanda interrupted hastily.
“We need to call for help.”
“Why? He’s already dead. There is nothing that they could do for him now. We need to find the book. If the police get here before we find it, we will never get it. This is our chance. After that, you can still call the police.” Amanda walked around the small room.
He looked at his phone and then at the man. He shook his head sighed loudly, and then put the phone back into his pocket and started to look around the room as well.
It must be here somewhere. Where would I hide it?
He worked his way through the maze of books.
Amanda banged against the walls, hoping to find a hollow space. After looking through the room for more than a half an hour, Michael sat on a little chair. He looked over every aspect of the room, hoping to find a clue, a hint, something that would reveal where the book might be.
During his time in high school, teachers always congratulated him for his unique analyzing skills. He was able to put himself in the shoes of others and see things through their eyes.
He looked at the scattered pile of books. His eyes followed the pile reaching to the ceiling. Looking upward, the headlight caught his attention.
“Why does he have a huge headlight on the ceiling? There are dozens of melted down candles lying around,” Michael mumbled.
“What are you trying to say?” Amanda said, overhearing his words.
“I mean, why would I use candles if I have a light? And especially one as strong as this one,” Michael said raising his eyebrows.
“Maybe the light is broken?” Amanda said.
Michael walked over to the light switch and flipped it.
“See, no light. And it doesn’t seem broken. And look here,” he walked over to the trash can and pointed down at it, “the trash can is full of melted candles. And over here a huge case of new candles.”
He kept looking around the room, analyzing every part of it, every book, switch, ball of dust.
He suddenly stopped under the ceiling light. “Why is there a string coming from it?” He placed the little chair under it, stepped up on it, and yanked the string repeatedly.
“Be careful,” Amanda said standing beside him.
“There must be something here.” Michael huffed.
Suddenly the entire lamp socket started to slowly move downward.
“Look. You were right,” Amanda cheered.
Michael kept pulling the string, and the socket came down further and further until it stopped at the height of his eyes.
He looked at the platform, and a grin filled his face.
“The book,” Amanda said amazed, seeing the large, red, velvet bag.
Michael pulled the book down from the platform. He breathed heavy and could feel his back twitching under the weight of the book.
The Codex Gigas.
With steady hands, he opened the book.
“Let me see it,” Amanda said, walking eagerly toward Michael.
Amanda quickly flipped the pages and stopped at the image of the Devil. She looked at it for a couple of seconds and then tore out the page.
“What are you doing?” Michael said, his eyes shut wide open.
“We don’t need the entire book. This image is the book. The rest of the book was just created as a cover up and distraction,” Amanda said, putting the page hastily into her bag.
“Let’s leave before someone gets here,” she said and added, “Now you can call the police.”
* * *
Back in Michael’s hotel room, they looked down at the page with the image of the Devil lying before them on the desk.
The lower half of the page was covered with the Devil’s image. The upper part was left empty.
I wonder why?
Michael had been thinking about this since he saw the image the first time in New York.
Why not cover the entire page with the image?
“Do you have a match or a lighter?” Amanda said.
“Sure, on the minibar over there. I saw some matches there.”
“Please be so kind and get them for me.”
Michael handed her the box of matches. “What are you going to do with that?” Michael said.
Amanda lit a match and placed it under the old paper. “The image of the Devil is just a clue where to look for the real message,” she said.
A misty image appeared above the Devil’s head in the empty space of the page.
Amanda carefully waved the burning match from side to side.
The hazy image sharpened.
“A maze?” Michael said with a raise in his vocal pitch.
“Any clue where that is?” He looked at Amanda.
* * *
A few miles away, Joe Harris arrived at the occult shop of the old man.
Several police cars and TV vans blocked half of the street. A large crowd gathered in front of a police barrier that stopped anyone from getting to close to the shop.
“What happened?” Harris asked an onlooker.
“The shop owner was found dead in zere,” A young man answered.
“Dead? Murdered, you mean?” Harris said, startled.
Harris looked around and spotted a camera team loading their equipment into a van.
“Excuse me. Can you tell me what exactly happened?” Harris asked an overweight man placing a large camera into the van.
“What?” the man said, turning toward Harris.
“The dead man, was he killed?”
“Oh, yes. The police got an anonymous call about a dead person in there,” he said unemotionally.
“How do you know he was killed?” Harris said.
“They found evidence of a struggle. The investigators say he was most likely strangled and then robbed.”
“Yeah, that happens here a lot. Some junkies needing money will kill for anything to finance their next hit,” the man said and chuckled.