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Chapter eighteen

Maddy’s accusation that I had abandoned Mere devastated me. What was I

doing here in New York but trying to defend my grandmother ? All my efforts to find out why she was murdered were undermined by Maddy’s cruel comment. Over and over I tried to

convince myself that I had turned my back on books, but not my grandmother. Actually since her death I knew more about her. My recent inquiries shed new light on my grandmother’s early life. I discussed her mysterious past with Aunt Claire and finally spoke with the intriguing Edwin Spencer .

Did she even want me to ever know all this about her? What had my supernatural sightings of Mere revealed? Why was she anxiously searching the library, the subway, the church? I thought her angst was caused by the murder, but maybe secrets from her past life still plagued her?

Still determined to find answers to these questions, I wondered if Mere communicated more clearly with Horatio. Could I ever really connect with him? Also, those books she left me possibly held the answers. Mere definitely connected with them. Her books cast an ambivalent spell on me that I could no longer ignore. I was prioritizing a reading list of Mere’s books, As I entered the titles in notes on my phone, I saw I that I was suppose to meet Noah for lunch in the park. I had been so excited about having a date with a musician. Now I didn’t even care. What was wrong with me? It was all becoming too much. I headed to Starbucks for a coffee. I needed a break.

Coffee in hand, I headed to the park, and quickly found a table and plugged my music to my ear. I was searching for a soothing sound on my playlist when Horatio sat across from me.

“Coffee for me?”

“I don’t think so after you scared me saying that I was in danger.”

“You are in danger Zoe. But you’re not alone.”

“Not alone. Since my grandmother died, I never felt so alone. Oh, here take the coffee.”

Horatio hand shook as he carefully held the cup to his lips. He then took out an old piece of a disgusting sandwich from his pocket.

“Horatio, what are you talking about not alone - my grandmother’s spirit? She’s

not too clear when she communicates with me. I have recently seen her going into the library. I even chased her. Why won’t she tell me what is going on in the library or at least let me know what to do? Has she let you in on what’s happening in the library?”

I was so frustrated. I didn’t want to lose it, especially with Horatio. He would be gone for good.

“I don’t know?” Horatio explained.

“You don’t know?”

“No, I just sense.”

Horatio was right. A connection with the dead is sensed, not understood by the living. He then leaned forward a little and said, “But one thing I do recognize, Zoe, is that you and I are joined by her spirit.”

To most people all this sounded crazy, but I knew what Horatio meant and I believed him. As I watched Horatio wolf down the food, my stomach churned, but I continued to question him.

Horatio pointed to the basement window of the library. “Look, you can see the empty stacks, the cellar-underground where she was murdered.”

“I have nightmares almost every night that my grandmother is headed there. I try to stop her from going.”

Horatio said, “In mythology, the underworld is the home of the dead.”

“So what are you saying- the dead convene in the library stacks?”

“Yes,” Horatio whispered and revealed, “I often get vibes from the dead here in Bryant Park.”

I couldn’t stop myself from agreeing. “You’re absolutely right about the dead and the vibe in the park. On dark, cold nights my grandmother and I sat here in Bryant Park trying to connect with the spirit world.”

Horatio said, “Lots of nights I hid and watched you.”

“Were you there the night when we tried to connect with Steve Jobs, but instead a pauper showed up?”

Horatio simply nodded, but his eyes lit up with excitement.

. So, I asked him, “Do you know that this library was built on a pauper’s field, a mass grave for the poor no one wanted?”

Horatio said, “My people.”

I couldn’t wait anymore, I said, “Help me, Horatio.”

“Zoe, last night going by the library I noticed your grandmother in the shadows of the basement window.”

“Jeez, Horatio, a few times I have seen her walking up to the basement and dissolve into the cellar too.”

“I have seen that too.” So, Horatio, you believe my murdered grandmother is now communicating with the dead in the library basement.”

“Yes.”

“Horatio, what do the paupers want? Why are they talking to my grandma?”

“All I know is that spirits are convening.”

“Please tell me the secret you and my grandmother shared.

“Soon,” he said softly.

“Now,” I yelled. From experience, I should have known that yelling was a sure way to make Horatio run. Once more, Horatio was gone, lost in the crowd. I was afraid to chase him into the dirty, brutal world of the homeless. So I waited for Noah.

Finally, Noah, walking nonchalantly, appeared on Sixth Ave. Slowly he, made his way to the table.

“Hey,” he smiled. Then he walked over to me, bent over and kissed me on the mouth, a strong kiss for sure. I just looked at him.

He had sushi and a spring roll for us to share.

I pushed it away, “I can’t eat. I’m just too upset.”

“No problem. The food is just an excuse to be with you.”

I finally said to him, “My grandmother has just been murdered. Maybe we should wait to get so involved.”

“Wait for what, Zoe? Your grandmother’s dead.”

I could still feel the heat inside me from that kiss. I was angry at myself for sitting here like a helpless idiot. But I did want to kiss him, especially since in the light dressed in a white tee shirt and jeans, I could see his tight abs.

He sat across from me obviously not bothered in the least by my uneasiness. Maybe I should just tell Noah everything- my sighting of my grandmother, her involvement with Horatio and the paupers. But something kept me from opening up.

I finally asked him, “How is Percy today? Is he feeling better?”

“Hard to say? Doesn’t like to be boxed in - definitely not your carrier case type cat.”

“I’m trying to find a home for him, honestly Noah”

“Maybe he doesn’t want one.”

“Please stop talking crazy. I owe it to my grandmother to take care of her cat.”

How could I be attracted to someone as strange as Noah?

“Zoe, speaking of cats, I bet I could show you something in the library that would freak Percy out.”

“What?”

“The paw of Charles Dickens dead cat made into a letter opener.”

“Stop it Noah. I already know about that. Why are you saying this when you know how upset I am about Percy?”

“Just messing with ya.”

Noah smiled. “Are you sure that’s not Edgar Allen Poe’s cat?”

“Yes, I’m sure. That paw was part of Maddy’s Special Collections. No mistakes there.” This guy is kind of cruel I thought, but then again my dad often describes me as oversensitive. His weird fascination with the cat paw convinced me that Noah was crazy enough for me to reveal my interaction with the spirit world.

I said, “Noah, look you can see the windows of the basement – the underworld of the library. Most everything was once stored underground in the stacks. Now it’s empty – a likely place for the supernatural world to convene.”

“The underground, that’s a place I’d like to explore,” said Noah.

“It’s not open to the public.”

“All the more inviting.”

“Noah, what would you say if I told you spirits of paupers haunt that place?”

“The dead have bones to pick with me for sure. Hopefully, not in the near future.” Then he looked at me with that bizarre smile. Before I could ask him what he meant, he changed the conversation.

“How are you doing with your grandmother’s book collection?”

“ We got it cleaned up after the break in. None of the books seem to be missing. The intruder didn’t find what he was looking for in my grandmother’s library or should I say, my books, since according to my grandmother’s will, they now belong to me. Actually I’m making a mental list of some of Mere’s books I’d like to read. I have a feeling that some contain clues to why she was murdered.”

“Really? I’d certainly be interested in some of those poetry books, if they’re up for grabs.”

“I don’t know. Every room has book cases. I’m thinking of asking her friends and colleagues to come over and take a book to remember her.”

“Zoe, before some wealthy bibliophile sucks up your Gma’s library, how about Thursday night we look at some of the poetry and see if we can be inspired to write a song? That’s if you ever bring your guitar. Do you really own one?”

I said, “Yes, a Fender and I would love to write a song with you.”

“Listen if we rip off lyrics from some of those dead guys like Shakespeare, no lawyer will be calling in the morning.”

I thought songwriting with a real musician would be an experience that was out of my realm. For so long I wanted my words to communicate the meaning of an original music. I have been afraid to say it out loud. I paused and kind of blurted out, “Noah, what I really love to do is write lyrics. With your sounds and my words, we could write an epic song.”

There I said it. I kind of waited a minute for Noah to burst out laughing or something, but instead he smiled. “Cool. Thursday night at your grandmother’s. We can look through some of the literature with ancient ballads.”

Thinking of how poorly I played guitar I barely whispered, “Great.” Noah kicked back and closed his eyes. What did he really think of me? Was I just another girl to score with? He certainly was focused on sex. Was there any more to our attraction? Sure he easily opened up and shared his ideas with me. But what about what I was going through with the murder. He never seemed interested in my thoughts or feelings. Even with music that we both clearly loved, his comments centered about his gigs or musical triumphs.

Then again why was I suddenly criticizing Noah? We certainly weren’t equals in a musical talent. Why would he want to discuss technique with me? What was wrong with me? If someone had ever told me that a guy like Noah would be inviting me to his concerts, spending Thursday night writing songs with me, I would say I’m living my dream.

This was my chance. He was hot for sure. The more I thought about cancelling Thursday, the more excited I was about song writing with Noah.

I felt my phone vibrate.

“Gotta go. Something has come up.”

“Let me guess? It’s your Dad?”

Detective Ruiz needed to talk to me outside my dad’s apartment. Since Noah was uncomfortable with the police, I made an excuse. “Yeah, there seems to be a break in the case. I gotta hightail it over to my Dad’s.”

“So, do you know what’s happening? “

“No.”

“Listen, Zoe, see you Thursday at your grandmother’s for song writing 101.”

“Okay, sure.”

Definitely I could not tell my father that I invited Noah over for song writing. Was this really a date? Since my mom did her fashion makeover on me, I noticed a lot guys looking at me. But, I never had a serious boyfriend. I knew now was not the time to have my first real romance. - not in my grandmother’s apartment- that’s for sure.

Alone with Noah in the apartment- what would that lead too? Would Noah take it slow? Who was I kidding? He kissed me like a barbarian since the first kiss.

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