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Chapter twenty

Scared and lost, I just wandered over toward the library where Horatio waited for or me on the steps.

Horatio‘s face registered fear. “Miss, Miss, that kid who used to hang out with your grandmother was forced down into a manhole.”

Trying to appear calm for Horatio, I spoke slowly and deliberately.

“It’s all right, Horatio. The police are working to get the guy who did it.”

“But the man who murdered your grandmother. I saw him again.”

“Oh God, you did?” My voice was getting louder.

Horatio shook and continued, “He was riding a bike.”

Just as I thought, Mere’s murderer went after Dylan.

“Horatio, now will you tell the police?”

Horatio, eyes wide and wild, couldn’t focus as he stepped back. I knew then that he was never going to confide in the police. He turned his back to me and put his hands to his head.

“Stop yelling, please, Miss. I’m not sure. I don’t even know what I’m saying. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.” Once again, Horatio was gone.

I was so confused. Did Horatio really see the killer again? Dylan’s attack a signaled increasing danger. I kept telling myself not to give up. The police would catch this killer. The answers were here somewhere. I looked up at the massive library that pulled me like a gigantic magnet. I walked to the cellar where Mere had been murdered. I knew I swore to Ruiz I would never go there again. That dreaded basement sucked me in to the bowel of the building.

Terrified I thought of calling Ruiz or even my dad, but I couldn’t break the spell. I kept walking. Obviously Horatio was right I had to do this on my own.

Though normally this area is not open to the public, today no security stopped me from entering.. On the way down, I expected to hear my grandmother’s screams, but there was just silence. Opening the doors, I stared at the bare concrete walls and empty book shelves, which stood standing like naked metal skeletons. The air was heavy with a pressure. My throat tightened, I definitely was pulled into the room.

“Mere?” I called.

No answer, but I was not alone. By an intangible force, I was lured into the center of the room. Along the corners of the gray cement floor, small black spiders slowly crawled from behind the walls. First a few, but suddenly hundreds of spiders ran across the floor, walls and ceiling. In an instant a white silky filament filled the air. I found myself trapped inside a room size spider web. Frantically I flailed at the web. My hands sticky and my feet glued to the spot, I screamed. No one came. No matter how hard I tried, I could not break free of the imprisoning web. Mere, I begged, “Please help me. Help me.”

In the eerie silence, I breathed slowly and a calmness seeped inside me. Then I closed my eyes and turned inwardly for strength. When I looked again the web had disappeared while spiders scrambled and slipped away. I was so relieved to be free but what did this supernatural manifestation mean? Maybe I was just losing my mind, and imagining all this, but then I reached down and pulled a clump of sticky web from my shoe.

I knew right then and there I had to make a decision. Call the police or go back to Boston. I could hear Ruiz laughing uncontrollably —“Oh yeah, black spiders in the cellar trapping you in a enormous web. That’s evidence all right. Proof you are on hard drugs.”

Then I would have to get Horatio involved. Horatio was so fragile. Who but Horatio and I would believe in the power of spiders? I decided to call my mother and make arrangements to leave New York and go back to Boston where I would be safe. But I wasn’t leaving until after Noah’s concert. I was determined not to miss that cool concert. I would go home Sunday. I texted my mom right then and there. Instantly she replied: Yay! Can’t wait to have you home.

Afraid to take the elevator, I ran up the stairs and into the afternoon sunlight. I hurried over to my grandmother’s apartment since I promised Noah that he could have a look at my grandmother’s books. When I finally got there I was amazingly calm, especially since I had just escaped a supernatural demonstration. Perhaps, I was simply in shock or got the strength to continue on because I saw an end in sight. I was headed home to Boston very soon. Before I left, important decisions had to be made.

The books loomed so large in every room. These books now belonged to me. Which ones would I keep and which ones would I donate? But all these books had been digitalized into E-books. So I should just let these books go and walk away. Could I really ever throw them out? Then I remembered that Madeline had said an E-book could never replace the physical properties of a book and the artistry of its design. Which was the most beautiful book here? Recently in an old church in Brooklyn my grandmother had found a rather small Ethiopian prayer book with illustrations that looked like cave paintings. Where was it now?

Suddenly I stopped to look at a Bible, my grandmother’s Bible. I opened the book - so plain and light compared to the Gutenberg. Inside was a faded picture of Mere when she was twelve years old. She was dressed in a white robe with a red collar and was standing in front of St. Sebastian’s Church. It was her Confirmation Day when Catholics swear allegiance to their faith. For a brief second the photo of Mere turned completely white. When I looked again, the color was restored. Mere’s supernatural communication through pictures. This one wasn’t on my camera roll.

I begged. Mere, just tell me what really just happened in the cellar? What pulled me into the cellar Why was I imprisoned in a gigantic spider web? How are you involved in that spider web of the dead. Once I started asking, more and more questions flooded my brain.

What is so important about your Confirmation picture that brings you here now.. Two bibles, yours and the Gutenberg. I get that similarity. But how does it fit into the big picture of the robbery and your murder? Just this once, can’t you tell me? Nothing- no change in the temperature, no moving objects, no image in the mirror. Mere was so frustrating.

As I quickly put the bible back in the bookcase, I couldn’t help but wonder about the Gutenberg. Where was it now?

The apartment was growing dark. Noah would soon be here. I put on lip gloss and checked my hair, and carefully positioned my guitar on the couch. Alone with Noah in the apartment-that idea was frightening and exciting at the same time. We should definitely take it slow.

Shortly afterwards, Noah knocked gently. I told him to come in the door was open. Noah easily slipped in right next to me on the couch. Before I could reposition how I was sitting, he pulled me into his arms. When he started slowly kissing my neck, and blowing into my ear. I started to shake. I pushed him away.

“Maybe we better look at those books first?”

He said, “Zoe, who are you kidding?”

I jumped up and handed him an annotated list of the books from Mere’s library that the lawyer had given my father.

“Whatever you say? Is this list complete? No hidden gems like The Complete Illustrated Kama Sutra?”

“You can look but I don’t think so.”

“Ok, first I have to use the bathroom.”

“It’s down the hall.”

“Right, I’ll be right back.”

When I went to the kitchen to get some salsa and chips, I noticed Noah not in the bathroom but in my grandmother’s bedroom.

“No toilet in this room,” I said.

“Of course not. The door was open and I noticed another bunch of books in here. I couldn’t help but take a look.”

I said, “My grandmother kept a lot of books in her bedroom that she would reread - poetry, art books, and essays.”

Noah was looking around the room. “What about her computer- no desk top?”

“The police have it.”

“Do you know if they found anything suspicious?”

“Not that they told me.”

“Zoe, where did your grandmother keep the classic lit, stuff like Beowulf, Shakespeare and ballads?”

“Living room, across from the couch. Speaking of books, the police are investigating Antiquarian books in this case.”

Noah nodded. He was paging through the old English anthologies of poetry reading aloud lines from The Canterbury Tales at random. “Ah - here’s The Wife of Bath’s Prologue. Pass me my guitar. And get yours, Zoe.” He started strumming. “Chaucer won’t mind if I shake up a few lines of his. Like he writes “my wife”. Wife - now that‘s such an outdated role, don’t you think, Zoe?”

I just tuned my guitar and focused on positioning my fingers. Noah started singing “My wife, no my woman.”

The words inspired the sound. He finally moved to the couch. I started to pick up his sound. Playing my guitar I sat down next to him, but it didn’t matter. Obviously, he wasn’t the least interested in how I played or what words came to my mind. Mentally he had moved away from me into a private space for just him and his music. His concentration was amazing. He fingered the strings, strummed the chords. A climactic rhythm poured out.

Finally he started a song reinventing a phrase from The Wife of Bath where the rhythm just built stronger and stronger. “My woman will get it morning and night and any time in between.”

I sat there frozen and speechless.

He played a few more chords. When he stopped and just stared at me with a laser like gaze. Instantly, I was afraid, yet I didn’t tell him to leave. He slid closer and closer. He gently touched my hair in a way that sent chills down my neck. Suddenly he was on top of me. I felt his hands on my lower back. He moved to open my bra. Now I didn’t have the strength or the will to fight him. He was kissing my mouth when my tongue darted into his mouth like a frantic explorer in a cave of skin. In a flash, his shirt disappeared too. This time I moved my hands over his shoulders and started kissing his chest and belly. With my lips moving downward, I heard the key in the front door.

“Dad?” I yelled as Detective Ruiz stepped into the room.

“Does your dad know about this?” asked Ruiz.

I, totally embarrassed, felt the red climbing up my neck.

Meanwhile, Noah jumped up and, grabbed his shirt and guitar and said, “I’m out of here. Call me, Zoe when you are out of jail.”

“Zoe,” Ruiz said, “I misunderstood. I thought you left an urgent message about Dylan, not some horny musician.”

“I’m an adult, Detective. Why did you ask me if my dad knew I was here?”

“Safety, Zoe, this apartment is linked to a murder investigation. Good thing we got that truck outside. You really shouldn’t let creeps like that guy crawl all over you.”

Furious, I just replied, “I’m here to sort through my grandmother’s things. Noah came down to use some of her books to write a song.”

“Really? That’s how songs are written?”

“I already told you, what happens between me and Noah is none of your business.”

“Keeping you safe throughout this investigation is my business. I already told you to stay away from that guy.”

I could feel the frustration, I couldn’t keep it together much longer. That was for sure.

Meanwhile Ruiz said, “Don’t you want to know about Dylan?”

“Yes, I haven’t forgotten Dylan. How is he?”

“In a coma.”

“Any leads on the guy who pushed him?”

“Not much.”

When he got to the door, he said, “Something tells me I should call your father to come pick you up now.”

“Don’t you dare, Ruiz,”

Ruiz smiled slightly, “You know I love a dare.”

I just glared at Ruiz as he stepped through the front door. I was livid. Now everything was ruined with Noah. My dad and now the police--clearly a guy like Noah, would not put up with this. What did it matter? I was going back to Boston this week. The worst regret --I was leaving without knowing who murdered my grandmother.

I sat there and strummed my guitar trying to take it all in. The phone buzzed. Maybe Noah was calling?

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