Chapter twenty one
The phone call was from my dad. His voice registered concern. “Zoe, Detective Ruiz called. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Dad. Ruiz doesn’t know anything.”
“I have to work late tonight, but how about dinner at the Bowery Hotel tomorrow? You like that restaurant. “
“No, Dad. Not tomorrow. You know that musician upstairs from Mere who is taking care of the cat. Well he’s in a band that’s playing at B.B. King’s tomorrow. He invited me. Lots of people will be there. I really want to go.”
“I don’t know, Zoe, with the murder investigation and all.”
“Please Dad, I just need a break. I decided to go back to Boston. Did mom tell you?”
“Yes, I’m glad. You’ll be safe there.”
“I just want to have some fun tomorrow night.”
“Well, all right. Promise me you will be careful. Don’t go off the beaten trail. How old do you have to be to drink?”
“Eighteen,” I said.
“Zoe, How old?
“Twenty one, Dad. Just kidding.”
As soon as I put down my phone, I started to stress out about the concert. What was I going to wear? If I could only call my mother, but I definitely could not. If my mom knew about Noah, no less the concert, I would never go. I definitely wanted to wear something special, but of course, not too special. Must avoid looking like I was trying too hard.
So the following afternoon, I took the train down to the Lower East Side, a neighborhood with lots of boutiques. My shopping began with a search for an unusual tee to pair up with my skinny jeans. In the second shop I hit, I found a black knit dress that fit perfectly in a simple, elegant way. The scoop neckline subtly but suggestively drew attention to my breasts. My father would definitely disapprove. I quickly bought it. Next, I chose sandals with unusual futuristic straps. When I tried them on, I thought they looked strange. Perfect! Noah would love them. It was fun trying a new look. I decided then and there that these shoes were just the beginning.
Looking in the mirror in the boutique, I pulled my hair out of the knot. Since, I hadn’t been to the salon for highlights or straightening in a long time, a mass of naturally light brown, curly hair just expanded onto my shoulders. I decided tonight I would wear it just that way-wild and free.
As I walked along the Bowery, I passed the mission that cares for New York’s homeless. Lots of guys coming out were walking aimlessly with blank stares that reminded me of Horatio. I just couldn’t get him off of my mind. He had scared me so, especially when he said he saw the killer again. Nothing terrible had happened to me yet. Why hadn’t I told the police or my dad? Why was I so protective of Horatio?
I was determined to find out what secret Mere shared with Horatio at Bryant Park the night of the murder. I decided to find Horatio today and tell him I was leaving for Boston on Sunday. This was my last chance of ever knowing. I got off the train at Forty Second Street and I stopped at the deli for Horatio’s coffee and a turkey sandwich. I scoured the streets around the library and finally found him in a shady little hidden area behind Bryant Park..
When I gave him the bag, he just ripped it open. He never made eye contact.
“Listen Horatio, I’m sorry. It’s getting too scary for me. I’m going home to my Mom’s in Boston on Sunday. Before I go, please tell me the secret.” Still not looking up, but in a rather loud voice Horatio said, “In the beginning was the word.”
“That’s exactly what Mere said when she was dying in the ambulance. Those words are from the Bible, Horatio. My grandmother’s secret is about the Gutenberg, isn’t it?” Horatio did not respond.
“You know who took it? Where is it please? I’m in danger. You told me that.”
Horatio stood and started to back away. I pleaded, “Please don’t run away again. Tell me.”
He looked at me and stammered, “Meet me at St. Francis.”
“Tonight when the church closes.”
“I can’t tonight. I have to go to this concert.”
“Meet me at St. Francis. Come tonight,” he said as he slipped into the crowd.
Tonight of all nights, I thought - Noah’s concert. I hadn’t talked to Noah since that embarrassing moment at my grandmother’s apartment with Detective Ruiz. At this point, Noah probably never wanted to see me again. But he had invited me to the concert, so I called him.
All he said was. “What’s up?” Then I poured out the whole story. I told him how sorry I was about Detective Ruiz and now I had to miss his concert because of this homeless guy’s comments. I even told Noah about my grandmother and Horatio sharing a secret.
“Listen Zoe, you know I don’t stress, but if I was you I wouldn’t be by myself with this Horatio. Listen, come to the concert. After the concert we’ll walk around by St. Francis and find this guy. He’s probably high and doesn’t even know what he’s talking about. Secrets- like your grandmother was in the CIA?”
I kind of laughed. The story did sound crazy.
“If by chance, it is something important, it’ll be better to have me with you.”
“Okay, thanks, but what about the band’s after party? I don’t want you to miss that.” “Me neither, we can do both. It will only take a few minutes to talk to this Horatio. Then we will party.”
The night of the concert involved chaos and very last minute planning. Noah texted me to go directly to the club. He had given my name to a guy, Mad Dog, who worked the door. I had to push through lines of fans hyped up on getting a musical fix after a week of the usual grind. Mad Dog turned out to be the tallest and widest guy in the mix. He pushed through the packed room to a seat at a table close to the stage. Two other guys were already seated there. I recognized only one, Dave the Rave, Noah’s manager.
I said, “Dave, this is exciting. Wow, a lot of people here- that’s awesome.
“Advertising pays off.”
I hadn’t really seen a lot of ads, but I have been in kind of a daze with what’s going on.
“Thousands spent on getting the word out,” Dave said raising his eyebrows.
“Thousands?” I questioned.
“Well, with Uncle Edwin’s money, advertising is easy,” said Dave.
“Who is Uncle Edwin?” I asked.
“Rich Uncle Edwin Spencer, with the apartment on Fifth Ave. Noah hasn’t brought you there yet?”
“You don’t mean the attorney, Edwin Spencer?
“One in the same.”
“Really? Noah never told me his uncle was Edwin Spencer.”
“You don’t know about rich Uncle Edwin? Maybe Noah’s worried you will make him take you to some high end clubs. You know how tight he is.”
Edwin was Noah’s uncle? This just couldn’t be. I went into a kind of shock. Coincidences like that just don’t happen. What did this mean?
What about Noah’s relationship with my grandmother? I should have seen the ridiculous setup of a twenty four year old musician who would take an interest in a woman in her sixties because of her book collection? Now the emcee was saying put your hands together for The Ark. The whistling and stomping crowd had definitely been partying before they got here. Out came the band. Obviously from the fired up look in Noah’s eyes, he too was high. I was looking up at him in his ripped jeans and sleeveless black tee. His black boots pounded out the beat while his hips rocked hot and high to the drummer’s rhythm. Noah’s strong voice created an awesome sound.
I started to panic when I realized the time to leave was probably a half an hour ago. Here was no place to figure things out. I already told Noah about Horatio, I had to get to Horatio before Noah. There was no way to reach Horatio to warn him. Suddenly I blurted out, “I got to pee.” The noise was so loud no one heard me. I just got up and started climbing over people to get to the door and I never looked back.
When I got on the street, I jumped into a cab and headed straight to St. Francis. I was terrified but I couldn’t call Ruiz or my dad. They would scare Horatio and I would never know the secret. It was after midnight; certainly the church would be locked. Nevertheless, when I pulled at the front door, it opened. I knelt in a pew in the rear of a silent, empty church and simply called, “Horatio.”
Miraculously, Horatio appeared. Apparently he had been lying on one of the pews. I followed him into the recesses of the dark church until he stopped at a confessional boxs. I immediately thought of my grandmother’s last words, the prayer, The Act of Contrition. Opening the door to the wooden compartment, Horatio said, “The secret sins that were whispered in this box. Now it holds the word of God.”
Like a magician, he tapped on one of the walls. Within seconds, the panel popped open. There lay a package wrapped in brown paper. Reverently, he picked it up and handed it to me saying, “Behold the word of God.”
“This isn’t what I think it is?”
“Go ahead. Open it,” Horatio said.
Carefully, I unwrapped the paper to find the Gutenberg Bible.
“The Gutenberg has been here since the robbery? Horatio, you took it?”
“Your grandmother entrusted it to me. The night she was killed, she came frantically into Bryant Park holding a brown paper bag in her hands. She said to me, “Horatio, this is the Gutenberg Bible. There is a plot to steal it. I feel certain that an employee of the library is helping set up the robbery. I would call the police but the suspected employee is more than a colleague. I don’t want to call the police unless I’m sure. To further complicate matters, a man whose motives are unclear is coming this afternoon to do business. I don’t know exactly what he wants, but he seems dangerous. I have got to protect the Gutenberg.”
I told her, “Give it to me. I know where to hide it.” “Where?” your grandmother asked.
“The word of God belongs in His house,” I told her.
“Yes, St. Francis. As soon as it’s safe, come and get it.” “How will I find you inside the church?” your grandmother wanted to know.
I told her, “My hiding place - the confessional. I’ll stay there until you arrive.”
But as you know, she never came. As an architect, it was easy for me to create the secret panel inside the confessional. Neither the police nor the murderer has ever been here. Hardly any one goes to confession anymore.”
“Horatio, I can never thank you enough.”
“I did it for her, you know.”
“I know,” said Zoe.
Looking at me, Horatio said, “Your grandmother is here with us now. Do you feel her too?” I didn’t answer, but gently kissed his forehead.
“I have to go and return this to the library before he gets here.”
“The murderer knows?”
I just shook my head, “Yes.”
Horatio said, “Be careful, Miss. Remember you are not alone.”
I stepped out of the church on to the dark street, and texted Detective Ruiz: Have the Bible. Meet me at the lions in front. Call security.
How amazing that Horatio hid the Gutenberg in the church confessional. Now I understood Mere’s last words from the confessional prayer. My grandmother wanted to let me know where the Gutenberg was hidden.
When I ran up the stairs onto library pavilion, from behind the lions, Noah, not Ruiz emerged. He had a gun in his hand.