Chapter twenty two
“All roads lead to the Forty Second Street Library,” Noah said. “What do you have there for me?”
Noah glared at the Bible wrapped in paper. “I didn’t plan on having my after party here tonight. After the concert, Dave told me how surprised you looked when he told you about Uncle Edwin. I said to myself, Gig’s up. Zoe knows the score. But then again, that first dangerous kiss registered with you.”
I still couldn’t believe it. “Noah, you murdered my grandmother?”
“I never intended that, but she refused to cooperate.”
My initial reaction was to try to mutilate him –literally rip his heart from his chest. However, some supernatural force enabled me to think before I acted. I stalled for time by asking questions.
“Edwin is really your uncle?”
“Yeah, how do you think I found out about this whole game of million dollar bibles? To make it clearer, I am Uncle Edwin’s heir, his only heir now that your grandmother passed. About six months ago, you see I was a little short when I stopped by to see Uncle Edwin at his apartment. It’s right across from Central Park. Did your grandmother ever tell you about the place, whole floor, beautifully furnished living room with fire place, formal dining room and a beautiful library of rare books?
“Uncle Edwin shocked me with the news that he had reconnected with your grandmother, an old romance, the love of his life. Who knew? Uncle Edwin had so many women. Who would have guessed he ever had a love of his life? So I just had to check out this woman who was going to compete with me for my inheritance.”
“My grandmother never even mentioned your uncle to me.”
“Just a few clicks on the internet I knew her address. It was just a stroke of luck that the apartment right upstairs from hers was on the market as a sublet. Some professor studying in Europe for a year. Perfect.”
“Did your uncle ever know you were living upstairs from my grandmother? Where did he think you were living?”
“The West Side was enough information for him, Zoe. My uncle isn’t really interested in rundown apartments that starving musicians rent. Well, when I met your grandmother, immediately I saw that she wouldn’t have a clue on how to spend all of Uncle Edwin’s money. You know what he was planning on doing with his valuable antiquarian books? Leaving them to your grandmother, the most intuitive bibliophile he ever met. What a pile of shit. No doubt if I hadn’t stopped your Gma, she would have donated those valuable books to the public for the poor sons of bitches who don’t even go to the library or know how to read.”
“I thought you weren’t interested in money. No desire to ring the bell on the stock market. Wasn’t that one of your lies?”
“Let’s just say I have no desire to work for money. Poor little naïve Zoe. You are a lot like your idealistic, gullible grandmother. To get both of you to open your hearts to me, I had to pose as a romantic troubadour in vintage clothing.”
“I can’t believe that you made all that up.”
“Drama major, acting classes-- To think I flunked out with such talent.” “And I let you kiss me. You sick filthy liar.”
“You didn’t let me kiss you. You wanted it, right from the start.”
Right now I felt like scratching his eyes out. He raised the gun. “Let’s go inside. Oh I got Pete to open the door for us. Amazingly he was here. Why would he be out and about in the dark of night?”
Pete was lying inside the side entrance unconscious, beaten around the head.
Noah said, “Better go downstairs just in case your little detective and his team of puny policemen show up.” He pushed me to toward the stairs. I felt the gun in the back of my head.
“Wouldn’t want to make a mess in this library with your brains spilled all over their fancy ass marble floors. How do you get blood off marble? They must know after your grandmother.”
When I turned to spit in his face, he smacked the side of my head with his gun.
“Temper, temper! Your grandmother showed a lot of spunk too. I can see we are going have some fun downstairs. Let’s go to the stacks, a little like Disney world for you bibliophiles.”
Those bare cellar walls of the empty stacks, like a vacant tomb mourning the missing body, emitted a weird supernatural loneliness.
Noah stayed behind me. When I tried to turn, he shoved me to the ground and the Bible fell to the cement floor. “Give it to me; give it to me now, bitch.” I remembered hearing those exact words and exact voice when my grandmother was murdered. “You killed my grandmother! You bastard!”
“Accidentally. I never intended to kill her. It just worked out that way. When I met her that afternoon, she was the one who took me down to the cellar. Some shit about the place being empty, materials sent to Jersey. She whole heartedly believed someday those books would be returned to the stacks where they rightfully belong. After spouting all that useless information, she refused to give me what I wanted.
So I killed her, I couldn’t leave without a payout. Like Uncle Edwin, I always get what I want. Zoe, open it.”
My hands trembling, I ripped open the brown paper covering and the Gutenberg lay exposed on the cement floor.
“What the fuck? This stupid ancient Bible. It floors me. You are as brainless as your grandmother and Uncle Edwin. They kept talking about forgers and rare book dealers stealing that Gutenberg. Don’t you know that no one believes in God anymore? In a few years all those tree killing book lovers will be alongside your grandmother in the grave. This book won’t qualify for toilet paper.”
With that I lunged toward him and he grabbed my arm and twisted it. I turned toward the stairs.
“If you got any ideas of running, I’ll show you why you’re not going to. We are going to pay Chase a little visit. He’s relocated his office to the stacks on my advice. Noah grabbed me by the hair and pushed me down another level to the stacks below. There I saw Chase duck taped to a chair and bleeding badly. He was moaning and obviously in a lot of pain. It was all too clear that Noah had beaten him.
“This doesn‘t make any sense. What does Chase got to do with the Gutenberg Bible?” I asked.
“Really, bitches that play dumb have been out of style for over fifty years.”
“Burn that Bible and fire up your tablet.”
Noah moved toward Chase whose terrified eyes grew larger. “Mouse brain, you don’t seem happy to see Zoe.” With that Noah ripped the tape off Chase’s mouth.
“Speak up Mousy. Tell Zoe why you are being held ransom, as if she doesn’t already know. She expects us to think it’s because of the Bible.”
Chase took a breath and said, “I swear to God so much has happened. Dylan is in the hospital in a coma. He was hit by another cyclist.”
Noah commented, “Oh, a hit and run accident. Don’t believe everything you hear. The little shit should have given up his software. He isn’t as smart as he thought after all.”
“Screw you,” Chase yelled.
“Geeks with million dollar contracts shouldn’t ride bikes. Let’s move on. Tell me about that software program.”
Chase looked at me and said, “How much did your grandmother tell you.”
“The old lady knew and this bitch knows too,” said Noah.
“Well, like I already told you, my little brother, like a lot of kids today, is a whizz in cyber space. After several conversations with your grandmother, they came up with an innovative idea for a future digital book, for lack of a better word.”
With that, Noah punched Chase in the face. “You think I’m stupid. The old lady told me all about the baby wiz and his million dollar software. Mouse Brain here is lying. Tell us what makes this software a money maker.”
Chase voice trembled. “Okay! Okay! One day my brother and Gwen discussed how cool it would be for readers to get inside the author’s head while the plot was being created. Then Dylan translated some of the ideas into code and came up with software program for a game that tracked the author’s thoughts writing the story while the reader played along in deciding what was going to happen. What Dylan came up with was too complicated for me to program but I hooked my brother and Gwen up with a startup company from Silicon Valley that was very excited by the idea. Contracts are being drawn up.”
Noah said, “Now that sounds like a money making plan for a worldwide market. Do you own Google? The problem is that kid’s software has gone missing.
Noah shoved a lap top in front of me. “Turn that on. We are going to have a reunion. Surveillance is such a wonderful tool-- keeps the family together. Your posse is right upstairs here in the library with security. How cozy. Too bad all that security isn’t worth shit.”
On screen were Detective Ruiz, and my dad. Noah had hacked into the security cameras.
Noah said, “Well, well, Detective and Mr. Donovan- May I call you Dennis, since I’m so involved with your daughter? We have to make this visit short. The clock is ticking. Detective, I want you to send a cop car over to Dylan’s and get Baby Brother’s computer here now. See if his big brother can figure out where the secret software for the future book is hidden. Chase, you better be ready and able to explain it, or suddenly your parents might be visiting two sons in a coma. That software is not here in the library or over at grandma’s apartment. I did my research carefully.”
Noah looked at me. “The game has changed, hasn’t it? I came here expecting to score with this software. Sadly the granddaughter tipped my hand and found out I killed grandma. Unintentionally, but nevertheless she is dead. Now I am forced to take the little granddaughter as hostage and you detectives will arrange for some kind of deal that softens the murder charge.”
Ruiz said, “Noah, we have been on to you for some time. We were just waiting for you to make a mistake. You already killed Ms. Donovan, and put Dylan in the hospital. Now you want us to drag Zoe into the mix. Not too smart, if you are looking at a plea bargain.”
Noah sneered and said, “Detective, send the police for that software. As I told Zoe, I’m like Uncle Edwin - always get what I desire. Who knows how far or rich I’ll get with my hostage plan? But I will get something. Isn’t that right, Zoe? Noah pointed the gun right at me.”
With that I heard my father scream, “For God’s sake, Detective go down there and stop this guy now”
Ruiz responded in a low, calm voice, “We don’t want to jeopardize Zoe or Noah. That’s exactly what would happen if police stormed the cellar.
Noah said, “That’s right, Detective. We don’t want anything bad to happen to our sweet Zoe, do we? Oh Daddy’s little girl. That makes you all the more valuable. So we will just sit pretty and wait for Baby Wiz’ software to arrive.”
After a few minutes Ruiz said, “The squad car picked up Dylan’s computer and is on the way over here now.”
“Are you all right Zoe?” my dad asked. I never saw my father look so upset.
“Well I hate to break up your pity party, but until I get that program and safe transport out of here, talking is forbidden.” Noah whispered, Shush, quiet. This is the library.”
“Hey pretty girl, don’t be scared. It’s s all about money, the bottom line. You know, I’m a lot like your dad with an eye on assets or is my eye on your ass? Your dad and I are alike in other ways too. He also never liked that cat either. Isn’t that right? Zoe, you heard? The cat is in the garbage. If that aloof cat had only done what I told him. But you won’t make that mistake Zoe. Will You?
“Noah, how could you do this?
“Stupid, weak cat, meek pretty girl-not much difference.”
I didn’t say anything but the truth was I was more furious than scared. I had been so stupid and not recognized that Noah was nuts. Worse than that I fell for this psycho.
Seated on the cement floor next to Noah, I kept thinking - I gotta fight. When Noah whispered in my ear, I poked him in both his eyes. Noah screamed and stepped back giving me just enough time to get up and run.
“Well, aren’t you just the bitch in pretty girl clothing, ready to eat me alive.” I only got a few feet when he grabbed me by the hair. I was glaring at Noah. He started slapping my face but then stopped. In a second his mouth pressed over mine as he ripped my dress. I kneed him hard in the groin. I heard him yell as I ran toward the empty bookcases.
Immediately, I felt the energy in the air and instinctively knew they were not empty. I stopped and looked around at the multitude of spiders running across the ceiling, walls and floor forming a silent offensive formation.
As he caught me, Noah said, “Nowhere to run; no one to help you. You are all mine.”
I pushed my elbows to break Noah’s hold. As I felt the release, I dug my nails into his skin. As soon as I could bend forward, I bit his hand.
“You’ve pissed me off. Now you are gonna beg for mercy when I knock those teeth right out of your head,” he screamed.
I moved to the end of the aisle and wedged myself between the bookcase and the wall.
I took a breath, closed my eyes and turned inward. When Noah placed his hand on the empty bookshelf, I remembered the button on the side of the book cases. I knew that in case of fire the button activated the shelves to close to protect the books. Looking right into the gun, he had pointed at me I stretched and pushed the button. Slowly the shelves started moving.
“You whore, what did you do to these shelves?”
Quickly he tried to take his hand from the shelf, but the moving metal caught it.
“Christ!” he yelled. As he was pulling back his injured hand, he asked, “What is this sticky shit on the ledge?”
For a second he lowered the gun. I knocked the revolver out of Noah’s hand and it fell to the spider covered floor. As he bent over to get it, he yelled,
“Where did these fucking bugs come from? Shit, they’re everywhere. “
I quickly grabbed the gun and pointed it right at Noah. He froze for a moment but my hands shook badly. Instantly he lunged forward, retrieved it and pushed me to the ground crawling with spiders. He lay on top of me, clawing at my breast. In the softest voice he whispered, “What the fuck, Zoe? Daddy and the detective already know that I murdered Grandma. Might as well give the bereaved what she wanted from the very start. “
Even with Noah’s weight crushing me, I could see the sleek filament dropping from the entire ceiling weaving a massive spider web enclosing the room.
“More of this white shit- what the fuck?” Noah screamed.
The sound of rapid footsteps made us look toward the cellar stairs where Detective Ruiz stood pointing his gun.
“Noah, Drop it. Get off, Zoe. Now!”
Noah slowly started to roll off me. When I tried to jump up, Noah swiftly grabbed my arm and held the gun to my head. That sense of his skin touching mine disgusted me. I felt the tension of his trigger finger on the gun ready to fire. Then I heard the sound of a single bullet pierce the silence of the cellar. Truthfully, I didn’t know if I had been shot. The bullet found its mark in the side of Noah’s head. Detective Ruiz lowered his gun and moved swiftly toward me and grabbed me in his arms as Noah’s body crumpled to the cold cement floor. All I could say was, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”