Fade Away Page 72

When Myron finished, Win didn’t bother with any questions. “I have a meeting at the office,” he said as he stood. “Do you mind?”

Myron shook his head and sat down. Win left. Myron kept his eye on the door. Ten minutes later students began to file out the door. Two minutes after that, Professor Sidney Bowman followed suit. He had the same unkempt, academic beard as in the photo. He was bald but kept his fringe hair ridiculously long. He wore jeans, Timberland boots, and a red flannel shirt. He was either trying to look like a working stiff or Jerry Brown on the campaign trail.

Bowman pushed up his spectacles and kept walking. Myron waited until he was out of sight before following. No rush. The good professor was indeed heading for his office. He crossed the grassy commons and disappeared into yet another brick building. Myron found a bench and sat down.

An hour passed. Myron watched the students and felt very old. He should have brought a newspaper. Sitting for an hour without reading material meant he had to think. His mind kept conjuring up new possibilities and then dismissing them. He knew he was missing something, could see it bobbing in the distance, but every time he reached out it ducked back down below the surface.

He suddenly remembered that he had not checked Greg’s answering machine today. He took out his cellular phone and dialed the number. When Greg’s voice came on, he pressed 317, the code numbers Greg had programmed into the machine. There was only one message on the tape, but it was a doozy.

“Don’t fuck with us,” the electronically altered voice said. “I’ve spoken to Bolitar. He’s willing to pay. Is that what you want?”

End of message.

Myron sat very still. He stared at a brick, ivyless wall. He listened to a tone for a few seconds and did nothing. What the hell …?

“… He’s willing to pay. Is that what you want?”

Myron pressed the star button to have the message replayed. Then he did it again. He probably would have listened for a fourth time, had Professor Bowman not suddenly appeared at the door.

Bowman stopped to chat with a couple of students. The conversation grew animated, all three displaying fervent, academic earnest. College. Continuing their undoubtedly weighty discourse, they walked off campus and down Amsterdam Avenue. Myron pocketed the phone and kept his distance. At 112th Street, the group separated. The two students continued south. Bowman crossed the street and headed toward the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

St. John the Divine’s was a massive structure and interestingly enough, the largest cathedral in the world in terms of cubic square feet (St. Peter’s in Rome is considered a basilica by this statistic, not a cathedral). The edifice was like the city that housed it: awe-inspiring yet worn. Towering columns and gorgeous stained-glass windows were surrounded by signs like HARD HAT AREA (though it dated back to 1892, St. John the Divine’s has never been completed) and THE CATHEDRAL IS PATROLLED AND ELECTRONICALLY MONITORED FOR YOUR PROTECTION. Wooden planks plugged holes in the granite facade. On the left side of this architectural wonder were two prefab aluminum storage barracks that brought back memories of the opening credits of Gomer Pyle. On the right was the Children’s Sculpture Garden featuring the Peace Fountain, an enormous sculpture that inspired several moods, none of them peaceful. Images of severed heads and limbs, lobster claws, hands reaching out from the dirt as though trying to escape hell, a man twisting the neck of a deer all whirled together to create an atmosphere that was more Dante meets Goya than languid tranquillity.

Bowman headed down the driveway on the cathedral’s right. Myron knew that there was a homeless shelter down that way. He crossed the street and tried to keep his distance. Bowman passed a group of apparently homeless men—all dressed in threadbare synthetics and pants with plunging butt-lines. Some waved and called out to Bowman. Bowman waved back. Then he disappeared through a door. Myron debated what to do. There was no choice really. Even if it meant blowing his cover, he had to go in.

He passed the men, nodded, smiled. They nodded and smiled back. The shelter entrance was a double black door with chintzy lace curtains. Not far from it were two signs—one reading SLOW CHILDREN AT PLAY and the other CATHEDRAL SCHOOL. A homeless shelter and a children’s school side by side—an interesting yet working combo. Only in New York.

Myron entered. The room was packed with frayed mattresses and men. A smell like a used bong after an all-nighter singed his nostril hairs. Myron tried not to make a face. He spotted Bowman talking to several men in one corner. None of them was Cole Whiteman aka Norman Lowenstein. Myron glanced about the unshaven faces and hollow eyes, his gaze swinging left to right.

They spotted each other at exactly the same time.

From across the room, their eyes locked for perhaps a second, but that was long enough. Cole Whiteman turned and ran. Myron followed, threading his way through the throngs. Professor Bowman spotted the disturbance. Eyes afire, he jumped in Myron’s path. Myron lowered his shoulder and flattened him without breaking stride. Just like Jim Brown. Except Jim Brown had to do it against guys like Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke opposed to a fifty-year-old college professor who probably didn’t weigh 180 even with the soft gut. Still.

Cole Whiteman disappeared out a back door, slamming it behind him. Myron went through it not long after. They were outside now, but only briefly. Whiteman disappeared up a metal stairway and back into the main chapel. Myron followed. The inside was very much like the outside—spectacular examples of art and architecture mixed in with the tattered and tacky. The pews, for example, were cheap folding chairs. Lush tapestries hung upon granite walls with seemingly no organization. Ladders were melded into thick columns.

Myron spotted Cole heading back out a nearby door. He sprinted after him, his heels echoing up through the giant arched ceiling. They were back outside. Cole headed down below the cathedral and through heavy fire doors. A sign read A.C.T. PROGRAM. It looked like a basement school or daycare center. Both men raced down a hallway lined with beat-up, metallic lockers. Cole turned right and disappeared behind a wooden door.

When Myron pushed the door open, a darkened stairway greeted him. He heard footsteps below him. He trotted down, the light from above dwindling with each step. He was descending deep into the cathedral’s subdwelling now. The walls were cement and clammy to the touch. He wondered if he was entering a crypt or tomb or something equally creepy, if indeed there was equally creepy. Did American cathedrals have crypts, or was that only in Europe?

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies