With my debut novel's release this month, I'm offering everyone a preview of the novel, opening chapters released each week.
Feel free to share, spread the word, but keep in mind, this work in English is (c) 2009 by Daniel G. Keohane, and though you may reproduce / forward it in order to spread the word, no language/wording may be changed in any way, and all must be attributed to me (by always including the "by Daniel G. Keohane" line). If you like what you read, spread the word!
Vincent Tarretti leaned back in his worn recliner. He’d become a creature of habit over the years, falling into a set routine each night before bed. The chair was comfortable despite the occasional rips in the vinyl, having long adapted itself to his form. Johnson lay sprawled on the small rug in front of him, the large black Labrador content with his master’s nightly patterns. Vincent ran his stockinged feet gently across the dog’s back. Johnson wagged his tail in appreciation and stretched further out along the rug, eyes closed, already asleep.
Smells of grass from this morning’s mowing drifted through the screen on the night’s breeze and reminded him, as it always did, of the childhood he’d left behind twenty-six years ago to start his life with Melissa. Even that world had been taken from him before it had barely time to begin. For the last two and a half decades, Vincent Tarretti’s life was this silent, simple substitute. Cutting the cemetery lawns in warm months, shoveling snow from the walkways or thawing rectangular patches of ground to bury the dead in the winter. His home now consisted of Hillcrest Memorial and Greenwood Street cemeteries, plus the two smaller, much older graveyards scattered across town.
Vincent looked at the Bible in his lap and wondered at the passage. He enjoyed randomly opening the book and reading whatever words he came upon. Tonight it was open to the middle of the New Testament. The apostle Stephen’s fateful speech to the council, discussing the tabernacle—
the Ark which housed the law of Moses and the tablets containing the Ten Commandments. It resided in the temple designed by David, but built by his son, Solomon. The same Solomon, Stephen explained in the passage, who eventually forsook the one true God in his later years to worship the local demons of the time, the deceivers.
This was the second time today that Vincent wondered if God’s plan for him was beginning to change course. The first was during the call from Ralph Hayden, letting him know he’d be stopping by tomorrow afternoon with his successor. Nathan Dinneck.
Vincent did not know if Dinneck’s arrival was related to his recent plague of dark dreams, details of which dissipated like the mist that hung among his cemeteries in the early morning. The only memory he could salvage on waking and carry with him during the day was a lingering, aching sense of misgiving. He used to dream a lot, when he was younger. Not long after he’d moved to this small suburb, Vincent had stopped dreaming altogether. At least he assumed he had. Maybe he’d simply stopped remembering them. Their sudden resurgence worried him. He hadn’t remained here, unfettered by anyone for so long, by ignoring his instincts. He took little credence in coincidence. That was a word used by those too stubborn to see the hand of God at work in their lives.
A sudden gust of wind slammed against the house. Summer was winding down, but not without protest. He slowly rose from his chair and opened the front door. The sky was clear, a million stars above him. Wisps of clouds occasionally passed by, moving quickly as if driven by the wind; ghosts in search of rest they would never find. He watched their passage with growing apprehension, half-expecting the wisps of vapor to turn toward him, to form a claw reaching down.... He went back inside and closed the door, lest his fear be detected by whatever or whoever else might be out there, wandering around the cemetery, looking for him. Looking for what he had sworn his soul to protect.
Besides, it was bedtime. Any change in routine might attract the attention of those who might someday find this place, if not in his lifetime, then the next caretaker’s. For Vincent, those people existed only in warnings from his predecessor and in the writings of those who came before. Faceless and nameless adversaries over the centuries, always searching. Never stopping.
Too much at stake not to stick to a schedule, never stray. Never stray.
Johnson lifted his head and offered a questioning wag of his tail. Vincent scratched him between his ears before sitting down at the kitchen table. The dented strongbox—circa World War II, if he wasn’t mistaken—was open. He did not take out the four thick volumes, many older than the box itself. Rather, he turned to the spiral notebook on the table and re-read the small newspaper article clipped from the Worcester Telegram earlier this year. A small advertisement, one that Vincent would normally have glossed over if not for its local connection. He paid close attention to anything new to town—a store, a new family. Usually he gave more consideration when only one person was involved, or a pair of men or women moving in. Anything that indicated a change from the norm. The new organization, known simply as the Hillcrest Men’s Club—HMC, for short—had been having an open house in a recently-purchased storefront in the town’s lone strip mall. At the time, he’d examined the letters in the group’s name for any indication of his enemy, an anagram or some such nonsense. If whoever these people might be ever came to town, they wouldn’t raise flags to their existence. Still, Vincent had made a note of it at the time, just in case. The number “798” was written in blue pen in the corner of the newspaper clipping, in his own hand. The same number had also been written on the notebook’s page, along with his scattered observations or concerns, always ending with the same notation he had written for his prior seven hundred and ninety-seven entries and the few that followed. The mantra, “Wait and see.”
He flipped forward until he found a fresh page, on which he wrote the number “815” followed by, “New pastor in town. Nathan Dinneck—odd to choose someone so young and from town. Hayden retiring. Timing of this with onset of sudden foreboding— see entry 811—comes into question.” He paused, then added, “Wait and see.” He closed the notebook after tucking the newspaper clipping announcing Dinneck’s new appointment inside, and laid it atop the older journals in the strongbox. He locked it with a small key attached to his everyday key chain, and crossed the room.
“Come on, Johnson,” Vincent said. “Bedtime. Big day tomorrow.”
Johnson got to his feet and followed him into the darkened bedroom. Before heading into the bathroom to brush his teeth, Vincent lifted a loose board under the edge of the bed and laid the strongbox into the floor. He replaced the board and dragged a small rug, coated in dog fur, across it. Johnson waited until his master went into the bathroom, then circled twice before settling down for the night on the rug.
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copyright 2009 by Daniel G. Keohane
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Dragon Moon Press (March 2009)
ISBN-10: 189694499X ISBN-13: 978-1896944999