Just a little rough draft, not finished yet.
|There is this one scene in the original Godzilla movie-you know the one made in the
1950s-where Raymond Burr is staring at the havoc that Godzilla is wreaking on
downtown Tokyo, and you just know from the expression on his face that he’s thinking
“What the hell has happened to my career?”
Oh sure things turned around for him a few years later after he landed the Perry
Mason gig that he became famous for, but for a while there, for a brief period of time
good old Ray must have been kinda worried about the outlook of his future. Sure he was no stranger to the world of “B” motion pictures, he had acted in more than his fair share
of them throughout his career, but to have top billing in a film where the title character is
some guy in a rubber lizard suit, that stomps the hell out of cardboard buildings and toy
Go watch the movie, look at Raymond’s face, and get back to me and tell me if
you think I’m wrong.
I only mention the Raymond Burr thing because if you take a still of his expression
from that scene in the movie, and a photograph of my expression when my sometime
employer Allen Maxwell outlined my new assignment you’d have something close to a
dead on match...minus Raymond’s fleshy jowls of course.
You see I’m a collector and dealer of rare books...extremely rare books. If you’re
looking for a profitable profession then I suggest you look elsewhere. In an age where the
printed word is quickly being replaced by television, computers, ebooks, and whatever
else you can imagine, it isn’t particularly easy to etch out a living in the book trade,
especially books that are written in dead forgotten languages. So if you’re considering
getting into this line of work...don’t. Serious clients are few and far between, and I don’t
need the competition.
Take for example Mr. Allen Maxwell...yes that Allen Maxwell.
A multibillionaire who might not top Bill Gates on Forbes annual more money than
God list, but is still close enough to tap Bill on the shoulder and ask him if he has any Gray
Poupon that he might borrow. A man who owns any number of casinos, hotels,
corporations, and from time to time me...well my services at any rate.
So when Mr. Maxwell’s personal secretary calls at 2:30 AM and asks if I could
report to Mr. Maxwell’s downtown office building within the hour for a meeting with the
man himself do I complain about the ungodly hour, curse all capitalists, slam the phone
back onto it’s receiver, and try to go back to my dream about myself, Angelina Jolie, and a
hot tub filled with Jello chocolate pudding?
I jump out of bed, comb my hands through my hair, and put on a crisp white shirt
in an attempt to offset my rumpled navy blue suit, and I get my tall, lanky, ass, downtown
PDQ. Wealth buys privileges they say. It also buys my services around the clock.
And so 28 minutes later when I’m standing in Maxwell’s Cathedral sized office I
don’t so much as blink an eye when he asks me if I’ve ever heard of the Rembaldi Codex,
although I may have chuckled a little.
“Of course I’ve heard of it, every self-respecting book collector worth his salt has
heard of it. It’s our own Holy Grail, although if you believe the legends-and I don’t by the
way- it’s a good deal older than the Grail would have been if it actually existed.” I replied
as I made my way over to the wet bar. Like my father always said “If you’re going for a
swim, you might as well get wet.” I’ve never really understood what the hell he meant by
that, but I generally take it as an excuse to get drunk. Besides everyone knew Maxwell
never touched the stuff, and I was pretty sure it’s a sin for 30 year old single malt scotch
to go unappreciated.
The way that Maxwell swiveled his chair away from the windows and back
towards his desk was just a tad too theatrical for my taste, but hey it was his office and his
dime. Of course I had to admit that when he stood up he did make something of an
Allen Maxwell stood about 6 feet, 10 inches tall, but I was 6’5 myself so that
wasn’t what I found so impressive, no what struck me was the fact that he was almost as
wide as he was tall. Now I’ll veg out in the morning sometimes and catch the occasional
Jerry Springer show, so I’ve seen the poor 800 pound slobs crying because they can’t fit
through their kitchen doors and reach their refrigerators anymore. But not our Mr.
This was the fourth time that I had met Mr. Maxwell in person, so when he stood
and walked around his massive antique cherry wood desk with all the ease of a man who
weighed no more than 170 pounds I wasn’t caught off guard...but it still freaked me out a
little. There was no labored breathing, no reinforced cane to help support his ponderous
weight, no awkward gait, none of the usual encumberments that you would associate with
someone of such gigantic proportions. In fact I began to wonder if what lurked beneath
that black, seven thousand dollar, Saville Row suit-believe me I should know, my father
was a tailor-was actually fat after all.
He picked up a single folder from his desk and held it out towards me, the
diamond in his pinkie ring caught the overhead lighting and flashed brilliantly. I wondered
idly what cost more, the diamond or having the platinum band sized to fit that rotund
“I would like to hear your professional opinion on the authenticity of these three
pages Mr. King.” Maxwell asked in his deep, rolling, baritone voice.
That was Mr. Maxwell for you, all business, and very formal. His personal
secretary had told me after my last visit that after almost 11 years of working together that
there had never been an informal moment between them, he always addressed her as Mrs.
Billingsly, and she suspected that he always would throughout their working relationship.
I poured myself a modest shot of scotch (modest for me at any rate) and began the
long trek over to his desk. I wondered-since it was a very long walk, and I had plenty of
time-why on earth would anyone need an office so obscenely vast? Was our Mr. Maxwell
attempting to compensate for short comings in other areas perhaps? Of course I ignored
the little voice inside my head that was telling me to stop being such a bloody hypocrite,
that I knew very well if I had anything close to Maxwell’s resources at my disposal I
would do the very same thing. Bigger is better. Cars, homes, bank accounts, penises,
breasts, whatever...bigger is always better. I might have been born and raised in London,
but I was fast on my way to becoming a true red-blooded American.
I reluctantly sat the heavy-crystal glass on the desk, taking care to use the coaster.
(yes there was a coaster) and plucked the folder from Maxie’s fat fingers...and no before
you ask I had never and would never refer to him as Maxie out-loud. The man could break
me six ways to Sunday professionally-and I suspected physically- without so much as
breaking a sweat, and while I might be a snide, sarcastic, git inside my head, I know which
side my croissant is buttered on, so I simply raised an eyebrow, opened the folder and
examined the pages within.
There was nothing particularly unusual about the first two pages-they were photo
copies of course-I had seen any number of similar pages in Delcotta’s 1411 version of the
codex which was extremely valuable needless to say, but still not Rembaldi’s work, but the
third page...ah yes the third page.
It was written in an early form of Sumerian as were the others, yet I couldn’t
remember ever seeing it before, and the structure was different from the other examples I
had seen, also there were several symbols that I couldn’t readily identify. I sighed
somewhat sadly as I closed the folder, my worst fear had been realized. My curiosity had
I hate when that happens.
I pursed my lips as I fingered the edge of the folder thinking, not my favorite
activity at nearly three o’clock in the morning. I glanced up at Maxwell who was looking
at me as if I were a doctor who had news about his terminally ill wife. “May I ask where
did you get this?”
Maxwell removed the folder from my hands and walked back around behind his
desk and sat down once again, maybe standing for over ten minutes had taxed his system?
“How these documents came into my possession need not concern you, what I
want to know is do you think that there is the remotest possibility that they might be
I shrugged slightly and picked up my drink. “It’s impossible to tell from a photo
copy, you know that. Is there a chance that I might examine the original item?”
Maxwell tossed the folder onto his desk, and leaned back in his chair as he steepled
his fingers. I knew that it had to be a very expensive chair because it didn’t make so much
as a creak from the additional stress he put on it. “There is a very excellent chance of that Mr.
King...you see I want you to verify that the codex is indeed the original article, and if it
is...I want you to destroy it.”
There aren’t very many times when I’m actually speechless.
When I came home early one afternoon and caught my wife-now my
ex-wife-Donna bent over the kitchen sink getting nailed by my business partner-now my
ex-business partner- from behind.
Another time was when my mother told my father and my brothers that she was
leaving home to live in the Caribbean with her Rastafarian lover Claude...none of us had
seen that one coming I can tell you.
So yeah I have to admit I was caught a bit off guard by Maxwell.
“Um...excuse me? I...I’m not sure I quite understand.” I said as I tried to
backtrack over the last few minutes, like I said before I’m not really my best at this time of
night, perhaps I was missing something?
“I believe that Mr. Maxwell made his wishes quite clear.” A soft feminine voice
said from directly behind me, and all I can say is thank God I wasn’t actually drinking at
the moment...doing a Danny Thomas spit-take over your client tends to ruin your
I spun quickly on my heel taking great care not to spill my drink-waste not, want
not-and came face-to-face with one of the most gorgeous creatures I had ever seen.
She stood about 5’10, and had an olive complexion the likes I had never seen
before. It wasn’t exactly Indian, in fact I really couldn’t tell you what it was...besides
amazingly soft of course, or at least it seemed that way to me. Her eyes appeared to have
an almost Asian quality to them, although I was fairly certain that she wasn’t Asian, at
least not entirely. And her lips were full and pouty like those of an African. It was almost
as if someone had selected the finest qualities of every woman, from every nationality and
poured them all into a tight black Chanel suit.
No I couldn’t tell you what her nationality was, but I can tell you this...when I said
she was the most gorgeous creature I had ever seen I meant she was exactly that...a
creature. She wasn’t human...or at least she wasn’t human anymore.
She was a vampire.
Oh she was good, I had to give her that. She mimicked breathing, her complexion
looked lush and vibrant, she even remembered to blink occasionally...some of the
fledglings forgot to do that sometimes. But she was a vampire, I had absolutely no doubt
in my mind about that. How did I know?
I’m a mage, a sorcerer, a witch doctor, whatever you want to call it, I’m not as
particular about labels as the majority of my peers seem to be on the subject, suffice to say
I possess certain abilities that the average citizen simply doesn’t have. The ability to
manipulate the unseen forces that surrounds everything and everyone since the very dawn
It’s never gotten me a break on my income taxes, or the right to park in handicap
parking zones, or invited to the occasional dinner party...or at least the kind of dinner
party I would actually like to attend.
So we both stood there awkwardly for a moment, like two people that had shared
an embarrassingly bad one-night stand long ago, who had just bumped into each other at a
Barnes & Nobel and was desperately attempting to recall the others name...not that sort of
thing has ever actually happened to me of course.
I was surprised that a vampire-an extremely old vampire judging from her skill at
mimicking the living-had suddenly appeared behind me without warning, virtually out of
thin air. She was surprised that I was looking directly into her eyes-deep, rich, espresso
brown eyes- without being mesmerized.
Oh yes, the little minx had tried to ensnare me as soon as we made eye contact,
and she was good too. Low whispers inside your mind in your own voice, someone could
very easily be fooled into thinking that they were acting under their own will, and not have
a clue that they were under her control. But if you are mage-born...especially mages that
are born and raised in London where vampires are as common as mullets are at NASCAR
racing events you learn to defend yourself against that sort of thing. Now the ripping out
of ones throat and draining of blood...that’s a tougher nut to crack.
The moment of awkward silence continued on for at least another heartbeat (my
heartbeat of course, not hers...she didn’t have one) finally she glanced over my shoulder in
Maxwell’s direction. She didn’t utter a word or shake her head, but I was fairly certain
that she was letting his magnitude know that her attempt to put the whammy on me was a
Maxwell choose to disperse the air of tension that huge between us all by ignoring
it completely. “Mr. King allow me to introduce Ms. Leah Neilson, Ms. Neilson this is
Solomon King...the young man I was discussing with you earlier.
Young? Well I was standing within whispering distance of forty, from the Bio in
Forbes Maxwell was pushing sixty although he may have been older or younger than that,
he simply had one of those kind of faces, and I was fairly sure that Ms. Neilson wasn’t a
day under a hundred, so yeah I guess I was the youngest shmuck in the room, and right
now I was hoping I would live to get older.
She raised a perfectly groomed eyebrow, I suspect she was slightly amused by my
name, I get that occasionally, it’s something I’ve learned to deal with over the years, but I
still curse my parents odd sense of humor from time-to-time. She dropped her eyebrow
back down into it’s default position and held out her right hand towards me. She had
french nail tips...very nice.
“I’m very pleased to finally meet you Mr. King, Mr. Maxwell has told me some
very interesting things about you.” She had a low, raspy, voice. The kind of voice you’d
imagine a lounge singer would have. I stared at her hand a bit longer than what could be
considered polite. If this moment was unfolding on a movie screen, this would be the part
when someone in the theater would yell “No fool don’t shake her hand!” but alas this
wasn’t a movie, I didn’t have a crucifix, or a vial of holy water, or a crossbow that fired
wooden bolts...I didn’t even have so much as a sharpened No.2 pencil.
So I did the only thing that I could do at a moment like this...I put my tray into it’s
upright position, fastened my seat belt, and flashed my best David Niven smile. “The
pleasure is all mine Ms. Neilson is it?” I took her hand and shook it firmly, surprisingly it
was quite warm, she must have fed very recently. The smile she gave me in return was just
as wide and phony as my own...well at least we all were on the same page here.