Authors: William McNally
Copyright © 2013 William McNally
All rights reserved.
ISBN 13: 9781481953627
eBook ISBN: 978-1-63002-746-9
B O O K S B Y W I L L I A M M C N A L L Y
Four Corners Dark
Beneath the Veil
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C H A P T E R O N E
is headache began again with a dull ache in the back of his head. He walked to the kitchen, opened a cabinet door and grabbed a bottle of aspirin. Swallowing two pills, Barry Ryan leaned against the counter and gazed across his loft. The wood floors were covered with tarps, and chips of stone surrounded a car sized sculpture of a pyramid. The piece was a commission for an insurance conglomerate and almost completed after two years of work. He walked around the sculpture and into a service elevator, then rotated a brass handle and the lift shuddered to life.
He descended into a warehouse filled with massive stones and slabs of marble. Unfinished and abandoned works lined one wall, while a dozen cars lined another. He pulled a tarp from a 1967 Corvette Sting Ray convertible and then climbed in and fired up the engine. He drove the car out of the building and turned onto Spring Street, where the sun shined between glittering high-rises. After driving twenty blocks he pulled into a garage and parked, then grabbed his sketchbook from the passenger seat. The streets were quiet as he walked to a café on a corner. His agent, Peter Harper, sat outside in a tailored suit wearing gold rimmed sunglasses.
“Morning, Barry,” Peter said. “How’s the chiseling on the Daecom rock going?”
“Good,” he answered. “Just about finished.”
“Nice. I’ve got three more lined up when you’re ready. Word’s out on your work. All these companies want to enshrine themselves in stone.”
“Need a break for a while, Pete,” Barry answered. “These will have to wait.”
“I’ll hold them off as long as I can, Barry, but these are big time offers. I recommend we jump on them as soon as we can. One bad quarter and these deals are gone,” Peter said.
“I hear you Pete. I’ll keep you posted,” Barry answered.
The two men enjoyed breakfast at the restaurant, built in a former bank building. The original safe stood empty in the back, surrounded by tables of chatty patrons. The trees lining the street were beginning to sprout green leaves and birds were busy gathering materials for their nests.
“So, Pete, how’s Angie?”
“Well,” he hesitated. “Let’s just say Angie...is now Pattie.”
“I see,” Barry replied. “The revolving door has turned again.”
Barry coughed into his napkin then took a sip of water. He glanced down at the blood splattered linen, then spirited it into his pocket and stood up from the table.
“You okay?” Peter asked.
“I am fine,” he answered. “Something just went down the wrong pipe. I better run. Thanks for breakfast.”
C H A P T E R T W O
arry left the café and walked back to the parking garage. He intended to tell peter about his illness, but couldn’t get the words out. He climbed into his car, put the roof down and then drove back towards the loft. While stopped at a red light, a homeless man approached him with a handwritten sign that read “Need to get to salvation”. He leaned out the window and offered the man a twenty dollar bill. The man didn’t move, instead he stared straight through him.
“Not getting to salvation like that,” Barry muttered then drove off when the light turned green.
He drove through Midtown where he passed several of his sculptures, including The Leaning Man in front of Centennial Tower, the commission that launched his career. Just shy of forty tons, the piece depicted a man toiling in the fields. The sculpture was lowered in place by crane fifteen years ago, and ever since, he has enjoyed his pick of lucrative projects, each one bigger and more grandiose than the last. He turned down the alleyway, entered his warehouse and parked the car in its waiting space. When he opened the gate to the service elevator, he heard the sharp sound of a chisel hitting stone and saw something move in the shadows. He flipped a switch and the warehouse was flooded in light.
“Who’s in here?” he called out.
He walked to a corner of the warehouse where jagged shadows draped discarded works. A man moved along the top of the stones and then made an impossible jump between two sculptures.
“This is private property. Leave, or I’ll call the police!” he shouted.
A pile of stones chips and dust showered down on him and he was knocked to the floor. He climbed to his knees then crawled across the warehouse floor into the elevator. He reached up, pulled the handle and the elevator rose to the second story loft. He stepped into the loft and dialed 911.
“911. What is the nature of your emergency?” the operator asked.
“Someone has broken into my building,” Barry answered.
“I have dispatched a unit. Please stay on the line,” the operator said.
Suddenly, he turned and watched as the elevator descended down into the warehouse.
“Sir, are you still there?” the operator asked.
He dropped the phone, ran to the elevator gates, pulled them shut and then grabbed a hammer from a wooden tool box. The operator’s voice was still audible in the receiver of the phone. Within a minute, the elevator returned to the loft with its lights out and a hulking shape looming in the shadows inside it. Barry gripped the hammer as the lift came to a stop. Inside was one of the stones from the warehouse below.
“What the hell,” he said aloud.
He walked to the elevator and examined the stone. An anguished face was chiseled into the side of it. The face looked as if it were suffocating under the surface of the stone. It was also familiar. He recognized it as the face of the homeless man he had passed on the street earlier. The sound of sirens in the alleyway startled him. He dropped the hammer then ran to the stairway and descended a metal staircase to an outside door. He opened the door and found three policemen, two in uniform and one in plain clothes, standing with their guns drawn.
“I live here,” Barry said quickly.
“Sir, can we see some identification?” the plainclothes cop asked.
Barry removed his driver’s license from his wallet and handed it to the man.
“OK,” the cop said. “We need you to wait outside while we check the premises.”
“Of course,” Barry answered.
The police rushed through the doorway and disappeared into the building. Ten minutes passed and then one of the uniformed cops came out. The man was young with dark red hair.
“Looks clear, sir. You can come back in.”
“Thanks,” Barry answered.
When he reached the loft, Barry found the detective and the other policemen examining the sculpture in the elevator.
“Mr. Ryan, I am Detective Lopez. This is Officer Howland and Officer Lee. What can you tell us about the break in?”
“Well, I arrived home and heard noises in the warehouse below us,” Barry answered. “I checked it out and found a man on top of one of my sculptures.”
“Can you describe the man?” the detective asked.
“Yes. He wore a green military jacket. He is a homeless man. I saw him earlier today.”
“White guy, black guy? What’d he look like?” Detective Lopez asked.
Barry turned to the sculpture in the elevator and pointed at the carved face frozen in the stone.
“That’s him,” Barry answered.
“The man who broke into your apartment looks like the face on that rock?” Lopez asked.
“Yes,” Barry answered.
“So you know the guy?” Lopez asked.
“No,” Barry answered. “I saw him for the first time this morning on the street.”
“OK,” Lopez said, sounding slightly annoyed. “Let me get this straight. You saw this guy on the street, then came home and chiseled his face into a boulder? Then he breaks into your building?”
“No, I am not saying that at all,” Barry answered. “I didn’t touch this stone, someone else carved this face.”
Lopez stood quietly perplexed and then shot a glance at the other men.
“I think we’re done here,” he said. “Mr. Ryan, give us a call if you have any more problems.”
Lopez and the uniformed policemen turned and walked out the door.
C H A P T E R T H R E E
arry opened a kitchen drawer filled with pill bottles and pulled one out. His regimen included medicine eight times a day, plus regular blood transfusions to keep his iron levels from killing him. He needed a bone marrow transplant from a blood relative, but was given up for adoption as an infant and never knew his biological family. He placed a wooden ladder next to the stone in the elevator then climbed up to examine the face chiseled into its surface. The lines were smooth and carved with astounding perfection. The face looked as if a sheer material was draped over it, an effect that would take a master sculptor a month to create. He dismissed the possibility that someone had worked on the stone undetected in the warehouse below. The dust and the noise would have been impossible to hide. He descended the stairs to the warehouse, walked past his cars to the corner where the stones were stored. Long gashes in the polished concrete floor led to the elevator. Somehow, without any equipment, the stone was dragged into the lift. He pressed the call button and the elevator car descended with the heavy load. He walked across the warehouse to an electrical box, flipped a breaker and killed power to the lift.
Barry returned to the loft where the sun shined through tall windows casting an amber glow in the room. The pyramid sculpture, scheduled for installation in front of the Daecom tower, sat on a chalky tarp in a corner of the loft. In the kitchen sat a pile of documents stacked neatly on the countertop. Months earlier, after receiving his diagnosis, Barry hired a genealogist to map his ancestry in hopes of finding a donor. He ran his fingers across the documents which had arrived three days earlier, then picked up a manila envelope with a GeneHist logo printed on it. The logo featured two DNA strands bent to form the G and the H. He opened the envelope and let the content slide onto the table. A white binder was labeled B.Ryan familial history. A DNA matched family tree was printed on the first page. The oldest person listed was born in 1853 in Auraria, Georgia. The man’s name was Jerome Rhodes. He had a wife named Sadie and three children. The first child, a son named James, lived for only three days. The next, a daughter named Susan, lived to age twenty-one but never married. Jeb, the third child, married and had one child with his wife Mary. Jeb died at the age of twenty-eight. Jerome Rhodes died in 1882 at the age of twenty-nine. He was Barry’s fourth great grandfather. Barry spent the next few hours studying the pages of his family history. Many of his relatives led oddly short lives, often dying in infancy. But then, something changed.
“This can’t be right,” Barry whispered to himself.
None of his relatives had died after 1920. Neither Ezra Rhodes, born in 1900, nor his sister Evangeline, born one year later, had a death date which made them both over one hundred and ten years old. Flipping through the binder, he found no other deaths recorded. On the last page, he found the names of his birth parents, Joshua and Ella Rhodes. He crossed the room and poured a glass of water, his hand shook as he drank. He was told his family was dead. He sat back down and flipped through the pages of the binder that listed his seven siblings, two sisters and five brothers, residing sixty miles to the north. The phone rang, startling him. He reached across the counter and answered.
“Hello,” he said.
“Barry, we’re downstairs,” his adopted sister Jen said.
“Oh,” Barry hesitated.
“You forgot, didn’t you?” she asked. “Dinner at Vespa”
“Damn,” he answered. “I’ll buzz you in. I might need a minute to get ready.”
He pushed a button near the stairwell door and opened the garage bay below.