Authors: Don Winslow
Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #General
Graham told the driver to go to the corner of Hollywood and Vine.
“What’s at Hollywood and Vine?” the driver asked sullenly.
“What’s it to you?” answered Graham.
Neal perused the bar, found a little bottle of Johnny Walker Red, and poured it into a glass as the limo eased out of the lot onto the street.
“What’s going on, Graham?” he asked.
Neal tossed back the whiskey. It was like sitting by a fire on a winter’s day. He noticed that Joe Graham was rubbing his artificial hand into the palm of his real one. It was something he did when he was nervous, when he had something on his mind that he wanted to get off. Neal finished his drink and waited.
“So,” Graham asked, “are you on?”
Neal didn’t want to be on. God, he didn’t want to be on. He wanted to be off in the world of old books, sitting in a quiet room taking orderly notes. But if this was just a simple custody case, they wouldn’t need him. Graham would track Harley down, call in muscle if he needed it, and take the kid home. So there was something else.
“What aren’t you telling me, Dad?”
Graham shook his head. “No. You first. Are you on?”
You owe, Neal told himself. And not just money. You were a lost kid yourself once, and the only person in the world who gave a good goddamn was Joe Graham, who’s sitting here now, wearing out his one good hand.
“Yeah, I’m on.”
The rubbing stopped. Graham palmed one of the little whiskey bottles and opened it with his thumb and forefinger. He took a sip straight from the bottle.
“I didn’t want to tell you too much until I saw you in action again. I had to make sure you were …”
“Three years is a long time, son.”
“So did I pass?”
“So tell me the whole story.”
The driver looked back in the mirror and sneered. “What the hell kind of church is at Hollywood and Vine?”
A placard board read the true
CHRISTIAN IDENTITY CHURCH, REVEREND C. WESLEY CARTER, MINISTER.
Its big white plastic cross loomed above a sidewalk festooned with broken wine bottles, free-floating newspaper pages, crumpled cans, and greasy sandwich wrappers. Pimps in all their sartorial splendor leaned on their Caddies and Lincoln Town Cars watching their little girls in white leather hot pants munch on doughnuts as they vamped passing cars. Pretty teenage boys dressed in tight denims and T-shirts sat on bus benches and peeked out from under their long bangs in a more subtle form of advertising, visible only to the informed.
If you took the view that a church was supposed to be a hospital for sinners, the corner of Hollywood and Vine was a great location for a church.
The church was immaculate, not in the immaculate conception sense, but in a utilitarian-, Protestant way. The highly varnished wood shone with righteous energy, the modest carpeting was vacuumed to within an inch of its life. Pamphlets had been laid out in precise order on a table in the foyer.
The congregation was even cleaner. They were mostly older people, as you would expect of a Wednesday afternoon, but there was also a significant minority of younger men. They had the deeply tanned, lined features of outdoor workers. Their jeans were pressed and they wore collared shirts with unfashionable ties. There were a few young mothers there as well, some with toddlers in tow. The kids were all neat, clean, nicely dressed, and well behaved.
From the back of the church Neal felt as if he were looking through one of those old stereoscopes, because in back of the gaggles of kids, behind the altar, was a mural of Jesus himself talking to a bunch of clean, neat, well-dressed, well-behaved little kids, and the inscription,
SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN TO COME UNTO ME.
The contrast between the scrubbed interior of the church and the variegated hell on the outside was, to say the least, stark. Neal had the image of one of those old western movies where the settlers had circled the wagons against the band of marauding Indians outside. The place was just so … white.
Everyone was white. The older folks, the working men, the young mothers, the kids. Jesus was certainly white, with blue eyes and long brown hair that was a day at the beach away from being blond. The kids who had come unto him were white, looking as if they’d be more at home in Sweden than Judea. Neal hadn’t seen so many blonds since the last time he’d gotten drunk enough to watch the Miss America Pageant.
“There’s a marked lack of melanin in here,” he whispered to Graham as they slid into a pew in the back.
“Whatever that is,” Graham answered.
Neal was about to answer when a tall, silver-haired man in a blue suit came out from behind the altar and mounted the pulpit. The silver hair stood up in a high brush cut, his tanned face looked like it had been fashioned with an adz, and his eyes were bluer than his suit, if not quite as shiny.
The congregation scurried into their seats and sat in silent anticipation.
“C. Wesley Carter,” Graham whispered.
“See Spot run,” answered Neal.
“Good afternoon, everyone,” C. Wesley Carter said. He had a voice like a good trumpet, clear and sharp without being brassy or harsh. It was a good voice, and he knew it.
“Good afternoon, Reverend Carter!” the congregation answered.
“Welcome to our Wednesday afternoon study session. I’m glad you all fought your way safely to our little clearing in the jungle.”
Jungle? Neal thought. Well …
“I’m very excited today,” Carter said, “because we are back to the beginning of the whole cycle in our lectures on true Christian identity, and new beginnings always fire me up. Of course, when you’ve given this lecture as many times as I have … well, let’s face it, when you’ve heard this lecture as many times as some of you have … well, I won’t be offended if some of you just want to get up and leave!”
“I want to get up and leave,” Neal whispered.
“Shut up,” answered Graham.
Reverend Carter paused for the audience to fill in the laugh. A few of the veteran listeners did, and one old man even yelled, “No way, Reverend!
Carter continued, “But I think that there are certain things we can never hear often enough, don’t you? I guess that’s one reason they wrote the Bible down, so we can read those sacred words as often as we need to. And in these troubled times—and if you don’t think they’re troubled, you just take a look outside that door—we need to hear them a whole lot. We need to remind ourselves who we are. We need to reaffirm our true Christian identity! Our true Christian identity as the chosen people!”
The congregation burst into applause. Graham politely smacked his real hand into his artificial one.
“Now, who are the chosen people?” Carter asked, presumably rhetorically. “Well, the Bible tells us, so let’s start right there. In fact, let’s begin at the beginning in the Book of Genesis.”
Carter opened an enormous old Bible on the pulpit.
“He’s not going to read the whole thing, is he?” Neal asked Graham.
“Shut the hell up,” hissed Graham.
“Nice talk, in church.”
A bunch of people in the church flipped Bibles open to the Book of Genesis.
“It’s right in the beginning,” Neal whispered helpfully to Graham.
“Now, the Jews have always claimed to be the chosen people, but the Bible tells us differently, doesn’t it?” Carter asked in a voice that attempted a professorial tone of neutral inquiry. “You’ll notice in Genesis that Cain was jealous of his brother Abel, whom God favored. Now that is pretty interesting. Why would God favor Abel? The answer is simple. Because Cain was not the son of Adam, but the son of Satan! Cain was the offspring of Eve’s mating with the serpent. And so of course God favored Abel.”
Neal elbowed Graham. “So does Mia Farrow get to play Eve in the movie?”
“Now, we all know that Cain slew Abel,” Carter preached, “the first example of a Jew killing a Gentile, and this is the important part: God cursed Cain. I refer to Genesis 4:11, ‘And now art thou cursed from the earth,’ and in 4:12, ‘a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.’ “
“Sounds like you,” Graham muttered to Neal. “What did you do to piss off God?”
“I know you.”
“And now Adam had himself another son!” Carter proclaimed. “The son’s name was Seth, and Seth—follow along now through all the begats in chapter five—was the ancestor of Noah, who, as you know, was the chosen of God. The Jews, you see, are the sons of Cain. Far from being the chosen people, they were the cursed people. Cursed by God himself!”
“Nothing like personal service,” Neal whispered.
Joe Graham just shook his head.
“Now,” Carter said, “you have to work your way through a bunch of ‘begats’ until Abraham begat Isaac and Isaac married Rebecca, and they prayed to God to have children and God answered—this is Genesis 25:23—‘And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels, and the one people shall be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall serve the latter.’ Amen!”
“Amen!” responded the congregation.
“And now here we go again, friends, because Rebecca had twins. The first one to emerge was Esau, and listen here to the description: Esau ‘came out red, all over like an hairy garment.’ Now what does that tell you? Esau was the spiritual descendent of Cain, son of the devil, cursed by God! And it is Esau, friends, who will be the father of one of these two nations, the weaker nation.
“Now, the younger twin was Jacob, and we will come to read that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, and that Isaac blessed Jacob, and that Esau was jealous. It’s the same old story all over again, and sure enough, Esau plotted to kill Jacob. And Esau is described as ‘cunning’—and we sure know that, don’t we—but Jacob got away.
“And that night he laid his head down on a pillow made of stones, and he had a dream, and he dreamed that he ascended a ladder to heaven, and spoke with the Lord, and that the Lord said, ‘I am with you, and I will never leave you.’ Amen. And that spot where Jacob had this dream? It was called Bethel, and keep that in mind.
“Now, Jacob wandered as a fugitive for years, but he knew that God was with him, and Jacob became a cowboy, friends, the first cowboy, and his herds multiplied and became strong, and Jacob eventually returned to the place of his birth a rich and powerful man, and Esau came out, all alligator tears and everything, and hugged him and kissed him—now, we all know what the kiss of a Jew means, don’t we—and Jacob took his wives, and children, and cattle and moved on, he went back to Bethel and saw God again … and I’m going to read this part word for word, because it’s at the heart of everything we’re about here … Genesis 35:10, ‘And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob; thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.’
“Jacob was the real Israel, friends. Not that phony baloney Israel that Washington gives our tax dollars to.
“But to continue, ‘And God said unto him, I am God almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; and the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.”
Carter closed the Bible and paused dramatically.
“You see, folks, Jacob, descendent of Seth, was the father of the chosen people, chosen by God to form ‘a nation and a company of nations.’ Now, what is that nation? The present-day, so-called Israel? Don’t you believe it. That’s what they’d all like us to believe, that’s the hogwash we’ve been asked to swallow, but it just isn’t true. Can’t be! Why not? Because, among other things, where is the company of nations to go along with it? All I see is that impostor Jew state and a bunch of strung-together Arab sheikdoms. The sons of Esau, the sons of Ham, not the sons of Jacob, the sons of Seth! That’s not what God had in mind, no sir, not at all.”
Neal leaned over to Graham and asked, “Do you think he’s going to tell us what God had in mind?”
“I think so.”
He did. The Reverend C. Wesley Carter, founder and pastor of the True Christian Identity Church, laid out the grand design for them. How the true descendants of Seth and Jacob migrated out of the Near East, how they took their wives, kids, and cattle and journeyed north and west, eventually coming to settle in Germany, England, Scandinavia, and the British Isles. They were the lost tribe of Israel, who finally found the promised land—America.
“But the Jew, the jealous Jew, the sons of scheming Satan, the sons of murderous Cain, the sons of cunning Esau, they crept into Eden again. We have a Jew banking system and a Jew press, a Jew government and a Jew-dicial system! We have sold our birthright to Esau! And we will have to buy it back with tears and sacrifice and blood!
“But that’s another sermon. Let us conclude with a prayer.”
“Amen,” Neal said.
Back out in the limo Neal said, “So Harley got religion.”
“If you want to call it that. I just wanted you to see what we’re dealing with here,” Graham said.
“Less than a full deck, that’s for sure.”
The driver actually turned around in his seat and looked at Graham. The driver was pissed off at having had to sit for an hour and change in the crotch of the city.
“You ready to go back to the hotel now?” he asked.
Neal sat back in the upholstered seat and looked out through the tinted window.
“Okay,” he said. “Are you going to tell me the whole story now?”
“When we get back to the hotel.”
So Neal looked out the smoky window and watched the palm trees through the haze of sunshine and smog and wondered what was waiting for him back at the hotel.
Ed Levine looked like a brown bear at the zoo as he climbed out of the swimming pool and shook off the water. He grabbed a towel off his chaise longue, wiped himself off, and stepped to the edge of the pool area to greet Neal Carey.
“I never thought I’d hear myself saying this,” Ed said as he stuck out his hand, “but it’s good to see you.”