Read an Excerpt
It was the kind of place of which question marks are made. The ceiling disappeared into shadows high above several hundred square feet of buffed oak floor that formed a giant circular checkerboard. A leather chair in the center of the room faced a wall of tall windows with thick fog curling outside the panes. Each of the other walls had dark wooden doors framed by stone arches with vague coats of arms in their centers. Dozens of eight-pronged chandeliers dropped from the ceiling and hung a dozen feet from the floor like big bronze spiders with electric butts. Fifteen feet above the floor, and surrounding the entire inside of the room, a balcony that appeared to be carved from a solid chunk of mahogany posed its own little mystery. There were no stairs to the balcony, and no doors.
It was one hell of an ornament.
White marble statues of what looked like ancient Greek and Roman gods were pushed up against the walls. Most were naked. Some wore robes. They all smiled and winked. A four-legged creature with bat-like wings and an ugly half-dog-half-pig face bit into a marble cigar.
A man lay on the floor, his back propped against the wall. Beside him a marble breasted woman winked at nothing and nobody in particular. Around the man the air trembled with the smell of fear and food. His eyes protruded under horn-rimmed glasses as he watched his hand slide across his bare belly where his shirt was torn open. Bits of foodstuff spattered his navy blue dress jacket. More of the stuff, mixed with saliva, splotched his white beard. His face glistened with sweat as his hand moved slowly across his chest. He whimpered as it pushed what looked like the most perfect hamburgerin the world against his lips. His jaw shook and his mouth quivered and his face twisted, but his lips parted and his hand pushed the burger in. He chewed and he swallowed, chewed and swallowed and whimpered and chewed some more until his hand was empty.
Then his hand fell to his side and grabbed another cold but perfect burger from the packing box and slid it over his stomach. As he watched the hand, a scream pushed through the masticated burger oozing down his throat and broke from his lips like a muffled belch. Blood spurted from his bloated stomach, sprinkling red spots on his hand, marring the golden perfection of the burger bun. Blood poured over his stomach and into the fabric of his white shirt. Blood gurgled out as the rip in his stomach lengthened painfully, and still his hand moved toward his mouth with the bloody burger.
Somewhere else, someone was thinking: A promise is a promise.