The Watchtowerby Lee Carroll
What secrets are hidden in her past . . . ?
Jewelry designer Garet James is still coming to terms with the astounding revelation in BLACK SWAN RISING that she is the last in a long line of women sworn to protect the world from evil. Now she has received a sign from Will Hughes, the 400-year-old vampire who once helped her defeat the evil threatening to destroy… See more details below
What secrets are hidden in her past . . . ?
Jewelry designer Garet James is still coming to terms with the astounding revelation in BLACK SWAN RISING that she is the last in a long line of women sworn to protect the world from evil. Now she has received a sign from Will Hughes, the 400-year-old vampire who once helped her defeat the evil threatening to destroy New York City. Hughes, tortured by his own violent history which is vividly reenacted here, has asked her to join him on a quest to rid himself of his curse of vampirism. While looking for Will in Paris, Garet encounters a number of mysterious figures-an ancient botanist metamorphosed into the oldest tree in Paris, a gnome who lives under the Labyrinth at the Jardin des Plantes, a librarian at the Institut Oceanographique, and a dryad in the Luxembourg Gardens.
Each encounter leads Garet closer to finding Will Hughes, but she realizes that she's not the only one who's trying to find the way to the magical world called the Summer Country. As Garet struggles to understand her family legacy, each answer she finds only leads to more questionsand to more danger.…
“A gothic and elegant page-turner.” The Boston Globe on The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
“[A] complex and lyrical literary thriller” Publishers Weekly on The Night Villa by Carol Goodman
“Goodman mixes literary prose with a page-turning plot, making her work appealing to a broad range of readers.” Library Journal on The Night Villa by Carol Goodman
“Goodman has made a name for herself writing elegant literary thrillers. Graceful, fluid prose; an intricately plotted dual mystery set in the past and present; a strong heroine; and handsome and mysterious men all combine to make for a thoroughly scintillating read.” Booklist on The Night Villa by Carol Goodman
The second entry in Carroll's urban fantasy trilogy begun withBlack Swan Rising(2010). Unfortunately.
First-person narrator Garet James, a New York City jewelry designer, has traveled to Paris in search of charismatic vampire Will Hughes, who stole Garet's magical antique silver box. This heirloom is embossed with the same watchtower design as Garet's ring, denoting her heritage—her female ancestors form a sort of anti-evil witch coven. Garet has also designed a watch patterned after an original owned by evil 17th-century sorcerer Cosimo Ruggieri, but has added her watchtower motif. Later, as Garet learns to use her own magic powers, the watch will enable her to suspend time. Will apparently has vanished into the Summer Country, a magic realm where he hopes to become de-vampired. The book's second narrative strand follows, in the third person, young Will, a poet and rake, to explore his origins in an unrecognizably bland Shakespearean London. Will falls for a fairy, the immortal Marguerite, Garet's ancestor, and is outwitted by numerous evildoers including the immortal astrologer John Dee. All this, however, takes an eternity to develop. Foolish, blundering Will isn't much of a hero, and Garet too passionless to be a suitable foil. The comic-book villains, shrieks and fountains of blood don't help. Even Paris sounds dull. The few surprises come right at the end. The poetry, strangely, is far more palatable.
Seemingly interminable, with a decent sonnet or two thrown in.
- Tom Doherty Associates
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- Edition description:
- First Edition
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- 5.32(w) x 8.32(h) x 1.04(d)
Read an Excerpt
The park outside the church smelled like pigeon droppings and cat pee. At least I hoped it was cat pee. After my first week in Paris, I realized that I hadn’t seen any cats. Pigeons, yes. Each morning I sat with the pigeons and the still sleeping homeless people, waiting for my chance to sit inside the smallest, and surely the dimmest, little church in Paris in order to wait some more … for what I wasn’t sure. A sign. But I didn’t even know what form that sign would take.
It had all started with a silver box I found in an antiques shop in Manhattan, which I had unwittingly opened for the evil Dr. John Dee—yes, John Dee, Queen Elizabeth’s alchemist, who should have been dead almost four hundred years, but wasn’t—unleashing the demons of discord and despair onto New York City. With the help of some fairies—Oberon, Puck, Ariel … the whole Shakespearean crew plus a diminutive fire sprite named Lol—I had gotten the box back and closed it, only to have it stolen by Will Hughes, a rather charming four-hundred-year-old vampire whom I’d fallen in love with. Will had taken it to open a door to the Summer Country and release a creature who could make him mortal again so we could be together, so I suppose I could forgive him for that. But why hadn’t he taken me with him? I would have followed Will on the path that led to the Summer Country. Will had told me on the first night we met wandering through the gardens outside the Cloisters that he had taken the path once before, following signs left behind by his beloved Marguerite, who turned out to be my ancestor. The first sign had appeared outside an old church in Paris. The path always changed, Will had told me, but it always started in that church. You just had to wait there for a sign that would tell you where to go next.
So when, months after Will disappeared, just when I thought I’d gotten over him, an anonymous art buyer sent to my father’s gallery a painting of an old church in Paris, which my father identified as Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre in the Latin Quarter, I knew the painting must have come from Will and that he was asking me to join him on the path to the Summer Country.
I made my plane reservation right away and booked my room at the Hôtel des Grandes Écoles, the little Latin Quarter pension where my parents had spent their honeymoon. I told my father and friends Jay and Becky that I was going to Paris to research new jewelry designs at the Louvre and in the Museum of Decorative Arts. I read in their eyes how thin the pretext was, but they hadn’t questioned me too deeply. After the events of last fall—a burglary, my father getting shot, me ending up burned and battered in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx—they didn’t need to know more to think I could use a couple of weeks away. And what more diverting place to go than Paris?
If they had known I planned to spend my mornings sitting in a dim, musty church waiting for a sign from my vampire lover, perhaps they would have suggested a month in the Hamptons instead.
On my seventh morning in the church I had to admit that the old women with their string bags and the old men with their copies of Le Monde were all more likely to receive a sign from the doe-eyed saints on the walls than I was. I slipped out of the quiet church, avoiding the eyes of the black-robed priest, who, after seeing me here for seven mornings in a row, must have wondered, too, what I was looking for, and escaped into the only slightly more salubrious air of the Square Viviani.
Like the church, the Square Viviani needed something to boast of besides its homeless inhabitants and free Wi-Fi access. For Viviani, it was the oldest tree in Paris, a Robinia pseudoacacia fabacées planted in 1602 by the botanist Jean Robin, now leaning so perilously toward the walls of Saint-Julien that I found myself worrying that one of these mornings, on which I would no doubt still be sitting here waiting for my sign, the oldest tree in Paris would fall onto the oldest church in Paris and collapse with it, like the two old drunks curled up like nesting spoons on the next bench.
To keep such an event from happening, the city of Paris has propped the twenty-or-so-foot-tall tree up with a cement girder ingeniously sculpted to look like a tree itself, and the actual tree has been fortified against some blight with an unsightly patch of gray cement, one large enough that I could probably have squeezed into the hole it filled. It made me feel sorry for the tree … or perhaps it’s just that I was feeling sorry for myself.
To make my self-pity complete, a pigeon landed on my head. I was so startled I let out a yelp and the pigeon flapped indignantly to my feet and squawked at me. It was an unusual one, brown and long-necked, perhaps some indigenous European variety. I looked closer … and the bird winked at me.
I laughed so loud that I woke up one of the sleeping drunks. She clutched her ancient mackintosh around her scrawny frame, pointed her bent fingers at me, and gummed a slurry of words that I interpreted to mean He fooled you, didn’t he? Then she put her fingers to her mouth and I realized she was asking for a cigarette.
I didn’t have a cigarette so I offered her a euro, and she slipped it into an interior pocket of her mac, which I noticed was a Burberry and her only garment. She pointed again to the brown pigeon, who had taken up a commanding pose atop the Robinia pseudoacacia, from which it regarded me dolefully.
“Amélie,” the woman said.
I pointed to the pigeon and repeated the name, but she laughed and pointed to herself.
“Oh, you’re Amélie,” I said, wondering if it was her real name or one she’d taken because of the popular movie with Audrey Tautou.
“Garet,” I told her, then gave her another euro and got up to go. If I needed a sign to show me that I was spending too much time in the Square Viviani, it was being on a first-name basis with the homeless there.
I decided to go to the other place I’d frequented this week—a little watch shop in the Marais. The owner, ninety-year-old Horatio Durant, was an old friend of my parents’. On the first day I had visited him, he took me on what he called a horological tour of Paris.
“They should call Paris the City of Time,” he declared, striding down the rue de Rivoli, his cloud of white hair bobbing like a wind-borne cloud, “instead of the City of Light.” He showed me the enormous train-station clock in the Musée d’Orsay and the modernist clock in the Quartier de l’Horloge composed of a brass-plated knight battling the elements in the shape of savage beasts. He took me to a watch exhibit at the Louvre, then to the Musée des Arts et Métiers to see the astrolabes and sundials, where I fell in love with a timepiece that had belonged to a sixteenth-century astrologer named Cosimo Ruggieri. It had the workings of a watch revealed through a transparent crystal, but its face was divided into years instead of hours. Stars and moons revolved around the perimeter, and inset into a small window, a tree lost its leaves, gained a snowy mantle, sprouted new leaves, and turned to blazing red. I sketched it again and again, making small changes, until I found I had an unbearable itch to cast it into metal. Monsieur Durant told me I was welcome to use his workshop. He lent me not only his tools, but also his expertise with watchmaking. A week later I had almost finished it.
After I left the park and took the metro to the Marais, I spent a few hours happily etching the last details on the timepiece. I had modified the design by adding a tower topped by an eye with rays coming out of it.
“That’s an interesting motif,” Monsieur Durant remarked when I showed him the finished piece. “Did you copy it from someplace?”
“It was on a signet ring I saw once,” I replied, without mentioning that it had been on Will Hughes’s ring. Will had explained that the ring had belonged to my ancestor Marguerite D’Arques. The symbol represented the Watchtower, an ancient order of women pledged to protect the world from evil. Four hundred years ago Will had stolen the ring from Marguerite and left in its place his own swan signet ring, which had subsequently been handed down from mother to daughter until my mother had given it to me when I was sixteen just months before she died.
“A watchtower for a watch,” Monsieur Durant remarked, squinting at it through his jeweler’s loupe. When he looked up at me, his eye was freakishly magnified and I felt exposed. Did Monsieur Durant know about the Watchtower? But he only smiled and said, “How apropos!”
After I left Monsieur Durant’s I stopped on the Pont de la Tournelle. As I watched the sun set behind the turrets of Notre Dame, I realized I hadn’t made my evening vigil at Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre. Checking my new watch, which now hung around my neck, I saw that it was almost ten o’clock. The long days of the Paris summer had fooled me. I felt a twinge of guilt then, followed by a pang of grief. I wasn’t going to get a message. If Will had really sent the painting of the church—and even that certitude was fading fast in the limpid evening light—perhaps he had only sent it as a farewell. An apology for betraying my trust and stealing the box. A reminder that he’d needed it to embark on his own quest for mortality. Perhaps it served no more purpose than a postcard sent from a foreign land with the message Wish you were here. It hadn’t been an invitation at all.
With another pang I recalled another moment by a river. That very first night I had spent with Will we had sat on a parapet above the Hudson and he had told me his history. “When I was a young man,” he had begun, “I was, I am sorry to say, exceedingly vain of my good looks, and exceedingly shallow. So vain and shallow that although many beautiful young women fell in love with me and my father begged me to marry and produce an heir, I would not tie myself to one lest I lose the adulation of the many.”
I remembered looking at his profile against the night sky and thinking that he might be forgiven a little vanity, but that he had surely gained depth over the centuries.
But had he? Might I not be just another of those young women who had adored him and whom he had spurned?
The sun-struck water blurred into a haze of gold light in front of my eyes. I thought it might be one of my ocular migraines, but then I realized it was only my tears blurring my vision.
He isn’t coming, he isn’t coming. I heard the words chiming inside my head as the bells of Notre Dame began to toll the hour.
How many disappointed lovers had stood on this bridge and thought those words? How many had leaned a little farther over the stone parapet and given themselves to the river rather than face another day without their beloved?
Well, not me, I thought, straightening myself up. As I did, I felt the timepiece ticking against my chest like a second heart. I looked at it again, pleased with the work I’d done. The week hadn’t been a total waste. The timepiece would be the basis of a new line of jewelry when I got back to New York. I’d found exactly the inspiration I’d told my friends I’d come here looking for. Could I hate Will for calling me to Paris if this was the result?
No. The answer was that I couldn’t hate him. But that didn’t mean I had to spend the rest of my vacation sitting in a dark, musty church waiting for him.
I walked slowly back toward the Square Viviani. I had never tried to go to the church after dark, mostly because of the concerts that were held there at night. Tonight was no exception, but I thought if I waited until after the concertgoers left, I might be able to sneak in. I felt I had to go tonight while my mind was made up. I had to go one last time to say good-bye.
The concert was still going on when I got there, so I waited in the square for it to finish. At first the square was crowded enough with tourists that I didn’t worry about being safe here at night. This area by the Seine, across the river from Notre Dame, was especially popular with the students who filled the schools on the Left Bank during the summer. I listened to a group of American girls laughing about a man who had approached them outside Notre Dame that day.
“Was it crazy pigeon man again?” a girl with wavy, brown hair and a dimple in her left cheek asked.
“No,” a redheaded girl answered. “It was crazy pigeon man’s friend Charlemagne man!”
“Oh, yeah!” a third girl with black bangs low over her forehead replied. “The one who went on about how Charlemagne was a great man and he founded the schools so we could come here to study art. Don’t you think he’s got Charlemagne mixed up with Napoléon?”
“I think he’s got more than that mixed up!” the dimpled girl responded.
I listened to them dissect the crazy ranting of the two street characters—I’d seen them myself in the square in front of Notre Dame—and then go on to talk of the paintings they’d seen at the d’Orsay that day, the eccentricities of their art teacher (“What do you think he means when he says my lines need more voce?”), and the accordion players on the metro (“I like the one at the Cluny stop whose accordion sounds like an organ”), and I thought, how wonderful to be a student in Paris! Why shouldn’t I enjoy myself the way they were, reveling in the whole scene instead of waiting for a sign that wasn’t going to come?
The girls talked until the one with the brown, wavy hair looked down at her watch and gasped. “We’re going to miss the midnight curfew if we don’t run!” she said. I was as startled, looking at my watch, as she was by how much time had passed. As they hurriedly left the park, I noticed that all the tourists were evaporating into the night. The last of the concertgoers were hurrying away—all except one tall man in a long overcoat and wide-brimmed hat who’d paused at the gate staring in my direction. Perhaps he was just waiting for someone—or maybe he was a thief waiting for the park to clear out so he could rob me—or worse. Certainly the homeless people wouldn’t be of any help. The ones who were left in the park—Amélie curled up in her raincoat with her companion—were already asleep or passed out.
I got up to go, my movement startling a pigeon roosting on a Gothic turret. It was the long-necked, brown pigeon. He landed a few feet from me and fixed me with his strangely intelligent eye. Then he fluttered up to the leaning tree, landing on the scarred bark just above the cement gash. His claws skittered for purchase there for a moment. His glossy brown wings gleamed in the streetlight, revealing a layer of iridescent colors—indigo, mauve, and violet—beneath the brown. Across the Seine the bells of Notre Dame began to chime midnight. The pigeon steadied himself and began to peck at the cement. Startled, I noticed he pecked once for each toll of the bells.
Okay, I thought, someone has trained this bird and is having a laugh at my expense. Could it be that man in the long coat and hat waiting at the gate? But when I glanced over, I couldn’t see the man at the gate anymore. I couldn’t even see the gate. A ring of darkness circled the square that was made up of the shadows of trees, but also something else … some murky substance that wasn’t black but an opalescent blend of indigo, mauve, and violet—the same colors in the pigeon’s wings—a color that seemed to be the essence of the Parisian night.
As Notre Dame chimed its last note, I looked back at the tree. The gray cement was gone, peeled away like a discarded shell. In its place was a gaping hole, pointed at the top like a high Gothic arch. The brown pigeon stood at the center of the arch staring at me. With a flick of its wing—for all the world like a hand waving me in—he turned and waddled into the vaulted space inside the tree as if going through his own front door. Clearly that’s what the gap in the tree was—a door. But to what?
Perhaps I had misread my invitation to come to Paris, but surely this was an invitation. Maybe even a sign. I might not get another. I got up and followed the pigeon into the oldest tree in Paris.
Copyright © 2011 by Carol Goodman and Lee Slonimsky
Meet the Author
Lee Carroll is a pseudonym for the collaboration between Hammett Award-winning mystery novelist Carol Goodman and her poet and hedge fund manager husband, Lee Slonimsky. Goodman and Slonimsky live in New York's Hudson Valley.
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