Detective Nick McCallister investigates a rash of suicides-three on the south end and three on the west end, his own son Justin among them. Something evil is happening in the city. McCallister comes face to face with that evil when Satan's personal assistant Nathan appears in his living room late one night and asks if he's ready for the truth. While an escape from reality is actually what he wants, McCallister knows Nathan must be stopped-but he has no idea how to proceed.
McCallister is already being sucked downward by the emotional undercurrent from a failing marriage, Justin's suicide, and the investigation of his own police force over the grim murder of a local African American civil rights activist.
He's drawn into the ugliest corners of a truth he never could have imagined, a world where the myths of civilization are exposed, the Inquisition analyzed, and the Holy Bible rewritten. McCallister is challenged to determine what is truly good and what is truly evil after he realizes his son and his wife have made their own informed and untimely decisions.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.47(d)|
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The Seventh Day
By Michael Alexander
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Michael Alexander
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Are you prepared to hear the truth, Nick?"
The voice that prompted McCallister from his restless sleep was not one that he recognized. It did not belong to the tired soul who usually urged him, "Come to bed." This voice was alien to him, and as he sluggishly lifted his head, still drunk from the whiskey that had rendered him unconscious, McCallister opened his weary eyes in search of the owner of the menacing voice. Straining to see through the darkness, his pupils dilating, adjusting to the lack of light, he scanned the room, and his vision slowly cleared. Sitting across from him, in his living room, was a strangely familiar man with jet black hair, charcoal eye sockets, and a coarse face.
Thinking the man a figment of his imagination, McCallister shook his head and opened his eyes once again, but the vision did not disappear. Instinctively, he reached for his gun and fumbled at his side. To his surprise, the pistol had been removed from his holster. He jumped to his feet; the surge of adrenaline through his body expelled any residual intoxication, and he took a step toward the unwelcome intruder but came to an abrupt halt when he found himself nose-to-barrel with his own gun. The trespasser held up one hand and warned, "Now hold on, Nick; you don't want to come any further. Just sit back down."
He motioned to the couch. Nick McCallister retreated backward and took a seat, careful not to take his eyes off of the pistol pointed precisely at his face. Sweat was beading on McCallister's forehead, trickling down his bridge, and dripping from the tip of his nose. He wiped the salt away and then glanced up at the man's cryptic eyes and back down at the pistol.
"Who are you?" he asked, his eyes shifting to the gun and back to the man's face. "How do you know my name?"
"I know a lot about you, Nick, a lot more than just your name," the stranger responded calmly.
McCallister spoke impatiently. "Well, then, who the hell are you?"
"My name is Nathan," the man replied, "and that's all you need to know for now."
"Okay then, Nathan, maybe you could tell me why you're in my house, aiming my gun at me?"
"Oh, don't worry, Nick; I don't intend to kill you, and even if I did, I wouldn't need this gun to do it," Nathan responded confidently, bringing the Glock 21 closer to inspect it.
"Well, if that's the case, why don't you just toss it over here?" said McCallister, reaching out his right hand.
"Not so fast, Nick. I don't want any reason to have to kill you either."
"Then what do you want? Are you here to rob me? Go ahead; I have nothing of any value."
"No, I'm not here to steal from you, Nick." Nathan slowly leaned back. "I'm merely here to visit with you. I thought I might get to know a little more about you."
"You broke into my house and pulled a gun on me just to get to know me? I find that hard to believe." McCallister slowly reached behind his back. "Look, there's a little money in my wallet; not much, but some. Take it and go."
"I'm not a pestilent robber, Nick. I just wanted to talk to you, but there's still a lot of fight in you; you're not ready to listen."
Nathan rose from his chair, straightened his jacket and started toward the door. McCallister jumped to his feet but stopped, as again he was staring into the gun barrel. Nathan stared deeply into McCallister's eyes and warned, "Ah, ah, just lie down on the couch. Go back to sleep."
McCallister awoke in the morning with a single convulsion. He sharply turned his head, vigorously scanning the room for Nathan, but he was no longer there. His skull was throbbing and he rubbed it, wondering if Nathan had struck him with the butt of the pistol, but there was no bump. Perhaps it was nothing more than a bad hangover. Suddenly, Jade leaped into McCallister's mind.
Frantically he raced upstairs to the bedroom and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw his wife lying peacefully in their bed. Jade had grown much thinner in the past year. Her hair, which had once been long, thick, and healthy and had shone in the light from the window, was now brittle and dull. Her eyes had sparkled like diamonds; now they were dark, as if depressurized, reverted back to coal. McCallister watched his poor wife sleep soundly before his eyes shifted, and his attention turned to the open bottle on the bedside table. Her deep slumber was not so innocent. It was not a result of physical exhaustion, but rather because her body had succumbed to the alcohol that forced her eyes closed. Vodka was Jade's drink of choice, and it helped her to forget him; it sheltered her from painful memories of Justin. Her dreams were haunted by visions of his pale young face and the memory of finding him there, supine in the tub, the stained water spilling over the edge and the deadly razor blade on the floor beside his cold, wet deathbed. Although Jade never made mention of it, McCallister assumed that she blamed him for Justin's death, that she blamed him for spending time at work rather than fathering his son, and that she saw his sternness as cruelty and blamed him. Such thoughts contributed to the rapid descent of their relationship.
He and Jade had drifted miles apart, but McCallister never questioned his feelings for a second. He loved his son and his wife. Often he wanted to hold her and grieve with her, but he couldn't find it within him to provide the comfort she so obviously deserved. As much as he wanted to hold her, and as much as he suspected she needed him to, he didn't.
While Jade slept, McCallister searched the house for evidence of Nathan's presence. He wondered if it might have just been a dream but was puzzled by the striking familiarity of Nathan's face. He supposed it was all too real to be a dream—but too absurd to be reality. How, he thought, did he end up asleep immediately after Nathan left? And how was the gun returned to his holster? He had heard stories like this one before: stories of a man waking up in the middle of the night, or in the middle of a dream, and thinking there was someone in his room, watching over him—but never had McCallister heard of anyone actually having a conversation with such a visitor. Disturbed by the possibility that it may have actually happened, McCallister poured a glass of water and downed two Tylenol Extra Strength tablets. Then he put on a cup of coffee, sat down in the kitchen, and sketched what details he could recall of Nathan's face.
McCallister had taken a course in profile sketching, and when he actively pursued criminals, he drew sketches of his suspects. His detailed drawings always presented the evil side to those he was tracking, which helped to motivate him during his pursuits. McCallister captured Nathan's dark features and rugged face on the paper, and again the familiarity of it was shocking. As he stared at the drawing, he wondered where he had seen the man before. The feeling that he recognized him was so compelling that he knew they must have had a recent encounter. Thus, he proceeded to reflect on the events of the day prior to the intrusion.
* * *
McCallister had started the previous morning with a routine shot of whiskey in his coffee and then drove from his home on the south side of the city to the station in the east end. It was a chilly, rainy morning. The pastel, overcast sky was stubborn, unwilling to break to allow any sunlight through. Large drops of rain splattered hard against the windshield and streamed erratically down before the wipers pushed them away.
As McCallister entered the parking lot at the station, he discovered that someone was occupying his spot, forcing him to park in the visitors' lot, much farther from the entrance.
"Goddammit!" he exclaimed as he raised his middle finger toward the culprit's Mercedes and then parked. Unfortunate not to have brought an umbrella, he got drenched as soon as he exited his car. He held his briefcase over his head and ran to the front doors of the police station. Once inside, McCallister tried to wipe the water from his jacket and briefcase, much to the amusement of the officer attending the front desk.
"Wet one out there, huh, Detective?"
"Sure is, Gates," McCallister replied.
"How are things today, Detective?"
"Well, I'm cold, I'm wet, and I'm tired, so I guess it's been a pretty good day so far. How about yourself?"
"I feel much better every time I see one of you guys walk in here. You're always stressed out and constantly tired; my life is much simpler."
"Yeah, well, maybe you can make mine a little better by having that Mercedes out there towed away for me."
"What Mercedes is that, Detective?"
McCallister turned to point at the car. "The one right there in my spo—" He paused and did a double take; the Mercedes was gone.
"Son of a bitch!" he exclaimed, upset that he hadn't had a chance to confront the driver. "He must have just left. Did you see him pull away?"
"I didn't see anybody," Gates said, putting his hands in the air and looking blankly back at McCallister. "Nick, maybe you're seeing things."
"No, it was right there!"
Completely puzzled, McCallister walked to his office and quickly closed the door behind him. He sat down at his desk and stared ahead, biting the side of his index finger and wondering how the car's owner had slipped away, right out from under his nose. In his mind he saw Gates fighting back a smile and then laughing when the door closed. He shrugged him off and got right to work reviewing his files.
His job as a forensic investigator often involved examining crime scenes, corpses, and crime scene photos to determine a cause of death, something he was unable to do when his own son died. He always struggled to accept the assumption, by the investigating team, that Justin did in fact kill himself. After witnessing his dead son in their bathroom, McCallister had experienced an acute anxiety attack and was rushed to the hospital. He never had the opportunity to investigate the scene for himself. He always suspected that the detectives had made mistakes and that somewhere his son's murderer was roaming freely. His superiors continuously dismissed his theories and even he, at times, questioned whether he was merely in denial. Justin's death compelled McCallister to make no oversights when investigating cases, to leave no stone unturned. As a result, he regularly reexamined cases.
As he searched through the piles of folders, he pulled out the file entitled "Ed O'Leary." McCallister had investigated O'Leary's death a week prior and deemed it to be a suicide, but distancing himself for a week and then returning to a case often allowed him to catch things he missed the first time around. O'Leary was a stockbroker who lived in the west end of the city. He had killed himself by slitting his own throat with a filet knife after the stock market plunged, and he and several of his clients lost their fortunes. McCallister compared the O'Leary file with a similar case in which Stan Drummond, a dentist, was found dead after his throat had been slit. Since Dr. Drummond was a dentist, and dentists supposedly had the highest suicide rate of any profession, McCallister was compelled to think that he may have killed himself; however, after closer analysis McCallister realized that the laceration on Dr. Drummond's neck went from ear to ear; an impossible task for someone taking his own life. At best, Dr. Drummond might have gotten a quick, straight cut through the jugular and out the front of the neck, but there was no way he would have been able to tolerate the pain as he followed the curve of his neck with the knife blade submerged two inches beneath the surface of the skin. The wound was too perfect and was impossible for him to have inflicted it on himself; clearly, Stan Drummond was murdered, and so a murder investigation was under way. Through careful examination, McCallister found that the two cases differed in that Ed O'Leary would have had no trouble inflicting the wound in the manner in which he did. Furthermore, the suicide note O'Leary left, although puzzling, seemed to match his handwriting and there was no evidence indicating anyone else had been in the room. McCallister found that all other signs pointed to suicide, and the case was closed. The note O'Leary left mentioned the typical cruel world where suffering was unyielding and God was merciless, but what puzzled McCallister was O'Leary's comment about being of greater service in death.
Who did he expect to serve? McCallister wondered.
McCallister spent most of the day flipping through old files, and when he was almost finished, something interesting occurred to him. Three suicides so far that year had taken place in the south end of the city, and now three were committed in the west end. Just as McCallister was scanning for the locations of the other suicides, his phone rang. Another death; another investigation.
On the way out, McCallister silently passed by Gates, pushed open the station door, and bolted across the parking lot, as he now had a storm to contend with. The late afternoon's sky had grown even darker, and thunderous booms resonated through it as fork lightning stabbed maliciously at the ground. As he drove through pools of water, his wipers working on the highest setting, he struggled to see past the torrential rainfall. In the distance he recognized the flashing lights of the police cruisers and ambulances. To his great disappointment, they had sectioned off an area outside, and McCallister would have to battle the elements without an umbrella.
Irritated, but tolerating the rainfall, he made his way through the small crowd of people who had gathered in the storm to catch a glimpse of the body. McCallister flashed his badge, and one of the officers responsible for crowd control pointed out Sergeant Holkum, who had made the call to McCallister.
Sergeant Holkum was crouching beside the body, his pudgy belly against his knees. As McCallister approached, Holkum rose, stroked his thick mustache and said, "This fuckin' world, Nick; I don't know what to do about it anymore."
"What have we got here, Ted?" McCallister asked, looking at the corpse.
"Nick, allow me to introduce you to Mr. Robert Kipling. I'm pretty confident it was a suicide, but you'll know better than me. It's a goddamn shame, Nick; a real tragic story. His little three-year-old boy died of leukemia a couple years ago. His wife took her own life shortly afterward, and he's been existing in this dump ever since."
McCallister lifted his head to inspect the ledge from which Mr. Kipling had fallen.
"He would have dropped six floors," Nick said. "Probably would have died on impact."
"Six floors to a whole lot of hurt," responded Holkum.
"No," corrected Nick, a twitch in the corner of his eye, "a second of hurt to escape an eternity of pain."
Holkum looked down at the ground. "Why do you do this to yourself, Nick? Why do you keep torturing yourself, investigating these sad stories and reliving your own hell time and time again?"
"It's my job, Ted."
"It doesn't have to be."
"Just let it go, Teddy. Let's get out of the rain and go check the room," McCallister said in an effort to change the subject. "We can come back down here and take a look at the body again later."
McCallister could avoid the subject with Holkum, but he could not escape his own thoughts. Holkum's comment stirred up reflections of Justin and the overwhelming anxiety that consumed him when envisioning his departed child. It was that feeling and those thoughts that provoked McCallister to visit the bar so frequently to suppress his pain with liquor.
The moment Holkum swung open the door to Robert Kipling's room, the stench of garbage impeded McCallister's entry. Holkum held a hand over his mouth and nose in a futile attempt to ward off the smell. They entered the small apartment, sidestepping piles upon piles of newspapers, computer printouts, boxes, and decaying food and garbage. A small pathway through the rubble led them to a tattered sleeping bag and pillow on the floor. The fact that Kipling's bed also seemed to provide the foundation for a tower of boxes reaching up to the ceiling suggested to McCallister that Robert Kipling slept on this sleeping bag on the floor. It too was surrounded by trash, and next to the pillow lay something that pulled at McCallister's heartstrings. A framed five by seven of Robert Kipling's little boy and he rested on the floor. He smiled as he held him. Little Matthew must have been around two years of age. In the picture, he was poking his finger up Robert's nose—appearing to goof around with his doting father. McCallister closed his eyes and felt a surge of pity for the man who had lost the most precious things in his life, had suffered such trauma that a part of his brain had been distorted to such an extent that he had become a shut-in and a hoarder, finally reaching his breaking point and ending his own meagre life. McCallister again glanced at the picture in his hand and replaced the images. His picture was of Justin. He reflected on memories of his own departed son and the overwhelming anxiety that consumed him.
Excerpted from The Seventh Day by Michael Alexander Copyright © 2012 by Michael Alexander. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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