A lot happened at the office and so I was about an hour late getting home on Monday. In Amesbury, as I turned off Main Street, I was surprised to notice that part of town appeared to be blocked off. I could see flashing lights, but couldn’t make out what was going on. I went out for a walk almost immediately after getting home. First, I wanted to find out what was happening. I’ll admit it, it’s a small town and we are all slightly nosy. But also, I had promised Izle that I would talk to her. Despite it being Izle, I was very curious. She said she wanted to want to warn me about something. I had wondered if it were similar to Alexander’s warning. On the other hand, she had mentioned Galvin. I couldn’t imagine him being involved in anything, but he could be a stooge, just like when he was a lookout for the kids exploring the mansion.
As I walked, I thought a little about Alexander and his issues. Mike from the historic society had written back that after thinking about it, he was about 90% certain that I was correct that Alexander was a black man. It explained so much about his life. He was a business genius and a good man in most ways, but something always held him back. And no matter how polite he was, people took an instant dislike to him. Seeing an issue with racism made all of the pieces of the puzzle fit neatly together. Mike said that he was amazed that it had never been brought up before. Later he wrote back and said that after a bit of research, he was 100% sure Alexander was black. He was wrong and found that it had been brought up, at least in Alexander’s lifetime, but for some reason the historians missed it. I wondered if the historians were as racist as the people 200 years ago, thinking that only a white person could be so successful and never entertaining the idea that Alexander wasn’t white, despite the fact he was often referred to as “the black devil”. From what Mike said, it was even more than that, that people called him black all of the time, but people had taken it to mean his personality.
Walking into the center of the village, I discovered that Mill Street had been blocked off and the traffic rerouted. I could see emergency vehicles down around the large mill building that housed Cooper’s Scientific Instruments. I knew I couldn’t go down there, so I decided to do the next best thing and headed to Strickland’s.
I wasn’t too surprised that most of the usual guys were there, hanging out.
“Sorry guys, gotta go,” Galvin said as I walked in. “I’ll talk to you all later. Hey Gill.” He brushed by without making eye contact and grabbed the door before it was completely closed behind me.
“Hi Gill,” Bob said. “Sounds like you had an exciting weekend. Quite the discoveries you made, from what I’ve heard.”
I shrugged my shoulders, pretending that I thought it was nothing. “Yeah, I guess some people think so.”
Bob laughed. “A lot of people think so. The whole town is talking about nothing else, and my guess is there’s nothing else they’ll be talking about for weeks, maybe months. Hell, I think you will become part of the local legend and people will talk about it for decades.”
I could feel the flush in my check. “Maybe. Maybe. But this is a small town. People will always find new things to talk about. Something will overshadow me. Maybe next week, or next year, or perhaps later today, but something will happen.”
“Thinking of that, do know anything about what’s happening down by Cooper’s?”
“No,” I said. “To tell you the truth, that’s what I came in here for. What’s up?”
“I was hoping you’d know. Jim here says there’s a lot of chatter on the police bands, but he can’t make it out. Someone throwing bricks or something.”
The bell on the door rang, so we all turned and watched as Officer Humphries walked in. I thought he looked tired and a bit grim.
“Hey Chuck,” Bob said. “What’s the news?”
The officer shook his head. “It’s all bad,” he said. “There was a freak accident and Isabel Parker died.”
Looking around I could tell a few of the guys didn’t recognize the name, so I said, “Izle.”
“Yes, Isabel,” Officer Humphries said. “It’s just nasty. I mean, those human remains you found out at the Goode place were bad enough, but they pale in comparison to this.” He visibly shivered.
“What happened?” Bob asked.
“She was walking by Cooper Scientific when a brick fell off of the chimney. One of the engineers told us that if a falling object has the right spin, there’s some effect that would push it out away from the building.”
“The Magnus Effect,” I said.
“Yeah, something like that,” Officer Humphries said. “The engineer had no idea how it work on a brick to make it do what it did, but the brick hit Miss Parker upside the head even though she was about 20 feet from the building. I won’t say anything more about it except that it wasn’t pretty. I’ve seen gunshot wounds to the head, but never anything like this.”
“That’s, well, just odd,” Bob said. “How tall is the chimney?”
“I don’t know. Someone said about 140 feet. Not sure if that’s right, but it’s a good guess. They have people going through the inspection records and the repair records now. Also someone from the state is coming down to take a look. They might shut the building down until they know it’s safe.”
“When did it happen?” I asked.
“Oh, maybe 45 minutes ago. This close into town, we were there within minutes. Luckily the corner was close. He visited the site and we were able to send her a way a few minutes ago. When he was gone, the Chief told me to go get a coffee or something, then I’ll go back and relieve one of the other guys. I wanted to come in here and tell you guys first. I figured that you’d all be gathered here, even though it’s about closing time.”
“We’re just too predictable,” Bob said. “Thank you for dropping by and relieving our curiosity. Go get that well deserved coffee. Isabel Parker. She was a bit of an odd duck, but I never figured she’d go out in such an odd fashion. What are the chances? A billion to one? A trillion? Just seems so unbelievable. With the odds being crushed like that, anyone want to buy a lottery ticket? I sell them… Sorry, I know, that’s in poor taste. It’s just that I’m in shock.”
“We’re all in shock, Bob,” the policeman said. “Anyway, see all of you gents later. Be careful out there.”
“Bye Chuck,” Bob said. “Thanks again. And the rest of you, I need to start shutting down. Mother will wonder what’s going on. I hate to tell her. She liked Isabel and talked to her quite often. I’m sure she’ll be heartbroken. See you all later.”
I felt a little guilty as I walked towards the house. I had told Izle that I’d talk to her when I got home. If I had gotten home at the usual time, or if I had teleworked as I often do on Mondays, she might not have been there for that trillion in one strike.
But then I had another thought. Alexander had told me that people would die, that it was predestined. He also said Izle could see more than most. Izle was going to warn me, tell me something I needed to know. Was she taken out? Did one of those evil creatures that Alexander said not even Izle could see lob that brick? If there was such thing as the evil beasts Alexander described, that would make more sense than the totally freak accident everyone else was calling it.
Alexander wasn’t’ sure how many would die. If this was part of it, who was next? Galvin had said we were moving into another dying time. Was he right?
And it wasn’t just Alexander and Izle either. Bob Lansing’s warning came back to me.
What could I do to be even more vigilant? All I knew is that I needed to stop it before anyone else was hurt or killed.
My thought went to Jessica, who knew much more about it than anyone. And then my thought went to Lyndsey. Would they try to hurt Lyndsey to get to both me and Jessica, the two most in the middle of it?
I was sure about very little except for one thing: I knew this must end before Lyndsey was caught up in it.