Words

By: John Inman


The world of writers, readers, and reviewers is a close-knit family of friends, fans, and fiction fanatics. That’s the world Milo Cook and Logan Hunter reside in—thriving on the give and take of creativity, the sharing of stories and ideas, and forever glorying in their boundless love of books and the words that make them breathe.

But sometimes words can cut too deep. And when they do, there is inevitably a price to pay.

What begins for Milo and Logan as a time of new love and gentle romantic discoveries, becomes before it’s over a race for their lives and for the lives of everyone they know.

Who would ever suspect that an entity as beautiful as the written word could become a catalyst for revenge? And ultimately—murder?





Prologue





ET OSTENDE incipit… and the show begins

Washington Square Park lay knee-deep in snow on this dawning Sunday morning. Located in Lower Manhattan, the park was a favorite gathering place for Greenwich Villagers. A tall marble arch stood at one end, celebrating George Washington’s inauguration as president of the United States in 1789, and the park’s ten acres of grassland and trees were a rare and well-loved commodity for New Yorkers in any season.

Modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the 74-foot tall Washington Square Arch stood grand and imposing at the foot of Fifth Avenue. Behind the arch sprawled the park’s fountain, the pool of which, at the moment, was frozen as stiff as marble itself.

The air was cold enough to kill a homeless person in six hours flat and discourage even the staunchest of joggers from venturing out. For opposing ends of the social spectrum, home treadmills and homeless shelters were the rule of the day. The truly elite sat safely insulated high in surrounding high-rises, sipping Kenyan coffee from bone china and peering down at the frozen city through frosted windows fifty floors up, as untouchable as gods.

New Yorkers are a brave, sturdy lot, but this weather had most of them stymied, which explains perhaps why the lone figure standing at the northwest corner of Washington Square Park on this freezing January dawn was there at all. That person was not a New Yorker.

It might also be true that people with murder on their minds do not feel the cold as the rest of us do. But we shall leave that for the experts to decide.

The figure in the shadows was tall and lean. If one could have seen beneath the scarf wrapped tightly about the face, the figure might also have been handsome. Or maybe not. Warm woolen gloves protected the hands, and the body was shielded from the cold by a long, heavy coat that reached all the way to the ankles, a pretentious piece of clothing in any weather except the one in which the figure now stood. The hair might have been blond or dark, ginger or gray, short or long, since at the moment it was hidden beneath a woolen watch cap pulled low over the head. And the ears were tucked snug and warm beneath the watch cap as well. In truth, the cold only touched the figure’s eyes, and those were as blue as ice themselves, so perhaps immune to the winter’s chill.

The wind whipped past as the shadowy figure stood beneath one of the park’s grandest trees, studying the hotel across the street.

The towering tree was an English elm and it was more than 300 years old, its far-reaching limbs bare of foliage at the moment due to the season. In summer, the tree spread its leafy boughs wide, welcoming passersby to partake of its cooling shade. In historical circles the tree was known as the Hangman’s Elm. It acquired that name not by any flight of whimsical New York fancy, but because of a legend that stated traitors were hung by the neck from its branches during the American Revolution.

Being an executioner of sorts, perhaps it was not inappropriate that our lean figure should be standing beneath the naked boughs of the Hangman’s Elm on this January morning, fingering a two-foot length of clothesline tucked in a coat pocket. A garrote, it is called, and the person we are watching knew its uses better than most. At the moment, in fact, it was a most beloved possession.

Sliding the velvety length of narrow cord through slim fingers, the figure wound it caressingly about a gloved hand. The cord’s hidden strength comforted, even while it both fed and soothed the figure’s anger. A shudder that was almost sexual passed through the body as the eyes above the scarf narrowed in either desire or fury. Or perhaps both.

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