Table of Contents
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First published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library,
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First Printing, May 2008
Copyright © Thomas E. Sniegoski, 2008
All rights reserved
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A kiss before the Apocalypse / Thomas E. Sniegoski.
eISBN : 978-1-4406-2939-6
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Burger King Crowns of Glory are awarded to Liesa Abrams and Christopher Golden for all their hard work and words of encouragement. I love you guys.
Thanks also to Mulder the Wonder Dog, Ginjer Buchanan, Kenn Gold, Mike, Christine and Katie Mignola, Dave Kraus, John and Jana, Harry and Hugo, Don Kramer, Greg Skopis, James Mignogna, Stephanie Lane, Joe Lansdale, Mom and Dad Sniegoski, David Carroll, Ken Curtis, Mom and Dad Fogg, Lisa Clancy, Kim and Abby, Jon and Flo, Pat and Bob, Pete Donaldson, Jay Sanders, Timothy Cole, and they who walk behind the rows at Cole’s Comics in Lynn.
And for all those loved and lost.
t was an unusually warm mid-September day in Boston. The kind of day that made one forget that the oft-harsh New England winter was on its way, just waiting around the corner, licking its lips and ready to pounce.
Remy Chandler sat in his car at the far end of the Sunbeam Motor Lodge parking lot, sipping his fourth cup of coffee and wishing he had a fifth. He could never have enough coffee. He loved the taste, the smell, the hot feeling as it slid down his throat first thing in the morning; coffee was way up there on his top-ten list of favorite things. A beautiful September day made the list as well. Days like today more than proved he had made the right choice in becoming human.
He reached down and turned up the volume on WBZ News Radio. Escalating violence in the Middle East was once again the headline, the latest attempts for peace shattered.
Remy thought with a sigh, taking a sip from his coffee cup.
When hasn’t there been violence in that region of the world?
he reflected. For as long as he could remember, the bloodthirsty specter of death and intolerance had hovered over those lands. He had tried to talk with them once, but they used his appearance as yet another excuse to pick up knives and swords and hack each other to bits in the name of God. The private investigator shook his head. That was a long time ago, but it always made him sad to see how little things had changed.
To escape the news, he hit one of the preset buttons on the car’s radio. It was an oldies station; he found it faintly amusing that an “oldie” was a song recorded in the 1950s. Fats Domino was singing about finding his thrill on Blueberry Hill, as Remy took the last swig of coffee and gazed over at the motel.
He’d been working this case for two months, a simple surveillance gig—keep an eye on Peter Mountgomery, copy editor for the Bronson Liturgical Book Company, and husband suspected of infidelity. It wasn’t the most stimulating job, but it did help to pay the bills. Remy spent much of his day drinking coffee, keeping up with
and maintaining a log of the man’s daily activities and contacts.
Ah, the thrilling life of the private gumshoe,
he thought, eyeing the maroon car parked in a space across the lot. So far, Mountgomery was guilty of nothing more than having lunch with his secretary, but the detective had a sinking feeling that that was about to change.
A little after one that afternoon, Remy had followed Peter along the Jamaica Way and into the lot of the Sunbeam Motor Lodge. The man had parked his Ford Taurus in front of one of the rooms, and simply sat with the motor running. Remy had pulled past him and idled on the other side of the parking area, against a fence that separated the motor lodge from an overgrown vacant lot, littered with the rusting remains of cars and household appliances. Someone had tossed a bag of garbage over the fence, where it had burst like an overripe piece of fruit, spilling its contents.
The cries of birds pulled Remy’s attention away from Mountgomery to the trash-strewn lot. He watched as the hungry scavengers swooped down onto the discarded refuse, picking through the rotting scraps, and then climbing back into the air, navigating the sky with graceful ease.
For a sad instant, he remembered what it was like: the sound and the feel of mighty wings pounding the air. Flying was one of the only things he truly missed about his old life.
He turned his attention back to Mountgomery, just in time to see another car pull up alongside the editor’s.
Time to earn my two-fifty plus expenses,
he thought, watching as Peter’s secretary emerged from the vehicle. Then he picked up his camera from the passenger’s seat and began snapping pictures.
The woman stood stiffly beside the driver’s side of her boss’s car, looking nervously about as she waited to be acknowledged, finally reaching out to rap with a knuckle upon the window. The man got out of the car, but the couple said nothing to one another. Mountgomery was dressed in his usual work attire—dark suit, white shirt, and striped tie. He was forty-six years of age but looked older. In a light raincoat over a pretty floral-print dress, the woman appeared to be at least ten years his junior.
The editor carried a blue gym bag that he switched from right hand to left as he locked his car. The two stared at each other briefly, something seeming to pass silently between them, then together walked to room number 35. The secretary searched through her purse as they stood before the door, eventually producing a key attached to a dark green plastic triangle. Remy guessed that she had rented the room earlier, and took four more pictures, an odd feeling settling in the pit of his stomach. The strange sensation grew stronger as the couple entered the room and shut the door behind them.
This was the part of the job Remy disliked most. He would have been perfectly satisfied, as would his client, he was sure, to learn that the husband was completely faithful. Everyone would have been happy; Remy could pay his rent, and Janice Mountgomery could sleep better knowing that her husband was still true to the sacred vows of marriage. Nine out of ten times, though, that wasn’t the case.
Suspecting he’d be a while, the detective turned off his car and shifted in his seat. He reached for a copy of the
on the passenger’s seat beside him, and had just plucked a pen from his inside coat pocket to begin the crossword puzzle, when he heard the first gunshot.
He was out of the car and halfway across the lot before he even thought about what he was doing. His hearing was good—unnaturally so—and he knew exactly where the sound had come from. He reached the door to room 35, pounding on it with his fist, shouting for Mountgomery to open up. Remy prayed that he was mistaken, that maybe the sound was a car backfire from the busy Jamaica Way, or that some kids in the neighborhood were playing with fireworks left over from the Fourth of July. But deep down he knew otherwise.
A second shot rang out as he brought his heel up and kicked open the door, splintering the frame with the force of the blow. The door swung wide and he entered, keeping his head low, and for the umpteenth time since choosing his profession, questioned his decision not to carry a weapon.
The room was dark and cool, the shades drawn. An air conditioner rattled noisily in the far corner beneath the window; smoke and the smell of spent ammunition hung thick in the air. Mountgomery stood naked beside the double bed, illuminated by the daylight flooding in through the open door. Shielding his eyes from the sudden brightness, the man turned, shaken by the intrusion.
The body of the woman, also nude, lay on the bed atop a dark, checkered bedspread, what appeared to be a Bible clutched in one of her hands. She had been shot once in the forehead and again in the chest. Mountgomery wavered on his bare feet, the gun shaking in his hand at his side. He stared at Remy in the doorway and slowly raised the weapon.