The young man laughed. “You guys talk like my father used to talk. He thought he was Indiana Jones or something. Always on the hunt for the next big mystery. Ancient artifacts, old books. You name it. Maybe you've heard of him. His name was Frank McClintock. My name's Jason, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you, Jason,” Banyon said. “No, I'm afraid we've never heard of your father but he sounds like an interesting man. You said his name was Frank McClintock. Past tense. I gather he's no longer alive?”
“Yeah. This was his bookstore. He passed away back in December of 1999. I just try to keep the place going but, as you can see, we don't get a lot of business. It's pretty tough.”
“We're sorry to hear that,” Angela said. “So this book belonged to your father?”
“Yeah. He had a whole mess of books like that. Metaphysics, occult, ancient mysteries, stuff like that. I put a lot of his old books out on the shelf for sale after he died. That one you've got there was one of them.”
“And the note inside the book,” she asked. “Would you know anything about that?”
“Doesn't ring a bell,” Jason said. “Do you have it with you?”
Angela reached into her purse and pulled out a piece of paper. “This isn't the original,” she said, handing it to him. “It's a photocopy.”
Jason examined it. “Yup, this is my dad's handwriting, all right.”
“Are you sure?” Banyon asked. Several butterflies fluttered inside his stomach.
“Oh yeah, positive,” Jason said. He continued to read the note. “This is weird stuff here. What the heck does it mean?” he asked, handing it back to Angela.
“That's what we'd like to know,” Banyon said.
Jason pushed his glasses up onto his forehead and smiled. “My dad would have liked you guys. There weren't a lot of people he could talk to about these things.”
“I can imagine,” Banyon chuckled.
“Would you like to see the rest of his collection?” Jason asked, getting up from the stool behind the counter.
The butterflies fluttered once more inside Banyon's stomach. “The rest of his collection?”
Jason motioned for them to come around the counter. Then he opened a door to a back room. “This way,” he said.
The back room, dimly lit by a couple of light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, was full of books everywhere, on shelves, on tables, in boxes. Evidently it was inventory waiting to go out to the front shelves for sale.
Jason pointed to an old leather-bound trunk in the shadows under a table. “This is it,” he said, sliding the heavy trunk out for them to see. “This is what I have left.” He opened the trunk, exposing the contents. “I sold most of his other books. Just haven't gotten around to these yet.”
Banyon and Angela knelt down to take a look. There were some intriguing titles, mostly dealing with ancient mysteries and secret societies.
“Wow,” Banyon said, almost in a whisper. Then he turned to Jason. “Would you mind if we looked through some of these?”
Jason shrugged. “Go ahead. I haven't priced any of them yet but if there's something you want just let me know and we'll work something out. I'll be out front if you need me.”
“Great. Thanks,” Angela said.
Jason disappeared through the door and resumed his reading out behind the counter.
Banyon turned to Angela. “Trusting soul, eh?”
“No kidding,” Angela said as she carefully rummaged through the various titles in the old trunk. “Can you believe our luck? I mean I can't believe we just stumbled into this!”
“This old trunk's been around awhile, that's for sure,” Banyon said, giving the trunk a visual once-over. Then he noticed the tattered black fabric that lined the inside of the lid was sagging down. He tucked it back up but it refused to stay put.
“Will you forget that?” Angela said. “Help me look through this stuff. Who knows what we might find?”
“Wait a minute,” Banyon said. He now noticed the fabric was sagging because something behind it was weighting it down. “There's something under this lining.” He gently tugged at the edge of the lining to pull a little portion of it free from the lid. “There's something back behind here,” he said, trying to reach it with the tips of his fingers.
“What is it?”
“I don't know.”
Finally, without actually ripping the fabric he managed to grasp whatever it was with two fingers and slid it out. It was a large old brown paper envelope. He turned it over and back again, looking for some indication of what it might contain. But there was no writing on it. It was sealed only by a small copper clasp. He looked at Angela. “Should I?”
She shrugged but the look in her eyes said, yes. A large, unmarked envelope in an old chest full of esoteric books in the shadows of a back room of a used-book store was just too tempting to be ignored.
Banyon opened it and pulled out a wrinkled sheet of parchment, yellowed with age. He maneuvered it out of the shadows into a slightly better light. They both looked at it and then at each other, wide-eyed, as they realized what they had.
“Oh my god,” Angela gasped. “That's it. The Ezekiel Code!”
“Find something interesting?” Jason asked, suddenly appearing behind them in the doorway.
Excerpt Monday: The Ezekiel Code by Gary Val TenutaLauren J
The BookTown Team consists of the Mayor and his Deputy Mayor. We do our best to bring the best, new and evolving information where the indie publishing world is concerned. If you want to write a guest article contact us at BookTownUSA@gmail.com.