This is not exactly an excerpt, per se, rather it is a short vignette written in response to the monthly ‘first line’ prompt over at The Writer’s Block, and a way to tease, and introduce Amasiah Denzyl – the major antagonist from Butterfly Raven. Enjoy.
His contact said that by this time of the year he would have little chance in getting close to Denzyl. Agent Donnelly wasn’t deterred. Determined is more what he would have called himself; to find the connection between Amasiah and his cult of crazies, and the accident in the City; to prove the involvement of his ‘inner circle’ in the stalking, and the threats made toward Zackery Wells; to find the missing women.
His SAC said that he’d be crazy to try even getting a warrant.
“No Judge this side of the Hudson,” the man said, “On either side, come to that would ever dream of putting his name to such a document, not when presented with such little, and entirely circumstantial evidence as you’d be presenting.”
“The connections are there, sir,” he argued, but his SAC shook his head.
“Better, more experienced agents than you have tried, and with a damn sight more than you think you have on the man. Let it go, Agent Donnelly.”
He disobeyed orders and tried anyway. No dice.
Ten days, and a frustrating series of dead ends later, Donnelly was called upstairs and fully expecting a dressing down for going against orders, especially judging by some of the looks he got as he crossed the bullpen, he gathered and quickly reviewed his notes as he took the stairs – rather than the elevator – up to the fifth floor of the New York field office.
He wasn’t exactly wrong, but neither was he right. As he exited the stairwell, SAC Learner grabbed his arm and hauled him into a side office.
“What the hell did you do, Donnelly!”
“Sir?” Donnelly asked, frowning in confusion. He sensed it was in connection with the case he was trying to build against the Order of Law’s cult leader, but not in full possession of the facts, he was unable to be certain that was why he’d been hauled upstairs, and why it looked as though his boss was about to make a mess in his shorts.
“I’ve got Denzyl and two of his cronies, stinking up my office with the stench of their incense,” Learner snapped. Then as if spelling out the question to a two-year-old repeated, “What. Did. You. Do?”
“Nothing, I—” Donnelly began, but though better of it at the expression on the SAC’s face. He decided that coming clean would be the better option. “Okay, so… I may have spoke with Judge Walters about a—”
“A warrant!” Learner practically exploded. “I told you to leave it, Donnelly. Did you think I just told you that for my health? Jesus Christ… that man is—”
“No man is untouchable,” Donnelly interrupted, fidgeting. He’d seen Learner break some of the most hardened criminals from the north to the south of the east coast. To see him react as he was to the presence of a single man, it was uncomfortable; disturbing. He glanced in the direction of Learner’s office, as though he could see through the walls.
“He is your worst nightmare,” Learner told him, “Wrapped in crap, dried and then polished to a mirror shine. There is no way you, or any other agent in this godforsaken Bureau is going to get anything to even spill over his Saville Row suit, let alone stick.”
“Then why the hell call me up here?” Donnelly asked. “Why not just apologize for the Bureau’s mistake and send him on his way?”
“Because,” Learner said. “He asked to speak with you.”
Donnelly stepped into Learner’s office and immediately felt the urge to straighten his suit jacket. All three men awaiting him were impeccably dressed and immaculately groomed as though they had stepped out of a dressing room and into the office, and had not travelled – if his information was accurate – half way across the city, in the rain.
The two men on either side were tall, one obviously a professional, he mused, judging by the briefcase he held in one hand, and the file folder tucked under the arm on the opposite side. The other man gave less of a clue about his function, or relationship to Denzyl, but he regarded Donnelly with an intensity that was disturbing.
Denzyl stood between the two of them, absolutely still as though made of stone, his face set in a slightly sardonic expression, thin lips pressed together, set beneath a narrow, slightly hooked nose, the large nostrils of which flared briefly as Donnelly’s gaze fell over him. His brown eyes were deeply set beneath brows that were almost a perfect bow. The man’s wide forehead was lined, and the lines set into a frown at odds with the confidence the rest of his visage displayed. Donnelly took it all in, down to the styled, short cut, hair that greyed slightly at the temples and cropped sideburns, painting an indelible picture into his memory of the man so many seemed to fear.
“Mister Denzyl,” Donnelly said, and stretched out his hand. “Thank you for coming.”
The gesture went unreciprocated. Instead, Denzy gestured toward the man on his right, with a manicured hand that held a pair of Italian leather gloves.
“My associate, Mister Grantham,” he said and then gestured to the other side, confirming Donnelly’s first impression as he added, “and my attorney, Windsor Lauchlan. I understand that you have been making enquiries concerning me; accusations.”
His voice was like treacle poured over gravel, at once smooth, but with an unexpected bite. The accent was British, certainly, but with a hint of something a little more exclusive – a barely detectable brogue, perhaps that lent an edge to the words he spoke.
He turned his gaze on Donnelly then, eyes narrowed as if to contain the spark of fire that sent fingers of warning up and down Donnelly’s spine behind a cage of long lashes.
“There are some would consider that unwise,” he said, and then as if to a subordinate or lackey, held out a hand toward the file Donnelly’s held and snapped his fingers once. To his own incredulity, Donnelly gave him the file, which Denzyl then set immediately into his attorney’s hands. The lawyer started flicking through the file.
“Those were quite serious allegations, Agent Donnelly,” Denzyl said, “and upsetting, considering I count Ms. Chandler’s father as one of my closest friends. I was to be her daughter’s godfather… and have offered a substantial reward for information leading to… well…” he smiled, like a viper, the light of it never reaching his eyes. “…let us not tempt the gods, shall we? You appreciate my meaning, I’m sure.”
“I had to follow every lead,” Donnelly protested softly.
“Very commendable. A perfect investigator.”
“And Zachary Wells?” Donnelly asked, his hackles raised by the sarcasm in Denzyl’s remark.
“Really?” Denzyl laughed humorlessly. “A two-bit actor? Yes, I’ve done my research, Agent, and hope I might say the same of you. Scientology may covet celebrity among its members to sustain its reach and its wealth, but my organization holds no such pretensions, so perhaps you can explain to me why I might…?”
He glanced at his attorney, and Donnelly was sure it was for effect. The man knew exactly the content of the warrant he’d tried to have served and was just playing games with him now.
“Pursue and threaten,” the attorney prompted.
“Well… Matthew?” Denzyl asked, and Donnelly tensed as the man used his given name, and after a few moments of silence Denzyl dismissed the matter with an almost sibilant, “No matter. I am here to co-operate, after all.”
“Co-operate?” Donnelly couldn’t help but doubt that was the man’s intent. Not even for a moment did he imagine that Denzyl, nor his associates would give him one iota of information that would advance his case or lead him to finding the missing women he was certain were somehow tied to the Order of Law.
“An invitation,” Denzyl said and, without looking, reached beside him and took a business card that Mister Grantham held aloft, between his index and middle fingers, and flipped it right side up as he offered it to Donnelly. “The card holds the address of the Chapter House here in the City, rather than our offices, which you have already visited. Feel free to drop by at any time. My officers will be happy to accommodate your questions, and… to introduce you to our members, whom you might interview at your leisure.”
Donnelly raised an eyebrow, full of doubt that anything he might see or hear would be genuine, no matter when he might call on them, and turned the card over in his hand to see, written in a neat and fluid script, the time 8:45pm, and the date of the coming Wednesday.
It drew his gaze back to Denzyl, who added seamlessly, “And should you visit at the time and date written on the card, I will be happy to receive you… personally.”
Though he would never admit it to another soul, Donnelly found himself chilled, not by the tone in Denzyl’s voice, nor the uncompromising bitterness he saw in the other man’s eyes, but in the pause he’d left before the final word of his invitation. He had issued a challenge, and somehow Donnelly knew that if he did not respond, he would forever consider himself a coward.
“Eight, forty-five on Wednesday then, Mr Denzyl.”
Denzyl nodded once, then said, “If there is nothing else?”
“You’re… free to go,” Donnelly answered.
Denzyl stepped forward then, leading the others toward the doorway, but he paused at Donnelly’s shoulder, and though the FBI agent had a good few inches on the man, he felt somehow as though it were the other way around, as Denzyl hissed, “Oh, I know that, Agent Donnelly, and I shall remain so in spite of your efforts otherwise.”
Then he moved onward, and Donnelly barely recovered from his sudden stupor to watch the retreating backs of his three visitors, unable to help but wonder where the fourth Horseman was, and when he would come barreling through his remaining sanity.
Amasiah Denzyl remained silent, contemplative until they had reached the middle of their descent down the staircase toward the ground floor and the exit of the government building, already pulling on his gloves in anticipation of the cooler outside air.
“His evidence?” he asked.
“Some is… troublingly close to accurate.”
“Bury it.” He waited until they reached the doorway, and Grantham opened the umbrella to shield him from the still torrential rain as they made their way to the car that he had summoned on the way down to the street, before he said, “And Nathaniel…”
“Mr Denzyl?” Grantham answered, opening the car door and remained in place until he was comfortably seated in the warmth of the vehicle, then he closed the door, and came around to the other side. He climbed in, closing the door to insulate them from the jangling energies of the City.
“Take him out.”
Denzyl leaned forward and tapped on the glass, and the driver smoothly pulled away from the curb and into traffic, and Denzyl sat back, closing his eyes, his fingers linked and steepled at his lips as he let go a long, slow breath.