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And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God.
–The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 85
Revealed to Joseph Smith on November 27, 1832
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
A night as bleak and dismal as a gravedigger’s stare had long fallen, and only a few skittish, chattering pedestrians peopled the drizzly walks of Manhattan. No warning lights flashed, no sirens ripped the air, and yet Trace Wentworth climbed out of his Lexus convertible with a somber sense of foreboding. The somnolent city had nothing to say to him that he cared to hear. He had traveled from his home in Texas strictly in order to deal with the more mundane, business-end of his writing, to put his latest manuscript to bed, in the parlance of publishing. Then he had other, more deadly, and probably final plans to make.
He was a tall, lithe man, immaculately dressed in a dark suit and milk-white, silk shirt. His shoes were handmade, but close inspection revealed that they might have expected better treatment, and his pants had lost their crease, but occasionally–as now–there was an inner fire in his eyes that most men would not care to approach too closely.
As he tossed the keys to the valet in front of the newly renovated Petersen Hotel, a horse’s hooves clopped on 5th Avenue behind him. A young couple knotted in each other’s arms huddled against the light rain in the rear of the carriage, and Trace felt a tugging at his heart. He could imagine himself as the young man, but whenever he tried envisioning Ashley in such a picture grief overcame him. The streetlights and the glow from a thousand windows overlooking Central Park transformed the woods beyond into a wonderland of light and shadow in which either angels or demons might cavort. Trace knew all about demons.
A black Cadillac pulled to the curb before Trace had a chance to get a look at the driver, and–although the thought made no more sense than his premonition of doom–he had the eerie feeling that the driver wanted it that way.
“Packing it in early, Mister Wentworth?” said the valet.
“Yeah, Rudy,” said Trace, smiling. “I have seen the sights. Thanks to your advice I actually visited the Statue of Liberty for the first time.”
“She’s something at night.”
Trace handed the kid a ten, slapped him on the back and headed into the hotel.
Striding purposefully across the thick pile of the Persian carpet in the lobby and through the brass and glass double doors of the Reginald Club, he found a dark booth in the rear. Stretching his lanky legs beneath the table he called for a double scotch. The piano player happened to be singing a Sinatra tune about the city, and Trace wondered if everyone in the hotel was working for the Chamber of Commerce.
When a small, dark complected man, wearing a black pinstripe suit and thin, gold-rimmed glasses slipped into the booth Trace was surprised. He didn’t know the man, and his own face wasn’t well known enough to draw fans.
“Can I help you?” he asked, cradling his glass between both hands.
He wouldn’t have described the man’s eyes as cagey, but there was a definite wiliness in their watery blue depths, and something else as well. It wasn’t exactly cocksureness, but more a deep-rooted sense of serenity or composure. It occurred to Trace that he had witnessed much the same look on the face of a mystic in New Mexico who claimed to be in direct communication with the soul of Brigham Young.
“What’s happened to you, Mister Wentworth?” asked the man.
His voice was as placid yet deceptive as his eyes. Trace decided that if the guy was here to invite him to a poker game he wasn’t playing. By way of answer he downed half his drink and waved his glass at the bartender, using the back of his hand to comb aside an errant lock of dark hair that was in need of a trim.