because you know where every boy and girl in the world lives. I would like a girl puppy but a boy puppy will be all right if that is all you have.

Also please bring me something real nice I can give to Reverend Billy so he will stop hurting me between my legs and sticking his big thing in my mouth and behind. Reverend Billy says God will not let me into heaven with Mommy and Daddy if I tell them and sometimes he hurts me very much and I bleed.

I have been a good girl Santa.

I love you.

Vicky Brown

P.S. If you do bring me a puppy I promise to take very good care of her and before I go to heaven with Mommy and Daddy I promise I will find her a good home where she can stay until the demons come and Dear Jesus and Satan fight and the world ends. I think Jesus will win.

With something approaching disbelief I reread the letter a second and then a third time, and felt within me a great upwelling of sadness, rage, and frustration. With tears filling my eyes, I slowly refolded the letter and replaced it in the envelope. I looked up to find Garth gazing steadily at me. His brown eyes gleamed with resolve, and the hard set of his features belied the softness of his voice.

'Agreed, Mongo?'

'Oh Jesus, Garth. Agreed.'

With Vicky Brown's words throbbing in my head and heart, I suddenly felt slightly dizzy and nauseous. With Garth following behind me, I turned and walked back into the living room. I sat down at a chess table set up next to a window and stared out into the snow, trying to calm down so that I could think. Garth went to my bar and, to my surprise, poured himself a drink-straight bourbon. He downed that, then poured himself another before coming over and sitting down across from me.

'You've been all this time trying to track down the letter, haven't you?' I asked the king on the chessboard in front of me.

'You want me to get you a drink?'

I looked up, shook my head. 'I've had enough. Could you find out anything?'

Garth absently sipped his bourbon, then set the glass down at the side of the board. 'You noticed that there's no return address.' It was not a question.

'I noticed. New York City postmark, though.'

Garth sighed; it was a soft, sibilant sound that was in total contrast to the tension clearly etched in his face and the stiffness with which he sat in his chair. 'Christ, Mongo, that postmark covers upwards of eight million people in the five boroughs-and that may not be all; a lot of letters to Santa that are mailed in Yonkers, Rockland, and Westchester end up here.'

'With a New York City postmark?'

'I'm told it can happen; sometimes Santa letters are grouped together and handled differently. I didn't even bother looking in the phone book, since there are probably hundreds of Browns in Manhattan alone.'

'And not one of them would be likely to admit knowing-if they did know-that their daughter was being sexually abused.'


'Whatever you've been up to, Garth, you should have called me. I'd have given you a hand.'

Garth shrugged his broad shoulders. 'I didn't know how long you'd be tied up in meetings, and by the time the sun started to go down I was pretty much into what I was doing. It was a one-man job, anyway. But I should have checked in. I'm sorry I caused you to worry.'

'Yeah. The sexual abuse is clear. I assume you notified the various social service agencies?'

'Sure, but that's a dead end too. There are lots of people named Brown on the welfare rolls, and lots of girls named Vicky. Welfare has no record of any Vicky Brown being reported as sexually abused-and there's no way of knowing if the family of this Vicky Brown is on welfare to begin with. Finally, even if some agency did have an address for a family that seemed like likely candidates, the child probably wouldn't be there.'

'Because she's in a secret place,' I said quietly.


'I assume you've been to the police. What did your former colleagues have to say?'

'Considering the lack of information and the fact that there's been no formal complaint, there's not much they can do, Mongo,' Garth replied in a flat tone. 'At least not officially. They said they'd take note of it.'

'You'd have done more than that when you were a cop, Garth.'

My brother slowly shook his head. 'No, Mongo. I'd have been upset, just as I am now; I'd have worried, and I'd have taken note of the information-but there wouldn't have been a whole hell of a lot more I could have done, at least not on city time. The NYPD has a lot more to do than to investigate suspicious letters to Santa Claus.'

'They could have checked out known sexual offenders.'

'They did that for me. There are dozens with the first name Billy, or William, but no Reverends in the bunch.'

Deciding that I wanted another drink after all, I rose from the chess table and went to the wet bar across the room. I put ice in a clean tumbler, splashed in some Scotch, swirled it around. 'I can think of a certain Reverend, first name William, who's displayed some perverse sexual behavior in the past,' I said, peering into the amber fluid as I held my tumbler up to the light over the bar. 'I don't recall his being accused of child abuse, but I wouldn't put it past him. He's one crazy son-of-a bitch, and history teaches that a lot of people who believe they have divine inspiration also tend to believe they have divine permission to do just about anything they want.'

I turned to find Garth staring at me intently; it seemed I'd sparked his interest. 'Kenecky?' he asked quietly.

'Just a thought. They still haven't found the lousy, neo-Nazi prick. Nobody's suggested that he's dead, so he's still out there someplace. But your guess is as good as mine.'

'Not always, brother; you can be a hell of a good guesser. I hadn't even thought of Wild Bill Kenecky, and I should have. It would tie in with that demon and end-of-the-world business in the girl's letter.'

The gentleman we were so fondly discussing was one Reverend Doctor William Kenecky, the holder of a Doctor of Divinity degree issued by a mail-order 'university' of his own devising and founder of a religious cable television broadcasting network that, before the plug was pulled, had come to dwarf the electronic resources of all the other boob-tube preachers combined. Like most televangelists, Kenecky was a Christian Fundamentalist, a so- called Charismatic of the sort who give the impression that they can't wait to go to bed at night because they hope to wake in the morning to find the world ending, and a warrior-Jesus returned to smite the forces of Satan-meaning, apparently, sundry demons popping up from hell, all non-Christians, all non-Fundamentalist Christians, and all non- Fundamentalist Christians who had not sent money to Kenecky. Garth and I had found the Reverend Doctor William Kenecky a howl even before it came out, after he disappeared, that he had, for years, been associated with a particularly perverse group of wacko neo-Nazis whose 'religious' ideology, labeled Jesus White Christian, included the curious tenet that Mein Kampf was a missing book of the Bible.

Garth and I had never understood the appeal and success of any of the televangelists, with their obvious-to us, anyway-chicanery, overt appeal to ignorance and bigotry of all kinds, and blatant mismanagement of the dollars sent to them by people who surely needed the money more than these owners of Rolls-Royces and multimillion- dollar mansions. We'd agreed that it would take a team of anthropologists to try to make sense of this peculiarly American phenomenon of television preachers, but the appeal of William Kenecky had always been the biggest mystery of all. We had often watched his show for entertainment, much like kids watching the Saturday morning cartoons, whooping and hollering along with him as he 'healed' people by smacking them on the forehead, and trying to anticipate his most outrageous-and oft-repeated-lines. But we certainly never sent him money, and were in full agreement that Wild Bill Kenecky was not a man any self-respecting God would choose as a mouthpiece; we considered him a spiritual thug, albeit a skinny one. He'd always worn black suits, and this gave his thin, slightly stooped figure the appearance of a half-finished scarecrow. We'd read somewhere that he was forty-one years old, and we'd been shocked. We'd thought that he was at least a decade older; hate, always shining clearly, in living color, in his jet black eyes, has a distinctly aging effect. We'd considered him the funniest thing on television, and

Вы читаете Second Horseman Out of Eden
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату