Hello, hello, hello! I've been a way for too long, but now I'm back! Please enjoy this small teaser scene from my upcoming Mythological Thriller, THE MAN FROM RΩME. Available on Amazon Kindle 5.5.17
Light filtered in through the painters cloth, becoming diffused and shallow. As if in preparation for a slaughter, the floor was covered in newspaper, and the tables were draped with black plastic. Overhead, the light fixtures had been removed so that their wires dangled in stringy noose-like clumps.
Taking all of this in, Cato let the door swing shut behind him. The latch gave an audible click, and was instantly echoed by the snap of a Zippo lighter. Cato started with surprise and turned. In the far corner of the room, a candle had been lit, casting illumination upon a table laden with food. Already seated and waiting for him, a man in a three-piece chestnut suit smiled through the blue haze of his cigarette.
Cato blinked, and a pair of golden-eyes blinked back at him. Like memory made manifest, the Benefactor’s unmistakable face came into view. Cato gaped.
Tapping his cigarette into an ashtray, the Benefactor held up a hand for silence. Cato faltered and the words died in his throat.
“Before you finish that sentence,” spoke the Benefactor. “May I interject a simple request?”
Physically shaken by the timbre of the Man’s voice, Cato did all that he could just to nod.
“I can see that you are…disturbed by me, Cato—disturbed by what you see. Yet I beg of you, please refrain from uttering that which I have heard more times than I care to remember. Spare history the doom of repetition.”
Hypnotized, Cato felt as if he couldn’t move, as if he almost couldn’t breath. Smiling, the Man gestured to an empty chair across the table from him.
Cato tried to look away, tried to turn his head, but the Man had grown incandescent in the gloom. His eyes shone unnaturally, boring into Cato and compelling him to do as he was told.
“I know you have many questions, my son,” said the Man. “But your breakfast is getting cold and I took some pains to prepare the way you like. Sit. Eat. Please.”
Cato felt himself pulled forward, one foot shuffling in front of the other like a prisoner in a chain gang. He reached the table and grasped the back of his chair for support. Before him, a spread of soft-boiled eggs, toast, cheese, cured ham, and coffee, steamed enticingly.
“Why—why haven’t you aged?” He whispered, glancing at the Man. “I mean—Jesus Christ, you look exactly the same.”
Using the back of a butter knife, the Man cracked the top from his soft-boiled egg and laid bare the liquid yoke. He dipped a spear of toast into the creamy filling and stirred it.
“Is that really the question you want to ask me?”
Cato hovered, unsure how to answer.
“Sit,” ordered the Man.
“I can sympathize with what you are feeling,” said the Man. “It’s been too long since we’ve seen one another or even spoken. For that, I am sorry. Most are given time to get used to my condition, but unfortunately, time is not something you and I have an abundance of.”
He bit into the toast and chewed.
“Corallina tells me you are an apt pupil, but that you lack restraint. She says you are often on the wrong side of the law. Is that true?”
Cato looked up sharply, caught off guard by the question.
“Yes,” spoke the Man. “She keeps me informed of your situation. I like to know the dealings of all my Orphanus—all of my children.”
“Is she—” Cato ventured. “Is she like me? Are you her Benefactor too?”
“And when she was a kid, you looked the same as you do now?”
“More or less.”
“Fuck,” Cato breathed. “Then she wasn’t lying?”
The Man returned to his breakfast.
“The best mysteries are those that seemed to have no answer,” he said. “The same is true for me.”
Left hand shaking unconsciously, Cato attempted to light himself another cigarette. He was rattled, twisted up, knotting like a panicking snake.
“Who are you?” He asked.
Smiling faintly, the Man held Cato’s gaze.
“Who I am does not matter, Cato. Rome is all that matters.”
© 2017 Dylan James Quarles
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