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an excerpt from Long Fall From Heaven
an excerpt from <i>Long Fall From Heaven</i> August 8, 2012
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This is an unedited draft. For more on Long Fall From Heaven click here.


Prologue

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, AUGUST 1943 – He paced the long floor in the night. Twenty-eight steps the long way, nine steps the width of the old hardwood floor. After the first hour of the first night he knew the square footage down to the inch. From there it was a quick extrapolation to determine the cubic area, given the fourteen foot antebellum ceilings. He loved the old house, the way the floors creaked and groaned. And also he hated it. The scent of old resin and yellowing linen wallpaper hung in the air, the constant reminder of age and a dissolution held in long abeyance. The house should have been shelled or burned during the Civil War, but somehow the old building had escaped that insane bloodbath. It was likely one of a very select few.
         He could see the dim glow of the Capitol in the night sky above the trees that hemmed in the old plantation house, but only when the lights were out inside. He could navigate fine indoors using only moonlight. But even when there was no moon, his perceptions were sharp--you didn't have to see a thing to know it was there. You had to be able to feel the night. And the night was his only friend.
         The night was also quiet, but for the occasional outburst from one of his roommates. When one of them was pushed or fell 'beyond the beyond', as he called it, they would cry, or scream, or gibber unintelligibly. But this night they were quiet.
         The military men needed him. They needed him against Hitler and Mussolini and Hirohito. He had little use for them. But there were steel bars on the windows and nowhere else to go.
         One of the orderlies had taken to calling him 'Longnight'. He'd never had a nickname before. Somehow, it fit him. Yes, the nights were long. Yes, he slept only during the day. He would be Longnight then, he decided.
         Sometimes during the day, when they roused him and put him at a table with a writing tablet, Longnight would mock them by drawing cartoon figures instead of the cyphers. He sensed they wanted to hurt him, as if doing so would somehow make him do what they wanted. But he knew there was no power on earth that could compel him.
         He sensed the dawn long before it arrived. The orderly had come to check on him an hour before and left without saying a word. Maybe the man would go catch a catnap in the living room of the old house. Who knew? He sensed the dawn and stopped, staring out into the inky blackness beneath the line of trees across the lawn. There was something there. Something in the dark. But really, there wasn't--it was something in the darkness of his own mind, this he knew. It lived in the hollow places between thoughts. And it had a name.
         Longnight realized he had stopped pacing. He stood, rapt. He exhaled at the window, four feet away, with its heavy black steel bars, and waited.
         It took awhile, waiting there like that, unmoving, but finally the night breathed back at him. A low mist had arisen. Longnight watched it separate from the ground, lover disentangling from lover to hover over her, out of reach but only just. When the lower edge of the mist reached Longnight's eye-level with the window, the glass beyond the bars misted over.
         Longnight smiled. He stepped to the window and reached a hand between the ugly vertical bars. He breathed onto the window. Then he traced a figure with a finger, the figure that the army men were looking for the secret to: E=mc2.
         He pulled his hand back and waited until the mist lifted and the figure faded away into nothingness. That was the real secret after all. Nothingness. It was the one thing that the limited minds of the military men could not fathom--all along they were looking for nothing at all, and nothing was the answer they would never see. The answer was even contained within his new name. The nothingness of space was darkness.
         And at that moment he began planning his escape. After all, there was time. The war was still on and it was stopping for no man. He could dole out hints at the true nature of the secret in return for day after day of breathing and still they would know less than nothing. And if he were to be deliberate, slow, he would find a way. And then--
         His name was Longnight, and the night was his only friend.

Chapter One

GALVESTON, TEXAS, OCTOBER 1987 – Micah Lanscomb’s home was a repossessed and unclaimed Airstream travel trailer parked in the alleyway behind Cueball Boland's pool hall. Its former silvery glory had dulled into a light orange tarnish by the salt air from the Gulf, its buckled seams having been patched with various kinds of rubber cement—reds, blacks, translucents and grays—such that the trailer more resembled the tail section of a cooked lobster than a house on wheels.
         His Boss, Cueball Boland, owner of NiteWise Security Company, banged on the outer wall beside the door. It was still dark out, and the sodium arc light made an eerie shadow of his aging and solid frame. The sky above was mostly overcast but an occasional dim star shined through. Not that he spent much time looking at stars.
         “What?” the muffled and sleepy voice called out from inside the trailer.
         “Need to talk to you,” Cueball said.
No reply came. Instead, the trailer creaked on its foundation of concrete pilings. Micah was getting himself up. Some day Cueball would have to scrap the trailer and find proper quarters for his employee.
         The door opened and Micah stood there in his underwear looking down at Cueball, his abdominal muscles rippling with his breathing. Micah shielded his eyes against the glare of the parking lot light. “Come in,” he said. “Give me a sec to get some clothes on.”
         “Might as well put your security uniform on,” Cueball said.
         Cueball entered and stood in the cave-like darkness of Micah’s living room. Micah shuffled off down the hallway and flicked on the light.
         The room was neat as a pin—the way Micah kept everything with which he came in contact, be it possessions or relationships—but for a stack of empty pizza delivery boxes on the kitchen table, waiting for trash day.
         From the bedroom Cueball heard the sounds of hurried dressing and mild oaths.
         “What gives?” Micah asked from down the hallway and a half-closed door.
         “There’s been a killing,” Cueball said.
         The silence lasted only a moment, but it was a deep one, as deep as the Gulf waters which meant the island’s livelihood.
         “Who?” Micah asked.
         “Jack Pense.”
         “Damn,” Micah responded. His bedroom door slapped the wall of the trailer and Micah’s long stride brought him into view.
         “Rusty called and woke Myrna up a few minutes ago. Somebody broke into the DeMour warehouse. They knocked Jack on the head with something, tied him up, and then, just for good measure, beat him to death.”
         “Shit,” Micah said. “Anybody told Jenny?”
         “No,” Cueball said.
         Micah nodded. He knew what it meant. He’d be knocking on her apartment door not long after the sun came up over Galveston Bay. She would likely lose her composure, throw her arms around him and cry her eyes out. And, of course, he would then do what he did best—he would be Micah Lanscomb. He would hold her and let her cry for as long as she wanted, then he would go over to the warehouse, Cueball’s number one security client, and get to work.
         “I’m sorry, Micah,” Cueball said.
         “Yeah,” Micah replied. “Me, too. Anything stolen over there?”
         “Don’t know. It’s a big warehouse. I told Rusty to hold off calling the cops until you've arrived.”
         “Fine,” Micah said and moved toward the door, but Cueball slowed his advance with a gently raised hand.
         “Now, I know your first instinct is to go and tell Jenny. To comfort her and all that. But she doesn't know yet and the news can keep for another few hours. Meantime, we've got work to do.”
         “Okay,” Micah said. And that was that.

***


         Jack Pense had retired from running an armored truck crew for Wackenhut Security ten years before. Too young for social security but with not enough income to support himself and his common-law wife, Jennifer Day, Jack had come to work for Cueball Boland’s security firm a week after he was pensioned off.
         During the drive to the warehouse on the back side of the Island, Micah summoned up an image of Jack’s face—round, tired and somewhat pained. Mostly what he associated with the man were a stack of read and re-read Louis L’Amour and Longarm novels and the stubs of chewed Muriel Magnum cigars. Also, he had known for years that Jack sometimes laced his on-the-job coffee with Southern Comfort whiskey and that he probably took too many pain pills, but who could blame the man? The night, for a guard, was its own dimension and time was another factor altogether. And Jack's ruptured discs and three fused vertebrae weren't imaginary, and for fellows like Jack Pense and women like Jennifer, the future was as bleak as the hazy past from which they had emerged. Over the years the bright promises and dreams of youth once reflected in the eyes of high school kids had come to be replaced by the hangdog expressions of chronic defeat.
         But Micah had liked Jack Pense. Micah didn’t like many people. This he knew from a perspective almost exterior to himself, but he sure as hell had liked Jack.
         “Damn,” he told the Island. It said nothing in return. Instead it lay mocking and silent in the haze of the breaking dawn, a little exotic, a little seedy, and as always, a little menacing. To his right and slightly over his shoulder, the sky and the horizon waters of the Gulf glowed with coming light while ahead loomed the grim, gray silhouette of the DeMour warehouse. “Damn,” he said once again.



Long Fall From Heaven
by George Weir & Milton T. Burton
Available in paperback Spring 2013
978-1-935955-52-8
$15.95



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