Newcomb is at my door, too. I almost forgot, until he knocked. Impatient, once remembered, looking for redemption, or at least an answer. Or to find a part for himself in a new story.
Or perhaps it is simply me. Perhaps I am at my own door, middle of the night. Hoping I might come in to the comfortable space which once was clearly mine. Echoes. Words of love and of loss. And more. “When my heart died.” Or more accurately, when I discovered that my heart had died. And just behind the despair. Hidden. My hope.
They are at the door.
Billy opened the door. Hollister. And Newcomb. The man Billy had last seen in front of the train station. Sacramento. A year ago, hugging Elizabeth good-bye. The well-dressed businessman who had taken the manuscript. Newcomb. A midnight surprise. The man’s shaggy hair, stained jacket. A disheveled bum. Frightened. Or possessed, Billy thought, as he bid them in and slid out two chairs at the desk. “What in the world, Hollister?”
“We gotta talk.” Hollister’s wry grin. Intense, excited eyes. “We gotta find out some things. From Elizabeth.”
Newcomb sat, and then waved his hands, as if trying to sweep thoughts away. “No, it’s not like that. I mean,” and he coughed twice, wheezing, “I have to speak with Elizabeth about something she told me. On the train. And a long time ago, too. In Pennsylvania. About a party.” He slumped down in his chair and shook his head. “I have to put this to rest. I mean, once and for all. To rest.” He leaned forward and touched his forehead gently on the desk. “Tell them, Hollister. To hell and back.”
Hollister closed the door, after a furtive last look out into the darkness, as if they might have been followed. He took a step to the bed and sat, pointing Billy to the other chair at the desk. “Okay,” he said. “Here it is. In a nutshell.” He grinned, nodding at Newcomb. Or a nutcase. Newcomb and I have been talking about this book, Elizabeth’s book. Emails and by phone. For the last year or so. How some of the details scrape a raw nerve in Newcomb. So he came out here, thought we might track down someone in the story. The real story, you know? Maybe what she left out.” Hollister looked at Billy. “In the cab from the airport today. You told me you were going to add a bunch of stuff to the story. And revisions. Things you had learned along the way. Right?”
“Just some ideas,” Billy said. “Mostly things that happened in Denmark, some people…”
Hollister interrupted him. “No. There are some other things. Things that Newcomb knows about. Or thinks he knows. He told me a little bit last year. When I snagged Elizabeth’s papers. At the time, it didn’t seem right to share. Hey, confidential, my investigation and his personal business, why he borrowed the papers.” Hollister cleared his throat. “And if you’re going to add more to the story, you have to maybe check out what Newcomb knows and get Elizabeth to tell what she knows. It might be important to the story. To the truth of the story. The real story.”
“There’s no real story!” Newcomb’s sudden shouted whisper, a hiss. “There’s no story! I just need to know!” He touched his clenched fist lightly on the desktop, in time to his words. “I just! Need! To know!” Wide eyes. Panic. “About her fear. Something about wonder. And release! From a prison! And who was there? In Bethlehem!”
There is another story. Hidden from view. But it’s there. In the heart.
*loosely translated: “when my heart died“