The Night Villa

The Night Villa by Carol Goodman

Book: The Night Villa by Carol Goodman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carol Goodman
May.
    The words
Papyrus Project Internship Interviews
are printed in the box for May 14. Charles said that he saw Ely on May 15, which had been the day his vow of silence ended. So if Ely had wanted to warn me about Dale Henry…
    It’s absurd. Even if Ely had known that a crazed gunman was targeting one of my students, which required him to know more about my present life than an initiate of a cloistered community would have any obvious way of knowing, would he really be satisfied with as cryptic a warning as coded telephone rings?
    “No,” I think, touching the cover of Phineas Aulus’s
Athenian Nights.
No doubt the gift was part of some twelve-step program for completion of the initiation process.
Return all worldly goods wrongly borrowed,
or some such ridiculous dictum. Ely was probably just trying to purge himself of any reminder of me. The good thing, I tell myself, is that if Ely felt the necessity of sending the book back with Charles, then chances are he’s not planning on coming back to Austin.
    Unless the book was some kind of advance calling card announcing his imminent arrival.
    I’m startled out of this alarming train of thought by the sound of a loud thump that comes from the back of the house. I get up and walk quickly through the kitchen and my bedroom looking for the source of the noise but find nothing. It must have come from the study. I stand in front of the closed door, chiding myself for the ridiculous idea that has popped into my head: Ely is in there. Released from his five-year vow of silence, he’s come back to me. I’m his mission.
    And even though I should be frightened, especially if Dale Henry was involved with the Tetraktys, the electric charge surging up through my core is more excitement than fear.
    I open the door onto an empty room. My books are as I left them, the pile of typescript beside my laptop undisturbed. The laptop is glowing the tranquil blue of the screensaver. The only addition to the scene is a faint rust-colored smear across the glass window above my desk.
    I take a step closer to examine the pale red tint. It looks like blood. I look down and see, on the ground just beneath my window, a melee of black feathers over the crumpled corpse of an enormous black crow. Clearly the sound I heard was its death crash into my study window. Even after I’ve donned a pair of leather gardening gloves and bagged the bird’s broken body, I keep remembering what crows stand for in Greek mythology. They’re psychopomps—messengers sent to lead the soul into the underworld. I find it hard to dismiss the totally irrational thought that the crow, along with the book, is another calling card from Ely.
             
    That night I dream of Ely again, but it’s hardly like a dream at all; it’s more like an appointment Ely’s been waiting to keep with me. The place he’s chosen is his childhood bedroom in the split-level Cape Cod where his parents live in HoHoKus, New Jersey—a room I slept in for three nights five and a half years ago, but which apparently I’ve remembered down to its last detail. It’s been waiting here inside my head, a time bubble, exact down to the burnt umber shade of the carpet and the Styrofoam model of the solar system hanging from the light fixture in the ceiling.
    We’d gone for Rosh Hashanah, which fell a week before the fall semester began. It was my last-ditch effort to talk Ely out of going to the Tetraktys community in New Mexico. I’d thought that if we went back to his parents’ house in New Jersey they’d be able to talk some sense into him. Instead, by the end of those three nights—three nights I spent lying awake on a narrow bed staring up at the pitted Styrofoam surface of Neptune—I knew why he was going.
    Ely had lost his brother when he was ten. It was one of the links that Ely believed held us together, that we had both lost someone important to us when we were the same age. I had often resented how my grandparents had tried to

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