He no longer believes this, though. Consideration has shown him its weaknesses and ultimate insignificance. The question and its answer mean little. What matters, what Zane was unable to seehe was an impulsive man was Zaneis in the removing of the question from the mind entirely, and replacing it with certainty.
There is no God.
You walk alone in the darkness.
To prove this, to imprint it in the mind so deeply that no alternative can so much as flicker, is the goal. This is power, pure as it comes.
Bring him the hopeful and he will leave them hopeless. Bring him the strong and he will leave them broken. Bring him the full and he will leave them empty.
The prophet's goal is simple. When the final scream in the night comes, whoever issues it will be certain of one thing:
No one hears.
What he has been promised in Chambers, Ohio, is strength and resiliency. He has looked into a confident man's eyes and heard his assurance that there is no fear that will not bow to his faith.
The prophet of hard times, who has looked into many a confident gaze in his day, has his doubts about that.
ADAM HAD HIS SHIRT LIFTED, studying the lead-colored bruise along his ribcage, when the girl opened the door. She turned her head in swift horror, as if she'd caught him crouched on his desk in the nude. He gave the bruise one more look, frowning, and then lowered his shirt.
"Want a lesson for the day?"
The girl, a brunette with very tan skintoo tan for this time of the year in this part of the worldturned back hesitantly and didn't speak.
"If you're going to tell a drunk man that it's time to go back to jail, you ought to see that the pool cue is out of his hand first," Adam told her.
She parted her lips, then closed them again.
"Not your concern," Adam said. "Sorry. Come on in."
She stepped forward and let the door swing shut. When the latch clicked, she glanced backward, as if worried about being trapped in here with him.
Husband is a good decade older than her, Adam thought. He hasn't hit her, at least not yet or at least not recently, but he's the kind who might. The charges probably aren't domestic. Let's say, oh, drunk and disorderly. It won't be costly to get him out. Not in dollars, at least.
He walked behind the desk, then extended a hand and said, "Adam Austin."
Another hesitation, and then she reached forward and took his hand. Her eyes dropped to his knuckles, which were swollen and scabbed. When she removed her hand, he saw that she was wearing bright red nail polish with some sort of silver glitter worked into it.
"My name's April."
"All right." He dropped into the leather swivel chair behind the desk, trying not to wince at the pain in his side. "Somebody you care about in a little trouble, April?"
She tilted her head. "What?"
"I assume you're looking to post a bond."
She shook her head. "No. That's not it." She was holding a folder in her free hand, and now she lifted it and held it against her chest while she sat in one of the two chairs in front of the desk. It was a bright blue folder, plastic and shiny.
"No?" The sign said AA BAIL BONDS. People who came to see him came for a reason.
"Look, um, you're the detective, right?"
The detective. He did indeed hold a PI license. He did not recall ever being referred to as "the detective" before.
"I'm yeah. I do that kind of work."
He didn't think he was even listed in the phone book as a private investigator. He was just AA Bail Bonds, which covered both his initials and gave him pole position in the Yellow Pages as people with shaking hands turned pages seeking help.
The girl didn't say anything, but looked down at that shiny folder as if it held the secrets of her life. Adam, touching his left side gingerly with his fingertips, still trying to assess whether the ribs were bruised or cracked, said, "What exactly brought you here, April?"
Excerpted from The Prophet by Michael Koryta. Copyright © 2012 by Michael Koryta. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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