Cliff Walk: A Liam Mulligan Novel

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Authors: Bruce DeSilva
that,” he said. “If I thought they was…” He clenched his fist and shot a right jab past my ear.
    “One more question.”
    “Still off the, uh…”
    “Off the record. Right.”
    “Ever heard the Maniellas or anybody who works for them mention a guy named Charles Wayne?”
    “Who the fuck is that?”

    The Brown University Medical School’s official name is the Warren Alpert Medical School. Despite what it says on the stationery, nobody calls it that. Aside from getting sick and dying, Alpert didn’t have anything to do with medicine. He was the founder of Xtra Mart, a convenience store chain that keeps America hooked on nicotine, caffeine, and high-fructose corn syrup. But he gave the medical school a hundred million dollars a couple of months before his death.
    Dr. Charles B. Wayne, the school’s dean of medicine and biological sciences, had an office on the third floor of the Metcalf Infant Research Laboratory just off Waterman Street. I had no reason to think he was connected to the Maniellas, but outing a Brown honcho as a pedophile would make a hell of a story.
    I found a parking spot across from the building and saw that the front door was blocked by a knot of people waving hand-lettered picket signs: “Brown Trains Abortionists.” “Thank God for Abortion Clinic Bombers.” “God Hates Brown.” “God Hates Rhode Island.” “God Hates America.” And just so everything was covered: “God Hates the World.”
    As I started up the walk, a lean septuagenarian in a porkpie hat and a long black coat separated himself from the group, tottered up to me, and placed a skeletal hand on my shoulder. He reminded me of Reverend Kane, the creepy old man played by Julian Beck in Poltergeist II . For a moment, I was afraid he was going to deliver the scariest line in the movie: “Are you lost, sweetheart? Are you ’fraid, honey? Well then, why don’t you come with me?”
    What he did say wasn’t much better: “Do not enter this house of evil, brother. Heed my words or you will be doomed to eternal hellfire.”
    “Thanks for the heads-up,” I said, and brushed by him.
    He yanked my shoulder with unexpected strength and spun me back to him. “Pray with me,” he said, “and let us save your immortal soul.”
    “Don’t go to any trouble on my account,” I said. “It’s too late for me anyway.”
    “It’s never too late to turn your back on Satan and return to the righteous path, brother.”
    I extended my hand, and he shook it. “My name is Mulligan,” I said, “and you must be Reverend Lucas Crenson of the Sword of God. I’ve seen your picture in the paper.”
    “At your service,” he said, removing his hat to display a few wisps of white hair on a shiny bald pate. Then he honored me with a theatrical bow from the waist. Gee. I guess he’d seen the movie, too.
    “Look, Reverend,” I said, “I don’t work in there. I’m a reporter for the Dispatch. I’m going inside to see if I can expose the evils that lurk within.”
    “Don’t you lie to me, boy!”
    “It’s the truth. I swear.”
    “On your soul?”
    “On my immortal soul,” I said, although I wasn’t sure I had one.
    “Then you shall be allowed to pass.”
    “Thank you, Reverend,” I said. “Say, do you think I could attend your service some Sunday? I’d like to hear you preach.”
    “Most certainly,” he said. “Anyone seeking the path of righteousness is welcome in God’s house.”
    He turned to his picketers, spread his arms as if he were parting the waters, and smiled benignly as they opened a path for me. As I passed them, I counted five grown-ups, three kids who should have been in school, and two more who weren’t old enough for it yet.
    I took the elevator to the third floor, strolled down a corridor, peeked through the glass in the door to Dr. Wayne’s outer office, and saw a blonde sitting behind a computer on an otherwise clean desk. The nameplate on it read “Peggi Simmons,

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