There’s a lot of ground to cover in these chapters, as events themselves move quickly, Parker often learns of them at second-hand, and Parker is more or less keeping pace with the reader when it comes to revelations about the plot that is unfolding. He starts by tracking own Grace’s friend Ali Wynn, a perky Goth girl who broke off contact with Grace when Grace’s obsession with the Aroostock Baptists became unhealthy. Parker then also learns of the death of Rabbi Josef Epstein, whom he had seen at the Mercier home, and was prominent in anti-Nazi and anti-racism movements, and was part of a legal challenge to the Fellowship’s tax-exempt status. Shortly thereafter, Curtis Pelletier is killed as well.
Parker is then summoned into the presence of Al Z, who explains that he sicced Parker on Pudd because Pudd’s activities have not only made him enemies amongst the mob, but because even their low moral standards are offended by Pudd, but Al cannot be seen to move against him without initiating a full war between the mob and the people Pudd works for. Al refers him to a retired Jewish mobster named Mickey Shine, and warns Parker that a Jewish hitman named The Golem has been hired to kill Pudd as a response to the death of Rabbi Epstein.
Shine mostly speaks around the question of Pudd when Parker talks to him, though he does have an idea of where Pudd’s home base is, or at least was: somewhere in the north of Maine, in the woods, near a lighthouse. But Shine does further the notion that Pudd, and men like him, are not actually human, but hollow things with some kind of spirit of malice inside them. That night at the opera, Pudd kills Al Z and his bodyguard while Parker and Rachel just happen to be coincidentally there. Shine goes into hiding, but agrees to meet Parker at the Cloisters-a museum housing medieval exhibits-that he says will explain what Pudd and the Fellowship are after. At the same time, The Golem arrives and kills Lester Bargus, Pudd’s spider-dealer and a gun-dealer for militia groups, who had earlier refused to give any info to Parker. This leaves Parker caught in the middle of two professional killers working towards each other.
The Cloisters exhibit features a collection of illuminated manuscripts featuring Apocalypses, illustrations of the Book of Revelations. The exact import of this isn’t clear, but the central exhibit featuring an illustration of a spider-like demon who inscribes the names of the damned provides something of a clue. Things go to hell, though, when on the Cloisters grounds Parker encounters Pudd and his sister and learns they have killed Shine and left his head in a nearby tree. A gunfight ensues, and Parker is saved by a quietly tagging along Louis, who manages to wound but not kill Pudd. An excerpt from Grace’s thesis provides (along with details of the ongoing deterioration of the Aroostock Baptist colony over both Faulkner’s authoritarian rule and the questionable and violent behavior of his children and the disintegration of Elizabeth Jessop’s marriage) the reader with the timely information that Faulkner’s main claim to fame was in the construction of hand-made Apocalypses, all marked with an omega symbol-which Parker had noted in the Mercier library.
Deborah Mercier then visits Parker at home and attempts to bribe Parker into dropping the case. He learns that Deborah, out of bitterness over her husband’s relationship with Grace, steered her in the direction of the Fellowship. Parker speaks to Jack Mercier and tells him about his wife’s involvement with Grace’s death and also learns that a new Faulkner Apocalypse was sold at auction by Carter Paragon, proving not only that Faulkner is alive, but that the Fellowship is connected to him, which set in motion to legal challenges of Mercier, Beck and Epstein. Mercier then formally fires Parker.
Parker’s next stop is The Colony, the religious commune he dried out at after the death of his wife and daughter, where he speaks to Dave and Amy, liberal Christians who just coincidentally happen to be acquainted with both Pudd and the Fellowship. (Okay, I’m inclined to accept a certain degree of coincidence in mystery novels-you only have so many pages and exposition has to happen some how. And while I can see a group of liberal evangelicals butting heads with the Fellowship from time to time, their connections and knowledge of Pudd require a lot of suspension of disbelief. Either Pudd is a figure know to only a small group or he’s the infamous boogeyman of the religious extremist movement. He can’t be both.) In any case, what Parker leans is that the Fellowship is not only a front for extremist groups, but even that aspect is a front for a very small group with the misanthropic goal of wiping out all humanity for being sinful. Pudd usually adopts aliases drawn from demonology, and the Pudd name is a twisted tribute to an American arachnologist. He also learns that, several years earlier, the Travelling Man had come to the Colony and asked for information on Pudd and the Fellowship.
Along with Louis and Angel, Parker breaks into the Fellowship offices and finds them empty save for some right-wing pamphlets. They then head over to Carter Paragon’s house and find it mostly empty save for many boxes of guns and ammunition, apparently destined for militia groups. They also find the body of Carter Paragon, tied to a chair and seemingly tortured, with a shard of clay in his throat. Back at his home, Parker is visited by the Golem, who up close Parker can see is both badly burnt and bears a numbered tattoo on his wrist. The Golem warns Parker to stay out of his way as he makes his way through the Fellowship members towards Pudd. Later that night, after some prompting from Angel and Louis, Parker asks Rachel to move in with him.
One of the things I find interesting about Connolly’s books is that he seems interested in making the “badass” characters anything but WASPy. Yes, Parker’s the protagonist, but if we’re going to assign the characters some point on a scale of who you don’t want to mess with, while Parker is up there, Louis, the black gay conservative hitman, is definitely above him. And so I find the Golem an interesting addition to this mix. He’s a minor character, more of an impediment than an actual character, but a couple of small details not only tell us that he’s fairly dangerous, but sketch in his background to explain why he’s dangerous. Plus, the idea of a concentration camp survivor turned assassin, with a focus on killing anti-Semites, ranks up there with, well, black gay conservative hitman in terms of ideas you don’t see anywhere else.