Ghost Musicby Graham Masterton
When Gideon, a successful composer, travelled to Europe with Kate for a romantic affair, he was expecting passion and excitement, not a journey into a nightmare. Yet whenever Kate introduces Gideon to any of her friends, he sees horrifying visions, ghastly images of their torture, murder, or worse. With each glimpse of hell Gideon realizes that nothing&
When Gideon, a successful composer, travelled to Europe with Kate for a romantic affair, he was expecting passion and excitement, not a journey into a nightmare. Yet whenever Kate introduces Gideon to any of her friends, he sees horrifying visions, ghastly images of their torture, murder, or worse. With each glimpse of hell Gideon realizes that nothing—and no one—around him is what they seem. But what are they really? And what do they want from him?
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By Graham Masterton
Severn House Publishers LimitedCopyright © 2008 Graham Masterton
All rights reserved.
As she followed her husband down the front steps, she turned her head and looked up at me, and I was so taken by her smile that I totally failed to notice what was so unusual about her. Nearly three months would pass before I realized what it was, but when I did, it would make me feel like my whole world had collapsed, like some shoddily built stage set.
She was slight and thin-wristed, with ash-blonde hair that was cut in a very straight bob. She was wearing a short-sleeved blouse, in the palest of yellows, and high-waisted gray slacks. But it was that mischievous smile that got me – and the way her eyes narrowed a little, as if we already shared a secret.
'Hey, Lalo, where does this thing go?' called Margot, from the kitchenette.
'What thing?' I asked her, still watching the woman as she crossed the street.
'This thing that looks like a fire extinguisher.'
'That's no fire extinguisher. That's my batter dispenser.'
Margot came through to the living room, holding up the shiny metal gadget in disbelief. 'Your batter dispenser?'
'Sure. I couldn't live without it. It makes sure that every pancake is perfectly circular. They still taste like latex, but they're perfectly circular.'
'Lalo, you stun me sometimes. You really stun me.'
It was a warm afternoon in the first week of September, on St Luke's Place, opposite James J. Walker Park in Greenwich Village – a row of fine Italianate brownstones, with ironwork railings and pillared doorways, and even gas lamps outside. I was leaning out of my window on the second floor, with a cold bottle of Michelob Amber, taking a five-minute chill from putting up shelves.
I had moved into this apartment three days ago, but even with Margot to help me I was seriously beginning to believe that I would never get the place straight. The hallway was blocked with three tea chests full of books and music scores and pictures and orange enamel saucepans. The bedroom was wedged with suitcases bulging with clothes and cardboard boxes full of towels and CDs. I had never realized that I owned so much stuff. As my dad used to say, 'You can't have everything, son. Where would you put it?'
Margot twisted open a bottle of beer and came to the window to join me. She was short, dark and pretty in a heart-shaped Betty Boop way, with flicked-up hair and enormous brown eyes. She was wearing oversized Oshkosh dungarees and a tight pink-striped T-shirt, and fluorescent pink Crocs. She made me feel more like her big brother than ever, although she was at least six months older than I was, and in some ways, she was a whole lot wiser.
Margot and I had been friends ever since our first day at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. We had simply liked each other the moment we had bumped into each other by the noticeboard, and I had asked Margot if I could borrow her pencil. In the spring of 2005 there had been several weekends when our affection for each other had grown so strong that we had been only a heartbeat away from becoming lovers, but by the time I had managed to disentangle myself from Cindy the PMT Pianist (as Margot used to call her), Margot had started dating a nostril-flaring Cuban dancer called Esteban, and so we had never managed to get much more intimate than sprawling on a couch, drinking red wine and listening to Beethoven piano concertos and old Dire Straits albums. Now we knew each other so well that going to bed together would have felt like incest.
'I just saw the people downstairs,' I told her.
'Oh, yes? What are they like?'
'Mid-thirties, I'd say. Smart-conservative. Well-heeled.'
'Well, you have to be very well-heeled to live here. You have to have diamonds on the soles of your shoes. Unlike East Thirteenth Street.'
'Your loft is wonderful. It's like Narnia.'
'Sure it is. Teeming with intelligent rodents.'
I said, 'How about I take you to the Cafe Cluny tonight, as a thank you for everything you've done?'
Margot looked around the apartment, with its high white ceilings and its shining oak floors. 'You know, Lalo, what this place badly needs is a woman. In fact, what you badly need is a woman. Man cannot live by composing TV scores alone, even if he does have perfectly circular pancakes.'
I looked across at her. The trees outside made leaf patterns dance on her cheek. 'I have you, don't I?'
'Of course you do. But you need passion. You need danger. You need somebody who washes dishes in the nude.'CHAPTER 2
I met her for the first time two days later, when I was climbing the stairs with a sackful of groceries from Sushila's. She was standing on the landing outside my apartment door with a fluffy white Persian cat in her arms. The expression on her face was curiously dreamy, but as I came up the stairs toward her she turned to me and smiled, almost as if she had been expecting me. I caught a hint of her perfume, very light and flowery, but I didn't recognize what it was.
'Hi, there,' I said. 'Were you looking for me?'
'I was looking for Malkin, as a matter of fact. She gets very inquisitive whenever somebody new moves in. She wants to know all about them.'
Close up, she looked younger than she had when I had first seen her on the steps outside. Twenty-nine maybe, just touching thirty. She had a delicate, finely drawn face, as if she had elvish blood on one side of her family. Her eyes were as gray as rain clouds, and slightly hooded. The muted sunlight on the landing made her ash-blonde hair gleam silver. See? I had known her for less than thirty seconds and already I was waxing poetic.
'Gideon,' I said, shifting my grocery bag to my left arm, and holding out my hand. 'Gideon Lake, but most of my friends call me Lalo.'
'It's after Lalo Schifrin, who wrote the music for Jaws and Mission Impossible. That's what I do. Write music for movies and TV and stuff like that. Well, commercials, too. "Come on home, come on ho-o-ome, to your family and your friends ... just one taste of Thom's will take you home again." You know ... Thom's Tomato Soup.'
The woman didn't stop smiling, but she shook her head.
'You never heard it?' I said. 'You must be the only person on the planet who hasn't. My mom says she's going to strangle me for writing it, she can't get it out of her head.'
Just as I had shifted my grocery bag from one arm to the other, the woman shifted her cat, and held out her hand. 'Katherine – Katherine Solway – but do call me Kate. Pleased to know you, Gideon. I hope you're going to be very happy here.'
I unlocked my front door. 'Would you like to come in for a drink? I haven't finished sorting the place out yet, but I'm getting there.'
'I'd love to,' said Kate. 'Thank you. You don't mind if Malkin comes in, too? You're not allergic?'
'Of course not. I'm only allergic to John Williams compositions, and wasps.'
My living room was already beginning to look West Village-elegant, thanks to Margot's talent for interior decoration. She had arranged my two pale-blue antique sofas so that they were facing each other, and two spoon-back chairs at angles to the main window. In the center of the floor there was an oval blue rug, and a low table of lime-washed oak with a statuette of Pan on it, skipping through the reeds by the river.
On one wall there was a large gilt-framed mirror; and on the opposite wall hung a magical-realist oil painting of two women in pink bathing suits standing in a blue desert, signed 'Jared French.'
Kate set Malkin down on the floor. The cat shook herself and started to pad around the apartment, sniffing at the furniture.
'Have you lived here for long?' I asked.
Kate went to the window and looked out over the park. I could just make out her transparent reflection in the glass. 'It depends what you mean by "long". Longer than I should have done, I suppose.'
'I see,' I said, although I didn't. 'What would you like to drink? I have iced tea, or Zinfandel, or beer. I even have Dr Pepper.'
'Zinfandel would be nice. Did you know that Jared French used to live here once?'
'The realtor told me. That's why I bought a Jared French painting. I almost lost consciousness, though, when I found out how much they were asking for it.'
'All of the houses in this row have their ghosts,' she said, raising her voice so that I could hear her. 'Theodore Dreiser lived next door at number sixteen – that's where he started to write An American Tragedy. Sherwood Anderson lived at number twelve. Jared French shared this house with Paul Cadmus. He was another artist. Both gay, of course. Paul Cadmus was always painting sailors in ridiculously tight pants.'
I came back from the kitchenette with two large glasses of chilled white wine. 'Hey – I like places with ghosts. It makes you feel like you're part of history, you know? So long as I don't get goosed by some ice-cold finger when I'm taking a shower.'
'Oh, you don't have to worry about that. The ghosts in these houses are all at peace. Most of them, anyhow.'
'Glad to hear it. You haven't ever seen one, have you?'
'When we first moved here, I was sure that I heard somebody weeping, in one of the rooms up in the attic. A woman, it sounded like. But when I went up there and knocked on the door, nobody answered.'
'It was probably the wind, that was all. This house can be very drafty, in the winter.'
We sat for a moment in silence. I had an odd feeling that Kate wanted to tell me something, but didn't know how to say it. She kept glancing at me, but when I looked back at her, she gave that secretive little smile and sipped her wine.
'You don't have children?' I asked her. 'I haven't heard any children, anyhow. No skateboards in the hallway.'
'We did once. A little boy. But we lost him.'
'I'm so sorry. I didn't realize.' I felt terrible. Talk about opening my mouth and putting both feet in it, Nikes and all.
But she said, 'No, please, don't feel bad about it. It was a long time ago now, and you weren't to know.' She paused, and then she said, 'I wanted to try again, but Victor was too angry about it.'
'I don't know. Angry with God. Angry with the doctors. Just angry.'
I nodded, although I didn't entirely understand what she meant. You feel grief-stricken when your child dies. But angry?
'I would have loved to have a little girl,' Kate told me.
'Oh, yes. I would have named her Melinda. I could have dressed her up in frilly frocks, and fussed with her braids, and taught her how to bake chocolate-chip cookies.'
'Wow. It's not too late, though, surely? Maybe you could twist Victor's arm.'
'Victor's arm is untwistable. Besides – it's always too late.'
I didn't really understand what she meant by that either, but she didn't seem interested in discussing the subject any further, and so I left my next question unspoken.
'How about you?' she asked me, after a while. 'Do you like to travel?'
'Travel? Are you kidding me? I hate to travel. I have to go to LA every month, to work at Capitol Studios. I can't wait for them to invent a Star Trek transporter. You know – step into one cabinet in New York, step out of another cabinet ten seconds later in LA. Mind you – knowing my luck, I'd have a fly in there with me.'
'I didn't mean that kind of travel. I meant Europe. You know – Rome, and Vienna, and Prague.'
'Oh, like culture? Well – I was in London once, for a week, but that was for work, too. I saw the inside of a post-production studio in Soho, and that was about it. I didn't even get to see Buckingham Palace.'
'You should travel,' she said. 'It's good for you – good for the soul. And you can learn so much. The further away you go, the more you discover about what you've left behind.'
I waited for her to explain what she had discovered, but she didn't say any more. I distinctly felt that we were talking at cross-purposes – either that, or she expected me to understand something about her that should have been obvious, but which I couldn't fathom at all. Everything she said made perfect sense, but somehow it didn't make any sense at all. It was like she was carrying on a different conversation altogether, or else she was speaking in riddles. It was strangely provocative, as if she were flirting with me, but it was frustrating at the same time. Maybe she didn't want Malkin the cat to know what she was telling me. Maybe Malkin would report back to Victor – he of the untwistable arm.
'More wine?' I asked her, although she had taken only three or four sips. 'How about some potato chips? I have sea salt or jalapeño or something herby.'
Again she shook her head. 'Tell me something you've written,' she said.
'Well ... the theme music for Magician. Did you ever see Magician? That's the cop who used to be a stage magician, and he solves all of his crimes with conjuring tricks.'
'Yes, I think I saw Magician once. I can't say that I remember the theme music.'
I leaned over and picked up my Spanish guitar, which was leaning against the end of the sofa. I gave it a strum, and then played her that soft, eerie, complicated melody, which rose higher and higher with every bar.
'That was very good,' Kate nodded, when I had given her a final flourish. 'That was almost beautiful.'
'Debussy is beautiful. Delius is beautiful. That, on the other hand, was a little too commercial for its own good.'
'Hey, be fair. Debussy and Delius didn't have to pitch their music to Jerry Bruckheimer.'
Kate laughed, and even when she had finished laughing her eyes were filled with that same shared intimacy that I had seen on the steps outside. She didn't look away, she didn't blink. Instead, she stared at me as if she wanted to remember for ever how I looked this afternoon.
'Do you mind if I ask how old are you?'
'Thirty-one,' I told her. 'I know I look older. My hair started going gray when I was twenty-six. It's hereditary.'
'I like it. It makes you look as if I can trust you.'
'You think so? I guess that kind of depends.'
She didn't ask me what I meant. I think both of us knew that she didn't really have to. She continued looking at me for another long moment, and then she turned toward the painted wall clock next to the mirror, with its frantically swinging pendulum, and she glanced at her wristwatch, too. 'I have to be going, I'm afraid.'
'You're cooking dinner?'
'Oh, no. It's too late for that, too.'
'You could always get take-out. They do a great arroz con pollo at Little Havana. The chef will give you free tostones if you flutter your eyelashes at him.'
Either she wasn't listening or else she didn't like Cuban food or maybe she was a vegetarian, because she stood up without saying a word.
'Do you work?' I asked her. 'Or are you usually free during the day?'
'I'm a magazine designer. I do fashion layouts for Harper's. Well, I used to. Not any more.'
'So – at the moment – you're free?'
'It depends on your definition of "free".'
'Well ... if I said to you, come up again tomorrow around twelve, and I'll make you some lunch, and play you some more of my almost-beautiful music, there wouldn't be anything to stop you?'
Kate said nothing, but continued to stare at me. Her stare was so penetrating that I began to feel light-headed, as if I had drunk too many tequila slammers. But Malkin started to scrabble at the tassels that hung from one of the spoon-back chairs, and I turned and called, 'Hey, kitty! Cut it out, will you!' and that broke the spell.
Malkin trotted across to Kate like a scolded kid, and Kate knelt down to pick her up.
I said, 'Listen ... I understand you're married and everything. All I'm asking you to do is come up and eat some salad. Working on my own all day ... it almost turns me into a gibbering loony sometimes.'
'OK,' she said. She held up her hand so that I could help her back up on to her feet. Once she was standing, though, she didn't let go. 'You shouldn't worry about Victor. Victor is a very strong character who believes that he owns the world. He wouldn't imagine for a single moment that I would betray him.'
I was very tempted to ask, would you betray him? More to the point, would you betray him with me? But it was a little too soon to be asking questions like that. I definitely felt that Kate found me interesting; but maybe she was bored, and she was teasing me for her own amusement. Every minute that went by, I noticed things about her that were increasingly attractive: the tilt of her nose, the way the sunlight shone on the upward curve of her lips, the faint blue veins in her wrists. But she had a guarded side to her, a prickly defensiveness, and I suspected that she was capable of putting down any man she didn't like – in public, too.
'Right,' I said, releasing her hand. 'If you don't think that I should worry about Victor, I won't worry about Victor. How do you like tuna, with Chinese cabbage salad?'
'Sounds delicious. I'm sure that Malkin would adore it, too. I'd better not bring her, in case she's a nuisance.'
Excerpted from Ghost Music by Graham Masterton. Copyright © 2008 Graham Masterton. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Graham Masterton's first novel, "The Manitou," was a bestseller and an instant classic and was made into a feature film. Masterton has won an Edgar Award and France's prestigious Prix Julia Verglanger. Several of his stories have been adapted for television.
Masterton's more than one hundred novels include "Charnel House, The Chosen Child," and "Maiden Voyage" (a" New York Times" bestseller). He has written for adults, young adults, and children and edited several anthologies. Earlier in his career, Masterton edited men's magazines, including "Penthouse," He has written a number nonfiction books on sex, including "How to Drive Your Man Wild in Bed," which has sold more than three million copies.
Masterton and his wife, Wiescka, live in Ireland.
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Moving into a new and very expensive apartment, Gideon Lake (known as Lalo), glimpses his neighbor leaving the building with her husband and is immediately smitten. Upon meeting her face to face he invites her to lunch in his apartment and their affair begins, quickly moving onto a trip to Europe together. And this is where it all started to get a bit unreal for me. I’m sure there are some fools in the world that would just jaunt off to Europe (alone, they don’t travel together) and go straight to a random address and let themselves in, but most of us just wouldn’t. Whether it is the author’s intention or not, right from the beginning I knew what Gideon didn’t – and it made me want to reach through the pages and throttle him. And when he finally ‘got it’ in the middle section of the book, he didn’t exactly react in the way I thought he should. That said, Ghost Music is a well written book - Gideon as a character is well-drawn even if he is a little slow on the uptake and the events that Gideon sees are spooky and more than a little disturbing. The dialogue is convincing and the story kept my attention the whole way through the book. The ending of Ghost Music may not be to everyone’s tastes, it is quite quick and may feel a little rushed to some readers but if you’ve already guessed all the twists and how it’s going to end there’s no need to have it drawn out further, so perhaps that was the author’s intention all along. A good, solid read.