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Chapter One Four months later. November, another Friday. Manhattan, New York, New York. A young saxophone player named Lonnie Blake was doing a gig at a place on Ninth Avenue.
It wasn't much of a place. There wasn't much of a crowd in the small hours. Three or four people were at the wooden bar. Four or five more were lounging at the small round tables. Almost everyone there was young but almost everyone looked sort of pale and specterly, glazed and wander-eyed as if they'd gotten lost somehow on their way to the happening thing. One doofus in the corner was actually wearing sunglasses -- he was dressed in black and wearing sunglasses and bobbing his head as if stoned on the music. The supply lines of hip, in other words, were stretched a little thin in here.
The place was called Renaissance. On the walls, running around the walls, there was a mural of Florence. The owner's girlfriend had painted it, copying a picture in a book she'd found at the Strand. The mural actually hadn't been too bad when she'd finished it. But about six months ago she and the owner had a fight. She hauled for San Francisco, and now her delicate blue firmament was chipping away and the intricate white-and-red skyline was starting to blur with grime.
Against that backdrop, up on a small stage smack in front of the fading Duomo, there was the band. A trio: keyboard, bass, saxophone. Fred Purcell, Arnie Cobb and Lonnie Blake.
Arthur Topp, meanwhile, was at the bar. He'd been sitting there for close to an hour. Nursing a scotch or three, listening to the music. Watching Lonnie.
The trio was playing standards mostly, Jurassic classics. "Night and Day,""Always," "Savoy," that kind of thing. They were snapping their fingers and saying "Yeah" a lot to make the crowd think they were really wailing. But so far, Arthur hadn't heard anything that excited him at all.
Arthur was a white man. Small and thin, forty. Bald up top but with his fringe of black hair grown long and tied into a ponytail. His pullover red shirt looked expensive and made him stand out here. And his gold watch made him stand out. He'd inherited the watch from his father. He dressed to look more prosperous than he was.
He went on scoping Lonnie with quick, dark eyes. He tapped his hand impatiently on the bar.
The saxophone player had skill. Arthur could see that, hear that. Lonnie had fast fingers, a smooth, controlled tone. His jams were flawless too; he could find his way out of the melody and back with precision. But it was pretty uninspired stuff, Arthur thought. The same old tired barroom riffs. The kind of drone you could hear anywhere.
Arthur glanced at his father's Rolex. Nearly 1 A.M. The last set was winding up. The band was preparing to stand down. Arthur felt ready to write this one off, to pay his check and bail.
But just then, just as he was turning to flag the bartender, something happened.
Here it was. Last song. "Haunted Heart." The trio was swinging into the finish. Fred Purcell, the keyboard player, nodded for Lonnie to take the break. The saxman blew into his final solo. Only the bass kept a three-note rhythm line behind him.
Arthur Topp paused. He listened. Nothing at first. Same-old same-old. The bridge embellished with a few smeared grace notes, a couple of ornamental mordents. A chromatic fill where a rest had been to make it sound like a genuine jam.
The doofus in the sunglasses was impressed. He slapped his hand down on his table. "Man!" he said, swinging his head back and forth.
Arthur Topp stifled a yawn in his fist. Lonnie Blake was sleep-walking the baby, he thought. Same as he had been all night.
Then -- then, all at once -- that changed. Lonnie was floating up some fake-out scale, going through the motions, floating up and up, one note after another -- and then he held there, held dully in the low reaches as if tied to an invisible tether. One note, bobbing, tethered and leaden, bobbing until it threatened to become a miserable drone...
And then -- then, all at once -- the tether snapped.
Suddenly -- Arthur was watching him, astonished -- suddenly, there was Lonnie, bent back against the painted sky, against the painted dome. The sax was uplifted, a Selmer Mark VI, a fine machine, glistening in his long fingers. And he was blowing that thing. He was wailing. His dark lips were kissing the hard black rubber of the mouthpiece. He was whispering over the reed with a sort of Miles Davis vu that filled the mellow blue tenor with a ghosty nothing...
And up on that empty breath he flew, glissing his way to a high riff of incredible Coltrane sixteenths, peaking in a seamless vibrato, a barely trembling leap from pitch to pitch.
Oh, thought Arthur Topp. Oh, oh, oh.
Then came another held note, but this one singing, a singing E-flat floating like a yogi in the impossible air. Then a shake, that quick trill with the lips, and then just as the note had to fall, still another shake -- and then it did fall, it plummeted, bam, and like a rush of warm wind, the keyboard and the bass swept in under it and Lonnie wafted back -- just wafted back -- down into the melody. And the trio polished off the song.
Purcell, a gray-haired elder, looked around from his keyboard, surprised. "All right," he said.
Arthur Topp clapped and whistled. The doofus slapped the table again. A few other people let go of their drinks long enough to flop their hands together.
Purcell and Cobb, keyboard and bass, nodded, smiling slightly.
Lonnie Blake turned his back on all of them. The show was over.
Copyright © 1999 by Amalgamated Metaphor, Inc.
Posted October 16, 2000
This book is great! Action-packed thriller that keeps you turning the pages until the very end. Filled with suspense, drama and true-to-life details, Hunting Down Amanda is one of the best fiction books written in a very long time.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 31, 2000
And in the next moment, it began to rain fire.' So begins the new novel, HUNTING DOWN AMANDA, by Andrew Klavan. In an act of sabotage, a 747 jet explodes over Hunnicut, Massachusetts, raining down large pieces of airplane debris, fuel that is on fire, and numerous dead bodies, nearly destroying the small town and the people who live in it. While this is happening, five-year-old Amanda Dodson wanders off into a nearby wooded field after the force of the explosion kills her baby-sitter. Amanda see the dead body of airplane passenger, Frederick Chubbs, lying on the ground, and she miraculously brings him back to life with the touch of her hand. When frantic Carol Dodson finds her daughter being carried out of the burning woods by Chubbs, she instinctively knows that it is time to run again, for the people at Helix Pharmaceuticals will find out about this miracle in Hunnicut and come after them. Several years before, Amanda's father was involved in genetic experiments at Helix. This led to a change in his body chemistry. He passed on to his daughter the ability to heal people with the touch of her hand, but it doesn't come without a price. Every time Amanda heals someone, it literally drains the life right out of her, and in time it will eventually kill her. Now, Helix Pharmaceuticals is after the little girl. If they can get her, it could mean billions of dollars to them. To insure that this happens, Helix has hired a team of international killers, led by Edmund Winter, to track down Amanda and to eliminate anyone who gets in their way. The only thing they haven't counted on is the appearance of Lonnie Blake into the equation. Lonnie is a man who can create pure magic on his saxophone, but the death of his wife eighteen months before, has left him lost and tormented. One lone night, after finishing a gig at a nearby nightclub, Carol Dodson steps into his life, and he hides her from Winter's men. In exchange for this act of kindness, Carol assumes the role of his dead wife for the evening and makes love to him. For a short amount of time, Lonnie is able to forget the pain and emptiness that have filled him for so long. The next day Carol is gone, but Lonnie can't get her out of his mind. Against his better judgment, he decides to find her and maybe to express the feelings that he is experiencing from their encounter together. Unfortunately, what he finds is himself caught in the middle between Carol and the team of killers, and it is all he can do to just stay alive. As Lonnie tries to keep ahead of Winter and his men, and to get to Carol before they do, other people are laying down their lives to protect Amanda. In the end, Lonnie Blake will once again find true meaning in his life and be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, if necessary, to save a little girl who puts her own life on the line every time she heals someone. HUNTING DOWN AMANDA is a fast-paced thriller that grabs you by the seat of your pants and won't let go till the last page. Andrew Klavan shows that he is able to create scenes that make the hairs stand up on your arms. The exploding 747 and the near-destruction of Hunnicut, is so well written that it will stay in your mind for days. His style of writing is also smooth and easy to read, and you will probably finish this book in a few hours. Needless to say, like TRUE CRIME and DON'T SAY A WORD, Mr. Klavan has another winner to be proud of. I certainly see 'movie adaptation' written all over this novel, and would love to see it on the big screen.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.