Long Goneby Alafair Burke
When Alice Humphrey lands her dream job managing a new art gallery, it turns into a nightmare: She is framed for murder and left scrambling to find answers—some of which may have to do with long-hidden secrets involving her own family.See more details below
When Alice Humphrey lands her dream job managing a new art gallery, it turns into a nightmare: She is framed for murder and left scrambling to find answers—some of which may have to do with long-hidden secrets involving her own family.
“A fine novel of suspense by a powerful new young crime writer . . . brought to life by the audio format.”
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- Larger Print
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- 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)
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Long GoneA Novel
By Alafair Burke
HarperCollinsCopyright © 2011 Alafair Burke
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMost of the best things in life came to Alice organically. Not
because she asked. Not because she looked. Not because she
forced. They happened because she stumbled onto them. The high
f lying philosophical question of whether the pieces of her life fell
into place through luck, randomness, fate, or unconscious intuition
was way above her pay grade, but somehow things usually worked
out for her.
She ended up an art major because a course she took on the art
of Italian Renaissance courts turned out not to count toward her
declared history concentration. She wound up back in Manhattan
after college because she followed a boyfriend home. She'd found
her current apartment when she overheard a man sitting next to her
at a bar tell his friend that he'd been transferred to the Los Angeles
office and would have to break his lease. The opportunity Drew
Campbell handed to Alice came not only when she'd needed it
most, but also in a way that felt exactly as it shouldnatural,
discovered, meant to be.
The gallery was in the Fuller Building, one of her favorites. She
paused on her way in to admire the art deco features dotted generously
inside and out. The opening reception was the artist's first
public appearance in a decade, so she expected the exhibition to be
packed. Instead she found plenty of room to pace the spacious gallery,
wine glass in hand, as she leisurely studied the overlapping abstract
shapes, layered so meticulously on the canvases that it seemed
they might leap weightlessly from the wall and float away into the
She noticed him before he ever approached her, flipping through
the price list as he admired one of the larger works, a carnival scene
in oil. Beneath a few days of fashionable stubble, his face was very
severe in a way that was both handsome and out of place in a froufrou
gallery, but his clothing signaled he was in the right spot. She
watched him speak to the emaciated, black bunned woman she
recognized as the gallery's owner. She wondered what he'd be paying
for the canvas.
Alice was pleased when she felt him looking at her. Optimistic
enough to meet him halfway across the gallery, she paused in front
of an abstract of layered triangles and then smiled to herself as he
made his way over.
"It's a shame there aren't more people here," he said. "Drew
She returned the handshake and introduction.
"So, Alice, what are your theories about this dismal turnout?"
"It's crazy, right? You know some gallery down in Chelsea is
packed tonight for a gum-chewing punk just out of art school who
doodles celebrities. Meanwhile, this man could have been Jackson
Pollock, and it's like Mormon night at the vodka bar in here."
The artist, Phillip Lipton, was at one time a recognized figure in
the New York school of abstract expressionism, a contemporary of
Pollock, de Kooning, Rauschenberg, and Kline. Apparently none of
this was lost on her new acquaintance.
"I know an art dealer who used to represent him. You would not
believe the player the old man used to be. You've heard of picky guys
who only date skinny girls or blondes? Well, he supposedly only
dated ballerinas, and yetdespite that very narrow limitation
always managed to have a new nimble babe at his side each week.
There was a joke that he must have been fattening them all up with
steak and ice cream so the New York City ballet company would
have to replace them one by one. He'd hold court in the Village at
One if by Land."
She could picture the younger version of the artist there, smoking
cigarettes, wearing that fedora he always seemed to sport in the
few photographs available of him in that era. Now Lipton was a
ninety-one-year-old man whose sixty-year-old wife was brushing
away crumbs from his jacket lapel at an under attended exhibition
with, so far, only two "sold" tags posted, including the one the gallery
owner had just slipped next to the carnival painting Drew had
"So you're interested in art?" Drew said.
"Until recently, it was my profession." She told him about her
former job at the Met, truncating the long personal story behind
her dismissal. It was easier to chalk her current unemployment up
to the museum budget cuts and layoffs that had made newspaper
The conversation between them came easily. He had a good,
natural smile. Earnest eye contact. The appearance of a genuine interest
in what she had to say. It was strange: there was nothing sexual
about it, and yet she felt herself getting pulled in, not by the man's
looks or charm but by the refreshing feeling of being treated as if
she mattered. Not merely as her father's daughter. And not like an
out-of-work single woman whose petals had already begun to wilt.
As she felt herself brightening in a way she could barely remember,
it suddenly dawned on her how eight months of unemployment
had taken their toll. Without even recognizing the transformation,
she had started to see herself as a loser.
Alice never meant to be a thirty-seven-year-old woman without
a career, but she knew that plenty of less fortunate people would
question the choices she'd made along the way. Even in the
beginning, she hadn't gone to one of the intellectually rigorous prep
schools that happily would have had her, opting instead to be with
her more socially inclined friends. But, unlike most of them, she
worked hard. She went to collegeand not just a party school with
a fancy reputation, but an actual school known for its academics.
Granted, it was a funky liberal arts college and not an Ivy League,
and then followed by the few requisite years of post college floundering
that were typical for her crowd. The two-year stint as a publicist for a cosmetics company. That disastrous three-year marriage in St. Louis before she'd realized her mistake. But she'd started over, returning to school for her master's in fine arts. And when she was finished, she'd gone to work in the development office of what
she believed to be the most impressive building in the worldthe
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Now, in hindsight, she realized how silly and indulgent all of
those choices had been. Her parents spent a fortune on high school
tuition just so she'd land at an even more expensive college that no
one aside from a few tweed-jacketed PhDs had heard of. Then she
double downed with that graduate degree.
When she'd landed the job at the Met, she'd been stupid enough
to believe she'd earned it. Maybe if she had been hired for merit
her knowledge of art, her ability to raise money, her marketing
experience, a demonstrated skill at somethingshe'd still be there
in her cubicle above Central Park, quietly drafting the pamphlet to
announce the upcoming Chuck Close exhibit to the museum's most
Or if she had at least recognized the truth, maybe she would
have predicted that a decision in her personal life would affect her
employment. She would have realized how ridiculous she must
have looked when she'd announced to her father that she no longer
wanted his help. No more rent payments or annual "gifts." Her
absolute insistence: No more help, Papa.
Well, unbeknownst to her, some of his help had being going to
the museum, and when the donations dried up and the Met had to
make layoffs, she was among the first on the chopping block.
It wasn't until she updated her résumé that she realized that her
adult life didn't exactly add up to the perfect formula for employment
in the current economy. In the eight months that had passed
since her layoff, she had been offered precisely one job: personal
assistant to a best-selling crime novelist. A friend who knew of
Alice's plight was among a fleet of the man's rotating companions and
suggested her for the job. She warned Alice that the man could be
frugal, so when he wanted Alice to return his half-eaten carton of
yogurt to the deli because he didn't like the "seediness" of the raspberry
flavor, Alice had sprung for the new $1.49 carton of smooth
blueberry. The friend had also warned Alice of his "nonconformist"
ways, so Alice compliantly agreed when he'd asked her to restrain
him atop his dining room table so he could figure out how his
character might escape his predicament. But she had finally pulled
the plug when the boss's two questionable characteristics merged
together in a single request: that she personally participate in a three
way with him and a hired escort so he could collect "quotidian
details" of the experience without paying double.
Alice promptly resigned, but still kicked herself at the manner in
which she'd done itblaming it on his erratic hours instead of raising
her knee directly into the glorified subject of most of his research.
Maybe it was because she'd been thinking about that short-lived
joband the belittlement it still invokedthat she wanted to believe
the part of the conversation with Drew Campbell that came next.
"Would you be interested in managing a gallery of your own?"
Normally, she would have choked on her wine at the absurdity of
the question, but Drew floated it past her in a way that felt as natural
as an observation about the weather.
"Of course. I always assumed I'd work in the art world in some
way or another. I think I just underestimated how hard it was to get
and keep this kind of work."
The art world, as even tonight's featured artist exemplified, was
a young person's domain. And Alice was a woman. And she wasn't
even an artist. And at thirty-seven, she was already past her prime.
"I'll have to check on a few things, but you might be the perfect
person for a new gallery I'm helping with."
"What kind of position?"
"Manager. It's a small place, but we need someone who will
really pour themselves into it."
She was unemployed. Her last job was fetching coffee for a
sociopath who should probably be on a sex offender registration. It
was hard to believe anyone legitimate would hand her keys to a
gallery. Her skepticism must have shown in her face.
"Now don't go picturing a gallery like this. And I should probably
warn you, it's a bit of a risk as far as employment goes. I've got
a clienta guy I've bought art forhe's what his friends call eccentric.
If he didn't have money, they'd call him a nutcase."
"Eccentric? I've fallen for that line before."
"Trust me. It's nothing weird. This is one of my oldest clients.
He was a friend of my father's, actually, so he's been letting me help
him out for years. With time, he's come to really trust me. Turns
out he's a quiet old guy who likes the company of younger men.
He treats them well, and they provide companionship, if you know
what I mean."
"Not exactly subtle."
"Anyway, his most recent friend has been in the picture longer
than most, and I guess my client is ready to provide a more substantial
level of support. He wants a modest little gallery to showcase
emerging artists. Of course one of the artists will have to be his
friend. This kid's gotten his work in a few group showings, but he
still hasn't landed a solo exhibit at a New York gallery."
"But thanks to your client, he'll soon be a featured artist."
"Exactly. And I'm sure he'll be very grateful to my client for the
"You keep referring to him as 'your client.' "
"Trust me. You've heard of him. And while there have been
rumors about his personal life for decades, it's all unconfirmed, so
I'm not about to out him. But, I kid you not, he is a serious collector.
That piece I just held is for him. If I can find the right space
and the right person to run a gallery, he won't get in the way. He
won't even take credit for owning it. But he'll want it to be a place
he'd be proud of. Cutting edge. A little anti-establishment, but really
good stuff. This would be a good opportunity for someone in your
"Sounds like a good opportunity for anyone."
He shrugged. "I've quietly spoken to a few people, and they
wouldn't pull the trigger. They're worried the owner will move
on to some other passion projecta gallery today, a gourmet ham-
burger stand tomorrow. Then there's my client's consort to worry
about. He can't be thrown to the wayside like any other artist."
"Not everyone would be so forthcoming about the back story."
"I'm not willing to burn bridges to satisfy the whims of a fickle
old man, even if I do love him like my own closeted gay uncle.
Some of the more established people I've approached just aren't
willing to take the leap under the circumstances. You might not
have the luxury of their worries."
"If that's a nice way of saying beggars can't be choosers, consider
Like a teenage girl going home after her first concert, Alice left
the gallery with a signed brochure from the exhibit and a feeling
that the person she had met there just might change her life.
Excerpted from Long Gone by Alafair Burke Copyright © 2011 by Alafair Burke. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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