|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
Andrew Klavan (b. 1954) is a highly successful author of thrillers and hard-boiled mysteries. Born in New York City, Klavan was raised on Long Island and attended college at the University of California at Berkeley. He published his first novel, Face of the Earth, in 1977, and continued writing mysteries throughout the eighties, finding critical recognition when The Rain (1988) won an Edgar Award for best new paperback.
Besides his crime fiction, Klavan has distinguished himself as an author of supernatural thrillers, most notably Don’t Say a Word (1991), which was made into a film starring Michael Douglas. He has two ongoing series: Weiss and Bishop, a private-eye duo who made their debut in Dynamite Road (2003), and The Homelanders, a young-adult series about teenagers who fight radical Islam. Besides his fiction, Klavan writes regular opinion pieces for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other national publications. He lives in Southern California.
Read an Excerpt
Hunting Down Amanda
By Andrew Klavan
A MysteriousPress.comCopyright © 1999 Andrew Klavan
All rights reserved.
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. Running around the walls 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 pony-tail. 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 sleepwalking 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.
He was still a young man – Lonnie – not yet thirty, maybe just. Average height, slender, skin the color of milk chocolate. He had compact, angular features, almost feline features, under a dusting of very short black hair. That night, he looked sharp and formidable in a sleek gray suit, an open-necked white shirt.
He packed up his sax, came down off the stage. Paused at the coathooks on the wall. He took down a black overcoat, slipped it on.
But he didn't go out. He came over to the bar. Set his sax case down. Leaned there, right next to Arthur Topp, his elbows on the rail.
'Bourbon and seven,' he said to the bartender.
Arthur eyed the black man sidelong, drink in hand. He was nervous about this now, awkward. He'd checked up on Lonnie Blake. Heard rumors he was a tough guy, even a bad guy, a gangbanger, in his youth. Arthur knew this wasn't going to be easy.
And it meant a lot to him. If he could win the saxophonist over, if he could get him to sign on ... well, it would be a chance, one more chance for him to prove to his father's ghost that he could be more than a middle-man for weddings and bar mitzvahs, that he really did have some musical class.
He cleared his throat. 'Uh, hey ...' he said after a second or two.
Lonnie glanced at him, uninterested.
'Uh, def, uh, def jam,' said Arthur Topp. 'Straight up. I mean it. It don't stop. Good stuff. Really.' Excellent, Art, he told himself. You sound exactly like a fucking idiot.
Lonnie Blake apparently thought so too. He gazed at Arthur a long time. It was not a friendly gaze. His eyes seemed black and depthless. Then, lifting his chin slightly, he made a sound for which there's no precise word: a short hiss of air through the nostrils. An expression of contempt.
Arthur Topp grinned stupidly. He felt sweat break out between his shoulder blades. He was grateful when the bartender slapped down a tall bourbon, when Lonnie Blake turned his attention to it and knocked back a long swig.
Still – he was nothing if not persistent – he pressed on. 'No. Listen. Straight up. I know you,' he said.
Lonnie came out of his drink with a breath. Shook his head slowly. 'No, you don't.'
Topp's laugh sounded desperate even to himself. 'I know your work, I mean. Your music. Make this easy on me, how about?'
Lonnie didn't make it easy, didn't answer at all. Up went the drink again. He pulled so hard on it the ice rattled. When he set it down, he nodded at the bartender.
'Bourbon and seven,' the bartender said, and set up another one fast.
'I heard this old demo,' said Arthur Topp. 'Someone slipped me this old demo. Evolutions. Right? Evolutions? Must've been two, three years old. I mean, I heard it – this is months ago now. I mean it. I've been looking for you for months.'
The saxman worked his second drink, worked it hard.
'I mean, you're not around much,' Arthur said to his profile.
'I'm not around at all,' said Lonnie Blake after a moment. A hard edge of irritation was creeping into his voice. 'I'm not around now. I just look like I'm around. Don't let it fool you.'
'Okay.' Jesus, Arthur thought. Jesus. This is not going well. 'Okay. Okay, but, like – Evolutions,' he said anyway. 'I mean, that was just – fat stuff, top stuff, really. The Jurassics ... the old flavors ... you really blew 'em. I mean, the last time I heard 'em that fresh was ... what? My Favorite Things? I think so. Really. Straight up. I mean it.'
Lonnie finally turned to him again, looked over at him as if he'd just noticed an annoying noise.
'Straight up,' Arthur repeated helplessly.
'Are you queer?' Lonnie asked him.
'What?' To his own despair, Arthur let out a high-pitched giggle. 'No! I mean, Jesus. I mean, queer, yeah, in more ways than I like to think about. But no. Not that way. No.'
'Then what the hell do you want from me, man?' said Lonnie Blake. 'I'm trying to have a drink here.'
Topp perceived this as an opportunity. He cleared his throat again, steadied himself, stumbled into his routine. 'My name's Arthur Topp. I represent people. Artists. I get them bookings. Musical acts. Topp Music. Tops in pop.' He brought out a business card. Pressed it into Lonnie's hand. The musician looked down at it as if it were phlegm. Dropped it into his overcoat pocket as if he were wiping it off. 'We're not a big organization. It's just me, in fact. But I have some good people, really, straight up. That's my ... everything's on there, numbers, addresses. I'm in the office eight to eight, every day. Home by 8:30 unless something's on, you know, I'm scoping talent or something. Home, office, either one, I'm working all the time. And you can always get me on the mobile. So ... I mean, look, I'm always looking for someone. Okay? I think you could ... I think you and I could – really do something together. Straight up. I mean it.'
Well, it wasn't poetry, but at least he'd managed to spit it out. He waited as Lonnie gazed at him.
Then Lonnie faced the bar. Drained his second drink. Plonked down the glass. 'Have a good one,' he said. And he picked up his saxophone case.
Arthur Topp was not sure whether it was anger or desperation that did it, but now he heard himself blurt out, 'Look, I know what happened. About your wife, I mean.'
It stopped Lonnie anyway. The man went still. Glanced around with his feline features set, his depthless eyes hard.
'Sorry. Sorry,' said Arthur Topp. 'I mean, it's tragic. A tragic thing. Really. But I figured – you know – it's been more than a year, almost two years.' He gestured in front of him. 'Life ... life goes on.'
Lonnie Blake gave him that silent gaze. 'Is that what it does?'
'Yeah. Well, I mean ... that's not to say it isn't tragic but ...' Arthur knew he was starting to babble. He just couldn't put on the brakes. 'I mean, still ... still a guy like you ... I mean, I see these studio gangsters, but you, you're from the trenches, man, you're from the land of the hard ...' The sweat was coming down his temples now. And he could feel it soaking into his shirt, the wet cotton against his armpits. And he was thinking to himself, Shut up. But he couldn't. 'And then you ... you get out and you go with your music, you get your wife and you got Evolutions going and all that and then ... Well, I mean, it's tragic but ... But you don't want to trash it all, throw it ... She wouldn't – would she? – want that?'
Finally, he stopped, clamped down on it, cut it off. And for a long, for an endless, moment, he went on sweating as Lonnie Blake went on staring at him.
Then Lonnie made that noise again. That little snort of contempt. He showed Arthur his back, started for the door.
Topp watched him go, the familiar shroud of failure settling on him. And then, without thinking, he said, 'It's cause you can't anymore, isn't it?'
Lonnie Blake paused on his way to the door. Stood there without turning.
'I mean, play,' Arthur went on. Speaking the thoughts as they dawned on him. 'I mean, I was listening tonight and ... Evolutions – that's, like, over for you, isn't it?'
Lonnie Blake started walking again.
'That's the thing, right?' Arthur called after him. 'You can't really play anymore since they killed her.'
Lonnie pushed the door open and walked out of the bar.
The night was cold. Lonnie stood outside the bar on Ninth Avenue, his breath misting in the autumn air.
Fool, he thought. And he pushed Arthur Topp from his mind.
But not the rage. Under the bourbon, the familiar rage kept bubbling, a ceaseless low boil.
Across the street, a young man, a young black man in a suit and tie, had opened the door of a car for his lady. She was twenty and beautiful, her black dress slit high up one side. Lonnie watched her lower herself into the Grand Am, the tan skin of a fine leg flashing under the streetlamp. The sight hurt him, and his anger mixed with something else, some sadder yearning. He had not been with a woman in eighteen months.
You can't really play anymore since they killed her.
Lonnie turned away and started walking.
The street was quiet. The cars speeding past were yellow cabs mostly. Under the streelamps, under the line of painted brick tenements, under the zigzag of their fire escapes, an occasional slouching no one scuttled up the sidewalk toward the Port Authority. Lonnie went slowly on, the sax in one hand, his other hand in his pocket. His depthless eyes were hard, the vision turned inward.
He went east on 30th. It was a darker lane between taller lofts. Looming brown buildings rose to either side of him, their wide empty windows dark. The autumn wind pressed steadily down the canyon, desolate. In the shadows away from the streetlights, trash skittered out from under parked cars.
Lonnie's jaw worked as he walked. His lips moved a little to the silent mutter in his mind. He was in himself completely now. On the treadmill of his old grief, hamstering around the old images. The grinning white boys. The speeding car. His murdered wife. Suzanne.
Even through the whiskey, the rage hurt him bad. Only images of her soothed the pain and those images hurt too. He conjured her trim, graceful figure turning to him from the kitchen sink. Her bright, unbridled smile and so on. The smooth brown skin of her high cheeks and the soft recesses of her doe eyes and so on. Her hand slipping a drink into his. Her hands rubbing his shoulders. How was your day? she would ask.
And so on.
A low sound escaped him, a low and awful sound. He paused. He was halfway down the empty street. The husky lofts and the windy silence bore down on him from every side.
He shook his head slightly. He set his face and walked on, willing the images into shadow.
He reached his building. There was a narrow recess in a wide brown wall. A loft entry with a black wooden door that led into the building's foyer. Lonnie brought his keys out of his pocket. Stepped out of a streetlight's aura into the alcove. He peered down through the dark to fit his key in the lock. The key slipped in.
And a hand reached out behind him. It gripped his elbow hard. A woman whispered harshly to him out of the night.
'Help me,' she said.
Startled, Lonnie whipped a look back over his shoulder. It was a white girl, her big urgent eyes staring up at him. Pale she was, and the breath misting before her face made her seem almost ghostly. She had short black hair. Pretty features, but sharp and glossy and cheap. A belted black coat ended high on her thighs. Her sexy legs were in dark stockings, her feet in black high-heeled shoes.
Lonnie pegged her for a whore. This was some kind of street game, he thought. But there was real fear in her eyes, it looked like. And the small hand on his elbow was shaking so hard he could feel it right up his arm.
'There's a guy after me,' she said. Her voice was shaking too. 'Please. Just let me in. I swear ... Before he sees me. Hurry. Please.'
Excerpted from Hunting Down Amanda by Andrew Klavan. Copyright © 1999 Andrew Klavan. Excerpted by permission of A MysteriousPress.com.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
A plot-twisting, nail-biting novel noir that defines edge-of-the-chair suspense.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read this a long time ago, but do remember that it was an interesting story...the title really wouldn't make you interested, but it does have a good storyline.I can't remember the entire story, but I know the ending was pretty good.Give it a try....murder, mystery.
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.
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.