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Chapter One It was after eleven when Fanning put the quietus to his day, retreating to the "Hospitality Suite" where he'd been hanging his hat these past weeks. He was dehydrated, hollow with hunger. There was half a container of Thai noodles in the minifridge, but he settled instead for a few handfuls of Raisin Nut Bran. This was the third and uppermost floor of 40 Tarbox Street, studios and offices of SunBreak Records, Miles Fanning, founder. An importer of futons and rattanware occupied the ground floor, the one below SunBreak housed a warren of solitary, glass-doored offices, some vacant. The Hospitality Suite was an old SunBreak joke: a storeroom at the end of the corridor, catchall, refuge for the indisposed. Corroded, soot-furred pipes across the ceiling, banks of steel shelving, caches of dysfunctional electronics and water-spotted cartons of very old product. A miserly, plywood-sided lavatory built into one corner. Fanning had ordered a second phone line for the computer, he'd sent downstairs for new bedding.
He poured a beaker of club soda and cranberry juice and knelt on the kneeling chair in front of his computer to check his e-mail, found spam headed "Svetlana Introduction & Marriage Agency, St. Petersburg, Russia." Dear Friend: Soon you will be get letters from nice, family-oriented Russian ladies. Please come visit our Website. Fanning guided it to the trash. There were replies to his query about some Monk sessions from '56, and a long dispatch from a copyright attorney in L.A. Fanning scanned them, nodding, filed the latter under Headache, minor.
Plus he found this:
Are you the MilesFanning who went to Griffin?
Fanning could go weeks without Griffin crossing his mind -- unless Sully phoned, which he did every few months, taking Fanning by surprise, though it was a joy talking to his friend, a relief. Less often, Fanning called him. Sully had lived abroad after college, and in the mid-eighties he married a French woman, a cellist, sinewy, placid Pascale. The longest fingers Fanning had ever seen on a woman. Sully was wildly enamored. My-kul, she called him, in teasing mock-American. Both taught now, and summers they operated a music camp in the Adirondacks. They were happy. Sully was virtually Fanning's only contact with the East Coast of his adolescence, nor had Fanning kept up his college friendships. No one else had migrated to the Northwest, and gradually, without meaning to, he'd lost touch. Not that he'd ever run with much of a pack. His life seemed to have started fresh in Seattle -- what came before felt oddly remote, irretrievable.
His but not his.
Sully didn't have the number for the Hospitality Suite, Fanning realized. The thought of his wife, Kyra, fielding a call at the house, explaining their current living arrangement -- it gave his stomach a sour little turn. But, as for Griffin School, Fanning wasn't up to reminiscing with an old alum tonight. Lacked the energy, the bonhomie. He logged off, drained the juice, stared down at the street, where nothing much was shaking. Stray foot traffic. It was only then, though he couldn't say why, that the e-mail address snagged his attention.
He logged back on, typed Yes without deliberating, clicked on Send.
He sat a few moments, mildly disoriented.
He'd been cold all day and was cold now, cold in his fingers and feet. Bad peripheral circulation, Kyra kept telling him. He needed exercise, why didn't he move around more? "You'd sleep a whole lot better if you did, you know that, don't you?" Fanning liked to walk around his adopted city just fine, but his knees ached if he overdid it, and for another thing some people happened not to be athletes. "Try tai chi or something," Kyra said. Sorry, no, no tai chi. He broke from his trance and ran himself a shower and stayed in it, shoulders drooping, bony chin uplifted like a sea bird's, until, too soon, the hot water began to fail. He toweled off and threw on a robe and returned to the machine, where he found:
I won't keep you in suspense. If I'm not mistaken, you were my sister's boyfriend at the time of her "disappearance." I'm going to be in your fair city on business next week and I wondered if we could meet. I've lived in the Bay Area for a number of years.
Fanning read the message a second and third time, picked at it for motive -- why look him up now, after all this time? Curiosity, he supposed. Nothing but that, most likely.
Yes, all right, he typed. Would dinner be good?
He sat up, waiting. No reply from julamo.
Fanning slid into bed, tested his body's interest in relinquishing the day. In recent years, he'd hit a run of nights, sometimes weeks on end, when he'd wake between three-thirty and four, often exactly at four, four-oh-oh. He'd get up, traipse to the bathroom and drain his bladder, and maybe nod off, or maybe not, but the first ten minutes would tell the story. There was no rousing Kyra for any charity sex, either -- she required vast quantities of sleep, untrespassed upon. Now that he was bivouacked downtown, Fanning occasionally rose and pedaled the stationary bike somebody had abandoned here, the city lights vaguely hallucinatory without his glasses. Early on, he'd jettisoned the idea of using these hours constructively. Sometimes he listened to music, but nothing he had to render an intelligent opinion about. If he dictated notes at that hour, his voice sounded wrong the next day, like another man's, querulous, uncertain. A strew of travel books lay about his chair: Patrick Leigh Fermor and In Patagonia and The Colossus of Maroussi and one by Evan Connell. Also paper-bound atlases and gazetteers. These required only a quiet submission to the names, the ragged shorelines and archipelagos. One night he broke out a new disc of Keith Jarrett's Köln Concert -- he hadn't heard this in years, afraid he'd find his reverence for it unsupportable, yet the piece seemed brilliantly moody, elemental. Near dawn, Fanning might creep back under the covers. He remembered Hemingway's story where the waiter couldn't sleep until daylight, but Fanning seldom allowed himself a good fear of the abyss anymore, Fanning-less time unfurling without end. Sometimes he encountered a grace pe riod just before morning -- if he slept even a little then, his day might be salvageable.
But Carly Lamoreaux --
She was a room he had rarely visited as a grown man, and never with his guard down. He owned no photo of her, the box containing her letters had been lost in a move years ago. He lay on the futon wondering if he could recall her voice, the timbre, the way she worded things. So much of their relationship had been conducted long-distance, Carly stretching the cord of the Lamoreaux's upstairs phone beneath her bedroom door, while Fanning contorted his long body inside the sweaty phone box at school. (The following year, 1973-74, Moorcroft and Griffin had both gone co-ed. Exquisite timing.) But the voice he heard tonight was indistinct, more like a grown woman's than a girl's, as if Carly had been allowed to age along with him. For all this, Fanning was unconscious in a matter of minutes and didn't stir until well after six. He was shaved and on the street before seven. A chilly morning in late October. Gray, windy. He took coffee and biscotti at a storefront place a few blocks up the way, resting his elbows on a narrow shelf along the plate glass, watching the early parade. Another long day in the offing, heavy on the business side: sales meeting, two conference calls, t�te-à-t�te with a banker. Fanning wiped his lips and stepped outside again, buried his hands in his pockets. A low blat from the Bremerton ferry. She'd be thirty-eight, thirty-nine, julamo. Fanning took the elevator, emerged on the third-floor landing, saw the office doors open, the lights burning. He stuck his head in. Gloria gave him a look. "Bad night?" she asked.
"No, not so bad," Fanning said.
Gloria disapproved of him living in the Hospitality Suite, found it unbecoming. If she wants this, you tell her she can find herself another place. Shouldn't be you who has to camp out like a hobo.
Fanning appreciated the loyalty, but he told her things were all right. Just a temporary situation. A little solitude never killed anyone, right?
"I hate to think of you having bad nights," she said. She'd been with Fanning from the start. Gloria de Santos with her bright lipstick and yard-wide hips, her emphysemic husband. And what she didn't say, You can afford to stay in a nice place, why you doing this to yourself, huh -- ? You're not crapping out on us?
Fanning put a hand up, cut short further discussion of his condition by saying he was going next door, be back in a second.
On his machine:
No, I don't think dinner. Could you come by my hotel? The Queensbury. Meet you in the lobby. Let's say around eight.
Fanning slipped off his jacket and knelt to fashion his reply.
Copyright © 2000 by Simon & Schuster
What People are Saying About This
From the question mark of its opening riddle to the exclamation point of its final revelation, David Long's new novel sustains an ability to hold its reader hostage. A story of two strangers in the night on a quest to understand first the past, then one another, The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux is a tense, deeply nocturnal tale of intrigue...
Billy Cohens, author of Picnic Lightning