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Authors: Andrew Klavan

The Animal Hour

BOOK: The Animal Hour
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The Animal Hour

Andrew Klavan

A
MysteriousPress.com
Open Road Integrated Media ebook

This book is for Spencer

Contents

PART 1

NANCY KINCAID

AVIS BEST

NANCY KINCAID

OLIVER PERKINS

NANCY KINCAID

OLIVER PERKINS

NANCY KINCAID

ZACHARY

NANCY KINCAID

OLIVER PERKINS

NANCY KINCAID

OLIVER PERKINS

PART 2

NANCY KINCAID

OLIVER PERKINS

ZACHARY

NANCY KINCAID

OLIVER PERKINS

NANCY KINCAID

OLIVER PERKINS

NANCY KINCAID

NANCY KINCAID

PART 3

OLIVER PERKINS

BEVERLY TILDEN

AVIS BEST

NANCY KINCAID

OLIVER PERKINS

NANCY KINCAID

OLIVER PERKINS

NANCY KINCAID

OLIVER PERKINS

NANCY KINCAID

AVIS BEST

ZACHARY

NANCY KINCAID

AVIS BEST

NANCY KINCAID

ZACHARY AND AVIS

PART 4

OLIVER PERKINS

NANCY KINCAID

OLIVER AND ZACHARY

NANCY KINCAID

OLIVER PERKINS

NANCY KINCAID

OLIVER PERKINS

THE WOMAN IN THE DOMINO

ZACHARY PERKINS

THE WOMAN IN THE DOMINO

OLIVER PERKINS AND THE WOMAN IN THE DOMINO

OLIVER PERKINS AND GUS STALLONE

I would like to thank Erica Newton, M.D., for her medical advice and her tour of Bellevue; Barney Karpfinger, for his sage counsel and unwavering support; and my wife, Ellen, as always, for everything.

“Where am I going? I don't quite know.
What does it matter where people go?”

—A. A. Milne

I
t was going to be a lousy day. She was sure of that, even before she vanished.

She felt rotten, for one thing. Sodden, as if she were coming down with the flu. The subway rocked and chattered its way downtown and the motion made her head feel like an accordion, going in and out. And it was rush hour. Monday morning, 8:45. Every seat on the train was filled. Commuters stood packed tightly in the aisle, pressed flat against the doors. She stood in the middle of them. She clutched her purse tight under her arm. She gripped the metal pole with her free hand. Gray shoulders, black faces, lip-sticked mouths—they pressed in close to her. The smells of them: sharp cologne; flowery perfume; sweat and shampoo and sickly sweet deodorant. They mingled in her nostrils. They clogged her brain. The train swayed. The bodies jostled her.

Oh man
, she thought.
This is going to be the worst.

The train stopped at Prince Street. The doors slid open on the long station's yellowing walls. The crowd on the platform struggled briefly with the crowd in the train. Faintly, over the noise, she heard the sound of a Dixieland band. She caught a glimpse of it through the doors. A white man blowing a trumpet, his cheeks ballooned.

“painted lips, painted eyes;
wearin' a bird of paradise …”

I know that song
, she thought.
Dad used to sing that song sometimes.

The title eluded her for a second. Then the trumpet brought it home: “Nobody's Sweetheart.”

“It all seems wrong somehow.
Cause you're nobody's sweetheart now.”

The doors slid shut. The train jolted on. The music had made her sad, nostalgic: like a glimpse of sunlight to the prisoner in her cell. She closed her eyes as the train rocked, as the people pressed against her. Oh God, she prayed without much hope; oh God, make it the weekend. Okay? I'll just open my eyes and poof, it'll be Saturday. Okay? C'mon, you crazy guy, you God. Let 'er rip. You can do it. You're the big guy. Ready. One, two, three. Poof.

She opened her eyes. That God. He had a lot to answer for, if you asked her.

She stuck out her tongue and made a gagging noise. It was drowned completely by the rattle of the train.

Leaning against her pole, she went on thinking about the weekend. Only five days away. Then Friday night would come around. She and Maura could go down to the Village. Dress bad. Something tight, something black. Sit at a bar, at Lancer's maybe. Drink espresso, pretend to like it. Pretend they weren't just this side of virginity. Pretend they might meet some guys. Or maybe they actually would meet some guys. You never knew. Maybe some half-scary Village type, some poet or something, would take the barstool next to her. A shaggy-haired poet with a haggard face, a bulky sweater …

“Canal Street,” the motorman called over the speaker. “Watch the closing doors.”

She was washed this way and that by the tide of commuters getting off, getting on. She gripped her purse, gripped her pole. The train coughed and chugged away again. The black tunnels whispered at the window. She peered into the middle distance. She began expanding on this poet idea. She liked it. She could picture him. A barrel-chested grizzly bear of a guy. A guy who thumped when he walked. Talked in gutturals, cursed all the time. But with these warm brown eyes just for her—he was a regular puppy dog when he took hold of her shoulders, when he gazed down at her. You hadda love him, in spite of everything.

She stared into space as the subway sped on.
Woof
, she thought.

Late at night, she would wake up in the little bed in his attic studio. She would lie quietly, naked under the single sheet. Oh, Mom would just have fits if she slept in the nude at home. But Mom—her sedate, little dumpling of a Mom—would be far away. She would be in her faded Gramercy apartment. And silver-haired Dad would have turned off the cable news. Would have stood up by then and stretched and said, “Ah well, no sense waiting up for her.” And taken his beer to bed.

But her poet would be awake still. Sitting at his desk in the midnight garret. While she lay on her side, naked under the single sheet. Pretending to be asleep, watching him secretly. He would be hunched over his notebook in the circle of lamplight, his pen moving feverishly, his eyes feverishly bright.

“This is the animal hour,” he would write.

The slow October flies, despairing on the porch chairs,
blink into the shards of the sun they see setting.

Blue and then a deeper blue ease into the air …

And she would wait and watch beneath the thin, stained sheet. And he would get tired finally. He would lay his pen down finally and rest his head against his hands. And then she would stir, she would whisper to him: “Come to bed now, darling.” She would peel the sheet back … Oh, Mom would definitely croak if she saw it. Even he—even her poet—would get a laugh out of it. He would stand up in his lumbering way. “You were such a good little repressed Irish Catholic girl when I met you,” he would say. “What have I done to you?” And then he would lumber toward her, ready to do it to her again.

“City Hall,” the motorman called.

She came to the surface with a goofy smile.
Oh hell
, she thought, letting her breath out.
Nancy Kincaid's Romantic Fantasy Number 712.
The train stopped. The doors cracked open. The passengers flooded out into the station. She let herself be washed along.

Dull-headed, still vaguely dreaming about her poet, she joined the parade. The March of the Rush Hour New Yorkers. Gray suits, tidy dresses, legs striding along the platform, footsteps pattering in unison. Up the concrete stairs, knees high. Out into the vaulted gallery under the Municipal Building. A squat newsy, waving his papers, leaned into her face.

“Mother Eats Baby!” he shrieked. “Get the
Post!

She blinked, her daydream blown away.
Thanks ever so much
, she thought. She dodged around the screaming toad. Wove through the stout columns. Broke out into the open air.

Oh yes, that was good. The open air. She sucked it in as she waited for the light to change. Cool, cool leafy air. October air. Above her, the sky was big and blue. The cars spat past the great building's sweeping colonnade. Here and there, marble courthouses loomed like temples over the roadway. Across from her, City Hall showed white through the red leaves of the oaks and the yellow leaves of the sycamores in the park.

The lights changed. The cars pulled up, snorting to go. She hurried across the street toward the park, toward the Hall.

She cut into the park. Seedy old park. Concrete walks curving through littered patches of grass. Homeless men hunkering on the green benches. Men in suits charging past her toward the small Hall. Policemen paced on the Hall steps, under its tiers of arched windows, its peeling dome, its statue of Justice with her scales. The wind blew and the leaves rained down from the sycamores all around her. They stirred and swirled on the paths. Nipped and chattered at her feet like Disney squirrels. The fresh air had made her head a little clearer now, but that nostalgic sadness was rising inside her again.

When you walk down the avenue,
I just can't believe it's you …

It was just—what?—five months ago, she thought. Five months ago she had been in college. Just last May. She had hurried just like this across the small campus on the West Side. She could remember the weight of her dance bag over her shoulder, the feel of her leotards snug under her clothes. Had she really thought she was going to be a dancer then? Had she really believed that? The daydreams—the ones about going to auditions, winning parts. “You. The girl with the blue eyes. The part is yours.” The feeling of strong hands closing on her waist in the spotlit dark. The footlights washing everything away as she was lifted off her feet. The sound of applause. Loud, loud, long-lasting applause. Had she ever really thought any of that was going to become real?

Nah. Probably not. At least, she wasn't sure anymore whether she had. She couldn't remember.

It all seems wrong somehow,
Cause you're nobody's sweetheart now …

She passed the Hall, came out of the park onto Broadway. The office building was right across the street. A tall thin tower, white stone, ornate as an altarpiece. Filigree scrolling up the arched windows. Gibbering gargoyles peering out over the high ledges, grinning viciously.

Anyway, she had taken the job with Fernando Woodlawn the first chance she got. She hadn't been out of school a week. Her father said Woodlawn needed an assistant and, bingo, she had agreed to interview for the spot right away. No dance auditions, not a one. Not even any of the dance classes she had planned to take. And as for “You. The girl with the blue eyes,” you could pretty much forget about it. Oh, she still looked at the trade papers now and then. She still told herself she'd start classes again next week, next month; start going to auditions—soon, real soon. But basically, she knew it wasn't so. Basically, she had become the personal assistant to an attorney friend of her father's, and that was pretty much that.
Christ
, she thought as she reached the curb,
I haven't even moved away from home.
Her mother had said, “You can still stay here while you're looking for an apartment.” And though she had looked for an apartment one Sunday afternoon, she soon found there wasn't enough time for that and, of course, she wanted to save her money too and, well … there she was.

BOOK: The Animal Hour
13.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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