Authors: Graham Masterton
GRAHAM MASTERTON IS . . .
“A master of the genre.”
“A mesmerizing storyteller!”
“One of the most consistently entertaining writers in the field.”
“The living inheritor to the realm of Edgar Allan Poe.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“A first-rate horror writer.”
Midwest Book Review
“Horror's most consistent provider of chills.”
Masters of Terror
“A crowd-pleaser, filling his pages with sparky, appealing dialogue and visceral grue.”
“One of those writers who can truly unnerve the reader with everyday events.”
âSteve Gerlach, author of
“In the premier league of horror scribes.”
Other books by Graham Masterton:
THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT
DEVIL IN GRAY
THE FIFTH WITCH
Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.
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New York, NY 10016
Copyright Â© 2008 by Graham Masterton
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Trade ISBN: 978-1-4285-1222-1
E-book ISBN: 978-1-4285-1204-7
First Dorchester Publishing, Co., Inc. edition: November 2011
The “DP” logo is the property of Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.
Printed in the United States of America.
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1946 - 2011
There are no accidents in love.
We open doors; and there they are
Our lifelong companions
Standing by a window; sitting in a chair.
Not even turning round, or looking up.
They do not recognize us yet.
But the smallest gesture
A fastened dress; a hand held, crossing the street
Will join our destinies forever:
Turn both our faces to the same warm wind.
“Is there anybody there?” said the Traveler
Knocking on the moonlit door;
. . . But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men.
âWalter de la Mare,
As she followed her husband down the front steps, she turned her head and looked up at me, and I was so taken by her smile that I totally failed to notice what was so unusual about her. Nearly three months would pass before I realized what it was, but when I did, it would make me feel like my whole world had collapsed, like some shoddily built stage set.
She was slight and thin-wristed, with ash blonde hair that was cut in a very straight bob. She was wearing a short-sleeved blouse, in the palest of yellows, and high-waisted gray slacks. But it was that mischievous smile that got meâand the way her eyes narrowed a little, as if we already shared a secret.
“Hey, Lalo, where does this thing go?” called Margot, from the kitchenette.
“What thing?” I asked her, still watching the woman as she crossed the street.
“This thing that looks like a fire extinguisher.”
“That's no fire extinguisher. That's my batter dispenser.”
Margot came through to the living room, holding up the shiny metal gadget in disbelief. “Your
“Sure. I couldn't live without it. It makes sure that every pancake is perfectly circular. They still taste like latex, but they're perfectly circular.”
“Lalo, you stun me sometimes. You really stun me.”
It was a warm afternoon in the first week of September, on St. Luke's Place, opposite James J. Walker Park in Greenwich
Villageâa row of fine Italianate brownstones, with ironwork railings and pillared doorways, and even gas lamps outside. I was leaning out of my window on the second floor, with a cold bottle of Michelob Amber, taking a five-minute chill from putting up shelves.
I had moved into this apartment three days ago, but even with Margot to help me I was seriously beginning to believe that I would never get the place straight. The hallway was blocked with three tea chests full of books and music scores and pictures and orange enamel saucepans. The bedroom was wedged with suitcases bulging with clothes and cardboard boxes full of towels and CDs. I had never realized that I owned so much
. As my dad used to say, “You can't have everything, son. Where would you put it?”
Margot twisted open a bottle of beer and came to the window to join me. She was short, dark and pretty in a heart-shaped Betty Boop way, with flicked-up hair and enormous brown eyes. She was wearing oversize Oshkosh dungarees and a tight pink-striped T-shirt and fluorescent pink Crocs. She made me feel more like her big brother than ever, although she was at least six months older than I was, and in some ways, she was a whole lot wiser.
Margot and I had been friends ever since our first day at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. We had simply liked each other the moment we had bumped into each other by the notice board, and I had asked Margot if I could borrow her pencil. In the spring of 2005 there had been several weekends when our affection for each other had grown so strong that we had been only a heartbeat away from becoming lovers, but by the time I had managed to disentangle myself from Cindy the PMT Pianist (as Margot used to call her), Margot had started dating a nostril-flaring Cuban dancer called Esteban, and so we had never managed to get much more intimate than sprawling on a couch, drinking red wine and listening to Beethoven piano concertos and old Dire
Straits albums. Now we knew each other so well that going to bed together would have felt like incest.
“I just saw the people downstairs,” I told her.
“Oh, yes? What are they like?”
“Midthirties, I'd say. Smart-conservative. Well-heeled.”
“Well, you have to be very well-heeled to live here. You have to have diamonds on the soles of your shoes. Unlike East Thirteenth Street.”
“Your loft is wonderful. It's like Narnia.”
“Sure it is. Teeming with intelligent rodents.”
I said, “How about I take you to the CafÃ© Cluny tonight, as a thank-you for everything you've done?”
Margot looked around the apartment, with its high white ceilings and its shining oak floors. “You know, Lalo, what this place badly needs is a woman. In fact, what
badly need is a woman. Man cannot live by composing TV scores alone, even if he does have perfectly circular pancakes.”
I looked across at her. The trees outside made leaf patterns dance on her cheek. “I have
, don't I?”
“Of course you do. But you need passion. You need
. You need somebody who washes dishes in the nude.”
I met her for the first time two days later, when I was climbing the stairs with a sackful of groceries from Sushila's. She was standing on the landing outside my apartment door with a fluffy white Persian cat in her arms. The expression on her face was curiously dreamy, but as I came up the stairs toward her she turned to me and smiled, almost as if she had been expecting me. I caught a hint of her perfume, very light and flowery, but I didn't recognize what it was.
“Hi there,” I said. “Were you looking for me?”
“I was looking for Malkin, as a matter of fact. She gets very inquisitive whenever somebody new moves in. She wants to know
Close up, she looked younger than she had when I had first seen her on the steps outside. Twenty-nine maybe, just touching thirty. She had a delicate, finely drawn face, as if she had elvish blood on one side of her family. Her eyes were as gray as rainclouds, and slightly hooded. The muted sunlight on the landing made her ash blonde hair gleam silver. See? I had known her for less than thirty seconds and already I was waxing poetic.
“Gideon,” I said, shifting the grocery bag to my left arm, and holding out my hand. “Gideon Lake, but most of my friends call me Lalo.”
“It's after Lalo Schifrin, who wrote the music for
. That's what I do. I write music for movies and
TV and stuff like that. Well, commercials, too.
âCome on home, come on ho-o-ome, to your family and your friends . . . just one taste of Thom's will take you home again.'
You know . . . Thom's Tomato Soup.”
The woman didn't stop smiling, but she shook her head.
“You never heard it?” I said. “You must be the only person on the planet who hasn't. My mom says she's going to strangle me for writing it; she can't get it out of her head.”
Just as I had shifted the grocery bag from one arm to the other, the woman shifted her cat, and held out her hand. “KatherineâKatherine Solwayâbut do call me Kate. Pleased to know you, Gideon. I hope you're going to be very happy here.”
I unlocked my front door. “Would you like to come in for a drink? I haven't finished sorting the place out yet, but I'm getting there.”
“I'd love to,” said Kate. “Thank you. You don't mind if Malkin comes in, too? You're not allergic?”
“Of course not. I'm only allergic to John Williams compositions, and wasps.”
My living room was already beginning to look West Village elegant, thanks to Margot's talent for interior decoration. She had arranged my two pale blue antique sofas so that they were facing each other, and two spoon-back chairs at angles to the main window. In the center of the floor there was an oval blue rug, and a low table of lime-washed oak with a statuette of Pan on it, skipping through the reeds by the river.
On one wall there was a large gilt-framed mirror; and on the opposite wall hung a magical realist oil painting of two women in pink bathing-suits standing in a blue desert, signed “Jared French.”
Kate set Malkin down on the floor. The cat shook herself and started to pad around the apartment, sniffing at the furniture.