This is where I'm posting excerpts as I'm going along, so keep in mind that everything on this page is Rough Draft. --G
The Angel in the Rock
l'Histoire Secrete des Anges
"What's going on back here?"
I turned to see Jack coming towards us, wiping his hands on a towel with a dismayed look on his face. Then he saw who it was. "Vicky!" Jack cried, his face lighting up. Then he remembered the other party in the accident, and he paled. "Vicky..."
"It's good to see you too, Jack," she said as she gathered up the things from her handbag and dumped them unceremoniously back in. The first thing I noticed as she got to her feet was that she was taller. She had always been tall, but now she was only a couple of inches shorter than I, which placed her around six feet, or six foot one. A quick glance at her boots answered that question: black, leather and all heels. She was wearing a black cashmere turtleneck and a long somber-hued floral print skirt, although I could see the cuffs of a pair of blue jeans sticking out from underneath, and over it all she wore a heavy-looking gray raincoat about three generations out of style. Around her neck she wore a Celtic cross on a hemp cord, and her fingers glittered with a collection of brightly-colored rings. Her hair was long and black, pulled back in a ponytail that stretched most of the way down her back, and her eyes were that same shade of green stolen from Monet.
I thought of six years' worth of almost nonexistent communication, of scores of unanswered letters save for the occasional postcard from Turkey or Russia or Paris, of the dog-eared pages in my photo album. I thought of the girls I'd been with since that never stood a chance. I thought of the nights I stayed up for hours, thumbing through the shoebox of old love letters and dried-up rose petals that she'd returned when we broke up. The fury, the loneliness, the depression...
I looked at her again, at the gentle curves hinted at beneath her clothes, at the glimmer in her eyes, at the way a stray lock of her black hair hung down, tracing one side of her pretty face...
"Long time no see, guys," she was saying. Her lips quirked up in a coy smile. "What, a girl comes all the way from Paris and all she gets is slack-jawed stares?"
"It's, um..." I shrugged. "Oh, hell, Vicky, it's good to see you."
She smiled. "It's good to see you too." She turned to Jack. "And you! What are you doing still working here? I thought you'd be on the lecture circuit by now!"
"One novel does not a sensation make," Jack smiled, wiping his hands on his apron. "So what brings you back to Beckett? It's a little early for Christmas break, isn't it?"
She opened her mouth to say something, and then apparently thought better of it. "Well, ah," she said, struggling. "Let's just say that some family business came up."
"Is your dad okay?" I asked.
"Oh, yes, yes. I mean, no, no, don't worry about it," she said, frowning. She glanced at her watch. "Shit," she said. "I've got to get going. I just stopped in for coffee on my way to see Dad." She looked at me quickly. "But I do want to catch up, though."
I cleared my throat. "Actually, I ought to run what's left of this upstairs to Michael before it gets too cold."
Vicky started. "Michael? Michael Coldman? The one you did the illustrations for?"
Was it just me, or was it getting hot in here? "Um, yeah. You read that?"
"Of course I did," she said. "It was a little hard to get hold of on the West Bank, but it was worth it. You don't think I haven't been keeping an eye on you, do you?"
Yep. Definitely hot in here. I chuckled uncomfortably and shrugged. "Hey, who knew? I thought the only people who bought copies of books like The Legend of Spring-Heeled Jack in New England Literature were the authors' families."
"Don't sell yourself short," she said. "I hear they're big sellers in some circles."
"That's right," Jack said. "Some authors have bigger families than others." He grinned. "Come on, Vicky Ð why don't you tell me stories of the life of a young Parisienne and let Pi get changed."
Vicky turned to me. "Actually, I'd like to meet this Mr. Coldman."
"Um, he may be occupied right now," I said. "He gets a little cranky when people interrupt his work."
"Oh? What's he working on?"
"Another book. And he hates it if he's interrupted in the middle of a good streak. And he's been going gangbusters here for the last couple of days." Jack shot me a look over Vicky's shoulder. I ignored it. "Hence the food delivery service."
Vicky frowned. "It's actually kind of important... Food delivery, huh? Tell you what. If you can coax him out of his good streak, I'll take all of you out to dinner tonight. Chez Rashi?"
"Vicky!" As soon as it was out of my mouth, I winced. This had always been a sore spot between us Ð she had always liked to treat me to expensive things, and I'd always been uncomfortable having money spent on me. Chez Rashi was, of course, the most expensive restaurant in town.
"Come on, Pi, I haven't seen you in six years. Let me take you guys out to dinner."
"Oh... All right. Fine." I smiled. "But not if you insist on calling him Mr. Coldman."
"Actually, I've got to tend the bar," Jack said, shaking his head. "But you three ought to go."
"Well, then, we'll just have to come back here after dinner for coffee," she said. "We can help you close down the cafŽ and go for a walk down by the lake."
"Sounds like a plan," he said. "How's that sound to you, Pi?"
"Excellent," Vicky said. "We'll meet at Chez Rashi at 7 tonight."
"What should we wear?"
"Oh, something nice, don't worry too much about it," she said, and turned to Jack. "Now, then, I need a grande skim latte to go, pronto!"
"Sure thing," Jack said, and winked at me as I headed for the door. "One regular, coming right up!"
"What happened to you?"
"I met a woman. Again." I closed the door to the apartment and tossed my sheaf of notes and the bag with the bagel onto the couch beside Michael. "Do you mind if I borrow a T-shirt?"
"If you can find one that'll fit you," he replied, cocking an eyebrow at me, then went back to examining the book he had laid out on the coffee table. The book was an immense, exquisitely leather-bound tome that had to be positively ancient, one of a small library of such books that he'd managed to scavenge from the University library. In one long-fingered hand he gripped a pair of tweezers; in the other he held a longnecked bottle of beer. Strapped to his head was the strange device that he called his 'readers,' which were a set of his already high-powered eyeglasses with a tiny booklamp on an extra-long arm duct-taped to the side. A magnifying glass on a boom arm of its own was attached to the arm of the lamp, and positioned over Michael's right eye. The apparatus made him look rather monstrous himself. A thick gray sweater was blanketed over his massive, bearish frame, with a black turtleneck, a pair of black trousers and black socks and loafers completing his usual monochromatic wardrobe. His long black hair hung loosely about his shoulders, framing his square, bearded face, and his sharp steel-blue eyes gave him a slightly unsettling appearance. "So," he called back, "was she cute?"
"Same as always," I replied from his bedroom, where I was rifling through his closet. Black T-shirt, black T-shirt, black T-shirt, black T-shirt... "It was Vicky, Michael. And she wants to meet you."
"Meet me?" he replied dryly. "What, did you list my irresistible charms?"
"I didn't have to," I called back. "She'd already heard of you." I frowned. "Don't you have anything that's not black?"
"You've known me for how long?" he answered.
"Right. Stupid question," I sighed, and selected the biggest black T-shirt I could find.
"You said she'd heard of me? How?"
"She read the book." I shrugged out of my coat and T-shirt and dumped them on the floor. "This is Vicky, Michael Ð that girl I grew up with, the one I dated for years in high school and who dumped my ass the day after graduation. Which, I might add, was the day before she left for Europe. There's a bagel in that bag for you."
The sound of paper being ripped came from the other room. "Ah, the one who got away," came the muffled reply.
"Oh, and did I forget to mention? Her full name's Victoria Ravenswood."
Michael choked in the other room, then swore softly. "A Ravenswood read my book?"
"Yep. Vicky Ravenswood, student of the universe, self-declared gypsy queen, one-time love of my life and heiress to the Ravenswood throne." I finished pulling on the T-shirt, scooped up my clothes and headed back into the other room, where Michael was wiping sprayed crumbs off the pages of the book. "And she wants to take us out to dinner tonight."
Michael took another bite of the bagel as I headed into the kitchen. "Really? Where?"
I put my T-shirt in the sink and began to fill it with water. "Chez Rashi."
Again, the sound of Michael choking came from the living room. I stuck my head around the corner to see him wiping more crumbs off the book. "Dammit, Pi," he growled.
"Hey, man," I grinned. "You're the one who insists on carrying on a conversation with his mouth full." I returned to washing my shirt.
"Point taken," he said. He stood up and brushed crumbs off his lap, then walked over to the kitchen. "So, what, you didn't bring me any coffee?"
I pointed at the shirt in the sink. "That was your coffee. I was going out the back door, and she decided that she wanted to come in at the same time."
"Women. Always a problem," he remarked, shaking his head.
"I didn't say that," I said, scrubbing at the shirt. "You're the one with the chauvinist streak."
"Chauvinism, educated opinion culled from experience, same thing," he shrugged.
"Whatever. How's the book?"
"Yeah, yeah," I said. "Speaking of which, you need to keep better track of your notes. I found half a dozen pages' worth of information on the Rosicrucians mixed in with my sketches this afternoon."
"So that's where they got to," Michael nodded. "Yeah, I know. We both need to do some cleaning up around here. I found some more of your photographs under the couch this morning."
"The lighthouse shots? Good, I was wondering where those had gone." I sighed and looked around. The kitchen was a disaster area, and the rest of the apartment wasn't much better. At the beginning, Michael's studio apartment had been decorated pretty elegantly, with bright white walls, a gleaming hardwood floor and posters from various art museums hung in shiny frames on every wall. It hadn't stood a chance. Two of the walls had since been conquered by makeshift bookshelves, the one over the couch had been plastered over time and again by photographs and drawings, and the wall with the big picture windows looking out over the town square had our worktables shoved in front of them, topped off with our collection of computers. The floor had been blanketed with a huge, grungy shag rug to catch the 3 AM coffee spills, and squatting on top of the rug between our worktables was a second, smaller refrigerator dedicated exclusively to junk food and fast-acting sugar-based wake-me-up drinks that proved absolutely necessary for late night jam sessions. This was a palace of kings.
Michael was rummaging through the fridge. "Hey, what happened to all the ho-hos?"
"You've got to be quick," I replied with a grin. "Besides, you don't want to eat too much. Our dinner reservations are for 7:30."
Michael glanced at his watch. "Crap. I'd better get cleaned up."
"Yeah, me too," I said. I emptied the sink and draped the shirt over a free rung on the towel rack. "Do you mind if I borrow the car? I need to head back to my place for some dressier clothes and a quick shower."
"Yeah, sure," he said. He reached in his pocket, then tossed me the keys. "You'll pick me up, when, around seven?"
"Christ," he said lightly. "What does one wear to the fanciest restaurant in town to meet with the daughter of the richest man in town?"
"I believe her exact sentence was, 'Oh, something nice, don't worry too much about it,'" I said, then snorted as I shrugged on my coat. "In other words, the nicest thing you've got."
Michael chuckled. "Women," he said again.
"Always a problem," I agreed, and headed for the door.
It wasn't until I was standing in a hot shower that I realized I'd forgotten to tell him about the skeleton or the imminent arrival of the professor from Harvard. I resolved to tell him on the way to the restaurant, and then promptly forgot all about it.