Partridge stared at the moving scenery. Come quick! Somebody—I think Frank Ledbetter—told me T had some heart problems. Black trees dripped with fog. These details would surely keep despite what hysterics might come in the meanwhile.
Beasley at peace was an enigma. His mind would store what his eye could catch and that was all. He was on vacation. Sometimes poor houses and fences stood among the weeds and the ferns and mutely suggested many more were lost in the dark.
Things get in the way. The sea loomed near and heavy and palpable beneath a layer of rolling gloom. The solitude presented an opportunity to compose his thoughts—his excuses, more likely. If this elemental truth—Beasley the chronic drunk, the lovable, but damaged brute—had ceased to hold, then what else lurked in the wings?
Wilderness had arisen to reclaim its possessions. They rumbled inland. The tigers of the forest were stealthy. Beasley had played Australian rules football for a while after he left the Army and before he came to work for Toshi. She wore a cold white mask similar to the mask Bengali woodcutters donned when they ventured into the mangrove forests along the coast.
The woman tilted her head. Maybe he had quit the bottle for good this time around.
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He was alone with the driver. After the drive had grown long and monotonous, Partridge shut his eyes and the woman was waiting. Raise the dust. He snapped on the overhead lamp and then opened his briefcase. In the daydream, he was always very young and powerless. The woman in the cold white mask brightened then dimmed like a dying coal or a piece of metal coiling into itself. He promised himself to do just that every year. She came near and extended the tarantula in her long, gray hand.
Partridge opened his eyes and rested his brow against window glass. The odor of gun oil and cigarette smoke was strong in the cab. Of course, Nadine—she snapped her fingers and here he came at a loyal trot. Partridge realized that somehow this was the same ruggedly charismatic Beasley, plus a streak of gray in the beard and minus the spring-loaded tension and the whiskey musk.
Jean left him for Universal Studios and then slammed into a reef in Maui learning to surf with her new boss. Water down the sluice. Back Next Contents. Warrenburgh was a loveless hamlet of crabbed New England shop fronts and angular plank and shingle houses with tall, thin doors and oily windows. He chose instead the relative anonymity of mass transit. Partridge did not like what little he glimpsed of the surroundings.
Carry on, carry on. The appeal of traveling incognito overwhelmed his normally staid sensibilities. They drove in silence until Beasley hooked left onto a dirt road that followed a ridge of brambles and oak trees.
The thought was not as comforting as it should have been. He had hopped a redeye jet to Boston and once there eschewed the convenience of renting a car or hiring a chauffeur and limo. Sometimes this kept the tigers from dragging them away. Partridge held the address book close to his face.
The ducks spread themselves in a wavering pattern against the sky. The road was secured by a heavy iron gate with the usual complement of grimy warning s. Rusty light gradually exposed counterchange shelves of empty fields and canted telephone poles strung together with thick, dipping old-fashioned cables. The light was poor.
The street itself was buckled and rutted by poorly tarred cracks that caused sections to cohere uneasily as interleaved ice floes. Nadine detested the sport without reserve. She lifted a tarantula from the box and held it to her breast like a black carnation. The doctor was a creature of warmth and light. Sometimes it was a strange, dark flower. He missed Jean. Stags, wild boar, witches.
A few minutes before dawn, the forest receded and they entered Warrenburgh. He had not packed a camera, either. This was like being embraced by an earth mover. The woman offered him a black phone. The bus trawled through a night forest.
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It was hard. The contrast was as magnificent as a stark Monet if Monet had painted watercolors of emaciated patricians and their pet spiders. Yeah, I roam the marshes a bit. The woman in the cold white mask reached into a wooden box. There were no mileposts on the road to confirm the impression that his destination was near. It was fire engine red with a dinky American flag on the antenna.
Beasley, longstanding attendant of the eccentric researcher, waited at the station.
He tasted brackish water, metallic from the canteen. He was magnetic and striking as any character actor, nonetheless. Ducks pelted from a hollow in the road. Royals hunted in woods like these. The narrow black road crumbled from decades of neglect. Here was the first adventure he had undertaken in ages. It was a fat stone grown from a pebble. He had scribbled the directions from margin to margin and drawn a crude map with arrows and lopsided boxes and jotted the initials of the principles: Dr.
Toshi Ryoko; Dr. Howard Campbell; Beasley; and Nadine.
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On the passenger side overgrown pastures dwindled into moiling vapors. The smell reminded him of hip waders, muddy clay banks and gnats in their biting millions among the reeds.
There were several smaller opportunities, namely an L. He knew he should hire a reliable secretary. Streetlights glowed along Main Street with black gaps like a broken pearl necklace. Life, you know? Better, much better, not to endure the buzzing and whining and the imprecations and demands that he return at once on pain of immediate career death, over a dicey relay.
He still working for Boeing? His nose was squashed and his ears were cauliflowers. Beasley climbed out and unlocked the gate and swung it aside. The briefcase was nearly empty. The truck was museum quality. Sure, things were in the shitter for a bit after New Guinea, but we all got over it. Partridge sat on his high, wooden chair and whimpered in animal terror. Bag a mallard or two. The tigers hated to be watched; they preferred to sneak up on prey from behind, so natives wore the masks on the backs of their he as they gathered wood. Toshi was disinterested in hunting and thought it generally a waste of energy.
The weight in his belly sufficed.