Time’s Bending Sickle

The beginning of this novel may be found in the archives under October 2010; scroll down to find chapter one.

37. Devouring Time

Although my problems loomed large to me at the time, Toby’s helped put them in perspective. I was not threatened with starvation, plague, or bombardment, and I wasn’t responsible for a wife and child. I might end up in cement waders at the bottom of Baltimore harbor, but at least the law was theoretically on my side, and I could hope for the best. I knew from the history books what was going to happen in Breda, and I watched with concern to see how Toby would survive the siege.
I could see Toby and the others anxiously waiting for Prince Maurice to attack the besieging Spanish under General Spinola, but the books tell me that because of bad luck with weather and other problems, Maurice could neither drive off the Spanish nor get significant relief supplies to the town. As his health declined, Maurice broke camp and retreated. The Dutch had in the past used the force of water to their advantage, and at one point caused the river to flood into the Spanish camp. But a dam that would have not only have given trouble to the Spanish, but would have enabled supply boats to reach Breda, could never be completed because of bad weather and because Spinola had engineers who could manipulate sluices and wash out the dam at crucial moments. Although bad weather in the shape of sudden storms defeated Dutch enterprises, the winter was unusually mild, which was more to the advantage of the Spanish than the Dutch.
Cannon fire was exchanged on both sides, but despite the advantage of the new cannon and mortars, the Spanish bombardment was relatively restrained, especially when one recalls that Maurice fired a total of 29,000 shots from fifty cannon into Steenwijk in forty-four days. And when Spinola was besieging Bergen op Zoom, despite bombardment from a hundred cannon and aggressive assaults on the defensive outworks, he lost nine thousand men in casualties and desertions, and still did not win the city. It became clear that his strategy for Breda was different: it was to prevent supplies and relief from getting in, and to starve the town out. In January, rationing became necessary, and the magistrates and military in Breda began searching all the houses in the town.

Toby and other soldiers stood on the outermost fortifications cheerfully shouting insults at the Spanish. They had just had news that the town of Goch, south of Cleves, had been taken by the Dutch. “Better pack and go to Goch,” was the most popular cry.
An army raised by the German mercenary Ernst von Mansfeld was supposed to relieve Breda. When Toby saw Spinola’s forces digging a series of defensive trenches outside those used in the siege, he took that as a sign that Mansfeld was on the way, and the garrison rejoiced. But Mansfeld’s army, drastically weakened by disease and desertion, also failed to bring relief.
While they were waiting on Mansfeld, the inhabitants of Breda became more and more a prey to disease. There was talk of both scurvy and plague. Toby watched his family with growing anxiety. Returning to his shack against the wall one night, Toby kissed Mary, and then sniffed at her lips. He kissed Elizabeth and said, “Let me smell your breath.” Satisfied, he gave them each a bit of tobacco leaf to chew. Elizabeth made a face and spat it out. Toby caught it and said, “Nay, mouse, you must chew on this bit and swallow the juice. Twill prevent the scurvy.”
Elizabeth protested. Mary said, “I would we had a bit of honey to sweeten it for her.”
“Mix it with the sauerkraut,” said Toby. “Tis not sweet, but tis strong.” Mary scooped some kraut from a crock and mixed the tobacco in it. Elizabeth managed to get it down. I’m sure that the kraut was more effective against scurvy than the tobacco, but even the tobacco may have had some vitamin C. (The citrus remedy for scurvy was not discovered until the eighteenth century.)
“Oil is now a crown a quart,” said Mary, “and dried peas ten crowns the measure.”
“Buy what you need,” said Toby; “I have yet more dead pays.”
I have said that the winter was unusually temperate. But March was bitterly cold. The month began with a celebration of the anniversary of the taking of Breda on March 4, 1590, by means of the Trojan horse peat boat. Toby and Balfour directed the firing of artillery in their section of the fortifications. There were to be three volleys fired by all weapons, cannons and muskets, on a given signal on the trumpet.
“We have store of cannon balls,” said Toby, “would they were cheeses.”
“Aye,” said Balfour, “therefore let them be charged. Our volley should not be for ceremony only.” But I had already seen them fire at the thick earth fortifications that dotted the Spanish trenches, and expected no great results.
“Ready muskets,” shouted Toby. “Fire after the trumpet sounds.” When the gunners and musketeers were ready, the ancient waved the colors of the company. Other companies also showed their colors around the walls. Finally the trumpet sounded, and a rolling volley of booms and cracks shook the air. As the smoke rose, the gun crews and musketeers hurriedly reloaded. The flags waved, the trumpet sounded, and the volley was repeated, and repeated a third time. The soldiers then cheered defiantly, and were answered by mocking cries and shots from the besiegers. The soldiers shouted back. The garrison’s voices were loud, but there was desperation in their faces.
The next day, March 5, 1626, King James died in England; the news would not reach the English in Breda for some time.

Elizabeth’s crying woke Toby and Mary in the dark shack. Their breaths made steam as Toby lit a rush lamp and Mary stooped over Elizabeth’s bed.
“I’m cold,” she said weakly.
“Toby, the fire’s out.” Toby scrabbled in the woodbox as Mary scooped up the child. “Lord, how she trembles. Tis an ague.”
“I’m very cold.”
“Here, come under the featherbeds with me.” Mary wrapped up Elizabeth and took her into the large bed.
Toby stepped into his boots and threw on his cloak. “I must fetch more kindling.” He pushed on the door, which resisted. “Snow is blocking the door. It must be deep.” He turned to Mary, who huddled around the shivering lump that was Elizabeth. “Twill take me half an hour to get the kindling now. Is she no warmer?”
“I’m cold,” was the muffled whine.
Toby got back in the bed, throwing his cloak over them all. He looked anxiously at Mary.
“I’m very warm,” she said, “but Bet is sick. We must have a fire.” Toby got up again and lit a small scrap of wood in the fireplace. It burned up without getting the fire going. He looked around desperately. Then he went to a dark corner from which came a sound of wood splintering. He turned back to the fireplace with a handful of thin wood, some of which had a varnished surface. Soon the fire leaped up, and he fed more wood into the fire, one piece of which I recognized as the neck and fingerboard of a viola da gamba.
Later, in front of a blazing fire, Toby and Mary hovered over Elizabeth, who lay flushed and twitching, the whites of her eyes just visible below her eyelids. Both were praying, Mary crossing herself frequently. From time to time Mary tried to get the child to drink a sip of water, but she was not conscious. A cannon rumbled in the distance, followed by shouts and musket fire. Elizabeth’s breathing became more labored, and she soon experienced a series of convulsions that I could not bear to watch. Watching Mary and Toby was almost as bad, for their pain was searing. Finally, the child gasped and lay still. Sobbing, Mary felt for a pulse, then put her head down on the child’s chest and wept with growling cries that seemed to rip out her bowels. Toby held a small, limp hand and stared vacantly into the fire.

Another day, much warmer. There was no fire, and the door of the shack was open. Mary lay on the bed, her arm over her eyes. Toby entered.
“There is news. Prince Maurice is dead.” Mary gave no response. Toby sat on the bed. “Tis said that his last words were to ask about Breda. Well, here we stand yet, but for how much longer, I cannot tell.” He paused. “Are you not well, sweeting?”
“No.”
Toby took her hand and lifted her arm from her face. It was flushed. “Let me smell your breath.” He bent and kissed her. “How do you ail?”
“I’m weary and weak, and my head aches.”
Toby felt her forehead with the back of his hand. “You feel feverish.” He touched her gently in the armpits; she winced, and Toby frowned. “I must fetch the physician.”
“Nay, I shall be right after a while.”
“No, my dear, indulge my fancy.”

Toby and a serious, graybearded man in black stood outside the shack. He was telling Toby in German that it was likely that Mary had the plague. Toby must administer to Mary a dose of sack mixed with oil and gunpowder three times a day, but he himself should touch her as little as possible; she should turn her face away when speaking to him or coughing; he should wash his hands with rose vinegar every time he leaves her room, then smoke a pipe of tobacco and drink a pint of strong beer, if he could find any of those items. Toby asked with great urgency what else might be done to save her. The doctor said to pray.
Toby sat watching Mary by candlelight. She tossed and muttered in delirium. There were large purplish blotches on her arms and face, and her hands and fingers were swollen. Toby prayed.
Daylight. Toby approached the shack with a pair of bottles. He recoiled slightly as he opened the door, for the stench was very strong. I gagged and held my nose. In the light of the doorway I could see Mary, her hands now a greenish black, with more blotches on any visible skin. She breathed shallowly, and coughed. Her eyes were open, but showed no recognition.
“Here’s medicine, my love,” he said, as he began mixing the wine, oil, and gunpowder. “Would it were more pleasant to the taste.”
Mary’s eyes clicked into focus. “Go,” she whispered hoarsely. “Go.” She closed her eyes.
“Nay, twill taste bad but for a moment.” He approached her with a cup. She gave a rattling sigh and lay still. He raised her head and held the cup to her lips. Some of the liquid spilled on her cheek. Gently he lowered her head and set down the cup. He sat on a bench and put his head in his hands. Fortune had claimed Toby’s hostages, and I wept with him.

Toby watched blankly as a soldier put a torch to his shack. The flames soon covered the roof. The soldier tossed the torch in through the open door, and the bedclothes blazed. A young officer with a snub nose over a brown vandyke took Toby by the arm and led him away, speaking kindly and volubly in Scots. Toby did not look at the man or respond.

Toby leaned over the wall of one of the outer fortifications, still looking sadly abstracted. I had not seen Balfour for some time, and wondered if he had fallen to the plague. The young officer I had seen with Toby after his shack was fired seemed to be in charge, though he came to Toby now and then to report or confirm an order. When this would happen, Toby would only nod passively, sometimes murmuring, “Thank you, Captain Donaldson.” It was a pleasant, clear, warm day, and the only sound was the calls and laughter of the soldiers. There seemed to be some kind of truce, for Dutch soldiers from the Spanish side had come to the foot of the walls and were joking with the soldiers of Breda. One of the besiegers tossed up a ball of cheese, which was eagerly caught; another threw up a twist of tobacco. The one who caught the cheese threw down a bit of bread; the man who caught it mimed exaggerated pleasure and astonishment, and ate it as if he were starving. This got a lot of laughs. Even Toby managed a small grim smile.
“What did they say?” Donaldson asked.
“The Spanish Dutchman called ter Hooch cousin, and said he should offer ten Hail Marys for the cheese. Ter Hooch said, no, he would do better and give him Our Lord’s great toe, transubstantiated.”
“Flat blasphemy,” Donaldson said, not seriously.
The joking dialog continued. Then one of the men below caught Toby’s eye and gestured that they should move down the wall away from the others. Like the other men below, he wore a red scarf on his arm–there were no real uniforms on either side. When they were out of earshot, he called up in English, “Give me the end of a pike and help me up. I have news.” Toby grabbed a pike and held it while the other scrambled up the sloping wall. I realized then that Toby still had some physical strength, though he was nearly sixty.
“Who are you?” Toby asked. “Do you come from the king of Sweden?”
“Sweden? Why no. My name is Henderson, and I come from Prince Henry, brother to the late Prince Maurice. I must speak to the governor.” He took off his red scarf.
“Nothing from the king of Sweden about my instruments of war?”
“No.” He turned to Donaldson, who had just approached. “Good sir, be pleased to take me to governor Justinian.”
“Please come with me,” Donaldson said. When Toby turned to replace the pike, Donaldson glanced at Toby and tapped his forehead. Henderson gave a brief nod. The three set off toward the main town, across small bridges and through the gates of the outer fortifications.
“What is the news from Parno?” Toby asked.
“Why, tis still the Swedes’,” Henderson said. “And how is’t with you in Breda?”
“Ill, ill,” Toby said, his voice growing angrier as he spoke. “We make love to the enemy for cheese.” His face cleared and he turned to Henderson. “You say you come from Prince Henry? Does he come to succor us?”
Henderson smiled. “That is the message I deliver to your governor.”
“Praise God,” Toby said fiercely. “Now we can fight!”
Henderson said, “You should be able to see our army from the top of your church steeple. Look toward Dongen.”
“I shall be first up,” Donaldson said, “after I conduct you to the governor.”

Somewhat later, Toby and Donaldson were listening to the besiegers shouting to the defenders, mocking them and saying that their rescuers had arrived. From various hints, they gathered that an attack on the besiegers had been attempted but was repelled at some cost to the attackers. This was confirmed in a later scene in which Toby, Donaldson, and other officers were read a message from Prince Henry describing how a large force of Englishmen under Colonel Sir Francis Vere tried to penetrate the Spanish lines near Terheijden. They captured some fortifications, but were driven off by the Italian troops in that sector, and many of Vere’s forces were killed by artillery as they clustered on a narrow causeway that was the only approach. Although the prince promised to take advantage of any opportunity to relieve them, he did not see how he could force his way through the enemy’s defenses, and he advised the governor not to risk all by obstinately holding out. He asked that they acknowledge receipt of the message by shooting three cannons around midnight, and an hour later showing as many lights from the steeple as they had days of provisions. That night they hung eleven lanterns in the steeple.

Toby paced the walls restlessly, muttering to himself. Donaldson watched him apprehensively. The day was quiet, except for a loud argument being pursued by one of the defenders and some laughter from the Spanish trenches. Toby stopped and beckoned to Donaldson. “Captain Donaldson. Call the company together.” Donaldson hesitated, and Toby impatiently shouted “Men! Muskets and pikes! Fall in!”
Puzzled men stood and looked at Donaldson, who gestured that they should assemble. About sixty men gathered their weapons and stood in a rough square.
Toby grabbed a pike and struck a pose. “Prince Henry waits to rescue us, but we need to show some mettle. We must make a sally against these Polonians.” He pointed over the wall. “We shall capture that redoubt.”
“But sir,” Donaldson broke in, “we may not do so without orders.”
“I am giving the orders, Captain.” Donaldson gestured frantically, but Toby went on. “God’s shoebuckles, men! We rust here, our powder grows stale and musty. Would you not, men, rather die in a resolute action than pine away on stale crusts?” No one answered, but all looked at Donaldson. I thought I saw in Toby some of the gesture, the air, of Captain Hall–and of his portrayal of Basilisco. Toby did not hesitate, but shook his pike and shouted, “Follow me!” He slid down the wall and began a limping run toward the Spanish redoubt.
The men stood, their mouths open. Donaldson called out, “Sir!” With a hopeless look, he turned to the troops. “Stay.”
Then he slid down the wall and ran after Toby, who was yelling “England and St. George!” By this time heads were popping up over the Spanish trenches, and a couple of muskets appeared.
Donaldson picked up speed, waving one hand in a desperate calming circle, while knocking on his head with the other. “Don’t fire! No fuego! Nicht schutzen!” He caught up with Toby about a hundred yards from the redoubt. I could see the smoke from the Spanish matches. He grabbed Toby’s arm and spun him around.
“Where are the men, Captain?” Toby was surprised, then quickly angry.
“They did not follow for they did not have the proper orders. Come back, good sir, before we are fired on.”
Toby struggled and cursed, and had almost broken away when a Spanish musket banged and kicked up the dirt two yards from Toby’s feet. Laughter and yells in Dutch and Spanish followed from the trenches. Toby allowed Donaldson to lead him back toward the fortifications, but at a calm, dignified pace. He said nothing as his men helped pull him over the wall.

A warm June day. Through the town gates and across bridges over the ditches between fortifications, drums beating, flags flying, the musketeers’ matches burning at both ends, the garrison of Breda marched out. Toby, erect to the point of affecting a theatrical swagger, marched at the head of his company, with Donaldson close behind. When they crossed the Spanish trenches, the enemy troops were silent. A group of officers, one of whom was Spinola, saluted Toby as he passed.
The great Diego Velásquez painted a picture of a hatless Spinola graciously accepting the key to the city gate from the governor. It is of course marvelously composed, with portraits of the significant officers and nobles attending Spinola, who is backed by an array of erect pikes, while the few on the Dutch side straggle despondently. Spinola’s horse seems to be mooning the Dutch. The painting was of course a political and artistic rendering of the event, not a photograph, though the real scene did have a kind of ceremonial dignity. And odd to say, the Dutch troops–those who could march–made a better show than the conquering Spanish, whose supplies had been irregular, and who had to live in camps instead of a town. Vandyke’s more detailed portrait of Spinola captured his combination of compassion and ruthlessness; today it would be the face of an industrialist who pulls no punches fighting the unions in his shop, while donating to charity hospitals.
The garrison troops swung north toward Getrudenberg. After passing the last of the clusters of enemy soldiers, Toby drooped noticeably. Donaldson fell in beside him and began talking.
“Ah, colonel, think on’t: fresh eggs! Good beer! A savory joint of pork! You shall come with me to the best ordinary in Getrudenberg, and we shall feast.”
“Feast our victory?” Toby asked wryly.
“Feast our resolve, our endurance.” Toby didn’t respond, but slogged on. Donaldson continued. “What shall you demand first when you return to England? A fresh Dover sole with leeks? A good cup of Southwark ale?”
“England?” Toby turned to Donaldson with weary surprise. “I stay here to serve Prince Henry. I will show him my instruments of war, and we shall defeat these Polonians.”
“Oh, no, sir, England’s the only place for us. The new King Charles will need the services of an old soldier like you.” He hesitated. “What friends do you have in England?”
Toby’s face clouded. “None. They are all dead.”
“Did I not hear you say once that you knew the Earl of Pembroke?”
“The Earl of Pembroke! Yes, I know the good earl, and count him a friend. Yes, yes. Thank you for putting me in mind of the Earl of Pembroke.”
“Good. Then we will wait on the Earl of Pembroke when we return to England.”

I thought about these episodes in Toby’s life a lot as I considered my own situation. I found it difficult to work on my book when the images of “G.Q.” and “Graveyard” would come unbidden into my consciousness. I thought of Toby’s terrible losses and the erosion of his mental health, and cursed my weakness. If he could stand so much, why can’t I bear my relatively small burden? Well, my burden is mine, and I have to deal with it the best I can. Then I thought of Toby’s mad, brave charge on the Spanish trenches. He at least took some action, tried to gain some control over his life.
I called Perry in Dallas for news–something I hadn’t done for a while. It was in the evening, so I called him at home; he’d be able to speak more freely there, anyway.
“Tony! How’s your wound?”
“I’m in good shape now. What news with you?”
“I’m moving to California.”
“No kidding? Finally get enough of Cullen?”
Perry snorted. “Haven’t you heard? Cullen is in Chapter Eleven, and the pension fund is gone. Howell, the bastard, cleaned it out.”
“No! The shit.”
“Of course he’s not hurting. He got his salary and bonuses, and the rumor is that he is on the short list for CEO of Intersoft.”
I got more details, but I still didn’t understand the whole picture. How could Howell screw up the company he just bought and then be considered for a job at a big outfit like Intersoft? Rage mixed with curiosity. Maybe it was time to grab my pike and charge the trenches. I called Agent Schirmer and asked for an appointment.
We met at the suburban house where I identified Scarlatti and his goons. Schirmer was his usual contained self. We sat in the living room on opposite sofas.
“Do you have something else to tell me, Mr. Maclean?”
“I guess you know that Cullen is in Chapter Eleven and that the pension fund was looted.”
“Yes. Of course companies can legally appropriate pension funds under certain conditions.”
“It may be legal, but it’s wrong. But that’s not what I wanted. I’m finding it difficult to just sit around doing nothing, waiting for something to happen, waiting for Scarlatti and his boys to do something nasty.”
“We all have to be patient. We’re doing what we can.” His voice dropped from neutral to distinctly chilly.
I stumbled on. “I guess what I’m saying is I’d like to be more involved. I’d like to help more actively.”
“You’ve been very helpful.” The touch of condescension irritated me.
“If it would help more, I’d be willing to wear a wire, have my phone tapped, my apartment bugged–whatever. I’d even seek out a meeting with Scarlatti if you could back me up.”
He wasn’t expecting this offer. I’m not sure I was either, but the words came out. I realized my palms were sweaty, but the image of Mel’s gun–or Abner’s shots–did not arise. I had had six therapy sessions with Dr. Levin, and they seemed to be working. Schirmer didn’t reply immediately. He looked to the left and scratched his clean-shaven chin. Finally he said, “That’s an intersting idea. Let me think about it and give you a call.”
“OK. I’ll be home, unless I get taken for a ride.”
Schirmer called that afternoon. “I think we’ll try the phone tap. Come by the safe house as soon as you can and sign a consent form.”
“Sure. I can come in an hour. Anything else?”
“I don’t think you could get to Scarlatti with a wire. But if you’re willing, we might let you try talking to Drew.”
“Fine.” I was relieved. It could be unpleasant, but not dangerous. “What should I ask him?”
“Don’t ask him anything. Provoke him and see what he says. Tell him you are the source of the file.”
“He must know that.”
“We’d like to confirm that.”
I was to come to the house the next morning, sign the phone tap form, then try to get Howell on the phone in Dallas. When I got to the house, Schirmer gave me a little tape recorder with a connection for the phone. “A full tap takes a while to set up, and I don’t think it will be necessary. All you have to do is turn this on here”–he showed me the switch–“whenever you make or receive a call. Of course it won’t have the beep that indicates a recording is being made.”
“Should I record every call I make?”
“Yes. That way we’ll have a continuous tape which we can match to phone records. Then we can protect ourselves against defense charges of selective or distorted recording. You notice that the tape compartment is locked. Don’t worry–it’s a very long tape.”
When I got home, I connected the recorder and called the time service to be sure it was working right. Then I discovered there was no rewind. Oh well, here goes.
“Cullen Computer Services.” I didn’t recognize the voice–it wasn’t Juliette, the switchboard operator from my time.
“Anthony Maclean to speak to Mr. Drew.”
“One moment please.”
Another unfamiliar female voice came on. “This is Mr. Drew’s secretary. Could you please tell me the purpose of your call?”
“Tell him Tony Maclean has some information about a file relating to Mr. Tedesco.”
“Please hold.” A sugary string arrangement of “Tomorrow” came on the line. Eventually the secretary returned. “Mr. Maclean. Mr. Drew says that he has nothing to say to you, and requests that you not attempt to contact him again. Thank you and goodbye.” The last sentence was spoken with an incongrous chirp.
I struck out.
I called Schirmer. He was out, so I called his beeper. He called back in a few minutes. Though it seemed silly now, I recorded all these calls. When I told him of my failure, he didn’t sound surprised or disappointed. “Just keep the recorder going for now and see what happens. I’ll get back to you if we confirm plan B.”
“What is plan B?”
“I’ll let you know.”
I tried to do some work, but was still pretty distracted. I had just gotten into an In Nomine by Tye when the phone rang. I flipped on the switch.
“Maclean?” A little New York, a little gravel. Scarlatti.
“Yes?”
“Can you talk for a minute without passing out?” This was said with an attempt at friendly banter, not sarcasm.
“I think so.”
“Good. You might ‘ve got the wrong impression the other night. Mel’s a bit theatrical–seen too many movies. I need to talk to you some more. Maybe I give you some information, you give me some. Maybe what I tell you helps you unnerstand what I’m after. Whattaya think?”
“Maybe.”
“I’ll meet you somewhere safe and public–say the Crab House near the pier. I’ll come alone, you come alone. I’ll buy you a good dinner. Whattaya say?”
“You’ll be alone. At the Crab House.”
“Right.”
“When?”
“Seven, tomorrow night.”
“OK, I’ll be there. But I was telling you the truth the first time–I really don’t know anything about those companies.”
“OK, OK. But like I say, I tell you something, maybe you’ll think of something.” He hung up.
I called Schirmer and told him of the conversation and that I had agreed to meet Scarlatti.
“Interesting that he called after you attempted to talk to Drew. Well, here goes plan B,” he said. “Come by the house tomorrow and get your wire.”
“Will you be nearby when I meet him?”
“Sure. But he wouldn’t try anything in a public place. Don’t worry. I just have my doubts that he’ll say anything useful.”
The next evening I arrived at the Crab House at five minutes before seven, and chose a booth that was visible from several points in the room, but was out of the flow of traffic and might be conducive to conversation. I squirmed in the booth until I got used to the wire and the pull of tape on various parts of my body. I delayed ordering for a while, but about ten after, I asked the impatiently attentive waiter for a bowl of chowder and a beer. About twenty minutes later I went to the counter for a look around the place, and bought a copy of the Sun. I lingered over coffee and pretended to read the paper until eight. Finally, I muttered to my armpit, “He’s not coming. I’m leaving.”
I got in my car with a mixture of relief and anxiety. To my unseen audience I said, “I’m going to stop by a friend’s house, if that’s OK.” I needed to see Clio. I shouldn’t have wanted to burden her with this scary business, but I think I had an immature impulse to show off my wire, spice up our relationship with a little mystery and bravado. And that might lead–and on into fantasyland.
Clio seemed pleased to see me, though I had always called for permission before visiting her before.
“This is a good time. I was just cleaning up. It’s a boring job, and some conversation would help. What have you been up to? I haven’t heard from you in a few days.”
“Oh, this and that.” Good sense was starting to kick in. “What are you working on now?”
Just as she started to answer, the lights went out. “Damn!” she said. “Wait a minute.” She found a flashlight, and went to a drawer and pulled out some candles and matches. She lit one, handed it to me, and lit two more, putting them in the candlesticks on her dining table. I wandered away, looking for a place to stick mine. “Stay away from the studio,” she said, “I’ve got several cans of paint thinner open over there.”
Someone knocked on the door. Clio went and checked the peephole. “I can’t see–It looks like some guy holding up a badge.”
“I think I know him; it’s OK.”
Clio opened the door. But instead of Schirmer checking up on me, there was Scarlatti and Mel, who pushed by Clio and closed the door. Mel grinned and drew his enormous gun.

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