Gentle called Klein from the airport, minutes before he caught his flight. He presented Chester with a severely edited version of the truth, making no mention of Esta-brook’s murder plot but explaining that Jude was ill and had requested his presence. Klein didn’t deliver the tirade that Gentle had anticipated. He simply observed, rather wearily, that if Gentle’s word was worth so little after all the effort he, Klein, had put into finding work for him, it was perhaps best that they end their business relationship now. Gentle begged him to be a little more lenient, to which Klein said he’d call Gentle’s studio in two days’ time and, if he received no answer, would assume their deal was no longer valid.
“Your dick’ll be the death of you,” he commented as he signed off.
The flight gave Gentle time to think about both that re-, mark and the conversation on Kite Hill, the memory of which still vexed him. During the exchange itself he’d moved from suspicion to disbelief to disgust and finally to acceptance of Estabrook’s proposal- But despite the fact that the man had been as good as his word, providing ample funds for the trip, the more Gentle returned to the conversation in memory, the more that first response—suspicion—was reawakened. His doubts circled around two elements of Estabrook’s story: the assassin himself (this Mr. Pie, hired out of nowhere) and, more particularly, around the man who’d introduced Estabrook to his hired hand: Chant, whose death had been media fodder for the past several days.
The dead man’s letter was virtually incomprehensible, as Estabrook had warned, veering from pulpit rhetoric to opiate invention. The fact that Chant, knowing he was going to be murdered (that much was cogent), should have chosen to set these nonsenses down as vital information was proof of significant derangement. How much more deranged, then, a man like Estabrook, who did business with this crazy? And by the same token was Gentle not crazier still, employed by the lunatic’s employer?
Amid all these fantasies and equivocations, however, there were two irreducible facts: death and Judith. The former had come to Chant in a derelict house in Clerkenwell; about that there was no ambiguity. The latter, innocent of her husband’s malice, was probably its next target. His task was simple: to come between the two.
He checked into his hotel at 52nd and Madison a little after five in the afternoon, New York time. From his window on the fourteenth floor he had a view downtown, but the scene was far from welcoming. A gruel of rain, threatening to thicken into snow, had begun to fall as he journeyed in from Kennedy, and the weather reports promised cold and more cold. It suited him, however. The gray darkness, together with the horn and brake squeals rising from the intersection below, fitted his mood of dislocation. As with London, New York was a city in which he’d had friends once, but lost them. The only face he would seek out here was Judith’s.
There was no purpose in delaying that search. He ordered coffee from Room Service, showered, drank, dressed in his thickest sweater, leather jacket, corduroys, and heavy boots, and headed out. Cabs were hard to come by, and after ten minutes of waiting in line beneath the hotel canopy, he decided to walk uptown a few blocks and catch a passing cab if he got lucky. If not, the cold would clear his head. By the time he’d reached 70th Street the sleet had become a drizzle, and there was a spring in his step. Ten blocks from here Judith was about some early evening occupation: bathing, perhaps, or dressing for an evening on the town. Ten blocks, at a minute a block. Ten minutes until he was standing outside the place where she was.
Marlin had been as solicitous as an erring husband since the attack, calling her from his office every hour or so, and several times suggesting that she might want to talk with an analyst, or at very least with one of his many friends who’d been assaulted or mugged on the streets of Manhattan. She declined the offer. Physically, she was quite well. Psychologically too. Though she’d heard that victims of attack often suffered from delayed repercussions—depression and sleeplessness among them—neither had struck her yet. It was the mystery of what had happened that kept her awake at night. Who was he, this man who knew her name, who got up from a collision that should have killed him outright and still managed to outrun a healthy man? And why had she projected upon his face the likeness of John Za-charias? Twice she’d begun to tell Marlin about the meeting in and outside Bloomingdale’s; twice she’d rechanneted the conversation at the last moment, unable to face his benign condescension. This enigma was hers to unravel, and sharing it too soon, perhaps at all, might make the solving impossible.