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Chapter 22

  • Linda’s first meeting with Art’s Gran went off without a hitch. Gran met the_t Union Station with an obsolete red cap who was as ancient as she was, _estige of a more genteel era of train travel and bulky luggage. Just seein_im made Art’s brain whir with plans for conveyor systems, luggage escalators, cart dispensers. They barely had enough luggage between the two of them t_ake it worth the old man’s time, but he dutifully marked their bags with _tub of chalk and hauled them onto his cart, then trundled off to the servic_levators.
  • Gran gave Art a long and teary hug. She was less frail than she’d been in hi_emory, taller and sturdier. The smell of her powder and the familia_coustics of Union Station’s cavernous platform whirled him back to hi_hildhood in Toronto, to the homey time before he’d gotten on the circadia_erry-go-round.
  • “Gran, this is Linda,” he said.
  • “Oh, it’s so nice to meet you,” Gran said, taking Linda’s hands in hers. “Cal_e Julie.”
  • Linda smiled a great, pretty, toothy smile. “Julie, Art’s told me all abou_ou. I just know we’ll be great friends.”
  • “I’m sure we will. Are you hungry? Did they feed you on the train? You must b_xhausted after such a long trip. Which would you rather do first, eat o_est?”
  • “Well, I’m up for seeing the town,” Linda said. “Your grandson’s been yawnin_is head off since Buffalo, though.” She put her arm around his waist an_queezed his tummy.
  • “What a fantastic couple you make,” Gran said. “You didn’t tell me she was s_retty, Arthur!”
  • “Here it comes,” Art said. “She’s going to ask about great-grandchildren.”
  • “Don’t be silly,” Gran said, cuffing him gently upside the head. “You’r_lways exaggerating.”
  • “Well I think it’s a splendid idea,” Linda said. “Shall we have two? Three?
  • Four?”
  • “Make it ten,” Art said, kissing her cheek.
  • “Oh, I couldn’t have ten,” Linda said. “But five is a nice compromise. Five i_ill be. We’ll name the first one Julie if it’s a girl, or Julius if it’s _oy.”
  • “Oh, we are going to get along,” Gran said, and led them up to the curb, wher_he red cap had loaded their bags into a cab.
  • They ate dinner at Lindy’s on Yonge Street, right in the middle of the sleaz_trip. The steakhouse had been there for the better part of a century, and it_racked red-vinyl booths and thick rib eyes smothered in horseradish and H_auce were just as Art had remembered. Riding up Yonge Street, the city light_ad seemed charming and understated; even the porn marquees felt restraine_fter a week in New York. Art ate a steak as big as his head and fell into _ostprandial torpor whence he emerged only briefly to essay a satisfied belch.
  • Meanwhile, Gran and Linda nattered away like old friends, making plans for th_eek: the zoo, the island, a day trip to Niagara Falls, a ride up the C_ower, all the touristy stuff that Art had last done in elementary school.
  • By the time Art lay down in his bed, belly tight with undigested steak, he wa_eeling wonderful and at peace with the world. Linda climbed in beside him, wrestled away a pillow and some covers, and snuggled up to him.
  • “That went well,” Art said. “I’m really glad you two hit it off.”
  • “Me too, honey,” Linda said, kissing his shoulder through his tee shirt. He’_een able to get his head around the idea of sharing a bed with his girlfrien_nder his grandmother’s roof, but doing so nude seemed somehow wrong.
  • “We’re going to have a great week,” he said. “I wish it would never end.”
  • “Yeah,” she said, and began to snore into his neck.
  • The next morning, Art woke stiff and serene. He stretched out on the bed, dimly noted Linda’s absence, and padded to the bathroom to relieve hi_ladder. He thought about crawling back into bed, was on the verge of doin_o, when he heard the familiar, nervewracking harangue of Linda arguing dow_er comm. He opened the door to his old bedroom and there she was, stark nake_nd beautiful in the morning sun, comm in hand, eyes focused in the middl_istance, shouting.
  • “No, goddamnit, no! Not here. Jesus, are you a moron? I said no!”
  • Art reached out to touch her back, noticed that it was trembling, visibl_ense and rigid, and pulled his hand back. Instead, he quietly set abou_ishing in his small bag for a change of clothes.
  • “This is not a good time. I’m at Art’s grandmother’s place, all right? I’l_alk to you later.” She threw her comm at the bed and whirled around.
  • “Everything all right?” Art said timidly.
  • “No, goddamnit, no it isn’t.”
  • Art pulled on his pants and kept his eyes on her comm, which was dented an_cratched from a hundred thousand angry hang ups. He hated it when she go_ike this, radiating anger and spoiling for a fight.
  • “I’m going to have to go, I think,” she said.
  • “Go?”
  • “To California. That was my fucking ex again. I need to go and sort things ou_ith him.”
  • “Your ex knows who I am?”
  • She looked blank.
  • “You told him you were at my grandmother’s place. He knows who I am?”
  • “Yeah,” she said. “He does. I told him, so he’d get off my back.”
  • “And you have to go to California?”
  • “Today. I have to go to California today.”
  • “Jesus, today? We just got here!”
  • “Look, you’ve got lots of catching up to do with your Gran and your friend_ere. You won’t even miss me. I’ll go for a couple days and then come back.”
  • “If you gotta go,” he said.
  • “I gotta go.”
  • He explained things as best as he could to Gran while Linda repacked he_ackpack, and then saw Linda off in a taxi. She was already savaging her comm, booking a ticket to LA. He called Fede from the condo’s driveway.
  • “Hey, Art! How’s Toronto?”
  • “How’d you know I was in Toronto?” Art said, but he knew, he knew then, thoug_e couldn’t explain how he knew, he knew that Linda and Fede had been talking.
  • He knew that Linda had been talking to Fede that morning, and not her fuckin_x (God, he was thinking of the poor schmuck that way already, “fucking ex”).
  • Christ, it was five in the morning on the West Coast. It couldn’t be the ex.
  • He just knew.
  • “Lucky guess,” Fede said breezily. “How is it?”
  • “Oh, terrific. Great to see the old hometown and all. How’re things wit_erceptronics? When should I plan on being back in Boston?”
  • “Oh, it’s going all right, but slow. Hurry up and wait, right? Look, don’_orry about it, just relax there, I’ll call you when the deal’s ready an_ou’ll go back to Boston and we’ll sort it out and it’ll all be fantastic an_on’t worry, really, all right?”
  • “Fine, Fede.” Art wasn’t listening any more. Fede had gone into bullshit mode, and all Art was thinking of was why Linda would talk to Fede and then book _light to LA. “How’re things in London?” he said automatically.
  • “Fine, fine,” Fede said, just as automatically. “Not the same without you, o_ourse.”
  • “Of course,” Art said. “Well, bye then.”
  • “Bye,” Fede said.
  • Art felt an unsuspected cunning stirring within him. He commed Linda, in he_ab. “Hey, dude,” he said.
  • “Hey,” she said, sounding harassed.
  • “Look, I just spoke to my Gran and she’s really upset you had to go. Sh_eally liked you.”
  • “Well, I liked her, too.”
  • “Great. Here’s the thing,” he said, and drew in a breath. “Gran made you _weater. She made me one, too. She’s a knitter. She wanted me to send it alon_fter you. It looks pretty good. So, if you give me your ex’s address, I ca_edEx it there and you can get it.”
  • There was a lengthy pause. “Why don’t I just pick it up when I see you again?” Linda said, finally.
  • Gotcha, Art thought. “Well, I know that’d be the sensible thing, but my Gran, I dunno, she really wants me to do this. It’d make her so happy.”
  • “I dunno—my ex might cut it up or something.”
  • “Oh, I’m sure he wouldn’t do that. I could just schedule the delivery fo_fter you arrive, that way you can sign for it. What do you think?”
  • “I really don’t think—”
  • “Come on, Linda, I know it’s nuts, but it’s my Gran. She really likes you.”
  • Linda sighed. “Let me comm you the address, OK?”
  • “Thanks, Linda,” Art said, watching the address in Van Nuys scroll onto hi_omm’s screen. “Thanks a bunch. Have a great trip—don’t let your ex get yo_own.”
  • Now, armed with Linda’s fucking ex’s name, Art went to work. He told Gran h_ad some administrative chores to catch up on for an hour or two, promised t_ave supper with her and Father Ferlenghetti that night, and went out onto th_ondo’s sundeck with his keyboard velcroed to his thigh.
  • Trepan: Hey!
  • Colonelonic: Trepan! Hey, what's up? I hear you're back on the East Coast!
  • Trepan: True enough. Back in Toronto. How's things with you?
  • Colonelonic: Same as ever. Trying to quit the dayjob.
  • Trepan: /private Colonelonic Are you still working at Merril-Lynch?
  • ## Colonelonic (private): Yeah.
  • Trepan: /private Colonelonic Still got access to Lexus-Nexus?
  • ## Colonelonic (private): Sure — but they're on our asses about abusing th_ccounts. Every search is logged and has to be accounted for.
  • Trepan: /private Colonelonic Can you get me background on just one guy?
  • ## Colonelonic (private): Who is he? Why?
  • Trepan: /private Colonelonic It's stupid. I think that someone I know is abou_o go into biz with him, and I don't trust him. I'm probably just bein_aranoid, but…
  • ## Colonelonic (private): I don't know, man. Is it really important?
  • Trepan: /private Colonelonic Oh, crap, look. It's my girlfriend. I think she'_crewing this guy. I just wanna get an idea of who he is, what he does, yo_now.
  • ## Colonelonic (private): Heh. That sucks. OK — check back in a couple hours.
  • There's a guy across the hall who never logs out of his box when he goes t_unch. I'll sneak in there and look it up on his machine.
  • Trepan: /private Colonelonic Kick ass. Thanks.
  • ##Transferring addressbook entry "Toby Ginsburg" to Colonelonic. Receip_onfirmed.
  • Trepan: /private Colonelonic Thanks again!
  • ## Colonelonic (private): Check in with me later — I'll have something for yo_hen.
  • Art logged off, flushed with triumph. Whatever Fede and Linda were cooking up, he’d get wise to it and then he’d nail ’em. What the hell was it, though?