Excerpt of The Conjurer's Bird by Martin Davies
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"Karl . . . ?"
"Ah yes. The collector. I've read about him. What sort of help would that
She paused. She had never liked talking over the phone.
"Not now. Wait for tomorrow. But I promise you'll be interested, Fitz. It's
about the Mysterious Bird of Ulieta."
She was right, of course. I was interested. In all sorts of ways. Abandoning the
owl to the darkness, I climbed the stairs to the room where I did most of my
living. It was an untidy, comfortable room, warmly lit and smelling of old
paper. The bed was permanently unmade and the desk was littered with notes for a
book I wasn't really writing. Some of the notes were noticeably dusty. One whole
wall was taken up with shelves of carefully ordered books, but I didn't need to
look anything up to know that Gabby wasn't being melodramatic. Despite its name,
the bird was real enough, or it had been once. I'd even made some notes about it
for an article, back in the days when I was going to be famous.
And now, all these years later, she wanted to ask me about it. She and her
friend Karl Anderson. I'd seen a picture of them together once, taken by a
mutual friend about three years earlier at one of the big summer lectures in
Salzburg. She was leaning very lightly on his arm, still dark and slim and calm,
still with that familiar, half-questioning smile.
I settled down on the bed and looked thoughtfully at the small trunk in the
corner of the room. What they wanted to know was probably in there along with
everything else--the dodo, the heath hen, the passenger pigeon, the lost and the
forgotten, all mixed together--years of jotted notes and observations still
waiting to be given a shape.
But instead of thinking about them, I thought about Gabby and the man she wanted
me to meet. I'd read a lot about him over the years, but everything I knew
really came down to three things. That Karl Anderson was a man with a reputation
for finding things. That he was used to getting what he wanted. And that
nowadays he was far too successful to do his searching in person unless the
stakes were very high indeed.
I wasn't sure I liked the sound of him.
I checked my watch and realized I could still just catch the pub.
Journeys begin in many different ways. It was Cook, a man experienced in
preparations for a long sea expedition, who persuaded Joseph Banks to return to
Revesby before they sailed--so that in the summer of 1768, two months before
they were due to depart, he made the journey back to Lincolnshire, back to the
woods and fields that for the next three years were what he thought of when he
thought of home.
The summers before the Endeavour set sail seemed lonelier to her than the
winters. Each summer day she spent alone was haunted by a sense of joy wasted.
And against the uncertainty of her future she began to paint, as if she might
trap and keep each day by its details. The transit of Venus, which he traveled
so far to observe, was less to her than the passing of the seasons in the
Friday At The Mecklenburg
It was raining heavily by the time I reached the Mecklenburg Hotel. By
abandoning the bus at Oxford Circus I arrived wet and out of breath, but at
least I was on time. The hotel turned out to be an ugly building, concrete on
the outside and expensively mock-Edwardian beyond the revolving doors. I stood
for a moment in the lobby, dripping on the carpet, slightly disappointed. Then,
suddenly self-conscious, I followed a sign to the gents, where I dried my hair
and pushed it into some sort of order. When I'd finished I looked better but I
still looked underdressed. Among academics I considered myself reasonably
stylish. Here I just looked like someone who might steal the towels.
Excerpted from The
Conjurer's Bird by Martin Davies Copyright © 2005 by Martin Davies.
Excerpted by permission of Shaye Areheart Books, a division of Random House,
Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or
reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.