At the hotel Munroe trailed to the front desk and stood in line. Noah Johnson. Room 319. Such an American name, and yet he struggled with rudimentary English. She knew the accent: the French of high-society Morocco.
When he had finally completed check-in, she booked a room, then placed several calls, and finally, getting past Kate Breeden's voice mail, arranged to meet for dinner at the hotel's restaurant.
Outside, Munroe hailed a taxi and twenty minutes later stood in a parking lot on a semideserted industrial strip. Far down the street on either side and in both directions were squat cement structures, businesses divided one from the next by narrow windows and truck bays.
Munroe watched the cab drive away and then climbed the steps that led to the closest door. The signage scripted in large metallic block letters read logan's.
The front door was locked. She pressed her face to the glass and, seeing no light, rapped on it. A few minutes passed, a light came on from the back, and Logan approached in sweats, barefoot and with a sheepish grin on his face. He unlocked the door and let her in, and then, scanning her up and down, said, "You look like shit."
She dropped the duffel bag on the entrance floor and let the door close. "Glad to see you, too," she said.
His smile broke first, and they both laughed. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders in a hug and then held her at arm's length. "Welcome back," he said. "God, it's good to see you. How was the trip?"
"Long and tedious."
"If you want to crash, the couch is available."
"Thanks but no thanks," she said. "I'm going against the jet lag."
"Coffee, then?" He turned toward the small kitchen. "I'm just getting a pot on."
"Caffeine I could use. Thick and black." Nothing he could conjure in his kitchen would come close to Turkish coffee; the caffeine withdrawals would follow on the heels of the anxiety and jet lag. One hurdle at a time.
The office portion of the building had four rooms. Logan used one as an office, another as a conference room, and the third and fourth as living quarters. In the back the warehouse doubled as repair shop and storage area. He wasn't supposed to be living in the building, but he paid his rent on time and thus far no one had complained to the property managers. The arrangement had been going on as far back as Munroe had known him - that muggy summer night seven years before, when prejudice in a hole-in-the-wall bikers' bar had turned to violence and she'd thrown in her lot with the underdog. They'd laughed when it was over, sitting by the edge of the road, under the blackened sky, making introductions like star-crossed soul mates.
Munroe walked the hallway slowly, following a row of poster-size frames that adorned the walls, stopping for a moment in front of each. Most contained photos of motorcycles on a speedway, Logan in the races he competed in, split-second snapshots of his professional life.
Logan was thirty-three with dusty blond hair, green eyes, and an innocent smile that placed him closer to twenty-five. Over the years the impression of childish innocence he gave had drawn in a succession of boyfriends who each in turn had discovered the reality of a dark and hardened soul.
Logan had been on his own since he was fifteen, had started by scraping together an existence fixing cars and motorcycles part-time from a repair shop owned by his best friend's father. Everything he had he'd earned by clawing his way to it one exacting day after another, and he was, by Munroe's judgment, the closest being she'd found to perfection in the nine years since she first set foot on American soil.
Logan joined her in front of the last frame and handed her a steaming mug. She nodded thanks, and they stood in comfortable silence for quite a while. "Two years is a long time," he said finally. "There's a lot to catch up on, Michael." He turned toward the back door. "You ready?"
Excerpted from The Informationist by Taylor Stevens. Copyright © 2011 by Taylor Stevens. Excerpted by permission of Crown. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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