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Songs of Earth and Power Omnibus, Page 49

Greg Bear

  The ocean was a mass of foam for miles around, and the air filled with a noise beyond the capacity of ears to hear, even had he listened with ears. Waves surged outward from the fall in immense rolls.

  The sky closed up, and the cloud dissipated.

  Michael's point of view shifted, and he now looked down on the roiling Earth sea. The surface was lime-green with breaking bubbles. Fog and salt mist hid the horizon on all sides.

  A dozen, then a hundred, and a thousand, a myriad of the Sidhe breached the surface in graceful lines, ordered themselves in cylindrical ranks beneath the waves and swam from the site of the fall.

  Michael came awake abruptly and lay on the bed, his body cold as ice. After a few moments of hyloka, he warmed again.

  The mass migrations were beginning.

  Kristine parked at a lot across from the studio's Gower Street gate. "Edgar's very busy now. He's doing sessions on the score for Lean's new picture - a real break for him, you know. Lean has always used Maurice Jarre."

  Michael nodded, more intent on examining the studio than the names. The bare tan outer walls seemed more appropriate for heavy industry than a dream factory.

  Kristine crossed the street and opened the glass door for him, pointing to a reception desk on the left side of a small sitting room. Behind the desk sat a woman in a blue and gray security uniform, appointment book and computer terminal before her. She smiled at Kristine.

  "Betty, this is Michael Perrin," Kristine introduced. "Betty Folger. She keeps out riffraff like us most of the time, but…"

  "Mr. Moffat?" Betty asked, smiling. She referred to the screen, then to the book. "He's logged you in for eleven-fifteen. It'll take you five minutes to j>et to recording studio 3B. If you start now, you'll be right on time." She held up a map, but Kristine waved it off.

  "I know the way," she said. "Thanks."

  Michael followed, impressed by the quiet and sense of order within the studio. Kristine led him down a corridor lined with offices and out of the building, across a small grassy park shaded with olive trees and then between two huge hangar-like sound stages. Beyond one rank of sound stages and before a second, nestled between backdrops imitating sky and rocks, was a quaint western town, quiet now except for a repair crew and a blue Ford pickup loaded with paint and supplies.

  "It's magic, isn't it?" Kristine enthused.

  Michael agreed. He had never visited a studio before, not even on the declasse Universal tour. He knew the basics of motion picture production - location shooting, interior sets built within the sound stages, special effects and opticals, but the actuality was still magic.

  They skirted a shallow, dry basin covering at least two acres, with a rough-hewn wooden pier jutting out to the middle. On the sound stage immediately behind the basin, a monumental blue sky and clouds had been painted. A line of painted dead palm trees hid the foundation of the sound stage.

  "3B is back around that way," Kristine said. "We're taking the long route. I wanted you to see the sets. No tour complete without them."

  They entered a long, white two-story building across from the studio fire department, passed down yet another cool, darkened hall lined with framed photos of studio executives, composers and movie sets and stopped before a door marked "3B - Authorized Only." A red light above the door was not glowing. Kristine knocked lightly on the door, and a dark-bearded young man in a Black Easter T-shirt and jeans answered.

  "Frank, this is Michael Perrin - Frank Warden."

  Warden shook Michael's hand and returned to a bank of sound equipment covering an entire wall. 35 mm spools unloaded their tan recording tape through a maze of guides and heads, while rows of lights blinked nearby and dB meters bounced their needles in reaction to sounds unheard. "Edgar's listening to the playback now. Might as well go in. We're about to dump a flighty saw man and do it all digital." He gave them both a stern, meaningful look: rough session.

  "It's a different world from Waltiri's day," Kristine commented softly as they took the right hand door into the control room. Edgar Moffat - in his early fifties, balding, with a circlet of short-cut gray hair - sat in a leather swivel chair before a bank of sliding switches, verniers and three small inset computer screens. Compact earphones wrapped around his head played faint, eerie music. Through the glass beyond the controls, Michael saw two performers in a soundproofed recording studio, one clutching a violin and the other an elongated band of flexible steel. They were exchanging bows with each other and trying them out, in complete silence, on the band-saw and the violin. Moffat removed his earphones and shook his head, then punched a switch. A squeal of vibrating metal invaded the control room.

  "Gordon, George, it's still off. Take a break and get your shit together. We'll want it right next time or we synthesize it. One more blow against performers, right?"

  The musicians nodded glumly and set their instruments down.

  Moffat swiveled to face them with a broad smile. "Kris-tine, good to see you again. It's been weeks since you last slummed from the heights of academe."

  "It's been busy. Very busy. Edgar, this is-"

  "Your new boyfriend. You dumped that Tommy bastard, right?"

  Kristine gave him a pained look. "This is Michael Perrin. He's executor for the Waltiri estate."

  Moffat's expression intensified, and he stood up. "Sorry, but he wasn't worthy of you, and you know it. Michael, glad to meet you. Kristine told me about the situation. 1 worked with Arno in the fifties and sixties. You might say he gave me my start. Tough old bird." He raised a bushy white eyebrow as if hoping for a reaction. Michael calmly shook his hand. "Kristine says you've found 45."

  "We're going to perform it, if I have my way," Kristine said proudly.

  "Christ, I always thought it was a myth. I talked with Steiner once - he said he was there, at the Pandall. He plugged his ears with cotton. Now I ask you, is that to be believed? Others weren't so lucky, he said. Friedrich, Topsalin - where are they now? Topsalin sued, so the legend goes."

  "It's all true," Michael said. "That's what Arno told me."

  "Well, Arno never talked about it to us. Not even to Previn, and he was really intent on making Previn a protege. Previn resisted, unlike me, and look where he is, and look where I am." He held out his hands, smiling ruefully. "Arguing with a man playing a blunted cross-cut tree-cutter."

  "I brought a copy along," Kristine said, unzipping her bag. She handed him the manuscript. He motioned them to sit in worn but comfortable chairs crammed into a corner, then put on a pair of glasses and peered at the pages.

  "Mm," he said on the third page. "I heard once that Schonberg liked this better than anything else Arno had done. Heard that from David Raksin. More legend. Arnold and Arno. Arnold kept accusing Arno of doing nothing but Hollywood." He briefly assumed Schonberg's Viennese accent. '"45 is not Hollywoody. Finally!' I can see why he said that. I wouldn't dare put a score like this in front of a bunch of union musicians. This is difficult stuff. The piano… Jesus, how to mangle a good instrument. Brass bars on the strings, a microphone hook-up… hell, he was asking for an electric piano, Cosmic honky-tonk." He spent several minutes leafing through the first third of the concerto, then closed it and sighed. "Absolutely insane. You can't even call it discord. It's wonderful. So who'll perform it?"

  "I was hoping you could make recommendations. We have a good orchestra, but-"

  "You need seasoned folks. You know, a lot of pros would give their perfect pitch for a chance to perform a legend"

  "You have the contacts," Kristine said. "If you could put out the word…"

  "Have you tried to reach David Clarkham?" Moffat asked.

  "He disappeared in the forties," Michael said.

  "Why should we talk to him?" Kristine asked, tensing.

  "If he's still alive, he might have something to say about this. He's almost as legendary as 45. The dark man of Los Angeles music. I could tell you stories… secondhand, of course… the man was certifiable. Why Arno worked with him I'll never un
derstand, and of course he never told me, except to shake his head once or twice and wave away the questions."

  "What kind of stories?" Kristine asked, forcing herself to relax with a small shiver.

  "Steiner told me once, before he died, that he met Clarkham. Clarkham confessed to Steiner that he was the figure in gray who commissioned Mozart to write his requiem. Hounded Mozart."

  Michael's eyes widened. "He might have been," he said simply. Moffat narrowed his eyes and cocked his head to one side.

  "Don't mind Michael," Kristine said. "He's full of mystery, too."

  "At any rate, combining both of their talents in one work…" Moffat returned the concerto score with some reluctance to Kristine. "It'll need reorchestration. I can already pick out passages that simply can't be played."

  "Arno would want it exact," Michael said.

  "I'm sure he would," Moffat replied, lifting his eyebrows. "He could be as bitten by the serial bug as any of us. But he knew as well as I that a score has to be looked at realistically. Some things inevitably have to be changed. And I think we can do it better than it was done in 1939. The notation here…" He reclaimed the manuscript and opened it to the middle, pointing out long black jagged lines, half-circles and maltese crosses. "I may be the only person who can decipher some of this now. Arno's special symbols. I decoded from his four-staff scores when I orchestrated for him."

  "I knew we'd need you," Kristine said.

  "Okay, but where's the funding?"

  "I'm working on that. When will you have time to rehearse?"

  "Starting on the thirty-sixth of June," Moffat said ruefully. "Depends on whether or not Lean and I see eye to eye on this. He insists on waltz beats in the strangest places. I love Maurice dearly, but those two have worked together entirely too long." He reached his hand out and gripped Michael's shoulder. "You know music, young man?"

  "Not very well," Michael said. "I've been teaching myself for a few months now."

  "Not the way to go about it, believe me. You seem concerned about… what? Duplicating the effect of the original performance?"

  Michael nodded.

  "You want to get us all sued?" Moffat smiled wolfishly, knitting his gray brows. "Well, I'll take the risk. There's not

  much adventure in this business. Til need all the notes and journal entries you can find on this… and correspondence, anything where Arno might have revealed his intentions. He was never the most precise composer. It'll be doubly difficult not having him here to make final decisions."

  "There's a special study crew from the UCLA music library going through all his papers now."

  Moffat released Michaels shoulder and patted it gently. "I will await further instructions, then. Honestly, I should have the recording wrapped up in three weeks. I can start rehearsal after I get back from Pinewood. Shall we aim for something in a month and a half?"

  "Not unreasonable," Kristine said.

  "Good. Now go away, and let me harass my sessions people. Michael." He held out his hand, and Michael shook it firmly. "Far be it from me to nudge, but this woman…" He indicated Kristine with a nod and a wink. "She's something quite special. You could do much, much worse."

  "Edgar…" Kristine warned, lifting a fist.

  "Out! Work to do." Moffat opened the door and showed them back through the recording room to the hallway, then shut the door abruptly. The red light came on.

  Kristine and Michael regarded each other in the hallway for a moment. "All right," Kristine said. "Now you've met him. I think he's essential. Don't you?"

  "Yes," Michael said. "Especially since I don't believe Arno left many instruction's or very many clues. I've looked through a lot of papers and letters in the past few weeks. The manuscript is all I've found."

  "Can't hurt to look again, though," Kristine said. "Now. If you'll drop me off at the campus…" She marched down the hall ahead of him, turned and cocked her head. Michael remained by the door smiling at her.


  He caught up, and they left the building. "Moffat's a touch pushy, isn't he?"

  "More than a touch," Kristine said. "He only met Tommy once, for just a few minutes, and - Well. Not worth talking about."

  "We haven't had lunch in a long time," Michael said hesitantly.

  "No time, not today," Kristine answered crisply. He did not persist. Even without a probe, he could sense her uncertainty and pain. She glanced at him as they climbed into her car. "Patience, Michael. Please."

  He agreed with a nod and put the car in gear.

  Michael watched as a librarian and a team of students hauled the last papers from the garage into a campus van. The attic was empty; the music room had been processed the week before, leaving little more than the furniture. Now, with the removal of the last of the material from the garage, the house seemed less protective and himself more vulnerable, but vulnerable to what he couldn't say. Clarkham's inroads, perhaps.

  But Michael couldn't believe Clarkham was the greatest of his problems.

  I am dark! Awaiting sight Formless wave Guiding light

  Again his poems were short and enigmatic, as they had been in the Realm, but they offered no answers to his questions; there was no Death's Radio infusing his art.

  He was on his own, whatever he had to face.

  The van drove away, and Michael shut the garage door on the aisles of empty metal shelves and the old Packard. He paused at the latch and lock, frowning.

  Confusion. Carpets of dirty car parts arrayed in dark halls. And over all - a nasty, sickening foulness of the mind.

  "That's a beautiful old car."

  Michael turned and saw Tommy at the end of the drive. "Isn't it?" he said. "Pity it's too expensive to drive."

  Tommy shrugged that off. "Belonged to your friend, didn't it? Waltiri?"

  Michael nodded. "What can I do for you?"

  "Leave her alone."

  "Kristine? I haven't heard from her in two days." He swallowed. "Besides, she left you weeks ago."

  "Just two days. Great. You're right. She left me weeks ago. I'm partly to blame. You're the main reason, though."

  There was a repulsive foulness in the man's aura that Michael found all too familiar. He began walking down the brick drive toward Tommy, acting on instinct again. The situation felt dangerous.

  "You know a fellow named Clarkham?" Tommy asked, backing up a step and then standing his ground as Michael approached.


  "He knows you. He's been watching you and Kristine. He told me all about you. How you badmouth me. A poet." Tommy laughed as if he had just seen a pratfall on TV. "Jesus, a poet! You look like a God damned athlete, not a poet."

  "Looks deceive," Michael said, sensing that Tommy had a gun, knowing it was behind the jacket, held by the left hand stuck through a hole cut in the fabric of the side pocket. The jacket could open, and he could fire in an instant. Michael was five yards from the gun.

  "He said you're as bad for her as I was. You hit her more than I did. He says you take her to…" His free hand swung back and forth, and he nodded his head deeply, twice. "Parties. Get her in that scene. Do lines of coke. Shit, I would never get her involved in that." The hand stopped swinging. "Hollywood shit."

  Whatever native intelligence Tommy had once possessed had been corroded by Clarkham's discharge of foulness. Michael could feel the Isomage near, if not in space then in influence, watching through this pitiful and extremely dangerous intermediary.

  "He's a liar," Michael said. "You don't want to believe him."

  "No, I don't, really," Tommy said. "I didn't know she was like that. I was bad enough for her. I just loved her too much, and I'd get jealous, you know?"

  Soon; it would be very soon. Two and a half strides. He could judge the size of the gun. It was a .45 automatic, and it was loaded with hollow-core bullets. It could cut him in half. Clarkham had sent him a missile loaded with death, much as the Sidhe had sent Michael to Clarkham.

  It would be useless trying to stop Tom
my. If Michael cast a decoy shadow, to give himself time to find shelter, it was entirely possible that Clarkham would have prepared the man for such an eventuality, even equipped him with a means to see through the deception. Michael's thoughts were sharp as razors, cutting quickly at this hypothesis, then at that.

  He felt Robert Dopso nearby - a definite complication if Dopso or his mother came out of the house now. Michael's senses rose to a higher level of acuity.

  "It's not that I hate you," Tommy said, smiling, the arm in the jacket pocket twitching. "You're just like any other son-of-a-bitch. Her body." Pain crossed Tommy's face. "That's all you care about. Me, I really cared. I wanted her to be everything she could be." His voice was hoarse. He was shaking.

  "We're friends, that's all," Michael said calmly. "No need to be upset."

  "My needs and your needs aren't the point, are they?" Tommy said. "Don't come any closer. He warned me, but he didn't need to warn me, did he? I remember." He touched his nose.

  "Clarkham is a liar," Michael reiterated. "He rilled you full of bad things… didn't he?"

  A light of recognition appeared in Tommy's eyes. "He touched me when we were talking."

  Something built rapidly in Michael, a shadow different from the ones he had cast before, different even from the one he had finally sent spinning to trap Clarkham in Xanadu. This was a variety of shadow he had not been told about, and finding it within him frightened him almost as much as Tommy did. He tried to hold it back but could not; his augmented instinct told him there was no other way.

  But Michael did not want to believe that. He did not want to believe he was capable of defending himself in such a way.

  The part that thinks death is sleep. Lose that part. The part that seeks warm darkness and oblivion. Lose that self. He will embrace it. He desires rest and escape from the pain.

  The voice telling Michael these things was his own.