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Songs of Earth and Power Omnibus, Page 40

Greg Bear

  He concentrated on the manuscripts. What little musical training he had acquired before he was thirteen - when he had put his foot down and refused to continue piano lessons - was of little aid in sorting out the Waltiri papers.

  Michael recorded the names (if any), opus numbers and known associations of each musical manuscript. Most were scores for motion pictures; scattered throughout the four and a half decades' worth of work, however, were more personal pieces, even a draft of a ballet based on The Faerie Queene.

  He spent hours in the garage and then began moving the sorted boxes of manuscripts into the dining room, where he stacked them along a bare wall.

  There was no sign of a manuscript for Opus 45, The Infinity Concerto.

  At night, he fixed himself supper and ate alone. One night a week he joined his parents for dinner, and the visits were enjoyable; occasionally, John would drop by the Waltiri house on one pretext or another, and they would share a beer in the back yard and talk about inconsequential things. Ruth never visited.

  Michael did not tell his story to John, even with Ruth away. John seemed to sense that the time was not yet right for Ruth and that they should hear together when the time was right.

  All in all, with the exception of the discoveries in the Tippett Hotel, it was still a peaceful time. Michael felt himself growing stronger in more ways than one: stronger inside, less agonized by his mistakes, and stronger in dealing with the ways of the Earth, which were not much like the ways of the Realm.

  What impressed him most of all, now that he had gone outside and had a basis for comparison, was the Earth's sense of solidity and thoroughness. Always in the Realm there had been the sensation of things left not quite finished; Adonna's creation was no doubt masterful, and in places extremely beautiful, but it could not compare with the Earth.

  While the Realm had been built to accommodate Sidhe - and keep them in line - and while it contained some monstrous travesties, it had seemed in many ways a gentler place than Earth. What cruelty existed in the Realm was the fault of its occupants. Given Sidhe discipline, Michael had found survival in the Realm proper rather easy. He doubted if survival would be quite so easy in similar situations on Earth.

  The Earth seemed not to have been built for anybody's convenience; those who had come to it, or developed on it, made their own way and found and fought for specific niches. The Earth never stopped its pressures… Nor gave up its treasures easily.

  Michael acquired a videocassette recorder out of the stipend paid by the estate and began renting tapes of the movies Waltiri had scored. Watching the old films and listening to the background music, he came to appreciate the old composer's true skill.

  Waltiri's music was never obtrusive in a film. Rather than sweeping richly forth with some outstanding melodic line, it played a subservient role, underscoring or heightening the action on the screen.

  Again and again one day Michael played John Huston's 1958 film, The Man Who Would Be King, reveling the first time in Bogart's Peachey Carnehan and Jack Hawkins's Daniel Dravot, the next in the fine black and white photography and the beautifully integrated matte paintings, and finally in Waltiri's subtle score, not in the least period or archaic but somehow just right for the men and their adventure. Michael enjoyed himself hugely; that one day seemed to put everything in perspective and set his mind aright. Suddenly he was ready to take on whatever might come, with the same impractical bravado of Carnehan and Dravot. He spent the next day gardening, whistling Carnehan's theme over and over again, pulling weeds and trimming back the rose bushes i ~ Cording to the instructions in an old gardening book in Golda's library.

  As he trimmed, he thought of Clarkham's Sidhe woman, Mora, and of the way she had trimmed her roses, and of the rose turned to glass that she had given him, that still lay wrapped in cotton in a cardboard box in the guest bedroom.

  His mood darkened the next morning, when again the newspaper proved to be a bearer of disturbing news. There was an in-depth article beginning on the left side of the front page and running on through section A for some two thousand words, describing waves of so-called hauntings in England, Israel and the eastern United States.

  The phrase "intrusions into reality" occurred several times in the piece, but overall the tone was light. The conclusion was that the incidents had more to do with sociology and psychology than metaphysics. He read it through twice, then folded the paper over and stared out the kitchen window at the pink roses outside.

  The phone rang. Michael glanced at his new watch - it was ten o'clock - and picked up the ancient black receiver. "Waltiri residence. Hello."

  "Could I speak to Michael Perrin?" a woman asked, her voice crisp and resonant.

  "Speaking," Michael said.

  "Hello. My name is Kristine Pendeers. I'm with the music department at UCLA."

  "How can I help you, Ms. Pendeers?" Michael said, assuming his best (and unpracticed) professional tone.

  "You're organizing the Waltiri estate, aren't you? I've been talking with the lawyers, and they say you're in charge now."

  "That's the way it's worked out."

  "We have a project going here, rediscovering avant-garde music of the thirties and forties. We're interested in locating specific works by Arno Waltiri. Perhaps you've heard of them, or come across them… though I gather you haven't been working on the papers very long."

  "Which papers?" Michael asked, though he hardly needed to; events were heading in a clearly defined direction: die dreams, the Tippett Hotel, the bodies of Lamia and Tristesse, the hauntings… and now this.

  "You know, we haven't been able to find a single recording of the one we're really interested in, and our collection is extensive. And no scores, either. Just these fascinating mentions in memoirs and newspapers, and in this book, Devil's Music. That's by Charles Fort. Have you heard of it?"

  "You're looking for Opus 45," Michael said.

  "Yes! That's the one."

  "I haven't found it."

  "Is it real? I mean, it exists? We were beginning to think it was some sort of hoax."

  "I have a concert program for the premiere," Michael said. "The music existed at one time. Whether it does now or not, I don't know."

  "Listen, it's wonderful just having something about it confirmed. Do you know what a coup it would be to find it again?"

  "If I find the score, what do you plan to do with it?"

  "I hardly know yet," Pendeers said. "I didn't expect to get this far. I'm a connoisseur of film music, particularly from the thirties and forties. I must tell you that doesn't sit well with some of the music faculty here - in Los Angeles, of all places! Can we get together and talk? And if you find anything - you know, the score, a recording, anything - could you let me know… first? Unless someone else has priority, of course… I hope not."

  "No one else has priority," Michael said. "Where shall we meet?"

  "I could hardly ask to visit the house. I assume it's not all organized yet."

  Michael made a quick decision. "Frankly, I'm over my head," he said. "I could use help. Why don't I meet you near the campus, and we'll talk about having UCLA lend a hand?"

  "Wonderful," she said, and they set a time and place for lunch in Westwood the next day.

  Over my head, indeed, Michael thought as he hung up.

  Kristine Pendeers was twenty-two, tall and slender with a dancer's build, and fine fair hair. Her eyes were green and eloquent, slightly hooded, one eyelid riding higher than the other as if in query. Her lower lip was full, her upper delicate; she seemed to be half-smiling most of the time. She wore jeans and a mauve silk blouse.

  After less than fifteen minutes in her presence, Michael was already fascinated by her. His infatuations always came fast and died hard - the true sign of an immature romantic, he warned himself silently. But warnings seldom did any good.

  They had chosen the Good Earth restaurant. She sat across from him in a double booth. A broad back-lit plastic transparency of a maple tree canopy hovered
over them; since they were below street level, the effect was not convincing. Kris-tine had crossed her arms on the table, as if protecting the cup of coffee between them.

  "My major problem is that I don't know much about music," Michael said. "I enjoy it, but I don't play any instruments."

  She seemed surprised. "How did you get the position, then?"

  "I knew Arno Waltiri before he died. We became friends.'

  "What did he plan to have you do with the estate?" Her eyes gave her the appearance of being nonchalant and interested all at once.

  "To get it organized and take care of things as they came up, I suppose," Michael said. "It's not really spelled out. We had a sort of understanding…" Having said that, he wasn't sure how true it was. But he couldn't say, I'm being set up for something bigger…

  "Did he ever talk to you about Opus 45?"

  The waitress interrupted with their lunch, and they leaned back to let her serve it.

  "Yes," Michael said. He gave her a brief outline as they ate, explaining about Waltiri's collaboration with Clarkham - to a point - and the circumstances after the performance.

  "That's fascinating," she said. "Now I see why the music is legendary. Do you think the score still exists? I mean, would he have… burned it, or hidden it away where no one would find it?"

  Michael shook his head, chewing on a bite of fish. "I'll keep looking," he said.

  "You know, this project I'm working on… it really goes beyond what I told you on the phone." She hadn't eaten much of her omelet. She seemed more inclined to talk than lunch. "We're - actually, it's mostly me. I'm trying to put film score composers back in their proper place in music. Many of them were as talented as anyone writing music today… more so, I think. But their so-called limitations, working in a popular medium, for mass audiences…" She shook her head slowly. "Music people are snobs. Not musicians - necessarily - but critics. I love movie scores. They don't seem to think - the critics and some of the academics, I mean - they don't seem to understand that music for movies, and not just musicals, shares some of the problems of scoring operas. I mean, it's such an inspired idea, full scoring for a dramatic performance." She grinned. "I'll ride that particular railroad any time you let me."

  Michael nodded. "I love movie scores, too," he said.

  "Of course you do. Why would Waltiri let you handle his estate if you didn't? You're probably a better choice than most of the people in my department." She held up her hands, exasperated at herself. "Look at this. I'm wasting food again. All talking and no eating."

  "All singing, all dancing," Michael said with a smile.

  She stared at him intently. "You have a very odd smile. Like you know something. Do you mind if I ask how old you are?"

  He glanced down at the table. "That depends."

  "I'm sorry. I'm intruding."

  "No, not that," he said. "It's actually complicated…"

  "Your age is complicated?"

  "I'm twenty-two," he said.

  "You look younger than that, and older too."

  A silence hung over the table for several seconds.

  "Have you gone to school?" Kristine asked.

  "Not college, no."

  She laughed and reached across the table to tap his hand with her finger. "You're perfect," she said. "Everyone says Waltiri was an inconoclast. You're living proof."

  "You've talked to people who knew him?"

  "Yes. It's part of the project. I know a composer named Edgar Moffat. He orchestrated Waltiri's movie scores and acted as his assistant in the fifties. He's working in Burbank now on the score for a David Lean film. You'll have to meet him. I've interviewed him several times in the last few months. He was the one who told me about the Waltiri estate. He didn't know your name, but he had heard rumors."

  "Did he say anything about David Clarkham?" Michael asked.

  "That was all before his time, I think. He's only fifty-three."

  "Why are you studying music?"

  "I'm a composer," she said. "I've been writing music since I was a teenager. And you?"

  Michael smiled. "I'm a poet," he said. "I've been writing poetry since… for a long time."

  Kristine's expression was faintly dubious. "Have you ever had anything published?"

  He shook his head. "In fact, I haven't even been writing much lately. Lots of things to think about, lots of work to do."

  "Poetry and music," she mused. "They're not supposed to be that far apart. Do you think they are?"

  How could he answer that without making her think he was either pretentious or crazy? What he had learned in the Realm - that all arts were intimately related, that underlying each form was a foundation that could be directed and shaped to yield a Song of Power - was not something a student of music at UCLA was likely to understand. "They're very close," he said.

  "I've never been word-oriented," Kristine said. "It was a struggle just to get through English classes and learn how to write a clear sentence."

  "And I don't know much about music," Michael said. "Two sides of a coin." That, he thought, might be a bit presumptuous.

  Kristine watched him intently. "I think the music department has a place for Waltiri's papers," she said. "If the estate agrees, we could preserve them and help you get them organized. Maybe that would speed up finding the manuscript."

  Such a move could also leave him without a job, or feather-bedding on the estate payroll after he was no longer needed. "I'll consider it," he said. Was that what Waltiri would have wanted?

  Kristine pushed her plate away decisively and attracted the waitress's attention with a raised hand, then asked for the check.

  "My treat," she said. Michael did not protest.

  "When can we talk again?" she asked. "You can meet with Moffat at Paramount… Tour the library, the music department. The department head could explain how we take care of collections…"

  "I make my own schedule," Michael said. "Anytime."

  She put down a generous tip and stood with check in hand. He accompanied her to the cash register and then outside. She said, with a hint of regret, that she had to return to the campus. Michael's car was in the opposite direction. For a moment, he contemplated walking with her anyway but decided not to be too demonstrative.

  "It was a pleasure having lunch with you," Michael said. She cocked her head to one side and half-squinted at him.

  "You are really very strange, you know," she said. "Something about you…" She shrugged. "Never mind. Give me a call if you find anything. Or just want to talk music, poetry, whatever."

  She walked off toward the campus, and Michael strolled toward his car. On a hunch, he stopped off in Vogue Records and asked a dark-haired, slender male clerk with a prominent hooked nose if there were any recordings available of music by Arno Waltiri.

  "Just the RCA collection," the clerk answered, eyes languid. "You have that already, don't you? Charles Gerhardt conducting?"

  Michael said he didn't. The clerk emerged from behind the front counter and took him to the extensive movie soundtracks section and found the album for him. Michael scanned the contents: selections from Ashenden, The Man Who Would Be King, War birds of Mindanao and Call It Sleep.

  "Have you ever heard of a recording of The Infinity Concerto?" he asked.

  "We can look it up in Schwann, but no, I haven't heard of it."

  A search through the paperback Schwann catalog revealed that the RCA collection was the only album currently available. Michael thanked the clerk and purchased it.

  On the way home, he stopped at a stationery store and bought a blank book. He felt it was time to start working on his poetry again, if only to build up his self-confidence and put some conviction in his voice the next time he confessed what he was.

  In the car, he removed the plastic wrapping from the book, wrote his name on the flyleaf, and then shuffled through the pages, as he always did when starting a notebook.

  In the middle of the book, centered on an otherwise unmarked page, were
the carefully typeset words

  Give it up. Finding it won't do anybody any good.

  He felt the raised ink with one finger and then slowly closed the book.

  Chapter Four

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  Are you ready?

  Michael's father came to the house the next day, a Saturday, ostensibly to finish looking over the woodwork and foundations and make sure everything was in order. He arrived at two in the afternoon, and Michael followed him as he made a circuit of the outside of the house, peering into the crawlspace vents.

  "Your mother's worried about you," John said, using a small ball-peen hammer to sound out the wood immediately within a vent opening. He crawled halfway into the vent, his voice echoing. "She thinks this job might not be all that healthy for you."

  "I'm doing fine," Michael said.

  John emerged and pulled cobwebs from his hair. "Seems sound enough on a cursory look. Well, I'm worried about you, too. I haven't the slightest idea where you were those five years, but I'm wondering how much you grew up during that time."

  "A fair amount," Michael said. His father regarded him steadily and got to his feet.

  "It's funny, the way your mother won't talk about it. And I suppose I'm funny, not wanting to hear unless she listens, too. She hasn't even hinted that she's curious… to you, I mean?"

  Michael shook his head.

  "Wasn't something like William Burroughs, was it?"

  "No. Nothing to do with dope."

  His father's face reddened at Michael's light tone. "God dammit, don't patronize… me or anybody."

  Michael shook his head. "I don't think you'd believe me."

  "I'm not a dullard. I have known lifestyles other than this." He waved his hand around the neighborhood. "Hell, I've even tried dope."

  Michael looked down at the grass.

  "Something you're ashamed of? Something… sexual?"

  "Jesus," Michael said, shaking his head and chuckling. "I did not run off to San Francisco and… whatever. You can reassure Mom about that." He hated the edge of whine that entered his voice just then.