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neil goldberg
geraldine postel
bertie marshall
tom rayfiel
amra brooks
sergio bessa
lisa kereszi
leopoldo grautoff
reveiws

thomas rayfiel




Choir took his pleasure where he found it. He no more expected a wife to interest him that way than he would a good hunting dog to cook his dinner. His taste ran to young boys, reminiscent perhaps of the boarding school he had been sent to at the age of six, with its barbaric tradition of servitude and corporal punishment. With the masters to some extent cowed by the power and arrogance these miniature scions of the great families already possessed, society outside the classroom was governed by the confused lusts and cruelties of early adolescence. An expanse of creamy, unflogged, prepubescent flesh was Choir's ideal. He thought of the young lads procured for him as blank canvasses upon which to scrawl his name. Naturally, this part of his life was kept hidden, and perhaps in some unspoilt chamber of his conscience he felt shame, but you may be sure he lost no sleep over it. Choir lived by a different set of standards--higher, he would say--which permitted almost any eccentricity, however anarchic or amoral, in return for his being ready, at a call from his Sovereign, to drop everything, leap on a horse, and charge headlong into a bristling line of spears. Of course this possibility was no longer real, but still he trained for it, held himself in readiness, and as a result felt a gnawing disappointment with the day-to-day world. Perhaps this explained the tradition of fantastic debt in his family, the devil-may-care attitude towards money. "For tomorrow we may die!" Alas, they never did, the Choirs, but lived on to be slowly buried in entails, notes, solicitors' letters and bailiffs' calls.

I hope it is Pinky this time, the nobleman reflected.

The shop that served as a front for these nefarious activities sold umbrellas. It was Choir's fancy to buy a new one each time, upon entering, so that he had at home quite a selection, ranging from the bizarre and gaily colored to the solemn and tightly furled. He was even known in certain circles as a collector. It was a constant vexation to Carrier, whose job it was to tend the foyer's jammed stand--made, as almost all umbrella stands were at the time, of a hollowed-out elephant leg. Whether the valet ever wondered at the significance of the inevitably-stained steel tip each new specimen possessed, it is impossible to say.

But today, as Choir lingered before the store window, acting out (for the benefit of whom? he wondered. Why, himself, of course. There he was in the glass, looking splendid) the part of a gentleman deciding what type of rain protection he should seek (and how foresighted I must look, he went on, such a sunny sky and here I am making provisions, as it were, for the Deluge to follow) he did not realize he was in fact performing to an audience other than himself. Had he taken the time to focus beyond his own palely reflected face, he might have noticed a figure standing across the street making no effort to disguise her interest, either because she was such a keen judge of character she knew he would not turn, or because she had no fear of him, of being discovered and confronted. So Madame Schlierbeck watched Choir with as much boldness as one does the caged tiger at the zoo. After he had gone inside, she took out a small book and wrote in it for a moment. This was not really necessary. She had an excellent memory. But writing things down made them seem more real. It was indeed a fine morning. She was grateful to the Earl for getting her out of the shop and leading her on such a merry chase. She closed the notebook, put it back in her bag, and walked next to the nearest library, to consult a copy of Burke's Peerage.