being there.'

'As long as it's not next week,' I said, smiling, then stopped abruptly. 'Tony… it's not-'

But his look told me that it was.

I grabbed him by the arm and peered at him. 'Not Sunday. Tell me it's not Sunday.'

'Would that I could,' he said sadly.

'Oh, Christ. Tony-'

'Actually, it isn't Sunday, it's five p.m. Monday, but you can't get from here to Dijon by five o'clock the same day, what with the time difference, so you'd have to leave Sunday. Saturday night, to be on the safe side. I know it's a nuisance-'

'Nuisance! Tony, I put in for this time off three months ago. You know how-wait a minute, why couldn't I go check out the painting earlier? I could be in Dijon tomorrow. I could be back by the weekend. I could-'

But Tony was shaking his head. 'Nobody gets to see the pictures before the showing. That's the deal.'

'All right, what about after? I could go in a couple of weeks, see them then.'

More head shaking. 'No. For one thing he wants you at the opening Monday. For another, we have to make our decision by the end of the following day. You get twenty-four hours to examine it and come to a decision. Otherwise it's off and he goes someplace else with it.'

'You said I could examine it to my heart's content,' I said bitterly.

'To your heart's content as long as it's inside of one day.'

The image of Tony lying crushed and broken on the pavement of Second Avenue, five stories below, flitted briefly through my mind. 'Tony, this is absolutely crazy. There are too many conditions.'

He surprised me by agreeing readily. 'Way too many. Vachey's playing some kind of game; that's obvious. And, look, if you get out there, and you wind up having doubts about the picture, or his motives, or anything else that tells you we ought to keep clear of this, then that's that. Case closed.'

'Doubts? Are you kidding? Of course I have doubts. Even if it turns out to be real, how do we know it's not stolen? Who knows where he got it? Or how? I mean, come on, a junk shop? The guy must think we're complete rubes.'

Tony let me rant on for a while, but he knew as well as I did what I was really griping about. When I finally wound down, he put a sympathetic hand on my shoulder.

'This is sure screwing up your love life, isn't it?'

'Boy, you said a mouthful,' I said ruefully.


The truth of the matter was that my love life wasn't in any too good shape to begin with. I was in love, yes. With a bright and beautiful woman named Anne Greene. And she was in love with me; I had no doubts on that score. Anything we did together was sheer pleasure. We could talk earnestly for hours, brimming with interest and animation, and then laugh because we couldn't remember what we'd been talking about. On walks, on drives, on bicycle paths, at concerts, at art shows, in bed-as long as it was with her, everything was full of warmth, and laughter, and peace. I dated no other women, and she dated no other men. Not because we had an explicit understanding, but because that was the way we liked it. We'd each found the right person. Why keep looking?

So what's the problem, you say? Your own love life should be that good, you think?

There was, in fact, only one difficulty, one small impediment: We happened to live 6,200 miles apart, give or take a few hundred one way or the other. I was in Seattle, and Anne was in Kaiserslautern, Germany. True, it is possible to have wonderful experiences under those conditions. But it is not possible to have frequent wonderful experiences. Or frequent anything.

On the other hand, it may not be all bad. My friend Louis (the psychotherapist) wondered recently over a glass of Orvieto if I hadn't gotten myself into so bizarre a fix on purpose, to avoid the repetitive, counterproductive conflict between erotic energy and social utility; that is (I think), between love and work. Repressive desublimation, it's called, and apparently it is the grease that makes the wheels of industry and commerce go 'round.

But with all due respect to Louis, I didn't buy it; I'd never given much thought to the wheels of industry and commerce- and I missed Anne like crazy.

Anne was a captain in the U.S. Air Force. She had been something called a community liaison officer, but recently, with the cutting back of European military forces, was made an education officer, responsible for developing programs to help servicemen find their way back into the work force in the United States.

I had met her a couple of years earlier when I was in Europe helping to organize an exhibition of paintings. At the time, my personal life was in shreds. I was in the throes of a miserable divorce; sulky, hurt, and thoroughly down on the female sex in general. Anne had come along just when I needed her and had helped me to see things straight again. During the six weeks I was in Europe we'd become close, and closer still when I left.

Since then we'd spent a fortune in telephone bills, and seen each other perhaps eight times. All right, exactly eight times. Fortunately, I have the kind of job that gets me to Europe two or three times a year, for a week or two at a time, and Anne had taken two long, marvelous vacations with me in the United States. Eight times in two years is once every three months, on the average. About right for getting together with your brother-in-law; a little sparse for relating to your meaningful other.

The trouble was, Anne was as dedicated to her career as I was to mine. And being a fully credentialed Late- Twentieth-Century Male-sensitive, supporting, and enlightened-was I about to suggest that she give up her job and come live with me in Seattle? Not me. Even though I did earn considerably more money than she did. Even though her Air Force career was hardly a 'career' if they could switch her from community liaison to educational services overnight, without bothering to ask her opinion about it. Even though she could easily enough find interesting work in Seattle, but what the hell was I supposed to do in Kaiserslautern? No, sensible as such a decision might seem to you-to any right-thinking person-I wouldn't think of bringing it up.

Not for a minute.

And so we got along on our once-every-three-months schedule-worried, but not overly worried, about how it would all eventually work out. For the present, it was the best we could do, and we were grateful for what time we did have together. Which is not to say that there weren't problems sometimes- such as the one I had just gotten myself into by volunteering (or did I volunteer? With Tony, you're never sure.) to be aboard a plane to France on the following Sunday.

Sunday, you see, was the day on which Anne expected to find me waiting at San Francisco International Airport at 1:00 p.m. She would arrive then on a military charter flight from Frankfurt, having convinced her superiors that her presence was essential at a job-reentry conference to be held at McChord Air Force Base, near Tacoma, on the following Wednesday. That gave us-would have given us-three crisp, glorious November days to drive slowly up the northern California and Oregon coasts to Puget Sound. We would stay-would have stayed-at inns I knew of, with woodburning fireplaces and huge windows looking out on rocky headlands and crashing surf.

Now I'd be lucky to get back from France by Wednesday night, which would leave just three days for us to be together before she had to fly back to Germany.

Not feeling good about it, I called her from my office at 2:00 p.m., 11:00 p.m. German time. The phone rang twice before she picked it up.


I knew from the velvety timbre of her voice that the telephone had awakened her. I imagined her pushing herself up on her pillow, short brown hair tousled and warm from sleep. I felt my own voice soften.

'Anne, it's Chris. I'm sorry I woke you up.'

'You didn't, not really. I was hoping it was you when I heard it ring.' She sounded excited and happy. My heart sank a little more. 'Chris, guess what, there was room for me on an earlier flight. I'll be in San Francisco at seven o'clock in the morning. That'll give us the full day together, do you realize that?. We could-'

I sighed and got it out. 'Anne, I can't make it Sunday.'

'You can't-is something wrong? You're all right, aren't you?'

'Yes, I'm all right. It's just that something's come up at work. I'll be gone till late Wednesday…' I explained; not very coherently, I'm afraid. 'Anne, it's not as if-' I faltered. Not as if what? Not as if I were more interested in chasing down the Rembrandt than I was in seeing her? Well, I wasn't; it was just that… I didn't know what to say,

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