In the Night Room

In the Night Room by Peter Straub Read Free Book Online

Book: In the Night Room by Peter Straub Read Free Book Online
Authors: Peter Straub
disorder; he did not want women in there at all, because women were distractions; having lived alone all his life, he needed some corner of the house that would be his alone. Without a private lair, he feared he might grow restless, irritable, on edge. So the first and third reasons had to do with shielding Willy from the consequences of neglecting Mitchell’s need for a single-occupancy foxhole, and the second was supposed to flatter her.
    He had lived alone for his entire adult life, without parents, siblings, ex-wives, or children. Mitchell had invited only a small number of working colleagues to their wedding, plus, of course, Roman Richard and Giles Coverley. To Willy, his life seemed bizarrely empty. Mitchell had no friends, in the conventional sense. Maybe you could not be as paranoid as Mitchell was and maintain actual friendships.
    Mitchell trusted no one absolutely, and the amount of provisional trust he was willing to extend did not go far. This, she suspected, was the real reason his re-creation of a men’s club lounge was closed to her. He did not trust her not to violate whatever confidentialities he kept in there, and his suspicion of her underlay the way in which he had concluded their single conversation about the matter.
    He had intended to answer her still-lingering surprise at the prohibition with an inarguable case.
    “Do you print out hard copies of your writing as you go along?” he asked.
    “Every day,” she said.
    “Suppose you’re working on a new book, and the manuscript is on your desk. Suppose I happen to walk in and discover that you’re not there. How would you feel if I picked up the manuscript and started to read it?”
    Knowing exactly what she would feel, she said nothing.
    “I can see it in your face. You’d hate it.”
    “I don’t know if ‘hate’ is the word I’d use.”
    “We understand each other,” Mitchell said. “This topic is now closed. Giles, would you please make some tea for my bride-to-be and myself? We’ll take it on the porch.”
    When the tea was steaming in the cups borne on the tray his assistant was carrying to the front door, Mitchell remembered that he had to field an important telephone call. He left her sitting on the porch by herself, the mistress of the wicker chair, a front yard festooned with pickup trucks, and two hot cups of English breakfast she had not wanted in the first place. Alone, she picked up the
Times
and blazed through the crossword in twenty minutes.
    From the window in her second-floor office, Willy saw Roman Richard lumbering across the driveway to speak to one of the Dellray men, a carpenter with a beach-ball gut, a red mullet, and intricate tattoos on his arms. Soon they were laughing at a remark of Roman Richard’s. Willy had a strong, unpleasant impression that the remark concerned her. The two men glanced upward at her window. When they saw her looking down, they turned their backs.
    Mitchell’s voice came through her voice mail, sounding a little weary, a little dutiful.
    “Hi, this is me. Sorry you aren’t picking up. Giles told me you’re home, so I was expecting to talk to you.
    “Let’s see, what can I tell you? I’m in Nanterre, just west of Paris. From the way things are going, I’ll be here another three, four days. The only thing that might keep me away is a development in Toledo. Spain, unfortunately, not Ohio. So, let’s see—if you need me, I’m at the Hôtel Mercure Paris La Défense Parc, and if I have to go to Toledo, I’ll be at the Hotel Domenico.
    “I talked to Giles about this, but I’ll mention it to you too. The Santolini brothers were making noises about taking a couple of limbs off the oak tree at the side of the house. I don’t want them to touch that tree until I get home. Okay, Willy? They’re just making work to drive up their fee. Giles knows what to do, but I want you to back him up on this, okay? That oak is one of the reasons I bought the estate in the first place.
    “And

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