deserted, the walls and the narrow hallway beyond painted a dreary shade of blue and a strange algae green, like the bottom of a pond. I called, "Hello."
No answer. Jazz was being piped in, obviously the station playing back on itself. "Hello?"
I shrugged to myself and moved down the corridor, glancing into each cubicle I passed. Moreno had told me he'd be working in the third studio on the right, but when I reached it, the room was empty. I could still hear faint strains of jazz coming in over the speakers, but he'd apparently absented himself momentarily. The studio was small, littered with empty fast-food containers and empty soda cans. A half-filled coffee cup on the console was warm to the touch. There was a wall clock the size of the full moon, its second hand ticking jerkily as it made the big sweep. Click. Click. Click. Click. The passage of time had never seemed quite so concrete or so relentless. The walls were soundproofed with sections of corrugated dark gray foam.
To my left, countless cartoons and news clippings were tacked to a corkboard. The balance of the wall space was taken up with row after row of CDs, with additional shelves devoted to albums and tape cassettes. I did a visual survey, as if in preparation for a game of Concentration. Coffee mugs. Speakers. A stapler, Scotch tape dispenser. Many empty designer water bottles: Evian, Sweet Mountain, and Perrier. On the control board, I could see the mike switch, cart machines, a rainbow of lights, one marked "two track mono." One light flashed green, and another was blinking red. A microphone suspended from a boom looked like a big snow cone of gray foam. I pictured myself leaning close enough to touch my lips to the surface, using my most seductive FM tone of voice. "Hello, all you night owls. This is Kinsey Millhone here, bringing you the best in jazz at the very worst of hours...."
Behind me, I heard someone thumping down the hall in my direction, and I peered out with interest. Hector Moreno approached, a man in his early fifties, supported by two crutches. His shaggy hair was gray, his brown eyes as soft as dark caramels. His upper body was immense, his torso dwindling away to legs that were sticklike and truncated. He wore a bulky black cotton sweater, chinos, and penny loafers. Beside him was a big reddish yellow dog with a thick head, heavy chest, and powerful shoulders, probably part chow, judging by the teddy bear face and the ruff of hair around its neck.
"Hi, are you Hector? Kinsey Millhone," I said. The dog bristled visibly when I held out my hand.
Hector Moreno propped himself on one crutch long enough to shake my hand. "Nice to meet you," he said. "This is Beauty. She'll need time to make up her mind about you."
"Fair enough," I said. She could take the rest of her life, as far as I was concerned.
The dog had begun to rumble, not a growl but a low hum, as if a machine had been activated somewhere deep in her chest. Hector snapped his fingers, and she went silent. Dogs and I have never been that fond of one another. Just a week ago I'd been introduced to a boy-pup who'd actually lifted his leg and piddled on my shoe. His owner had voiced his most vigorous disapproval, but he really didn't sound that sincere to me, and I suspected he was currently recounting, with snorts and guffaws, the tale of Bowser's misbehavior on my footwear. In the meantime I had a Reebok that smelled like dog whiz, a fact not lost on Beauty, who gave it her rapt attention.
Hector swung himself forward and moved into the studio, answering the question I was too polite to ask. "I collided with a rock pile when I was twelve. I was spelunking in Kentucky, and the tunnel caved in. People expect something different, judging from my voice on the air. Grab a seat." He flashed me a smile, and I smiled in response. I followed as he set his crutches aside and hoisted himself onto the stool. I found a second stool in the corner and pulled it close to him. I noticed that