âOkay. I guess.â
âLook. Can I call you? I mean if I shake myself free from here long enough for dinner or something?â
Wendy thought about that for a second.
âMaybe,â she said then, smiling. Her smile was enchanting when she wanted it to be. It was enchanting now. But she didnât give him her phone number at Hartnett Hall. âIâll give you a call later on and weâll talk about it.â
Michaelson walked into Cavalier Books around 5:30. He picked up a copy of LâExprÃ¨s from the periodicals rack in the front and wandered back among the bookshelves. He found his own book, three copies displayed spine out.
He took one down and glanced at the cover and the back flap. He nodded as if impressed with the subtle wisdom that the jacket copy promised. He paged through the slim volume and nodded again, as if the bits he read clearly fulfilled this promise. His expression as he reached up to replace the book was absent, suggesting that he was still preoccupied with the thought-provoking profundities he had serendipitously discovered. By the time he was through replacing the book it was displayed face out, with the full front of the cover showing.
He made his way toward the other side of the store where you could walk up three wooden steps to a small platform, buy a cup of coffee or tea, and sit at one of two tiny tables.
This addition to the booksellersâ trade had been popular in Washington for several years, and it was Michaelsonâs observation that it worked. That is, it drew to the bookstore in the evening people who came not to buy books but to meet other people, generally of gender opposite to their own, and who more than occasionally ended up buying books as a by-product of this activity. So much nicer, Michaelson imagined, to tell your mother that youâd met the boy at a bookstore than to say youâd run into each other at a bar.
He had just about finished an article on the future of proportional representation in the French National Assembly when he spotted Marjorie Randolph mounting the steps to join him. He stood up and held out the other chair at the table where he was sitting.
âGood evening, Marjorie. May I buy you a cup of your coffee?â
âYou may buy me a cup of my tea, thank you,â she said, Virginia tidewater washing gently through her voice. Marjorie sat down and fetchingly shook the chestnut hair that, naturally or chemically, still offered no hint of gray after forty-seven years.
Michaelson signaled to the counter and sat back down.
âIâve restored your book to its original display, by the way,â she said.
âAh. You noticed.â
âYes, I noticed. Richard, I do wish you wouldnât do that.â
âYouâre quite right. Iâm very sorry.â
âIt is my store, after all.â
âMarjorie, you are absolutely correct. It was a mischievous impulse that I should have tried harder to resist. It was quite wrong of me. I apologize.â
âYou know, Richard,â Marjorie sighed, âyou can be quite charming when you choose to be.â
âYouâre not too surprised, are you? For thirty-five years I was essentially paid to be charming when I chose to be.â
âWe actually sold a copy of your book today, if you can believe it. And to a real person. Not a campaign staffer.â
âYes, as it happens I did know that.â Michaelson examined a long, nearly invisible strand of blond hair that heâd picked up while rearranging the display of his book. âOff hand, Iâd say you sold it late this morning to a blond-haired young woman of medium height and weight, fair complexion, blue eyes and a disarmingly direct type of approach.â
âRichard,â Marjorie said, âthat was positively Sherlockian. How in the world did you figure all that out from a single hair?â
âI didnât, to tell the truth. I met her earlier