Washington Deceased

Washington Deceased by Michael Bowen Read Free Book Online

Book: Washington Deceased by Michael Bowen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Bowen
    â€œOkay. I guess.”
    â€œLook. Can I call you? I mean if I shake myself free from here long enough for dinner or something?”
    Wendy thought about that for a second.
    â€œMaybe,” she said then, smiling. Her smile was enchanting when she wanted it to be. It was enchanting now. But she didn’t give him her phone number at Hartnett Hall. “I’ll give you a call later on and we’ll talk about it.”
    Michaelson walked into Cavalier Books around 5:30. He picked up a copy of L’Exprès 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 booksellers’ trade had been popular in Washington for several years, and it was Michaelson’s 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 you’d met the boy at a bookstore than to say you’d 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.
    â€œGood evening, Marjorie. May I buy you a cup of your coffee?”
    â€œYou may buy me a cup of my tea, thank you,” 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.
    â€œI’ve restored your book to its original display, by the way,” she said.
    â€œAh. You noticed.”
    â€œYes, I noticed. Richard, I do wish you wouldn’t do that.”
    â€œYou’re quite right. I’m very sorry.”
    â€œIt is my store, after all.”
    â€œMarjorie, 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€œYou know, Richard,” Marjorie sighed, “you can be quite charming when you choose to be.”
    â€œYou’re not too surprised, are you? For thirty-five years I was essentially paid to be charming when I chose to be.”
    â€œWe actually sold a copy of your book today, if you can believe it. And to a real person. Not a campaign staffer.”
    â€œYes, as it happens I did know that.” Michaelson examined a long, nearly invisible strand of blond hair that he’d picked up while rearranging the display of his book. “Off hand, I’d 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€œRichard,” Marjorie said, “that was positively Sherlockian. How in the world did you figure all that out from a single hair?”
    â€œI didn’t, to tell the truth. I met her earlier

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