The Bags of Tricks Affair by Bill Pronzini

The Bags of Tricks Affair by Bill Pronzini

Author:Bill Pronzini
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates

14

SABINA

Joshua Brandywine’s home was an ornate two-story pile high atop Nob Hill, not far from the Blanchford mansion she’d had occasion to visit twice during the course of the Body Snatchers Affair. Mr. Brandywine’s was not quite as palatial, nor was the view it commanded of the bay and the piers and anchored ships along the broad sweep of the waterfront below quite as panoramic. It was set well back from the street behind an impressive fence of filigreed black iron pickets, surrounded by flower beds and greensward. The carriage gates in front stood open, evidently in preparation for Sabina’s arrival.

The fence, she noted as her hansom entered the grounds, was six feet in height all the way around and the tips of the iron pickets were as sharp as spear points. The tops of the two gate halves were similarly spiked. Climbable, certainly, but at some risk to life and limb.

Through the hack’s side window, then, she spied a slender young man dressed in white trousers and what appeared to be the sleeveless top of a bathing costume engaged in a series of oddly antic maneuvers on the long green to her right. The fellow lay tilted on his back, hands on hips, legs pumping the air as if he were riding an invisible bicycle; then he hopped up in one agile movement and began jumping up and down and flapping his arms like a swan about to take flight.

Calisthenics? If so, he was certainly doing them energetically.

As the hansom rattled past, the young man erupted into a headlong sprint, his strides long and surprisingly swift. Having gone some three hundred feet or so, he slowed, turned, and then raced back at the same lightning speed. After which he dropped to the turf and commenced another round of supine calisthenics.

Joshua Brandywine had evidently been watching for her arrival; he waddled out and stood waiting on the drive, one of his expensive cigars clenched between his teeth, when the driver reined his horse to a halt.

He took her hand and helped her step down, then released it immediately and consulted his gold watch. “One o’clock exactly. Very good. I am a stickler for punctuality, as I told you.”

The young man on the green caught Sabina’s eye again. He was once more on his feet, bouncing up and down and waving his arms. “Is that your nephew, Mr. Brandywine?”

“Yes, that’s Philip. Fancies himself an athlete. Gymnastics, footraces. Sissified nonsense, if you ask me.”

She watched the youth do a back flip, then several forward rolls, then a handstand, then leap to his feet and commence another sprint. The exact purpose of the maneuvers may not have been completely comprehensible, but any activity requiring that much dexterity could hardly be termed sissified.

Mr. Brandywine once more peered at his watch. “Come along inside,” he said. “Tempus fidgets.”

That phrase again, an intentional or unintentional alteration of tempus fugit. Evidently it was habitual with him.

He led the way into the house, across a dark foyer to a wide, curving staircase.



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