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The phone call from the Smithsonian Museum is the first indication that something's off. There's a little dancing red star beside his calls icon, indicating a voice mail waits for him, when he gets off the plane from Victoria. He listens to it in the cab ride home, frowns, blinks a little, then listens to it three more times. The content doesn't change, though he imagines the curator's voice gets more and more hysterical with each replay. The upshot is this: his typewriter, the old race-car red Olympia De Luxe his aunty gave him, has been stolen.

It's a bummer, but he'd donated the typewriter because he didn't need it anymore. And frankly, as far as he's concerned, they can make up a fake to put on display. Nobody will ever know the difference if they don't publicize it. Why they told him it had been stolen at all is the bigger mystery. It's not like he has a spare for them to borrow, or any leads on where the lost one is. No one's tried to ransom it back to him.

"We're very sorry," the curator says again when he calls her back, juggling his carry-on, his house keys as he unlocks his front door, and his wheelie suitcase. "We just have no idea what happened."

Elgar jams his cell phone between his ear and shoulder as he sheds his dripping coat and muddy boots. He leaves his suitcase and carry-on by the front door, only half-listening to the curator bumble her way through more apologies as he sifts through the mail that's waiting on the table in his front hall. His assistant, Juan, has been in to feed Linux and drop off the correspondence needing his attention. In pride of place on the top of the pile is the latest in what feels like an unending, torturous series of contracts to read and sign back to Flageolet Entertainment. Elgar sets it back down in disgust.

Outside, the mushy gray of a late Seattle winter drizzles on. Elgar paces over to the window as the curator works her way up, verbally, to whatever it is she wants to add to "your typewriter's been stolen." That information should have been the climax of the scene, and he can't think of what might be more important than theft. Poor narrative structure. If the curator was one of his MFA students, he would dock marks for rambling. Being circuitous. Wordy. Loquacious. Palaverous.

He stares out the window at the slush-flakes falling onto the quiet muddy mess of his backyard as he muses on synonyms. The curator keeps talking. Elgar blinks and frowns. "Wait, back up. What did you just say?" he asks, checking back in to the conversation.

"It disappeared," the curator mutters, clearly ashamed to have to say it out loud a second time.

Weird things are just a part of Elgar's life now. And while a theft like this might be par for the course for an internationally best-selling author, what she'd said is . . . well, new. No, not new. It's . . . neoteric.

Any other time, Elgar might have assumed it was just an overzealous fan. That happened sometimes. Quite a lot, actually. Elgar's old apartment in the co-op housing complex he'd been living in with his aunty when he began writing The Tales of Kintyre Turn in the late seventies had been broken into enough that the landlord of the unit had put bars across the windows and doors. He uses the place as storage now, instead of renting it out.

But this is really neoteric.

"It just disappeared," the curator repeats a third time, distraught and desperate to fill the empty air when Elgar remains silent.

Right. There are crazy fans, and then there's . . . this.

This right here is a completely different brand of crazy. The new kind of crazy he's still trying to get his head around, a year after he'd been introduced to it in a hotel bar in Toronto. This is the kind of crazy he thought he'd just left behind in Victoria after a week-long visit with the Piper family—his family, in a way that goes much deeper than blood.

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