Jack Fairy always made a fuss when he moved. Even reading a book ( reading! a book! a proper glitter rock creature ought to be stoned in front of the TV on his rare day off - Bowie and Warhol certainly were - but Jack Fairy reads the Russians, or news about lemurs or technology) yes, even reading a book, that annoying flick-flick of his hand in his famous red-dyed bob (a natural auburn, these days, but once you've seen one photo it's easy to see red gleaming through in your mind's eye) is eye-catching, energetic, an intense concentration on hair-flicking that manages to convey scorn for everything outside the flick - and then the terrible focus returns to the page. I'm becoming hyper-sensitive to him, prolonged exposure, he's imprinted on me like a bad mattress.

He knew where to go and didn't give a fuck about me, as he's explained patiently many times. "Hand me that," he said sharply, and I passed him his messenger bag. I'm not going to make notes of rare materials and designer labels for you as we get dressed - me in a hurry, in black, making myself up while he finds his shoes and then making myself available to call the club, double-check about parking.

Jack emerges from the bedroom, black button-down shirt and dark jeans, a fantastical, bright eyed, pale faced - you know what he looks like. It struck me and I quivered. He asked -with that flaming gay voice! - "So, Gaga will definitely be there?"

"I don't know." The ground began to slip from under me.

"Well, the only point of going is to -"

"How can I check?"

"Call the club."

"Who do I ask for?"

"The lady."

"Which lady?" but he'd gone into the bathroom leaving my stomach full of devouring serpents.

"You're late!" he shouted from the bathroom.

I started to cry under pressure, sitting on an ottoman, and he came up from behind and kicked the base of my spine, a solid knock with a high-heeled boot. "Ah!" I said.

Looking down at the pitiful wreck of me, he had a stare of tight-lipped cruelty, then he sighed just a little and held out a hand, balancing in those slight heels, and pulled me to my feet. I fell forward against him and he returned my hug, one hand wrapped against my cheek to hold my made-up face away from his black clothes. "Ai, girl, girl," he said, shaking his head slowly in disbelief, and I knew I'd been forgiven.

I won't tell you where we went or who we met. I'll admit there's a time I would have told all, but I've carefully killed that person off. Anyway, why on earth do you need to know?

Oh, the story. Well, this is the part you want to hear anyway, you twisted thing. After all the events, we were sitting in in yet another hotel ballroom, golden light, music playing, me nodding and resisting the urge to finish my drink. Never drink if you can't handle it. They spoke until three-thirty in the morning, the darkest time before the light. Seeing I was on the verge of passing out from sleepiness, Jack pulled me aside. "Are you sober?" he asked.

"Absolutely," I said, coming to attention.

"Take the car and go home. Don't forgot to answer calls in the morning. And write to that girl we met."

"The black-haired rock star?"

"She was nobody, nobody. I suppose a twisted girl like you would remember her. No, the one from Australia doing the music project. Write to her like we agreed. Are you going to be able to remember that?"

"Oh yes."

Free! An adventure, to make it home all by myself, driving through the easy, night-dazed spring traffic. Thank God, I'd remembered the keys. The familiar rooms of the flat; sleeping through my shower, then I woke up glazed in bed, sun pouring on me as it never had before; forgotten to pull the blackout curtains. Alone. One in the afternoon, and alone.

As the lazy day progressed, after I'd washed and eaten sushi, manchiego, chocolates and fruit, I forced myself to write the letter, found pleasure in the momentum. I put on the radio and cleaned up, dusted. As the shades of evening fell I wrestled with my lust for fresh air, finally wrote on a pad of paper, "Took a walk for fresh air. Back in ten minutes. Call if you need me."

Like a boat unanchored, a kite with a broken string, I walked the sidewalk, edging the streets unescorted, with no conversation, no destination, my awareness of the rippling pool of strangers in motion making me walk as quickly as possible. All the way to the great white bridge across the river, romantic F. Scott Fitzgerald heights of softly carved stone in the dusk. I love warm nights. I love all the heat I can get. Lovers and unattached losers stroll in the opposite direction as I check my messages - nothing from Jack -and cross the bridge.

Upon arriving in the network of cafes and plazas on the other side, I remember how I used to take myself for dinner and wine, or more recently what's-his-name, that boy, would take me, hoping to please me, ready to escape into the wildness of his boy's quests if he didn't. But we were like everyone else then, until I met Jack, until he saw something in me ("I sensed so much," he wrote to me after we met).

The same day Jack wrote back to me, what's-his-name and I dropped acid in Los Angeles. Walking down Hollywood Boulevard, arm in arm, trading insights and floating, me no longer cold for once in my backless shirt (it's all in your head etc.), and the usual Hollywood trash walking by to the clubs on Cahuenga, and I saw us in their eyes, another couple, and I realized, "We're just like them." - we were ordinary. I hadn't known. And what's-his-name wasn't on the wavelength when I spoke, so he didn't get what I said. I didn't want to be ordinary. I bought the ticket when Jack told me to, left my iPod and most of my clothes and my apartment and the boy and never left an address and never came back.

You weren't supposed to hear about that. You're in this story for sexual gratification, so let me skip ahead, to late that night, in the 2 am-ish zone, when the shower woke me and I knew Jack had returned.

Into bed, he slipped, naked and bony and damp. A toss and turn of wet hair on the pillow. He grabbed my arm. "Come on, let's stay up together."

He turned up pop music on the radio, looking unhealthy and frail in a black dressing gown and slippers, and I poured him an apertif glass of clear absinthe; always his after-dinner or after-midnight drink. I kept a cupboard stocked with bottles he'd brought from trips. We drank together on the Chesterfield, looking out at the stars; I had a full glass because I knew he'd politely finish mine. Pulling him into my embrace, his light, frail, hollow-boned body leaning into mine like the body of an old and dried-up man, I saw the disgusting dark ooze of blood falling from the left corner of his lip, next to the engraved smile line.

"You're bleeding. Cut yourself?"

"Hm." He felt fussily at the corner of his mouth, looked tiredly at the red dust on his fingertip, took my barely sipped-at glass and drank from it. "What is it you were staying about Jupiter - there's no solid ground?

"No, the whole thing's just gases."

"So you'd just fall forever, into that planet?"

"I guess the pressure would stop you. Actually, they think there might be a solid core - otherwise it just gets very dense but never becomes solid - I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure it gets dense enough to be a liquid. But all I hear is, 'there might be a solid core.' "

He drained the glass and I went for the bottle. "Much bigger than Earth, isn't it?" he called after me.

This conversation had been going on for at least a year between us, leaping from planet to planet, climbing inside molecules and brains and looking forwards and back in time. We were interrupted; the phone rang steadily, I copied down messages, Jack picked up three calls - two briefly, in German, one endless one in a mixture of English and Jack's weak experimental forays into Italian. He threw me the phone halfway through and I represented our position as firmly and soberly as I could.

My last memory of the night is lying in bed, watching him in the square of yellow light at the doorway as he swallowed pills, fussily laying them out in his hand. They might be multivitamins, spirulina algae, MDA, or cyanide for all I cared, on the edge of sleep. In the morning, I couldn't wake him.

I didn't mean to startle you. I meant to make this into a sort of guide, for those who rise to the top of the world, and not being a sage like the one I serve, I can only tell you what I saw, and what happened, because if you can train yourself to live on the top of the world, and sacrifice all you've ever known - the Maxwell Demon Process, if you will - you may be lucky enough to stand in a place where the spotlight shines, where your idols breathe and sweat beside you.

A long lump in the dark silk covers, Jack lay in the darkness of the heavy blackout curtains. The illuminated clock read eleven o'clock, and I slipped back into bed, pressing myself against the long, cold back, pressing my breasts into the valley of his spine. When I propped myself on an elbow and peered into his face, the smear of blood had returned, a trickle rubbed like paint down his chin, his throat, and I shook him by the shoulder. His eyes never fluttered, and I shook more urgently, so the lips parted in his gray face.

Of course I was imagining things. Sinking my ear against the bare chest, scrupulously shaven, I waited for the heartbeat and felt my own shaking us both. "Hey. Wake up."

Then my fingers pressed into his neck, into the rusty smudge of blood, hunting for the pulse. Finally I pulled up a heavy eyelid by its lashes, and laid a finger on the sticky, red-veined surface of the cornea. No response. I felt like an idiot for waking up at my customary eight-thirty, taking a shower, shaving my legs, and eating toast and tea.

I wondered what the local emergency number might be. I wondered if a dream was ending. I was absolutely sure of what had gone wrong. It had started late in the previous summer, when autumn first began to touch its toes to the ground...

It's difficult for me to ask for things. In his roundabout way Jack had made me understand that only a person "at street level" would be so un-savvy as to pay full price for studio time, no matter how nice Sammy was about it or how many times he offered us cappucino and, as the day wore on, water, tea, and fruit juice. Jack himself really had no other ideas about money; oddly enough one of my very first responsibilities, within months of meeting him, had been to take command of his complex finances.

I hoped this was a sign of trust, based on my sturdy morals, and not a sign of helpless insanity; flustered easily by my questions - what the hell were all these demand letters, bills, tax forms? - he had broken his policy of keeping myself and his current projects off the radar of anyone he knew, and taken me into the city to see his previous accountant. Despite that very capable woman's gentle hints to Jack that I might not be qualified to manage the finances of a lemonade stand, he had made her answer my questions, then he quizzed me up and down to make sure I had at least a foggy understanding, and after that quite contentedly expected me to handle everything, reserving the right to treat me with inhuman cruelty when I made minor mistakes.

This was awkward at the beginning, but as it stood on that summer day I had brought Jack's affairs, payments, loans, interest and legal possessions into a slightly smoother state of affairs than before - at least as far as I could tell; there remained some accounts into which he never invited me to look. Typical. He also possessed a London flat to which he never took me; some of our mail came forwarded from that stylish address, and in the house we called home there stood a door he'd explicitly told me never to open, though he went in and out frequently. The windows of that room were blacked out with curtains. This sounds like the kind of thing I might invent in the spirit of the moment, to underline Jack's enigmatic and in fact devious character, but it's true, and I still haven't found out what was inside, with the exception of a few papers he's brought out for me to see - ordinary things like deeds and records.

My point is that he stuck to his curious ways of doing things, and avoided distractions like the plague, including financial negotiation. This meant I had to fiddle with the collar of my stylish, eco-sustainable black suit jacket, or, on this occasion, tug at the hem of my jeweled T-shirt, and put on my fierce face: a big smile, my voice pitched a little too high (I try to keep it natural enough so no one feels like scratching my face off, but sometimes you just can't control these things).

"I'm glad it's so convenient, but what we're saying is this is a side project. This is obviously where the seeds of great albums are started and planted, but of course this is something the band would normally do - I mean this could be done in someone's garage if it wasn't for a few pieces of equipment we were just discussing. Obviously we could fly back to London and do that there. We've already spent five thousand dollars just to get here, and it still has to be a bargain."

Sammy's jovial manner had begun to droop. He had endured Jack's minutely detailed technical questions, and now all he had to do was sell us some time with his new equipment. The excitement seemed to be fading. Frowning, he looked into the polished surface of his contemporary desk for another way to stave us off on the price, but make the deal happen. Here he sat, trapped behind a desk in a suit, with the cocktail hour delayed by our visit. By the gold watch nestled among the black hairs of his wrist, it was coming onto six o'clock.

I was luckier - I only had to get whatever Jack Fairy wanted, and do it with no help from him. Lunch seemed long ago and I began to anticipate the fashion show we had in the evening. In private, Jack had disgust for anything that took away from working time, but in public he's a dream of fascinating courtesy. I'd come to share his dislike of giving up an evening, but at the moment all the ridiculous little hors d'oeuvres they serve before and after the runway tempted me. I could practically taste scallops on little biscuits. A deep breath of officey air refocused me.

Jack Fairy's enlightened approach to negotiation, obviously polished over time, consisted of sitting back with his legs crossed, making a fuss over opening a packet of cigarettes and doing everything with the little paper tubes he favored except actually lighting a cigarette indoors. I think he did it to make people nervous or startle them into telling him they regretted it terribly but he wasn't allowed to smoke in the building. In that case, Jack told them in an assured voice that they did it in Dubai, unless we were in the U.A.E., in which case he said they did it in Tennessee.

It's amazing how flexible these anti-smoking laws became in situations when we met with a weaker type of person; generally they ended up actually forcing him to smoke a cigarette just to end the torture. Others got impatient and rigid. Jack warmed to anyone who treated the whole charade as good fun. The fact was, he could sometimes be much, much, more nervous even than me and didn't trust himself to speak properly.

Our host seemed to be weakening. He hadn't said anything about Jack's cigarettes yet, but his lips tightened. "Look -" gasped Sammy, "I will have to see what I can do."

"Okay," I said, with a big smile. "But we have somewhere to be tonight, and we're probably leaving the country very early in the morning, so make sure you get back to us before - say - 9 pm. 9:30 you might still be able to reach me, but really you'd better try before nine."

"Wait - you are leaving tomorrow?"

"We have some things we need to do anyway, but if we can work out a bargain -"

"Okay, look..." And in another sentence we got what we wanted.

Had I done well or poorly? Jack said nothing in the elevator. The late afternoon sun blasted us as we trod the ancient stone of the front plaza. I handed Jack his sunglasses and donned my own. The car had been thoroughly sun-baked; the black interior of the new Mercedes AMG reeked heat. With the doors hanging open, Jack carefully tapped on the AC and sank back in the driver's seat, closing his eyes with their long darkened lashes, the color draining from his face and leaving it yellowish. I draped myself in the passenger seat, with my head in his lap, and he stroked me absently as he would a cat. We sat parked on the curb for some time. "It's tiresome to work with the normal people," he said, office-cooled fingers brushing along my clavicle, "They are not capable of much understanding, are they?"

I shook my head no against his thigh. Laughing a little, he told me, "Get up." And he patted his complexion dry in the rearview mirror.

Driving 'home', changing clothes, telephone calls. Deep breaths. The light had begun to fade by the time a handful of the same people we meet everywhere were hugging Jack hello and telling me, if they noticed me, that I looked gorgeous, though I doubted they could remember my name - I'd been using an alias for three years anyway, at Jack's polite suggestion - and telling Jack he looked gorgeous, or that he looked pale, and telling us what they were currently arranging, importing, or engaged to. Telling us they were fine, we looked fine, the industries all looked fine. Jack mostly teased them about sex or asked polite questions. I echoed him. The marble hall of the one-time train station glowed aqua, magenta, and emerald beneath the decorative lights, and I went for champagne to avoid hovering near Jack like a jealous lover or a witless idiot.

I have a terrible eye for celebrities, possibly because my left eye is only capable of a blurred, watercolor vision - maybe I don't absorb all the visual information I should. The only person I recognized for certain was Donatella Versace, because I almost walked into her thankfully distinctive lips. I muttered something congratulatory and drifted subtly through the crowd to the food.

Up on the mezzanine balcony, a glass in each hand, surveying the dark crowd of suited men and imposingly tall women from above to avoid meeting anyone's eyes, with a cheerful smile fixed on my face, I looked to pick the bobbed hair out below. Instead, the diamond he wore caught my eye, a flash below as he dropped someone's hand, and for a moment the crowd of casual acquaintances around him withdrew or pushed past him, his magnetism dispelled, because he'd turned to look across the room. Looking for me, of course. Cell phone must be buzzing, or someone was speaking to him in Italian, which he did not understand properly. I never should have wandered so far.

Tiptoeing casually down the stairs in my practical flats as fast as I could, I saw the fellow who'd caught his attention so noticeably- he hadn't been looking for me - and slowed my pace. Someone on his own, who now began to attract his own stares as Jack brought him in with a gesture and the black-clad, leather-jacketed figure swaggered up to him. Cold sweat beaded on my right-hand champagne glass and I took it by the stem instead, sipping, watching, drifting closer, instinctively keeping a floral arrangement between us.

The stranger might be might be Somebody; he had the distinctive, hollowed-out look of someone who's been a living image, someone who's spent years making sure they look extremely like themselves. Blond ponytail. The retired rocker outfit looked back-of-the-closet but was probably tailored; the man himself looked like trash, but he swung in and kissed Jack on the lips, grabbing him by the collar, and the diamond flashed again like a signal as Jack's hand went up in surprise. One foot took a dancing step backwards in its heeled shoe to support his body arching backwards, hips thrusting forward into the kiss. For a moment the pair of them looked like an amorous Fred and Ginger. Arriving at the scene I asked, "Champagne, Jack?" in case he needed rescuing.

But he never heard. Shaking himself free, he said in mock indignation, "Can't you see there's a line?"

"Didn't think you minded," snorted the stranger. American.

"What about all the poor people who have to wait? And of course when the news gets around I'll never get out of here - one says, 'Oh, just slap me around a little, Jack,' and the next one says, 'I want what he's getting.' "

The stranger laughed - his hyena grin brought a dazzling light into his brown eyes, he looked beautiful, delicate, if a bit sunken - , "Yeah, you're the same as you were, huh."

They stepped from each other and Jack looked him up and down. "What, no nosebleeds? No needle marks? My, my - let me see."

"I'm past that. Everybody's past that. Or they're - dead." His tone sounded playful, but the death part felt real; a shadow passed between them.

Turning away so as not to stare, breathing deeply, still grinning out of habit, I washed the oxygen down into my lungs with champagne, eager for the program-rustling show, the music and the lights.

"Hey, wait, let's talk," drawled the voice. Not to me; I turned and the stranger, grinning once more, had Jack by the wrist, and at last I met Jack's eyes.

"This is Jane," he presented me quickly. "Jane, this is Curt Wild. You love his music. She does adore it," he told him, sadistically eager as always to see if I could be ruffled in public, "What was that you said? You dance to your Wyld Rattz album and breaks coffee tables or something?"

And there went my one chance to be cool and smooth in front of Curt Wild, who watched me with his lip curled and shook my hand briefly. I could have stabbed myself in the chest with a broken champagne stem from shame, but kept my careless grin in place and recovered from force of habit, thinking fast. "Hey..." I told him, "You owe me a coffee table," and the mood relaxed as everyone agreed to ignore me.

Curt told Jack, "I don't see you around at all. Not in London - I was in London for three weeks last year. I was going to stop by your place, but work, you know... I kind of thought I'd run into you after a while - are you hiding from me or something?"

Jack only grinned.

"Are you making music?" Curt asked. "Cause everyone thinks you've quit, you know."

"Well, art is life, no?"

"Yeah? Is it?"

Jack reached out and felt Curt's neck, so tenderly it looked like a perfectly normal thing to do. Curt said, softly, almost a whisper, "Stoppit. I put makeup on my hickeys for a reason, you pervert."

He laughed and continued, thumping Jack absently on the back, "Well, old times, huh? We were so messed up and all. And here we are today, right? So much has gone by."

Jack grimaced and automatically touched his fingertips to his forehead, where a few fine wrinkles lay concealed by rejuvenating makeup.

Curt continued in the same tone, "I've settled down, you know. So... Everything good? Doing good?"

"Are you still looking for everything in the wrong direction?" Jack probed softly.

"Oh, I'm in love now. No, no, I really am."

Jack's turn to laugh came. "Ah, you don't know what love is, " he teased.

"It's when you want to share with someone. It's something so beautiful. Do you want to hear how we met? No? You don't huh. Well, if you weren't so cold-hearted... It's a good story. He's a journalist. Yeah, he. I - "

"What do you know about spiritual sustainability?"

"Well, you know I did the whole Buddhism thing. Jiva and karma. I don't believe in karma though - it doesn't make sense, not that I haven't been struck by lightning, but that every dirtbag who did wrong to me and to all the rest of us normal folks, African dictators and child rapists and things, haven't been struck by lightning or died in car crashes."

His audience of one (I pretended to take a call so I could keep listening) shook his head with a slight jingle of discreet crystal earrings. "You ought to look it up on this new-fangled internet."

"Fine." Curt pointed at me. "So, is she - "

Jack spun around, "Go and save our seats - hurry."

The three of us stood in a nearly-empty hall. The show had begun. Behind me as I left, Jack said, "Haven't you ever wondered what music's for?" and I knew he would tease Curt mercilessly without revealing a hint of his project, for hours if it pleased him.

I staggered over the tanned legs of fashion writers to my front-row seat, among the pounding music of that Ting Tings song they always play, and alone I watched grim models sashay easily into the darkness, blinded as they were by the rows upon rows of stage lights. At the end, swaying easily out with the rest of the crowd, meeting no eyes, finding no phone messages, I circled the vast crowded hall.

Letting the crowd sweep me outside, I hung about the white marble steps and heard, "Okay. Okay. Okay. I have no idea what you want me to do."

Curt. I rounded a topiary and found them facing off. Jack had sunk into contemplative silence, fluttering his eyelashes reflectively. He had failed.

"So this doesn't have to do with wind power." From Curt's tone, I could tell he'd been guessing for at least ten minutes, and was now sailing far out to sea.

"Well, from what you said you need," said Curt, "we both know who could get you the attention you're going to need, right?"

Jack nodded, saying nothing.

"So I'll email him tomorrow. No big deal. But have her," he pointed at me, "write me something, like you said. Because I know it's a good thing, because you're into it, but I don't know what it is. Really. I don't."

"Take his email address," Jack told me. "We'll send him something to pass on."

Cool breezes floated my short silk skirt up as I slid into the dark cave of the Mercedes and the engine vroomed and rumbled. The mad grin nearly reached Jack Fairy's dangling earrings of pearl and crystal. A streetlight and a neon sign cast glittering earring reflections on his cheek; he bared his white teeth and licked his lips, tapping on the music system and spinning the car without warning out of the parking spot, with a zooming protest from the Pirelli tires, the g-forces sending me flying up and against the seat belt.

We spun out into the main road. I watched him, amazed and startled, and saw his hands, long and be - ringed, resting lightly on top off the wheel as the first burst of acceleration knocked the breath from my body, driving me forward heavily into my seatbelt. Jack seemed to be steering delicately with his fingertips, and I prayed he had a better grip than it looked. The car pulsed with Round Round by the Sugababes, his favorite that week, so loud that the synths competed with the g-forces as 80 miles per hour instantly brought us up to a cluster of traffic, and now the headlights of other cars brought red glints from Jack's hair in the black and white darkness of the city highway. He braked, swerved in front of a Mac truck, accelerated with a roar of the engine directly into the back of a Volkswagen, and missed it by the width of a hair without slowing. A gasp escaped me, and I immediately coughed to cover it.

This is how we made progress that night, me dancing in the seat to the music as we hurtled round curves without slowing, gripping the seatbelt shoulder for the illusion of control, and on a couple blocks of empty street his dazzling fingers plucked at the wheel and sent the car careening wildly from side to side as if out of control. Now and then the onrushing traffic and concrete barriers brought another uncontrollable yelp from me, but I knew I was helpless, no matter what I might say to him, what gesture, what tone. There is nothing so relaxing. I went limp. No strain of my body could keep the concrete walls away from me.

Then onto the highway again in a steadier surge. The roller-coaster feeling ended. The g-forces released me. The song ended. He turned his clever face to me, blinked his eyes slowly beneath their heavy lashes and said, perfectly calm, "They call that 'dancing in the streets'."

He sounded insane, but I knew better than to say anything. Obviously the weather had changed.

One week later, in our own house in another city, with rain trickling outside, Jack Fairy sat making phone calls. I had spent days writing, rewriting, emailing everything about our project out. Today I faxed things and filed them. Here my only value lay. I knew what Jack wanted, we could communicate here as we could nowhere else, and I had no other loyalties. Any rootless, ambitious creature would have done, but my security lay in the fact that I had settled here, and as long as I behaved well I doubted Jack would bother to endure the hunt for another unsuspecting candidate.

The stories tantalized me. I looked in the house, full of Jack's beautiful oddities, for photos of Lou Reed, for feathered stage costumes, gold records, for some scrap of evidence, as it were, of a grand world which lay still just beyond me, to which I might never receive my introduction. Jack himself had never formally introduced himself; the first name he had given me - James - was an alias, and by the time I fully understood the meaning of his intriguing hints - his real, or least his official name, Jack Fairy, appeared on accounts and letters alike - I was already dedicated in my foolish ambitious way to our project.

It was the biggest thing I had ever had in my life, and I hid my dreams of glam rock stardom to work on this comparatively boring enterprise, content to be both closer and farther than ever before. I went through the house, which I suspected had been chosen for its anonymity in a long row of similar houses in a very nice neighborhood, in which families quietly minded their own business. A senior FBI agent and his family lived next door, a musician and his beautiful wife on the other side. We saw them come and go, but never spoke.

I went through the house, in what time I could snatch. Framed photographs of an unknown childlike beauty, fierce almond eyes, her dark hairstyle dating her to the mid-Sixties perhaps. Clothes in garment bags, clothes in closets on all three floors, clothes in the attic. A bayonet from the Second World War. Enough telephones from all eras to supply a large office building or two - many of them connected. I found a dust-covered, ridiculous phone (buried under untouched gardening supplies in the garage) shaped like a bottle of Coca-Cola, picked it up, and heard a dial tone. Above it hung a dartboard, quite free of dust, the sharp-pointed darts neatly bagged on the shelf beside, and a black silk blindfold hanging from the corner of the board.

The main rooms were lavish with black unpolished marble floors and enormous heavy pieces of furniture, mostly by Baker, some pieces rather battered, the colors and designs all in the grand European style, with a film of dust and an extreme magpie touch - the $12,000 mirror of flowing gold and silver in the green marble master bedroom faced a $29 mirror of gold and black in the hallway. Most of the free space stored plastic crates of tapes, papers, and technology, much of it previous to 1985, including whole rooms full of dust-cloth covered furniture, outright junk, and plastic handbags. Jack had obviously moved back in only a week or so before I arrived. None of the mess mattered; our waking hours we spent in the dining room, which had been converted to a quite workable studio and office.

Jack Fairy was one of those people who won't even throw out potentially useful plastic grocery bags. If I went to pick up fruit at the market I always brought extra bags, quietly brought him sheets of twist ties. I've seen him pull women's shoes and dovetailed dresser drawers out of rubbish bins and leave them sitting in a corner of the house next to mismatched massive antiques or by the pair of crated 2,000 lb crema marfil marble columns that took up half the garage.

When Jack had become quite absorbed in a phone call, I took a break to make him a cup of tea and secretly make lunch; he objected to taking breaks for any reason, especially anything so tiresome as food, but I'd found if I brought him some dinner his survival instincts took over, while if I didn't he might work until four or five in the morning, sustaining himself with chocolate truffles when he felt weak. As I sloshed olive oil over a couple of plates of braised organic vegetables the buzzer for the front gate sounded and I jumped. I stuck my head into the studio and Jack, glued to the phone with a blank look in his round eyes, waved me elegantly toward the front door.

We weren't expecting anyone, so I didn't go to the door first, because our garden wall stood a few feet in front of it, blocking the view of whoever might be pressing the gold buzzers (three buzzers, two with blank name plates and one reading J. Black) outside the garden gate. Instead I ran up to the second floor and looked out. Long light hair, button-up hipster shirt. The buzzer keened again.

"It's your friend from last week. Curt, I think," I shouted down the rickety front stairs of the hundred-year-old house.

"Let him in." Equipment clattered in the dining room.