Of course, a street like Winding Acres Drive could support more than one golden retriever. The breed, oafishly endearing and good with children, was deservedly popular, especially in suburban neighborhoods with large homes on ample lots. So just because this particular dog was a golden didn’t mean it was necessarily Powhatan.
All this was going through Keller’s mind even as he was overtaking man and dog from the rear. He passed them, and one glance as he did so was all it took. That was the man in the photograph, walking the dog in the photograph.
Keller circled the block, and so, eventually, did the man and the dog. Keller, parked a few houses away on the other side of the street, watched them head up the walk to the front door. Hirschhorn unlocked the door and let the dog in. He stayed outside himself, and a moment later he was joined by his children.
Jason and Tamara. Keller was too far away to recognize them, but he could put two and two together as well as the next man. The man and two children went to the garage, entering through the side door, and Keller keyed the ignition and timed things so that he passed the Hirschhorn driveway just as the garage door went up. There were two cars in the two-and-a-half-car garage, one a squareback sedan he couldn’t identify and the other a Jeep Cherokee.
Hirschhorn left the Jeep for his wife and drove the kids to school in the squareback, which turned out to be a Subaru. Keller stayed with the Subaru after Hirschhorn dropped off the kids, then let it go when Hirschhorn got on the interstate. Why follow the man to his office? Keller knew where the office was, and he didn’t need to fight commuter traffic to go have a look at it now.
He found another family restaurant and ordered orange juice and a western omelet with hash browns and a cup of coffee. The orange juice was supposed to be fresh-squeezed, but one sip told you it wasn’t. Keller thought about saying something, but what was the point?
“Bring your own catalog?”
“I use it as a checklist,” Keller explained. “It’s simpler than trying to carry around a lot of sheets of paper.”
“Some use a notebook.”
“I thought of that,” he said, “but I figured it would be simpler to make a notation in the catalog every time I buy a stamp. The downside is it’s heavy to carry around and it gets beat up.”
“At least you’ve only got the one volume. That the Scott Classic? What do you collect?”
“Worldwide before 1952.”
“That’s ambitious,” the man said. “Collecting the whole world.”
The man was around fifty, with thin arms and legs and narrow shoulders and an enormous belly. He sat in an armchair on wheels, and a pair of high-tech aluminum crutches propped against the wall suggested that he only got out of the chair when he had to. Keller had found him in the Yellow Pages and had had no trouble locating his shop, in a strip mall on the Bardstown Road. His name was Hy Schaffner, and his place of business was Hy’s Stamp Shoppe, and he was sure he could keep Keller busy looking at stamps. What countries would he like to start with?
“Maybe Portugal,” Keller said. “ Portugal and colonies.”
“Angra and Angola,” Schaffner intoned. “Kionga. Madeira, Funchal. Horta, Lourenзo Marques. Tete and Timor. Macao and Quelimane.” He cleared his throat, swung his chair around to the left, and took three small black loose-leaf notebooks from a shelf, passing them over the counter to Keller. “Have a look,” he said. “Tongs and a magnifier right there in front of you. Prices are marked, unless I didn’t get around to it. They run around a third off catalog, more or less depending on condition, and the more you buy the more of a break I’ll give you. You from around here?”
Keller shook his head. “ New York.”
“City or state?”
“I guess if you’re from the city you’d have to be from the state as well, wouldn’t you? Here on business?”
“Just passing through,” Keller said. That didn’t really answer the question, but it seemed to be good enough for Schaffner.
“Well, take your time,” the man said. “Relax and enjoy yourself.”
Keller’s mind darted around. Should he have said he was from someplace other than New York? Should he have invented a more specific reason for being in Louisville? Then he got caught up in what he was doing, and all of that mental chatter ceased as he gave himself up entirely to the business of looking at stamps.
He had collected as a boy, and had scarcely thought of his collection until one day when he found himself considering retirement. The old man in White Plains was still alive then, but he was clearly losing his grip, and Keller had wondered if it might be time to pack it in. He tried to imagine how he’d pass the hours, and he thought of hobbies, and that got him thinking about stamps.
His boyhood collection was long gone, of course, with the rest of his youth. But the hobby was still there, and it was remarkable how much he remembered. It struck him, too, that most of the miscellaneous information in his head had got there via stamp collecting.
So he’d gone around and talked to dealers and looked at some magazines, dipping a toe in the waters of philately, then held his breath and plunged right in. He bought a collection and remounted it in fancy new albums, which took hours each day for months on end. And he bought stamps over the counter from dealers in New York, and ordered them from ads other dealers placed in Linn’s Stamp News. Other dealers sent him price lists, or selections on approval. He went to stamp shows, where dozens of dealers offered their wares at bourse tables, and he bid in stamp auctions, by mail or in person.
It was funny how it worked out. Stamp collecting was supposed to give him something to do in retirement, but he’d embraced it with such enthusiasm and put so much money into it that retirement had ceased to be an option. Then the old man had died while Keller was at a stamp auction in Kansas City, and Dot had decided to stay on and run the operation out of the big house on Taunton Place. Keller took the jobs she found for him and spent a healthy share of the proceeds on stamps.
The philatelic winds blew hot and cold. There were weeks when he read every article in Linn’s, others when he barely scanned the front page. But he never lost interest, and the pursuit-he no longer thought of it as a hobby-never failed to divert him.
Today was no exception. He went through the three notebooks of Portugal and colonies, then looked at some British Commonwealth issues, then moved on to Latin America. Whenever he found a stamp that was missing from his collection he noted the centering, examined the gum on the reverse, held it to the light to check for thins. He deliberated as intensely over a thirty-five-cent stamp as over one priced at thirty-five dollars. Should he buy this used specimen or wait for a more costly mint one? Should he buy this complete set, even though he already had the two low values? He didn’t have this stamp, but it was a minor variety, and his album didn’t have a place for it. Should he buy it anyway?
Hours went by.
After he left Hy’s Stamp Shoppe, Keller spent another couple of hours driving aimlessly around Greater Louisville. He thought about heading downtown for a look at Hirschhorn’s office, but he decided he didn’t feel like it. Why bother? Hirschhorn could wait.
Besides, he’d have to leave the car in a parking lot, and he’d have to make sure it was the kind where you parked it and locked it yourself. Otherwise the attendant would have the key, and suppose he opened the glove compartment just to see what it held? He might not be looking for a gun, but that’s what he’d find, and Keller didn’t figure that was the best thing that could happen.
It was a great comfort, having a gun. Took your mind off your troubles. You spent all your time trying to figure out where to keep it.
He’d missed lunch, so he had an early dinner and went back to his room at the Super 8. He watched the news, then sat down at the desk with his catalog and the stamps he’d bought. He went through the book, circling the number of each stamp he’d acquired that day, keeping his inventory up-to-date.
He could have done this at home, at the same time that he mounted the stamps in his albums, but suppose he dropped in on another stamp dealer between now and then? If your records weren’t right, it was all too easy to buy the same stamp twice.
Anyway, he welcomed the task, and took his time with it. There was something almost meditative about the process, and it wasn’t as though he had anything better to do.
He was almost finished when the noise started overhead. God, who could it be, carrying on like that? And what could they be doing up there?
He stood it for a while, then reached for the phone, then changed his mind. He left the room and walked around the building to the lobby, where a young man with a wispy blond beard and wire-rimmed glasses was manning the desk. He looked up at Keller’s approach, an apologetic expression on his face.
“I’m sorry to say we’re full up,” he said. “So are the folks across the road. The Clarion Inn at the next interchange going north still had rooms as of half an hour ago, and I’ll be glad to call ahead for you if you want.”
“I’ve already got a room,” Keller said. “That’s not the problem.”
The young man’s face showed relief, but only for a moment. That’s not the problem-if it wasn’t, something else was, and now he was going to hear about it, and be called upon to deal with it.
“Uh,” he said.
“I’m in One forty-seven,” Keller said, “and whoever’s in the room directly upstairs of me, which I guess would be Two forty-seven-“
“Yes, that’s how it works.”
“I think they’re having a party,” Keller said. “Or butchering a steer, or something.”
“Butchering a steer?”
“Probably not that,” Keller allowed, “but the point is they’re being noisy about it, whatever it is they’re doing. I mean really noisy.”
“Oh.” The clerk’s gaze fell to the counter, where he seemed to find something fascinating on the few inches of Formica between his two hands. “There haven’t been any other complaints,” he said.
“Well, I hate to be first,” Keller said, “but then I’m probably the only guest with a room directly under theirs, and that might have something to do with it.”
The fellow was nodding. “The walls between the units are concrete block,” he said, “and you never hear a peep through them. But I can’t say the same for the floors. If you’ve got a noisy party upstairs, some sound does filter through.”
“This is a noisy party, all right. It wouldn’t be out of line to call it a riot.”
“Or a civil disturbance, anyway. And filter’s not the word for it. It comes through unfiltered, loud and clear.”
“Have you, uh, spoken to them about it?”
“I thought I’d speak to you.”
“And you could speak to them.”
The clerk swallowed, and his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “Two forty-seven,” he said, and thumbed a box of file cards, and nodded, and swallowed again. “I thought so. They have a car.”