City of Glass CD 03 parte II (3)
“Was it some kind of literary thing you wanted to talk about?” Auster began.
“No,” said Quinn. “I wish it was. But this has nothing to do with literature.”
“With what, then?”
Quinn paused, looked around the room without seeing anything, and tried to start. “I have a feeling there's been a terrible mistake. I came here looking for Paul Auster, the private detective.”
“The what?” Auster laughed, and in that laugh everything was suddenly blown to bits. Quinn realized that he was talking nonsense. He might just as well have asked for Chief Sitting Bull—the effect would have been no different.
“The private detective,” he repeated softly.
“I'm afraid you've got the wrong Paul Auster.”
“You're the only one in the book.”
“That might be,” said Auster. “But I'm not a detective.”
“Who are you then? What do you do?”
“I'm a writer.”
“A writer?” Quinn spoke the word as though it were a lament.
“I'm sorry,” Auster said. “But that's what I happen to be.”
“If that's true, then there's no hope. The whole thing is a bad dream.”
“I have no idea what you're talking about.”
Quinn told him. He began at the beginning and went through the entire story, step by step. The pressure had been building up in him since Stillman's disappearance that morning, and it came out of him now as a torrent of words. He told of the phone calls for Paul Auster, of his inexplicable acceptance of the case, of his meeting with Peter Stillman, of his conversation with Virginia Stillman, of his reading Stillman's book, of his following Stillman from Grand Central Station, of Stillman's daily wanderings, of the carpetbag and the broken objects, of the disquieting maps that formed letters of the alphabet, of his talks with Stillman, of Stillman's disappearance from the hotel. When he had come to the end, he said, “Do you think I'm crazy?”
“No,” said Auster, who had listened attentively to Quinn's monologue. “If I had been in your place, I probably would have done the same thing.”
These words came as a great relief to Quinn, as if, at long last, the burden was no longer his alone. He felt like taking Auster in his arms and declaring his friendship for life.
“You see,” said Quinn, “I'm not making it up. I even have proof.” He took out his wallet and removed the five-hundred-dollar check that Virginia Stillman had written two weeks earlier. He handed it to Auster. “You see,” he said. “It's even made out to you.”
Auster looked the check over carefully and nodded. “It seems to be a perfectly normal check.”
“Well, it's yours,” said Quinn. “I want you to have it.”
“I couldn't possibly accept it.”
“It's of no use to me.” Quinn looked around the apartment and gestured vaguely. “Buy yourself some more books. Or a few toys for your kid.”
“This is money you've earned. You deserve to have it yourself. Auster paused for a moment. “There's one thing I'll do for you, though. Since the check is in my name, I'll cash it for you. I'll take it to my bank tomorrow morning, deposit it in my account, and give you the money when it clears.”
Quinn did not say anything.
“All right?” Auster asked. “Is it agreed?”
“All right,” said Quinn at last. “We'll see what happens.”
Auster put the check on the coffee table, as if to say the matter had been settled. Then he leaned back on the sofa and looked Quinn in the eyes. “There's a much more important question than the check,” he said. “The fact that my name has been mixed up in this. I don't understand it at all.”