They were in the car for forty-five minutes, passing first the tall, lighted architecture of downtown, then naked suburban oaks, heaps of ploughed snow, gas stations, power towers, and telephone wires. The woman said, "So you regularly attend your wife's performances?"
"No," he said. "Never before."
She parked in the driveway of an elaborate modern mansion, with square balconies suspended over two garages, huge triangular windows in the façade, sleek columns, domed lights, a steep shale roof.
Inside the front door about thirty nametags were laid out on a table. His wife was not there yet. No one, apparently, was there yet. He found his tag and pinned it to his sweater. A silent girl in a tuxedo appeared and disappeared with his coat.
The granite foyer was backed with a grand staircase, which spread wide at the bottom and tapered at the top. A woman came down. She stopped four or five steps from the bottom and said, "Hello, Anne" to the woman who had driven him there and "You must be Mr. Dumas" to him. He took her hand, a pale, bony thing, weightless, like a featherless bird.
Her husband, the university's chancellor, was just knotting his bow tie, she said, and she laughed sadly to herself, as if bow ties were something she disapproved of. The hunter moved to a window, shifted aside the curtain, and peered out.
In the poor light he could see a wooden deck the length of the house, angled and stepped, its width ever changing, with a low rail. Beyond it, in the blue shadows, a small pond lay encircled by hedges, with a marble birdbath at its center. Behind the pond stood leafless trees—oaks, maples, a sycamore as white as bone. A helicopter shuttled past, its green light winking.
"It's snowing," he said.
"Is it?" the hostess asked, with an air of concern, perhaps false. It was impossible to tell what was sincere and what was not. The woman who had driven him there had moved to the bar, where she cradled a drink and stared into the carpet.
He let the curtain fall back. The chancellor came down the staircase. Other guests fluttered in. A man in gray corduroy, with "Bruce Maples" on his nametag, approached him. "Mr. Dumas," he said, "your wife isn't here yet?"
"You know her?" the hunter asked. "Oh, no," Maples said, and shook his head. "No, I don't." He spread his legs and swiveled his hips as if stretching before a footrace. "But I've read about her."
The hunter watched as a tall, remarkably thin man stepped through the front door. Hollows behind his jaw and beneath his eyes made him appear ancient and skeletal—as if he were visiting from some other, leaner world. The chancellor approached the thin man, embraced him, and held him for a moment.
"That's President O'Brien," Maples said. "A famous man, actually, to people who follow those sorts of things. So terrible, what happened to his family." Maples stabbed the ice in his drink with his straw.