The Long Man

The Max August Magikal Thrillers (Volume 2)

Steve Englehart

Tor Books

The Long Man
11 Wind
His name was not Max August.
"Hey!" the guy with the cape said. "Aren't you Max August?"
The questioner was not the only one in costume, because tonight was Hallowe'en and the night would be here soon. All the kids coming home from school past Mount Davidson Park, and some of the more-alive adults, had gotten started early. But the guy with the cape wore his backpack under the cape, so he looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
He for his part was looking at a man in his midthirties, dressed normally: jeans, flannel shirt, tall, blond, athletic. A high brow, high cheekbones, large, intelligent hazel eyes, and the full mouth of a guy who talked for a living-very much like Max August. That mouth smiled wryly as the blond man said, "Sorry. You've got the wrong guy."
"Really?" The caped guy was peering at him, eyes narrowed against the low sun. "You look just like him."
"I hear that," the blond man said, "though not so much anymore; it's been like twenty-five years, right? Max August would be in his fifties."
Suddenly the caped guy felt very stupid. "Yeah. Sure. Sorry." Then, hopefully, "You a relative?"
"Nope. Just similar genes, I guess."
The guy shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "Ah, well-sorry, dude. I was just rememberin' watchin' him do his show inside his window at KQBU. We all did, back in the day; we'd duck out of school for it. The coolest thing in San Francisco-if you were a teenager. He called himself Barnaby Wilde then, but anybody cool knew his real name. He played the best music, great music, an' danced like a lunatic, right in the window, y'know?"
"Nahhh. I lived in Miami when I was a kid, so I never heard the guy live. But I've had a crash course on him since I moved out here, I can tell you that."
"You know what happened to him?"
"Been working on the East Coast, I think. He's got some new air-name; 'Barnaby Wilde' doesn't make sense anymore. I don't think he's ever used his real name on air."
"Huh. I probably wouldn' even know him if I heard him now," the caped crusader said. "Or saw him. But I just had this picture of him in my head, up in that window, all these years, and bam! you were it." He shrugged. The wind was picking up and his cape ballooned, mimicking the gesture.
"I'm sorry I missed him," the blond man said.
"Yeah. Hey, I'm sorry I bothered you."
"No problem, man. Happy Halloween."
The guy grinned suddenly, remembering his cape, his character, and the night ahead. "Happy Halloween!" He walked jauntily away along Dalewood, heading west, while Max turned into the park.
Among the shadows of the eucalypti, Max's smile died, his face turning cool, if not cold, and utterly self-contained. He gave a sharp, impatient shrug.
Time was passing. But it was still madness, coming back to San Francisco. He'd been so huge in the '70s, the king of all rock, and he had done his show from a window studio right on Sutter Street. How could he have known that one day he'd lust for anonymity the way he'd lusted after fame?
How could he have known he'd turn Timeless?
Copyright © 2010 by Steve Englehart