I should have posted this last Saturday, but I didn’t post anything. Call it a minute of silence for the loss of one of my favorite writers. This is Tanith Lee in solid sensuous, decadent, menacing form.
Suddenly Folscyvio could not recall what he had said last to the old-young mental deficient. Had he asked a price?
Or—what was it?
When confused or thrown out of his depth, Folscyvio could become unreasonable, unpleasant. Several persons had found this out, over the past eighteen years. His prowess as a virtuoso was such that, generally, excuses were made for him and police bribed, or else clever and well-paid lawyers would subtly usher things away.
He stared at the ridiculous auburn wood and green glass of the fish-tail, at the pegs of brass and ivory adhering to the glaucous tail-fan.
He said, with a slow and velvety emphasis, “I’m not saying I want to buy this piece of crap off you. But I’d better warn you, if I did want, I’d get it. And for a—shall I say—very reasonable price. Sometimes people even give me things, as a present. You see? A diamond the size of my thumb-nail—quite recently, that. Or some genuine gold Roman coins, Circa Tiberio. Just given, as I said. A gift. I have to add, my dear old gentleman, that when people upset me, I myself know certain . . . other people, who really dislike the notion that I’m unhappy. They then, I’m afraid, do these unfortunate things—a broken window—oh, steelglass doesn’t stop them—a little fire somewhere. The occasional, very occasional, broken . . . bone. Just from care of me, you’ll understand. Such kind sympathy. Do you know who I am?”
The slightest pause.
“Yes.” Oh, the old dolt was acting, affecting ignorance.
Or maybe he was blind and half-deaf as well as stooped. “So. How fucking much?”
“For the vio-sirenalino?”
“For what fucking else, in this hell-hall of junk?”
Folscyvio was shouting now. It surprised him slightly. Why did he care? Some itch to try, and to conquer, this stupid toy eyesore—Besides, he could afford millions of libra-eura. (Folscyvio did not know he was a miser of sorts; he did not know he was potentially criminally violent, an abusive and trustless, perhaps an evil man. Talent he had, great talent, but it was the flare and flame of a cunning stage magician. He could play instruments both stringed and keyed, with incredible virtuosity—but also utter emotional dryness. His greatest performances lacked all soul—they were fire and lightning, glamour and glitter, sound and fury. Signifying nothing? No, Folscyvio did not know any of that either. Or . . . he thought he did not, for from where, otherwise, the groundless meanness, the lashing out, the rage?)
Unusually, the stooping man did not seem unduly alarmed. “Since the need is so urgent,” he said, “naturally, the vio-sera is yours. At least,” a gentle hesitation, “for now.”
“Forget ‘for now,’” shouted Folscyvio. “You won’t get the Thing back. How much?”
Everything settled to a titanic silence.
In the silence Folscyvio took the single and insignificant note from his wallet, and let it flutter down, like a pink-green leaf, into the dust of the floor.