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L.A. Lit 2000

Work in Progress

April 16, 2000

Terry McCaleb looked at his wife and then followed her eyes down to the winding road below. He could see the golf cart making its way up the steep and winding road to the house. They were sitting on the back deck of the house they had rented up on La Mesa Avenue. The view ranged from the narrow winding road below to the whole of Avalon harbor and then across Santa Monica Bay to the haze of smog that marked overland. The view had been the reason they had chosen the house in which to make their new home on the island. But at the moment his wife had spoken McCaleb's gaze had been on the baby in his arms, not the view. He could look no further than his daughter's wide blue and trusting eyes.

Michael Connelly is the author of "A Darkness More Than Night," to be published by next January by Little, Brown. His previous books include "Void Moon," "Angels Flight," "Trunk Music" and "The Last Coyote."

*

JOHN GREGORY DUNNE

ANGKOR WAT

She appeared as if an apparition on the surveillance tape. The tape was black and white, the definition jumpy, unstable. She was there, not there, shielded from view. It could have been. Might have been. Was. Probably. A glimpse of a white blouse, a blazer slung over a shoulder, held by her right finger, dark pleated trousers, sunglasses anchored in her hair, a cigarette in her left hand.

The profile said she did not smoke.

Her stride was steady, unhurried. The clock at the bottom of the tape said 20:47:42. At 20:47:47:49 the woman was blocked by what seemed an extended family exiting the elevators. An elderly man in a motorized wheelchair carrying a cane in his lap, a woman approximately the same age wearing a straw cowboy hat hovering close to the wheelchair's arm rail, two grown women and two overweight male companions in floral Hawaiian shirts. The elderly man in the motorized wheelchair reached up with his stick and brushed the cowboy hat off the older woman's head. 20:47:53. The woman in the white blouse again. She did not look back as one of the younger women picked up the cowboy hat and returned it to the older woman. The elderly man knocked it from her hands, his cane flailing, catching her hard on the wrists. The two overweight men in the Hawaiian shirts began waving their arms, one at the older woman, the other at the elderly man in the wheelchair. A security guard materialized, then a second. The surveillance camera zoomed in on the scuffle for a moment. Then resumed its sweep.

20:48:06. Another glimpse of the woman in the white blouse. She was no longer smoking. And was wearing the blazer. Her sunglasses were shielding her eyes. It would have been easy to miss her.

John Gregory Dunne is the author of the unpublished novel "Fit For Kings." His previous books include "Monster: Living Off the Big Screen," "The Studio" and "True Confessions: A Novel."

*

APRIL SMITH

PROLOGUE

NOVEMBER, 1994

She was that close to busting the record for the most consecutive bull's eyes made under the greatest influence of alcohol, when the bar phone rang.

It was three o'clock in the morning in a local dive in Laguna Beach called Papa's. By then she had been throwing darts almost four hours, ever since the challenge by the French kick-boxer. The guy had looked like a cokehead, like he had been put through a pencil sharpener, stringy tendons and collapsed cheeks. She had seen him staring at her and known what he was thinking: Here's one of those tall, all-American babes with the blonde braid and great body who lives for beach volleyball. Not too friendly, not too cool, but for him--une piece of cake.

He hadn't counted on fire and desire.

Her first toss drilled straight through the center of a red cork circle the size of a quarter.

He took his beat-up aviator jacket and split, and she kept it going until the place emptied out--except for the other two icons of Papa's, Mary Jo Martin, a TV newswriter who came in around midnight to work on a screenplay about a TV newswriter, and Big Tyson behind the bar, in his all-season leather vest and wool beanie.

The sound system was tuned to a jazz station and Cassidy Sanderson was working with the same smooth despair as Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue," hitting the sweet spot seventeen times in a row. She had come straight from the stadium; khakis limp, the armpits of the white cotton button-down shirt translucent with sweat, but she had no idea. She had reached that state of detachment it takes Zen masters a lifetime to achieve: The point seeks the innermost circle, it is inevitable.

April Smith is the author of "Be the One," to be published in July by Alfred A. Knopf. Her first novel was "North of Montana."

*

GAVIN LAMBERT

BODY OF FORMER ACTRESS STILL UNCLAIMED

After 9 days in the County Morgue, the body of former screen actress June de Courville, 91, is still unclaimed, it was revealed today. She was found dead at 1532 Hidden Valley Lane, in a house that had stood empty for 10 months and was due for demolition.

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