short and dim as a December day (in contrast, the
Lovers Moon is of course the one nearest the winter
solstice, riding shamelessly high in the heavens and
shedding an intoxicating silver radiance all the long,
Manning's other young friend (who was also Joan's
friend) was Jack Penrose, a restless chap with a keen
interest in both the occult and science, and with
ambitions too of becoming a writer of fantasy
romances. He was the one to whom Manning told
some ofhis dreams.
Then there was Mr. Sarcander, a sallow and lean-
jawed clinical psychologist working mostly in
geriatrics. Originally Manning had consulted him
about his recurrent depressions, but their relationship
had become social also. Those who knew him well
found Mr. Sarcander the most cynical and sardonic
man alive, shockingly harsh in his evaluation of human
motives, and they were occasionally hurt when they
found such value judgements being applied to them or
their friends. Such had never learned, or else
temporarily forgotten, that Mr. Sarcander was harshest
of all on himself, expending all his optimism, flattery,
and merry mood on his patient-clients, reserving his
honesty for the people he could relax with.
And then there was the amiable and tolerant Dr.
Lewison, Manning's medical doctor, with whom he
had something more than a purely professional
relationship. He had keys to Manning's apartment, as
did Jack Penrose.
These four persons had become acquainted while
Manning was still alive (undisappeared, rather) and
after his vanishing they met a few times to talk about it
and him, especially when police investigations
developed no leads - or any push at all, for that matter.
Such was the surprisingly small circle of Manning's
last friends unless we include (and we probably should)
Mr. Breen, a burly, dark, not unhandsome Irishman
with permanently bewildered eyes and given to fits of
absentmindedness, who was the apartment manager of
the building where Manning lived on the top floor.
Breen wasn't the first to notice Manning's absence
(Joan did) but he made a small discovery in connection
with it that became somewhat puzzling as he recalled
more of the attendant circumstances.
"I was up on the roof," he said, "when I noticed this
small ring of keys sitting on one of the steps leading up
to the little room over the shaft that has the elevator
motor and relays in it. Right next to the edge of the roof
too. At first I didn't think of Manning specially but
then I remembered - You know how he'd go up there
once or twice a day, nights too, to check out the weather
or the stars, he'd say? - I remembered times when he'd
forgotten and left other things in about the same spot -
his pipe or matches or a half-filled cup of coffee, and
once his binoculars. So I checked out the keys and they
were Manning's. Which is sort of funny because you
need them to get down from the roof. The one for the
front door to the building also unlocks the door in from
the roof. The police have them now."
"No," Jack Penrose contradicted, "the lock on the
roof door doesn't snap shut unless you make it. He took
me up there several times and he always left the door
hanging ajar and then pulled it tight shut, so it locked,
after we came back in. And even if you were locked out
on the roof without a key, you could always climb
down the outside ladder to the fire escape."
"That's true," Breen admitted, frowning doubtfully.
Dr. Lewison smiled to himself, thinking of how
lightly young people contemplated such athletic feats.
Meanwhile Joan Miles was visualizing an ovoid
space shuttle landing as silently as death on the pale,
tar-set gravel overhead by the light of the Murderers
Moon. And a door opening in its glassy skin and old
Guy Manning bowing courteously toward it and then
climbing inside. He wouldn't have needed a key to get
down from the roof then, she thought. Or any Earth
keys any more, if it were going to be that sort of
What she said was, "He had a way of narrowing his
eyes and moving his head around from side to side as he
looked out at the city. I wondered about it and then I
realized he was lining up things very precisely -
buildings, flagpoles, clouds, stars. He'd move his head
the same way when he used his binoculars. He was
learning all the stars, he told me once, not just the
constellations but the smaller asterisms too that make
them up and often look so much alike. He said it was a
job that would last out his time. He had a geometric
Mr. Sarcander snorted faintly. "Old people," he
said, "are forever checking out their eyesight, trying to
prove to themselves that it's as good as ever - or even
Jack Penrose said defensively, "He was very careful
about all his sensations. They were more like
observations. He paid attention to details. He watched
the city - almost as if that were his special job."
"All old people do that," Mr. Sarcander said. "You
see their white faces at windows and in shadowed
porches. They watch their little world, their
microcosm in which each has been God all ofhis life,
waiting for the cracks to appear and it to crumble. It's
the only occupation life has left them."
"Mr. Manning," Joan murmured, mostly to herself
a little primly, "became more and more immersed in
distance and duration."
And indeed that was a very fair way of describing the
way Guy Manning's life had gone. Early on, he'c
travelled as much as he could, experiencing distance
that way. He'd liked to watch the sea. Later on this urge
had expressed itself in a love of maps. He liked to
measure distances on them with a small ivory ruler he
carried. When he took walks he'd head for the nearest
hill or high place so that he could see distance emerge
from the scene around him as he mounted. And always
there were the vastly far, infinitely regular stars at
night, or in their absence the clouds filling the middle
distances. During one period his interest shifted to