Michael Gillis



Before the ghosts or the ransom notes or the death, before the fire, before Mr. Jones, before any of that, let’s start there, when Leopold Tammer’s love life was wrecked by his fascination with paper. Of course, to be precise, it was more than paper. It was the flexographic printers he coveted in Excelsior Paper Stock & Printing, the chemical solvents, the mail-order catalogues for dyes; it was the campus-wide reputation as a schlub he acquired when he came to class, unshowered, his black hair a disgruntled mess, his eyes yellow with flecks; it was the perpetual dyspepsia, the black-rim glasses he was forced to wear by his strained eyes, ill-lit library stacks, and the cracked text of forbidden, shady manuals he had to order in by special request. Or else it was Florida, where he first witnessed his uncle practicing that magnificent, profane art of counterfeiting.

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