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A Million Suns

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"Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!"
--Ed Sullivan, The Ed Sullivan Show, February 9th, 1964

----

The boy looked a lot like Paul McCartney from behind.

Really young Paul McCartney, though. Pre-Quarrymen, even. The gauntness wasn’t quite there yet, let alone the pronounced cheeks and overgrown hair. Jean knew comparing the boy sitting two rows in front of her to late-1950s McCartney probably wasn’t the most productive way to spend her first Intro to World Politics class, but it was syllabus week, and besides, his hair was just the right amount of thick and dark. Even his beige jacket looked like it had come straight out of England.

No one else in here looked quite as interesting. There were a couple of girls with dyed hair, but that was hardly out of style nowadays. A girl with a vintage red Make America Great Again tee shirt, and a guy with the same phrase tattooed on his upper bicep. But then again, that was hardly out of style these days, either.

“All I’m saying,” the guy next to him was going, leaned over his desk with both arms bent in their stoner sweatshirt sleeves, “is we’re all agreed these people are dangerous, right? They already stopped letting them in. Everyone in Congress voted for it. You think that many people can be wrong?”

Jesus, thought Jean. She wanted to hear what the other boy was going to say – wanted him to turn his head, at least, so that she could get a better look at his face – but her own partner was staring at her.

“Jean?”

She shook her head, turning back around. They were supposed to talk in pairs for a minute; there was a debate going on in Congress about forcibly banning Islam in America, and the professor, a thin fifty-something-year-old woman with a short pixie cut of hair that could only be described as prickly, wanted to know their thoughts. “Yeah?”

The girl sitting next to her also had a pixie cut, and it was a strange lavender color, somewhere light and fluffy that landed in between purple and pink. Her name was Agnes. “I was saying how I’m against it. The whole banning-a-religion thing. It’s unconstitutional.”

Jean managed a smile. “Don’t tell me you’re a fundamentalist.”

“I am in this case,” she said stubbornly. “There’s a lot of crap in the Constitution, sure, but freedom of religion is in there for a reason.”

Jean had definitely sat down in the right area of the lecture hall. It was a popular class, and apart from a series of scattered loners (including herself, honestly), the room was sprinkled left and right with gaggles of conservative-looking preps. Guys with fratty crewnecks, girls with portable Starbucks mugs and stickered laptops. Jean didn’t consider herself a very judgmental person, but she knew judgmental people when she saw them.

Here, though, she was sitting next to a nice girl named Agnes with pink hair. And speaking of views, she had a Paul McCartney lookalike to keep her boredom at bay.

“All right, come on back,” called the professor – Mickey, as she had told them all to call her – gesturing for them all to quiet down. “What did you all come up with?”

A few hands went up, one of which belonged to the boy with the red cap a couple of rows in front of Jean. Mickey paced around for a few minutes, surveying the sea of hands, and then called on him.

"Say your name first," she added, "I want to try to learn everyone's."

"Silas Faring. And I was just saying about how I feel like it's basically common sense at this point," he said. He had a thick voice, smooth, but some sort of hidden edge in the tone made it hard for Jean to listen to. "Like, obviously we all want equality, that's not what I mean -- but after 9/11 and the riots last year in Michigan, we've got to be thinking in terms of what's viable."

Agnes groaned and sank a little lower down in her chair. "Fucking Silas," she muttered.

Jean looked over at her. "You know him?"

"He's my half-brother."

"And what is viable, Mr. Faring?" Mickey asked him. "In your opinion, I mean."

"Kicking them out," said Silas. "All of them. It's not their country anyway. I mean, I know nobody wants to say it, and I get that, but it's just the best option at this point. We need to think about our safety first."

“Jesus,” Jean muttered. She looked over, but Agnes said nothing; she was glaring at Silas from behind.

Mickey made a little humming noise, to indicate she understood him. Her lips were very tight. "That does seem to be a popular opinion these days," she said. "What about your partner? What did you think?" she asked, addressing the other boy now directly. "Remember, say your name first."

The boy sat forward.

"Uh, my name's Paul," he said, and Jean felt her heart nearly stop.

His voice.

It was Liverpool, through and through -- and the funny thing was that she wouldn't have even known Liverpool if she hadn't known that voice. It wasn't just British, it was Paul McCartney British -- the same lilting quality, the same deep curves around the words.

And his name was Paul.

She whipped her head around to look at Agnes again. Agnes had been looking ahead at Paul, who was speaking -- what he was saying, Jean couldn't have said, she was no longer taking in anything but the accent -- but when she saw Jean turn around, she glanced back at her.

"What?" she whispered.

"Do you not see it?" Jean knew her voice came out sounding high-strung, but she didn't care. "Or hear it?"

"Hear what?" Agnes was smiling, still, but she looked confused.

"Jesus, look at him. It's--" She stopped, because the words sounded so crazy, but then said them anyway, in a low whisper. "It's Paul McCartney."

Agnes blinked, staring at her. The confusion was still there.

"I know it sounds crazy," said Jean, "but—”

"Who's Paul McCartney?"

Jean stopped. "What?"

Her first instinct was that the other girl was playing a trick on her, but Agnes looked perfectly genuine -- still a little confused, only mildly interested.

"Paul McCartney?" Agnes repeated. "Who's that?"

Jean felt her mouth hanging open just a little, and she closed it, to feel less stupid. Then she said, "You're kidding, right?"

"Why would I be kidding? Is he an actor or something?"

"No. Well, yeah, I guess a little bit, but -- you honestly don't know who he is?"

Agnes shrugged.

Jean knew Agnes was waiting for her to explain, but she looked around the room, watching the faces of the other people in the lecture hall. Nobody else seemed at all surprised -- a few people were texting under their chairs or staring into space, and some were watching Paul or raising their own hands in response, but nobody was wide-eyed or pale or jumping up and down. Even Mickey seemed awfully at ease.

“What the fuck,” she whispered.

Agnes elbowed her. “What?”

“Paul McCartney, the musician,” she said, turning again to face Agnes. A sudden new urgency had taken hold of her, and she could hear it in her own voice, and she didn’t know why. “The Beatles. You’ve never heard of the Beatles?”

“I’ve heard of beetles. Lower your voice a little.”

Jean shook her head. She could think of nothing more to say, and she could tell Agnes was barely listening anymore anyway; Mickey had called on somebody else now, and the discussion was moving on.

She kept watching Paul – it was hard to keep her eyes off of him, more out of perplexity than anything else. He turned his head to the side a couple of times, to glance around or to reach down for his backpack, and these brief instances confirmed everything, cementing the idea even further into her mind. He had the exact same rounded eyes and arched brows, the same curved nose, the same small lips. And he looked very young, maybe even a little younger than her, and she was a freshman.
For anyone to not know Paul McCartney when they saw him – any single person, let alone a lecture hall full of people – was ludicrous. Jean had grown up on him. Him and all the Beatles – she had never had a particular favorite, but her moms would have little debates over their own (Paul and Ringo), they’d play Revolver and Sgt. Pepper on shuffle while they cooked, they’d even given Jean a tee shirt once from a concert they had gone to together as teenagers in the late nineties. It was one of their first dates. Everybody knew the Beatles – they were referenced constantly in movies and interviews, in everyday conversations, their songs were played all the time on the radio. Paul McCartney – at least, the only one she had known of until now – had died before she was born, but she had heard stories and seen the footage of the national memorial, the concert Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison had put together in his honor, just a few years before they too had passed away. She’d seen photographs of the streets after the death of John Lennon. She had never been obsessed with them or anything, but they cropped up in life in so many forms and at so many times, the way all important things did. They were worldwide.

Maybe she was hallucinating. Maybe it was somebody who just looked and sounded very similar to Paul McCartney, or maybe there was nobody there at all, maybe she just hadn’t had quite enough coffee this morning and now she was starting to drift into some daydream…

But every time she thought this, he would turn his head or raise his hand to say something new, and her doubts would dissolve all over again.

She spent most of the lecture glancing down at the clock on her phone every few minutes, waiting for Professor Mickey to dismiss them so that she could go and talk to Paul, to see if it was really him. She missed a lot of the rest of the discussion, except to note that Silas Faring raised his hand a couple more times, and each time he seemed to have something to say to make Agnes’ cheeks redden even further – whether from embarrassment or from anger, Jean wasn’t quite sure.

But when the lecture did come to an end, she felt frozen. She scrambled all of her things together and then sat still in her seat, watching helplessly as Paul gathered up his things and started making his way over to the aisle, grinning at a couple of people on the way as he passed them. He was so close.
It was less to do with the fact that it was him, and more a matter of not wanting to be wrong. The only thing more ridiculous than a room of people not recognizing a famous musician was the idea of a famous musician’s resurrection from the dead in the form of his own once-teenaged self. She knew she was wrong – there had to be some rational explanation, some reason to explain that she was wrong – and she didn’t want to be that girl who freaked out some guy for no reason the first week of her freshman year.

And yet. She had to know.

She took a deep breath, made her way down the row – and was stopped in the middle of the aisle by Professor Mickey.

“Hello,” said Mickey.

She sounded – and looked – friendly, but Jean felt immediately anxious. She saw me glancing at the clock, she knew I wanted class to be over.

“Hello,” said Jean. Behind Mickey’s shoulder, Paul was lingering near the door of the lecture hall, chatting with a couple of other guys.

“I’m Mickey,” said the professor, “and you are?”

“Jean Carlisle. I’m a freshman.”

“Well, welcome.” Mickey smiled. “As I pointed out a couple of times, I make it a point to learn everybody’s names, and I just thought I’d come over and introduce myself since I don’t think you really said anything during class.”

“Right,” said Jean. It was true, she hadn’t raised her hand once. “Sorry. I usually talk more, I was a little distracted.”

“Oh?”

She hesitated. Paul was about to leave the room – and yet, wait. Here was an authority figure, and better yet, an adult. Mickey looked like she was in her fifties – that was even a little older than Jean’s parents, and they had both been alive at the same time as the Beatles. Mickey seemed friendly enough, and genuine, and she was a professor, which meant she had to be smart and cultured. What better way for her to check?

“Well,” said Jean cautiously, “you know the boy – he was sitting a couple of rows in front of me? Next to the ‘Make America Great Again’ guy?”

“Ahh.” Mickey grinned knowingly, lifting a finger. “Say no more.”

Jean exhaled in relief. She knows. Thank God, she wasn’t crazy.

“All I ask,” said Mickey, “is that you flirt on your own time and not while I’m talking. Sound good?”

It took a moment for Jean to realize what she meant. “Oh – what? No,” she said hurriedly, “I didn’t mean – not like that. No flirting. It was – it was just, didn’t he look like Paul McCartney to you? Like, a lot? It was uncanny.”

Mickey stared at her for a moment, then shrugged a little and shook her head in apology. “I can’t say I know the name,” she said. “I’m not exactly up to date on all the teen heartthrobs these days.”

Not these days, Jean couldn’t help but think. He was a teen heartthrob, like, almost a century ago.

“You’ve never heard of him?” she pressed, trying hard not to sound frantic. “From the Beatles?”

“Is that a band?”

Jean shook her head. Behind Mickey, Paul was leaving the classroom, disappearing into the crowd of students milling around in the hallway.

“I have to go,” Jean managed, “I’m sorry.”

And without waiting for Professor Mickey to reply, she hurried past her, down the aisle, and out of the lecture hall. She didn’t look back.
She was worried for a moment that she’d lost him, but there he was, several paces ahead of her, in the hallway outside the door. His friends had left him and he was walking more slowly now, reading the club posters and ads on the walls as he went.

“Paul?” He didn’t hear her at first, so she swallowed to clear her voice a little and said it again. “Paul?”

He turned around. Now she got her first look at his face head-on, his whole self, and she felt a chill run down her spine. He was wearing a plain sweater, not a suit or anything like what the Beatles had worn in their early days, but his face – it was like looking into a living photograph. She felt cold.

“Yeah?” he said. He stepped off to one side so that the flood of people leaving the classroom could pass them by, and she followed suit.

“Sorry, it’s just–” She could feel herself blushing. “I know it’s kind of stupid,” she said, “but you look so much like Paul McCartney.”

He blinked.

She wasn’t sure what to say. “It’s nothing,” she said quickly, “I don’t–”

“I am Paul McCartney,” he said plainly.

Something coursed through her, something not as clear-cut as fear, but not far away from it, either.

I am Paul McCartney. She could think of nothing to say.

He was doing something in between a smile and a frown – it was like a smile, really, only his eyebrows were knitted together in confusion. “Do I know you?” he asked.

“Sorry,” she said again, “I just–” She closed her eyes, shook her head, and opened them again. “The Paul McCartney, I mean,” she said, looking straight into his eyes, pronouncing every word with extra meaning. “Like from Liverpool.”

His face brightened. “I am from Liverpool! How did you know I’m from Liverpool? Are you from England?”

“Of course not.”

“Sorry,” he said flippantly, “it’s just that I don’t meet a lot of Americans who’ve even heard of it.”

“Everybody’s heard of Liverpool,” she insisted. “Because of you, because of–”

She stopped, midsentence, at the look on his face. It was the same look of confusion he’d been wearing for the entire conversation, but only now for some reason did it register with her.

He didn’t know, either.

Nobody in her world politics class knew who Paul McCartney was. And neither did Paul McCartney himself.

“Listen,” she said, starting over, “can I talk to you?”

He blinked. “What, now?”

“Anytime.” The phrase any time at all popped into her head, and she shook it away, annoyed with herself. “Yes. Now.”

“I’ve got a class starting.”

“What class?”

He was smiling just a little bit – less at the conversation itself, it seemed, and more, a little, at her. “History of popular music.”

“Jesus Christ,” she said.

“What?”

“Nothing. Can you meet me after?”

“Where? And why?” he added, almost as an afterthought.

“It’s a lot to explain,” she said helplessly. “Can you meet me at Pence Library at five? I’ll put my number in your phone.”

A grin broke across his face. She couldn’t remember when he had last broken eye contact with her. “I don’t even know your name,” he said.

She exhaled. This isn’t happening. “It’s Jean,” she answered. “Jean Carlisle.”

She hadn’t noticed him taking out his phone, but he must have, because he handed it to her now. She thought about scrolling through his contacts to see if there were any other famous names she would recognize, but he was watching her, and she thought better of it. He waited patiently while she entered her number, then took the phone back and pocketed it.

“All right, Jean Carlisle,” he said, smiling that awful old painkiller smile. “I’ll see you at five.”

 

She had a couple of hours to kill before five, so she left the hall and started to wander. Her sister, Mae, had made this huge deal out of exploring back when she had gone to her first year of college, and she was trying to push the same habits onto Jean now – “Jean, I know it’s not your thing,” she had told her, “but you’ll be surprised how much fun it is, finding all the best little study spots and coffee shops. Meeting new people in random ways.” But she was right, exploring wasn’t Jean’s thing, so instead she found an empty bench on the square and pulled out her phone.

The square wasn’t really a square of streets or even a central part of Cavern City itself, but rather a great lawn in the middle of campus filled with crisscrossing sidewalks, benches, and trees people used for hammocking. All of the surrounding halls were visible, but it was still big enough that once you found a place to sit by yourself, you didn’t really have to worry too much about being bothered.

She dialed Cassie’s number first. Of her two moms, Cassie was the more adamant Beatles fan, not to mention the more likely to pick up in the middle of a workday.

She answered on the sixth ring, just when Jean was starting to think about hanging up.

“Jean!” She sounded flustered, but then again, she always did.

“Hi, Mom.”

“I didn’t think I’d be hearing from you so soon after we dropped you off.”

“What little faith you have in me,” said Jean, smiling.

“Oh, come on, you know what I mean.” Her voice was cutting in and out a little bit, and there was a roaring in the background, some loud and continuous sound that fell somewhere between thrumming and thrashing.

“Mom, what’s that noise? Where are you?”

“Oh, is it interfering? Sorry, it’s the rain. I’m painting the house.”

Jean failed to see the connection between the two sentences. “Are the windows open?”

“And all the doors. I want the rain-smell to settle in with the paint while it’s drying. I know it’s silly and not realistic, not actually, but it’s a fun thought – and it’ll help me believe there’s a little more nature in the house. If I think it, it’s so, right? The placebo effect.”

“The placebo effect,” Jean agreed.

“Anyway, kid,” Cassie went on, her voice still coming and going in patches, “how was your first day?”

“It’s still going on. But it’s good. Um–” She stopped, suddenly cautious.

“What, Jean?”

“Nothing. But I thought you’d think it’s funny – there’s a guy in my world politics class who looks just like Paul McCartney.”

She realized halfway through saying it that she didn’t really expect anything. Not anymore, not at this point. Calling her mom was a last-ditch effort, the final test this strange dream had to pass before she gave in to it, and of course it was going to pass. Of course it was.

“Paul who?” asked Cassie.

“Indie actor,” said Jean dully. “You wouldn’t know him.”

“Huh. Hey, have you talked to Mae recently?”

Her heart was sinking; she was barely even in the conversation anymore. “Not since I got here. She sent me some pictures of D.C. last week, though.”

Mae had graduated from college that spring, and about a month ago she had taken an entry-level job at an incumbent Senator’s reelection campaign in D.C. She was far more into government and politics than Jean herself would probably ever be – Jean was only taking one politics class, after all, and even that was only so that she could fulfill a requirement. But Mae was all about it – she had posters of her favorite politicians all over her walls at home, and she had been coming up with mathematical ways to calculate likely race outcomes for at least the past ten years.

“Yeah, I got those too,” said Cassie. “She’s really gonna kick some ass there, I bet.”

“Yeah,” said Jean quietly. Mae always did.

“Hey, you too, okay? Kick ass this year.”

“More so than other years?”

“If you kick as much ass as you usually do, you should be fine.” She was smiling, Jean could hear it in her voice, even with the storm blurring in around the edges of her words. “I gotta go, though, Jean, before I get paint all over the phone.”

“You haven’t already?”

“Well, that goes without saying,” Cassie said confidentially, “but any more and Dana’s gonna kick my ass. I love you, kid.”

“I love you, too.”

Once she had hung up and put her phone away, the world felt quiet. She still had another hour before five and she didn’t have any real homework to do yet, this being syllabus week, and she certainly wasn’t going to use her time and energy wandering all around and getting lost somewhere else on campus, so she decided to go ahead to the library. If nothing else, she could find a table and mess around on the Internet for a while before Paul showed up.

The Internet.

She started to walk faster. How had she not thought of that before? Forget Cassie, the Internet was the final test, the ultimate place she could check. Right now, everyone else was crazy. But if the Internet agreed with them, then maybe the crazy one was really Jean.

She made it across the square and past a few more buildings, then trotted up the stone steps of Pence Library. She heaved open one massive double door, felt the warm outside air cede to air conditioning as she wandered past a modest café and information desk, and began combing through rows of desks and shelves in the main hall.

The library was mostly empty, it being only the first week of classes, but she could picture it filling up later in the year. There were lanes and lanes of long tables and pillars with outlets for charging, magazine shelves, computer pods and walled-in classrooms, reading rooms, microprint rooms, folio rooms. The main area was too open, so she kept walking further into the shelves until she had found a free table in the nonfiction section, not far from some windows overlooking State Street and some more of downtown. She slung her backpack off and onto the floor and pulled out her laptop.

The beatles, she typed first. Several results came up, all having to do with insects. Classifications and diagrams, extermination companies and pesticides.

Paul mccartney, she tried. Nothing. George harrison. John lennon. Ringo starr.

She gave up and sat back. Absolutely nothing. Bullshit results – random people’s social media accounts, other famous Johns and Georges.

That settles it, she thought. Either I’ve gone nuts, or the world has completely forgotten about the Beatles.

Or she was dreaming. That could be it, she reasoned – a very bizarre and unusually long and lucid dream.

Feeling like an idiot, she tried pinching herself a couple of times. She had never pinched herself before in her life, but she was desperate, and there was no better time to try. She supposed she could try thinking about other things, but there was nothing else to think about…this was ridiculous, this was impossible, and she couldn’t stop thinking about it until it made sense.

Maybe if she took a nap. If this was a dream, maybe a nap would wake her up in real life, and if this was real life, it would at least help to clear her head a little, prompt her to think more rationally. She shut her laptop, brought her backpack up onto the desk as a pillow, leaned down into the lumpy fabric, and closed her eyes.
She could probably use the extra sleep anyway – she hadn’t gone out much during welcome week, but her roommate, Erica, had gone partying almost every night, and even though they were practically strangers Jean still felt bad somehow about going to sleep before she got back. She had shared a room with Mae growing up, and some of her old feelings and habits must have stuck with her, because going to sleep with a noted absence in the room just didn’t feel right for some reason. Around three a.m. was Jean’s cutoff – she would text Erica, good?, and if Erica replied, she would go to sleep. If she didn’t, Jean would stay up until she did. Last night she had been up until around two-thirty, surfing course catalogues and watching Fawlty Towers online…come to think of it, she did feel pretty drowsy…

“Jean?”

Her head jerked up from the table.

Paul was there, grinning that same stupid grin he’d been grinning when she had seen him before. Of course, she had forgotten – Paul was the charming one, wasn’t that right? Every teenage girl’s favorite Beatle. Now, goddammit, she could kind of see why.

“Hi,” she said.

“Kind of an old-fashioned name,” he said, sitting down across from her. It felt weird being across the table from him, like they were about to conduct some sort of business transaction. He set his backpack down on the floor.

“My sister’s name is Mae with an ‘e,’” said Jean, “so it could be worse.”

“It’s not a bad thing. I like Mae with an ‘e.’ And Jean,” he added quickly. “Your parents must be old-fashioned people.”

Jean shrugged. She considered her parents more retro than old-fashioned – they weren’t at all nostalgic for anytime before the twenty-first century, but she did often hear them talk fondly of the time she’d been born, back when it was still legal in most states for women to live together as romantic partners. Before they’d had to hide, to introduce one another to their neighbors as roommates. By now, certainly, it did seem old-fashioned.

“In some ways,” she said levelly, “I guess they are.”

He was smiling so much. It seemed so natural, so easy, for him to be friendly – to be casual. She wished she could feel more like that.

“So,” he said, “are you going to explain what it is about me that freaks you out so much?”

“I’m not freaked out.” Which was stupid, because yes, of course she was.

“Yes, you are,” he said.

“Okay, but I’ve got a good reason to be. Listen,” she said. “I’m not really sure how to phrase this.”

He shrugged, waiting.

She sighed. “This is going to be a little confusing – but I’m really confused, too, so just bear with me. And please don’t get up and leave right away, because I swear this isn’t a joke. But either the rest of the world has gone crazy or I have, because…” She took a deep breath, let it out. “Because you’re one of the most famous people in the world, and nobody else seems to remember but me.”

He stared at her. The smile had diminished but wasn’t entirely gone; all that was left was a nervous fragment. “What?”

She bit her lip. “You’re Paul McCartney from Liverpool, right? You’re a musician. All through the sixties you were a member of this band called the Beatles. You guys were an international phenomenon. I know it sounds crazy,” she said, not bothering to keep the desperation out of her voice, “but I grew up listening to your music. Everybody did – at least, I thought everybody did.”

He shook his head. “You’re fucking with me.”

“Please, I’m not. Why would I? Honestly tell me, why would I make this up?

“The sixties? Are you saying I’m, like, a reincarnation, or–”

“No,” she said. “I’m saying you’re him. Exactly him.”

“But I’ve never heard of…” He couldn’t say he had never heard of himself, so he shook his head again, looking lost. “Them. What’s the band’s name again?”

“The Beatles.”

He wrinkled his nose. “Weird name for a band.” He pulled out his phone. “You’re sure that was a thing?”

“Googling it won’t help, I already tried. Either they never existed or the world spontaneously forgot about them. But either way, I don’t know what to do – I mean, maybe it’s all just some weird dream of mine or something, but I knew your face. Like, instantly. And I knew you were from Liverpool.”

“Anything else?” He wasn’t convinced yet.

“Um…” This was when being a more hardcore fan would have come in handy. She wracked her brain, trying to think of all the random anecdotes Cassie had told her throughout her childhood about the Beatles. Several occurred to her, but they all had to do with the Beatles all together as a band – she didn’t know any random facts about Paul’s childhood that she could impress him (or, more likely, creep him out) with.

“Well, I don’t know if this’ll help,” she said finally, “but I know the other people in the band. John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison? Do you know any of–” She stopped mid-sentence at the look on his face.

“George?” he repeated. “George Harrison?” He looked stunned for a moment, and then the smile broke over his features once again. “Was he the one who put you up to this?”

“No,” she said quickly, trying not to sound too excited. Thank God. Thank God, there was something. Here was something. “No,” she said again, “but you know him? You know George Harrison?”

“We rode the bus to grade school together,” he said. “How do you know him?”

“I don’t,” she said, exasperated. “He’s famous, remember? Like you?”

“Huh.”

He folded his arms and stared at her, his head cocked to one side. She couldn’t help but think very briefly of a few videos she’d seen of early live Beatles performances, things Cassie had shown her, in which almost every song would feature Paul flicking his head sharply to one side at least once while he sang. Ear straight down to the shoulder and back up again. Like a tic.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I just don’t know. If you are telling the truth – and I’m not saying I believe you, but if you are – I suppose it seems like George would be the next person to talk to.”

“It seems that way,” she agreed. “You’re still friends, right?”

“Of course we’re still friends.” He pulled out his phone and dangled it in the air, grinning yet again, and then started to dial in a number.

“Lucky for you,” he said, “I know just where to find him.”