Theatre Row, Granville Street, Vancouver, 1950, by painter Brian Croft

Dan Kearney, van driver, has just been called to the house of Mia, his old love. He has come out of curiosity, because his life is empty, but mainly because it is Mia. Outside her house he has found fading and ill Hollywood star Emmet Fanning, who has first wanted to fight him, and then be his friend.

I went up the four steps again and tapped on the door. I waited and no call came, and I waited on, and then the door opened wide and she was there. Straight-backed, in a high-necked black jumper, black pencil skirt, one plain necklace of black stone, hair shorter than the long honey blonde I remembered. Still that impression of height, that she was taller than me, but she wasn’t. The first time I had seen her in four years and one month, and yes, she was different in small ways, like the skirt, the necklace, the shorter hair, but nothing had really changed at all. It was Mia.

I’ll tell you how you fall in love. You have a vacancy, a need, a hole in yourself – a hole that calls for something wonderful, something that is not of the mundane. Out of all the people you know you pick someone whom you desire sexually, and you anoint them. You make a conscious decision to find them unique, kind, good, intelligent, funny, so sexually satisfying, all else you need, but most of all magical. They make the grey world a place where something not of the grey world exists. You didn’t have that before. You have it now. You call it love. You have done this with premeditation.

And to your surprise (if you have not done it before) it works. The person does become unique, so important, so wonderful, most of all magical. It can last for years, for we are creatures of fear, wishful thinking, most of all habit. But in all these years of true love, somewhere at the back of your mind, peeping out now and again, there is that that tells you it is not really true, that there is no such thing as magic, that there is no such thing as love.

That was what I believed once.

‘He’s gone, then,’ she said. That low and quiet and familiar voice. She held the door wider, inviting. I went in. She stepped outside and looked across at the place where the Cadillac had been. Satisfied, she came in again. ‘Would you mind taking your shoes off?’ I untied them, slipped them off. The left grey sock had a hole in the toe.

And so Dan meets Mia once more, her son Ryan, wealthy ageing ex-bootlegger Pug Westwood, decadent Emmet Fanning, his young Lolita girlfriend Beverly, long forgotten acquaintances, and a new acquaintance, dangerous Detective Sergeant Calloway.