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Authors: David Handler

The Bright Silver Star

BOOK: The Bright Silver Star
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T
HE
B
RIGHT
S
ILVER
S
TAR

ALSO BY DAVID HANDLER

 

F
EATURING
B
ERGER
&
M
ITRY

The Hot Pink Farmhouse
The Cold Blue Blood

 

F
EATURING
S
TEWART
H
OAG

The Man Who Died Laughing

The Man Who Lived by Night

The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Woman Who Fell from Grace

The Boy Who Never Grew Up

The Man Who Cancelled Himself

The Girl Who Ran Off with Daddy

The Man Who Loved Women to Death

 

F
EATURING
D
ANNY
L
EVINE

Kiddo
Boss

THE

B
RIGHT

S
ILVER
S
TAR

 

D
AVID
H
ANDLER

 

 

 

 

 

THOMAS DUNNE BOOKS

ST. MARTIN’S MINOTAUR
NEW YORK

 

 

THOMAS DUNNE BOOKS.

An imprint of St. Martin’s Press.

THE BRIGHT SILVER STAR
. Copyright © 2003 David Handler. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

www.minotaurbooks.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Handler, David, 1952–

The bright silver star
/
David Handler.—1st ed.

p. cm.

ISBN 0-312-30714-4

1. Berger, Mitch (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Mitry, Desiree (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 3. Motion picture actors and actresses—Crimes against—Fiction. 4. African American police—Fiction. 5. Film critics—Fiction. 6. Policewomen— Fiction. 7. Connecticut—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3558.A4637B73 2003

813'.54—dc21                      2003050619

First Edition: November 2003

10   9   8   7   6   5   4   3   2   1

F
OR
P
AMELA
B
OND
,

WHO WELCOMED US HOME

T
HE
B
RIGHT
S
ILVER
S
TAR

P
ROLOGUE

JULY 25

O
NE OF THE THINGS
that almost no one knew about him was that he was an awful driver. The worst. Not only was he easily distracted from the road in front of him but his eyesight was bad. Especially at night. Especially on narrow, unlit country roads.

Especially when he was stoned off of his gourd, had his foot jammed hard to the floor, and didn’t care whether he kept on living or not.

A dense river valley fog hugged low to the ground in the heavy stillness of the summer night. Whenever the twisty road dipped down into a gully the fog became so thick he could see only his headlights before him in the mist, his wipers swishing back and forth, back and forth. Briefly, he would rise back up out of it, catching occasional snapshot glimpses as he tore along—of granite ledge crowding right up against the narrow shoulder. Mountain laurel and hemlocks. A guardrail where the shoulder dropped right off, the rain-swollen Eight Mile River rushing by a hundred feet below. The distant lights of a remote, lonely farmhouse. Then he would plunge back down into the moldy, overripe fog.

And into his own nightmare.

He hurtled right down the center of the road. If anyone happened to be coming toward him it would all be over. But there was no one else out after midnight on the Devil’s Hopyard Road. Just him, with Neil Young cranked up full blast on the CD player. An old album with Crazy Horse called
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,
which had to be the single most hopeless, painful album that had ever been recorded at any time by anyone. The man made Nirvana sound like the Cowsills.

It fit his mood much too perfectly.

He hunched low over the wheel, left hand gripping it tightly, right hand groping on the seat next to him for the pint bottle of syrupy peppermint schnapps that lay next to his cell phone. It had been his best friend back when he was in junior high school. He drank it whenever the Bad People came.

He took a deep gulp as he came tearing around a curve, tires screaming, and suddenly two of them were standing right before him in the middle of the road. He swerved to avoid them, scraping the guardrail, a harsh, grinding sideswipe that startled him and sent sparks flying through the air. He did not stop to take a look at the damage he’d done to the car. He did not care about this car or any car. He kept right on going.

He had to keep on going. He was a man on a mission.

And the knowledge of what he was about to do gripped him with such panic that neither the schnapps nor the joint he’d smoked could even begin to help. He was sweating. His hands trembled, his breathing was shallow and quick. But he had no choice. No way out. And he knew this. And it hurt. God, how it hurt.

I have at long last met my soul mate, my one and only love, only it so happens that this person is not my wife. And so tonight I must say good-bye.

Honestly, he could not even believe he had gotten himself into this. How could he fall in love with someone else? God, it was all just so pathetically middle-aged and tawdry. But none of that mattered anymore. All that mattered was that it did happen and he had to end it right now.

He drove, suddenly spotting two more Bad People ahead of him in the mist, darting for cover in the brush. He sped his way past them, knowing full well he could not lose them. Whenever he felt frightened and lost and alone, they came.

He had started calling them the Bad People when he was no more than four and he’d lay awake at night with his heart pounding, waiting for them to come. They lived inside of his bedroom wall. He could hear them rustling around in there when they were coming out, and he could see them if he flicked on his light real fast. They
were tiny creatures with horns and tails and hooves that made little clip-clop noises on the wooden floor. They had slimy purple skin, eyes that were narrow yellow slits, teeth that were sharp and dripping with saliva. He did not know why they had chosen him. He only knew that they meant him grave bodily harm.

And that no one else on earth could see them. Just him.

He remembered crying out for his mother when they came. Often, she would ignore him—just leave him alone with his terror. But sometimes she would come and sit there on the edge of the bed so they couldn’t get at him. Dab at his damp brow with a wadded tissue.
My good little boy,
she would call him.
My good strong boy.
But then she would leave and there would be only him and the Bad People and the fear.

They did hide during daylight hours. But his fear was with him from sunrise until sundown. Always, it was with him. If only people knew just how hard it was for him to get through each and every day without giving in to it. But they didn’t know. No one did.

They see me but they don’t see me. No one knows me. No one.

He drove. Somehow, he made it all of the way to the end of the deserted road, where the entrance to the falls was. The state park closed after sunset. A barrier was lowered to keep people out of the parking lot. He pulled over onto the shoulder of the road and shut off the engine and the music. His was the only car there. He was the first to arrive. He sat there for a long moment, hearing the steady roar of the waterfall, his agitation mounting. He needed to hear a sane voice. It was imperative. He lunged for his cell phone and called Mitch. They hadn’t known each other for long. But Mitch actually
understood
him—who he was, who he wanted to be. Plus he wanted nothing in return. Only honesty. And this was unusual. Hell, this was unheard-of.

Although right now the voice on the other end of the phone just sounded groggy and disoriented. “H-Hello . . . Whassa? . . .”

“I’m sorry if I woke you. I just wanted you to know something.”

“Okay . . . Uh, sure . . .” Mitch sounded semialert now. “Where are you?”

“I’m on Sugar Mountain, with the barkers and the colored balloons.”

Long silence. “Wait, give me a second. I know what that’s. .. Neil Young, right?”

“You are.”

“What’s that whooshing noise? Are you hanging out in a men’s room somewhere?”

“Not exactly.”

“What time is it anyway?”

He sat there breathing in and out, feeling much less fear now. More an overbearing sadness. “It’s too late. The damage is done. The hangman says it’s time to let her fly.”

“What
hangman? What the hell are you talking about?”

“Good-bye, Mitch.”

“Wait, don’t—!”

He flicked off the phone and hurled it out his open window, hearing it clatter to the ground. Got out of the car and staggered his way blindly down the footpath toward the falls, clutching the schnapps bottle in one hand and a book of matches in the other.

It was so dark he kept stumbling over the loose rocks and exposed tree roots. He lit a match, squinting. Ahead were the picnic tables where they’d made love that first night. It all started here. And
there
was the walkway to the top of the falls. During the day, people came from miles around to see the waterfall, to photograph it and wade in the cold, clear pools at its base, to eat their gray, greasy junk food and drink their carbonated sugar water and do the other normal, stupid things that normal, stupid people did.

He staggered on. A wooden guardrail hugged the edge of the cliff, smelling of creosote. Wire mesh was stapled to the posts to keep small children from slipping under the rail and falling to their death. He lit another match. Now he stood before the warning sign that read:
Let the Water Do the Falling. Stay Behind This Point.

He paid no attention. Climbed right over it and out onto the flat shelf of granite ledge, directly over the falls. This was
their
place, the secret haven where they came to make feverish, forbidden love, night
after night, as often as they dared. They were alone here. Just them and the water and the darkness.

The bare granite was slick from the fog and the spray. And it was a bit cooler here. But still he was sweating. He crouched here on the ledge; feeling the full power of the river as it tore right past him into the darkness of space, smashing down onto the smoothed hollows of granite a hundred feet below, swirling and foaming and cascading before it bottomed out into a river once again. He did think about hurling himself right off the ledge right now, sparing himself the pain of what was about to come. But he could not will himself to do this, no matter how much he wanted to. The words had to be spoken.

And so he waited in the fog for his one true love to come.

He didn’t hear the other car arrive over the roar of the falls. Or hear the quick, sure footsteps until they were very close to him. He couldn’t see the shimmer of golden hair or the shiny, trusting blue eyes. He didn’t need to. He could see everything with his own eyes shut, just as his lips knew the achingly soft, sweet lips that were now kissing him, kissing him.

“Hey, baby,” he said as they sat there in each other’s arms. They didn’t have to raise their voices as long as they stayed very close.

“God, I’m so glad you’re here. I wasn’t even sure you’d make it tonight.”

“I said I’d be here, didn’t I?” he responded lightly, hearing the quaver of insincerity in his own voice. “Want some peppermint schnapps?”

“Ugh, no.”

“Why wouldn’t I be here?”

“You sounded funny on the phone.
Was she
standing there?”

“Not really.” He groped in the darkness for a hand, clutching it tightly, knowing that once he said the words he had to say that he would never, ever feel its caresses again. “But I do have something kind of heavy to lay on you . . . about you and me.”

BOOK: The Bright Silver Star
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