Read an Excerpt
By Robert Masello
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1989 Robert Masello
All rights reserved.
The Present Day
As SOON AS the members of the cast had taken their last bow, the musicians, crammed into the orchestra pit just below the stage, started packing up their gear. Jack Logan unplugged his guitar from the amp and lifted the strap from around his neck. Vinnie bent over to tie his shoes; he always kept them untied during a performance, claiming they interfered with his breath control.
Think it's a hit?" he asked Logan, over the last of the applause.
"You never can tell from an opening night," Logan said. "Half of the people out there are investors, and the rest are relatives of the cast."
Vinnie sat up again, flushed just from having bent over. He was so overweight that the fold-up chair he sat on was completely obscured. "God, I hope it's a hit," he said, tucking his trumpet under one arm. "I need this job to last. I owe about two thousand on my Mastercard and Barbara's expecting pearl earrings for Christmas. If this show closes, I'm gonna be back doing the bar mitzvah circuit."
It was every musician's nightmare—winding up as one of those guys in a ruffled shirt and tuxedo, playing "Moon River" for the millionth time in a rented hall on Long Island. Logan had done it, too; in fact, the night before he'd landed the job as guitarist in this show, he'd been playing a wedding in Moonachie, New Jersey. But for four months now the show had been in rehearsal, and every week the score had changed—numbers had been dropped, replaced by new ones, which were dropped themselves the next week. Logan hoped, as much as Vinnie, that the end result was a hit. Broadway paid a lot better than bar mitzvahs.
In the musicians' locker room, Logan stashed his sheet music and put on his overcoat and gloves. Vinnie locked his trumpet away—the other brass players were too paranoid to leave their instruments in the theater overnight—and pulled on the light windbreaker the producers had provided to everyone involved in the show. Across the back, in the same distinctive script used on the marquee and in the ads, was stenciled Steamroller.
"That all you're wearing?" Logan asked.
"I want to advertise," Vinnie replied. "Maybe I'll sell some tickets."
"At forty-five bucks a pop, you've got your work cut out for you."
"That what they're charging for orchestra?"
Logan nodded, zipping his Fender Strato-caster, a vintage '59, into its black carrying case. "Even the mezzanine's going for thirty-eight fifty."
They checked out with the backstage door manager, and followed several of the other players into the narrow alleyway leading to West Forty-fifth Street. In front of the theater they could see a huge crowd of milling people, all trying to hail cabs or find the limousines they came in. Two enormous white searchlights had been set up on a flatbed truck across the street, their rotating beams crisscrossing in the night sky. Logan recognized a local reporter—she appeared on the eleven o'clock news—preparing to do a remote. She was clutching a white-and- yellow Playbill while one of the camera crew moved her into position.
"Catch this," he said to Vinnie. "Channel 4 is about to decide our fate."
"She's smiling," Vinnie said. "That's a good sign."
Her camera director asked her for a voice level.
"Has Broadway finally got a hit on its hands?" she said. "Tonight, Steamroller opened, under the direction of the man who first —"
"Enough," he said, without looking up at her. She stopped instantly, the smile fading from her face, replaced by a look of infinite boredom.
"Bad sign," Vinnie muttered.
"We're on in one minute," the director said.
Logan and Vinnie moved toward the curb, where they could hear what she had to say without blocking the crowd still leaving the theater. As on most opening nights, there were a lot of diamonds, Rolex watches, fur coats. Logan had bought his own overcoat, a long raglan tweed, off a secondhand rack on Canal Street, for twenty-five dollars. He slipped the neck of his guitar up under it, while resting the base on his foot. He didn't want anybody banging into his most prized possession.
"Excuse me," the director was calling, "but could you people—yes, you there—please clear away. You're blocking our shot."
He was talking to an elderly couple—very Carder and Palm Beach—who had inadvertently strayed into his shot. The woman understood the problem before her husband did, and pulled him gently to one side.
"No, dear, the hotel's that way," he said, resisting.
"I know that. But you're standing in the way of a camera
He looked around, a little confused, then saw the TV crew. "Oh, I'm so sorry," and he began to back up more than he had to.
"Adolph, that's far enough," said his wife, with a laugh.
But he had already stepped on someone's toe, turned to apologize, tripped, and before anyone knew what was happening, had slipped off the curb. He fell flat on his back in the street.
"Watch my guitar," Logan said to Vinnie. "I'm gonna do a good deed."
The old man had rolled over to one side: his wife was anxiously waiting for someone to help him up. Suddenly a limo driver who'd seen the empty spot at the curb, but not the old man, gunned the engine and started to pull in.
"No! Stop!" his wife cried.
The old man threw up his hand, catching the grill of the car just as it hit him. He was knocked back against the curb; the car jounced to a halt. It was all over in an instant.
"Adolph!" His wife threw herself down beside him. "Adolph!" She was clutching his hand, staring into his face.
He didn't answer. She looked up wildly. "A doctor! Is there a doctor? We need a doctor!"
No one moved. Jesus, Logan thought, a crowd like this and not one doctor? The limo driver was out of the car, telling anyone who'd listen that it wasn't his fault. "The guy was already down—how could I see him there?"
"Please, please, he's not breathing," his wife was saying. A man took off his overcoat and wrapped it around him. "Keep him warm," he said, "I'll call an ambulance."
Instinctively, Logan knew it would be too late. The old man hadn't been hit hard, but he must have had a heart attack from the shock. Somebody, Logan figured, had better do something fast—maybe what he'd seen on all those medical TV shows. Pump his chest, get him breathing.
Pressing through the circle of onlookers, Logan knelt across from the man's wife. "I'm not a doctor," he said. "But we've got to do something."
He pulled the extra overcoat away, straddled him, then pressed hard on his chest cavity. Nothing. He put his ear to the old man's chest. There wasn't any heartbeat he could detect. He pressed again. Should he be trying artificial resuscitation? His mind raced—wasn't that only for drowning? He leaned back, then forward again with all his might. Someone said "Pound him—pound him right above the heart." Logan tried it, first tentatively, then hard.
"You'll kill him!" his wife said, trying to restrain Logan's fist.
Honey, he's already dead, Logan thought bitterly. At least give me a chance to save him.
He bent forward and listened again.
"Adolph, Adolph," his wife was crying, wringing one of her husband's limp hands.
Logan heard no heartbeat, only the rustle of the old man's shirt brushing against his cheek; the shirt smelled of pipe tobacco. Logan squeezed his eyes shut, and pressed the old man's shoulders between his hands. He could feel the fragile bones, and even hear them creak. You're not gonna die, he thought. That's just not going to happen here. In his mind's eye, unexpectedly, he saw a sand hill, on a hot summer day, with a red steel scaffolding all around it. I'm coming with you, he thought. I'm coming. The summer sun became brighter and brighter, and Logan felt himself traveling, as he had done once before, a long time ago, right up into its blaze. Through it, for that matter. But without any feeling of exertion, or even speed. Everything around him was white, and white hot, but the heat didn't matter, nothing did. He was traveling like an arrow shot from an unimaginable bow, hurtling toward a target he couldn't see. Coming ... coming ... coming, he thought, and then remembered nothing more until he found himself rolled over onto his back, thinking of sand again, mountains of gritty dun-colored sand, and looking up into Vinnie's anxious face.
"You okay, man? Are you okay?"
He heard sobbing, but it seemed happy somehow. There was joy in it, relief. He turned his head on the pavement. Adolph's wife was hugging her husband in her arms, rocking him, soothing him. Adolph was answering her, one of his own arms feebly draped around her waist. From down the block, Logan heard the wail of the ambulance siren, stuck in traffic.
"Logan, can you hear me?" Vinnie was drawing him up into a sitting position. "Talk to me, man."
Logan nodded his head to indicate he was okay. Over her husband's shoulder, Adolph's wife caught his eye. "Thank you," she mouthed, "thank you." Tears were streaming down her face.
Logan suddenly felt colder than he'd ever felt before, and shivered violently. Vinnie helped him pull his twenty-five-dollar overcoat closed. Leaning on Vinnie, he got to his feet. "Jesus, I'm freezing," he said.
"Come on, we'll go over to Charlie's and have a drink."
A medic had fought his way through the crowd and was trying to disengage Adolph and his wife. Logan suddenly panicked.
"Where's my guitar?"
"It's okay," Vinnie said, but not convincingly enough. "I told those TV guys to watch it."
"Where are they?" Logan said, spinning around.
"We're right here." The director waggled one hand over the heads of some people standing between them.
Logan unsteadily made his way through the crowd.
"You know, you're some kind of a hero," the director said.
Logan gripped the handle of the guitar case.
The reporter materialized in front of him. "What did you do just now? That was incredible," she said. "Are you a paramedic or something?" She took in the guitar. "Are you in the band for this show?" she added, sounding even more amazed.
Logan said, "No, I'm not a paramedic. But I am in the band." He turned to go. "You'll have to excuse me—I've got a hot date." Vinnie plowed a path through the crowd, and Logan followed in his wake. Traffic was stopped dead; they crossed the street between two taxi bumpers. Everything around them flashed white, then red, then white again, in the alternating beams of the spotlights and the ambulance beacon.
At the door to Charlie's, the maître d' asked what was going on outside.
"Guy had an accident," Vinnie replied. "And this guy," he said, clapping Logan on the shoulder, "brought him back from the dead."CHAPTER 2
THE NEXT DAY, Logan awoke at his usual hour—one o'clock in the afternoon—and started the water boiling before even opening his eyes all the way. By the time he'd shaved and showered, the water was ready to be poured through the coffee filter and into the same mug he drank from every morning. He took his coffee black, not because he especially liked it that way, but because he couldn't be bothered to keep fresh milk in the fridge. Sitting at the card table he'd set up at one end of the studio apartment, he sipped at the coffee, while idly surveying the windows of the apartments across the way.
The writer, a heavyset woman with short hair and glasses, was already at her desk, typing away. She would stay there until five o'clock sharp, then flick off her desk lamp and disappear into the inner recesses of her apartment.
The gay dancer, wearing nothing but jockey shorts, was flinging himself around the room, to an apparently relentless beat.
The elderly sisters, twins who wore identical clothes whenever Logan saw them together on the street, were watching TV.
Gradually, the events of the night before were returning to him. In the shower he'd noticed the soreness in his knees—from kneeling in the street. On the kitchen counter, he'd found a matchbook from Charlie's—where he'd had three drinks he could recall, and possibly more. On the table in front of him was a copy of the Playbill for Steamroller, which he'd taken just in case there wasn't any second performance. He'd have to buy the papers to find out.
As for the rest, the stuff that had actually gone on with the injured old man, he couldn't really recall a lot of it. Nor did he want to. It was something he didn't want to think about.
Not now. Maybe never.
On the answering machine, the message light was flashing three times. He rolled back the tape, and turned up the volume on the voice monitor.
"I hope I'm not disturbing you." His grandmother—she always started out that way. "I just wanted to wish you good luck—that show you're in is opening tonight, isn't it?" A day late: also the usual. "I hope it's a great success ... give me a call and tell me all about it. I hope you're feeling well ... Give my best to Stephanie."
He hadn't told her the latest about Stephanie. They'd broken up three weeks ago.
The second message was from one of his guitar students, canceling a lesson.
The third was Stephanie. "Listen, I need to come over this afternoon to pick up some stuff. Specifically, I need the sheet music for the Trout Quintets. I've got a job at some P.R. reception at Wave Hill. Anyway, if you don't want to see me, don't worry about it—I've still got your keys and I can let myself in. See you—or not—later ... Bye."
Jack checked the clock on his bookcase. Twenty of two. Should he quickly clear out, to avoid seeing Stephanie? It seemed sort of ridiculous, to have to run away from his own home. But on the other hand, he hated scenes, and this could easily turn into one. He also wanted to go out and see how the newspapers had reviewed the show.
He was already into his shoes and just about ready to go when his buzzer went off.
"Damn," he said, then, "Yes?" into the intercom.
"Oh, you're home. It's me ... can I come up for my stuff?"
Jack didn't answer, but just buzzed her through. He heard the downstairs door swing shut, then her footsteps on the stairs. He opened his own door and stood back to let her pass.
She was wearing a black-and-white scarf wrapped around her head. She looked at him a little apprehensively. "I wouldn't have come so early, but I needed to start practicing that music."
"Come on in," he said, gesturing her out of the doorway. "I'm not gonna bite you."
She walked over to the side of the bed, which took up the center of the studio, and unknotted her scarf. "Whew—is it cold outside. The wind on Riverside Drive is enough to blow you over."
Jack gave her a look, and she suddenly realized what she'd said. Her new boyfriend—Kurt, of the penthouse apartment and the house in Easthampton—lived on Riverside.
"So how is he?" Jack asked. "Raid any companies this morning?"
"Not that I know of," Stephanie said, looking around the room for something else to talk about. The Steamroller Playbill caught her eye. "So how'd the show go?" she asked. "I haven't seen the papers yet today."
"Neither have I. Nobody forgot their lines. The audience seemed to like it."
"Be great if it's a hit," Stephanie said encouragingly.
"Yeah," Jack replied, "great." He pulled a white plastic bag out from under the card table. "I've been putting your stuff in here," he said. "Leg warmers, stopwatch, leotard, lens solution. I don't know where the Schubert score is."
"I do," Stephanie said, going to the record rack and squatting down. "I stuck it in here," she said, and slid it out from between the Rolling Stones and Stravinsky. "I didn't even disrupt your alphabetical order with it." Stephanie knew mat in many things Jack didn't care about order or neatness—but when it came to anything having to do with his music or his instruments, he was as compulsive as they come. "I've got a gig at Wave Hill, some sort of reception."
"So you said on the machine."
She tried again. "How's Vinnie doing? Is he sticking to his diet?"
"Not so you'd notice."
A pause fell. Stephanie said, "I guess you don't want to do this, huh?"
"Stay friends, keep in touch."
"Sure, sure I do," Jack replied, walking over to the window and wedging his hands in the back pockets of his jeans. "You and me and Kurt, whenever he can find the time. I was thinking of renting a summer place near his, so we could all go boating together. If the show's still running, I'll just get somebody to sub for me. That way I won't ever have to leave the beach. We could all have a really great time, don't you think?"
Excerpted from Black Horizon by Robert Masello. Copyright © 1989 Robert Masello. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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