Man and Wifeby Andrew Klavan
Cal Bradleys marriage to Marie is the stuff of romance. Then one night, a 19-year-old boy named Peter Blue goes on a rampage. Friendless and suicidal, Blue is sent to Bradley for treatment. For the patient, it's a last chance at redemption. For the doctor, it's the beginning of a journey into a world of fear, deception, and murder. Because somehow, Blue's
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Cal Bradleys marriage to Marie is the stuff of romance. Then one night, a 19-year-old boy named Peter Blue goes on a rampage. Friendless and suicidal, Blue is sent to Bradley for treatment. For the patient, it's a last chance at redemption. For the doctor, it's the beginning of a journey into a world of fear, deception, and murder. Because somehow, Blue's extraordinary inner life is linked to Cal's reality. And in the mystery of the teenager's mind lies the key to a more terrible mystery: Marie Bradley's hidden past.
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"Andrew Klavan may be one of the best authors of psychological suspense writing today."-The Rocky Mountain News
"A tour de force . . . Klavan unleashes mostly psychological suspense and he does it brilliantly."-The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Klavan smoothly moves the reader through unexpected twists, all along building suspense and never tipping his hand."-The Denver Post
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Man and Wife
By Andrew Klavan
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2001 Andrew Klavan
All rights reserved.
MAYBE IF I HAD LOVED HER less there would have been no murder. Maybe if there had just been less devotion in the love. Plenty of men have happy marriages. Affection, partnership, earnest conversations, shared pursuits. If they begin with any blinding passion it fades in time. Their minds get sharp again. Maybe if I hadn't adored her so I would've seen more clearly. Maybe if I had seen more clearly no one would have died.
SO I GUESS THIS IS a confession of sorts. Which is something I know a little bit about. I've spent most of my adult life listening to confessions and I can tell you something — I mean you whom I imagine reading this — I can warn you right at the start. A man who confesses may swagger for awhile. He may come at the truth at an angle, try to dress it up to preserve his dignity. But in the end he'll give you the worst of himself. He has no choice. Guilt and solitude are driving him on. They've got him in a gonad-lock, tighter and tighter, until finally he's beyond even the civilizing influence of hypocrisy — it's no good to him, like money to a dying man. You hang around long enough and he'll tell you everything, done or dreamed. Never mind the big vices, the romantic ones, the ones he's secretly proud of. He'll saddle you with the whole scurvy little human enterprise, take you right up the asshole of his drooling fantasies, hit you with every sniveling, poisonous dream of envy and malice in his weak and unfaithful heart. Which, if nothing else, believe me, can make him an awkward sort of narrator to listen to. Because like any narrator, he wants your sympathy. He wants you to identify with him. He wants you to acknowledge that he's not all that different from you.
SO THAT'S ONE THING. And then there's me personally — because I'm no one's idea of a hero anyway. Physically, to begin with, I'm on the short side, narrow, soft. With a bland face under thinning darkish hair. My eyes are dull brown, baggy even at the best of times. They make me look older than my forty-two years, make me look more serious too — and a hell of a lot wiser — than I am. I'm not particularly strong. I've never been fast or agile. I've never been any good with women at all. My virtues, if I can call them that, are of the sort generally considered suspect in the redblooded American male. That is, I'm intelligent and well-educated. I try to be honest. Try to be compassionate with the suffering people who come to me. Having been given so much in life — money, privilege, position — I try to be generous with the less fortunate. What else? I'm faithful to my wife. I love my children. I'm a decent enough guy, in other words, but no one's idea of a hero.
All the same, if you want to know what happened I'm the narrator you're stuck with. It's my sin so it's my confession, my story to tell. If it's any consolation I probably know more about the whole business than anyone. Because whatever else I am, I am the man who loved Marie. And I'm the psychiatrist who treated Peter Blue.
PETER BLUE. NINETEEN YEARS OLD. Gentle, dreamy, hard-working, religious. And one Saturday night toward the end of August, he beat up his girlfriend then drove out Oak Ridge Road and set fire to the Trinity Episcopal Church.
The girlfriend, Jenny Wilbur, called the police right after Peter left her house. Her voice, on the 911 tape starts out loud, frantic. Sloppy with tears:
"He'll kill himself! Oh God! We had a fight! He's going to get a gun!"
"Did he threaten you? Did he hit you?" asks Sharon Calley, the civilian dispatcher. "Are you hurt — did he hurt you in any way?"
Instantly, Jenny's voice becomes small and sorrowful. "He didn't mean to," she says. "You have to help him. Please. He says he's going to get a gun."
By then, the alarm had sounded at the Recycling Center — the garbage dump — on Fair Street where Peter sometimes worked. The patrolman responding was met at the dump's office by Jason Roberts who ran the place.
Roberts reported that his office had been broken into and his safebox broken open. Sure enough, the only thing missing was his old Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver.
BUT IT WAS HIGHBURY'S POLICE chief, Orrin Hunnicut, who stumbled on Peter himself. I'll pause here to describe Hunnicut. He's worth describing both for his own sake and because he has a major role in the story.
The man was gargantuan, first of all. Had to be six foot four or five at least. He'd played football in college and at sixty-three he still had the build for it. Huge shoulders, massive arms, an aggressive barrel of a chest, an even more aggressive dome of a belly. No neck. His head just sat on top of his giant frame, just plunked there, blocky and solid. The face was somehow fleshy and rock-hard at once. Pallid, pinkish skin on his jowls. Thin lips, small flinty eyes. He wore his hair cut to the nub and upstanding like an angry white fire coming up from his brain.
He was a hard case, is what I mean to say. And recently he'd gotten even harder still. His wife of thirty-five years had died that winter. A mild, fretful little creature, she just wasted away. My own wife, as part of her church work, had helped nurse her through the end. And Hunnicut, she said, loved the woman sincerely in his own ham-handed fashion. Since her death, anyway, his face had become even more rock-like than before. And the flinty eyes seemed to have grown even smaller until they were now no more than black points flashing from deep within the pinkish stone.
AND SINCE HIS WIFE'S DEATH — and despite the fact there's not much crime in Highbury — Chief Hunnicut had taken to spending almost all his time at the police department. Which is why he was driving home so late that Saturday, around midnight as it happened. He was tooling his official Blazer slowly over the leafy stretch of Oak Ridge that led to his neighborhood. It was a warm, humid night. A solid cover of clouds across the sky. No stars but a bright patch of black and silver in the southwest where the full moon was hanging hidden. The steeple of Trinity stood against that patch, its belfry and clapboards visible in the outglow. The rest of the church was sunk into the darkness of the surrounding trees so it was easy for Hunnicut to spot the strange rose-colored gleam wavering at the eastern windows.
With a squeal of tires, he brought the Blazer to the curb. One meaty hand hoisted the radio mike to his lips even as he stepped out of the four-by-four.
"This is Chief Hunnicut, get the fire department out to Oak Ridge. We got the goddamned church on fire out here."
As to what happened next, I got some of it from the police report, some from Hunnicut himself and some from a hilarious but possibly apocryphal account given to me by the state attorney. The way I heard it was this:
Hunnicut strode thunderously up the front walk to the building. He tried the double doors. No good; they were locked. So — get ready, here comes the exciting part — he hauled off and rammed into them with one prodigious shoulder. A single blow. The doors went flying in. Hunnicut went flying in after them.
Well, I'll tell you, the sight that greeted him would've made a lesser man quail. A pair of banners draped down two of the front columns were burning so that there were towering pillars of flame framing the central aisle. Between them, the immense gold cross on the wall above the altar caught the firelight and blazed scarlet. Thick smoke churned out beneath it, spreading over the pews, rising into the rafters.
For a moment, our chief stood still, hulking just within the threshold, frowning the fire back. Then, from underneath the fiery cross, from within the depths of the smoke, etched now in the heaving darkness, now by the crackling blaze, there emerged the figure of a man. Tall, lean, erect, Peter Blue stepped through the flaming portal. Hunnicut could see the wild expression on his face. He could see the pistol he was clutching in his hand.
"Get away from here!" Peter shouted. He lifted the gun. "Just get the hell away!"
That did it. Hunnicut stomped up the aisle to him. Muscled through the fire. Snatched the revolver out of Peter's grip. Slapped the boy twice — whack, whack — forehand, backhand, across the mouth.
"You pull a piece on me, you little prick?" he shouted as the flames whiplashed around them. "I'll wipe your goddamned ass with it!" He seized Peter by the hair at the back of his head, hoisted him to his tiptoes. Marched him back up the aisle toward the door. "You're under arrest for arson and all kinds of shit, you dumb fuck! The time you get out of jail, everyone you know'll be fucking dead!"
And he hurled Peter pinwheeling from the burning church out into the open air.
HUNNICUT WAS AS GOOD AS his word. The police charged Peter with arson, assault, burglary, larceny, theft of a firearm, threatening a police officer and reckless endangerment. In theory, the kid was looking at more than fifty years in prison that Saturday night.
So the cops booked him. Then they locked him in one of the department holding cells. The plan was to take him to Gloucester Superior Court on Monday for a formal arraignment. Bail would've been set, court dates and so on. Only it didn't work out that way.
Peter had declined to make a phone call but Father Michael Fairfax, the rector of Trinity, had been told of his arrest. The moment he was sure the fire at his church was out, Fairfax hurried over to the department and demanded to see the prisoner. A Highbury officer escorted him into the cell block.
The two of them found Peter there wearing only his underpants and a T-shirt. The nineteen-year-old had taken his sweatpants off. He had climbed up on his cot and tied one leg of them onto the gratework over the high window. Then he had knotted the other leg around his throat. Then he had stepped off the cot.
As the officer and the priest rushed shouting into his cell, Peter twisted in the air, first this way, then that way, strangling slowly.CHAPTER 2
THERE ARE TEN CHURCHES IN HIGHBURY. Two are Episcopalian. It's an accepted though unspoken fact that Trinity — the church Peter burned — serves the working and middle classes in the west of town while Incarnation, smack on the Town Common, is mostly for the wealthy and socially elite. That Sunday morning after Peter's arrest and attempted suicide, I was at Incarnation with my wife Marie. Now when I'd first met her nearly fifteen years before, Marie had not been religious in any formal sense of the word. Mostly she was just an orthodox Kook from the First Church of Kookiness. Any faddish, outlandish spiritual hoodoo then on the market — bang, she bought right into it. The healing power of pyramids, the wisdom of the lost city of Atlantis, aliens in Eden, druidic leylines in Stonehenge — I can't remember half the stuff she believed in. It was part of her inappropriate charm at the time. But almost the instant we got engaged, she ditched it all. Just like that. She went straight from looney-land to a complete, untroubled, and I would even say joyful faith in the rituals and tenets of the high Anglican church. That was Marie, that was her devotion. That was what love and marriage meant to her. My God became her God — which was pretty funny since my God hadn't even been my God since I was a little kid.
But never mind. Marie started going to church and I generally tagged along. It made her happy to have me there for one thing. For another thing, I kind of liked it — it warmed my cockles with childhood memories. Plus, to be totally honest, it did no harm to my position in the town or the reputation of my clinic for me to be seen as a regular churchgoer. But none of those was the main reason. The main reason — the real reason — I usually went to church with my wife was that I found it incredibly sexy to watch her pray.
She was thirty-six now, no longer the sylph of twenty I'd taken such a tumble for. But oh man, she was a ray of sunlight in that place. That old stone imitation-English church I knew as well as I knew anywhere. Packed to the walls every Sunday I could remember with the very crustiest of Connecticut's upper crust. One solid self-contented mass of ladies' hats and gentlemen's high-priced haircuts — and then simple, true-hearted Marie. She just shone. When she was singing especially. Standing so I could see the shape of her in her flowery summer dress. Holding her hymn book open in her slender fingers. She lifted her eyes — and she had blue eyes, light blue eyes — and they were still so kind, so faithful. And her straw-colored hair was even paler now that there were strands of silver in it. And she had the sweetest smile-wrinkles at the corner of her mouth. And she sang in this high, thin voice, "Abide with me, fast falls the eventide: the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide ..." And I thought of the little gasping cry she sometimes gave when I was inside her, a little fading cry as if she were falling, falling away. And from the corner of my eyes I watched her thin lips shaping themselves around the words and I thought of the mornings she would bring me coffee and then, giggling, murmuring, kiss her way down my belly so that the coffee steamed untouched on the bedside table and grew cold. "When other helpers fail and comforts flee," she sang. "Help of the helpless, oh abide with me."
I was getting a little cramped in my jockeys by the time the hymn was over. When the congregation rumbled to their seats I used the moment to shift closer to her so I could sit with my thigh pressed against hers, so I could steal an occasional whiff of her perfume and her shampoo.
There was a pause of coughs and clearing throats. The Reverend Andrew Douglas climbed into the oaken pulpit. He smoothed out the pages of his sermon, preparing to begin.
Marie tilted her head toward me. I felt the touch of her hair on my cheek. I caught a sidelong glimpse of her smile and her bright eyes glistening.
"I know just what you're thinking, Mr. Calvin Bradley," she whispered.
And when I moaned the old lady behind me raised her eyebrows so high they damn near knocked her hat off.
WE CAME OUT OF CHURCH squinting into the sudden sunlight. The humidity of the night before had been washed away in a series of thundershowers just before dawn. The day was bright and dry and there was even the faint fresh chill of autumn in it. Holding Marie's hand, I paused at the top of the church steps to look around. The sky was very blue. The grass on the Town Common was very green and the maples were still very lush and heavy. The five churches that surrounded the Common gleamed white through the leafy branches. This was the heart of Highbury, downright Arcadian.
And there, at the center of the scene, was Father Fairfax. Dressed in his clerical black, ominous as an undertaker. Looking straight at me, beckoning.
"I'll go collect the kids," said Marie. She headed off for the basement Sunday School. And I went down the stairs to join the rector of Trinity.
"Let's take a walk, Cal," he said. We started along the sidewalk toward the center of town.
I'd already heard about the fire. Father Douglas had told the congregation. Said a kid had been arrested, the church's part-time gardener and handyman. He assured us it wasn't a hate crime, not a religious attack. Just a troubled boy from a broken home. Banners and pew cushions took most of the damage from the smoke and flames, he said. It didn't sound all that serious.
But as we walked together I could see Fairfax was upset. Which surprised me because normally he was a pretty solid character. A trim, fit, compact figure in his fifties. Silver hair, jutting chin. The Muscular Christian type. Always starting up committees, heading up charity drives, that kind of thing. An expert politician with a knack for making contacts and using them well. A genuine power in the town.
Today though, as I say, he looked rattled. Unshaven, his eyes rheumy, his features lax with sleeplessness.
"It's all been blown way out of proportion," he said. We strolled slowly shoulder to shoulder past fine old white clapboard homes. "Because of Chief Hunnicut, that's why. He's just furious because Peter — the boy, Peter Blue — he pulled a gun on him."
Excerpted from Man and Wife by Andrew Klavan. Copyright © 2001 Andrew Klavan. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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Born in New York City, Andrew Klavan was a radio and newspaper journalist before turning to fiction full-time. Twice given the Edgar Award for mystery writing, he is the author of the bestselling novels True Crime, recently a film starring Clint Eastwood, and Don't Say A Word, a major motion picture from Twentieth Century Fox starring Michael Douglas. After living in London for many years, he has now settled in Santa Barbara, California with his wife Ellen, his daughter Faith and his son Spencer.
Born in New York City, Andrew Klavan was a radio and newspaper journalist before turning to fiction full-time. Twice given the Edgar Award for mystery writing, he is the author of the bestselling novels True Crime, filmed starring Clint Eastwood and Don't Say A Word, the basis of a film starring Michael Douglas. After living in London for many years, he has now settled in Santa Barbara, California with his wife Ellen, and his daughter Faith and his son Spencer.
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This was one of the best books I read this Summer. I like how Mr. Klavan will keep you engrossed by giving us hints that something Is going to happen in the next chapter. I have read all of his books and this was the best so far. I can really see this being made into a movie and am excited to see what actor would play Peter Blue? What a unforgettable character! I wish there was a book just about his life...upbringing etc. Read this book in one day and It will linger all week.
this is one of those books you can read at one sitting due to the short length, and you'll be glad it wasn't 500 pages when you're done. an interesting premise but not much of a payoff. the main character, cal bradley, is spineless and you can figure out which way this book is heading pretty early on....overall, a bit weak.