On April 5th, 1948, Gold met Kennig…
Inspired by the true story of a WWII marine and the love of his life, Christopher M. Struck has crafted a tragic tale of love, devotion, sacrifice…and betrayal.
Daniel Kennig only has one ambition: to be the greatest singer to have ever lived. While headlining at a mid-tier nightclub in Manhattan he meets Cynthia Gold. Smitten with the flaxen-haired heiress, the young couple begin a rendezvous at the possible expense of his career.
|Product dimensions:||5.51(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.55(d)|
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A Good Thing
A cold day. That fifth of April.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I know that is cheesy to say, but I do. It's as much a curse as it is a blessing. I wish I knew then what I know now. One of life's simplest truths. You know, and maybe you don't, but you should. You can never have enough of a good thing when you can get it because there is no guarantee that it will remain.
I was sitting, alone, at a table on the street with a view of the boulevard and a row of hyacinths and daylilies that stretched in the sun along the side of the road. An elm cast its shade across the table before me, but my glasses and hat hid my eyes. I tightened my jacket to mid-chest and stared deeply into the pages of my book with little care as to what, when, or why anything happened around me.
I turned the page.
A gust of wind. It was then that she sat down. Not at my table, of course. Although I would have liked it very much. At a table beside mine with a piccadilly gentleman of a curiously bubbly inclination. He was well bearded and smiled kindly, but his conversation was a mere footnote to hers, which I must say was of tremendous vocabulary, vivacity, and volume.
She must have noticed that my eyes wandered. Hers did too, and I had the strangest sense of sudden déjà vu. I shook it off, swept at my hair to turn it under my hat and smiled to myself as I waited for the waitress to return with fresh water for my tea and a coffee.
She came from money. It threw me at first. To hear, so proudly, talk of Swiss villas and evenings in Rome. But I was a bit of a something myself at the time, so I smirked at the thought of enjoying Switzerland in the winter rather than when it was warm. Progress in the novel fared poorly, but it remained good cover, so I fought off every urge to set it down.
I could see the way she smiled. Flashing, broad streaks of gleaming white through the corner of my eye, melting into the golden blur of her perfectly wavy hair. I had noticed her in full form, but it seemed I had forgotten what it was that I had seen with each tick of my hand-wound watch. And so, I would check. Half to see if she was still there glancing back, and half to remind myself of the true beauty that I beheld.
In reality and to be truthful, I would later write to my sister, it was not her physical beauty or potential charm that drew my eyes to lust for her over and over. It was this unmistakable confidence. A self-assuredness that I had never seen before, or since, in any other woman or man.
It radiated from her. It drove her. Often, to do more than she ought to have, but. Beautiful. And sometimes. Sometimes I wonder as I did then in that moment if it wasn't just the sun.
I look back. Turn it over. It is then that I realize. It's then I realize tears are streaming from my face like a newborn. It wasn't the sun, but it may as well have been. For she was all that it is and was to me, and she was always better with each glance and the longer the duration.
Then and now.
On that day, if I remember correctly, and at times my memory is sparse. Even the most vivid of imagery fails me.
The stream flowed in full force despite the chill. Alive. Quick and silver, a river of fluid flavor and flashing color. Once in a while, a bright streak would split and break from the current.
A rainbow-like glint splashing forth from the sun-drenched surface.
Then back down.
An Interview with the American Dream
"That was how you met her?" Marcus Wells asked as he leafed through a thin album of blackened newspaper articles.
I dug through drawers and tapped my chin, muttering under my breath as I went. They weren't in the filing cabinets. They weren't in the desk. I even dug beneath the pens to the back where I kept my old checkbooks, passbooks, and postcards. Then, I went on digging through them a second time.
He looked up from the pages of faded history and pushed his fingers into his eyelids. "Mr. Kennig?"
"Dan's fine, young man," I reminded him while working on the bookshelf, straightening Russian history novels organized by subgenre and alphabetically by title. My mind ran through the likely destinations of these sacred relics. It's always when you want something that you can't find it.
"You were saying how you met your wife," he repeated patiently. He was a journalist, as classic as they came, and he wasn't here to read through stiff prose stripped from old articles written for the Times.
"Yes, I was." I hesitated, holding a hand to the handkerchief tucked in my shirt pocket.
"You left off at 'thump.' Care to elaborate?" The pen clicked, and he bit the tip as he eyed his notes. I turned from the bookshelf and came around the couch to sit opposite the young man.
"I'll certainly never forget her," I said. "She picked up my book and slammed it on the table so hard the coffee spilled onto the saucer." I could feel the blood rush to my skin and run hot like a grade-school blush. He chuckled.
"How long ago was that?" he asked.
"Oh my, that must have been nearly seventy years ago now," I replied. I tried to follow his eyes as he scribbled notes between prepared questions.
"Don't mind me, but I find it strange that a young woman of those days would do such a thing."
"I think young women have always gone after what they want. I was just lucky that I was what Cynthia wanted."
"An extraordinary woman."
"I'd like to think so," I said and smiled, "but for other reasons. Young women were good to us veterans after the war."
"So, tell me about that." Marcus leaned forward. "You had just come back from serving in the war. Did you find it hard to adjust?"
"Somewhat. It was hard to find a job."
"Did knowing Cynthia Gold help?"
"I met her later. After I had started singing with my first real nightclub in New York. Anyway, a friend of the family put me in touch with a modeling agency in the city, and I did that for a few months. That's why I moved to New York."
"Sounds exciting." He scribbled something shorthand.
"Not so much." I hesitated. "I didn't like the people too much."
"Oh, why was that?"
"I felt like a piece of meat. Being shipped around, poked, and prodded."
"Did you do a lot of work for them? I must say I saw some of your photos in old articles. You were a good-looking guy."
"Thank you. I worked mainly for a department store, Childs. Did you ever hear of them?"
Marcus shook his head. "No."
"They were the big thing at the time."
"Never heard of it."
"Funny, isn't it?" I stood up. "Would you like something to drink? I've got gin, scotch, coffee, soda. Even Powerade."
"Water's fine." I could feel his smile through his voice like a gentle wind on a fine day. I went to fix myself some brandy and him a water. Always needed something to calm my nerves when I got to talking about Cynthia. The memories could come on so strong.
He followed me up. "Dan?"
"I couldn't help but notice you don't have a single photo on any of the walls. Only paintings."
"That's correct." I handed him the water and took a swig from my glass like a sailor.
"Why is that?"
"Well, you see, it was a request that Cynthia made when I first met her."
"What was that?"
"That I never take a photo of her. Seeing as she's gone, I haven't cared much to keep a photo of myself around either. One mirror is enough for me."
"Why would she ask something like that?"
"She was an of-the-moment kind of gal. Liked to live life today. Photos reminded her of death. She always wanted to remind herself that she was alive."
"So, she was adventurous. An adrenaline junkie?" He sipped his water, smirking over the rim of the glass.
"Gosh, I hope not. She just had an incredible capacity for love that you couldn't help but feel inspired by."
"You have no photos?" Marcus asked.
"What do you have to remember her by?"
He had on a goofy grin like he couldn't decide whether he was out of a joke or had to take pity on an old man. I didn't bother putting my finger to my head, but the fit of inspiration had reminded me where I had stored the old things.
I shifted around a pile of trinkets in a chest drawer and fished out a sealed plastic package. It may not have been photographs, but I treasured it even more.
"What's this?" Marcus asked.
"That is a diary, young man."
"I may not have as many notches on my belt as you say, but diaries haven't changed that much."
"It's a —" I sat down. I had to stop. "You'll see."
"What is this from?"
"Cynthia and me." I summoned the courage. "We took an extended vacation together early in our relationship."
"To where?"CHAPTER 3
A Moment in the Sun
Marcus took the letters with him. He probably thought that I was going senile with the way that I had forced them into his hands.
I knew that my eyes could gloss over as if I had gone into epileptic shock. For a long time, I didn't move from where he had left me. In my big red armchair, nursing the brandy. The wind battered against the side of the apartment building, so I got up to close the windows.
How I met her. In a single moment of sure violence, Cynthia Gold took a book from a stranger.
She slammed it down.
Her grin widened at the sound.
She spread her arms out over the table. A predator, prepared to pounce.
I sat back. Leaned forward.
"You weren't actually reading that now? Were you?" Her teeth flashed. Her skin glowed. She adjusted, propping herself up properly. The shadow fell from her face. I could see myself reflected in her sunglasses, a black streak in the gold shimmer of light.
"What if I told you that I was, and that it was just about to get real good?"
"I'd call you a liar."
"As a matter of fact, I was" — I chuckled, putting a hand on the book — "listening to your stories."
"Sounds about right." She shrugged and glanced back at the awkwardly grinning man-boy she had left alone at the other table. "Did you find them interesting?"
"You're one of the boys from the Childs catalog, aren't you?" Her eyebrows curled skeptically over the edge of her aviators. I blushed a full and deep red. "Cynthia Gold." She held out her hand, amused.
I extended a handshake and kept it firm. Her eyebrows rose, reminding me of a kite lifting momentarily by a gust of wind.
"You don't know who I am, do you, Mr. Daniel?" She crossed her arms. It felt like a blanket of fog had been laid over the table. Under its veil now were only the two of us.
I drummed my fingers on the book. "You say that as if I should."
She mulled over me from behind the impassive glare of golden glass. "No, you shouldn't. It's good you don't. I'll be at the Skylark, the evening after next. Why don't you meet me there?"
"You mean Monday?" I blushed further.
"I like you, Dan," she said.
She stood up to go.
The SummerCHAPTER 4
I pulled into my garage and opened the car door with the key still in the ignition. I put my phone in my mouth and worked the key out of the slot. The beeping disappeared, and then I remembered Daniel's letters. I put the phone in my hand with the keys. Put them both on the chair. Reached over the console to grab the plastic package and put it under my arm. Then I remembered my donut. I stuffed the donut in my mouth, picked everything up and then got myself into the kitchenette using my elbows.
It's not every day you got to hear the life story of a man like Daniel Kennig. His old SoHo apartment was more chic and modern than this thirty-something-year-old, moderately successful journalist's Long Island bungalow.
I chuckled to myself. I sat at the worn wooden table to think after wishing that I had cherished my donut longer than a few seconds.
He was still living the sweet life, and yet, the thing that lit up his eyes more than anything was the one thing that he had lived without longer than he had anything else: Cynthia Gold.
We didn't talk about the awards, the albums, the world tours. Seventy years. I couldn't even imagine that. My wife and my daughter were gone for the day. With Shawna and Allison gone to work and school, this was my time to be productive.
Be productive. All I needed to do was get to writing this "Last Interview with the American King" and finally solidify myself as a prominent investigative journalist. What would I buy with the first paycheck in a long time? For some reason, kitchen tiling came to mind.
I pulled my notebook out of my shoulder bag. There was enough material here to ghostwrite two memoirs. Something stopped me.
He had been on the stage for more than half of his life. Six decades of smooth vibrations filled the ears of his crowd with brilliant emotion. Yet for him, the Man himself, it all boiled down to a forgotten summer just before his marriage with a fable of upper-tier society.
As much as you could find out on Mr. Kennig, Cynthia remained a mystery like Shakespeare's lost years. Granted, I hadn't given it much research, but what I had found had been hard to come by still. I knew the pair had been married. She had a reputation for a will stronger than steel and her taste. She had a known knack for disappearing for months at a time on rather strange jaunts. She was the quintessential Siberian tiger of women.
The complete opposite existed as Daniel Kennig. A booming, public persona married to the stage. Throughout his career, he made grandiose, sweeping gestures, which earned him the reputation for being a modern Gatsby in the flesh. How the two of them met and fell in love seemed as unlikely as water on the surface of the sun.
I turned over the package and read the perfect black sharpie aloud, "Letters from my brother." The plastic pulled open easily. I rifled through them quickly and then picked the first.
There is nothing quite like New York, Mary. Every day there are people who discover the city for the first time, and they come to the same conclusions that we all inevitably have. "I'm here. The stage is set and sitting center. Me. Time to see what I've got."
I hope I've got you laughing now. Sarcasm aside, I know I said I would write sooner, but, you see, I've been out and around chasing after the daylight like we chased butterflies that one summer at Badger Lake with Josie and Mark.
I haven't had all the time or the words, but know that the weather is right, the city is good, the people surprising, and the prospects bright. And it was just last week on the corner of 11th and Broadway that I met the most extraordinary woman. We didn't talk much then, but we rendezvoused at the Skylark last night. We talked well past midnight. About what, I can't remember. Mostly books, I think. She even invited me to a party here at the Grand.
I do hope that I have quite enough good taste to suit her. I should likely ask Tom for help. Even then, I shan't be disappointed if the company turns. To even be at the Grand for a night will be spectacular.
To be in her presence once more, well, I feel I have gone too far too fast. It will be delightful, if anything. But, of course, I wouldn't think to promise any more. Especially on behalf of one good lady to another.
With Love and Sincerity, Your Best Little Brother Daniel Kennig
P.S. It gives me an idea for a song.
P.P.S. I still love you more.CHAPTER 5
Suave Tom and the Grand
I sighed, reminiscing. So, this is how it happened for all of us. Even Daniel Kennig asked a more experienced friend what to do before meeting the girl of his dreams for a third time.
I took a moment to admire the letters. They had been laminated, labeled, and dated. Notes had been scribbled along the sides in another's handwriting.
It was strange to think. It reminded me of when I first met Shawna. I called Phil's number first. He asked me over to his house, where he gave me the rundown on the birds and the bees. I didn't tell my mom about her for months.
So, Daniel had his friend Tom. Suave Tom. They probably met over beers at an outdoor-seating restaurant in the sun. I saw it in my head like a speed sketch.
Tom, well-dressed and funny, sweeping his hair back. A caricature of a man talking with his hands. He probably wore a colorful tie. Opposite of him stood Daniel. Quiet and serious, brooding over Cynthia like he was going to war.
Tom likely laid down some hard truths and life lessons. Kid, don't back down. When resistance comes, crush it.
One note in particular caught my eye — Please, anyone but Tom. At first, I thought of skimming it. Then, I read through the whole thing.
"Hmm, that's to be expected," I said to my empty house. Suave Tom wasn't his sister's favorite. Big surprise. She was too far away to give more detailed advice, but avoid Tom read clearly.
Fortunately, her letter warning Daniel away from Tom arrived in New York before he went to the Grand. Maybe he would take her advice. If I remembered correctly from my research, she had stayed in Indiana after getting married to her high school sweetheart. I rifled around for any envelopes to check and confirmed that she had.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Kennig & Gold"
Copyright © 2019 Christopher M. Struck.
Excerpted by permission of BHC Press.
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