TITLE: The Actor's Daughter
GENRE: Literary Fiction
Patrick Winters, Broadway’s biggest sensation in 1952, began his career for only one reason: the hope that his voice and his success might bring his long-estranged wife Julia back. But his whole raison d’etre is thrown into doubt when he discovers that Julia has sold their story to the press – and that she has a daughter who may be Patrick’s child.
Seven minutes and thirty seconds before curtain-down, Patrick Winters committed his first murder of the night. He held a woman in his arms, and around them music flowed, a violin straining forward with vibrato and retreating to a quivering sigh, the accompaniment to a kiss of kisses. As the violin faded, Patrick’s hand made a quick movement. In the silence, the woman fell back without a cry, a red stain already spreading on the bosom of her gown.
The silence sustained a long moment of perfect grief.
When Patrick lifted his face to the mezzanine, a thrill passed through the hypnotized Manhattan audience at the sight of the first tear that ran down his cheek, catching the silver gleam of the spotlight. Nobody noticed when the music started again, but then he was singing to it, his tenor quiet and low:
One blood, one flesh
One knife, one death-
A dagger glinted, and he stabbed himself to the heart and yielded up the spirit without a sigh. The hero was dead, but patrons in the more expensive seats could see that his body still trembled, for the performer was crying. He wept until the curtain fell over his body to the mournful note of a cello.
His tears were not less genuine for being an exact science. He knew to the second exactly how long he should weep; he could have counted the tears, night after night, and would not have been more consistent. Yet he meant every one.