A Starr Burns Bright
Author: Charles Salzberg
Henry Swann does a favor for a friend, delivering a mysterious envelope to a stranger on the deserted Long Beach boardwalk late one night in the middle of winter. It does not end well.
A Starr Burns Bright
“Goldblatt, you gonna tell me what the hell you wanted to see me about?” I said, as I watched him shovel another forkful of pasta into his mouth, or at least in the general vicinity of his mouth.
“Yeah. Sure. After we finish the meal.”
“I don’t know if I can wait that long. Watching you eat is making me sick.”
“You got a problem with the way I eat?” he said, as a few drops of red sauce shot through the air and landed on a glass I’d moved in front of my plate for protection.
“Exhibit number one,” I said, pointing to the glass. “Huh?”
“Never mind,” I said, looking at my watch. “Look, I’ve got things to do, places to go, people to see.”
“Yeah. Right. Swann, as long as I’ve known you that ain’t been the truth.” “Time passes. Things change.”
He sucked the last tubes of penne into his face, dragged a piece of Italian bread across his plate, stuffed it into his mouth in one piece, wiped his entire face with the napkin that had been tucked into his collar, and leaned back. “Good meal, huh?”
“Excellent,” I said, not even bothering to hide my sarcasm. I doubted he’d get it anyway. My plate of spaghetti sat practically untouched in front of me, but I guess he didn’t notice that. Quantity was always better than quality, when it came to Goldblatt. “Now maybe we can discuss the business you said you had for me.”
“I haven’t had dessert yet.”
“Screw dessert. If I don’t hear the reason you got me here, I’m leaving.” “Okay, okay. I need you to do a solid for me.”
“I don’t do solids. I have rent to pay, food to buy, drinks to pay for. I learned a long time ago that favors never turn out to be favors. They turn out to be work. For work, I get paid. And I doubt that’s going to happen with you. How much have you brought in since you got disbarred?”
“That’s personal.” “I rest my case.”
“Hey, I’m no deadbeat. You wanna get paid, I’ll see to it you get paid.” He pulled a wad of money out of his pocket and waved it in my face.
“What’d you do, mug an old lady for her life’s savings?”
“Very funny. You may not believe this, Swann, but I provide valuable services to people and for those services I get paid.”
“What kind of services.”
“They vary. I may not be able to practice law anymore, but I know how the law works. I’m a consultant. I’m a facilitator. I get things done.”
“I’m sure you do. How do I fit in?”
“I want you to pick up a package for me.”
“Do I look like the Fedex man? I’m a skip tracer. I find people. I don’t make deliveries.”
“Fedex don’t pick up packages where I need them to.” “Where’s that?”
“As in California?”
“As in Long Island.”
“I’m pretty sure Fedex services Long Beach.”
“Not when and where I want them to. You familiar with the town?”
“Yeah. My father grew up there. He’d take us back there to see what family he had left. It used to be a dump, now it’s a poor man’s Hamptons, over-run with weekenders and religious Jews.”
He slapped the table. “I knew you were the man for me.”