A new play by a rising Mexican playwright is premiering, and Eve and her lover, Silvio Aguilar, are there -- the writer is Silvio's friend from their barrio days. When the lead actress is a no-show, Eve quickly uncovers that Silvio has complicated past ties to the missing diva. But there is no time for hurt, betrayal, or suspicion -- not when there are signs of a struggle at the actress's bungalow. To make matters worse, an eager young reporter, whom Eve is mentoring, keeps insinuating herself into the case at every turn, crossing ethical lines that could bring Eve down with her. . . or get them both killed.
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May 02, 2005
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Excerpt from Savage Garden by Denise Hamilton
All day the sun had baked the concrete, sending waves of heat shimmering skyward. Now a breeze blew through the canyons of downtown and people crept from buildings and sniffed the air like desert animals at the approach of night.
Perched at the edge of a fountain outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, I felt my mood lift along with the crowd's. It was opening night at the city's premier theater, and soon we'd file inside and leave the pavilion empty, save for the saxophonist nestling his instrument in its blue velvet case, the bums sifting the trash for crusts of panini, and the cashier savoring a cigarette before closing up for the night.
I sipped my Pinot Blanc and watched the cafe grill send up wisps of woodsy smoke. It felt delicious to be anonymous and alone, the crowd swirling around me in a way that suggested New York or Budapest or Paris. This was as good as L.A. street life got, even though it wasn't a street at all, but a concrete slab ringed by theaters and concert halls.
My city had been wrenched from the desert, willed into being by brute force and circus barkers who sold people on a mass hallucination that became a reality. And for generations, the loudest of those barkers had been my newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, and its onetime owners the Chandler family. Their name graced this square, with its reflecting pools and shimmering fountains. It was sheer hubris to send water cascading skyward in the heat of an L.A. summer, but then, water had been the original currency of this land. Without it, the city would sink back to chaparral and sagging clapboard, a provincial outpost doomed to fitful dreams.
Then a man was walking toward me. He wore a guayabera, the accordion-pleated shirt of Mexico. His black wavy hair cascaded over his collar. As always when I saw him from afar, before recognition hit, a wave of impersonal pleasure passed through me at his beauty. Then the pleasure grew personal as I realized it was Silvio Aguilar, the man who occupied an increasingly large part of my heart.
We had met the previous year when I profiled the music promotion business that his family had built from a swap meet stand into a multimillion-dollar empire. The attraction had been instantaneous and mutual, but Silvio was grieving the death of his brother and I wasn't supposed to date sources so we tried to control ourselves, which only made things more explosive when we finally did get together.
I loved his complexity, his Old World chivalry, the masterful control with which he ran the family business and the utter abandon I saw in his eyes when he made love to me. Straddling the formal Mexican culture of his parents and the easygoing American ways of his home, Silvio grappled daily with the duality of his existence and wondered where he belonged. Sometimes he turned inward, retreating into pride and moody secrecy, and then I wondered how well I really knew him.
But tonight promised to be perfect. One of Silvio's childhood friends had written Our Lady of the Barrio, the play that would premiere in less than an hour, and we had front-row tickets. It was a triumph the entire city could celebrate, because Alfonso Reventon was a gangbanger who had been saved by the arts, a playwright whose tales of streetwise magical realism brought him growing acclaim and commissions. Our Lady of the Barrio was poised to be a smash hit.
As Silvio drew closer, I saw a harried look on his face. He looked at his watch, frowned, then took my hand and caressed it absently.