Authors: Meg Perry
Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Literature & Fiction, #Fiction, #Gay, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Genre Fiction, #Lgbt, #Gay Fiction
Played to Death
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or individuals - living or dead - is entirely coincidental.
©2015 Meg Perry. All rights reserved
The Jamie Brodie Mysteries
Cited to Death
Hoarded to Death
Burdened to Death
Researched to Death
Encountered to Death
Psyched to Death
Stacked to Death
High Desert (bonus short story included with Stacked to Death)
Stoned to Death
Low Country (bonus short story included with Stoned to Death)
Talked to Death
Hearts (bonus short story included with Talked to Death)
Best Men (short story available at
Avenged to Death
Just Right (short story available 2/14/16 at
Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished. - Goethe
The string quartet finished tuning and Scott Deering took the opportunity to glance around the room, the neck of his cello resting on his shoulder. The enormous room was full of people wearing designer suits and little black dresses. The presentations had been made and the speeches given, and the invitees of the AIDS Project Los Angeles benefit were ready to mingle to background music provided by the Venusta String Quartet. Doug Fuller, the first violinist, lifted his bow; Scott and the other two musicians positioned themselves, and they began to play.
About forty-five minutes into the set, Scott got the feeling of being watched. He could see someone out of the corner of his eye, leaning against the wall, listening. When the quartet finished their selection, Scott glanced over as he arranged his music on the stand.
The guy looked like he didn’t belong. He was wearing navy Dockers, a dress shirt and tie, and an off-the-rack sportcoat. Scott estimated that the guy was around thirty. He was cute.
cute. About 6’2”, sandy blond hair that looked like it had slightly outgrown its cut, a sprinkling of freckles across his nose and cheeks. He looked fit. Scott wasn’t close enough to determine the guy’s eye color.
Scott didn’t think Cute Guy had noticed him checking him out. They hadn’t made eye contact. Cute Guy didn’t give off a gay vibe at all - but this was an AIDS benefit, and he seemed to be alone. Maybe Scott could get lucky.
Fifteen minutes later, the quartet finished their piece and it was time for their first break. Scott secured his cello in its case and approached Cute Guy, looking him over. His eyes were long-lashed, hazel-green with gold flecks.
. Scott asked, “Are you a Mozart fan?”
“I don’t know enough about music to recognize most composers. But that was wonderful.”
“Thank you.” Scott stuck out his hand. “I’m Scott Deering.”
Cute Guy had a firm handshake. “Jamie Brodie.”
Scott gave him a knowing look. “I hope you’re not offended by this, but you don’t look like you belong here.”
Cute Guy - Jamie - grinned. He had a
attractive grin. “No offense taken. I don’t. I’m here because someone else got sick and wouldn’t let the ticket go to waste.”
“Ah.” Scott lowered his voice, conspiratorially. “Is there anything decent to eat?”
Jamie wrinkled his nose. “No. There’s some seaweed thing.”
“That’s what it tasted like.”
Scott laughed. “I’ve got fifteen minutes. Let’s see if we can find something.”
They circled the room, finding the entrance to the kitchen, where the caterers took one look at them and went back to their crazed preparations. Scott found a plate of cheese and a box of crackers and carried them out the back door, Jamie following. The door opened onto a pool deck, the water still, lit from below. No one else was around.
Scott shook crackers out onto the cheese plate, and they dug in. Jamie said, “Mm. Thanks for this. I’d have gone home starving.”
“You’re welcome.” Scott held up a cracker. “Best thing about playing a string instrument. You can eat without messing up your embouchure.”
“Are you in the Philharmonic?”
“Yeah.” Scott raised an eyebrow. “How’d you know?”
Jamie shrugged. “You’re too good to be anyone else.”
Scott grinned. “Thank you. You’re not a musician?”
“No. I used to date one.”
Scott wanted to ask,
Male or female?
“No. At Berkeley.” Jamie didn’t seem to want to pursue that topic. “You’re not a California native. I can tell from your accent.”
“Philadelphia, originally. You?”
They chatted for a few more minutes, stuffing their faces, then Scott checked his watch. “I’ve got to get back. But, listen - can I have your number?” Might as well take the plunge. “I’d like to see you again.”
Jamie hesitated for a second, then said, “Sure.” He recited the number.
Scott entered the number into his phone. “Thanks.” They went inside, back through the kitchen; right before they exited, Scott pointed his phone at Jamie. “I
Jamie smiled, but his eyes showed skepticism. “I’d like that.”
Scott walked back to his seat and lifted his cello out of its case. He knew that Jamie didn’t expect to hear from him again.
Jamie was in for a surprise.
Saturday, June 6, 2015
It was a beautiful day for an outdoor wedding – sunny, clear and warm, with a light breeze. Pete’s invitation had read, “Dr. Ferguson and guest;” I was the guest. I didn’t know the couple at all.
Pete eyed me with admiration as I emerged from the bathroom and buttoned my cuffs. “Those pants make your ass look great.”
I laughed. “Down, boy. Or we’ll be late to the wedding.”
Pete grinned. “Yeah, yeah. But just wait until we get home.”
One half of the happy couple was a friendly acquaintance of Pete’s. Kent Fisher and Pete had been in the same cohort through their Ph.D. program in psychology at UCLA. After graduation, they’d gone in different directions. Pete had chosen to teach and was now a tenured Associate Professor at Santa Monica College. Kent had gone into private practice, treating the anorexic offspring of Hollywood elite. His partner, Graham Kirtley, was a wildly successful divorce attorney. Hence the Holmby Hills address on the invitation.
Pete had been surprised to be invited but figured that Kent must have asked everyone he knew, no matter how peripherally. We’d debated whether or not to attend but decided that it would likely be entertaining. And the invitation had said, “No gifts.” And Pete had promised that the food would be excellent - not trendy appetizers but a real multi-course sit-down dinner.
I wrinkled my nose, thinking of the last fancy catered party I’d been to several years ago - an AIDS Project Los Angeles benefit that Mel had dragged me to when Ali had gotten sick at the last minute. The food had consisted mostly of small rice cakes with tiny shrimp on a bed of seaweed. Nasty. Then I laughed to myself, remembering - I’d met Scott at that party. We’d raided the kitchen for cheese and crackers.
I stood beside Pete, in front of the full-length mirror on the bathroom door. We looked good together, if I did say so myself. If you looked in the dictionary under “tall, dark and handsome,” there was Pete’s picture. I’d only ever been described as “cute” by anyone but Pete, but in this suit I might qualify for an upgrade.
Pete grinned at me as he tied his tie. “I’m serious. You look hot in that suit.”
“It’s all in the tailoring.”
“Not all of it.” Pete finished his own tie and took over mine, which was refusing to cooperate. He deftly wrestled it into a knot and pushed my hair back off my forehead. “Your hair’s getting long.”
“Yeah. I’ll get it cut before the wedding.”
“Hmm.” Pete dropped a kiss on the end of my nose. “Ready?”
“Yep. Got the invitation?”
“It’s with my keys.” We went downstairs; Pete picked up his keys and handed me the invitation. “Let’s go.”
“I hate weddings.”
Scott Deering glared at himself in the mirror and yanked the knot out of the uncooperative bow tie. For the fourth time. He didn't usually play with this particular quartet, but he was filling in for a friend today. And regretting it very much.
fucking owes me.”
“You hate weddings, but you like the money.” Scott's boyfriend, Brent, was sprawled across the bed, flipping through GQ. He glanced up as Scott made yet another futile attempt at getting the bow tie under control. “Do you want me to help you with that?”
Scott growled. “I guess you'd better, or I'll be late.”
Brent crawled off the bed and stood behind Scott, expertly manipulating the tie into a perfect bow. “Sure you don't want me to come?”
Scott flicked a glance at Brent, who was studiously avoiding his gaze. Scott sighed inwardly. “Yes, I’m sure. We won’t get a break, so you'd be on your own.”
And bitching about it for the rest of the weekend. And the week to come.
“Isn't it against union rules to not get a break?”
“Yeah, but the rest of the players aren't union. And they're paying me enough so I can sit still and play trite classics for four hours. You'd be miserable.”
“Trite classics, huh? And how is it that the rest of the quartet isn't union?”
“They're college kids. Wiley is the only pro in the group. And the play list is the lamest I've ever seen for a wedding.”
Brent sneered. “Well. Having a lot of money doesn't mean you have a lot of taste.”
“Damn straight.” Scott picked the garment bag holding his tux jacket off the back of the chair in the bedroom and went to the living room. His cello was already in its case, packed and ready. Scott picked up the cello and went back to the bedroom, where Brent was once again lounging on the bed. “Would you bring my garment bag to the car for me?”
Scott figured he’d get attitude, and Brent didn’t disappoint. He rolled his eyes dramatically and sighed deeply. “I guess. I have to put shoes on.”
“Well, then, put them on, please.” A headache was forming between Scott’s eyes. He really needed to break up with Brent. He was whiny, needy, lazy, and full of attitude. Being cute and a good fuck was enough early in the relationship, but life wasn’t entirely about fucking. Much as Scott would have liked it that way.
Brent trailed out of the apartment into the hallway and punched the elevator button as Scott maneuvered the cello case to the elevator door. The doors slid open and the men entered. Brent punched the button for the basement parking garage. “What are the grooms walking in to?”
“Take a guess.”
“Yep. And the groomsmen are coming in to Jesu Joy.”
The elevator doors opened, and Scott walked across the garage to his parking spot. He clicked the locks open and raised the hatch on his Mercedes SUV. He didn't care about driving a Mercedes; he'd bought the car for his cello, not for himself. The cello was worth a hell of a lot more than he was. It needed a smooth ride.
Scott slid the cello case into the rear compartment and strapped it down as Brent hooked his garment bag on the hanger behind the driver's seat. Scott closed the hatch and came around to the side of the car. “Thanks. I'll be home...” He looked at his watch. “...by 8:00. I’m not staying a minute longer than I’m being paid for. You can go ahead and get dinner if you don't want to wait.”
“I'll wait. I'll graze so I won't be starving. Then we can go to Mame.”
“That sounds good. I’ll text you when I leave.” Scott slid into the driver's seat and started the car.
Brent leaned in and Scott gritted his teeth for what was coming. “Play pretty.”
Scott clenched the steering wheel. Surely it would be justifiable homicide if he killed Brent the next time he said “Play pretty...”
But he didn’t have time to clean up after a murder today. “Thanks.”
Brent closed the door and waved. Scott backed out and pointed the car towards Holmby Hills.
Scott played in a string quartet on a regular basis, but all of the members of his quartet were, like him, members of the LA Philharmonic. They played weddings occasionally, but they charged a fortune and had a list of music that they would not play. The Venusta String Quartet was the finest in Southern California; they could get away with behavior like that. As a result, they weren’t booked for many weddings. Most of their gigs were museum and gallery openings and charitable events at rich people's houses. Actors, producers, entertainment lawyers, plastic surgeons, and other people who had more money than they could spend liked to spend it on Venusta. And that was fine with Scott.
But today’s gig was a last-minute favor to a friend. Wiley didn't play with the Philharmonic. He taught strings at Pasadena City College. Wiley had been good enough at one time to have a shot at the Philharmonic, but he'd decided to take the path of least resistance. Very like Wiley. He'd put together a string quartet at the college a couple of years ago, with a constantly rotating cast of violins and violas and himself as the anchor on cello. Two days ago, Wiley had called Scott pleading for help. His mother-in-law was sick in Portland, and he had to go; could Scott fill in for him at this wedding?
Scott could have said no, but he had a soft spot for Wiley. Wiley was like a Labrador Retriever: bouncy, lovable, and cute - although 100% straight. So Scott had agreed, but only if Wiley's regular fee was bumped up considerably, with half up front. Scott didn't know how but Wiley had arranged that, and Scott had deposited the first check yesterday.
Scott pulled up to the gates of the estate where the happy couple lived and was tying the knot. He presented his invitation to the guard - armed, Scott noticed - who opened the gate and waved him through. The drive curved through a stand of trees then opened to the front lawn. He was stopped again by another guard who pointed him to a parking area to the right. There were a lot of other cars in a lot closer to the house; the catering vans were in the lot that Scott was directed to. This was the lot for the hired hands, obviously. Scott got his cello and jacket out of the car and eyed the hike up the hill to the house.
Wiley was seriously going to owe him.
He was directed by a third guard into the front door of the house and straight down the main hallway to the back doors, which were open to the pool. On the other side of the pool was a pool house; beyond that was the area where the wedding was actually going to take place. The grooms were using the pool house as their staging area. The seats for the guests were set up in three sections, with two aisles, so both grooms could walk down an aisle at the same time.
Surrounding the wedding area was a swarm of enormous white tents, where dinner would be served after the wedding. Scott wouldn’t get to eat. The quartet was hired to play through dinner. The seats for the musicians were set up at the far left corner of the wedding area, at the end of the last tent, several feet from the platform and arch on which he supposed the vows would be taken. People on the far side of the lawn wouldn’t be able to hear the music very well, but that wasn’t Scott’s problem. He was heading for the seats when he was intercepted by the wedding planner. “Mr. Wiley?”
Scott sighed. He thought they’d gotten this straight at the rehearsal last night. “No, Mr. Deering. I’m substituting for Mr. Wiley.”
“Oh, right, right.” The wedding planner looked harassed and made a check on his clipboard. To be fair, Scott didn’t remember his name either. “There’s one more musician to come. I’ll check back with you when she gets here.” He scurried off.
Scott said, “Right,” to the wedding planner’s retreating back. He went to his seat and greeted the two young musicians that were already there. “Hi, kids.”
The first violinist was a heavyset young woman named Stacy, who played beautifully. Much better than you’d expect from a community college student. The violist, Brian, was a pretty good player but not in the same league as Stacy. The second violinist, whose name Scott didn’t remember, was the one who was still missing. She was a fair player at best. Plus, there seemed to be some enmity between her and Brian. Scott didn’t know why Wiley had let her into the quartet. Maybe it was a subpar year for violinists at PCC.
Stacy smiled. “Hi, Mr. Deering.” Brian just nodded at him.
“Where’s our fourth?”
Brian shrugged. “She’s always last-minute.”
Scott checked his watch. There were still five minutes before their official call time. “Okay.” He started unpacking his case.
At two minutes after the call time, the second violinist appeared, flushed and out of breath. “Sorry. Traffic was bad.”
Brian snorted. Scott, hoping to forestall any argument, said, “Get ready. We start playing in 13 minutes.”
The girl shot him a pissy look, but she got ready.