Read Played to Death Online

Authors: Meg Perry

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Literature & Fiction, #Fiction, #Gay, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Genre Fiction, #Lgbt, #Gay Fiction

Played to Death (6 page)

BOOK: Played to Death
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When Scott woke up Monday he panicked momentarily, thinking he must have overslept - then relaxed when he realized he was on summer vacation. The Philharmonic was off from Memorial Day through mid-July, when rehearsals resumed. Usually during the summer Scott would attend a festival, but this year he’d decided not to. He was going to attend a week of master classes, led by the principal cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, in San Francisco during the first week of July. Until then, for the rest of June, he was going to catch up on his reading and enjoy being single.

He was playing - even when the Philharmonic was on break, he played three hours a day - when, from a distance, he heard his phone ring. He never let a phone call disturb his playing, so he’d left the phone in the kitchen. When he finished the piece, he went downstairs and listened to the message.

His stomach fell when he heard the voice. It was Jamie.

“Hey, Scott, it’s Jamie. Sorry to hear you’ve gotten tangled up in that wedding murder. But I’m calling about something different. There’s been a theft from our music library, and you might be able to give me some background information that would help.” A wry-sounding laugh. “I figure you’d rather talk to me than the police, although I’m not sure about that… Anyway, if you could stop by my office this afternoon, that’d be best, but if you can’t you can call me.” He recited a number. “That’s my office number. I’ll be here from three until six. Thanks.”

Scott checked his watch. If he went to see Jamie around four, it might be easier to find a parking space.

Having resigned himself to the prospect of having to see Jamie, he climbed back into the loft, picked up his bow and resumed playing.



Scott didn’t call back, and I wasn’t sure he’d show up. If I didn’t hear anything by the end of the day, I’d sic Aguilar on him.

But at 4:15, Lance Scudieri called from circulation, speaking formally for the benefit of the visitor. “Dr. Brodie, there’s a gentleman named Scott Deering to see you.”

“Thanks, Lance, I’m expecting him. Send him up.”

A minute later Scott appeared in my doorway. “Hi.”

I stood up. “Come on in.”

Scott walked into my office and looked around. “You redecorated. It suits you.”

“Thank you.” It did suit me. Because I hadn't gotten a new office during the renovation, the library administration had allowed me to redecorate the concrete-block cell that I lived in. I'd painted the walls a soothing color, sort of a light moss green, and lined the walls to my right and left with bookshelves made of 1x6 boards stained a warm dark brown. Most of the shelves were jammed with books, but the top shelf was at eye level and contained photos and memorabilia.

Scott went to the shelves and examined one of the photos of Pete and me, taken up at Eagle Rock during a hike. It was one of my favorite pictures of the two of us. “This is your partner? The guy I met at the wedding?”

“Yeah. Pete Ferguson.”

“How long have you been together?”

“Three years. We started dating pretty soon after you broke up with me.”

“Hm.” Scott examined the rest of the pictures. “Is this a recent one of your dad?”

“Yeah. That's his girlfriend.”

“He has a girlfriend now?”

“It’s a casual thing.”

“He looks great. Hasn't changed a bit.”

“It's only been three years.”

“True.” Scott took down a picture of my nephews Colin and Gabe from earlier in the year. “These are Jeff's kids?”

“Yeah. They've changed some, huh?”

“Kids will do that.” He replaced the photo and turned to face me. “Listen, before we talk about this music thing, I want to apologize to you.”

I asked, although I knew the answer. “For what?”

“For breaking up with you the way I did. That was a dick move.” Scott bit his lip. “I was going to talk to you about it at dinner that night. Then when you ended up in the hospital, I just…”

I said, “You needed to get it over with.”

“Yeah. And I convinced myself that it would be better for you to get it over with too.” He shook his head. “I am so sorry. I should have waited. I should have -”

I held up my hand. “It was a long time ago. And it left me free to start dating Pete when he asked me out, so it’s worked out for me. Apology accepted.”

Scott slumped in his chair a little, picking at a thread on a shirt button - his tell for embarrassment. “I never wanted to be that kind of person.”

“You’d never do that again, would you?”

He looked up, surprised. “

“Then you’re not that kind of person anymore.” I gave him a wry smile. “Are you seeing anyone now?”

“I just broke up with the latest. It was no great loss.”

“Who was he?”

“Brent Fogerty. Worked in the men’s department at Neiman-Marcus. I met him when he sold me a suit.”


Scott shrugged. “I've dated four different guys since I broke up with you. I think I'm taking a sabbatical.”

“That might be a good idea. Clear your head, think about what you're really looking for.”

Scott drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair for a minute, another gesture I recognized, then waved his hand in dismissal. “Anyway. I can’t imagine what I can help you with, but you’re right, I’d rather talk to you than the cops.”

“Okay, here’s the story. There’s been a theft of a score from our music library. The UCLA police and LAPD’s Art Theft unit are investigating, but the University Librarian has asked me to help from the inside. The score is a cello solo.”

Scott’s interest was piqued. “Which one?”

“The only cello solo by a composer named Jeremy Isaacson. Written in 1987.”

“I know that one. The
Adagio and Allegro
.” Scott gave me a pointed look. “Isaacson died in 1989 of AIDS. He was 38.”

. Was he a cellist?”

“He was. Not a particularly renowned one. His forte was composition. He wrote several other pieces, for cello and piano and for string ensembles.”

“Our music library director estimated the value of the piece at $1,500.”

“If it’s the original, that’s probably true. Don’t they lock stuff like that up?”

“That surprised me too. Why would anyone steal it, though?”

Scott shook his head thoughtfully. “I don’t know. Unless there’s a collector out there.”

“A collector?”

“Yeah. People collect original music scores like they do old books. Serious collectors usually limit themselves to a particular composer, genre, or period. There may be someone out there who collects Isaacson and didn’t have this piece.”

“Would there be any reason for a cellist to want the piece to play from?”

“No. If all you want to do is play it, you don’t want a valuable copy because you’re going to write on it. Make notes to yourself.”

“Is it possible to find out if there’s a collector out there? Are there, like - chat rooms or online groups for collectors?”

Scott shrugged. “I suppose. There are online groups for everything, aren’t there? That’s more your area than mine.”

“Yeah.” I had some research to do. “Could you ask around to your Philharmonic pals? See if anyone knows of an Isaacson collector?”

“We’re on break for the next five weeks. I won’t see anyone for a while.”

“Oh. That’s right.” I grinned. “We’ll leave that to the cops, then.”

Scott said, “Besides, if the collector is a cellist and stole the piece, they’re hardly likely to tell me about it, are they?”

“No. They won’t tell the police either, but at least the cops have a better idea of when someone is lying to them.”


I walked Scott out of the library into the sunshine and said, “Thanks. I appreciate the help.”

Scott said, “I have to admit, this is interesting. Will you let me know what the cops find out? Um - you can text me or something.”

I grinned. Scott’s curiosity had overcome his hesitation to maintain contact. “Sure, I’ll let you know.”



As Scott walked away from the library, he blew out a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding.

That didn’t go so badly.

His phone rang as he reached his car, and he glanced at it.
. Scott sighed and answered. “Hi, Wiley.”

“Scott. My God.” Wiley’s voice was subdued. “I can’t believe what happened to Elena.”

“No shit. I had to identify her body.”

Wiley sucked in a breath. “I am so sorry.”

“It’s not your fault. There’s nothing you could have done.”

“Have you talked to the police?”

Wiley said, “Of course. A couple of times.”

“Do they have any ideas about what might have happened?”

Scott snorted. “If they do, they haven’t shared them with me. I know one of the detectives on the case, though. Used to date his brother. He’ll find the killer.”

“Which one?”

“Detective Brodie. The bigger, blonder one.”

“Oh. The other one did most of the talking.”

“You were interviewed in person? You’re back from Portland already?”

“Yeah, late last night. My wife is staying for a few more days. The cops came to see me this morning.” Wiley sighed. “I need to see Elena’s parents - to apologize - but I don’t… What if they blame me?”

“Wiley, how could they blame you? You were hundreds of miles away.”

“I know, I know. But I’m the one who put her on the quartet. If she hadn’t been there…”

Scott sighed. He felt bad for Wiley, but the guy was wallowing. Scott didn’t have much patience for wallowing. “If she hadn’t been there, she would have been killed someplace else. Whoever did this was after Elena for some reason, not a random violinist. It’s not your fault, Wiley.”

Wiley took a deep shuddering breath. “I know, you’re right. Listen - Elena’s memorial service is Thursday afternoon. Would you come to it? With me?”

Scott couldn’t think of anything he’d rather do less than attend a funeral for a teenager. “Why? I barely knew the girl.”

“But you were
. You’re one of the last people to see her alive. And - I have to go, and I don’t want to face that alone.”

“What about someone else from the college? Or your wife?”

“The college will send a representative but not anyone who really knew her. And my wife will still be in Portland. Please, Scott? As a favor to me?”

Scott tried to think of an excuse and couldn’t.
. “Okay, fine. But you owe me. Again.”

“I know, and I’ll make it up to you. I promise.” Wiley sounded pathetically grateful.

Scott got the address for the church and said goodbye. He put his keys in the ignition but sat there for a minute, shaking his head.

He really needed to learn how to say
to Wiley.



Over dinner, I filled Pete in on the theft and my conversation with Scott. Pete said, “How hard is it to steal something from the library?”

“Not as hard as it should be. We have security gates that are supposed to sound an alarm when an item is removed without being checked out. But they don’t always work like they’re supposed to. I’ve also known cases where someone removed the pages with the barcodes on them and walked out with the book.”

“What about a rare piece of music like that? Shouldn’t it have been better secured?”

“It should. I’m going to the music library tomorrow to see what their setup is. I’d think a piece like that would at least be in the reference section, not the circulating collection.”

“I remember when we went to your Special Collections area to look at the copy of the
Book of Kells
. It was like getting screened at the airport.”

“Yeah. The things that are in there are truly rare and highly valuable. It’s nearly impossible to steal something.”

Pete said, “It makes me think it might be an inside job.”

“That’s what Detective Aguilar suspects.”

“Who’s this guy you know that works there?”

“Mark Gladwell. He was in my class in library school, but I haven’t seen him much since then.”

Pete tapped on my plate with his fork. “Be careful. If it was an inside job, and someone’s feeling jumpy, they may react badly to someone asking questions.”


Tuesday, June 9


When I got to work the next morning, I dealt with the immediate issues in my email then told Liz and Olga that I was going to the music library. I took a folder so it would look like I was on official business and went to track down Mark Gladwell.

On the way over, I considered whether or not I could trust Mark. I thought I could. He had to know about the theft and that the cops had been asking questions. He may have already been questioned. I wasn’t sure my visit would do any good, but at least it would familiarize me with the security system in the music library.

The library was on the first floor of the Schoenberg Building, right inside the main entrance. When I went through the library doors, I could feel the tension in the air. The student at the front desk scowled at me. “Can I help you?”

Good thing I wasn’t a “secret shopper” testing this girl on her customer service skills. I showed her my BruinCard, on its lanyard around my neck. “I’m Jamie Brodie from YRL. I’m here to see Mark Gladwell.”

“Fine.” She jerked her thumb over her shoulder. “First door in the back right corner.”

I went to the door she indicated and stuck my head in. “Mark?”

He looked up and smiled widely. “Jamie! What brings you here?”

“Do you have a minute?”

“Absolutely. Come in.”

I went in and closed the door behind me. “How have you been?”

His smile faded a bit when I closed the door. “Fine. Busy. How about you?”

“The same.” I smiled at him, hoping to put him at ease. “I’m here about the theft.”

“Oh.” Mark’s face cleared, then he looked puzzled. “What does it have to do with you? The police have already been here. Twice.”

“I know. I’ve - um - helped the cops out a couple of times, and they asked me if I’d do a little ear-to-the-ground investigating for them.”

“Ah.” Mark leaned back and grinned. “The insider’s perspective. I got the distinct impression from the LAPD cop that she thought it was an inside job.”

“So did I. Do you think it could be?”

He shook his head emphatically. “No. Not counting the work-study students, there are only five of us in this library. We all know each other well. I’d be shocked if anyone here was involved. Besides - if one of us was going to take something, it would be worth taking.”

“More valuable.”

“Right. That missing piece is pretty rare, but the composer is obscure, and it’s only 28 years old.”

I asked, “The value would go up in time, wouldn’t it?”

“It might, but not much. The composer was young when he died. He’s never going to be famous.”

“I was talking to a friend of mine who’s a cellist with the Philharmonic, and he said there might be a collector who’s interested in that particular composer.”

Mark nodded. “Yes. That’s what I told the police. If a collector wanted a complete set of the composer’s work, for his or her own reasons, they wouldn’t care if it wasn’t that valuable on the open market. It’s valuable to

“Right. Do you know anyone like that?”

“No. The only collectors I know of are the ones who leave their collections to us when they die.”

I laughed. “Is that how you all came to own this piece?”

“I’m not sure. Do you want me to find out?”

“Nah. I’m sure the cops have asked that question.” I’d check with Aguilar. “Are your scores tagged?”

“Yes, on the cover. And this one was in the reference collection, not circulation.”

“Do you allow reference materials into other parts of the building?”

“Only to faculty, and we keep their BruinCard until they bring it back. That wasn’t the case here.”

“Are people from the community allowed to use the reference collection?”

“They are.” Mark’s face clouded. “I hope that doesn’t change because of this.”

“It might have been one of our own students.”

“I hate to think that. But it’s probably true. Or, if it was someone from the outside, they had a student’s help.”

“Why do you think that?”

Mark said, “The only way to defeat the security gate is to carry something out holding it over your head. Out of the reach of the scanner. The only way that could go unnoticed is if the person at circ was distracted.”

“Hm. Or maybe the person just waited until a natural distraction happened, then went. Do you all get pretty busy?”

“Yeah. There can be two or three people waiting at circ sometimes.”

I couldn’t think of anything else to ask. “Mark, I really appreciate your help. If you hear anything that you think might be useful, will you let me know?”

“Sure. Will you do me a favor?”

“Of course.”

“Try to convince the cops that it wasn’t an inside job.”

“I’ll see what I can do. Oh - you all have security cameras, right?”

“Yeah. The cops are supposedly checking the recordings for unusual activity.”

“Great. Thanks again, Mark.”

“You’re welcome.” He grinned at me. “Don’t be a stranger.”


After my reference shift, I went back to my office and called Aguilar. She answered promptly. “Jamie, I’m on campus. Can I come to your office in about thirty minutes?”


Aguilar showed up right on time and knocked on my door frame. I stood. “Come in, Detective.”

“Please, call me Donna. How’s it going on your end?”

I told her everything I’d learned from Scott and Mark. “Did you ask the music library how they’d come to own the piece?”

“I did. They said the composer’s family had donated it. Does that happen often?”

“It does.”

Donna looked around my office. “What’s your doctorate in?”

“History. Do you have a degree in art?”

“Art education. I taught for three years and decided it wasn’t for me. I had cops in the family, so…” She spread her hands.

“You must have one of the most interesting gigs in LAPD.”

She grinned. “I like it. Anyway, I talked to the cello instructor here. He also suggested that the thief might have been a collector.”

I said, “Surely a collector wouldn’t have stolen the score himself. Or herself.”

“No, you wouldn’t think so. But anything’s possible at this point.” She rubbed her neck. “I’ve just come from watching several hours of security footage from the camera that shows the music library entrance. So far no one’s walked out holding anything over their heads. But there are several more hours to see.”

“That’s tedious.”

She smiled tiredly. “You must know from your brother, a lot of police work is tedious.”

“Are you going to contact local cellists? See if any of them know of an Isaacson collector?”

“The ones I can find. I understand the Philharmonic is on break.”

“They are, until mid-July. Some of them might be around, though.”

“Like your friend.”

“And there are other cello and strings instructors at other colleges in town.”

“Right. I’ve got someone working on a list.” She stood. “Thanks for your help. Let me know if you come across anything else.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

BOOK: Played to Death
8.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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