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Authors: Dorien Grey

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The Role Players

BOOK: The Role Players
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The Role Players














The Role Players: A Dick Hardesty Mystery

By Dorien Grey

Copyright 2016 by Gary Brown, Executor of the Roger Margason/Dorien Grey Estate

Cover Copyright 2016 by Untreed Reads Publishing

Cover Design by Ginny Glass

The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent.

Previously published in print, 2004.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher or author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a work of fiction. The characters, dialogue and events in this book are wholly fictional, and any resemblance to companies and actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Also by Dorien Grey and Untreed Reads Publishing

A World Ago: A Navy Man's Letters Home (1954–1956)

Short Circuits: A Life in Blogs (Volume 1)

The Butcher's Son

The Ninth Man

The Bar Watcher

The Hired Man

The Good Cop

The Bottle Ghosts

The Dirt Peddler

The Role Players

A Dick Hardesty Mystery

Dorien Grey

To those who know life is a dialogue, not a monologue


“All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players….” Shakespeare said that, of course, and you've got to admit the guy had a way with words. If you doubt him, just go to any bar on a Saturday night. As we go through life we all tend, consciously or not, to pick out some sort of role for ourselves as our way of dealing with the world—how well we play it varies from person to person.

I guess what Willie meant was that very few people, if any, are exactly who they appear to be on the outside; it doesn't take a private investigator to figure that one out. But maybe that's why people tend to be so fascinated with actors, who are people who are not who they seem to be pretending to be people who are not who
seem to be…well, it gets a tad confusing. How they can possibly keep track of who they're supposed to be at any given time is beyond me.

Being in the company of someone who is really or has aspirations to be an actor is interesting enough, but when you're surrounded by an entire theater troupe full of them, well, it's really hard to pick out exactly who really are The Role Players.


“Wow,” Jonathan said softly to himself for about the thirtieth time, as he took yet another photo of the huge mounds of whipped-cream clouds surrounding us. This was his first time on a commercial flight—and first time in an airplane, as a matter of fact—and he, whom I often think of as a sensory sponge, was taking it all in with his usual enthusiasm.

Though I could tell he was a little nervous on takeoff, he was trying very hard to appear cool. But when I reached over to hold his hand as the plane began moving down the runway, he grabbed it tightly and gave me a quick smile of thanks. This elicited a stern look of disapproval from the business-suit type sitting in the aisle seat next to me. I merely stared at him until he gave a small “harumph” and turned his eyes back to his copy of
Business Week
. Jonathan was totally unaware, concentrating on listening to the roar of the engines (not that he could have avoided it) and watching the terminal and hangars passing by with increasing speed until the whole front of the airplane rose up, pushing us slightly back into our seats and the ground dropped away beneath us. Jonathan watched, transfixed, as we climbed out over the city and the hills that circled it to the north.

Whenever I flew, I always asked for a window seat and felt cheated if I couldn't get one because, reluctant as I might be to admit it, I was always as fascinated with soaring through the sky as Jonathan was now. But this time I gladly deferred to Jonathan having the choice seat.

As always, I was secretly delighted by his ability to become so totally and unapologetically enthusiastic over things that pleased him. No halfway with Jonathan.

We were, in case you were wondering, on our way to New York (Jonathan insisted on adding “City” whenever he mentioned it, probably lest someone think we were planning a vacation in Poughkeepsie) to visit Chris, my long-time ex, and his partner Max. They'd come out to visit us a while before, and invited us to come see them in return. The actual dates had been left open.

And then we got a call from Chris telling us that Max, who worked for a brokerage firm on Wall Street by day, was going to be stage-managing a new play for a small but rather well-known predominantly gay theater group he'd occasionally worked with before he met Chris. The company's set designer had recently died of AIDS, and Max had agreed to do the stage-managing only if Chris could apply for the set designer's job. Since Chris was assistant to the head window designer for the flagship store of the Barton & Banks Department Store chain, he was asked to submit a few sketches and was hired. Chris's excitement reminded me very much of Jonathan's.

They'd insisted we come out for opening night and we could hardly refuse. Besides, I'd not had a real vacation in far, far too long, and Jonathan had never been to New York. While I was perhaps a little better able than Jonathan to control my enthusiasm, I was looking forward to it.

I'd been lucky enough to have been working almost steadily for the past month or so—nothing particularly exciting, but at least I was paid promptly and fully for what work I did, which was something of a rarity for me, given my penchant for getting involved in cases for which I was neither hired nor paid.

And Jonathan had completed a full year at Evergreens, the landscape nursery where he worked, and got a week's vacation with pay. He asked for and got a second week (no pay) to give us a little more flexibility in our length of stay. Chris and Max had timed their own vacations to include the week before the show's opening and the week after. Because I knew that things would be pretty hectic for them both right up to opening night, we originally had planned to go for just one week, arriving the day before the opening. But they urged us to come for the same two weeks of their time off. Max especially, as stage manager, would be busy with the show nearly every night. Chris would be largely free, since the sets would already have been completed before the final week of rehearsals, and Max invited us to sit in on rehearsals any time we wanted.

That cinched it for Jonathan, who of course needed very little cinching.

We arranged for our friends Tim and Phil to come over and feed Jonathan's fish and water the 14,000 plants he had salvaged from the trash bins at his work and lovingly nursed back to health.


The other shoe dropped the night before our flight. We'd called Chris to confirm that they'd meet us at LaGuardia when our plane got in. I could tell in his voice that something was wrong, and when I asked, he said that one of the play's two leading men had been found dead early that morning, apparently mugged and shot the night before while on his way home from the theater. The police were already beginning to question everyone who had been at the rehearsal the night before. Other than the natural shock of having someone you know murdered, it of course was a terrific blow for the entire show. The understudy could and would step in—there was, after all, a week of rehearsal time left before opening night—but the murdered man had been the production's single best-known actor, who'd had a minor career in Hollywood and did frequent guest appearances on TV. And to complicate things even further, he was also, apparently, the lover of the play's author.

Aside from the blow to the company's morale, it wasn't a direct problem for Chris since, again, the sets were already designed and up, but it put tremendous additional pressure on Max's responsibilities for riding herd on just about every detail of the production. A new leading man meant an entire new set of things to keep track of.

I of course asked if we should cancel our trip, but Chris was adamant—as, he insisted, was Max—that we come out as scheduled.

“We'll do our best not to let all this interfere with you guys' vacation,” Chris said. “And we've been waiting too long to see you as it is.”

I suggested that we could at least find our way into the city by ourselves, but again Chris insisted that they would be at the airport to meet us.

And so there we were, on an airplane beginning its descent for its final approach to New York's LaGuardia Airport where the temperature, the captain informed us over the intercom, was 78. We fastened our seatbelts and Jonathan watched intently as we descended below the clouds and over the sprawling city. When the engines changed pitch and the cabin shuddered briefly with the
of the lowering landing gears locking into place, Jonathan again reached for my hand. I glanced quickly at the business type on the other side of me, who had not said a single word during the entire flight other than to order three Bloody Marys from the flight attendant. He was studiously avoiding looking at us so I was not obliged to tell him to go fuck himself.

By looking past Jonathan, I could see the ground rushing up to meet us, followed by the gentle jolt of landing and the quick screech of the tires as they made contact with the runway, then the roar of the engines going into braking mode. And then relative quiet as the plane moved smoothly down the taxiway to the terminal.

As usual, despite the “Please remain seated until the captain has brought the plane to a complete stop” caution, several people began getting out of their seats to reach into the overhead bins for their belongings.

The minute the Remain Seated lights went out, the business type unbuckled his seatbelt, stood up to open the overhead, pulled out a large briefcase and, after a momentary pause to glare quickly at Jonathan and me, his lip curling into a slight sneer, he disappeared into the crowd heading toward the front of the plane and the exit.

Jonathan, too, was like a racehorse at the gate, his seatbelt undone and sitting forward and sideways in his seat, one hand on the seatback in front of him, eager to get up and get going. He was clearly impatient with me as I remained seated to allow those who apparently believed the plane was about to explode at any moment pushed and jostled their way to the front.

“They're going to think we missed the plane!” Jonathan said, plaintively.

I grinned at him. “I doubt it,” I said, and was treated to what I have come to think of as “The Martyr's Sigh.” He didn't use them often, but they were quite effective when he did.

“Okay, okay,” I said, getting up only to be hit in the ass with a large makeup kit being wielded by a lady who looked as though she desperately needed its contents.

No “excuse me,” just a quick scowl for my having dared to get in her way as she swept imperiously up the aisle.

Jonathan grinned. “Nice try,” he said.

Looking carefully behind me, I opened the overhead and took out Jonathan's book bag, which he'd crammed full of extra clothes that he couldn't squeeze into our two regular-sized bags.

We were indeed among the last to get off the plane, and as we left the causeway and entered the main part of the terminal, Jonathan grabbed my arm and said, “There they are!”

Sure enough, Chris and Max, grinning broadly, hurried up for an exchange of back-pat hugs, and—after a quick dash to a concession stand for film—photographs all around.

BOOK: The Role Players
7.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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