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Authors: Dorien Grey

Tags: #Mystery

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BOOK: The Role Players
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Chris, who had reentered the room with a fresh pot of coffee, grinned. “Well, let's just say it isn't a musical. But it's a pretty powerful show.”


Max had to be at rehearsal by seven o'clock, so we agreed to a very early dinner at a gay restaurant just down the block from the theater, which was itself within walking distance of the apartment. It was a nice, comfortable place that reminded me vaguely of our favorite restaurant, Napoleon, back home. But, of course, the fact that this was
back home lent it an air of mystery and intrigue. The food was excellent, although the portions were a little small for Jonathan's appetite, though he didn't say so. Max had to leave before dessert, but insisted we stay. When the waiter arrived with the dessert tray, Jonathan couldn't decide between the Bavarian Torte and the cherry cheesecake, so I told him to order one and I'd order the other. Chris opted for the French Apple pie. I made sure I only took a couple of bites of mine…it was delicious, but I was in one of my noble moods…before insisting I was full and that Jonathan finish it for me.

“You're sure?” he asked, politely, but reaching for the plate even as he spoke.

Chris looked at me quickly and grinned, but didn't say anything.


After dinner, Chris took us on a walking tour of the Village. We passed the theater, which, though it had no formal marquee, wasn't hard to miss: the entire front of the building was painted a bright purple and a large painted sign stretching across the width of the front of the building said simply, The Whitman Theater Group. Flanking the glass double entry doors were large posters announcing “
Impartial Observer
, a new play by Gene Morrison.” Jonathan immediately spotted and pointed to the smaller-font credits, which included: “Set Design by Chris Wolff.” He turned to Chris, beaming.

“You're famous!” he decreed. “This is terrific! You must be really proud!”

Chris shrugged and gave him a small smile. “Well, let's wait until you see the play before jumping to any conclusions.”

The small lobby behind the glass doors was dark, lit only dimly by a light behind the ticket window. There was no evidence of the rehearsal going on inside. Chris moved on, and I had to grab Jonathan's arm to pull him away from the poster.

“Isn't this great?” Jonathan said to me in a stage whisper.

I grinned at him. “Yeah,” I said, “it is.” And we hurried to catch up with Chris.

I'd been to the Village a couple of times before, but it was really nice to be with a native, as Chris now considered himself to be. He pointed out the homes of several famous people—writers and actors and artists, and both Jonathan and I were duly impressed, though Jonathan didn't even bother to hide it. He insisted we'd have to remember every location and come back in the daylight so he could take pictures to show the gang back home.

We did a casual walk-through of Washington Square, which I guess I'd forgotten was not wall-to-wall gay, though it wasn't hard to spot a goodly number of fellow travelers.

We stopped at a couple of bars along the way and, all in all, had one great time.

“This play thing must really take up a lot of your and Max's time,” Jonathan said as we sat in one of the bars. He picked the cherry out of my Manhattan and tapped it on his napkin to eliminate any trace of alcohol, then dangled it by its stem like a goldfish by its tail and lowered it into his mouth, putting the stem carefully on the napkin.

Chris sighed. “Yeah, it turned out that way. Not so much my time, now that the sets are done, but for Max. He has to be there for every single rehearsal and that cuts way into the time we have for our regular life. He was single when he did it before, and it's been awhile so I think he'd forgotten how much time it would take. We've talked about it, and I think maybe this will be the last time he'll do stage-managing for a while.”

“How did you like set designing?” I asked.

“A piece of cake, actually. I partnered with the costume designer, too, since the set and costumes are so closely related. The set didn't require all that much design; the whole set is black. Just black. The only props are chairs…plain wood-backed chairs painted medium grey, a medium-grey table, and a large light fixture…basically just a cube suspended by one corner, hanging down from center stage. All the costumes are in shades of brown, grey, and white. The hardest thing for me was the backdrops for the hydraulic platform…” he paused and grinned. “Well, you'll see it for yourselves. Just be ready to use a lot of your own imagination.”

Jonathan, who had been taking it all in, wide-eyed, said, “It sounds great! I can't wait to see it.”

“You can come to rehearsal Monday night, if you'd like. Tuesday you've got tickets for
,” he said casually, glancing at Jonathan for his reaction.

Jonathan asked, as if he thought Chris was just teasing him. “I thought they were sold out for years! That's fantastic! We're really going to go?” he said, looking at me for confirmation. Then his expression changed to mild concern. “What did you mean,
? Aren't you and Max coming with us?”

Chris gave him a slightly embarrassed smile. “We saw it just before rehearsals started. I didn't mention it because I knew you wanted to see it. And we'd had the tickets ordered even before we came out to visit you.”

“But then how…” Jonathan began, but Chris stepped in with the answer before Jonathan had finished the question.

“Tait Duncan, who pretty much
The Whitman Theater Group, pulled a few strings for Max when we knew for sure you were coming. You'll be sitting close enough to the stage that you can almost reach out and pull the characters' tails…and there are a couple guys in the cast whose tails I'd
to pull!” He grinned, then looking at me, quickly added, “If I wasn't a happily married man.”

Uh huh.


We returned to the apartment a little after ten o'clock and were sitting in the living room talking when Max came in around 10:30. With a nod to Jonathan and me, he walked directly over to Chris and bent over to give him a peck on the forehead.

“Rough one?” Chris asked as Max stood up and, placing his hands on his hips, did a backstretch.

“What's happening to me?” he asked. “I used to be a kid!”

I moved closer to Jonathan to allow Max to join us on the couch, onto which he plopped down heavily. He turned to Jonathan with a weak grin. “Enjoy it while ya got it, kid,” he said. Then, looking at Chris, he added, “Does that answer your question?”

Chris nodded. “Yep.”

Max sighed. “We did a complete run-through with Cam—he's Rod's understudy—for the first time.”

“Problems, I gather?” I asked.

Giving me the same weak smile he'd given Jonathan, Max said, “Can we say ‘train wreck,' boys and girls? It's a small cast, and all the actors play two or three roles. When Cam stepped in to Rod's part, that meant we had to get someone to take
parts, and…well there was one hell of a lot of shifting around. So as a result everyone was about a quarter octave off pitch…or would have been if this were a musical, but you get the idea. I have to give Cam credit, though; he knew every single one of Rod's lines by heart. And Gene was there, like Banquo's ghost, pacing back and forth behind the last row and not saying a word, which made everyone awkward as all hell, not knowing what to say to the guy, or if they should say anything at all. Tait went back and asked him why he didn't just go home and get some rest, but Gene insisted that he just wanted to be there.”

He sighed again, heavily. “Well, hopefully Monday will go better. It couldn't get much worse and we open next Friday.” Turning to me, he said casually, “Oh, and Tait has invited us all over to his place tomorrow for lunch. He wants to meet you and Jonathan.”

one of my mind-voices—the one in charge of skepticism—observed,
I can't possibly imagine why.

“That was nice of him,” I said. “Especially considering everything he's going through.”

Jonathan nodded in agreement.

Given the expression on Chris's face, I gathered this invitation had not been of a long-standing duration.

“Does Mr. Duncan know what I do for a living?” I asked.

Max looked surprised. “Uh, yeah, I'm sure I mentioned it at some point. Shouldn't I have?”

I grinned. “No, that's fine. I was just wondering if there might be any sort of connection between the invitation and the fact that his leading man just turned up dead.”

Max furrowed his brow and shook his head. “Jeez, I don't
so. The police are on it. Nobody's heard anything more from them that I know. Tait seems to think that since Rod was found about a block from a sleazy bar in a rough neighborhood, they're turning their focus there. Apparently, there've been a couple murders associated with the bar in recent months. Anyway, I don't specifically remember mentioning you were a P.I., though of course both Chris and I have talked about your visit several times, and Tait did pull a few strings to get the
tickets. But that was some time before Rod got himself killed.”

Jonathan laid his hand on my knee. “Don't mind Dick's paranoia.” He smiled at me, then said, “You and Mr. Duncan must be pretty good friends.”

Max and Chris exchanged a quick glance. There was a moment of silence, then Chris said, “Uh, well, our relationship is a lot more professional than personal. Tait travels with a pretty wealthy crowd. I've only been over there once before, for a cocktail party right after the play was cast, but…” He looked to Max, apparently not sure where he was going with his thought.

Max stepped in. “Hey, I can call Tait in the morning and tell him we can't make it. This is your vacation, after all, and I can tell him you'd already made plans for the day.”

“No, no,” I said, putting my hand over Jonathan's. “After his having gone out of his way to help get us tickets for
it would be pretty rude to ignore his invitation. Jonathan's right; I'm just being paranoid. I sometimes have difficulty remembering that the world doesn't revolve around finding ways to drag me into things that aren't any of my business.”

Chris grinned. “I kept telling you that for five years. But you never listened.”

“Wise ass!” Max and I both said at the same time.

Jonathan looked from Max to me, and back again. “Are you
you two aren't twins separated at birth?”

Max gave Chris an embarrassed glance, then said, “I suspect one of the reasons he's having us over is because the director has called a rehearsal for tomorrow at two o'clock. Tait knows how much we've been looking forward to your visit, and this is his way of making up for my not being able to be with you for most of the day.” He looked at Chris. “Sorry, Babe, I should have told you as soon as I got home.”

Chris merely shrugged. “We'll manage. Any idea when you might be home?”

“By seven, I'm sure. Plenty of time to make it to dinner.”

A clock somewhere down the hallway softly chimed eleven o'clock, and Max stifled a yawn, then quickly looked embarrassed. “Sorry.”

“No problem,” I said. “You've had a long day. I'm about ready to hit the sack, too.” I glanced at Jonathan, who I could tell was still operating on pure adrenaline. He started to say something, but I squeezed his hand. “The sooner we get to sleep, the sooner tomorrow will come,” I said as if he were a kid, and he grinned and shrugged.


We all got up, exchanged hugs all around, and Chris led us to our room. Max joined us only as far as their bedroom, where he gave us a small wave and disappeared into the room.

Chris did the “perfect host” routine, checking that we had everything we might need, moving furniture around so the bed would open, getting pillows and blankets, pointing again to the bathroom right across the hall. Satisfied that we'd survive the night, he gave us both another big hug, said, “Sleep well,” and left the room, closing the door behind him.


Jonathan, of course, was like a tree full of owls, but as I drifted off to sleep, my arm across his chest, I sensed him relaxing and assumed he was right behind me in falling asleep.

When I woke up, I was alone in bed. It was well after daylight and my watch, which I'd reset to Eastern Time, said it was 8:27. I got up, slipped on a pair of shorts, and opened my garment bag for my robe.

Going out into the hall, I could smell coffee, and heard voices from the living room. The door to Max and Chris's room was closed, but as I entered the living room I saw Chris and Jonathan side by side on the couch, a large stack of brochures and maps, and a copy of
The New York Times
spread out on the coffee table in front of them. Max was apparently still sleeping. They looked up as I came into the room.

“Hi, Dick!” Jonathan said, keeping his voice down. “Chris was just showing me some of the places to go and things to see in New York!”

“And you want to see them all,” I said, taking a chair on the other side of the coffee table.

He looked surprised. “Well, sure!” he said.

BOOK: The Role Players
3.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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