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Authors: Dorien Grey

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BOOK: The Role Players
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We got up from our chairs.

“If you have any questions, we can get together at rehearsal tomorrow. And I trust I can rely on you to keep our conversation between the two of us.”

I nodded.

“Good.” He picked up an envelope from one corner of his desk and handed it to me. “Your retainer,” he said.

I took it without opening it, thinking yet again that Tait Duncan was not only a man who knew what he wanted, but had no doubt that he would get it. He was really going out of his way, considering we still had nothing formally in writing yet. “Thanks,” I said, folding it and putting it into my shirt pocket.

We walked together out into the auditorium, Tait turning off the office light behind him. We left through the same exit door I'd used to get in, and Tait carefully moved away the small wedge of wood which apparently was used as a doorstop to enable cast and crew members to get in during rehearsals rather than using the main doors.

We shook hands and I watched him walk to the corner and disappear around a building. I looked at my watch and saw it was 10:35.
Damn! I missed them!
I thought, resigning myself to another 25 minutes' wait before they came by again.

Luckily—and undoubtedly thanks to Jonathan's tendency to want to stop every few steps to have a closer look at something—about two minutes later they appeared around the same corner as Tait had disappeared. Jonathan was carrying a large cloth shopping bag stenciled with New York City, and beamed when he saw me. Hurrying ahead of Max and Chris, he came over to give me a big one-armed hug.

“I'm sorry we're late,” he said, sounding sincere. “Were you waiting long?”

“Just a couple of minutes,” I replied as Max and Chris reached us. “How far did you get?”

Max grinned. “About two blocks. But, then, a lot of the stores were closed, it being Sunday.”

Jonathan opened his shopping bag like a kid trick-or-treating on Halloween. I glanced in but saw only several unidentifiable items wrapped in tissue paper.

“I got a New York coffee mug for my boss and a New York tee-shirt for Kyle, and New York key chains for the rest of the guys,” he announced happily.

I don't know what there is about that guy, but every now and then he says or does something that makes me melt. It was my turn to hug him, and I did. Tight. “That's great, Babe,” I said. “I'm sure they'll appreciate it.”

Max reached into his pocket for his keys, then walked to the Whitman's front entrance and opened it. “I figured we could leave his bag in my cubicle rather than having to risk carrying it all over town. Let me run it in. I'll be right back.”

Jonathan handed Max his bag, and I was a little surprised that Max hadn't asked us all in, especially since I knew how excited Jonathan was by the whole theater thing. Apparently my thoughts were reflected on my face: Jonathan grinned. “I told Max I'd rather wait until tomorrow to go in so we can take everything in at once.”

Well, that's a first.

Max came out, locked the door, and said, “Ready?”

“Sure,” I said. “For what?”

Chris grinned. “Well, we figured we should take Jonathan up to give him a closer look at Times Square. I told him not to expect too much; it's getting a little sleazy.”

“That's okay,” Jonathan said. “It's still Times Square!”

*

We took the Broadway bus past Times Square to 51st Street and got off almost directly in front of the Winter Garden Theater, where
Cats
was playing. Jonathan had been distracted (surprise) by something on the other side of the street and didn't notice the Winter Garden until we got off the bus. When he saw it, he stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes big as saucers, staring up at the marquee, mesmerized. I took him by the arm so he could look into the lobby and stare at the posters. I was glad he didn't have a tail, or he'd have batted us all silly wagging it. Max, Chris, and I finally started to walk away and got about twenty feet before Jonathan realized we were gone. He hurried over to us with a sheepish grin. “Sorry, guys.”

We walked back toward Times Square, Max and Chris pointing out the various theaters on the side streets as we passed.

Chris was right: there were a lot more “Girls! Girls! Girls!” and “Adult Entertainment!” places than I'd remembered; lots of panhandlers and not a few hustlers. But, as Jonathan said, it was still Times Square. Most of the stores and shops were open, and of course Jonathan wanted to go into a lot of them, but other than insisting on buying us all hot dogs (sauerkraut, mustard, catsup, relish, pickles, and onions) and sodas from a sidewalk pushcart, Jonathan was a model of fiscal restraint.

“You up for a little walk?” Max asked as we dropped our empty soda cans and napkins in an overflowing trash receptacle.

“Sure!” Jonathan said enthusiastically, wiping a spot of mustard from the corner of his mouth. “Where to?”

“How about Grand Central Station and then the Empire State Building?”

“Great!” Jonathan said. “Can we go to the top?”

“Eighty-sixth floor, at least,” Chris said.

We began walking down East 42nd toward Grand Central, Chris and Jonathan slightly ahead of Max and me.

I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to ask Max about some of the Whitman's cast and crew and their relationships, if any, with Rod Pearce.

“If you had to make a suspects list, does anyone at the Whitman stand out?” I asked as we paused once again for either Chris or Jonathan to point out something in a shop window.

Max shook his head. “No, I honestly can't. It's almost impossible to think that someone you actually know might be a killer.”

“Well, we're way ahead of ourselves on that one,” I said. “The odds are overwhelmingly against any of them having actually killed Rod, and all of this is just an exercise in reassurance for Tait. Though I do have a knack for getting to know murderers before I know they're murderers…if that makes any sense.”

Max nodded as we resumed out walk. “Yeah,” he said, “and Rod had either hit on or made it with probably two-thirds of the guys in the company. I know a couple of them took it kind of hard when Rod dumped them. Our prop man, Russ Hoglund, is basically still just a kid. A little on the dorky side, but sweet. All Rod had to do was look at him and he'd practically have to reach for something to hold on to so his knees wouldn't buckle. Rod went through him in a weekend, and Russ was so devastated he wanted to leave the crew. Tait talked him out of it, but being hurt isn't the same as the rage I'd imagine someone would need to be able to kill someone.”

“How about the director? I don't think I've heard anything at all about him.”

“Arthur McHam?” Max shook his head. “He's been a fixture with the company since day one. He and his partner just celebrated their forty-fifth anniversary, and are totally devoted to one another. I doubt that even Rod could lure him away.”

“Look, Dick,” Jonathan said, pointing to the street sign at the corner. “Madison Avenue! Where's the Marlboro Man?” He grinned to let me know he didn't really expect to see him. I hate to admit it, but it's still a little hard for me to tell sometimes.

“And there's Grand Central,” Chris volunteered, pointing across the street. We entered the vast, somehow Roman-looking concourse, the huge expanse unbroken by any support columns or trusses. It looked to be about ten stories tall and at least two football fields long. Very impressive.

Still, the air was hazy from all the cigarette smoke, the ceiling murals all but invisible under accumulated layers of smoke and dirt, and there was an overall look of gradual decline about the place. Jonathan was a little disappointed that we couldn't go down and watch the trains coming and going, but that area was limited to arriving and departing passengers.

As we left the terminal and crossed over to Park Avenue, Jonathan paused on the corner to take a picture. “Look! There's the Chrysler Building!” Luckily he did not notice that we were standing beside the Whitney Museum or he'd have wanted to go back across the street to get a shot of it. “We'll never get to see everything in just two weeks!” he lamented.

“And the United Nations is right there at the end of Forty-second Street,” Chris volunteered helpfully.

“See what I mean?” Jonathan said, plaintively.

“Well, we'll see as much as we can, and what we don't get to this time we'll get to next time,” I said. That seemed to placate him at least a bit.

As we turned on 34th Street and the Empire State Building hove into view, Jonathan had a hard time keeping his eyes—or his camera—off of it. And when we got nearer to the entrance, he raised his head slowly as we walked, tilting it back farther and farther until I was afraid he would fall over backwards. Fortunately, we entered the building before that could happen. We spent a good half hour on the observation deck, Jonathan frequently rummaging for change to feed the mounted ViewMasters. When he ran out of his own, he turned to me, and I gave him what I had. He was disappointed that he couldn't take pictures through the viewers, but settled for taking a photo every six feet or so all the way around the building to get a panorama of the city.

On the elevator ride back to the street, Jonathan leaned over to me and said, “Just wait till I tell my brother Samuel that I stood on the same spot King Kong stood holding Faye Wray! We loved that movie!”

Since the hot dogs and soda had taken the edge off our appetite, we debated on having a late light lunch or holding off until dinner. We decided on the latter and got on a bus back in the general direction of the Village. After swinging by the theater to retrieve Jonathan's bag of presents, we stopped at a nice—and surprisingly crowded for a Sunday afternoon—bar, where we ran into several people Chris and Max knew.

As we left the bar and headed for the apartment, Max said, “You know, Dick, I've been thinking: while you're in the process of eliminating possible suspects, one you might want to get right out of the way is Joe Kenyon, our sound and light man. He's a nice guy, but pretty much of a loner. He had a rather rough time a couple years back, so I guess I can understand why. He and I share the same booth in the back of the auditorium because that's where the Whitman's only God mic is.”

“God mic?”

He grinned. “Yeah…it's the microphone that lets me call out stuff to the stage and be heard by everyone. Joe uses it too when he has to. Anyway, Joe never talks about his private life, and doesn't really mingle much with the rest of the cast or crew. When he has to go into the auditorium or backstage for something, he just does what he has to do and then goes back to the booth.

“About three weeks ago, I noticed Rod zeroing in on him. Joe was all business at first, but then I saw the two of them talking a couple of times. Rod even came into the booth one time, but he didn't stay long when he saw I was there. I figured Rod was just doing his thing…which he was. I think he saw Joe as a challenge, but it never occurred to me that Joe might fall for it. But then about two weeks ago, Joe really clammed up, even for him. Hardly said a word even when spoken to. He got
really
withdrawn, and I caught him glaring holes through Rod. Rod took great pains to stay out of his way ever since. Joe never said a thing about what was going on, but I don't think he had to.”

“Do you think Joe's capable of violence?”

A look of something I couldn't define crossed Max's face. “Like I said, it's almost incomprehensible to think anyone I know could kill someone. That includes Joe.”

Chris and Jonathan were, as usual, a few paces ahead of us, but obviously able to follow our conversation. They—make that Jonathan—had stopped to check out a window display, and as we caught up with them, Chris said, “I don't know; Joe has always struck me as pretty strange. I think he keeps an awful lot bottled up inside. But what do I know?”

I made a note to try to spend some time alone with Joe Kenyon.

*

We got back to the apartment around five o'clock. I don't think I'd walked that far in years, as the muscles in my legs and feet made that eminently clear, so it was good just to sit and rest for a while before going to dinner. We talked about any other potential suspects among the cast and crew, and while a good number of them probably had ample reason to take Rod off their Christmas card list, I didn't sense anything to make me want to zero in on any of them…except Joe Kenyon. Still, I'd get a better idea when I actually met them.

“And how well do you know Gene Morrison?” I asked.

Chris shrugged. “Not very. He was here during the casting and the first couple of read-throughs of the script, then he went back to California and didn't come back until the morning after Rod was killed.”

“Did Rod ever talk about his relationship with Morrison?”

Max gave a wry smile. “No. Tait, Rod, and Gene preferred not to call attention to their relationship. They—and especially Rod—didn't want anyone to think the only reason Rod got the lead was because of Gene, or that he was just riding on Gene's coattails. But everyone knew, of course. And besides, if Rod made a big issue of it, some people might think twice about sleeping with him and possibly pissing off the author of the play.”

“So you think Morrison was aware of what was going on?”

Chris grinned. “He'd have to be deaf and blind not to.”

“So how about him as a suspect?” Jonathan asked.

BOOK: The Role Players
7.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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