The Role Players (A Dick Hardesty Mystery, #8) (paperback) by Dorien Grey



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ISBN: 9781611878530
Pages: 246
Description:

Dick and his lover, Jonathan, finally manage to take a vacation, and it is, to some extent, a sentimental journey for Dick—it is to New York City, the site of former adventures, and where his former lover is now settled in with a new lover, Max, who happens to be involved in a theater company. Dick and Jonathan fly in for opening night, but also arrive soon after one of the original cast is murdered—gunned down with a shot in the back, and ending up face down in a vacant lot. It seems Dick can’t even have a vacation without playing his usual role of sleuth, and there's a different kind of role playing happening as well…

EXCERPT:

“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.


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