Play With Fire
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by Cindy Davis
Description: Who wants John Bloom, the owner of the local nursery, dead? Angie Deacon has a new career, co-owner of Alton Bay, New Hampshire's community theater. After her divorce life is good once again. Until opening night when the co-star--played by love interest Detective Colby Jarvis--shoots the star. Who substituted Jarvis' real gun for the prop gun? And why would anyone want the star dead? In his day job he owns the local nursery.
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, 2009 Spring Texas
eBookwise Release Date: December 2009
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [415 KB]
Reading time: 256-359 min.
"That's a wrap, folks," Angie Deacon called. "Great job. Checkmate: Love will be the biggest thing that's ever hit the Lakes Region!" Overhead, the bright lights faded and then died out, officially marking the end of the final dress rehearsal.
Tyson Goodwell closed his script. "Nice job, everyone. Go relax a few hours. Back at five."
The actors filed past, their faces wearing various levels of an-xiety. Angie and Tyson patted each shoulder and muttered words of encouragement. When the last person disappeared backstage, Angie tossed the script on the bed and collapsed beside it. "I am exhausted." Even though she spoke softly, her words carried to the furthest corners of the warehouse-turned-theater.
Tyson stepped to the vanity table and clicked off the lights around the mirror. He fell into an overstuffed chair much the same way she'd dropped on the bed. "You'll feel better after tonight. I think they--" he inclined his head toward backstage-- "are holding up amazingly well. Most of them have never been in front of an audience."
She raised her head to peer at him in the dim light. "You were nervous as anything this morning. What caused the mood reversal?"
He laughed. "I was being supportive. Actually I'm scared to death. We've invested everything into tonight. I've been center stage, but it's nothing when put against owning the whole thing. Seriously, after the first performance the pressure will be off. You'll see, everything will be smoooooth sailing."
Angie believed him, but the flurry of caterpillars in her nether regions didn't. "Can you believe the caliber of talent we found right here in the area?"
"They are pretty great." Pride oozed in Tyson's voice.
They had a darned great cast. Especially one man, cop by day, actor by night. Detective Colby Jarvis so surprised them with his ability they'd regretted not giving him the starring role. Not that he intended to try out for any role at all. He'd arrived to pick up Angie and tried out on a bet by his fellow officers.
"What a magnificent theater!"
At the unfamiliar and slightly accented voice, Angie lifted her head. Then she sat up. Tyson swiveled on the chair. A man stood silhouetted in the doorway leading to the lobby. He was tall and lean and holding a cane whose gold tip glittered in the house lights. He strode down the aisle, walking with an elegance that had to be contrived. He wore a long coat and a fedora like the one Bogie wore in Casablanca. His face was obscured beneath the tipped-down brim of the hat. An actor. Had to be. Come to audition for something.
The stranger stopped at the end of the first row and took off his hat. He was maybe seventy with classic Slavic features: high cheekbones, a finely chiseled nose, and brilliant blue eyes. He ran a gloved hand through fashionably styled white hair that immediately lay back in place. The hand moved to stroke the precisely trimmed beard. "I never would've guessed." Angie could tell now, the accent was Canadian. She stood and crossed the stage. She had to have this man in their next show. In passing, she threw Tyson a look that said this.
The man breathed deep and let it out before repeating, "I never would've guessed...that a splendid place like this existed inside such an unremarkable building."
He laid it on a bit thick--lowering her estimation of him.
Tyson joined Angie at the head of the stage. He gestured for her to precede him down the trio of steps into the auditorium. The man shot long lean fingers toward Tyson, and then her. "My name is Carson Dodge." He smiled. And waited.
Should she know him? Her brain scurried for recognition of either the face or the name. He had hold of her fingers now. He brought her limp appendage up and grazed his beard across the back of her hand. Sheesh. "I'm very sorry, do I know you?" Angie asked.
"No need to apologize. I thought my son might've advised you of my arrival."
Gulp. "But I thought--" Mr. Dodge didn't ask what she thought, and she didn't elaborate. "You've just missed him. I imagine you can reach him at the station, or at home."
"I'll do that. I'm sorry to have troubled you." Dodge settled his hat on his head and gave a tiny bow in Angie's direction. He shook Tyson's hand again, turned and caned his way up the aisle.
Part of her wanted to beg him to come back and read for a role right then. Another part of her said to let him go, they had to get through tonight's show first. After all, if tonight flopped, there might not be another performance. Besides, she could always reach him through Jarvis. Funny thing, she would've sworn Jarvis said his father was dead.
Behind her, a pair of stagehands clomped across the gleaming hardwood and began exchanging bedroom for living room furniture for the night's opening scene. Angie watched them roll that oh-so-inviting bed into the wings. Her eyes roamed back to the street door. She mentally compared Mr. Dodge and his son: different as, well, different as all those dumb cliches. Whether feigned or not, Carson Dodge was rich with culture. Jarvis was down-home all the way: hunter, fisherman, homebody. She squeezed her thighs tight and distracted herself by watching the stagehands move the bedroom wall panels and replace them with the fireplaced living room scene.
Tyson drifted to the first row of velveteen-covered chairs, all two hundred salvaged from a defunct movie theater in Detroit eight months ago. He and Angie had driven a rental truck thirteen hours and loaded each seat themselves. During the trip, they worked on the script, a concept Tyson had already spent two years nagging his Broadway contacts to produce. Failing that, he'd proposed a partnership in a neighborhood theater and Angie jumped at the idea. What else would she do with her life? Her long-time marriage had fizzled. Her ER job lacked stimulation. Two friends had betrayed her. Okay, screwed her royally, if truth be known. Things like that could really suck the pizzazz out of a person.
"I wish John had been here for rehearsal," Tyson said.
"You did a nice job standing in for him."
"It felt good acting again, even if it was unofficial. Are you concerned about him showing up tonight?"
"No. Yes. A little. I'm worried he'll get so busy in his lab he'll forget to come. I can't help thinking we made a mistake giving a part to a scientist. He missed so many rehearsals--"
"But he's a great actor," Tyson said. "He told me he recites his lines to his plants."
"I wonder if they applaud when he's through." She pushed a stray hair off her face, realizing her fingers were frigid with nervous anticipation. She rubbed her palms together, then folded her fingers into fists. "I am concerned that he hasn't brought the plants over yet."
Tyson picked lint from one of the chairs and dropped it in his breast pocket beside an ever-present array of highlighters he used to mark individual lines of dialogue. "I'm going home for a shower and something to eat. Want me to bring something back for you?"
"No thanks. I'm going home. What did you think of that guy?"
"Guy? Oh, you mean Jarvis's father? I wonder why they don't have the same name."
She shrugged. "There's a lot of that going around these days."
"By the way, I know you were thinking of asking him to read. Get a grip. We need to survive this show first." He ran a doting palm over another chair then removed his coat from the back of the seat behind it. "I'll call John and jerk his chain."
Soft spoken John Bloom was the essence of tall, dark and handsome, and knew it. He wore the near-black hair a little on the shaggy side, probably not by design, but because he was so busy. John not only ran a wholesale nursery, he also bred irises in a laboratory attached to one of his rambling greenhouses. He spoke proudly of his work in iris genetics; he'd recently discovered something--Angie couldn't quite remember what it was.
That disheveled look meshed perfectly in the mild mannered, and somewhat flirty, leading man in Checkmate: Love, though. Not that she'd responded to the flirting. Not even once, but she couldn't help enjoying the attention. Another, tinier part relished the jealousy it inspired in Jarvis. As an actor John was a great find, and a total fluke. He'd come to see what sort of plants and trees were needed for the sets and ended up with the lead in the play. If he 'forgot' to come tonight...
Angie cringed. Her feet made two running steps toward backstage before she could stop them. Tyson's lips twitched in a restrained smile. He slung the coat over his arm, wiggled four fingers in the air, and whispered "good luck."
"Coward," she whispered.
He strode up the aisle; his wispy male form soon replaced by a feminine one in the doorway. A blast of icy air pushed toward Angie. Tiny hairs all over her body sprang to attention.
Gloria Farnsworth was still trim and shapely at the age of seventy-five. Her once-blonde hair had faded to platinum but neither physique nor hair color belied the woman's feistiness. Tyson stopped long enough to give her a hug and a peck on the cheek. He hurried out into the lobby without stopping to put on his coat. Angie remained standing in the orchestra pit--though there would be no ensemble for this performance.
Angie met her mother at the first row of seats.
"I thought I'd find you here."
"It's where I work, Mother."
Gloria bundled her coat tighter around herself and gave an elaborate shiver. "God, how can you stand living in this godforsaken part of the country?"