ADVENTURE THE 15TH: THE CURTAIN GOES DOWN
for the first time reader:
For those unfamiliar with the posting structure of a blog: postings appear in the order they are made by their author, not necessarily in the order that would most benefit an ongoing series such as the one you are about to read. Since the purpose of this blog is to be an ongoing thriller, simply removing the previous chapter to alleviate confusion is not an option – since no one coming to the series after the first chapter had been removed would be able to follow the story line.
Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read. For this reason and purpose each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number. If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’ - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.
For those savvy to the blog world – this disclaimer may seem redundant, and for that no apology is made. This disclaimer is meant to better acquaint new readers in how the entries in this blog will be posted and how best to follow the series from this point on. And now…
ADVENTURE THE 15th:
THE CURTAIN GOES DOWN
You know, underneath this cold veneer of indifference lies a fool – a rank sentimentalist with a blind spot where women are concerned…the right kind of woman anyway. Mico must be that kind, because I’m not usually quite so willing to put myself in harm’s way twice in the same night – especially since Grand Central is closer than the Carnegie. Chasing after the daughter of a man who’s tried to take care of me on more than one occasion definitely falls under the heading of ‘I can’t believe I wasn’t dropped on my head at birth’ or was, and now suffer from acute reoccurring bouts of amnesia.
As I made my way to the concert hall through a rainstorm that would have swept most of humanity into the east river I kept thinking that Mico couldn’t know what sort of monster ‘Daddy’ was. Or maybe she did, feared him and just went along for the ride. After all, it wasn’t such a bumpy trip - what with a penthouse, expense account and anything else her heart desired to make herself attractive for the right kind of fool…that would be me.
But the nail file was no accident. It was a prop, strategically placed with whatever misguided sentiment she felt at the moment. Yep, rank sentiment. The fatal kiss if ever I knew it and I have. What a life…it’ll be the death of me yet. But maybe, just maybe, if my luck held out, there’d be a few more short moments of bliss.
. . .
I slip through the front doors and into that cavernous granite and steel lobby of Carnegie Hall, currently lined in so much mink and penguin from wall to wall that a gifted furrier would have an orgasm. My eyes dart about the place for a snapshot of Mico. I find her, pensive and poised in a corner, pretending to sip her champagne. Her eyes don’t widen when she sees me – like I was expected. I scan the crowd for Hemmingway and his entourage - then start my approach. But at the last minute Mico gets rigid and sour.
She shakes her head slightly and I see the reason why; my nemesis and his goons approaching from stage left. Hemmingway takes his offspring by the arm – like he doesn’t trust her. He says something I can’t quite make out to his boys and they pair off. I decide to follow Hemmingway - just close enough to see where he’s taking Mico. They enter a box in the second balcony, a gilded perch with a bird’s eye of the whole auditorium.
My gut says to get her away from him. But the first act goes to my gray matter. I’ll come back for Mico later. And she’ll be safe, as long as her father doesn’t suspect a traitor in his midst.
“Excuse me, sir,” a dry toned voice says from behind.
I turn in place. It’s an usher, smug and stoic and eyeing my bedraggled wet self with all the disdain of a society matron who’s just discovered that her favorite cousin spiked the punch bowl with some quality bathtub.
“It’s alright,” I hear Mico’s velvety coo from behind.
She materializes like blithe spirit in vapors so rich that I want to forget everything and just inhale.
“Very good, madam.”
Our usher lingers just a few feet away.
“Didn’t you hear the lady?” I ask him.
“I beg your pardon sir?”
“Beat it,” I tell him, “I’ve got business that doesn’t concern you.”
“That’s very generous of you,” the usher replies smugly.
“If you wanna round out yours pal, buzz off,” I reiterate.
Before ‘customer service’ can come back with some pithy reply he’s called into action by a snooty rooster whose hen’s laid another 24kt. egg.
“Leon,” Mico whispers to me, leaning in, her eyes wildly ricocheting about her head.
We’re living on borrowed moments and her metronome is tapping out glissando.
“He’s working for...or was. Conflict diamonds,” Mico catches herself in a lost emotion.
“Time to tie up a loose end?” I suggest.
“He’s been skimming off the top,” Mico replies.
“Greedy little impresario.”
“The diamonds are here. Somewhere. When he gets them Leon’s a dead man.”
Mico hesitates. She’s holding out, like a bookie with reluctant winnings to cash out.
“He’s using them as leverage for the list.”
“Where is it?”
“I don’t know.”
And I believe her. She’s suddenly a wreck in sections, split down the middle…but not for my benefit and I can tell.
“How long, angel?” I ask.
“What?” she replies, still unwilling to admit the truth.
“How long have you been in love with the great artist?”
There’s a hint of bitterness in my last remark that I instantly despise. I’ve given away too much of myself with that inquiry; a mistake I’ll live to regret.
The door to Hemmingway’s private box starts to open.
“They’ll kill him,” Mico insists.
Never mind what they’ll do to me. She’s choking on every syllable for a guy who’s in her blood.
“Not if I get to him first,” I whisper, disappearing behind a curtain just in time.
. . .
I make my way down a couple of flights to the stage area, realizing only as I palm one of the stage hands with a fifty that I’m too late to intervene. The audience bursts into applause as Schyvatz makes his way to the stage. I’ve lost my one chance to get him out of the crossfire. Out there, he’s a sitting duck for Elmer Fudd to pen a requiem in his honor. The question now is where is Mr. Fudd?
The conductor strikes up the first bars of a piece I’ve heard before at the plantation – Tchaikovsky’s sixth getting aired out. I don’t have much time.
From a safe distance behind the curtain I scan the first few rows and a couple of the nearby balconies; just the local ritz on display, wearing enough ermine and ice to fund a small revolution in Nicaragua. Backstage is a no show: prop guys playing cards and getting a few drags between curtain calls. It’s all normal, unassuming - perfect for a murder.
I get an idea. I’m usually good at those. It’s the act of putting things into play that always mucks up my theory. Above us is the God spot – rigging hidden from view of the general audience. It’s so easy - so right. You could drop a couple of sandbags and make it all look like an accident. I get a leg up from the prop manager, who points me to rickety stairs where scaffolding keeps the sky from falling. Drawing my piece, I shimmy up for my showdown.
It’s quiet at first – dark and thick with a slight haze of heat simmering off the arc lamps. With my fear of heights in tow midway across the threshold, I afford myself the luxury of looking down into that mass of tinkling strings and woodwinds only once. Up here the acoustics are deafening. I spot my target – stage right, a nose and cigarette jutting from the shadows. Suddenly, a thin gloved hand draws lighter flame near that cancer stick and I recognize them both…Marysol.
I know she can see me with backlight from the arcs outlining my silhouette. Then, I feel the reason for her nonchalance. It wraps around my neck from behind. She’s got a company man on the job.
I struggle with my attacker – not very tall or tough as the fellas at the apartment. Clearly, Hemmingway needs a good shot for this job – not a street fighter. I get the chord off my neck and turn to wrestle with Johnny Shots. But he’s slippery, wiggling out of my grasp and making a line for the release that could send this whole rigging crashing below. I’ve lost sight of Marysol as I grab my fella by his Florsheims. He takes a tumble, just missing the edge, but a bit of last minute agility saves him from a beautiful jackknife. He’s wrapped his wrist and ankle around some support wires.
The catwalk’s in free swing, loosely clanging against a couple of arcs. I lose my balance and fall to my knees, suddenly noticing what’s been right under my nose – literally - all this time. There, under the propped open canopy of Schyvatz’s grand piano are Hemmingway’s gems – the swaying pall of arc light transforming the bowel of that baby grand into a glistening jewel box.
Although we’re making enough noise to wake the dead, so’s the maestro and his ensemble below.
My marksman gets out a switchblade. I jump to my feet and try to regain control of the catwalk but it’s no use. He’s flailing just enough to keep me at bay. I can’t reach him without taking a couple of stitches in the arm. It’s no good. I’d take it if it’d help but not this time. So I grab on to a nearby sandbag for leverage and thrust it with all my might in boyfriend’s direction.
Jabbing the air blindly, dumb and lovely sticks his sharp end through the burlap, a tiny bit of sand flowing from its wounded side. Granules begin to lightly tap across the grace notes of Schayvetz’s piano during a brief lull in his performance. He looks up. I look down. Our eyes meet. It’s time for my third act finale.
Wrapping one arm around the heavy rope attached to the sandbag, I use my free hand to unhook the latch holding these few planks of wood beneath our feet. A look of total disbelief catches my sparing partner like an upper cut. The catwalk breaks from under us - plummeting him to center stage. The auditorium below explodes into shrieks of terrified chaos as I dangle from my God spot.
I look around for my old flame. But that vulture’s gone home to roost. I catch a glimpse of Schayvetz below, backing away into a corner, shell shocked but untouched. Funny, I didn’t give the little bastard credit for cat-like reflexes.
My competition hasn’t been so lucky. From this angle he’s buried waste deep, feet sticking out of that half collapsed baby grand – a fast collecting pool of blood expanding beneath him on the wooden floor – his jugular probably severed by those hearty piano wires. They’ll play a requiem instead of a rhapsody now, and some deft blue boy will discover those diamonds – bloody and cursed. How I’d hate to be a jeweler from Tiffany’s today.
EDDIE MARS will return in his next adventure: UNCOUPLING on August 11, 2006.
@Nick Zegarac 2006 (all rights reserved).