The pronouncement left the two of them speechless. They had realized they couldn’t stay on at Dino’s, but hadn’t made plans, so much had taken precedence. Their gratitude was a little stumbling, but sincere. The realized that Pete’s parents accepted their relationship, and that meant more to them than anything.
Several weeks passed with no further accidents or threats. The rehearsals were going well and the theater had been completely refurbished, the set was all but finished, and they were having a full run through. Deacon was keyed up, worried that tonight would be a perfect time for their culprit to try something else. They were all going to be in one place, with lots of coming and going, vulnerable.
Deacon hadn’t realized quite how edgy he was until Mac came up behind him, slapping him on the shoulder. Deacon jumped several inches, nearly losing his balance on his crutches. Mac’s powerful hand held him firmly, keeping him upright.
“Sorry, Deacon, didn’t mean to startle you. Just proud of our work.” He smiled, but concern tinged his features. “You’re thinking what I am, aren’t you? What if our boy decides to do something tonight?”
Deacon’s nod was perfunctory. “It’s too good an opportunity.”
The house lights went down as the play opened and Deacon heard an unexpected sound behind him. It was Obi, the florist from next door.
“Hiya, Mr. Stewart,” he whispered as he sat behind Deacon. “I’ve been wanting to see this. I’m dating the girl playing Sally.”
Sally, whose real name was Bernadette, made her first entrance, simpered up at Obi and went on with her part. She wasn’t too bad an actress, but Deacon wasn’t overly fond of women whose bust size exceeded their IQ. He suspected that Obi didn’t date her for her ability to carry on conversation. At twenty-two, he’d been the same way.
Things went smoothly until Edgars, the butler, was found hanging in the closet. The corpse got a fit of the giggles that he couldn’t suppress. The rest of the cast caught it, and Dino had to call for a short break for them all to get themselves under control. He had a lot to say to the actor playing Edgars, most of it along the lines of lacking in professionalism.
Just as the murderer was about to be revealed, the lights went out. Sally screamed and pandemonium shook the theater before Dexter got to the breaker box and got the lights back on. The main breaker had been thrown.
“It wasn’t an overload,” Dexter told Deacon, Kacy and Dino, “I checked that thing over myself, just today. I went over all the specs with Kacy. There’s no way it was an accident.”
The cast was sent home immediately. Dino didn’t want anyone to stay behind. He was on the verge of shutting the whole business down.
“No one was hurt,” Deacon told him, “we just got a scare. Tomorrow we’re more careful. No one who is not directly involved is allowed in, that’s all.”
“But Deacon, someone could have been harmed. We don’t know what was planned. You said if anything else happened, you’d support me in this.”
“I can’t make you keep this place open, Dino, but I’m gonna be damn disappointed if we bow down and kiss this punk’s ass. I refuse. If I have to stand out there myself all night tomorrow, I’ll do it, daring the bastard to take a pot shot at me.”
“Perhaps we could persuade Detective Reyes to give us a bit of protection,” Kacy said quietly. “He’s anxious to catch the culprit. If we go on with this, but we have a few policemen scattered around, maybe they can catch whoever it is. They needn’t look like policemen after all.”
“She has a point, Dino.”
The older man sighed heavily. “I’ll call Reyes, but if he says no, then I close this down, agreed?”
“Agreed,” Deacon hoped that Reyes wouldn’t disappoint them.
If Deacon read him right, Reyes would be willing to give a few men to the assignment, if it meant nailing the perp. He didn’t think Reyes was above baiting the trap either. Dino concluded his call, looking worried and put out.
“Reyes says he’ll be here with at least half a dozen people tomorrow. They’ll stake us out, inside and out. They’re off duty policemen. I told him I’d pay the overtime to pull them in. This is costing a small fortune, Deacon. I hope you know what you’re doing.”
Deacon sincerely hoped he did too. The itching of his broken leg reminded him that this was not just between the criminal and Dino, it was personal. He wanted the rehearsal to go on as planned, because he wanted the bastard caught. He had a bone to pick, quite literally, with the guy, and hoped he would get the chance.
They went home, Dino wandered forlornly into the main house by himself.
Kacy looked after him, despondent. “I feel so bad for him. He’s got more and more on his shoulders now, and it’s simply not fair.”
“No, sometimes bad things happen to good people.”
“Don’t be so bloody philosophical, Deacon. You’re as bad as whoever is doing all this.”
“How? I’m not trying to hurt anyone!”
“Not in the same way, but you’re forcing Dino, and the others, to risk themselves for your own vendetta.”
He sat quietly a moment. She was right. He picked up his phone and dialed Dino’s number. It rang several times and was answered by a woman.
©2021 Dellani Oakes