A 2nd Street Playhouse Mystery, Thin, Red and Deadly (1)©
Retired Detective Quinn Moosebroker set down his paint brush and palette as he noticed it was time to get ready for the play. His well meaning daughter, Kate, had arranged for him to take the widow Mrs. Atwwod to a play tonight. She means well, he thought. But felt very unsure if this was a good idea.
A knock at the door of his studio told him that he was pushing the hour too closely and he must hurry to get ready. He turned and walked away from his afternoon in Venice to see Kate in the doorway standing there with a perturbed look on her face. She had assumed the role of his protector, even though it was unclear to him what he needed protecting from.
Quinn stepped through the door patting his daughter on the shoulders with his thick hands and gave her a smile of appreciation. He was a large man and some labeled him dimwitted because he spoke so little.
In his room his blue suit was waiting on the bed. Quinn scratched the back of his head. This was a local play at the 2nd Street Playhouse Mystery Theater. Why the suit? Then he remembered Mrs. Atwood. He frowned then pushed the thoughts aside.
He dressed quickly and as he was leaving he gave Kate a kiss on the cheek.
She called, “Have fun tonight. And don’t solve the mystery of the play and tell Betty the ending before the end of the second act.” She returned to her room to finish getting ready for her date.
He had heard that Blake Knightly the owner of the local bookshop was the playwright. Quinn had met Blake when he first moved to Clearview Terrace from the city. Quinn was pleased that there was a constant supply of new titles at Blake’s shop. Quinn would visit because he was allowed to smoke his pipe and talk about books and writing and even art. Blake even kept a bottle in his lower desk drawer for such occasions if they occurred late in the evening.
The theater group was made up of a dozen or so locals. They were mostly older creative types filing in the boredom of their daily existence. The theater drew the attention of some of the younger crowd for exactly for the same reason. There were opportunities for tech types for sound and lighting. An apprentice carpenter could learn a great deal in a hurry putting together the demands of the stage settings. Millie and Brad would go on hunting trips into the city to scout thrift stores for items for costumes and were very good at finding unique items.
Millie ran the coffee shop and Brad was the local photographer who was known to take discrete boudoir photographs using the theater stage props for his clients.
Detective Moosebroker swung open the double doors of his one car garage. His heart always skipped a beat when seeing his partially repaired 1946 Chrysler Town and Country, affectionately known as a Woody. Kate’s emergency dried up the restoration fund but he was very pleased with the interior. The exterior received many compliments but he had plans and those plans were set aside. He put the key in the ignition and listened to the purr of the engine. He shifted the lever on the column into first gear and drove out of the garage, braked, turned off the ignition and closed the garage doors. He found pleasure in taking the car from the garage. It’s the little things – he told himself.
He pulled out onto Maple Ave towards Mrs. Atwood. He reminded himself to address her as Betty rather than Mrs. Atwood. They had agreed to begin the evening early with coffee at Millie’s Café a couple of blocks from the 2nd Street Playhouse Mystery Theater. They would look through the windows as they walked the Antique and Artist District from the Café.
His mind drifted to the Cobalt blue oil paint he was using for the cannels of Venice and the pleasant afternoons spent there with his wife years ago. He pulled to the curb and listened for the curb finder. Climbing out he grabbed a rag from under the seat and ran it over the chrome of the side mirror, stooped, straightened his tie and tossed the rag back under the seat.
Mrs. Atwood, Betty was sitting on the edge of her sofa. Her new Shamrock green dress made her feel young. This is the first time she had been out with a man since her husband of twenty-five passed away. She had been ready for an anxious hour.
Quinn walked up the flower lined walk. He thought that he needed to talk to his daughter Kate. He had let his arm be twisted but thought, Just this once.
Quinn noted the cosmos that lined the walk were color matched on both sides of the brick walk. By the time he made it to the door he had a warm feeling. Feeling like a fourteen year old he knocked on the door. Betty took a quick deep breath and opened the front door.
“Hello Mrs. ah, Betty. Hello, Betty.” Quinn managed.
“Hello,” Betty said, extending her hand for a handshake.
So far so good; they both thought simultaneously.
“Oh my word; would you look at that car.” The words escaped her lips before she could properly formulate the thought. “My George liked old cars. Sometime let me show you his 1960 MG. He loved that car. He would reach over the door and strike a match on the asphalt to light his cigar. Man had burn holes in all his shirts. He was never happier than when driving that car.”
Quinn immediately liked George. “Yes, I would like to see it.” He opened the door of the passenger side and watched her sit and arrange her dress out of the way. Then he closed the door.
Quinn and Betty arrived and parked in the parking lot near the round-about where four gray haired men with ponytails had their band equipment arranged and where playing an old Seals and Croft tune to the crowd that was milling about at the evenings farmers market gathering.
As they approached the café Quinn witnessed a fierce right slap to the face of a middle aged man from a young woman in the doorway. The man turned rubbing the side of his face and walked directly across the street toward the theater while the woman grabbed a hanky from her clutch purse and cried into it as she rushed away in the opposite direction.
Betty waited for Quinn to open the door for her as they entered the café. Quinn made note of the description of the young woman and the middle aged man. Quinn made note of lots of little details.
Mary Helen rushed through the cast entrance door and to the dressing room. She was thrilled to find one of the makeup tables free. She hurriedly slipped off her shirt and skirt and sat before the makeup mirror and began getting into the character of Morgan the Art Gallery owner. The imperceptible click of a hidden camera recorded her actions once every two minutes.
Gladys a local hairdresser rushed in, “Oh, hi Mary.” She quickly took off her shirt and hung it on a hook behind the door. She grabbed a full length dress which served as her costume and slipped it over her head. She hiked up the skirt portion and shimmied out of her pants.
“Hi Gladys, I’ll be done in a minute.” She gave her ‘face’ a good look and then stood and walked away from the mirror.
“Can you zip me?” Gladys asked then sat quickly, and began her makeup. Once Millie arrived the chair would be taken until minutes before the performance began.
to be continued.....