Exclusive Excerpt: The Role Players (Book 8 in the Dick Hardesty Mystery Series)

Excerpt: The Roles Players by Dorien Grey (a Dick Hardesty

“Now,” Tait said as we settled into two chairs facing one another across a beautiful, pure white chess table with glowing green chess pieces I had no doubt whatsoever were pure jade, “Max tells me you’re a private investigator.”

I nodded, and he mirrored it.

“Yes, well, as you know, the leading man in our upcoming production of Impartial Observer was murdered last week.”

“I heard,” I said, “and I’m very sorry. Do the police have any leads?”

He shook his head. “Not that I’m aware of. They questioned me and everyone in the cast and crew, of course, but considering where his body was found and its proximity to a notorious bar that has, I understand, been linked with more than one other death in the past, I would imagine the police are focusing in that area. This kind of killing is simply too common in New York. There were no witnesses, no weapon was found, and no apparent motive other than robbery. And the arrest and conviction rate in such cases is, at best, extremely low. I suspect that as far as the police are concerned, Rod’s death may just be filed away and forgotten in time.”

TheRolePlayers

“I understand,” I said, sure I had a good idea where this was headed, but waiting for him to get to it. I was aware that he was watching me closely without making it too obvious he was doing so. Most people would not even have been aware of it.

“Yes,” he said finally. “Well, here is where we reach the Twilight Zone aspect of the situation.”

He paused and took a deep breath before continuing. “Odd as this may sound, of all my business ventures, The Whitman Theater Group is the one of which I am most proud. It may not be the most financially successful, but it gives me a sense of satisfaction none of my other business interests can match.

“Without wanting to appear immodest, I credit much of my success to intuition, and I have this uncannily disturbing feeling that someone at the Whitman may somehow be linked to Rod’s death.”

I started to say something, but he raised his hand to cut me off.

“I know, I know…the odds are eight million to one against it, and I have absolutely nothing solid upon which to base the feeling, but it is there nonetheless, and it’s strong. I cannot simply ignore it.

“Even the remotest thought that someone at the Whitman could be involved is intolerable. And since Max and Chris mentioned that they were having close friends…one of whom was a private investigator…coming for a visit, I determined to have a talk with you.”

I couldn’t resist wondering, to what end?

“But you have no idea who might possibly be involved or why?”

He shook his head. “As for the ‘who,’ I’m afraid there might be a number of possibilities. The ‘why’ may have been a little easier to understand had you known Rod. He was very handsome and, like a great number of very handsome men over whom people fawn, I don’t think he ever really developed a firm understanding of or appreciation for the feelings of others. He wasn’t intentionally cruel, but his ego far outweighed his common sense. He too often was simply unaware of how others perceived his actions. He was what I call a ‘bedpost-notcher.’ He’d move from conquest to conquest, pausing just long enough to make sure that each was hooked before dropping him and going on to the next. To Rod, it was all innocent fun. Unfortunately, he was the only one who thought so.”

Again, I remained silent, sensing he was getting close to his point.

He looked at me steadily and said, “I was hoping you might be willing to indulge my intuition. I am not a man who goes around looking for boogeymen under the bed, but if for no other reason than my peace of mind, I really need to be sure that none of my people were in any way the cause of Rod’s death. It has cast a deep shadow over everything and everyone, and I can’t be content until I know for sure that what happened to him cannot be traced directly to the Whitman.”

“Well, if you’ll excuse me,” I said, “New York has to have more than enough private investigators, straight and gay, to be able to look into it for you. And Jonathan and I are on our first real vacation; we have to be back home in two weeks. While I of course appreciate your concern and am flattered that you’d want me to help you, the fact is that you don’t really know me from Adam.”

He smiled. “Not quite true. I have business interests in cities all over the country—one of them yours—and when I called the attorney who handles my legal matters there…” Let me guess: Glen O’Banyon, a mind-voice said. Can we say “small world,” boys and girls? “it seems he’d not only heard of you, but has worked with you on a fairly regular basis. He speaks very highly of you.”

He repeated his smile. “I must say anyone who can bring down the police chief of a city that size deserves my attention.”

Leaning forward in his chair, hands loosely clasped and elbows on the arms of the chair, he continued. “New York is one of the largest cities in the world, and yet gossip and rumor spread as fast as in any small town. If anyone here were to have the slightest idea that I suspect any sort of link between Rod’s death and the Whitman…. I can’t risk having a shadow hanging over me or The Whitman Theater Group. If my intuition is wrong, it’s wrong, but I won’t be satisfied until I know.”

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