Excerpt of Drama Detective, the 5th Nicky and Noah mystery novel, by Joe Cosentino, now an audiobook performed by Griswold Addams:
The Victorian, lamppost-lined London street was forebodingly dark. Prostitutes in low-cut, shabby dresses dug their heels into the dirty gray pavement. A heavy-set man in an expensive suit signaled to an older, small man with a knowing grin. The jeweler locked up his shop and hurried down the street. One of the prostitutes raised a dagger to the jeweler’s throat, grabbed his bag, and disappeared into a smoky alley, as the prostitute transformed into a well-dressed man with a long nose and beady eyes. Another prostitute screamed. The inspector and his men hurried onto the street.
Suddenly, a honky-tonk piano introduction led each of them to face front and belt out, “Acting Butch on Baker Street,” a rousing opening number featuring spinning members of the underworld and a Scotland Yard kick line. At the conclusion of the number, everyone ended with a frozen smile, looking like a pack of right wing politicians entering a ghetto.
“Good energy, everyone! Let’s take a ten-minute break,” I called out from my front row center seat in the audience.
I’m Nicky Abbondonza, Associate Professor of Directing at Treemeadow College, a quaint college in Vermont named after its benefactors, couple Harold Tree and Jacob Meadow. Or as we call them, Treemeadow’s Adam and Steve. Since you can’t see me, I’ll tell you I’m tall, pretty muscular, courtesy of Treemeadow’s gym and my insomnia, with dark hair, green eyes, and a Roman nose. If you’ve read my other four stories, you know I generally wear a dress shirt, blazer, and slacks. You’ll also know that murder is on the menu as are an assortment of characters (and I mean characters)—suspects and victims—as I try to figure out whodunit. So let’s get the game afoot. Ah, speaking of a foot, you newcomers should know another little tidbit of information. Well, not so little actually. I’m referring to my penis. It would make a porn star blush. My nickname in the gym locker room back home in Kansas was “Donkey Donza.” Yes, I’m from Kansas, a true friend of Dorothy’s.
Back to the story. Since it’s summertime, our cozy New England campus is full of multicolored flowers, babbling brooks, warm sunshine, and peace and quiet. So quiet that my department head and best friend, Martin Anderson, Professor of Theatre Management, decided to transform our college theatre into a professional summer stock venue for the tryout of a new Sherlock Holmes Broadway bound musical. True to Martin’s nature, he also took on a role in the play, Langdale Pike (society informer).
Martin, short, thin, bald, and somewhere between seventy and six-feet-under, stood downstage center (meaning closest to the audience for you non-thespians) in his Victorian gray suit. “Nicky, do you think I should act more like a gossip in the opening number?”
“You couldn’t act more like a gossip if twenty closet-gay actors from Hollywood left their beards and asked you for advice on whom to date,” Martin’s husband said sitting third row house left.
I’ll explain. Though Martin is a terrific department head and professor, his brainstorms generally end up as headaches for Martin’s long suffering spouse, Ruben Markinson, who Martin convinced to be our show’s producer. To raise needed funds for this venture, Ruben, the CEO of a gay rights organization, interviewed Broadway chorus boys about their peccadilloes, and then hit up anti-gay Republican legislators to buy shares of the show (and their silence). Next, we held auditions in New York City and found our cast. When our budget had been spent, Ruben (having been bitten by the acting bug in our previous capers) agreed to be understudy for one of the characters in the show, Porky Johnson (agent in the criminal underworld). The rest of the understudies (including yours truly understudying Sherlock Holmes), as well as the ensemble, designers, and technical crews, all came from our college population (including the kids whose parents didn’t want them loafing around at home over the summer).
Like all of us who love Martin, Ruben is well aware of Martin’s “inquisitive” nature. Ruben called out to his husband, “Martin, you and gossip go together like an HMO customer service representative and the words, ‘not covered.’”
“No comments from the peanut gallery,” Martin replied from the stage.
Ruben glared over the laptop on his knees. “Don’t make me fire you, Martin.”
“You try and I’ll bring you up on charges with Equity.”
“Touché, Martin.” Ruben blew him a mime kiss.
Martin caught it and placed it against his heart.
The true sanctity of marriage.