Smoke, streetlamps, beggars, and ladies of the evening permeate the Victorian London street. A dangerously handsome young man in an expensive suit twirls his dark cape around the shoulders of a beautiful young woman. Her hair and gown are blonde and flowing.
The man’s crystal blue eyes sparkle as he kisses her ivory neck. She reaches for his broad back. He grasps the broach fastened at her neck by a thick ribbon, and he squeezes tighter and tighter. The elated expression on her youthful face transforms to one of abject horror. After she gasps her last breath, the woman lay motionless on the gray cement next to another young woman whose blood trickles from her dark skin onto her burgundy gown. The murderous Adonis flicks back his long dark velvety hair.
After admiring his two victims, he spots his next prey. A smaller and darker man removes his jacket and ruffled white shirt exposing a ripe, muscular chest. As if offering himself as a human sacrifice, he reaches out, resting his hands on the other man’s bulging biceps. After they share a passionate kiss, the taller man retrieves the knife hidden inside his high black boot. He holds it erect and then plunges it into the other man’s side. As the murderer stares down at his third victim, he says, “The Lord is vengeful and strong in wrath. And revenge is oh so sweet.”
The deceased blonde woman sits up and says, “Did my hair and makeup look okay?”
Wiping the blood off her arm, the dark woman asks, “Was Caroline in my light?”
The young male victim rambles to his feet. “Can Cam and I try the kiss again?”
“Cut!” Hello, TV land. It’s Nicky Abbondanza, PhD, Professor of Play Directing and director of theatre, bodybuilding competition, cruise dinner theatre, luau show, film, ballet, modeling runway, and now television. What am I doing directing a television pilot during winter break here at Treemeadow College in picturesque Vermont? A television network made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Literally. My credit card payments were due at the same time as a television network executive saw a play I directed at the college. The plan was hatched for me to direct a television pilot chronicling my first mystery case at the college. As they say, the first is always the most special. Just ask my mother about her oldest boy—me! My first case of twelve so far, Drama Queen, was also unique because it brought me together with my husband, Noah Oliver, Associate Professor of Acting. When five of our professor colleagues dropped faster than the curtain on a David Mamet play for an audience full of nuns, Noah was one of my suspects—which he never lets me forget. (He also never lets me forget my age, forty-five, since he’s a youthful thirty-eight.)
After that first case, Noah became the Watson to my Holmes, the love of my life, my spouse for life, and the co-parent to our adopted son, Taavi. Back to the TV pilot. I cast the best actor I know as myself—me. Noah began drafting divorce papers until I cast him in the appropriate role of himself, Noah Oliver. Our son, definitely an Oliver-Abbondanza, craves the theatrical limelight as well as the detective’s flashlight, making us a three armchair detective family. So Taavi, sixteen, threatened to become a Republican terrorist storming the Capitol if I didn’t cast him in the role of suspect Kyle Samson, Treemeadow College film major. My best friend and Theatre Department Chair, Martin Anderson, was happier than a QAnon member spotting a Jewish laser from outer space when I asked him to write the script and play himself in the TV pilot. Martin’s husband Ruben vowed to hide Martin’s diapers and dentures until I cast Ruben as one of the murder victims. Martin and Ruben’s fifteen-year-old adopted son, Ty, began phoning nursing homes for Martin and Ruben until I cast Ty as theatre major and suspect P.J. Myers. Martin’s secretary, adversary, and confidant, Shayla Johnson, hinted at burning our paychecks, so I cast Shayla in the plum role of herself, Shayla Johnson. Finally, my nemesis, Detective Jose Manuello, bitten by the Treemeadow acting bug in my past shows, talked his way into playing himself. Manuello told me he wanted to be close by when shooting (pardon the pun) wraps, and members of the TV cast and crew are murdered. Oh, Manuello, ye of little faith. It’s an Abbondanza production. They’ll be murdered long before that. Speaking of which, the television network cast professional actors from Los Angeles and New York in the remaining roles, and we lodged the actors in the dormitory on campus. So, like a warning before the Great Hurricane of 1780, the slate board was raised, and we shot first exterior and now interior scenes. This current scene in our ruby theatre documents the Jack the Ripper style play I was directing at Treemeadow College a decade ago, “when I was a hunk.”
“You’re still a hunk to me.” Noah sat in the front-row theatre seat next to mine. His strawberry shampoo made me weak in the knees—which were getting weak anyway.
I pointed to the neck brace under my shirt collar. “I don’t feel like a hunk.”
He kissed the cleft in my chin. “You’ll always be my hunk. No matter how old and feeble you become, Nicky.”
“Thanks, Noah.” I think. True, my Italian-American genes had left me with tight olive skin, a Roman nose, and emerald eyes. Yes, the gym at the college had rewarded me with a muscular body. Of course, my wardrobe (copied by Noah, Taavi, and Ty) of a well-appointed dress shirt, dress slacks, and blazer made me look dashing. And then there is that other tidbit. Well, not exactly a tidbit. More like a titan. Why beat around the bush (no pun intended)? Like a new member of AA who is called to speak first, I’ll come right out and say I have a nearly foot-long penis—flaccid—which thanks to Noah isn’t flaccid very much.
Noah’s azure eyes, milk and honey skin, and radiant blond hair made him the picture of youth. Grr. “I’ll always adore you, Nicky.” He giggled. “Even when you’re old—er.”
I kissed his soft, youthful (grr) cheek.
Noah cooed. “Remember when we first met in this theatre, Nicky?”
“Yes, my graduate assistant, Scotty Bruno, was hot for you.”
“But I chose you, the love of my life. Despite you thinking I was a suspect in the Drama Queen murders.”
Noah rested his head on my shoulder.
“Sorry. How’s your neck, Nicky?”
“Ask the compressed nerves.” I sighed. “It’s no fun growing old.”
“Unless you have someone wonderful to grow old with.”
We started to kiss.
“When do we shoot my scene, Pop?” My son took the other seat next to me.
I turned toward him too quickly. “Ow! You can’t always be on camera, Taavi.”
“Then can I be onstage?” Taavi’s dimples resembled the craters of his homeland Hawaii.
Noah leaned toward our son. “My scene comes first.”
“Help, I’m trapped inside an actor sandwich!” I said.
Noah winked. “You can be the meat, Nicky.”
I whispered in his soft ear, “Later my love.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” he whispered back. “Literally.”
“I’m counting on it.”
Taavi’s dark eyes raised to his dark hair. “I can hear that.”
Noah did a doubletake. “How can you hear us whispering, but not shouting for you to go to bed at night?”
“Selective listening,” I explained to Noah.
Taavi cocked his head. “Is that an acting technique like sense memory and emotional recall?”
“For you, yes. And speaking of shouting.” After clearing my throat, I shouted to my cast onstage, “Caroline, Madame, and Tadeo, we can edit out your comments, but for future don’t break character until I call, ‘Cut!’”