SEE, HEAR, TASTE, SMELL, TOUCH
New York is my city—that sounds possessive—I was born here, grew up here and it will always be part of my life. The city’s sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch appear in many of the stories I’ve written. Streets, neighborhoods, architecture and parks are an important part of my debut mystery Scene Stealer published by Carina Press.
The idea for Scene Stealer and its three leading characters began when I took the subway to Lincoln Center to buy tickets for a play. A ragged, unkempt man and a well dressed boy were sitting diagonally across from me. The child appeared tense and anxious. I began to wonder if they were related and— if not—why they were together and—more important—why the child was frightened. The pair left the train at the next stop but I couldn’t stop thinking about them and they became Miss Weidenmaier—a retired schoolteacher and soon to be amateur detective, Kevin Corcoran—a young actor and spokesperson for the “Cowboy Bob’s Big, Bad Burger,” commercial and Lawrence Dunn—an aging, underemployed would-be Shakespearean actor.
In her search for Kevin, Miss Weidenmaier explores an off-Broadway casting call, Greenwich Village with its aromas of coffee and spices, a verdant Central Park where a motion picture is being made, a legendary building that once housed song writers, cold, glass skyscrapers that hide the sun, and a church transformed into an off-off-very-off Broadway theatre.
Added was Miss Weidenmaier’s distaste for fast food, the blindness of night, a fit of sneezing caused by dust, the sound of unexpected foot steps, and the roughness of a canvas drop.
Characters included—a villainess as icy as the skyscraper she reigned over, a hard-nosed detective—for Miss Weidenmaier to frustrate, suspects including Kevin’s parents, school-friends, agent, an obnoxious talk show host, an eager ingénue and assorted citizens of the Big Apple.
I had a great time writing Scene Stealer and a bit of aggravation too—when my villain refused to do dastardly deeds and I had to change my plot. I admit—he was right.
Scene Stealer is available through www.amazon.com/scene-stealer-ebook/dp/B003NX7BSA
SCENE STEALER EXCERPT CHAPTER 16
Miss Weidenmaier believes she has found Kevin—the young kidnapped spokesperson for the Cowboy Bob’s Big, Bad Burger commercial—hidden in the basement of a theatre that was once a church. She intends to rescue the boy who had asked for her help.
I opened a door and found myself in a carpeted hallway that led to an area that must once have been the chancel. Here, the carpeting ended under an archway that led to the right wing of the stage, the carpeting replaced by a highly polished wood floor. A work-lamp barely lit the center area of the stage, casting shadows that might have unnerved someone of lesser will or discipline of mind. I was just able to see an old-fashioned light-board set against the wall. To its right stood a table cluttered with a king’s crown—its brilliant glass gems shining through the gloom—surrounded by false hair, gauntlets, cuffs, a tin of powder, rouge and a box of tissues. Next to the table was a second set of stairs. It would, I was sure, lead to the room in the basement where Lawrence Dunn dressed.
Careful, I thought; you never saw him leave. He must still be in the theatre and so, if my reasoning was correct, would Kevin.
The thought of notifying Lieutenant Brown of my suspicions grazed my mind. I quickly discarded the idea; I had to be sure. The detective would demand proof. If it wasn’t supplied, if I were wrong, he would dismiss me as a meddlesome, old spinster with nothing to do but get into mischief.
The basement was silent. I spied a splinter of light peeking from beneath a door decorated with an oversized star that managed to twinkle and glitter in the near dark. Dunn, I decided, would be in that room. I needed a place to hide until he emerged and led me to Kevin. A rack of costumes occupied a corner close to Dunn’s dressing room. I hugged the wall and moved, at a snail’s pace, in the direction of the rack.
The costumes that had served Dunn’s various characterizations would now serve as my screen. The waistcoats and doublets, pantaloons, padding, cloaks and robes were made of heavy stuff. The materials were brocade, velvet and fur decorated with jewels and chains. They appeared rich and royal in the gloomy light, but an unpleasant odor of perspiration and mildew hovered over this section of the basement. Age and improper cleaning of the costumes, bought second- or third-hand, worn by generations of nervous actors sweating under hot lights in cold theatres I suspected. I felt the glow of perspiration on my brow, but if I were to rescue Kevin, I had to be brave.
Suddenly a series of strange sounds penetrated the dressing room door and interrupted the silence of the theatre. Dunn, practicing vocal exercises over and over and over again.
Tears welled in my eyes as, unable to find my handkerchief—I stifled a cough with the back of my hand.
“Mee…mo…ma…mo…moo. Mee…mo…ma…moo.” He stopped and took a deep intake of breath then exhaled—an an extremely long slow hiss—before he began to speak.
“Big, Bad, Brownie Bonanzas, Big, Bad, Brownie Bonanzas. Cousin Cora’s Cakewalks, Cousin Cora’s Cakewalks.” Dunn recited these lines over and over again, warming his vocal chords. Finally using the same grandiloquent sound he had produced in his characterization of King Lear, Lawrence Dunn addressed an unseen audience. “It is with heavy heart I appeal to my public…”
I poked my head between two robes, trying to fathom his words. Dust particles invaded my nose and throat. I swallowed a sneeze. Oh my word! That tickle in my throat again. I rummaged through my purse. Where was that tin of lozenges? The tin dropped out of the purse and hit the bottom pipe of the costume rack. The bell-like ping of the tin against the metal of the pipe brought Dunn to the door of his dressing room.
He was attired in a tatty, red velvet robe—a towel tucked like a bib into the collar. His legs, deprived of the padding that enhanced the shape of his tights, were sticklike and the absence of wigs and hats proved his natural hair to be pure white, collar length and blessed with a natural wave. Framed in the cruel, white light of the dressing room, barefaced, he appeared a good deal older than his stage presence had led me to believe.
“Annalise? Are you back?” A cough drop crunched beneath a shoe as Lawrence Dunn stepped forward.
I tried not to breathe.
Dunn grabbed a flashlight and dagger—it appeared to be Falstaff’s—from a bookcase standing against a near wall. The beam of light searched the corners of the basement, delved under a table and climbed to the top of a stack of crates; finally coming to rest on my oxfords. The only shoes, I realized, peeping from beneath the costume rack.
“Out, out damn spot,” he ordered.
Elise Warner blogs at www.elisewarner.blogspot.com
Scene Stealer is available wherever eBooks are sold and is produced in an audio version by audible.com
Thanks, Elise. Great excerpt, great book! And you are SO lucky living in NYC!!