Title: Playing a part
By Author: Mary Ann Joyce
Tag line: The detectives discovered that not all the drama at the community theater happened on stage!
Police characters: Detective Emma Logan and her partner Zach Jones.
The gist: The police were called to the Palace Theater on Monday when it was discovered that all the proceeds from the weekend shows was missing. The theater manager told police the money from the ticket sales and the concession was gone. He told them this loss will ruin them. He informed them that last night the theater had hosted the Caribou Club, big spenders and big partyers (my spell check hates this word). While there Det. Logan noticed actors on stage rehearsing. The scene included a lot of pushing and shouting. The manager told police although it was acting, the two men (Jason and Will) hated each other. Jason was a terrible flirt and even made a play for the other’s wife.
Det. Logan asked the manager to run through last night’s procedure. He told her after the performance they all celebrated the sold-out weekend, and then everyone pitched in to clean and close and they all got out around midnight. Will organized the cleanup crew, Jason and the manager counted cash, sorted it, wrote receipts and then Jason put the money in the safe around midnight. Jason left at that point. Will locked up and drove the manager home because he had had too much to drink. Usually the money gets deposited in the morning but because of a hangover the manager came in late and intended to get to that deposit later in the afternoon. When he arrived, Will was waiting on stage to start rehearsal and Jason was in the reception area signing for some packages he had ordered. He added that Jason always flirted with the mail lady and she appeared to have fallen for him. He noted that Jason, the more handsome of the two, was the actor that brought in the crowd. The men took the stage and the manager opened the safe. He claimed no one but he had the combination.
The detectives reviewed the security footage and did not find anyone else entering the theater. They spoke to Jason first. He concurred that he put the money in the safe and then left shortly before midnight. He said he checked his watch because he had a late date, and that she could verify his whereabouts. Will told the police that he had a dislike for Jason and that while Will was sweeping and putting away props, Jason was counting money and pouring drinks for the manager. He said he saw him place the money in the safe.
Crime scene: The Palace Theater.
Clues: Only the manager had the combination.
Suspects: The two actors and the manager.
Red herrings: The fact that the Caribou Club men had the reputation as drinkers and partyers made me think one of them had maybe come back.
Solution: Jason did put the money in the safe, but he didn’t lock it. Then he came in early, removed the money bag, and gave it to the mail carrier, his partner in crime. Jason made sure the manager would have a hangover and get in late. When the mail carrier learned that Jason had a date after the show, and it wasn’t her, she ratted him out.
My two cents: Bottom line: Never mess with a woman’s heart. Basically this story hung together and the pacing was good. The author had three suspects and a bit of a red herring. In the beginning of the story the marquee read: Easy Money…Best show of the season. The author brought that back around at the end when she said, “This is the best show of the season.” Nicely done. The tag line fit the story and the title was good.
What is missing here is a motive. Was someone’s car payments late? Did someone have a gambling problem? Why would Jason, the popular actor who brought in the crowd, ruin his own theater? Perhaps another theater had been trying to get Jason to work for them, so he didn’t care? We need a motive.
Little stuff: If I had written this I might have added that Jason had a late date with a new woman, or one of the girls at the theater, just to be clear he wasn’t with the mail lady. This might work to add the element of jealousy to the mix.
Although the police work was good, what tipped off the detective wasn’t clear. Perhaps because Jason poured the drinks that got the manager drunk? Everyone was celebrating, so that didn’t stand out to me. Both men were counting money and drinking.
They wrote ‘receipts’? Deposit slips maybe? I’m not sure what receipt means. But then I’ve never worked in a theater so maybe I’m not in the loop.
4 stars. Can’t give it five without a motive.