Thank you all for the great suggestions! ALL of them are going to prove useful, either in this book or in the next mystery. (I’ve already gotten an idea.) I decided to make this incident rather minor, but have it foreshadow (and also let people have another “angel” incident, which they say they want fairly soon after the opening.)
Here’s the draft. I might be able to polish it a little, but I’ve gotta post the entire book within six days, so I’m going on to finish the read-through right now. Any suggestions are welcome, as always!
# # #
As soon as the ON THE AIR lights went dark, Whit turned to her. “Why wouldn’t you let me get my PDA? It wasn’t for a call, just to make a note.”
“I didn’t want you to make any noise. I don’t want to join you in the doghouse.” Kay ignored his look of consternation. “Come on, let’s get out of here. Did you get what you wanted?”
He was staring at the stage, now empty and looking like an abandoned Barbie cottage. “Sort of.” He seemed as though he might be about to ask her for something further, such as a backstage tour, which she wasn’t in the mood for, so she broke eye contact and reached for her crutches.
But before she could get steady on her feet, a great wind gusted in from nowhere and knocked her flat on her butt between the rows of seats. As she fell backwards, she heard a loud boom near her feet. She grabbed for the upholstered edges of the closest seats to break her fall, but she still landed awkwardly, like a rolling scarecrow. Her landing was fairly light, though, as though she’d landed on a mattress, without the bouncing. And she didn’t hit her head.
Which was why she could think clearly, and know that the continued pinging noise against the concrete floor wasn’t a bomb, although it sounded loud enough. It echoed through the theater as she met Whit’s alarmed stare.
What came unbidden out of her mouth was, “You ought to see the expression on your face.” He looked like a goldfish goggling out the side of its bowl. “Close your mouth,” she told him, because it was hanging open.
“What was that?” A stagehand ran out to the edge of the set and visored his hand against the bright house lights. “We heard something hit.” He inspected the set, apparently expecting to find a pin light or sandbag in Rusty’s chair.
“It was out here,” Whit called. Kay saw a glint of metal at his feet. He bent over and retrieved something. “Bouncing around between the floor and the seats. It’s a bolt of some kind. Big one.” He held out his flattened hand, the bolt diagonal across his palm. “Six inches, easy, and a half-inch diameter, of steel. Came out of nowhere.”
“Out of the ceiling?” The kid looked up. “But there’s nothing much up there.” The ceiling was, as in most studios, a grid of iron bars on which were clamped various forms of theater lighting, but the lights were clustered just in front of the audience, not over their heads.
“Seems like it.” Whit raised his eyebrows. His message was clear.
The kid ran down the stairs into the seating area and goggled at the bolt, then stared into the grid overhead as if it were empty sky. “I don’t know where this could’ve–oh! I bet I do know.” He looked relieved at having thought of something. “The boss’s birthday.”
The kid waved his hands in the air, as though that would explain. “Like, there were these balloons that they had rigged up there to fall down on the audience last month, when we did our taping on Rusty’s birthday. So that’s what this is from, a bolt that held a corner of that huge net of balloons.” He grinned. “Looks harmless, doesn’t it?” Not to Kay. “But anything falling that far gets a lot of kinetic energy and could knock a hole in your head.”
“And another of those I don’t need.” Kay managed a weak smile, although she was still shaken and mentally feeling for bruises (even MORE bruises.)
Whit fiddled with the bolt. “Pretty dang large for holding up a net.”
The kid looked at him blankly and took the bolt, juggling it between his hands casually.
“What would such a bolt have been attached to?” Whit shook his head. “I don’t see anything that it could’ve fallen out of.”
The kid looked up as if by reflex, then shrugged. “Good thing one of those nets wasn’t still there to come crashing down. It’d have caught you for sure.”
“Yes.” Kay nodded. Whit’s eyes flashed with–anger?
But the kid had meant it as a jest, of course. He was already backing away from them, clutching the bolt. “Well, I’d better get back. Sorry for the scare.”
She looked at Whit. “And that’s all it was. Let’s put it out of our minds.” She was determined to minimize the incident. After all, hadn’t her angel Paulie rescued her again, just in the nick of time?
One of these days she was going to see him, reflected in a mirror or lurking behind a curtain. And then they’d take her straight to the loony bin.
“That guy didn’t even ask if you were hurt or if he could help you up.” Whit still stared into the wings after the stagehand. “Knows all about kinetic energy, but no manners. What a jerk.”
“He’s young. A newbie. Just didn’t know what to do.” Sheepish, she held out her hand. “Besides, you’re here just so that I can be helped up.”
“Haven’t we done this already?” His eyes twinkled.
“Sorry. I’m not usually this clumsy.” She brushed herself off as he handed her the crutches. Nothing seemed to be permanently scarred, although she smarted in a couple of places and her ankle was complaining again.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Whit’s glance seemed to survey her head-to-foot, but she resolutely crutched out and hurried towards the elevator, as though she were eager to get back to the office. She didn’t want to talk about how she’d ended up on her butt on the floor just in time once again, thanks to her angel.
Instead of going off to wherever he should’ve been going off to, Whit trailed behind. “Did you see Pundit Boy shaking his fist at his producer in the wings? Don’t they get along?”
“As far as I know. Talent is always eccentric. I did notice that he twitched even more than usual today.” She shook her head. “Those might be nervous tics. I don’t know why his handlers don’t talk to him about that.” She stepped into the elevator.
“Interesting that you noticed.” He pressed the fourth floor button and turned to her. His eyes lit up again. They were like neon in a bar window.
“Well . . . it was really obnoxious today. I mean, I’ve never actually seen anyone lay his finger next to his nose and twinkle, like Santa in ‘The Night Before Christmas.'”
“That poem’s authorship is in question, did you know? They say it’s really by some military man or another, and Clement C. Moore was reticent to announce it because when they ferreted the poem out and published it, they made the assumption it was his and created an awkward situation.”
“I did not know that. But it’s a perfect trivia question.”
“You’re good at trivia.”
“Yes, I am, actually.” She preened a little as the elevator stopped at their floor. She had learned to navigate with the crutches, and she was getting better at it. Swinging in between the crutches had a certain rhythm. “Jackie wants her car back,” the rubber feet said as they tapped a drumbeat, alternating with her feet on the hardwood.
“Is that ankle feeling stiffer?” He put his hand on the elevator doors to keep them from closing on her butt, then scooted out himself.
“Maybe a little.” And she’d just been thinking how adept she was. She shrugged and nearly lost a crutch. “I mean, what can you expect.”
# # #
I suppose it’s not exactly a James Patterson action flick book. But doesn’t it remind you of a Tracy-Hepburn comedy, or a “Thin Man” flick, or something like that, just a little?
It’s supposed to. . . .