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Authors: Bev Robitai

Tags: #murder, #mystery, #fitness, #gym, #weight loss, #theatre

Body on the Stage

BOOK: Body on the Stage
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Body on the Stage
Bev Robitai

 

 

Copyright belongs to Bev
Robitai

Chapter One

 

Dennis Dempster reached for the
curved bronze door handle in front of him. He paused.

“Excuse me!” A young man brushed
past him and entered the building. Dennis turned to walk away.
Three paces later he stopped, squared his shoulders, and walked
back to the front door of the Regent Theatre.

He suspected he was making a
horrible mistake the moment he reached for the elegant handle and
heard high-pitched female giggling from inside. As he was about to
pull the door open it was pushed towards him and several teenage
girls came out. They stared at him, looked at each other and burst
out laughing.

“Sorry, just going in...” Dennis
edged his bulk past the group of giggling girls and let the door
close behind him, mercifully cutting off their shrieks of
mirth.

He stood for a moment assessing
the scene in the foyer, feeling his already shaky self-esteem drop
several more notches at the sight of numerous athletic young men
sprawled casually over chairs and sofas, reading through pages of
script. Two were doing push-ups on the ornately-patterned red
carpet while another had brought along a set of hand weights and
was using them to pump up his massive biceps.

Showing up alone and walking
into a place full of strangers with no idea what he’d be doing
there was probably mad, but he was out of options. Something had to
change in his life, and an advert he’d found about auditions and
helpers wanted at the Regent Theatre had given him hope that maybe,
just maybe, he could find some new friends and get his life back on
track. But he hadn’t expected the place to be full of bronzed young
muscle-men.

This really was a mistake. He
turned to leave, but before he could escape an efficient-looking
blonde woman with a clipboard spotted him. She hurried towards him,
looked him over and frowned slightly.

“Hi, have you come for the
auditions?” He heard the dubious note in her voice and felt a flush
rising.

“Er, yes. But not to audition
for the stage. I mean, obviously! I’m not a show business kind of
guy.” He started to sweat. “I just came to see if I could help out
somewhere, that’s all. Some job backstage perhaps?”

Her face cleared. He was glad to
see her blue eyes light up in welcome.

“Of course, we’d be very happy
to have you on the crew.” She poised with her pen over the
clipboard. “What’s your name?”

“Dennis Dempster,” he said.

“What’s your contact number,
Dennis?”

He recited the details and she
jotted them neatly on her form.

“I should probably ask what the
show is.”

She stared at him.

“You’ve come to auditions
without knowing what show we’re casting? You’re a rare bird,
Dennis. Most people come along so keen to score a lead role they
know all the characters and have memorised half the script
already.” She looked at him. “You really don’t know?”

“Not a clue,” he said. “It
doesn’t matter, does it? I just came along because someone
suggested this was a good place to meet new people.”

She laughed. “Oh yes! You’re
quite right, Dennis, it’s a great place to socialise. I’m Jessica,
by the way. I manage this place, and seem to have let it take over
my life for the past few years. See, you’ve met a new person
already.” She grinned at him. “OK, here’s a challenge for you. See
if you can guess what the show is from the people that are here
today.”

Dennis looked around, completely
baffled. He’d never been a follower of live theatre and couldn’t
think of a single show title. He shrugged helplessly. Jessica put
down her clipboard and clapped her hands for attention.

“Hey guys! What show are you
auditioning for?”

They leaped to their feet and
struck muscular poses, showing off well-tuned bodies to the best
advantage.

“LADIES NIGHT!” they
chorused.

Dennis turned brick-red and
wished the floor would swallow him up. Surely only he could be so
dumb as to turn up for auditions of a show about male strippers,
especially looking the way he did. A beached whale would bring more
credibility to the part.

“Thank you, boys, carry on!”
Jessica turned to Dennis and waggled her clipboard. “Don’t mind
them – actors are such show-offs. Now, what can we sign you up for?
Construction? Props? Front of House? What sort of skills do you
have?”

Faced with her expectant smile
his mind went blank. He hadn’t really thought this through.
Jessica’s eyes narrowed. “I’m betting the person who suggested you
come along didn’t know the theatre very well, and didn’t give you
any ideas about what to do once you got here.” He nodded in
agreement and she gave him a sympathetic smile. “Don’t worry, we’ll
find something nice and easy to start you off with. It’ll be weeks
before we have you directing the show.” Her wink unlocked his
frozen reactions and he smiled back.

“You’re quite right. This was my
sister’s idea. She thinks I should get out more, but unfortunately
she’s not here to share the experience.” And wouldn’t she be
hearing about it when she rang for her next chat. “I can probably
help with any computer problems you might have, and I don’t mind
doing basic stuff like sweeping or making the tea.”

“Sounds great. I’ll put you down
for construction assistant and someone will send you an email when
we’re ready to start. Just pop your email address down here, and
for God’s sake write clearly so we can find you again, OK?”

As she handed him the clipboard
he was briefly tempted to enter a false address. He could tell
Janice he’d made the effort but that they’d never got back to him.
He sighed. That wouldn’t change his life though. He decided he
might as well have a go at doing some socialising, especially now
he’d made such an effort to begin. He handed back the clipboard and
was rewarded with a brilliant smile.

“Do you want to meet some of the
construction crew so you know who to look out for when the day
comes?”

He took a breath and steeled
himself. “Sure, Jessica, that would be great. If you’re sure you
have the time?”

She patted his arm. “Of course.
Come on backstage – these hooligans can look after themselves for a
few minutes.”

She led him out of the foyer and
along a shabby corridor towards the back of the building. It was
lined with electrical cables on one side and coils of rope on the
other, giving it the smell of an old sailing ship. They passed
through a doorway and up two steps into a black-painted area which
he realised was the side of the stage itself, and Jessica turned
with a finger to her lips in warning. In the centre of the stage a
red-haired woman read from a page of script, stridently reciting
lines that had Dennis wincing as he tiptoed after his guide.

“You can shave, or you can pluck
‘em, but I DON’T want to see them curling round yer G-string!”

He hurried after Jessica and was
relieved when the padded stage door closed behind them. They
entered a wide, low-ceilinged room painted an institutional shade
of green, where a group of people in jeans and sweatshirts sprawled
casually on ancient chairs, nursing glass coffee mugs.

“This is the Green Room where
everyone hangs out backstage. Guys, this is Dennis. He’s a real
newbie to theatre so break him in gently, OK? Gazza, try not to
frighten him off in the first ten minutes.” She winked at a
leathery-faced guy with a hat pulled down over his eyes, and
grinned as he grunted in protest. “Tony,” she said, addressing a
stocky curly-haired man, “can you introduce Dennis to the gang and
show him around a bit while I get back to auditions? God knows what
those muscle-bound hoons will do to the foyer if I’m not there to
keep an eye on them.” She rolled her eyes. “Dennis, I look forward
to seeing you in a couple of weeks when we get started with
construction. Bye for now!” She whirled on the spot and disappeared
through the stage door, leaving Dennis standing in the Green
Room.

“Hi Dennis,” said Tony, standing
up and offering his hand. “Don’t mind our Jessica – you’ll get used
to her dashing around if you spend any time here. Come and meet the
guys.”

“Oh, er, OK then. If it’s no
hassle.” Dennis looked round the group seeing polite smiles and
nods of welcome.

“Gazza’s our head of lighting.”
Gazza peered from under his hat and growled a greeting. “That’s
Nick, he does most of our promotions,” continued Tony. Dennis
thought Nick looked a bit of a smooth charmer. “Clara-Jane is head
of wardrobe, and Fenton is the theatre secretary.” A plump woman
and rail-thin youth looked up and smiled. “Do you want the free
50-cent tour while you’re here?” asked Tony.

“No, that’s all right, I’d
better be heading off. But thanks anyway.” Dennis was ready to
leave. “Very nice to meet you all. I guess I’ll see you when, er,
once things start happening here. When I get the email. Thanks
again. Bye.”

He escaped down the side
corridor and out onto the street with a feeling of relief, glad not
to encounter any more giggling girls. He unlocked his car and
headed back to his small apartment.

That night his sister Janice
phoned for her regular chat.

“So, did you go to the auditions
like I suggested? Were the people nice?”

“Yes, I went, and yes, they were
very nice. But…”

“But what? You’re not going to
chicken out of this too, are you? Come on, Den, you know you have
to make an effort to get out and meet people. It’s been nearly a
year since Louise left and you’ve just been stewing all by
yourself.” She sighed. “If I was in the same country I’d drag you
out by the hair and make you, but I can only nag you from
here.”

“And you’re very good at that.
If it wasn’t for you I’d be quivering in a dark wardrobe popping
anti-depressants like breath mints, so don’t feel your skills are
slipping. I just need more time to get myself together, OK?”

“So, are you going to get
involved in a show or not? What did they say when you went in
there?”

He laughed mirthlessly. “Well,
for starters it probably wasn’t the best choice of shows to go
along for. The place was full of studly young blokes all looking
very buff and muscular because they were auditioning for
Ladies
Night
.”

“What, that play about the
unemployed guys that become male strippers? Ouch. No wonder you
felt bad. Sorry, Den, I didn’t see that one coming. Never mind,”
she continued cheerfully, “on the upside there’s bound to be heaps
of girls hanging round for a show like that so you might get to
meet someone nice!”

He shuddered. “No chance. I’m
off the market, thanks. Never again. One failed marriage is more
than enough for this lifetime. Besides, who’d want a pale, podgy
mess like me anyway?”

“Dennis David Dempster, don’t
you dare say such things! You’ve got all the rest of your life
ahead of you and I’m damned if I’ll see you give up on love. Just
because Louise was an A-grade bitch it’s no reason to swear off
women altogether. And you know very well that pale and podgy isn’t
your usual state.” Her voice softened. “Just give it time, bro.
Start looking after yourself. You’ll be OK.”

“All right, I believe you.
Thanks for the pep talk, as always. Get back to your delightful
husband and 2.1 children now, I’ll be fine.”

He hung up, smiling. Maybe he
would go back to the theatre when they contacted him. The rest of
his life was apparently in his own hands and he’d have to start
somewhere.

 

His life ticked along
uneventfully for a couple of weeks. He went to work, he came home,
and spent most of his free time sitting on the couch with his
laptop, surfing online with the TV on for company. If he kept his
head down and didn’t think too much, life was bearable. He could go
for days without thinking about his ex-wife, until a stray piece of
mail or a random memory ambushed him in his secure little
hide-away. It was unnerving how a simple bank statement with her
name on it was enough to tear his heart out, standing by the
mailbox with the scent of roses on the breeze. But he figured time
would heal the wounds eventually and things would get better.

BOOK: Body on the Stage
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