When Gus LeGarde agrees to play piano for the high school drama club’s production of “Spirit Me Away,” a sixties-style musical he wrote in college, he doesn’t expect to face a barrage of menacing pranks played on his fiancée, Camille and the cast and crew of the drama club. Who’s sabotaging the show? And what do they have against Camille?
Is it sex-crazed Armand, the Latino teen infatuated with her? Something happened last year that Camille won’t talk about, and it has to do with Armand. Gus wants to know what it is, but she’s not talking.
Could it be Superintendent Marshall, whose past holds horrific secrets related to one of the worst crimes of the 20thcentury? And why did someone break into Camille’s home, taking her intimate undergarments and stealing her beloved mini-dachshund, Boris?
Gus must unravel the mystery before the backstage saboteur stakes his final, deadly claim.
The scream came from backstage. Prolonged and shrill, it made the already tense students jump from their seats and brought me to my feet in front of the piano.
Molly Frost, who’d been singing a lyrical rendition of Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me,” whirled to stare at the dark hallway leading to the prop room.
Camille stood and took control, dropping the clipboard she’d been using to take notes. “Okay. Everyone settle down.” She turned to me, her eyes clouded. “Professor LeGarde? Would you check out that—”
The scream came again, louder this time.
The hairs on the back of my neck rose. Who was back there? Everyone auditioning for the Spirit Me Away musical sat right with us in the auditorium.
“I’m on it.” I raced across the scuffed stage floorboards. Fumbling for the break in the heavy velvet curtain, I finally found it, and flew through the backstage corridor, past the chorus room, and into the prop room.
Mrs. Agnes Bigelow stood with her back to the wall, a yellow tie-dyed skirt crumpled at her feet. Her normally pasty complexion turned flour-white and her face worked in noiseless horror.
Racks of costumes lined the far wall. Cartons of props lay jumbled on the floor. Artificial swords protruded from a bucket and a procession of wigs lined two shelves. I scanned the room carefully, but saw nothing amiss.
I approached her like I would a nervous filly. “Mrs. Bigelow?”
I touched her sleeve. “Mrs. Bigelow?”
She gulped, sputtered, and stared at me with boggled eyes. Trembling, she pointed toward the bucket of swords. “Over there.”
Puzzled, I walked toward the bucket, seeing nothing amiss. I half expected to find a dead body, but what reared its head was almost worse.
A red and white snake emerged, its head swaying toward me.
My heart skipped a beat and my skin grew clammy. As if under its spell, I stood stock-still.
The snake’s scales glistened and it corkscrewed around a crude wooden sword.
Camille appeared at the door with her entourage of drama students rubbernecking behind her. “Gus? What’s going on?”
I looked at my betrothed with false bravado. “It’s all right, honey. Just a snake.” I figured if I said it out loud as if it were no big deal, my nerves would calm down. I was wrong.
Camille’s hand flew to her mouth. “Did you say a snake?”
I glanced at the serpent, easing back a step. “Uh huh.”
Her eyes widened, but she recovered and herded the clamoring teens back into the hall. They craned their heads and peered over her outstretched arms.
I surveyed the room. No outside doors or windows; a catwalk suspended overhead. It seemed improbable the serpent had slithered in from the outside. I wondered if maybe it had escaped from one of the terrariums in the elementary wing.
I turned to the teens. “Could one of you please get Mr. Marggrander? Last time I saw him, he was unloading lumber at the dock.”
Tenth grader Candy Price shot her hand in the air, waving it with enthusiasm. She danced from foot to foot making her short red curls bob up and down. “I’ll go!”
Camille nodded her approval and the girl scampered off.
The snake suddenly rose to the top of the bucket and hissed. A shiver rippled along my spine. I vaguely wondered if it was a copperhead.