~ excerpt ~
DRAMA QUEEN
by Cindy Davis


The broadcaster warned that the upcoming scenes might be too graphic for some viewers so Angie Deacon went back to her reading—the latest copy of American Theatre Magazine. Not that she couldn't take blood and gore, she'd been an ER nurse, after all. And heaven knew she'd seen enough of it over the course of her relationship with Detective Colby Jarvis. But why topple this peaceful moment—there were so few of them in her life.

When the newsman said, "Tonight, the murder of the Carlson South High School's drama teacher rocked the community," Angie slapped the magazine shut. On the television was a picture of the woman. She was pretty, maybe of Polynesian descent, with short dark hair and black rimmed glasses over deep brown eyes. She had a tiny blemish on her left cheek.

The scene shifted. Police and ambulance strobes illuminated a pair of EMTs like dancers on a disco floor. The men rolled a gurney through a glass door and eased it down six cement steps. As they loaded it into the back of a waiting ambulance, the broadcaster said, "I'm standing here outside 1606 Maple Avenue where the body of Gwen Forest was discovered in her second floor apartment."

The camera panned up and across a row of picture windows, then zoomed in on one about midway along the right side of them building. Two small windows flanking the wide one were open. White ruffled curtains fluttered against the screens.

"Apartment manager David Vickers…" The scene switched to a squat balding man with a bulbous nose sandwiched between two uniformed police officers. He clutched tiny wire-rimmed glasses in his left hand and appeared as though he might crumple onto the grass at any moment. A picture of the apartment building splashed back onto the screen. "Mr. Vickers was preparing to wax the second floor hallway when he noticed Ms. Forest's door was ajar. Receiving no response to his knock, he went in and discovered the body. At this point authorities will only confirm that Ms. Forest was murdered, and that no suspects are in custody. By our morning broadcast we hope to have further details." The camera zoomed in on a clear plastic bag dangling from one of the officer's hands. Angie squinted. It looked like a tube of toothpaste. Murder weapon?

The camera moved to the apartment manager's myopic face. He spoke to the officer on his left then gestured with his chin toward the building. The officer jotted something in his notebook. A reporter stabbed a microphone in their faces but was shooed away. Two men, one uniformed, one not, joined them. That's when Angie sat up straighter. The magazine slid to the carpet. She snatched at it but missed.

What the heck was he doing there? She leaned forward, unfolding her legs and setting both feet on the floor. No mistake. The man in plain clothes was none other than Detective Colby Jarvis. He stood half a head taller than everybody else, that ridiculous deerstalker hat prominent in the strobing red and blue lights. Nothing unusual to see him at a crime scene here in Alton Bay, New Hampshire, quite surprising for him to be at one in Carlson, some sixty-five miles to the south. She watched him for a moment—her friend, her lover, her occasional crime-solving partner, but most of all, the man who'd asked her to marry him.