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“The show must go on.” That applies even to playwright Marianne Putnam, when the director of her one-act play, “Jokers Wild,” fails to show for curtains up on opening night at the community theater in Serendipity Springs, Florida. When the director’s wife begs Marianne to accompany her to their home to check on him, they find the man floating in his pool. Dead.
Though not known for his pleasant disposition—her relationship with him had been tense since nearly ramming into his car in a parking lot, but after all, he was the director—who would have wanted to murder him? Surely no one in the production crew, cast or the staff of the community center where the play was to be staged. Maybe it was the wife, who Marianne had overheard arguing with him. Or perhaps someone from his theater connections back in the Big Apple.
Since she was there when the body was discovered, Marianne is considered a suspect. That doesn’t mean she can’t help her three Mah Jongg friends—Syd, Micki and Kat—assist the sheriff with the investigation. But who’s there to help her when her path crosses the murderer’s.
The Mah Jongg Mysteries Book 6
By Barbara Barrett
Sleep didn’t come easily for Marianne that night. One thought after another kept invading her brain just as she was about to drop off. Would the community theater group do justice to her play? Would it go over well with an audience? Would she be just a one-play wonder, or was this the beginning of a great new career? What should she wear to the performance? Could she lose that ten pounds she’d been fretting about in time?
She didn’t fall asleep until sometime after four. As a result, instead of waking up at seven thirty as usual, she didn’t stir until a little after nine.
“I debated whether to wake you,” Beau said when she wandered into the kitchen seeking coffee. “But you tossed and turned so much, I thought it best to let you get a few more winks.”
“Thanks. The interviews aren’t until this afternoon, so I won’t be late.” Nonetheless, she felt rushed all morning and kept spacing off. Her mind was still elsewhere when she drove into a parking spot in the community center lot. How did she get so close to the car on her right? She didn’t want to block them in.
She backed up to try again but slammed on the brakes immediately when another car came into her rearview mirror, although not soon enough to avoid the other driver laying on the horn. Fortunately, they didn’t collide.
She pulled back into the spot, still off-center, to let the car behind her pass. Once the vehicle was out of the way, she backed up again—much more carefully—and centered her car in the spot.
Great. Just how she wanted to start off the afternoon. Her hands shook. She should have checked behind her before backing out, but did that horn have to blare so loudly? It had completely shattered what little focus she’d been able to pull together after the night she’d had.
Get a grip, Marianne.
She grabbed her purse and headed for the door of the center. Just as she was about to enter the building, another hand reached for the door ahead of her. “It wasn’t enough to nearly run into my car, now you want to knock me over as well?” asked a man about five feet eight with graying brown hair, a nasty scowl on his face.
She didn’t recognize him. “Sorry about that. Glad no harm was done.”
“No harm? You can’t just dismiss your reckless driving with a ‘sorry.’”
Was this delayed road rage? At least he hadn’t immediately sprung from his car to attack her. “I don’t know what more I can do to rectify this. Like I said, no harm was done.”
“How do you know? Maybe not to either vehicle, but the shock of what could’ve been disastrous will stick with me.” With that, he stomped in before her and let her catch the door.
What a prick. Not a term she typically used, even in her head, but in this case, it suited.
She took a few minutes to compose herself before heading to the conference room where the first production meeting was to take place. In the women’s restroom, she fluffed up her short, graying red curls, reapplied her lipstick and stared at herself in the mirror a full minute. Breathing better? A little. But she didn’t want to be late. Couldn’t linger any longer. She straightened herself to her full five feet one inch and sought the door.
She arrived at the same time as two others. She guessed they were members of the guild board, though she didn’t know them. She did know the slim redhead who rose to greet her. “Marianne, glad you could join us,” said Claire Yardley, the theater guild board chair. “Please, have a seat.” She introduced Marianne to the two women she’d walked in with and one of the two men in the room. All board members. Then she turned her attention to the other man in the room. “This is our new director, Jason Newhall.”
Marianne swiveled to meet the man and nearly bit her tongue in her attempt to keep her jaw from dropping. Jason Newhall was the jerk from the parking lot.
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