Monday, March 30, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #19

Audrey left her alone with the children, after providing damp paper towels to wipe the frosting off their fingers and mouths. Kat helped herself to a crown-shaped cookie. The cookie was good enough by itself. What did it need all that frosting for? Of course, she wasn't one who would refuse thick, sweet, creamy frosting under a delicate shell that crinkled when she bit into it. Maybe the cookies would be more recognizable if Audrey didn't slather them from edge to edge with frosting, but just used those gel tubes they sold in the grocery store to draw the details, like jewels on the crowns or pleats on the skirts of the princess's dress. She made a mental note to mention that, and paused to pull her notepad and pen out of the tiny purse she had brought with her today.

"Are you getting married, too?" Tiffany asked, going up on her toes to try to see over the edge of the notepad as Kat wrote.

"No. Why?" She smiled at the little girl, with her moustache of yellow frosting from biting the head off the princess cookie.

"Nikki was always making notes for her wedding. It was yesterday."

"Well, Nikki is just smart and organized. You can make notes for things besides weddings. For instance, I'm a writer, like my dad, and I carry a notepad with me all the time so I can write down ideas for scripts before I forget them."

"Who's your dad?" one of the boys asked. The two boys looked so much alike, Kat speculated they were brothers.

"Dr. Morgan."

"You're lucky. He comes over our house a lot to talk with Dad Holwood for school stuff. We like him a lot."

"Yeah, well, so do I."

That seemed to strike both boys as hilarious, and they laughed as Kat put her notepad away and continued the tour. She laughed with them, although she lost her breath for a moment later in the tour when Tiffany caught hold of one hand, and then the boy who hadn't spoken grabbed onto the other. She grinned down at them, swinging her arms out of synch, as they walked down the stairs from the balcony.

Friday, March 27, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #18

"This way," Audrey said, gesturing at the door between the scene shop and the back door of the house, which opened onto the stairs down into the basement of the theater. "We'll start with the kitchen. Maybe if their hands and mouths are full, they won't wreak too much havoc on the rest of the tour. Plus, I have to get back to setting up."

She led the way down the steep cement stairs. Kat was still amazed at how much had changed since the last time she had worked at Homespun. The dividing walls in the basement had been pushed back and part of the costume shop rearranged, storage moved elsewhere, to expand the kitchen to cater for the dinner guests once the dinner theater experiment got fully underway. Everything gleamed with stainless steel and scrubbed linoleum. The big old black cast iron stove in the corner nearly sparkled, as if it had been given a fresh coat of paint and then varnished for good measure.

"I always say, life is too short, so we should eat dessert first," Audrey announced, as she crossed the kitchen to the new worktable and uncovered a long aluminum tray, with frosted green and gold and blue cookies on them. "Help yourself -- take whatever you want." Something in her eyes made Kat think there was more than just getting rid of experimental cooking behind bringing them down here.

"Uh… okay, is that supposed to be a princess?" she guessed, pointing at one vaguely human-shaped cookie. That spiky thing on top of the head was probably a crown.

"And this is supposed to be a pea," Audrey said, nodding, and pointing to a three-inch-wide round cookie. "They'd be more believable if they were decorated to bring out the details. Something I didn't take into consideration when I ordered the cookie cutters. The wretched things don't come with design instructions or stencils or anything, to help with decorating. The klutz field sets in when I try fancy decorating. I leave that to the experts." Then she laughed as she looked down and saw that the children had taken her at her word. They had a cookie in each hand, and already had green frosting smeared around their mouths. Tiffany, for all that she dressed like a little princess herself with her flouncy skirts and lace edging on her little socks and patent leather shoes, was just as messy an eater as the boys.

"Morgan is giving credit to anybody who gets involved in the summer productions," Kat offered. "Maybe somebody in the class has some art training and would do this for you. I'll ask on Monday -- that's the first day of class."

"You are an answer to prayer."

Kat's heart did a funny flip. She should have realized that practically anybody who hung around at Homespun probably thought the same way that the Randolphs and Bekka and her parents did, adding God to the mix in every part of their lives. Sometimes she wished it were so easy and natural for her.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #17

Most of the ensemble from Homespun had come to the party, friends from church, and fellow professors from BWU. Kat was surprised to realize she knew most of the people, and then pleased. She hated parties where she felt like people were staring at her back, wondering why she had been invited or flat out wondering who she was. She wasn't the youngest person at the party, as she had feared. Dr. Holwood and his wife were foster-parents, and they had brought their current crop of children. When all three asked, nearly in unison, if they could see inside the theater, Kat volunteered to give the children a tour. It would keep them out of the traffic during the last-minute fussing and scurrying around to set up the party, and take pressure off Emily, who had been the target of the big-eyed pleas.

"You're a God-send," Emily said. "Thank you."

"Anywhere I should avoid?" Kat asked, as the little girl, Tiffany, caught hold of her hand and the two boys -- who hadn't introduced themselves yet -- raced for the door into the scene shop. Obviously they had been here often enough to at least know what was the entrance to the house and what let them into the theater proper.

"The costume shop is chaos, and I'd ask permission from Audrey before going into her kitchen --"

"Nothing dangerous," Audrey called from under the tent, where she was setting a gray bus pan full of crushed ice into a larger, covered bin. "In fact, I could use some help getting rid of some experiments." She wiped her hand on the towel tucked into the waistband of her shorts and hurried over to them. "You have to promise me it won't spoil your appetites, though."

Kat noticed she looked at Mrs. Holwood as she made that condition, eyes widening, clearly asking permission. The diminutive black woman muffled laughter and nodded, silently giving permission while the two boys let out cheers.

"The scene shop is still fairly safe. No equipment plugged in or half-finished scenery sitting out and ready to collapse on anyone," Emily added. She made a shooing gesture at the scene shop door. "Why don't you finish the tour with the fireman's pole?"

Saturday, March 21, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #16

"It's not that." He sighed again and finally turned to look at her, meet her gaze. He tried to smile. "Just got a lot of stuff going on. But I've got tomorrow off. How about I pick you up really early and we head out, take the day for just us, get to Cedar Point as soon as the gates open? I know things are kind of lame before the official Memorial Day opening, but that's the fun of it. Hardly anybody'll be there, no standing in line. We'll bring a bunch of junk food with us, have a picnic on the beach. It'll be great."

"Yeah, it sounds great. I wish I could go." Kat adjusted her grip on the box of papers, wishing it were heavier than it was. Forty copies of a thirty-page course outline wasn't that much paper. She had handled three or four times as much without a problem.

The odd thing was, she didn't wish she could go to the amusement park for the day with Marco.

Always listen to your gut when it disagrees with people's words. You can always depend on you, Bekka had advised her more times than Kat could count. She always trusted Bekka's sense of people and situations. After all, Bekka had guessed before anyone else what a scumsucking, lying, self-righteous jerk of a wannabe child molester Mike Tyler had been, and she had been there for Kat through all that misery and shame last year.

She wanted to go to Bekka right now for some advice on Marco.

"I can't," Kat finally said. "We have plans for tomorrow."

"You and your roommates? Tell them to grab their boyfriends and come with us."

"I promised my folks I'd go to church with them tomorrow…" Kat backed up a step when Marco's mouth tightened and flattened and he looked away for a few seconds. "And we're going over to the Randolphs' for lunch. Max and Tony are back from their honeymoon."

"When are you going to stop remaking yourself to suit your parents?"

"Huh?" Now she did back up. Kat's gut told her to run for the Green Room. It wasn't that she thought Marco would hit her, or even start yelling, though that was bad enough.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #15

Climbing the stairs, watching Marco stand there with his back to her, as if he couldn't hear her, Kat decided she wished he hadn't shown up tonight. Everything was great until he reminded her what a jerk he had been all winter and spring. Should she pretend she didn't see him, pretend nothing was wrong, or give him the cold shoulder and keep walking?

"Hey," he said, when she reached the top of the stairs.

Kat paused, despite the load of papers to haul to the Green Room to hand out. He looked like the Marco she used to know, with mischief in his eyes and a gentle hint of a smile on his mouth. The one she thought she understood.

"Hey. You're kind of late. You missed Murder, and there's not much food left." She gestured toward the hall to the Green Room with a lift of her elbow, since her hands were full. "Morgan just started talking about what we're doing for the summer program. It's going to be pretty cool."

"Morgan." He snorted. That hardness came back to his face.

"Uh, yeah? Since he's teaching the class. All of a sudden you don't like--" Kat swallowed hard, stunned by that twinge of guilt -- and anger at that guilt -- when she tripped over referring to Morgan as her father. There was nothing to be ashamed of, so why did she hesitate, especially when Marco knew about their relationship?

"What? All of a sudden I don't like your dad?" He sounded tired instead of tense or sarcastic. That was an improvement. Marco sighed. "It's not him. He's still a great guy."

"Even though he's my father?" she asked, her voice going so soft she wondered if he could hear it.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #14

Marco stood at the top of the stairs in the theater lobby, leaning against the railing with his back to the stairwell. Kat slowed when she saw him. She hated the feeling of knots filling her stomach. Why hadn't she taken a lesson from Amy and Joe's stormy relationship that had played out in front of her all last year? True, her former roommate had ended up marrying Joe and moving to Nashville with him, to try to make a career writing lyrics, but that didn't guarantee Kat would have a happily-ever-after. She had vowed long ago, she would never let a guy drag her up and down the roller coaster of emotions like those two. That vow hadn't changed even after she realized Amy had done most of the dragging. Was having a guy in her life worth the turmoil? Why had she been so stupid to try to talk things over with Marco and fix their relationship?

Bottom line: it took two to fix a relationship, but only one to break it. Marco wasn't trying. Her evidence? He had said he was coming to tonight's kick-off party, but didn't. He hadn't registered for the summer term class like he said he would. Most telling of all, he hadn't come to help her set up for tonight. Last year, Marco had been there every time she turned around, even when he should have been somewhere else, like playing in his friends' band.

Marco used to be happy just being with her, even when all they did was work. Ever since January, it seemed like all he wanted was for her to drop everything she was doing, break all her commitments, and go somewhere with him, do what he wanted to do. He got angry, like she had broken some promise she couldn't remember making, when she wouldn't abandon her classes, her job as student assistant, or time she had promised to her parents.

All last fall he had insisted they were going to get married someday, but after she got back from Christmas in New York with her parents, he had stopped. What had brought on the change? Something had happened while she was away -- but of course, when she asked him what was wrong, he either said nothing was wrong or he got even angrier and wouldn't talk to her for days.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #13

Kat and Mac met each other's gazes and muffled laughter. When she turned back to watch the other players gather around and argue over who would be the new District Attorney, Kat found both the General and her father watching her. The big Bohemian head of the theater department studied her with narrowed eyes, looking more suspicious as the moments ticked by and the other players argued louder. That, she could handle. It was the faint hint of a smile, the lack of any threat or silent communication in Dr. Daniel Morgan's expression that made her nervous. She looked away.

"So, what's it like with Dr. Morgan for your stepfather?" Mac asked, nudging her with his elbow. "Doesn't it just suck, losing your job as his student assistant, because your mom married him?"

"Nope. I couldn't keep the job anyway, with the writing internship I'm starting in June."

Kat wondered how long the rumor mill would keep tangling the facts of the case until people who knew the truth slapped some sense and courtesy into people who wanted to make a federal case or a scandal out of everything. Morgan was her biological father, her parents had been college sweethearts, broke up before she was born, and now they were back together. True, she had to step down from her position as Morgan's student assistant because it was against the rules for family to work in the same department as faculty. The Humanities department head, Dr. Holwood, was a friend, as well as very understanding and supportive, and he had recommended to the university administration that Kat be allowed to keep her position for the remainder of the school year. While she geared up for her internship she would spend the summer training her replacement. The internship had been arranged with friends of her father in New York, writing screenplays and stage plays and critiquing new screenwriting students, everything handled through the Internet and phone calls, with weekend trips to New York every other month. It most definitely did not "suck" to have Dr. Daniel Morgan for her father.

Monday, March 9, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #12

Kat caught Shane's gaze and tipped her head toward the stairwell. It just showed what a smart guy he was that he didn't have to be given a stronger hint. He hurried through the door, let out a bark of laughter, and a moment later shouted, "Body!" A few seconds later, he and Mac followed Kat and Bekka down the hall to get behind stage to the Green Room, which served as the Morgue.

"Wow," Bekka murmured, as they met up with other teams hauling in the Dead. "This is going to be one short game, if the Murderer hits that many every time."

"Don't suppose you corpses have any clues to give us?" Shane added.

Kat and Mac just looked at each other, wide-eyed, then shook their heads. It took all her self-control not to burst out laughing.

Fortunately, there was still room for the growing number of Dead on the various couches pushed against the wall in the corner of the Morgue. Bekka and Shane handled their corpses with a little more care than the others who found victims throughout the theater building, settling Kat and Mac down in seated positions, instead of giving them a shove or leaving them sprawled on the floor.

"Excuse me?" One of the newly Dead sat up -- Gabe Hunter. "You have to designate a new DA. Again."

"We have an extremely diabolical Murderer among us today," the General grumbled as he settled down on a bench within reach of the refreshments table. "This is only the second round of the game, and the District Attorney has been killed each time."

"Are you volunteering for the job?" Lynnette said, as she settled down on the arm of the couch where Morgan had taken a seat just a few seconds before.

"Me? And mark myself for death? Tell your husband to take the job."

"Me?" Morgan drew himself up in perfect imitation of his fellow theater professor. "Mark myself for death?"

Friday, March 6, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #11

Another shriek of agony wafted through the building as she waited. Now that she knew who her Murderer was, Kat wasn't surprised. He had lots of experience in wreaking havoc. She wondered if he had some infra-red or night-vision goggles he hadn't told anyone about, or was it long experience in moving through the building that let him be just another shadow among the shadows?

A familiar whiff of vanilla body oil warned her when there were no other sounds. Kat braced herself. A foot hit the chair rack, then a slowly waving hand brushed across her shoulder. Bekka chuckled. Yet another howl of death reverberated through the building and she paused before she let out the ritual cry.


The lights in the foyer of the BWU theater building came on. Blinking rapidly to make her eyes adjust, Kat looked over to the switches on the far wall and saw Shane standing with his hand on the panel. Of course, where else would he be? Bekka and Shane were almost to the point of being Siamese twins -- where one appeared, the other was close by.

"Oh, yeah," Shane said, strolling over to where Bekka stood over Kat. "I'd give that one a twelve out of ten."

Flatterer, Kat mouthed -- technically, the Dead weren't allowed to speak. She held up her hands, bending the rules far enough to make them snap. Bekka grinned, bent, caught her wrists, and hauled her to her feet. The Dead were allowed to walk, but only after they had been pulled up from their death pose.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #10

Kat started to turn, when a big hand gripped her shoulder.

"You're dead," the Murderer announced, the voice a little louder, a little less raspy -- and clearly identifiable.

She turned and muffled a squeak of indignation. She had been wrong.

"You--" Kat stopped herself as the Murderer pressed one finger to his lips, signaling for silence.

"Do me proud," he whispered, and swept out of the stairwell.

"That sucks," Mac said. He gestured at the floor. "Make yourself comfortable."

"Thanks. I already have my death spot picked out." Kat silently counted to ten, then slammed herself against the doors, making the crash-bang as they opened reverberate through the theater building. She was proud of that noise, even as she realized she would probably have a bruise to last for a week. Inhaling until her chest hurt, she staggered blindly toward the rack of folding chairs. When her hand touched the metal guide bar, she released all the pressure in her lungs, with a howl worthy of every animated movie villainess she had ever seen. As her dying shriek ended on a sob, she draped herself over the empty end of the chair rack.

If she was lucky, she would be found by someone with a camera. She hated it when a perfectly good death pose went to waste.