Act Three, Scene One
They sat at Anna's kitchen table, papers spread out all over the tablecloth, Frank leaning over them. Joe's eyes closed as he massaged his forehead. After a full day in the office redesigning the security camera layout for the Patterson project, his vision was getting blurry, and he had a headache the size of the Empire State Building. He could feel exactly when Frank lifted his head to look at him, could feel the concern emanating from his brother. He peeled his eyes open. "What?"
The light glinted off Frank's glasses as he leaned forward, the inevitable cup of coffee in his hands. "Joe, why don't you go home? You look completely done in. Dr. Fitzgerald did say to take it easy for a while."
Joe leaned back in his chair, squinting his eyes against the glare. "I am taking it easy," he said. "I'm sitting and everything. I'm not even fidgeting like I usually do." Absently, he started rubbing his head again, flinching as he got too close to the bruised area near his temple. "Do me a favor, though, and take off the glasses. They're making me see rainbows."
Frank lifted a hand to his face in surprise. "Forgot I had them on. It's amazing what you get used to." He put the glasses on the table then swept the bright red bangs from his forehead. "Although they are useful for keeping the hair out of my eyes."
"What made Marisol go with that particular color?" Joe asked, his voice curious. "I mean, it's not like it makes you blend in."
"Strangely enough, it does," Frank answered, sounding oddly clinical. "A lot of theater people live on extremes; they want to stand out. If she'd made me look too – I don't know, average? – I would have stood out more, drawn more notice. As it is, hardly anyone looks at me." He raised his left hand and touched the gold hoop hanging from his earlobe. "As weird as it sounds, like this, I do blend in."
Joe nodded, the action making his head ring. He grunted. "Okay, so you wanted to compare notes on people. Shoot. Just not literally, please. I'm having enough problems right now." He paused for a second, looking around the kitchen. "Where's Anna? Shouldn't she be in on this?"
Frank shook his head. "I want your input. I know what she thinks of most of these people. I can tell by how she interacts with them at the theater." He moved his empty coffee cup to the side and gestured down the hall. "She's in her room having some private time. One or both of us have been with her constantly for the past few days. I think she needed a break."
"I can see that," Joe said. "Having someone hanging around me all the time would get old quickly. So, who do you want to start with?" He reached out a hand and grabbed a list of names Frank had written out on a sheet of notebook paper. "Stillwater." He cocked an eyebrow at his brother. "Of course, you'd want to start with him."
"Just because I think he's a genius doesn't mean I'm going to keep him off the suspect list," Frank said, a slight edge in his voice. "Besides, I already know that 'genius' doesn't necessarily equal 'nice guy'.
Joe blew out a breath as he organized his thoughts. "Okay, Stephen Stillwater. He thinks highly of himself but doesn't seem to have much use for anyone else. Except Anna and that producer, Milton... something. Jackson. His social skills are somewhat close to nil. The crew hates him 'cause he treats them all like servants." He stopped to think. "I don't think he likes Jackson, I think he tolerates him because he's the primary backer. As near as I can tell the guy's put up the money for Stillwater's last four shows." He paused for a moment. "Anna's different, though. He likes Anna because she really seems to embody the role of Mary Magdalene. It's almost as if he wrote the part with her in mind." Joe watched as Frank's eyes widened. "What?"
"That's an extremely perceptive comment for someone who claims not to understand what the play is about."
Joe shrugged. "You must be rubbing off on me. Don't let it go to your head. I'm still not paying money to go see it once it opens." He shuddered. "Talk about a fate worse than death." Frank smiled. "Anyway, moving on. Milton Jackson... Not much there. He's a pompous ass with more money than G-d. Every time he opens his mouth, he puts his foot in it. He seems to enjoy just being linked to Stillwater. I'm not sure he has enough brains to be stalking someone. Or he's a really good actor." Joe scanned through Frank's list. "Do you want me to comment on everyone?"
Frank shook his head. "Just fill me in on who you think I should watch. I trust your judgment."
"I'd keep an eye on Jason Peters."
"The leading man?" Frank raised his eyebrows.
Joe's lower lip curled. "Guy's a jackass. I'm surprised you haven't seen it yet."
"He hasn't been around the last few days. They've been working on scenes he's not involved in."
"There are some? Could've fooled me." Joe snorted. "Well, you're lucky you haven't had to deal with him yet. You may have noticed there aren't many women involved in this production. And he's still managed to hit on pretty much all of them – Anna included. While I was standing there, no less. He must be a good actor, because I can't think of anyone less suited to play Jesus. He's a walking letch." His eyes narrowed as he considered other names. "Montvale, but you're already watching him." He shifted slightly in his seat. "Oh, here's another one. Brian Jackson, the stage manager. Anna and I ran into him at the restaurant the night I was attacked."
Frank grabbed the paper back and added the name. "Jackson. Any chance he's related to Milton?" Joe shrugged again. "Any particular reason?"
"Just a feeling. It could have been a coincidence, but..." He left the sentence hanging. "How's it going for you? Any problems so far?"
This time Frank shrugged. "Other than needing to talk to Marisol about her wardrobe concept, it's pretty good. Anna's been great, and the theater people seem to have calmed down. The first day or so, I got a lot of suspicious looks. Then the rumor mill kicked in. Rachel – the props mistress? – asked if I was seeing anyone."
Joe gave his brother a puzzled look. "You mean Cheli, right? African-American woman, mid-forties or so." He raised an eyebrow. "Isn't she a bit old for you?"
Frank's lip twitched. "She wanted to fix me up with her cousin Dwayne. She says he likes the 'avaunt-garde type', and I'm a lot nicer than most of what he brings home to meet the family." Joe laughed, wincing slightly as the sound echoed through his head. "Somehow I thought you'd find that amusing," Frank said. "On the plus side, no one's questioning my being around Anna anymore." He glanced up at his brother and made a face. "They are asking about you, though. Anna's told them you're involved in a case. I know she misses having you around, but it's probably best for you to keep a low profile until those bruises fade a bit."
Joe sighed. "I know. I just feel useless right now." He caught the sympathetic look Frank was trying to hide which made him feel worse. "Look, I think I've had enough for today. Tell Anna I said good night." He grabbed his coat from the back of his chair and went home.
"No! Do it again. And try to get it right this time. This isn't that complicated, people. All you need to do is..."
Frank sat backstage watching Stephen Stillwater berate his actors. As both writer and director, he wielded a great deal of authority. And, Frank thought, he doesn't use it judiciously. While there was no question he was a brilliant writer, Joe's assessment of him had been spot on; the man had no idea how to talk to people. He expected every word that issued from his lips to be greeted with admiration and complete attention. The problem was that virtually everything he said was spoken in a voice dripping with sarcasm and contempt or was shouted at the top of his lungs. Some of the cast and crew were obviously terrified of him and spent most of their time doing everything they could not to garner his attention. Those who weren't frightened, tended to ignore him, causing more shouting. The only exception to this behavior that Frank had seen was Anna. With her he was soft-spoken, almost gentle. He could be the second stalker. Written words might be the only way he can communicate. Frank decided he definitely needed more watching.
As Stillwater's diatribe went on, Frank focused part of his mind on the events of the past few evenings. He and Anna had grown accustomed to one another fairly quickly. Frank moved into her guest room, and after the first day, they had developed a routine – days spent at the theater and dinner together making small talk. As soon as the dishes were done, Anna would disappear into her room closing the door behind her. The first few nights Frank heard typing and pages turning, so he assumed she was working on her role and didn't disturb her. Joe had stayed away until the previous night when Frank asked him to stop by so they could compare notes. The reason Joe gave for this was that Anna needed to get used to having Frank around, but Frank suspected Joe's injury was bothering him more than he wanted to let on. His suspicions had been confirmed when his brother had left for home after only limited urging on Frank's part.
Then the evening had gotten strange. Frank had gathered up his notes and started walking down to Anna's room to pass on Joe's message. As he got closer, to Anna's room, he heard voices emanating from the hall, voices that got louder as he got closer. He froze, straining his ears to make out the words.
"Not what the text says..."
"Please. Get real... "
"Read it again."
There were at least four of them, three female and one male. How had they gotten in? He glided silently to the door, raised a hand, and knocked softly. "Anna? Is everything okay?"
There were fluttering paper noises, a muffled curse, and Anna's voice. He made out the word "brother", then heard the sound of a laptop being slammed shut. "Hold on. I'm getting changed." Something hit the floor with a thump, then the door flew open. Anna was wearing a blue and white Mercy College sweatshirt and had her long, black hair in two braids. A red bandana was tied over the top of her head, and a pair of glasses were perched on her nose, the earpieces tucked underneath the bandana. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks flushed. Without the makeup and designer clothes, she looked about fifteen years old. "Did Joe go home already?"
Frank blinked in surprise. "I didn't know you wear glasses," he started to say, then realized he was being rude. He had only been living there for a few days. Of course he wouldn't know.
Anna put a hand up to her face. "Sometimes. Generally not in public. What's up?"
"I heard voices..."
"I was watching a video on my computer," she said, but she didn't quite meet his eyes. "Doing some research. For the play."
Frank nodded, not entirely believing her words. She's hiding something, he thought. "I'm heading to bed in a few minutes," he said, changing the subject. "Joe wanted me to say goodnight for him."
She nodded and closed the door, but not before Frank got a clear look at what had caused the thumping noise. A book had fallen on the floor – a Norton Critical edition of William Blake's poetry.
He had stayed in the hall for a long moment, looking at her door, before going to his room to think.
"Johnny?" Frank started. Obviously he'd been concentrating too hard and had missed something. Anna gave him a concerned look. "I asked if you could get my script. I must have left it in my dressing room. I think it's in my backpack."
"Sure. Sorry, Ms. Gold. I was working out a menu for dinner. I'll be right back with it." As he stood he heard Stillwater holler something about a twenty minute break, ending with a threat to keep them all there past midnight if the rehearsal didn't get better.
Anna's backpack was sitting neatly on a chair in the small dressing room she had been assigned. Frank reached in and pulled out the three-ring binder that held Anna's script and blocking notes. As the binder came free, the edge caught the looped handle at the top of the bag, tipping the bag upside-down and dumping the contents all over the floor. Frank sighed and gingerly knelt down to pick everything up, thanking G-d that the skinny jeans he had put on that morning had enough spandex in them to allow him to reach the floor while still able to breathe. He absently organized the papers, his eyes scanning the contents until he came across one that stopped him cold. It was a sheet of notes – in Anna's writing – on Blake's poetry, including some on the poem Joe had found wrapped around the vase of lilies. Frank was beginning to wonder if they were being played. No, he thought. She was really scared by that note. There's something else going on here. Something I'm missing. What is it? He growled in frustration, picked up the binder, and headed back to the stage, adamant that tonight he and Anna Gold would be having a conversation.
By the time he returned, everyone was gone. Apparently Stillwater had finished ranting at the cast, and they had decamped as quickly as possible. Frank sighed. Great. Well, I guess I'll go eavesdrop on the crew. He retraced his steps and turned towards the green room, figuring there would be someone whose conversation he could overhear. Most of the cast and crew had grown so accustomed to his presence, they barely noticed him, which worked to his advantage.
There were murmured voices in the room, and Frank stopped at the door to listen before entering. "Jason, no. Stop it." Anna's voice was quiet but insistent. "I told you, I'm not interested. I have a boyfriend."
"But he's not here, is he?" Frank's eyes narrowed. The response came from Jason Peters, the leading man Joe had warned him about. "And as long as he's gone, we might as well have some fun, right?"
"No." Frank could hear the slight tremor in Anna's voice. "Back off."
"Without one kiss? Now that wouldn't be fair, would it? I mean, how would you know what you're missing?" The actor's voice was smooth and self-assured.
Frank threw the door open. "Ms. Gold? Oh, there you are. I found your script." It was an effort to keep his voice in John's slightly higher register. Peters had Anna backed into a corner of the room, his arms on either side of her, keeping her from leaving. A fierce anger flared up in Frank's chest.
"Look, Johnny, your employer and I are having a private moment, so buzz off," Peters snarled without looking at him.
Frank crossed the room. "I think you should be the one to buzz off," he said. "I clearly heard Ms. Gold tell you to leave her alone."
The actor turned to Frank, flexing his muscles. "And what do you plan to do about that, you little fag?" He reached out a hand to push Frank away, his expression turning to shock as Frank's hand circled his wrist and twisted his arm up behind his back.
"I plan on escorting you out." With Peters' arm still twisted behind his back, Frank marched him across the room and forced him out in the hallway, pushing him into Brian Jackson as the stage manager walked by with his face buried in a pile of papers. Both Peters and Jackson fell to the floor, papers flying around them. Jackson looked up, startled. Peters was furious.
"Don't you think I'll forget this, Franklin. No one touches me. No one. Do you hear?"
Frank shook his head. "I guess not, sir. Just like you didn't hear Ms. Gold tell you to leave her alone. Funny that." He saw Jackson's eyes widen, then Peters swore loudly and stormed off down the hall. Frank helped the stage manager up, then gathered the papers in a messy pile and handed them over. "Can you tell Mr. Stillwater that Ms. Gold needs a minute?" Jackson nodded. "Thanks." He closed the door.
Anna was still standing in the corner, her eyes glazed over. She was shivering.
"I know this is a stupid question, but are you all right? He didn't hurt you, did he?" Frank's voice dropped down to its normal range. She looked even younger than she had last night, even more vulnerable. More than anything, he wanted to take her in his arms, to comfort her, to make her feel safe. "Joe warned me about him. I'm so sorry I wasn't here..."
"I'm fine," she whispered.
"You're not fine. Your teeth are chattering." Frank pulled his black turtleneck sweater over his head and wrapped it around her shoulders.
She gave him a crooked smile, her shivering slowing down. "Flashback. Some things take a long time to get over."
She gave him a long look. "You do, don't you?" He looked back at her, understanding in his eyes. "Maybe you can tell me about it some time?" Her voice was uncertain. He nodded. She took a deep breath. "I need to get back."
"Are you sure you're all right?" She nodded once. "I'll be right behind you." He watched as she opened the door and walked into the hall, then picked up the binder from where it had fallen on the floor. A folded piece of paper fluttered out. With a cold feeling in his chest he opened it.
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.'
You are all this to me and more, my love.
Frank crumpled the paper in his
Joe sat in his office, going over the Patterson charts one last time, and found himself absently rubbing his forehead again. Even though it had been over a week since he had been released from the hospital, his head continued to ache off and on, usually when he had been reading or watching too much television, and right now, there was a slight buzzing sound in his ears, a sure sign he had been overdoing it. He reached for the medicine bottle in his top drawer, sighing when he didn't hear any pills rattling around in it. Chet must have some, he thought. At least I hope he does. As he got closer to the door, the buzzing sound got louder. Voices came from the reception area. Well, at least it's not me, he thought. He had just turned back to his desk when something caught his ear.
"He's on assignment right now." Chet's voice sounded uncertain. Joe stopped at the door to listen, curious as to who Chet was talking to, and wondering why he didn't just send whoever it was in to his office instead. Finally Chet spoke again. "I could let Joe know..."
"No." The answer was short and harsh, the voice layered with anger and pain. Kara's voice.
Joe sucked in a breath. Kara was here looking for Frank. That meant FBI work, and – case or not – Frank would want to know. He opened the door. "I can get a message to him if you need him."
Kara turned toward him, her eyes momentarily widening as they took in the bruising on his face. Then her shoulders straightened, her face slipped into a professional mask. "What happened to you?"
Joe's hand moved to the side of his head. "It's nothing. A junkie with a bat. I'm fine."
"Playing hero?" The words held an edge of disdain.
"Doing my job," he shot back, anger rising in his chest. He opened his mouth wanting to snarl something cutting back at her but stopped himself, realizing the tone she was using was familiar. It reminded him of his first interactions with her, when neither one could stand being in the same room as the other, before they realized the antagonism masked the attraction they both felt. It was as if she was trying to erase the last seven or eight months, and the knowledge made him feel cold inside. You deserve whatever attitude she's giving you, Hardy. Just remember that.
"I didn't see anything about it in the police logs." The words were faintly critical.
Joe swallowed and worked on keeping his voice level. "Frank called in some favors. They kept our names out of it."
"So he's covering your security detail now?" Joe nodded. Kara's lips formed a hard line as she considered. "Fine," she finally said. "I have information for him. Come on." She turned and walked towards Frank's office. Once inside, she shut the door and crossed her arms in front of her chest. "It looks like our cases are connected."
This was not at all what Joe had expected. "Your money laundering ring and our stalker?"
"Travis traced a bunch of phone calls. Our suspect's called this particular local number at least once a day over the past month; nine or ten times a day within the last week." Her voice was clipped and her eyes looked like agates, cold and hard. "It's listed it as private, but when I called the number, the voice mail message indicated it belongs to Pierre Montvale's agency."
Joe whistled. "So that's why he was so nervous about having Anna in the play. If he's involved with dirty money... I'll let Frank know right away." He moved closer to Kara, watching with sadness as she blinked once then swept by him. His shoulders slumped. "Kara." She stopped and turned her head slightly, her eyes still focused on the door. "Thank you. I appreciate the information."
She walked out of the office without saying goodbye.