All the world's a stage, but Hell's Kitchen private detective Jimmy McSwain learns life upon its wicked boards can be a killer.
The Harold Calloway Theatre on West 47th Street is home to the new play Triskaidekaphobia, and its playwright has been receiving threatening messages. Theatre owner and lead producer Wellington Calloway has hired Jimmy to investigate, but it's a case not without its complications. His mother is the head usher, and Jimmy grew up on its aisles. His ex Remy is also the costume designer for the show, a man he hasn't seen in years. Further making his life difficult is the mysterious Seetha Assan, who is connected -- albeit tentatively -- to the case that forever haunts Jimmy: his own father's murder. She may just have the clue to help him finally solve the cold case.
As opening night looms, Jimmy finds himself involved in a nest of egos and personalities while seeking the missing Seetha. Toss in his on-again, off-again relationship with Captain Francis X. Frisano, and suddenly Jimmy's life is edging toward tragedy. That's when a murderer strikes, and suddenly nothing is pretend anymore. Life on the stage has turned all too real, and all too deadly. Just like on the mean streets of Manhattan.
Jimmy held his glass to his lips, wanting to take another sip, wanting to say hello too.
Silence stalled him, as though that knot remained lodged in his throat. “Frank, hi.”
Francix X. Frisano, captain of the 10th Precinct in Chelsea, as ambitious an NYPD cop as the academy had ever turned out, one who was so easy on the eyes that staring at him seemed almost second nature. He was dressed for the heat, a simple pair of blue jeans and a tight V-neck shirt which showed off the contours of his broad chest, a generous sprig of black hair peeking out; his arms were corded with muscles, the forearms wrapped in thick dark coils. But it was his face that Jimmy focused on, the fire that lived in his eyes, the shadow of his heavy beard evident in the dim lighting of the bar. His black hair was slicked back in a no nonsense look that gave off the impression he’d just come from the gym. From the gym to Jim.
“What brings you to Paddy’s?” Jimmy asked.
“Thought I might find you. Mind if I take a seat.”
The high stool next to Jimmy was free. He nodded, and watched with wary trepidation as Frisano settled down. His arm brushed against Jimmy, the coarse hair eliciting a sharp current of electricity between them. Jimmy pulled it back, as though he’d been shocked. It didn’t matter, he could still feel the heat pulse between them. A fierce attraction to Frisano had occurred from the moment he met him six months ago, and it had reached a fever pitch this past summer when they indulged a passion in secrecy. Though whatever existed between them had ended before it could gain traction, there was no denying the heat that remained simmering in their eyes. Jimmy had to wonder what reason Frisano had come looking for him. Was it business, or, at this late hour, the hope of a booty call?
Before Jimmy could ask, Paddy came up to him. “Evening, Captain. Off duty, I see.”
‘For a change.”
“Get you a beer?”
“Thanks. Yuengling. Jimmy will take a refill.”
Jimmy covered his glass. “Going easy tonight. Working a new case.”
The case was just a convenient excuse. Jimmy really preferred to keep his wits about him around Frisano.
“He’ll change his mind in a minute,” Frisano said, accepting the fresh pour from Paddy.
“Just wave when ready,” Paddy said before moving off to serve another customer.
Frisano took hold of his glass, raised it in cheer but didn’t say to what. He drank a sip, all while Jimmy observed. He caught the eye of one of the young ladies at the bar; she had a wistful look on her face. All the hot ones were gay it seemed to say. A sound of raucous laughter erupted behind them where three guys playing darts cheered their success. The noise inside the bar was invasive, not conducive to talking. Jimmy sensed Frisano was thinking the same thing.
“Might be quieter upstairs, you know…in your office,” Frisano said.
If they went there, Jimmy wasn’t sure they’d get much talking done.
“Follow me, we’ll use my uncle’s office in the back.”
They got up from their stools, grabbed their beers, and together wound their way through the crowd, bypassing the bathrooms and finally coming to a wooden door at the back. It had one of those keypad locks; Jimmy knew the combo and pressed the four digit number before hitting “enter.” A click sounded, and he turned the knob. Frisano entered first, Jimmy following, closing the door behind him. The noise from the bar was instantly muffled, as though the room had been sound-proofed. Thick wood in these old buildings.
“That’s better,” Frisano said.
Jimmy just nodded, took a sip of beer. Wondered again the motive behind this impromptu meeting. They hadn’t seen each other since early July, over two months. The separation hadn’t bonded them. Only the moment did.
“So, Frank, what can I do for you?” His voice cool, detached.
“Seetha Assan,” Frisano said. “Does that name mean anything to you?”
Jimmy felt his chest constrict, but then he let out a rush of air. This wasn’t a pleasure call. Was that relief he felt, or disappointment?
“She called me,” Jimmy said.
“Last month sometime. We spoke for like three seconds. She hung up on me.”
Frisano said nothing, absorbing his words. “She called you at my urging.”
“Yours? I don’t understand.”
“After Rashad died ...”
“You mean, after you gunned him down ...”
“Jim, he was holding people hostage. He’d killed. He got what was coming to him.”
“At least it wasn’t blind.”