I don't know how I ended up working in summer theatre in western North Carolina when my last job was writing speeches for an incumbent Republican Senator from Alaska. I am not working there now with now being within the last thirty seconds. I just came from the two-room office where I've worked for the past six weeks in the mountain town of Hendersonville just southeast of Asheville. I went there tonight to put in my resignation having planned to return to Capitol Hill, but now I can't and that's why I'm writing this letter to you. The Manager's dead and I know as soon as someone finds his body I'll be the number one suspect.
In all honesty, I can't say that I didn't think of killing him. I even took the .22 pistol I keep for protection to work with me one time with a multitude of accidents where the gun could fire into his heart filing through my brain, but I didn't have the guts. Someone else did.
Two days ago I turned twenty-seven and celebrated by calling my brother – my only living relative besides you – and singing happy birthday to myself into his voice mail. I waited for his nasally voice to say, "This is Robert Connelly. Leave a message."
Then I yelled, "Hey, Robbie – it's your baby brother, Derek" and I sang until my voice gave out. He didn't return my call. I couldn't afford to call him back because my theatre job only gave me a free room and a weekly stipend of $100.
As a fluke, I went with some of my actor friends to a theatre conference to get summer jobs. I tagged along shoving my resume under some of the doors of D.C's Grand Hyatt Hotel. I didn't think anyone would call someone who only had a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Alaska and four years experience as a speechwriter. I got six calls. One was from him.
I adjust the collar of my Polo shirt and check my khakis making sure the cuff is one inch from my loafers. I spit into my hands and rub them into my course black hair. I pull off my wire-rimmed glasses wiping them on my shirt. Finally, I knock.
A few seconds later the door opens and my gaze slides down to a man a foot shorter than my six foot three and about fifty pounds lighter than my one hundred and ninety-five pounds. He shoves a hand at me as I note his shaggy brown hair, brown eyes and pale skin covered with freckles.
"Hi there. I'm Cornelius. Call me Neil."
"I see why," I offer laughing as I step inside the room.
He stares at me his brown eyes almost bulging from the sockets. "If you're going to waste my time then we can cut this short," he says his words rolling off his tongue in a southern accent.
"Sorry. I know you're busy. Ask me what you need to know. Then I'll go."
"Okay. So tell me ..."
"Derek. Tell me why you want to work for summer stock in North Carolina as my assistant. You have no experience in theatre. You've worked for Senator Fox I guess since college?"
"My brother – he's a lawyer – in Anchorage - that's where I'm from. He got me the job. He took care of me when our parents were killed. I'm a speechwriter. Really, I tagged along with my buddies who're actors. I thought it would be a nice change to head to the N.C. mountains for the summer. I'm sorry to have wasted your time."
That's what did it – my candor – it got me the job. Like an idiot, I accepted.
For the first three weeks of my ten-week job at the Hendersonville High Country Theatre Company, my candor helped. Neil was gone to New York on the premise that he was checking out plays. I knew that he was taking a free ride with the theatre's budget because he attended large-scale productions that never would've been able to be performed in the one hundred and fifty seat auditorium. The theatre had been in operation for thirty years setting up shop in an abandoned one-floor department store downtown. The space where I worked was an upstairs loft with two rooms – one for Neil, one for his assistant.