As his assistant, my duties were to clean the office, take phone calls, placate his ex-wife whom I found out he'd divorced almost a year ago although he still wore a wedding ring and acted as if he were married, hold board meetings, and hire actors, costumers, directors and designers. He kept a tab on things by calling me three times a day.

"Hiya, Derek. How's it going?"

"Fine," I say jerking open one of the rusty file cabinets and pulling out a list of potential donors. We didn't have a computer – Neil didn't know how to use one.

"Did you get Cassie to take the parts?"

"Yeah, but I had to promise her a condo plus first class airfare."

"First class! That's too much money."

"You told me to get her at all costs."

"I didn't mean to bankrupt us."

"I got a Carpenter who can build sets and design them. I got a Costumer who can sew, and I got a local director."

"Local! I hate locals. They bad mouth me."

"Then don't do anything they can talk about."

"You have all the actors cast?"

"Yes."

"The housing set?"

"Yes."

"The local guy – does he have his own place?"

"Yes."

"Then keep him. Make sure he stays clear of me. Okay, Derek. See you soon. I'm flying into Asheville tonight."

"Sure," I reply knowing he meant to control the gossip about him. There wouldn't have been any about him if his marriage hadn't ended by his wife coming home early from choir practice to find him in bed with his male assistant.

The last conversation we had when Neil was out of state was the last kind word I heard from him. For the next three weeks, he would show up at my room to yell at me because something was going wrong. I even went to the Board to get them to fire him, but they were afraid of what he might do if he found out they betrayed him.

Yet, somebody did betray him. Somebody took a prop gun and held it up to his head and fired. The explosion of gunpowder left a milky gray residue all over his face making his brown hair look white. It caused his right eye to bulge out from its socket with a thin trail of blood on his cheekbone down to his mouth that mixed with some drool forming a puddle that looked like Pepto Bismal and cough syrup.

I was the last one to see him alive. I was the only one with a key to the Props cabinet where the guns were stored. That makes me the number one suspect along with the fact that he and I had dinner and argued about finances right before he was killed.

I know you'd tell me to call Robbie. I don't think he could help. I should've never left my job with the Senator. When they get to you, you can tell them who took Neil out. Tell them it wasn't me.

If you wonder if I had reason, I did. Neil threw anything he could find when he was mad. He hit me twice. He yelled at me. He berated me to the other staff. He hovered over me listening in on every phone conversation I had and even taped them.

He'd managed to get away with this bad behavior by paying off a shady lawyer with a CPA certification who drew up his legal agreements and false budget statements so he could say he was running a non-profit theatre. All of his assistants including me condoned it to keep our jobs. All but one of us had kept his dirty secrets.

The one who didn't was Dean Parks -- the one who'd broken up Neil's marriage. By accident, I found out about Neil's divorce because of Dean when I was cleaning the files. What I read in those divorce papers would be great soap opera material. Neil's ex-wife was awarded all of their assets. It was then I figured out Neil had been living in the theatre. He'd had a year since the divorce to regain what he'd lost by concentrating on the theatre. Instead, he'd blackmailed Dean who was now married himself into sending $5,000 every three months.

When I opened Dean's check, I was shocked at the size of the donation. I didn't think anything about the check being made out to Neil and not to the theatre. Neil had me call and personally thank anyone who contributed over $500 so I called Dean to thank him. His wife answered the phone, so I thanked her. She told me she knew nothing of it. Then she hung up. That was two days ago. Now Neil is dead.

With my letter, you'll find copies of the divorce papers and Dean's checks for proof. Now, my Mustang's packed and I'm off to Mexico. You know, Robbie got lucky when he married you. To me, Jenny, you'll always be the one that got away. Hopefully, you'll be able to say that about me one day, too.


Derek ConnellyWhere stories live. Discover now