The lunch rush at the Windjammer restaurant was over. The staff was prepping for dinner, restocking the bar, and cleaning the dining room. I usually slipped out for a break at three o’clock. It was a cool, breezy April day. Etonville, New Jersey in spring. The weather could swing wildly this time of the year—hot, cold, or somewhere in between. I’d even seen a few late winter blizzards in April.
I zipped up my jacket, closed my eyes, and stopped to inhale. It was a favorite habit of mine down the shore, taking the time to smell the salt air and listen to the wheeling seagulls. This time of the day, the gulls would be coming in for a quick landing to scarf up all the edible debris on the boardwalk—but that ship had sailed. Etonville was a far cry from my life at the Jersey Shore, where I was born and bred. But Hurricane Sandy put an end to that life. The angry, churning water and crashing waves chewed up everything on the boardwalk, including the restaurant that I managed and my rented house. So I packed my old Chevy Metro and headed north.
Etonville, a quaint little community nestled in the shadow of New York City with a history that dated from Revolutionary War days, was intended to be a pit stop on my way to the city, living here just long enough to save some money and make plans for my future. My former boss had a cousin who owned the Windjammer, a casual, family-style restaurant in Etonville that supposedly needed managing badly so I settled in to get the restaurant in shape. I’d been at it eighteen months.
I went next door to the Etonville Little Theatre to catch up with Lola Tripper, its reigning diva and my BFF. The ELT was getting ready to audition for Romeo and Juliet. They needed a large casting pool and Lola asked me to audition. My theatre experience was limited to a grammar school production when I was an apple in an orchard of dying trees so I had no greasepaint in my blood. I wasn’t sure the ELT was ready for the challenge of Shakespeare. Iambic pentameter? Lola claimed the ELT wanted a show that would really knock the socks off Etonville. Something with gravitas. You know, Jets and Sharks, West Side Story, two lovers separated by gangs. Of course there were no gangs in Etonville, unless you counted the senior citizens center and the pickle ball club. They squared off once a year for a bocce ball tournament.
Last year I had a brainstorm. With the ELT conveniently situated next door, I suggested we begin a dinner-then-theatre package coordinating the menu with theme specials and offering discounts. Of course, the whole thing took some finessing. The artistic director was resistant and the ELT season consisted of only four plays, a couple of music events, and a night of Irish step dancing in March. Still it was a start.
But now I was stumped. The obvious choice was Italian, but with the Windjammer’s crosstown culinary rival La Famiglia dishing up fettuccine alfredo and shrimp fra diavolo, we needed another theme and I needed inspiration.
My friend Jerome Angleton, who ran the ELT box office, told me that Lola had gone to Snippets, gossip-central in Etonville, for a hair appointment. I lifted my auburn locks off my neck and pulled them into a ponytail. I could use a trim, too. Maybe I’d get some inspiration for theme food there. I had about an hour and a half before I was back on duty for dinner. I waved good-bye to Jerome and I climbed into my red Metro.
I had no idea it would be one of the last times I’d see him alive. My life was about to get extremely complicated.
Show Time is the first book in the NEW Dodie O’Dell mystery series, published by Lyrical Underground, July 2016.
Dodie O’Dell is a Jersey shore girl, but when Hurricane Sandy destroys the restaurant she manages on the beach, she knows it’s time to head out. She packs her bags and drives north to Etonville, New Jersey, a small town a half hour outside New York City and settles in as the new manager of the Windjammer restaurant. As luck would have it, the Etonville Little Theatre sits next door to the Windjammer and Dodie agrees to help with auditions for Romeo and Juliet.
When the box office manager is found murdered on the loading dock of the theatre, Dodie is drawn into the investigation. She offers her assistance to the new Etonville Police Chief—handsome, single, and a former NFL football player. Clues begin to surface: a mystery woman, missing box office money, the body moved from the location of the crime scene, a threatening SUV casing the town, and multiple break-ins. Dodie enlists the aid of the local gossip machine and a seventeen year tech whiz, all the while managing her restaurant and handling the chef! When things reach a fever pitch, Dodie orchestrates a theatre “sting” to smoke the killer out of hiding. Suddenly the best laid plans go awry and she improvises. But all’s well that ends well. The murderer is caught and the play opens, all on time. Show time!
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Meet the author
Suzanne Trauth is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and a former theatre professor at a university. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Dramatists Guild. When she is not writing, Suzanne coaches actors and serves as a celebrant performing wedding ceremonies. She lives in Woodland Park, New Jersey. Connect with Suzanne at suzannetrauth.com.
All comments are welcomed.
Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Show Time. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end August 9, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!