by Sara Jayne Townsend
A Shara Summers Mystery
Genre Suspense Drama (amateur sleuth)
Release November 25, 2014
Editor Christine I. Speakman
Line Editor Les Tucker
Cover Designer Charlotte Volnek
Actress Shara Summers has settled in London and is “between jobs” when her Canadian ex-boyfriend David sails back into her life, begging to her to fill the backing singer vacancy in the up and coming band he’s about to go on a European tour with. Short on funds and auditions Shara reluctantly agrees, but tragedy strikes at the opening night party when the band’s charismatic front man Dallas Cleary Anderson falls to his death from a hotel window. It soon becomes clear that Dallas did not fall, but was pushed. His arrogant and confrontational manner means there are no shortage of people who wanted him out of the band permanently – but who would resort to murder?
“Has Landen said anything about what he’s decided to do about the tour?” I asked
Jake shrugged. “He’s being very cagey. Presumably that’s why he wants a meeting.”
“Maybe he’s about to tell us we’re all fired,” Hayden said. The elevator arrived and we got in.
“Have you seen the papers today?” I asked.
Jake pressed the button for the fourth floor. “No. Why?”
I pulled the crumpled newspaper out of my bag, where I’d stashed it. “It’s all about Dallas. The press have gone to town.”
Jake grabbed the paper from me. “The bastard even manages to hog the limelight when he’s dead.” Hayden leaned in to read over Jake’s shoulder, and the two of them were huddled over the paper when the lift door opened.
The meeting room was set out boardroom style, with the rest of the band seated around the polished oak table. Bottles of water and drinking glasses were arranged, and each place was set with a blotting pad bearing the hotel’s logo, a pad of paper, and a ballpoint pen. It all looked so sterile and business like, completely at odds with the usual environment of a rock band. As we walked in I heard Madison say, “It’s freezing in here.”
“The heating’s on, but the room’s probably been empty awhile. It’ll warm up soon,” Landen said. “Besides, we won’t be long.” He turned as the three of us entered the room. “Ah, good morning, folks. Grab yourselves a seat and we’ll get started.”
There were already four people around the table—David, Landen, Madison, and Kelly, with four empty chairs interspersed between them. Jake took the chair between Madison and Kelly. Hayden sat between Kelly and David. That left two empty chairs side by side, between David and Landen. I sat in the one closest to David.
He smiled wearily at me. He looked rather gaunt and tired, with deep circles under his eyes. His hair was uncombed and he had three days’ worth of stubble on his chin.
Jake tossed the newspaper into the middle of the table. “Don’t know if anyone’s seen the papers this morning, but it would seem the press are all over the story.”
“Of course they are,” Landen said. “It’s big news. Dallas was a star.”
“He wasn’t a big star,” Hayden said. “But I guess he is now.”
“Dying will do that to you,” Jake said bitterly. Under the table, I felt David take my hand and squeeze it. Surprising myself, I didn’t pull it away. Only a couple of weeks ago I would have done.
“This kind of leads in nicely to one of the things I want to say to you all,” Landen said. “Dallas’s tragic death seems to have triggered a huge interest in the album. Climbing Ladders is at the top of the CD charts, in Canada, the USA, and the UK. It’s amazing. The world has developed Atticus fever.”
“That would really piss Dallas off,” Jake muttered. “The album did nothing when he was alive. Now he’s dead he’s starting to make it big.”
“Anyway, that’s the good news,” Landen said. “The album’s doing well. Now for the bad news. We’re going to have to cancel the rest of the tour.”
“That’s not news,” Hayden said. “That’s just confirming what we already knew. You’ve brought us altogether just to tell us that?”
Landen looked annoyed. “I thought it was best to keep you all informed about what’s going on.”
“What’s going on is our lead singer is dead,” Kelly said. “Without Dallas there’s no Atticus. We all know that. We may as well pack up now and go home.”
“That’s not necessarily so. I think we ought to take advantage of the fact the CD’s doing so well. This could be the boost that Atticus needs. I’ve already been in touch with our people in Toronto about auditioning a new singer. My plan is that we get back into the rehearsal studio as soon as possible. We find a new singer, we get him up to speed, then we re-launch the tour in a few months’ time, and ride on the back of the success of the album. I’ve got it all figured out. We’ll call it the ‘Dallas Cleary Anderson tribute tour’.”
“I don’t believe you, man,” Kelly said. “Dallas is festering in some morgue, not even cold yet, and you’re already talking about replacing him. Without Dallas, Atticus is nothing. We all know that.”
“And I’m saying that’s not the way it has to be,” Landen said. “Look, we’ve been talking for months about being on the brink of hitting the big time. With the album suddenly selling so well, we have a chance to go for it for the first time. But we need to act now. The music business is fickle. If we all go into mourning for a year, that chance will be gone. Nobody will know or care about Atticus anymore.”
“Why do we need to rehearse a new singer?” Hayden said. “We’ve already talked about me taking over the singing. Jake can carry on writing the songs. We don’t need to bring anyone else in.”
“And I think you’re too quick to take advantage of a dead man.” Kelly sprang to his feet, pointing at Landen. “I can’t believe you’re doing this. We all know Dallas was planning to leave the band, and how much that worried you. How do we know you didn’t plan this all along, killing Dallas so you could capitalise on this sick idea of a ‘tribute tour’?”
Landen leapt up and glared at Kelly, raising clenched fists. The room fell into a shocked silence, and it was then I registered the fact the door of the meeting room was open, and DC Aaron Blake was standing there.