Toil And Trouble
Allen McGill

Cheryl, a petite blond, was near anguished tears. "I left my backpack on this chair during the first act rehearsal. Now it's gone!"

"Calm down," Don, the stage manager, said. "You're sure you didn't take it somewhere else? On stage? Ladies' room?"

"No, it's gone! Nearly two thousand dollars, credit cards, everything."

"Maybe it was that electrician," Sally, another dancer, said.

Don turned. "What electrician?" "A young guy carrying a big tool kit and a light bulb. He came on stage from the audience. I thought it was strange, but..."

"You didn't question him?" Don asked.

"No," Sally said. "I don't know the backstage crew. Why would I question him?"

Don nodded. "Okay, the police are on the way. Cheryl, you'll have to give them a run-down of what was in your backpack. Since you're not due on-stage for a while, start the list now."

As performers and stagehands passed, they glanced at Cheryl with sympathy. They'd heard she'd lost the most. But Detroit was a big city, with all its inherent ability to bilk the wary much less the naive.

Cheryl sank onto the chair, tears surfacing. "My script was in the pack, too. With all my notes."

She saw some chorus members in a huddle, knowing they were discussing how dumb she'd been leaving valuables unguarded. There was some jealousy, too. She'd won a minor role at the audition and would be playing a character part, which meant more money. But dancers stuck together, she knew. They'd take up a hefty collection to help her out.

Tears flowed more freely. Damn, she was good. As planned, she'd explained away the large amount of money by saying she hadn't gotten to the bank, that the money was all her rehearsal salary and transportation payment. She'd told everyone that Danny had driven her, so she hadn't had to foot that expense.

She wished the police would get here and get the stupid questioning over with. She wanted to get home to Danny, to find out how much he'd carried off in his tool kit. He'd known where to go to find the most cash during rehearsal, thanks to her. And to enter from the audience, rather than the stage door, to avoid being stopped.

"Claudia?" a voice asked. Cheryl turned to find two policemen standing behind her. "Right," one said, lifting her by her arm. "Claudia Frawley, not Cheryl Charles. You shouldn't work a Schubert Theatre chain twice, sweetheart. Their security network is real tight. C'mon, let's go get your boyfriend."

The look on the other dancers' faces showed varying degrees of shock, as she was read her rights and taken away.

First published: May, 2003