Authors: Lydia Adamson
Alice Nestleton Mystery Series eBooks from InterMix
A Cat in the Manger
A Cat of a Different Color
A Cat in Wolf’s Clothing
A Cat by Any Other Name
A Cat in the Wings
A Cat with a Fiddle
A Cat Tells Two Tales
Available now in print from Obsidian
A Cat in the Wings
An Alice Nestleton Mystery
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have control over and does not have any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
A CAT IN THE WINGS
An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author
Signet Books edition / November 1992
InterMix eBook edition / December 2012
Copyright © 1992 by Lydia Adamson.
A Cat with a Fiddle
copyright © 1993 by Lydia Adamson.
Cover art by Robert Crawford.
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Think of the music and costumes and excitement of
As performed on Christmas Eve by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center.
Is there any other event that so captures the desperate holiday gaiety of Manhattan?
I doubt it.
But what was I doing there, in a first-tier box, with five kiddies?
Yes, count ’em. Five. Between the ages of six and ten.
There was Kathy, Laura, Stephen, Edward. And one whose name may have been “Ada” or “Dada” or “Sadie.”
I was there because, in a moment of hubris, I had bragged to one of my cat-sitting clients that I could get good tickets to
anytime I wanted.
Mrs. Timmerman was wide-eyed when I announced that. She asked: “But how?”
“A friend in high places,” I replied mysteriously.
Indeed, I did have a friend in a high place. Lucia Maury worked in the executive offices of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Her responsibilities included making travel arrangements for the New York City Ballet when the troupe went on tour. I had known Lucia for more than twenty years. We had been roommates when we both arrived in Manhattan—she to dance, and I to act. We had kept in touch, one reason being that we shared a passion for Maine coon cats. Lucia had once had a wonderful Maine coon named Splat, who passed away about three years ago. She was so distraught that she never obtained another cat. Lucia was a very fine dancer until she hurt her knee. After joining Lincoln Center in an administrative capacity, she had always offered me tickets, most of which I had refused.
The only flaw in our relationship was that I was profoundly jealous of her—while she was dancing. Like many actresses, I have this inferiority complex in relation to ballet dancers. They are so bloody wonderful! They do what we yearn to do and never can.
Anyone who has been backstage just before a ballet starts knows what I mean. The dancers are chatting about everything from boyfriends to shopping trips to the weather. Some are stretching. Some are putting on their makeup.
Suddenly the orchestra begins, and a few seconds later the curtain goes up.
One of the dancers, who moments earlier was chewing on a fingernail because she was bored, bursts out onto the stage and executes a series of magnificent leaps and turns.
She stops suddenly downstage, bows luxuriously, and then proceeds to glissade contemptuously about the stage.
In a short span of time the dancer has gone from quiescence to ecstasy, with many stops in between—a disciplined orgy of physical elegance and control.
How could an actress
be jealous of a ballerina?
But, to make a long story short, Mrs. Timmerman, that day, was annoying me. She kept going on and on about her country house in Dutchess County, and how this Christmas they had decided to stay in Manhattan to let the children experience “an urban Christmas.” And besides, the cat Belle hated the country.
On and on she went, and I had to listen politely. The more she talked the more she irritated me. So I just casually mentioned that I could get any kind of ballet tickets, including ones for
on Christmas Eve. It was my way of showing her that while I might be a cat-sitter, I had another life—a life that was far superior to hers, culturally, no matter what her wealth.
It was kind of pathetic. I didn’t usually do those kinds of petty things. But Christmas in New York is difficult, even if one is a Minnesota farm girl who has lived in Manhattan for more than two decades. And the conversation with Mrs. Timmerman took place only nineteen days before Christmas.
Compounding my stupidity, I offered to take the children as well as obtain the tickets. Everyone was ecstatic except for the cat, Belle, and me.
So that is why, on Christmas Eve, I found myself shepherding the kiddies at
. That is why I had ended up sitting in an opulent box seat at the State Theater, amidst all that Noel splendor of light and color and music and fantasy.
Actually, Tchaikovsky has always been too much for me, so after the first dazzling scene I let my mind wander back in time, as I tried to envision what the first production of
in America must have looked like. It took place in 1940, before I was born, at the old Metropolitan Opera House. The company was the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. The sugar-plum fairy was Alicia Markova. The prince was André Eglevsky.
When my efforts to conjure up the scene failed, I just let myself doze off, since my charges were mesmerized by the balletic spectacle.
My doze turned into a gentle fantasy in which my two cats, Bushy and Pancho, were in the process of trying out for roles in an all-feline production of
I opened my eyes just as, onstage, the Mouse King was about to be extirpated by the heroine.
The door to our box had been pushed open a few inches.
Lucia Maury was standing there. I hadn’t even known she would be at the performance. She hadn’t mentioned it.
She didn’t move. She held a finger up to her lips, as if to signify that the children shouldn’t know she was there. It was very odd.
Then she waved one hand, indicating that I should leave the box.
I did so. The children were too caught up in the ballet to even notice my departure.
The moment I had stepped outside the box and closed the door gently behind me, I knew Lucia was in some kind of trouble. Her thin, angular body was stooped over. She was very pale. The long sleeves of her lovely black dress were pulled up to her elbows, as if she were about to do manual labor.
“Lucia! What’s the matter?”
She started to answer, then burst into tears. She fought back the tears, grabbed my arm, and started to pull me along.
I allowed myself to be led. Lounging ushers stared at us. The music from within could be heard only faintly.
She guided me through the mezzanine lobby, past the bar, already set up for the coming intermission, and through the glass doors onto the open-air balcony.
It was cold. A strong wind was blowing. The city was a bonfire of holiday lights. The fountain in the plaza below was spouting magnificently. I could hear the bells of the Salvation Army Santas on Broadway.
At first I thought we were the only ones on that windswept balcony.
But then I saw a small knot of people on the western edge, against the building. At least two of them were police officers.
Lucia was beginning to shiver. She had stopped about five feet from the gathering.
Suddenly I knew why we were there.
Sitting up against the building wall was a derelict, without shoes.
His eyes, a startling shade of blue, were wide open.
I was about to remonstrate with Lucia for having dragged me out onto a freezing balcony to look at a drunk. After all, there were hundreds of derelicts like this one living around Lincoln Center.
But then I noticed something else distinctive about this drunk—something other than his beautiful eyes and the fact that he was shoeless in December.
There was a hole in his forehead. A small, jagged hole.
The man was dead. And the hole had been made by a bullet.
Lucia increased the pressure of her arm on mine, as if she were falling.
“It’s Dobrynin, Alice,” she said. “Dobrynin!”
Was Lucia mad?
“Do you mean
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” she whispered frantically. “It’s Peter!” And her fingers pinched my arm so forcefully that I cried out from the pain. One of the policemen turned to stare at me.
I stared at the shoeless dead man again. How could it be?
Peter Dobrynin had dropped out of the public eye three years ago. The most acclaimed male ballet dancer since Nijinsky had gone into seclusion. There were all kinds of rumors and speculations: He had gone into a drug-rehab clinic. He had entered a monastery in Vermont. He had been admitted to a mental hospital. No one knew the real story.
But what an impact this one-time student at the Kirov had made on the dance world before he dropped out! Bigger and more powerful and dramatic than Baryshnikov . . . more technically proficient and more musical than Nureyev . . . his roles in
had made him the new hero of the American ballet.
And Dobrynin had been as flamboyant offstage as he was on—lover, brawler, lunatic, junkie, drunk, frequenter of jet-set parties as well as trend-setting Harlem clubs. He was always out of control.
Lucia started to pull me away, but I resisted. I couldn’t stop looking at the corpse.
Had this wreck of a man really once been the golden dancer Dobrynin?
The wind began to whip across the open expanse of concrete, making me shudder. After all, it was Christmastime in the city.