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Amateur Theatricals – Chapter Six

Welcome to Amateur Theatricals, book twelve in the Operation Quickline series. The stage is set for a major operation as Lisa, Sid, and Nick go undercover at a university to find who’s killing KGB moles in training. You can read the first episode here, and catch up on the series here.

I decided to focus on the Top Girls audition that Wednesday night since I had my first costume shop hours that afternoon. The good news was that Delia Lever, the shop manager, was reasonably impressed with my sewing skills, although there wasn’t much to be done yet. Technical rehearsals for the Dance Recital would begin that Friday night, so all the costumes for that were done. They couldn’t start making costumes for Top Girls or Richard until those shows were cast, so I was put to work mending costumes from past shows. Even with the audition later, I went home long enough to eat and help clean up after dinner. Nick was still giddy about Richard III, though, and we talked of little else until I had to run to get to the Top Girls audition.

It went well enough, although I couldn’t help remembering the production I’d seen with Sid. We’d been undercover then, too. I realized that it had only been three and a half years since that case. Sid was still sleeping around. We had no idea Nick existed. Nick didn’t know we did, either. The last thing I wanted was to be married with a kid. I don’t think any of us could have imagined us ending up where we are, let alone in the space of three and a half years. And thinking about all of that when I should have been concentrating on reading probably took the edge off my nerves enough that it went as well as it did. It wasn’t great, but well enough.

I got through Thursday with a smile from Maggie Leitner and managed not to piss off Earnest Kaspar. I rushed over to Humanities as soon as class let out and worked on catching up on my reading while I waited for Sid to finish his final Western Civ section.

“How are you doing?” he asked as we walked home through the frosty late afternoon.

“I’m a little nervous about tonight.” I sighed. “I don’t expect much, but I want to do a good job.”

“The monologue sounds really good.” Sid squeezed my shoulders. “I think you’ve got it.”

We had dinner as soon as Nick got home at five, then Sid insisted I drive back to the campus.

At the audition, Dr. Dorfmann heard all the monologues, then had almost everyone read a scene or two. He asked me to read Anne, then Queen Elizabeth. Casey Limberg, a twenty-ish brunette, looked daggers at me as I read Anne, though. Anne is considered the female lead in the play, and you could tell Casey wanted the part badly.

It was late by the time auditions let out. Sid was already in bed when I got home. He stirred, however, as I slid between the covers.

“What time is it?” he grumbled.

“Almost eleven-thirty. I’m sorry. Dorfmann wouldn’t let us go.”

He shook his head and woke up completely. “It’s okay. Got some interesting intel today. Stinsky was packing to leave when he got killed.”

I frowned. “Which means he knew he was a target.”

“Or at least, suspected it.” Sid shrugged. “Not much to go on, though.”

“At the rate we’re going, I’ll take it.”

“I will, too.” Sid nuzzled my ear and pulled me close to him.

“You poor thing. You’re tired.”

“Not that tired.” His chuckle took on that nice, lascivious tone. “You?”

I went for it. Neither of us is very good at saying no.

That next morning, as I wandered over the bridge to the performing arts building, I could almost feel the blanket of excitement. The cast lists were up for the two plays, taped on the wall next to the green room. I was not on the Top Girls list, which, truth be told, I expected.

I swelled with pride when I saw Ryan Devereaux’s name next to the part of Edward, Prince of Wales. The name next to Anne was Casey Limberg, and I couldn’t help smiling. She had really, really wanted the part. Terrence Peterson had been cast as Richard, and I felt a little sad for Mark until I saw that he’d been cast as the First Murderer and Tyndale. Tyndale’s monologue about killing the boy princes is incredibly wrenching. What I missed, however, was who was playing Elizabeth.

Mark popped up at my side. “Aren’t you going to initial your part?”


“You need to sign your initials next to your part to show that you accept it,” Mark said.

“What part?” I asked.

Mark laughed loudly. “Yours, dummy. Right there.”

His finger landed next to Queen Elizabeth. Next to it read Linda Devereaux.

I gasped. “That’s me.”

“No kidding.” Okay, he didn’t say kidding.

“Oh, my god. I got Elizabeth?” I gulped and laughed. “Holy crow!”

I pulled a pen from my daypack and initialed the part, then checked my watch. Sid was well into whatever lecture he was doing for his first section of Western Civ, and I had only about twenty minutes before I needed to be in Voice and Diction. I ran over to the Humanities building and left a note on his office desk.

I was not exactly concentrating during Voice and Diction and totally messed up my exercise. Dorfmann laughed, though. I think he got that I was a little thrown off by the cast list. As the other students left the room, Dorfmann stopped me.

“Congratulations,” he said softly.

“Thank you. And… and… and thanks for casting me. This is amazing. Both me and my kid.”

His eyebrows lifted. “Your kid?”

“Ryan. He’s my son.”

“I had no idea.”

“What? We have the same last name.”

Dorfmann blinked. “Admittedly. And it’s not a common one. However, I did not know it until I’d cast the boy, nor was I that conscious of yours.” His eyes bore into me. “He doesn’t look that much like you.”

“That’s because he looks like his dad.”

“Hm.” He cocked his head. “Nor do you seem old enough to have a boy that age.”

Technically, I am old enough to have a kid Nick’s age, but not by much. That’s because I’m only fifteen years older than Nick. Sid is eight years older than me and he’s the one who conceived Nick. I’m Nick’s second mother because his first mother, Rachel, who gave birth to him, was there first.

I smiled at Dorfmann. “I’m older than I look.”

Dorfmann chuckled. “You certainly act that way.” His eyes opened wide, and he laughed softly. “This is going to be more fun than I thought. Don’t forget. Rehearsals start on the twenty-sixth. They do occasionally run late, and I have to release the children early, so you may want to ask Ryan’s father to come by.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” I smiled. “And thanks again.”

I ran straight to the Humanities building from there. Sid looked up from the Research Techniques homework he was grading.

“Hey!” He grinned and got up. “Congratulations.”

“Thanks.” I giggled excitedly. “I can’t believe it.”

Sid smiled and hugged me. “I can. I’m so happy for you, honey.”

“Thanks.” I took a deep breath. “Actually, I’ve got to get myself back down to earth. Call for the Dance Recital tech rehearsal tonight is six.”


“When I have to be there.”

“Ah.” Sid nodded. “When are you going to eat lunch?”

“Now and between Costuming and Theatre History. Why?”

Sid checked his watch. “We’ve only got forty-five minutes before our next classes. Why don’t you eat lunch with me here, and then I’ll pull Nick from the chem lab around four and we can all go to dinner at the Socratic Society at four-thirty.”

“I don’t think we can afford that.”

“I’ll put it on the emergency card.”

We, as the Devereauxs, had a full collection of credit cards that we, as ourselves, paid the bills on. However, we’d only brought a couple of cards with us. One had a modest balance, and the bill would come to the house in Kansas just in case somebody looked through our mail. That one, however, was strictly for appearances. The other was to pay for emergencies and other stuff that was really needed, but that we couldn’t technically afford on Sid’s salary.

“We can’t afford to do that too often,” I said.

“I know.” He smiled. “On the other hand, we need to celebrate. Both you and our son have pulled off something amazing.” Then he sighed. “I’m also hoping that it might help with the faculty politics if some of those other assholes see me fawning all over my wonderfully talented wife and her fawning all over me.”

I couldn’t help sniggering. “I don’t fawn, and you don’t, either.”

“True.” Sid grinned. “But we do love being in each other’s company.”

“That we do. Alright. Let’s. I think I can get home fast enough to get something on that’s nice enough and will still work for the tech rehearsal.”

“Not the cashmere dress.” Sid sighed. “As much as I love you in it, it might be a bit much.”

“Won’t work for costume tech, either.” I dug one of my sandwiches out of my daypack. “I’ll figure something out.”

As I hurried to my costume class, I almost ran into Mark Debich in the hall on the first floor of the building.

“Oh, Mark!” I grabbed his arm. “I’m sorry. I was in such shock this morning. Thank you for your help with my monologue. It must have helped.”

He grinned. “Thanks. We’ve still got work to do. At least Kaspar went along with our scenes.”

“We still have to get some extra bodies for each,” I said, rolling my eyes. “I had no idea being a theatre major was so time consuming.”

“Well, I’ve got Ty Johnson and Perry Willman for Hamlet.”

“Think we can talk them into double duty for Much Ado?”

Mark thought. “We should.”

“Great.” I checked my watch. “Shavings! I’ve got to run.”

I skidded into costume class just after Bev had arrived. After class let out, I ate my second and third sandwiches in the green room while trying to catch up on my theatre history reading. It wasn’t easy. Other students wandered in and out, chattering loudly.

“I hope we don’t have to stay too late tonight,” complained a slender undergrad named Lindsey. I think she was an acting major, but she was in my costume class and was working in the costume shop for the Dance Recital. She sprawled on the sagging, dirty couch.

“With all those wires for the fishes dance?” Tina Monastella said, shoving her long black hair over her shoulder. She was in my acting and directing classes and was going to be dancing in the recital, although it wasn’t the fishes dance. She sat cross-legged in one of the easy chairs. “We’ll be lucky if we get out before midnight.”

“Oh, crap.” Okay, Lindsey didn’t say crap. “I’ll have to call the campus police again to walk me back to the dorms.”

“Why?” asked Rita Hornsby, a petite blond grad student focusing on theatre history.

“The campus killer?” Lindsey shrugged and held out her hands, as if it were obvious.

“Killer?” I asked, never mind that I knew exactly which killer they meant.

Rita sighed. “Some cuckoo killed off three students last quarter.”

“He’s only killing nerds,” Tina said. “I mean, it’s kinda scary, but doesn’t really affect us.”

“It’s just a pain in the ass waiting for the campus cops to come walk us home at night.” Lindsey groaned.

After Theatre History, I ran hell for leather back to the house to get on some nice dress slacks and a pretty blouse and sweater for dinner. I looked at myself in the mirror. The outfit certainly seemed sufficiently circumspect.

When I arrived at the Commons, I was a little surprised to see Raylene in the building’s elevator foyer.

She smiled happily. “Well, hello, Linda. It’s good to see you.”

“Nice to see you, Raylene.”

“And what brings you here?”

I smiled. “I’m meeting Charles and Ryan. We’re having an early dinner at the Socratic.”

The smile on Raylene’s face froze. “How sweet of Charles.” She sidled up to me and put her arm through mine. “I hope it doesn’t reflect poorly on him, though. Not that I believe this…”

“Of course not.”

“But men who bring their wives and children to the Socratic are often seen as less than serious about their careers. I think it’s silly.”

“I’m glad you do.” I smiled. “Maybe you and I can help change that idea.”

Raylene laughed nervously. “Maybe we can.”

She wandered off and left the building. I couldn’t figure out why she was there, but let it go. A minute later, Drs. Jeff and Serena Necht came into the foyer, holding hands.

Jeff grinned at me. “Linda, what brings you here?”

“I’m waiting for my husband and son. You?”

“Our weekly dinner at the Socratic.” Jeff beamed.


“You look surprised,” Serena said.

“Uh, well, something odd I was told just now.” I smiled weakly. “My husband is on the history staff.”

“History?” Jeff asked.

Serena glared fondly at him. “Yes. You met them a week ago at the faculty reception.”

Jeff peered at me.

“My husband is Dr. Charles Devereaux.” I smiled. “I’m trying not to flaunt it.”

Serena backhanded him in the chest. “Maybe if you’d looked at something besides her boobs that night.” She rolled her eyes and smiled at me. “Men.”

“Oh!” Jeff grinned and laughed.

I shrugged, feeling my cheeks grow red. “Maybe it’s different for theatre faculty.”

Jeff and Serena looked at each other, then Serena’s eyes narrowed.

“I just saw Raylene Howard leaving here,” she said. “What did she tell you?”

I made a face. “Just that men who bring their families to the Socratic are seen as less than serious.”

Both Jeff and Serena laughed loudly.

“Carl Howard loves that whole family man thing,” Jeff said. “Of course, not enough to bring Raylene to dinner that often.”

Serena tittered. “Linda, do not believe a word Raylene says. She hates working faculty wives. Poor thing. The story is that she gave up an amazing fellowship to marry Carl and has been bitter ever since.”

“I had no idea she was an academic.”

Both Jeff and Serena shrugged, then got on the elevator. Still, it was an interesting perspective on Raylene’s character.

Sid and Nick showed up right after. Nick was still overflowing with ecstatic energy. The second he saw me, he ran and darned near knocked me over with the force of his hug.

“We’re both in the play!” he hollered.

In sheer joy both at us being in the play and suddenly being big enough, he lifted me off my feet and spun us around.

“Woh! Son!” I yelped, just barely keeping enough presence of mind to not address him by his real name.

Sid laughed. “My son, time to embrace some dignity.”

Nick groaned as he released me, then laughed. “And you’re playing my mom. This is, like, beyond awesome.”

I grinned. “It is.”

It turned out to be a perfectly lovely dinner. Sid and I each ordered a glass of bubbly and I, covertly, let Nick have a sip or two. The idea is that we let Nick have a little alcohol in the hopes that he’ll learn how to drink responsibly and not see it as forbidden fruit and go off the deep end.

However, it was perilously close to six when I realized I needed to be in the Performing Arts building. I kissed Sid lovingly.

“I’ve heard rumors that tech rehearsals go really late,” I said.

“Give me a call when you’re done, and I’ll come get you.” Sid smiled. “I don’t think we need to chance either of us walking home in the middle of the night.”

I sighed, but he was right. It wasn’t about me being a lone female, unable to protect herself without her big, strong man. It was about being sensible and keeping both of us safe.

I signed in at the costume shop right on time. Lindsey was there and looked at me funny as I hung my parka up on the rack at the back of the room.

“Why did you get so dressed up?” she asked.

“I went to dinner with my husband and kid.” I looked around.

We had three other girls working with us: Sandy, Mina, and Hailey. All three were fairly thin, about average height, with brown hair roughly the same shoulder length. Delia Lever came out of her office reeking of cigarette smoke.

“Alright, Linda, I want you on the checkout sheet. The rest of you get the costumes as Linda calls out the name and dance.” Delia looked at me. “It’s pretty straightforward, but each dancer has to initial that she got the costume, then initial again when it’s returned. And do not let anyone check out someone else’s costume. Katie Hughes and a couple of the boys are in more than one dance, so don’t check out the Rodeo stuff to them until they’ve brought back their other costumes. Rodeo is the second act, so they’ll have plenty of time to get dressed for that. And absolutely no costume goes out to anyone who doesn’t have their makeup finished.”

The rush to check out costumes began just before seven and ended abruptly just before eight. The music came up through the costume shop speaker, then stopped. Then it started again. Technically, the first act was only supposed to run about an hour and a half. It went considerably longer. The good thing was that as the dancers finished their respective dances, they checked their costumes in.

I still do not know what the music was for the fishes dance, which ended the first act. At least, the title didn’t mean anything to me when I eventually saw it on the program. It was weird, though, almost atonal, with five young women dancing and flying through the air in harnesses. Of the four dances that made up the first act, that one took forever to go through. It was almost eleven before that ended.

The ballet Rodeo, with the famous music by Aaron Copland, was the second act. Katie Hughes was dancing the Cowgirl. Tina Monastella danced the Rancher’s Daughter, with three other young women as the corps. Five boys, well, young men, were the cowhands. It turned out there was a fast costume change between two of the scenes. The women, except for Katie, just had to change dresses, and that was no problem. Katie had to get out of the same tights made to look like jeans that the guys had on, then get on other tights, a dress, and ballet slippers. Lindsey helped her. The guys also had to get out of the tights made to look like jeans and chaps, and change into shirts and slacks, get string ties tied and jackets on. And it was going to take all the rest of us in the costume shop to help them.

Fortunately, Katie got offstage first. Then the guys all came running off the stage and started peeling off the tights and peeled off their athletic supporters at the same time. Sandy and Hailey shrieked.

“What?” laughed the kid dancing The Roper, a medium-height dirty blond with buffed out shoulders and chest, and… exceptionally gifted in the family jewels department.

I had to assume the other four guys were more normal-sized that way, but it was interesting, and I couldn’t help looking at them and then the other kid. I scooped up the athletic supporter from his tights.

“Please put this back on,” I said. I could feel the flush on my cheeks and was grateful we were mostly in shadow.

“Impressed?” the kid asked, grinning.

I shook my head. “Trust me. It’s not the size of the wand that counts, it’s the magic in it.”

“You can say that again,” Lindsey laughed loudly from where she was closing Katie’s dress. “Dom, has she got your number.”

Dom snatched his slacks from me as Tracy Schultz, who was stage managing, came striding up.

“Why aren’t you guys ready yet?” she demanded.

“We’re working out the kinks,” I said.

A minute later, the guys were ready. Sandy, Mina, and Hailey were still shrieking and giggling as we went back to the costume shop with the discarded tights and shirts. Once there, Lindsey shook her head and gaped at me.

“You were so cool,” she said.

“You just didn’t see me blushing.” I started checking the pieces in as Lindsey got them ready to be laundered the next day.

“That’s Dominic Purslaine, by the way, or, as he likes to call himself, The Stallion.” Lindsey paused. “How were you able to stay so cool? I’ve been a theatre student since high school, and it still gets me.”

“My mother-in-law and her boyfriend are nudists,” I said.

“But the way you looked at them, as if you didn’t care.”

I flushed again. “I was just pondering something.”

Because of my religious background, Sid is the only man I have ever slept with. Sid, because of his background, growing up among a bunch of communists, beatniks, and eventual hippies, is perfectly comfortable being naked no matter who else is around. So are his aunt Stella and her lover Sy. Sid, Nick, and Sy were the only males I’d seen in the raw. My nephews don’t count because the last time I’d seen them naked, they were wearing diapers.

A few months before Sid and I got married, he happened to mention that his family jewels were considered smaller than most guys. Like I was going to know the difference, and I certainly didn’t care. Between his incredible popularity back when he’d slept around and, well, the heavy petting we’d been up to at that point, I knew what an amazing lover he was.

It’s just that night, when the guys dropped their tights, I realized I was kind of curious about what normal size was. Yeah. Sid is smaller.

It figures, though, that just as I admitted I was pondering something, that’s when Sid wandered up to the costume shop.

“Hey, Lover.” I grinned as I saw him.

“Hi, sweetie.” He bent toward me, then stopped because of the table that had been pulled across the door to keep dancers out of the shop.

“Oh. Here.” I pushed the table out of the way. “Come on in.”

Sid slid into the shop and kissed me warmly.

“Hey, everyone,” I said when I could. “This is my husband, Charles.”

Mina shrieked again. “Dr. Devereaux!”

“Uh, Mina, isn’t it?” Sid said. “Keeping up on your reading?”

“Yeah.” She giggled.

Lindsey eyed Sid appreciatively, then looked at me. The music from the speaker wound to its conclusion. There was a pause.

“Alright, everyone,” Tracy Schultz called from somewhere. “Get out of your costumes and get them checked in, then back here for notes. Move it!”

All the girls except Katie showed up together, got their costumes checked in, and hurried off. Dominic showed up as the four guys were finishing up checking in. Sid leaned against a shelving unit next to the door, where he couldn’t be seen.

Katie also came up, shaking with fury. She dumped her costumes on the table, turned on Dominic, and screamed an obscene threat if he didn’t stop sticking his tongue down her throat during their big kiss at the end of the ballet. Sid silently laughed.

As Katie stormed off, Dominic looked plaintively at me.

“It’s like I said,” I told him, checking in his costume. “It’s the magic in it.”

Dom looked pathetic and stalked off. I could hear Sid breaking into laughter next to me.

We were done a couple minutes later, and I offered Lyndsey and the girls a ride back to their dorm. It was a little tight in the car, but fortunately, they all lived in the same building.

“The magic in it?” Sid asked me once we were alone. “Were you referring to the wand line?”

“Yeah. I got a good look when the guys took their tights off for the costume change. Katie was not exaggerating when she said over-sized. Dom thought I should have been impressed. So, I made sure he knew I wasn’t.” I rubbed the inside of Sid’s leg. “After all, you’re the guy with the real magic.”

Sid laughed, then yawned. “If I can stay awake long enough. Good thing I took a nap after dinner.”

Thank you for reading. For more information about the Operation Quickline series, click here.

Please check out the Fiction page for the latest on all my novels. Or look me up at your favorite independent bookstore. Mine is Vroman’s, in Pasadena, California.

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