In this scene from Book 6 of the Frank Nagler Mysteries, Detective Nagler, his companion and acting mayor of Ironton, N.J., Lauren Fox and friends Calista and Leonard are examining the old theater that Leonard bought as an investment.
Something’s wrong, Nagler says.
Is this a key to the secret of the book’s title, NAGLER’S SECRET?
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Inside the theater:
“Nagler traced his light beam across the orchestra pit, up the corner stairs and across the stage where more piles of stuff emerged as vague gray shapes as the darkness of the deep stage and the flyloft sucked the white from his beam.
He dragged the beam back across the stage, stopped and reversed it. He flashed it up where he thought the rear wall would be, the across the piles.
Not right, but I don’t know why.
That was the thought he had in that warehouse at the stoveworks where they found Lamont’s body. His body, hanged, the over-large white suit, the message of “The Rules” hidden on the wall; even the bits of cardboard in his pocket – false clues, all. A trail of phony breadcrumbs? Distractions? No. Dissonance. Deliberate connection of disconnected things and events. But they all felt real for some reason he didn’t understand.
Nagler turned back to his friends.
“When do you plan to begin to clean up this place?” he asked Leonard.
“Months, I’d say. I don’t actually own it yet,” Leonard said and looked at Lauren for clarification.
“A legislator has filed a bill to allow Leonard and the city to tap into historical preservation funds because this building is on the state register of historic places. There has to be what’s called an ‘inventory of the premises’ to certify that it is qualified for funding.” Lauren shrugged. “There’s a lot of steps. Why?”
Nagler took Calista’s flashlight and pointed it with his own toward a pile of dust-covered boxes to the right of the stage. He stepped around the fallen chairs and righted a step ladder that had been leaning on the first row of seats. He shook it open, climbed three steps and shined the flashlights on the center of the stage.
“Those boxes and the floor to the right are covered with undisturbed dust and dirt. The center of the stage is clear and dust leading to the back has been kicked around.”
He backed down the ladder.
“Something happened here.”
He scanned the balcony, where the brass railing was bent and the edge of the elaborate carved base appeared to have had chunks removed.
He raised the flashlights above his head and tried to illuminate
the far row of balcony seats, the make-out seats. He held the lights for a minute or more, then hauled the light back where it pooled at his feet; he wiped his forehead and stared into the distant darkness.
Lauren stepped to his side and slipped her arm under his. She offered a soft, slight smile.
Nagler shook his head to dissipate the sudden fog.