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GREGORY MCDONALD

Fletch Reflected

Gregory Mcdonald is the author of twenty-six books, including eleven Fletch novels and four Flynn mysteries. He has twice won the Mystery Writers of America’s prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Mystery Novel, and was the first author to win for both a novel and its sequel. He lives in Tennessee. His Web site is www.gregorymcdonald.com.

Books by Gregory Mcdonald

Fletch

Fletch Won

Fletch, Too

Fletch and the Widow Bradley

Carioca Fletch

Confess, Fletch

Fletch’s Fortune

Fletch’s Moxie

Fletch and the Man Who

Son of Fletch

Fletch Reflected

Flynn

The Buck Passes Flynn

Flynn’s In

Flynn’s World

Skylar

Skylar in Yankeeland

Running Scared

The Brave

Safekeeping

Who Took Toby Rinaldi? (Snatched)

Love Among the Mashed Potatoes (Dear M.E.)

Exits and Entrances

Merely Players

A World Too Wide

The Education of Gregory Mcdonald

(Souvenirs of a Blown World)

1

“What happened to Steve?” The woman in the canvas chair leaned forward. She had not looked around from the television screen since Fletch entered the pavillion. No one else was there. She was speaking to herself, or to the air. “For God’s sake, what’s wrong?” she said in a tight, low voice.

Even under the canopy on a sunless day, the screen of the television monitor was blanched by daylight from the beach.

From where Fletch was standing, he could see the pale images flickering on the screen. Across a few meters of beach, between the cameras, standing lights, reflectors, and sound booms, he could see the reality of what was on the screen, the set of The Dan Buckley Show, host and guests.

In the middle chair sat Dan Buckley wearing white trousers, loafers, and a light blue Palm Beach shirt. Even at a distance, amiability seemed stuck on his face like a decal. To his left, in a long, white bulky dressing gown sat Moxie Mooney—the gorgeous, perky, healthy, fresh-faced young film star called away from her make-up table to oblige an on location talk show. To Buckley’s right sat Moxie’s agent, manager, and executive producer, Steve Peterman in three-piece, pearl-gray suit, black shoes, and cravat.

Only Steve Peterman wasn’t sitting properly in his chair. He was slumped sideways. His head was on his right shoulder.

Fletch looked at his watch.

At the back of the talk-show set a heavy, brightly colored, split curtain moved slightly in the breeze. Behind the set, down the beach the Gulf of Mexico was gray-blue in that light. On all sides of the set was the paraphernalia of a much bigger set, the location of the film-in-progress, Midsummer Night’s Madness, starring Moxie Mooney and Gerry Littleford. Odd-shaped trailers were parked on the beach, each facing a different direction, as if dropped there. False palm-thatched huts were here and there. Thick black cables ran every which way over the sand. Low wooden platforms, like portable dance floors, were tilted on the beach. Strewn everywhere were the odd-shaped light rigs, reflectors, cameras, and sound cranes. The whole beach looked like a sandbox of toys abandoned by a giant, rich child. Among all these trappings moved the film crew of Midsummer Night’s Madness, working, apparently oblivious of the taping going on in their midst.

“What happened?” the woman repeated in a hoarse whisper.

Fletch put his glass of orange juice back on the bar table. He stood quietly behind the woman in her canvas chair. She still hadn’t looked around at him.

Closer, he could see the monitor more clearly. In a loose head-shot, Moxie was alone on screen, laughing. Then she looked to her right, as if seeking confirmation from Steve Peterman, as if turning the conversation over to him. Moxie stopped talking with a short, sharp inhale. Laughter left her face. One eyebrow rose.

The camera pulled back to include Buckley. He looked to his right, to see what had surprised Moxie. His eyes widened. His lips did not move.

The camera pulled back farther. Steve Peterman’s eyes stared blankly into the camera. His head was at such an odd angle resting on his shoulder his neck seemed broken. Blood oozed from the lower, right corner of his mouth. It dribbled down his cheek past his ear and onto his cravat.

In the pavillion, the woman in the canvas chair screamed. She stood up. She screamed again. People everywhere on the beach, even on the talk-show set, were looking at her. She clasped her hands over her mouth.

Fletch took her arm. Gently, firmly, he turned her body toward him. Her eyes were affixed to the monitor.

“Come on,” he said. “Time for a break.”

“What’s happening? What happened to Steve?”

“Coffee,” he said. “They’ll be right back.”

He turned her away from the reality of what was happening on the set and away from the unreality of what was happening focused on the television screen.

“Steve!” she called.

He made her walk. She stumbled against the canvas chair. He pushed it out of her way with his bare foot.

“Come on,” he said. “Let’s see what the canteen has to offer.”

“But, Steve…” she said.

She put her hands over her face. He put his arm around her shoulder and guided her along.

He walked with her off the pavillion and up the beach to the flat, hard-packed parking lot. There were many trailers parked there.

In a reasonable tone of voice Fletch said, “I don’t think there’s anything you can do just now.”

2

“Is Steve Peterman your husband?” Fletch asked. He was careful to use the word is rather than was although he was sure the latter was appropriate.

In the metal folding chair, her drawn face nodded in the affirmative. “I’m Marge Peterman.”

Fletch had found two metal chairs and placed them behind a trailer in the parking lot, out of the way of the traffic he knew would be passing to and from the beach. He sat Marge Peterman in one and went to the canteen. He brought back two cups of coffee, one black, the other with cream and sugar. He offered her both. She chose the black. He put the other coffee on the sand near her feet, and sat quietly in the other chair.

Fletch had arrived at the location of Midsummer Night’s Madness on Bonita Beach only a half hour before. His credentials from Global Cable News had gained him entry onto location. The security guard told him Moxie was taping The Dan Buckley Show and enjoined Fletch to silence. He directed Fletch to the hospitality pavillion where a courtesy bar had been set up to host the television crew and other press after the taping.

     

 

2011 - 2018