Welcome to “Oh! Leander”, a website for the “Outlander Leander” series. From November 3 to November 27 I’ll be posting the mystery novella, “Beneath the Curtains: Outlander Leander Vol.2.5”, every Monday and Thursday. There are 2 ways to win prizes:
1. You can scroll down to the bottom of the page for your chance to win 1 of 3 $5 Amazon.com gift codes, just by linking to the page on any social media site.
2. At the end, people can post who they think “did it” for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift code.
Vol.2.5 takes place between volume 2 and volume 3 of the series, but everyone should be able to follow it fine even if they haven’t read the books. If you interested, the first and second book are both available, and the third book will be coming out soon. The first book is only $.99! With that out of the way, please enjoy the story!
“I hope they don’t make her stand there for too long,” I whispered to Valli. He glanced at me with a pained smile. His expression was barely visible in the dim lights. A vibrant pink flower was pinned an inch above his ear and his bangs fell in layers around his face, much shorter than the rest of his hair.
I turned my attention back to the stage and cringed in sympathy.
“Control, have to stay in control…”
A fearless and familiar voice filled the theater. It wasn’t the girl. Ellora strode out from behind the curtains with a microphone in hand. The girl whirled to face her. The song began softly and built up slowly.
Ellora stopped next to the girl on stage as she reached the chorus. The casual jacket and pants she wore showed she hadn’t been planning on performing. With a wave of her hand, she prompted the girl to join her. A second voice weakly joined hers in the chorus. As they sang on the voice became stronger, clearer.
The chorus ended and the girl continued into the second verse. Her voice was powerful, smooth, and while she sang Ellora slunk back, disappearing behind the curtains.
After she belted out the last note everyone clapped. I put my hands together for her. It was the nicest thing I’d ever seen Ellora do.
With the last audition finished, people flooded out of the seats below us.
“Thanks for inviting me,” I told Valli while we waited for the people to clear. “It’s nice to get such good seats.”
“It’s nothing. I enjoy having someone else here with me,” he answered.
It paid to know someone in the theater. Valli invited me to many auditions and occasionally gave me free tickets for a show.
Trotting a step behind him, we went downstairs to the lobby. Hundreds of people loitered there, chatting and wandering into the gift shops. The entire theater was maroon, from the lobby to the living quarters. Woven posters from previous plays covered the walls. The massive area was littered with cushy seats and decorative plants.
“That was quite the ending,” I said.
“You don’t see that happen every day,” Valli agreed.
Around us heads started turning. I looked to see what was grabbing their attention. Ellora had entered the lobby. Her hair was parted in a way that favored her right side and hung to her mid-back. Her skin had always been a few shades darker than mine, but I had always been a bit lighter brown than average. She had a dark blue jacket on despite the fine weather, and some dark pants to go with them.
People migrated her way but she barreled through them straight over to us and stopped, folding her arms with eyes on Valli.
“Are you heading back inside?” she asked.
“Sure, in a minute,” he answered.
“I’m surprised you went out on stage like that. I’ve never seen you do that before,” I said.
“I saw her practicing in the back so I knew she had talent,” she stated, huffing. “Not like that third guy. That was painful to watch. I couldn’t wait for them to get him off the stage.”
“Think she’ll be accepted?” I asked.
Her response was so sharp it startled me.
“We can’t have people freezing up on stage. Maybe if she gets some experience and tries again next year,” she explained. More people took notice of Ellora and she pointed towards the door that led to the back. A large guard in pink stood next to it.
“I’m going to head back in before things get chaotic.”
Valli nodded and she left.
“Shall we head in, too?” he asked me.
After knowing Valli for a few months I didn’t feel awkward at the theater anymore. I followed him into the back area, already knowing that he was heading to the living quarters. A hallway attached the two areas together in the back.
The living quarters was same the length as the theater but wasn’t nearly as wide. It was a hallway with rooms and recreational areas. Valli’s room was the second one from the end, on the right. The same carpeting that cover the theater floor extended all the way through the halls, but they decorated their rooms however they wanted.
“Actually, I had a favor I wanted to ask of you,” he began hesitantly.
“Oh?” I perked up my ears.
“You find things, right? I was wondering if you could help me find my hair stick?” He fidgeted with his fingers.
I looked for relics or historical artifacts, but looking at his shining eyes and tentative expression, I couldn’t help but smile. “Sure, I’ll help. Where did you last leave it?”
He clasped his hands together and brightened. “I took it off before the show last night and left it on my desk, but it was gone when I came back.”
The carpet in front of his room squished under my feet with a wet sound. I stumbled back.
“Sorry, someone spilled some juice there last night and I had to use one of those cleaners to get it out.”
“Ah, I see,” I answered. We walked around the wet spot and into the bedroom.
His room was tidy with light blue décor. The furniture was all made of a matching light wood, and his bed was plush and oversized for one man. Doors led to his personal washroom and bathroom on the same side. The room was large. Even with a desk, dressers and the bed there was plenty of space left.
I glanced down at the desk sitting next to the entrance. “So you left it here?”
“Yes, right before the show.”
“What did it look like?”
He held up his hands to show its size. “The pin was about seven inches long and had an orange and yellow flower on the end, with a couple tiny rubies inside.”
I knelt down by the desk and checked behind it. Nothing. I pulled myself back up.
“Did you check your washroom? Maybe you moved it at some point and forgot.”
“I looked all over but I haven’t found it anywhere.”
Flipping up the skirt of the bed, I peeked under. Clear. Valli kept his hands folded while he watched.
“Could someone have borrowed it?”
“I don’t think anyone would have taken it without asking first.”
Slumping down on the edge of the bed, I held my chin and mulled it over.
“How much was it worth?”
“About fifty shills, I suppose.”
“And nothing else is missing?”
“I haven’t noticed anything.”
It was a decent amount for a hair stick but not enough to risk a criminal record, especially if they didn’t take anything else.
“I guess the best thing to do would be to ask if anyone else knows anything, then. I’ll go see what I can find out.”
First, Ellora. It was possible she… no, she actually liked Valli. She wouldn’t steal from him. Me, maybe, but not him.
I went to the next room and knocked on her door. She opened it, a look of irritation plastered on her face. Papers were scattered all over the floor. Some had been piled together but the pages weren’t lined up with each other.
“What?” she spat.
“Did something happen in here?” I asked, looking past her.
“A pile of my scripts fell off my desk.” She sighed, exasperated.
“That’s a lot of papers.”
“I have a lot of scripts. What do you want?”
“Valli can’t find one of his hair sticks. Have you seen it anywhere?”
“Which one is it?”
“He said it was orange and yellow.”
“I think he was wearing that the other day.”
“Yeah, he took it off before the show and it was gone from his desk after the show. Was there anyone back here during the show?”
She folded her arms and leaned on the door frame, looking to the side with furrowed brows.
“No one should have been…”
“If he left his door open maybe someone took it because they had the opportunity.”
Unlike Valli, I could depend on Ellora to be suspicious of other people.
“Is there anyone living here who might have done it?”
“Hmm… I doubt anyone here would take it. Everyone knows Valli wears flowers. It would be obvious they stole it if anyone saw it.”
“If it was taken during the show would anyone else have been able to come back here?”
“Sure. They wouldn’t have a reason to, but it’s pretty chaotic during a performance. Someone could have snuck over here.”
I paused to think it over. “But then, Valli’s room is pretty far from the hallway connecting it to the theater. That’s a pretty long way to walk just to take a hair stick.”
“We make pretty good money, but there’s also a lot of staff here who don’t earn that much. Maybe one of them thought they’d find expensive stuff to steal.”
She had the mind of a thief.
“You’re right. I’ll see if anyone else is missing anything. Speaking of which, are you?”
“I haven’t noticed anything.”
“All right. I’ll check with everyone else, then.”
It was better than asking everyone if they’d stolen the hair stick. I turned to the room on the opposite side of the hallway and knocked. Another one of the dancers opened the door.
“Hi, something of Valli’s was taken off his desk and I’m checking to see if anyone else is missing anything…”
I went down the hall asking everyone if anything was missing or they knew anything. There were nine rooms on each side of the hall, making eighteen total. No one else had anything taken or knew about his hair stick.
When I went back to Valli’s room I held onto his door frame, leaning slightly inside of his room. “No one else seems to know anything. Is it possible you left it in one of the dressing rooms and forgot?”
“I remember leaving it on my desk like I always do, but I guess it’s possible.”
“It makes the most sense to me. Let’s check to make sure.”
The theater had two large dressing rooms. We went into the closer – and larger – one first. Mirrors with lights over them covered the walls on both sides. It had sinks built in and accessories sitting all over the counters. Dozens of seats were scattered about. A pair of racks full of costumes still sat in the middle of the room.
We searched the counters for his hair piece. Thin layers of powder dusted the countertops randomly. Red and black powder rubbed off onto my hand when I touched them. I peeked under the counters and in the sinks, and while I found many knick-knacks that had been left behind I didn’t see his stick. With no sign of it, we moved on to the second dressing room. It wasn’t as gargantuan as the first but I could still imagine dozens of people running around in it.
When I reached the last section of counter we still hadn’t found it.
“Doesn’t look like it’s in here.” I faced him as he finished searching the other side of the room.
He folded his hands and his gaze dropped to the ground. My ears sagged. I hated to disappoint him.
I forced a smile. “I guess we could check around the theater. It’s possible someone dropped it?”
We began scouring the rest of the theater and I got a closer look at everything that existed behind the scenes. There were lots of little rooms I’d never been in, even showers.
After looking through numerous rooms I opened one of the doors to the stage and pushed through the curtains. The stage was massive, with layers upon layers of drapes drawn to the sides. A ladder was set up on the other side of the stage but no one was on it. The audience seating seemed to flow forever. A section of the stage divided the seats and stretched all the way to the back.
The lights flashed on and flooded the room. Between each sheet a stream of light poured through. I jumped behind the curtains and stood still. Soft footsteps came through the door.
When I saw Valli’s feet on the other side of the curtain I grabbed him. He jumped, crying out and tensing up.
I roared and shook him. He planted his feet apart to keep his balance and struggled to free his arms.
After a moment I let go and peeked around the curtain. He laughed, steadying himself. I snapped the curtain back in place and fled. Shielding my head with an arm, I shoved the thick drapes aside. Valli’s soft steps followed behind me.
Hopping out of them onto the stage, I checked behind me. He was working his way out of drapery. I dove back in and raced through. When I reached the wall he popped out from behind the other side of the curtain. Laughing, I leaned on the wall, pausing to catch my breath. He panted, a hand covering his mouth.
A puffball on the ground caught my eye. It was wedged against the wall. I inched closer passed Valli and bent over to get a better look. The ball was made of yellow and golden petals, forming a fluffy circular flower. The stick attached to it was resting in a crevice in the wooden floor.
I squatted down in front of it. “Hey, I think I found your stick.”
The stick part was a golden brown at the top, but a dingy brown glop covered the bottom. Some sort of crusty gunk. As Valli bent over next to me I held a hand up to stop him.
“There’s something on it. Do you have something to pick it up with?”
“I can get something.”
He scuttled out the door and came back a couple minutes later with a plastic bag. Covering my hand with it, I lifted it up for a better look.
“Yeah, there’s definitely something all over the stick. It looks like a bit is on the edge of the flower, too.”
I straightened up and held it so he could see. His figure drooped and he pouted. Too bad I didn’t find it in better condition.
“Maybe it can be washed off?” I suggested, though I doubted he would want to put something dirty like this in his hair again.
“It’s all right. I guess we should just throw it out.”
We took it back to his room, where I tossed it in his trash bin and went about the day. The mystery of where his hair stick had gone was solved.
Still, how did it get there and why was it dirty?
The first seven parts of the story are now up! Scroll to the top or the bottom for links to all the other parts.
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