“Julius, I assure you that is definitely not the case here,” Dreckle said once he got his sputtering under control and was able to spit his words out. “Vanessa Havoc is threatening to sue to be released from her contract so that she doesn’t have to perform with a murderer, and now the other cast members are all doing the same. Even Sturges has joined in! But even without those threatened lawsuits it would be an inescapable mess. Almost every purchased ticket has been returned. While the public might be insatiable for all news and salacious gossip regarding poor Arthur’s murder, they have shown to be very queasy about buying tickets to a play where one of the members involved is a cold-blooded killer.”
“I’d suggest then that you replace your director and actors.”
“The cost to do that would be prohibitive,” Dreckle said with a wan smile.
“Why would that be?” Julius asked. He was just being stubborn. Again, he had no intention of taking on any new work, not with his bank account holding the reserves it did, so he was going to be stubborn. “Cast members are replaced all the time due to accidents and other unforeseen circumstances.”
Dreckle blinked several times at Julius while somehow maintaining his smile. “Not a whole cast, including the director,” he said. “We would in effect have to shut down and start again from scratch, which would mean needing to raise a million dollars and causing our original investors to lose everything. With the commitments we have already made, it would be a debacle, and even if we were miraculously able to attract an actress with Ms. Havoc’s star power, the lawsuits would tie us up for years. No, Julius, our only hope is to find the killer. We have something special with The Goose Feather Bed, which is why many early prognosticators picked us to win the Tony. If Arthur’s killer is found out and arrested, theatergoers will come back, and our play can be the success that we all expect it to be. I’m sure of it.” His smile shifted into something conspiratorial, and he added, “Maybe then we’ll even be able to benefit from the publicity that this awful incident has caused. So Julius, will you save us? I’m prepared to offer you fifty thousand dollars to take on this investigation.”
“Sorry, but no.”
Dreckle’s smile congealed into something sickly and plastic. “I thought Phil had talked to you,” he said, his act now completely gone, the despair in his voice very real. “Didn’t Phil explain, uh, the situation to you?”
“He did. I agreed to listen to you, which I have done, and I’ve decided that this investigation is not for me.”
“But for heaven’s sake, why?”
This was said with such naiveté that I almost broke out laughing. Perhaps if Julius wasn’t seeing the theater producer only as a favor to his friend, Phil Weinstein, he wouldn’t have bothered with an explanation, or in this case, a justification. But because this was part of a favor, Julius consented to explain his reason to Dreckle.