Despite his paranoia, the costume designer, Shane, did a first fitting for Chris in the small dressing room that evening. It seemed the Odetto role was still his—for now, at least.
Shane was a slender young man who wore only black and white, always sporting a peaceful expression. He had the most pleasant smile, greeting everyone he passed.
The costume Chris squeezed into was black with details of shiny accents on the right shoulder and left thigh. He fumbled with the stretchy material as Shane assisted him.
“Sorry, it’s hard to put on,” Shane said.
The costume was worth the pain, the darkness conforming to Chris’s muscles and glimmering as if he were a shadowy spirit. “Wow, this is neat,” Chris said. “I mean, really. It’s the coolest costume I’ve ever seen.”
“Thanks,” Shane said, glowing with pleasure. “But it’s just the first pass. I’m going to detail it some more. Any adjustments you’d like?”
“Is it supposed to be this tight?” Chris moved his limbs. “If possible, I need it to be more flexible around my arms and legs.”
Shane touched his arms with a friendly smile. “Ah, it seems you have gotten more muscular since the first measurement.”
Heat rushed to Chris’s face. “Sorry. I had to work out because—”
The designer chuckled. “Are you always this cute?” He stood back to look him up and down. “Of course, we can get it adjusted! It’s all about you. You know, I think we can open up the collarbone area more. Odetto should be a bit sexy, don’t you think?”
Being so busy and stressed had caused Chris to not pay as much attention to romantic potentials, but he was sure Shane was flirting with him. He couldn’t help but check Shane out. Adorable smile, Irish-or-British-or-something accent, pitch-black hair styled perfectly, slight freckles across the nose. Chris was down to flirt back, and he was about to use his go-to pick up line, but reality whispered to him. He was in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to star in a major show. A complicated workplace was a huge risk. It was bad enough with his weird crush on Erik.
“Yeah, good idea,” Chris said, pretending not to notice Shane’s flirty gaze.
“Right?” Shane grabbed a sketchbook from a nearby stool. He opened it and showed Chris drawings, standing very close and treating him to his woodsy-floral cologne. “See? These are Erik’s initial sketches of the characters.”
Chris’s eyes widened. “Erik can draw, too? Wow. He’s—”
“I know, he’s talented,” Shane agreed. He flipped to the next page. “These are the modifications I made that he approved. I’ll draft the new idea we came up with and show him.” He added the open collarbone to the page and sketched a cut in the middle that showed the chest. “I’ve been really pushing for a more contemporary spin on your costume, especially once I heard you were cast. I was really inspired by your video.”
Chris froze. “Uh, what video?”
Shane tilted his head as if puzzled. “That music video for ‘Curtain Call.’ You did some great contemporary ballet moves.”
No, no no no. That video was gone, buried. Chris drew back, mortified. “You saw that?”
It was a dance gig for a local and fairly unpopular Seattle band; he figured only twenty people would ever see the video. Much to his grief, it ended up being passed around his local gay community as if it were porn. The dance could hardly be called ballet—it was edgy and over-the-top sexy—he was half naked in the rain.
“It was kind of a long time ago,” Chris explained as he burned further with embarrassment. “I needed to make some money. Please, don’t tell anyone about it.” If Nathan, Johan, or Erik found the video, they’d probably fire him in fear of ruining Swan Song’s image.
“It’s a secret?” Shane asked with raised brows, looking a bit puzzled. “You really should feel proud of it.”
He struggled to find words. Suddenly, the door opened and Erik entered the fitting room. His gaze turned the room fifty degrees colder.
“Bonjour,” he said tersely, which Shane replied to right away. “Shane. Are you working or talking?”
“Both…but mostly working,” Shane said innocently as he backed away. “We talked about some costume adjustments.” He showed Erik the sketch.
Erik dismissed the sketch with a wave of his hand. “We will talk about it later. We are getting way ahead of ourselves. What I want to know is if the introduction will be as striking as intended.”
“Ah, right. I’ll have Chris try on the other pieces now.”
“You have not even seen them on him yet?”
“I got a bit distracted,” Shane admitted as he went to the rack of props. He returned, holding a mask in hand.
“You will have a mask on for Act One,” Erik explained. “When you are about to confess your love to Ledo, you take it off, and it will stay off for the remainder of the show.”
Shane placed the mask over Chris’s face and then turned him to the mirror. He looked mysterious, like a different person.
“And,” Erik continued, “you will have wings for the introduction, before you descend from the afterlife to take a closer look at Ledo. Do not worry. You will not have to dance with them on.”
Shane attached long, draping pieces under each of Chris’s arms. They were Art Deco style wings that hung down from each arm, the near transparent fabric shimmering with tiny crystals.
“Wow,” Chris said, impressed.
Erik stood behind him in the reflection, studying him with a hand to his chin. He nodded. “It looks very good.”
Shane also appeared in the mirror. “Ah, my work is easy when the wearer of the costume is so gorgeous.”
Averting his gaze, Chris pretended to admire the fabric of his wings. Shane was making it impossible for him to appear clueless.
Erik ignored Shane’s remark. “Harper. You can go get changed now. I will discuss with Shane the adjustments.”
On his way back to the studio, Chris stopped by his locker to grab his sports drink, discovering he’d left the locker unlocked. A piece of paper rested on the top of his crumpled clothes. Again? Unfolding it, Chris’s heart raced, anticipating malice.
The paper was a crude sketch of Odetto with a knife through him, Odetto’s mask left fallen below his feet. Instantly, his stomach knotted with sickness. How did anyone know about the mask when it was only just introduced to him? His mind whirled. It had to be someone very close to production.
Was it Erik, after all?