This is a post "Aftershock" story, which takes place several months after the execution. But for Rey, the memories haven't faded -- and an evening at the theatre turns disturbingly emotional.
By Leslie Rampey
27th Precinct Squad Room
Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1996
At his desk, Rey Curtis answered the phone absently without taking his eyes from the file in which he was working, "Curtis." And then, file forgotten, he broke into what Lennie privately referred to as 'Rey's Deb smile.' Yup, no mystery about who's calling, thought Lennie. God, had he ever been that young and in love? Must've been at some time, but he couldn't honestly recall.
"Hey, sweetheart, that's great. Lucky you! Why don't you go with some of the other moms from the church -- make it a girls' night out? We'll work out something with the kids. When are they for? Tonight? Us? Aw, honey, you know I don't much like... Okay, okay -- for you I'll love it. What about the other two tickets? I don't know. I'll ask him. Oh, no! Stop her --stop her! Later -- yeah, I love you!"
Looking slightly annoyed Rey hung up the phone.
"Trouble in paradise?" asked Lennie.
"Ah, no, not really -- Deborah had to get off the phone quick because Isabel is trying to hide a cookie inside the VCR again. What is it with kids stuffing things inside VCRs anyway?"
"Kids stuff things in VCRs? You mean besides tapes?"
"Yeah, you wouldn't believe how many of them we've been through. But I guess that wasn't a problem when your kids were little, was it?"
Both men went back to work on their files, but a minute later Rey said, "Lennie, I almost forgot why Deborah called. Do you have a date tonight?"
"Deborah called to find out if I have a date tonight? I know the Curtis family is fascinated by my love life, but that's a little much, isn't it?"
Laughing, Rey answered, "No, that's not how I mean. She wants to know if you and a date want to go with us to some play. She won four tickets in a raffle at the church, and they're for tonight."
"Nope, no date tonight."
"Can you get one?"
"Rey, it's four-thirty. Yeah, maybe I could get a date if I felt like the humiliation of being laughed off the phone by the first six I tried. What play is it anyway?"
"Oh, that musical thing with the knights and stuff that everyone is making such a fuss about all over the city."
"Camelot? Deb has tickets to the Camelot revival? You're not serious!"
"Yeah. Is that a big deal?"
"Are you kidding, pal? Yeah, it's about the biggest deal in thirty-five years."
"Never took you for much of a Broadway man, Lennie. You been holding out on me?" teased Rey.
"Hey, I can appreciate the finer things in life."
"Yeah -- pastrami, calzone... Don't remind me of your 'finer things in life.' I get heartburn just thinking about them."
"No, I'm serious, Rey. I saw the original when I was a teenager. Camelot is pretty good -- just like you read about King Arthur at school when you were a kid, only with music."
"King Arthur? " Rey looked blank. "At school?"
"Yeah, you know, like when you were eight or nine. All those hero types -- Arthur, Hercules, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox... "
"A blue ox?" Rey sounded genuinely alarmed. "You mean there's gonna be a blue ox in this show?"
"Nah, that's just another example. Do you mean you really don't -- Hey, wait a minute," said Lennie as Rey couldn't keep his smile suppressed. "You're screwing with me, right?"
"Aw, I've heard about all those guys but in the movies or something -- not at school. They really made kids read crap like that in school in the old days?"
"Hey, watch it, Junior! Anyway, you better lose your attitude before the show. I'm telling ya Deborah won't appreciate it because women eat this stuff up."
"Well, are you going to find a woman to eat it up? It's not getting any earlier, you know."
"Ahh, that's probably a lost cause," Lennie sighed.
"You don't have any ideas? I'm sure Deborah wouldn't mind if it were just the three of us, but you'd probably have more fun if you were with someone."
"Hey, wait a minute... Maybe I do have an idea. And it might be a good deal for both of us." Lennie tightened and straightened his tie. "How do I look, Rey?"
"Fine," answered Rey suspiciously. "What are you going to do?"
"Ask our boss lady on a date."
"Van Buren? Lennie, are you crazy?"
"Well, for one thing -- and this is just for openers -- she has a husband and kids."
"See, that's where we're in luck. Not tonight she doesn't."
"No? How come?"
"She was telling me before that she's planning to work late because Don is taking the boys to a game, and she hates going home to an empty house."
"I don't know, Lennie. Do you think she'd go for it?"
"Hey, Rey - it's Camelot, she's a woman. Trust me."
701 7th Ave.
Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1996
Rey put a plate of Chicken Francese down in front of Deborah and settled down with his own large pasta salad.
"Sorry, ladies," he said. "I know this isn't elegant pre-theatre dining, but it's the best we can do on such short notice."
"On our salaries, this is about as elegant as it gets anyway," said Lennie from behind a plate piled high with Sbarro stuffed pizza slices.
"Hey, a night out, a Broadway show?" laughed Lt. Van Buren. "No way I'm gonna complain!"
"I'm so happy you could join us, Anita," said Deborah.
"So am I, Deborah. I have to admit, however, that never in my life did I think one of my detectives was going to walk into my office and ask me for a date!"
"Really had you going there for a minute, didn't I, Lieu?"
"All I had to hear was Camelot, and I'd have gone with David Duke himself."
"Thanks a lot," groused Lennie.
"Oh, you know what I mean. And you know what else? If you're going to eat stuffed pizza, this spinach and broccoli one is a whole lot healthier."
"This sausage and pepperoni is just fine. And don't use the words "pizza" and "healthy" in the same sentence while I'm eating."
Rey raised his beer and said, "Well, let's all drink to, um, Camelot -- whatever it is."
"To Camelot," they intoned and joined him with raised glasses, the women's with red wine and Lennie's with a diet soda.
"What do you mean, 'whatever it is'?" asked Van Buren. "You must know about Camelot.
"No, he really doesn't," Lennie told her. "I think he went to school on like Mars or something."
"Well, excuse me for graduating after the Civil War!"
"Hey, that is no excuse. Deborah here is your age, and I'll bet she knows all about Camelot, don't ya, Deb?"
"Oh, yeah," Deborah sighed. "It is soooo dreamy."
"See, Rey?" Lennie said between bites of pizza. "That's what I'm talking about right there. I told ya."
"What did you tell him?" asked Van Buren.
"Oh, just that I happen to know a thing or two about Camelot and women," Lennie said smugly.
"Yeah, he told me you would go because you're a woman."
"Oh, really? And just how did you happen to come by that fascinating bit of information?"
"Well, I'll tell you... Back when I was sixteen and this show was running the first time, which was when Goulet was playing Lancelot instead of Arthur like he is now, my mother decided it was time for my first grown-up date and bought me and my girlfriend tickets to it."
"Wow," said Van Buren, "I'll bet that was one very impressed young lady!"
"She sure was."
"And I'll bet she thanked you quite appropriately, too, didn't she, Lennie?" teased Rey.
"Oh, um, yes -- very appropriately. And that's how I know all about the effect Camelot can have on women."
"Better watch out, L-T!" Rey laughed. "Lennie might expect a repeat performance."
"In his dreams maybe!"
Lennie winked at her. "Aw, what's the matter, Lieu? Afraid I won't respect you tomorrow morning?"
"Oh, you'll respect me every morning, Briscoe -- as long as you're at the 2-7, that is!"
They all laughed, and Rey swallowed some of his salad and said, "Okay, so all of you know about this Camelot stuff, and I don't. Want to clue me in a little bit so that I know what's going on when we get there?"
"There you go -- that's the spirit, Rey!"
"Oh, honey, it's a wonderful story," said Deborah. "See, there is this medieval king named Arthur, and he has a dream. He wants a perfect kingdom where everyone would be treated justly and fairly and no one would ever be violent."
Rey snorted. "Yeah? Like that was ever going to happen. He should be sitting here with us, looking out this window, and he'd know better."
"But he does make it happen, Rey," contributed Van Buren. "He gets all the knights to sit down and work out their problems peacefully. See, he comes up with this idea of a Round Table."
"Round tables hadn't been invented yet?"
"Oh, don't be so literal, Rey," sighed Lennie. "He gets all these knights to sit at his Round Table so that they will all be equal and no one would be at the head or closer to the head."
"Okay, so he gets all these knights to settle down and changes the furniture. Is that pretty much it?"
Deborah dug her elbow into Rey's ribs. "No, no -- there's much more. There's the romance."
"I hope it's not romance among the knights because if that's the kind of show it's going to be...
They all groaned and threw up their hands.
"Deb, he's hopeless," moaned Lennie.
"Yeah. How do you do you put up with it?" asked Anita.
"Hey, hey -- I'm kidding, just kidding already! So, what's with the romance? Does Arthur find a queen? I mean, a female queen?"
"Oh, yes," breathed Deborah. "The perfect queen for his kingdom -- Guinevere. She's beautiful, and she and Arthur are so much in love, and everyone else in Camelot loves her, too."
"Yeah," said Lennie. "Especially..."
But Van Buren nudged him. "That's enough. Let's don't give it all away. He knows enough now to know what's going on."
"You're not going to tell me what happens in the end?"
"Absolutely we are not going to tell you what happens in the end," Van Buren said firmly. "If we spoil it for you, you won't have any fun."
"Yeah, fun," sighed Rey. "Right."
"Rey, you're gonna love it," Lennie told him. "You'll see. And speaking of fun, if we're going to have any, we better finish up and head over to the theatre. Leave a little time for mingling with the theatre set in the lobby."
"Mingle? I gotta mingle? No one said anything about mingling."
"Is he always this grumpy, Deborah?" asked Van Buren.
"Only when I try to get him to go someplace he doesn't want to go, but I don't worry about it anymore because he almost always winds up enjoying himself, don't you, sweet?" She snuggled against Rey.
"Oh, I guess so," Rey admitted reluctantly. "Anything for the lady here. Anything," he repeated softly and kissed her hair.
"Hey," said Lennie, "as much as I like this play, it does eat up about six months of my sweet quota. So, don't you two start, or I'll go diabetic. Come on, let's get going."
George Gershwin Theatre
222 W. 51st St.
Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1996
"Boy, Deb, when you win a raffle, you really win a raffle," remarked Lennie. "These are great seats."
"They sure are," agreed Van Buren as she settled into the fourth seat from the aisle. Lennie sat beside her with Deborah on his other side, and Rey took the aisle seat. In the few minutes before the overture, they all studied their Playbill programs.
"Gosh," Van Buren said, "I had forgotten that Robert Goulet really has been around a while, hasn't he."
"Well, thanks for reminding me of that, Lieu!"
The house darkened. Rey put his arm around Deborah and she leaned contentedly on his shoulder. In a moment the majestic overture of Camelot was washing over them.
"Beautiful!" breathed Van Buren, and Lennie nodded in agreement.
As the play opened, even Rey seemed to enjoy he sumptuous scenery and actually chuckled aloud at Arthur's "wishing he were in Scotland fishing tonight!" line.
"See, Lennie?" whispered Deborah. "I told you he'd be fine."
The familiar songs and dialogue continued to enchant the two women and Lennie, and Rey seemed genuinely interested in following the plot.
As Lancelot began "C'est Moi," Lennie muttered under his breath, "Hoo boy, here he comes -- Mr. Perfect."
During the song, Rey gradually seemed to stiffen and take a greater interest. He had withdrawn his arm from Deborah's shoulders, leaned forward, and was staring intently at the stage.
"The soul of a knight should be a thing remarkable,
"His heart and his mind as pure as morning dew."
Puzzled, Deborah looked at her husband. And then Lennie noticed that there was something going on with Rey.
"C'est moi, c'est moi, 'tis I.
"I've never strayed
"From all I believe;
"I'm blessed with an iron will."
Noting the others' unease, Van Buren whispered to Lennie, "Is something wrong?"
"And here I stand, as pure as a pray'r,
"Incredibly clean, with virtue to spare,
"The godliest man I know!
As the audience applauded the insufferable French knight, Rey said, "Honey, I gotta go," and bolted up the aisle.
Deborah shrugged apologetically at Lennie. "I guess he'll be back in a few minutes."
The few minutes turned into ten, and then a few more than that. During the lengthy "Then You May Take Me to the Fair," Deborah whispered, "Lennie, I'm getting a little worried about Rey. Would you mind --"
"Sure, Deb. I'll go see if he's okay."
Lennie made his way through the deserted lobby to the men's room. Rey was in there alone in front of a mirror, soaking his face with a wet paper towel.
"Hey, man, did that pasta salad do you in?"
"No, Lennie," Rey said, almost inaudibly. "I'm not sick."
"Well, Deb's worried that you are. What's going on?"
"It's that Lancelot."
"Lancelot? What about him?"
"What's his deal?"
"He's an asshole, and he pushes everyone's buttons. What's that got to do with you?"
Rey turned to look at Lennie. "You really don't see it?"
Puzzled, Lennie searched his mind to figure out what Rey meant, and then it dawned on him. "Oh, Rey, for God's sake. You mean you think he's like you?"
"'Mr. Perfect?' Isn't that what you called him? You've called me that a time or two as I recall."
"Rey," sighed Lennie, "he's a fictional character, for crying out loud. You're a real person. You know they have places for people who can't keep those two things separate."
"This doesn't end well, does it, Lennie?"
"The play? No, not exactly, but there's light at the end of the tunnel."
"And Lancelot? It's his fault, isn't it?"
"Partly. It's his hubris or something like that I heard about in college."
"Hubris? What does that mean?"
"I think it's like he's set himself up for a fall. Look, Rey -- I don't believe we're standing in the john of a Broadway theatre doing literary criticism. What the hell is going on with you?"
Rey opened his mouth as if to say something, and then closed it again and turned away.
"It's just that I didn't know it was going to be like this."
"Hit so close to home."
"Am I supposed to know what that means?"
"No, no one's supposed to know what that means --ever."
Lennie looked at his partner, seriously beginning to wonder if Rey wasn't in the first stages of some sort of breakdown. There'd been a few times in the past several months, ever since Claire... No, Lennie told himself. Don't go there. Not tonight when it finally seems like everyone is getting back to normal.
"Look, Rey, if you've got to talk to someone, fine. But now isn't the time. Deborah and Van Buren will be sending security after us in a minute. We've got to get back out there. Can you just calm down and remember that this is just a play? Nothing about it is real."
"Yeah, yeah," sighed Rey, drying his face. "I'll calm down. Let's go."
Lennie and Rey rejoined the audience in time for "How to Handle a Woman." Rey seemed quite recovered for a while, but when the lights came on at the end of the first act after Guinivere's "Before I Gaze at You Again," Lennie noted that he was once more looking positively green. Hastily, telling a puzzled Deborah and Van Buren that they'd meet them in the lobby, Rey grabbed Lennie's arm and dragged him back to the men's room.
"Hey, partner," said Lennie, mindful of the strange looks they were getting. "We've got to stop meeting like this."
"No, partner, you've got to tell me what happens in this play, and tell me now!"
"Well, you can see for yourself what's begun to happen."
"Lancelot and Guinevere? They don't -- Tell me they don't..."
"Get it on? Well, yeah. That's the whole point. It breaks up the kingdom and everything Arthur's worked for."
Rey looked to Lennie like the ground had just given way beneath him.
"Do you always fall apart when you go to plays, or is it just this one?"
"You shoulda told me what was going to happen, Lennie. I never would have come."
"You mean because there's a guy sort of like you in it? Or because..."
Abruptly Rey turned away from him, saying, "Never mind. Just forget about it."
"Hey, are you going to be okay?"
"Me?" Rey gave a bitter little laugh. "Yeah. Don't worry about me. I'll be fine -- just fine."
With that he strode out of the men's room leaving a very bewildered Lennie to follow him. In the lobby, Lennie noted with some alarm that Rey paid for and downed two consecutive glasses of wine in a matter of minutes. He touched Rey's arm and said, "Maybe you better be careful with that stuff."
"Oh? Afraid I'm gonna get like you, Lennie?" he asked sarcastically.
"No. It would take you a lot more than a couple of glasses of wine to get like me."
"That wasn't what I was talking about."
Before Lennie could figure out what that meant, Deborah and Van Buren found them. They were both somewhat quizzically reading little cards.
"What are those?" Lennie asked. "Some big producer discover you girls and give you his card?"
"No," Van Buren replied. "We got these from a 'Potty Parity' representative while we were standing in line for the ladies' room."
"'Potty Parity?' What the hell is that?"
"Let's put it this way -- do you guys ever have to stand in line for the men's room?"
"Um, no. So what?"
"That's what's so what. It's unfair."
"So, what's anyone supposed to do about it?"
"According to this card, we're supposed to hand them to the management when we leave the theatre, and it's like a petition to get more women's bathroom facilities added."
"You gonna do it?"
"Damn straight, I am. They're right."
"Hey, I'm all for it!" announced Rey merrily. "Anything that gets this most very beautiful lady back to me any quicker!" And he gave Deborah such an elaborate kiss that she pulled away from him in embarrassment.
"Rey," she protested. "We're in public, you know."
"Oh, I know, I know, baby. That's the point. I want everyone to see. You know, Lennie, I guess it's not only women who are affected by this show."
"So, honey, you're really liking it?"
"Oh, yeah, it's great. Sorry that I felt a little queasy there for a minute, but I'm fine now."
Van Buren noticed that Lennie was looking at Rey as if he'd suddenly started speaking Swahili. As the lights dimmed, Rey said, "There's our cue," and he took Deborah's arm and started back into the theatre.
Lennie started to follow him, but Van Buren grabbed his sleeve. "Not so fast, Lennie. What's going on with him?"
"Like he said, he felt a little queasy."
"Unh-unh, I ain't buying it. Your two trips to the men's room with him? There's more."
"I honest to God don't know, Lieu. It's like he starts to tell me something and then clams up. There's something about this show that's really getting to him."
"The show? It's just a show."
"That's what I've been telling him. Unless -- Oh, God, no..."
"Lennie, what is it?"
"Nothing, Lieu. Nothing that I know for sure."
"Well, he's your partner. You stay on top of this. If you think he's going to weird out or anything, you let me know."
Lennie nodded. "Come on. We're going to miss the next act."
"If ever I would leave you
"It wouldn't be in summer,
"Seeing you in summer
"I never would go. . . "
The actor playing Lancelot was competent and had a good voice, but Lennie found himself wishing that it were Robert Goulet singing it again. Then he realized that that wasn't really what he was wishing for but only wishing that life was as uncomplicated as it had been then. Poor Rey, he thought. He's carrying around a lot, and he's not made for it.
Rey, probably mindful that Lennie was keeping a close eye on him, made it through the rest of the play with a minimum of fidgeting, but at the end he was the only one of the four of them with completely dry eyes as Arthur sang:
"Don't let it be forgot
"That once there was a spot
"For one brief shining moment that was known
Outside in the cool air, they all agreed that it probably would be best not to get something but to head straight home since it was a work night.
"Deborah," said Van Buren, "I don't know how I ever can thank you. This has been absolutely wonderful."
"Yeah, Deb. Keep on entering those raffles, "Lennie told her. "Or better yet, come to OTB with me sometime."
Rey winced at the thought. "I don't think so, Lennie. Deborah's gonna keep her gambling where it belongs -- in church."
They said goodnight and parted company. Lennie insisted on walking Van Buren to her subway stop, but he was lost in thought.
"You have any more ideas about Rey?" she asked.
"Nothing definite, Lieu," he said grimly. "But I'll tell you this much. I'm afraid our Rey has had his 'one brief shining moment' and that we're in for a long haul with him."