I am still haunted by the memory of the night we learned about Else’s murder. It was just before showtime…
I shivered as I stood on my mark behind the deep red velvet curtain, my bare nipples hard, my breasts shining with a patina of cool sweat as a rush of adrenaline filled me for that brief moment of anticipation before the bawdy music broke the silence and the stage was filled with nearly nude dancers. Kicking our legs up high, giving the gentlemen in the pricey seats sly glances, wondering if they’d buy us supper afterward.
A reverent hush erupted from the audience as the velvet curtain heavy with history parted and–
But tonight was different. Instead of “twelve gorgeous girls” as the playbill touted, we were eleven. Yes, we smiled wide, showing our teeth, but the muscles in our faces were frozen, our hearts heavy. We had just heard the news. Else was dead. Murdered, her cut body nude except for her pink wool stocking ripped to shreds .
The police told us the murderer left clues that he would strike again, but we were determined the show would go on.
For Else’s sake.
We couldn’t let her down. Berliners in the 1920s cherished their theatre like a fine wine, going two, three times a week and keeping scrapbooks of the programs and reviews. Weimar Berlin was a city where theatre flourished, from the master impresario Max Reinhardt and the Deutsches Theatre with its revolving stage, to director Piscator who used unemployed workmen as actors.
When I heard the downbeat, the jazzy sounds of the orchestra awakened a primitive rhythm in me. Showtime. I wet my lips with my tongue and smiled, my tap shoes clicking, clicking in time to the beat. They seemed to be whispering:
The murderer is lurking out there somewhere. Watching. Waiting.
Most likely he would choose his next victim from among the girls in the chorus line tapping out the snappy routine. Girls wearing white satin trunks, black bowties, white top hats.
I looked out at the audience. Everyone wore either white or black half masks since it was Fasching, carnival. If the murderer was out there, no one would ever see his face.
Except his next victim…
Pounding the wooden stage with my tap shoes, I couldn’t get one thought of my mind.
Who will be his victim tonight?
Will it be me?
Lady Eve Marlowe