Adapting Anita Berber’s signature trait of wearing nothing under her fur coat, I arrived at the theatre that night wearing little underneath my coat since I was running late.
I dashed into the dressing room and sat down at the makeup table, elbowing my way among twelve–I mean ten girls–all vying for the best lighting. (If you recall after Else’s murder, a second dancer had been killed, a victim of Lustmord, lust murder.)
Tonight I would take Else’s place in the specialty act.
We were all on edge, smearing greasepaint on our faces, bare breasts, grabbing our masks for the Carneval number, trying to keep our nerves steady. I had to borrow a lipstick from another girl since I’d left my round navy blue hatbox with my makeup backstage the night before after we heard the terrible news.
I looked everywhere, but I couldn’t find it.
When it came time for me to do the specialty number, I took my place atop the fake pedestal on the three-tiered-stage. Wrapped up in a long red velvet cape, underneath I wore tight, silky red trunks, sparkling gold powder on my bare breasts and laced up red boots studded with rhinestones. To complete my costume, I fastened a white and gold carnival mask in place.
The music came up, giving me my cue. Standing on top of the pedestal, I opened my red velvet cape and danced and danced…
I performed the number with wild, erotic passion as if it were a fairytale ballet, a tempest of art and motion fueling the energy of the dancing shoes that didn’t want to stop…
Exhausted, dripping with sweat, I whipped off my carnival mask at the end of number and pulled the red velvet cape around me as the pedestal descended.
I disappeared beneath the stage and–
Darkness greeted me, pulling me off balance. Where was the stage hand who was supposed to guide me out of here? When I reached out into the dark, a man’s strong hands grabbed me around the throat. Kicking, flailing my arms around in the dark, I tried to scream but he gagged me with strips of strong muslin then tried my hands together.
Tossing my cape aside, he dragged me through the gloomy underground passageway with dim lighting then fastened me to an old rafter, the rotting wood creaking as he wound a black silk cord around and around the post until I couldn’t move.
Breathing hard, he said nothing. I couldn’t see his face clearly, but I could smell him. A strange scent that reminded me of cloves…overpowering.
Then he laughed, his loud, booming voice echoing through the underground chamber.
I pulled on the rope but I couldn’t loosen myself. I tensed, waiting for him to do something.
Then the laughter died…
The stagehand found me a short time later–someone had hit him on the head, he said.
Afterward, I sat in the stage manager’s office littered with tea cups and old newspapers, the steam pipes hissing in my ears as I gave my statement to the police. They warned me to be careful and ordered a uniformed officer to take me home. I was about to leave the theatre when–
I turned to see one of the chorus girls holding up my navy blue hatbox. She’d found it under the makeup table, she said. How did it get there? I didn’t give it much thought until I returned to my pension and opened it. There on top was–
My white and gold carnival mask.
I turned it over and scrawled on the back was a message in red lipstick:
Lady Eve Marlowe