Rose Charles awoke Tuesday morning with a warm feeling of well-being that lasted
about forty-five seconds. Then she remembered her conversation with Charlie just
before the midnight show the previous night, and a leaden weight seemed to press
down on her chest, making it difficult to draw a really deep, satisfying breath.
Struggling up on one elbow, she yawned, raked her fingers through her hair, and
then reached for the telephone on the nightstand. She placed it on the mattress
next to her stomach, but hesitated for a moment, simply looking at it. Finally,
she picked up the receiver and punched out the familiar numbers.
phone rang ten times before she conceded defeat and hung up again. Damn.
was Maryanne? The idea of calling the police sure didn't appeal to her-- Maryanne
would be furious if it turned out she had done so needlessly. But she and Rhonda
had agreed on the way home last night that they'd call the authorities today if
Maryanne didn't come home. It had been three days since they'd seen her. Not that
this was the first time she'd taken off without a word to anyone. She seemed to
make a habit of it, despite the agreement the three of them had made to always
let one of the others know where they could be reached and when they could be
expected back if they were going to be gone for awhile. It was so blasted inconsiderate,
the way she let them worry about her . . . but typical, vintage Maryanne.
to not even bother calling in sick was sheer professional suicide, and that wasn't
typical of Maryanne at all. Amanda only hoped the guy she was with turned out
to be worth it.
But she wouldn't hold her breath. They so rarely
She didn't understand this preoccupation with men that
everyone except her seemed to harbor. Sometimes she felt like the only grown-up
in a room full of adolescents when the conversation turned, as it invariably did,
to the subject of men and sex. But that was the least of her problems this morning,
and Amanda tossed back the blankets and climbed out of bed. Stifling a yawn, she
crossed the carpet to rummage through her drawers for an old leotard. She'd do
her morning workout, then try calling Maryanne one more time.
her determination to shelve the subject, however, during her preliminary stretches
her thoughts drifted back to it. As she stretched out her spine, she reflected
on how much easier it had always been for her to make friends with women than
with men. Perhaps that was because she had grown up with three sisters. And it
wasn't as though she didn't like men or anything. As dance partners they couldn't
be beat, and a couple of them even made pretty handy friends. But they were definitely
a different species, and she supposed it was her failure to understand their basic
nature that made her erect fences between herself and most of their persuasion.
It was an automatic reflexö she simply threw up guards without even realizing
what she was doing half the time.
Not that her motives, whether
unconsciously done or not, made a lick of difference to the gossips in the dance
community, she acknowledged wryly, lying on her stomach and arching up until the
bottom of her toes touched the top of her head. They couldn't care less what her
reasons were. They simply knew what they saw, and they spread the word as they
saw it. From the moment she'd joined their ranks, she'd somehow managed to garner
herself a reputation.
Of course, acquiring a reputation for anything was almost impossible to avoid in this business. She'd always
thought that being a member of the gypsy community must be a lot like growing
up in a small town. Everyone knew everything there was to know about you, and
what they didn't know for a fact, they invented. Labels were dispersed indiscriminately,
and once one acquired a name for something, it practically took an act of God
to lose it. Her label seemed to be ice maiden. Or maybe frigid bitch, depending
on who you were talking to and how gently she'd let him down.
preferred to call it selective.
When she'd arrived in New York
as an eighteen year old, she'd been on her own for the very first time, and sporting
some painful emotional scars that were only superficially healed. Teddy was gone;
her family life was a total disaster, and all around her, in her permissive new
environment, friends, roommates, co-workers, and fellow inhabitants of the dance
world were touting the glories of sexual freedom. She'd had every intention of
joining their ranks, of being wild and wicked and doing things that would blow
her parents out of the water, should they ever find out.
the things her sister Teddy would have done.
So she'd done
her best to toss out her woefully outdated beliefs, but it simply hadn't gelled.
She'd managed to shed her virginity, an experience that hadn't been any great
shakes, and left wondering what all the fuss was about, it hadn't taken her long
to decide indiscriminate sex just wasn't for her.
a mental shrug as she slowly uncurled and rolled to a sitting position. Spreading
her legs until they formed a line perpendicular to her torso, she leaned forward,
resting her weight on her forearms as she pressed her upper body to the carpet.
When she'd returned to her retro ways, tales of her standoffishness with men had
quickly made the rounds. And so her rep had been born.
the pace of her workout as she switched from stretches to more serious body strengthening
exercises, she decided she could live with that. Sometimes she regretted her reputation,
but at least she wasn't likely to be led astray and have her entire career jeopardized,
She doubted there was a man alive worth sacrificing
Finishing up a while later, she headed for the bathroom,
where she eyed the bathtub covetously for a moment. She decided, however, to settle
for a shower in the interests of time. Leaning into the mirror while the water
heated, she curled her lip at the image reflected back at her. How charmingö there
must be a dozen creases pressed into her cheek from the bed linens. Averting her
eyes, she reached for her toothbrush. She wished someone would invent some sort
of instant energizer for people like herö something you could plug into a socket
for a few minutes to make you come alive. She wasn't at her best first thing in
Propping herself beneath the flow of hot water
in the shower, she stood with her head tilted back, sleepily blowing the streaming
water out of her mouth. She wondered idly how her life might have differed if
her personality had been a better fit for the flamboyant environment she moved
in. The thought made her smile. Because, really, you had to admire the irony.
coming to New York on her own to pursue a career in dance, she was considered
by Mother and Father to be beyond the pale. But within the dance world, she was
also seen as something of an oddity. She didn't have a bohemian bone in her body,
and except when she danced, she was quite conservative by nature. Plus, she was
quiet. She was friendly enough, but she wasn't a big partier, and never having
been one to rush relationships, she failed to collect friends by the dozen. Even
her personal style differed radically from most of her fellow dancers. Personally,
she liked her fashion sense and felt she dressed with a flair that was individualistic.
But she admitted it was probably a lot more Ann Taylor than Madonna.
those were the breaks. She was a product of her upbringing, and if she hadn't
been able to change that when she was eighteen and angry, hurting, and determined
to forsake all the false values and pretensions of her former life, what were
the chances of changing it at twenty-eight? Turning off the water and grabbing
a towel, she stepped out of the tub.
She smoothed on body
lotion, and a moment later, clad in her underwear and blotting the ends of her
hair, which still trickled water down her back and over her collarbones, she strode
into her bedroom. Draping the towel over her shoulders, she sat down at her dressing
table, picked up a long-handled sable powder brush, and leaned into the mirror.
She began applying make-up with a light hand, and by the time she'd finished doing
her eyes, her stomach had started to growl for breakfast. She hurriedly untangled
her damp curls and dressed.
It was her one day off in a blue
moonö hers and Rhonda's both, which was even rarer still. They had made plans
to hit the nearest shopping center to stock up on staples and run all those errands
they hadn't had time for in the past few weeks. It was nearly noon; she had arisen
earlier than usual. Being in a casino show meant keeping a timetable that was
different from the rest of the world. Chorus gypsies were generally just getting
out of bed about the time everyone else's work day was half over.
the kitchen, she put on the kettle to make a pot of coffee. Snapping on the small
counter-top television set with one hand to catch the noon broadcast of the news,
she reached for the coffee grinder with the other. The volume was turned low,
so she missed the beginning of the sound bite over the rattle of the coffee beans
she poured into the electric grinder and the high-pitched whir as it turned the
beans into a fine, fragrant powder. Without looking up from her task, she reached
over to turn up the sound.
". . . woman the authorities believe
to be the latest victim of the Showgirl Slayer. She is five feet eight inches
tall, weighs one hundred twenty-three pounds, has dark-blond hair, hazel eyes,
and a small, fine scar running through her left eyebrow. Anyone having knowledge
of her identity is urged to contact Detective Joe Cash at the Reno police department,
homicide division. That number again is. . . ."
Amanda raised her eyes to focus on the screen. She lowered the kettle, cutting
off the stream of steaming water that she had been pouring through the coffee
grounds into the pot below. Oh, God. It couldn't be.
it? Dear God, no. Please.
Amanda finished making the
coffee, automatically setting the kettle back on the stove and turning off the
burner beneath it. Pouring herself a cup, she placed the glass coffeepot atop
a protective wire on the back burner and turned it to low. Then she picked up
her coffee cup and carried it into the living room, noticing without surprise
that it was rattling badly in its saucer. Very carefully, she set it on the coffee
table, then took a seat on the couch and simply stared at it for a moment.
she reached out and picked up the telephone receiver from its unit on
the small, marble-topped end table, reluctantly pressing the numbers etched
in her brain. Clutching the receiver in sweaty palms, she sat rigidly
upright as she listened to the telephone ring on the other end of the
line. Then it was picked up, and her spine suddenly melted. Feeling boneless
and light-headed, she slumped on her tailbone on the chenille upholstered
cushion, clamping the receiver to her ear.
police department," said the polite, businesslike voice.
End of Excerpt.