I stared at the flimsy, lightweight, paper that ironically was giving me so much trouble. Another rent increase, the second time this month and this had been going on for a few months. Usually I wouldn't have a problem paying rent, but with the price climbing I started to struggle more and more.
“Megan?” I looked towards the direction my name was called to see a familiar face in the doorway. It was Tina, one of the singers for the ‘White Energizer’, the same club I worked for too.
“Yeah Tina?” I asked as I tucked the paper away into a nearby drawer.
“You're up next in fifteen minutes”
“Yeah ok, thanks” I tried to hide the irritation from my voice about my increasing financial needs, but Tina picked up on it immediately.
“Megan…” She started “If you need more money then just ask…”
“NO!” I immediately cut her off with a yell that startled her and even myself. “I'm not going to ask him for another raise, not even if I'm OUT ON THE STREETS!” I threw my hairbrush across the room out of frustration and got even angrier when I heard it snap.
“Well you need to do something, since you don't want to take the money I offered you” Tina never raised her voice at me whenever we got into an argument, like a parent consoling a spoiled kid.
“I already told you Tina-” I started to get up, but felt her hands on my shoulders slowly pulling me back down. She slowly swiveled my chair towards the big makeup mirror, then pulled a brush, seemingly out of nowhere and started to brush my hair.
“You just don't make things easy do you?” She said softly. I hung my head like a scolded puppy until I felt a warm, slender hand pull my chin up. I could see Tina examining me in the mirror.
“I just don't want to go through that again…” I said barely above a whisper.
“I know Hun, I know” we didn't say another word as Tina finished brushing my hair and adding a few silky white bows in it. Next, she did my makeup, which consisted of bright red lipstick and a semi-dark eyeshadow. Finally, she helped me put on my outfit, which was just a pair of simple high-heeled shoes, stockings, a white skirt, and an electric blue corset.
I stood up and admired myself in the mirror, before turning around and giving Tina a long hug.
“Thank you” I whispered. She simply gave me a curtly smile and turned me towards the door.
“Knock ‘em dead” I gave her an uncertain smile as I opened the door and started to walk to the bright, white curtains.
I started to approach the curtain.
“OUR MAIN EVENT OF THE NIGHT”
I parted the curtain slightly to make way for myself.
“THE ENERGIZER HERSELF, PENNY”
I opened the curtains and slowly strutted in with a devilish smirk on my face. As I stared at the cheering crowd and looked up to see the blinding spotlight on me, I started to get ready to do what I was here for. I waited for the crowd to stop cheering and the lights to dim a little before I started to step forward, unto the stage extending towards the people. Soon the space was filled with silence, other than the occasional cough or clearing of throat.
I looked over towards the piano and saw Mitch, the lead pianist, waiting for my signal. With a slight nod of my head, he started to play a soft tune, which got louder when Jack, the bass player, started to strum his instrument. Carrie then intruded with her Saxophone to give their developing tune more depth and pretty soon we had a smooth groove going on.
As I finished walking down the stage, I picked up the tambourine that was set out for me to help the band, it was my idea after all, to get more sounds in the melody we had. As the tune picked up even more I started to lightly hit my tambourine on the side of my leg to the rhythm of the beat. At the height of the melody, we all stopped, only to start over again with the soft tone and that's when I opened my mouth.
“Just tell me whyyyy……”
I let it linger before I started again.
“You try so hard to hurt meeee”
As I stopped to let it linger again, I had reached the end of the stage and saw a hand extend from the crowd to help me down. I look at who the hand belonged to and realized it was a middle-aged man, perhaps going on to his sixties.
“Even when I wanna make you smile…”
I gingerly took his hand and slowly stepped off stage.
“So hard I tryyyy…”
I started to step away from the man and to a young couple, around my age.
“Just for youuuu”
The young man had his eyes trained on me, something his date didn't like, in fact she was shooting daggers at him.
I went over and put my arm around the man, much to her chagrin.
“I just get soooo…”
I lightly took his chin and lifted his gaze to mines, he seemed like he was in a trance.
As I said this line, I turned the man’s head to his date who gave me a look mixed of ‘thanks’ and ‘Don't come back ever again’. The man seemed to get the message because he started mouthing silent apologizes to her.
“Of being the one crying…”
I walked away from their table and towards other ones to make my ‘rounds’.
“So when I pack my bags”
Now it was all a blur of people and aromas.
“And head to the station”
One table smelled of straight cigars.
“And it's rainin’...”
Another had a table full of women who seemed uncomfortable being here.
“You'll be the one trying to make me smile”
As I was making my rounds, something in the corner of my vision caught my attention, so I shifted my gaze towards the area.
“And smile I will…”
It was a man with an all-black trench coat sitting in the back of the room with the menu in his hand.
“While I step on that train”
He was talking to one of the waiters and pointing straight at me.
“And when I look back to you while I'm leaving…”
Taking my attention off of him, I started to walk back towards the stage.
“I'll see the man I've always wanted”
When I got back on the stage I turned to the crowd and slowly backed into the curtains. Realizing the performance was over, the crowd started to clap and cheer.
I stared at the curtain until the crowd died down and the slight hum of the band started to play again to fill the silence. I ran my hands through my hair as my problems started to pop back into my head. I didn't know how long I was standing there, lost in my own thoughts, until I felt someone's hand grab my shoulder. I felt my heart sink down into my chest and my breath quicken as I thought about who was behind me. I slowly turned around to see the culprit, only to identify someone I didn't recognize.
“Excuse me ma'am, but are you busy?”
“Umm...maybe. Why?” I tried to stall as I looked around for security, I didn't even know how he made it back here.
“Well ma'am I'm a private investigator for the NCPD and I just have a few questions to ask you” he pulled out his badge to show me as proof as he said that.
“Well what do you want with me?” I started to get a little nervous, since I realized that this was the guy in the trench coat pointing at me.
“Is there anywhere we could talk in private?” I thought about it for a second, then beckoned him to follow me. As we walked towards the dressing rooms, I could feel my heart thumping so loud in my chest, that I thought he could hear it too. When we reached the room, I let him in first then closed the door behind me and started to take my seat, but a quick thought crossed my mind and I locked it.
“So what is this all about?” I inquired. He opened his jacket and pulled out a folder from one of his inner pockets.
“Well ma'am, to be blunt I'm investigating a murder.” At the mention of the word murder, my body went cold and my mouth tasted like metal.
“M-murder?” I stammered. Seeing my reaction, he pulled a pen out of his pocket and wrote something on the front of the folder.
“Yes ma'am a murder.” He said as he continued to write.
“Well then why are you talking to me about it?” At that point he put his pencil down and stared at me.
“Because ma'am, the person that was murdered was your boss, Mr. Fansler.” I felt my breath catch in my throat as my mind started to race. My emotions started to overflow and overlap my thoughts.
“I'm sorry, but I need to be excused.” I said in a high pitched tone.
“I understand ma'am, but I have a few things to talk to you about.” I was already reaching for the door when he grabbed my wrist. I turned around to see a pleading look in his eye, and with reluctance, sat back down.
“Thank you ma'am, now straight to business.” I crossed my legs as he shuffled through his folder to pull out a piece of paper and hand it to me. As I took the paper, he explained what it was:
“This is a request for you to go down to ‘Michell’s Law Office’ because you were included in Mr. Fansler’s Last Will and Testimony.” I stared at the paper and wondered what he still had planned for me, even after death.
“Is that all?” I said exasperated, my thoughts and emotions were tiring me out and giving me a headache.
“Well...no ma'am, I have to ask you a few questions as well.” He started going through the file again and pulled out a yellow piece of paper. I rubbed my temple and prayed that this would go by fast.
“OK well come on.” I said under my breath.
“Where were you on November fifth at around two p.m.?” I closed my eyes and thought for a second.
“I was here, practicing my routine.”
“Was anyone else here with you?”
“And she is?”
“A co-worker.” He looked as if he was waiting for me to say more about her, but I left it at that.
“Well is she here, because I wo-”
“No, she left a while ago.” I quickly lied, I didn’t want her involved in any of this.
“Uh-huh...I see” He was writing something else on the folder. “Ok then, when was the last time that you saw Mr. Fansler?” I remember thinking a while ago that I haven’t seen him around the building anywhere, not that I wanted to though.
“I can’t remember.” I answered honestly.
“You can’t recall the last time you saw him Ms. Penny? Surely, he was around a lot, since he was your boss and all.”
“My name’s not Pe-, never mind. And as I said before, no I have not seen him around anywhere, you can ask anyone here. Besides, why are you only questioning me?”
“Well Ms., like I said earlier, your name was in his will, so I figured I’d talk to you first.” Mentioning the will had my mind asking a bunch of questions. Why did he put me in the will? What did he leave me? And did he know what was going to happen to him? “Ms., if I could have your attention please.” I looked to see him touching my shoulder, trying to get my attention. I quickly shrugged his hand off, and I swore I could see a tint of red in his cheeks. “As I was saying, here’s my card, you seem to be very stressed at the moment, so when you’re able to calm down, give me a call if you remember anything or have any leads.” I took the card out of his extended hand and read the name on it.
“Detective Radner…” I said under my breath. As if on cue, he stood and gestured towards the door. I followed suit and walked to the door and unlocked it. Before I could walk out I felt his hand on my shoulder again.
“Yes?” I said a little irritated as I turned around. At first he had a blank face, but quickly recomposed his ‘Cold cop’ composure.
“I forgot to tell you ma’am, this conversation stays in this room, if you catch my drift.”
“Uh-huh.” I said as I turned the doorknob and walked out. Too much just happened in the matter of a few minutes, and I needed to figure out what it had to do with me. I looked at the paper the detective gave me, with ‘Michell’s Law Office’ printed in bold letters and knew where I had to go next.