The Shoes that Charlotte Wore By Alice V
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Rated "R" by the Author.
Excerpt from my upcoming Novel: When college/burlesque student Jennifer Franco becomes a witness to a murder, her sanity quickly spirals downward as she is tormented with dreams of the killer. While detective Ian Lankin starts to put the pieces in the puzzle together, more are uncovered in a mystery bigger than he's ever seen. When a mysterious kid named Nimai appears, he seems to be Jennifer's knight in shining armor but his looks are deceiving and he seems to hold the missing pieces of the puzzle but what are his true intentions?
The Shoes that Charlotte Wore
By Alice V
Nestled on the corner of 6th and 7th street, in the dim glows of the pleasure district, the famous burlesque house stood. A young woman walked the frozen streets in black stilettos, a diminutive black dress, and oversized black pea coat. Hardly dressed for the season of winter, she clung to the coat for warmth that seemed to escape through every opening. The cold made the numbing feeling in her toes unbearable as she tried to quicken her pace, as even the sidewalk seemed to be numbed with the stinging pain of cold. The pink lights of the Savannah club greeted her with the open arms of cigar clouds, sweaty money, and the smell of whiskey seeping out of the walls like cologne.
“Hey little lady.” A hefty and deep voice said. His size was intimidating to strangers but his demeanor was anything but. There was an obvious contrast between his fairly dark skin and pearly white smile. While he was quick to throw out unruly customers, he was even quicker to flash a brilliant smile and genuine “hello” to the few ladies that came into the club. He held the red rope open for her to enter.
“Hey there boss.” She replied smiling. “How’s it in there?”
“Kind of slow tonight but I’m sure things will pick up later on.” The bouncer replied winking once at her.
“Got a light?” She asked pulling out a parliament from her purse. She smoked an old kind of cigarette. It only seemed right to smoke them as the club had an “Old Hollywood” theme about it.
“Sure.” He replied taking his lighter out of his pocket and lighting her cigarette.
“Thanks babe.” She said exhaling a ring of smoke while walking off. A few of the regulars greeted her as she walked past them towards the dressing room adjacent to the ladies restroom. A new girl was on stage dancing monotonously to a Michael Buble song. Her awkward dance indicated she was not yet comfortable in the 4-inch stilettos they were required to wear. She cautiously twirled around the pole while trying to undo the sequence bra with one hand behind her back and the other holding on for balance.
“Hey Trixi,” Chris was the owner and a handsome man in his late sixties. Married three times and had two children. Family life didn’t work for him so he opted for the life of a strip club owner instead. Being a very business savvy man, he turned the Savannah club into a classy burlesque club with it’s own jazz band. The dancers never performed to the likes of Metallica or Kidd Rock, they only performed to sophisticated music with a high-quality tune; always elegant and chic, captivating and alluring, his burlesque dancers had to enchant the observer with her eyes and lure him with her hips. Full nudity was a complement to the performance not a necessity and Chris encouraged his dancers to do only what they felt comfortable doing. His business smarts and innovative ideas earned the Savanna club high ratings and reviews that other clubs in the industry could only admire. With it’s Hollywood Regency style of red-fringed lamps on every cherry lacquered table and overstuffed white sectional sofas made it appealing even to the woman who ventured in with their male counterparts. Red velvet drapes separated the “private party” rooms from the common area and an exquisite chandelier hung over the black lacquered bar with matching vintage barstools.
“Hi Chris.” Trixi responded smiling as she slipped past the black velvet drapes to the dressing room. Some of the other girls were already there seated in front of their vanities and applying heavy makeup.
“Hey girl.” Shana said not even looking over at Trixi who sat down at the vanity next to her. She was applying mascara to her already long lashes. “Linda and I are going out to Demetri’s tonight. Wanna come?” She said smacking her strawberry flavored gum.
“Maybe.” Trixi replied. “Not sure yet because I have to take my mom to the airport tomorrow morning. She’s going to Pennsylvania to see my grandma before she croaks.” Trixi looked herself over in the mirror and plugged in her curling iron and started brushing the tangles out of her hair.
“That sucks. Hope she’s ok.”
“Yeah, well she’s pretty old and she’s already had a heart attack. I’d go with my mom but I really need to work to pay off those damn student loans.”
“Uh huh. I hear you. Those loans are triflin’ girl. You better take care of those before they take care of yo’ ass.” Shana said applying a dark cherry lipstick to her full lips. “Hey look at my boy.” She pulled out a picture from her purse. “I got his pictures taken yesterday.”
“Oh my, he is getting cuter and cuter by the day. I think you’ve got a future heart breaker with those hazel eyes.”
“Yup, you know girls are always fallin’ for those light-skinned guys with colored eyes. I’m going to have to keep his ass in check though. I don’t need to end up a grandma when I should still be a mom.” She said taking back the picture and placing it on the corner of the vanity mirror.
“Hey y’all.” Came a soft voice. It was Linda. “Damn it’s cold out there.”
“Hey girl.” Shana replied.
“Trixi are you going with us tonight?” Linda said hanging up her scarf and coat on the coat rack.
“I don’t know yet. I have to get up early tomorrow.”
“You’ll miss out. I hear your college football team is back from that game they did in Texas and they’re gonna be there. You sure you don’t want to go?”
“Yeah, I don’t know but I’ll let you know.” She replied and started curling her hair.
“Even though their asses lost, I’ll still chill wit them. It’s ok if they’re the enemy.” Linda said laughing at the irony of her own joke. She was from Texas.
“Girl, please. They’re asses are losers and I am not chillin’ with them!” Shana replied.
A knock came on the door and a few seconds later Chris came in. “Sorry ladies but have any of you seen Roxy? She’s suppose to go on in 5 but I haven’t seen her come through yet.”
Linda and Trixi shook their heads “no.”
“Maybe she got drunk and passed the fuck out outside again. God knows that girl is good for it.” Shana said refusing to bit her tongue when it came to her dislike for Roxy. Trixi eyed her to shut up but she rolled her eyes back at her.
“Ok well, I’ll just have Lady Liz go on next. She’s been entertaining some folks at their booth that came in all the way from Georgia. Seems the Savannah club has fans all over. Even brought their ladies with them.” He stated with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude. As he left, noise of applause spilled into the room momentarily and then was drowned out again when the door closed. The muffled noise of music started again and a new dancer took the stage.
“Damn it.” Trixi said putting her coat and gloves back on.
“Where are you going?” Shana asked alarmed. “You’re on after me so you better not go too far.”
“I wont. I’m just going to go around the block real quick and see if I find Roxy. I don’t know, maybe she did pass out somewhere or is staggering her way over here. I think I should at least look.”
“Why bother. She does it to herself. It ain’t your fault and definitely is not your responsibility. That girl is grown, she knows what she’s doing.” Shana said fixing her tan-colored stockings that came up to her thighs. She was wearing a 1930’s vintage silk crepe peignoir. The delicate v-neck showed off the white silky bra and thong underneath and clasped together with mother-of-pearl buttons in the front at the chest. The fabric came down to her ankles and trimmed with ecru lace that added a touch of sophistication. Linda continued to put on her make up, ignoring both of them while humming a song.
“I know that.” Trixi snapped back. “I just feel sorry for her sometimes you know? She has issues and she’s not all there all the time and after they took her son away you know she just hasn’t been the same. He was her life and now that he’s not with her anymore she seems so lost.”
She walked out before Shana could refute her again. She stopped at the bar and told the bartender that she’d be right back. Chris was nowhere in sight and she thought maybe he was out back having a cigarette. She never knew why he smoked outside when everyone else smoked inside. The cold air hit her like a frosted punch in the face as she stepped outside. Her nose instantly turned red in response to the freezing wind that blew in her face. Hugging her coat, she walked past several people that were obviously going to the Savannah club as she rounded the corner.
Several streetlights were out making the street darker than ever. A crescent moon loomed overhead and a blanket of clouds covered almost every star in the sky making it impossible for anything to give light to the obscurity of the street. The sound of her footsteps echoed through the street like a horse’s trot. She tried to walk softer so that her heals wouldn’t clank so loud on the pavement but it was to no avail. Suddenly she heard the sound of a bottle fall in a nearby alley. She stopped with alarm. The bottle rolled and hit something and a few seconds later a man came running out of the alley. Her heart stopped. He didn’t see her. His brimmed hat was pulled low over his eyes as he quickly ran down the street and out of sight.
Trixi wondered what he was running from and as she neared the passage and looked down the dark path of the alley in wonder. She grabbed at her chest to quiet the heart that pounded loudly and feverishly. Slowly she put one foot in front of the other as she strained her eyes to see through the darkness. A piece of paper crunched under her feet and she cursed herself under her breath for making noise. She steadied her breathing to keep the warm air from escaping her mouth so no one could see the vapor of her breath. A she neared closer to the back of the ally a shoe was suddenly visible from behind a dumpster. The closer she got the more clearly she could see and for some reason was drawn to the shoe that started to resemble a leather boot. A small sparkle on the boot caught her eye and she could tell it was studded. She remembered Roxy had studded boots that she always wore. She remembered Roxy saying that she got them in Louisiana the last time she went to visit her son who lives there with his dad.
A strange smell filled her nostrils. She covered her nose with her gloved hand in hopes of drowning out the odors of rotting food, urine, and something else she could not readily identify. Then, as if the space was suddenly filled with light she saw as bright as day the leg and then the rest of the naked body sprawled on the ground in disarray. She screamed and ran as fast as her stilettos could take her out of the alley and back onto the open street. She grabbed her cell phone in her pocket with her shaky hand and dialed 911 as she gasped for air as if there was a lack of it. Her lungs refused to take in any of it and she soon fell faint on the sidewalk from lack of oxygen.
The police showed up in minutes and a young female police revived her. Coming to, she hugged herself crying on the street as she realized what she just saw.
“Are you ok, honey?” Her voice was sweet and subtle, “are you the one that called?” Trixi nodded yes and choked on her response. She asked where the body was and Trixi pointed down the alley. Two male policemen who were listening went to inspect it. The woman cop put a comforting hand around Trixi’s shoulder, “everything is going to be fine now.”
A few seconds later an ambulance arrived followed by the coroner wearing a grey coat and round glasses. The Coroner didn’t look in any other direction other than the alley. He said hello to one of the cops that was securing the area with yellow tape. A few onlookers loomed down the street and a few others peeped out of their apartment windows at the spectacle below. A nice looking man with brown hair and kind eyes approached Trixi.
“Miss, I hope you don’t mind but we really need you to give us a statement back at the police station. I know it’s pretty cold out here and I think it will be much more comfortable for you there.” He was obviously referring to her scanty wardrobe.
“Sure.” She replied as he was already opening the door to one of the police cars. She got in the back and another police officer got into the driver seat. She noticed that the man that opened the door for her got into another car to follow them. She took her phone out and called work. Her hands were shaking. Dana, the manager answered.
“Hey Dana, it’s Trixi. I need to talk to Chris please, it’s an emergency.” She tried to control the tone in her shaky voice.
“Oh Trixi, are you alright?”
“I’m fine, Dana. Just need to talk to Chris.” She replied hastily.
“Ok let me get him for you.” Dana responded in a concerned tone.
A few moments later Chris was on the phone with an obviously annoyed tone in his voice, “Trixi where are you? You were supposed to go on after Shana. I had to give the new girl an extra set.”
“Sorry Chris but I can’t tonight. I’m on my way to the police station right now. I have some bad news.” She took a breath before blurting out her next words, “Roxy is dead.”
“What?” He answered. “How did this happen? Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m positive. I don’t know what happened, all I know is that someone killed her and I think I saw the murderer getting away.” Tears started to build up in her eyes again and she tried to force them back.
“Oh no, this is terrible. Poor Roxy, that girl didn’t deserve it.” He said sincerely.
“Yeah I know. I’ll be in tomorrow though. I have to go now. I just got to the police station.”
“Hey, don’t worry about coming in tomorrow. Take the night off and if you’re good to go by the following night, then come in. I’ll see if Marissa can take your shift. She’s been asking for more hours anyway.”
“Anytime. Let me know if you need anything, ok.”
The police officer escorted her inside of the bustling waiting/lobby of the police station.
“Sit here.” He said pointing to an open seat against the wall. The seats looked like they were from the 1960’s and were bright orange solid bucket chairs that were hard on your ass if you had to sit in them too long.
A few moments later the man with the kind eyes showed up and he took her through another busier room filled with desks, paper, and police officers going back and forth like a busy newsroom only this was a police station. Phones ringing and people talking drowned out the noisy copier in the middle of the room busily printing page after page. She followed him to a room and he closed the door behind them drowning out all the noise. He motioned for her to take a seat. She realized quickly that he’d taken her to his office as she read the nameplate on the desk: Ian Lankin, Detective. A few plaques mounted the wall behind him indicating all his accomplishments as well as his prominent schooling.
“Do you mind if I record our conversation?” He said sitting behind the desk taking a small recorder out of a drawer along with a yellow note pad.
“No. That is ok I guess.” She said half whispering. She cleared her throat.
“Ok.” He said pushing play. “First lets start with your name.”
“Trixi?” He repeated with a half sarcastic tone. He held the ballpoint pen in his hand like he was about to write but stopped.
“I mean, Jennifer Franco. Sorry, Trixi is my nickname. I go by it so much that it’s hard not to answer with it.” She nervously replied as he scribbled her name on the pad. She eyed his terrible handwriting but admired how his hands looked soft yet firm.
“What is your relation to the deceased?” Can you positively identify her?” He said breaking her concentration.
“Um, yes. She was one of the dancers. I worked with her. She goes by Roxy but her real name is Charlotte Bovee.”
“And where do you work?”
“I’m a burlesque dancer at the Savannah club. I’m full-time right now until I go back to school in the spring. It’s about a block away from where…where…” She trailed off thinking about Charlotte’s gory carcass laying face down in the alley and the bloody studded boots on her feet. Her scalp looked like it was missing a chunk too.
“That’s ok, you don’t have to finish the sentence. Lets move on. So the two of you work together, do you hang out at all out of work?”
“Um, sometimes. Roxy, I mean Charlotte worked two jobs so she didn’t really have much time to hang out. That and she had a little boy. I think he’s around seven but he moved to Illinois to live with his dad a few months ago because she lost custody. She’s from there too. I think it was because she kind of had a drinking problem.”
“Did this drinking problem affect work at all?”
“Sometimes it did. There were a few times she showed up so drunk she could hardly walk. Especially after they took her son away she started drinking even more. It started getting pretty bad because she’d sit in the dressing room crying right before she had to go on and we’d have to do everything we could to calm her down and get her feeling good again to go on.”
“I know this is a weird question concerning your line of work but have you noticed her with any strange men or men you might have found suspicious?”
“That is an ironic question.” She said smiling nervously again, “there’s a lot of strange men that come around the club but the owner, Chris is pretty good at making sure those guys don’t bother us. He doesn’t like trouble.”
“But you haven’t seen her around anyone suspicious? Has she acted different in the last couple of weeks or days, besides the trauma of losing her son, have you noticed anything else different?” He continued writing and periodically looking up at her in between questions searching her smudgy brown eyes for clues. Her mascara left traces of black around her eyes.
“No, nothing that I can think of besides losing her son. It was a really bad custody battle between her and her ex. She actually moved out here to get away from him because supposedly he was abusive and that’s why she ran so far away with her son - to get away from him.” She sat patiently with her hands on her lap like a schoolgirl in front of the principle. Her mind kept wondering off to the pictures in her head of Roxy’s naked dead body behind a dumpster. Naked and bloody except for the boots that were still on her feet. It was unreal and bizarre because she had just seen Roxy the night before at work and she was actually happy for a change because she was going to see her son in a few weeks and now she was dead. Killed horribly by some madman and left to rot in an alley filled with rats biting at her flesh like a delicious rotting carcass. Jennifer shuddered as her imagination ran rampant. Ian was still writing on his pad.
“Ok so tell me what you were doing before you found Charlotte.”
He looked up at her. Her face was pale with a terrified look in her eyes. “Are you feeling ok Miss Franco?” He asked concerned that the shock might have passed and now she was faced with the truth that her friend was dead and she just witnessed her dead body in a most unconventional way.
“Yes, I’m fine. I think.” She looked down at her sweating hands on her lap and the red nail polish that was chipping.
“Would you like some water?”
“No, no thank you.”
“I know that this is probably very hard for you. If you need to talk to a counselor or a psychologist I can recommend one to you. These types of things are always hard to cope with, believe me. I’ve been on the force close to 7 years now and it never gets easy walking into a crime scene.” She looked at him and noticed his hazel eyes starring back at her, questioning. His neatly combed brown hair made him look handsome.
“Um, I think I’ll be fine for now.” She felt a little embarrassed because she knew her mascara had run down her face and she probably looked like a gothic mess.
“Ok. Go ahead.”
“I was at work before I found Charlotte’s body. My manager Chris was looking for her because she was supposed to be at work but she didn’t show. I was worried because, like I said earlier she’d been having a rough time since her son was taken away. I went around the block to see if maybe she was on her way and just drunk somewhere because she’s done that before. You know, she passed out next the building one time and another time some stranger was practically carrying her to work. So I went out to look for her and when I turned the corner the street was empty. No cars, no people. Even the streetlights were out so it was really dark. I saw someone running away from the alley.”
“You saw someone? Can you describe what he looks like to one of our artist so we can get an ID on this person?”
“How did you know it was a he?”
“Normally men commit violent crimes like this and I know that’s profiling but hey, it’s a fact and there’s nothing wrong with noting facts with all things considered of course but go on.”
“Well, he didn’t see me and I hardly saw his face so I don’t think I could help much with that but I do know that he didn’t have any facial hair. He wore one of those brimmed hats like the ones you always see men wear in old movies from the 40’s and he had a black coat on. Kind of like a trench coat but not sure if it was one.”
“Do you know roughly how tall he was or how much he might have weighed?”
“Um. I think he was around your height and he seemed like a normal built. Not fat and not skinny, just normal.”
“Ok so he was around 6’1, you’d say?”
“Did you see his hair color, eye color?”
“What about his face, is there anything else you can remember about his face like say his nose size, ear size, mouth?”
“No, sorry. It was so fast and I didn’t really look at him much because one second he came out of the alley and the next his back was towards me running away.”
“Ok. I think that’s good enough for now. Here’s my card if you remember anything else. It has my cell phone on there so you can reach me anytime.” He said reaching over the desk to hand her the card.
“Thank you.” She said looking at it.
She gave him her cell phone number in exchange and he walked her out of the office and back to the lobby. A different officer drove her home. It was past midnight and the whole ordeal made her tired but despite the need for sleep she could not because every time she closed her eyes she saw Charlotte’s black boots and her dead body in the alley.
The smell of the whole scene was still so strong even though her apartment smelled like cinnamon sticks from the candles. She took a hot shower and scrubbed her body with a washcloth and dial soap three times. She felt dirty even though she didn’t touch anything. Just the sight of the alley, the trash all over the floor and the…yes, that too; she felt contaminated and the more she tried not to think about it, the more she felt sick to her stomach with it. She finished her shower, dried off and started to brush her blond and black streaked hair when everything came up. She hurried to the toilet, bent over it and threw up.
At 6am she turned off the TV. She had been up all night watching the only thing that was on: Infomercials. She picked her mom up and drove her to the airport. She tried her hardest to keep it together because she didn’t want to tell her mom that she found a co-worker’s dead body in an alley.
It was bad enough that her mom didn’t approve of her profession as a burlesque dancer. Although she knew Jennifer was working at the Savannah club to pay for college, they didn’t talk about it. She was embarrassed for her daughter and it was humiliating for her as a mother to know that her daughter took her clothes off for money because she couldn’t help her pay for college. Jennifer made small talk with her mother about her grandmother and then hugged her goodbye after helping her with her luggage.
Jennifer could not bring herself to go back to the quiet and emptiness of her apartment. She wished she had a dog or a cat to keep her company and then maybe her thoughts wouldn’t be filled with lunacy. She drove around and stopped at a coffee shop. She read a couple of news articles on her IPOD and sipped a hot vanilla latte. The sun peeped out of the clouds and went back again. She watched people pass on the streets and when she finished her cup, it was time to go. “No use in hanging out in a coffee shop all day. Only weirdo’s do that.” She thought while throwing the cup in the trash and walking back out the street. She zipped up her brown jacket and covered her head with the hood.
“Maybe Shana is up.” She thought looking at her watch. It was only 8am but worth a try. She didn’t want to be alone. Shana didn’t answer her phone so Jennifer did some window-shopping since none of the stores were open anyway. She busied herself during the day with chores and outings and at night kept the TV on so she wouldn’t have to listen to the creepiness of the dark.
Although she still had not recovered mentally and could not sleep, she’d rather work than be alone. She tried to phone Shana again but again she got her voicemail. One thing about Shana was that she hardly ever answered her phone. Made Jennifer wonder why she even had a cell phone if she doesn’t use it. She packed some clothes for work in a small duffle bag and upon checking the pockets of her black pea coat, She found Ian’s card and wondered how the case was going. He was a nice guy with nice facial features and nice hands. His voice was soothing and calm, no wonder she didn’t lose her mind when she was talking to him.
Although Chris was glad to have her back, he was worried about her mental condition. He kept asking her if she was ok and if she needed anything but her reply was always the same.
“I’m fine.” She’d say with a half-convincing smile. The sickness in her stomach continued and the images kept flashing in her mind. Shana had the night off but Linda was there. Linda was the only one that didn’t have a stage name. Even Shana’s name wasn’t real. Her real name was Blair.
“Yeah, I heard about it from Chris. He had a meeting with all of us yesterday. I’m so sorry for what happened to her and sorry you had to see that. Her family must be so sad. Chris said they’re sending her body back to Illinois when they’re done with the autopsy. So sad.” Linda said regretfully through her pink lips. Her bouncy curly blond wig went beautifully with her Vanity Fair nightgown. The cross over bust of lace and gold lame cups gave the gown an elegant effect. The wispy black mesh of the gown came down to her ankles in a sweeping full skirt and the pale peach nylon underneath the black gave it a shadowy effect. To top off this striking 1950’s ensemble she wore a black-feathered boa on her right shoulder and black satin heals. Jennifer thought she looked just like Marilyn Monroe.
“Yeah but that could have been any one of us. I mean, it was right around the block from the club. You know how close that is? A lot of us walk these streets every night to and from work. Kind of scary isn’t it?” Jennifer asked almost whispering as she removed a black cocktail hat from her bag. It had a black feather and large red rose on top with a black veil. She set it on the vanity.
“Yeah it is but we can’t be scared forever. We have to get on with our lives, you know. I think Roxy would have wanted us to. I miss her too.” Linda said looking at the brighter side.
The door opened and two women entered chatting. The second they saw Trixi they instantly came to her side with sympathy and concern. Trixi assured them she was just fine. In fact, she felt better being at work again rather than at home by herself. There was comfort being surrounded by people who cared about her and it didn’t matter that it just so happen to be a strip club.