Murder peered out from the backstage area. The venue was packed. She was finally back in New York City, her town.
Murder loved it here most of all. She’d lived in many major cities, and a few minor ones too, but this was the one. This was home. This time she wasn’t leaving.
She had a plan.
The lights went down, her intro music played. This was Murder LaVoe’s first official concert as “Lady Dreamscapes.”
Murder walked to the front of the stage as the single spotlight lit her moon-white skin. As she took another step forward, her long wavy red hair caught the light, and her large green eyes shone through her golden masquerade mask like the rarest emeralds.
The crowd was quickly silenced as if their breath had instantly, and singularly, been taken away. She loved this part. She lived for it. No matter how tough things got, performing made it all worth it. That, and Levi. He was right there in the front row, as usual, smiling that roguish smile and flashing devilishly white teeth. She had lamented his queerness on a near daily basis for at least a half century, but she had grown to love him like a brother.
She picked up the violin from its stand at the front of the stage. Levi began clapping and cheering as the audience followed his lead. He had knocked them from their stupor. She began with a classic and technically perfect rendition of Greensleeves. As she played, she gracefully waltzed to the riser which was set upstage center. Her green dress whipped around her legs like long uncut blades of grass. She thought of the blades she’d run through in France almost 500 years ago.
Murder played to a microphone on the riser which took her last bars and looped them. She hung the violin on a player’s stand and began playing the KORG synthesizer below it. Greensleeves transformed slowly into Secret by the Pierces.
As she sang the words, she imagined the Pierces were like her. Mostly Immortal, sentenced to keep a secret they probably couldn’t. She sang the last line to her first arrangement for the evening with a knowing grin that told the crowd she wouldn’t be revealing her identity to them anytime soon.
“’Cause two can keep a secret if one of them is—” A shot rang out from the back of the room as Lady Dreamscapes fell to the stage.
Levi shot up. Security was already converging on the stage. He turned toward the balcony. He could see the shooter running. He knew where the balcony stairs let out into the lobby and he thought he could certainly beat her there.
He hadn’t though. As he arrived, he saw her at the front door, raven black hair, mask... no, bandana, obscuring her lower face. She ran through the door to the seat of a strategically parked blood-red Aventador. She winked at Levi as she sped away without even stopping to pull the door down.
Murder sat up. She looked at her arm; it was merely grazed and healing quickly. She turned and grabbed a towel from the riser to cover it with. The security guard offered her a hand, which she took, righted herself, and then planted a peck on his stubbled cheek. “Thank you for the assistance, dear.” Her accent was one of a woman who had travelled all over Europe, vaguely British but with so many other tones. It was refined to a point where no one would be able to pin down her birthplace from it.
She tied the towel around her arm and picked up an ornate guitar from a nearby stand. She walked to the microphone, “’Tis merely a scratch! I’m afraid it takes better aim than that to finish off a Lady!” The crowd cheered, but then groaned, as a police officer walked up and onto the stage.
He stepped to the microphone and cleared his throat. “Ladies and Gentlemen, this area is now a crime scene, and you are all witnesses. Unfortunately, this lovely young lady needs a doctor and we need to interview as many of you as possible.” The crowd slumped into their seats, wholly disheartened.
Murder strummed the guitar. She looked at the policeman. “One more?”
The crowd cheered as she ripped into an acoustic, finger-picked, odd time signature cover of Veruca Salt’s Seether.
“Please, Ma’am, Sir, make yourselves comfortable.” The detective was about 30 years old, 6 feet tall, and very handsome. If Murder hadn’t been annoyed at him for coming between her and her new fans, she might have even noticed. Levi had certainly noticed. He was also sure the man was completely straight. Right bloody shame, that.
The detective closed the door to the room. “Ms… um, Lady… Ma’am. I need to ask you a few questions. Let’s start with your name.”
“Absolutely not. You do understand the concept of a secret identity? A stage name? A nom de plume?”
“Yes, ma’am, I understand that. The police report only names you as Lady Dreamscapes. I’m happy to keep your real name off the record, but, if I’m to find the perp—”
Murder believed him, and Levi nodded in approval. She loved that he could know exactly what she was thinking from mere body language and facial expression.
“Fine.” She took off her mask and pulled her identification out of her clutch.
“Murder?” He looked away from the driver’s license to glance at Levi who was grinning and lightly chuckling. “Her-” He looked back to her “Your name is Murder?” He cocked his head at her slightly as he took in her distinctive beauty. It was like he was seeing the world for the first time. It looked different in the reflections in her eyes. “Yes. I see it now. An ugly word... made lovely by mere possession.”
Murder blushed ever so slightly. He was as charming as he was handsome.
“I’m sorry.” He extended his hand to her and she took it, perhaps a little too eagerly, “I’m Grant Noble, NYPD detective, but you can call me Grant.” They didn’t move for a second or two, locked in each other’s gaze.
“Ahem.” Levi cleared his throat. Detective Noble rose from his crouched position and turned to him, hand extended. Levi introduced himself as he shook the detective’s hand firmly. “Levi Esmund.”
“That was some serious running, Mr. Esmund. I’ve seen the security footage.”
Murder scanned the room. Grant smiled. “No cameras in this dressing room, that’s why I picked it. Please tell me who might be trying to kill you, Ms. LaVoe, and why.”
“Maybe she wasn't trying to kill me at all.”
Grant looked at her stunned. He grinned a very big grin. “You are quite the performer!”
She smiled back. “I didn’t know you were here for the concert.”
“I wasn’t, but your accent changed completely with the removal of that mask!”
Murder wasn’t about to try and explain a glamoured mask to an investigator, but she was flummoxed by the excitement and his good looks. “It’s a magical mask,” she said, as Levi’s eyes stretched at her in shock.
Grant chuckled. “Ah yes, nice job remaining in character.”
Levi feigned relief, wiping his brow in jest, knowing the detective couldn’t see it with his back turned.
“So if she wasn’t trying to kill you? Then what?”
“There’s no way she missed from that range if she’s practiced any at all,” Levi volunteered, as Grant turned to look at him. “Oh, I shoot things all the time.” He thought about that, and adjusted his posture, “I’m a marksman, as a hobby. I only shoot clay pigeons.”
“Ah, so can you describe our mystery woman?”
“Partially, she was wearing a half mask, a bandanna, but she was about 5 foot 9, athletic, black hair, possibly a wig, and she left in a blood-red Aventador.”
“Well, that car shouldn’t be hard to find.”
“If you’re planning to check registration you’ll want to look for a black car.”
Grant raised an eyebrow at him.
“The vehicle was wrapped in vinyl, the door jambs were black.”
“I don’t know what you do for a living, Esmund, but I could use an observant man like you in my department.” He looked back at Murder. “You’re still sure you don’t need to go to the hospital?
“I’m fine, Mr. Grant.” She realized what she’d said and smiled.
“Wow,” Levi added, “I thought he reminded me of someone.”
“What?” Grant looked slightly confused.
Murder stood and straightened the attractive detective’s tie. “You’re a dead ringer for Cary Grant. If he were more modern, and rugged, at least.”
Grant wondered why young people like themselves were interested in Cary Grant. Things weren’t adding up. While he liked them, especially her, he definitely didn’t completely trust them.
He also knew he couldn’t keep them here very much longer, Their expensive clothing told him they would “lawyer up” quickly. He took out two business cards, which he handed to Murder and Levi. “Please let me know if you think of anything. The owners of this auditorium want to press charges for the gunshot, even if you don’t.” He looked out the door. “There’s still a crowd as well. Ms. LaVoe, I’d recommend your mask. Or better yet, a change of clothes and a hoodie.”
“I’ll speak to them; I intend to offer a make-up performance in the ballroom.” She flipped the business card and produced a calligraphy pen from her clutch. On the back, she wrote the hotel address and her room number. I’d love it if you were there, Mr. Grant, to watch over the event.” Her Lady Dreamscapes accent returned as she slipped the mask back on. “Please ring my room if you think of any way my cooperation might help with your investigation.” She walked out the door and toward the gathered crowd who were eagerly waving t-shirts and the newly released EP, looking for autographs.