Dawn Benedict: CD Detective — Chapter 2: Dance of Death

| Oct 20, 2014
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Chapter 1 

Murder at the Lavender and Leather

magnifyChapter 2: Dance of Death

At eight o’clock, I was standing on the curb in front of the “Road Less Travelled Unitarian Church,” the Capitol Hill meeting place of my support group. The evening had turned out lovely — the drizzle had stopped earlier that afternoon, and from my vantage point overlooking the city I could see that there was some clearing in the West. A breeze off the Sound gently ruffled the blond curls of my wig, and brought its heady scent of salt, seaweed, and dead fish. After a cathartic, emotional meeting, I felt wholly at ease with my femininity, at peace with the world and my place in it.

I was waiting for Frenchy; I could just make out her ancient Volkswagen as it careened around the corner and onto Broadway. She pulled up and reached over to unlock my door, eyebrows raised ironically at my outfit.

“Nice threads, Dawn. A little on the tasteful side for you, aren’t they?”

“ALL my clothes are tasteful,” I sniffed. “Anyway, you’re a little out-of-character tonight too, aren’t you?”

“Just trying to keep up with my flashy girlfriend,” she muttered, as the VW clanked away from the curb. Indeed, she had dressed up for the occasion — a tweed, knee-length skirt topped by a low-cut blouse, with sensible flats on her feet. She’d even gone to the trouble to apply a bit of makeup. I was amazed at the transformation, and I knew a thing or two about transformations.

The Lavender and Leather was located two blocks south of the Hyatt on Sixth Avenue, in the heart of downtown Seattle. The location of the bar caused no end of heartache for the hotel’s management, who complained loud and long to the City Council, wondering why it wasn’t located down on First or Second with the other seedy establishments. In fact, the Lavender wasn’t particularly seedy — the only concession to fashion on it’s 1950s lunch-counter exterior was a lavender neon sign proclaiming its name over the doorway.

We walked into the bar, and Frenchy took my hand while we looked the place over. There was a small dance floor directly opposite the door, with only a few couples on it, and an imposing-looking disc jockey in a leather miniskirt spinning tunes to one side. As my companion had described, the clientele were primarily businesspersons, although off in a corner to our right was a group of leather-clad biker types. Along the street side wall was a row of naugahyde booths. They were all occupied, so we made our way to the bar.

The bartender was a large Nordic woman named Lise, who eyed me curiously as she greeted my companion.

“Hi, Frenchy. Long time. Who’s your friend?”

“Hello, Lise. It has been a while. This is Angela Barclay,” Frenchy replied, using one of my standard cover names.

“Pleased to meet you, Lise,” I said, and extended my left hand languidly. She took it, holding it for longer than necessary, looking me steadily in the eyes. Ordinarily, I would have enjoyed this encounter immensely, for Lise was a lovely woman, but present circumstances made me somewhat nervous. She was turned on by a sham, my female disguise, and although the deception inherent in these situations had long since ceased to bother me, I couldn’t help thinking about what would happen if the woman found me out — she was big enough to do real damage.

I managed to pry my hand away, and asked a question: “Frenchy tells me there’ve been some problems around here . . . I’d like to ask you and some of the other women a few questions, if I may.”

She looked at me suspiciously, her eyes narrowing. “Why do you want to know? You a cop?”

“Angie’s a private detective,” Frenchy cut in hastily. “Sarah hired her.”

“Well — I guess it’s all right, if Sarah hired you. I mean, it’s not like the cops are gonna do anything about it. Bunch of homophobic rednecks.”

I winced inwardly, and replied “Yes, well, I’m not associated with the police, or any other city organization. I’m a private investigator.”

“You mean like V.I. Warshawski? I just love those books! Warshawski is such an inspiration to women everywhere. Frankly, I think Sarah Paretsky’s one of us.” She paused. “And here you are, a real-life female P.I.”

I could hear Frenchy choking quietly beside me; I hoped she wouldn’t give away the game. I shifted uncomfortably on the barstool — there was just no ladylike way to sit on one of the damn things. Finally, I got situated with one high-heeled foot perched precariously on a rung, with the other leg crossed over it, pleased by the way my split skirt fell away to expose my thighs.

“How well did you know the victim, Danielle Squires?” I asked Lise.

“Everyone knew Danielle. She had friends here and in every gay joint in the city. I don’t know why anyone would want to kill her.”

“OK, was she involved in anything, well, shady?”

“You mean like drugs, or porn?”

“Something like that, yeah.”

A rueful smile appeared on her face. “Definitely not. Danielle was so straight — she rarely even drank, for God’s sake.”

That’s what I was afraid of. I plowed on.

“Well, how about lovers, then. I mean, I know that Sarah thought she was faithful, but . . .”

“Oh, Danielle was faithful, all right,” she replied bitterly. Bingo,I thought, a suspect, and only the first interview. This affair might just end quickly after all.

“From your tone of voice, Lise,” I said, “it sounds like you had more than a passing interest in the faithfulness of Danielle Squires.”

Her face became still, dark eyes glittering in the strobe of the dance floor like polished obsidian. She straightened carefully from where she had been leaning on the bar, keeping her composure with a visible effort.

“It’s true, I had a `thing’ for Danielle. I suspect other woman here tonight had as well. She was just that kind of woman. But, none of us would kill her.”

Somebody did, Lise,” I said softly, “Somebody did . . .”

Over the next hour, however, Frenchy and I confirmed Lise’s final comments. Squires seemed to have been uniformly well-liked, and not a few of the women there had romantic feelings toward her. My earlier elation at a possible suspect in the bartender quickly evaporated — if jealousy was a motive for murder, and I knew that it was one of the oldest in the books, we had a room full of suspects.

At around eleven, Frenchy and I sat dispiritedly at one of the booths, nursing our drinks. Business had picked up considerably in the past hour, and the dance floor was crowded — there were perhaps two dozen women packed into the small space, undulating to the latest techno-dance music. One in particular caught my eye as she danced alone in the center of the floor. She wore a short, leather miniskirt that was so tight I just knew she needed a shoe-horn to get into it. Her long, athletic legs were encased in fishnet stockings, and her breasts were barely restrained by a jet-black body stocking that looked like it had been spray-painted on. I was so mesmerized by her sinuous, erotic display that I didn’t notice the tall woman standing by our table until she laid a large hand on my shoulder. When she did, I looked up into one of the homeliest faces I had ever seen.

“Hey, babe,” she shouted. “You wanna dance?”

“Uh, I’m with someone, you know?” I stammered, looking with pleading eyes at Frenchy.

“Oh, that’s OK . . . Frenchy won’t mind. Will ya, Frenchy?”

Frenchy shook her head with a smirk,and before I could think of any more excuses I was dragged onto the dance floor in the iron grip of the towering amazon. I made a mental note to kill my associate when I got out of this.

My partner was actually not a bad dancer, in a jerky, spasmodic way. She was wearing loose-fitting, faded jeans, large combat boots, towering over me even in my three-inch heels. With the crowd on the floor, we were forced to dance closely, which seemed to be all right with her.

“Name’s Frieda,” she yelled. “What’s yours?”

“Angie,” I shouted back.

“Angie. I like that name. I like pretty blondes like you, too.” She grinned rapaciously and moved closer, thrusting her pelvis toward me. “My friends tell me you’re a private eye.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Did you know Danielle Squires?”

She went right on, as if she hadn’t heard my question. “A private eye, huh? Just like Kinsey Milhone. I love those books, can’t get enough of `em.”

Great. Another literary enthusiast.

“Hey, they don’t call you a private dick, do they?” She laughed uproariously.

“No, no they don’t,” I said with a wan smile. I’d heard that joke a million times, and for some reason, it always made me nervous.

Just then, the music stopped, and in the sudden quiet I said “Well, thanks for the dance, Frieda . . . I’ll just get back to Frenchy now.”

“Hey, what’s the rush? Something tells me the next song’s a slow one.”

Sure enough, the next tune began, and it was considerably less frenetic than the last one. Before I could react, Frieda grabbed me in a tight embrace and we were swaying to the music. Just relax and enjoy yourself,I thought, it’ll soon be over.

Although I could have sworn at the beginning that we could get no closer, I was wrong — as we danced, she drew me tighter and tighter, until I could feel her groin grinding provocatively against mine. My breast forms felt ready to pop, and I began to feel very warm, along with a general tightening against my panties. Ah, friction — there’s the rub.

A release of pressure, so sudden that I imagined an accompanying sproing!, alerted me to the fact that my tuck was no longer: I was betrayed by sodden surgical tape. Under normal circumstances, this would have caused acute embarrassment, but now it could have more dire consequences — physical harm at the hands of the mountainous Frieda. I tried desperately to break our dangerous embrace, but this seemed to inspire her to even greater heights of restrictive ardor. Then, a puzzled look came over her face, followed quickly by a scowl. Her eyes narrowed to slits, gleaming with menacing light, just as the song ended.

“That better not be what I think it is down there,” she rumbled.

Frieda shoved me away, at the same time grabbing for my crotch. I twisted to the right, and her hand grazed the front of my skirt. But the damage was done — my panicky evasion told the whole story. Backing away, she raised a beefy arm and pointed directly at me just as the song ended.

“That’s a man! “she screamed into dead silence.

All heads turned toward us, startled looks rapidly replaced by hostility. I retreated towards the bar, trying to put my back against solid wood, hoping that the bartender didn’t have a blackjack hidden below the counter. My purse, with its 9mm automatic, was back at the booth, where Frenchy began to rise from her seat, a look of alarm twisting her face. I wondered whether my health insurance covered being beaten to a pulp in a lesbian bar while dressed in drag. Just as I came to the conclusion that it didn’t, a desolate cry erupted from somewhere to my right, stopping my attackers in their tracks.

The shriek sent a shudder of apprehension up my spine. I kicked off my heels, spun to the right and raced along the bar. Before me I saw a dark passage that I knew led to the bathrooms, both coyly labeled “Hers.” A muffled sobbing sounded from behind the second door. With a rueful thought toward my absent gun, I rammed the door with my shoulder, slamming it back on its hinges.

I still have nightmares about what I saw inside. A small, cowering woman was plastered against the wall by the towel dispenser, a look of horror on her face. Following her gaze, my eyes came to rest on a form sprawled on the toilet. Lise’s skirt was hiked up around her waist, with panties binding her ankles in a grotesque parody of bondage games. Her bare thighs shone with a sickly, purplish cast in the glow of the fluorescent lighting. The hole above her left breast showed where a bullet had pierced her heart, but her frozen grimace of pop-eyed surprise is what returns again and again to haunt my dreams.

Looking down, I could see my stocking-feet immersed in a congealing pool of blood. Damn! Another pair of pantyhose, ruined.

To be continued . . .

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Category: Fiction, Transgender Fun & Entertainment


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