Author's Notes: I have three big
thank-yous to extend for this piece. First, to Aleph Press
to digging up the names of the classic BEMs. Second a HUGE
kudos to Gary Johnson's beta-reading skills - which have kindly
prevented me from looking like an idiot. Any and all mistakes
left over are mine alone. Third, to Kielle for maintaning
the beta-reader database -- it's true: a writer is the worst
editor of her own work.
This is a new Marvel Elseworlds, but not a sequel to Stripe
of a Different Color. Anyone looking for a Rogue/Remy
romance needs to look elsewhere this time -- I'm going dark
Stars and Stripes Forever
January 1, 1953
New York City
"Need anything else, Sarge?" queried the photographer,
fishing for the lens cap in the pocket of his oversized wool
"No. Go home. 'Taint a fit night out for man or beast.
"Or corpse." The young brunette man kicked at the
edge of the white chalk outline on the icy cement and tried
not to smear the blood. Moonlighting as a crime photographer
was a great way to earn some extra dough, but damn, it was
grim work sometimes. He popped the film roll out of the camera
and handed it over to the police sergeant. "I'd copy
these for the Bugle, but it's a little graphic for page one."
"Didn't think there was anything too graphic for this
"Allow me my illusions." He grinned and ran his
gloved fingers through his hair. "See ya around, and
hey - Happy New Year."
NYPD Sergeant Sean Cassidy waved tiredly at the retreating
photographer. "Pete, I lost my illusions a long time
"Nothing in the world I like better than a New Year's
Eve swan dive. Like I got nothing better t'do with my holiday."
Victor Creed was one of the few, unlucky bastards that had
drawn holiday duty in the cold and deserted police station
on 14th street.
"You sure it was a suicide, Creed?" Sean leaned
over the shoulder of the precinct mortuary clerk and did his
best to look at the chart rather than the pale body.
Creed chewed for a second on his lower lip. "Huh, well,
it coulda just been an accident. Sleeping Beauty here had
plenty of bubbly in her system. Not exactly the best time
to go waltzing across the rooftops, y'know? Dumb skirt. Anyways,
you said we didn't have no eye witnesses - so I was just gonna
bag and slab as a self-inflicted."
Cassidy swept his hand through his strawberry-blond curls.
"Jesus, what a waste. They say she was a real talented
"Huh. If I was you, I wouldn't lose too much sleep over
it. This town's got as many dancers as hookers. And if you
listen to what the good Sisters say, it's pretty much the
"Everybody's entitled to their opinions. Can I get a
copy of the report?" inquired Sean a little sharply.
"Sure thing, Irish. You collecting souvenirs?"
Creed ripped off the bottom carbon with a flourish.
"I want to take another look at the site. If I can rule
this as an accidental, well - I think it might give her family
some comfort." But not him - suicide detail was a job
he generally avoided.
Creed turned and raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Buncha
people do themselves in over the holidays, Irish. You know
Sean didn't feel like explaining. He had a kid, well, she
was getting to be more than a kid, who was dead set on becoming
a singer. If this poor woman pitched herself thirty-two stories
at the peak of her career, he damn sure wanted to know why
before Theresa started at the music academy. "I just
like my work." he finally replied.
"You're a sick bastard, Irish." Creed kicked the
brake lock on the cart and swung it around like a slab of
A straw-headed officer Sean didn't recognize met him on the
icy roof on the Ritz-Carlton. "Is there a problem, Sergeant?"
the kid asked, confused.
"No, son. Just wanted to take a look around."
The poor kid seemed even more puzzled. "For what, sir?
We were ready to wrap up."
Which was perfectly reasonable, to Sean's thinking. The wind,
chilled to a fierce bite by the strong Atlantic currents,
made standing out on the exposed roof a trial of will. There
was never any evidence when someone offed themselves like
that. Just a corpse. "Who interviewed the witnesses?"
Sean peered down at the pale kid's nametag.
"Um ... Officer Drake?"
"I did. Sir, would you mind if we went inside? I think
I'm going to freeze to death."
They both spent several minutes in the stairwell clapping
their hands together to renew feeling in their frostbitten
hands. Drake jammed both his white hands into his pockets
and rolled back on his heels. "Do you mind if I ask what's
going on, sir? This has nothing to do with Vice."
That surprised Sean. "You know who I am?"
The kid grinned. "Hell, Sarge. Everyone on the force
knows who you are. They say you turned down a chance to be
one of Hoover's boys to stay on the beat."
"I had my fill of government work during the war. Anyway,
we were short on people tonight and I though I'd lend a hand
on the clean-up. Frankly, this one is a little personal --
I'd sure like to know if this was an accident or a suicide."
Drake pulled his notebook from his jacket pocket and flipped
through the pages. "Did you know her?"
"Hell, no. I don't think I ever saw her perform."
"She was really something. Had a voice like an angel
and that body...." Drake choked off his commentary, considering
that the body in question was currently stacked like a side
of bacon in a meat locker.
Sean smiled sympathetically. "I tried not to look. Was
"Oh man, Sarge - she was dazzling."
Sean Cassidy was still flipping through Drake's notes when
the pale winter sun lit through his kitchen curtains. Artsy
types were unreliable witnesses at best, and compounded with
the alcohol-laden nature of the evening, the notes made little
sense. The victim had been upset at the party according to
Drake's detailed report, but that was where the similarities
ended. It was a common litany of mis-matched accounts: two
people saw her enter the stairwell to the roof. One claimed
she was alone. One claimed she was followed. Another man,
her date, claimed she left the party earlier that evening.
Several people said she was drunk. Her date maintained she
hadn't had a drop to drink all evening, which, as he snippily
pointed out, was fairly unusual. The director was too distraught
to give a coherent interview. Sean grimaced at Drake's angry
scribbling. The man only seemed concerned that his show was
due to open in a week without its headlining star. "Too
damn bad, mate." Sean muttered darkly. He wondered if
Theresa would end up being surrounded by these kind of men,
which only served to blacken his mood.
The woman had committed suicide.
She had wandered up to the roof in a drunken stupor and slipped
off the ledge. Possibly.
Or maybe someone had helped her over.
That last though jolted Sean into alertness. He flipped back
through Drake's notes. A woman claimed she saw the stage manager
follow the victim into the stairwell, whereas he said he didn't.
"Oh hell, man," he grumbled to himself, rubbing
his eyes. "No sleep for a day and a half and you're seeing
monsters under the bed." Those people were sauced, for
christsakes. And this wasn't even his problem. His finger
tapped lightly over a penciled address in the notes. "Go
to bed, you daft idiot."
Allison Blaire was dead, reason unknown and case unsolved.
Seeing Theresa in his mind, Sean Cassidy went to find his
Walking through the ice-crusted streets, Sergeant Sean Cassidy
was glad he was a cop. There were worse neighborhoods in New
York City, but this borough had the particular feel of the
lost and abandoned. It was a strange place for a theater-type
to take up residence.
To add insult to injury, the elevator in the ramshackle brownstone
was out-or order. Cursing the cold, Cassidy trudged up four
flight of stairs. He found the correct number and rapped sharply
on the door. "Anybody home?"
A muted, heavily accented voice answered back. "Who
the hell wants to know?"
"Sergeant Cassidy, NYPD."
"I already talked to you blokes."
"Sir, I realize it's early, but I need to speak with
a Mr. St. John Allerdyce. Is this his residence?"
The door opened, revealing a rail-thin blond man in his mid-thirties.
"Haven't you got anything better to do with your day
than harass a working man?"
Cassidy shoved his right foot in the door to prevent it being
slammed. "I take you're Mr. Allerdyce?"
The man scowled darkly. "You take it right. And I gave
my statement to the police last night."
Cassidy put on his best smile, hoping to allay some of the
man's suspicions. "I understand that, sir. I just have
a few more follow-up questions."
As if exhausted, Allerdyce released the door and walked back
into the apartment. "Follow me."
Cassidy trailed the man to the living room, taking in the
pallor of the furniture that seemed to clash garishly with
the bright show posters tacked up on the walls.
Allerdyce collapsed backward into an overstuffed chair and
pointed to a dusty sofa. "Sit." He commanded curtly.
Cassidy peeled off his jacket and gloves and threw them onto
the sofa. It was hot in the apartment; a blazing fire was
burning in the fireplace behind Allerdyce. He pulled out his
notebook and gathered his thoughts.
Allerdyce stared into the fire instead of meeting his eyes.
"Do all New York coppers make house visits for suicide
Cassidy looked up from his notes. "You're convinced
it was a suicide, then?"
Allerdyce fingered the rim of an empty shot glass on the
side table. "Allison never did anything by accident."
"When did you first meet the victim?"
"She was never a victim, either."
"I think the mortician might disagree with you."
Allerdyce looked away into the fire. "We met right before
a show nearly four years back. She was just starting out and
I was assistant stage manager. I had just moved to the States
and Allison was the first person I got to know."
The notes hadn't mentioned any of this: they were merely
an account of the party. "So you say that you and Allison
Blaire were close, personal friends?"
The blond man smiled weakly. "Sometimes we were close,
occasionally we were personal, but I doubt we were ever friends.
She had bigger ambitions."
"Sounds like there's some hostility there."
"Have you ever been tossed off by a woman you loved,
Cassidy ignored that. "What motive do you think Ms.
Blaire had for committing suicide last night?"
Allerdyce crossed his fingers in front of his eyes. "Sergeant
Cassidy, I've been up for nearly forty-eight hours. I told
the officer last night everything I know -- which is nothing.
I saw Allison go up to the roof a little before midnight.
An hour or two later the place was swarming with cops. I have
no idea in hell why she jumped. Ask her boyfriend."
"The producer." Allerdyce's voice was laced with
Cassidy jotted that down. "Mr. Allerdyce, there was
a witness at the party who said you followed Miss Blaire up
to the roof."
Allerdyce's head jerked up from his hands. "Who said
June 20, 1952
St. John Allerdyce loved the beginning of summer. The city
streets were pleasantly warm without the sticky, baked feeling
that suffused Manhattan in July. Perched on a stool by the
window in his favorite dinner, he ripped open his fourth sugar
packet into his ice tea. It wasn't a typical hangout for men
of his type, Ebbie's Diner was a slightly run down establishment.
But it had a view that Allerdyce wouldn't dare miss in June.
He loved the bus station.
All over America, there was a certain migration connected
to the final bell of high school. Some went to Los Angeles.
During the war, movie theaters had became the primary form
of entertainment for the women left behind, and almost every
little girl grew up wanting to be a movie star. But there
were still some from the old school, who truly believed that
being the best dancer in Podunk, Tennessee would make them
the hottest ticket on Broadway. And when school ended, an
army of young, silly girls took their graduation money and
their best smiles to the Big Apple. This time of year, Allerdyce
made sure he had the best seat in town for the show.
He had found Allison here, he reflected with a frown. A rare
event, she had actually achieved the fame few ever found.
He had gotten her into her first show, but once she caught
the eye of that damn Worthington bastard, she wouldn't even
return his calls. She'd get bored of Worthington soon enough
and come back. Allerdyce idly stirred his tea as the first
bus of the day chugged into the station. While people began
to disembark, his scowl deepened. Los Angeles was really getting
the lion's share of girls. He was about to fish a nickel out
of his pants when he saw her. The girl was wearing a red gingham
dress that barely managed to hide a well-shaped pair of dancer's
Allerdyce whistled a quick tune and tossed the nickel on
She was trying to drag an oversized leather suitcase out
of the parking lot when Allerdyce caught up to her. "Can
I give you a help with that, love?"
The girl looked up from her load and Allerdyce caught his
breath. She was even prettier close-up - long curly brunette
hair and bright green eyes. Bingo indeed.
"Thanks, ah guess ah should have been more careful with
He grabbed the suitcase and tried not to groan when he lifted
it. She had better be worth it. "Well, stop my beating
heart, it seems the Big Apple has attracted a real southern
Her eyes lowered in perfect modesty. "Why, thank you.
Ah can't place your accent. English?"
"Nope, love. Australian. I got caught." Allerdyce
laughed at his own joke despite the girl's confusion. "What
brings a lovely lady to our city?"
The girl kept pace with his long strides as they crossed
the street. "Well, ah'm a dancer."
Allerdyce made a convincing show of surprise. "No kidding!
What a coincidence. It just so happens that I work on Broadway."
Her face lighted up with such an innocent smile that Allerdyce
could barely contain his pleasure. "Really? Are you a
His face fell slightly. It was amazing how women could find
the rawest nerve on the first meeting. "No, stage manager.
But in theater, honey, that's everything. I'm even more important
than the director." Well, Toyenbee might disagree with
that, but the girl was new.
"Mah, how impressive."
"Eh, it's a living. Do you have a place to stay? Any
The girl stopped and looked down at her shoes. "No ...
ah, ah ran away from home. Ah have a little money, but ah
heard it's real difficult to find a place close in."
His stars were certainly in alignment today. "Well now,
that's true. But it so happens that my landlord and I are
good friends. There's a one-room apartment open in my building.
I think I could convince him to let you have it at a discount
rate." Truth be told, Fred was perfectly willing to aid
his love life when the price was right.
"Oh! That would be perfect. Ah'm in your debt, Mr..."
"Allerdyce. St. John Allerdyce." In his debt indeed.
What an absolutely perfect creature! "And you are?"
Allerdyce grinned and bent over to kiss her hand while she
simpered. "Charmed, I'm sure."
St. John Allerdyce ignored how Sabine's face fell when they
exited the taxi in front of his apartment building. In the
years after the war, housing in New York ran at a huge premium.
At his salary, Allerdyce was lucky to find anything on the
island. "Here we go, darling. Home sweet home,"
"Ah suppose it's okay for starters," Sabine replied
They were met at the door by the fattest man on the eastern
seaboard. Allerdyce caught the girl's arm as she took a step
back from his imposing girth. "Sabine Hickman, may I
introduce Fred J. Dukes - my landlord and best mate."
"Heyya. Lemme guess, she's gonna take the room nexta
yours." Dukes had a baritone voice as deep as his waistline.
Sabine's eyes widened as her handshake disappeared inside
his massive grip. "Ah'm glad ta be here....ah guess.
Mr. Allerdyce said ya were offering a discount rate for the
Allerdyce stepped in smoothly. "Fred is always willing
to help a young lady get started in this town."
Dukes wiped his hand across his nose in one broad streak.
"Sure, whatever. But I ain't carrying no luggage."
"Allow me." Allerdyce once more picked up the oversized
case and led his new charge up the stairs. "Bathroom
is down the hall, third door on the left. My room is the second."
"So ah guess this must be me." Sabine pushed open
the door and her face fell. "There ain't no furniture!"
Allerdyce dropped the case and smiled consolingly. "Few
apartments come furnished, but I'm sure we can find you a
bed this week. Until then, you're welcome to stay with me."
Her smile bright again, Sabine slipped her arm through his.
"Ya are so kind."
Allerdyce quickly poured the Pepsi into two glasses and marched
them out and presented them to his guest with a flourish.
Sabine grabbed one gratefully. "It's so hot in here."
"I'm afraid it's not much cooler outside. But it will
be more pleasant this evening."
He watched the girl take a delicate sip of her drink. "So
will ah be sleeping on the couch?"
Allerdyce slid the glass out of her hand and set it on the
coffee table. "I'm sure we can work something out. First,
I want to talk to you about a job. The production company
I work for is starting a new show -- auditions for the chorus
are in two days. I'm sure I could get you in with a word or
two to the director. Would you be interested?"
Sabine practically squealed with delight. "Would ah
ever! Thank you, Mr. Allerdyce."
"Call me John, please." Allerdyce slid closer on
the couch. "I can make your life very easy here, love.
Just stick with me and you'll never have to think about going
home again." Sliding one hand along her thigh, he bent
in for a kiss.
Allerdyce's world turned upside down, and he found his nose
mashed into the carpet with his right arm bent behind him
in a perfect half-nelson wrestling lock.
"Ah think it's time you and me had ourselves a real
conversation." The voice that had been so sweetly innocent
had changed to a completely different timbre. "Ah'm gonna
take that apartment, you're gonna get me some furniture, that
job, and you're gonna find yourself a different piece of tail
"I'm sure I don't know what you're taking about, love,"
"Sugah, ah've been fighting off grabby hands since ah
was thirteen. Ah had you pegged for the lowlife you are the
second ah laid eyes on you. All ah want to know is whether
you're really in the theater."
Allerdyce groaned as the pressure increased on his arm. "My
dear, everything is true, although now it doesn't matter.
I don't believe I would fancy a lady of your character staying
here after all."
Sabine dug one knee painfully into the small of his back.
"Ya liked my character fine when ya though ah had just
fallen off the turnip truck. We had a deal and you're gonna
"Pray tell, why?"
"Two things. First, ah'm gonna go to the police and
tell them you and that pig downstairs ran a scam to assault
Allerdyce snorted and unsuccessfully tried to throw the wildcat
off him. "Somehow I don't really think they'd care. Besides,
I didn't touch you."
"Ah'm a damn good actress. Second, ah'm gonna be at
that bus stop every day telling anyone who'll listen all about
That was a serious threat. "And if you get the apartment
and the job?"
The voice became sugary sweet again. "Then we forget
all about this unfortunate misunderstanding and become good
Suddenly her weight was off him and his arm was free to move.
Allerdyce rolled his lanky form into a sitting position. "That's
"One step better n' yours."
Allerdyce met her sharp green eyes and wondered how he could
how missed the ice in them. Not so different from Allison's.
"Deal." he spat.
She rose ceremoniously off the sofa and waltzed into the
bedroom. "Ya get the couch until ya can find me a bed
of mah own."
January 1, 1953
Sean Cassidy smiled gracefully. "I'm really not at liberty
to say where I got my information."
Allerdyce glared at him. "Never mind. I think I can
"So you did, in fact, follow Miss Blaire up to the roof
"Didn't say I did or didn't. It's personal. But, if
you really want to talk to someone who probably had a hand
in her suicide, I'd go talk to that bastard producer."
Cassidy arched an eyebrow at that comment. "I'm assuming
you're referring to Mr. Warren Worthington III?"
"That's the crook. Whatever happened to Allison was
his damn fault."
"Excuse me, but I find that difficult to believe. From
my notes, Mr. Worthington had a enormous sum of money riding
on the success of this show. Without Miss Blaire, the show
won't even open. He was extremely distraught."
Allerdyce rolled his eyes. "God, you know nothing about
the theater. If he was upset, it was just because he's going
to have to take the trouble to find another mistress. Nothing,
and I mean nothing goes on at this level without insurance.
Worthington is going to get every penny back on his investment
-- and that's a damn sight more than he would have gotten
had this benighted production actually made it to opening
That surprised Cassidy. He had the impression from the papers
that Blaire had been a big ticket performer. "I'm afraid
you're correct, Mr. Allerdyce. The theater isn't one of my
hobbies. Perhaps you could enlighten me." Sometimes appealing
to their ego was the only way to draw out little men.
Allerdyce seemed to disappear slightly in the puffy folds
of his armchair. "Worthington knows nothing about art,
he's just a rich kid who wanted to play in high society. He
bought a contract for four shows from a bankrupt production
company, one of which was already playing. Allison was in
the chorus and he took a fancy to her, made her the lead.
Toyenbee's scripts are garbage -- but Allison had a quality
that just grabbed people, like a drug." As he spoke,
Allerdyce's voice became quieter and quieter. "The show,
despite all expectations, was a huge success and Allison became
an overnight sensation. The next two shows were almost as
"So what changed?"
Allerdyce shrugged noncommittally. "Who the hell knows?
Maybe the critics were getting tired of hackneyed clichés.
Toyenbee's scripts are all about the war, obnoxiously patriotic
montages and dance numbers. The war ended years ago, sergeant,
and people in high society get tired of the same old themes."
There was a certain truth to that, as much as it stung Cassidy.
The economy was booming in a way no one had thought possible
and few people, especially the young ones, wanted to hear
about country and sacrifice.
"And of course," Allerdyce continued, "there
was the change in Allison."
"How so?" asked Cassidy.
"You'd have to know Allison to really understand. She
was spectacular, a real star. But that kind of energy needs
constant response to feed itself. She was always on Worthington's
arm at all the parties. It's no secret that she overindulged
herself. At heart she was a small town girl, and I think all
that sound and light scared her. Halfway through production
she and Worthington starting getting into some real screaming
matches. He couldn't control her drinking and I think, at
least on some level, that the big idiot was starting to understand
that this show was going to be a huge disaster. " The
bitterness laced though his voice like poison. "I was
the stage manager, but Toyenbee had total control as director.
We were way over budget and I knew the show wouldn't play
more than two weekends. Worthington was going to take a huge
bath and I told him so."
July 30, 1952
"Jesus and Mary! Don't move that until the paint dries!"
Allerdyce hollered, "Do you have any concept how much
that thing costs?" He looked balefully up at the huge
mock-up of the Statue of Liberty as if the set itself was
working against him. The set designers slunk away from his
"John! St. John!"
Allerdyce spun around at the loud female voice that seemed
to resonate through the rafters. Sabine marched toward him,
eyes flashing, her tap shoes making hard rapping noises on
the wooden floor. He would have admired her beauty if the
sight of her didn't always put in him in a foul mood. "Something
She held up a piece of yellow paper in one clenched fist.
"What the hell is this?"
"That's your pay slip. Enjoy."
She continued to rail at him, seething. "A mouse couldn't
live on this. How am ah supposed to do anything more than
pay mah rent?"
"You make what a chorus girl makes. Get used to it.
It's not like I make much more." Allerdyce winced as
he felt the muscles tense in his neck. She had that effect
"It's highway robbery. Especially the way that nasty
toad Toyenbee works us. He puts me in the back row in all
the dance numbers -- how am ah supposed to get noticed if
ah'm always in the back?"
"Sabine, my love, it's not my fault that you're tall.
And if you don't do something about that singing voice of
yours, you won't be anything BUT noticed."
Suddenly all her rage evaporated and she slumped on the bench
beside him. "It wasn't supposed to be like this."
He patted her hand absentmindedly. "Nothing ever is."
"You can't make any money in this town unless you get
noticed. But nobody ever notices you unless you don't get
seen in all the stylish places - and that costs money!"
Allison had the same complaints. The clothes, the car, the
endless vodka martinis -- these took money that only the rich
and their favorites had. "There's nothing you can do,"
he consoled her.
Her green eyes flashed again as she grabbed his hand. "Ah
don't go down that easy. Ah swore that ah'd make it out of
the backwater where ah grew up and ah ain't going back."
The passion in her voice caught his attention. "Do you
have any ideas?"
"Ah might. Come to mah room tonight."
That definitely caught his attention.
Allerdyce had made good on his promise to get Sabine some
furniture, but it was the of the same ramshackle quality that
graced his apartment. She had seemed not to notice, and instead
treated everything as if it was a priceless antique. "Come
Allerdyce entered warily. The last time they had been together
in a room by themselves, he had nearly had his shoulder dislocated.
"You aren't going to sit on me again, are you love?"
"Are ya going to make another pass at me?" she
"Wouldn't dream of it." To make sure, he sat in
a chair across the table from her. "Now what's this all
"Well, first, ah wanted to apologize for hurting you
last time we talked. Even if you did have it coming."
Allerdyce smiled slightly. "With such a gracious apology
I have no choice but to accept."
She went on as if she hadn't heard him. "Ah kinda grew
up a tomboy. Mah daddy was killed in the war and mah mama
lost her job at the factory once it was over, to make room
for the men who did come back. Folks ain't real kind to poor
people, they think it's a disease they might catch if they
ain't real careful." For the first time, Sabine seemed
uncomfortable with herself. "Ah grew up kinda fast, ya
know, developing and all. There were a lot of rumors 'bout
me that weren't true. Boys seemed to think that 'cause ah
was poor they could try anything they liked." At this
she looked up at him accusingly and Allerdyce has the grace
to blush. "Ah didn't want to get married, even though
there was a boy who was willing. Dancing is the one thing
ah do well, and ah intend to make it so nobody looks down
on me again."
"Big ambitions. And despite your low opinion of me,
I do understand where you're coming from. I came to America
to make a fresh start. But, as my mother used to say, bad
habits follow bad people."
"Yeah, well. Ah figure we can make it happen if we get
me one good dress."
Allerdyce's eyebrows shot up underneath his curly fringe.
"Well now, love, I just got the impression that you weren't
interested in that kind of work."
"No, stupid. Ah got something else in mind and ah'm
going to need some help."
Allerdyce listened to her carefully and then rose from his
chair and called Dukes. He waited until the landlord's enormous
form arrived at the bottom of the stairway. His only instruction
to him was a curt command.
"Quit fidgeting, Aussie," ordered the man Allerdyce
knew only as Dominic. The burly man had a tight grip on the
wheel of his battered Ford and never took his eyes off the
revolving door of the Ritz-Carlton. Allerdyce sat nervously
beside him in the passenger seat. Behind them, Fred Dukes
lay spread across the backseat like a stuffed sack. "I'm
bored. And hungry," he whined.
Dominic frowned. "Shutup, fatso. If this little chickadee
of St. John's can pull this off, we'll all be rolling in the
"And if she screws it up, we'll all be sharing a cell,"
moaned Allerdyce. "What if the guy insists on getting
a hotel room?"
"Ain't you the one who kept telling me how persuasive
this skirt was? Everything will be fine. If she blows it,
we go home and she can get her own fat out of the fire ...
dammit, there she is. That was fast."
A very different Sabine Hickman strolled out of the Ritz-Carlton
on the arm of a considerably older gentleman in a tuxedo.
The three men had pooled their petty cash to take her shopping
on Fifth Avenue, and now she looked as if she had been born
to the upper class. The man held the door open to his limo
open and Sabine slipped inside without even a glance behind
"Cool customer," Dominic whistled appreciatively.
"Ok, gang. Let's roll." He gunned the engine and
slid into traffic behind the black stretch. They followed
the car up to the line of stone townhouses that sat along
the edge of Central Park. "Girlie picked a ripe one."
"Don't count your money yet, Dom. This isn't over yet,"
warned Allerdyce. "So get your skinny ass out of the
car and let's get this show on the road." Dominic twisted
in the seat to face Dukes. "Anything goes wrong, you
blow the horn. Whatever you do, don't lose this parking place."
Dukes snorted in derision. "Anyone wants to move me,
they gotta move the ground underneath me."
Allerdyce grabbed a duffel bag out of the back seat and cautiously
followed Dominic up to the door of the townhouse, praying
that the inadequate street lighting would hide them from the
neighbors. He nearly jumped out of his skin when the door
opened suddenly. "Get in!" Sabine's voice hissed.
Dominic gave an approving smile as he entered the lush sitting
room and viewing the unconscious body lying across the coffee
table, a broken glass of brandy staining the oriental carpet.
"That drug ain't gonna hurt him, is it?" Sabine
actually sounded a little worried.
"Only his wallet," grinned Dominic. "He'll
have one hell of a headache tomorrow." Suddenly his expression
turned serious. "Let's move, I don't trust that fat blob
not to fall asleep."
Taking a deep breath, Sabine quickly unzipped her dress,
revealing a black brassiere and garters set that had become
all the rage in the pin-ups. "Hurry," she grumbled,
Allerdyce viciously elbowed Dominic in the ribs before the
buffoon could say something to set off Sabine's temper. "Help
Sabine gingerly laid herself on the couch while the two men
arranged the leaden form on top of her, making sure his closed
eyes were buried in her neck. "God, he's heavy,"
"It's the weight of all that money, love. This won't
take a minute." Allerdyce fished a camera from his bag
and started snapping pictures. "I'll have these in the
mail tomorrow. I'm sure he'll conveniently forget your face
once he knows that his wife and the papers are going to get
an eyeful otherwise."
"Well, hurry it up. He said his wife would be back from
the show soon." Sabine waited until Allerdyce had finished
the roll and then pushed the dead weight off her with disgust.
"Ah hope this was worth it."
It was. The three of them had the house picked clean in a
little under twenty minutes. Loaded with cash, jewelry, and
bric-a-brac, the carload of conspirators squealed off into
Sabine stared down Dominic over Dukes' kitchen table. "Half,"
she spat. "Y'all can split the rest."
"I never agreed to nothing like that," countered
Dominic. "And you need me."
"All ah need is someone to take pictures and someone
to do the fencing. It's mah butt on the line if something
goes wrong and it was mah idea. Half."
Dominic looked over at Allerdyce in mute appeal. Allerdyce
simply shrugged. "It was her idea. There's plenty of
take to go around, Dominic."
But he wasn't giving up. "I ain't got no intention of
being a goon for some bitch."
The insult set off Sabine's temper like a firestorm. "Then
ya go can just go back to stealing cars like a two-bit hood.
Or you can join up with me and make ten times that."
"I could get my own girl to do the front work."
Allerdyce could tell from Dominic's sullen tone that he was
"Not as good as me. And not one ya couldn't trust not
"She's got a point, Dom." Dukes piped up from the
corner. "I ain't never made this much on a scam."
"So is it a deal?" Sabine was back to the sweet
tone that Allerdyce was sure their rich victim would hear
in his dreams.
Three sets of voice chimed in from around her. "Deal."
For St. John Allerdyce, the autumn was long and sweet. Always
careful, they made sure not to overuse Sabine's charms on
the married population of New York. By November they had hit
four more men, and few of the harried cast had the wits to
comment in the sudden elevation in her clothes or manner.
Sabine herself was soon seen at all the fashionable parties
in town, and if one or two men recognized her, they certainly
didn't say. The show itself suffered numerous rewrites and
production delays. Allerdyce watched with glee when a chastised
Toyenbee had to tearfully explain to Worthington that his
precious production wouldn't make opening night until just
after the New Year.
But by December, his buoyant mood had crashed. The reality
of the show's failure brought home to him his poor prospects
for a better position in the company. In fact, it was probable
that Worthington's little art adventure would go completely
belly-up once the first reviews rolled off the presses. Furthermore,
any illusions he might have had about a friendship or even
something more with his neighbor and partner were abruptly
dashed right before Christmas. Sabine, deciding that she was
now too recognizable in high society, severed any association
she had with her old gang and moved to a fashionable apartment
on the Upper West Side. Whatever scams she was running, she
obviously didn't need him.
Sabine's callous, though not altogether unexpected defection
ripped open any scabs that might have formed over the single
most painful aspect of the show: Allison. Despite his earlier
prediction, his former lover did not tire of the endlessly
charming Warren Worthington III. Instead, Allison seemed to
grow more and more attached to the angelic blond playboy as
the reality of her declining popularity edged in on her consciousness.
Instead, it was Worthington who began to tire of her, as her
increasing dependence on alcohol and on him began to grate
of him as badly as any fad slipping out of fashion. By the
time the cast and crew broke for Christmas Eve, it was anyone's
guess whether the show would meet it's January 3rd opening
date, with or without its headlining star.
January 1, 1953
"So I take it Worthington didn't take the bad news well?"
"Oh, hell, he already knew. Even he's not that blind.
I think he was praying that something irrevocable would happen
to the show so he could just cut his losses and run."
Allerdyce reached over and stoked the blazing fire.
"So do you believe Worthington had something to gain
from her death?"
Allerdyce actually looked surprised. "Christ! Is that
where all this hullabaloo is going? You think Worthington
"You have to admit, it is a reasonable supposition,
Allerdyce's laugh came out like a bark. "Not if you
ever met Worthington. Too squeamish - would never get his
"Well, I'm afraid that leaves us with you. Did you follow
Miss Blaire up to the roof last night, sir?"
His eyes narrowed. "Why do you care?"
"Because that would make you the last person to have
seen her alive."
"You're really into this murder idea, aren't you?"
"I'm just looking for a reasonable explanation as to
why a beautiful and talented woman died last night."
"I did go up. But I'll be damned if I killed her."
Cassidy fixed Allerdyce with the stare he reserved for back-room
"It was a very bad party, Sergeant Cassidy," replied
December 31, 1952
The main ballroom was packed with reluctant partygoers. The
decorations suggested far too much money combined with too
little sense. Worthington couldn't afford a shindig like this,
but he would rather die than let the social writers see his
mounting desperation. Unlike the festive mood that usually
attends the last few days before a Broadway opening night,
the cast and crew drank not to celebrate, but to numb the
impending dread of an impending first-night bomb. Allerdyce
moved through the social groupings with distaste. He made
a point of avoiding people he knew, most especially Sabine,
who seemed the only person there intent on having a good time.
He made his way to the punch bowl in the corner and resolved
to get blind drunk before midnight. The sound of loud shouting
from the cloak-room drew his attention. Allison could yell
like an opera diva could sing.
"Calm the hell down, Allison. I didn't say I would give
her the part."
"You better not, Warren. Once we get off this sinking
ship that new show is going to be my vehicle back to the top.
What the hell were you doing talking to some chorus girl,
"The same reason I used to talk to you. I'm always looking
for fresh talent. Besides, she's been recommended to me by
a lot of important people in this town. People I'm going to
need to get out of debt."
"So you're dumping me for next year's model? Is that
"Jesus, you're so unreasonable! No, I'm not. But I swear
to God, if you take one drink tonight, I'll forget you like
Allison's voice dropped and became wheedling. Allerdyce had
to strain to hear. "That's so unfair. It's been so stressful
and I'm under so much pressure, Warren. I really need you
"Go home Allison, I don't have the energy for this."
Allerdyce flattened himself against the wall as Worthington
stalked out of the coat closet, face blazing. He watched Allison
emerge, her expression blank as a sheet. In a blur, the woman
grabbed a bottle of champagne off the table and made a mad
dash for the stairwell.
Unaware of a pair of sharp green eyes absorbing the whole
scene, Allerdyce followed.
January 1, 1953
"I think you need to tell me what happened, Mr. Allerdyce."
"Why do you care? The papers said it was a suicide,
why not just leave it in peace." Allerdyce seemed to
shrink in the overwhelming heat of the apartment.
"Sir, I have a daughter that wants to get into this
business. I'd like to know what the dangers are."
"That's too damn bad, mate. The dangers are ambition
and need. The need to be adored, the need to be something
more than you are, the need to have other people believe it.
Some people can't stand to have those needs denied. Allison
couldn't. She was halfway through the champagne bottle when
I made it up to the roof. She said she'd jump if I came any
"I need to hear it as close as you remember."
Allerdyce caught the tension in the sergeant's hard frame
and smiled sardonically. "All the gory details? Well
now, maybe you do need to hear it."
December 31, 1952
"Allison, don't be a bloody idiot. You're not going
Allison had ripped the pins from her careful and her hair
blew like streamers around her face in the freezing night
air. "I will!"
"Right. You love yourself too much to deprive the world
of your presence." Allerdyce struck a nonchalant pose
by the door to the stairwell.
Her feature collapsed. "You hate me too."
"No. As I recall, I loved you. You were the one who
thought Worthington would be better for your career."
"You didn't love me, you just wanted ... wanted..."
her thoughts drifted off.
"You, Allison. You. I wanted you. For the reasons everyone
else in this town wants you. For your sparkle, your dazzle.
What the hell happened to that?"
"I don't know." Her voice sounded lonely, lost.
Allerdyce approached her carefully. "Come down from
there, love. Come home with me. I swear we'll fix everything.
We'll get you that new show of Worthington's. I'll make him
give you the part."
She cocked her head and looked at him strangely. "No
you can't. You're a nobody."
The last remaining pieces of Allerdyce's heart froze. "Well
then, love, it looks like we're finally even. I may be a nobody,
but that's better than a drunken slut whose name no one will
remember in a week."
Ignoring her stricken look, Allerdyce left the hotel as fast
as he could walk.
January 1, 1953
"I wish to God I hadn't said that."
"We all have regrets, Mr. Allerdyce." Cassidy closed
his notebook. "She jumped."
"Yes. I'm sorry I couldn't lay out some grand conspiracy
for you, but sometimes we die in the same sordid manner in
which we live. Worthington can close this show and move on
to the next one. He'll find a new star, if he hasn't one in
mind already. If I'm very lucky, he'll hire me again."
Cassidy stood up and gathered his coat. "I'm very sorry
to have intruded upon your grief, sir."
Allerdyce and walked the sergeant to the door. "Talk
to your daughter."
"Make your girl understand what ambition does to people,
especially people who are angry at the world deep inside.
Ambitious people turn in monsters they don't even recognize
when they die. Tell her that. I think somewhere Allison will
thank you for that favor."
Sadly, Cassidy left to file his report.
December 31, 1952
"Sugah, ya shouldn't be up here. Ya might freeze ta
Allison turned her tear-streaked face toward the girl. "Who
The young brunette moved near her on the ledge. "Nobody
important, yet. But ah might be somebody soon. There's a man
who said ah might get a big part in a show if everything works
"Well, lemme tell ya something, honey." Allison
waved the champagne bottle drunkenly. "Don't you let
anyone stand in your way. There will all sorts of people telling
you what you can and can't do -- men especially. Don't you
dare let them."
The girl's voice was soothing, the most soothing thing Allison
had heard in ages. "Tell me what ta do."
"Don't feel. Don't feel anything at all." Allison
let the bottle fall behind her with a crash. "That's
my best advice." Allison looked up at the winter sky
and imagined the stars hidden behind the clouds, the jealous
clouds. She didn't even feel the girl's hands on her back.
Allison Blaire fell silently.
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