The Romantic Strangler III
Concern for Andrew
“You’re late today. Restless night?” Cassandra questioned as Andrew slipped in the side entrance. He only nodded which caused him to grimace and steady his head.
“Are you alright? You look as though you have been out carousin' all night.”
“I will be fine, I just have a headache.” Andrew’s whole body quivered in protest to his comment.
“There has been an outbreak of influenza. You should see a doctor, Andrew.” Again he quivered but refused Cassandra’s advice. “Well, if you are going to stay and work, Fleming sent that French curtain over there, to be mended.” She pointed to a large red heap in a corner of the room, “It is missing 3 rings.” Deciding he was not in a very talkative mood, she turned then and went back to practicing her lines.
Andrew crossed the chamber to where the vermilion mass slumbered. He shook out the cloth looking for the missing rings, as he did a length of rope flung out, hit the wall and landed in the corner. Andrew stared down at the rope, his brow furrowed as he fought back tears that threatened to burst forward. He imagined a small boy huddled in the corner, fearful. He caught glimpses of something dreadful happening. He couldn’t quite make sense of it but an image of a noose made of hemp rope, continued to flash in his mind. Suddenly, he had a strange urge to crawl under the curtain to hide there in that little nook. He shook himself managing to resist the impulse. Then, though tremulant, he took the curtain to a table for repairs.
Work that evening was difficult for Andrew. Every inch of his body ached and he felt sluggish. At times he was confused and was easily distracted. Through all the hustle and bustle Andrew managed to hear little bits of conversations. Many referred to a murder that had taken place the night before. The murder bothered Andrew but he had too much to do to react to it. The actors and actresses continually needed something mended and the director wanted something special for the leading lady to wear in the next show. So, he plugged on even though his symptoms increased and soon his head began to swim.
Near the end of the night the place was all a buzz with fear and concern. The women were afraid to walk home alone, for fear of being the next victim. The men were outraged and offered to walk the women home. Cassandra exhausted from the nights performance headed to the green room for tea.
The Bad News
“Are you alright?” a voice asked as she passed by.
“Oh, Hunter! I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there!”
“You must be terrified,” Hunter speculated.
“Actually, I was wondering where Andrew has gone to. She paused. Why would I be terrified?”
“You mean you haven’t heard? There has been another murder. Here read for yourself.” Hunter picks up the newspaper from the stand and hands it to her. Cassandra shivers as she reads:
Woman Found Strangled
Nineteen year-old Vanessa Whitehall was found
in her room, at the Cobble Creek Inn this morning.
The woman’s body was found by Nellie Jacobs,
Whitehall’s friend and neighbor.
“Couldn’t believe me eyes. Came in and there she was.
Just lyin’ there, body all limp and lifeless. " Said Jacobs.
Police ask to be notified if anyone has seen or heard
anything that could help the case.
“Oh, my!” Cassandra clasped her throat.
“You will most definitely be in need of an escort. May I offer my services?” Hunter asked with high hopes.
“Thank you but I was hoping Andrew would offer to walk me home. After all it is closer for him. You would have to go out of your way.”
“I wouldn’t mind going a little out of my way for you Cassandra. If Andrew doesn’t ask or you change your mind, I am at your service.” Hunter stood, bowed to her then turned and walked away, not allowing his composure to lapse until he was certain she would not see his disappointment. Cassandra thought of how nice Hunter had always been to her and hoped she hadn’t hurt his feelings but she really liked Andrew and wished he would come out of his shell. Normally she would not be so forward as to ask Andrew to walk her home but it was getting late and she may have just turned down her only offer.
The last time she saw Andrew, he had been repairing a seam in Hunter’s cloak but she was certain he was done with that by now. She looked around but was unable to find him and no one else seemed to know where he was so she went to her dressing room to change from her costume. Cassandra substituted the Elizabethan costume for a medium blue dress with an oval neckline. The skirt gathered with a ribbon at the waist and had five layers each extending about six inches farther than the last until it nearly reached the floor. Each layer was traced horizontally in pale blue. The puffy sleeves were short with pale blue stripes running diagonally up and down the length of them. On her head she placed a pleated crepe toque of pale blue with a medium blue satin band. She slipped a pair of fur-lined slippers on her feet and fastened them with the pale blue ribbon bows. She picked up her dark blue redingote and cloak then headed for the door. Cassandra took one more look around for Andrew only to find the custodian ready to lock up for the night.
Walking Alone in the Dark
Cassandra was nervous about walking home alone but there was no one left to walk with her. She strolled along until eerie shadows and unusual sounds caused her heart to pound so loudly she was certain it was not her own. A few dry leaves blew across her trail and she felt as though she had leaped high enough to see in someone’s window, clear up on the third floor. She began to walk faster then. She made her way, tripping over scattered trash that the city sweep had not yet discovered. The earthy smell of worms intensified her trauma causing her to feel nauseous.
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