Saturday, May 21, 2011

Elevator Shoes (red COFFEE Chapter 8)

“You are cordially invited to the view the Bullock's Fall Collection presented exclusively at
Bullock’s Wilshire, 3050 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California
Saturday, October 12, 1935, 7:30 pm,
By Invitation Only
Refreshments will be served”

Jiminy Christmas, it seemed like every silver spoon and diamond tiara was in force to view the little soiree Bullock’s threw to sell the new styles between Downtown LA and The Miracle Mile. The fashion show was held in the upstairs showroom, cleared out as a banquet hall with a small runway with a small bar on one end and a buffet on the other end. Waiters walked around with trays filled with canapés dodging hungry dowagers and their drunken husbands. The drunken husbands were the ones with all the dough dragged in by their status-climbing wives. When they weren’t boozing it up they were puffing away on stinky cigars and talking stocks with their rivals.

Looking at the crowd from behind the curtain I could see that every spittoon shooting bigwig had a bodyguard hovering a few feet away from them, understandable given the recent spate of murders in the past few weeks. The room got pretty smoky until Mr. Hermann the store manager requested that everyone kill their smoke. “The clothes are susceptible to tobacco smoke and odors”. The old lizards grumbled, of course, crushing out their smokes of choice in the sandy urns.

Bored, I walked over to the window to kill time and noticed a headless, stumpy bird sitting on top of a street light. Then I saw its head revolve in front of it with its big, golden cat eyes staring at me. It was an owl. What was on owl doing in the middle of the city? The owl’s eyes remained fixed on me.

“Lois, have you been in makeup?” Bell Amie the designer asked behind me. I turned around to show her my fully made face to her. “What do you think?”
“Get in hair, right now, and then get fitted, we’re starting in a few. No time for staring out the window, dear.” Drat, I just wanted to be home with a glass of milk and a volume of Balzac but I needed the money.

The first outfit: I walked out in a silver lounging ensemble. “Our model is attired in a silver silk pajama ensemble ideal for long Sunday mornings or for resort relaxing”. I sashayed around and glanced down, catching ZaSu Pitts apprising my outfit.

The second outfit: I modeled a navy blue wool work jacket and skirt. “Labor Day is here and our model looks smart in this seasonal work ensemble, whether taking dictation, answering the phone or watching the stock market rise”. I looked down and noticed a few gray moustaches leering at my business section.

Half an hour later the other models and I slipped on our clothes and walked around the lounge. I felt uncomfortable doing this because it reminded me of stories I read about courtesans waling around the parlor of a brothel. Some of the models actually had phone numbers and keys slipped to them, out of wives’ sights. Luckily no one got fresh with me, probably because I was the tallest girl in the room.

“Excuse me, ma’am, what do you call that outfit?” a familiar voice asked behind me. I turned around, and said, “I like to call it – Teddy!” I smiled, hugging Detective Ted Braintree, my friend from the police academy shooting range.
“Hi, Lois, great show, but I gotta tell you, what you’re wearing now beats the pants off all those other classy outfits you wore tonight”, he said smiling.
“This is just some beaded dress I bought two years ago”.
“It looks great, kid.”
“What are you doing here?”
He leaned over conspiratorially to me and quietly said, “I gotta watchdog these two loaded stiffs, can you imagine? Just look at them over there!” he pointed at a pompous white-haired fat man wearing a cummerbund and a pince nez, and his wife standing nearby in a fox fur stole smoking with a cigarette holder. “Kaiser Wilhelm and Marie Antoinette. Who would want to kill them?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“There’s a lot of washed necks and shaved legs at this shindig. Jeez, you look swell tonight”.
“Listen, Ted, why don’t you lose the fossils and take me home? I haven’t seen you since that swell time we had target shooting.” I played with my hair without realizing it.
“I’m sorry, Lois, but I gotta wet-nurse the waxworks, police duty and all that other stuff. Let’s make a night of it next Friday, whatta ya say? It’ll be my first free night in weeks, honest to God”.
“Well alright, ya big lug, but remember a promise is a promise”, I said, squeezing his hand.

The models had to exit the building from the back towards the alley. Things were safe what with all the limousines and taxicabs surrounding the department store. I guess I had nothing to worry about. But then I started thinking about that owl just staring at me in the darkness from on top of the lamp post, burning his large golden eyes into me.

I pressed the elevator button with one hand on my hip and the other around my handbag. There was no one else waiting for the elevator, which seemed a little funny. When the doors opened a man in a large coat stood in the back, his hat brim pulled down so low you couldn’t see his eyes. I got in and pressed the street button.

The elevator began going down until the man behind me pushed me aside and hit the stop switch.
“Hey, what gives?”
The man in the coat shoved me against the wall. I tried pushing back but he slugged me hard on the side of my head.
“Listen, pretty puss, you wanna keep your pretty face you keep that big mouth of yours shut. Just give with the beautiful looks and stay out of other people’s battles. You got me?” The man had a strong Southern accent and an ever stronger grip on my arm. I tried twisting my arms around me to get to his neck put kept reaching into emptiness, my vision getting darker and darker.
“Let go of me or I’ll scream.”
“Go ahead and scream, scream as loud as you want, toots”.
I opened my mouth and nothing came out because he had his hand over my throat, choking me. I felt myself choking until I passed out and collapsed to the floor. After I hit the floor I could feel myself drifting down and the elevator doors opening. I woke up a minute later and there was no one there.

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