This trip was becoming more and more disorienting. How could they ever get to Chicago, let alone the Empire Theater? They didn’t even seem to be in the 1920s anymore.
This time when the train stopped, Freida Tilley was the first off. Her brother Hans had about smothered her with his protection, hardly even letting her see anything at the last stop. She clutched her beaded necklace in her right hand and scampered toward an empty building. Where were the people waiting for the train?
“Freida, wait.” Hans had caught up with her.
Eleanor followed him down the steps. “Where are we?”
Frieda halted on the other side of the empty train station, staring out at an endless expanse of ocean. “Well, we aren’t in Chicago.” She stepped off the platform and into sand. The gold sequins and fringe of her costume shown in the bright sunlight and she reached down and slipped off her shoes. Holding them in one hand and securing the beaded headband that held her short blond bob in place, she scanned the area around her as the others joined her on the sand.
“Dis is baloney, dis is.” Ivan Moss, already in his clown costume and make up came up beside her, though he stood almost a foot shorter. “And lookie that.” He pointed to a lot full of… were those cars? Bright colors and most of them without lids.
Back toward the ocean, a large group of people were gathering near a little stage. “Let’s find out where we are.” Eleanor passed her, trotting off toward the group.
Frieda ignored another protective call from Hans and followed Eleanor. This place was strange. If nothing else, the costumes were… well, she thought her costume was a little on the racy side. It didn’t touch what the women around her were wearing, or rather not wearing. Little bitty… unmentionables? Is that what they wore?
A man bumped into her. “Whoa there, Chickie.” A very muscular, very shirtless man, and his britches were rather small as well.
She averted her eyes, but the man turned back to her gave her a strange look, his gaze traveling from her face to the hose rolled down past her knees and back again. She was used to men looking at her, but not with such open bewilderment.
He cocked his head to the side. “Hey, sweet cheeks, you look a little bummed out. You here with the band?”
She recognized the word band, but it didn’t register. “Uh . . .”
Eleanor stepped alongside her. “What did he say?”
Frieda had no idea, but the man pointed up at the stage. A group of men with shaggy, sun-bleached hair made their way onto it, some of them carrying various guitars. One sat behind a Jazz-er-up drum system, and all of them were barefooted and almost as unclothed as the rest of the people on the beach. Though they did have the sense to wear short jackets over their bare chests.
“Let’s get a groove on,” one of the men near her called up to the stage.
The men strummed their guitars and started singing. Not like the crooners she was used to, and even though they had harmonies, they weren’t at all like the barbershop that her old man had sung in. She hadn’t expected such loud drumming or the fast-paced, rollicking music. The men sang about things she didn’t understand, but she caught the words hamburger, library, and radio. What that all had to do with some bird that got taken away, she had no idea.
A woman next to her shouted at them. “I can dig it.”
In this sand, it wouldn’t be that hard, but Frieda had no intention of joining her in that effort.
The people around her started jumping around, bobbing, and jiggling. She caught Eleanor’s eye and they traded smiles. Nobody jiggled or shook as well as the two of them did in their fringed gowns. Grabbing her friend’s hand, she jumped up onto the stage and began matching the odd dance that the people around them were doing. Not like the Charleston in that it didn’t seem to have any regular steps, but she recognized the hip action. And she shook her fringe for all it was worth.
“That’s a gas,” the guitar player next to her called out.
“It’s a gas, gas, gas,” replied the other one.
Frieda didn’t have time to try to muddle through their need for petroleum. Hans and a few of the others had reached them on the stage. Her brother took her hand. “We’re already behind the eight-ball. We have to get back on the train.”
The moment of uninhibited freedom had passed. Frieda glanced back at the man who had bumped into her. He lifted two fingers spread out. She copied the symbol back in his direction.
Is that where they were, someplace called, Two?
* * *
The troubles with the Ever After mysteries continue! This time it’s Cathe Swanson’s Murder At The Empire. Here’s a little about the book:
Gayle Wells is a killer organist, but does a killer have her in his sights?
They call him the Emperor. John Starek fills his theater with fine artwork and treasures. He’s particularly pleased to have one of the country’s first female organists – and he thinks Gayle Wells is the bee’s knees.
Despite pressure from her social crusader mother, Gayle isn’t interested in changing the world. She just wants a car of her own – and a career playing the organ at the Empire movie palace would be especially ducky.
Then the Empire’s treasures start disappearing and employees start dying. Are a few pieces of art really enough motive for the string of murders? Will Gayle be next?
Murder at the Empire brings the Nightingale into an elegant movie palace in the roaring 20’s – but the real excitement is all off-screen.
You can get your copy here!
Lost in Time!
Can the before-show acts get to the Empire on time to perform? Follow along this week and find out which decade they are found. And play along for your chance to win a giveaway.
- Chautona Havig (October 5)
- April Hayman (October 6)
- Denise Lauren Barela (October 7)
- Marji Laine (October 8)
- Sandy Barela (October 9)
- Rebekah Jones (October 10)
- Liz Tolsma (October 11)
- Cathe Swanson (October 12)
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ENTER INTO THE GIVEAWAY
Where, or maybe the better question is… WHEN, did Freida and the others land? Enter for my giveaway