A follow up to Love Triangle by Alexa Lash – a writer, editor, and on-the-spot poet. Former Floridian and resident Bostonian, she has written for the Seminole Chronicle, Momslikeme, and the Central Florida Future, and is currently working in the Journalism Department of Emerson College.
We found the body, dressed in the newest line from Décolleté, spread on the runway, legs flaring away into an upside-down V. A purple wig—each model had her own color—fit snug on the vic’s head as if nailed down.
“Ms. Violet is dead!”
This, from a small man with a black boa tied around his shoulders. He looked glamorously sad, his sequins and his tears shone under the runway lamps.
I couldn’t quite make out his accent. I could hear a faint faux French, where he emphasized Ms. in an awkwardly stated meez. Meez Veeolette eez dead. Dead, dead, dead. I wanted to laugh right there, this sequined man next to a woman without shine, clashing like brown and black or horizontal stripes with polka dots (the little man being the dots).
I held my breath, then puckered my cheeks to keep the laughter from hahaing forward. This was serious business, both boa and body.
“You must be Mr. Décolleté. I’m Detective Harlow.”
We shook, and he frowned as if I were wearing a Mumu.
“Nice coat, Harlow.” He took a long breath inward and coughed. “Very—1920s of you.”
I shrugged and lifted my shoulders up until they appeared padded.
It’s not like his outfit was any better; he’d missed a button on his shiny shirt. And his shirt was shiny. Shiny.
Usually, the fashion world is not my scene: slim-fitted models, light bulbs the size of coconut bra shells, dresses cut with diamond backs, edges so sharp they look like knife-points. I heard it was a cutthroat business—cue eye-roll here—but I didn’t think they took it to heart, or Ms. Purple did, right above the heart (the killer just missed it).
I made an A-line to a mirror on the far side of the room. Someone had streaked the mirror with red lipstick, only slightly, like a shoe peeping out from the bottom of a dress. That little hint of color struck me as odd since Violet didn’t wear red anything. You even called her purple and she’d start ripping seams.
So this means I had my first suspects: Ms. Mauve and Ms. Red.
Divas, especially those who inhabit the fashion world, maintain a sort-of pact with the clothing gods. You eat little, you’ll be able to fit in me. You know. A frickin’ mantra. So when I went to question the models, I thought it’d be with difficulty comparable to unbuttoning shirt cuffs solo. But instead it was zipper-like and easy. No catches, no fastening stories to another. They had alibis, solid alibis.
Who was left? Well, there were the variegated collection of non-red models. Décolleté himself. Assistants. Obsessive fans. Ex-boyfriends. Ex-lovers. The list went on. I needed more clues, to find some semblance of a pattern. I’d settle for argyle at this point.
It didn’t take lengths to question the suspects, just a few weeks to get to all of them. I had it hemmed down to two people: Décolleté’s assistant, Bee Dazzle, and Ms. Violet’s lover, that handsome man they dubbed The Black Tuxedo—what he modeled for the big-time brands. His real name was Peter Peplum so I understood the need for a moniker.
They were the only two with alibis that seemed to stretch out like an elastic waistband. His story was all capris, no pants. And hers, well, you could see through her like a tulle skirt, dancing ballet around the truth.
I called Dazzle in first.
“Don’t touch the merchandise, honey.”
Officer Dux let Bee go, her dress leaving little flakes of glitter on his hands. I couldn’t help thinking it, but she was haute. And she knew it; boy, did she know it.
“Nice outfit, Dazzle.”
“Thanks. It’s a Décolleté original.” She wiped her hands down her column skirt and smiled. Her lipstick was red, lipstick-on-the-mirror red.
I gave her water, which she scarfed down. I asked her about her relationship to Violet, whose real name was Sarah Burberry, and about an argument they’d had in Violet’s dressing room before she was found.
“Look, Black and I, we’d been seeing each other before Violet got here. Just because she was purple, doesn’t mean she wasn’t green with jealousy. She thought Black and I were sneaking around behind her back.”
“And were you?”
“Where do you think I was when Violet was killed?”
Black agreed they’d been keeping it all a secret. It explained the flimsy alibis, and why it seemed their stories were made of more transparent fabrics. They were protecting one another.
The problem remained: who killed Violet?
I could sense something was off, so I retraced my steps as if walking back on a runway. Back to the beginning. The red lipstick, the kill wound—the kill wound. The killer had just missed her heart.
I asked Dazzle for her lipstick, and grabbed it carefully to test for prints.
I had to admit, he had that—something.
“Why’d you do it, Décolleté? Your prints were on Bee’s lipstick. The lipstick matched the shade on the mirror.”
The small designer held a black tie in his fists.
“What was the point of the lipstick?”
“She was a liar and a thieeeef. Before she knew me, she was just Sarah. And how does she repay me? She steals my ideas and gives them to my competitor, Diamanté. I was going to write ‘traitor,’ but I heard a noise and ran off before I could get anything down.” He pulled the tie harder. His face flushed a darker hue.
“You didn’t have to knock her off.”
He lunged, fashion forward.
If the bullet fits…
His boa feathers scattered as he fell. But he wasn’t dead. Dead, dead, dead. Seems he just missed death the way he just missed a button, or a heart.
The little man was feisty for having just been shot. He squirmed enough that his pants glimmered under the light, so I handcuffed him in the station’s latest model of cuff.
“Don’t worry. Handcuffs are totally in right now.”
He frowned and quieted, and stayed that way until the ambulance arrived.
Wanna read more captivating stories for geeks from Alexa’s series? Check out What is Luv: Another Love Poem in Internet Slang, Text Drive: An Inappropriate Poem in Textual Terms, Less than Three: A Love Poem in Internet Slang, Type M for Murder: A Mystery Short in Graphic Design Terms, Pub and Marriage: A Noir Short Story in Publishing Terms & Kern, Baby, Kern: A Relationship in Typographical Terms.