April 29, 1924: evening

When Cati arrived at her apartment, she dropped her purse on the settee in the front room and sat down heavily beside it. After a moment, she reached into the fabric bag and rustled around until she found her cigarettes and matches. She sat and smoked and stared absently at a stray piece of black lint on the cream-colored rug beneath her feet.

She was trying not to think.

She lit a second cigarette and picked up the receiver of the telephone on the side table. "Emma, love!" she said with whole-hearted false cheer. "Join me at the Cellar tonight!"

Cati finished her cigarette and reached into her purse again. This time her hand emerged with a flask, from which she took a healthy swig of gin. Grabbing her purse, she returned the silver container to its place as she hurried down the hall to her bedroom.

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a figure move across the kitchen door. "Hello, Magda," she called out to her housekeeper. "I'm only here a moment. I'll be going out with Emma shortly."

Cati took her pistol out from where she kept it in her lingerie drawer. She slipped it into her purse beside the slim cigarette case, the little book of matches, and the tarnished flask. There was a sealed tube in there, too, with an odd, mercurial fluid collected in the bottom.

Putting its existence out of her mind, she turned and headed out to catch a cab.

April 29, 1924

Cati searched on top of her vanity and then dug through her purse. She couldn't remember where she had put her favorite lipstick. She had been more distracted than usual in the last few days.

The night before, Cati had finally called Jacqueline Whitcombe. She gave Mags' sister her condolences, but apart from that, Cati hadn't known what else to say. Truth be told, Cati hadn't been very close to Mags, and she didn't much like Jacqueline either. She felt a certain amount of obligation to reach out to Mags' family, however, due to the fact that she'd somehow gotten involved in chasing after her companion and her killer.

She had also called, in part, to make herself feel better. It hadn't worked.

Cati finally found the little golden tube under a discarded pair of stockings on the corner of the vanity. She leaned over the vanity's surface to peer at herself in the mirror and smeared the color on her lips. Satisfied, she headed out to hail a cab to Henri's shop.

April 23, 1924: evening

When Cati arrived at Huey's shop, there were several other customers ahead of her. Cati waited, impatiently, until the others had been helped. Many of them were folks she recognized from the neighborhood, though no one she knew by name. She kept herself busy by mentally critiquing the older ladies' choices in fashion.

She looked at the clock hanging on the wall above the shop door. She wondered how the fellows were faring in their search for information. She thought, too, about poor Mags, who, while she had possessed an often quite irritating and self-focused demeanor, clearly did not deserve to meet her end at such a young age. It was probably best, Cati decided, if one did not get involved in matters of the occult.

Too late.

After what seemed to Cati to be an incredibly long time, she was finally able to get to the counter. "Hi there, Huey," she said. "Are my photos ready?"

April 23, 1924

After leaving Henri's shop, Cati hailed a cab and headed back to her apartment. She took her camera from its place in the chest of drawers in the foyer and went into the bedroom. Her dress was draped over the chair beside the vanity, its skirt in a puddle of fabric on the seat. Setting the camera on the vanity, she picked up the dress and held it up in the light coming through the window. There was a faint translucent stain that might have been saliva.

She took a moment to set the scene: pulling the curtains to create a dim atmosphere, turning on a small lamp and removing its lamp shade to create the bare bulb light of the dressing room the night before. She draped her dress over a pillow, hoping it would successfully replicate her own lap. Then she snapped a series of photos of her dress from different angles.

When she was done, she opened the curtains again and tossed the dress back over the chair. She went into her walk-in closet, where she had a small table set up, and shut the door. In the dark, she took out the negatives and placed them in a small, black bag. Leaving the closet, she put the bag into her purse.

Cati then went to the phone. "Margaret Whitcombe, please," she told the operator. After a moment, she said, "Hello, Mags darling, this is Cati Predoviciu. How are you, dear? Swell, that's grand. I was wondering if you could tell me which hospital Rama— um, the swami ended up at. Oh, really? Well, thanks, darling. Good-bye."

Cati walked down the street to drop her negatives off with a friend who often developed her photos for her. Then she hailed another cab.

the evening of April 22, 1924

Emma was already outside, standing around on the sidewalk. She jogged in her heels, cigarette in hand, right over to Cati as soon as she emerged from the Audubon. "Did you see those guys? They nearly knocked me down hauling Ramaswama out. Sped down the street and nearly killed that fella over there." With her cigarette in its long stem, she gestured over her shoulder to a man standing next to a motorcycle. He arms were open as he energetically explained something to a couple of passers-by. He pointed down the road in the direction that the ambulance went. "Magsy was in there, too." She shivered theatrically. "I'd hate to ever have to ride in an ambulance. They're all just hearses, y'know." She looked disgusted. Her face shifted to worry, then poutiness. Eyes downcast, sneer on her face – she might have even stamped the ground, and it wouldn't have been uncharacteristic for her, either – she said, "Cati, I'm so sorry the show was a flat. We shoulda stayed at the 150. Wanna see if there's any juice le-" The young cop from inside walked by, eyeballing the two women, half-lasciviously, half-paternally. "-ft at home?"

During the cab-ride from the Audubon to Cati's place, traffic began to slow down. Emma craned and shifted in her seat to see. "What's up, cabby?"

"I dunno, accident maybe. Yeh, I can see it now – Mother-Mary-shit! That's Tony Cordola's cab!"

"Someone you know?" asked Emma. "I'm sorry."

Their taxi was waved through by the police. It stalked by the accident – the cabby stretched his neck to see: The scene was illuminated by flashing red light and the strong, steady beam of police cars – the front of the other cab embraced a streetlamp, which was leaning like some old monument. Its doors hung open like mouth of a dead steel animal, and lolling out of the back seat like its flaccid tongue was the slight arm of a woman.

"Yeah. Tony. Ah, Tony," the cabby sighs, "I toldya. Lay off the booze. It's no way to work."

The cab slid by. Cati glanced inside the backseat. Her face was bloodied, and her body was limp, but Cati recognized the woman. Emma drew a sharp breath. "That's –" She cut herself off. It was the young woman who had accompanied the dressmaker Henri to Ramanuja's show. Cati looked away. Ramanuja was right – by accident, it seems, but he was right.

(text by dasolomon)

April 22, 1924

Telephone message
For: Emma
Date: April 22 Time: 1:32pm

M. Cati Predoviciu

Of: Manhattan

Message: Meet me at the 150 Club tonight. It’s my wedding anniversary, after all!

February 17, 1924

Darling Alice,

You will not believe the week I have had. (Then again, you know me so well — you probably will!) My doorbell did not stop ringing. I received flowers, telegrams, jewelry, even an ermine coat! My God, these men are relentless, and they are all convinced they love me. Poor saps. Especially my fly boy Edward, so far away in the Philippines. I imagine he must have had quite a time sending me a whole bouquet of flowers all the way on the other side of the world! He's absolutely stuck on me (though I hardly knew him — we spent one night at the juice joint before he shipped out!), and I don't know how to break it to him that I don't want a handcuff. In fact, I don't even want to be his girl!

And then there's Liam. They say you can prevent pregnancy by washing with Coca-Cola of all things! I wonder if it's true...

You have failed entirely to tell me about your new daddy. Considering that I have never known you to put aside your work for the sake of a man, he must be absolutely ducky. So do tell!