The Cabaret Geek

Dear Friends,

As you may have noticed, we have been making some changes to the website and my overall brand in an attempt to create some cohesion across all social media and online platforms – no mean feat, let me tell you. Nevertheless, after three weekends of mind-maps, spider-graphs and lots of big fat felt pens on A3 paper, I am proud to bring you Paulus – The Cabaret Geek!


(Photo credit: James Millar)

I hope that a visit to my YouTube channel www.youtube.com/PaulusTheCabaretGeek will show you how much beavering away has occurred within my wonderful team, in order to better showcase who I am and what I do. Essentially, Paulus is an entertainer and educator who has been passionate about cabaret to the level of geekdom ever since the age of fifteen – that’s 30 years.


(Photo credit: Steve Ullathorne)

So, with some of my original plans to celebrate 30 years in entertainment having to be shelved due to COVID19, I hope that this little re-brand goes some way to mark the occasion and stand me in good stead to entertain and educate for another 30 years!

Paulus, The Cabaret Geek

 

The Blue Angel

Dear Reader, I am sorry to not be able to bring you Chapter 9 of ‘The Blue Angel’ as planned this week. In truth, I am over-stretched with the amount of online content I am currently creating and to continue with the story in this way would be to jeopardise its quality. I hope that we can revisit the antics of Clara Pin & Quentin Treadwell together one day, but it may be a while I’m afraid. Thank you for reading my story, and please do visit my YouTube channel where I will be focusing my attention in the coming months & weeks. Paulus

The Blue Angel, Chapter 8

Clara followed Quentin and Betty down the corridor towards the double doors leading to the auditorium, where the rest of the company were waiting. She hung back from the pair, lost in her own thoughts over what Betty had just revealed. Clara could not remember any kind of trap door in the stage when they had been rehearsing, but then she had been rather more preoccupied by having been flung into her first ever – and hopefully last ever – fan-dance rehearsal, with time very much a factor. Was it possible that one of the girls could have dropped through the floor unnoticed by her? And even if they had managed this astonishing sleight of hand, they would have to be replaced by another body instantaneously. Then again, sleight of hand was all part of the cabaret’s allure, wasn’t it? What would be the point of a trap door that was glaringly obvious? Could someone have really employed a cheap vaudevillian trick in order to – to do what exactly? As the double doors swung open, Clara watched Betty and Quentin join their people. What on earth had Aunt Terri got her in to? If Clara thought coming to London was going to solve all her problems, the events of the past few hours had left her in some doubt as to whether she might not have been better off facing the music back home in Meltcham. She turned her attention now to the assembled group before her, feeling very much apart from them. Draped across a corner banquette upholstered in that undefinable blue, the four remaining chorus girls seemed to present a tableau of the stages of grief. Lola, her gum-chewing gone into overdrive, was clearly embodying Anger. Clara watched as the girl performed a pantomime of outraged arm movements; insisting on justice here, incredulous as to the lack of accountability there. Fifi, propped up beside her, had turned from the sobbing, inconsolable creature that Clara had last encountered in the hallway, and slipped into Depression with a similar swiftness of reaction. Her slumped demeanour accentuated quite how thin the young woman was; her clavicle prominent, her shoulder blades acute as a maths problem. She sat with her head slung low between them picking the cherry red nail polish from her battered fingernails. Next to her was the girl who had been hanging around Quentin during rehearsal. Had she fetched him a drink at some point? Sukki, Quentin had called her. She seemed to be intent on Bargaining at present; comparatively bright, mentally scrambling to find some kind of sense or reason to all that had happened. And then there was Ginger. Clara could remember her name easily enough because, perversely, she was not the red-head of the group. What was Ginger displaying? One might call it Denial, Clara supposed. But it might just as easily be mistaken for indifference. Touching up her make-up in a small, gold compact with a face any poker play would long to have in their arsenal, Ginger’s demeanour seemed to be more that of a passenger experiencing a slight train delay. A nuisance yes, and probably some disruption to the rest of her day incurred, but nothing that couldn’t be handled with a slight rejigging of appointments. Business-like, Clara thought. Ginger’s form of Denial was most business-like, if indeed Denial it was. And this was, after all, a place of business, wasn’t it? Perhaps there was no love lost between Ginger and the deceased? When she had arrived, Betty had told Clara they were a family. Clara was beginning to wonder quite how much that rang true. Anger, Depression, Bargaining, Denial. What was missing?
“Looking for a motive?” Betty was suddenly beside her.
Acceptance, thought Clara, almost instantaneously.
“Just…looking,” came Clara’s feeble reply. She was relieved at least to see Betty was no longer grinning. Now that they were alone the grinning was gone and in its place a stony defiance had appeared on the beautiful, painted doll-like face.
“Do you suspect foul play?” Betty asked abruptly.
Clara hesitated, before replying “I was thinking back to something you said to me this afternoon.”
“Me?”
“Yes. When I arrived you told me ‘You’re home now. We’re family’. Is that what this place is to the girls?”
Betty took a long look at the outsider, as if seeing her for the first time, before saying “What is a family? A group of people thrown together, often against their own will. Who try to make the best of their circumstances, sometimes raising one another up, but often letting each other down. My own biological family consists almost entirely of liars, cheats and dead-beats, and you can write that down in your notebook and quote me.” Clara felt the gloves had now been well and truly taken off, when it came to Betty’s opinion of her.
“I told you something else when you arrived too,” added the blonde. “I’m surprised you don’t remember.”
But Clara did.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” she almost whispered.
“We are a bright spark!” said Betty, folding her arms. “And that might make your job here a teensy bit difficult.”
“Job? I don’t know what you mean,” blinked Clara.
“Don’t you? Well, dear Clara Pin, if you are looking for motives and suspect foul play, then it’s clear to me even if it is not to you, that you’ve taken it upon yourself to solve this mystery.”
And with that, Betty turned on her heels and walked back towards a table near at back of the auditorium where Quentin Treadwell and Willie Tell had already gravitated.
Is that what Clara was doing? Scanning this room and its inhabitants for a motive for…for…she did not want to say the word she was thinking. Inspector Peebley was clear that cause of death would be pronounced in a day or two after a post-mortem were conducted. This one was of the few things the man had been clear about. And yet, it certainly was a mystery, that was a word Clara could get behind right away. A young woman found dead in an otherwise empty room with no obvious signs of being attacked, and each of the other people – her eyes scanned past the four dancers to the three musicians together at a table in the second row, and on to the final three more senior staff members at the back. Ten. And she made eleven, yes. Each of the eleven people in the locked building at the time each other’s alibis for the thirty minutes unaccounted for between the young woman last being seen alive and the discovery of her body. That was a mystery, certainly.
Yes, she was happy with mystery as a word, now.
“Someone in this room is a murderer!”
Clara turned to see Quentin Treadwell floating towards her through the empty tiers of tables, chairs and banquettes, fanning his robe out behind him like a train and relishing the audible reaction to his statement from the rest of the company. He reached the floor and, turning, stood close to Clara.
“Now come on, darlings, we are all thinking it. And in my role as Master of Ceremonies, it is often the job to point out elephants in rooms. Why not rip off the band aid, as our friends in America would have it?”
“Who said anything about murder?” Ginger cried out indignantly, as if she had a sudden portent of further train delays disrupting her day.
“Exactly. Maybe it was an accident,” said Troy
“That would suit you very well, wouldn’t it?” Lola called backed to the drummer.
“What do you mean by that!”
“Everybody knows you had a thing with Ruthie!”
“Who didn’t have a thing with Ruthie?” Betty’s tinkle this time, was slightly discordant.
Sandy, who had been quietly polishing the lens of a serious and expensive looking camera, set it down gently and stood up, clearing his throat.
“Perhaps we might also consider the possibility of suicide. Ruthie was very highly strung. ”
“Being highly strung should be reserved for perverts who photograph women without their knowledge – highly strung up!” Lola was standing now too.
The sandy-haired pianist pinched the bridge of his nose with thumb and forefinger and took a long, deep breath, “We have been over this time and time again…”
“Did you think time would erase what you’ve done?” Sukki this time, up on her feet.
“I haven’t done anything,”. Sandy again, steadying his voice. Keeping level.
“Happy now, Clara?” Betty called from the back of the room, “There’s two motives for your collection, right there!”
Lola crossed her arms, “Collection?”
“Oh yes,” tinkled Betty, warming to her subject matter, “Didn’t you know? Our Clara Pin here has taken it upon herself to play detective.”
“Her?”
“We don’t even know her!”
“If we should be suspicious of anyone it’s her.”
All the girls were up out of their seats now, even Fifi had been roused by this new revelation. Troy was still vaguely attempting to defend himself from arrows of accusation, as Willie limply appealed for calm. To one side of him, Betty’s eyes sparkled at the mischief and mayhem she had created.
Just then, Fingers slowly lifted the trumpet that had been lain in his lap throughout, and put it to his lips, blasting the group with one defeaning note that had them holding their ears and taking their seats again. His work done, he gave a curt nod to Quentin Treadwell, who gladly took the baton.
“Thank you Fingers,” began the Emcee, “This young woman is a stranger to you all, yes,” he put his arm around Clara’s shoulder in a gesture of defiance, “But she comes with the highest of recommendations from someone known to both myself and William, not to mention Leonora Lewis herself. She is the niece of my old stage partner and I have every faith in her. As an outsider, perhaps she’s exactly the one amongst us to play Judge Judy and Executioner.”
Having tipped his head, an awkward silence followed where Clara assumed Quentin was used to some kind of ovation under normal circumstances. And whilst the assembled group grappled with yet another of his more confusing remarks, Clara – still held tightly in the older man’s arm – took the opportunity to speak up.
“Thank you, er, Quentin. It’s true that I am a stranger here. It’s true that you have very little reason to trust me. We don’t know whether your colleague Ruthie was…murdered, yet. She may have taken her own life, for reasons we cannot fathom. It may be that we are all innocent bystanders of a terribly accident. But one thing is certain, and that is that we have a mystery to solve and I would like to provide my assistance in solving it. From what we’ve seen of Inspector Peebley and his men, I do not think we can wait around and expect them to help save your jobs or the reputation of this club. And if names shall need to be cleared, a little further down the line, I’d like to have the data at hand to clear mine. Wouldn’t you?”
Sensing a general warming of her previously cool audience, Clara ploughed on. “The last thirty minutes of Ruthie’s life are currently unaccounted for, and each one of us was in this room rehearsing…”
“Is that what you call what you were doing?” Lola piped up once more, a wry smile this time by her constantly grinding jaw, “I’ll give you an alibi to any court in the land!”
Clara smiled, in spite of herself, “I suppose I was rather a spectacle.”
“Spectacle?!” Troy joined in, “it’s lucky my drum kit is insured.”
“And your hands,” added Fingers.
People were laughing. Gently, warmly. A couple of heads were nodding. Where was all the anger and the outrage of moments ago, Clara wondered. These theatre folk were a strange lot indeed – flying from one emotion to the other without any warning. Life in Meltcham was not like this. People were steady. Emotions not welcome. Except for Aunt Terri. These truly were Terri’s people. But were they Clara’s also? She realised she rather liked the warm sensation creeping up from her tummy to her chest, and the feeling of Quentin Treadwell hugging her closer with one arm. She wondered if this was their idea of family, here at The Blue Angel.
She wondered, too, which of the family was a murderer.


Dear Reader, I hope you enjoy my story ‘The Blue Angel’ as it unfolds week-to-week. Like my daily vlog & fortnightly podcast, it is free at the point of consumption, but I welcome one-off donations (or ‘tips’) to www.paypal.me/paullmartinpay or you might consider becoming one of my Patrons with a monthly pledge from as little as $1 via www.patreon.com/PaulusFabulus. Thanks for reading. Paulus.

The Blue Angel, Chapter 7

Inspector Peebley had no chin. Or, to be more precise, Clara could see no differentiation between the man’s neck and head. He had been talking – droning, really – for some time now, and it was all Clara could do not to yawn in his face. “We shall have to wait for the post-mortem, of course, before a cause of death can be confirmed. Shouldn’t be more than a couple of days.”
“But you must have some idea, Inspector? An early hunch?” Clara cajoled.
“I’m not in the business of speculating,” sniffed the man. Clara’s brow knitted, surely that was exactly the business he was in? The Inspector resumed his droning and Clara drifted off once more. All in all, he was little more than an oblong with arms, she concluded. As if someone had dressed up a runner bean in a police officers uniform and sent him out into the world to protect the public. His lack of physical stature might not be quite so discouraging had a vibrant personality shone through. “The body may have been removed, but this is still a crime scene, little lady.” Peebley sniffed. Clara’s eye twitched. Still stood in the backstage environs of the club, Clara had been in the company of the man for a fair while now, and patronising was, finally, the one personality trait she had managed to glean from him. Well, he may be offensive but at least he’ll be efficient, she thought, “You’ll want to interview everyone as soon as possible, I assume? I told them nobody should leave the auditorium,” she said.
“All in good time,” sniffed the man, “This is not an Agatha Christie novel, you know. My boys have taken down everyone’s particulars.” He briskly pulled down his buttoned up jacket and prepared to leave.
“So, what’s next?” Clara persisted.
“Forensics next. Photographer. Fingerprints. That type of affair” Was the man being charged by the word? Like a money-saving telegram, perhaps? Just as Clara was deciding whether to shake some life into him, or simply tug on his tiny, black moustache in order to elicit some kind of emotion, she heard Quentin Treadwell approaching down the echoing corridor. Quite how he managed to make such a theatrical entrance in an empty, soulless line of breeze blocks was both impressive and baffling. Treadwell advanced on his prey like a satin-clad panther and draped himself over the door jamb, “Still with us dear Inspector? Whatever have I done to deserve such attention from our boys in blue?” he purred. Clara had never seen a person without a chin retract said chin with fright before. It was a curious, fleeting moment that she wished she could watch on replay to better observe the ticks of the man’s face and the tightening of his orifices as the shock of Treadwell’s voice – less a purr, really, than a bunch of rusty nails rolling around inside a bucket – penetrated through him. The inspector sniffed again, “Right, I’ll be off then. Don’t,” he mustered one final declaration of pomp in the face of his predator, “Enter this room until forensics are done.” Clara watched with barely concealed glee as Peebley performed an unbidden pas de deux with Quentin, the latter refusing to move from the doorway as the former affixed ‘scene of crime’ tape across the threshold. “You must come to the cabaret Inspector, once we reopen,” Quentin persisted, warming to his theme now, “As my guest, of course. Front row seats – that’s the splash zone!” he winked “Perhaps you’ll bring Mrs. Weebley?” And as the Inspector was opening his mouth to reply, Quentin grabbed him by the shoulders and frogmarched him back up the corridor towards the auditorium. “So wonderful to meet you. Thank you for all you and your colleagues do. Don’t be a stranger now.” The doors swung behind the inspector, “Odious little man,” declared Quentin in a voice no less booming as he turned back to Clara. “I suppose odious does count as a personality trait, does it? I was beginning to think he was devoid of them.” She smiled wryly at her partner. Were they partners? She thought it best to be direct,
“So, am I vouched for?” she asked.
“You are in the clear. My dearest Terri, – what a joy it was to speak to her again after all these years – she confirmed your story one hundred percent, although I’m sure I still don’t understand why she sent you here with orders to speak to William, they were never as close as she and I. Not by a country mile!”
“How is he?”
“Willie? Not good. I think the word I would use is catatonic. When I went into the office to telephone Terri, he was just sat slumped. Staring ahead with a pile of paperwork slowly sliding from his hands onto the floor.”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
“No, indeed. He kept talking about her skin. Ruthie’s, I mean. Remarked on how unchanged it was.”
“Yes, I thought something similar,” admitted Clara.
“He said ‘Still so life-like. Creamy and smooth,’” Quentin shuddered at the thought.
“You called her Ruthie,” smiled Clara.
“Well, of course I did, my dear. You don’t think this old fool is as foolish as he makes out, do you? She was one of our own,” his voice dropped to a whisper, as he bowed his head “One of my girls,” and then, just as suddenly, he snapped back into action “If your aunt thought William was the more reliable of the two of us, I’d hate to think what she’d make of him today.”
Clara was beginning to realise that, behind the bravado, Quentin Treadwell may well be really quite offended that her aunt had sent her here in search of someone other than her erstwhile partner. “Perhaps she didn’t want to bother you?” said Clara as gently as she could.
Treadwell shook off the mood like a dog shaking off water, “Bother me?! Terri is family, and therefore, Clara Pin, you are family also.”
“So we are in business?” Clara brightened.
“We are!” Quentin put out his hand and Clara shook it.
“Right, now tell me – this dressing room. What do you see?”
Quentin sighed his most theatrical of sighs “Oh, we’ve been through all this before the Inspector arrived. I don’t know what you mean darling!”
“You have worked here for thirty years, yes?”
“So what? So has William.”
“But Willie doesn’t spend the same amount of time in here as you. You have to walk through this dressing room to get to your own. After all that time, there is no-one better placed to tell me what is out of the ordinary here?” Clara wheeled the man around so his chest was pressed against the big cross of tape Peebley had left in his wake. She waited. Clara tried to follow her partner’s gaze as he scanned the dressing room. Ruthie’s coat was still lying on the floor near to where her recently removed body had lain, the first aid kit and its detritus still spilling from work surface to carpeted floor. Clara saw stains on the threadbare, municipal grey carpeting. The bags, coats and costumes of all the girls were flung around. The one long work surface was teeming with glasses, wet wipes, towels and the make-up bags and their contents of at least six people. Headdresses, wigs and props lined a high shelf the length of one wall, the sporadic blank faces of bald, unseeing wig blocks peered out, punctuating the whole. If they had eyes they would have seen something. Something happened in this room.
“This is impossible, darling! I simply don’t know what I’m looking for.”
“But there has to be something not quite right.” Clara persisted.
“Other than the bin having been emptied, it’s the same utter chaos as always, my dear.
“What about the bags and coats? Do they all belong to the girls?”
“No,” said a voice behind them.
Clara swung around to find Betty standing in the hallway. Was this the first time she hadn’t tinkled as she entered a room?
“These things don’t all belong to the girls?” Clara clarified.
“Of course not,” Betty smiled a beatific smile, “Some of them, at least, belong to the Spesh Acts.”
Clara blinked “Ah yes, of course. The Spesh Acts.” Clara was beginning to wonder how much longer she could go on pretending she knew what the blazes a ‘Spesh Act’ was, and why on earth she didn’t she ask. There was something about Betty, something that intimidated her. For all her smiling and tinkling, Clara felt the persona didn’t ring quite true.
“Of course, none of them were here at the time of the – incident,” said Betty discreetly.
“Are we certain on that?” Clara asked
“Absolutely. The boys were gone to their other gigs, or to eat before their appearance here. I saw them off just before rehearsal began. Each and every one of them. The floor staff were out on break, also.”
Quentin interjected, “Since we stopped serving food, the barmen and waiting staff tend to abandon ship for their final chance of sustenance and fresh air before submerging themselves underground again until the wee small hours.”
Clara could not argue with that logic. “Are we certain then,” she persisted, “That other than Ruthie herself, everybody left in the building was involved in the rehearsal?”
“Well, I wouldn’t exactly say I was involved darling, but I was there, wasn’t I?” Quentin rolled his eyes, dramatically.
Betty, flexing her fingers and arching her back in the most lady-like way imaginable spoke clearly and concisely. “All my other girls were on the stage with you,” she indicated Clara, “And the band. Quentin was by the double doors. I was on the floor in front of you all. Willie was in the sound booth.” She finished, staring Clara directly in the eye and smiling a mannequin-like smile. Clara blinked, but did not look away. “And that’s everyone.”
“That’s everyone.” Betty’s smile widened.
Quentin, thundering through the tense atmosphere like a camp knife at a fancy dress party, added, “If William is otherwise engaged the doors would be locked until it’s time for the floor staff to return from their break.”
“And on that occasion, I locked them.” Betty stood firm.
Clara swallowed. “And none of the floor staff can get into the building until break is over?”
“Not unless somebody lets them in,” confirmed Quentin.
“And we were all busy rehearsing.” Betty’s smile seemed to be taking over her face, very much like the Cheshire Cat. Clara wondered, not for the first time, if perhaps she really had fallen through a looking-glass earlier that day. Why was the woman still smiling at her? Why could Clara not look away. Never one to allow dead air for long, Quentin broke the silence once more, “Any chance we could get out of this godforsaken hallway, darlings? I’ve experienced more ambience at one of Lionel’s dinner parties…”
“Just one last thing that you two could help me fathom out for now,” smiled Clara, refusing to move her gaze from the blonde woman smiling back at her.
“Anything to help!” tinkled Betty.
“Yes, anything to help,” huffed Quentin, “But enough with the bloody grinning.” He slapped the hands of the two women with each of his own, “Honestly, I’m having flashbacks to being on the Generation Game!”
“Were you on the Generation Game?” shimmered Betty.
“I was! At it’s peak, of course. Had to bob for apples wearing a rubber mask of Richard Nixon.”
Clara coughed.
“Sorry. You were saying?”
“I was wondering the possible ways of getting from the auditorium where we were all rehearsing, to this room?”
“Well that’s simple, darling! There’s three.”
“And they are?”
“You can come through the double doors from the auditorium and walk up this corridor.”
“As I just have,” added Betty.
“Or you can come through the rat run behind the stages back curtain…” continued Quentin.
“Like the band explained,” nodded Clara.
“Or,” Quentin ploughed on, miffed that his soliloquy was being interrupted, “you leave from the back of the auditorium and come down the side corridor that links to this one.”
“Side corridor?”
“It’s how you get here from the foyer, darling. We haven’t got a stage door – and not all the acts are here before the doors open. Can’t have them running through the auditorium half-naked in front of the punters now, can we?”
‘“That’s three,” Clara agreed.
“But the trap door makes four,” tinkled Betty.
“Trap door?” Clara repeated.
“Of course! The one in the stage, silly.” smiled the blonde.


Dear Reader, I hope you enjoy my story ‘The Blue Angel’ as it unfolds week-to-week. Like my daily vlog & fortnightly podcast, it is free at the point of consumption, but I welcome one-off donations (or ‘tips’) to www.paypal.me/paullmartinpay or you might consider becoming one of my Patrons with a monthly pledge from as little as $1 via www.patreon.com/PaulusFabulus. Thanks for reading. Paulus.

The Blue Angel, Chapter 6

Clara stood in the doorway of the main dressing room, staring down at the girl lying on the centre of the floor. A sea of voices, as if underwater, floated around her vying for attention, and yet she did not have space for anything but the girl.
“Poor Ruthie. Still so young.”
“We need to contact her family.”
“Does anybody know her real name?”
Clara had never seen a dead body before. Certainly, the merciful shooting of a lame horse on their small holding might have featured in the periphery of her childhood, but this? This was human. This was a life. Snuffed out. A vital, young life capable of so many things, such a short time ago. Ruthie was dressed now for the outside world, with all but her coat on. Her splayed limbs looked perfect, save for one hand which she seemed to have attempted to bandage. An old tin box painted white with a red cross on it lay open on the work bench above her, its contents spilled onto the floor. Surrounded by bandage, gauze, pills (was that usual?) and tiny scissors, she looked for all the world like the game of Operation that Clara would play at Christmas-time back home in Meltcham. Ruthie’s head was turned in a manner that might be thought coquettish, but on second glance was too severe. The angle too acute. She seemed as though she was playing dead, like her brother Freddie had done as a child, dramatically draping himself at the foot of the stairs for Clara to find him. Limbs limp, tongue lolling, eyes sparkling mischievously, giving away the great game that it all was, always was with Freddie. Clara looked now at Ruthie’s eyes. No sparkle. No light. She bowed her head silently for a moment amidst the din of pointless platitudes and directionless questions. And then, as if surfacing from a deep dive, she emerged with clarity into the reality of their situation, snapping her head up with grave determination.
“I suppose somebody has, in fact, checked her pulse?” Clara asked abruptly.
The others stared at her, dumbfounded. Quentin, Betty and Willie filled the small doorway with her now, and the chorus girls and boys from the band in the corridor, in various states of shock.
“Look at her. She looks – perfect. There’s no strangulation marks around her neck. No gun-shot wound. There’s no blood, she’s not cut,”
“Oh, what a horrible thought!” Betty whimpered.
“She’s got a pretty badly mangled hand, that’s on display for all to see, Toots” chewed Lola, leant up against the corridor wall, comforting Fifi.
The loose jaws of the congregation squared off; their surprised eyes narrowed in Clara’s direction. The newcomer. The stranger.
“Not entirely perfect, then, my dear.” offered Quentin Treadwell, in what was the least declamatory speech he’d given since Clara’s arrival. Her eye twitched an imperceptible little twitch.
“No, indeed. And yet, one does not die from a couple of broken fingers. That,” Clara breathed slow and steady “is plain, common sense.”
“I told her to go and get her hand seen to,” sniffed an inconsolable Betty, “Then I just carried on rehearsing and forgot all about her.”
“And we saw her in the wings, still in her rehearsal gear.” added Treadwell
“We did,” agreed Clara, “I watched her run off down the corridor that leads directly to this dressing room, presumably to get changed and leave for the doctors.”
“So you were the last people to see her alive?” Confirmed Betty.
Treadwell and Clara glanced at one another, then back to the others in case anyone had anything further to offer. They did not.
“Lola,” Clara calmly persisted with her line of enquiry, “Were you and Fifi the first on the scene?”
“First on the scene, now I like that!” Treadwell was warming to the possibilities this new drama might hold
“Quentin, please.” Clara snapped.
“I do apologise.” He countered.
Lola stepped towards Clara, leaving Fifi to hug the bare breeze block wall of the corridor, “Yeah, we seen her first. Just like you saw her last.”
But Clara would not be intimidated, “And did either of you actually enter the dressing room?”
“Nah. I left Fi here and came to get Betty. An’ you” Lola’s face darkened.
Troy spoke up then “When me an’ the boys came out of the rat run, Fi was here in the hall alone, sobbing her heart out.”
“Rat run?” Clara enquired.
“It’s the space behind the stage’s back curtain and the real back wall that links these corridors.”
“It can be a tight squeeze” wheezed Willie, whose bosom was in far too close proximity to Clara’s face, for the latter’s liking. Not only was this place a potential death-trap, it was also a maze of doors, corridors and confusion.
“We’re getting ahead of ourselves,” Clara tried again to focus the assembled group, “If no-one has entered the dressing room since Ruthie has been discovered here, can we agree that she has not, in fact, been declared dead?”
“Well, do you think she’s taking a nap, dear girl?” snapped Treadwell
“Really Clara, this is all so gruesome. And you’re so insistent on confirming death?” said Betty.
“Yes. Yes, I am. If it’s that or standing in a doorway crying, then yes, I would like to at least confirm that we have a dead body on our hands. Give me strength! Willie?”
“Oh, I – well, I can’t bend down quite as easily as I once could,” Willie creaked, coughed and mopped their profusely sweating brow.
“Mr. Treadwell?” Tried an increasingly frustrated Clara.
“Well, I’m flattered, of course my girl. And thank you, so much, for thinking of me. But whilst I was down to the last two for Doctor Findlay’s Casebook, I must confess that when it comes to, well, I don’t know exactly what I should be looking for…”
Clara stared at the bumbling, pathetic man in front of her, a look of incredulity spread wide across her face. “Is anybody here going to take charge of the situation?”
A voice from further along the corridor spoke then, low and clear, “I’ll do it. Out of my way.”
And very slowly, Fingers pushed past his still, erect band leader, past his nephew Troy and the listless clump of girls draped across the walls of the empty corridor, until he reached the doorway and gently shouldered Betty aside. He poked a long bony finger into Willie’s stomach and Clara watched as it disappeared for a moment into the doughy, tweed-clad flesh. She thought for a flash of the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, checking the children were fat and juicy enough yet to cook.
“Can’t bend down as easily!’ Fingers repeated, shaking his old head as he pushed past the fleshy mounds of tweed and proceeded to kneel effortlessly in front of the body on the dressing room floor. He glanced back towards Willie once more “You need to find yourself yoga. And a salad.” before turning his full attention to the girl, and gently placing two expert fingers on her long, thin neck, as is she were one of his many musical instruments that he might still magic some music from.
They waited.
“She dead.” declared the man, as he stood up and pushed past the group once more, mumbling “Can’t bend down no more.” and shaking his head forlornly, as he wandered down the corridor.
“Where you going, Pops?” Troy called after his grandfather.
“I need a drink.” the low, clear voice replied, without looking back, as he headed towards the double doors.
Animated at last by this suggestion, Sandy spoke up, “Perhaps we should take the girls back to the auditorium whilst you decide on the best course of action?” And without waiting for agreement, he scooped up Troy, Lola, Fifi, Ginger & Sukki and they all followed the nonagenarian towards Front of House.
“William”, Clara spoke gently to the chided caretaker, “Perhaps you might be able to find some paperwork on Ruthie?”
“Yes, of course.”
“And telephone the authorities”
“The authorities, yes.” Willie moved away slowly, like a wounded horse, all swagger and bluster vanished for now.
“Betty?” Clara faced the blonde girl square on, proffering a handkerchief from her pocket. Betty took it, and sniffed one last time.
“Yes. Thank you.”
“What’s to be done?” coaxed Clara
“Well,” Betty began, “I suppose I should go liaise with box office about refunds.”
At this Quentin Treadwell snapped wide awake “Refunds? What on earth are you talking about? Old Ma Lewis is on her way!”
“Quentin, stop.” Betty tried to calm Treadwell’s hands, which were beginning to fly about animatedly.
“This is just a blip. A blip, that’s all! Open the first show a little later, smaller gap between that and the late show. Joe Public’s none the wiser!”
“A girl is dead.” Betty said firmly. Treadwell’s hands stopped fluttering. He nodded a small nod, his chin to his chest. Betty silently made her way towards the double doors and Front of House with the others.
“Don’t let anybody leave.” Clara called after her. Betty stopped for a moment and then silently resumed her graceful exit without turning around.
“Right,” sighed Clara, turning her attention to the lifeless girl and the dressing room once more. “Quentin, I need you to think. You’ve been here for thirty years, yes? Longer than anybody else, I presume?”
“And where has it got me? They’re bound to get rid of me now. Probably tear the place down and turn it into a T J Fax. I can see it now; shoes and separates where the bar once stood. This is just the excuse Old Ma Lewis has been looking for. And you.” the man turned on Clara now, his eyes sparkling blue under a furrowed brow “What are you doing here, really, Clara Pin? If, in fact that is your real name…”
“Well of course it’s my real name,” sighed an exasperated Clara, “Why on earth would anybody change their name to something so frightfully dull, Quentin Treadwell?”
Treadwell eyed Clara cautiously. The girl met his gaze and did not falter.
“It is frightfully commonplace…” he offered. “But you must admit that it doesn’t look good. A complete stranger appears in our midsts and then this happens. Where were you exactly, when this girl lay here dying?”
Clara’s eyes widened. She took a breath “I was standing on a stage in full view of the lot of you, making a complete hash out of a fan dance routine, if you remember. I’m most likely the only person that everybody had their eye on the entire time.”
“You did make quite a spectacle of yourself,” Treadwell relented, unknitting his brow a little.
“An occurrence I would not wish to repeat, but it may – as it turns out – be my saving grace. They all think I hurt this girl. Killed her.”
“And you really are Terri’s niece?”
“Look, we’ll put a call into her just as soon as possible, but first I need you to look at this room. You do understand that this is a crime scene?”
“ I do!” Treadwell clapped a little clap “Isn’t it thrilling?!”
Clara gave the man a hard stare, chastising the man,
“But quite, quite tragic, of course, for dear Poopsie.” He reflected
“Ruthie.”
“Ruthie.”
“We’re going to have to work together.” Clara continued.
“A double act! Just like your Aunt Terri and I!”
“Quentin, this is serious.”
“You’re dead right, it’s serious. I’ve not shared billing with somebody else for decades..”
“We’re going to need to save my reputation. Not to mention the family name!” continued Clara
“My name will go first naturally, – ‘Treadwell & Pin’. Are you absolutely married to that?”
She grabbed the man by the hands which had taken flight once more, “We are going to save your career.”
Quentin Treadwell’s old eyes settled genuinely, for the first time since meeting him, Clara felt, on her own. He squeezed her hands back warmly, saying
“We’re going to save The Blue Angel.”


Dear Reader, I hope you enjoy my story ‘The Blue Angel’ as it unfolds week-to-week. Like my daily vlog & fortnightly podcast, it is free at the point of consumption, but I welcome one-off donations (or ‘tips’) to www.paypal.me/paullmartinpay or you might consider becoming one of my Patrons with a monthly pledge from as little as $1 via www.patreon.com/PaulusFabulus. Thanks for reading. Paulus.

The Blue Angel, Chapter 5

Clara was sweating. This was most definitely sweat. Rivulets of moisture cascaded down her arms and back, aided by the ludicrously inappropriate travelling clothes she was still wearing. Growing up, her mother had always told her that ladies did not sweat, they perspired. No, that was wrong; horses sweat, gentlemen perspired, ladies glowed. That was it. Clara was glad her mother were not here to see she had transformed into a five foot horse. Ladies from Meltcham and the surrounding areas ideally should emit as few bodily fluids as humanly possible, especially in public. Clara had grown up trying her best to take up as little space on the planet as she could, and yet here she was flinging her arms wide, creating arcs of perspiration – no, sweat – that flew into the air out and away from her like so many colourless rainbows. At the very least, all this unexpected physical exertion was sobering her up. After the third time of running the dance routine, Clara began to realise it was she that was holding back the assembled cast. On the stage, spread out evenly as per Betty’s instructions, and all suitably attired in work-out gear, some with parts of their costume already employed, the throng of dancing girls she had encountered in the pokey little dressing room didn’t seem all that numerous after all. From her vantage point at the very back of the stage, almost entirely obscured by the feather fans of the other girls, she counted five dancers including herself. Not that Clara was any kind of dancer. Nevertheless, people were being generally polite, for now. Various interjections ranging from ‘You’ll get the hang of it.’ to ‘Who’s the dud with no left feet?’ had punctured the last, what was it, half an hour. More? The three-piece band included Troy of the ghostly trumpet strains – who was in fact the current drummer – and his grandfather Fingers, who must have been the oldest working musician in England and who never missed a beat – unlike Clara –, in spite of his playing an impressive array of wind instruments and being ninety if he was a day. At the baby grand was the band leader, a very slim, very tall and very calm man in his forties, Clara would guess, with sandy blonde hair which he was continually flicking out of his eyes, when he wasn’t pushing his small, round tortoiseshell glasses back up the bridge of his nose. The trio of musicians were boosted by something Betty referred to as ‘the track’, which offered recorded support from the sound desk. Operated by Willie, encased within a tiny little cupboard with a perspex window, the sound desk and its operator were situated the furthest point from Clara whilst still being in the auditorium, and looked out across the tiered tables and chairs, now clear of glasses, ashtrays and the general detritus of last night’s shows. If Clara could barely see Willie crammed within the sound booth like an over-stuffed armchair, Willie – replete with headphones – could most definitely see and hear everything going on on-stage, she was assured by a red-head in front of her who answered to the name of Lola.
Lola, Betty – who it turned out was ‘Betsy’ to her fans –, the erstwhile Kittie. Clara was beginning to realise why she might want to divorce herself from the name ‘Clara Pin’.
“Pardon me. Where are all the gentlemen?” She ventured to her new neighbour, convinced that male body parts had formed part of the dressing room throng earlier.
“The boys are the spesh acts. They don’t do the group numbers. Some of them won’t even be back by the time the show starts,” informed a gum-chewing Lola, whilst displaying an impressive set of back molars for the duration of her speech.
“Why ever not?” Clara felt sure this was a rather laissez faire attitude, in spite of her total lack of knowledge of the world of theatre in general and nightclub entertainment in particular. Lola treated her to a three-hundred and sixty degree tour of her mouth before slowly answering,
“‘Cos they’re performing in two or three other joints tonight, Toots. They’re where the money’s at.”
As well as Lola the redhead, she was flanked by a Fifi and a Ginger. Surely these were the sort of names one gave one’s pets? Didn’t Cook have a moggy called Ginger? Yes, a massive Tom Cat which her Grandmama’s Bichon Frise, Fifi, had detested! Perhaps Clara was dreaming all this? For the second time since entering this curious world, she began to feel like Alice. The pair Clara Pin now found herself sandwiched between seemed to share not just the animals’ names, but a similar rivalry too. Clara Pin. What a ridiculous specimen she must seem to these impossible beauties. Clara Pin was an ageing librarian with pince-nez and a bun. Clara Pin was a dowager aunt. Clara Pin was considering a sensible pair of ladies brogues. No! Those were the nightmares her parents foisted upon her. Those were the stings and jibes her gadabout brother Freddie laid at her door. ‘Well, look at your Clara Pin now, Freddie!’ Clara dared to think as she attempted a pirouette, lost her footing and fell into the drum kit.
“Careful not to injure yourself on your first day, Missy. It’s a marathon, not a sprint’. Troy gave her a wink as he kindly helped her to her feet.
“Betty, we’re getting close to our statutory break.” the sandy-haired band leader spoke up.
“Sandy’s right” agreed Betty, hands on her perfectly slender hips, encased in a wrap-around dress. So his name was Sandy too. But Ginger was not the red-head. This place!
“Statutory break?” boomed Quentin Treadwell “Statutory break!? Only from a muso would you hear such blasphemy!” He had been waiting for his entrance at the side of the stage for the past thirty minutes or more, but they had failed to make it as far into the routine as that. “Some of us have been working here!” He glowered in the general direction of the band, as if to suggest that their ability to play and sit down at the same time were somehow idleness on their part. Sandy held his hands up in surrender, having presumably been around long enough not to tangle with a crotchety Master of Ceremonies.
“Betty, why have I been dragged away from vital preparations for this evening to attend an unscheduled rehearsal, only to stand in the corner like a wilting Aspidistra dying of thirst?” The most petite of the showgirls took this as her cue and trotted over to the abandoned bar to fix her idol a drink. “Bless you for that Sukki my darling,” he demurred. Sukki? Oh, for heavens sake!
“Really, Betty, this is too much – the floor staff will be back to set up the tables in before long” continued Treadwell.
“Yeah, some of us have missed our dinner break for this” declared the gum-chewing Lola, pointedly.
Treadwell persisted “I really must insist on some form of resus.”
“Recess.” offered Sukki.
“Recess.”
Betty, stood between the stage and the raised tiers of tables and chairs, clapped her hands with finality. “Alright, everybody take five. That’s five – not fifteen!’
Clara watched as people scattered in every direction – the band were slipping down a gap between the stage and the back wall to spaces unknown to the newcomer. Willie had vanished from the sound desk no sooner had Betty finished clapping. Quentin Treadwell and his lapdog Sukki had crossed the floor and gravitated towards the bar, swiftly slipping into the stock room beyond. Lola and Fifi were making for the dressing rooms now via the wide double doors which separated staff and clientele, whilst Ginger took advantage of the extra stage space and dropped into the splits, beginning an elaborate series of stretches that seemed to Clara to be both impossible and highly unnecessary. She thought of Cook’s cat once more, licking itself beside the Aga, daring you to object with its green glass eyes. Clara met Betty at the lip of the stage. “I’m terribly sorry. I am trying, honestly”
“It’s not your fault. You’re getting us out of a bind, here. Clearly you’re more suited to comedy”
Clara’s eye twitched. “But can’t you take Ruthie’s place in the opening number? I don’t think I…”
“I’ve got a solo routine in a totally different costume immediately afterwards. It’s the only way the running order works. We’re limited to how much we can change without mucking up the spesh acts appearances in other venues across town.”
“Yes, of course. The spesh acts.” Clara nodded sagely, trying to sound as if this was not her first time in a cabaret club, let alone on a stage of any kind.
“You do understand that tonight is an important event for us? Old Ma Lewis is in.” Continued Betty.
“I don’t know what that means.”
“Old Ma Lewis is the owner of this place.
“I thought you said Quentin was the boss?”
“Lewis is a very hands-off owner. The money. We only ever see her when there’s a problem.”
“Oh my. But what could possibly be wrong?”
“A long-running show like this doesn’t get reviews any longer unless there’s a major shake-up of cast or a refurbishment, and we have had either for a decade at least.”
“I should imagine Mr Treadwell commands his fair share of attention from the press, after thirty years?”asked a wide-eyed Clara.
Betty tinkled her tinkling bell laugh for the longest period Clara had witnessed yet, before declaring flatly, “No.”
“I see. So it’s money.” deduced Clara.
“It’s money.” agreed Betty.
Just as Betty seemed about to say more, Lola the gum-chewer flew through the double-doors leading to the dressing rooms, a look of panic in her usually doe-like eyes.
“Betty, you’ve got to come, quickly. It’s Ruthie.” she insisted.
“Not again!” sighed Betty, “Do we need the Lucozade?”
“I wouldn’t have thought so,” said Lola, deadpan. “She’s dead.”


Dear Reader, I hope you enjoy my story ‘The Blue Angel’ as it unfolds week-to-week. Like my daily vlog & fortnightly podcast, it is free at the point of consumption, but I welcome one-off donations (or ‘tips’) to www.paypal.me/paullmartinpay or you might consider becoming one of my Patrons with a monthly pledge from as little as $1 via www.patreon.com/PaulusFabulus. Thanks for reading. Paulus.

The Blue Angel, Chapter 4

With Betty dispatched to search for ‘bubbly wine’, Treadwell began fussing about looking for glasses in the adjoining room, whilst Clara took the opportunity to take in her surroundings more clearly. Faded posters of a younger Quentin Treadwell peeled away from the wall. A threadbare hand towel which might once have been described as ‘avocado’ was spread out on the one long work surface. On this were make up brushes and little pots of colour laid out with the precision of a surgeon, their lids open expectantly like baby birds waiting to be fed. An orderly row of elaborate jackets filled one wall; velvet jackets, sequinned jackets, jackets with feathers sprouting from the shoulders. Was this cubbyhole really all the man had to show for thirty years at the apparent top of his game?
“Turkey,” announced Treadwell, appearing in the doorway like an illusionist, and brandishing a bottle, a champagne coupe and a jam jar.
“I’m sorry?”
“Feathers, dear girl. Always use turkey. I swear by them,” he passed her the jam jar. “Have you visited Paris?”
“Errr, yes. With my mother when I was thirteen years old.”
“I was taught by the concierge of the Moulin Rouge that when tasting champagne, to take lingering sips. Let the bubbles dance on your tongue,” he uncorked the bottle, “don’t do that with this.” he commanded emphatically. “Ideally it should not touch any part of your mouth. You may also want to hold your nose.”
“You performed at the Moulin Rouge?” Clara was suitably impressed.
“For nine glorious months.” Treadwell poured the wine, “you’re sitting underneath the handbill.”
Clara turned and focused on an elaborately designed advert featuring a much younger Treadwell in a small star on the bottom left-hand corner. The poignancy of it made her quite bold, “Here’s to you,” she offered, holding her jam jar aloft.
“May your medicine never poison,” countered a quietly impressed Treadwell.
They drank. Clara attempted to suppress a wince as the gut-rot hit her insides.
“Have another glug, you need to work it around your intestines a bit,” offered the man, clearly amused. “Now, you must tell me all about your incorrigible aunt and her adventures since we tread the boards together.”
It was at that moment the pair became aware of six pair of eyes creeping around the door-frame to witness the extraordinary sight of their usually guarded star chatting cosily with a complete stranger. “Push that door to, would you?” said Treadwell.
Clara obediently pushed the door without taking her eyes off her new confidante.
A bloodcurdling scream ensued from the other side of the door. Various unknown voices ramped up the drama,
“She’s trapped her fingers!”
“Who has?”
“It’s Ruthie! Get the…”
“I don’t want any bloody Lucozade!”
Horrified at being the cause of Ruthie’s suffering, Clara’s hand – still encase in a grey kid glove – shot up to her mouth. “Should we see if she’s alright?”
“Ruthie? She thrives on drama, dear. Where were we? Oh yes, your aunt.”
Still reeling from this latest catastrophe, Clara took another large gulp of wine and swallowed hard, “My aunt is very well, thank you. She has been back in the family homestead of Meltcham for nigh on twenty years now, and is proprietress of a very well-respected shop of antiquities; curiosities, that type of thing. And my aunt. Well, my aunt told me to come here. She didn’t say I’d be meeting you. She didn’t mention you at all, just said to ask for William Tell, which I suppose I thought was a joke or a nickname or, oh, I don’t know what I thought. I don’t know what I was thinking! Getting on a train and coming to London without so much as a by your leave. I’ve never even been to Upper Crumping unsupervised. Lower Crumping, yes, but never Upper! I just had to get away, you see, I simply had to, and one hasn’t always been able to talk to mother or father the way that one can with aunt Terri. And so, when it happened, well…when it all came out…I’m so sorry am I talking too much?”, the light-headed girl took another slug of wine and stared intently at her host.
Without taking his eyes from hers, Quentin Treadwell reached forward and took the half-empty jam jar from the reeling girl and placed in out of her reach. After what seemed like an eternity, he opened his mouth and spoke, “She didn’t mention me. At all?”
Just as Clara was about to attempt a reply, there was a knock at the door and Betty appeared almost simultaneously. She was not tinkling.
“Quentin, I’m so dreadfully sorry to barge in like this but we need you on stage.”
“Now? Whatever for? The doors don’t open for another two hours!”
Betty carefully broached the subject, “Ruthie can’t do the fan-dance section of the opening number. Her fingers are in a real state” it was all the blonde girl could do to keep her eyes from darting towards Clara. “We shall have to rehearse in one of the new girls and we simply can’t do that without you.”
“But Old Ma Lewis is in tonight!”
“I know.”
“The show must be of the highest standard!”
“I know. And Kittie’s just walked out.”
“And Kittie’s just walked out!” parroted Quentin Treadwell, as he shot out of his chair and wrapped his satin robe so tightly you’d think his life depended upon it. “Lead on, MacDuff!” He commanded Betty, who relieved him of his champagne coupe and slipped out of the room again. Treadwell paused to turn to his guest, peering down at the perplexed – and now rather drunk – girl. “Come along,” he said, “you’re coming with me.” and he marched out of the cubbyhole towards the stage. Clara Pin jumped up and trotted behind him, trying not to bump into bit of costume and props, the adjoining room deserted of people now.
“Me? But what use can I be!” she exclaimed.
“We’re two men down. Well, women…”
“Oh dear. That is a pity. Perhaps it would be best if you cancelled tonight’s show? What is the show, exactly?”, Clara reeled.
Treadwell spun around so abruptly he almost knocked a flat of scenery from its hinges “Cancel the show?!”, he cried, as the flat swung violently towards Clara, who was swaying a little herself now. “CANCEL THE SHOW?!”, the man bellowed as two showgirls in bra and pants ran for cover.
“Young lady, for three decades now I have presided over the room you are about to enter twice a night, Wednesday through Sunday, and not once have we cancelled the show. Not when the roof was caving in, not during the three day week, not even when Liza got gout.”
At that moment a distraught Ruthie ran through the hallway, having just been broken the bad news of her demotion. She stopped short in front of the unlikely pair, like a rat caught in a trap, glared at Clara Pin and then wailed as she ran off in the direction of the dressing room. Treadwell forged on with his tirade. “You will be taking Ruthie’s place in the opening number.”
“But, I…!”
“You will be standing in for Kittie’s solo with your juggling routine.”
“But I don’t have a…”
“And together,” Treadwell, changing tack now, cupped a surprisingly tender hand on the girls trembling chin “we shall ensure that the show will go on! I trust there is nothing ambidextrous about what I’ve said?”
Clara’s left eye twitched an infinitesimal twitch. She swallowed hard, “Nothing ambidextrous, whatsoever.”
Treadwell bent down and beamed a breathtaking smile, “Clara Pin, you’re in the show.”


Dear Reader, I hope you enjoy my story ‘The Blue Angel’ as it unfolds week-to-week. Like my daily vlog & fortnightly podcast, it is free at the point of consumption, but I welcome one-off donations (or ‘tips’) to www.paypal.me/paullmartinpay or you might consider becoming one of my Patrons with a monthly pledge from as little as $1 via www.patreon.com/PaulusFabulus. Thanks for reading. Paulus.

The Blue Angel, Chapter 3

As if on cue, a chair of studded satin to match the door spun around, dragging ‘The Boss’ away from his own reflection and towards the overladen Clara swaying in the doorway.
“Has he come with that stuff yet, Kittie darling? I simply can’t keep going until four in the A.M. without it. Oh. You’re not Kittie.”
“Kittie’s gone.” Betty informed the man. “Stormed out.”
“Ah well. Good riddance to the old moggy. Who’s this? Have you got my stuff?” he demanded.
It was at exactly this point that Clara finally lost her balance, letting go in one clattering cascade the vanity case, pen, notepad, handrail – which she was inexplicably still clutching – and, as a grand finale whilst dipping down to save the lot, her pink cloche hat, still perched on the side of her head, fell on top of the whole offering, now piled by the man’s slippered feet.
“Juggling act is it?” He responded, without missing a beat, “Needs some work.”
“Oh, Quentin, you are incorrigible!” sparkled Betty “This is Clara Pin” she tinkled a laugh.
Quentin turned to the newcomer “Are you married to that?”
“Why does everyone keep asking that?” blurted Clara before she could stop herself. It had been quite a day.
Betty gasped as the man’s eyebrows flew up towards his receding hairline. A bejewelled hand simultaneously slapped his exposed breastbone in shock. All noise from the overcrowded adjoining dressing room seemed to cease; if they had been playing billiards at that moment, the balls would surely have stopped mid-roll. The man slowly rose out of his satin throne unfolding his full 6 foot 2inches in height – age had knocked an inch off at some point in the previous decade – and peered piercing blue eyes upon the diminutive upstart.
Who is this old queen? Clara thought to herself.
“I’m sure I don’t need to tell you who I am,” he said. A side-eye to Betty and a tinkle from she, “But Quentin Treadwell is not in the habit of being addressed in such an inseamly manner.”
“Unseemly” prompted Betty
“Unseemly manner” Treadwell forged on, unperturbed, “After thirty years as the undisputed Master of Ceremonies of the world-famous Blue Angel club, I should think I might be afforded a little more respect from a two-bit juggler in a hat like a Blancmange. So, given that it is becoming increasingly unlikely that you are here to deliver my cocaine, may I be so bold as to ask what business you have bothering the world’s seventh most successful cabaret performer in history?
“Seventh?” Betty queried.
“Eighth if you include Marlene” sighed Treadwell, dramatically “Well?”
Clara swallowed hard, and stubbornly dug her hands deep into the pockets of her overcoat as she had done since she was a child whenever she felt cornered. Not quite sure where she was or what had happened to her since disembarking the train earlier that day, she was close to tears now for want of some clarity.
“We’re waiting,” said the man.
Just at that moment, Clara’s fingers brushed a small piece of thick, good quality card inside her overcoat pocket.
“My aunt sent me!” she abruptly announced, brandishing aloft the matchbook that bore on its front the iconic image of an azure winged goddess, matching that of the sign over the establishments door; The Blue Angel herself. On the flip-side of the matchbook was Aunt Terri’s unmistakable – but very easy to mistake – scrawl bearing the landmarks address.
“Your aunt” snorted a perplexed Quentin Treadwell, for whom sentimentality over blood relatives was anathema.
“Yes. My Aunt Terri. Terri Carr.” replied Clara, sounding for all the world as if she had got a question wrong on a pop quiz, and secretly fearing as much.
“Carr? Pin? Would it kill your local clergy to stay sober long enough to baptise two syllables?” quipped Treadwell unkindly. “Wait! Terri Carr. Terri Carr…”
The old man’s demeanour suddenly altered and a wide, beaming smile spread slowly across his lined face. Clara noticed with even more clarity the thick pan-stick foundation, – presumably left over from yesterday’s performance of whatever this was – dried up in the creases of his increasingly welcoming visage.
“You’re the niece of my old comedy partner, Terri The Turn?” clarified Treadwell.
“I suppose so.” replied Clara, non-plussed all over again.
“Well now, this calls for a celebration! Come in, my dear! Betty, fetch the bubbly wine!”


Dear Reader, I hope you enjoy my story ‘The Blue Angel’ as it unfolds week-to-week. Like my daily vlog & fortnightly podcast, it is free at the point of consumption, but I welcome one-off donations (or ‘tips’) to www.paypal.me/paullmartinpay or you might consider becoming one of my Patrons with a monthly pledge from as little as $1 via www.patreon.com/PaulusFabulus. Thanks for reading. Paulus.

The Blue Angel, Chapter 2

It was dark for a time, but Clara steeled herself and followed her new guide and the ever-increasing strains of a trumpet in pain. Seeming to read her mind, the sofa explained “That’s Troy. We’re training him up to take over from his grandfather, Fingers, but he’s a way to go yet. Give it a rest Troy, the girls can’t put their lashes on straight!” bellowed the leathery one as the two of them finally entered a pool of light. Clara found herself standing on a rickety, makeshift platform surrounded by ropes and pulleys, high above a large open-plan room filled with chairs and tables, a perfectly shaped oval dais with a baby grand piano in the centre of it dominated one wall with doors either side.
“This is The Blue Angel” pronounced Willie proudly, puffing out their chest.
Clara looked again at the vast room below. She saw overflowing ashtrays, piles of filthy glasses, sat astride one of the banquets a homely looking girl was swearing like a sailor as she tried to mend a whale-net stocking. Many of the blue plush seats – that unmistakeable blue again – were ripped and torn and held together with gaffer tape and there was, she was sure, an overwhelming smell of gin caught in the (sapphire?) drapes, or perhaps that was simply the power of suggestion.
“This ain’t the Blue Angel” declared a voice the other end of the gangway “The Blue Angel only exists between midnight and dawn. This is the wreck of the Hesperus.”
Clara tore her eyes away from the sight of the wreckage below to see a smiling girl with blonde ringlets, wrapped in a silk floral robe. The girl seemed to have been transported directly from the pages of a 1950s magazine, with her perfectly coiffured curls and doll-like, made up face. Her kitten heels sported delicate pom-poms of fluff, as if she were permanently kicking a pair of powder puffs ahead of her to the muted sound of a delicate ‘poof’, but that aside, she seemed at that moment the most normal and friendly-looking creature Clara had seen since she had boarded the train in Meltcham.
“That was quick work, Willie. Kittie’s only just stormed out the door”
“As one whore closes another one opens.”
“William, really. You shall have this poor dear thinking us a house of ill repute” the girl turned her attention to an increasingly shell-shocked Clara. “I’m Betty. I’m in charge of all the new girls – unofficially. And what’s your name my dear?”
Clara steeled herself. Somehow, it seemed important to make a good impression on this kind looking girl who represented some form of normality.
“PinClaraClaraPin.” The words tumbled out. Breathing out, she tried again “Clara Pin. That’s it. Clara Pin.” I really must pull myself together, she inwardly chided.
“Are ya sure?” chuckled the sofa
“It seems a few pins tumbled out onto the floor there”, the blonde girls laugh was like the tinkling of a small crystal bell.
“Best not stay up here any longer than necessary” said Willie, squeezing past Clara with their enormous bosom and disappearing into the cavernous darkness from which they had just come.
“He’s right about that” said Betty “The weight of all three of us up here could make the whole structure collapse.”
“Oh dear!” exclaimed Clara
“Wouldn’t want you to break your neck on your first day, would we?” that smile again.
“No, quite. Um, you said ‘he’”
“Did I? How frightfully binary of me. Now look, it doesn’t matter where you’ve come from. It doesn’t matter why you’re here. It doesn’t matter – ‘Clara Pin’ – who you were. What matters is you’ve found us.”
“Right.”
Betty delicately placed a perfectly manicured hand on Clara’s shoulder “You’re home now. We’re family. Don’t ask, don’t tell. That’s our motto.”
“Isn’t that prison?”
“You said it, not me,” that tinkling bell laugh again “May your medicine never poison.”
Clara riffled in her bag and fished out a notepad, as Betty forged ahead “Clara Pin. Are you married to that?”
“Sorry?”
“As a name.”
“Well, I’ve had it for some time now…”
“Don’t tell me your age,” Betty interrupted “not unless it’s pertinent to your act. What are you doing?”
The pair had reached the end of the gangway, and Clara had managed to flip open her notepad and find her favourite pen “I thought I’d take some notes. What did you say about poison?”
“You are funny. Is that the act? I do think a show can suffer from too many performances that are pure aesthetic.” Betty flashed a winning smile and cocked her head “Shall we go and meet the boss?”, and with that she pushed open another mysterious door and led Clara down some perilous-looking steps.
“Willie isn’t the boss?” Asked a confused Clara as she grasped for a handrail that was no longer in working order.
“Oh, he’d like to think so. They! Sorry.” Betty turned to her and frowned. “Did you mean to bring that piece of handrail with you?”
Just as Clara was juggling with an answer, along with her bag, notepad, pen and newly acquired handrail – all whilst trying to keep her increasingly unruly hat in place, Betty pushed open a door and the pair were confronted with a swell of half-naked bodies in a room too small for the sheer amount of them. Mirrors lined the walls, but these ones were all of a type and punctuated with bare bulbs in wire cages around their edges. At the foot of each mirror were long work benches bolted to the wall and strewn with all manner of detritus, from make-up to sandwiches, overflowing ashtrays to, what was that? Something vaguely phallic, thought Clara. A feather boa was strewn over one looking glass and swishing perilously close to a bare bulb; this whole place was a death trap!
Betty clapped her hands “Everybody! This is Clara Pin. Clara Pin, this is everybody.” She moved through the sea of bodies with Clara close behind. Nobody looked up. There was a general chorus of murmured ‘Hello’, but nobody much cared. These lithe, beautiful bodies had seen many others come and go in their time. One girl, in the middle of a delicate operation with a wooden spatula and some pink goo looked up to acknowledge Clara’s existence at precisely the wrong moment. A curdling scream rang out.
“What was that?”
“It’s Ruthie! Get the Lucozade…”
“I’ve scorched me Nancy, what the blood hell use is Lucozade gonna be?!”
General shrugs of disinterest. ‘Ruthie’ glowered at the newcomer and Clara sensed she may have just made an enemy for life. Before she could apologise Betty swung open a studded satin door with a flourish, dragging Clara’s attention away from Ruthie’s nether-regions.
“This” declared Betty, in what Clara would later find out was her best ‘For the cheap seats’ voice, “Is the boss.”


Dear Reader, I hope you enjoy my story ‘The Blue Angel’ as it unfolds week-to-week. Like my daily vlog & fortnightly podcast, it is free at the point of consumption, but I welcome one-off donations (or ‘tips’) to www.paypal.me/paullmartinpay or you might consider becoming one of my Patrons with a monthly pledge from as little as $1 via www.patreon.com/PaulusFabulus. Thanks for reading. Paulus.

The Blue Angel, Chapter 1

Clara Pin stalked down the train station platform, grasping a vanity case in one gloved hand and adjusting the seam of her nylons with the other. The journey from Meltcham had been a tedious affair, too misty to see anything much of the changing countryside, and a rather bilious woman in tweed who had insisted on squeezing herself into the same carriage. She had proceeded to dissect her squashed fly biscuits most of the way to London, explaining – not that Clara wished to know – that she ‘wasn’t keen’ on the fly part. The mist had eventually given way to a dense blanket of fog as they crawled slower and slower towards Kings Cross, as if the weather were some portent of pending doom, wary of what might greet them. But now she was out on what she assumed was a bustling London street, the fog having swallowed everything around her seemed even to suffocate the noise of traffic on the roads. She fished in her pocket for the matchbook her Aunt Terri had given her and tried to decipher the address left on the back in her spidery scrawl. Really, if she had not so clearly been destined for the arts then her Auntie most certainly would have been welcomed with open arms into the medical profession, such was her penmanship. Neon signs were the only thing that penetrated the fog that evening, some of them bolted to the sides of sandwich bars and late-night tobacconists, some swimming in the gutter by her increasingly spoiled heels. It seemed to be forever and just as many wrong turns before Clara found, by luck more than anything else, the stairwell she was looking for. The blue neon sign at the top depicted a winged goddess with an arrow pointing downwards, and as Clara obediently descended the steps, the sounds of a jazz trumpet swam up to meet her. At the bottom of the steps was a door the same colour as the goddess above, intermittently illuminated by a flickering beam. What kind of blue was it? More vibrant than duck egg, less arresting than corn-flower. A very particular blue, it was. Now at the bottom of the steps, Clara reached for the handle as the door swung open violently, propelling her against the stairwell wall in a fluster of gloves, vanity case and cloche hat.
“And you can tell Old Ma Lewis to shove her lousy job!” yelled a stunning beauty with a severe black bob as she shrugged on a fur coat to cover her underwear. The cat then turned on Clara “And Whaddayouwant?” she demanded, squaring off to her with no attempt to begin buttoning the coat. “Er. Mr. Tell. William Tell?” sputtered Clara.
“Mister? Sure!” The cat yelled over her shoulder “Willie! Fresh meat! Follow the smell of gin and desperation. Good luck, Kid, you’re gonna need it.” and with that she bounced up the steps, her coat flapping wide of her, and disappeared into the fog.

Clara caught the door before it could shut again and found herself in a long thin corridor lined with mirrors. Framed in gilt and jutted close up against the next, the high, thin sheets of glass seemed to squeak, filling both sides of the room. As Clara cautiously made her way down the plush blue carpet – peacock, would you call it? – beneath her feet, each pane reflected back to her a grotesque distortion of the young woman she knew herself to be; here was a ludicrously bulbous Clara, all squat and fat but with a reed thin neck you could snap like a twig. Then came a Clara with legs six-foot long, a concertinaed torso and a melting face and hat, and on and on as she encountered the mirrors down the hallway, each one more bizarre and un-nerving than the next. Was this right? Surely her Aunt had been mistaken? Or a joke, perhaps? Was the fog just confusing…
“Yes?”
She realised she had somehow come to the end of the corridor, gripping and clawing her way along the wall like some ridiculous heroin in a tacky B-movie, and standing before her now in plus-fours and a chequered waistcoat, was a woman with the biggest bosom she had ever encountered. Even bigger than Cook two cooks ago, and hers was massive!
“Can I help you?” the woman demanded in a voice of leather and whiskey.
“Hello. Yes. I hope so. I’m looking for a William Tell”
“I’m Willie Tell”
“Mr. William Tell” clarified Clara
“That part’s debatable” croaked the leathery one, producing a pipe and stuffing fat fingers of tobacco into it. “What’s the story then? Up the duff? On the run? Actually a Russian Countess? Out with it, I’ve got a show to run.”
Clara faltered, “Story?”
“All the girls have got one – most of them more far-fetched than their costumes”
“Costumes?”
“Is there an echo in here?”
“Echo?”
The plump leather armchair stared at the flustered girl for a moment and then bellowed the deepest and heartiest laugh Clara had ever heard. “You’ll fit in well. P’raps we can find you a comedy skit in the early show. Come on, Fanny Brice, this way.”
And with that, the armchair turned on one enormous leg and was engulfed by darkness. Clara, who was beginning to feel very much like Alice and starting to wonder if she had indeed fallen through a looking glass in that hall, clutched her vanity case close to her chest, pushed her pink cloche hat hard onto her head and, taking a deep breath, disappeared into the blackness beyond.


Dear Reader, I hope you enjoy my story ‘The Blue Angel’ as it unfolds week-to-week. Like my daily vlog & fortnightly podcast, it is free at the point of consumption, but I welcome one-off donations (or ‘tips’) to www.paypal.me/paullmartinpay or you might consider becoming one of my Patrons with a monthly pledge from as little as $1 via www.patreon.com/PaulusFabulus. Thanks for reading. Paulus.