Ever since that event I’d been on edge. Normally someone would report something like that to the police. But people who worked in the dark district didn't have that privilege. We were allowed to do whatever we wanted. Sure, our business was the most respectable of the dark district. However the authorities turned the other direction when it came to happenings in this part of town. A sort of compromise I suppose. I wouldn't have told them anyway.
I didn't know what to do, so I didn't do anything. Still that event haunted me and the girls were beginning to notice something was wrong. Sue was the one that asked; she was quiet and shy but wanted to be accepted so badly by the group that she put on a facade of being bubbly and outgoing. She had become quite popular among the younger dancers and they had asked her to represent them in their curious concerns. When she asked what was wrong I of course said nothing. When all the girls became persistent I had to tell them something.
It felt good to talk about it and their concern and attention was one of the warmest, comforting feelings I've ever known. I told them only that someone had yelled at me and pushed me into the street. I said I didn't know why or who it was. The girls praised my bravery, not knowing how I cried, and gave their promise of protection. At least I wouldn't have to walk alone for a while. Yet I knew that their words were empty.
One girl placed her arms around my neck in a hug. It was all just part of the moment and didn't really mean anything but it felt good nonetheless. Yet even my fellow dancers’ affections couldn’t shake my feelings that something incredibly frightening was going on in the dark district. I couldn’t have known what was going on although I had seemed to have gotten involved.
I noticed a man come to our shows every night soon after that. He was always in that same seat in the front row. It was the man, not that the woman had talked to but the other one; the one who had coyly pretended not to listen to their conversation. He was of medium height and well built. He looked as if he were a businessman or some other respectable middle class position. There wasn't really anything intimidating about him yet his attendance was strange. The startling thought that he might actually be in league with the menacing woman hit me during a Thursday night performance.
My brow furrowed as I gripped the newly mended poles of the cage. I was hanging upside down. My tiny skirt inched down towards my belly button to expose my matching briefs. Most of the weight was borne by my legs but supporting myself with my arms made the process much less painful. I wondered if I really was in danger or if I was letting my imagination get the best of me.
Blood rushed to my head. From his middle class seats the suspicious man would get a good view of my shimmering indigo covered buttocks. Four days ago my biggest concerns were remembering choreography. Now I was worrying whether someone wanted me dead, if audience members were assassins.
I dismounted from my inverted perch atop the cage. The sore ache behind my knees eased with each step I took climbing my way down to the stage floor. My hands were still tinted red and throbbing from tightly gripping the bars. I didn’t want to think about this. I convinced myself it was preposterous to have created a scenario in which my observation had landed me in the middle of some criminal’s plot.
The regular was just a satisfied customer, probably a fan of a certain acrobat or pole dancer, who made a habit of catching her performances. The incident at the big performance was admittedly strange but of no consequence. As for the incident in the street, I wasn’t entirely sure I hadn’t just made that up.
With this reasoning I tried to push the concerning thoughts from my mind. At the performances end I grabbed my things and hastily made my way out of the amphitheater. As I had predicted the girls caring attitude for me had been fleeting. It only took one mistake from me at rehearsal to fall from valued friend to vile nuisance. I wasn’t going to risk any awkward encounters if I got stuck travelling next to one of them.
A few minutes of brisk walking and the tall grey form of the complex came into view. The myriad rows of dark windows gave an inviting glisten. I would be among the first to turn their dull visage bright. Another detail caught my eye as I approached the building. A car parked across the street. Its appearance wasn’t worthy of observation aside from the fact that it was occupied.
I knew it was nothing to be worried about. If they stuck around too long the guards would see that the vehicle was moved. What struck me was that the man was inside; the regular who had started attending the shows recently. I initially would have pegged his appearance as evidence for stalking behavior. His fandom of the girl that motivated his ticket purchases may have developed into a more fervent obsession.
But then he wasn’t alone. A pony tail of light brown hair with a glint of blond highlights bobbed to the man’s right. She seemed to be in her early thirties. Her other features were indiscernible in the darkness.
She could have been here to pick him up from the performance. Perhaps she was a rare spouse who supported their partners taste in illicit entertainment. However unlikely my justification for his appearance their business was none of mine. Fighting the urge to observe them longer I swiped my pass card over the door. Took the elevator to the fourth floor and found the solace of my room.
Lying in the darkness of my room I was startled by the shrill scream of a woman. The initial shock quickly dissipated. It wasn’t unusual to hear someone scream in the middle of the night. It was probably just a drunken brawl.
Over breakfast the next morning I’d overhear girls talking about the blood soaked dirt a mere block away. The woman was found a few feet away in front of a neighboring building. Apparently she had been dating a gang member but no one could be sure of her attacker.