In the summer of 1943 I was back in the U.S.A. staying with my favourite aunt, Jessica. I had a job in Boothbay Harbor helping the fishing trawlers unload when they returned from their fishing trips. As a result of my summer job, I smelt pretty darn awful pretty much all of the darn time. The smell of the sea seemed to burrow into the nooks and crannies of my bones. No amount of soap and water seemed to rid my personage of the unpleasant aroma. The only way for me to smell delightful was for me to stay away from work for at least a week, which wasn't entirely feasible. Thankfully, being a fishing town, nobody really noticed the smell; but the trouble began when we visited the New York city for a couple of days.
It was nearing the hottest day of the summer and my aunt was due at a launch for her first novel, 'The Corpse Danced at Midnight.' The publishing house believed this book would prove to be a huge success, and, as such, they'd organised a launch party at a swanky hotel in the city. Anyone who was anyone was invited. Understandably, Aunt Jessica was terribly nervous about it all, so I agreed to accompany her.
We'd arrived the day before to get settled into our hotel suites. I did get a few funny looks as I entered the hotel. People's noses wrinkled as I, and the accompanying fragrance of dead fish, wafted past them. My aunt and I were so used to the smell we were no longer conscious of it. Unfortunately the same couldn't be said of rich New Yorkers. They definitely noticed; I think everyone assumed that I smelt this way because I was, technically speaking, dead, and as such they were too polite to mention it to me directly. It didn't even occur to them that I might have been hauling halibut about all week.
I got the same funny looks as I strolled into the hotel bar later that evening. I'd just ordered a large brandy when the launch party's creative director approached me, pulled a face of distaste, and then insisted on paying for my drink. It would turn out that he had taken one look at me and had had an idea - a surprise for my aunt Jessica; she always did like a bit of drama. But he would need my help if it this surprise was going to happen.
The following night, as the launch party was in full swing so I made a discreet exit. As I reached the lift in the lobby there was already a man waiting for a lift to return to the ground floor. I recognised him as a greasy, balding, and paunchy newspaper journalist who had interviewed aunt Jessica earlier in the day. After a few drinks at the party he was returning to his room to finish writing up the interview. His nose crinkled as I entered lift 'A' behind him. I politely asked which floor he wanted. He replied that his room was on floor 25 so I pressed the buttons for floors 23 and 25. For the entire duration of our ascent he stood behind me, his breathing slow and raspy. It was an uncomfortable journey, to say the least. I was relieved when the bell pinged and the doors opened on floor 23. I said goodnight to the unkempt hack, and without once looking behind me, I strolled up the hallway to my room. I changed into the outfit supplied by the creative director, and made my way back to the lift. Lift 'A' was still on floor 25 but lift B was open and waiting for passengers. Within moments I was in the hotel kitchen.
The climax of the evening was nearing so a giant cake had been wheeled out into the centre of the ballroom. All attentions were, quite understandably, focused on this gloriana of sponge and butter icing, so nobody noticed two police officers and a nervous front desk clerk standing near the door. They appeared to be looking for someone.
As the clock struck midnight the spotlights turned red and purple, making the cake look as dramatic as a cake has, possibly, ever looked. At the second gong of the clock, like a corpse from the grave, I slowly began to emerge from the top of the cake. By the sixth gong I was out of that cake, dressed as a ballerina and dancing as if my life depended on it. The crowd, initially startled were soon whooping and laughing.
Aunt Jessica was delighted by the surprise, but, if I'm honest, she seemed even more at home with what happened next.
As I was 'throwing shapes' on the dance floor, I suddenly heard the desk clerk holler, "That's him!"
I, of course, looked up just as the crowd parted to let the officers through. Through the crowds centre parting I could now see beyond the police officers walking towards me, through the ballroom door and out into the lobby. It was then that I witnessed the body of the now deceased newspaper hack being hoisted out of lift 'A' and onto to a stretcher. Somebody screamed because she also saw the body. Everybody else then screamed because somebody else was screaming. It was pandemonium. I quickly realised that the front desk clerk had seen me getting into the lift and it was now assumed that I'd murdered him. I subsequently learnt that he had been less than kind about Aunt Jessica, (something about a 'meddling country busybody', if I remember correctly) so I can see why they thought I might have killed him. As it happens, I hadn't killed him. But in my panic, rather than suffer full body collapse, I legged it.
It's amazing how fast one can run when one is being pursued by the law. I can only assume that it was the tutu which gave me that extra lift. I sprinted through the hotel kitchen, out of the back door, and into the summer's night.
Lady luck must have been on my side that night because it just so happened that, at that exact moment, a dancing troop were just boarding their tour bus at the rear of the theatre next door. Just as the bus doors were closing I jumped aboard. Within seconds we were driving off into the night and the police were left floundering.
The dancing girls were on a world tour, tonight New York, tomorrow, who knew. I didn't care I was just glad to still be a free man. They'd seen my agility as I'd hopped onto the bus, so girls were very accepting of me, despite the smell. With my artistic flair I seemed to naturally fit into their troop so when they invited me to join up I leapt at the chance. So that she wouldn't worry, I would call Aunt Jessica as soon as I got the opportunity. At our next stop, which was due to be Massachusetts, I would obtain a fake passport and then I would enjoy my life as a dancing fugitive.
Within hours of my exit, Aunt Jessica had proved that I hadn't killed the journalist. At least, not intentionally. It appeared that he, (the journalist) had tried to hold his breath in the lift, all the way to floor 23, and had accidentally suffocated himself. The police didn't believe Aunt Jessica until she suggested that they smell some of my clothes. They did so, and the puzzle was instantly solved. I was free to return but I was having such fun that I was in no hurry to come back.
My feet blistered and my bones ached but such fun I had. I learnt more about periods, breast tenderness, and tapeworm, than any dancing man really needed to know. But in return I visited many of the earth's greatest cities. I pirouetted on some of the finest stages, and I made friends all over the world. I almost proposed to Betty, one of the dancing girls, but at that point common sense prevailed.
After two years of being on the road, I decided to return to 'normal' life. By that time Aunt Jessica had written a number of bestselling books. Unfortunately corpses were also making a habit of turning up everywhere she went. I'm sure it was wonderful inspiration for her novels but it made people nervous. So I returned to work with her as her public relations officer...and that's a whole other story for another time.
Right folks, I fancy a ride with the hairy bikers,
My regards to you all,