“Less makeup here, but that’s her,” Chloe attested. “I’m sure of it.” She sat on her unmade bed in the dorm room, studying the picture of Courtney on the cover of The Sentinel.
“What do you mean by ‘that’s her?’” Julie asked. “Did you see Courtney perform in a play?”
Chloe tossed the newspaper aside. “No. Hanging out at parties.”
“Wearing a black wig? Are you positive?”
Julie’s skepticism was met with a dead stare. “I just said so. You’d have to be blind not to notice. She wasn’t wearing much else.” Chloe stood and slipped on a robe over her wrinkled nightshirt, curtailing her own exposure. “Always the same black wig and some sexy outfit – a leotard or bustier, with fishnets and Stilettos.”
Julie had difficulty reconciling this explicit image with her memory of the clean-cut coed in pink at the cafeteria. She admitted so to Chloe.
“My guess is she was role-playing,” Chloe considered.
Julie was hesitant to ask, knowing what kind of reaction she’d get. She decided to anyway. “What’s role-playing?”
Chloe stared at her, dumbfounded. “Did you just blow in from Kansas, Dorothy?”
Julie was right.
“It’s exactly what it sounds like: dressing up, pretending to be someone you’re not, then taking it to the streets, or underground clubs,” her roommate illuminated. “It’s big with the theater crowd. They look at it as an exercise – immersing themselves in a part, getting under the skin of a character. Different from the deviants: vampires, cross dressers, dominants who are simply out to get their kicks. Or the cosplay geeks and their comic book characters.”
Role-play, cosplay, deviants … Julie’s head was spinning faster than a tornado. Perhaps she had landed in Oz after all. Halloween only came around once a year where she was from. Had Courtney been role-playing? She was a dance/theater major. Maybe she’d been sucked into the practice. Wait a minute, she thought, grabbing her phone.
“So are we done here?” Chloe sigh-snarled.
“Courtney’s Insta account,” Julie spouted excitedly, swiping the face of the phone with her index finger. “Maybe there are some costume pictures. Ah-ha, found it!”
Chloe rubbed her eyes and yawned. “Are you always this chipper in the morning?
Julie was worried someone might have removed Chloe’s account in light of her death, but there it was in living color: courtkensd. She made her way down the scroll, but it proved to be a typically Insta life, perfect in every way – happy, smiling, surrounded by friends, vacations.
“You’re wasting your time,” Chloe predicted correctly. “If there are any pictures, they’d be in a ghost account. You do know—“
“Yes, I know,” Julie snapped, setting down the phone.
Her terse reply actually made Chole smile. She got up to retreive her toiletry bag off her desk. “Of course, for us, role-playing is a form of performance art,” Chloe clarified.
Julie suspected by ‘us’ Chloe had meant ‘her.’ She remembered the pictures she’d found in Chloe’s photo album of the woman on stage, along with the inscription from Destiny. Julie took a chance, bracing herself for a possible firestorm. “So D’lish is your performance art?” she asked.
Chloe regarded Julie with narrow, penetrating eyes. Rather than spewing flames from her mouth, however, she broke into a self-satisfied grin. “You’ve heard of me, huh?”
Apparently, like any artist, Chloe had an ego to feed. Wanting to get additional information out of her, Julie was more than happy to serve up a second helping. “People are talking about it,” she said.
“Definitely,” Julie affirmed. Well, nobody she knew, but that didn’t preclude the possibility. So, technically, it wasn’t a lie. “Now let me get this straight. Everybody dresses up, and then goes to these underground clubs? Where are they, downtown?”
“They’re not actually ‘underground,’” said Chloe arrogantly.
“Shucks! They’re not?” Julie replied, feigning down-on-the-farm astonishment. Chloe caught on to her sarcasm and smirked. “We have our underground movements in Literature, too,” Julie boasted coolly. “It means avant-garde or experimental. Or, in this case, secret.”
She’d obviously passed the entrance exam because Chloe went on to explain, “The location changes from week to week. The party might be in an abandoned building, on a rooftop, or at the beach. Anywhere there’s a big enough space.”
“Then how do you find them?”
“When I started club-hopping, I suppose that was when I was about fifteen, you used to find notices just about anywhere online,” Chloe revealed, tossing a towel over her shoulder. “Now you gotta be in the know, part of the scene, to find the site. It keeps the goons away. Otherwise, you wind up with just another stupid college party.”
Julie supposed ‘goons’ meant people like her. It didn’t matter. Given the choice, she would pick a ‘stupid college party’ over a role-playing rave any night of the week, considering the guest list of eccentrics. From what Chloe described, if Courtney had been trolling underground clubs, she would have encountered any number of creepy characters. Julie wondered if there was anyone in particular. “Chloe, do you think there’s a chance somebody from the underground scene killed Courtney Kennedy?”
Wary, Chloe headed for the door. “Maybe. Why?”
Julie didn’t think her rebel roommate would be too thrilled to hear she was bunking with an associate of the University Police Department, so she put off breaking it to her. “I guess I’d feel safer if the murderer was somebody Courtney knew, rather than some random nutcase.”
“I get what you’re saying.” To Julie’s surprise, Chloe offered, “I’ll ask around.” Then, without another word, she left.
Julie waved and said to the air, “Thanks, you have a good day, too.” Chloe might have left the common courtesies out of their conversation, Julie considered as she gathered up her things for class, but at least they were making progress. They’d said more to each other in the last five minutes than they had in the last two months. Maybe they’d turned a corner in their relationship …
The door flew open, and Chloe stuck her head in. “Just so you know, I’m not doing this for you. I have my own reasons. Don’t get the idea you can ask me to help you whip up cookies for the next bake sale.” Then she slammed the door.
… Or not. Julie was stumped. What sort of ‘reasons’ could Chloe possibly have?