Chapter 27

Julie’s heart skipped a beat. Did Starr know who killed Courtney Kennedy, or had he merely been stating the obvious? Rather than react, Julie forced herself to sit back and patiently listen to what he had to say.

Starr blew out a sigh. “Hollywood couldn’t have concocted a better story. Blonde, beautiful, talented … on her way up, only to be cut down. So tragic, I get goose bumps just thinking about it,” he admitted, sounding oddly gleeful given the gruesome circumstances.

“I never met her,” Chloe stated. “She have the goods?”

“Totally. In the last three years, I’ve seen ‘em come and go, but this girl had it, and I mean ‘it.’ There’s no doubt Charisse would have been a big star.”

“Charisse?” Julie asked, confused.

“Sorry, pet name. Courtney had long, luscious legs like Cyd Charisse.”

Since neither of them jumped in to elaborate, Julie was forced to ask, “Is that a dancer?”

Shocked by her ignorance, Starr placed a hand over his chest to steady his heart. “What planet are you from, Donna? M-G-M,” he spelled out, punctuating every letter.

“If you can’t tell, Starr’s a tad obsessed with classic Hollywood,” Chloe filled her in.

“Obsession is for those who long for the glory days, darling. I live them,” Starr retorted.

“I hear you two used to club hop,” Chloe said, putting him back on track.

“All the time. I met Charisse at the beginning of the year. She came by as part of her Introduction to Theater course. We give a little tutorial on costumes for the uninitiated. She was as wide-eyed as Betty Grable.” Leaning toward Chloe, he confided, “You know me: I’m a bloodsucker when it comes to virgins.” He winked at Julie, and then continued. “I took her under my wing, and the first thing I did was insist she have some fun. Poor girl, she was so serious! It was obvious she’d spent her entire life trying to please everyone else. I told her, now that she was in college, it was time for her to make a fresh start. Shake it up a bit.”

“So you took her to her first underground party,” Chloe surmised.

“Kicking and screaming. At first, she said she wouldn’t be comfortable attending.” He confided to Chloe, “You know those private school girls: always worrying about their precious reputations. Anyhow, I suggested we dress her up so nobody would recognize her. She didn’t take me seriously, until I performed my magic. What a transformation! From wholesome Olsen to wanton bombshell – think Jane Fonda and Barbarella – in under than two hours. Charisse was so tickled, she agreed to go.”

“So what happened?” Chloe asked.

“Are you kidding?” Starr exclaimed, his eyes lighting up. “It was like watching Esther’s breakout performance in A Star is Born. People couldn’t take their eyes off her, and she knew it. Some people get bitten by the bug; Charisse got chomped by Jaws. The party was a major turning point. She adored the attention, couldn’t wait to go out again. I got the impression she’d led a fairly sheltered childhood.”

“And I bet you couldn’t wait to corrupt her,” Chloe observed with a smirk.

“Absolutely,” Starr purred. “No, seriously, it was all good clean fun. Until that she-devil, Lysandra Dalton, got her claws on her.”

“Who’s Lysandra Dalton?” Julie asked, almost afraid given her track record for recognizing famous figures, dead or otherwise.

“Another dancer,” Starr replied, thankfully without a crack. “They met in class. Charisse had more talent, by far, but Lysandra was the stronger personality. Once she got Charisse in her clutches, she wouldn’t let anyone else go near her.”

“So you two drifted apart,” Chloe concluded.

“Faster than the Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds, after Liz stole Eddie Fisher.”

Julie didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.

“Then the sexy numbers I saw her in weren’t your work?” Chloe asked.

“Puh-leaze,” Starr replied, rolling his eyes. “Cheap imitations, in every respect. Charisse fashioned those costumes herself, or with Lysandra’s help, down to the Blue Angel wig. Part of her new persona, I suppose. Charisse slipped over to the dark side. Lysandra is like Darth Vader on toe shoes, except she’s rotten to the core. It wouldn’t surprise me if she’s the one who killed Charisse,” he stated matter-of-factly.

“Really?” Julie asked, astounded. Now she was the one with goose bumps. “Why?”

“Charisse was set to dance the ballet in the Griffith Playhouse production of Carousel next month. Care to guess who was her understudy?”

Neither girl answered for it went without saying. But Julie posed the question: “Is that really worth killing someone for?”

Starr shrugged aloofly. “What can I say? Showbiz is a cutthroat business.” Leaning forward to place a hand on Julie’s knee, he implored, “Please tell me you’ve seen All About Eve, Donna. It’s a classic! Bette Davis is to die for.”

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