They called her Rose Red, which wasn’t that far from the name her mother had given her, when she danced on the stage. And they called her other names, as her pretty old-fashioned dress with all its rose-petal layers p e e l e d o f f, one tissue-thin layer at a time, as she cracked jokes and danced, shimmied on the stage and sat on the patron’s tables, asking about their wives and their day at work.
She was a star, in that way a burlesque dancer could be, a phenomenon. She was famous all through the city, at least among certain people. She was so well-known people were said to be able to identify her chest in a line-up and her voice in a crowd, and both, oh, lordy, both were quite impressive. She was Rose Red.
And she could, in a plain brown dress and a hat, walk through downtown and never be noticed. Her famous voice became less stunning by far when she took on a higher-pitched, feminine titter. Her amazing chest was hidden very well by current fashion and an expensive tailor. She could be Esdora Ende, the sempstress, and nobody the wiser.
She lived a double life, quite contentedly… except that it was really a triple life.
Because, in the dim hours when the stage had gone dark, long before Esdora would be expecting business, Rose Red put on another hat, and a mask, and a low-cut suit coat over men’s pants, and The Night Thorn stalked the streets, patrolling.
She had a kick like nobody’s business, a punch that surprised even the police officers that found her targets, and the horsewhip that she used as her signature weapon left many would-be burglars and muggers smarting and bleeding. She was famous, for that whip, for her lace-clad cleavage, for the jokes she made as she rescued innocent civilians and as she caught wrongdoers in the act. Many burglars, many police, swore they’d know her if they saw her, but many of them sat there watching Rose Red dance none the wiser. And a few brought their sewing to Esdora and never saw either famous face in hers.
And through it all, she smiled. Who knew better than a stage performer the art of misdirection?
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