“This is really lovely. Thank you,” Jane said again.
“It’s our best suite!” Henri gestured expansively around him.
“How come neither of you are in here?” Jane asked, smiling. “And what about your stars? I don’t want to put anyone out.”
“Oh,” Jennie said. “Our ‘stars’ tend to be superstitious. They’re in the other rooms on this level.” With a quick grin she added, “And Henri and I are quite happy in our own rooms...”
Jane waited for her to say more.
Henri spoke instead. “Sage McCormick...” His voice trailed off. “Well, theater folk are a superstitious bunch. I mean, you know about her, don’t you?”
“I know a little,” Jane said. “She disappeared, didn’t she?”
“From this room,” Jennie explained. “There’s all kinds of speculation. Some people believe she was a laudanum addict, and that she wandered off and met with a bad end at the hands of outlaws or Indians. Laudanum was used like candy back then. Lord knows how many people died from overusing it. Like today’s over-the-counter pills. Too much and—”
“And some people believe she simply left Lily with her new love—supposedly she intended to elope—and changed her identity,” Henri said impatiently. “Prior to that, she’d met and married a local man and they had a child together.”
“Really? But she still kept her room at the Gilded Lily?” Jane asked.
“Of course. She was the star.” Henri spoke as if this was all that needed to be said.
“Anyway, the last time anyone reported seeing her was when she retired to this room after a performance,” Henri went on.
“Her esteemed rendition of Antigone!” Jennie said.
“What about the husband? Was he a suspect?” Jane asked.
“Her husband was downstairs in the bar, waiting for her. He was with a group of local ranchers and businessmen. One of her costars went up to get her, and Sage was gone. Just...gone. No one could find her, and she was never seen again,” Jennie told her.
“Oh, dear! You’re not superstitious, are you?” Henri asked. “I understood that you’re a forensic artist but a law enforcement official, too.”
Jane nodded. “I’ll be fine here.”
“Well, settle in, then. And, please, when you’re ready, come on down. We’ll be in the theater—I’ll be giving notes on last night’s performance. Join us whenever you’re ready.”
“I wouldn’t want to interrupt a rehearsal.”
“Oh, you won’t be interrupting. The show is going well. We opened a few weeks ago, but I have to keep my actors off the streets, you know? You’ll get to meet the cast, although the crew won’t be there. This is for the performers. As Jennie mentioned, the cast lives at the Gilded Lily while performing, so you’ll meet your neighbors.”
“Thank you,” Jane said, and glanced at her watch. “Sheriff Trent is supposed to be picking me up. I’ll be down in a little while.”
“Oh! And here’s your key,” Henri said, producing an old metal key. “The only people here are the cast and crew—”
“And bartenders and servers and a zillion other people who’ve come to see the show or have a drink,” Jennie added drily. “Use your key.”
“I will,” Jane promised.
Henri and Jennie left the room. Jane closed the door behind them and stood still, gazing around. “Hello?” she said softly. “If you’re here, I look forward to meeting you, Sage. What a beautiful name, by the way.”
There was no response to her words. She shrugged, opened her bag and began to take out her clothing, going into the dressing room to hang her things in one of the armoires. She placed her makeup bag on the dressing table there, walked into the bathroom and washed her face. Back in the bedroom, she set up her laptop on the breakfast table near the balcony. Never sure if a place would have Wi-Fi, she always brought her own connector.
Jane decided she needed to know more about Sage McCormick, and keyed in the name. She was astounded by the number of entries that appeared before her eyes. She went to one of the encyclopedia sites, assuming she’d find more truth than scandal there.
Jane read through the information: Sage had been born in New York City, and despite her society’s scorn for actresses and her excellent family lineage, she’d always wanted to act. To that end, she’d left a magnificent mansion near Central Park to pursue the stage. She’d sold the place when she became the last surviving member of her family. Apparently aware that her choice of profession would brand her as wanton, she lived up to the image, marrying one of her costars and then divorcing him for the embrace of a stagehand. She flouted convention—but was known to be kind to everyone around her. She had been twenty-five when she’d come out to the Gilded Lily in 1870. By that point, she’d already appeared in numerous plays in New York, Chicago and Boston. Critics and audiences alike had adored her. In Lily, she’d instantly fallen in love with local entrepreneur Alexander Cahill, married him almost immediately—and acted her way through the pregnancy that had resulted in the birth of her only child, Lily Cahill. On the night of May 1, 1872, after a performance of Antigone, Sage had gone to her room at the Gilded Lily Theater and disappeared from history. It was presumed that she’d left her husband and child to escape with a new lover, an outlaw known as Red Marston, as Red disappeared that same evening and was never seen in Lily again, nor did any reports of him ever appear elsewhere. Her contemporaries believed that the pair had fled to Mexico to begin their lives anew.
“Interesting,” Jane murmured aloud. “So, Sage, did you run across the border and live happily ever after?”
She heard the old-fashioned clock on the dresser tick and nothing else. And she remembered that she’d promised to go downstairs. The sheriff was due to pick her up in thirty minutes, so if she was going to meet the cast, she needed to move.
Running into the dressing room, she ran her brush through her hair, then hurried out. As she opened the door to exit into the hall, she was startled to see a slim, older woman standing there with a tray in her hands. The tray held a small plug-in coffeepot, and little packs of coffee, tea, creamers and sugar.
“Hello!” the woman said. She looked at Jane as though terrified.
“Hi, I’m Jane Everett. Come on in, and thank you.”
The woman swallowed. “I—I—I... Please don’t make me go in that room!” she said.
Jane tried not to smile. “Let me take that, then. It’s fine. You don’t have to come in.”
The woman pressed the tray into Jane’s arms, looking vastly relieved. Jane brought it in and set it on the dresser. She’d find a plug in the morning.
When she turned around, the woman was still standing there. She wore a blue dress and apron and had to be one of the housekeepers.
“Thank you,” Jane said again.
Suddenly, the woman stuck out her hand. “I’m Elsie Coburn. If you need anything, just ask me.”
“Elsie, nice to meet you,” Jane said, shaking her hand. She couldn’t help asking, “How did this room get so clean?”
“Oh.” Elsie blushed and glanced down. “I make the two girls clean this room. They do it together. They’re okay as long as they don’t work alone. Bess was in here one day and the door slammed on her and none of us could open it. Then it opened on its own, so...well, we don’t have to clean it that often, you know? No one stays in this room. One of those ghost shows brought a cast and crew in here and the producer was going to stay in the room all night but he ran out.... People don’t stay