Friday, September 7, 2012

Starting Today: Save The Girl!
Looking for Ultimatum?, click on
Archive: Ultimatum & Other Stories

Episode One of Save the Girl!

Carrie Whiting’s voice sounded magnificent in the large theater. The two people listening were totally entranced. Carrie was not. She held up a palm. Her accompanist stopped playing. 
“Sorry Lawrence,” she smiled at the short, pudgy man at the piano. “I know we want a lively song at this point in the show, but this number needs to be slower. After all, it’s about a girl losing her true love in the War between the States. Let’s move this song to a later spot and do something else here. What do you think?”
Lawrence nodded his head anxiously. “Good idea, Miss Whiting!”
Carrie thanked her pianist but realized the question had been unfair. Lawrence was, for all practical purposes, her employee. She couldn’t expect him to disagree with her. She looked at the one person sitting in the audience. “What about it, George?”
George McLeod was Carrie’s agent and surrogate big brother. McLeod was a large man in his early forties, with a face still doughy from his short career as a boxer. George rarely talked about those days, simply referring to them as a time of “youthful indiscretion.”
George picked up a stack of sheet music on the chair next to him. “I was thinking likewise. Gotta song here somewhere, might--”
“I must see Miss Whiting right away,” a female voice cried from the lobby. “It is about my baby, my only daughter!”
“Look lady, you’re gonna hav’ ta leave quietly or--”
“I no leave quietly! This is about my Maria! I am her mother, I have a right…”
George McLeod turned his head backwards toward the lobby, then looked at Carrie and shrugged his shoulders. “I better look into this.”
Carrie Whiting glanced toward the lobby where a guard posted by the theater was trying to shoo away a woman who seemed to be hysterical, or close to it. Carrie was accustomed to people trying to crash her rehearsals. Often the culprits were reporters, always they were men.
“This is a bit odd, Lawrence,” she continued to look straight ahead while talking to the pianist. “Maybe I’d better see if I can give George a hand.”
“Yes, Miss Whiting.”
Carrie hurried off the stage and up the center aisle. George had taken over from the guard, who was now standing back and looking confused as Carrie’s agent tried to calm the intruder. The woman flung her arms about and continued to yell, “I must see Carrie Whiting, she take my baby from me!”
“What do you mean, madam?” Carrie’s voice was soft and inquisitive.
The woman’s hysteria subsided and something resembling hope came into her eyes. “You are Carrie Whiting!” Despite her earlier demands she sounded surprised to actually be facing the singer.
“Yes. And your name?”
“Anna.” Anna was a short, stocky Italian woman. Her hands were calloused and the fingernails ragged.
Carrie Whiting had been born into poverty, but hadn’t stayed there. She had also been born with blond hair, remarkable beauty and a tremendous singing voice. The young woman was aware of her good fortune, and the childhood poverty had ingrained into her a concern for those who were poor and struggling.
“How can I help you, Anna?”
“My Maria, she leave because of you. Please, you bring her back.”
“She left because of me, what do you mean?”
“This!” She handed Carrie a copy of Godey’s Lady Book. The current edition appeared typical. There were four circles on the cover, each depicting a woman engaged in a particular activity: playing with a child, cooking, teaching a class, and reading a book under a tree. As usual, the bottom of the cover provided the information that, “We can always supply back numbers”.
The singer gave Anna a confused half smile. “I still don’t understand. How does this involve me?”
“You look inside.”
Carrie opened the magazine cover and immediately saw her own name in large letters. At first glance, she seemed to be looking at a page in the magazine, but a careful look caused her to realize that it was a flyer that had been carefully stuck into this edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book.
She pulled the flyer out and read it:

Attention Ladies between the ages of Sixteen and Eighteen!
You Can Be the Next CARRIE WHITING!
The Philip Richardson Talent Agency, which represents CARRIE WHITING, The Songbird of the West, is now searching for talented young women for our musical productions. Auditions will be held at the Palace Theater at 320 Jupiter Street on Thursday, April 26 from One to Seven PM.
Don’t Miss This Once in a Lifetime Opportunity!

“Oh,no,” Carrie’s voice was a worried whisper. “Anna, I know nothing about any of this. I’ve never been represented by the Philip Richardson Talent Agency.”
Anna looked shocked and then, once again, she sounded close to hysteria. “Then what about my Maria? What happened to her?”
For a moment, Carrie Whiting stood silently and watched the panic which contorted Anna’s face. The singer knew the answer to Anna’s question, but couldn’t speak it out loud.
George McLeod took the flyer from his client and read the contents. His face went ashen. “I’ll get in touch with Brad Simons, our lawyer, right away. We’ll put a stop to this!”
“My Maria!” Anna cried loudly, “She go like the paper say. She not come back. Gone for three days now. The law do nothing. Can you bring back my Maria?”
“No Anna, I can’t,” Carrie replied. “But I know somebody who can. We’re going to bring your daughter back to you, Anna.” The singer pressed her lips together and then added. “I promise. We’ll bring her back.”

Monday: Episode Two of Save the Girl!