By Emily Kitazawa
“Beauty is a curse on the world. It keeps us from seeing who the real monsters are.” – The Carver
WHEN EVELYN WAS a young girl, she remembered the strangely exotic feel of her mother’s hair-prickled calves on her tender hands, evoking the same fascination of one’s first time touching a hitherto unknown texture—an elephant’s skin or the first barefooted step into beach sand. As she watched her mother carefully smooth generous layers of Pond’s Cold Cream over her willowy legs, she wondered when those mysterious, prickly intruders would begin to sprout from her own naked legs. She unconsciously wrinkled her face in disgust imagining the coarse hairs wriggling up, out, and free to break through the boundary layer of her skin. Her mother, unaware of Evelyn’s internal musings, continued to heap on the cream. She would scold Evelyn, too, if she didn’t do the same before leaving the house as it maintained her “lovely, ivory complexion,” which was associated with the coveted women of prominence. Evelyn’s mother came from humble origins herself, being a working-class Scottish immigrant. She lived life with surgical precision yet moved with the graceful beauty of a painter’s hands, introducing a touch of ornate ceremony to even the most mundane tasks. Mother could make setting the table for morning breakfast appear a lavish display, her slender fingers delicately placing each item of cutlery in its place, just so. And it was with this elegant manner that she carefully massaged the last of the thick cream into her hands, while Evelyn sat nearby, lost in her imagination.
BEING AN ONLY child, Evelyn was at once spoiled with devoted attention and yet burdened with rigorous scrutiny. Her parents sent her to high-class, private academies that they knowingly could not afford. The two lasting lessons she learned from her father were how to steal and how not to get caught. Well, there was another lesson she only had to learn once—never anger him after work when he had a gin rickey in his hand. As for her mother, she believed that, if you wanted to be treated nicely by people, you had to look like you had money to spare. So as Evelyn grew out of the sanctuary of childhood to become an attractive young woman, it was her good looks that her mother told her to use to her advantage. Enticing older men into buying her expensive gifts was, at first, a thrilling and lucrative endeavor. Eventually, Mother convinced Evelyn to use her body to entice them into giving her more.
When inspiration and passion meet, it releases from within a trinity of pain, beauty and wisdom. Uniting the three can result in masterpieces of humankind—Munch’s anguished, expressionist paintings or Shakespearean tragedies. For Evelyn, it was her pain that she would come to unburden on the world. Beauty would be her weapon to be kept and wielded in the battles of her choosing. And if she had wisdom to share, she dared not let anyone be the wiser.
IT WAS SPRING of 1933 in Hamilton, Ontario—Evelyn felt the fresh-start of April in the warm flecks of sunlight dancing across her face as she weaved her way uptown. She was thirteen now, but her girdled figure underneath a well-tailored floral day dress gave the impression of a more mature woman. Beneath the swollen blue sky, the inhabitants of Hamilton hurried about their daily routines in a mottled mass of copen blues and buttermilk yellows. Aromas of vinegared French fries and smoked kielbasa bloomed and crept across the city. Snow that had melted only yesterday left gaping puddles scattered throughout the traffic- congested roads. At the corner of James Street North and York, Evelyn stopped abruptly as a car splashed through a particularly deep pool of water, spraying a disgruntled pedestrian impatiently waiting to cross the street. It was only in that brief pause that Evelyn noticed the familiar sound of heels clicking across Eaton’s dark parquet wood flooring. She glanced behind her and saw that the tall, chrome revolving doors, which shielded the southern entrance to the grand department store, were idly spinning just behind her.
Eaton’s Department Store was a landmark in downtown and housed memories for Evelyn of velvet curtains and powder rooms, and the way those wood floors would give and creak when hurried crowds walked across them. It was a palace for Sunday-best adorned women to flock and shop for the latest in high-end fashion. On the days they were going to Eaton’s, Evelyn’s mother would wake her before sunrise to ready themselves, stuffing their flesh into fully- fashioned, nude stockings and painstakingly painting their lips in shades of merlot red. What always fascinated Evelyn about Eaton’s, however, was not the upholstered armchairs or the sumptuous display of flat-brimmed hats and satin evening shoes, it was the elevator attendants. Each elevator had a designated attendant, and once when Evelyn arrived just as the department store opened its doors to the public, she saw all the elevator girls immaculately lined up waiting to greet the morning customers. Each was young and slim with fair hair, wearing an identical blue blazer and flared skirt. Evelyn had even heard, though she couldn’t know for certain, that some girls lightened their hair to better their chances in interviews for this esteemed position.
Armed with their spotless white gloves and matching shoes, the women would deftly usher passengers on and off the birdcage elevators, announcing each floor and its offering of luxurious commodities. Their dapper yet ladylike uniforms were designed to relieve customers with the sense that these women were both feminine and competent. Evelyn could watch them endlessly, imagining perhaps that she could one day grow up to demand the same kind of dazed enchantment from her own attentive audience.
HER REVERIE WAS interrupted by a blaring car horn, with the ebb and flow of commuting pedestrians pulling her back to reality and the task at hand. She was on her way to the newly opened Royal Botanical Gardens—part of the city’s elaborate ‘beautification program’ for the surrounding Burlington Heights area, which included transforming a vast, abandoned gravel pit into its groundbreaking Rock Garden, lined in limestone sourced from the Niagara Escarpment. The Rock Garden was to be the arranged meeting place and it was still another hour’s walk from here. Evelyn walked on past a waste of sun-starved fields and the bare bones of leafless trees, listening to the melodic drops of melting snow falling to the earth as everything warmed and returned to life in the spring sun. By the time she neared the gardens, the backs of her patent leather shoes had rubbed her heels red and raw.
To her relief, she found a stone bench near the entrance of the Rock Garden and promptly sat down, fussing with the hem of her skirt as a willful wind blew in unpredictable directions. She felt the presence of eyes that saw her perched there on the bench—families enjoying a pleasant outdoor day and charmed lovers walking hand-in-hand. Among the swaths of fragrant witch hazel, a budding cherry blossom tree stood solitary with her yet unfurled blooms unknowingly on the verge of entering this cold, spring world new and naked. Within those fragile confines, their pink burgeoning beauty held the power to draw spectators, their floating windswept veil of petals the stuff of a poet’s pen. At the whim of the season’s change, their spellbound beauty would retreat as quietly as it had entered the world, in a flurry of falling pink to blanket the ground and be crushed under the very same spectators’ footsteps. These were Evelyn’s musings, sitting in her place on the stone bench, when she heard the male voice breaking through the crowd from just behind her, his heavy hand laid on her shoulder causing her to turn around and beam with a lovely smile.
Evelyn Dick was born on October 13, 1920 and moved to Hamilton as an infant. After attending Memorial High School, she continued to higher education and studied at the Canada Business College and Loretto Academy Private School. During this time, she worked as an escort.
On Saturday, March 16, 1946, a group of children would discover what they believed was the corpse of a dead pig while playing on the Niagara Escarpment, known as ‘The Mountain’ in nearby Hamilton. The body, located in a thicket of trees, was in fact found to be the nude, dismembered torso of Evelyn’s estranged husband, John Dick.
After arresting Evelyn for the crime, the murder trial proceedings became some of the most widely publicized in Canadian history. Ultimately, Evelyn was sentenced to death by hanging but successfully appealed her sentence and escaped her fate. However, she served 11 years in prison due to the discovery of her infant son’s deceased body during the investigation of John Dick’s murder. The boy’s body was hidden inside a suitcase and encased in cement.
After serving her time, Evelyn was released back into society with a new identity and
subsequently disappeared. To this day, her whereabouts remain unknown. She would be over 100 years old if still alive.
Emily Kitazawa is a creative writer who enjoys writing historically-based fiction and poetry inspired by nature. She grew up in small towns across the southeastern United States but spent nearly ten years working abroad in Tokyo, Japan as a teacher, editor, and copywriter. Emily currently resides in Denver, Colorado with her loving partner and two cats. She can be found at her author page HERE.