You look at them on the stage together. Watching each other, not looking at the jury – the audience. Picking up cues from each other, moving through their act. Shimmying together, the light flashing off their sequinned dresses, their bright smiles. You know they're not smiling for the flashily dressed crowd, or even for each other. They're smiling for the sheer joy of being seen, being noticed, being assured they really exist. Everyone's only as good as their last show, their last case.
They make a good double act, all shine and smooth-moving hatred just this side of love. Audiences love a good double act, just like juries, just like journalists. It takes skill, it takes practice to be able to move like that, to be able to step and slide through the routine without it looking routine. To fling yourself wholly into the dance, trusting your partner won't pull a move you don't expect, or if she does you'll be quick enough on your feet to tap and shuffle round her like you always expected to move like that.
They're really good, all flash, all razzle-dazzle with no sense of shame and no sense to pretend otherwise. When they come on with the tommy-guns the jury – the audience – goes wild. The real skill is doing all that without ever seeming like you're doing it, dancing on knife-edges without losing your balance or breaking into a sweat, doing the old soft-shoe shuffle so softly that no one hears the work you're putting in. There's a place for brash, obvious jazz steps and there's a place for the careful choreography that makes it look like you're dancing all alone without music, makes it look like you're easy to trip, ready to fall.
They're not quite as good as the real double act they were part of, the hardest one of all, where it's really a triple act but one partner has the skill to divert the audience's attention away onto the pretty bits of razzle-dazzle while the hard work, the really difficult steps are danced almost out of sight, where only the sharpest eyes can pick up the moves. They were at their best that day, staring at each other in hatred and at you in fear, while you danced softly, softly round them, round the jury, round the court. They'll never be that good again, no matter what the papers say.
You applaud, toss your scarf round your neck and leave before the act is quite finished.
Your next partner will be waiting for you to make her shine.