Anita Mann remembers her text message: "Are you OK?"
The producer of "Fantasy" never received a reply from dancer Debora Flores Narvaez on Dec. 13. It would be nearly a month before police and the rest of the world knew the 31-year-old dancer was dead, her body concealed for weeks in a downtown Las Vegas house by a man police say killed her.
"Fantasy" continued during that stretch, as the adage declares shows must. Today, mourners gather at 11 a.m. in the Luxor showroom to put closure -- "some relief that the healing process can begin," Mann says -- on the long ordeal.
The case, which drew national attention, is one of the most seismic to rattle an entwined show business community because the suspect in Flores Narvaez's death also is a part of it, and the shock waves spread two directions.
Jason "Blu" Griffith, who has been charged with murder, worked in one of the largest shows on the Strip, Cirque du Soleil's "Love," as well as in one of the smallest: Nathan Burton's "Comedy Magic" at the Flamingo Las Vegas.
"He was the nicest guy in the world," said Patrick Walthers, a performer-magic wrangler who worked beside Griffith as one of the magic show's half-dozen employees.
During the weeks Griffith was under suspicion, but not yet under arrest, "we were all saying, 'No way, no way, no way. No way does he have it in him to do something like that.' It came as a big shock to us," Walthers said.
"Every single person had only great things to say about him. No one would ever think in a million years he would have done this," said Angela Stabile, producer of the Flamingo's "X Burlesque," who said her son used to give Griffith rides to work.
Cirque officials say Griffith worked as an ensemble dancer in "Love" and is still considered an employee of the show, which counts 70 cast members and nearly 200 employees total. The company did not want employees to speak about the case beyond an official statement that Cirque is "deeply saddened and distressed by the details."
At Luxor, the task of keeping the 20 "Fantasy" performers focused fell perhaps to one of the most qualified producers on the Strip. Mann has been in show business since she danced in Elvis Presley's '60s movie musicals and is known along the Strip for her empathetic, den mother-like demeanor.
"Fantasy" has lasted 11 years on the Strip, a testament to its stability and its producer's even hand.
"When we're at work, we are a complete family unit, and we really want to take care of everyone," Mann said.
However, the day Flores Narvaez didn't show up for rehearsal, "first, I got mad," she recalled. "After a half an hour, I wasn't mad; I was concerned."
After all, the rehearsal was to film promotional footage for a two-week guest star, hip-hop singer Sisqo, who came to the show as a friend of Flores Narvaez.
"She brought us Sisqo. ... She arranged the whole thing," Mann said. "This was like her dream. There was no way she was not going to be there at 2 o'clock."
Flores Narvaez had worked about a year as a "swing" in "Fantasy" before this chance to work the full two weeks Sisqo was in the show. (There are 10 full-time dancers rotating the eight spots. But because it runs seven days a week year-round, three or four "swings" know the show and frequently step in to cover for illnesses or vacations.)
Flores Narvaez first worked in Las Vegas nightclubs, then for singer Lani Misalucha's "Voices" show at the Las Vegas Hilton in late 2009.
Producer Angelo Giordano said she had "a strong personality," and he dismissed her after "personality conflicts with other dancers."
But at "Fantasy," Flores Narvaez was "a model employee" who was "very smart, very good in business, very organized and really on top of her gig," Mann said. When the producer texted her about scheduling, I would tease her, 'Debbie you replied before I finished pressing 'Send.' ''
As soon as that afternoon rehearsal and publicity shoot ended, "we couldn't wait any longer," said Mann, who began calling the police and trauma centers to see whether Flores Narvaez had been in an accident.
Mann said she knew nothing about the domestic relationship that had generated at least three previous violence reports to police.
"They don't give me any of the gossip," Mann said. "With this being still a professional environment, you should keep it kind of separate, except if anybody has a problem.
"A lot of girls have fights with their boyfriends or they break up. They're young and they're beautiful and they're passionate, and they're going to have issues."
During the long wait before Flores Narvaez's mutilated remains were found in two tubs filled with concrete, the cast held on to hope that "she had to get out of town. Get out of Dodge and just rest."
As the weeks went on -- heightened by the discovery of another slaying victim whose remains were briefly suspected to be those of Flores Narvaez -- the realization gradually sank in that "there was no good ending."
Mann asked whether cast members needed time off but discovered "they kind of feel better sitting there in the dressing room after the show, where they can talk to each other. It's better than sitting in your room at home alone."
Performing during that stretch, "they said to me, 'We feel like we're faking it.' '' She would reply: "You are. You're acting."
Now, Mann said, "we're going to get through the next few days, and then we'll see what the girls will need individually. But right now, we have to stay together and stay calm for Debbie's family, and to get through what we need to do to help deal. And that's all we can do right now."
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.