A Jolly Good Show – Episode 02

KATE sat with another young woman in a passageway of the Baltic Fleet Hotel, which was a large, rambling Victorian public house near to the Gladstone Dock in Liverpool. A handwritten sign on a door read, Leopold Nesbo Interviews.

The young woman who was sitting with her was wearing a scent that was too strong, and powder and rouge that was rather too much. She was smoking a cigarette in what she thought was a rather sophisticated way.

The door opened and a young woman emerged and clip-clopped down the passage without a word.

“I’d better go in.” The other woman extinguished her cigarette and rose.

It was less than a minute later when she hurried out of the room. She cast an angry glance at Kate.

“An inch too tall, he says!” And she followed her predecessor.

Kate stood up, took a deep breath and went into the room. She saw a tall, well-built man standing by a table. He had a shock of dark, wavy hair greying at the temples, a dark, rather sallow complexion and black, piercing eyes. He wore a long, expensive Abercrombie overcoat. Kate thought he was somewhere in his fifties.

“And you are?” His voice was clear and loud.

“Kate Flynn,” Kate said, her voice trying to match his.

He looked her up and down, his head slightly to one side.

“Miss Flynn, kindly take off your shoes and stand against the wall. Come along.”

Kate stood against the wall, Mr Nesbo at her side. He looked pleased.

“You are five feet one-and-a-half inches tall, Miss Flynn. Good.” He walked away from her, speaking as he did so. “Now, Miss Flynn, I want you to recite a nursery rhyme in a loud, clear voice. ‘Humpty Dumpty’ would be nice, I think.”

“What?” Kate said, bemused.

“Just do it, Miss Flynn,” he said with a wave of his hand, walking to the far wall, expecting to be obeyed.

Feeling silly, Kate recited the rhyme, resisting a nervous desire to giggle.

“Come and sit down,” Mr Nesbo said.

When they were at the table he took a sip from a glass of whisky.

“You are the right height, you’re pretty and you have a well-modulated voice. I think you’ll do, Miss Flynn.” He seemed pleased with himself. “You’ve never been on the stage, I suppose?”

“No,” Kate replied. “And I’m not sure I want to be. What, Mr Nesbo, would I be expected to do as your personal assistant?”

Leopold Nesbo leaned towards her.

“You would be my distraction, Miss Flynn. I am an illusionist and a mentalist. The Great Nesbo. You’ve heard of me, perhaps?”

Kate shook her head. He raised an eyebrow.

“As an illusionist, Miss Flynn, I will make you disappear. As a mentalist, I will read your mind.” He looked at her sharply. “You don’t think I can, do you?”

“No,” Kate replied bluntly.

“There I’ve just done it.” He laughed. “You will be my distraction. If the audience are looking at you, they’re not looking at me. It’s not magic. It’s trickery and deception, and, of course, great skill.”

Kate’s head was in a whirl.

“But I don’t know anything

about ”

“I’ll teach you,” he interrupted. “So what do you say, Miss Kate Flynn? Meet me on Lime Street station two weeks on Sunday and I’ll give you your train ticket.”

“To where?”

He looked at her, his head slightly to one side.

“Does it matter?” he said.


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