SHE must keep her head or it would be a disaster. She could feel her heart racing. She couldn’t let Nesbo down. She couldn’t let herself down.
Nesbo spoke again.
“In a moment Zara will come among you and ask for various small items which she will picture in her mind. But first . . .” From the side of the chair Nesbo took a blackboard about 18 inches square. He took a piece of chalk from his pocket, wrote on the board and replaced it at the side of the chair. “Now, Zara! The blindfold!”
He sat in the gilded chair. Kate placed the black mask over his eyes and made her way down to the front row of the stalls. A spotlight suddenly splashed around her. Her eyes searched for a likely face. A rather nervous middle-aged lady sat clutching her handbag on her knee.
Kate smiled at her.
“Could you give me something from your bag, madam? Please.” The lady hurriedly dived into her bag and Kate’s heart sang as she produced a silver compact. Kate held it up for the audience to see.
“Nesbo,” she called. “I have the item.”
The use of the word “the” told Nesbo it was a compact. If she had said “an item” it was a comb. The code was extensive and, gaining in confidence, Kate successfully encoded a cigarette case, a wallet, a bunch of keys and a fountain pen to some enthusiastic applause.
In accordance with Nesbo’s instructions, Kate had been working her way to the end of the front row towards a florid faced middle-aged man in a tweed suit. The man was a “plant” a ploy Nesbo used occasionally.
He used an actor or a former music hall colleague, who, for a modest fee, would pose as an ordinary member of the audience.
“Good evening, sir,” Kate said. “Could I have something from your pocket?”
The man’s voice was loud and jolly.
“Aye, lass. As long as I get it back, like.”
The audience laughed. The man produced his wallet and extracted a five-pound note. Kate held it high.
“Nesbo!” she called.
The mentalist put his hands to his head.
“I see something white. A handkerchief? No. More valuable. A five-pound note. Yes?”
Everyone applauded, including the “plant”. He then handed Kate a photograph. Again Kate held it high.
With both hands to his head, Nesbo was silent for a moment as was the audience.
“I see a photograph.” Applause. “Look at it, Zara. Concentrate, girl! Concentrate, I said!” he shouted angrily.
“I am!” Zara pleaded. The audience felt anxious for her.
Nesbo shouted again.
“I see the face of a girl. It is a photograph of a young woman!” He slumped back in the chair, drained.
The “plant” jumped to his feet, half turning to those around him.
“He’s right! By heck, he’s right! It’s my missus!”
The audience laughed and applauded.
“There’s a name written on the back of the photo,” Nesbo called. “Can you tell everyone that name, sir?”
“Yes!” The excited man waved the photo. “It’s Martha. My wife, Martha.”
Nesbo removed the blindfold, reached down for the blackboard by his chair and walked to the front of the stage. He smiled, paused, then turned the board over. In white capital letters was written the name, MARTHA.
There was a gasp then wild applause. Kate rejoined Nesbo on stage.
They bowed and bowed again and then they were off stage and Kate realised she’d done it. She was part of the Jolly Good Company, and Woolworths and Aunt Norma seemed a world away.