A COUPLE of hours later, in a cosy little pub, Kate bought Johnny and herself a glass of wine.
“My treat,” she said.
“That’s very kind of you,” Johnny said.
“I’m celebrating. Look!” She delved into her bag and produced a copy of “The Stage”. “It’s my article, Johnny. About the cribber. I’ve been published. Look!” She pointed at the article. “It’s got my name on it. They’re paying me a guinea. Isn’t that wonderful?”
“Gosh, yes! Congrats!” Johnny raised his glass.
Kate raised her glass to drink, and as she did so she glanced across the room and in a far corner she saw Delia. With Max Reynolds.
Delia was leaning forward, listening to something Max was saying and then laughing. She looked young and beautiful, and Kate was pleased. Johnny followed her gaze and glanced over his shoulder.
“Well, well, well. They seem to be a happy couple.” He turned back to Kate and reached for her hand. “It would be wonderful if we could be. You know I’m awfully keen on you, don’t you?”
Kate squeezed his hand then gently withdrew her own.
“Let’s just stay friends, Johnny. Please?”
“Well, I’m not going to give up.” He sighed. “Perhaps Monsieur Siffleur will make better progress than me.”
And over the next days Max seemed to. He and Delia were often seen chatting together and Delia seemed happy and lighthearted, as Kate commented one evening in their dressing-room after the show.
“Will you be seeing your debonair beau this evening?”
“Actually, no,” Delia replied. “Although I have agreed to have dinner with him tomorrow. Satisfied, Miss Flynn?”
“I’m happy things are going so well. You deserve some romance in your life. Don’t we all,” she said with a sigh.
Delia looked at her quizzically.
“What about Johnny? He dotes on you.”
Kate shook her head in exasperation.
“I know he does. And he’s sweet, and I like being with him, but he wants to be serious.”
“But you don’t?”
Kate paused for a moment.
“No. No, I don’t.”
“Well, I think you should make it very clear to him. Don’t take advantage of his feelings for you, Kate. You need to tell him, even though you may lose a friend.”
There was a sudden sharp knock at the door. Kate got up to open it, her heart beating a little quicker. It was Nesbo.
“Here you are, Miss Flynn. I’ve been looking for you.” He looked past her at Delia. “Not off gallivanting tonight?” He grunted.
Delia gave him a dazzling smile.
“Not just yet, Leopold, but thank you for asking.”
Nesbo’s glance came back to Kate.
“I want to see you in my dressing-room. Something to discuss.” He turned abruptly and left.
Delia and Kate looked at each other.
“What on earth’s the matter with him? He’s been in a foul mood for days. He’s not ill, is he?” Delia asked her friend anxiously.
“I don’t think so,” Kate replied uncertainly. “I’d
* * * *
AS she hurried along to Nesbo’s dressing-room Kate wondered why he’d been so bad tempered recently. She was used to his abruptness and the occasional acid comment, but not to the black mood that seemed to have enveloped him. Was he worried about something? Could he be ill?
“Come in,” he called. He looked at her for a moment then said, “Delia seems very thick with that Max fellow, eh?”
Kate was taken aback.
“They’ve become friends, yes. I know she likes him,” Kate admitted.
“Does she? I don’t trust him. He has a reputation, you know. With women. What do we know about him?”
The thought suddenly struck Kate that Nesbo was sounding jealous. Or was he just concerned for a friend? As far as she knew he’d never made any romantic advance to Delia, and he’d known her for a long time.
Then her thoughts were quickly diverted to another matter. Nesbo spoke again, in a more serious tone.
“As you know, I’ve been working on something for the act. Well, I am finally ready to proceed.” His black piercing eyes looked right into hers before he continued. “Tell me, Miss Flynn, are you prepared to be the first woman in Europe to be sawn in half?”