A Jolly Good Show – Episode 28

AN hour later Kate stood in the wings. Johnny West was in the middle of his ventriloquist act. The sudden gales of laughter that came in frequent waves told Kate that the house was near to capacity. She looked down at her bright red shoes with their distinctive white bows. When she looked up, Nesbo was at her side.

He said nothing. His eyes were on Johnny West, but it was evident to Kate that his thoughts were elsewhere. He suddenly closed his eyes and put his hands to both sides of his head as if in pain. His face seemed very pale. Her own heart was beating faster. Her part in the new illusion was quite small, but vital.

As he opened his eyes, she whispered anxiously, “Are you all right?”

He looked at her and raised one eyebrow.

“Of course. I can at least make an audience happy, Miss Flynn. Remember to scream loud. Blood curdling.”

Then Johnny and Salty Sam were coming off and it was time for the Great Nesbo and his beautiful assistant, Zara, to begin their act. Nesbo was slick and quick, and Kate had to be sharp and on her toes to respond to him.

Perhaps he was out to prove a point. He was top of the bill he was the Great Nesbo.

Behind them, as the act proceeded, a great black cloth was draped over a table and a long, oblong object. As the mind-reading part of the act came to its successful conclusion, Nesbo stepped forward to the front of the stage.

As he did so, Enid Broom in the white uniform of a nurse, a red cross bright on her front bib, walked on stage and stood by the black-draped box.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Nesbo addressed the audience, “the event you are about to see has never before been seen in Europe. It was attempted twice in America.” He paused to let the audience decide for itself what the outcome of the attempts were. He continued. “You may have seen in the press that I will saw a woman in half. I shall not.”

There was a murmur of disappointment. Nesbo’s voice rose above it.

“That would be too cruel. Too painful for my lovely and brave assistant. No! I shall slice her in half!” There was a gasp from the audience.

“If any member of the audience feels uneasy, nervous or frightened, I must ask you to leave the auditorium now.” He paused. The audience sat, petrified.

Even with her thumping heart Kate was full of admiration for this wonderful showman. She gave a quick glance into the wings where the rest of the Jolly Good Company were crowded to watch the first performance of this new illusion, but she couldn’t see Delia or Max.

She and Enid picked up the draped table and carried it forward. With a flourish Nesbo whipped the black drapes away to reveal the casket. Lying on top of the casket were two sheets of metal like two guillotine blades. At the side of the casket were two large, pale yellow melons.

Nesbo took one of the great blades, holding it at either side, and then suddenly thrust down on one of the melons, slicing it easily in half, the juice glistening and running down the blade. The audience gasped, and then again as the second melon was cut by the second blade.

“Zara! It is time.” As the drums began a low, quick, staccato beat, Zara mounted a small set of steps, climbed into the box and lay down, her head clearly visible at one end.

As she slid into the box she stretched down with her feet to one side of the end of the box. Built in, attached to a hinged wooden panel, were a pair of false feet and ankles wearing black stockings and bright red shoes with pretty white bows.

She pushed the panel out of the end of the box and the feet became visible to the audience. On the inside of the hinged panel was the switch of a small electric motor. She pushed the switch with her foot. The motor caused the dummy feet to keep moving a little, just enough to look real.

Kate, half on her side, curled her knees up tight against her chest, leaving the bottom half of the casket empty.

Nesbo took one of the guillotine blades and held it high, the drums increasing in speed and volume. He placed the blade in prepared slots on each side of the box and slammed down. Kate screamed.

She could hear cries from the audience. One or two actually stood up.

The second blade followed with another scream. Nesbo pulled the two halves of the box apart, a blade covering each section.

Kate lay curled up in one half and her dummy feet wiggled a little at the other side of the stage while Kate’s face smiled at the audience. Then Nesbo pushed the two halves back together and removed the blades.

Kate reached down with her foot, found the curved metal handle on the inside of the hinged panel, pulled the false feet inside the box, and with Nesbo’s assistance, stepped out, all in one piece, to tremendous applause.


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