A Jolly Good Show – Episode 36

KATE arrived early at the theatre for an extra rehearsal with Nesbo. He wanted to make a start on his ideas for an escapology item that could possibly be included in the act.

“You can’t stand still in this business, Miss Flynn, or you’ll be left behind.”

Delia had accompanied Kate from their digs.

“Honestly, there’s no need,” Kate had protested. “I’ll be perfectly safe, I’m quite sure,” she said, although she wasn’t really.

Delia had brushed away the protestation.

“I want to run through a new song anyway.”

Nothing much was said, but no-one seemed to want to be on their own in the theatre. Everyone was on edge, a little jittery, and an empty theatre could be cold, eerie, echoing with old memories, with dark corners and cubby holes and, high overhead, a mish-mash of creaking ropes and pulleys with heavy spotlights staring down with sightless eyes.

Kate left Delia in their dressing-room and went to find Nesbo. He was sitting on a chair in the middle of the empty stage. There were coils of rope and thin-linked chains on the floor by his feet. He was reading a newspaper. She walked across the stage to him.

“Good morning,” she said.

He looked up and smacked the folded paper with the back of his hand.

“Have you seen this? Here.” He gave her the paper. Kate read the main headline.

Stage Death Threat! She read on. Members of a variety show currently appearing at the Regency Theatre have been the target of vicious death threats from an anonymous assailant. The artistes of the Jolly Good Company are in fear for their lives after an attempt to sabotage a massive piece of heavy scenery that came within a hair’s breadth of crashing down with possible fatal consequences.

The mysterious threats promise that a death will take place on stage.

The manager of the company, Mr Cyril Broom, refused to comment on the rumour that the popular male vocalist and siffleur, Mr Max Reynolds, had been the target of the first attempt. He did confirm that there will be a constant police presence at each performance.

Kate looked at Nesbo.

“How?” she said.

“Journalists cultivate policemen,” he said. “They buy them a couple of drinks, get snippets of information and make up the rest.”

“They make it sound worse than it is, and that’s bad enough. It’s awful.”

Nesbo waved his hand dismissively.

“It’s our job to be sensational on stage, it’s theirs to be sensational in print. I will say this, though Cyril has made a clever move. He approached the local Chief Constable and is paying for a policeman to be highly visible in the foyer at each performance.”

He gave a low chuckle before continuing.

“Apparently we shall be performing

to a packed house each night, and the presence of a policeman in the theatre will give an extra frisson of excitement to an expectant public.”

“That’s terrible,” Kate said.

“That’s human nature,” Nesbo replied.

At least, Kate reflected, the threat to the company had brought Nesbo out of his shell a little. He’d spoken more to her in the last three minutes than in the last three weeks. She thought she might venture a little further.

“Nesbo,” she began, “do you think there is real danger? Do you think Max was the target?”

He looked at her, raising his thin black eyebrows.

“Max? Why?”

Kate hesitated.

“Jealousy, perhaps?” she said weakly. She hurried on. “You spoke about his reputation. Something from the past?” She felt herself struggling. Was she on dangerous ground with Nesbo?

He gave a short laugh.

“I suspect that Mr Reynolds is not what he seemed. I suspect that our handsome siffleur’s so-called reputation is largely encouraged by himself. It suits his stage persona. A Don Juan. Some women like that, I believe.”

“Delia thinks . . .” Kate stopped.

A scowl came back to Nesbo’s face.

“Delia must make her own decisions, and there is nothing I can do about it.” He looked at Kate.

She could see the unhappiness in his eyes.

“As a friend, you see,” he added.

“Yes, of course.”

Nesbo turned briskly to business.

“Now, Miss Flynn, pick up those chains.”

While she did that, struggling a little with their weight, Nesbo went to the wings and returned with a wood and canvas screen. He sat on the chair.

“Wrap the chain all round me. Pull tight, girl! If we put this into the act I’ll probably get a couple of hefty lads out of the audience to do this. Or you will.”

When the chains were round Nesbo’s upper body and arms as instructed, Kate closed a heavy padlock to secure them. On Nesbo’s wrists, flat against his chest, she secured and clicked shut a pair of police handcuffs.

“Now close the screen around me, Miss Flynn, and step outside and count to ten. Count out loud.”

Kate did as she was told. She knew that if this came into the act it would be done with great flair. On the count of ten the screen was pushed over with a clatter and Nesbo stood beside the chair with the chain and cuffs on the floor. Kate clapped. Nesbo bowed.

“How did you do it?” she asked.

He simply tapped the side of his nose.

“My secret, for now. Everyone has secrets,” was his only reply.

Kate was prevented from pressing further by the sound of voices and Delia and Cyril and Enid Broom came on stage.


Used to make posts more anonymous, eg a criminal case where you don’t want to expose the actual journalist.