A Jolly Good Show – Episode 51

DINNER with Michael was everything that Kate could have hoped for. As she looked across the table at a smiling young man, Kate suddenly thought, what if she had left the theatre a minute earlier or a minute later? How awful! But she hadn’t. Fate, it seemed, had decided that she should be here, sitting opposite Michael.

“What are you thinking?” he said.

“How glad I am we met,” she answered honestly.

“That’s wonderful.” He reached across the table and touched her hand. It was the first time they had touched since that shy handshake in the caf.

“Tell me more about Nova Scotia,” Kate prompted.

“Well, Halifax, Nova Scotia, is more British, and particularly more Scottish, than you can imagine.”

Kate raised her eyebrows.

“It’s true,” he continued. “There are more bagpipes and kilts than you can shake a stick at, but at the same time it’s very Canadian.”

“And you’ve come to England to trace your family?”

The flames of the candles on their table danced a little in a slight draught, causing a flicker of shadow across Michael’s face.

“I have,” he said.

“Have you been successful?” Kate asked.

He said nothing for a moment, his eyes on Kate eyes that seemed faintly familiar.

“Sometimes, Kate, you search for one thing and find another.”

She dropped her eyes. Her fingers were still in his.

“What about you?” he said. “From Woolworths to the stage. That’s quite a journey. What an adventure!”

The evening had passed very quickly. It was time Kate was back at the theatre. Michael walked with her through the wet streets, the street lights making pools of gold on the shining pavements.

He asked if he could escort her home after the show. Kate hesitated.

“Well, usually I go with Delia, but you could come along, too,” she said eagerly.

Michael hesitated.

“You’ll probably want to talk about the show. I’d love to meet your friends, but perhaps over a drink some time. Perhaps tomorrow. Has Delia always been a music hall artiste?”

“As far as I know. I’ve only known her since I joined the Jolly Goods. Nesbo says she’s a trouper, which is a compliment, and he isn’t called the Great Nesbo for nothing. He’s very clever.”

“You like them very much, don’t you?”

“Oh, yes, they are like family.”

They had reached the theatre. She turned to him.

“Thank you for dinner, Michael. I’ve had a lovely evening. Good night.”

“Good night, Kate. Thank you.” He leaned towards her and they kissed.

Kate skipped into the theatre, slightly breathless and walking on air.

She went to the dressing-room she was sharing with Sally and Delia.

They were both there. Sally quickly removed a hairpin from between her teeth.

“Kate! Guess what? Nesbo is getting a divorce. And he’s asked Delia to marry him. Would you believe it?” she cried.

Kate looked at Delia.

“Yes, I would.”

Sally prattled on.

“Two men at her feet. You’re not giving us young ones much chance, Delia, are you?” She stopped suddenly. “Oops! Sorry! I didn’t mean . . .”

Delia laughed.

“Don’t be silly. I’m glad you’re so pleased for me.”

“What have you told him?” Kate asked.

“Nothing, yet.” Delia sighed.

“Well, for what it’s worth,” Sally said, “I think Max is suave, attractive, kind and he dotes on you. I like Nesbo, but he does frighten me a little. What do you think, Kate? You know him better than anyone.”

“I think Delia knows him better than anyone,” Kate replied.

Delia smiled at her.

“It’s not all about me. How did your evening with Michael go?”

“Wonderful. I’ll tell you about it later.”

Having changed quickly into costume, Kate walked down the corridor towards Nesbo’s room. She saw Cyril Broom standing by a fire exit door. He had a haunted, worried look on his face. Kate felt quite concerned. She went up to him. He was probably still worrying about that death-threat business.

“Are you all right, Cyril?”

He looked at her for a moment, startled.

“Me? Yes. Yes.” He walked away.

Everyone seemed to have things on their minds, Kate thought. How would Nesbo be? She took a deep breath and knocked on his door.

Nesbo was fully dressed for the stage. He sat at his dressing table looking into the mirror as Kate entered behind him.

“Miss Flynn. Punctual, as always.” He didn’t turn round.

“Yes, I try to be.” She paused. “I’ve just left Delia.”

“Ah! And she’s told you, I suppose.”

“Yes, she’s told me.”

He was looking at her in the mirror.

“And did she . . .?”

Kate shook her head.

Nesbo turned to face her.

“Do you think I’m preposterous? Do you think the very idea is ridiculous?”

Kate had never known him seek her opinion on any personal matter before. It was almost as if he was seeking her approval, seeking reassurance. She had never seen him so uncertain, so vulnerable.

She tried to pick her words carefully.

“I think you are an honourable and good man, and I know that Delia cares about you very much.”

Nesbo looked at her with his head on one side, as though weighing up her words, reading her mind, perhaps. He suddenly stood up, startling her.

“We have a show to do.”

Kate was relieved. She didn’t know what to say, so she asked, “Have you got the key?”

She always wanted to make sure that Nesbo had the tiny key to the handcuffs for the escapology finale, and with Nesbo’s mind on other things . . .

Nesbo simply gave her a withering look and touched the corner of his lower lip.

“Let us proceed, Miss Flynn, and leave romantic illusions for what we might call more practical ones.”


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