A Jolly Good Show – Episode 54

NESBO stood up.

“Thank you for coming this morning. We wouldn’t have disturbed everyone’s day off if it wasn’t important. But it is important and, I’m afraid, very serious.”

“It’s not about Max’s replacement, then?” Lennie said.

“No, Lennie, it isn’t.” Nesbo paused for a moment as though collecting himself.

Cyril still stared at the table. Enid, who looked close to tears, took his hand.

Kate remembered the haunted look on Cyril’s face as he’d stood alone by the fire exit. It suddenly occurred to her that Cyril could be ill. Very serious, Nesbo had said.

Nesbo cleared his throat and went on.

“I didn’t want Cyril to be here this morning, but he has insisted.” Again he paused.

Everyone was very quiet. Nesbo turned to Cyril.

“Cyril, are you sure? I can explain things, if . . .”

Cyril shook his head. He patted Enid’s hand and got to his feet. It seemed a struggle.

He raised his face and looked at the Jolly Good Company sitting watching him. His face was pallid, dark circles under his eyes.

“I need to do this.” His voice was hoarse, strained. “I need to make a confession, to face you. But where to begin?”

There was absolute silence, every gaze fixed on Cyril.

With an effort he began.

“You all know I like a bet.” Several of the company nodded, including Lennie Douglas. “Well, the truth is, I’m a gambler. An addict. I realise that now. If I lost money, I always thought I could win it back. And sometimes I did win. But usually I lost, and the more I lost the more I gambled, and the more I owed.”

He stopped for a moment and glanced at Enid, whose head was bowed. He continued.

“I owed a lot to some pretty nasty characters. Will knows that. He saw one, and that’s what has brought me here.”

“I’m sorry, Cyril,” Will Griffiths said.

Cyril waved his hand in dismissal.

“It’s not your fault, Will. It’s nobody’s fault but mine.” He spoke to the rest of the company. “You see, Will saw me paying off one of these chaps. I had to . . .” His voice faltered. “They said they would harm Enid. And I couldn’t have that.”

“Oh, Cyril!” Enid was looking up at him, her face stained with tears.

Nesbo stood up. He put a hand on Cyril’s shoulder.

“Just have a minute, Cyril. Sit down, take a sip of water.”

Cyril nodded. He poured a little water into a glass. Everyone could hear the clinking of the carafe against the glass from Cyril’s shaking hand. It was the only sound in the theatre.

Enid put her arm around him.

“Will was so upset by what he saw that he came and told me,” Nesbo said. “Well, I’d had one or two inklings about certain events. I went to see Cyril and he told me everything. I think it was a kind of relief, really.”

“Do you think there’s more?” Kate whispered and Delia nodded.

Cyril stood up again.

“I’ve got to tell it, Nesbo.” With a sigh Nesbo sat down. “I was desperate for money. We were doing all right, but we needed to do better. We needed full houses. We needed to take more at the box office. That’s why I sent the letter. I sent the death threat. I cut the rope on the flat.”

There was a collective intake of breath, cries of, “Oh, no!”

“Please! Please!” Cyril pleaded. “I cut some of the rope then I went and got Will immediately, pretending to have found it. No-one was ever in danger. I made sure of that.” Cyril’s voice was desperate. “I tried to make sure that everyone knew that everything in the theatre was checked. But I know I frightened you and I’m so sorry.” He took a sip of water, the glass in his hand shaking.

The members of the Jolly Good Company were looking at each other in amazement, not knowing what to say.

“Oh, Delia, he must have been desperate,” Kate said. “Poor Cyril.”

Cyril stood facing them, his large round face white. He swayed a little.

Both Enid and Nesbo said something to him, but he shook his head.

“Now I’ve got to tell you the worst.” His voice was close to cracking. “I’ve stolen from you. You’ve had your share of the box office each week, but the money that goes to book the theatres each week, our working capital that’s gone. There’s nothing left. I’m sorry.”

There were tears running down Cyril’s face. Nesbo put his arm around his shoulders and made him sit down.


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