Chapter 1: Author Notes
Hello and welcome to my virtual season two of Houdini & Doyle! Since ITV/FOX/Global chose not to renew the series, it's up to fic writers to keep the series alive and so here we are.
This series directly follows the end of The Pall of LaPier and my series of missing scenes, A Study in Friendship. If you haven't read A Study in Friendship, I suggest you read at least the last two chapters, Revelations Part 1 and 2, as there are plot points and characters introduced there that continue through this series.
I hope you enjoy the stories in this series. If so, please click the Kudos or leave a comment (or both!) Muses love feedback.
Chapter 2: Prologue
The Peacock Theater was a tribute to days gone by. True, it was small, only seating two hundred people on the floor and another fifty or so in the balcony and boxes, but it was a beautiful example of its time. Three Regency era chandeliers, each one hanging from the high ceiling near the front of the stage, lit the wide aisle down the center of the theater and along each side, a fourth graced the center of the stage. The only change made in the ornate, many tiered, design was converting the dozens of candles to small electric lights.
The main floor seating was slightly angled so the seats near the back of the theater were slightly higher than those near the front; the Peacock boasted there wasn't a bad seat in the house. The aisles were carpeted in a rich blue that matched the upholstery of the padded seats and gave the impression of well-to-do opulence as well as the theater its name. The second level and boxes had ornate railings covered in gilt with yet another, albeit smaller, chandelier hanging from the second floor ceiling.
While the stage was equally small, everything from Shakespeare to the more recent burlesque had tripped across the hardwood to entertain the commoner and elite alike.
The area surrounding the Peacock had grown, shifted, and changed with the times. It stood tall during wars and economic hardship, and now the neighborhood and the Peacock were again breasting a wave of prosperity as old mews were torn down to make way for new flats and shops.
Mortimer Jackson, Mort to everyone who knew him, had worked as a handyman for the Peacock for so long actors and other employees of the theater joked that old Mort had been around as long as the Peacock herself. He was easy to spot, a tall man with slightly hunched shoulders, his grizzled black hair cut short, he wore a rusty black overcoat and fingerless grey wool gloves.
Mort knew every nook and crack of the Peacock Theater. He knew the stage exit door couldn't be opened unless the lock was turned just so, and that the dressing room at the end of the hall near the alley had a leak every time the rain came down from the north. He also knew the stories about the ghosts that haunted the Peacock.
Some people saw the ghost of a long-dead paramour murdered, so the story goes, by a rival in one of the upper balcony boxes. Others swore they saw the spirit of an actor who died on stage during a performance. Neither were thought to be mean or cruel. The one would roam silently through the upper boxes while the actor would appear in the wings as if awaiting his cue to enter for his next scene.
Whether it was one ghost or many, Mort wasn't bothered; his philosophy was live and let live, and as long as they left him alone, he was happy to return the favor. He continued his afternoon rounds of the theater, making sure everything was ready for the performance set to start in a few hours. The props had been placed on the stage, the lighting rigs were checked and now he made sure everything backstage was tidied away.
He was trying to organize the crates along one wall when he heard yelling coming from the seating area in front of the stage. He crept up on stage and peeked through the edge of the blue velvet curtains to see what the trouble was and if he needed to intervene. Two men were arguing near the orchestra pit at the right side of the stage.
Before Mort could do much more than get an eye on the altercation, the young man, whom Mort recognised as one of the actors from the marquee variety show, was slashed with a knife by the other. Mort couldn't really see who the other man was since his back was turned toward the stage, all he caught was a glimpse of a black topcoat and slouch hat as the man disappeared out one of the side exits.
Mort stood in shocked silence for a moment after the black-coated man left. When the young actor made a pitiful noise from the floor in front of the stage, Mort edged out from behind the curtain to see what he could do to help. He jumped down from the stage and approached the young man, but he could see there was nothing to be done; the knife had cut deep into his throat, blood pooled around the man's head and shoulders, and the noise he'd heard was the poor young man's soul departing the earthly coil.
He glanced around the theater, hoping someone would appear to help him, but no one else was in the theater this early. As he turned back to the body at his feet, Mort heard a new noise, "Hello?" a voice called at the side door. "Who's in here?"
Mort took a step back from the body. He knew how things looked, he was the only one in the theater. He knew there would questions, but who would believe him about the man with the black coat and hat? Mort faded back behind the stage curtain just as a bobby pushed through the still half-open side door. The police officer took one look at the body on the floor and ran back outside, his whistle a shrill note on the air as he called for assistance.
Chapter 3: Act 1
Harry Houdini slouched in a chair, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to his elbows, a book closed on his lap. He gazed out the large window of his suite at the Metropole Hotel and watched the shadows of people and carriages in the street below as they plodded through the drizzle that defined London in November.
They'd been back from the America for a few weeks and Harry still couldn't face the sitting room, it didn't matter that almost everything had been changed while he was gone. New rugs and furniture replaced the items removed by the coroner, even the walls had been painted a different shade of blue. The only thing still in place was the piano.
Arthur had suggested Harry stay at his, Doyle's, townhouse when they first returned to England. Harry had declined, saying he chose to deal with the future his own way. With a chair situated close to the floor-to-ceiling windows, he could be in the hotel room and didn't have to acknowledge his mother would never again read on the sofa by the fire and ask him about his show or his latest adventure with Arthur Conan Doyle and Constable Adelaide Stratton.
Thanks to Doyle he was sleeping regularly, well regularly for him anyway, and he hadn't had any hallucinatory visions of his mother since their return, though he still refused to open the door to his mother's bedroom or pack away her dresses and belongings. Any time he spent in the hotel was either in his library or in his bedroom. Or looking out the windows with his back to the sitting room. He slumped lower in the chair as the drizzle changed to rain and pelted against the window completely obscuring the street below.
The problem was he was bored.
Since their return, Adelaide hadn't had any interesting cases for the three of them to solve, it seemed only the normal criminal element was at work. Arthur, too, had been busy writing his new book once they were home. Harry dined at the townhouse at least once a week, often more, and knew the Baskerville story was progressing well, the first chapters were almost ready for publication.
Harry, however, was at loose-ends. Since he'd been gone, the Alhambra Theater had booked other acts in place of his show so he was only working a few evenings per week. In a bit of good news, the reduced schedule gave him time to train his new assistant. Florrie had married while he was gone and refused Harry's offer to continue with the show. Since he didn't have someone trained to help with his more complex escapes, his shows were limited to the milk can escape, stage magic, and his old stand-by the Metamorphosis. He wasn't so foolish as to risk his life with a half trained assistant.
A knock at the door shook him out if his thoughts and he slowly rose, book in hand, to answer it. He knew even before he opened the door it would be Doyle, the doctor used the same pattern of taps when he visited, Harry wondered if he even realised it.
"Hiya, Doc," Harry greeted as he opened the door. His smile widened and he continued, "Hey, you aren't using the cane."
Arthur Conan Doyle stepped into the room with a smile of his own and dropped his slightly damp hat on the table near the door.
"Doctor Miller pronounced me fit yesterday," Doyle said as he walked into the sitting room and stopped. Harry watched as he glanced around the room and saw the slight frown appear on Arthur's face as he noted the chair near the far window.
Harry detoured to the library on the way back to the sitting room and dropped the book on his desk and wasn't surprised when he came back and saw Doyle purposely sat on the sofa in front of the fireplace pulling a newspaper from his suit coat pocket. "I saw this a little while ago," he said as he handed over a cheap, two-bit rag of a newspaper folded to highlight the article in question.
Harry rolled his eyes at the obvious tactic to make him deal with the spot where his mother had died, but took the chair next to the sofa and read through the report on a murder at the Peacock Theater and handed the paper back. The only thing that surprised him about the report was someone getting the details and publishing them while the police were presumably still there investigating the crime. "So? It seems to be just another murder. What has you so interested?"
Doyle stuffed the paper back in his pocket and leant back on the sofa. "How can you be part of the theater scene in London and not know about the history of the Peacock?" Doyle asked. "It's been known for years that theater is haunted."
Harry shook his head with a grin. "Come on, Doc. Every theater I've ever worked in has claimed to have a spook or two. It's all hokum, just stories to wow an audience."
"Constable Stratton seems to think this one may be true. She called and asked for us to meet her at the theater. I saw the newspaper account as I left the townhouse."
"And you think, what? A ghost is killing people? Why?"
"I have no idea. Adelaide however thinks we can be of help."
Harry stood and went to his bedroom for his suit coat. He came back a few seconds later, pulling on the coat, he didn't bother putting on a collar or tie, as he moved toward the door and picked up his top coat from the chair by the door where Doyle waited, his hat in hand, and they left the hotel in search of a cab.
When a young woman arrived, Mort was surprised how the others gave way to her. The woman was of average height with long hair tied back and tucked under her police hat. She moved about the front of the theater with an air of authority and Mort was impressed with how she handled the officers around her and directed their investigation.
His surprise at seeing a woman in charge soon gave way to interest as he watched her direct the men in gathering what evidence they could find and sending others to look for possible witnesses. She wasted no time removing a curious newspaper reporter who had snuck into the theater while the officer at the side door was busy with other onlookers and Mort didn't bother to hide his smirk when he watched as one of the police officers grabbed the reporter by the arm and tossed him out of the theater.
Mort watched all of the activity for the first hour or so until one of the bobbies wandered backstage, then he hid in one of the dressing rooms until the young officer left again. He peeked back through the curtain just in time to see two new arrivals greet the woman. Both men smiled at her and seemed at ease as they stood next her and listened as she explained what she knew so far.
The young man had curly black hair, with a stray lock that hung near his eye. His grey suit was highlighted by a blue embroidered waistcoat and Mort suspected the young man came from money, the suit was well-tailored. The other man was older, grey was beginning to show at his temples, with a moustache and Mort thought he was rather distinguished in his equally expensive green suit and gold waistcoat. Unlike the younger man, the older one also carried a bowler hat.
The woman welcomed them both and Mort realised after watching them for only a few moments they were good friends. The woman called the younger one Harry and the older Doctor Doyle, and Mort's suspicion she was in charge was confirmed when the older man, Doyle, referred to her as Constable.
The younger man, Harry, glanced up at the stage and Mort was certain he'd been seen when Harry stared a little harder at the stage for a moment before turning his attention back to the shrouded body on the floor in front of the stage. After a cautious moment, Mort peeked back through the curtain to see what happened next.
Adelaide saw them and walked up the aisle to meet them. "I'm glad you both are here," she said after greeting them both.
"So who's the victim?" Harry asked as he glanced for a moment at the stage then moved around her and stood with the raised platform against his back. Doyle knelt beside the body and lifted a corner of the sheet to look at the man beneath.
"According to the posters for the show currently playing here, his name is Evert Campbell, twenty-nine years old, he was the headline act for the variety show, Thornton Shea's World Showcase and Revue.
"Oh yeah?" Harry said. "What sort of act did he do?"
"I'm not sure, we're waiting for Mr. Shea to arrive. We need him to confirm the identity and he can hopefully tell us who would want to kill him."
"So, it wasn't a ghost," Harry replied with a smile.
Doyle stood from the body. "His throat was slashed." he said. "The knife the killer used was incredibly sharp, there's little tearing and the wound itself is straight and clean."
"So, not a ghost," Harry said again. "Why did you think we'd be interested in this case?" he asked Adelaide.
Adelaide replied. "There are several stories surrounding this theater, several strange deaths over the years. I sent a bobby to the archives to see what he can find about the theater's history."
Before Harry could say anything else, the door to the side entrance slammed open and a man wearing a black suit coat over a silver embroidered waistcoat, stumbled through the cordon of police. "Who's in charge here?" he asked as he wiped his face with an handkerchief. He glanced once at the shrouded body in front of the stage and shuddered. The chandelier above them rattled slightly as it swayed in the breeze as the side door opened and closed.
"I'm Constable Stratton with Scotland Yard," Adelaide told the new arrival. "This is Harry Houdini and Doctor Doyle. And you would be?"
"Thornton Shea," the man replied glancing at Harry and Arthur before focusing on Adelaide. "Evert was part of my latest show."
Adelaide nodded to the bobby standing beside Shea and the officer knelt and pulled back the sheet just enough to expose the face. Shea took one fleeting look at the body and turned away, his hand over his mouth and his eyes squeezed shut. "That's Evert," he mumbled.
"Thank you Mr. Shea," Adelaide said. She turned to the bobby and continued, "The coroner can take him now," she said in a low voice.
The morgue attendants stepped forward and lifted what was left of Evert Campbell onto a stretcher and carried the body out to the waiting coroner's wagon. Harry turned away as they worked and he caught Doyle's concerned look.
"I'm fine," he muttered before Doyle could say anything.
Harry studied Shea as Adelaide took him aside and settled him in one of the theater seats on the other side of the stage from where the body had been discovered. Shea was probably in his late fifties, his salt and pepper hair brushed back from his forehead showing a slight widow's peak. Harry could tell Shea had been active in his younger years; he still had powerful arms, but middle age had turned the muscle around his stomach to a slight paunch. His suit was rumpled and damp from the rain, he wasn't wearing a top coat or hat.
"I can't believe this," Harry heard Shea mutter as he and Doyle joined Adelaide. "I came as soon as I heard."
"What can you tell us about Mr. Campbell?" Adelaide asked him as she took out a small notepad. "Was there anyone you knew of who would want to harm him?"
"Evert? No, no one," Shea said, twisting his hands together. "Evert has … had … been with the revue since he was nineteen. He was an actor with an ego to match, but people liked him. He was young and handsome and he knew it. Girls and women flocked to him."
"Any husbands or family members take exception to that?" Doyle asked.
Shea shook his head. "Evert would play the game, but he never let it go too far. He didn't want women in his rooms, said it distracted him from his art."
Harry ignored the look Doyle gave him and asked, "What exactly was his art? What did he do in your show?"
Shea sat up a bit straighter in his seat. "Oh, he did many things. He could sing and dance some, he would do dramatic readings from Shakespeare. He was working on a new act he wanted to add to the show," Shea glanced at Harry, "Magic and the like, you understand."
"Any problems with the show or the other players?" Harry asked.
"No, not really." Shea said and looked at his feet.
"Not really?" Adelaide prompted.
Shea sighed. "Ticket sales are off a bit," he admitted but hurried on, "But that's to be expected this time of year. We're always a bit slow before the Christmas holiday show starts. That's why Evert was working on new material, he wanted to have it ready before the winter shows started."
Adelaide glanced down at her notes and started to ask another question when the door at the back of the theater opened and a woman wandered down the center aisle, her arms extended and her eyes closed. She looked to be the same age as Thornton Shea. Her short, blonde hair was curled against her head and she wore a plain grey dress with a thin lace shawl over her arms. Several necklaces tinkled together as she walked. A lanky young man with red hair and pale skin walked beside her, his head cocked to the side as he listened to her speak.
"Oh, yes, I can feel him," she said in a wispy voice to the young man as she opened her eyes. "Poor Evert is still here, trapped. We must help him to cross-over, Mr. Stevens."
"Excuse me," Adelaide called to the woman. "You can't be here right now."
The woman stepped forward and met Adelaide at the front of the stage. She glanced down at the still red pool near her shoe and her face went a bit pale."My dear child," the woman said, moving her foot slightly and Adelaide frowned at the word. "My dear child, I can help you. I can feel poor Evert still in the house, he is here and wants to speak."
Thornton Shea stood up and faced the woman. "Now is not a good time, Diana," he told her with frustrated sigh. "No one is interested in your parlor tricks, a man is dead."
Diana glared at Shea, "It's no trick, Thornton. The spirits surround us all the time, we merely choose not to listen."
Harry felt Doyle shift beside him and hoped he wouldn't say anything about ghosts.
"Be that as it may," Adelaide said. "You can't be here." She motioned to one of the bobbies standing nearby and said, "Please escort these two out of the theater."
As the officer herded the interlopers up the aisle, Adelaide whispered, "Make sure to get their names and addresses." The bobby nodded and escorted the pair back up to the main theater exit.
Adelaide turned back to Thornton Shea. "I think we have enough for right now, Mr. Shea. Please make sure one of the officers has your information in case we have any other questions."
Shea nodded and started for the side exit. "This is a terrible, terrible thing, Constable Stratton. I'm not sure the show can continue without Evert."
"He was that important?" Harry asked. "What happened to the show must go on?"
Shea glanced at the place where the body had recently been removed. "Yes, well, the investigation, the rumors." He wiped his face again. "I just don't know." He left the theater by the side door only slightly less agitated than when he arrived.
"Did he seem nervous to anyone else?" Harry asked as Shea left the theater. "That wasn't just the rain he was wiping off his face."
"He's probably just upset," Adelaide replied. "I've seen that sort of reaction before. Not everyone is ready to see a dead body."
Harry looked away and mumbled, "No, I guess not."
"Did you hear her?" Doyle asked after a moment. "She could feel Campbell still here. If she can reach him, he might be about to tell us --"
"Oh, no," Harry interrupted, his hands emphasizing his denial, as thoughts of finding his mother on the sofa in their hotel room retreated again. "She wasn't feeling anything except the coins she planned to bilk out of Scotland Yard for her 'assistance'." Harry mimed the quote marks.
"I need to report to Chief Merring," Adelaide said and started up the side aisle to the main door. "He can decide if we should ask anyone else for help with the case."
They headed out of the theater and Harry stopped to look at the playbill for the Peacock's current shows. Thornton Shea's World Showcase and Revue topped the billing in large lettering. As he looked further down the sheet he found Miss Diana, Mystic and Medium, in much smaller print, and grinned.
He pocketed the advertising sheet to show the others at the station.
"Have you heard anything from Doctor Biggs?" Harry asked, breaking the silence of the last few minutes and derailing Doyle's thoughts.
Doyle glanced up at Harry and answered, "I had a letter from him a couple of days ago. He'd received Touie's medical files from Doctor Perlow."
"And?" Harry asked
Doyle felt the smile on his face even as he replied, "And he thinks he may be able to do something."
Harry's face broke out in a huge grin. "I told you American doctors could work miracles."
"That's wonderful news," Adelaide added looking up from her notebook.
"He thinks the treatment used to flush her lungs was a good beginning, it just wasn't the right combination of medicines. He sent a letter to Doctor Perlow to arrange for a consult and to see Touie for himself."
"When will he get to England?" Adelaide asked as the subway jerked to a stop.
"He has a few cases of his own to wrap up before leaving New York," Doyle said as they exited the subway and climbed the steps up to street level. "He also said something about finding the most expensive first-class cabin available for the crossing." Doyle turned and gave Harry a significant look.
"He can have whatever cabin he can find," Harry said still smiling pulling up the collar of his top coat as the drizzle blew in their faces once on the street. "If he can really cure Touie, it'll be worth it." Houdini started off to the police station on the next corner at a quick walk; Arthur and Adelaide followed behind him.
"I don't understand," Adelaide said with a puzzled frown.
Doyle smiled down at her then ahead at Harry who dodged around a group of officers crowded near the steps of Scotland Yard. "Harry offered to pay Doctor Biggs' way to London when he cornered the man in New York."
"I'm surprised the doctor would take such an advantage."
"Oh, he's not, Constable. I sent him the money for the ticket and he will be here the end of next month or the beginning of the year depending on the how the crossings are going. Houdini, however doesn't need to know that." He held the door to the precinct for her.
Adelaide walked into the station and added her notes to the reports already spread across one of the work tables in the bullpen. Harry hung his damp top coat off a hook in the corner and draped his suit coat over the back of a chair then picked up the nearest of the reports on the table. Doyle shed his own top coat and hung it next to Houdini's and picked up another of the files.
"The Peacock Theater is having a bit of a revival," Harry said looking up from the file in his hands. "Since the beginning of the year, the neighborhood has been rebuilding like crazy and the theater and land are worth a small fortune."
"Do we have anything on the history of the building, yet," Adelaide asked as she joined the others.
"Not yet," Harry replied, "Not that it matters. A ghost didn't kill Evert Campbell."
"Who owns the theater? The murder could be a way to scare the owners into selling with the revived interest in the neighborhood," Doyle pointed out.
Harry shook his head, "The ownership has been held in a trust for decades. No one there to scare."
"Chief Merring wants an update," Sergeant Gudgett told them as he passed their table on his way to the chief's office. "Someone named Diana Abberton has already called him about the case and says she has vital information."
"Well she works fast, I'll give her that," Harry said as Adelaide led the way to Chief Merring's office.
"Constable," Merring greeted Adelaide as they walked into his office. She and Doyle took the chairs in front of the desk, Harry stood behind them, Sergeant Gudgett stood behind Merring. The Chief Inspector only glared at Arthur and Harry before focusing on Adelaide.
Merring held up the same newspaper Doyle had shown Harry earlier. "Care to explain how a reporter had this story before I did, Constable?" he asked, his voice low and gruff.
Adelaide sat straight in her chair. "I chased a reporter out of the theater, sir, soon after I arrived at the Peacock. He wasn't there long enough to learn anything, however."
"That's part of the problem, Constable," Merring growled. "He's already claiming a ghost is our main suspect." Merring slammed the paper down in his desk. "Speaking of which, I've also had several calls from a Diana Abberton claiming she can help us contact the victim to find out who killed him."
"Yes, sir. Miss Abberton was at the theater when I was questioning Thornton Shea about the victim, sir," Adelaide explained. "She claims Mr. Evert Campbell's … spirit … is trapped in the theater, and she can communicate with him."
"She may be able to help, Chief Inspector," Arthur interjected. "If she's a true medium she could talk to Mr. Campbell and give us vital information about the case."
"That's a pretty big 'if'," Harry scoffed. "Am I the only one that remembers Madam Korzah?"
"I seem to remember she helped solve that case," Doyle said, hooking an arm over his chair to watch Harry pace.
"She read the evidence, just like we did. You're the one that figured that out." Harry stood hands on his hips. "From what I saw, this Diana Abberton isn't anywhere near as smart as Korzah."
"What else do you have, Constable," Merring asked, and glared Harry and Arthur in turn.
"Not much, yet, sir. Doctor Doyle thinks the murder weapon was some sort of very sharp knife."
"Also, from the direction of the cut across Mr. Campbell's neck, I'd say he probably knew his killer as they were facing each other," Doyle added.
"A black top coat was found a block from the theater," Adelaide added. "It was covered with blood, presumably Mr. Campbell's."
"Any suspects or motive?"
Adelaide shook her head. "Not yet. Mr. Campbell was the star of the variety show playing at the theater, but Mr. Shea didn't know anyone who would want to kill him."
"Then I suggest you find a reason, Constable, and find it quickly. I don't want the press blowing this case up in the newspapers." He glanced at the sheet on his desk and grimaced. "Blowing it up any more than they already have."
"Yes, sir," Adelaide said and stood up. She led the way out of Merring's office and back to the work table.
"I still say we should talk to Miss Abberton and see if she can help," Doyle said outside the office.
"Oh, I'm sure she thinks she can," Harry replied as he unfolded a piece of paper from his pocket. "I found this at the theater. This is how she knew Campbell, she does a show at the theater, too."
Doyle glanced at the playbill while Adelaide spoke to a bobby waiting at the table and took a file from him.
"Officer Hamilton brought what information he could find about the history of the Peacock." Adelaide said as she looked at the file. "Here's a newspaper article on a man murdered at the theater in the early 1800's. There's not much here, though, just that the man was named Babbington and he was murdered in one of the boxes at the theater. Police at the time suspected a lover's quarrel but couldn't prove it." She flipped through some of the other papers in the file. "There's no indication anyone was ever charged for his death."
"Does it say anything about how he was killed?" Doyle asked.
Adelaide glanced through the report again. "It says a sharp cut across the neck." She looked up at Doyle. "He was nearly decapitated."
Harry made a noise. "According to Shea, there wasn't any chance for a lover's quarrel so I guess that means Babbington's ghost is off the hook," he said.
"Still," Doyle mused, "It is an interesting coincidence."
"That's all it is," Harry retorted. "Two men in a hundred years die the same way in the same place."
"There was another death at the theater in the 1840's," Adelaide interrupted and handed Doyle another file. "An actor died on stage while performing Hamlet."
"Someone get a little to realistic with a sword?" Harry asked.
"No," Doyle replied as he read the coroner's report. "He died on stage and the authorities thought it was a heart attack, but traces of a poison were later found in his mouth."
"Poisoned. Ouch. So it was like the play."
"What was the name of the man with Diana Abberton?" Adelaide asked, a few moments later as she looked up from another of the reports.
"Stevens, I think," Doyle answered. "Why?"
"One of the other actors for the variety show told Officer James he saw Evert Campbell arguing with someone with red hair a few days ago. He heard Mr. Campbell call the man Stevens. He heard them shouting and witnessed Stevens shove Campbell against the front of the stage."
"Huh," Harry said, pulling on his suit coat. "I wonder if Miss Abberton knew about this when she said she would talk to Campbell for us."
"I think we should pay a visit to Mr. Stevens and see what he can tell us about that argument." Adelaide noted down the address for the hotel Stevens said he was staying at and led the way back outside and to the subway.
Adelaide approached the long marble topped front desk and asked the only person there for Mr. Lawrence Stevens' room number. The officious man behind the counter glanced up from studying a thick ledger and looked at her then glanced at Arthur and Harry before saying, "I'm sorry, but guest privacy is paramount here at the Majestic."
"I'm glad to hear that," Adelaide replied. "However I am Constable Stratton of Scotland Yard and I have some questions for Mr. Stevens."
"I see," the man replied with a put-upon air as he peered over the rims of his glasses at her again. "In that case, you will find Mr. Stevens in the lounge. Through there." He pointed down a short hallway then went back to his ledger.
Adelaide thanked him and led the way down the hall. The lounge was mostly lit by a fireplace along one wall and a series of small electric lights mounted in the corners of the room. The furniture consisted of a combination of cracked leather arm chairs arranged in small groups as well as a few tables surrounded by high backed chairs. Men and women were scattered around the room in small groups, drinking and talking. These few all looked up when Doyle, Adelaide and Harry entered the room, but quickly went back to their own business. They found Lawrence Stevens seated in one of the leather chairs looking out the window at the street, his long legs stretched out in front of him, his red hair stood out even in the low light of the room.
"Mr. Lawrence Stevens?" Adelaide asked as they approached the young man. When Stevens looked up she continued. "My name is Adelaide Stratton. I'm a constable with Scotland Yard. These gentlemen with me are Doctor Arthur Conan Doyle and Mr. Harry Houdini. We saw you briefly at the Peacock Theater this afternoon and I have a few questions I need to ask you."
"Constable," Stevens said to her and pulled his legs toward his chair. He nodded a pleasant greeting to Arthur and Harry. "I'm sorry we invaded your crime scene, Constable. Diana can be a bit of a force of nature when she thinks she's on the trail of a spirit."
Adelaide pulled up the closest leather chair and waited while Arthur and Harry brought a pair of the high-backed chairs from one of the tables and sat down. "Mr. Stevens, I'm not here about that. I do have some questions regarding Evert Campbell and your relationship with him."
"Relationship?" Stevens asked with a slight laugh. "I barely knew the man."
"That's not what we've heard," Harry said as he leant forward in his chair, his elbows on his knees.
"Evert Campbell was the star of Shea's revue. Diana shared billing with the show. So, yes, I knew Evert to greet him with a handshake when we crossed paths but that's all."
"One of the other actors in Mr. Shea's show claims he heard the two of you in an argument a few days ago, Mr. Stevens," Adelaide told him. "That doesn't sound like a friendly acquaintanceship."
"Oh, that," Stevens said and peered out the window at the drizzly rain.
"What was the argument about, Mr. Stevens?" Adelaide asked.
"It wasn't an argument. Not really," Stevens finally said as he looked back at Adelaide. "Diana has been trying to get into one of Shea's revues for years now. The showcase has a higher profile than anything she's achieved alone. I told her I'd talk to Evert about getting Shea to consider the idea."
"And how did that end with you in a shoving match with the victim?" Doyle asked.
"Evert got nasty," Stevens admitted. "He started calling Diana a fake and a charlatan."
"Huh, I kinda like this guy," Harry muttered and Doyle gave him an annoyed look.
"He said there was no way he would ever allow someone like Diana anywhere near a show he was in." Stevens looked away. "So I pushed him."
"Did you tell Miss Abberton about your conversation?" Adelaide asked, studying his face.
"No, I didn't see the point. It would only upset her to hear what Evert said about her."
"So you were the only one that knew about the argument," Doyle concluded.
"Wait. Are you accusing me of killing him?" Stevens asked his voice rising. The few other people in the lounge turned to stare at the group in the corner. "I didn't kill anyone," Stevens hissed in a lower voice.
"Where were you this afternoon, Mr. Stevens?" Adelaide asked.
"I was here most of the day, just in my room, reading and the like. Diana called and told me what happened to Evert. I met her at the theater just before we walked in on your investigation."
"Is there anyone who can verify where you were today?" Adelaide asked as she made a few notes.
Stevens clenched his hands in his lap and shook his head. "No. Wait, maybe. I had breakfast here this morning, but after that, no I guess not. I know this looks bad," he finished, "But I didn't kill him. I swear it."
Adelaide studied Stevens for a few moments before she closed her notebook and stood up. "We'll be in touch, Mr. Stevens."
"I think he may be telling the truth," Doyle said as they stood outside the Majestic. The drizzle had stopped for the moment as they walked back to the subway.
"Of course, you also think a ghost killed Evert Campbell," Harry said as he walked beside Arthur.
Doyle rolled his eyes and replied, "My reasoning has nothing to do with that. He seemed sincere."
Harry scoffed. "He works on stage, of course he seemed sincere!" Harry held up a hand as Doyle started to interrupt. "But, I think I agree with you. He didn't kill anyone. An actual murderer would have a better cover story."
"I'm not convinced," Adelaide said as they entered the subway station. "He had motive to kill Mr. Campbell, two actually. Campbell refused to help him and he insulted Miss Abberton. More importantly, he doesn't have an alibi."
"So why didn't you just arrest him," Harry asked.
"Because we need evidence first. A half-overheard argument won't convince a jury, or Chief Inspector Merring."
"In that case," Doyle said as they boarded the subway car. "Diana Abberton may be our best hope. If she can communicate with Evert Campbell, we'll have all the proof we need to arrest the person who killed him."
Chapter 4: Act 2
Adelaide adjusted the precinct pins on her collar one last time before she left her bedroom and stepped out to the small kitchen for her morning cup of tea. She glanced around the room and saw the holes in the wall from the map she'd tacked to the wall a few months ago. If she closed her eyes, she could still see all of the places the anarchist group, including her husband Benjamin, had killed someone.
She took a swallow tea and tried not to think about Buffalo, about Doyle shot in the stomach and Harry desperately trying to stop the blood.
About killing Benjamin.
When she returned to England, she'd gone to Merring and told him everything about her side investigations, Nigel Pennington's murder, and their attempt to stop the assassination of President McKinley. Needless to say he was not happy. He'd yelled at her, fired her, yelled some more, threatened to send her back to the basement, then told her to get back to work. Sergeant Gudgett was slightly more sympathetic when she found him later and returned the small Derringer pistol he'd lent to her, but he couldn't hide the fact he and the rest of the building had heard her dressing down in detail.
She washed the cup and set it in the drainer beside the sink. She took one last glance at herself in the mirror as she expertly pinned her police hat in place, and stepped outside. The drizzle from yesterday had left the streets damp, and the iron-grey clouds promised more rain to come. She took the brief break in the weather as her chance to walk to the station and think about the murder case.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much to think about. She had officers checking with anyone who worked at the Majestic to either confirm Stevens' alibi or break it. The coroner promised his report as quickly as he could and Adelaide hoped to see it before Merring asked for her updated report on the case so far.
When she arrived, she still wasn't sure what to do next, but found a surprise waiting for her, Diana Abberton sat at her desk, her head shifting as she looked around the room and toyed with one of her necklaces.
"Miss Abberton," Adelaide greeted her. She watched as the self-proclaimed medium stood then peered out at Adelaide from under a wide-brimmed hat trimmed with gold ribbon and ostrich feathers surrounding the band. Her dress was a pale green with a wide skirt and sleeves gathered at her elbow before tapering down her arms to her wrists, the same lace shawl she wore at the theater gathered in the crooks of her arms and the assortment of necklaces around her neck.
"Constable Stratton," Diana replied in her wispy voice. "I'm here to see if you've had a change of heart regarding my offer to assist with your case. I spent last night in meditation in my rooms and I feel certain I can reach Evert and allow him to communicate with you."
Adelaide moved behind her desk and offered Diana the chair in front of it. As she sat down, Adelaide ignored the snickering she heard coming from the surrounding desks.
"Before I answer, Miss Abberton, I have a few questions regarding your assistant, Lawrence Stevens."
Diana sat in the indicated chair and plucked at her sleeves. "Mr. Stevens? What could you possibly want to know about him? He's not involved with this, I'm sure of it."
Adelaide found a pen and notebook and asked, "How long have you known Mr. Stevens?"
"Heavens, you're serious," Diana said in a startled voice. "Well, really, if you want to waste your time … I've known Mr. Stevens for two years. We met when he came to me after his dear sister died. He thought she was still present in their family home and wanted me to talk to her and find out why she lingered there."
"And what did you tell him?"
"Oh the poor girl was lovesick. Her beau had chosen another over her and she … Well let's just say I was able to convince her that remaining here would only hurt her more in the end."
"And Mr. Stevens believed you helped his sister's spirit."
"Oh, absolutely! From that moment on, he told me he would do whatever he could to make sure others knew of my gifts."
Adelaide gave Diana a sharp look. "Would he go so far as to kill?"
Diana sat up in her chair and stopped fluffing her skirts. "Really, what would ever make you think such a thing. Mr. Stevens is a kind young man and would never hurt anyone."
"Miss Abberton, are you aware Mr. Stevens was seen arguing with Evert Campbell only a few days before Mr. Campbell was murdered?"
"I knew he'd gone to speak to Evert. I wanted Thornton to consider how much prestige his show would gain by having an authentic medium included in his revue. Mr. Stevens told me Evert would think about it and let him, that's Mr. Stevens, know his decision in a few days."
"And a few days later, Mr. Campbell is dead." Adelaide watched Diana for any sort of reaction. "Knowing your assistant is a suspect in Mr. Campbell's death, are you still willing to hold your … séance."
Diana stood from her chair with a haughty look on her face. "More than ever, Constable Stratton. It seems to be the only way to clear Mr. Stevens of these accusations as well as aid Mr. Campbell to continue on his journey. I spoke to Mr. Shea yesterday and he agrees with me that Evert is trapped in the theater and needs help to move on. He's offered to postpone his show tonight so that I may make contact with poor Mr. Campbell. Mr. Stevens and I will both be at the theater this evening to encourage Evert to explain what happened in his own words before he departs to the other side."
Diana held her head high as she left the bullpen and Adelaide saw Harry hold the outer door open for her to leave.
"Ooo, what did I miss?" he asked Adelaide with a grin as he sauntered over to her desk.
Adelaide sighed and dropped her pen back in the tray at the back of her desk. "Apparently, Miss Abberton agrees with you and Doctor Doyle. There's no way Mr. Stevens could have killed Evert Campbell and she intends to prove it at the theater this evening."
Harry leant against the filing cabinets behind Adelaide's desk. "You're really going to accept the testimony of a so-called spirit from a person like Diana Abberton?"
"There was a case in America a few years ago where the court accepted the testimony of a woman who claimed her daughter's ghost told her the daughter had been murdered by her husband."
Harry shook his head. "Unbelievable. I thought I'd taught you better than that after all this time." He smiled at her.
Adelaide just looked at him for a moment. "I managed to track down where Mr. Campbell was staying, he has a suite at the Carlton Hotel. Something there might tell us who would want to kill him."
Harry pushed himself off the filing cabinet. "Much better idea than listening to an old fraud like Diana Abberton." He headed for the door. "I'll get us a cab."
Adelaide stood from her desk and paused long enough to call Doyle and let him know where to meet them.
But his own regained health wasn't the only reason he noticed the worry lines faded and his eyes brighter. Dr. Bigg's letter brought some much needed good news regarding Touie; he felt lighter and younger with the dread of her death lifted a little. Harry had been right, he wasn't capable of giving up on hope.
He paused outside the morning room door and smiled as he heard the children talking and laughing. He entered the room to find Mary seated at one side of the table eating oatmeal. Kingsley sat on the other side, alternately munching his toast and telling his sister about school.
"Good morning," he said walking in the room. "What has the two of you so excited?"
"Something Wendell did at school," Kingsley explained.
"Wendell? Isn't that the boy who told you all of those scary stories about Spring Heel'd Jack?"
Kingsley looked down at his plate. "Yes, but he's really funny other times."
"I see," Doyle said with a smile. "Well if he's funny …"
"He's kind of like Mr. Houdini," Kingsley said after a few more bites of toast. "But he doesn't do magic tricks."
The phone rang and stopped further explanations about Wendell.
"Yes?" Doyle said into the receiver.
"Doctor Doyle? It's Adelaide. I've found an address for Evert Campbell. Harry and I are on our way to the hotel where he was staying."
"Which hotel, Constable?" Arthur asked and wrote down the hotel's name and the room number. "I can meet you there in about thirty minutes."
Doyle hung up the phone and came back to the breakfast table. He swallowed his tea and said, "Come along, time for you both to be off to school."
A bobby waited outside Campbell's room; he touched his fingers to his cap and opened the door for the trio to enter. The suite was small, just a sitting room and a bedroom through the door to the right. The walls were painted a tasteful shade of pale yellow with a fireplace along one wall, two upholstered chairs and a small round table clustered around the grate. Tall windows opposite the entryway looked out on a small park. A desk sat between the windows with a clutter of papers, books and what looked to be a human skull.
Harry picked up a pile of playbills from the table near the fireplace and thumbed through them the dropped them back on the table. Doyle took the desk on the other side of the room while Adelaide wandered into the bedroom.
Arthur picked up the skull and found a few pages from Hamlet tucked underneath it, he remembered Shea telling them one of the things Campbell performed during the revue was dramatic reading from Shakespeare and put the skull off to one side. He'd started going through the recent mail when Harry called out from near the fireplace mantle.
"Evert Campbell has been a bad boy after all," Harry said holding up a sheet of paper.
Doyle put down the mail and moved to Harry's side where he read the note in Houdini's hand.
"What is it?" Adelaide asked coming out of the bedroom.
"A threat," Harry said succinctly.
At Adelaide's perplexed look, Doyle explained, "It would appear Mr. Shea didn't know Evert Campbell as well as he claimed. This is a letter --"
"Threat," Harry interrupted.
"Threat," Doyle acquiesced, "From a Jack Dawson claiming Campbell had been … indiscreet with Dawson's sister."
"Where did you find this?" Adelaide asked.
Harry pointed at the fireplace mantle. "In that wooden box. Other than a broken cufflink and a couple of old pictures, there wasn't anything else in it."
"I'd say we need to have a talk with Jack Dawson," Doyle said.
"Agreed," Adelaide said and took the letter Harry handed her as he walked out the door.
"Where are you going?" she asked his back.
Harry poked his head back in the room. "I'm going to find Jack Dawson. I'll be right back."
Adelaide and Doyle shared a perplexed look and she absently handed Arthur the letter. "How is he going to find Dawson?"
"No idea, Constable," Doyle said. He studied the note again. "This is cheap bond paper," he mumbled and held it up to the light coming in through the windows. "No watermark and the pen he used has a split tip."
Adelaide searched through to papers on the desk and checked the wooden box on the mantle. "There isn't an envelope or anything with an address for Jack Dawson or his sister."
"We don't need it," Harry announced coming back in the room. "I just had a talk with the manager downstairs. He directed me to one of the bell boys who told me Jack Dawson is a butcher with a shop not far from here."
"A butcher would certainly have the tools to slice a man's throat," Doyle said.
"Let's go have a talk with Mr. Dawson," Adelaide agreed and headed out the door.
They walked the six blocks to the street Harry's source said Dawson's butcher shop was and found the shop closed. Adelaide spoke to one of the neighboring businesses and told Harry and Arthur Dawson hadn't opened the shop yesterday either.
"Kinda sounds suspicious," Harry said as he glanced up and down the street. "Your friend wouldn't happen to know where Dawson lives would he?"
"Unfortunately, no." Adelaide shielded her eyes and looked in the window of the butcher shop. "There might be something in the shop that could tell us." She rattled the locked door. "But we can't get in." She looked up as Harry walked past her and around the corner of the shop.
"Harry?" she called and turned to look at Doyle. "He wouldn't?"
"Oh, he probably would, Constable," Doyle said and headed around to the the back of the shop in time to see Houdini stuff something back in his suit coat pocket. The backdoor was open.
"Houdini! You can't do that," Adelaide told him.
Harry just gave her an innocent look. "Do what? The door was open."
Adelaide glared at him but Doyle noticed Houdini refused to act the least bit guilty.
"We need to find this Jack Dawson," Harry said as he held the door open. "You said it yourself there might be a clue in the shop."
"I can't just break into someone's business! I'm a police officer!"
"Well it's a good thing I'm not." Harry walked in the back door. "Are you coming or not?"
"We do need to find him, Constable," Doyle said in a low voice and inched around her with an apologetic look in his face as he followed Harry inside.
Adelaide huffed out a resigned breath and followed them. She stood just inside the backdoor and Harry glanced up at her with a grin. "You can act as lookout for us," he told her. Adelaide glared at him again in return.
Doyle ignored them as he looked around the room. It was clear Dawson wasn't planning to return any time soon. The room was clean, the thick blocks of wood used for cutting meat were scrubbed and dry. Most noticeably, there was nothing hanging from the hooks along the side wall.
Arthur thumbed through papers piled on a table in the corner. "What was the sister's name?" he asked holding up an envelope.
Adelaide took the note from Campbell's hotel room out of her pocket and skimmed through it again. "Fran," she said, looking up.
Doyle put down the other papers, but kept the envelope. "I don't know where to find Dawson, but we have an address for his sister. She lives the other side of Bulwark St."
"Are you Fran Dawson?" she asked.
Fran looked at her and glanced at Harry and Doyle before answering, "Yes, I'm Franny."
"Miss Dawson, my name is Adelaide Stratton, I'm a constable with Scotland Yard. These are my associates, Doctor Doyle and Harry Houdini."
Fran looked over at Doyle and Harry again and Harry gave her a pleasant smile.
"What does the police what with me?" Fran asked nervously.
"We wanted to talk to you about Evert Campbell," Doyle said gently. "We understand you knew him."
Fran rubbed absently at her belly and looked away from them and down the road. "Aye, I know him," she said softly. "What do you want with him?"
Adelaide glanced over at Doyle and Harry. "Miss Dawson --"
"Franny. Call me Franny."
"Franny. I'm sorry to tell you, but we found Evert Campbell murdered yesterday. At the Peacock Theater." Adelaide tried to break the news as gently as she could, but Fran put a hand to her mouth and closed her eyes. She took a step back, and tripped on the step behind her, Doyle grabbed her arm before she could fall. He helped her sit down on the step and stood back.
"We found a letter," Adelaide explained as she knelt in front of the distraught woman. "From your brother, Jack, at Mr Campbell's hotel room."
"Now he'll never --" she started to say.
"Hey! What do you think you're doin' to my sister!" a voice behind them yelled. Doyle turned to see a large, muscular man in grey work trousers and braces wearing a thick, white cotton shirt, half-untucked, striding toward them. His hair was as light as Fran's, his face red with anger.
Harry stepped in front of the angry man quickly approaching the house. Doyle noted Houdini's hands were loose at his sides and he refused to back down once the man stopped in front of him.
"You must be Jack," Harry said with a smile, his voice light but his eyes wary.
"So what if I am." Jack had about six inches of height on the magician and tried to loom over the smaller man.
Doyle inched closer but stopped when Harry flicked a glance at him.
"Well, we've been looking all over for you," Harry continued, refusing to be intimidated. "We wanted to ask you about Evert Campbell."
The fist lashed out so quickly, Harry didn't have a chance to block it and took the blow across his jaw. He staggered back into Doyle, and rubbed the left side of his face as a blur of skirts and blonde hair shot past them.
"Jack! Stop it!" Fran implored him and grabbed at his arm.
"Are you all right?" Doyle asked quietly as Harry eased out of his hold. Houdini nodded and stood straight as Adelaide stepped in front of Dawson.
"Mr. Dawson, I could arrest you for assault," Adelaide told him her arms crossed over her chest.
Dawson spat on the ground and glared at Harry. "I'll do worse to him."
Doyle and Harry looked at each other.
"Him?" Doyle asked. "Are you referring to Mr. Campbell?"
"Damn right I am. Look what he did to Franny." Dawson pointed at his sister. "Then he tried to deny it."
"Mr. Dawson where were you yesterday afternoon?" Adelaide asked.
Dawson looked down at her. "Why?" he asked.
"Mr Campbell was found dead yesterday afternoon at the Peacock," Harry said. "You weren't there with him were you?"
Dawson took a step toward Harry and Houdini clenched his fists and glared at the man. Fran stepped in front of her brother while Doyle grabbed Harry's arm. Dawson stood for a moment longer, then backed off.
"So he's dead, then." Dawson said. "Nothing less than he deserved."
"You still haven't answered my question, Mr. Dawson," Adelaide said in an official tone. "Where were you yesterday?"
"I was here, helping Franny," Dawson replied after another pause. "Makin' a cubby room for when the baby comes."
"Is there anyone other than your sister who can vouch for that?"
Dawson gave Adelaide a hard look. "I didn't kill 'im. I may of wanted to pound him, but I didn't kill 'im." Dawson looked toward the back of the house. "Couple of Franny's neighbors was helpin' with the work all day yesterday. You can ask 'em if you don't believe me."
Adelaide took a step back and said, "I'll need their names."
Fran gave the names and said, "Neither of them are home now, they had work to get back to."
Adelaide gave Fran a smile. "I'll have someone find them and verify what your brother has told us," she said and turned to Harry. "Mr. Houdini, do you wish to press a charge for assault," she asked.
Harry rubbed at his jaw again but shook his head. "No need, Constable. Just a misunderstanding." Harry gave Dawson cocky smile as he walked around the larger man.
"I'll be fine," Harry said and dropped his hand. "Guy packs a punch, though."
The promised drizzle started again as they walked back up the road to the subway entrance. They made their way down to the subway car and were lucky enough to find the train boarding as they arrived. They found seats along one of the benches and after a few minutes of silence, Doyle asked, "What do we do next. Both of our suspects appear to have an alibi for the murder."
"I'm not sure," Adelaide admitted. "We could go back to the theater, see if there are any witnesses we missed or if anyone else has information about Evert Campbell."
"There's one thing we can still try --"
"If the next words are Diana Abberton, just no," Harry interrupted.
"We've tried everything else. Maybe we should try to talk to the victim."
Harry smiled and shook his head. "I can't believe you just said that! She's a fake! The only way we'll going to figure out who killed Campbell is to investigate. Search for more clues. Not try and talk to the dead."
"I'll send a couple of bobbies out to check Dawson's alibi," Adelaide said as the subway rumbled to a stop and they stood to exit the train. The drizzle was closer to rain near the station and they hurried along the road and up the steps into the precinct.
Adelaide directed a pair of bobbies to find the men who assisted with the construction at Fran's house while Harry and Doyle picked through the information laid out on the work table.
"There's nothing new in the coroner's report," Doyle said, closing a folder. "The coroner agreed the blade was probably a knife with a thin blade. Very sharp and the blade could be slightly curved."
"Nothing on the top coat, either," Harry noted, holding a cloth-wrapped chunk of ice to his face. "No maker's label, nothing special about it at all, except there were a couple of places where the blood had completely soaked through the material. Whoever did this may not have realised it."
They spent the next hour reviewing the existing files and trying out various theories on what to look for next. The officers charged with verifying Jack Dawson's alibi reported both of the men supported Dawson's claim that he was at his sister's house when Evert Campbell died.
Doyle stared at Houdini as their leads petered out. They were both sat at the work table across from each other, Harry straddled his chair backward, his arms resting on the back of the chair, his forehead resting on his arms. They'd both taken off their suit coats and Harry had the sleeves of his shirt rolled up as well. The file folders were all stacked on one corner of the table and the wooden surface was otherwise bare except for the wet remains of the ice pack and the tea cup Adelaide occasionally sipped from as she read.
"Are you willing to admit, we need to talk to Diana Abberton?" Doyle asked the top of Harry's head.
Harry lifted his head and grimaced.
"We've tried your idea of looking for clues. It's time we tried mine."
Harry sighed and looked away. "Fine," he said resignedly and looked back at Doyle. "What's one more dead end?"
After the stagehands left, Mort walked on stage and double checked everything was in the correct place for the show that night. He studied the items on the table and shook his head. He had no idea why someone would want some old playbills from the theater not to mention a skull, a thick pillar candle in a polished, heavy silver holder, and a wine glass. He had seen all kinds of things working at the Peacock, and honestly after the burlesque shows, nothing really surprised him anymore.
He knew the show that evening was going to be different, Shea had agreed to let Diana Abberton take over the revue's program in order to allow her to attempt to contact Evert Campbell. Mort thought the whole thing nonsense, but it wasn't his job to make sure the shows were good, just that they went off without a hitch. He found nothing out of order and wandered back behind the stage, he still needed to get those crates stored away properly.
"Why did you agree to come, then?" Doyle asked.
"I came to make sure she couldn't pull the wool over everyone's eyes." Harry stopped at the edge of the stage and with a quick glance around, he jumped onstage and walked over to the table and chair inside the curtained cabinet.
"Harry!" Adelaide hissed, "What are you doing?"
Houdini ignored her and examined the drapes and the wooden frame of the cabinet with interest. He gave the curtains along the front and back an experimental tug then stood on the chair and felt along the open top of the frame. Once he finished, he picked up the chair, looked over both the chair and the floor under it. He put the chair back and turned to the table and the items it held.
"Are you satisfied, Mr. Houdini," Lawrence Stevens asked as he walked out of the wings and joined Harry next to the table. Stevens was dressed in a tuxedo and looked down at Harry's dark brown suit and red waistcoat with disdain.
"Not yet," Harry answered and proceeded to crouch down and examine the stage floor. He ran his fingers over several of the floorboards and let his eyes roam over the even wooden surface.
"Houdini, what are you doing, now?" Doyle asked as he and Adelaide joined the discussion.
"Looking for trap doors or anything else Miss Diana could use to manipulate things." Harry stood up again and went back to the table.
Arthur joined him at the table and looked at the skull. "Isn't this the skull from Campbell's hotel room?"
Harry shrugged just as another voice said, "Yes, of course it is." Diana glanced at Stevens as she walked past him, a small glass of port in one hand, and took the skull from Doyle. "Mr. Campbell was an acclaimed thespian. All of these items are here to remind poor Evert of his mortal self so he will feel welcome and will hopefully speak tonight," she explained as she placed the skull gently back on the table. "We will even have a glass of his favorite burgundy waiting for him."
"Anyone ever wonder how a ghost can drink?" Harry asked with a sarcastic smile.
"Mr. Stevens, where is the wine?" Diana asked her assistant, she ignored Harry's gibe. "I don't drink red wine myself," she whispered to Adelaide. "Just a small bit of port to calm the nerves before a sitting."
"Mr. Shea is bringing it from Evert's dressing room. I'll go see if he's here yet." Stevens glanced at Harry and the others then said to Diana in a low voice, "You should be getting ready, the doors will open in a few minutes."
Diana waved a hand at him in dismissal and took another drink from her glass. "I'll be ready." She turned to Adelaide and continued, "Constable Stratton, I'm glad you came." She laid a slim hand on Adelaide's arm. "I've arranged for the three of you to be seated on the stage on the left side of my cabinet." She used the hand holding the port glass and indicated the three chairs placed halfway between the cabinet and the curtain at left side of the stage. "When Evert does speak, I want you to be able to hear in his own words who killed him."
Adelaide hesitated for a moment and glanced at Doyle and Harry. "I'm not sure that's necessary."
"Nonsense!" Diana overrode her. "I'm doing this to help you, child. The least I can do is make sure you have a good seat."
Adelaide nodded once in agreement and Diana turned away and walked back off stage.
As Diana left, Harry leant forward and whispered, "Of course she can also point at us as evidence for her true power. We just got added to her show." He glanced back to where Diana had disappeared with a grimace, "Maybe she's smarter than I thought."
A stagehand came out and asked them to take their seats as the theater was opening and he needed to close the stage curtain. Before they could move however, Thornton Shea and Lawrence Stevens walked back on the stage. Shea carried a bottle of wine in one hand and gestured at Stevens with the other.
"You're sure the lights won't spoil it?" Shea asked as Stevens took the bottle from him. "Evert was so particular about his wine, you know."
"Of course not," Stevens reassured him as he poured wine into the waiting glass on the lace-covered table. Burgundy needs to be a little warm anyway."
Harry and the others moved away from the table as Stevens set the still open bottle next to the glass and rearranged the playbills into a neat stack.
Shea nervously looked around the stage and out at the blue theater seats. He absently picked up the glass, a little less than half-full of the dark red liquid, leaving a series of print marks around the glass with his fingers, and swirled the contents a few times. "Evert did know his wine," he said with a sigh and studied the contents in the light again before he put the glass down.
Stevens made a face and quickly wiped the glass clean with his handkerchief. He toyed with wine bottle and the candle, making sure they were placed just so to look good to the audience. Harry could make out the words 'grand cru' in flowing script on the bottle's label.
The stagehand looked nervously out at the theater again. "'Cuse, me, gents, but I gotta close the curtains."
"Oh, yes, quite right," Shea said and with a final glance around the stage, he left to take his seat in the front row.
"If you please," Stevens said and directed Harry and the others to the chairs set aside for them. Harry took the middle chair with Doyle on his right and Adelaide in the chair nearest the front edge of the stage.
A few minutes later they could hear people entering the theater and conversations grew progressively louder as the theater filled. The orchestra played a series of light airs to entertain the waiting audience.
Adelaide stood from her chair and carefully parted the curtains. "The theater is almost full," she reported. "How did she get so many people to attend on such short notice?"
Harry relaxed back in his chair, his legs stretched in front of him and crossed at the ankle as he checked his watch. "You'd be surprised what a determined mind can achieve."
Adelaide sat down again and started to nervously pluck at her skirts.
"You'll be fine," Harry whispered to her. "No one is even going to look at us."
"You sound a little defensive about that," Adelaide replied with a smile.
"Well, I usually like to get paid when I appear on a stage. Like I said, she may be smarter than I thought. She just upped the appeal of this show, not to mention her reputation, by having us front and center and it's not costing her a cent to do it."
The light chamber music ended, the orchestra changed to a dark, mournful tune and Harry uncoiled from his lounging position to sit straight in his chair as the theater quietened and the curtain slowly opened.
Lawrence Stevens entered from stage right and stood at the front of the stage. A spotlight illuminated him and he spoke, "Ladies and gentlemen," he said in a solemn tone. "This evening's performance of Thornton Shea's World Showcase and Revue has been postponed."
Stevens waited for the startled comments from the few people who didn't know about the performance change to subside before he continued, "As I'm sure you've read, the theater world lost one if its own yesterday with the tragic death of Evert Campbell in this very theater."
"When did he decide it was tragic," Harry mumbled out the side of his mouth.
"Shush," Doyle muttered back.
Stevens' back twitched as he'd obviously heard Harry's comment. He kept his stage face, however and continued, "With the gracious consent of Mr. Thornton Shea, Miss Diana Abberton has agreed to attempt to communicate with Evert Campbell in an effort to discover his murderer. You will all be witnesses to Mr. Campbell's own testimony regarding his death."
The theater erupted in applause as Stevens finished speaking. Harry suspected several heads were now turned in their direction, but he couldn't see anyone in the audience due to the angle of the stage lights.
Stevens let the applause continue for a few moments longer, then held his hands out for silence. He turned and gave Houdini a quick look before facing the audience again.
"Here it comes," Harry whispered to his companions.
"Here what comes?" Adelaide asked.
"As you can see," Stevens swept his arm behind him to point out the trio. A second spotlight followed his movement and suddenly Harry, Arthur and Adelaide were highlighted. "As you can see, Scotland Yard is here to arrest the guilty party once Evert communicates a name to Miss Diana."
Harry made sure he had ahold of Adelaide's arm so she couldn't jump up. "Don't do anything," he hissed.
Adelaide relaxed slightly and hissed back, "Chief Merring is not going to be happy when he hears about this."
Harry shrugged. "He'll be less happy if you cause a scene on a well lit stage in front of a couple of hundred people."
The music changed to a new cue and the spotlight on Harry and the others shifted to play across the stage in general. "And now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Miss Diana, Mystic and Medium!" Stevens pointed to the left side of the stage.
As Diana walked on stage, the theater echoed with thunderous applause. Stevens met her halfway and took her hand to lead her to the edge of the stage. She was dressed in a diaphanous white gown, her arms covered in a sheer fabric that clung to her skin, and the skirt ended just at her ankles. A necklace with a large cut stone dangled on a chain around her neck and occasionally caught the spotlight in a shimmering display of radiance.
She smiled to the crowd and made a slight bow, then Stevens led her to the draped cabinet. As she sat in the chair inside, Stevens explained to the audience, "The art of the séance is sacred. The medium must enter a deep trance state to allow her mind to open the door to the other side. Only then can a spirit enter into our plane of existence again and speak.
"The spirit cabinet, an ancient tool of the mystic, isolates the medium from outside distraction and enhances her ability to enter this trance state. Within the spirit cabinet, the medium maintains this state of being long enough to make the connection to the other side."
"That's not the only thing," Harry mumbled as he rolled his eyes.
Doyle glared and shushed him again.
Stevens walked behind the cabinet and lowered the black drape forming the back of the cabinet. Coming back around to the front, he continued, "Miss Diana is a highly skilled medium. As a result, she is strong enough to allow a spirit to regain some minor influence over this plane while still in a non-corporeal form.
"However," he pulled several lengths of silk cord from his pocket and showed them to the audience. "Not all spirits are benevolent, some are capricious or mischievous. Some may even become violent when they reenter our plane. The medium is completely vulnerable to these spirits in her trance state."
Stevens lowered his voice. "There have been cases in which the body of the medium was possessed by such spirits. For the safety of everyone in this theater, Miss Diana has asked to be restrained in her chair. If any spirit should possess her, it will thus be unable to leave the spirit cabinet. If such a possession were to take place, however, Miss Diana would be lost to this plane forever as fire is the only element strong enough to vanquish such a spirit." He struck a match and lit the candle on the table next to the wine glass. "The cabinet, and Miss Diana's mortal body, would be destroyed."
He knelt in front of Diana and quickly tied her arms and legs to the chair. The audience however was in a frenzy of emotion at the possibility of of a malevolent spirit loose in the theater. Ladies grasped the arms of their male escorts and clutched at kerchiefs. A number of the gentlemen tried to storm the stage to stop the séance but were blocked at the end of the aisles by the stagehands.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" Stevens turned and shouted above the noise. "Ladies and gentlemen, please calm yourselves." He held his arms out and waited for the men to return to their seats and the women to stop their tearful pleas. "We have taken all proper precautions," he reassured the crowd in a lower tone. "Miss Diana is confident nothing untoward will occur."
When the audience was again settled, Stevens moved to stand next to the table with the candle, wine glass, and other items.
"As you can see there are several articles placed on the table next to Miss Diana's chair." The spotlight centered on the table to the right of the chair and highlighted the skull and the red of the wine in the glass. The candle flickered briefly as Stevens swept his arm over the table. "These are items Mr. Campbell knew in life and will hopefully encourage Evert to speak to us tonight."
Stevens stepped out of the cabinet and exchanged a nod with Diana before pulling the pale green front curtains closed. "Finally, we must have quiet in the theater. If Evert Campbell, or any other spirits wish to communicate this evening, Miss Diana must have silence to enter the trace whereby the spirit will be able break through the wall separating the spirit world from this one."
The audience muttered again at the mention of other spirits.
"And now, silence please," Stevens said and the last remaining whispers and rustles of movement stopped. "Bring down the lights." The stage lighting was reduced, leaving only enough to light the cabinet itself as well as Harry, Doyle and Adelaide off to the side. The candle emitted a dim glow from behind the front curtain.
For several minutes nothing happened. Harry heard the theater seats in the audience creak as the waiting continued.
Houdini felt Doyle shift beside him and was about to whisper something when a low moan came from the spirit cabinet and the dim stage lighting caught several playbills suddenly fly out the top of the cabinet.
"Silence, please!" Stevens admonished the audience as several gasps and exclamations floated from the crowd. "Miss Diana?" he called. "Miss Diana, can you hear me?" He opened the curtain for a moment and showed the medium was still securely bound to the chair.
Stevens closed the curtain again and said, "Miss Diana are you still with us?"
More moaning came from the cabinet then the candle went out.
"Nice touch," Harry murmured sarcastically.
"How do you mean?" Adelaide asked, but Harry shook his head.
"Diana is asleep," a ghostly voice replied from the cabinet. "She opened the door to the other side that I may again join your world."
"To whom am I speaking?" Stevens asked and glanced first out over the audience, then to Harry, Adelaide and Doyle.
More of the playbills flew from the cabinet. "You knew me in life, Lawrence Stevens. I was known as Evert Campbell."
The theater erupted in shouts and Harry heard what sounded like someone fainting somewhere in the front rows.
"Please! We must have quiet," Stevens admonished again.
"In life," the voice continued, "I played the great characters of Shakespeare. I was Shylock, Edmund, I was even the Danish prince himself." There was a thump behind the curtain and the skull fell out of the cabinet and rolled to a stop a few feet away from Stevens.
"Mr. Campbell," Stevens said. "We are gathered here to seek your assistance. We wish to know if there is anything you can tell us about the manner of your death."
The curtain in front of the cabinet shook and Harry heard gasping and groaning coming from behind it.
Stevens gave the drapes a startled look but continued, "Mr. Campbell, we ask you again to tell us who murdered you!"
Nothing happened. No playbills flew up in the air, no sound was heard from behind the curtain.
"Something's wrong," Harry muttered with a frown, his eyes flicked from the cabinet to Stevens.
"What did you say?" Doyle asked.
"She missed the cue," he mumbled back.
"Mr. Campbell?" Stevens called. "Miss Diana?"
Stevens glanced over at Harry, Adelaide and Doyle, his eyes round with fear.
Before Doyle or Adelaide could stop him, Harry jumped to his feet and ran to the cabinet.
"Houdini!" Doyle hissed at Harry's back and stood as well.
Harry glanced back at Doyle, then pushed the pale green curtains open. Diana was still tied to the chair, however her tongue hung out of her mouth and her face was twisted in pain.
Stevens stood in shock, as Diana's body jerked a few times in the chair then stilled.
Doyle ran across the stage and knelt in front of the chair, Adelaide at his heels.
"Close the stage curtain," Doyle ordered Stevens as Adelaide dropped down on Diana's left side and started to untie the medium's arms.
"Close the curtain!" Harry turned from where he crouched next to Doyle and yelled toward the stunned stagehand in the wings. The man jumped slightly, then turned to the curtain rope, and with a series of stops and starts, pulled the heavy stage curtains together.
Harry caught a glimpse of Thornton Shea in his front row seat before the curtains closed completely. He was one of the few people still sitting down, his face slack with shock.
Houdini watched as Doyle searched for any sign of life in the medium. He checked for a pulse, first at Diana's neck then at her wrist, and shook his head. "She's dead," he said to Adelaide in a low voice.
"Diana?" Stevens cried in anguish as Doyle stood.
"I'm sorry," Doyle told him quietly.
"No! Diana!" Stevens fell to his knees next to the body.
Harry traded a glance with Doyle and Adelaide before she pushed aside the blue stage curtain and left out the side exit, her police whistle calling for assistance.
Chapter 5: Act 3
Several bobbies had come running at the sound of Adelaide's whistle, one was sent pelting back to the precinct to let Chief Merring know what had happened and to bring reinforcements to help contain the now panicked audience. Within fifteen minutes, an additional ten men were at the theater and the officers soon had the crowd calmed down. Once they had names and addresses, the patrol officers let the audience members exit the theater. Reporters drawn to the scene by the whistle and the activity, waited outside with poised pencils to hear the details from anyone willing to talk.
Harry opened the curtain again once the audience left and watched as Adelaide directed a few of the bobbies to chase off the reporters. Sergeant Gudgett stood near the side door making notes.
Doyle stayed near the body, now covered with a sheet a stagehand had found in one of the backstage rooms. Lawrence Stevens sat in one of the chairs the trio had used on the stage; Harry noticed he would look anywhere but at the shrouded body next to Arthur.
A few minutes later, Thornton Shea appeared from the wings and stood beside Stevens and wiped at his face with his handkerchief. "Does he need to be here?" he asked Harry and Doyle as he put away the kerchief and nodded his head down at the assistant.
"The police will want to talk to him, I'm afraid," Doyle said.
"I was only going to take him to the rehearsal room backstage," Shea replied. "So he doesn't have to see …."
Harry glanced out at the theater seats where Adelaide and Gudgett were still busy wrapping up some details as they waited for the coroner to arrive. The chandelier near the center of the stage rocked slowly back and forth.
"The ghosts are playing tonight," Shea said.
"What?" Harry asked and glanced at Doyle who raised his eyebrows.
Shea laughed humorlessly. "You know the theater is haunted, don't you?" He pointed to the still tinkling crystal light. "When the chandeliers start moving for no reason, the ghosts are playing with them." He turned back to Stevens, "Come along, Lawrence. Let's find you a stiff drink. We could both use one." Shea pulled Stevens to his feet and led the young man backstage.
Harry stood next to Arthur and watched as the swaying light slowly stopped moving. "Don't say it," he muttered.
Doyle smiled at Houdini. "I told you the theater haunted."
Harry grimaced and shook his head. "I said, don't say it."
The coroner's wagon arrived and Harry wiped the smile off his face as the attendants entered with a stretcher. After conferring with Doyle, the attendants made a cursory exam and agreed Diana had likely been poisoned. The two young men replaced the makeshift shroud with their own white sheet and carefully moved the body to the stretcher and back out to the waiting wagon.
Harry ignored the activity and stood with his hands on his hips as he studied the table and chair inside the spirit cabinet. The wine glass, now empty, lay on its side next to the candle; someone had picked up the scattered playbills and haphazardly stacked them on one side of the table. Harry picked up the silk cords Stevens had used to tie Diana to the chair and ran his hands up and down the ropes before dropping them on top of the playbills on the table.
He had a good idea what had happened and turned to tell Arthur his suspicions.
Doyle however stood at the edge of the stage and watched Adelaide talk to Sergeant Gudgett. Harry could tell the conversation was civil at best and wondered what the sergeant's complaint was with their investigation.
"What do you think that conversation is about?" Harry asked as he walked up to Doyle and watched Adelaide and Gudgett.
"I suspect the sergeant isn't happy with the progress of the case," Doyle replied as Adelaide walked away from the sergeant and joined them on the stage.
"Everything all right?" Harry asked her.
"Sergeant Gudgett was just explaining how much Chief Merring is not looking forward to reading the newspapers in the morning," Adelaide replied with a sigh.
Harry turned back to the spirit cabinet in the middle of the stage. "Well I can at least tell you how she was poisoned."
"It had to be before the show," Doyle said as he followed Houdini.
"Why?" Harry sat in the chair inside the cabinet.
"Because she was restrained while on stage," Doyle explained and held up one of the silk ropes.
Harry just grinned and pointed to the tipped over wine glass. "She drank it. Right here."
Adelaide picked up the wine glass carefully and examined it through the strong stage lights. "There does seem to be something in the bottom of the glass."
"It's a burgundy wine. Sediment isn't unusual, Constable." Doyle glanced at the glass, then back to Houdini.
"Trust me," Harry said. "I'd get the rest of that bottle tested. I'd bet any amount you want to name, you'll find some sort of poison."
"You still haven't explained how she drank the wine on stage," Doyle countered.
Harry stood, took off his suit coat and dropped it on the stage. He unbuttoned his shirt sleeves and rolled them up to his elbows then settled back in the chair. "Tie me up," he said with a smile.
"What?" Adelaide asked in a startled voice.
"Sergeant," Harry said to Gudgett as he walked past the front of the stage. "I'm sure you'd like nothing better than to make sure I can't get out of this chair. Go ahead."
Sergeant Gudgett paused for a moment glancing from Houdini to the ropes in Doyle's hand then gave Harry a smug smile. "Why not," he said as he stuffed his notebook in a pocket and jumped on stage. He took the cords from Doyle and turned to the chair.
Harry placed his arms on the chair arms and braced his feet against the legs. "Tie it however you want, Sergeant. As tight as you like."
Gudgett looked slightly pleased with himself as he knelt in front of the the magician and tied Houdini's arms and legs to the chair. Harry let out a few winces as Gudgett tightened the ropes, but he didn't try to stop the police sergeant.
Harry pulled slightly at the ropes as Gudgett stood back. "You're happy with the knots? Nothing you want to change?"
"Don't think so," Gudgett replied with another smug look.
"Doc, go ahead and pull the curtain on the front of the cabinet closed and stand back," Harry said still testing the ropes around his arms.
Doyle looked at Harry as he took hold of the edges of the curtains. "What are you doing?" he asked in a whisper.
"Proving a point," Harry whispered back.
Arthur shook his head but dutifully pulled the curtains closed and Harry heard them take a few steps back from the cabinet.
Gudgett had done a good job with the knots, but the sergeant had missed the fact Harry had his arm muscles flexed while the ropes were tied. It was tighter than he was used to, and he lost some skin on his right arm as he wriggled out of rope, but it didn't take more than a minute before he was free.
He leant forward and tossed a few of the handbills from the table over the top of the cabinet. He heard someone, probably Adelaide, make a startled yelp and someone else jumped as the papers fluttered down to the stage. Harry grinned to himself and quickly slipped his arm back under the rope still tied to the chair arm.
He had just settled back in the chair when Doyle jerked the curtains open again. Harry sat in the chair, his arms and legs seemingly still tied, and grinned back.
"How did you do that?" Doyle asked and looked at the still knotted cords around Harry's arms and legs.
"It doesn't matter how I did it. The point is, I did it. And Diana Abberton did the same thing. She was a fraud, just like Evert Campbell said she was. She drank the wine the same way she threw the playbills around and rolled that skull out of the cabinet."
Doyle untied the ropes around Harry's wrists and ankles as Adelaide and Gudgett carefully wrapped up the wine bottle and glass and handed them to the patrol officer still standing near the side exit. Arthur saw the red marks along Harry's right arm, but Houdini just shook his head and rolled down his shirt sleeves before Adelaide or Gudgett saw them.
"She was drinking port before the show," Doyle said as his stood up. "How do you know the poison wasn't in that bottle?"
"You saw the body. What kind of poison would do that to someone?" Harry toyed with the cuffs of his shirt and looked up at Doyle.
Doyle paced a few steps away and reviewed what he remembered of Diana Abberton as the curtains were pulled back. "Lips blue, slightly pinkish skin, evidence of seizures," Doyle mumbled out loud. He looked back at Harry, "Potassium cyanide," he said. "It would be very fast if she ingested a large enough dose."
"Exactly," Harry exclaimed. "She was fine when she came out on stage. She had to be poisoned right here in this cabinet. The only thing it could be is the wine used to entice Campbell's spirit to talk to Miss Abberton."
Harry waited until Gudgett and the officer left the stage before he stood and tugged at his sleeves again. He grabbed his suit coat and looped it over one arm.
"Mr. Stevens was the last person to touch that wine bottle," Adelaide said in a low voice as they turned toward the backstage area. "Do you think he poisoned Miss Abberton?"
Harry stood with his hands on his hips and looked out at the theater seats. "He seemed pretty shook up about her death," he said in a hesitant voice.
"He's the only person with ties to both Diana Abberton and Evert Campbell," Adelaide pointed out and led the way to the hallway behind the stage.
Once the young man left, Mort came out of the dressing room and looked again at the bottle wedged between the crates and the wall. It was a small glass bottle with a corked stopper in the top and Mort read the word cyanide on the part of the label he could see.
Cyanide. He'd been backstage when Doctor Doyle had mentioned it as the poison that had killed the medium. This then was what the police were looking for. He needed to tell someone what he'd found.
The rehearsal room was small, only a few chairs placed around a wooden table, the twin of the one Diana had used on stage. There were racks of costumes along one wall, a large mirror dominated another wall near the table. Opposite the door, was a shelf with a few books, glasses, and bottles wine and other spirits.
Thornton Shea and Lawrence Stevens were sat at the table, Officer Hopkins stood a discreet distance away; he saluted Adelaide as she entered the room. Stevens had his arms crossed on the table and his head rested in the crook of one arm. Shea sat next to him, saying nothing, a half-empty bottle of scotch and two glasses sat on the table between the two men.
Adelaide took the last chair while Doyle and Harry stood behind her near the mirror. She tapped Stevens gently on the arm. "Mr. Stevens, I'm very sorry for your loss," she said and waited for him to respond. When he didn't move, she continued, "We do need to talk to you about what happened."
Stevens let out a shuddering breath and raised his head. Adelaide could see his eyes were red.
"Mr. Stevens, can you tell me where the bottle of burgundy came from?" she asked as she took a notebook from her pocket.
Stevens stared at her in confusion. "Burgundy?"
"The bottle of wine on the table inside the spirit cabinet," Adelaide explained patiently.
Stevens sat back in the chair and pushed his hands through his red hair. "Oh, the wine. Umm. It belonged to Evert, he kept it in his dressing room." He pointed vaguely out the door. "Mr. Shea offered to bring it on stage while I set up the rest of the cabinet."
Adelaide turned to Thornton Shea. "Mr. Shea, did you bring the wine bottle directly from Mr Campbell's dressing room the stage?"
Shea blinked and nodded, and she wondered if it was grief or the scotch that made him so vague. "Y-Yes, Diana said she wanted some of Evert's things on the stage with her. I suggested the wine. Evert was always bragging about his taste in wine and he said this burgundy was one of his favorites."
"Was the bottle open?" Doyle asked.
Shea jumped slightly in his chair and stared at Doyle and Harry standing in the corner. "Open? Yes, it think it was." He paused to pour a bit more scotch in his glass. "Yes, I'm certain it was. Evert had some the other night after his performance. That's when he told all of us how excellent it was." He gulped down the scotch and poured some more.
"The other night?" Doyle glanced at Adelaide. "Do you mean he drank from that bottle the night before he died?"
Shea stared into space for a moment muttering to himself. "Umm, yes I guess that's right."
"Did anyone else have any of the wine that night?" Adelaide asked.
"No. Evert would sometimes give the rest of us a taste of his latest discovery, but this one he said was special, an exceptional year for pinot noir or something."
"But he kept the bottle here at the theater? Why not in his hotel room?" Adelaide asked.
Shea smiled slightly. "You have to know actors, Constable Stratton," Shea explained. "They spend more time in theaters than in their hotel rooms. Evert liked his wine, he liked bragging about his wine. He couldn't do that if the bottles were in his hotel room."
"Was his dressing room locked?" Harry asked.
Shea shook his head. "I doubt it. We're a pretty close-knit bunch, you know. Some of my actors have been with my shows for years. No one would dream of wandering into Evert's dressing room when he wasn't there."
"So what you're saying is anyone could get into his dressing room at any time," Adelaide said with a sigh.
Shea started to deny Adelaide's statement then shrugged. "Yes, I suppose so. Why?"
Adelaide looked up at Doyle and Harry for a moment. "We think that's how Diana Abberton was poisoned," she replied before focusing on Lawrence Stevens again. "Mr. Stevens, do you know anyone who would want to hurt her? Did she ever say anything to you about being threatened or followed?"
Stevens rubbed his hands over his face as he slouched lower in his chair. "There were always people like Evert and him," Stevens jerked his chin toward Harry, "who didn't believe she was a real medium. I don't know anyone who would want to kill her, though."
Adelaide closed her notebook and signaled to Officer Hopkins. "Please escort Mr. Stevens and Mr. Shea back to their hotels." Hopkins nodded and waited for Shea and Stevens by the door. "Mr. Stevens, I'm sorry for your loss," she told him again. "Officer Hopkins will take you back to your hotel. I'll be in touch with you if we find any new information or if I have any more questions."
"Come on, Lawrence," Shea said and took Stevens' arm. "I'll keep you company."
Adelaide watched as Hopkins led the way back up the hall and to the stage exit door. He fought with the door for a few moments before it popped open and the three of them left the theater.
"So what do we do now," Harry asked as he sat in one of the recently vacated chairs, and dropped his suit coat on the chair beside him. "We know it was the wine that killed her and anyone could have gone into Campbell's dressing room to spike it."
Doyle stared into space and considered.
"You have that look again," Harry said, looking up at him with a smile.
Doyle rolled his eyes. "I was just thinking. How do we know the poison was meant for Diana Abberton? It was Campbell's wine she drank."
Adelaide crossed her arms over her chest. "You think Diana Abberton was poisoned by accident?"
"Oh, that's just great, a clumsy murderer," Harry said sarcastically.
"It's something we should consider," Doyle replied as they left the room.
Adelaide nodded. "I want to look at both dressing rooms, see if we can find anything that either ties these two murders together, or proves Diana Abberton was just an innocent victim."
They found Diana's dressing room first. Adelaide led the way into the small room and looked around. The wall opposite the door was dominated by a large dressing table and mirror, the mirror was cluttered with newspaper clippings and a few pictures. To the left of the door was a rack with a few dresses and other items, Adelaide recognized the grey dress Diana had worn when she interrupted Campbell's murder investigation the previous day. There was also a table with a small pull out drawer between the clothes rack and the dressing table. A bit of pale yellow cloth covered the wooden surface along with the port glass and bottle as well as a few other items.
Harry followed behind Doyle and headed to the right side of the room. There was a curtained off area and a large trunk against the same wall as the door. Harry pulled back the curtain and Adelaide saw a cot behind it with a book splayed open face down on the bed.
Adelaide and Doyle looked over the items on the dressing table while Harry searched through the trunk.
"Knew they had to be here somewhere," Harry muttered a few minutes later as he pulled out a long cylindrical cone and a bell. "All that's missing is the ouija board."
"What is that?" Adelaide asked and pointed at the metal tube.
"It called a spirit trumpet," Doyle said. "It's used during a séance to help a spirit communicate from the other side."
"Or," Harry countered, "It's used by charlatans to convince some poor weeping widow her husband is actually in the room with her when the so-called medium throws it at her in the dark."
Doyle frowned and turned back to the dressing table while Harry flipped the spirit trumpet in his hands a few times.
Adelaide looked up a few minutes later, a leather bound book in her hand. "This looks like her diary," she said and showed the book to Doyle.
Doyle took the book and paged through it. "Most of the entries talk about her performances either on a stage or at a private home," he reported as he flipped through pages. "Listen to this," Doyle said and started to read aloud. "'I have a wonderful opportunity to go to America. England is getting a little too warm, a change would be good for everyone.'" Doyle turned a few pages. "'Everything seems in order for the move. Not sure what I will tell LS, will need a fresh start in a new country.'"
Harry set the spirit trumpet and bell back in the trunk. "She was planning to leave Stevens behind."
"So it would appear," Doyle confirmed. He glanced through the last few pages. "It seems she had a lucrative offer from a man in Chicago."
"But would he really kill her just because she was moving on to a new opportunity?" Adelaide asked as she took to book back.
Doyle thought back to Stevens' reaction when the curtain was pulled back and he saw her dead. "I think she was much more than just an employer," Doyle said in a low voice.
"He was in love with her," Harry finished.
"The jilted lover seems to run in his family," Adelaide said. "Diana Abberton told me she'd met Mr. Stevens after his sister died. From the way she spoke, it was clear the sister had committed suicide after someone she loved married another woman. What if Stevens decided to kill Diana instead of lose her?" She closed the diary and started for the door. "I need to go talk to Mr. Stevens."
"We'll come with you," Harry offered as he closed the trunk and stepped to the door.
"No, we still need to look at Evert Campbell's dressing room and see if there is any evidence the killer left behind."
"But, Stevens could be dangerous," Harry pressed.
"As I've told both of you several times, I am a police officer. I can handle Mr. Stevens. You two stay here and see what else you can find." She turned and left the rehearsal room.
"Come on, Harry," Doyle said and moved around Houdini to the door. He glanced back and saw the frustrated look on Harry's face. "Adelaide can take care of herself. We can help by doing what she asked and search Campbell's dressing room."
Harry sighed but followed Doyle to the dressing room at the end of the hall as Adelaide turned the other way and went back up the hall to the stage exit Officer Hopkins had used earlier.
The fire in the room still burned, the wood crackled and snapped loudly in the still atmosphere, and provided the only light for the room. She glanced around and had resigned herself to confronting the night manager for Stevens' room number when she spotted him in the far corner of the room. A glass and decanter sat on the table in front of him, the glass still had a finger of scotch in it, the carafe was nearly full. Stevens sat alone.
She approached him slowly and when she was a few feet away she said, "Mr. Stevens, we need to talk."
Stevens sat in one of the leather chair, his head lowered in his hands, the picture of abject misery. "You know." He looked up at her. "Don't you."
Adelaide sat in the chair across from him and asked, "What do you think I know, Mr. Stevens?"
Stevens leant forward and picked up the glass. He took a swig of the scotch and held the glass loosely in one hand. "I loved her," he said in a whisper. "She was old enough to be my mother, but I didn't care. I loved her, and now she's gone."
Adelaide leant back in her chair and studied the man in front of her. Was this true grief, or was it an act put on for her benefit? "I believe you loved her, Mr. Stevens," she finally said and waited to see what he did next.
Stevens sniffed and wiped his eyes with his other hand and looked out the window at the night.
Adelaide waited and when it was obvious Stevens wasn't going to say anything else, she prompted, "That's why I have to ask you a few questions."
He looked back at her. "I told you everything already."
"We found Diana's diary."
Stevens stiffened in his chair.
"Did she tell you she was planning to leave England and move to America?"
Stevens nodded. "She didn't want me to come with her. She wanted to start over in the States. I told her then. That I loved her. I didn't want her to leave me behind."
"And what did she do?"
Stevens smiled. "She told me it was just puppy love. That I'd get over her in time and find a girl my own age."
Adelaide phrased her next question carefully. "What happened after that meeting, Lawrence?"
Stevens chuckled drily. "Nothing. That was the day before Evert was killed. That's why I spent the next day here at the hotel. I was trying to figure out a way for her to take me with her. I wanted to show her that my feelings were real, and we could be happy together. Then she called me and told me Evert was dead. You know the rest."
"Diana told me you've worked with her for two years."
Stevens nodded. "When my sister died. Mr. Shea suggested I contact her when some strange things started happening in my parents' house."
"Mr. Shea. Mr. Thornton Shea?"
"No, no, Clayton Shea. He's Thornton's brother. I was working on one of his fishing boats when Lizzie … died."
"So you were a fisherman before an actor?"
Stevens smiled. "I'm not an actor, now. I just help … helped … Diana. Before that I worked fishing boats. Clayton runs, well ran now I guess, a fleet of boats out of East Anglia. I was a bit of a wild kid and ran off to seek adventure. I worked all sorts of odd jobs. Even thought of joining a circus, but I didn't have any useful skills. Eventually, I found my way onto the trawlers. Hated almost every minute of it." Stevens laughed. "I can understand now why Thornton got out of the family business."
"Did Thornton Shea know Miss Abberton outside of the theater?"
Stevens shrugged. "Maybe. When Clay suggested I write to her to help with my parents' house, he told me they'd met years ago when he nearly had a riot on his hands with one of his crews. They were convinced their boat was haunted and the whole company was cursed. Miss Diana, was called in to exorcise the ghost. Thornton was still working one of the boats at the time, he probably knew about her at least.
"A few years later, she found out Thornton Shea had left the fishing business and was running revues. Diana told me she wrote to him several times to see about working in one of his shows."
"But Thornton Shea didn't like that idea."
"I don't know that he didn't like it so much as he felt it was too silly. He's never really believed in Diana, he thought his brother was crazy for hiring her. He thought Clay should have just fired the men and hired new. But he liked her enough to put in a good word with any theaters he booked and she, and later we, just kind of followed Shea's revues as they moved around. It was as close as we could get to top billing somewhere."
"And she was going to have that top billing in Chicago?"
"Yeah," Stevens said a bit wistfully. "She had finally made it."
"Why did she work in theaters? I thought most mediums were more private."
"Diana loved the crowd. She said it gave her the energy she needed to bridge the divide between this world and the next. She would let the spirits through and pass along their messages to any loved ones in the audience." Stevens sighed. "She did a few private readings from time to time, but her first love was a large group."
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Stevens poured himself another finger of scotch and sipped at it. Adelaide watched him and tried to make up her mind if he was a killer or just a grieving friend.
"Did you kill her, Mr. Stevens?" she finally asked in a low voice.
Stevens squeezed his eyes shut and clenched the scotch glass tight with his fingers. "No. I could never hurt her."
"Even though she didn't love you and planned to leave the country without you?" she pressed.
"I could never hurt her," he repeated. "I loved her."
Adelaide watched him finish the scotch in the glass. He refused to look at her, instead he either stared out the window or toyed with the empty glass in his hand. When his breathing hitched and he shut his eyes again, she stood and left the room.
She walked out of the Majestic Hotel a few minutes later. As she passed the window for the lounge, she glanced into the room and saw Stevens pour himself another drink. His hand shook as he set the decanter back on the table and Adelaide walked back to the subway and the precinct. She hoped Harry and Doyle had had better luck with Evert Campbell's dressing room.
"At least his head isn't quite taking up the entire wall," Doyle muttered.
Harry heard the comment and laughed lightly as he pushed into the room. "So what are we hoping to find in here?"
The room was twice as large as Diana's and along with the dressing table against one wall and the rack of clothes and costumes, Campbell's room also included a large desk and a full sized sofa. No cot for the headliner act of the revue.
Harry dropped his suit coat on the sofa and walked over to the dressing table. Just like Diana's room, there were a few pictures tucked in the frame of the mirror, all of Evert in one costume or another a few included other members of the revue. Harry thumbed through the pictures and pulled open a few of the drawers in the table.
Doyle wandered over to the desk, sat down in the chair, and looked through the papers stacked on its surface. Most of them were playbills for the revue, there were a few receipts as well as newspaper clippings of reviews of the show; Campbell had underlined the comments about his performances with a pencil.
"There are receipts here for wine he'd purchased," Doyle said and turned to show Harry a yellow piece of paper. "What was the wine used in the séance?"
Harry stood by the dressing table and shrugged as he looked around the room. "No idea. I saw the label, something about a cru and it was a red wine."
"This is it then," Doyle read through the receipt. "According to this, Campbell bought six bottles of that wine. I wonder where the rest of the bottles are?"
"I think I just found his hiding place," Harry replied and backed out of the rack of costumes holding a box with five bottles still in it. "Could someone have poisoned all of them even though these are still sealed?"
"I doubt it. But Adelaide should probably have them tested to be certain."
Harry dropped the box of wine bottles on the sofa next to his suit coat and prowled around the room again.
Doyle stuffed the receipt in his suit coat pocket and started opening the desk drawers.
"Here's a letter from Franny Dawson telling Campbell about her condition," Doyle said after a few minutes. "Here's another one asking why he didn't answer the first letter."
"Well that explains Jack Dawson's threat," Harry said and sat on the sofa. "Dawson doesn't have any connection to Diana Abberton though. He has no reason to do anything to her."
"Which means he didn't poison the wine," Doyle agreed. "Of course, we were already fairly sure he didn't kill Campbell either."
Harry looked around the room. "So who would want to kill them? Diana Abberton wasn't part of the revue. She and Campbell didn't share anything in common." He glanced at his pocket watch. "It's almost midnight. I don't think we're going to find anything else."
Doyle folded the letters and put them in the same pocket with the receipt. "I think you're right. There's nothing here." He stood from the desk and pointed at the box next to Harry on the sofa. "May as well bring that. Someone should still be around who can take it to be analysed."
Harry grabbed the box and Doyle led the way back up the hall. They saw Officer Hopkins was back and standing outside the rehearsal room they'd used earlier to interview Stevens and Shea and Harry stopped.
"We found these in Evert Campbell's dressing room," Harry said as he handed over the box. "It's the same stuff Diana Abberton drank on stage; Constable Stratton might want it checked."
Hopkins took the box with a nod and Harry and Doyle started for the stage.
"Hang on, I forgot my jacket," Harry said and stopped in the middle of the hall. "Go ahead, I'll meet you in the theater." He turned and headed back to the dressing room at the other end of the hall and Doyle kept going.
He slipped out the door leading from the stage to the house and waited for Doctor Doyle to notice him.
He caught a glimpse of someone from the corner of his eye and turned to say something to Harry only to discover it wasn't Houdini.
Doyle squinted back up to the right side of the stage and saw someone waving at him from the door on the stage. He took a few steps down the center aisle to see the newcomer better. The man was older, with grizzled hair and he was wearing an old black overcoat and fingerless gloves. Doyle didn't remember him from any of the police interviews and was about to ask the man who he was when the man pointed toward the back of the stage and gestured for Doyle to follow.
"What are you doing here?" Doyle asked not moving.
The man gestured again and turned back through the door.
Doyle took a few more steps down the aisle and asked, "Do you work here?"
Harry stepped out from the door on the opposite side of the stage and Doyle saw him glance up at the question.
The black-coated man ignored Houdini and gave Doyle a frustrated look and pointed at the backstage area again.
Doyle gave up on the questions walked back down the aisle toward the stage. He was almost at the stage, just under the chandelier, when he heard Houdini shouting behind him.
"Doc! Look out!" Harry yelled and tossed his suit coat aside. He pointed up toward the gyrating chandelier and started to run across the open area in front of the stage.
Doyle looked up in time to see the chandelier break loose from the ceiling. To Doyle it seemed to fall in slow-motion.
"Doc!" Harry yelled again just as Doyle felt something slam into him and the deafening noise of hundreds of crystal prisms crashing to the floor.
Chapter 6: Act 4
Arthur tried to take a deep breath but a heavy weight on his chest made that difficult. He felt the curve of the stage against his back and cracked an eye open to see Houdini across his chest. The chandelier was only a foot or so away from them, the floor littered with broken shards of crystal as well as bits of plaster from the ceiling.
"Harry?" Doyle asked and tried to take a deeper breath.
Houdini groaned and slowly pushed away from Doyle and sat with his back against the stage. "You all right, Doc?" he asked as he glanced at the shattered crystal around them.
"Now that I can breathe again, yes." Doyle said with a smile.
"Well there's gratitude for you," Harry smirked and rubbed at his back. "Next time, I'll just let the chandelier land on you."
Doyle sat beside Houdini, but before he could do anything else, the stage door crashed open and Hopkins ran out. "What happened? Are you lot both all right?"
Arthur looked down at himself and only saw a few small cuts on his hands. He slowly stood and carefully brushed shards of crystal from his waistcoat and trousers. "I think we're both fine, Officer Hopkins. Houdini?"
Harry was slower getting to his feet but nodded. "Yeah, I think so." He turned away from Doyle and glanced at the chandelier.
"No, you're not," Doyle said and gasped Harry by the arm. "You're neck is bleeding."
Harry leant against the stage and felt the back of his neck where a small but steady trickle of blood tracked down into his collar. "It's nothing," he said. "What I want to know is how that," he pointed at the remains of the light fixture, "Came down just when you were standing under it." He leant closer to Doyle. "And who were you talking to before all the excitement?" he asked in a lower tone.
"Maybe the fitting was loose, we both saw it moving earlier." Doyle knelt down next the the shattered remains, then up at the ceiling as he tried to ignore Houdini's other question. Was the mystery man their killer? Was he trying to lure him into a trap, or was he just trying to help and the chandelier nearly falling them an accident?
"There's a small mezzanine up there to access the chandeliers, I'll get someone up there to see if anything was tampered with," Hopkins said and left.
"What about the other part," Harry said once Hopkins was gone. He pulled his handkerchief out of his trouser pocket and wiped at his neck.
Doyle stood back from the debris and replied, "There was a man over by the stage door. I think he wanted to tell me something or show me something."
"Or set you up to have a chandelier fall on you?" Harry said sarcastically and wiped the last of the blood off his neck.
Doyle shook his head. "No, I don't think so. He pointed backstage, like there was something he wanted me to see."
Harry wandered over to the stage door, pulled it open and looked around. "Well he isn't here now." He went through the door and Doyle heard Houdini moving things around in the wings.
Doyle followed as Harry looked around the stage area. "It can't hurt to check." Arthur pulled out a few of the props stacked along one side of the stage, then pulled open the backstage door and walked back down the hallway to the dressing rooms.
Harry shrugged and followed.
Doyle stood with his hands in his pockets as he studied the hallway. The various doors to the rehearsal room and dressing rooms were all closed and the police were gone, either running evidence back to the precinct or up in the rafters checking the chandeliers. There was nothing out of place or different from the last time they'd been there earlier in the evening. Even the row of crates stacked along one part of the hall waiting for someone to put them away was in the same place.
"What's that?" Harry asked from where he stood near one of the dressing room doors and pointed at the crates.
"Here," Harry said and knelt down. He was about to pick up the small glass bottle when Doyle shot a hand out and grasped his arm. "Don't touch it," he said. "There might be fingerprints." He picked up the bottle from the top with his own handkerchief and looked at the label. "Cyanide," he confirmed. "The killer must have stashed the bottle here hoping no one would find it. Judging by the grime, these crates haven't been moved in years."
"We need to find whoever it was you saw," Harry said and stood up. "If he isn't the killer, he must have seen whoever hid the bottle, he can tell us who the killer is."
"Doctor Doyle? Harry?" Adelaide called from the stage area. "Doctor Doyle?"
"Hey Addy," Harry said brightly and walked out on the stage to greet her. "Why are you back here?"
Adelaide gave him an exasperated look and crossed her arms. "Officer Hopkins sent a message to the station saying what happened. Are you two all right?"
"We're fine, Constable," Doyle said as he joined Houdini. "Just a few cuts and bruises."
Adelaide looked from one to the other as if unsure whether or not to believe him, then pointed at the broken chandelier. "Did the killer do this?" she asked as she glanced up at the ceiling.
"No way to know," Doyle answered. "It's an old building. It may have just fallen."
Harry snorted in disbelief and walked over to pick up his suit coat from the edge of the stage and jumped down. "Unless either of you have any ideas on what to do next, I'm going back to the hotel and get cleaned up."
"Good idea," Doyle agreed and went around to the stage door. "Constable, we'll meet you at the station tomorrow morning. We can figure out where to go next."
It was nearly one in the morning and while he knew he should get some sleep, instead of his bedroom, Harry turned to the library. He sat at the desk, pushed aside the book he'd been reading before Doyle called with the case, and pulled the opium pipe out of one of the drawers.
His back ached from his flying leap to push Doyle out of the way of the chandelier and he considered the odds of someone purposely dropping the light fixture on them against the chances it was just an accident as he filled the pipe and struck a match to light it. He closed his eyes and waited for the opium to dull the persistent ache down to a more manageable level.
Within a few minutes he felt the opium work its magic on his back, he opened his eyes and studied the pictures on the wall over the desk. Every one of the pictures was of a charlatan he had debunked. Each image was of one less bloodsucker preying on the bereaved. He propped his feet up on the desk and leant back in the chair. For every one he managed to shut down, some days it seemed like three popped up to take its place.
Thinking of the photos, led Harry back to the case and specifically Diana Abberton. She was a fake, he knew that, and more importantly was able to prove that to Doyle and Adelaide. So why would someone want to kill her? Was it just a cruel act of fate, the poison really meant for Campbell? Or did she know something about the death of Evert Campbell and was killed to keep the secret? There was no way to know until they had more information.
He gave up on the case, instead he turned to a happier thought and considered the change in Doyle since the news Dr. Biggs was coming to see Touie and possibly cure her. He sighed and glanced around his desk. Finding Biggs and convincing him to come to London was about the only good thing to come out of the recent trip to America. He shook himself out of the maudlin thoughts about his mother, Benjamin, and Doyle nearly dying. He picked up one of the Sherlock Holmes books lined up along the back of his desk and wondered what Doyle would be like once Touie was well and home.
He'd had a brief glance of the other man Doyle could be several months ago when Touie seemed to get better. For a brief moment, Arthur was cheerful, happy. Content was the best word Harry could think of the describe his friend. He wanted to see that side of Doyle again and hoped the new year would bring good news. Besides, he really wanted to meet Touie. From Doyle's stories about her, she sounded like a remarkable woman.
He smiled to himself as he packed the pipe away once more in the desk drawer. That was a problem for another day. Right now they had two murders to solve, preferably without resorting to spirits.
"Anything interesting?" Harry asked as he and Doyle walked over to her desk.
"I'm not sure yet," she replied and closed the file she'd been reading.
Doyle picked up the file on Evert Campbell and glanced through it. "Mr. Campbell seemed to be exactly what he said he was. He'd been working as an actor since he was sixteen." Doyle turned a few more pages. "He was part Thorton Shea's company for ten years and Shea's star performer for the past five."
Harry picked up another file and read out the highlights, "Well Diana had the kind of career I'd expect. She bounced around most of England and France working carnivals and sideshows. She was arrested a few times as a fraud, but it didn't stick. For the last four years she's followed Shea's revue from place to place."
Officer Hamilton handed Adelaide another file. "It's the coroner's final report on Diana Abberton," she said a few moments later. "He agrees the poison used was potassium cyanide, and based on what was in her stomach, it was probably in the burgundy wine used on stage."
Harry smiled and looked over at Doyle with his eyebrows raised. Adelaide could practically hear the I-told-you-so.
She picked up the report on Evert Campbell and read it again. She looked up from the report a few moments later and asked, "What sort of knife would have a curved blade?"
"The kind used to clean fish have curved blades," Doyle said. "I saw the sailors use knives like that when I was on the Mayumba. A good fisherman can skin and bone a fish in a matter of seconds with a good knife. Some of them folded like a pocket knife, so it's conceivable our killer had the knife in his suit coat or trousers pocket unbeknownst to Campbell until it was too late."
"That reminds me," Adelaide said and shuffled through the files again. "Something Mr. Stevens told me last night. He said he'd worked for Thornton Shea's brother on a fishing trawler based in East Anglia, but then said something odd. He said Clayton Shea ran a fleet of fishing boats, implying he didn't run them now." She looked through one folder and set it aside in favor of another. "Here." She pulled out a sheet from the file in her hands. "Clayton Shea's trawler business went under a few months ago. It had been in the family since the mid-1840's."
"I'm not sure how that's relevant, Constable," Doyle said.
"I'll tell you how," Harry said as he looked up from Thornton Shea's file. "Thornton Shea is broke. He sank everything he had into either the revue or helping his brother keep the family business going. You said yourself Campbell probably knew his killer."
Doyle nodded but still looked confused.
"Shea killed him!" Harry exclaimed and dropped the file back on the the table. "I'll bet that top coat we found belongs to Shea. He was wearing a black suit when he came to the theater after Campbell was killed. If only a little blood soaked through the top coat, we might not have noticed any stains on his clothes."
Harry glanced at Adelaide. "I told you he looked nervous."
"But why would he want to kill his star?" Doyle asked. "He would need the show to be successful to recoup his losses."
Harry leant against the work table. "That's just it, Doc. He saw a bigger payday."
"His show was insured," Adelaide said and showed Doyle the paperwork from Shea's file.
"Exactly!" Harry exclaimed. "Shows are insured so the backers make their money in case something happens."
"Like your headline performer being murdered," Doyle said as he read through the insurance papers. "This policy pays out £1000." Doyle looked up. "And it looks like Shea is the sole beneficiary. Reason enough to want to kill someone."
Adelaide shook her head. "This is circumstantial at best. None of this proves anything other than the Sheas were fishermen and needed money. And we have no motive for why he would want to kill Diana Abberton. If Thornton Shea is guilty, we're going to have to get him to confess somehow."
The shattered remains of the chandelier had been cleaned up sometime during the day and Shea stood in a bit of shadow as the other two light fixtures didn't quite overlap in the center.
"Mr. Houdini! I'm surprised to see you here again," Shea said and glanced around the stage.
"Mr. Shea. I was just looking over the case one more time. Trying to see how Diana Abberton died."
"Oh I see. Is Constable Stratton with you? I wanted to talk to her about something."
Harry heard the feigned interest in Shea's voice and was surprised at just how bad a liar the other man was. "Nope, sorry. I had this idea on my own," Harry replied with a shrug. "I think she's at Scotland Yard if you want to see her."
Harry made sure he wasn't looking at Shea as the revue manager joined him on stage.
"So what was your idea about poor Diana, maybe I can help," Shea said and stood with his hands in his trouser pockets. Harry could see his right hand fiddling with something in his pocket and wondered if Shea had brought the murder weapon with him. Houdini tossed caution to the wind and decided to change the agreed upon plan on the spot.
Harry stopped near the table and chair from the spirit cabinet still on the stage. The wine bottle and glass were gone, but the candle and playbills were still just as they'd been left after the shocking conclusion to the séance the night before. Houdini dropped his notepad and pen on the table, and shoved his hands in his trouser pockets.
He turned back to Shea and said, "See, my friend Doyle, he thinks Diana was poisoned by accident. The wine used for the séance was laced with cyanide, but the wine belonged to Evert Campbell, and Doyle thinks she was killed by mistake." He looked over at Shea.
Shea pulled at his lip with with one hand while the other still played with something in his pocket. "I can see where that would make sense," he agreed after a moment.
Harry smiled. "The thing is though, I think Diana was killed on purpose. I think the person who killed Evert Campbell had to kill Diana Abberton to keep her quiet."
"I think," Harry continued, "The murderer thought she would really make contact with Evert Campbell's spirit."
"That's ridiculous," Shea scoffed. "Diana Abberton was nothing but an old fraud."
Harry took his hands out of his pockets. "See, that's what I keep saying." He turned and walked a few steps away. "But she had to know something, otherwise, why kill her?"
"What does the constable think of your idea?"
Harry shrugged. "I haven't told her yet. I wanted to check a few things before mentioning it to her." He turned back toward the table and watched Shea's reflection in the polished silver of the candle holder. He was ready when Shea pulled the folded knife out of his pocket.
"I had to make sure she wouldn't say anything," Shea said with a growl. "She was going to tell everyone I killed Evert. I couldn't let that happen. I needed the insurance to pay the claim for the show closing early." He took a step closer to Harry. "She was going to ruin everything!" he cried angrily and lunged at Houdini with the open knife.
Harry ducked the wild lunge and landed a solid punch to Shea's ribcage as the other man recovered his balance. Shea rounded and slashed at Harry's midsection with the knife again. He missed Houdini's chest, but did slice Harry's arm before several bobbies swarmed the stage tackled him to the floor, the knife skittering across the stage.
Harry staggered back, slightly bent over with his arms braced on his legs, his right hand clasped over his left forearm as he watched the bobbies handcuff Shea's hands behind his back.
"You said you were here alone!" Shea cried and tried shake off the hold Officer Hopkins had one his arm.
"I lied," Harry said succinctly as Doyle and Adelaide stopped at his side.
"Let me see your arm," Doyle demanded and moved Harry's hand. Blood welled up as soon as the pressure was removed and Doyle quickly wrapped the wound with his handkerchief. "This is going to need stitches," he said in a low voice as he tried to get the bleeding to stop.
Adelaide stepped forward and picked up the knife. The blade was very thin and very sharp. It curved upward at the point. "Mr. Shea, you are under arrest for the murder of Evert Campbell and Diana Abberton. Was this the knife you used to kill Mr. Campbell?"
Shea growled low in his throat. "He wouldn't listen. I was willing to pay him £50 to fake an injury that would close the show. He wanted more. We argued and the knife was just in my hand."
"What about Diana?" Harry asked and winced as Doyle put pressure on the slice on his arm. "You didn't think she was really going to commune with Evert Campbell's spirit, you thought she was a fake."
"It didn't matter what I thought," Shea answered and jerked against the hold on his arms. "As soon as I heard she'd convinced Scotland Yard to attend her so-called séance I realised she either knew the truth about Evert or planned to point me out and let innuendo do the rest. Either way, I'd never see the insurance money."
"Take him to Sergeant Gudgett," Adelaide ordered Hopkins and handed one of the other waiting bobbies the knife.
"You were just supposed to get him to confess," Doyle said once Shea was gone and Harry sat in the chair by the table. "Not try to be his third victim."
Harry shrugged. "Now we don't have to go looking for the murder weapon. It's just a scratch, it doesn't even hurt. Besides, we got what we needed."
Doyle rolled his eyes. "It doesn't hurt because that blade is very sharp. Trust me, Harry, you're going to need stitches and I didn't bring anything with me since you weren't supposed to provoke our main suspect into attacking you."
"Doctor Doyle? Is he all right?" Adelaide asked and looked at the bloody handkerchief wrapped around Harry's arm.
"More or less, Constable. I know someone nearby who can help us. We'll meet you at the station once we're done."
"Stop that," Doyle said to him as they neared Adelaide's desk.
"So?" Adelaide asked as she looked up at them.
"A few stitches --"
"Fifteen stitches," Doyle interrupted with a sigh.
Harry gave up on adjusting his sleeve, leant against the work table and said, "Merring satisfied?"
Adelaide nodded and picked up a file. "The murderer caught and we have a confession. Chief Merring plans to talk to the press in a few hours. That gives us just enough time to finish the reports."
Doyle looked over the papers still on the work table. He stared at a photograph pushed off to the side and slowly reached out for it. He hissed in a breath and looked at Houdini with wide eyes. "This is the man."
"What man?" Harry asked and glanced up at Arthur. "The man you saw at the theater?"
Doyle read through the paper attached to the photograph. "You won't believe this."
"Why? Who is this guy?" Harry asked and tried to read the paper in Arthur's hand but Doyle held it out of reach.
"What are you talking about?" Adelaide asked.
"Last night," Harry explained. "When the chandelier nearly killed us. Doyle said he saw someone waving at him and pointing backstage."
"He couldn't have been laying a trap for you," Adelaide said. "According to Officer Hopkins, he checked the whole area around where the chandelier hung from the ceiling and found it had just worked out of its mooring. The other two fixtures were checked as well by the theater's handyman and found to be loose."
"Thornton Shea did say the ghosts that haunt the theater like to play with the chandeliers. Maybe --"
"No. Just no," Harry said with a frown. "There are no ghosts in that theater or any other. It's just stories."
Adelaide smiled. "The handyman sent to check them thinks it was caused by the subway. A train passes under the theater every thirty minutes, the shaking just worked the old bolts that held the chandeliers in place loose."
"Not a ghost," Harry emphasised.
"I'm not so sure about that. According to this," Doyle read, clearly awed by what he'd discovered. "The man I saw was Mortimer Jackson. He was a handyman at the theater for almost thirty years."
"Was?" Harry asked.
Doyle nodded and looked Harry in the eye. "Mortimer Jackson died in 1895."
"Then you couldn't have seen him," Harry declared. "It must have been someone else."
Doyle held up a grainy black and white photograph of some of the stagehands grouped together at the front of a stage. The chandelier hanging above the group made it obvious the picture was taken at the Peacock Theater. To one side was an tall man with hunched shoulders and short hair wearing a coat and fingerless gloves on his hands. "That's the man I saw," Doyle said and pointed to Jackson. "Right down to the gloves on his hands."
Adelaide took the photo and looked at the man Doyle pointed out. "Why do you think he wanted you to go backstage?"
Harry opened his mouth, but before he could say anything Doyle smiled. "The cyanide. We found it right after I saw him. He must have known it was there and wanted to show it to someone."
"Oh, so he's a helpful ghost," Harry scoffed with a smile.
"How else do you explain it?" Doyle countered.
"I don't know," Harry admitted, "But it wasn't a ghost." He turned toward the door.
"Where are you going?" Adelaide asked. "There's still paperwork to finish."
"Sorry," Harry said with a wave. "I have a show tonight. I need to go make sure my new assistant remembers what she's supposed to do."
Doyle entered the room at the sanatorium the next morning and nodded to the nurse at the desk. She smiled back and quietly left the room. He set his hat on the edge of the desk and slowly walked over to the woman lying in the bed. Her long hair had been brushed and she looked as though she was merely asleep. Doyle however knew better.
"Hello, my love," he whispered as he sat on the edge of the bed and took her hand. "I'm sorry I haven't been to see you the last few days, we had a case."
He smiled sadly. "The children send their love. Mary is getting so big, she's growing into a proper young lady. Kingsley is still writing his stories, he's also becoming quite the football player. They both miss you terribly." He took a deep breath and looked away.
After a few minutes he turned back to the woman and said, "There is a doctor coming. From America. Houdini found him and convinced him to look at your case; he thinks he can help make you better." He squeezed the hand he held. "My dear Touie. I almost gave up hope again. Houdini, though, wouldn't accept there was nothing else to try. When you're better, I'll bring him to meet you. I think you'd like him. He has your sense of humor." Doyle smiled.
After a few more minutes, he stood from the bed and bent over to kiss his wife on the forehead. "I'll see you tomorrow," he promised in a whisper. He picked up his hat and with a last glance back at the bed, he left the room.
He turned away from the window stood with his hands on his hips and studied the sitting room. The piano stood in one corner, the sofa by the fireplace with a lone chair on one side and table and an empty space on the other. He looked over at the chair he'd placed by the window when he'd returned from America and made a decision.
He picked up the chair and put it back in its place near the fireplace between the sofa and the table. He stood back and nodded. He went to the library for the book he'd been reading before Doyle called with their latest case and came back to the sitting room. He sat in the chair and glanced once at the sofa with a sad smile, then opened the book. The bedroom door was still closed, but he'd made a step in the right direction.
The workmen eventually had the chandelier rehung and left and Mort came out to survey the job and checked it was done right. It was his job to make sure the Peacock was always at her best.
As he finished examining how the light was hung, he glanced around the house in general and saw Babbington looking back down at him. Mort nodded once to the spirit up in the balcony and watched as the the ghost slowly drifted away through a wall.
Mort went back behind the curtain and through the door to the backstage corridor. Now that all the police excitement had ended maybe he could finally get those crates stowed away proper.
The court case Adelaide mentions where a judge allowed evidence from a spirit is true. You can read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenbrier_Ghost
Let me know what you thought of the first episode. Kudos and comments help feed the muse. :)