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 Favorite button or leave a review (or both!) Muses love feedback.
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.