Sir John and Marie settled into their seats in the nearly empty theatre. Seated next to them was a man coughing intermittently and a young man with a paper bag of sweets, that rustled loudly. Sir John kept glancing at them.
“Been a while since we went to the theatre,” he said. “When was the last time?”
Marie pulled a moue and looked away.
“Wait, was it when we were in Manchester?” said Sir John. “When that man had a funny turn?”
He looked at his wife who had a tear running down her face.
“That was me,” she said.
“Oh,” said Sir John, “Oh. Oh. Well at least tonight should be free of anything supernatural, just a good old fashioned puppet show.”
He glanced around guiltily to check no-one had heard.
“Nearly let the cat out the bag,” he whispered to Marie.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,” said an invisible announcer, “I present to you… the Clockwork Conjuror and his Amazing Automatons.”
There was a smatter of applause in the theatre as the lights dimmed. The Conjuror walked out on stage, followed by a troupe of 23 automata.
“Good evening everybody,” he said, “and welcome to the show.”
There was an attempt to disguise his rich west midlands accent, but it was the elocutional equivalent of a small fake moustache. The show then commenced with the automata making a series of elaborate tricks. Sir John looked moderately amused but Marie was rapt.
“Seems a bit obvious when you know how it’s done,” Sir John whispered to Marie.
“Where are the strings?” said Marie.
Sir John looked puzzled.
“Well.. maybe they’re on sticks” said Sir John.
“Then where are the sticks?” said Marie. “Something is strange here.”
“Well we are quite a way from the stage and I imagine they do a good job disguising it,” said Sir John, as a duo of automata jumped through a hoop. “A very good job.”
Marie turned away from the show for the first time and pushed her face close to her husband.
“Something is amiss here, I can feel… I can feel something magical,” she said.
“Are you sure?,” said Sir John.
By way of answer Marie took off her pendant and let it dangle. It rotated gently for a moment until she half closed her eyes. Then the pendant shot horizontal, pointing toward the stage. It spun about wildly in all directions pointing to the whole of the stage.
“Good Lord,” said Sir John. “What is that? Did you learn that in France?”
“No, I taught myself,” said Marie. “I used it before, when… never mind. It detects magical force. And it’s all over the stage.”
“Are you sure?” said Sir John, looking perturbed at the pendant.
“That’s a good trick miss,” said the man with the sweets.
Marie shot him a look and gathered up the pendant. She turned closely to her husband again.
“Those aren’t puppets,” said Marie, “they are magical beings.”
“Well then,” Sir John said, swallowing hard, “we’d better pay the Conjuror another call.”