Sir John looked stunned.
“I don’t believe it,” he said.
“Let me understand,” said Marie. “You are a semi-competent stage magician with a ventriloquist show pretending to be automata which are actually puppets possessed by the souls of a New York construction crew.”
“Yes,” said the Conjuror. “I may be a third rate ventriloquist but it turns out I’m a half decent magician. Somewhat ironically.”
“No, that I believe,” said Sir John. “I don’t believe we’re back to square one.”
“Did you conjure more?” said Marie.
“No!” said the Conjuror, taken aback. “Once was enough. It quite put the wind up me, to be honest. And when I found who the little fellas were, well I felt like I had to help them out.”
“Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself,” said the head puppet. “We love it here, even with the weather.”
There was a general murmur of consent.
“We’d never be in show-business back home,” said another puppet.
“So when you said you haven’t seen Phlebotomous, that was true?” said Sir John.
“Cross my heart and hope to diet,” said the Conjuror.
“Shouldn’t that be “die”?” said Marie.
“After all this business I have no fear of death,” said the Conjuror, “but salad makes me nervous.”
“Then this is a red herring,” said Sir John. “We may as well leave.”
“Hold your horses,” said the lead puppet. “Maybe it is a dead end and maybe not. See, he might be focussed on the phoney hocus pocus, but we get to look out at the audience.”
“Yeah,” said another, “tell us what your friend looked like and maybe we figure out if he came.”
“Short, pale, probably nervous,” said Sir John. “Very, very pale.”
There was a general non-commital murmur.
“We seen a few of these, boss,” said the lead puppet. “This is a theatre after all.”
“He’s a vampire,” said Marie.
“Ah!” said the ensemble.
“Oh yeah, we saw one of them a few days ago. Sat in a bunch of empty seats for the first half, and then sat next to someone in the second half.”
“Sat… next to someone?” said Sir John. “Could you describe them, the one he sat next to?”
“I can do better than that,” said the lead puppet. “Danny, get over here, do your thing.”
One of the puppets shuffled to the front.
“I’ve got a perfect memory and can draw too,” he said. “You just watch.”
The puppet grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil. There was a flurry of wooden arms and then a picture was produced of a tall, thin and rather severe looking man.
“Could you sketch Phlebotomous,” said Marie. “Just to…”
“Make sure I got this guy right?” said the puppet. “Yeah, sure no problem at all.”
There was another flurry and a picture emerged of a nervous man with a hesitant toothy smile. His hands were clasped together.
“That’s Phlebotomous,” said Sir John. “Which means…”
“This is our man,” said Marie, holding the first portrait.