The Clockwork Conjuror: Chapter 7

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.

Tall, thin and rather severe looking gent…

The Clockwork Conjuror: Chapter 6

The backstage room was small, gloomy and had an odour that somehow suggested damp, mould and tears. The Clockwork Conjuror sat in front of a mirror, whistling a melody that had no apparent key and scraping face paint off by the trowel-load. There was a knock at the door.

“Come in,” he said cheerily.

The door opened and Sir John and Marie walked in. 

“Oh hello,” said the Conjuror, looking a little surprised. “You made it to the show then?”

“Mr… Conjuror,” said Sir John, “you haven’t been entirely honest with us, have you?”

The Conjuror dropped his head a little.

“Well I may have exaggerated ticket sales a little,” he said.

“No,” said Sir John, “I mean about your… troupe.”

He gestured at the puppets and noticed that all their heads were turned to stare at Marie. He couldn’t remember if they had been like that when he came in.

“I’m not sure I follow you,” said the Conjuror, nervously.

“Boss,” said one of the puppets,” I think the jig is up. That dame there, she has some hocus-pocus stuff.”

“She is a witch!” said Sir John, proudly.

“She seems perfectly nice to me,” said the Conjuror, taken aback. “Nice to meet you, by the way!”

Enchante,” said Marie. “Maybe you explain about this jig.”

The Conjuror sighed and began his tale.

“Well, truth be told, as well as being a mediocre magician, unfunny comedian and tuneless troubadour, seems I’m not a very successful puppeteer either. Of course, I figure this out after I’ve spent all my savings on a fine set of puppets. So, desperate and at rock bottom, I do something rash.”

Sir John looked around and tried to imagine what rock bottom would look like for the Conjuror.

“Go on,” said Marie, not unkindly.

“You know that magicians are supposed to summon spirits. Well of course, that’s just a story to sell the magic. Or so I thought. I wondered if there was some truth in the tale. So I went looking and I found it: A grimmer.”

“Grimoire?” said Sir John.

“Exactly,” said the conjuror. “So I arrange all these puppets in a circle, and I follow the instructions, and, lo and behold, they speak, they are alive.”

Sir John inhaled sharply.

“So these are… puppets possessed by… spirits?” he said.

“Not exactly,” said the puppet that had spoken before. “See, the same time the boss is doing his thing, we’re all sitting on a girder, high in the sky, eating lunch.”

“In… heaven?” said Sir John.

“Park Row Building, New York. We’re a construction crew, see? Well we were. Turns out that girder wasn’t attached so well. We all fell down. I can still recall it, seeing the ground rushing toward me, my life passing in front of me and then… BAM. We wake up in Birmingham, England.”

“Good God!” said Sir John.

“It makes sense mon cher,” said Marie. “It’s like you say about electricity, it takes the lazy path. Magic is the same. Why bother fetching spirits from the otherworld when you have 23 souls already here.”

“So here we are,” said the puppet. “We may be small puppets that are dead inside, but hey, we’re in showbusiness!”

“Ta-da!’ said the puppets at once.

Lunch atop a Skyscraper