Friday 9 June 2023

Murder at The Lyceum by Ann Dixon, espresso

 ‘Have you seen this, Cynthia?’ said Leo, his voice trembling with constrained anger.

 ‘The press have a lot to answer for. First, they build us up, saying how wonderful it is to have the old Lyceum Theatre brought back to life again. Then they knock us right back down by publishing this garbage about the ghost of Beatrice Featherstone, causing the death of talented actress, Miss Amy Parsons. We're done for I tell you, thoroughly done for!’ Leo le Brun director, producer and chief mover and shaker in bringing about the resurrection of The Lyceum Theatre, buried his head in his hands.


      ‘Well Leo," said Cynthia quietly, ‘you must admit that what happened last night was very strange. What could possibly have made the set collapse? It had been built specifically to hold Amy’s weight, and the Health and Safety bods had also passed it.’

 ‘That's just it Cynth, it can't have been built correctly. Why else would it have collapsed?’

  ‘I don't know Leo. But then there's the mystery of what several people in the audience said that they saw.’

‘Nonsense!’ said Leo guffawing loudly. ‘Sheer unadulterated nonsense.’

 ‘Now that's not fair Leo. How do you know what they saw? You were backstage.’

 ‘Well, backstage or not, I still maintain it's a load of bunkum.’ Leo shook his head and tutted loudly. "

‘Do you mean to tell me that you actually believe that they saw Amy's face turn white with fright, and that she said ' My god it's you. How on earth can it be you. You're dead.'   I told the press quite emphatically, that it was complete and utter rubbish.’ Cynthia returned to her glass of red wine. After taking a large mouthful, she put the glass back on the table, stood up, and with all the force she could muster, punched him forcibly on the nose.  ‘You prig Leo! You self-righteous prig,’ she yelled. ‘Amy’s dead and all you can think of is how to save your precious theatre. You simply don't want to believe that those people could possibly be right, because if they are, then The Lyceum Theatre could end up being a dead duck. Who would want to attend a performance where their very life might be in danger? Anyway Leo, my best friend, - no - our best friend is dead, but all that matters to you is that the success of The Lyceum Theatre be assured.’ He fumbled in his pocket for a clean handkerchief and held his dripping nose. Leo le Brun looked askance at Cynthia.

 ‘You're mad Cynth, do you know that. Bloody mad, just like the audience and all the rest of the people in this theatre. You’ll believe in ghosts, yes! but believe in straightforward common sense, no! As I keep on saying, the whole idea of murder by ghostly apparition is codswallop.’


     Still holding a bloody handkerchief to his nose, he turned smartly on his heels and headed for the door. As it closed, Cynthia Matthews returned to her glass of red wine. Tears trickled down her face, the heavy stage make-up leaving it streaked and damp. She attempted to wipe the mascara from her eyes, but the tears mixed with the oily black pigment and the dark oily emollient of her stage make - up. The result was hideous. She took another gulp of wine, to try and numb the loss she felt at the death of her closest and dearest friend.


     Holding his still bleeding nose, Leo walked along the corridor to Amy's dressing room. He went inside, ran some warm water into the basin and began to rinse his nose, the water, quickly becoming tinged with red. He fumbled in his pocket for a clean handkerchief and, dabbing his nose, swore vociferously under his breath. ‘Stupid bloody women. Can't bloody stand 'em - can't bloody do without 'em.’ He lifted his head and looked at himself in the mirror. From the corner of his eye, he noticed a curl of smoke twisting its way under the door and drifting purposely towards him. Leo shivered. ‘What the dickens,’ he muttered. The smoke gathered in a large cloud just in front of him as an army of tiny ants marched double quick time down his spine. His hands became clammy, and his breath came in a quiver of short sharp bursts. The smoke began to take shape as tiny sparks fluttered within it. Leo, now as rigid as a Rodin sculpture, watched with bated breath as the smoke took human form. A shimmering ethereal like body, stepped towards him. No words were spoken out loud, but Leo could visualize a jumble of words, forming in his minds eye. The words slowly rearranged themselves.

Do not think you can take this theatre from me. You cannot. It belongs to me, Gerald Featherstone. Do not think you can bring another to replace my beloved Beatrice Featherstone. You cannot. Your pitiful little ingénue Amy, is thankfully no more, so, if you wish to save your miserable skin and those who defile The Lyceum, close the theatre, and leave it to those who truly belong here. Leave it to the ghosts of the past.’

 Leo gulped. “I take It that it was you then, who killed Amy and demolished the stage set. More words rearranged themselves in Leo's mind.

‘Yes, of course it was me.  I simply could not allow a mere upstart to head the bill. You do see that don't you?’

A nervous Leo nodded. ‘I'll see that The Lyceum is left in peace. I can see now that it was wrong of me to try and replace the inimitable Beatrice Featherstone.’ The smokey form slowly dissipated and In Leo's mind the last words of Gerald Featherstone took shape.

‘Go, and all will be well. Stay, and you and your company will meet the ingénue's fate. I bid you farewell.’


     Two weeks later the theatre was closed, - left to the mites, moths, and spiders to inhabit. Over the following years, the resurrected grandeur of the theatre slowly faded, but the ghosts of Gerald and Beatrice Featherstone continued to tread its boards, occasionally, plagued by one Miss Amy Parsons.


About the author 

I am a 75year old retired primary school teacher. I write purely for pleasure, along with a few like-minded friends. I am happy to write on any theme, but I must admit, that I particularly enjoy incorporating a few ghosts into the storyline. I have written a book entitled ‘The Bewitching of Esme Smart,’ aimed at children between the ages of 8-12 years. My motto: ‘When all else fails – write.’


 Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)

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