Bradley Sinor: «Places for Act Two!»

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Bradley Sinor «Places for Act Two!»
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«Places for Act Two!»

by Bradley H. Sinor

"Blimy, mate! You're out of your bloody mind!"

Liam Gideon stared down the length of his sword at the pale face that moments before had been a blustering menacing figure.

"Crazy or sane, it doesn't matter," he said. "Because I am the one who has a sword at your throat. So I wouldn't be advising that you move too quickly or count on any help from either of your friends."

The pale faced man's eyes darted to the far side of the ally where another man, dressed as shabbily as him, lay. This one was still breathing, but with two teeth dangling over edge of his lip it was obvious he was coming to no one's aid. A second man lay on the ground, conscious, but not moving. A heavy black boot was planted across the man's chest. The boot belonged to a tall dark man, dressed in elegantly cut clothes, who the three had been attempting to rob.

"Now, sir," Liam said to the stranger. "I think it only right and proper that you make the decision about what to do with our friend, here. Should I run him through, perhaps cut him just a bit, say, remove certain portions of his anatomy; or should we just hold him and the others for the arrival of the police."

"My first inclination would be to give them a long, very slow, very painful death. A public impalement might be a beneficial lesson to others." The man's dark eyes glittered with a strange redness to them. He spoke with the slightest hint of an accent, each word clearly, crisply and evenly pronounced. It occurred to Liam that perhaps English was not his native language.

"It would be an interesting sight, but consume far more time than I am willing to give to it."

With those words the man lifted his boot from the thief's chest and half turned away from him. Liam had the impression of someone who had done with a matter; though he did notice that the stranger never fully took his eyes off the three thieves.

Liam drew his sword away from the first man's neck. The other one scrambled to his feet, watching Liam and the stranger with the look of a trapped animal. A moment or two passed as both men stood frozen, rain washing across their terror-striped faces. Then they grabbed their unconscious companion, dragging him down the alley.

"I imagine they will have quite a tale to tell once they hit the pub," said Liam.

"It is always wise to spread news of your prowess among an enemy. The story will grow with each retelling," said the stranger. "You never know how it might help you in the future."

"Hopefully, neither of us will have to deal with them again," said Liam.

"True, but with that kind of ilk it never hurts to have a reputation."

The stranger turned toward Liam. This was the first time he had had a chance to get a good look at the man. He was tall, with dark, somewhat disheveled hair, combed across the tops of his ears, giving him an almost feral look. There was something intense and controlling in the man's manner.

"Now, if I may inquire, who is it who stood to battle at my side?"

"Gideon. Liam Gideon, late of Dublin, Edinburgh and parts beyond."

"Liam Gideon. I thank you for your assistance. It came at a most propitious time."

Liam had been minding his own business, hurrying to get back to The Strand Theatre on the west side of London. Passing an alley, hearing the sounds of a fight, he turned and saw three men attack a lone figure. He had hardly thought about it before he was plunging into the middle of the melee, sword in hand.

"You were holding your own pretty well against these fellows. I suspect that you didn't need that much assistance from me."

"None the less, you chose to ally yourself with me in battle. That is something that among my people means much. So do not doubt that you have the gratitude of Vlad Tepes, Count Dracula," he said.

"Thank you, Count. It wasn't that much of a decision for me. It was simply something that seemed needed doing. Something that I didn't think about, just did, my duty, and I am but a slave to duty." he said with a smile.

"A slave to duty?" Dracula looked at Liam oddly.

"Your pardon, Count. I was quoting a line from a play that I am in. It seemed fitting, somehow," said Liam.

"A play? You are an actor, then?"

"At times," he said.

"And what is this play?"

"'The Pirates of Penzance' by Gilbert & Sullivan."

"Gilbert & Sullivan? I am new to London, recently arrived from my native Transylvania, so I'm afraid that I am unfamiliar with either of these gentlemen. I must admit that they sound more like a law firm than playwrights."

"A law firm? That's novel," laughed Liam. "They are the creators of the most popular operettas in the last dozen years."

"Indeed? I may have to seek them out," he said. "That may, perhaps, explain your sword. Seeing a young man carrying one is a common thing in my homeland. But here in England, except for military ceremonies, I have seen none."

Liam held up the sword for his friend's inspection. Its surface was shiny as a teapot, the grip emblazoned with a dozen brightly colored stones amid Celtic knotwork.

"At first glance, it does appear to be a formidable weapon," said Dracula.

Liam could see that the Count had discerned the blade's true nature.

Liam cupped his left hand and sharply slid the edge of the blade along it. Then he turned his palm where Dracula could see it. Both men were smiling and not surprised that the flesh was uncut. "I'm afraid I couldn't have done much real damage to those three. It's a prop intended for the character of The Pirate King."

"The thing is, our enemies didn't know that. Their imaginations were a very potent weapon against themselves," said Dracula.

"Thank you, Count. Our company manager asked me to pick up a replacement for one of our principals, who broke his this morning. Since it was only a slight detour from where I was going, I was glad to do it." Liam pulled out his watch and flipped the cover open.

"Damm! I was due at the theater a full ten minutes ago. I'm sure that Mr. Bunberry will be snarling like a banshee!"

"Fear not, friend Liam. I am in your debt. You have stood to combat at my side. So I shall not abandon you. I will accompany you and explain about the delay to this Mr. Bunberry," he said.

"Thank you, Count, but that isn't necessary."

"I feel it is," said Dracula. "Besides, along the way you can tell me more about this Gilbert & Sullivan."

By the time Liam and his companion reached the theater, what had begun as a light rain had turned into a torrential downpour. As they rushed up to the stage entrance, Liam noticed that the new advertising poster had been put in place.




A theater in the midst of rehearsal a few days from opening night could resemble chaos personified. That evening The Strand was no exception. Yet to Liam's experienced eye there was an almost musical order to the whole scene, though he imagined Count Dracula found it quite confusing.

An entirely new operetta, Utopia (Limited), the first by Gilbert & Sullivan in some years, was scheduled to open in October. Yet at the last minute the decision had been made to reprise Pirates, using the group of actors who had been touring with it for well over a year and only recently returned to London.

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