Home > Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)(5)

Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)(5)
Rysa Walker

It's clear I'm not going to get anything more than this vague description, so I turn and move toward the door.

"Twenty cents," she says. I stop, and she finally looks up from the page when I don't respond immediately. "It's twenty cents for a ticket. I can't let anyone in without a ticket. You could be sayin' you had an audition just to get in to see the show."

Right, lady. I'm wearing a tuxedo with a bloody top hat in July so that I can get out of paying twenty cents admission for a show that's nearly over. It's not worth the argument, however, so I toss her two dimes and take my ticket.

The auditorium is barely half full, but that's still more people than I'd have expected for a Tuesday matinee and I feel uneasy as I realize this is the crowd I'll be facing twice daily if the interview goes as planned. I take a playbill from the doorman and stand at the back for a few minutes, looking around for Easley. I'm not even sure why I bother—the ticket-seller's description fits about half of the men I've seen since entering the park.

The violinist on stage finishes Spanish Dance. I work my way about halfway down the outer aisle of the theatre during the applause, finding an empty seat at the end of a row. The next act, a juggling group from Europe, is billed as "The Agoust Family." At first, it looks like a pantomime skit. It starts out with this waiter taking an order from his table, and then the dishes and cutlery begin flying from one side of the stage to the other. The act is good enough that I briefly forget why I'm here and watch the show, but when the applause starts it jogs my memory.

A sister quartet, next to last on the program, begins setting up. I stand and cross over to a door near the main stage. It's unlocked and opens into a large prop room. Moving slowly, I follow a narrow path of sorts between the furniture, stage flats, and boxes, hoping to find Easley or someone else in charge.

It's hard to hear much over the quartet, whose voices are the high, warbling type that sets my teeth on edge. Fortunately, there's an instrumental stretch in the middle and I pick up a bit of conversation coming from behind the stage.

I follow the sound and a few minutes later see a short, attractive blonde who looks to be in her mid-twenties. She's joking with two of the guys from the juggling group, as she helps them load the last of their gear into the wheeled cart they used in the act.

The blonde turns toward me, running her eyes over the tux in a way I suspect Kate wouldn't appreciate. "You can't be the new banjo player in that get up, so let me guess—you're here to replace Clive the Debonair?"

"Hopefully, yes. I'm supposed to audition for a Mr. Easley, but I can't find him. He said there was a…palanquin cabinet left behind that I might be able to use. Do you know where?"

"Sure." She tilts her head to the left. "Follow me."

She leads me back to the prop room and turns onto one of the tiny paths through the clutter. It's more suited for her frame than mine, and I narrowly avoid toppling a lamp.

"Where are your assistants?" she asks.

"Um…in the letter, Easley said that I could use the same girls that the other guy, Clive, did, if I get the job. I haven't met them yet."

"Well, you've met one of them. Typical that I'm the last to know." She turns to face me and drops a tiny curtsey. "Eliza Easley, at your service. And you are?"

I hesitate for a moment. "The name's Kiernan, but I'm billed as the Amazing Boudini."

She snorts. "You're gonna get sued. Maybe even killed. They say he has a temper."

"No, he's a nice guy. Really," I add, as she gives me a skeptical glance. "Houdini recommended me. I'm his protégé."

"If you say so." She turns and continues through the maze of junk.

"Eliza Easley." I say, hoping to change the subject. "Are you Easley's daughter?"

She has a very loud laugh for such a small girl. "Don't let him hear you say that. I'm his wife. Number three, unless he's hidden one from me."

I decide it might be best to button my lip before I stick my foot any further into my mouth.

"Daisy'll be your other girl," Eliza says. "She's running an errand or something. Should be back in a few minutes."

She walks behind a dolly stacked with theatrical flats and rolls out a rectangular cabinet maybe five feet long and four feet tall. It sits about waist-high on four sturdy wheeled legs. Gold curtains cover the front and the back. I saw several of these contraptions as a kid, so I'm not a total rube—even worked with one for a couple of nights when a girl on the Midway took off with some guy without bothering to give notice. As soon as the magician found himself another girl, I was out of a job, of course—vanishing a pretty girl in a tight costume sells way more tickets than vanishing an eight-year-old boy.

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