Home > Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)(6)

Time's Echo (The Chronos Files #1.5)(6)
Rysa Walker

Unfortunately, the box looks much smaller now than when I was eight, and the curtains are going to be a problem. This setup is for a standard vanishing act, not for an escape artist. Even if I can wedge myself inside, there won't be any room to maneuver. And I need something that not only hides me from the audience, but also keeps my assistants from peeking until I'm back in the box.

"Hmm. This will require a bit of work. I need to rig it so you can lock me inside."

"Oh. Thought you'd be vanishing me or Daisy. Not complaining, mind you—I'm tired of folding myself inside that box. There's no way you're going to fit."

She thinks for a minute, then holds up a finger. "Wait here. Maybe something else would work better."

I stay put as she heads off to the right. The quartet launches into another high-pitched musical nightmare. After a few moments, I hear shuffling noises from the back of the room.

"Hey, Houdini. Come help me move this thing."

The thing in question turns out to be a coffin. The prop room is much too crowded for her to push it more than a couple of feet. I help her lift it up and over some of the junk and we put it down in a relatively clear spot.

I can't say I'm wild about being locked in a coffin, even one that is a prop. Still, I have to admit it's perfect. "Think Mr. Easley would mind if put this up on the cart instead of the palanquin cabinet?"

"Don’t matter whether he minds or not. I'm prop mistress. I'll get you a toolbox."

Twenty minutes later, I have the coffin attached to the wheeled legs and a makeshift latch on the inside. The coffin isn't attached quite as firmly as I'd like and the latch is a bit flimsy, but it'll do for now. I toss the rest of my gear inside and roll the contraption onto the stage, parking it in front of a raised wooden platform Eliza dragged out that has steps going up both sides.

I screw one part of a hook latch to the side of the coffin and the other to the platform so that Eliza and Daisy can anchor the thing. Although I told Eliza that's to make sure the coffin doesn't go rolling away when I pop up at the end, the position is actually crucial. If the coffin isn't rolled back to the stable point, I can't jump back in.

The audience clears out and Easley still hasn't arrived. Eliza suggests a dress rehearsal while we wait, but I'm leery of pushing my luck with the key. Even with short hops like this, I'll be lucky if I can do more than four or five round trips before I tire out. So I just walk her through the main points of the act and we do a dry run with Eliza attaching cuffs and me climbing into the coffin.

The inside is well padded and comfortable, but it smells musty. No actual dead bodies have been in here, however…at least not to Eliza's knowledge. Or, at least not that she chose to mention.

I tug on the watch chain and pull out the CHRONOS key to be sure I have enough room to lift my head and see the display. I do, but it's a close call. I set my current position as a stable point, so all I'll have to do later is set the time. Then I push the medallion back into my pocket, and tap for Eliza to open the lid.

No response. I tap again, harder.

"Eliza?"

There's still no response. I feel my pulse rising. "Eliza!"

A soft chuckle from above. "What's the matter, Houdini? Need help?"

Great. I'll have to waste a jump because my assistant wants a sneak preview. "No," I say through gritted teeth. "I can get out. Just give me a minute or two."

I'm about to flip the latch to secure the lid when the coffin opens, and Eliza grins down at me. "I'm kidding. Save your contortions until His Highness arrives. And Daisy, for that matter…" Her eyes narrow a bit. I get the sense she's added the two absences together and doesn't much like the result.

After unlocking the various cuffs, Eliza wanders off. I sit on the edge of the stage with my feet hanging down into the orchestra pit. And I wait. For nearly an hour, I sit there, rehearsing the act in my head and trying to stay alert. Even with large weather curtains open and a slight breeze blowing in from the Charles River, it's still hot and humid. The lack of sleep is beginning to get to me and I'm almost (but not quite) tempted to stretch out in the coffin for nap.

Easley finally strolls through the door and down the center aisle a little after five-thirty. The ticket-seller was right—he's fat and he's middle-aged. He's also a good foot shorter than my six-foot-one, an unusual enough fact that you'd think the woman might have added it to her description. A redheaded girl comes in a few seconds behind him and slinks down the left aisle toward the prop room door, giving me a nervous glance before she closes it behind her.

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