March 1, 2010
The cut was clean and craftily perfect. Ian always had a way of doing that with each of his victims, and I admired that while I covered Bennie's eyes as I usually did from the scene.
"Can I see it, yet?" Bennie whined. He always liked the death scene of Pirelli, but I never let him watch it. Especially not tonight when I noticed something out of place. John was acting dead, but he was doing it a little too well. The extra blood that looked more real than the usual standard theatre blood was ominous as Mark's usually haunting grin fell to frightened eyes as he let John drop to the floor. I turned to see Monica scream as the realization hit her.
Sweeney Todd was all about killing, but John was really dead.
"Blackout the stage. Now!" Beth, our stage manager, hissed into her headset. I held on tighter to Bennie and checked my gloved hands to make sure that they still covered his eyes. We pulled Mark offstage, and set him down on the nearest chair.
"I… I didn't know it was a real one this time," he stammered, "I didn't know how sharp it was."
Realizing that my hands were still holding Bennie in a deathgrip, I let him go.
"What happened?" He asked.
"Why are we not moving to the next scene?" someone else grumbled.
"The audience is getting anxious. We can't keep them waiting!"
"Okay!" I shouted over the growing confused crowd. "Everyone is going to shut up and sit still until we get the whole story. Now, what happened, Mark." I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew without a doubt that there was some foul play at this theatre, and no cops would be able to get the truth out of any actor's mouth. That's why their actors.
Mark's eyes focused on me as if he had just been in a daze, and in an all too serious voice, he replied, "I went onstage like I usually do with John. He told me 'Good luck' and followed me on. I was just acting out my part the way I always do. John was completely in character, and when I went to slit his throat just like I usually do with the fake barbershop knife, but I guess it was real because there was more than just the pouch of theatre blood on his neck coming out. He fell to the floor, and I didn't know what to do. I have never killed a man in real life."
"Uh, Jessica," Monica, our Johanna for the show, piped up, "Shouldn't we be calling an ambulance and the police by now?"
"No!" Mark turned to Monica. "They'll send me to prison for life! I'm innocent!"
"Liar," Terry, the Judge, snarled, "You killed him onstage in front of a full audience. There is no possible way that you could be innocent."
I quickly gave a cold look to Terry, then smiled at Monica. "Please do, and tell the audience to be calm and stay seated. They must be thoroughly confused by now. Mark, can I see the prop you used. Maybe somebody switched out the knife while you weren't looking."
Mark handed me the tool, and I examined it. The knife was definitely not a prop from our theatre and cut my finger when I touched its sharp edge.
I turned back to my fellow cast members. "Can someone get me the props master? I want to know why this knife was switched out."
Mike was pushed into the center of our circle. "I didn't do anything! Not a single prop was switched or misplaced the last time I checked."
A murmur rose from the crowd as people started coming up with their own theories. I shushed the crowd again with a loud whistle.
"Listen, we aren't going to get anywhere if we don't find the knife that we usually use," I exclaimed, "I want everyone to search through this theatre now for that prop. It's a clue that might lead us to the culprit of this murder."
"And what makes you the authority here," Terry scoffed.
"I'm a cop," I replied coldly. Terry rolled his eyes, but stayed stationery in his chair while everyone else bustled around for the missing prop.
A few minutes later, everyone was back in the group panting from searching the entire theatre for the knife. Everyone except for Bennie.
His face was pale as he walked up to the group, the prop in his hands along with a bag that was almost falling off his shoulders.
"It was John," Bennie whispered as he handed me the original prop and pulled out a cell phone from the bag. "He switched it. Just listen to the last message on his phone."
I comforted Bennie with one arm and put the phone to my ear with the other waiting for the message:
John, you can't run forever. You're debt is piling up, I can't afford the house, and we're practically starving. I will find you, and when I do, you better have that money ready.
I put the phone down and took a seat, my arm still comforting Bennie. "I knew that he was divorced, but I didn't know that it was that bad."
"He switched the props?" Mark and Mike said at the same time.
"Yes," I replied. "As far as I can tell, John was having a difficult time getting over his divorce, and his ex-wife has been leeching off of all the money he'd been making. When it stopped flowing, she pressured him, possibly going all the way to the cops, too, no doubt. He's usually very strict with his mannerisms while he is both on and off stage and never let on about his outside life.'
"That's why he said good luck, which is really bad luck, instead of break a leg!" Mark squeaked. "I'm innocent!"
"I guess you both are, Mark and Mike," I sighed. "We are trained to keep our emotions to ourselves while onstage. John didn't do that tonight, and it proved to be fatal."