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Walls of Death and Time: part 3

Destinies intertwine when a modern journalist meets a Jazz Age heir to a small fortune (jazz, heir, fortune, and more)

By Morgan Rhianna BlandPublished 11 months ago 11 min read
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Walls of Death and Time: part 3
Photo by Gwen King on Unsplash

Read Part 1 HERE

Read Part 2 HERE

If someone had told me an hour ago that I’d be going back in time to 1921 tonight, I would’ve laughed in their face! If someone had told me I’d be doing it to save a ghost, I would’ve called them crazy because this is crazy. Ghosts, time travel, murder mystery… It sounds like some insane conspiracy theory, the kind I never would’ve believed two days ago. I never would’ve questioned the historical narrative before I met Edward Mallory - well, if you can call talking to a ghost through walls meeting someone. Yet here I am so convinced of his innocence that I put myself on the line to prove it.

What was I thinking? I’m not the type to fall for a man’s lines or a sad story, so why did I believe Edward Mallory? Because he believed in me, and he’s the only one who has in a long time. Nobody capable of murder would do that. Now I just have to make sure his belief in me isn’t in vain.

The golden light enveloping me fades as I step through the stage door and into a cramped corridor. So this is the Hyperion. It’s so much smaller than I imagined! I don’t know why that surprises me. Edward said most of the present-day backstage area was an addition, but somehow seeing it in person hits differently. The bright fluorescent lighting is gone, replaced with dimmer Edison bulbs, and the hallway is stiflingly hot without air conditioning.

As I wander down the hall, I notice a door to my left marked with a star and a nameplate reading E. Mallory. Another door to my right is marked L. Thorne. Their dressing rooms. If I’m going to find evidence to exonerate Edward, those rooms are probably the best place to start. I turn to his room, one hand on the doorknob, but a sudden thought stops me from turning it. Fingerprint analysis exists in this era. If I go around picking up any evidence I find, my fingerprints would give investigators a false lead. What good is clearing Edward’s name if it destroys mine in the process? Come to think of it, how would prosecuting a time traveler work anyway?

***************************

I realize that fingerprints aren’t the only problem here. I’m still dressed for a night on the town in 2021! While the little black dress and strappy sandals would be tame in my own time, here they’d be scandalous. It’s only a matter of time before someone finds me back here, and I’ll stick out like a sore thumb. Somehow I doubt anybody would buy time travel as an excuse! I have to find a disguise to blend in and fast!

Of all the places I could’ve been sent back to, thank goodness it was a theater! There’s bound to be a costume department here somewhere. But where? Edward and Lilah’s dressing rooms are the only marked doors backstage. I guess this is before signage was invented! Only one thing to do now: knock on all the doors until I find the right one.

As I knock on the first door, a man’s voice answers. “Yes? Who’s there?”

The voice is like a jolt to my heart. I stand paralyzed with fear, wondering what will happen if that guy opens the door to find me. I can’t stick around to find out! Quietly sneaking down the corridor to a fork in the path, I hide around the nearest corner. I peer around the corner, watching as a man opens the door, He looks around with a confused expression then closes it again. Okay, it’s definitely not that door! Probably some other actor’s dressing room.

Now which way do I go? I look back the way I came, then down the path to the left, and finally down the one ahead. My hiding place took me down the path to the right, so that seems as good a place as any. I notice an open door ahead and peer into the room. There’s a wooden chair and a desk littered with pens, papers, and envelopes. It looks like an office, probably the stage manager’s. Nothing interesting there…

Next is another closed door. This time there’s no answer as I knock. Turning the knob, I cautiously peer inside to find shelves upon shelves full of junk. Either this is the prop room or the world’s most disorganized supply closet! Not the costume department, but it looks like I’m getting warmer.

****************************

A faint mournful tune distracts me, and I turn in the direction of the sound down a narrowing hallway. A booming baritone voice joins in as the song gets gradually louder. I’d know that voice anywhere! I follow that voice into the stage wings, and I see him… Edward Mallory in all his living glory. Wow, he’s a lot taller than I thought! He commands the stage with a gravitas sorely lacking in actors of my own time.

The same can’t be said of his co-star. Lilah Thorne struts about the stage in a glittering mermaid gown and an opal and seashell comb in her hair. Her voice and movements are just as over the top as her costume, yet there’s no emotion in her eyes. Her overly dramatic performance breaks the spell Edward’s voice held on me, and I remember my task. I turn around… facing a door marked “wardrobe”. What are the chances that following Edward’s voice would lead me exactly where I need to go?

I peer inside to find an elderly woman sewing by the light of a hanging lantern. How do I get past her? I rifle through my purse for something to cause a diversion, pulling out a full keyring. That should be loud enough! I throw it down the hall, and it hits the wall with a loud CLANG! The old woman jumps, looking up from her sewing.

“What on Earth was that?!”

She runs outside to investigate, and I seize the opportunity to sneak in. I spot a simple blue dress on the nearest rack. That looks about my size. I take the dress and a matching cloche hat from the shelf above the rack. Rummaging through a large trunk, I find a sensible shoe and soon its twin. I glance at the door, half-expecting the wardrobe woman to burst through at any moment. I don’t have everything I need yet, and there’s not much time! Hurriedly searching the room, I complete the look with a pair of opera gloves and a large carpet bag to collect evidence.

Footsteps echo down the hall, and I cautiously peer around the door. The wardrobe woman is fast approaching from one direction, and from the other, a group of extras exiting the stage. Ducking behind the last person, I follow the group backstage. Back to the two marked dressing rooms. Which one do I search first?

***************************

Her room is closer, and if I get caught back here, I’d rather face him than her! Lilah Thorne’s dressing room is a jumbled mess of makeup, costumes, scripts, and magazines. Everything, from the walls to the furniture, is a bright shade of pink, and several posters of the woman herself adorn the walls. Wow, someone has a high opinion of herself!

How does Lilah find anything in this mess?! I sift through the room but find nothing, no sign of Lilah’s relationship with Max Ryker or her gambling debts. She must’ve hidden the paper trail somewhere else. Damn her, she’s smarter than I thought! As I head for the door, something on the vanity catches my eye. It’s a matchbook from a place called The Lucky Horseshoe Jazz Club. I open it to read a strange phrase:

Another cog in the motor

What the hell does that mean?! Probably nothing, but the matchbook does give me another location to search for clues. I stuff the matchbook into the carpet bag and sneak across the hall to search Edward’s room.

His dressing room is a stark contrast to Lilah’s, sparsely furnished and neatly organized. Except for a stack of papers on a table. Upon closer inspection, I notice it’s a handwritten letter. I skim the contents until a sentence jumps out at me:

As our only heir, your father’s fortune is now yours…

The words themselves aren’t the only striking thing about the letter. The ink is smeared and blotchy in places, as if mingled with its writer’s tears… or its reader’s. The thought of Edward’s suffering breaks my heart! Losing his father, only to lose his reputation, his career, and his life so soon after… I can’t let that happen!

I bag the letter and charge down the hall with renewed determination to find Lilah Thorne’s real killer,,, only to bump into something hard and stumble. “What are you doing here?” a voice snaps at me.

I look up into a pair of disdainful dark eyes, the same mean eyes from the posters in the dressing room and from the photos in the theater lobby a hundred years from now. Lilah Thorne.

“What are you doing here?” Another voice asks in a kinder tone. Another pair of eyes, this one seafoam green, meets mine, and a hand extends to help me up. I know whose voice that is, even before I get a good look at him, even before he introduces himself.

“I’m Edward Mallory. What’s your name?”

“Ron- Veronica Baird.” I stop myself from giving my nickname just in time, Not only does it not fit this era, but I seem to recall Edward - or at least his ghost - preferring my full name. Now I need to think of an excuse to be backstage!

“I work for The New York Journal.” Like I’d be caught dead writing for that glorified tabloid! It was just the first publication I could think of that exists in this era, the same one that would go on to drag Edward’s name through the mud. “I’m writing a review of tonight’s performance, and I got lost on my way out.”

The lie seems to satisfy him. Her, not so much. Lilah rolls her eyes, sighing dramatically. “She’s just a fan. Come on, Eddie.”

She winds her arm around his like an asp curling its tail before it strikes. It’s all I can do not to pry her off him and claw those mean eyes out right now! But I can’t blow my cover, so I don’t react.

They exchange a look, and Lilah kisses Edward’s cheek. “Fine. I’m going to get changed while you mingle with the common folk. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Without another word, she brushes roughly past me and into her dressing room.

***************************

As soon as she’s gone, Edward turns to me. “Don’t mind her. She’s had a long day.”

“So you’re a journalist?” he presses on. I nod. It’s not exactly a lie. “Lofty ambition. But what’s a girl like you doing at a rag like The Journal?”

“What can I say? It pays the bills.”

At those words, his expression turns concerned. “Do you need anything? Food? Money?”

Truth be told, I hadn’t thought that far ahead. All I have are credit cards and a few 21st century-dated dollars, none of which are likely to do me much good here. I have no idea where I’ll stay while I’m stuck in 1921, but unlike some people, I won’t take advantage of his kindness!

“It’s okay. I’ll manage,” I shake my head, but the look in his eyes tells me he sees right through that line. He reaches into his pocket for a few dollar bills. “Mr. Mallory, I can’t take your money.”

“Please call me Edward,” he corrects me. “That money is a loan. You can repay me after you get paid for your review.”

He hands me the money, cutting me off before I have a chance to argue. “Do you have a place to stay the night?” he asks; I shake my head again. “I thought so. There’s a hotel down the street. Wait here, and I’ll show you.”

No longer in costume, he returns a few minutes later and escorts me out the stage door, through a back alley, and down the street to a tall brick building. I reach for the doorknob at the same time he does, and our hands touch. “Sorry,” I mumble, pulling away.

He holds the door open, and as I pass by, he hands me a small white piece of paper. “Here’s my card, in case you need anything else. I look forward to reading your review, Miss Baird.” Before I can thank him or say anything else, he’s already gone, leaving me to stare after him dumbfounded. Why is he helping me? He doesn't know me!

I book a room at the front desk and ask the maid to give me a wake up call at 7 AM. Tomorrow is going to be another busy day of sleuthing!

Mystery
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About the Creator

Morgan Rhianna Bland

I'm an aroace brain AVM survivor from Tennessee. My illness left me unable to live a normal life with a normal job, so I write stories to earn money.

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