Penny Dreadful

By Rocket

Episode 9.9

Part One


Penny stood on tiptoes and waved, almost knocking the hat off the lady behind her.
“MacGyver! Over here!” She beamed as MacGyver waved back at her and strode across the airport lounge. “Your flight was really late! And I thought I might have missed you because I was late too, and then there was such a nice security guard who let me in even though he really shouldn’t have, and I’ve been waiting ages for you, and…” She took a breath.

“Hi Penny,” MacGyver smiled down at her.

I see you, my daughter, I see you there in the airport, waving to your beau. He doesn’t look at all as I imagined he would, but these are strange times.
I followed you here, to make sure you were safe. For it is not time, not yet. Many things have to happen before then, and happen they must, for then order will be restored.

“You’re going to just love New York!” Penny linked arms with him and they walked out of the lounge. “I’ve got this cute apartment, and the theatre is amazing, and the director is just… Well, you’ll see.

“What time do you have to be at the theatre tonight?” MacGyver dodged around a bag lady pushing a supermarket trolley. “Pardon me, ma’am!”

I see you talking to him, so happy and carefree. I see the gestures you make and I think you are telling him about the fate of my poor son. You make the shape of his doom, you describe how he perishes and your beau tells you to stop. In my heart I hear him tell you not to talk of such terrible things, but you are not chastened and you lead him away into the city.

He is a gentleman, your beau, for he moves aside to let one less fortunate pass, and talks to her kindly when most would cast her aside and spare her not a second thought.

“Not until six.” Penny flagged down a cab, smiling at the driver. “The first act is amazing! There’s this enormous helmet and it comes down onto the stage really fast and Peter – he’s playing Conrad – he does just the best death scene, and –“

“Penny!” MacGyver waited until Penny turned to face him. “I’ll see it this evening, don’t spoil it for me, OK?” He waved the ‘Castle of Otranto’ playbill and smiled.

“OK.” Penny got into the cab and told the driver her address. MacGyver sat back in the old Crown Victoria, letting Penny’s chatter wash over him as he looked out at the skyscrapers sliding past the window.

I see you get into the cab and roll away, to be swallowed up by the press of traffic. Now I turn away, heading back to my home. I will see you again soon.
I have things to prepare, events to put in motion, delicate balancing acts to perform if my story is to play out as it should. For only by completing the story can I make right the tragedy that has occurred.

I walk all the way back, as a penitent man would, while others ride in automobiles. The sidewalk is cold through the thin soles of my shoes, and I feel my heart echo its chill as I compose myself for the task ahead of me.

O, my daughter, I regret the sacrifices that will be necessary.

The call from Penny had arrived at just the right time. After his adventures in Egypt, MacGyver had felt in need of some time off, and a trip to New York to see her perform in her new play seemed like the perfect escape. He’d been pleased to see she had one of the lead roles too, her hard work finally paying off. Even if the theatre was so far off Broadway it would be hard pressed to see it on a clear day…

He wasn’t familiar with the story. Penny had tried to explain it, but enthusiasm had got the better of her and he’d been no wiser when she finished. He closed his eyes, enjoying the thin Spring sunlight slanting through the cab window.

I arrive, slipping in through the back door. I stand in the warm darkness, breathing in the dust and the velvet and the words that linger in the rafters.
I climb high, making sure that everything is perfect, that the story can begin as it must, setting into motion the chain of events that will lead to the return of him who was taken from me.

I climb down again, walking the boards and mouthing the words in the gloom.
Everything is ready.

“So you see, my character’s a real tragic heroine!” Penny ladled spaghetti and sauce onto two plates, handing one to MacGyver. “Matilda gets ignored by her father because he likes his son Conrad better, and then Conrad gets squashed by a giant helmet on his wedding day, and… Are you alright?”

“A giant helmet?!” MacGyver choked on his spaghetti and reached for a glass of water. He took a sip and stared at Penny, who blinked back at him, confused.

“Yeah. So he gets squashed and his dad – my character’s dad – goes crazy and decides to marry Conrad’s fiancée himself because he’s so mad that he doesn’t have a son now –“

“As you do…” MacGyver twirled his fork in the spaghetti and tried to concentrate.

“Right. But Isabella – that’s the fiancée – she runs away because she doesn’t want to marry her fiance’s dad, and Theodore the peasant hides her in the church and –“

“Penny!” MacGyver held up a hand. “I’m coming to see it this evening – don’t spoil it for me!” He ate another bite of spaghetti and smiled around it. Penny smiled back.

“OK, Mac.” She picked up her fork and started on her own meal.

* * * *


MacGyver took off his coat and stuffed it under the theatre seat. The theatre lacked the glamour of Broadway, but it was full and people sounded excited to be seeing the show.

You are one face in a sea of guests, but I see you. You hide amongst the wedding crowd to watch my son and his lady married, and I see you. Now it is time, and you will see my story unfold.

Behold, stranger…

The lights dimmed and the heavy curtains rolled back to reveal a castle scene, set for a wedding.

MacGyver had been ready for another of Penny’s heartfelt, but badly overdone performances, but was pleasantly surprised. Her acting had improved and her portrayal of the sad, forgotten daughter was convincing. He watched Lady Isabella proclaim her love for Conrad, watched the chorus of servants finish decorating the stage and listened to Penny sing of her happiness at the wedding and her sadness at losing her brother. Up in the rafters, giant heraldic banners and suits of armour swayed gently.

A breeze lifts the hair on the back of my neck. I watch your doom, my son – it sways and it sways in the same breeze and you do not know what awaits… What happens here tonight must undo what went before. In my heart, I know that this is true. I will have you back…

Conrad took the stage again, telling his father of his love for Isabella. Above him, the armour swayed faster and the small orchestra started playing what MacGyver thought of as ‘danger music’.

I watch. I watch. Soon he will suffer your fate for you and you will be returned to me. I am so excited!

MacGyver’s eye was drawn to the giant suit of armour. The workmanship was impressive, he thought. It almost looked like real metal instead of cardboard and canvas. The happy couple walked down the ‘aisle’ in the middle of the set and the orchestra struck up with the Wedding March. The helmet swung once more and then fell, whizzing down on a rope just as Conrad stepped to the front of the stage. The Wedding March dissolved into more frantic ‘danger music’ and the helmet crashed to the stage, landing inches from Conrad, the impact echoing all around the theatre. The rope snaked down out of the rafters after it, landing on the stage in a rumpled coil.


The entire cast jumped, and Isabella gave a very realistic scream. The actor playing Conrad had gone pale under his makeup and collapsed to the stage in a dead faint. MacGyver saw Penny take a deep breath and step forward, speaking her line loud and clear. The rest of the cast rallied and carried on, Isabella crying some very real tears and Manfred, her father, clearly shocked. MacGyver frowned. Either this cast were far better than he’s anticipated, or he’d just witnessed a very real stage accident…

Where are you?

* * * *

Are you OK?” MacGyver stood aside to let two actors and a stage hand out, all looking shocked. Penny ran down the steps and hugged him. Even through her heavy coat, MacGyver could feel her shaking.

“Six inches to the left and it would have hit him, Mac!” Penny’s voice was muffled against his jacket. “It would have killed him!”

“I know.” MacGyver rubbed her back and waited for her to stop crying. “How about we go back in and see if we can figure out how it happened?”

Inside they found the actor playing Conrad sitting in his dressing room with three of the chorus, drinking brandy and telling them how he was done with New York, that he was going back to Ohio, where you could walk across a stage without fear of getting flattened by low-flying armour. They left him to it, and Penny pointed up a ladder at the side of the stage.

“That’s how you get up to the catwalks and the flyspace. Where the scenery hangs, that it.” She stepped out onto the stage, looking up nervously in case something else came tumbling down.

Where are you going, stranger? What are you doing here? Are you looking for my son? He is not up there, I would know

I cannot find you, my beautiful son. Perhaps it will take time for you to return to me from so far, so far away. Perhaps the story has to play out, so that you can come in at the end and take your bow with the rest.

Perhaps I have failed you. The fake Conrad still lives after all…

No. I will make the rest of the story come to pass, and then you will come back to me. I will not fail you again.

“OK.” Macgyver started up the ladder, trying not to look down. Getting to the top, he inched out along the catwalk, looking at the ropes and pulleys that controlled the stage sets and the props. Hanging on tight to the railing, he glanced down at the stage to see where the helmet had landed, and moved a little more to his right. Looking up again, he reached up to a pulley and pulled out a tuft of something stuck in the wheel. He frowned at the fibres and put them in his pocket. He pulled out his Swiss Army Knife and used the screwdriver to unscrew the two halves of the pulley, revealing some bright, new scratches on the inner surface.

“Penny?” MacGyver heard her walk across the stage to stand underneath him, but didn’t dare to look down. Vertigo was already causing his vision to swim and he could feel his heart beating fast. “Penny, I think we got a problem…”

What does he see up there, the stranger? He does not belong up there. He sees my work, my wasted work…

He must not know.

When MacGyver got back onto the stage, they looked for the director, only to find she’d already left. They checked on Conrad, who’d taken the brandy bottle and gone home, and found that the janitor was the only one left in the building.

Where do you go, stranger? Back to my daughter’s house, I think. I know where she lives. I know where they all live, these players. They act their scenes and speak their lines and they do not know.

They do not know that they are walking across your grave…

Walking down the cold night street, the neon lights reflecting on the wet tarmac, MacGyver felt Penny take his arm and huddle closer to him.

“Hey,” He looked down at her. “Hey!” he waited until she looked up at him. “We’ll figure it out, OK? I’ll come in with you tomorrow morning and go over everything with the stage hands. We’ll make sure nothing else happens.”

“Thanks, Mac.” Penny nodded and sighed, her breath spiralling away in the cold air.
MacGyver put his other hand into his jacket pocket, feeling the scrap of rough rope. It had been cut, not worn away. He frowned in the darkness, feeling the familiar fizz of adrenaline start in his stomach.

Someone at the theatre had tried to murder Conrad…


 Original content is 2015