Penny Dreadful

By Rocket

Episode 9.8

Part Three


“Hurry!” Penny was pale and panicky. “The floor just moved!”

“Yeah, I felt it.” MacGyver set down the ladder and started unfolding it. “Help me with this, would you?” He glanced across at Simon, now silent. “Can you scoot any closer to the gap?” He finished unfolding the ladder and laid it across the gap as Simon shuffled the chair as close as he dared.

“Penny, sit here, please.” MacGyver waited until Penny kneeled on the ladder and nodded up at him. “Think heavy thoughts.” He took a deep breath and took a step onto the ladder, pushing the window pole ahead of him. “Oh man…”

Staring at Simon to avoid looking down, MacGyver inched his way out over the drop. He was almost halfway across when the floor shifted again, making his ladder slide. He clung to the ladder with his eyes shut, knuckles white on the rungs. When the movement stopped, he took a deep breath, tasting dust, and opened his eyes again. The shift had tilted Simon’s end of the floor and the chair was scraping across the old boards towards him. MacGyver scrambled along the rest of the ladder, lunged forwards and grabbed the leg of Simon’s chair, stopping him right at the edge of the gap. For a moment they stayed, frozen and staring at each other, then MacGyver unhooked his free hand off the ladder and pulled his Swiss Army Knife out of his pocket with shaking fingers. He cut the tape fastening Simon’s arms and legs and nodded at the ladder behind him.

“Go. I’ll hold this end.” Simon nodded and scuttled across the makeshift bridge. As MacGyver got up again, the building rumbled and the floor tipped. This time the ceiling sagged too, beams creaking and cracking. The gap widened and he jumped clear just as the end of the ladder dropped off the broken floorboards, tumbling to the ground far below.

“Mac!” Through the clouds of dust MacGyver could see Penny’s stricken face. Something rolled against his foot, and he stepped on the window pole before it could fall over the edge. The building shook and the ceiling plaster split, a bundle of electrical cables swinging loose in a loop.

“Go! I’ll be right behind you!” He watched Penny haul Simon to his feet and shove him through the doorway, giving MacGyver a frightened backward glance. He looked up at the cables and hefted the window pole.

“Here goes nothing…” He reached out with the pole, hooked it into the cables and took a step back. Taking a tight grip on the pole, MacGyver jumped and swung over the gap. The gap rushed underneath him, the cables sagged and for a heart-stopping moment, he thought he wasn’t going to reach the other side. He made a frantic grab for the edge of the floorboards and clawed his way up to safety. Hearing another ominous creak, he got to his feet and threw himself through the doorway, just as the floor collapsed.

He raced back through the building, catching up to Penny and Simon and hurrying them out. They stumbled outside and sprinted across the construction site, turning at the far edge to see the end of the building disintegrate into a heap of rubble.

* * * *

MacGyver spent the rest of the day at the theatre. Simon had lasted an hour before having breaking down and having to be taken home by Irene to recover. MacGyver stood in for Theodore, with Louisa the director as Isabella and one of the other stage hands, an older man MacGyver hadn’t met before, prompting them as necessary.

“You seem to know this play pretty well.” MacGyver sat down next to the stage hand when they took a break from rehearsing and opened a bottle of water. The stage hand shrugged, not meeting his eye.

“I’ve heard the lines a lot of times. It isn’t playing out how it should, though.” He looked angry, but excused himself politely enough, and disappeared into the backstage area. MacGyver took his water and went to sit with Penny at the edge of the stage, dangling his feet over the orchestra pit.

“He’s a weird guy,” MacGyver nodded in the direction of the retreating stage hand and Penny shrugged.

“That’s Martin. He’s kind of quiet. I think he’s just shy, y’know? He’s been here for years, right since the theatre opened.” She pulled up her feet and wrapped her arms around her legs. “He always seems sad. I wonder why?”

I don’t understand.

How can you rescue Theodore when you aren’t even in the play? It must have been my Matilda rescuing him again, despite my efforts. But I did set up the sacrifice. I was true to my role.

Perhaps this was meant to be. Perhaps I need to don a different mask, as actors often do, and make the sacrifice of Theodore come to pass from another part of the stage.

I know you are close, my son. I can feel your presence.

* * * *

They rehearsed until the evening and then went home, glad that they had the evening off. They spent the time trying to work out who might have kidnapped Simon and why, but came to no conclusions. MacGyver took a long time to get to sleep again, still shaken by his narrow escape. He finally drifted off, resolving to find out more from Simon in the morning.

* * * *

MacGyver awoke to the sound of Penny singing in the kitchen. He rolled off the couch, standing up and stretching. He looked around for his t-shirt, then remembered it was in the wash, filthy after the dust and dirt of yesterday’s escape. He hitched up his sweats and headed into the kitchen to retrieve his clothes, regretting his decision to travel so light.

“Morning, sleepyhead!” Penny handed him a mug of tea and an armful of lavender-scented clothes. “All clean.” She danced out of the kitchen, singing along to the radio and grabbing a piece of toast on the way past. MacGyver heard the bathroom door shut and the shower start up. He shook his head and took his tea back to the living room, dropping the clothes on the couch. The movement pulled at his shoulder and he moved across to the mirror, turning around and looking at his own reflection over his shoulder. The bruise from hockey practice had darkened, spreading across his back.

“Damn…” MacGyver resolved to have a word with his team mate when he got back to Los Angeles. He changed into a clean t-shirt and jeans and sat down to wait for Penny to finish in the bathroom.

* * * *

Simon and Irene arrived late, Simon wearing sunglasses and a big hat in an attempt to disguise himself. Neither of them looked to have got much sleep.

Rehearsals didn’t go well, and the company stopped early for lunch. Simon and Irene headed to a burger joint, complete with disguise, and Penny took MacGyver out in search of a salad.

“I don’t get it.” Penny took a bite of her sandwich, chewed and swallowed. “It’s like the play is cursed or something!”

“How’s that?” MacGyver poked at something green and wobbly in his salad, trying to identify it.

“Well, it was the first play performed here, and everyone knows the theatre’s got bad luck.” She took a sip of soda and wiped her mouth.

“Bad luck?” MacGyver looked up, seeing Penny nod.

“Uh-huh. I only agreed to work here because I was, well…” She paused, blushing slightly. “Between jobs, I guess you could call it. There was some kind of terrible accident when the theatre was being built – its not as old as it looks – and a lot of actors won’t go near it.” She put down the sandwich. “It’s a shame, the theatre itself is lovely.”

“Right.” MacGyver ate some salad and reached for his glass of juice.

“And now poor Simon gets kidnapped and Peter – that’s Conrad – almost gets killed!” She shuddered. “It’s almost like the play’s coming true!”

“Coming true?” MacGyver frowned, swallowed and pushed his plate aside. “How’s that?”

“Well,” Penny leaned forward as if sharing a secret, “First Conrad really nearly gets killed at the wedding, which is what happens in the play, and then Theodore gets locked in a tower by Manfred because he helped Isabella escape. Simon’s Theodore, so…” She shrugged, sitting back.

“I don’t believe in curses, but this is starting to sound like more than coincidence.” MacGyver finished his juice and set the glass down. “Can you think of anyone who would want to see the play fold?”

“No.” Penny shook her head, stirring the ice in her soda with the straw. “It’s been really popular and we’ve had good reviews. I can’t think of anyone who’d want to shut us down.”

“And there isn’t anyone who’d benefit if you closed?” MacGyver took the straw from his own drink and folded it into a knot.

“No,” Penny shook her head. “No competition from other theatres, no-one wants the building… nothing.”

“OK.” MacGyver ran a hand through his hair. “What else happens in the play? If we assume that person or persons unknown are trying to make the play come true, what do we have to look forward to?”

“Well,” Penny ticked off points on her fingers. “After Theodore is captured and put in the tower, he escapes. He gets Isabella from the church and hides her in a cave to stop Manfred from finding her. Then he has to fight Manfred’s knights. But the knight he wounds turns out to be Isabella’s father, who falls in love with Matilda. That’s me.”

“So far so good. No-one else is dead!” MacGyver nodded. “What happens next?”

“Manfred wants to marry Isabella, but she hates him, so he goes to the church to find her and kill her because she won’t marry him. But she’s not there, she’s in the cave, see?” Penny beamed at MacGyver. “At the same time, Matilda goes to the church to see Theodore, because she’s secretly in love with him…” Penny came to a halt as MacGyver held up a finger.

“I thought Isabella loved Theodore.” He frowned. “Was I wrong?”

“No, you’re right. But Matilda loves him too.” Penny watched MacGyver put his head in his hands.

“This is making my head hurt!” MacGyver shook his head and sat up again.

“I know, right?” Penny smiled. “So, Manfred sees Matilda and in the gloom he mistakes her for Isabella and stabs her. I get a really neat death scene! What…?”

“Uh…” MacGyver reached out, taking Penny’s hand in his. “Manfred kills Matilda, right?”

“Right.” Penny nodded.

“So maybe it’s not just Theodore we need to worry about…”

* * * *

They arrived back at the theatre to find the stage hands at work on the scenery. Everything had been let down to stage level and a box of props had been emptied out at the front of the stage. MacGyver and Penny picked their way through the clutter and went into the green room.

They had only been there for a minute when Irene burst in, in floods of tears and with blood on her shirt. Penny and MacGyver jumped up to help.

“Irene, whatever happened?!” Penny took the hysterical girl’s hands.

“Oh Penny,” She sobbed, “It’s Simon! We were attacked!”

 

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