While Vulpecula knew very little about theater, he had heard of the Magnets, a traveling troupe composed exclusively of Acera-born performers that specialized in various forms of entertainment. He recalled them being described as over-the-top, excessive, and bizarre in many of their methods of showmanship, oftentimes capitalizing on the spectacle of shock-value.
Evidently, McKinley Halls is where they liked to perform most often. Before even being given the chance to attempt and see if the front-entrance door was unlocked, they were welcomed in by a doorman wearing an overcoat and top-hat. The suited penguin politely let them into the building and said that they had been expecting them.
They were swiftly introduced to a unique and small stature fellow with an ensemble which featured minutiae in its confines. He wore lavender dance shoes with noticeable sparkling silver on the laces; he wore an elegant-looking bright-red coat that had sigils and emblems scattered about, giving him the look of somebody of royalty. His leggings complimented the coat nicely in-color, but up-close, Vulpecula could see for certain that they were spandex, meant for easy maneuvering. With this, Vulpecula was easily able to assume that he was in the presence of an actor.
Upon inspection of his facial-features; the puffy-eyes of exhaustion emphasizing lack of sleep, an unkempt mane and the fact that his coat was messily unbuttoned helped Vulpecula realize that this lion went by the name of Eric Leon, the very same which had emailed Apus asking for help.
The fact that the doorman introduced him as Eric Leon might have also helped Vulpecula in making this assessment.
“Welcome,” Eric said in a raspy voice, “I am happy that all three of you could come.”
However, his voice indicated that he was feeling anything except for happiness.
“I don’t suppose that I can offer any of you a beverage before we start?”
“I would prefer it if we could get on with what you need help with,” Vulpecula answered coolly.
“Very well … I suppose that we should make way to the stage before we begin, I have no doubts that the scene will be invaluable to you.”
Eric Leon turned his back to them and began to lead the way, the inside of the building looked exactly as Vulpecula imagined it would when he realized it was a theater. There was a counter to his right to buy tickets, food and refreshments. To his left, there were posters hung up on the walls for several different plays, some of them had dates for when shows might be, and some had ribbons pinned on with the names of awards that they had received. Eventually, as they continued following him, the rows of posters ended, and instead, there were doors with numbers on them, each leading to a different theater to watch a specific show be performed.
“Why don’t you tell us what’s up?” Lacerta asked rather abruptly, taking Vulpecula out of his thoughts.
Eric didn’t answer him for a while, not until he opened one of the doors, this one had a big, red number “3” written on the top of it and walked inside. Vulpecula, Lacerta, and Apus followed him and were given the opportunity to behold one of the theaters. It wasn’t enormous, capable of seating around one or two hundred people, but not enormous, medium-size, which made Vulpecula wonder about whether the other rooms varied in size. Between all the rows of chairs was a walkway leading to the stage which had a large, red curtain dangling over it.
“Two nights ago, … one night before I asked for your assistance, we were doing a play called The Blood Lane Starlet, I needn’t go in-depths about the play’s contents, but I will tell you that the lead part went to a female named Molly Louise, a snow leopard that played the role of the starlet in her rise to fame.” Eric Leon stopped momentarily, as if anticipating himself to become emotional. “She was kidnapped before the end of the second-half.”
“So, what, somebody came and took her from her dressing room or something?” Lacerta inquired confusedly.
“No, they kidnapped her during the play!” Eric Leon announced.
Vulpecula may have only been listening halfheartedly before, but as those words escaped from Leon’s lips, he had his complete and undivided attention.
“Elaborate,” Vulpecula instructed plainly.
“While doing one of the scenes, she accidentally walked over one of the stages’ trapdoors and triggered it. There was no scene in the play that called for the trapdoor, and so, obviously, she shouldn’t have come down. A lot of the performers were taken aghast by this, as were the audience, however, nobody was in a frenzied panic. The audience thought it was nothing more than part of the act, whereas the performers thought it was a flub by the crew. They lock the trapdoor whenever it is not being used, so these kinds of things don’t happen, but it didn’t seem like a big deal. Molly would fall safely on a cushion, laugh it off, and we’d carry on, but she didn’t come back.”
Vulpecula felt his mouth becoming watery but didn’t bother inspecting why that might have been. A kidnapping for Vulpecula to solve! It might as well have been his birthday, and while he succeeded at refraining from dancing the boogie-woogie in-response, he did notice his foot tapping graciously to the beat of his operatic enthuse. Eric Leon didn’t notice, but Apus poked at V with one of his sharp nails to show his dislike for the gesture.
“Did you have a search-party for her?” Apus asked.
It was a question with an obvious answer, Eric Leon wouldn’t have bothered requesting their help if he hadn’t exhausted all other means. However, Eric Leon didn’t point that out to him and instead, he only offered a nod as an answer.
“We informed the police, but they couldn’t find anything, they are doing searches for her now, and promise that they’ll find her, but I felt like there was more that I could be doing.” Eric Leon walked up some of the steps leading to the stage and disappeared behind the curtains momentarily. Vulpecula found himself fidgeting with one of the theater chairs, rocking it back and forth for no reason at all whatsoever. Seconds later, Eric Leon revealed himself once more by opening the curtains with a braided rope from behind them. “And that’s why I came to you.”
“What was your relationship with Molly Louise?” Vulpecula asked.
“She was my partner.”
“And does your partner have a family?”
“Where are they?”
“I haven’t heard from them.”
“Why is that?”
“She never really talked about them much, that’s kind-of why she’s a stage-performer. This life-style fits hers, and I mean, we’d always talk about one day being able to join the Magnets, that’s a troupe for stage-performers. They say that it’s like a big family there, and it just seemed like a way to get away from it all.”
“Are you saying that she has no ties whatsoever with her family?”
“Yes,” Eric Leon answered simply before elaborating. “She is from Hardan, and that is where her folks are. She hasn’t spoken to any of them in years.”
Vulpecula couldn’t help learning more and more about Eric Leon with every word that he spoke. His disposition carried a certain eloquence and poise, but it wasn’t enough to hide his roots. He looked and talked like a showman and tried to sound it, however, his scrambled composure clarified to Vulpecula that he was from the country. Of course, this by no means meant that he was lacking eloquence, but rather to say that he hid the accent he likely inherited from living on the outskirts of Acera.
“Everybody was taken by surprise, you say, but what steps were taken after everybody came to realize Molly’s disappearance? The police officers were here before us, did they share any of their discoveries with you, and besides that, were there any witnesses, ones that might have seen anything suspicious?” Vulpecula walked up the steps leading to the stage and welcomed himself on eye-level with Eric Leon, but not actual eye-contact. Vulpecula’s eyes browsed merrily at the trapdoor with the utmost of curiosity.
“A man reported that, as he was walking out of the theater, he saw a gentleman running outside to a car as if he was trying to flee. The man was carrying a darkly-colored suitcase and appeared to be in a hurry. Alongside him appeared to be a female, and the man identified her as being Molly. He said the man clutched her hand fiercely, and that she seemed to appear anxious. Besides this, there hasn’t been a whole lot of anything leaning in any direction. I was hoping that you might be able to shed some light on the situation.” Eric Leon’s voice started to sound a little resentful and agitated near the end of his dialogue but regained his solemn disposition after seconds.
“What exactly did he see?”
“It’s that simple, as he opened the door to leave the theater, having seen one of the other shows that McKinley Halls had that evening, the older gentleman saw two people leaving the theater. To be as specific as possible, he said that the gentleman leading the way was a medium-build gentleman, perhaps taller than average, wearing a leather trench-coat and black top-hat. The female fit the build of Molly Louise and he claimed that she was wearing the same outfit as described on stage earlier in the show. The gent was described as aggressive, pulling her toward the vehicle while she was apprehensive and weary. He pulled her with his left-hand and held a suitcase with his right.”
“You believe this man abducted her against her will?” V inquired.
“I see no other explanation. I think I should offer a little insight into theater. The performing arts are a tough life, especially in a smaller city like Acera. There is a lot of competition, it’s all about image, and it’s easy to make enemies without even noticing it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Ah, well, then, if you may, please momentarily bid yourself adieu from me, I am up to task much more when I don’t have an audience. And thank you for your time; I hope that I will be able to bring you information soon.”
Eric Leon seemed disheartened by the request, but to his credit, he diligently obliged and left the trio to revel in their thoughts. Vulpecula didn’t say anything to Apus or Lacerta, and they said nothing to him. Apus and Lacerta stood quietly starry-eyed while Vulpecula attempted to unravel the situation. He saw no reason for objection against Eric Leon’s theorizing, but didn’t find much realism in the transgression. There were too many dramatics and too much risk. Everything seemed too perfect for an idea of such audacity. Vulpecula’s mind immediately thought to the idea of extortion or blackmail, but that didn’t explain why the kidnapper would want to have such theatrics.
He wanted there to be showmanship and to send a powerful message.
“Do you think it’s possible that Molly Louise was kidnapped?” Apus asked earnestly.
“Possible, certainly, but plausible, not quite,” Vulpecula immediately answered.
“I thought I saw you biting your tongue while Eric was talking,” Apus said sharply, a small smirk somehow visible from his beak.
“He referred to the man that allegedly saw the kidnapper and Molly Louise leaving into a car as an older gentleman. I noticed immediately but chose not to investigate, and while we certainly can’t dismiss the witness, we might want to find the keenness of the man’s eyesight. If I recall correctly, there would have also been circumstances that might cloud up some of what he said.”
“What circumstances are you referring to?” Lacerta pondered aloud.
“He explained that it was two days ago in the afternoon when Molly Louise disappeared during their rendition of The Blood Lane Scarlet, and he told us that the witness saw them fleeing to a vehicle minutes later. Consider how dark it would be and think about how eccentric the weather has been recently. The witness would have had his view considerably obstructed by pouring rain, along with how dark it was and the off-chance possibility that he doesn’t have the best vision.” Vulpecula once more didn’t make eye-contact with Apus or Lacerta; he continued to find himself transfixed on the trapdoor.
Vulpecula would probably never be mistaken for a fox of the ‘theatuh,’ but was curious to how the trapdoor worked. Fortunately, he had always found it particularly easy to skim through everything said once before. These capabilities of the fox worked to his advantage.
He closed his eyes and looked through the innermost confines of his conscious thought, his imaginary chalkboard, filled with all the notes regarding the case.
All the movements that he made; every mannerism composed by Eric Leon during their conversation was completely accessible to him for a short-time. Afterward, of course, the heavily filled chalkboard would be erased, and replaced by a new case, but now, it operated under his complete leisure.
"Elaborate,” Vulpecula instructed plainly.
"While doing one of the scenes, she accidentally walked over one of the stages’ trapdoors and triggered it.”
The trapdoor was simple, unlike some other trapdoors that might have been lever-activated. This didn’t rule out that there wasn’t a kidnapper, however, because the latch to unlock the trapdoor was under the stage. Molly Louise could have certainly unlatched it before appearing on-stage, but she was the story’s protagonist, therefore, she likely wouldn’t have had the time alone to be given the chance. Then, there’s the risk it could have been triggered by somebody else.
“Did you hear me,” Lacerta called out before snapping his fingers in Vulpecula’s direction in-order to get his attention. “Did you hear what I said?” He asked once again with such uncertainty.
“Not a word,” V answered honestly.
The Canes Files