Supped Full with Horrors Part 1 - The Missing Stagehand
Sunday, July 8, 2017
(After playing the original Call of Cthulhu Elizabethan scenario “Supped Full with Horrors” Sunday, June 25 from 1 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. with Helen Koeval, Ambralyn Tucker, Kyle Matheson, Ashton LeBlanc, and Collin Townsend.)
In the year 1613 in the month of June, strange things happened at the Globe Theater in London.
It had been 10 years since the attempt on Shakespeare’s life and the terrible occurrences under the Tower of London. Shakespeare, who never fully recovered from an attempt on his life in 1603, retired to Stratford on Avon in 1611, though he still occasionally wrote plays. John Fletcher had most recently been collaborating with the man and his newest play called All Is True, a historical play about Henry VIII. It had proved very popular and well-received.
Queen Elizabeth died in 1603 and was succeeded by her cousin James VI of Scotland who became James I, the first Stuart king. His politics had hurt England as much as helped it. In 1605, the “Gunpowder Plot” was foiled and Guy Fawkes, who intended to blow up the House of Lords while James I was present, was found and arrested. He and his conspirators were executed the next year.
Though the Holy Roman Empire controlled much of Europe, England had begun to explore the world and take to the sea. English Colonists went to Virginia and the first English Colony in America was founded in Jamestown in 1607. Spain no longer had a monopoly on the Americas.
The black plague ravaged London in 1609. Many people died and many fled the city until the disease had run its course. In 1611, James I dismissed the English Parliament when it refused to support his financial needs. The King and the Lords are at odds all the time.
Despite it all, the Globe Theater was still successful. Plays were still shown six out of seven days a week with the theater being closed Thursday due to law passed in 1591 closing them so the bull and bear baiting industries would not be neglected.
* * *
On Thursday, June 24, 1613, as the actors, stage hands, and musicians rehearsed for the next day’s play, a woman barged into the Globe Theater in a huff. She was young and pretty with blonde hair, and she wore the clothing of a washer-woman. She demanded answers to her questions.
“Where is he?” she cried out. “Where’s my Clancy!?! Do you know where he is? Where is he?”
Some of the actors put the woman off or fled backstage. John Huddleston, one of the stage hands, wondered if the woman was talking about Clancy Bottom, another stage hand who worked at the Globe. Bottom was a climber and a good-looking man with a beard who sometimes carried a spear in certain plays.
John Huddleston was a stage hand at the Globe Theater. He was 19 years old and was very intelligent. He had been thrown out of his home by his parents who thought he should learn an honest profession rather than spend all his time with dusty books and tomes. He found work at the Globe Theater but hoped to eventually go to University someday. He was average-looking with brown, unkempt hair, clean-shaven, and had bags under his eyes from staying up late of a night, reading.
Due to his age and youthful, if not attractive, appearance, he sometimes played the roles of girls, particularly woman in the background of scenes. He had worked at the Globe for about a year.
“Where’s my Clancy?” the woman cried out. “I tell you, someone’s going to find my Clancy!”
She rushed over to Huddleston.
“You there!” she said to the man. “Do you know where my Clancy is? Where’s my Clancy?”
“The last time I saw him was Monday,” Huddleston said.
“What? Well, he’s not been home since Sunday. Where is he? Whenever he’s off on a fling or something, he’s always with you actor bunch. That’s always what he’s doing! He’s never been gone more than a night or two at the outside. It’s always been his fancy acting friends from the Globe that keep him away! So, you must know where he is!”
“I’m sorry. I don’t.”
“Well, who does? Who knows? You tell me and take me to the man! Take me to the man!”
Huddleston looked around for the lead actor, Vincent Hawksworth, but he was not their either. Huddleston had heard there had been a party the night before and Hawksworth had indulged quite heavily. He might not have been able to get up that morning. Only Francis Jaimes stood nearby, looking on with mild curiosity.
Francis Jaimes was a musician at the theater. He was a master of the violin whose temperament often ran hot or cold. Being 24 years old, he was a solid and handsome young man with red hair and a clean-shaven face. His violin was his prized possession, that and his blunderbuss having been handed down to him by his father. He lived in a little attic apartment in Southwark and liked its solitude. Like most people working at the Globe, he was sometimes called upon to stand on the stage for scenes. He had worked at the Globe for about four years.
“Well, this is Francis,” Huddleston said. “He works pretty closely with the actors. Maybe he knows.”
“Where’s my husband?” the woman rounded upon Jaimes.
The man was taken aback. He knew Clancy Bottom but not terribly well: the man owed him sixpence from the week before. He remembered Bottom being at the theater on Monday because he had knocked over a table during the play that day, a vapid comedy that was not doing well called Shield of the Solstice. He played “A Gentleman on the Street” in the show. Bottom had been with the theater for some nine years, or so he’d heard.
“Yes,” Jaimes said. “I believe I saw him Monday. He was playing a character in one of the plays …”
“That’s all well and good, but where is he right now?” Mrs. Bottom said.
“The last thing I remember, ma’am, is him knocking over a table. Must’ve been drunk.”
“Well he’s gone now. He’s a very clumsy man.”
“I know you’re in a huff, madam, but …”
“He could be dead! I don’t know what to do!”
The woman breathed heavily, obviously in great distress, and then started crying. She grabbed Jaimes around the neck and started sobbing into his tunic. Jaimes, visibility uncomfortable at being touched, looked around desperately. She didn’t seem to notice.
“My poor Clancy!” she said. “Where could he be? Someone help me find my Clancy!”
“I’m not the one to help you,” Jaimes said.
“Oh please sir, please. You have such a kind face!”
Jaimes tried to disentangle himself from the woman.
“He’s been gone for three days!” she said, still sobbing. “That’s not something Clancy would do. He’s a good father. He’s a good husband. We’re not rich people! We rely on both of our jobs to get by.”
“Ma’am,” Jaimes said. “I will check backstage. I will ask around.”
“Oh, please do,” she said. “We live over in Eastcheap. If you find him, send him home! I miss my Clancy!”
Jaimes walked backstage, just wanting to get away from the woman. Huddleston accompanied him and asked the actors if they had seen the man. A few remembered him knocking over the table on Monday but that was the last time anyone had seen of him. Another of the stage hands, Edward Unton, who was very ugly and had very bad teeth, knew Bottom lived in Eastcheap just west of the tower and that he had a couple of children. The entire family was pretty poor.
Jaimes approached Huddleston.
“I think we should look for him,” Huddleston said to the musician. “He seems like a really nice guy.”
“Well, I just remembered he owes me sixpence,” Jaimes said.
“You want that money back, don’t you?”
“Of course I do. It’s mine.”
“Well then …”
“Did the woman tell you anything else?”
“No, she didn’t. I sent her over to you because I wasn’t entirely sure what to do.”
Huddleston questioned the other backstage men. He talked to Unton first. As usual, he could hardly understand the man and he might be Welsh.
“Unton, did you do anything with Clancy Monday night after the show?” Huddleston asked.
“No,” Unton replied. “Haven’t seen Clancy. He knocked over that table. He was very embarrassed by it. But, no. I thought he went home.”
“He knocked over that table …”
“Yeah, remember? In scene three.”
“Of that Shield of the Solstice disaster. He knocked that table over. Nobody even noticed! That’s how bad the play was!”
“But I remember it.”
Huddleston found Dennis Isley, another stage hand and an excellent carpenter. He was a greasy blonde Scot with a goatee and mustache.
“No,” Isley said. “I havna seen him.”
“You didn’t do anything Monday night after Shield of the Solstice?” Huddleston asked.
“No. No. I wen’ home an’ wen’ t’ sleep. I’m tired. At night, I get tired.”
“I had some drinks! Bu’ no’ wi’ him.”
“Who did you have drinks with?”
“Just a few o’ th’ boys.”
“Okay, well, good to talk to you, Dennis.”
Huddleston talked to Richard Steward, a stage hand and a budding actor. He had, in the last months, been given a few small parts to see if he were good enough to become an actor.
“Forsooth!” Steward said in a high-class accent when Huddleston approached him. “Yes? I haven’t seen Bottom either. He didn’t come for his …”
He thought a moment.
“Can’t think of the word!” he said, falling back into cockney. “Blast! He wasn’t here on Tuesday, I remember that.”
“Okay,” Huddleston said.
* * *
Vincent Hawksworth was 27 years old and clean-shaven. He was of average looks and height but was a remarkable actor, able to take on almost any part with an ease that baffled most. He was the lead actor in the troupe at the Globe by 1613, having risen to that prominence after the death of Alfred Kent to the plague in 1609.
Hawksworth had been an actor at the Globe Theater when it first moved to Southwark in 1599, a young lad with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men who often played the women’s roles. He was 15 years old when The Pirates of Candle Cove had been produced at the Globe in the summer of 1600 and the experience affected him profoundly. He had left the theater for three years, working as a Queen’s Censor for some years and returning in 1603 after the strange occurrences surrounding the fragments of a play by Christopher Marlowe and events under the Tower of London in 1603.
He had been making rather merry the night before and was still feeling the effect of too much food and drink.
As he approached the theater that Thursday, he was accosted in the street by Agnus Bottom.
“You’re Vincent Hawksworth?” she said. “You work with my husband, Clancy? You’ve got to find him! He’s gone missing. He’s been missing since Sunday night! Have you seen him? Can you find my husband for me, please?”
“All … all right, lady,” the hung-over Hawksworth said.
“You promise? You promise? Please promise me!”
“Take a few steps back. Please. I’ve had a couple of drinks. And your voice is like nails into my ears.”
“I’m terribly sorry,” the woman said, lowering her voice. “I’m terribly sorry. Please. You know my husband, Clancy Bottom?”
“He works backstage.”
Hawksworth remembered the handsome Clancy Bottom. Mrs. Bottom told him the man had been missing since Sunday and he remembered seeing the man in a play on Monday when he knocked over a table.
“I’m sure Clancy’s just in a gutter somewhere after drinking a couple of ales,” Hawksworth said.
“He’s never been gone this long,” Mrs. Bottom said. “He’s gone off for a day or two with his acting buddies but he’s never been gone this long.”
“Well, there’s a first time for everything, isn’t there.”
“No. It’s not something Clancy would do.”
“Please promise you’ll find him, Mr. Hawksworth!” she said. “Please. I’ll be forever in your debt.”
“What about the guard?” Hawksworth said. “The guard can find him.”
“No, they’re useless! I need someone with brains and … bile.”
“Well, I don’t know that I have brains after how much I drank last night.”
“Please promise you’ll help me, Mr. Hawksworth.”
She started crying.
“Yes,” he said. “Yes. Just …”
“Thank you so much!” she said. “Thank you so much! We live in Eastcheap but I haven’t seen him three days!”
They parted and Hawksworth went to the Globe where he found John Huddleston talking to several actors about Bottom. Francis Jaimes also stood nearby, listening to the other man. Hawksworth stood to one side and listened to Huddleston who was just finished talking to Richard Steward.
“Is there anywhere he likes to go drinking?” Huddleston asked the man. “That you know of?”
“I don’t know,” Steward said. “I’ve been going to the Mermaid, because … you know …”
His voice took the upper class accent again.
“… that’s where us actors go,” he said with a wink.
Huddleston noticed Hawksworth and Jaimes and mentioned he was going to looking for Clancy Bottom after rehearsal that day, noting they could come with him if they wished.
* * *
During rehearsal, Hawksworth found Roland Jay, a tall and good-looking man he knew was excellent at death scenes. Jay had played the villain Milos when the theater had done the terrible play The Pirates of Candle Cove once and only once in 1600. The man was Welsh as well. He and Hawksworth never talked about that terrifying play.
“Oi, Jay, give me a swig of that flask you got there,” Hawksworth said to the man. “I know you got one under your coat.”
“Here you are, Hawksworth,” Jay said.
He handed over his flask and Hawksworth took a swig.
“It’s just ale,” Jay said with a smile. “Hair of the dog!”
“What is this?” Hawksworth said.
“Well … mostly.”
“I had to p*** earlier!”
Jay laughed uproariously at his terrible joke.
“Where’s Bottom?” Hawksworth said.
“I don’t know,” Jay said. “Haven’t seen him. Knocked over that table a few days ago. Haven’t seen him since.”
“God’s breath! You drink with him now! Where is he? His wife approached me. Where is he?”
“Oh! She approached you, eh! Say no more!”
“I don’t need to be going for girls like her. Trust me.”
“I don’t know. She’s a looker.”
“I haven’t seen him. I don’t usually drink with him. He … he’s been … he talks to the stage hands and such and I know he’s from Eastcheap but, other than that … I’m not his friend or anything .”
“Well, I don’t think anyone is friends with stage hands.”
“Isley and Unton and Steward and Huddleston. They see as much of him as we do.”
“What’s all this talk of him knocking over a table? My mind’s a little foggy.”
“Remember, he was playing ‘A Gentleman on the Street’ and there was that scene and he went and he bumped that table and he knocked everything off. Remember that? You were there.”
“You don’t think he took it that hard, do you?”
“No. No. It happens. We gave him a little ribbing afterwards but these things happen. I wouldn’t think. He’s done worse! Remember that time he fell through that tapestry six months ago?”
“Was that the one they had to sew back because he ripped it?”
“Yes! He ripped it in the middle of the show and made that ‘Waahh!’ noise. Remember that? It got a laugh. We put it in the play after that.”
“He screamed like a girl.”
“That was much worse than the table incident. I don’t think he would have taken it personally. It’s kind of strange he didn’t show up after that.”
“It’s just strange that’s that last time we saw him.”
“Right … well … he didn’t come in the next day. He was here for rehearsal afterwards.”
“His wife hasn’t seen him since Sunday and he did the table incident Monday.”
“That was Monday so he didn’t go home Sunday night, you’re saying?”
“Yeah. Or Monday.”
“Or Tuesday or Wednesday.”
“Of course. I just don’t know where he would have gone.”
“No. There’s Eastcheap. You could always ask around there if you’re looking for him.”
“I suppose. One more swig, if you please.”
“Here you are. If you can stand it with your … loving of the wine and the tah-tah-tah-tah-tah.”
The man took the flask back. Hawksworth figured he should look for Bottom or else he’d never heard the end of it from Mrs. Bottom.
* * *
It was mid-afternoon when the actors and stage hands left the theater, most of them going their own separate ways. Hawksworth approached Huddleston.
“So, I suppose Bottom’s wife came to you as well?” he said.
“Yes,” Huddleston said. “Yes. She did. Sir.”
“And she cried and cried and cried?”
“And it was piercing your ears as well?”
“Are you drunk?”
“No! No, of course not! I don’t get drunk that often.”
“Oh. Well, that’s where all the fun is. Anyways. Is anyone else going with you? I suppose I will, just because I really don’t want that woman coming back to me Friday when I need to be mentally focused on the play.”
“I have a connection with a physician,” a voice muttered from the shadow of the stage.
“Who?” Hawksworth said.
Jaimes stepped out of the darkness.
“I have connections with a physician in the city,” he said. “I’ll talk to him.”
“All right,” Hawksworth said. “So, we’re going to …”
“Are you quite all right?” Jaimes said to him.
“No,” Hawksworth said. “I’m not all right.”
He actually felt better since he’d had a little of Jay’s ale, but felt he should be as dramatic as possible. As usual.
“I’m not all right,” he said. “But … Bottom’s first. Right?”
They decided on that course of action, Huddleston and Hawksworth going to Eastcheap while Jaimes went to visit his physician friend.
* * *
Eastcheap proved to be a busy neighborhood. They asked about Clancy Bottom for a few hours but only met a Walter Fane, who told them he was a drinking buddy of Bottom’s. The stage hand had been worrying about something as of late. His mind seemed to have been taken up by something. Fane told them he was usually at their local tavern on Sunday.
“Usually, we drink together of a Sunday,” Fane said. “But he wasn’t there on Sunday. The last I saw him was on Saturday night. Saw no sign of him on Sunday. Maybe he found another place to drink.”
“Well, you’re no help,” Hawksworth said. “We saw him Monday.”
“We saw him Monday,” Huddleston said. “He knocked over a table.”
“Sorry,” Fane said.
Hawksworth just walked away.
They next went to the Bottom house and found it was a narrow, two-story building attached to the buildings around it. Huddleston knocked on the door. Agnus Bottom answered.
“Have you found him?” she said with a gasp.
“I’m sorry,” Huddleston said. “We haven’t.”
Her face fell.
“Oh, my heart,” she said.
“But we are looking for him,” Huddleston said.
“Thank you so much. Thank you!”
She shook their hands.
“Oh, thank you Mr. Hawksworth,” she said. “Thank you … you.”
“I’d like to take a look around if I may,” Hawksworth said. “In your house.”
“Oh! Do you think there might be something here that could give you a clue as to where he’s gone?”
“There might be,” Huddleston said. “Yes.”
“I don’t know but I can read, so I might be able to find something,” Hawksworth said.
“All right,” she said. “You can look as much as you want. There’s a garden out back. You can look in the garden.”
She ushered them into the house and introduced them to her boys: Cecil, age 10, and John, age 8. The children were just sitting down to supper. The ground floor was a kitchen and living area. Mrs. Bottom showed them the small garden in the back. Upstairs was a bedroom where all four of them obviously lived.
Hawksworth and Huddleston searched the room upstairs. They found two large beds and a chest of clothes.
“Mrs. Bottom?” Hawksworth said.
“Yes?” the woman said, coming up the stairs.
“This trunk full of clothes …”
“Oh yes, that’s our clothing. And the children’s.”
“Does it look like any is missing?”
“So, he didn’t take clothing for an extended stay away from his house.”
“No, he only has two outfits.”
“And he didn’t take the other one.”
“No, it’s right here. This is it. It’s his nice clothes.”
“I can see that, ma’am,” Huddleston said.
The clothing wasn’t actually very nice.
“And does he have anywhere where he writes or he gets letters?” Hawksworth asked.
“Well, he can read and write but he doesn’t do it very well,” Mrs. Bottom said. “He had a scrap of paper he was looking at. I said ‘What is that? What is that, Clancy? What are you looking at?’ And he said ‘It’s nothing, dear. It’s just nothing. Don’t you never mind. I don’t want you to worry about it.’ So I did … worry about it.”
“Do you have the scrap of paper with you?” Huddleston said.
“No no,” she said. “He took it. He had it with him.”
“I wanted to take a look but he wouldn’t let me.”
“Who gave him this paper?” Hawksworth asked.
“I don’t know,” Mrs. Bottom said. “I don’t know.”
Huddleston suggested they talk to Walter Fane about the scrap of paper and so went in search of the man. He found him at a local tavern but Fane didn’t know anything about a piece of paper.
“He’s got to be drinking somewhere though,” Fane said.
“He’s got to be drinking somewhere?” Huddleston said.
“Well … what else would you do?”
“I suppose you’re right about that.”
* * *
Dr. Everett Whitewood was a physician and 37 years old. He had dark hair, shot through with white, and a full beard. He wore fine but not ostentatious clothing and was married to his plump and loving wife, Abigail. They had lost two of their children to the plague in 1609. Rose and Tommy had died despite the family moving to the country during the plague and the ministrations of Dr. Whitewood. Rose had been 10 and Tommy had been four. Only his oldest son, Edmund, had lived. In 1613, Edmund was 18 years old and working as a carpenter in the country. He had fallen in love with his master’s daughter and they had been wed, having a child of their own, whom they had named Everett after Edmund’s father.
Dr. Whitewood was having an early supper with Peter Godfrey, a 33-year-old banker and a mound of a man. He was stout, as his position rarely forced him to go hungry. Single, he considered himself married to his work, and had a thick, bushy beard while the hair on top of his head was thinning. He often wore a floppy hat to hide the latter. He wore fine clothing and often carried a pistol hidden on his person. Baldrick was still his manservant. After the events at the Globe Theater and under the house of Joseph Barker in 1603, he was still terrified of stairs.
The door to the sitting room where they ate was tapped upon by Dr. Whitewood’s wife, Abigail.
“A gentleman here to see you,” she said. “It’s that fiddle player that you had come for my birthday.”
“I didn’t ask him to come but … I did!” Dr. Whitewood said. “I did! I wanted to surprise you!”
She gave him a look that showed she didn’t believe him.
“Do you want to see him or not?” she said.
“Yes, I’ll see him,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“Well, he doesn’t have a violin to play for me,” she said, leaving the room. “I’ll send him in.”
Francis Jaimes was ushered into the room and recognized Dr. Whitewood. He didn’t know the gentleman with him. There was a good deal of food and drink on the table in front of them including roast mutton, bread, and cheese. The other man belched as he entered.
“Dr. Whitewood,” Jaimes said. “It’s so nice to see you.”
“Yes,” Dr. Whitewood said. “What brings you here … without your violin?”
“Yes, well, that’s back in safe keeping in my room. I was wondering, as you are a physician, if you had seen a man by the name of Clancy Bottom. I know you partake of the art rather occasionally.”
“I haven’t seen any Clancy Bottom. He’s probably a little too poor to have my services.”
“I thought that to myself. He owes me sixpence. Scoundrel! I guess I have no choice but to find him.”
“If you do come by later, maybe you could play for my wife. I’ll pay you a little more than sixpence.”
“I might take you up on your offer. I greatly appreciate that.”
“So, what has you interested in this Clancy Bottom?”
“Well, his wife came in, just blabbering about. She hugged me. You know how I am about physical contact.”
“Well, she was very distraught. Looking for him. Hasn’t seen him since Sunday. The last time I saw him was Monday when he knocked over a table.”
Both Whitewood and Godfrey had been to the play. It was a new comedy by Evered Eggerley about a magical shield that created miracles on the Summer solstice and several men, all from different countries and backgrounds, who tried to get hold of it. In the end, it was lost to the sea and the men became best of friends. It was fairly typical of Eggerley’s plays: trite and not as funny as it should have been.
“Yes, my wife doesn’t like the comedies,” Dr. Whitewood said. “They’re a little too vulgar for her. But me and Godfrey did get a chuckle out of them.”
“Never again,” Godfrey grunted. “Never again.”
“It was pretty terrible. The table was actually the funniest part.”
“I was sleeping through it and that’s what woke me up.”
“The only reason this concerns me is because he owes me money,” Jaimes said.
“Well, that’s …” Dr. Whitewood said.
“That’s a very good reason!” Godfrey said.
“We’ve got nothing better to do this evening, Godfrey,” Dr. Whitewood said. “We should just try to find …”
“I’d rather not go home to Baldrick,” Godfrey said.
“… this young man,” Dr. Whitewood said. “Oh, that’s true.”
The three of them went to Eastcheap.
* * *
Hawksworth had walked around the neighborhood, seeing what he could hear. It was not long before he ran into Huddleston, Jaimes, Dr. Whitewood, and Godfrey. Hawksworth recognized the last two from their terrible adventure some 10 years before.
“Well, Bottom’s as good as dead if you two are involved,” Hawksworth said to Dr Whitewood and Godfrey.
“Oh,” Huddleston said.
“Is that any way to talk to your friends, Hawksworth?” Godfrey said.
“You two only show up when bad things happen,” Hawksworth said.
“I think it’s the opposite, sir,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“You know these two, Mr. Hawksworth?” Huddleston said.
“Oh, I know them,” Hawksworth said. “I met them when my friend committed suicide.”
“Oh,” Huddleston said.
“Hey, he was our friend too!” Dr. Whitewood said.
“He was more my friend,” Hawksworth said. “Maybe.”
“I think that’s conjecture,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“We were cut from the same cloth,” Hawksworth said. “That’s why I think he was more my friend. What stake do you have finding a stage hand?”
“Boredom, really,” Godfrey said.
“This young man approached us,” Dr. Whitewood said, indicating Jaimes.
“Well, as you may have overheard back at the theater, he owes me sixpence,” Jaimes said.
“Is that it?” Hawksworth said.
“Yes!” Jaimes said. “His wife’s a blubbering maniac right now, so …”
“Believe me, I know that,” Hawksworth said.
“And Clancy’s my friend,” Huddleston said. “I want to help him.”
“Okay, well there’s the real motive then,” Hawksworth said. “Still … everyone we talk to hasn’t even seen him later than we have. We saw him Monday and the people we talk to have only seen him Sunday.”
“Who have you talked to?” Jaimes asked.
“His drinking pal over at the … where?” Hawksworth said. “Where was it?”
“It was The Tavern,” Huddleston said.
“You’d think I would remember a name like that,” Hawksworth said. “Anyway, the only clue that we have is that he was really worried about some piece of paper that his wife didn’t even see and if she had, she probably can’t read, so that’s it. He’s gone. It’s over. I’m ready for the play Friday and I’m going to go home.”
“It might be over for you, but that’s a lot of money for me, mate,” Jaimes said.
“Is the play tomorrow going to be a good one?” Dr. Whitewood asked the actor.
“Oh, it’s going to be the best,” Hawksworth said. “Because every play, I get better and better and better.”
“I’ll be sure to bring the wife,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“I might be able to carry a couple of ales with me and watch you search for a man who’s been missing for four days,” Hawksworth said. “That might be fun. But honestly, he’s gone. He’s left his wife. He didn’t want to have kids and he had kids so he left the kids. That’s what I think.”
“You don’t waste time in judgment, do you?” Jaimes said.
“There has to be more to it than that,” Huddleston said. “He doesn’t seem like the kind of man who would just leave.”
“Well, I never really knew him,” Hawksworth said. “So … if you say so. But what reason would he have to be gone for four days other than ditching his life.”
“I don’t know. He could have been kidnapped or─”
“Who would kidnap a stage hand? There like the lowest of the … wait. Sorry.”
“Maybe it was a lover’s note,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“Ooo,” Hawksworth said. “Now that I could see.”
“That’s an idea,” Jaimes said.
“He took the sixpence from you, got him some Eastcheap whore, and how they’re fleeing together across the Thames!” Hawksworth said. “I bet you. I bet you! Case … solved.”
“Detective Hawksworth,” Dr. Whitewood quipped.
“I don’t know,” Huddleston said. “His wife is also … I mean … not that I’m after his wife or anything … but …”
“Did you find anything else at his house?” Jaimes asked.
“Found out he only has two outfits and he didn’t take the other one,” Hawksworth said.
“If he was trying to make a clean getaway for a new life, why didn’t he just take his things?” Jaimes asked. “Why did he just, all of a sudden, leave them?”
“Maybe to avoid suspicion,” Hawksworth guessed. “Regardless … why don’t we just see if shows up tomorrow and, if he doesn’t, then we know he just ran away.”
“Well …” Huddleston said. “Well, I mean, if he shows up … if only we could figure out where he could have gone on Monday night after the play.”
Huddleston decided to search around Southwark.
“Let’s go have an ale,” Dr. Whitewood said to Godfrey.
“Did you say ‘ale?’” Hawksworth said.
“You know I did, Hawksworth,” Dr. Whitewood said.
“You two think you could buy some ale for an up-and-coming actor?” Hawksworth said. “With your medical and banker money?”
Jaimes, not wanting to intrude, went home.
The other three headed for the Mermaid Inne just off Cheapside, one of the busiest thoroughfares in London, on Bread Street. Cheapside, near Whitehall, was one of the busiest merchant districts in the city. The Inne remained popular with the artistically inclined: poets, painters, playwrights, composers, actors, and the like. It was also the home of the “Fraternity of Sireniacal Gentlemen,” a drinking club founded in 1603 allegedly by Sir Walter Raleigh that met on the first Friday of every month and included such amazing writers as Ben Jonson, John Donne, John Fletcher, and others. The ale and the talk were both stimulating and plentiful in the place. The landlord of the establishment was William Johnson.
Bertrand Derrington was still the tavern keeper though he was getting on in years. He was as talkative as ever and glad to chat with anyone at all, as usual. He didn’t always make sense but was sharper than one would think and had a memory that spanned over 40 years clearly, it seemed. He was especially able to recall verse, rhymes, riddles and songs, and he had been asked more than once to join an acting company but always waved such advances off as he knew his place.
“Oh, hello Hawksworth!” he said upon seeing the actor. “C’mon in. You want an ale? What will you ‘ave?”
“Give me an ale,” Hawksworth said. “One of these two is going to pay for it.”
“Oh!” Bertrand said. “Such fine gentlemen for our establishment.”
“I don’t have to put it on my tab this time!”
“But you will have to pay that tab off someday, though.”
“I’m waiting for you to die.”
“Oh, you’ll be waiting a long time.”
“I’ll die before you probably.”
“You’re out late of a night. Two nights in a row, Hawksworth? What are you doing?”
“Spreading more rumors, are you?”
“You know it! Looking for … a Bottom. You seen a Clancy Bottom?”
“Oh yes. Good looking fella. He was in here a few nights ago.”
“What night was that?”
“Uh, let’s see. Sunday night and Monday night he did come here.”
“That’s right. Everyone comes to the Mermaid sooner or later. Handsome man, right? I remember he told me he worked at the Globe. I thought o’ you.
“In troth, that I did remember. For he was a thick-headed fellow, though quite fair to look upon. He was also quite polite, but, I fear, somewhat put out by a speech Ben Jonson did so make, quoting one of his masques for the King. He has not been seen so much around here since he stopped writing public plays so it was quite entertaining, but I fear the lad did not understand a half of it. I’ll be frank and admit I was, myself, confused.
“T’was that second night he did leave with a stranger and that sticks right with me as queer, almost something out of a tragedy or folktale.
“You see, Bottom kept asking all of the learned men about certain symbols he’d written down on a scrap of parchment he had folded in his pocket. I saw it, for he asked me as well. T’was some kind of deviltry about it, I think. Something unwholesome and evil, on the whole. He asked if I’d ever seen the like and I admitted I certainly had not as I am a God-fearing man though I don’t always make it to church of a Sunday. Many of the other men didn’t cotton to his questions either and Ben Jonson called him a fool and warned him of the coming storm of charges of blasphemy should he not hide away the terrible paper.
“But what was strange was on that second night as he were here, another fellow arrived even as he began to question those in the tavern again, asking them if they’d ever seen such as the terrible things on the parchment. This man, why he’s all dressed in finery like a Lord, and had black hair and a beard. His clothing looked foreign and his cap, though like my own, was fancy and made of velvet, I do believe. As were his clothing.
“There was something wrong about him though, I swear to you, and in troth, I did not like having him here. He went straight to Bottom and took him to a table where the two talked for some time. I brought them ale and, of course, could not help but overhear a little of their conversation, though I hated to see the man caught up in someone as obviously touched by the devil himself as this man was.
“There was a smell about him, you see. It was like an open grave or rotten meat. It was subtle, but it seemed to cling to him, though he had perfume enough about him to cover it, for the most part. His beady little eyes were never still either, almost as if he feared to be caught up by someone at any moment. I noticed, though he tried to hide it as well, that there was a certain threadbare quality about his clothing.
“They talked, as I could hear, about certain symbols that mystified Bottom. This other fellow, who’s name I never clearly heard, but it was something like Littleton or Lordlyson, said, and I remember this clearly ‘I can help you with these, good man, as I have seen them many times before. Come to my house in Islington that we might decipher their meaning together and perhaps you might never have to darken the doorway of such places as this again.’ I know not what he meant by that but it sent a shiver down my spine, I do say.
“Those two, they left together and I peeked out as they did so to see a fine carriage driving away in the direction of Islington, I did indeed. And that’s the last I ever see of either of those fellows.”
“You see the strangest things around here,” Hawksworth said.
“Oh yes, I see everything Hawksworth. Including your tab. When do you plan on paying that?”
“How big has it gotten already?”
“It’s over five pounds.”
“Oh … God …”
“I know you’re good for it Hawksworth. I might trade in some of that for some tickets someday. If I ever make it to Southwark.”
“Please, if you ever see a corpse on the street with five pounds in his purse, please tell me first, won’t you?”
“If I see a corpse with 10 pounds, I’ll tell you about the five.”
* * *