Flash Frenzy has a weekly prompt here, using this image. Give it a go, why don’t you?
Four more minutes. God, how had it come to this? A stooge. The Great Disappeareo, a young’un’s stooge. And a woman’s stooge at that.
Walter glanced up at ladders, webbing across the back of the stained bricks of the Union Theatre. What about the time he shinned up there while still handcuffed because Prescott forget the key? That was a disastrous tour, that one, them sacked and then arrested for locking that charlatan, Rogers, in his office. They got away with it though, didn’t they?
He sucked on the cigarette, savouring every woody part; his last ciggie, too. If she didn’t pay him tonight he didn’t know how he’d cope. She was nice enough, Wendy, aka Mademoiselle Mysterio, but her escapes were pretty tame. Not like him at his best, before the Big C took his guts in more ways than one. Lucky to be alive, they said, but what did they know? He always escaped, didn’t he? It was what he did. Boxes, padlocks, women, debt, death, he’d cheated them all, even if he now had to rely on bloody charity.
‘Hey, Wally, you need to get back in the box.’
Walter eyed the youngster rheumily. Cheeky scrap. No one called him Wally. He was no wally.
Taking one final drag on his cigarette, Walter dropped the butt. It slipped through the grating and down into the basement. By the time Walter was back inside the locked crate, the oily rags were smouldering. As the drums rolled, the first flames licked the dark spillage. While Wendy played on the audience’s anticipation – not a bad turn out for a freezing matinee – and Walter adjusted his position to minimize the incipient cramp, the fire filled the basement with an acrid and deadly smoke.
Walter’s last thoughts before he lapsed into unconsciousness were of that last cigarette and how, one way or another, he would blag enough money to buy another packet. After all, he told himself, if there was one thing he’d not give up on in a hurry, whatever else happened to him, it was his smokes.