Turning the Tables - this was written as a VS
"Joshua!" Kid Curry's voice carried more excitement than urgency. "How'd things go at the telegraph office?"
Heyes shook his head ruefully.
A questioning gaze fixed on his friend's face. "Nothin'?"
"Nope," Heyes sighed. "Looks like we've been sent on a wild goose chase. Last time I wait it out for a courier to arrive at my own expense. He's either given up or gone another way."
Kid grinned and gestured towards the saloon. "Maybe it wasn't a complete waste of time. There's a man in there. He wants to talk to us about a job."
Heyes narrowed his eyes in suspicion. "Yeah? Just like that, he walks up to you! I don't like it."
The Kid gave a chortle and shook his tousled head. "You wait till you see him! He's in the saloon. He ain't like anythin' I ever seen before! Not outside a circus anyway."
The character, who oozed over the edge of the wooden chair, twinkled at them with a grin only marginally less wide than his girth. He wore a loud, check jacket and an extravagant burgundy silk cravat, set with a glittering tie pin.
"You weren't kidding, were you?" murmured Heyes, as he strode up to the man with a smile of welcome.
"Gentlemen!" the man boomed as he stood, and just kept going. Both men's heads tipped back to maintain eye contact as he thrust out a hand the size of a moderate coal shovel. "Phipps is the name. The Honourable Pickering Wolverton Phipps, but everyone just calls me 'Phipps.' As you've probably guessed from my accent, I'm British."
"Why does he smell like the most expensive girls at Belle's place?" Kid muttered in Heyes’ ear while Phipps strode over to the bar and gestured for two more shot glasses. "That ain't manly."
"I'm more interested in that tie pin," Heyes whispered in reply as he nodded imperceptibly in agreement. "Do you think they're real diamonds?"
"Who knows?" Kid shrugged discreetly. "I ain't takin' on someone his size to find out. I bet no one else is either."
"I'm a visitor to your fine shores because I'm investigating some background for a book I'm writing. I need some..." Phipps hesitated and pursed his lips delicately. "Assistance."
"Assistance?" repeated Heyes. "What kind of assistance?"
"Well... The people I'm investigating don't take too kindly to interference. I need men who can support me and who can also use their brains to see past some 'subterfuge,'" his bright blue eyes glinted at them both. "I consider myself a good judge of character and I observed a certain... shall we say... 'artfulness' about you. That's just what I'm looking for."
Heyes sucked in a breath and started to turn. "Subterfuge! You want to con someone? We're not interested. Come on, Thaddeus."
"Gentlemen, please don't be so hasty; I should have said 'cleverness!' I'm offering good money." Phipps' dark eyebrows darted skywards as his eyes sparkled temptingly. "Four hundred dollars. That's two hundred apiece."
"Give us moment, Mr. Phipps." Kid tugged at Heyes' arm, gesturing with his head as he spoke in low tones. "It's November! That kind of money could see us through the winter."
Heyes let out a long breath. "You're right; it's too good to pass up. At least we can get some details."
He turned back to Phipps with a smile. "We don't break the law, Mr. Phipps," Heyes asserted. "We play it straight down the line."
Phipps nodded furiously. "Oh! Please accept my apologies. I was unclear. I am not looking for underhandedness. Quite the contrary. I need men of good character who can be relied upon to stick to the straight and narrow at all times, but I also need more than that. I'm looking for men who have good enough brains to see through some very clever trickery."
The partners pulled out chairs and sat opposite Phipps, fixing him with curious eyes.
VS jan 14 - ASJ Fan Fiction
The Kid sat back, folded his arms and smiled. "No offense, but we ain't much for flattery, Mr. Phipps. Leastways, not from someone who looks like you. My tastes don't usually run to someone six foot five."
The man gave an explosive laugh. "Backbone! I knew I had the right men... but I'm six foot six."
He drank deeply from his glass, the partners' eyes tracking how daintily he used his thick fingers as he placed it back on the table.
"You also mentioned that you're dealing with people who don't take too kindly to interference. What kind of people and just what are you asking us to get into?" demanded Heyes.
Phipps dropped his voice and leant forward conspiratorially.
"Gentlemen, do you believe in ghosts?"
The partners darted a look at one another before Heyes spoke.
"No," he replied firmly.
Phipps sat back and carefully observed the men in front of him. "Neither do I, but there are a lot of people who do. Many of them are vulnerable, bereaved people who will spend every last penny they have to get a message from their loved ones. They are desperate for any kind of contact, but there are some very skilful frauds out there who make a very good living, bilking them out of their hard-earned cash. I want to expose them and publicise their methods. Stop them in their tracks!"
Heyes gave a cynical laugh. "Let me get this straight. You want to save vulnerable, bereaved people from giving all their hard-earned cash to fraudulent fortune seekers... so they can give it to you instead?"
Phipps nodded as he flicked up an eyebrow. "A good analysis, except that I'm an independently wealthy man from an aristocratic family. I don't need the money. I dedicated my life to studying slight of hand, illusions and conjuring... It's a passion, but I've been sickened by the total greed of some of these people."
Blue eyes met brown before Heyes shook his head. "Table turning? I know it's all the rage, but that's just not us. We can't help you, Mr. Phipps... Lord Phipps or whatever your name is."
The large man leant forward again and fixed them with impassioned eyes. "Have you ever lost anyone you loved?"
Heyes and Curry squirmed in their seats as the Brit narrowed his eyes.
"I never married. I lost the woman I loved very suddenly, just before our wedding." Phipps took a deep breath. "I utterly adored her. She was everything to me and I felt as though I died. I turned to a séance in desperation and found that everyone there was just as lost as I. One woman had spent a week's earnings to attend and didn't know how she was going to pay the rent. It was just horrible."
Phipps paused and let out a long, slow, rasping breath as genuine angst filled his eyes. "The whole thing was terrible. The worst kind of trickery, full of deception, greed, and cheap manipulation. As a conjuror, I could see how every single thing was done. I was furious and made them give every last penny back, exposing them for what they were. I've made a career out of exposing these hoaxers in England and now I've turned to the States. Have you ever found that anger was a way to get past grief, Gentlemen?"
"I can't say that I have, Mr. Phipps," Kid replied quietly.
Phipps' wide smile extended into his mutton chops. "Gentlemen, why don't I buy you some dinner? I need to tell you all about a lady called Etta Palumbo, whose next séance is in a town called Epiphany. You can ask me as many questions as you like."
Epiphany was a damp and depressing-looking place in the November drizzle, with the muddy ruts worn into the main road filling with dirty water. Kid stretched out a long leg as he stepped over a puddle, before he shook droplets of water from his hat. "Remind me why Phipps got to travel by train and we had to ride? Apart from him bein' a lord and all."
Heyes gave a chuckle. "Apparently, he's an 'Honourable.'"
The Kid looked indignant. "Yeah? Well, so are we. We don't just go 'round announcin' it! I like to think women can tell."
"It's an English title for the sons of lords. Phipps told me that he's not the eldest son, so he's not the one directly in line for a lordship. They call the other kids 'Honourables,' to make them sound better than the likes of us, I guess." Heyes stepped up onto the wooden board walk. "Anyway, these flimflammers can't know we're connected to him, so we can't travel together."
They entered the hotel and walked up to the mahogany desk where Heyes leaned on his right elbow and smiled at the hotel clerk. "Reservations for Smith and Jones?"
The small, bald man's round spectacles twinkled in cheerful crescents as they caught the light. "Sure. On the first floor. Need any help with your bags?"
"We can manage, thanks." The Kid looked at the clerk hopefully. "We've had a long, wet ride. Any chance of a bath?"
"Certainly, sir." The man paused before snatching a missive from a pigeon hole and hailing a fair-haired woman who had walked in from the street and began scattering droplets of rain from her umbrella onto the wooden floor. "Mrs. Palumbo, there's a message for you."
Heyes and Curry turned in unison at the mention of the woman's name.
"Palumbo?" asked Heyes, charmingly. "Not Etta Palumbo? The psychic?"
A tall, bearded man in his fifties walked up behind the woman and towered over her protectively. "She is," he proffered a hand. "Spiro Palumbo. I'm the lady's husband."
Heyes pumped the arm in an enthusiastic handshake. "This is truly an honor! I've read about your wife. What a reputation – her powers are absolutely miraculous!"
Etta Palumbo blushed modestly and fingered the cameo brooch at her throat. "You're too kind. I'm just a medium though – a mere vessel."
"Oh no! She's far more than that. She's a real talent!" beamed her husband, proudly. "Do you realize how many people she's helped over the years?"
"I've heard," Heyes nodded. "Mrs. Palumbo, I've read so much about you. Did you really manifest the spirit of a Cherokee maiden?"
"You mean Forest Water? Yes, of course! She's my spirit guide. She appears to assist me at all my meetings. She's the secret of my success really. She's wonderful!"
Heyes gave a gasp. "Really? You mean other people can see her? She certainly sets you apart from all the other psychics."
"Oh yes," Spiro nodded. "People see her all the time. She appears at all the séances. She's very beautiful."
Heyes stayed firmly in character as his eyes glittered with open admiration of the woman's talents. "What wouldn't I give to see that?"
The woman flicked up a slim eyebrow. "I sense that you have experienced great pain, Mr...?" she paused expectantly.
"Smith. Joshua Smith, and this is my partner, Thaddeus Jones," Heyes replied.
"Mr. Smith, I think that you have lost someone..." her eyes grew distant. "I'm getting a woman... with the initial M. Does that mean anything to you? Is it Maggie, Marie, Mary...?"
"Could it be Minnie?" the Kid asked cynically, leaning on the counter.
"Yes! Yes, I think it is."
"Strange, that! Minnie was his cat when he was a kid." The Kid stood and fixed the woman with sceptical eyes. "She was never much for conversation, but who knows? Maybe she's seen fish on the menu in the dinin' room and it's livened her up a bit."
Etta flushed angrily. "I was sure it was an M. Is there a woman in your family with that name, Mr. Smith? I can feel a presence..."
"Mother, maybe?" the Kid added sweetly. "That starts with M."
"Thaddeus!" Heyes rounded on his partner. "I know that you don't believe in this, but there's no need to be so rude!"
The Kid shrugged indifferently, but muttered under his breath, "Sorry, Ma'am."
"I have to apologize for my friend, Mrs. Palumbo. He's not a believer, and I can assure you that if you're kind enough to allow me to speak to you about a certain matter while you're in Epiphany, he will not be around." Heyes paused and glowered into a pair of amused blue eyes before looking back at Mrs. Palumbo. "I can't apologize enough."
Spiro Palumbo glared at the Kid, who held his gaze in a cold, hard stare. "My wife and I are used to doubters. We rise above it! Come, Etta."
He placed an ushering hand on his wife's arm as a diminutive, dark figure cannon-balled into them, as if fleeing from unseen assailants in the damp streets beyond the door.
"Lorenz!" cried Etta. "Just what do you think you are doing!?"
The boy sniffed and wiped away tears with the cuff of his jacket as he jammed his cap back on his head. "Local boys! They're really rough! One of them punched me in the stomach! He said you were a witch, Mother."
"Are you alright!?" Etta stammered in concern.
"I'm fine. I just feel sick," the boy gulped, clutching at his abdomen.
Spiro drew himself up to his full height and looked at the Kid with a fury. "You see? This is what we have to put up with, just to bring people close to their loved ones. Local brutes terrorizing my son! Come, Lorenz."
The man swept his family towards the staircase as Heyes called out after them. "Lorenz, if you want to go out, just give my door a knock. I'm in room nine. I'll make sure that nobody hurts you."
The boy turned and stared at Heyes and Curry with enormous black eyes as he rubbed his still churning stomach. "I'll be fine. I'm not going out here on my own anymore."
The Kid stepped forward, fixing the lad with sympathetic blue eyes. "How old are you? 'Bout twelve? Don't let them get to you, son. If you want, I can teach you to defend yourself. I could show you how to throw a punch or two."
"My boy does not brawl on the street like a common urchin, Mr. Jones! We're better than that!" Mrs. Palumbo put out a hand and patted her son's shoulder. "Come, Lorenz."
They watched the group disappear up the staircase as Heyes dropped his voice to a murmur. "I don't think the lady likes you much, Thaddeus."
"Nope. I don't think she does, but then that's the way it's supposed to be, ain't it?" Kid nodded in agreement. "I've got to be seen to be against them so that they invite you to spite me... prove me wrong."
Heyes gave a gentle laugh. "I get the feeling you're not enjoying your part."
Blue eyes glanced up the stairs as the hem of Mrs. Palumbo's black skirt was dragged out of sight around the corner. "Shame... They seem like a nice little family. Boy's a bit too delicate though... looks like he's made of china."
"Focus, Thaddeus – four hundred dollars. That's a comfortable winter and maybe even a good Christmas. She may be a mother, but she's also a flimflammer, and her marks can't afford to be taken for a penny. At least when we did it, we only hit the wealthy and the greedy. They could afford to lose it."
"Maybe." The Kid's voice was laden with doubt. "But what if it's true? What if she can contact them? She seems so certain."
Heyes turned and gave the Kid a long, hard stare. "You can't believe that! A name - beginning with M! You said it yourself, the only one was Minnie the cat!"
Heyes lay on the bed reading a book as the Kid pulled out a shirt from his saddlebag. Their eyes met at a soft knock at the door.
The Kid grabbed his gun and stood off to the side.
"Who's there?" asked Heyes.
Heyes opened it cautiously, tipping back his head to look into Phipps sparkling blue eyes.
"Can I come in?" he asked, theatrically sotto voce.
"Sure." Heyes opened the door to allow him to enter.
The behemoth looked less flamboyant now, wearing a far more sober suit with a conventional tie whilst his dark hair was parted in the middle and spammed heavily down with some kind of oil.
Phipps gestured towards the bed with a huge hand. "May I?"
"Sure," the Kid sat down, feeling himself rise and shift as Phipps' considerable weight joined him by sitting on the bed beside him.
"So, you've met the Palumbos. What did you think?" Phipps flicked up an eyebrow as his eyes rested on Kid's gun on the table beside the bed.
"They seem like a nice enough little family. They'd be quite ordinary if the mother wasn't so – intense,” said the Kid.
Phipps gave a snort. "Ordinary! Did you take a look at that boy of theirs?"
Heyes walked over to the window. "Only in passing. Far too thin."
"Poor specimen for a boy, yes, but..." grinned Phipps.
"What?" enquired the Kid.
Heyes' brow crinkled. "Yes! It's so obvious! Those big eyes and high cheekbones! Why didn't I spot it? Are you saying what I think you are?"
"I certainly am," Phipps replied in a voice heavy with laughter.
"What!?" the Kid shook his head in confusion. "That's not a boy!?"
"Her real name is Lorenza. She plays Forest Water. That's why she can't go around as herself all the time. People would recognise her from the séances. She really is quite lovely."
Heyes folded his arms in annoyance. "You didn't tell us this? What else haven't you told us?"
"Nothing. Excuse the ruse, gentlemen. I just wanted to see if you'd notice it yourself. I must admit that I didn't."
"That boy? He got punched in the stomach today! She got punched...." the Kid corrected himself as his forehead wrinkled in concern. "How old is she?"
"Twenty-two. From what I can discover, they are only the Palumbos when they're on the road. The rest of the time they live in quiet respectability in Philadelphia under the name of 'Galea.' Mr. Galea is from a Maltese family and Palumbo was his mother's name."
"Well! I gotta say that I'm now completely convinced that they're flimflammers. There's no other reason a young woman would go around dressed as a boy," snorted the Kid.
"Yup," Heyes nodded. "Psychic manifestations, my foot! I take it that she drifts around in the background looking spooky."
Phipps laughed in agreement. "Something like that. Most magicians agree that priests in ancient societies used tricks and drugs to make people think they had extraordinary powers. People like the Palumbos are still doing it; there's nothing new under the sun."
"So, what now?" asked Heyes.
Phipps smiled. "There's a séance booked for tomorrow night in the dining room of the hotel. All kinds of local worthies will be here. Be there and be ready to follow my lead."
"What about me?" asked the Kid.
"Aah, Mr. Jones. I need you to use all your powers of persuasion."
"Persuasion? Just what do you need me to do?"
Phipps bit into his bottom lip. "I want Forest Water to be prevented from attending the séance. Find a way to keep Lorenza away from the place. She's a young woman just following the lead of her dishonest parents. I don't want her to be arrested any more than you do. It just wouldn't be fair. I'm not a vindictive man and I don't want innocents caught up in all this."
The Kid looked doubtful. "Just how much 'persuasion' do you expect me to use? I ain't gonna use force. Not on a woman."
Phipps' eyes glittered with emotion. "That's entirely up to you, Mr. Jones. It all depends on how much you want to protect her from ten years in jail. If it was me? I'd do just about anything. Ten years in a place like that would eat up her childbearing years, her looks, her whole future. I'm only trying to look out for her."
Heyes glanced around the hotel dining room where most of the tables had been stacked at the side, leaving only a long table in the centre of the room. Etta Palumbo turned to give him a welcoming smile.
"Thank you so much for allowing me to attend this meeting, Mrs. Palumbo," Heyes beamed at her. "It means so much to me. Do you think we'll have any success tonight?"
Mrs. Palumbo's dark blue eyes swirled with mysterious portents. "I feel that the night is full of spirits. I think that it promises to be a sparkling evening," she closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath. "The air is positively laden with ectoplasm. Can't you smell it?"
"Can't say that I can, Mrs. Palumbo... What exactly does ectoplasm smell like?"
She gave a tinkling little laugh. "Ooh! It's just there. I can sense it." She stretched out a hand in welcome to Phipps as he approached. "Mr. Pickering. Thank you for coming. I was just saying to Mr. Smith, here, that it promises to be a good evening."
Phipps leant forward and gallantly kissed the back of her hand before nodding to Heyes. "Albert Pickering. Pleased to meet you."
"Joshua Smith," Heyes eyes drifted over to a huge cage at the top of the long table. "What in the name...? What on earth is that for?"
"Oh that!" Spiro had joined the group. "I take it that you have never attended a séance before?"
"No. Never," Heyes replied.
"Well, the medium is separate to the circle and is contained in a spirit cabinet."
"But it's a cage!? I thought she sat at the head of the table and we all held hands!" exclaimed Heyes.
Spiro shook his head. "I do that, Mr. Smith. The medium is a channel, bringing the spirits to the circle and it's her power that allows us to see and hear them. The medium is restrained in the cabinet whilst the room is dark. The best go further, as so many of these cabinets have been found to be no more than the kind of thing a cheap conjurer would use, full of hidden compartments, with spring-loaded panels where people could slip out of the back and engage in trickery around the room. The best now use a cage with a view from every side so it is clear that there are no hidden compartments," Spiro gestured for them to follow him. "See? Thick iron bars, seven inches apart. Test it... see for yourself."
He clanged his booted foot against the bars before he continued.
"This world attracts a lot of hoaxers, you know, and various ways of containing the medium have been used from cabinets and restraints... right through to cages. Did you know that a man was caught pirouetting around a room in a white cheesecloth dress pretending to be the spirit of someone's wife when he was supposed to be tied to a chair!? There are some very tricky people about, you know, and they can get up to a lot in the dark."
"Sure can," murmured Heyes.
"Did you say something, Mr. Smith?" asked Spiro.
"Nope," Heyes replied, placing a hand on top of the cage. "It's not very tall."
"It's five feet tall, with just enough height for a person to stay seated inside. They don't need to stand," Spiro Palumbo explained, as he tugged on the bars. "As robust as any prison. These bars just can't be bent by hand."
"How is it locked?" asked Heyes, casually.
"We always ask the host to purchase a padlock and chain themselves and retain the key throughout the evening. That way they know that the medium stays in the cage during the séance." Spiro gave a little laugh as Phipps pushed against the cage. "It took four men to get that in here. Even with your considerable muscle power I doubt that you would be able to move it, Mr. Pickering, let alone my wife on her own. She will be in here throughout the séance. We don't hold with trickery and want to prove it."
Heyes watched Spiro walk away to greet some more arrivals as Phipps whispered to Heyes. "Psychics always have to be in complete darkness. The psychics claim that light damages them when they're in a trance. Very convenient, considering people have seen ghosts in all kinds of light for centuries."
"So she's locked in a cage and Lorenza's not coming. It's going to be a bit of a flop, I guess."
"No... I think she can pick locks. She'll get out... and in the dark, sounds, light touches and a breath in your ear can play tricks with the mind. Keep focused, Mr. Smith, and remember, everything you see and hear is a trick!"
Heyes shook his head. "Nope. They have no way of knowing what lock they might buy. That's too unpredictable. If she gets out, it's not that way."
"But how!?" Phipps hissed quietly. "I had her down as picking the lock."
"I've worked in security, Mr. Phipps. I know a bit about breaking in and out of places. Locks can be picked, but completely in the dark and not knowing what kind...? Nah, too chancy." Heyes took hold of two of the bars and lowered his face down, looking straight at the chair in the middle of the cage before giving a little laugh. "Of course! It's so obvious!"
Heyes gave Phipps a dimpled smile as Spiro brought a middle-aged couple over to examine the cage in the same way as they had. "Tell you later. You'll kick yourself for not spotting it."
The Kid tapped gently on the door of the Palumbos' hotel room. "Lorenz? It's the man from the lobby. Mr. Jones. Can I speak to you?"
He paused, pressing his ear to the door. "I can hear you in there, you know. I'm not goin' anywhere until you open this door and speak to me," he paused, pre-empting the occupant's next strategy. "I'm very patient. I can wait here all night, you know, and I will."
There was the sound of a key turning in the lock before the door opened the tiniest crack and a large, velvet-brown eye appraised him suspiciously. "What do you want?"
He smiled patiently. "Everyone's gone to the séance except us. We're on our own. I thought you might want some company?"
"No thanks." The door quickly started to close but it caught on the foot the Kid had already placed in the gap.
"Move your foot!"
The door banged ineffectually against his boot as he placed a hand against it and pushed it open. "No need to be shy, Lorenz. We've already met."
He advanced into the room as 'the boy' backed off, clutching at the neck of the Paisley-patterned robe.
"No, Lorenz," he closed the door behind him, noting with wry amusement that her hastily put on wig was slightly askew and that she obviously wore a black dress under the robe. "What you want to do? Checkers? Play some cards, maybe?"
"I don't want to do any of that! I was going to bed! Get out of here and leave me alone!"
"Bed? At seven thirty at night?" he laughed.
"My parents are very strict. Now get out and let me get to bed!"
VS jan 14 - ASJ Fan Fiction
The Kid nodded gently and sat down on the double bed and leaned on the ornate brass bedstead. "Fine. Is that your bed? They added another for the family room? I'll sit here and make sure that you do as they told you to do. We don't want you misbehavin' without adult supervision, do we now?"
Her voice rose an octave with anger. "Why aren't you getting out? Who said you could sit down!?"
"Well," he gave her a soft smile. "Maybe I can read you a story to put you to sleep?"
She gave a snort of exasperation. "I'm too old for stories! How old do you think I am?"
He gave her a small laugh. "About twenty two, Miss Palumbo. Why don't you take off that dumb wig and talk to me properly?"
He watched her gracile jaw drop open as her enormous eyes widened with amazement. "How....?"
"That's not important; all you need to know is that I'm here for your own good."
"Get out!! I'll scream!"
He shook his head. "No, Lorenza, you won't. If you do, you'll be in danger of attracting attention and exposing your parents."
He watched her breath quicken as she shook her head rapidly from side to side in confusion.
"So, I dressed as a boy! That doesn't give you the right to invade my room! Get out of here right now!"
His eyes hardened as he gave her a look of warning. "Lorenza, I never hurt women, but I will do what I have to do to keep you here, sitting quietly. Now sit down and do as you're told."
She dropped into the seat beside the dressing table in shock as the strength behind his words hit her. Big, brown eyes darted about as she realised that he was between her and the door.
"Please? Don't hurt me! What do you want? There's some money over there in the bag... just take it and leave me alone!"
A look of hurt flickered over his face. "I don't want your money! What do you think I am? I just have to stop you from going down to the séance, that's all. I promise you, I'm not here to steal or to hurt you in any way."
"But why?" she demanded in a voice rasping with fear.
He gave her a look of regret. "They're on to your parents I'm afraid, but there's no need for you to be arrested, too."
He watched the mystification flood over her expressive face as she tugged at the wig, slipping it from her head whilst she started releasing the glossy curtain of straight, dark hair from concealment.
"I don't understand! Why? Why would you want them and not me?"
"I'm just doin' a job, darlin', but we're all agreed that you're not the mastermind behind this. You goin' down too wouldn't serve justice and this should scare you straight."
The Kid watched her huge eyes brim with tears which spilled over until her porcelain skin was alight with glistening, moist streams. "My parents! But we don't do anyone any harm!"
The Kid's brow furrowed. "You lie, cheat and take poor people's hard-earned money. You think that ain't wrong?"
"No... yes... well... it's not all a lie. People expect a show, but we also give them messages that bring comfort!"
He shook his head in admonishment. "Don't lie to me, girl. I've heard it all before. When it comes down to it, you take from desperate folks in pain. That's the bit I find hard to swallow."
Lorenza dropped her head, her hair falling forward to cover her face. "I'm sorry!"
"I bet you are. Let's hope that you're sorry enough to give all this up and learn your lesson."
"Is there anybody there?" Spiro Palumbo's voice took on a theatrical resonance as he enunciated from the diaphragm.
The blackness which enveloped the sitters was almost palpable.
"It's real dark in here," Heyes whispered to the woman beside him. "Do you think there are spirits in those dark corners?"
His whisper was met with a hiss. "Sshh!"
"Anyone or anything could be in that gloom," Heyes persisted, mischievously.
"Is there anybody there?" repeated Spiro, as someone cleared their throat impatiently somewhere in the darkness.
Heyes felt his hands clasped on either side as he kept them palms down on the table, but the stout woman in her fifties who sat on his right seemed to have decided to grip his fingers with an unusual fervour as her thumb trailed idly back and forth across the back of his hand. He feigned a cough and pulled his hand away to cover his mouth.
He heard her admonish him with a shrill voice in his ear. "Mr. Smith! You shouldn't break the circle!"
"Sssshhhh!!" hissed someone from across the room.
Heyes replaced his hand, placing it firmly on top of the woman's this time, pinning the formerly wandering digits.
Spiro tried again. "Forest Water!! Forest Water!! Are you there?"
Heyes heard the man's voice falter, before a shred of desperation was evident in his voice. "Forest Water!! Are you there? Have you crossed over into this vale of tears?"
Spiro harrumphed slightly before he made an announcement. "Ladies and gentlemen, I sense that there is an unbeliever in our midst and that Forest Water is keeping away because the portents are bad. We must all sit in silence and concentrate as hard as possible to counteract the negative vibrations."
"Great!" muttered Heyes with a groan. "Does it help to remember a face? I don't want to get bored, sitting here in the dark."
"That is a wonderful suggestion Mr. Smith," replied Spiro. "Concentrate on the face of a loved one, like Mr. Smith is doing."
"What a face! Bright eyes, lovely! Just lovely. It's been a very long time since I've seen her."
"They have to have passed over, Mr. Smith," Spiro announced, with a tone of rebuke. "I get the distinct feeling that your presence is not completely conducive to the atmosphere of this meeting."
"Please? Stop cryin'! It's been ages now!" Kid spoke tentatively, as he twisted the eiderdown awkwardly between his long fingers.
Lorenza raised her head and snuffled in his direction as tears streamed down her face.
"Do you have a handkerchief?" he asked gently, as she mopped her damp face on the sleeves of her robe.
Glittering, dark eyes darted to him as she raised her head nervously. "Am I allowed? There's one in the drawer over there."
He gave a groan and tilted his head empathetically, as she oozed vulnerability. "Darlin'... of course you are. It may not feel like it, but I am tryin' to help you. I'm tryin' to protect you from a jail term."
She walked cautiously over to the sideboard and opened a drawer, pulling out a delicate handkerchief before returning to her seat, eyeing him warily all the way.
He rested his chin on the hands which sat on the bedstead and smiled at her reassuringly. "So tell me about yourself. How did you get mixed up in all this? Did your parents push you?"
She gave a great sniff and faced him. "My father was a magician, just like his father. He was quite famous... 'The Great Galea', but there are no pensions for magicians. My father worked to keep his father, but now he's getting older and he doesn't have a son... Just me. I'm the only child, but what use is a daughter? How can I keep them as they get older? We did this to get some money behind us so we could live quietly. This was our last tour."
The Kid shook his head in bemusement. "There's always one more last job, ain't there? It ain't up to you to take care of them! He could have got a job. He didn't have to send you out flimflammin'. It's a father's job to protect his children. Your Pa's got a lotta of work ahead of him. Why'd you have to take care of the family, anyway?"
She shrugged. "He did it, when he was my age."
"Darlin', he's livin' off you! He can work! This is a different country, and a different life, to the one he had growin' up. He should want better for you!"
"I wanted to do it! No one made me!"
He flicked up an eyebrow. "There are men who are really good at manipulating people. So good at it, that folks even think that it was their own idea. My guess is that you wouldn't be in this mess if you didn't earn them so much from the séances. I think he's found a way to keep you workin' for him."
"He hasn't! I worked really hard and learned everything I could but no one would hire a female magician. They all just wanted me to be an assistant, even though I could do the job better than they could! At least this way I was an equal!"
"That's tough, but surely you could have worked with your father?"
"I tried," she rasped into her handkerchief. "He's really old fashioned and doesn't want me to take the lead in case people judged him for playing second fiddle to a woman. I couldn't find any other men who would let me do very much, either."
"No one?" he queried.
"No. All they want to do with women is to tie us up or saw us in half!"
He flicked up an eyebrow. "Really? That's all they want to do? Nothin' else? Your world sure is different from mine!" he said, incredulously.
"Yes!" she wailed. "What woman wants to spend her life doing that!?"
"Well...," he mused, slightly confused. "Not many, I guess. Couldn't you have tried somethin' else?"
"I did, but my father said I would be a disaster without him, and he was right. The knife throwing didn't last long."
"Knife throwin'? At people?" he demanded.
"At me. I didn't stay. He was a drunk and his hands shook. Do you want to see the scar?"
The Kid grimaced, uncomfortably. "Where is it?"
"On the side of my head," she pulled her hair aside, but he shook his head in refusal.
"It may sound ridiculous, but did it ever occur to you to do something off the stage? Find a nice man and settle down?"
"I tried that, too. I was a stooge in a mind-reading act, out in the audience," she looked wistfully into the middle distance. "I was the best he ever had! I had to remember hundreds and hundreds of codes so that he could identify what members of the audience were holding up for him. He was the most beautiful man I've ever seen! Just so extravagantly beautiful!"
He ignored her adoration. "Couldn't he see, then? Why couldn't he see what you were holdin' up?"
"No. He was blindfolded. He was supposed to be reading my mind as I held things up, but I was feeding him the code so he would know what it was and it looked like he could read my mind. He was so handsome... but he was leading me on! I wasn't his type!"
"Married?" Kid asked, sympathetically.
"No. He... well... he wasn't... very keen on women... but he... and his friend... played with my emotions because he wanted to keep me in the act. He led me on just because my memory was so good! I worshipped him, but he only wanted me for my mind! Can you imagine how that felt!?" she spluttered. "I felt so... USED!"
"Unimaginable!" he managed to say with a straight face. "You really must have quite a mind."
"Thank you," she sniffed, dabbing at her eyes.
The Kid paused. "Your pa really should have made you feel that you were the most special person in the world, but he's made you feel like a liability. Surely this couldn't be your only way forward? I can't believe that no men were interested, or were all their advances immoral?" he asked. "This theatrical life just don't seem normal to me"
She shook her head ruefully as her eyes fixed on the floor. "There was a man," she gave a weak smile. "He was kind and so funny – not handsome exactly, but he had lovely blue eyes. I would have let him stick swords through me for years. No one ever treated me with such gentle kindness."
"Swords!? That's gentle...?" The Kid rubbed his face as if to reorient with reality. "I sure got a lot more to find out about women."
"We wanted to get married, but it didn't work out. My father didn't approve."
"Why not? I'd have thought he'd be happy for you to find a kind man who'd take care of you." He ran his hands through his hair as he frowned. "Especially if he was worried about the future."
"No... My father is Maltese. Very Mediterranean, strict, old-fashioned... Phipps wasn't a Catholic. He just wouldn't allow it."
The Kid sat bolt upright in shock. "Phipps!? Describe him!"
"Really tall. Six foot six, dark hair, blue eyes... British... Why?"
He stood up and fixed her with shocked eyes. "Miss Palumbo, you're comin' with me! Now!!"
The hotel lobby was deserted when they reached the bottom of the stairs.
"How were you plannin' on gettin' into the dinin' room?" hissed the Kid.
"Through the kitchen. We checked it out and there are swing doors, they're silent..."
He nodded as he glanced around furtively. "Come on."
The large, empty kitchen was a credit to the Victorian fixation with cleanliness as the white tile sparkled against the oil lamp which sat on the large wooden table in the centre of the room.
"So, is that the door? Go on."
Lorenza nodded before she started unbuttoning her black dress. Her hands had just reached her chest when the Kid strode forward in horror. "What the Sam Hill are you doin'?"
"I'm getting ready to go in!" she hissed. "I don't wear a dress like this! It'll brush up against people and rustle when I move. We call the clothes we wear for things like this leotards. I have it on underneath."
"Fine!" he nodded. "Is that another kind of dress?"
His eyes widened in shock as she unbuttoned her dress all the way down until she stood in front of him in a clinging, black one piece suit which showcased her lithe, agile body with fabric puddled around her ankles.
"Your pa lets you work in that!?" he demanded. "I thought he was strict!"
She smiled patiently. "Think of these as working clothes. Most theatrical people wear these."
He let out a long slow, whistle then averted his eyes. "It ain't decent – you gotta get out of this business! Women shouldn't be walkin' around in public in combination underwear."
"It's a leotard!"
"It's underwear!" he turned down the lamp. "You know where they're all sittin'? You can find them in the dark?"
She gave him a look of irritation. "I'm not an amateur, you know! Put that lamp out so that I can open the door to the dining room."
The kitchen plunged into darkness before the light of the moon cut through the uncurtained windows, casting silvered beams across the room which threw long shadows where they hit the table. The Kid gasped in surprise as a square-jawed matronly woman with red hair walked out of the larder.
"Good Lord!! What are you doing in here? You nearly scared me half to death!" she exclaimed in a pronounced Irish accent, clutching a reddened, hard-working hand to her throat. "Put the lamp back on!"
He cursed under his breath before he smiled appeasingly. "Sorry. I thought that there was no one here. I was just curious about the meetin'."
She gave him a mysterious smile as her eyes drifted over the discarded dress on the floor. "Oh yes?" she tutted disapprovingly. "It isn't good to lie to your elders, young man. I think I know what you're here for. Where is she? Hiding?"
He started to bluster. "That!? No... it's not what you think, Ma'am."
She gave a chuckle which resonated around her well upholstered chest. "I've been on this earth a long time, young man! I know what's what, but if you want a bit of advice, you won't take this any further until you draw the sheriff away from here. He could walk in at any moment and I'm sure you don't want that."
"Oh yes!" she replied archly. "He's in the manager's office, right next to here. The tall Brit brought him in earlier."
The Kid nodded and walked out into the lobby before he looked cautiously out into the street. He pulled out his gun and fired three rapid shots into the air before merging with the blackness of the shadows.
A clamour of voices grew whilst the Kid watched people run into the street.
A craggy-faced man with a walrus moustache battered his way through the door of the hotel. "Ben!! Ben!! Anyone seen the deputy?" he called.
"Sheriff Hook! Where did the shootin' come from?" demanded a burly man who ran from across the street.
The moonlight caught the star on his chest as the sheriff replied, "Out here somewhere... Get men, spread out! Find out what happened."
Kid Curry sidled towards the door and smiled secretly as he watched the local lawmen run around like headless chickens before he slipped back inside the hotel.
"That should keep them busy for at least half an hour," he muttered to himself. "That'll be more than enough time."
Meanwhile in the dining room...
There was another random cough around the long table as people sat in the darkness.
VS jan 14 - ASJ Fan Fiction"Is this going to take much longer?" asked Heyes, playing the part of the discontented guest. "It's not the most entertaining evening I've ever spent."
There was a clattering noise on the table before a luminous green cross seemed to float around the room.
"Did you see that?" demanded the man on Heyes' left, as a gathering white cloud seemed to form into something recognisably human amidst gasps and murmurs.
"Forest Water? Is that you?" asked Spiro.
"NO!" declaimed a gruff voice from the end of the table.
"Spirit!! Name yourself!" Spiro demanded from the end of the table.
"I am here for Isabella!" the figure's voice echoed about the room, as Heyes felt the middle-aged woman stiffen beside him.
"Walter???" the woman asked, nervously.
"YES!!! It is Walter!"
The woman gave a little cry and clutched at Heyes' hand. "Walter!!! Oh my Walter!!" There was real angst in the woman's distressed voice.
"This isn't funny! This lady's upset!" snapped Heyes, challengingly. "Either end this sham, or get Forest Water here fast!"
"Bella, you must look after the children!" the voice announced, eerily.
"I will, Walter!!"
"Well... Duh!" muttered Heyes, shaking his head. "Walter never had too high an opinion of you if he had to tell you to look after the children! Are you sure that's him?"
There was a thump behind him which made him swallow hard in surprise before the ghostly figure started to dissipate before his eyes.
"Get into the kitchen as fast as you can!" a voice hissed in his ear. "Thaddeus is there! It's not what it seems! The plan's off."
Three shots ripped through the air.
The serenity of the circle was broken instantly as a babble of concerned voices rose from around the table before Spiro made an announcement. "Ladies and Gentlemen, the meeting is over! All monies will be returned. There is clearly something happening outside and the mood has been broken."
Spiro looked through the darkness towards the cage before he continued, "Can someone please light the lamp?"
Heyes struck a match which flashed into life as he glanced around the room. Phipps was still opposite him at the table, Etta sat upright in the centre of the cage and Spiro dropped his head dejectedly into his hands as he watched his customers file out of the room.
"I'm going to see where those shots came from."
Lorenza stood beside the Kid, her dress open to mid chest as she fumbled with the buttons. "THADDEUS!! WHAT IN THE NAME!? Her folks are just through that door!"
The Kid turned guilty eyes to his partner. "It ain't what you think! She's got a leopard under there!"
Heyes stopped short. "Huh?"
Lorenza rolled her eyes. "A leotard! I've got a leotard under here!"
Heyes shook his head in confusion.
"Combination underwear... like one-piece long johns," said the Kid.
Heyes' eyes narrowed disapprovingly. "Thaddeus, you were supposed to distract her! That's all! Couldn't you find a better way to keep her occupied?"
Lorenza set her chin in challenge and looked Heyes straight in the eye. "Your friend has been a perfect gentleman! Anyway, what kind of woman do you think I am?"
"Joshua!" the Kid explained. "She's the one who stopped the séance and got you in here."
Heyes shifted his weight onto his right leg. "Why!? What was so all fired important that it had to be dealt with right now, and just where did those shots come from? You do realize that she warned her parents, don't you?"
"The cook told me that the sheriff was in the manager's office. I couldn't take the chance of him burstin' in, so I gave him somethin' else to think about." The Kid's blue eyes twinkled at Heyes determinedly. "There's a lot more to this than we've been told. Phipps knows Lorenza. In fact, her father stopped them from gettin' married."
"But Phipps is in there. They didn't recognize him!"
Lorenza shook her head. "They've never met him. My father refused to even see him."
"I think Phipps is tryin' to get her folks put away so they can get married. This ain't about catchin' flimflammers. He's just as bad as they are!"
"Great!" mused Heyes. "The first decent job we've had in months just blown! Didn't it occur to you that his motives weren't any of our business? They're still takin' folks for a ride."
"I don't want my parents to go to jail!" cried Lorenza. "We give people a show and some comfort. We're not doing any harm. They come to us – we don't seek them out!"
Heyes folded his arms. "You'd best take that up with your lover, Miss Palumbo. We're just the hired help, but it sounds to me like you've found a way to rationalize taking money from desperate folks at times of grief. That's between you and your conscience. I didn't like it much, if that counts for anything... The show was not good!"
"I ain't happy 'bout gettin' only half the story, Joshua. It makes me wonder what else he ain't told us."
Heyes nodded. "You've got a point, Thaddeus." He opened the door to the dining room. "Let's find out, shall we? After you, Miss Palumbo?"
Phipps' mouth dropped open in surprise as Heyes and Curry followed Lorenza into the room, whilst Spiro leapt to his feet, his face darkening with anger.
"Lorenza!! Just what is going on here!"
Lorenza shrank back fearfully, as her father's forceful words cut through her.
"I'm sorry, father..." she started to stammer.
"SORRY!!! That won't cut it this time! Explain yourself!" Spiro demanded.
Kid watched the young woman's head hang as her bottom lip began to tremble. Her eyes darted between her parents before she stared down at the floor. "Your daughter just saved you from arrest, Mr. Palumbo. Mr. Phipps here is onto your game and had invited the sheriff over."
"Phipps!!" boomed Palumbo, as he gave the Englishman a long, hard stare. "That gigolo!! That no good..."
Phipps stood, but his main focus of attention was clearly Lorenza as his eyes glittered with gentle concern. "Yes! The man who loves your daughter. The man you stopped from marrying her so that you could continue to guilt her into being your meal ticket for the rest of your life!" He smiled at her. "You look as lovely as ever, darling."
"Get out!" boomed Spiro.
"Why are you all actin' like keepin' a woman in a cage is normal!?" demanded Kid, looking around the room. "You theatrical types are just plain weird! Are you gonna let her out?"
"Why bother? She can get out of there herself, can't you, Mrs. Palumbo?" grinned Heyes.
The woman spluttered in outrage. "No!!"
Heyes shook his head dismissively. "Ma'am, I'm not a small town mark. Anyone who knows anything about security will tell you that an agile person can get through a space the size of their head; that's why thieves can get into buildings through tiny windows. The average human head is about six inches wide... those bars are seven inches apart. Once it goes dark you sneak around the room along with your daughter being spooky."
"That's a lie!" snapped the woman.
"Well everyone's gone and the man with the key has taken it with him," grinned Heyes. "You can either get out yourself, or wait until they serve breakfast in the morning."
Etta Palumbo scowled at him before she opened her dress to reveal a leotard and dropped it on the floor around her feet. She squeezed her head through the bars, before her lithe frame followed it, jiggling her hips until she could reach outside of the cage with her foot. The other leg swiftly followed it, before she stood upright and dragged her dress through and put it back on.
"Still want to claim that you're an innocent psychic, Ma'am?" Heyes asked as he reached through the bars and lifted the seat. "Aah yes! What's this? Lots and lots of cheesecloth; I bet it glows in the dark... Now that could be quite creepy. Bells, masks, a trumpet? What on earth do you want a trumpet for?"
"It's all part of the repertoire, Mr. Smith, and they make voices echo," Phipps replied.
Heyes held up a cross. "I think we saw this being used tonight, didn't we, Mrs. Palumbo? What are these sticks for?"
Phipps took hold of one and pulled at it until it extended telescopically. "They're reaching rods. That way someone can feel a touch whilst the 'ghost' is at the other side of the room. It can be very scary to a person who completely believes in this stuff. They can also be used to move things around the table without breaking the circle."
The Kid turned accusing eyes on the Palumbos. "Still want to maintain that you're for real?" Kid's ice blue eyes bored into them. "Don't look at your daughter – look at me!"
Mrs. Palumbo dropped her head as Spiro glowered at the assembled company. "So!!! What now? You turn us in?"
Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance. "I don't think that's necessary, do you, Mr. Phipps?"
"Don't you think you're exceeding your authority!? You're not being paid to make decisions like that!" barked Phipps.
"We were employed by a man claiming to be on the side of right, Mr. Phipps. You lied to us."
"None of that has any bearing on the terms of your employment, Mr. Smith!"
"Lorenza," the Kid asked gently. "You told me that Phipps was the kindest man you've ever met. You wanted to marry him, but your father prevented it. Do you still feel the same way?"
"She's not marrying a conjuror!" snapped Spiro. "There's no money in that!"
"Your daughter is over twenty one! She's of age to make her own choices and he," Kid jabbed a thumb in Phipps' direction, "is ANYTHIN' but poor!" He turned back to Lorenza. "What do you want!? Tell them!"
They watched as her bottom lip started to quiver and her huge dark eyes darted from Phipps to her father.
"Lorenza," the Kid smiled softly at her. "This is your chance. You can say what you want to without being scared of your pa. He can't hurt you... We won't allow it."
She shook her head as her voice quavered with fear. "He doesn't hurt me... He just shouts and I have to live with him after you've all gone."
Phipps stepped forward. "You don't have to live with him. We can get the preacher here. We can be married tonight if you want to. Please say yes, Lorenza."
She glanced at her mother, looking for reassurance, but Mrs. Palumbo kept her eyes firmly on the floor.
"Lorenza! Please!" Phipps' voice was heavy with emotion. "He said it was because I wasn't a Catholic, but he lied! I checked. Your mother wasn't a Catholic either and that didn't stop him! Please! I love you... He is just using you! You're the one with the talent and they're living off you."
"Is that true, Mother?" Lorenza turned accusing eyes on her mother, but she still looked resolutely away, refusing to say a word against her husband.
"I think that's a 'yes,'" Heyes stated simply.
"You let him turn away the man I loved for nothing! How could you, Mother?" Lorenza's colour started to rise with her emotions. She turned furious eyes on Phipps. "And you!! You tried to get my parents arrested! How could you!?"
"I was desperate! I just love you so much!" cried Phipps, following her as she stalked from the room in a fury.
"Leave me alone!" Lorenza snapped. "I can't even look at any of you right now!"
Heyes and Curry looked awkwardly around the room before Spiro broke the silence.
"Did one of you say that he was wealthy?" he queried, hopefully.
The Kid shrugged as he guided his horse quietly out of the stable. "I don't see why we have to leave town so fast. He was winnin' her 'round, last time I saw them, usin' all that fancy English talk."
"Don't you?" Heyes swung a leg over his mount and gathered the reins in his hands.
Kid shook his head. "No! If we'd stuck around maybe we'd have been invited to the weddin'. Women like a weddin'... gets them all romantic and some of the maids at that hotel were real pretty."
"You didn't trust Phipps, either. That's why you called the séance off."
Heyes gave the Kid one of his most innocent smiles.
"What! What have you done?" demanded the Kid. "I've seen that look in your eyes before!"
"I didn't like the way Phipps looked at us. He never missed a thing, from the way you kept your gun close, to little things that slipped out about our backgrounds."
"Well, I got suspicious and had a look around his room when he went after Lorenza. I just couldn't see why he didn't tell us that the sheriff was in the hotel. There wasn't any reason for him to keep that from us, unless he had a good reason for not wanting us to know."
The Kid sucked in a breath. "I didn't think of that!"
"I found a telegram saying that there was no record of a Smith and Jones being wanted. I don't think he knows who we really are, but he was working on it. It was only a matter of time. I thought it was best to get out of there before he won Lorenza and turned his full attention to us."
The Kid flicked up an eyebrow. "I 'spose, but it all worked out alright in the end... We got paid and everythin', eh, Heyes?"
He looked over at his partner's profile as he stayed silent, but smiled enigmatically.
"Heyes? He did pay us? You showed me the money."
"I did, Kid. I showed you the money."
"What did you do? If you stole it...!?"
Heyes turned and grinned at him. "I'm retired! I left a receipt and everything. It's not stealing to take your wages and leave a receipt."
"Our amnesty!! How could you do that, Heyes?"
"What!? I didn't want to bother him on what was likely to be his wedding night, so I left a receipt. The law wouldn't see that as theft... more of a dispute between two parties... if anything at all." He turned in his saddle to face him. "I didn't take a penny more than we were due. It's November, Kid. We needed that money to get through the winter and we earned it fair and square!"
The Kid let out a groan and he nudged his mount into action. "You sound just like the Palumbos when they were tryin' to convince us that they ain't flimflammers. You'll be tellin' me next that we gave them all a good show!"
"He got plenty for his money. He wanted Lorenza and he got her. He wanted to prove the Palumbos were frauds and he did. It was time to get out while the getting was good."
"Yeah? And what about our amnesty?" grumbled the Kid.
"I told you! I left a receipt and only took what he owed us. That makes it a legal dispute between him and two men called Smith and Jones. It's got nothing to do with our amnesty."
They rode in silence for a few minutes before the Kid spoke again. "You know what you are, Heyes?"
"A genius?" he asked, hopefully.
The Kid shook his head. "There's gotta be a word for it... but whatever it is, it sure ain't... 'Honourable!'"
For my mother, Annie- Nar cridhe 'snar cuimhne gu bràth - she will live in our hearts forever.
Turning tables, séances and psychic meetings were a huge fad in the nineteenth century, continuing through to the early twentieth century when improved scientific tests debunked the claims of many of the practitioners. There were also many determined debunkers who made it their business to weed out the fraudsters, chief amongst whom was Harry Houdini.
The medium sat away from the table and started to be restrained after so many were found to be wandering around under cover of darkness. At first, they were tied to the chair, then cabinets were used and eventually cages, such as those described in the story. Darkness was required as the psychics claimed that light damaged them when they were in a trance.
There were some infamous trials and exposés such as the Fox sisters and Elizabeth Parsons, who admitted to fakery and disclosed how they managed to make rapping noises with their feet and used strings attached to items to create other noises around the room. Others, like Eusapia Palladino, moved items by attaching hairs which could not be seen in the dark, but would be almost impossible to find once snapped off.
The aptly named William Crookes was the man caught pirouetting around the room in a white dress, but certainly wasn't the only one who did this, and at the other end of the scale, Florrie Cook was found under the table in her underwear.
Many of the methods used have been included in the story. Most were not particularly clever and were easily caught by those seeking the truth.
Lucia Sordi was caught sneaking out of a cage under exactly the circumstances described in the story.
Ectoplasm was commonly manifested at meetings and was found to be cotton wool (cotton balls in the USA), cheesecloth, etc, and was hidden in every orifice of the body (and I mean EVERY orifice). The magician's friend, regurgitation, was also used and the phenomenon of ectoplasm was finally put to rest when the 'psychics' were x-rayed. Helen Duncan ran screaming from a scientific test when she discovered that she was to be x-rayed.
I would like to thank PJ for his invaluable help in researching this story.
The leotard was named after Jules Léotard who created the Maillot for use in his act. Performers quickly dubbed it the 'léotard', and although it was designed for men, women also quickly started relishing the freedom it gave them in performing physical acts. By the time Jules died in 1870, it was generally called the 'leotard', even outside of the performing world, as the word entered general vocabulary and was first mentioned in the dictionary in 1886.