The Opera Glasses
There was the unmistakable thwack of a harshly closed fan.
“You’re in my seat,” said Miss Lacey.
“Is that so?” replied Mr Kimble.
He did not get up. He reclined deeper in the plush, red cushions. Creighton smirked, and withdrew into the corner of the box. He nodded to Davenport, Miss Lacey’s companion. She returned his nod, and then fixed her eyes sharply forward.
“I would hate to inform the management, Mr Kimble,” she continued.
He shrugged. “This is a public box for which I purchased a ticket, same as you.”
There was an almost imperceptible flash of light, and a ticket appeared among his fingers, summoned from inside his jacket pocket. She rolled her eyes at his petty magics, and slid into the free seat beside him.
“I did not take you for a fan of Wagner,” she said.
“Oh, I come for the people watching really,” he replied. “Like, for instance, I heard that man in the box across is the King of Prussia.”
She stiffened, adjusting her pearls.
“Oh yes,” she said, in her best attempt at nonchalance. “I heard the gossip too, but dismissed it as quite idle. Is he really?”
“Indeed,” he answered. “The same King of Prussia that has come to England’s shores to negotiate a treaty to end the Channeler’s War. The treaty that your associates are quite opposed to, since it would reduce their ability to profit from the sale of magical weaponry.”
“I know not what you speak of. Now, the performance is starting.”
She let her fan swing from its wrist strap, and unfolded her opera glasses. The Valkyrie took to the stage and began to sing. Miss Lacey nodded approvingly.
“You’re missing the performance, Henry,” she said, from the corner of her mouth. “If you keep looking at me, you’ll have wasted a ticket, and people will begin to talk.”
She focused the opera glasses on the performer, and then swung them up to regard the King of Prussia. It had to be the opera glasses, he thought. That was the only way she could do it, it must be a long range curse.
“Are those spelled for vision?” he asked. “May I see?”
She handed them over, and he examined them, feigning an interest in the ocular mechanism. They were perfectly normal, as far as he could see. No spells, no tell-tale dull heat of enchantment, no ingenious device designed to murder someone.
“I can’t figure it out, Lucinda,” he whispered.
“Quite simple really – they’re all after this magic ring,” she whispered in return.
“Not the opera. You.”
“Oh, I’m a woman of mystery, Henry.”
He studied her intently. If it wasn’t the glasses, it must be the fan. Or the necklace. Miss Lacey wouldn’t risk her social standing to fire a spell across the opera house, so perhaps she intended to poison his drink in the interval, or stick him with a blade when he greeted them after the performance. He regarded her from head to toe, from golden curls, to heaving bosom, to petite feet. Beautiful, well-dressed, but not concealing a weapon or charm.
The curtain dropped to announce the interval.
There was a strangled cry from across the way, followed by gasps and screams of horror from the audience. Kimble’s head jerked immediately towards the Royal Box. The King of Prussia lay slumped across his mistress’ gown, blood erupting from his throat and staining her crushed velvet.
“Time we were leaving, Davenport,” she said, standing up and passing her servant the opera glasses. “I find this German stuff all rather boring.”
She leaned into whisper as she passed.
“I was the honey this time, Henry, not the sting. Pay more attention next time.”
The sequel to Baklava