The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans, Part 9: A Haunting At the Hellinger
January 25, 2012
Rehearsal continued, but it was as though the theater itself knew something was off. The orchestra stumbled through several songs. The whole of the chorus seemed reluctant to spread across the stage, thinking safety in numbers.
"There's definitely something going on." A lady in white with a wide brimmed hat murmured to a gentleman in a top hat.
"You’re imagining it, Margery."
"People, people, come on. We don't have all day." The director snapped his fingers and the cast snapped to, yet the sense of unease pervaded the auditorium. “Opening night is soon."
Leigh made a face at Rachel, who ignored it. She didn't spot the bearded phantom again for the rest of rehearsal though, and there were too many people around to investigate properly.
As soon as they were released from their costumes, Amanda, Joe and a few other cast members dragged Rachel and Leigh along with them for a post-rehearsal drink.
"Come on, let’s blow this joint." Amanda grabbed the door, ushering them out. "It’s creepy."
They went out to a tiny, noisy Italian restaurant, and even though Rachel tried to explain they didn't have any money at the moment (should Joe have forgotten the circumstances under which they met), Joe waved it off.
"It's alright. You can pay me off later in counterfeit bills."
"Haha." Rachel grimaced.
Joe ordered a massive pot of spaghetti and cheap beer that was mostly foam and they all crowded into a booth. Rachel drew a face in foam on the top of her glass and pondered the ghost.
"What do you think about the spirit?" A little red-headed actress, who was playing at least three roles (Rachel had counted) asked.
"It's not real."
"It is.” Another extra chimed in. “It floated through the second act last week."
"That's your imagination." Joe leaned back in his seat.
"It's not." She insisted.
"All theaters are haunted to some degree," Amanda spoke up. She had short dark hair and eyebrows that were painted on. She leaned in, "So you two are going to stay the night with me?"
"Only if you're absolutely sure." Leigh began.
"A-okay. My roommate's out of town and I'm used to noise."
As soon as the glasses were down to foam, Amanda was ready to go. Joe volunteered to escort them home, and they left the warmth of the restaurant for the chilly night air. Fortunately, Amanda only lived a few blocks away.
"Goodnight, Joe." Amanda kissed him quickly and left him on the doorstep.
"You’re heartless!" He called after her, laughingly.
"I’m an actress!" Amanda called back. "That kid." She shook her head as she led the way up the stairs to her apartment. "We’ve been in three productions together and he’s convinced we should have a romance."
"That’s nice," Leigh said noncommittally.
"Not really. I’m only doing this show until I can put my own act together.” She took a cigarette from the open pack on the table. “I’m a singer."
Amanda’s apartment that she shared with two other girls ("Josie and Fern, both of them have sailors for boyfriends and they got leave at the same time, wouldn’t you know it?") was little, but cozy. There was a cook stove, and a clothesline with lingerie hung up to dry.
"Coffee?" Amanda waved the pot at them.
"Please." Leigh murmured gratefully.
Amanda put the coffeepot on and soon the comforting smell of coffee spread through the room. She got out two short nightgowns and handed one to each of them.
"Help yourself, kids. I’m going to take a shower." She nodded to the double bed. "That’s you."
"Thanks again." Rachel told her.
As soon as the bathroom door was shut and the shower was turned on, Rachel turned to Leigh.
"Come on, we need to talk." She went over to the window and opened it. "Fire escape, now."
"It’s cold out there." Leigh protested.
"I don’t want Amanda to hear us. Come on." Rachel climbed out, and after a second, Leigh joined her.
"So spill." Rachel drew her knees up under her chin. Leigh was right. It was cold.
"I thought you wanted to talk." Leigh muttered, turning her collar up.
"I do. And I know you were getting info from the other cast members, so share."
"Well, I did do some research," Leigh admitted. "Two different members of the chorus have seen a shadowy figure hovering around the stage several times. A stagehand fell into the orchestra pit two days ago after seeing a bright light "dancing around in the air." Mrs. Morrissey has heard voices in the balcony when there’s no one there." She studied Rachel’s face. "None of this is making you reconsider, is it?"
"Nope. I'm pretty sure it's George Bernard Shaw. Judging from what I've heard, he seems to be the type who might be annoyed that they turned it into a musical."
"Of all the things..." Leigh closed her eyes.
"Writers are funny people. You don't want to mess with their work."
"So what are we going to do?"
"I appreciate that you said 'we' even though we both know that you are going to let me do this."
"Pretty much." Leigh settled herself more comfortably on the step.
"We need to find out more." Rachel blew on her hands, trying to warm them.
"Really?" Leigh said sadly.
"I don't think he's truly a vengeful spirit. I think he's just a frustrated playwright ghost." Rachel tucked her fingers inside her pockets.
Leigh sighed heavily. "I really need an espresso."
Rachel looked out across the city. “You and me both.”
To be continued...