Grand Guginol

The crowd started shuffling in ‘bout 8 o’clock, the street tramps rubbing shoulders wit’ the visiting bourgeois. I wondered how many of the more well-heeled folk would walk out a’ here wit’ their money, life, or both. The stage lights came up. The play itself weren’t a bad ‘un, a retelling a’ the Garm Saga wit’ all the blood. Garm had just bitten off Tyr’s hand wit’ his iron jaws when the intermission curtain came down. I braced meself.

The conductor’s “sister” sang out the age-old words while the orchestra played. Slow but sure, it changed the whole feel a’ the room, like opening me eyes for the first time. I could feel the cockroaches skitter, the women getting hot flashes, the rats squeaking, the men getting excited. Where’er life was in that theater, I felt connected to it.

When the final notes were winding down, I realized that there was one person I hadn’t felt: the manager. I whirled around just in time to see Hierophant Rhames get sapped by a blackjack and a gun press against me face.

“Show’s over, Mr. Grimstone,” Inspector Bart said, his skull face offset by a pair a’ red eyes in the sockets. “Let’s go.”

He cocked the hammer while the audience gave the first standing ovation to the theater since it stopped bein’ legitimate. We left.


Bart must ha’ thought he was bein’ clever leadin’ me back to the manure pile. His skull face weren’t something I wanted to see again, but it beat the smug look on his face when his glamour came back out on the street. He kept his revolver in his pocket while we walked, pushing at me back through the fabric.

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