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Find The Key

Find The Key - Tim Butler

“Truly an incredible spectacle,” the impresario hunted frantically through the pockets of his braided red jacket as he spoke. “The greatest feat of escapology since Houdini!” 

It was true, the escape artist was the best act the show had ever had. Good enough to knock the lion tamer off the top of the bill. He was blindfolded, handcuffed, and shut in a water-filled milk churn with the keys locked inside. After just enough time to get the audience wondering if he might not make it after all, he would emerge. Panting and soaking wet and holding an open pair of handcuffs above his head. But not tonight. Tonight wasn't going to plan.

Fifteen minutes had elapsed on the stage clock, he had never gone past ten before. This was bad.
“How long can he last underwater?” He didn't mean to say it out loud, but panic was setting in. To hell with the show, he had to let him out. Finally his fingers closed on something - the emergency key, it must be. He palmed it and gave it a surreptitious once over. It was a key alright, but not the right one. This was the handcuff key the act was supposed to have with him inside the churn.

Then he remembered. He’d got lion crap on his jacket while helping out The Great Rudolfo the night before and the lion tamer’s wife had given him this one to wear instead. Wouldn't take no for an answer. Damn it, that’s where his emergency key had got to; and this must be the escape artist’s coat he was wearing.
“What a show eh, folks!” It was going to be show to remember alright if he couldn't get that churn open. 

He looked desperately into the wings, maybe the stage manager could help him out. He was surprised to see Rodolfo and his wife (Eliza the Fearless) watching the show. That was odd, he thought, they hated the escapologist. They both waved back at him, smiling. A dark suspicion blossomed in his mind. But no, surely they wouldn't go that far just to regain top billing?  The clock was up to nearly twenty minutes. How long could he survive? He decided to put a stop to things.

“Sorry folks,” he began, “shows over. Looks like…” He was interrupted by a huge crash as gallons of water poured out onto the stage. Spinning round he saw the milk churn was lying on its side with the escape artist spewed on the floor in front of it. He was a little blue in the face but very much alive; and furthermore, he had escaped.

The audience rose to their feet as the escapologist rose shakily to his. 
“They love it,” he whispered. “Let’s do the same tomorrow night.”