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Arisophanes was taking in a new production of an off West End play called “The Penitent Woman” which despite the title, was a light comedy. The curiously named Welshman’s Theatre off the Strand was not large, with space for barely a hundred, but it did have a reputation for putting on adventurous new work.

Privately Aritstophanes didn’t see how a light comedy of manners could be seen as radical theatre, but he did owe the promoter a favour after accidentally ruining an important dinner party by setting the tablecloth alight while attempting to demonstrate some scientific process or other. He’d agreed to review the play for “Arts of London” monthly, and promised to mention the comfortable and intimate demeanour of the venue even if the play was rather duff. Which frankly it was; the leading lady was an inexperienced 21 year old called Penelope who kept falling, never mind treading on the lines of her fellow cast members. She was a pretty enough girl, and after foozling her lines for a third time she was looking more than penitent.

The fluffing of her lines was particularly grating, as tonight Aristophanes was wearing a device to help him hear quieter lines in theatres where the punters were a little less well behaved than should be – tonight, a rather merry couple had been talking too loudly during the early scenes before the man fell asleep.

It was a curious sort of hearing aid, consisting of two glass tubes that went into his ear, and curled up under his hat to meet at two sound collecting cones concealed within. Arranged front and back, they gave excellent enhanced 360 degree hearing in a discrete design, and enabled him to ignore the distractions around him in the theatre.

Only there was a new distraction, a new sound. A rustling, a gentle scraping as of manicured nails on silk. The sound of hand brushing faintly against silk and satin, and fine wools. Aristophanes was wearing a lurid moss green and yellow tweed, but he’ felt nothing as of yet.

More sounds, the gentle click and clatter of pearls making their way into a velvet bag, a gold bracelet being somehow removed from a slender society arm without the wearer noticing. Aristophanes smiled to himself, and flexed his fingers.

The sounds came closer…a jingling of coins, and the peculiar scrape of high heeled boots against carpet. Air being displaced, a gentle shockwave of displaced air mixed in with seductive scent, and skin as clear as a mountain stream…

Arisophanes shot his right arm out, and caught the slim wrist of a woung woman clad in black right down a rakishly perched hat, and eyes like the night under coal black hair.

“Oh sir, sir, I’m sorrry, I just dropped my…my engagement ring…I was just looking for it down here.”

Then she looked inhis eyes, and a surpressed flicker of recognition was there for him to see.

“Carina my dear, I’m sure it must be in that bag you are carrying,” he whispered. “Come out with me into the foyer, and let is look for it in better light, Miss Carina…”

Copyright Mulberry Lightning 22.10.14