Wardrobe Lady really was very, very angry. It didn’t help that virtually every crew member was watching us – and that most of them were enjoying the show. I caught more than one snicker of amusement.
From out of nowhere, Armstrong appeared. ‘What’s the problem here?’
Wardrobe Lady raised one long, henna-covered finger and jabbed it at me. ‘Her! She changed Number Ten’s clothing!’
Armstrong raised his eyebrows. ‘Did she?’
‘Yes! She needs to be fired immediately.’
Uh-oh. I hoped the secret mission Armstrong had given me would supersede Wardrobe Lady’s desire for revenge. ‘I didn’t mean anything by it,’ I said. ‘I can change her clothes back if you really want.’
Armstrong looked round. Harriet was still standing apart from the others, her cheeks flushed. He swept his gaze up and down her figure and shrugged. ‘She looks fine to me. She’s still mousy enough.’
Harriet went even redder. If she’d had any doubts before as to her place on this show, she hadn’t now. Maybe it would be the making of her but more likely she’d curse me until the day I died for supposedly ruining everything. I know people; if they can find someone to blame for their woes then they will – and a runner like me was an easy target.
‘She does not look fine!’ Wardrobe Lady yelled.
Armstrong patted her on the arm. ‘Yes, she does.’ His voice was firmer this time. ‘Off you go and sew some hems or,’ he paused, ‘whatever it is you do around here.’ He twisted round on his heel and walked back towards the stage.
The woman’s mouth tightened. If I’d thought she was angry before, it was nothing compared to now. Her expression contorted with unsatiated rage. ‘I’m not done with you,’ she promised me in an undertone before whirling off.
Well that hadn’t exactly gone to plan. How to win friends and influence people by Ivy Wilde. Or not.
I ignored the stares I was garnering from everyone else and resolutely turned back to the front. Moonbeam was already off, chatting away to one of the producers and occasionally throwing looks in my direction. I lifted my chin and gave him an enthusiastic wave. It didn’t make him very happy.
I really was going to have to try harder if I was going to find out any useful information from this lot before I antagonised them all into avoiding me for good. The only positive thing was that no one seemed to want me to run off on yet another errand. At least I’d get to watch the show’s opening without interruption.
Belinda Battenapple, who’d barely lifted a perfectly manicured eyebrow at all during the commotion, was shaking herself in what could only be some kind of pre-show ritual. She started with her feet, raising one then the other before allowing her jiggles to travel up her body. Her actions made her look more like a dog who’d been for a swim than a world-famous television presenter – though I was hardly in a position to judge.
When she began flicking her head from side to side, the morning sun caught a glimmer of something round her neck. Frowning, I edged closer for another look. She was wearing a silver necklace with a small vial attached to it. It was certainly pretty, but that wasn’t what had grabbed my interest. The contents of the vial were what were really fascinating. From this angle, it appeared to be some kind of liquid, not dissimilar to mercury. There was also a strange etching on the glass. Before I could read what it said, she realised it was dangling out of her shirt and hastily tucked it away. Interesting.
From the far corner of the stage, Armstrong checked his watch. The show wasn’t going out live so I could only imagine that he was trying to stick to a strict schedule to make sure nothing was missed. He strode forward and made an incomprehensible gesture in the direction of the cameras. The operators seemed to understand what he meant because they immediately straightened their backs.
‘Quiet on set!’ someone yelled.
The bustle of activity stilled. Armstrong murmured something to Belinda and she nodded. It was time.
‘Remember folks,’ he said, to everyone and no one in particular, ‘we are making history here.’ And with that, he stepped off the stage and headed for a chair with his name emblazoned on the back. A delicious shiver ran down my arms. It was showtime.
A crew member gave Belinda’s invisible microphone a final check before she shooed him away and stepped up to her mark. Her features visibly transformed as she glowed into the cameras. ‘It’s Friday,’ she breathed. Actually it wasn’t. It was Monday but I wasn’t going to argue with her. ‘And we are here in the stunning Highlands of Scotland for the most epic, most unique and most special series of Enchantment every created. Twelve new contestants are waiting in the wings and all of them have special skills and abilities. All of them want to win the coveted Trophy of Spells. And all of them know that,’ she paused for dramatic flourish before she launched into her catchphrase, ‘Magic. Is. In. The. Air. Welcome back to Enchantment!’
This was awesome. At least until the screaming started.
At first, I thought it was Wardrobe Lady again. Maybe Belinda had committed some terrible infraction by wearing the wrong tartan on her miniskirt. It wasn’t her though – it was one of the assistant directors who had emerged from a trailer at the far end of the set.
He ran a few metres towards the crew, all of whom stared at him frozen in shock. I didn’t think it was because of the strangled sounds still coming from somewhere deep inside him, although they were awful enough. The crew’s combined lack of movement probably had more to do with the blood that was dripping from his hands and staining the patchy grass in front of him.
I ran to his side. Despite the blood, which seemed to be drenching him, I couldn’t see any visible wounds. It didn’t even appear to be his blood. If he wasn’t in immediate physical danger, there were other pressing concerns. It was vital not to touch him and contaminate any possible evidence, but I also needed him to calm down or he’d give himself an aneurysm. He was still wearing his ID badge and, although it was splattered with blood, his name was visible.
‘Marcus,’ I said softly. He kept on screaming. ‘Marcus,’ I repeated. ‘Look at me.’
As if my words had broken the statue-like shock of the others, several people rushed towards us.
‘Back off!’ I yelled. ‘And don’t touch him!’
Security appeared from all directions. Most were running towards us but some were scanning the perimeter, as if expecting to see a horde of attackers appear. Enchantment’s medical team also arrived from the other side of the stage and I was shoved out of the way.
‘Marcus! Are you alright?’ People swarmed around him. The contestants were being ushered away to safety but I spotted a pale-faced Armstrong point to one of the mobile camera units. Without a second’s hesitation, they came running over, already in the process of filming. Somehow I didn’t think this was an appropriate candid-camera moment.
‘He’s fine,’ I said over the hubbub. Physically anyway.
Nobody heard me. I gritted my teeth. Whatever evidence that had been clinging to poor Marcus had already been compromised by the people checking him over. I raised my head and glanced at the trailer he’d emerged from. The door was hanging open; from this distance, there was nothing to be seen inside other than darkness. I flattened my mouth into a grim line. Whatever had spooked him had come from there.
I veered round the crowd and strode over, taking care not to step near Marcus’s bloody footsteps. I didn’t have to get near before the smell of the blood overtook me. It had been strong enough around Marcus, but the reek coming from the trailer was choking. There was also an odd sour tinge to it, which I couldn’t make sense of. One thing was clear: there was no way that the still-screaming Marcus had walked into the trailer while it was like this. Whatever had happened took place when he was already inside.
A gust of wind caught the hanging door, momentarily swinging it shut. The name taped onto it, along with a purple trail of stars for added effect, was Trevor Bellows. For a moment I forgot to breathe. Was that whose blood this was? Sudden fear for Brutus drenched me – although if my contrary cat had got himself killed he could only blame himself.