Open - Content Warning Sideshow of Shalott
[warning: transphobia/fetishization, but he's reclaiming it to empower himself]

Mazarin now had his own tent - a small one, for a small act. To be looked at, not touched, and still be paid? he'd gladly spend all his luck on it.

He could not sing, he could not dance, nor play instruments, but he could recite, declaim, and so he decided to do that, rather than stand about and display himself like a dress shop dummy. Tonight he did Tennyson. He felt some kinship with Elaine - a seer. Since early youth, he had tucked his sight away, for running through Whitechapel's wretched courts and alleys would mean madness had he let the spirits break in. But though Madsmoor was rife with ghosts, he felt less claustrophobic and choked. He could always see the sky - the sweeping moors like rocky waves. Somehow it made sight more tolerable. Welcome. Come to me, tell me everything.

The idea for the act came from himself. What could he offer to bring in ticket money? He had long put to rest the idea of his own anomaly. He was real as stone in its endless formation, and air in its immaterial chill and heat, why question the shape of his own body?

He'd had Ellis' help. Ellis he knew from London. The former Owenson boy. He'd suggested padding in the breast, but Mazarin declined, opting instead for a ballet dress, flat and corseted, and cut open below the waist. Hair in Gibson girl fashion, and gloves. It was a different presentation from the typical bearded woman. Most oft she was a 'she', and displayed only her face for to let children see too.

An arrangement of an illusory parlour was made, and he stood by a small table and settee, to make like he was entertaining house guests in a home. If he had not already made humiliation a profession, he'd be mortified.
Apparently, Mr. Schwartz’s grandson had never been to Madsmoor. Decades of owning the property, and they had not so much as taken advantage of its summering opportunities. This left more questions than it answered, and trying to find them had Saul Gladstone determined to visit the circus instead. Last time he had seen him, they had been working separate cases in London.

He missed the community, though he did not miss the Sword of Damocles that seemed to follow him wherever loved ones’ eyes could follow him.

Speaking of inappropriate staring, there were all sorts of awkward human beings on display here.

“This is a poorly planned assassination,”
Zechariah said in Yiddish when he saw a sword swallower, indeed, swallowing a sword.

“Ease up,
Mire, his compatriot laughed. “It is a den of thieves – not an assassin’s lounge!”

“If you wish to see men acting animals,” Zechariah retorted, this time in English, “we merely need wake up and return to work.”

Saul made a face at his willful rudeness, then perked up at the sight of a tent.

“What about women acting men?” he returned in English.

With a disapproving breath through his nose, Zechariah nonetheless followed as Saul peeled back the tent flap.

Saul hissed in a breath and stepped back at the blatant display.

“Oh my,” Saul laughed.

Zechariah remained with his hands clasped behind his back, face statuesque if not a little bored looking. The way he dressed was far more flamboyant than their ill-fated kiss, though somehow he seemed more drab despite it. It was hard to tell if the harsh stare was just simple scrutiny, or if there was a glint of something more behind it.
“ ‘But in her web she still delights...’ “ He took a generous three seconds to pause and survey Green Zechariah himself. He’d rather see that face from London than any policeman’s, at least. “ ‘To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often thro' the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights

Or when the moon was overhead
Came two young lovers lately wed;
'I am half sick of shadows,' said
The Lady of Shalott.
’ “

Concluding Part II was enough for today. He curtsied in a way that didn’t suit him at all, and went behind a curtain.
Content Warning: Racism.

There was a twitch of Zechariah’s lip at the three-second delay, and it seemed to flicker between a smirk and a scowl.

As soon as the ‘bearded woman’ stepped out of sight, it was though Mazarin had ceased to exist to him.

“Oh! Look, there’s a gypsy reading fortune cards!” Saul piped up. “... Come on, you know what I mean.”

Zechariah merely made a disapproving noise, and then they were moving on to the next thing.


When Mazarin opened his tent the next day, a bottle sat in front of it. The brandy label had curled with age, and there was dust clinging to some of the crevices in the way of something that had been wiped down recently but mostly forgotten. It was empty but for a rolled up piece of paper inside:
fancy-ass handwriting Wrote:Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,
And in a little while our lips are dumb.
Let us alone. What is it that will last?
All things are taken from us, and become
Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.
The note, on the contrary, was on quality parchment and smelled like whoever wrote it damn well sweat cologne.
Mazarin took the bottle, half-awake and in his nightclothes, and assumed it was either a gift from a colleague or smitten fan. All his sympathies to the latter. But he uncorked it and there was nothing but paper inside. That would explain the light heft.

Yawning, he took it all inside the tent and set out preparing the space for the afternoon show. Pulling the flaps apart and tying them with thick, tasselled rope. The air was frigid. He ought to bring a bloody brazier inside so his bits didn't freeze and smash to pieces. When things were opened, he buried himself beneath several carpets and moth-eaten afghans and read the note.
Mazarin could not get away this time. That pleased and unnerved him all the same. He had kept the bottle all this time as a foreboding reminder against slumming again.

… It might have sat untouched for years before that.

For whatever reason, his case pile was as appealing as ever. Suddenly, Madsmoor at night held a cheery, winter charm that he just had to go out and... enjoy. In the freezing cold. At the circus. He had a few days before Chanukah chaos, after which his home had been graciously volunteered as tribute for God knew how many people from how far and wide (and long).

So of course he spent his last chances for fresh air wandering some wretched circus, lurking outside Mazarin’s tent and debating going in or just contenting himself with the idea that Mazarin was probably the more miserable of the two.

Depending on the tent’s lighting and flimsiness or lack thereof, Mazarin might spy a man’s silhouette off to the side of the tent.
He puzzled over the context. It could simply mean anything. What came first to mind was the simplest: ‘leave me alone you wretched thing’. As if his showing up was some fault of Mazarin’s. Other interpretations included: a wistful regret, an apology, a threat, et cetera.

“We begin at noon. Go away.” He said to the lurker. For were it a fellow then they’d surely come inside without dawdling.
“Ah. Your hours have changed.”

A better command of English had done nothing to soften his edges.
When had he delivered the bottle? Had he been skulking about all night?

He groaned and rubbed his temples. “Do you want something?”
It was the middle of the next night rather than outright creeper hours (this time), but it still was not the least creepy antics. my bad for not clarifying that whoops

“Perhaps I just wanted to see you again.”

Somehow, that did not sound comforting.
“The front of the tent is open.” Why was he lurking so? it didn’t create the best impression. He wished he’d kept his gun.
“Not that much of you,” he huffed, but circled around to the front.

His hands were in his pockets, and his winter garb was probably warmer than the entire tent. The dense velvet scarf was wrapped loosely about his face, rather than worn as some sort of brothel-burglaring mask – his hat did no more than average to obscure his face. Just his form blocking the tent opening cut some of the draftiness.

“This is what you left London for.”

There was a suspicious note to his voice that had been absent in his youth.
He sat up, pulling the blankets closer. “No, it isn’t.”
"Why are you here?" He did look handsome, all grown up. Probably had a wife now. Poor woman.

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