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Chapter 71: Shakespeareland

John took one look at the street in front of him and decided this was what Walt Disney would have done to Shakespeare. Okay, he admitted, Disney would have gone a lot farther.  It would have had a Tower of London ride with an evil, hunchback Richard III, a Battle of Agincourt ride, and people dressed like walking trees from Macbeth.  Still, he did feel like he was now entering "Shakespeareland," as he walked down the block past the kiosks hawking Shakespeare souvenirs and the man in a doublet and breeches advertising his guided tour of Shakespearean buildings.

He dodged a group of gawking tourists and headed toward the entrance of the theater.  There had been no signs of life at the address Andrew had given him, so John hoped Drew would be at work.  A school group -- all boys in knee-length shorts and suit jackets -- was blocking his way and he had to wait for the boys to stop shoving one another long enough to get the attention of the man at the door.

"I'm looking for Ralph Prentice-Fairbanks, one of your makeup artists."  John almost said the wrong last name, but remembered Andrew's "as in Douglas Fairbanks" before he misspoke.

"Sorry, mate," the doorman said.  "Can't help you with that.  Just started meself."

"Is there a supervisor around?  It's pretty important."  John waited as the man nodded and signaled a woman inside the theater.  She came over, had a brief whispered exchange with the doorman and then came outside.

"I understand you were asking about Ralph."  She eyed John suspiciously.

"Yes." he said.  "I have to get in touch with him."

"I'm under strict orders not to divulge information about him."

"Orders from whom?" he asked.

"I can't say."

"Well can you at least tell me if he's working here today?"  John fell back on his cover story.  "I've got some urgent news about his family."  She shook her head and turned away, returning to the theater.  "Damn," John muttered.  The last thing he really wanted to do was stake-out the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He thought through what Andrew had told him about Drew.  The boyfriend ran a pub nearby, so maybe he could get a lead there.  He looked at the guidebook he had purchased at the airport in Oxford when he landed.  It had a list of Stratford restaurants and pubs, so he looked them over.  Andrew had said that a lot of actors went to the pub after shows, so it probably was pretty close to the theater.  Of course, just from where he stood, he could see a bunch of pubs and bars.

"Well, John," he said to himself.  "Good thing you can walk these days."

John actually had to admit that it was kind of fun to be back on a case.  Even something as trivial as trying to find a man in a pub reminded him of the work he used to do in Salem.  Walk around, interview witnesses, and put together the clues.  Deep down, he was still a cop.

He tried The Dirty Duck and The Encore first, but nobody seemed to be owned by anyone named Geoffrey.  But he got lucky at his third stop, The Stage Inn.  On the wall, just by the entrance, John saw a plaque that read "Proprietor - Geoffrey Harris."

Unfortunately, he suspected that neither of the men behind the bar was Geoffrey.  Both looked to be in their early 20s.  John headed over to the closer of the two.

"What can I get you?" the bartender asked.

"Actually, I'm trying to find Mr. Harris.  Is he around?"

The bartended shook his head.  "Nope, sorry, yank.  He's on holiday."

"With Ralph?" John asked.

"Of course," said the bartender, who started to look a bit suspicious.  He studied John.  "Why are you asking?"

"Whoa, pal, don't worry."  John used his most easygoing tone.  "I'm a friend of Ralph's brother and have to talk to him."

The bartender broke into a wide grin and looked toward the other man behind the bar.  "Hey, Greg, this bloke's a friend of Ralph's brother."

The other man laughed.  "You a spy too?"

John nearly choked as he blurted out, "What?"

The bartended near John chuckled.  "I always figured Ralph was taking the piss with all those stories of his brother the super-spy.  So what does Ralph's brother actually do?  Can't wait to call him on it when he gets back."

John suppressed a groan.  That sounded just like Drew.  Shane could put in place every precaution to protect him, like directing that nobody give out any information at the theater, but keeping Drew silent was an impossibility.

"Mate?  Did you hear me?  I asked what Ralph's brother actually does."

"Oh. . . ."  John tried to think fast and then said the first thing that popped into his head.  "An accountant."

Both bartenders began laughing hysterically.  "Oh, that's rich," the one nearest said.

John sighed.  "Can you at least tell me where they went on vacation?"

"Sorry, mate.  They kept that under wraps."

It figured.  Drew probably told them all about his life in the ISA and all about Shane, but kept secret where he was going on vacation.  John asked one more question.  "Do you have any idea when they'll be back?"

"Yeah, should be two weeks Monday.  I can tell Ralph you were looking for him."

"No," John said, shaking his head.  "I'll come back or go by their house.  Thanks for you help."

John turned and walked out of the pub.  Wonderful.  Now he had a two-week vacation in the Cotswolds.  He wished Marlena was with him.  He missed her already.  Damn.  Well, maybe he would get lucky and find something at Donovan Manor.

He turned and headed back through the door, anxious to get away from "Shakespeareland."

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