Playella | Vanishing Act by Janice Hallett

Playellas are Descent’s series of tiny plays for your new writing quick fix.

Vanishing Act

Vanishing Act by Janice Hallett

Our Man runs out of the wet, night mist and skids to a halt beneath a street lamp. Swirling fog clears to reveal a Shifty Man.

Our Man: They said I’d find you here. I need to disappear. Now.

Shifty Man: Butcher Murphy’s your man. The docks. Midnight. Ask for O’Neil.

Our Man checks his watch, is swallowed by the mist. A clock strikes twelve. The mist clears. Our Man faces O’Neil.

O’Neil: Butcher Murphy? Don’t mess with him if you don’t have to.

Our Man: I killed someone. Behind the Six Bells. Need to disappear.

O’Neil: Then he’s the only one who can help. (he points) Ask Riley.

Our Man runs to where Riley leans on a wall.

Our Man: I’m in trouble. Need to see Butcher Murphy.

Riley: (shrugs) Butcher Murphy? If he’s here, he’ll be on the end pier.

Our Man tears off to where a huge, ominous figure is shrouded in shadow against the thin moonlight. Our Man approaches carefully.

Our Man: Butcher Murphy?

The man barely turns.

Man: Who’s asking?

Our Man: Done something bad. Need to disappear. They said he could help.

Man: He could. Trouble is, guy put a knife in him today. Behind the six bells.

Our Man’s blood runs cold. He falls to his knees. Everything lost.

The Man moves out of shadow into thin moonlight. His shirt is wet, blood-soaked. He pulls a knife from his ribcage, looks long and hard at Our Man.

Butcher Murphy: Lucky he didn’t die. (beat) Sure, I’ll help you disappear.

Our Man cowers under Butcher Murphy’s blade as we snap to black.


Janice’s play Loot will be performed as part of Descent Shorts on the 7th February at the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone. More info

Illustration by Guy Warner.

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