Otter had nowadays moved into acting and backstage production and was today doing the costumes for the stage adaptation of the acclaimed Ealing comedy The Ladykillers at the Gielgud Theatre.
Jeremy got off the taxi at Piccadilly Circus and picked up the ticket he had booked on the phone. The show was due to start at 7:45 p.m. He presented his ticket at the entrance. Then he jotted his name down on the back of a Barrett Stavers business card, handed it to one of the ushers, and asked for Otter. A few minutes later he was led backstage where he was greeted with screams of delight by the man in person.
‘O. M. G., Jeremy! Welcome, welcome to my parlour baby boy. How is Harry? I was gonna give him a call soon anyways because . . .’ He lowered his voice into a whisper, bringing his mouth next to Jeremy’s ear and covering it with his hand: ‘. . . I have an offer from a Broadway producer to join a gig in New York for a spell.’ Otter withdrew from his ear. ‘Yeah? So how exciting is that? My black grandma would have been thrilled if only she were here, bless her soul.’ He winked and clapped his hands.
‘Come, come this way.’ Otter took Jeremy’s hand in his and led him to an empty dressing room lit with dim yellowish-white lights that looked like a dungeon full of colourful costumes, makeup, props and chests of showbiz treasures, the door of which he carefully closed and locked behind them.
‘I need to get Harry to look at this contract of mine and see how soon I can get out of this one without badly riling somebody’s feathers.’ Otter pulled out an old brown wooden suitcase from under a desk, its exterior covered with badges of West End shows stuck onto it. He dug into it through a pile of costumes, masks and other props and pulled out a cardboard folder.
‘Take a look at this. What do you think?’ He pushed Jeremy onto the sofa covered with costumes, tossed the file onto his lap, and stood expectantly with one hand on his hip jutted out sideways.
Jeremy turned the pages, pretending to read through and understand it all. ‘I’m going to have to get our expert, Harry, to take a look at this also, Otter. Why don’t I take a photocopy with me tonight?’
‘A photocopy, yes. Well, there’s no copier in here, Gem. I don’t want any of these bitches to see me doing this because you know they are fucking gossips.’
‘There are several newsagents outside. Why don’t I find a copier and make a copy? I can bring this back to you in ten minutes,’ Jeremy suggested.
Otter sat up next to him and put a hand on his knee. ‘You are a lifesaver, darling. But guard that with your life. Now what can I do for you?’
Jeremy slid the contract under his Jacket.
‘Well, I need someone who has seen photographs of me not to recognize me, Otter. Darker hair, maybe a moustache, slightly more aged and greying? A few extra pounds of weight perhaps? We can keep it light because these men have only seen my pictures on the newspapers and possibly on TV. I need it on me for Saturday.’
‘Of course, leave it to Otter. When I’m done with you your mama won’t recognize you, Gem. Your mama will say, whozaaatt?’
Otter got back up and gave him a hand up. Otter often shortened his name to Gem. Jeremy liked it. If he ever got into a stage career he would call himself Gem, he thought.