A little Agatha Christie-inspired sleight of hand?
|“You checked the box, right? Everything’s ready?” Will asked Perry, one of his two assistants.
“Of course, boss! Can’t wait to try this new twist on the locked box trick! Everyone does spears or saws or burying. Even our old standby—putting it underwater—is getting common these days. But crushing the box with a car dropped from a crane above the stage? That’s a first in the magic biz, as far as I know.”
Will smiled warmly and patted Perry on the shoulder.
“Yeah, we’ve been doing this together for a while now, huh? It’s fun to do something new.”
“Yeah, boss. It is.”
"Just remember—you owe me!"
"Yeah, boss." Perry's lips quivered slightly.
Will turned to Susan and frowned.
“What are you wearing? I thought you liked wearing sexy clothes.”
“It’s still sexy; it’s just a little less revealing. I get cold in the other costume, and I was just hoping to wear this one tonight.”
Will walked up to Susan and ran his eyes down her body.
“Sorry, Suse. The other one’s better.”
She frowned, then spun on her heel and returned to the dressing room to change. Perry’s lips twitched.
Will and Perry checked the cables and the release on the crane.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking having a car dangling overhead for the entire performance, isn’t it, boss?”
“A little,” Will admitted. “It’ll be worth it though.”
The performance had gone swimmingly, and it was now time for the grand finale. Will addressed the audience as the lights dimmed.
“Now you’ve probably seen others perform variations of this trick… but you’ve never seen it quite like this! I’m going to be locked in a box… then we’re going to drop a car on it.”
Will smirked at the murmur that rippled through the audience.
“Now I know what you’re thinking—there’s a fake floor underneath the box, and I’ll escape that way. But our stage floor is concrete. It has to be to handle a car dropping on it! Besides, we’re going to raise the box onto a table.”
Will pointed the audience’s attention to the table with a flourish of his hand.
“I know what you’re thinking now: the table will have a curtain obscuring the view underneath, right? Except it won’t! You’ll have a clear view the entire time until it is crushed to splinters by the car.”
Will paused for dramatic effect, continuing only after the whispers ceased once more.
“Now, so that you know that the audience member isn’t a plant, I’m going to let you all choose a volunteer to verify what I’m telling you. Now anyone who wishes to volunteer, please stand.”
Several members of the audience stood up. Will pointed at each, using the audience’s level of applause to determine the winner. When a man with a bushy mustache stood, the applause was noticeably more boisterous. Will chuckled at their choice’s ridiculous facial hair, then shook the amusement from his face to proceed with the show, marching the volunteer to the stage. The man passed a hand under the table, then felt the floor to verify that there were no seams or false compartments.
Concluding the showy display with the mustached man’s attestation against any tricks, Will took a small step backward, hands clasped behind him, and furtively pressed the button. Secret, mirrored flaps dropped from the bottom of the table. Will finally entered the box with a flourish, his scantily-clad assistant locking it immediately after he lowered his head and closed the cover. As the drum roll began, Will pressed the release that would send him through the bottom of the table, where carefully placed mirrors would hide his escape as he rolled under the back curtain on the stage before the car dropped.
Except that it didn’t. Send him.
He pressed the release again.
His thoughts whirled. Susan. It had to be. Not fully trusting even Perry, his longtime help, he had checked the mechanism before the show had begun, and it had worked correctly. Once the show began, she was the only other person on stage with access to the box. But how had she done it? She hadn’t come close to the box until she locked it. And he was already inside at that point, with no way for her to tamper with it. It just didn’t make sense!
Eyes darting wildly in the blackness, Will screamed for Perry to stop, but his longtime pal apparently didn’t hear him. Will’s stomach dropped in perfect synchronization with the car as he heard the click of the crane’s hook. Less than a second later, the audience heard a loud crunching noise and watched a gruesome splatter of blood and flesh explode across the stage.
When the audience, the paramedics, and police had gone, traumatized by the public and grisly accident, Perry and Susan slumped to the ground, exhausted.
A squeak from the far end of the auditorium echoed through the empty space, announcing the opening of a door. The click of footsteps sounded through the hall as the mustached volunteer from the audience approached the stage. Coming to a stop before the two assistants, he stroked his facial hair thoughtfully.
“I told you they’d pick me. It’s the ‘stache. No one can resist rooting for its owner.” He twitched his upper lip to send a tremor through the prominent feature, then gave a crooked grin.
“Nice work, Uncle George!” replied Susan. “I was watching you pretty closely, and even I couldn’t even see you unhook the release inside the box, you were so fast.”
Uncle George bowed theatrically.
Eyes moving between the other two, Perry’s eyes widened as if in shock… before he finally broke into laughter.
“Now we’re finally free of the pig,” he said. “Rest in peace, Will. Or should I say: rest in pieces?”
All three of them chuckled as Perry took Susan in his arms and gave her a long, hard kiss. They left the stage through the back entrance, together, in jovial spirits.
“I’d say out-magicking the magician was our finest achievement yet…” said Perry, squeezing Susan toward him as they walked out.
She touched a finger to his nose and gave him an affectionate smile.