smoke and mirrors by pyritefortune

21 Nov

I swirled the dregs, testily. Frederick has a remarkable knack for taking the edge off even the best single malt. Twenty-five year old Glenfarclas from an Oloroso cask, stashed under the bar for me by Williams, and no chance of any peace in which to savour it.

“Who’s been at you this time, Freddie? The hecklers getting to you again?”

“Dealing with hecklers is part of the craft, old boy, I’ve told you before. You got to work ’em, get the rest of the punters laughin at ’em. There’s no heckler can get the best of Mr Presto, you know. Back on the old Princess Brigitte there was that night, you remember…”

I lent across with the bottle, before he could warm to the well-trodden theme, and raised an eyebrow. He paused, sighed, pulled a crumpled cigarette out of thin air and retrieved a match from behind my ear, before taking a swig.

“Peaty. Bit heavy for me, old chap. No, it’s Jackson. On his high horse again, naggin me about headcounts. And Audience-ruddy-Participation or whatever his latest buzzword is, the slimy trollope. I can’t imagine anythin worse than turnin my act into another grizzly spectacle like his new… what does ‘e call it… Ship Idol.”

“But if he gets the numbers…?”

“Numbers my hat! You know what his latest little ‘elpful chat was about? He wants to shelve the act, and get me to run a workshop, ‘teach the kiddies a few tricks’, he said. Teach them! My tricks! Has the man no idea? I would be thrown out of the Circle if I ever breathed a hint! Who does ‘e think I am, a cheap conjurer?”

Freddie always reserves his most scathing tone for our esteemed Entertainments Director, but this time Jackson had hit below the belt.I glimpsed the chance I’d been waiting for.

“But they’re hardly a secret, are they Freddie? I mean, there was the time when you dropped the fifth ace in that gentleman’s soup. The rabbit that ate his way out of the false bottom… and what about dead pigeon?”

“That wasn’t my fault! And how was I supposed to know the woman was from PETA?”

The crew don’t call him Abra-Cadaver for nothing, poor sod. Jackson has a point. But my gambit was working.

“Freddie, it’s hardly glamorous smoke and mirrors stuff is it; just bits of string, things shoved down the back of your trousers and lawsuits for several rather expensive watches”.

I was treated to a glare for that one, but pressed my advantage.

“Everyone knows how they’re done, even the Grand Finale. Even the kids can see through it”.

“Rubbish! No one has never got my Grand Finale, as well you know, despite your best attempts to wheedle it out o’ me. Devised that one m’self, I did.”

“Of course I know, Freddie, it’s patently obvious. It’s mostly shoved up your right sleeve during the trick before, I just haven’t figured out where the ship’s flag is stashed yet”.

“Ha! See, I said you were clueless! There aint nothing up either sleeve, you’re way off. It’s all on a wire tacked to the back o’ the box, you clot, and the flag is just printed on the reverse of the handkerch.’..”

His mocking grin froze, then faded into pallor as his head slumped into his hands.

“Damn you, Captain Woods. May you hit a thousand icebergs. May pirates come, and steal your precious Glenfarclas, and feed it to the passengers!”

I draped a brotherly arm around the broken shoulders, and poured us both another dram.

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