The Magic Trick

“There’s definitely a trick.”

That’s what George said to me when I told him I couldn’t figure out how he did his trick. Running the Wonderstar Lounge I had seen every comedian, sideshow, and magic act that toured around twice. When it came to the magic, I knew my stuff.

As a kid, I had one of those magic kits that taught you all of the basics. By the age of 12 I could palm a coin for a day and make salt shakers disappear under handkerchiefs. I realized when I got older that I would never have the time and the patience to ever get good at it, but I was damn good at figuring it out. It’s like someone that can tell you a B flat, but couldn’t sing the note if you paid them.

When my grandpa died and I bought Shakers Dance-A-Gogo, I turned it into my own playground called the Wonderstar. I did it in part because I wanted a place where I could see magic (along with comedy, since I had failed at doing that too, but that’s a different story). The idea of the club was a nice spot just outside of Vegas where the acts could come and hone their craft before they got themselves into the big time. They’re willing to try really interesting and new stuff because there is no pressure, and I’m willing to pay them half of what they’d get on the strip. Win win.

George Pleasance was my barback and had been for a decade. Nice guy. A little soft in the head, but more loyal than a Saint Bernard in a blizzard. I may water down the occasional bottle of whiskey and I just might pad a few numbers on a check when a customer looks tourist-y, but George I always did right by. I know I know.. I’m a push-over.

One of the things that got me and George tight was he loved magic just as much as I did, but his eyes glimmered the way mine hadn’t since I was 12. So when I was watching some two-bit pull rabbits out of his hat for the thousandeth time, even though I knew the gimmicked hat had a false bottom where the rabbit had been sitting the whole time, I could watch George watch it and I got to be a pre-teen again for a few minutes. His eyes would glitter with every called card, hidden coin, and flash paper explosion. I envied how jaded he wasn’t.

It was a boring Wednesday night Open <ic when George asked if he could take a spot on stage. “Whatcha got, Georgie?”

He grinned and there was that twinkle. That childhood twinkle, that told me precisely what he was going to say before the words came out, “I got a magic trick.”

I laughed, “You been reading books on your nights off?”

He shook his head and winked at me. Let me explain why that wink made me say yes. First off, I normally wouldn’t agree to something like that. George sometimes gets these ideas in his head that he can do things he just can’t. He sees a pretty dancing girl and thinks he can go up there and can can. I’ve seen George try and sing, dance, do comedy, do improv, and each time he would get really upset when it didn’t work out for him. He would come down off stage like someone kicked his puppy. His dejection was just miserable.

“They didn’t laugh.” He’d say, and I’d slap him on the back and tell him ‘next time’ but he wouldn’t ever go back and try it again. That’s why I would say no to this sort of thing. I hate to see the kid upset.

This time, I said yes, which brings me to my other point. George doesn’t wink. He’s not subtle. He’s not sly. It was half the reason comedy and the like just didn’t work for him. He didn’t understand language that way. There is a part of telling a joke that’s embellishing, right? George never lied. He was more forward than a good hooker on the clock. If I asked him why he was late, he would tell me it was because he forgot to look at his clock while he was watching television or he didn’t think I’d notice. Answers that normal people avoided at all cost was George just being his honest self. So when he winked at me, an act of subtle insinuation, I was just a stopped statue. I said yes on the spot.

Showtime came around and the crowd was thin. Wednesday wasn’t ever a big hit, but the Open Mic Night kept it from being a completely barren one. Musicians would bring their friends to come hear their new thing or the early bird Vegas weekenders would slum it on their first night in town. Not a great moneymaker by any stretch, but it also made me feel a little less worried about George and his attempt at doing his little trick. Fewer people, lesser disappointment was how I saw it.

The woman before George was some cutie with a guitar doing Joan Baez songs. She finished and, as with most of these folks, her friends ordered the check. They saw what they came to see and they were ready to go home. Her table leaving would take a 20 person room and bring it to a lame 15 people. I told my girl to wait til George was off stage before bringing them the check. I wanted it quiet for him, I didn’t want his voice to echo in the darkness.

I got on my backstage mic and called George up to the stage, trying to pump him up as one of my favorite people in the world, which got him at least a little applause. He walked up on stage and set up a small folding table, laying out a black tablecloth, and putting down the textbook magic top hat and a deck of cards. After they were set-up, he fumbled with the microphone and introduced himself with no inflection or care to showmanship. I started to worry that his wink was because he had something in his eyes, and not some sort of playfulness. This was gonna be bad.

Over the next five minutes he did the real basics that had to have come out of the “Dummy’s Guide To Magic”. He made a card float out of the deck. He made his wand turn into flowers. The crowd gave him a laugh when he pulled a stuffed animal instead of a real rabbit out of his hat. With another magician that would have been a joke, but I’m not sure if George got why it was funny. He seemed to like the laugh, so it really didn’t matter if he got why.

He asked for a volunteer and picked some young guy there with his date who was sitting close enough to the front row that George could see him through the stage lighting. If something was going to go wrong, it would be right here.

“Can you put your hands out like you are hiding a coin and I have to guess which one it’s in?” George asked him, but just like the wink, there was something special to the way he asked. It sounded polished and concise. I wish I could tell you what it was, but all of a sudden it was George’s voice plus about a dozen IQ points.

George didn’t shake this guy’s hand when he came on stage. He didn’t get near him. There was about three feet between him and his volunteer at all times, so when George tapped on his left hand and said ‘That one’ I was confused and so was the man on stage.

“That what?” The man asked.

George rolled his eyes and said with a smirk, ‘The coin silly. It’s in that hand.’

The volunteer blinked a few times, and opened up his hand palm up and there glinting against the stage light was a quarter. He showed it to the audience and there was a few applause, but far below the amount that trick deserved. I knew the guy in the audience was shocked, and you could have kicked my jaw. George hadn’t touched him, yet somehow a coin appeared in his hand. It was a master level trick.

George followed up, “Before you open up your other hand, tell me another type of coin.”

The man tilted his head, still looking at the glowing quarter in his hand. “Uhm… dime.”

George smiled, “Perfect, because that’s the exact coin sitting in the other hand.”

When the man opened it up, there it was. Just as highlighted by stage lights as the quarter. A perfect silver dime. “How the hell did you do that?” He asked.

George giggled and said, “I’ll tell you if you can guess what coin is in your shoe right.”

The guy just blinked and I watched him look down at his foot moving it around. “There’s nothing in there.” He was at that spot where you could tell he was getting nervous. It happens in magic shows sometimes where the patron just starts to believe that it isn’t all slight of hand, but actually some crazy otherworldly shit going on. I have to admit, I was halfway there myself.

“I promise you, there are a buncha coins in there,” George said. “One coin isn’t, but I’m not sure which one it is. So why don’t you let me know?” The dim-witted employee of mine was toying with him. Had I been played the last decade by some magic grifter that just found his time to strike? What the hell was going on!?

“Fine! A penny.” The tone the volunteer gave was somewhere in the stunned and aggressive tone.

“Well then go ahead and take a look, and then I’ll tell you the biggest secret I got!” George gave the audience a dopy grin, and even the Joan Baez girls that were getting ready to leave were now watching as the volunteer took off his shoe and tipped it into his hand. There was a clink of metal on metal as coins from out of nowhere dropped into his palm.

“So why don’t you tell me what you got in there? Any pennies?” George asked.

The pink of the man’s cheeks, boldened by the jack and cokes he had been drinking started to evaporate as he whispered, ‘ no pennies.”

George laughed, “Of course not silly. Here’s the secret. The pennies are in your OTHER shoe.”

Again, the volunteer wriggled his foot, and there was nothing.

“Go ahead!” George was goading him on! What the everloving fu —

The stunned man slipped his foot off and looked inside and you could see him let out a breath. “There’s nothing there.”

George’s face scrunched up as if he was thinking. He put his head on his fist and tapped his forehead, “Really? I swear that there should be a few extra pennies in there.. OH WAIT!” He pointed to the sky in a eureka moment. “Turn it upside down!” And that big dippy smile was back on his face.

Lemme tell you that the man turned the shoe upside down and at least two dollars in pennies poured out, rolling in every direction, hitting the ground in front of the stage, and making a sound like hail on a tin roof. The whole room applauded. Everyone except me and the guy on stage who after the rain stopped, he dropped his shoe. “That was amazing…” was all he could get out. George turned and asked for a round of applause for his great partner, and then again for himself. He took a bow and picked up all of his stuff and walked into the backstage area, nearly tripping through the curtain on his way.

I didn’t say anything about it until the bar was closed that night. When George asked how he did, I told him that I was super proud of him and I’d talk to him all about it at the end of the night. I poured through my mind at anything I had ever seen that resembled the tricks George just pulled, but nothing came to mind. I asked the waitress if she had carded that table, and she told me that she had and they were from Arizona. So it was unlikely that the guy was a plant, which was the only guess I had.

When all the chairs were up and the one or two other staff had gone home, slapping George on the back and congratulating him on doing such a great job, I invited him into my office to sit and talk about what he did. Normally, the staff doesn’t get to come into my office unless they’re in trouble, so I assured him nothing was wrong, but just wanted to hear about it.

I lit a smoke and leaned back on my chair. George just sat there beaming. “So I did good?”

“Yeah man. You knocked em’ dead. So you gonna tell your good pal how you did it?”

“Oh, I can’t do that.” He said in a way that told me it was the only answer for him.

“Why’s that?”

He blinked. “You know the Magicians Code. You never reveal your secrets. It ruins the trick!”

I nodded, taking a thoughtful drag. I myself had told George all about the ‘Magicians Code’ and there was more than one performer that would show up with a Non-Disclosure for whomever was going to be working with him that night. It was a big deal, and revealing anything you learned meant not only litigation, but being blacklisted by most of the magic community. “You know George, if you want me to be your assistant or sign a promise paper like we do with all those other guys, I will. I’m really impressed and just wanted to know how you got so good so quick.”

George shrugged, “Just a good teacher I s’pose.”

Externally, I sighed and gave him a smile. Internally, my plan came to me. “Ok George, well you did so good, I’m gonna throw you an extra bill this week. I’m proud of you and you can have another spot next week if you want.”

His eyes lit up, “Aww Mr. Deek, that’s the best. Thanks!”

I brushed it off. “Ok, go home and have yourself a good night, ok? I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon.”

George thanked me again, shook my hand, and if the desk wasn’t between us, he might have gone in for a hug. By the time I got the night’s take for the next day’s bank drop off and turned off my computer, I heard the outside door close. Perfect.

I got up, made sure the doors were locked tight, and headed out. I was leaving a few chores unattended to, but they could be handled the next morning. I was going to follow George home and see who he talked to. There was no way in hell that he pulled that all off and wouldn’t reach out to whomever this teacher was before the night was out.

George’s basement apartment was a few blocks from the club, so all I had to do was make sure that he didn’t see me along the way, which shouldn’t be hard. The kid always wore his headphones, and always took the same route. The walk went without any surprises, and I was just coming up on the house as I saw the basement lights turn on. Quickly, I laid down on the patches of dry grass and crawled to the only ground level window that was open a crack, and peered in.

I’d been to his place once or twice. It was two rooms, a living room which was also his bedroom, and a kitchen. He walked in and with his back to me, I could see him bend down and open up his backpack, pulling out the stuffed bunny and magic hat he had used during his act and putting both of them on one of his two chairs. He reached down into the backpack and took out some sort of necklace that he immediately put on and started to talk. Well.. not talk as much as chant. It took my ears a moment to realize it wasn’t hearing english, but Latin.

“Qui vocat vos . Cupio loqui . Sunt praecipio non ego”

He didn’t read it, and it came out as clear as day. It was definitely Latin, although I had no clue what he could possibly been actually saying. He started by whispering it, and then saying it, and by the fifth time, he was raising his voice.

I felt my ears pop, like the pressure in the air had changed, and there was a smell of something musky, like that shit hunters spray on themselves to get animals to come to them. Acrid, and not totally different from piss, but so much sharper. The lights inside George’s apartment, dimmed, and I felt a chill crawl up my spine like someone using an ice cube on a xylophone.

I blinked and it was there.

“It” is the best term for what I saw. Some might say demon. Others might say Satan. As an atheist, I’ll just go with “It” for now. Six feet tall, red glistening and muscled skin, with black leathery folds that I instinctively knew were wings cut out of its shoulder blades. From my view of it, it wasn’t wearing pants and as it paced around George I saw a massive set of genitals.

It’s face was set in a grin that looked more like it had been hardened there than an actual expression. Yellow and white crags of teeth lined its mouth, and its eyes were some flowing mix of red yellow and black circles. From its forehead, two black triangles jutted forward enough to really let you know that they were horns.

If every muscle in my body wasn’t tightening to assure I didn’t scream, I’m sure I would have pissed myself right then and there.

“Hey Azazel! Thanks for showing up.” George’s chipper voice was a near insane level of contrast to the monster that was currently standing a foot from him.

It spoke, and its voice was the deepest sort of rumble. It felt my like guts were resting against a stack of Marshall amps during a Stones concert. It just felt liquifying and deep and more bass than any sound I’d ever heard before. “You are quite welcome. Did you perform your trick this evening?”

George yelped happily. “I did! It amazed everyone! It amazed my boss! He said he was gonna give me a bonus because it was so good! And I can seriously do that any time I want?”

Azazel chuckled, and I felt his eyes move to look at the window… at me. “I’m sure your employer was quite amazed. Did you tell him how you came to learn such an amazing feat?” I felt his pupils warping and flowing as they were, inside of me. This creature, in one look, knew everything about me and I knew it, nor could I fight it.

“Aw of course not, you told me not to, and I don’t break promises.” George’s voice was as intimate as talking to a friend.

Azazel directed his attention back to George, “Excellent, boy. And to answer your first question, yes you can do this any time you wish, along with quite a few other things I’ll show you in good time. So now that you believe me, are you willing to sign that bit of contract we discussed?” From behind his back, Azazel retrieved a piece of paper that was far enough away that I couldn’t read, but I had to assume it was something about George’s soul. Isn’t that the only type of contract that demon’s dealt with?

“Now before you do sign it, let me make it quite clear that you won’t be able to do this journey alone. I shall give you a second one to bring to your employer. I promise you, if both of you sign it, you will be the greatest magician that has walked this earth since Houdini. You will know how all of the tricks are done. You will be able to accomplish feats beyond comparison. In turn, your employer will act as your manager an receive all of the benefits that entails.” Azazel was speaking to me as well. He was telling both of us the plan.

George sat down and I could finally see him fully. His face was deep in thought. “We never talked about my boss before. What if Mr. Deek doesn’t say yeah? I don’t wanna go back to not being able to do that stuff.” I could see now that the necklace George had slipped on was a crimson red pentagram.. of course it was.

Azazel simply chuckled, and again the vibrations of it rolled through me. “When your Mister Deek,” It over accentuated every syllable of my name. “sees that signing a paltry contract such as this, he will be the manager of the grandest talent in magic while also possessing one of the highest grossing performance venues in Las Vegas within a few years… I am sure he will understand. Do you not want him with you on your journey?”

George blinked like he had been slapped. “Aww, no. I would love if Mr. Deek was with me. He’s almost my best friend in the world.”

Azazel nodded, “I presumed as much. I shall leave both contracts for you and we may speak tomorrow evening. Perhaps with your Mister Deek en tow.” When I blinked, the demon was gone and my stomach settled back into place.

I crawled back away from the window, stood up, and walked towards the bar again. My mind raced with everything I had just seen, and tried to process not just what, but how? How had George stumbled upon a demon? How long had it been going on without me knowing, and was his little trick tonight all part of Azazel’s plan to get me to hear his offer?

It was so much to figure out, but one thing was for certain….

….we were going to be rich.

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