They were pretty good, Admiral Wiseacre's troop, a good mix of acts, done by a good mix of people, and I knew that I'd be able to excel here, even make friends, for the first time in my life, but still... I fished the note out of my pocket and read it again. The same note I'd found taped to my New Orleans apartment door, three days ago.
"Admiral Wiseacre's Fantastic Tent Circus and Fair will be in town in three days. Find the Admiral, get a job. Discover what Wiseacre is up to, and your debts will be pardoned and you will be rewarded at the next stop."
It was signed with an S. That was all I ever got from my employer. He didn't pay me, I owed him too much, for getting me in contact with the best magic teachers in Louisiana, for the fact that I'd stolen something from him, for the fact I...
I shook my head to clear it as the show ended and the crowd moved outside. I moved with it for a while, but then took several juggling balls out of my hoodie pocket, palming them expertly as I sidled to a relatively clear spot near the entrance to the Big Top. I tossed them high into the air so they caught the fading light of the southern afternoon. Juggling was good for hand-eye coordination, but it wasnt so good for slight of hand. I tossed more and more into the air, pulling them from my shoes, my sleeves, making them appear as if from nowhere, until I had at least a dozen making the rounds like a ferris wheel. People stopped, and gasped, and others looked for something to toss coins into, but I shook my head.
"This show's on the Admiral, folks." I said cheerfully, making my voice hearty and loud. I knew that in my baggy hoodie and jeans, I looked like a teenage boy, and that suited me fine on the street, but here, maybe I could be more myself. Finishing with a flourish, I pocketed the balls and bowed low, only to come face to toe with a pair of shiny black boots. I straightened to look up into the face of Admiral Sebastian Wiseacre himself.
At a glance from him, the crowd cleared. The circus was closed to general audiences after sunset, though no one talked about why. I'd only heard rumors of the strange things Wiseacre shuttled in from his train. Men with four arms, cyborgs even. A modern day freak show set to startle and nauseate even the most hardened of minds. But nothing could ever be proven, and no story ever matched up with another. Something in the drinks they served maybe.
"You are not part of my troop." The Admiral was saying when I turned my attention back to his stony little eyes.
"No sir." I said simply, lowering the hood of my sweatshirt and letting him get a good look at me.
"You have some skill at juggling." He continued, more to himself, it seemed, than me. "What else can you do?"
"I'm a practicing magician." I said, trying to sound eager, though I was more nervous than a cat, this was the part I could not mess up. They'd already revoked my claim on my apartment and all my savings. "I can do card tricks, make things disappear, the usual array of stage illusions. Some of the darker, southern stuff, though the details of which I'd rather not discuss in public. I can also--" The Admiral put up a hand to stop my babbling.
"Enough. I'm short on fresh recruits, and I need someone I can trust."
"You can trust me sir, I'm very honest!" about almost everything, I finished in my head.
"What's your name?"
"Myah, sir. Thats M-Y-A-H."
"You have a last name to go with that?"
"No sir." I lied. Yeah, I had a last name, but all it did was remind me of my father, about which, the less was said, the better.
The Admiral gave me a look, but waved his hand and said simply "Go make yourself useful." Without another word, I ran into the tent, to see maybe if I could help the stage hands get things cleaned up.
I was in.