All his life, faking it. Tricks clever and comical, stunts and shocks, gasps and wonder. Lapped it up. Jee-sus I lapped it up! What the hell is going on? Heat of the lights, trickle of the pan-cake slipping under sweat. Glowing in the stamping roar of the applause. Good stuff, great stuff, buzz almost better than sex. Tiredness after, the draining slump and the good warm ache; tingling hands and cheeks stretched in a mile-long smile.
What the fuck is happening?
Questions coming. Questions; concerned and suspicious. The elation had gone and he sat in the cold room while the make up dried on his cheeks, cracking. And they asked questions.
"Run that by me again will you Mr. Vossian?"
"I've told you, I don't know!"
She was first with her hand up, the girl with the bright hair like a stream of pale silk showing up like a negative in the dark swell of seats. Her friends around her, yelling above the rising waves of clapping and whistles.
"Take your time."
"She came up on stage, like I said." The magician ran his hand over his face. The other hand, the hand holding the coffee-cup, shook. Coffee dribbled over his fingers and dripped onto the floor. "Shit!"
"Don't mind that."
"Sorry. Shit, I don't know. She came up..."
What's your name? he asked and she gave it. She said it was her birthday and her friends just about howled, standing and whistling and calling her name. She was flushed, happy and drunk.
..."she wasn't nervous at all. She seemed ok, really happy. I explained to her what she had to do. Just the same as always. It was all just the fucking same!"
"Try to stay calm Mr. Vossian." The cop had a head like a potato, the Magician thought, lumpen and craggy. His shoes were very black, polished and shiny.
Fuck what happened? Same as always. I turned the box, set it spinning. Going round like a light-show, glittering. Did the thing...lift the lever, push the button - all that crap. I did a stupid twirl. Look the part, you've got to right? Do a bow. Self-mocking and ridiculous that's me. Always look like you're having the TIME OF YOUR FUCKING LIFE! They have to know they're special.
"I don't know. I don't know. It always worked before!"
Knock three times then peep in. Big surprise - no one's there!
"What always worked before?"
"The trick! The goddamn trick! What do you think?" The magician stared down at his coffee. No answers there.
I made her disappear. I really did. Jee-sus fuck I really did.
How the hell do I get her back?