Detective Charlie Pratt had talked to all kinds of people over the years, whether they be witnesses or suspects or something in-between; he had seen 'em all. Twenty-five years on the force accumulated quite the mental repertoire of personalities, faces, and traits from which to draw -- especially lies. Pratt was good at catching people in a lie, and loved unravelling the reasons behind every tic someone might give him to betray themselves.
But this Vossian character was weird. Actually gave Pratt the chills, though Pratt didn't know why exactly. There was just something about him that made Pratt's tongue dry. The guy was coated in a shivering nervous sweat and chain smoking to beat the band. He couldn't sit still in his chair and kept looking toward the ceiling as if perhaps beseeching Heaven for guidance. In short, he was giving off a strong GUILTY AS SHIT vibe.
But guilty for what? A college-aged girl had been missing for less than four hours, which didn't even make this a missing persons case yet. There was no evidence of foul play, no motive, nothing at all which would suggest a crime.
Except that the girl had simply disappeared without a trace. As if she had never existed.
As magic tricks go, this was a doozy.
The only problem was, the god damn magician didn't know where the girl had ended up. Pratt slowly shook his head and wondered if maybe the reason this Vossian character irked him so much was because magicians were just fuckin' creepy in general.
Pratt rubbed his forehead briefly and asked Vossian, from across the metal table, "So how's this trick work?"
"Excuse me?" Vossian retorted haughtily.
"This spinning box trick. How's it work?"
Vossian scowled and crossed his arms defiantly at his frilly, vested chest. He shook his head and replied, firmly, "I'm not telling you that. It's a trade secret."
Pratt struggled with his temper and said, with a sneer, "Listen asshole, you came to us, remember? Now, I need to know the specifics of how the trick is supposed to work so I can be on the lookout things that didn't work."
Vossian's posture drooped in defeat, but the scowl remained. His shifty little eyes slid over to Pratt's partner, Reynolds, who was mostly just nodding and taking notes with the occasional "uh-huh" or "go on."
Pratt gave him another moment, then said, "Look, it's your ass on the line. I really don't give a shit."
Vossian looked about to open his mouth on several occasions, but there must be some kind of magician code of silence of which Pratt was unaware. As his patience ebbed, he thought maybe he could get the ball rolling, so to speak, and get the little dweeb to open up, "It's basically just a trap door trick, isn't it?"
Vossian nodded grudgingly, "In essence, yes."
"Uh-huh, but there's no basement or sub-level of any kind in that part of the building. So where was the girl supposed to go?"
"Well, Mr. Dohms let me cut a trap door in his floor, nearly invisible. A work of art."
Pratt said nothing but gave Vossian a level, hard stare. Jeremy Dohms was the proprietor of the bar/club called The Fairway, located on-site at the Allen Dubyk Memorial Golf Course, a semi-private, eighteen hole course on the outskirts of town. And Mr. Dohms was a notorious town tight-ass whom Pratt doubted very much would allow some scrub magician to take a hacksaw to his club's floor.
As if sensing Detective Pratt's doubt, Vossian further explained, "You see, The Fairway is getting a renovation during the offseason, so the floors are going to get redone anyway. Mr. Dohms let me do what I needed because it'll be gone in a few weeks anyway."
Pratt nodded an okay, but inside he thought, That doesn't sound like Dohms at all. The bank could foreclose on that prick and he still wouldn't give anybody anything for nothin.' Pratt made a note to talk to one Jeremy Dohms.
"What about the girl?" he asked, "I thought you guys always used an assistant that you plant into the audience to ensure things go as planned -- or rehearsed -- or whatever."
At this point, Vossian nodded vigorously and stabbed out his butt in the ashtray to his right, "Right, well, as you already noted, everybody and their grandma knows how this trick is performed. What I do is take one lucky girl from the audience and give them a thrill, get them involved, make them feel kinda like the star for a couple of minutes, eh? They do the trick, and everybody's happy, right? It's all about audience participation."
Vossian looked lost for a minute, "Why what?"
"You just said it was all about audience participation. Why is it all about audience participation?"
"Magic's a tough business; you need to branch out, as it were. The groundbreaking performers get shows in Las Vegas, the street performers have an edginess to them I can't duplicate, and the other ones maybe aren't fabulous magicians per se, but they have a humorous shtick and that's how they sell tickets. I however, fuckin' hate laughter."
Reynolds smirked and said softly, "Good thing you're an entertainer then."
Vossian let the barb go and continued, "So after I do the easy trick with the audience member, then I do the real trick with my girl. I gave you her name, didn't I?"
Pratt looked through his notes and nodded, "Yes. A Miss Julia Renaud?"
"Yes, that's her."
"So... you cut a trap door into a floor with no basement beneath. Why?"
"Well, there's a little space beneath, where they put insulation and wiring I guess. I just told her to crouch down and be quiet for a minute, and then when I called her back, to climb back into the box and jump out. Really ham it up, you know?"
"Lots of fun," Pratt said.
Vossian lit another cigarette and sniffled, "It's supposed to be, yeah."
"So, Mr. Vossian."
A deep drag on the butt, "Mmm?"
"Why Svetlana Kolkachev?"
"That's easy," Vossian grinned, "she had an outstanding rack."
Fuckin' magicians, Pratt thought.