The magician was sitting in a chair alone on the stage. The silent thousands in the theatre were watching intently, and untold numbers were watching on TV. This was the man's final act for the night. He was sure that this illusion would catapult him to near-Houdini fame.
The magician was a Russian by the name of Alexi Bogdanov. All his life, he had been obsessed with magic and illusions. At age five, he astounded his parents when he took a pair of quarters in his hand and half a second later, they were gone. By seven, he was giving performances for anybody who would watch. He always began with the two vanishing quarters, that one being his favorite illusion.
Tonight, as he sat in the chair, Alexi stared back at the crowd staring at him. He mentally ran through the checklist for the trick in his mind. After double-checking that everything was in place, Alexi smiled a bit. His heart rate doubled as dramatic music began playing over the intercom, signaling the start of the illusion.
Alexi's chair--and Alexi--started slowly rising into the air, accompanied by the usual gasping from the audience. Alexi smiled again. Tonight marked the beginning of a new life for him. A life of luxury. A life without problems. A life--
His thoughts were interrupted as a ball of flame engulfed himself and the chair. The audience began screaming, as expected. The surprise was magnified when, from out of the smoke, a flock of doves came flying unharmed. Alexi and the chair had completely vanished from the air.
Alexi, already sitting in the back of the theatre behind the unexpecting audience, savored the moment. He was in complete control of the emotions of every man, woman and child in the theatre. When he finally decided to stand up and begin to make his way to the front of the theatre, his foot slipped on something. He looked down, and noticed an envelope.
Handwritten on the front, in Russian, it read:
For the attention of Mr. Alexi Bogdanov
Momentarily frozen, Alexi grabbed the envelope and stuffed it into his pocket. The rest of the night flew by in a blur.
The next morning, as he was about to open up the newspaper to find reviews of his performance, Alexi suddenly remembered the envelope. He retrieved it from his pocket, and carefully opened it. The words had been typed on what appeared to be an ancient typewriter. It read:
Would you like to play a game?
- Godfrey De Vries
- Elias Heikkinen
- Tony Blake
- Kamali Ncube
- Ebisawa Hitomi
- Michelle Sanchez
- Mei Yu
- Thiago Torres
- Vahide Younan
Kill these people, and we will make you greater than Houdini. Proof is in the envelope.
Amused, yet slightly concerned, Alexi reached into the envelope and discovered a sheet of paper that had been very neatly folded up. He opened it, and nearly dropped the cup of coffee he had been holding. It was a magic trick, but... like no trick Alexi had ever imagined. The beginning and end were complete, but the middle was completely missing.
Why do I need this? Alexi asked himself. My performance last night was better than this.
The critics thought otherwise. The newspaper had a mere two reviews of his performance, and both were extremely negative. According to them, his act had not lived up to expectations. Devastated, Alexi collapsed into his chair.
He rested his head in his hands in disbelief. After thinking for a good while, he looked back at the mysterious message. What if he actually took the sender up on his offer? Surely if they could create an incredible beginnign and end of a magic trick, they would have the middle?
But what was he thinking? He couldn't murder nine people just for a new illusion. However, it was an incredible illusion. In fact, the best he had ever seen. He would have to start looking for these people, whoever they were.