Excerpt: Moonlight and Illusions
On stage, the magician prepared for his final act. “Ladies and Gentleman, I am sure you have all heard of The Great Harry Houdini and his amazing escape tricks.” He rolled up his shirt sleeves and faced the audience, standing with his feet planted wide. “Tonight I will attempt a trick Mr. Houdini did, with a little wrinkle.”
“I will be placed in a strait jacket, just like Harry Houdini.” Two men came up and began strapping him in and buckling the straps behind his back. “Then hanging from my ankles, I will be lowered into this box.” Several workmen entered from stage right pushing a huge glass box.
“The box will be flooded with water,” he continued. “I will attempt to escape before drowning, and before the rope attached to a blade above the box burns through.”
The crowd tittered with excitement. Ropes were wrapped around the magician’s ankles and the assistants, in full view of the audience, hauled on the ropes and pulleys to pull the tall man upside down. They maneuvered the box under him then lowered the man head first into it.
Anabel’s heart pounded even harder when she saw them secure a second rope holding a two foot-wide curved blade over the box. One of them lit a kerosene lamp near a taut section of the rope supporting the blade. Water from a hose started rumbling into the glass box, covering the magician’s head first.
She held her breath as he began moving. The spotlight shimmered on the wicked blade suspended directly above his feet. The water climbed to his waist.
Anabel watched, fidgeting in her seat. The urge to run on stage, grab the axe from the waiting aide’s hands, and free the man was almost unbearable. Her gaze darted from his calm face to the burning rope and back.
With an audible “pwang” one rope strand broke. The deadly blade vibrated. Anabel wiped her perspiring hands on her skirt.
The magician wiggled and squirmed until the strait jacket came off and his arms fell free. Bubbles rose through the water. His long dark hair undulated as he lifted his upper body to work on the ropes securing his feet.
The smell of burning hemp filled the theater. Stephen freed his feet and pushed up to the surface of the water, but before he could climb out another strand of rope gave way. The rope broke. People screamed.
Anabel jumped to her feet.
“Where are you going?” Julie whispered and made a grab for her hand, but she pulled free.
“I-I have to help—” In the back of her mind, some semblance of propriety made her hesitate, but she ignored it, climbing over the people in her row in an effort to reach him.
When she made it to the aisle, she saw him, still in the water, stretching both hands over his head. The blade had stopped in mid-descent, just a foot from the magician’s upturned palms. She froze, open-mouthed in shock. A woman softly wept somewhere and others murmured as they all watched.
The Illusionist forced the heavy steel blade higher without touching it. Using one hand to control the blade, he climbed out of the tank and down a ladder until he stood on the stage again. Water streamed down his now-transparent white shirt and clinging trousers to pool at his feet. Visible now was the silver pocket watchcase hanging from the chain around his neck. Confirmation! It is Stephen Elliott!
Now, with both hands, he guided the blade down until it floated above a pumpkin placed on the floor.
“Release!” He dropped his arms to his sides. The blade dropped immediately, severed the pumpkin in two, and impaled itself in the wooden floor with an audible thud.
When he faced the audience, their gazes met. A huge, dazzling smile creased his handsome face. Maybe the former soldier recognized her? He made a sweeping bow.
“This concludes the show tonight. I want to thank you all for coming out. A special thank you to the young lady in the aisle who wanted to come to my rescue.”
Oh, Lord! Heat rushed to her face when Anabel realized she still stood alone in the middle of the aisle. Mortified, she scurried back to her seat. Laughter broke out all around then a thunderous round of applause.
Over all the noise, she still heard the magician’s final words before the curtain fell.
“Anabel, please come see me.”
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