Authors: Alex Siegel
Tricks and Traps
Tricks and Traps
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2012
For information about this book and others in the same series, please visit:
The Gray Spear Society series is a long-running saga. It is recommended that the books be read in a specific order. The current list is:
1. Apocalypse Cult
2. Carnival of Mayhem
3. Psychological Damage
4. Involuntary Control
5. Deadly Weakness
6. The Price of Disrespect
7. Tricks and Traps
8. Politics of Blood
9. Grim Reflections
10. Eyes of the World
11. Antisocial Media
Aaron smiled at Marina. She wore a blue evening gown that looked perfect on her fabulous body. A jade necklace matched the color of her eyes. Her strawberry-blonde hair was pulled back and tied with a black silk ribbon. Red lipstick made her thin lips seem lush. Cute freckles decorated her nose, but he knew she would've preferred clear skin.
"It's been a long time since we were on a date together," he said softly.
"At least a year," she replied. "Even when I lived in Chicago, we almost never went out just the two of us. And technically, this isn't a date. It's more like a business trip with benefits."
"Still, it feels very good."
"Yes, it does." She leaned over and kissed him on the lips. "I missed you so much."
He looked around the darkened auditorium. They were in the main theater of the Huhawira Casino in southern Wisconsin. He estimated there were around a thousand seats, but only half were full, maybe less. It seemed like a big crowd to him anyway. He wasn't comfortable around large groups of people, particularly when they were strangers. It was too hard to watch for threats.
Aaron faced the stage which was concealed by a black curtain. Sequins made the fabric sparkle like the night sky.
A deep, male voice boomed through the theater, "Ladies and gentlemen! The show is about to begin. Please, turn off your phones at this time. Photography and video recordings of any kind are strictly prohibited. Now sit back and enjoy the magic!"
The curtain rose, revealing an empty stage. The background was just shadows, fog, and darkness. Aaron smiled. He already liked the show.
A glittering metal hoop rose up from the center of the stage, supported by two thin metal posts. Slowly, the hoop spun around a horizontal axis. It appeared to be just an empty ring. It came to a stop in a position with the edge facing the audience.
A woman climbed out of the top of the hoop, seeming to appear in midair. There was nothing underneath her. She hopped onto the stage gracefully and stretched out her arms.
"Please, put your hands together for Sheryl," the announcer said, "the Mistress of Mystery!"
The audience applauded enthusiastically.
Sheryl had fair skin that looked very pale under the bright stage lights. Wavy, brown hair went down to her flat breasts. Her short, red dress left her arms and shoulders bare. Her nose was straight and prominent.
Marina leaned over and whispered, "Your new recruit is very skinny."
"Some strength training will put a little beef on her," Aaron replied.
"Still, she doesn't look like much of a fighter. I could break her in half with my bare hands."
He couldn't disagree. Sheryl had the body of a fashion model, not a
in the Gray Spear Society. It was hard to imagine her battling evil hordes.
"Every team needs a mix of talents," he said.
Marina looked at him with a questioning expression.
* * *
Sheryl couldn't see the audience with the stage lights in her eyes. As far as she could tell, she was performing in front of a black wall. She could hear the applause though, and years of experience allowed her to estimate the size of the crowd from the noise they made. It didn't sound like a full house. For a Saturday night performance, not selling out was an embarrassment. She was accustomed to filling rooms every night of the week.
She didn't let her disappointment show in her performance. No matter how small the audience, she always gave her best effort. For her, being a great magician was more than just a job. It was her calling.
She was about to perform her last trick of the show. She would make a stretch limousine disappear from the middle of the stage without even using a curtain.
She stood at the edge of the stage and smiled as the long, white vehicle was driven from the wings. To the audience, it looked like a real limousine, but it was just a shell. The interior had been completely gutted, leaving just a bare metal seat for the driver. The contents of the engine compartment had also been removed. A small, motorcycle engine provided power to the front wheels instead. The total weight was just under a thousand pounds instead of the original five and a half tons.
She glanced at the limousine. A forklift was silently gliding forward from the back of the stage. Black paint, gauzy shrouds, and clever lighting made the forklift invisible to the audience. It blended into the smoky background perfectly. Even she had trouble seeing it, and she was standing ten feet away and knew exactly where to look. The forks were positioned under the center of the limousine.
"I'm going to make this fully loaded limousine vanish before your eyes," she declared. "But let's make the trick more challenging first!"
Four stagehands with car jacks and pneumatic wrenches hurried onto the stage. Like a professional race team crew, they quickly removed all four tires and rolled them away. The limousine was now sitting on four jacks. It appeared to be completely immobilized, but the lighter weight actually made it even easier to move.
"Now, that's a real challenge," she said. "Here we go!"
The lights flickered, strobes flashed, and a booming noise echoed through the sound system. The effect dazzled and blinded the audience for a few crucial seconds. When the lights returned to normal, the limousine seemed to be gone.
In fact, the forklift had moved it backwards just five feet. A special gauze curtain had dropped in front of the vehicle, and the lighting had shifted forward. With no light on the car, it was invisible against a black background. Everything was still in front of the audience, but all they saw was an empty stage. Like most great magic, the basic principle was easy to understand. The artistry was in the details.
She moved to the center of the stage and bowed. The loud applause made her grin with pleasure even though she had heard it a thousand times before. This kind of genuine adulation never got old. She loved feeling special. The clapping continued even after the main curtain went down.
A stagehand wearing all black walked over. "Great show. Very clean."
"Thanks." She smiled. "I felt really good tonight, like there was real magic in the air. Everything was bright and sharp."
She walked back to her dressing room. She would get an hour to rest and eat a snack before her next performance. She did two shows every Saturday night, and she had one more to go. The late show was for adults only. She wore a skimpier dress and told dirtier jokes for that one.
A snack tray was waiting on a table when she arrived. The casino had provided an assortment of fresh fruit and chocolates. It wasn't the fanciest fare, but she couldn't complain.
Sheryl was picking out the strawberries when a man and a woman entered her dressing room without bothering to knock.
The man looked around with a curious expression. He was tall and had a tremendously muscular body. There was no fat on him that she could see. He looked strong enough to bend steel bars with his bare hands. His straight, brown hair was cut short. Heavy eyebrows shaded his eyes and made it hard to tell their color. He wore a gray suit which was tailored for his heroic physique.
The woman closed the door and remained near it. Her beauty grabbed and held Sheryl's attention. The woman had silky, red hair which was tied back in a girlish ponytail. A blue gown fit snuggly and emphasized the strength in her very lean body. She was just as much an athlete as her male companion.
"Who are you?" Sheryl said. "What are you doing in my private dressing room? How did you get past security?"
"I'm Aaron," the man said. "I'm surprised you don't recognize me. It has been a couple of months, but I'm pretty sure I made a strong impression."
Her eyes widened. She had met this man once before. He and his team had rescued her from a place that could only be described as Hell on Earth. Memories of that experience still gave her bad dreams, but the details were hazy. She had been the victim of some kind of hideous psychological experiment involving televisions. A strange boy with blue eyes had healed her mind. After her rescue, the entire building had burned to the ground.
"You saved my life," Sheryl said.
Aaron nodded. "And I'm here to collect on that debt."
"What do you want from me?"
He just smiled at her.
Sheryl turned to the woman with red hair. "Who are you?"
"I'm his girlfriend. You don't need my name."
"I saw your show," Aaron said. "Very impressive. I'm still trying to work out how you did some of the tricks. Don't tell me. Let me guess."
She raised her eyebrows. "I wasn't planning on telling you anything."
Without asking for permission, he opened a chest containing some small tricks that weren't part of the regular show. He poked through the gadgets inside.
"Hey!" she said. "Get out of there. That's my stuff. You never did tell me how you got past security. Only employees of the casino are allowed back here."
He winked at her. "Your security is weak."
"What did you do?"
"Don't worry. The guards will wake up in a few hours with nothing more than some bruises and a good life lesson."
Sheryl became alarmed as she realized she was in physical danger. She looked towards the door. The girlfriend was guarding it.
Sheryl reached for the phone.
"Don't," Aaron said calmly. "Just stay still and be quiet."
She glanced back. He was pointing a large gun with a suppressor at her forehead. She hadn't even known he was armed.
She backed away from the phone. "Just take what you want. I won't give you any trouble."
"I only want to talk to you. What do you remember about the night we saved you?" He slipped the gun into a holster under his jacket.
She licked her dry lips and tried to put on a brave face. "Not a lot. The police told me I had been missing for a week. I think I was in a cage most of the time."
"Do you remember a boy?"
"Yes, with the most amazing blue eyes. I saw a white light."
He nodded. "That was a very special child. He told me you have great potential."
"I'm already a famous magician," she said.
"You can be much more than that."
"What do you mean?"
He went back to poking through her magical supplies. He held up a wooden box that could only be opened by pressing hidden latches. He gently ran his fingers across the surfaces as he tried to discover the trick.
"You're very rude," she said.
"I've been told by experts that I'm a total asshole." He turned to her and squeezed the box with his fingers. The lid popped open. "But before we get down to business, I want to show you some of my tricks. I want your professional opinion."
She sighed. She had seen more than enough bad amateur magic in her life. "Go on."
He bent his legs, jumped, flipped, spun, and landed on his feet. It was an astonishing demonstration of agility for a big man. She had expected all his thick muscles would make him slow and stiff. He moved like an acrobat instead.
"Pretty good," she said. "I wouldn't call that a magic trick though."
"I can do more. I'm full of surprises."
Aaron rummaged around until he found a deck of cards. He pulled out a three of clubs and gave it to her. "Stand against the wall and hold the card above your head."
"Why?" Sheryl said.
He gave her a look full of menace. Clearly, he didn't like having his orders questioned. The shadows on his face seemed darker than normal, and the effect puzzled her. Was something wrong with the lights?
She obeyed his instructions.
He moved to the opposite side of the room. "Don't move."
He whipped out his gun and fired three times rapidly. The smooth motion reminded her of an Old West gunfighter. A suppressor reduced the noise to loud clicks and hisses.
She looked at the card and discovered all three clubs had been shot out. Three matching bullet holes were in the wall. She gulped.
"What do you think?" he said.
"That's a real gun! You could've killed me!"
The girlfriend chuckled.
Sheryl faced her. "What's so funny?"
"Aaron only kills the people he wants to kill."
Sheryl looked at Aaron. She realized his gun skills were more than just for show.
"What's going on here?" she said in a quavering voice.