Magic Murders      

By Bob Moats




Author's Note

This book, my sixth, takes place in the world of magic. Not the spooky, supernatural stuff, it's about magic tricks and magicians, the people who make you think they are magic. I have been a performing magician since I was in third grade, most of Jim's backstory is actually mine. I did once own a magic shop in Michigan and I even performed a good number of shows in Las Vegas when I lived there. This story takes Jim and his crew to Colon, Michigan, which has been known as the Magic Capital of the World, it actually does exist, along with Abbott's Magic Company. I have not been to the annual magic get together in over thirty years, so I'm going by my recollections about what I had experienced back then, and information I find on Google to write this book. I apologize to the town of Colon and to Abbott's Magic Company if I have exaggerated some facts about the place. This book is fiction, meant to entertain and while I try to be accurate in my story, sometimes I make things up or embellish things to make the story flow. Most people who read this book, have never been to or will never go to this wonderful place, so they will just have to pretend to have been there through my words. Also, Jim performs part of his magic act in this book, it is the same act I do, or did, for the last forty years, most of it word for word.
Thanks, Bob Moats


Chapter 1

I finally got around to putting a nice 42 inch LCD widescreen TV in my office, right across from the couch, to while away the boring days of waiting for a client to walk in the door. Maybe I should advertise a bit harder. I could also watch Penny's show now while I whiled away the day. That way I could also admire my new bride, as she did her best today to smile while trying to munch on a zucchini slice covered in tofu cream. Yum.

The reason she was forcing the zucchini slice was due to a health nutritionist on today's program, showing people how to make healthier meals out of things like squash. Eeuw. I'd rather eat dirt, more roughage. Penny was trying not to make faces at some of the other rather unappetizing delights that the woman presented. I knew Penny's faces well enough now to recognize when she wasn't liking something. I was also worried that Penny would bring home some of those unappetizing meals to pawn off on me. With the TV, I now had an idea of what to expect when I got home.

It had been about four months since Penny and I were married in Las Vegas and had made it through the Bridezilla murders, now things were pretty much back to normal for everyone. Trapper and Becker were back to fighting crime in Clinton Township; Buck was still mooning about moving back to Vegas and living with Deacon's sister, Maria. I was just waiting for him to fly the coup. My family survived the trip and were all back to their normal routines. My mother had a bunch of pleasant memories and a copy of the wedding video from Penny's show. She enjoyed seeing herself on television. I had finally finished with the Classmate Murders novel I was writing, I just wasn't killing myself getting it published.

Deacon and Lynn kept us informed as to how things were doing back in Vegas since we had left; crime, they said, was down twenty percent. I think that was a stab at us.

My office door flew open and in walked an old face I hadn't seen in years. Old face as in age, he was looking worse than I did in years. The tall man was bony, slim, dressed well in a nice black suit and had a face that looked like the side of a wood barn, weathered and craggy. He had strikingly blue eyes, a perpetual smile under a rather pointy nose and a wisp of grey hair. He'd make a great Ebenezer Scrooge in any Christmas play.

"Marty, how the hell are ya?" I asked, standing and coming around my desk to shake his hand. The idiot he was, had a joy buzzer in his hand, startling me. "You dumb ass, haven't changed have you. Despite looking like they just dug you up, you still are a child."

Marty gave me a big grin, then asked if I had a bit of libation. I said I had no alcohol in the office, I was a beer drinker, but not during office hours. He looked disappointed and sat in my client chair as I sat back in my squeaky desk chair.

"Jimmy, as much as I hoped you wouldn't, you look good for your age. How do you do it?" Marty laughed with a wheeze and a cough.

"Clean living and lots of sex." I said, with a smirk.

"Hell, you wouldn't know what to do in bed with a real woman." He laughed.

I leaned forward and turned the picture of Penny that I kept on my desk and said, "I just married this woman who shares my bed, she keeps me young."

He pulled out a pair of narrow glasses and moved his head closer to the picture, "Crissake, man, that's the woman from the TV isn't it?"

"Yep, Penny Wickens-Richards now. You still single?" I smiled.

"Hell, I haven't found the woman that can put up with me." He laughed.

"Still performing?" I asked, knowing Marty was another magician from way back when he and I used to do shows locally.

"Yeah, I still work the damn kid shows and the occasional adult party, but times are tough and the damn kid magicians are undercutting my standard fees. They aren't worth a crap, but the people will pay their fees rather than go for experience and class." He looked disturbed, as if he had a pain in his stomach.

"You all right Marty?" I asked, concerned.

"Hell, no. I'm all eaten up inside, too much partying and drinking. I'll be lucky to reach my next birthday. But I don't care, my life has been full and I'll go to my coffin with a bottle tucked under my arm. Nobody wants an old fart magician who can't stand doing kid shows any more." He smiled but it was a sad smile.

"What brings you here to my humble office, Marty?"

"I heard you got into the P.I. business, I need a favor." He paused as if his mind drifted to places unknown.

I waited, then said, "What is it, Marty?"

"Huhn? Oh yeah, I have been asked to be the recipient of a lifetime award for my service to the world of prestidigitation. You're a magician from way back, I even remember your little magic store you had in Roseville. I want to know if I can hire you to see that I get to the ceremony safely. I'm old and I may lose my way there, or forget all about it." He smiled at me then gave me a toothy grin.

"Marty, how old are you?" I wondered.

"I'll be seventy-four in September. Old enough to know better, but my body says I'm about ninety-nine."

I never had asked Marty his age before, I just assumed he was a bit older, now it hit me to know just how old he was. I'll be 61, a couple months away, if I didn't get shot first.

"Where are you receiving this prestigious award at?" I asked.

"Right here in Michigan, out in Colon, the Magic Capital of the World, well, was before mass production took over and all magic props are now being made in China. Oughtta be a law against it." He smiled again. "They're having the annual magic convention and some idiot decided to honor me with an award before I croak. Damn nice of them to think of me now."

I knew that Marty had more magic in his head than twenty kid magicians combined, he had written a couple books on close-up magic, but his forte was stage. Me, I preferred doing comedy magic, and my act was funny, if I have to say so, which I just did.

"When is the convention this year?" I asked.

"Next month, early this year, I think they moved it so they don't have to give me the award posthumously. That's why I want you to help me make it out there. Keep me in line and standing upright, even if you have to hold me up." The toothy grin came out again. "How much do you charge for protecting this old body?"

"Marty, I could never charge you, besides you couldn't afford me."

"Hell, I got money, I've stashed it away for over forty years, easy to do when you aren't tied down to a wife. But since you offered, I'll take it."

"I knew you would, you old cheapskate. I remember when we used to work the fairs, you always managed to get me to pay for our food and drink."

"Well, you were making the big bucks, being the hotshot magician you were." He laughed.

"Yeah, and look where it got me. No one is giving me any awards." I said with a touch of remorse.

"That was because you took magic on like a business, just doing the shows, but you never associated with other magicians, except me."

"I never liked most of the other magicians, they all thought they could actually walk on water. I was disillusioned that I knew how the trick was done, so the magic was taken all out of it. I just enjoyed the laughter of the audience and having fun with them, not trying to make them think I could actually do magic. You've seen my act, I don't pretend to be a wizard. Too damn many Harry Potters out there."

"Too easy going you were, young Luke." He made the comment sounding like Yoda from Star Wars, and he even looked like him. "Jimmy you could have been a legend too, if you chummed up to the right people. You could have been a star."

"Hey, I've performed in Las Vegas, I'll have you know. Lots of shows and I was well received."

His eyes widen, "You actually made it to Lost Wages and worked the stages?"

"Well, not exactly the big stages, a bunch of small ones in the casino malls, hawking magic tricks to the tourists." I said with a sly smile.

"Ah, still the business man, not the magic man." He stood, "I have to be going, business and a bottle to attend to, I'll call you with the details, and Jimmy... it's good to see you again." he said with a slight sadness, turned to the door and went out.

I sat quietly for a long time, remembering my days doing shows at clubs, bars, fairs, private parties, and even a couple of times on television. OK, I was on the Bozo the Clown show doing magic twice, but it was TV. My magic store was a great place to meet people, but after a while the people I met were just all a bit off the wall. Some were nice, most were wrapped up in their magic. I would join a few in a bar and all they wanted to do was talk magic and out do each other with some new trick they learned. I just wanted to enjoy the evening drinking with a few friends. After a while I stopped going out with them, they just drained the life out of me. I loved performing for an intimate crowd, like in a small bar. I had one place in Mt. Clemens that I performed every Friday and Saturday nights. I was there for almost a year, having fun with the customers. My act was the same every night, but they would bring in friends for me to call up on stage and have fun with them, not embarrassing them but having fun. Those were good days.

Unfortunately, I knew I could never go back.

*
*

Chapter 2

On my way home I thought about my magic career, all the way back to third grade when I did my first show using a deck of trick cards in my class at school. It went well and I continued performing small shows all through to high school. After a while I started doing the bigger illusions and kept doing shows throughout my life, until my second marriage, when I basically retired from it. The highlight was moving out to and performing in Vegas, that was a dream fulfilled. After I returned from Vegas I stopped, mostly because I was burnt out from all the work I put into it, and also because there wasn't that much call for magicians around Macomb County. Or elsewhere for that matter, so I just retired again.

I drove in the drive to our humble little home and parked my twenty year old Crown Vic in my spot on the side of the garage. We kept Penny's car in the garage because it was new and we wanted to keep it that way. I had enough money to buy a brand new car, but I couldn't part with the Crown Vic, it was my baby. I did use my money to fix it up, so it was in classic car shape now. My next project is one of those car tents they sell, to keep the Vic out of the weather, especially with winter coming up.

I got to the front door and noticed Penny didn't come bouncing out to meet me at the door much lately, guess it's a sign of being married. I entered and the first thing I noticed was the smell. It was like a trash can full of garbage that was going bad. I took a breath and went into the kitchen.

"I'm not eating any of that stuff." I declared.

She looked at me, and grinned widely and bounced over to latch on with a big hug and a kiss. I said again, that wasn't going to make me eat whatever she brought home from work. She looked at me funny like and then it struck her.

"Oh, god, no. I made sure all that crap was tossed after the woman left. I see you were watching my show on your new TV at work." She went back to a small pot on the stove and stirred it a bit still looking at me.

"Yes, I watched with delight as you tried to hack down all that crap, as you say."

"I rubbed perfume under my nose so I couldn't smell the crap. Close your eyes, do it now," she demanded, I did.

She held an apple slice under my nose and put an onion slice in my mouth and told me to bite. I did, it was good. She said to open my eyes and showed me the onion that I took a chomp from.

"It's sensory, you smell something good, so your taste is fooled." She was Mr. Wizard.

"So what is the foul smell coming from the pot you're cooking up?" I asked.

"Oh, it's liver for Willy. Would you like a taste?" she asked.

"Not even if you held a steak under my nose." I replied.

She finished cooking the foul stuff and put it in a plastic bowl with a cover. We opened doors and windows to let the smell go outside, as we sat on the picnic table in the backyard. Willy was running around, trying to catch a squirrel that wandered into the yard. I told her about Marty's visit and what he wanted, her eyes widen and she said two years ago, she had on her show five magicians from Colon, Michigan talking about the convention.

I could see the excitement in her eyes and she asked when we were leaving? I said next month, but how many times can she take off from her show, isn't there something in her contract that says she has to do a certain number of appearances.

She sat back and thought. "That sounds kind of familiar, I'll check on it. Hey, I have an idea." She had that devious look again.

I was dreading what she was going to say.

"I can get Gordy to do a live feed from Colon and have my show broadcast out there while we're visiting and you're protecting your friend. I can interview the magicians."

I winced and thought about having Lonie and her crew following us around again. Vegas was enough to have our wedding taped for posterity, but this was too much. Besides I couldn't think what Gordy would offer us in exchange for taping our activities.

"I'll see if I can get the use of the company limo for the time we're out there." She offered.

My head snapped over to her, Limo? I kinda liked that offer.

"It's only about a four hour drive out there, isn't it?" She asked.

"Yeah, not far, especially in a limo."

Penny knew she hit a nerve with the limo.

She went in the house and got on the phone in the bedroom, this was déjà vu. I came in and sat on the couch, the smell had abated. About a half-hour later, she came out smiling and said Gordy loved the idea and the limo is in the bag. I said that Marty would crap when we come to get him in a limo. She said that's nice but he'd have to clean up the crap himself. I laughed and started to tickle Penny until she yelled for mercy, plus the fact she might pee on the couch. She smiled and said she wasn't wearing her Depends today.

"You never would wear Depends, you rather pee on the couch than be caught in Depends" I countered.

"Sure, but it may be coming one day, especially you, you're getting up there in years."

"Screw you." I muttered. Penny said that was the first good idea I had since I got home, she stood and headed to the bedroom. I just sat there, drawing out the torture. She finally yelled for me to get in there, or it would be a long time before I could ever touch her again. I went in.

Next morning, I was entering my office hallway and found Buck stretched out in the hallway chair. I did my usual kicking his feet; he looked up and grinned. "I'm getting used to this routine." He said.

I went to open my office door and went in, followed by Buck. He plopped down on the client chair and sat smiling at me.

"OK, am I supposed to guess why the silly grin?" I asked.

"I talked to Maria last night and she wants me to come back out to Vegas next month." He said as his smile grew into a wide grin.

"Damn, I was going to ask you if you wanted to go with Penny and me, in a limo, out to Colon, Michigan to visit the big magic get together."

"Colon? I know that place; I rode my Harley through it on my way to South Bend for a bike rally. It's the magic capital of the world, they say." His eyes were looking like a little kid being told he could go to a carnival.

"Yep, I have to escort an old magician friend of mine to get an award for his years of service to the magic world. I wanted to hire you to help me protect Marty, that's my friend's name, and to drive the limo we are getting to drive out in."

"Do you want me to wear the chauffeur cap, too?" He laughed.

"It wouldn't hurt, I want to go in style."

"Yassa, sir, I be able to drive yo out, it be ma pleasure."

"Don't let the NAACP hear you say that." I grinned.

"Yassa boss."

I just stared at him, shook my head and continued, "The convention is the first week of next month, you could still go out to Vegas after that, if you want to join us?"

"Hell, yeah, I wouldn't miss it. Who's your friend?"

"His name is Marty Van Hought, I've known him for going on thirty years, since I first started my magic shop. We took a liking to each other and we became friends. He's being given a lifetime achievement award for his career in magic. The man deserves it, he taught me a lot of magic." I went silent for a bit, Buck just sat waiting for me to say something.

I came back to the present again, "So, are you interested in going with us?"

"Let's see, Vegas and great sex; old man and magic tricks. Hmm... Well, Vegas and Maria will still be there in the middle of next month, I guess I can tell her a case came up." He grinned.

"Also, if you didn't get enough of being followed around by a camera crew, we're doing it again. Penny is doing four of her shows live from there, interviewing the magicians and having them perform. Should be interesting. I'll need you to help keep an eye on Penny and Marty too. We'll take turns." I explained.

"I get to watch Penny at night." Buck grinned.

"Oh, yeah, that'll go over well. I'm going to have you and Marty bunk in the same room so be ready for Ben-Gay and lots of booze. Marty is a bit of a lush, one reason he wants me along to keep him in line for his award. So we will have our job cut out for us."

"Yeah, well, being a reformed alcoholic, I'll shape him up."

"Hell, I'll just be happy if we can stand him up." I grinned.

*
*

Chapter 3

"Since your station is going to have to pick up the tab for the camera crew's motel room, think we can slip our room bill in there too?" I said on the phone to Penny, as I whiled away my day in the office. Penny was at home by now and I was thinking of calling it a day. Buck went off to do what Buck does best, work on his classic cars at home. Penny was home talking to me sitting on the couch with Willy on her lap.

"I already arranged for that contingency, yes our... well, my room will be comped, but you can stay with me." She replied.

"Comped? You're sounding like a true Vegas gal now. When shall we start making plans to move out, Buck is going next month to visit with Maria, I think he may be on the way out there too."

"I haven't totally pushed the idea aside, it's still in the cards."

"Cards, ah, another Vegas reference. I'm liking you more each day." I grinned.

"Well, you better get liking me totally, we are married now. Or have you forgotten?"

"How can I forget when you keep slipping wedding cake in my lunch pail each day."

"You don't take a lunch pail to work, so work on not forgetting."

"Aye, Captain." I said with a sneer. "What are you wearing?"

"Perfume and not much else," she replied.

"I'll be home as fast as my feet can take me."

"Take the car, your feet don't move as fast as they used to," she laughed.

"You'll regret that remark when I get home."

"Just get home." She yelled and hung up. I knew I had better move quickly.

Two hours later we were snuggled up to each other on the couch, that was as far as we made it on the way to the bedroom. Willy was blocked in the kitchen since he thought we were wrestling and wanted to join in. Nothing worse than good sex with a tiny dog nipping at your butt.

I was aware that Penny liked sex from the day I came back into her life at her station, after her show, when she ambushed me in her dressing room, or I should say, undressing room. I'm not complaining, I enjoyed it too, but Penny made it especially good, so it was easy to enjoy it. I just hoped it wasn't my downfall, I'd hate to die in bed, too messy for Penny to have to dress me so my butt wouldn't be in the crime scene photos.

We sat now at the counter between the kitchen and family room, TV playing in the background, nothing good on, just playing for the ambient sounds. We munched on chips and drank our beer and kissed frequently. Willy was lying on the counter watching us with his head down.

"I asked Buck to join us on our trip out, he can help watch Marty while I watch you." I said.

"You just want a chauffeur to drive us out in the limo."

"Well, yes, but Marty will need a lot of attention while we are out there, he has a bad drinking problem and tends to lose his way. So Buck can nurse maid him till he gets his award. Marty asked me to keep him in line and I intend to honor my obligation. But I will buy a chauffeur's cap for Buck to wear." I grinned.

"The station already has a cap, I'll see if I can find it. Buck will look so cute in it," she laughed.

I looked at the clock over the mantelpiece and it was now about 7:45. We ambled over to the couch and plopped down to watch TV and relax. There wasn't much on TV but it was our ritual now, so we enjoyed it.

My cell phone rang and the caller ID said it was Trapper. I answered, "Hey Will, what's up?"

"Jim, I just got the Trapper-In-Vegas-Annoying-Weber video tapes edited and DVD copies made, you want one?" He was smiling, I could tell.

When Penny and I were out in Vegas getting married, Trapper and Becker were running around town pulling pranks on Captain Weber and they were great. I didn't know that Trapper had video taped their goofiness. "I'd love a copy. Matter of fact if you have extras, I'd like three, I'll buy."

"I got plenty, and enough to send out to Metro PD for distribution around the precinct. What are you doing now?" He asked.

"We were just sitting here watching lousy TV, if you are nearby stop over... uh... hold on..." I told Penny what Trapper had and asked if she minded a visit, she said that would be great to see the fun, "OK, Penny said she wants to see the video too."

"You are so whipped. Becker and I will be by shortly." He said.

"If you guys want anything to drink you better bring a case." I laughed.

He said they would and hung up. I looked at Penny and laughed, "Trapper actually pulled off the pranks and had cops running around, and had time to video tape it. Maybe we can put it on your show."

"I doubt they'll do it, but I'll ask, but only if the video is good."

She was just saying that when there came a knock on the door, I was puzzled and went to look out. It was Trapper and Becker; I looked at Penny and asked how did they do that. I opened the door and let them in. Trapper laughed and said they were out in the driveway when he called. I said hi to Barry Becker and asked them to have a seat.

Trapper had a box and pulled out a DVD and handed it to me. I went to put it in the DVD player as Trapper offered Penny a beer from the case he had Becker carry. Then he handed me one as we sat and watched the video. It started off very professionally made, titles and music. We sat and laughed at their attempts to pour two gallons of food dye into the fountain of the Bellagio, then roared as the stripper danced around Weber in the Metro PD lobby. All the other silliness was enjoyed and when it ended we all applauded the efforts.

"Isn't this a confession as to your misdemeanors at the Bellagio and the lights at the Riviera?" I asked. "Wouldn't Weber be able to use this for filing a warrant for your arrest?"

"They'll have to extradite me first, I'll never go back willingly." He kidded. "Besides if he tries, I'll put this on YouTube."

We sat around talking about our trip out to Sin City, even though it was months ago. We made small talk and then I mentioned about my new case of taking an old friend out to the magic convention in Colon. Becker just about fell off his chair.

"Magic! I love magic, when is this convention?" He sounded excited.

"Barry, I didn't know you liked magic? I would have told you that I was a magician."

Now Becker was really excited. "You did magic? How long and do you still do it and would you teach me??"

I could see he was going to be bouncing off the walls and went to the bookshelves and took down my photo scrapbook covering my magic career. He took it and poured through it like it was the Gutenberg Bible.

Trapper just sat staring at Becker and said, "Crap, now he'll be all hyper."

"You say you're taking a friend of yours to the convention, can I go, I'll work for free, and you won't even know I'm there!"

I looked at Penny, she was holding in a laugh, then she said, "Barry, we'd be happy to take you. Can you get off from work?"

Trapper smiled and said, "I'll see to it he gets the time off, just to get rid of him."

I slapped Trapper's leg and said, "Will, why don't you take some time off too, and come with us?"

"Oh, no, not this time, let Barry enjoy the trip on his own. I'm not going to play chaperone again."

"It's only a four day convention, Penny's station got us a motel just out of town, enough rooms for us and the camera crew. I'll see if we can get an extra room for Buck and Becker, and you, if you want to come." I said to Trapper.

"Yeah, that's not something I need right now, a room with Becker and Buck." He was insistent, but I could see his mouth trying not to break a smile.

I gave Becker the details and called out to the motel and was able to get an extra room. I made sure we had enough rooms for all, Penny and me in one; Marty in his own, which Buck was going to share, but I figured it's better to have Marty on his own; and the extra room for Becker and Buck and possibly Trapper. Despite the fact he refused to go. So it was arranged.

After a while Trapper and Becker went off into the night and Penny and I relaxed and reviewed the day. I said I probably was getting myself into a mess with all the arrangements I was making, Penny said it would be fun, having our friends with us.

"I think Trapper will probably join us, he hates to miss out on fun." I mentioned.

Penny looked at me and said, "I feel sorry for Colon, Michigan if he and Becker are in town."

*
*

Chapter 4

Penny and I were up early the next morning, and she was off to work on a mission to let her viewers know she was going to have a four day magic special, remote from the Magic Capital of the World. Penny was now taking Willy with her to work, she had assistants to watch him as she worked, he loved the attention they gave him and this way he wasn't alone for long periods of time.

I was going to visit Marty at his home in Eastpointe, formerly East Detroit, but I guess the town wanted it's own identity. I drove down Gratiot Avenue to just below Nine Mile Road and making a Michigan left turn, I went to his street. Just to explain what a Michigan left turn is, most cross roads along a divided highway with median, won't let you make the normal left turns on the road you want, so you had to waste time going past the road you want to left turn on, going to the left turn around lane going back to the crossroad and make a right turn onto the road you want, understand? I really love Michigan. In Vegas you could make U-turns at an intersection, if you were brave enough.

Whatever, I drove east on Nine Mile and found Melrose Street and turned down it. I got to the address that Marty gave me and up to the door. I banged on his front door for a short while, then went around to the back and banged on the back door. I looked into the windows on the back of the house and was startled to see Marty lying on the floor in what looked like his dining room. I ran to the back door and shoved my elbow into the glass and reached in to open the door.

I ran into the room to where Marty was lying, checking his pulse, it was active, and he was breathing. He stirred and opened his eyes and saw me, "Jimmy, how the hell are you?"

I helped him up and put him on a chair, he was stinking drunk and barely able to hold up his head.

"Marty are you trying to kill yourself?" I yelled to get his attention.

"Fuck, I'm dying anyways, who cares?" He muttered.

"Hey, I care, don't play that tune on me. Let's get you sober man." I pulled him up and walked him to his bathroom and pushed him the shower and turned the water on full cold. He howled and tried to get out but I was stronger. I let the water run on his head for a while then pulled him out to towel him off.

After a while I had him cleaned up and drinking coffee that he had ready in his coffee maker but never used. I sat in front of him and just stared into his face.

"What the hell is the matter with you?" I demanded.

"Jimmy, there are millions of drunks out there, you can't cure everyone." He said with a smirk.

"Maybe not, but I can help one lousy drunk, and I will. You asked for my help to get you out to receive your award, and I will. And you will get that award clean and sober, if it kills me, because I'm not going to let it kill you. I can't get that award myself so I'm depending on you to make me proud. You understand old man?"

He smiled and said he knew it was good to hire me. I walked away and called Buck and told him what just happened. I said I was going to pack his stuff for the trip and asked if I could bring him to Buck's house for Buck to watch him. Buck said to bring him on, he'd lock him in a room till he dried out. If anyone knew the pain of getting off the bottle, it was Buck.

I went into Marty's room and found a couple of suitcases in his closet and proceeded to pack what I thought he would need. I found his magic prop case and put that out by the door. I packed his toiletries and extra underwear, I dreaded to think what he had on since I didn't see any dirty clothes lying around. I made him put on a nice pair of slacks and a Banlon pullover, taking a cardigan sweater and wrapping it around his neck, he looked like a damn preppie. I threw everything in my car and put a message on his phone saying he was unavailable till after the magic convention in which he was receiving a lifetime achievement award. He was sitting in his chair watching me put the message on the answering machine and quietly said thank you.

"Listen to me old man, you will get to your award ceremony and you will enjoy it, understand?"

He nodded his head and let me take him to my car. He asked to sit for a moment so he could think if he had everything. He looked at me and said he was ready.

I drove out to Buck's and introduced him to Marty. Marty was still weak and Buck and I helped him to the door of Buck's home. We put him in the same room Penny and I shared back during the classmate murders and Buck said he installed a sliding bolt on the outer side of the door to help with Marty's drying out.

Marty was so tired looking, I hoped he didn't pass away before we left. We had four days till we were to leave and I was betting on us making it. After Marty was tucked away in his bed, I gave Buck a wad of cash and said to get anything he needed to help with Marty. I said I'd keep in touch and headed out.

I was upset to say the least, but I was determined to make this work. Marty hired me... hell, he wanted me to help and I said I would. I got back to our home and Penny was already back and I told her of my morning, she could see I was upset and comforted me. We talked about it, I said I never realized that Marty was all that so deep into it, I guess when we were younger it was just fun to go out drinking until we nearly passed out. I now really felt for families of people who had this problem. I know that I enjoyed drinking beer but I had strict rules about it and never let it overtake me. I wasn't addicted to drinking beer since I was more addicted to being in control and not allowing the alcohol to take over. When it got out of control it would end.

I spent the next few days getting myself packed and gathering my magic prop table together to take along, never could tell when it might be needed. Penny was still pushing the remote broadcast on her show and it looked good to go.

The first week of the month came and we got the limo dropped off by the station's crew and it was beautiful, a burgundy Lincoln stretch limo, sweet.

Buck's mouth dropped when he drove up and saw the limo and then helped Marty out of his car. Marty looked good, all cleaned up, shaved and hair combed. He had a spring in his step as he came to the limo and said it was nice of us to take him in style. I smiled at Buck and said he did good.

I asked Penny if everything was good for her station, Penny said the camera crew was already in Colon and had a line up of magicians ready to perform and talk about magic and the convention, why not it was national television. Lonie was directing the whole thing again and I was secretly glad I would see her in charge again.

Becker came flying in and out of his car, then his mouth dropped at the sight of the limo. He made a comment about how he'd like to drive one of these beasts. Buck looked at me and gave Becker the chauffeur's cap and said he was the designated driver. Becker got that silly grin on his face and climbed in behind the wheel. I hoped he wouldn't kill us.

We all were in the limo and on our way. We drove out the freeways till they were no longer available in the area we were driving into and Becker was doing a commendable job driving. I was talking with Marty and he was telling me he made it a little hard on Buck being his patient. Buck just grinned and said Marty was no problem at all. Been there, done that, Buck said.

The trip took just about four hours and we drove into Colon along State Street and got up to Blackstone Street by the City hall and I told Becker to turn right. We drove through the old Victorian style city, red brick buildings in a town of about two thousand year round residents. We drove up Blackstone Street, named after the famous magician Harry Blackstone, Sr., and went up by Miller's Landing to look at Sturgeon Lake. We drove back down and over to St. Joseph Street and around to Abbott's Magic Company, the host of the convention.

Founded in the 1927, as the Blackstone Magic Company it was owned by Percy Abbott and Harry Blackstone Sr., then in 1934 it was reopened as Abbott's magic company when Abbott and Blackstone parted. Abbott took on a new partner, Recil Bordner and they decided the company needed a boost in sales. They held a private open house and it did so well, in 1937 they opened it to the public and ran it every year for now over 70 years to become the Abbott's Magic Get-Together.

I had Becker drive around to make everyone curious about the gorgeous limo and it's contents, then we pulled up to the front of the building. Lonie had been alerted by my call to meet us at the store and she played it up big. Becker was enjoying his role and ran around to open the side door for us. I looked at Marty and said this was his big moment, and told him to get out first. He exited the vehicle and much to my surprise a good number of the people wandering the area recognized him and gave him a hearty applause. I told Penny to go out and she did with Willy under her arm and even she was recognized by a few people. The camera crew was working the scene and I stepped out to silence. Oh, Well.

Buck got out behind me and I heard a few comments about Hulk Hogan, I just had to change Buck's appearance.

We went into Abbott's and there were a number of people who recognized Marty and came over to him, I could see he was in his glory. We registered for the convention and the Abbott's rep gave Marty and me instructions as to his part in the proceedings. We left the building and got back in the limo, as I was talking to Lonie about us going to get our rooms settled at the motel. She smiled and asked if I saw the movie Psycho, I said I had and she said don't get the first room. I was worried by that and we drove out to the motel, it was looking about fifty years old, it was a lot like the Psycho motel. I looked around the side to see if there was an old house on a hill next to it, there wasn't. We registered for our rooms and were putting our stuff away when there was a knock on Penny and my door.

I opened it to find a face I was kind of expecting, Trapper.

*
*

Chapter 5

"I just had a feeling you would show up, when did you get here?" I asked.

"About four hours ago, I've been exploring the place and getting to know the cops here. Had a nice sit down with the chief of police and we got along well. I was exploring the magic shop when you guys rolled in, impressive entrance if I do say so. Where is my luxury suite?" he asked.

"You can bunk in with Becker and Buck, if you dare." I answered.

"Oh hell no, the chief of police offered me his fishing cabin on Sturgeon Lake. We're fishing buddies now." He grinned widely.

"I didn't know you even like to fish."

"I hate it, but I hate staying here in hell hotel worse."

"Thanks for hanging us out to dry." I laughed. "If we turn up murdered, I'm haunting you forever."

"I'll think of you while I'm out on the lake." he grinned.

"I hope you drown." I grinned back at him.

Penny was taking our conversation in as we spoke and said for both of us to grow up.

We stood staring at each other just as a figure came up behind Trapper and yelled, "Where is that little lady from the television?" Trapper spun to see the chief of police standing behind him.

"Well, Chief Raynalds, I was just telling my friends about your generous offer of your fishing cabin for me to stay in." Trapper was stammering.

"Yeah, yeah, I just want to meet the immortal Miss Penny Wickens." He replied.

"That's the immortal Mrs. Penny Wickens-Richards now, Chief. I'm Jim Richards, private investigator from Macomb County. Penny's husband."

"Well, damn good to meet you son." He spotted Penny coming over to meet him and he blushed.

Penny saw the blush and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek causing him to turn a brighter shade of red.

"Miss... sorry, Mrs. Wickens, it's a pleasure to welcome you here to our town. Your TV crew director, Lonie, I think her name was, came in and talked very nicely to us about maybe getting our police force on your show, if that's all right with you?"

"Chief, I want all your men out in their best uniforms and showing what Colon's men in blue can do for the town. I'd like that." She smiled as the Chief agreed to have his men out for her tomorrow.

"I'll do just that ma'am, thank you kindly. Well, I'll let you all get settled in, I've warned Charley, the motel owner to give you the best you need here, or I'll put him out of business." He laughed and said good night and left.

"Lonie covers all bases doesn't she." I laughed.

"Yes she does. Get everyone on your side and you can get away with most things." Penny smiled and gave me a kiss on the cheek. "Trapper are you going to stand in the doorway all night or come in to sit?"

"Thanks Penny, but I think I may go surprise Becker and Buck. Then go see what the nightlife is like here in town." Trapper gave a little smirk.

"First off, don't go pulling any pranks here, these are my people. Second, the nightlife is the American Legion hall, where the magicians gather to talk and drink. So go easy." I smiled at him hoping he'd stay out of trouble.

"Damn, I drove all the way out here for drinking at an American Legion hall. I just may buy a twelve pack and go fishing." He laughed and turned towards Becker's room.

I told Penny I was going to check on Marty, she said she still wanted to unpack her suitcases, all four of them. I said, yeah, one for each day. I left the room before she threw something at me.

Marty's room was next to ours and I gently knocked on the door. After a bit, it opened and Marty asked me to come in. He was getting his clothes and magic props ready and laid out.

"I'm happy to see you looking so well Marty, you really had me upset last week."

"I'm really sorry about that, Jimmy. It's been so many years downing the booze, a person just doesn't realize that it effects others. But I feel great and ready to conquer."

"Great, get ready and we'll go get lunch some where, my treat, as always." I grinned. He said he'd be ready and I left.

I walked down to Becker and Buck's room and the door was open, I stopped just before it and listened to Trapper extolling his story of the lake mansion he was staying at. I turned the corner of the door and said, "If you got a mansion, then you could put us all up there couldn't you?"

He was a bit taken back and said, "Well, the place may not be big enough for everyone, but I could make room for the guys."

Becker said he was hanging around me and Marty because he wanted any magic to rub off on him. Buck grinned and said he had to watch Marty so he'd pass on the offer. Trapper looked a bit relieved and asked if we were hungry. I said it was time for lunch and we gathered everyone up and back into the limo. Trapper said he was taking his Jeep Cherokee to follow us. I told Becker that he didn't have to wear the cap, he wasn't the hired help. We drove around till we found a small diner and went in to eat.

Marty was a big name in magic, despite being a local magician for years. He traveled around the world in his younger days and performed before kings and rulers of other countries. But Marty was still a humble and common man, which is the thing I liked about him, he wasn't pretentious.

There were a number of customers in the diner who must have been in town for the convention, they recognized Marty and he went to entertain his fans. I took our little company to a long table off the side and a waitress came over to get the table set up with waters and silverware. Marty rejoined us and we ordered.

I reached in my pocket and brought out a small card, it was a registration card for the entire four days of the convention. I gave it to Trapper and said I thought he might show up, so I registered him. He grinned and said thanks. He enjoyed magic and really wanted to see the shows they had at night in the high school auditorium, that he read about online.

We had finished eating when Lonie popped up in the diner with a couple of her crew. She came over and said she was just going to call Penny, they had a link set up in an hour to get the ball rolling and get the show to the network feed by 4 P.M. Penny said she'd be ready and asked where it was going to be. Lonie smiled and said the Chief of Police had talked to the Mayor and we got the City Hall for today's taping, they'd do the live remote tomorrow from the Police station, and the next day was in the town square, weather permitting. The last day would be at Abbott's Magic Company where we'd do a walk around interviewing magic big wigs. Lonie had a number of guests lined up, time wasn't critical, she had enough magicians to fill the daily hour and more.

We finished up and headed to the city hall and parked the limo around the side. The Chief was directing the convention traffic with a couple of other of Colon's finest and saw us. He said something to his officers and came to us. He walked up to Penny and offered his arm to escort her to the door, she thanked him and said that would be so nice of him.

Lonie had one of the many crew members on this trip, following us around with a camera recording our activities before the show for later cuts into the program. The city had gone all out to set up the city hall for our visit and had chairs set up for Penny and her guests. Lonie was busy directing everyone into place.

Penny was put into make-up by her groupies who came out to help and she handed Willy to me to guard him. Marty was really enjoying the whole TV set-up and Penny came and took him by the hand and led him to a chair in the middle of the temporary set.

Lights were adjusted, cameras were checked and the Chief herded in a whole bunch of people from where ever he got them, to be the audience. The people were thrilled to be part of the show and all sat watching the goings on.

The show was ready to go. Lonie coached the audience to watch her signals for applause and yelled to standby by for taping. Lights were turned on and cameras were ready and Penny was given her cue as the show's theme music blared out of speakers off the side. Lonie gave Penny her count down and my gal started doing the thing she did best, besides sex, become the great hostess she was.

"Good afternoon, world. I'm Penny Wickens and this is "Penny for Your Thoughts". For the next four days we have a real treat, most talk shows just have a few magicians as guests, my show this week has a whole town of them. We are in Colon, Michigan, the magic capital of the world, for the big Abbott's Magic Get-Together held every year now for the last 70 years."

Penny was reading off the teleprompter, but she was good enough to do it ad-lib if she had to. I was really proud of my woman. Buck, Trapper and Becker were sitting next to me off the side of the area set up for the broadcast, we had good seats.

"Before I start talking to my guests, I want to introduce two people who are helping to make this show possible here in Colon, the Mayor and Chief of Police." Penny stood and went to the two men sitting off the opposite side from us as the cameras panned to them. Penny talked and praised them for their gracious help, both men were pleased. Trapper leaned to me and said Penny is good at spreading the butter. I looked at him and then I thought about it, it made sense. Keep the wheels greased and everything moves well.

Penny came back to her seat, Marty still sitting next to her; she introduced her first guest, Marty Van Hought. Penny asked Marty about his illustrious career and about the award he was to receive later in the week. She finished with Marty and then introduced a young magician, a past winner of the Kid's category of competition; the boy performed his act and did well. He finished and Penny was announcing a magician who was going to perform in the adult stage competition this weekend, but there was something wrong. Lonie was running around the back and signaled to Penny to take a commercial, which Penny did.

An officer came running up to the Chief and said something to him; they ran off down a hall. I looked at Trapper, he looked at Becker, who looked at Buck. Buck looked at me and I got up followed by the guys and we went down the hall, out to the back of the building where we found three officers and the Chief, who was bending over the body of the next guest on Penny's show, now dead.

*
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Chapter 6

Trapper came over as the Chief looked up to him, "Will, we don't have a CSI like your city has, we'll need to get the State Police forensics in to take care of this, but if you could look it over and give your professional opinion. We don't get but one murder every twenty years here in town, so this is something we aren't prepared for."

"I'll take a look Chief," he said as he bent down and saw what looked like a knife wound in the man's chest bleeding out on the ground. "I'm sure you can see it looks like a knife wound, but the strange thing is the knife wound continues out the back of his body. Damn long knife." Trapper said.

"Or a sword." I added, "Like one a magician would use."

Trapper looked up to me, and agreed. "The body looks like it was brought here, he didn't bleed out here. Not enough blood on the ground. Tire tracks on the grass suggest that he was dumped here but why, it's too public. A ride out to the country would have been a better dump." Trapper stood and turned to the Chief, "That's the best I can tell you without a CSI here to gather evidence, which we are messing up by walking all over the crime scene."

The Chief started yelling for everyone to get out of the crime scene and had one of his officers get on the horn and call for State Police forensics. Lonie had now heard the news and got another magician lined up to perform. The Chief had two of his officers guard the crime scene until forensics could get there. We all went back to the broadcast and Penny was talking to a rep from Abbott's about the convention, it's history and events. Penny finished up announcing tomorrow's show and the new location in town she would be at and did her finish up as the end credits rolled.

Penny came to me and asked what was going on. I told her and she just looked at me and said, "Everywhere we go to get away, there's a murder. Are you doing this?"

"Hell, no. But I think it's becoming a curse. I know magicians are competitive but I don't see murder as a way to get ahead. Maybe a jealous magician's assistant caught him messing around with other bunnies."

"Whatever, I hope this doesn't become a trend." Penny said with an air of resignation.

Lonie came rushing up, "I love traveling with you guys, we get the best breaking news. I don't know what I can get Gordy to offer for you to solve this crime, but I'll negotiate." With that she ran off.

"See, we are corrupting everyone." Penny smirked. "That's it, no more murders."

Just as she said that there was a scream from the back. We ran out followed by the guys and found that the scream came from the wife of the murdered magician. Trapper went over to the hysterical woman being comforted by the Chief. Trapper pulled a chair over and the Chief nodded to him, setting the woman down on it.

"Ma'am, I know it's a bad time to ask, but if you could tell us where your husband was before this happened, it may help the police find his killer." Trapper asked.

"He was in the high school auditorium getting ready for the competition, and was coming here to be on that woman's show. He was all excited to be performing on national television."

"Don't you help him with his show?" I asked from behind Trapper.

She looked up to me and said, "He worked the show alone. He never used assistants, he wanted all the glory for himself."

I thought that was an odd comment to say. I knew many magicians who wanted glory, but the assistant is just a part of most shows and not a glory stealer. My guess is he had an ego that wanted it all.

"You weren't with your husband during the time from the school till now?" Trapper asked.

"No, I said I'd meet him here. Then we were going to a lecture by a close-up magician he admired."

Trapper stood and took the Chief aside, "I hope you didn't mind that I'm asking her a couple questions?"

"Hell, no, you're a big city homicide cop, we can use the help. I don't want murder to become a regular thing here, let's get this solved." he exclaimed.

Trapper went back as I stood by with Penny who was now holding Willy again. Trapper got down by the woman, "I really have to ask, I know it's not pleasant, but it will help us catch the person who did this. Did your husband have any enemies, or someone he didn't get along with?"

She looked at him with bloodshot eyes and shook her head, "No, none I know of. There were a few other magicians he didn't like, too self-important he would say." I knew what she spoke of. "Those men wouldn't want my husband dead, they wouldn't do that."

I came over to the Chief and said we should go to the school and look at his equipment and take the wife as she may spot something we could miss. He looked to Trapper and me, then nodded, saying he thought that was good, it may also be the scene of the murder. He asked the woman if she would go with us to look over her husband's magic equipment for anything out of place. She agreed and the Chief, one officer and the woman went to his patrol car as Trapper led our group to his Jeep Cherokee parked by the side of the building behind the limo. We all drove out State Street and got to Dallas Street and up to the high school.

I hadn't been to an Abbott's Get-Together in about thirty years, but the place hadn't changed much. A great small village flavor to the place. We drove in and the woman, now introducing herself as Vicky, took us to his area where he had his equipment set up. Trapper asked me to examine the stuff since I knew what it all was; I saw a lot of standard equipment on his table and a few props I wasn't sure what they were for. Vicky filled me in on his act and I understood what he was doing. I asked if he used a sword in his act, she said yes, it was a standard card sword, one that a chosen card would appear stuck on. I asked where it was, she said it was on the side of the table, I said it wasn't. She came around and looked, eyes getting wide, saying it was gone.

"Well, Chief, you find that sword and you'll probably find the killer." I offered to the now weary Chief. He turned to his officer and said to get all available men to search the auditorium and the building for that matter, for the sword. Trapper was snooping around, along with Becker and Buck looking for the sword around the big stage. Marty and Penny were resting on a couple of chairs they found on the side of the stage. I came over to them and asked Marty if he ever experienced any murders in his career. He laughed no, but he did die on stage many times, I said I knew that feeling.

Penny's cell phone rang and she looked at it, opened the flip and said, "Hi Gordy." she smiled at me and continued, "Yes, we are embroiled in murder again, not my fault, it's Jim's," she listened, "Well, we'll do what we can to spice it up, but no guarantees, talk later." She looked to me and shook her head, "This business is filled with ghouls. Gordy wants coverage on the murder for a whole new show if we can make it last. Maybe we should kill someone else to keep it going."

Buck yelled from off in the darkness of the stage and came out with a handkerchief around the hilt of the sword. "I found it behind a bunch of set flats on the side of the stage. The thing has blood on it and I found a pool of blood by the area the sword was at. There's a back stage door right by the spot going outside that would be perfect to put the body in a car or truck."

Trapper wondered why the killer just didn't leave the body here and be gone. I said maybe it's a statement that the killer wanted people to see the victim by dumping him at the city hall.

"If it is a statement, from my experience, there may be more murders. If the killer wants to really make a statement." Trapper said.

The Chief moaned, "More murders? This is not good."

"Well, it may mean beefing up your security. Add a few more men on protection of the auditorium and anywhere else there are magicians working."

The Chief looked at him like he was nuts, "There are magicians all over this town, they are in the woodwork, under the rugs, climbing the trees, how do I protect all of them?"

"Well, I guess we find the killer real fast." Trapper said as he was looking at the sword. "This looks messy on the hilt, could be hard to find prints, I see lots of smudges."

As we stood on the stage, a rather huge state trooper walked in and yelled for the Chief. We all came forward and then Becker yelled out, "Rick! Is that you?"

The trooper's jaw dropped and yelled back, "Barry, you little weasel, how are you?"

Becker jumped off the stage and went to the cop standing a good head taller than Becker. They shook hands then gave a buddy hug and the cop, now known as Rick punched Becker and said it was good to see him, what was he doing here. Becker smiled and told him he was investigating a murder. The trooper said that was the reason he was there, they called for forensics and he brought his team out. They were at city hall and were told the Chief came out here.

Trapper yelled to Becker from the stage, "Oh, Barry, we're still here, are you going to introduce us to your little friend?"

The big trooper gave Trapper a hard stare and Becker said he was OK, it was his boss from his squad in Clinton Township. Becker and Rick came up to the stage and Rick acknowledged the Chief, they must have known each other. Becker explained that Rick was his cousin on his mother's side.

Trapper said, "Great, more of them."

*
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Chapter 7

"Rick, this is Will Trapper, my Lieutenant." They shook hands and then Becker introduced everyone else. He got to Penny and the trooper's eyes lit up, "Hey, you're the woman from the talk show? My wife loves your show, well, so do I. Pleasure to meet you. You are so good on that show." Penny was amused by the flattery. I cut in and introduced myself as Mr. Wickens, Penny smacked my arm and said quit that. She introduced me by my name and said I was her husband and a great P.I. who solves dastardly crimes. He did some thinking and said, "Oh, yeah, I read about your stopping the Bridezilla killer out in Vegas." I was a bit surprised by that, and asked how he knew. He said he goes online to follow certain crimes to get more familiar with serial killers and saw the reference. I said that was nice, I'm associated online with serial killers now. He asked if he could talk to me about the case sometime, a first hand experience, I said sure.

Trooper Rick was then asking the Chief if he could talk to him, alone. They went off to the side and talked. Trapper looked at Barry and asked if he had any more relatives running around loose. Becker said that Rick was the only one in this area, most of his family was in the Macomb County area.

"Good, let's keep it that way." He patted Becker on the back and came over to Buck and me standing by Penny and Marty.

Rick and the Chief came back and the Chief called all his men in the area to come over, then said that State Police, early this morning, found a man on the side of the road by Marshall, Michigan on the way to Colon, dead since last night. No identification, but prints ran him to a man from Saginaw, they checked and he was another magician. The State Police questioned his family; he was on his way to Colon to participate in the competition. And he was traveling with a person who the family couldn't identify. The vic told his family that he was a friend interested in magic and wanted to see the convention.

Rick spoke up, "that's the reason I'm here along with the forensic team, I'm trained in serial killings, and we think this unknown subject, or unsub, may be one. I'm glad that I'm not alone here with experience in major crime cases involving serial killers," he looked to Trapper and Becker and then me, I felt honored, "As I'm sure they know, serial killers can be a pain to catch. The Chief has given me his full cooperation in this case and I'm sure we don't want anything to mar this great event. Gentlemen, let's catch this guy."

The Chief told his men who were now gathered around us to give their full cooperation to Rick and his designated agents in this case and to pass the word along to the other officers in the squad. "We need to stop this fucker before he kills again." The chief called his men to go with him to the station to set up their duties. He shook Rick's hand again and said it was too bad they weren?t seeing each other again under better circumstances. The cops all piled out and Rick turned to us and asked if we could have a pow-wow and see what we can come up with. The forensic team came into the auditorium and Becker said he'd show them to the crime scene.

People were starting to come into the gym and Rick told the two Colon cops who stayed to help, to have the room closed, till forensics were finished. We all went to the side and sat on the bleachers as Rick asked to be filled in on events before he arrived. Trapper filled him in on the day up to finding the body, nothing spectacular. He turned to Vicky who he asked to stay and help fill him in on details about her husband. "Ma'am, I'm sorry for your loss, but did your husband make any new friends or have anyone asking him a lot of questions about his act or magic in general since he was here?"

"No one I was aware of, I wasn't with him all morning, I was shopping in the village stores. I didn't see my husband until... " She choked and Penny went to her, putting her arm around the woman as she started to cry. Penny helped her to the bleacher seat and sat next to her. Willy was still in his doggy purse Penny carried, looking like he wanted to play.

"Well, Will, I hope this doesn't get messy. I remember you and Jim now from the Classmate Murders. Such a horrible case." Rick responded. Trapper said he knew the frustration trying to track down those killers.

I asked Buck to come with me and we went to the side. "Well, someone is killing magicians, I want you to be on extra alert for Marty, he's the big kahuna for this event, and a prize for a murderer. I'm wondering why this guy would hit magicians."

"Maybe as a kid some magician performed at his birthday party and did a crappy show." Buck smiled.

"If that were the case, I'd be in danger." I laughed.

"Yeah, well don't forget, you are a magician even though you don't do much with it any more." Buck warned.

We went back to the group and I spoke up, "Vicky, your husband was going to be in the competition, correct?" She nodded, "Rick, you said the magician found on the side of the road was coming to compete, correct?" Rick said that's what the family told them. "OK, we have a connection, it's the competition, he's killing off competitors." Rick smiled and said we should go get a list of contestants and check their whereabouts during these murders."

I mentioned to Rick that the killer must have taken the Saginaw magician's car to get here, maybe his family can fill us in on the car make and plates to see if it's in the area. He smiled and said very good and called to one of the Colon cops and told him what to check on. He went off to get hold of the State police to pass along the request.

We all started to get up to go. I told Marty, "Buck was going to stick to you like glue, so don't get annoyed if he shadows you everywhere, even to the bathroom." Buck laughed and said not hardly, but he would wait outside the door. I went to Penny who was still comforting Vicky. I asked if Vicky had any friends or family here at the convention, she said no, she was all alone. I said she could hang with us till we can arrange to get her back home. She thanked us and said she was afraid, Penny said to not worry, we won't let anything harm her. I also figured she would be a good companion for Penny, it's usually hard on her with all the men around.

We all left the high school and found out that Vicky's husband had gotten them a room at our motel also, so that worked well. I said safety in numbers and had Buck take charge of the women and Marty and see that they were entertained. I said he could use the limo, he liked that. We all drove back to town and dropped off Buck and his group at the limo and Trapper, Becker and I went to Abbott's main store and found Rick waiting in the parking lot. We went in and found the manager, asking to go somewhere private.

We told him what was happening, and he was shocked. Rick asked to see his list of contestants for the men's competition. I said both vics were in the stage category, he went out and then brought us a list. Rick was now aware that I was a magician after Becker told him, so he told me to take lead on the competition angle, since I knew what to look for. I looked over the list and didn't recognize anyone, it had been years since I was involved with local magicians, but I did recognize a few names on the judge's list. One in particular, I had contacted when I got back from Vegas, to see how things were here in Michigan for doing shows. He down played it; saying times were tough, so I didn't pursue doing any shows.

I said since there were two less magicians competing, the list was down to three performers. I had an idea, but I was sure Penny would hate it. I looked to the man in charge and said I wanted to put my name on the list as a competitor. I was offering myself up for bait. Trapper wasn't liking the idea, but I said we were a step up on the guy, we knew his motive. I was sure I could be watched and hopefully catch the guy. Rick said it may work and he would call in a couple of his plain clothed officers to help with protection. The man in charge, Mike was his name, said that he could revise the list and include me.

Now I had to perform in front of an audience of magicians; I really hated competitions, but I wasn't really competing, so I didn't care. Now to convince Penny not to go crazy by putting myself in harms way.

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Chapter 8

The day went by fast, Buck joined us back in town and we did manage to see the magic showroom and a little of the town. Vicky was holding up well, she took a liking to Willy, so Penny let her carry the pup. Willy was happy. Rick had arranged for Vicky's husband to be transported back to their hometown in Grand Rapids, after the M.E. was finished with him.

That night we attended the first magic show in the school auditorium, it went well, very enjoyable. The magician performing had been around forever and I remember him from back in 1972, when I first came to the Get-Together. His act was the same though, a magician's creed, if it works don't mess with it. We ended up at the American Legion hall although our mood wasn't at party level, after the events of the day. Buck was not letting Marty drink any alcohol so it was tough on Marty. I gave a thumbs up to Buck when he looked to me.

The evening ended and we drove back in the limo to the Bate's motel as we were calling it. There were big clunky wooden lawn chairs around a big clunky wooden table on the lawn in front of the motel, and we all sat out under the stars talking about the day. I warned everyone not to say anything about my performing till I could talk to Penny. Vicky was doing better now, especially after a few drinks at the legion hall. Buck was going to stay in the same room with Marty; I felt it would be better. Trapper looked around and asked if we minded if he stayed with Becker. I said what about his mansion out on the lake. He said it was a shack, drafty and too many bugs out by the water, and smelly with fish. I laughed and said I'd feel better if he were close by.

We all packed it in and went to our rooms. Penny sighed and said that was some day, I said it wasn't over. She looked at me and said I was going to do something stupid, wasn't I.

I had to laugh, "I entered myself in the competition on Friday, to draw out the Killer." I waited for her to get upset, she said she figured when I packed my magic equipment to bring, that it was going to be something that she may not like.

She sat next to me, "I spent the better part of the day nursing Vicky, wounded from having her husband murdered and thinking how I would feel with out you. I could understand her hurting. I want you to catch this bastard, even it you get killed."

I stared at her, and said, "What was that?"

"Oh, I'm kidding, I'd kill you if you got killed. So don't. Just catch the guy." She kissed me hard and long and I asked what should we do with Willy? She looked to the bathroom, and said, he's going to hate us. She was going to get Willy, but he was so sound asleep on the chair in the room. She stopped and said if we hurry we can be done before he wakes. We didn't rush.

The next morning was beautiful and we were refreshed. Willy was still lying on the chair watching us getting up. He finally stood and I took him out for a walk and a dump. I saw Trapper standing by the door to his room and said good morning. He smiled and said he loved the country air in the morning, so fresh and clean. I said he was clearing out his lungs from all the pollution of the city. He agreed. He said Becker was still sleeping, he didn't want to wake him, it's only 6 A.M. so he could have another hour to recharge. Trapper and I went to the lawn chairs and sat, Willy on my lap.

"So do you think the killer may come after you if you perform?" Trapper asked.

"Mike said he was posting my credentials for the competition, maybe the killer will feel threaten by my experience. I don't know if the guy is in the competition or just outside the thing; it doesn't make sense, not to be part of it. He'd have a better motive for his killings, the desire to win. The men who died had good backgrounds in magic and Vicky's husband was the winner from last year. I talked to Rick last night and he is running background checks on the other three performers still in the competition, maybe come up with something.

Trapper was quiet, then asked if I brought the Kevlar vest he gave me. I said no, I didn't think I'd need it at a magic convention. He got up and went to his Jeep and opened up the back and took out the vest he kept there for emergencies. He tossed it to me and said better to be safe than sorry, I grinned and said thanks. Becker came stumbling out of the room and saw us, coming over to plop down on a chair.

"Barry, you sure enjoyed the beer last night. And your cousin sure kept up with you." I joked.

"I know Rick can drink anyone under the table, he has the body and stomach to handle it. What's our plan of attack today?"

"To enjoy ourselves, not to look conspicuous, and catch a killer, think you can handle that?" I asked knowing his head was hurting a bit. Trapper was suppressing a laugh.

"Oh, excuse me... " Becker ran off to his room. I knew he was going to be sick.

"Amateur, should leave the drinking to us professionals. Penny wasn't crazy about my competing, but she spent her day with Vicky and wanted the killer more than we do."

"Penny is good people. You are a lucky man to have found her." He said.

"More than you will ever know." I replied.

Penny appeared at the door to our room and asked if we were going to beat our chests all day or just sniff each other's butts. I laughed now knowing she was listening to us. "Damn, I can't ever get a moment alone." I moaned playfully.

We all dressed properly and went back into town, Buck driving the women, Marty and me in the limo; Trapper and Becker followed in the jeep. We got to the showroom and went in to walk around, trying to show me off for the killer. Rick came up in civilian clothes and said he had a number of men around who all knew what I looked like.

Penny had about five hours before her show and planned to spend the day with me. I thought that it might be dangerous for her to be around me in case the killer makes a move, but in public he wouldn't try anything. Buck was still sticking tight to Marty; they were becoming fast friends now that Marty was teaching Buck a few magic tricks.

Vicky was still hanging on to Penny and carrying Willy for us, he liked her. I felt sorry for her, but nothing much I could do for her, except support her. We were checking out some new magic props when I heard a familiar voice, Mitchell Short, the man I called when I got back from Vegas and he told me there was no call for magicians, and he was also a judge for the competition.

"Jim, it is you. I saw the name and the bio and I said to myself, it had to be the same crappy magician that I used to run with." He had the same dumb smile and look he had thirty years ago, just older and uglier. "You don't really think you can win the competition, there are actually good magicians entering." He laughed.

"Ah, hello Mitchell." I said

"Jim, is this the washed up, has-been magician you told me about?" Penny interjected into our conversation. My ribs tightened up from trying to hold in the laugh from her comment, and I said it was. Mitch looked at Penny and said, "I know you, you're from the TV, a talk show host. I've seen your show, I enjoyed it. And I am not washed up or has-been yet. Speaking of that, how are you Jim?"

"Doing really good, until you showed up. Penny is my wife and a great sexual partner. Don't even comment on that, she hits hard. Still trying to perfect the art of magic?"

"I can do better in my dreams than you do on any stage." He smirked.

"Well, you can only do better in your dreams, Mitch. "

He smiled and said good luck in the competition, made a smile to Penny, then said he had business to attend to and left.

"I don't like the guy," Penny offered.

"Neither did my husband." Vicky said.

Penny and I both looked at her and I asked her to elaborate. She told us that Mitch and Fred, her husband, hated each other. They were always trying to outdo each other with new magic tricks; Fred was a magic prop inventor. I knew Mitch was also. Vicky said Fred was mad because Mitch had stolen a couple of ideas from him for a couple great magic tricks and claimed they were his. Fred couldn't prove anything and Mitch got the credit. Fred was working on a new illusion that he said would rock the magic world but some how Mitch found out and was trying to get the plans from him, Fred refused to let him even see the thing.

I asked where this new prop was, Vicky said it was in the motel room, Fred was going to perform it for the competition, before Mitch could steal it. I said I'd like to see it, if she didn't mind. She looked at me and said, "Better yet, I want you to perform it for the competition, Fred would like that."

I corralled Trapper, who was with Marty, Buck and Becker and said I needed to borrow his Jeep. He asked if I was good enough to drive such a fine vehicle, I said yeah, yeah, now give me the keys. He did and said don't be so impatient. I thanked him and ran off with Penny and Vicky.

We drove out to the motel and got there shortly after. Vicky took us to her room and in. She went to a large trunk and opened it by removing two padlocks and took out a beautiful hand carved walnut box. She opened it and showed me what was inside. She explained the principle and how it worked, I was amazed at the simplicity of it and the beauty of the finished product. I said if this illusion does as promised, I would guarantee it would be a big seller and make Fred's name known. Plus the cash from the sales wouldn't hurt.

I said we never mention this to anyone, I wanted it to be a surprise. We all said we'd keep the secret and I took the box to my room and locked it away in my prop case. No one would think to look there.

We drove back to the town and met up with our team and we wandered the streets. We walked to the Police station, where Penny was broadcasting her show from today. They had a really nice stage set up out front of the quaint building and her camera crew was already setting up their equipment. Lonie came over and said the over night ratings were in and Penny won the time slot for her show yesterday. Penny cheered and jumped up and down. Ratings where important in the survival of a show.

Our little gang took our seats in the front row as the people who would make up the audience were allowed to seat themselves. I covered my seat with my jacket, next to Buck, and went to see Penny get ready for her show; the groupies doing her make up. We had a little ritual before her show whenever I was attending, we kissed. I gave her a big smooch and went back out to my seat. Lonie had the line up for today's show, a couple of magicians performing and unfortunately a judge for the competition talking about the contest. Guess who?

Penny got through the Chief of Police interview and the demo of police tactics in a small town, then moved on to the first magician, a youngster from Indiana, who put on a pretty good dove act for someone so young. There was information about the convention highlights for today and then, unfortunately it was time for Mitch Short to give his little spiel about the contest. I was worried Penny would decimate him, she was good at it, but she backed off. Mitch explained that the contest this year had an extra incentive for winning. A contract to perform on an ocean liner for six months entertaining on the ship board stage. I hadn't heard that, but it sounded nice. I knew I'd never win with Mitch judging but with my ace in the hole, Fred's illusion, I stood a chance of impressing the hell out of the audience. That was all I wanted to do.

Mitch gave a rundown on the performers, I could tell he was biting his tongue when he got to my bio, but he read it from the paper as it was written, I gave him that much. I hoped it was enough to make the killer come after me, we would see. I wasn't bragging, but my experiences were impressive, and I had a more elaborate past in magic than all the other competitors.

Penny's show came to an end, and everyone thanked everyone and went off. I found Mike and said I needed to talk to the stage tech for the competition and he made a call and had a young man named Packo come in to meet with us at the high school. I told Buck, Trapper and Becker what I wanted to do, so we piled everyone in the limo as I had Trapper take me in his jeep back to the motel to get my secret weapon.

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Chapter 9

We met everyone at the school and the tech guy let us in the auditorium. I noticed that there were a couple of men watching us and went to them, they identified themselves as State Police. I invited them in to the building, as I wanted enough people to watch what I was going to do. I called up Marty and Buck to the stage and took them backstage to explain what I needed from them. Marty was clever enough to understand the principles of magic for what I needed him to do, along with Buck's help. I talked to the tech guy and we went over his list of music and I found the perfect one, "Lady", by Styx. I knew Penny would appreciate the use of that music selection. I went out and set up as though I was going to perform. Penny knew you don't do a show without rehearsal or at least a run through. I yelled for the tech as to when I wanted the music to start. He yelled back that he was ready. It got quiet, and I was ready.

I came forward out into a spotlight and announced the most amazing feat of illusion never seen before today. Created by a magician named Fred Carlson, who recently passed away, before seeing his creation performed. I was honored by his widow to be allowed to bring this illusion to life. I stepped back and the music started. I brought the box forward and out into the light.

For the next three and a half minutes, everyone in the auditorium sat in utter silence as they watched a miracle happen.

The music faded, the illusion ended, and it was stone silent for a full fifteen seconds before everyone realized what just happened and stood applauding, even the cops. Marty came out and said it was a triumph in magic, and went to congratulate Vicky on her late husband's achievement. I yelled for everyone including the tech guy to come forward. The tech guy was dumb struck, he said it was beautiful.

I swore everyone to silence on punishment of death if anyone said anything about Fred's masterpiece before the show. Everyone agreed, and I packed away the equipment and stowed it in a locked box I bought earlier today at an office supply place. I took aside the tech guy and asked if they had a vault or case that I could lock the thing into before the show, he smiled and took me to a back prop room and showed me a huge metal cabinet that had hasps on it for a lock. I put the box I had in and closed the metal doors and put on a couple of high security padlocks I bought and locked the thing away. I looked at him and said, showing him my Glock in its holster, that if anything happens to this I would hunt him down. He said don't worry, he was impressed enough to keep it secret.

We all went back to town and got some dinner at a local restaurant and were enjoying the meal as people were passing by complimenting Penny on her show. Willy was trying to get at the food and Vicky was accommodating him from her plate. I could see the change in Vicky since I performed her husband's illusion, she was happy and at peace with it all.

Penny leaned into me and whispered in my ear, "Were you thinking of Pixie while you did that illusion?" I said, "truthfully, I was, but not as a sexual interest, like I do you, but as the beauty of the illusion that she created the day she spun around the strip club stage. I saw the moves and story in Fred's illusion and projected that into the effect." She kissed my cheek then said, "Well, that's all right, then. I loved the effect."

The second evening performance of magic was our next project, so we got ourselves organized and went to the high school and sat waiting for the show to begin. I surveyed the crowd of magic fans, trying to see if I recognized anyone from my past. The faces all looked so young and new, I saw only a couple of people I knew from magic past. The room went dark and the performance started. It was a variety of acts from a ventriloquist to card flipping magicians. The final act was an illusion bit by a magician I had heard of but never seen. He did a good job and then the show ended. We all gathered outside and decided to go hit the American Legion hall again. We got there and found a table that we could fit in, luckily we arrived before the crowd. Everyone sat and I went to get beer and pop for my friends with Barry helping.

After a while Trooper Rick came in and over to our table, he acknowledged Barry and said hi to the rest of us. I pulled a chair over next to me and he sat.

"I got the background checks on the other three performers, nothing stands out as to any criminal past for any of them. They all are just regular Joe's, simple jobs and families that are textbook plain. One is married, one engaged and one... well, we think he swings to his own side. OK, he's probably gay, lives with another man and they applied for a marriage license in their state when they had passed gay marriages." I mumbled that makes him gay, Rick. He continued, "Anyway, the three have been good citizens and have spotless records."

"So the killer is rooting for one of them or just wants them all dead?" I asked.

Trapper leaned over from his seat across from us and said, "So far no one else has been attacked, let alone killed."

Rick said he had men watching each of the contestants, from afar so not to spook the killer.

"I don't think the killer would make a try for me, I'm always surrounded by my posse. I think it's time to separate from the pack." I looked at Penny, "You're not going to be happy, but it needs to be done." I stood and told everyone, rather loudly that I was going over to the auditorium to rehearse my new illusion for the competition and I would see them all later. I asked Trapper if I could borrow his Jeep and he said, just don't get run off the road.

I left as Rick was on his cell phone setting up a stakeout of the school for me to get there. Penny looked at Trapper, Becker and Buck and asked if they were just going to sit there and let me get killed. They looked at each other and quietly started to get up, Trapper asked Buck if he'd stay to watch the women and most of all Marty, Buck said he would and sat back down.

Trapper asked Rick if they could get a ride out with him and he said it would be his pleasure. The three of them left and those remaining sat and talked.

I had called Mike and asked if Packo could meet me at the auditorium, he said he would arrange it. I sat in the parking lot waiting until Packo drove up.

"Hey, Mr. Richards, wanting to check your baby?"

"No, I just wanted a bit more work with it. Today was the first time I've ever performed the thing."

"Really, well I was impressed. I've been into magic all my life, since being born here helps, and I was very impressed."

"Yes, it is a very good effect, I hope for Fred and Vicky's sake it sells well."

Packo had the door unlocked and I said that he didn't have to hang around, I would see that the doors were locked when I left. He thanked me and went off to his car and I heard him drive off. I went to the prop room to make sure the cabinet was still secured, it was. I went over to my magic prop table; just to be sure it was not tampered with, since I had set it up earlier before doing Fred's illusion. I was just sitting on a chair staring at my equipment when I heard a noise. I instinctively felt for my Glock through my jacket and unsnapped the strap that kept it in place.

I was sitting in the middle of the stage with only the work lights on, it was dark in the auditorium but the moon was shining through the windows that circled around the top of the walls near the ceiling casting a haunting glow across the seats of the great room.

My blood chilled as I heard a creepy laugh come from above me. I stood and had my hand on my Glock and looked up, but the work lights prevented me from seeing the ceiling. I heard movement above just as a sandbag came crashing down missing me by inches. I had my Glock out now and yelled, "Bad aim, you missed."

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Chapter 10

"Maybe I didn't want to kill you, think of that." Came a disguised muffled voice from somewhere above. I circle around trying to see, I now wished I knew where the building lights were.

"So why the warning? You've killed two people all ready, why not me?"

"What makes you think I killed two people? Maybe I killed three, you haven't checked the other competitors lately have you?" It sounded more of a statement than a question. I was now worried about the other magicians.

"Why are you doing this, it makes no sense?"

"Well, it does to me and that's all that counts," he snarled.

"So, you are going to toy with me to satisfy your own needs? Am I to live for the final announcement of the winner? Or are you going to kill me to prevent me from winning."

"Oh, you won't win, Slick, I can guarantee that."

"OK, if you have the contest in the bag, then why the killings."

"They displeased me. Magicians now days make me sick, prancing around pretending to be wizards casting spells and making people believe they can conjure up genies. Like that idiot out in Vegas who walks up the sides of buildings."

I knew this guy was nuts now, "So, you are on a mission to rid the earth of false prophets and soothsayers?"

"Yeah... I like that. They will all die in the end. Along with you and Marty and any other magician who thinks they can show me up. I'm the only true magician in this world and I will prove it. After I eliminate a few false prophets." he went quiet, then the gun fire, the bullet barely missing me, I fired up to the ceiling with my Glock shortly before I heard the doors come crashing open and in streamed Rick, Trapper and Becker followed by the undercover cops. They looked up where I was pointing and one of the cops found the light switches by the door and started to illuminate the room. Everyone was aiming their weapons towards the ceiling, but I saw the trap door in the roof, open, and said he had gotten outside. We ran out and looked around the building but found nothing. We all gathered by the door again and I pulled out my Palm Treo cell phone that I had the record function going on it and played back the conversation the killer and I had.

"Guy is a nut job," Trapper said.

"Well, I'm puzzled by a couple things he inferred, I'll listen to this again later to see if I can figure out what puzzles me." I offered.

I asked Rick to check on the other contestants to see if they were all right, he called the officers watching them and said they all checked out all right. I said I was puzzled again by his comment about three killings, who was the third?

Rick cleared his throat, "I may have an answer for that, I got a call about an hour ago, the stranger in the Saginaw magician's car turned up dead also. Found early this morning in the missing car about ten miles out of Colon. My post sent our forensics to check it and took prints; he was a felon with links to hits around the country, but he also like magic. My men found a card in his pocket with the Saginaw magician's address and some info on him, I guess setting up for the ride along and kill. He may be the third victim the killer referred to."

"So, our killer hires a hit man to kill the first magician, then he comes in and murders Fred with his card sword and dumps the body out back of City Hall. Then goes to meet the hit man and kills him. Strange." I commented.

It was getting late and I was wearing down, I called Penny and asked where she was. She said they had gotten some carry out beers and pop and were back at the motel, I said to save a beer or two for me.

Rick said he was going to have his men scout around the property for the killer for a while, I said to Trapper that we should call it for the night, he agreed. We parted company with Rick and his men and we climbed into Trapper's Jeep and went back to the Bate's Motel.

We arrived and everyone was sitting out on the clunky chairs again. Penny put a beer in my hand then kissed me. "Two of the greatest things in my world. A cold can of beer and a kiss from you." I smiled.

"In that order?" Penny stared at me, I said either way they both were great.

I filled Penny in on my evening, down playing the closeness of the gunshot. We all decided that we needed rest more than talk so everyone started to amble off to their rooms. Trapper and Becker decided they were sitting out for a while longer, Marty was tired so he went off to his room, Buck followed saying he needed his beauty sleep. Penny said good night to Vicky and she came and kissed my cheek thanking me again for helping with Fred's dream. I smiled and said to get some rest and she went off to her room. Penny put her arm around my shoulders as we walked to our room and in.

We decided to conserve on water, so we showered together with Willy getting wet at our feet. I pissed off Penny by doing the Psycho shower thing with my hand pretending to knife her. I luckily covered my family jewels in time for her retaliation. We toweled ourselves off and then the dog, then went to the bed and sprawled out. Willy jumped up on the chair, he seemed to like it, maybe because it was all for him. I took my Palm Treo and played back the recording of the killer's conversation using my earphones so it wouldn't upset Penny. I listened to it a couple of times and was trying to figure out the killer by what he said.

He mentioned Marty by name, along with me, so he had to know that I brought Marty out with my group. He said I couldn't win the contest, like he knew the outcome, did he have a judge in his pocket or have something on him to vote for the one that he wanted to win? He was also a person who didn't like the new breed of magicians, like David Copperfield, Criss Angel and David Blaine, all trying to extol their magic as real. Wasn't that the soul of performing magic, to make the audience believe they were capable of doing real feats of wonder?

David Copperfield at least had a style; the other two were what I called grunge magicians, unkempt and unruly performers. I wondered if it was a good image for our fraternity. Damn it, we graduated from the cloaks and hoods of ye olde days to the tux and tails of classic magicians, that represented our people in times of need, to entertain. Now the unwashed and the make-upped performers emulating Marilyn Manson on a bad hair day, that wasn't my kind of magician. Unfortunately, the younger generation gets off on such theatrics, which it is, that the zombie does well floating a severed head. OH, well.

Penny rolled over to me and snuggled, I pulled the earphones out and set the whole thing on the bed stand. I reached around her and hugged her tightly. We slept in each other's arms that night.

My cell rang around 6:40 and I grabbed it to see the caller ID. It was just a number I didn't recognize. I answered and it was Mike asking if I'd come to the auditorium. I had a bad feeling and dressed quickly and told Penny to stay in bed. She said like hell, and got up to dress with me. I went next door and woke Trapper and asked to use his car, he handed me the keys and said to keep them and went back to sleep. Penny and I drove to the high school and arrived; there were a couple of cops and Packo standing outside. I came up and asked him what was going on.

"Mr. Richards, I got a call from the Chief saying someone broke into the school early this morning and they were messing around in the auditorium, setting off silent alarms, I came to check on the condition of the place and found someone tried to open your cabinet with the illusion in it."

I asked if they got it, he said no, the cabinet and my locks were stronger than they could handle, so luckily my package was safe. I went in and was greeted by the Chief, and Rick was there, I went back to the prop room followed by them and checked the condition of the locks. I had bought rotary locks, ones with the high tensile steel, with the short bolt head, which made it impossible to cut through. I was thankful for that.

I looked to Rick and said there were very few people who knew about the magic prop I locked in this cabinet. Vicky's husband, Fred, may have been murdered for it. I explained to Rick and the Chief about how the illusion could become the next big thing in magic, so amazing and simple it would be a part of every magician's prop list. Worth millions.

I was now believing it was a good motive for the murder of Fred.

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CONTINUED IN THE BOOK

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