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In the Cabinet (Part Four)

In The Cabinet

A Jack Collier Short

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

 

 

Last week’s entry can be found here.

 

 

 

Day Four: The Show

 

            We ended up just stopping at one of the steak places around there. Auburn Hills is a pretty yuppified area, filled with expensive houses and business buildings. It’s a bit like Troy really, but a bit more upscale. This meant our choices were either to hunt and peck, or go for one of the places right on Squirrel Road. Instead of looking around, we went right for a steak place and decided to charge it all to my expense account. Yeah, right, expense account. I knew there would be no account for this job, the job itself wouldn’t really exist another day.

 

            “How long have you been with Hain?” I asked him as we started to look at the menus.

 

            “Almost a year.” He started biting his bottom lip when he thought about it.

 

            “Problem with talking about it?” I asked.

 

            “No.” He shook his head, and there was something in his eyes. “It’s just, you know, he’s dead isn’t he?”

 

            “Yeah.” I looked at me menu as a way of drawing his eye away from me and to his own menu. When he’d looked away I looked back up at him and only saw a worried young man. “But if we’re going to find out what happened we’ve got to investigate. To do that, I’ve got start asking questions about the people who knew him.”

 

            “Knew.” Hewie shook his head and put his hand to his forehead like he was warding off a headache. “Knew. I mean that’s it right there isn’t it?”

 

            “Yeah, it is.” I nodded and noted that something in his performance rang false. “Let’s try this a little to the left of that though. When did the cops start harassing Sam?”

 

            “One of those stupid bitches came when we were doing the sleep talker bit.” He grumbled.

 

            “What’s the sleep talker bit?”

 

            “You know how a somnambulist trick works?” He put his hands together in front of him on the table.

 

            “No idea.” I shook my head at him, mostly because I wanted to hear how he explained it.

 

            “It’s a simple adaptation of the mentalist act where Sam gets questions from the audience and I answer them, only in that one I’m supposed to be asleep. He fake hypnotizes me by giving me an injection of water that he tells the crowd is a truth drug and then goes out and picks gets objects from the crowd and asks me to guess what they are or gets questions about the future.”

 

            “How do you guess the object?”

 

            “Oh it’s all coded in the question.” He said as the waitress came by to take our orders. After a moment she went and he continued. “See if you hand the Sam a gold watch then he says ‘Can you tell me what I have here?’ well the word ‘tell’ stands for a watch and the word ‘have’ is for gold. He tells me what to say by the way he phrases the question. Then we go into people’s questions. He doesn’t even actually ask the question when some one asks about the future. Again he phrases it so that I know these people want to know about a son who died in a car crash or something like that. At some point in the bit, he signals me to make some kind of creepy answer. I then answer that I see death or misery or something like that. It gives people a fright, Sam likes that shit.”

 

            I didn’t correct him that Sam liked that kind of shit and could no longer like anything because he had been blown to pieces. I couldn’t decide if this jittery kid was trying to tell me something, or if he was just in shock or what. He looked down at the empty spot into front of him and tapped the table. Evidently he also wanted to make sure that inanimate objects knew which of them was boss.

 

            “So one of the people who were killed came?”

 

            “No, like four of them.” He grumbled. “I wanted to stop doing that bit but Sam said it was too good. So we kept doing it, he even gave me things to say. I was supposed to talk about knives and blood and shit.”

 

            “More of it came true?” I asked.

 

            “Yeah.” He nodded and looked angry for a moment. “And they kept harassing us. I had to tell them like three times how the trick was done cause they kept bringing me in.”

 

            “What’d they ask about?”

 

            “How we knew who was gonna get killed.” He said and the uneasy look he’d worn since I’d first seen him returned. “Which is stupid cause all I ever said was that someone was going to die and I mentioned knives or blood or something. We record all our shows just in case and I had to play back the tapes before they’d believe I didn’t mention people’s names ‘cause some dumb ass had said I actually named the person who would die in the show the night before.”

 

            “Did you say things like what got done in the night before?” I asked. “I mean was anything even close to being a prediction?”

 

            “Yeah, some.” He bit his lower lip again, which almost gave him the look of a coquettish girl.

 

            There was something beautiful and feminine in his movements when he wasn’t being conscious about them. He had an easy flow to his motions, mixed with a hint of nervousness that just made me want to put him in my pocket and keep him safe from the world. There was also the fact that he was a particularly pretty for a boy. Actually, he would have been pretty for a girl if he’d decided to cross dress. However his androgyny will have to be put aside for another day because I was worried about a case that seemed to have become a chase for a serial killer.

 

            “What was in last night’s show?”

 

            He hesitated, looking down at the table. He waited a long time before he said anything. His dark eyes swept around the table, and his lips worked themselves into a pout and then he went back to biting the bottom one. I waited for what I judged to be a full minute and then decided to ask again. He looked at the table, then me, then the table again.

 

            “What was in last night’s show?” I asked again.

 

            “He told me to talk about fire and to mention explosives.” He said finally as the waitress came with the drinks.

 

            “What do you think is going on?” I asked him as I picked up my coke.

 

            “Someone’s watching the shows, making stuff happen.” He drank his own coke slowly and carefully. “Something like that.”

 

            “You think your act has been inspiring a serial killer?” I asked, “Don’t they usually work off some kind of pathology?”

 

            “Do they?” He asked and I thought he really was puzzled. “I don’t know anything about them really. I know that guy in Silence of the Lambs ate people and stuff.”

 

            “Yeah, he did.” I drank a little more of my coke.

 

            We then started to talk about jazz and other things which this record isn’t really concerned with. When we finished I drove him back to the theatre. The same powder blue Taurus with the bumper sticker I’d seen earlier was in the parking lot. Most the other cars were gone besides that and a black car of a European design. I looked at Hewie and decide that he probably didn’t drive that car.

 

            “Who likes Barbequed Ribs?” I pointed at the Taurus.

 

            “That’s Knock’s car.” Hewie said.

 

            “Where’s yours?”

 

            “Knock gives me a lift, I don’t have a car.” He clearly lied and then asked. “Are you gonna stay for the show?”

 

            “Yeah.” I said. “It might give me a hint or two.”

 

            “Cool.” He smiled what might have been the first genuine smile I saw on his face.

 

            I went in with him, greeted Becky and Knock who went into their dressing rooms to get ready for the show and started to mill about with the peons in the art gallery up stairs across from the theater’s auditorium entrance. The art gallery isn’t terribly big, but it usually has things worth looking at. When it got to be time I went in and got my seat. I won’t repeat the whole thing, because a magic show isn’t very magical if you’re reading a second hand account of what happened. Not only would this be a second hand account, but it would be from the view of someone who knew how the tricks were done.

 

            You must remember that I did hang out with Becky during the nineties and in that time I saw her father’s show quite a few times. I found it odd that for all the times I’d been back stage at one show or another I’d never seen Knock before, but hey, he said he’d been with Sam for years and he wouldn’t lie would he? Besides, I knew Becky and not Sam. Sam barely remembered anyone who wasn’t in his circle. Becky had to introduce me almost every time he and I ever met.

 

            It was a bit different than the show I’d been expecting though, I can say that. Sam’s show was always a bit creepy, but it had always been like having an old time magician doing his act. The tricks were old a lot of the time, but that hadn’t mattered because he gave the whole thing a slightly unsettling yet fun charm. Becky had been his assistant on and off for years, depending on her mood and if she was living around him at the time. For all her flaws, she always could add an undeniable air of sexuality to the show. If for no other reason than because the costumes she wore made her look like she made a second living as the sort of high end prostitute that specializes in cosplay.

 

            In this show however, she was the lead, performing the tricks with Hewie as her assistant. Of course she called him Caesar the whole time, and flirted with him so furiously I thought at one point she’d mount him like a stripper poll. The costumes hadn’t changed, so if she decided to start spinning around a poll and taking off clothes wouldn’t have been that big a step for her. Still, I can’t really say I disapproved. She had the body to show off those clothes and she was a grown up who knew her own mind. At least I presumed she knew her own mind.

 

            He looked between impassive and uncomfortable, while she looked like she was trying to do her best to liven up a show that was going to go down as ‘not one of their best’ when the reviews came back. She was competent, but she didn’t have her father’s flare and the fact of why he wasn’t there probably weighed on her mind. She was going to have to do a lot of work if she wanted to inherit the mantel though.

 

            The show used more fake blood than I remember, but then it was getting to be time for the big show. Sam always tried to make the big show as shocking and exciting as possible. I assume that the blood was just another aspect that he’d been forced to add over the years to keep people amused. It was when the somnambulist trick started that I began to get actually disturbed by things.

 

            “Now ladies and gentlemen.” Becky said striding across the stage in her thigh high boots and pulling a small vial and needle from the props on her table. “This is a truth serum. It will render my assistant Caesar unconscious, but able to answer any questions.”

 

            Hewie had rolled up his right sleeve and Becky swabbed his bicep with alcohol and then injected him. He’d said it was a fake hypnosis, but judging by the looks he and Becky exchanged I would say there was something more than water in the syringe when she injected him. He sat down and she did two more tricks announcing it would take a minute for the stuff to work. I suppose the crowd watched her doing the trick, but I watched him.

 

            Either he’d been injected with a real drug, or he’d suddenly obtained the ability to act when threatened with a needle. He slumped in the chair slowly, his progress barely noticeable unless you knew the signs to look for. He was on a nod of some kind, and I would have said it was morphine if I had been asked to swear. When she was done with the two tricks she propped him up and started walking around the crowd. I could catch the key words because she was saying each of them too loudly and emphasizing them. She wasn’t flowing properly, but that was to be expected I suppose. I think I might have been the only one to notice, because the crowd was well amused.

 

            She came back on the stage for the end of the bit and asked one final question with a slip of paper in her hand. They’d had us write down questions and turn them in earlier so that they could answer some, but I suspect that this one was probably just a plant. She looked at it and stood next to him as she asked it.

 

            “Can you tell me what’s puzzling this audience member?” She asked and put her elbow up on his shoulder to lean against him.

 

            “We’re all going to die.” Hewie, as Caesar, said. “That’s what they all want to know.”

 

            “You mean everyone here?” She smiled and bent over to expose cleavage to the audience as she laughed. “That’s pretty inevitable don’t you think? Going with the safe bet?”

 

            The audience chuckled a little, her timing on the joke was good and we needed a laugh. Those who weren’t relieved by the laugh had at least gotten to see her cleavage, which was a nice thing to look at if you had time. It was then though that Hewie started to worry me.

 

            “No.” He stepped foreword and I could see tears in his eyes. “You’re going to die next, and then the killings will continue. Then they’ll kill me, and still the blood shed will go on. It won’t end until the source of the murder is destroyed.”

 

            The lights went down, the curtains swung closed and the house lights came up. A voice announced that the intermission would last for twenty minutes. I sat in my chair and watched the curtains as I thought about what was going on. I almost wanted to run out of the theater and tell Crammer that they had better investigate this group harder than they had before, but he knew what was going on here. If I was disturbed, it was probably my own fault for watching as closely as I did. It could have been that Hewie had been putting me on from the start. I got up and went to the bathroom because sitting in the chair was just making me more paranoid than usual.

 

            The second half of the show held no more terrors for me, nothing that triggered my paranoia. The end of the show caused me a moment of trouble though, wondering if I should go down or not. I decided to go down, because Becky was my client and would want to have me approve of the show. Even if I didn’t approve, she would want me to approve so I would have to. I went down the stairs that were at the end of the hall outside the auditorium and went down stairs to the entrance I had come in. Besides, my car was parked down there. Becky was waiting for me when I came down and smiled when she saw me.

 

            “What’d you think?” She looked brilliant under the normal light of the green room. Somehow the white face make-up and black lipstick looked better when I was close up instead of worse like it did for most people. She didn’t look vibrant exactly, but she did look beautiful.

 

            “I thought it was alright.” I took her hand like I always would in the old days. “You need to not stress the key words during the sleep talking bit though.”

 

            “Yeah.” She sighed and leaned on one leg while kicking at some imaginary dust with her other foot. “I’ll work on it.”

 

            “You need a ride home?” I asked.

 

            “Oh I should be alright.” She said waving a hand carelessly, which was her private signal to me that she was still hammered and if I let her drive it would be on my head.

 

            Her private signals to me are quite a thing. They are so private, that even she doesn’t know what they are. It’s a little language that she can speak, but doesn’t understand, like a foreigner only knowing that “could I have a beer please” means that the waitress will eventually bring them a glass of something beerlike. Only in this case, she didn’t even know what she wanted and was signaling to me that if I didn’t take over she would do herself a mischief.

 

            “Yeah.” I nodded to show I understood. “I’ll give you a ride.”

 

            “I said I’m fine.” She said blinking and trying to make a horizon line with her hand. Again, the private language which really meant that if she tried to drive I should konk her over the head and carry her.

 

            “Yeah.” I repeated. “Get your purse, I’ll drive you home.”

 

            “Jack?” Hewie said as he came down the hall. “You couldn’t give me a lift could you?”

 

            “I’m sucking his dick tonight.” Becky said and thrust herself against me. The alcohol content of her breath alone was almost enough to bar me from driving just from smelling it. “You go get your own.”

 

            “I can drive you.” I nodded to him and then signaled Becky. “You have to help me carry the drunk though.”

 

            “I’m not drunk.” She complained and looked up into my eyes. “I’m stoned. I had the booze to wash down the pills.”

 

            “Well, that makes everything better.” I said in a tone that I knew she wouldn’t recognize in her current state.

 

            “That’s why I love you.” She pounced up kissed me on the lips suddenly. “You always tell me I’m good.”

 

            “I’ll help.” He smiled at me and I could see that his eyes were still blurry.

 

            “Thanks Jack.” She put her hand on my cheek and pecked me on the lips again.

 

            We took her to the Hudson and I have to say she showed amazing fortitude in staying awake all the way to the car. We put her in the back seat and started away towards Hewie’s apartment. On the way he looked annoyed and kept glancing back at her. He then pulled out a small pocket pack of Kleenex and held them out to me.

 

            “She left some black on your lips.” He said holding the pack out, which proved that he was looking at my lips.

 

            “Thanks.” I took one of the tissues and wiped my lips with it. I had to lick my lips to get it all off, but I managed.

 

            “You and she ever been together?” He asked after a while.

 

            “You mean as in…” I let it hang for a moment.

 

            “Yeah.”

 

            “No.” I said. “Never.”

 

            “Why not?” he asked. “You’d be the right type for her.”

 

            “It wasn’t like that.”

 

            “You don’t like girls?” He asked.

 

            “Have you ever slept with her?” I asked.

 

            “No.” He said. “But as she pointed out, I don’t go that way.”

 

            “Ah.” I nodded. “Well I do go that way, but it’s different between us. I’ve noticed the only guys who aren’t disposable in her life are the ones she doesn’t sleep with. I think we’ve stayed apart like that because she needs someone she can run back to.”

 

            “Still, she didn’t need to tell you like that.” He complained.

 

            “Don’t worry about it.” I said, “It doesn’t matter.”

 

            “No?” He asked.

 

            “No.” I said. “World has enough troubles without letting that one get in the way.”

 

            I dropped him off at his place and when he got out, Becky woke up. I kept her awake as I drove her home and made sure she got into the house. I got her keys from her and got her into the house sitting down with her on the couch for a little while. This meant I sat up right and she leaned into me like I was the rock of Gibraltar. She didn’t cry but she did sigh heavily about once every twenty seconds and then would snuggle in a little closer.

 

            “Jack?” She asked eventually after about twenty minutes passed.

 

            “Yes?” I responded, knowing what the next question would be.

 

            “Jack, why don’t you just stay the night?” She failed to surprise me. “I know I’m stoned and stuff, but it wouldn’t be like you taking advantage of me. It would just be payback for all the times I took advantage of you.”

 

            “I don’t think that would be a good idea Becky.” I said and tilted her head up to look at me.

 

            “That’s why I love you.” She said and kissed me for the third time that night and the thousandth time in our relationship. “You’re always trying to make me be the good girl I want to be.”

 

            I then went home myself and tried to consider what, if anything, I had learned. I learned that Becky hadn’t changed a hell of a lot. There were alarm bells ringing all over my head, but I couldn’t actually tell what any of them meant. I sat up for a while and tried to figure some of it out, but I was too tired or too stumped or had too little information or something. For about the ten thousandth time in the last three years I thought I really needed to get a kitten or something. Having a cat around would ease the loneliness when I didn’t actually act like a cad with young women. However, the amount of time I spent away from home wouldn’t be fair to the cat. Either way, my eyes were crossing because I was so tired so I went to bed.

 

            As it turned out, I probably should have stayed with Becky. I would have felt bad about myself for a while, but things might have turned out better than they did if I’d been in the bed with her.

 

This is part two of thirteen, come back next week for part three and every Thursday until we’re done to see what happens next. If you get lost, one of the tags here should help you. The Cabinet tag will take you to the story while the Jack Tag will take you to Part One of every story we post here.

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September 24, 2009 - Posted by | Fiction, Jack |

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