Harry sits absent-mindedly tracing the edges of the flyer with his fingertips. He sits and stares at the cabinet in front of him, tall, wide, and empty. The right door hangs open but the left is still latched. Even in the half-light, the black and scarlet ridges etched into the panel still say magic. Theatre and magic.
Harry stares at the empty box a few moments more. Fourteen years is a long time.
Victor’s propositions were concise and clear: ‘it was Harry’s fault’ and ‘Harry was a bastard’. The cards had slipped from his hands in the shuffle, the handkerchiefs had untied themselves in his pocket and the rabbit had escaped the top hat, then tried to make a toilet of Victor’s hat, Victor’s shoe and, finally, Victor. And now they were no longer friends again. Resignations were hinted at, threatened, made, accepted, retracted. They lived together and it showed. Shared were kitchen, lounge, bathroom, bedroom, bed.
That night, when Victor left their shared apartment to beg their nightly miscellaneous meat from the restaurants at closing time, Harry had heard a faint drumming at the window. He couldn’t see anything through the skin of grime on the pane, and when he opened it the alley was empty, so far as could make out in the flickery light of Flinch Avenue. When he turned back, Mr Scratch was already sat at the dinner table, removing his black gloves.
Over the course of that short meeting, Mr Scratch never once explained where he was from, nor whom he represented. He simply eyed the conjuring cards scattered across the table, observed Harry’s gaunt appearance and the state of his lodgings, and made him the offer there and then.
He sits on the stage and down at the flyer, slick and composed, and expensive.
(AND HIS ASSISTANT, VICTOR)
He drops the flyer to the floor where it slips off-stage onto the plush red carpet amongst the half-eaten confectioneries.
Sleight of hand, showmanship, imagination, exquisite precision; the price had seemed trivial at the time. Him and Victor had become friends again. Even when Harry began to outclass him in all respects, Victor has stepped back from partner to assistant without complaint. Best for business. It was still a partnership of friends, friends that were swept from Flinch Avenue to Park Lane on the coin’s back, though Harry never told Victor of the deal he had made all those years ago. He didn’t tell Victor of the first condition – Harry didn’t even believe in a soul – and he didn’t tell him of the second, that, one day far into the future, one of Harry’s magic trickswould be exactly that; irreversibly magic.
He stands and looks out, for what he imagines is the last time, at the rows of empty chairs, rising to the gods. The screams are fading into approaching police sirens. He picks up his top hat from the stage floor, picks up Victor’s also, closes the right door of the disappearing cabinet and leaves the stage, alone.