Friday, June 18, 2021


 A Grand Illusion 

By Lawrence Martin
Published in Florida Writers Association Collection Series, “Create An Illusion, Vol. 12, 2020.
Entering the Las Vegas Pinnacle Hotel, Bonnie could not avoid the large electronic signs advertising that night’s main event: “The Grand Illusionist, 9 pm, Starlight Theater.” Her husband’s picture loomed large in the advertisement, with his trademark cape and magician’s hat.
I’d like to throw a brick at his mug. Fourteen years with him and I’m only now wising up. She took the elevator to their 22nd floor suite, and used her room card to enter.
What will I find now? Another honey?                          
Howard looked up from the couch, where he had been reading a newspaper. “Bonnie, what brings you back so soon? Thought you weren’t returning until later?”
“After my gym workout, I decided to skip the movie. I have a headache and want to lie down. Is the bed free?”
“What kind of question is that?”
“What kind of husband would sleep with his mistress while his wife is working out at the gym?”
“We’ve gone over this. I was wrong, and I admitted it.”
“You admitted it once because I caught you. How about all the other times?”
“She is not my mistress.”
“No, just your stage assistant. Easily available. And you, the so-called Grand Illusionist. When I walked in on you last week, why didn’t you make her disappear, like you do on the stage?”
“Bonnie, give me a break. My show starts in just two hours. Let’s not argue now, please?”
“They pay you fifty grand a night here at the Pinnacle. Not bad for two hours.”
“Why the hell are you bringing that up?”
“Where’s the money?”
“I don’t understand your question.”
“Let’s see, a four-week stint in Vegas twice a year, six shows a week, that’s three hundred thousand times eight, or two point four million, if my math is correct. Not to mention your other shows in New York and Atlantic City. Where’s all the money?”
“What the hell are you talking about? Does your credit card bounce when you go shopping?”
“No, but the money is nowhere to be found. It’s not in our joint account.”
“I’ve told you before, my agent handles it. It’s in his account, under my name.”
“Is your agent in the Cayman Islands?”
“You heard me. Georgetown, Grand Cayman. I know all about it. If we get divorced, which you know damn well is coming, there won’t be any estate to split. It’s hidden. Off shore. And worse, dear, when the money is ultimately found, the IRS will get it all, for past taxes. And your ass will be in jail.”
“I’ve paid all my taxes. Where do you come up with these crazy accusations?”
“Sorry, Howard, won’t wash. You have lived up to your billing. The Grand Illusionist, indeed. You’ve made the money disappear. But if your wife can’t get her share in court, I’m sure the IRS will. Your tricks might fool the Starlight Theater crowd, but not me. At least not the ones in real life.”
“This is utter nonsense. You have no evidence.”
“Oh, yes I do. I’m not always in the gym, or out shopping. I’ve been investigating. Or paying someone who knows how to find information.”
“Like what?”
“Like, what about Melissa Jane Singleton?”
Oh, his pained expression! He’s guilty as hell. Gotcha!
“Sorry, Howard. I didn’t hear your answer. Well, let me answer for you. A few months ago, you paid her a cool fifty thousand to keep quiet about your affair. She threatened to ruin your show. All documented.”
“That’s a lie!”
“Deny what you will. It’ll all come out in court.”
“It’s not fair to bring all this up just now. Be fair, Bonnie, and stop with these crazy accusations. I have a show to do tonight.”
He doesn’t want to go on stage feeling my anger. That’s good.
“You probably can do the show in your sleep, so no need to worry. I need some fresh air. If you want to discuss this further, get up off the couch. I’ll be out on the balcony.”
She opened the sliding doors and entered the suite’s narrow balcony. The sun had set, making the nighttime view spectacular, with brightly-lit casinos up and down Las Vegas Boulevard. She found the cool air refreshing. She leaned against the four-foot high wall of the balcony to get the best view and called out, “It’s a great view tonight, Howard. I can see all the way to downtown Vegas.”
He came out to the balcony, stood a few feet to her right and stared into the night. “Bonnie, I don’t want you to be angry with me. Let me get through my show tonight and we can discuss all this later. I promise I can explain everything.”
The man lies, then lies some more.
“I’m worried, Howard. After all, you are The Grand Illusionist. You can make anything disappear. Maybe even including me.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Now you’re getting really crazy. I would never harm you.”
“Okay, maybe I’m being a bit unfair. But you can see why I get so upset. A man who cheats on his wife can do anything.”
“I said I’m sorry. Can’t we let it go?”
“All right, fair enough. For now. Please hold me. It’s a little chilly.”
He walked over and put his arms around her. “So, can we be friends again? Maybe lovers tonight, after the show?”
He has barely touched me in bed the last two weeks. What a phony!
“Yes, that would be good. I’ll be in bed, waiting for you.”
He relaxed his grip and kissed her on the lips. She returned the kiss.
Now he’s happy. Off guard. She let go of an object from one hand. “I dropped the barrette from my hair. Let me get it.”
She bent down to the balcony floor to find the barrette. Near the floor she inserted her head and shoulders between his thighs and the balcony wall, grabbed his ankles with both hands and lifted him with surprising ease, angling him toward the wall.
Not as heavy as I thought.
“What are you doing?” he cried as she stood, raising his body higher and higher. His arms flailed in the air but could not reach her. She angled his legs up so his torso now extended over the wall – and let go.
Well, Mr. Illusionist, you had one too many illusions: that you could get away with your deceits. My gym time was well spent. Amazing what 125 pounds can do with someone 50 pounds heavier.
She quickly re-entered the suite, closed the door to the balcony and walked toward the desk phone.
Now to call the front desk, report his suicide. There is no note, but he had plenty of reasons to leap over the balcony. A divorce he did not want. Soon-to-be-discovered tax fraud. Probably other mistresses seeking to extort. Justice at last!
She reached for the receiver, ready to press the button and tell her story. Just then, in the dim light, her eye caught a slight movement from across the room. No!
“Did you have fun out there, Bonnie?” The voice was unmistakable. And he was still sitting on the couch. 

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