The ad asked for a willing assistant. I was willing, and I had the needed experience.
Perhaps I was too willing.
In hindsight, perhaps I should have asked more questions about the job.
But it seemed familiar enough, a standard illusion show, with the usual sorts of illusions likely rented from one of the usual stock suppliers. I’d seen most of them already, and knew the drill. Wear the skimpy outfit, get a few bruises, wow the audience, and get paid.
That last point was foremost on my mind, I admit. And the offered pay was pretty good, and certainly more than I’d been getting lately.
Another point I possibly should have researched better.
There didn’t seem to be much attention to rehearsals. We did a quick run-through of the mis-made woman, which worked as expected and was the usual tight squeeze. After that, the crew seemed bored, and was ready to assume that it would all just work out on the night. Besides, our “headliner” didn’t bother to show up for even that minimal rehearsal.
Another red flag.
But the money was good, and they’d paid enough up front to leave me feeling guilty about quitting. Besides, the show must go on, and all the other clichés…
The scheduled performance was the next night.
That’s right, just the one show. Again, in hindsight, that might also have been a warning. Someone was bankrolling quite the production for a one-off, and when I saw the ticket prices, it didn’t seem to add up. The show was likely in the red even before they paid all the staff, let alone the venue, the orchestra, and the headliner.
The night arrived. Crew is all ready to go. Our headliner finally shows up, shakes a few hands, confirms a few details, and then shuffles the order. I’d been warned that would happen, but with big box illusions it doesn’t matter much which box I jump in or out of first. You can’t do much to change the performance of an individual illusion, after all.
He wants to open with a new thinner than ever model sawing.
Crew looks a touch nervous.
I don’t recognize the rig, I’ve never seen this one, and I’m expected to perform it. “Don’t worry,” he says. “It’s easy.”
That should have been the final straw. The setup stunk six ways from Sunday.
But I was a good trouper.
So there I was, getting myself strapped on to a board for an illusion that I had not rehearsed, on stage in public view, and it suddenly hit me. The saw blade, that is. It swung out on a well oiled arm, and simply cut me clean in half. It happened so fast that it didn’t even hurt for a moment. I just lay there, wondering why I couldn’t feel my toes any more when they pulled the two table halves apart and there they were. On the other table. And that puddle on the floor…
I died on stage that day.
The audience was not prepared to believe what they saw.
They were almost ready to swear that it was all an amazing illusion. After all, how could he tour the country, murdering a girl in every town.
The answer to that one was clear.
By finding the willing, hungry, fools, and never actually promising not to kill them. Then leaving town before the authorities figured out what had really happened.
And leaving behind him yet another venue haunted by an extremely vengeful former assistant.
I was too willing, and now I want revenge.