McCoy leaned over. “He’s using a trapdoor.”

Black smiled as the man on stage stepped between the audience and his assistant. She was blocked from their sight for less than a second, but then she was gone.

“Nice try,” Black said, “but no.”

McCoy scowled. “You don’t know.”

“That’s an easy trick. The only thing impressive about it is how quickly he does it.”

“Then how does he-” McCoy was cut off as the woman sitting behind him sushed him.

McCoy sulked through the rest of the show, which amused Black. His partner was usually the cryptic one. He used his silence as an effective tool, keeping people wondering just what he knew. To someone who knew him as well as Black did, it was obvious that he didn’t like being kept out of the loop.

Black had only dabbled in stage magic when he was younger, and other than some last minute research for this assignment, he hadn’t paid any attention to the field since he joined the force ten years ago. Despite that, by the second show, he knew how Inferno did almost all of his tricks. However, he had taken the oath that all stage magicians made, and unless it became important to the investigations, he wasn’t going to tell anyone how Inferno’s tricks worked.

The fact was, Inferno wasn’t terribly creative — at least, not with the actual tricks. He took relatively simple tricks and dressed them up with well-crafted showmanship, unbelievable speed, and an excessive amount of pyrotechnics. It had made him very famous, but also a joke among the magic community.

There was one trick Black couldn’t figure out, though. It wasn’t even the trick, really. Right before his finale, he transformed his assistant into a flock of birds — this one did use a trap door — and had her change back on platform suspended above the stage. The trick was easy to work out, except for one part.

 

“There just isn’t time,” he muttered, as they retired to their hotel room.

“Hmm?” McCoy asked.

“The real challenge of any translocation trick is getting the target from point A to point B without anyone seeing. The misdirection is more important than the trick itself. I just don’t see how she can get to the platform in time.”

McCoy smiled this time. “So you can’t figure it out.”

Black began to pace. “That’s just the thing. I can think of two or three ways to pull off the trick, but they all involve her moving up as she disappears. It’s the only way to get her high enough in such a short window.”

“And?”

“And he’s using a trapdoor. She’s going down. That should be adding at least a two or three seconds to her time.”

“Trick only takes one-point-five.”

“I don’t know how those pencil-pushers spotted it, but I think they’re right.”

“All-Tech?” McCoy asked.

Black leafed through their file on Jeremiah “Inferno” Shenkman. “There’s no connection between Shenkman and All-Tech, but what do we have on his assistant, Miss Embers?”

McCoy grunted. “Nothing. Don’t even have her real name. No records before two years ago.”

“Which is when all this All-Tech crap started. That can’t be a co-incidence.”

“You’re the magician,” McCoy said. “What’s the plan?”

Black grinned. “We know she’s going down before she goes up. We just need to sneak under the stage and see how she does it.”

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