The Hardest Trick-A Xavier Bex story
The rolled up newspaper arced perfectly through the air. It smacked the door and landed on the well worn welcome mat, rolling back slightly, then coming to a stop. The paperboy had already moved on to the next house when the door opened. Furry slipper covered feet edged out past the threshold into the cold air of mid fall. The matching bright blue robe, draped over the frame of the gaunt man, was worn and tattered. A ratty wool cap was pulled low over his sunken eyes, unkempt blonde beard surrounded thin lips. He stood there looking out at nothing, eyes seemingly vacant. It was the stare of a man that had very little in life to make him happy. The gentle ringing in the distance of the paperboys bike bell shifted the gaze to the right, watching the child disappear around the corner it dropped down to his feet and came to rest on the paper. Slowly he reached down, gathered the paper in hand and stood straight again. A slight shuffle back and he closed the door.
The interior of the house matched the man well. Trash was scattered across the floor, stacks of beer cans, pizza boxes, newspapers and plates lined the walls or had fallen over. He trudged through the hall passing several picture frames on his way to the bedroom. The frames all featured the same man and all were clippings from newspapers. In them, the man was always wearing a top hat and suit both bright blue. It was the kind a performer seen on a stage would wear, the kind of style that had become iconic of stage magicians. The headlines practically screamed out from the page, the type bold and large.
“Gilbert the Glorious, the next Houdini!”
“Gilbert the Glorious, Master of Magic!”
“Gilbert the Glorious, the Greatest Magician Ever!”
Various plaques and pictures lined the walls as well each trophies of another life. The walls inside the bedroom were covered with newspapers as well. Every inch of wallpaper was layered over with clippings. If the hallway was a catalog of a rising star, this was definitely the fall. Each one recording a mans slow and torturous end of a bright career seemingly at the hands of another performer. The various articles from magazines, newspapers and even some tabloids seem to spiral around in an intricate pattern, and at its center was a high gloss color photo of a man in a black suit and top hat. His arms stretched out to either side as what looked like purple smoke poured from his sleeves. The face was lit up with a cocky grin, black hair slicked back along the sides and dark green eyes that shined almost as bright as the stage lights illuminating him from the base of the stage he stood upon. Near the bottom of the photo, in large fluid handwriting, it said simply. “To my biggest fan! -X.A.B.”
Gilbert sat down at the edge of his bed. Brushing aside a bright blue top hat as he did. Rubbing his eyes, he looked around the room. The signed photo was always where he ended up. He hadn’t had a reason to leave his house in almost a year. He never got calls anymore, no more fan mail, and he couldn’t even remember the last time he did a show. It was all because of one man, it was all connected to him. Everything had gone wrong for Gilbert when he had shown up.
The paper fell off his lap, pulling him from his dark reflection. Once again he reached down to retrieve It, snapping off the rubber band, he unrolled the bundle and started to read the front page. Gilbert’s grip tighten suddenly, his eyes narrowed and darted back and forth. When he finished he looked up and a smile had started to form on his lips. Gently he folded the front page and placed it next to him. He stood up and seemed, for the first time, to notice the state of his own house. He would have to clean immediately but first he had to clean himself up. Entering the bathroom he gather up his beard trimmer, a fresh razor, some shaving cream and got to work. Now Gilbert couldn’t stop smiling, and soon his lips puckered and he began to whistle. It looked like it was going to be a beautiful day.
The young paperboy lofted another newspaper into the air. He had been doing this for years and the motion was automatic. His hand free he used it to wipe away the tears in his eyes, then rang his bike bell as he readied for his next house. Grasping the roll of newsprint, the boy couldn’t stop another tear from rolling down his cheek as he read again the days top headline:
“The great magician, Xavier Alex Bex, Dead”
The room was packed with posters framed on the wall like a rappers gold album collection. It was a long rectangular room that ended with high backed chairs, regal in style their red velvet fabric seeming to wrap gently around the wood frame. A large black wooden desk separated the chairs for guests from the single throne that held the owner of the furniture, the room and even the whole building it resided in. The man was bald, though a few stray wisps of gray hair fought for attention as they stuck out in defiance of gravity. He wore a dark gray suit that screamed custom and he was currently hunched over a newspaper, a fierce frown ruffling his otherwise kind pale face. A wide fireplace along the wall crackled and popped, casting warmth and minimal light for the two occupants in the room. The second man was lost in the shadow of one of the guest chairs.
“It says here Xavier Bex is dead.”
“Well it’s wrong.”
Tapping his finger on the paper, the older man stared into the black of the chair before him. “Seems pretty definite. Thousands of witnesses say he exploded at his last performance. Hasn’t been seen for a month.”
The chair creaked, and rocked. “It’s obviously a mistake.” Irritation in the others voice creeping in.
A small smile played briefly across the agents face. For that’s what he was. An agent. One of the best and oldest agents who had represented countless talents though he had a special soft spot for magicians and other members of the stage. He was short, made to look shorter by the size of the furniture but he could fill a room with his presence and anyone worth making it big knew the name Benjamin Watly and coveted a place amongst Watly’s Wonders.
“Well, no one’s seen him so I guess he must truly be dead. It’s been a month after all….”He couldn’t keep the grin off his face. He may be old, but he enjoyed teasing his clients sometimes. Especially when it was him.
“BUT I’M NOT DEAD!!!” Bursting from the shadows to stand straight up, hands flying into the air in exasperation, his top hat matching his tailored black suit, stood Xavier Bex the not really dead magician.
Wringing his hands before him he continued, the words pouring from him as he began to pace before the desk. “Everything was perfect. I was going to present a new trick! The Iron Maiden Meteor…”glancing over he saw Ben raise an eyebrow.
Sighing, he sat back down before continuing. “It involved being put in a replica iron maiden and having that layered with explosives. Then hoisted by crane into the air and then the top is lit and the whole thing gets covered in flames and drops and explodes when it hits the ground! It was going to be awesome!!” Xavier, flush with excitement just from recalling the crazy deadly stunt, had a smile on his face despite the world thinking him dead.
“So what happened?”
The smile disappeared. “I wound up in a jungle. In PERU!!!” Slumping forward he leaned on the table, dragging the paper towards him and flipping it around to stare at the large font causing him so much trouble.
Ben shook his head. Not much about this one shocked him anymore. The first time something strange occurred was early in his career. Some trick involving two cars colliding with him in the middle, wrapped in chains held together by massive locks. Apparently something went wrong with the timing of the cars and they started forward early. Xavier managed to get out of half the chains before the front ends of the cars slammed into each other but he was already gone. He ended up in the coffee shop two blocks over wearing nothing but his hat. Xavier explained some of his methods were, unusual, but it was all on the level. It was for the kids, Xavier would say.
“Well, why didn’t you let people know you were alive?”
Straightening slightly, his face coloring in embarrassment “Well, it was nice not having to sign autographs all the time and i’ve never been to Peru. I thought I might as well take a little vacation.” His face showed, however, that in hindsight that was the wrong move.
Now it was the old mans turn to sigh. Falling back into his chair he rubbed his eyes. Sleep was creeping into them and they were red and puffy. “Well, i’ll have our PR department track down pictures of you in Peru. We’ll make some if we have to although i’m sure someone over there knows who you are and took some shots. We’ll spin it so it seems like it was all on purpose but that won’t be enough. I’ll have to make calls and see if I can get the rest of your tour bookings back. We need you on stage in the biggest way right now but I’ll be honest. This one is going to be tough. Fortunately there’s nothing else complicating things.”
Picking up his phone he pressed a few buttons to get his head of PR. His team was always available to him regardless of what time it was. “Henry! You’re up! That’s surprising. Look, i’ll make it brief. Xaviers stunt didn’t kill him and he’s right here. We need to get him on the biggest stage we can land as soon as….what? Sure give me a moment and I’ll call you back”
Putting the phone down Ben reached over grabbing a remote. The large screen tv mounted on the wall flared to life. It doubled as a computer screen and currently showed the image of a circus tent. Pictures were layered around it showing various members during their performances. A man with two whips wrapped under his arms smiled back at the room, their was a picture of a juggler half hidden behind one corner, and someone wearing clothes in an odd alternating white and black pattern was sticking out from behind another corner.
“New clients?” Xavier asked, a hint of wonder in his voice. He’d always enjoyed the circus. Something about the atmosphere you couldn’t find elsewhere.
“Maybe, they move a lot but they seem to have some major talent. Probably wont get out to see them for a while.” Pressing a few buttons switched to live tv and a reporter’s face filled the left half, a crowd behind her shifting and swaying, excitement evident on their faces and their eyes wide with what they had seen.
“….appearing from out of the intense white beam of light, it was absolutely incredible!”
The scene shifted to a newsroom where a man continued. “For those of you just joining us that was reporter Karen Chem talking about the surprise performance that occurred before the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood! It would appear that the once forgotten Gilbert the Glorious has decided to come out of retirement in the wake of the death of Xavier Bex and boy did he put on a show! Many who remember Gilbert may remark on the irony of his reappearance as the feud between the two was quite intense before a bad performance by Gilbert saw him leave the world stage, most would have thought, for good. With Xavier gone however, this reporter is glad to see another great magician take his place so soon. Later tonight we’ll be…” The audio cut and the red letters spelling Mute hovered in the bottom right corner. Ben and Xavier glanced at each other, then back to the screen.