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Alfred M. Albers

Author & Magician

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Chapter One
Friday, April 13, 2012

 

The newspaper article about Tony Carpenter’s new illusion, “The Water Cube,” implied that this never-before-tried illusion was more than just a publicity stunt. Quoting America’s Foremost Magician, John Michaels, entertainment news reporter Bernard Gates of the New York Mirror wrote, “The master magician gave Tony three words of advice: ‘Don’t do it.’” That admonishment caught Marcus King’s attention. Marcus was a major-league gambling addict. He’d bet on a praying mantis fight if he knew one was going to be held in still-secret underground tunnels of Manhattan’s Chinatown.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In the mid-1800s, Chinatown’s underground economy provided a haven for undocumented laborers to illegally work and live without leaving this cloistered area. In New York City, thousands of miles of underground tunnels exist in its five boroughs (Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island), many of which have not been used in over a hundred fifty years.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Marcus was fond of telling anyone who’d listen, “Yeah, I made a fortune gambling, but I also lost it. Let’s just say I’ve learned the hard way all my life. Everyone knows my story; its old news and it ain’t like that now. I’m a legit businessman. I own a few small businesses—eateries, dry cleaners—things like that.” While the genuineness of his words sounded sincere, nothing was further from the truth. Marcus was an incessant liar. His business enterprise was a façade for the two-square-mile territory he controlled in the Bronx.

After folding the newspaper in half and then in half again, he reclined his office chair and reread the story. There must be something more to this stunt than meets the eye, he said aloud inside the solitude of an unadorned back-room—his office—in the luncheonette he owned. And was Michaels’ so-called advice legit or just idle talk to garner as much publicity as possible for this wannabe magician? Marcus stared at the article as he unthinkingly rubbed his chin. A few moments later he crossed his legs, dropped the folded-up newspaper on his lap, raised his arms and clasped his fingers together behind his head. If I can convince my clientele that the advice is legit, that it’s not publicity hyperbole, I think I can make a mint off this stunt. But, how do I ensure the magician fails?

Marcus grabbed the paper, tossed it onto his desk and stood up. A moment later he donned his Boss sport coat and grabbed his Santorini wool fedora. It’s time to take care of some business matters, he mumbled as he walked toward the door. Sitting on a cushioned wooden folding chair outside the office was Claude Daniels. He was listening to music through a set of in-ear headphones that were plugged into an iPod clipped to his pants belt. Claude’s eyes were closed and he nodded and swayed his head to the beat of the music.

“Let’s go!” Marcus barked, as he nudged the chair with his foot.

Claude opened his eyes as he rapidly removed the headphones. He knew not to ask any questions until he and Marcus were in the car.

“Earlier today I picked up a fresh bag of phones,” Claude said, as he buckled his seat belt. “Our associate, Salvador Jimenez, acquired them yesterday. There are two in the chair pocket in front of you. The other chair’s pocket also has two.”

“Good,” Marcus replied.

Claude slowly pulled away from the curb and headed south on Valentine Avenue.

“Head to the Greek’s cleaners,” Marcus said.

Claude smiled and shook his head.

“Why the smile?” Marcus asked.

“Never understood why you always call Bobby the Greek. He’s German; it’s his wife who is Greek.”

“He speaks the lingo. That’s good enough for me.”

“He probably speaks German, too.”

“Don’t matter to me if he also speaks Chinese, French and Italian. How many people in the Bronx you know that speak Greek?”

“None, other than Bobby.”

“Exactly.” Marcus paused a moment, and then said, “Tune the radio to the WFAN sports station. That crap you listen to ain’t music.”

As Claude adjusted the volume, veteran sports announcer Barton Turner interrupted the radio spot advertisement. We’ve just received a newsflash that illusionist Tony Carpenter was pronounced dead at Poe Park, in the Bronx, a few minutes ago. The police didn’t give a cause of death or provide any other information. Stayed tuned for further updates.

“Turn the radio off,” Marcus said.

“Are we still going to Bobby’s?”

“Not right away; head to Poe Park and then circle around until I say otherwise. I want to see what’s going on.” Marcus reached into the chair pocket, pulled out a phone and called Bobby.

“You hear the news?” Bobby asked, answering the phone.

“Yeah; just heard it on the AM sports station.”

“What do you know about it?”

“Nothing.”

“You’re losing control of your empire, Marcus.”

“Says you!”

“If it wasn’t you, someone else ordered the hit.”

“What makes you so sure it was a hit?”

“Experience.”

“Are you insinuating you know something about it?”

“Not at all; I told you what I believe.”

“And that was?”

“It was a hit and you’re losing control of your empire.”

Marcus abruptly ended the call and then tossed the phone onto the passenger side front seat. “After we leave Poe, head to Booker’s Pool Palace,” Marcus said. “I got to find out who ordered this kid’s plug pulled. This is my neighborhood and I sure as hell didn’t make this call.”

Claude nodded.