Detective watches the magic show. The amphitheater could hold ten thousand people, but he is the only person in the audience. He wonders if Magician would stop the show if he were to get up to leave. Curiosity overtakes him. He stands up, waves to Magician and Lovely Assistant as he walks down the aisle. He leaves through the door. The usher with the red fedora has vanished. Perhaps Magician has made him disappear. Detective opens the door a crack, peeks inside. Magician has not stopped the show. But what happened to the rabbit in the hat trick? Magician was performing the trick when Detective exited the theatre. He had only just started the trick by extending his black top hat towards Detective to prove it was an ordinary black top hat.
Instead of the rabbit in the hat trick, Magician has made the ceiling vanish and the stars turn into flying giraffes and the flying giraffes attack the Earth. Detective is not impressed. He has seen other magicians perform this trick before. He has seen flying giraffes attack the Earth before. He has seen the Earth covered in blood that spouted out of people’s necks after flying giraffes devoured their faces. Detective is not impressed.
He crashes through the door, shakes his fist, shouts, “I am not impressed!” His words echo through the amphitheater.
Magician ignores his complaints, holds out Rabbit for Detective to inspect.
But what happened to the flying giraffes attacking the Earth trick? Detective is confused. He uses the full extent of his analytical mind to determine what happened to the flying giraffes attacking the Earth trick, comes up empty.
Magician puts Rabbit in a black top hat, taps the top hat with his wand, says Magic Words, makes the animal disappear. Lovely Assistant waves her arms excitedly. Whoa, Detective thinks, What happened to the rabbit? He uses his analytical mind to determine where the creature went, fails. He is ashamed of himself, wonders if he should stop calling himself a detective. If he is unable to solve a mystery, he should probably refer to himself by another title. His customers are not willing to pay him fifty bucks a day plus expenses for him to feel ashamed when he is unable to solve their problems. Perplex-tive, he thinks. He needs to get all new business cards so they read, John Johns—Perplex-tive for hire. People will pay him to be perplexed. There are so many people in the world. Some of them must want to take advantage of a service where he provides his bewilderment upon their demand.
Magician taps the black top hat with his wand, says Magic Words, pulls Rabbit out of the black top hat. Lovely Assistant waves her arms excitedly. “Whoa,” Detective says out loud this time while clutching his heart. The shock of Rabbit’s return almost gives him a heart attack. But it did not give him a heart attack, because he has a healthy diet and exercises on a regular basis. Since he is not dead, Detective claps furiously to show his appreciation for Magician’s ability to leave him perplexed. Detective pumps his fist in the air, hoots, stamps his foot on the floor. Magician and Lovely Assistant bow. They freeze and do not move. Detective waits, wondering if the show is over or if Magician and Lovely Assistant are trying to delight him with their showroom dummy impersonations. Detective is not delighted. He is a little bored. But he is also a little mystified. He cannot understand how a person can stand so still. He is mystified that two people in the world can stand this still. He is even more amazed that these two still people are standing in the same room. How did they find each other? Did one of them take out a classified ad?
Detective walks towards the stage, climbs the steps, taps on Magician’s padded shoulder. “Errr…excuse me.” Magician does not stir, so Detective tries the same thing on Lovely Assistant’s shoulder. “Errr…excuse me.” She is not receptive. Detective is frustrated. He is ashamed at his inability to cause motion. He goes back to Magician, licks his earlobe.
Magician flinches. “Who dares disturb Merrigan the Magnificent?”
“Who is me? Who dares?”
“Name’s Ray Smith. Got a few questions for you.” He hands Magician his card.
“Proceed at your own risk, mortal.”
“Where were you on the night someone finished my milk and did not replace it?”
“A magician cannot be compelled to reveal his whereabouts subsequent to his birth and prior to his death.”
Detective opens his coat to give Magician a view of his gun. “Tell me or I will make your life vanish and never reappear.”
“I do not respond to threats, Mr. Smith, particularly of the gunshot wound-kind considering I am bulletproof.”
“Oh yeah?” He pulls his gun out of his holster, puts it to Magician’s forehead, pulls the trigger.
Magician’s brains rocket out of the back of his skull, splatter over his Cabinet of Secrets.
Detective feels bad. It is the first time he has killed a man. He believed that Magician was bulletproof. It is not his fault. Magician told him he was bulletproof. Detective has always wanted to shoot a man who was bulletproof. This was his first opportunity, although it was a false opportunity. Detective frowns, regretting he took the opportunity. He puts his gun back in its holster.
Lovely Assistant stirs. “What’s going on here?”
“I killed him. I feel terrible about it.”
Lovely Assistant stares at Magician’s corpse, Magician’s brains. “Don’t worry, he’s bulletproof.”
Detective also stares at the brains. “If he’s bulletproof then my name’s Ray Brainsplatter.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Brainsplatter. Merrigan the Magnificent doesn’t look bulletproof. Is that correct?”
Detective is getting exasperated. “Yes.”
“Are you ready for Merrigan the Magnificent’s brain matter to return its former location? Are you ready for Merrigan the Magnificent to arise from his deep slumber?”
She pries Magician’s wand out of his dead hand, taps his skull, says Magic Words.
Magician’s brains grow little feet and walk from The Cabinet of Secrets to the back of his skull and his skin and hair grows over the exit wound and his blood becomes invisible and he opens his eyes.
Lovely Assistant reaches out her arms, wiggles her fingers, says, “Ta-da!”
Detective feels a sense of fulfillment. He has shot a man who was bulletproof. He can cross out this item on the list of the infinite number of things he wants to do before he dies.
Detective says, “That was pretty swell, but did you drink the rest of my milk?” Magician curls his upper lip in disdain. “The milk of mortals causes disgust and digestive troubles. My liquid diet is entirely composed of ambrosia and pigeon blood. I would rather kiss my lovely assistant than ingest your vile cow juice.”
“Yeah, my roommate is probably the culprit if you didn’t do it. Let’s get down to serious business: Where does the rabbit in your hat go when it disappears?”
“A magician never reveals his secrets.”
Detective opens his coat to give Magician a view of his gun, remembers Magician is bulletproof, frowns, puts the gun back in the holster. “You gotta tell me. It’s a matter of life and death.”
“I, Merrigan the Magnificent, imbibe such an enormous quantity of life and death that my tolerance has achieved the height of the cosmos.”
Detective puts Magician in a headlock. “I’m tired of your mystical mumbo jumbo. If you wanna get outta this headlock, tell me where the damn rabbit goes.”
“I am not the man in the headlock but you are than man in the headlock.”
Detective stares into Magician’s eyes, but they are not Magician’s eyes; they are Detective’s Eyes, surrounded by Detective’s face. He squeals and releases his phantom double from the headlock. The phantom double regains the features of Magician.
Lovely Assistant waves her arms excitedly. “Let’s hear it for Merrigan the Magnificent.” She does not hear it. Detective has decided to decline her request.
Magician points at Detective with his long finger and engages in a round of sinister laughter. “I will grace your query with a response if you perform a service for me. Walk from across the entirety of this stage and the secret of the rabbit shall be revealed.”
Detective begins walking, is stopped by an invisible force. The force feels like a chainsaw. Detective’s insides feel like they are being torn apart by a chainsaw, but his body does not have any wounds. It does not release blood. Perhaps Magician has made Detective’s blood and wounds invisible?
Detective considers turning back, decides against it. The location of Rabbit is more important to him than answers to questions like “Is there life after death?” and “Is there other life in the universe?” and “Why me?” The answer is worth the loss of invisible blood and invisible viscera. He tries to crawl through the chainsaw pain, but it does not allow him to proceed. He tries over and over again but it is futile. Frustrated, he bangs his head on the floor. It makes a hollow sound. He knows the difference between a hollow sound and a filled sound. He is a detective. He is a detective despite his intention to change his job title to Perplex-tive. He thinks maybe he is overqualified to be a Perplex-tive, but not qualified enough to perform his duties as a detective. He thinks he is totally fucked. He notices a latch in the floor, bangs his head in frustration. A skilled detective would have noticed the latch, realized he was lying on top of a trapdoor, avoided further incidents with chainsaw pain. He thinks about the chainsaw pain. The thought of the pain knocks him unconscious.
When Detective wakes up, he is lying on stage in the same place where he lost consciousness. He had expected a boiler room and a chair and ropes tied around him, but that only happens to real detectives. Detectives like him wake up in the same place they lost consciousness. There is no pockmarked former boxer slapping his face and asking questions. There is only Magician and Lovely Assistant and the void. He opens the trapdoor.
Climbs down some steps.
Floats past a universe composed of Legos.
Swims through an ocean of thumbtacks.
Climbs a mountain of spleens.
Why is Detective doing all these things? Why all these things under the stage? A trapdoor in a stage should lead to a small passageway to crawl through. A passageway of wood rather than Legos, thumbtacks, and spleens. It is difficult to travel through Legos and thumbtacks and spleens. It is difficult, but worth it. Detective would crawl through thousands, maybe millions, of miles of nuclear flame to discover the location of Rabbit. When Detective’s head peeks out of a crater in the stage, he’s glad he didn’t have to crawl through nuclear flame. He would not have appreciated that.
Detective lifts himself out of the crater, and Magician says, “I congratulate you on your triumph, Mr. Smith.”
Detective twitches his eyebrows. “Where is it?”
“Where is what?”
“Where is the rabbit?”
“Why would you like to know?”
“I’ve got no idea.”
“I will tell you since you chanced the treacheries of the trapdoor.”
“The rabbit never left the hat. You merely failed to observe him.”
Detective pulls his gun out of his holster, puts it to Magician’s forehead, pulls the trigger.
Lovely Assistant says, “Ta-da!”