Day twelve of this April’s Challenge and my suggestion for today comes from one of my Twitter followers. Sakina Hussain and I have only been following each other for a short while, but she has given me some great encouragement with my writing and was kind enough to provide me with a few suggestions for this Challenge.
The word she suggested for today is “LEGERDEMAIN”.
Yes, that’s right, LEGERDEMAIN. She went right ahead and slapped me with a word I had never heard of before! Kudos to you, Sakina!
After looking it up I decided that I would use it, and this is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it.
By Adam Dixon
“Ahh, but good, sir, a magician never reveals his tricks!” The old man flashed a broad grin at the bemused businessman and winked at his wife. Sweeping off his garish feathered hat and bowing low, he looked up at the assembled crowd.
“Would anyone else care to test the finesse of my fingers?” He asked dramatically. “I may look old and indeed I feel it during these cold winter months, but my dextrous digits are just as nimble and and eager as when I was a lad! How about you, sir? Perhaps you and your friend there would care to challenge me? Or you, madame? May I say what a fine coat that is? It is such a privilege to be entertaining a person of high quality this morning! Alas, no offence intended to my other guests, of course!” The small crowd gathered around him chuckled at the joke and a few of them agreed to test his skill.
“He can’t possibly win every time,” one man in a suit whispered to his lady friend. “Just watch, my darling, I’ll show the old fellow up!” The woman giggled and nuzzled him in encouragement.
Unbeknownst to them, a little girl who could scarcely have been more than ten years old moved among the crowd like a wraith. The girl was constantly surprised at how easy it was to distract people in the city. Here she was with her blond hair shining like a beacon amidst a sea of greys and browns, yet no-one saw her as she delved into their coats and purses. All it took was one charismatic old geezer with a silly hat and a few sleight-of-hand tricks and she could pilfer their valuables as easily as breathing. Of course, she had to have quick hands herself in order to do so, so at least the old man’s teachings had been worth the time.
The crowd oohed and ahhed as the old man made cards and coins disappear and reappear under the hats of his spectators. They cheered loudly when he began juggling first three balls, then four, then six, then eight and so on until their jaws hung low and their eyes were trapped following the whirling spheres. That trick was also a signal to the young girl; it was his final performance, so she had better hurry up. She swiftly stole a few more handfuls of coins and pound notes before backing off and striking up the same awed expression of those around her. Not a moment too soon, either.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you have been an excellent crowd!” The old man panted as he bowed low and flung out his hat, neatly catching all the falling balls in it one after the other. The crowd gasped and applauded, and the man bowed lower still.
“Thank you, thank you! You are most kind!” The man exclaimed, beaming at his audience. “I shall be performing for your pleasure here again for the following two mornings, so be sure to inform your friends and relatives!” The people were murmuring amongst themselves good-naturedly as they began to disperse, and not one of them noticed how light their pockets were. The young girl walked away slowly and turned the street corner. A few minutes of walking led her to a small churchyard, and she stood reading the cracked gravestones as she waited for the old man. She closed her eyes and breathed in the moist air of the morning, tasting flavour the old earth which wafted up to her nostrils.
“Well, how did we do this time?” The girl opened her eyes to see the old man standing next to her. She never heard the wily old sod approach and she had given up trying.
“Quite well,” she responded flatly. She held out the bulging pillow case containing her hoard and frowned as he snatched it away. After leafing through its contents and nodding, the old man looked up at her sharply.
“Can I trust that you’ve not squirreled some coins away about your person?” he asked suspiciously. She shook her head, knowing full well that it wouldn’t be enough. The girl didn’t blame him, really. One thief could never fully trust another. The old man seized her with his bony fingers and subjected her to the humiliation of forcing her mouth open to peer under her tongue and down her throat, as well as lifting her ragged clothes to check her undergarments. Such a display was indecent to say the least, and not at all befitting an older gentleman in Victorian society, but they were alone there and the girl was powerless to resist. Satisfied, the man released her.
“Mmmhmm, good,” he said, stooping to pick up the dropped pillow case. “You’re doing wonderfully, my dear, and I shall pay you your share once I have counted this up properly. You stick with me and we shall both be rich!” He cackled and strode away, not bothering to wait for her to reply.
The girl sighed and rubbed her arms where his fingers had gripped her. He still had strong hands for one so old, strong as well as fast. A small smile crept along the girl’s lips as she opened her palm to reveal a beautiful golden pocket-watch. It belonged to the old man, and he had coveted it ever since he had stolen it from a passing politician. The girl would sell it that afternoon and the man would simply believe that he had lost it somewhere.
“Your fingers are still quick, old man, but not as quick as mine!” The girl grinned to herself as she walked back towards the market. One day she wouldn’t need the old man anymore, and that day was fast approaching.