“This is stupid,” Timothy grumbles. “I don’t see why you thought coming to a magic show for kids would be a good idea.”
Lena sighs and says, “It’s not for kids, it’s for everyone. Besides, you said you were fine with it yesterday. I don’t see what’s the problem.”
“It’s stupid, that’s what,” he retorts. “I’d rather have my tonsils removed than watch another amateurish trick.”
“Good grief, Tim,” his friend says, “what’s wrong with you? The first day we spend after your coming back from your trip, and you act so uppity. What’s wrong?”
He rolls his eyes and decides to drop it. Instead, he says, “Look, I’m sorry, all right? I’ll stop acting like a moron.”
She grins. “After this, how about we go to that hunting store you like? Deal?”
Timothy nods. “Deal.” He continues to watch the show, holding back on all his smart remarks. Lena seems to know that he wants to comment, but she says nothing.
“And now, for our final act,” the buffoon of a magician is saying, “the famous Disappearing Act.” There’s a smattering of applause before he goes on. “I need one volunteer from the audience, just one. Who will it be?”
“He looks more like a clown than a magician,” Timothy remarks. “Like…Pennywise.”
Lena shakes her head and raises her hand, waving it back and forth. The magician looks in their direction, glances at Lena, and calls her up.
“What are you doing?” Timothy hisses. “Don’t go!”
She sighs. “Because he’s really Pennywise the Dancing Clown and he’s going to eat me up?”
Timothy slouches in his chair. “Go up. It’s your funeral.”
“It’s just a magic trick, Tim. I’ll be all right.” She winks and makes her way up. Timothy scowls.
Maybe it’s just his imagination, or the magician seems to look over Lena and nods, as though approving her. The scumbag. Timothy’s eyes narrow, and he watches the magician closely.
“Just step inside here,” the clown—no, magician, says. He gestures to an upright box that seems to be just the right size for Lena. She steps in, and he closes the door. He taps the box three times and says something Timothy doesn’t understand, then opens it with a dramatic flourish.
She’s gone. The crowd cheers and whistles. Timothy doesn’t join in. The clown—magician, he’s a magician—bows, then closes the box and taps on it three times. When he opens it again, there’s no Lena.
Timothy nearly jumps out of his seat.
The magician tries again. Nothing. “There, uh, seems to be a small problem,” he says.
“You liar!” Timothy exclaims as he gets up and storms to the front. His face is red, and his fists are clenched. A one-two punch should take care of this Bozo, he thinks.
When he gets up there, the magician says, “Are you related to the volunteer?”
“She’s my friend,” Timothy says, his anger hardly in check. “And you’d better bring her back.”
The clown—because that’s what he really is, Timothy decides—seems to smirk. In that moment, Timothy wonders if this man really is what he appears to be. A shiver races up Timothy’s spine, and he scowls. “Perhaps you would like to go inside and see what happens, eh?”
He’s not sure what to say. The magician, the clown, whatever he is, reeks of something foreboding. How can no one else see it? It—whatever it is—has Lena, he’s sure. It’s clear what he has to do.
He scowls once more at it, then opens the door and steps inside the box. Timothy realizes that it’s just the right length for him, at six foot four. Lena’s five foot nine. He shivers again.
“Good choice. Very good,” the clown says. He chuckles, then closes the door. In the second before he’s plunged into absolute darkness, Timothy thinks that he sees that the magician-clown has tufts of bright orange hair sticking out of his skull, complete with what looks to be red lipstick.
And he hears chuckling.