Samuel picked up his pocket watch and checked the time. He set it down on the table, propped open and facing him. “I did not murder Jasper.”
“You’re going to have to do better than that.”
A waiter who had the same black eyes as the maitre d’ interrupted them. “Can I get you a drink sir?”
“I’ll have what he’s having,” Drake replied.
“Actually, I’ll have another,” Samuel added. “Make it a double and give me three cherries.
“Very well sir. Three cherries for you as well?”
“Sure, three cherries. Why not?”
The waiter walked away, but Drake followed him with his eyes. Now that he thought about it, he looked the same as the maitre d’. Was it possible they were twins?
“Like I said. I did not murder Jasper. It’s all a great misunderstanding.”
“I’d like to believe you.”
“Jasper asked me to take the key from Daisy. He said that he was going to perform the greatest trick of all time, and that I’d get an exclusive.”
Drake caught himself frowning. “Jasper said nothing of this to me. I should know. We review every trick together. We have no secrets.” Yet as he said this, he realized it was not true. He did not know why Jasper wandered the streets late at night. He should have asked him rather than assume he simply needed a girl.
“He said this trick was going to be a surprise.”
“Are you suggesting he wanted to commit suicide?” The thought sickened Drake. He surveyed the room for the waiter with the drinks and cherries.
Samuel glanced at his pocket watch again. It was nearly 1am. “No, I don’t believe he wanted to kill himself. I think he wanted what every man in his line of work wants. Glory.”
“And yet he died.”
Samuels eyes were lined red. “His exact direction was to get the key from Daisy, which I did.”
“Which you did quite well.”
“I’m not afraid to admit that Daisy is an attractive girl.”
“Nor am I.” Drake thought the way she’d eagerly parted her legs laying on her back on his desk, mussing his papers. It had only been one time.
“He then said to meet him here. He said he’d meet me at 1am sharp, after the show. He said not to worry, no matter what happened.”
“I don’t understand. Do you think he’s still alive?”
“I’m not sure.”
“We both watched him die, Samuel. We saw his body. They carried him out in a bag.”
“I know. And yet, you can’t deny he was a great magician. And that perhaps his death was an illusion.”
Drake considered. He’d looked into Jasper’s eyes after he died. The man had not been alive. Drake would have seen it. He would have known, and probably played along. “I don’t think that’s the case.”
Samuel glanced at his watch again.
“Here you go, sirs.” The waiter set down the drinks on napkins. “Can I get you anything to eat?”
“No thank you,” Drake said, thinking of the bloody meat. “Say, are you related to the maitre d’?”
“Why yes, sir. I am one of three triplets.”
“Yes, our other brother is the bartender.” The waiter gestured to the oak bar. Drake could hardly make out the man, for the bar was crowded. He imagined he had the same black eyes, empty and fish-like.
“That’s unusual for three brothers to work in the same establishment, is it not?”
“Well I never thought about it much.” The waiter shrugged. “Can I get you anything else?”
“No, thank –”
Samuel stood up and the table tottered, spilling his brown drink on the white table cloth. “Look!” He pointed a finger at the window.
Jasper standing on the opposite side of the street. Drake would not have believed it, but seeing him with his own eyes, he had no doubt. The man was Jasper. Wearing an overcoat unbuttoned, Drake could see the outline of Jasper’s athletic figure beneath his evening tuxedo. His patent leather shoes glimmered in the gas lights. Jasper tipped his silk top hat to them and smiled.
“I knew it,” Samuel stammered. “He’s alive.”
Drake rose from the table, forgetting his cane. “It can’t be.”
Just as Drake was inclined to rush outside, a carriage passed by. In the reflection of its windows was the Hotel Astor. The reflection showed the hotel engulfed in flames. It was a great fire with black smoke and helmeted firemen. Onlookers pointed to what appeared to be guests trapped inside, hanging out of the windows, shrieking and waving white pillow cases.
Drake glanced back at the bar. The hotel was not on fire. The patrons were still eating and drinking, the music was playing.
When he looked back to the street, Jasper and the carriage were gone. The street was naked. Somehow Drake knew he’d never see his friend again. He could not say how he knew this; he just did.
Samuel was still standing, staring out the window in a stupor.
“His greatest trick … his greatest trick …”
“Was showing us what could be.” Drake finished his drink.
The dog barked somewhere in the distance.