I straighten my sparkling purple jacket and adjust my pink bowtie. “The Amazing Kristoff,” I declare and flash my pearly whites.
The guard stares at me through his dark shades. His lips curl into a thin smile as he scrolls through the guest list. “I don’t see you on here,” he mutters as he checks for a second time.
“Kristoff, with a K. I’m the magician. They called me last minute.” I had hoped they’d just let me straight through in my outfit.
The guard shakes his head. “You’re not on the list. If you’re not on the list, you can’t come in.” He looks at the lady hovering over my right shoulder, dressed in a red dress and leather jacket. “Name,” he says to her, ignoring me.
“Wait!” I say, forcing a smile. The lady in the red dress stops trying to push past me and sighs loudly. “The Amazing Kristoff is my stage name. Try Christopher Archer.” I spotted the name on the guest list as the guard was scrolling through.
The guard returns to his list and reluctantly crosses Christopher Archer’s name off. “Arms out,” he tells me.
I do as I’m told, and the guard frisks me. My John Wick wig shifts uncomfortably as his rough hands assault me. I eye a gun in a shoulder holster under his jacket. Within the fortified iron gate I’m standing at, three more guards patrol the grounds. They are all armed to the teeth. It’s not the friendliest party I’ve ever been to.
The guard reaches into my pocket, pulling at the silk scarf from within. It comes out in a never-ending array of red, green, and blue triangles. “Whoops,” I say, as the guard grunts in frustration.
The guard gives up on the scarf and carries on with his search. He stops briefly as he pats something hard in my trousers. “My wand,” I explain.
“Just go through,” he grumbles, turning his attention back to the lady in the red dress. She’s chewing a lemon with her arms and legs folded, unaccustomed to waiting.
I walk through the gate into the beautifully landscaped grounds. They are vast, and the villa looks no bigger than a Lego house from where I’m standing. I wonder where I’m supposed to go. Then I spot a marquee just beyond the walled gardens on my left. A group of men in tuxedos has congregated outside to smoke. They laugh loudly at a joke as I approach. “Give us a trick then,” one of them shouts at me, then gulps down his glass of champagne.
I look at him blankly before remembering my disguise. I wiggle the comedy-sized glasses on my face to get into character, then pull out a deck of cards. I don’t know any tricks, but I can enter minds.
I shuffle the deck. “Pick a card. Any card.” I attempt to fan them out.
The man studies the cards. He starts to pull at one, then changes his mind and picks one from the other side of the deck.
Four of hearts, he thinks.
“Four of hearts,” I say.
He looks at me questioningly. “I know how this one works. There’s a pattern on the back of the card which tells you which one it is.” He takes a drag on his cigarette and looks smugly at his friends.
“No, there’s no pattern,” I tell him. At least I don’t think there is. I haven’t studied them that closely.
“Yeah, that’s right,” another member of the group says. He sounds like a mobster with a thick Italian accent. “I saw them explain the trick on a TV show.”
“Okay.” I close my eyes and shuffle the cards again. “Pick another card. I can’t see the back if my eyes are closed.”
I feel someone roughly grab at the cards in my hand and pick one.
Joker. Why is there a Joker card?
Bugger, I forgot to take out the Joker cards. “You picked the Joker card,” I tell him, with my eyes still closed. I open them. “That was fun,” I say and reclaim the card. “Now, I need to go sign in, so I’ll leave you gentlemen to your champagne.” They’re not listening. A waitress with a tray of chicken skewers has stolen their attention.
The marquee is packed. There’s barely room to breathe. I spot more guards patrolling the area, trigger-ready as though expecting an attack. The guests don’t seem bothered by them. Too busy enjoying the free food and drink, they probably haven’t even realised they are here. A huge banner, welcoming in 2021, hangs from the ceiling, and the pianist battles against the chorus of a thousand conversations.
I don’t know whether Goliath told his employer about me after our fight, but I’m not taking any chances. I have no idea what I’m up against, and I don’t want anyone to recognise me. In this outfit, though, I stick out like a sore thumb. I thought it was a family party.
“Who the hell are you?” A gruff voice demands.
I turn to see a small, plump man with a bald head and a creased face. He has a tall, blonde model by his side. She’s probably no older than 25 and has what I believe you would call a resting bitch face. Or she could just be pissed at having sold her soul to Grumpy. I wonder how much he’s paying her.
“The Amazing Kristoff,” I announce.
The plump man turns to his piece of eye-candy and throws his hands into the air. “I said, spare no expense, to Damien, and this is what he comes up with? Some sort of amateur child’s entertainer?” He turns back to me. “You better have some good tricks,” he threatens.
I smile. So this must be the elusive Jimmy Crease. The man is responsible for organised crime all over the city, but he’s like Teflon. Nothing sticks. No-one gets near him without getting past his small army first. Unless you dress up like a cheap magician and bluff your way in, that is.
The party is a show. It is a chance for Crease to flaunt his wealth, contacts, and discuss business, of course. There must be a reason he’s positioned the marquee so far away from the villa. It could be he doesn’t want anyone roaming around his private possessions. It could be he’s hiding something in there, something linked to his latest scheme. I need to find out.
“Well?” Crease asks.
“I’m sure I won’t disappoint,” I remark, looking for an escape. The last thing I want is to be drawn into dialogue with the man whose house I’m trying to break into. “I’m sorry, is there a toilet here?”
Crease shakes his head and waves a frustrated hand towards the bar as he walks off, grumbling underneath his breath.
I walk towards the bar. Everyone’s too busy chatting and drinking in their private circles to notice me. I use the staff exit to leave. There’s a lot of exposed ground between the marquee and the villa, but a wooded area, flowing around the western perimeter provides some cover. If I follow it, I can keep out of sight until I’m close enough to make a run for it.
The woods are dense with pine and fir trees, and the ground is soft and boggy. Within a few paces, mud has caked my shoes. It’s difficult to navigate the terrain, and I have to keep to the edge of the trees to avoid losing my way. Progress is painfully slow. Then, to make matters worse, the heavens open, and my cheap suit absorbs the water like a sponge.
I get as close as I can to the villa and peer out. Guards are everywhere, holding semi-automatic rifles casually by their sides. Something big is going on. It has to be. No-one needs this level of security. Most of the guards are inside, staying dry. I can see them through the glass, but a few are braving the rain. They have earpieces in to stay connected. There’s no way I can make it to the villa without being seen. I need a diversion, and I have an idea.
Many moons ago, I was given the task of creating early man using clay. Humans have since evolved far beyond my capabilities, but I am still a pretty capable Golem Maker when the need arises.
I crouch down, pawing at the ground. It’s sodden, but it might work. Just.
I dig down and shape the mud and clay in my hand. It disintegrates through my fingers as quickly as I work it. I just need it to stay together for a few minutes, long enough to distract the guards. I keep working, and eventually, I have the semblance of something.
It’ll have to do.
I send my Golem towards the villa and stand back, watching. I made the Golem a naked female. What better way to distract a load of male guards? Within a few paces, she’s already dissipating back into the ground. In this rain, she might survive three or four minutes at best.
She gets to within 100 yards of the villa before they spot her.
“Wait! What are you doing? Don’t come any closer!” The guard taps his earpiece. “Dimitrov, we have a crazy from the party!”
A second guard appears. “Gregov, you seen her!? I swear she is naked!”
“What’s wrong with her!?” The first guard shouts as my Golem continues to trudge towards the villa, getting smaller all the time as her legs crumble away. “Hey, no closer! The party’s back the way you came!.”
The guards are crowding around, watching her now. Some of them cheer and wolf whistle.
Then she collapses.
This is my chance. No-one’s watching the side entrance. I keep my body low and run towards the villa as the guards hesitantly approach the fallen wreck of my Golem. She is now just a lump of mud and clay. I make it unnoticed and shuffle inside, kicking my shoes into a cupboard as I enter. I don’t want my muddy footprints to give me away.
“What do we have here?” A voice says as I start to congratulate myself on the success of my plan.Shit!