THE GREAT WHYDINI
by David Cranmer
“Remember, Frank, we have very little oxygen left. So this will have to be the final run-through of your act.” He paused, looking at the magician, “You sure you don’t want me to go down with you again?”
“I love the way you practice your lines, Jay, even when there’s no audience present.” Frank Oliver eyed the brown-haired, muscle-bound assistant with a smirk. “I’ll be fine.”
Jay Wiedlin ignored his boss’s condescension as he wrapped the showman’s feet in chains and snapped the padlock in place. “Sure, whatever, but bear in mind, you don’t want to live up to your stage name.”
Frank cringed at the thought of the paper’s headline if he drowned. Early in his career, an envious fellow conjurer had nicknamed him The Great Whydini as in “why’d he do that?” and the moniker stuck.
The magician looked at the air tank leaning up against the boat’s starboard side. “Nope, you can forget about that one. It’s pretty much spent, and the others are dead. So, for safety, this is the last rehearsal until tomorrow morning when I can get all the tanks refilled. Then we can hit it hard and heavy again.”
“Save your breath, Jay. The Little Whydini never listens and that’s why we will always be third rung,” a voice sang out from behind.
Both men turned to face Angela, Whydini’s wife—and Jay’s lover. At forty-two she was holding admirably onto twenty-nine with her shoulder-length blonde hair and wrinkle-free skin. Her voluptuous, tan physique had graced the current men’s magazines like Wink and Frolic more than once.
She sauntered over in her band aid of a bikini and presented her husband with a key.
“Don’t forget this or you will have one hell of a time.”
Whydini sneered and plucked the key from her hand, their eyes met and held in recognition of the love that was long gone. The beginning of the end had been clear to both—a drunken threesome with Jay after a successful late night show. Jay’s toned body and prowess had tipped the scale until wife and assistant began stealing more meaningful moments alone.
The magician turned back to the matter at hand. The boat floated above twenty feet of water on Cayuga Lake, Whydini’s favorite New York retreat to test new death-defying tricks. He slipped the key in his mouth and rhythmically swallowed it. Jay handcuffed the magician’s wrists together in front of him and then helped lower his boss chained to cinder blocks overboard, letting gravity do the rest.
As Whydini plummeted through the clear blue water, he considered his dilemma with his wife. He had never been a sex hound like Angela—his career had always been his main priority and he knew his wife was a big part of that success. The public lapped up the image of the sexy couple deeply in love with each other. He couldn’t leave her, their image together was too important to his success. And yet he had been unable to keep her happy. They were just too different. As his feet landed on the rocky bottom he realized that for better or worse Angie and he were locked together like the chains that bound his feet.
He checked his water-resistant watch counting down the minutes. Time to retrieve the key to unlock the handcuffs and then the chains securing his feet. During the last practice, the clock had run down to the last available second so he knew he had no time to spare this rehearsal. Right now, breath-control and getting used to the weight and descent were most important.
He cleared his mind and used his throat muscles to regurgitate the key. After several sinuous waves, he felt the metal crown up into his mouth. He passed it between his lips and watched the key drift to the lake bottom.
On deck Angie pulled Jay aside and wrapped her arms around him.
“Not here.” He started to pull away but she embraced harder, grabbing his crotch.
“We need to be watching in case...”
“Oh, c’mon. You have time for a blowjob.”
Jay peered at the stopwatch, the seconds ticking away, and nervously looked around.
“Make it quick.”
Whydini inserted the key in the lock but it wouldn’t turn. He jiggled it back and forth. He tried again. Fuck! He looked up at the boat. Where was Jay? Usually his assistant’s undulating silhouette could be seen draped over the side of the boat.
Dread raced through his body as he looked at the key in his hand and back to the surface. So this was her play. In twenty-two years of marriage, Angie had never made a mistake in their act. But he should have seen the signs especially when she had pushed for an increase in their insurance policy. Just in case, she had assured.
Jay pulled up his trunks and headed to the boat’s edge.
“Wham bam, huh?” Angie said wiping her mouth with her hand.
Jay vaguely made out Whydini fiddling with the lock.
“He’s in trouble!”
He dove overboard and in a few strokes reached the struggling magician. He went for the key but Whydini shook his head that it was no use. Jay jabbed a finger to the surface gesturing that he would be back and ascended. Damn, he thought as he neared the boat, they shouldn’t have tried this without a full tank available. The concrete weights were too heavy to lift and he would have to use the winch and cable.
“What’s wrong?” Angie shouted as Jay scaled the ladder.
“It’s the wrong fucking key!”
“Oh my God!” She scrambled through her handbag. “The right one must be at the cottage on the dining room table.”
Jay turned on the winch and swung the hook over the water. The motor rattled and sputtered until thick dark smoke plumed out.
“Shit!” He thrust a life ring and the remaining tank at Angie. “This one has a few minutes left. Get it to him. You said the key is on the table?”
She nodded, tying off the end of the lengthy rope attached to the orange ring to herself, and then hooking an arm through the oxygen tank strap. She stepped off into the water. Jay angled the motorboat to shore and sped off in the direction of the cottage.
Angie dove down several feet, put the oxygen tube in her mouth and began circling over her husband’s head like a shark. She knew it would take Jay five minutes to reach the shore, five to ten minutes to search for the key that wouldn’t be found followed by something to cut the chain, plus another five back. No one could hold their breath that long.
She watched Whydini yanking on the chain to create some slack to slip a foot through. In all their years of practice, he had never allowed for ‘backdoor’ escapes. He was tied securely to the cinder blocks.
And by now, his lungs were almost out of air. As if on cue, his body arched sharply and then relaxed, adrift, like he was sleeping.
She smiled. Tampering with the winch was child’s play for a woman who had spent decades with endless mechanical devices. She even took a further precaution by hiding any cutting tools in the attic crawlspace. One can never be to sure when murdering one’s spouse she mused.
Angie swam toward the back of her motionless husband, his hands outstretched in a ghostly scene. Everyone would believe she had mistakenly brought the wrong key—after all, they were the romantic couple bar none to the public. Though she would still lay it on thick, maybe even make a suicide attempt look real enough to divert any last suspicions.
She inched closer to his right side about five feet away. His eyes open but lifeless. She swallowed an extra breath in a sigh of relief that now she could live her life in peace without ever having to see another damn card trick or, the hardest part, gaze longingly at her husband while the cameras flashed.
She looked to the surface. The boat wasn’t back yet. Another smirk crossed her face. She would use up the rest of the oxygen meant for her husband in the next few moments, place the tube in his mouth and then retreat to the surface to wait for Jay.
His eyes flicked on with revulsion. Whydini lunged at his wife, grabbing a handful of hair and dragging her to the lake’s floor. He snatched the tube from her mouth and wrapped the slack chain around her neck by spinning in a single crocodile death roll. She kicked and clawed at him.
He was running out of time but it didn’t matter. The extra weeks of practicing breath control had paid off. Angie could only hold her breath for a solid minute under calm conditions and with all her struggling she’d never make it that long.
Still, there was enough time in this final act to relish her body’s convulsions and watch them subside before the lights dimmed.
David Cranmer is part of the team responisble for Beat to a Pulp, an outstanding site that showcases a new story each week by some of the best writers working today. He also maintains a personal blog, The Education of a Pulp Writer, which is an excellent source for news on any pulp fiction happenings on the Internet and elsewhere. He is currently putting the finishing touches to Beat to a Pulp's first anthology.
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