‘Daniel Fossett,’ the judge intoned. ‘Also known as The Amazing Danny Fortune, on one charge of aggravated assault I sentence you to…’ He raised his gavel, and the crowd in the courtroom gasped.
Danny grinned from ear to ear.
Three weeks earlier, The Amazing Danny Fortune was on stage at the local working men’s club. The crowd wasn’t exactly wowed by the show. Rabbit from a hat? Whatever. Glamorous assistant – or, in this case, Danny’s friend Big Dave from the chip shop – disappearing? Boring. Danny needed something to get people talking. His magic career wasn’t taking off, and his mum was making noises about proper jobs and ‘an opening at dad’s insurance company’.
He eyed the ‘volunteer’ he’d picked from the audience, a sweaty, surly looking chap named Arnie Pickman, who had made several derisory comments earlier when the dove hidden up Danny’s sleeve had escaped ahead of schedule, pooped on Danny’s head and gone to hide in the rafters. Arnie had looked at a card and put it back into the deck. Danny shuffled the pack and produced one with a flourish. ‘Is this your card?’ he asked.
‘No,’ said Arnie.
‘Hmm,’ said Danny. He pulled a card from beneath his hat. ‘Then this must be your card!’
‘Nope,’ smirked Arnie, sensing that Danny had mucked this up.
Danny began to sweat. He produced a third card from behind his ear. ‘What about this?’ he asked.
Arnie snorted like a pig with a blocked nose. ‘You suck, mate,’ he said. The audience were beginning to boo.
Danny’s shoulders slumped. He leaned in towards Arnie and said ‘Excuse me, sir, but I think there’s something in your eye.’ He came in close, feigned as if to produce a card from somewhere around Arnie’s head… and walloped him in the face.
Arnie hit the deck hard. Danny looked around wildly, then legged it off the stage and out of the fire exit. But he didn’t get far.
In the courtroom, the crowd gasped. Danny grinned. Blu-tacked beneath the judge’s raised gavel, for all to see, was a playing card.
Danny leapt to his feet, and span to face Arnie Pickman in the witness box. ‘That is the eight of spades,’ he hollered. ‘And that, sir, is your card!’
Everyone fixed their gaze on Arnie. He turned to Danny, eyes wide. His mouth opened and shut and then said ‘…no.’
Danny looked shattered. ‘What?’ he said.
‘No.’ Arnie was getting his familiar smirk on again. ‘No, that’s not my card.’
‘But… but it must be! It is!’
‘It’s not,’ smirked Arnie, grin plastered across his face.
‘What? WHAT? YES IT IS! I KNOW IT IS! IT—‘
‘ENOUGH!’ The judge banged his gavel, tutted, removed the playing card then banged it again. ‘Daniel Fossett, I sentence you to six months in prison for aggravated assault. Do you have anything to say?’
‘You’re a bloody liar, Pickman! You’re a bloody liar!’
‘Take him down,’ commanded the judge.
Five months on, Danny was summoned to the visiting room by a guard. He was ushered over to a plastic table where Arnie Pickman and his big smug face were sitting.
‘Arnie,’ he said, coolly.
‘Fossett,’ said Arnie, smugly.
‘How are you?’
‘Forget the pleasantries, Fossett. You invited me here. I got your letter. What is it you want?’
‘Just thought it might be nice to make some polite chit-chat first before we—‘
‘What is it?’
‘I want you…’ Danny paused. ‘I want you to look in your inside jacket pocket.’
‘Just do it.’
Arnie’s face swapped smugness for uncertainty. He placed his hand into his pocket. He pulled it out again. Between his thumb and forefinger was a playing card. The five of diamonds.
‘Is that your card?’
Arnie’s mouth did the opening and shutting thing again, but Danny could see genuine astonishment. ‘Yes,’ said Arnie.
Danny grinned, and allowed himself a fist-pump. ‘Gotcha!’ he whooped.
‘But…’ Arnie gathered himself. ‘But it doesn’t matter. I mean, no-one saw it. And I’m not going to tell anyone. I mean, I don’t like you, Fossett. You hit me in the face.’
‘Well, you were being a smug little arse when you thought the trick was going wrong. Besides, I said sorry in court.’
Arnie paused. ‘”Thought it was going wrong?”’ he said. ‘It was going wrong. It did go wrong.’
‘No, it didn’t. I mean, it can’t have done, can it? You never told me what card it was, right? But that’s it right there. You said so.’
Arnie’s mouth was wide. A passing fly flew into it, buzzed around his cavities for a couple of seconds, then left. Eventually, he said, ‘So you got yourself put in prison for six months for this? For a stupid card trick no-one will even see the end of?’
‘You could tell people about it.’
‘I told you, I’m not going to.’
Danny looked sad for a moment, then brightened up. ‘It’s a good thing it’s all been recorded then,’ he said, pointing at a security camera. ‘I promised Linda… wait, I haven’t mentioned Linda, have I? She’s friends with my sister, and she runs the CCTV here. I had a chat with her a few months ago – just before the night we met, actually – and told her about a little plan I had to make my magic career take off.’
Danny made a rocket gesture with his hand.
‘I said to her I was going to pick some bumptious fathead from the crowd at the next one of my shows and… well, there you were. I’d mess up the trick deliberately, and if said bumptious fathead was unpleasant about it, I’d put the plan into action and, with a bit of help from her, launch my career at his – your – expense.’
Arnie gaped again.
‘She had her doubts,’ continued Danny, ‘but I know she’s always wanted to be in show business. So I promised her a job as my new glamorous assistant if, when the time came, she put the footage of you and me from today on the internet. So she said yes. She’s going to call herself Linda Surprise. It’s a shame she doesn’t run the courtroom cameras, otherwise I’d have produced the right card there and saved myself six months of my life. Anyway, if she’s done what she said, it should have been on YouTube for a couple of minutes now. Why don’t you have a look and see?’
Arnie took out his phone. The video ‘AWESOME magician stuns guy with AMAZING card trick from INSIDE JAIL!!!!’ had already received 2,000 likes and counting.
Danny sighed happily. ‘Looks like me and Linda are going places,’ he said.