A Christmas Novella
Some seriously clever sleight of hand is needed if aspiring lawyer Caro Addison is ever going to enjoy this Christmas.
To avoid an unwanted marriage proposal, she needs a distraction as neat as the tricks used by The Phantom, the audacious diamond thief who has left Scotland Yard clueless.
While her detective inspector uncle methodically hunts the villain, Caro decides to investigate a suspect of her own – the handsome Tobias Black, a magician extraordinaire, known as The Dark Duke.
He’s the only one with the means, motive and opportunity but the art of illusion means not everything is as it seems, in both crime and affairs of the heart.
As Christmas Day draws near, Caro must decide whether it is worth risking reputations and friendships in order to follow her heart.
He turned the card over and with a thumbnail flicked a tab made of the same backing as the playing card. Even up close the addition was difficult to see. Tobias placed the card on his lap and pulled out a deck of cards. He flicked the edge of the deck of cards towards them. Each time the Queen of Hearts stood out.
“I want you to think I can read your mind, but in reality…”
Tobias split the deck and showed them the Queen of Hearts and then the other half of the deck. The card that had been just before the Queen of Hearts was fully a third shorter than the rest of the cards. He put the pack together and flicked through the deck once more.
“I make you see what you want to see. I suspect The Phantom does the same.”
“You mean his crime scenes are illusions?” Margaret asked. Tobias gave her a smile and Caro wished oddly that its brightness shone on her too.
“I think so. From what I read in the newspapers… no sign of entry or departure?” he asked. Caro confirmed it with a nod. “That tells me he’s creating an illusion of invulnerability. But it is an illusion. A trick. He wants to force the attention of the police away from something else – in the same way a magician will use a gesture or an action to distract you.
“Find out what that is then you will find his sleight of hand and that will be his vulnerability.”
“Now, if I’ve sated your curiosity, I’ll take my leave of you. My crew and I have our last show this evening.”
Caro rose and Margaret did also. Tobias took Margaret’s hand and bowed over it then released it. Then he took Caro’s and held it. Then his eyes held hers for a moment and he dropped a kiss on the back of her hand.
“I’m so glad it was you who paid me a visit… instead of a representative of Scotland Yard.”
“Not at all, Mr Black,” she replied, her voice a little huskier than usual, “you have been more than gracious with your time.
“Call me Tobias.”
He was flirting with her! Caro kept the smile to herself as he escorted them both to the entrance of the theatre.
“Just one more question, Mr Black,” Caro asked. “You wouldn’t happen to know how someone might dispose of a suite of diamonds would you?”