Prestidigitation by S.

Word count: 950

“Boston!” Johnny Lancer rushed into the white hacienda. “You missed somethin’ big in town!”

Scott Lancer looked up from his book and yawned. “What did I miss? It must have been something to get you so excited.”

“Sure was. This fella was makin’ things disappear right and left.”

“So? You do that every night at dinner, not to mention at midnight when you need a snack.”

The dark-haired Lancer slapped the blond in the head. “Will you listen? This guy was great. He had this girl with him and she went in this box and he said some funny words and when he opened the box she was gone!”

“Why? Did she make the mistake of saying she’d go to dinner with you?”

” Boston !” Johnny was a study in frustration. “Will you listen? He made rabbits appear from his hat and swallowed a sword and everything.”

Scott smiled at his younger brother. “Sounds like he was a good magician. Is this the first time you’ve seen someone like that perform?”

“No, but he got me to thinkin’.”

Scott leaned back and put the book over his face and noisily started to snore.

Johnny picked up the book and shook the blond. “C’mon, you gotta listen. I talked the man into teachin’ me some of his tricks.”

Scott groaned. “I was afraid you were going to say that.”

“Yeah, he’s gonna be around for a week or so and he promised me that he’d teach me everything he knows for $30.”

“Not a bad deal,” Scott agreed, “to learn a man’s life’s work.”

“Yeah, but well, I’m a bit short this month. Could you loan me the money?”

The gray-blue eyes hardened and then Scott took out his money clip. “$30, did you say? I suppose I can just add it to what you owe me.”

Johnny patted his brother on the shoulder, “What a prince of a man!”

Johnny eagerly grabbed the money and started out the door.

“Wait a minute, you just got here,” Scott protested.

“He promised that he’d give me a lesson today if I got the money together!”

Scott shook his head in amazement. This was the man who complained about having to ride into town for supplies.


For the next week the youngest Lancer was rarely seen at the ranch. He spent most of his spare time in town learning the art of sorcery from Hiram T. Biesecker, Prestidigitator Extraordinaire. Of course, Johnny’s non-appearance at Lancer, except for a few hours of work and dinner, was possible only because Murdoch Lancer was in Sacramento , lobbying for some help with cattle prices. In exchange for certain concessions, Scott had agreed to take on Johnny’s work for the week of lessons, and since Murdoch was due to return the day after Biesecker’s departure, all seemed to be going according to plan.

Finally, on Friday afternoon the patriarch returned to the bosom of his family with the happy news that the Governor had agreed that something should be done about cattle prices, but it still hadn’t been decided what that something should be. Scott, Johnny and Teresa smiled at the news, but knew that it was an election year so didn’t make plans to spend any of the extra money.

As soon as Murdoch had had a cool drink, a piece of angel food cake and a short rest, he was invited to join the available ranch hands as well as Teresa and Scott out in the courtyard area so that Johnny could show off his newly learned skills.

A baffled Murdoch had reluctantly agreed after Scott whispered in his ear that this was very important to Johnny. The tall man really was tired after his long trip, but he had rarely seen such joy and eagerness in the sapphire eyes of his son so he didn’t want to disappoint him.

There was a great deal of clapping and cheering when Johnny managed to produce flowers from a hat, extract coins from Teresa’s ear, and do untold number of amazing card tricks, but it was the disappearing act that caused the crowd to hold their breaths in anticipation.

Since he needed someone to act as guinea pig, naturally Johnny selected his sibling. Scott manfully stepped up and into the box which was closed and then the magic words were spoken. The door opened to reveal emptiness—the easterner had disappeared.

The applause was thunderous. Johnny got a crick in the back from all the bowing, but then came the triumphant finish. A few more magic words in front of the closed box and Scott would reappear—only he didn’t. When the box opened again, it was empty and it continued to be empty despite the spate of magic words, angry appeals and even prayers.

The blond was gone.


Dinner that night was not a pleasant affair. Murdoch grumbled under his breath while Teresa quietly cried in the soup. As for Johnny, he kept going through the notes he had made while Biesecker had performed his feats. The magic words were all correct. Stumped, he just sat there at the table. Even the chocolate cake seemingly didn’t tempt his appetite.


Two days later Scott reappeared in the box which had been left in place just in case. When questioned about his whereabouts for the two days, the blond was a trifle confused. He could only remember that it resembled the bath house at Green River and that there was a lovely young female there who catered to his every desire. At that revelation, Teresa covered her ears, Murdoch scowled, and Johnny tried to make himself disappear using the magic box. Alas, the trick never worked again.

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-end-

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