Here’s a little story I wrote at Meltham Writers a little while back. A prisoner with an unusual skill ….
The sergeant had long since finished his newspaper and was reduced to counting the gleaming buttons on his uniform. Seventeen. A ridiculous amount of buttons, when you came to think of it. He counted them again. Yep, still seventeen.
Well, that was that, then. He looked desperately around the room for something else to divert his attention. Only now did he notice that, in the single jail cell, the prisoner was doing something rather odd with a handkerchief.
“Oi, what you doing in there?”
“Just practising, you know. Passes the time.”
“Tricks. I’m an illusionist by profession. A magician.”
“Oh yeah? Seems to me you’re more of a thief and a
fraudster. But we’ll let the jury decide that, won’t we?”
“Indeed we shall. Hopefully they will be more discerning
than you officers of the law.”
There was a sort of aristocratic charm in the way the man
spoke that really irritated the sergeant. But right now he was so bored he’d
talk to anybody.
“Show us, then.”
“Oh, I can’t possibly let you see me practising. Trade
secrets and all that. I’d have to kill you afterwards.” The prisoner grinned
and gave a little wink.
“Well, can you do some tricks for me, then? You know, ones
you’ve already practised, like.”
“Why certainly, officer. I charge £50 for a half hour
session, £80 for the full hour. I take all major credit cards, travellers’
cheques, you name it.”
“Ha ha, very funny. You know damn well I can’t pay you. I
was just thinking it would be a way of making the time pass less slowly for
both of us. Or else I can move my chair over by the bars and stare at you so
can’t do your secret practising, and we can both sit here getting bored to
The prisoner thought for a few seconds. “Oh very well. I
suppose these are special circumstances. Alright, I’ll do a few tricks for you.
You might want to bring that chair over here anyway, to get a better view.” The
sergeant did so, and the prisoner prepared to begin.
“Behold this handkerchief!” He draped a rather grubby hanky
over his arm with an ostentatious flourish. Then suddenly, he clapped his hands
and the handkerchief was nowhere to be seen.
“Oh, that’s clever. Where’s it gone?”
“But sir, why are you asking me? I believe you have it yourself.” He stretched a hand through the bars and produced the handkerchief, apparently from the policeman’s ear.
“Very clever. Another one!”
“There’s only so much you can do with a handkerchief. But if
you’d be willing to lend me some props, I could show you another trick.”
“What do you want?”
“I need a coin, three paper cups and a pair of handcuffs.”
“All right.” He fetched the items and gave them to the
prisoner, who placed the cups on the floor near the bars of the cell.
“Now, just to make it more difficult, I’d like you to put your left hand on this cup, and your right hand on that one.” The sergeant did so, and the prisoner placed the coin under the third cup.
“Now, remember where the coin is.” He began to move the cup
about, slowly at first, then faster and faster, around the other two stationary
cups. Finally, he moved it away again and stopped.
“Now tell me sir, where is the coin?”
“Well, I’m supposed to think it’s still under that cup of yours, aren’t I?”
“Think what you like, sir, but I don’t have it.” He turned
over the cup, which sure enough contained no coin.
“I think you may have it yourself, sir.” And he produced the
coin, apparently from the policeman’s top pocket.
“Very good, very good! But what did you do with the handcuffs? Oh.” Looking down, he saw the answer. They were around his wrists, fastening him to the bars of the cell.
The prisoner reached out and removed a set of keys from the
“I hope you enjoyed the free show, sir. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way.”
pic (c) Klaus with K 2005