15 Years Before – The Other Side
The muzzle flashed from Anne’s hand toward Rousseau. His head and body jolted back away from the onlookers, yet he remained standing with his hands on his knees. All in attendance gasped, while Dominic’s eyes widened in excited anticipation.
A few moments of worried whispers passed by. Bringing a hand to his chin, Rousseau turned his neck aside in dramatic fashion to crack it before letting out a lengthy sigh. A laugh from Dominic at his flippancy was echoed by more restrained, uncertain chuckles from the others. As his body rotated back toward the crowd, Dominic could see his mouth was open with a smile on his face. Clenched in his front teeth for all to see was a bullet.
The audience was quiet at first, but built into a cheer. Not one of them were as enthusiastic in their applause as Dominic though.
“Thank you, thank you!” Rousseau gave an elegant bow before sliding over to hold Anne’s hand as she took a bow of her own. “And let’s hear it for my ever-so-wonderful assistant, Ms. Anne Greeley!”
A cat-call from someone behind him made Dominic blush as Anne and he exchanged a glance. How he wished it was him in the place of, “The Great Rousseau.” The glory of being an illusionist would be fantastic. Doing it with Anne beside him though, would be a dream. It was a dream he would work without end to ensure came true.
When the commotion from the final act of the show died down, he went backstage to find her. The theater itself was small and one he never considered worthy of someone as talented as Rousseau. However, the backstage area was nothing short of a maze. It was lined with rooms filled with wardrobes, props, and set-pieces for a variety of acts.
“Nicky!” Before he could turn all-the-way-around, Anne came barreling into him for a hug. Somehow he managed to get hold of her, lifting her into the air and giving her a kiss. Still in the air, she pulled back. “So? How did I do?”
Dominic shrugged with a grin. “Well, I mean . . . you totally jumped like a little chicken when you pulled the trigger. But otherwise, you were great.”
“Did not,” she said, giving him a soft, playful pat on the chest before kissing him again. After reveling in her for the second time, he let her down. She backed away with a dark grin once she came to her feet.
“Oh damn it. I don’t like that look.”
“I know how to get you back for being smart.”
“Not now, please. Let’s go to dinner. You must be hungry.”
“You’re gonna meet him today.”
“No-no-no. I’m not ready yet.” It was too late as she’d already scampered off like a little bandit through the hall. Chasing behind he called to her, dodging passersby as he went. “Annie, stop. Seriously. I told you I still have practicing to do.”
Around a corner she went. “Who’s the little chicken now, sweetie?”
“It’s not that, I just–.”
As he made it around the same turn Anne had disappeared behind, there she stood with The Great Rousseau beside her. A shiny cane Dominic never noticed before served as his third leg, though he didn’t seem to place too much weight on it. “Here he is,” she said.
“Mr. Rousseau, sir, it’s such an honor.” Dominic couldn’t help but bow, though he felt awkward doing it.
“The pleasure is all mine, Dominic. I’ve heard quite a bit about you from your lady friend here,” Rousseau said, extending a wrinkled hand with a surprisingly firm grip. Up close Dominic could see there was still some pepper left in his salt-dominated goatee and mane. “But please, call me Abel.”
“Of course. If you could excuse me for running around as well. Your performance was fantastic and your theater deserves proper manners, I’m sure.”
Rousseau turned to his assistant. “Goodness, what kind of dreadful, dull monster have you told this boy I am, Annie-girl? Worry not of things like manners around me, son. This place isn’t my theater either. Doesn’t seem the good people of New Berkeley have the same appetite for the extraordinary they once did. As industry sprouts, seats empty. So entertainers like us have to share these spaces now.”
“Oh, I’m no entertainer, Mr. Abel. Not yet anyway.”
“But you do aspire to be, do you not?”
“Yes, I do. I want to be an illusionist more than anything. I practice every day and night.”
Rousseau tapped his cane on the ground three times, with a turned up lip. “Well then I will train you as Annie has asked me to under one condition.”
Looking his way with a guilty smile and a shrug was Anne, who never told him she’d already asked this of her boss. “Anything, sir.”
“You may aspire to achievements, but not titles. You do not become something, you either are the thing today or you are not. If you do not understand this, training you will be a waste of time. Do you follow?”
“I think so.”
“Okay. So now I ask the question. What are we, Dominic?”
“We are illusionists. I am an illusionist.”