When the show ended, when the stagehands came out to clear away the stars and
streamers and glittering sequins, Andrew made his way down the aisle to the
stage. He knocked at the door to the green room, which opened to a woman in a
turban and a short green and silver kimono.
"I'm Andrew Dodd from the Oakland
Tribune," he said. "Callan and Thorne Allalie told me to meet them after the
"Ah," she said. "Callen's in the trap room. Do you know where
He shook his head. The woman gave him complicated directions and he
walked down the stairs, then followed a maze of sloping corridors. The brown and
off-white walls, the rough ceiling and bare bulbs, were almost a relief after the
opulence of the theater. He came to the trap room and knocked.
"Come," a deep
voice said. Andrew opened the door and stepped inside. "I'm Callen Allalie.
You're the reporter, aren't you?"
" Is this part of the mind-reading act?"
Callen laughed. He was, Andrew saw with surprise, fairly short;
on stage, wearing a top hat and tails, he had seemed larger, more imposing. He
was almost completely bald; that had been hidden by the hat.
"You were the
only man in the audience not wearing a tie and tails,"Callen said, indicating
Andrew's white blazer and straw skimmer. "I saw you from the stage and thought,
there's the reporter. Sit down, sit down."
Andrew looked around. In one
corner stood a piano covered with a cloth. Near it were several rolled rugs,
then the ramp leading to the orchestra pit. Two men carrying a golden statue
between them came through the door. So they had been statues, then. Andrew
hadn't been sure.
He sat on one of the rolled rugs. Callen laughed again and
sat next to him, stretching his legs. "Good, good," Callen said. "I like
Andrew could smell the man's strong sweat. He fished a notebook
and pencil from his blazer pocket. "So," he said. "Magic. Lead into gold, water
into wine, that sort of thing."
"Gold into wine," Callen said.
looked at him, discomfited. He had a good strong drink before the performance,
thanking God as he always did, that Prohibition had ended two years before. He
hadn't thought anyone could tell, though.
"That dame who disappeared," Andrew
said. "She went through the trap door, right?"
Callen put a thick finger to
"You don't give away your secrets, is that it?"
was still at his lips. No, Andrew saw--it was pointing upwards to the ceiling.
"The room under the stage is always called the trap room," Callen said. "But in
this theatre there's no trap door."
Andrew looked up at the unfinished
ceiling. Pipes ran along it and down the walls; there was no room for anything
else. "I love this theatre," Callen said. "It's the most beautiful place in the
"So how did you do it?" Andrew asked.
Andrew opened his notebook, glanced at the questions he had written there. "Is
everyone in the act part of your family?"
A woman came through the door.
Callen stood and they embraced. "What do you think?" she said. "They loved us,
didn't they?" "Of course they did," Callen said. He turned her toward Andrew as
if introducing her to an audience.
Andrew stood and doffed his skimmer.
"Hello, ma'am," he said. "I'm Andrew Dodd from the Tribune."
She held out
her hand to him. "A pleasure," she said. "I'm Callen's sister." Andrew took the
hand, noticing the Allalie family resemblance. Both brother and sister were
short, muscular, with gaps between their front teeth. But where Callen looked
squat, like a frog or a gargoyle, the same features had somehow combined to make
his sister almost beautiful. Her kimono was purple, with gold stars.
you're all one family?" Andrew asked.
"Oh yes," the woman--she had to be
Thorne--said. She leaned against the piano and lit a cigarette with a green
marble lighter, fanning the smoke in front of her face.
"When did you get
started? And how?"
"And why?" Thorne laughed.
More people were entering the
trap room now, some still in costume, some in ordinary work clothes. A woman
painted gold leaned over and kissed Callen leaving a smear of gold on his cheek.
P>"Were you one of the statues?" Andrew asked.
"Statues?" the woman said She
stood on tiptoes and kissed him as well, a touch as soft as soot on his face.
"I get it," Andrew said. "None of you guys will give me a straight answer, is
"Of course we will," Thorne said. "Callen, what have you been
saying to this poor man? Tell him anything he wants to know."
"How many are
you?" Andrew asked.
"It varies, " Callen said. There was a cigarette in his
hand too now, though Andrew hadn't seen him take it out. "Some stay home and
"Study? Study what?"
"The art"--puff "--illusion."