Every morning Marcus Tull opens his mail and expects to have been found out. Every day he leaves his small apartment is another chance someone will know him, that word will get out. It wasn't his fault. That's what he told everyone, but no one believed him. On really bad days, he didn't even believe himself.
Most of the really bad days stopped when he ceased drinking. Not all, but most, when the bottoms of bottles terrified him and he worried it might happen again. It never had, but it could. Surely? He had no idea and no one he could ask. He had tried, but those he asked put things together, asked the internet. He got discovered and driven out from town after town until there was no one to rely on except himself.
All he did now was shop when he had to, remain home, read books. No computer or TV, no interactions with children. He would have killed himself rather than visited a park or school. The police believed him when he said that, but for all the wrong reasons. It had only been five years but it was too long and not long enough.
Stage magic is simple, you understand? He did illusions, worked tricks. The audience played along, laughed, made jokes: as jobs went, it wasn't bad. He'd had a flair for the dramatic, played up the spookiness with the kids. And then the birthday party. It wasn't Emily Horne's, small mercy. But he put her in the box, waved a hand over it along with his cape: the usual trick.
He'd distract, she would slip to the side, the box would he empty. Only that time – just the once – no one had left the box. A child got in, no one got out. Abracadabra, hey presto! and there were screaming parents and police officers, the press and federal investigators. He could not explain it. Nor anyone else.
She'd been an ordinary child, not the sort to play jokes like this. Not that anyone could for five years, surely? The ground has been solid, the box's trip door unopened. And every day he went to get groceries he'd find himself studying boxes, listening to stories, half-hoping he wasn't alone. He'd tried magic after, a few times, desperate and terrified, scared and angry. Nothing.
He didn't know if that was bad or worse. He hoped it was good, that it would never happen again. He did no tricks anymore, not for himself or anyone else, but the old instincts remained. He sometimes made coins vanish from his palms, but they were always palmed by him. Nothing strange. Nothing unusual.
Just another day of waiting for the horror to end.