Part Ten – The Extra Large Medium
At a quarter to nine, we started dressing to go down stairs. “I’m not sure this makes a difference.” I said. “You don’t know this about me, but I don’t believe in this stuff. Ghosts, and seances all seem a little far-fetched to me.”
“Then why this hotel?” She asked. Amber was putting on makeup in the bathroom and looking at me in the reflection. It reminded me of the night before and the poodle looking back at me before he disappeared.
“I don’t know. I’m a big Steven King fan, so maybe that’s the reason.” I explained. “I’m thinking about retiring around here. I love the air and the mountain view. I figure Colorado is not a bad place to live out the rest of your days.”
She smiled at me in the mirror and we spent the next five minutes in silence. Not an uncomfortable silence, but one where we were both in deep thought.
When we were presentable, we walked downstairs with hopes of meeting with Sir Geoffrey before his show.
“My brain hurts.” Amber said as we were walking down the stairs.
“I know just what you mean.” I answered.
The ticket counter looked to be the same podium I saw downstairs on my first night of exploring. Beside the podium was a large round table with a black tablecloth. In the middle of the table was a visitor’s register. It was bound in leather and was about four inches thick. On the left side of the table, closest to the podium, were two tickets. On the right side of the table was a stack of eleven by sixteen posters. The posters were exact copies of the one I saw last night on the door of the ballroom.
Sir Ivan Geoffrey was nowhere to be found. I noticed a young woman walking behind the podium. She was an attractive woman with pale skin and straight black hair that came to just below her shoulders. She wore a form fitting black dress that went to the floor. The “Elvira” look she was obviously shooting for had hit the target.
“Is Sir Geoffrey around?” I asked.
She responded in a thick accent that seemed to be from an eastern bloc country. Possibly Russia or the Ukraine. I smiled as she spoke as my mind went from Elvira to Natasha, one of the villains of the Rocky and Bullwinkle show.
“I am sorry, but Sir Geoffrey does not speak to anyone before the show.” She paused as if in thought, and then “The show is about two hours in length. You are welcome to come back then to meet Sir Geoffrey.”
I still had a dumb smile on my face and quickly covered my month to stifle my laughter. A single laugh escaped between my fingers.
Amber looked up at me confused and said, “We might as well catch the show.” She pulled a small wad of cash from her purse, peeled off a fifty, and threw it on the table.
Natasha grabbed a cashbox from underneath the table, placed the fifty in the empty container, and placed the cashbox back under the table. “Sorry about that.” She said. “Most people sign up and pay downstairs, before the show. Do not worry, we still have one table available. You make it a sold-out show.” As she handed Amber the two remaining tickets, I Natasha’s fingernails were painted black in the typical “Goth” style. “There is a two-drink minimum and if you stop by after the show, Ivan will be signing posters for everyone.”
On the stage that supported the grand piano, they had placed a portable spot light. There was a makeshift black curtain on the one side of the room. The curtain was hanging from a bar suspended from the ceiling. There were several small tables scattered randomly throughout the room. Each table was decorated with a black tablecloth and a cheap looking black candelabra adorned with red candles. The lights had been dimmed slightly enhance the spooky effect of the room. There was a single empty table in the back of the room. As we approached the table, I was surprised to see our names on the place card sitting on the table. “Good one.” I thought as I pulled the chair out for Amber.
I moved my chair closer to Amber’s side and sat down next to her so we were both facing the curtain. “Better.” She said smiling.
I quickly glanced around the room. “Technology.” I thought. Every single person in the room was looking down at their cellphone. “You know if half of these people were as important as they think they are, they’d all be millionaires.” I said. I stood up, took my cellphone from my front pocket, and switched it off.
“I don’t even have mine.” Amber said, “I must have left it back in my room. By the way, after the show let’s exchange cell numbers. I think we know each other well enough.”
“I don’t know.” I replied, “You look kind of sketchy to me.” I lowered my arm to my side to shield my bruised ribs from the coming attack.
“What?” She said, “Afraid of a little girl?”
It was just then that Natasha appeared at the table for our drink order. “Two Jack and Coke’s.” Amber quickly said, without waiting for Natasha to ask. “Two drink minimum.” Amber continued, “Might as well get that covered.” Amber’s mood had suddenly changed.
“I’ll have the same.” I told Natasha.
“Four Jack and Cokes?” Natasha said, as if questioning the order.
“That’s right.” Amber said curtly.
As Natasha went to the next table I asked. “What’s up with that?”
“I get tired of the same old racket.” She said. “A two-drink minimum and I guarantee Sir Geoffrey will remind us to tip our waitress. Hell, this show should be free with the price of the room.”
“What’s the big deal?” I asked, “Why all of this sudden concern about money?”
“I guess I’m feeling a little guilty for taking all of Bryan’s money.” She replied, “I started thinking about it after, well, after last night. I haven’t been myself since I left Texas. I’m finding myself doing things that I would normally never do. Like sleeping with a man, I just met.”
“I feel a little guilty about that.” I told her, “I hope you don’t think I was trying to take advantage of the situation.”
“I came to your room, remember.” She said, “You’re a man, you really didn’t have a choice.”
“Really?” I said.
The waitress dropped our drinks off. Amber took one of the glasses and drained it.
“Misery loves company? I asked, “That sort of thing?”
“It’s different from that, more spiritual I think.” She explained. “Like we were supposed to meet. I mean why else would you be walking the grounds of The Stanley Hotel in the early hours of the morning? Why did we have the same tour scheduled? I don’t know.
“I’ve been thinking too much lately. But I have made one decision, well two decisions. I am going to go back to Texas and file for divorce and I’m going to give him his half of the money. And then…”
She was interrupted again as Natasha appeared in front of the black curtain. The room was suddenly darker which gave a ghostly glow to the faces at the tables. Each reflecting the flickering candle light. A cheap, but effective way to spook up the room.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re so sorry to keep you waiting.” She said. “Direct from a two month stay at Ameristar Casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi, I give you Sir Ivan Geoffrey.”
Most of the crowd giggled at the mention of a casino in Mississippi. I think they thought she was making a joke. Just then the spotlight came on and Sir Ivan Geoffrey walked from behind the curtain.
Sir Ivan Geoffrey was even larger than his photograph. He stood close to seven feet tall and weighed, probably in the range of four hundred pounds. He was not necessarily fat, but looked thick and solid. He had a big barrel chest and his hands were as big as baseball mitts. He wore a black silk shirt and black trousers. In his right hand, he held a pack of playing cards. The cards were dwarfed by his huge hand. “Let’s see him try to shuffle those cards.” I thought. I didn’t even notice that he had shaved off his mustache.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the show.” He started. “I’m sure each of you came here tonight thinking you knew what was going to happen, but I think you will be surprised.” Suddenly from his left hand he threw confetti in the air. The confetti flashed with fire for a fraction of a second and disappeared. The crowd clapped with enthusiasm. He had impressed them with cheap stage effects.
“Some of you are here as skeptics.” He continued, “Some of you will not change your mind no matter what you hear or what you see, but,” He paused and raised the index finger of his huge hand. “If I convince just one of these skeptics, I will consider this show a success.”
“Jesus.” I whispered to Amber, “This guy is good, he already read my mind.” She threw an elbow, but I successfully blocked it with my arm.
“Look around you ladies and gentlemen.” Sir Geoffrey continued, “At least twenty five percent of your neighbors will not believe me, even as I promise them that if they can prove me wrong, I will refund their money.”
I finished the first of the two drinks and lifted the other to my lips.
“I like to start every show with a simple card trick.” He said. He gave the deck of cards to a woman in the first row of tables. “Please shuffle these cards for me. Shuffle them good.”
She took the cards, shuffled them, and gave them back to him with a timid smile. He towered over her like a giant and as he took the cards with one hand he grasped her hand with the other. Then the giant bent down and gently kissed her on her hand. “Thank you, madam.” He said.
“A gentle giant.” I thought. He had not done one thing, but somehow, he had completely won the crowd.
“People in the back row.” He said, “I know why you chose those seats.” He walked down the middle of the room, toward the back. When he reached the back of the room, he turned back to the crowd. He was standing in front of the black curtains again. Somehow the black curtains had been moved from the front of the room, to the back of the room without anyone knowing. “Now if everyone will turn your chairs to face me.” He continued. “My first trick.” He laughed, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” The crowd clapped with approval.
“Damn it.” I thought, we were now sitting directly in front of him. He seemed even larger than before.
He looked at Amber. “Young lady, will you kindly take a card from anywhere in the deck.”
Amber blushed as she took the deck of cards from him. She fanned the cards out on the table face down and took a card from the middle of the deck. She immediately showed me the card. It was the ace of spades. “Figures.” I thought. “I’ll bet all these cards are the same.”
As if reading my mind, the giant grabbed the deck, turned it over and fanned the cards in front of me, face up. All the cards were different. “Satisfied?” he asked. I felt significantly shamed, but then he added, “It’s the skeptics that keep me going. They are the reason I do what I do. Let’s hear it for our first skeptic of the night.” There was a mixture of boos and applause from the crowd.
“Nice.” I said, giving him credit for making me feel even smaller.
He smiled and picked up the deck of cards. As he held the deck of cards out towards her, he said, “Amber, will you please put the card on top of the deck?”
“Amber?” I thought. “Jesus, this guy has it all figured out.” I did not remember giving anyone our names, and then I realized that because of his trick with the curtain, all the place cards were now facing him.
Amber placed the card on top of the deck. He turned his huge head toward me and whispered. “She looks like an Amber.” He walked to the next table. “Sir, will you kindly take the deck and shuffle them for me?”
The man took the deck and began shuffling the cards. I could tell Amber was a little nervous by the giant man towering above her. She inched her chair even little closer to mine and I jumped a little when I felt her hand on my thigh. I moved my hand from the top of the table and grabbed her hand. It felt cold in my grasp.
With her other hand, she grabbed her second drink and drained it. “I am freaking out again.” She whispered. “Feel.” She lifted my hand and placed it on her throat. Her pulse was racing. “See?”
As the man at the next table continued shuffling the deck of cards, the giant said. “I know some of you thought you were coming to a séance tonight.” He paused for effect. “Maybe you thought we’d all be sitting around a huge table, holding hands and chanting.” He smiled. “Sorry if I disappoint, but this is not that type of séance.” He took the deck of cards from the man. “I don’t speak to the dead.” He said as he held the deck of cards toward the audience. “For those that I speak with, are not truly dead.” He wiggled the fingers of his other hand. “They are lingering spirits. Spirits you cannot see, but let me assure you, their souls are as alive as you or me.” A card started slowly rising from the middle of the deck. As it got higher he turned the deck towards Amber. “Is this your card Amber?”
“Yes.” She whispered.
“Can you say that a little louder?” He asked.
“Yes!” She yelled, a little too loud.
I grabbed her hand again as the audience broke in a huge round of applause. “I’ve seen this cheap trick before.” I thought.
When Amy and me lived in Florida, one of our favorite things to do was to sit in a sidewalk bar in downtown Disney and people watch. I used to crack her up as I pointed out celebrity doppelganger’s in the crowd. Downtown Disney also had several unique shops lined up along the walkway. One of the shops was a magic shop. We stopped in the magic shop once and I saw the clerk performing a similar act with a five-dollar deck of trick cards.
Again, the Giant read my thoughts, placed the deck of cards in the pack, and tossed the deck of cards in the air. The deck landed, perfectly centered, in front of me. “Skeptic.” I heard him spit through his closed teeth. I quickly opened the deck and took out the cards. As I fanned the cards in my hands, I realized that there was not anything unusual about these cards. Typical Bicycle playing cards.
The rest of the giant’s act was a thoroughly convincing series of interactions with the different members of the audience. It was a unique act. He didn’t go through the normal theatrics of closing his eyes and placing his hands on his head. There was no spooky music or fog machine. Each conversation was as normal as any you might have with a stranger.
“Who is Justin?” he asked the crowd. A young man raised his hand. “Justin, when you were nine years old you lost your favorite aunt. Am I right?”
“Yes.” Justin replied.
“Justin your aunt wants you to know that you were also her favorite nephew.” He continued, “She told me that a dark soul has convinced you that the campfire you made in your aunt’s back yard had started the fire.” The giant spoke as clearly as he could with no judgement in his voice.
“Justin.” He said, “Your aunt tells me that the fire was started by an electrical short in the basement. She says that you have been carrying this guilt for much too long. She wants you to move on.” And finally, “Your aunt said to tell you there is a seat for everyone at God’s table.”
Justin could not speak right away. Tears flowed down his cheeks as he whispered to his partner. “I’ll tell you all about it.”
“It’s ok.” Whispered the man said sitting to Justin’s right. “We’ll talk.”
Each of the stories were unique, most not as dramatic as Justin’s. Some people laughed, and some of them cried. The giant never called on me. The giant never called on Amber. We sat amazed and did not care.