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They Do It with Oobleck

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It was a very nice production. Oh, not the actual stage production - that was only middling-fair. Kellar was especially unimpressed by the tedious invocations of various guiding spirits. But the production of ectoplasm was good. Kellar couldn't follow the sleight at all, and the quantities of ectoplasm were extremely large. Could it be some kind of pellet? Bring it from the sleeve into the palm, break it open, the ectoplasm expands on contact with air.

Well, it was easy to speculate. Kellar wouldn't know for sure until he got hold of one of the pellets (or whatever it might be). He could bribe one of the assistants, maybe, or sneak backstage afterwards. Or-

"Is there anyone here who has lost a dear friend or relative?" asked the performer. "Someone grieving who could find solace by contacting their lost one, here, on stage?"

Kellar put on a suitably mournful frown and stood up, only to find himself being tugged back down by a hand on his shoulder.

"What on earth are you doing here?" hissed Maskelyne, behind him.

"Hello, John." Kellar hid his surprise at finding Maskelyne so close at hand. "I'm trying to contact my dear old auntie, from beyond the veil."

"Bosh," said Maskelyne.

"Shh," said a woman sitting in Maskelyne's row. "I can't hear."

"Good," said Maskelyne. "You shouldn't listen to these charlatans."

"I suppose I can guess what you're doing," said Kellar. "Going to show up the spiritualist?"

"It won't take much." Maskelyne sneered. "He's a half-rate Davenport and nothing else."

"Now, now," said Kellar, mildly. "I worked for the Davenports once."

"I haven't forgotten," said Maskelyne. "Are you here to relive your faded glories? Or just to steal their tricks, like you stole my levitation?"

"Improved," said Kellar. "Improved your levitation. Have you read the reviews? They're saying it's the best in the world."

"I really can't hear anything," complained the woman. "Be quiet!"

"Is there a problem, gentlemen?" asked a man with a very smooth voice. Kellar looked up to see that the spiritualist had descended from the stage and was standing over them, looking annoyed.

"No," said Kellar.

"Yes," said Maskelyne.

"Oh, all right." Kellar stood up. "I am Kellar the Wizard, the most amazing magician in the world. And this is John Maskelyne, or so he claims."

"We're here to show you for the frauds you are," said Maskelyne. "You scoundrel."

"That's what you're here for," said Kellar. "I wasn't planning anything of the sort."

"Yes, yes, you're planning to thieve away their secrets," said Maskelyne. "Thank you for the correction - I almost made you sound like a decent human being."

"At least I'm not an obsessive moralist," said Kellar.

"Shall I call the police?" asked the woman next to Maskelyne.

"No." The spiritualist looked gratifyingly nervous. "Ah, no need for the police."

Kellar beamed. "Yes, I'm sure we can reach a happy outcome without involving the authorities. So glad we can work together." He reached out and grasped the spiritualist's hand, shaking it, and then ran his other hand up the man's sleeve. "Oh, it's a tube! Wonderful."

"Unhand me!" squawked the spiritualist.

"Ladies and gentlemen!" shouted Maskelyne. "You are being mocked by this man! He isn't speaking to the dead, he's using basic mentalism. Even Kellar here could do a better mind reading trick."

"Thank you," said Kellar. "Is this cornstarch?"

The noise of the audience rose from a murmur to a rumble, and it was largely chaos after that. But Kellar was right - there was a happy outcome. Oh, not for the spiritualist, not when Maskelyne had his way. But Kellar managed to make off with the man's jacket, tube and all.