The Unexpected

“You know your Center. Find your Center and the energy within it. Let it flow into the room. Allow me to channel the flow. Great things will happen!” Dishes rattled, a glass of water fell off the table. The candle flickered.

We turned the lights back on, and John, con artist extraordinaire, looked at us “And that’s all there is to it.” ” Yeah. but how did you do it?” asked Bill. “You expect me to introduce you to the secrets of the universe for a quart of cheap beer? Isn’t it enough that you know that this ages-old con is still effective?” I spoke up, “I liked it when the candle flickered.” “That was simple breath control; that’s the freebee of the night. Now I have to get over to Marlboro Street. Edith Stanley needs to contact her departed husband about their stock portfolio.” With that, John decamped to the bathroom to refresh himself before meeting Edith. We sat there thinking about the phony seance. Most in the group were skeptics, but that didn’t prevent us from admiring John’s showmanship, or how convincing the stage tricks had seemed while they were happening. Bill especially looked thoughtful.

John expected to be in town for about two weeks, or until the Bunko Squad realized he was back in town. These things, like where John might pop up next, were deliberately hard to fathom. 

Bill began to study the cards with John. Bill had to actually work hard at our temporary employers to pay tuition; John gave very little away for free; except his smile. I just observed. My main observation was that John was not teaching Bill the cards and card tricks, but was teaching Bill to use his voice, and eyes to focus attention and build trust with the “mark.” 

John decided that Bill’s final exam should be at the Folkie Palace on the following weekend. John had felt a “psychic tug,” telling him that Miami required his services. Bill was to tell the fortune of one of the Palace regulars who John thought was the right candidate.

That Saturday was the exam. Bill got into it, establishing “facts he could not possibly have known about her.” He used his body language, voice, and eyes to show empathy and build trust. Then taking her both hands within his larger ones, he began,” and now I’ll count back from five. When I say one. Expect the unexpected. Five, four, four, three, two…”

The loud banging on the door was unexpected, but the real surprise was the booming voice of Sargent Cappucci hollering out – “Hey Teahead, where’s that no good bunco buddy of yours! If you’re hiding him, you’ll be in jail too.”

Out went the joints, down the toilet went the stash, and out the fire, escape went John. Knowing that Cappucci’s partner would be at the bottom of the fire escape, he went up to the roof and used the plank we had set up to transit between buildings. He bounded from ours to the next and then to number 28. Further, than we normally went.

The Teahead got up, opened the door – “He’s not here. ” The Sargent smiled. “Oh, I know that Pauli’s down in the alley of 28 waiting for him to come down that fire escape, ‘night folks.

We don’t know if John was more than just a scam artiste or also capable of disappearing. It was years before I saw him in his new career as an aide to a politician.

Bill connected with the young lady. She was incredibly impressed with the Unexpected. Bill later admitted that she would never have been so impressed by the silver dollar he was going to slip into her hands.

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