This is a funny little plot seed. It would almost work better in a historical type of setting (such as my Victorian notions) but I think it's not impossible today either...
Jane stalked to the drinks table and helped herself to a large vodka, in silent protest at her sister's absence. Her sister was afraid of dreams and saw omens in everything; her life was ruled by a series of complex personal rituals which trailed from one day into the next. Her sister who was supposed to have shown up for the party but had phoned three days ago to demur because three magpies had crossed her path and 'as everyone knew' that was a sign of the devil, and she should stay at home.
"It's just insane," she drunkenly informed the man who was standing to her right, some kind of TV person perhaps. He was too good looking to be straight. "I mean, everyone knows that the devil doesn't exist in this day and age. Everyone except Sharon..."
"See, you're sitting here and laughing. But she really believes. God help me, my sister is a loon."
Who'd stayed at home. Home, where she had been found dead yesterday morning.
"Maybe it's a sister thing," he said companionably. "Mine collects cuddly teddy bears. Want some tortilla chips?" As he handed them over he added, "You should talk to him if you want to know about the devil," with a smirk, pointing out an overdressed man in a red velvet jacket and a goatee beard on the other side of the room.
Jane drained her glass, glowered at the bearded man as she recognised him, and crossed the room in his direction. He regarded her with mild amusement, just the right amount of cynical glee dominating his expression, and stepped aside to make room for her to join the group with whom he was speaking.
"I don't believe we've been introduced," an eyebrow was arched.
Softly now, far too self-possessed, he asked, "What did you seek of me?"
She shrugged, sending malevolent vibes in his direction. 'I know you' she thought. 'I don't forgive you for any of it. And you don't know me.'
The man placed a gloved hand on her shoulder, lightly. "I'm afraid that I don't know if I can make time for you. I only have so many clients whom I can serve, and I have to prioritise. But yet. But yet... even I myself am capable of being flattered at being so obviously sought out. Child, I will consider your bargain -- the usual stringencies apply..."
"You're just a stage magician with delusions."
The man smiled and stroked his beard.
'Believe it if you will' his voice floated in her head smugly, although his lips hadn't moved.
Hook: A woman is murdered. It's a quiet little murder which seems to have been a forced overdose on heroin in her bathroom at home. It barely troubled the news, and might not even have concerned the celestial community at all if it hadn't been for the disturbance which accompanied it.
She was the assistant to a successful stage magician, John Curtis, who is being held for questioning. The trouble is (says a source) that he has been seen out and about -- which wouldn't matter if it wasn't for the fact that his most famous stage trick is teleportation.
Stephen Fisk is better known to the paying public by his stage name, 'the Devil in Red'. He is a stage magician and a stunningly successful one. His stage act and his stage persona are based quite strongly about implying that he is Mephistopheles, the devil himself -- with all the costuming, setting, sound and light effects that go with it. As well as clever tricks which astound the unwary in various shades of implied bondage and torture (ie. ordinary stage magic tricks but with much window dressing), he also does some hypnotism as part of the act.
His best and most well known trick, however, is one that seems to be true teleportation. The magician steps behind a curtain on the stage and reappears instantly at the back of the theatre, walking down the main aisle to rounds of stunned applause. This is the trick which catapulted him to the A-list of the Magic Circle (association of stage magicians).
John Curtis, better known to the paying public as 'Kovacs, Man of Science' -- also a stage magician and archrival of Stephens, his own stage act is dressed up with lots of semi-scientific looking devices -- his method is to 'prove' to anb audience that a certain trick cannot possibly work, and then do it. He is also quite successful, but was rather more successful before Stephen unveiled his teleporting stunt. He swore that he would learn the secret of the trick, and spent several months in trying. Very recently, he began to display a teleportation trick of his own which impresses audiences greatly.
What's behind the murder?:
Sharon, the murdered woman, was a professional stage assistant and amateur occultist. She had originally worked for Stephen, loyally and dutifully, and was the sole person who had reason to guess at how his trick was done. She had no proof, as he kept the details secret from everyone -- but she'd guessed. She also worried that all her omens and tea-leaves showed bad things about him. It was a concern.
So when the other magician started courting her, she wasn't sorry to leave. She hadn't liked him much initially, he was very obvious in his motivations for being interested in her, but he seemed to get more charming over time -- at least when he was with her.
Then. Then she found out his secret also. She accidentally came backstage after a show in time to see him clearing away the 'leavings' from his great machine. He fast talked his way out of it, kissed her on the forehead and took her out to dinner. Then panicked.
But it was the demon who had a vessel identical to him which decided that the situation needed to be solved in a more final fashion. It shifted into celestial form to enter her house, and appeared to her in a form which appeared to be that of her lover, charmed her into submission, and gave her the fatal injection before returning to Hell. It is now dissonant. Vapula ignores that -- the demon claims that it has something very good that is almost ready to demonstrate, so its prince is biding his time.
So what's the magician's secret?
Stephen has a very simple secret. He has an identical twin brother, Martin. The brothers have loved stage magic since childhood, and have staged their entire lives around being able to perform the teleporting trick. As far as the public knows, Martin died in a car accident at their parent's farm when he was 12. In fact, the brothers have an unnaturally close relationship. They share one public life between them. One wife. One mistress. As long as only one of them is ever out and about at a time, they can pull this off because no-one could believe that anyone would be so obsessive about a magic trick. Martin is a strangely disturbed, and quiet man. Officially he doesn't exist; officially he is dead. At times, he truly does believe that he might be the devil -- he is the half of the pairing who actively tries to freak people out in social situations by offering them strange deals.
This all got quite a lot funnier when a shedite of dark humour found the twins. Martin is the demon's servant, although it has never really spoken to him about this. Sometimes it acts through him to act out these little bargains properly, which only confirms his suspicions. Even the demon can't tell the brothers apart from the outside, so sometimes it possesses Stephen as well. It doesn't really have any solid plans for the twins, but would very much enjoy setting one or both of them up to convince other celestials that Lucifer himself has taken flesh.
John's secret is also rather dark. He has been obsessed by the teleportation trick, and not in a good way. It's an obsession which has driven away his wife (and baby daughter), most of his friends, family and even professional associates. Everyone agrees that it isn't healthy to be that competitive, or that obsessed. He has resorted to everything from breaking and entering into Stephen's house, to seducing one of the other magician's assistants -- but to no avail. It was just on the offchance that he read about some outre scientist in one of the fringe scientific journals who had allegedly managed to teleport a wasp from one side of a laboratory to the other. That's when things really went to hell.
The scientist was a pet of an Impudite of Vapula. When the magician came calling, the scientist treated his request with great suspicion -- didn't he know how dangerous this new technology might be, and the man wanted to use it for something as frivolous as a parlour trick? But the demon was interested, and so a deal was struck. John walked away with a very special device indeed. A teleporting chamber. This is a strange demonic piece of technology. It really will perform a song of celestial motion on an inhabitent who sets it up correctly, which John does as part of the stage act. It has a minor side-effect though. Although the user is teleported correctly to somewhere within the same building, a perfect copy of their body/vessel is left behind -- unanimated, of course. He buries these odd corpselike beings in the grounds of a small dilapidated farm which he rents a way out of town -- none of them seem to decay (unfortunately). One exists for each time he has performed his trick, less one which is missing because the demon found a way to use it as a spare vessel. Performing this trick is immensely draining for John, as well as taking all of his essence, the machine is stealing 5 years of his life for each use -- he doesn't look older, but he is growing weak and tired.
The machine is actually a prototype vessel-generator -- it was intended to suck the soul out of a sentient being and let a demon use its body afterwards; the teleportation is actually the non-ideal side effect.
It was the impudite who seduced Sharon away from the rival magician; as none of John's attempts had been working too well and it wanted to see how far this identical-vessel deal could go. The next time she met John himself, she had memories of a night of passion which he didn't share, but he didn't look a gift horse in the mouth and went along with it.
Possibilities: There are two sources of demonic involvement here, and two sets of what will appear to be identical twins (Martin and Stephen, and John and the demon which is using his clone as a spare vessel)
Martin (with or without the Shedite) has casually offered deals with the devil to several people he has met at social functions, or just on the streets, as took his fancy. Some of them heard no more of him after that. Some of them did. Some of them even got their deal, if the Shedite was feeling inventive.
The technology impudite is pleased with its machine and will want to demonstrate it for more powerful demons, perhaps at a stage show (when the magician gets out of police hands; which he will because he has a perfect alibi).
Who knows what might happen if a dog from a neighbouring farm were to accidentally dig up one of John's 'corpses'
Or what if the shedite possessing the twins decides to make them do a dual appearance, by forcing them to be seen at two different places at the same time.
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Elizabeth McCoy <email@example.com>
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