Six of Hearts(5)

By: L.H. Cosway

Jay grins in a way that makes me think he’s pleased with my attention. “Oh, now she’s curious.”

Okay, this man might be beautiful, but he’s also kind of strange.

“Did you want to make a claim against someone?” I ask, because Dad still isn’t talking. I suppose he’s still considering whatever Jay’s case is.

“Nope. I want to sue someone,” says Jay, all matter-of-fact.

“For what?”

“Defamation of character,” he answers before pulling a newspaper out of his bag. He flips through it, folds it open to the page he’s looking for, and hands it to me. I glance down at the tabloid, scanning the bold headline that reads, “Illusionist Jay Fields Causes Death of Volunteer.” I let my eyes drift briefly over the article, which features a promotional picture of Jay holding up a six of hearts card. Oh. Now I remember where I know him from.

A couple of weeks ago The Daily Post broke a story about an Irish-American illusionist with a new show coming to RTÉ. He was filming an upcoming episode when a tragic accident hit. I scan the article before me, recalling the details. A couple of hours after wrapping up the filming of an episode where Jay was paying homage to Houdini by re-creating a version of his “Buried Alive” stunt, the volunteer who’d taken part had died of a heart attack.

What Jay proposed to do was to put the volunteer, David Murphy, into a hypnotic state whereby he would only breathe in very little air, allowing him to be buried for twenty-four hours in an empty grave and not suffocate in the process. An impossible feat, many would say. The volunteer was given a panic button, and if anything went wrong, he could press it, and he’d be immediately dug up. In the end the panic button wasn’t needed, and he miraculously managed to survive the entire twenty-four hours underground. However, when he went to bed that night, he suffered a fatal heart attack and died.

Needless to say, the tabloids caught on to the story and began posing questions about whether or not Jay’s stunt had somehow caused David Murphy to have his heart attack. After all, being buried alive is quite the traumatic experience.

The piece before me, written by a well-known crime journalist named Una Harris, who was the one to break the initial story about Jay, is certainly extreme. It delves into Jay’s background in America, where she claims he spent a year in a juvenile detention facility for assaulting a man on the street. Before that he’d been a runaway, squatting in derelict buildings in Boston.

Harris poses questions about Jay’s less than squeaky-clean background. She wonders how a man who spent time in prison, even if it was a young offenders’ prison, would be given permission to carry out dangerous stunts as he had been doing in his show. She also wonders why Jay, who had been performing some very successful live shows in Las Vegas, would give all that up to move to such a small pond as Ireland to film a series that would only reach a tiny audience in comparison to the States.

Overall, she basically out and out claims that Jay had shady motives for coming here, and perhaps he even intended for David Murphy to die. He did, after all, almost beat a man to death when he was just fifteen. Perhaps he’s simply come up with a more elaborate way to feed his need to harm people, Harris muses.

Whoa, this woman really doesn’t pull any punches with her insinuations. It’s almost like she’s begging for a lawsuit. I mean, I’ve worked with my dad long enough to know that you should always have hard evidence before you publicly make claims about people that could be construed as libellous. And aside from a few hazy pieces of information about Jay’s teenage years, Una Harris has zero evidence.

I draw my attention away from the newspaper to find that my dad and Jay had been having a conversation while I was lost in the article.

“Don’t get me wrong,” says Dad. “The thought of taking on such a case excites me. I haven’t worked on anything like this in years, but at the same time I need to be selfless and tell you that there are far better solicitors out there for the job. I can even give you a few names to contact. You do actually want to win this case, I presume?”

Jay uncrosses his legs and folds his arms. “Hell, yeah, I want to win it. And I know you’re the man for the job, Hugh, no matter how much you try to convince me otherwise.”

I silently hand him back the newspaper and he takes it, his fingertips brushing mine. The contact makes my skin tingle. Stupid handsome bastard.

Dad stares at Jay, and I can tell by the look in his eyes that he wants to say yes — he just doesn’t have the confidence to do it. In all honesty, I’m hoping he continues to say no. I know how stressful the kind of case Jay is proposing can be, and I don’t want Dad going through all that. He just turned sixty last month. The landmark birthday only functioned to make me more aware of how many years he might have left.

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