Master of Ceremonies
by Jim Gerrish
It was a strange place to find a serial killer, thought
Ramona Styles, as she entered the nightclub and was met at the
door by a meticulously dressed headwaiter. I have a
reservation, she said, pointing to her name on his list.
Table for one? asked the headwaiter, looking her
up and down as if unable to believe such a stylish young woman
would be here on her own.
For now, she said. Ill be meeting
Ah, said the headwaiter, knowingly, his curiosity
satisfied. He led her to a small table in a dark corner where
there were two chairs waiting, and pulled one out for her.
Before he could ask her for her drink order she said, A
Virgin Mary, please. The waiter jotted it down on his pad
and went away shaking his head. She couldnt very well tell
him she was on the job and not here for a social night out, so
she left him to speculate why such a high class young lady would
come alone to a night club and order an expensive non-alcoholic
Fortunately, the task of delivering the drink to her table
was passed on to a waitress who couldnt care less what her
customers drank, as long as they left decent tips. Ramona smiled
at the waitress and then deposited her heavy purse on the empty
chair opposite her. Just then, the lights in the club dimmed and
a tiny spotlight focused on a man dressed in a well-used tuxedo
who entered from behind some worn curtains to a scattering of
Ramona sat up and paid attention. She was here primarily to
see the show. Not the MC, though. She had no interest in him.
Then she saw the object of her official business peeking through
the curtains from behind the MC, counting the audience, Ramona
guessed. It was a small audience, but because the club was so
small, it seemed very nearly filled. The audience laughed at one
of the MCs jokes, which Ramona didnt hear. She was
busy sizing up the act that was about to be introduced.
So without further delay, here he is
whats on your mind
Shaman Augur! said the MC,
holding back the curtain so Augur could make his entrance. Then
the MC handed Augur the microphone and exited through the back
From the moment he made his entrance, Shaman Augur took
charge with a professional manner that told Ramona he had a good
deal of experience working with audiences. He wore a modern
two-piece suit that looked brand new and freshly pressed, in
contrast to the almost tattered appearance of the MC. He also
wore modest but nonetheless impressive gold jewelry that
indicated he probably had a better paying job than this. Ramona
took special notice that he was a good looking young Black man in
his early thirties, very well built under that neat suit from
what she could see. His bald head was clean-shaven, but he wore a
goatee that accented his face and gave him the appearance of a
genii right out of Arabian Nights.
Some call me a magician, said Augur, making a
flash of fire appear from his fingertips. Others say Im
a mind reader. I just say I do what I do and Im damn good
at it. Suddenly, he swung around and pointed at a
middle-aged woman sitting at a table with several female friends.
I have a message for you Lillian. The woman he
pointed at was obviously flustered that this stranger knew her by
name. You left your car engine running and the car rolled
into a ditch.
Lillian stood up and started to put on her coat, thinking
there was something wrong with her car where she had parked it
earlier. Her friends were concerned for her.
No, dont get up. That message is five years old,
said Augur. Is that true? Five years ago you left your
engine running and the car ended up in a ditch?
Lillian looked even more surprised and smiled as she sat back
down in her seat talking excitedly to the female friends at her
table. A reaction of surprise made its way through the small
How did I know that? asked Augur, taking a piece
of paper and an envelope from his pocket. Who cares? I know
all sorts of things. That was out of Lillians past. This is
from Ramonas future. As he said that, he turned and
pointed directly at Ramona.
Ramona was startled. She had come here to observe the man who
called himself Shaman Augur, not to become part of his nightclub
act. But if she acted too concerned or annoyed, she would give
herself away, so she gave an embarrassed smile as the spotlight
turned on her and decided to play along with whatever game this
man was playing.
Right now, Shaman Augur was writing something down on the
piece of paper. Then he folded the paper, put it in the envelope
and licked it
all the time keeping his sharp gaze trained
on Ramona. His dark eyes reminded her of her father, the way he
watched over her and protected her when she was just a child.
There was something disconcerting, yet comforting in that
thought. Augur sealed the envelope and said, Ramona doesnt
know what is going to happen yet, but I do. Well just put
it in a safe place. Augur grabbed an empty chair, stood on
it, and that was when Ramona noticed a ribbon dangling from the
ceiling with a clothespin attached to it. Augur slipped the
envelope under the clothespin and jumped down from the chair. A
tiny spotlight was trained on the swinging envelope to keep it
lit up, while the larger spotlight stayed with Augur as he moved
around the audience.
Completely ignoring Ramona for the moment, Augur focused his
attention on a middle-aged man who was sitting next to his wife.
Sir you have some dollar bills in your wallet. Take out one
of them- any one will do. The man fished his wallet from
his jacket pocket and started to hand a dollar bill to Augur.
No, dont give it to me, said Augur. Im
worth more than that. That got a chuckle. The man sat back
down with the dollar bill still in his hand. Augur turned his
back on the man and held one hand to his forehead.
Look at the serial number on the bill, Augur said
to the man. Concentrate!
The man did as he was told, holding up the dollar bill to see
the number, but hiding it from Augur with his hand, just in case
Augur had eyes in the back of his head.
Augur began revealing the serial number of the bill, digit by
digit. A 71124867 L. Is that correct?
You could tell by the mans face and by the way he
showed the bill excitedly to his wife and to the people at nearby
tables that Augur had gotten every digit correct.
So what do you think? asked Augur of the
audience. A magician? A mind reader? Havent made up
your mind yet? What do you think, Ramona? Augur suddenly
turned back to Ramona and the spotlight lit her up. That
envelope represents something that happened in the past. You saw
me write something down and seal it up. Speak to me in the past.
Tell me what to write. Say aloud any name, any number or any
phrase that comes into your head.
Ramona was so embarrassed. This cant be
happening! she said aloud, wishing Augur would pick on
Augur emphasized each of Ramonas last words. Thats
what she said now. Lets see what I wrote then. MC, would
you get that for Ramona? I dont want to touch it- she might
think Im using sleight of hand.
The MC reappeared from behind the curtain, got up on the
chair rather awkwardly and stood on his tiptoes to remove the
envelope. He was obviously shorter than Augur, who was a good six
feet tall. The MC almost fell climbing back off the chair with
the envelope clutched in his hand, but he grabbed the back of the
chair and managed to keep from tumbling into the audience. The
lighting technician did his best to keep the tiny spot trained on
the envelope as the MC left the chair and held the envelope high
over his head while walking to Ramonas table. Then he
handed her the envelope with a great flourish and exited again,
his part finished.
The spotlight was still on the envelope that Ramona was
holding and she guessed from the way Augur stood patiently
waiting for her that she was supposed to open it. She did,
removing the folded paper. Then she unfolded the paper and read
aloud the four words printed on it: This cant be
happening. She had to read it again as Augur held the
microphone close to her mouth, and she waved the paper about so
everyone could see those words written on the paper.
There was a great deal of applause from the other members of
the audience as Augur smiled and bowed, retrieving the envelope
and paper from Ramona and kissing her on the back of her hand.
The MC came back out from behind the curtains and took the
microphone from Augur. Isnt he something? How does he
do it? Shaman Augur will now sit down at your table if you like,
and give private readings. If you want to know what life has in
store for you, call him over to your table. Meanwhile, our next
act is ready to kill you softly with his song
Domingo came out already strumming his acoustical guitar and
began crooning his love songs as the crowd went back to talking
about Augurs act. Augur was called from table to table
where he never failed to cause a flurry of excitement over the
things he was telling them.
Ramona watched him and admired his technique. Augur was so
smooth and at ease in this environment. He would approach a
table, Ramona noticed, point at someone and then obviously reveal
some personal secret information that would fluster the person
singled out but delight the others sitting at the table. Once
Ramona saw him pick up a womans purse and hand it to her
boyfriend. Then the people around them regaled with laughter as
Augur told the boyfriend the contents of the purse and had him
place each object on the table to the obvious amusing
embarrassment of the purses owner.
As he left each table, Augur pocketed the tips people handed
him for the pleasure of embarrassing them by revealing secret
information about them that would have resulted in a lawsuit
anywhere else. But Augur was so charming and so seemingly psychic
that no one took offense, but just looked at him in awe and
amazement and paid him for his trouble.
Before she knew what was happening, Shaman Augur had grabbed
an empty chair from a deserted table and was suddenly sitting at
Ramonas table and looking her right in the eyes with that
hypnotic stare he affected so easily.
I didnt call you over for a private reading,
said Ramona, although she had thought that might be a good way
for her to interrogate him without arousing suspicion. But she
preferred to be in charge of interrogations and now he had
spoiled her move.
No, Ramona, you have something else for me to do,
said Augur, never breaking eye contact.
More of his tricks, she decided. So what is it I have
for you to do? she asked.
What do you think I am, a mind reader? asked
Shaman. Then he laughed and she had to join him. Youll
tell me in your own good time, he added.
So youre not a mind reader after all? asked
No, Shaman answered simply.
How did you know what I was going to say before I said
it? asked Ramona, referring to the act with the envelope.
Did you really come here just to learn my secrets?
said Shaman. Maybe you read my mind and said what I wrote
on the paper.
No. It was a trick, said Ramona. I dont
know how you did it, but it was a trick.
Shaman Augur raised his eyebrows, and she knew at once she
had discovered his secret. Suddenly, he stood up as if to go.
If thats all thats on your mind
Ramona quickly made up her mind to continue her official
business with him. No. Dont go just yet. I know a
little bit about you. I know you teach a course on magic and
rituals at the University.
And I know youre a police detective working on an
important case, said Shaman casually.
Ramona was shocked. He had seen right through her! How
look, I have to know. Is it all just a trick?
Lets just say its all natural, not
supernatural, Shaman said, sitting back down in the chair.
I could explain it like Sherlock Holmes, but then the magic
and mystery would go away.
Explain it like Sherlock Holmes, Ramona said.
I need to know, professionally.
Shaman used his head to call her attention to the purse she
had put on the empty chair. Your purse is sitting there,
slightly open, he said. Even during my act I could
see what appears to be a badge and a gun tucked down in there.
Either youre going to hold up the nightclub or youre
a cop. I vote for cop. If youre armed, youre on duty
and under cover, so youre a detective. If you feel the need
to carry the gun with you, then you must be working on an
important case. You came here to see me, so it must be something
that I can help you with.
It took Ramona a few seconds to recover from her surprise at
his accurate insights. Very good. Im impressed,
Sherlock. How did you know my name?
The head waiter gets me the names. You used your credit
card to make a reservation. So do you want my help with the
Youre too much
no wait! I told you myself,
didnt I? said Ramona, suddenly understanding how he
worked. I mentioned that I knew you taught a course on
magic and rituals at the University. So you deduced that I wanted
some background information that would help me with the Sorcerer
murders. Is that it?
Very good, Sherlock, said Shaman. Now Im
How much do you already know about the Sorcerer
murders? Ramona asked.
Shaman leaned back in his chair. Just what Ive
read in the papers, he said. Sorcerer is the name
theyve given a serial killer who seems to use his victims
in rituals of magic or Sorcery.
Thats right, said Ramona. I was
hoping that you might see a pattern to his killings that would
help us find him or stop him.
I havent paid that much attention to it before
now, said Shaman, but Ill give it some thought
and let you know what I find. Thinking that he had better
start earning more tips before the paying customers left, Shaman
got up from his chair and prepared to go.
That would be good, Ramona said. The sooner
the better. For your sake.
Shaman stopped in his tracks. There was something about her
the way she left something unsaid. Why? Whats
the hurry? he asked. What do you mean for my sake?
It was Ramonas turn to take charge and let him dangle a
bit. Figure it out, Sherlock, she said. Youre
a prime suspect.
Shaman sat down again, slowly and thoughtfully. Because
Im into rituals and ceremonies of magic? Of course! Am I
about to be arrested?
No, said Ramona. Not unless you do
something to arouse my suspicions of you.
Shaman suddenly turned on the charm. It might be fun to
arouse you. But not while youre playing detective. Lets
go to my place. I have some information there that might help.
Unless youre afraid, he added seductively.
Im not afraid, said Ramona,
matter-of-factly, but the Chief of Detectives is. Well
be followed by those two burly detectives standing over by the
door. She nodded with her head and he turned around to see
the two men she was now waving at. From their clothing, they were
obviously not customers out to have a good time at a nightclub.
Great, said Shaman, dryly. Forget what I
said about arousing you.
Ramona stood up and Shaman hurried to grab her chair like the
born gentleman he was. I may remind you later, she
said with a teasing laugh, retrieving her pocketbook and slinging
the strap over her shoulder. That is, if you turn out not
to be the Sorcerer.
As they left the nightclub, her two bodyguards fell in step
behind them and Shaman glanced nervously at them from time to
time as he led the way to the parking lot.
This excerpt is from the beginning chapter of
the e-book "Master of Ceremonies" by Jim Gerrish, ©
2001, Imagineering Magic, www.magicnook.com
Payment to PayPal, the entire e-book will be e-mailed to you as a
Adults ONLY! This is an adult
novel, with sexual scenes that are important to the plot of the