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Chapter I




Jules DiValo, Demon Illusionist of the MacWhorter’s Mammoth Motorized Shows, irritably rattled the receiver of the ancient wall-phone in the flyspecked glass booth in the town pharmacy at Pricetown, where the “Biggest Little-Circus on Earth” had arrived but three hours before.

Troubledly, he wondered what kind of a weird combination of gobbledegook and carny-lingo he was going to have to spout, to the party he was about to call, in the latter’s hideout in another state, so that the town telephone girl here wouldn’t have what he, Jules, was going to say, all over the dam’ two-bit burg!

He did not know, of course, that all this was going to be beautifully solved for him—that he was going to be able to render his highly confidential and secret report, to that certain party in that certain town, in that certain state—as freely as though the two of them were seated across a portable cocktail table on the Arctic Circle!

It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon—at least, did one take an average of all the crazy clocks in this moth-eaten hamlet!—and it was at 3 o’clock, exactly, that the party he was now about to call would be eagerly, hungrily, greedily, waiting any last-minute inside facts Jules DiValo would be in a position to convey.

But, troubled though he was, Jules had to grin sardonically, even diabolically, in line with his own professional name, as he thought of how his disconcerting report was going to land on the man he was about to call—like two tons of bricks!

Poor Wolf Gladish! Owner of the Kollossal Kavalcade Travelling Circuses, Not Incorporated—and three in number. How—how would greedy, ruthless Wolf Gladish take it—to be coolly informed that his neat and cunning and perfect scheme to steal an entire circus, bag and baggage, performers, playing-dates, paraphernalia, equipment, costumes—and even show animals!—was not now going to run exactly—as it had seemed it was?

Not, of course, that Wolf Gladish’s plan couldn’t yet go through —with certain artful alterations. Provided by that super-brain of all super-brains, Jules DiValo, Legerdemainist, who—

And at thought of that fancy word for general shenaniging, Jules DiValo made satisfied remark to himself.

“It’s good,” he said, “to be a perfect legerdemainist. Makes you smart—clever—artful—and resourceful—aye, resourceful!—against any and all setbacks. Makes you—why the hell doesn’t that lank, ugly-looking freckle-faced female with the big ears, who was pointed out to me earlier today as manning the phone-exchange in this town, answer the—why yes, My Sweet One, I am indeed waiting a connection—a long-distance connection across several states. Do you think your Charming Self could vouchsafe a sparse moment or so—to give it to me? And incidentally, Beautiful, what are you doing—tonight?”


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