by Art Arduous




The DJ behind the big speakers had been giving a quiet steady beat when suddenly the volume blew wide and attentions turned. The buffet lights blacked out on Cosima and her punchbowl and came up bright on the main stage. Everyone turned to see Muk, standing on stage behind an upright old-school microphone.

The music crescendo faded and Muks voice boomed over the sound system. "Is there a magician in the house?" Silence. "I say, is there a magician in the house?!" By now, a murmur was humming across the complex.


A hand in the middle of the dance floor popped up and waived. A spotlight hit it and took our attention. "I'm a magician," said an amplified voice with a continental accent. The hand parted through the crowd, making its way toward the stage. The man attached to it seemed to grow taller. A top hat appeared. He had a long face and a longer moustache. Formally dressed in dusty black, the longhaired man took the stage and glided in front of the microphone and declared gleefully, "I'm a magician! I am Phanto-tas-tique!" Behind him, there was a flash and a burst of smoke. Blu, a buxom blonde showgirl, materialized out of nowhere.

            The crowd applauded.

The magician turned to Muk and said, "I need a skull."

            Muk leaned into the microphone, "A skull. Does anyone have a skull?" The magician poked him and whispered into his ear.

Muk corrected himself and asked into the microphone, "Does anyone have a hollow skull?"

            Nothing. Then a small voice in the back yelled, "I do."

Muk said to the assembly, "Please pass the hollow skull to the front. Thank you." Muk asked the magician, "What's next?"

            "A purple scarf."

            Muk spoke into the microphone, "Do we have a purple scarf in the house?"

            A lady in the front waved a lavender scarf, "I do! Whoo!"

            Phantotastique shook his head and decreed, "Too light"

            "Do we have a dark purple scarf in the house?"

            Some guy in the middle yelled, "I got a handkerchief!"

            The magician nodded OK. Muk said, "Pass that up!" A bone white skull with the top lobbed off was being delivered above the audience by fingertip to the stage. By the time the handkerchief arrived, Muk had vanished. Phantotastique waved his arm theatrically. His assistant was posing behind him, shadowing his moves.


The magician presented the empty hollow skull to the audience. "As you can see, zee skull is empty. Clean. And without hidden compartment." He rapped it with his knuckles. In the microphone it made a hollow sound. Phantotastique tossed the purple handkerchief into the air then caught it. With flashy flips of his hand, he stuffed the purple handkerchief into the empty skull.


            Blu, the magician's assistant, presented a fancy tray that centered a silver goblet.  She nodded and a flame suddenly burst forth from it. Phantotastique began to coax the flame until a ping-pong ball of fire rose from the chalice. The little comet lifted and circled overhead, guided by the remote control fingertip of Phantotastique. The brightly burning ember hovered five feet above the skull. Everyones eyes were on it. The magician snapped his fingers like a thundercrack. The fireball suddenly plunged into the skull. Many gasped.


            Pedro cued an explosion of sound as the skull flared. A blast of flame shot out the top. The open eye sockets, mouth and nose snorted red.

            Phantotastique extended his arm and pushed the flaming, roaring skull toward the audience. Then, with a pass of the magician's hand and a burst of purple smoke, the firelight in the hollow skull blew out. The magician jiggled the skull and it made the sound of dice in a cup. Stage lights went dark and spotlights focused on Phantotastique's gloved hands. An emerald earring fell from the skull into the magicians grasp. The music hit a high. Another emerald earring sparkled in the light and was dropped and caught. Again, the music fanfare'd. The magician shook the skull. A snare drum rolled. The emerald necklace edged out of the skull like a wary snake.


            The house lights went up. Phantotastique held the jewelry in his hands from which an arc of light was shining. All of the stage lights were reflecting off the many diamonds that bordered the large emerald stones. Cosima had made her way to the foot of the stage. The robbery detective was right behind her. Phantotastique knelt on one knee and presented the jewels to Cosima. Cameras were flashing. Reporters were screaming and fighting for a comment. It was a media mosh pit.


            A good DJ can control any situation. Pedro cranked up the tunes to an infectious dance beat. The crowd had just witnessed a wild spectacle that only a few could define. Without answers and too much to ponder, soon, everyone just started dancing.


            Cosima was overklempt, talking and shouting, mostly to herself. Hugo was taking care of her. Phantotastique had his wrists bound with steel handcuffs, surrounded by police. His assistant, Blu, was not cuffed but she had three detectives peppering her with hard, fast questions. The lead robbery detective was interrogating Phantotastique. His hollow skull had been bagged as evidence. The magician kept it simple and repetitive, "It was the magic and I am the conjuror. The jewelry was never in my possession." Almost immediately, an attorney with a briefcase materialized, fighting for the magicians rights and immediate release.


Bobby had taken hold of the jewelry. He had inspected it and checked twice. It was theirs. He was ecstatic. Cosima was calming down but still pissed. Someone had kept her in the dark, planned Ali's appearance and schemed against her party. She was mad at Muk but not sure exactly how much she should be. She was damn angry that Ali BeeDee stole the show. It was as if the whole media world was in on it except her. Naturally, everyone was coming up to her with questions, concerns and condolences. She rose to the occasion and tried to turn the attention back to the party. The breaking news sideshow could not be ignored. The story was unfolding.



Suddenly the case was closed. At some point, the Freemani family must have pow-wowed. The investigation ended and the police squad went gladly off-duty and disappeared into the party crowd. Magician Phantotastique and his assistant were released and advised not to leave the city for forty-eight hours. Emperor Muk McKaylee


DJ Mighty of, a.k.a. Aric Meidl, took command of the ship. The whole estate danced to one beat and the party restarted again in earnest. In a show of plenty, food was passed and presented. Muk was mad for the bacon cheese pastries and the chili cups. Liquor flowed. A whole posse of cowgirls and cowboys served vodka shots. In the corners and in the shadows, darker vices were consumed as well. It was the last rush of a long and eventful evening.


"Sonny! How's business?"

The art dealer gave Larry Gagosian the a-OK sign with her right hand. She winked, thanking him for the generously good deed. All the canvases had sold fast after Larry bought the first one. Sonny got off the job early and had been playing at the party.

Larry leaned and whispered in her ear, "Now that I think about it, I'm not going to buy that painting."

"I'll give ya the friends and family discount?" countered the future gallerist.

 Larry shook his head. "Nah." Sonny understood. She had actually anticipated it and had another buyer on hold. Sonny had a great night. Ka-ching!


No one wanted to leave. The party had become a better world, a reprieve from the confusing and dire reality outside. The crowd was grateful, appreciative for the generous vacation. Tonight, inside these walls, all was beautiful and special and iridescent and forever. Everyone felt they were part of something greater than themselves.


In the service yard, the catering, sound and stage trucks were packing up. Pedro was idling the monster engine of the El Camino. He was drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, next to Blu on the bench seat. Muk was leaning against the car, finishing a martini.

Pedro clapped, "Nicky! Nora! Yo! Yo! Yo!" Muk put his fingers to his lips and whistled. In a few minutes, the dogs came running hot and sweaty into the cab of the suburban pick up truck. Muk fell into the passenger seat and closed the door. He laughed, "I didn't see the dogs once all night. Let's book." Pedro shifted into first and rolled.

Blu came to think of it, "I didn't see them either."

Pedro remarked suspiciously, "I wonder what they were up to."

"Damn. I was hoping Nora woulda come back with a new pair of earrings. Or a solid stock tip." Muk scratched the dogs ears. "Gang. This show is over and we are going home."

"Wild," said Blu with a big smile on her face, "It was just wild."

"A good time had by all."

Pedro added, "Whatever it was."

Muk laughed, "Whatever it was? Whatever-It-Was has now officially concluded in a very interesting way."


Look for the next exciting chapter of Emperor Muk!





Catch Muk on or






For the Love of Muk

Back in the Muk Again

Muk Fast Five



All Muk'd Up





All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real
persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.







© Gordy Grundy, All Rights Reserved


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