I have no idea what I'm doing

Tag: series: penn & teller do things (Page 1 of 2)

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas (25,268 words) by LokiOfSassgaard

Chapters: 19/19
Fandom: Penn & Teller RPF, Penn & Teller Get Killed, Saturday Night Live RPF
Rating: Not Rated
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Characters: Penn Jillette, Teller (Magician)

Summary: The boys make their Las Vegas début. It goes about as well as can be expected.

Still old. Still don’t look at me.

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Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #19

Teller sat on the hood of the police cruiser with a blanket draped over his shoulders as a young EMT applied butterfly stitches to the cut above the magician’s eye. He couldn’t tell if it was stress, exhaustion, or having caffeine in his system for the first time since college, but nothing he could do would stop him from constantly shivering. Somewhere in the distance, Penn was talking with one of the police officers on scene.

“Everyone knows Teller doesn’t talk,” he insisted for the fifth time.

“Fine,” the officer said. “Whatever.” He walked off, shaking his head at the whole situation.

Victoria nervously walked up to Penn, holding a paper cup full of police coffee in her hands. “How’s he doing?” she asked.

Penn sighed. “I don’t know,” he admitted. He walked over to the cruiser, nodding at the EMT as they passed each other. Penn sat down on the hood next to his partner, the auto’s suspension creaking under the new weight. “Jesus christ, Teller,” he said with a slight laugh. The bandages around his knees made him look like some sort of cartoon ninja character. “You look like hell.”

Teller looked up at his partner, shrugging slightly.

“I don’t know about you,” Penn started, “but I’m definitely not ready to open our show next week.”

Teller shook his head slightly and took a sip of his coffee.

“Hey,” Penn said, patting his partner lightly on the shoulder. “No hard feelings?”

Teller looked up at Penn. For a moment, they both sat in silence. Forcing a light smile, Teller nodded. No hard feelings.

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Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #18

Even with the heater on, Teller still sat shivering in the back seat.

“He’s not doing well,” Penn said to the driver from the passenger seat. “You got a blanket back there or something?”

“There’s one in the trunk,” he said after a moment. “Let me pull over.”

He flicked on his hazards and pulled over to the side of the road, about 20 meters before an off ramp.

“Where are we?” Penn asked as the owner of the Cadillac stepped out onto the dimly-lit freeway.

“North Vegas,” he said. He opened the trunk and pulled out an old army blanket. “He needs to get out of those wet clothes,” he said, tapping on the window by Teller’s head.

Penn turned around in his seat to face his partner. “Come on,” he said, tugging on Teller’s tie. “You used to do this all the time. No big deal. Just like old times.” He forced a smile, trying to make his partner feel better.

Teller nodded meekly and brought his shaking hands up to undo the knot in his tie.

“Here,” Penn said, unbuckling his seat belt. He climbed halfway into the back seat and slid the knot in the silk apart. Another perfectly good tie destroyed by Teller. “Hey,” he said as he began helping Teller unbutton his shirt. “You remember that time Marc and I left you at that gas station?” He chuckled, hoping it would lighten the mood. “How long did you sit there before we finally showed up for you?”

Teller tried to laugh through his chattering teeth, but the sound didn’t come easily. He shrugged slightly as Penn helped him pull his shirt off.

“T-shirt, too,” Penn said, grabbing the near-frozen hem. He pulled the cotton shirt over his partner’s head and dropped it on the floor. “Do I need to get your pants, too, or can you handle that?”

Teller shook his head and quickly undid his belt buckle. As he awkwardly slid out of his trousers, Penn took off his waistcoat and handed it to Teller.

“Wear this,” he said. As Teller slid into Penn’s waistcoat, the owner of the Cadillac passed the army blanket into the back seat before getting back into the car. Victoria unfastened her seatbelt and slid across the bench seat, getting as close to Teller as possible.

“I didn’t catch your name,” Penn said as he cranked the heater to the max.

“Brian,” the driver said as he pulled back onto the freeway.

Penn nodded and picked up Teller’s attaché case from the floor. He quickly opened it and pulled out a can of Yoo-hoo and quickly shook it.

“I snagged you a few after you climbed out of the window,” he said as he popped the top. He passed it back to his partner, careful to not spill the chocolate drink all over the upholstery. “I knew you’d need it.”

Teller smiled, his shivering already calming down.

“Where are we going?” Victoria asked, looking out the window behind Teller into the blackness that was the Nevada desert.

“Tommy’s got a house up in Ute,” Brian said. “He thinks you’ll be safe up there.”

“Ute?” Penn asked.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

Brian wound his Detroit tank along the black, winding highway, ignoring the speed limit as though it was only a polite suggestion. They rode silently, the only sound filling their ears was the heavy purr of the Cadillac’s engine. Forty-five minutes and almost eighty miles beyond North Vegas, Penn spotted an old, faded green highway sign stuck crookedly in the sandy ground.

“Did that sign just stay ‘no services’?” he asked, twisting around in his seat as though he was expecting the same print to be on the back of the sign.

“No,” Brian lied flatly.

Hardly slowing down, he turned off of the highway into what should have been the small embankment that lined the entire freeway. Instead, he had taken them to a small dirt road that turned sharply to a make-shift underpass beneath the 15. Even with the high beams cutting through the night, it was nearly impossible to tell the dirt road from the rest of desert.

“Hey, buddy,” Penn said, casting a quick glance into the back seat. “You mind slowing things down a bit?” He laughed nervously, trying desperately not to sound terrified out of his mind.

“No,” Brian repeated. Instead, he punched the accelerator and followed the road that Penn was certain was there somewhere.

The road ran parallel to an old set of train tracks. Off in the distance, twinkling like the thousands of stars that hung in the cold sky, a small yellow light sat nestled against the looming black rock formations that dominated the landscape. With no warning, Brain once again turned sharply, crashing over the tracks they had been following. The car lurched into the air and just as quickly fell back to earth, sending Teller and Victoria crashing into the seat backs in front of them.

“You alright?” Penn asked, reaching back to help Teller and Victoria situate themselves. He grabbed Teller by the arm, recoiling slightly at the icy temperature of his partner’s skin. “Jesus christ, Teller,” he said quietly.

Teller pulled the waistcoat tightly around himself and wrapped his arms around Victoria’s shoulders, holding her closely to his bare chest.

“Okay,” Penn said as the Cadillac bucked over countless dips and scrub in the hard terrain. “Seriously, slow down.” He reached out and braced himself on the dash board, not quite trusting his seatbelt to keep his face from smashing into the hard plastic in front of him.

“Almost there,” Brian said as he tore through the desert toward the glimmering light in the distance.

As they neared the small yellow light, it became clear that their salvation wasn’t a house at all. The nut behind the wheel had driven them half way across the state to an old mining shack. The car skidded to a halt in front of the small wooden structure, spitting up rocks and dust. Before the engine was off, Penn unbuckled his seat belt and lurched himself from the car. He quickly wrenched his seat forward, allowing Teller and Victoria to scramble out to the cold desert; an oddly welcome alternative to the death trap they had just escaped from. As Penn snatched Teller’s attache case and wet clothes from the seat of the car, the shack’s only door swung open, crashing against the dry cabin wall. Tommy stepped out, blocking the wash of light coming from behind him.

“You made it,” he said as he stepped out to the car. He and Brian walked to the side of the shack, leaving their already terrified guests to stand in the settling dust.

“Teller, here,” Penn said as he took off his blue work shirt. As Victoria tool the waistcoat and blanket, Penn helped his partner dress into the over-sized shirt. “I think your jacket might be dry,” Penn said as he threw everything onto the hood of the car. He opened the attache case and fished out Teller’s jacket, crumpled and stained by something unknown that had spilled inside the case. “If I would have known you wanted to go for a swim, I might have grabbed your sweats from your room.”

Teller shrugged, knowing full-well that he had been lucky. He tried to walk toward the cabin, but Penn stopped him, grabbing his shoulder.

“Man, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said quietly. “We have no way of knowing what these creeps are up to.”

Teller looked up at his partner, hoping one of them knew what they should be doing. As he stood half naked in the cold Nevada night, Teller’s thoughts drifted to his shoes, which just a week before had been brand new. Once more, the intricate, swirling design of his wingtips was damaged beyond repair. Shaking his head at himself, he leaned backwards against the hood of the car, the heat that was still radiating from the engine acting as a warm iron against his still-damp boxer shorts.

“Don’t worry,” Penn said, misinterpreting Teller’s actions for the first time in years. He wrapped his arm around Victoria’s shoulder and led her to the car. “I’m pretty sure somebody’s on to… whatever’s going on over there. We just have to wait it out here until…”

Teller shot his gaze up to his partner, not sure he wanted to hear the rest of the thought.

“Oh, my god,” Penn said slowly. He quickly glanced around, making sure their hosts were still out of ear shot. “That rat bastard son of a bitch.”

Teller shrugged and shook his head, not following where Penn was going.

“There was no fucking party,” Penn realized out loud. “There wasn’t even a goddamn kid.”

Teller blinked a few times and looked out to the desert. He knew Penn was taking this somewhere, but he still couldn’t follow.

“Man, think about it,” Penn went on, sounding like the conspiracy theorist nuts that showed up on public broadcasting. “When was the last time anyone actually insisted that we do a fire routine? No one does. It’s fucking dangerous.”

He stood silent, waiting for Teller to catch up with him. After a few moments of trying to force his brain into high gear, Teller covered his mouth with his hand. He knew something had been terribly wrong with the whole situation, and suddenly felt like a complete dolt for thinking that it was just paranoia. Of course Tommy had picked them up at the airport. He’d been working for Candella since the first time they met him. Teller suddenly remembered where he had seen the 702 area code that was on Tommy’s card. The hotel’s phone number had the same prefix.

Teller shook his head, silently denying the entire situation.

“We have got to get the hell out of here,” Penn said quietly. He looked around the area in panicked desperation, hoping to find a way to get away from the situation. Sick with himself for even considering it, Penn turned around and peered in the car window, somehow believing that Brian had left the keys in the ignition.

“Looking for something?” a voice said behind him.

Penn spun around on his heel, nervously trying to concoct a believable cover-up.

“Uhhh,” he said, knowing he had just blown whatever microscopic chance he might have had.

Brian held up the keys to the car and waved a pistol toward the Coleman-lit shack. “Get inside,” he demanded.

He led the three of them into the tiny cabin, holding the door open for Tommy. “What did you tell them, Thomas?”

“I didn’t tell them nothing,” Tommy growled as he locked the door. He glanced over to the small group of three, noticing for the first time that Teller was without trousers.

“Well, somebody talked,” Brian snapped before Tommy had the chance to ask what had happened between the telephone call and their arrival. “Somebody talked, ’cause they sure know a lot for people who weren’t told nothing.” He stepped up close to Tommy, making sure the wise guy knew he meant business. “When Dad finds out that you’re the rat–”

“I ain’t no rat. Do you hear me, you little half-breed?” Tommy spat. He edged along the wall toward Penn, keeping his gaze on Brian.

“No?” Brian closed the gap between the two of them as he reached down the back of his trousers. “Then you’ll have no problem doing it.” He offered his pistol to his brother, not breaking the intense stare between them.

As Tommy reached slowly for the pistol, Penn took a step backwards, leading his friends toward the rear wall of the cabin. Teller and Victoria were both probably small enough to fit through the empty window frame by the door, but there was no chance of either of them ever making it that far.

Tommy sighed, dropping his hand just before he could wrap his fingers around the cold black steel of the horror-movie sized hand gun.

“That’s what I thought,” Brian scoffed. He bounced the pistol in his hand lightly, feeling the weight as he turned toward the frightened trio behind him.

“Ya know, the little one can’t even talk,” Tommy reminded his brother.

Penn started to defend his partner, but before he could make a sound, he noticed Tommy reaching into the back of his own trousers.

“What are you talking about?” Brian said. “Of course he can–” He turned around, finding himself staring down the barrel of Tommy’s equally scary pistol. These things were nothing like the cap guns the thugs back in New York carried with them; these men had anti-aircraft cannons in their fists. “I knew it.”

“Put it down, Brian,” Tommy said, circling back around to the other side of the cabin. Not letting the trio out of his sight line, he continued to slowly circle around, forcing Brian to reposition himself. Tommy circled wide, nearing the front door as he forced his brother’s position.

Quickly, Tommy spun around toward the door and fired two rounds into the lock, nearly disintegrating the the old, weather beaten wooden frame. “Go!” Tommy shouted over his shoulder.

Brian turned his sights to Penn, but before he could squeeze the trigger, Tommy rushed him. No time to look back, Penn lead his motley crew deeper into the endless desert. Something exploded in the cabin, its report echoing off of the ghost-like mountains that surrounded the valley. Teller looked over his shoulder to see what had happened behind them, compromising what little visual he had in the moonless night. He tripped over something prickly that stuck out of the ground like a thousand shards of broken glass, and crashed face-down in the dirt.

“No time for screwing around, Teller,” Penn said as he pulled his partner back to his feet by his jacket collar. As he regained his footing, a dark figure burst out of what was left of the cabin door, madly waving his pistol around. He fired blindly into the desert, coming close enough to Penn’s head that he could hear the shriek of the round cutting through the air. “Never mind,” he said. He quickly dove to the ground, pulling Teller and Victoria down with him.

The madman back at the cabin continued to fire blindly into the desert at all angles. Even after his clip had run dry, he still squeezed the trigger, the harsh click of the trigger carried across the flat ground as though he was right next to them.

“Penn,” Victoria whispered. She tapped his shoulder and pointed off to a new flicker in the distance. “What’s that?”

Before Penn had a chance to even speculate, the Cadillac’s engine revved to life behind them. As the steel beast spun around back toward the freeway, it kicked up a violent cloud of rocks and dust. It left a swirling rooster tail in its wake as it drove off into the night, taking with it the only hope of escape. Barely waiting for the red tail lights to become more than a twinkle in the distance, Teller snatched his attache case from Penn’s hands and ran back to the cabin.

“Son of a bitch,” Penn hissed. He scrambled to his feet and gave chase. “Teller!”

As he ran through the cold air, Teller could feel his socks becoming damp and sticky. With every step he took, the harsh stinging in his legs worsened, blurring his vision. He neared the cabin, slipping on the loose sand that carpeted the desert floor as he stopped at what was left of the cabin’s doorway. Staggering slightly, he dropped his case to the ground and covered his mouth with his hand. Penn caught up with him after a few moments, pushing the man out of his way.

“Jesus christ, Teller,” he said, forcing his way into the cabin. He dropped down to the ground next to Tommy, previously unaware that a person could lose so much blood and still be alive. He turned back to his partner and pointed at the tattered case by Teller’s feet. “The case,” he said. “Give me the case!”

Teller stood still in the doorway, the scene before him sending a rush of bad memories through his mind.

“Teller!” Penn shouted.

Teller jumped lightly before bending down to pick up the case. He started to walk into the cabin, but Penn stopped him, snatching the case out of this hand. “You’re bleeding all over the place,” he said. “Stay outside.”

Looking down at his shoes, Teller noticed that he was indeed bleeding from both knees. Whatever infernal vegetation he had tripped over in the desert had clearly gotten the best of him. He reached up to rub his eyes, stopping when he felt that his face was also much more sticky than it should have been. He looked at his fingers, fixed on the crimson mess that had smeared onto his hand.

“Tommy?” Penn said as he dug through the bottomless pit that was Teller’s attache case. “Tommy, man, you still with us?”

He pulled out an over-sized silk handkerchief from the case and folded it up into a small square. He tried to remember his first aid training from Boy Scouts, but a few courses nearly 20 years ago were easily forgotten in his state of panic. He looked over his shoulder at his partner, who still stood ashen in the door way. “Go find Vicky,” he said. “Where is she?”

Teller quickly snapped his head around, noticing that she was indeed nowhere near them. Again, he ran out to the expansive nothingness that surrounded them, the only light guiding his heavy foot beats being the dim light from the stars above him.

“Teller!” Victoria shouted from somewhere to his right. He stopped, hoping that she’d call out again.

“I think someone’s coming,” she said. Teller turned around to see a tall silhouette walking towards him. “Look out there.” She pointed out toward the horizon, where a small blue light twinkled against the black background.

Teller and Victoria both turned and started running back toward the cabin. As they neared the small wash of yellow light, Victoria squealed, stopping Teller in his tracks.

“Teller, look at you,” she exclaimed. “Did that happen out there?”

Unsure as to what Victoria was talking about, Teller shrugged slightly. He tried to make his way back to the cabin, but Victoria pulled on his arm, stopping him. She untied the purple handkerchief from around his hand, and frowning slightly, tried to clean up the cut above Teller’s eye. Wincing lightly, he tried to back away from Victoria, but she held tightly on to his arm. She soon gave up, shaking her head.

“Where’s Penn?” she asked.

Teller pointed to the cabin, which was completely silent. Slowly, they inched their way toward the door, uneasily peering in to see Penn sitting next to Tommy in a pool of deep scarlet.

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Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #17

The telephone on the end table by the sofa rang, slicing through the heavy silence like a dull knife. The men on the sofa both jumped up, reaching out for one another. As the telephone rang for a second time, Teller reached out and picked the receiver off of the hook. He took a brief moment to figure out what to do with it before he handed it over to Penn.

“Talk to me,” Penn said, trying not to sound nervous.

“Your girlfriend called me from the airport,” Tommy said. “How’d she get my number?”

Penn took a moment to recognize the voice on the other end. “She’s not my girlfriend. And you gave it to me. I didn’t think it still worked.”

“Well, your friend was followed to the airport,” Tommy said. “Luckily she spotted Michael’s guys before it was too late. But that means that somehow, they knew that she was leaving.” He paused for a moment, leaving Penn in silence. “Have they been up to your room yet?”

“No,” Penn said, motioning for Teller to get up and go to the door.

Teller grabbed the handle to open the door and look out into the hall, but the cold brass wouldn’t turn. He tried to wrestle the door open, but the hinges didn’t do so much as squeak.”

“But the door’s locked,” Penn said flatly. “Is it safe to assume they’re on to us?”

Again, Tommy said nothing for a long time, leaving Penn in an uncomfortable silence. “Is there any way out of there?” he asked finally.

Penn shook his head. “Is there any other way out?” he asked Teller.

They both looked at one another, barely breathing. The only other thing that led out of the room was the window. The idea struck both of them at the same instant, their gaze shooting to Teller’s attaché case.

“Maybe,” Penn said, picking up Teller’s attaché case.

Teller shook his head violently and backed against the door. Penn opened the case and pulled out the coil of magician’s rope.

“If you can get out of the room, I can have someone at Caesar’s waiting for you,” Tommy said. “It’s too dangerous for me to meet you.”

Penn ran the magician’s rope through his fingers, wondering what the pull strength on it was. “Where?” he asked simply.

“Where you were eating dinner the other night,” Tommy responded. “Don’t approach anyone. He’ll come to you.”

Penn nodded. “It might take us a while, but we’ll be there.”

Tommy cut the connection. After a few moments, Penn hung up the phone and pulled on the rope, using all of his strength. He looked up at Teller, desperately wishing that his partner would stop shaking his head.

“Teller, you’re smaller than me,” Penn reasoned. “You…” he struggled with his words, knowing that what he was about to say was hurtful. “You’re a little guy.”

Teller still shook his head. He watched as Penn slowly pushed open the curtain and looked down at the concrete pool area below.

“Ten feet,” Penn said. “No more.” He looked at Teller, not sure what else to say.

Teller still shook his head. He stared at his partner, knowing there had to have been some other way. Penn stood up, walking slowly to Teller.

“I’ll have the other end,” Penn said, putting his hand on his partner’s shoulder. “I won’t let you fall. These windows don’t appear to lock. All you need to do is be able to open the door from the other side, and we can go home.”

Teller sighed. He still shook his head lightly as he walked over to the window. He looked down, unable to see the window below him; but he didn’t look very hard, truth be told. Inhaling deeply, Teller reached into his pocket quickly and pulled his hand out, clenched in a tight fist. He closed his eyes tightly and bit his knuckle, trying to think of another way out.

“You’re gonna be fine,” Penn assured as he uncoiled the rope.

Teller flicked his wrist, producing his metal cane. He tied one end of the rope to the cane and held tightly to the cold black steel. He watched as Penn slid the curtain open and pushed the window out, opening it as far as it would go. He took the cane from Teller and lowered it out the window, having just enough rope to make it to the ledge after wrapping the thick cotton rope around his hands.

“Just like Houdini,” Penn said as Teller took off his jacket and climbed over the sofa to the window.

He wrapped the rope around his arm once and stepped out to the ledge. Just like Houdini. Only Houdini hung upside down; Teller at least had the advantage of going feet first. He closed his eyes tightly and slid off of the small ledge, inching his way down the rope as slowly as he could. The rope forced the cut on his hand wide open and burned his skin through his shirt as it slowly twisted around his arm. Terrified of what he might see if he opened his eyes, Teller felt his way down to the 18th floor window. Slowly, he let himself slide down the side of the building until he felt his cane smack against his ankle. He opened his eyes as he reached out for the tiny ledge at his feet, not quite able to get his balance on the thin area. Gripping the rope even tighter, he reached out for the window, digging around the metal frame. After fumbling for a good grip for far too long, he gently pulled, sliding the window open. He grabbed the metal frame and pulled himself into the dark room, still not letting go of the rope. Once he was inside, he yanked on the rope, letting Penn know that it was safe to let go. His whole body shook as he folded his cane and re-coiled the blood-stained rope. Not having his large jacket pockets to cram everything into, Teller stuffed the rope and cane awkwardly into his back pocket. He picked up a small purple scarf from the sofa and hastily wrapped it around his hand as he walked toward the door. As he yanked his key out of his pocket, the bathroom door slowly swung open, and a young couple—they looked like the honeymoon type—stepped into the dark suite. Teller laughed nervously as he darted out into the hall, not giving his unsuspecting hosts a chance to scream.

Teller started to make his way to the elevators, realizing how foolish the idea was after only a few steps. Instead, he turned around and ran the other way, knowing that the stairs would be much safer. He climbed the flight to the 19th floor as quietly as he could. Clutching his room key in his fists, he paused at the landing, carefully peering around the corner. Just as he suspected, two men in dark suits stood by the elevators. His room was closer to the stairs than it was to the elevator, so he knew he had a chance if he did everything right. He tried to look like he wasn’t in a rush as he walked as calmly as he could muster toward the elevators. The men standing guard weren’t looking for someone coming from the north end of the building. As he neared his room, he began to grow more nervous, but still, the men didn’t seem to notice him. Pausing as he got to the door, he looked down at the elevators. At first, it seemed like he was in the clear, but as he slid his key into the lock, one of the men glanced over in his direction.

“What the hell?” he shouted as he and his friend began running for Teller.

The magician quickly unlocked the door and threw it open, finding Penn waiting for him. Penn dashed out to the hall with his partner’s jacket and attaché case as Teller ran back into the room and threw the door shut. He quickly locked the chain on the top of the door, knowing that it wouldn’t hold for long. His only way out was down, yet again, so he rushed back over to the window and pulled the rope from his back pocket. He dropped the loose end of the rope out the open window and situated the cane along the base of the windowsill. It was longer than the window was wide, and at this point, that was good enough for him. He had no time to take his time, so again, he wrapped the rope around his arm and slid down to the next floor as quickly as he could without risking falling and breaking his neck. The frightened guests still hadn’t shut their window, allowing Teller to quickly climb in once again. Once his feet were back on solid ground, he leaned back out the window and yanked on the rope, hoping to free his cane from the window above. After a few sharp jerks, he felt it come loose. It fell from the window above, and kept falling along with the rope. It didn’t stop falling once to the bottom of the rope, as he had anticipated, but rather slid loose from the knot in the rope and crashed to the ground below. Teller winced as it clanged on the cement and let go of the rope, no longer needing it. He looked up at his hosts, laughing nervously as he once again dashed out their door. He could hear pounding footsteps in the stairwell, so Teller ran to the elevator to take it down to the bottom floor, counting on Penn’s long legs to get him downstairs in time for them to meet up and escape together. He nervously waited as the pounding footsteps in the stairwell grew feint, realizing that Penn might actually make it down before he even stepped foot on the elevator. Finally, it dinged its arrival. Teller jumped up and down slightly, eager to leave Las Vegas and never return. Slowly, the door slid open, revealing an elevator that was far from empty.

“Mother fucker,” Teller spat out as he tried to run back toward the stairwell.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

“Is this your rope?” the thug asked as he wrapped the thick cotton around Teller’s wrists. “I think I saw you drop this.”

He tied a quick knot in the rope before putting his foot on Teller’s back and shoving him down onto his stomach. While he busied himself with the smaller magician, his friend made sure Penn was equally as comfortable.

“Where is he?” Teller’s playmate asked, pulling him to the edge of the swimming pool.

“Where’s who?” Penn demanded.

The thug keeping him company slapped him upside the head. “He wasn’t talking to you, asshole.”

“Then he’s wasting his time,” Penn said. “Everyone knows Teller doesn’t talk.”

The thug clenched his fist and swung at Penn’s head, connecting squarely on the magician’s forehead.

“Mother fuck!” He shrieked, shaking his hand in the air. “It’s like hitting a fucking cinder block.” He kicked Penn in the thigh before turning to his friend. “Square-headed mother fucker broke my hand!”

Penn shook his head, trying to regain normal vision. “No,” he corrected. “You broke your own hand on my head.”

The thug standing over Teller shook his head. “No more games,” he said, grabbing Teller by the collar of his shirt. Before anyone knew what was happening, the thug was down on his knees next to Teller, holding the magician under the icy water. He held on to the tiled edge of the pool, trying to keep his balance as he held Teller below the surface.

“You sonofabitch mother fucker—” Penn shouted, trying to kick away from the man standing next to him. “He doesn’t know anything! Jesus christ!”

Casting a glace in Penn’s direction, the thug pulled Teller out of the water. He spat a mouthful of chlorinated water onto the front of his shirt and panted heavily.

“Where is Tommy?” he asked slowly.

Still panting, Teller shook his head.

“Too bad,” the thug said as he shoved Teller back into the pool.

The water felt like small shards of glass, it was so cold. Teller exhaled through his nose, giving the appearance to those above him that he was seriously struggling. While he let them focus on how much time he had under the water, he began to pull his wrists apart, hoping to loosen the ropes. As he pulled, he felt a light pop in the ropes, as though everything had become suddenly too loose. He held the ropes tight with his hands, trying to conceal the loose ends of the ropes as he was pulled back out of the water. Again, he coughed and hacked, spitting water and panting like a dog. He looked over to Penn, trying to nod without looking like he was nodding. At first, Penn didn’t see it. He just saw his partner and friend fighting for his life. But as Teller struggled to catch his breath, his eyes flicked very quickly to the man standing above him. He was planning something, but what, Penn didn’t know.

“He doesn’t know anything!” Penn shouted again.

“Oh?” the thug said, still holding on to Teller’s collar. “Maybe you do.”

Again, he shoved Teller’s head under the water, but as he leaned over to hold the magician under the surface, he felt a hand grab his back. Madly gripping the man’s shirt, Teller flung himself into the water, pulling his playmate with him.

“Jesus christ, it’s cold!” The thug screamed as soon as he brought his head above the water.

He tried to climb out of the pool, but Teller spun him around by the shoulder and swung his best left hook at the man’s face, breaking his nose on impact. A solid stream of red flowed from his face, making the water a murky black.

“Hey!” Penn shouted as the man that stood next to him started to run to the aide of his friend. Penn hurled himself to his feet, struggling to get his balance.

The thug pulled his knife from his pocket and quickly returned to Penn, but before he could even release the blade, Penn swung his head back and cracked skulls with the other man, dropping him to the ground.

“There’s your fucking cinderblock, asshole.”

Teller quickly climbed out of the pool, kicking his playmate in the head with the heel of his wingtips and rushed to his partner.

“There’s a knife in my pocket,” Penn said, trying to situate himself so Teller could easily reach in and retrieve it.

Teller nodded and pulled the silver butterfly knife from Penn’s trousers, quickly flipping it open with one hand. Trying to balance precision and speed, he sliced through the cotton magician’s rope with the razor like blade and handed the knife back to Penn. They quickly ran back toward the Island tower, ducking to pick up Teller’s attaché case and jacket. They ran through the bottom floor of the tower and out the rear set of doors to Tropicana Avenue. Not having time to think, they dashed west along the sidewalk to the Strip, getting to the corner just as the pedestrian light changed. Bolting past the flocks of tourists trying to cross the street, Penn and Teller raced through the intersection, and up the Boulevard.

“Penn!” someone called from the street.

Penn quickly turned around, tapping his partner on the shoulder in a signal to stop. Across the street, Victoria hung out the window of a burgundy Cadillac. Penn motioned for whoever was driving to turn around, knowing that it would be far easier for them to muscle their way over than it would be to cross by foot.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #16

Penn looked out the window of Teller’s suite at the hotel’s pool nineteen stories below.

“We gotta tell her,” he said sullenly. “I don’t know how, but we have to.”

Teller nodded slowly. He gently swashed his Yoo-hoo can and sat it down on the end table beside him.

“If this creep’s right, we gotta get out of here,” Penn continued to himself.

Teller looked over at his partner, his jaw slack. Penn shook his head and jumped to his feet.

“No,” he told himself. “He’s just playing us, just like he did last time. He’s a creep.” He buried his face in his hands, sick of arguing with himself. Inhaling deeply, he looked back at his partner. “It’s your call,” he said finally.

Teller shook his head and shrugged. If they left now, Candella wouldn’t be happy. He might even come after them. Overwhelmed, Teller covered his face with his hands and fell back, stretching himself across the sofa. The folded blanket on the back of the sofa fell down, covering the magician like a badly thrown net. He kicked it off to the floor and wrenched off his tie.

“Just… just calm down, man,” Penn said, picking the blanket off of the ground.

As he tossed the blanket onto the bed, the suite door flew open, startling both men. Penn spun around on his heels, sighing as he saw Victoria walk into the room.

“Is everything all right?” Victoria asked as she shut the door behind her.

Penn and Teller both looked at each other, hoping for some last little bit of salvation. Penn sighed and walked over to Victoria. He placed his hands on her shoulders and shook his head.

“Maybe you’d better sit down,” he said, leading her over to the bed. He sat down next to her, positioning himself so he could keep an eye on his partner while he talked.

“Vicky,” Penn started. He paused, taking a moment to choose his words carefully. “Vicky, you remember that first week we were on the show?”

Victoria nodded slowly. “Penn, what’s this all about?” she asked. “You’re scaring me.”

“Do you remember what happened on Letterman’s show that week?” Penn asked.

Victoria thought back on the week, but it was all a blur; everything had happened so fast, and it was over a year ago. She remembered the mouse and a the tank of water, and for some reason, there were police on the floor that weekend—

“That was you?” Victoria demanded. “Jesus christ, Penn! Why?”

Penn waved his hands in front of himself, trying to get Victoria to calm down. “That man that showed up last night when we were at Caesar’s,” Penn said. “I told you he hired us last year. He…” Penn glanced back at Teller, who lay on the sofa with his hands still covering his face. “He blackmailed us,” Penn said finally. “That’s why our trick kept getting fucked up; he had someone there in the studio that was deliberately sabotaging our stuff.”

Victoria covered her mouth with her hand and leaned back away from Penn.

Penn shook his head. “If we knew that… that he was gonna be here this week, we wouldn’t have brought you along. I think—we think that something really bad is going to happen.”

Victoria looked over her shoulder at Teller. He hadn’t moved a muscle since she walked into the suite. If it weren’t for Teller lying on the sofa, trying to smother himself with his hands, she might have thought that Penn was making this up; like one of those mean jokes he liked to play on Teller.

Penn dug his wallet out of his back pocket and pulled out what was left of his cash. He suddenly felt very stupid about paying his test audience. “You need to get out of here,” he said, thumbing through the notes. He counted just over four hundred dollars in total, and stuffed it all into Victoria’s hand. “Take a cab, go to the airport, and go home.”

Teller groaned sickly from the sofa, kicking his feet lightly.

“What about you guys?” Victoria asked.

Penn stood up, gently pulling Victoria to her feet. “We’ll take a later flight. Just go. But don’t make it look like you’re going home. Leave everything here.”

Victoria took a step back, shaking her head. “You’re really serious,” she said. “Did you hide this from Teller all year, too? Is that what’s wrong with him?”

Teller groaned again, this time slowly fading into a sick laughter.

“No,” Penn said gravely. “He—he actually did more work than I did when…”

“You’re serious?” Victoria asked flatly. “Damnit, Penn!”

Penn took a small step toward Victoria. “Vicky, we were blackmailed!” he pleaded. “Extortion’s probably a better word, actually. You’ve got to believe me.”

Teller continued to laugh, his hands muffling the sound slightly. Victoria turned to look at him again. “Are you sure you’ll be able to make it back home?” she asked.

Of course not. But Penn couldn’t say that; not to her face. “We’ll be back in a day or two,” he said. “Now just go.”

Victoria looked back at Teller before reluctantly looking down at the stack of cash Penn handed her.

“Don’t worry about paying me back,” Penn said sincerely. “Just go. Please.”

It took Victoria a few moments to realize that Penn had just used the word “please.” He was serious, and she knew it. She looked up at Penn one last time before slowly making her way to the door.

“What if I need to get a hold of you?” she asked before opening the door. “I can’t call you here.”

Penn thought for a minute before quickly slapping the pockets of his waistcoat. He doubted the number would still be good, but Tommy had given him a business card the year before. It was something, and probably enough to get Victoria out of the state.

“Teller,” he said, as he pulled out his wallet. He started fingering through all of the cards in the spaces. “You never throw anything away. Where—where’s that card that creep gave us? The business card.”

Not getting up from the sofa, Teller reached down to the ground and upended his attaché case, spilling the contents onto the floor. Everything from silk flowers to cassette tapes to old magic shop receipts poured out, making a large pile on the floor. He threw his case to the side and half-heartedly pushed through the pile with his fingertips. Shaking his head in frustration, Penn stepped over and dropped to his knees, quickly sifting through Teller’s personal toy box. Finally, he found the business card, marking a place in a small paperback Teller had picked up from somewhere. Penn looked at the number, still not knowing where the hell area code 702 was.

“Here,” Penn said, handing the card to Victoria. “If you need anything, call this guy.”

Victoria started to ask who “this guy” was, but decided it might be wise to refrain.

“Be careful,” she said instead. She put the card and the cash in her purse and slowly walked out of the room. As soon as the door swung shut, Teller covered his face again, laughing uncontrollably.

“Jesus christ, we gotta get the hell out of here,” Penn said, ignoring his partner. He sat down on the bed, trying to drown out his partner’s cackling. “I always knew you were batshit,” he said.

He picked up Teller’s Bounce/No Bounce ball from the floor and threw it, pegging his partner squarely in the side of the head. Teller shot up straight and stopped laughing. He looked over at Penn, his brow furrowed.

“Oh, I found the restart button,” Penn said to himself. He stood up and walked over to the sofa; drawing the curtains to be sure no one in the other tower was watching them. “Now, just calm down so we can figure this out,” he said as he pushed Teller’s legs out of the way to sit.

Teller shrugged, focusing on the mess he’d made on the floor.

“We can’t leave now,” Penn said, trying to talk out the situation. “They’ll know something’s up. I guess we just sit tight here until later tonight. Soon as we get to the airport, we’ll call the cops,” Penn decided.

Teller shrugged. He dropped down to the floor and started picking up his belongings, stuffing them haphazardly into his attaché case. He shook his head as he re-coiled a long piece of magician’s rope, not sure himself how he’d managed to fit everything into the small leather case.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #15

Teller walked into the theatre, still sipping on his morning tea, to find two strange men standing on the stage. They were looking up into the rigging; something up there must have been very fascinating, or very important. Teller huffed, throwing his free hand into the air, and walked back out of the theatre. No one was supposed to be in there without permission, and yet on a daily basis, someone was in with their stuff fucking around with things.

He stood outside the theatre, nursing his tap water tea when he spotted Penn lumbering through the casino.

“What’s going on?” Penn asked when he saw Teller standing by the doors.

Teller stepped aside to let his partner take a look inside. Penn slowly opened the doors, not at all surprised to find two strange men tooling with the rigging above the stage.

“Can I help you gentlemen?” Penn asked gruffly, doing his best to sound intimidating.

He startled the men working on the rigging, causing one to almost fall down off of his ladder.

“We’re almost done, sir,” he said once he regained his balance.

“You’re not supposed to be here,” Penn said. He waved his hand up at the rigging. “What are you doing here, anyway? I didn’t authorize this… whatever it is.”

“We’re just setting up the mikes,” the second man said. “As per Mister Candella’s request.”

Penn inhaled deeply through his nose and crossed his arms over his chest. “Mikes? I don’t need mikes in a room this small,” Penn said, pointing out what he thought was obvious. “These are a fire hazard. Take them down.”

The man on the ladder nodded. “Yessir,” he said quickly.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

While Teller pulled out all the props they’d be using, Penn wandered out to the casino to gather a crowd. He walked down the rows of slot machines, offering people ten dollars to be a test audience for a magic show. It took him almost a half hour to gather a dozen gamblers who were willing to leave their seats, even for a ten dollar bill. Once he had his dozen, he lead them back to the theatre and ushered them into the first two rows of the house.

“This show,” he said as he jumped up onto the stage, “isn’t completely finished yet, and we don’t have a tech crew, so just bear with us through the prop changes,” he said. He turned back to see Teller already sitting on the park bench with his sunglasses on. “With that said, I’m Penn Jillette. The creep on the bench is my partner, Teller. We’re Penn & Teller.” Penn turned around and took his seat next to Teller on the bench, going into his made up song right on the spot, singing and shouting in Teller’s ear.

Even with no crew, the changes were getting smoother. They had moved Penn’s fire eating routine to the act right before Casey at the Bat, making set up a simple matter of setting the bed of nails. They suspended Teller’s rig over a thick support bar that would normally be used for holding heavy stage curtains. Several members of the casino crowd recognized the bit as being on Saturday Night Live the previous weekend, bringing an almost concert-like reaction from the small crowd of twelve.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

“We’re still way short, but I think they liked it,” Penn said as the crowd shuffled out of the theatre. “It’ll go better once we get those tech guys in here.”

As the last of crowd filed through the doors in the back of the house, Tommy slid through the doors and slowly approached the stage. Teller started to step backstage, but stopped in favour of not looking like a coward.

“What do you want?” Penn demanded as he packed up his props into the footlocker by the stage.

Tommy shook his head and leaned against the stage. “Have there been people in here monkeying with your stuff?” he asked. Penn stared at him, trying to make the Brooklyn native go away. Tommy shook his head. “This is serious. Have there been guys in here? Guys that you don’t know?”

Penn looked back at Teller, sighing as he shook his head lightly. “Yeah,” Penn said finally. “A couple of grease monkeys have been fixing the lights and setting up microphones for the last few days. Now what do you want?”

“Microphones?” Tommy asked. He looked around the small theatre. “For a stage this small?”

Penn shook his head and shrugged. “I told them to get them out of here. We don’t need them, and they’re just in the way,” he said sternly. He looked up into the light rigging, where in place of the three hanging mikes was now a funny blue and yellow wire hanging among the Pars and Fresnels.

“What the hell is going on?” Penn demanded, screaming in Tommy’s face. He stepped back, realizing that losing his cool was a seriously un-hip thing to do.

Tommy took a step backward and brought his hands up near his ears. “I don’t know,” he said after a moment. “But Michael Candella is up to something. I don’t know what, but he’s using you.” He looked up at Teller, who had been slowly retreating backstage. “Hate me. I don’t care. But… but you’re gonna get hurt if you stick around here.”

Penn looked back at his partner before jumping down off of the stage.

“Get the hell out of here,” he demanded, taking a step toward Tommy.

Tommy took a small step backwards before quickly trotting out of the theatre. Penn followed him to the back and shut the theatre doors, locking them so no one else would be able to sneak up on them. He looked up to the stage at his partner. Teller crammed his hands in his pockets, shaking his head slightly.

“Whu— What’s going on?” Teller asked after a moment.

Penn slowly walked up to the stage and sat down in the pool of light. He looked up at his partner. “I don’t know, man,” he said honestly. “Part of me wants to listen to him, but I don’t know if we can trust him or not.”

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #14

After they had finished packing up, the three of them left the hotel to find somewhere to get some dinner. They walked north up the strip until they got to Caesar’s Palace. The casino ceiling was low with few lights, giving the whole interior a rather intimate feel. They found a restaurant just beyond the casino and got in the line to wait for a table.

“Hey, I know you,” Someone said from behind them.

Penn turned around to see who was talking. A group of college-aged kids stood behind them, their faces red from spending the day in the wind and the sun.

“You were on TV on Saturday,” one of the boys said, pointing at Penn. “You’re Teller, right?”

Penn shook his head. “Close,” he said. He pointed at his partner. “He’s Teller. I’m Penn.”

“Oh,” the college kid said. He quickly turned his attention to Teller, giggling like he had just come up with the world’s greatest joke. “Hey, what time is it?” he asked.

Teller smiled coyly and showed the kid the watch on his wrist before turning back around.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

It didn’t take long before Teller grew bored with conversation and began playing with his table wear, quickly attracting the attention of those seated around them. He held his fork and spoon up like small shiny action figures, and danced them around his empty salad plate, humming a goofy theme song for his puppets. He pretended that the silverware was tiny magicians, making them levitate underneath a napkin and bending the metal as though it was liquid. For his finale, he placed a bent spoon into his water glass and covered it with a napkin. After a few passes with the fork, he lifted the napkin to reveal his small grey mouse in the glass. Victoria squealed, half out of delight, and half from being startled by the mouse.

“Teller, I swear, I will drown that mouse!” Penn growled through his teeth.

Teller smiled and gently upended the glass, dropping the mouse into his hand. As he picked up a small piece of bread to feed his mouse, a familiar leather jacket pulled a chair up to their table. Teller jumped, quickly putting his mouse back into his pocket, and tried to stand up. Tommy reached out and grabbed Teller’s arm, slowly pulling him back to his chair.

“You folks are hard to find, you know that?” Tommy said, taking a look around the table. “I’m sorry,” he said, noticing Victoria. “I didn’t realize you had company.”

“What do you want?” Penn asked flatly. “We don’t work for you any more.”

Teller tried to inch away from the gangster, but Tommy knew the magician’s odd behavior was sure to grab even more attention. He held on to Teller’s chair as he talked.

“Listen,” he said. “You hate my guts, and I’m cool with that. I probably deserve it, but there’s something you should know.”

“No,” Penn said suddenly. Tommy tried to finish his thought, but Penn cut him off before he could even start. “No,” he repeated himself. “You listen. We’re just here to do a little show and have some fun. I know your idea of fun is something like threatening guys that are already scared of you—” he reached over and pried Tommy’s hand off of Teller’s chair “—but we don’t roll that way. Beat it, or I’ll call security.”

Tommy looked unblinkingly at Penn, not sure if the man was serious. Not wanting to find out first hand, Tommy reluctantly stood up from the table.

“I tried,” he said before he turned around and left.

Penn leaned over to his partner, putting his hand on the back of Teller’s chair. “Forget him,” he said quietly. “If we don’t talk to him, he’ll find someone else.”

Teller nodded.

“Who was that?” Victoria asked. She looked over to Teller, a little scared to see him so shaken.

Penn took a moment to think, silently working out the words with his partner. “He hired us to do a show last year,” Penn lied. “He bailed on the check, claiming that we owed him some sort of a favour.”

Victoria nodded, not sure if she wanted to believe him or not. “Oh,” she said softly. “What did he want this time?”

“I don’t know,” Penn said honestly.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #13

Penn held out his hands as he walked into the room, showing Victoria that he wasn’t plotting anything this time.

“You’re in trouble,” Victoria said as she shut the door. “That was mean, what you did yesterday.”

“Yeah, well,” Penn said as he tossed the pillow off of the sofa and sat down. “He’ll get over it. Where is the little creep, anyway?” He looked around the suite, noticing that it was just him and Victoria again.

“Shower,” Victoria said simply as she sat next to Penn on the sofa.

“Teller, I know strippers that take less time to get ready than you do!” Penn shouted. He turned to Victoria. “Got any plans for the day?”

Victoria shook her head. “No,” she said. “I did a lot yesterday while you two were getting ready. Why?”

“Good,” Penn said, smiling. “We need a test audience.”

Victoria groaned and leaned her head on Penn’s shoulder. “You two make me nervous,” she said. “All the fire and knives and dangerous stunts. You’re sure it’s all safe?”

Penn wrapped his arm around Victoria’s shoulders and hugged. “We’d never do anything that would put one of us in any real danger,” Penn assured. “They’re just tricks.”

Victoria sighed and looked up at Penn. “How long will it take?”

Before Penn could answer, the bathroom door swung open and Teller walked into the small kitchen area. He looked over at the two on the sofa in time to see Victoria quickly sitting up. Not sure if he wanted to know, Teller shook his head and filled his mug full of hot water from the tap.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

As Teller stepped up on to the stage, he could tell that something was different, but he couldn’t see what. He looked around, trying to spot anything out of the ordinary, but nothing looked like it had been moved. Still paranoid from the day before, Teller looked up into the rigging, noticing at once what had been changed. He quickly tapped his spoon against his porcelain mug, getting the attention of both Penn and Victoria at once. Penn jumped up to the stage to see what Teller’s problem was, and looked up to the rigging along with his partner. All the bulbs and gels on the Par and Fresnel lights had been replaced, making the wash of light on the stage more even and natural. What ever Candella had been talking about the day before was probably nothing, Teller decided. He placed his mug on the edge of the stage and with Penn’s help, they moved the cheap park bench out to its mark. They knew they wouldn’t be able to move it during the show, but getting technical help for a show couldn’t possibly be too difficult.

They ran through the entire script for Victoria, starting with Cuffed to a Creep. Penn opened the bit by singing a made up song rather loudly in Teller’s ear, inventing the words as he went. Cuffed to a Creep led to Cups and Balls, a bit that seemed to change a little bit every time they performed it. As Penn pushed the park bench into the Wings, Teller brought out a small table; too small for most performances, but for the tiny theatre it would be perfect. They ran the bit flawlessly, barely needing the practice on the moves and patter. At the end of the routine, they both threw the plastic cups and aluminum foil balls into the house as Teller pulled a deck of cards from his pocket. After a bit of coaxing, they got Victoria to help by selecting a card, dragging her through the entire script and all the forces and false shuffles. By the time the blindfold came out, Victoria had forgotten about any danger her friends might have been putting themselves in, and was able to enjoy the show. Even as Teller brought the hunting knife down on Penn’s hand, she was able to laugh with the joke of seeing her card stuck onto Penn’s hand.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

Even with all of the fumbling with trying to move props by themselves, the show only ran just over fifty minutes. Once it was ironed out, it would probably drop down to about forty-five, but at this point, there was little that could be done.

“What about the trick you guys did on the show last weekend?” Victoria asked as Penn and Teller put their props away backstage. “Isn’t that all of your stuff for it back there?”

Penn looked back at the rigging for the bit and then up into the lights above the stage. The metal bars that ran in a grid between the lights looked like it could be strong enough to told Teller’s weight, but Penn wasn’t sure.

“It makes sense, doesn’t it?” he said finally. “That’s the bit that got us hired, but I’m not sure if it could work with just the two of us.”

Victoria shrugged. “Get that guy to hire some help. They could rehearse with you over the weekend, and it might even put you guys up to an hour.”

Penn and Teller looked at one another, both wondering why they hadn’t thought of that. The hired help didn’t have to know how the tricks worked to set the props; they’d just have to know where to place everything. Teller shook his head at himself and walked backstage to lock up the trunks. He still didn’t trust a room where people could get in to change the lights.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #12

Teller was about ready to fall asleep right there on the stage, surrounded by pages of scripts and concepts. He lay on his belly, flipping through his red notebook with Penn as they tried to come up with ninety minutes of material that didn’t require a third person. They stacked the scripts into three not-so-neat piles; sure bets, possible routines, and no fucking way, the latter being the biggest.

“Why did we agree to this?” Penn asked, taking off his glasses to rub his eyes.

Teller sighed and shrugged, putting another script in the no fucking way pile. He picked up the sure bet scripts and started ordering what they had for the schedule. Cuffed to a Creep was an easy one to open with, he though, and would work nicely followed by Handstab. After he had the six or seven scripts in a tentative order, he handed the stack to Penn before letting his head fall onto the stage.

“This is good,” Penn said, looking at the order. He picked up the stack of possibilities and handed it to his partner. “I’m gonna let you decide on these,” he said honestly. “That’s an area you’re better at.”

Teller nodded and slowly began to flip through the pages, pulling out a few more stapled scripts. He handed them over to Penn for a final approval and took back the stack of sure bets to re-order the set again.

“How long is this gonna take?” Penn asked as he handed the new stack back to Teller.

His partner shrugged, having not even bothered to add up the total time yet. He quickly inserted the new bits into the schedule and picked up a pencil to calculate the times. The show was going to be short; way short. They only had about an hour of possible material down, but they were stuck without a Director of Covert Activities. Teller picked up his stapler and punched two staples through the corner of his papers, making sure that nothing would get lost. Ready to get the hell out of the theatre, they both gathered up all the loose papers and put them back in Teller’s notebook and cleaned up the set, putting everything back in the footlockers. As they cleaned up, Teller thought back to some of the things Candella had said earlier that morning, but pushed it out of his head. The last thing they needed to worry about was some paranoid idea. He locked up the trunks and left the theatre with Penn, shutting off the lights as they left.

Not knowing and not caring where Teller was going, Penn left the hotel and walked north along the Strip. He buttoned his waistcoat, hoping to combat the stinging, sand-blasting wind, but even with the layers of a three-piece suit, it was downright freezing in the desert. Penn ducked into the Denny’s that sat oddly out of place on the Strip, finding it curiously no more occupied than the diner near his apartment. After waiting in line for just a few minutes, a waitress led him over to the service counter and handed him a menu before leaving him alone again. Not needing a menu, he dropped it into the small rack that was mounted to the end of the counter. After the stress of the day, the only logical choice was Moons over my Hammy. While he waited for the waitress to come around and take his order, he rolled up his napkin and started refreshing himself on his moves for their cups and balls routine; the old Penn & Teller workhorse. He couldn’t believe they were actually putting it in the show, but it was an easy routine that ate up a few minutes. As he worked with his sleights, he began to wonder why Candella had been in the theatre with that other man. One of the requests was that no one entered the theatre, and yet Candella had quite blatantly ignored that request. He let his mind wander, taking him on more than a few outrageous scenarios, none of which Penn thought would be possible. Candella was an important man; he wouldn’t be spending his time sneaking around stages unless it was necessary. He was just making sure that everything was in order for Monday, Penn decided. Nothing wrong or sinister about that. Tommy had just made him paranoid, no doubt. Penn shook his head and diverted his attention to the waitress at his side.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #11

Victoria opened the door to find Penn standing in the hall, his jacket and tie draped over his arm.

“Where’s Teller?” he asked, peering past her into the room.

Victoria stepped out of the way, holding the door open. “He’s in the shower,” she said, pointing to the back of the suite.

Penn smiled and bent down to pick up a small black bucket from the floor. “Perfect,” he said, walking into the room. He threw his jacket and tie onto the bed and took the lid off of his bucket as he quietly walked back to the bathroom. He slowly pushed the door open, careful to not make a sound as he prepared for his ambush. Quickly, before his partner knew anything was awry, Penn reached over the shower curtain and up-ended his bucket full of ice water. He ran out of the bathroom, throwing his bucket under the table as he dashed to get away from the Hitchcock-worthy screaming that was going on behind the shower curtain. By the time he made it to the bed to finish getting dressed, Teller threw the bathroom door open, still struggling to wrap a towel around his waist.

“What?” Penn asked, trying not to laugh.

Teller stared at him from the doorway, still panting lightly.

“You’re right,” Penn said, chuckling lightly. “That was mean.” He picked up his tie and draped it over his neck. As though nothing had happened, he tried to tie it, but took a small step toward his partner.

“You wanna help me out here?” he asked.

Teller stepped back into the bathroom and slammed the door shut, leaving Penn to either figure it out for himself or talk Victoria into do it for him. Penn chuckled slightly as he fumbled with the red silk.

“He’s gonna kill me in my sleep,” he said, amused with what he’d just done.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

Not wanting to go through the torture of watching his partner move the bench around until it was just right, Penn left the hotel to find a Denny’s for a quick breakfast. Teller spent the time alone making sure all the staging was perfect, adjusting a few of the spikes he had placed the day before. After about forty-five minutes, he stepped backstage, accidentally knocking a glass jar off of the stack of footlockers, sending pieces of glass across the painted black backstage floor. Sighing, he dropped to his knees and carefully started picking up the pieces. As he ducked behind the trunks, he heard the house door unlock and open. He started to stand up to greet his partner, but ducked back down again when he saw Candella and another man walk into the house.

“Idiots left the lights on last night,” Candella said as the two of them walked up to the stage.

They stepped up onto the stage and looked up into the rigging.

“You’re sure this is gonna work?” the second man said as he peered into the mess of lights and wires and metal bars.

Candella nodded. “I got them to do some sort of fire thing,” he said, taking a step toward the stacked footlockers. Teller leaned closer to the footlockers, not wanting the men to see him. The visitors seemed wrong to the magician; no one was supposed to be in the theatre prior to the show.

The second man turned to Candella. “I hope you’re right,” he said. “Nobody better get hurt over this. It’s my ass on the line, too.”

Candella shook his head to respond, but before he was able to say something, the house door opened suddenly.

“Teller? You in here?” Penn asked as he stepped into the house. He looked up at the stage and paused when he saw Candella and the other man starting to wander backstage. “Can I help you?”

Candella turned around to face Penn. “There you are,” he said cheerily. “Just checking to see if that stuff you requested got down here yet.”

Penn nodded. “Yeah,” he said flatly. “It’s right there on the set.”

Candella turned and looked at the bench. “So it is,” he said with a smile. He jumped down off of the stage, his friend following closely. “Everything’s in order, I take it?”

Penn nodded. “Yeah. We’re fine.”

Candella motioned for his friend to follow him, and the two walked out of the house through the rear door. Penn shook his head as he walked up to the stage to take a look at the bench. As he stepped up onto the small proscenium, Teller slowly peered over the stack of footlockers.

“What the hell are you doing back there?” Penn asked when he noticed his partner.

Teller licked his lips and meekly pointed to the rear house door. Whatever he had just heard, he knew it couldn’t have been good. But what did he hear? They didn’t say much, truth be told.

“Yeah, I know,” Penn said, shaking his head. “I’ll tell them not to come in here without one of us for now on.”

Teller shook his head, not knowing how to begin explaining what had just happened. He was certain it was nothing. They were probably making sure the room was safe for open flame. Teller shook it off and bent back down to pick up the rest of the broken glass from the floor.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #10

Several hours after they started their preliminary blocking and staging, Penn decided to call it quits for the evening. They had a full week that, unlike when working with Lorne, they could rehearse and plan whenever they needed to. None of that mad dash bullshit that Lorne was so fond of. Despite having the keys to the small theatre, they still locked everything back in the trunks and stacked them neatly backstage before turning off the lights and locking up.

“Let’s go get Vicky and get some dinner,” Penn said, looking down at his watch. “You know where she is?”

Teller shrugged and shook his head. Knowing it would be easier to start at the room, they took the curved escalator to the tower and made their way up to the rooms. Teller unlocked his door just as Victoria tried to open it from the other side. Startled, they both jumped back a little bit.

“We’re gonna go get some dinner,” Penn said as she stepped out into the hall. “You wanna come with, or do you have plans?”

Victoria shook her head. “I was just going to find you two to suggest the same thing.”

Penn smiled and slapped his thighs. “Great!” he said. “Let’s go.”

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

They found a small restaurant one the ground floor of the hotel, hoping that whatever they ordered would be on Candella’s bill. Most of the tables were empty, leaving the staff with little to busy themselves with. The small group of three had a table along the outer wall of the dining area, which looked out into a small area of the hotel. As they prepared to order, Teller noticed a small tuxedo shop down the hall a little bit and jumped up to check it out.

“Is everything alright?” the waiter asked as Teller left the table.

Penn watched him walk to the shop and turned back to his menu. “He’s always like that,” he said, trying to remember what Teller had said he wanted. He looked up at Victoria and gently waved his hand at her. “Go ahead,” he said as he stared at the menu. “I’m still trying to decide.”

Several minutes after the waiter had taken the menus and left Penn and Victoria alone, Teller returned to the table wearing a fedora that exactly matched the grey of his suit.

“Teller, what the hell is that?” Penn asked, slightly disgusted.

Teller stood next to the table and quickly searched for the pack of cigarettes he used for the fire-eating routine. After taking a few moments to think about what he was going to do, Teller lit the cigarette and took a light drag before dropping it to the floor and crushing it out. He adjusted his hat quickly before pulling the pack out again and sliding a second cigarette out and sticking it between his lips. As he scratched his eye, he reached into his pocket again and grabbed a small lighter, and then lit the cigarette. Penn looked up at him, slack jawed, while Victoria tried to figure out what had just happened.

“That was amazing,” Penn said after a moment.

“What was?” Victoria asked.

“Do it again,” Penn said as he waved his hand in the air. “But turn around.”

Teller turned to face the other direction and went through his motions again. A few seconds into the bit, Victoria finally caught on when Teller had palmed the cigarette rather than crushing it out and put it in his ear, letting the brim of the had hide the smoke. Rather than actually pulling the pack out of his pocket, Teller just simulated pulling the pack out, sliding a white pencil between his fingers. He put it between his lips and reached up to scratch his eye, using it as cover to load the cigarette from his ear. Using a small white flashlight in place of the lighter, he switched the pencil for the cigarette flawlessly.

“I’m gonna need to completely rewrite the patter,” Penn said, taking the fedora off of Teller’s head. “That one wasn’t even broken, and you went and fixed it.”

Teller quickly crushed out the cigarette before the waiter came over to tell him that smoking wasn’t allowed and sat back down at the table.

“You wanna put that in the show on Monday?” Penn asked, putting the fedora back on his partner’s head.

Teller took the hat off and put it on the floor by his feet, nodding.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #9

The room where Penn & Teller were set to perform was a large conference room on the ground floor of the Island Tower. It had a small stage built onto the west wall, which should have been perfect for a performance. Penn and Teller stood on the stage, looking up at the ceiling, not thrilled with what they saw.

“Well, I guess fire-eating is out of the question,” Penn said, shaking his head at the low ceiling.

“You boys eat fire?” Candella asked eagerly.

Penn nodded, stepping down from the stage. “Yeah, but not in here,” he said. There’s no ventilation above the stage, and the room might fill up with too much smoke.”

Candella stepped up onto the stage to see what Penn was talking about. “We have one other room with a stage,” he said after a moment. “It might actually be a little better for you guys, anyway. Follow me.”

He lead them back over the pool and through the casino to a small stage that looked like it hadn’t seen foot traffic in a few years. Candella quickly turned on the lights so the magicians could inspect the work space.

“Well,” Penn said after a few minutes of looking at the area. “This place has wings and a backstage,” he said. He looked up into the rigging. “And fly space,” he said, mildly impressed. He wandered backstage, leaving Teller to inspect the house area.

“It’s perfect,” Penn said after a moment as he walked back onto the stage.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

As Teller pushed a chair across the stage, trying to find just the perfect place for it, Tommy walked into the small theatre and took a seat next to Penn in the back row.

“What’s he doing?” Tommy asked, pointing up to Teller.

“Driving me insane,” Penn said flatly without looking up from the newspaper he was reading.

Tommy looked back up at the stage and watched as Teller nudged the chair to the left about two inches.

“I just wanted to make sure that we’re cool,” he said finally. “I meant no disrespect.”

Penn looked up from his paper and slid his cherry red headphones down to his neck. “No,” he said. “We’re not cool. We were never cool. We’re never gonna be cool.”

He lost himself in his headphones again, cranking the volume until the Sex Pistols drowned out even the scraping of Teller’s chair against the hard wood stage. Taking the hint, Tommy got up and walked back toward the back door of the theatre. He looked back up to the stage again to see Teller marking the spot where the chair was supposed to stand with bright blue tape. As soon as Tommy was gone, Teller whistled at Penn, not realizing that he was being ignored. When Penn didn’t respond, Teller threw the roll of blue spike tape at Penn, sending it tearing through the newspaper his partner held in his hands. Teller jumped back slightly as Penn jumped to his feet. He inhaled sharply through his teeth, looking around the theatre.

“He gone?” Penn asked.

Teller nodded nervously.

Shaking his head, Penn turned off his walkman and put it down on his seat along with what was left of his newspaper. He walked up to the stage, kicking one of the legs of the chair lightly. He sat down and looked straight up.

“You want me right here?” he asked, looking at his partner.

Teller nodded again.

“Okay,” Penn said. “Right here. Get the stuff.”

Teller rushed backstage and dug Penn’s gear from one of the footlockers. He brought the fire wand and the lamp oil out and handed them to Penn. They didn’t have a candle yet, so he used Penn’s Zippo. Penn dipped the bulb of the wand into the lamp oil and let Teller light the wand, casting dancing orange light across the stage. Silently, Penn practiced his routine, putting out the flame and relighting it with his mouth. He went on for a few minutes until finally, he held the flame on his mouth while Teller lit a cigarette off of it. Penn blew out the flame that danced on his mouth and licked his lips as Teller crushed out the cigarette; such a foul habit, but a wonderful stage prop.

Penn looked up into the rigging, satisfied with what he saw. The vent system had done exactly what it was designed for; there was hardly any smoke hanging off of the lights. He looked down at the notebook on the edge of the stage to see what other potential bits they’d be able to do in the space.

“Let’s do Cuffed,” he suggested. “Do they have a bench we could drag out here?”

Teller looked around quickly and shrugged. Liking the idea, he stepped back stage again and dug the handcuffs out of one of the open trunks. On his way back out to the stage, he picked up another chair and dragged it out to the stage. Again, he had to find just the right place, so Penn jumped down and retreated to the back of the house, where he’d be more easily able to ignore his partner.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #8

Ten minutes before the plane landed at McCarran, one of the cheery flight attendants woke the sleeping passengers, making sure that they heard the information about landing procedure. Victoria looked out the window, seeing for the first time the glitter of the strip casinos in the early morning haze. Penn and Teller both leaned over her, trying to steal a glimpse for themselves before the plane made its final descent onto the runway. There was no ice on the runway to worry about in the desert, making for a smooth landing. Despite having only a fraction of the seats in the plane filled, the captain still made his “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” announcement, as though he were expecting the cabin to erupt in cheers and applause.

As Penn stood to pull everything from the overhead compartments, his neck cracked violently, making it clear that a six-hour nap in an airplane seat was never a good idea. As he pulled everything down, Teller stood in the aisle and put himself back in order, re-tying his tie and sliding into his jacket.

They walked through the de-boarding area to the escalators that lead to baggage claim. Their carrousel was number thirteen; on the clear opposite end of the long, cavernous room. Above them was the rest of the airport, the fluorescent lights dimming out the feint sunrise that tried to shine through the large plate windows. As they neared the carrousel with the few other passengers that shared the flight with them, Teller noticed a tall man in dark clothing seated on the metal edge of the conveyor belt. It wasn’t until they were only feet away from the carrousel that Teller realized who was waiting for them. He tried to turn around to run, but the man quickly reached out and grabbed Teller’s shoulder, spinning him around.

“Cool it, Turbo,” the Brooklyn accent said and he straightened the Magician’s lapels.

“Michael Candella?” Penn asked.

Tommy looked at Penn blankly, not sure if he really heard what he thought he heard. “No,” he said. “Tommy. You did a little bit of work for me last year.”

Penn looked down at Teller, not realizing who had been sent to meet them until he saw Teller nervously fidgeting. Teller met his partner’s eyes and silently pleaded with him to turn right back around and go home.

“Oh, fuck no!” Penn spat out when everything hit him at once. A few of the travelers at the carousel looked at him nervously. “No, you almost got my partner killed twice,” Penn hissed under his breath. “Where’s a phone?”

He started to walk back to the escalators, but Tommy grabbed him, bracing himself in case the giant of a man turned around swinging.

“Listen,” Tommy said, pushing Penn across the walkway and out of earshot of the other travelers. “What happened to the other guy had nothing to do with me,” he said quietly. “When I heard about the shit they pulled at Joe’s—”

“You tried to drown my fucking partner,” Penn snapped. He pointed across the walkway to Teller. “See that man standing right over there? Your guys busted his rig not once, but twice! He almost drowned. Forget what happened later that night, not to mention what I thought had happened. That was all a direct result of what happened at the show.” He held his arm out, trying to create a barrier between the gangster and his partner.

Tommy shook his head. He started to say something, but changed his mind. “What?” he said simply. He turned to look at Teller for real this time, watching for a few moments as the small magician busied himself by pulling a large footlocker off of the conveyor belt, allowing it to slam down onto the floor.

“That wasn’t you?” Penn asked, just as confused as Tommy. “The guys down there at Times Square that night — they were your guys, right?”

“That I don’t deny,” Tommy said simply. “A couple of them work as technical… something up with NBC, but when they’re up there, I have no communication with them.”

Penn peered around Tommy, noticing that his partner needed help. He pushed past the Brooklyn native as he kept talking.

“Well, something happened, and it looked an awful lot like sabotage,” Penn said as he helped Teller pull the foot lockers off of the carousel. “And you’re gonna stand here and tell my partner to his face that you had nothing to do with it?”

Tommy watched as the two men pulled a third footlocker off of the carousel. “Are all these yours?” he asked, not believing the site unfolding before him.

Penn looked up at him coldly as he stacked the massive footlockers. Taking a hint, Tommy turned to Teller, placing his hand on the magician’s shoulder. Teller tried to back off, but his heels were pressed tightly against the heavy wall he and Penn had stacked next to the carousel.

“I swear on my mother’s grave that I had nothing to do with… what ever happened to you,” Tommy said, looking Teller in the eyes.

Teller looked at Tommy, unblinking for a few moments, forcing a quick smirk. Not quite understood, and not at all forgiven. He broke away from Tommy to help with the fourth foot locker.

“I hope this all fits,” Tommy said as he walked away from the small group to grab a cart.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

Tommy rode with them in the limo Candella had sent for them, while their trunks and duffel bags were sent separately in a van, which followed close behind. The ride to the Tropicana Hotel was fast; only about ten minutes on the surface streets. When they pulled up to the hotel’s valet bay, an older gentleman in a suit rushed over to open the door.

“Mister Jillette,” He said, pumping Penn’s hand vigorously. “Welcome to Las Vegas.”

Penn smiled and nodded slightly, stepping aside to let Teller and Victoria out. Candella greeted both of them the same way he had greeted Penn, never letting his smile fade.

“We’ve put you in the Island Tower,” he said, leading them up the stone stairs and into the main lobby of the hotel. “It’s just opened last week, so unfortunately, we were only able to clear two rooms. I hope that’s not going to be a problem.”

Penn looked down at Teller, and they both shook their heads. “No, we should be fine,” Penn said. “Thanks.”

“We tried very hard to meet the rest of your requests,” Candella continued. “Some were… most unusual, but we managed.” He led them through the casino floor and up a round escalator to a hallway. Windows lining both sides of the hall looked over the pool, which was filled despite being the middle of November.

“The pool’s open this late in the year?” Victoria asked, looking down at the tropical lagoon façade below their feet.

“Yes,” Candella said as he continued down the hall. “It’s for the party guests. Although, you’re definitely welcome to enjoy all of our amenities this week as well.”

Victoria shuddered, thinking of how cold the water must be, and shook her head. Candella led them to the tower elevators and rode with them up to the 19th floor. “I’m certain you must be exhausted after the late flight — I do apologize for the hour — so I’ll show you the theatre and take you on a tour of the hotel and casino area this afternoon. He handed Penn and Teller each a key, as he unlocked one of the large wooden doors.

“The other suite is just like this one, and right next door,” He said as he let them in. “I’ll have your luggage sorted out and sent up here as soon as possible. I’m assuming all of your props are in those big trunks I saw them unloading down there?”

Penn nodded. “Yeah, but we might need to get a few more things,” he said. “We still don’t have a complete set worked out yet.”

Candella nodded. “I understand,” he said as he stepped toward the door. “We’re happy to provide anything you need.”

He walked out of the room and closed the door behind him. Ready to go back to sleep, Teller let himself fall back onto the queen sized bed. Ignoring Teller, Penn opened the mini-fridge and peered inside.

“I think this is your room, buddy,” he said, picking up a school bus yellow can of Yoo-hoo.

Teller nodded, knowing that no one would see it. Every muscle in his body ached from the six-hour ride from New York, and the brand new mattress under the fluffy new quilt made him just want to fall asleep right there.

“We only got two rooms,” Penn reminded his little group. He looked up at Victoria and smiled. “You wanna be my roommate?”

Victoria laughed nervously and shook her head. She sat down on the sofa that sat beneath the large bay window, which provided a panorama of the pool below and the Strip, which was just beginning to come to life in the early morning light. “I think I’d rather stay in here,” she said.

Penn glanced over at Teller just in time to see him shrug lightly. It took a lot to bother Teller.

“Well, if you wanna actually, I don’t know, have some fun,” he said with a dopey grin as he put the Yoo-hoo can back into the refrigerator, “I’m right next door.”

“Just get out of here,” Victoria said, laughing lightly.

Penn smiled and left the room.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #7

As they situated themselves in their upgraded first class seats, Penn’s impossibly high-tech watch beeped twice, signaling the hour like a digital grandfather clock. If his watch was synched up correctly with the big clock at the terminal, the 747 still wouldn’t leave the runway for another ten minutes. They slowly settled themselves into their row as the flight attendants rushed around making sure everything was in take-off order.

“I’ve never been to Las Vegas,” Victoria said as she took her seat in between both men. “I wonder if the lights will still be on when we fly over in the morning.”

Teller quickly undid his seatbelt and stood up, offering his window seat to Victoria. The two of them switched seats just before one of the flight attendants hurried up to their row.

“Is everything alright over here?” she asked sweetly.

Teller nodded as he took off his jacket and draped it over the back of his seat. Hoping it would make the too-cheery-to-be-for-real flight attendant go away sooner, he took his seat and buckled in. Moments after the three of them were finally situated, the captain’s voice came over the loud speaker, echoing slightly in the all but empty cabin. As he went through the rigmarole of where the exits were and how to make the seat cushions float, one of the attendants stood in the front of the cabin and acted out the motions for everything, as though she were a mime.

“Is that what you look like when I’m doing my patter?” Penn joked in Teller ear. He said it every time they flew anywhere, but Teller still laughed at it as Penn said the words.

As soon as the captain was finished with his spiel, the jet began to slowly move across the dark tarmac as it taxied out to the runway. The whole cabin lurched as the plane suddenly began to pick up speed. The small amounts of ice on the roads during the drive to JKF sent panic through Victoria, causing her to unwittingly squeeze Teller’s hand in a death grip. Teller gasped under his breath as she crushed his hand in hers. Not sure how to escape the situation, he grabbed onto the sleeve of Penn’s jacket with his free hand. Startled, Penn looked over to see what Teller’s problem was.

“Jesus christ,” Penn said as he pried Teller’s hand free. He allowed Victoria to squeeze his hand, as it wasn’t as easy to break. “Don’t hurt him,” Penn continued after a moment. “Those hands are my meal ticket.”

Victoria laughed nervously as the plane continued to pick up speed. Slowly, the giant wings began to create the physics-defying lift, and the steel bird gently left the tarmac with a small jump. As soon as the beast was airborne, Victoria opened her eyes and let go of Penn’s hand. He shook his hand in the air a few times, letting the tendons stretch out once more.

“Jesus christ, that’s quite the grip,” he said.

“Yeah, well,” Victoria replied nervously. She looked out her window at the twinkling city below them, watching as even the tallest buildings became small little flickering lights.

Penn grabbed Teller’s wrist lightly, looking at his partner’s hand. “You alright,” he asked quietly. Making sure everything was in perfect working order, Penn grabbed Teller’s right hand and checked the cut on his palm.

Teller nodded and took his hand back, knowing that Penn meant well, despite his jokes about doing nothing while Teller did all the work. He reached up above him and flicked off the small light, darkening their little area by just the smallest bit. Reaching into his pocket, he realized that in all the confusion that evening, he’d forgotten his mask. He sighed and shook his head as he took his tie off and draped it over his eyes. Before his travel mates took his cue to take a nap before lading in Sin City, Teller was asleep, oblivious to the sounds of the engines and the squeaky carts the flight attendants pushed through the aisles every so often.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #6

They unloaded all of their gear from Victoria’s Suburban Utility Vehicle in the long-term parking garage at JFK, stacking their bags on top of four large footlockers, each covered with stickers from all over the country. Penn dug a ten dollar note out of his pocket and handed it to Teller, quickly pointing to a line of luggage carts. The carts the airport provided were always too small, but they couldn’t fit their custom rig in the bed of Victoria’s truck. Teller changed the note for quarters, which he used to free three carts from the rack. He awkwardly dragged the carts over to his party and helped as they tried to stack their luggage onto the three narrow carts.

“This isn’t gonna work, man,” Penn said, frustrated. “Go get another one.”

Teller nodded and fetched a fourth cart from the rack. He situated it up against one of the other carts and took off his belt, using it to fasten the two carts together. Stacking the footlockers on the two carts was only slightly less difficult, but after a bit of careful juggling, he and Penn managed to fit all four lockers together. They used the other two carts to hold all of the carry on items and a collective three weeks of personal luggage, all of which was awkwardly pushed into the terminal. Glad to be inside and out of the biting cold night, they quickly unzipped their coats, and made their way to check in. According to Candella, their tickets would be at the Delta desk for an early morning flight to McCarran. Teller and Victoria hung back a little bit with the carts as Penn stepped up to the counter to claim the tickets. When the clerk wasn’t looking, Penn managed to steal a glance at the monitor, not at all surprised that they had been booked in coach. Having feared this, and thus planned ahead, Penn slid his hand into his pocket, wrapping his fingers around his little secret weapon.

“Your ID, sir?” The clerk asked.

Penn smiled as he slid his driver’s license across the counter. It took a moment for the over-worked clerk to catch the red ball of fuzz glued to the laminated surface, but once she noticed it, she couldn’t take her eyes off of the 3D photograph. She looked up at Penn to ask what was stuck to his license to see the magician smiling like a nutcase and sporting a large, foam red clown nose over his own. The clerk laughed shrilly, her cackles piercing the quiet din on the terminal.

“I needed that,” she said once she managed to get a hold of herself. She handed the license back to Penn and turned to her computer, still laughing to herself. “Do you have any luggage?” she asked as she started printing the tickets.

“Yeah,” Penn said, signaling Teller and Victoria.

The two them pushed the heavy carts up to the counter and unloaded the trunks and bags to be weighed.

“All this is yours?” the clerk asked. She grimaced at the sight. “Good lord.”

“Yep,” Penn said as he loaded one of the footlockers onto the scale. “We’re traveling light this week.”

The clerk laughed at the joke as she checked the weight on the scale. “What’s heavy travel like?”

Penn smiled at her as he pulled the first footlocker off of the scale and replaced it with another.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

There was no line at the metal detector by the time the three of them were done checking their luggage. As Penn began to stack the carry-on bags onto the x-ray machine, his partner leaned against the wall, suddenly hyperventilating. He dropped his attaché case by his feet, which hit the ground with a heavy thwack, turning every head in the vicinity in his direction.

“Is he alright?” the security guard asked as Teller sat down on the ground, still leaning against the wall.

“He doesn’t travel well,” Victoria said convincingly as he loosened Teller’s tie for him. “He needs some water.”

The security guard turned on his heels, looking for a bottle of water near by. While the guard’s attention was focused away from the metal detector, Penn pulled a regulation shot put from his carry-on bag and rolled it on the ground through the detector, setting off the alarm. The guard turned around quickly, to see Penn still standing on their side of the gate.

“Is that place open?” Penn asked, pointing to a small coffee shop not far from the metal detectors.

The guard nodded. Before he could say anything, Penn ran over to the shop to fetch some water for his partner. He brought back a small, over-priced bottle of tap water and unscrewed the lid before handing it down to his partner.

“Go ahead,” Victoria said to Penn. “We’ll catch up.”

Penn nodded. “You sure?”

Victoria nodded back. Penn stepped over to the detector with the guard and emptied his pockets into the plastic tub next to the gate.

“Think that’s everything,” he said as he stepped through. The alarm stayed silent this time. He gathered up his things and walked around the corner toward their gate. As the guard turned his attention back to Teller and Victoria, Penn quickly stepped back into view and bent over to pick up the shot put from against the wall.

Teller waited a few more moments before deciding it was safe to stand back up. He finished off the water in the bottle and absently handed it off to Victoria.

“You alright?” she asked softly.

Still panting from having actually made himself hyperventilate, Teller nodded. They walked over to the detector and performed the required ritual before continuing on to the gate. They rounded the corner to find Penn waiting for them, leaning happily against the wall. He took Teller’s hand in his own and shook it.

“Nicely done,” he congratulated.

Teller smiled and nodded, reciprocating the sentiment. He quickly straightened his tie and took his attaché case back from Victoria just as they arrived at their gate.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #5

“I’m telling ya,” Penn insisted as he walked his girlfriend up the flaking cement stairs, making sure she didn’t slip on any ice that may have formed on the already slick surface. “You’ll love him. He’s a really nice guy.”

Sandy huffed lightly. She’d done an outstanding job at avoiding meeting the man Penn called his partner so far. She’d seen the two of them perform on television, and something about the smaller man Penn chose to keep in his company gave her a bad vibe. He always seemed like he was plotting something bad.

Penn hit the buzzer for Teller’s apartment, pushing the button in a rhythmless pattern, until he heard the click of the door being unlocked. He quickly pulled it open and stepped out of the way to let Sandy into the building. Once inside, Penn unzipped his heavy suede jacket and lead his girlfriend up the stairs to the third floor. Between the creaky banister and stained carpeting, Sandy was already done with the experience and ready to go home. They walked in silence to the end of the hall; Teller’s door was the last on the left. Penn knocked on the frame, startled at how quickly Teller opened the door. He stood in the way of Penn and his date, looking blankly at both of them, wearing an apron around his waist that was so badly stained with who knew what, the original colour was impossible to tell.

“You gonna let us in, you creep?” Penn asked as he pushed past Teller and hung his jacket up on the hook by the door.

Teller stepped aside and let Sandy enter. The door opened up into the TV room, which, like the rest of his apartment, was oddly out of place from the rest of the building. The paint on the walls was new — or at least recently cleaned — and the carpeting was a different quality from that in the hall and on the stairs. Teller’s house was overly-cluttered with strange objects from all over the world and cages full of doves and bugs and other assorted creepy-crawlies, but despite his packrat nature, his apartment was clean and orderly. As Penn walked through the TV room into the small, subway-tiled kitchen, a small black cat curled around his ankle.

“Get away from me, Norman,” Penn spat as he shoved the cat away with his foot.

He looked into the pots on the stove to see what Teller had been preparing. A bubbling cauldron of red tomato sauce was all Penn needed to know. As he lifted the lid to take a quick taste, Teller rushed up to the stove and smacked Penn’s hand away with a wooden spoon. A habit he had no doubt picked up from Mam Teller. As Penn put the lid back, he noticed a large butcher’s knife sitting out of place on the counter. Butcher’s knives didn’t go with pasta. Teller saw Penn glance at the knife and quickly tried to put it away, but Penn grabbed his partner’s arm, stopping him mid-action.

“You even think about it,” Penn said quietly, “and I’ll break your goddamn arm. I’m bigger than you; don’t think I won’t.”

His threats always sounded false, but Teller seemed to respond to this one differently. He slowly nodded and clicked the butcher’s knife back up onto the magnetic strip on the wall with the other knifes. He locked eyes with Penn just as the larger let go of his arm. Teller watched as his partner walked out to the TV room to join his girlfriend before untying his apron and walking out to join them. He draped the apron over the back of his falling-apart rocker and fell into it.

“Making sure everything’s safe?” Sandy asked Penn, making sure that Teller heard her. Teller chose to ignore the remark.

“What?” Penn demanded, jumping to his partner’s defense. “Are you accusing him of trying to poison us?”

Sandy didn’t respond.

“I trust this man with my life,” Penn informed her. “A little respect is all I ask.”

Teller tapped on the coffee table at his feet and shook his head. Penn took the hint and backed off. He leaned back into the sofa, slapping his knees nervously.

“What’re we watching tonight?” he asked, jumping to his feet.

Teller pointed to a black paper box on top of his television, which Penn picked up. Aliens. Teller had picked it up from the video store earlier in the afternoon while picking up some last-minute essentials. As Penn stood by the television, reading the back of the box, Teller’s buzzer sounded again. He reached up and hit the button, unlocking the door downstairs.

“That could be anybody,” Sandy pointed out. “Why don’t you check who it is before just letting them in?”

Teller smiled at her slyly, knowing full well that she wasn’t expecting an answer. A few moments later, a light knock on the door cut through the awkward silence. Teller hoisted himself out of his rocker and opened the door for Victoria.

“Hey, you,” she said before quickly kissing Teller on the forehead. Teller closed the door sat back down as Victoria stepped into the room.

Penn put the tape back down on the television and turned to greet Victoria.

“You all ready?” he asked before kissing her on the cheek.

Victoria nodded. “Yep,” she said. “My stuff’s all in the car.”

Penn smiled as he turned to Sandy. “Vicky,” he said, holding his hand out toward his girlfriend. “This is Sandy. I’ve told you about her.”

“Of course,” Victoria said, holding her hand out to Sandy. Sandy refused the gesture.

“Sandy,” Penn continued. “This is Vicky Jackson. She’s an actor on Saturday Night Live.”

“Charmed,” Sandy said flatly. She looked at the outfit Victoria wore. “I didn’t know drag queen was in vogue this season.”

Victoria flashed a hurt look at Penn before hanging her coat on the hook by the door. She quickly glanced around the room, finding the sitting options limited. Teller quickly jumped up from his spot and offered it to Victoria, taking his apron off the back of the chair. Victoria smiled at him and sat as Teller walked back into the kitchen to finish with dinner.

“I feel kinda bad for leaving the kids with my mother for Thanksgiving,” Victoria said, secretly glad to have a break.

“Don’t worry about it,” Penn assured as he picked up a record from his small collection that he kept on Teller’s shelf. “Besides; Christmas is the one that counts.”

He opened the lid on the turntable and gently dropped the black disc over the pin.

“I guess you’re right,” Victoria admitted.

She smiled at Penn, silently thanking him for the free trip out of the city. Penn returned the smile and flipped on the power to the turn table. Improvised piano jazz filled the small apartment; a sound that was only recently introduced to Penn. It was different from the rest of his collection, out of place among the Residents and the Velvets, but Penn was hopelessly hooked.

“I wanna do that some day,” he said to himself as he sat back down next to Sandy.

“What do you do?” Victoria asked Sandy, awkwardly trying to spark up a conversation with the current flavour of the week.

“I’m a floor manager at Macy’s,” Sandy said bluntly.

“Really?” Victoria asked. “You look familiar.”

Penn smiled and nudged his girlfriend. “She was at Rocky Horror when we went a few weeks ago,” he said, proud that he’d managed to deviate from his usual choice in women; if only just a little bit.

“Oh!” Victoria said, clapping her hands together. “Magenta, right?” Penn nodded, a smile spread across his face. “You were wonderful.”

“Thanks,” Sandy said. “Maybe I can get a job doing what you do. Would I have to screw the producer, too, or is that just something that no-talent bimbos have to do?”

Victoria gasped in outrage, and started to get to her feet, but Penn quickly sat forward, trying to get between both women before anything could happen.

“What the hell?” he demanded of Sandy. “I bring you here to meet my friends, and you insult everyone? Jesus christ.”

Penn shook his head and retreated back to the kitchen where Teller had started water to boil for pasta. Penn lightly grabbed Teller’s arm and leaned in close to avoid being overheard.

“Whatever you were planning on doing before…. ya know, do it,” he said.

Teller cocked his head, not quite following the new set of instructions.

“I won’t yell at ya,” Penn assured. “Go ahead. She might as well have a reason to hate you, so go ahead and give her one.”

Teller smiled, an clearly plotting one of those evil thoughts Sandy had suspected him of doing. He plucked his shiny big butcher’s knife back from the magnet strip and pulled a large glass bowl from the cupboard above the counter. If Penn wanted him to use his powers for evil, he wasn’t going to disappoint.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

As everyone gathered around the small table in the dining room, Teller quickly set the place for everyone. He rushed to get everyone a plate and forks and a bowl for salad, realizing suddenly that his rent-controlled Midtown apartment wasn’t fit for entertaining three people. He placed the large glass bowl full of steaming vermicelli noodles awkwardly in the middle of the table and pulled out his chair.

“Teller, you forgot the sauce,” Penn pointed out before anyone had a chance to dish up.

Teller sighed and picked up the butcher’s knife from the table. He quickly brought it down on his wrist and shoved his hand into the bowl of pasta, gritting his teeth as the bowl filled with red. While Sandy screeched in terror and reeled backwards, Victoria and Penn squealed with delight, laughing wildly at the show. Sandy angrily jumped to her feet and stomped out of the dining room.

“Oh, what’s the matter, baby?” Penn called sarcastically at her as she threw the front door open.

“Fuck you!” Sandy yelled before slamming the door shut.

Teller hissed through his teeth as he cleaned off his hands with his napkin. Even after wiping the sauce off of his hand, his skin was bright pink, slightly burnt.

“Too hot?” Penn asked as he reached across the table to take a look at the damage.

Teller nodded as he shook his hand in the air, trying desperately to relieve the sting.

“You’ll be fine,” Penn assured. “Don’t worry.”

Teller nodded and cleared Sandy’s setting from the table. Once everyone had dished up, Teller cleared away the unnecessary objects and brought a bright red binder to the table. As they ate, Penn and Teller flipped through the dog-eared pages, trying desperately to find ninety minutes of material that didn’t require a Director of Covert Activities; a task that was far from easy.

“You wanna learn some magic, Vicky?” Penn offered, not entirely in jest.

Victoria shook her head. “No, thanks,” she said. “I prefer to watch.”

“Damn,” Penn said under his breath.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

Twenty minutes into Aliens, the magicians had forgotten all about trying to come up with bits for the private show the next Monday. Acidic-blooded creatures from outer space were far more interesting.

The three of them sat snuggled up to one another on the sofa, Victoria in the middle. Penn had made popcorn, but it sat virtually untouched on the coffee table, as was usually the case when they watched horror films. As the crew slowly crept through the colony’s medical lab, the tension in the room was so thick, it would take a chainsaw to cut it. Slowly, Burke began to wander through the lab on his own, sticking his face up close to the face huggers that floated lifelessly in large glass jars, when one sprung back to life, lurching for Burke’s head. The three on the sofa jumped at the stupid cat scare, Teller letting out a little scream. He quickly covered his mouth and laughed nervously.

By the end of the movie, they were all noticeably shaken. Penn flicked on the lights, which didn’t put him at ease in the least. He reached for the hook where he’d hung his jacket, only now realizing that he’d neglected to grab his waistcoat and vest from Sandy’s car.

“Whoops,” he said to himself as he pulled his tie from his coat pocket. As Teller retreated back to his bedroom to get changed, Penn stood by the door and fumbled with his tie.

“Here,” Victoria said, stepping over to Penn. She took his tie and quickly tied a perfect double knot in the cheap silk.

“Teller doesn’t still do that for you, does he?” she asked.

Penn chuckled nervously, knowing he’d been caught. “I’m getting better,” he insisted.

Teller stepped out of his bedroom, buttoning his shirt. He hadn’t bothered changing out of the black Ramones T-shirt he’d worn that day, and it showed the eagle and baseball bat logo rather clearly through the thin blue work shirt. Penn would have pointed it out, if not for the fact that he himself would only be half-dressed.

“We gotta swing by the office and the Pennderosa real quick,” Penn said as he slid into his jacket. “We got time for that?”

Teller checked his watch and nodded. Their plane didn’t board for another four hours, which left plenty of time to do what they needed to do. Quickly, Teller tucked in his shirt and tied his tie before retreating back to his room for his luggage. It had been a while since his stupidly big duffel bag had seen any use, but the absurd weight still didn’t bother him, even after all that time. He dropped it on the floor and slid into his jacket, ready to get away from the cold weather.

“You’ll want a coat,” Penn said as he pulled Teller’s bright red winter coat out of the closet. “It was stupidly cold already this evening on the way over here.” He quickly checked his pockets, making sure he had everything he needed. “That neighbour kid gonna feed your zoo while we’re gone?” he asked

Teller nodded and put his coat on over his suit jacket before grabbing his duffel bag. Tossing his keys to his partner, who would more easily be able to lock up, Teller walked out to the hall, followed shortly by Penn and Victoria.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #4

As Penn screamed at the Playboy cutout taped to his book, Teller freed himself from the straightjacket, letting it fall to the bed of spikes below. With no time left to enjoy his freedom, Teller reached up for the hook, which hung from his bar, and used it to close the trapdoor on the bed of spikes and push a small rug over the trapdoor. Any second now. He threw the hook into the wings at stage left and again pulled himself up to the bar, a maneuver he’d done countless times before, but never with so much pressure.

“Casey had struck out!” Penn spat out on cue.

As Penn jumped to his feet, Teller unhooked his inversion boots from the bar and flipped himself over as to land on his feet. Exhausted, but full of joy and relief, Teller raised his left fist high into the air as Penn stepped up next to him. Victory, and something he never wanted to do again. But the audience loved it; the screaming applause was deafening, which meant that they’d have to keep it as a permanent bit.

“My name is Penn Jillette, this is my partner Teller. We’re Penn & Teller. Goodnight!” Penn shouted over the din just before the camera light turned off. He looked down at his partner and clapped him on the back. “Nicely done, Teller,” he said.

Teller nodded, reciprocating the compliment. Red-faced and out of breath, Teller bent to take off his inversion boots, which had already somehow scuffed his shiny new wingtips. As Penn rushed off to watch Lou Reed perform, Teller walked back to the green room, where he had left his attaché case. Jon and Victoria were in the room, each only having one sketch tonight.

“How’d it go?” Jon asked as Teller closed the door.

Teller gave him a thumbs-up and nodded.

“I’ve stopped watching,” Victoria said. “You two scare me.”

As he sat down next to Victoria on the sofa, Teller shook his head. Everything they did was completely safe. It wasn’t like they were shooting each other in the face with .357 revolvers.

Teller’s attaché case was right where he had left it — under his jacket on the sofa. The SNL guys were amazing at leaving things alone, potentially booby-trapped or not, which sort of made Teller a little sad to be leaving the show. Not wanting to think about it now, Teller took off his wingtips and dug his shoe polish out of his case. He quickly took off the lid and placed the can on the coffee table in front of him as he produced a nearly-empty book of matches with his left hand. He struck the match and let it drop into the brown shoe polish, watching as it slowly turned into a can of burning oil. As the flame spread, Teller quickly pulled a small roll of gauze out of his case and wrapped the cut on his hand, not wanting to get any of the polish where it didn’t belong.

“Jesus Christ, Teller,” Jon protested as he jumped up to open the door. “I hate that smell.”

Mocking Jon, Teller inhaled deeply through his nose and smiled. There was something about the smell of burning shoe polish was almost relaxing in a way. After letting it get plenty melted, Teller carefully smothered the bright orange flame with the tin lid and pulled something that could have been a T-shirt at one point from his case and dipped it in the hot oil on the table. Slowly, he smeared the oil across the leather of his wingtips, making sure that he didn’t miss a spot. He tried to not get the grease on the fresh gauze wrapped around his hand, but there was no controlling it; that stuff went everywhere no matter how careful you were. The cut on his hand wasn’t that bad—he’d managed to do the bit without any dressing and didn’t have any problems, but he was still leery about it.

By the time he finished both shoes, the polish had begun to harden again. Looking at the clock mounted on the wall, Teller pulled a horse hair brush from his bag and began buffing off the dried polish. Once most of the excess was off, Teller spat onto the leather, eliciting a groan of disgust from Jon.

“That’s disgusting,” Jon said flatly. “You make me sick, you know that?”

Teller ignored the actor and continued to buff his shoes to a high shine. Teller had grown rather fond of Jon over the months, though he still had trouble telling when he was being serious, and when he was in comedian mode.

Just as Teller finished fixing his shoes, a runner stepped into the green room to inform the three of them that the curtain call was in two minutes. Victoria lightly slapped Teller’s thigh as she stood up. She walked over to the door, and waited with Jon as the magician quickly tied his shoes. His hands were a mess, but he didn’t have time to wash up now. He quickly put his jacket on and the three of them walked to the studio, where the rest of the cast had already assembled around Sam Kinnison. Penn was hovering over Lou Reed on the other end of the crowd, having completely forgotten that he was there with Teller. Somehow, that didn’t bother his partner, though. Teller was content to spend his time with his friends instead of his partner for once.

“The camera’s going to see that mess,” Jon pointed out, referring to Teller’s hands.

Teller shrugged helplessly, knowing that he should have waited until after the curtain call to fix his shoes. There was nothing he could do about it now, so umpteen skidillion American home viewers would have to just wonder what Teller had been doing after their bit.

As Kinnison shouted his thank-yous over the closing theme and insane crowd, Teller calmly pushed his way through the crowd toward Julia. As her attention was fixed on their host, Teller leaned close to her from behind and whispered something in her ear. Before she was able to turn around to see who was trying to talk to her, Teller lost himself in the crowd.

“What’d he say?” Jon asked from her side.

Julia shook her head, signaling that she hadn’t heard what her co-star had said.

“Teller,” Jon clarified. “He’s never said anything to me. What’d he say to you?”

Julia whipped her head around, trying to see where Teller had disappeared to. After a few seconds of fruitless search, she turned back to Jon and shook her head. “He said ‘Thank you’,” she said, confused.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

Cast parties were a new phenomenon to Penn and Teller. Up until late in the year before, they had always worked alone, or on the same stage with one or two other separate billings. Before SNL, they never got together with their crew and ate pizza and donuts while making asses of themselves. Though alien as the concept was, it wasn’t a bad idea; in fact, any idea that involved free food was an idea that both Penn and Teller could get behind completely.

Penn made it his mission in life to get to know Lou Reed better, which meant that he continued to ignore his partner; something that the cast members Teller chose to sit with were able to get behind completely. It wasn’t that they disliked Penn, at least not the men anyway, but even for a bunch of opinionated satire writers, the magician could be a bit much at times.

As Penn conversed with Lou, one of Lorne’s assistants interrupted the conversation by tapping Penn on the shoulder.

“Mister Jillette, there’s a telephone call for you, sir” he said nervously.

Penn looked up at the assistant. “So?” he said, not wanting to leave his spot lest someone else snatch it away.

“He says it’s urgent.”

Urgent. Penn knew that it was Marc on the other line, begging for his job back. Usually, Penn would ignore the situation, but they desperately needed Marc, so grudgingly, Penn got up and followed the assistant to Lorne’s office.

“Yo,” Penn said as he picked up the phone on Lorne’s desk.

“Mister Jillette?” a strange voice asked on the other end. Penn picked up a light accent, but he couldn’t quite place it. The Bronx? He wasn’t sure, but he knew it wasn’t Marc.

“Yeah,” Penn confirmed. “Who is this?”

“My name is Michael Candella,” he said, as though it was a name Penn should have known. “I’m calling on behalf of Stephen Garret in Las Vegas.” Candella paused for a moment. “Yes, sweetheart, I’m talking to him right now,” he said distantly, as though he’d put the phone down for a moment. “I apologize, Mister Jillette.”

“What’s this about?” Penn asked. “I’ve never been to Las Vegas.”

“I work for Stephen Garret,” Candella said. “He owns several of the hotels here in the city, and his daughter will be celebrating her birthday next Monday—”

“We don’t do private parties anymore,” Penn interrupted. “I’m sorry to disappoint you.”

“You don’t understand, Mister Jillette,” Candella said. “What Sasha wants, Sasha gets.”

“Are you threatening me?” Penn demanded. He could see himself repeating a part of history that he’d rather pretend never happened.

“Not at all,” Candella said quickly. It was smooth and convincing, and Penn didn’t like it. “I’m offering you a job. What ever you boys made tonight, triple it.” He paused for a moment, choosing his words carefully. “And a free trip to Las Vegas. You said yourself that you’ve never seen our beautiful city before.”

Penn inhaled through his teeth and bounced on his toes a little bit. No. Not right. They didn’t need this again. This was going nowhere good. It was a private gig, so they’d probably get stiffed anyway. Penn turned to Lorne’s assistant, who still stood by the door.

“Go get Teller,” he said.

The assistant nodded and ran toward the green room.

“I have to talk to my partner,” Penn said uneasily. “Can — can I put you on hold?”

“Of course,” Candella said. “Just don’t disappear on me.”

Penn nodded and hit the mute button on the telephone before setting the receiver on the desk. He sat down in Lorne’s chair, taking the short amount of time it took for the assistant to find Teller to try to figure out a way to weasel out of the situation.

Teller walked into the room and shut the door behind him. He cast a confused look in Penn’s direction before taking a seat in front of the desk.

“There’s a gentleman on the telephone right now, and he’s offering us a lot of money to do a private party,” Penn informed his partner.

Teller shook his head. No private parties.

“He wants us to go to Vegas, and he’s offering us three times what we made tonight.”

Teller started to shake his head again, but stopped when he realized exactly what his partner had just said. They made more than decent money on the show — more than most people made in two months — and the man on the phone was willing to triple it? Teller licked his lips and looked out the window down at the dark studio below Lorne’s office.

“I know,” Penn said. “I don’t know what to do. I mean, it’s next weekend. Is that even enough time?”

Enough time? Of course. Without Marc? Probably not. Teller shook his head slightly and shrugged. No DCA meant that they’d be setting everything up by themselves again; not impossible, but not pleasant. There were also a slew of bits that they couldn’t do without Marc; the man was more important than he knew, and now he was gone. Chased off by stupid rumors and less-than-sane employers.

“Yeah, I know we can do it,” Penn said slowly, “but jesus christ. We probably won’t even be able to get out there until Tuesday, especially with the holiday next weekend.” He buried his face in his hands, torn between the offer and sticking to the “no private parties” agreement.

“I’ll tell him it’s not enough time,” Penn said finally, sitting up quickly.

Teller nodded, agreeing with his partner. They had to find a new DCA in time for their own show to open in less than a month. Penn hit the mute button on the telephone again and picked up the receiver from the desk. He checked to make sure that Candella was still on the other end and hit the speaker button so Teller could hear the conversation as well.

“Yeah,” Penn said, once he was sure that he hadn’t lost the call. “I spoke with my partner about the offer, and it’s just not enough time. Our guy that sets everything up quit on us yesterday. We’d need at least a week on the location to get everything set up.”

“That’s not an issue,” Candella said. “I can arrange for you boys to fly out as early as tomorrow night.”

Teller jumped up and hit the mute button again. He looked across the desk at Penn and shrugged, shaking his head slowly.

“Teller, it’s a good offer,” Penn insisted. “I think we should take it.”

Teller sighed and nodded. He wanted to take the offer just as badly as Penn did, but there was so much else going on that it would just be a disaster. Penn pushed the mute button again and leaned close to the speaker.

“Yeah,” Penn said slowly. “We’re game.”

“Great!” Candella said. “I’ll arrange for a flight tomorrow night. It’s just the two of you?”

“No, three,” Penn corrected automatically. Before he realized his mistake, Candella cut the connection.

“I guess we’re going to Vegas,” Penn said as he hung up the telephone.

He stood up and walked slowly around the desk to the door. They’d long since sworn off private parties, but this one just seemed like it was going to be a completely different beast. Penn lightly patted Teller’s shoulder as he walked past his counterpart and opened the door. Teller quickly stood up and followed Penn out of the office.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #3

“How’s that girlfriend of yours?” Marc asked over a cheap Japanese lunch.

Teller put his chopsticks down and stared unblinking at Marc. He knew that Penn had started the rumor, but at this point, there was nothing he could do about it.

“Oh, right,” Marc said, picking bits of meat he didn’t order out of his rice. “I forgot. You two aren’t dating.”

Teller still stared at him from across the table. He wasn’t in the mood for Hakata’s questionable cuisine in the first place, and couldn’t even remember how Marc had managed to talk him into the walk to Times Square. However it had happened, he was done and ready to leave.

“What?” Marc asked when he realized that his boss was still staring at him. After a few seconds of an awkward staring contest, Marc got the hint. “Fine,” he said, digging out his wallet. He put twenty five dollars on the table and followed Teller through the maze of tables.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

Teller sighed as he opened the door to the green room and flicked on the lights. There was a butterfly knife driven into the middle of the ply board top of the cheap card table, immediately enticing Teller. He pulled the knife out of the table and tried to shut it the way he had seen Penn handle similar knives countless times before, but he couldn’t get the moves right; they reminded him too much of juggling. As he played with the knife, Julia walked into the green room, unnoticed by Teller.

“Son-of-a-bitch,” Julia hissed, slamming the door shut.

She caught Teller off guard, making him jump. He slipped with the knife, slicing the palm of his hand open with the razor-sharp blade. Hissing sharply, he dropped the knife to the floor. Julia looked over from the counter in time to see Teller squeezing his hands together with a solid stream of crimson red flowing between his fingers.

“Oh, no,” Julia said, returning her attention to the coffee pot. “You already tried that one me, remember?”

Teller looked up at her helplessly, realizing that he’d just been caught crying wolf.

“The blood looked better last time, though,” Julia said, pouring an unhealthy amount of sugar into her coffee mug.

Teller held his hands out in front of himself, still squeezing his hands together, desperately trying to stop the bleeding. When Julia finally turned to face him again, Teller bared his teeth in desperation.

“Oh, my god, you really cut yourself,” she said, nearly dropping her mug. She put the mug down on the counter and pulled Teller to his feet. “Come over here, you idiot,” she said, dragging him to the sink. She turned on the water and shoved Teller’s hands under the icy stream.

“This isn’t gonna work,” she said after a few seconds. She quickly picked up a mucky old towel from the counter and wrapped it around Teller’s hand. “Come on,” she said.

She led Teller to the women’s dressing room and directed him to sit on a small chair in the corner. After a few moments of searching, she found the first aid kit in one of the make-up drawers and pulled out a few bandages. As Julia removed the towel and threw it in the sink, Teller noticed that he had cut himself across his palm near his thumb. He closed his eyes and banged his head against the plaster wall out of frustration with himself. Julia noticed, but didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t upset him further. She tried to stick the bandage to his hand, but couldn’t get the bandage to stay on his palm. Once she got it situated decently, she pulled a small roll of gauze out of the kit and wrapped Teller’s hand twice, just to be sure.

“Are you going to be alright?” She asked. Teller thought he heard sincerity in her voice.

He clenched his hand into a fist a few times before he was satisfied. He looked up at Julia and nodded, sighing deeply.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

Penn stepped off the elevator onto the 8th floor ready to get back to business with the proper straight jacket in his hands.

“Come on, Teller. Let’s go,” he said as he opened the green room door. To his surprise, Teller wasn’t napping on the sofa or raiding the disgusting little fridge; in fact, the room was empty.

“Goddamnit,” he hissed as he stepped back into the hall. He looked around, expecting to find his partner at least standing near by. “Teller!” he shouted as he began stomping down the hall.

Penn quickly glanced backstage, but found nobody. On his way back to the elevator, Penn stopped an intern who couldn’t have had a job on the floor for more than twenty minutes.

“Hey,” he said. “Have you seen my partner, Teller?”

“Yeah,” the intern said. “He was with that one lady. Julia.”

Penn thought about the statement for a moment. “You mean Victoria?” he asked.

The intern thought for a beat. “She’s the blonde one, right?” he asked.

Penn nodded. “Yes, the blonde,” he confirmed.

“Then yeah. He was with Julia.”

Penn sneered and waved the intern off and turned back around. He started making his way to the dressing rooms, finding only a few extras getting stoned in the Men’s dressing room. He shut the door and continued on his way before the actors even knew anything had happened. He stepped across the hall to the women’s dressing room, thinking that maybe someone in there might have seen his partner, and raised his hand to knock on the door. Before his fist made contact with the cold wood, the door swung open and Julia stepped out into the hall. They both jumped back, shouting slightly.

“Have you seen Teller?” Penn asked.

Teller stepped out from behind Julia, mild embarrassment spread across his face.

“What the hell are you doing in there?” Penn demanded, pulling his partner out to the hall by the lapel of his jacket.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

Marc found Penn in the house, seated with a group of writers; he seemed to be paying far too much attention to Jon, who was on stage, insisting that the lines one of the writers had in the script for him were garbage.

“What he’s doing here is much more funny than the actual bit,” Penn said as Marc took the seat next to him.

“How the hell do you do it?” Marc asked, ignoring Penn’s remark about Jon. “I don’t know how much more of him I can handle.”

“I warned you,” Penn said. “I believe the exact words I used were ‘don’t take him to lunch’.”

“Be honest with me,” Marc said. “Seriously. What is wrong with him? I can’t work with him if I don’t know.”

Penn forgot all about Jon and turned to Marc. “Ask me another stupid question like that, and you’re fired, Garland. Maybe he just doesn’t like you. I don’t think that’s true, but if it is, he probably doesn’t feel safe with you. He’s my partner, and your boss.”

“Find yourself a new DCA,” Marc said as he stood up. “I’m done.”

Marc walked out of the house, letting the heavy metal door to the hall slam shut behind him. Penn took a moment to try to figure out what Marc meant before jumping up to follow him out to the hallway.

“What do you mean, you’re done?” he demanded. “We’ve got a show tomorrow night. What the hell are we supposed to do?”

Marc shrugged. “Use Lorne’s guys for once. That’s what they’re for.”

He turned his back to Penn and started walking toward the elevator. Penn started to follow, but after only a few steps, he turned around and made his way to the green room, where he found Teller asleep on the sofa with the television on. Swinging Teller’s legs off of the sofa, Penn sat down and swatted the tattered silk tie off of his partner’s face. Startled and confused, Teller sat up to see what had just happened.

“I got your straight jacket from the office while you and Marc were out,” Penn said. “I must have grabbed the wrong one this morning.”

Teller blinked a few times, trying to find the apology in Penn’s words. He knew it was there, but his brain was still set to nap mode.

“Marc just quit on us,” Penn informed. “I’m hoping that he’s just upset and comes back tomorrow, but if not, we gotta find a new DCA. We can’t do this stuff without one.”

Teller shook his head slightly, still stuck on the business of Marc. He began to wonder if Marc quit because of what had happened at Hakata, but it didn’t seem like such a big deal. Penn could see that Teller wasn’t on the same level as he was, so he tossed the tie back to his partner and stood back up.

“Lorne wants us back out there in about an hour,” Penn said, still trying to figure out what to do losing their Director of Covert Activities and his partner’s almost paradoxical clumsiness. “Want me to come get you?”

Teller nodded as he lay back down on the sofa. He put his tie back over his eyes and was asleep before Penn shut the green room door.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #2

“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day; the score stood four to two with but one inning left to play.”

As Penn recited from memory the old Thayer poem, Teller hung above the stage by his ankles, strapped securely into a straight jacket. He worked slowly, trying to free himself from the certain doom that lay beneath him on the stage.

“So when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same, a sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game. A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast; for they thought if only Casey could take a whack at that. They’d put even money now with Casey at the bat.”

As Teller tried to work his arms free from the canvas sleeves, he realized that something wasn’t right. Less than a minute into the bit, and he was already falling behind Penn’s recital.

“But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake; the former was a lulu, the latter was a cake; so on that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat, for there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat. But Flynn let drive a single to the wonderment of all, and Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off that ball.”

Despite having the poem memorized, Penn kept his eyes fixed on the book, and the Playboy cutout he had taped to the page. Too into his reading, Penn failed to notice that his partner was falling behind.

“So when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred, there was Jimmy safe at second, ol’ Flynn was hugging third. Then from five-thousand throats or more there rose a lusty yell; it rumbled in the valley, it rattled in the dell; it knocked upon the mountain and then recoiled across the flat, for Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing at the bat.”

Penn quickly checked his watch, neglecting to check Teller’s progress. As he plunged back into his recital, his speed had increased to a barely-intelligible level.

“There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into in place; there was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.”

Teller’s hands weren’t even free. He was too far behind, and he knew it. Desperately, Teller tried to escape the old-fashioned way by dislocating his shoulder, but he couldn’t even get that far. The techies and writers watching the rehearsal in the house began roaring with laughter, which started a vicious cycle. Penn had to start shouting to be heard over the laughter, but as was Penn’s way, the louder his voice, the faster he spoke, until he was rattling at an impossible speed. This was it; either say something or get hurt really badly. Neither was something Teller wanted to do.

“Penn!” he shouted, hoping against hope that his deaf as a post partner would hear.

Penn didn’t hear, but Marc did. He quickly rushed out from the wings and stopped Penn before the punch line could be delivered. Penn looked up at his partner, still in the straight jacket and dangling upside down like a bat.

“Should I let him down?” Penn asked as he tossed his book on the chair next to him.

“Yeah, let’s get him down,” Marc said, kicking the horror-show bed of spikes out of the way.

Slowly, Penn lowered his partner down enough for Marc to unbuckle the straight jacket. Once he was freed from the leather and canvas contraption, Teller let his arms drop with a loud snap! as his shoulder popped back into place. He allowed himself to hang upside down, his fingers gracing the stage floor, as he caught his breath.

“Teller, man, I don’t know if you know this, but you’re heavy,” Penn said. “Get down before I drop your ass.”

Teller pulled himself up to the bar and unhooked his gravity boots, and with a rather ungraceful flip, dropped himself to the floor. As he bent down to take off the gravity boots, Penn let go of the rope, allowing the bar to fall heavily back to earth.

“What the hell happened?” he asked. “We’ve done this thing a million times. How did you fuck it up all of a sudden?”

Teller’s jaw fell open at his partner’s words, but rather than starting another argument, he shook his head and threw the inversion boots into the wings. It didn’t make sense to him either, but the dull throb in his shoulder told him that something just flat out broke down on him. He snatched the jacket from Marc, thinking that he knew exactly what had happened. After quickly checking the tag on the bottom, he threw it at Penn and rushed off the set. Ignoring Teller’s tantrum, Penn picked up the jacket and took a look at the tag.

“It’s the wrong goddamn jacket,” he said to himself. “How the hell did that happen?”

He threw the jacket back at Marc and followed his partner backstage.

« || »

Penn & Teller Take Las Vegas #1

He climbed the rickety stairs to their fourth floor office just knowing that he was about to fall and break his neck. He could barely see over the large cardboard box filled with several dozen raspberry-filled glazed doughnuts and four six-packs of cola and Yoo-hoo that he somehow found himself carrying up the stairs. He wasn’t even sure how he had gotten shafted with the labor-heavy job of lugging everything up to the office — it was usually on Penn’s duty roster; he was bigger, ergo it was fair division of labor.

Teller promptly dropped the box upon reaching the fourth floor landing. As he dug for his keys in his trousers pocket, he noticed a potentially dangerous hissing sound coming from the box at his feet. Looking down, he noticed the culprit almost at once. One of the cans of cola had ruptured — not too badly, but enough to allow the violently-shaken fizzy-water to leak out of the can in a gracefully arching jet stream. Teller snatched the can from the box and lobbed it grenade style down the stairwell. It struck the decaying plaster wall two stories down, exploding on impact. Teller laughed to himself, finding the rather juvenile display most delightful in his pre-noon daze. His joy was short-lived, however; interrupted by a second-floor door smashing against the wall.

“What the fuck was that?” someone demanded from downstairs.

Teller didn’t recognize the voice, but he had no intentions of sticking around long enough to see to whom it belonged. He quickly unlocked and opened the office door, kicked the box inside, and slammed the door shut, locking it securely behind him.

The Buggs & Rudy Discount Corporation corporate office, as it was cleverly listed in the white pages, wasn’t so much an office as it was a college dorm room. Various types of trash only accented the toys and magic props that cluttered every available space, creating a veritable cornucopia of potentially deadly hazards to any unsuspecting visitor. Teller picked up one of the dozen-sized boxes of doughnuts from the stack, setting it on his desk, and dug out a can of Yoo-hoo from the bottom of the printer paper box which he’d used to pack everything. As he walked around to the window behind the desk, the three telephones in the room began to ring in chorus. Teller stopped in his path and looked down at the old rotary phone on his desk. It rang again, slightly off beat from the other two telephones. Teller stood in his place, slowly shaking his drink as the phones continued to ring, falling more and more out of synch. After the seventh ring, the answering machine attached to the cordless phone in the corner kicked into action.

“Hey, boys,” a familiar Canadian voice said over the crackling loudspeaker. “This is Lorne. Listen, I know this is late notice, but is there a chance I could get about ten minutes from you this weekend? —” Teller looked over at his wall calendar. Saturday, which was just two days away, was clear. “—If you could do that, give me a call here at the studio as soon as possible.”

Teller shrugged and plucked a ballpoint out of the stolen David Letterman mug on his desk. He scribbled “SNL” on the calendar for Saturday, knowing that Penn would have no objection to the date. He tossed the pen down on his desk and continued on his original path to the window. After drawing the shades, letting the hazy late-morning Manhattan light into the office, he opened his drink and sat behind his desk, hoping that Penn would show up shortly.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

Penn walked through the door about a half-hour later, carrying a small grocery bag-wrapped package under his arm and a blue paper cup full of tea in his hand.

“How was Philadelphia? You finally get completely moved out?” he asked.

Teller simply shrugged.

Penn sat the brown-wrapped package before Teller on his way to the box full of munchies.

“That’s from Mom,” Penn said. “No occasion; she just thought you’d like it.”

Apprehensive, Teller slowly tore into the paper wrapping and opened the plain white box it covered. The usually goofy “I was thinking of you…” card that was typical of Mom Jillette rested neatly atop a piece of opaque tissue paper that covered whatever it was that had been sent back to the City with Penn. Teller lifted the tissue paper to find an almost pristine leather-bound collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s works.

“She said she found it at some sort of a flea-market or something,” Penn said as he pulled a coke can from the six-pack.

Teller ran his fingertips across the brown leather, examining its every minute detail.

“But you know how Mom lies,” Penn added with a smile.

As Penn made his way to hang his jacket on the coat tree in the corner, he noticed the light blinking on the answering machine. He punched the play button and hung up his jacket.

“Saturday Night Live again, huh?” Penn said, cracking open his cola. He glanced over to Teller’s wall calendar to see that there was already a note made of Lorne’s phone call.

“How is it,” Penn said, pausing briefly to check the importance of the next message, “that you can order four dozen Elvis doughnuts from downstairs, but you can’t answer the goddamn phone?”

Teller quickly looked out the window to the skyline, pretending not to hear Penn.

“Yeah, whatever,” Penn said. He took a box of doughnuts for himself and plopped down on the old second-hand sofa against the wall. “So, what did you have in mind for Lorne this week, since you were so eager to do the show?”

Teller shrugged.

“We’re still getting letters about that damn snake,” Penn said. “People care about the way wrong things these days.”

Teller snapped his fingers and jumped up from his seat slightly. He pulled himself up close to his desk and booted up his MS-DOS computer. As soon as the proper screen came up, Teller began searching through the dozens of scripts he had saved on his hard disk.

“Watch out,” Penn said to himself. “I’ve given him another sick idea.”

Teller waved him off, not looking away from his search. A sinking feeling in Teller’s gut told him that in the rush and confusion of the MTV appearances, he had neglected to type up the one script for which he was searching. Out of frustration with both himself and the DOS’s slow processing speed, Teller banged his fist on the keyboard, effectively freezing the entire system.

“What the hell are you looking for?” Penn asked, finding mild amusement in Teller’s anguish.

Teller ruffled his own hair a little bit and looked around the office, his eyes darting wildly from wall to wall.

“Casey!” he forced himself to say, shaking his head.

He quickly hid behind the large monitor to resume his search.

“That’s a good idea,” Penn said honestly.

Penn jumped up from the sofa and snatched up the cordless telephone from the corner. From memory, he dialed Lorne’s number at the studio to confirm the date for Saturday.

“Hey, boss,” Penn said after a few beats. “It’s Penn. Teller says you called?” Penn picked up yesterday’s newspaper before realizing that it was out-of-date. “Well, you know how he is,” Penn said after a beat, glancing over at Teller. “Saturday’s good though. We think we’ll do our Casey at the Bat bit.”

As Penn spoke with Lorne on the telephone, Teller continued his futile search for his script.

“Too wimpy?” Penn asked suddenly.

Teller leaned out from behind his computer screen, meeting glances with Penn. Teller shrugged as Penn shook his head.

“Well, we weren’t going to do it exactly like you saw it on television,” Penn said, desperately trying to save himself. “We’ve changed it since then. Teller actually hangs over like this… bed of nails, thing.”

Teller slightly jumped at Penn’s lie, knocking a small stack of books onto the floor. Penn took no notice.

“Okay,” Penn said. “See you then.”

Penn hung up the telephone and turned to meet Teller’s glare.

“Where the hell are we supposed to get a bed of nails thing?” Penn mused as he sat the telephone back in the charger.

Teller shook his head and threw his hands into the air.

“What?” Penn asked.

« || »

Penn & Teller Go Network #19

Teller had every intention of going back to the hotel room as his partner had instructed, but to be sure, he detoured by Times Square on his way back. As he drove by the tightly-packed buildings, his worst fear was realized; though the shades were drawn, the lights were on in the barber shop he and Penn had visited earlier in the week. With every other building in the square dark, the barber shop was every bit suspicious as telling the audience that there was nothing up your sleeves. Teller parked the truck on the curb right outside the barber and tried to look through the shades. All he could see were faint shadows, but they were moving, and that was all he needed. He quietly got out of the truck and stepped up to the door.

“You know what I think?” he heard Penn shout from inside. “I think you didn’t tell us the whole story. I don’t think she would have called the cops if the damn thing wasn’t really hers to begin with!”

“She called the cops?” an unfamiliar voice asked.

“Yes!” Penn shouted

Teller tried to figure out what to do as he stood out in the cold. He knew Penn must have been arguing with these guys for a while now, and it wasn’t exactly the kind of situation a person would just want to walk in to. Teller thought back to all of the “newer” films Penn had made him watch when they first partnered up. There were a lot of action films, and Teller was certain that at least one of them had a situation similar to his own.

He decided that what Penn needed was a good get-away. He’d get back in the truck and honk the horn. That would distract whoever else was in there with Penn long enough to allow his partner to get the hell out of there. Teller turned around to run back to the truck just as the door swung open. He knew he should have run. He told himself to run. But instead, he turned back around, finding himself face-to-face with a bear of a man.

“What the hell?” the man said when he saw Teller on the sidewalk. He grabbed Teller by the arm and pulled him into the shop. “Get in here,” he snarled.

Penn turned around to see what had just happened. His jacket was off, and his tie loosened enough to allow the top of his shirt to be unbuttoned.

“Goddamnit, Teller!” he shouted. He buried his hands in his face for a few seconds before looking back at his partner. “I asked you to do one thing. One thing!”

Teller opened his mouth to argue, but couldn’t think of anything to say. He was wrong, and he knew it.

“Just shut up,” Penn said. Teller had never heard him sound more disappointed.

“Who is this guy?” one of the other thugs demanded.

“That’s the guy you tried to kill,” Penn snapped.

Teller suddenly recognized the men in the barber shop. All three of them were techies up at 8H. He couldn’t believe he’d missed it — both times they were sabotaged, it had happened at times when only techies would have been backstage. Mickey had been keeping an eye on them the whole time. They probably even knew exactly when they had taken the necklace from David’s studio. Teller shook the first thug off of him and walked over to Penn. As he tried to find the right words to tell Penn what had happened to the tank earlier that morning, he was grabbed again and shoved against the wall.

“Get your hands off of him!” Penn shouted, pushing the man away from Teller.

The thug took a swing at Penn, his fist barely grazing the magician’s chin. Penn made it a point to never hit out of anger, but pushing the man down seemed acceptable for the situation. The heavy-set man crashed down on the floor, landing squarely on his ass. As soon as he pushed the man, Penn realized that it was a stupid move. There were three men in the room, most likely armed with some sort of weapons, that had already made it clear that they didn’t care whether or not he and Teller were alive. At once, the two thugs still on their feet pulled switchblades from their pockets and stepped up to Penn.

“Oh, Jesus,” Penn said, taking a step back.

“Sit down,” the tallest demanded. He slashed his knife at Penn’s stomach, making him jump back slightly.

Penn looked around, desperately looking for a way out. He reached behind him and flung the door that lead to the basement open.

“Damn,” he said, looking down at the dark stairs.

Out of options, Penn started to step over to the nearest barber chair. As he moved slowly across the floor, Teller crammed his hands into his pockets. He felt the cold metal of his cane brush up against his knuckles, and slowly pulled it out from his pocket. He held the small film canister-sized roll of steel in his hand for a few seconds before acting. In one swift movement, he extended the cane and stepped forward, bashing the man who had threatened Penn over the head with it. The damage done was more than Teller had expected. The man covered the back of his head with his hand and stumbled down to his knees.

“Jesus Christ, Teller,” Penn said, looking at the destroyed cane. “Where the hell did that come from?”

Surprised at his own actions, Teller shook his head and shrugged. He looked over at Penn, not sure what to do next, but before either of them could think, one of the other two thugs grabbed Teller’s shoulder and shoved his knife into Teller’s stomach, pulling it out just as quickly. He pushed Teller down the stairs to the basement and slammed the door shut.

“Teller!” Penn shouted, jumping to his feet.

The thug flicked his knife once at his side, spattering small red droplets across the tiled floor. Penn rushed the man, but found himself outnumbered three to one. They shoved him back down onto the chair, tying him down with an extension cord one of them had grabbed from under one of the sinks. Penn continued to scream and shout, so one of the men ripped the tie from around Penn’s neck and used it to gag him.

Down in the cellar, Teller could hear the scuffling quiet down. A small lamp in the corner of the cellar cast a dim yellow light over everything, creating more shadows than it did illumination. Teller lie on the cement floor, not exactly sure what had just happened. He remembered seeing the knife, and then he remembered blackness.

Unable to sit up properly, Teller un-tucked his shirt with his left hand, and touched his stomach where he had felt the knife. Everything was wet and sticky, but he couldn’t find the cut. As he lie in the dark with his head pounding, he began to wonder if he really felt the knife at all. He force himself to sit up, and turned toward the lamp. He looked down at his shirt, able to easily tell the difference between the light blue fabric and the red blood in the dim light. He felt his stomach once more, and still found nothing. Cautiously bringing his hand up to the light, Teller looked at the dull glint. Slowly, he brought his hand up to his face and stuck his fingers in his mouth. It wasn’t blood he tasted, but corn syrup. Teller began to chuckle to himself, slowly letting his unadulterated joy elevate him to near hysteria. He reached into his jacket and pulled an empty plastic pouch and his tie from his inner pocket. His tie was destroyed, having taken most of the blade. Still laughing, he threw the pouch and his tie down to the ground and pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket and cleaned of his hands as best he could.

As he sat in the dark acting much like Lady Macbeth, Teller remembered that Penn was still in trouble. He quickly jumped to his feet and began looking around the cellar for something that would help aid their escape. As his eyes adjusted to the pathetic light, he began to look through drawers and boxes throughout the cellar. Finally, in a jacket hanging on the wall, Teller found exactly what he needed — a revolver. He opened the chamber, taking out all but one bullet. Not sure what to do with the rest, he shoved them in his pocket. Slowly, he climbed the stairs, trying to listen to what was going on behind the door. He could only hear muffled voices, which meant that Penn wasn’t talking. As he reached the top of the stairs, he clutched onto the revolver tightly, wishing he had found an alternative way of saving their asses.

Teller threw the door open and stepped back into the barber shop. Not sure what — or who — might have been above the shop, he fired his single round into the wall by his feet. The bang was way louder than it had ever been on television, and Teller jumped. After taking a few moments to recover, he slowly walked sideways toward Penn. He held the revolver awkwardly in front of him, effectively keeping the three men away from him. Using his free hand, he untied Penn as quickly as he could. Still pointing the unloaded weapon at the stunned men, Teller led Penn outside to their truck, handing his partner the keys. As soon as Teller climbed into the cab, he dropped the revolver on the floor and collapsed in his seat.

“Sonofabitch!” Penn shouted as he started the car.

He looked at the blood that covered Teller’s shirt, just knowing that their careers were over. He quickly weighed the situation, and started the truck. They were only a few blocks from the hotel, and Penn figured that he could more safely tend to Teller in the parking lot. He didn’t bother with the valet this time; he went straight to the self-parking.

“Teller, let me see,” he said as soon as he cut the engine.

Teller shook his head and waved Penn off. He was still shaking from having to be the hero.

“Goddamnit, Teller,” Penn said, trying to situate himself to get a look at Teller’s stomach.

Teller pushed Penn away and opened the door. He stepped out onto the pavement and took off his jacket. Even if he could get the blood out, it was still destroyed. He shook his head as he carefully folded it up and sat it on the hood of the truck.

“Are you okay?” Penn asked cautiously as he stepped out of the truck.

Teller nodded as he looked down at his shirt — which was also destroyed. He stretched it out in front of him to see if the knife had even made it all the way through his jacket. In all the sticky, corn syrup mess, he couldn’t find anything. He slowly unbuttoned his shirt and took it off, leaving just his slightly less stained undershirt on.

“You’re not even hurt,” Penn noticed. He walked around the truck to Teller and picked up his friend’s clothes from the hood of the truck. “Don’t ever scare me like that again,” he said, looking down at the blood-soaked jacket. “That was almost enough to give this Atheist some religion.”

Teller shook his head and took his shirt and jacket from Penn.

“Come on,” Penn said softly.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

As they walked through the lobby to the elevator, the concierge noticed their disheveled state and rushed over to see if they needed any assistance.

“No,” Penn said as he pushed the up button for the lift. “We hit a dog. We’re fine,” he said. “Thank you, though.”

The elevator doors swung open and the two stepped inside. They made their way to their suite in silence, neither even wanting to look at the other. Penn unlocked the door to their room and dropped Teller’s corn syrup-soaked clothes on the floor. Teller blankly walked back to his room and stripped down to his shorts. He put his bathrobe on and walked back out to make sure Penn was alright. Penn was busy changing out of his clothes, so Teller went to the kitchen area to make himself some tea.

“Teller,” Penn said, looking down at the nightstand by his bed. “Did you pick up that necklace when we came in?”

Teller shook his head.

“Well, it was right goddamn here,” Penn said, pointing to the empty night stand. “I brought it back here after I realized I still had it in my jacket. I swear I put it right here.”

Penn began to tear up his bed, frantically looking for the small velvet box. Teller walked out to see what Penn was freaking out about and set his mug down on the table. In the centre of the table, he noticed a plain white envelope that hadn’t been there earlier. Unsure, he lifted the flap and peeked inside. Surprised at what he saw, he whistled loudly and covered his mouth.

“What?” Penn asked as he spun around.

Teller stepped over to Penn and handed him the envelope. Inside was ten-thousand dollars in cash and a note. Penn read the note, and turned around to look at the door. Teller took the note from his hand and read it for himself, not quite able to comprehend the contents after the day they’d had. He tossed the note down on the nightstand and rubbed his face with his fingertips.

“None of this,” Penn said slowly, looking back into the envelope, “ever leaves this room.”

Teller nodded and sat down on the foot of Penn’s bed. He looked out the window to the GE building across the street, knowing that the next time they had to do a show for Lorne would be far too soon.

“I think,” Penn said, looking out the window as well, “if we get called in to do the show next month, we should to a Christmas bit.”

Teller forced a small laugh and looked up at his partner. Penn looked down at the clock, not at all surprised at what he saw.

“Get out of here,” he said, pushing Teller off of his bed. “I’m going to sleep.”

« || »

Penn & Teller Go Network #18

For the first time since he met Lorne, Teller wore a freshly pressed suit. He stood in front of the mirror in their dressing room, making sure that all of his props and toys were in their proper pockets. He pulled a few coins from his pocket, and after quickly inspecting them, he dropped them back where he found them. From one of his inside pockets, he pulled out a small leather-banded watch and wrapped around his left wrist. After quickly adjusting it, he checked the time and ran back out to the set for the final curtain call. He found Penn standing backstage, talking to a few of the actors. Teller walked over to Penn, taking his usual place by his partner’s side.

“Hey, man,” Billy said, clapping Teller on the arm. “Great job tonight. Can’t wait to see you guys come back.”

Teller smiled and him and nodded. Out on the set, Simple Minds was hurriedly striking their equipment and rushing over to the main stage to join the rest of the cast. As Madonna took her mark, Don Pardo announced over the speaker that they’d be coming out of commercial in thirty seconds, cueing the cast to all gather around the gorgeous host. On auto-pilot, Penn took a spot at the back of the crowd, effectively blocking Teller from view of the cameras. Giggling to himself, Penn grabbed Teller by his jacket and pushed him forward through the crowd.

“I almost forgot about you,” he said, straightening out Teller’s lapels.

The final countdown began, setting the audience in a roar of applause. Over the din, Madonna delivered her thank-yous. As soon as she finished, the cast began to move about, each jokingly thanking one another. After about ten seconds of the band wailing the closing theme, the stage lights were dimmed to about 30%, and the cast began to shuffle back offstage. As they all moved out to the hall, Teller approached Victoria and tapped on her shoulder to get her attention. When she turned to see who had tapped her, Teller pulled the car keys from his pocket and held them up for her to see.

“What’s that?” she asked hesitantly.

“I believe,” Penn said from behind her, “that he’s offering you a ride home.” He smiled and continued his way back out to the hall.

“Oh,” Victoria said, considering the offer. “Thank you. I have to leave really soon though,” she said. “Is that alright?”

Teller nodded as he put the keys back in his pocket and followed Victoria out to the hall.

“Wait here,” she said. “I have to grab my stuff real quick.”

Teller nodded. He got out of the way from the door traffic and waited for her to return. As he waited, Penn walked back out to the hall from the green room and put his hand on Teller’s shoulder.

“I’ll take care of whatshisface while you’re gone,” he said quiet enough for only Teller to hear. “I’ll meet you back at the hotel.”

Teller realized that Penn had set up giving Victoria a ride earlier that evening. He worried about what Penn had planned to do; for all his joking and false threats, Penn was not a violent man. This was a man whose favourite colour was pink, for Christ’s sake.

Teller knew that at this point there was no way out, so he just nodded. Penn turned to leave, but was stopped by a police officer who had just walked around the corner.

“Is there a problem, officer?” Penn asked.

Just before the officer could answer, Lorne walked out to the hall from backstage.

“Oh, Jesus Christ,” he muttered, seeing the cop.

“You Lorne Michaels?” The officer asked, looking down at his note pad.

Lorne nodded. “Yes,” he said hesitantly. “What’s this about?”

The officer sized up Penn, deciding at once that he would probably be a threat. “I’m sure you’ve been told about the theft downstairs,” he said. “It happened Friday afternoon.”

Lorne nodded. “Yes, but what are you doing up here if it happened on Dave’s set?”

The officer looked around the floor, the atmosphere quickly becoming chaotic. “We have reason to believe that the perp works here in the building,” he said. “Are these guys with you?” he asked, pointing to Penn and Teller.

“Yeah,” Lorne said slowly. “But they’re only here for the week.”

The officer didn’t like that statement. He nodded and wrote something down in his notepad.

“What are your names?” he asked.

Penn stepped closer to Teller. “Penn Jillette — That’s Penn with two Ns and a J. Not a G — And Teller. T-E-L-L-E-R.”

The officer looked up at Penn. “Do you always speak for him.”

“Yes,” Penn and Lorne said together.

“Oh,” the officer said, suddenly misunderstanding the situation. He wrote something else in his notepad before flipping through the pages.

Lorne looked over at Penn and Teller, for the first time seriously wondering just who he had hired. As the three of them desperately tried to figure out their predicament, Teller quickly tugged on Penn’s jacket and pointed to his feet. Almost at once, Penn knew what Teller had come up with.

“What time did the… theft happen?” he asked.

Lorne looked up at Penn, realizing what Penn was asking about. The officer, not exactly sure why they were asking, flipped through the pages of his notepad.

“At about one-thirty,” he said. “Why?”

Penn looked down at Lorne. “Do you still have that accident report?” he asked.

Lorne nodded. “Just a minute,” he said. “It’s in my office.” He ran down the hall, praying that he hadn’t hired a couple of thieves.

“Accident report?” the officer said, watching Lorne run toward his office.

“Yeah,” Penn said. “Teller got hurt after our rehearsal on Friday, so we wound up spending most of the afternoon on seven.”

The officer flipped through his notepad, hoping to find something that would correspond with Penn’s statement. “What do you mean, ‘got hurt’?” he asked.

“Well—” Penn started, but he was cut off by Lorne.

“Here it is,” Lorne said out of breath. He handed the officer a file folder.

The officer looked through the folder at the report. According to the time stamps, they had been in the nurse’s office from 1.24p to 2.45p, effectively taking them off of the suspect list. The officer huffed through his nose, not liking where his investigation was going.

“Well,” he said to the three of them. “I apologize for taking up your time. Be sure and let us know if you remember anything else that might help.”

Lorne nodded. He looked up at Penn. “How did you remember that?” he asked.

“I didn’t,” Penn said as he shook his head. “It was Teller’s idea.”

Lorne shook his head, not wanting to argue. Penn watched him go and leaned in closely to Teller. “Let’s never do anything this stupid again,” he said.

As Penn turned to walk back into the green room, Victoria walked around the corner to Teller.

“Ready?” she asked.

Teller nodded and let her lead the way to the lobby As soon as the elevator doors shut, Teller took off his tie and undid the top button of his shirt. He carefully rolled up the red silk and put it in his inner pocket.

“Does your friend… Penn?… does he decide on what you guys wear?” Victoria asked.

Teller shrugged and shook his head lightly. The more she tried to strike up conversation with him, the more Victoria wondered how he managed to get along before Penn came around. The elevator stopped on the ground level, and the two of them walked across the street to the hotel.

“Penn said earlier today that you used to be a teacher,” she said. “But he didn’t say what you taught.”

Teller nodded.

“That’s really cool,” she said. “Good for you.”

She sounded honestly impressed, but Teller didn’t let himself forget that she was an actor for one of the biggest shows on television.

Teller handed the valet his parking voucher and the keys. As the two of them stood on the curb, waiting for the truck to be brought around, Teller realized that is was probably cold enough to snow. He looked up at the purple cloud cover and shuddered lightly. The valet attendant quickly brought the truck around and opened the passenger side door for Victoria. As Teller walked around to get inside, he noticed Penn leaving 30 Rock.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

Victoria knew that conversation with Teller wasn’t going to happen, but she talked anyway, making the ride only slightly less awkward. She talked about everything; about getting the job at 30 Rock, about her kids, about her divorce. The entire twenty minute ride to her apartment in Chelsea was filled with as many subjects as Victoria could think to talk about. Every so often, she would stop in her prattling to let Teller know where to turn, only to pick right back up where she had left off.

“This is it, right here,” she said, pointing to an old brownstone on the corner of Eighth Avenue.

Teller nodded and pulled up to the curb next to the building. He climbed out of the truck and quickly walked around to open the door for Victoria, making sure she didn’t slip on the little bit of ice that had begun to form on the sidewalk.

“Thank you,” she said, not exactly sure if this was the same man she had met earlier that week.

Teller walked her to the steps, purposefully avoiding being asked upstairs. Once Victoria reached the landing, Teller turned around and walked back to the truck. He opened the passenger door, and after a moment’s hesitation, he shut and locked it. Sighing deeply through his nose, Teller turned back around.

“Latin.”

Victoria turned around suddenly, seeing Teller standing by the truck with his hands in his pockets.

“I… I taught Latin,” he said.

Victoria almost dropped her keys. Ten minutes before, she was convinced she had this man figured out, but now she knew nothing about him.

“Really?” she asked, more than a little confused.

Teller nodded.

“Well,” Victoria said, trying to find the key to open the door to the building. “Good night.”

Teller nodded again as she stepped inside. As soon as the door swung shut, Teller dashed back to the truck and started the engine. He’d already taken longer than he wanted driving Victoria home, leaving Penn dangerously alone for far too long. Teller quickly checked for traffic, and pulled out onto Eighth Avenue.

« || »

Penn & Teller Go Network #17

Teller sat backstage, nervously peeling paint off of a metal pole that ran up along the wall. Just ten minutes before they were supposed to be on stage, Penn finally walked through the buffer doors.

“Ready, Teller?” he whispered.

Teller nodded. He watched one of the new players — Jon, he thought was his name — play a film critic on a fake television show. He tried to imagine that this run was just like the one before, but he couldn’t ignore the fact that the cameras were recording this time. This was for real. A screw-up on Broadway was easily forgotten. A screw-up in front of umpteen skidillions on national television could be career suicide.

“Hey,” Penn said, putting his hand on his partner’s shoulder. “This is gonna be fun,” he assured. “You fixed the problem a long time ago. Don’t worry.”

Teller inhaled deeply. Penn was vamped; he was ready. He had a way of making it all just seem like a fun game.

Jon’s sketch ended, and the show cut to commercial. In a mad rush, the crew rushed out to change the set. Penn & Teller didn’t get any special backdrop for their segment, so this was the first time either of them had seen the beige flats that would stand behind them. For all they knew, the flats were just a generic guest background; neither of them had watched the show with any regularity at all. Saturday nights off were rare.

Don Pardo quickly announced from his booth that the show was coming out of commercial. This was show-time. Someone on the floor counted down from five, cueing Don to announce Penn & Teller. They jumped their cue slightly, entering a few beats early, but no one noticed.

“Good evening,” Penn said to Camera One. “My name is Penn Jillette, and this is my partner, Teller. When Lorne Michaels asked us to do this show, he said he wanted to see us do a card trick, but the thing about card tricks is that they’re lousy for television. We can see the trick, and the people in the first few rows can kinda see the trick, but you people up in the balcony and the cameras aren’t really gonna see it at all.”

Teller nodded and walked off stage. Without missing a beat, Penn continued.

“We’re gonna give you something to look at, real soon, but first, I need somebody to come up here with me…”

While Penn looked around the first few rows for a suitable victim, Teller rushed over to Marc and climbed up into the tank. He quickly submerged himself, taking a moment to tap on his quick duct tape fix before resurfacing. Marc handed him his SCUBA mask from his perch on the ladder, and as Teller situated himself, Marc pulled the lock from his pocket.

“Penn told me about the new change,” Marc confirmed.

Teller nodded. He dunked himself back under the water and let Marc lock the lid shut. The SCUBA regulator was passed down through the bars, and as Teller put it in his mouth, Marc stepped in front of the tank to wait for Teller’s signal. Teller checked himself out, not noticing anything out of the ordinary. Just as he got ready to give the signal, he noticed a small problem. A problem that hadn’t been there a few hours earlier He raised his left hand, debating between which signal he could give. The problem was small, and Penn had already gone on.

After another moment’s hesitation, Teller gave the international SCUBA divers’ code for “Okay,” and Marc handed him the dummy key and prepared to wheel the tank out. The victim had been chosen, and the premise of a television magic trick explained, so Marc took his cue and wheeled the large take out to the stage. Even through the water and glass, Teller could hear the eruption of laughter. He couldn’t help but smiling just a little. Penn saw, even behind the mask, and giggle a little bit.

Through the bit, Teller paid little attention to Penn, and kept his eye on his secret problem. It seemed to have been doing fine. Two minutes in, and no problems. He went on as rehearsed, sinking to the bottom of the tank to keep Penn from getting the key. He’d be fine. He was confident enough that he thrashed about as planned when it came time for Penn to ignore him, but he soon realized that the thrashing had agitated his secret problem. He quickly stopped and went as still as possible to avoid making the problem any worse. He quickly threw the key into the audience and turned around. Now, with no way to look at Penn, he had no idea how much longer in the trick. He could no longer hear Penn’s shouting over the audience’s roaring laughter. All Teller could hear was the pounding of his own heart in his ears. He begged to himself that Penn wasn’t being his regular funny self. Laughs took time, and Teller soon realized that time was not something he had. With every passing second, his secret problem grew worse and worse. He knew that now, there must not have been much time left in the trick. He didn’t want to give the secret signal just before Penn made the reveal, but on the same token, he had no idea when Penn would make the reveal. He decided that he would slowly count down from ten, and if the reveal had not come, he’d make the signal. Slowly, he went down to one, trying to time his counting as best he could with his contracting lungs. Just as he got to “one” in his mind, he felt Penn grab his hand and turn him around. There was supposed to be laughter right now, but Teller didn’t hear it. All he heard was the blood rush in his ears.

He didn’t see Marc rush out from the wings to unlock him. As Marc stuck the key into the lock, Penn returned to address the audience once more. Marc pushed the lid open, allowing Teller to climb out. As soon as Teller grabbed on to the edge of the tank, Marc knew something wasn’t right. Teller’s face was almost purple and he was having a harder time holding on to the edge of the tank than when they had first started working on the illusion. Marc climbed up on the ladder brought out by one of the techies and took Teller’s hand, holding him above the surface.

“What happened?” Marc asked.

Penn turned around to look at Teller in time to see his partner whispering something at Marc. Teller never talked to Marc. Things had blown up at the office, and Teller still didn’t talk to Marc. Penn waited for the cameras to shut off before walking back to his partner.

“What happened?” he asked.

Teller was still panting, but now he felt like he was going to vomit on top of it.

“The mask failed big time,” Marc said as the curtains fell.

In front of the curtain, Penn heard Madonna announce musical guest Simple Minds. He and Marc helped Teller down from the tank. As soon as Teller’s feet hit the floor, he staggered off back to the wings. Penn gave a worried look to Marc before following his partner back off stage.

“Man, what happened?” he asked.

Teller leaned against one of the prop tables and threw the mask down in front of him. Penn picked it up and looked at it.

“Jesus Christ,” he said gravely, noticing Teller’s secret problem at once. He opened his mouth to ask how it had happened, but as soon as he found the words, he knew exactly what had happened. “Sonofabitch,” he muttered.

Teller either didn’t hear, or didn’t care. Plotting something evil, Penn reached into his trousers pocket and pulled out a small key ring.

“Do you think you’ll be alright to drive?” he asked.

After a moment, Teller nodded. Penn handed him the keys, closing Teller’s hand around them.

“I heard that woman-friend of yours needs a ride home,” he said. “Go be a gentleman, and I’ll take care of this problem,” he said, motioning to the mask.

Teller nodded, and after a few seconds, began to get undressed so he could dry off.

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Penn & Teller Go Network #16

The camera rehearsal started promptly at 1.0p, with Don Pardo announcing the cast over the loudspeaker in the two-story studio. Penn couldn’t help but grin when that booming voice announced their names toward the end of the lineup. It was officially their first show for the season, and even though they were a “stand-by” act, it meant that they had finally started to make it big. Teller stood next to Penn, nervously rocking back and forth with no rhythm to speak of.

Marc approached them from backstage and stood behind Teller.

“We’ve got everything ready,” he said. “You guys are going on at 1.45?”

Teller nodded weakly.

“Yeah,” Penn said. “You know where the spike is?”

“Yessir,” Marc said. “Dead centre.” He looked out at the band, headed by the brand-new leader G.E. Smith. It was a big year for new faces on the show. Even Lorne had come back after a five-year leave of absence. “We doing all the changes this time?” Marc asked.

“Yep,” was all Penn could say. He looked down at Teller. “You sure you can get ready that quickly?”

Teller nodded.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

Encased in his underwater coffin of doom, Teller could barely hear the roar of the studio audience. Now that the cameras were rolling, Penn had managed to balance his flirting with the female audience member he pulled up onto the stage with them, and following the script. Teller figured they had about six minutes left before he’d need to be let out, but Penn was nearing the end of the trick a little before schedule. With his back turned to the studio audience that was customary for the 8.0p dress rehearsal, Teller had no way to gauge how well the trick was being received. He was beginning to think that something had gone awry when he felt Penn grab his hand and begin to twist him around in the tank. Now that he was facing the audience, he could hear the roar of laughter and applause upon seeing the signed six of spades on his mask. Penn dismissed the audience volunteer back to her seat and began addressing the audience for the closing of the bit. Keeping in character, Teller remained motionless in the tank, waiting to be wheeled back to the wings.

Once out of sightlines, Marc jumped up onto the ladder and unlocked the lid to the tank. He offered his hand to help Teller out, taking the scuba mask and setting it aside.

“How’d it go?” Marc asked, helping Teller down to the ground.

Teller nodded once he got to his feet. Making sure he kept out of the audience and camera sightlines, he started stripping out of his suit, the heavy wool fabric being uncooperative in his efforts. Marc stood by to put everything into the gym bag so they could be laundered after the show. As Teller absently took off his shirt, Marc began to wonder if it was weird that he was paid to help his boss strip down to nothing three times daily. Still feeling awkward about what he thought he saw earlier that day, he looked down at the floor. He noticed that the soles were about ready to fall off of Teller’s shoes and began to wonder if the check from this gig would be spent before it cleared.

Marc handed a ratty old towel to Teller just as Penn started walking backstage.

“Work better with an audience member?” Marc asked.

“Yeah, boss,” Penn said absently.

He walked past the tank and into the hallway behind the set, letting the buffer door swing silently shut behind him. Teller quickly dried himself and clumsily pulled on a dry pair of shorts, and ran to follow Penn out to the hall. As he got to the buffer doors, Penn returned backstage, shoving something into his pocket.

“Hurry up and get dressed,” he said. “Dinner’s waiting for us.”

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

Teller sat up on the counter of the dressing room, watching Penn work on a card sleight. He had already eaten an entire pepperoni and anchovy pizza by himself, and had started picking at the second. The card sleight had begun to get the better of him, and Penn knew it, so he shoved the cards back into the box and crammed them into his pocket. As he dropped the cards in his pocket, his fingers brushed against something hard and soft. Not sure what else he had in his pockets, Penn pulled out the small, black velvet box and slowly opened the lid.

“I forgot to tell whatshisface that we got this thing,” he said, holding the necklace up so Teller could see.

Teller couldn’t stop himself. He suddenly remembered the broken glass on the tank earlier that morning, and his eyes flicked down to the ground. It was small, but Penn saw it.

“What?” he asked. “You’re not telling me something.”

Teller shook his head, trying to dismiss the subject. He picked the last slice of pizza up from the box and took a larger bite than necessary. Talking with one’s mouth full of food is rude and uncouth; neither of which mattered at all with Penn.

Penn stood up from his seat, knowing that his partner was keeping something important from him, but before he could intimidate Teller with another false threat of a broken arm, their dressing room door swung open, and Lorne walked in with a clipboard. He quickly checked his watch before sitting down at the table.

“Uh, listen, boys,” he said. “I want to quickly talk about one last minute change.”

Penn shot a glance back to Teller before sitting back down.

“I thought you said it was good,” he said.

Lorne nodded slowly. “It is,” he said, looking down at his clipboard. “It’s very good, but it still makes me nervous. I want you to let Teller out at the end.”

Penn shook his head. “But I don’t have the key,” he said. “And besides. You heard them laughing out there. They loved it!”

“Penn,” Lorne said patiently. “I know they did, but if you don’t let him out at the end, you know, to show the audience that he’s not really dead, I can’t let you go on. Not everybody thinks that death is a joke.”

Penn tried to steal a look at the clipboard, but Lorne slid it from view. “Let me have a word with my partner about it,” he said.

Teller hopped down from the counter and walked to the far corner of the room with Penn. From the table, Lorne couldn’t hear a word that was being said. Penn seemed to be doing most of the talking, but a few times, Teller raised himself up onto his toes to whisper something into Penn’s ear. He looked back at Lorne, then nodded to Penn.

“I just don’t wanna look like a wimp out there, is all,” Lorne heard Penn say as he turned around. “Okay,” he said to Lorne. “We’ll wimp out for you. But we think that it would have worked much better without this change.”

Lorne nodded slowly. “Good,” he said. He looked down at his clipboard as he rose to his feet. “I’ve moved you, so you guys are on at 12.30. Be out there by twelve.”

Teller looked down at his non-existent watch and left the dressing room.

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Penn & Teller Go Network #15

Marc ran down the hall, clutching on to the key that he had managed to convince the concierge to give him. He got to the room number he was told Penn and Teller were staying in, nervously jamming the key into the lock. He slowly opened the door, knowing they’d probably still be asleep. He’d get Teller. Teller didn’t yell and scream when he was woken up early.

Marc stepped inside the room, knowing at once from the mess that he had the right one. The marshmallows and Cocoa Puffs on the floor only accented the bachelor-pad disaster. Dirty clothes were not only on the floor, but draped over chairs and on the table near the window. Marc followed the mess over to Penn’s bed. It took him a few moments to realize that someone else was cuddled up under the sheet along with Penn. Marc started to walk backwards out of the room, slowly as to not make any noise.

“I always knew they were funny,” he said to himself.

As Marc reached the threshold, the door leading to the other bedroom opened. Teller stepped out, wearing a pair of old black slippers and a plaid bathrobe. Sneering, he picked up a sock from the floor near his door and threw it at Penn, missing his mark by more than a foot. He waved his hand at his partner in disgust as he walked over to the kitchenette. Not even noticing Marc standing in the doorway, Teller picked up his ceramic mug and heated up some water in the microwave for a cup of tea. Marc’s attention skipped back and forth between Teller and whoever Penn had brought back to the room. He looked closer, now noticing the painted toenails on the second person. Narcissism at its worst.

Teller fixed up his tea and turned back to return to his room when he noticed Marc standing in the doorway. Teller stopped, trying to figure out if he’d been there the whole time, and if so, how he’d gotten in.

“There’s an issue across the street,” Marc said, taking a moment to find his voice. “I think you should come with me.”

Teller wasn’t sure what “issue” meant, but he knew it wasn’t good. He started to open his bedroom door, but Marc stopped him.

“You’re fine,” he said, not wanting to wait for Teller to get changed. “Just… come like that.”

Teller followed Marc over to 30 Rock in his bathrobe, wishing Marc had at least let him put on a pair of trousers and a pair of real shoes. The receptionist in the lobby wasn’t sure what to say about Teller’s wardrobe, but wasn’t able to say anything before he and Marc got on the elevator. They rushed over to the studio to find a small group of techies gathered around the water tank.

“There’s a leak,” Marc said. He pushed his way past the techies and touched the spot where water had been leaking from under the metal frame earlier that morning. “And it wasn’t there yesterday. We drained it, but no one’s been inside yet.”

Teller handed Marc his mug and climbed up the ladder, careful as to not slip and break his neck. He lowered himself into the tank, noticing at once what had happened to cause a leak. It looked like someone had taken an ice pick to the glass right on the edge of the frame. Teller touched the shattered area with his fingertip, making sure that’s what was causing the leak. He grabbed on to the top of the tank and tried to climb out, finding it nearly impossible with the cheap shower slippers. Marc sat the mug down on a nearby table and quickly climbed up the ladder, helping Teller out of the tank. Teller jumped down from the ladder and walked off the set.

“Where the hell’s he going?” one of the techies asked.

“Just watch,” Marc said.

Teller walked back to the hardware closet and began looking around the shelves and through the drawers. The longer he looked, the more frantic his search became, until finally, he was tossing things out of his way. Finally, he found what he had been searching for — a bottle of rubber cement. He pocketed the bottle and grabbed a roll of black gaffer’s tape from the wall, sliding it over his wrist as he walked back to the set. He stopped by Marc, holding up the arm with the gaffer’s tape.

“What?” Marc asked.

Teller shook his head slightly and shrugged. It took Marc a few seconds before he realized what Teller wanted.

“Oh,” he said, noticing that Teller had gaffer’s tape, rather than duct tape. Marc looked over at one of the techies. “Do you guys have duct tape?”

“That is duct tape, isn’t it?” he asked.

Teller sighed and climbed up the ladder.

“How do you know what he’s trying to say?” one of the techies asked.

Marc shook his head as he watched Teller climb into the tank, making sure that he didn’t slip and hurt himself. “I don’t, really,” he said. “I’m still learning.”

Teller pulled the rubber cement out of his pocket and uncapped it. He shook his head, overpowered by the scent of the glue. After a few seconds of getting used to the contaminated air, Teller applied the rubber cement over the cracks in the glass, making sure to fill in anything that could be a problem. He recapped the bottle and put it back into his pocket, hoping that the glue would dry quickly. He tested the tackiness with his finger, satisfied that it was ready. Measuring as he went along, Teller tore off a strip of gaffer’s tape from the roll and stuck it over the rubber cement, pushing down along the length as to make sure there were no air pockets. He put a second strip over the first one, making sure that he had gotten the entire crack. Once convinced that the problem was fixed, he put the roll back over his wrist and with the help of Marc, climbed back out of the tank. He stepped back a few meters from the tank, making sure that the black tape wouldn’t be visible from the house.

“You sure that will work?” Marc asked as he handed Teller his mug.

Teller nodded. He took a drink of his tea, slowly checking the angles. Silver duct tape would have been better, but even the black tape was hard to see. After a few minutes, Teller tapped Marc on the shoulder and nodded toward the tank.

“Try it out?” Marc asked.

Teller nodded. He was sure the rubber cement was dry by now. While he waited for the techies to get their act together and fill up the tank, Teller sat down cross-legged on the prop table to finish his tea.

The patch worked perfectly. The whole side would have to be replaced once they got the tank to their warehouse in Philly, but the gaffer’s tape would hold for the day.

 

♣ ♣ ♣

 

Not particularly wanting to go back to the hotel room and deal with whatever stripper-model-college student-actress Penn had brought back this week, Teller found his way to the laundry room where Penn had left his clothes from the day before. As he changed from his pajamas into his suit, Teller realized that he didn’t have his shoes. After only a few seconds of consideration, he decided that he’d rather walk around in his socks than wear his slippers with his suit. He crammed his slippers and pajamas into his gym bag and went back to the green room, which was completely empty. Penn still had his wallet somewhere, and he didn’t have any money for breakfast, so Teller bravely began looking through the refrigerator in the green room. He found only half-eaten sandwiches and Tupperware containers full of mold cultures. It didn’t take him long to give up and sit down on the sofa. He turned on the Today Show, waiting for the rest of the cast members to show up.

After only a few minutes of watching Jane Pauley interview the latest self-help author, Teller felt like a zombie. Short of extra caffeine in their coffee, he couldn’t figure out how the perky early-morning hosts were able to do their thing without napping during the commercial breaks. Just as he began to fall asleep himself, Victoria walked into the greenroom and sat next to Teller. He woke up, slightly startled.

“You’re here early,” Victoria said.

Teller shrugged. He wasn’t even sure what time Marc had dragged him across the street, let alone how long he’d actually been at the studio.

“I have to ride in with my neighbour,” Victoria continued. “But I’m on my own for getting home, because she gets off at four.” She scoffed, suggesting there was more to the story than she was willing to admit.

Teller quickly checked his pockets, forgetting that they had been emptied out the day before. They still had the rental car, so in his own way, he tried to offer her a ride home, but without Penn to do his talking, he was useless. Angry with himself for being such a nutcase, he crossed his arms over his chest and put his feet up on the coffee table in front of the sofa.

“Um… where are your shoes?” Victoria asked.

Teller shrugged and shook his head. He couldn’t help but to laugh a little bit. He knew how pathetic he must have looked in a suit that badly needed to be pressed and with no shoes.

“And where is your friend?” she asked, realizing that the only time she ever saw them apart was when one of them was up to something. Usually they were at least within earshot of one another. “Have you been up here all morning just by yourself?”

Teller nodded, suddenly wishing that Penn had given him back his wallet after they ran the trick the day before. He looked around, realizing that he had managed to even misplace his mug. He’d need to find a new one. He remembered a few David Letterman mugs in the prop closet, and made a mental note to grab one so he could at least make something to drink. Rehearsal wasn’t until one, and if the Today Show was still on, one o’clock was still a long wait.

“Why’d you even come up here this early anyway?” Victoria asked. She shook her head, realizing what she was doing. “I don’t know why I keep asking you all these questions,” she said. “You can’t answer me.”

Again, Teller wished that Penn was around. He began to realize that maybe Penn was right about his anti-social behavior, but he’d rather have not thought about it. Teller sighed deeply and stood up from the sofa. He was hungry, and Jane Pauley was making him irritable.

“Where are you going?” Victoria asked, following him out to the hall out of little more than morbid curiosity.

Teller lead her back to the communal prop closet, careful to not step on any foreign objects.

“You know, you really shouldn’t be in here,” Victoria said from the hallway.

Teller quickly grabbed a Late Night mug from the shelf and motioned for Victoria to lead the way to somewhere where it would be okay for him to wait for call time. As they slowly made their way back to the green room, a man who stood only slightly shorter than Penn stopped them in their path. He was wearing a cheap rent-a-cop uniform that didn’t quite fit him properly.

“You’re here early,” he said.

Victoria scoffed at the remark.

“Who’s this?” the security guard asked, pointed to Teller. “He belong to you?”

“No,” Victoria said. The way she spoke to the security guard reminded Teller of some of his former students; but some how, it seemed more appropriate when the tone was being used on someone else. “He’s a guest on the show,” Victoria continued.

“Where’s his badge?” the guard asked.

Teller looked down at his jacket, suddenly remembering that he’d hadn’t worn the security badge since the day it was given to him. Teller tried to come up with a quick lie, but he couldn’t find his voice. He soon gave up, sighing deeply through his nose.

“Jesus Christ, Gary,” Victoria said, looking at Teller with honest concern. “You’re upsetting him or something.”

“He doesn’t have a badge, he can’t be on the floor,” Gary said. “He’s going to have to come with me.”

Teller’s jaw fell slack. Victoria didn’t need to have known Teller for ten years to be able to tell that he was pleading for her help. She tried to come up with her own lie, but Gary grabbed Teller rather violently by the sleeve and started to lead Teller toward the elevator. Not wanting to get busted for stealing NBC property, Teller quickly handed the Letterman mug off to Victoria.

“You can’t kick him out!” Victoria demanded. “He doesn’t even have his shoes!”

Gary looked down, confirming the statement. “What the hell?” he chuckled. Power-tripping, Gary lead Teller down to the elevator anyway. He came into the building without shoes, he could leave without shoes. Gary pushed the button for the elevator, holding on to Teller’s arm as he waited for the doors to slide open.

Not long after, a soft “ding” announced that the lift had arrived. Before Gary could lead Teller onto the elevator, Penn stepped out into the hall, holding a large cardboard box. Not entirely unintentionally, Penn blocked Gary from getting on to the lift as he pulled a small white badge from his pocket with his free hand.

“Teller, man, you gotta be more careful,” he said, clipping the security badge on to Teller’s lapel. “I noticed this on the table.”

Gary snatched the badge up from Teller’s jacket to look at it. He grunted slightly as he handed the badge back to Teller. “Well,” he said, more than a little irritated. “I guess that’s all, then.”

Penn smiled at the security guard, knowing that he’d just won at something. “Come on,” Penn said to Teller. “I got us some donuts.”

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