Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Houdini Protocol

He'd been tracking Ferris for close to a decade now. He still used the name "Ferris," when talking about the investigation publically, but he more commonly referred to the man as Houdini, because he had a habit of slipping away.

The part about this that made his job difficult was that Houdini had a way of making that a tad more literal than others. Houdini was either a trained magician or else had other means that he was unaware of, and that was itself difficult, because he had seen, or he had thought before Houdini, everything. He'd been at this profession for more than thirty years. It's tough to come up with something new. But that was exactly what Houdini had accomplished. A small part of him wanted to say, "Bravo." A small part.

A few years back, Houdini had been right in front of him, and he swore that all he did was blink. Houdini had been cornered, the first time he had come that close, and in that blink of an eye, there was no longer anyone there. He couldn't explain it. There were many things he was willing to admit that he didn't know, but at least he had, at one time, before Houdini, assumed that he at least knew of most things, and what he didn't know he could usually hazard a guess, puzzle it out. He was even good at figuring out how most magicians did their tricks. He didn't have to have any experience with Houdini to have mastered that kind of intuition. But Houdini, everything was new with him, everything.

He began splitting his attention, for the first time ever, trying to track Houdini, trying to capture him, and also researching any possible methods Houdini might be employing. He started to lose most of his remaining assumptions, allowed himself to believe every wild-eyed possibility. Was Houdini even human? He wasn't even sure anymore.

He could find no trace, furthermore, that Houdini had ever existed before his crime, and that was still more unsettling, because everyone, even the most careful, always left some kind of trace, some trail, everyone, except Houdini. He couldn't find anything. Houdini might have been a ghost. He went back over the crime scenes, all the evidence, the reports given by the victims, the first responders, the investigators. One by one they seemed to forget ever knowing anything about it, and anything about Houdini.

Was that how he did it? Did Houdini employ some kind of drug, which erased all knowledge of his existence, and was he himself a victim of it? Had he become Houdini's last victim?

As the years piled on, he kept at it, long after everyone else would have given up. When the world seemed to have at last forgotten entirely about Houdini, that was the point he reaffirmed his commitment. He wouldn't let it end like that. He found himself retracing his steps, repeating areas of inquiry. He'd never kept records. He was perhaps more like Houdini than he'd ever imagined. He began to see how it was possible, how Houdini had done it, simply by arriving at the point where he appeared most hopeless.

He developed a protocol, almost holistic in nature. He gave up on any direct means of finding Houdini, capturing him, and began looking at the edges of everything else he could find. On the surface, it was insane. It went against all his training, all his judgment.

But that's exactly when he found him.

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