Chapter 5: The Understage
After finishing up with Ema Skye, who was very enthusiastic about the forensic side of the case once she knew the details wouldn’t hit the press until after they were revealed in trial, Maggie climbed down into the understage area, where Apollo and Athena were examining a small rack of props. “Is that the sword Trucy used in the trick, do you think?” she asked, her sudden appearance causing Apollo to jump.
“I didn’t hear you come down!”
“Sorry,” Maggie said sheepishly, ignoring Athena cracking up beside them while imitating Apollo’s startled face.
“In answer to your question, kind of? Trucy asked us not to reveal her tricks to anyone, even you.”
“Oh, okay, that’s fine.”
“Hey, hey guys, hold on. I hear… voices… We need to hide!” Athena interrupted urgently, grabbing their arms.
“I don’t hear anyth-“ Maggie began but Athena pulled them into the shadows, shoving Maggie and Apollo behind some boxes.
“Hurry and get down there!”
“YEOW! My arm doesn’t bend that way!” Apollo moaned. “What the heck, Athena?!”
“Shhhhh,” Athena whispered, “just listen.”
Maggie strained her ears, but it was hard to hear anything over her rapidly beating heart. Athena had shoved them down in such a way that Maggie’s back was pressed against the box behind them and she was directly facing Apollo, who was crouched in front of her. They were so close together she thought she could hear his breath ghosting over her forehead, but she may have been imagining it. She met his eyes cautiously, which was a mistake, because his flustered expression (probably mirroring her own) caused her to look down quickly, her cheeks red, but not before noticing his seemed a little darker as well. She was shaken from her thoughts by the voices Athena had heard – it seemed to take a while for them to get here, didn’t it?
A loud sigh came first, followed by a female voice Maggie recognized as the other female magician in the show, Bonnie. “It is so much WORK pretending to be cute and sweet.” Without moving too much, Maggie reached into her bag beside her for her notebook, opening it silently and preparing to take notes. This could be a scoop.
“Hey bunny! Wait for me!” A male voice, one Maggie recognized from television specials as the Ratings Rajah, Roger Retinz, called after the girl. They’d discussed him earlier, something about Trucy’s contract… She wrote down as many details as she could remember about him, planning to do more research later. She tried to ignore Apollo’s expression while trying to read her writing upside down, jumping when he whispered to Athena.
“Why did we have to hide, Athena?”
Athena, who was sitting behind a box beside them, looked over, her eyes serious. “Because I heard something funny. There’s something off in their voices…” She trailed off, apparently deep in concentration. Maggie was utterly lost, and it must have showed on her face, because Apollo was quick to answer her unasked question as quietly as possible.
“Athena has super-sensitive hearing. She’s in tune to the emotions in people’s voices.”
“And, you know, just for the record, I can tell when people are lying by analyzing their tells. Not like I’m trying to show off or anything, just letting you know-“
“Will you two pipe down, they’re talking again,” Athena hissed, although Maggie could just make out that she was trying not to laugh at Apollo’s chagrined expression.
“Those lawyers are poking around, trying to stir up trouble,” Bonnie complained. “Should I be worried?”
“Relax! I didn’t say anything to the police, and I won’t say anything to them either!” Retinz replied, and Maggie looked at Apollo with raised eyebrows, making notes without looking down. What could these two have to hide from the police?
“You better not! Or you’re gonna get it! POW! Right in the kisser!”
“What the…? Bonnie seems entirely different from how she was when we met her earlier…” Apollo muttered, and Maggie wrote that down too, not replying out loud.
“Apollo, shhh!” Athena scolded.
“I’m sick and tired of this whole investigation,” Bonnie continued. “All I want is Trucy’s head on a platter!”
“Holy…” Maggie whispered. “This girl has quite the thing against Trucy, right?”
“But she didn’t feel this way when we talked to her earlier. She felt the opposite, in fact,” Apollo replied quietly, his eyebrows furrowed, clearly thinking hard. In the back of her mind, Maggie thought it was kind of cute.
Retinz laughed. “Leave everything to me, babe. Don’t forget the power of mass media! TV can accomplish anything! I’ll make sure Trucy gets much worse than a guilty verdict!” Maggie wondered if Retinz really had anything to do with the one-sided media coverage while drawing a possible romantic link between Bonnie and Retinz, which caused Apollo to wrinkle his nose in disgust, which in turned caused Maggie to cover her mouth to silence her laugh.
Bonnie scoffed before continuing. “I can’t wait to see that girl crying and begging for mercy.”
“You really hate Trucy, don’t you, bunny?”
“I hate her. I LOATHE her. I can’t stand that Trucy Wright! Just because she’s a little good at magic, she thinks she’s all that! So this is exactly what that sniveling brat deserves!” At this point, Apollo and Maggie were tugging on Athena’s sleeves as best they could given their position to keep the girl from jumping out and giving Bonnie a smackdown. Bonnie continued speaking. “If you mess this up, you’re gonna really be sorry, you hear me? I’ll crush you flat. Like a cockroach under my foot!”
“Oh you cute little thing!” The baby talk from Retinz was enough to get the three hiding to sit back in various stages of disgust. “You’re so adorable when you’re throwing a fit!” He squealed in pain as Maggie underlined the romantic note three times. “OW! OW! My foot! Can’t you take a joke?”
“C’mon! Grab my things! We’re leaving!”
“Lead the hippity-hopping way, my little bun-bun!” After they were sure that the pair was gone, Apollo, Athena, and Maggie slowly poked their heads out of hiding to ensure that the coast was clear. Apollo stood and extended a hand to help Maggie up, which she took, hoping it was too dark to see her blushing cheeks.
“Thanks,” she murmured, busily putting her notebook back in her bag to avoid his eyes.
“So… what was that absolutely revolting scene all about?” Athena interrupted, still looking disturbed.
“I guess the entertainment industry attracts all kinds of eccentrics…” Apollo replied half-heartedly.
“But hey, I’ve been doing this reporting thing for a long time, and that conversation sets off literally every red flag in the book,” Maggie piped up. “There’s something going on here.”
“You said it. I smell plot with a capital ‘P.U.’!” Athena said, her hands on her hips.
“But Retinz said he was at the studio the whole time, and we all saw Bonnie onstage ourselves,” Apollo reasoned.
“You could always pay Take-2 TV a visit,” Maggie suggested. “It’s a little out of the way, but you might get some information there about Retinz. I’m afraid I don’t know much about him, I’m not assigned to that beat.”
“That’s a good idea. We can check up on his alibi while we’re there. Thanks Maggie. You won’t come with us?” Apollo asked, seeming a little disappointed.
“No, I should go work on this article. With the information I got from Ema and from the investigation here, I have more than enough. Plus I’ll have the trial coverage as well.”
“You’ll come tomorrow then?” Apollo asked, grinning shyly, his hand rubbing his spikes. Maggie nodded, smiling back at him.
“Wouldn’t miss it. I’m looking forward to seeing you two in action.”
“Oh no, don’t tell him that. He’ll be practicing his Chords of Steel forever now,” Athena groaned.
“Um, Chords of Steel?”
“You’ll see tomorrow,” Apollo and Athena replied together, with decidedly different expressions.
“I guess I will. Thanks for letting me tag along today, you guys. I really appreciate it.”
“No problem! See you tomorrow!” Athena said, flashing a peace sign and smiling brightly, elbowing Apollo when he didn’t respond right away.
“Oh, yeah, for sure, see you tomorrow.”
Maggie waved at both of them, exiting the theater and letting the cool air calm her still burning cheeks down. She was still a little flustered from being that close to Apollo and she had to admit, she was excited for the trial tomorrow. Chords of Steel, huh… She couldn’t wait to find out more about that.