A magician, Henry, gets a gig in a vacation town. Every night he does a show, every night the house is full. During the day he does card tricks on the boardwalk, both to advertise his show and because he enjoys it, magic. He enjoys surprising people, he enjoys mystifying them, he enjoys their befuddlement – he enjoys it a little maliciously, even.
(There was a time in his life, when he was a young man in his twenties, that he gave free reign to this malice and worked with another guy running a series of cons that could have gotten them into significant trouble, had they been caught, but which only netted them money. It was an entire life time ago, including a period of running against another pair – a husband/wife team. They were especially good. Ruthless in ways he knew he would never be – they hated the world much more successfully than he ever could and meeting them, he recognized that. It prompted him to quit, though the memory of their ferocity never was far from him.)
So he’s doing his show in this quaint sea-side town, and he realizes one night, in the middle of his act, that the audience member he’s invited up on stage to help him has been up there before – three or four times, in fact, and each time dressed differently. The audience member has never interfered with the play – it’s always gone just as planned, but each time, this audience member has watched very closely and aside from giving a different name and the different clothing, done nothing to conceal that she was fascinated by the trick.
Henry realizes that she doesn’t seem to be trying to figure out the play, nor does she seem to be in it just to be in front of the audience. In fact, Henry can’t for the life of him figure out what she wants.