The crowd fell silent as Marco took the stage. His cloak was lined with red satin. His moustaches were waxed into devil tips. The flat broad blades of his knives clashed at his hip. Across the stage, his wife was cuffed to a rotating disc. The wooden boards were scarred with countless knife strikes. Marco shrugged off his cloak, flexed his shoulders, cracked his knuckles, and spun on his heel to hurl the first knife. There were gasps from the audience as it flickered through the air and thudded into the board, inches from his wife’s neck. Marco grinned. God, how he loved showtime.
His personal challenge was to land the knife close enough to make her scream, to make a fool of her. That night, he succeeded three times. Once, the blade landed near enough to nick her arm.
The audience loved that one best of all.
After the show, he berated her cowardice.
‘You’re nothing without me,’ he sneered, and poured another calvados. ‘I could find another assistant anywhere. Anyone could do your job.’
He drank, and insulted her, and drank some more, and she sat there, cowed, bandaging the nick on her arm, and said nothing. He drank. He drank until his eyes grew dark, and the world rotated like a wooden disc. His last memory was his wife helping him out of the chair.
Marco woke with a thudding hangover. Every few moments, gravity sucked at his eyes and ached in his brain. Maybe he’d been too hard on her. He should apologise. When he opened his eyes, the world was spinning. It took him longer than it should have to realise why.
The auditorium was empty. His wife stood across the stage, wearing his cape, carrying his blades.
‘Miriam?’ he croaked.
‘You’re right, Marco,’ she said. ‘I’ve been thinking about it, and you’re right. Anyone could do my job.’
‘Miriam,’ he said.
She raised the first knife.
‘I wonder,’ she said, ‘if anyone could do yours.’