One World Among Many

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L'Auberge Saint-Gabriel is a white stone building in Old Montreal. Built in 1688, it's bathed in yellow candlelight on this night just 63 years later. A Hudson Bay Company crest is emblazoned over the bar, four beavers sitting in the corners of a cross topped by a fox and surrounded by two bucks. Under it is the company motto, "Skin for Skin," scrawled in Latin.

Men stand around in warm flannel and thick animal skins, some are dressed in fine clothing, coiffed with powdered wigs and holding pewter cups filled with either ale, wine or one of the stronger mash brews distributed around Quebec.

A loud pop disturbs the din of French conversation. Two men appear. They are wearing thick tweed trousers popular in the 1920's. Neither wear a coat and both their thin cotton shirts are untucked and disheveled. A woman stands behind the smaller of the two, but moves off quickly when the men continue their brawl.

The small man is a bundle of quick muscle and intense black eyes, he throws a jab into the bigger man's nose. The appendage disappears in a puff of dust leaving only the nasal bones visible beneath.

A small whisper in French can be heard declaring the fighters "Witches."

Murmurs of agreement begin to spread as the men fight.

Two burly trappers step forward to intervene, but the woman in a long black dress stops them with a wave of her hand. They freeze in place. The rest of the Montrealers stand their ground.

The fear in the air is pungent.

The fighter with no nose is a thick man with reddish brown hair cropped short; he swings a huge fist. His haymaker connects to the smaller man's cheek. Sparks of blue puff off from the impact. Before the fist can be pulled back for another swing, the smaller man grips his attacker by the wrist and twists him over his hip.

The red-haired man crashes into a table and stays down, his neck obviously broken. 

The smaller man is the victor but not without damage. He winces as he takes a step, deciding his ankle is broken. He is not young anymore. He is over fifty and not even control of time and space can stop him from aging.

He limps over to the corpse as it disintegrates into a pile of grey dust mixed with chunks of bone.

A few moths fly away.

"That man will never give up," says the woman with a thick Brooklyn accent and a handsome face. She is in her fifties also with short curly black hair streaked with grey and parted in the middle. Her hands glow the same shade of blue that protected the man's face from the pile of dust's vicious punch. The blue fades to nothing as the man approaches, visibly limping, "My magic failed you?"

"My ankle may be broken. I'll live, but The Beast may never stop" He speaks with the flourish and reverb of a showman.

The room whispers in thick Quebecois French, calling them devils and cursing them to hell.

"I think the time has come to go, Bess."

"I think it may have, Harry." She places a hand on his elbow.

Harry takes a timepiece out of his breast pocket and looks at the face. He winds the spindle and with a pop, they vanish.

***

Martin Chatwin slams the book closed in front of him. Houdini's Autobiography remains unchanged. The man did not die. Just by chance, he opens the small black iron box on the table and is greeted with nothing save dust. He lets go and the lid snaps closed. He does not like to lose, but he has lost nonetheless. Lost innocence, lost his ability to love and lost Houdini and his timepiece yet again.

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