At the Santa
Monica Pier amusement park, a magician, The Amazing Maleeni,
puts on a sideshow for passers-by, but does fairly basic
tricks and talks a lot. A heckler (LaBonge) complains that
the tricks are 100 years old and demands something big.
Maleeni announces a trick to reattach a severed head, which
had been attempted three times before - each time resulting
in tragedy. He then rotates his head 360 degrees. The
audience is impressed, but LaBonge isn't. Later, when the
park employee comes to his van to pay him, he finds Maleeni
sitting in his van. Since Maleeni doesn't respond he taps
him. Maleeni's head, clean cut, falls to the ground.
Scully are at the park looking at the van. Scully is not
intrigued. She thinks the trick is unrelated to the
subsequent murder. Mulder thinks it is a magic trick gone
videotaped the performance. It shows Maleeni's head turn for
the end of the act, and also the heckler, who didn't seem
interested in the act. Scully think that he could be the
murderer, but did not have any idea who he was. They find a
soda cup seen thrown away on the tape and track him down
from finger prints.
His name is Billy
Labonge and he has a criminal record for pick pocketing. He
also does sleight of hand and claims that Maleeni was a bad
magician. Labonge demonstrates a similar trick, rotating his
hand 360 degrees, and says Maleeni had little originality or
style. He also says Maleeni racked up some big gambling
debts. As they leave, Labonge returns both of their badge
holders, which he has pick pocketed. Scully thinks that he
could have killed Maleeni because of professional jealousy.
Scully does an
autopsy on Maleeni, identified as Herman Pinchbeck, and is
bewildered. His head was carefully sawed off and reattached
with spirit gum. But he apparently died of a heart attack
and had been dead for over a month and refrigerated.
Labonge goes to a
North Hollywood pool hall and talks to a man named Cissy
Alvarez, whose body is covered with tattoos. They were in
prison together. Labonge tells him that he made Maleeni's
head to fall off. He tells him that he would get back the
$20,000,that Maleeni owed him, times ten, if Alverez would
help me due some magic. Alverez isn't interested, but
suddenly LaBonge lights his own hand on fire revealing
Alvarez's black book, which he was carrying in his breast
At the Cradok
Marine Bank, Mulder and Scully talk to a banker who looks
just like Pinchbeck - with a cervical collar around his
neck. He is Herman's twin brother, named Albert Pinchbeck.
He does a card trick for Mulder and explains that years ago
he and his brother worked as a magic act. He was in a recent
car accident but Mulder wonders if he was the magician who
appeared at Santa Monica Pier as one last act for which his
brother would always been remembered. It is revealed that
Pinchback is in a wheelchair with no legs as a result of the
The agents go
back to Labonge for advice. He tells them that the trick
would have been easy. Someone who looked a little like
Maleeni performed the trick, diverted the attention of the
crowd and pulled out the body from a hiding place. He says
he could have easily hid the body underneath the fake floor,
but they find nothing under the floor. Mulder finds a gambling marker in the
Pinchbeck visits the bank vault and asks the guard about his
gun, examining it briefly. Alvarez walks in and threatens
Pinchbeck, saying he wants him to pay his brother's gambling
debt. An armored car stops along the street when the guards
hear a noise. They open the back and a masked and tattooed
man is there. The guard shoots him four times, but the man
disappears. It was Labonge - he had fake tattoos on his
hands and cleans them off.
question Alvarez about the marker, which they tracked down
using the California criminal history fingerprint records.
He denies being involved with the murder, and says that it
was a friendly poker game that cost Herman $20,000.. Mulder
tells Scully he thinks they are subject to a case of
them as they drive off. He places an emergency call to
police saying that a man with a gun was trying to kill
somebody. He then enters the pool hall where Alvarez
threatens him as he thinks that Labonge was trying to frame
him by tearing a page from his black book of markers and
placing it in Maleeni's van. Labonge runs out, police arrive
and arrest him.
Mulder and Scully
return to talk to Pinchbeck. Mulder pushes him out of the
wheelchair - and it turns out that he does have legs. He is
Herman and was afraid for his life because he owes a lot of
money. He says that he had played with Alvarez, but he did
not want to cheat by manipulating the cards. He went to his
brother, the banker, for a loan and found him dead. He saw
it as an opportunity to become someone else. He faked the
car accident and his loss of legs, so that nobody suspects
He is arrested
but Mulder doesn't believe his explanation about why. The
bank president is concerned that Herman may have accessed
the Electronic Funds Transfer system, but he has not. The
president comments that for Mulder to investigate the EFT
system in more detail would take his badge number,
thumbprint and possibly a court order. Scully learns about
the armored car robbery attempt - Pinchbeck was the
authorizing signature that signed out the truck. In the jail cell at the
North Hollywood police station, Labonge is next door to
Pinchbeck - they are obviously in league with each other and
everything is going perfectly.
At the bank the
next morning the vault is found empty. Maleeni's still in
the lockup and it doesn't seem that he did it. The security
footage is blank between 3:00 and 3:20 a.m., but from two
days earlier they find footage of Alvarez in the bank and
the guard recognizes his tattoos as the guy who attempted to
rob the armored car. At the
pool hall, the money is found and Alverez is arrested, but
he claims it's a frame-up by Labonge.
Mulder and Scully
suspect that Labonge and Pinchbeck may be working together.
As they are to be released on bail the agents question them.
They think that Labonge was
Maleeni's protegee and it was a setup from the beginning.
Maleeni wanted revenge against the man (Alvarez) who had
made his life in prison a living hell. It was Albert, the banker, who died and
Herman, the magician, who took his place. He switched the
bullets in the guard's gun clip to be blanks. They used
escape artist techniques to get out of jail, stole the
money, planted it to frame Alvarez, and got back into jail.
But Mulder says they will go free, because it can't be
proven. Pinchbeck says, "The great ones always know when to
leave the stage."
After they leave,
Mulder tells Scully that there was more to their magic. It
turns out, that Mulder has Pinchbeck's wallet, taken from
the evidence room. He wondered why they needed so eleborate
a set up to draw the FBI's attention. Framing Alvarez was
another misdirection. Mulder says it was really about
Electronic Funds Transfers, and an FBI agent has the
authority to get into the bank EFT system. The magicians had
Mulder's badge number from when Labonge pick pocketed it and
thumb print from Pinchbeck's card trick, but the playing
card (King of Diamonds) is in the wallet, so they will not
be able to steal via EFT.
question is how did Maleeni turn his head all the way
around. Scully demonstrates how she can turn her arm all the
way around, as Labonge did. Mulder is left wondering how she
did it. Magic, she replies.
By Michael Marek and Rohan