"Well, these mundies mean business."
"They always mean business, Dolly," Magnus said. "It always ends messily. I've seen enough mundanes splattered on walls to last me - "
Suddenly a bell on the wall started ringing feverishly. This was followed by a loud, deep call from the main room.
This was followed by a lot of screaming.
"Excuse me a moment," Magnus said. He set the bottle of cheap champagne on the bar and indicated that Dolly should help herself, as he was sure she would even without permission. He went back through into the main bar, where an atmosphere of general madness had taken over. The band didn't pack up, but they had stopped playing. Some people were gulping back drinks, others running for the door, still others crying and panicking.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" he called. "Please simply set your drinks on the tables. All will be well. Remain seated."
Magnus had enough regulars now that there was somewhat of an established routine. These people were sitting down and cheerfully lighting cigarettes, barely turning to look at the axes that were already picking their way through the door.
"Lights!" Magnus called dramatically.
At once, the bar staff turned off all the lights and the speakeasy was thrown into darkness, save for the glowing orange tips of cigarettes.
"Now, please, everyone," Magnus said, over the yells of police and the banging of the axe and the splintering of the wood. "If we could all count to three together. One!"
They joined in nervously for "two" and "three." There was a flash of blue, then a final crack as the door came down and the police tumbled inside. Then all at once, the lights came up again. But the speakeasy was gone. All the patrons found in front of them were porcelain teapots and cups of tea. The jazz band had been replaced by a string quartet, who immediately began playing soothing music. The bottles behind the bar were gone, replaced by a well-stocked bookshelf. Even the decor had changed - the walls were lined with bookshelves and velvet draperies, all concealing the bar and the stock of alcohol.
"Gentlemen!" Magnus threw open his arms. "Welcome to our tea and book circle. We were just about to discuss tonight's book, Jude the Obscure. You're just in time! I may have to ask you to pay for the door, but I understand the impulse. One simply mustn't be late to the discussion!"
The crowd began to fall about laughing. They waggled their teacups at the police and waved copies of the books.
Magnus tried to vary this routine every time. Once, when the lights came back up, he had transformed the bar into an apiary, with buzzing beehives all around the room. Another time it became a prayer circle, with many of the guests wearing the garb of nuns and ministers.
Usually, this confused the police so much that the raids were brief and relatively nonviolent. But each time, he sensed their frustration growing. Tonight the group was led by McMantry, as crooked a cop as Magnus had ever met. Magnus had refused to pay him off on principle, and now he was coming down on Mr. Dry's Bar. They had come prepared this time. Every officer had a tool - at least a dozen axes, just as many sledgehammers, crowbars, and even a shovel or two.
"Take them all," McMantry said. "Everyone goes in the wagon. And then take this joint apart."
Magnus waggled his fingers behind his back to conceal the blue light that webbed between them. At once, four panels fell away from the walls, revealing hallways and escape routes. His customers ran for them. They would come out in four different locations, some blocks away. Just a bit of gentle, protective magic. No one deserved to go to jail for having a cocktail. A few officers tried to follow, only to find the passages were suddenly blind.
Magnus let the heavy glamour drop, and the speakeasy regained its normal appearance. This stunned the police long enough to allow him to slip behind a nearby curtain and glamour himself invisible. He walked right out of the bar, past the officers. He paused only for a moment to watch them pull back the curtain and study the wall behind, looking for the way to access the escape hatch they assumed had to be there.
Back out on the street, it was a thick September night. New York often stayed hot this time of year, and New York humidity had its own special quality. The air was viscous, full of the murk of the East River and the Hudson and the sea and the swamp, full of smoke and ash, full of the smell of every kind of cooking food, and the raw smell of gas.
He walked down to one of the exit points, where an excited cluster of customers stood laughing and talking about what had just happened. This group was made up of some of his favorite regulars, including the handsome Alfie.
"Come on!" Magnus said. "I think we should continue this at my place, don't you?"
A dozen people agreed that this was an excellent idea. Magnus hailed a taxi, and some of the others did the same. Soon there was a merry little chain of taxis ready to go. Just as one more person was squeezing into the backseat with Magnus, Dolly leaned in the window and spoke into his ear.