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"You did not bring the orange tree?" Uhl attempted to make the question sound nonchalant, running his fingers idly through the basket of colorful scarves, belying the path his eyes inevitably traced to Eisenheim's form.

"Do I detect a note of disappointment in your voice, good sir?" Eisenheim may have been smiling in the shadows that sheltered his face.

"Certainly not." Uhl gruffly jerked at his collar. "An observation, nothing more."

Eisenheim closed his sheaf of papers, raising his dark eyes to meet Uhl's. "You would err to name observation 'nothing,' Inspector. Observation is the keystone of all illusion."

Uhl couldn't help holding the strange gaze, curiosity dissipating his feigned nonchalance. "Observation, Herr Eisenheim? Not skill, or sleight of the hand?"

"Nay." Eisenheim straightened, standing before Uhl at his full height. His eyes flickered quickly, a brief light in the dusk. They darkened again just as quickly, and he stepped forward, as if he'd reached a silent decision.

He held out his hands near Uhl's wrist. "May I?"

Uhl nodded, no words forthcoming. He wished he could dispense with his jacket all together—the collar was so damnably tight.

Eisenheim's hands deftly rose up under his, drawing Uhl's right hand up into the scant space between them. Their skin was painted in streamers of golden lantern light, pale and shining.

"I have observed you, as you seek to observe me now." Two soft, surprisingly warm fingers touched to his wrist, directly on the pulse. "It is not the talent in these fingers that lets me draw a web of illusion over your eyes, nothing so mundane as sleight of hand."

"Then what?" Uhl's hoarse voice sounded foreign to his own ears, jarring against the rich darkness that Eisenheim effortlessly surrounded them in. He hadn't even felt himself step closer, so afraid of missing the barest whisper.

The Illusionist's smile was an impenetrable enigma.

"It is you, Inspector."

And his fingers slipped so quickly under the fabric that Uhl didn't have time to gasp or protest against the sudden intrusion. They emerged holding a tiny blossom, white, a yellow center flanked by star-shaped petals.


As the fragrance of citrus reached Uhl's nose, he looked up, a million questions clamoring at the tip of his tongue.

But Eisenheim was gone, only his ghostly caress seared along the line of his rapid pulse to signify that the Illusionist had ever been there.