quite so fatigued. Certainly he'd never let himself go before, not like this, stroking hischin, and feeling the coarse hair that lent him the appearance of fierce desert nomad, heattempted half a smile and shook his head. “Perhaps I’ll shave,” he mused, as if that alonewould undo the damage of three sleepless weeks.A knock on the door stirred him but he ignored it, deducing correctly that it was hisnew manager, here to assail him with insincere encouragement, and a too cold or too hotcup of tea (he preferred coffee), or to bore him with the day's figures. A moment or twolater another knock followed, then another, finally he combed his fingers through his hair – a futile gesture, and called out, “The door is open.”The new manager, a rather rotund man of around fifty with a shiny bald pate and bulldogface opened the door and peered within.
No bag of flour in my face this time...so far....
“Yes Ralf?”After a moment's hesitation Ralf stumbled over to him with a steaming cup of tea.The portly man considered the young star, and pondered for the briefest time what the previous manager might have done to have warranted the sack. Whatever his misconduct,he thought sadly it couldn't compare to what he was planning, unless of course he'd beenworking for the same crowd. Inevitably this notion conjured up an image of failure andit's stiff penalty, he shuddered. Pushing dark thoughts to the recesses of his mind he said,“Good job today, the routine's coming on nicely.”“What does that have to do with the cup in your hand?” the magician asked drylywithout looking.“Well it's just I thought you could murder a good cup of tea.”
Did he just flinch.
“Imean, you look well...awful. Trouble sleeping? I could make you a camomile.”Waiting around to see if the performer might reply, the older man hung around amoment more absently tousling a balloon. After several minutes without a word he placed the cup and saucer in front of the showman and left, closing the door behind him.The lad was a wreck, which meant one of several things. One, he suspected what wasreally going on in which case his own life was in very real danger. Two, he was merely pushing himself too hard. Well that couldn't be true, the magician seemed to have lost hisspark and detested practice. Which left three, women. Putting it down to trouble with the