EVENTS PILED UP one after another. I became a corporal after eleven months of brutal training. I went home on a few leaves, saw my mother, played a lot with Joker, and went out on dates to a few discotheques. I was one of the five in our group chosen for officers’ training school, and my father was very proud of me.
This was a new life. It was tougher than ever, because not only did the maneuvers continue, but we had to cram a terrific amount of knowledge into our heads in a short time. During one field exercise in a blinding rain, I was setting up my tent when I saw a jeep parked nearby with an officer inside. I had to look twice before I reaised it was Joav. I knocked on the canvas door, opened it, and yelled his name.
He was startled. He yelled: “Uri! Get in!” I jumped in, and we embraced. It had been so long since I had seen him. I told him, “My God, Joav! I didn’t know you were an officer in the paratroopers.” He was happy to hear I was in officers’ training and told me to be sure to call him when I finished the course. He asked if I still did the telepathy and said that it could be put to good use some time. I was happy to see him and looked forward to seeing him again.
Shortly after that, two tragedies struck. I went home on leave and found Joker so sick he could hardly move. He was over ten years old now, and I knew it was natural, but that didn’t make me feel any better. He lay on the floor and could do no more than wave his tail. I knew he was dying. It broke my heart. I took him to a vet, who told me what I expected: Joker would have to be put away. I kissed him and held him, then left him there.
I can’t express how terrible I felt. I was crying inside. I couldn’t cry tears; I was a paratrooper, and I didn’t want the vet to see me. I wanted to get away, but I seemed unable to leave. When I got to the street level, I stopped in the doorway and waited. I must have stood there about twenty minutes, then I heard the shot. I burst out crying, openly. I couldn’t stop it, and I couldn’t leave the doorway. What would it look like to see a paratrooper going down the street crying? I finally went back to my mother’s apartment, and she cried too.
When I got back to officers’ training camp from leave, the second blow struck. I picked up the newspaper to read about a border raid by an Israeli task force in Jordan. Only one Israeli officer was shot. It was Joav, a bullet through his head. That, combined with the loss of Joker, made my world crumble. I seemed to lose all incentive to do anything. I just went through the motions at officers’ school.
One night on a maneuver I was in charge of five men in the field. In the exercise, a red flare would be fired, and we were to shoot our weapons, then run back to where the rest of the platoon was stationed. It was a long wait. We all fell asleep waiting. A kick in the back woke me up. An officer was standing there telling me to wake up. I knew right away that I would be thrown out, and the next day I was.
For some reason, I felt great relief. It was a different day, a different morning. A huge responsibility was lifted from my shoulders, and I actually felt good about it. I knew I would be going back to the regular paratrooper unit as a corporal again, but I didn’t mind. The big strain was over.
I went back to Tel Aviv briefly to help my mother move into a new apartment, small but nicer than the older one we were in. My mother had taken a job as a waitress in a little coffee shop, and I hated to see that. I wished I could make more money so my mother could stop working, but there was nothing I could do until I got out.
Back at the paratrooper camp I re-entered as a driver of a new type of armored vehicle they were experimenting with. At other times I drove a command car. I wasn’t back in the routine too long before I came down with pneumonia, and the next thing I knew I was in the hospital with a high fever and feeling terrible. It was now 1967, and the situation in the Sinai desert and at the Suez Canal was getting bad. Even in the hospital, I could tell that everyone was getting ready for war, especially when they began taping all the windows and setting up emergency operating rooms.
I stayed in the hospital for nearly a month. Then the complications cleared up and I was sent to convalesce at an army station called Resort No. 3. The food was good there, and all you had to do was rest and recuperate. Movies, games, and a piano helped to make everything very pleasant. One day I was playing the piano – I had picked up quite a bit of music by ear – when one of the girl officers who helped run the place came over to listen. Her name was Yaffa, and she was absolutely beautiful. I looked at her and she looked at me. I think it was one of those rare instances of love at first sight.
I was suddenly so in love with her I couldn’t think of anything else. She was tall and had black hair, green eyes, and a beautiful body. She was quite intelligent. I went to her room and we slept together. I experienced a full feeling of love that I had never known before.
The next morning I felt I was in paradise. We saw each other every moment we could. I never had felt this way before, not with Helena, not with Patty, not with anyone else. I told Yaffa I loved her, that I couldn’t stand the thought of having to leave her. She told me she loved me, too.
But she had something very serious to tell me. No matter what she was about to say, she still loved me. She said she was engaged to someone else and loved him too, but in a different way. I was so let down I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t accept it. I told her that I was completely hers and couldn’t understand how she could love anybody else at the same time. I thought back, though, to Patty and Helena, and remembered how I had once felt that way myself, loving two people at once. But that didn’t make it any easier to take. She tried to explain that each love was different, that she loved me and the man she was going to marry in different ways.
I had only another week left at the rest station. One day we went up to Mount Carmel and looked out over Haifa. It was like being high. She was in my arms, and it was painful to think that something of her belonged to someone else. She confessed that she had a better time with me and was more physically attracted. But she had known the other one since she was thirteen. She didn’t feel she could break the engagement. It was a terrible feeling, terrible. I was heartbroken.
She gave me a list of all the places she would be over the next months, and we swore to see each other whenever we could.
I went home for two days before reporting back to my unit. I was miserable. I tried to forget her. Meanwhile, the international situation was getting tense, unbearably tense. News came that the Egyptians had closed the Suez entrance to the sea and had mined it. There was talk of war everywhere – in the streets, in the coffee shops, in the camps.
The morning I was to return to my camp, the sirens blowing all through Tel Aviv woke me. They were the sirens of war. The practice sirens would stop and go. These were steady. It was announced on the radio that the Israeli forces were proceeding deep into the Sinai desert. It was a full-scale war.
I rushed to get dressed, said goodbye to my mother, and drove my scooter as fast as it would go back to my unit. I was worried. What if my unit had already gone? My hand never left the horn of the scooter, and I went through every red light. I located my unit, with armored vehicles standing by, packed and ready to move out on command. Since I had been away so long I wasn’t allowed to handle a vehicle. Instead I was put in charge of eight men in a command car that followed the light armored vehicles.
I assigned them guns and helmets, put on my camouflage suit, and we were ready. By now it was late afternoon, and we had no word on where we were to go.
I kept looking at the room where all the senior officers were. We were ready, but still nobody knew where we were going. Some said we were going up to the Golan Heights. Others said to the Jordanian side, or to the Sinai desert. Nobody really knew, not even the officers. All our ears were stuck to the transistor radios. We got news that many Arab villages had been taken in the Sinai and that our troops had reached the Suez Canal. The war was under way.
I was thinking a lot about Yaffa. Then very strange feelings started coming over me. I knew something was going to happen to me. I remembered the lion in the zoo, I remembered my mother’s taxi accident, I remembered my dream before my second training jump in the paratroopers. I was frightened because I was convinced that all those premonitions had come true. Oddly, I knew I wasn’t going to be killed. I would just be hurt or wounded. I put my hand to my forehead and prayed to God that I wouldn’t be gravely wounded, that everything would be all right even if I was wounded.
Evening came, and there was still no word of where we were going. We slept awhile, very restless. Early in the morning, about three, the word came. We were going to Jerusalem. By the time the sun was up we were on the road. We stopped, waited, and started up again on the road as new instructions kept coming in. Many tanks passed us. Fighter planes were constantly flying overhead in the direction of the Sinai. Helicopters were whirring elsewhere.
I thought of Yaffa again, I thought of my mother, I thought of Cyprus, I thought of getting wounded. We moved slowly, with all the starting and stopping. Night was falling again. We kept asking the officers what the story was, and they kept saying they didn’t know. There was no word from headquarters. We were to wait where we were.
At night we received orders to stand by for moving out in the morning. I told the eight men under my command to fuel up the armored vehicles and to return the empty Jerry cans to the command car, where they would be filled again from the big tanker that was following us. I grabbed a can and went up to one of the light armored vehicles to fill it. I yelled to a soldier on top of it to open the hatch. He turned out to be Avram Stedler, a friend from my old platoon. He said: “Hi, Uri. Fill her up.”
I looked Avram in the eye, and he looked at me, and I knew that he was going to die. It was a horrible feeling. I stopped pouring the gas a moment and asked him what his job was. He told me he was manning the armored car’s cannon. I asked him how he felt. He said fine. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to figure out a way to save him. But I couldn’t. I finally said: “Avram, can I shake your hand?” He said: “Why?”
I said: “Just shake hands with me, please.”
We shook hands, and I turned and walked away. I didn’t look back at him. I went back to the command car and sank into the seat. I said to myself, “God, I know these things so suddenly. I know things that nobody else knows, and I don’t know why. Is there any way I can save Avram?’
But I didn’t know how. I couldn’t sleep that night before we went into action. I thought a lot more about Yaffa, about how it would be if we were married, and about what she might be doing right now. Was she thinking of me, Dawn broke, and the rays of the sun lit the sky and the hills above. We took off down the highway that led to the Jordanian border. We could already hear far away the shooting and blasts of cannon and tanks. We knew a war was going on.
We were proceeding toward a place called Ramala, which was several miles from Jerusalem itself. We heard that one unit of Israeli paratroopers was already in the city. Our job was to close down the road from Ramala to Jerusalem so the Jordanians could not bring in supplies. Suddenly, without warning, shooting started coming from all over. We seemed to be boxed in by firing. My command car had no armor protection, so we had to drive behind and beside an armored vehicle. The command came over my walkie-talkie to let the Sherman tanks hit the hills first. They started firing.
There were many of our planes, even fighter planes, in the skies, diving at the hills. I saw one of our own planes drop a napalm bomb on one of our vehicles by mistake. It was such a big mess, with all the shooting, bombs exploding, planes diving. We didn’t know exactly where the enemy fire was coming from. We knew only that it was coming from the general direction of the hill in front of us. We soon learned that there were Jordanian tanks firing at the road, trying to block us from proceeding to Ramala. We were told to take cover behind rocks and wait. I ordered my unit out of the exposed command car and behind a graveyard wall that was near us. We had only light arms, which wouldn’t do us any good right then.
As we ran to the graveyard, I stumbled over the bodies of Arabs. One of them was covered with a blanket. I thought, is this guy sleeping, or what? I pulled the blanket down, and it was the body of a Jordanian, all shot up. I covered the corpse up again and got my men behind the graveyard wall. The noise of the machine guns, the tanks, the planes, the screaming walkie-talkies was indescribable. We were spread out and pinned down behind the wall by the fire coming from the hill. We were partly exposed there. It didn’t give much protection.
I was at the entrance to the graveyard checking out the men. I had no cover there. Suddenly I felt my hand spin away from me. I didn’t reaise what had happened. About twenty seconds later I felt wet and looked at my hand. My shirt was covered with blood. I was really scared, because I thought I was hit inside my body. I jumped over the wall and started screaming, “Chovesh!” – the Israeli word for medic. There was none. but a soldier ran up and tore off my shirt. Blood was dripping from a hole in my left hand. The soldier took a bandage from his first aid kit and tied my hand up. I didn’t feel any pain. There was just a lot of blood. It began to stop bleeding, so I just stayed in charge. The Jordanian tanks were zeroed in on us, because our vehicles were all around us shooting at the hill.
There was no safe place. We were in the hands of God. Our tanks were moving up the hill – we called it French Hill – and battering the Jordanian positions. But the enemy’s Patton tanks were shooting at us and trying to push our forces off the hill. I saw one of the Jordanian tanks in an open field only about a quarter of a mile away, shooting at us. One of our armored vehicles drove in front of us on the road in front of the graveyard, moving toward the Patton tank. I knew immediately that it was the one Avram was in.
I saw the whole scene. It was like a movie, not reality. The guns of both the Patton tank and Avram’s armored vehicle were silent for a moment. Our captain had his head out of the hatch and yelled “Fire!” I couldn’t see Avram, but I knew he was manning the cannon, and he fired. I saw the shell blast about 4 meters short of the Arab tank. Nothing happened. I saw the captain look down the hatch and yell “Fire!” again. But it was too late. The Jordanian tank fired. I heard a loud bang and saw Avram’s vehicle tilt and shudder. There was no smoke, no fire, just a strange rattle. I saw the captain slip back down the hatch as if he were hit. Then I heard a rumble like an explosion deep down inside the vehicle.
Everything became quiet. I knew they were all killed. I knew Avram was inside there and that he was dead. I was stunned and silent. All kinds of thoughts flashed through my head. The Patton tank of the Jordanians was moving closer to us. I yelled to one of the soldiers near me: “Let’s get over there. Let’s see if anyone’s alive!” We leaped over the graveyard wall and started running to Avram’s vehicle. The Patton tank was getting closer to us, but we ignored it. We got to the vehicle, and I touched it. It was red hot. I had to pull my hand away.
Suddenly I saw someone coming out from the other side. It wasn’t Avram, but the driver. His leg was nothing but meat, and he seemed half dead. We started to haul him away. The Patton tank was now very near. But then we heard another loud bang, and the Jordanian tank exploded. The shock wave knocked us off our feet. When the smoke cleared, it sat there, silent, burned to death. Nobody came out of it.
We got up and dragged our wounded driver to the road, then carried him farther away. He was conscious but very pale. He just kept saying, “I’m hit. I’m hit.” He asked me: “Where am I hit?” I looked, and it seemed as if one of his legs was practically blown off. Then he said: “My God is my thing all right? Is it still there?”
I opened his trousers and looked. Everything was blown off. I just took a deep breath, I remember, and got my strength together. We got him to a little Arab house, where we found stretchers, and put him on one. He said: “Are there helicopters coming?” I grabbed a walkie-talkie nearby, but it had bullet holes in it and wasn’t working. I pretended to call into it anyway. I said to the dead microphone: “Hey, can you hear me? You’re on the way? Good. We’re waiting for you.” And I turned to the wounded guy and said: “The helicopters are on the way. Hold on!”
I saw his face relax a little. I was certain they would really send a helicopter soon if he held on. Then some big blasts hit right close to us. There was a big Jordanian truck filled with Jerry cans of gasoline not too far away. Three Arabs behind it and others behind some rocks were shooting at us. My men started shooting back. Next to them was an Israeli soldier with a bazooka, but he seemed to be in shock and wasn’t shooting it. I hadn’t been trained to handle it, and I yelled for someone who knew how to fire it. Two Israelis came running up. They grabbed the bazooka from the guy who was in shock. I told them to keep cool and aim at the truck. There was so much shooting around us that nobody could keep cool.
But they fired on command. I saw the missile head straight for the truck, I saw it hit the Arab truck, I saw the truck burst into flames. Farther up on the hill, I could see a pillbox firing at us and pinning us down. I decided to take several of my men and attack it. We started sneaking up the hill to one side of the pillbox. Two of my men were behind me.
Suddenly an Arab jumped out from behind a nearby rock. He shot at me twice and missed. I don’t know why he didn’t hit me – it is another mystery in my life. He was about 30 meters away. I looked at him and pulled up my gun waist high. I just shot from the waist. As I was shooting, I looked him in the eye. I saw his face. He had a mustache. As I fired, I was thinking of Avram’s vehicle when it was hit, and the driver who was dying, and all the wounded lying around. I didn’t have time to think much. I guess I didn’t have any feelings. I knew there was a war going on and it had to be fought. I knew that if I didn’t get him, he would get me. The man fell.
The guys behind me were also shooting. Somehow the whole scene looked like a big motion picture studio again. It looked like a story or a dream that any minute I was going to wake up from. It was all unreal. But my left hand reminded me that it was no dream, because it started to hurt. The smoke and the bullets hitting all around were real enough, too. But one side of me thought, what if it’s a dream?
It was at least a nightmare. We started back toward the command car. There were explosions and bullets hitting all around us. I don’t know where it came from – a shell from a tank, a grenade, or what – but I felt a blast, something hit my right arm, and something else hit the left side of my forehead above the eye. Everything went completely black, and I lost consciousness. In that fraction of a second before blacking out, I thought: I am dying. I was more convinced this time than during the parachute jump. I said to myself: So this is death. There was no terror, no panic. I was surprised that death was so easy.
When I came to, I was in a bed. Everything was clean. Both my arms were bandaged, and there was a bandage around my head. I looked at my body and saw that I wasn’t hit anywhere else. I was in a hospital. I didn’t think of anything but Yaffa then. I thought to myself: Does she know what’s happened to me? Then my thoughts wandered to my father and mother. I looked around the room and saw many other wounded soldiers there.
I was able to phone my mother and let her know I couldn’t come home, but I didn’t tell her I was in the hospital. I knew my father would be in the fighting, maybe in the Sinai. I didn’t know where. I got Yaffa on the phone and didn’t tell her where I was, either. She said she had to see me and wanted to know where I was I wanted to see her so much that I had to give in and tell her.
I stayed in the hospital about three weeks. I was lucky. The wounds were not serious. The bullet or shrapnel had just creased my forehead above my eye. The wounds on my arms and hands were bad, but not bad enough to make me lose the use of them. Two days before I was to be released, Yaffa came to see me. It was lovely being together with her again, but very brief. She had to go back to her camp at Haifa, and I had to go through a big medical checkup.
Of course, I could think of nothing else but getting back to Haifa to be with her. But then I said to myself: This thing with Yaffa can’t go on. She couldn’t love two people forever, and she had said she had to stick by her decision to be married. I resolved to be strong, to manage without seeing her, to try to forget her.
I talked to her on the phone, and she repeated that she was going to get married but still loved me. She said she was being torn apart. I was too, but then I was torn in other ways – seeing my friends die, the whole awful scene of the battle. Every time Yaffa came into my mind I was depressed. I would say to myself: “Look at those other guys. They didn’t even make it. They’re dead. They’re in the ground now. There’s no love, nothing. They’re in another world. They’re in the ground now.” I was lucky. I was alive.
I had three full months to recuperate. I had nothing to do, so I started looking for work. A girl I knew in Tel Aviv, just a friend, told me she was going to be an instructor in a resort camp for children and wanted to know if I wanted to work with her there. I told her I’d be happy to. I would get paid, and the camp was near Tel Aviv. My left hand and arm were in a cast, but my right arm had healed. Only the scars remained. There was still pain in my left hand, and when they took off the cast I would have to go through therapy with it. The doctor said it would be a long time before I could stretch it out, and maybe I would never be able to stretch it out fully. But after seeing what had happened to my friends – some of them with no legs, no hands, no eyes – I knew how lucky I was.
Looking back on it, going to that children’s camp was the biggest turning point in my life. It was there that my whole career of demonstrating the strange energy forces really began. The camp, called Alumin, was about an hour’s drive out of Tel Aviv. It had palm trees, a swimming pool, grass everywhere, and accommodations for about 200 children at a time. A new group would come in every three weeks. I was a counselor, not instructing in anything particular but keeping the kids busy and happy.
In one of these groups was a kid named Shimshon Shtrang, about twelve or thirteen years old. His nickname was Shipi. We used to sit on the grass with about ten kids for storytelling periods, and I used to tell them about the caves in Cyprus and some of the imaginary stories I had told to the kids in Mrs. Agrotis’s class back there.
Shipi was always pressing me for more stories, and I finally got around to telling him about some of the strange things that had happened to me off and on, over the years.
I decided to try some of the telepathy I had done with Mrs. Agrotis, and I noticed that the experiments I tried with Shipi were absolutely incredible. They worked both ways. I would write numbers down so that he couldn’t possibly see them, and he would get them exactly right time after time. Or the other way around. It was so consistent that I was shocked. Sometimes he would go upstairs in a building and draw pictures and seal them in envelopes, while I would be out on the grass drawing the exact same things he had drawn. I tried it with other kids, but it didn’t work nearly as well.
Then I decided to try bending things. This worked with nearly everybody, but with Shipi it far exceeded anything that happened with others. He brought some keys from home, and within half a minute they would bend up to 90 degrees. With the others the bend was there, but it usually ranged from 10 to 45 degrees. I kept asking myself, why does it work so well with him?
As the days passed, we performed these experiments for longer periods of time whenever I wasn’t taking care of the kids. We’d sit together and bend nails with just the lightest touch, move the hands of watches, and so on. He told me about his background. His father was German, his mother was Russian. He had two sisters – Hannah, who was nineteen, and Shoshanna, who was about twenty – who were due to visit the camp soon. I looked forward to meeting them and wondered if the forces would work as well with them as they had with Shipi.
As it turned out, I liked Hannah very much. She is not what I would call a beautiful girl, but her face is good-looking in an unusual way. Her green eyes reminded me of Yaffa. I told her about the things that had happened with Shipi. I tried some experiments with her, but they didn’t work very well. Then Shipi and I demonstrated some phenomena for her. She found them fascinating and unbelievable.
When Shipi left the camp, I took his address and promised to look him up. In the meantime, I got word that I couldn’t return to the paratroops because of my wounds. Actually, I was pleased about that. I had about eight more months to finish out my service, and I wanted to spend it in the regular army, in as much peace as possible. The war was over now, and I was glad. Before long I was back in the army with the job of tracking down deserters. I got sergeant stripes soon after that.
My job consisted of going out into the small villages on a motorcycle, which was fun, and locating those who were avoiding the service. When I did, I got them to sign a paper saying that they would present themselves the next day to an army base. I went all over the countryside, up to Jerusalem, all through the rocky hills, the irrigated fields, the Arab villages that had been occupied. It gave me time to reflect. I thought about the war, the friends that had been killed, how peaceful life can be, and how deadly things can become in contrast. I couldn’t understand how our human minds can destroy so. I remembered the useless killings, and I was very sad. I wished it had never happened. The pictures of the really badly wounded men came back to me, soldiers turned into monsters, blinded, with no sex organs, no hands, the guys in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives. Can you imagine it? Suddenly you cannot make love. Maybe when a guy dies young, God needs him up there. For some reason, maybe God needs him the way he is, and takes him that way.
I was able to see my father much more often now. He was living in an apartment in Giva Taim, which is near Tel Aviv. He had found a girl he liked very much, and she was living with him. She was quite a bit younger, but he was still handsome and didn’t look his age. I used to bring my dates up to his apartment, and we kept in close touch.
One day I was driving back from my father’s and was amazed to see Shipi on the street. I had never kept my promise to look him up. We were excited to see each other again, and I discovered he lived close to my father. I visited Shipi and his family the next day. His parents turned out to be really kind and intelligent people. It was good to see Hannah again. Their father told me that all Shipi could talk about when he got back from camp was those strange powers that worked so well between the two of us. We all enjoyed each other so much that I almost became part of the family. I got to know Hannah better and started dating her. It was an unusual relationship. I loved Hannah in a different way. She was fragile and a good girl, and we were very close.
We got along wonderfully, all of us, and had lots of good times together. Shipi was getting ready for his bar mitzvah, and I was invited to it, of course. During that period he told me he had been telling his teachers at school all about the things that had gone on with the telepathy and the other experiments, and none of them believed him. However, the school administration had told him there was a little fund to pay outside speakers at some of their Sunday meetings. Shipi said that, if I could come over and demonstrate some of these things, they could pay 36 pounds. He was sure the teachers and the pupils would enjoy it.
I thought that would be a great idea. I was still in the army and could use the extra money. So I went to the school. I entered a hall full of children, with the teachers sitting up front. When I stepped on the stage, it was the first time in my life I had ever been in front of an audience. I must be a natural-born ham, because I found myself enjoying it. What they were about to see that afternoon, I announced, I had no explanation for at all. They would just have to judge for themselves.
I was just playing the demonstration by ear. I started with telepathy using the blackboard, turning my back to it without peeking and guessing what different children had drawn on it. Shipi had already asked the teachers to prepare drawings sealed in envelopes and to bring in any broken watches to see if I could make them start up again.
Everything seemed to work fine. The show went on for more than two hours. Nobody wanted to go home.They kept clapping their hands, never stopping. It was wonderful. They wanted to see more and more.
I observed all kinds of reactions. Some just plain didn’t believe what they saw at all. Others wanted to see more and more, as if just one more experiment would help them figure out what was going on. I thought to myself: All these things are happening; there aren’t any explanations. Anyway, the audience loved it.
The teachers asked intelligent questions. They wanted to know when I first found out about this. Whenever that was asked, I remembered that light in the Arabic garden when I was very young. But I never said a word about that. It was too strange. I did tell about some of my early experiences at school, what happened in Cyprus in the classroom, and that kind of thing. It was a successful demonstration. I was fascinated with the reaction of the audience and gratified by the interest of both teachers and children.
Though I didn’t reaise it at the time, I had set the stage for a big part of my future life. I had no idea of the complicated directions it was to take, the controversy it was going to create, or that it was going to make my name known to the public throughout the world.
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“There is no spoon!”
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Tannens Magic Blog
“The man is a natural magician. He does everything with great care, meticulous misdirection and flawless instinct. The nails are real, the keys are really borrowed, the envelopes are actually sealed, there are no stooges, there are no secret radio devices and there are no props from the magic catalogues.”
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