“Back to Lincoln”
“Was it from spite
Or just sheer delight
You stooped so low
Now I wanna know
Why you killed the clown"
-Sung by The Thompson Twins
(“You Killed the Clown”)
Somehow we got back without another incident. Max was sure that it was because we stayed on the road. He was certain Simonson had planned on our detouring and had placed his troops in answer to that.
I’m not sure. It could have been that, or maybe there weren’t enough of them to be spread so thin. That was my hope.
My fear was that the rest of his army was already in Lincoln, putting on white face for the next atrocity.
That was what would grab him the next set of headlines, which, they told me, was what he lived for.
Everyone at the prison reported that he ate up those headlines like the finest filets. If he did not get the regular editions of print newspapers, then he turned to the online editions. They said that if they restricted his access, then other prisoners would pass them on to him. There were, it seemed, also advocates of the first amendments in prison.
When we stopped to get gas I picked up the Lincoln newspaper and stared in disbelief.
A rodeo had been running for 3 days in town when a murderous quartet of rodeo clowns stampeded two dozen bulls into the parking lot and shot people who tried to escape. Fourteen were trampled to death, 16 were shot and another 23 were sent to the hospital. The killers were dressed as famous figures of rodeo clowning like Flint Rasmussen, Johnny Tatem & Quill Dobbs, among others. Each of these famous performers had performed at this same fair at one time or another. Older members of the audience recognized the make-ups of these passed stars.
One of the clowns was shot by police and another was killed by one of the cowboys who came armed, fearing just such a thing might happen.
I returned to the car and passed the paper to Max. His only response was, “Damn!”
He started the engine and we headed out. It seemed we were going kind of slow at this point, but as he digested the news he seemed to speed up.
Your emotions can dictate your driving speed. That is one reason I tell people never to drive when you are angry (or listening to Chuck Berry. “Maybeline” has gotten me more than one warning).
We hit the city limits, and for a moment it was stunningly ghost-town-like. Then I remembered that it was 6 am on a Sunday morning. We would have gotten in earlier if we had flown, but I didn’t want to have been the cause of a plane full of people falling out of the sky. Max was a volunteer and uniquely prepared for dangerous situations.
I was second-thinking everything now. Being a target is a real buzz kill.
We planned to hit the police headquarters and check in, then hit the hotel for a short nap.
Walking up the steps to the precinct I was dancing around inside my head. I couldn’t stop my puzzle-solving machine from pumping non-stop. It always does that when faced with the death of everyone around me.
There was just no way to stop the unknown group from continuing their unknown plots. Even killing Simonson wouldn’t make sure the organization would fall apart. They would probably strengthen under his new martyr status.
If I could destroy the image of the man. . . That wouldn’t be hard to do for the public. Once he was linked to these murders he would become as hated as any mass murderer. But those who had drunk his Kool aid would become more fervent in their devotion to him.
How do you stop that?
Manson gets thousands of letters every week. Gacy got marriage proposals by the month. Dahmer was beloved by a set of really sick people, who lined up to visit him in prison, up until his brother prisoners decided to end his popularity.
Celebrity of murderers is insanely foreseeable. It happens so often that some people commit the crime in hopes of getting the notoriety. Sometimes it works, sometimes they fizzle out. If only that had been the case with Simonson.
No, he has so many people volunteering to die for him that it makes me sick.
That was when a possible solution struck me.
I bounded up the stairs. Well, as close to bounding as I do these days.
© C. Wayne Owens