“30 Seconds in Tombstone”
“Spirit is willing (skinny as a rail?) and you think you got what it takes
The only exercise you ever get is the shakes
Rumors keep on spreadin' all over town
Lay it down clown, lay it down
Lay it down clown, lay it down "
-Sung by The Replacements
(“Lay it Down Clown”)
Harry and Max showed no expression. They were all business. So were the three bodyguards Platt had waiting for us.
Not as though we were really going to re-enact the O.K. Corral. No one displayed a gun or a wish to use one. But this was not going to be chummy.
Platte walked over to his desk, opened an extravagant box and pulled out a huge cigar. If you needed to see an explanation of “phallic symbol” this would do it. He lit the thing and blew out a massive cloud of smoke that smelled like tires on fire underground. This was not a quality smoke. Expensive box, cheap cigar inside. A lot like the Congressman.
“I know you must be here because of the Clown Plague that has been in all the papers,” he orated, “Your area has fallen hard under the monsters that dress in circus outfits.”
He walked back around the desk, then sat on the edge. “You’ll be happy to know that I have presented legislation that will help in this horrible circumstance.”
Harry, the best read of all of us, spoke up, “You mean your bill outlawing unregistered wearing of clown make-up in public? Fining and jailing anyone wearing a clown outfit without first getting it licensed? It’s a joke.”
“It is a statement,” the legislator said, “You and I both know it won’t pass. Too many Shriners in the House.”
I looked him in the eye and said, “What about kids at Halloween?”
He looked seriously surprised, like he hadn’t thought of it.
Then he took another drag on that rope he was smoking and said, “We all know you aren’t here for any of those reasons.”
“What do you want from me?” he said, displaying the cool of a gambler who just found out he has been caught with cards up his sleeve and is going to have to bluff his way out.
“We just need to find who is higher in the organization than you are, nothing else,” I told him in as matter-of-fact character as I could, “I would hate to finance your opponent in the next election.”
He looked as though he had expected physical violence, but this was a real thing, something he had now to deal with.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” he wheezed.
I took out my cell, dialed, “Democratic Election Committee? Yes I’d like to defeat Turner Platt and I have a LOT of money.”
“Stop!” he hopped up.
I hung up.
“I can call back any time I want,” I admitted with a smile.
“I am only slightly involved since Walt went to prison,” he confessed. “I was introduced to a lot of important people among them, and they were influential in helping me gain some…influence.”
I was taken by his fumbling speech.
“From time to time I get requests from a gentleman who I met in the Church. He is as high ranked as anyone I have met,” he was quick to add, “I wasn’t for all the killing, I told them so, but they don’t listen to me.”
“I don’t care. I want the name!”
He scribbled something on a notepad and handed it to me.
The name “Henry Coggen” was written there.
Coggen was rich and powerful, possibly more so than I.
He liked to demand politicians to move to the right. If it turned out he was the top of the chain I would revel in taking him down.
“You know I will investigate this, and if it turns out that you have lied to me, I will destroy you, right?”
“N-n-no. I swear.”
I put the sheet of paper in my pocket.
“And if any of those goons try to kill me in Washington, I will come after you personally.”
“You are safe here, I promise. But I can only hold them off so long! They are fanatics!”
I turned and the three of us left the office.
The reporters were waiting for us.
After the wave of questions I said, “Congressman Platt admitted to us that he was a member in good standing with the discredited Church of the Soul Purge, whose leader is in jail. You’d better ask him what they have asked him to do for them.”
We left the stunned corps a good three steps behind. Then they caught up about a dozen steps from the limo, which had gathered four parking tickets while we were inside.
As we sat in the seat I finished the call I started in the office.
I was aware he had already sent some Church members to kill me, so I would hit him first.
He rode directly to the airport and met Chester there. The private jet took off within 5 minutes. We had a flight plan already logged for Philadelphia, Coggen’s home town and base of operations.
He would know we were coming.
© C. Wayne Owens