“Our circus closed, and the midnight ghost,
Comin' out as light's gone down.
Old and tired clown, no one is around,
Staring at the mirror - now listen...
Oh, show must go on,
Lived in the crowd, dyin' all alone...
Clown in the mirror - glitter and scars.
Here's the pleasure and pain looks as one...
Clown in the mirror - touchin' the stars,
Flyin' in dreams to the sun...”
-Sung by Royal Hunt
(“Clown in the Mirror”)
It is truly amazing how much information can be dredged up about anyone in an hour on the computer. We had more video footage of Walter Simonson than Barney could watch if he did nothing else.
Harry was screening it so we could show it in hour bursts. The rest of the time was divided between Barney reading Simonson’s personal writings and each of us giving him personal insights from our meetings, both in combat with him and during the trial and the two appeal hearings. Not to mention the depositions that Simonson had demanded to be a part of, so he could glare at us the whole time.
All this time Barney was working with a couple of independent film’s best make-up people. There were a couple of things that needed adjusting to make him look exactly like the head of the church.
As soon as they had perfected the look, we held a couple of photo ops with some very carefully selected press folks. The most important thing was to include lots of shots of him and me shaking hands and looking like the hatchet had been buried, and not in me.
I was aware we had added a slip of “Prisoner of Zenda” to our story, but it couldn’t be helped. After the rally or meeting, or whatever you wanted to call the gathering, we could let the body of Simonson be found in his hotel room, and that would answer that problem. After all the loose ends were tied up and all the arrests were made, then would be the time to release to the press the real story, if anybody was still listening to me at all.
The newspapers, 24 hour news cable channels and the internet were on fire with the positive and negative reaction of my alliance with a convicted conspirator to mass murder and religious malfeasance. I had never known I was held in such high esteem until I became so loathed. The only ones who celebrated were Fox News, who had always known I was a crook, and now. they said, it was proven.
Barney was starting to get into the character, sometimes so much that it got scary. I had never seen anybody like him. He didn’t put on the character, he became someone else. There were times I felt he might be able to put the whole thing over without any make-up. People who had never seen Simonson in person would have bought it, but Coggen and his crew expected to get close.
They were the ones we feared.
That gave me a back-up idea, a contingency plan. It was a plan I had hoped never to have to fall back on. But the more I thought about Coggen, the more I thought we needed this to work, and that made “Plan B” a strong choice.
The “Final Test” was coming up this morning. We had boarded a train in Abilene, Kansas and took the car that had been ours from the coast. No one had seen us board either place, so we were sure we were okay. We would disembark in K.C.’s Union Station, right into the arms of the press and more importantly, Coggen and his bunch.
None of them would know that, in a refrigerator car in the rear the original Walter Simonson was lounging, cold, but restful.
I made a call to our Kansas City office and got the new man, Driscoll, on the line. He would work. He would be there on cue.
As we pulled in, we were all gritting our teeth. Except Barne; he was just getting revved up. He dressed in the full regalia, from the satin shirt with a vest and an expensive suit of silk clothes. His shoes cost twice as much as my first car.
“I have had a lot of openings,” Barney said, “But nothing like this.”
“Your life and our lives are on the line,” Max told him.
We all had a sip of our chosen drink, and toasted ourselves on the success of the mission.
A slightly dark mood hit all of us, just as we were crossing the state line. This was the flight, just short of splash down.
Whatever happened, it was a hell of a life.
We pulled up to the depot and saw so many people we got the idea of what Elvis or the Beatles saw when they came to town. Only none of their fans wanted to kill them.
We stepped off the train, and we walked out onto the platform.
There was a long (or so it seemed) pause as we walked to the microphone that had been set up for us. Below us were so many reporters that you could never make out a single face, even if you had known them. Never understood how those movie stars or politicians do news conferences.
Some news hawk yelled, “Mr. Simonson, do you have a statement?”
In a voice that would take a second to none other than God himself or the real Walter Simonson, our Simonson said, “Babylon, I have returned!”
That hadn’t been in the script.
© C. Wayne Owens