“The Unexpected Always Happens, Expect It”
“Baby hates clowns and the tricks they do,
Baby hates clowns in their great big shoes,
Baby hates clowns with their polka dot clothes,
Baby hates clowns with their big red nose,
Now I get a little nervous every time
that the circus comes to town,
I don't know why baby hates clowns.”
-Sung by Randy Stonehill
(“Baby Hates Clowns”)
There was applause.
Chilling, goose bump-inducing applause.
Barney put his hands over his head and oscillated before the loving crowd. It was hard to tell if it was an honest or a sarcastic reaction he was getting, but either way he was playing it to the hilt.
It was like an influx of energy hit Barney with the clapping, his eye sparked, his muscles tensed, but the most evident thing was his smile. It grew like he was a puppy getting his tummy scratched. His head turned to take in every amp of that power. He was in his glory.
I wasn’t sure it was Barney the actor or Simonson the actee that was so happy.
It was either a joy to watch him or a horror to behold.
I also saw what we were wariest of: Coggen and his horde were on the far side of the room. There wasn’t a happy face in the group. They looked like the judges of a kangaroo court that expected to hand out a hanging verdict as soon as the suspect had been brought before them.
It was impossible to know if they knew about our duplicity or they just were not happy people. Either way I was not confident.
Despite that, we couldn’t show any weakness. We had to do just what we planned, while we could. We’d be ready for the bastards. Barney was just that good; he would pick up on it instantly.
The vibe I picked up from them was exactly the trip wire we had discussed in our strategy meetings. Those faces told me it might be time for Plan B.
I took Barney’s hand and we both raised our hands in a celebration of a faux victory of something or other. There was another round of applause, with a certain amount of catcalls.
Then it happened.
From the crowd, and unseen face targeted. He lifted a .22 pistol, the favorite of hired assassins.
His aim was flawless.
He squeezed off three quick shots. They grouped within an inch of each other. All in the heart muscle.
Barney was caught by surprise. I think the pain is always more than we expect. We see so many people shot on TV and in the movies, and they just fall down. They don’t look like it hurts; it just kills you, and that’s it.
Sam Peckinpah had it right: show the pain and maybe it won’t look so victimless. If people were aware of really hurting people when you shoot them, you might not be so quick to do it. People want to shoot those guns, but they don’t think of bringing pain to someone.
The force of the impact pushed Barney back a couple of steps before he fell. It actually lifted him almost an inch off the ground, and then he fell over backwards. He almost toppled off the platform, but Max caught him.
The din of the questioning was drowned out by the shouts and scurrying after the shooting. The police were scrambling, but no one had been caught. It was a madhouse. The last sound I could make out was Barney’s tiny squeak as he fell. Not a scream, not a groan of agony, but the sound of a mouse after being surprised. Not the last sound anyone wanted to be caught making. We all want to have some prophetic or philosophical last words, but so few of us get the chance.
We were going to be mobbed if we stayed here.
They were jumping up to the get photos and quotes and other damn fool things that we were not going to give. Why do they want to talk to the survivors in the midst of the grief? I refuse to listen to those interviews. It is profane, and I will never be a part of it.
If enough others felt the same way, maybe they’d stop doing it.
I gestured to Max and Chester and they carried Barney back into the railroad car. The rest of us kept the reporters back and closed the door to the car.
Inside we looked down at the still body of our new friend.
After a moment his right eye flickered open. He looked up and said, “Damn, those bullet things really hurt!”
© C. Wayne Owens