“I’ll remember forever
when I was but three
Mama, who was clever,
remarking to me
"Son, when you're grown up,
and want everything nice
I've got your future sewn up,
if you'll take my advice"
Be a clown, be a clown
All the world, loves a clown
Wear the cap, and the bells
and you'll rate with all the great swells
If you become a doctor,
folks will face you with dread
If you become a dentist,
they'll be glad when you're dead
You'll get a bigger hand
if you can stand on your head
Be a clown, be a clown, be a clown!!”
(“Be a Clown”)
There was no time to duck, nor for any of my comrades to react at all.
Suddenly I was bathed in 896 water pistols’ expulsion.
The laughter was a roar.
“Our way of announting of our new leader with our own ‘Holy Water!’” Coggen announced, followed by two things. First pictures from the railroad station of Simonson and I standing with our joined hands over our heads, only seconds before the shots rang out. Then came a standing ovation from the gathered multitude.
“They are all here,” Coggen announced, with another round of applause. “There are all their pledges of allegiance, signed and paid for!”
More applause and some added laughter.
Max and Chester leaped off the stage and grabbed the two boxes of evidence. When they returned to the stage they flipped off the tops of the boxes and looked inside. Harry joined them and checked also. They turned to me and nodded. It was all as it should be; we had them dead to rights.
I put my hands up in the air and nodded my head.
They clapped their hands again. They saw it as me taking the lead of the religion. The FBI and CIA agents, along with about 100 local police, saw it as our signal. They invaded the space and started taking prisoners.
There was no escape for them.
Coggen had another plan. He pressed a button on his watch and a door opened so he could slip under the stage. It closed just as Driscoll jumped off the stage, but couldn’t catch the old man.
When the door snapped shut, I noticed something else. I was tipped into the podium, and the audience began to get higher.
It wasn’t a trap door; my descent was too slow. A plastic bubble had dropped and covered me, so none could follow. When I couldn’t see any more of the theater, a door slid shut above me, sealing me off from all aid. Then the descent sped up; still not a fall, but faster than the rapid stop would allow comfort.
If I hadn’t had the lectern to stop me, I would have fallen face forward onto the floor. It felt like my ankles were, if not broken, at least sprained.
I was in total darkness. The lectern slid down out further into the floor. The bubble went back up out of my notice. I have never felt quite so naked and in the dark.
“You had a chance,” Coggen’s voice, disembodied, echoed all around me. “Now, since I never really trusted you, the death I had prepared for you.”
“Can you hear me?” I asked as loud as I could, hoping not only to stall him, but possibly to be heard by my comrades.
“Hear you and see you,” his voice blared. “I wouldn’t miss your traitorous death for all the money in the world.”
The echo of his voice faded.
The silence was deafening.
The silence of the grave.
© C. Wayne Owens