“Clowns to the Left of Me….Jokers to the Right”
“Clowntime is over
Time to take cover
While others just talk and talk
Somebody's watching where the others don't walk
Clowntime is over”
-Sung by Elvis Costello
(“Clowntime is Over”)
Nathan had me sitting in the station house for the longest time. He had started talking about “Protective Custody” right away.
This is a phrase that I have never liked. Jail is jail, whatever the reason you are in it, and I have avoided jail as stringently as a man can. Even if they are supposed to protect you, what they are doing is locking you away.
I can’t do what I need to do inside a box.
“They are watching for these killings and targeting you. They know you will come to the scene and all they have to do is show up,” Nate told me, “And I can’t afford to have officers there just to guard you. As good as you are, the taxpayers will scream if we spent that kind of money for an unpaid consultant.”
“You could pay me?” I joked. He did not laugh.
“There is another possibility,” I proposed, “I could bring in some of my own men to help as my own security. They are talented investigators. They might help solve the case as well. We’d be more than happy to give your guys the credit.”
This wasn’t something he had thought about.
“Yet another thing we haven’t thought about,” I said, “is that they might not be reacting, but providing the bait, too.”
He looked at me quizzically.
“What if they are recruiting the clowns?”
“Holy shit,” he gasped, “You really think this whole thing is about you?”
“That’s not my ego, I’m just saying it is a possibility that we shouldn’t dismiss.”
“And what do you mean ‘clowns?’” he quizzed. “You and I both had been working on the idea that this was a single individual using different clown suits, isn’t that right?”
“But,” I jumped up, “what if it isn’t? What if they got more than one guy to do these things? We don’t have any pictures that are clear enough to give us any body comparisons. We have a fuzzy security cam video, a bum’s description, and a Polaroid snapshot. It could be the same guy or three different people.”
“Damn, you don’t like it easy, do you?”
“When has this pile of manure ever been easy?”
“Well, there is that,” he said with a shake of his head.
At that instant a young guy ran up (Nate seemed to know him, but I had yet to have met the fellow) and grabbed the detective’s jacket sleeve. “Detective Greves,” he informed, “we have a message from the killer.”
Ever seen a dog who hears something and straightens right up to attention? Well that was the look of both of us.
The kid (you tend to think of anyone younger than yourself that you don’t know as “kid,” even if they are 40) waved us to another part of the squad room.
Nathan started to grab his coat, but the kid stopped him, pointing to a desk ringed in detectives. They were all looking at a monitor.
The young man (I found out later his name was Parker) said, “It came as a video file. Reynolds down in IT is trying to trace it, but without much luck.”
We got close and they played the e-mail.
It was a Max Fleischer’s silent classic: “Out of the Inkwell.” Before it even began, I knew what to expect. It was one of the first examples of Roto-scoping (where you film a human and then paint over it to make them a cartoon. It was made famous in the Fleischer brothers’ version of “Gulliver’s Travels”) and featured Koko the Clown.
This one ran as I knew, up until the point a real man walked on the screen. It was taken from black and white film of a man, with the background taken out so that he just walked into the scene with Koko. Then the clown took out a pencil and drew a long line. He picked up the line and bent it like a bow. Then he made the line into a sword that look much like the long sword that Grock had used to kill Benny Junket. Then he made a swipe at the real man and lopped his head off. Then he chopped him into little pieces. At this point Koko made the sword back into a line then he telescoped the line into a dot and then the dot disappeared. Koko took a bow and the picture faded out. The words “WATCH YOUR MAIL!” The detectives gasped. The kid looked at us and said, “We never saw that before! We always stopped it at the bow!”
I didn’t take another breath.
I ran, with a couple of the cops following me. I wasn’t sure if they got the same idea or were being a protective detail. Whatever the reason they had followed me, we reached the mailroom as a bunch.
When we came in the mailroom, we found two men ministering to a woman who seemed to be unconscious on the floor.
“She fainted,” one of the men announced.
“She must have been opening this,” one of the men who had followed me was standing at the nearest table.
I walked to the table, but didn’t need to get all the way there before I saw the blood. There was a large box in the center of a group of boxes. The one that had been opened had a plastic bag that had been filled with bloody meat. It looked as though the other boxes were likewise packed.
Now we had another killer clown, this time an animated one. If it hadn’t involved the death of a human being it would have been slightly humorous.
I doubt it was going to get any funnier.
© C. Wayne Owens