“Laughing on the Outside”
“Thin white rope
The Clown Song
Seems I have been a clown more than a friend
A clockwork response to tokens you spend
And when you stop and when I run down
I’m frozen and cannot escape from the clown."
-Sung by Thin White Rope
(“The Clown Song”)
“You also know…” Harry started.
“That it might be a feint?” I smiled back.
“Yeah,” he smirked back.
“Nate,” I turned back, “We need to zero in on the opera, but we can’t ignore the restaurant. He maybe tried to screw with us, but I think he’ll hit the opera.”
Nathan then wanted me to explain why we knew he was going to hit the opera.
“I was piqued by the inclusion of the credits in the video clip. Why would he take the time to add that to the singing stuff? That’s why I wanted to see the program. The same conductor is in each production.”
“But, he’s not!” said one of the cops.
We all looked at him.
“I’m Giuliani, and I’m big on Italian opera,” he almost apologized, “and I was looking forward to this show. But Slatkin had to cancel for health reasons.”
“That’s his escape clause,” Harry thought out loud, “He can keep his interior honor and hit either now, depending on which is better suited to his needs.”
“Alright, Nate, keep a small crew at the pasta house, and most at the opera house,” I told him. “The three of us will be having Italian food tonight.”
I was pretty sure he would change his plans, especially if he thought we were focusing on the opera company. Now, if we could be at the right point, we could stop him.
Again, if it was just one man.
If it had been a group aiming for me, all the more chance they would focus on where we were.
I hadn’t had a lot of pizza lately. At one time there were only two foods in the world that I ever really craved – ice cream and pizza.
I still could rarely get enough ice cream (although my times in Europe had made me also a gelato fiend), but my aging stomach sometimes didn’t enjoy pizza as much.
I think it was the oregano. I came from a generation (1960’s) that ate more oregano than any before. I think it was because we ended up buying a lot of it, thinking it was something else. So then we needed to cook with it to avoid feeling taken.
So I ate a lot of oregano. I may have O.D.ed on it.
I asked if they used a lot of the spice, and the girl taking our order looked at me as if I had asked, “Do you add buzzard beaks to your pizza?”
I took her reaction to mean probably not.
There was a small crowd of customers joining Max, Harry and me at the tables of Pagliacci’s Pasta and Pizza Parlor. The place had a lot of clowns on the walls, none of which were the familiar face of Pagliacci.
They knew he was an Italian clown, and that was about all. The video games whirred and dinged in the room off the dining area, while the background music blared as though it were a pick-up bar where you had to scream at your prospective nightly partner. This is why I never went to bars; they gave me headaches.
“Hey, there’s an appropriate Pagliacci!” Harry said.
He pointed to the sandwich board man walking the sidewalk outside of the place.
It was absolutely right. The white pointed hat, the wide collar and big white buttons. He was right out of a poster for the opera.
It was wrong. These people obviously didn’t know the character well enough, or they would have used this visage within their restaurant.
Harry and I nodded to each other and gestured to Max, so the three of us stood and moved to the front windows of the dining room.
Before we got too far, though, the glass exploded when the firebomb came through. The clown threw off his sign and stood laughing as the flames erupted in all directions.
Max pulled his gun and knocked the clown’s hat off with one shot.
I grabbed the fire extinguisher off the wall and started fighting the flames. Harry started to pull the table cloth off one of the tables, until he felt it and knew it to be mostly plastic. You couldn’t fight a fire by smacking with flammable plastic. He reached and pulled down the cloth curtains and used them to fight the fire.
Max continued with his agreed-upon action. He put his second bullet right through the chest of the laughing clown. The white-faced arsonist dropped lifeless to the sidewalk.
Now Max joined us in fighting the fire.
Luckily, due to our actions, no lives were lost.
But, when we came out of the pasta joint, there was no body to be found. He was, we were sure, dead.
This confirmed my suspicion. He was not working alone.
© C. Wayne Owens