I came to with a splash. The escape artist’s water torture chamber was chest deep with water and sealed tight. Not air tight or I wouldn’t be able to breathe. Anyway.
Raeth, the ringmaster was sitting backwards on a lion-tamer’s chair. Her top hat was next to her but she still had her costume on. “There you are,” she said. Behind her was Carolita and the strongman. There were others, too. And more in the shadows. I was in the back of the big top, I thought. There was sawdust everywhere. Raeth chewed her bottom lip. “I wasn’t sure we’d get you, Ffecti. Carolita here found the whirlies, didn’t you, my dear?” She never took her eyes off me.
“It seemed a simple enough ruse,” Carolita said. “He’s as weak as the others, too.”
Arguing the point while I was bound hand and foot in a locked tank full of water seemed silly. “So you’re the Porter,” I said, raising my voice so they could hear me through the glass. “You seemed so sweet at the gate.”
“Did I? I thought you were too busy checking out my tits,” Carolita said. She pulled down the front of her costume. “They are pretty spectacular after all.” I tried not to look. I really did. Finally she covered up and Raeth cleared her throat.
“Bring the whirlies,” she said. The strongman and one other left the ring of light. “Now that I finally have you, Ffecti, what will do with you?”
“Letting me go would be best, “I said. “You know the Bureau won’t stop hunting you.”
“It won’t matter much when the whirlies do their thing and Carolita does hers,” Raeth said, standing up and smoothing down her gaudy jacket. She walked over to the tank. “The days of the Bureau are numbered.”
“I’ll have to stop you,” I said.
“You can’t,” Raeth said. “Fill it.”
The rush of cold water over my head was too surprising. Raeth knocked on the glass and smiled, gave me a little wave. “For my father I wish I could kill you more slowly, more personally, but I’m on a schedule that’s more important. We won’t meet again.” She left the ring of light and all the onlookers filed out behind her. Carolita was the last and she blew me a kiss before she turned off the light. I took one last gasp of air and tried to hold on.
Of course I got out. It’s not as hard as it sounds because I’d already gotten free of the handcuffs on my wrists just after the lights went out and I knew I could break the glass to my left because I could sense the flaw just above the band that made the device look even more medieval. By the time the sound and the rush of water were noticed, I’d melted back into the shadows. They were all going to have to die. They were all in on it.
My training was extensive and the Bureau invested in my department heavily to ensure that we kept fit and did our jobs at the highest level of proficiency. I had even taught a couple of classes in moving across lighted areas with impunity. I worked my way through the crew, the daredevils, and then the performers. They all got in my way trying to keep me from reaching Carolita, Raeth, and the girls. I regretted killing a couple of them: conjoined twin boys who were barely sixteen and begged for their mother before I separated them.
The strongman was the hardest of the performers to kill. He actually had some fighting skills. He kicked and punched very, very hard. Cracked two of my ribs, even. But it’s hard to stop a clown with a kris, especially when he’s me and I’m dead-set on getting what I want.
Yeah, I let my real face show, and my uniform. I know I’m not supposed to, I know it’s against Bureau rules but I was fighting pretty hard. I mean this was upper level gamesmanship, trust me. I couldn’t keep up the appearance. Write me up, sue me. Do whatever you have to.
Sorry. Look, The blue and white makeup, the orange hair, the loud suit, I promise you no one was left alive who could describe me. Right. I’ll get on with it.
The tilt-a-whirl. That’s where I found them. That barf-sodden staple of every carnival, circus, and amusement park. It was one of the ones that have suspended chairs and go up then tilt on an angle, right? Carolita was perched atop the damned thing on a column in the center that somehow wasn’t moving. The arms whizzed past her back, missing her by mere inches as far as I could tell. She was in a trance as the machine spun crazily all around her. I caught flashes of the girls strapped inside. They were screaming and glowing with an unearthly orange fire that streaked behind them. The sound was a roar of hydraulics and gears and whines that complemented the girls’ screams and Carolita’s chanting like chocolate is complemented by broken glass.
“You!” Raeth was coming my way. She glowed, too, with a hellish-looking blue lightning that shot sparks in response to her anger. “Why won’t your kind just die?”
The ringmaster’s job in a summoning is to provide that extra burst of oomph that helps the Porter pull through whichever demon spawn they’re trying to get at. Sort of grease the passage, if you know what I mean.
Regardless, she was coming at me at nearly full power. I know it says in my jacket that I’m pretty tough, but I was a little scared about the gigawatts she was throwing off. This wasn’t going to be pleasant.
She grabbed me and kneed my balls. The shock was bad, the knee was worse. I doubled over and she reached down to grab me and pull me up.
That’s when I slid the ceramic kris in her chest. The look of surprise on her face was priceless until I pressed the stud on the pommel of the knife and sent the ionic charge through her. The explosion was an exclamation point that spattered Raeth’s insides all over the controls of the tilt-a-whirl. It took a couple of seconds for her brain to register what had just happened and she said, “Fuuu — “ before she fell away from me and the kris.
The tilt-a-whirl immediately became unbalanced and the center pole, the one that Carolita was standing on, teetered and dumped her off. Her body fell into the whirling machinery and she was instantly obliterated in a spray of red. The girls were still screaming but the machine was slowing down finally and slammed the control to the off position and waited.
They were in separate chairs, across from one another and they were terrified, crying. I wasn’t any kind of reassuring sight, I can promise you that. Nonetheless I went to the nearest girl.
“What’s your name?” I tried to sound friendly.
“Dorothy,” she said. Twelve years old and still wearing her pajamas, Dorothy tried to put on a brave face.
“I’m sorry I have to do this,” I said and drew the kris across her throat. “It’s necessary, though.” Her eyes went wide and she gasped, choking on the blood that welled up in the cut I’d made. I stood up and watched Dorothy struggle through her last moments.
The girls had to die. They were too powerful and there was still the biggest ringmaster out there. Someday he might come after these two and I might not be around to stop him. What? Yeah, I feel awful about it. These girls didn’t do anything to deserve this. I was just following orders. That’s me, a good clown.
I walked over to the other girl. “Hi,” I said. “What’s your name?” I was covered in blood and my uniform was a wreck but I smiled anyway. The girl screamed.
I never found out her name. I had to shut her up. Couldn’t risk anyone hearing her.
So that’s what happened. I saved the world and terrified two little girls who shouldn’t have been terrified. If I’d managed to get to them before Raeth’s Spider had, they would have died in their sleep without knowing what happened to them.