Hank Mergatroyd drove his faded red 1985 Dodge Ram Charger into the Almeda Mall parking lot and headed for what looked like a carnival set up on the south side with rides, game booths and food vendor shacks. In the middle of the carnival stood an enormous circus tent over which hung a 20-foot long banner reading, “Circo Fernandez.”
It was Hank’s regular day off but he was in uniform because he and his partner, Bob Bunion, were working an extra job at the circus. In his truck were his wife Sally Bee and his sister-in-law, Betty Bee, who had recently found herself single again. Sally Bee suggested to Hank that she and her sister should tag along today. They would enjoy the circus while Hank worked.
Hank drove slowly, careful of pedestrians, looking for Bob Bunion’s car. He spotted Bob’s candy apple red Porsche Carrera parked on the far side of the carnival, among the trailers and big circus trucks. He pulled in beside the roadster, put his truck in park and turned off the engine.
Bob Bunion got out of his car, waved at Hank, walked to the trunk, opened it and pulled out his gun belt. While he strapped it on, Hank, Sally Bee and Betty Bee got out. The women looked a little wilted. The Ram Charger’s air conditioning hadn’t worked for 20 years. They walked over to Bob.
“Hey Bob, hot day today, huh?” Hank said.
“Sure is,” Bob replied while rummaging around the trunk for his police radio. He found it and stood up straight. Bob looked at Hank, his wife and Betty Bee for the first time. His eyes bugged out.
“Bob, you know my wife, Sally Bee. This is my sister-in-law. Betty Bee,” Hank said by way of introduction.
Now Sally Bee was a fine, faithful, and dutiful wife but she looked like Angela Merkel with thick glasses. Betty Bee looked like Dolly Parton, with all the accoutrements and an impossibly short skirt. She stood on platform shoes that added six inches to her height. She was smiling sweetly at Bob.
Bob gathered his wits and said, “Hi, Sally, nice to see you again. Nice to meet you, Betty Bee,” he said and offered his hand. Betty Bee towered over Bob by a foot.
“The girls came along to enjoy the circus while we work,” Hank explained.
“I’m hungry. Can we get something to eat?” asked Betty Bee with a delightful southern accent.
“I was thinking the same thing,” Bob said.
“Well, we’re early. Let’s find something at the carnival before we start working,” Hank said.
“I’ve already spotted a good place. Follow me,” Bob said. To his delight, Betty Bee hooked her arm onto his and off they went, Hank and Sally Bee following.
Bob led them to a open-air hamburger place with a few tables under an awning. Bob ordered two burgers, two fries and two apple pies. He turned to Betty and asked her what she would like. She ordered the same thing.
Bob and Betty ate with gusto and, as they slurped the last of their sodas, Betty Bee looked at Bob and said, “I love a man with a good appetite.”
Bob Bunion was in heaven. “Let’s find some popcorn and cotton candy for dessert,” he said to Betty.
“Oh, let’s do!” said Betty standing up.
“Sorry, partner, we’ve got to report in and get to work,” Hank said, looking at his watch. He turned to his wife and Betty. “You girls go have a good time. If you need anything, just call me on my cell phone,” he said.
“May I call you on your phone, Bob? Just in case I need anything?” Betty asked sweetly.
Bob Bunion felt weak in the knees. “Ssssure thing, BBBetty,” was all he could say. He had trouble remembering his cell phone number.
Hank and Bob reported in to the sergeant running the extra job. They were assigned to direct traffic. Bob was on the service road, waving people into the parking lot while Hank directed them into parking spaces. Hank was sweating in the heat. He looked over to Bob and saw Betty walk out to him with something wrapped in white paper. He went back to his business and a few minutes later looked at Bob again.
Bob had a corn dog in each hand. He directed traffic with them. Every once in a while he would take a bite. After a few minutes, the corn dogs were gone and Bob directed traffic with the sticks. Hank could only shake his head.
After the crowd parked their cars, Hank and Bob were assigned to the employee entrance of the big circus tent. The clowns, acrobats, animal trainers and stunt riders passed in and out of the entrance. Horses, elephants, zebras, monkeys, lions and tigers all passed in front of them. The atmosphere was festive.
Bob was standing on the other side of the entrance from Hank, eating popcorn from a large box that Betty gave him a few minutes before. Hank noticed a new clown coming, not dressed in bright colors as the other were, but clad from head to toe in black. He wore a black wig, black shirt with odd symbols on it, baggy black trousers and extra-large black clown shoes. His face was painted white but on his lips was painted a frown. He carried a large black carpet bag in one hand.
As he passed the officers he shouted, “Out of my way, out of my way. I have an appointment with destiny.” He hurried past Hank and Bob, almost knocking down a clown on stilts.
Hank had a bad feeling about this clown, but let him pass through. Bob looked at Hank and said, “I like clowns, but not that one.”
Sally Bee, who was in the circus audience with her sister Betty, later told Hank what this clown did. As the high wire act came to a finish with applause all around, the animal trainer set up his tigers on their stools and had them jump from one stool to another or wave a paw at the audience and play leap frog with the other tigers, as they had been taught.
The “evil clown,” for that was how Sally Bee came to think of him, punched the Ringmaster in the face, took his microphone and walked into the center ring with the tigers still performing. He made an announcement.
“Stop all this frivolity and merriment! You have offended the sun, moon and stars with your laughter! Your cotton candy has made the gods angry! Your balloons have offended the pantheistic spirits of doom! Your popcorn is a stench in the nostrils of Nostradamus!” Or something like that. Sally Bee couldn’t hear it all because Betty was noisily cracking open her peanuts.
No one in the audience was frightened. They thought it was part of the circus act.
The evil clown opened his black carpet bag and pulled out several sticks of dynamite wrapped together with wires. Attached to it was an old-fashioned clock. He held the bomb over his head and announced everyone’s doom.
“In five minutes, this bomb is going to explode. It will kill all of you!” the clown announced and followed it with an evil laugh. Still, no one was alarmed. The audience just sat there, smiling.
Hank and Bob got involved when the ringmaster stumbled out of the tent and found them. “There’s a madman inside the center ring with a bomb. He said he’s going to blow up the circus and kill everyone!” he shouted.
“What’s he look like?” asked Hank.
“He’s dressed like a clown but all in black. He’s not part of the circus. Do something!” the ringmaster shouted.
“Bob, that’s that evil-looking clown we saw go in a few minutes ago. Advise the dispatcher what we have. I’m going in,” Hank said.
Hank ran inside and saw the evil clown in the center ring holding what looked like a bomb. Hank ran into the ring and attempted to tackle the clown. The evil clown dodged him and Hank ate sawdust. Hank looked up to see the evil clown running away, past the tigers, and headed for the ladder that rose to the high wire act.
Hank pursued. As he ran past the tigers, one took a swipe at his head with an enormous paw. Hank ducked and ran on. The evil clown climbed the ladder all the way to the top. Hank climbed too. The clown looked down and saw the policeman was coming. The evil clown stepped onto the small platform at the top of the ladder and still Hank was climbing. The evil clown stepped onto the high wire and walked across to the middle, still holding his bomb, swaying back and forth.
“You’re all going to die!” shouted the evil clown, looking down at the audience. More evil laughter. The clown ran to the other side when he saw Hank standing on the platform.
Hank was in pursuit mode. He stepped onto the high wire and walked across to the middle, arms held out like two wings as he put one foot in front of the other. The evil clown made it to the other platform and looked at the policeman. He reached down, grabbed the wire and gave it a shake.
Hank lost his footing. As he fell through the air he thought of his old Ram Charger. He could hear Sally Bee screaming somewhere below. “I’ll miss her too,” he thought.
Just then, a pair of strong hands grabbed Hank under his arms, stopped his fall and swung him in an arc through the air. Hank looked up at a lady trapeze artist, with her legs hooked to a swinging bar. She had him in a secure grip. They were almost face to face.
“Thank you, ma’am,” Hank said.
She smiled at him and said, “I’m going to pass you to my partner who’ll let you off onto the safety net.”
She and Hank arced through the air once more and she let him go at the top of the arc. Hank flipped twice and another lady trapeze artist, legs hooked to the flying chair grabbed his wrists. They made another arc and Hank saw the safety net below. She let him go at the bottom of the arc and Hank landed safely. The audience yelled their approval and applauded enthusiastically.
Meanwhile, the evil clown scampered down the high wire ladder into the waiting arms of Bob Bunion. Bob tackled him and put him in handcuffs.
“You’re still going to die,” said the evil clown with a mouth full of sawdust. “Big boom coming soon!”
Bob grabbed the bomb and saw the clock ticking down. He didn’t hesitate. Bob tucked the bomb under his arm, ran to a nearby horse, leaped into the saddle and shouted, “Giddy up, giddy up!”
The horse reared on its hind legs, came down with a crash and bolted around the three rings, with Bob Bunion looking like a Pony Express rider on his back.
Bob couldn’t make the horse turn for the exit. With the clock ticking down to zero, Bob whirled the bomb around his head and threw high into the air. He drew his pistol, fired twice and cut the wires from the bomb to the clock in midair. The deactivated bomb fell to the ground. The crowd went wild.
Bob Bunion took three victory laps around the ring. He helped Betty Bee climb onto the horse behind him and took another lap. She wrapped her arms around him and said, “My hero!”
When the victory laps were over and the crowd had settled down, Hank walked over to Bob, who dismounted and then helped Betty Bee down. “Bob, I didn’t know you could shoot like that,” Hank said, shaking Bob’s hand.
Bob turned to Betty Bee and held her close. She knew her man well enough to know what was coming next. “Let’s get something to eat,” Bob said. Betty Bee laughed and they walked off holding hands.
Clear Lake patrol arrived and took custody of the evil clown. Homicide and Internal Affairs had about 2,000 witnesses to interview. And, of course, the supervisors had a big Significant Event Report to send to the Command Center.