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Chapter 5: 'Seriously Silly'

June 10, 2008|By LYDIA HADFIELD

I sprinted to catch up with the man. He was making a beeline from a trailer to a circus truck. Suddenly he tripped, rolled into a somersault and staggered upright. The man didn't continue his path to the truck. Instead, he switched direction and ran straight toward me! I slowed to a puzzled halt.

The man tripped again. His head headed straight for the hard ground, but he caught himself in another somersault. He bounced to his feet, waist bent, his upper half stuck directly in front of him to form a right angle. He turned an imaginary crank on his side to slowly straighten by degrees.

"That's funnier, but not funny enough," he announced. "And it doesn't integrate into the theme."

"Huh?" My nimble mind stumbled.

"ValJohn," the man said, seizing my hand in a shake, "I play an escaped convict in all of my show bits."

"Oh! The clown," My nimble mind sprung to attention. ValJohn was the only performer I had not yet interviewed in this curious case. I'd already interrogated the knife-throwing duo Wanda and Earl, elephant Zelda, trainer Lou, contortionist Bill, as well as Davie and his amazing cats.

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The summer light hung heavy. Time was hurtling toward the evening show of the circus. I'd promised circus owner P. Jaybody I'd recover the stolen money from his trailer. He needed the dough before the day's end, so he could pay handlers to ship Zelda to a preserve.

My nimble mind panicked.

Money stolen from J's locked trailer between 9 and 10 last night. ... J left window open a few inches. ... Window locked so it could not be opened/closed further. ... Bow tie and perfumey scent found at the scene of the crime. ... Elephants smell bad. ... Lou, put Zelda to bed at 8 p.m. ... Bill the contortionist tripped over Davie's cats yesterday and spent the evening complaining to the knife-throwing duo about his stiff back. ... Davie groomed his cats yesterday. ... Davie is an egomaniac.

The clues swam in my brain. I swayed on my feet.

ValJohn took my pith helmet from my head and fanned me with it.

"You OK?" He asked. "Don't sweat it. You get onstage - the magic starts its work. You are the guy who's auditioning tonight, right? Bill, the contortionist said something about it."

"Yeah," I affirmed my undercover guise.

"So what d'you do?"

"Well."

"Well, well, well." P. Jaybody appeared from behind a circus truck, swinging his curtain rod cane. "How is it going?"

"Well," ValJohn answered.

"I noticed you moved your trailer all the way over here," Jaybody noted.

ValJohn winced, "Oh yeah. Those cats of Davie's. They come back from the groomer reeking of lilies and roses. It wafts through the air all the way into my trailer. I'm allergic to that crap. Had to move upwind."

Jaybody said, "It's better than fish night."

"What the-?" ValJohn interrupted. He stared in the direction of Davie and his Amazing Cats' trailer. One of the Amazing Cats dashed out the cat flap clutching something in his mouth that trailed behind him, like a long, papery scarf.

I knew at once it had to be Dmitry, the only disobedient feline of Davie's herd.

"Into the toilet paper again," Jaybody sighed.

"No." My keen eyes squinted and focused. "That's not toilet paper."

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