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Chapter 3: 'Knives and Spoons'

June 10, 2008|By LYDIA HADFIELD

"Excuse me, may I come in?" I paused at the entrance to the knife-throwing duo's trailer.

"And who are you?" Wanda, half of the duo, stood arms akimbo.

"I'm thinking of auditioning for the circus."

The lie was easier the second time - something I've learned in the detective business. In order to recover P. Jaybody's stolen money, I needed to question the performers with caution. Zelda the elephant was performing her last show tonight. Jaybody planned to send her on her way to a preserve in Africa, but the necessary dough had been filched from his locked trailer last night. I mentally reviewed the case: trailer window left open a few inches but locked so could not be opened or closed further; and a small bow tie found at the scene along with a lingering perfume scent.

Zelda the elephant was in bed by 8 p.m.; the sweet scent certainly wasn't left by the her, and neither Zelda nor Lou the trainer owned bow ties. Lou mentioned that ValJohn the Clown wore bow ties, and that Wanda the knife-thrower might know where bow ties could be found.

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"What's all that stuff written on your arm?" Wanda's almond eyes narrowed.

"Notes, tips," I answered, hastily crossing my arms, not quite lying.

"Let 'im in!" a voice rasped behind Wanda, "We need another hand for spoons."

Wanda grudgingly stepped aside to let me in.

"He's wearing a pith helmet - that's good luck," rasped the small angular man sitting at a table in his underwear.

"Superstitious," whispered ahulking sibilant man shuffling cards.

Wanda pointed to an empty chair. I sat.

Wanda arranged three spoons in the center of the table, "The quiet one is Earl. My husband. I throw knives at him. The superstitious one is Bill, the contortionist."

"I'm not superstitious. I try to avoid bad luck. And there's nothing unluckier then starting spoons with three people," rasped Bill, "Except playing knives with three people."

"What about forks?" I asked.

"Oh ho! Do we have a future clown?" Bill oozed sarcasm.

"Well, I was wondering where I could get a bow tie ..." I began.

"Start passing cards," Wanda said, "I need to get my adrenaline up before the evening show."

"Arrrrgh!" moaned Bill.

"He's upset," whispered Earl out of a corner of his mouth, "Because he can't go on tonight."

"Tripped over Davie's stupid devil-cats," Bill growled, "They did it on purpose to get my slot in the show. Just swarmed in front of my feet."

"Bill. They're not devil-cats," Earl said.

"Honey, you gotta admit it's creepy," Wanda added, "The way Davie has those cats trained."

"He's very proud of them," Earl told me.

"Yeah, Davie thinks he's the whole circus. Last I heard he wanted each of his cats paid as a full member," Wanda snorted.

"It's true!" Bill shouted, "And I woke up stiff yesterday after the fall. Couldn't even bend my back! And I'm the contortionist! If each cat gets paid as a member, each cat is gonna get sued for all it's worth."

"Calm down," Earl said.

"He couldn't sleep, so he was over here complaining till midnight," Wanda said.

"Poor Wanda didn't get much sleep," Earl patted her shoulder, "She had to take a nap between shows. It's important that she's alert during the performance."

"Yeah, it's in your best interest," Bill chuckled.

"I haven't put even a scratch on Earl," Wanda smiled, "Have I, honey?"

Wanda snatched a spoon, and before I knew it Bill and Earl were grinning with silver in hands.

"Looks like you're out!" Bill cackled.

"There's always next time," assured Earl.

"If your audition goes well," added Wanda.

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