The knife was an unfortunate compromise, but Maria didn’t want to use a gun. A shot could wake the circus’s animals. Dealing with a pissed off tiger, or rampaging elephant, wasn’t how she wanted to spend Easter.
Bobo the Clown’s trailer was next to the bearded-woman’s camper, behind the manure-scented show-ponies. His door was unlocked.
Maria entered and stood motionless. Humid dark enveloped her. It smelled of unwashed labor.
She heard a crackle. Blue light flashed. 40,000 volts chain-sawed through her concentration.
Maria jumped left. The stun-gun-jab missed.
She found the light switch and flicked. Fluorescent bright washed the dingy space.
The clown’s momentum carried him down. He landed on his stomach, in-between the wall and bathroom.
He roared and tried to push himself up. A fire-orange afro wig flapped like a psychedelic dream.
Maria reached to her boot, pulled the knife, and thrust it through Bobo’s white-painted right hand. Blood spurted and stained the thick makeup. The hand lay flat, pinned to the floor.
Bobo looked up at her. “You fucking bitch.”
She kicked him in the mouth. Two yellow teeth fell and mixed with the blood. Bobo went limp.
Behind a plastic liter of vodka, she found a colorful rope made of tied handkerchiefs. She pulled the knife and tied his wrists behind his back. She used the oversized red-shoe’s laces and knotted his ankles together.
Bobo woke ten minutes later. He struggled. The restraints held. His bloodshot eyes went wide. Tears fell.
“I’m so sorry,” Bobo said.
Maria frowned. “Why are you violating the agreement?”
His red nose arced down. “The orphanage.”
She swallowed the guilt and looked at the bloody clown. “Circus-sales belong to us.”
Bobo sobbed. “You’re the evil in this.”
“At least I’m still in this.”
“It isn’t over.”
“We have eyes, everywhere.”
She slid the knife between his seventh and eighth rib, into the lung. Bobo tried to scream, but he couldn’t push the air.
Bobo jerked, then twitched, then rattled. He stopped moving. His eyes turned to milky glass.
Maria pulled the knife. She cleaned the blade on Bobo’s purple jumpsuit and left the way she came.
Maria got home just before dinner, stinking of livestock. She took a shower and felt the horror drip away. She put on a white terry-cloth robe.
In the apartment’s small kitchen, Mama held the baby, cooked pozole, and chatted about Easter mass. Maria felt content. It was good to be with family.
Maria sat at the ancient table. A plate of oranges rested in front of her, with a paring knife for slicing. She ate and thought about the weight of it all. Perhaps her time in the game was getting short. She looked at her daughter and, for the first time in a decade, felt hope.
She was chewing pozole when she saw movement in the periphery. She heard the slapping of oversized shoes and smelled livestock.
The door opened. The space was filled by a large man wearing a rainbow jumpsuit and green wig.
Maria turned to Mama. “Take the baby. Run.”
A smile cut through white pancake makeup. “We have eyes, everywhere.”
Maria reached towards the plate of oranges and picked up the knife.
J.B. Stevens lives in the Southeastern United States with his wife and daughter.
His writing has been featured in Mystery Tribune, Noir Nation, Criminal Element, Thriller Magazine, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and other publications.
He is a veteran of the Iraq war where he earned a Bronze Star. Prior to the war, he was an undefeated Mixed Martial Arts Fighter. J.B. graduated from The Citadel.