Ghost Clown

“And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids,” I snarled. That fucking college kid with the perfect blonde hair and movie star teeth just gave me a shrug as the rest of his hippy friends and their dog bundled into their acid-trip themed purple-green van… like they didn’t care that they had just ruined everything. Like it was no big deal.

Where the hell had these idiots come from, anyway? How close I’d come to getting my hands on the Bandoucie brothers’ gold!

Defeat tasted like ashes. I spat out my fury as the cops bundled me into the patrol car at the edge of the abandoned amusement park. Now I was headed off to prison, I thought back over my plan that had seemed so perfect; it was just a little bit of bad luck, was all that had thrown it off. But then, if the capriciousness of fate could unsettle things so completely, maybe the plan was wrecked right from the beginning.

Ten years I’d thrown away on this lousy scheme. How many more would I waste in prison?

I cursed the day I found out about Mick Pringles, known to the circus folk as Cyrus the Clown. The old crone fortune-teller told me about him when I was working the Ferris wheel ride back in the day. Some folks think clowns are scary – well, Cyrus was the reason for that; a real psycho back in the 1950s who had a thing for serrated knives and pretty dark-haired women in pink dresses. Funny how those serial killer types work – it’s like, you fit the profile of some random combination and bam: you’re one dead bitch. Just bad luck for those girls, I guess. The final body count wasn’t much compared to what you see these days on those cop shows these days, but it was bad enough that local folks remembered.

Yeah, Cyrus was the first bona fide scary clown in America. People forget that irrational fears are usually grounded in something real, even something that happened a long time ago.

Don’t know why the story of old Cyrus stuck with me. I heard lots of stories working the circus all those years. Like the story of the of how the old bankrobbers from Tennessee, the Bandoucie brothers, had come down to the amusement park and left it with a brother to bury onsite while the chase was on; how those robbers ended up dead and that brother, too; and how the gold they found was buried somewhere on the grounds to this day.

I never really paid that story much heed, but when I took over the park and the bills piled up and people just stopped coming to the show – and the IRS is taking every last dime just because I didn’t report exactly everything – who does that? Need a little left over for the ladies, know what I mean? Anyway, I’m left with nothing and I start thinking, maybe I just need a little time to dig around the park. With enough time and just a little luck, my money troubles would be over.

Naturally, the development company starts poking around just as soon as the bank gets hold of the Big Top Carnival land. They’re ready to go in with the earth movers in a couple of months and put in a new park, casino, hotels, all the rest of it – and I’m out of time.

But then I figured on something that could keep them away, at least for a little while. Down here in the South, people are funny about those old scary stories. They’re superstitious. So, what if people started hearing about old Cyrus the Clown coming back around and scaring people half to death? Maybe that’d put a crimp in their plans. I guess it sounds crazy now, but when I was sitting in that flophouse with a can of beans and a half bottle of whiskey to my name, I figured what did I have to lose?

People know me around here. They trust me – don’t know why, but they do – or they did, anyway, until this craziness gets out in the papers. Small towns don’t trust strangers. Me, I’ve been around here a long while. Bided my time.

So I started telling stories about how I’ve seen old Cyrus leering at me from that broken-down house of mirrors. The local kids get wind of it, go down to the park in the dead of night, probably bump into some rats or something and it scares the hell out of them. Next thing I know, word on the street is Cyrus the Clown is back.

It starts making the developer nervous, but its just rumors. Then I take it up a notch; go down to the dollar store on Main Street, pick up some clown makeup and some raggedy old circus clothes and damned if I didn’t haunt that old amusement park like I was the Devil himself. Really got into it, actually. Chased anyone who showed up on the old grounds and made like I was going to really give it to them with this big old rusted kitchen knife. Yeah, that got people talking.

After that, no one came by much anymore – leaving me plenty of time to dig around the park. I figured it would take months, but I had time until my welfare ran out. I could make it work. Hell, I was close. I could feel it this last week. But then those crazy meddling kids showed up.

They just come out of the blue, in the middle of the night. I don’t even know if they were working for the company. Who would hire those freaks? Probably just high out of their skulls and looking for a place to do smoke weed and do all that free love business. Let’s see, there was the blonde kid, some cute redhead, chunky mop-top girl, scraggly skinny fella and that big dog he called Smoopy or some such. If they were real private investigators I’ll eat my underwear; just snoopy kids that couldn’t mind their own business, running around here like they owned the place.

I’m there chasing them all crazy killer clown style and they’re running away like it’s some kind of game – going back and forth, in one room and out the other, down the back ways of this place, and finally they get up top of that Ferris wheel – I’m chasing them the whole time, see – and then someone hits the gears on the old ride and brings their junkie friends down while I’m stuck on top, just waiting for the boys in blue to show up.

It was all going my way – and these kids ruined it for me. But their luck’s going to run out sometime. When I get out of prison, I will find these people. A van like that, with “Mystery Machine” painted right on there and all those hippy flowers… yeah, a vehicle like that sticks out in people’s memory. Got their license plate, too. I know a guy at the DMV who owes me a solid. I just need one name and I can track him down. Track them all down. Fate’s got something bad in store for them.

They’ll see what’s what when Cyrus the Clown comes back.

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