As the small trapeze girl’s body hit the ground, Camille jumped to her feet with the strangest expression on her face. There was a strong mixture of horror and nostalgia in her eyes that I knew all too well. I reached out to squeeze her hand and was surprised when she didn’t pull away.
“They’ve got to end the show, they’ve got to save her,” she whispered, staring raptly at the crumpled heap that had just been a lively girl flying through the air with style.
“There are paramedics rushing to her side, but I don’t think the show is going to stop.” I pulled Camille gently back into her seat and pointed to the remaining girl and the two guys who were still pulling death-defying stunts, even utilizing the broken trapeze as an added thrill.
There was no trace of humor on Stinger’s face when he leaned in close to Camille. “Hey, Cammy girl, just what are the odds of that trapeze stick snapping in half like that?”
Camille shook her head and didn’t even chastise Stinger for giving her a stupid nickname. “They’re designed to hold a lot of repetitive weight. For it to snap like that the bar had to have been…”
“It’s been tampered with,” said Myah, looking at us all seriously. “I know the signs.”
“I think we’ve got a serious problem on our hands, kids,” I muttered. “Stay here and watch the other acts, I’m going to see if I can find anything out on my own.
“Nixie you can’t just go off and wander around a strange cirque by yourself,” said Camille sternly.
“Yeah, you’re pretty small and kidnappable,” Stinger joked. His smile faltered when we all turned to glare at him. “Just uh…trying to lighten the mood.”
I had half a mind to show Stinger what made me so confident just so he would keep the smug remarks to himself, but I left my gun where it was, safely in the waistband of my tightest pair of jeans. “I promise I can take care of myself if I get into anything hairy. Besides, one person snooping around is a lot less conspicuous than 4.”
Camille still looked uncertain but I could tell that I’d won. “Well, alright I guess you’re right, just please be careful.”
“If you get into a scuffle you can’t get out of, scream ‘rape’ as loud as you can,” Myah piped in. “It sounds stupid, but no matter how loud people out here are cheering, someone is going to hear you. People’s ears are hardwired for danger words.”
It was strange advice but when I thought about it, it made sense, so I nodded and began picking my way through the crowded seats. As the act ended, the audience cheered uncertainly for what they’d just witnessed. There was a lot of whispering still even though the girl’s body had been removed from the ring. A shaken Col. Merriweather took center stage again to announce the contortionist act, but there were already some guests who were starting to leave.
I slipped out of the nearest exit and started making my way to where I assumed the performer’s dressing rooms would be. From somewhere behind a caravan marked “costumes” I heard a heated argument taking place. My heart started beating fiercely, but I urged my body to keep moving. Laying flat on the ground, I used my knees to push my way underneath the caravan so I could eavesdrop.
From my vantage point I could see one pair of feet firmly planted on the ground, and another pair slightly lifted and being tossed around violently.
“I already offered Merriweather a deal, and he threw it in my face,” growled a sickeningly familiar voice. “I don’t like to be crossed! Tonight was just a taste of what I can and will do if your boss doesn’t smarten up.”
“Sir, please, I’m just a stagehand. I don’t--" Wiseacre’s victim was cut off by another round of violent throttling.
“It doesn’t matter who you are. Unlike me, Merriweather is fond of all his employees. You’re just the message I want to send.”
“Please, no!” the innocent stagehand cried, attempting to struggle. “Ahhhhhhhh!”
He hit the ground with a thud. I covered my mouth with my hands to keep myself from screaming. I waited until I heard the click of Wiseacre’s shoes and can fade away before army-crawling my way out of my hiding spot. Rushing over to the fallen man’s side, I gently turned his head so he was facing me and gasped in horror. Branded into the man’s forehead, as clear as day, was the insignia on Wiseacre’s ring.
Who was the Admiral...really?