"Where's Stinger?" I asked myself as I stepped off the train. I'd expected him to come find me, and get the latest scoop, and I could have used the company when I started snooping around. Despite the flirty conversation, having his muscle to back me up wouldn't be an entirely unpleasant thing. Better than wandering the train alone, but everyone was busy prepping for their acts, so alone was how it was going to be.
I maneuvered around the troupe members unloading the train, and wandering the narrow hall running the length of the public cars. Eventually, I made my way outside and past the strong-man's car, to find myself in front of Stinger's door. Staring at the closed door, a wave of unease swept over me.
I knocked on the daredevil insignia emblazoned on the door, but there was no answer.
"Stinger?" I called. "Hey, mister, open the door!" Still nothing. Trying the door, I found it opened. Squinting into the dark interior, I could hear the labored breathing of someone sleeping. "Stinger?" I entered the room, heading toward the heavy shades covering the windows. "We've arrived in St. Louis, wake up so you can unload the cannon."
When I opened the windows, I could see Stinger in bed, alone, and covered in his sheets, but, his head and upper body was covered in a plaster cast, like every bone in his body had been broken and reset.
"What happened to you?" I whispered, then footsteps sounded outside, and before I could think I dove under the bed to hide.
A pair of very familiar, shiny black boots stepped into the car first, followed by a shuffling pair of scuffed tennis-shoes.
"Will he be ready for the act?" Wiseacre asked the other man.
"H-he should be ready b-by opening." The shuffler stuttered. "The regenerating muscle and s-skin grafts should work qu-quickly, and his new bones will give him the s-strength to withs-stand the impacts you're p-planning to put him through."
"Good. I want to test out my new human cannonball as soon as possible. An invincible man will fetch a high price with Sardillano and his thugs."
"O-of course, s-sir." Shuffler replied. I held my breath as the two pairs of shoes stepped closer to my hiding place, and I heard the sound of a knife cutting through cloth.
"Excellent." Wiseacre said, a horrible, cold approval saturating his voice. "Sardillano will certainly approve of this product."
Invincible man? New bones? Skin and muscle regeneration? Product? I was glad Stinger was asleep for this conversation, because what I was hearing was way over my head. I could still hear the sound of ripping bandages as the Shuffler removed the full body cast, and dragged it away, wiseacre's shiny boots clicking on the floor behind him as they both left the car. I slowly crept out from beneath the bed, and counted very slowly to 60.
What could Admiral be up to? Who was Sardillano? Stinger was invincible? He didn't seem so invincible, he'd gotten beat up easily by the Admiral's thugs not two days ago. What had they done to the daredevil?
I slipped out the door quietly, and headed back to my own car to put my the costume for the afternoon preview parade the Admiral had arranged, since the official show wouldn't be until tomorrow. Parades were big, and I wondered how he pulled it off with so little warning for either the city, or the troupe. But, a magician is always prepared.
I couldn't wait to tell Camille, Nix and Lisette what I'd discovered.