“AND NOW, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE CIRCUS’ OWN TRIO OF ROGUES! PREPARE TO BE ENTERTAINED! BUGIA! SUDARIO! VERO!”
Vero trotted out into the sawdust circle as his name was called, waving his cane and tipping his hat as a greeting to the deafening roar of the audience.
He strolled along the edge of the stage with the air of a comically proper gentleman, straightening the worn tuxedo that made him appear little more than skin and bone.
All of his visible skin had been painted a deathly white, making him seem just as much a specter as his two, far larger partners. They were dressed like mourners, with what appeared to be tears of blood.
A young woman in a red dress strutted into the ring, and Vero tripped over his feet, watching her from the ground before jumping to his feet and walking beside her, trying unsuccessfully to garner her attention.
Bugia and Sudario appeared quickly afterwards, pushing him aside to converse with the object of his attention.
Vero pushed his cane in between the two large men and the lady, shaking his head indignantly.
When Bugia and Sudario laughed silently at him, he threw his cane to the ground and raised his fists as if proposing a duel.
The two brutes laughed at him again, only stopping when they realized the woman was watching.
She raised a handkerchief and then dropped it, stepping out of the spotlight.
Vero lunged for it, but was quickly pushed back by his opponents, and the scuffle began.
The audience watched, amazed, and struggled to believe their eyes. The edge of the ring erupted into black flames, creating a surreal glow. Violent string music flared in the air.
Bugia procured a giant hammer from thin air and bashed Vero in the head, flattening his hat but having no effect on his intended target. Sudario vanished, reappearing behind Vero, and planted a stick of dynamite in his pocket.
Both he and Bugia ran a few yards away, plugging their ears, but when it detonated and the smoke settled, their adversary stood, unharmed, with his coat in shreds.
The duel continued on in the same manner, Bugia and Sudario using more and more outlandish weaponry with no effect whatsoever.
Vero was blasted to the top of the tent, thrown in and out of the ring, soundly beaten and throttled without so much as a scratch.
Eventually his competitors stopped, exhausted, and Vero grinned triumphantly.
He trotted over to Sudario with the same vigor as when he entered the ring, and punched him in the chest, sending him shooting out of the ring and into the folds of the tent.
Bugia pulled out a handgun, and the audience watched as he shot Vero in the chest.
Vero froze, standing stock-still, before holding up a bullet held between his thumb and forefinger.
The audience roared, and Bugia fell to his knees, submitting defeat. Vero picked up the handkerchief, just as the young woman in red returned to the spotlight.
She took it from him, smiling, and handed it to Bugia.
The spotlight followed Bugia and the woman walking off the stage, arm in arm, and then focused on a dejected Vero. He threw his hat to the ground and promptly stomped on it as the flames faded from the ring, and the light dissolved into darkness.
Mary wiped her cheek with a warm washcloth, watching her dark skin reappear from beneath the face paint. She sighed when she noticed the condition of her suit, fingering the newly-created bullet hole.
“You still in one piece?”
Rudolpho stood in the doorway, the handkerchief still stuffed in his breast pocket.
“I might have a few dents, but I think I’ll live.” She offered, smiling.
He smirked, jerking his head towards the direction of the main tent.
“I’m gonna go catch the rest of the show. You coming?”
“No...no thank you.”
“Your loss.” He shrugged, “The marksman’s up next.”
Mary watched him walk out of the makeshift bathroom and listened to the distant boom of music and the sounds of the audience.
The circus had lost its charm for her a long time ago.