A Clown in the Moonlight, Part 1 ( A back story)

“there is nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight”
~Lon Chaney

Tuesday, 2100hrs the Mason place.

Under a bloated full moon, the old two-story house stood a silent vigil atop the low hill top encircled by trees. Dark, silent and lifeless the house crouched over the surrounding weed choked pastures as if waiting and watching.

The weeds and tall grass rippled as a chill wind blew across the pastures, it swept over the hill sending leaves falling like a snowstorm from the trees around the house, their limbs creaking as they moved. It was a fallow land, cursed and avoided by the residents of the nearby town. It was a place where the restless dead walked the dusty halls ever seeking something lost to them.

In the distance behind the trees that lined the road, a glow appeared, it grew brighter sweeping along the trees, then Headlights appeared at the head of the long driveway as the line of vehicles turned in. The lights swept across the grass and weeds of the pasture like a knife in the darkness.

As the headlights swept across the front of the old house, Wild shadows, cast by skeletal trees, danced across the old wooden walls, the paint long since peeled away revealing age stained wood.

The lead vehicles spread out in a line and turned off the drive and into the overgrown field, crushing the high weeds and grass down to make a parking area for the rest of the companies vehicles. In minutes they had a good spot crushed down and the remaining vehicles were parked and people were outside and working fast, talking and laughing as they set up flood lights and a generator to run them. bright light filled the night around the vehicles, tractors fitted with bushhoggers were off loaded and immediately went to work clearing the pasture to make a space to set up. .

Once they had a large area cleared, the personal vehicles and heavier trucks that waited on the old washed out drive, rolled up and began to unload the poles and canvas for the big top and the boards and frames for the bleachers. .

“Lets get set up” Tom Marquis said, the owner and Ringmaster of Marquis traveling circus, he was a thin man with a patchy beard and sharp eyes. He watched the tractors for a moment as they moved away from the now cleared area the circus would be set up on and began to work on clearing a space for Townie parking.

“I still think this is a bad idea” Stephen Hawks commented as he climbed out of his Rv and walked over to stand by Tom. Hawks was the promoter and Accountant for the Circus, a pain in the ass where his accountant job was concerned but other wise the man had circus blood through and through and got along well with the rest of the troupe.

He was referring to the mysterious invitation Tom had received last fall just at the end of the Season, asking if the Circus would be interested in adding this town to its itinerary. The owner of the property one Jeremiah Mason, had even offered the use of his land and house if Tom was interested.

Tom had almost turned down the offer, but the owner had been oddly determined to have the circus put on a show on his property and had even suggested the dates that would work best for him.

Not that the owner had done a thing to prepare the area for the arrival of the circus he had wanted here so badly. Rich people could be decidedly odd, Tom thought. .

Stephen had liked the idea from a money standpoint. The Town was fairly large, not to far off their normal circuit so the cost of driving this far off their route was offset. Not having to rent a fairground or deal with so much of the paperwork and permits that would normally be required meant they would actually make good money off this stop. But even with the money they would make Stephen hadn’t been personally thrilled with the idea.

Tom watched as the trailers carrying the animals rolled by, not to many of the small circus’s these days still used animals, but Tom had grown up in the old school and his circus still had Baboons, tigers, elephants, horses, even a dog and pony show.

He figured some day with all the animal rights protesters, most of whom had never been around animals much less circus animals, that his way of life would be banned. Funny how freedom meant people trampling all over their fellow citizens rights so every one could live exactly the same way.

He hoped he would be long dead before the circus tradition passed away, but he suspected he would see the end in his lifetime. Money was already getting tight, as people shifted to concerts and amusement parks as entertainment. It was a sad thing to watch a way of life vanish and be replaced by the Sterile modern world.

With Stephen following he went to make sure the Animal cages were placed where he wanted them. The baboons were no problem they had their own enclosure in the back of a package van that their owner carried them in but the others had to be unloaded and moved to where their trainers had set up their camps.

Walter the Tiger trainer was fast off the mark, the townies hired from the last town were already dropping the ramps and getting ready to roll the tiger cages down.

Moving a caged Tiger might seem like a safe and easy thing to do, but it was still a dangerous job. The bars were placed three inches apart, and one would assume a tiger couldn’t get even its paw through but Tom had seen more than one get about six inches of its fore leg through that gap and slap some one leaning against the cage or standing to close with enough force to knock them down. .

Once he was sure that was going well he moved on to make sure the Pens for the horses and ponies were being set up where he wanted them so the rest of the animals could be led out of their trailers and penned before he headed over to the area where Grant and his people were already designating the spaces for the Fairway tents.

The Fairway was another of Stephens idea, to many of the circus folks it was to Carny, which meant to be avoided, it wasn’t the side show tents they disliked per se, but the games, food and souvenir booths. But every one in the company knew the Circus needed the money those things would draw in so they had leaped into the Fairway idea with as much enthusiasm as possible while giving it as much of a circus flare as they could.

Tom smiled to himself, the old circus’s had once boasted fairways, and his fairway when fully set up looked like the picture of the old 1800’s circus’s he had seen over the years. .

When fully set up the fairway would cover almost an acre of colorful tents, Wood platforms for teaser performances outside each of the tents. Old fashioned looking posters hung on the colorful tents announcing the show times of the acts with in.

Banners and flags would be placed along the fairway route along with poles fitted with speakers to carry messages about the performances inside the Big top. Strings of lights would hang over the t shaped fairway replacing the lanterns and Chinese lanterns of yesteryear.

All of that combined with the Strong man, fortune teller, Cary the pinhead, Marvin the world shortest man, the ubiquitous bearded woman, roving jugglers and acrobats, games and concessions had stemmed the hemorrhaging of money that the circus had been suffering through. Just last year he had added a Stage magician and his assistants. Thankfully, the Magician, the Great Simon Tobias, was more interested in living the Circus life than making a fortune.

Satisfied everything was going well, he walked to the edge of the Camp and gazed up at the old Mansion looking home on the hill. He shivered despite himself there was something unsettling about that place, he decided, it reminded him of the house in Psycho with its offset tower rooms and the way it sat up there on that low hill, looming of the pasture like some malevolent deities castle.

He tore his gaze away from the oddly disturbing place, he had work to do and the sooner he got about it the better and it would keep him from staring at that house.

Tom rolled up his shirtsleeves, and headed over to Bill the Bull to help get the big top set up, there was a lot to do tonight before they could sleep.

By noon the next day, word had spread rapidly across town that a circus had arrived; dozens of locals had been hired to post flyers across town.. The local radio station was already running an announcement and a steady stream of curious townsfolk had driven by to take a look.

Some of the more adventurous kids in town had skipped school and headed out to see the circus tents and what ever else their active imaginations conjured about circus’s. Half the parents in the area were worried that either the circus folks would kidnap little Jimmy and remove his arms and legs to turn him into a freak for their freak show, or that their Kids would run away with the circus to be turned into freaks and heathens.

The Circus folks were used to it, the only peoples treated with greater suspicion were Carnies and then Gypsies.

***************************

Wednesday, 1200hrs, The High school gym.

The Gym was one of those huge old fashioned looking places with the accordion style bleachers and polished faded wood floor that doubles ad the basket ball court. In one corner the school had set up a weight room for the football team where some team members worked out while other students in the actual gym class, ran back and forth in two lines practicing passes.

Jared lay on the weight bench powering through a set of bench presses, his red hair slick with sweat as he concentrated on getting his form correct. At Fifteen he was wide shouldered and solid as a rock and trying this best to get the image of a dark haired girl out of his mind.

He was at the age where interest in girls, and if he told the truth, women in general, was an almost all consuming series of fevered dreams.

Right at the moment, it was the image of Megan in her gym shorts that had him worked up and unable to shake the image he worked out even harder than usual. He had liked Megan since 8th grade and she was only getting prettier each semester. And this year she was wearing those tiny shorts that were popular with the girls and her…
His internal war of desire and mental slide show was interrupted by the buzz saw snarling of Dale Smith, quarterback, bully and generally all around slime. .

“hey faggot,” Dale called out. Who ever Dale was talking to didn’t respond,
“I’m talking to you Dork. You don’t belong in my Gym.” Jared turned his head as he racked the weight bar, and saw Lenny Turner trying to melt into the well of the gym as Dale confronted him. Dale, was the kind of soon to be man who loved to pick on freshman and sophomores to prove how tough he was and the weaker they were the more he enjoyed it. .

There was an ugly smile on Dales face. I wonder if the girls would still think he was good looking if they saw it, Jared asked himself. Dale was one of those kids who was as good looking as he thought he was. Blond and Tan, he looked like one of the models in those underwear ads, Jared thought. The only thing about Dale he envied was the easy way Dale had with girls.

Smith was as usual targeting younger kids, kids around Jared’s age. At Six foot and just as muscled as Jared, Smith took great delight in tormenting and beating up the younger kids. He was in short a Bully, a vicious mean vindictive bully.

His current target was Lenny Turner, Lenny was not only from a poor as dirt family, the type of family Jared’s Grand pa had used to say was to poor to have a pot to piss in. The Turners were by far the poorest family in the area as far as Jared knew of.

Lenny was five foot tall, fourteen years old, and if he were lucky and soaking wet weighed a hundred pounds.

And as if being skinny as a rail was not enough to make him a target the kid sported a shaggy bowl haircut, which was probably the only hair cut his parents could do at home.

Today Lenny wore dirty looking gray slacks with a green shirt. Maroon socks peeked out from under his to high pants cuffs and of course Dale more often than not ridiculed Lenny’s clothes.

To make it even worse, direct from the I am a victim list, Lenny was a nerds nerd, he always had his nose stuck in a book. Not just any books either, no it had to be science, biology and chemistry books. The type of books that drew school bullies in like blood in the water drew sharks. To people like Dale those kind of books just screamed the reader couldn’t defend himself.

Jared lifted the bar off the rack and began another set of bench presses, watching the confrontation out of the corner of his eye as he pushed through the set. Knowing he should do something as heard Dale hurling one insult after another at the poor kid, pushing Lenny in the chest with each insult.

Jared ached to jump in, but if he got involved, his Father would say he should have let the Coach handle it. But the coach isn’t here, Jared thought, and Dad and Grandpa also like to say a man has a duty to stand up for what’s right regardless of the cost.

Jared knew the only reason why Lenny was in Gym was because of the School councilor, who had thought forcing Lenny into more athletic activities would improve his social skills and give him confidence.

Even Kids knew the Gym was the last place a kid like Lenny should ever be. Since his arrival, Lenny who spent most of his time in gym sitting in a corner hoping no one noticed him.

The only thing Gym did for a kid like Lenny as far as Jared could see, was to make the kids life a living hell that he couldn’t escape.

Coach Roland did his best to encourage Lenny and keep Butt heads like Dale away from him, but today Coach had, had to leave to take a new kid to the nurse. Dale had moved in almost as soon as the Coach had left the Gym. From Jared’s weight bench he could see the Lenny’s eyes darting from side to side seeking some means of escape, knowing he was about to be beat up again.

. Do not get involved, Jared told himself, the couch will be back in a few minutes and put a stop to it. He didn’t like the idea, every part of him screamed to leap up and place himself between Lenny and Dale.

“you know maggots like you don’t belong here, this is were real men are supposed to be. You aint a real man are you dork.” Dale said contemptuously. Jared could see that sneer on Dales face in his minds eye. Dale lived for moments like this, and as young as Jared was it pissed him off royally.

Jared felt his temper do a slow boil, surging up slowly like magma in a Volcano. He turned his head and locked eyes with Lenny, and something in the other boys eyes hit him hard.

Jared was to young to understand what it was. The closest he could come was the look a puppy would give a person after it had been beaten repeatedly, it just begged to be held, protected. Jared racked the weight bar and sat up. he wouldn’t say he was brave or even that he would win the confrontation. No one that was brave could feel this scared, his nerves were damn near singing with tension, but the anger and the need to do something, to help over rode the fear and kept him moving.

Well looks like I’m not only going to end up with a few bruises, probably tossed off the team, and I’m going to get my butt blistered when I get home,. Jared told himself knowing he was about to get into a fight.

Terry Collins, Bart Mooni, and Taylor Farnes, three of Dales cronies stood off to one side snickering as Dale, with a shove and one really nasty insult, managed to make Lenny start bawling. Not one of the three even noticed Jared. If they had, they wouldn’t consider him a threat. Jared was on the team, Jared was young, and no way Jared was stupid enough to get in the middle of this knowing what Dale would do to him. They would never have thought Jared didn’t care about any of that.

Well step right up and see Jared be stupid, Jared though as a tight angry smile flickered across his lips, as some one had once said it only takes good men doing nothing for evil to flourish, he couldn’t remember who had said it, but Pappy liked to quote it.

The thing about Fighting boy, is you kick the enemy’s balls up between his legs as hard and fast as you can., that was one of Pappys pearls of wisdom, Jeff’s father was full of them.

Diplomacy first is the best option, Jared’s dad often said. Today, to cover both bases, Jared would attempt to talk Dale out of being an idiot, which would lead to Dale being an idiot, which lead to using Pappys wisdom. The logic was unassailable; Dale was a creature of action, reaction he didn’t take kindly to any one standing up to him or getting in his way.

Dale shoved Lenny at that moment, sending the younger boy reeling into the corner with a sharp cry of fear. Lenny fell banging his head into the wall and tried to curl up into a ball, but Dale grabbed him by the shirt and lifted him up.

Dale loved the fear that flowed of the little nerd, this was the part he enjoyed the most. Little snot fouling up the gym not even able to throw a punch what kind of shit was that. Little fag always reading books well lets see a book help you fight, Dale thought as he drew back a fist ready to punch the kid in the face.

Dales smile faltered as some one grabbed his wrist and twisted painfully. He shouted angrily dropping Lenny then whirled around as the hand released him to see Jared Stone, standing there an odd tight smile on the red heads face.

“What the hell Stone” Dale asked, as Lenny scrambled away while Dale was distracted.

“Leave him alone” Jared said calmly through the thunder of his heart.

“ or what Stone” Dale laughed, not so sure about fighting Jared. Jared was at least as big muscle wise as he was. There was something about that smile and the look in Stones eyes that bothered Dale. Not that he was going to back down from a freshman, no way in hell. He would never live that down.

“Or we start punching each other, till bones get broken. we both end up bleeding, and get thrown out of school and off the team.” Jared said in a matter of fact tone.

Dale couldn’t understand why the shorter boy was so calm. He couldn’t know that inside Jared was in turmoil but nothing of that rolling fear and tension showed in Jared’s body language or face.

Dale knew he couldn’t let Stone get away with this, to many kids were watching and it would be all over school in no time if Dale even looked like he was hesitating to pound Jared down into paste. Dale ignored the look in Stones eyes, ignored the rumors of Stone taking karate or some shit like that. Every body knew that crap only worked in movies, not in real life.

Dale was in fact as stupid as most suspected. And the coach neither of the boys had seen approaching couldn’t have stopped Dale at that moment even if he had been standing beside the boy.

Dale grinned and threw a punch as hard as he could, striking Jared in the chest. Stone didn’t even move.

“thanks I’m not allowed to start a fight” Jared said conversationally and moved in like a storm front..

Coach Harmon Roland, sat on the edge of his desk, his arms crossed over his thick chest as he studied the Red headed Teenager. Stones shirt was ripped, his cheek was bruised and the blood had stopped flowing from his nose which thankfully wasn’t broken.
Dale hadn’t connected a lot but when one of his punches landed it had hurt Jared.

Roland had been a coach since he had twenty-four and in the Ten years he had been coaching he had tried to set a good moral as well as physical example for the boys and girls he taught.

In his opinion his own failure had been partly responsible for the current situation. Though he was fully aware of the fact that there was little he could have done to change things short of beating humility into Dale. Any time he had tried to channel Dales aggression into safer and tolerated channels, his efforts had been met with nothing but the proper deference to an authority figure then ignored.

He idly wondered what Dale was going to do after graduation when he found out he was just a small fish in a big pond and having to compete with other men over dates and job promotions.

Dale wouldn’t be the beloved center of attention in the outside world and that would either make him even worse or maybe finally, and to late for his victims, facing reality and change. Dale was in truth a pretty poor human being all the way around and Roland wouldn’t bet money on the boy ever becoming a better person.

Stone, How ever, was one of those kids who was polite and for the most part well mannered. And excelled at anything he put his mind to, Roland thought. Jared had wanted to play football, so he had gone from just in shape to excellent shape working out on his own time during the summer between Junior high and his Freshman year, to reach the goal he had set for himself and had made the team with effortless ease his first time out.

That kind of dedication had impressed Roland, as did the fact that Jared was an excellent student as well as a Athlete. The only Sport Jared hadn’t tried and excelled at was Track, and Roland didn’t doubt Jared as big as he was, couldn’t have done that as well as everything else he tried.
.
Jared had never had trouble keeping up his grades and staying out of trouble, with the exception of the Icy Hot that had appeared in Rick Taylors Jock. Harmon had, actually had trouble making himself punish Jared for that, Taylor was an ass, and it had been funnier than hell. Till today Jared hadn’t even been in a fight as far as Harmon knew of.

Letting the silence linger Roland walked around his desk and sat down, not even looking at the paper that spelled out the punishment the principle had decided on. Jared just watched him, not with the usual sullen anger of most teenagers facing punishment. In fact he seemed calm about what was coming.

“Why?” Roland asked Jared, who sat there staring at the wall behind Roland’s chair his voice as usual pitched to a low roar.

Jared sat there a moment then lifted his eyes to look at Harmon, something shifted in that almost to calm face. “Because it was right” Stone said. “ he was beating up a kid that couldn’t even fight” there was an under current of anger in Jared’s tone.

Roland resisted smiling in satisfaction at that statement. He knew Dale was a bully, and had tried to curb the worst of it when he could. In fact Harmon had been on his way to tear Dale away from Lenny Turner, when Jared here had leaped in and bounced Dale around the gym in front of god and everybody. .

“Do you always leap before you look?” Roland asked cocking an eyebrow. Though he was privately certain Jared had known exactly what was going to happen and had accepted the consequences before he had stepped in front of Dale.

“Maybe” Jared said staring past Roland to the wall again. he obviously wanted to say something else but had decided not to.

“Dale could have worked you over pretty good Jared.” Roland pointed out, especially if those asshole friends of Dales had leaped in Roland thought.

“not with out help, which is why I tried to take him down fast.” Jared said sounding just as calm as if he were talking about the weather and proving Roland’s belief Jared had thought the whole thing through before he had committed himself to the fight.

“Tried, I think you succeeded.” Roland said shaking his head. “I had to call your parents, but … I did make sure your dad knew you didn’t exactly start the fight.”

“So how long am I suspended” Jared asked more worried about what his dad was going to do than actually being suspended. .

“Two days, ” Roland said as sternly as he could. Then couldn’t help but point out. “ It means you get a four day weekend for punishment.”

If it had been up to Roland Jared wouldn’t have been suspended at all. That butt whipping Dale had gotten was long over due. But the principle had wanted to make an example out of this and since Dale would not be suspended, because as the principal had put it, Dale was just to important to winning this weekends big game. So that left Jared to pay the price for Dales bullying and Roland had not been shy about expressing his opinion on the matter.

Roland had argued with Principal Jameson till the Jameson dropped veiled hints about the security of Roland’s job.

“Do not get into any more fights Jared” Harmon said rising ready to send the kid down to the office to wait for his parents.

“I will try coach,” Jared replied. “But guys like Dale are such Assholes, I..” Jared said then chopped of his sentence, turning red as he realized what he had said.

“Language Jared, come on don’t make me have to write you up again today.” Harmon said. Jared nodded slowly.

“Sorry Coach, wont happen again.” Jared replied.

“Good, and I want you to know that you will not be removed from the Team, and that took a lot of fancy foot work to make happen.” Harmon said truthfully. Thank god that Dale would be graduated and out of his hair at the end of this school year, leaving only his three goons to deal with. No doubt another bully would pop up but it wouldn’t be Dale.

“Thanks coach I appreciate that, you don’t have to worry about me and Dale. He wont be messing with me again” there was something about the way Jared said that, that worried Harmon but he let it slide.

“Go on up to the office, your Mom and Dad should be here in a few minutes.” Harmon said.

********************************

“Your gonna get your butt beat” Eric Stone sang as he skipped past Jareds room.
There were times Jared would have gladly sold his dark haired little brother to traveling gypsies.

“Do not make me duct tape your butt to a tree again. This time I will leave you for the coyotes” Jared called out.

“moooom Jared is being mean to me” Eric shouted running for the kitchen.

“One day I am going to lose him in the woods and never look back” Jared muttered as he threw himself on his weight bench and powered through two sets of 200 hundred pound bench presses.

“Jared are you threatening to feed your brother to the Coyotes again” His mother called out from the Kitchen.

“No maam I only said Id leave him for the coyotes.” Jared yelled back, grinning stupidly as he racked the weights.

“Do not scare your little brother.” She hollered back.

“Yes Maam” Jared called out, still grinning as he slid off the bench and paced his bedroom.

Bored he grabbed a book and threw himself on his bed, determined to read for while, when he heard tapping on his window.

“Hey open up” Jeff Sloan whispered.

Jared grinned and went and opened the window, Jeff climbed in and dropped onto the floor sitting cross-legged.

“What’s up?” He asked as Jared shut the bedroom door.

“Nothing, I’m waiting to find out if I’m grounded or not.” Jared said, “ my dad seems to think if he makes me wait it makes the punishment even worse.”

“Does it” Jeff asked, as he picked up a guns and ammo magazine and started leafing through it.

“Not even close” Jared said with a grin.

“You should have heard the stories around school after you left.” Jeff said tossing the magazine back on the desk.

“According to Dales buddies, you got your ass kicked.” Jeff said with a laugh. “no one really believes it, not when Dale has two black eyes, a dislocated finger, and from what I heard, when he dressed out for Practice he had a bruises on his chest and sides that were black and purple with green streaks running through them. you really did a number on him”

“I should have done worse” Jared muttered, then lifted a finger to his lips as the Tv was turned down in the living room and the phone could be heard ringing. Jared rose and crossed his room silently to crack the door open to hear better.

“Stone Residence. Yes Mr. Smith I have heard what happened today.” Jared’s dad could be heard saying. Jeff leaned towards the door like that would help him hear better, a grin spreading across his face.

“I see, yes” Elliot Stone said.

“I understand, now sir, Listen to me, your son is a worthless Bully who deserved to have his Rear end handed to him, and if you were even a half way decent father you wouldn’t be calling here running down my son who is not only a Straight A student, but an excellent Athlete as well. But would instead be focused on your own son who is only passing because he is a star player not because he does any studying. If you did that I suspect you wouldn’t have a failure for a son…… NO sir your more than welcome to come over and explain yourself, and Ill be more than happy to show you the errors of your ways, never mistake a dislike for violence and fighting as not being able to fight and deal in violence. Thank you for calling, I hope to see you in, what five minutes, that’s about how long it takes to get from your house to mine… yes I know where you live… Hello, Hello Mr. Smith..”

Jeff clapped a hand over his mouth to keep from laughing. Dales dad was no more likely to actually get in a fight with Jared’s dad than any one else in town. Not with what he had done for a living in the army. Even Pappy respected Elliot Stone, and that was saying something.

“Jared you’re not grounded, and tell Jeff he is more than welcome to join us for Dinner.” Jared’s dad called out a moment later.

“man even being polite your dad can intimidate people, that is so cool.” Jeff said not even phased that Mr. Stone some how knew he was upstairs. He was more than used to it by now.

“Yeah but its not half as fun as listening to your dad go off on someone.” Jared replied, as he walked back over and threw himself on his bed. “Ill be able to cuss in Korean and German in another month or two”

“Yeah your such a big cusser” Jeff said, “okay now that your not grounded, See if you can come over and stay at my house this weekend.”

“Why?” Jared asked suspiciously.

“Okay ask to go Camping, that’s closer to the truth anyway.” Jeff said knowing Jared hated lying to his parents.

“What will we be doing?” Jared asked, leaning back on his elbows watching Jeff, who viewed lying to his dad as a contest, Pappy seemed to view it the same way, if Papppy won, Jeff got spanked. If Jeff won, well he got to gloat.

“Camping, but.. We will be camping near the circus” Jeff said excitedly.

“I would rather just camp” Jared said, shaking his head.

“You don’t understand” Jeff said as calmly as only a teen-ager with a secret can be. .

Sometimes getting the whole story from Jeff was like pulling teeth, Jared thought sighing . “Tell me the whole thing or Im not even going to try and go camping with you.”

“Well see the circus is set up at…” Jeff started to explain, but Jared cut him off..

“We went over that part at school remember, parking lot, You oogled Kathey Millers rear end, ran into a pole, we talked about the Circus at the Mason Place.” Jared said thinking he knew what Jeff was trying to get at. “All you had to say was We are going to camp near the Mason place, and go to the circus both nights.”

“Yeah but there’s more” Jeff said as Jared gritted his teeth trying to prepare himself for another long round of word association.

“For the love of god, make it short get to the point” Jared asked, rolling his eyes.

“Megan is going to meet us there” Jeff said.

“Megan, meet, you already told her we were going. I… you asshole” Jared said.

“look you weren’t going to ask her out, so Im setting you up. Now look innocent when you ask your parents. Your dad is more likely to say yes knowing you wont be around my dad much anyway.”

“Dinner’s ready, Make sure you and Jeff wash your hands,” Jareds mom called up the stairs.

“Remember look innocent, and not that constipated possum look you get when lying.” Jeff said as they headed for the stairs.

********************************

Elliot Stone pulled off his shirt and dropped it into the hamper, as his wife brushed her hair. She was wearing her sexy come hither negligee tonight he noticed smiling.

“Not to put a damper on the festivities I see are planned, but do you think I should have grounded your son.” Elliot asked, half joking.

“my son, don’t even try to pin that on me, he is all yours.” Ann Stone said with a smile at the old joke. She shook her head a second later “ no I do not, I think what our son did was a good thing.” She added.

“your right of course, but I cant help but think all this karate is making him more willing to fight” Elliot said. That it had been his idea in the first place wasn’t something he had forgotten either.

“oh horse poo Elliot, what your really worried about is that he will follow in your footsteps and join the military and end up in the rangers or SF and be shipped off to Nam or where ever the next big war is at.” Ann said as lightly as possible.

He couldn’t argue that, he never wanted either of his sons to see the horrors he had seen. He shrugged feeling his ardor cooling somewhat. “Well besides all that, I am thinking that this camping trip is not a great idea, what with the news about Julie Seimns disappearance just when a circus shows up in town and sets up at the Mason place. “

“They will be miles from the circus Elliot, let Jared live some. Besides Julie may have run away.” Ann said, keeping her own fears to her self. She prayed she wasn’t making a mistake. Jared lived to spend time in the woods, she didn’t want to deprive him of his one true pleasure based on her fears.

She rose to her feet and let the filmy robe slide off her shoulders and fall to the floor, “ so are you going to take me to bed, or stand there talking all night Soldier” He laughed and swept her off her feet.

0900hrs Thursday, Pullman road,

Deputy Pete Starr, frowned as he walked down into the ditch to examine the bicycle that Jerry Miller had found while collecting cans and bottles along the side of the road.

With the Siemns girl missing, neither he nor the Sheriff were willing to overlook anything that might be related. He saw sunlight glittering on metal in the high weeds and made his way over. The bike lay tangled in the weeds, sunlight shining off the handlebars; the body was the standard red. He sighed in relief as he saw it was a boy’s bike.

No missing boys in town thank god. Starr told himself. He hoped the girl had just run away, because that would mean she was alive and probably safe hiding at a friends house he didn’t like what the other option would mean for her. .

He picked up the bike then stopped as he heard the crack of a breaking branch in the woods on the other side of the ditch. He peered into the trees, the hair on the back of his neck rising for no reason. “This is Deputy Starr, step out and show yourself” he called out, holding the bike with his left hand, his right hand hovering in the vicinity of his sidearm.

The woods were silent now, but Starr felt eyes on him. probably some damned high as a kite hippy type, Starr told himself as the silence fully registered, there wasn’t even animal noises.

“Step out and identify yourself” Starr called out getting angry now.

He let the bike fall to the ground and walked up the other side of the ditch, stopping just outside the edge of the woods. he couldn’t see much through the thick tangled underbrush and tree limbs and that made him cautious. .

There was a feeling of anticipation in the air, something was going to happen, Starr could feel it. In the woods he heard what sounded like two cautious steps in the old leaves. Starr drew his side arm and leveled it. “I am Deputy Pete Starr, Come out with your hands up.”

The silence was almost deafening, Starr could almost swear he could hear slow steady breathing ahead of him. Then with out warning the feeling of being watched faded away as a bird chirped nearby.

Starr stood there; knowing that what ever had been going on was over now. He looked both ways on the road behind him, no one would ever know how scared he had just been, he thought as he turned and walked down to retrieve the bike then headed back to his Cruiser. He wasn’t going to put one boot into those woods with out some one else being with him.

As he pulled back onto the road, he promised himself he would not tell Sheriff Hagen or any one else about this.

1400 hrs Friday, The Stone residence.

It was one of those days where the sunlight seemed to leave a haze of gold in the air. Everything seemed sharper more in focus than usual. Jared rolled up his hammock then placed it in his pack.

Eric was lurking near one of the oak trees that flanked the work shed watching silently. Eric wanted Jared to notice him. But Jared was not going to give him the satisfaction. His younger brother could be such a pain in the butt it wasn’t funny.

Eric had faked being sick to stay home and pester Jared all day. And it was working as far as Jared was concerned wishing his mom and dad were not fooled so easily by Eric who seemed to get his way all the time.

Jared continued to carefully load his gear into his pack. Jeff and his other friends often laughed about the way Jared would go over all his gear and pack each piece in specific spot in his pack. Jared didn’t mind, his grandfather had taught him how critical a balanced pack was for long distance hiking. Jeff and the others just shoved their things inside a pack and then started complaining two miles into a hike about how their back or shoulders were hurting.

From the tree came armpit farting noise’s, Eric had learned how to do that during the summer and was pretty proud of himself. Jared continued to ignore him.

“Play Frisbee with me” Eric said finally bored with the silent game of annoy the older brother, as Jared finished loading his pack.

“I’m busy” Jared replied,

“No your not” Eric said stubbornly. Jared ignored him and went back to preparing for his camping trip, half smiling as Eric stomped off across the yard. Jared didn’t even look at his brother, that would only encourage Eric to keep being a pest. A second later a Frisbee smacked into the back of Jareds head.

“You little brat” Jared said whipping around and snatching the Frisbee off the grass, Eric laughed and started running for the back door of the house.

Jared too two running steps and launched the Frisbee, it sailed straight and true, smacking Eric in the back of the head. Eric his arms outstretched went over like a tiny dark haired human cross.

“Jared Elliot Stone” Eric his face buried in the grass, grinned as his dad yelled at Jared.

“Just playing Frisbee dad.” Jared replied.

“Do that again and you wont get to go camping” Elliot said just as loudly as before.

“Yes sir, Stopping sir” Jared replied. “ I’m going over to Jeffs now” Jared said ready to get away from his brother.

“Jeff isn’t back from school yet” Elliot called out. Not wanting Jared to spend any more time around Pappy than was necessary. Pappy might be a war hero, but he was the crudest, obnoxious ass Elliot had ever met.

“Okay I’m taking my bike down to Lee’s and getting a Coke” Jared called out as he stowed his pack in the shed and grabbed the handlebars of his dirt bike. “ and a Nutty Butty for nugget.”

“its nutty buddy, you mo-Roon” Eric said

“not when your going to eat it its not” Jared said as he then pushed his dirt bike out before locking the door of the shed if he didn’t lock it, Eric would mess with his pack and Jared would have to repack it again. .

”Take me with you” Eric asked almost jumping with excitement..

“No” Jared replied climbing onto his bike.

“Ill tell Dad about your playboys” Eric said with a nasty grin.

“And I’ll tell mom about your digging through her underwear drawer”

“Did not” Eric protested, Jared half expected him to stomp his feet.

“She doesn’t know that” Jared said with an evil grin as he started the bike and sped away leaving his brother to stand there trying to work up the nerve to give him the finger.

Lee’s gas and more, was only two miles from the house and far to short a trip in Jareds book. He raced his bike down the side of the road the wind streaming over him, jumping every hump and culvert he could find and whooping like a maniac as the Bike soared up into the sky then slammed down again, dirt and gravel flying.

The trees flowed past and a he saw a few stern disapproving looks on the faces of passing motorists.

For a while after his Uncle had given him a dirt bike sized for kids, Jared had wanted to Race dirt bikes, but then thanks to his uncles stories and his dads urging, Jared had instead enrolled in a Martial arts class, and found he loved every minute of it.

That had been years ago, and becoming a famous dirt bike racer had stopped being the greatest thing on the planet, of course discovering girls had helped push racing into third place on the worlds greatest list, then sports had pushed it further down. Finally he had just become to busy to worry about racing professionally.

He pulled up in front of the long cinderblock building with its peeling white paint and faded sign, and saw Mrs. Sloan emerging from Lees store with a six pack of Beer for pappy and a six pack of Yahoo’s for Jeff.

He leaned his dirt bike against the wall and smiled at Melissa Sloan, who had to be one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. Way better than Daisy Duke, even if Mrs. Sloan didn’t wear those shorts. he couldn’t quite ignore the mental image of Mrs. Sloan in Daisy Duke shorts that flashed through his mind, but he tried.

“Afternoon Mrs. Sloan, nice weather we are having” Jared said all witty like as usual at a loss for words when talking to her..

“Good Afternoon Jared, Im sorry to hear about you being suspended. But you did a good thing defending Lenny.” She said with a dazzling smile. Jared found himself blushing.

“um Yes Maam thank you maam” He said politely, his heart was beating twice as hard at the sight of that smile. Was it even possible to die just from a smile, he asked himself?
He realized he had been standing there silent for a full minute and blushed again. “ well, I stopped by to pick up some drinks for our Camping trip.” He said sounding totally lame.

She looked suddenly very serious “Jared, your more Level headed than Jeff is, I want you to promise me you will keep him out of trouble and keep him from doing anything really stupid.” She said, laying a hand on his arm.

He almost blurted out the real reason for the camping trip right then, but a small part of him self recognized the trap and throttled the response before it came out.

“Yes maam, I promise you” he said, meaning it, the heat from her hand soaking into his skin.

“Good” she said ruffling his hair and smiling at him again.

“See you around five Jared and do not let my husband intimidate you at the door” She said climbing into her car. He watched her drive away, then turned and headed inside.

Lees was the typical country store, crowded shelves with narrow aisles. Filled with moon pies, Fig newtons, Looma doons, oreo’s, Beef sticks, jerky, every type of chip you could want. It was a playground for junk food addicts.

Jared stopped at the sandwich counter, its faded white enamel surface chipped and dinged after years of use. He dug out his money and counted quickly, he had enough for sandwiches for tonight too. “A loaded turkey sandwich and a fried bologna sandwich.” Jared told Mrs. Belton. Jeff loved Fried Bologna Jared personally thought it tasted worse than Spam on a crap cracker.

“what this I hear about you being suspended for fighting, Jared” she said as she began to fix his sandwiches. Mrs. Belton was pretty friendly most of the time, and only loosely tuned into the gossip network of the area according to Jared’s mom. Her husband Lee had owned the store since before Jared had been born.

“Yes Maam, I was” Jared replied was he watched her expertly slice lettuce, onions and tomatoes for his sandwich. The smell of onions filled the air and set his mouth to watering..

“You know that will go on your permanent record, it could keep you out of College” she said as she worked. She was always trying to encourage him to go to college,

“I guess, but it was for a good cause” he said, as she flashed him a look of disapproval whether for sassing her or refusing to believe any cause was good enough to jeopardize going to college he didn’t know.

“There is never a good cause for fighting young man” she said sternly, “especially if it can jeopardize your future.”

“I stopped some one from beating up a scared little kid.” Jared said his voice calm and level. He didn’t mention Dales name, but he didn’t have to.

“That Smith boy,” she said disdainfully, “he is always getting into Trouble, and I suppose in this instance I can understand why you got into a fight, but you should have fetched the Coach or a teacher, Jared. Don’t ruin your chances for College.” She said.

I am fifteen, college is years and years away, Jared thought, and I had better not mention I really want to join the Army, she will tell someone and before I can get to Jeff’s house my dad will have heard about it and then Ill spend the weekend being lectured.

“Yes Maam, I will next time” Jared said to appease her. as far as he was concerned he had waited to long to make a stand.

“Good, and does Jeff Sloan want mustard on his fried bologna” she asked, she had known Jared and Jeff for far to many year not to know who the Fried bologna was for. .

“yes,” Jared said happy to be off that topic, “oh and onions too” he added grinning, Jeff hated onions on his sandwiches the weirdo.

Sheriff Bill Hagen, turned down the radio, as he drove past Lee’s and saw Jared Stones Dirt bike outside. That kid was going to kill himself on that thing one day, he thought.

By the end of Wednesday, word had spread around town that the Elliot Stones son had attacked Dale Smith and been suspended, Hagen how ever knew the whole story, he also was well acquainted with Dale Smith who was probably going to end up spending a lot of time at the station when he got older. .

Hagen slowed as he remembered that Jared was supposed to have been a friends of Julie Seimns. Turning around he drove back to Lee’s parking lot and pulled up beside the Dirt bike. He didn’t have to wait long before Jared came out stuffing a six pack of cokes, two sandwiches and a bags of chips into a small backpack he always wore when on his dirt bike. Jared eyed Hagens car as he walked up to his bike but said nothing as Hagen climbed out and settled his hat firmly on his head

“Afternoon Jared.” Hagen Said,

“I’m suspended sir, not playing hooky” Jared said instantly.

“I know Jared but that’s not why I stopped, I need to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind” Hagen asked.

“Do I need a lawyer or my parents.” Jared asked quickly. Maybe he was afraid of Being arrested for the fight, Hagan thought. .

“I doubt it, but if you would like to have you parents with you, I can follow you back to your house” Hagen replied.

“No that’s okay, what’s’ going on Sir?” jared asked.

“I’ve heard your friends with Julie Seimns” Hagen said, Jared nodded, he had known Julie since 3rd grade.

“Yes Sir,” Jared said then something shifted in his face, suspicion and a sudden adult intensity that surprised Hagen. “Did something happen to her”

“I don’t know Jared, I was hoping you could help me answer that” Hagen replied.

“Any way I can Sir, she was great, really nice.” Jared answered.

“Has she talked about running away, or family problems, or maybe some one that wouldn’t leave her alone.” Hagen asked.

Jared studied Sheriff Hagen for a moment, as he thought over the question. “her parents are great, her dad treats her like a princess, her mom is just cool. She wouldn’t run away for anything. She’s real girly doesn’t even like to get dirty” Jared said, Hagen almost smiled at that last part. “She was going steady with Randy Tilton for a month but they broke up a while back.. and no she never mentioned anyone that messed with her or followed her around.” He added “ how long has she been missing”

Hagen wrote down what Jared had said, “ a couple more questions if you don’t mind Jared?”

“how long has she been missing” Jared asked again.

“Tuesday night was the last time her parents saw her. ” Hagen said realizing Jared wasn’t going to stop asking till he got an answer.

Jared thought about that for a moment, he had been suspended on Wednesday, and today was Friday. He had seen enough news reports to know it was probably going to be bad.

“Jared did she ever sneak out at night or . do adult activities with guys”

“NO, that’s why Tilton Broke up with her she wouldn’t.. Um go all the way you know, she never went past first base.” Jared explained uncomfortably.

Hagen made more notes, and then preceded to ask Jared multiple questions but nothing the kid knew shed any light on what might have happened to the popular Straight A student.

Finally he thanked Jared put away his note pad and watched the kid ride off on his suicide machine.

********************************

It was almost four by the time Hagen got back to his office and dropped into the old leather bound desk chair that had seen better days. Picking up the Siemns report, he studied it closely absently rubbing his jaw with a thumb.

He had already met with Reverend Taylor and Father Grant who were concerned with the news of the missing siemns girl and had asked to speak with him. Both men would do all they could to get their congregations to keep an eye out and bring any information they had to Hagen. He just hoped one of them knew where she was at or had seen her since Tuesday night..

Not that he was holding his breath, things were going to hell in the world he decided. Every year people seemed to get worse, not just the criminals, but the majority of people. rude, obnoxious, angry, spiteful, sometimes he thought the whole damn race was cursed.

Over the years he had, had very few missing child reports, and none at all over the last five years, and the ones he had dealt with had usually been a child who was angry with their parents. The kids would pack their radio flyer wagon with toys and a peanut butter Jelly sandwich, walk no more than half a mile or to the closest friends house, and was usually home by dinner time. They were rarely gone overnight, once in a blue moon they would be gone two days hiding in the woods, near their house, waiting to see their parents be struck dead by lighting for driving their children off to live like feral creatures in the woods.

But now, Julie Seimns, a pretty girl, straight A student, smart as a whip, regular church goer, liked by every one and was missing. He sighed in frustration, reaching for the phone when the door to his office opened and Deputy Pete Starr poked his head in.. “Pastor Barton is here, representing his citizens for decency group, demanding to see you about the Seimns Girl.” Starr said.

Just what I need Hagen thought, wistfully thinking about jumping out the window and running for his car, but Barton probably had people watching, just in case he did try to get away.

Barton was unstable as far as Hagen was concerned; the man saw demonic interventions and conspiracy theories in Twinkie packages and then would convince his small but equally odd congregation to believe his weird tales. Just two months ago, he had been convinced that Satan was using the unions to convert factory workers into ungodly communists because they wanted better pensions. What he had expected Hagen to do about satanic commie factory workers in New Jersey was still unclear and why Satan would care about Pensions was beyond Hagen. Hopefully this time Barton would actually have something helpful to say.

“Show him in, but stay outside and give me five minutes, then there will be an emergency that calls me away. Got it Pete” Starr almost laughed, but managed to keep silent as he nodded and left to fetch Barton.

A moment later Pastor Barton swept into the room secure in his station as Gods attendant and mouthpiece on earth. The sanctimonious shit was so full of himself his eyes were brown. Nothing of Hagens thoughts showed on his face as he rose politely. “ Pastor,” Hagen said by way of greeting. The puffy faced, overweight Pastor had the usual Vacuous smile plastered on his face. His thinning brown hair combed in a perfect fifties hair style.

“Sheriff” Barton said as he perched in a chair. “I am here on the Lords Business, Sheriff.”

“So I hear Pastor, what does the Lord have to say today” Hagen asked, no matter how polite he sounded, he knew it would come across as Sarcastic.

Barton frowned but chose to ignore the comment for now. he will of course drag it out next election, as he tries to get his Dim witted nephew elected again. Hagen thought.

“The Circus people took the Siemns girl Sheriff, the lord has revealed it to me in a Dream.” Barton announced grandly, the only thing missing was the blare of heavenly trumpets and an angelic choir behind him. Next would be revelations from a burning bush about who had been stealing the cupcakes at the bake off last Sunday.

of course it was the circus people, Hagen thought sarcastically, they are outsiders, God knows it cant be a local.

“ Pastor, the Lord may have told you who is behind this. And I don’t doubt that lord knows what he is talking about, but with out some kind of Secular evidence I cant get a warrant to search the place.” Hagen said as he sat back down behind his desk, picking up the pipe he kept there, and turning it over and over in his hand wishing he still smoked.

“Sheriff we warned you when they rented the Mason Property that nothing but evil would come of it and now we have a missing child. Who did they rent it from Sheriff. No one seems to know who owns the place. The Last Mason died twenty years ago.” Barton said.

Now Hagen knew where the whispered rumors about owner ship were coming from, Barton the little shit was stirring up the natives, with his superstitious bunk.

“ Pastor, the owner is a matter of public record which you can find out just down the hall in the records and assessors office. I happen to know who owns the place, and the circus Manager came in and presented all the documentations to show they had insurance as well as the letter offering them the use of the land as well as a phone number and address to contact the owner which I checked out personally.” Hagan explained carefully knowing it would make no difference to Barton, not once he had his teeth set in another battle of Good vs Ungodly out of town evil.

None of which the circus owner had to do since the property is privately owned and outside of the towns limit no permit is required. “In addition I’m well aware of the history of the Mason Place Pastor, but its not the home of the anti Christ, its not haunted or cursed. And I’m going to ask you as the Sheriff to stop spreading these stories.”

Barton gave him the patented I know your Lost to god, but do not insult my dogma look.
Thank god the other religious leaders in town were nothing like Barton, Hagen thought dealing with Barton was an exercise in patience and futility most times..

Barton and his small church were always protesting something; from Satanic lyrics in Cereal Jingles to people funding the Rise of the Anti Christ through buying proctor and gamble products.

“You know what happened out there Sheriff, the place is tainted, unclean, Evil even.” Barton said stiffly apparently angrier than Hagen had suspected.

“ Yes I do Pastor,” Hagan said patiently. Who didn’t know the stories about the Mason place. 1932, Lance Mason killed six travelers then his family including four cousins and an aunt. Oh he did more than kill them; most of his victims had been carved up like thanksgiving turkey’s while still alive. Some of what that man had done to his victims were only spoken about in whispers in town. It had shocked every one, things like that didn’t happen here, but it had and it hadn’t been over either.

After that, a distant cousin, Peter Mason had inherited the place and moved there with his family in 1940, three of Peters sons were killed in World War II, his last son, a Four F, went insane one night and killed his mother and two sisters. Peter Mason died of heart failure when he found the bodies of his family, the Killer slit his own wrists, his body found amidst those of his victims and the words I’m sorry written in blood beside him. The house had sat empty since then. But every time a body was found in the woods, or some one went missing, or just about anything bad in town and it was chalked up to the Curse on the Mason Place.

“ I tell you what Pastor, to set your mind at ease, and in case your right” Hagen said throwing the Pastor a bone, it would get the man off his back for a little bit. The uncle was more of a suspect at this point then any of the Circus folks, but Hagen wasn’t going to fall into the trap of fixating on just one suspect with out more evidence. “I will go out there, with a couple of my men and look around as much as we can legally with out a search warrant. All that’s important to me Pastor is we find Julie Siemns alive and well.” He Prayed they found her alive at any rate.

“Amen to that Sheriff” Barton said sincerely.

********************************

“Thank you, Alicia” Pastor Barton said, He had come here directly from the sheriff’s office, feeling a small amount of satisfaction that the Sheriff had agree to check out the Circus. Barton knew those Heathens had something to do with the disappearance of the Siemns girl. If Danny were Sheriff he wouldn’t have to worry about being taken seriously. God would help Danny get elected next election of that he was sure.

He settled himself into a well-used stuffed chair in a living room that looked more like a museum of Cheap plastic Religious Icons. Barton found it distasteful, but he did approve of and appreciate the unwavering faith it represented. The only book in the house was the Holy bible, and there was no Tv, just a radio so Alicia Bean and her Husband could listen to the Broadcast sermons when at home.

“Coffee? Pastor Barton” the older woman asked, smoothing her polyester knee length dress with her hands. She touched her silver streaked hair doo as if to assure herself that it was neat and pleasing to the eye. A small touch of vanity but not one that Barton found intolerable. People should try to look properly groomed.

“Why yes thank you Alicia” Barton said. She smiled nervously and shuffled out of the room into the kitchen. Leaving him to studying a chubby plastic angel in a diaper, that looked uncomfortably like Deacon Graham.

She returned a few minutes later and handed Barton a chipped Coffee mug before she sat on the small couch. The plastic couch cover crackled softly as she sat. “Thank you” Barton said, then took a sip of surprisingly good coffee.

“That’s very good Coffee Alicia” Barton commented, she dipped her head at his response, she was very humble and didn’t take compliments well. Barton noted she held her hands in her lap and was moving them together nervously like she were washing her hands. What ever had prompted her to ask him over, was very upsetting.

“You said you had a problem?” he prompted, wishing to get to the point. Sadly he had a meeting at the Chapel in a little while.

“Yes Pastor, I don’t know how to start.” She said, her voice low.

“At the beginning, the Genesis of the story if you will” he said smiling at his own wit.

Her shoulders moved almost as if she were shuddering at some thought then taking a deep breath she said “ I saw something last night Pastor, out in the tree line, just beyond the lights Dud mounted on the barn. It was just a black figure that stood there with its hands on its hips watching the house, I was washing dishes, by hand of course” she said, knowing that Barton didn’t believe in using all the new fangled time savers like a dishwasher, he considered things like that the devils tools, to create idle hands for Satan to manipulate.

“you think it was a man” Barton asked curious, almost excited at the thought that the Devil might have sent one of its minions that God could smite through his loyal servant Barton and prove to the people around here that the power of God was supreme.

“It had a pointed head father, with a chubby body and big feet.” She said after a moment. “it stood there for a few minutes just watching then turned and vanished into the woods, probably going to visit that Heathen Pappy sloan” it never crossed Bartons mind to wonder how she could know its feet were big.

Barton winced, if it were a demon, he wasn’t sure even it would want to visit Pappy Sloan. There were times he wondered if the Devil didn’t have a rule against allowing that nasty, wicked, foul mouthed former Marine into hell.

Barton’s Brother in law Charley was constantly feuding with the old coot, who seemed to take great delight in pushing Charley to the limit.

“I thought I should tell some one, what with the Seimns girl missing and all, that might be the man who took her” Alicea added.

“Ill have Sheriff Hagen check into it” Barton said, “he seems willing to listen to me at the moment,.” Barton didn’t add the barbs about a missing girl seemed to be what it took for Hagen to do his job.

“It was just so odd Pastor, especially when I saw that ruffled collar and sleeves.” She said, looking a little less nervous than before.

“Ruffled Collar?” Baron asked, a memory floating up in his mind, A bright yellow and red suit with a ruffled collar and sleeves and a red pointed hat on the white painted head.

“Is there anything else you can remember?” He asked intently leaning forward.

**********************************

Jared climbed the rickety steps to the wrap around porch, hesitating, he was going to have to face Pappy if he and Jeff were going to go anywhere he thought as he lifted a hand to knock.

The Door opened even before his hand fell, Pappy stood in the entrance, he looked at Jared’s hands then down at the door mat, grunting. “ just making sure your not the little shit that’s been putting bags of Dog shit on the porch and setting it on fire.”

“Language dear” Melissa Sloan said from the living room behind Pappy.

“Sorry, I meant I was keeping an eye on my property:” he said correcting himself.

“Uh.. yes sir, is Jeff ready to go” Jared asked, stepping back as Pappy stepped out onto the porch and shut the door behind him.

“Not yet,” Pappy said eyeing Jared for a moment. “ you boys are going to try and dip your wicks into some girl this weekend aren’t you. Well take my advice boy, stick with hookers till you meet a woman like my wife”

Jared nodded, swallowing a laugh. “ Yes sir, Hooker sir.” Jared said. Pappy glared for a moment sure that Jared was mocking him.

“and you two dipsticks stay the hell away from that Circus” Pappy said suddenly. “I aint stupid boy, you two done got some girls lined up and are going to take them to the circus. Take them camping, make out if you have too, but do not go near that Circus”

“uh, okay, but what’s wrong with the circus” Jared asked curiously.

“Never you mind that boy, I know you boys laugh at my advice most times, but you listen this time.” Pappy said, then opened the front door,. “you scoot on upstairs, Jeff should be about ready,” Pappy said .

Jared dashed up the stairs, hearing Mrs.Sloan say. “Okay you were far to nice just then what were telling that boy out there on the porch and it had better not be the date hookers speech again.”

Jeff was almost done stuffing things into his pack as Jared entered his bedroom. “about time, Dad cornered you didn’t he, with the Stay away from that Circus thing.” Jeff said with a smile.

“yeah, wouldn’t say why though” Jared commented, as he pulled a playboy out from under Jeffs bed and sat down and began to leaf through it. “damn that’s a nice looking woman” he said after a moment as he held the magazine up and turned it on its side to study the centerfold.

“and you might get to see the real thing in a few hours, so put the magazine up and help me find my machete.” Jeff said.

Ten minutes later they were outside trudging into the woods, heading away from the house. The plan such as it was, was to hike in the opposite direction of the circus, in case pappy was watching or followed along behind them. Once they reached the old oak by the miller barn, they would swing around and head for circus, Pappy wouldn’t follow them that far. .

Leaves crunched under their feet, as they worked their way down into a creek bed. Jared nimbly leaped from rock to rock staying out of the water, Jeff managed slip and landed feet first in the cold water. “oh damn that’s cold” He said wading out of the creek, wet from his knees down.

“Quit crying, we still have a ways to go to get to where we are going to camp” Jared said looking up through the tangle of tree branches to the few patches of sky he could see through the sun tinged leaves.

“Easy for you to say, your not wet” Jeff muttered as they set off following the creek bed, having to hack their way through patches of mountain laurel on occasion.

They stopped every so often so Jared could check his compass and place a blaze mark on either a tree or rock just in case.

“Are you sure you know how to navigate cross country.” Jeff asked the tenth time they stopped.

“Have I ever gotten you lost before” Jared asked.

“Third grade, remember, ended up at the dump, when we were going to Walmart.” Jeff pointed out.

“Oh sure throw that at me, I seem to remember some one peeing his pants that time too. Scared of having snakes bite his tallywacker.” Jared commented, as he placed a blaze mark.

“Remember Jeremy Withrow, he got bit in the butt by a snake that summer .” Jeff said as they started off once more into the gathering gloom.

“he sat on the snake Jeff” Jared said with a grin.

“well I am pretty sure a snake wouldn’t like being peed on either” Jeff said, as they reached a tumble of large limestone rocks. Jared knew from past hikes, there was a Cave in the center of the Rocks, if you climbed up onto the rocks you would find a large hole surrounded by brush and trees, that led down into the Cave, where a creek fed pool of water waited.

the sun finally set, darkness dropped like a curtain over them. errant beams of moon light managed to pierce the tangled limbs and leaves. Which only made the darkness even more pressing, the sound of their footfalls loud in their ears, only the dry crack and rustle of leaves as they walked were louder.

Jared stopped in the darkness, straining his ears, listening intently. To Jeff he was only a shadow barely discernable in the darkness “ that way” Jared said.

“Which way, Its dark remember” Jeff said from beside him.

“Follow the music you twit” Jared replied touching Jeff on the shoulder and turning him till he was pointed in the right direction. “Your Dad, would tear you a strip if he knew you sucked so badly in the woods. he thinks you’re the next Davy Crockett or something”

“I only spend this much time in the woods to get out of the house and because one of my so called friends would rather be out here wandering around in the forest, than going to the movies or the bowling alley to flirt with girls.” Jeff said.

“ssssshhhh” Jared said suddenly.

Jeff fell silent, distinctly hearing something moving the woods, the dry crack of breaking twigs and crackle of leaves hard to miss. And a musky almost rancid smell..

“Big foot” Jeff asked in whisper.

“No, a Bear.” Jared said smelling the pungent odor that could only come from a bear. puzzled, as far as he knew of Bears didn’t roam around much at night. Maybe this one was just late in getting home.

Jeff was silent, for all Jared’s ragging on him, Jeff was at least competent in the woods, and a decent hunter. But since all they had were Jared’s Hunting knife and Jeff’s machete, the best course of action was to not be where the bear was heading. Even with a rifle or shot gun not being where a bear was, was good advice.

“Lets go” He whispered pulling Jeff after him.

Half an hour later the music was close enough to be heard clearly, the temperature had dropped as well and Jeff was starting to really shiver as his wet legs grew even colder. .

“Another mile and we can set up camp” Jared said.

“I cant believe you call this fun” Jeff said as they set off, passing through a section of forest where a fire had cleared out most of the tree’s leaving behind, tumbled tree trunks and shattered limbs and tangled brush. But at least there was a lot of moonlight.

“I know where we are at” Jeff said suddenly.” We cant be more than a half a mile from the Mason place. this is were that kids body was founding hanging from a tree”

“My dad says that story was made up.” Jared replied as they skirted the deadfall.

“It wasn’t, I heard it from Keith, whose cousin knew a guy that was friends with the cop that pulled the body down.” Jeff said.

“Anyway man, doesn’t matter, your right no more than half a mile, how about we hold off making camp till we are close. That way we don’t have to go far into the woods to get back to camp” Jared said his stomach already knotting at the thought of being around clowns.

“Sounds good to me, unless my legs freeze off” Jeff said, as usual impressed by Jared’s ability to move around the woods at night and still know where he was at, and his confidence in dealing with any situation they might encounter. Jared’s Grandfather, a WWII vet, and a former park ranger and Scout master had taught Jared everything the man had known about woodcraft and survival skills, Jared’s dad enjoyed hunting and the woods but had never been as interested as Jared.

As far as Jeff had seen Pappy’s interest in wood craft only went as far as what he needed to know to hunt and Pappy was a hell of a hunter, hunting all year round., come rain, snow or game wardens. Jeff forced himself to keep going, me and my bright idea’s he told himself.

*****************************

Jared dropped his backpack eyeing the bright lights of the circus just beyond the trees, the sound of bright cheery music filled the night.

“ You sure you can find this place when we come back” Jeff asked, as he piled leaves over his pack to hide it in case some one came through the area.

“You sure you dad isn’t going to show up looking for us” Jared asked, Pappy had been suspicious of their little camping trip, asking far to many questions just before they had left the house. Jared dug the sandwiches out passing Jeff his Fried Bologna then hid his own pack.

“Not a chance, Charley Crist pissed him off again and he is busy plotting his revenge.” Jeff said with a laugh. .

“Those two are gonna kill each other before its all said and done” Jared said, as he walked to the edge of the small clearing to get a better look at the Circus through the trees. “What did Crist do this time?” Jared asked.

“I gather Charley, went down to the Co Op and bought the last two Iron lamp posts that pappy was wanting, then went directly to the scrap yard from the Co Op and scrapped them just to piss Pappy off.” Jeff said, rolling his eyes at the stupid crap adults did to each other.

“Yep that would piss him off, Remember that time Crist went out and bought that station wagon that Pappy wanted.” Jared asked, Jeff laughed and nodded. Pappy had spent a week in Jail for his response to that one. `Jeff’s Mom had been so furious that Pappy had gotten arrested she had refused to bail him out trying to teach him a lesson.

Jared opened his sandwich and started to take a bite when Jeff stopped him. “are you nuts, eating onions. Remember MEGAN… do you really want to eat those” Jeff asked.

Jared frowned he loved onions, but… okay yes Megan was great, sexy even but still, no onions… he debated for a moment then opened the sandwich and pulled off the Onions.

Jeff laughed then took his own sandwich out of the wax paper and took a bite. “ I hate you” Jeff said after he swallowed, then opened his own sandwich and pulled off the onions and flung them into the woods.

Jared only grinned then went back to his sandwich hoping Megan was worth his sacrificing onions.

After they finished eating the two boys walked to the edge of the woods stopping to look out at the circus. Something rarely seen in these parts.

Besides the big top, there were a lot other Colorful tents set up under rows of bright white lights, Jared could hear people talking, lots of voices jumbled together, only laughter and the occasional shrieks of surprise rising above the general babble of voices.

“I hope Pastor Barton doesn’t show up while we are here” Jeff said softly. Jared nodded in agreement. Word had spread around town early today that Pastor Barton had vowed to lead his congregation out here to picket the ungodly heathen circus folks who, according to him, were only one step above gypsy’s.

The man led pickets against movies, music, Halloween carnivals and Christmas shows that had Santa Claus in them. Jared might only be fifteen but he thought the Pastor Barton had a screw loose.

The two boys walked out of the woods, leaves rustling under their feet as they walked across the old pasture and slipped between the Campers and Tents of the circus folks till they reached the circus proper.

Half the town had to be here Jared thought seeing all the people wondering around the booths containing Games, there was tent for a Fortune teller, another that had sign announcing the Bearded lady. “Look at that” Jeff said pointing to a sign that read “the Orginal one and only Pin head.” Another tent held the woman with no bones, each tent had some sort of side show inside, a list of times were posted outside each tent on large colorful posters.

The Circus, taking a page from the Heydays of the big circus’s, had resurrected the side show. The large circular tents had been placed to form a T shaped a midway leading to the entrance of the big top. the smell of cotton candy, popcorn, baked peanuts, and other candies and snack foods filled the air, blending with the smell of Fresh hay and animals.

Jugglers, sword swallowers, acrobats and fire eaters wandered through the crowd of townspeople putting on demonstrations. Hawkers an age old tradition cried out to entice people to watch the side shows or to head for the big top for the main performance.

Jared gawked like a rube as he slowly made his way down the midway, stopping to watch a group of little people acrobats perform on the back of ponies in one large tent, in another tent two women and a man dressed in skimpy leather put on one incredible show of fire breathing.

Hearing horns honking behind him Jared moved aside, to put as much distance as he could between himself and the passing clowns. Who rode through in a small car, that sent a fountain of sparks out of the pipes sticking up from the motor like smoke stacks. The car vanished into the crowd heading towards the big top.

“One day Jared you really need to get over disliking clowns” Jeff said laughing.

“Tell any one and I kick your butt” Jared vowed.

“oh sure like its not obvious to every one here” Jeff said starting to laugh. “Hey look at that” Jeff said loudly pointing to a woman who was doing a hand stand on t shaped bar that a man carried on his head as he walked through the crowd. Jeff was more interested in seeing if her chest fell out of the skimpy performance Leotard she wore.

Jared watched as she did a variety of tricks all while balancing on one or two hands on the bar, impressed at the display of strength and skill it took to do what she was making look so effortless.

Jeff led Jared to the Ring toss game and promptly went through five dollars trying to win a rather ugly stuffed blue bear.

“ at this rate you’ll be broke in half an hour” Jared commented as he continued to look for Megan in the crowd.

“Ill win the shoot the duck game” Jeff vowed heading to the game to prove his point.

“They are rigged” Jared said sounding like a world weary traveler talking to a Rube.

Jeff looked back at Jared and laughed. “says you.”

Five dollars and one Gumbi doll later, Jeff was glaring at Jared who couldn’t stop snickering. “told you so.”

Jeff’s eyes widened for a second as he looked over Jared’s shoulder, “HI Jeff,” Jared felt his heart lurch at the sound of Megans voice. He turned and smiled, hoping his smile didn’t look as insane as it felt.

“Hi Megan” he said without a stammer which he was damn proud of . Megan was almost as tall as he was. her shoulder length brown hair speckled with colored lights from overhead. The Tshirt and jeans she wore didn’t do a thing to hide the curves that screamed at him for attention.

“Oh Hi Jared didn’t realize that was you” she lied.. No one could ever have missed
his golden red hair that damn near glowed under the fairway lights. She gave him a smile and watched him blush.

“We were just going to play another game want to go with us” Jeff said pointing to a booth with stacked milk bottles. He grinned at Jared who looked decidedly uncomfortable.

“Sure,” she said then lifted her arm and waved “ Theres Vicky I had lost track of her” Megan said as Jeff’s face fell at the name, then he rolled his eyes. Jeff found Vicky irritating for some reason and for some Reason Vicky had set her sights on Jeff, and had so far not taken the hint to move on. “ I hope you don’t mind Jeff I brought her along tonight, so I wouldn’t be by myself.”

“No that’s cool.” Jeff said, with a smile that looked decidedly on the cool side.

Vicky smiled happily at Jeff as she joined them; she was wearing a halter top and small skirt that barely covered anything. Jeff grudgingly admitted to himself it looked good on her.

“ Lets go check out the Fire breathers, I’ve always thought that was so cool.” Megan said linking her arm in Jareds. Jared felt his temperature rise at the touch of her hand, then smiled hoping he didn’t look stupid.

Vickie held out her arm to Jeff, who seemed not to notice. “you are such a boob” she said after a second, then stalked off after Megan and Jared. Jeff shrugged.

“you got cooties” he muttered following behind her now wishing he had eaten the onions.

An hour later found them wandering the small midway, waiting for the next show in the big top, Megan carried a large stuffed Panda Bear that Jared had won. Jeff looked miserable as he listened to Vicky chatter away about some Tv show she liked clutching the stuffed Monkey that Jeff had won for her.

“Lets go into the Fortune Tellers” Megan said suddenly eyeing the tent with excitement.

Jared didn’t roll his eyes, if she wanted to walk through acid, he would go with her. no way was he going to risk saying something that would upset her, and get her to leave.

They entered the small tent and the flap closed behind them, the sounds from outside were muted, creating an almost quiet environment inside the tent. Ornate privacy screens, across the center of the tent, were set up to form a room where a table covered in multiple colored scarves with a crystal ball sat the center of the table. Old looking tapestries covered the walls like it was straight out of one of those old movies.

“sit, sit” a woman said stepping from behind a screen, Slender, with long dark hair, dressed like a thousand gypsy fortune tellers from the movies, she was kinda of pretty to Jared, she definitely had a few asset that Jared liked.

“For the wolf will prowl tonight” he muttered. Then blushed as he realized he had said it loud enough for the Medium to hear. She laughed lightly “ Im afraid that my fortunes do not usually involve werewolves” she said as Megan and Vicky sat at the table. The medium sat in a swirl of colored skirts. She picked up a pack of oversized cards, her dark eyes boring into Megan who handed over a five-dollar bill. The medium nodded and proceeded to explain how the cards worked.

“Do you understand” the Medium asked. Megan nodded smiling widely.

“Good, then have your question in mind and tap the deck” the medium said holding the Tarot cards out to the teen-aged girl. Megan tapped the deck then waited while the medium shuffled the cards before expertly dealing them out in a pattern on the table top.

Jared watched actually interested, he didn’t believe in the stuff, but he had never seen this in real life and it was interesting to him.

Once she had the cards arraigned in a cross pattern, with five additional cards lined up along the right side of the cross, she began to explain what each card in the cross meant.

As she slowly flipped over each of the five cards to the side of the cross something in the Mediums voice drew Jared’s attention to the womans face. She looked puzzled, maybe even scared.

Way to go, turn this into a movie Jared, he told himself. Next you will expecting a werewolf to leap out from behind the screen.

“The cards warn that in the future, you need to be wary of…” the medium was silent for a moment looking at the final card that had the picture of Death wearing armor and riding a horse. “ a sudden change in the world around you” the Medium finally said looking up her eyes meeting Jared’s for a moment. there was something in her look that bothered Jared like she could actually see something about his and Megans future that not only bothered her but scared her.

“weird I only wanted to know if, I should ask……” Megan’s eyes darted to Jared almost to fast to notice. “anyway,” Megan said rising.

“One moment please” The medium said, reaching out and taking Megans hand and studying it, then she looked at Jared, a slight smile on her face.

“You will find what your looking for close by.” The medium said, letting go of Megans hand.

“See, told you total fake” Jared said as they headed for the tent flap behind one of the screens.

The medium watched the teen aged couples leave and shook her head, wandering if she should have warned them. They would not have believed she knew but maybe she should have. She rose and glided behind a screen to wait for the next customer. I can not wait to leave this place, all my readings have been dark full of dire warnings for the future since we arrived here.

***************************************

The night was going splendidly, he thought, watching as people entered the big top for the next to last show of the evening. The contempt he felt for the wretched mass of humanity entering the tent never showed on his face.

A little boy ran up to him, his nasty little fat face smeared with cotton candy. Simon knelt lifting a glove hand. The boy skidded to a halt his parents laughing at the look of wonder that spread across the boys face as a stuffed bear appeared in Simons hand as if out of no where. He passed the bear to the child and went through his pantomime act of surprise and checking his huge sleeves for another bear then reached out and pulled another bear out from the of thin air. Simon widened his eyes forming his mouth into an O of surprise. the child shrieked happily snatching the bear from him and running back to his parents who were laughing. The father gave Simon a smile of thanks for his kindness.

You would not be smiling if you knew exactly what I wished to do with your child, Simon thought with real humor visions of blood and pain playing through his mind. A pricking of his skin drew his attention back to the entrance of the big top, where two teen aged couples entered. His attention fixed on the taller boy, a muscled boy with fiery red hair. Handsome for his age, with features that would be called chiseled as he grew older.

What is it about this one, he asked himself as something uncoiled in the back of his mind. There was something in this one, something that bothered him. With a flourish, he adjusted the pointed cap he wore and followed along behind the teen agers. He would find out what was so special about this one, at the very least it would prove to be entertaining.

Jared sat and watched the show, enjoying Megan leaning against him. The smell of her hair, and perfume enough to super charge a teenaged body. But slowly he began to get that feeling that some one was watching him at first he tried to ignore it but the sensation only grew stronger.

He looked around but saw no one staring at him, or even paying him much attention. Finally, he looked behind him and up the rows of bleacher seats but still saw no one paying him attention, then as he started to look back to the front, he saw a face peering out from under the bleacher seat, between the legs of the man sitting directly behind him.

Stripes of light fell across the narrow white face, the lips were painted a blood red, the eyes peered out from large dark sockets. A smile spread across the clowns face, dark and hungry. It lifted one gloved hand and adjusted the ruffled collar around its neck. Its head cocked to one side, and pouted for a second then it pointed at him and silently laughed.at Jared bobbing its head with each silent guffaw.

“ hey kid you okay” the man behind Jared asked, seeing the blood drain from Jared’s face, totally oblivious to the clown that stared out from between his calves. Then suddenly the clowns face vanished into the darkness under the bleacher. .

“uh, uh.. yeah sorry, I uh..” Jared couldn’t even begin to figure out what to say. he turned back to the ring, watching the act with out really seeing it. his hear beating fast. Wanting to do nothing but run, but with Megan beside him he didn’t dare.

“Damn weird kids” the man muttered.

Jared had never liked clowns ever, but usually he could deal with it. but this was to much, to weird. And all he could think about now was that it was under the bleachers, lurking there in the darkness, waiting and watching.

Stop it, it’s a circus, Clowns work at Circus’s, he told himself trying to find something to keep him calm. It was just part of the clown’s act, it had to be. Nothing to freak out about.

Something brushed his ankle, Jared already scared with visions of a clown under the bleachers, shouted as he leaped to his feet, looking down in time to see a white-gloved hand vanish under the bleachers.

“Damn Jared, sit down” Jeff said, as other people stared, some asked if he was okay. There were several comments about Jared being on Drugs. “Man sit down, before they throw you out”

Megan looked puzzled and maybe concerned but to be honest Jared didn’t care how it looked anymore, all he wanted was to get the hell off those bleachers and outside.

“I need some air” Jared said, then turned and rushed off the bleachers, feeling some what better once he was mixed in with the people heading outside.

He kept looking back over his shoulder, but saw no sign of the clown. Outside he took several deep breaths, ignoring the looks some of those around him cast his way. .

“You look rough there Jared,” Jared recognized the voice and looked up to see Sheriff Hagen appear out of the crowd of people. There was a suspicious light in Hagen’s eyes.

“No I’m not on drugs” Jared snapped angrily. Then closed his mouth with a snap. “sorry Sheriff Hagen, I… uh.. its embarrassing” Jared said lamely.

“I have all night” Sheriff Hagen said, crossing his arms over his barrel chest.

“I thought I… saw… “ Jared said his voice trailing off as he saw a face peering out from behind the cotton candy stand, it waved at him waggling its fingers. Now way was this part of its act, Jared thought, it was screwing with him.

Hagen saw the color drain from the kids face, Concerned he turned to look where Jared Stone was looking but saw only people, a cotton candy stand, and some of the tents were the various acts were housed.

Jared shook his head, and straightened up. no way in hell was he going to tell the Sheriff he was seeing evil clowns waving at him around a cotton candy stand, after seeing the same clown under the bleachers. Sheriff Hagen would think he had totally lost it.

“I just don’t deal well with crowds sometimes” Jared lied smoothly. He knew Hagen didn’t believe him. But if Jared told him about the clown it would be all over town by morning that he was scared of clowns. Jared was saved from any more questions when Megan walked up and grasped his hand. “are you okay, you looked like you were going to throw up” she said then turned to the Sheriff. “Hi Sheriff Hagen, how are you tonight.”

“I am good thank you, I didn’t realize Mr. Stone here was your boyfriend.” Hagen said smiling fondly at Megan.

Jared blushed, but at least his mind veered away from the clown to worrying about the words Megan was about to speak.

“Oh this is only our first date, and its going great” She said smiling happily.

Hagen gave Jared a look that the boy didn’t understand, then smiled. “well I hope you two have a good time tonight, and make sure you get her home at a decent time, Ill be around here all night” Hagen said, his suggestion about getting Megan home early was a threat for Jared to keep his hands off Megan that he caught easily. “ And Megan tell your father I said Hello and ask him to call me” yes it was definitely a threat Jared thought, God Im dead, the Sheriff is friends with her father.

“Yes sir I will, and Ill be home by eleven at the latest” Megan said squeezing Jared’s hand tightly.

*************************

Interesting Simon thought watching the Boy and his female friend, talk to the sheriff. The concern the officer had shown moment ago about the boys behavior had changed to amusement when the girl had appeared. The snatches of conversation he had heard indicated the officer was concerned that the boy would put his filthy hands on the girl and was friends with her father, people were far to interested in Sex he decided.

Apparently I might have to kill the Sheriff he thought with a smile, if he gets in the way of my plans. That of course would be bad, he would just have to play his game carefully to avoid drawing more attention than he desired..

Oh this will be entertaining he decided as he carefully adjusted his pointed hat, smiling broadly he slipped out behind the tents and gazed up at the house that sat on the hill above the circus.

So much lovely history, so much blood. It is truly my kind of home, he thought wishing he could move in. Sadly even after all these years the stories were still being told, and he had no desire to become the center of attention and the scrutiny that it would bring if he moved in. Scrutiny would impact his work, and his work was his life and the only real enjoyment he had in this world. Speaking of work he thought as he checked his watch, it was almost time to attend to his secondary occupation..

He soaked in the moonlight for a moment longer then readied himself mentally. he was to walk the Midway again in a just a few more minutes then rush to change before the final show in the Big top.

Might as well start now, Punctuality is important he thought as he headed back to the midway and the crowd of simpering ignorant towns folk. he moved with a quick mincing pace, that most would find comical, some would find it disturbing.

Once on the midway, he moved around, performing simple tricks, nothing to extravagant. That was reserved for his show, this was only a warm up. He stopped in front of a small family producing a set of balls that he began to juggle. The children laughed gleefully, especially when he tossed a ball at them and had a child toss it back all with out stopping. But his thoughts never left the red headed boy and his friends,

**************************************

Hagen watched the young couple walk away, holding hands, and smiled. Stone was a good kid, but even Good kids had hormones that might get them in trouble. He would check and make sure Megan was home by eleven, her Father would appreciate it and he owed Kyle for many favors over the years. He chuckled remember the look on Jareds face, when he got the message that Hagen had been giving him. The kid thinks he is going to die.

He turned hearing a commotion somewhere close to the parking area, and frowned he was already heading that way when his radio crackled to life “Sheriff Hagen you might want to come to the parking area, we have a Problem here” Pete Starr said.

Hagen reached the parking area and frowned as he saw Pastor Baron, and most of his small congregation. . Deputy Starr was arguing with the pastor who held a megaphone, Barton was jabbing it to emphasis each word he spoke to Starr, and it was coming close to hitting Pete in the face. Do not shoot him Pete, Hagen thought, almost wishing his deputy would.

Barton seeing Hagen grew even more agitated. Before Barton could get started, Hagen spoke “ Pastor, I thought you understood me earlier, I will deal with this. As you can see we are out here in force, checking things out. But I can not have you out here disrupting things making our jobs harder.”

“Three deputies and yourself is what you call in force.” Barton asked as a chorus of amens came from behind him. “ We are here to help” he added.

“You cant help me, your not deputies, if you found anything I couldn’t use it in a court of law, and at this moment there is nothing to suggest these people are even involved.”

“Well Sheriff, I have it on good authority that one of the clowns from this very circus has been sneaking around behind peoples homes since Tuesday night. I demand that you shut this cess pool down and end its corrupting influence on our town.”

Barton’s groupies cheered loudly, between shouted amens.

“All right pastor here’s what’s going to happen,” Hagen said tired and annoyed at having to deal with Barton. “This is private property. Not public, you can not protest here, if you do, I will arrest you. If you use that megaphone to accuse any one in the circus of Murder I will arrest you for trying to incite a riot and disturbing the peace” and Id arrest you for being a hypocrite and being stupid but that’s not against the law Hagen thought. “ do I make myself clear, you and yours can go out to the side of the road and protest there that’s public land, one foot on the road and Ill have to arrest you for reckless endangerment and impeding traffic”

“You would not dare” Barton shouted, getting ready to work himself into a righteous fury.

“ Yes Pastor I would, I’ve tried to be nice, I’ve tried to work with you, but Im tired of your crap. Deputy escort the Pastor and his people to the side of the road, if any of them refuse to move, arrest them.” Hagen said, then reached out and took the bull horn. “Ill take this too Pastor you can pick it up tomorrow morning I don’t want you disturbing Hank and Lisle Mortons sleep down the road and have to arrest you for disturbing the peace.”

Hagen walked to his car ignoring the protests and threats from Barton, tossing the Bullhorn into his car, he happened to look up to the Mason house and for a moment thought he saw some one standing on the porch looking down on the circus.

He blinked and the porch was empty, he felt a chill for just a second then laughed at himself, he was just tired. He couldn’t wait for the circus to close for the night.

****************************

“Man you’re a doofus” Jeff said as they returned from the port potties, Megan and Vicky were waiting by the cotton candy stand for them. “ Megan probably thinks you’re an idiot.”

Jared shrugged, acting casual. “ so? “ at least Jeff hadn’t laughed when he told him about the clown.

“look man, the last show is going to start in a couple of minutes, get back on the horse and lets go watch it. and if any more clowns appear under the bleachers, beat him like you did Dale.” Jeff said.

“Do not tell Megan about the clown or I will kill you” Jared threatened.

“Hey don’t worry your pants wetting fear of clowns is safe with me” Jeff said as Megan and Vicky waved at them.

“if you do I swear I will tell Vicky how much you really like her” Jared said with an evil grin.

“you are just wrong, I mean wrong. Where did you learn to be so wrong” Jeff asked shaking his head as Vicky flounced towards him.

“Your dad, you should have paid more attention to him.” Jared said with a grin as they rejoined the girls and headed for the Big Top.

Jared sat on the bleachers with his arm around Megan watching the show, after awhile with nothing happening, he started to relax. By the time the Magic act started with the Magician appearing in a puff of smoke, and he saw the absurdly skinny odd looking Magician, he was enjoying himself but the memory of the clown lurked in the back of his mind.

Megan was snuggling against him, which was causing interesting reactions that were making him want to leave and hoped that she never stopped.

“as long as they don’t play Air supply, or REM Ill be okay “ Jeff whispered to Jared around Vicky, his face inches from her chest, which he suddenly really noticed for the first time. it seemed like every act had one of the current popular songs being played at top volume.

Jared didn’t reply, he was watching the new act. The whole set was horror movie themed and it went well with the odd appearance of the Magician. Who was skinny and dressed like an undertaker complete with a stovepipe hat. The magician, conjured a tiger, then made a woman vanish in a puff of smoke, then in an act he had never seen before the magician some how pulled her from his hat. Then it was back to the basics cutting the hot assistant in half, escaping from a locked box and others all the while a machine pumped knee high fog across the center ring.

Finally the show ended, and as they headed for the exit. Jared felt relaxed; stopping at a stand he got Megan more cotton Candy and reached into his pocket for the money, and felt something soft, pulling it out he froze. his eyes went wide, as he saw he held a white glove, a glove that looked just like the one the clown had worn.

“whats that, are you okay” Megan asked, Jared dropped the glove to the ground and quickly dug out his money and passed it to the guy who ran the stand. All Jared wanted to do was to get the hell out of there.

“did you get that glove from one of the clowns” she asked as Jared led her away, heading for the parking area.

“no, I don’t know where it came from” he told her. She gave him an odd look then smiled and made him stop. Around them people streamed past, heading for their cars. She kissed him lightly on the lips, and he found for a moment he could forget about the clown, especially when she melted against him.

“ half the town is watching” Jeff said snickering. “but I know where two tent are just waiting for company.” Jeff said, then winced as he remembered Vicky was right beside him. Well anything for a friend he told himself as Vicky looked excited.

“its only nine, I think we can visit your campsite “ Megan said taking Jared’s hand, he found he was suddenly cold and burning up at the same time. He hadnt expected this, dreamed about it, but not really expected it.

it only took minutes to circle around the circus and cut across the field to the woods beyond. Reaching the campsite five minutes later, Jared got a small fire going, then helped Jeff pitch the tents. Finally, feeling sick to his stomach, his jeans feeling to tight he sat beside Megan on a log. She smiled at him and suddenly they were kissing again.

***************************

oh this will be so much fun, Simon thought watching the two couples from the shadows of the woods. The red head was busy kissing his young lady, his hands roaming in places he should know better than to touch, the other couple was crawling into a tent.

I so hope this takes all weekend, I do hate to rush he thought staring at the red head who would soon have more to pay attention to than his girlfriend. Oh yes you will. He thought, feeling the house behind him, watching, waiting anticipating what was to come.

**************************

“I’ve always hated that place” Pete Starr said looking up at the Mason Place. Suppressing a shiver, he was after all a Sheriff’s Deputy, being spooked was not the image he wanted to present.

Hagen shook his head slowly, it was a house like any other. Its history was bloody, but it was still only a house no matter what Idiots like Barton thought. Hagen stood there, hat tilted back on his head, thumbs hooked in his belt watching as the last of the Towns folk rolled out of the parking area. Barton and his minions had given up about an hour ago, whether because they were being ignored or because they wanted to get home in time for the Tonight Show, he didn’t know.

“Well hate it or not, I want it searched tonight.” Hagen said sounding a touch irritated.

“You think the Siemns girl may be up there” Starr asked wondering why Hagen suddenly wanted the old abandoned house searched.

“I don’t know that’s why we are going to search the place Pete” Hagen replied.

Starr didn’t look thrilled but he wasn’t going to argue, he wanted to find the girl as much as Hagen did and spooked or not he would search that house in case she was up there.

“Sheriff?” Hagen turned to see Deputy Tinsdale, with a wisp of cotton candy on his shirt and popcorn greasy fingers. He eyed the slightly overweight Deputy.

“Have enough to eat Tinsdale.” Hagen asked mildly.

“uh…oh.. uh sure Sheriff.” Tinsdale replied having the good grace to be embarrassed. “I just wanted to tell you some one is camped back in the woods. I saw a campfire through the tree’s”

Stone, Hagen realized, the Kid camped everywhere. And he was with Megan earlier, young boy, good-looking girl, and a campsite. “Thank you Tinsdale, Starr and I will check it out. While we do that I want you and Morris to go up and search the Mason house.” Kyle was well and truly going to owe him.

“Lets go Starr we have a young romance to break up.” Hagen said, Starr, relieved he wasn’t going to have to go into the old house, laughed as the two men started walking across the circus grounds.

****************************

Megan pulled away from Jared, smiling and looked at her watch, surprised to see how much time had passed. Her ride had to have left by now. The music had stopped at the circus and it looked like some of the lights had already been turned off.

“ I have to get home” She said rising to her feet, her hand brushing Jared’s crotch. An electric shock flowed through Jared’s body that rocked him to the core, images cascaded through his mind, and he was surprised to find he was trembling ever so slightly with frustrated anticipation.

“Maybe we can do this again tomorrow, If I am lucky my ride is still waiting for me.” She said. Jared started to protest, he never wanted this moment to end. But he didn’t say that, besides, the Sheriff had made it clear he was going to be checking up whether Megan got home on time.

“come on Vicky you don’t have to leave just yet” Jeff said, as Vicky crawled out of the tent, she rose to her feet and tugged her dress into position. Jeff followed her out, pulling on his shirt. Vicky carefully touched up her blond hair, a huge smile on her face.

“I do If we are going to get home, with out walking” Vicky said then impulsively turning and kissed Jeff on the lips.

So much for Jeff hating Vickie, Jared thought hiding a smile as he saw the look on Jeffs face.

Jared started to give Jeff crap about Vickie, but stopped cocking his head to one side as he heard something move in the woods, a moment later a deep familiar voice came from the Darkness. “ I really hope you kids have been behaving out here” Sheriff Hagen said, his voice like cold water to Jared.

“Some one told me there was a campfire back here and the first thought I had was Jared Stone, the boy camps everywhere. And here you are, with young ladies no less. So I have to ask Mr. Stone, what exactly have you been doing.” Hagan asked stepping into the fire light, Pete Starr right behind him, a smile on his face.

“I ..uh ….” Jared said at a loss for words.

“Jared was showing us, what plants you can eat” Vickie blurted.

“I see” Hagan said stopping beside the fire hooking his thumbs into his belt and staring at Jared, who knew that Hagen knew what had been going on out here.

“We were just about to walk the girls back to the circus so they can catch their ride home” Jared said, which was entirely true. “time got away from us Sheriff, I was showing them plants, and we were talking about movies and stuff.”

“Yep Movies, Vickie thinks My fair lady is a great movie and I think Halloween is the best. And told her she is fucking insane… I mean um.. she is really crazy” Jeff said, not helping.

“Son, you should really take after your mother when it comes to language” Hagen said trying not to laugh at the look on Jeff Sloan’s face. “As it happens Mr. Stone the girls ride has already left, but I am here and can take the girls home” Jared wasn’t about to argue with the Sheriff and neither was Jeff.

“Come on girls, lets get you home” Hagen said, Megan impulsively leaned forward and kissed Jared on the cheek, then went and stood beside the Sheriff and his deputy “ and Jared, you and Jeff should go home. I’m not comfortable with you kids being out here, camped near so many strangers.”

“Don’t worry Sheriff, Jared can wipe the floor with them” Jeff said helpfully, clapping Jared on the shoulder.

“Even still Jeff, best to avoid trouble. And Im not sure Pappy would like you being out here” Hagen said, Jared managed not to groan at the implied threat, Hagen would most likely cruise by Jeffs house to let Pappy know where they were at if they didn’t leave, and the Sheriff would probably run by his house too. That’s all the world needed his dad and Pappy united and coming out here to collect us, Jared thought seeing how the world could end. But maybe if they headed to a different camping spot, the Sheriff would be satisfied, some place far away from the circus..

“No problem Sheriff, we can go camp down near Beaver springs” Jared said, Beaver springs was about as far from here as you could get.

Hagen eyed the two boys for a moment. Beaver springs was the latest nickname for an old camping spot that even hunters liked to use. “Sir, if you leave now you can have Megan home by eleven.” Jared said so smoothly that Hagen almost laughed.

“I’m serious Jared, I want you two to pack up and head home, Deputy Starr can drive you both.” Hagen said then added “it may not be safe to be out camping right now. And if you stop arguing I will make sure no mention of the circus is made to your parents.” Hagen said openly playing the black mail card.

Jared nodded anything to keep Pappy and his parents from finding out where they had set up camp. As Hagen led the two girls out of Camp and towards the circus, Jared turned and began to take his tent down, under the watchful eyes of Deputy Starr, who couldn’t seem to stop grinning. Jared knew Pete Starrs Cousin, and had heard some of the stories about Starr, who was apparently pretty popular with the older ladies. You would think he at least would be sympathetic, Jared thought.

He and Jeff finished packing up their gear, put out the fire then followed a cheery Deputy Starr out of the woods and across the field. “see what happens when I’m nice to vickie “Jeff said. “ we get hauled home by the cops.”

ten minutes later they were pulling up in front of Jeff’s house no lights came on but knowing pappy, Jeffs father had heard the motor and was already slipping out the back door with his rifle thinking either kids were either about to wrap his house with Toilet paper, leave another bag of burning dog poo or Charley Crist was about to make the mistake of his life and trespass on Sloan property.

As Jeff was climbing out of the patrol car, the radio squawked. Jared didn’t understand what the code meant but the smile on Starrs face faded as he listened. “Looks like your getting out here too Jared, duty calls. And if I find out you two headed back out to the Mason place, I promise I will make sure you parents know where you were and what you were doing.”

Jared and Jeff mumbled a promise to not return to the circus with out parents. As the deputy drove off Jeff turned to Jared and said. “Well what do we do now?” .

“Id like to know what in the hell you two peckerwoods did to be brought home in a Patrol Car” Jared damn near leaped out of his boots, at the sound of Pappy’s voice from behind him. even expecting Pappy to show up, Jared was still taken by surprise. “Well, Im waiting as impatiently as a Greek whore for a ten dollar bill for this answer.”

Jared could only assume that Greek hookers were really impatient, so he came up with something which was mostly the truth. “Sheriff Hagen was checking out some leads and found us Camping, he didn’t think it was safe out there so he sent us home with Pete Starr, only Pete got called away so he left me here with Jeff”

Pappy snorted, then took a deep sniff. “I smell cheap perfume, cotton candy and some of those damn lemon drops I hate. You little shits were at the circus weren’t you”

“Clark, honey could you not refer to our son and his friend as Little shits, pecker woods and what ever other twisted name you come up with.” Melissa Sloan said from the porch. “its late, come back in side.”

“Be there in a moment” Pappy called back glaring at the two boys. “you two can bed down in the barn if your still wanting to sleep outside the house. But if you come inside, I swear I will shoot the first one of you that giggles, talks. Or even farts louder than a soft wind.”

Jared grabbed his pack, “ The Barn sounds great, Pappy” Jared said, starting for the barn hoping to put distance between himself and Jeff’s dad. Jeff lagged behind, having to listen to another of Pappy’s speeches.

Jared waited at the door to the barn, leaning against the old wood wall, studying the line of four broken down tractors that sat like rusting monuments to farm work. Finally Jeff walked up, grinning in the moonlight. Jared could hear Jeffs mom berating pappy for his crudity, for a half a second Jared wondered what she wore to bed. If Jeff knew what half the thoughts Jared had about his mom, Jeff would probably shoot him.

“What did he say to you?” Jared asked, Jeff held up something that looked like a slip of paper in the moonlight.

“He gave me a twenty for becoming a man, and then told me starting Monday Im grounded for going to the circus.” Jeff said, Jared laughed and the two boys carried their backpacks into the barn.

“Don’t laugh, he is probably going to call your parents and tell them too.” Jeff said.

“Oh great” Jared muttered.

*******************************

So inconvenient, Simon thought, I should have just killed the deputy before he could remove the boy. But I have other ways of drawing him back here, like that young lady. He thought as he lifted the wallet he had taken from her purse, it had been child’s play to pick pocket her purse as she passed by escorted by the Sheriff. He could easily have killed all three but had chosen not to, Killing law enforcement was a sure way to draw them down on top of him self and that would ruin his plans.

He ducked down and went through the low entrance to the tent he practiced in, and lit a lantern. He sat down on a box and opened the wallet. aaah a student ID card, Hello Megan Does your father know you are a tramp. He searched through the wallet quickly and found her address written on the back of a library card and smiled.

This was going to be fun, He thought rising and walking to a cabinet. He rifled around inside for a moment then found what he was looking for. A touch of magic, a bit of blood, a little chaos, makes the world go round he thought with a smile as he removed the leather case and headed for the entrance he had several things to do tonight before he paid the girl a visit. Business before pleasure, he told himself with a smile.

Two Patrol cars pulled away from the Mason place as the high grass in the yard rippled in the breeze, leaves swirled up around the dark house silhouetted against the moon, its long shadow falling across the now quiet circus. The house a monument to pain and death waited silently its dark windows staring out into the night. Behind the dirty opaque panes Something moved.

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12 thoughts on “A Clown in the Moonlight, Part 1 ( A back story)

  1. Awesome as usual. Halfway through it I honestly thought it might finish in one chapter. I am not sure – it seems like your level of detail about everything went way up. Maybe it is just a story that you have turned over and over in your head for so long. 🙂 – Thank you for posting.

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    • Thanks for reading Rob, send me a quick list LOL I spell checked it and reread it twice so apparently Im missing them somewhere. was really hoping to put out a more polished story.. sigh.. LOL.

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  2. I read on a daily basis O’Kelly and finish 2 books on average a week. Honestly you are one of my favorite authors and I read the greats. I put down “Cat’s Cradle” to read this installation. Keep it up, can’t wait for more

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