“Are you trying to be funny?” she asked.
“No, of course not. I’m trying to answer the question, your question. The question, to wit, ‘Where were you at 9 pm last night, the time of the crime?’”
It really annoys me, people thinking I’m trying to be funny. Even when they dragged me handcuffed and recovering from a rather nasty tasering into this rather scruffy police station, the desk sergeant’s first comment was, “Gonna make us laugh, eh?”
Now here I am sitting opposite a couple of plainclothes types who would just love to be employing a bare light bulb and a rubber hose but can’t, because somewhere or other there’s legislation that protects even lowlife like myself from these honourable guardians of our self-satisfied and smug society.
The tall skinny woman, let’s call her Blondie, seems to be the one in charge. She’s the one leading the questioning, doing the hard-eyed thing, hoping to scare her suspect, c’est moi, into some sort of confession relating to the recent unpleasant passing of Bertie Bolt, aka The Strongest Man in the Universe, found lying bleeding to death in a pool of camel urine next to his caravan only minutes after the big top had come down and the riggers and roustabouts were queuing up for mugs of hot cocoa and a briefing on our next gig on a derelict site just outside a decaying commuter town on the eastern border of Hertfordshire, an appropriate site for Barney’s Two Ring Circus and its run down flea bag collection of out-of-date and long past-it tight-rope acts, trapeze artists, lion tamers, freak shows and camels.
Blondie glares at me. I finger the oversized buttons on the blouse of my clown outfit, rub my face with the back of my hand hoping that smearing the heavy make-up would make it more difficult for her to read my expression.
“Er, do we know it’s a crime?” I ask. Innocently.
She forces a smile, “Well, there is an axe embedded in the back of his head and his body is badly burnt. He possibly did it himself?” She raises a questioning eyebrow; “Or perhaps someone gave him a bit of help, somebody with access to axes and a cigarette lighter?”
I know that somewhere in the building, probably in some dingy waiting room, doing her matrimonial duty, Mary is waiting for me, not sure whether to pray for my release or to pray for conviction and a life sentence, and I know that the sooner she has some sort of answer, the sooner she can get back to our caravan, get out of her costume, brush and condition her beard ready for tomorrow’s show, and get some rest before the long early morning haul. And start some serious grieving for her dearly departed lover, currently resting on an autopsy table in the local morgue, and no longer as strong as originally claimed. I need to sort this out, I think, get out of here before Blondie gets too emotional.
Funny thing about circuses, nothing is what it seems – the bearded lady doesn’t have a beard, the three legged dwarf just ain’t that, and the clown isn’t only a clown, he’s usually got at least one other act and in my case it’s axe juggling and fire eating. Oh, and I also do Howdoni, The World’s Greatest Escape Artist.
The first question the Chief Inspector asked was, “Just how could he get away?”
It was a question that poor Blondie was at a loss to answer.