Zappo watched as a stray dog wearing a silly hat, pissed on the mailbox in front of Amazing Rondo’s TV repair. Behind the iron gates of the shop, a row of televisions flickered attracting a cloud of insects. On the TVs, the Mayor was giving an address to a sea of reporters.
There was no sound from the row of TVs, but Zappo thought he could lip read the words, “daughter” and “grief.” It was hard to follow with the Mayor’s tears streaking his red, white, and blue make-up.
Zappo sucked the last of his smoke down to the filter. He tossed the butt and crushed it under one large red shoe as Blinky appeared from the alley. Zappo stepped under the light of the pawn shop, so Blinky could see him.
“You got the tickets?”
“I’m not buying,” Zappo said. “I want to see Chuckles.”
Blinky pulled off his rainbow wig and scratched at his angry red scalp, “Why you wanna see him for? Don’t you want some cotton candy?”
“Tell him it’s about his new cootch show.”
“Stay here,” Blinky spat.
Zappo lit another cigarette as Blinky disappeared back into the alley. Down the street, a couple of hookers dressed in neon tutus and polka dots hurried along in a thunder of high heels. Zappo leaned against the pawn shop and blew out a cloud of smoke.
Half way down the street, one of the hookers spotted him.
“You lookin’ to party, funny man? I’ll blow you up so big… you’ll be able to tie that thing up to look like a poodle.”
“Get lost,” Zappo snarled.
He tossed his smoke into a puddle, its taste had soured. There was a whistle and Zappo turned to see Blinky standing at the mouth of the alley.
“Come on. It’s showtime.”
Inside the building, a couple of mimes frisked Zappo. He held out his arms as they felt along his torso. From the corner of his eye, he could see Chuckles lying on a sofa. A young girl was huddled on the floor in front of him; her make-up was tear-stained.
“Sorry to hear about your old lady. Double murder. That’s a heavy rap, but she always was a firebrand. At least on the inside, it will be harder for Daddy Longlegs to get at her.”
Zappo shrugged, “I’m not here to talk about that.”
“That’s right,” Chuckles said through his yellow-toothed smile, “You’re here about my new friend. Tell me, how did you know about the girl?”
“Once you’ve been in enough pie fights, you recognize the bakers. I’ll I had to do was ask myself, who would be dumb enough to hold the Mayor’s kid for ransom.”
Chuckles rocked back and snickered. One of the mimes feigned holding back laughter.
“You’re a funny clown, Zappo. What do you want? A cut of the action?”
Zappo pulled off his red nose and jammed it in a pocket, “I want leverage.”
With the ridge of his hand, Zappo struck the mime on his right in the throat. The other mime waved his hands franticly as Zappo smashed his face with an oversized shoe.
“Mimes,” Zappo huffed, “I thought your tent was bigger than that.”
Chuckles grinned at him with a ruby smile, but didn’t move. Bending over, Zappo grabbed one of the mimes’ uzis. The girl straightened; hope shining in her eyes.
“If you don’t want me to pop your balloon,” Zappo growled, “Then you’ll do exactly what I say.”
Outside there was a squeal of tires. Zappo ran to the window as Chuckles cackling laughter followed after him.
“I guess you didn’t hear. My crew is with Daddy Longlegs now!” Chuckles giggled.
From the window, Zappo saw the tiny car roar to a stop. Dozens of hatchet-wielding clowns poured from the car toward the building.
Chuckles yanked a hidden pistol from the cushions of the sofa and brayed, “Looks like the jokes on you!”
Zappo whipped around and fired the uzi at the clown, peppering him with bullets. After the shooting stopped, the girl uncovered her eyes and looked up at Zappo. He was holding a hand out to her.
“Come on kid, no time to clown around.”