“It’s mostly magic tricks,” the clown grinned.

“Yeah?” answered Rose, superciliously.

He could read scepticism in the blankness of her face, then let himself be distracted by the slope of her supple, teenage shoulders. She was an attractive kid, even in just tank top and jeans-he found himself following the curve of her clavicle, where the skin clung to the bone. How old, he wondered. 16? 18? Well toned; she obviously exercised. He’d win her over, he knew.

“Don’t worry, I’m good; I do this every day,” he reassured.

“There was these two guys on YouTube and they showed how it’s like all about distraction. Diverting your attention so that you don’t notice what’s going on and like what’s going on is really simple. So you can do stuff with your cards. Won’t impress me.”

“How can you tell that you’re not going to be impressed until you see what I can do?”

He knew his breath was sweet and his manner personable. This was a script he’d followed many times.

“I need something more exciting that a couple of silk hankies, or…” observing the rough bulge in his pocket “a pair of trick handcuffs.”

“These?” he said, fanning out his fingers revealing cold, steel cuffs apparently from nowhere. While she maintained an expression of fixed ennui, her blink betrayed surprise. Out of habit or nerves, he ran his fingers over the cuffs, feeling the pleasing coldness and weight of the metal, clicking the ratchets through his fingers. Involuntarily, he imagined the sting of cold steel on his wrists, the chafing discomfort.

As she watched him clinking the chain through his hands, darting his tongue over his grease-painted lips to clear the droplet of spittle that had appeared at the edge of his mouth, she realised that by letting him in, she’d painted herself into a corner.

There were only two ways out.

She would either live or die. She could let this creepy old paedo with his magic tricks slip those cuffs onto her wrists and let herself be tortured, abused, raped, violated, God-knew what but the images flashed through her mind, by this guy with the freaky clown facepaint. I mean, who the fuck did he think he was, John Wayne Gacy? He was so much bigger than she was, so if she was going to live-

“It’s ‘there were these two guys’, by the way,” he said.

“What?”

“‘There were these two guys,’ not ‘there was’. It’s grammar.”

“You’re shitting me,” she replied, snatching the cuffs out of his hands.

“Hey, you’ll break those if…” but before he could protest further, she whipped them upward into his jaw, smashing first into the underside of his nose and following with a back-handed swipe to his right eye socket. He let out a strange girlish cry (any other time, she would have giggled), and brought his hands to his bleeding face. Thus distracted was unable to defend himself when the inevitable kick to the balls arrived, then a final low tackle to the shins to overbalance him. Crumpling like an aluminium can against the skull of a moron, he was passive as she rolled him face down, sat heavily on his shoulders and using packing tape she produced from heaven knows where had him hogtied before he knew what was happening. She nodded with satisfaction over her handiwork. Luring him in was a good idea after all.

He started screaming for help.

“Shut the fuck up!” she repeated, her foot making contact with his ribs on the word “fuck”.

“No fucking way, mate. No way in fuck I’m going to end up a skeleton in a crawlspace.”

He stopped screaming. “What even is a crawlspace?”

“It’s where you stash your kills, isn’t it paedo. Or do you dissolve them in an acid bath or cut them up and eat them like Jeffrey Dahmer? C’mon paedo, tell me.”

“But I don’t… I’m not…. Please….”

“Yeah? That’s what you would say. What kind of guy goes around with handcuffs and clown makeup offering to show innocent teenagers magic tricks?”

“A party clown! Please, Jenny, let me go. The boss knows exactly where I am, he made the booking, they’ll realise something’s up when I don’t make the 2.30pm at Holland Street.”

“Rose.”

“You ordered a birthday clown just to beat me up?”

Rose had heard enough. She gagged him with the tape, then headed to the front door and walked out. He craned his ears to hear what was going on above his own breathing, rattly with streaming blood. He could just hear voices.

“…yeah, sorry it’s a bit loud, the entertainment hasn’t arrived and the jelly snakes have kicked in. I’ll get them to pipe it down a bit.”

“Thanks Jen. Wish Danny a happy birthday for me.”

Rose walked back in, shut the door, leaning back heavily against it and sighed. She was right–she had painted herself into a corner.

“Well. Um. Sorry.”

 

(first appeared in Printer-Free Zone published by Mock Frog Press, 2012)

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