Joel dances with a clown who has long Raggedy Anne’s type hair; it’s a slow dance to a slow song, Wild is the Wind, recorded by David Bowie in 1976, and written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington in 1957. The two are holding each other close. Their face paint smears to a colorful Rorschach test as they kiss, deeper and deeper. Joel moves his hands down the middle of her back and cups her buttocks. She blows into his ear.
Ethan looks up at them and back at Bridget. Cochran is still studying her phone, trying to place where she has seen the person in the photo. She’ll have a better image soon. She looks up and Ethan looks away. Suddenly he is dodging her glances, but she is too caught in a search of her own memory to notice.
“Would you like to dance?” Bridget asks Ethan. Before Ethan can answer the music stops.
“The Argonauts are going to take a break, and will return shortly. Please welcome to the stage, Mr. Magisto.” Bixxter announces.
A middle-age man in black tux from the 70’s, ruffled shirt and cuffs, bright pink cumber bun, and pink sequin shoes walks into the stage area. He wears a pink top hat and bows for he audience. Mr. Magisto is carrying a vintage, leather bound suitcase. He throws the case forward, parallel to the ground and four legs pop out of it. The case opens lands softly, like a street salesman’s sample case.
Phoebe returns to the table with a larger glass of wine and a pitcher of beer. She sits next to Bridget. Emily is tapping on her phone and doesn’t notice. Seven grabs the pitcher and fills his glass. He offers to pour for everyone else.
“To start, I’ve an old trick that everyone has seen before. I will pull the definitive rabbit out of my chapeaux.” Mr. Magisto bows and his top hat falls forward into his hand. He twirls it across the brim and displays the empty hat to the audience. He turns it and stops it on all sides to show it is free of hidden compartments. Mr. Magisto sets it on the suitcase with one hand and raises the other hand to the sky. A wand appears in his raised hand, and he waves in several circles, first above his head and then above the hat.
“Shim shim, abracadabra, sis boom, beer mug.” The magician pulls a full mug of beer out of the hat. “Oops,” he raises it to the audience, “a toast to our most gracious host.”
Everyone that is watching stands and follows his suggestion, tipping a glass in Phoebe’s direction. She stands and waves.
“Really guys, I love having all of you over. It’s a marvelous thrill.” She curtsies and bows her head.”
Everyone is clapping, cheering, clicking, snapping or toasting.
Mr. Magisto waves his wand over the chapeaux again and says, “hipity, hopity and mopsy, flopsy and fuzzy tail.” He reaches in and pulls out a white rabbit with long pointy teeth. It’s a hand puppet and the magician struggles with it as the puppet tries to bite him. “That’s the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rabbit that I’ve ever seen!” He yells in a deep booming voice. “It’s got a vicious streak a mile wide! It’s a killer!” He yells.
The partygoers laugh and clap. They recognize the vicious rodent from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Mr. Magisto continues to struggle with the puppet to get it back into the hat, but the rabbit has him bent over backwards, just at his throat. Tail fuzzy, floppsy, mopsy, and hippity hopity,” a flash of light appears and wall of smoke obscures Mr. Magisto.
The magician reappears with a small hand fan blowing the smoke away. “Phew, folks, that was a close one.” He looks down and realizes that his pants are missing, showing his pink sequin boxer shorts. “But not without its due.” He bows.
The audience roars with laughter as a string of toilet paper hangs out from one of the legs of the shorts.
“Thanks Seven” Bridget stops shuffling her cards and hands Seven her glass. “Would you like me to tell your fortune?”
Seven thinks she is talking to him, and as he is filling it, he says, “Yes. Def…”
“I think our wonderful hostess is first.” Bridget replies.
“I don’t think I’m going to be able to sit for that long.” She shakes her head. “I may need to organize another beer run?”
“I can do that?” Seven offers.
She sighs, “Give me a moment. I just want to sit for a few breaths.”
“I’m going to find a bathroom.” Ethan interrupts and stands.
“It’s inside,” Phoebe directs, “through the kitchen, to the work room and turn right.”
“Okay.” He turns and walks toward the house.
“I can do a single card reading, if you like?” Bridget says.
“Do I have to think or say anything?” Phoebe asks.
“Not really, you just need to think about your question, touch the card cut, and then draw one.” Bridget instructs.
“Sure.” She answers. “I’d like a full reading, maybe some other time though.”
Steve McSwain’s phone rings, “damn it,” he yells to his windshield.
“Are you going…?” Selena, distribution manager with Vanilla Shed, asks but is cut off.
Before Steve can respond, his phone’s speaker setting stops working. He stops in front of a driveway and picks it up. “Sorry,” he is still connected, “my phone is acting up now.” He shakes his head, “What did you need?”
“Are you going to make it?” Selena repeats.
“It’s going to be close,” he says.
“I just wanted to let you know that my boss has authorized double time, if you need to work tomorrow.” She explains.
McSwain sighs, “I didn’t say I would?”
“I know, but it will be worth it to us, if you do. Otherwise, we’ll have to find someone else to pick the order up off of your truck.” She says. “I mean, either way is fine with me, but you’ll have to be there for the exchange.”
“Damn, I hadn’t thought of that.” Steve chuckles. “I had plans, but I guess you’ve got me either way.”
“That’s right.” She replies. “Vanilla Shed appreciates your professionalism and work ethic.”
“So, I get the same as today, but twice as much plus mileage tomorrow?” He affirms.
“Okay, okay, but I’m still going to try and make the train tonight.” He pulls back out into traffic and guns through a stop sign in a less then California Stop.
“Thank you. Thank you Steve. You’re a life saver.” She says. “I owe you.”
McSwain sighs, “I may still make it tonight.”
“Go Steve. Go.” She cheers.
He smiles to himself and pushes harder on the accelerator. I’m going to make it, he thinks to himself. He turns a little to fast onto 5th Street in Berkeley. His tires squeal and he breaks quickly to slow enough to make the turn without stopping fully and without pitching the truck over. “SHIT.”
Lieutenant Emily Cochran’s phone beeps; it is a text message. “GOT HIM. Img nxt.”
Cochran smiles, clinches her fist, and pumps the air in a down stroke; “yes,” she says out loud.
Everyone’s at the table turns to look at her. Seven turns and says, “Well, hell yes. I think?”
“Sorry. I just got a break on the case.”
“The one you not working on any more?” He replies.
“Hey, it’s not you on the video from BART.” She answers.
“Phew,” Phoebe exhales, “I thought it might be me.”
“Is it the person that pushed someone onto the BART tracks?” Bridget asks. “I read about that this morning; it sounds horrible.”
“Ye…” Seven starts to say.
Cochran punches Seven in the arm.
“Ouch,” he looks at her sternly. “I was going to say, yeah. I don’t think chief dick-n-boots is going to appreciate it.”
Cochran shakes her head.
“Here, pick a cut.” Bridget says to Phoebe. “Think about your question.”
Ethan returns to the table. His face is covered in clown make up. Everyone looks up.
Bridget laughs out loud, “you’re so cute; like Picasso on meth.” She riffles the two cut stacks together and pushes them into a one. She separates them into unequal stacks and farrows them again, and repeats.
Everyone laughs at the joke and Ethan turns read, highlighting his clown face. “I ran into my friend, Joel and could not escape him or his new girlfriend.” He sits back down at the table and Cochran’s phone beeps again. She focuses solely on its screen.
“Are you thinking of your question?” Bridget asks Phoebe, and cuts the deck again. “Choose.”
Phoebe chooses the stack on the left and Bridget farrows them. She fans them out on the edge furthest from here, face down, and instructs, “Think about your question and choose one.”
Phoebe pauses for a moment and touches several of the cards as she watches Bridget’s eyes. She pulls one out of the deck and lays it down on the table in front of her.
The picture from the BART station camera comes in full onto Lieutenant Inspector Cochran’s phone and she looks up at Ethan. He is watching her closely and as soon as their eyes meet, her pupils constrict. The clown makeup is not enough; she recognizes the person in the photo.
The blood drains out of Ethan’s face as Emily reaches for her belt. Ethan jumps up out of his chair, knocking the spool table forward. It topples onto its side, knocking Lieutenant Cochran and everyone else out of their chairs. It rolls over Seven and he laughs out loud. The near full beer pitcher hits Cochran on the chin. She sees stars.
“ETHAN,” Bridget screams as she joins Phoebe on the ground; both are covered in wine.
Phoebe’s knife is lying in front of him and he quickly bends down to retrieve it. Phoebe is the first to stand and looks over the mess. Seven can’t stop laughing as his torso is under the empty wind area of the spool. He grabs hold of its inside edges to stop it from rolling further.
Ethan turns to run with knife in his hand in front of him; and bumps hard into Phoebe, knocking her down, and landing on top of her.
“OH MY GOD,” Bridget yells.
Ethan rolls off her, stands up, and looks down at Phoebe. The knife handle is upright, titled towards her feet with the sharp end embedded just below her ribs. Her mouth and eyes are wide open as she looks down. Her body shutters. Blood is flowing out of her wound and soaking the front of her top.
“NO.” Ethan shouts and runs for the door. The party goes silent as he enters the house.
Lieutenant Inspector Cochran is up fast and after him. She pulls the black 9mm semi-automatic out of her belt, and pulls its slide back to chamber a round as she runs.
Chili hears looks to the ruckus and lunges at Ethan as he sprint by him. Ethan is too fast and a glancing blow leaves him on his back.
“911, someone call an ambulance.” Bridget screams and rests Phoebe’s head on her lap. Her face is pale and paler. Bridget motions toward the knife, but doesn’t know to remove it or not.
“My Love, NO.” Comma screams as he comes upon the scene. He grabs her hand and reaches for the knife, but stops. “NO, NO.” He cries out. “Stay with me. Don’t leave me.”
The party is silent and the guests gather around the scene. Smiles and cheers, jokes and magic, music and revelry are replaced with reverent whispers and an eerie quiet. The face paint and smell of beer, the buzzing of an amplifier and pressure sigh of the calliaphone turns the once happy affair into a nightmarish shadow. A breeze picks up off of the bay.
Phoebe takes a beleaguered breath, she tries to talk, but can’t get enough air.
“Quiet, quiet, dear love. Save you strength.” Comma says as tears begin dropping onto her torso.
Phoebe tries to focus, but her eyes are more and more blurry. She tries to breath again. “I, I love, I love you, Comma.” She manages in a whisper.
“No, no, save your breath; don’t leave.” He repeats.
She tries to draw one more breath and looks up. Her eyes are wide open and focuses on his. She tries to speak, and her eyes go quiet.
“No, no, how could this happen?” Comma’s voice quivers. His face is covered in tears. He takes her head out of Bridget’s hands. He kisses her on the cheeks and mouth, and hugs her head close to his heart. Comma sobs.
Steve McSwain’s phone rings again. It’s Selena. “I think I am going to make it.” He shouts and laughs into the receiver. He doesn’t give her a chance to respond and hangs up. McSwain rushes through a stops sign, a little short of a California stop, and pushes hard on the accelerator again.
“Oh my God,” is all Ethan can repeat as he makes his way out of the house’s front door and towards the street. Where do I go? What do I do now? He thinks to himself as his legs open up to a full sprint.
“STOP, STOP.” Cochran yells as she clears the kitchen and sees his back in the entryway. The bent-wire outer security door slams shut. “There’s nowhere to go.” She shouts and aims her 9mm. pistol. Can I hit him through the door? She questions herself. It’s too risky. “STOP, POLICE, STOP.”
Ethan turns to look at her as she steps through the front door with her gun raised.
“WHAT THE…” McSwain slams on his brakes pushing his chest hard against the seatbelt.
The screech of rubber raises a cloud and then a loud thud. Ethan Tremblay lets out a gasp as his rib cage compacts, his neck snaps, and he flies through the air. He lands on the asphalt and tumbles several feet in an unnatural flail of arms and legs in opposite directions along bad angles. He lays crumpled on the ground. His eyes are full open and the makeup on his face is pitted and smeared on one side. His heart was stopped in a single moment.
Lieutenant Cochran down paces her dash and drops her gun to her side. She shakes her head and holsters it. Seven, Bridget, and Joel are the first through the front door.
“This is Cochran,” she says into her phone. “Chief Cummings, I have some unsettling news about the Fitzgerald case. She walks over to Ethan’s body and leans down to check his pulse, but it seems pretty obvious that he is dead.
An ambulance arrives and the techs stop at Ethan’s body. Cochran motions them to the backyard of the house. “This one is gone.” She says. They hand her a white sheet from the gurney, and she covers Ethan’s body.
Sweat replaces the blood pumping out of Steve McSwain’s face. He is breathing fast and gripping his steering wheel tight. He doesn’t move.
More of the party streams out of Comma’s house as the emergency technicians dodge them in the opposite direction. One holds the door open for them.
Lieutenant Inspector Emily Cochran stands, “Yes. It is he. I am sure Chief Cummings.”
“I’ll contact the Berkeley Police and be there in half an hour. Don’t let anyone leave.” The Chief instructs.
“I’ve an ambulance and a victim on scene. I know her and will send her on.” She answers.
“Good work, Cochran, but Internal Affairs is going to have questions.” Chief Cummings adds.
“I’ll bring them with me, but do not say anything until we talk, understand?” He commands her.
“Yes sir, yes.” The consequence of actions settles on Emily Cochran; she weeps.