Circus Acts (Short Story No. 15)
These short stories will be part of the sequel to my novel The Lady Who Loved Bones. Any suggestions for improvement or for future stories are welcome.
Captain Taz and his right-hand man Buster stood among the crowd at the Sasquatch sideshow of the Great Western Circus.
“This is pretty boring, Boss,” Buster complained. “Some hairy dumbbell lifting some dumbbells.”
“It’ll get better,” Taz promised. “He’s going to lift some huge rocks.”
“Do you think Roscoe could swallow that one whole like he did Sammy?” Buster asked.
“No way,” Taz replied. “A dwarf is one thing, but that guy is too big. I might need to get a bigger snake.”
“There are bigger snakes than Roscoe?” Buster asked incredulously.
Taz answered, “I have heard stories of pythons growing to almost twice the size of Roscoe. Never seen one myself, but that’s how the story goes.”
During intermission, Donald Dinnie, the Scottish Sasquatch, mingled with the crowd and did card tearing and nail bending demonstrations. Taz got a chance to speak to him briefly, and they agreed to meet later that evening. A dozen circus roustabouts rolled out two huge stones during the break.
The barker told the story of the Dinnie stones that together weighed over 700 pounds that Donald Dinnie carried across the Potarch Bridge and back in 1860, a feat that became world famous. The bridge is near the hotel of the same name at Aberdeeshire, Scotland. Donald now duplicated that feat to the astonishment of the spectators. Then a giant entered the sideshow area. He looked to be well over 7 feet tall and weigh over 700 pounds. He too lifted the imitation Dinnie Stones and carried them the same distance.
Donald Dinnie himself introduced the man as Angus MacAskill originally from the Isle of Berneray in the Sound of Harris, Scotland. Dinnie went on to say that Angus was 7 foot nine inches tall and 450 pounds. “Let’s hear it for Scottish strongmen like Angus and myself!” Dinnie implored the crowd, and they responded enthusiastically. Angus then duplicated Dinnie’s feat and lifted and carried the two huge stones. To top that, he picked up Dinnie himself and lifted him over his head, much to the delight and amazement of the crowd.
Taz knew this was not the real Angus MacAskill because Angus had died in 1863. The stories about him Dinnie told were true, but this was an imposter. Taz was familiar with MacAskill and knew that he had performed in P. T. Barnum’s circus, appearing with General Tom Thumb. Big Mac, as he was affectionally known, had visited Windsor Castle and performed for Queen Victoria. One of his greatest feats was reputed to be the lifting of an anchor that weighed 2700 pounds.
Shorty, watching all this with Helen James the Pinkerton agent said, “That Angus is almost as big as the guy the expedition found in the Hell Creek Formation. Actually, I discovered him first. He was a little over eight feet tall. I discovered him first when I was answering a call from mother nature and noticed his hand sticking out of a man-made burial mound. We dug him out. He must have been some sort of chief because weapons were buried with him.”
“What happened to his bones?” Helen asked.
Shorty replied, “His bones were on the Victoria when she sank. Hannah Monroe, the paleontologist, had been planning to take him to Philadelphia to Professor Leidy, along with the other discoveries. Now all those bones are at the bottom of the Missouri.”
A Bunch of Clowns
Shorty was attired as a white clown, with a ruffled collar and pointed hat. Wee Willie was the red clown, wearing a colorful plaid outfit with a wide-collared shirt, long necktie, orange wig, and an oversized nose and shoes. George Bartholomew was very upset that his star clown, Sammy Short, was a no show. Wee Willie Wilson was very evasive about Sammy’s whereabouts. Little did Bartholomew know that the poor little little person had been devoured by a gigantic snake named Roscoe. Bartholomew managed to persuade Shorty, short but not quite as short as Sammy, to temporarily fill in. Shorty and Wee Willie did a charivari, an acrobatic clown routine that included jumps off of a small trampoline and over a vaulting horse and into a mat.
Helen reminded herself to question the suspicious Wee Willie, who appeared to be suffering high anxiety over something, further about the disappearance of Sammy Short later.
Marshal Neil Howie had returned with his posse. His search for the bank robbers had been futile, and he was extremely irate that the one robber he had apprehended had been burned alive while in jail. Soon he met the wrath of Anne Hope, the bearded lady, who also was extremely irate that her former fiancé Seth Morris had been murdered. Ironically, the outlaws that the marshal sought were right here in the vicinity of Helena under his nose, committing more murders and other crimes.
“Just saved us the trouble of having the trial and hanging him,” the custodian of the jail a deputy sheriff named Reuben noted. “And the body was practically disposed of. Not much left to bury. We should take care of all the corpses like that. Not much room left on Boot Hill.”
# # #
New Member of Outlaw Gang
Donald Dinnie and Angus visited Taz at his campsite outside Helena later that night. After a lengthy discussion, Taz decided to hire Angus as a member of the gang to replace the late Seth Morris. Angus expressed a willingness to hurt people. His specialty was to crush skulls in a headlock or ribs in a bear hug. “I can make the brains come gushing out of a head if I squeeze it real good,” Angus bragged.
“Boss, Angus is going to make us conspicuous,” Buster cautioned. “He’s so dang big.”
“Yup,” Taz agreed. “But giant snakes and riding camels also make us conspicuous.”
“So what’s next on our agenda?” Buster asked. “Rob another bank?”
“Makes sense to me,” Taz responded. “But first, I think we should get rid of that Pinkerton agent. I overhead her talking to that Shorty fella, and I think she is getting real close to figuring this all out. Angus, do you have any problem with killing women?”
“Hell no, Boss,” Angus replied, “as long as I can have some fun with them first. And I don’t use the headlock or bear hug. I suffocate them with my big Scottish scrotum.”
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