As private investigator Sam Cane locked the door to his office, he tried desperately to shake the feeling of dread gnawing at the pit of his stomach. His brain told him that his new clients had presented him with an easy paycheck but his gut said something entirely different. He popped a couple antacids and smiled at Jenny, his part time receptionist and on-again-off-again girlfriend. She was sporting the new earrings Sam had given her, unaware that a tiny recording device had been attached. Considering the lengths Maven had gone to just to keep his coworkers from catching a glimpse of his show, Sam figured it was best to keep Jenny as clueless as possible. Rumor had it that there was an audience participation hypnosis segment in the performance and Jenny seemed to be the susceptible type. It seemed wise to keep her in the dark so, as far as she knew; they were just having a fun night out. The whole ride there, Jenny admired her new jewelry in the visor’s mirror.
“These are just gorgeous, Sam. Thank you so much!”
She planted a kiss on his cheek, careful not to obstruct Sam’s view, then nuzzled her head against his shoulder. She chattered on happily as they wove through traffic and eventually pulled into the parking lot. The bright and cheerful Mystic Magill’s Big Top Carnival sign seemed to be a direct contradiction to the picture Maven’s coworkers had painted. Once inside the carnival, Sam and Jenny strolled around and eventually ended up at Maven’s tent. The line grew steadily as each minute brought them closer to show time. Finally, a burly looking man removed the velvet rope in front of the door and began letting patrons through. Sam handed over the pair of tickets and both he and Jenny were waved inside the tent. He sucked in a sharp breath as a larger, even surlier man passed a detection wand down Jenny’s front. The alarm sounded and Jenny took a step backward, confused and a touch fearful.
“Hand ‘em over,” snarled the man.
“H-h-hand what over?” Jenny stammered.
“Recording devices, transmitters, c’mon, I ain’t got all day, sweetheart!”
Not willing to lose his opportunity to record Maven’s show, Sam stepped forward and rested a comforting hand on Jenny’s shoulder.
“They’re not on her; you’re picking up the transmitters on me.” Sam pulled off his baseball cap, dropped the phony cigarette pack inside and handed them over.
The guard looked stunned. Before his sudden shock could turn to anger or even earn them an ejection from the show, Sam turned on the charm.
“Look, buddy, I’m a private detective,” he whispered so softly that Maven’s assistant had to lean in close to hear what Sam was saying. “See that couple over there?”
He pointed into the broad expanse of patrons milling around looking for their seats.
“His wife, hired me to get proof of his…uh…dalliances. I’m on the job but I’ll just watch while we’re here in the show and collect these from you after. I apologize; I wasn’t thinking that it might cause some troubles inside here. No harm, no foul, right?”
The surly man barely had his wand over the hat before it shrieked in protest, alerting its operator that there was contraband inside.
“I thought you were taking me out on a date, you jerk!” Jenny sneered, smacking him hard on the shoulder. “I can’t believe you’re using me as a cover while you work!”
The bouncer laughed and allowed Jenny and Sam to take their seats with the promise that his hat and “cigarettes” would be waiting for him outside, after the show. Sam thanked the man for his discretion and led Jenny toward his imaginary mark.
“Wow! Great job playing along, Jen. I almost believed you were angry there for a minute. You could have pulled the punch a little though…. you hit hard for a girl.” Sam laughed, gingerly rubbing his shoulder.
“I am mad,” Jenny answered tersely. “I hate finding out I was just a prop when I was under the impression we were out on a date.”
“C’mon, now. Don’t be like that. Just because I have a little work to do doesn’t mean I don’t want to spend time with you too, baby. Why can’t I do both?”
“I suppose the earrings were just a ploy to soften me up then.”
Before Sam could answer, the overhead lights flickered, announcing the start of the show. Saved by the bell, he mused.