Officer A.J. Sands tried to scream. The rag that had been stuffed in his mouth muffled most of the sound but his captors didn’t want to take any risks. The smaller man grabbed a roll of duct tape and firmly pressed a strip across A.J.’s mouth.
“That should keep him quiet,” the man laughed. “C’mon, let’s get ‘ole stinky’ here in the dressing room now so we don’t have to worry about the crowds outside seeing him.”
At the first sign of resistance, their hostage was hit with a Taser. The raggedy, smelly man fell to the floor with a thud, spasms jolting through his aching frame.
“On second thought,” Maven’s assistant muttered. “Let’s stick him in a steamer trunk and carry him in that way. I’m sick of smelling his stench anyway and I sure as heck don’t want it getting into my clothes.”
Unbeknownst to Maven’s thugs, their long list of crimes was growing longer by the second. They never suspected that the unfortunate man they’d just crammed into a footlocker was an undercover cop. They’d been reaping the benefits of their boss’ schemes for so long that the thought of getting caught was inconceivable. Yet, across the fairgrounds, a plain paneled van sat innocuously parked in the lot concealing surveillance equipment for the Philadelphia Police Department. Private detective Sam Cane and Officer Mike Higgins patiently waited inside the van, listening. The private, golden-ticket- holder-only show was about to start and this time, Sam was convinced they’d have all the evidence they needed to put Maven behind bars for a very long, time. Their secretly planted microphones picked up shuffling sounds and muffled conversations as the crowd entered Maven’s tent and found their seats. Thunderous applause erupted as the show’s star stepped out from behind the curtains onto the stage.
“Whew!” At least we know the bugs work,” Sam chuckled as he removed his ear piece and massaged the tender spot between his temporomandibular joint and his ear lobe. “Maybe we can find a way to tack on hearing damage to Maven’s rap sheet.”
Jenny’s Uncle Mike smiled at Sam’s wisecrack then held his index finger up and pressed it against his lips. Sam nodded, understanding that he needed to keep quiet so they could hear what was happening inside Maven’s tent. At the first hint of trouble, Mike would radio to the platoon of officers milling around outside the tent to spring into action. Maven’s sinister voice oozed through the transmitters making Sam’s stomach do flip-flops.
“Welcome, welcome, I’m delighted to see so many special guests here this evening. Please, won’t you all join me up here on the stage? Let’s have a more intimate and interactive show, shall we?”
Again, the scuffle of the moving crowd muffled Maven’s voice but he had clearly called for his assistants to “bring out their special guest”. Meanwhile, Maven was sorting his adoring fans into a semicircle around him.
“Very good,” Maven continued. “Now, let’s see. What was the trigger word again…ah, yes, dangling participle.”
As Maven continued spouting more insincere compliments to his audience, Mike tapped Sam on the shoulder and pointed to the piece of paper where he’d written, “What’s he talking about? Dangling participle?” Sam scribbled back, “It’s the trigger phrase that puts them back under his spell. Anyone who had been hypnotized before is completely under his influence again whenever he says the trigger words.” Mike’s eyes grew wide as he hissed a curse under his breath.
“Since we managed to tack on two extra shows per evening here in Philly, I don’t have time to play around. Let’s get the show on the road, righty-right?” Maven prattled. “Alec, Drake, bring our unfortunate friend out here and we’ll put him out of his misery.”
At Maven’s command, Sam noticed Mike stiffen. He sat up, ramrod straight, with his walkie-talkie clenched firmly in his hand. Through the earpieces, they could hear more scuffles.
“Thank you,” Maven responded to his assistants before continuing. “Now, each of you take the knife in your hand and plunge it into the bound man on the floor here.”
“Freeze! Police! Don’t move an inch!”
***Please return Monday, March 3rd for the exciting conclusion to The Freaks Come Out At Night***