It was an unseasonably warm, sunny, autumn day when Mystic Magill’s Big Top Carnival rolled into Philadelphia. Set up day was always busy and this one was no exception. Tina, Clara, Manny along with his son, Manuel, GoGo, and Jared struggled to focus on the task at hand. Inside, they all wondered how Sam was going to catch Maven in the act. As they worked, they sent each other silent messages: sideways glances, a wink, or a nod, all ways to say we’re in this together and we’re doing our part to help BT.
Across town, Sam was cementing his relationship with Jenny’s family. It had been easy to charm her aunts and female cousins. His boyish charm and disarming smile had them hooked from the first introduction. Her uncles and male cousins were a tougher nut to crack yet there was something endearing about their blue-collar, family-first demeanor. He’d gotten off on the right foot when he insisted on sleeping on the couch, rather than expecting to share a bedroom with Jenny. His second brownie-point had been earned without even trying. An offhanded remark about hating the New York Giants and he was in.
“You’re all right, there Sammy-boy,” Uncle Mike laughed, tossing him a beer. “There’s nothin’ worse than raisin’ your kids right….teachin’ ‘em to be proud of their heritage and when they head out into the world; they turn their back on their own hometown.”
Mike’s impromptu diatribe inspired the clinking of beer bottles and a few scowls sent in the direction of his daughter, Heather. Mike’s son Jeremy explained that Heather was dating a Giants fan.
“There’s a picture of her up on Facebook wearing a Giants jersey,” Mike whispered. ‘It’s quite the scandal. Dad nearly had a heart attack.”
Note to self, Sam thought silently, Pick up an Eagles, Phillies, Flyers or any other Philadelphia team, tee-shirt while I’m here. Throughout the rest of the day, he’d managed to win over the remainder of her family. He hated the thought that their approval might be lost the instant they heard about his case, and Jenny’s involvement. That evening, as Mike manned the grill, Sam had a private chat with him.
“So….Mike, Jenny tells me you’re a police officer.”
“Yup, been on the force a little over twenty years now,” Mike responded while masterfully flipping the steaks and ribs on his grill. “So, if you don’t mind me asking, what made you decided to go rogue instead of joining the police force, Sam?”
“You know, I never really thought of it as ‘going rogue’ before,” he answered, chuckling. “I was with the police force for a while and I was shot in the line of duty. They wanted to relegate me to as desk job after the injury and I wanted to stay active… so, I hung out my shingle and went into business for myself.”
“Good for you! Most fellas would more than happy to get out of the line of fire and play desk jockey.”
As the conversation progressed, Sam got the distinct impression Mike’s opinion of him had elevated dramatically since their introduction, making it that much harder to divulge his true purpose for joining Jenny on her trip. Eventually, he sucked it up and blurted out the whole sordid tale.
“So, I’m guessing you’d like a little a help from our department to catch this SOB,” Mike replied. “Lemme tell you something, it would be my pleasure to nail this freak. I can’t believe he almost snatched five hundred dollars from our Jenny. It’s a good thing you were thinking on your feet there and managed to save her cash. Too bad the rest of those poor suckers didn’t have someone to do the same for them. After dinner, I’ll make a few calls and we’ll just see what resources we can pull together.”
“Thank you, sir,” Sam gasped. “I thought for sure you’d be disgusted that I got Jenny tangled up in this mess.”
“Well, I’m not particularly thrilled that she was potentially exposed to danger but you couldn’t have known there was some crazy-ass murder and extortion racket running out of a traveling circus for cryin’ out loud. I’m not sure hypnotizing someone and subliminally planting an order to send cash would technically classify as extortion but, geez, it’s gotta be something close.”