Chapter Six

Steve, on full alert at the sound of the gunshot, went running toward the little trailer. The door was wide open and, his heart in his throat and pounding wildly, Steve looked inside. Lou was lying on the floor, a gun still in his hand and one clean bullet hole in the back of his head. There was no blood; he had died instantly. Jaime, with a bruise and the beginning of a goose-egg on her forehead but otherwise unharmed, turned around, stunned, as unaware as Steve was of what had just happened.

Standing over Lou, with the gun still in her hand and looking not the least bit shy or afraid was...Melina.

"Am I dead?" Jaime asked, rising to her feet. Steve was instantly there, to keep her steady.

Melina looked down at Lou. "No, but he is - the creep." She looked at Jaime and Steve, quite a pair in a wirewalker's outfit and a clown suit. "Jaime, Steve...I'm sorry I had to lie to you, especially since I knew who both of you were, all along. My real name is Charlotte Brown, and I'm with the NSB."

"I'm taking a stab in the dark here," Steve said, "but I'm guessing you're not fifteen."

"Twenty-two. Lou's been a very bad boy, using the circus to sneak terrorists and spies into the country and selling whatever loose information he could pick up along the way. Once we realized what he was doing, we started sending out false intell, to trip him up and make him give himself away. He might or might not have gotten a death sentence had he gone to trial, but he took care of that detail all by himself; saved us the time and expense. Wasn't that considerate?" She beamed at Steve and Jaime.

"Thank you," Jaime told her, very quietly, still in shock and not quite sure she was alive. "You've got excellent timing."

"I'm just sorry I had to lie to you."

"Well," Steve said, "you are definitely good; you had us fooled, and we don't bluff easily. But - what about the notes?"

"I did write the notes. I was hoping to scare you out of here, out of the NSB's case before something happened."

"Something like today?" Steve concluded.

"Exactly. I didn't have quite enough yet to put him away, but it turned out to our advantage that you were here. What he did today clinched our case." She looked down at the body once more. "And ended it."

------

"Ok," Charlotte called out, "Big smiles!" Jaime and Steve, still in circus outfits, posed for a picture in front of the Big Top before heading for home. "Perfect. Now one for me." Snap! "Thanks!"

"Hang on," Steve said, grinning wickedly, "one more." He pulled Jaime into his arms and, clown make-up and all, gave her a long, deep kiss. They both turned around, and Charlotte snapped the picture.

One week later, Oscar had a new 8 X 10 picture framed and hanging behind his desk: an extremely happy clown, and a tightrope walker, wearing her leotard and a little-bitty tutu skirt, with white and red greasepaint all over her face.

END