“Order! Order, please!” Ossip brought his gavel down over and over again against his small table. The feeble sound was lost in the screaming din of overly excited circus folk. The crowd was thirsty for blood. Goren’s blood.
“Order, please!” Tears leaked from Ossip’s eyes. Samedi attempted to yell something but his teenage lungs lacked the broad, sonorous abilities of a man.
A group of circus employ towards the front had descended upon the cage where Goren was housed. The cage rattled as it was wrenched violently from where it was chained in place. From within, Goren Hargus seethed like an animal.
“You’ll get yours!” Goren rasped inside the cage. He was so frightened he became unafraid. His bloodshot eyes darted about from person to person. He tore at the hands interlacing his bars. He lashed at them with his nails. With his teeth.
“You treacherous cretins!” Goren barked with total abandon. “I’ll fix it all in Hell! You’ll see! Every last one of you’s! Every last one of us will be on fire, alive, inside and out. Burning and smoking until our skin sloughs off and grows anew. And I’ll own every circus in the bowels of Satan’s playground! You’ll all get yours!”
From up on the dais, Ossip lost composure. He began to quietly weep into his forearm. As a sensitive and intelligent young man, he saw that he had not brought about justice or deliverance for his fellow man. He had only brought a shameful exudation of human filth.
As Ossip softly wept, he felt a familiar, silken presence envelope him. The comforting pressure of two large hands pressed down upon his shoulders. He knew it was Lorelei before he even wiped his eyes.
“May I?” Lorelei’s sweeping gesture was all Ossip needed. The power his mentor wielded over him had been established long before this moment. It was all very simple and clear for Ossip. So what happened next was the inevitable. In an intimate moment — noticed by no one — the entire fate of the circus was quietly transferred to the Interloper.
Lorelei drew himself up to his full height. “Gentlemen and ladies,” he said with a grand swivel of his mouth.
A few heads turned.
“Please,” continued Lorelei. “Mr. Hargus’s fate has already been sealed. There’s no need for violence.”
The logic of this seemed to penetrate. A wave of calm swept over the room. Even at the cage, the most embroiled members felt themselves take a step backwards, even as they continued to scream and threaten Goren.
As Goren viewed the change in atmosphere, he suddenly felt exhausted. He slumped down in his cage and — incredibly — he fell asleep.
Lorelei continued speaking. “Mr. Hargus has been found out. A true enemy to your cause. His execution will be both swift and just.”
Execution Ossip mouthed the word to Samedi. They both froze with the import of the word.
“But,” Lorelei smiled and wagged a fatherly finger around the room. “There are other enemies. Those who worked in concert with the accountant.”
Murmuring clusters broke out all over the mess. Other enemies? What could he mean? Who could he mean?
Lorelei stretched a long arm and pointed to Violet Smythe.
“Her,” he said simply.
Violet felt every nerve in her body turn to ice.