Note: Image associated is from Ironage.media, specifically their prompt, 'The Harlequin'. Additionally, darker subject matter present.
"Circus is in town again boss. Do you think he'll be with them?"
The Sheriff, Harold Grimulf, looked up from the freshly printed warrants in his hand. Crime had been ticking up all over the county, and more warrants for suspects from out of town had been piling onto the notice board for the office. "Serves me right for trying to find a quiet place to work." He said under his breath, standing up slowly, revealing a paunch that had grown at his waist over the last 6 months. "He'd be right foolish to come back here. A decade doesn't change much in a small town, especially where a lost kid is concerned. Even I know that, still get called out-of-towner." The Sheriff pulled open the highest drawer on the left side of his desk, the cold case drawer, where a lone file held pride of place, a dismal stain on the county records. Pulling the file free from the layer of dust within, he handed it over to his Detective, Leopold Norman, saying, "Brief the new kid on him, and pray he is that stupid, and that we catch him."
"Aye boss, if he's come, we'll get him done up and dusted. And you've been here three years now, only the older folk are calling you that." Norman took the folder while his lip rolled slightly in disgust, his other hand absently brushing the grips on his sidearm.
"I said 'catch'. He's the only suspect in the crime, which isn't the same as guilt." The Sheriff rebuked his Detective, even as he knew that damn Clown was all but definitely guilty, but lacking a body or witness, no judge nor jury could see him convicted; even the 12th-century Steinarr Inquisition would struggle in that task.
"I'll stick to my job, boss. Doesn't mean my tongue will abide the technicality." He tipped his head to acknowledge the correction before heading off to find the new Deputy. Sighing, the Sheriff found the digital version of the case file on the computer, reviewing the case details.
11 years ago, long before Sheriff Grimulf moved here, a travelling Circus, 'The Last Best Exhibition of the Weird and Wonderful', had rolled into Hartmund County and amazed the public for a week or two. That clutch of days and memories was spoiled when the Ailbern's boy didn't return home one evening. After two days of searching the backroads for him, his bike was found only a few hundred yards from the lot the Circus had rented. Suspicions would have homed in on the Circus even without the drag trail in the drying mud. With the drag marks, the only question became who of the circus freaks were responsible.
According to the reports, the drag marks ended near the Clown's tent, but after a thorough search, nothing of the boy was found. The Clown was questioned and claimed to know nothing of the situation, swearing he'd never even seen the family during performances, though the patriarch claimed otherwise, swearing 'that pale creep' paid too much attention to his son when they attended the Circus. Mrs. Ailbern even claimed the Clown had stared at the boy after eating a rat, flashing gore-filled sanguine teeth for all to see.
Such was the Clown's gimmick, as every other witness asked described him much the same as the Circus handbill and the Ailbern's had, 'The man of infinite aberrant appetites.' Per the reports, his show was little more than eating preposterous portions of anything from a raw side of beef, sheets of steel, rodents and more. Rumour swiftly became that the boy had become victim to the Clown's stomach, clothing, bones and all. His manner and appearance only strengthened the rumours, as he reportedly had a habit of never blinking, on top of a grotesque smile of oversized yellowed teeth and crimson stained lips, alabaster skin that showed every speck of gore his shows produced, sunken beady eyes that held a cold light in black pits, and breath so appalling his interview was conducted outside at a 10-foot remove from Deputy, now Detective Norman, who was minding him.
Grimulf wondered what it was that could push someone to be like that, even discounting the town's rumour mill; there was no denying the Clown was sick in the head. And while he didn't doubt the Clown was involved, to eat a kid, was simply too much to imagine. And now he'd have less of a town and more of a powder keg to manage for the next week, if not a month, even if he acted utterly beyond reproach. Even then, the win here might just be not dealing with a riot rather than actually achieving justice for the young boy.
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