Night of the Clowns || Derek Rushlow

Peter Hewett didn’t remember it ever being this cold and miserable on Halloween night in Mackinaw City. Sure, he lived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a place notorious for cold weather and heavy snowfall once the winter season arrived. But cold and rainy?

It couldn’t be in the 60’s and clear like the previous day. It had to be rainy and in the mid-40’s. He also had to be outside, hanging around a stop sign in the middle of the night. At least Peter had a somewhat nice view of the lights on the Mackinac Bridge. In the summer, tourists loved the bridge, the daytrips to Mackinac Island, and sailing on either Lake Michigan or Lake Huron. Not this time of year. The kids were back in school, and people wisely left before the weather changed. The city was basically a ghost town during the off-peak months.

As soon as the tourists left, the clown sightings began. Unfortunately, seeing a clown was becoming the new norm around the country, especially when it was close to Halloween.

That was why Peter stood next to a stop sign in the middle of a cold, rainy night. He was working undercover as a marauding clown, unrecognizable in his creepy clown mask and black and white-striped polyester costume.

Earlier, Peter and his partner, Brady, were called into the office of John Collins, their captain. The angry-looking man assigned them to their overnight stakeout, with Brady originally chosen to wear the costume. When he tried it on, the costume hung loose on Brady, like a little boy wearing his teenage brother’s clothes. Collins told Peter to wear it instead since he had an average build and was taller. Peter thought it didn’t really matter who was in the costume but dared not argue with the man who scowled 24/7.

Collins was a nice enough guy, but he was still intimidating as hell. It was also painstakingly obvious that Collins was just as fed up with the clown sightings as everyone else in the Mackinaw City area.

Even though he had done it several times, Peter hated undercover work, especially when Brady wasn’t beside him. Instead, Brady was parked a mile down the street in an unmarked car. Peter couldn’t see Brady but, luckily, Brady could see him with the use of binoculars and eyes that had adjusted to the darkness of the night. Peter wore an earpiece so he could communicate with Brady.

“You think he might be a no-show?” asked Brady.

“Don’t know,” answered Peter. “We probably should’ve stayed at our assigned post.”

For a while, Peter and Brady were at their assigned post, which was at the other end of the city. It was a place where the most clowns had been spotted. The thing was, they weren’t looking to arrest clowns. They were looking for whoever was murdering the clowns.

One clown, a 16-year-old boy, was found beaten to death on the beach. Two boys, each 15-years-old, were shot on two separate occasions. One was found lying in the middle of the street, the other a week later at a bus stop. These clowns weren’t armed at all, not even with a plastic machete.

“At least the rain let up a little,” said Brady.

Peter looked in Brady’s direction. “Want to trade places?”

Brady instantly shut up. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to wear the clown costume, but because he had seen a pair of headlights in the rearview mirror. As the car drew closer, Peter saw it, too.

“Never thought I’d say this, but I hope it’s our perp,” said Peter. “Or perps.”

Peter and Brady were hoping it was only one person. Yes, they were armed with guns and had takedown techniques, but more than two perps would be a problem.

The car picked up speed. It zoomed past Brady in a flash but screeched to a halt next to the stop sign… and Peter. For a while, the car sat there, engine idling. Thanks to the absence of streetlights, Peter couldn’t see inside the dark car. The car looked familiar, but then again it wasn’t an unusual model.

“What’s going on?” asked Brady.

Before Peter could respond, the electric window slid down and the interior lights flashed on. Peter found himself staring into the face of a grotesque clown mask. It had fangs, fake blood running down its chin, a pale face with spiked black hair like that of a rock star, and a costume that was black and green. The clown pulled out a gun and aimed it at Peter. He cocked it.

Peter reached for his gun, but the clown shot him four times in the chest. Peter yelped out in pain as he fell backwards and into the ditch full of rainwater.

Brady sped up and stopped right behind the clown’s car. He jumped out and aimed his gun at the car. “Police! Throw away your gun and stick your hands out the window!”

To Brady’s surprise, the driver’s side window opened. A gun was tossed out, but the window rolled back up. “I said stick out your hands!”

The clown inside wasn’t in the mood to follow orders. Instead, he quickly threw it in reverse and floored it. The tires screeched and the car flew back. Brady fired a shot and the bullet tore through the rear window. That didn’t stop the car from pinning his legs between the clown’s car and his own. The gun flew out of Brady’s hand. It glided across the hood and wedged itself between the edge of the hood and windshield.

Brady screamed in agony, reaching desperately for his gun after realizing that trying to escape from between the cars was futile. The door opened, and the driver stepped out. He took a few steps towards Brady. He stared at him for a moment, tilting his head to the side. It was like he was in a trance.

The clown opened the back door, took out a baseball bat, and made sure to hold it up so Brady could see it clearly.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? I’m a cop, you son of a bitch!” yelled Brady. He didn’t think that would faze the clown, but it was still worth a shot.

The clown walked towards Brady with the baseball bat. He drew it back, then slammed it in Brady’s face. Blood splattered all over. Brady spit out some blood and a few of his teeth, which tumbled across the hood like dice on a craps table. While blood continued to ooze from Brady’s nose and mouth, the clown let out a few quiet snickers. He drew the baseball bat back for another hit when—

“Police! Freeze!”

All Brady could see was red because of the blood in his eyes, but he instantly recognized Peter’s voice. Relief washed over the cop as the clown slowly turned to face Peter, who had his mask off and was aiming a gun at him. Brady was thankful that, while Peter was a young cop, he had enough common sense to wear a bulletproof vest after two clowns had been found shot to death.

“Drop the bat!” yelled Peter.

The clown complied, the baseball bat rolling under his car.

“Slowly take off your mask,” ordered Peter. He took a few steps towards the clown.

Without any hesitation, the clown slowly took off his mask. Peter lowered his gun slightly. He immediately recognized the man under the mask. If he was facing Brady, he would have recognized him, too.

“Hewett,” said the man with a slight nod.

“What the hell?” Peter asked John Collins. It wasn’t really a question Peter wanted answered. He was more concerned about slapping handcuffs on Collins and getting his partner—and friend—medical help.

Peter’s question made Collins grimace, a look he never saw him make. He saw Collins unhappy on multiple occasions, but he never looked as disturbing as he did at that moment.

“It’s these damn clowns,” was all Collins said. “And if you and Brady obeyed my orders and stayed at your designated spot, you two wouldn’t be my next victims.” That grimace never left Collins’ face. He pointed to Brady and said, “Your partner wouldn’t be sandwiched between two cars if you just obeyed, but then again, it’s not like this is the first time you disobeyed me.”

Peter was never the best at following directions, though his flaw had just come in handy with solving a mystery. “Why?” he asked. He also wondered why the hell Collins didn’t recognize the clown costume he had given him to wear, though now it was a moot point.

The grimace faded, but intense anger took its place. Collins looked much angrier than he usually did. “Simple. Each sighting, each call takes my men off the streets. There’s more important crime happening out there, Hewett. Our focus shouldn’t be on a bunch of rowdy kids in scary clown costumes.” He was out of breath, his round face had started to turn red.

Peter couldn’t believe what he heard. But he didn’t have time for a “how could you do this” talk. His partner needed medical attention, and he was listening to his psychotic boss’s motive. He raised his gun.

“Face the car and put your hands behind your head.”

To Peter’s surprise, Collins complied. He slowly turned and walked to his car while simultaneously putting his pudgy hands behind his balding head. Any hair he had left was turning gray.

Peter took out his handcuffs and moved toward Collins. He grabbed Collins’s forearm and, just as he was about to cuff his left wrist, Collins turned around and delivered a powerful blow to Peter’s nose. He flew back, hitting the pavement. Collins grabbed Brady’s gun and released the magazine, letting it drop to the ground. A few bullets rolled out. He threw the gun into the woods behind Peter, who groaned in pain.

Once that was done, Collins picked up Peter’s gun and aimed it at him. “Just to be safe, in case you happen to overpower me, but we know that won’t happen,” smiled Collins.

Peter, who managed to lean up a little with the support of his elbows, threw Collins a strange look. What the hell was going on in the mind of this man?

Collins put his finger on the trigger. Gritting his teeth, he started to squeezed it, but stopped. He looked in both directions.

No cars.

No people.

The coast was clear. It was time to kill two disobedient cops. Collins inadvertently stuck his tongue out of the side of his mouth. His eyes focused intently on Peter, who trembled as he took a deep breath. Collins took aim again and squeezed the trigger. This time, he wouldn’t take his finger off the trigger until there was a bullet in Peter’s head.

Collins saw Peter looking discreetly down at his left hand, which was tucked under his leg. Before Collins could react, Peter whipped out a can of mace and sprayed it at him. A long stream hit him in the chest, and then his side as Collins turned away while shielding his eyes.

Peter jumped up and charged at Collins, giving him a powerful shove that sent him against Brady’s car. The gun flew out of his hand and landed on the road on the other side of the car with a click. Peter put Collins in a chokehold. Collins gagged, moving backwards towards his car. He crushed Peter between his heavy body and his car, making him lose his grip.

Collins turned to Peter and punched him on the cheek, sending him to the ground. Peter’s arm went under the car. He felt something wooden and hard.

It was the baseball bat. He tightened his grip on the handle and, when Collins was within a good distance, swung the bat from under the car with all his strength. The bat connected with Collins’s ankle. He fell to the ground. Peter jumped to his feet and slammed the bat over Collins’s back as he tried to stand back up. He went to hit Collins again, but he rolled out of the way in time. The bat hit the pavement and split in half.

Collins grabbed the fat end of the broken bat and swung it blindly at Peter. It was a lucky shot, for it knocked the other half out of Peter’s hands. Collins got to his feet, being careful not to put any pressure on his hurt ankle.

Peter jumped out of the way when Collins went to stab him with the splintered end. He ended up stabbing his car instead, creating a large scratch.

Peter picked up his gun and ran to the other side of the car. He whipped around, aiming it at an approaching Collins. Collins stopped and dropped the broken bat. He threw up his hands, smiling. “All right, I give up.” A slight snicker went past his lips.

“Don’t even blink,” said Peter, squeezing the trigger.

Collins mockingly blinked at him, laughing but still keeping his hands up.

“God,” groaned Brady next to Peter, who began to lean up.

Still pointing the gun at Collins, Peter stopped Brady by putting a hand on his back. “Easy, buddy. Take it easy.” His eyes drifted down at Brady.

Heavy footsteps sounded, and Peter’s eyes darted toward Collins. He was making a mad dash for Peter and the gun. He took aim and fired three rounds. One hit him in the shoulder, and the other two hit him in the chest. He fell backward.

Aiming the gun at Collins, Peter carefully made his way up to him. He watched as Collins touched the wound on his shoulder, looked at the blood, and then covered one of this chest wounds with his bloodied hand.

Coughing, Collins said, “Good work, son. You got me.” He said it in a whisper, as though he was dying.

Collins went limp, and Peter lowered the gun. Just as he was about to check on Brady, he realized something. He raised the gun back up at a still Collins. Peter saw the bleeding shoulder wound, and the blood on one of the bullet holes over the chest. The other chest wound wasn’t bleeding at all. Peter realized that the son of a bitch had rubbed some of the blood from his shoulder wound on his chest wound but failed to do that on the other one.

“Nice try,” said Peter.

Collins tilted his head up and threw Peter a playful smile. As the faint sounds of police sirens echoed in the distance, Peter looked intently at Collins. Peter was grateful that someone heard the gunshots and called 9-1-1.

Peter nor Collins said a word as Peter fired a shot, and a bullet ripped into Collins’s head.

This was originally published in Fall 2017 edition of The Helix.


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