When the Lights Go Down

flying_popescus“Ladies and gentlemen … the ever-amazing Flying Popescus!” said Ivor Hawley as the twin aerialists finished their act, each bowing their heads and crossing their arms over their chests before the audience.

Once in the dressing room, they shed their performing bloomers and donned black unitards, keeping only their soft-soled slippers.

“Eszti, Ringmaster Hawley once more requests a body – living this time,” Etilka said to her sister.

“ ‘Living’. Pah. As if what these fools have could be called ‘life’,” Eszti said.

Etilka produced a deck of cards from her sleeve, fanning them out in front of her twin. With a scissor grip, Eszti plucked two cards and flicked one of them back at Etilka who caught it even as her other hand held the remaining cards. She then replaced the deck back in the sleeve’s modified hideout holster. The twins stepped outside the tent, bowed their heads, each still holding their card, and crossed their arms over their chest. One step forward into the darkness …

… and into one of Gomorra’s many alleyways. Most of the town’s residents were still at the circus. Nonetheless, a few errant drunkards staggered from one saloon to the next, and a few idealistic lovers strolled away the evening. Etilka continued to embrace the shadows, guided towards a nearby casino by the boisterous notes from an out-of-tune piano. Cash-bereft gamblers, lost in remorseful clouds of ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ made for easy targets.

A nightjar’s churring trill indicated that Eszti had positioned herself behind one of the casino’s awning posts. Etilka waited as figures flitted past in pairs or small groups. At last an owl hoot indicated that Eszti had spotted the twin’s quarry.

“Three Gomorra, Two Gomorra,” Etilka counted calmly. She readied a throwing knife. At “one Gomorra” a tall man in a duster and Stetson passed across the alleyway.

Etilka threw the knife, hitting the man pommel first and sending him reeling. Eszti sprang out of the darkness and whacked him with her own knife hilt. Each twin slung one of the man’s limp arms around her shoulder. No spells this time; they would have to lug their victim back to the circus tents through the dark alleys of the town.

* * *

Despite the late hour, the oil lamp still glowed from Ivor Hawley’s quarters. As the trio rounded the corner, Kevin Wainwright rose from his stool and scooted inside the tent. Once inside, the twins dropped the now stirring prisoner at Ivor’s feet.

Ivor looked down at the man. “Healthy. For now. Ladies, you have indeed served us well this night.”

“Until the end of days we serve,” Etilka sang in return. “We shall scourge the world of human wickedness.” Together, they bowed their heads and crossed their arms over their chests as Ivor lightly applauded their work … another successful night of service to the Fourth Ring.

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