The Flying Without a Net Knack | Ian Harrison

Part 5 of Ian Harrison’s tough guy noir.

The Flying Without a Net Knack

By Ian Harrison

For the ‘To the Nines’ Award Part 5

Second time in a week, four familiar thugs approach. Last time, preparedness meant diddly-squat. I still can’t chew solids.

Odds have plummeted today: some sideshow rabbit-puller’s mesmerized me, then lashed me into a chair.

“Jorgen, wait!”

Biggest fella here’s fixin’ to slug me clear into next week.

“Wait, I said! It’s Paddy O’Dell. Untie him.” Memory flickers, but I could kiss ‘em, male voice or not.

He lightly cartwheels past the musclebound terror standing over me. Candles flicker inside the swaying, cramped caravan, featuring this man’s family name and caricatures outside. Frankie Fellini unties simple but secure knots.

Mi scusi. We’re on edge since talking the other day. Your bruising; I barely recognize you.” His effusive accent adds syllables.

“Why so edgy?” I rub circulation back into my wrists.

Frankie recaps old headlines. “You know Gabriella and I join Gabby’s cousin Margie and her Garry for dinner whenever we tour here, right? Afterwards, the car, she breaks down. Garry stays, we see Margie safe. I bring Gabriella home, go to help Garry. I arrive but Garry, car… Poof! Both gone. So I shrug and head back to the circus. Think all is well.”

“Till Jimmy and I tells you he’s vanished.”

. But also…”

Tall man in matching black top hat, tails, and curly van dyke, don’t wait for no answer. Knocks fast, barges straight in. Addresses his performers, ignoring me.

“Showtime, twenty minutes.”

“But, Gabriella,” implores Frankie, to me as much as the ringmaster. “She’s still missing.”

“The show must go on.” His tone’s gentle enough, but we all feel it sting.


Big Top lights extinguish. Nina waves this dog-ugly kewpie doll. “Almost gave up on you. Lookit what Jimmy won me.”

“I got tied up.”

I let some candy-floss dissolve slow, offering the stick to Jimmy and Nina.

Clowns do their schtick, the Four Flying Fellini’s are flawless despite Frankie’s mind being clearly elsewhere. Lion-tamer cracks the whip and his beasts snarl, but obey. A troupe of horses with backflipping monkey jockeys sprint around the ring. Kids whoop and cheer.

Mysterio’s repertoire includes squawking birds and a squealing dame – not Gabriella – he saws clean in half. Once she’s pulled herself back together, secrets never revealed, she wheels out a squat, powerful-looking cannon.

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Even if you have a spare cannon at home, don’t try this. Our Swedish strongman Jorgen has been shot every single day of his life.” The charismatic ringmaster twirls his moustache. “Twice on Sundays.”

Nervous laughter. Drum roll. Assistant aims the cannon. Pin-drop silence.

Gunpowder smoke fills the tent with an acrid boom.

Jorgen’s hit square in the bread-basket. Cannonball bounces away, thumping into soft earth. Knees crumple; tree-trunk legs stagger, but he don’t fall. Raises both arms with a triumphant grunt.

Spotlights snake through the clearing smoke. Pipe-organ music hits a crescendo. Crowd rises as one, clapping and hollering. The circus performers file into the center ring, waving. Take a bow, clowns and monkeys too. We three cheer along, enjoying the temporary distraction.

“Up to two missing now, Jim,” I whisper. “We need to involve the police.”

I gotta check a story at the station anyways. Two reasons to call on Sergeant Parnell.