Chapter 4 Excerpt [1]

Jesse gripped a bluntly tightly between his lips, attempting to remain focused on the task at hand, unable to shake the feeling of dread that had settled in the pit of his stomach. While it was not often that members of public society had such a beef with the carnival that they would do something to seek satisfaction, the Carnies were actually known to be quite reasonable when it came to addressing any problems which might come along. The Geek was obviously not pleased that people would have enough disrespect to come in his home and do whatever they wanted. No one made him look like a fool. Revenge had been ordered without blinking an eye and there could be no hesitation to obey. The individuals had to be taught a lesson and made into an example by being punished for their crimes against the carnival.

It had been many years since Sacha had felt acceptance in the embrace of the carnival, but she was quickly warming up to the idea of rediscovering that part of her life. There were many lessons her father had taught her which remained firmly implanted, particularly that a person did not have to be her relative in order to be considered family. People held respect for her father due to the fact that in turn he provided them with a non-judgemental atmosphere where they could earn a living. At the time of his death, Sacha had finally come to terms with the whole situation and what it really meant to be a Carny. At one point, there was talk of naming her the heir to her father’s vacant position, but she was still too young to fully dedicate herself to the job, so someone else took over instead. She was never forgotten though, and Jesse did not know that she currently qualified for the responsibilities her father once held. In fact, it would take very little to make that happen, and it was only a matter of time before the information came to surface.

However, Sacha reminded herself that there was something more important she had to pay attention to. Jesse received word that a couple of junkies were hanging out under the boardwalk, practically bragging about their destruction at the carnival, and rumors spread that the money taken was benefitting a local drug dealer. Though they walked with confidence, there was a fear of the unknown that sat in the back of their minds. Their destination was a desolate section beneath the bustling action of the boards, a place that served as a notorious hangout for pimps, prostitutes, junkies and other assorted human garbage. Jesse accepted the duty of confronting any suspects, hoping that his anger could remain quiet and allow him to deal with the situation in a rational manner. Sacha was entrusted with the most important job of keeping his back covered—she had to be his eyes when he was distraction, and certainly more than willing to do so with the greatest care. It was important for them to exhibit team work, in addition to resolving the conflict in a peaceful manner if possible. While retribution would certainly come at a cost, neither of them wanted things to get out of control. Their hands met briefly as the shady boardwalk underworld came into view, where several people were laid out in the sand, drinking, drugging or engaged in swapping saliva samples while others watched in fascination.

As Jesse casually approached a small group of men—who appeared to be around the same age as him—a smile was offered as a friendly gesture. Sacha was poised beside a thick wooden pillar that braced the boards above, unnerved by the lack of expression in the eyes of those junkies. They did not seem to bother Jesse though, who used his talent of bullshit to strike up a conversation with a twenty-something boy, brown hair sloppily shaved, a very scrawny girl with grimy blonde hair leaning on him for support. While unsure of what was being said, Sacha had already grown uncomfortable with the whole predicament, part of her eager to settle everything. Suddenly, a commotion ensued as the boy started cursing and took a swing. Jesse easily knocked him down in the sand, fists connecting with force against the fleshly body. The other shabby associates were obviously too high to do anything more than make weakened attempts to stop the beating, and so were easily pushed aside. Then a figure appeared from the obscure depths of the boardwalk, and within a matter of seconds, he had a revolver aimed at the back of Jesse’s head. Sacha’s eyes grew wide as she realized what was about to happen if she failed to react. Without a second thought, she pulled out the straight razor and stalked that self-righteous piece of shit. Who did he think he was, threatening to end the life of the man she loved? His cry of surprise was drowned out by the roar of the ocean and the multitude of noises from above. All eyes turned in her direction while Jesse slowly stood up to face the armed man, whose throat was slit from ear to ear, blood spewing everywhere. His face displayed shock as he took a few steps back, collecting thoughts as quickly as possible before any of the junkies decided to cause any more trouble. No one dared to make a move as Jesse took hold of his wife’s hand, leading her away from the scene and glancing back only once to ensure they were not being followed. The statement had been made—it resounded loud and clear. The junkies had been quite surprised that Sacha exhibited such skilled accuracy, and perhaps it even impressed them that she had done so without any hesitation, as though she had been trained.

Once back above the boards, there was no conversation between the two. The silence continued when they climbed back into the Mercury, and Jesse seemed to be heavily concentrated on his thoughts as he headed for the carnival. Sacha was also trying to come up with the right thing to say, keeping quiet during the ride and then pushing everything out of her head as the midway came into view. The mood shifted as they held hands and walked towards the sideshow tent. Though it was only the afternoon, a fair amount of people were in attendance, stuffing their faces, winning prizes and riding themselves sick. She already knew where they would end up, and prepared herself for the moment. A small crowd came running and screaming from the back of the Blow-Off tent; a smile crept onto her face. They wandered past those who took the time to examine the working acts and animal oddities, not even the slightest bit interested in the strange exhibits. Pushing into the Blow-Off, the Geek was already setting up for his next show. Jesse cleared his throat and the Geek stopped to glance up at him. Without a word, the three of them slipped out to the cook tent where they could have some privacy and speak freely. Jesse and Sacha sat on one side of a table, and the Geek positioned himself on the other side, patiently waiting to hear what they had to say.

***

As the sun slowly disappeared behind the horizon, throwing intense shadows across the dark sky, the boardwalk was alive with a sea of people, the lights from arcades and casinos dancing on smiling faces. Delicious aromas of various foods swirled in the air, inviting hungry customers to sit down and dine at candle-lit tables that faced the blackened ocean. Sacha strolled along and glanced at the people who passed by, not really consciously searching for Jesse but still holding onto a small hope they might cross paths. However, she had a feeling that something else would have to entertain her for the remainder of the night. There was also an overwhelming sensation he harbored a secret that he wanted to divulge, but seemed to constantly hesitate in doing so. How she wished he could stop feeling the need to protect her from himself. There was nothing that would keep her from being faithful, and he needed to learn how to trust her.

A smile tugged at her lips as she spotted a young man in dark blue jeans, a creamy yellow button-down cowboy shirt and appropriately coordinating red leather boots, dirty blonde hair glistening with pomade and sculpted into loose waves. She watched as he casually ate a slice of pizza, heart racing for a moment. Sacha was surprised to see James again, particularly since he seemed to have been the type of person she would only run into every once in a while, perhaps happy that was not the case. His eyes settled on Sacha while he had been scanning the crowd—James wiped his face and hands with a napkin before approaching her. They made eye contact and smiled almost simultaneously.

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