The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 77

Sandpark Carnival stood shadowy and still. Two years ago, the smooth cry of its persuasive barkers and the screams of its electrified patrons had been silenced. The ancient death-defying rides with their squeak and pop had slowed and ground to a halt. Now they rested in the scattered moonlight like giants, frozen in battle.

When Raymond Slats reached the front entrance gates, he saw that the locks were broken, rusted long ago.

As he stood at the gates trying to spot the roller coaster track, he remembered Rebecca Conrad’s chilling words.

“I know Bonkers is coming for me next. I know there’s no stopping him.”

Pity stirred in his heart at the tremor in her voice.

Suddenly his phone rang. When Ray slipped it out of his pocket, he noticed that the caller ID read “Unknown.” He decided to answer it anyway.

“Hello?”

“Slats, David Crandall. Look. All bets are off. I’m not going to bother hiding anymore. Yea, I work for King. So what. And yea he’s not a nice guy, but I don’t much care anymore. I’m only interested in my wife. I lost my daughter, and I’m not losing my wife too. I know Rebecca’s at Sandpark Carnival. It’s where we used to take our daughter on her birthday. I’m heading that way now and bringing every cop willing to work if the money’s right. At this point, it doesn’t matter to me if they’re on King’s payroll. They don’t know you, and I don’t care. This is a courtesy call, Slats. You stay out of this! I won’t warn you again.”

Before Ray could respond, Crandall ended the call. He pocketed his phone and looked down at Pete.

The eager pup was intently watching Ray, waiting for a command.

“What do you think, boy?” Ray asked.

Pete looked toward the gates then gave a low-pitched growl and a couple of slow barks.

“You sure?” Ray asked.

Pete kept his eyes on the gates as his ears moved forward to catch a sound.

Just then Ray’s phone rang again. He saw that it was Richard.

“Hey, Richard,” he answered. “How are you?”

“Tired, Ray. I feel like I’m chasing my tail,” Richard sighed.

“Kane?” Ray asked.

“Something doesn’t make sense, Ray. Kane was locked inside a panic room with the door sealed shut. We just now managed to get the door open, and. . . ,” Richard paused, “. . .he’s dead, Ray. Explain that to me. How can someone all alone locked behind a six-inch steel door and bullet-resistant glass be murdered?”

“Bonkers must have been waiting inside the room,” Ray suggested.

“What are we dealing with here, Ray?” Richard asked.

Ray thought for a moment then said, “Someone who’s had a long time to plan his revenge.”

Richard let out a long, loud breath.

“Well at least you’re safe. That’s one less thing Deborah can hound me about.”

“Well. . . ,” Ray trailed off.

“What?” Richard groaned.

Pete looked up at Ray and barked,

“Harr-ruff!”

“Pete says hi,” Ray laughed.

“Ray, where are you?”

“I don’t want to say. You’ll just yell at me,” Ray teased.

“Ray, either tell me or I’ll let you explain yourself to Deborah,” Richard threatened.

“I’m at Sandpark Carnival,” Ray confessed.

“Ray, you know that place is a haven for drug addicts and homeless psychos,” Richard scolded.

“Right now it’s where I’m supposed to meet Rebecca Conrad,” Ray said.

“Crandall’s ex-wife?” Richard asked. “Why is she there?”

“She’s next on Bonkers’ list and she knows it. Before Bonkers kills her, she wants to hand over everything she has on King. She was his bookkeeper,” Ray explained.

“Ray, get out of there!” Richard demanded. “I don’t want you involved in this anymore.”

“I don’t have a choice, Richard. David Crandall already called me. Said he’s headed this way with an army. He’s going to shoot anyone who isn’t his wife,” Ray said.

“Everything is spinning out of control,” Richard growled.

“Why do people always say that just before the end?” Ray wondered aloud.

“Ray, this is an order! Stay out of there! I’m on my way!”

Suddenly the line went dead.

Ray knew he should listen, but Richard was over in Coldwater, a good thirty-minute drive to Whitelake. Even if he floored it, he’d never make it in time. Ray knew what he had to do. He bent down to Pete and scratched him behind the ears.

“Buddy, promise me if things go south, you’ll run for help.”

Pete sat still with no response.

“Please?” Ray asked. “I need to know you’ll be okay.”

When Ray stood up, Pete snorted then ran through the open gate into Sandpark Carnival.

“Okay then,” Ray said opening the gate and following him in.

* * *

David Crandall pulled to a stop just outside the gate to Sandpark Carnival. When he climbed out of his car, he spotted Slats’ black Cadillac.

“I’m getting sick of that car and the old man!” he told himself.

He stood in the pale mix of moonlight and dull street lamps as he looked out over the park. For a moment, he could hear the rush and clack of the roller coaster.

“Daddy, Daddy! I want to ride!” his daughter squealed.

Suddenly the night’s breeze blew through his hair, taking with it the sweet memory.

Now the park looked like a nightmare’s paradise, but he knew all about nightmares and monsters and demons. Not even they would stop him from saving Rebecca.

Just then three cars pulled up at the gate and a handful of men got out. Crandall knew some from the police force. Others were ex-military. Each man wore a bulletproof vest and carried an automatic rifle.

“Okay. You know the rules. There’s a woman somewhere in there,” Crandall said, pointing toward the grounds. “I don’t care what you do to anyone else, but she is not to be harmed. Is that clear?”

Some of the men shook their heads while others gave no response.

“Burn the place down if it suits you. We’re not cops tonight. We’re hunters,” he said.

One of the men raised his hand and asked,

“What about the clown?”

“Shoot on sight. Don’t let the clown mask fool you. This guy’s dangerous. Another thing. There’s an old man, a P.I., in there. Name’s Raymond Slats. You find him, let me know. I want to shoot him myself,” Crandall said.

As he looked over the men, Crandall decided that letting them go solo was a bad idea.

“Higgins, you and Ford start at the east end of the park at the concessions and move in towards the center. More, you and Seal start on the west side with the offices and move inward. Newton, you and Price start on the north side that’s directly opposite the gate, and I’ll start here. Check everything. Oh and forget what I said earlier about Slats. Shoot anything that isn’t my wife,” Crandall instructed.

“Go!” he ordered.

After the men moved out into the park, Crandall checked his pistol and shotgun then slipped inside the gate. He would fight the devil himself if it meant saving his wife.

* * *

Standing on a maintenenance platform atop the highest part of the Shadow Serpent, Rebecca Conrad waited. Ever since the death of her daughter, she had felt dead inside. That day, all the color and music went out of the world. Only one thing kept her from killing herself. She wanted to be certain Bradford King paid for his crimes, paid for the families he had destroyed. She knew everything, every dirty secret. After her daughter died, she had divorced David and gone to work for King, a man far worse than the monster who had murdered her daughter. King took advantage of her grief and used it to entrap her so deeply in his business that every day she felt like she was drowning. When word of a Captain Bonkers spread through the city, she had felt relief. Here was a comic book clown, making his way through King’s army, killing anyone connected to King by even the frailest of threads.

Finally her pain would end and she would be with her daughter. Once she was sure Bonkers was successful, she had contacted Raymond Slats. She knew he could be trusted.

Now as she waited for her meeting with him, she looked out over the park from its highest point and saw David and his men spread out like a small army, moving through the park searching for her. He had come to save her even though he knew she didn’t want to be saved.

“He was never good at listening,” she laughed under her breath.

Somewhere out there in the dark was Raymond Slats. She had seen him pull up to the gates in his black car shortly before David arrived. She would give the evidence to Slats then wait almost eagerly for the clown.

Captain Bonkers wasn’t a murderer. He was her angel of mercy, come to send her home to her baby girl. She smiled as a light breeze blew through her hair. She was tired but in just a little while, she could rest.

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