Sandy's Circus | By: Matt Storm | | Category: Short Story - Mystery Bookmark and Share

Sandy's Circus


SANDY'S CIRCUS
Written by: Matt Storm
Written By: Matt Storm
Sandy Stewart inherited his father's circus, when he was seventeen years old. His father and stepmother died in their sleep, at the hands of an unknown assailant. Their murders became a real mystery and to this date, no one has ever been charged. Sandy is a circus performer, who grew up working and performing in the circus his father Gerald owned. His mother Josephina, a member of the Barbera family of flyers, died when he was seven years old, while performing in the centre ring. She fell during a rehearsal, attempting a triple somersault without a net. The show must always go on of course, so that night Sandy's aunt Gina performed the stunt, to the wild applause of a packed house. The town heard about the accident in rehearsal and they wanted to see another family member attempt the same stunt. Who knows, perhaps with the same results and if so, they wanted to be there. The world is made up of more than a few strange morbid creatures, called humans!

After a brief, but reasonable mourning period, Sandy's father married his wife's sister and aunt Gina became his stepmother. The relationship between Sandy and his aunt had always been warm and loving and Gina sometimes looked after Sandy, when his mother was working. She bathed, dressed, rocked and cared for him when he was small and later on, when he was a little older, she would take him to the ice cream parlour and to the Saturday morning theatre to see cartoons. Sandy loved his aunt and he was sure she loved him. There was no reason to think this would change, when she married his father and it didn't, at least not right away. The first year of their marriage was beautiful, the relationship between the three of them was as expected, warm and loving. The circus was also enjoying a great season, with Gina's family getting top billing. Gina was the star of the circus, with her death defying triple somersaults in the centre ring. Then without any warning, the relationship changed dramatically. His parents were not as considerate, kind and loving to one another, as they had been. It seemed to Sandy, that they were always telling him not to do something, or not to get in the way. He was always in trouble and couldn't seem to do anything right. He would be wakened late at night, hearing his parents arguing and yelling at one another. His father wanted his mother to stop flying, have a baby and spend more time with Sandy. Gina would scream at him and tell him he was crazy. This was what she had been working for all her life, her career was at it's peak and she was on top of the world. She was the headliner of this circus and not about to give that up to have a baby. The same argument would occur at least a couple of times a week and always late at night. Sandy would wake, when they started to yell and scream at each other and would be frightened and scared as any nine year old boy could be. He would curl up under the blankets of his bed, cover his head with the pillow and try to block out the terrifying noises. Sometimes, they would quit as quickly as they started, other times they would last most of the night.

One night Sandy was wakened to yet another one of these screaming matches. It seemed like all the rest, but soon escalated into the worst fight they had ever had. His mother was screaming and throwing things at his father. He had tricked her, he got her drunk and now she was pregnant. She was smashing dishes, lamps and furniture, screaming at the top of her lungs, that she would have an abortion. She opened the door to their trailer and yelled loud enough for all the circus to hear,
"I will not have this baby! Do you hear me? I will not have this baby!"
It was raining outside and the grounds were soaked and muddy. Gerald put his foot up against Gina's backside and pushed her so hard, that she flew out of the door of the trailer and landed face first in the mud.
"Stay there," he told her, "If I ever hear you mention the word abortion again, I'll kill you."

Gina's mother Louisa and her sister Sophia came to help her up out of the mud. They took Gina to their trailer and helped her clean up, while her father Luigi sat quietly reading the newspaper.
"I hope I lose this baby," she told her mother. "The way he kicked me out of the trailer into the mud."
Luigi put his paper down, walked over and stood in front of Gina. He raised his hand as if to slap her, but he stopped just short of hitting her.
"I should a slapa you face," he said to her. "I no wanna hear no more you wanna losea you baby. What kind a woman you are?"
"I want to fly with you and Georgio, I'm a flyer papa, I'm a star and I want to keep flying while I'm on top. I'll have lots of time to raise children later."
"That's a what you think, if a you mama talk a like this, you no gonna be here. She was a big a star before Georgio come. She was a big a star before Josephina come and she was a big a star before you come too. She no fly no more after you come, she have a no more time, then Sophia come and we say no more babies. Gina you gonna go home now and take care of a you family, you gonna have a you baby and you gonna fly some more after. ... Capiche?"
Gina didn't respond, she was looking down at the floor instead of her father.
Luigi put his finger under Gina's chin and raised her face, so she had to look at him.
"Sophia will fly for you, while a you have a you baby Gina. When you will be ready to fly again, we will fly together, the flying Barbera family. Capiche?... Capisco Gina?"
"I Capiche papa," Gina said. "But Gerald doesn't want me to fly ever again."
"That's a gonna be okay, you go home now to a you husband and you little boy, I will speak with him after. No more fightin' Gina, you gonna go home now, we gonna go to bed."
Papa Barbera had spoken, there was no room for argument or even discussion. Gina did as she was told, she went back to her trailer home and her family. There would be no more fighting, Papa would take care of everything, he would
speak to Gerald and she would fly again.

The next morning at eleven a.m. rehearsal, the net went up in the centre ring and Sophia followed Gina up the ropes to the high platform. Gina didn't like the net under her even for practise, she said it took away from her concentration.
"It isn't there for you Gina," Georgio said, "It's there for Sophia's protection while she studies and practises your moves. Papa said, the net goes up every day during rehearsal, until Sophia is ready to fly without it."
"Where is Papa?" Gina asked, "Why isn't he here for rehearsal?"
"He's gone into town with Gerald," Sophia said, "I'm sorry about the net Gina, I'll learn fast and soon we won't need it."
"It's okay Sophia, take your time. The longer you take, the longer I'll be able to fly, before the baby comes."
Sophia strapped herself into the safety harness and watched, as her sister Gina went through her routine of double and triple front and backward somersaults. Sophia like her sisters Gina and Josephina before her, was raised on a trampoline doing flips, somersaults and tumbling exercises. She knew the routines as well as Gina, but the important thing for her to learn now, was the timing of each jump. They would practise for two hours every day, jump after jump until she knew exactly, when to leave the platform, how high to swing and when to let go of the swing bar. The timing would have to be precise, before the net would come down and Sophia would be allowed to fly high above the centre ring.

Sandy was like every other nine year old boy, he loved animals and was extremely curious, but without being cautious, of course. He loved the elephants, tigers and lions. He had a strange attraction to the snakes, especially the King Cobras and was fascinated by their ability to standup and strike from that position. Sandy was taught by all the trainers, to treat the animals and snakes with respect, to have a healthy sense of fear, but never show it. Whenever he wandered away from the trailer, which was often, his father, Mama Gina or one of the others, would have to go looking for him and they could always find him somewhere near the animal cages. Once, when he wandered off, his father found him in the snake tent. He was sitting in front of the glassed in Cobra cage, staring into the eyes of an erect, hooded and hissing Cobra.
"What are you doing?" he asked Sandy. "Where is Raqeeb? Where is Raj? How did you get in here?"
"I'm just talking to Sandor daddy, Raqeeb says that Sandor talks with his eyes. He told me to look into his eyes, show no fear and Sandor would respect me, as he does Raqeeb and Raj."
"Where is Raqeeb? Why did he leave you in here alone?"
"I don't know where he is daddy. Raqeeb doesn't know I'm here, I just wanted to look at Sandor. Gerald Stewart was angry, he yelled out for Raqeeb and his son Raj. It was only a few seconds, before Raj came hurriedly through the back flap of the snake tent with Raqeeb close behind.
"What can we do for you Sir?" Raj asked.
"Which one of you left Sandy in here alone?"
Raj looked at his Father and then at Gerald.
"I secured the flaps on the tent before going to lunch," Raj said. "There was no one in here at that time Sir."
Gerald looked at Raj, then he knelt down in front of Sandy and asked.
"How did you get in here Son?"
"I opened the knots daddy. I wanted to talk to Sandor."
"I asked you never to come in here alone Sandy," Raqeeb said.
"I'm sorry Mr. Raqeeb, I only wanted to talk to Sandor and be his friend. I'm sorry daddy, I won't do it again."
"Lets go home son," Gerald said. "Your mother's worried and probably wondering where we are. I'm sorry I yelled at you Raqeeb."
"Think nothing of it Sir."

Gina's time for delivery was coming closer day by day. She was becoming more and more anxious to have her baby and get back to work in the centre ring, as quickly as she could. She stopped going into the big tent at night to watch her family perform. She couldn't stand to hear the audience cheer for Sophia, the way they used to cheer for her. Gina was a very sick, jealous woman, who feared the loss of her fame and stardom to her younger sister. In a few short months, Sophia quickly developed into the star attraction of the circus. She was a petite, shapely young blonde, who was attractive to the audience, as she performed in the centre ring. They ooo'd, ahhed and applauded on cue, as she spun, tumbled and swung high above them. Sophia also introduced into her performance, a high wire balancing act. She was giving them more thrills for their money and they loved her for it. Wherever they went, town after town, city after city, the crowds were coming out to see Sophia fly and balance on the high wire. Gina's worst fears were developing into reality and she was allowing them to take hold of her mental state and send her into depression.

Because of the constant travel status of the circus, Gina never saw the same doctor twice during her pregnancy. However, over the last four months, each doctor expressed a serious concern, about the obvious high level of anxiety and stress indicated by her nervous behaviour. Without any warning at all, she would stare off into space and start to mumble to herself. The words were sometimes discernable and always the same, repeated again and again.
"I'll kill her, she's trying to steal my place in the spotlight, I'll kill her. Why doesn't she have this baby? She likes kids, let her have the kids. I want to be in the centre ring, that's my life. I'll kill her if she doesn't stop."
When Gerald rushed Gina to the hospital, he took her mother Louisa and Sandy with him. She was in labour nearly sixteen hours and experienced a very difficult birth. The baby girl was perfect in every way, but Gina was an emotional wreck. She wouldn't hold, or feed the baby. She'd scream at the nurses to give the baby to Sophia, she likes kids, I don't want it, get it out of here. The hospital psychiatrist after consultation with Gerald examined Gina and recommended, that she be placed in an institution. He didn't think she would be there for a long time, with rest and medication he felt she would regain her sense of reality in a few short months. There didn't seem to be any other choices for Gerald, Gina had to be hospitalized and so Louisa and Sophia cared for baby Lisa and Sandy. Gerald continued to manage the business, keep the circus operational and visit Gina when he could. One day when he was going to visit Gina, he thought it might be good for her to see the children, so he took Sophia, Sandy and Lisa with him. It turned out to be a terrible disaster, seeing Sophia with the children sent her into an emotional tantrum. Gina started mumbling, then she began to scream and throw things around the room. They were afraid she might hit the children, so they had to leave quickly and Gina was locked in her room. This was something Gerald didn't want Sophia and Sandy to see. As the visit was very traumatic, he decided that taking the children to the hospital wasn't a good idea, and he wouldn't do it again. The doctor called Gerald a couple of days later, to report that Gina's condition had worsened and her recovery was set back at least a few more months. A few months turned into a year and a year eventually became two years and still Gina wasn't well enough to come home. The circus continued to move from town to town, sometimes they were close, but more often than not, they were getting further away from the hospital. It became more and more difficult for Gerald to visit Gina. Georgio never went to visit his sister, he couldn't stand to be inside a hospital of any kind. Sophia and the children never went back again, they didn't want to disturb Gina, like the first time. Louisa went to see Gina more than anyone else. After all, she was her mother and had the time, since she wasn't performing any longer. Luigi, couldn't take seeing his little girl locked up in a place like that and waited for Louisa to come home and tell him how Gina was. The longer Gerald stayed away, the easier it became not to go at all. He sent a cheque every month to cover the cost of keeping her there, but seemingly, that was the extent of his concern. Instead of thinking and worrying about Gina, he spent most of his time running the circus, taking care of Sandy and helping out with Lisa when he could.

The summer season was drawing to a close and they were slowly working their way back towards Bannerville, where Gina was in hospital. Gerald was standing in his usual place, just inside the entrance of the big top, watching the performance, as he did every night. A young policeman approached him and asked if he was Gerald Stewart.
"I am," Gerald responded, "What can I do for you?"
"I'm Officer Stanley, Sir. We've had a telephone call from Dr. Jonathan Wright of Ravenswood Hospital, over in Bannerville. There's been a terrible accident Mr. Stewart and your wife has been badly injured."
"What happened and how bad is she?"
"I'm not certain of the particulars, Sir, but they would appreciate it, if you would telephone the hospital right away. Do you have the number, Sir?"
"Yes, thank you Officer, it's in my trailer. I'll call them right now."
Gerald left for his trailer immediately. On his way, he sent one of the roustabouts, to ask Louisa Barbera to come to his trailer, as quickly as she could. When Louisa arrived at the trailer, Gerald was already on the phone waiting to speak to Dr. Wright.
"Mr. Stewart, I'm Dr. Wright."
"What happened, Doctor. How is Gina?"
"She was having a good day Mr. Stewart, I'm told she wasn't mumbling, she was quiet and smiling most of the day. Then about five o'clock, she went up to the fourth floor balcony, imagining she was working in the circus. Before anyone could get to her, she was up on the railing and dove off. She landed on the cement steps, at the front entrance to the hospital. I'm afraid it's critical Mr. Stewart, she's in very bad shape."
"I'll leave as quickly as I can doctor. It will take us a couple of hours to
drive over there, but we will be there as soon as possible. If you need to reach me again I have a cellular phone, call me at 555-5454."Gerald hung up the phone and explained to Louisa, what had happened to Gina.
"Get one of the women to stay with the children until the show is finished, then Sophia can look after them until we get back. I'll take you with me right now and Georgio can bring Luigi, as soon as the performance has ended."
The telephone rang and Gerald reached out and answered it.
"This is Dr. Wright again, Mr. Stewart. I'm sorry Sir, I have to tell you that Mrs. Stewart passed away, while we were speaking. Please accept our deepest sympathy for your loss."
"Thank you doctor, I don't suppose there's any need to rush now is there? We may as well stay here tonight, take care of our business and drive over in the morning."
"That sounds reasonable to me Sir, we have some things we must do as well. As you are no doubt aware, we are required by law to perform an autopsy, to determine the time and cause of death. I'll see that all of the paperwork is completed by early morning, so you can make the necessary funeral arrangements."
"Good night Dr. Wright, thanks again for calling, we'll see you in the morning."

Louisa was crying, as Gerald closed off the phone. She knew from his expression and the conversation he was having, that Gina had passed away. He put his arms around his mother-in-law and held her while she cried. Gerald tried to comfort her saying, "Gina is in a better place Mama. She doesn't have pain and she's not sick in her mind anymore. She and Josephina are together again. Let's go and help them close up for the night, then we'll tell Luigi, Georgio and Sophia."Gerald walked with his arm around Louisa's shoulder, she was still crying as they made their way to the big top. He sent a message to the Ringmaster, asking him to gather the circus family into the tent for a special announcement. While they waited for the rest of the crowd to leave, he and Louisa told Luigi, Georgio and Sophia.
"We will a go to our trailer Gerald," Luigi said, "We would a like a to be alone for a few minutes. We needa to pray for our Gina. You come and a be with us when you finish here."
"I'll be there Luigi," Gerald said, "As soon as I'm finished here."
I'm glad they are going to do that before I get there, Gerald thought to himself, I'm not so hot on those beads and that praying stuff. I hope Louisa doesn't get into that wailing, I don't think I can handle that tonight either. The Ringmaster gathered the crew and the performers into the centre ring and Gerald told them what had happened to Gina. He left out the fact that she had jumped to her death. He didn't lie to them, he simply said she fell from the fourth floor balcony. He told them they would be paid, but he was closing the circus for the next three days and cancelling the shows. He told them he and the Barbera family would be away for that time and the Ringmaster would be in charge. He wanted them to tear down, move the circus to Haleyville, set up and be ready for an afternoon matinee on Saturday. The circus family as a unit, is a strange entity unto itself. They will sometimes fight among themselves, over such childish things, as who's first in the chow line, or who is in what position in the opening day parade, and of course professional temperament. But, when a crisis occurs within the family, they surround the injured member with compassion and care. This would be no exception, as they gathered around Gerald, each in turn expressing their sympathy for the loss of his wife.

Wednesday morning 7:30 a.m., Gerald was having coffee in his trailer and explaining to his son Sandy, that Mama Gina had an accident at the hospital and was gone to heaven to be with his Mama Josephina. Sandy was twelve years old now, going on thirty-two. He was much more street wise, than most twelve year olds for having grown up in the circus atmosphere.
"Will Aunt Sophia move in here and be our new mother?" he asked.
"I don't think so," Gerald answered. "What made you ask that?"
"Well, you married the first two sisters in the family, why not the last one? The talk going round, says she is sneaking into your bed at night anyway. Besides, then Aunt Sophia could bring Lisa home to live with us."
"I know what the gossip mongers are saying, I hear the rumour mill churning out it's vicious little tid-bits of garbage. That's just what they are Sandy, garbage, your Aunt Sophia is a lady and she has never sneaked into my bed, or any other man's bed to my knowledge. So let's just drop that subject okay? Are you finished your breakfast? We need to leave as soon as we can, it's a two hour drive over to Bannerville."
"I'm finished dad, I'll go over to grandpa's place and hurry them up for you."
Sandy knocked on the door of his grandparents' trailer, opened it and walked in. Uncle Georgio put a bear hug on him and kissed his cheek. Sandy loved his uncle, he was a big man in the circus. He was strong, good looking and all the single girls in the circus were after him. Uncle Georgio taught him all kinds of neat stuff about growing up in a circus. He taught him how to work on the trampoline and how to work with weights to strengthen his body. Sandy wanted his body to look like his uncle Georgio's. His grandfather Luigi came into the room dressed in a suit, a shirt and a tie. The last time Sandy could remember seeing his grandfather in a suit, was for his own mother's funeral. His grandmother, Aunt Sophia and Lisa were the last to be ready.
"Where is your father?" Aunt Sophia asked Sandy.
"He's ready, he was going to get the car gassed up and be right back."
"That's a good idea Georgio, why you don't a do the same a thing? Gas a up the car and we be ready to go."
"It's already full papa, I gassed it late last night, before I came home. We're ready to leave as soon as Gerald gets back"
Gerald knocked and then walked into the trailer.
"Good Morning," he said.
He kissed Louisa and Sophia, picked Lisa up in his arms and gave her a hug and a kiss.
"We need to leave as soon as you are ready."
"We're all ready now Gerald," Georgio said."Sophia will go with you and the children," Louisa said, "she will look after Lisa while you drive."
"That's fine with me Mama Louisa, if we are all ready let's go."
"Is your trailer hooked up to the car?" Georgio asked.
"Yes, I'm already to go," Gerald responded.
"Everybody outside," Georgio said, "I have to hook up this trailer and we can go."

The trip over to Bannerville was slow, travelling with small children has a way of slowing you down. When they arrived, they rented two spaces in a trailer park for a couple of days and unhooked the trailers. Gerald telephoned the hospital to ensure that Gina's body was ready to be taken to the mortuary. He and Louisa went to the funeral parlour to make the necessary arrangements. Funerals are an expensive proposition, when you have to pay the costs and there's no insurance. The insurance coverage on Gina was null and void, because she committed suicide. Gerald rented a casket for one day's visitation and then Gina's body would be cremated and the ashes taken home to Morgantown. Her remains would be buried in the family plot, on the opposite corner from Josephina. The trip south to Morgantown was a two hundred and fifty mile drive. It was a very long, hot, quiet ride, the temperature outside was 86 degrees and humid. The only sound Gerald heard was the air conditioner, trying to keep the
temperature inside the car bearable. Lisa and Sandy slept on the back seat of the big Caddy, while Sophia rode up front with Gerald. He only stopped long enough to gas up and get a cold drink, then they were on their way again. They had to be in Morgantown before 4:00 p.m., as Gina's family had arranged for their Parish Priest to say a Mass for Gina at 5:00 p.m., then conduct the burial of her urn and ashes. The time frame was very tight, because they needed to rest Friday night for the drive on Saturday morning, to Haleyville and a Saturday afternoon matinee performance. This didn't leave a lot of time for Mama Louisa's weeping and wailing, which suited Gerald just fine. The Memorial Mass was short and sweet, even Gerald thought the Priest did a good job. His eulogy was positive and he made it sound like Gina had fallen while she was working. The old man had known the Barbera family ever since Louisa and Luigi had emigrated from Italy. He knew Gina had taken her own life, but he didn't want to cause the family any further embarrassment by mentioning it, so he feigned a temporary memory lapse.
The burial portion of the ceremony was the hard part for Gina's family, the final act of saying goodbye was very difficult for Mama Louisa. She couldn't seem to let Gina go like she did Josephina, but Gerald had more or less given Gina up little by little over the past two years. Louisa knew in her heart that Gerald had done nothing wrong. He had loved both of his wives, but still she had a strange sense of wanting to blame him for her losses. She had given him two of her three daughters and they were both dead, and her only consolation was the two beautiful grandchildren they had given her. I hope and pray he doesn't want Sophia next, Louisa thought, I don't want to give him my last baby girl. I know he needs a good wife to raise his children, but please God, not my Sophia.

The mourning period for Gerald was considerably short lived, it was over the minute he returned to the circus. He did the same thing when Josephina died, he simply worked every minute of every day for a year, before he snapped out of it. He was doing the same thing again, pouring himself into the daily operations of running the circus and wasn't allowing himself time to think about Gina, or the children either. The neglect of the children was bothering Louisa and Luigi, they were concerned for their grandchildren and for Gerald too.
"I willa talk with Gerald today," Luigi told his wife.
"What will you do, if he doesn't want to talk with you?" she asked.
"Don'ta make me crazy, woman, he's a gonna listen. I talk, he listens."
"But, what if....."
"Enough!!! no more what a if, I told you he will a listen!"
Luigi didn't lose his temper very often. He was usually pretty calm and easy going, but when he raised his voice to this level, Louisa knew there was no more discussion. She knew how far she could push Luigi and she knew when to stop. She and Luigi were from the old country and there was never any doubt about who was the head of their family.

Sandy was spending a lot more of his free time working around the animals. He was nearly thirteen now and after spending a lot of time staring into the eyes of a King Cobra, his attentions were starting to turn toward creatures of beauty. He kept the promise he made to his father and never again went into the snake tent alone. However, he did spend a lot of time as he put it, talking with Sandor the Cobra. Sandy proved over the three year period that he talked with Sandor, that Raqeeb was right. He could stare Sandor down and cause the snake to close it's hood and coil up into a tight circle. Raj made a deal with Sandy, to let him spend time every day with Sandor, if he brought his Aunt Sophia with him. Raj like all the other young men of the circus, had an enormous crush on Sophia and would agree to anything, that would get him a chance to speak with her. He knew that nothing would ever come of it. He was eighteen and Sophia was twenty-five, he was the snake charmer's son and she was the star of the circus.

Uncle Georgio was the one, who directed Sandy's thoughts towards the animals and particularly the elephants.
"They need help with feeding, washing and caring for the elephants," he told Sandy. "The trainer has a daughter, who he's teaching to ride, but she's too tiny to do the work of a strong boy. He needs a boy to teach as well, with a lot of hard work and determination, they could be a major act in this circus one day."
"I know that girl uncle, her name is Helen and she's twelve years old. She has red hair and my father says she is as pretty as her mother."
"Well, well, well," Georgio said, "I guess there's hope for you and your father yet. Why don't you go and ask Helen's father if he will train you. Tell him you would be willing to work to pay for the training."
"I'm not so sure I want to work around the elephants, uncle Georgio, it's a lot of hard work you know."
"I thought you wanted to be a star?"
"I do." Sandy said.
"Well then, what do you want? You don't want to be a flyer, do you?"
"No," Sandy responded.
"Everything demands a lot of hard work Sandy. If you want to be a star like your mother, you'll have to work hard at something and be prepared to stick with it."

That was the beginning of Sandy's career as an animal trainer and circus performer. He took his uncle's advise and asked Kendall Williams to teach him to be an elephant trainer and performer. After a long talk and many questions, Kendall agreed to train Sandy, provided he had his father's permission. Kendall made it a point to speak with Gerald Stewart, and told him about Sandy's request and the conversation he had with the boy. Kendall outlined his plan to train Sandy and his daughter Helen to be a team, to create a new elephant act with the two young people as the stars. Gerald Stewart was no fool, he could see the potential draw this would be for the circus in the future and he quickly agreed to let Sandy work with Kendall and Helen Williams.

Another year passed quickly and the circus was enjoying a booming success. The Barbera's were performing more and more dangerous feats, with Luigi still catching for Sophia. Georgio and Sophia created new balancing stunts every week it seemed. Sophia was the star of the show to be sure, but she was sharing the spotlight of the centre ring, with the new sensational elephant act. The writers of the local newspapers were providing them with the very best advertising, they could possibly hope to get. They were sold out for every show, week after week. Gerald was seeing a young widow named Shirley Danson, with a son Harold the same age as Lisa. They were setting an early date to be married and they would be coming to live in Gerald's trailer at the circus. We will be taking Lisa to live with us, he told Mama Louisa. It will be good for her to have a brother the same age as she is to grow up with. Louisa was torn apart with mixed feelings. She had her prayers answered, when Gerald selected someone other than Sophia for his new bride. But on the other hand, she wasn't pleased about losing her granddaughter Lisa, to be raised by another woman, especially a woman she didn't know. It didn't take long for the bloom to come off the rose. In less than six months, Sandy was living part-time with his grandparents and part-time with his uncle Georgio. He and Shirley couldn't get along at all, he didn't like to see her spanking Lisa for something Harold had done. She never slapped either child, when Gerald was around and so he didn't want to believe Sandy, when he told his father Shirley was hitting Lisa. That wasn't the only thing that angered Sandy, Shirley always had treats for Harold but none for Lisa. There was always something new for Harold to wear, but little or nothing for Lisa. Gerald either couldn't see it happening, or didn't want to see it. He didn't like it either, that Sandy was always telling him about something Shirley was doing or not doing. So Sandy started staying away from home and spending more and more time with his uncle and his grandparents. This was the only way, life at home with Shirley in charge was unbearable for Sandy. He didn't trust Shirley at all, so he started coming to get Lisa, whenever he had free time during the day. Sandy would take Lisa to see her grandmother Louisa and she and Aunt Sophia would check Lisa's body for bruises, to see is she was being beaten. There were lots of times, when they found Lisa's little bottom red from being strapped. Shirley would always have an excuse for why she had to punish Lisa and Gerald would accept that excuse and support Shirley. This kind of treatment went on and on, instead of getting better, it got worse and worse. Finally, Gerald and Shirley wouldn't let Sandy take his sister Lisa away from the trailer any longer and she wasn't permitted to visit her grandparents any more either. The children were like prisoners, no one ever saw them outside playing and they were never allowed to be away from the trailer.

This was a terrible situation, the whole circus community was sick with worry about what could be happening to Lisa. However, they were torn between protecting their own security and reporting, what they believed to be abuse to the authorities. The circus was continuing to pack the house for each performance and the danger of an abuse scandal could have an adverse affect on those numbers and therefore the security of their jobs. What to do and how to treat this situation, was the topic of many a conversation. Everyone thought something needed to be done, everyone had an idea of what should be done, but it looked like no one was about to do anything.

Wednesday May 17th 1989, Shirley and Gerald's third anniversary. Gerald approached Sophia at the 11:00 a.m. morning rehersal.
"It's our third anniversary today, I wonder if we could ask a favor of you?"
"What do you want?" she asked.
"We want to have a candlelight dinner after the show and be alone. I wondered if you would keep the two kids for us over night?"
"It's okay for us to see Lisa if you want something Gerald, but any other time it's not okay. If I didn't want to see her so badly and if my parents didn't want to see that child, I'd tell you where to go and how to go about getting there too. Yes Gerald, bring the two children over at supper time, mother will look after them, until the performance is over and then I'll take care of them until morning. But, from now on, I get to see Lisa at least once a week. Do you agree?"
"I agree," Gerald said. "Tell Louisa I'll have them there by six o'clock." Sophia told a few of the girls at the food tent and she asked them to keep it quiet, I don't want anything to queer up this chance to see Lisa. If you want to see her, come by my mother's trailer after the show tonight, but be quiet for God's sake. The rumour mill went to work quietly throughout the circus and everyone knew within a matter of minutes. Gerald arrived with the children at exactly six o'clock. When Sophia met him at the door she said.
"I'm not going to invite you in Gerald, because I think you know you are not welcome in my parent's home. I'll bring the children back to you in the morning."
"I'll come and get them myself at 9 a.m.," he said.
"That's fine Gerald, they'll be ready. Have a nice evening."
The performance went off like clockwork, not that it didn't at every performance, but tonight was something a little special. The performers were excited about seeing Lisa and they were whispering throughout the show, she's with her grandmother, she's with her grandmother, we can drop by later to see her. As soon as the performance was ended and the last customer was leaving the big top, Gerald was on his way to his trailer. He had to change his clothes quickly and get dressed for dinner. Shirley had arranged a catered dinner for the two of them. A van was parked outside of their trailer and a man and a woman in a tuxedo and a maid's outfit were inside preparing to serve drinks and dinner. The maid in her mini skirt outfit had already started to serve drinks to Shirley, she was well on her way to getting drunk. The waiter was also the cook and he was in the kitchen preparing their dinner. When Gerald came out of the bedroom, the maid poured him a double and told him he had to hurry and catch up. Gerald downed that one and she poured him another. He looked at Shirley, raised his glass to salute her, then downed that one and the maid poured him yet another.
"I think I've caught up now," he said. "I'll just sip on this one."
"When do you think dinner will be ready to serve?" Shirley asked. "We aren't that much for drinking and my husband is an early riser. He has put in a long day and he needs to have his dinner, as soon as possible."
"I'll light a fire under that fellow in the kitchen right away. It won't take long, sit right down at the table and I'll serve you immediately."
The dinner was perfect, they enjoyed it so much, they talked about doing it again next year. The couple cleaned up, took the mess including the dishes with them and were out of the trailer by eleven o'clock. Shirley and Gerald finished off the bottle of wine and turned in before midnight.

The last visitors leaving the Barbera trailer that night were Georgio and Sandy. When they stepped outside of the trailer, they saw the last lights go out in Gerald's bedroom. It was a dark cloudy night, not a star in the sky. They were not expecting anyone to be lurking around the grounds, so they didn't see the shadowy figure leaning against the tiger cage next to the snake tent. Sandy and Georgio went into their trailer and directly to bed, it had been a long day. The figure in the shadows waited silently and motionless for a long time, then the figure moved slowly and stealthily toward the snake tent. The knots opened on the tent flaps and the figure moved inside. It was only a matter of minutes, before the figure emerged from the tent, with something hanging at it's side. It moved slowly and quietly across the grounds towards the Stewart's trailer. The door opened silently and the figure went inside and paused momentarily outside the bedroom door, to listen for the sounds of sleeping from inside the room. Then, as quietly as all of it's other moves, the door to the bedroom opened and the figure made it's way silently to the edge of the bed. The item it was carrying was a cloth bag with a draw string. The draw string was loosened and the opening of the bag was placed under the edge of the covers, on the bed. The contents of the bag released, the figure lifted the bag and backed out of the room and the trailer. Closing the door as quietly on it's way out, as on it's way in, the shadowy figure made it's way back to the end of the tiger's cage and waited for another long period of time. There were no noises or sounds of any kind coming from the Stewart trailer, the shadowy figure disappeared into the night and everything was quiet and still.

Raj woke early that Thursday morning and went out to the edge of the nearby field, to check the mouse traps he had set the night before. He set fifty traps each night, to catch field mice to feed to their snakes. The more field mice he caught, the less they had to buy. He made his collection that morning and he gathered up twenty-three small mice and one large rat. This one will make Sandor very happy he thought. He returned to their small trailer, washed his hands and knelt down with his parents for morning prayers before breakfast. When breakfast was over, Raqeeb and his son went into the snake tent to feed the snakes. Raj noticed that the glass cover to the small Cobra pit was sitting corner to corner, instead of covering the glass closure. He immediately warned Raqeeb, who always walked in his bare feet and in India that's how many people die from Cobra bites. Raqeeb carefully made his way back to their trailer to warn his wife, that two young Cobras were loose and to put some high top boots on his feet. Raj went around to the front of their tent to find the knots untied and the tent flaps opened. They searched the tent and surrounding area for the two Cobras, without any success.
"I'd better go down to the food tent father and warn them, that someone has let the snakes loose. Who would do such a thing and why?"
"I don't know Raj, I hope they went into the field looking for mice and not anywhere near the animals or people."
Raj hurried down to the main food tent to warn the animal trainers and anyone else who were up early. Sandy was there having breakfast, he had already cleaned out the elephants and fed them.
"When did you notice they were missing Raj?" he asked.
"When my father and I went into the tent to feed this morning. The tent flaps were untied from the outside and the glass cover was sitting corner to corner." Sandy recalled immediately the instance when he had untied the flaps and went into the snake tent alone.
"Who would have done that and why?" Sandy asked. "Have you told my father yet Raj?"
"No Sandy we haven't, we were hoping we would find them still in the tent or out in the field. That's where my father is now, walking in the grass looking for two Cobras."
"Well he has to be told, it might as well be me, as anyone else I suppose. How about the rest of you walking slowly over the grounds, wake up some people and ask them to help look for those two snakes."
"How poisionous are those snakes?" Danny asked.
"You don't want to know Danny," Sandy retorted. "If you see them stay away, don't go anywhere near them. They are the most venomous snake in the world. If they bite you, you feel the pain right away, you're speechless in a minute and your dead in no time."

Sandy went to his father's trailer and banged on the door. He waited, but he didn't get an answer. He banged on the door again and listened for a response. He was about to bang again, when he thought he heard a strange but familar hissing sound. He yelled for someone to send Raqeeb and Raj to him right away. Raj came running towards him with Raqeeb close behind.
"What have you seen?" Raj asked.
"I haven't seen anything, listen and tell me what you hear."
He put his head against the door to the trailer. Raj put his head against the door as well and then he motioned for his father to do likewise. Raqeeb also placed his head against the door and listened for a few seconds.
"I hear the two of them hissing and spitting," Raqeeb said. "It sounds like they are sitting up looking at the door wanting to get out."
"When I banged on the door," Sandy said, "I didn't get any response at all."
A crowd had gathered around them including Sandy's Aunt Sophia.
"Would you please go and call the Police?" he asked her. "I think they should be here, when we open this door. Raqeeb can you bag these two, if they are sitting up and ready to strike as we open the door, or do we shoot the heads off them?"
"I'm not sure if we can do it Sandy, but I want to try. I don't want to lose both of them, if I can help it. I'm going to need one of them at least, to replace Sandor one of these days, he's getting to be very old now and he could die any time."
"I understand Raqeeb, we'll give it a try, as soon as the cops get here. What's taking them so long?"
Sophia came back to the trailer with her mother, Lisa and Harold.
Sandy whispered softly to Sophia and told her,
"Take grandmother and the children away from here. If what we think has happened is true, this won't be a pretty sight. We think my father and Shirley are dead inside the trailer. We think they were bitten by two young Cobra snakes, who got loose somehow."

Sophia took her mother and the children back to their trailer. The Police finally arrived and Sandy took Captain Brent aside and briefed him on the current state of the situation. The Captain was clearly dumbfounded. He couldn't understand for a minute, why they would want to try and capture those snakes alive, instead of shooting their heads off. Raqeeb explained how expensive they were and how important they were to his family's future livelihood. The Captain agreed to give Raj and Raqeeb one chance to get the snakes alive. If that doesn't work, my men will shoot the heads off them fast. The Police loaded up their shotguns and stood at the ready. They were pointing right at the door of the Stewart trailer.
"This is what we are going to do," Sandy said. "I'm going to open that door slowly towards myself. If they are sitting upright and quiet, then Raqeeb will lay a long loop over their heads and tighten it. Then they will be put in a sack, where it's dark and they will be back in their glass covered pit. If they aren't quiet and they lunge out to strike, shoot to kill and don't miss. Are you ready?" he asked Raqeeb and Raj.
"Let's do it," Raj said.
Sandy opened the door slowly and easily without any jerking motions. There they were, sitting upright and as quiet as you please, like two small school boys, who were caught playing truant. Raqeeb reached in slowly with a long loop and tightened it over the head of the closest snake. He withdrew the snake and dropped it into the sack, that Raj was holding, and then he repeated the same procedure with the second snake. Raj took the sack with the two snakes back to the tent and their glass pits.
"Is that all of them?" Captain Brent asked.
"That's all that were missing Sir," Raqeeb responded.

The Police Captain followed Sandy into his father's trailer. When they opened the door to the bedroom, they found Gerald and Shirley Stewart lying in bed, dead from venom poisoning.
"They didn't know what hit them Captain," Sandy said.
"You seem to know a lot about these snakes. Are you a snake trainer or whatever you call it?"
"No Sir, when I was a small boy I was fascinated by snakes, especially the Cobras, Raqeeb and his son Raj taught me everything I know about them."
"Who else knows how to handle those snakes?"
"As far as I know, no one handles those snakes, except Raj and his father. I've never handled one of them in my life and I've no desire to start now. They are very expensive, but also very dangerous."
Captain Brent conducted a thorough investigation, interviewing everyone on the circus lot. When he was finished, he ended up back where he began, with Sandy.
"I know you say you've never handled one of these snakes before, but you're the one with the most to gain. It's you who will inherit the circus and you who has a fascination with snakes and I'm told that you and your parents didn't get along at all."
"That maybe true," Sandy said, "but I was in my grandparent's trailer with lots of witnesses until at least midnight, then my uncle and I went to our trailer and went to bed."
"Then you really don't have an alibi do you?" Captain Brent concluded.
"Oh, but I do Sir, my uncle and I talked till almost 3:00 a.m. He told me what it was like for them growing up in a circus family and how my grandparents came from the circus in the old country, to the circus in America. My mother died when I was seven, so mostly he told me things about my mother and what she was like as a child."

Captain Brent exhausted every avenue he could come up with, each only led from one dead end to another, there were no other leads to follow. The bodies had been autopsied and studied. The statistics were carefully loaded into the computer data banks. Everyone who was a reasonable suspect, had an airtight alibi. The bodies were released for burial and the circus was being permitted to move on to their next destination, which was in the same jurisdiction.
"This case is not closed by a long shot," Captain Brent told Sandy. "I have a hunch you are guilty, or you know who is. I just can't prove it yet."
"I'm sorry you feel that way Captain, but nothing is further from the truth."

The circus moved on and continued to be a succesful thriving business. Uncle Georgio and grandfather Luigi helped Sandy learn the administrative part of the business. It was five years since the tragedy had occurred and still there were no charges laid. Each year when the circus would come to town, Captain Brent came for a visit and reminded Sandy that he was still his first choice as a suspect. Uncle Georgio and Aunt Sophia were busy training a new catcher to replace Luigi. He and Louisa were going to retire to the farm, as she was having some health problems and they wanted to settle her down in one place. They were only on the farm for a month, when Sandy received a telephone call from his grandfather.
"How's grandmother?" he asked. "Is she alright?"
"I don't a think so, she spends a lot of time at the grave. She says she talks to a you Mama and a Gina. I'm a worried for her. Can a you come for a day or a few hours with Lisa, Georgio and Sophia to see her?"
"I'll work something out for the first part of next week grandfather, we'll be there to see you then. Is that going to be okay?"
"That a will be fine, we see you then."
Sandy went with his sister and aunt and uncle for a short visit, between a tear down and a setup. It wasn't obvious that the old lady was going to die in the next few hours, but it was easy to see she wasn't in the best of health either. Her heart was bad and she wasn't a good candidate for open heart surgery. There seemed to be too many other complications to consider.

Three more months went by and grandfather called again. This was the bad news they were expecting, but didn't want to hear. When the services were over and grandmother Louisa's ashes were buried in the family plot, Luigi called Sandy aside and handed him an envelope addressed to him, marked personal.
"Grandmother asked me to give this to you, she wanted you to read it, when you are alone."
"Thanks grandfather, I'll read it when I get back to my trailer."
Sandy put the envelope in his inside jacket pocket and forgot about it. It wasn't until three days later, that he remembered it was there. He opened the letter and started to read, tears filled his eyes, as he read with unbelief what his Grandmother was saying to him.
Dear Sandy;
I'm sorry I have caused you so much trouble. I never believed that Policeman would make you a suspect for killing your father and his woman. I hated them for what they did to the children of my Gina and Josephina. I couldn't tell the truth, it would break your grandfather's heart to know I did this terrible thing. I knew about Cobras from the old country, I worked with a snake man before I met your grandfather. Please keep this note until he is gone, then show it to the Policeman.
Much Love to you and Lisa,
Grandmother Louisa

Sandy read the note over and over again. He couldn't believe that his grandmother, that nice old lady could commit murder. He sat in his father's chair and smiled, as he thought about how much Captain Brent would love to see this note. It would certainly blow all of his theories out the window. He would have to close the case without being able to charge someone and I wouldn't have the excitement any longer of knowing he's still trying to pin the rap on me, but he can't prove a thing, what a shame, poor fellow. He smiled as he touched a
match to the note and watched as it burned to an ash. Thank you grandmother Louisa, much love to you from us as well!!














SANDY'S CIRCUS
Written by: Matt Storm

Sandy Stewart inherited his father's circus, when he was seventeen years old. His father and stepmother died in their sleep, at the hands of an unknown assailant. Their murders became a real mystery and to this date, no one has ever been charged. Sandy is a circus performer, who grew up working and performing in the circus his father Gerald owned. His mother Josephina, a member of the Barbera family of flyers, died when he was seven years old, while performing in the centre ring. She fell during a rehearsal, attempting a triple somersault without a net. The show must always go on of course, so that night Sandy's aunt Gina performed the stunt, to the wild applause of a packed house. The town heard about the accident in rehearsal and they wanted to see another family member attempt the same stunt. Who knows, perhaps with the same results and if so, they wanted to be there. The world is made up of more than a few strange morbid creatures, called humans!

After a brief, but reasonable mourning period, Sandy's father married his wife's sister and aunt Gina became his stepmother. The relationship between Sandy and his aunt had always been warm and loving and Gina sometimes looked after Sandy, when his mother was working. She bathed, dressed, rocked and cared for him when he was small and later on, when he was a little older, she would take him to the ice cream parlour and to the Saturday morning theatre to see cartoons. Sandy loved his aunt and he was sure she loved him. There was no reason to think this would change, when she married his father and it didn't, at least not right away. The first year of their marriage was beautiful, the relationship between the three of them was as expected, warm and loving. The circus was also enjoying a great season, with Gina's family getting top billing. Gina was the star of the circus, with her death defying triple somersaults in the centre ring. Then without any warning, the relationship changed dramatically. His parents were not as considerate, kind and loving to one another, as they had been. It seemed to Sandy, that they were always telling him not to do something, or not to get in the way. He was always in trouble and couldn't seem to do anything right. He would be wakened late at night, hearing his parents arguing and yelling at one another. His father wanted his mother to stop flying, have a baby and spend more time with Sandy. Gina would scream at him and tell him he was crazy. This was what she had been working for all her life, her career was at it's peak and she was on top of the world. She was the headliner of this circus and not about to give that up to have a baby. The same argument would occur at least a couple of times a week and always late at night. Sandy would wake, when they started to yell and scream at each other and would be frightened and scared as any nine year old boy could be. He would curl up under the blankets of his bed, cover his head with the pillow and try to block out the terrifying noises. Sometimes, they would quit as quickly as they started, other times they would last most of the night.

One night Sandy was wakened to yet another one of these screaming matches. It seemed like all the rest, but soon escalated into the worst fight they had ever had. His mother was screaming and throwing things at his father. He had tricked her, he got her drunk and now she was pregnant. She was smashing dishes, lamps and furniture, screaming at the top of her lungs, that she would have an abortion. She opened the door to their trailer and yelled loud enough for all the circus to hear,
"I will not have this baby! Do you hear me? I will not have this baby!"
It was raining outside and the grounds were soaked and muddy. Gerald put his foot up against Gina's backside and pushed her so hard, that she flew out of the door of the trailer and landed face first in the mud.
"Stay there," he told her, "If I ever hear you mention the word abortion again, I'll kill you."

Gina's mother Louisa and her sister Sophia came to help her up out of the mud. They took Gina to their trailer and helped her clean up, while her father Luigi sat quietly reading the newspaper.
"I hope I lose this baby," she told her mother. "The way he kicked me out of the trailer into the mud."
Luigi put his paper down, walked over and stood in front of Gina. He raised his hand as if to slap her, but he stopped just short of hitting her.
"I should a slapa you face," he said to her. "I no wanna hear no more you wanna losea you baby. What kind a woman you are?"
"I want to fly with you and Georgio, I'm a flyer papa, I'm a star and I want to keep flying while I'm on top. I'll have lots of time to raise children later."
"That's a what you think, if a you mama talk a like this, you no gonna be here. She was a big a star before Georgio come. She was a big a star before Josephina come and she was a big a star before you come too. She no fly no more after you come, she have a no more time, then Sophia come and we say no more babies. Gina you gonna go home now and take care of a you family, you gonna have a you baby and you gonna fly some more after. ... Capiche?"
Gina didn't respond, she was looking down at the floor instead of her father.
Luigi put his finger under Gina's chin and raised her face, so she had to look at him.
"Sophia will fly for you, while a you have a you baby Gina. When you will be ready to fly again, we will fly together, the flying Barbera family. Capiche?... Capisco Gina?"
"I Capiche papa," Gina said. "But Gerald doesn't want me to fly ever again."
"That's a gonna be okay, you go home now to a you husband and you little boy, I will speak with him after. No more fightin' Gina, you gonna go home now, we gonna go to bed."
Papa Barbera had spoken, there was no room for argument or even discussion. Gina did as she was told, she went back to her trailer home and her family. There would be no more fighting, Papa would take care of everything, he would
speak to Gerald and she would fly again.

The next morning at eleven a.m. rehearsal, the net went up in the centre ring and Sophia followed Gina up the ropes to the high platform. Gina didn't like the net under her even for practise, she said it took away from her concentration.
"It isn't there for you Gina," Georgio said, "It's there for Sophia's protection while she studies and practises your moves. Papa said, the net goes up every day during rehearsal, until Sophia is ready to fly without it."
"Where is Papa?" Gina asked, "Why isn't he here for rehearsal?"
"He's gone into town with Gerald," Sophia said, "I'm sorry about the net Gina, I'll learn fast and soon we won't need it."
"It's okay Sophia, take your time. The longer you take, the longer I'll be able to fly, before the baby comes."
Sophia strapped herself into the safety harness and watched, as her sister Gina went through her routine of double and triple front and backward somersaults. Sophia like her sisters Gina and Josephina before her, was raised on a trampoline doing flips, somersaults and tumbling exercises. She knew the routines as well as Gina, but the important thing for her to learn now, was the timing of each jump. They would practise for two hours every day, jump after jump until she knew exactly, when to leave the platform, how high to swing and when to let go of the swing bar. The timing would have to be precise, before the net would come down and Sophia would be allowed to fly high above the centre ring.

Sandy was like every other nine year old boy, he loved animals and was extremely curious, but without being cautious, of course. He loved the elephants, tigers and lions. He had a strange attraction to the snakes, especially the King Cobras and was fascinated by their ability to standup and strike from that position. Sandy was taught by all the trainers, to treat the animals and snakes with respect, to have a healthy sense of fear, but never show it. Whenever he wandered away from the trailer, which was often, his father, Mama Gina or one of the others, would have to go looking for him and they could always find him somewhere near the animal cages. Once, when he wandered off, his father found him in the snake tent. He was sitting in front of the glassed in Cobra cage, staring into the eyes of an erect, hooded and hissing Cobra.
"What are you doing?" he asked Sandy. "Where is Raqeeb? Where is Raj? How did you get in here?"
"I'm just talking to Sandor daddy, Raqeeb says that Sandor talks with his eyes. He told me to look into his eyes, show no fear and Sandor would respect me, as he does Raqeeb and Raj."
"Where is Raqeeb? Why did he leave you in here alone?"
"I don't know where he is daddy. Raqeeb doesn't know I'm here, I just wanted to look at Sandor. Gerald Stewart was angry, he yelled out for Raqeeb and his son Raj. It was only a few seconds, before Raj came hurriedly through the back flap of the snake tent with Raqeeb close behind.
"What can we do for you Sir?" Raj asked.
"Which one of you left Sandy in here alone?"
Raj looked at his Father and then at Gerald.
"I secured the flaps on the tent before going to lunch," Raj said. "There was no one in here at that time Sir."
Gerald looked at Raj, then he knelt down in front of Sandy and asked.
"How did you get in here Son?"
"I opened the knots daddy. I wanted to talk to Sandor."
"I asked you never to come in here alone Sandy," Raqeeb said.
"I'm sorry Mr. Raqeeb, I only wanted to talk to Sandor and be his friend. I'm sorry daddy, I won't do it again."
"Lets go home son," Gerald said. "Your mother's worried and probably wondering where we are. I'm sorry I yelled at you Raqeeb."
"Think nothing of it Sir."

Gina's time for delivery was coming closer day by day. She was becoming more and more anxious to have her baby and get back to work in the centre ring, as quickly as she could. She stopped going into the big tent at night to watch her family perform. She couldn't stand to hear the audience cheer for Sophia, the way they used to cheer for her. Gina was a very sick, jealous woman, who feared the loss of her fame and stardom to her younger sister. In a few short months, Sophia quickly developed into the star attraction of the circus. She was a petite, shapely young blonde, who was attractive to the audience, as she performed in the centre ring. They ooo'd, ahhed and applauded on cue, as she spun, tumbled and swung high above them. Sophia also introduced into her performance, a high wire balancing act. She was giving them more thrills for their money and they loved her for it. Wherever they went, town after town, city after city, the crowds were coming out to see Sophia fly and balance on the high wire. Gina's worst fears were developing into reality and she was allowing them to take hold of her mental state and send her into depression.

Because of the constant travel status of the circus, Gina never saw the same doctor twice during her pregnancy. However, over the last four months, each doctor expressed a serious concern, about the obvious high level of anxiety and stress indicated by her nervous behaviour. Without any warning at all, she would stare off into space and start to mumble to herself. The words were sometimes discernable and always the same, repeated again and again.
"I'll kill her, she's trying to steal my place in the spotlight, I'll kill her. Why doesn't she have this baby? She likes kids, let her have the kids. I want to be in the centre ring, that's my life. I'll kill her if she doesn't stop."
When Gerald rushed Gina to the hospital, he took her mother Louisa and Sandy with him. She was in labour nearly sixteen hours and experienced a very difficult birth. The baby girl was perfect in every way, but Gina was an emotional wreck. She wouldn't hold, or feed the baby. She'd scream at the nurses to give the baby to Sophia, she likes kids, I don't want it, get it out of here. The hospital psychiatrist after consultation with Gerald examined Gina and recommended, that she be placed in an institution. He didn't think she would be there for a long time, with rest and medication he felt she would regain her sense of reality in a few short months. There didn't seem to be any other choices for Gerald, Gina had to be hospitalized and so Louisa and Sophia cared for baby Lisa and Sandy. Gerald continued to manage the business, keep the circus operational and visit Gina when he could. One day when he was going to visit Gina, he thought it might be good for her to see the children, so he took Sophia, Sandy and Lisa with him. It turned out to be a terrible disaster, seeing Sophia with the children sent her into an emotional tantrum. Gina started mumbling, then she began to scream and throw things around the room. They were afraid she might hit the children, so they had to leave quickly and Gina was locked in her room. This was something Gerald didn't want Sophia and Sandy to see. As the visit was very traumatic, he decided that taking the children to the hospital wasn't a good idea, and he wouldn't do it again. The doctor called Gerald a couple of days later, to report that Gina's condition had worsened and her recovery was set back at least a few more months. A few months turned into a year and a year eventually became two years and still Gina wasn't well enough to come home. The circus continued to move from town to town, sometimes they were close, but more often than not, they were getting further away from the hospital. It became more and more difficult for Gerald to visit Gina. Georgio never went to visit his sister, he couldn't stand to be inside a hospital of any kind. Sophia and the children never went back again, they didn't want to disturb Gina, like the first time. Louisa went to see Gina more than anyone else. After all, she was her mother and had the time, since she wasn't performing any longer. Luigi, couldn't take seeing his little girl locked up in a place like that and waited for Louisa to come home and tell him how Gina was. The longer Gerald stayed away, the easier it became not to go at all. He sent a cheque every month to cover the cost of keeping her there, but seemingly, that was the extent of his concern. Instead of thinking and worrying about Gina, he spent most of his time running the circus, taking care of Sandy and helping out with Lisa when he could.

The summer season was drawing to a close and they were slowly working their way back towards Bannerville, where Gina was in hospital. Gerald was standing in his usual place, just inside the entrance of the big top, watching the performance, as he did every night. A young policeman approached him and asked if he was Gerald Stewart.
"I am," Gerald responded, "What can I do for you?"
"I'm Officer Stanley, Sir. We've had a telephone call from Dr. Jonathan Wright of Ravenswood Hospital, over in Bannerville. There's been a terrible accident Mr. Stewart and your wife has been badly injured."
"What happened and how bad is she?"
"I'm not certain of the particulars, Sir, but they would appreciate it, if you would telephone the hospital right away. Do you have the number, Sir?"
"Yes, thank you Officer, it's in my trailer. I'll call them right now."
Gerald left for his trailer immediately. On his way, he sent one of the roustabouts, to ask Louisa Barbera to come to his trailer, as quickly as she could. When Louisa arrived at the trailer, Gerald was already on the phone waiting to speak to Dr. Wright.
"Mr. Stewart, I'm Dr. Wright."
"What happened, Doctor. How is Gina?"
"She was having a good day Mr. Stewart, I'm told she wasn't mumbling, she was quiet and smiling most of the day. Then about five o'clock, she went up to the fourth floor balcony, imagining she was working in the circus. Before anyone could get to her, she was up on the railing and dove off. She landed on the cement steps, at the front entrance to the hospital. I'm afraid it's critical Mr. Stewart, she's in very bad shape."
"I'll leave as quickly as I can doctor. It will take us a couple of hours to
drive over there, but we will be there as soon as possible. If you need to reach me again I have a cellular phone, call me at 555-5454."Gerald hung up the phone and explained to Louisa, what had happened to Gina.
"Get one of the women to stay with the children until the show is finished, then Sophia can look after them until we get back. I'll take you with me right now and Georgio can bring Luigi, as soon as the performance has ended."
The telephone rang and Gerald reached out and answered it.
"This is Dr. Wright again, Mr. Stewart. I'm sorry Sir, I have to tell you that Mrs. Stewart passed away, while we were speaking. Please accept our deepest sympathy for your loss."
"Thank you doctor, I don't suppose there's any need to rush now is there? We may as well stay here tonight, take care of our business and drive over in the morning."
"That sounds reasonable to me Sir, we have some things we must do as well. As you are no doubt aware, we are required by law to perform an autopsy, to determine the time and cause of death. I'll see that all of the paperwork is completed by early morning, so you can make the necessary funeral arrangements."
"Good night Dr. Wright, thanks again for calling, we'll see you in the morning."

Louisa was crying, as Gerald closed off the phone. She knew from his expression and the conversation he was having, that Gina had passed away. He put his arms around his mother-in-law and held her while she cried. Gerald tried to comfort her saying, "Gina is in a better place Mama. She doesn't have pain and she's not sick in her mind anymore. She and Josephina are together again. Let's go and help them close up for the night, then we'll tell Luigi, Georgio and Sophia."Gerald walked with his arm around Louisa's shoulder, she was still crying as they made their way to the big top. He sent a message to the Ringmaster, asking him to gather the circus family into the tent for a special announcement. While they waited for the rest of the crowd to leave, he and Louisa told Luigi, Georgio and Sophia.
"We will a go to our trailer Gerald," Luigi said, "We would a like a to be alone for a few minutes. We needa to pray for our Gina. You come and a be with us when you finish here."
"I'll be there Luigi," Gerald said, "As soon as I'm finished here."
I'm glad they are going to do that before I get there, Gerald thought to himself, I'm not so hot on those beads and that praying stuff. I hope Louisa doesn't get into that wailing, I don't think I can handle that tonight either. The Ringmaster gathered the crew and the performers into the centre ring and Gerald told them what had happened to Gina. He left out the fact that she had jumped to her death. He didn't lie to them, he simply said she fell from the fourth floor balcony. He told them they would be paid, but he was closing the circus for the next three days and cancelling the shows. He told them he and the Barbera family would be away for that time and the Ringmaster would be in charge. He wanted them to tear down, move the circus to Haleyville, set up and be ready for an afternoon matinee on Saturday. The circus family as a unit, is a strange entity unto itself. They will sometimes fight among themselves, over such childish things, as who's first in the chow line, or who is in what position in the opening day parade, and of course professional temperament. But, when a crisis occurs within the family, they surround the injured member with compassion and care. This would be no exception, as they gathered around Gerald, each in turn expressing their sympathy for the loss of his wife.

Wednesday morning 7:30 a.m., Gerald was having coffee in his trailer and explaining to his son Sandy, that Mama Gina had an accident at the hospital and was gone to heaven to be with his Mama Josephina. Sandy was twelve years old now, going on thirty-two. He was much more street wise, than most twelve year olds for having grown up in the circus atmosphere.
"Will Aunt Sophia move in here and be our new mother?" he asked.
"I don't think so," Gerald answered. "What made you ask that?"
"Well, you married the first two sisters in the family, why not the last one? The talk going round, says she is sneaking into your bed at night anyway. Besides, then Aunt Sophia could bring Lisa home to live with us."
"I know what the gossip mongers are saying, I hear the rumour mill churning out it's vicious little tid-bits of garbage. That's just what they are Sandy, garbage, your Aunt Sophia is a lady and she has never sneaked into my bed, or any other man's bed to my knowledge. So let's just drop that subject okay? Are you finished your breakfast? We need to leave as soon as we can, it's a two hour drive over to Bannerville."
"I'm finished dad, I'll go over to grandpa's place and hurry them up for you."
Sandy knocked on the door of his grandparents' trailer, opened it and walked in. Uncle Georgio put a bear hug on him and kissed his cheek. Sandy loved his uncle, he was a big man in the circus. He was strong, good looking and all the single girls in the circus were after him. Uncle Georgio taught him all kinds of neat stuff about growing up in a circus. He taught him how to work on the trampoline and how to work with weights to strengthen his body. Sandy wanted his body to look like his uncle Georgio's. His grandfather Luigi came into the room dressed in a suit, a shirt and a tie. The last time Sandy could remember seeing his grandfather in a suit, was for his own mother's funeral. His grandmother, Aunt Sophia and Lisa were the last to be ready.
"Where is your father?" Aunt Sophia asked Sandy.
"He's ready, he was going to get the car gassed up and be right back."
"That's a good idea Georgio, why you don't a do the same a thing? Gas a up the car and we be ready to go."
"It's already full papa, I gassed it late last night, before I came home. We're ready to leave as soon as Gerald gets back"
Gerald knocked and then walked into the trailer.
"Good Morning," he said.
He kissed Louisa and Sophia, picked Lisa up in his arms and gave her a hug and a kiss.
"We need to leave as soon as you are ready."
"We're all ready now Gerald," Georgio said."Sophia will go with you and the children," Louisa said, "she will look after Lisa while you drive."
"That's fine with me Mama Louisa, if we are all ready let's go."
"Is your trailer hooked up to the car?" Georgio asked.
"Yes, I'm already to go," Gerald responded.
"Everybody outside," Georgio said, "I have to hook up this trailer and we can go."

The trip over to Bannerville was slow, travelling with small children has a way of slowing you down. When they arrived, they rented two spaces in a trailer park for a couple of days and unhooked the trailers. Gerald telephoned the hospital to ensure that Gina's body was ready to be taken to the mortuary. He and Louisa went to the funeral parlour to make the necessary arrangements. Funerals are an expensive proposition, when you have to pay the costs and there's no insurance. The insurance coverage on Gina was null and void, because she committed suicide. Gerald rented a casket for one day's visitation and then Gina's body would be cremated and the ashes taken home to Morgantown. Her remains would be buried in the family plot, on the opposite corner from Josephina. The trip south to Morgantown was a two hundred and fifty mile drive. It was a very long, hot, quiet ride, the temperature outside was 86 degrees and humid. The only sound Gerald heard was the air conditioner, trying to keep the
temperature inside the car bearable. Lisa and Sandy slept on the back seat of the big Caddy, while Sophia rode up front with Gerald. He only stopped long enough to gas up and get a cold drink, then they were on their way again. They had to be in Morgantown before 4:00 p.m., as Gina's family had arranged for their Parish Priest to say a Mass for Gina at 5:00 p.m., then conduct the burial of her urn and ashes. The time frame was very tight, because they needed to rest Friday night for the drive on Saturday morning, to Haleyville and a Saturday afternoon matinee performance. This didn't leave a lot of time for Mama Louisa's weeping and wailing, which suited Gerald just fine. The Memorial Mass was short and sweet, even Gerald thought the Priest did a good job. His eulogy was positive and he made it sound like Gina had fallen while she was working. The old man had known the Barbera family ever since Louisa and Luigi had emigrated from Italy. He knew Gina had taken her own life, but he didn't want to cause the family any further embarrassment by mentioning it, so he feigned a temporary memory lapse.
The burial portion of the ceremony was the hard part for Gina's family, the final act of saying goodbye was very difficult for Mama Louisa. She couldn't seem to let Gina go like she did Josephina, but Gerald had more or less given Gina up little by little over the past two years. Louisa knew in her heart that Gerald had done nothing wrong. He had loved both of his wives, but still she had a strange sense of wanting to blame him for her losses. She had given him two of her three daughters and they were both dead, and her only consolation was the two beautiful grandchildren they had given her. I hope and pray he doesn't want Sophia next, Louisa thought, I don't want to give him my last baby girl. I know he needs a good wife to raise his children, but please God, not my Sophia.

The mourning period for Gerald was considerably short lived, it was over the minute he returned to the circus. He did the same thing when Josephina died, he simply worked every minute of every day for a year, before he snapped out of it. He was doing the same thing again, pouring himself into the daily operations of running the circus and wasn't allowing himself time to think about Gina, or the children either. The neglect of the children was bothering Louisa and Luigi, they were concerned for their grandchildren and for Gerald too.
"I willa talk with Gerald today," Luigi told his wife.
"What will you do, if he doesn't want to talk with you?" she asked.
"Don'ta make me crazy, woman, he's a gonna listen. I talk, he listens."
"But, what if....."
"Enough!!! no more what a if, I told you he will a listen!"
Luigi didn't lose his temper very often. He was usually pretty calm and easy going, but when he raised his voice to this level, Louisa knew there was no more discussion. She knew how far she could push Luigi and she knew when to stop. She and Luigi were from the old country and there was never any doubt about who was the head of their family.

Sandy was spending a lot more of his free time working around the animals. He was nearly thirteen now and after spending a lot of time staring into the eyes of a King Cobra, his attentions were starting to turn toward creatures of beauty. He kept the promise he made to his father and never again went into the snake tent alone. However, he did spend a lot of time as he put it, talking with Sandor the Cobra. Sandy proved over the three year period that he talked with Sandor, that Raqeeb was right. He could stare Sandor down and cause the snake to close it's hood and coil up into a tight circle. Raj made a deal with Sandy, to let him spend time every day with Sandor, if he brought his Aunt Sophia with him. Raj like all the other young men of the circus, had an enormous crush on Sophia and would agree to anything, that would get him a chance to speak with her. He knew that nothing would ever come of it. He was eighteen and Sophia was twenty-five, he was the snake charmer's son and she was the star of the circus.

Uncle Georgio was the one, who directed Sandy's thoughts towards the animals and particularly the elephants.
"They need help with feeding, washing and caring for the elephants," he told Sandy. "The trainer has a daughter, who he's teaching to ride, but she's too tiny to do the work of a strong boy. He needs a boy to teach as well, with a lot of hard work and determination, they could be a major act in this circus one day."
"I know that girl uncle, her name is Helen and she's twelve years old. She has red hair and my father says she is as pretty as her mother."
"Well, well, well," Georgio said, "I guess there's hope for you and your father yet. Why don't you go and ask Helen's father if he will train you. Tell him you would be willing to work to pay for the training."
"I'm not so sure I want to work around the elephants, uncle Georgio, it's a lot of hard work you know."
"I thought you wanted to be a star?"
"I do." Sandy said.
"Well then, what do you want? You don't want to be a flyer, do you?"
"No," Sandy responded.
"Everything demands a lot of hard work Sandy. If you want to be a star like your mother, you'll have to work hard at something and be prepared to stick with it."

That was the beginning of Sandy's career as an animal trainer and circus performer. He took his uncle's advise and asked Kendall Williams to teach him to be an elephant trainer and performer. After a long talk and many questions, Kendall agreed to train Sandy, provided he had his father's permission. Kendall made it a point to speak with Gerald Stewart, and told him about Sandy's request and the conversation he had with the boy. Kendall outlined his plan to train Sandy and his daughter Helen to be a team, to create a new elephant act with the two young people as the stars. Gerald Stewart was no fool, he could see the potential draw this would be for the circus in the future and he quickly agreed to let Sandy work with Kendall and Helen Williams.

Another year passed quickly and the circus was enjoying a booming success. The Barbera's were performing more and more dangerous feats, with Luigi still catching for Sophia. Georgio and Sophia created new balancing stunts every week it seemed. Sophia was the star of the show to be sure, but she was sharing the spotlight of the centre ring, with the new sensational elephant act. The writers of the local newspapers were providing them with the very best advertising, they could possibly hope to get. They were sold out for every show, week after week. Gerald was seeing a young widow named Shirley Danson, with a son Harold the same age as Lisa. They were setting an early date to be married and they would be coming to live in Gerald's trailer at the circus. We will be taking Lisa to live with us, he told Mama Louisa. It will be good for her to have a brother the same age as she is to grow up with. Louisa was torn apart with mixed feelings. She had her prayers answered, when Gerald selected someone other than Sophia for his new bride. But on the other hand, she wasn't pleased about losing her granddaughter Lisa, to be raised by another woman, especially a woman she didn't know. It didn't take long for the bloom to come off the rose. In less than six months, Sandy was living part-time with his grandparents and part-time with his uncle Georgio. He and Shirley couldn't get along at all, he didn't like to see her spanking Lisa for something Harold had done. She never slapped either child, when Gerald was around and so he didn't want to believe Sandy, when he told his father Shirley was hitting Lisa. That wasn't the only thing that angered Sandy, Shirley always had treats for Harold but none for Lisa. There was always something new for Harold to wear, but little or nothing for Lisa. Gerald either couldn't see it happening, or didn't want to see it. He didn't like it either, that Sandy was always telling him about something Shirley was doing or not doing. So Sandy started staying away from home and spending more and more time with his uncle and his grandparents. This was the only way, life at home with Shirley in charge was unbearable for Sandy. He didn't trust Shirley at all, so he started coming to get Lisa, whenever he had free time during the day. Sandy would take Lisa to see her grandmother Louisa and she and Aunt Sophia would check Lisa's body for bruises, to see is she was being beaten. There were lots of times, when they found Lisa's little bottom red from being strapped. Shirley would always have an excuse for why she had to punish Lisa and Gerald would accept that excuse and support Shirley. This kind of treatment went on and on, instead of getting better, it got worse and worse. Finally, Gerald and Shirley wouldn't let Sandy take his sister Lisa away from the trailer any longer and she wasn't permitted to visit her grandparents any more either. The children were like prisoners, no one ever saw them outside playing and they were never allowed to be away from the trailer.

This was a terrible situation, the whole circus community was sick with worry about what could be happening to Lisa. However, they were torn between protecting their own security and reporting, what they believed to be abuse to the authorities. The circus was continuing to pack the house for each performance and the danger of an abuse scandal could have an adverse affect on those numbers and therefore the security of their jobs. What to do and how to treat this situation, was the topic of many a conversation. Everyone thought something needed to be done, everyone had an idea of what should be done, but it looked like no one was about to do anything.

Wednesday May 17th 1989, Shirley and Gerald's third anniversary. Gerald approached Sophia at the 11:00 a.m. morning rehersal.
"It's our third anniversary today, I wonder if we could ask a favor of you?"
"What do you want?" she asked.
"We want to have a candlelight dinner after the show and be alone. I wondered if you would keep the two kids for us over night?"
"It's okay for us to see Lisa if you want something Gerald, but any other time it's not okay. If I didn't want to see her so badly and if my parents didn't want to see that child, I'd tell you where to go and how to go about getting there too. Yes Gerald, bring the two children over at supper time, mother will look after them, until the performance is over and then I'll take care of them until morning. But, from now on, I get to see Lisa at least once a week. Do you agree?"
"I agree," Gerald said. "Tell Louisa I'll have them there by six o'clock." Sophia told a few of the girls at the food tent and she asked them to keep it quiet, I don't want anything to queer up this chance to see Lisa. If you want to see her, come by my mother's trailer after the show tonight, but be quiet for God's sake. The rumour mill went to work quietly throughout the circus and everyone knew within a matter of minutes. Gerald arrived with the children at exactly six o'clock. When Sophia met him at the door she said.
"I'm not going to invite you in Gerald, because I think you know you are not welcome in my parent's home. I'll bring the children back to you in the morning."
"I'll come and get them myself at 9 a.m.," he said.
"That's fine Gerald, they'll be ready. Have a nice evening."
The performance went off like clockwork, not that it didn't at every performance, but tonight was something a little special. The performers were excited about seeing Lisa and they were whispering throughout the show, she's with her grandmother, she's with her grandmother, we can drop by later to see her. As soon as the performance was ended and the last customer was leaving the big top, Gerald was on his way to his trailer. He had to change his clothes quickly and get dressed for dinner. Shirley had arranged a catered dinner for the two of them. A van was parked outside of their trailer and a man and a woman in a tuxedo and a maid's outfit were inside preparing to serve drinks and dinner. The maid in her mini skirt outfit had already started to serve drinks to Shirley, she was well on her way to getting drunk. The waiter was also the cook and he was in the kitchen preparing their dinner. When Gerald came out of the bedroom, the maid poured him a double and told him he had to hurry and catch up. Gerald downed that one and she poured him another. He looked at Shirley, raised his glass to salute her, then downed that one and the maid poured him yet another.
"I think I've caught up now," he said. "I'll just sip on this one."
"When do you think dinner will be ready to serve?" Shirley asked. "We aren't that much for drinking and my husband is an early riser. He has put in a long day and he needs to have his dinner, as soon as possible."
"I'll light a fire under that fellow in the kitchen right away. It won't take long, sit right down at the table and I'll serve you immediately."
The dinner was perfect, they enjoyed it so much, they talked about doing it again next year. The couple cleaned up, took the mess including the dishes with them and were out of the trailer by eleven o'clock. Shirley and Gerald finished off the bottle of wine and turned in before midnight.

The last visitors leaving the Barbera trailer that night were Georgio and Sandy. When they stepped outside of the trailer, they saw the last lights go out in Gerald's bedroom. It was a dark cloudy night, not a star in the sky. They were not expecting anyone to be lurking around the grounds, so they didn't see the shadowy figure leaning against the tiger cage next to the snake tent. Sandy and Georgio went into their trailer and directly to bed, it had been a long day. The figure in the shadows waited silently and motionless for a long time, then the figure moved slowly and stealthily toward the snake tent. The knots opened on the tent flaps and the figure moved inside. It was only a matter of minutes, before the figure emerged from the tent, with something hanging at it's side. It moved slowly and quietly across the grounds towards the Stewart's trailer. The door opened silently and the figure went inside and paused momentarily outside the bedroom door, to listen for the sounds of sleeping from inside the room. Then, as quietly as all of it's other moves, the door to the bedroom opened and the figure made it's way silently to the edge of the bed. The item it was carrying was a cloth bag with a draw string. The draw string was loosened and the opening of the bag was placed under the edge of the covers, on the bed. The contents of the bag released, the figure lifted the bag and backed out of the room and the trailer. Closing the door as quietly on it's way out, as on it's way in, the shadowy figure made it's way back to the end of the tiger's cage and waited for another long period of time. There were no noises or sounds of any kind coming from the Stewart trailer, the shadowy figure disappeared into the night and everything was quiet and still.

Raj woke early that Thursday morning and went out to the edge of the nearby field, to check the mouse traps he had set the night before. He set fifty traps each night, to catch field mice to feed to their snakes. The more field mice he caught, the less they had to buy. He made his collection that morning and he gathered up twenty-three small mice and one large rat. This one will make Sandor very happy he thought. He returned to their small trailer, washed his hands and knelt down with his parents for morning prayers before breakfast. When breakfast was over, Raqeeb and his son went into the snake tent to feed the snakes. Raj noticed that the glass cover to the small Cobra pit was sitting corner to corner, instead of covering the glass closure. He immediately warned Raqeeb, who always walked in his bare feet and in India that's how many people die from Cobra bites. Raqeeb carefully made his way back to their trailer to warn his wife, that two young Cobras were loose and to put some high top boots on his feet. Raj went around to the front of their tent to find the knots untied and the tent flaps opened. They searched the tent and surrounding area for the two Cobras, without any success.
"I'd better go down to the food tent father and warn them, that someone has let the snakes loose. Who would do such a thing and why?"
"I don't know Raj, I hope they went into the field looking for mice and not anywhere near the animals or people."
Raj hurried down to the main food tent to warn the animal trainers and anyone else who were up early. Sandy was there having breakfast, he had already cleaned out the elephants and fed them.
"When did you notice they were missing Raj?" he asked.
"When my father and I went into the tent to feed this morning. The tent flaps were untied from the outside and the glass cover was sitting corner to corner." Sandy recalled immediately the instance when he had untied the flaps and went into the snake tent alone.
"Who would have done that and why?" Sandy asked. "Have you told my father yet Raj?"
"No Sandy we haven't, we were hoping we would find them still in the tent or out in the field. That's where my father is now, walking in the grass looking for two Cobras."
"Well he has to be told, it might as well be me, as anyone else I suppose. How about the rest of you walking slowly over the grounds, wake up some people and ask them to help look for those two snakes."
"How poisionous are those snakes?" Danny asked.
"You don't want to know Danny," Sandy retorted. "If you see them stay away, don't go anywhere near them. They are the most venomous snake in the world. If they bite you, you feel the pain right away, you're speechless in a minute and your dead in no time."

Sandy went to his father's trailer and banged on the door. He waited, but he didn't get an answer. He banged on the door again and listened for a response. He was about to bang again, when he thought he heard a strange but familar hissing sound. He yelled for someone to send Raqeeb and Raj to him right away. Raj came running towards him with Raqeeb close behind.
"What have you seen?" Raj asked.
"I haven't seen anything, listen and tell me what you hear."
He put his head against the door to the trailer. Raj put his head against the door as well and then he motioned for his father to do likewise. Raqeeb also placed his head against the door and listened for a few seconds.
"I hear the two of them hissing and spitting," Raqeeb said. "It sounds like they are sitting up looking at the door wanting to get out."
"When I banged on the door," Sandy said, "I didn't get any response at all."
A crowd had gathered around them including Sandy's Aunt Sophia.
"Would you please go and call the Police?" he asked her. "I think they should be here, when we open this door. Raqeeb can you bag these two, if they are sitting up and ready to strike as we open the door, or do we shoot the heads off them?"
"I'm not sure if we can do it Sandy, but I want to try. I don't want to lose both of them, if I can help it. I'm going to need one of them at least, to replace Sandor one of these days, he's getting to be very old now and he could die any time."
"I understand Raqeeb, we'll give it a try, as soon as the cops get here. What's taking them so long?"
Sophia came back to the trailer with her mother, Lisa and Harold.
Sandy whispered softly to Sophia and told her,
"Take grandmother and the children away from here. If what we think has happened is true, this won't be a pretty sight. We think my father and Shirley are dead inside the trailer. We think they were bitten by two young Cobra snakes, who got loose somehow."

Sophia took her mother and the children back to their trailer. The Police finally arrived and Sandy took Captain Brent aside and briefed him on the current state of the situation. The Captain was clearly dumbfounded. He couldn't understand for a minute, why they would want to try and capture those snakes alive, instead of shooting their heads off. Raqeeb explained how expensive they were and how important they were to his family's future livelihood. The Captain agreed to give Raj and Raqeeb one chance to get the snakes alive. If that doesn't work, my men will shoot the heads off them fast. The Police loaded up their shotguns and stood at the ready. They were pointing right at the door of the Stewart trailer.
"This is what we are going to do," Sandy said. "I'm going to open that door slowly towards myself. If they are sitting upright and quiet, then Raqeeb will lay a long loop over their heads and tighten it. Then they will be put in a sack, where it's dark and they will be back in their glass covered pit. If they aren't quiet and they lunge out to strike, shoot to kill and don't miss. Are you ready?" he asked Raqeeb and Raj.
"Let's do it," Raj said.
Sandy opened the door slowly and easily without any jerking motions. There they were, sitting upright and as quiet as you please, like two small school boys, who were caught playing truant. Raqeeb reached in slowly with a long loop and tightened it over the head of the closest snake. He withdrew the snake and dropped it into the sack, that Raj was holding, and then he repeated the same procedure with the second snake. Raj took the sack with the two snakes back to the tent and their glass pits.
"Is that all of them?" Captain Brent asked.
"That's all that were missing Sir," Raqeeb responded.

The Police Captain followed Sandy into his father's trailer. When they opened the door to the bedroom, they found Gerald and Shirley Stewart lying in bed, dead from venom poisoning.
"They didn't know what hit them Captain," Sandy said.
"You seem to know a lot about these snakes. Are you a snake trainer or whatever you call it?"
"No Sir, when I was a small boy I was fascinated by snakes, especially the Cobras, Raqeeb and his son Raj taught me everything I know about them."
"Who else knows how to handle those snakes?"
"As far as I know, no one handles those snakes, except Raj and his father. I've never handled one of them in my life and I've no desire to start now. They are very expensive, but also very dangerous."
Captain Brent conducted a thorough investigation, interviewing everyone on the circus lot. When he was finished, he ended up back where he began, with Sandy.
"I know you say you've never handled one of these snakes before, but you're the one with the most to gain. It's you who will inherit the circus and you who has a fascination with snakes and I'm told that you and your parents didn't get along at all."
"That maybe true," Sandy said, "but I was in my grandparent's trailer with lots of witnesses until at least midnight, then my uncle and I went to our trailer and went to bed."
"Then you really don't have an alibi do you?" Captain Brent concluded.
"Oh, but I do Sir, my uncle and I talked till almost 3:00 a.m. He told me what it was like for them growing up in a circus family and how my grandparents came from the circus in the old country, to the circus in America. My mother died when I was seven, so mostly he told me things about my mother and what she was like as a child."

Captain Brent exhausted every avenue he could come up with, each only led from one dead end to another, there were no other leads to follow. The bodies had been autopsied and studied. The statistics were carefully loaded into the computer data banks. Everyone who was a reasonable suspect, had an airtight alibi. The bodies were released for burial and the circus was being permitted to move on to their next destination, which was in the same jurisdiction.
"This case is not closed by a long shot," Captain Brent told Sandy. "I have a hunch you are guilty, or you know who is. I just can't prove it yet."
"I'm sorry you feel that way Captain, but nothing is further from the truth."

The circus moved on and continued to be a succesful thriving business. Uncle Georgio and grandfather Luigi helped Sandy learn the administrative part of the business. It was five years since the tragedy had occurred and still there were no charges laid. Each year when the circus would come to town, Captain Brent came for a visit and reminded Sandy that he was still his first choice as a suspect. Uncle Georgio and Aunt Sophia were busy training a new catcher to replace Luigi. He and Louisa were going to retire to the farm, as she was having some health problems and they wanted to settle her down in one place. They were only on the farm for a month, when Sandy received a telephone call from his grandfather.
"How's grandmother?" he asked. "Is she alright?"
"I don't a think so, she spends a lot of time at the grave. She says she talks to a you Mama and a Gina. I'm a worried for her. Can a you come for a day or a few hours with Lisa, Georgio and Sophia to see her?"
"I'll work something out for the first part of next week grandfather, we'll be there to see you then. Is that going to be okay?"
"That a will be fine, we see you then."
Sandy went with his sister and aunt and uncle for a short visit, between a tear down and a setup. It wasn't obvious that the old lady was going to die in the next few hours, but it was easy to see she wasn't in the best of health either. Her heart was bad and she wasn't a good candidate for open heart surgery. There seemed to be too many other complications to consider.

Three more months went by and grandfather called again. This was the bad news they were expecting, but didn't want to hear. When the services were over and grandmother Louisa's ashes were buried in the family plot, Luigi called Sandy aside and handed him an envelope addressed to him, marked personal.
"Grandmother asked me to give this to you, she wanted you to read it, when you are alone."
"Thanks grandfather, I'll read it when I get back to my trailer."
Sandy put the envelope in his inside jacket pocket and forgot about it. It wasn't until three days later, that he remembered it was there. He opened the letter and started to read, tears filled his eyes, as he read with unbelief what his Grandmother was saying to him.
Dear Sandy;
I'm sorry I have caused you so much trouble. I never believed that Policeman would make you a suspect for killing your father and his woman. I hated them for what they did to the children of my Gina and Josephina. I couldn't tell the truth, it would break your grandfather's heart to know I did this terrible thing. I knew about Cobras from the old country, I worked with a snake man before I met your grandfather. Please keep this note until he is gone, then show it to the Policeman.
Much Love to you and Lisa,
Grandmother Louisa

Sandy read the note over and over again. He couldn't believe that his grandmother, that nice old lady could commit murder. He sat in his father's chair and smiled, as he thought about how much Captain Brent would love to see this note. It would certainly blow all of his theories out the window. He would have to close the case without being able to charge someone and I wouldn't have the excitement any longer of knowing he's still trying to pin the rap on me, but he can't prove a thing, what a shame, poor fellow. He smiled as he touched a
match to the note and watched as it burned to an ash. Thank you grandmother Louisa, much love to you from us as well!!
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