The Mysterious Bookshop

Brand and La Veuve Noire in: The Midway - The Exciting and Wildly Improbable Conclusion!


La Veuve Noire couldn’t believe it!  Pimm had fallen for the oldest trick in the book!  So much for his ‘canny carny’ pose.

Ellen bolted down the main drag of the midway, looking for a place to hide from Pimm while she pondered her next move.  She looked back but saw no one in pursuit.  Thankfully she heard no more gunfire; he must have thought better of firing into a crowd. Suddenly deciding that the best defense was a strong offense, she turned abruptly and started back toward Pimm’s trailer.  Along the way she saw a cop leaning against a tent pole picking his teeth with a match.  Strange.  Shouldn’t he be looking for whoever fired shots into this big crowd?  ‘Excuse me, officer?  A man just took a couple of shots at me.’

The officer, ‘Smith’ according to his name tag, yawned, pitched the match onto the grass, and looked Ellen up and down, slowly.

‘He must be crazy,’ he said and went back to holding up the tent.

‘Uh, are you going to look for the person who fired a gun at me into a big crowd?’

‘Now, pretty lady, I didn’t hear any shots, and look--do you see anyone panicking?  Wouldn’t there be a stampede if some crackpot was firing a gun?’

She had to admit there was no real panic, but darned if she was going to admit that to him!  And was it a thing around here, to call women ‘pretty lady?’  Ellen was pretty sure she was going to barf if she ever heard THAT expression again.  Realizing that Officer Smith was either terminally bored or paid not to see certain things, she turned and walked away.  She’d only gotten two steps when she saw someone gesturing to her from the gate at the roller coaster.  It was Brand, the man from the ring toss.

‘Pimm made me come over here after I got to talking to you,’ he grumped. ‘After you found out about the ring, he got mad at me. I don't know why, you're not an inspector, right?’

‘The rings?’ inquired Ellen.

‘Yeah, that they won’t fit over the prizes.’

So THAT was it!  I KNEW there was something fishy, Ellen thought to herself.  She also thought that, as dim as he apparently was, this fellow might be a useful ally.  

‘Gee, this is such a nice carnival,’ she said. ‘Too bad the games are crooked.’

Incredibly, Brand was offended!  ‘Hey, what do you mean?  Anyway, we just do what Pimm tells us to do.’

‘Uh-huh.  And if he told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that?’

‘Which bridge?’ Brand replied with a laugh.  Ellen laughed too, and the ice was broken, a little.  So she decided to jump right in.

‘Who shot at me?  It wasn’t Pimm, was it?’

Brand looked away.  ‘I don’t know anything.  Heck, I just got back from the dentist. Tripped and fell and broke my teeth!  Anyway I just look after my own job and run the coaster. I like it better than the cotton candy and all that meth.’  And with that he was gone.

Had Ellen heard right?  Meth in cotton candy?  This called for a little sleuthing!  But how?  Whether he had shot at her or not, Pimm was hostile and would have her thrown out if he saw her sneaking around.  Therefore, some ingenuity was required.  Ducking into the ladies’ room, Ellen quickly emerged with a fedora and a false mustache, which she hoped made her look like a water-carrier, or at worst a working class patron.  Of course, with her voluptuous figure, it only made her look ridiculous but she didn’t really look like Ellen Amora, which was the whole point.  Besides, looking a little down and out was probably a good thing for this operation!

She walked briskly down towards the food kiosks and briefly considered a shish kebab, both because she’d never had one and because she was ravenously hungry but she figured she’d better be about the business at hand, so she sidled up to the cotton candy booth.  Now, how to order contraband with her snack?  Hmmm.  

‘One special, please.’  There!  That ought to do it!  She was disappointed to be handed a paper cone around which was wound sugary goodness in the form of pink fibers of high fructose corn syrup.  This wouldn’t do.  ‘Got anything extra?’  she asked, not knowing what else to say.  ‘Ketchup and mustard over there,’ the man replied by rote, as if people wanted to put condiments on their cotton candy every day!  Stymied, Ellen stepped carefully over the various piles of trash, didn’t anyone ever sweep up the grounds?, and walked over to the table where the utensils, napkins, and little packets of mayo and so on were available.  Maybe the stuff was here?  No, that didn’t make any sense.  Surely the dealers wouldn’t have a system where anyone could get a dose.

Perhaps she needed to be vetted or needed a code word to get the meth along with the candy.

Suddenly more shots rang out!  Disregarding her own safety, Ellen ran towards the sound of the gunfire, intending to catch whoever had earlier shot at her.  

Wait!  Was it coming from the big top?  It was!  She peeked in through a gap in the tent and saw the ringmaster firing what she hoped were blanks as signals to the performing animals.  Well, that was a relief!  Not only was no one firing at her, they were blanks and part of the show!  It was just a coincidence of timing that she was running from Pimm at the same time.  But why was he so protective?  Must be the meth!  How could she infiltrate the network and bust the people selling this poison?  Before she could begin to formulate a plan, around the corner came Pimm with Officer Smith.  ‘There she is, Officer!’ the portly proprietor barked.

‘I’m glad you’re here, Officer!  This is the man who shot at me before!  I felt bullets whizzing past me and everything!’

‘What?  Who are you?’

Dramatically Ellen whipped off the fedora and fake mustache and stood revealed.

‘Oh. It’s you.  Why are you running around like this?’

‘Never mind about me. Why did you shoot at me?’ she said to Pimm.

‘Are you crazy?  Why would I shoot at you?  Or anyone?  Think I want to drive all my customers away?’

‘But I heard the bullets and felt them!’

‘What you heard was the blanks the ringmaster fired to get the elephant walk going.  What you felt was the mosquitoes, some of them bugs around here, they’re twin engine jobs.’

Officer Smith spoke.  ‘Ma’am, I think you’ve caused enough trouble for one night, and I’m going to have to ask you to leave now.’

‘But what about the crooked games?  The ring toss and the goldfish are both unwinnable!’

‘Those are deliberate.  They are tests for junior inspectors.  If they don’t notice them on their undercover inspections, they don’t pass muster. Didn’t you notice we were giving out prizes anyway, as a gesture of good faith?’

Ellen had to admit that she hadn’t.  But what about the illegal sales?  She played her trump card!

‘The cotton candy booth is lousy with dope!’

This was met with silence.  Finally Pimm said, ‘Um, what?’

‘I have it on good authority----’

‘That’s about enough.  You’re coming with me,’ said Smith.

‘NO!  NO! NO!’ shrieked Ellen as she was dragged away.  ‘Somebody help me!  This carnival is crooked!  Help! Help!’ and then she was heard no more.

Brand shook his head sadly.  ‘What a meth.  What a terrible meth.’


Have a look at some of these books having cotton in them, but not necessarily cotton candy, which is bad for the teeth anyway.


Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones seek flim-flam man Dan O'Hara, who is running a scam Back-To-Africa program.

While Britain is desperate for money in the aftermath of WWII, agent Peter Cotton is investigating the end days of the OSS.


87th Precinct detectives Cotton Hawes and Steve Carella try to find out who cleaved George Lasser with an ax.  A topnotch procedural from the master of the genre.


Jack McDonald's farm is hurting--boll weevils have eaten his cotton, his chickens have stopped laying, and not only are his house and barn mortgaged, so is his cow!  Taking a job in a roadhouse soon envelops him in all manner of noir mayhem!


Questions/Comments/Lion Tamer Hats?

Written by Ian Kern — September 22, 2016


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