Krasimir angrily paced the floor of his Sanctum.
His whole plan for the Phantasmian creatures had been simple. First, get a museum to display them for a certain sum of money. Charge another fee for tours and special favors. A surcharge here, extra bonus there, marginal profits everywhere, and presto! A fortune is his for very little cost.…
Then along came that cheeky blighter, Rankin! Krasimir scowled. It was all his fault Krasimir now had a basement full of stiff creatures no longer fit for public display! His fault that Krasimir, on top of losing the income generated by the exhibit hall, now had to pay damages out of his earnings to repair the museum! How had the boy done it? How had he gotten involved? Surely he did not know before today that the exhibits he was always sweeping around were live creatures…did he? He had always been skittish, but more, Krasimir noted, of late it had been increasingly obvious that he suspected something.
“But what could he suspect?” Krasimir asked aloud. There was simply no explanation. Krasimir dismissed the lad from his mind. He had more important problems to deal with, such as, now that the general public knew he had possession of live fairies, a giant, a unicorn, and a gryphon, what could he do with them? Should he return them to Phantasm? Ha! Krasimir snorted; not while there was money to be made!
“Old Man Guillroy thinks my artwork is a circus, eh?” he muttered, “I’ll give him a circus! Adolf!”
The werewolf did not answer. Krasimir waited a moment and was about to call again when he noticed Adolf’s lean figure standing at his elbow by the fireplace. “Adolf, are there any carnivals in the area?”
“There is one, Master,” answered the knowledgeable werewolf, “owned by a man named Zachary Storm, just outside the town.”
“Perfect,” Krasimir grinned. His smile, however, disappeared when he remembered exactly why he was now searching for an alternate venue beyond art houses and museums.
“Adolf,” he pensively stepped a few paces away from the fire. “What happened today?”
“The Phantasmians, Adolf; they came to life, there in the sight of all mankind. And you, transforming into a wolf right there in public! What sort of magic could have the power to overcome the paralysis techniques and the drugs? Could you explain this phenomenon to me?”
Adolf furrowed his brow deep in thought. “The only part of Phantasm powerful enough to do what you describe is the Phantasmagyth, Master.”
Krasimir frowned, “The what? Oh, you mean my—“ he pointed to the case and froze.
The Gem was gone!
“WHERE IS IT?” Krasimir barked; his face transformed into a truly terrible scowl. He was livid. “Where is my jewel? Did you steal from me, Adolf?” He advanced upon his henchman.
Adolf flung up his hands in honest fear, “Master, you know I was with you all day. I did not, and I would not steal from you. Perhaps the Underworlders did it in your absence.”
Almost before Adolf finished the suggestion, Krasimir burst out of the Sanctum and fell upon the unsuspecting goblins in the corridor, bashing heads, pulling noses, and twisting ears in his fury. Adolf assisted him by menacing the squat creatures with his savage teeth and ferocious growl.
“You have stolen from me!” Krasimir bellowed. “Who has it? Who has my jewel? Tell me now or I will kill every one of you!”
The goblins could not answer. None of them had ever been in the Sanctum. They could not have taken it.
Krasimir suddenly halted his onslaught with a goblin’s ear in his hand. He looked at Adolf.
“The boy!” he gasped, “He knows!”
Krasimir tossed the goblin aside and race to his bedroom upstairs. His mind raced. If Casey Rankin knew about the Phantasmic jewel, then he had been the one who revived the creatures! But how—Krasimir reached his doorway and stopped.
There on a cushion at the foot of his bed was the Phantasmagyth! Well, at least it meant that Casey didn’t have it after all, but how had it traveled from downstairs locked in a case, all the way up to his room? Adolf approached behind him.
“Adolf,” Krasimir said quietly, lifting the precious stone, “I want you to find out how much Casey knows about this gem, and I want you to find the source of its power before he learns any more of it! Use any means necessary, just get me that power!”
“Yes, Master,” Adolf replied.
Adolf was an excellent security guard. It was almost like he could stand at one end of Krasimir's Circus and know everything that was going on at the other end. He had the sharpest eyes, the best nose, the fiercest scowl, and the strongest ears of anyone I knew.
He gave me the creeps.
I was really happy that Mr. Storm allowed me to work at the Carnival. He was a kind man, sort of reminding me of Mr. Guillroy.
Mr. Storm called me into the trailer that served as his office on my first day.
"Rankin," he said, "I want to warn you about Adolf. I understand how nervous he makes you, because, frankly, everyone's nervous around him. Everyone but Schlimme, that is. Lord knows I didn't want him anywhere near the carnival, but Schlimme insisted, and, well..." Mr. Storm shrugged, "you know, when Krasimir Schlimme insists on something, it must be done."
I nodded sympathetically. Mr. Storm continued, "Just move around all areas of the Carnival picking up the trash and the litter and emptying garbage. I've talked it over with Schlimme, and he says you can empty the garbage cans in the Circus, but for whatever reason he doesn't want you picking up garbage there during the day, only emptying the garbage cans at night. He seems suspicious of you. Did you give him trouble or something?"
Alarm bells went off in my head. Did Mr. Schlimme suspect that I had anything to do with the fiasco in the museum? "I don't recollect any incidents," I told Mr. Storm, "Mr. Schlimme has been wary of me from the beginning. I have no idea why."
Mr. Storm shrugged. "Well, all right. I'll let you go now, Rankin. Welcome to the Carnival!" He swept the door open with the air of a ringmaster, and I stepped outside.
The Carnival was a popular place. People were everywhere, and they littered awfully! I was busy going around all day at the Carnival, I didn't even worry about going into the Circus. With an hour left on my shift, though, I realized that I probably should empty the six garbage cans in the Circus. Before I did so, though, I stopped by the mobile unit labeled "Employees Only" and peeked into my locker.
"How is it going?" I whispered into my duffel.
"Great!" three voices hollered back. "Are you done yet?" Sheerya called.
"Almost," I replied, "I just need to empty the garbage cans in Krasimir's Circus and that's all."
"Can I go with you?" she immediately wanted to know.
I hesitated, but I confess I was beginning to enjoy her company. "Ok," I said, "but stay out of sight! I'm still on-duty!"
Everyone else whined about how unfair it was that she got all the privileges, but I had learned a thing or two about fairies. They shared everything. I knew that Sheerya would re-enact every little thing we did in such exciting detail that the others would feel like they had been there, even the folk I didn't bring with me to the Carnival.
She tucked herself deep in my pocket, and I went to work.
It was later in the evening, and the tents in Krasimir's Circus cast long shadows. I emptied the first three cans around the edges, and started moving toward the middle.
I had just barely felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise, when a gravelly voice demanded, "What are you doing here?"
I jumped and whirled around, "Oh, Adolf," I sighed.
He glared at me like he wanted to snap my neck. What had I done to antagonize this goon?
"I'm emptying the garbage cans," I told him, "it's my job, and I have permission from Mr. Schlimme."
His piercing eyes suddenly snapped upwards. He sniffed. "Do you smell something?" he snapped.
For some reason, my pulse raced, but I shrugged nonchalantly and said, "Nah; I've been around garbage cans all day. I don't smell a thing."
"I'm going to go check it out," he said, and slipped noiselessly into the shadows.
"Who was that?" a small voice erupted from seemingly nowhere, and I nearly jumped out of my skin.
"GAH!" I screamed; then I remembered Sheerya. I sighed. "That was just Adolf, Krasimir's security guard," I said as I turned to wheel my trash-cart to the next can, near the big tent.
"There's something not quite right about him," Sheerya noted from my pocket.
I nodded, "Boy, you've got that right!" I could hear Krasimir's voice as he was exhibiting the Phantasmians still in his possession to the paying throng.
"No, I mean, I don't think he's even hu--"
"Shh!" I shushed her. Krasimir's words came to me very clearly as I stood just outside the tent flap.
"...and on the other side of the size-spectrum, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the fearsome GIANT!!"
I heard the cranking of gears and the roar of the crowds.
"Sheerya, go find out what he's got in there," I whispered.
She obediently flew out of my pocket and into the tent. I knew she was all right, because with the bright lights and the spectacles already on display, people wouldn't even notice her. I sat down to wait for her return.
"What are you up to?"
Adolf's raspy voice and his strong, hairy hand both jerked me to my feet. His face was very close to mine, and I could smell his breath--the smell reminded me of roadkill--and hear him smelling mine. He was weird...and scary.
"I--I..." I could hardly get the words out! He'd caught me completely off-guard. I struggled to remain composed. "I'm just emptying the garbage. I just sat down for a break."
"You'll get a break when you've finished your work, now get on with it!" He shoved me away with surprising force.
I decided I didn't want to make him any angrier. "Ok, fine, I'm going," I said, moving around the tent.
I emptied the last garbage can and returned to the big tent just as everyone was leaving.
"Sheerya," I whispered. She moved the oak leaf she'd been hiding under, and fluttered her wings so I could see her.
Sheerya nestled in my collar, and I ... stood and straightened my jacket. "I have a few more things to do. Go back to the backpack, I'll be there in a bit. Stay out of sight!"
"Okay," Sheerya replied, and flew away, wrapped in a leaf so her light couldn't be seen. I stood for a while, watching her disappear.
I turned around and Adolf was standing behind me.
I gasped, but tried to remain innocent looking; his eyes seemed to glow in the moonlight. "Oh, hi, Adolf."
"I found the smell," he said.
Unexplained fear gripped my windpipe, but I tried to keep my voice steady. "O-oh, oh y-yeah?" I stuttered, "Wh-where was it?" I could have slapped myself. What sort of question was that?
He answered it anyway. "It was.... here," he said pointedly.
"H-h-here?" my voice cracked, and I began backing away with the cart.
"Yeah," his guttural voice was still flat and emotionless. He had me pegged and he knew it. What was he going to do now? "Smells like..." he sniffed for emphasis, and his lip raised in a snarl, "fairies."
"Oh snap!" I cried, and ran back toward the Carnival.
With an angry, animal snarl, Adolf took off after me. His eyes beamed red in the moonlight.
The open spaces were void of people as I ran, the only light being the moon, and the huge lamps that lit the place till dawn. I could hear Adolf's heavy breath right behind me. Something grabbed my leg and I landed on the ground hard. Something flipped me over and pinned me by my chest. Adolf! But not just Adolf the scary guy.
Adolf was a werewolf! He glared down at me, snarling and snapping, edging closer to my throat. "So YOU'RE the one who's been letting everybody go! How did you do it? Where did you get the power?" He was going to do something terrible, I just knew it! But I had no weapon... or did I? He wasn't pinning my arms, so I frantically groped in my pockets for something. My hand grasped the Chain. It wasn't much, but it was the most I had.
I swung the Chain around and caught Adolf right across the eyes. He yelped and leapt off of me, and I got up and started running, the chain still dangling in my hand. I knew Adolf saw it.
"The Chain!" he howled, "He has the Chain!"
I kept on running, hearing the thud of heavy wolf paws behind me getting closer with every step. If I could make it to the bus stop, I would be safe... safer than running, that is, but who knows how well Plexiglass holds up against a werewolf?
A flash of light erupted near my eye. "Why are you running?" I heard Sheerya's voice.
I couldn't talk very well when I was running for my life and my heart was firmly lodged with the rest of my insides in my throat. "Adolf...werewolf..." I gasped, "Chasing me! Get help!"
"Right away!" and Sheerya was gone.
I had been running for five minutes solid, and it occurred to me that I didn't hear Adolf any more. I stopped. I was now in the Carnival. I ducked from arcade to arcade, staying in the shadows, trying to detect any sort of movement around me.
"RAWR!!" Adolf sprung at me from the side with a growl. He knocked me over, but I grabbed the nearest object--I have no idea what it was-- and shoved it on top of him. I heard a crash and a yelp, and kept running. Meanwhile he chased me, now making a bit more noise as he crashed indiscriminately through tents and walls, trying to get at me.
I saw a huge light and immediately ran toward it. It was a crowd of fairies! I ran into their midst, realizing about halfway through that I was also running through elves in the grass. Most of them were armed, and they all attacked Adolf, the fairies crowding in his eyes and blinding him, and the elves slicing at his paws. I kept running till I got to the bus stop. I ran to the back of the bus and sat down.By the time I'd gotten my breath back, it was over.