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Karma Bites Back

by Gary Clifton

“Get your thievin’ ass outta my garden shed!” old Mrs. Samhold had the audacity to order. She knew that stolen and pawned tools were handy for a little dope cash.

“Damn her hide,” Clevus declared as he fled. He slipped back that very evening and burned down her house with her in it. Hard luck, Clevus: she’d not only recognized him, she’d called the law. The cops came looking.

Clevus Leroy Mutt, Jr. had been hatched in the Pleasant Grove neighborhood of Southeast Dallas. Since he was five, he’d done something at least weekly which would earn a normal human jail time. At around seven years of age, juvenile authorities and then, later, adult cops began keeping track of his errant path through life.

By seventeen, Clevus had come to resemble a sewer rat, only with less redeeming moral value. Then the cops popped him for arson and the murder of Mrs. Samhold.

Although it was his twenty-first arrest, the cops never could actually make Clevus for the crime. But he was on probation until age eighteen for shooting old man Wilson’s Vietnamese pig. The courts revoked probation, and Clevus spent the next eight months in Sterret Center.

The law mandated release at eighteen. He took up with his former cellmate, Herman “Stab” Morales, who’d been serving time for aggravated sexual assault. Stab was sort of a mix between a KKK lunatic and a rabid dog. Between him and Clevus, they could hurt people and break things to high hell.

On a cool fall evening, Clevus had slapped his grandma around and “borrowed” her old F150 pickup. With one of Grandma’s kitchen knives and an iron pipe, he and Stab robbed a beer store near Fair Park. The take was less than a hundred bucks, not enough even to bother asking a dime-bag dealer to negotiate. Clevus headed the F150 up North Harry Hines, looking for better game.

They approached the dismal lights of a worn, one-ring circus, struggling to draw enough customers to make the night’s payroll. The ticket booth was near the curb and showed only one occupant. Despite the cool evening, the crowd lineup smelled of enough tickets sold to finance a good high. Time for another withdrawal.

“Drive on past and circle back,” suggested Stab. “Watch for cops.”

A block north they passed a young woman carrying a suitcase. Shapely, black haired, and dark-skinned, her circus tights and long legs were enticingly visible beneath a waist-length coat. Clevus headed the pickup to the curb.

Her accent instantly revealed that she was not only a stranger but ill-informed of the existence of predators of the night. She said, in broken English, that she was Amita, the wife of somebody whose name sounded like “Droov” and that she’d just dumped him. She was walking to the bus station, if only she knew where it was.

Childlike, she hefted her large bag into the bed of the pickup and slid between the two animals in the cab. They immediately hauled her to an isolated spot not far away. After hours of assault and maltreatment, they strangled the victim to death, or thought they had, and dumped her beside the road. However, both Clevus and Stab were too stupid to grasp the first law of murder: “Some humans take more killing than others.”

They drove back to rob the circus only to find it closed and dark. Comfortably drunk with lust temporarily satiated, Clevus wheeled the F150 to Grandma’s house in north Dallas, where they could crash for the night.

“Whaddya reckon that chick did in the circus?” Clevus asked.

“Dunno. Hey, her suitcase is still in back. Maybe it’s got somethin’ we could pawn.”

Stab retrieved the brown leather valise and slid it onto the seat between them, dimly illuminated by the cab’s overhead light. Bleary-eyed, Stab opened the clasps, then a safety strap and popped it open.

Neighbors dialed 911 to report wild shrieks and screams from grandma’s front yard.

* * *

“Damn, Doc.” The Sergeant looked up at the Medical Examiner. He flashlighted by turns the two men lying dead on the ground on each side of the pickup. “Reckon they got hold of some bad dope? Faces bloated blue and swollen. Eyes bulging wide open like I never saw before. Man, they didn’t go easy.”

“Don’t see no paraphernalia in the truck,” the M.E. leaned inside. “Maybe pills of some kind. Tox screens might tell us.”

The sergeant looked up. “They aren’t gonna waste a tox sequence on these two mopes.”

* * *

A truck driver’s initial call to 911 was excited and unintelligible. He had to explain to the dispatcher a second time that he’d picked up a nude, bloodied, partially strangled young woman staggering along the roadside and that the victim said she was with the circus on Harry Hines. The female voice in the background screamed the two men had stolen her suitcase which contained her three dear babies: Ayansh, Kapil, and Chetan.

Robbery detectives were frustrated. They never found a single lead in the abduction and assault, nor connected any loose ends. The babies were lost.

Amita spent a week in Parkland Hospital before Dhruv found her. They kissed and made up, and he drove her back to their circus. Doctors had assured her she would fully recover. The bruises and lacerations would heal with remarkably little scarring, but Amita sobbed nightly for the loss of her beloved ones.

Dhruv reassured her. “My love, our friends here in the circus have taken up a collection to buy you three more babies. In a few days you’ll be on the marquee once again as Amita, The World’s Greatest Snake Charmer. Baby cobras are just coming into season back in India. They’ll arrive in ten days.”

If anyone ever found Amita’s three lost babies, they never spoke of it.

Copyright © 2020 by Gary Clifton

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