The Day the Clown Died


While the shootout paused so everybody could reload, Miller wondered whether the clown was still alive.

The clown had taken three shots to the chest and collapsed beside the Tilt-a-Whirl. Miller disliked the idea of civilian deaths, but at least he could tell himself it was the security guard’s fault. If the security guard had stayed on the floor of the money-counting room like a good little boy, and not decided to march after them like Wyatt Earp, the clown would still be spreading good cheer to the crowds of kids and parents. If the security guard had stayed on the floor, Miller’s partners might have waited to spring the ambush on him that he’d expected all along.

But the security guard had decided to pursue, and now Miller found himself crouching behind a dumpster as the uniformed punk knelt to shoot at him from twenty feet away. Bullets smacked the dumpster’s side with gonglike booms. From the Whack-a-Mole booth to his left, Bernard and Trent—up until two minutes ago, his partners in this little entrepreneurial endeavor—were doing their best to fill him and the security guard with a lot of lead. The clown lay in the crossfire, his oversized feet twitching in what might have been a postmortem spasm.

If he made it out of this alive, Miller vowed, he would never rob an amusement park again.

When the firing stopped, Miller reloaded his .45 automatic. Bernard had a 9mm, which was worrisome, but Trent had a pump-action shotgun that could become a real problem in a close-range fight. The screaming crowd offered Miller’s flanks a little more cover, but he preferred if a family weren’t gunned down on his account.

Sirens in the distance meant that Miller needed to end this soon. He knelt and stuck his arm with the gun under the dumpster, sighted on a khaki-clad knee, and pulled the trigger twice. The guard’s knee shattered and he fell forward onto his face. If this had been Iraq, Miller would have followed that up with a shot to the top of the kid’s head, but he wasn’t a soldier anymore.

Hoisting the duffel bag full of cash onto his shoulder, Miller turned and ran into the crowd. One of Bernard’s bullets snapped past his cheek, and he heard the boom of Trent’s shotgun. They expected him to head to the black SUV parked in the back lot, the same one they’d driven here, but Miller had other ideas. He ducked left, down the concourse with kiddie rides on either side, firing twice in the air to clear the civilians panicking in front of him, hoping that nobody with a concealed-carry permit would choose this moment to play hero. He headed for the outer fence, where he’d cut a hole a few days ago, and the green Buick parked in the weeds beyond. He was going to get away clean—but damn if he wouldn’t feel bad about that clown.

~ fin ~

Nick Kolakowski is the Derringer- and Anthony-nominated author of Maxine Unleashes Doomsday and Boise Longpig Hunting Club, as well as the Love & Bullets trilogy of novellas. He lives and writes in New York City. Visit him virtually at