No Laughing Matter

by Phil Temples

I’m kicking back in my office chair about to make a serious dent in a vanilla donut frosted with sprinkles, when Gladys slaps a note in front of me. Without so much as a “hello” she starts to walk back to her desk. I don’t know what I did to tick her off. Gladys has been giving me the cold shoulder all week. Perhaps it’s because I forgot to buy her flowers for Secretary’s Day. Nowadays they call it National Administrator’s Day or some such politically correct bullshit.

I put down the donut and examine the note, but I can’t make hide nor hair of Gladys’ hen scratches. I suspect she’s doing it to antagonize me.

“Uh, Gladys?”


I hold up her note, and shrug my shoulders as if to say, ‘W.T.F.?’

“Another one over in Forest Mills, Phil.” She spells it out for me. “Classic white face. Bus stop. Perp tried to get a cheap laugh by taking a fall. When that didn’t work he jerked off in front of a little girl. A passer-by heard the vic screaming and chased the perp into Bryant Park. Sheriff’s deputy took the statement. That’s his number.”

The phone number is the only thing I can make out.

Dep. Samuel… no, Stephen Levine… Hell! I guess it doesn’t matter. At least I got the number.

“Classic white face, huh? That makes three this week in Forest Mills.” The response comes from my partner, Detective Antony Perazzi. In addition to our regular duties, Ton and I are currently assigned to a special anti-terrorism joint task force.

I reach over, pick up my notebook, and begin to recite details from a case last week. “Yeah. Last one was Thursday. Same M.O.: falling down, then exposing himself to kids at a school bus stop. But that perp was an Auguste with a red wig.”

“An Aug, huh?”

I call up Google Maps and look at the area in question. That’s when it hits me. “Ton, you suppose there’s an ‘alley’ of ‘em holed up in the park?”

“What makes you think that?”

I hold up my badge and display it to Tony. “Well, jerkoff, you don’t get to be a Lieutenant Detective by bein’ a slouch!”

Ton throws a paper wad at me, but it misses by a mile.

“After our teleconference, let’s go check out the park.”


Tony and I settle in the oversized, plush conference room chairs to participate in the briefing by the Department of Homeland Security. In the wake of numerous high-profile clown attacks, clowns are now considered domestic terrorists. They’re outlawed in about a dozen states. (Not in ours, unfortunately.) Homeland Security tracks them like any Al Qaeda inspired terrorist. DHS is leaving no stone unturned; even the run-of-the-mill clowns—the ones that expose themselves, loiter or commit petty crimes—are now tracked on a watch list. It’s likely that our perp in Forest Mills is on the list. If not, he’ll soon be. The last generation of clowns—the conventional circus clowns or the Shriners clowns—have hung up their rubber noses and wigs and found other vocations. But I’d be surprised if a few of those haven’t gone rogue.

The moderator introduces himself as Special Agent Francis McCordy from the FBI’s Philadelphia office. He could be a male model from some fashion magazine. He’s that good-looking. There’s a female agent, too. Alice Walker, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives, and Clowns. She’s a real looker, too. I bet neither one of them has ever walked the beat.

“…There have been dozens of credible threats made against schools in Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Atlanta in the past week. They’re all associated with the recent wave of people dressing and posing on social media as clowns to frighten and harass.”

“Are there any common traits?” The question comes from a New York City cop.

“There are some similarities in the targets,” replies the G-man. “Most of them talk about blowing up schools, or axing teachers and students in lavatories. Their appearances vary. Some of the costumes are more Halloweenish in appearance—that is, the psycho-killer and evil clown archetypes. We think they’re related.”

Walker posts a photo of one of the perps in a separate screen. He’s done up in a classic psycho-killer mask, something made popular by a television series, American Horror Story: Freak Show.

That clown is one scary sombitch for sure.

G-man rambles on. He mentions the latest social media images are available via the NCIC Clown Database. Tony scribbles down the URL in his notepad.

“Local police departments are actively investigating the threats and trying to find out who is responsible for them, while school districts are working with police to ensure students’ safety when schools reopen after Labor Day. If there are no more questions…”


After a brief stop at a Starbucks, we head out to Bryant Park in the suburb of Forest Mills. It’s about a 40-minute drive. On the way, I call Deputy Stan Levitz (Thanks to Gladys’ poor handwriting, my guess wasn’t even close!) and get more particulars of the case. He agrees to meet us at the park.

Levitz also suspects an alley of clowns in the vicinity. He’s received a second report of a sad face accompanied by a psycho face lurking in the community. Says the psycho disappeared, but the sad sack hung around and performed a juggling act with some bowling ball pins. When he started urinating against a tree, the parents in the neighborhood decided enough was enough. They chased his ass for a couple of blocks until sad sack-o-shit high-tailed it into the woods near the park.

We pull into the parking lot at the park. An unmarked cruiser is sitting in the far end. Its blue lights are faintly visible behind the grill. Ton and I pull up alongside.

“You Deputy Stanley Levitz?”

We make introductions. Stan asks if we want to briefly reconnoiter the area. I say, sure. I figure we might get lucky and find some clown droppings. Clowns are a sloppy lot. They frequently litter, sometimes leaving the tools of their trade lying around haphazardly.

After a bit, I ask Stan: “You see action in the Gulf?” He seems ex-military to me.

“Fallujah,” he replies.

“Wow, that was some heavy shit. Ton was stateside. Fort Hood. I spent eight months in Desert Storm myself. Kuwait. Nothing compared to your tour, that’s for sure.”

“Yeah. I don’t like to talk about it very much.”

The three of us walk in silence.

The park contains a hundred acres of heavily wooded land. I figure their camp (if, in fact, there is one) is set up along the outskirts, perhaps near a source of water. I check Google Maps again. There’s a small stream not far from our current location. I suggest that we head toward it.

About a half-mile in, we come across a lightly worn path. We follow it. Along the way, I spot a clue: a bright, red bulb lying on the ground.

“Hey,” I whisper. “Got a nose here.”

We fall into recon formation. Stan has the combat experience and he instinctively takes lead. Tony is in the rear, scanning for hostiles. I reach inside my jacket to feel for the reassuring presence of my Sig Saur pistol. We’re all a little on edge.

Suddenly we come up to a clearing.

There! An alley of clowns. I count at least two dozen of them. All kinds: white faces, Augustes, sad faces, tramps and hobos. I count a dozen tents, and two mobile home trailers. There are five mimes off to one side. It’s odd to see them here. Most clowns can’t stand mimes. I guess hard times make for interesting bedfellows.

A few seconds one of the perps—an Auguste—spots us and starts honking on a toy horn. The other clowns hear his alarm and see us. They begin to scatter. Before I can give chase, I feel a warm trickle of liquid splashing on to my back and shoulders.

What the–?!

One of the sad faces is about twenty feet above me in a tree. He’s pissing down on me. Disgusting! I wish I had brought along my taser. If I had, I’d stick that sucker in his piss stream, turn it on, and watch him shriek in agony at receiving 50,000 volts right in the ole’ pecker…

Ton’s warning interrupts my thoughts.


I turn around just in time to see a bowling ball coming at me. I quickly duck to one side. It misses me. Stan runs over to the clown who heaved it. The perp holds his ground. Stan grabs for him, but he jerks to and fro, avoiding Stan’s clutch. It’s almost comical to watch. After a few seconds, Stan stops moving. Then the perp stops moving, too. That’s when Stan cold-cocks him.

Score one for the good guys.

Off to my right, Ton has his hands full with a female white face perp. She’s squeezing a bulb in her hand and squirting some sort of liquid at Ton out of a large sunflower pinned to her lapel. Ton frowns as the spray hits him squarely in the face. I’m guessing it’s not water. Just then, a small perp on a tricycle comes up behind Ton and rams into his leg. Ouch!

While this is going on, I start to give chase after a mime that’s standing nearby. Then I catch movement out of the corner of my eye.

It’s got to be their leader!

The face is grotesque. He’s the scariest-looking son of a bitch I’ve ever laid eyes on. He’s a goddamn thing of nightmares. If that mug doesn’t give you a full-blown case of coulrophobia, nothing will.

The perp’s face is painted with distorted eyes that drip blood. He sports oversized teeth. The wig is matted. Large chunks of hair appear to be missing. The outfit itself is in tatters, and stained in vomit.

Suddenly, it dawns on me: I’ve seen this guy before. I’m staring at the same mug from the briefing!

The next few seconds seem to go by in slow motion. I see psycho clown bring his arm around from behind his back. He’s holding some kind of knife. I reach for my gun, but the perp is faster. With a quick, jerking motion he unleashes the projectile in my direction. That’s when the lights go out.


“He’s awake.”

I open my eyes. My vision is blurry and my left arm feels numb. My head hurts, too. I’m in a hospital bed. I see the face of my partner, Ton, looming above me.

“Obviously, I’m not dead cuz I wouldn’t be starin’ up at your ugly puss if I was.”

I also see Captain of Detectives Patrick “Patty” Murphy along with Chief James Stockton waiting off to the side.

“It’s a good thing you got a thick skull,” says Ton. “That psycho did a number on ya, pal. Drilled ya right in the side of the head with some kinda Ninja star. Penetrated part of your brain, they said. Let’s hope it’s the part you don’t use.”

“Lieutenant, it’s good to have you back,” says Patty. “The doctors said it was ‘touch and go’ for a few hours but they think you’ll make a full recovery.”

“Thanks, Cap’n,” I reply. “Wh—what happened to the perp that nailed me?”

“You can thank your new friend, Deputy Stan Levitz,” said the Chief. “Levitz saved your life. The guy sure knows his combat medicine.” Stockton adds, “That nasty goon face won’t be terrorizing anymore. Levitz put three slugs dead center in the perp’s heart. Good kill. In fact, he’s being nominated for the Medal of Valor.”

“Not only that,” interrupted Ton, “When you’ve recuperated, ATFEC wants to give you a special commendation for sniffing out that alley. That group was the nexus of an interstate operation. They tapped into a nearby electric pole and fiber, and were enjoying all the comforts of home, so to speak: TV, Wi-Fi, and high-speed internet service. A lot of harassing emails and videos were coming from that camp. You hit the mother lode.”

I can’t believe I’m hearing them correctly. Commendation? “Really? Okay, stop clowning around, you guys.”



About the Author

Phil Temples lives in Watertown, Massachusetts, and works as a computer systems administrator at a university. He’s had over a 130 short fiction stories published in print and online journals. His full-length murder-mystery novel, ‘The Winship Affair’ is available from Blue Mustang Press as well as two new books: a short story anthology, ‘Machine Feelings’ and paranormal horror mystery, ‘Helltown Chronicles,’ from Big Table Publishing.

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