Pleasance Pratt’s office door was open, so Ellison stuck his head in.
“Is there anyone else for me to talk to?” he asked her. “Or did I get everyone?”
She looked up from her paperwork. “All except for Anne-Lise and Ditte. They’re running around getting people ready for today’s field trip to the grid archives. You can catch them there this afternoon. But have you been to the crime scene yet?”
Ellison shook his head.
“Clinio is heading out there now. He can show you around, explain what security procedures we had in place.”
“I talked to him already,” said Ellison. “But it would be good to get the lay of the land. And maybe he’ll remember something important that he missed the first time we talked.”
“I doubt it,” said a male voice behind him.
Ellison turned around and saw Clinio Lind walking up to him in the hallway.
“I’ve got a mind like a steel trap,” the security chief said.
McGuire’s Big Top Triumph was camped to the south of Krim City, about half an hour from the Royal Season’s temporary offices on Banking Street, just beyond the city’s southern gate.
“The place is normally used for livestock,” said Clinio. “There are a couple of big cattle drives every year, so this place has a lot of movable fencing for pens and a large fence all around it. If animals escape, they won’t go too far. Plus, it keeps out cattle rustlers.”
After arriving, they first checked in with Nathaniell Throkmorton, the circus owner. He had a little office set up in one of the smaller tents surrounding the big top.
“I’ve done all the background checks on your staff,” Ellison told him. “I didn’t see any red flags.”
“And we did a full set of background checks as well,” added Clinio.
“You did? I didn’t know that,” said Throkmorton.
“We do a full-security workup of every Royal Season venue,” said Clinio. “We have some very important people to protect. It’s also why we bought all the seats for the show. We wanted to be sure we had a controlled environment.”
“So you’re thinking it was some outsider who broke in and sabotaged the cage?”
“Possibly, though we had guards stationed everywhere,” said Clinio. “So it’s not likely. And your people would have noticed if someone who didn’t belong there was hanging out near that animals.”
“So that leaves your people,” said Throkmorton.
“Or it was a coincidence,” said Clinio. “Wynefrede Aumberden and Raphe Faryndon left when everyone else did. Nobody noticed them because of the commotion. They went outside the circus grounds, maybe even back to the city. At some point, something happened. Either a random Krim kidnapping, or someone stalking the Royal Season and looking for the opportunity to grab our Royal Singletons.”
“I’ll let you know which it is as soon as we find out,” said Ellison. “Meanwhile, have you had any communications or anything strange happening in the last couple of days? Or anything earlier that maybe you didn’t think was important at the time but maybe meant something?”
“Like a ransom note, something like that?”
Throkmorton looked up and thought, then pulled at his mustache and thought some more. Finally, he sighed and shook his head. “There’s something strange happening all the time here, but I can’t think of anything that could have been related.”
“Like the elephant stole a visitor’s umbrella and they tried to climb in after it and then there was the drunk guy who had a thing for tigers…”
“When was the tiger thing?” Clinio interrupted.
“A few towns back. Maybe three months ago?”
“So he could have followed you here and tampered with the cage,” Clinio said.
“Sure, it’s possible. People have all kinds of fetishes. Maybe he fell in love.” Throkmorton waved his hand at the exit. “If you find a guy somewhere with his pants down and his parts chewed off and scratches all over his face, you’ll know why.”
“Well, if you think of anything else…” Clinio said.
“Sure, sure. I’ll keep thinking about it,” said Throkmorton.
Clinio and Ellison left Throkmorton’s tent and Clinio took Ellison on a tour of the perimeter of the circus.
“The stockade is tall enough and sturdy enough to keep bulls from going through it,” Clinio said. “So we’re not looking at that as a possible escape point.”
“The tigers probably could jump over,” said Ellison.
“And they probably did.”
“Or thief could climb over it.”
“Or an acrobat,” said Clinio. “But not while carrying two struggling captives. Then we had guards on the main entrance and the back entrance. They didn’t see anything untoward, but they could have easily missed it if Wynefrede and Raphe ran out on their own amid all the other guests and all the panic. None of the guards remember seeing their faces.”
“But if they were running, they were moving fast,” said Ellison. “And the guards were probably looking for the source of the problem, not at the people going past them.”
They kept walking until they got to a large pile of grain sacks.
“The circus owner told me that the vandals spilled some sack of grain inside the animal tent,” said Ellison.
Clinio stopped and looked at the pile.
“It looks different to me,” he said. “The morning of the event, there were more sacks, and they were arranged differently.”
“Well, it’s been two days,” said Ellison. “They might have used some of them up.”
Clinio thought back. “When we searched the grounds after the incident, there were a couple of workers sitting right there. We interviewed them. They worked for a delivery company. They had a wagon with them, and we searched it as they were leaving. It was completely empty.”
“Still,” said Ellison. “Those bags look big enough to hold a person.”
“We didn’t search all the bags,” Clinio said. “We’ll need to talk to the delivery men again.”
“And to the guards,” said Ellison. “They may not have paid attention to the delivery guys going in and out because they thought they were supposed to be there.”