It was a curious thing that Normal died. The cage door left open wide, and there he was upon the floor, a buttering knife betwixt his core. Quite the sad display it was; his sun-yellow plumes sopped all with blood. Most beloved fowl never hurt a soul, but one abhorrent monster butchered poor birdie so. For the young one's tale did not end clean; Normal had been murdered.
Amidst this mystery most bizarre, woke Jubilee the Spectacle to this unhappy hour. He soon 'came 'ware that something was wrong; the sound of sweet birdie's sweeter last song. And so he rose, bonnet and gown, to the scene of the crime, and Normal dead upon the ground.
"He's killed! He's killed! Normal is dead!"
A case of who dunnit? Who's hands be stained red?
Jubilee was new in many ways.
It was only twelve years ago today that the child came to us, you see. Wrapped all in swaddling cloth, tucked deep into a basket dear, with a baton clasped lightly in miniature fingers. But most intriguing of all was its exquisite face, of which was neither this, nor that. Not quite left or right, or down, or up.
And as the child grew it became quite the sweet boy; Quite the precious girl. A terribly charming boy, and a properly mannered girl. He was a pleasantly mischievous boy, and an endearingly precocious little girl. It seems, the child was a darling, doll-faced, curious spectacle indeed.
So it was that the Spectacle found himself amongst friends when, on that night twelve years ago today, he was discovered upon the carriage seat of Lord Tarney of the Wandering Circus, on his visit to the tiny port town, Esma Vale.
The circus became Jubilee's home. A home of magic and mystery and now murder?
"Why, says I? Who could possibly have committed such a heinous crime? A murderer in our midst? Well, I see, there is no other way: Jubilee the Constable must be put on this case."
What then, thought he, shall be my very first objective?
"Ah. Of course. To be a Constable, one must obtain the proper equipment."
He set about to find the most vital of tools; a magnifying glass. But who here would have such a thing? There was but one that he could think of. And so, the Spectacle sought out the Engineer.
The circus tent was wide and long with many rooms and corridors. The thick, colored stripes were ivory, brown and black, with floors of scarlet red. Lord Tarney had acquired the tent from his father, who acquired it from his father, who acquired it from his father before, who said it had been made by the Fae. And for this reason it was imbued with the most magical abilities. It could be all folded down and folded up and tucked away in one's breast pocket, and then later returned to its grand form with all trappings and fixings and rooms restored to what they had been before.
So it would seem it was rather easy to find the one you were looking for. For example, Torio Meemo could always be located in the workshop.
The Engineer was of small and minute stature. Always sporting a rust colored aviator hat and goggles, the Engineer was the circus tinker; The only member of the crew that did not also perform. Her skills were concentrated on the engines, gears, and gaskets that made the circus run. Surely if anyone aboard had the proper tools, Torio certainly would.
"Mr. Meemo?" said the Spectacle.
"Go away!" cried the young girl from beneath a metal framework of some sort or another of flying mobile. The tinker had a great love of flying machines, but had not yet perfected building one herself.
"Oh, Mr., do come out . You see, there's been a murder and it is up to me that it be solved."
"Murder? Who's been killed?" Torio rose to her feet, wrench and blow torch in hands.
"Why, Normal of course!"
"Who is Normal?" said Meemo in an extra very loud voice.
"You mean who was Normal. Normal is now the late Normal."
"I don't know any Normal!"
"But surely you do, Mr. Meemo. Everyone here knew Normal, he was a friend to all of us. It is most likely that we did hear of him, but not see him, you see. Because Normal is quite a small thing, and rather easy to look over. But now he is slain. Poor birdie, poor bird. You must help me to discover the killer."
"How should I do that?"
"Well," Jubilee paused a moment to think. "Did you kill him?"
"I didn't killed no ones!" shouted the Engineer.
"Oh, I believe you," said Jubilee. "But you will need an alibi."
"An alibi?" Meemo looked about the workshop. "I haven't got any of those."
"Then we must make one and prove your innocence!"
"Alright then. What does it take? Bronze? Copper? Iron? I've got a fair bit of iron."
"Oh no, Mr., nothing like that. Let's see Have you a magnifying glass?"
"A magnifying glass?" The Engineer thought it over. "Well I've got this," and she pointed to the layered bifocals atop her face.
"Fantastical! I'll need to borrow them."
"Of course you can't!" snapped Meemo.
"But I've got to have them, a murderer is at the large!" Jubilee pleaded.
"How will I work if I don't got them?"
"I'll have them back to you once the crime is solved. You see Mr. Meemo, if you don't lend me your bifocals, then you have no alibi. And if you have no alibi, then you may well be a murderer."
"But I didn't murder Normal!"
"Then you'll be lending me those glasses."
With the bifocals equipped, Jubilee needed only one more tool to complete his detectiving arsenal. He needed the telescope which resided on the person of the circus ring leader who never seemed to be in the same place twice, much to Jubilee's dismay. And so, the young Spectacle searched the tent high and low, finding the Lord in the big tent preparing for the following night.
"I need to borrow something," said Jubilee to the Ring Leader. Lord Tarney was a man graying in every place, aged half a century and a decade or more. He was tall and built with a tuft of a dangle-swaggle on his face and a felt top hat for every odd occasion. He was a resourcefully eccentric man, and of course, the caring provider charged with the perpetually daunting task of raising the young Jubilee.
"What?" asked the elder man.
"The Captain Scope. There's been a terrible murder, Father one. I must have the scope to continue my very ongoing investigation."
"A murder? You mean that bird, don't you?" Lord Tarney shook his fuzzy white head. "A tragedy indeed. I knew that pretty thing many years."
"Then you should know if there was a body that wanted to hurt him?"
"I don't know of anyone who would want to hurt Normal. If it was indeed a slaying, then I would think it not the fault of someone in our company."
"An outsider?" asked Jubilee.
"It sounds silly," Lord Tarney agreed. "But I wouldn't worry, darling. No more of this dark business."
"But if I do not solve the crime, I'm afraid no one shall."
The Ring Leader smiled and pat the young one's head. "Your imagination will be the death of me, my Jubilee. Now, run off."
The Lord gave little room for argument, leaving Jubilee curious and scopeless. With his Father one so quick to dismiss the case, Jubilee became suspicious. But what motive did the Lord have? Jubilee could not believe that his sweet Father one could be a wicked murderer. But a suspect yes, a suspect he must be.
Indeed, thought Jubilee, the business is quite, quite dark.
But as the very skilled detective and proper constable that he was being, Jubilee persevered on his mission and next, swept the circus for alibis.
The beast tamer had been grooming the horses at the time of the murder. All three Clydesdales and one palomino vouched for her.
The cook had been exhausted from a long day of training and preparing crew meals, and had gone to bed at just nine o'clock. He had been so tired that when the Spectacle came to interview, the strongman still donned his nightgown.
The contortionist had been practicing his routine, and while Normal was being slain, the good sir had been folded up inside a luggage trunk. This alibi could be confirmed by the ring master, who had been told to unlock the box at half past ten sharp.
Jubilee began to see that perhaps his Father one was right, and no one within the circus had committed the act. But the Spectacle could not yet be sure. To find more clues, he did as a good constable would, and attended the crime scene.
A teal chalk outline upon the dirt floor remembered the shape of the slain Normal, speckled only by a single yellow feather. There was no blood spray, no guts or gore, only an absence where the birdie had been before.
"It's curious it is," the Spectacle decided.
"What've you got there Jubi?" said a voice from behind him.
"An outright bloody mess," said another.
"A very bloody mess," Jubilee said as two identical faces peered over his shoulder. They were the twins, of course. All alike from their hay-colored eyes to the dirt beneath their nails.
"Say Jubi, those glasses you've got are real fancy like."
"Real, real fancy. What for?"
"To solve the mystery of course," Jubilee said. "You two wouldn't happen to know a thing, would you?"
"I know a thing. Quite a few, rather."
"I do too know a thing or two."
"Fantastical! You know the murderer, then?"
"Well what now? Who's been murdered?"
"Normal, you see," and the Spectacle pointed to the chalk upon the ground. "I painted that there where poor birdie used to be. But now he is gone. Dead and gone."
"You say Normal is dead?" asked a twin.
"Dead and gone?" asked the other.
"Indeed," said the Spectacle.
"Ay, rest in peace Normal."
"Ah, we knew you not well."
"So then you did not kill Normal?"
"Didn't touch him."
"Never saw em."
"Then I'm afraid our mystery case is still open. Did you see anything out of the ordinary last night?"
"Out of the ordinary? Of course. I saw a monkey doing cartwheels, and plumb-colored popping corn "
" And a tiger wearing satin, and a man walking backwards in his sleep."
"This is the circus, Jubi. Nothing here is in the ordinary."
"I hadn't thought about that. Then, I wonder how I should investigate. Perhaps I should look for very unsuspicious happenings."
"Unsuspicious? You know, while we were heralding last night, we did see a very unsuspicious group."
"A large group of murderers, by the east river bank."
"You saw murderers?" Jubilee asked.
"Why yes. A great many."
"A group of traveling mercs."
"A merc? Why, any one of them could have killed Normal."
"There had to be at least twenty of them!" said one twin.
"Yeah Jubi, how're you gonna know which one?" asked the other.
"There is only one way," replied Jubilee. "The murder weapon!"
"Oh yes!" agreed the twins. "And where is that?"
"Lace must have it," Jubilee said. "Oh, but she is doing the mourning, the poor sad thing. Oh well, you know what they say boys: justice tastes better than supper."
"Who says that?" the twins asked.
"I recall that his name was A something. Perhaps Annie or something of the like. Irregardlessly, I must go to her and retrieve that knife, as a good constable would. And then, I will go to the mercs and I will find our murderer."
With this plan, Jubilee departed to the quarters of one, Lace and Primrose, the circus trapeze artist, and a charming porcelain doll of a lady. On a most usual occasion, Lace and Primrose could be found about her silks. But, as Normal had been the darling spinner's partner in flight, Lace was quite distraught. However, as she had always had a fondness for the Spectacle, she was ever-willing to let him into her chamber; a white room of lace and lavender, that smelled always of jasmine and who's walls were blanketed with the cuckooing clocks, each with its own feathered dweller that would sing every hour, on the hour for their angelically debonair mistress.
"Why Jubilee, my dear, you look quite loverly today," said the lady.
"I am being a constable," said Jubilee of his garments. "And a good constable is always very sharply dressed, with a proper hat and a magnifying glass."
"Tell me Jubilee, what are you being a constable for?"
"To solve the murder, of course. Of your poor dear birdie. I know that he meant a great much to you. And I have always liked Normal, he has never done a bad thing to me."
"Yes, he was dear," said Lace. "And I will miss him so. As will Varicule. I got them as a pair, you know? They were a gift to me from the Lord."
"My Father one?" asked Jubilee.
"Indeed. Hadn't I told you?"
"Yes, it's true. Upon joining the circus, Lord Tarney brought them to me. They were to cheer me up. He said they were very gifted little canaries, and that they proved to be. They have been with me nearly half a life. And now, out of some gruesome misfortune, Normal has been taken from me."
Of course then, if Lord Tarney had given the birds to Lace, then they must have been special. As long as Jubilee could remember they had been there. The birds were older than he. Now what sort of bird could live so long, but one that had passed through the circus master's hands?
"Such a precious, peculiar thing Normal. And what a pity that he has gone. But that is why I am here, Misses, because the murderer must be brought into justice. I know of a way to do this, but I need your help."
"And what would you like, Jubilee?" asked she.
"The murder weapon."
"Murder weapon? Ah, you mean the knife."
"Yes! Do you have it still?"
"Well, I do believe I put it in the birdcage. Over here," she said, and lead the Spectacle to the spindly rod-iron birdcage that hung from a hook above her bed. "This is most often where I place them at night. But I thought they would enjoy the fresh air, so I drew the window here," and she demonstrated, "and I hung them out there."
"That is rather strange don't you think?" said Jubilee.
"What is strange?" the lady wondered.
"Think about it. If you do not often hang them outside, then it must not have been a preely meditated murder, it must have been by chance. Also interesting that it was Normal slain and not Varicule, for if you hung both of their cages out of the window, why then would the murderer only unlatch the one cage?"
"I hadn't thought about it that way."
"Perhaps it is Normal in specifically they did not like. But what could he have done?"
"I wouldn't believe it," said Lace. "Out of the two, Normal was most quiet."
"Very, very curious."
"But here, the knife you wanted to look at it. It hasn't anything telling about it."
Jubilee took the knife and inspected it through his constable's bifocals. He saw then that it was as Lace described, quite typical indeed. But then, he was supposed to be looking for very unsuspicious things. The knife had just a small wooden handle, and a serrated edge; the sort of special knife used for carving meat. Or, for carving human flesh. A knife surely a merc would have in their arsenal.
"I know what I must do," said Jubilee. "It is very surely that things will get dangerous on my mission, but that is my job as Constable. Don't worry Lace, I will find your culprit."
"Be careful," Lace said lightly, "your playing always worries me little one."
But Jubilee was not frightened. Soon he would put this case to rest.
To be continued...