Who Killed Tippy?

 

Detective Henson checked his watch — Saturday, 8:25 a.m. — then he glanced back around the cavernous, near-empty parking garage. The lone attendant on duty had said he heard shots, but saw nothing. Naturally, since it was a city garage, only half the security cameras worked, but not one on this level. Henson shook his head, exhaled audibly.
     He stooped to examine the note lying on the small of the face-down victim’s back, careful not to touch the blood-soaked paper. That was forensics’ job. He noted the ruled lines, the shredded edge where the page had been ripped from a spiral-bound notebook, the words BURN IN HELL CLOWN scrawled with a wide, black marker.
     Watt, his new partner, thrust his smartphone before Henson’s face, a photo of the victim glowing on its screen. “It’s him, all right,” Watt said with a nod. “Art James, aka Tippy the Atheist Clown. You know, from Tippy’s Truth Time on TV.” Watt shook his head reverently, then added, nodding toward the late-model Toby Rover parked next to the body, “That’s his car too.” He shot a glance toward the nearby concrete column. “Bastard musta been waiting behind that. Popped him as soon as he got out.”
     The rim of a large, round wristwatch was visible. Henson pulled on a pair of latex gloves, then tugged back the victim’s coat sleeve. “A vintage Mickey Mouse. The killer wasn’t a collector.” Henson patted around the body. “Wallet’s here too.” He eased it from the victim’s rear left pants pocket, then stood up, careful to avoid stepping on any of the six scattered .22 caliber shell casings, each already ringed with chalk. He hinged the wallet open. “Credit cards, cash — hmm, let’s see, ninety-five bucks. Killer wasn’t a thief either.” Henson read the name off the driver’s license, “Arthur Wilson James, all right.”
     Watt sighed heavily, then shook his head again. “This wasn’t just a mugging gone wrong.”
     Henson stepped back, studied the body, the whole scene. “In close with a .22, but unload on him, not just the head shot?” He stepped farther back, stroked his chin. “TV clown, you said? Atheist clown?” Henson imagined orange hair, baggy clothes, a pair of big, flappy shoes, but atheist? The bullet holes forming a cross — one in the back of the head, three down the spine, one in each shoulder blade were looking even more ominous.
     Henson exhaled slowly as he thought. He’d never heard of any Tippy the Atheist Clown. Sam, his old partner — Sam the Souse, unfortunately — wouldn’t have heard of him either. But Watt here, his first “brotha” for a partner, was only thirty, half his and Sam’s age. No wonder Watt knew about some TV clown. He turned back to Watt. “What’d you say his show’s called?”
     Watt nodded. ”Tippy’s Truth Time. You’d know all about it if you watched Saturday morning TV.”
     “Thank God I’m past all that,” Henson sniffed. Watt though, he realized, wasn’t so lucky. But since Watt’s recent divorce and custody arrangement, he and his two young sons only watched Saturday morning TV together every other Saturday. He caught Watt’s eye. “So why snuff a clown?”
     Watt stared down at the body again, slowly shook his head. Henson wondered if Watt was even saying a silent prayer. Then Watt cleared his throat. “His Tippy Was There Bible stories, Tippy trying to reason with God, funny — as — hell!”
     “Oops!” Henson whispered....

 

Copyright 2020 A. R. Gregory