Chapter THREE


STEVE PERSUADED MR. DALTON to let him keep the flyer. He said he wanted it for his bedroom wall. Mr. Dalton wasn't going to give it to him but then changed his mind. He cut off the address at the bottom before handing it over.

After school, the four of us me, Steve, Alan Morris, and Tommy Jones met outside and studied the glossy flyer.

"It's got to be a fake," I said.

"Why?" Alan asked.

"They don't allow freak shows anymore," I told him. "Wolf-men and snake-boys were outlawed years ago. Mr. Dalton said so."

"It's not a fake," Alan insisted.

"Where'd you get it?" Tommy asked.

"I stole it," Alan said softly. "It belongs to my big brother." Alan's big brother was Tony Morris, who used to be the school's biggest bully until he got thrown out. He's huge and mean and ugly.

"You stole from Tony?!?" I gasped. "Have you got a death wish?"

"He won't know it was me," Alan said. "He had it in a pair of pants that my mother threw in the washing machine. I stuck a blank piece of paper in when I took this out. He'll think the ink got washed off."

"Smart," Steve said.

"Where did Tony get it?" I asked.

"There was a guy passing them out in an alley," Alan said. "One of the circus performers, a Mr. Crepsley."

"The one with the spider?" Tommy asked.

"Yeah," Alan answered, "only he didn't have the spider with him. It was night and Tony was on his way back from a bar." Tony's not old enough to get served in bars, but hangs around with older guys who buy drinks for him. "Mr. Crepsley handed the paper to Tony and told him they're a traveling freak show who put on secret performances in towns and cities across the world. He said you had to have a flyer to buy tickets and they only give them to people they trust. You're not supposed to tell anyone else about the show. I only found out because Tony was in high spirits the way he gets when he drinks and couldn't keep his mouth shut."

"How much are the tickets?" Steve asked.

"Twenty-three dollars each," Alan said.

"Twenty-three dollars!" we all shouted.

"Nobody's going to pay twenty-three bucks to see a bunch of freaks!" Steve snorted.

"I would," I said.

"Me, too," Tommy agreed.

"And me," Alan added.

"Sure," Steve said, "but we don't have twenty-three bucks to throw away. So it's academic, isn't it?"

"What does academic mean?" Alan asked.

"It means we can't afford the tickets, so it doesn't matter if we would buy them or not," Steve explained. "It's easy to say you would buy something if you know you can't."

"I'd love to go," Tommy said sadly. "It sounds great." He studied the picture again.

"Mr. Dalton didn't think too much of it," Alan said.

"That's what I mean," Tommy said. "If Dalton doesn't like it, it must be super. Anything that adults hate is normally awesome."

"Are we sure we don't have enough?" I asked. "Maybe they have discounts for children."

"I don't think children are allowed in," Alan said, but he told me how much he had anyway. "Eight-fifty."

"I've got eighteen dollars exactly," Steve said.

"I have ten dollars and forty cents," Tommy said.

"And I have twelve dollars and thirty cents," I told them. "That's more than forty-nine dollars in all," I said, adding it up in my head. "We get our allowance tomorrow. If we pool our..."

"But the tickets are nearly sold out," Alan interrupted. "The first show was yesterday. It finishes Tuesday. If we go, it'll have to be tomorrow night or Saturday, because our parents won't let us out any other night. The guy who gave Tony the flyer said the tickets for both those nights were almost gone. We'd have to buy them tonight."

"Well, so much for that," I said, putting on a brave face.

"Maybe not," Steve said. "My mom keeps a wad of money in a jar at home. I could borrow some and put it back when we get our allowance..."

"You mean steal?" I asked.

"I mean borrow," he snapped. "It's only stealing if you don't put it back. What do you say?"

"How would we get the tickets?" Tommy asked. "It's a school night. We wouldn't be let out."

"I can sneak out," Steve said. "I'll buy them."

"But Mr. Dalton snipped off the address," I reminded him. "How will you know where to go?"

"I memorized it." He grinned. "Now, are we gonna stand here all night making up excuses, or are we gonna go for it?"

We looked at each other, then one by one nodded silently.

"Right," Steve said. "We hurry home, grab our money, and meet back here. Tell your parents you forgot a book or something. We'll lump the money together and I'll add the rest from the pot at home."

"What if you can't steal I mean, 'borrow, the money?" I asked.

He shrugged. "Then the deal's off. But we won't know unless we try. Now hurry!"

With that, he sprinted away. Moments later, making up our minds, Tommy, Alan, and I ran, too.

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