The Clown, the Body, the Polar Bear, and the Accident with the Nicaraguan Assassin
There are several kinds of murderer when it comes to the cop shows and police dramas that you see on television. There are the ones who plan every detail meticulously and spend months, even years, at a time working out how best to kill their victim, dump the body and get away with their crime. They usually know who their target is well in advance, but there are others that will choose a person entirely at random.
The second type will usually be some sort of serial killer, desperate for their next brutal fix, and someone who just happens to murder a victim that was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even then, though, they’d probably still have a routine or method to get away with several attacks before the hero of the programme solved the crimes and caught the aggressor, usually after one or more of their colleagues has been put at risk.
Then there’s the third kind. The heat-of-the-moment, passion killer. The one who had just snapped and brutally ended their victim’s life without even thinking about it, before panicking and doing a shoddy job of covering up the evidence.
And, without a shadow of a doubt, there’s barely an episode that goes by where the killer doesn’t try to frame somebody. There are always, rather handily, people with grudges or ulterior motives conveniently close to the crime scene, or without alibis, when the police come knocking. This leaves the audience guessing as to whether or not they’ve actually been culling members of the village, or if they’re a wronged innocent party.
There was a splash of the last two options flashing through the mind of Mrs Chuckles, the children’s entertainer, as she stood in her bathroom, caked in the blood of a dead man. She was still wearing her baggy trousers, ridiculously oversized shoes, bright, curly wig and massive dungarees, and all of them were stained red, needing a damn good scrubbing before her next kids’ party in a few days’ time.
She had the knife that had been used to stab the victim multiple times in her hand, and his blood was still freshly running down the serrated edge, over the handle and around her fingers. Rather inconveniently, she had taken her gloves off when she had walked through the door, so her fingerprints were all over the weapon.
She didn’t have any understanding of how it had all happened. All she knew was that the man that was lying in her bathtub, engulfed by a pool of his own blood, was dead when she arrived, and that she hadn’t done anything but pick the knife up from the floor. Quite why she’d done that she couldn’t say, either, but it was a decision she’d made without the benefit of reasoned and clear thinking, given she’d just discovered a brutal murder scene on her way to using the toilet.
The need to pee had left her pretty soon after she’d stepped onto the tiled floor and discovered the mess in her bathroom. It hadn’t been the cleanest of her rooms in the first place, but she’d made the situation far worse by stepping in the patches of blood that had been deposited and, as she’d paced up and down trying to work out what she should do, she had spread the mess with some comedic, oversized footprints.
The clown became hyper-aware of her breathing, and she could hear that she wasn’t taking anything like a full lung of air. She had to stop panicking and think - she knew that only then would a rational explanation come to mind, even if it didn’t seem remotely obvious.
As her heart rate returned to normal - or as close to normal as one’s heart rate can when they’ve discovered a murder has taken place in their own bathroom and they’ve been implicated as the number one suspect without realising it - she began to see things a little clearer. She put the knife down on the side of the bath, blade side facing the corpse, and took a step nearer to the man’s head.
His face was largely untouched, save for one or two marks that he must have picked up in the struggle with whoever had killed him, but his body was - or had been, she couldn’t quite tell in the mess that was the rest of the bathtub - leaking blood quite considerably through a number of holes. She’d seen colanders that were better at holding fluids than this man’s chest cavity.
With a wince, she leaned forward and slipped her hand into his jacket pocket. His blazer, which looked particularly expensive, was ruined and the light blue shirt and tie combination underneath it was, frankly, unsalvageable now. She reckoned the jacket might have a chance if it was taken to the dry cleaners quickly - not that the man was going to be in any fit shape to do that.
She fingered around for his wallet. It wasn’t in that first inside pocket, but she did pull out his keys and his mobile phone. The first, she suspected, were for the black BMW that she had never seen before but was parked on her street covering two spaces. The latter was out of battery, but she had a charger that might fit it in her kitchen drawer, and so she gave it a wipe down on her already stained shirt and slipped it into her pocket.
It was as she went down for a feel of his other inside jacket pocket that she first heard a bang on her front door. She stopped dead in her tracks and listened intently, trying to figure out who was there. Her fingers grasped the victim’s wallet and she pulled it from the pocket slowly as she still tried to work out what was going on outside. There was a second bang.
No doubt it was one of her neighbours frustrated at the parking situation, about to ask if the BMW belonged to somebody she knew. Either way, the blood stained clown costume wasn’t the right thing to be wearing to discuss community matters, so she ignored it. People were already scared enough of clowns, the last thing she needed was parents not booking her for parties because of one incident involving a dead body and five pints of blood.
Just as she was about to take a look at the wallet, having wiped it on one of the few remaining clean patches of her comedy giant trousers, her front door flew off its hinges. She froze where she was, half in shock and half in panic.
“Police!” came the cry from downstairs, followed by the continuous thud of several officers storming into her house and flooding out in all directions to check for their suspect. “Nobody move!”
It was a matter of seconds before there were several officers staring at the scene in Mrs Chuckles’ bathroom. One of them was almost sick, while another let out a yelp in sheer horror.
Without any sense of irony and with a completely straight face, the clown turned to face the police - all of which were braced and ready to act should she decide to attack them -and she spoke. “I promise you this isn’t what it looks like,” she said, holding her blood-stained hands up as if add to her protestations of innocence. “I know this looks bad, and I know this is what anyone in this position would say, but I promise you, I didn’t do it.”
There’s something unnerving about a woman dressed as a clown stepping out of the back of a police car in the yard of the station, but that was the sight that greeted several of the on-duty officers that were making their way in or out of the building. Clearly, she had been arrested on suspicion of some offence - one that would lead to pints of blood soaking into her costume - as not only was she getting out of the rear of the vehicle with the aid of one of the arresting officers, but she was handcuffed as well.
Despite those security measures, everybody seemed to give her a wide berth. Even the others that had been arrested and were waiting to be processed at the desk, just inside the police station, were hanging back to keep their distance. Some must have been taken in on suspicion of some pretty horrible offences, yet still they were scared of a blood-soaked clown.
The whole evening had gone by in a flash. From the moment the police shoved their handcuffs on her wrists as she was standing in her ruined bathroom with the corpse, to the point where she slumped down on the uncomfortable metal slab that somebody had replaced the bed with in the holding cell she was left in, Mrs Chuckles the children’s entertainer felt like she had barely taken two or three breaths.
In truth, it had been a good few hours, but her mind had been racing for some time.
She hadn’t even begun to sleep by the time her cell door was thrust almost off its hinges and she was taken away for questioning. She would have felt a little more comfortable in her own clothes, but they had insisted on taking her in as she was. She’d assumed that her current outfit was going to end up as evidence, which made her more than a little irritated that none of the police that had stormed her house had bothered to get her fresh stuff to wear. No doubt she’d end up in those prison regulation uniforms until everybody worked out that this was all just a small misunderstanding and she’d be free to go.
As is the way, she had been given some time with a lawyer through legal aid. However, he’d been next to useless and didn’t believe a word she had said, advising that if she helped the police with the answers they wanted, and if she admitted to killing the man in the bathtub, then she’d be looked upon more favourably by the court system - though he had warned she was still in for a lengthy sentence.
Her pleas of, “but, honestly, I just got home from work and found that man I’ve never seen before dead in gallons of his own blood in my bathtub,” seemed to fall on deaf ears. She probably hadn’t helped herself when she responded to questions of how she got so covered in his internal fluids by saying, “of course it got all over me, it went everywhere when I pulled the knife out of the body.”
That same lawyer was sitting at the desk of the interview room when she was led in. She offered him half a smile as she took the seat beside him, but he quickly turned his gaze away from hers, and back down towards his scattered papers on the table. She followed his eyeline down and tried to pick up on some of the notes that he’d scribbled across her case files, though only one seemed to leap out at her. ‘Perhaps an insanity plea?’ it read - she spotted it was there several times, too, next to some text that had been circled in red pen and coloured over in bright yellow highlighter.
Quite what seemed to suggest such a plea would be a good idea for a bloodied woman dressed as a clown denying the murder of a man in her bathtub when she was caught red-handed with the weapon by her own arresting officers was a mystery to her.
He had advised her towards the end of their meeting to reply to every question with a “no comment”, but she had declined. “It would only make me look guilty,” she said, before not taking too kindly to the suggestion that holding the murder weapon when the cops arrived was doing a good enough job of giving that impression. The lawyer knew this was going to be a long day for him and that she wasn’t going to do as he had asked or recommended.
She smiled at him gently as she sat down in the empty seat next to him, but the lawyer avoided her gaze and looked straight back down at his notes. Two police officers perched themselves on the seats opposite and, after clicking the tape on the side of the table to record, they began the interview.
“It’s not at all difficult to see why we would suspect you involved in this killing,” the officer on the left began, after introducing herself to the tape as Inspector Laura Norder. “Would you like to tell us what happened that night?”
Mrs Chuckles - still without a change of clothes and dressed in her sullied work gear - took a moment to set the scene. Beside her, the lawyer began to shake his head gradually, seething that his advice was falling on deaf ears and frustrated that he was going to end up deep into a case that he didn’t want to be stuck in when it came to home time some hours later that day.
The children stared upwards at their entertainer blankly, as she tried her best to bring a smile to their faces with a range of magic tricks, jokes, pranks, and pratfalls. None of them were working and, having given each of the kids at that particular birthday party a balloon animal each and spent the afternoon wandering about the living and dining room of a complete strangers’ house, Mrs Chuckles was feeling mighty tired.
She had two thoughts in her mind - lighting up that cigarette she could smoke as soon as she stepped off the property when the party was over, and the small fee that she’d be getting cash in hand for putting herself through the indignity of being unable to make a bunch of children have a relatively fun time.
The party food came and went. The magic tricks and the entertainment show came and went. The sing-a-long took far too much time for the inane nature of the songs that she had to play, but eventually that came and went too. She was actually able to save the show and bring it round to being mildly successful by the end, and it was to the sounds of happy children that she left the makeshift stage - though it was, admittedly for her, a very close run thing. It could have been a total disaster instead of a minor mishap.
Before she knew it, Mrs Chuckles was packing up her oversized hanky into her bucket filled with glitter and she was leaving the premises. That wasn’t until after a small row with the parents of the kids whose party it was, when they’d tried to underpay her from the agreed price because their son hadn’t laughed as much as they had wanted.
It was because of that to-do that she decided to keep her everyday clothes in her bag and change when she got home. It was also close to the time that the next bus was to arrive at the stop around the corner, and if she missed that then she’d have a whole hour to wait before she could make her way home to her television soaps and her microwave meal.
Running in giant shoes wasn’t easy, but Mrs Chuckles made it to the stop in time to step through the bus doors before it pulled away. She could tell the driver didn’t want to let a fully-dressed clown on, but she’d managed to get there quick enough that he wasn’t able to drive off without making himself look like a complete jobsworth. He did have a good moan at her for not having the correct change, though.
Mrs Chuckles sat and watched the world pass her by, as she made her way back to her home after another hard evening’s work. She was sure she wasn’t long for the clown game, and she was planning on hanging up her wig and bow tie after her current run of bookings. There were only six or seven dates left in her calendar, at any rate.
After around 40 minutes of travel, she had departed the bus and finished her short walk back to her front door from the stop. The sky grew dull and dark, and Mrs Chuckles was more than ready for a large glass of red wine and some rubbish drama on the television.
She’d had to skirt past a rather haphazardly parked BMW on her way to crossing the road - if her ex-husband was still living with her and hadn’t been a total jerk before she’d thrown him out then he’d have gone nuts at how much space had been taken up by one car near to their house.
Everything had felt normal when she’d closed the door behind her, thrown her keys onto the table in the living room and meandered straight into the kitchen to put the kettle on. There was nothing out of place as she dropped her bag down by the shoe rack and slipped off her coat - which didn’t properly fit over her giant trousers, but she’d had to make do when she left in a hurry. It was only when she went to wash the make-up off her face and use the bathroom that she realised someone had been into her home while she had been out.
She sure as hell would have remembered if she’d left a dead body and murder weapon in the bathroom.
“And you had no idea who the man in the bathtub was?” Inspector Norder asked, sliding her chair slightly forward and leaning onto the desk, eager to hear the suspect’s response.
The lawyer made a move to grab his client’s arm, desperately hoping that she would now take his advice and offer no more information to the police. He restrained himself from making any contact, but she could sense that he wasn’t happy when she replied. “I had never seen him before in my life,” she said, almost with a shrug of her shoulders.
“Doesn’t it seem odd that someone you’ve never met before turns up dead in your bathroom?” There was nothing getting past this Inspector.
Mrs Chuckles agreed that it was, but she couldn’t offer any explanation of how events might have unfolded to get him into that position, especially with no signs of a break in to her house, or why someone would want to target her as the innocent victim, framed for a murder she didn’t commit.
“Can you explain to me, then,” the officer continued, “just why you decided not to call the police and instead to remove the murder weapon? It’s a little convenient that your fingerprints were just so accidentally placed onto the knife handle and that our officers arrived to catch you, quite literally, red handed, after the call from the victim’s phone.”
The clown was still completely mystified. She couldn’t offer up an answer, so the police officer continued.
“For the benefit of the tape, I’m showing the suspect exhibit E-17, a transcript of the conversation between a police call handler and the victim,” she said. Pointing down to one part of the paper, she added: “I want you to pay particular attention to this bit, where it says - and I quote directly - ‘Help! I don’t know where I am. I’ve been taken into a house, I don’t know where. Oh God, she’s got a knife.’
“As you can see from the transcript, the victim then pleads with the attacker, who he describes earlier on in the conversation as ‘some sort of mad lady in a clown suit’. The recording of the call then ends with high-pitched screams, pleas for help, and the sound of the weapon being repeatedly thrust into the victim’s body.
“I’m sure you’ll understand, I’m going to need a bit more than ‘I don’t know how any of this happened’ from you if I’m going to be able to see my way to advising the Crown Prosecution Service that you didn’t in fact kill the man in your bathtub.”
Mrs Chuckles nodded, but she was just as stumped as she was earlier. The police, meanwhile, had a pretty good idea of what had happened - even though their suspect knew it wasn’t true.
It was after that line of questioning had been around in a circle for the fifth or sixth time that, eventually, the police changed tack and began to ask about something she was completely unprepared for. If she had no idea how the evening had got to the point it did with the body being planted into her house, she had even less of a clue about the people she was suddenly being asked about.
“Is your real name Mia Costello?” Inspector Norder asked bluntly.
“No, it’s not,” the clown responded. “I gave my name to the officer at the desk when I was brought in and you ran it through the database. Who the hell is Mia Costello?”
The police officer leaned forward again. “She’s the ex-wife of the victim.”
The interview had gone on for several hours before ending with Mrs Chuckles being led back to the holding cell. She was losing her patience, and her faith in her sunny-side-up idea that if she just told the truth then everything would be ok, was rapidly wearing thin. No matter how much she pled her innocence and continually restated that she had no idea how any of what happened had happened, the police officers just didn’t believe her. They were having none of it.
Her lawyer, meanwhile, had drafted a letter of resignation in his folder, writing about how he was undervalued and not taken seriously at work, and how he doesn’t think he’s cut out for the job, after yet another client had wilfully disregarded his well-thought out and considered advice.
As she turned to sit down on the bed, one of the officers who had led her back to the cell - and one she didn’t recognise, but had taken over from the Inspector that had conducted the interview - told her that she was to be charged with murder and that she’d be appearing at the local magistrates court the next day. While she was left to mull over that, Mrs Chuckles was given a pair of grey sweatpants and a grey jumper to change into, finally being allowed out of her work wear.
Despite the dire situation she was in, she was still thinking about whether or not the blood would wash out of her outfit ahead of her next children’s party, later that week.
After getting changed, she tried to get her head down and get some rest. She had already made her mind up to plead not guilty - why would she do anything else when she knew she was innocent of the crime she was accused of? - and she suspected that she might have to find another legal representative, judging by how much her lawyer had sobbed towards the end of the interview.
She was woken up the next morning by a loud banging on her cell door. After a few seconds, the flap at just about head height opened up and a female officer was shouting at her to get out of bed. It was all something of a blur, but inside half an hour she had been bundled into the back of a prison van and was being driver to the first hearing at court.
It was often seen in TV dramas that the highly dangerous prisoner was given an escort to jail, with several police motorbikes blaring out their siren and flashing their blues and twos, but she never expected to be the one who was being transported in a motorcade of that sort. If she wasn’t facing the prospect of a very long jail term, she might have enjoyed it - the true reality of her situation had hit home during that journey, and the idea that she might not be able to simply explain what had happened to the magistrates and walk free was finally beginning to sink in.
Suddenly, the van stopped. It was a sharp halt, seemingly unexpected, and it threw its only passenger from her seat and against the narrow wall in one of the prison cell style rooms in the back. Still handcuffed, she did her best to dust herself down and stand - before trying to get a view out of the window to see what was happening. It was impossible to get a good view, not matter how hard she tried.
Listening as intently as she could by pressing her ear against the outside wall of the vehicle, she tried to work out what was going on. There was certainly commotion. She couldn’t make it out, but there were shouts and screams, almost as if a fight were breaking out.
As abruptly as the stop, the rear doors of the vehicle burst open. A small explosive had blown them clear and daylight was flooding in through the windows of each of the cells. Mrs Chuckles ran to the front of hers and pressed her nose up against the plastic glass to try and see through, but it was far too bright for her to make out anything other than a blurred silhouette approaching.
After hearing another thud, this time on her own cell door, the prisoner should have taken the hint – but didn’t – and was thrown backwards onto the bench when a second, much louder crack knocked the hinges away. The door fell in on top of her a moment later.
As she was getting her senses, and getting back to her feet, she was able to see the figure for the first time. Standing over her, dressed in all black leathers, was a motorcyclist, complete with dark helmet and a reflective visor hiding their face. The person inside leant forward and rolled the helmet off their head, revealing long, blonde hair and a woman’s face that Mrs Chuckles had never seen before.
She wasn’t sure how to react, so instead of doing anything meaningful, the prisoner remained on her back on the ground in the back of the van and stared up at the woman she was now faced with, trying to work out if she was dangerous or not.
“Well,” the motorcyclist shouted at her. “Are you going to lie there all day, or do you want to get out of here?”
The prisoner was stunned, unsure of what was happening. In truth, the answer was no - she didn’t want to get out of there. Instead, she wanted to clear her name through the proper channels. She was well aware that running now and going into hiding would look bad - but then she was equally as aware that her inability to explain anything that had happened over the last day-and-a-bit was going to get her sent to prison for quite some time.
“What’s going on?” Mrs Chuckles asked, even though she was capable of understanding the notion that the intruder was breaking her out of jail.
The woman in the biker suit screamed back at her. “I’m getting you out of here,” she shouted. “Have you seen The Fugitive? It’s just like that. You’re Harrison Ford and we’re getting out of here.”
Mrs Chuckles shook her head. The biker ran through several other prison break films: The Shawshank Redemption was next, followed by The Great Escape and Escape From Alcatraz and even Chicken Run, before she finished up on Escape To Victory - though the woman trying to bust the clown out from her captors could only offer the vague description of “that rubbish one where Pele gets out of the prison camp by playing football”. The prisoner had seen none of them.
“Look, it doesn’t matter,” the biker continued. “You can watch any and all of them later, but we need to get you out of here now. Are you coming, or are you going to lie there and wonder what on earth is going on?”
The prisoner couldn’t see any other option. “How can I know I can trust you?” she asked, beginning to get to her feet from under the cell door.
The biker, almost aghast, shook her head. “What other choice do you seriously have?” she shot back. “Live a little. Now I’m going, so you’re either coming with me, or you’re staying here to stand the most one-sided trial in human history.
“Which is it?”
Mrs Chuckles rolled onto her side and jumped up to her feet, her handcuffed wrists not making moving spectacularly easy. She wriggled free and stepped through the gap that had been left where the cell door used to be.
“I’m coming,” she shouted in response, feeling suddenly empowered. “I’m Harrison Ford, and I’m coming with you!”
The biker had scarpered back to her motorcycle by the time Mrs Chuckle’s finished her sentence. “Well, come on then!” she shouted. “Get a bloody move on!”
Mrs Chuckles sprinted down what was left of the prison van and jumped out of the back. The biker was revving the engine, helmet back on head. No second invitation was needed, and the children’s entertainer climbed onto the back of the bike and grabbed hold of her rescuer’s body - just as she began to speed off back down the road, leaving several police officers lying motionless and unconscious on the ground, with their police bikes upturned, littered across the street.
Up ahead, a second bike was powering into the distance.