I was crossing the University of Arkansas campus at Fayetteville with my wife, Rachel, when a young male student approached us and said something weird. It was Saturday and there weren’t many people around. Just a few moments before, I’d found one of those squirt-flowers like clowns often wear. It lay on the ground like a yellow sunflower with a tube and squeeze bulb attached. I figured it belonged to some college prankster and picked it up on impulse. It was still in my hand when the kid made his comment.
“Nasty piece of work that,” he said, pointing at the flower. “You could do some serious damage.”
Now, Rachel and I were older than your average college kid and both of us were dressed well. I had on a jacket and tie. Surely the kid would have thought of us as parents, or perhaps considered us faculty. What student says that kind of thing to parents or to faculty members he doesn’t recognize?
The comment clearly made Rachel uncomfortable so I just ignored the guy and walked on. We were here to see Rachel’s son and within a few moments found his dorm room and began our visit. A little while later I had to use the dorm’s bathroom and was standing at the sink washing my hands when the same young man came up beside me.
“Bet you’re wearing that squirt-flower already,” he said. “Hurt anyone with it yet?”
Irritated, and not eager to have an uncomfortable discussion with a strange young fellow in the bathroom, I snapped an answer to his question, “No! And it’s not in my plans for today.”
He smiled crookedly. “Look,” he said. “I know that under your respectable clothing you’re a clown. I recognize you because I’m one too. And every one of us has the brain of a psychopath in our heads. You’ll hurt someone with that flower. Just like I would.”
I sighed, then lifted the left side of my coat to reveal the flower where I’d hooked it to my shirt pocket. The kid smiled, without getting too close, and while the dangerous little toy held his attention I slid my right hand into my pocket and drew out the silenced 9 millimeter I carried there. Quickly placing the business end of the pistol against the young man’s chest just over the heart, I pulled the trigger.
The kid’s eyes widened but my movements had been too swift for him to react. He collapsed slowly to the floor, like a blow-up doll deflating. He kept looking up at me as life fled him.
“When psycho clowns meet,” I told him, “it’s best for one to kill the other immediately and get it over with.”
Pocketing the pistol, I dragged the body into one of the stalls and locked the door. It’d be a while before it was found. After climbing out over the top of the stall and washing my hands, I left the bathroom. I kept the squirt-flower. The kid was right. It was a great tool for mayhem and murder. A little poison. The right kind of acid. Something viral. All were far more subtle than a bullet.
The kid had clearly been new to clown-work; he hadn’t deserved such artistry. There were plenty who did.