Next thing Jack knew, he was on the stage of the real life circus tent.
Ahead, Queen Cobra was fighting Alice. The mimes had gone berserk and were gunning down the clowns with their Uzi submachine guns.
Loco Lobo dropped Fubsy the Clown in front of Jack and bounded towards Queen Cobra and Alice. A three-way melee ensued.
‘I have no idea what to do,’ said Jack.
‘I…’ said Puck, ‘I don’t even know who our enemy is anymore.’
Mezu raised his zanbatō. ‘Anyone who we let live now will just come for us later.’
Sam put her hand on his shoulder. ‘Loco Lobo wont! She’s a good girl!’
Marilyn shook her head. ‘The enemy of our enemy is our enemy. Sam, you’re the strongest; you stay here and guard me. Jack, Puck, and Mezu, you join the fight. First you go after Alice, then you go after Queen Cobra, then you go after Loco Lobo.’
‘Not Loco Lobo!’ said Sam.
Jack didn’t like the sound of the last part himself, but this was the Death Game.
‘Slash first, think later!’ said Marilyn. ‘Go!’
Jack, Puck, and Mezu ran forwards. The mimes turned and shot at them. They powered through the bullets and cut the them down. All three of them ganged up on Alice, causing Queen Cobra and Loco Lobo to join in.
Alice giggled as she blocked their attacks with her obsidian dagger. ‘Goodness! So unsportsmanlike!’ She ripped a hole through the side of the circus tent and cartwheeled through it.
They all turned on Queen Cobra. She used her king cobra to whip venom at their eyes, which forced them to block it with their arms. By the time they’d recovered, she had ripped through the tent and was running through it. Jack, Puck, and Mezu turned to Lobo, who whimpered and then growled.
Sam blocked them and raised her chain hatchets. ‘NOOO!’
From out of the stage curtain, a rhino-bull, a piranha-eel, and a mosquito-wasp flew at them. They had no time to react!
The rhino-bull split in two.
The King in Yellow was behind it holding the Dagger of Life and Death.
The piranha-eel and the mosquito-wasp turned around and bowed to him. The King in Yellow looked at Fubsy the Clown’s body. They all knew what was coming next. Everyone backed away except Loco Lobo, who rushed at the King in Yellow. Sam tackled her and held her down as she barked.
The King in Yellow stretched out his hand at Fubsy the Clown. He made the body levitate, stripped it of its clown costume, its skin, its muscle, and its skeleton until only the soul remained. Then he sucked the soul into his mask. He turned to the Blue Nasties and clapped. The dead mimes and clowns got up and clapped with him. Then he walked back through the stage curtain with the chimeras in toe. The mimes and clowns rotted to mulch.
Loco Lobo scrambled over to the bones of Fubsy the Clown. She cried. Then she snarled and bounded out of the tent.
‘No!’ Sam went after her.
Jack, Puck, and Mezu followed Sam.
Outside, Sam was wrestling Loco Lobo on the grass. ‘No! You can’t go after Queen Cobra! She’ll kill you!’
Something cast a long shadow over the scene.
It was Marilyn. Her features were dark in the night. Her voice was oddly calm. ‘You left my side, Samantha.’
‘I’m sorry!’ said Sam. ‘Loco Lobo was in trouble! She’s just a kid!’
Marilyn tossed Billy the Cameraman’s head to the ground.
Everyone stared at her with wide eyes.
Dark horns grew out of Marilyn’s head. ‘I did not go through everything I have gone through to lose. You will obtain the Dagger of Life and Death for me. Those who disobey orders will be disciplined.’
What?! Marilyn had said she wanted to become the CEO of America News Network. She never said anything about the Dagger of Life and Death.
Marilyn sighed. The horns dissapeared. Her features returned to normal. ‘Sorry. Emotional day. What with’—she gestured to Billy the Cameraman’s head— ‘Billy and all. I don’t know what I’m saying.’ She laughed. ‘If I ever go to a therapist, he’ll be a rich man, I tell you what…. Give me a moment.’
Marilyn went inside the circus tent. When she came out, she had one of Fubsy the Clown’s leg bones in her hands.
She knelt beside Loco Lobo and offered it to her. ‘You may have your vengeance on the woman who killed your master, but I am to be your new master now. If you bite the hand that feeds you, I’ll put you down. You understand?’
Loco Lobo looked at the leg bone, took it in her mouth, and cried.
Gozu chuckled. ‘I knew you’d gone soft, Mezu.’
He’d been watching the whole thing from the top of a distant tree.
He looked down. Jiangshi and Onryō were feasting on one of the of the dozen SWAT police they’d strung up on the tree. He’d found them trying to sneak up on Mezu and the other Blue Nasties. They would have succeeded too if Gozu hadn’t intervened.
‘When I’m Oyabun of the Udon Family, there will be no place for attack dogs that don’t bite.’