This continues the story of the missing teenagers I started with Fast Car.
The junkie’s tip led Farrah to the traveling carnival, and as soon as she saw the fliers on the way to the pier, she knew she was on the right track.
“Carnie wanted to operate the Mansion of Horror midway ride for the Summer of ’69 Playland traveling carnival. No experience needed. Apply within.”
The summer of 1969 had long passed, but Farrah knew the type. They were playing double-entendres, pushing boundaries, daring people to admit their fears and desires to make another buck on a ride that would make their hearts sing and their minds scream.
Good marketing. The morals wouldn’t be so clear.
She pushed past the big man who tried to keep her off the grounds – “We’re not ready for visitors!”, he complained, but she didn’t care, they were on her turf – and through to the strip the carnies had laid out to lead customers along a path that would bring them to the prize ride, the coup de gras – the Mansion of Horror.
It didn’t look like anything special, but Farrah knew not to judge it in the cold, morning light. After dark, the glowing eyes would take on a surreal quality and seem to float right after you. She knew. She had been on a ride just like it as a kid.
The door was painted solid black. Behind it… who knew what lurked, but she wasn’t here to find out. Not unless it mattered.
She bypassed the Mansion and headed to a little camper on the outskirts of the carnival setup. It was garishly painted with a sleeping dragon that wrapped its way around until its tail nearly met its nose. Clearly, this was a man who thought himself more than a little special. She knew exactly how to handle him to get the information she needed.
Farrah knocked – three short raps like gunfire in the early morning stillness – and waited to be noticed.
The door popped open in front of her and Farrah’s mouth fell open. She recovered quickly, but not before the woman smirked and made her way down the few steps to tower over Farrah in her bare feet.
“Cage Serpentine,” the Amazon said, and held out her hand to take Farrah’s. “What did I do to deserve the pleasure of your company, Miss…?”
Farrah took the bait. The hand she shook was strong, calloused, but gentle, and when she was done, she didn’t want to wipe her own on her pants. Good sign.
“My name is Farrah Gray. I’m a private detective out of Austin, but I’ve been called here looking for information on a long-standing case. Do you mind if I come in and we have a little talk?”
The woman assessed her. She either found her harmless or intriguing enough to flip open the camper door behind her and invite Farrah in. “Be my guest. What can I do for you?”