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Episode 6: She Floats Through the Air August 3rd, 1946. St. Louis, Missouri. The air was filled with the sound of calliope music as Madeline and Bob Frank made their way arm in arm down the busy midway. They passed the booths holding carnival barkers hawking their wares as parents attempted to guide their children through the crowd. Madeline adjusted her glasses as Bob pointed out the attractions. “How about that? How about I get you one a prize from that milk bottle game? I can win a prize for you.” Madeline shrugged. “I don’t know, Bob. I didn’t think it was going to be this crowded. Maybe we should just head for the tent and sit down.” Bob shook his head and sighed. “Maddie, what’s gotten into you? You’ve been acting odd ever since breakfast.” “I’m sorry, Bob. I’m glad you got us these tickets. I just don’t feel so good.” The couple had reached the sideshow, with a tall man and a short, bearded lady standing on a stage for the crowd to gawk at. “Maybe your just anxious to open up that present,” said Bob, glancing at the stage to watch the two performers dance together. “Why did you bring it with us? You could have opened it up when we got back.” “No!” shouted Madeline, startling the people standing near them. She blushed and lowered her voice. “I mean, I couldn’t have left it there. I need to keep it nearby.” “But why?” asked Bob. “Do you have an idea who sent it?” Before Madeline could reply, the dance finished, and the audience applauded. The two performers bowed and a barker strode onto the stage, twirling his cane. “Let’s hear it for ‘em, folks! But stick around! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Because we got somethin’ for all of you gentlemen in the audience! Come a little closer!” Bob winked at Madeline and walked with her closer to the stage. “Well, this might be fun! Wonder what it is.” Madeline smiled and rolled her eyes. “I’m sure they’ll tell us.” “Yessir, gents!” the barker continued. “You’ll get a real thrill out of this! And you ladies will be impressed, too! 15 years ago, a young Catholic school girl went on a cruise with her class across the Atlantic! The ship was caught in a storm and she was thrown overboard! She was battered and tossed by the waves but found herself on the shores of South America, on the edge of the Amazon! For 13 years, she lived in complete exile from the eyes of men! But she survived and thrived! “How?” you may ask. “How can a young girl exist in such a barbaric place on her own?” Well, friends, she wasn’t alone! She found a protector! A creature that she could bend to her will, to protect her, to hunt for her, yes! Even to kill for her! And that girl, now the most fearsome and flawless female in creation, has been found and is here this very moment! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Princess Python!” The barker yanked on a cord and a curtain lifted up to a gasp from the crowd, followed by several whistles. On the stage was a beautiful woman with auburn hair. She was dressed in a green leotard with tights painted to resemble scales. And wrapped around her shoulders and torso, was a 10 foot long snake. It bared it’s fangs and hissed at the crowd as Princess Python walked downstage closer to the audience. She extend her arms and allowed the snake to slither around her until it’s head rested in her hands. Bob looked over at Madeline with a grin as Princess Python petted the snake. “Well, gee whiz! That’s something you don’t see everyday. She must have eaten well in the Amazon.” “Oh, really, Bob!” Madeline chuckled. “Don’t tell me you believe that story. 15 years in the jungle with nothing but a snake?” “It’s a very large snake.” The snake hissed as it untied itself from around Princess Python and landed on the stage. It darted toward the audience and snapped it jaws, causing the front row to jump back and cry out in alarm. “Do not be afraid, my friends,” Princess Python said smoothly. “Please, stay still and silent. Precious? Return to me, my dear.” The snake turned back to face Python, watching her sway slowly back and forth. Amazingly, the snake followed her movements. Python stretched her right arm into the air and looked up to the sky, and the snake slithered toward her. The crowd burst into applause as Precious circled around Princess Python, traveling up her body until resting it’s head back on her shoulder. Bob was among those applauding. “Did you see that? I think she was looking at me!” “Yeah,” said Madeline as she turned him toward the main tent. “And wondering if her snake could eat you in one gulp or two. Let’s get to the tent, Bob. The show’s about to start.” Bob shrugged, and gave one last look to Princess Python before letting Madeline guide him. “Whatever you say, birthday girl.” Princess Python waved to the crowd still gathered at her booth, a dangerous look behind her smile. “If you think this was something, you all better head for the big top! It’s almost show time!” She turned and headed offstage and was met by the barker. Her pleasant demeanor dropped instantly. “Bunch of yokels. I bet we won’t even break even in this town.” “Take it easy, Zelda,” the barker said. “The boss got a tip that the people around her have a lot of dough. You just get to center ring with the rest of the crew.” He reached for her arm, but Precious snapped at his hand. He jerked it back in alarm. Princess Python smiled sweetly. “Be careful there! Precious has been quite hungry lately.” The barker glared at Python as she and Precious walked through the cast entrance to the main tent. Madeline and Bob made their way down the bleachers until they reached their seats. The tent was buzzing with excitement. Two acrobats flipped and somersaulted across the center ring, until one came to a stop, and his partner landed standing on his shoulders. The two men waved and exited the ring as the crowd applauded. That is when a man in a green coat covered in a stars and a purple hat entered the ring, encouraging the audience to applaud some more. “The Great Gambonnos, ladies and gentlemen! A thrilling display! Let them know your appreciation!” The crowd roared in approval. The man held his hands high in benediction. “Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages! We, of the Tiboldt Family Circus, are grateful beyond measure that you chose to join us this glorious day! I am your humble ringmaster! Are you ready for the show to commence?” “YES!” the crowd shouted, including Bob. He didn’t notice Madeline taking off her glasses and massaging her temples. She felt the strangest sensation. Something wasn’t right. And it was something about that ringmaster. “Before we begin,” he went on. “I must ask for your complete and utter attention! Focus all your thoughts to the center ring! This is a world all to itself! Let yourself be made a part of it! Absorbed in it!” The Ringmaster slowly started turning in a circle, directing his speech to every side of the tent. And as he turned, Madeline noticed the crowd becoming quieter and quieter, until it had fallen dead silent. The once excited crowd was now sitting in their seats with blank expressions on their faces. What was it about that man? Madeline looked at the Ringmaster again, and was drawn to the back of his hat. Only now the hat seemed to blur. It was as if she could see straight through it, to what was concealed underneath. Positioned inside the hat, was a small mechanical device that look like a radio. For reasons not even Madeline could explain, she knew that that device was doing something to the audience. She got out of her seat and ducked behind the colorful barricade in front of her. “Maddie! What are you doing?” Madeline stayed down, looking into her purse. “Bob, get down! Don’t look at that hat!” “There you go again, Maddie! Relax! It’s all part of the shooooo…” To Madeline’s horror, she looked up to see Bob gazing spellbound at the center ring, along with everyone else sitting with them. A part of Madeline wanted to scream and run for help, but then she felt compelled to stay. Someone needed to find out what was going on. She slowly returned to her seat, and did her best to assume a similar blank look. The Ringmaster had finished his work, and not a sound came from the hypnotized audience. He turned to the crowd of circus performers behind him. “Alright, people! You know the drill! Get out there and get whatever you can lay your grubby hands on!” Madeline fought hard not to blink as the performers swept up into the bleachers. The moved throughout the crowd, emptying wallets and removing jewelry from unresponsive people. Princess Python made her way down the row where Madeline and Bob were sitting, putting necklaces and rings in a satchel. She unclasped Madeline’s own bracelet from her wrist, and looked at it unimpressed. “Hmph. Will surprised if we get 10 bucks for this.” Madeline didn’t flinch as Python moved on to Bob. The snake charmer looked down on him with smirk. “Oh I remember you. You caught my act? Well, I guess it’s only fair if I’m taking something from you, I might as well give you something. Not that you’ll remember anything.” Placing the satchel on the ground, Python straddled Bob, took hold his head in her hands, and forcibly kissed him. Madeline unthinkingly gave a gasp of shock before biting her lip. Princess Python, still seated on Bob, spun to look at Madeline with a glare. She looked up and down as Madeline tried to regain her composure. “Ringmaster!” Python yelled. “I think you might have missed someone! She’s snapping out of it!” Ringmaster strode to the bleachers with a sinister smile. “No matter, Princess. She’ll be in my power again. Look at me, my dear. Watch the hat.” Madeline saw the spinning shapes in Ringmaster’s hat, absorbing her and dulling her mind. She leapt out of her seat, and ran for the entrance to the tent. “Stop her!” yelled the Ringmaster. “Don’t let her get away!” Two clowns jumped in front of Madeline but she leapt over them and landed outside the big top. Princess Python summoned Precious to her as she watched Madeline disappear into the deserted midway. “Maybe we can have her work with the Gambonos.” Ringmaster didn’t acknowledge his snake charmer as shouted orders to his crew. “Bruto! You and Teena take the clowns and search the midway! Ernesto and Luigi! You stay here with Rajah and Princess in case that woman comes back! These people will only be in my power for another 50 minutes! Move!” Madeline ran faster then she thought she was ever capable, until she could feel her feet leave the ground. She zoomed through the midway until she reached the clearing which the circus had made a makeshift parking lot. She tumbled to the ground and landed in a heap a few feet from her car. She jumped in and slammed the door, breathing heavily. What was she to do? Someone had to save those people, to save Bob. Slowly, her panicking expression faded, as she turned to look at the white gift box still sitting in the backseat. Bruto the Strong Man led a group of clowns down the rows of booths. The clowns had armed themselves with pitchforks, bats, and some even held pistols. “Hey, Bruto!” one of them shouted. Bruto turned to address the clown. “What you want? You see woman?” Bruto’s gaze followed the clown’s pointing finger to see Madeline Joyce-Frank, dressed in a red outfit and blue cape. “Hold there!” Bruto shouted. “You come with us!” Madeline continued to walk toward them. One of the clowns pulled out a gun and fired. Madeline held up her hands to her face, only feeling the bullet bounce off her arm and land harmlessly a few feet in front of her. The clowns all stared in shock as Madeline lowered her hands to glance at the bullet, then looking up with a determined smile. “Take it easy, gentlemen. You ain’t seen nothing yet!” Miss America took off into the air, then dived down toward the Circus of Crime. OK: Can Miss America defeat Ringmaster and his gang? Or will she be beaten and fall victim to his hypnotic power? Stay Tuned and find out! Game On!