Authors: Tanya Landman
Our enemy coolly picked up the knife he’d dropped.
“It is over,” he said. “Do not attempt to escape again. I can throw these faster than you can run. And contrary to appearances my aim is excellent.”
I could see that nothing – no amount of pleading or begging – would save us. His eyes were as dark and merciless as a shark’s. Had he looked like that when he’d shot his neighbours in Stolijna?
I hung my head and waited for the fatal blow to come.
There was a single shot. A muffled cry of surprise. The thump of a body falling to the floor.
Graham! I ground my fists into my eyes to shut out the horror of my best friend being killed.
But then a pinprick of hope lit the back of my brain. The Dashing Blade hadn’t had a gun – had he? So who had fired that shot?
Hardly daring to open my eyes, I prised the lids apart.
The Dashing Blade was lying at our feet and I could see in a second that he was never going to throw a knife again. Across the ring, his brother stood holding a smoking gun. To my amazement, Mum was standing behind him. Yuri told her in a cracked whisper, “No more mothers will weep for their children. There will be no more dead at my brother’s hand. I cannot allow it.”
Then his strength deserted him. Yuri sank to the sawdust floor, tears streaming down his face.
There’s not much to add, really. When my mum had got home and discovered I was missing, she’d guessed right away that I’d be at the circus. She’d come looking for me and banged on the window of the first caravan she’d found. It was Yuri’s. He’d put two and two together and come to our rescue before Mum even had time to call the police.
Our parents weren’t very happy to discover that we’d been faking our illness. Tragically, the manufactured-vomit trick would never work again. On the other hand, it felt pretty good to be alive.
Yuri told the police everything about his brother – whose real name turned out to be Drago Mehic. He’d been wanted by the international court for war crimes for years, so the authorities were furious that Yuri had helped conceal his identity for so long. Yuri was prosecuted for perverting the course of justice as well as committing murder, but seeing as he’d killed his brother to save our lives, he didn’t get a heavy sentence. When we saw him at the trial he looked younger; less troubled. It was as if the knowledge of what his brother had done had been a terrible burden and he was relieved to finally have it all out in the open. When he was led off to prison he looked strangely free.
The circus packed up and moved on right after Inspector Humphries had finished interviewing everybody. Nobody apart from Yuri had known anything about the Dashing Blade’s past – not even Ruby – so they were all allowed to go.
When the circus came back to town a year later, Graham and I read the feature in the local paper with interest. Ruby had become Whizzbang’s glamorous assistant – which you have to hope improved his act, although that might have been impossible. Things had changed for Carlotta, too: she’d taken up with one of Alonzo’s younger brothers and they were doing a new routine together involving hula hoops and acrobatics.
As for Irena… Before they’d packed up, I’d managed to ask her if she was really Russian – and, after checking that no one else could hear, she’d confessed that she was actually from Dagenham. Her real name was Trisha. I don’t know what happened between Brady Sparkles and her over the whole contract thing, but his threats had obviously been empty ones. She and Alonzo left his circus and became really famous as star performers with Cirque de la Lune – they were always in the newspapers. They toured the globe. Singapore, London, New York, Paris. When Graham’s dad had to go to some big conference in the French capital, he offered to take us to see them perform, but we decided to give it a miss. I mean, after all, a circus is just a load of people showing off in spangly leotards. Isn’t it?
Tanya Landman is the author of many books for children, including
Merlin’s Apprentice, The World’s Bellybutton
The Kraken Snores,
and three stories featuring the characters Flotsam and Jetsam. Of
, the sixth title in her popular murder mystery series, Tanya says, “When I took my children to the circus I was fascinated by the performers. I thought the touring life must be great if you got on well with the others – but supposing you hated one of them? Would being on the road day in, day out make you feel … murderous?”
Tanya is also the author of two novels for teenagers:
, which was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the Booktrust Teenage Fiction Prize, and
The Goldsmith’s Daughter
, which was nominated for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. Since 1992, Tanya has also been part of Storybox Theatre. She lives with her family in Devon.
You can find out more about Tanya Landman
and her books by visiting her website at
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, are used fictitiously. All statements, activities, stunts, descriptions, information and material of any other kind contained herein are included for entertainment purposes only and should not be relied on for accuracy or replicated, as they may result in injury.
First published 2010 by Walker Books Ltd
87 Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5HJ
© 2010 Tanya Landman
The right of Tanya Landman to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted or stored in an information retrieval system in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, taping and recording, without prior written permission from the publisher.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data: a catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 978-1-4063-3791-4 (ePub)