Chapter 1 - AN ASSORTMENT OF ODDITIES
“Dr. Zadlott, the zebras are dying!!” Zayla screamed. “The circus will have to close.”
“Zayla, my dear, you always fly into a panic. You’re constantly worrying about trivial matters,” the colossal ringmaster replied. “I assure you, they’re only resting.”
“Dr. Zee, please follow me,” said Zayla as she calmly pointed to the roomy enclosure.
Dr. Zadlott plodded after his young assistant. His mind was frantic but he kept his anxiety hidden from her. He had great difficulty maneuvering his stout body into a suitable position but eventually he was able to squat down. Dr. Zadlott performed a perfunctory examination.
“This is terrible news,” said the ringmaster. “Those three creatures are nearly dead and the others seem to be exhibiting the same sort of symptoms. We’ll probably have to cancel tonight’s show. We may even lose the entire week…”
Dr. Zadlott was deeply disturbed. He wasn’t sure which course of treatment would be the most appropriate one for his beloved zebras. They were in such a precarious state. Yet he couldn’t keep his thoughts focused on that urgent task. Dr. Zadlott quietly admired his new assistant from a respectful distance while she was fussing over the pitiful animals. Zayla Boudreaux was barely nineteen but she’d already earned a dual reputation for being a pigheaded wench with an unusually generous nature. Zayla possessed very peculiar ideas which had gotten her into trouble on many occasions but that hadn’t bothered the good doctor. Not even once.
She was part of his history and he’d never abandon the young woman. Dr. Zadlott’s mind felt like a metronome. Swinging back and forth between the past and the present. He had been engaged to Zayla’s mother for a brief spell before she took up with a quarrelsome stranger. They’d eloped soon after their first encounter. Dr. Zadlott never saw his fiancée after that. She’d died in childbirth.
Zayla was a fortunate soul. She had inherited her late mother’s exotic beauty: olive complexion, bluish-black hair, mismatched eyes and her stunning hourglass figure. Miss Zayla Boudreaux frequently wore her favorite black and white gown. The vertical stripes were very appealing on the buxom lass. Even a feed sack dress could not smother her overt charms. Zayla favored blood red lipstick because she typically adorned herself with bold ornaments: dozens of bracelets, ornate necklaces and several sets of obscenely long earrings. The other circus performers seemed drab by comparison. The zebras and that fiery wench were the stars of Dr. Zadlott’s Amazing Steampunk Circus.
Dr. Zadlott had felt very ashamed of himself lately. He’d been born in London but he’d squandered his family’s legacy on foolish ventures and also on his former vices: expensive liquor and gambling. Now, he could only afford to pay a small pittance to each employee. Zayla had offered her services for free. Dr. Zadlott was an imminent veterinarian/steamship captain. She had begged him to take her in tow. Her mother had had no interest in animals or reptiles but Zayla was an entirely different breed of woman. She was intelligent, articulate and committed to any endeavors which captured her mind or soul.
“Dr. Zee, you need to take action,” scolded Zayla. “We can’t let them perish. That would be unthinkable.”
“You are quite right,” the agitated man whispered. “I’m thinking of a plan.”
“I have three suggestions. Please hear me out before you tell me to stifle myself.”
“You have one hundred percent of my attention,” Dr. Zadlott roared as he tipped his top hat to her.
“First of all, you should seriously consider every option that anyone presents to you. I feel you should speak to one of your esteemed colleagues. Especially the two young doctors who have specialized in zebras and horses…”
“Excellent idea, my dear,” Dr. Zadlott bellowed.
“Please don’t interrupt me!!” Zayla fumed. “You should also consider the worst possible outcome. You may have to euthanize those sweet animals. Now, I will give you my final piece of advice. We could collaborate on some sort of concoction. We’d have to hurry and we wouldn’t have enough time in order to fully test it but it could be the best alternative or maybe…”
Zayla paused to catch her breath. She began pacing back and forth for the longest time. Then she stopped in her tracks. The enormous tent was billowing and she could hear the wind howling outside.
“We could use several different medicines all at once. No, what I meant to say…”
“Spit it out, Zayla,” the ringmaster said. “Verbalize that thought. Hurry!!”
“We could administer two to four different medications. We’d just have to space them out a bit so we don’t overwhelm their bodies. They’ve already been through such a terrible trauma. Well do any of my suggestions seem the least bit plausible?”
“Yes, yes they do,” the ringmaster sighed. “I’ll contact Dr. Jasper and Dr. Phillips…”
“Good luck! Dr. Zee, please hurry!! We don’t want them to die.”
Dr. Zadlott began running towards the exit but the circus strongman, Vincent Bertolazzi, knocked him off his feet. The gentle giant quickly picked up the astonished ringmaster.
“Dr. Zadlott!! Dr. Zadlott!!” Vincent screamed. “The dirigible is on fire!!”
“You blasted fool!!” the ringmaster stammered. “You nearly killed me. Watch where you’re going!!”
“Didn’t you hear what I said…” Vincent spluttered.
“What did you do to my beautiful airship?!” Dr. Zadlott fumed.
“Not a thing. It wasn’t me. I didn’t do anything this time,” Vincent said meekly.
“Vinnie, why are you bothering me with this dilemma? I’m dealing with the zebras right now. Gather up all the men and women. Start up a bucket brigade. Send of one of the older children for help. Hurry!! Don’t make any more mistakes or I’ll…”
The strongman scurried away, fearing he’d actually lose his job this time if he failed to follow Dr. Zadlott’s simple instructions. The motley crew fought the fire for nearly an hour. They were lucky though. The airship had suffered minimal damage in spite of Vincent’s ineptitude. The bearded lady had taken charge of everything. She was secretly smitten with the hulking man and she didn’t want him to be ousted from their close-knit community.
“Carly, you saved my hide again,” Vincent stammered. “I must do something special for you.”
“Well, Vincent…” Carlotta began. “I would appreciate it if you’d trim my beard and style my hair.”
“It would be a supreme pleasure,” Vincent murmured. “I had a barber shop in the old country.”
“Thank you so much,” said Carlotta. “Pick a time that fits into your schedule and then notify me…”
“Yes, ma’am!!” Vincent replied as he casually scrutinized her mustache and beard.
Vincent listened to Carlotta’s husky voice until their conversation was interrupted by Lettie and Nettie, the adorably wacky Siamese twins.
“We’ve misplaced all our juggling supplies,” Nettie moaned.
“Sister, you are mistaken, again, those items were obviously stolen,” Lettie quipped.
“Who would steal our clubs, balls and rings?!” inquired Nettie. “No one else knows how to juggle, including you.”
“Sister, you’re being very impertinent today!!” Lettie fumed. “If I could leave you right now, I certainly would.”
“Lettie, you are acting rather churlish!” Nettie stammered. “If Father were still alive, he would punish you severely.”
“But you’d also feel the pain, you little idiot!!” Lettie countered.
Zayla, Carlotta and Vincent finally managed to calm the agitated women. Zayla returned to the ailing zebras. Two of them were barely hanging on but three of them had improved a little bit. The final zebra’s condition was unchanged. Zayla sat down on the little wooden stool. She began singing lullabies to the animals. It seemed to perk them up. Zayla remained with them until Dr. Zadlott returned. Dr. Jasper had come with him.
“Thank you for time!!” Zayla gushed. “You are such a sweet man.”
“You could have waited until I’d introduced you…” said Dr. Zadlott.
“Dr. Zee, I’ve known this young lady for years,” the young doctor replied.
“You make me sound like I’m an old spinster,” Zayla teased.
“Where did you two meet?!” inquired Dr. Zadlott.
“We met in New Orleans,” they replied in unison.
Dr. Jasper walked briskly to the zebra enclosure. He unzipped his medical bags and he began examining the listless patients. He scribbled notes inside a tattered journal. Then he muttered several phrases in Latin. Zayla couldn’t make out any of the words and Dr. Zadlott had disappeared. Zayla waited patiently but she finally inched her way, closer and closer, to the examination area. Dr. Jasper acknowledged her presence with a curt nod.
Zayla wanted to ask him dozens of questions regarding the zebras but she held her tongue. Dr. Zadlott finally returned. He was carrying two enormous containers in his hands. Dr. Jasper heard his colleague’s heavy footsteps so he ran over and grabbed one of the containers. Both men nearly fell down but they quickly regained their balance. Some of the liquid sloshed around, quickly cascading to the ground. Zayla peered down but she couldn’t recognize that particular substance.
“Zayla, dear, please come here,” commanded Dr. Zadlott.
“Hurry!!! Come see our minor miracle!!” Dr. Jasper replied.
Zayla covered the distance in no time. She marveled at their appearance.
“This new medicine has only been on the market for two and half weeks,” said Dr. Jasper. “It’s quite amazing but let’s not get carried away. These wonderful animals must take this medication for ten more days. They may appear just as healthy as they were before but don’t let that fool you. Someone needs to administer this medicine every eight hours. The dosage has been determined by each patient’s age and weight. We’ve also taken into account the level of severity of each animal. Those three aren’t as sick as that one though.”
“What about that little fellow over there?” inquired Zayla as she eyed the little brown and white foal.
“I have to be completely honest. I don’t know about that one. Probably a 50/50 chance for survival.”
“Did we lose any?!” inquired Zayla, nervously tapping her boot heels on the ground.
“Just the albino one…” sighed Dr. Jasper. “but she was nearly gone by the time I arrived.”
Suddenly, a muscular man with curly hair and a long beard rushed up to the group.
“I…hate…to…interrupt but I have to tell…you this,” Alfredo stuttered.
“Fredo, what’s wrong?” inquired Dr. Zadlott.
“Your beloved…” Alfredo stammered, struggling with his thoughts.
“Alfredo, don’t waste my time!!” fumed Dr. Zadlott. “Tell me right now!!!”
“She is sick,” said Alfredo, wiping the sweat from his puffy face.
“Who has taken ill?! Carlotta, Lettie or Nettie? One of the other women or is it one of their daughters?” Zayla asked.
“Not that kinda she. Your airship…”
Dr. Zadlott and the others scurried to the ailing airship. Dozens of circus performers were fluttering around the dirigible. They were opening and closing compartments of all sizes and shapes. Then they caught sight of the ringmaster and they froze in place.
“What happened to my ship?!” Dr. Zadlott bellowed.
“We’ve lost several important…” said Carlotta.
“Don’t listen to her,” Lettie quipped. “They were stolen.”
“She’s crazy. She always says that no matter what’s going on,” Vincent replied.
“Vinnie, I hate to admit it but I think Sister is finally correct,” Nettie said.
“It was probably Darwin!” Arnie yelled.
“What do you know? You’re just a lowly mechanic,” Lettie sniped.
“I’m the guy who keeps this airship moving!!”
“You’re not the only mechanic on board. There are five other mechanics!!”
“Well, pardon me,” Arnie huffed. “You’re nothing special. You get paid to drop things and dress up in dreadful costumes.”
“Please stop fighting!!!” Nettie whispered. “You idiots are making me quite ill.”
“Well, it’s been grounded for two weeks now!!” Carlotta yelled.
“That’s certainly not my fault. I wasn’t the one who caused that fire.
“There have been too many thefts!! Gastonia shouted. “Someone has snatched some of my navigation tables again!”
“Nobody ever listens to me, am I invisible?!” Arnie wailed.
“Little Arnie has the floor,” boomed Dr. Zadlott.
“I am a midget but do you always have to rub that in,” Arnie moaned. “Your second favorite pet, Darwin, probably made off with most of the missing…er…stolen items.”
“I’m certain he’s innocent of those particular crimes. Darwin has been thoroughly fascinated with our adorable pygmy marmosets. They were born a few days ago. Darwin loves babies. He hasn’t strayed very far from their cage,” countered Dr. Zadlott.
“Darwin doesn’t stay anywhere for very long,” said Zayla. “Dr. Zee, someone should watch Darwin for several hours. That monkey will probably lead you to his stash. If he didn’t do it, there’s still a chance that some of those missing items will eventually turn up.”
“I really need those valves, plugs, gears and cogs. If we can’t find the original ones, we’ll have to order more parts and that will take weeks even if they have them in stock,” said Arnie. “There are other things wrong with her too.”
“Dr. Zadlott, Arnie’s not lying to you,” added the Mechanic-in-Chief. “I’ve inspected every square inch of that aircraft. It’s much worse than we had originally assumed. Two of the primary propellers have sustained heavy damage. The hydraulic system also needs a great deal of repair and the auxiliary fans and the landing gears are also in shoddy condition.”
“Mike, what time frame are we talking about?!” inquired Dr. Zadlott.
“Three to four weeks,” the Mechanic-in-Chief said, wiping blood and sweat from his face as he gathered his thoughts. “It could take several months. We’re at the mercy of that factory. They’re rather slow and they’re not very reliable when they do have everything in stock. I really can’t tell you much more than that. I need to get back to the ship now. Good day to all of you.”
A slender man rushed up to the informal meeting. His ornate uniform was covered in sawdust and he was nearly out of breath.
“Sir, there’s a telegram for you!!” the man yelled. “Please sign…right here!”
“It’s from Dr. Phillips. He said he’d encountered a small circus. The owner had abused the entire troupe. The performers and crew were half-starved and the animals were in atrocious shape. He purchased everything. Well, not the people, of course, but everything else. For just a pittance!” Dr. Zadlott exclaimed as he handed the piece of paper to his colleague.
“It goes on to say that the cad was mauled to death by his own lions and tigers.”
“Retribution came knocking on his door, didn’t it?!” Dr. Zadlott said with a chuckle. “I hope I can stretch our funds enough so I can buy it from him. Dr. Phillips is much too busy to deal with such a demanding proposition. I barely have enough time to deal with the circus, my practice and my other endeavors…”
The throng soon dispersed and everyone returned to their tasks. Zayla petted the zebras then she began grooming them. They’d already been fed so she brought them fresh water. Then she returned to her room. Zayla sat down at her dressing table. Her cosmetics were laid out with great care. She stared at herself for the longest time. She loathed her looks. Few people took her seriously. Lately, Zayla was increasingly uncomfortable with her voluptuosity. She really wanted to be a full time woman of science. She was tired of spectators gawking at her yet she still loved sharing the stage with those marvelous zebras.
She’d named all of them. Lizette was the one who had succumbed to that mysterious illness. Lucio and Shakespeare were nearly identical although Zayla was well aware of the curious nature of zebra’s stripes. Like snowflakes, all zebras had been gifted with their own peculiar patterns. Olaf was the resident grump and also the meanest zebra ever born. Lulu was probably Zayla’s favorite zebra. She was a sweet-natured cutie.
Griswold was the quirky one. He avoided the other zebras every chance he got. Zayla had always adored the zebras but she was also partial to the monkeys, the ocelots and the ancient giraffe. Zayla was so tired that she drifted off to sleep. Dr. Zadlott found her slumped over her dusty vanity table. He was tempted to wake her but hetiptoed out of her tiny room. He took two more steps and then he felt himself flying backwards. He skidded to a stop at Zayla’s black and white striped velvet bench.
“Dr. Zee, what on earth happened to you?!” Zayla said.
“I’m not quite sure,” Dr. Zadlott replied. “I nearly had the wind knocked out of me.”
Zayla helped the ringmaster as he slowly regained his footing. They heard a thundering cacophony just outside her doorway. They wanted to see what was going on but they waited several minutes. Then they rushed outside.
“Get me off this crazy animal,” Arnie screamed. “Help me!!! This zebra has run amok!!!”
“Hang on!!” Zayla said. “Arnie, don’t panic!!”
Olaf, the only fully-grown male zebra was trotting casually at first then he broke into a full gallop. He knocked over several cans of red and blue paint that had been perched on two wooden stools. Paint droplets came swirling down, quickly covering everyone and everything in their path. Arnie tried to hang on to the demented zebra but he finally fell off. He crashed into Lettie and Nettie who were walking with Vincent while he was carrying a large stack of privacy screens.
Everything seemed to implode. The twins had suffered two twisted ankles and Vincent had sprained his back. Arnie and Olaf had somehow avoided their share of misfortune. The privacy screens had turned into kindling though. Not long after the disoriented group had fully recovered, they noticed something shadowy moving along the bottom of the tent. A furry head soon popped into view.
“Darwin!! You naughty monkey!! Give me those cogs!!” Vincent screamed as he began chasing the frightened animal. “Come back here…you little imp!!”
“Vinnie, you’ll only make it worse,” Lettie replied as Nettie nodded in agreement.
Vincent hesitated for just a second as he turned around and smiled at them. Then he took off at full speed. The man and the monkey made five full laps before the race ended. Darwin was cornered but he was perfectly safe from their collective wrath. They all knew that Darwin was a born biter. Arnie inspected the route Darwin had taken when they’d first noticed his presence. He whistled as heartily as he could. The others were soon at his side. The monkey’s antics had sapped their energy. They had to rest for a while.
“Hey, my leather cap…” Arnie said. “and my left boot.”
“There’s Dr. Zadlott’s favorite handmade ascot…”
“Oh, all our juggling equipment!!” the twins squealed. “Darwin is such a clever little thief!!”
The monkey’s secret stash amused the group for quite a while. He’d stolen bottles of perfume, ladies’ lingerie, hammers, wrenches and dozens of other unrelated items. The lavish pile quickly disappeared as everyone claimed their missing treasures. Dr. Zadlott muttered his usual apologies to everyone involved and he gave them the night off. He was standing all by himself, somewhere within an enormous cloud of dust, chuckling to himself. Dr. Zadlott thought about joining the revelers but he was feeling rather drowsy.
As he shuffled along to his sleeping quarters, he could see the celebration quickly unfolding. Vincent, Arnie and Mike were cleaning the humongous galvanized tub. Normally, it was reserved for the elephants but the ringmaster had been forced to sell them in order to meet his operating expenses. Alfredo was clattering around the kitchen area. It wouldn’t take long for him to whip up one of his exotic buffets.
Carlotta and Zayla began setting up the temporary tables while Lettie and Nettie had run off in search of their beloved gramophone and a few of their favorite treasures from their extensive collection of rare records. Gastonia couldn’t decide what she was going to do but she finally came up with an idea. She was soon bustling around, on the other side of the kitchen, preparing her incredible spicy lemonade. She thought about spiking it with a dash of Dr. Jasper’s famous tonic but then she decided to forgo it. Three hours later, the party-goers had traveled well beyond the point of ecstasy.
They were ensconced in the velvety smooth water. The men had stripped to their long johns while the women were coyly showing off their fashionable yet cumbersome bathing suits. The men guzzled their drinks and they told bawdy jokes. The women sipped theirs as they politely chatted.
“Vinnie, this is the best vacation we’ve ever had,” said Carlotta.
“This lemonade is superb,” Zayla commented. “What ingredients did you use?!”
“Whiskey, vodka, gin…” Mike replied. “and freshly-squeezed lemons and…”
“Mike, you’re inebriated and it isn’t due to my spicy lemonade,” Gastonia said.
“Who spiked her crazy beverage?!” Mike asked while he thrashed around in the water.
“Darwin did it!!! It was that darn monkey!!” Lettie and Nettie giggled.
“Let me have a sip…” Dr. Zadlott said just before he took a hearty swig. “Mike, you are a strange fellow. This lemonade does not contain any alcohol. Your imagination has run amok again.”
Dr. Zadlott chatted with them then he took a brisk stroll outside. The night air was quite invigorating. He thought of the old country and especially of his grandfather. Benoit Zadlovski had been the kindest man in the world. His grandfather was a hard-working family man who had saved every scrap of money he possibly could, continually daydreaming of the day when he’dfinally be able to move his large family to this perverse Utopia but the Zadlovski family’s dystopian dream unraveled shortly after their arrival. It had been a horrible shock. Their beloved patriarch had died only days after they’d first muddied their feet on those filthy big city streets.
The long, long voyage had been too rigorous for his rheumatic heart. The verbosity of his soul was corroding his mind. Dr. Zadlott had to focus on the future of his remarkable circus. He needed to acquire more animals and reptiles. Yet his constant urge to gamble would ultimately ruin that elusive dream. He took out a cigar and he enjoyed a leisurely smoke. It had taken a slight toll on his lungs but he really didn’t care. He heard the raucous laughter drifting through the tent’s heavy fabric. He smiled. They needed a rest now and then. He walked around thegrounds for nearly an hour before he finally bedded down.
“Dr. Zadlott!!! Dr. Zadlott!!” Lettie’s shrill voice pierced through the ringmaster’s entire being. “Please wake up!! We have another emergency. You must wake up!!”
Dr. Zadlott tossed and turned. His body was hanging over both sides of his narrow cot. He was snoring away. Then his nostrils finally roused him.
“Lettie, dear woman, what is the matter with you?!” the ringmaster roared. “Can’t you see I’m sleeping!!!”
“There’s another fire!!!”
Dr. Zadlott ran outside in his bright red nightshirt. Thick black smoke was billowing less than a mile away from their encampment.
“This is surreal!!” Dr. Zadlott bellowed. “Another fire!! Who keeps setting them!?! We must catch the arsonist and string him up!!!”
“Calm down, Dr. Zee!!!” Zayla implored. “It was not an arsonist!!! A lightning strike caused that fire!!!”
An explosion of activity soon followed. It took eight hours but the circus finally uprooted itself. They traveled several miles to an even more scenic location that also boasted a convenient and plentiful source of water. It had been a fortuitous move. The animals were agitated by all the commotion but Zayla, Gastonia and the twins were able to settle them down with soothing words and silly faces. The animals also received extra treats that were usually reserved for very special occasions. Dr. Zadlott’s Amazing Steampunk Circus settled in for a little spell of boredom that lasted approximately 3.5 days.
Vincent approached Carlotta shortly after breakfast, regarding one of Dr. Zadlott’s many projects. After that matter was resolved, they began chatting about their grand celebration five days earlier when Vincent’s face suddenly turned somber. He had finally remembered his promise.
“Carly, I owe you something…” Vincent said. “or had you forgotten already...”
“Of course not, you were going to style my hair and trim my beard.”
Vincent rushed off and then he returned a few minutes later. He situated Carlotta so he would have the best lighting possible. His scissors snipped wildly yet precisely. Then Vincent moved on to her facial hair. He took extreme care as he removed each errant strand. Then he handed her a tiny mirror while she stared at herself in the full length one.
“Marvelous, it looks lovely,” Carlotta gushed. “You’ve outdone yourself.”
“Don’t move!” Vincent replied. “I’ll be right back.”
Vincent rushed off again but he was gone nearly half an hour. Carlotta had already started walking towards her sleeping quarters by then.
“Hey, where do you think you’re going?!” Vincent seethed as he glared at her. “Come back here…I’m not finished yet.”
Carlotta was still vexed with him but she walked back over to where Vincent was standing. Then she climbed back on top of the prop box.
“Fredo and I created these,” Vincent said as he pointed to the strange containers that looked somewhat like vases. “This one will restore the luster to your hair and these two will help rejuvenate your beard and mustache…”
Carlotta eyed the pearlescent flasks. She was stunned. The containers were breathtaking to look at and the aroma was incredible.
“Okay, I’m ready,” Carlotta said. “I really hope nothing goes wrong. Everyone knows you have quite a history!”
Vincent turned the container over and he emptied the contents onto her head. Then he dutifully massaged the substance into her scalp.
“Is this supposed to burn?!”
“No, does it really hurt?”
“Just a little bit,” Carlotta replied. “I hope it’s worth all this effort.”
Vincent repeated the same procedure with the other two bottles. Then they waited very patiently. Twenty minutes elapsed. Vincent poured a jug of icy water over Carlotta’s head and face, nearly drowning her. Carlotta glanced down at the ground. She was relieved when she didn’t see any of her precious locks laying there.
“Carly, let me rinse everything one more time, okay?!”
“Hurry up!!! I’m getting hungry and I have to do my chores,” said Carlotta.
Vincent refilled the jug. Then he also grabbed another jug. He doused her with the icy torrent. She was fuming by the time he finished. She ran off to dry her hair and face. Vincent walked over to admire his handiwork but he quickly backed away from her.
“What’s wrong?” said Carlotta. “You look like you saw an apparition.”
“Worse than that…” Vincent said before he took off running.
Zayla and Dr. Zadlott happened to be walking by. They both gasped. Carlotta was extremely puzzled. Then she looked into the mirror on her vanity table. She screamed louder than anyone had ever heard her scream before. Then she began sobbing.
“This is terrible!!” Dr. Zadlott whispered.
“Poor Carly,” Zayla added. “Her hair is now bright purple and her beard and mustache are lavender. What are we going to do?!”
“I know Vincent is involved with this somehow. Whenever anything goes wrong it’s either his fault or my wretched monkey’s.”
“I think someone’s placed a curse on our circus…” Zayla mused. “or we’re all caught up in the same dreadful nightmare.”
Lettie, Nettie and Gastonia tried to comfort the distraught woman but she took to her bed and she wouldn’t eat a morsel for nearly a week. Vincent was so ashamed of himself that he ran away from the circus. Mike and Fredo tried to find him but they gave up after a long and futile search. Dr. Zadlott tried to pull his circus back together but they were feeling overwhelmed by all the strange calamities that had recently befallen their little troupe.
The plucky group forged ahead. The airship was in excellent condition once again. Carlotta had adjusted to her newfound problem. In fact, her bizarre new appearance attracted many new followers. Crowds swelled to three times their normal size. Alfredo’s amazing memory had saved the circus because he’d accidentally memorized the complicated formula for those bizarre hair care products. Carlotta’s luxurious locks would always be kept in mint condition.
Dr. Zadlott’s circus was more popular than ever. Few people had even noticed that Vincent was gone. The dirigible had flown nearly fifty miles from the spot where Vincent had vanished. Carlotta noticed him first. By the time they stumbled upon their former strongman, he was suffering from pneumonia. Carlotta and Zayla eagerly nursed him back to health. After all, Vincent was responsible for 65% of the formula. Everyone applauded that accidental triumph. The circus troupe wasn’t taking their current streak of good luck for granted because Fate had always shown a marked penchant for unpredictable outcomes.