The midnight tide rushed in to the Saipan shore, but ten-year-old Lambert David Taisague didn't notice. He listened for the slap of his friends' footsteps on the sidewalk, the familiar whistle of Manet, or a loud shout from Tomás. The American Memorial Park offered none of these. Only the distant murmur of voices from the Liberation Day carnival filtered through the hot tropical air. Lambert's friends were late.
Lambert twisted on the playground swing, then lifted his feet to feel a jerk and spin as the chains uncoiled. When the swing stopped, he craned his neck first to the right and then to the left. His eyes had difficulty discerning shapes in the dark. He pulled new glasses from his pocket and put them on. In the distance, he could see the colored Japanese lanterns more clearly. The sidewalk was empty.
The shadows, however, were not.
A pale face floated beneath the slide, its wide, wicked smile caked around the lips, red and laughing. A clown. Now leaping from his hiding place, and Lambert, who so wished his parents would let him go by David, choked on the chloroform-soaked rag. His last thoughts were of his friends, and the clown's blue wig tickling his nose.
Lambert need not have worried about his friends. He would see them soon enough; for the carnival had need of four boys for the elephant cages.
Continuation: Gareth Bendall