The Subvertists: Junk

I

Marigold Wesley was giggly as she held the stick with the toy mouse, moving it animatedly as her cat Fancypants jumped playfully after it. Her husband Phil Lipton was at his desk in the living room corresponding with their friend Magnus Lyme online in their cozy Calgary home. As the Subvertists, Phil and Marigold often did work for Miss Lyme, who was a global consultant with the nickname The World’s Most Dangerous Woman, but today, he and Magsy were coordinating schedules for Phil and his wife to come over for an extended visit.

“Tell Mags, we can bring some pierogies from here,” Marigold said as she continued to play with Fancypants.

“They have pierogies in Queen’s Heights, too.”

“But they have really, really good ones here with bacon.”

“Magsy does not eat meat. She never did.”

“She eats seafood.”

“That is not the same.”

“Fish have mothers, too, you know.”

“She is a pescatarian. She is not going to eat anything with a mammal in it.”

“Well then, what does she want?”

“Our company.”

“We can’t just bring ourselves. We have to bring something.”

“We can buy her pets some treats and toys. I am sure they have gnawed, lost, or destroyed all the ones Dwennon Garrison dropped off at her front porch when he mysteriously came and dropped them off a couple of months ago.”

“I heard you mention his name before. Who is he?”

“Dwennon was Magsy’s first serious boyfriend. They lasted two years, but then got torn apart, assuming it had something to do with her infiltrating that cabal La Nuit du bas, and throwing him out of line of danger. I still like him a lot. He was a member of our regular Thursday beer day along with Magsy and Denny Garber. Truth be told, I was devastated when they broke up because he was a good friend, and I would have liked to have kept that friendship as well, but he retreated for the most part.”

“He wasn’t that shrink she dated for a while?”

“No, Dwennon was, until recently, a newspaper journalist and columnist living in Chicago. Dr. Hunter Colby was her second serious boyfriend, and they lasted a year. I could never stand that pretentious Aussie.”

“Seriously? Was he a jerk?”

“He rubbed me the wrong way, we started off on the wrong foot, and it went downhill from there. I was relieved when they parted.”

“What about her current beau Brad Stoney?”

“I never liked him when he used to be a journalist, but he was good friends with Denny. While he has matured and is far more likable than he was twenty years ago, I don’t think he and Magsy are going to last as a couple.”

“But he is so hunky dreamy.”

“So was Dr. Colby. Hunky dreamy is not enough. Brad cannot truly hold his own with her.”

“Really? He beat cancer and survived getting humiliated in public when he interviewed that Grant Welles jerk thinking he was a victim when he was his wife’s killer.”

“He’s dawdling, and I just don’t see it. He’s groping in the dark…”

“Hon, that’s called foreplay. We women like that a lot.”

“Very funny.”

“I think Theo Nathanial is going to be the One.”

“They aren’t even an item.”

“Oh, I saw him when he came over for a visit when we were working on that case with her. He was looking pretty hot, and she was liking it. My money’s on Nathanial.”

“I don’t know if Magsy’s ever going to get married. It seemed like she’d marry Dwennon, but when that didn’t happen, she never seemed like she had any interest in matrimony. Thank goodness she never got married to Dr. Colby.”

“You almost sound jealous of him.”

“I wasn’t, and I am not. I just never liked his smug demeanour.”

“So, what happened to Colby?”

“I’ve no idea after they broke up. I am certain he is back in Australia swaggering around and pointing out everyone’s intellectual weaknesses as he offers to save people from themselves. I will never know what Magsy saw in him.”

“A hot guy with brains and a sexy accent, maybe? I bet he was good in the sack, too…”

“I do not want a visualization…”

“Oh, come on. I mean, Theo oozed that kind of visualization when I saw him, and that’s why I bet those two are going to tie the knot after hooking up for endless sex romps on her farm.”

“Again, I do not want a visualization…”

“Ask Mags about it…”

“I most certainly will not ask her.”

“Don’t be a drag, hon! No guts, no glory.”

“There is no glory in asking imprudent and disrespectful questions!”

Marigold dropped the stick and ran over to the laptop as she tried to push Phil aside as she began to type. Phil placed his hand over the keyboard as the two wrestled for the control until there was a frantic knock at the door.

Marigold squealed with glee, “Woo hoo! A client! How ultra!” She ran to the front entrance as Phil sighed in relief, erased the gobbledegook on the screen, typed his sign-off, and went to see who needed the Subvertists to turn the tables on a grifter who just conned them.

II

Miriam Wu was the alleged client, but in all honesty, she was a thirty-two-year-old librarian who was dragged here by her parents Stephen Wu and Alice Ponomarenko who were sitting on either side of their only child on the sofa speaking animatedly about what their naïve daughter was doing with her life: throwing it away for a no-good clown and bum.

Apparently, bum was the put-down, but the guy really was a circus clown. He performed in a circus and everything, but he was a no-good version, who was, according to the mother, a bum.

They also went on at length that they paid a pretty penny for her graduate education and shouldn’t that be enough to give her “street cred” as her father asked using his hands to gesture quotation marks. She was too trusting, after all, and too kind-hearted as she volunteered at a nursing home on her free time, and she was never exposed to “hooligans” like her current “sleazebag” boyfriend.

Miriam didn’t say anything, but frowned as she folded her arms and stared at the ceiling.

It was going to be one of those cases where the client wasn’t the client, and was going to do everything possible to stymie things, and the people who were the clients were going to do everything possible to pretend they weren’t clients.

Both Phil and Marigold looked at each other, pursed their lips, nodded, and looked at the trio.

“Forget it,” they said in unison.

“Forget it?” Mr. Wu and Mrs. Ponomarenko gasped in unison.

“Look,” said a vexed Marigold, “It’s obvious that your grown daughter here doesn’t see a problem…”

“Because there isn’t!” Miriam snapped defiantly, “My parents are just embarrassed because Aloysius works as a clown! They’re making stuff up just to tear us apart…”

“That so-called ‘clown’ isn’t even a clown with a steady job!” her mother spat with fury, “He is a bum who is too lazy to be a clown, and that’s why he is looking for a naïve girl to support him and fleece her of her life savings!”

“Fleece me? Do you know how much a librarian makes, mother?”

“More than a pretend clown!”

Phil raised his hand. “Perhaps if we get some clarification about the actual issue, we could determine if there is any reason for us to get involved. Why do you suspect that your daughter is being ‘fleeced’?”

Mr. Wu spoke. “As my wife has brilliantly pointed out, Aloysius Bread cannot support himself with his clownery alone. He goes by the stage name Whippy the Clown, and his routine, to put it mildly, stinks.

“Dad!”

“Aloysius must support himself through other means, and he has convinced my naïve child to invest in his garbage recycling business.”

“Garbage recycling?” asked Phil.

Mr. Wu rolled his eyes as he cringed. “He has convinced my daughter that he has created a device that can recycle any trash into clean fuel for cars. As he has no scientific degree, I do not see how any of this is possible…”

“First of all, Al didn’t say he invented anything. His degree is in economics, not STEM. He is investing in a start-up…you see how this has gotten out of hand, Mr. Lipton?”

“The original story was that he had a part in inventing it,” her mother retorted, “Only after your father quizzed him did he change his story. Steven is an attorney; he is one of the best in the business…”

“Oh, please,” grumbled Miriam.

Phil nodded, “And you would like to know if this venture is legitimate?”

“It is legitimate!”

“No, it isn’t, Miriam!

“Listen to your mother. She is a loan officer. She deals with businesses all the time.”

Marigold looked confident, “Don’t worry, we go for the gusto!”

Miriam looked skeptically at her. “But you’re dressed like you’re from the Victorian era. What kind of gusto can you go for?”

Phil kissed Marigold on the cheek. “More than most people do in a lifetime, Miss Wu. Don’t let the Gibson Girl look fool you.”

“What can I say?” Marigold said perkily, “It’s a gift. Anyway, if Whippy the Clown is bad news, we’ll find out fast, but if he isn’t, then, no harm. It’s not as like you don’t trust your honey baby; you can pin it on your helicopter parents. Even a clown can’t take that against you, and you two will have lots to gossip about...”

Phil interrupted. “A little research goes a long way, Miss Wu. If your parents are wrong about Aloysius, we can put their mind at ease. If they are right, we can help you get your money back.”

Miriam frowned, then nodded. “If it will get these two off my back and out of my love life, then please do it.” She turned to her parents. “If I am right, and this is a big to-do about nothing, you will be absolutely forbidden from ever meddling in my life ever again.”

Her parents nodded smugly in unison with the demeanour that they already knew they were right, would be proven as such, and hence, would be allowed to freely and brazenly meddle in their only child’s life any way they chose, and had every intention of continuing.

III

“So,” Marigold said as she sat across from Phil at the breakfast table as he was writing on his laptop, “Any good dirt on Aloysius Bread yet?”

“He is barely a clown,” said Phil as he looked up while Marigold began to cut a bagel in half, “He does have a very poor web site with three testimonials.”

“Let me guess: his mommy, his grandma, and his loser friend from grade school?”

“Not quite, but they are legitimate references. I checked them out, but they don’t give me anything to go one.”

“He keeps his cards close to his chest?”

“He is very careful with his social media. I suspect he has mule accounts where he plies his skulduggery, but so far, I haven’t found anything useful.”

“Maybe he is a killer clown. That would be a first for us.”

“Actually, I do know of one killer clown case that happened in Toronto about twenty years ago. As a matter of fact, that was first murder Dwennon solved as a reporter, and he even saved the day, tripping up Blinky the Amazing Human Cannonball with his foot when the clown tried to escape the police, and the killer ended up face first in a pile of animal manure. Dwennon could write his own ticket after that.”

Marigold laughed out loud. “Go for the gusto; that’s what I always say. He sounds like he was a pretty ultra guy.”

“One of the most ultra men I have ever known.”

“Aww, that sounds so sad.”

“It is heart-breaking. He had a knack for finding these very strange unsolved murders, and then, like Magsy, solving them before the police did. He used to be on American talks shows as a regular because of it, many times with their cat Jenny.”

Marigold gave a sad smile. “No wonder you never liked any of Mags’ boyfriends after that. No one else could measure up to that unlikely legend.”

“I never realized what close friend I had become with him until they broke up.”

“One day, hon, you really have to get back in touch with him. Mags wouldn’t mind.”

“I know she wouldn’t. She still speaks fondly of him. I just do not want to intrude or remind him of the past.”

“Maybe he’d want to be reminded of it. Maybe he needs to be reminded of what he used to do.”

“I suppose.” Phil looked deep in thought as he looked at the screen once again. “Marigold, you see these three people who gave glowing reviews to Mr. Bread?”

“What about them?”

“I wonder if you could strike up some sort of conversation. It’s all we have so far, and I am wondering if you can get them to say something that I have missed with my research.”

“Sure, no prob, babe! I can just be Madame Ursula, and…”

“No! Not Madame Ursula! I hate when you do your phoney psychic routine!”

“But the Madame can read a sitter and get them to sing like a canary!”

“The Madame is a horrible way to fool people.”

“Hon, read the memo. We fool people for a living to get back the money they stole from our clients. Is it any better to fake a psychiatric disorder?”

“Yes.”

“Really?”

“You are merely presenting an ambiguous situation that brings out their ignorance and throws them off their game, giving us a chance to turn the tables on them. Madam Ursula is a flat-out con job.”

“Which puts the real cons in their place; so I win.”

“There is no winning!”

“A happy client is a victory. A paycheck is the spoils of our quest to teach all grifters a lesson.”

Phil furrowed his brow. “I only once tried to teach a grifter a lesson.”

“What happened?”

He smirked. “I married her.”

Marigold cocked her head back triumphantly. “You did a lot more than that.” She held his hand and smiled warmly. “You turned my life around. You’ll never know how happy I am that we crossed paths when we did.”

“Me too. When I started my last story for the newspaper, I thought I would expose you, write a boffo front page story, and then keep going back to a job that meant nothing to me.”

“Instead, you listened to me, helped my dad, found real grifters to expose, and became my friend before becoming my husband, and dumping that no good rag that didn’t respect you. Best year of my life, hon. If there is one thing I can’t stand, is someone conning a person with romance.”

“Me, too.”

“Let’s see what these three clown lovers have in common with Whippy. Maybe it’s nothing, but maybe there is a reason they are all twentysomething young ladies with small kids.”

IV

“Well?” asked Phil as Marigold walked through the door wearing one of her Madame Ursula costumes as he grimaced. “You had to do Madame Ursula.”

“Ha! I did her twin sister Lady Elke.”

“There is a difference?”

“Sure, there is. The Madame is a psychic. The Lady, on the other hand, has delusions of having psychic abilities. Totally different.”

“I stand corrected.”

“The Lady is also very fanatical with her psychic religion.”

“Psychics have a religion?”

“I said, she’s delusional. You have to follow the train of thought here.”

“That train got derailed at Madame Ursula.”

“Hey, Madame Ursula knows what she is doing. Lady Elke is a total nut.”

“I love how you skirt these fine lines in order to play Madame Ursula, knowing full well I hate when you do…”

“Listen, you wouldn’t get so smug if you knew what I found out with Lady Elke.”

“Enlighten me.”

“All those women had dads who were lawyers, which is pretty nervy because if Whippy got caught, those ladies don’t have to pay their dad to represent them in court.”

“That is an interesting common thread.”

“They all parted on good terms with Whippy…”

“They all dated a precariously employed clown?”

“He even dumped them, citing that he was not worthy, and so they all tried to save him by giving him a glowing testimonial.”

“Did any of them invest in Whippy?”

“No, but he did get something out of all of them.”

“Such as?”

“The first girl got him to join some little environmental group where the parents come from money and pay for their electric cars.”

“In other words, his group of suckers to fleece.”

“They all drive electric cars, but if you have some sort of fuel that doesn’t pollute, you don’t keep needing to recharge the car. The second one got him a gig at some young tech entrepreneur’s kid’s birthday party.”

“Hence he has the ear of a start-up tycoon wannabe so he can give the appearance of having the backing of a legitimate company.”

“He can make his con sound on the level. Now, for the third ex-girlfriend, her mom runs a public relations company, and she even got one of her mom’s underlings to help him with his marketing and image.”

“He gets to polish his swindle and learns what he needs to know in order to sound convincing.”

“So, it has been a build up. He dates a woman, gets what he needs from her, dumps her, and then goes up the food chain. He has everything he needs except for money…”

“True, but Miriam isn’t rich.”

“But she does have a tidy sum she inherited…”

Phil looked up. “No one from the family said anything about an inheritance…”

Marigold dug into her pockets and pulled out a copy of a will. “I went to courthouse to play a hunch…”

Phil looked at the paper. “It is a tidy sum, but how did you know?”

“Well, it was obvious Whippy wants money, but Miriam’s parents didn’t mention how much money she had; so I thought, maybe she inherited from someone and didn’t tell them because she doesn’t like their meddling – and she seems to think they’re clueless, and maybe there is a reason for that – because she keeps them in the dark. So then I thought, ‘who’d give her that kind of dough, and how would Whippy know about it? She’s a librarian and she volunteers at a nursing home…”

“Where someone she was spending time with left her something in their will.”

“Right, so Lady Elke paid a visit, and got the goods real fast – and to top it all off, that’s where Whippy met her because he has a semi-regular gig because the third girlfriend’s great-aunt’s in there, and she got him in there.”

“That is absolutely brilliant. That’s usually my job.”

“What can I say? I learned from the best. But that’s not the biggest thing I learned.”

“What?”

“That even though I was double faking it with Lady Elke, all three of those broads thought I had real psychic powers anyway, and all those people in the nursing home thought so, too. Imagine that. Here I am going through the rigmarole of reading people, and all this time I could have just made junk up and gotten everything wrong, and they still think I’m psychic. Weird, huh?”

“Believe me, it still boggles my mind. At least now we have a starting point, and something I can look into to see what else we can find out about Mr. Bread.”

V

Phil was both relieved and disappointed to learn that Whippy the Clown was not an overly sophisticated huckster, and it took him less than half a day to find out everything the Subvertists needed to know in order to put an end to the scam. Dwennon’s killer clown Blinky was diabolical and wily, but Whippy was none of those things. He was a lazy clown, yet a horny one who bedded his pigeons and then got them to feel sorry for him and do his work for him.

Phil spoke to several people at the nursing home, from the residents to the staff, and they all had the same thing to say about Whippy: he was a lazy clown. There was no clowniness to the clown, and no one wanted him around, but he had an in as his parents were friends with a member of the administration, and as they paid him under the table for less than market value, it was a cheap indulgence. He was not a favourite with the seniors, but as they were a captive audience, they could either nod off or heckle him. He didn’t have the charm to win over an audience.

Except that Whippy seemed to be an improbable ladies’ man. Women felt sorry for a bad clown. They rooted for Whippy as he seemed so nice to those grumpy seniors. That’s how it always began. They would give him a shoulder to cry on, and before anyone knew it, they were having a torrid affair with a lousy and lazy clown.

Whippy was good at one-on-one relationships. He couldn’t own a crowd, but he could always sneak into places and have a large network of people who felt pity for him.

They always thought he was not too bright, but very kind and generous.

And that he was a big champion of the environment.

It was by following his former flames that Phil discovered that Whippy had made connections through environmental groups until he found one that was interested in investing in an environmentally-friendly car. Whippy came up with a brilliant idea of a car that was powered by a pollutant-free fuel that could travel further without refueling and charging. He had no background in it, but Phil tracked down one of the maids of one of Whippy’s numerous execs and she told him all about the shady clown’s spiels. She even managed to procure the brochure and information package that Whippy used to sell the idea.

It was professional-looking and sounded right with all the emphasis of how much money investors would make.

How Whippy made a snazzy-looking ephemera was almost a mystery, but as usual, he merely kept dating the right people, from an engineer to a woman who worked in a print shop, and then it became obvious.

All of the former girlfriends were unwittingly contributing to a scheme that was meant to fleece them.

Phil also had a productive chat with one police officer in another town who had been investigating Aloysius, but never had enough as the wily clown had tried to some success frame one of his girlfriends. He was not above having his victims take the wrap, meaning Miriam was also in danger of facing the same fate.

They had the framework and the mindset of a very devious clown. Now Phil and Marigold had to devise a way to expose him.

VI

Marigold slid down the bannister the following morning as was her usual routine. Phil always chuckled at his eccentric and Victorian-era obsessed wife’s playful morning perkiness, but when he looked at her outfit, he gasped.

“Ta da!” she said as she had her long blonde mane down and not in the usual up-do, and make up looked more like a rock star than her usual neutral shades. “Do you like the vinyl minidress? Naomi made it just for me for such emergencies.”

“You are gorgeous and take my break away, but what emergencies could that punk rock look aid in?”

“Conning a con man. Naomi was inspired by the rock star Anne Susse when she made it. Naomi lives in Carnivalia where Anne performs there regularly when she isn’t being the mayor of Queen’s Heights. She’s friends with her, too, you know.”

“As she also a lifelong friend of Magsy’s, but how will that get-up – as flattering as it is on you – con Whippy?”

“Easy – I am going to the nursing home on the pretence of looking to shove my rich old grandpa in there because they are committed to saving the planet and all that jazz, and I’ll be bragging my pretty little glamourous head off…”

“In other words, feigning Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”

“You know me, babe. Anyway, Whippy will smell a pigeon, and then the fun and games begin.”

“But you will need an elderly gentleman to play your wealthy and obviously senile grandfather to make yourself look convincing.”

“That’s where you come in, babe.”

“Me?”

“Yeah, sure. I do you up to look like a geezer, and I push you around in a wheelchair. Isn’t that ultra?”

Phil furrowed his brow in disapproval. “I do not look like an old geezer. I may be older than you, but I am hardly in senior citizen territory.”

“Oh, come on, it’s just a role. A wig, make up, grandpa clothes, and no one will know.”

“I am in my forties – not my eighties…”

“Go for the gusto, babe. Have fun with it.”

“Absolutely not…”

“Well then, I have no choice. I’ll just have to go over there as Madame Ursula.”

Phil grimaced. “All right. Do me up.” He shot Marigold a stern look. “You play dirty.”

“But all for a good cause. I have the perfect get-up for you. It’ll be fun!” Marigold shouted as she giggled and ran up the stairs.

“Speak for yourself!” shouted Phil who loathed the idea of being seen as a crotchety old man, though his current mood was the perfect fit for the role.”

VII

Marigold pushed Phil in a wheelchair into the foyer, they both immediately noticed Whippy the Clown performing a lackluster show for a dozen dozing seniors before seeing a man in a blue suit come forward to greet them.

“Miss Marilyn Van Doren?”

“Yeah?” said Marigold brightly as she chewed a wad a bubble gum.

“I’m Samuel Woodbead; we spoke on the phone about your grandfather

Flynn Grant…”

“That’ll be me,” Phil replied in a husky voice, “And I’d prefer that you young whippersnapper not refer to me in the third person. I’m here; not dead…”

“Isn’t Grampy so cute?”

Mr. Woodbead forced a weak grin. “He is…charming…”

“Grampy! Look at the funny clown!” Marigold looked at Mr. Woodbead, “Grampy loves clowns. Do you mind if he watches the clown before we go on the tour thing?”

“Most certainly. I would not want to do anything to make your Grampy upset. I’ll be in my office when you are ready for the tour.”

“Sure! Thankies.”

As Mr. Woodbead left, Marigold pushed Phil toward the small gathering as she then took a chair and sat beside him. Within seconds, Whippy made eye contact with Marigold who smiled and threw back her hair before turning to Phil. “Hey, Grampy! Look at the clown! Remember the mime who performed for your birthday when we flew on your private plane to the French Riviera?”

“Those were good times,” said Phil, “But I preferred the private circus I hired to perform at your private school’s graduation in Paris…”

“That was London, Grampy. Paris was the place where you had a clown perform in your summer house for Momsy’s…”

Before Marigold could finish, Whippy made a beeline to her. “Well, hello, beautiful lady! Is this your grandfather?”

“Yeah, it’s my Grampy. Grampy, look! The clown wants to say hello to you.”

Phil pretended to nod off as Marigold blushed. “You have to excuse my Grampy. He gets so overstimulated these days. We just came from Beverley Hills, and he just spoils me silly. He’ll drop a hundred grand just on my wardrobe, even though he says the more money you pay, the less fabric goes into your outfit! He’s so funny, my Grampy, but between you and me, he just bought a car for my birthday, but he doesn’t know I know. I hate to break it to him that it’s not an electric car, but Grampy gets confused sometimes…”

Whippy’s eyes suddenly twinkled as he became animated. “Ah, look, I still have ten minutes left, but do you mind if you stuck around because the clown gig is just for the old folks. I may have answer to your car trouble.”

“Really?” perked up Marigold.

“Yeah. You see that little park outside? I’ll meet you there in a few minutes.”

“Sure thing.” Marigold winked as she got up and pushed Phil outside to the designated meeting place.

“We have a few minutes,” Marigold whispered, “I knew he’d bite.”

“What happens now?”

“He’ll flirt with me, and probably ask me out. I already made reservations at the most expensive restaurant – for three. I won’t tell him Grampy is coming along, but just nod off, and he’ll have to behave just enough, but he’ll make a pitch for us to invest in his fake company, but we’ll be ready for him.”

“As a wise detective quipped, the game is a foot.”

“You know, you make an adorable geezer, babe.”

“Maybe, but I am in no hurry to get there.”

The two looked at each other and howled with laughter.

VIII

Oddly enough, even without his Whippy the Clown makeup, Aloysius Bread looked the same. It looked clowny. But he must have practiced flirty and smoldering eyes in the mirror for years because he looked like a flirty clown. When Aloysius arrived at the restaurant and saw Marigold and Phil at the table, his face went from flirty to disappointed, though he tried to put on a game face.

“Marilyn!” he said with sugary warmth, “I didn’t realize Grampy was coming.”

“Neither did I, but he insisted,” she cooed as she waved for him to sit down, “I can’t say no to Grampy. I am his favourite, after all. But just he ordered his meal, he fell asleep. It’s so cute how he does it, too; so don’t mind Grampy.”

“Well, you look very beautiful this evening, Marilyn.”

“Yes, I know I am always the most beautiful woman in the world. I mean, every time I look in the mirror that gorgeous evidence is smiling right back at me,” Marigold gushed giddily as Aloysius once again looked stunned but said nothing as he picked up the menu.

“Don’t worry, Grampy insisted on picking up the tab. He got all excited meeting you. He’s just crazy for clowns. The sky’s the limit. You really have to try the lobster. I always have lobster when I’m here. Some people can eat anything, but not me. Only the best for me!”

Marigold had to suppress her smirk watching Aloysius blanch and bite his tongue as he was not accustomed to his pigeons being so full of themselves. Usually, they were insecure broads who longed to be full of themselves and always needed some man to validate their fairy princess delusions. This woman was vain to an extreme, and he was certain she was some sort of narcissistic loon who thought she was God’s gift to men. He would play along as she seemed oblivious and was dependent on Grampy’s money to fund her ridiculous lifestyle.

As the two chatted and Grampy was snoring away in his soup, Aloysius made his pitch to an enthusiastic Marilyn about his connections and secret formula for a car that ran on one hundred percent clean fuel that outdid electric cars and everything else on the market.

Marigold looked at Phil and sighed. “Grampy would love to invest, but there just one teensy little problem.”

“Which is?”

“He will triple whatever cash you have at hand.”

“What?”

“He has to see that you actually have money, like, in your hand, then he’ll give you whatever you want. It’s a weird thing of his – he doesn’t believe in giving money to broke people because they’ll just spend it trying to look as good as me, which is absolutely impossible, bless those deluded souls. If you have some bucks and show it to him, he’ll fork out way more than that. Can you do it?”

Her dinner companion looked nervous, but relented. “I can do that.”

“Oh, and there is one more thing.”

“What?”

“Well, you don’t have to indulge him, but like I said, he is just crazy for clowns. If you dress up as Whippy, he’ll just practically sign you a blank cheque. He loses his mind when it is a clown. You wouldn’t believe the number of clowns he’s just dropped some serious dough on just because their big red nose was shinier than the average clown. Isn’t that cute?”

Marilyn Van Doren and her rich grandfather Flynn Grant were two certifiable freaks of nature, thought Aloysius, but if they were willing to dump a truckload of cash on a clown, then Aloysius Bread was just the clown to do it.

IX

The following afternoon, Whippy paced nervously in front of the nursing home holding a suitcase as Marigold wheeled Phil who was hold a large trunk. The shady clown’s eyes widened as he realized how much cash was most likely in there.

“Marilyn! Mr. Grant! Great to see you!”

“It’s always great to see me,” Marigold cooed as Phil grunted.

“Aww, Grampy is always so happy to see a clown, aren’t you, Grampy? Not as happy as when he sees me, but second is better than third, isn’t it? Now, Grampy, the clown here wants lots of money because he has a big and important invention for saving the environment.”

“Let’s see the dough,” replied Phil who opened the trunk to reveal what looked like real money in one hundred-dollar bills. I kept up my end.”

Whippy nearly fainted as he saw the convincing counterfeit cash that the Subvertists often used in turning the tables on grifters. He opened his briefcase to reveal all the money he had just swindled from Miriam Wu.

“There it is. Do we have a deal?”

“All we have to do is see the car, have you fuel it up, and take us for a spin,” said Marigold, “And we can drop this off at your bank.”

“Ah, it’s still just in the planning stages…”

“But you said last night you drove in it.”

“Well, uh, that was just a prototype and I can’t have civilians risk anything…”

“No ride, no cash.”

Aloysius seriously considered knocking over Grampy and grabbing the trunk and running, but Marigold slapped his hand.

“You keep your paws off Grampy’s money. I want a ride in that car, or else…”

“I told you I can’t risk it…”

“That’s what you said to all the other women you swindled, you grifter. That’s Miriam Wu’s money she handed to you when you told her the same spiel. Now give us the cash before we box your ears and call the cops, and have you charged with fraud…”

“It wasn’t my idea,” Whippy said, “It was Miriam Wu’s! That’s right! She is the mastermind behind all this nonsense! She’s blackmailing me and everything! I’ll sign an affidavit! I’ll testify against her for immunity!”

Marigold whispered, “Do you think all the other women we found that you fleeced were also in on it, clown boy? We got you dead to rights, bozo.”

Just as Whippy was about to grab his suitcase of cash and run out the door, Phil got up from the wheelchair and tripped the clown who stumbled and dropped his suitcase, but he continued running until he bumped into something and fell on his backside, activating a whoopie cushion as he looked up and saw the police.

“Mr. Bread, fancy meeting you here,” one police officer said as he looked stern. “I was a rookie when you tried to pull a similar stunt in Winnipeg a few years ago, and that poor girl got arrested thanks to you, but now that we have some solid evidence against you, this time you aren’t going to leave your girlfriend high and dry.”

“You got nothing on me, Malone!” shouted a defiant Whippy.

“Oh, we got plenty thanks to two concerned citizens.”

Whippy turned around as Phil and Marigold waved at him.

“As citizens, we were very concerned,” deadpanned Marigold and the police handcuffed Whippy and read him his rights.

“You frauds! Finks! Stoolies! Meddlers!”

“Yeah, yeah,” dismissed Marigold, “And you’re just a swindling jerk who got his. Cry it to your mommy, buddy.”

“Miriam may have trusted you, but her parents saw right through you,” added Phil.

“I could have ruled Calgary! Alberta! All of the prairie provinces! I could have been rich and famous! I hate parents of librarians! They all suck, those meddlers!”

The officer sighed. “Did he show you two the piece of junk he shilled as the vehicle of the future?”

“We never got that far,” said Phil, “Mainly because he wouldn’t show it to us, knowing it wouldn’t impress a very wealthy mark.”

“We finally found it and had it taken in as evidence,” said the officer, “It’s just an old car repainted with a bogus gas tank.”

As Whippy kicked and screamed into the police car, Phil looked at Marigold and sighed, “Whippy was one mean clown.”

“What a jerk. At least we got Miriam her money back.”

“She’ll be absolutely devastated.”

“That her boyfriend tried to fleece then frame her?”

“No, that her parents were right.”

“They’ll be surprised to find out how much money she really had. I wonder if they’ll actually try to ground her.”

“They will not be pleased that she kept that big of a secret away from them.”

“They’ll definitely ground her.”

“Absolutely. Let’s go break the good news to them, and the bad news to her.”

X

Miriam Wu pouted as the Subvertists returned their money minus their fee as her parents were animated lecturing her from either side of their only child. They reminded her repeatedly that she was very lucky that she had loving and intelligent parents who had to babysit their secret-keeper of a naïve daughter. They reminded her repeated how very disappointed they were of her decisions to hide things from her parents and divulge things to shady and untrustworthy men who called themselves Whippy. They both took a breath to enthusiastically thank Phil and Marigold and praised them as superheroes who saved their naïve daughter from evil clowns. They shook their hands before giving them both hugs and kisses. Miriam refrained from doing the same as she looked meekly at her parents who assured her that they would from now on keeping a close watch on her, and had already enrolled her in financial management courses as she proved that she really had no clue or sense with regards to a windfall.

Miriam left dejectedly behind her boisterous parents as Phil and Marigold closed the front door and looked at each other while pursing their lips in unison.

“Did we really do the right thing, babe? I mean, sure we got Miriam her money back, and exposed that clown, but now her folks are going to keep meddling in her love life!”

“You saw how well she fared without their approval the first time.”

“Right. Unemployed grifter clown who fleeced her and then tried to frame her. The woman needs serious parental supervision.”

“We, on the other hand, need no supervision. Let’s grab Fancypants, and surprise Magsy with an early visit.”

“That sounds so ultra…”

They were interrupted by the ringing of Phil’s smartphone. “Speaking of Magsy…” he said before he answered the phone, looking surprised as Marigold was intrigued. He went to the kitchen to grab a pen and paper, and when he returned a few minutes later, he looked stunned. “A radical change in plans. She has just hired me for a very complex assignment, with you on standby in Queen’s Heights.”

“What’s this about?”

“She has been asked to rescue a Serbian scientist who has been kidnapped and is in some secret prison somewhere.”

“Where?”

“She doesn’t know where, but she is putting together a large rescue team, and I am on it. My job isn’t to break out the scientist, but to gather information and monitor chatter from his two probable captors. You are to hold down the fort and deal with any of her clients if they should find themselves in a crisis.”

“Do I get to wear a red dress?”

“As a matter of fact, she has one for you in your favourite style.”

Marigold squealed. “I get promoted to being a Red Queen? Oh, I have arrived. I know this sounds terrible, but I hope someone needs a global consultant to get their slimy butts out of a jam! I always have fun on Magsy’s cases!”

“We better pack our suitcases. She said to bring Fancypants, and that Naomi is flying over to pick us up by tonight.”

“It’s always an adventure. How much is the fee?”

“A cool half million for me – and whatever you make is yours to keep in full.”

“I am, like, so there. This job is never boring. I love my life, and I love you!” Marigold ran up and jumped into Phil’s arms as he lovingly swayed with her. Life was all about adventure and excitement, and now the two had more daring adventures that not only made their hearts roar, but made the world a kinder and more loving place to live in.