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Big Top Monkey Business - Part 1 of Did the Chimp Do It? A Short Story

Tim is a freelance writer, poet, artist and storyteller. He always tries to find and include lessons for everyone in his writing.

Fer Gomez

Fer Gomez

The morning was dawning bright when the circus rolled into town. The children's eyes aglow with joy and wonder watched as the circus wagons pulled by elephants meandered down the street.

The crowds gathered to watch the Big Top being set up. Everyone was anxious to see the many wonders that it had to offer. In two days the circus would open and the crowds would come but for now the only crowds at the circus were the police because the Big Top had become a crime scene.

“ I’ve always loved the circus. How about you Johnson did you go to the circus a lot when you were a kid?” said the man dressed in the blue suit coat, white shirt and tie as he pushed back the flap of the tent and stepped inside

“No sir, when I was a kid I used to get the creeps from all the sideshow acts.”

“Unsolved mysteries”

“What was that sir?”

“Unsolved mysteries it’s the way we used to describe the circus. Unsolved mysteries. What’s the word on the vic?“

“Well sir we have a white male apparently killed at close range with a single gunshot to the head”

Detective Howard looked around the interior of the tent taking in every detail of the crime scene. It was your typical circus tent. A makeup table with a big mirror and a lot of lights stood in one corner if you could say that a tent had corners. In another part of the tent was a small cot sat, one of those travel size refrigerators and a microwave oven sitting on a table.

In the section of the tent to which the patrolmen referred sat a number of animal cages each occupied by a chimpanzee. He smiled with satisfaction. Hopefully this would be a slam-dunk case. In the last few days he had too many cases that required a lot of footwork. He looked back to where Johnson stood guarding the entrance to the tent.

“Is the body where you found it?”

“Yes, Sir. Like I said it appears that the victim was shot at close range from behind, and then it appears that he just slumped over onto his desk face down in pancake makeup. It also appears from the body’s position and all the blood splattered on the top of the mirror that he was shot from behind and from below.”

The detective surveyed the crime scene one more time. Even though he was thirty-five years old Detective Howard had the appearance of someone who was much older due to his slightly greyer hair the result of too many years of seeing things no one should see. Crime has a way of doing that to some people. He was ruggedly handsome in a Tom Sellick kind of way. A good-looking man, single by choice because he felt no woman should have to deal with a cop’s lifestyle.

“Doesn’t it strike you as odd that someone would be stooping down to get off the shot”

“Not really sir considering who we caught holding the gun”

“You have a suspect?”

“Yes, but you are not going to believe it.”

“Try me”

“Well when we got here the perps were still standing by the body with the weapon in hand which I guess you say they were hands. Well anyway we arrested them right away.”

“There were two of them? Where are they now on their way downtown?”

“Surely you can’t mean those?” Detective Howard pointed to the chimps.

“Not exactly sir, they’re in a cage over in the corner.”

“ A cage in the corner?”

“Surely you can’t mean those?” Detective Howard pointed to the chimps.

“Yes sir, the big one in the cage on the left he is the one that was holding the gun when we got here. He was standing right behind the chair. It was almost as if he wanted us to catch him.”

Detective Howard stood there staring in the direction of the two chimps. He was not sure but he thought he detected something in their eyes. Something he had only seen in humans before, hatred. He shrugged it off as just an active imagination triggered by the Patrolmen’s suggestion of the chimps being the perps. He turned back to patrolmen.

“Doesn’t it strike you as odd that a chimp would have the ability to use a gun to waste its owner? Even the fact that we are standing here considering that a chimp is a suspect seems ludicrous to me.”

“Well sir. If you think that it is odd to consider a chimp as our prime suspect wait until you hear the rest”

“Do tell, do tell. I can’t wait to hear this.”

“Well sir when we first arrived on the crime scene the big male chimp dropped the gun on the floor right where you see it and then held out it’s hand like he wanted us to put handcuffs on him”

“In effect you’re telling me you think that the chimp was confessing?”

“It sure looked like it to me.”

“There has to be some logical explanation to all this.” Detective Howard’s gaze fell back on the chimpanzees. Was it his imagination or were they actually smiling. He looked away. This whole thing was giving him the creeps.

“Unsolved mysteries”

“Yes sir I see what you mean”

“Does the deceased have any acquaintances that we can contact?”

Johnson scanned through all the gibberish that had he had jotted down in his note pad. “It looks like there is one girlfriend. She works at the circus as an animal trainer.”

“Where is she now?

“I don’t know sir, but we can find out.”

“Well get her in here. We need to talk to her. Also when the CSI guys get here have them check out the monkeys for gunpowder residue.”

Detective Howard looked over the crime scene envisioning in his mind a scenario where a chimp could obtain a gun and use it to kill. Something just didn’t add up but he could not quite put his finger on it. The pieces of the puzzle just did not seem to fit. A dead guy and two chimps were missing. He looked once again at the chimps. They were now sitting down in a position that was reminiscent of the statue known as the thinker. He turned away and was walking over to the table to where the body still lay when a commotion outside caught his attention.

“I don’t want to go in there!”

“But Miss the detective wants to see you.”

“Well can’t he come out here? I don’t like those animals they give me the creeps"

Bill Wegener

Bill Wegener

Detective Howard lifted the flap of the tent and strolled outside. The change from the dark confines of the tent into the bright sunlight hurt his eyes but he could see that the woman was a looker, a tall blonde with blue eyes.

“What’s the problem here?”

“She refuses to go into the tent.’

Detective Howard threw her a look of understanding but still wanted to hear what she had to say.

“Why don’t you want to go in there?”

“It’s those chimps.”

“Why do you have a problem with the chimps?”

“I am their trainer, but in the last few weeks I’ve had the strangest feeling that it was the chimps who were training me.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean it’s like the chimps are only pretending that they do not understand. If you look into their eyes you can see… I can’t explain it but it gives me the creeps.”

“Unsolved mysteries” Detective Howard said as he looked back at the entrance to the tent and shivered. He had seen that look of intelligence too, but at the time had dismissed it as an overactive imagination. He wondered if chimps were capable of being trained to murder someone or could think commit cold-blooded murder on their own?

She looked at him with a hint of confusion in her eyes. “What was that you said?”

“Nothing” Detective Howard answered “Just thinking out loud. Miss…Can I ask you some questions? ”

“Marlene and it depends on the question. I mean do I need to lawyer up as you cops call it?”

“You don’t need to lawyer up unless you have something to hide. You don’t do you?”

“I’m sorry. It’s just that a friend once told me that you have to be careful what you say to cops because they will twist it around and make you sound guilty of something even when you aren’t.”

“Your friend watches too much TV.”

“Whatever, but I know for a fact that a lot of innocent people end up in jail.”

“ Listen I’m not here to get into a debate. I’m here to find out who killed you boyfriend. If you are going to cooperate the I will just have to take that as a sign that you are hiding something from me and arrest you under suspicion of murder.”

“I did not say I would not cooperate. I was just concerned that when I tell you what I know that you will not believe me or that you will think I am nuts.”

“Assuming your story is true then you will have nothing to worry about. Why don’t we go over to that bench by the big top and sit down then you can tell me what you know about what happened inside that tent.”

Marlene nervously looked back at the tent as she and Detective Howard made their way to the bench. She was worried that the cop would not believe her or worst of all find out the truth.

“Ok now tell me anything that you saw and heard that would help us find out what happened to your boyfriend.”

“You are not going to believe me.”

Devon Rogers

Devon Rogers

Detective Howard took out a little tape recorder he always carried in his pocket. He had long ago given up on the stereotypical notebooks that cops are always made to carry in Hollywood TV shows and movies. He placed the recorder on the bench between Marlene and himself hoping that there was not too much background noise. He had sensed a little nervousness in Marlene’s voice. He was not sure at that moment if that was because she was talking to him or from the fact she might be hiding something.

“I go by the facts because I have learned from experience that beliefs are not always based on what you see. Now let me turn on the tape recorder and you can begin. Let me start by asking you a couple routine questions. You are not being coerced into making this statement?

“No, I am not “

“What you are about to say you are the facts as you know them”

“Yes, they are”

“Okay Marlene, Tell me what you saw.”

“Well I always come by in the morning and get one of the chimps and take them over to the big top to run them through that nights routine,

Marlene began. “I came into the tent and the chimp cages were open.” I looked around

but didn’t see the chimps anywhere. Leo the clown was sitting at the table getting ready for tonight's show.

Detective Howard looked at Marlene. “Was he putting on his makeup?”


“But still no sign of the chimps?”

“No, I still didn’t see them.”

“Ok, what happened next?”

“Well, my dressing room is in the back part of the tent. I went back there to get ready. While I was in there I heard a pop,” She looked at Detective Howard. “You know like one of those firecrackers going off. I came rushing out and found Leo laying face down, blood everywhere and the chimp holding the gun. The chimp looked at me and laughed. I ran out of the tent and never looked back.”

“Yes officer….laughed. Like you or I would laugh.”

“Ok, I guess that will be enough for now. Give the officer your name and address and phone number, cell, if you have one. I’ll be in touch if I need more information.”

Detective Howard lifted the flap to the tent and went back in. I guess we have our suspect and I think it’s going to be hard to find out why he killed Leo and where he got a gun.

© 2020 Timothy Whitt