I hadn’t slept in days. I couldn’t — not if I didn’t want to wake up drowning in my own sweat, screaming till my throat bled. All I had to do was close my eyes, and there they were.The steaks. Those goddamned steaks. Always the same dream. The steaks, murdering my friends. Destroying their minds, dissolving their flesh. Ed, returning my old fedora with his dying breath. Raul, juggling through the pain. Juggling till he died. The burning of smoke in my eyes. The foul stench as the steaks — and the whole circus with them — went up in flames. The banshee howls from the monkey cage as fire eradicated the site. The only way I’ve discovered to get any sleep at all is to drink everything away. Drink it black. Knock myself out with alcohol and exhaustion, and then wake up the next day lying on the floor — or in a gutter — with a jackhammer hat on. I sat in the diner’s corner booth. A pair of greasy fried eggs stared up at me, and I slowly began to force them down my throat. Man’s gotta eat if he wants to stay alive. If he can think of a reason to. Someone sat down across from me. The last person I wanted to see, ever again. “Hey, Lenny.” “Art.” “You don’t look so good.” “…Are you trying to be funny, Art?” “Lenny, they were my friends too! My family! But what you’re doin’… you’re killin’ yourself, Lenny! It’s been nearly a year! They’re gonna put you back in the laughter factory if you keep actin’ like this!” “Is this an intervention, Art?” “…No.” “Then what is it?” “It’s… oh, god.” Art’s face sagged. His eyes dodged mine. “I’m… I’m not sure I should do this. But I couldn’t think of anybody else. And I thought maybe you could, you know… like closure, or retribution, or something…” “Spit it out, Art.” “Lenny… They’re back, Lenny. The steaks.” “I didn’t hear that, Art.” “I said they–“ “I said. I. Didn’t. Hear that. Art.” “You’re the only person’s ever dealt with them before, Lenny! You’re the only one with any experience! There’s twenty-five of ’em at–“ “No.” “–at the wild animal park outside of town, you know, the zoo annex? Made up to–“ “No, goddamnit!“ “–look like an African plain or whatever?” He was spitting out the words as fast as he could, probably wanting to get them all said before I threw him out the window. “I’m not doing it!” “Lenny, there’s people there. People that’re gonna die. You don’t know any of em, but they’re somebody’s family, just like the circus was our family! It might not be too late for them, like it was too late for… for…” I had my face in my hands. I didn’t know if the tears were from despair or simple exhaustion. Art reached into a bag, and laid the giant blue magnifying glass on the table. Next to it went a nine millimeter automatic. My old Browning Hi-Power — where did he get that? I didn’t ask. A spare magazine went next to the pistol. I blinked, then looked up at Art. He was staring at me, solemnly, pleadingly. I grinned at him, and he shrank back, eyes wide. It was a nasty grin. He didn’t even realize what he’d done. I left the diner with my hat, my magnifying glass, my gun, and two magazines. Thirteen shots in each. Twenty-six rounds. Twenty-five for the steaks, and one to sleep on.