Evra's fear went away as the evening wore on, but he was slow to return to normal and was really edgy the whole night. I had to take his knife from him and do his share when he was peeling potatoes for dinner; I was afraid he might slice one of his fingers off.
After we'd eaten and helped clean the dishes, I asked Evra about the mysterious Mr. Tiny. We were in the tent, and Evra was playing with his snake.
He didn't answer immediately, and for a while I thought he wasn't going to, but in the end he sighed and began to speak.
"Mr. Tiny is the leader of the Little People,"he said.
"The small guys in the blue-hooded capes?"I asked.
"Yup. He calls them Little People. He's their boss.
He doesn't come here a lot - it's been two years since I last saw him - but he gives me the creeps when he does. He's the spookiest man I've ever met."
"He looked all right to me,"I said.
"That's what I thought the first time I saw him,"Evra agreed. "But wait till you've spoken to him. It's hard to explain, but every time he looks at me, I feel like he's planning to slaughter, skin, and roast me."
"He eats people?"I asked, freaked out.
"I don't know,"Evra said. "Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. But you get the feeling he wants to eat you. And it's not just me being stupid; I've talked about it with other members of the Cirque and they feel the same way. Nobody likes him. Even Mr. Tall gets fidgety when Mr. Tiny's around."
"Well, the Little People must like him, don't they?"I asked. "They follow and obey him, right?"
"Maybe they're scared of him,"Evra said. "Maybe he forces them to obey him. Maybe they're his slaves."
"Have you ever asked them?"
"They don't talk,"Evra said. "I don't know if it's because they can't or if they don't want to, but nobody in the circus has ever been able to get a word out of them. They're really helpful and they'll do whatever you ask but they're as silent as walking dummies."
"Have you ever seen their faces?"I asked.
"Once,"Evra said. "Usually they don't let their hoods slip, but one day I was helping a couple of them move a heavy machine. It fell on one of the Little People and crushed him. He didn't make a sound, even though he must have been in a huge amount of pain. His hood fell to the side and I caught a glimpse of his face.
"It was disgusting,"Evra said quietly, stroking the snake. "Full of scars and stitches all crumpled together, like some giant had squeezed it with his claws. He didn't have ears or a nose, and there was some kind of mask over his mouth. The skin was gray and dead-looking, and his eyes were like two green bowls near the top of his face. He didn't have hair, either."
Evra shivered at the memory. I felt cold myself, thinking about his description.
"What happened to him?"I asked. "Did he die?"
"I don't know,"Evra said. "A couple of his brothers - I always think of them as brothers, though they probably aren't - came and took him away."
"You never saw him again?"
"They all look the same,"Evra said. "Some are a little smaller or taller than the others, but there's no real way of telling them apart. Believe me - I've tried."
Weirder and weirder. I was really intrigued by Mr. Tiny and his Little People. I'd always liked mysteries. Maybe I could solve this one. Maybe, with my vampire powers, I could find a way to talk to one of the hooded creatures.
"Where do the Little People come from?"I asked.
"Nobody knows,"Evra said. "There's usually about four or six of them with the Cirque. Sometimes more turn up by themselves. Sometimes Mr. Tiny brings in new ones. It was weird that none were here when you came."
"You think it had something to do with me and Mr. Crepsley coming?"I asked.
"I doubt it,"Evra said. "It was probably just a coincidence. Or fate."He paused. "Which is another thing: Mr. Tiny's first name is Desmond."
"He tells people to call him Des."
"So?"I asked again.
"Put it together with his last name,"Evra told me.
I did. Mr. Des Tiny. Mr. Des-Tiny. Mr...
"Mr. Destiny ,"I whispered, and Evra nodded seriously.
I was dying of curiosity and asked Evra a bunch more questions, but his answers were limited. He knew almost nothing about Mr. Tiny, and only a little more about the Little People. They ate meat. They smelled funny. They moved around slowly most of the time. They either didn't feel pain or couldn't show it. And they had no sense of humor.
"How do you know that?"I asked.
"Bradley Stretch,"Evra answered darkly. "He used to be with the show. He had rubbery bones and could make his arms and legs stretch.
"He wasn't very nice. He was always playing practical jokes on us, and he had a nasty way of laughing. He didn't just make you look like an idiot: He made you feel like one too.
"We played a show in an Arabian palace. It was a private show for a sheik. He enjoyed all the acts, but especially liked Bradley's. The two started talking, and Bradley told the sheik he couldn't wear jewelry, because it always slipped off or broke because of the changing shape of his body.
"The sheik ran away and came back with a small gold bracelet. He gave it to Bradley and told him to put it on his wrist. Bradley did. Then the sheik told him to try shaking it off.
"So Bradley made his arm small and big, short and long, but he couldn't shake the bracelet loose. The sheik said it was magic and could only be removed if the wearer wanted to take it off. It was really valuable, priceless, but he gave it to Bradley as a gift.
"Getting back to the Little People,"Evra said. "Bradley loved to tease them. He was always finding new ways to trick them. He made traps to hang them up in the air by their feet. He set their capes on fire. He squirted liquid laundry detergent on ropes they were using to make their hands slip, or glue to make them stick. He put thumbtacks in their food and he made their tent collapse and locked them in a van."
"Why was he so mean?"I asked.
"I think because they never reacted,"Evra said. "He liked to see people get upset, but the Little People never cried or screamed or lashed out. They didn't seem to notice his pranks. At least, everybody thought they didn't notice..."
Evra made a funny noise that was half a laugh, half a moan.
"One morning we woke up and Bradley had disappeared. Nowhere to be found. We searched for him, but when he didn't turn up, we moved on. We weren't worried; performers join and leave the Cirque pretty much as they please. It wasn't the first time somebody had sneaked away in the middle of the night.
"I didn't think any more about it until a week or so later. Mr. Tiny had come to see us the day before and took all but two of the Little People with him. Mr. Tall told me I had to help the leftover pair with their duties. I cleaned up their tent and rolled up their hammocks - they all sleep in hammocks. That's where I got mine from. Did I mention that before?"He hadn't, but I didn't want to sidetrack him, so I said nothing.
"After that,"he went on, "I washed their pot. It was a big black pot, set on a fire in the middle of the tent. The place had to have been full of smoke whenever they cooked because the pot was covered in grime.
"I took it outside and tried to scrape the grime - scraps of meat and pieces of bone - onto the grass. I scrubbed it thoroughly, then took it back inside. Next I decided to pick up the pieces of meat in the grass and throw them to the wolf-man. 'Waste not, want not, like Mr. Tall always says.
"As I was picking up the meat and bone, I saw something glistening..."
Evra turned away and rifled through a bag on the ground. When he turned back, he was holding a small gold bracelet. He let my eyes linger on it, then slipped it on over his left hand. He shook his arm as fast as he could but the bracelet never moved.
When he stopped shaking his arm, he slid the bracelet off with the fingers of his right hand and tossed it to me. I examined it but didn't put it on.
"The bracelet the sheik gave to Bradley Stretch?"I guessed.
"The same,"Evra said.
I handed it back.
"I don't know whether it was because of something really bad he did,"Evra said, fingering the bracelet, "or if they were just tired of the nonstop teasing. What I do know is, ever since, I've gone out of my way to be polite to the small, silent people in the dark blue capes."
"What did you do with the remains of... I mean, with the scraps of meat?"I asked. "Did you bury them?"
"Heck, no,"Evra said. "I fed them to the wolf-man, like I meant to."Then, in response to my horrified look, he said, "Waste not, want not, remember?"
I stared at him for a second, then began to laugh. Evra laughed, too. In a minute we were both rolling around on the floor in hysterics.
"We shouldn't laugh."I caught my breath. "Poor Bradley Stretch. We should be crying."
"I'm laughing too hard to cry,"Evra gasped.
"I wonder what he tasted like?"
"I don't know,"Evra said. "But I bet he was rubbery."
That made us laugh even more. Tears rolled from our eyes and trickled down our cheeks. It was a terrible thing to laugh at, but we couldn't help it.
In the middle of our fit of hysteria, the flap to the door of our tent was pulled aside by an inquisitive head, and Hans Hands entered. "What's the joke?"he asked, but we couldn't tell him. I tried, but every time I started, I began to laugh again.
He shook his head and rolled his eyes. Then, when we finally quieted down, he told us why he was there.
"I have a message for you two,"he said. "Mr. Tall wants you to report to his van as soon as possible."
"What's up, Hans?"Evra asked. He was still laughing. "Why does he want us?"
"He doesn't,"Hans said. "Mr. Tiny is with him. He's the one who wants you."
Our laughter stopped instantly. Hans let himself out without any further words.
"Mr. Tuh-tuh-tuh-Tiny wants us,"Evra gasped.
"I heard,"I said. "What do you think he wants?"
"I don't kn-kn-kn-know,"Evra stuttered, though I could tell what was going through his mind. It was the same thing that was rushing through mine. We were thinking of the Little People, Bradley Stretch, and the big black pot full of scraps of human meat and bone.