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The cops had everything about the kidnapping of Joey wrong. Their prime suspect, Scooter the Clown, was a well-known children's entertainer in town. He performed at parties like Joey's all the time.
At the precinct I am an insignificant ant flailing for the attention of titans. Finally, a cop turns to me and says, "Are you lost, little boy?"
On cue, I can hold my silence no longer.
"The balloons with the ransom note, they were filled with helium, right?" I asked. "Scooter never had a helium tank there that day. He blew everything up by hand. Check his truck and you will see I am telling the truth."
The officer smiled and left, only to return ten minutes later ghost stricken. He got down on his knees and rattled, "I don't know how we missed that, kid, but you just did that clown a service."
I beamed as I walked home, knowing my hero was safe, not ever dreaming he would thank me in person. When I saw him a block from home my jaw dropped.
"Someone's been a good little detective. I have a special badge for you," Scooter said.
He reached into his pocket, grabbed a balloon in the shape of a badge and then blew it up in front of me. As soon as I held its light floating form, my heart froze.
Without another word, he turned around and started dancing down the street, pausing only occasionally to put a balloon to his lips, tie it and then release it into the air. As each one drifted into the sky, I realized just how wrong all of us were about Scooter.