“It was midnight. The woman closed the curtains and huddled on her bed. Tim should have been home hours ago, why hadn’t he called.” This was the opener to Johnny Boyce’s new novel he’d already titled “Shocked Life-No Answers.” It would be based on the unsolved murder of “Tubby” Tim Redmond, a Ringling Brothers’ clown whose body was found face down in the Mississippi River June 27, 1982. Boyce, who’d always been fascinated by clowns and circuses, had decided to write about the Redmond case hoping he would generate fresh interest in it.
He had taken careful notes while viewing the police records, interviewing the investigating officers and talking with Tim’s widow. He’d scribbled an outline which seemed complete, but then misplaced it along with all his notes. Rather than go back and pester the widow and the investigators, Boyce decided to forge ahead with the story, he had an excellent memory and forgetting the facts of this case would be impossible.
It all started around 2:30 a.m. on the 27th of June when his wife Marge had made a frantic call to the Chicago Police Department reporting Tim’s absence. The desk sergeant had taken the information, but did nothing with it until Tim’s body was found later that day by a fisherman. The Medical Examiner said Tim had been dead approximately fifteen hours.
The undertaker took Tim’s body to the ME’s office for the autopsy. She said the cause of death was Acute Radiation Syndrome. His body had had a very low white blood cell count, damage to the walls of his intestines and severe neurological damage. The only way he could have had all these symptoms was if he had been exposed to a large, prolonged dose of radiation.
Everyone, especially the police, wondered how could a Ringling Brothers’ clown been exposed to such a massive dose of radiation. After investigating the death from every possible angle, the police had filed its report in their Cold Cases Drawer.
However, Boyce had recently had a conversation with a man named Dover who gave him some information that could warm the investigation up again. With that information and his skill in weaving an interesting narrative, he felt confident all he needed to do was put ink to paper.
However, he was missing one detail, something that happened between the time Tim was due home and the time Jane, his wife, called the police.
Now he stared at the typewriter trying to remember what she had said that didn’t make sense at the time. He paced the floor, made some tea, took a nap. Nothing. He walked to the corner store and bought some chewing gum. Nothing. He was experiencing something worse than writer’s block. He had the curse of any old writer who doesn’t make notes or, heaven forbid, loses them. Boyce was experiencing memory block.
Ha! Now you know what we older writers are up against.