Clarence’s shoulders sagged and he sighed. Even in defeat, he was a showman. “It’s true,” he said softly. “I don’t have lions and tigers and elephants, as one might expect from a zoo.”
His head snapped upright and he stared into Hannah’s eyes. She was transfixed by the depths of his gaze, the burning intensity that she saw there. For the first time since they’d started talking, he seemed like a real doctor, like the kind of person who possessed knowledge and a skillset that put them above other folks. “But that doesn’t mean, Miss Haller, that I don’t have specimens and exhibits fit to shock the mind and titillate the senses.”
“I just prefer the term ‘zoo,’ you see. It feels… Cruel, or perhaps hateful to call it a ‘freak show.’”
“You got freaks, Mister?” David asked, his voice eager, demanding not so much confirmation as further exposition. He pushed his way past Hannah, a sticky hand leaving a smear of sugar on her dress as he did so.
Clarence bent at the waist, bring himself down to the level of the boy’s eyes. “I don’t have freaks. Rather, I have a business and in my employ are certain men, women, and animals that were either born with unique and interesting physiological conditions, or else acquired them later in life.”
David blinked helplessly. His face twisted up in confusion. Clarence rolled his eyes and sighed. “Yes, child. I have freaks.”
“Can we see them?”
A wave of panic passed over Hannah. They’d surely been gone longer than she intended by now, and she didn’t know how much longer they’d have until Mama noticed them missing. And she didn’t know that she really wanted to see the zoo if the zoo were full of freaks, anyway.
“Well, the show isn’t ready to go on quite yet,” Clarence said slowly. He rubbed at his chin thoughtfully before a wry smile slowly crept across his face. “But I suppose a quick peek wouldn’t hurt.”