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Some folks say there ain't no bears in arkansas

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The bear was missing.

"How do you lose a bear?" demanded Helena. She felt like she hadn't slept in two days, which was mostly because she had not, in fact, slept in two days, aside from three hours in the caravan en route to Hampshire because Valentine and half the circus band had conspired to lock her in without anything electronic. She had spent fifteen minutes drawing before passing right out.

Opening night never used to be this stressful when her parents organised everything and she just had to show up and juggle. Now she had to make sure posters were printed, and check that money was going where it needed to go, and wrangle performers with artistic differences. And now the goddamn bear was missing.

Valentine cringed. "Helena, sweetie-"

"Don't you sweetie me!"

"Well, you know, I just, it was like magic! Now you see her, now you-"

"She weighs a thousand pounds and can't fit through doorways."

"Look, bears are sneaky fuckers! I turn my back for one minute-"

"To. Do. What?"

"Oh god don't give me the look!"

Helena gave him the look.

"Fine, fine, there was this bloke, I swear it was totally legit, he just wanted my advice on some odds he was running, he said he'd cut me in-"

Helena threw up her inkstained hands and turned to the mime, who was watching in fascination. "He was gambling again!" she said. "Of course!"

The mime mugged at her sympathetically and held up her mobile phone, which had been among the things she'd thrown at Valentine when he gave her a sheepish grin and mentioned that he might have sort of slightly misplaced Bambi (the naming of whom had been entirely Valentine's fault in the first place - and her acquisition too, now that Helena came to think of it. The bear had sort of adopted Valentine during a clash with another circus. "We don't even have animals!" Helena had said despairingly. "Nope!" Valentine had replied. "We have an animal. Look, she likes you!" he added, as the bear made a concerted effort to eat Helena's hat. All things considered, this entire situation was nobody's fault but Valentine's.)

She took the phone. It was open to that newfangled heat-radar app.

"Right," she said, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Good idea. I'll track the bear, you two check all the exits. And for god's sake, don't let my mother find out about this."