A secret service agent, Vance Markham, sneaks into a circus warehouse… where he is pinned in a spotlight. A malevolent magician is waiting for him--Count Carlos Mario Vincenzo Robespierre Manzeppi. He is accompanied by his troupe of circus performers… and vicious killers. They toy with him for a bit then kill him.
Jim and Artie arrive to meet with Markham and burn their way through the door. They enter the warehouse and poke around a bit… and Artie is yanked up by a noose. Jim shoots the rope and Artie sprains his ankle in the fall but is otherwise unharmed. They see Markham sitting nearby and he calls them over… but when they investigate they find he's dead and propped up, with a poster stuck to his back with a dagger. Manzeppi's voice rings out, taunting them.
At the hospital, they check out the poster which is written in Spanish and is an invitation to the Echo Amusement Park. They discuss the Eccentrics, an organization of unseen assassins who intend to kill President Juarez of Mexico, and Jim goes to the amusement park. He finds it abandoned although background crowd music plays on a record. Jim makes it to a central tent where Manzeppi emerges and introduces his troupe: Deadeye the gunfighter, Tony the knife thrower, the whip-wielding Miranda, the ventriloquist Villar with his dummy Julio, and the strongman Titan. After performing a brief illusion, Manzeppi offers a crown for anyone who can defeat Titan. Jim is forced to fight and disposes of Titan after a brief struggle. Titan crawls under the stage and Manzeppi sends Deadeye to dispose of the failed Eccentric. Jim asks for his crown which Miranda hands over… which turns out to be made of lead. Jim tries to make a break for it, but Manzeppi makes him "vanish" down a chute and into an underground lair. The Eccentrics enter and Manzeppi makes his introductions then offers Jim a position as replacement for Titan. Jim has no choice but to accept but Manzeppi puts him to the test: he must kill Artie.
Manzeppi then shows pictures of the former ruler Maximillian and how Juarez must die so his cousin Archduke Charles Louis can take the throne. Jim tries to make a grab for a knife but fails, and Manzeppi gives Tony the chance to dispose of him. Jim is placed in a niche with a bullseye overhead, and Tony throws three knifes at him. He hits the bullseye and drops Jim into a chamber below, but he quickly starts to climb out. Miranda opens up a door as he gets halfway up and asks him to follower her. He goes with her toward an exit and she asks to go with him as she was considering resigning. Manzeppi is aware of her betrayal and watches their escape on a televisual device, saying it's all going well.
A recovered Artie is at the Wanderer when Jim and Miranda arrive. Jim brings Artie up to speed and they start to warn Washington but the telegraph line is dead. The Eccentrics enter and Manzeppi congratulates Miranda on her performance. Manzeppi needs the Wanderer to accompany Juarez's body, and present Jim to Louis as Juarez's assassin, making it seem that the U.S. is backing the archduke. Manzeppi tells Jim to kill Artie but Jim counters by offering the Eccentrics twice their price. They consider it long enough to act as a distraction and Artie manages to get out through the fireplace escape route. An irritated Manzeppi insists on punishing Jim personally.
Back at the Eccentrics' lair, Jim is placed in an elaborate construct with two large female hands—"Amorous Amanda." It lifts into the air over a series of electric lights and the ropes start to part due to an acid treatment, and in fourteen minutes Jim will plummet into the electrical circuits. The Eccentrics leave to make their scheduled appointment with Juarez. After they're gone, Miranda slips in and wants the money Jim offered. He agrees and Miranda is unable to break the lights with a pole. Miranda has to use her whip to break the electrical wires, which are right next to the support rope. She manages to free Jim just as "Amanda" falls into the electricity.
It's morning and Jim and Miranda mount up for Juarez's secret headquarters. They ride off for Mexico and try to gain entrance to the compound. The guards turn him away so Jim rides down the road and they go over the wall. A guard intercepts them… but it's Artie in disguise. He takes them into the house and to Juarez's office where the President is waiting for them. Jim explains that assassins are after him… and Manzeppi and the Eccentrics enter through a secret passage behind a bookcase. They hold Jim and Artie prisoner while "Juarez" removes his disguise… and reveals he's Deadeye.
Manzeppi plays the violin and reveals he knew Amanda had betrayed him and Jim would get free. He's going to hold them prisoner so he can have an audience when he kills Juarez. After he leaves to take a nap, Jim taunts Tony into using him as target practice. Jim uses one of the knives to cut himself free but Deadeye gets the drop on him. Manzeppi returns and orders Deadeye to dispose of Tony. Manzeppi boasts of Deadeye's prowess but Jim taunts him over his inability against someone who can fight back. Deadeye takes his challenge over Manzeppi's protestations and tosses Jim a gun. The two draw… and Deadeye goes down. Jim now has a gun, but Manzeppi has a bomb. If he's shot, the bomb will go down and blow up. Juarez is arriving outside and Manzeppi grants he's lost but has a retreat planned. He and Villar leave through the bookcase as Juarez arrives to find two corpses.
Later Artie examines the bookcase but the hidden passageway has disappeared. As their superior complains that they're hallucinating, a picture of Juarez slides aside and Manzeppi's hand emerges to take a rose… and leave a portrait of himself behind.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 4, 2018