So, with all the backstory figuring out I’m doing right now, I thought it might be fun to let you guys in on some of that. Hopefully I’ll be doing more of these in the future. Hence the “#1” in the title there.
As well as some collages. Collages are good.
If, somehow, you managed to be following my blog and don’t know what Blank Mastermind is. (Or you just read it and forgot because you got amnesia.) It’s a story about a villain with amnesia, his wacky gang, some superheroes and a climb to redemption at the end. You can find that here: Blank Mastermind. Though for now, we will be going back to before he had amnesia…. -gasp-
To even things out, we’ve got a sad story, and then a happy-funny story.
Going to sad first. While Wolfgang was in prison after the bombing that killed his family.
Collages to go with:
… and our villain
“He’s . . . still quite hostile, sir. Are you sure you want to . . .?”
I nodded, holding up a hand to stop him. “I’m sure, officer. I need to see him.”
Needed to apologize. Needed to at least try to lift the huge weight on my chest.
The officer nodded back with an understanding, yet worried look on his round face. I was led down the narrow prison corridors, winding my way along behind him until we reached the window by a certain cell.
There, the policeman stopped. “His cellmate’s out at the moment, getting some exercise. Dankworth still isn’t really . . . in the condition to be up and about, so he’s just resting.” He stepped forward and flicked on the microphone that let communications through the thick glass.
“Mr. Dankworth,” he rapped his knuckles on the glass. “You have someone who wants to see you.”
There were a few seconds of silence, then a flat tone replied. “Nice one. Almost believed you for half a second, there.”
“He’s right here,” the officer continued, then turned to me. “Sir, if you want to . . .” he nodded towards the glass, keeping his voice low as he stepped back.
I swallowed and walked over, taking the chair by the glass.
He wasn’t looking at me, but I still recognized the man from a few nights ago. His head was leaned back against the wall as he sat on his cot with one of his legs pulled up to his chest. His eyes were closed and an indifferent, cold expression was settled on his face.
I watched him for a few seconds, taking in little details. His hair that stuck up in the front. The bruise on his cheek. The stubble on his jaw. The way his hands twitched oddly . . .
He didn’t look well. Of course, considering the bullet he’d taken, the fact that he was a bit sallow looking wasn’t a surprise. But it went deeper than that. And my stomach turned at the thought, as I had a pretty good idea as to his problem.
I needed to make it right. Say I was sorrier than I’d ever been in my entire life. That I hadn’t slept since the bombing. That I knew my hands were covered in blood and I needed to be forgiven.
It could start with this one man.
I cleared my throat, scooting the chair a bit closer. “Mr . . . Dankworth, was it?”
At my words, his eyes flew open. He turned his head to look at me like some animal that had found its prey. His jaw tightened and he pushed off the wall, swinging his feet off the cot. But he didn’t say anything
I swallowed and began, meeting his eyes as best I could. “I . . . I just wanted to come and see you myself and . . . and say I was . . . I am very, very sorry about what happened. I want . . .”
“You want what?” Dankworth’s tone was even, cold and cutting. “Another parade?”
My stomach twisted and I flinched, closing my mouth.
Dankworth pushed off of his cot and stood, despite the fact that his face got even paler as he did and he looked like he would fall over. He didn’t seem to notice . . . or if he did, he didn’t care. His eyes kept fixed on mine. I could almost feel lasers of pure hatred burning into me.
“Do you know,” he began, still struggling to keep his voice even, “who all died because you were too busy having confetti thrown in your smug little face to care?”
I opened and closed my mouth, unsure of what to say. The town had been relatively small. I knew the attractions that had been there . . . I’d driven through a couple of times. But I couldn’t say I knew anyone who’d died there. The knife of guilt turned in my gut again.
Dankworth squinted at me, taking an unsteady step forward. “Wanna know just a few? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you about five of them. My family.”
His hands were shaking hard now and he clenched them into fists, turning his knuckles white.
“William. Ran the auto-body shop on main street. Knew everyone in town and spent his spare time hooking up weird little rides for his kids. Rachel. I swear, she had to have given cookies to every family in the state. Had the biggest, most infectious smile of anyone. She was the best mom in . . .”
His voice cracked and he swallowed before continuing. The words trembled, but his expression didn’t change aside from his eyes. They were softer slightly, but meeting his gaze was frightening. Like staring at an open, deadly wound.
“Eloisa. She was fourteen, and already a better poet than any of those stuffy old Englishmen you have to read about in school. Could make three lines that didn’t even rhyme just . . . sing.”
Tears were in his eyes now, but he either didn’t notice or didn’t care. “Peter. The kid was a genius, I’m telling you. Could make anything out of Legos and figured out science things by himself that I couldn’t even work out. And Leif. Leif was only three. He never even . . .”
His voice trailed off and he dropped his head for a second, gritting his teeth.
My heart hammered in my chest. I felt like I was going to be sick and closed my eyes for a second.
Dear God, I never meant to take these people . . . I tried . . . please . . . please forgive me. Help me forgive myself . . .
“Amazing Man . . .” Dankworth gestured like he was displaying a grand sign. “The hero of our state. You’ll be safer than ever before with this superhero around!”
He kept walking towards the glass as he spoke. “Look! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!” I jumped back as he slammed his fist against the glass between us.
“It’s a d*** lie.” His words hissed out between his clenched teeth as he leaned in close. Dankworth looked like he wanted to kill me with his bare hands right there. And he probably would have if it weren’t for the barrier.
“Dankworth . . .” The officer behind me stepped forward warningly. Dankworth paid no attention.
“You’re a clown in tights, Fernsby. You’re no hero, no matter what all the media says.” He kept his gaze locked on mine. It still smoldered with rage and hurt. He opened his mouth again, but closed it.
The fire in his eyes died down a little and he pushed back from the glass. A mask seemed to slip into place, similar to the expression I’d seen when I first looked in on him. But this one had more intent. Purpose. Nightmarish determination.
Dankworth looked at me coolly and shook his head, his jaw still clenched tight. “I swear, even if it’s the last thought you ever have, I’m going to make you regret you ever heard the name Wolfgang Dankworth. You are going to have so much more to go through that I’ll make hell sound nice.”
Another threatening footstep behind me, “Mr. Dankworth, that’s quite enough.”
He either deliberately ignored that order or was just so concentrated on me that he didn’t hear. Taking a step forward again, he leaned in close again and I backed up reflexively.
“Live by the sword . . . die by the sword.” A half smile spread across his face, looking amused and downright disturbing. “You know, Amazing Man? I’d rather not be living at all. But while I’m here, I’m going to make it as miserable for everyone else as it is for me.”
The policeman pulled my chair backwards and almost shoved me out of it, trying to get me further into the hall and away from Dankworth’s cell. He flicked off the microphone as we went. “I’m . . . I’m sorry, Mr. Fernsby.”
I rubbed a hand over my eyes as we went back down the halls. Towards the exit and into the fresh air.
But I couldn’t get that face or those words out of my mind.
Not for a very long time.
Weeellll that’s enough sadness and evil Wolfgang for one day.
Let’s move on to Bad News getting his first gang job and starting the habit of wearing a suit and tie.
I think this is roughly ten years before the events of Blank Mastermind, so…. -steps aside and pulls back the curtain-
The name hadn’t been heard in the Chicago gang world for eighteen years, except in passing legends and boogeyman-like tales.
Old News had retired long ago. And had made it quite clear he was to be left alone.
But just the week before, News’s old gang had gotten a letter. Childish handwriting . . . a claim of relation to the legend . . . and the signature of “Baden News”.
He knew how much easy money was in the gang business and he wanted in. Said he could be a cook, a driver or just muscle. Whatever they needed him for. He was seventeen.
The Boss had laughed at the letter at first and dismissed it with a wave of his hand. But he still kept it on file. And when their biggest thug got gunned down in a gang rumble, he certainly wasn’t laughing anymore.
He could get any hit man he wanted. He practically ran Chicago.
But to get a News in my gang . . . after all these years . . .
He sat at the table, drumming his fingers and narrowing his eyes at the one gang proposal letter written in crayon. The bodyguards stood nearby, ducking their heads into their leather jackets and exchanging glances.
Finally, the Boss slapped his hand on the table, making them both jump. He nodded, looking between the two of them.
“Call the News runt in. It’s worth a shot.”
It’s always important to make a good impression on first job interviews.
Rita News furrowed her brows together slightly, tipping her head to look up at her son. He his height already exceeded six feet, while her small height was only shortened by the fact that she was in a wheelchair. “Just . . . your tie. Give it one more . . .” she gestured in demonstration with her hands and smiled. “A quick tugaroo and it should be good.”
Baden nodded and gave his tie a corrective tug, then adjusted his white collar and black jacket too . . . just to be safe. He spread his hands. “How’s that?”
“Terrific.” Rita clasped his big hand in her small one and squeezed. A glisten of tears showed at the corners of her big, brown eyes. “You’re so grown up already, Baden. Going out to make your own way already. Helping the family like this even though. . .” she swallowed, then shook her head and waved her hand as if to dismiss the very idea of tears. The too-big fedora shifted sideways on her wild, red curls.
“I’m not done growing yet,” Baden squeezed her hand back, still smiling. “And I’ll be good at this. I’m pretty sure.”
Rita nodded vigorously, releasing his hand and clasping her hands together over the blanket in her lap as Baden started for the door. She called out one last thing as he opened the door. “Be brave, be kind and make the News family proud.”
Baden touched the brim of his hat as he ducked out. “I will, Mama.”
The meeting place for his interview was an alley on the south side of town. He knew where it was because it was right next to his favorite ice cream place.
Rain drizzled down around Baden as he walked and he kept his hands in his pockets and his head down. The raindrops pattered softly on the sidewalk and the felt of his fedora and he practiced reading the backwards neon sign reflections in the puddles as he walked.
There had to be other guys with more gang experience out there, but he felt pretty good about his chances. He was, after all, a News. Six and a half feet tall and still growing.
He splashed one black shoe through a puddle, disrupting the multicolored reflection.
The town around got shadier, with streetlights fewer and farther in between. Baden tugged his tie and slowed his pace as he reached the ice cream shop. All the lights were out inside, but the bright colors still stood out in a friendly contrast to the rest of the neighborhood. He grinned.
Anything that started next to an ice cream shop had to be a good idea. This was a sign from above.
And there was the alley. The guys he was supposed to talk to were right in there.
Baden stopped for a few seconds. He stood up straight, tugged his tie one more time and squared his enormous shoulders before walking around the corner.
By how many gang members had died or moved on in eighteen years, the Boss was pretty much the only one who remembered much personal interaction with Old News.
Everyone else held in their laughter for fear of their lives.
They needed a new hit man . . . someone with experience and ability . . . and the boss was giving an underage kid his first job? It was a joke. The kid would die within the first week.
But still, no one wanted to miss the beginning of the Boss’s biggest mistake.
Usually only three people came for hiring jobs.
This time it was nine.
The Boss politely ignored all the supposedly discreet snickering in the alley while they waited, but took note of names for later.
Exactly at eleven-fifteen, footsteps approached the alley, stopping just before the owner of them came into view. The Boss stood up straighter. The thugs around him frowned. That couldn’t possibly be the kid they were waiting for. Those footsteps were much too heavy for any seventeen-year-old.
And then a form darkened the alleyway.
All snickering and whispering stopped.
Backlit and halfway blocking the alley entrance, stood a man at least three inches taller than any of them. His sunglasses hid his eyes with an almost soulless looking blackness. The fedora atop his head accentuated the shadows on his face and added to his height. It looked nearly identical to the legendary fedora of his father before him.
He looked like death. Like the end of the world.
Like . . . really bad news.
Whispered curses and gasps sounded.
The Boss realized his mouth was hanging open and closed it. Good Lord, I never thought the News legend could be revived like this.
Then the monster smiled. An awkward, sideways, teenager smile. He bounced on his toes and waved a little. “Well . . . howdy, guys.” His deep voice made a few of them jump. “So . . . um.” He clasped his hands behind his back. “I’m Baden News and . . .”
The Boss needed to hear no more. He clapped his hands together and nodded, barely managing to find his voice. “You’re hired.”
Baden’s eyebrows shot up the touch the rim of his fedora, then surprise faded and his grin grew wider.
And it was that night, in an alley by an ice cream shop, that a new legend was born.
Bad News had his first job.
Yaaaay end out on a happy note. ❤
Hope you guys enjoyed the stories!
What others would you like to see?
See ya later…