And we emerge from the tear-soaked land of flashbacks and hope back into real time… how does our villain react to getting his memories and origin story back after a long period of amnesia? What surprises will this new part bring?
For those of you just joining us… I probably just spoiled part the story for you and I’m dreadfully sorry. But it’s never to late to catch up. -points to down below-
That… is getting like really long now.
Anyway. The part.
Cue the angsty, dramatic music.
A Bad Egg
Those memories hit me harder than any punch ever had. It was like someone had flipped the lights on in a huge building that I’d been wandering around in with just a match and the light was blinding and painful.
I think I fell over.
I don’t remember how I got out of the museum, but I’m pretty sure Bad News carried me.
By the time I was able to do anything aside from holding my head and blubbering incoherently, we were already quite a ways down the road away from that stupid museum.
I pulled my head up a bit and got a great big wallop of fresh air in the face. My churning stomach quieted down for a few seconds, but my headache pounded even worse.
News was in the driver’s seat, his tie fluttering over his shoulder. I think we were speeding. I vaguely wondered why he didn’t have Schoolhouse Rock blasting over the speakers. In fact, that sounded more like Mom’s disc. The classical music.
Mom . . .
My stomach lurched and I curled back up with a moan. Why did everything have to hurt so much?
News glanced over at me for a second, then fixed his eyes back on the road. “Get your memories back?”
No, I thought that exhibit was so fascinating I just fell over.
I swore at him with as much energy as I had, which made for a pretty pathetic explosion.
He nodded and flashed me a sideways grin. “See, what’d I tell you?”
I started to call him a few more names, but opening my mouth suddenly seemed like a bad idea. I swallowed carefully. “News . . .” my voice was a hoarse whisper.
“Pull over, please.”
We pulled over and I threw up. Not the most enjoyable experience, by a long stretch.
News scooped me back in the car after I’d utterly emptied myself out and I lay in the passenger seat like an anemic noodle. Part of me felt like shooting something and swearing the whole way back. Another part wanted to curl up in a ball and cry.
I didn’t do either because I honestly lacked the energy. I just sat there distantly thinking about my surroundings and anything shallow.
I could feel that my hair was sticking up in front again.
My car smelled weird.
“Hey,” Bad News was rooting around in his pockets, setting random things on the dashboard. Among them I spotted a switchblade, a few pop can tabs and a tiny rubber chicken.
I wondered if there was anything he didn’t have in his pockets.
“I’ve got some Pepto Bismol, if you want it.” News pulled the bottle up and set it next to me.
I looked at the pink container with disdain.
Like that would help.
I didn’t see any billboards advertizing that Pepto fixed broken hearts. Broken lives. Broken people. I was past help. No tiny plastic cup full of pink stuff could fix me.
My nose felt tingly. I swallowed.
News was still looking at me and I saw one of his eyebrows inching up towards the edge of his hat in a question.
I sighed weakly, “Yeah, sure. Why not.”
He gave me a dose, which tasted as pink as it looked, but I was able to keep it down. Barely.
I survived the winding road back to town and closed my eyes as we pulled onto the freeway. My headache pounded image after image into my mind that I didn’t want to see.
The smoke on the horizon. Peter under that beam, bleeding onto the grass. My smashed home.
The corners of my eyes stung. I slouched further into my leather jacket, shivering. It smelled like blood, but I didn’t care. It was my blood. If any Dankworth deserved to be bleeding, it was yours truly.
Leif’s face, scared and dirty in the night, surfaced in my mind. Yet another time I wished for a rewind button. I didn’t know he’d survived. Didn’t know I had any family left.
Which made it all the more painful when me, his now criminal older brother, was declared unfit to care for him and Mr. Perfect, the man who’d let the whole rest of his family die, took him in.
He would be seven now. About.
I was a horrible brother.
The worst brother.
Three and a half years since the bomb. Man, had it been that long? It was February now . . . February . . .
I opened my eyes and turned to look at Bad News. “What date is it?”
News pushed up his sunglasses and squinted over at the sun on the horizon, as if he could tell the date from that. “Twentieth, I think.”
Eloisa’s birthday was five days from now. Friday. She would have been eighteen.
I turned away from News and hid my face up against my sleeve. It was all wet by the time I drifted off.
“Hey, man.” Bad News’s hand rattled my shoulder in its socket and I jolted awake. “We’re home.”
I uncrumpled myself from the corner of the seat and blinked at the abandoned grocery store in front of us.
That wasn’t home. Home was gone.
My stomach hurt. I rubbed my sleeve over my eyes and unbuckled my seatbelt.
News was already out and was walking around the car like he was going to get me out. Like I was some sick little kid or something.
I defiantly popped the door open myself and stood out of the car just as he reached my side. Pain shot through the base of my skull, sharper than it had been for a while and I flinched, putting a shaky hand up to it.
News stood there next to me with his hands clasped behind his back like some gargantuan butler.
I scowled at him, “Isn’t there some ice cream you need to bring inside or something?” I pulled my hand down from my head a little and blinked at the sticky, red stain on my palm. Getting your memories back didn’t have that much physical effect, did it?
News shrugged, “Yeah, ice cream can wait.”
I was about to say “who are you and what have you done with Baden News?” but my head throbbed again, hard, and I lost my train of thought. I sucked in my breath, putting my hand back up.
“You did kind of fall over before I could catch you, and that tile was pretty hard in there . . .” News nudged me towards the door as he explained. “Think you might have a concussion?”
“I have bigger problems than a possible concussion,” I muttered. “How about a dead family? And a totally screwed up life?” My voice caught in my throat and my stomach lurched again.
Why couldn’t my memories have just stayed away?
“You’ll be okay,” News hit the exact middle pitch between comforting and insensitive. “Also . . . “ his voice dropped to a lower rumble, “Remember no one here knows you lost your memory in the first place.”
Well that would be lovely to try and explain my state in. Whose dumb idea was it to . . . oh right. Mine.
I was just a shining beacon of excellence.
My feet caught on the curb as we stepped up towards the main door and News caught me. I didn’t say thank you because his hand hit my stomach and I was afraid to open my mouth again.
No shadowy figures were near the door as News pushed it open, so I guessed the gang was in the back. The warm vanilla and cigarette smoke smell gave me a tiny feeling of comfort. Something familiar.
More memories flooded back in an unwelcome wave.
We used to drop by this store when we were in the neighborhood and buy ice cream because they made their own here. Peter always raided the free samples more than was polite. Dad ranted about our economy and small businesses trying to keep up when the place closed down.
“Whoa there . . .” I felt Bad News’s giant hand clamp on the back of my jacket to keep me upright.
I swallowed and blinked away the images, getting myself back to the present and regaining my footing on the slick tile.
Voices and laughs echoed from the back of the store, as usual. Roy’s loud voice rose above the others. “Okay, okay . . . listen to this, though . . .” he launched off into some tale about speeding and cops and random other elements I couldn’t hear or didn’t register.
News kept a grip on my arm as we walked, almost like he was afraid I’d fall over again. I pushed at his fingers a bit and he let me go. Though by the way one of my knees buckled, I probably would have benefitted from the extra support.
Bad News still hovered close. “I’m just going to grab you a rice bag and something to drink if you want, then we can head over to your room, okay?”
“Sounds fantastic. Sure.” I tried to step out from under his towering shadow a bit as we rounded the aisle corner and came into view of the others. My thought of walking up inconspicuously was promptly ruined as my toe caught on a loose tile and I pitched forward.
News grabbed my arm again and I was saved from a faceplant.
The laughter died away and all eyes that were previously crinkled in merriment went to me.
I stood, putting my shoulders back and my chin up, willing myself to not be knocked over by the fresh burst of memories. All the faces that had seemed so foreign just this morning triggered dozens of stories and pictures in my mind.
Liza. Her mechanical genius coming to play in my first prison break. The trips to the junkyard in News’s truck to get parts for various explosives and other weapons she was making. We held each other together, more or less. Especially in the first stretch after the bombing. We just talked, shivering in the dark outside. She was the only girl besides my mom who’d ever seen me cry.
Roy and Cardboard. Neither lost anyone, but Roy agreed with our cause. Him and his constant digs at anything the government had vaguely organized. Our crazy getaways with Roy at the wheel and cop lights disappearing in the rearview mirror. Cardboard, always the laughing bit of fluff in the backseat. She was scared of me at first and I didn’t blame her.
Chris. His battered cowboy hat and almost never smiling face. My prison buddy. The picture of “his Sarah” that he always kept tucked in his pocket. Always refusing to talk about her. His almost fatherly talks that relit that fire in my chest and kept me going.
Bad News. Always the intimidation factor and always the cook. He didn’t give a reason for his joining and none of us brought up the topic under the threat of bad luck. News just was, with his big truck, awful coffee and obsession with childish things.
Three and a half years.
I felt a giant hand gripping the back of my jacket again and blinked, forcing myself upright and feeling rather green. I swallowed, teetering a bit. News gave me a pat on the back.
Roy’s head was tipped sideways in a sort of curious concern for a few seconds. He relaxed when I scowled at him.
I pushed News’s hand off again and walked unsteadily towards my chair.
“Back, I see,” Chris said. Thank you, Captain Obvious.
“Yup.” News ruffled my hair and disappeared behind the bakery counter.
“Well,” Roy observed, almost like he was telling a joke, “somebody looks like crap.”
I wanted to flatten him, but all I managed was a punch to his shoulder and a bit of swearing.
He stepped back, rubbing it and looking over behind the counter. “What took you guys so long?”
“And what’s up with Wolfy?” Liza didn’t seem too concerned, but was more sincere in her question than Roy.
I plopped down in my chair and slouched back, holding my stomach.
“Eh, he had bad egg for lunch,” Bad News pushed his hat up on his head and shoved a sock full of rice in the microwave. “He’s not feeling so good.”
Ate a bad egg? I am a bad egg. I let my family die. I’d killed people. Hurt more people. I had a criminal record taller than News
Roy leaned on the back of my chair, folding his arms, “Think you’re coming down with something? You’ve been acting a bit off for the past couple of days.”
“Shut up,” I snapped.
News came back around the counter, holding a can of ginger ale and his makeshift rice bag. “Roy, go bring in the groceries.”
Roy rolled his eyes and pushed off my chair, scooting it and whacking my head in the process. I swore at him again.
“Man, who knew a bad egg could put you in such a sour mood?” He dashed off down the aisle before I could give him any more grief.
“Okay, I’ll start making dinner in a bit. Gonna get Wolf to his room first.” News stood next to me for a second, then held out a hand.
“I can walk,” I muttered, pushing myself up.
Cardboard bounced over next to me and patted my leg, “Feel better, ‘kay?”
“Yeah sure.” I forced a smile down at her. It didn’t reach my eyes. I wouldn’t feel better ever again. I might push it down and act like it, though, once all my emotional wounds scabbed over. The best I could hope for.
That, or finishing it. Finally getting Amazing Man. Taking Leif back. Serving justice.
What was I thinking? I was just horrified at the thought of this yesterday. I’d taken measures to prevent myself this afternoon, when I’d had lunch with Dallas . . .
Holy smoke, had that really been just a few hours ago?
Dallas and I were friends. I’d given him a promise. My word.
But the usual warmness in my chest, the feeling of friendship, didn’t seem to be there. It felt like a dying coal.
Dallas had been there. Dallas could have saved them too. Or at least helped save them. He was Amazing Man’s sidekick.
He let my family die. How could he be my friend?
News’s hand on my shoulder jolted me out of my thoughts. I’d zoned out again. But my door was in front of me, so apparently I’d been walking as well.
I rested my hand on the doorknob and twisted. The door popped open, creaking a bit. Fluttering from inside reminded me of Lucius’s presence.
The falcon was a fairly new addition to the gang, actually. Liza’s idea. I’d trained him to carry a camera so we could get an overhead view on things before our last few strikes. I guess the outside look with the amnesia and all made me see for the first time exactly how evil of an image that cast.
Bad News tapped my arm and I turned to face him. “Hmm?”
He handed me the warm rice-sock, the ginger ale can and something else small and metal. Warm, like it had been in his pocket. He nodded, slowly, looking me up and down.
“Think that’s it,” he said, tugging his tie. “If you need anything else, just holler.”
I nodded, “Thanks.”
“Yup,” News started to walk away, but stopped after a few steps and spun on his heel. His tie swung back and forth. “Oh, I forgot . . .” he pointed towards my armload of stuff, “There was a missed call on that thing while you were zonked out in the car. You might want to return that.”
I looked down at my load. The warm, metal thing was my phone. And that was really the only thing that it made sense for him to be talking about. “Okay.”
And he was gone down the hall.
I pushed the door open the rest of the way and paused, looking around with different eyes. It seemed a bit cleaner somehow. Probably because I knew what all the junk was now.
Each broken bit of machinery, each burnt scrap of cloth, each piece of crumpled paper . . . all of them prodded images and events to my mind, threatening to send me back in time and tell me their story.
I really didn’t need that right now. I wanted to sleep. To throw up. To cry. To lie on the floor and not think for a year.
Lucius tipped his head at me and gave a quiet chirrup in the back of his throat.
“Nice to see you too,” I halfway raised my hand in greeting, then sat down on the edge of my bed. I set the ginger ale on my nightstand and rubbed my hands over my face.
By a flapping noise, I guessed he’d flown a bit closer to me.
“You wouldn’t believe today,” I mumbled through my fingers. “It’s like all the worst days of my life rolled into one.” I dropped my hands and sighed, “And now I’m telling my tale of woe to a bird. I really am going insane.”
I looked over at Lucius.
He walked a bit closer to me, looking sympathetic.
I rubbed a finger over his feathers and decided Lucius was better than people.
My phone buzzed in my lap and I looked down. Lucius fluttered back to his perch as I swung my feet up onto the bed. I flipped open the phone.
1 missed call. 1 voicemail. 1 text message.
I looked at the missed call first.
I had an idea who that was. I clicked on the voicemail and put the phone to my ear.
“Hey, Wolfgang,” a familiar voice began, crackling a bit with static. I could almost smell the spearmint on his breath. “Just calling to let you know we got the date and place all worked out. The meeting of the superheroes is arranged for noon this Friday at a secret desert location. Got a sort of cloaking device going on there, so I’ll have to send you the GPS coordinates. Text . . . call . . . something. I’ve got the setup worked out, so it’ll be set to go tomorrow. Thanks.”
There was a beep and I took my phone down from my ear. That was it. The bomb. The same sort of bomb that killed my family would kill Amazing Man. Divine justice, almost.
I mechanically clicked on the text message. It was from Dallas.
“Thank you for lunch. It went a lot better than I expected, honestly. Keep in touch.”
Oh this again . . . did everything really have to conflict so badly? I’d promised to tell Dallas. I was going to tell him all the details about the bomb so that we could stop it.
But . . . did I really want to stop it? Was I even asking myself?
My stomach did a flip and I groaned, fumbling my hand around on the nightstand for the ginger ale. Instead, my fingers brushed something soft, flat and leathery. A feeling I remembered so well it almost physically hurt. I pulled back like I’d been bitten and looked.
It was dirty. It was stained with smoke and bits of ash. But it was the notebook I was going to give to Eloisa. That happy looking yellow notebook. I picked it up and noticed my hand was shaking.
I flipped open the cover, brushing the pages. All the poems she could have written in these. All the silly doodles and limericks. Instead they were blank. Empty.
The lines on the paper blurred in my vision and I rubbed my sleeve over my eyes. This leather jacket had soaked up more blood and tears from me than any jacket should have to endure from its owner.
I blinked at the last few pages. An uneven, torn edge was all that was left of the last page in the notebook. And I’d seen that edge before. Somewhere else.
I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out an old, wrinkled piece of paper. A revenge note. My mission statement. A reminder of who I was and what I was doing. I’d kept it there for years now. Always in my right pocket.
I unfolded it and it crinkled as I matched it to the torn edge.
For Mom, it read, For Dad, for Peter, for Eloisa. That which killed, shall be killed. Die by the sword.
I brushed my thumb over that puckered tear-mark and another drop fell onto the page beside it.
That which killed shall be killed.
I flipped my phone shut.
I wasn’t telling Dallas. I had a more important promise to keep.
This was my mission.
Is he back to being a villain now? Will his evil plans actually go through?
We’ll be somewhat closer to finding out… next week.
As always, please comment with feels and/or favorite comments!
(P.S. also want to point you guys over to another serial story… because you don’t have enough sarcasm… remember Mike, Wolfgang’s hobo buddy from the last post? Yep, Mike has made his debut onto the world of blogging. 😀 So it’s a really awesome story about family and gangsters and love and humor and all that good stuff. So yeah. Here. Read. Snark with a Switchblade )