In the last episode, our villain/hero/whoever he is confirmed his decision to follow through with his revenge plot on his enemy, Amazing Man, and took a trip to see the bomb that would carry it out.
Let us join him and Liza as they take a motivational field trip back to the museum that got his memories back.
If you’re just joining us…
This is a story about a villain. A little villain and his gang, some superheroes
and his cebus.
Here are the rest of the parts if you don’t have anything else to do today.
And let’s go into part 23… the land of museum returns and me making weird analogies.
Disguises, while not originally a part of my plan, quickly became so at the sight of the parking lot.
The museum was offering free admission because apparently that day had been proclaimed “National Hero Day”.
If there was ever a bad day for the media-projected villain to come waltzing in . . .
But hey, free admission was hard to pass up. Hence some improvised disguises.
Liza found some old 3D glasses and popped the lenses out, then tucked all her extremely noticeable turquoise hair up in a stocking cap.
I made more use of the old baseball hat from News, put on my sunglasses and took off my jacket. The last on the list was probably the most important, but it made me feel naked.
I shivered in my t-shirt as we crossed the road to the frothing mass of people at the museum. It was cold enough of a day that I could blame it on the temperature.
Liza pushed her fake glasses up on her nose and hopped onto the sidewalk. “So what are we getting here?”
“Motivation.” I stepped up on the sidewalk next to her and yanked my hat brim further down over my eyes. We both watched the steady streams of people cycling through the entrance and exit.
Liza wrinkled her nose. “All this circus for that bloody Amazing Man. It’s sickening.”
I nodded and stuck my hands in my pockets. “C’mon.”
We blended in with the crowd and made our way inside like sheep being herded into a pen. Everyone chattered excitedly about superheroes and wore some sort of Amazing Man merchandise. T-shirts . . . capes . . . hats . . . even full-on costumes.
I bet Mr. Perfect is enjoying the worship of his adoring fans. I kept my lips in a tight line as we bumped through the entrance and into the main greeting center. Even with sunglasses, it was way better lit than the last time I’d been in here. The crowd was a bit thicker, too. Just about five billion more groupies.
It gave me the same feeling inside as looking at pictures of those big crowds gathered with all the waving flags in Nazi Germany. They didn’t know the flipside of this whole superhero circus. None of them had lost anyone. All they’d known was the grinning face on TV that kept them safe from that awful Wolfgang Dankworth.
The choice between good and bad seems so easy when one side wears a cape and tights and the other wears a leather jacket and a name practically made for a diabolical wretch.
I bit my tongue and looked around, making sure Liza was still nearby. She had her phone out and was pretending to take pictures. One of her sharp elbows poked into my side.
“Where to?” she asked, keeping her voice in conversational tone.
I made a finger-gun towards the back, “Fatalities section. Back there.”
She nodded and we began meandering our way past the other exhibits. I kept my hands in my pockets and my head down, while Liza took the approach of chatty girlfriend and hung on my arm, squeaking about things at random intervals.
“Ooh, dear!” she tweaked my sleeve as we came through the graffiti arch into the villain section. “Let’s look over there. They have a simply fascinating display on that horrid Mr. Dankworth.”
I groaned inwardly. “Not exactly . . . what we’re here for . . .” If there was anywhere I was going to get caught, right next to my pictures was right at the top of the possibility list. I cleared my throat meaningfully, “He’s stupid anyway. Nothing worth looking at.”
“Oh, come on,” Liza rolled her eyes and gave my arm a pull before going over to the display herself.
I reluctantly stood behind her, trying to bore holes in the back of her stocking-capped head with my glare. It wasn’t quite clear whether she was legitimately interested in reading about someone she’d already known for years or if she was still playing the eager museum-goer and trying to annoy me.
Liza kept her hands clasped studiously behind her back as she scanned everything. Her head tipped a little as she examined the biggest picture of me. The one where I looked to be flipping off the world in general. The picture that shaped my public image more than anything else. I should’ve seen that dumb photographer. Should’ve reloaded and shot him.
I gave a gusty sigh behind her. “Done yet?”
Liza didn’t answer, but turned with a smile quirking her lips as she jerked her thumb back at the photo. “They caught him in a bit of a temper there, hey?”
I bit my tongue. “Yeah, he has an awful temper. Never know when he might just lose it like that. Let’s go.” I turned, clenching my teeth to hold back from swearing.
“Oh, I can usually tell with things like that,” Liza chuckled, re-stationing herself at my elbow as we resumed our course towards the next section, with me being a bit more of a steamroller this time.
I changed the subject, trying to cool off as we walked. “Did you . . . I know Eli wrote you letters. Did you keep them all?”
Liza’s smile withered a bit, “Yes,” she nodded. A second of silence. “Why do you ask?”
Fuzzy memories of the exhibits prior to the one of my family came to mind, like memories of a fight before the knockout punch. I sidestepped a small family and gave my ball cap a tug. “I think there might’ve been one you didn’t get.”
Her eyes popped open wide behind the fake glasses and her nails dug into my arm. “Where?”
I pulled my arm away from her pinching, missing a step and accidentally bumping into some guy and his little kid. “Whoa, sorry . . .” I regained my footing and looked up.
“No problem,” the man gave a forgiving, but distracted smile from behind his sunglasses and kept walking.
My eyes stayed on the kid in the grubby hoodie behind him.
That was my brother. That guy was Charles Fernsby. But why the sunglasses . . .?
Liza grabbed my sleeve and twisted it so I was looking back at her. Her voice was a hiss. “Wolfgang, where?”
I slapped a hand over her mouth as a few looks were directed our way. I gave a forced laugh. “Um . . . with the Amadeus Mozart, of course. Where else?”
Cue mental cussing and kicking myself. I wished I could sink right through the tile floor and disappear.
No one kept eyes on us for very long, probably just putting it down to another one of those weird exchanges you always hear in public.
Liza’s eyes flashed from over my hand. The glasses were knocked sideways on her face and I straightened them as I uncovered her mouth.
I let out my breath and gave Liza a look. “Don’t.” My voice hit a low, threatening note.
She kept her eyes fixed solidly on my face. “Where’s the letter?”
“I . . . just follow me, okay?” I pulled on my hat again and started back off towards the entrance to the fatalities section. It was appallingly unpopulated, compared to how many people were flocked around every little attraction in the dumb origin story section.
There were only about seven people total wandering around the memories of all the lives taken that day. Lives that would have continued but for the negligence of their revered hero. Some people nodded, a few wiped away tears and the rest just looked like they got lost looking for the bathroom.
Respect for the dead isn’t a huge thing among superhero groupies, obviously.
Liza came to a stop next to me, her sneakers squeaking on the tile. “In here?”
I nodded. “This . . .” something caught in my throat and I coughed. “This is the memorial section for all the people who died in the bombing.”
Liza blinked, realization flooding her face.
“Eli’s is over there,” I pointed to the first exhibit I’d wandered over to the other night. “The memoir they have for him is a letter to . . . to you.”
Liza didn’t stick around for any further explanation. She dashed off to the exhibit, leaving me standing at the entry. I watched her freeze in front of the picture for a few seconds before turning her eyes downward to the glass case that I knew held the letter.
I turned away, took a breath and started on the roundabout way to get to the corner exhibit. The Dankworth family memorial.
I’d read over my note a million times. I knew every word and every time my hand shook and the pencil had squiggled.
What I needed was to see their faces again. Remind myself what I was fighting for.
I came around the corner, not looking up at first, mentally steeling myself. Then I looked and ground to a halt.
Apparently I’d miscounted. There were three other people in this section.
The sunglasses-disguised Amazing Man, a custodian and my brother.
“It’s just a little spot at this point,” the custodian was telling Fernsby as he slung his mop over his shoulder, “But I tell you, there was a pretty obvious blood splotch on the floor after that break-in the other evening. Don’t know how it got there, but it dried pretty hard overnight. It was a pain in the neck to get to come up, too.”
I’d have apologized, but I figured it would have been a bit awkward at that point.
“Funny,” Charles tipped his head down at the spot on the floor. His voice sounded different . . . like he was trying to disguise it. “I wonder if they fought?”
“The camera footage is sketchy, but it looks like they just wandered around with flashlights and then took off without stealing anything. Butterfingers, too. Dropped their flashlights left and right.” The custodian shrugged. “Anyway, hope you have a nice visit, sir.”
“We certainly will, thank you.” Fernsby gave him a smile as he walked off. It slid off his face within the next few seconds as he turned to the exhibit. A serious, sad look shadowed his face. It didn’t look like he even noticed me.
I wondered again about the sunglasses and gruff voice he was using. This was practically a holiday made in his honor. He should be prancing through the streets like the peacock he was and signing autographs until his hand hurt. Why didn’t he want to be noticed?
Charles sighed and put an arm around Leif’s small shoulders. They both stood there for a bit.
I stepped a bit closer, frowning half from jealousy and half from curiosity.
Leif turned his face upwards, the sprouts of hair from his cowlick falling backwards a bit. “What was she like?”
I stopped and pretended to be absorbed in a plaque while still watching them out of the corner of my eye.
Charles swallowed. “I can’t say for certain. I didn’t know her.” He paused, “I know she was a poet. A dreamer. A chocolate addict.”
Cheater, I thought in disgust. You read that off her notebook.
He kept going. “She was shy and sweet. She loved her family more than anything.” He ruffled Leif’s hair, “She loved playing with you.” His voice caught a little and he looked up at the ceiling. When he spoke again, his voice was hoarse. “I know she didn’t deserve to die at fourteen.”
The break in my heart stretched a bit more. Those were almost all things I’d said to him. Accusing him. Shouting the injustice of the lives he’d let end because of a stupid parade. Charles repeated them because they were all he knew of my sister besides a display in a museum. And he sounded sad that he didn’t know more. That Leif didn’t know more.
Leif rubbed his sleeve over his nose and tipped his head up to look at the pictures and little trinkets in the display. He pressed his nose up and looked at Peter’s half-melted Lego house. “I kinda remember once . . . Peter built me a robot or something and we played a game on the porch.”
I remembered that. It was on the weekend. I accidentally kicked Leif’s robot and built it back all wrong with the legs and the arms switched up. Peter howled with laughter when he saw it.
Leif didn’t continue. I wondered it he even remembered it. He just looked back up at the pictures for a few minutes.
“I remember Ellie made me a cake with a licorice spider on it for my birthday one year,” he commented. “I remember sitting in Mom’s rocking chair with her before bed every night. And Dad tossing me in the air sometimes.”
Leif didn’t say these things with particular emotion, just a sort of curiosity. A wondering at what his original family was like beyond his little memory snippets. He rocked back and forth in his dirty sneakers. “I remember Wolfgang hanging me upside down and tickling me when he came home.”
He talked like I was with them. Dead. Killed in the blast of the bomb.
Leif turned to Charles, his small brow furrowed up. “Do you think he’s doing anything for Eloisa’s birthday?”
I jumped a little, turning my head back to the plaque in front of me. Yeah, I was doing something for Eloisa’s birthday. I was avenging her death. I was settling the score . . . throwing the fact that she never had another birthday back in the universe’s face. But suddenly that didn’t seem as noble of a flag to wave as it did a few hours ago.
“I’m . . .” Charles paused a second, resting his gaze on the family portrait hanging above the case. “I’m sure he is. He . . . loved Eloisa very much.” His tone was sincere, almost remorseful. “He loved you all very much.”
“Why not anymore?” Leif’s simple, earnest question made me flinch.
Charles looked down at him for a bit, searching for an answer. “Wolfgang . . . he . . .” there was a pause and he looked up at the picture again before turning back to Leif. “His love kind of . . . got changed. You know like those Lego sets that you can take apart and if it’s . . . say, a lighthouse, you can turn it into a car or a robot?”
“The thing is that he . . . his love got broken. It went into tiny little pieces all over the place and he tried to put it back together, but it got built back differently. It doesn’t work the way it used to . . . it’s still broken inside, but he still thinks it’s love. It’s . . .” Charles trailed off and sighed, running a hand over his hair. “I don’t know. Does that make sense, bud?”
“I guess,” Leif stuck his hands in his pockets, turning his attention back to Eloisa’s notebook. “But the pieces can go back into the right places sometime, right?”
Charles was quiet for a few seconds. I waited for him to just spit it out and say no. I was already superglued in place. But he nodded slowly. “If they get into the hands of the right builder.”
Leif looked satisfied with that answer. One of his hands came back out of a pocket and he rubbed it over the glass case. “Can we go now?”
Charles nodded, swallowing. They turned and I quickly looked the opposite direction, adjusting my cap and biting my lip.
There were a few quiet noises of talking and then their footsteps moved on past me. Charles was walking right by his metaphorically messed up Lego set without even knowing it. By the time I dared look up, they were just disappearing out the door.
All the gas felt siphoned out of my tank for the original reason why I came to see the exhibit, but I still shuffled my way over. I looked over all the trinkets. The unfeeling, professional obituary that reduced my family’s collective life to a blurb. The photos. Mom’s hair that never got silver. Peter, who never got past my chest in measuring himself against me.
The fire in my chest that I’d almost become addicted to burned inside me, but something niggled. Something felt wrong. I couldn’t shake Fernsby’s words. That I’d put myself back together all wrong. This wasn’t what love looked like.
My hands shook and I unconsciously felt for my leather jacket pockets.
I looked at Eloisa’s picture. Her tiny, lipstick painted smile and bright eyes looking back at me. What would she say?
Hey sis. I’m blowing up people for your birthday. Hope you like my present.
She’d be dumbstruck. Horrified. But then . . . she wasn’t here. This wouldn’t have to happen if she was.
I looked at the portrait and my eyes rested on little Leif, grinning his tiny grin in his little tuxedo. Leif was here. There was still another Dankworth, even if he didn’t bear the name and barely remembered me as anything but that scary man that blew things up and came to breakfast with a bandage on his head once.
Not much to go on, but could there possibly be another chance with Leif? Could I get myself put together in the right way and put the past behind me? Forgive? Forget? Ripping my spine out sounded less painful than leaving the rest of the family unremembered. A dusty corner in a museum, that was all they had.
But in the hands of the right builder?
I groaned and pushed my sunglasses up to rub at my face. Another crisis. Just what I needed.
I let my sunglasses fall back in place and decided to head out to the car. Driving seemed to straighten things out in my head sometimes. I’d just get Liza.
A look over in her direction changed my mind. She had her head rested up against the glass and her shoulders shook. Both of us knew how awful I was at comforting people. Liza preferred to work through it alone a lot of the time, too. I’d wait for her in the car.
Ten minutes alone with my thoughts resulted in an intensified crisis and a raging headache. A misty-eyed Liza walked up in the middle of a heart-to-heart between my head and the steering wheel.
“What’s up with the head-banging?” she asked, her voice cracking a little.
“Nothing,” I muttered, yanking my seatbelt on over my leather jacket, now comfortably back in place. “Just . . . a hard week. Gets to you sometimes.”
I slammed the car into gear and we zipped off.
Liza was quiet for a bit, aside from a few sniffles. Then she turned to me, “Thanks for taking me. I . . . just seeing that stuff gives you a bit different perspective on things, y’know?”
Oh, I knew.
Now to decide what perspective was actually the one I should be sticking to.
And yep. That’s it for the week. -dun-dun-duuuunn-
But we’ll be back with happy stuff on Sunday or Monday. ❤
As always, please comment with theories, caps-lock comments or whatever.
See ya later,