And so, after all our adventures that began in June with a weird little short story start, it comes to an end.
Not a whole ton of lead up here. Evil was vanquished. Things blew up. Wolfgang Dankworth redeemed himself. And now it’s time for our fluffy happy ending.
For those of you who are new… what a wonderful time to show up. The whole story is finished now.
Read and enjoy a tale of villains and the struggles of amnesia.
Or if you’re just being nostalgic and want to read through it all again… you can do that too.
Anyway, all the parts are below.
All of them. -minor freak-out-
“I’ve got a feeling about this next one,” I could hear the hope in Liza’s voice even through the tiny little phone speaker. “Our main problem was with the nerve sensors and the blockage on those with the way the arm would attach, but we’ve got it so it’s more of a strap that goes around. Plus, I identified the bug in the sensor. Working it out right now, actually . . . I think within the month . . .”
“You’ll be armed and ready?” I shifted my hand on the steering wheel of my car and grinned. The warm wind whipped around my face and through my hair as I turned down a bend in the road.
Liza’s snicker came over the line. “Ohh . . . that was bad, Wolfy . . .”
“What?” I pretended to sound insulted, “True, isn’t it?”
“Well, one would hope,” she responded. “Even with me, there’s only so long I can stay cooped up inside tinkering with things. I’m turning into a bloody mole down here.”
I nodded slowly, straightening out the wheel again and putting gentle pressure on the gas pedal. “Sunlight, then.”
“Well, there’s plenty of it out here,” I assured her, looking at the pinkish sky above me. “Clear up your busy tinkering schedule and we can go hiking next weekend. Get you out in the fresh air and out of the danger of turning into a mole.”
She laughed a little, “Sounds good. I’ll try not to talk your ear off with all the technical everything and actually make some human conversation.”
“I’m used to it by now. Intellectually stimulating, let’s say.” I squinted at the hood of a car poking out further down the road. “Hey, I’m gonna have to let you go. Cop coming up and I need both hands on the wheel.”
“Wolfgang Dankworth,” Liza put on a dramatic newscaster voice, “caught talking on his cell phone while driving. Oh, will his evil deeds never cease from mankind?”
“Oh, shut up,” I laughed. “Talk to you later.”
I hit the “end call” button and dropped my phone into the glove compartment just as I passed by the cop. My Mustang and I merited barely a glance.
I let out my breath and leaned back in my seat, running hand over my hair. A familiar, gnarled tree passed on the right, checking off another in the list of landmarks before I got to the house.
The yellow gift bag sat in the passenger seat, trembling a little in the wind, but staying in place with the weight of the things inside. I grinned and turned my eyes back to the road. The kids’ll love them.
My stomach growled, almost like it was trying to remind me that spending my precious little money on Legos not making it very happy. But I ignored it. I liked ramen and grilled cheese. And I was about to get a full weekend of good food anyway.
A tiny, buzzing noise came from the glove compartment and I glanced down.
What could they be calling about? Maybe they needed me to pick something up . . . or maybe this was a certain junior member getting impatient . . .
I checked for cops, pulled the phone up and hit a button. “Hello?”
“Where are yoouuu?” Leif’s voice groaned.
Yep. Impatient check-in with the tardy big brother.
“I’m coooomiiing,” I groaned back.
“You’re taking foreverrrr . . .”
“Well, I’m almost theeeerrre. Chill ooouut.”
I caught a bit of a giggle from Leif and grinned. I slowed up and steered the car around another corner. “I’m close, bud. Had a bit of a . . . thing at work that took a bit longer to clean up than I thought, so I had a late start. Give me . . .” I looked at the clock on my radio, “ . . .four minutes. At the most.”
There were a few voices behind Leif’s and a bit of scuffling.
“Is that Uncle Wolfy? Can I talk to ‘im?” came an excited squeak of a voice. Jilly’s, I guessed. Or Beckett being way too excited.
Then Angela’s distant voice. “What are you . . .? Leif, I told you . . .” she heaved a gusty sigh, there was a “hey!” from Leif and Angela’s voice came through clearer.
“Hi. Sorry about that. I told him to wait patiently. But . . .” Another sigh. You had to admire how much she out up with. I mean, I like kids, but watching three under the age of ten for more than a couple of days would drive me insane.
I just laughed. “Runs in the family.” The Fernsby’s road came up on my left and I spun the wheel to pull onto it. “Listen, I’m really close. See you guys in a sec, okay?”
The phone was re-stationed in the glove compartment and I kept my attention on driving. Mailboxes and beginnings of other driveways slid past as I drove. Grey mountains stood off in the distance and trees were thick in between the houses, making it look less populated than it actually was.
A few more winding turns down the road and I saw the driveway I was looking for. A sign was stuck in the dirt and pine needles that read “Fernsbys”, carved ornately into the wood. Then a smaller one right next to it, made out of sun-bleached cardboard and a garden stake.
“+ 1 Dankwurth”
He really took to that name, I tell you. Even if he couldn’t spell it.
I grinned and turned onto the gravel drive. My car wheels crunched on the rocks as I puttered up towards the house. One last bend and I was there.
The log cabin-looking house glowed yellow from its windows in the purple-y partial darkness. The front door was swung partly open and I heard sounds of laughter and clanking dishes seeping out.
As always, I felt my muscles relax as I put my car into park next to the Fernsbys’ green minivan. It didn’t matter what was happening in the rest of the world. Here was always a place that felt . . . well, I don’t want to say peaceful. They certainly had their moments. But . . . just secure and welcoming. Like home.
I buckled and clicked my door open, swinging my legs out. I stood and tucked my keys in my pocket. A muffled “exterminate!” chirped from my pocket as my Dalek keychain bumped against my hip.
The yellow bag still sat in the passenger seat, so I leaned over and snagged it out. As I turned to go in, two figures appeared at the door. The small one with the hair as insane as my own shot out like a bullet towards me.
I barely had time to brace myself before Leif came barreling into my middle, nearly knocking the wind out of me. He wrapped his arms around, holding onto the slick leather of my jacket.
I coughed, regaining my balance a bit better, and ruffled his hair. “G-good to see you too, buddy.”
He tipped his head up to grin at me before swinging around to my side and half pushing me towards the door. “C’mon! Dinner’s all ready.”
The other figure still stood on the porch, his hands in his pockets and a partial smile across his mouth. I waved with my hand that wasn’t on Leif’s shoulder.
Dallas waved back, staying at his post.
Leif poked me in the ribs, “Hey . . . Mom said you had a surprise for dessert. What is it?”
“Well,” I started up the steps to the door. “It’s something surprising, I can tell you that. And we’re having it for dessert . . .”
“Woooolf . . .” Leif flopped against me, half groaning, half laughing.
I ignored his protests and stopped by Dallas before going in. We shook hands and I grinned at him. “Nice to see you here.”
He shrugged. “Just helping out a bit with a few things around here that needed to be done.” We started inside and Dallas nodded to me, “You okay? After that . . . thing . . . earlier? There’s a bit of a . . .” he motioned next to his face, squinting at me, “There’s a cut on your cheek.”
I reddened a little, “You get all my work history, don’t you?”
“Well, when your employer is my dad, it’s kind of hard not to,” he tried to hide a smile. “There’s always a learning curve. And on the bright side, you know what not to do with water heaters now.”
“Got that right,” I lowered my voice, “and let’s not . . . bring that up, shall we?”
The warm, savory smell inside the house hit me full in the face as we walked in and I breathed it in deeply.
“Uncle Wolfy’s here!” Beckett yelled out, bounding down the stairs. A few seconds later, he and Jilly had joined Leif in crowding around me. Jilly hung on my pants leg and I had to grip my belt to keep her from pulling them down.
Beckett pulled on my sleeve. “What’s the surprise dessert?”
“Oh, so it’s the surprise dessert you’re excited about, not me?” I pretended to look hurt.
“Kids, say hello nicely,” prompted Angela, stepping into the entryway. A small smile played across her lips as she glanced up at me.
“Hi, Uncle Wolfy,” Beckett said, clasping his hands behind his back like a proper English gentleman for about ten seconds.
“Hello nicely,” piped Leif.
Jilly was less inclined to follow her mom’s orders. She tugged on my coat sleeve. “What’s in the bag?”
I held the yellow bag just out of her reach. “Stuff. You’ll see soon enough, peanut.” I shook my head at the groans and “whyyy”s that followed and looked up at Angela. “So, what’s for dinner?”
“Tater tot casserole,” she replied. “And it’s nice to see you, Wolfgang.” The second bit was added louder, as an obvious example to her kids.
“Nice to see you too, Angela,” I responded with an exaggerated nod.
A hand slapped down on my shoulder and I turned to see Charles grinning at me. He nodded, “Good thing you showed up. The kids would have gone and eaten me if I’d told them to wait any longer.”
I shook his offered hand and glanced over at Angela, “On that note, let’s go eat.”
Jilly and Beckett went running off into the dining room ahead of the rest of us. I followed at a less breakneck pace with the others, despite Leif’s pulling on my arm to try and get me to go faster.
Charles tipped his head and frowned a little, seeing the cut on my cheek. “What happened to your face?”
I knew exactly what he was talking about, but dodged the topic in favor of not activating Angela’s mother-hen mode. “Dashing good looks happened to my face.” I gave him my most cheesy, winning grin.
Dallas coughed and I elbowed him.
Charles raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything.
We all took our seats around the table and I stashed my yellow bag under my seat. Jilly had won the rock-paper-scissors tournament and got the other seat next to me besides the one that Leif always got.
Angela brought the food to the table and set it in the middle before sitting down next to Charles.
“Let’s say grace,” Charles looked around the table at everyone, then bowed his head.
Two small hands, one from either side, grabbed hold of mine. Jilly’s was soft and smooth against my rough skin. Leif’s was sticky . . . as always. I held onto each of them, my hands enveloping theirs. I bowed my head slightly, but didn’t close my eyes. Leif peeked at me and puckered his mouth in a frown.
“Dear Lord, thank you for the wonderful meal and the wonderful woman who made it. Thank you for the great day and that Wolfgang made it here safely. Help us to have a good and restful weekend and honor you with it. Amen.” Charles opened his eyes and brought his head up.
“Wolf didn’t close his eyes,” accused Leif.
I raised an eyebrow at him. “And how would you know that?”
“Well I just peeked to see for a little bit . . .” he trailed off as Angela laughed.
Dinner went as dinners usually did at the Fernsby house.
Someone always spilled something within the first five minutes. It was Dallas that time, surprisingly. Though he probably set the record for the most remorse and fastest cleanup.
Leif had his usual bargaining session about how many veggies he had to eat. Jilly paused the meal to sing us a song. Beckett ate enough for two kids his size.
Overall, it was very loud and very happy. And very different from my usual dinners.
When everyone was done eating and all the dishes were more or less cleared off the table, I pulled out the mysterious yellow bag. The three kids immediately lapsed into respectful silence.
I waved the bag back and forth in front of me dramatically for a few seconds before setting it down and reaching in. “Aaand . . . catch, guys.” I pulled out three little Lego sets and tossed one to each kid in order.
Jilly got a little girl set with a singer on a stage, Beckett got a fireman and Leif got one with a Dalek and the tenth Doctor.
Gasps and squeals erupted from the three of them and I grinned. Leif busted into his right there, of course, and in under a minute, he had the Doctor assembled. He set him in front of me.
“Get out your Dalek and we can fight,” he poked me, adjusting the Doctor’s position.
I pulled out my keys and set my dinged-up old keychain next to his new Lego figure. “There.” I bumped it into his Doctor, who fell over with a tiny clatter. “I win. Now . . .” I sat up straighter, “That wasn’t all. We still have our surprise dessert . . . if you guys are interested, of course . . . we could just stay here . . .”
“No, no! Tell us!” Beckett bounced in his seat.
“Weeellll . . .”
Charles started up a drumroll with his fingers on the table, grinning at me.
I cleared my throat dramatically. “We’re driving back into town . . . and then we’re going to Lucky Scoop.”
“Ice cream!” peeped Jilly, hugging me. “Thank you!”
Leif pushed his chair back, scooping up his Legos, “I get to ride with you, okay?”
The cowbell above the door clattered as I pushed inside the vanilla-smelling interior of Lucky Scoop with Leif at my heels. My shoes squeaked on the black and white tile. I walked up towards the red barstools at the counter, giving a smile and wave to the familiar figure behind the counter. He waved back with a crooked grin, still holding his ice cream scoop.
“Hey howdy hey.”
“Hey howdy hey yourself, News.” I took a seat at one of the stools and propped an arm on the counter.
Bad News tugged on his apron strings and nodded at Leif, then looked back at me. “Come for dinner?”
Leif stared at me, looking like he’d just gotten a glimpse into paradise. “You come here for dinner?”
I coughed, “Occasionally . . . very occasionally. And no, News, I didn’t. Dessert for the Fernsby and Dankworth clan, actually.”
“Gotcha. Pretty quiet in here tonight. You guys’ve got the place to yourselves.” News grinned, pushing his hat back. He craned his head back a little, looking into an open “employees only” door. “Roy! Cardboard! We got company!”
The cowbell above the door clanged again and the four Fernsbys walked in.
I turned with a wave, “C’mon up, guys. Tell Mr. News what you want.”
News gave a nod as Jilly and Beckett scrambled up onto the red stools. “So, this’ll be on your tab, I’m guessing.”
I nodded back, patting my leather jacket pocket with the bullet hole in it and feeling my wallet. “Yep. I got it covered.”
Footsteps came forward from the back and I heard Roy’s voice. “Hey, man!” He strode out with Cardboard close behind, a grin splitting his face. “How’s it going?” He leaned over the counter to me and I high-fived his outstretched hand. I noted with amusement the aprons they both wore. News had obviously cracked down a bit more on the cleanliness factor in here.
“Well, pretty good.” I grinned back, “Job’s nice to have and all.”
Cardboard’s curly head poked over the edge of the counter so I saw only half of her face and the tips of her fingers. “Did you teach Lucius to loop-the-loop yet?”
“Still working on that one, peanut. I’ll be sure to show you as soon as he gets it, though.”
Her brown eyes flicked over to Jilly and crinkled in a smile. “Hey, Jilly.”
“Hi,” Jilly said shyly around the piece of her hair she was nibbling on the end of. She kicked her feet. “Can I have your special?”
“Mm hmm,” Cardboard nodded. “I’ll go back and make one.” She bounced off.
“I want chocolate, please,” Beckett told News, wiggling in his seat and craning his neck to meet the giant’s eyes.
Leif got a Bad News Sundae, which was basically all the flavors there were scooped together with root beer and sprinkles on top. I’m still pretty sure Leif is the only one that eats it aside from Bad News himself.
Charles and Angela got some sorbet to share and Dallas had vanilla. I had a coffee shake. I was his only customer on the coffee front anyway. No one else could stomach the stuff, even if it was mixed with ice cream.
As soon as everyone got their things, News brushed out from behind the counter to the front window, flipping over the sign so it showed the “sorry, we’re closed” side.
I frowned, “You don’t need to close up just because . . .”
“Only fifteen minutes early,” News assured me, going back to his station to make himself his own Bad News Sundae. “Besides, we need our dessert too.” He elbowed Roy.
In just a couple of minutes, the last three barstools in the U shape were filled up and we all sat, eating our ice cream. Everyone’s mouths were busy with ice cream and I was able to make out the faint strains of “I’m just a Bill” over the speakers.
I leaned on the counter and turned to get a better view of News, “Haven’t had any customer complaints about the Schoolhouse Rock yet?”
He shook his head, “Nope. It’s educational. They can learn something while they’re here.”
Dallas furrowed his brow skeptically. “Most people already know this stuff . . .”
“I like it,” Leif defended around another bite of his sundae.
I shook my head, taking a drink of my shake. “To each his own.”
I leaned back again, running a hand through my hair. My fingers hit the thick scar on the base of my scull and I rubbed at it thoughtfully. It barely hurt anymore. What I would have done without that, though . . . what my life could have been like right about now if it hadn’t been for that ugly gash on the back of my head . . .
Leif put his head against my arm, smashing his cowlick down halfway. I felt a tiny poke against my side and looked down to see him poking the bullet hole in my pocket with his Lego Doctor. He looked up and beamed at me.
“I’m glad I’m a Dankworth.”
I ruffled his hair. “Me too, buddy.”
Funny how stuff works out like that sometimes. Everyone has their own stories of how they got where they are. Crazy coincidences . . . or divine mistakes, whatever you want to call it.
Amnesia was the best thing that could have happened.
So ends the saga of Blank Mastermind.
230 pages and over 75,000 words. Longest thing I’ve ever written.
After seven long months, it’s finally over. Jeez, what will I do with my blog now.
So, after some editing and fixing of a few things, Blank Mastermind will certainly be put into book form for you peoples. (I’m kind of thinking of this publisher? Maybe? If nothing else, self publishing again, but hey.)
You haven’t seen the last of Wolfgang and the Blank Mastermind crew by any means. He’s still got some short stories and such that will most likely be shared. I have a few deleted scenes that might make an appearance as well.
-whispers- plus a few small sequel ideas I might be making random notes on maybe writing? so we’ll see…
In closing, all you guys have been amazing. This story has totally been the ride of a lifetime for me and thank you all for hopping on the roller coaster with. You all gave incredible, amazing feedback. You laughed and cried over my silly little project with me and that means a whole lot, so thank you thank you all so much. You’re all amazing and I love you guys. ❤ ❤ ❤
Wolfgang must give his thanks as well.
So yeah. I’ll update the Blank Mastermind page to the best of my ability so you folks will have a good link to share with people if you want to share the story. 🙂
Again, thank you guys so much for reading. You’re amazing.
Here’s to next time and more stories. -raises toast-