Haaaappy Thursday everybody!
Well, it’s that time of week again. More story for all you lovely people.
Last week we had the very first part, narrated by Dallas and showing many ominous things. You can read that here:
and this week, our very own Wolfgang takes the stage yet again to narrate his own chapter.
Welcome back, buddy.
Junk reputations and junk mail
While they’re admittedly not fun for your average citizen, just remember that they’re always a double helping of not fun for people trying to rebuild a life and a reputation on top of that.
Not even noon, and I’d already gotten cussed at once and been given an overabundance of stink-eye for just going to get some bread from the store. Bread, mind you. The only thing I could really afford with my last few dollars.
And after spending the weekend with the Fernsbys, lying through my teeth about still having a job and getting actual food for a few days, it made coming back to my non-wealth of ramen noodles and toast all the more painful.
Dallas was sworn to secrecy, but kept leaving me subtle hints that his dad would gladly take me back on.
Right. I might be desperate, but I wasn’t going to do that again. That job worked fine up until about December, when my public “redeemed hero” image wore off. Our business dropped to half of what it’d been before and I knew full well who was causing it.
No one wanted some famous media terrorist coming and working on their sink anymore. And right at the beginning with all the accidental explosions and stuff, people weren’t giving me that great of reviews.
I left and . . . would you look at that . . . the Knight family household repair service was back up and running.
I mean, finding another job couldn’t be that hard, could it?
Oh, it could. As proven by the fact that I’d been looking for months now.
I scuffed the toe of my shoe along the sidewalk and checked my watch. Eleven forty-three.
I’d managed to get a phone interview with a hardware place out of town scheduled. In two minutes, if they were prompt about it. This was the fifth place I’d tried to get a job at in the past week. Someone had to take me right?
I flipped my phone over in my hand a couple of times as I looked out over the park. It was right across the street from my apartment place and I came here enough that the people around paid relatively little attention to the guy with the infamous cowlick and leather jacket.
That was one thing about phone interviews, they couldn’t actually see who they were talking to. Admittedly my voice was a tip-off to some people. Since I’d been such a wonderfully chatty villain and had given so many monologues to the cameras filming me.
Less to tip people off right away over the phone, I guess.
I let out my breath, still turning my phone over and over. My hands were starting to shake and I put my phone in my pocket. Didn’t have the money to replace that right now.
Eleven forty-five now.
I ran a hand over my hair, scuffing one shoe on the pavement again. Well, they were a busy hardware store, maybe they didn’t have time to be very punctual with their phone interviews.
I ran over in my head everything I planned on saying over the interview. Keeping my voice lower and trying to avoid the topic of my name for as long as possible. Trying to list enough talents and skill for the job that by the time that came up it wouldn’t be a problem . . .
My phone buzzed in my pocket. I pulled it out, ready to answer, but it was just a text message.
From the hardware place that had been going to call me.
-Mr. Dankworth, thank you for your interest in filling our position and for scheduling an interview. We regret to inform you that we have already hired someone before this interview was to take place. Thank you for your interest and we wish you the best of luck in finding another job.
Well. Looked like they’d gone and background checked “Wolf D.” beforehand after all.
I bit down hard on my tongue, turning my phone off.
So much for that job.
I narrowed my eyes in a glare at the dark phone screen for a few second before jamming it back in my pocket.
I just stood there for a few seconds before directing my glare up to the bright blue sky above me.
“Really?” I muttered under my breath. “What is this, a test to make sure I don’t go all criminal again and steal things?” I spread my hands a little. “I turned around, okay? Would a little bit of help be the end of the world?”
No heavenly voice responded. Just the sun glaring down into my face, making the black leather of my jacket uncomfortably warm.
I dropped my hands and sighed. Back to the drawing board, then. Back to scrounging up other unsuccessful interviews and living off leftovers and Bad News’s charity because my bad name wouldn’t let me do anything else.
I started back along the path towards my little apartment, kicking hard at a rock along the path.
What a life, huh?
And I was a trying to be a good citizen now, so I couldn’t even go shoot stuff up to let off some steam . . .
A squeal from in back of me made me jump. A little kid, younger than Leif, bumped against my leg as he scampered past, running down the path.
Probably playing tag or something. Or running from his mom because he didn’t want to leave the park.
He kept running, getting off the path. Going straight for the street.
I tensed, frowning. “Hey!” I yelled after him. “Kid, stay out of the road!”
Either he didn’t hear me or didn’t care. He just squealed again and kept off at his uneven, little-kid pace of running. Right towards the road.
And there were cars coming.
I started back up at a jog, “Hey, peanut, get back away from the . . .”
Aaand there he went, stepping right onto the curb.
I cursed under my breath and broke into a run, closing the last stretch between us just as he took his first steps out on the asphalt.
He squeaked, wiggling as I scooped him up and pulled him back onto the grass.
“Let’s not, okay buddy?” I turned him around so I was looking at his face and raised my eyebrows. “No running out and getting flattened by cars today.”
The kid just stared at me.
“Adrian!” came a voice from behind us. The frantic “click-click” of high heels sounded on the pavement. I turned to see a woman with the same light brown hair as the little boy and a horrified expression on her face as she rushed towards us.
I stood, picking up the kid as I did. “He’s okay. Just . . .”
I was cut off by another horrified gasp from the lady. She didn’t slow her pace and it took me a second to realize it wasn’t just her son’s proximity to the road that was worrying her. It was who her son was being held by.
Quickly, I held him out to his mother. “S-sorry. He’s just fine, see?”
“Oh Adrian . . .” the woman quickly took her son from my arms and held him close to herself, burying her face in his unruly head of hair. Her quick breathing and worried voice tipped little Adrian off that he’d just been held by some sort of monster and he started sniffling.
I just stood there, awkwardly putting my hands in my pockets. “He . . . was running off into the road and I . . .”
The woman just shot me a split-second of a glare, then turned her attention back to her son as she hurried away.
“It’s okay, baby. I’m sorry . . . you’re okay now . . .”
I watched them go without saying a word. A familiar, angry feeling smoldered in my chest at the injustice of it. Well, I’d just saved a kid from being run over, sure. But no, I’d blown some stuff up last year, so I couldn’t have done it out of the goodness of my heart. Please, glare at me and show me back to my place in the gutter where scum belongs.
I bit my tongue again to hold back from saying anything as I turned and crossed the street back to my apartment.
The tar smell from the hot sun on the road blew up against me in a warm wind and the spindly tree next to the building rustled in the breeze. My shoes clanked against the steps as I went up to the second level corner of the building. Back to my lucky-number-thirteen apartment.
It was a little cooler in the shade under the overhang of the roof from the building. It gave a little relief to a wacko like me who wanted to wear his leather jacket in June.
I pulled out my keys and jabbed them into the lock, giving it a quick twist as I pushed inside.
The familiar empty grey of my apartment opened up in front of me. Distinctly lacking in the chair that I’d sold last month so I’d have a little money to pay the rent with.
Nothing really special about the place. I wasn’t much of a decorator, so I hadn’t done a whole lot to make it homey.
Just a lingering burnt smell in the air from toast, coffee and my occasional attempts at cooking, plus an old blanket tossed over the back of the couch.
I’d spent more time here than I’d ever wanted to over the past months and just looking at the paint on the walls made me want to throw up. I should be out doing something. Building up a better name and doing some good in society. Not scrambling for a job, burning toast and trying to clean up my apartment . . . still waking up with nightmares almost every night . . . And really, if things didn’t change, I wouldn’t even be able to keep this place. Probably end up moving back into the old Den.
Pretty much the only thing that I seemed to be able to keep a steady job doing was volunteering at the local soup kitchen. Though even there, barely anyone would look me in the eye.
I let out my breath and ran a hand through my hair again as I closed the door behind me.
A gentle, familiar flapping noise sounded and then a clack of talons on tile as Lucius poked his head around the doorway from my bedroom.
I waved a little, tiredly. “Hey bud.”
Lucius chirruped and flapped up to perch himself on my shoulder. As usual, he was the one that listened to all my rants and kept things from getting too lonely during the week. I rubbed a finger over his feathers and let out my breath.
Well, with that interview crossed off my list, what else could I do today?
I could call around to try and find another job. I could walk around to different stores to try and find another job. I could try and find some other good deed to go do in the neighborhood, get yelled at by someone and feel like even more of an idiot than I already was . . .
I groaned and rubbed my hand over my face, feeling the start of a headache coming on.
Whatever I was doing, I could make coffee first.
I unsuccessfully job hunted for a couple hours before the growing urge to shoot something grew too strong and I decided to take a break.
Took Lucius for a quick fly outside and got a little more fresh air without any disastrous interactions with the public. But the falcon seemed to sense my discomfort, as usual, and headed back sooner than our other times.
I sat cross-legged on the floor, shuffling my old deck of cards around into different patterns and tricks. The edges were all worn soft from years of use and some of the corners crinkled when I arched the cards.
I picked out a couple of threes and a queen and worked on my three-card-monty act for a while. Throwing the cards back and forth and hiding the queen from view.
Lucius watched me, his head tilted to one side as his black eyes followed the cards.
I stopped for a bit, rubbing my fingertips against the rough fabric of my jeans. Not like I was making a ton of money elsewhere . . . maybe I could just pick up a little extra doing this sort of stuff at bars or something. Hustle a little bit of pool. Just for a week or two.
I looked up at Lucius. “What do you think, huh? Could I make a little bit doing that?”
He made a sound in the back of his throat and fluffed his feathers.
Right. Because I can just switch gears from terrorist to con man in a snap. What a redemption. Mom would be so proud of me.
I gathered up the cards again and rubbed a hand down my face.
Charles Fernsby was always beating the drum of “God has a plan for your life, just follow him.”
Well, I’d really love it if He let me in on that whole plan, seeing as the current plan looked like it was for me to rot away in disgrace.
I shuffled the cards back together and pushed to my feet just as a loud, rhythmic knock sounded on the door. Lucius flapped a hasty retreat back to my room.
“Who is it?” I called out.
Silence for a second, then a voice like an amused rumble of thunder.
“Little pig, little pig, let me in.”
I shook my head, snapping the rubber band off my wrist and around the deck of cards. “Come in, News. The door’s open.”
The door squeaked on its hinges as it opened and a giant in a suit and tie ducked in, one hand on top of his head to keep his fedora in place. The other arm was looped through the handles of a beat-up old duffle bag.
Bad News straightened up as he came inside, his head nearly brushing the low ceiling. He grinned at me, touching his fingertips to the brim of his hat. “Well aloha there, cowboy. How’re things?”
I shrugged, putting the cards back into place on the shelf. “You know. Same old same old. I got glared at for stopping a kid from running into the street. Woke up bright and early this morning from another nightmare. Got rejected on another job before they even interviewed me.”
News grunted, his brows drawing together into a thick line above his sunglasses. “Bummer.” He shrugged and reached down to unzip the duffle bag. “Well, no bad day ice cream can’t help, right?” With a grin, he pulled out a container of cookie dough ice cream and held it out to me triumphantly.
There was one person I couldn’t help but accept charity from. News always brought me food. Ice cream in particular. Whether I said that I needed or wanted it was irrelevant.
I rolled my eyes and chuckled a little. “Sure, why not.”
News set the container down on the counter, dropped his bag on the floor and went to search out the spoons, “Oh, yeah. And I got your mail for you.”
“Oh boy,” I said flatly as I pried the lid off the ice cream. “What wonders await me among the mounds of junk mail and hate mail?”
“Hey, that mailbox would’ve exploded if you let it get stuffed any longer.” He came back around the corner, a couple of small spoons nearly engulfed in his huge fist. Reaching up, he propped his sunglasses on the brim of his hat. “Besides, you might miss something important.”
“Right. Learn some swear word I didn’t even know existed with all the names people call me.” I reached over and plucked a spoon from his hand, then dug into the ice cream.
News raised one eyebrow until it almost touched the edge of his fedora. “It’s not all bad stuff. I mean, look . . .” he leaned over and picked up the bag to rifle through it. “I saw something right on top that’s . . . here we go.”
With a flourish, he pulled out a piece of brightly colored cardstock with a cheap key stuck to it. “See? You won another Mustang at the car dealership down the road.”
“Right.” I swallowed my bite of ice cream and leaned back against the wall, gesturing with my spoon. “I’m sure there are at least a hundred people who have that exact same piece of mail. It’s junk.”
News frowned at the mail, wrinkling his nose a little. “Hmm.” He pushed his hat back on his head, squinting one eye. He gave the duffle bag another glance. “Well, there’s still gotta be somethin’ good in there.”
Setting the fraud car-key ad down on the counter, he leaned over to scoop a bite of ice cream, stuck the spoon in his mouth, and then plopped down on the carpet to rifle through his mailbag like an enormous postman.
Really, it was pretty easy to sort things into two piles as he pulled them out. Junk mail was addressed to “Current Resident” and hate mail was addressed to “The Wolf.”
I shook my head and took another bite of ice cream. If it made Bad News happy to play mailman, whatever.
“Did you have anything else to tell me or were you just here to be the ice-cream-and-mail-man?”
“Mm,” News looked over a few more pieces of mail. “Well, Liza figured out a sort of heat proofing thing on her arm, so that’s pretty sweet.” His words distorted around the spoon in his mouth. He held up one piece of mail. “Hey, hand addressed.”
“Hate mail. They’re always really personal about that sort of stuff.”
“No, no,” he took the spoon out of his mouth, “it’s made out to ‘Mr. Wolfgang S. Dankworth’.” He read the last part in a British accent, tilting his head. Holding it up, he shrugged. “All the others said ‘The Wolf’, so maybe it’s some nice mail. A love letter or something.”
Bad News grinned, wiggling his eyebrows as he rattled the envelope. “Sounds like she sent you a keychain too.”
“News, no one would . . .”
“Wolfy’s got a giiiirrlfriiieeend . . .” he sang in his rumbling baritone, chuckling and flipping the envelope over in his hand and sniffing it like it might be perfumed.
I pulled my hand back like I would throw my spoon at him. He laughed and shielded his face with his arm.
I let my arm down, shaking my head. “Seriously, it’s probably just . . . another junk mail ploy or something.”
Or a more eloquent hate-mail author. Which I wouldn’t look forward to. The last one that came addressed to “Wolfgang” was about as comforting as being knifed in the gut. Last piece of hate mail I’d even attempted to read.
“No, but seriously.” News tossed the envelope up onto the counter next to me. It clanked as it hit the hard surface. “Take a look at that, at least.”
I glanced down at the flowing, black script on the outside of the envelope. A thick, embossed envelope. No return address. It looked almost like an invitation to a banquet or something.
That looked way too personal for junk mail. And no one would watch their handwriting that carefully if they’d just wanted to tell me how much they hated me. They could call me dirty names without a calligraphy pen. Everyone else did.
As much as I hated to admit it, I was curious.
“Fine.” I scooted it off to the side. “I’ll read it later.”
News turned his bag upside down to dump the last couple letters on the carpet. “Whoa, it looks like you won a flat screen TV too.”
“And I probably won a pony cart while I was at it,” I jabbed my spoon back into the ice cream carton. “Just throw the rest in the trash, News.”
Bad News stuck around for another hour or so, just hanging out for the main part. Doing a bit of tidying and rearranging of my sad few pieces of furniture that remained. We played a bit of cards. He was sympathetic to my plight of not having a job, but wasn’t too upset at the possibility of me having to move back in at the Den.
He and Liza still called it home. Roy did on occasion, but preferred to roam the country with Cardboard in the backseat.
News had left with the parting shot that they “could use some more quality company at the Den”. And my room was still empty.
Not that I didn’t like the company. Or that I didn’t appreciate living in a rundown old grocery store. But I felt like a bit more independent, functioning member of society when I lived in an apartment.
Or at least it gave me the comforting illusion.
I leaned against the counter, letting out my breath. Soup kitchen was tomorrow night. Tonight . . .
Well. Nothing really. Stewing in guilt was always an option, but I usually tried to avoid that one.
I drummed my fingers against the counter and my fingertips brushed against a corner of thick, expensive paper.
That envelope News had insisted I keep and read.
What even is that thing?
Never know. Maybe someone actually wanted to offer me some decent job.
I squinted at it for a second, then picked it up, flipping it over in my hand. The envelope seal popped open easily as I pulled on it. The paper made a slick popping sound as I folded the flap back.
I’d taken News sniffing it as a joke, but it actually did smell perfumed.
If I was confused before . . . someone sending me perfumed letters . . .?
I frowned, reaching inside to pull out the folded paper inside. Something small and silver pulled out with it, falling with a clink to the floor.
The paper unfolded easily, showing the same flowing black script that had been on the outside of the envelope.
Dear Mr. Dankworth,
We thank you again for joining us last year and hope you enjoy this small token as a tribute.
You are receiving this letter as an announcement that the undercover time for our organization has finally come to a head. We are prepared for the next step. Please contact at your soonest possible availability.
There was no signature. Just blank white like there had been on the return address space.
I just stared at the letter. Me . . . joining an organization? Undercover? Well this wasn’t the sort of “job” I’d been jokingly expecting. When the heck had . . .?
My first thought was that they might have had the wrong address . . . wrong person . . .
But it was addressed to Wolfgang Dankworth. Wolfgang S. Dankworth, no less. When did I ever give out my middle name?
I looked down to the thing that had fallen on the carpet. It sparkled silver up at me as I bent down to pick it up.
A silver wing keychain.
I looked between the keychain and the letter, confusion spinning in my head.
I’d joined something?
But I don’t remember . . .
Goosebumps prickled on my arms underneath my jacket.
. . . and maybe that’s the key.
News saved everything.
Did he still have that old tuxedo of mine around?
Aaand we’ll be back next week. -thumbs up-
On a slightly different topic (only slightly since this is my nanowrimo novel) TODAY IS THE VERY LAST DAY OF NANO.
WRITE LIKE THE WIND, PEOPLE.
I’ll take a second to brag, because last time I did NaNoWriMo it totally drained me and was an absolute nightmare month. I only cleared 50k in the middle of the night on the 30th and pretty much determined that I’d never do that again.
And this year, I finished 50k on the 16th. And right now am beyond 83k.
-moment of unashamed pride-
So yeah, you guys’ll have story to last you for a while coming here. XD
Eeenyway. Hope you all liked the story and have a good Thursday! ❤ We’ll be back next week and will hopefully have more posts around this December.