I think I’ve shown incredible self restraint in not posting any Blank Mastermind crew stories for as long as I did.
So now I’m breaking that streak and giving you all another Bad News backstory.
From his younger years starting with the mafia, and from the point of view of his younger sister, Sunday.
I watched my big brother Baden put on his tie in the mirror, absentmindedly stirring my cereal around in my mug.
Daley was already finished with seconds on his breakfast and was on to getting his school stuff ready.
I had most of my stuff by the door and ready to roll anyway. But I sorta liked scrambling at the last minute to get out and enjoying my breakfast more.
Baden adjusted his tie and tweaked the brim of his fedora, pulling on the edges of his jacket. He nodded to the mirror, then turned around to look back at me. He smiled. “You almost done there, kiddo? Looks like your cereal is getting soggy.”
I looked down at it and scooped another bite into my mouth before asking my question. “What do you do for a job?”
He looked surprised for a second, then chuckled and shook his head. “Grown up stuff. Nothing you’d like.”
I frowned, shaking my head back and tucking my long hair behind one ear. My feet swung back and forth under the chair legs and out again. “But Frank does it with you, and he’s not even older than Daley.”
“His mom’s cool with it. And I’m looking out for him. Just like I’m looking out for you guys.” Baden walked over next to me and pushed my fedora sideways.
“Is it a good job?”
He shrugged a little. “Boss says we keep the city running the way it’s supposed to. And I’m pretty good at it, so it’s better than a kick in the pants for sure.”
I twisted my mouth sideways and looked down at my bowl again. Boring grown up stuff?
Well… he’s my big brother. He can make anything fun.
Baden covered one of my shoulders with his hand and squeezed lightly. “Come on, let’s get you rugrats to school on time.”
I scooped a few more bites of my cereal into my mouth and hopped off the chair, going to get my backpack.
Daley and I always walked the same route home from school. I barely even had to look down to keep my feet from touching all the cracks that crept their way across the sidewalk like squiggly worms.
I hopped in the familiar old rhythm, humming a multiplication song as I went.
Cars puttered past on the street, peeling off down different roads. The air smelled like gasoline and fast food.
Daley walked along next to me, his lunchbox swinging from one hand. He ran a hand through his curly hair and looked over at me. “Hey, you know what’s for dinner?”
“Nope.” I hopped a few more times, stopping in my humming for a second. “Do you?”
“Yup. Taco night.”
I formed my mouth into an O shape, looking back to him and then grinning. “I looove Baden’s tacos.”
“I’ll get more than you,” Daley smirked. “I’ll get there first.”
“Race you!” I made a face, then took off running down the sidewalk, not bothering to watch the cracks in the cement anymore.
Daley took off after me, his shoes smacking in a steady, fast beat behind me as I kept running. I bit my lip hard. He was faster than me, but if I cut through this one alleyway.
I skidded to a halt and Daley rushed right past the opening to the alley as I ducked through.
“Shortcut!” I hollered over my shoulder. I held my fedora to my head with one hand, hopping over a few garbage can lids and empty crates. If I got out quick, I’d be way ahead of him by the time we got home. Those tacos were as good as mine.
I could see the crookedy street light out on the other end of the alley. Just a few streets away from our apartment. I grinned smugly, hopping over a few last pieces of junk and getting out onto the street. Daley wasn’t even in sight as I turned the corner and went running up the sidewalk.
A black car pulled up next a little ways up the road, a door opening and a few guys stepping out across the street. Wearing sunglasses and junky looking clothes. Weird. I hadn’t seen them in the neighborhood before. And I knew just about everybody on the route back.
I didn’t slow up and moved to go around them. But just as I reached them, the guys all sprang for me.
I would have tripped and fell on my face if they hadn’t just scooped me right up.
It only took a couple seconds, but they clamped my arms to my sides, yanked me sideways and knocked my fedora off, then carried me back towards the car. Not even saying anything.
They were… kidnapping me.
My heartbeat hammered in my ears and I couldn’t breathe for a split second. Then when I could, I let it out in a loud scream.
“HELP! DALEY! ANYBODY!”
A hand clamped over my mouth and I was shoved into the car trunk. The door slammed shut, just as I heard more pounding feet and Daley’s voice screaming my name back.
I was slammed back against the hard sides of the trunk as the roar of the motor started, jolting the car out from the curb and carrying me away.
I slammed my hands against the hard shell around me, breathing so fast I felt dizzy. “Mom! Dad! Baden! Somebody please!”
Nothing but the motor and the rattling bumping as the car zoomed away. Off all the wrong streets and away from home.
The guys who picked me up interacted with me as much as if I were groceries. Never saying anything. Just hauling me inside.
I kicked and yelled at them and tried to get away, but I hadn’t hit my famous News-family-growth spurt yet and hadn’t paid enough attention when Baden was teaching me how to hit stuff like you’re supposed to. So I guess it didn’t do much good.
They tied me up to a chair in the corner of their grimy old warehouse, stuck a gross rag in my mouth and then went off to a card table a ways away.
I tried yelling at them and slamming around as much as I could for the first few minutes. Then I realized that made me not able to hear anything they were saying. And they weren’t paying attention anyway.
I leaned forward, straining my ears to hear as much as I could.
“… ransom… family… contact…”
I swallowed, wincing.
One guy raised his voice up more. “I already found the number of the family in that apartment she came from. Even if we didn’t grab the boy too, they’ll still prolly pay just about everything they got to get the girl back.”
“We got enough backup. Just make the call for the meeting place and we’ll sent Bones off to make the drop at midnight, like we planned.”
Who names their kid “bones”? That was a creepy name. I wrinkled my nose.
One man looked back in my direction. “At least the kid shut up.”
I scowled at him through the tangly bits of hair across my face and tried to tell him to shut his pie hole around the rag in my mouth, jerking my hands against the rope. I wished Baden was here. He would have just snapped those ropes like they were string.
The guys just laughed and one of them walked off. I guessed he was going to make the phonecall to ask for ransom.
A cold feeling knotted up in my stomach. How much money did they want Mama and Papa to pay? We didn’t have a lot. Baden got what he could for the groceries and Papa paid the rent with his job at the music store. We weren’t rich…
The gangster who went to give the phonecall came back after a minute, frowning. “No one picked up. I… left a message.”
All the guys looked a little bothered and I was almost glad no one picked up just because they looked so annoyed. But really, I was worried too.
What if nobody came for me? What if I never got to go home? They didn’t know where I was. And if they didn’t have all the money these people asked for…
My eyes and nose started to sting and my breathing sped up. I ducked my head and blinked hard, trying not to let them see me cry. I couldn’t mouth any prayers with the rag in my mouth, but I closed my eyes and ran through them in my head, finishing off with one of my own.
Please, please, please help somebody come for me.
There wasn’t a clock around, but I saw it get dark through the high-up warehouse windows. More hours went by.
My arms and legs were sore and cramped from being in the same position for so long. My mouth got all dry after a while and I got hungry. I was missing taco night back at home.
Guess Daley did get to the tacos before me.
I blew out a shaky breath and looked up at the windows again. Just yellowy light from the street lights outside. The sun had been gone for a while, but as much as I wanted it to be midnight, it was probably a while off still.
I jumped in the chair as footsteps came closer.
One guy was coming over towards me with a frown on his partly tattooed-up face. I wrinkled my nose and pulled away as he got closer, trying not to look scared.
He stopped next to the chair and went down on his heels, pulling the rag from my mouth. I thought about trying to bite his fingers, but they looked dirty and gross and it would probably end out worse for me than him so I didn’t follow through with that.
The guy eyed me for a few seconds before speaking in his gravelly sounding voice.
“Kid, we haven’t been able to get in contact with your family at their apartment. And we know… we’ve been watching for a while and know your name and some of your family’s names. What’s the last name? And some better ways to get in contact?”
I glared at him, not saying anything.
He glared back. “Listen, you wanna get rescued and we want the money. Just cooperate and everyone gets what they want.”
“My family doesn’t havethat much money,” I growled.
The man blew out a frustrated breath. “And maybe we would have got a better handle on that if our stupid stakeout guy got the last name. So if you would just…”
He had a point, even though I hated that he did. I scowled for another second before spitting out the last name.
The guy looked like I’d told him a joke for a second. His mouth pulled sideways in a smirk. “News? Like your name is actually Sunday News? What sort of parents would name their…”
Then his expression changed. It went blank for a second and then the natural color drained out of his face, making the tattoos stand out like bright stickers on the side of his head. He looked terrified. “N-News?”
I didn’t get it. He’d just been laughing…
“Like… so you’re related to…” he looked me over again like he was just seeing me for the first time and I was some sort of freak.
I blinked. “Related to who?”
He scrambled back to his feet, cussing under his breath as he ran back to everyone else. “Guys, guys, w-we messed up big time. We gotta take this girl back before…”
There was a huge banging noise outside the big, metal door and everyone jumped. Heck, I jumped hard. It sounded like there was a tank out there.
The door rattled once, then twice, then slid open a little ways. And in stepped a skinny rail of a kid that I knew. I squinted and blinked, making sure I was seeing right.
Frank Tumbler, with his too-big black tie and his hair flopping down over part of his face, stood in the small opening with a charming smile on his face. He pushed his hair back out of his eyes and held up his hands a little. “Hey fellas.”
The men looked confused for a bit, then a couple of them started to grab their guns and knives.
“Oh, let’s not do that,” he soothed. “See, I’m just here to… give the official announcement from the Mafia boss that you dudes are officially out of favor with us. So for clarification before… you know… the official punishment gets handed out. Anyway.” He smiled at them. I wondered if he even saw me over in the corner.
What was he even doing here? Talking about the mafia and… stepping out in front of gangs like this? I was glad to see him. But he couldn’t actually work for the mafia. Baden worked with him, he couldn’t be…
Frank stepped aside, shoving the sliding door further open.
There were a lot more guys outside. With guns. In suits and ties.
And another outline in the night that I recognized.
One that was right at the front. One that all the gang that had kidnapped me shrank back from as he stepped forward.
His fedora and sunglasses hid nearly all of his face in dark shadow, but I could see the way his jaw was set and his fists were clenched. The way he towered over them all like a monster from a nightmare.
“It’s… it’s…” stammered one of the gang, his voice cracking. “It’s Bad News.”
It was my big brother.
I almost wanted to laugh with relief, but… it felt like I’d wake up from this weird dream any second. He wasn’t… scary. And yet the way he just stood there, he really did look scary. He looked terrifying.
And all these men knew his name. As Bad News.
I jumped a little as my brother’s voice broke the silence in a low growl that seemed to vibrate in the floor.
“Frank, get Sunday. All you guys…” he pointed between all the gang members. “… come outside.” He grabbed the one nearest to him by the collar of his coat, hauling him out.
All the other guys looked like they’d rather run away or just fall over on the floor, but after another look between Baden and all the other Mafia guns stationed outside, they followed.
Frank let them out the door, then loped over to where I was. He shot me a grin as he dropped down to undo the rope around my hands. “Hey, Sunny. You okay?”
I stared at the door for a few more seconds before I could answer. “Y-yeah.” I swallowed, “Just kinda sore.” The roped fell off and I winced hard as I got my arms back down from being pulled back like that.
“Awesome. Just glad Baden could find where they took you fast as he did.” Frank helped me up, patting me on the back. “Those dudes are idiots.”
I looked between the door and Frank again. I opened my mouth to ask, then closed it again. We just went for the door together.
Before we got to it, the single outline from before was back. Only this time instead of standing in the doorway looking scary with his fists clenched, he just ran over and scooped me off my feet into a hug.
I couldn’t even get the breath to tell him “hi”.
Baden muttered something under his breath, letting out a whoosh of air as he loosened his hug a little. Still holding me up but pulling back a little. “You good? They didn’t hurt you or anything, did they?”
I gave a small nod, then a shake of my head in response. I was still staring him over as much as he was doing it with me.
I swallowed. “Th-thanks for coming to get me.”
Baden nodded, pulling his sunglasses up and setting them on the brim of his hat. His eyes looked worried still, but they crinkled around the corners as he gave me a reassuring smile. “You’re my little sis. I gotta watch out for you.”
Frank went ahead of us and we went out the door, back out into the night.
All the other guys. The mafia people with guns and the rest of the gang… they were all gone. But I could hear smooth, expensive car motors running nearby.
I looked up at Baden as we walked, my chest feeling weird and tight for a bit.
“Yeah, Sunny?” he looked down at me, still keeping one arm looped close around my shoulders.
I bit my lip. “So that’s… that’s your job? Mafia?”
Baden pursed his lips for a few seconds, then nodded slowly. “Just… think of it like I give bad luck to people who deserve it.” He gave me another half smile. “And those guys that nabbed you off the street? They really needed a little bad luck.”
I stayed quiet for a second. “Do you like your job?”
He let out his breath and pulled his sunglasses back down as we went out onto the street. “Well let’s just say that tonight… I’m really glad this was my job.” He mussed my hair a little. “Come on. I saved you some tacos at home.”
Hope you guys liked the story. ❤
Have an awesome Sunday, folks!