I’m so, so, SO excited to be included in this awesome blog tour all about one of my absolute favorite novels, Blank Mastermind. I read this a while back and totally adored it and all the amazing characters. I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and I think you all will, too!
Anywho, today you’ll get the chance to read a chapter of the book, but before you read that, here’s a little bit about the awesome author:
Rosey Mucklestone is the oldest of nine crazy kids and the daughter of two awesome parents. She lives with her family and two dogs in Missouri, spending her time writing, reading, baking and waitressing. Topics she’s passionate about include: the ocean, the Bible, mountains, fandoms, stories and characters in general. She’s never gotten amnesia and doesn’t plan on it, but life is full of surprises, so who knows?
And now, onto the chapter!
Chapter 6: All the good villain bits
I now have a gang, a bomb, a hostage, an evil hideout and a plan to blow up a baseball stadium killing who-knows-how-many people.
And to stay in character as myself right now, I should be calmly eating ice cream.
Add “no conscience” to the list.
It was true. I was a horrible human being. A murderer. I had yet to see anything hinting at the alternative.
Probably manifest destiny, if my name was Wolfgang Dankworth…
I resent manifest destiny.
“Also, the magnet on the back was a good addition, Wolfy,” Liza’s voice brought me back to the uncomfortable present. “I installed that yesterday.”
I cleared my throat around the ice cream I was having trouble swallowing. “Great. Yeah.”
“Should play through smooth as silk after all these bugs we had to work through.” Liza resumed her mesmerizing spoon spinning. “One would hope.”
Roy sat on his barstool, tossing a ping-pong ball to himself. “Hey, News — you might want to take a look at Dallas, back there,” he nodded towards back where he’d just come from. “I mean, normally I wouldn’t mind, but much more blood loss and he won’t be mobile at all. It’s always a pain to bring hostages along anyway. Having to drag them…”
Bad News frowned thoughtfully, twisting his mouth to one side. “Yeeeah, but I gotta make lunch, man.” He looked over at Liza. “Think you could check him out? I mean, you know a bit of that first aid stuff.”
Liza shrugged and stuck her spoon back in the ice cream container. “Sure.”
“I’ll… um…” I stuttered as I stood up, “I’ll go with you. Just… in case you need help. Or intimidation… or something.” The voice of pure evil, I’m sure. They all cower in fear of me.
She gave me an odd look and a half hidden smile. “If you want to.” She started walking towards the doors at the back.
I caught a thumbs-up from Bad News as he ducked into the kitchen and a confused frown from Chris. Not much I could do in reply to both of them at once, so I just turned back and took a couple of longer steps to catch back up with Liza.
She looked over at me and smirked, “I’m sure Lucius has been keeping a good eye on Knight for us.”
Lucius? I had more gang members? Probably a hooded executioner or something lovely like that.
I nodded, forcing a chuckle back, “Just as long as he understood we were keeping the prisoner alive…”
“There is that.” Liza laughed.
There were footsteps following Liza’s and mine and I glanced over my shoulder. Chris was walking along behind us. He nodded to me.
Just what I needed. Someone else to try and keep up the pathetic act with. Like he wasn’t suspicious enough already.
Liza glanced back too, but seemed unperturbed by the addition to our group. She reached one of the doors with the scratchy words: “Employees Only” painted on it and turned the knob, pushing it open. Dim yellow light came from the inside.
“Yeah, he’d prolly eat Knight’s gizzard or something if Roy wasn’t clear with him.” Her face was straight and her tone earnest. As matter-of-fact as you could get.
Holy smoke, did I run a tribe of cannibals? I mean, I knew this was a dangerous place for Dallas to be, but I hadn’t counted having his organs eaten into the danger tally.
And he had a nice, gaping wound to get the process started…
I turned my head aside for a couple of seconds while I got my gag reflex under control. Throwing up would be a bit hard to explain, if gizzard eating was so commonplace here.
Chris stopped next to me and raised an eyebrow.
“Coming or what, Wolfy?” Liza’s voice came from inside the room.
I swallowed hard and put a hand on my stomach, “Yep.” I slipped through the door after Liza, Chris following close behind.
Dallas lay sideways on a little floor cot, his face pale, his brown hair even messier and his white shirt more bloodstained. But it didn’t look like anyone had been trying to eat his gizzard.
My muscles un-tensed a little, and I glanced around the rest of the room. Nothing horribly unusual decorated the area. No rotting bones, thank heaven. Just a few wooden chairs… a cupboard… a lamp.
Hold on, though.
I squinted at the lamp. The lampshade had a huge claw mark across it. Three huge claw marks were torn through the cloth and fabric scraps dangled from the edges.
It looked like some ominous horror movie clue to the monster hiding in the basement. I felt goosebumps on my arms.
I swallowed and opened my mouth to say something, but an inhuman screech cut me off. A lightning fast shadow and the flash of something sharp descended towards me with a ghostly whoosh. I barely had time to take a step back before something dug into my shoulder and pushed with an unexpected weight.
I yelped, stumbling back and reaching to whack it off. What on earth…?
“Wolfgang, really.” Chris stepped closer. His tone tinged with skepticism and annoyance.
The something on my shoulder stared at me with wide eyes set in a dark face, calm as anything.
It was a dark brown, almost black falcon. Tilting its head to one side, it blinked those wide eyes at me like it was asking what it had done wrong. Besides give me a heart attack, of course.
“You rascal,” Liza pinched the end of the big bird’s beak, scrunching her nose, “Always scaring the socks off everyone, aren’t you, Lucius? Even got Wolfy that time.”
The bird made chirruping noise in the back of his throat.
The gizzard-eating conversation was only slightly less disturbing now.
Chris raised an eyebrow at me and I swallowed.
“You should really train him out of doing that to everyone,” Liza advised, letting go of the bird’s beak. “He’ll claw someone’s face off one of these days.”
I tried to stop my hand from shaking as much as I petted down the feathers on the side of the Lucius’s head. He closed his eyes contentedly and rubbed against my hand.
Man, I didn’t leave out any of the good villain bits, did I? I just couldn’t hold my head high if I didn’t have a creepy pet.
“So, you shot a hole in him or what?”
I looked down to see Liza kneeling next to the cot and rolling Dallas over roughly. She hadn’t really seemed that rough until then. Dallas’s face scrunched and he gave a barely audible moan.
I winced for Dallas and nodded, dropping my hand down to stick in my coat pocket. Having a big bird sitting on my shoulder was really awkward for my balance. I adjusted my stance. Did I usually just walk around like this? Or did I keep Lucius in a cage and bring him out for only especially sinister occasions?
Liza pulled up Dallas’s shirt a bit and unwrapped News’s Ace bandage. She examined the wound for a minute, prodding with her small fingers, then pushed to her feet. “Well, he’ll live, looks like,” she commented as she walked over to the cupboard. A small box sat inside and she pulled it out.
“It’ll be a bit of a stretch, bringing him for tomorrow…”
Chris coughed, “If that’s still your plan, that is.”
In case he hadn’t blatantly stated his opinion enough already.
“… but we should be able to manage.” Liza sat back down next to Dallas with her legs crossed. She pulled the lid off the top of the box and got out a bundle of bandages, a rag and a bottle that looked suspiciously like whiskey.
After tilting her head to look at the wound a bit more, she wiped off a good amount of the blood with the rag. “I’ll just disinfect it and wrap it up really quick. Get some water down his skinny throat and he should be okay for tomorrow.”
Liza grabbed the bottle and gave the cork a quick twist, popping it out. She sniffed it, took a quick swig and then doused a generous amount onto Dallas’s middle.
That woke him up.
Dallas let out a yell and curled in on himself to hold his stomach. He opened one of his eyes to squint up at Liza.
Liza propped a hand on one hip and raised an eyebrow, unimpressed with his pain. “C’mon,” she tucked her teal hair behind one ear. “Straighten back up so I can get you patched.”
Dallas’s gaze scanned the room for a few seconds, coming to rest on me. His eyes widened, the fright only growing.
I raised my eyebrows and tilted my head a little, shrugging. Remembrance seemed to come back then and he relaxed slightly. Holding his breath, he pulled his arms away and lay flat and tense on the cot.
Nice to know I was somewhat of a reassuring sight — even with the evil bird on my shoulder.
Liza grabbed some white cloth and a fresh bandage and, with a few quick wraps and pins, Dallas had a bandage around his middle that looked like it might actually help his health.
Dallas opened his scrunched-shut eyes and peered down at the new bandage, then looked back up at his turquoise-haired nurse. “Thank you.” His voice was dry and cracked.
“It’s just so we don’t have to drag you like a sack of potatoes tomorrow,” Liza informed him, not making eye contact as she whisked her things back into the shoebox. She grabbed a bottle of water off the nightstand and shoved it at him. “Drink up, boy wonder.”
Dallas closed his hand around the bottle and pushed himself into a stiff sitting position. He looked over at me, “Tomorrow?”
I cleared my throat and put my hands on my hips, which was a little awkward for Lucius to keep his balance. “We’re… blowing up a baseball stadium.” Lucius flapped a bit, whapping my face. I winced.
Chris’s eyebrows went up and he gave me a sideways look, which I ignored. Did this guy have any other moods than “ticked off” and “aloof disapproval”?
I was the gang leader. I could make decisions without consulting Sheriff Grumpy. Or at least, I hoped I could.
“Alright,” Dallas said, ducking his head before any of us could see his expression, and taking a hesitant drink from his water bottle.
It was quiet for a couple of seconds, though I could feel tension starting to simmer under the surface.
“Justice, Mr. Knight,” Chris’s voice broke in. “Long overdue justice.” His tone made my skin crawl. Even, but brimming with venom. His jaw was tight.
Liza stood to put her things back and I could see a similar look coming onto her face. She shoved the box into the cupboard, then looked back at Dallas. “You’re such a hero. You know a bit about that, don’t you?”
Dallas kept his voice quiet and didn’t look up. “Enough to know the right and wrong ways to get it. And the wrong people to blame.”
Liza gave him a tight smile, but her eyes narrowed angrily. “I’m sure you do. Though I have a feeling you’re a bit biased, Knight.”
I had a feeling I should have been the one leading this dispute, not the one standing cluelessly off to the side. Clearing my throat a little, I attempted to add to the conversation.
“Well, too bad we didn’t run my plan past you, then, Dallas.” I kept my voice a tone that was hard to distinguish between sarcastic and serious.
“Too late for that now,” Chris growled, keeping his gaze smoldering into Dallas. “Your chance to do something about it was gone a long time ago.”
Liza chewed her lip and leaned down again. “You’re lucky to be even breathing right now. And there’s no zapping away from us this time.”
Zapping. Teleporting. There it was again. What were they talking about?
Chris shook his head. “You could never seem to get to the right places with that, anyway. Always late.” He muttered something that sounded like “one time, in particular,” under his breath.
Dallas didn’t shoot any more comments back, but just nursed on his water bottle.
I scrambled to grab some loose end of the conversation to tie in. “So you’d better not try anything tomorrow. No… zapping.” Whatever that meant…
That comment seemed to pop the tension bubble in the room.
Liza turned her head and gave me a strange look. “Are you feeling okay, Wolfy?”
Okay, so I tied that end in wrong. Time to return to News’s temporary insanity plea.
I blinked a couple of times and put a hand to my head, which protested painfully at my touch. My knees felt close to returning to Jello state. I winced, crossing my eyes slightly to add to the effect. “I… think I should go lie down.”
Which was no lie.
Much more and I felt like I could drop dead from all the mental and physical exhaustion. I literally couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a good sleep. And passing out a couple of times didn’t count as restful.
“Well, your room’s right down the hall,” Chris folded his arms over his chest and nodded to the door.
I could see it in his eyes that he was testing me. He knew something else was up.
I swallowed. “Um… yeah, right. I’ll go.” I started for the door, barely catching myself on the hinge as one of my knees started to give out. Lucius flapped off my shoulder, hopping to the ground and looking at me.
Liza’s doubtful voice came from behind me as I stumbled into the hall. “Chris, why don’t you go with him?”
There was a second of silence, then a grunt of assent. One of Chris’s rough hands grabbed over the leather of my jacket sleeve and pulled me up straighter as we walked. Lucius hopped up onto my other shoulder for the ride. We passed a few other scratchy “employees only” doors in the short hall before turning a corner and stopping.
A door to the outside and one more door that looked like it used to read “storage”.
Only the “sto” was mostly rusted off. So a door that read “rage”.
Chris nodded. “Think you can limp the last few feet to your bed without me?”
“Ah, yeah. I’ll be good.” I forced a grin and nodded back at him. “Thanks.” I pushed the door open and looked in, trying not to look like it was the first time I remembered seeing the place.
I’d gotten the impression from my car that I was a tidy sort of person. My room canceled that out. Junk of all sorts — papers, bits of machinery and tools — littered the floor and piled in the corners. There was a beat-up desk sort of thing with a chair against one wall. The curtains seemed to be from a matching set of the one at News’s shack.
Lucius jumped off my shoulder and flapped in towards a bird perch by the window. I rubbed at my shoulder, getting used to the shift in weight.
Across from the desk, a small mattress on a grungy boxspring was pushed up against the wall with a few blankets tossed over it. By far the most beautiful thing in the room. I felt like I was looking at paradise… the only thing I wanted… the softest bed in the world…
I’d probably been looking for too long, so I glanced back.
Chris didn’t move, still giving me a strange look. His eyes narrowed slightly, showing the wrinkles at the corners.
I felt weird going in while he was still standing there like he was going to say something, so I just kept my hand on the knob and waited.
Chris finally spoke, his gravelly voice low. “We haven’t found your phone yet, but… there was an alarm on it earlier this morning. Rang for a minute or so. We looked around, but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.” He stuck his thumbs through his belt loops again. “You know what the alarm was for?”
I opened and closed my mouth, shrugging helplessly. “N-no… well… for tomorrow, I guess. Just a reminder… thing.”
He stuck his tongue in his cheek and his brown eyes met mine. “Big step we’re taking tomorrow.”
“Justice,” I agreed, simply parroting him from earlier.
“Make him pay,” Chris nodded, still locked on my gaze. “Eye for an eye. For your mom… your dad… your brother… and your sister…”
I’d only looked at the note in my pocket that one time, but one of the names popped back into my head and came out my mouth.
The name came out in a different tone for some reason.
The doubt I saw in his gaze evaporated. “Yes. Eloisa.” Another second and he put a hand on my shoulder, squeezing. “It’s about time Utah’s superhero got a taste of his own medicine, Wolfgang. I’m glad to be part of the team serving it to him.”
I nearly choked.
All the good villain bits. My arch-nemesis couldn’t just be a normal guy; I have to get a superhero.
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