so if you were not already aware, today is kind of a special day. and I know what you might be thinking. ‘Tania, you always say something special is happening.’ well, yes … I’m just an excitable person. but today I’m celebrating something way cooler and more monumental than usual. today is the release day for Blank Mastermind! *trumpets sound, petals fall from the sky, the president declares a national holiday*
the wonderful Rosey has poured her heart and her soul into this story and it is 110% Write Owl-approved™! and the best part of all this? I get to give y’all a peek. how cool is that! so keep reading for a short scene from this amazing book and allll the links to get Blank Mastermind! but first, le synopsis:
Amnesia is annoying. The poor hero has to find out everything about his wonderful life again and re-meet all the lovely people he knew before, then go to stop the villain. But what if the life that starts showing itself isn’t wonderful, the people aren’t lovely and the villain is… yourself?
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.
now for the scene!
Chapter 5: The Gang’s All Here
There was a crunch of gravel and a car door slammed behind us.
I gave News and Dallas each a look that hopefully communicated both “don’t worry” and “shut up” at the same time, then looked back to see who was getting out.
More car doors slammed.
Okay, apparently everyone was getting out.
I’d better get this act right the first time, because I wasn’t getting another chance.
They think you’re an evil gang-leader guy . . . play the part.
I felt like it would be better to meet them standing up, so I popped my door open and stepped out, straightening my jacket. Hopefully my stance looked commanding enough for my position.
There was a sliding of fabric on leather in the back seat and the top of Dallas’s head disappeared from my view. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to hide or if he’d passed out again. I didn’t blame him either way.
Roy was the first one who’d gotten out so he was the first one who got to my side of the car. The tiny bit of fluff named Cardboard skipped along at his heels.
Roy stopped and plucked the toothpick out from in between his teeth, giving me a slightly confused frown. “Man, where were you going?”
. . .” I shrugged. “ . . . for a drive.”
He glanced behind me and down the road. “Pretty slow drive.”
Because fifteen miles over the speed limit was pathetic, apparently. I had to recall what News had said about Roy and speed limits.
Cardboard peeked over into the car, standing on her tiptoes. She grinned at Bad News. “I like this song.”
Bad News grinned. Roy frowned. I took note that Schoolhouse Rock was a point of contention.
The other footsteps crunching on the gravel came closer and in a few seconds, Liza and Chris had joined us.
Chris gave me a withering look out from under the brim of his hat. “This is cutting it a bit close for what we’re doing tomorrow, don’t you think?”
Oh fantastic, we had something going on tomorrow? I glanced over at News. He was turning up the music, which was pretty much the opposite of helping at the moment.
Just stay vague . . . stay vague . . .
My hand unconsciously went up to tug at my hair as I opened my mouth to respond. Liza cut my response off.
“Give him a break, Chris,” she soothed. “News said the other night went sideways. He couldn’t have predicted that.” Her voice was an even, medium-pitched tone. And she had an accent that it took me a few seconds to categorize. British, maybe? Slightly different tone. It could be Australian.
She turned to me, tipping her head like a curious, turquoise-headed bird. “What happened to your head, Wolfy?” She took a few steps closer, trying to get a look at it.
I took a step back. “Ah . . . not much. Just . . . there was a scuffle and that other guy . . . knocked me out.”
Liza didn’t seem deterred by my step back and came to my side. Reaching up a hand, she put it on my hair and turned my head to get a better look. Her fingers were small, thin and cold.
She winced and sucked in a breath. “Oh, that’s nasty . . .” I felt her fingers brush against the side of the gash not covered by News’s band-aid.
My muscles all clenched tight as I waited for her to finish her inspection.
Stop touching me . . . please, stop touching me . . .
Liza stepped back, finally. “No wonder Bad didn’t bring you back right away.”
Chris had his arms folded across his chest. He raised an eyebrow. “You’ve had worse, Wolfgang.”
I resisted the urge to shudder at my name and nodded. “Yeah, I know.” At least now.
That fact was both reassuring and frightening at the same time. So I’d be fine . . . but how many other deadly shootouts had I been involved in?
“So,” Chris brushed a hand over his close-shaven beard. “Did you kill him?”
The image of the dead man backstage vividly reappeared in my mind. My stomach twisted and I swallowed back the urge to gag. My headache pounded worse for a couple of seconds, making my vision swim.
“Mm-hmm.” I nodded, gripping the edge of the car door to steady myself.
“Then what’s he doing in the backseat?” asked Roy.
Chris and Liza stiffened at the same time.
And suddenly all attention was on the slouched form in the back of my car.
So Chris had meant Dallas. That was the whole point of what I’d gone to do. Kill Dallas.
“I . . . I meant . . .” I stammered for a second, then clamped my mouth shut again and focused on not losing my breakfast.
“You . . . brought him along with you?” Liza tore her gaze off Dallas and stared at me.
Chris narrowed his eyes. “Wolfgang, what’s going on?”
“He knows what he’s doing. Chill out,” News’s voice came from the front. He turned around, pushing his hat back. “It’s for tomorrow, isn’t it, Wolf?”
Bad News was the only one here who knew both sides of this conversation. And he was helping me.
I took a second before I noticed that I was just staring at him.
“Oh . . . um . . . yeah. He’s here for . . . tomorrow.” I nodded, swallowing. “For a . . . hostage. We need a hostage.”
Dallas’s eyes widened.
Blank, disbelieving stares from the gang met my statement.
Oh please let it not be an unrelated gang rumble . . .
Bad News cleared his throat, nudging Chris’s arm. “You’ll have to give him some slack, guys.” His voice was low and he cupped one giant hand on the side of his mouth like he expected me to not hear. “Conk on the head, y’know? He’s still a little . . .” he spun a finger at the side of his head. “ . . . out of it. A few marbles loose at the moment. Just go along. It’ll be fine.”
I suppressed the knee-jerk reaction to tell News to shut up and defend my sanity. He was saving my skin. If saying I was a bit out of it kept a mutiny at bay and kept Dallas alive . . . so be it.
All eyes went to me again.
I forced a wobbly grin, unsure of what else to do.
For some reason, that seemed to cement News’s statement as true.
Liza relaxed and smiled back at me, amusement dancing in her blue eyes. “Well, probably best to get going back, then?”
Roy needed no further prompting. He sprang up and started back for the car, stopping only a second to pat my shoulder.
“A hostage though?” Chris hissed back toNews. “We don’t need a hostage, News. This is . . .” his voice dropped lower and I heard a few muttered obscenities.
Dallas shrunk back down in his seat.
Bad News waved a hand dismissively. “It’s fine, man. Trust me. Wolf knows what he’s doing. Just a little mixed up about explaining things at the moment.”
Chris shot another look over in my direction.
“Just head back to the car.” News gave him a small shove in that direction.
“Fine,” Chris pushed off the car, with one final look at Dallas and an eyebrow raise at me, and headed back to take his seat in the red car. Roy had already started the engine.
I let out my breath in a whoosh as I pulled my door back open. My legs gave out as I sat down behind the wheel.
Wow. How many near-death experiences was this in the space of twenty-four hours now?
News buckled up again, turning down the radio so it was singing slightly quieter about the number eleven. “We need to pop back by Wendover to get my truck before heading up to the Den. So if you’ll just swing around . . .”
I frowned at him. “The . . . Den?”
“Your base of operations,” supplied Dallas quietly. News nodded. He held up his hands, gesturing a little. “You know . . . ‘cause you’re the Wolf. We’re your Pack. Where we hang out is the Den. Get it?” He grinned and chuckled.
I nodded slowly as I turned the keys in the ignition. “Clever.” And creepy.
You’re the Wolf.
That dangerous criminal who’d just gotten out of prison . . . the one that policeman was talking about at the opera . . . that was me. All the blood and gore . . . my signature, apparently.
I pulled the Mustang out onto the empty road and got it turned around back facing towards Utah, pushing back that sick feeling in my stomach again. The other car was already speeding off down the highway like a red bullet.
The song on the radio changed and Bad News reached over with his enormous hand to turn up the volume again. “This one’s good.”
“Now, if man had been born with six fingers on each hand . . . he’d also have twelve toes, or so the theory goes . . .”
He looked over at me with an expression that seemed to demand my admitting the awesomeness of this particular multiplication song.
“ . . . well he would have added two more digits when he invented his number system . . .”
This counted as . . . music?
Well . . . counted.
Of course it counts. It’s math.
I fought the crazy urge to burst into hysterical laughter. It came out as more of a half snicker, half snort. The lingering panic from a few minutes before only served to make it funnier. I turned away from News, leaning partly over the steering wheel and hoping he couldn’t see me laughing.
Get it together, idiot. You’re acting drunk.
Bad News didn’t say anything. The song played on.
I finally got myself under control and went back to focusing on driving.
“Hey, little Twelvetoes, I hope you’re well . . . must be some far-flung planet where you dwell . . .”
Well, getting myself back under control was relative. I hoped News didn’t find anything wrong with my sudden coughing fit.
Bad News just watched me with a crooked smile on his face. He reached over, patted my shoulder and leaned back in his seat.
“Everything happens for a reason, you know,” he observed philosophically. “And with you?” Giving me another grin, he nodded. “Amnesia’s an improvement. I’m cool with this.”
An improvement . . . from what?
I nodded back cautiously. “Um . . . thanks.”
“ . . . little Twelvetoes . . . please come back soon . . .”
I pulled my mind away from Schoolhouse Rock and focused it on how to stay alive through whatever was coming next.
The Den actually didn’t have heads on spikes all around it. No paintings of my hideous name in blood. No crocodiles in the moat. In fact, no moat at all. All it ended up being was just an old grocery store with graffiti on the walls and faded shadows of sign letters torn off the front.
I don’t think it even counted as being in town. It was backed up against a patch of woods by the mountains along a torn up old strip of road. Vines crawled up the sides of the building and the paint over the parking spots was barely visible anymore. A lone lamppost bent sideways stood to the side of the parking lot. Long abandoned. By everyone but us criminals, of course.
I’d followed News’s truck for the drive back, since I obviously didn’t know where we were going, despite his directions. He left me in the dust near the end of the drive, but I could tell I was in the right place by the big truck and red car poking out from the other side of the building.
I slowed down and turned.
It really wasn’t all that creepy of a place. I could call it lots of things, but creepy wasn’t at the top of my mind.
Didn’t make much difference to Dallas, though. He shivered like we’d driven into anarctic fortress.
The conversation on the drive had been very sparse. I got a sense that Dallas wasn’t the most talkative kid to begin with. The fact that up to this point I’d been trying to kill him and had just pinned him as a hostage probably didn’t help matters.
“So . . .” I coasted up in front of the store and put the car into park. “We’re here, I guess. Everyone else looks like they’re inside already.” I turned my head to look back at him. “Ever been here before?”
Dallas swallowed, “Yes sir.” He looked down at his shoes, like he was trying to unsee something bad. “And in the same car, too.”
I’d pretty much gotten used to the ice-water bursts through my veins by now, but I still flinched a little. “Well . . .” I coughed in the back of my throat and tried to think of something to say, since I was sure WolfMart probably wasn’t renowned for its five-star accommodations.
I’m sorry? Did the car run smoother back then? Should I take my shoes off inside my lair?
I settled on just opening my door and getting out.
Dallas followed suit, clicking open his own door a few seconds behind me. He swung his feet out and shot up into a standing position.
Not the best idea with a hole through your middle.
He wavered on his feet for a couple seconds, his face going white, then toppled back over into the backseat. That was just what I needed. We couldn’t even walk to a building that was a stupid twenty feet away without me hauling him.
Extra chance for me to redeem myself. Fantastic.
Mustering up my pathetic lack of strength, I bent over and pulled him up with me, throwing one of his arms across my shoulders. Nope, that wasn’t working.
Like it wasn’t taking enough of my strength to just keep me upright at this point . . .
I glared at the top of Dallas’s head. “You did this on purpose, didn’t you?” Biting my lip, I pulled him around so I could get my arms under his legs and back.
His head flopped back against my arm as I stood.
Nursemaid Dankworth, at your service.
I limped us both towards the door, lecturing Dallas under my breath on how passing out was no way to face life’s problems.
“It would have been easier for me to just conk myself on the head back there instead of talking to the gang and sounding knowledgeable about my own stupid life.” I propped his legs up on one of mine as I pushed open the door. “But did I cop out like that? No, I bucked up and stayed conscious . . .”
My voice trailed off into a low growl as I pushed inside to the noises of people talking. I just about fell over as I tried to get my arm back under my protégé’s legs.
The air around us was only slightly warmer than the air outside. I took in a breath, trying to place the smell. Cigarette smoke, definitely. Something like beer or some other sort of alcohol. And then something homey and sweet smelling . . . vanilla?
Evil smells like vanilla? I frowned in confusion, adjusting my grip on Dallas again.
“You knock him out?” Roy’s voice came from somewhere nearby.
Yeah, like I’d put myself through this on purpose. “No,” I grunted. “He just stood up a little too fast.”
“Well at least he’s not zapping all over the place this time,” the disembodied Roy-voice observed. “That was a pain to deal with. Teleportation junk . . .”
Now I was starting to doubt my hearing. Dallas . . . teleporting? What in the name of . . .?
I swiveled around, trying to locate Roy. He was sitting on top of a stack of shipping pallets, swinging his legs and chewing on his toothpick. Pushing off with his hands, he vaulted to the ground, his red sneakers landing with a loud smack on the cement floor next to me.
He nodded to Dallas. “Want me to put ‘im somewhere?”
“Th-that would be great, yeah.” I handed Dallas off to him and resisted my own urge to collapse right there.
“Your head any better?” Roy effortlessly pulled Dallas into a piggyback position as he spoke.
I shrugged. “A little . . . I guess.”
He shrugged back and turned, giving a little whistle. Cardboard came popping out from around the corner of one of the old grocery aisles and saluted both of us with a grin.
“Wolf’s here so you can head back now,” Roy informed her. Then, to me: “They’re just hanging out back there right now. News was hungry.”
And that probably doomed any pantry store we had . . .
Roy started back towards a corner with a few doors. Cardboard glanced briefly at me, then skipped off down the aisle without bothering to wait up.
I took a couple of deep breaths to try and clear my head and walked slowly down the same aisle, following the sound of voices. Sound bounced off the bare, metal shelves and echoed through the dimly lit building. It was a lot more sinister inside the store than outside. What a way to make creepy work on a budget.
My eyes adjusted to the dark and I saw a few bits of machinery and wire sitting at the back of the shelves at intervals. News had said Liza and I were mechanics on something . . .
I peeked around the end of the row and saw Bad News, Liza and Chris all sitting in different chairs by a shabby old lamp. Liza and News were passing a tub of chocolate ice cream back and forth while they talked.
I was getting the impression that News had a thing for ice cream.
Chris sat frowning from under his hat and drumming his fingers on his chair arm. I wasn’t sure if he disapproved of the ice cream’s presence or the fact that he wasn’t getting any.
Cardboard jumped into an old, flower patterned camp chair next to him, her wide smile providing a huge contrast for Chris and making me once again marvel at how both of them could be in the same gang.
I stepped out and walked towards the small circle. Bad News somehow spotted me in the dark with sunglasses on and waved with his spoon, gesturing towards the biggest chair.
I took the directed seat: a giant, leather, wing-backed chair. Very mastermind-esque. Went with my leather jacket, too. News handed me a spoon and I got myself a scoop of ice cream out of the tub.
“Despite all distractions . . .” Chris cuffed up one sleeve of his flannel shirt and shot me a look, “Are we still on for tomorrow?”
Clearly my hostage decision still wasn’t a hit with him.
I swallowed my bite with effort. “We should be . . .” I stopped and thought of something ambiguous, “ . . . that is, if everything else is ready.” Liza and News’s conversation stopped and I hoped desperately they’d say something that would clue me in to my evil schemes, since News seemed to forget how much I didn’t know.
Liza licked daintily at the ice cream on her enormous spoon. “So, I did get the bomb finished earlier . . .” Her tone of voice was what any other girl would have used to say she got her hair cut. She smiled over at me like I should be proud.
That was the kind of mechanic she was?
I choked on my ice cream but coughed into my elbow and managed to avert most of the attention.
“Finally got that one circuit worked out?” asked Roy as he walked up and boosted onto an old barstool.
Liza sucked the rest of the chocolate off the spoon and then spun it around her small fingers. “Yep. Finally. It’s a big old thing now that everything’s hooked up, but Bad’s truck should get it there alright.”
News nodded and smiled.
“That thing takes forever to get moving.” Roy groaned. “What about my ride?”
Liza snorted. “If ‘your ride’ had more than a square foot of trunk space, I’d consider it.”
She dug out another spoonful of chocolate ice cream and resumed her dainty licking, “After all, no pillbox is gonna blow up a baseball stadium.”
*ominous music plays*
poor Wolfy, not much better off than when the scene started.
okay, now I’m going to throw a bunch of links at you, so you can learn more about this awesome story:
get the Kindle version
what are you waiting for, exactly? you’d best get yourself a copy (and some for your friends too) before I buy all of them!
psst, also, if you really want to know what happens after this chapter I just shared, check out Julia’s post
blog tour schedule
A Story Detective – Short scene
Books by S.R. – Author interview
Novels, Dragons & Wardrobe Doors – Book review
Laurel Wreath – Cover reveal
ReadingAnyone – Book review
Romantic Typewriter Gardens – Book review and character quiz
Kinsey @ Over the Withers – Author interview
The Artful Author – Book review
Julia Witmer – Short scene
Jane Maree – Author interview and book review
Kate Flournoy – Liza Allister character interview
Write Owl (that’s me!) – Short scene