There he stood, in the rain, on his last night in town. Gazing over the city, laid before him like lights on a tree, he fondly remembered the times he spent in residence there. Permanent, it had seemed, but all too fleeting in practice. Experiences of adventure, danger, and love alike flooded his mind, all too soon to be left behind in that small mountain city. But the only way to conquer is to move on, thus he got in the car and drove off.
He was troubled as he drove west. That last mission went well, but it seemed all too easy. Between the bevy of midnight car chases and the smattering of (PG Rated, of course) sex scenes, it seemed to clear itself up a little too cleanly. "No matter" he thought to himself. "Best thing to do now is just to keep on with the mission and avoid anything unpla..." And then the phone rang.
"Dad?! How did you get this number?" was his startled reaction to the voice on the other end. "Listen, that's not important now." was the response he got. "What is, however, is the impending problem down here. A guy named Ike is stirring up trouble, and we need someone to help us out with it." "Well, south really isn't in my travel plans but..." "Good, well, I've got to run now, duty calls." "Wait, no, Dad, I don't think I"... click... Easy as that, he was roped back into the family business once again, exactly where he didn't want to be. He had hoped Colorado would have been the last of it, but in stark defiance of that hope, he pulled that fateful U-turn towards the land of meat and trucks-a-plenty.
While being part of the business is never easy, days of sleepless driving and plaguing nightmares don't exactly make it easier. The memory of the girl haunted him, and no amount of driving seemed to help that. From her bright eyes to her strong manner, from the time they met until she leaped off the building with "See you in hell!" as a goodbye, she was a beautifully unwelcome plague on his mind. How she had met him and the whirlwind that had followed was naught but a blur to him now. In fact, a lot of things from that time we're a blur. One of the things that comes with sleeplessness, he supposes. He knew plenty about that, as did his friend Nick. Strange times were those spent with Nick... He sighed, as the flashback enveloped him.
For the most part, life in Boulder was simple: Simple people, simple aims, and a bit of espionage. Not much though. Just in the life of one Nick Roessler, who happened to lead a double life as a spy. Not that this really affected me too much. For the most part, the people he worked with (especially the women) were kept strangers from me, and everyone that wasn't Nick. That's just how he rolled. However, his secret keeping didn't always go quite as smoothly as he would have liked to think.
One evening, I was sitting around relaxing, when my phone went off. "Hello?" "Hi, yes, this is Marissa, is Tom around?" "No, I'm sorry, you must have the wrong number" "Hmm. Well, this is definitely the number he gave me... Oh well, thanks anyway." click
I didn't think much of that exchange until the next morning, when Nick showed up at my house, early. He was dressed strangely, I noticed. Shorts (but no shirt), a purple pimp hat, and a towel were all he had on, and he seemed a bit distressed.
"Hey!" "Morning there!" I said. "So, uh, what's doing?" "Oh, not too much. Been hanging out, watching TV and whatever." "Fun." "I suppose, yeah. What about you?" "Oh, you know, the usual. Just got back from a trip, actually. I was in New York, getting some work done" "That's cool. What accounting stuff, right?" "Yeah, yeah, that's the one" "Well, he, come in, let me get you something to... oh, phone. Gimme a sec" "Sure, yeah."
"Hello?" "Hi, it's Marissa, is Tom there?" "I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure you have the wrong number. I don't know a Tom. I don't even know a Marissa." "Wait, what was that?" came Nick's voice from the couch. "I dunno, some lady looking for Tom." "Quick, give it to me," he said with a sense of urgency that surprised me. All the same, I handed over the phone. "Marissa? Yeah, it's me. Mmhm. Yeah. All right. Monkeys? And they... they were doing what? Monkeys you said? Lord. Ok. I'll be there in a bit, thanks." He handed the phone to me, with a simple "I'm going to have to take a rain check on that drink, something's come up." That's it. He was gone, which left me with the question of which life was his double. Was he really Nick, that we knew and loved? Or was he actually Tom, who just pretended to be Nick around us...?
No way to get any answers from flashbacks, he reasoned. He pulled up to the drive thru, got his super-fries, and continued his journey.
His last stop before H-town, or Hell, as he affectionately referred to it, was a small diner, not at all like that in which he had spent so much time in and around while in Colorado. His eyes dropped out of focus as his flashback began...
"Hey, man! How do you like the new place? Pretty schnazzy, no?" It seemed like a nice place, and I told him so. Max DiGenerro had always wanted to run a place of his own, and I was thrilled that he was finally getting an opportunity. The fact that it was a trailer in his backyard didn't detract from the dream too much. And hey, his drinks were pretty good, so there were no complaints from me. "How goes business?" "Pretty good, all things considered!" "Considering what?" "Well, business isn't quite as strong as I had hoped, but fact that I've got a trailer set up next to my house to run a good, old fashioned mom and pop style of ice cold lemonade stand is great!" "That's awesome man, I'm really happy for you" was all I managed to shiver out. His location wouldn't kill his business, but the January in Boulder part had a good shot. His lemonade pops hadn't been selling quite as well as he had planned. "For this to be a success, might you want to expand your enterprise a bit?" I suggested. "Well, I'm not much good at making anything but lemonade, but I suppose we could try something. People driving up here to get some ice cold lemonade really hasn't caught on quite as well as I'd hoped. Any suggestions?" I had a great idea for a line of hippie breakfast shops, whose main attraction would be their "Omelet of Peace" but decided that now was not the time. The only other thing that popped into my mind was a small cart with similar aims as his, but they sold crepes. It was worth a suggestion though, I decided. "We could go for something like those 'Crepes a la Carte' guys have going, and try moving into the griddle cakes area?" "Yeah, sure! That would be great! I know my mom has an old recipe book lying around, and I'm sure they have some great pancake ideas." So out of the cold and into the fire we went, all over some pancakes.
After some searching, we finally came upon that recipe book. Readying by the lamplight provided by Max's favorite hot-pink lamp, we found that recipes for pancakes weren't the only things it listed. Something deeper, stronger, and more mysterious was also housed in that volume. What particularly caught our eye were the lines saying that we "need more than good recipes to make the best pancakes could be made. Read this incantation under a full moon, and you will be given gifts un-given, bestowing powers of the baking kind." What that meant, we weren't entirely sure, but it didn't sound particularly dangerous so we went outside to try it out. As our luck would have it, the moon was out that day, and was full to boot. The decision that Max would be the one to read was made, and read he did. It didn't occur to us until later that the book might have meant to read it in the darkness, under THAT full moon, but we really weren't concerned about it at that point. Upon saying the required words, a flash of light emanated from the book, and all was still. Max, confused, put it down, and while I asked if he was okay, we went inside.
2 Weeks Later "Oy, could you grab the ladle? I need to make some more! The next group just got here!" Max shouted at me from the front of the trailer. I hauled myself up, and grabbed the clean one for him, glad that it was about closing time. Ever since the episode with the book, business had really picked up. Talk about zero to sixty in nothing flat, we were really rolling in it. We had even gone as far to get a write-up in the local paper pertaining to our cheery atmosphere and absolutely delicious pancakes. In fact, the only people that weren't huge supporters were the proprietors of "Crepes a la Carte" whose business had declined as ours picked up speed. "Thank you, come again tomorrow! That's all for today!" Max shouted out tiredly to the line of people still waiting for their "All American Pancakes" as Max called them. We got the trailer packed up and closed off, and were heading into his house when we heard a voice behind us. "You! Yes, the pancake one! Listen here!" was the salutation from the middle of the three foreboding people. "Sorry guys, we've closed for the night, try again tomorrow." was Max's response. "Oh ho ho, we are not here to buying your cakes. We are here to discussing a business proposition." "Well, what've you got for me?" "Is simple. Stop with your selling of the cakes, and we will allow you to continue living." "Whoa there, man. I think you're taking this whole deal a bit seriously" "Yes! Very serious! Ever since your sell of the cakes begins, our crepes is not sell! You must stopping, and this is last time we asking nice." the man slurred as he pulled a knife from his jacket. "Hey, hey, slow down. I'm sure we can sort this out without any violence!" "No! Is too late for that!" he shouted as the figure and his two goons charged, all armed with knives. "Oh darn. I was hoping for a quiet night" Max mumbled to himself more that to me. "Get out of the way, I've got it".
With that, Max swirled around, grabbed a spatula, and charged to meet them. One swung to shank him, but Max grabbed his arm, and just like a pancake ready to be flipped, the arm started to boil and bubble. Writhing in pain, the goon couldn't pull away, and smooth as butter on a griddle, Max flipped the goon over his head and into a wall. Before he could really enjoy his small victory, there was another body on him, holding his pants like a vice. Without skipping a beat in this dance of cutlery and utensils, he leaped and swung his spatula akin to a dwarf wielding his axe, lopping the head of the guy strait off. This left just the main aggressor, who began to wise up after Max's display of pancake related powers, and turned tail, but not before shouting back to us. "We won't forgetting this, All American Pancake House!" "Wait! No! That's not my name! Listen here!" shouted Max after him. Alas, it was in vain. "Well, that went pretty well" he said, catching his breath. "And to think, the only thing I lost was my pants. Not all is well though. After that, I can hardly stick around here. Time to hit the road. Gosh it's bright out though. I'll need something to block out the sun a bit. I think my pink lampshade will do nicely! Oh, and something for warmth." I grabbed it, and handed it to him. Snagged him a towel as well. Travelers should always have a towel. "Thanks" he said, pulling the lampshade over one eye. That was the last I'd see of him, as he walked off down the road.
Drifting back into reality, he looked around for the time. Past time to get there, that's for sure.
Entering the city limits, he flipped on the radio to see what was going on in Houston. What he heard was not quite what he expected. "We interrupt our normally scheduled program for this breaking news report. The new villain in town has struck yet again. Named Shrapnel Boy, he was seen at a local card shop competing in a panda-moaning... um... contest? He then robbed the shop and took hostages Phil and Kaja Foglio. They were later released, as he fled the scene. If you see this man, please call into the station. He is hideously tall, wearing a towel, and is probably carrying his signature weapon, the cricket bat. Later that day, he proceeded to do battle in a shrapnel like fashion with his arch enemy, Obadiah O'Brien. Obadiah has been rumored to be the mastermind behind the series of mirrors used to stalk the denizens of the city, and is the prime suspect of a kidnap/murder case the police have been working on. The only lead they have on the young Australian victim is that he was last seen hanging around a laundromat, probably playing in the washing machines. One Nicholas Quinlan saw him there last week, and had no understandable comments, just a series of excited noises. No body was found, but a set of bones surfaced with teeth marks on them , leading the police to believe that the boy may have been eaten. Word on that as it comes." He chuckled through the newscast, thinking that it sounded a lot like something his old buddy Andrew would get himself into...
Pulling up to the family house, he was greeted with the regular amount of music that always seemed to pour from it. With a family of bards, the music is to be expected. Of course, he could never stay in one place for too long, which set him apart from his family. They greeted him in their normal jovial manner, and he began to make sense of the situation. Much had happened since he had left for Boulder. Of course, he hadn't needed to have left. In fact, he probably shouldn't have gone. His family needed him, but the life of a wandering bard is such that he is never content to stay at home. Colorado had beckoned him, all those years ago. The call of the mountains is not one easily ignored, and while his musical styling had entertained them, even that was not forever. Everyone reaches a place when it's time to come home, and here he was. Enough dreaming for him. Now was time for the matter at hand: Ike, the man who had been stirring trouble in the neighborhood. Normally, this wouldn't be cause for alarm, but his disturbance was bigger than that of the average stranger. Some had even been driven to leave the area entirely. He occupied one of the large houses at the end of the street, waiting for a challenge. The family had seen fit to call upon the man to rid them of this plague. Luckily, he wouldn't be doing it alone. The family had also reached some of his old pals who, together, could handle nigh anything. So they assembled, walked down the street, and were enveloped in the calm before the storm...
And that's where the epic ends. The last person to see them alive was a mysterious woman who watched them from the trees as they bravely walked down the street. Had the bard seen her, 'twould have been a curse upon his mind. What matters is that she saw him, alive and well in his new environment.
Exactly what happened next is unclear; the entire story is for that matter. None of these events were witnessed by anyone who'll talk about them. Who's to say they really happened? There are plenty who doubt. In fact, the only proof any of these people even existed is found in a rarely seen photo, taken minutes before their disappearance. The rest is of pure faith. What comes next, one could say, hasn't even been written... yet.