Monday, June 3, 2013

Co-Created By the Mystery Man: Chapter One

"The full moon lights the city streets and casts a sparkling trail over the water's surface. The sound of sifting sand washes into my ears as the waves ebb down the beach. Salt in the air dries my nose, but the feeling isn't all bad. A few late gulls squawk about the box of french fries they've dug out of the beach. A small tussle breaks out between two of them. Feathers puff into the air. The spuds are split. Both go their separate ways.

"One flops through the air. Grace is a concept he's never heard of. Not long ago I would have taken him out. Target practice. But I don't do that anymore. Gives away the cover when birds start dropping all over. And this target isn't like the rest. He's not a push over. He might not see me coming, not yet. I need to keep it that way. That's not going to be easy.

"I take a deep breath, let the salt linger on my tongue. I've always liked the sea. It seems to add just the right color to any job. The perfect backdrop. It makes me feel like an artist. A French artist. Ah, Paris. This job, it should be in Paris. The Eiffel Tower, the breathing nights, the croissants! Oh, croissants! They're so good. A true man's pastry. The perfect pastry.


"Like the moon.

"I reach in and grab the sniper rifle. It clicks in my hands as I look it over fondly. Such beautiful craftsmanship. Such—"

At that moment Mystery Man remembered where he was. He shook his head, trying to fight off the after-effects of his confrontation with Mary Sue. Purple prose would get him nowhere in his line of work.

Nowhere, perhaps, but a quick and shallow grave.

A burst of anger suddenly struck him. Dramatically he thrust his fist into the sky, shaking it wildly.

"Are you saying I'm a bad writer? Huh? As if you do any better! Pathetic, pompous, lazy-as—"

He shuffled slightly. Both boots fit firmly.

"I don't even wear boots!"

With a sigh he placed the gun against his chest and pushed. The black cloth rippled like water. The gun vanished one piece at a time, being swallowed into the shaking costume.

Mystery Man crawled off the rooftop on which he was perched. Even he knew that there was a time for everything. And now was the time to get serious.

"Oh, screw you."


Red curtains fluttered on the wind, reaching several feet into the darkened office of one Mr. Thomas Thyme. He was a fat man, at least three hundred pounds, with high blood pressure and a heart condition. Brown hair, always combed with a slight curl on the right side. Fifty-two, he was now a billionaire. He'd made his first million at nineteen. He was an entrepreneur. In his early years he'd made a fortune repackaging public domain novels and newspaper articles, the funds from which he used to fund his own literary endeavors (or rather, to fund the publication of the efforts of others) and Thymely Magazine. His stint in literature naturally opened doors into other forms of media. Thymely Music Group was started at age twenty-four, now a pioneer in digital MP3 distribution. Movies, television, education, and eventually clothing lines, home cleaning supply under the brand "Thyme-to-Lime". An early adopter of the Internet, Thyme soon operated a major media distribution network from his four dozen servers. He was a man with his fingers in everything.

Naturally, somebody wanted those fingers cut off.

"You're writing a laundry list," Mystery Man hissed from the shadows of the office.

He crouched down in the dark corners as footsteps echoed in the halls. Mr. Thyme was a late worker, as were his many young secretaries. The aging Mrs. Thyme was suspect of her husband's many midnight visits to work, but the lifestyle was too much to risk.

The door knob jiggled and clicked. They clinking keys rang beneath the crack. With a creak the door eased open, and at once the smell of aftershave and armpit grease flew into the room. Waddling quickly behind was the fat Thomas Thyme. He shivered as the night breeze hit him hard, blowing his gray hat into the hall. Pressing his hands up, as though pushing the wind back, the man stomped across the room and slammed the window shut. At once he turned to his chair and fell into the seat with a wheezing gasp.

"Open windows can be such a pane, can't they, doc?"

Thyme jumped, clutched his heart, and fell back in the seat. He glared around the room, but it was much too dark for him to find the speaker. The light switch rolled and clicked between his fat fingers, but it remained dark. A quick glance up revealed the bulb to be missing. Trembling, he reached into his coat. He produce from within a gun, but it was not enough to frighten Mystery Man, though he remained crouched in the shadows.

"Wh-who's there? Come on out! Show yourself!" Thyme barked, wiping sweat from his chins.

"Be quiet," Mystery Man ordered.

"Who are you?"

"Let's keep that a mystery. Here's what you need to know, tubbs. Someone's put a hit out on you. Someone with a lot of cash. Called the Rogues up, see, and that's big time." From the shadows he emerged, though his black suit still hid him quite thoroughly. All that could be seen was the yellow query that ran up the front of his body.

Thyme aimed the gun, though his hands shook too violently to line up a shot. In a flash Mystery Man was upon him, twisting the weapon away.

"I said 'Be quiet'." Mystery Man pinned the man back into his seat. "I'm not gunning for you, but somebody certainly is. Any sound from here, you're dead. The second that light goes on, you're dead. You wanna be dead?"

Panicked squeaks were the only response.

"I'll take that to mean 'No'. Then listen up, because I only want to say this once. The dialogue is consuming far too much story as it is. You ready? We're gonna get the gun to give away his position. We're gonna find out where he is, then you're gonna keep yourself hidden until the morning. I'll get the guy. You live, I win. We're both happy. Got it?"

Thyme nodded weakly. "Yes, yes, I got it."

"Good. Get in the closet over there and take a nap. You don't move until the sun comes under the door."

Thyme complied, nearly tripping over his own feet as he rushed into the closet. Mystery Man slid the doors shut, then stretched a chain between each handle, locking it in place with a heavy clasp.

"That'll hold ya," he said, taping the key to the doors for a secretary to find. With one hand he reached up and dug into his skull. His black mask took on the same water-like quality as his chest had earlier. From within he fished out a light bulb. The missing bulb from Mr. Thyme's desk lamp, to be exact. He glanced at it and cleared his throat in preparation for the ominous end-chapter lead he knew was steadily approaching.

"Just shut up and write, kid," he quipped. "Like you said, there's a time for being serious.

"And I've got a job to do."