Donning the Mask (Part 2)
It turned out that Anthony would keep his sister's memory alive in two ways. One, he keep her prized New York Yankees baseball card collection and preserve it; second, he would keep alive her legacy of pranks.
Over the years, Anthony would go about the neighbourhood and play small pranks to cheer people up or just get them to lighten up and enjoy life. Whenever he pulled a prank, Anthony would always go "this one's for you, Evelyn" before the deed. It always seemed like Evelyn was smiling down on him whenever he ran from a prank laughing.
On his Sixteenth birthday, Anthony got a small chain around neck. On the chain was a pair of dog tags; on one was inscribed "Evelyn" and on the other "Little Joe". The dog tags would come to be one of his most prized treasures over the next few years and Anthony never took them off.
Eventually, by a miracle, Anthony made it into Lehman college. Whilst Frank wanted Anthony to take a degree in something business related so he could run the Deli in the future, Anthony decided instead to take a degree in something he was more interested in: Chemistry. To please his father though, at Lisa's behest, Anthony made sure to get a minor in Economics and Business. Anthony also joined the college's theatre troupe and regularly put on performances. Though his career never did a Rowan Atkinson, his performances was usually well received by his fellow actors. Anthony seemed to especially have a knack for slapstick which unfortunately did not go over too well with the troupe director who wanted the troupe to focus more on drama than comedy.
During his college years, Anthony would also team up a couple of guys - Charlie Spencer, Jerome Blank - to create ‘The Prank Squad'. The trio would go throughout campus and play good natured pranks on their fellow students each week. Once a month they would also pull an elaborate prank on an unsuspecting person; usually a faculty member that everyone despised or sometimes a certain college student who needed to get taught a lesson for being too big of a jerk. Whilst some people hated the prank squad, others loved them.
The prank squad would also eventually be joined by a young asian girl who would become Anthony's girlfriend - Lucy Qiu.
Lucy and Anthony hit it off instantly and she would become his confidante during his college years. Like Evelyn, Lucy was a die hard Yankees fan as well and the duo would enjoy many a date in Yankee stadium. Being with Lucy was the first time since Evelyn's death when Anthony could fully relax and just be at peace; everything just seemed right.
As the last exams before graduation approached, it was Anthony's idea to reunite the Prank Squad for one last major prank for old time's sake. The prank was centered around the holiday song "The twelve days of Christmas" and revolved around three facts - one, their old dean had a prized elm tree in the college which he would always boast about; second, their dean hated "the twelve days of Christmas" song, and lastly, as much as the dean hated that particular Christmas song, he loathed April Fools Day even more..
The squad planned to stick pears onto the tree's branches and make it an impromptu pear tree. Anthony would hide in the tree and on cue release certain things as the rest of the squad sang the song when the dean stopped by. The squad had gathered a pair of live doves, three roasted french hens, and they even had an actual partridge ready for the prank. Although it wasn't going to be Christmas for another six months, the squad decided that they would bring some Christmas cheer early in the year to a certain dour faced dean. They had even roped in some graduating members of the theatre troupe and their friends to help out. Everyone wanted to send a goodbye present to their Dean and decided to help out in this last major prank on the campus.
So on that fateful April 1st, Anthony waited in the tree for his cue as Lucy rushed to bring the Dean over to the tree sprouting some yarn about Anthony being stuck in it.
When the Dean came running over, Lucy ran past him and to her position beside the other prank squad members. Anthony and the squad shouted "April Fools" and then began to sing...
"On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...."
The Dean, taken by surprise, stopped beside the tree and turned to see Jerome, Charlie and Lucy grinning as they continued.
"Twelve drummers drumming..."
On cue, a cohort of twelve people made up of graduating members of the theatre troupe as well as graduating friends of the Prank Squad came marching in and around the Dean who was trying in vain to call everything off. Each member of the cohort had a toy drum held by a sling around his/her neck and they drummed on it as they marched.
"Eleven pipers piping..."
Eleven of the cohort ceased drumming and brought out toy recorders and proceeded to give a demonstration of how unskilled they were at playing said toy instruments. The twelfth drummer just merrily kept drumming along;
"Ten Lords a leaping..."
The seven guys in the cohort were joined by three other graduating males who seemingly appeared on cue. These ten then proceeded to go an impromptu cancan demonstration in front of a chagrined Dean.
"Nine ladies dancing..."
The remaining five girls in the cohort were joined by four graduating cheerleaders who appeared on cue and the nine started dancing around the now madly blushing Dean.
"Eight maids a-milking..."
From the tree, Anthony lowered down eight cans of "Milk Maid" condensed milk which he had worked hard to find. The rest of the cohort worked together to hand the cans to the Dean who, coincidentally, was lactose intolerant.
"Seven swans a-swimming"
On cue, a set of seven porcelain swans swimming in a line was presented to the Dean; they had been chosen as an apology piece for the Dean as in one of the Prank Squad's not so finer moments, they had planned an ill-conceived prank that resulted in some garden statues of swans in the college being damaged.
The Dean, knowing the significance, accepted the swans graciously despite the chaos around him and his personal misgivings about the still ongoing April Fool's prank.
"Six geese a-laying..."
A set of Russian dolls in the shape of geese was presented to the Dean next. There were six in all in the set; accompanying them was also a half dozen eggs. On the eggs was labelled S-O-R-R-Y-!
This was funny for the students because of two reasons...the Dean was half Russian, the second was that it was also a memory of an egg prank on Halloween the previous year when the Prank Squad had egged the Dean's car for him being a scrooge on Halloween.
"Five golden rings..."
The Dean hated onion rings and so was mortified when Anthony lowered a box containing five of the greasy morsels from the tree and into the Dean's hands. The Dean sportingly ate it at the goading of the cohort who later cheered.
"Four colly birds..."
Anthony let down four toy blackbirds (real ones are a protected species) on a mobile which was presented to the Dean. The mobile was in honour of his grandson and the now teary-eyed Dean thanked them for the gesture.
"Three French hens..."
On cue, Jerome, Charlie and Lucy each presented a French-style roasted chicken to the Dean who wondered how he was going to finish all the food.
"Two turtle doves..."
At this phrase, Anthony released two trained doves which flew around the Dean and perched on him, on on each shoulder.
"AND A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE!"
As they sang the last phrase, everyone pointed the Dean to look at the tree and to his horror the Dean noticed pears stuck all around the tree. To top it off, Anthony came down holding a Partridge pie. It wasn't a real pie but a porcelain replica with a message on it "Home is where the heart is...and where the stomach is filled."
The model pie was significant because it was a tribute to the Dean's late wife who had passed away earlier in the year. She was half-british and loved eccentric British fare like Partridge pie. The saying was also one that she made often whenever she came on campus to visit students.
At the end of the ‘prank' the students congregated round their soon to be former Dean and embraced him, thanking him for his patience during their college years and wishing him all the best.
When all was said and done, the Dean walked away a happy man, and the Prank Squad was left with the clean up of taking the pears off the tree. It was at this point, that things went horribly wrong.
As he was reaching for the last pear, Anthony heard something crack and started to have a sickening feeling in his stomach. Before anyone could blink, the branch Anthony was supporting himself on gave way, causing him to fall unceremoniously from the tree. The last thing he remembered before blacking out was pears falling around him and someone shouting for paramedics.
It was a couple of days later when Anthony awoke, and the splitting headache that greeted him had almost made him wish otherwise. Anthony learnt that he had been lucky for two reasons. First, during his treatment, doctor's had detected and resolved an Aneurysm forming in his head, sparing him the same fate as Evelyn; Second, apart from his concussion, he had only sustained minor injuries from his fall and would theoretically be able to recover in time for his finals.
There was, however one minor complication. According to the doctors, the combination of the concussion damage and the operation procedure to remove the Aneurysm would have some effect on his memories. It would be possible that Anthony would have trouble remembering past events and if so, he was to not force those but allow them to slowly return on their own, if they ever would...
(Note: Here's your chance to earn some points. Tell me which real life famous people Jerome, Charlie and Lucy are based on. For each correct identity, you get twenty points. Points are first come, first served.)
Donning the mask (part 1)
A look back at how Joe Kerr came to be...
The Bronx, New York, 1990 -
The rare calm of a Saturday morning was broken by the bellowing roar of Frank Bartoli Salvatore.
"Aargh! Evelyn! Anthony! *Sei Nei Guai! Quando mettere le mani su di te....."
Sadly for Frank, his angry roar did not have the desired effect of putting the fear of God in his two children. Instead, the two kids brats merely laughed at their unfortunate victim and then proceeded to carry out their ritual of retreating to their rooms for safety.
"What's with the screaming dear?" Lisa Gracie Salvatore asked as she stepped out of the kitchen carrying a towel and a plate of pasta.
"Those darn kids of yours played another of their blasted pranks on me, that's what. Can't believe I fell for the old bucket of water over the door prank AGAIN!" Frank grumbled as he reached out for the towel his wife so graciously provided. Unfortunately for him, at that point, she withdrew said offering and instead arched an eyebrow at him.
"Oh, so they're MINE when they're up to no good and they're YOURS when they're angels?"
"Uh...Bella, you're right. I'm sorry. They're my brats children too. You know I'd never really hurt them. I just get so angry when they keep playing pranks. Why can't they do something constructive with that energy, like clean the deli for me?"
Finally relenting and tossing the towel in her husband's lap, Lisa laughed and gave him a fat kiss on the cheek.
"Speaking of the deli, you'd better change and go open it. It's almost nine."
Muttering under his breath, Frank stomped back to their bedroom to change into a more suitable, and dryer, set of clothes before heading out to the family deli. Meanwhile, Lisa just went back to the kitchen and continued making the Lasagna that she knew would pacify Frank.
Unlike Frank, she had realized pretty early on why the children targeted Frank. It had been Evelyn's idea to try and get him to lighten up and enjoy life, rather than always behave like a sour-puss around the home. Lisa had secretly supported the pranks as long as they never got too out of hand.
Back in the children's bedrooms, a young, twelve year-old girl with flaming red hair and bright blue eyes giggled as she swapped Yankee trading cards with her younger brother. Evelyn Magdalena Salvatore was an energetic, and some would say precocious, little girl who loved three things more than anything else in the world - her family, the New York Yankees, and laughter.
It was her love for the latter that had prompted her to play small gags on the people around her in an effort to get them to laugh and lighten up. Whenever she felt someone was too serious and needed a laugh, she'd cook up a prank or two to make them remember to enjoy life as much as she did. To aid her in her pranking escapades, she had roped in her brother, who despite being a year younger, seemed to show even more flair for pranks than she did.
"I can't believe dad fell for that prank again. How many times have we pulled the bucket over the door trick on him?"
"Dunno sis. You'd think he'd catch on by now." came the reply from her co-conspirator..
Anthony Joseph Salvatore was every bit as energetic, hyperactive and precocious as his beloved sister; the only difference was that he was more than a head shorter. However, what he lacked in height, he more than made up with in gusto.
"Dad only has himself to blame for the pranks though. Despite what we do he never lightens up."
"Maybe he doesn't know how to laugh?" joked Anthony.
The duo laughed as they continued to play with Evelyn's precious collection of Yankee baseball cards. As they did so, they came across one of Joe DiMaggio, Evelyn's favourite Yankee of all-time.
"I still don't get why you like Joe DiMaggio so much. Reggie Jackson was so much cooler with all his home runs. Mickey Mantle too."
"None of those had anything on good ol' Joe. He was the most reliable player on his team and though he didn't shine as much as some others may have, he was always there as the rock for his team, helping them win. He wasn't the biggest, flashiest or most good looking, but he had the most heart," replied Evelyn as she stroked the card in her hand.
She then smiled at Anthony before continuing.
"You're just like him you know. You may not be the tallest or flashiest little brother, but you're the most reliable little brother a girl could have, and I wouldn't trade you for the world. That's why you're my little Joe DiMaggio."
Anthony smiled. That nickname always struck him as funny and always made him feel warm and fuzzy. Deciding to change the topic before he started crying, he brought up the subject of their next prank.
"So sis, what's next? We can't do the bucket again and dad still has some of our other gags confiscated."
Evelyn let out her signature mischievous smile.
"I think it's time we introduce dad to some new flavours, don't you?"
Anthony grinned with a smile that mirror his sister's as the two would spend the rest of the morning planning the prank and looking for the best day to strike.
That day would turn out to be a very fateful Monday.
On Sunday night, the two siblings made sure to go to bed extra early so that they could wake up earlier than their father and set the prank up. When Monday rolled around, the pranksters managed to wake up half an hour earlier than their dad. They would use this time to quickly switch Frank's special minty toothpaste with Wasabi paste then find a good vantage point for the trick.
As planned, an oblivious Frank went into the bathroom, and after a good minute or two, let out a blood curdling scream that probably woke up most of the neighbourhood if not all of New York. Taking that as their cue to run for higher ground, the two kids turned to flee before their enraged father could get a hold of them.
Anthony laughed as he ran towards the stairs but stopped when he realized Evelyn wasn't following. Something was off; Evelyn was usually the faster of the two and would always be leading the way - she always seemed to know the better hiding spots.
Turning around to see what was the matter, Anthony froze as he saw Evelyn stagger and swoon before falling to the ground with a sickening thud. Running to her side, he shouted her name.
"Evelyn! Wake up! Don't do this now. Stop pranking me. This isn't funny! Evelyn!"
Anthony's shouting attracted both his parents to his side. Any anger that Frank had at the prank was soon replaced by concern for his daughter's well being. Cradling Evelyn in his arms, he yelled for his wife to call for the paramedics. Lisa, ever on the ball, was already on the phone and doing just that.
Several hours later, the family was gathered at the hospital. Apparently, Evelyn had had a huge brain aneurysm. The doctors said it was a miracle she was still fighting for her life but there was nothing they could do; the rest was up to Evelyn.
Most of what the doctor said flew over young Anthony's head. All he knew was the Evelyn was in the ICU and not responding to any of his shouts. He cried as he shouted into the pane of glass that separated him from his sister. Frank placed a strong, sympathetic hand on Anthony's shoulder and gently pulled him away.
"Come on kiddo, let Evelyn get her rest. We'll be back tomorrow. You need to get your rest. Evelyn wouldn't want you to get sick would she?"
Frank left a lot unsaid but in his heart he knew his girl was a fighter. He hoped she could fight through this.
Reluctantly, Anthony allowed his parents to bring him home. Their house, usually full of tricks and laughter, was now sombre and silent. Friends, extended family and long-time patrons of Frank's deli all came to give their support to Frank and Lisa.
Anthony was of course, oblivious to all this. He sat in Lisa's room and held her prized Joe DiMaggio card in his hands whilst crying. He missed her and he didn't know if he could live without her.
"Don't die on me sis. Don't leave your "little Joe" all by himself." he begged, somehow hoping that Evelyn would hear him through some sibling connection or something.
Despite all the prayers and all the well-wishes, Evelyn passed away a few hours later. The damage caused by the brain aneurism had been too much.
It seemed like all of the Bronx and Little Italy had turned up for the funeral. Everyone in New York who had even a drop of Italian blood in them had turned up in Saint Raymond's Cemetery to offer support to Frank, Lisa and Anthony.
Anthony spent most of that day just bawling his eyes out beside the casket in which his sister lay. Those eyes once vibrant and full of life, never to be opened again; that impish smile never to be seen again, and that laugh that would always cheer Anthony up, now never to be heard by anyone again.
As the casket was lowered into the ground, an elderly priest came up a still crying Anthony and offered his condolences.
"Do you miss her, child?"
"I miss her so much now. I don't know what I'm going to do now that she's gone," bawled Anthony
The priest smiled as he wiped away Anthony's tears.
"You want to know a little secret? She's not completely gone. Your sister left a little part of her with you. She's alive in your memories of her, of all the fun times you've had together. She's alive in the hearts of everyone who remembers her."
Anthony smiled for the first time in days. As he let the priest's words sink in, he resolved that day to keep his sister's memory alive forever, that way she would never truly be gone. He didn't know how, but he would find a way to do it.
(Sung to the tune of a certain purple dinosaur's theme song)
Carmen is the greatest thief, of that there's no denying
And every gumshoe wants to know just where on earth she's hiding
No matter what the gumshoes do, she keeps eluding capture
When will ACME get a clue, they're never gonna catch her!!!
Hi guys! Enjoy the poem below.
Kitty cats and lost thoughts
I sit beside the window, stroking Carmine's fur
The silence only broken by her rythymic purr
Henchmen scurrying to and fro, they haven't got a clue
They're like lost sheep when boss doesn't tell them what to do
I see the panic slip despite they brave front they show
I smile and turn back to watch the falling snow
I haven't got the heart to tell them, they think the damage has been done
This isn't the final fallout, change has only just begun
They think that we just need to rebuild, regroup and plan again
Sadly, they're in for an unwelcome surprise, and a world full of pain
Scientists call it the calm the comes before a violent storm
Soon enough change and chaos will be the only norm
The tower theft was just the catalyst, the fallout just a tremor
The tidal wave that follows the quake is the real deadly terror
No time to rest, it's time to build, to work and to prepare
Lest when the storm should come we all be caught unaware
Carmine stirs, she looks up, a change is in the wind
She can sense it and so do I, the real fun is about to begin
Make no mistake though, this game is changing in ways no one has seen
This time both sides play to survive rather than to lose or win
My feline friend stares out the window, a longing meow she gives
It echoes the cry throughout the halls of this den of thieves
We need our captain at the helm, the tempest demands it soon
Music must be played to soothe the beast, and only she knows the right tune
What's the difference between a VILE Agent and a common burglar?
What's the difference between a VILE Agent and a common burglar? One works outside the law while the other lurks outside the wall. Hyuck hyuck!
I have always thought of us VILE Agents as criminals of a higher standing, crooks with class as it were. We are labelled criminals merely because we operate outside of the confines of the law but unlike our other ‘peers' we do not cause malicious harm to anyone. Neither do we do what we do simply for personal and selfish gain. Our ‘crimes' are always part of ‘the great game' that has existed for as long as a cat and mouse has. The heists we pull are usually to taunt ACME and goad them as part of the game; they also serve to educate the public on the historical and cultural significance of what we steal. The boss has therefore strongly advised us to steer away from stealing personal effects lest we take the taunting too far. Maybe I should have heeded that warning.
It's been a few days since I've returned to Headquarters. The chaos that first surrounded the place has died down considerably, although the tension and worry is still there. Since landing here, I have been preoccupied with keeping morale up and just giving some general direction to the henchmen so that they don't run off and do something stupid - although it would be quite difficult to just ‘run off' given where we are. There has been no real news from Sarah yet regarding Vic. All we know is what the press releases are, and frankly I don't believe a word of it; not after what I heard went down with the tower.
Speaking of which, after a long time I finally get a chance to sit down with my new ‘prize' and reflect on everything that has occurred. With Carmen's theft of the tower, I had thought it would be fun to compound Chase's problems and give him the worse day ever by purloining his prized Porsche as well. At the time, it seemed like a good plan - make fools out of ACME by once again hitting them where they least expect, San Francisco. I thought things had gone well; the swap for Allie, the car chase, the slightly botched ending to said car chase, and of course the removal of the GPS chip.
However after hearing about the destruction of the ACME tower, I have to wonder if I have contributed to pushing ACME, and Chase Devineaux in particular, over the edge. Maybe the grand theft auto was the straw that broke the camel's back; maybe Chase really was more human than most of us gave him credit for. Whatever the case may be, what's done cannot be undone. I certainly can't just give the car back just like that.
Thinking of the tower also reminds me of Kidman. I remember out chat fondly. I wonder if she is in better spirits; probably not. She is probably brooding in a corner somewhere. At least, I hope she stayed indoors.
As I look at the henchmen preparing polyester patches to wear in honour of Vic (what can I say, some of them are pessimists), I can't help but think about the plane crash. In times past, ACME press releases were fairly reliable. Neither side lied to the other in the past; we were cryptic but never blatantly deceitful. Now, I'm not so sure. Given what happened at the tower and how they've reported it, I have a feeling the game may be changing, and not necessarily for the better. I wouldn't be surprised if ACME is learning to play the grey areas now, they're no longer just white knights. That makes things difficult and potential more hazardous.
Glancing out the window, I notice the weather is cleared up a bit. That's good. We need good weather for planes to land and lift off. I know the henchmen are hoping she returns soon, and I can't blame them. If anyone knows how to react to the changes in the game, it's her. It has always been hers to control in the past, and now that ACME is trying to wrestle control away, it's anybody's guess how she'll react. All I know is that when she returns, she'll do so with a plan. I'm not sure she'll be too thrilled about the Caymen theft but that's probably the least of our concerns right now.
To summarize, I think the analogy of a chess game would be appropriate. We've made our moves and the opponent has retaliated in response. Now, the world awaits the next move, and it belongs to the Queen.
This is the story of how Joe Kerr and Anne Gene first met.
5 years before the events of Hiatus
Brooklyn, New York, USA -
"Make a left at the next turn" instructed the emotionless voice of a GPS unit. The driver of the yellow Mini Cooper dutifully obeyed and steered the car into a left turn...and right into a dead end.
"Aargh! Worthless GPS system. Should have known not to trust this piece of junk. That's what I get for renting a car from the cheapest dealer in all the five boroughs of New York." The masked driver of the Mini Cooper grumbled in frustration as he surveyed his surroundings.
It was then that he noticed he was in unfriendly territory - the ‘Red-Hood' section of Brooklyn.
The mysterious man sighed and wondered how a simple drive from Broadway to JFK international airport ended with him in a dead end in what could be the most dangerous place in all of Brooklyn. Lucky for him, he wasn't your run-of-the-mill tourist. He was a thief, and the trip to New York had been more for ‘business' than pleasure.
The man chuckled behind his ornate jester's mask as he recalled the night's events. It had started with a fun night at the theatre, watching the last run of Phantom of the Opera with its original cast. If the double standing ovation was anything to go by, the Tony Award winning cast really brought the house down. The masked man chuckled as he recalled the roaring cheers become roars of horror as he unleashed his stink bombs. In the ensuing chaos, he had managed to purloin the original ‘Phantom Mask' that was being used for this special performance. The masked man turned to the passenger side seat where the prize now sat in a small, felt-lined, wooden box.
The screeching of a cat in a nearby trashcan snapped the masked man out of his revelry, bringing him back to the grimness of the current situation. Shaking his head, he switched off the GPS and started to back the rented vehicle out of the dead end when two other masked men got in his path. Their black cloth masks blended with their denim jackets, worn out jeans and shirts. One was armed with a crow bar and the other with what looked to be a baseball bat, modified with nails.
In a gruff voice, the one wielding the crow bar ordered the Mini Cooper's driver out of the car. Smiling behind his mask, the mysterious masked driver did so. Despite being a good head shorter than the two would-be thugs, he was not the least bit intimidated by them. In fact, contrary to what they attempted to portray, Tweedledee and Tweedledum , as the masked jester called them, came off as bumbling amateurs.
The two thugs gestured to the jester to turn around and take out his wallet. Obligingly, the jester turned around...and dropped a laughing gas grenade at their feet. As the laughing gas started to take effect on its victims, the jester remained blissfully unaffected due to the special gas mask feature he had added into his mask. With the two thugs incapacitated by laughter, the jester chuckled merrily as he dragged them out of the path of his car and prepared to drive off. However, before he could get into the car, a loud scream pierced the night.
The voice was female and laced with panic. From what the jester could tell, it came from little more than two blocks away. As much as the jester wished to simply leave with his prize, he also knew that he would never forgive himself if he didn't help out a damsel in distress. Then again, it could also be a trap.
Finally, the jester got in his car and drove two blocks towards the supposed origin of the scream. It was a garage of sorts and the main door was halfway opened. From his car, the jester could make out two thugs who were far better dressed then the buffoons he had met earlier. They seemed to flank a slightly shorter gentleman in the middle wearing a top hat. Apparently, the guy with hat was the leader. The woman who screamed was slightly blocked from view by the three.
Silently getting out of his car and inching towards the door, the jester could also make out the gleam of a revolver in the hands of the leader. As he got closer, he heard the leader threaten to the woman for ripping him off or something of the sort. From what he could see, the woman, a feisty red-head from the looks of it, had apparently tried to fight back with a tire iron only to be stopped by the firearm. Her right leg was bleeding from a bullet wound but to her credit, she showed no tears; only a scrowl directed to her attackers. Behind his mask, the jester was no longer smiling; he was furious. It was jerks like them who gave classy criminals like him a bad name.
Clearing his voice, the jester strolled into the garage in such a manner that you would think he was the mayor of New York himself.
"Gentlemen," he nodded to the ‘three blind mice' as he dubbed them. "Dear lady" he nodded to the only member of the fairer sex in the room.
"I am sorry to interrupt but I couldn't help overhearing this ruckus as I drove by. What seems to be the problem?"
The leader of the trio was quick to reply in an arrogant and hostile tone. "This here broad is trying to pull a fast one on me. She told me she could fix my ride for 500 bucks and now she says it will cost me 3000 big ones. Nobody rips me off and gets away with it. So I offer her a deal. She slashes the price or Louie," he gestures to the man on his right, "will start slashing her."
The man pauses to spit on the floor of the shop, further adding to the Jester's disgust.
"Instead of being grateful for my generous offer, what does she do? She tries to bonk me on the head with a tire iron. So in self-defence I happen to pop her one in the leg. However, if she doesn't start giving me what's coming to me, the next shot won't be in self-defence, if you get my drift."
Oh, you'll get what's coming to you, alright. The Jester thought furiously. Surreptitiously, he put his hands into his pockets.
"Oh, by the way, I don't know who you think you are but you're gonna learn not to stick your nose in other people's business, especially not mine." The leader motioned for Louie to approach the Jester with the knife.
Unbeknownst to the trio, the jester had been tapping his foot to deliver a message in Morse code to the injured damsel. He hoped she would be able to understand it. The jester then calmly pulled his hands out of his pockets as if to surrender but the trio backed up when they saw that in his hands were what looked like two grenades.
Before the trio could act, the jester yelled "Now!" and threw the two ‘grenades' towards the trio. The grenades exploded into a thick cloud of knock-out gas and promptly put the three to sleep. The woman however had been spared the worst of the gas as she had deciphered the Morse code and managed to cover her mouth and nose with a cloth.
After the knock-out gas dissipated, the jester managed to tie up the trio with some chains, gladly provided by the recently rescued woman. He then moved over to position the slightly woozy woman on a chair and tie a tourniquet on her thigh. He then took out a small bottle of his special smelling salts, which he retrieved from his car, to help remove any lingering effects of the gas on her. As he treated her, she broke the ice.
"Thank you stranger. I don't know who you are but you sure saved my bacon. The name's Anne by the way. Anne Gene. They call me the best car mechanic on this side of the equator."
The jester smiled at her southern drawl and the charm that came with it. For the first time he noticed how her frizzy red hair contrasted with her oil stained, and now slightly crimson stained overalls. Deciding to trust her, he took off his mask and bowed.
"The name is Joseph Kerr. But you can call me Joe. You seem like a nice lady. I'm sorry we had to meet under such... distasteful circumstances."
"Good to meet you Joe. And I'm not sorry we met like this. Otherwise I'd probably be swimming with the fishes thanks to Caponelli and his goons over there," she gestured at the chained up trio while stretching her arms. "By the way what brings you here?"
Joe merely smiled in reply as finished tying the tourniquet. He moved towards the wooden box which was laying on Anne's work bench; the same wooden box that was moments earlier seating on the passenger seat of Joe's rented Mini Cooper. He looked at the box longingly before handing it to her with a wistful smile.
"I'm going to be honest with you Anne. I'm a thief. I was here to steal the contents of this box. I was on my way to the airport when my malfunctioning GPS led me to this neighbourhood. I guess in a sense it was fortunate for you."
Joe paused to look an Anne who was understandably a little perturbed by Joe's confession.
"I don't want to cause any trouble. Just point me in the direction of JFK and I'll leave. Five minutes after I'm gone, call the cops and plant this box on Caponelli and his goons. This should send them away for a long time. And don't worry, the knock-out gas shouldn't wear off until a couple of hours' time."
There was a short pause before Anne gave a laugh in reply. "Don't worry Joe. You might be a thief but you're way better than Caponelli and his lot. I'm not too proud to admit it but my business caters both to legit clients and also some unsavoury ones, though not by my choice. It's the only way a girl can keep her business afloat in this neighbourhood. I'd move out but I need more cash to do so. I'll keep your secret for you hon. Now you'd better hightail it outta here before the boys in blue decide to do their job."
Joe smiled and returned to his car. He paused and considered Anne's words. He reached into his carry on and pulled out the other item he'd managed to steal while in New York: a Picasso from the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art. He had stolen it a week ago and he knew that by now there was at least a five to six figure reward for its return.
Anne was surprised when Joe came back into the shop just as she was about to dial for the cops. She was even more surprised when Joe handed her his other prize. Recognizing it from the news, she did something that was extremely uncharacteristic for her, she started to cry. Hugging Joe, she gave him a peck on the cheek.
"Thank you. This means a lot Joe. Look, if you're ever in need of help to fix up a car, give me a call. I promise to try and stay in touch."
Taking an old rag from the work bench and a marker from the same place, she hurriedly scribbled down her email address and handed the rag to Joe.
"Stay in touch. I'd give you my number but it'd probably be changed twenty times over by the time you tried to call me. Don't be a stranger now, ya hear?"
Joe gave her a warm smile in return and turned to walk towards his car. Before he left the garage, he gave one last parting shot.
"Oh, before I forget, you might want to get that leg checked out as well. Last I heard, the health department issue a warning on having bullets in your leg."
Anne laughed and shook her head as Joe drove off. She would never forget this funny little jester who helped turn her life around.
Twas the night before Christmas, when in ACME's house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
Some traps were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that Carmen might get caught in the snare
The agents were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of Carmen-catching danced in their heads
And chief with his pipe and Chase with his bad hair
Had just settled themselves for a nap in their lair
When all through the halls there arose such a clatter
Every agent arose to see what was the matter
Away to their coms they flew like a flash
Leaving behind thier beds in a mess
The alarms that were flashing and the monitor's glow
Gave lustre to the darkened objects below
When, what to the agents' eyes should appear
Then a Carmen clue complete with reindeer
With sudden drive, so lively and quick
Agents rushed off to stop her before she could nick
More rapid than eagles they descended and came
Ready with cuffs, they called her by name
"Carmen Sandiego, you're under arrest!
Don't try any stunts, just give it a rest!
We've got you surrounded till the top of the wall
There's no where to dash, no where at all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
So up to the house tops her grappling hook flew
Taking her with it and her loot too
In the blink of an eye she was on the roof
And the agents' dreams just went poof
As the agent's heads all turned around
She leapt cross the roof tops in a bound
The agents gave chase, running on foot
All the while wishing they had lighter boots
A bundle of loot she carried on her back
She looked just like a peddler, opening her sack
Her eyes how they twinkled with mischief so merry
Her coat red as roses, or even a cherry
Her slender mouth was up in a grin
And the moon outlined her silhouette so slim
She opened her pack and its contents poured
Over an unsuspecting ACME horde
The agents took cover and fell on their bellies
But what hit them was soft and harmless as jellies
For the sack held not treasures of wealth
But woolen dolls replicas of the thief herself
With a wink of her eye and a twist of her head
Carmen did what the ACME agents dread
She disappeared having completed her goal
A Christmas prank on ACME and Co.
At her escape, she let out one last call
"The only Carmen you'll catch is this doll!"
With the mission now over, Chase gave a whistle
And the agents flew home, like the down of a thistle
While Carmen exclaimed from the shadows out of sight
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
With ye olde holiday season in full swing, I am feeling in the mood for some christmas carols. I gave one of them a VILE twist. I wonder if ACME will like it? Ha ha! Maybe I should pull a holiday prank on ACME...
DECK THE HALLS
Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Let us laugh at ACME's folly
Ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha!
Don we now our thieve's apparel
Fa la la la la la la la
Sing we now this VILE carol
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Nabbing a Joker (Journal entry by Carmen, Joe Kerr, and a smidgen of Vic Fumigalli)
1 month prior to La Vie De Luxe
Munch Museum, Norway
"Jeg skulle Ønske denne dagen skulle vaere over med tidligere" [Translation: I wish this day would be over with sooner] remarked one of the guards patrolling the prestigious musuem's hallways.
"Jeg vet hva du mener. Min kones lage lutefisk kveld. Jeg kan ikke vente." [Translation: I know what you mean. My wife's making lutefisk tonight. I can't wait.] came the reply from another guard.
Neither pair noticed a short, lean man walk past and plant a couple of packages in the shadows. The man made his way into the room where ‘The Scream' was being displayed. He flashed a mischievous smile as he admired it.
"Soon you won't be the only one in the place screaming my friend. Hyuk hyuk!"
The man pulled a small remote out of his pocket with his right hand whilst putting on a gas mask with his other hand. Before the guards saw what he was doing, he flicked the red switch on the remote, detonating all of the one dozen stink bombs he had hidden around the building. Within a minute, a foul smelling cloud filled the musuem and soon panicked cries of "Det stinker. La oss komme oss vekk herfra" [It stinks. Let's get out of here.] could be heard as guards and patrons alike scrambled for the exits.
During the chaos, no one noticed the mysterious man walk over to the case where ‘The Scream' was and smash it with a jester's staff. The man then took the painting down and put it in a protective suitcase before heading out the exit along with the other fleeing patrons.
Makarska, Republic of Croatia
Makarska was quiet, romantic, and hardly the spot for a lone female traveler, but VILE's ringleader knew this was a place yet to conceive her mischievous notoriety. She would have chosen Italy, but following the events of ACME's Venetian Masquerade last winter, considering the country seemed irrational; and after consulting with Flag in frigid Austria, she wanted the Mediterranean in her hair.
Outside a small, seaside bosanska kavana, or Bosnian Café, Carmen sat in a white sundress and straw hat. A light wind kissed her cheeks, and while it was cool for beach weather, she felt rather contented. The kava in front of her, sweetened and heavily creamed, emitted a swirl of dancing steam. Playfully, she placed a calm finger over her cup to watch vapors writhe past the obstruction.
Briefly, she wondered if she would play the part of the smoke, or the digit.
It took Vic "The Slick" Fumigalli a while to spot his boss. First off, she never gave exact locations, and second, she knew how to blend in. In fact, Carmen only wore her red coat and hat when she wanted to be seen, and that's usually when she wanted to distract ACME. This made it hard for even seasoned VILE agents to pick her out of a scene, but Vic was used to her ‘tells', the finger over the cup was one of them.
As he walked to Carmen in his usual polyester suit, he couldn't help looking at her like a stranger. In any other circumstances, a woman like that would ignore his type completely. How he got so lucky working for her, he'd have to ask his psychic network.
"Joke's in the bag," Vic reported as he smoothed his shirt and took a seat next to the lady in white, "Oslo," he added with a play on words, "it's a scream. Should we move?"
"You should learn to relax," Carmen commented on her companion's nature, "Kava? Newspaper? Mild strings of general conversations before speaking in code?"
The conman shrugged a little, "Not too keen about swiping you know who's tower, know what I mean?" Lifting the newspaper to look over headlines, he noticed they were in Croatian and put them back down, "Any way, this joker's funny, non-violent, I think he fits the profile. More, he's got formulas for stink bombs and this practically instant knock-out gas... I've seen it, I want it."
"I'm not quite sure I share your enthusiasm," the Thief sipped her kava, "he seems rather sane. Sanity, chemistry, and this odd sense of humor amalgamates to someone ready to snap." Carmen placed her cup down and twisted it so the handle pointed to the direction of the sun, "In metaphorical terms, a jester guarding a dungeon."
"You're worried about him snapping?" Vic made a skeptical comment, "I'm worried about him being too funny for his own good. I think we can both agree our forecasts can't all be bullseye."
"Mm," she admitted by tipping her head slightly and returned to watching her coffee, "Did you get my new coat?"
"Everything ready to go," Fumigalli slipped a set of keys next to her hand, "The Scientists are waiting for you at Terminal 3." Of course, he was speaking in code again. There were no scientists at any terminal. The key would open a locker in one of the destinations she specified. He put her newly tailored coat and hat in there, along with a few other things she'd need for her trip.
This ended Vic's part of the recruitment, he needed to rush off to Canada for the big heist soon. Kerr's transportation would be delayed until Carmen got to where she needed to be, then it was up to the jester to perform for the Queen... if she decided to grant him an audience. For all Vic knew, she might not go to Copenhagen.
12 hours later
"You have got to be kidding me!" grumbled Joe as he entered the arrival hall of Copenhagen airport. It baffled Joe how a simple 2 hour flight from Oslo to Copenhagen had managed to turn into a 7 hour debacle. First, his original plane had to turn back midway due to technical complications; The second plane was then beset by engine troubles and delayed on the runway for another hour before they straightened everything out. The kicker was that when they had finally arrived at Copenhagen Airport the plane wasn't cleared to land due to some radar malfunction. The irony of how long it had taken to travel between 2 countries practically next to each other was not lost on him.
Joe took a deep breath as he braced himself for what came next. He had been fortunate to be able to get his new prize past customs at Oslo (having a friend on the inside helps) but Copenhagen would be a different story. He knew if he went through customs they would find the painting in his carry-on. Luckily for Joe, he knew of an alternative exit, one found in every airport - the fire escape. Joe waited beside said fire escape as he watched his casually tossed smoke bomb do its work. Joe smiled as he recalled the fatal flaw he had discovered about many airport fire escapes, including Copenhagen's; it didn't take an actual fire to get the security system to automatically open the emergency doors. All it took was enough smoke to set off the smoke alarm and trigger the doors to open.
Just as Joe finished this line of thought the smoke alarm was triggered, opening the emergency doors and allowing Joe an easy escape. Joe couldn't help but laugh all the way to his ‘safehouse', a non-descript apartment building in the middle of Copenhagen, chosen specifically for its close proximity to one of Joe's favourite locations - Tivoli gardens.
As Joe inserted his key into the door of his apartment, he became acutely aware of a figure sitting in the shadows on his couch. "I don't know who you are but you're messing with the wrong guy" he warned. The figure gave no reply but smiled subtly in the shadows. He flicked on the light switch to reveal the true identity of the intruder and to his surprise came face-to-face with none other than the legendary Carmen Sandiego herself.
"Well, well. I do believe I know exactly where in the world is Carmen Sandigeo" he laughed.
The visitor returned his laughter with a momentary smile that somewhat lingered as she studied him. The man had a small frame, an oddness to his accent, and a bounce to his movements as if he was ready to either laugh or sneeze at any second.
"Mr. Kerr, "she spoke, "I see both our reputations precede us, but allow me a proper introduction." She extended a nod of courtesy, "Carmen Sandiego, it's a pleasure."
Joe returned the greeting with a gentlemanly bow. "Joe Kerr, and the pleasure is all mine, Carmen. It is an honour to finally meet up with the greatest of all time. I must say, the newspapers and television do not do you justice. You are far more stunning in person. But pleasantries aside, what brings one such as yourself to my humble abode?"
The bow was pleasant, she expected no less. VILE members, despite their nature to shun the law, are not without morality. They are often talented, politely amiable, and most of all, they enjoy a challenge.
"I apologize for coming unannounced," she continued, "I may have called prior," as she spoke, she moved fluidly to his bookshelf and glazed leisurely through the titles, "but I heard through tapped vines that you were rather busy." Among a notable mixture of chemistry manuals, cooking recipes and joke references, were a full set of encyclopedias along with novels by crime author Agatha Christie.
From the choice of furniture, the various personal artifacts, and the scent of a well-utilized kitchen, Carmen surmised Kerr to be a man with proper means; who, while of some eccentric warmth, had been living alone for some years. These points, of course, would affect the ringleader's decisions much less than the man himself.
"You dabble in chemistry?" her question opened the on-site interview.
Joe let out a wry smile and considered his words carefully. He moved over to the stove and set a kettle on before deciding on his answer.
Her eyes followed his movements to the range with placid caution.
"I would assume that you know about my reputation, and as such, my modus operandi. One could say that I have both an unexplainable and unorthodox talent for concocting amped up versions of substances otherwise found in classic gags. It is both a blessing and a curse to some extent that my alchemical abilities do not extend too far beyond these compounds, save for the occasional small batches of TNT I use to power the gag bombs."
While Vincent had informed her on nearly every detail, the points were better validated from the tones and gestures of the candidate.
"My version of itching powder, knock-out gas, smoke bombs and laughing gas have been tweaked to work more effectively and yet remain, for the most part, harmless to the ahem...unfortunate victim. They are also hypoallergenic so as not to trigger accidental encephalitic shock."
‘Hypoallergenic' was a term of interest.
"I assure you that I use these substances with a combination of both exuberant flair and utmost caution, contradictory as those two may seem. Like yourself, I do value human life and while I may enjoy my pranks, I do not enjoy inflicting mortal harm upon anyone."
"Of course," an agreeable note played from her lips.
Joe paused to take the now boiling kettle off the stove and take out two old-fashioned tea cups before continuing.
"If you are wondering about my laboratory and chemical apparatus, I make due with a rental storage facility not too far from here. It would be foolhardy of me to attempt to outfit a proper laboratory with actual safety devices in the mere confines of my apartment/safe house, not to mention entirely against the rules set by the old crone who owns the place. Besides, while I may dress as one for flamboyance sake, let me assure you that I am no fool."
"Before we continue, may I interest you in some tea?"
"I would love tea," said the thief, "thank you."
Passively inspecting the jester's abode revealed scattered outlets of humor. From an electronic ‘in-use' sign against the restroom door, to a slightly morose ‘rest in peace' over the bedroom's entrance and the various boardgames available to its resident, an inquisitive person may be occupied for hours.
Surviving as a thief on the run sometimes means being able to read the subtle gestures of the people in one's immediate surroundings, enabling oneself to know if one should make a hasty retreat. It was this ‘training' that allowed Joe to spot the otherwise non-existent gesture of hazel eyes scanning his apartment back and forth.
"I see you've spotted my ‘personal touches' in this place. Admittedly I was a failed comedian before I became a thief so I do have a penchant for humour, however slightly twisted it might be. I also appreciate classic games and gags. These usually show in my choice of "acquisitions", and also my rap sheet, whichever you may be more familiar with. Oh and speaking of acquisitions,"
Joe picked up the small, black suitcase from beside the couch and presented the latest addition in his ‘collection' of paintings to Carmen.
Carmen paused to reflect the last time she was in front of an original Van Gogh; it was business then as well. While she studied the masterpiece, it occurred to VILE's leader that Joe may have perceived her interest today solely on the heist surrounding The Scream. As probable as it may be, she was here to make another, more permanent form of offer.
"I like your style, Mr. Kerr," speaking in an appreciative tone, she hinted at his choice of art, "I'm not in the business of old masters this evening," the lady elaborated, "so by 'style', I meant 'talent'."
Claiming a seat on her host's red sofa, she continued with another question, "Have you ever considered joining a team?" In the trade, 'teams' often consisted of a few trustworthy members; VILE used the word on several levels, but Carmen enjoyed referring to her multinational underground network as a humble unit.
Joe considered the possible ramifications of where this conversation was heading. In the past, he had tried to recruit people to work with him but they were either in disagreement with Joe's ‘moral sensibilities', or lacking the required competencies to pull off the plans. In the end Joe had always resorted to working by himself. Less hassle, less things that could go wrong, less splitting of profits; mostly positives. The only downside had been that because he only worked by himself, he was limited on the scale of heists he could safely pull off.
The idea of working in a team under the greatest thief in the world tantalized Joe. It was something most thieves could only dream off. For such opportunities were by invitation only, and given the exacting standards of the lady in red, one had a better chance of running into a dodo bird than said invitation.
Joe also thought about the other reason VILE appealed to him. If the rumors were true, then VILE wasn't just a team, but a close-knit group, a family of thieves of sorts. Having been on his own for years, Joe sorely missed having real company to joke around with, one that wasn't out to put him in jail or get something from him.
After a moment of consideration, Joe replied, choosing his words carefully;
"As you probably have heard, good help is hard to find these days. It is a challenge to find a competent thief bearing the moral compass you and I seem to share, or the appreciation of the game. As such, I adapted my style and designed most of my heists to be executed by one person only. It has served me well thus far though I have no doubt that it might come back to haunt me one day."
Joe paused to take a sip of his tea.
Pertaining to courtesy, she mimicked her host by also sipping tea.
"That is why your offer intrigues me. If I could choose any team to work with or in, it would be VILE. For VILE comprises not only of yourself, arguably the greatest of all time, but many other notable thieves whose talents and exploits are well known on the grapevine. It would be an honour for one such as myself to work under and with best and learn from them. I have no doubt that we will have plenty of laughs together."
Joe let out a chuckle and stared into piercing hazel eyes before continuing.
"My only question is why would one such as yourself be interested in a ‘talent', as you put it, like myself? I would hardly think that knock-out gas and stink bombs were your style."
Without a significant shift in expression, Carmen's eyes smiled reactively to the query.
"I prefer mutual relationships, Mr. Kerr," she replied, "and you've answered your own question even before asking." After listening to Joe's words, she was confident he grasped her reasons, "We're like-minded."
As she spoke, a small white envelope appeared between her fingers.
"Inside is an international SIM card," she explained, "When you're ready, inserting this into any phone will trigger your admission process." Handing Joe the envelope, she added, "I apologize, again, for being mysterious, but I'm sure you understand."
Behind the laughs - a behind the scenes look at what Joe is doing/thinking/plotting...