Kane High’s Sirens
The Kane High Sirens
A Story by OrigamiLuke100
Two Years Ago…
“This is his bedroom?” She asked, looking around at the light-blue painted room. Covered around the walls were large stickers of penguins, a poster for “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”, the 2011 film, and a penguin lamp sat on his bedside stand, which Madalyn Ford quickly turned on.
“I can’t see anything in here, Mary.” She stated, “The first rule any origami villain should know: turn on the lights. You can see everything so much better.”
Mary held up her puppet, waving it around on her finger. The design was simple; the Harley Quill looked much like Harley Quinn in Batman: The Animated Series, complete with the red and black checkerboard look on her clothes. “The second rule is to look good doing it!” Mary said through her lips, trying to act like it was the puppet saying this.
“No, the second rule is to keep your puppet in your pocket. They’re just… easy indicators, you know?”
“So I can’t call you Origami Catwoman?”
“I mean, you can. Nothing’s stopping you.”
“The third rule, then, is that we can use the puns as code-names. Gotcha.” Madalyn got to work, rolling her eyes at her partner-in-origami-crime’s escapades as she looked at the penguin statuette that sat on a table in the middle of the room.
“Do you think this guy likes penguins?” Mary asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Come on, look at the aesthetic for a minute. Or start opening drawers. We don’t have much time— he could be home any minute.” Mary walked over to a dresser and reached for the handle. Madalyn perked up, and lunged at her.
“No!” She said, “You can’t open anything until you, you— you do this.” Madalyn, in the dim light of the penguin lamp, showed Mary as she tapped her fingers together, one-by-one, “If you do this before opening anything, good stuff will be there.”
“That sounds obsessive-compulsive.”
“I was one of the best members of Kane’s Psychology Association. I know what an OCD tick seems like, and that is one of them.” Mary reached over, opening the drawer. Her grin widened as she looked down into an underwear drawer. That grin quickly faded from her lips.
“Let me show you.” Madalyn tapped her fingers, one-by-one, together. Pinky finger to pinky finger, index finger to index finger, middle to middle, pointer to pointer, and thumb to thumb. Then, she opened the next drawer. Mary and Madalyn looked in it together, and Mary’s grin came back.
“Look at all that cash!” She exclaimed, reaching in to grab it.
“No.” Madalyn swatted her hand away. “Cash is cool, but people notice when cash is gone. What we need is this.” She picked up a watch with a penguin on the front, it’s hands pointing to the time. On the back, it said “Penguin Random House LLC Opening, 2013”.
“A watch made by a publishing company?”
“What good will that do us as opposed to the cash?”
“This is worth a couple grand, Mary. We can use it to get something— anything — out of this kid. I mean, crap, he has this, he could get us anything we wanted.” She then wiggled her fingers, “Besides, it wouldn’t have existed had it not been for the finger-trick.”
“That’s OCD behavior, Madalyn, and I will not stand here and say that it’s not. Why do you do this, anyways?”
Madalyn was thinking for a moment. Deep down, she was thinking about how she needed to. Ever since she was a little girl, she had to steal something. Just one thing, everyday. But, if Mary was going to psychoanalyze her, she might as well lie. Therapists can’t really tell when a person lies, after all. “I just do it for the thrills.” She said.
Mary, for a moment, looked at her friend with slight doubt. She decided to not really pry into it, “I wanted to do it because it was fun. More fun than whatever my normal life was.”
“But you were going to be successful, right? I mean, you were quickly moving up in the psychology society, you were volunteering at that mental institution a bit away from Jutefruce — all I’m saying is that you’re going to be a great psychologist one day. Why would you break the law now?”
“Because one day, I’m going to be a great psychologist. Today, I’m Harley Quill, and this meticulousness is boring me.”
What started as a clean smash-and-grab turned into more smashing and less grabbing as Mary looked everywhere for anything. Opening drawers, sliding stuff off of desks. Madalyn stared with shock at the chaos ensuing in front of her.
“Mary, stop.” She said, “Please, Mary. You gotta stop. You’re going to mess this up.” She could feel the panic within her, and she touches the tips of her fingers together over and over, hoping that Mary’s rampage in the Penguin Room would end, but it doesn’t. Mary groaned.
“There’s nothing here!” She said. She swung the door to the closet open, and she came face to face with a life-sized cardboard cutout of Danny Devito’s Penguin from Batman Returns. His chunky exterior, his long, pointy nose, and the way bile was at the corners of his cheeks initially made Mary jump in disgust. Then, realizing it was a cardboard cutout, she punched a hole into the cutout’s chest.
“Let’s get out of here.” Madalyn said, opening the window. A car had pulled into the driveway, and they both paused, looking behind them for a moment. Madalyn stared at the carnage that Mary left in her wake, and, bowing her head, she climbed out of the window and landed into the soft grass. She held her arms out, and Mary leaped, exclaiming with joy as Madalyn caught her. Madalyn sat her down, glared at her, and they started running.
Through the woods they ran, and, eventually, they found themselves outside of Kane’s entrance. Breathing heavily, Madalyn looked up at Mary.
“You made a mess back there.” She told Mary.
“Rule number four is to not make a mess.”
“You didn’t get to it. So, I didn’t know.”
“Simple logic should’ve told you that! Use your brain, psychology %$@*!” They began yelling back and forth outside of their school, complaining about who they are as people.
“You just wanted to walk around and stare, you didn’t do anything fun there!” Mary yelled.
Madalyn’s face was turning red, “We had a good thing going, you know! If you just followed my rules, did my finger taps, everything would’ve been where they were supposed to be. We could’ve had such a good time tonight, but noooo, you just HAD to get your fist through Danny Devito’s stomach, you had to throw his underwear everywhere. Only thing we got was this stupid watch!” She yelled, shaking the watch in front of Mary’s face, “A watch that is worth buckoos, but it’s the ONLY thing we have on him. A good thing! And YOU ruined it!”
Mary calmly breathed, holding her hands out infront of her, her flannel sagging a bit around her wrists, “Okay, if this is the way you want to talk to me, then I’ll do the same to you. You are an obsessive, compulsive, horrible person, who is always so meticulous on planning and enacting stuff that you never, ever, ever will find enjoyment in life because your goal setting involves goal setting for goals that it’s this…” She held her hands in a way to try and visualize a sandwich, “A goal setting sandwich that runs for infinity, so you’ll never, ever, be pleased with yourself, or what you’re doing, or who you’re spending time with.” She then slapped the watch that was still dangling in front of Madalyn. Madalyn was stunned, staring at Mary as she walked away.
“That’s not very Harley Quill of you!” She yelled, staring at the shattered watch on the ground, the penguin’s hands twitching back and forth.
“Rule number two!” That was the last thing Mary Jest ever said to Madalyn Ford.
… For two years.
Present Day Therapy
The sterile environment of the therapist’s office made Madalyn Ford dizzy. The way the fluorescent lighting made everything around her look paler than usual was making her feel sick to her stomach. The bookshelves, full of psychology textbooks, memoirs, even a book about Phineas Gage, seemed to occupy Madalyn’s attention in that moment, as at least the maroon colored texts looked better than anything that the fluorescent lights touched.
“Do you want to take one of those books home with you?” Her therapist asked. She looked at Doctor Baccarin, taking in how pale in the fluorescent light she was, and, by that measure, just how pale Madalyn probably looked too.
“No, I don’t read.”
“Well then…” Doctor Baccarin tapped her clipboard with her pen, “Are you still stealing?”
“No.” Madalyn said. Therapists can’t really tell when a person lies, after all. But, she could see it in Baccarin’s eyes. The doubt. She knew Madalyn was lying, “Yeah. But they’re only small things, like usual. Since I started dating Alan, really, it’s only been small things. I haven’t broken into any houses, I haven’t stolen test answers, I swear—”
“Madalyn, I’m not a cop. I don’t care about what you’ve done.”
“Last night, I went to the nearby Speedway, and I took a candy bar. Didn’t get caught or anything, I wore a hoodie. This summer is horrible to wear a hoodie in. But I needed to. I had to do it.”
“Because, well, I was hungry. I was helping my stomach to not feel hungry.” The therapist did not find her attempt at humor funny, “I had to do it because I needed the thrill.” She confessed, “I feel that need everyday. I know it’s not healthy, but if I can just snatch something up, it’ll all be fine. Nothing bad will happen. I do my whole routine, I tap my fingers together, I take the item, and I have a pretty stable night.”
“Has there ever been a time where you haven’t done your routine and it ended up bad for you?”
“Yeah, kind of. One time, I didn’t steal anything, I didn’t do my hand thing, and the next day I broke up with my boyfriend— my… ex boyfriend, now.”
“You recognize that was your choice, though, right? Like, we have made a ton of progress in the last year now. You saw that life was hard on both of you all, and it made the environment rough and rocky. You’ve changed, I’m sure he’s changed too. But Madalyn, not doing your little finger touches and not stealing doesn’t mean that caused it.”
“But it’s fate, y’know?” She snapped her fingers, “When–when- when the Novick thing happened, and I came swooping in, and I saved Alan from Graham, I broke my foot for a minute, right?”
“I didn’t snap my fingers or do anything then! I didn’t get to steal in all the havoc! Then I broke my foot!”
“Your anecdotes don’t mean that they’re connected, Madalyn. Correlation doesn’t equal causation. But… you know what we say, right?”
Madalyn sighed as she echoed the phrase Doctor Baccarin told her on their third meeting, “‘I have got to practice healthy habits and healthy logic to keep my OCD and kleptomania cocktail of trouble in check.’”
“But… that’s kind of B.S., right? I’m not having to punch a wall each morning before I go to school or else something horrible will happen. I’m not freaking out about cracks in a parking lot and stepping over them because the last thing I want to do is break my mom’s back. If I’m keeping it in check by taking a Crunch Bar every day, how bad is it? It’s not ideal, and I don’t like or even really know when this started, but an addiction with a routine isn’t bad for everybody.”
“Having an addiction as a part of a routine does not make it better.” Doctor Baccarin said. But Madalyn continued.
“I miss Alan everyday, and we were both hurting, but it was just… it’s the wrong time, and maybe it’ll always be the wrong time because I just have a hundred and one goals and they all go from one thing to another and it’s never enough. I finish one, I start the next one, and I’m never pleased with myself, and that’s probably what hurt Alan. That’s why he got distant. He was hurting too, and I didn’t see it, and he didn’t see my pain. We were just hurting, and I wasn’t helping myself by doing this stuff, and— nothing is fun anymore.”
“Nothing is fun anymore?”
“Nothing’s fun anymore. It’s so stressful because I have these systems and these goals and stealing and finger taps and stuff will help me do them. That’s what you, him, or anyone else didn’t get. I needed them. They were important to me. I don’t want to stop, but I don’t find any… zest in life anymore with it. I… I don’t know.” Madalyn buried her face in her hands, sighing a deep sob, “I just don’t know.”
“Well… I hate to cut this short, but your hour is up. I feel like we made a lot of progress today. See you next week?”
“Okay… my schedule is free…” Madalyn started to tune out her words, thinking to herself about all that’s happened, how, even after so long, the pain still hurts. She said her goodbyes and got going, starting her walk home from the office.
Mary Jest: The Harley Quill, and Jessica Zinnia: The Poison Foldy, dynamic duo, have had a pretty decent summer, all things considered. Yesterday, they planted endangered plant species in a hidden location in the woods, permanently affecting the ecosystem of Jutefruce’s wildlife for centuries to come, and today, well, they’re at the local Dave and Busters, snatching up cards from distracted kids.
“This is awesome!” Mary exclaimed, “This kid must be rich! He has 600 dollars on this card alone!”
“Sweet. And there’s no way to cancel a card, right?” Jessica asked. Recently, she had dyed her hair a deep, deep, shade of red with streaks of green. It was the biggest thing to distract kids, as they’d stare at the walking Christmas Tree. Mary liked how it bobbed.
“Right! This isn’t a bank, Jessica. They can’t just cancel a card. And we get unlimited games!”
“I’m getting bored, though. How many times do we need to play Flappy Bird: The Arcade Game before you realize that you just… suck at Flappy Bird?”
“Yeah, you’re right.” Mary sighed. She saw a kid walking by, and she yelled, “Hey, Kid!” The kid perked up and goofily ran over to them. Mary handed him the card, “Have fun.”
“Thanks, girls are the best!”
“I know.” Mary concurred.
“Yeah, you… you don’t need to say ‘wow’, we agreed with you.” Jessica mentioned.
“You said that, kid. Listen, leave before we regret giving this card to you.”
“Move! I want to play Flappy Bird: The Arcade Game!” Mary glared at Jessica, and they stepped aside.
“What a weird NPC-esque interaction.” Mary mumbled.
“I know, right?” Jessica questioned, staring at the kid, who wore some ugly overalls and drooled over the singular button used in the Flappy Bird game.
“So, what now?”
“Let’s… let’s go to the overpass, how about that?”
“Yeah, that sounds awesome.”
The overpass is a road that can overlook the entire city of Jutefruce. One can see everything from there: the buildings in downtown, like Citizen Wade’s Soups and Meats headquarters, to the schools and neighborhoods that surround them on the other side. It is found on Tynion Drive, which was close to the Dave and Busters. Mary left her car parked in the Dave and Busters parking lot, and they looked out upon the school.
“Are you ready to go back?” Jessica asked.
“To be honest, no.” She looked at Jessica, “I have had a ton of fun with you this summer, and, like… I don’t know, we’ve been doing all of this stuff to offend Susan Snyder, Bethany Belfast, and Olivia Oldman, you know, out of spite. I leaked that story. I did everything, cause the people had to know… what they did to Ronald, what they did to me. But I know that she’ll be there this fall, and I’ll know that it’ll just, you know. Be weird. It feels like me trying to expose them has only made the rumor of the Shredder Squad’s existence bigger, and it’s made… well, it’s made everything a lot tougher.”
“I… I’ve had a lot of fun with you, too.” Jessica admitted. She didn’t quite know how to respond to the rest of it, but Mary looked at her, and Jessica could see that that was just enough.
“Oh, hey, look at that girl. Walking in a hoodie in this hot Californian heat.” Jessica said, pointing at someone walking in a hoodie, looking away from everything, not even looking at the overpass’ sights to behold. When she looked up, Mary’s eyes immediately widened.
“Madalyn?! Madalyn Ford?” Maddie looked at Mary, and she started to turn away. Realizing, however, how rude that would make her look, she walked over to her.
“Hey, Mary!” Madalyn said, faking her best ‘I-need-to-sound-excited” voice.
“How are you, miss girl?”
“Oh, you know, living. Living a life, a life best lived. My best life, you know.”
Jessica leaned over to Mary, “She broke up with Alan Wade.” Mary understood.
“Oh, wow! Good for you, good on you, great!”
“That’s great… you look great, by the way.”
“Why the hoodie? It’s hot this summer!”
“You know, It’s cold where there’s air conditioning.”
Sensing just how awkward everything was getting, Jessica took control.
“I tell you all what, instead of having to stand here looking at the beauty of our town, why don’t we go eat at a Restaurant Somewhere? How does that sound?”
“Yeah, I’d love to eat at a Restaurant Somewhere and catch up. Do you like that idea, Madalyn?” Mary asked. Madalyn had her arms crossed, and she was looking at both of them, mainly staring at Jessica’s dyed hair. She liked Mary’s natural blonde, and she liked Jessica’s blonde hair too, so her dyed hair looked super gaudy.
“Sure.” Madalyn said.
“Alrighty, let’s go!” Jessica exclaimed, happy to have avoided an annoying, horrible, grating back and forth of ‘that’s good!’ ‘Sounds great!’ ‘Great…’
Madalyn’s eyes were hurting somehow even more than looking into the fluorescent light of the therapist’s office. The hillbillies playing banjos and crappy drums hurt her eyes. One was chugging a pitcher of some liquid.
“Isn’t Restaurant Somewhere so cool? It’s like Chuck E. Cheese for adults!” Mary squealed. Madalyn stared at her while Mary clapped to the crappy country beat playing.
“I don’t like it as much as she does.” Jessica said to Madalyn, “So, what have you been up to?”
“Nothing much, just trying to prepare for college and stuff.”
“Felt that. Applications look horrifying.” Jessica mumbled. Mary finally snapped back to reality as a steak was placed in front of her. Jessica took Mary’s side salad, and Madalyn nibbled on some Salmon.
“I’ve been practicing being a pescatarian for a while, though. Except for cheese. I love cheese.” Madalyn said.
“Same! Well, I’ve been a vegetarian for, well, fifth grade? It’s just like being a pescatarian without eating fish, I guess…” Jessica looked at Mary’s steak, “Doesn’t seem to do much good when you’re spending time with her, though.”
“I love eating a cow. Or a pig. Or a rabbit. Can’t get enough of it.” Mary grumbled.
“Have you heard from Alan any?” Jessica asked Madalyn. Madalyn choked a bit on her salmon.
“No, not at all. It looks like he’s been living in New York, though.”
“Dang, you broke his heart that bad?” Mary asked.
“Well, it was this Court of Origami Owls that—”
Madalyn kind of shuddered, as she remembered Alan’s slight concern over them, “I don’t know. I just hope he’s having fun there, you know?”
Mary leaned in, steak falling slightly from her chin, “Were my theories that he had General Anxiety Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder true?”
“I’m not sure…”
“Dang it! Well, maybe we could ask him tonight.” Mary exclaimed, slamming her fist on the table. Everyone’s drinks slightly rocked.
“What?” Madalyn asked.
“I’m saying that he’s back home! His snapchat location has been updated a few hours ago! Back in Jutefruce, in some dinky little house.”
“You had his snap?” Madalyn questioned.
Madalyn felt a bit of jealousy, “I don’t think a ‘duh’ will cut—”
“Everyone had his snapchat, Maddie. Have you ever seen his snap score?”
“Come on, a girls night? We can go out and see Alan Wade and ask him if he has PTSD. Of course he’ll let you in, you’re his ex!”
Madalyn felt a ton of nervousness over this, “No, actually, wait— I don’t want to do that, at all.” Mary groaned, looking down at the table.
“That sounded so fun…” She mumbled. “Have you been doing any schemes?”
“No, I… I just, I don’t know. I don’t really do that anymore. It’s so much planning and work. I mean, I’m single now, so like I should have all of that time in the world, but I’ve been so busy. I can’t do it. I have to take small things now, but I have to plan my outfit and all of these things too.”
“Okay, let’s break into Susan Snyder’s home and mess up everything.”
“Yeah! That sounds fun, my Jester.” Jessica said lovingly. “Yeah!” Mary exclaimed, “Come on, Maddie. Are you in? No planning, just doing.”
“She’s in!” Mary exclaimed, “What are we doing here?! Let’s dine and dash!”
“No, actually.” Jessica said, “Come on, think about doing that psychologically.”
“You’re right.” Mary sighed, “This is the animatronics’ livelihood.”
“Yeah. Capitalism can swallow the whole ship, but we can try to keep it afloat tonight.” Jessica said all wisely-like. Jessica took out her wallet and placed her card down, “Y’all will venmo me, right?”
Everyone nodded. Jessica went on to pay for everyone’s meal.
She would not get a single dime back.
The house was small, much like a teacher’s pay. It was nestled between other homes that all looked fairly similar in design and structure, but Mary was positive that this was the one. She was sure of it. The house was 1216, one directly after the year the Magna Carta was drafted. She stared at the home of the monster who, without a care in the world, managed to get a ton of students expelled.
They were going in.
Mary, sitting on the shoulders of Jessica, who was sitting on the shoulders of Madalyn, climbed in through the second floor’s master bedroom window.
“I’ll unlock the back door!” Mary said through the window. She bowed her head back in and headed down the steps.
For a teacher like Ms. Snyder’s house, Mary noted, it looked pretty masculine. Baseball gloves hung on the walls as opposed to pictures of… her in them. The seats were swivel reclining chairs, and there wasn’t a single plant throughout.
The kitchen had a pizza sitting there, and Mary looked in the pantry, only to find Pop Tarts and ramen noodles. Either being a teacher was this bad, or…
No. It’s 1216. The house is 1216. One after Magna Carta. She would never make such a mistake. This is the right one.
She opened the back door, and Madalyn and Jessica stepped through.
“This looks like a single bachelor’s home.” Madalyn mumbled.
“She would know, she dated one.” Jessica mentioned.
“If she was dating a single bachelor, then he’s not single. Or a bachelor.” Mary grumbled.
“Actually, a bachelor is, you know, a man who has never been married. So, Alan was technically a bachelor, unless—”
“He was technically a bachelor, I guess.” Madalyn said, quietly walking on her feet, “We got to be careful. We need a plan.”
“No, we don’t.” Mary grunted, “Don’t you remember why we stopped talking?”
Madalyn looked away for a moment, trying to not remember that tough time. The Penguin-lover’s room.
“Why would we need a plan? What happens if you fly by the seat of your pants? What’s so bad about that, Maddie?” Jessica asked.
“Because if I fly by the seat of my pants… If I don’t have a plan, then I date Alan Wade at the wrong time. I get my feeling’s hurt, I hurt others feelings. I can’t do that again.”
Mary looked at Jessica, and then looked at Madalyn, “Well… some things you don’t need a plan for. A plan can just… prevent fun. Dating is one of those things, y’know? You can’t go ‘okay, I’ll date this person for five or six years, and then get engaged, and then I’ll get married.’ You can just… see where things go, and you can try again. As long as it was healthy.”
“It… was healthy, right?” Jessica asked.
“Yeah, I mean— kind of, he was just always full of anxiety.”
“Didn’t he come up with plans to take down all of his friends?” Mary asked.
“He was just freaking out. I mean, he had a lot of trauma in those six months before.” Mary defended.
“If you could, would you do it again?”
“I mean, I think I’m in a better headspace. If he’s in one, sure.”
“That money must be nice.” Mary sighed.
“You know, I paid for a lot of my meals.”
Mary groaned, “You’re kidding me?! He’s filthy rich but he doesn’t pay for his girlfriend’s food?! What do you see in him?”
“I don’t know, actually.”
This made everyone there laugh, Madalyn sighed after calming down from the laughter, realizing that she was still in someone else’s home, and she was there to, well, steal their crap. “Let’s get to work. I’ll go upstairs, you guys raid down here.”
“Susan’s diet consists of Pop-Tarts and Ramen. I doubt she’ll have anything of note.” Mary sighed.
“Let’s just take a look.” Jessica mentioned. It was the last thing Madalyn heard within earshot. Madalyn climbed up the steps, entering into the master bedroom that Mary had broken into. There was nothing there. No jewelry, no bank notes… nothing. Just a picture of a bald, Jeff Bezos-looking guy and well, I guess that curly haired person could be his wife, but she looks really young, and… it’s hard to see in the light.
Madalyn, realizing there was nothing there for her, decided to leave and explore the other room, which was when things got… weird.
The room was purplish, and a lone light was left on in the corner. Madalyn wandered over to it, her curly hair bobbing as she looked at the picture that was sitting beneath the lone lamp.
It was the same picture, but this was obviously a kid’s room. A kid with some of the most curly red hair imaginable, whose father looked like Jeff Bezos, but… maybe, at one point in his life, he too wore that same mane. She did her finger taps, but froze as a realization hit her:
This felt like a single bachelor’s home because it was. It was a single bachelor father’s house.
And the boy who lived with his father… Well, the name was right on the door: Conrad M.
Madalyn ran downstairs, coming face to face with a mess of hair pressed against one another: The blonde streaks of Mary’s blending with the reds and greens of Jessica’s, the smooching sounds echoing from the hair monster.
“Okay, that’s cool and all, but guys—” Mary, her hands still wrapped around Jessica’s, looked at Madalyn.
“What’s up?” She asked.
“This is the wrong house. This is… Conrad Mordecai’s home—”
Unexpectedly, somehow, despite doing everything right (The finger taps, the examinations, even the smooth break-in), it was all falling apart right now. As that door swung open, Mary jumped into the pantry, and Jessica slid underneath the table-cloth. Madalyn dashed up the steps, light on her feet as she was trying to not draw any attention with the step climbing. With nowhere left to hide… she dashed into Conrad’s closet.
“I’m going to bed, Dad.” A familiar, slightly-nasally voice mentioned.
“Same, son. You have a goodnight, kiddo.”
Madalyn covered her mouth as she heard the door open. As he took off his shoes, Madalyn peered through the gaps in the closet door, staring at Conrad Mordecai. Unlike the picture, he had a slight goatee forming. He wore normal clothes, maroon and short sleeved, khaki shorts.
Madalyn, sensing that he was probably going to put on pajamas, opened the closet door. Conrad, in shock, jumped. Nonetheless, Madalyn raised her hands in defense, “Hey, Conrad, I’m sorry, we thought this was a different house.”
“Who the %&$* are you?!”
“I can explain.”
“I can explain.” Madalyn started, “There are three girls throughout this house: me, Mary Jest, and Jessica Zinnia.”
“Oh, I know her.” Conrad said.
“We’re… I think we’re trying to break into some teacher’s home to like, hurt her feelings? She did something to offend Mary, I’m not quite sure what.”
“Probably the Shredder Squad stuff, I bet.” He seemed to have been in the know about everything.
“Didn’t you kill Alan Wade’s parents?”
“No, I was just doing a little bit of trolling.”
“What an A-hole move.”
“I know, but… you know, I’ve worked through it all. My need for attention and popularity has gone…” He pointed down, “Down the drain.”
“Good on you.” Madalyn said, “So, listen. I’m sorry about breaking in, I was trying to do something to, like, get over the breakup and also get over this… you know, need to have a plan.”
“Hey, as an OriJoker, the anarchy is way more fun than planning for everything.”
“How… where have you been?”
“Oh, here and there. A lot of homeschooling and stuff. Listen, I’m sure you know me as that kid that made Alan Wade feel like he was going crazy, but I don’t want that to like, be the only thing I’m known for. I’m going to be returning to Kane at the start of the year, so if we could bury any hatchet—”
“You… weren’t at Kane?” Madalyn was confused. Many nights were spent with Alan talking about how Conrad being there is scary to him. How he feels like everything was thanks to Conrad.
“No.” He said.
“Listen, I don’t want this break in to be, like… pointless. For a while, I dated Alan, and he, like… hated you. We don’t date anymore, but like, do you think you can go over to his house tomorrow, get beaten up by him, and we could all have a nice close to the summer? I want to watch it.”
“It doesn’t sound very nice to me.”
“I’ll pay you.”
Without a single hesitation, Conrad nodded, “Yeah, sure. That sounds awesome. Can you guys get out of my house, now?”
“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow.” As she exited the closet, she reached over and grabbed a watch sitting on his desk, “You’ll get this back after the fight.”
Conrad stared at her, sighing under his breath, “Sounds good…”
She silently closed the door behind her, walking down the steps. She opened the pantry, coming face-to-face with Mary, who was stuffing her face with strawberry pop-tarts. “Let’s go. We got something to see tomorrow.”
“Really?” She whispered back.
“Yeah. It’ll be awesome.” Madalyn said. Jessica slowly crawled out from underneath the tablecloth. She wrapped her hand around Mary’s waist, and they all left Conrad’s home, slowly closing the sliding door.
One last scheme, but it failed… kind of. Madalyn looked at Conrad’s watch, and she looked up at Mary, who did not smack it away. Rather, she smiled.
“See, no plan, and it all went well.”
“This is his house now, huh?” Conrad asked, looking at the small house that Alan Wade resided in. Madalyn stood next to him, looking at the place that she had helped Alan move into, the place that she had visited many times over a few months of dating. Over a year now, and they’re strangers, but… he’s back.
“It’s so… small. Like, insanely small. You know, he’d have these parties at his huge mansion, and everything was so large and grand, but this is so… tiny.” Conrad sighed, looking so disappointed at this home. “So, what do I do? Did anyone bring flowers? How should I knock? Three raps or two? One loud slam on the door?”
Madalyn sighed, looking at Jessica and Mary, scared that maybe this would be a boring end to the summer. “Just… ring the doorbell, man.”
Conrad awkwardly climbed the steps. He stood there, wearing his purple flower-printed shirt and his green pants. He moved his fingers around, and he slowly rang the doorbell.
Inside the house, Conrad could hear “Who is it?” before a groan, and a slow walk to the door. Alan opened the door, staring at Conrad Mordecai. The guy wore a dirty white shirt, his hair looking all greasy and dirty.
“Alan Wade.” Conrad said. Alan stared at him at first, and then looked past him, staring at Madalyn, Mary, and Jessica. The Kane High Sirens.
“Did… Madalyn put you up to this?” He asked.
“Alan, she told me on the drive that she hasn’t heard from you in about a year. She thinks that the best thing to end her summer is to, well, let you beat me up. That’s just plain silly, you know?” Alan’s eyebrows furrowed, and he stared at Conrad. He didn’t have much to say, “I’ve thought about this all night. You know, I slept in my little footie pajamas, and I thought all about it. I don’t actually want to throw any blows or anything. I think… we should just go inside and have a chat.”
Alan nodded his head, and stepped back, allowing Conrad into the house. He looked up and down, thinking about how different and less opulent of a lifestyle Alan was living.
“I’m sorry about the mess.” Alan started as we climbed up the steps, “Danny cleans the place, but I was homeschooled for a minute, and then I wasa way for a while at Wheeler, you know, New York? Have you ever been there?”
“It was fun until the pandemic hit. But, you know… we’re back, everything has been blown over. I won’t be coming back to Kane, though.”
“Actually… let’s have a chat about that.” Conrad said. They climbed up the steps, and they both took seats in front of a fireplace. “Listen, I was told you stopped the whole Batfold schtick—”
“Cut the crap, Conrad. Tell me what you’re doing here.” His voice suddenly became stern, less hazy and faded because of it.
“Fine… I will.” Conrad finally said, starting to explain, “Alan have you ever had a really bad day?”
“I’ve had a bad year and a half.” He said, “I made some friends, but it’s been a really, really bad year and a half.”
“Right, well, I was going through a lot in my Freshman and Sophomore year. Dad was busy all the time, and Mom left for Mexico, so suddenly things went from normal to… no longer normal. It was a constant thing every day at Kane to be bullied, to be dragged and just… sloshed through the mud. It was one bad thing after another. There was this group, I forget the name, but they were trying to ruin my dad’s job and they used me and the people bullying me to get to him. My dad would ramble about them, that these ‘origami owls’ put things in their office, threatened to take him away from me, and sent my mother off. I didn’t believe it. But I kept getting bullied, I kept getting hurt, and I just wanted this attention, man. Despite this ‘Origami Owls’ thing, me and Dad got really close… especially after my attention grab and, well, you beating me up. My therapist talked about this with me, how I was told that I struggled with not being in the spotlight. So, I made this wild idea, this wild tale, and I was planning on giving you the bad craps, actually. Lily-of-the-Valley just makes people puke. You know, in each life, sometimes things fall into place. Sometimes the cubes just go into the ice tea in just the right fashion for some lame punchline, and so I gave the crappy joke of ‘Oh, I killed your parents!’ Which got me placed into a mental hospital for a time. I’m sorry. I’m super sorry about it. The more I think about it, the more I see myself deserving of what happened to me. The beatdown, the send-off… yeah. I deserved it. I went to therapy, I stayed in a hospital, they found nothing wrong with me except a bad sense of style and a need for attention, a need for friends. I could get my dad to send the records, if you want.”
“I don’t need them.” He said. Alan wouldn’t look at Conrad, but Conrad could see the teardrops falling on the carpeted floor.
“I gave a joke that… led to this. I don’t know what happened in between- in fact, I don’t know if I want to. But I’m going to just tell you this, and then I’ll say you beat the pulp out of me.” He unbuttoned his shirt, showing the six ketchup packets beneath. “I’ll just pop these and say you beat me so hard that I bled.” Alan started laughing, a strained giggle through the tears.
“No, I like being honest nowadays. Not being honest have gotten me in trouble in the past.”
“Same.” Conrad confessed, “Anyways, I’ll leave you with this: Kane needs you. Madalyn seems like she misses you. But Kane… Kane misses you more. It needs a batfold. The people I know on the inside — they feel like something is coming soon. Something bad. It needs you. It needs a Batfold.”
“I’m sorry.” Alan said, “But I don’t do puppet heroics anymore. I tried it at Wheeler, but we agreed it wasn’t for me. I’d need a plan, I’d need to think of how to do a return—”
“Oh, come on. No you don’t. Just bring the puppet and act like nothing happened. They need a Batfold.” Alan was suddenly struck with inspiration. At first, he looked down at the floor, deep in thought. His eyebrows furrowed. And then he got up and beckoned Conrad to follow. Conrad walked with him into the basement. He opened a drawer and pulled out a puppet.
“This was my newest design, it was a WIP, but I made it before I quit… there was this incident that, well, I think your dad and I can get along with.” His design of Batfold had a golden rim around the symbol, full of gritted teeth. Alan placed it on his finger. Then, he opened up a binder, flipping through various pages of temporary puppets, and he took out the earliest design: a classic Batfold design, with a yellow circular symbol, and it had light crumples and tears in certain areas. Conrad watched as Alan desecrated the puppet, adding white marker to the face, and a wide Joker smile. He gave it to Conrad, who stared at the finger puppet with confusion.
“If I’m going to come back to Kane, I’ll need someone to help me. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of people, but one more person wouldn’t be that bad. Will you be the Batfold Who Laughs?”
Conrad chuckled, putting the puppet on his finger. “Sure.” He said. They then went back upstairs, and, before they exited the house, Alan looked at him.
“Wait, I got a few questions.” He said, “Were you around when Novick opened?”
“No? I was offered to come back, but I refused.”
“Well, it’s long gone. So, nevermind. That just doesn’t make sense. Back then, when I revealed myself as Batfold, someone in the stands was laughing. I figured it was you.”
“I don’t really know what you’re talking about…”
“When Neil Swift was, you know, trying to take down the Justice Pleats,” Conrad did not know about this, “There were all these articles written under a guy named ‘Oberon.’ Neil was all like ‘Oh, you know who it is.’ That was you, right?”
“I don’t know anything about computers, bro. Or a Neil Swift. When was that?”
“December of our Sophomore Year.”
“I was in a mental hospital during that time. I would get out at the end of December. Missed a whole Christmas, and we couldn’t have unrestricted online access.” Alan’s face dropped further. The puzzle pieces weren’t falling into place.
“But what about the kids that beat up Richy?” He thought to himself, “One of them had a Joker puppet?”
“I’m telling you, man. That was not me. Dad took me on an extended vacation to Miami. I’ve been gone.”
“Then… there has to be a copycat. Maybe more. This is…” Alan was shaking his head, “This makes no sense.”
“We’ll figure that out when we go back to school. For now, let’s enjoy the last day of summer.” Conrad said, swinging open the door. Mary, Jessica, and Madalyn all looked somewhat disappointed to not see any scars or anything. Mary even started walking to the car. But… Madalyn ran up to Alan, wrapping him in a hug.
“I’ve learned to have fun.” She said, “So, do you want to… you know, try this again? Try seeing if we can have fun together?”
Alan smiled, deep down, this was something he had wanted for, well, forever. Someone that cared about him; and he had that, he just couldn’t see it. Madalyn saw it in his face, and she didn’t even need to hear the words. They went back into their hug.
“I don’t know what you did,” Mary said to Conrad, her hand interlocked with Jessica’s, “But you did it.” She handed Conrad the watch, and Conrad looked at the clown’s hands.
“Well… I was serious for once. That might’ve done it.”