Happy Halloween everyone! Because it's Halloween, because I've been neglecting posting here, and becuase I was planning to post a ghost story which probably won't be finished until Christmas, I have a fun treat for you! It's something I never intended to see the light of day (or the criticism of the internet). I mentioned on Twitter that I finished a 5,000 word Hamburglar fan fiction the day of women boycott Twitter. I totally wasn't joking, and here it is for you now.
My goal was to fit every McDonaldland character and as much of the landscape as I could into a Noir story. It wasn't easy because there A LOT of characters including an alian and a monster named Denise. I've decided to include my Dad's review as a warning.
"I have to admit, the first time through I wasn't onboard with this, but the second time I came around. It's not funny, but it's high concept, and of course the concept it funny. It's like Sin City meets a McDonald's commercial while on acid."-My Dad.
Yes my Dad read my Hamburglar fan fiction. Twice. So, I guess the question is: are you as cool as my Dad?
“Here we are now, no going back boys. Are you sure you want me to open this suitcase? Because once I do you’ll never see this town or anyone in it the same, ever again. Life is full of stories. There’s really no such thing as truth, only your truth. Please believe me when I tell you, you don’t want to know your truth. You’re better off not knowing.” The ghoulish speech was made even more so by the dim light of the street lamp under which Denise gave it.
“Open the fucking suitcase Denise,” The Captain said. He wasn’t one for anticipation. It was probably the pirate in him. Denise popped open the suitcase and produced a manila envelope and held it out, pointedly to me and not The Captain.
“This is for you, Ron,” she snarled. “You’re the only reason I’m not hightailing it out of McDonaldland right now.” She softened as she let go the envelope, a burden obviously lifted from her shoulders. “I thought you deserved to know.” I started to open it and she quickly stopped me.
“Not here,” she whispered, “too public.” It gave me flashbacks to when we dated. Denise wasn’t much of a looker but she had a good heart. Our time together was brief but sweet. I nodded solemnly trying to match her paranoid tone. She leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. “Goodbye Ron.” Shooting a glance between the Captain and I she added, “and good luck!” Before fading into the shadows.
“That’s one crazy bird.” The Captain laughed. “What do you think she was going on about?”
I frowned, troubled. “I’m not sure. Denise was never the dramatic type. If something’s got her this concerned it must be pretty serious.”
“So what is she bothering you for? You’re not a cop anymore.”
I snorted. “Only because my last name isn’t McCheese. I’m still the best damn cop in this city, badge or none and whatever Denise needs help with, I’ll help her.”
“Denise doesn’t need help with shit. She’s hightailing it out of town. Let’s go have a drink.”
The Captain had a good point. Whatever was going on with Denise could wait until we’d knocked back a few pints at our favorite McDonaldland haunt, Uncle O’Grimacy’s pub, a bar just a few blocks from the shady part of town, where Denise had asked to meet me. We started toward our destination along the dimly lit sidewalk.
Missing children posters were illuminated under almost every other lamppost. They had been disappearing from the hamburger patch on a monthly basis for a while now. One or two never budding was typical, but this was fully formed hamburger kids disappearing from the patch.
“Damn the MPD is shit since you got kicked off the force,” The Captain commented.
“To be fair they were shit when I was on it,” I replied. The bar was empty when we got there, a few underage fry kids, a stray McNugget or two, O’Grimacy’s nephew Grimace, the town drunk, and old man O’Grimacy himself behind the bar like always. He greeted us like the long lost soon to be drunken sons he never had and we knocked back a few in quick succession. Feeling the call of nature I headed to a bathroom stall and pulled out the envelope. I was suddenly reminded there was a half-full pack and cigarettes and a light in my front jacket pocket and I went ahead and lit up before opening the envelope.
I have to admit I was both curious and nervous as I slid the contents into my hand. I had expected documents, something incriminating, maybe against Mayor McCheese, but all that came out was a single black and white photograph. I planted my cigarette firmly between my lips and lifted the photo to the light for examination.
It was a teenager, tall and lanky in a worn peacoat. He squinted into the camera like he was angry or confused. He looked familiar. Suddenly it hit me, so hard that my jaw literally dropped. My cigarette fell onto my chest and quickly burnt my shirt. “Shit!” I screamed, swatting it into the toilet where it sizzled out of existence.
I looked at the photo one more time to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. It was my little brother, Donnie. I stumbled out of the bathroom disoriented, clutching the picture in my hand. I flopped down next to The Captain and called for another beer.
“You okay?” The Captain asked without preamble.
“The…the envelope I stammered.” Unsure what else to say I slid the picture onto the bar.
“Oh, damn you got a secret kid!” The Captain gasped.
“No, what? How? I’m 24 you think I had a kid when I was ten?”
“Who is he then? Looks just like you but taller.” My beer arrived and I downed in one long swig.
“It’s my little brother, Donnie.” I replied.
“Donnie?” The Captain gasped. “I thought you said he died when you were 11.”
Donnie’s disappearance was the talk of the town and the downfall of my family. He used to sneak out at night when we were kids. I never knew why and I never cared to join him. He had his own friends, our next-door neighbor, Big Mac McCheese, younger brother of our current mayor and future thief of my job, and a girl called Birdie. She was strange and a bit quiet. Always kept her hair in pigtails and had a far off look in her eyes.
Birdie lived on the outskirts of town near the hamburger patches with her father The Professor. They used to play in the patches a lot as children. I supposed that was where they went when Donnie snuck out at night. Playing flashlight tag among the growing baby hamburgers. I assumed it was all innocent fun, until the night Donnie never climbed back in the window.
It was winter, and they found a hole in Phil A. O’Fish’s frozen lake near a tree my brother was known to climb. The assumption was that he had climbed out too far and the branch snapped. Big Mac and Birdie both swore they weren’t with him that night, but I think they were. I think they left him for dead, but what were they going to do? They were children and that lake would have swallowed Donnie up quicker than they could even scream for help.
When the ice melted they drug the lake but his body was never recovered. My parents never gave up hope the he was still alive; they left the light on for him every night until they died, far too young. They say stress gives you cancer, I guess my parents are proof. Now it’s just me and The Captain, and this cold bar, and a black and white photograph that says Donnie never died. He went somewhere and lived at least into his teenage years, but where did he go? And where was he now?
I stood and shoved the picture deep into my pocket. “Where are you going?” The Captain asked.
“I’ve got to talk to Big Mac McCheese,” I said.
“The Mayor's brother! Don’t go messing with Big Mac Donnie, you know he hates you.” He reached out and grabbed my arm, I knocked his hand away.
“He was Donnie’s best friend,” I growled. “I know they were together the night he died. I need answers. I always figured Big Mac and Birdie wouldn’t talk because they were ashamed they couldn’t save him. What if they were afraid of someone? What if someone took him and I never even looked for him. I became a cop and I never even thought about it. I just wanted to prevent deaths like his. Stupid, reckless kids, dying for no reason like my stupid little brother Donnie.”
I sunk back down onto the barstool, tears gathering in my eyes. The Captain patted me tentatively. “You don’t know that’s him man. Maybe it’s a long lost cousin or something.” But I did know and I was determined to talk to Big Mac.
McCheese manor was a lonely dilapidated building. The McCheese’s had fallen from grace a few decades ago. Their grandfather lost all the family money gambling, or so town legend said. They were on the upswing now though, with their young sons running the town. You could see The Mayor had commissioned some work for the exterior, there were scaffoldings and ladders cluttered around the outside.
It was late but I was a bit drunk, and unwilling to wait for answers. I knocked on the door. The Mayor himself answered, still dressed in his work uniform a fuchsia overcoat, the stash that declared his title, and a top hat with a yellow silk band around it. A pair of reading classes were perpetually clutched in his right hand, designed to make him look smart. He was a perpetually nervous man and my appearance on his doorstep at such a late hour had done nothing for his constitution.
“Ron McDonald, this is unexpected, and at such a late hour” he declared.
“I need to speak to your brother,” I replied without preamble.
“He’s not home.”
“Bullshit.” I pushed past the mayor into the decaying parlor.
“Big Mac! Get your fat cheesy head down here.” Big Mac appeared at the top of the stairs in a bathrobe.
“What are you doing here McDonald?” He snarled. I bounded up the stairs and shoved the picture in his face.
“This picture came across my path today. That’s my little brother Donnie, all grown up. I need to know about the night he died. You two were always sneaking out together, you and The Professor's daughter. I know you were with him. I never blamed you before but if he’s been alive all these years…” I realized the next words would be some kind of threat and that was never a good way to get a canary to sing.
A dead look crossed Big Macs face and he took two steps closer to me, although we were already in close quarters on the staircase. Hovering next to my ear he whispered, “Whoever gave you this picture Ronnie, you think they’re doing you a favor but they’re not. These questions are bad for your health.” He stepped back and loudly pronounced, “I told the police then and I’ll tell you know Ron. Your brother was alone. It was a tragedy. Now it’s late and you’re drunk. Get out of our house.”
“What do you know that you’re not telling me McCheese?”
“I said get out!” He grabbed me by the back of my shirt and hauled me out onto the porch. Reluctantly, I was forced to admit that I had possibly not approached this case in the most professional of fashions. I blame it partly on the fact that I was no longer a professional in my chosen profession, and partially out of the sheer shock to my system.
It was like someone had told me the sky was green and it turned out to be true. The fundamental elements of the universe were no longer arranged in the correct order. The dead were walking. Or at least had been walking. Part of me wondered if I even wanted Donnie to turn up alive. What would I say to him after 13 years? Nothing but an apology seemed appropriate.
Whatever I ended up saying, I wasn’t going to fail him now. I was at least going to ask the question. I don’t care what Big Mac said. I wasn’t going to stop asking questions. Not now, not ever again until I got a solid answer on what happened to my little brother.
Three months past. I went looking for Denise but she had kept her word and skipped town, but why? Denise was sturdy woman. What could make her tuck her tail and run like that? The disappearances at the hamburger patch got worse. More and more kids seemed to go missing every day and I started to wonder if maybe Donnie was the first in the long line of kidnappings that was plaguing our town. Big Mac still refused to talk to me. The cop who had worked the case at the time was dead.
I tried asking people around town who had been there since the old days but all I got was the same story over and over again. It was an accident. In fact there was so little gossip it was almost suspicious. In a small town there’s always some salacious rumor, some vicious take on even the most mundane actions. A pastor nods too enthusiastically at parishioner and the gossip mill starts whirring. How could the disappearance of the son of a prominent family, hell the family the town was named after, have not one dark notion attached to it? Something stank like O’Grimacy’s garbage on fish stick Friday.
I figured maybe people just didn’t want to tell me unflattering things about my own family so I sent The Captain to ask around for me. He was the only one who turned up anything even remotely useful.
“I think you're looking at this the wrong way,” he said. “I decided to come at it from a different angle. You’re focused on something that happened over a decade ago. I’m thinking about right now. Where did Denise get the picture? What was she doing right before she left town? And that yielded some interesting information.” I nodded for him to continue. “She was working for The Professor.”
“Birdie's Dad. That is interesting,” I replied.
“He lives alone in that big creepy house on the outskirts of town. People say he does strange experiments at all hours of the night. I’m surprised no one’s questioned him about this business yet.”
“Me too now that you say it. Let’s head over there and shake some trees, see what falls out.”
The Captain shook his head. “This is your thing. I’m not messing around with that spooky old man. You’re libel to end up in a world of pain. I wish you would just forget about this Ron.”
I shook my head in disgust. “Forget my brother?”
“You did for 13 years.”
“You son of a bitch!” I lunged at him and O’Grimacy hollered at both of us to cut it out. I let him go reluctantly, storming out the front door, leaving him with the bill. In the end I knew he was just worried about me but I sure as hell was going to make him pay for my drink if he was going to be a dick.
I headed to the Professor's house, determined not to make the same mistake I made with Big Mac and barge in like a hothead. The Professor's house was the mirror image of McCheese Manor. It was just as big, ancient, and imposing, but immaculately maintained with not so much as a single fallen leaf in the yard, even though it was autumn and the wind was whipping through the Milk Shake mountains and tearing through the town that night.
I knocked and did my best to make myself look as non threatening as possible, shoving my hands deep in my pockets, and slouching my shoulders in the posture of a nervous teenager. “Ronald. Of course, you’ve come at the worst possible moment. I was expecting you much sooner,” he said and simply wandered away from the door leaving it ajar. It was the warmest or least unusual greeting I had ever received but I needed answers so I followed the old man into the house.
He had wandered into the living room where he leaned against the mantle of the fireplace, a drink in one hand and a distant look on his face as he starred into the lit fire. Unlike the outside of the house the living room was in an absolute shambles. Two easy chairs were overturned, the upholstery shredded, pillowy white stuffing leaking onto the carpet. An upended end table gave way to the shattered remains of a ceramic lamp base scattered at the edge of a floral patterned love seat, one of the few things still in tact.
“Do you have something for me Ronald?” The Professor asked.
I reached, uncertainly into my pocket and pulled out the picture. “Just a question,” I said. “Maybe a few questions. Is your daughter still away at school? I’d like to speak with her too.”
“Birdie,” he smiled. “Birdie's here. I expect you’ll see her very soon. Do, have a seat. I want you to be comfortable.” He motioned toward a flower-patterned loveseat and I moved toward it. “Mind the blood though.”
I paused. That was when I saw the spots on the carpet, a bloody trail leading to and away from the door. “You’re bleeding!” I yelled, rushing to his side. He motioned very calmly for me to stop.
“Yes. He got me.” A grim red rose began to bloom on the pristine white lab coat he always wore. “Right on the ribs bloody bastered. Worse than ever before, I think.” He made intense eye contact with me, trying to convey something in his eyes but I couldn’t tell what. Guilt, or regret? Pain maybe. “I thought I was doing the right thing Ronald. I thought I could help your family. The loss of a child is unbearable.”
“What did you do?”
“When Birdie and Big Mac brought the boy he was already blue. Nothing could have saved him but just a few weeks before I had been standing on the edge of the hamburger patch when a bright light appeared in the sky. It got closer and closer until is was right ontop of me. For a moment I was completely blinded by the light, and then a being appeared. It said it’s name was Cosmc and it was on a galactic trading mission. It wanted something from me right away. I had nothing to give it and it seemed rather in a hurry, so I’m ashamed to say…I picked a hamburger plant and gave it to it.
It seemed satiated, and in return it gave me a device. It said the device would solve the first problem that must be solved for humanities progress. I didn’t know what that meant until I saw the boy. I acted out of desperation. I brought him back to life, but I didn’t consider that he might come back…wrong.
I thought if I kept him I could cure him. I raised him like a son, a son who I had to watch very closely. I thought we were making progress. Right around the time that picture was taken I started letting him out of the house again. Just into the backyard for short stints. He was just tricking me though, he never got any better at all. He always had such influence over the children, even before he died but after. I’ve never seen anything like it. He owns them. They eat the hamburgers Ron. They think it gives them power. They think they have some kind of nutritional value but they don’t! There’s no nutritional value at all!” The Professor trailed off suddenly and grabbed his side. The blood had spread quiet far down his coat. I helped him to the love seat. The poor man, he had plainly gone insane.
Footsteps behind me signaled another person entering the room. “That’s enough father.” An even voice announced. I turned to see Birdie, now in her early twenties. There was something wild in her eyes that made me pause.
“I think you’re father’s been injured,” I said.
“Leave him to bleed,” Birdie replied, each letter dripping with ice. “Come with me.”
“To meet your brother of course. He’ll want to meet you before he kills you. He’s formal like that.”
Everyone in this house of horrors was clearly mad as a hatter. The rest of the place was as destroyed as the front parlor. I had to assume that the Professor had lost his mind years ago and taken my brother, perhaps thinking that something really was wrong with him. Birdie was sharing in some kind of Folie a Deux with her father, his delusions had become her own throughout the years. But what lay waiting for me at the end of the basement steps I was following her down? And if they had kept Donnie alive, what would he be like after over a decade in captivity?
The answer waited for me at the end of a cement corridor. The Professor seemed to have made a functioning laboratory of immense size underneath the house. Gray cement walls and florescent light ornamented the hallways and heavy metal doors marked the entrance to as many as twenty rooms.
At the end of the hall was a different kind of door, solid oak and elegant looking. Birdie opened the door and motioned for me to go through. As soon as I crossed the threshold the door slammed behind me. It was an office with plush green carpeting, bookshelves lining the walls and a high backed leather chair that was turned away from me. I approached the chair cautiously. A clock somewhere in the room ticked away the seconds.
“I’ve thought a long time about what I would say when you finally came for me.” The chair spun and there he was, an adult man now, but my god it could only be him. He was the spitting image of our father, of me. It was like looking in a fun house mirror that made me taller and better looking, and damn I suddenly remembered how Donnie always made me feel inferior even though I was the older brother.
“Donnie…I…I can’t believe it’s really you.” I moved rapidly to the desk.
“You look relived?”
“I am! I’m shocked but I couldn’t even imagine I would ever see you alive again.”
“Not surprising, since you’re the one who killed me.”
I backed away. “What are you talking about?”
“Did you think I wouldn’t remember, big brother,” he spit the words at me. “I was changed when the professor brought me back but the image of you chasing me up that tree tormenting me as you always did. I realize now that you were jealous of my friends, my charisma. That’s why you beat me whenever Mother and Father weren’t looking.
You shook the branch to frighten me when I went out further than you dared. When it broke you landed on the shore and I hit the lake. You ran when you saw what you had done, but my friends were there for me, and they still are.”
As he said it, long repressed images and feelings flooded my mind, the cold of the winter evening the sound of the ice cracking. I hadn’t wanted to remember, if you lie to yourself long enough you’ll believe your owns lies. After 13 years I had convinced myself that I was snuggled safely in my bed the night Donnie disappeared, now I recalled that wasn’t true at all.
“You took my life and I’m going to take back what I’m owed. I thought I would have more to say to you but, I’m an unkillable god-thing and you’re still so mortal. Why would a lion speak with to an ant. Fuck off pretty much sums it up.” He lifted a phone on his desk pressed a button. Birdie, Big Mac, Mayor McCheese, and Grimace all crowded into the room. Big Mac and Grimace each grabbed one of my arms.
“I tried to warn you,” Big Mac whispered.
“I think we need someone a little stronger to hold him, come on in my friend, don’t be shy.” My heart dropped as The Captain appeared in the doorway. “The newest acquisition to our little club,” my brother announced. “A man with a voracious appetite. The Captain looked ashamed. “Get his legs,” he sure moved quickly when my brother called though. With the Captain on my legs and a man on each arm I was completely and hopelessly trapped, although the fight was pretty much drained out of me anyway. I didn’t bother to resist.
“Bring in the old man,” my brother commanded. Birdie disappeared for a moment and returned with the Professor. He had a syringe in his hand. The world became fuzzy, I wondered if this would kill me but it seemed too kind a death from the insane man before me. My brothers face swam in front of me.
“Don’t worry big brother. You won’t feel a thing, and when you wake up you’ll be part of the happy meal gang. The toughest bunch of motherfuckers in McDonaldland.”
He was right, whatever they did to my brain didn’t hurt. I woke up tied to a chair wearing a black and white striped outfit like a convict in an old movie. There was dried blood dripping from my nose. It covered the bottom half of my face and stained the front of my shirt.
Birdie was leaned against the wall in the corner of the room. “He’s awake,” she called as my eyes fluttered open.
The room's heavy metal door swung open and my brother entered. “Good morning little brother,” he said. I didn’t respond. “How are you feeling?” I couldn’t respond. He knelt down beside me and patted my shoulder. “Exactly as I’d hoped,” he said. “I hope you like this cell brother. It’ll be your home from now on. It’s the same one where I spent the last 13 years or so, on and off. Birdie and Big Mac snuck me out when we could. We’d go to the hamburger patches and feast in the moonlight.
We’ll have to let you out sometimes of course, let the townspeople see what you’ve become, so they can fear you. Don’t worry their mayor will keep them safe, and the brave law enforcement officer that protects their town. Oh, and I can't I forget the first son of McDonaldland, entrepreneur and man about town Ronald McDonald.”
He saw the confusion in my eyes and responded. “You see bringing Donnie McDonald back from the dead would be far too complicated, and might impede the work of some of my closest friends and colleagues. Donnie McDonald is long dead but Ronald McDonald, a quiet man who kept himself secluded but for a few close friends, why if he were to go away from a few months and return a changed man. Almost as if he had a whole new personality, he even seems a bit taller with all that confidence.
You think someone will notice but let me ask you, does anyone really give enough of a shit about you to care? Or do they pass you everyday like a ghost on the wind. You made yourself invisible Ron, and that’s terribly convenient for me. So, I’ll be you but who will you be?” He paced back and fourth in a cruel mockery of consideration. “Ah, I know. You’ll be my villain.”
We’ll need an excuse for why the children continue to disappear. Even as we add more hamburger patches to make up for the losses our resources continue to be depleted. A insane man, cloaked in mystery.”
“We should make him wear a cloak,” Birdie giggled.
“Yes, yes, maybe we should, and a little tie with hamburgers all over it.” The two of them threw their heads back in laughter. I started to struggle against my restraints in anger.
“Oh, you think you can break free, how cute, even if you could what would you do? Tell the world who you really are. Tell me Ronald, tell me your name.”
My brain wasn’t working right, thoughts, ideas, words, they were all running together in a big pile. I opened my mouth. “R…ro..ble. Ro…ble.”
“What was that?” My brother laughed.
“I’m Ronald McDonald now, and we’ll call you…something menacing but on the nose for our purposes, I know, The Hamburglar!”