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It Takes A Lot of Dough To Make A Big Wheel

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A high whisk situation

 

“Arrr.”

The worst part was that he meant it, Charlie thought sourly. “You should feel bad, Jerry,” he snapped. “Four years of planning! Thousands of dollars worth of equipment! Having to get a DGA card! All down the drain because of--”

There was no way he could finish that sentence. The humiliation, the shame, the chocolate stains on everything...

“We're sorry, boss.” Billy patted him on the shoulder, being careful to keep his hook from digging into deep. “It's just—you get used to hardtack and salt pork, and then someone throws delicious pastries at you, and--”

“Shut up,” Charlie gritted. “Did it never occur to you that had we defeated the Bat and robbed that bank, you could buy all the CupCakes you wanted? Even orange ones?”

“Or fruit pies?” Benny's gold tooth gleamed as he beamed. “Because I was talking to this one guy--”

“That corsair guy with the eyepatch?”

“Yep!” Benny nodded enthusiastically. “And he said they make them in peach!”

“That is not the point,” Charlie snapped. “The point is that you let a nosy crimefighter bribe you with affordable desserts and ruin everything. Everything!”

The pirates exchanged guilty glances, but Charlie knew deep down that it was useless to blame them for everything. He made mistakes too - getting a catering truck that stocked anything other than the most bland of foods for the crew, using a pink bulldozer in broad daylight instead of surreptitiously breaking in the middle of the night.

Hell, even hiring three men with peg legs because how would that getaway have worked?

His father was right. He should have just stayed on the farm and settled down, lived a boring life. But no, he wanted to be a big shot with bright city lights and his name on the hottest pics in the world. He had stars in his eyes that blinded him to the reality of the world – it wasn't power or fame that got you anywhere.

It was dough, plain and simple.

Now he was broke with a criminal record, the world's dumbest minions, and late equipment rental fees to pay off for months. Even if he wanted to go back home, there was no way anymore.

“You think Gotham's going to give you the time of day?” his cellmate had cackled as he left. “If you want anything in this city, you gotta be smart and take it on your own.”

The Clock King was kind of an idiot, but he wasn't wrong. Robbing a bank was too petty. He needed something grander.

“So what do we do next, boss?”

Charlie thought about it. “Well, I got an idea.” He looked at them. “But you gotta promise me that the next time you see cream filling, you look the other way.”

 

Bake them into custardy

 

After a month of constantly getting doors slammed in his face, Charlie wasn't in the best of moods. His pocketbook was also pretty empty, too, and his stomach's rumbling was a constant companion.

But he had to get a break somewhere, right? He was owed one. Big time.

So he put on his best pair of shades, cocked his beret just right, and strutted into the building like he was king of the world, not some two-bit schmuck with ten minutes of grainy footage to his name.

Too bad his friend wasn't some easily impressed rube.

“Look, I can't say I'm not interested,” Marcus said. “But I've turned over a new leaf.” He threw his arms out wide. “So when the Crime Director comes calling--”

Charlie leaned forward, cutting him off. “Oh, that's old news,” he scoffed. “I'm just a director now. No crime involved.”

“Really?” Marcus looked skeptical. “No offense, old friend, but I doubt that. Word on the street is that you've got a new project and you're looking for a crew.”

Charlie shrugged. “It's a movie. Nothing more. And while we're speaking of rumors, I've heard that ever since you got out, your music's tanked. No one's listening to the Muse anymore, not now that his notes are his own.”

“To hell with you!” Marcus slammed his fist against the keys, causing a jangled cacophony. “I'm still a musical genius,” he snarled. “Just because those singers got away, it doesn't mean I can't compose.”

“And that's my point. I need someone to write my score, something that'll draw people in. It's a win-win for us. You get a fresh start, I get someone I trust, and everything works out.”

Marcus looked uncomfortable, but nodded after a few seconds of silence. “I guess,” he said.

Charlie narrowed his eyes. “You don't sound convinced.”

Marcus squirmed in his chair. “The thing is,” and he trailed off, staring down at his fingers. “I don't know how to say this.”

“How long have we known each other?” Charlie tried to smile reassuringly. “Whatever you need to tell me, you can.”

Marcus looked up. “I sort of need something to help me compose,” he mumbled. “It's not a big deal, but it helps me focus, keeps me sharp.”

Charlie sighed. “Fine,” he said. “I don't really have a lot of contacts in that particular area, but I heard some rumors about an up-and-comer in Colombia.”

“Not that!” Marcus practically yelled that. “I don't touch that shit.”

Now it was Charlie's turn to look skeptical. “Right. And I suppose that white powder all over everything is just sugar.”

Marcus looked away shiftily.

Something in Charlie's head clicked.

“Oh, son of a bitch,” Charlie swore. “Are you telling me--”

“You get me the Donettes and you got yourself a deal.”

 

Giving me the crepes

 

“Charlie, buddy, pal, what brings you here?”

Certainly not friendship, Charlie thought. But his lack of funds were still a pressing matter, and now that he had a primadonna composer with a pastry addiction to support, beggars couldn't be choosers.

“You know you owe me.” Charlie tossed the crumpled paper on the table. “Are those your IOUs or not?”

Paulie smiled lopsidedly. “You know me,” he said, scratching his head. “So I think I can probably dig up that record of yours somewhere if you're looking for it.”

“I was thinking more about that ten grand you got when I went to jail.” Charlie picked through the papers until he found the relevant one. “So how about it? You able to get me at least ten percent of it?”

“Yeah, about that.” Paulie scratched his head. “I'm kind of in a whole 'lack of money' situation,” he said. “Barely a dime to my name.”

“You can't be serious.” Charlie stared at him in disbelief. “What about the diamond bracelet? The golden statue? The 250 million?”

“Buddy, you know they took that all away?” Paulie said. “Turns out that leaving a note that says you're just borrowing it without a specified time of return doesn't work in the court systems, even if no one actually objects.”

“You'd think they would.”

“I know, right?” Paulie grinned, then his smile faded. “Well, whatever cash I had left went to my lawyer and my ex-wife and the kids and okay, you probably don't want to hear the rest.”

“Good call.” Charlie sighed, then straightened up. “Wait a sec? They got everything that you borrowed?”

“Well, no.” Paulie leaned back on his sofa and lazily waved his hand over at the closet against the wall. “I got my most valuable things in there. Saving them for a rainy day.”

“And today, it's pouring,” Charlie replied, getting up from his chair and walking over there. “So I'll just take a quarter of it, see what I can pawn, and we'll call it even.”

“Uh, pal, you might want to--”

“Listen, I know you like to skip out on your debts, but you're not skipping out on this one.” Charlie yanked the door open, causing a mountain of bags to cascade to the floor. He picked one up, looked at its label.

Looked at Paulie.

“Not you too.”

Paulie's fingers twitched. “Well, I couldn't let them get their hands on my Twinkies.”

 

Hell hath no fury like a woman sconed

 

“Baby, believe me, I didn't want it to come to this,” Charlie said. He was practically on his knees, which he hoped counted for something. “But I'm desperate.”

“You'd have to be to come to me after everything you pulled.” Mabel sniffed and adjusted her sable, tossing her blonde hair. “What makes you think I won't just throw you out on the streets in the gutter where you belong?”

“Because you're a good woman? Because I'm begging you? Because we used to mean the world to each other and that has to count for something?”

“All it means,” Mabel said evenly, “is that I'll let you walk out instead of crawling like the worm you are. Getting caught like that? It's embarrassing.”

“What about you?” Charlie countered. “I heard the Bat just threw the cakes at you and you grabbed them like they were mink stoles. At least I had the self-control to resist.”

“Have you even tasted a Hostess treat?” Mabel's eyes flashed with anger. “Or is it like that time you promised to take me to Autumn Sonata and then bailed, saying Bergman was too psychodramatic for your tastes? I bet you haven't even seen Scenes from a Marriage.”

“Oh, don't bring your criticism into this,” Charlie said. “I can tell you I've had both a CupCake and Cries and Whispers, and they're both mediocre, highly overrated products.”

“You take that back!” Mabel practically spat at him. “This is precisely the reason we got divorced. Your inability to accept when you're to blame, your judgmental attitude about things other people like, your deep-seated hatred for pastry that stems from your issues with your parents.”

“I knew I shouldn't have dated a shrink. Anyone could see that wouldn't end well,” Charlie muttered. “I guess that means you're not going to help me out.”

“And here I thought you couldn't learn.” Mabel's anger had turned into sardonic amusement. “Here's what I'll do for you, though. I'll put the word out to some of my friends that you're looking for backing. Maybe one of them will be foolish enough to take you up on that offer.”

“Thanks, honey,” Charlie said, tugging his coat into place. “I'm sure you'll be incredibly flattering about me.”

“Only the truth.” There was a knock at the door. Mabel perked up. “Now shoo,” she said, pushing Charlie towards the door. “I have a friend coming over.”

“A friend.” Charlie's voice dripped with sarcasm. “The opposite of me in every respect, no doubt.”

“You could say that.” Mabel opened the door.

Charlie ducked as a mound of feathers brushed past him. “Her? Pigeon Woman?”

The supervillain smiled coolly. “First off, it's Pigeon Person and secondly, I do have an actual name.”

Mabel smiled and ran her fingers along the outstretched wings. “It's all right, Parker. He doesn't matter.” She glanced over at Charlie. “Weren't you leaving?”

He stumbled out, the door closing behind him.

But not before he heard the joyful exclamation of, “Ho Hos! Oh darling, you shouldn't have!”

 

Turnover a new leaf

 

He sat on the park bench.

So that was it, Charlie thought. No money, no film, no way to get his life back.

He might as well take a janitorial gig at the Gotham dog show or see if the corsair needed another henchman. Maybe Jerry would put in a good word for him.

He'd have to let Marcus know that it was over. Not that it really mattered. Marcus was probably passed out in a pile of powder, twitching as the sugar hit his tongue.

“Damn you, Hostess,” he said softly. “All along you were my true nemesis.”

He stared up at the night sky, at the stars that burned for others, but never for him. No, he was meant to be hidden behind the clouds of mediocrity, of other men's dreams.

Tears prickled at the corner of his eyes.

No, I can't cry. I can't show weakness. That's why you always wear sunglasses, so no one can see the pain in your eyes, the loneliness, the longing...

A hand touched his shoulder. He looked down, saw a white cloth.

“That's all right,” he said, trying to push back the lump in his throat. “I'll be fine.”

“It is a beautiful night,” a deep voice said. “Too lovely a moon for a handsome man like yourself to cry at.”

Charlie looked over, forced a welcoming smile on his face. “Oh, I heard you were new in the area,” he said. “I think Catman said you moved in next door to him.”

The Mummy nodded. “I am still getting used to these strange new things. 2000 years and I have so much to catch up on! It is very exciting.”

“Well, your English is perfect,” Charlie said. “And very modern.”

“Thank you,” the Mummy replied gravely, sitting down next to him. “So what brings you such sorrow on this evening?”

“It's just--” Charlie trailed off. Normally, he thought, he wouldn't tell a complete stranger these things, but this shambling monstrosity had something warm about him, a gentle kindness that made him want to confess everything to him and cry on his bandaged shoulder. “Have you ever had a dream you wanted to come true and everything kept stopping you?”

“Yes,” the Mummy said. “But then I realized that my dream wasn't a dream at all, but a curse that held me back, kept me from seeing the two most important things in life.”

Charlie sniffled. “Which are?”

The Mummy held up his other hand, opened it.

“Please no,” Charlie said, his heart sinking. “I can't deal with--”

He put his finger on Charlie's mouth. “I offer you not a CupCake or a Twinkie, for others have told me of your displeasure with them, but something else. “ He offered the spherical object in front of him, as if he was presenting a rare and unique treasure, dug up from tombs from aeons past.

Charlie took it reluctantly, unwrapped it. He looked up, clear trepidation in his eyes.

The Mummy nodded encouragingly.

He bit into it.

And suddenly, it all made sense in a glorious burst of light and glory and a wondrous taste that far surpassed anything he had ever experienced. Charlie lifted his eyes, met the Mummy's with rapture and joy.

“I have been such a fool,” Charlie said.

“Not a fool,” the Mummy said quietly. “You just hadn't met the right one.”

Charlie smiled. “What's your name?” he asked.

“Imhotep.” He took Charlie's hand, let the chocolate bond them together.

“Shall I guess what the other most important thing in life is?” Charlie asked impishly, his heart light and free like the taste of a Sno Ball, still sweet upon his lips.

Imhotep shook his head and grasped Charlie's hand tighter. “No,” he said. “Much like the glories of Hostess, we shall discover it together.”

And truly, they had a big delight.