Helpful Hacksaw Hank
Helpful Hacksaw Hank
Hank burst into the office in the middle of Fendrich's lecture and shouted, "You're all invited to my birthday party!"
The rest of the crooks jumped and spun to face him. Fendrich stared at him with his mouth hanging open. Only Tippy seemed unaffected; he closed the door behind Hank and continued tapping on his phone.
After the surprise wore off, Vito rolled his eyes. "Aren't you a lil' old for a party?"
Fendrich collected himself. "Aren't you a little late to be interrupting my meeting?!"
Hank flashed a sheepish smile. "Sorry, boss," he said. "It's gonna be a great party, though! Betty, Frankie, you're coming, right?"
Betty beamed at him. "Of course!"
"I'm already working on your gift," said Frankie.
"Can we get back to me telling you what to do?" Fendrich said loudly. Everyone ignored him.
Clara raised an eyebrow. "Well, if you're inviting everyone, I might as well come. Will there be pizza?"
"Yeah, of course!" Hank turned to Tippy. "What about you?" he asked.
Tippy blinked. "I'm invited?" he said in surprise.
"Yeah! You're like, practically a brother to me–"
"Don't like what that implies," Fendrich said.
"–so of course you're invited! It's happening this Saturday, even though my actual birthday's a few days later. You know where I live, right?"
Tippy hissed air through his teeth. "My apologies, Hacksaw, but I'm unable to attend."
Hank's face fell. "Aw, really? Why not?"
"I have a prior obligation that day." Tippy smiled at him. "I'll be sure to get you something for a belated celebration, though."
That got everyone's attention. At best, Tippy tolerated Hank, and it was unheard of for him to get him anything for his birthday other than maybe the gift of his presence. Despite Fendrich's protests, the crooks crowded around Tippy and Hank.
"What kind of obligation?" Clara asked.
"Looks like he's looking forward to it," Frankie said. "See? He's blushing!"
Tippy covered his smile with a gloved hand. "That's enough of that," he said. "If you must know, I agreed to spend an afternoon with a good friend of mine."
Vito raised an eyebrow. "So, a date?"
"I wouldn't go that far…"
"Yeah, it's a date," Clara said, putting her phone back in her pocket. "His 'good friend' has been posting about it nonstop on social media. So, Harl Hubbs, huh?"
The crooks gasped. Tippy's face flushed deeper, though he continued to smile. "He's, ah, that excited, is he?"
He yelped as Hank threw his arms around him. "That's great, Tippy!" Hank exclaimed. "Forget my party, we'll help you out on your date!"
Tippy's smile vanished. "You will not do that," he said, shoving Hank away. "I am perfectly capable of handling my own romantic life, thank you very much."
"You're welcome," said Hank. "So where are you taking him?"
"Enough." Tippy stood up straight. "Stepfather, is there anything else I need to hear?"
"Well," Fendrich said, "I was going to ask you to monitor a heist for me on Saturday, but it's looking like no one's actually interested in their jobs, so–"
"No heist?" Betty said. "Does that mean we can go?"
"I think it does," Vito said. "Thanks, boss, I'll expect to be paid for these hours."
The crooks and Tippy all filed out of the room, leaving Fendrich standing there in disbelief. "You're not getting a birthday bonus!" he shouted out at them. No one responded.
Hank's birthday party started at eleven AM, while according to Harl's social media feed, Tippy's date was two hours later. Hank stared at his phone with a frown while he waited for the invited guests to show up.
Betty arrived first. "Hey, Hacksaw!" she said with a grin, carrying a large wrapped present on her shoulder. "I know I'm early, but I was just so excited to see you! Happy birthday!"
She put down the present and lifted Hank off his feet in a tight hug. "Thanks, Betty!" he squeaked. "Can I open your present now?"
"You don't want to wait for everyone else to get here?"
"Aw, alright. Uh, can you put me down? I can't breathe."
Betty released him and let Hank take a few deep breaths. "Okay!" he announced, standing up straight. "Now we just need everyone else to get here, and we can start!"
"Great!" Betty flashed an awkward smile. "So what are we doing, exactly?"
Hank took out a long list. "I had a bunch of stuff planned," he said, "but we're not doing any of it." He crumpled it up and threw it at the trashcan. He missed. "We're gonna help Tippy on his date!"
"Really?" Betty said. "It didn't feel like he wanted any help."
"Yeah, so that's why we're gonna do it in secret, so he doesn't think he got any help!"
Betty thought about this. "Alright, sounds legit. Does anyone else know?"
"Not yet! I'm waiting for them to get here!"
"Cool! Do you have any snacks?"
The pizza wasn't there yet, but Hank got out a few giant bags of chips, and he and Betty shared one while playing a board game. "I don't think Octo-Monopoly works with two players," Betty remarked twenty minutes into the game. "Do you think we should pull out regular Monopoly?"
Someone knocked on the door. Hank jumped out of his seat. "That must be more guests! C'mon!"
When he opened the door, Frankie beamed at him, accompanied by Vito, who frowned, and Clara, who was tapping on her phone. "Happy birthday, Hacksaw!" Frankie said. "Sorry I couldn't wrap your gift, but…"
Hank gasped as Frankie presented the painting. "Wow!" he said, taking it and holding it up. "A painting of a hacksaw! Thanks, Frankie, it looks great!"
"So what's there to eat?" Clara said without looking up. "Did someone order pizza yet?"
Hank rushed to the landline to order pizza, while Frankie, Vito, and Clara sat at the table with Betty. "Octo-Monopoly, huh?" Vito said. "Don't think we're gonna get eight people."
Betty cracked a smile. "Well, at least we have more than two! 'Sides, Hank has an idea for what to do after pizza."
"Yeah!" Hank shouted, then spoke into the phone. "Sorry, I was talking to my friends!"
Once pizza was ordered, they gathered around the eight-sided Monopoly board. Hank slammed his hands on the table just as Vito reached for the bank. "Here's the plan!" he said loudly. "We're gonna help Tippy on his date!"
Vito chuckled. "Good joke," he said. "So we're gonna crash it?"
"What? No! We're actually going to help him."
Frankie frowned. "Are you sure?" he said. "Did Tippy ask for any help?"
"He won't even know we're there!"
"That sounds like a no."
"Cool," Clara said. "I'm in."
Vito glanced at her and raised an eyebrow. "Really? Why?"
"It'd be fun to mess with Tippy." Clara glanced up at Hank's concerned expression. "Just a little bit."
"Uh," said Hank, "okay. What about you guys? Vito, Frankie?"
"Sure," Vito said. "I mean, if everyone else is gonna."
Frankie didn't look convinced. Hank smiled at him. "We could really use you, Frankie," he said. "You have the most dating experience out of any of us, right?"
"Sort of?" Frankie shifted nervously. "I just watch a lot of romance movies."
"Exactly! I just watch the action stuff, and I don't think cool stunts will help much on a date." Hank tilted his head. "Please?"
Frankie looked around the table at the others. "Alright," he said nervously. "I'll do my best."
"Great!" Hank grinned. "After pizza, we'll make a plan and head out!"
"How long is the pizza gonna take?" Vito asked.
Hank didn't have any cash to tip the pizza guy with, so he gave him a piece of jewelry he had stolen from the museum. "Uh," the delivery man said, holding up the necklace, "isn't this worth thousands of dollars, and isn't it also stolen?"
"Probably?" Hank shrugged. "Try Shifty's if you need a place to sell it. Thanks for the pizza!"
He slammed the door and hoisted the stack of pizza boxes above his head. "Let's eat!" he exclaimed, and promptly fell over. Betty caught the pizzas, narrowly avoiding disaster. She did not catch Hank.
Hank bounced back up with a grin. "Thanks, Betty!" he said. "Let's eat!"
Hank started explaining the plan with his mouth full. "Harl posted that they're meeting up at the diner," he said. "I think for lunch? Anyway, Tippy used to be a master criminal, so we should probably make sure no one's trying to bother him in the diner."
"Cool," said Clara. "So we're gonna go to a diner after we just ate?"
"We're not eating, we're going undercover as employees."
Vito raised an eyebrow. "Wouldn't it be easier to just eat and run?"
"Anyway," Hank continued, "we don't need all of us in the diner at once, so Clara, you're gonna keep an eye on Harl's social media, and maybe Tippy's too, but I think his is private?"
"I can get access." Clara looked down at her phone again. "I think I already did, actually, so unless he's moved accounts again…"
"Great!" He turned to Frankie. "Okay, you're gonna be undercover with me and Betty. Vito, you'll be keeping watch outside. When Harl and Tippy leave, we gotta follow."
"Sure, whatever." Vito shrugged. "That definitely doesn't sound like it'll be boring."
Hank checked the time on his phone. "Okay! Half an hour left to eat pizza, and then we gotta get into position! C'mon!"
He shoved a whole slice of pizza into his mouth. Betty rubbed his back and laughed. "Careful not to choke and die," she said. "I'll miss you."
Hank tried to reassure her and promptly inhaled a slice of pepperoni. Betty whacked his back until he coughed it up.
Behind the diner, Hank, Frankie, and Betty put on their disguises and marched to the back door. "Okay," Hank whispered. "Just remember–"
The door opened before they reached it.
"Oh, good," said the older man. "You must be the new hires. Do you have your documents?"
"Uh," said Frankie.
"What documents?" said Betty.
"I don't know what you're talking about," said Hank.
The man looked them over, then sighed. "Look, I'll pay you in cash for today, but you need to fill out the paperwork tomorrow. Just get in here, we're so understaffed it's not even funny."
They shuffled in. The man rubbed his forehead and looked at the clock. "Okay, we have a reservation for two o'clock, not that we accept reservations, but he insisted, so you–" He pointed at Frankie. "–make sure we have at least one clean table in ten minutes. Tall girl–" He turned to Betty. "–you're gonna be in the kitchen today. Do you have any experience cooking?"
"No," said Betty. "I mean, I cook for my sister's family sometimes, but–"
"Good enough. Short guy, you're gonna be a waiter. Get to it."
Hank stood there for about thirty seconds before realizing he was the short guy. "Okay!" he chirped, and darted out into the diner.
There was a single other waitress working in the diner, and after taking a group's orders, she visibly sagged in relief when she saw Hank. "Oh, thank goodness, someone else. Have you been trained?"
Hank flashed a smile. "No, but I'm sure I can pick it up quick!" He paused. "Why are you so short staffed, anyway?"
"Oh, it was a huge controversy, but we're running out of time, so I'm just gonna say plot convenience." She handed him a notepad. "I'll walk you through the first order, then I've got to go on break."
The door chimed. The waitress glanced at them. "Huh, wasn't that guy on the news the other day? I'm way too tired to actually care, but he looks familiar."
Hank looked over and spotted Tippy and Harl. They were laughing about something as they walked in, barely paying attention to their surroundings, which was good, because Tippy would probably recognize him. Harl leaned against Tippy's side, looking up at him with a smile, and promptly stumbled when his weight nearly knocked Tippy over.
"Hello!" the waitress said, catching their attentions. "Table for two?"
Tippy smiled at her. "Yes," he said. "We have a reservation, actually."
"What? We don't do–"
Hank flinched at the distant shout from the kitchen. "Just roll with it!"
The waitress blinked. "Sure, alright. Here, new guy, show them to a table."
Tippy locked eyes with Hank and his smile vanished. "Hank," he said, his voice cold. "What are you doing here?"
"I work here!" Hank said brightly.
"Oh," said Harl. "Hi, Hacksaw! Congrats on the job!"
Tippy didn't comment, though he didn't take his eyes off Hank. He shrank in on himself under Tippy's stern gaze.
The waitress cleared her throat. "This booth just opened," she said, motioning at a freshly-wiped table against the wall. "Will you be fine with them? I know it can be weird to serve someone you know…"
"I'm sure it'll be fine," Tippy said before Hank could speak. "As long as he's not needed elsewhere."
Hank nodded. "Yeah!"
"Good, 'cause I really need to take my break."
The waitress walked with Hank, Harl, and Tippy to the table, gave Hank brief instructions on which other tables needed to be waited, and promptly clocked out and disappeared into the breakroom. Hank stood there with his notepad for a few moments before Betty waved at him from the kitchen. "Hank! What's the plan?"
Hank slipped into the kitchen and lowered his voice. "Honestly, Betty? I didn't actually think we'd get this far."
Frankie popped up out of nowhere. "We're making sure no one bothers Tippy, right?" he said. "I can keep an eye out for anyone who, uh, tries to do that."
"Great! Frankie, you do that. Betty…" Hank shrugged. "I dunno, work extra hard on their food? I don't know what they're gonna order yet."
"Shouldn't you be out there waiter-ing?" Betty asked. "Tippy's not the only one here, and with the other girl on her break, I think we're the only people working."
Hank gulped. Keeping a severely understaffed diner afloat was not part of his plan. "Okay, meeting over!"
He scurried out into the restaurant. Tippy glanced up at his arrival, and kept looking at him while Hank took another guest's order. Hank tried to play it cool; Tippy would be grateful when his date was over and it had gone really, really well, with no complications.
Eventually, he got back to Harl and Tippy. "Hi!" he squeaked. "What do you want to order?"
Tippy raised an eyebrow. "Are you going to ask for our drinks?"
Harl put down his menu. "Actually, I think I'm ready now! Can I get the banana buffalo wings?"
"That's a thing?" Hank said in surprise. "What is it?"
"Banana slices fried in buffalo sauce!"
Tippy made a face. Hank thought fast: he knew Tippy always gave his honest and blunt opinion on things like food and how Hank dressed or what Hank ate or other stuff Hank did, but if he said something mean about the dish Harl ordered, Harl might feel bad.
So before Tippy could open his mouth, Hank said, "Great! I'll get an order in for you both!"
"What?" Tippy said. "Hank, I–"
"Bye!" said Hank, and he ran off.
In the kitchen, he informed Betty of the orders. "Make Tippy's kind of light on the spice," he said. "He can't really eat spicy food, I just got it for him so he wouldn't embarrass himself."
Betty nodded. "You're the Tippy expert," she said. "I think I've got this cook thing down, too. All the recipes are really easy to follow."
"So a few modifications won't be too bad, right?"
"Great!" Hank darted off again. Betty sighed.
"Huh," Tippy said, taking another bite. "This is actually pretty good."
"Really?" said Harl. "Mine are just okay. Can I try yours?"
Hank showed up while they were feeding each other fried banana slices. "I'm back!" he announced. "Can I take your drink orders?"
Tippy inhaled just as Harl was putting the fork in his mouth and started coughing violently. "Oh no!" Harl cried, and he ducked under the table and emerged next to Tippy. "Deep breaths, okay?"
Hank quickly placed a glass of water in front of him. Tippy managed to drink a little bit of it, which helped the coughing. "Thank you," he croaked. "Sorry, Harl."
Harl rubbed Tippy's back. "It's okay!" he said. "I'm glad you didn't choke and die."
"Uh," said Hank, "do you just want water? Or…"
"Oh! I want orange soda."
Tippy took another sip. "Water is fine, Hank."
"Great! I'll get the soda and more water!"
While he was walking back to the kitchen, Hank passed by another table and heard the couple at it whispering.
"Isn't that the man who sabotaged the Mars mission?"
"Ugh, why is Harl hanging out with him?"
Hank frowned, but didn't say anything.
On his way back, he tripped and spilled no less than five of the stickiest soda on the same table. "Oops!" he said unconvincingly while the two people sputtered. "Sorry! I'll be back to clean that up in, um, two to three business days. Bye!"
They paid the bill shortly afterwards and didn't leave a tip.
The rest of the afternoon went smoothly. The other waitress returned from her break and helped Hank out with some of the other tables, which was good, 'cause Hank's feet were getting tired. Tippy and Harl seemed to have forgotten their food and were talking and laughing about something. No one else in the restaurant made any rude comments about Tippy, Betty was doing a great job cooking, Frankie was enjoying whatever he was doing, and Hank felt like Tippy's date was going really well.
Eventually, Tippy asked for the check.
"Okay," Hank said. "Um, I don't know how to run a card yet, so I gotta wait for the other lady to help me."
"I was just gonna pay in cash," Harl said. "I have enough for both of us!"
"Harl, please, I can cover it."
"No way, I asked you out! That means I gotta pay!"
"There's not really a rule about it…"
Harl dug a couple twenties out of his pocket and slapped them on the table. "That should be enough," he said. "Keep the change!"
Tippy sighed. "Before we go," he said, "I need Hank to show me to the bathroom."
He stood up and grabbed Hank's shoulder. "Oh," Hank said while Tippy dragged him away. "I don't actually know where it is? But you're definitely taking me somewhere, so I guess you do! Wait, why do you need me to show you?"
Tippy pulled Hank around a corner, out of view from the tables, and slammed him against the wall. Hank yelped, pressing his back against the wall as Tippy towered over him.
"What are you doing?" Tippy snapped. "I told you I didn't want you interfering. Do you think I'm incapable of handling my own romantic affairs?"
"I just wanted to help!" Hank squeaked.
Tippy glared at him and opened his mouth, only to let out a surprised yelp when Harl bumped into him.
"Oh!" Tippy shook his head, the anger gone from his face. "Harl, I–"
Harl put most of his weight on Tippy, effectively pinning him to the wall as he looked up at the taller man with a smile. "Do you remember what you said when I asked you out?" he said.
Tippy hesitated. "Not very well…"
"You asked why I'd be interested in you," said Harl, "because I could have anyone I wanted. Plenty of other men would want to date the city's hero, right?"
He reached up and stroked Tippy's cheek. "But they wouldn't want to date me," he said. "You did. You know the real me isn't a hero, and you still like me."
Tippy put a hand over the one on his cheek. "I do," he said quietly. "But, Harl, why are you…"
Harl laughed. "I was a little scared by you!" he said. "Not like you'd hurt me, but like I wouldn't be enough for you. You're, like, the best doorman in the city, and you were a super-cool master criminal, too! I didn't think anything I did would impress you."
"Oh, Harl, you don't need to impress me." Tippy smiled. "At least, not more than you already have."
"It's okay, Tippy, I know the real you now!"
Tippy's smile faltered. "And, ah, do you like it?"
Harl nodded. "Uh-huh! You're the best doorman in the city, a former master criminal, and–"
He released Tippy and threw an arm around Hank.
"–you're a goofball who gets teased by his little brother!" Harl said in delight.
Tippy sighed and shook his head, but he was still smiling. "Harl, Hank is not my brother."
"So? Stepbrother, then!"
"Technically," said Hank, "Fendrich isn't my dad, he just gives me a place to stay and an allowance and teaches me all sorts of stuff about being a crook and had his stepson babysit me and–aw, beans!"
Harl grinned. "It's okay, Hank! I bet you have all sorts of stories to share about Tippy, don't you?"
"Oh boy, do I!"
"Not a word out of you, Hank," Tippy said sharply. "I can share my own embarrassing stories, thank you very much."
"Like the time me and you broke into the fundraiser and you thought you would try the 'very fancy' grape juice for the first time?"
Harl giggled and pulled Hank out of Tippy's reach. "Tell me more! I need all sorts of embarrassing details about my boyfriend!"
Betty and Frankie watched as Tippy chased Harl and Hank out of the diner, all three of them laughing. "Wow," Betty said. "Guess he helped him after all?"
"I guess," said Frankie. "And, hey, we work at a diner now."
The shout from their new boss made them both jump. He frowned and pointed at them. "You get back to cooking, and you take over waiting. We're approaching peak hours, and I need every hand on deck!"
"Yes, sir!" Betty and Frankie said in unison, and they rushed back to their places.
"You think we should have heard from them by now?" Vito asked, two alleyways down from the diner.
Clara shrugged and shuffled the deck of cards. "Maybe. I won that game, by the way."
"Aw, I was distracted! Best two out of three?"