It is long after the discovery of the archway, long after two worlds light years apart were nearly plunged into war. Long enough to heal, but not long enough to forget.
A beautifully carved wooden statue stands in the Cryptonomica amongst the various cryptozoological paraphernalia and themed souvenirs. It depicts a debatably shady bespectacled gentleman that seems to carry himself with purpose. On his face sits a well-rehearsed and hearty smile guarded and flanked by a full beard and mustache, coupled with a shifty, almost pained stare hidden behind the wooden frame of his glasses and a welcoming look in his eyes. He's a bit on the rounder side, which only seems to add to his seemingly friendly demeanor, and he's dressed like an antiquated dapper businessman wearing an overcoat that has an inordinate amount of pockets. Clearly, this man, whoever he was, was a man of secrets and mystery.
One hand is raised, his fingers delicately holding the glasses just on the bridge of his nose, as if he were permanently frozen in the act of adjusting them. His other hand is out by his hips, off to the side a bit, holding a polished wooden cane with a hefty brass knob at the top. At his feet lay a brass plaque with a single inscription:
Edmund “Ned” _______ Chicane
Folks who come into town and see the statue always ask about the blank spot. What was his middle name? Does he even have one? Who even is he?
If they ask the recently declared owner and manager of the Cryptonomica, they’ll get stories about a late night TV show that aired old bad cryptid movies for fun. Stories about how he put on a Wookie costume and made such a convincing video the FBI got involved. How he claimed to have a whole collection of stolen arbitrary goods from famous people, like Clooney’s Oscar or Mal Evan’s briefcase. He’ll say he had a different middle name every time he walked in the store.
If they ask the Ryan Gosling lookalike that assists in the store, they’ll get a single word. Pizza. Ned Pizza Chicane? Sounds about right.
If they ask the local townsfolk sometimes they get a shrug. Sometimes they’ll get a sigh or a chuckle and a funny story, followed by another seemingly random word. Friendly, Discretion, Superstar, etc. Some of the townsfolk swear this Ned actually said so, others say they had their own middle name for him. Some called him Lyin’ and Scammin’ for that tourist trap he calls a business, some call him other, less negative words.
If they’re curious enough and stumble upon Amnesty Lodge and ask the folks up there, they get some different answers. The owner, a rough and hardy looking woman, had a few choice middle names. She called him a thief for stealing her laptop once. She called him dumb for hospitalizing himself after trying to push a fallen Pizza Hut sign off of Leo’s convenience store. Perhaps the best one, however, is when she referred to him multiple times, fondly each time, as Ned Fuckin’ Chicane.
If they ask the young, earthy blonde who lives there, she’ll get very quiet. The same goes for the goth-punk magician she seems to be very friendly with. They’ll tell stories of working with him on the set of Saturday Night Dead, or in their day to day lives. It usually ends with a sigh and a faint smile, like one does when remembering a loved one.
If they ask the magician if Ned really had stolen all those goods, she’ll touch the necklace on her chest and confirm it. “I mean he was a thief, yea, but…. he didn’t rob those people. Ned would never do that.”
"What's the difference?" they'll ask.
"Trust me, there's a huge difference," she'll reply.
If they ask the chef, he’ll take a break from whatever he’s cooking and dry his hands with a towel before taking a moment to think. He’ll retell the story of how he first was formally introduced to Ned, partially because some people might remember him from the Bigfoot video, but partially because it’s always fun to see their faces when he tells them how Ned rammed his Lincoln into a beast of prey.
If they ask the forest ranger who visits the Lodge every so often, he’ll say he was stupid and dumb and a quiet Goddamn it Ned before he’ll sigh. Then he’ll say he was a good man.
They’ll all say he was a good man, in fact. Everyone at the Lodge will. Some people in town will, too. A lot of folks will say he’s a good man.
And if people ask why, when he stole things and lied and whatnot?
Sometimes they get a shrug. Sometimes they’ll get a sigh and a smile. “He just was, in the end.”
But sometimes they’ll get different answers.
“If Ned hadn’t rammed into that beast I would have been a goner.”
“If Ned hadn’t used his Lincoln to stop the tram a lot of people could’ve gotten hurt, or killed.“
“If Ned hadn’t been there that night…..”
It didn’t matter what he took, because of what he gave up for the people of Kepler. What he almost gave up so many times before, and what he finally did that night.
“He never ever wanted anyone to come to any kind of harm in any kind of way.“
If people come back to the Cryptonomica (which they often do), they’ll look at the plaque, at that blank space where his middle name ought to be.
“So what do you think it is?” the manager will ask.
Sometimes he’ll get a shrug. Sometimes he’ll get a sigh and a smile.