Meanwhile, Vivian d’Aramis had been equally busy, if begrudgingly so. She had been tracking Henri Duchamp’s financial transactions and soon realized that they had an alarming pattern. She frowned at the computer and shuffled papers in disgust.
“Henri has been making large cash withdrawals for some time at regular intervals. Ze thief was being blackmailed!” mused the blonde woman. “I suppose that is why he emptied our accounts so drastically.”
She idly smoothed her white skirt and black silk blouse as she pondered her paper and electronic trail. “This is not for moi! I prefer the action. Perhaps Henri was tied to the fashion show, and perhaps it was a blind lead. Still, it is unfair that I must follow this angle while Constance mingles with the supermodels. After all, I am the cute one!” sighed Vivian with a smile.
Standing up, Vivian made a rapid decision. “Constance may have the costume, but I may still prowl the city in my own style. I will check out Henri’s family once more. Perhaps the Fox will find ze black sheep in his family is not Henri!” she said.
She rushed out of her apartment and headed for an address she had learned was that of Henri’s sister. She looked decidedly out of place in her designer clothes and sleek sports car as she parked and walked toward a tenement. “Henri’s sistair lives in a… how you say? … ghetto? She cannot be receiving the money he took from us,” mused Vivian.
Wolf whistles echoed as she confidently strutted up the stairs and passed a group of teens. She smiled radiantly and turned to them. “Bonjour! Tell me, do any of you gentlemen know of Alice Denton?” she said, stepping close to a boy of sixteen.
“She’s up one floor and to the right. Are you an actress or model or somethin’?” he said.
“Non, but I ‘ave the star power all my own!” she laughed.
She reached the door of Alice Duchamp Denton’s apartment and heard a heavy crash. She hesitated, then kicked off her high heels and kicked open the door. She soon saw a man in solid white standing over a shattered table, behind which cowered a woman who looked like a feminine version of Henri.
“Stand back! The authorities are on their way!” she cried.
Alice shouted, “Get back! He’ll kill you!”
The man in white whirled and faced Vivian. “Who are you, sweet thing? No matter, I’ll get ta know you soon enough!” he said in a slurred tone.
Vivian gasped as a thick mist filled the room and seemed to snake around her hips as if it was alive. Soon, a crushing pressure tightened around her. He controls ze fog! she realized as his grin grew larger, and she struggled to free herself. Vivian kicked and struggled wildly as the leering man in white drew closer, and his fog closed in on her.
She frowned as her punch passed through him. “You are ze fantome!” she whispered.
He laughed, and she smelled alcohol on his breath. “No, legs. Not a ghost. I’m the Silver Fog!” he said. “As in you can’t touch me, but I can touch you!”
Vivian suddenly slumped forward and moaned.
The Silver Fog chuckled and said, “I was too much man for her!” He reached out for her face and lifted her head to reveal her mane of tousled hair — and two brightly staring eyes.
She ripped upward with her nails, and he gasped in dismay. “You thought moi to be ze zhrinking violet, no?” she laughed as her ploy had caught him off-guard. She exposed several wires in his white costume, and making a rapid decision, she plunged them into the water flowing down the shattered table where a flowerpot had rested. She then flipped agilely on to a chair and watched as the current sparked across his exposed costume, and he fell stunned. “My magnetism was too much for him!” she laughed.
Vivian crossed the apartment room in a rapid bound and steadied Alice Denton. “It is all right. I shall help you. He will recover. I knew his costume’s insulation would protect him from ze fatal shock. I also knew he’d have to become solid to touch moi with his hands and not his fog,” she explained.
“Who are you?” Alice said. “Frank was so drunk. He killed my brother, and he was going to kill me!”
Vivian pursed her lips and said, “Pauvre, pauvre, cheri! I employed your brothair. He threatened to turn in Frank to ze police, oui?”
Alice nodded. “Yes. He was wonderful when my husband died. He’s brilliant, but the drinking and his criminal plans tormented me! He used all my money to create the costume and refine it. That’s why we live in this slum! When Henri found out, he argued with Frank, and tonight in his drunken rage Frank said… that he said he had gone to Henri’s place and killed him. That suit lets him generate fog as solidly as he wishes.”
Vivian rubbed her aching hips. “True. He can crush bone with it or float upon it. I assume that is how he gained entry.” Vivian held Alice and said, “Hush, now. I shall help you. Did Henri give you money?”
Alice pulled back and said, “No. He would have had I asked him. I never did. I feared Frank would demand more, and look what happened! My poor brother!“
Vivian nodded. Then… who was Henri paying with his money and with ours? she mused.
That night, the d’Aramis twins sat on a bed in Vivian’s suite and exchanged news.
“Henri has some tie to the fashion show. Perhaps he was seeing one of the models,” said Constance.
Vivian nodded as she sipped a cup of hot chocolate. “We now know he died at the hands of the Zilver Fog, but where did he spend our money?” she said as she pulled a light blue robe around her shoulders.
Constance, wearing pink, agreed. “We know the woman who threw me across the room like a rag doll wanted to kill Vandalia. She will return. Perhaps it is unrelated to Henri’s secret life, but we can’t allow her to go unpunished. My bruises have bruises!” she said with a wry grin.
Vivian gave her twin a look of mock sympathy. “Pauvre petite enfant! Next time, I will be ze Fox!” she said.
Constance smiled. “Oui! You wear the costume this time. I have plans of my own!”
The next day, Constance pored over old microfiches as she researched the supermodels. Ah, this reveals much. Vandalia is known for her sensational ads as the Owens Cosmetic girl, but before she became the star, the company had planned to feature Miranda! What became of her? thought the clever woman.
She retrieved a few more envelopes of the fiche and soon smiled in satisfaction. “The Gotham Gazette tells a sad tale. Miranda was a supermodel known by one name only in America. She was about to become internationally known when she suffered a car accident. It ended her career and drove her mad. She fought the Batman years later in a gold costume that increased her power and disguised her scarred features so that she looked like a living mannequin, which gave her the name of the Manikin! (*) She is the one who battled me and tried to harm Vandalia!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Who Dies for the Manikin?” Detective Comics #506 (September, 1981).]
Constance ran out of the library and hoped her discovery would be in time to prevent more tragedy.
Raquel Turner pouted and lifted the feathered boa that was draped across her shoulders. She strutted across the runway and turned suddenly toward the audience.
Mindy Crayford, wearing a hot pink evening gown, stomped her foot in anger. “She’s been out there for hours. It’s not fair the way that Amazon hogs the spotlight!” she hissed.
Vivian watched from high above. She was amused by the models and their petty feuds. She wore a unique costume, too — that of the Crimson Fox. She was perched on a lighting stand above the runway. “Zhey fight like the mad cats, or like Constance and I when we were teens!” she laughed.
She had been listening and watching it all. While the audience was thrilling to a wonderful show, she knew the real excitement was found backstage where the supermodels waged their endless battles for attention and favor.
The Crimson Fox stretched as she lounged across the light stand. Thees is not my idea of soaking up ze rays! I hope something ‘appens soon, she thought. Then she frowned as her keen senses detected a strange odor. Drugs? That odd narcotic scent from backstage makes me suspect the worst, she thought.
She flipped down with the grace and silence of her namesake and prowled toward the dressing room of Monica Lake. She entered and saw the actress/model smoking an illegal substance. She knocked it away and said, “You must be mad to risk your health with such foul concoctions. Do you not realize the toxins can ruin your looks and end your life?”
Monica gasped in shock. The combination of the drugs and the sight of a woman in a skintight vulpine suit sent her into a ranting fit. “Keep back! Keep away! Oh, Henri, where are you when I need you!” she wept.
The Fox frowned. “Henri Duchamp! Your lovair and your source of extra income? A model’s pay is superb, but not if an addiction drains all your funds, oui?”
Monica nodded. “He was my first love before I went to Hollywood all those years ago. He loved me for myself and not my beauty and fame. He helped me by giving me money for what I craved and also for treatments — none of which worked! I learned of a miracle cure that required millions. It was supposed to end my addiction for good. I never got to use it.”
The Fox nodded. “So this miracle cure took our money all at once. If it is in her account or her home, we should be able to recover it.” She asked, “This miracle cure may be found where?”
Monica sat there dazed and did not reply.
I must look into this. It has to be criminal, and dangerous, too, she thought.
A crash echoed from the runway, and many beautiful women screamed and raced for safety as the gold-clad figure from the first attack on Vandalia smashed into the room and pushed through the crowd to charge Vandalia, who was modeling lingerie on the runway.
The Crimson Fox gasped, “It nevair rains but it pours!”
Indeed, it was the Manikin who shouted threats and leaped through the air to land almost atop the shrieking model. She slapped her across the face and said, “It should have been me! I was to have it all, not you!”
As Vandalia fell across the stage, the Crimson Fox pounced down and landed on Manikin’s back. She wrapped both legs around the golden woman’s chest and gripped her around the head with her arms. “You ladies must not fight. It is unbecoming. Think of your mascara! It shall smear!” she joked.
Manikin could not see, but she kept moving like a female tank. She reached blindly for Vandalia, who crawled to safety as Crimson Fox wrestled with her stronger foe. Manikin gripped the Fox by one arm and crushed downward with considerable force.
The Fox moaned in pain and decided to try a different tactic; she flipped over Manikin’s head and kicked out at her. The move resulted in nothing more than a sharp pain in her own arm, as her shining foe refused to release her grip.
“You are pretty, too! You should pay for my loss!” said Manikin.
The Fox shrugged. “You are right! I am tres beautiful!“
At that moment, Constance rushed inside with a burly, dark-haired man. “Miranda, stop this madness!” he shouted.
The Manikin whirled and stared at him, though her expressionless face revealed nothing more than the emotionless features of a true dressmaker’s dummy. The Crimson Fox took advantage of her foe’s distraction to slip free and rolled between the golden legs to trip her into a sudden fall. The Manikin fell off the runway and landed unharmed, where Constance stood near the newcomer.
“Miranda, please! Let me help you!” he pleaded.
She hesitated, then fell into his arms and wept gently.
Constance slipped over to the Crimson Fox and whispered, “He is her brother. She was once a model called Miranda. She hates all who have the beauty she lost in a fiery crash. I figured he could calm her, but you handled her very well.”
The Crimson Fox smiled. “What is it they say, it was beauty that killed the beast, no?”