by Martin Maenza
Dr. Harleen Quinzel blushed briefly as Shockwave, Copperhead, and Power Fist greeted her with various catcalls and whistles. She pulled a handkerchief from her jacket’s breast pocket, removed her glasses slowly, and blew on the lenses with a few quick huffs of air. “Thanks for the warm reception, boys,” Harleen said as she rubbed the lens methodically with the cloth. “Something tells me I shouldn’t have too much trouble getting a few of you to sign up for examinations.”
More howls came from the peanut gallery. Gizmo and Trident joined in as well. Only Throttle and Blindside seemed immune to her charismatic ways.
The Tattooed Lady merely shook her head. Some of these guys could be such animals.
“I apologize for their behavior, Harleen,” Mirror Master said. “They don’t realize what a bad reflection they are casting on our organization.”
“It’s OK,” she said. “I can take care of myself just fine. You don’t get far in my profession if you rattle easy.” She glanced over at the motley crew assembled. “These boys won’t give me any trouble.”
“Say, Mirror Master,” Throttle called. “What’s Dr. Quinzel need to do exams for, anyway? Is this for some kind of health insurance, or what?”
“Not at all,” the reflective rogue said. “Dr. Quinzel specializes in the psychiatric and psychology fields of medicine. I’ve brought her on board as a consultant for when the needs arise. Have no fears, I have complete confidence that she will keep everything that is discussed here in the strictest of confidences.”
“Right-e-o,” Harleen said. “It all falls under doctor-patient confidentiality.” She gave Mirror Master a little wink; he tried his best to act as if he did not see it.
Unfortunately for him, Tattooed Lady did catch it. She frowned slightly. There were things she’d need to bring up with her new lover, but she wasn’t about to air their personal business in a public forum.
“That is pretty much all I had for the moment,” Mirror Master announced. “Unless anyone has anything they’d like to bring up, I’d like to adjourn this meeting.” He glanced around the room. The new recruits seemed fine, but his older members had a few unspoken concerns on their faces. “Good.” He pounded the gavel on the table. “I’ll get your new assignment details to you as soon as they’re ready. In the meantime, relax.”
The newer members rose from the table and headed for the door. Dr. Quinzel rose and was about to follow. “I’ll be setting up my office down the hall,” she said to Mirror Master. “You know where to find me when you need me.” With a slight wiggle to her walk, she exited the room.
Tattooed Lady rose as well and walked past Mirror Master. “I have some personal items to attend to,” she said to the leader with a cool tone. “Late dinner as we planned?”
“Of course,” Mirror Master said. She left the room. He turned and was left in the company of his three teammates. “So, guys, you wanted to discuss something alone with me?”
“Not me,” said Power Fist as he started to brush past the others. “Just gonna head down to the rec room and hang around.” He chuckled slightly at his own joke.
Mirror Master leaned after the man in simian form as he left the room. “Power Fist, one second.” The ape turned around, his big arms swinging gently to the side. “If you feel like talking to someone about, well, any adjustment problems you’re having…”
The ape man crossed his arms as he listened to Mirror Master. “I ain’t got no problems,” he said, but his body language contradicted that.
“I said if,” Mirror Master replied. “If you do, go see Dr. Quinzel. As an impartial ear, she makes a great listener.”
“Yeah, sure,” Power Fist said, “whatever.” He turned and headed on his way, moving on all fours.
Mirror Master turned back to the other two. Copperhead was visibly upset. “Ssso, now you think we need a ssshrink, Ssscudder?” the serpentine villain hissed. “What’sss up with that?”
Sam Scudder discreetly closed the door to the room so he could speak freely. “I’m going to give it to you two straight,” he said. “No smoke and mirrors. Dr. Quinzel is the best in the business. I’ve spared no expense to put her on retainer. Fact of the matter is, a number of your friends here and I are a bit concerned about you two, particularly after our ordeal on that deserted island.”
“Concerned about us?” Gizmo asked. “What’s to be concerned about?”
“Yeah, really,” Copperhead joined in. “And where do you guysss get off telling usss you think we need to sssee a ssshrink?”
Mirror Master tried not to get mad. “Look, fellas! This isn’t something that’s open for discussion. I need to be able to count on you two one hundred percent, without a doubt. Incidents from when we were on the island have me questioning that. Bottom line is this: you want to stay with the team, you see Dr. Quinzel. Got it?”
Gizmo stroked his beard silently. Copperhead furrowed his lower lip.
Mirror Master waited a moment but got no verbal response. “Well, in or out?”
“I’m in,” Gizmo said.
Copperhead still said nothing.
“You’ve been on board since the start, Copperhead,” Mirror Master said. “You gonna see this through?”
Copperhead started to slither past Mirror Master and opened the door. Just as he passed him, he craned his neck back. “I’m not thrilled about it,” he said, “but I’ll do it.” He then continued to slither out of the room and down the hall. Gizmo followed him and then veered off toward the lab.
Mirror Master was alone in the conference room. “That could have gone better,” he sighed to himself. “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”
A few hours later at a restaurant, Sam Scudder and Lydia Anastasios sat at a small table overlooking the wharf. The brown-haired man put down the wine list. “It’s good to get away from the office,” he said, emphasizing that last word in an odd way that his companion would understand.
“I suppose it is,” the dark-haired Greek woman said coolly. “I actually miss the time we spent away from there over the holiday season.”
“You knew we couldn’t stay away forever,” Sam said. He reached across the table and took her hand. The long blouse she wore covered her tattooed upper body; barely the edge of them were visible under the French cuffs. “Things couldn’t run themselves, you know.”
The young woman nodded. “I know, Sam,” Lydia said. “It’s just…”
“What? What’s wrong?”
Lydia didn’t want to let what was bothering her ruin the evening, but not talking about it would only keep nagging at the back of her mind. “OK, I am just going to say it and be done with it.” She looked into her lover’s eyes, seeking that warm, assuring part of him that first attracted her to him. “Did something go one between you and Dr. Quinzel?”
Sam laughed slightly. “Between me and Harleen? Are you asking if we had a relationship?”
“Do not make light of this. It was a valid question and an important one.”
Sam Scudder regained his composure. “Lydia, I’m sorry I laughed. And to answer your question, no. The only thing between myself and Dr. Quinzel was a professional one. I saw her for psychiatric reasons a year or so ago. I was a patient of hers, but it never went beyond that.”
Lydia blinked. “Oh! So that is how you learned of her? Firsthand experience?”
“Yes,” Sam replied. “But please, let’s keep this between the three of us. I don’t want to have to explain it to the others. They’re already giving me some trouble as it is. I don’t need to give them any more ammunition.”
“I think I understand,” Lydia said. The waiter came by the table and brought their salads. Lydia waited until he left before she continued. “So, she really is that good? I mean, she obviously helped you.”
“She is one of the best,” Sam said, lowering his voice slightly. “She’s only in her late twenties, but she’s got an impressive resume going. She’s done work at a lot of the major prisons, as well as a brief stint at Arkham Asylum. Believe me when I tell you this, Harleen knows how to work with folks in our chosen profession. If anyone can help our team in that area, she’s at the top of the list.”
Her dark blazer jacket lay discarded on the beige leather couch. Her high-heeled black pumps had been kicked aside in the plush carpeting. Harleen Quinzel sat at her desk in her new apartment, using an electric typewriter to make a few labels. After a few moments of typing, she removed the special adhesive paper and began to apply the labels one by one to each of the manila folders.
She removed her glasses and placed them on the desk. She then ran her fingers to the back of her scalp and released her pinned-up hair. The blonde wavy locks fell to her shoulders. It felt good to let loose some.
“But not too loose, Harley,” she said to herself. “Always have to keep our guard up, especially with these types.”
Harleen glanced down at the folders and slid the first few, which were rather thin, aside. “These four newcomers will require the usual groundwork. That’s research I can do out of the office as time allows. But the others will prove interesting for now.”
She picked up the first folder, the one labeled Tattooed Lady. “Not much in the media about her, but from what Scudder has revealed to me, she has a strong desire for acceptance. This makes her seek out those willing to provide immediate gratification. She then develops a dependent relationship with those people, turning it into a vicious cycle.” She placed the folder on top of the pile. “That makes her the perfect pawn for the right person.”
The next folder Harleen picked up was Gizmo’s. “This one has been a bit more active. Been incarcerated a few times. Kind of odd, though. Works well with small groups, but often prefers isolation. An extremely unhealthy dependency on technology. I wonder if that stems from his childhood somehow.” She put that folder down. “Certainly something to explore during session.”
The next folder was for Star Sapphire. “Again, minimal information. She was active with the Society the first go round, then disappeared for a long stretch of time. I wonder what that was about? From what Scudder said, she has a very strong superiority complex, to the point of being dangerous. Highly competitive. Intense desire for power. Mysterious past.” She placed the folder to the side. “Might be difficult to get her to open up. Best to save her for later.”
She picked up Copperhead’s folder. “Again, mysterious past. Not even a true name to go with this one. Obviously repression of something, but what?” She placed this folder on the top of the pile. “I like a challenge. This one will be my special project.”
The last folder was rather large, and one with which she was very familiar. “Finally, Mirror Master. Even you have your share of issues. While I question the validity of some of these delusions of yours, I’m certain the root of them comes from your near-death experience a year and a half ago.” She put his folder aside as well. “I’ve gotten all I can from you, for now.”
Harleen placed all the folders into her filing cabinet and locked it. “I’m just out to make the big bucks and get the juicy stories. Someday, I’ll have amassed enough information for the quintessential tell-all book.” And with that, Harleen Quinzel laughed to herself.
Raising his arms up high again, Mirror Master then drove them down hard and fast. There were muffled cries of anguish with each blow. “Mirror, mirror, on the wall! Who’s the deadliest of them all?” he laughed wickedly, raising his arms up once more as his fists held onto two bloodied, jagged pieces of reflecting glass.
Mirror Master didn’t seem to mind the pain; the sharp mirror shards dug into his own hands as he held them, mixing his own blood with that which dripped off the ends of each piece. The villain looked downward toward his green-booted feet and smiled.
There, lying in pools of their own blood, were the bodies of Copperhead, Gizmo, and Star Sapphire. The bodies were lifeless, with looks of sheer terror frozen upon their faces. In the fringes of the light, other bodies could be seen as well, all equally beaten and lifeless.
“Well done!” an eerie voice echoed off the darkened, formless walls. “You have fulfilled your end of the deal, my friend!” And the eerie voice laughed, its voice booming off the walls.
Mirror Master laughed as well, his voice joining the other.
Then something caught his attention. There was one more body. Using his foot, Mirror Master kicked the corpse over. He stopped laughing abruptly when he realized whose body it was. There, blood covering her torso, was the body of the Tattooed Lady.
Sam Scudder bolted upright, sweat pouring from his forehead and his heart racing. He gasped loudly for air as he felt his orientation returning. He was in bed in his quarters in the Loman Building in San Francisco.
Glancing to his side, he saw the form of Lydia Anastasios lying in the bed next to him. He gently reached out, placing his hand upon her chest. The slow breathing of her asleep form gave him some comfort. He gently stroked her hair. It was soft.
Sam slid quietly out from under the covers and made his way in the dark to the bathroom. In the dimly lit quarters, he turned on the faucet and splashed some cold water to his face. He then looked up and stared at his own reflection in the mirror. “Just a nightmare,” he tried to assure himself softly. “It’s not real.”
Grabbing a towel, Sam dried his face. He then turned away from the mirror to return to the bed, hoping that perhaps he might be able to get back to sleep. Something told him it would be a difficult thing to do. He stared at the clock at the side of the bed, watching the second hand slowly progress in its circular path.
And in the darkened bathroom mirror, the slight outline of another face appeared for a moment in the distance. The outline of the individual was laughing a sinisterly wicked, yet soundless laugh.