by Martin Maenza
The thirty-something-year-old security guard stood at the main intersection of the two darkened museum halls. In one hand he held a flashlight, and in the other he held a magazine. Tilting the periodical to one side, he let the other end hang in the air so that the centerfold could drop down. “Yeah, baby,” the man said. “Now that’s what I call a good choice for Miss March!”
Suddenly, the man’s face contorted slightly as he felt a twinge in his lower regions. His stomach began to gurgle loudly. “Oh, no,” the man said. There was another gurgle, which triggered a sense of urgency. “Oh, damn!” The man made a mad dash for the bathrooms down the hall and around the corner.
After a few seconds, the grating to one of the air vents in the ceiling slid back, allowing a figure to spring out from hiding.
About time, the man in the golden costume thought as he tumbled through the archway to one of the rooms. Took forever for that laxative to kick in!
While the serpentine super-villain preferred to use poisons, he didn’t relish the idea of leaving behind any calling cards that might link him to these criminal activities. As far as he was concerned, the only person who needed to know that Copperhead was here this night was Copperhead — and perhaps the person who’d fence the goods when he sold them on the black market.
Thanks to the unique polymers of his costume, which were treated lightly with a slippery gel, Copperhead was able to move across the floor quickly in a slithering motion. His eyes easily adjusted to the room’s darkness as he made his way past the various exhibits. He’d been staking out the place for weeks, waiting for the perfect time to strike.
The laxative he’d slipped into the guard’s sandwich earlier would allow the costumed criminal to obtain his prize uninterrupted. That guy’ll be in the can for at least twenty minutes! he chuckled to himself. Now to get my reward for waiting so patiently for the last few hours!
Maneuvering silently through the shadowy rooms, Copperhead carefully avoided contact with any of the displays. He knew some of them had motion detectors on the glass, activated after the museum doors had closed for the night. If he were about to set off any alarms, it wouldn’t be until he had the goods in hand and was ready to depart.
As he slipped into the room that was his destination, he saw a tall form near the display that housed the goods he sought. Instinctively, Copperhead lunged for the figure whose back was turned toward him. The snakelike villain hit the figure hard, knocking them both to the ground. A booted heel kicked at the man, but he dodged it with his snakelike reflexes.
Snatching the flashlight that had fallen to the floor, Copperhead shined the glow into the figure’s face. “You?!” he exclaimed in surprise.
The face was angular and very feminine. The woman wore red glasses and had spiked black hair. Copperhead knew her in an instant. “Magpie!” he hissed. “What are you doin’ here?”
“Get off me!” the woman in the white feathery top and pink fishnet stockings shrieked. She kicked at him again, but only managed to connect with the base of one of the displays. Her blow was solid, causing the whole structure to shake. The sensors attached to the glass above registered the sudden movement and summoned forth a loud, shrill alarm.
“Now look what you did!” both villains hissed at the same time. They then looked at one another in shock, as if one had the unmitigated audacity to blame the other.
“Off!” Magpie said again, shoving at the snake.
Copperhead flipped up to his feet, quickly going for the display case he had targeted. “Well, no sssense in sssubtlety now!” With his tail, he shattered the glass case, sending shards raining into the air.
Magpie shaded her face. “Watch it, you fool! Those could have hit my face!” She then looked and saw him pluck a diamond from the purple velvet bed it rested. “Hey, that’s mine!”
“Findersss keepersss!” Copperhead hissed.
Magpie lunged for him, grabbing his wrists with her red-gloved hands. “I saw it first! Hand it over — now!” She struggled with him before he used his strength and pushed her back. “Hmmph! Some gentleman you are!”
“We can debate thisss later,” Copperhead said. “Right now, thossse alarmsss are bringing the copsss. If we get caught, Mirror Massster will have both our headsss!”
A flashlight beam danced down the hall nearby as the security guard came running.
“C’mon!” Copperhead said, grabbing Magpie’s hand and dragging her off into the shadows.
Soon, the guard was upon the display case, carefully stepping around the broken glass on the floor. “Oh, man! Oh, man! Oh, man!” was all the guy could muster up. Shining the light around the room, he looked for signs of the thief. The beam danced across display cases, the walls, and the floor, but there was no sign of movement or anything. The guard ran off to the next room.
A faint sound could be heard in the vent above the room as two individuals cramped together. Magpie frowned at being in such a tight spot with the one who had stolen her prize. She began to mutter under her breath.
“Ssshhh!” Copperhead hissed slowly in a whisper. “Thisss isssn’t my idea of a good time, either, but we’ve got to get out of here! Ssso, it’sss my way or highway. Your choiccce, sssister!” He wriggled free of their knotted position and started up the shaft.
Magpie cursed to herself, as she had no other choice if she wanted to stay out of jail.
The next morning, wearing a brown trenchcoat, Sam Scudder stood inside a phone booth at one of downtown San Francisco’s less busy intersections. On the counter next to the phone was a large rectangular package. The man with the short brown hair tapped the side of the phone with a STAR Labs business card as he spoke into the handset.
“Your package arrived today,” Scudder said. “I take it the modifications that I suggested to you were helpful.”
“Extremely,” said the voice on the other end of the line. “Your offered adjustments have added to the output ratios nicely.”
Scudder tilted the package slightly. On his way back from the post office box — which he used under a false name, naturally — he had checked the contents of the package. It contained both documentation and electronic copies of the information his organization required. “I was pleased to see you were prompt in completing your end of our arrangement,” Scudder said. “It’s a good reflection upon your character.”
The man on the other end laughed. “I wouldn’t say either of us is a truly good character, would you?”
Now it was Scudder’s turn to chuckle. “I suppose you’re right. I thank you nonetheless for helping me acquire this technology.”
“I have one more request,” the man on the phone said.
“Yes?” Scudder asked.
“You wouldn’t happen to be able to recommend a good tailor, would you?”
Sam Scudder nodded. “Not one locally to you, but he’s worth the travel. Let me give you the address.” After completing the conversation, Sam Scudder hung up the phone and took his package before exiting the booth.
As he walked back to the Loman Building, the man thought to himself. In all my years in this business, I’ve learned that sometimes you end up making some strange bedfellows. He held the package in his hands firmly. Still, if these details are legitimate, then our organization will greatly benefit from it. And if not, Walston will never be able to look into a mirror again.
Sam Scudder entered the tall building’s lobby and proceeded to the elevator. Alone in the car, he was able to ride up to the secured upper floors without any interruption. Before he reached the top, he took out the green mask that went with his orange and green costume hidden under the coat and slipped it on.
While in the Sinister Citadel, he preferred to handle business from the security of the mask of Mirror Master.
The reflective rogue stepped off the elevator into the lounge area. There, two of his team were buried in copies of the morning news. “Morning,” Mirror Master said as he walked past.
Both Magpie and Copperhead peered out from behind their raised newspapers, watching him walk past. Both were relieved that he didn’t stop to chat with them. Then the two villains glanced at one another, threw each other a dirty look, and quickly went back to reading about the robbery at the museum last night. So far, their involvement in the break-in remained their little secret.
Mirror Master was hanging his coat upon a large wooden rack at the end of the hall when a dark-haired woman in pink and purple approached him. “Star Sapphire,” he said. “What brings you here this morning?” He scooped up his package.
“I think you’d better go to your office,” the woman said sternly.
“Well, that is where I was headed,” Mirror Master said. “I did want to get this down to the lab first. There’s something I wanted Gizmo to start looking into.”
Star Sapphire grabbed him by the hand and spun him around. “I think that can wait,” she said.
Mirror Master began to frown. “What is with you this morning?” he asked.
“You’ll see,” was the only answer she gave as she directed him down the hall.
They arrived quickly at his office. “OK, OK,” Mirror Master said as he reached for the knob of the door. “If you’re so insistent, I’ll play along.” Still looking at her, he turned the knob and opened the door. “But this better be important.”
“Oh, I think it is,” Star Sapphire said. “Very important!”
The scent of fine Cuban cigars reached his nose. Mirror Master knew the smell all too well, as those were the type he kept in his humidor on his desk. He whirled around on his heel and saw his desk chair was turned. He could barely make out the head of the person sitting in it, but the telltale waft of smoke coming from the chair made it obvious someone was in his office uninvited.
Mirror Master crossed the room in three steps, deposited the package on the corner of his desk, and grabbed the back of the chair with both hands. He spun it around quickly, only to be shocked by the person sitting there.
“You?!” Mirror Master exclaimed in surprise.
Sitting in the chair was a man with long, wavy brown hair and a neatly trimmed, matching mustache and beard. The man was dressed in a pinstripe green suit with a matching silk green tie. His white dress shirt was neatly pressed with gold cufflinks on the cuffs, and the cigar dangled from his stubby fingers adorned in rings of gold.
“Well, well, well,” the man said with a great big smile. “I was concerned you could have been detained or distracted while upon your morning constitutional.”
Mirror Master’s good mood was completely gone at the sight of the man. “Funky Flashman!” he exclaimed. “What the hell are you doing here, sitting at my desk, no less?”
“Only anticipating your arrival,” the bearded man said, rising from the large leather chair. “I certainly didn’t intend anything by convalescing in your center of command.” He stepped out from behind the desk, allowing Mirror Master to take his seat back. “I simply required a sanctuary to unwind after my extended journey. Besides, at one time, I did reside in this very office — long before you did, I might add.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Endgame,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #5 (January-February, 1977).]
Mirror Master took a seat in his chair, if nothing else to show that he was back in charge. He glanced over to Star Sapphire. “And was it you who let him in here?” he asked sternly.
“He was here when I arrived,” the villainess said in her own defense.
“Don’t go condemning Star, here,” Funky said. “No one needed to sanction me admittance. Truth was, my old pass card to the Sinister Citadel still executed exquisitely.”
Mirror Master made a mental note to himself. Change the locks! Regaining his composure, he folded his hands and looked the man right in the eye. “OK, Flashman,” he said, “why, exactly, are you here?”
Funky Flashman chuckled. “That’s what I love about you, Mirror Master. You’re such a right-down-to-business kind of guy — a man after my own heart.” He started to pace about the room, gesturing wildly with the cigar between drags.
“Truth be told, I’m kind of betwixt business opportunities,” Flashman said. “My last endeavor in the entertainment arena managed to fall flat upon its face. Sometimes I really should dissect some of my inspirations more thoroughly. I mean, really! Big Sir had the muscle and might for my wrestling machination, but his scarcity of cranium capabilities ended up being a liability, to say the least.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Brave and the Bold: Green Arrow and Nightwing: Are You Ready to Riddle?]
Mirror Master rolled his eyes. “Look, Flashman,” he said, “I’m not in the mood for your long-winded explanations. I have things that need tending to.”
Flashman nodded. “So, you don’t object if I take up interim occupancy in one of the better-quality quarters?”
Mirror Master sighed. “Well, since you are here, anyway, I can’t see why not. But… a few ground rules.” The villain ticked them off on his fingers as he gave them. “One: my office and my cigars are off limits. Two: you keep to yourself. Three: you don’t draw any attention to our organization. This is a Secret Society, emphasis on the word secret. Got it?”
“Loud and clear, mon capitan,” Flashman said with a little salute.
“Good,” said Mirror Master. “Now, get out of here and close the door on your way out.” The other two exited the office.
Mirror Master leaned back in his chair and sighed. “Now, what to do about this incarcerated clown whose been infringing upon my reputation,” he said to himself. The situation would require some careful thought.