by Martin Maenza
In no time at all, the trio were down the other end of hall and standing before the door to another one of the personal quarters for the Secret Society of Super-Villains members.
“Hmmph,” Funky Flashman said as Mirror Master easily overrode the user-defined code and opened the door. “And here I thought the whole point of personal locking codes was for a sense of privacy and security.”
“There’s a line between security and stupidity,” the reflective rogue reminded him. “As I said before, I run this show, so I have to be able to access all rooms at all times! If you don’t like it, too bad!”
He entered the room, and the other two followed. “Copperhead, are you sure Magpie’s occupied?”
“Sssure asss sssure can be,” Copperhead hissed. “Ssshe’sss in sssesssion with Dr. Quinzel.”
Mirror Master nodded and went right to work. “You two check the dressers and closets!” he ordered. “I’m curious about something.” He started to power up the computer terminal in the corner of the room on the desk.
Flashman rummaged through the top dresser drawer, pausing now and again to take note of the young woman’s delicate unmentionables. “My, oh, my, oh, my!” he exclaimed with a wicked smile. “Seems our little lady lark’s into little lacy lingerie. How delicious.”
“Keep your mind and hands on your work,” Mirror Master said. He entered a few commands in at the keyboard.
Copperhead disappeared into the closet, shifting around a few boxes and stuff.
“Well, what do you know?” Flashman said. “I guess I found my thief!” He produced his pair of gold cufflinks from the second drawer. “They were hidden in the back, swaddled in a silk scarf.”
“Hmmm,” Mirror Master said. Turning back to the computer monitor, he brought up a program. It began to provide a listing of recently executed commands from the terminal station.
“Look what I found!” Copperhead said, emerging from the closet with a velvet bag that rattled as he slithered along the floor. He pulled open the black string ties and poured the contents on the bed. Small gemstones of many colors — rubies, emeralds, sapphires — fell out.
Flashman whistled. “She does have a thing for beautiful baubles,” he said. “Those gems must be worth thousands upon thousands, easy.”
“And that’s not all!” Mirror Master said firmly. The other two hurried over and crowded around the monitor. The reflective rogue put his finger to the screen and pointed to a few lines of results from the program he had run.
“It seems that Magpie has been using this computer to skim off the organization’s profits as well!” Mirror Master said.
A dark-haired young woman with olive skin crossed the grassy area of a Northern California cemetery. Lydia Anastasios wore a long beige raincoat and a floppy hat, in part because it looked like it might actually rain, but also in part to hide the abundance of tattoos that covered her entire body. She was very familiar with this particular cemetery, and many of the names of the tombstones she passed were common to her, since she had been coming here so often over the last few years. Often, she thought, but not recently. That made her feel a bit guilty.
She stopped before one very particular tombstone and laid out a few small white blossoms on the top of the simple stone. Water lilies — they always reminded her of him.
“Sorry I have not been out to see you in a long time,” Lydia said softly. “It has been a crazy ten months. You know, I moved up to San Francisco. It is a pretty town. I think you would have loved the wharf area. I do not believe you had ever mentioned visiting there before.”
Lydia kneeled down in the grass and sat for a moment, facing the stone. “I guess the moving is not the only reason I have put off coming back. I found someone, someone you know: Sam Scudder.” She bowed her head slightly. “Yes, I know. You two were friends, or at least business associates. Sam told me that. He always did like you. He tells me things about you that you never got the chance to. I am glad for that.”
Putting her right hand gently on the stone, she traced its smooth edge. “Because I am with Sam does not change my feelings for you. You were my first true love, and I will always have a place in my heart for you.” (*) A gentle tear started to form in her eye. “I hope you can understand that. I know you would want me to be happy. I was so sad for so long when I learned that you were gone.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Tattooed Man: Times Past, 1982: Love Inks.]
She put her hand back into her lap. “I promise I will try to get back here more regularly. You do not know how much I enjoy our time alone.” And for a long while, Lydia sat quietly facing the tombstone of Abel Tarrant.
Dr. Harleen Quinzel adjusted her wire-frame glasses and glanced over the information she had on file. She read silently to herself. Margaret Pye, former curator to the Gotham City Museum of Antiquities. Reason for termination: increasingly disruptive influence in the workplace. Harleen closed the folder and placed it in her drawer. She picked up a pad and crossed the room to where her patient lay on the couch. “Shall we begin, Magpie?” the blonde psychiatrist asked.
The woman on the couch sported a spiky black hairstyle, large red glasses, an off-the-shoulder blouse with feathery sleeves, red gloves and boots, and fishnet stockings. She lay with her feet high in the air, kicking her booted feet at nothing in particular. “I don’t want to be here, honey!” the criminal said. “I don’t want to talk to you!”
Harleen shook her head. She was getting a bit tired of the difficult ones. “Fine,” she said, “then let me talk with Margaret.”
Magpie glared at her. “Why? She’s got nothing to say to you, either!”
“Let her tell me herself.”
“Are you afraid that you don’t know her as well as you think you do?”
“That’s crap! Psycho-babble crap! And I don’t have to deal with that!” Magpie rose from the couch suddenly.
Harleen lunged forward and pulled at the woman’s hair. The wig came free, and the glasses dropped. Beneath the skullcap with attached spiked black hair was the woman’s natural red hair in a short-cut style. “I’m sorry I had to be so sudden, Margaret,” Harleen said.
Without her wig and glasses, Magpie’s whole physical stance seemed to change. She wasn’t as assured, self-confident, or threatening. She rubbed her face and sat back down.
Harleen put the wig and glasses down and sat again. “Margaret? Margaret? Are you all right?”
Margaret Pye eventually looked up with her deep blue eyes. “Yes, I am…” she said softly.
“You’re having a hard time lately, aren’t you?” Harleen asked.
“Magpie’s taken over, hasn’t she?”
Margaret buried her head. “Yes.”
“You know, if you want to stop her, you have to be strong. Can you do that?”
Margaret shook her head. “No… I can’t…”
“Why? Why can’t you?”
“I…” Margaret started to say. “I… I… need her. The world is so full of pretty things, things I can’t have. Magpie… she helps me. If she sees something she wants, she goes after it.”
“But at what cost, Margaret?” Harleen asked. “Do you know what she’s capable of?”
Margaret’s jaw dropped slightly and quivered. It was almost as if she had a hard time reconciling the acts that Magpie, that she, did in the name of acquiring those things she desired. “I…”
Just then, the door to Dr. Quinzel’s office in the Sinister Citadel burst open. Both women turned to see Mirror Master rush in.
“Mirror Master!” Dr. Quinzel said. “I have a session going on here. You can’t just barge in…”
“Quiet, Doctor!” the reflective rogue snapped. “I need to have a little talk with this young lady. She has a lot of explaining to do!”
Margaret Pye looked at him with an odd expression. “What… I…?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, missy!” he said, pulling out his mirror-gun from the holster. “And don’t think of trying anything, either!”
“Mirror Master!” Quinzel exclaimed. “Are you insane?” She grabbed him by the arm and pulled him aside. Dropping her voice and getting right into his face, she said, “Look here, bucko! You hired me to get inside these people’s heads, and that’s what I’m doing! This type of grandstanding isn’t doing anyone any good! I was on the verge of a breakthrough with her.”
Mirror Master stared at the woman. She was very smart and strong-willed. That was why he respected her. But he could care less about Magpie’s well being. “This is more important!” he said. “Now back off!”
Quinzel glared at him, then stepped to the side. “Fine! Be a Neanderthal, then!”
They turned back to the couch, but Margaret Pye was no longer sitting there. She’d retrieved her wig and glasses, donning them once more. The confident and deadly Magpie stared back at them. “I told you I don’t need any of this!” she snapped. “I’m so out of here!”
“Oh, you’re out of here, all right!” Mirror Master said. “But you’re not taking any of our secrets or our money with you!”
Magpie sneered. “We’ll see about that!” Reaching into one of her gloves, she pulled out a long, needle-like item and hurled it at the two. Mirror Master dived left, while Dr. Quinzel ducked.
The needle hit the doorframe just as Funky Flashman was about to enter the room. “Oh, my!” He saw what was about to go down and wanted no part of it. “This is your organization, Scudder. You can handle the problems.” And he darted away.
“Coward!” Copperhead said, and saw Mirror Master open fire on the woman. Magpie ducked and was reaching for some more of her deadly weapons. “Thisss could get ugly.” He dropped to the floor and slithered into the room.
“Hold still, witch!” Mirror Master said. His gun shot another beam of light energy toward the woman, but she was very agile.
“Missed me, missed me, now you gotta kiss me!” Magpie taunted. She started to reach for some poisonous gas pellets, but dropped them before she could toss them at her attacker. A reptilian tail had caught her off-guard and wrapped around her arms and torso, spoiling the shot.
The pellets hit the ground, releasing the gas.
“Harleen, get out of here!” Mirror Master called as he ushered the psychiatrist toward the door. He then took aim, fired his weapon, and shattered the glass window, causing the fresh air to pull the deadly smoke out of the room. “Copperhead, you have her?”
“No problem, Ssscudder,” the snake hissed. “You know me and poisssonsss. I’ve ssseen it all, and am immune to jussst about all of them!”
Mirror Master nodded. “Good. Then bring her out to the hall!”
Though Magpie struggled, she couldn’t break free of Copperhead’s deadly coils. “Damn you!” she spat. “I’ll get you! I’ll get you all! I’ll bring down this house of crime so fast, it’ll make your head spin!”
Mirror Master shook his head. “No way, you little thief. I thought you had the potential to help our society, but it looks like you’re just a loner out for herself. And we don’t play that way!”
“Scudder, what are you going to do with her?” Harleen asked.
“Don’t worry, Doc,” Mirror Master said. “Just like when we cut Shockwave loose, our little lady here won’t remember a damn thing about her time with us when I’m through!” While he wasn’t happy about losing another recruit, especially given his little deal with Neron, Mirror Master couldn’t have a menace hidden within his own organization. Still, the hypnotic treatment he had in mind for her could still help benefit him later. Like with Shockwave, he’d leave a little posthypnotic suggestion in place, one that he could activate later when Neron called in his marker.
He vowed to deliver some souls to that devil, and he knew there was no way out of that one yet.