by Martin Maenza
Gizmo hopped up on the nearby table and pushed his way through the others. “Come on, guys! My turn!” The dwarf used his green-gloved hands to push aside a number of his associates.
“What? You worried about not bein’ the shortest one around here now?” joked a tall black-skinned man in a blue shirt and yellow pants.
“Funny, Fist, ha-ha,” the bearded man replied, giving his good friend a bigger shove to the side. “Just let me have a look at the kid.” Power Fist obliged, and Gizmo glanced down towards the bassinet where the two-day-old infant lay asleep. A smile crossed his face. “Aw, he’s a cutey.”
“Thanks,” Paula Brooks said from the nearby bed. She was sitting up, finishing up the dinner the others had brought up to her. This was the first time she had spent extensive time around the other villains. While she was expecting, she had mostly kept to herself. But word of the newborn brought so many of the group down, all wanting to see the child. Paula was hesitant at first, but Harleen had convinced her that it would be a good thing. Better to allow them a visit to stave off curiosity.
A brown-haired man in blue was standing near Paula’s bed and took her empty tray. “So, have you thought about what you might want to do for a nursery yet?”
Paula shook her head no. “I haven’t even begun to think that far ahead,” she admitted. “It’s all so fast.”
“Well, if you need a decorator, I have a friend in the design business.”
“Thank you, Blindside,” the mother replied. There was a slight stirring in the crib. Paula’s ears picked up on the sound, and she turned. “Oh, is he awake?”
“Just stirring now,” Power Fist said.
A muscular blonde woman dressed in a leopard print unitard tipped her head curiously downward and sniffed. The baby squirmed under its blanket, eyes fluttering open. In a second, the mouth followed with a low cry. Giganta jerked back suddenly.
“Easy there, girl,” Power Fist said. “Don’t scare him.”
Giganta grunted at the man, plunged her hands into the bassinet, and picked up the child. There was a collective gasp from the room.
“Guys…” Paula said nervously.
The others started to slowly move toward the ape-woman.
Giganta ignored them all and held the infant close to her chest. She tilted her head forward and hummed, rocking her body gently back and forth.
The baby stopped fussing and closed his eyes again.
“Well, I’ll be–!” Gizmo exclaimed. “She’s a natural. You better hang onto that one, Fist.”
“Ha-ha,” Power Fist mocked back. “Very funny, short man.”
“Giganta,” Paula called out. “Bring Hunter here, please.” She held her hands outstretched, indicating what she desired.
The ape-woman saw the action, nodded, and carefully moved over to the bed. Giganta then handed the child over to his mother.
“Thank you,” Paula said. “He’s probably hungry.”
“Oh, then we’ll give you some privacy,” Blindside said. “Come on, everyone. We better go.” He started to usher the others out.
“OK, OK, we’re goin’,” Gizmo said, hopping down to the floor. He was the last of the group of four to leave the room. He turned before closing the door. “You done good there, missy.”
“Thank you,” Paula said once more. She smiled as the dwarf exited the room and closed the door.
Now, alone with her child who was on the verge of sleeping, Paula Brooks held the child close. “Looks like we’ve got ourselves an extended family,” she whispered softly. Then she frowned. “But it’s not the same.”
Paula glanced over at the phone on the table near the bed, and then back down at her sleeping son. She paused for a moment and thought.
She then realized there was something she had to do.
On Highway 5, north and east of the city about seventy miles, an armored truck cruised down the road. The moonlit autumn night provided a cool breeze as the vehicle operator drove with one window down. His partner sat in the passenger seat.
“I love the late run,” John said, hands on the wheel.
Carlos gave a yawn and a small stretch. “Yeah, it’s quiet, but a little boring. I mean, we do this route three times a week. It might be nice to do something else, just to shake things up. You know?”
“Yeah…” John said.
Suddenly, flames sprang up across the road, creating a huge wall of fire in the vehicle’s path.
“Whaaa–?!” John exclaimed. Instinctively, he jerked the wheel hard to the right to avoid the unexpected fire.
“Look out!” Carlos yelled, trying to brace himself as the vehicle swerved off the side of the road into a small ditch. As the armored truck slammed into the ground, his head bounced off the hard side door.
“Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God,” John muttered over and over again. He poked at his partner. “Carlos? Carlos!” He got no response.
“Damn! Damn!” John reached for the door handle on the driver’s side and popped it open. He had to pull himself up and out as the vehicle was tipped on its side at a forty-degree angle. Pulling himself out and rising to his feet, he surveyed the wreckage. The truck was intact, but definitely immovable. No way he could get it on the road himself.
“Gotta call for help,” he said to himself.
“I don’t think so,” a voice said from behind him.
John whirled about to see a figure dressed in purple and yellow, pointing a three-pronged weapon at him.
“Freeze, sucker!” Trident said. From one of the tines of his namesake weapon shot an icy beam. In a matter of seconds, the security guard was frozen in a solid state, a look of shock and terror permanently etched on his face.
A tall, thin man with blond hair dressed all in purple stepped up. “Nice work,” Throttle said. “Is he dead?”
“He will be,” Trident replied. “I went with the coldest setting. Frostbite should set in within a half-hour.”
“Hmmph,” Throttle said, approaching the ice. “Let’s make sure of that.” He placed his hand on the frozen figure and concentrated. After a moment, he pulled his hand away. “There. He’s done for.”
Trident nodded. “Speeded up the process some, eh?”
“Yep!” the other villain replied. “Now, let’s get the cash out of the back and get out of here!” The two proceeded to the back of the armored vehicle, which they were able to open up easily enough. In no time at all, they were getting away with a large sum of cash bound for a major bank center, all per Mirror Master’s instructions. It was a smaller heist, but one that would continue to supply the organization with working capital.
The doorbell rang to a luxury apartment on San Francisco’s north side. A man with short red hair dressed in a white shirt and green pants crossed the room to answer it. “Coming, coming,” he said, and glanced through the small lens in the center of the door first, noting what appeared to be a brown-uniformed delivery woman standing there.
Cute, he thought to himself. He then undid the chain, flipped the deadbolt, and opened the door. “Yes?” he asked aloud.
“Patrick McGee?” the delivery woman with pulled-back black hair asked.
“That’s me,” the redhead replied.
The woman handed him a small clipboard. “Sign here, please.”
McGee took the board with a pen attached by a chain and scribbled his name on the bottom of the form. “There you go, honey.”
The woman ignored the remark and handed him a small box. “Thank you. Have a good night.” She turned and walked toward the elevator. She could feel his eyes watching her go. When the doors opened, she stepped inside. Luckily, the elevator was empty. As soon as the doors closed, she touched her wrist.
Suddenly the uniform vanished, and Lydia Anastasios was dressed in her own clothes again. The image-maker device she wore on her wrist as a bracelet had worked just as her love had designed it. The thought of Mirror Master made her a bit sad. Oh, Sam, she thought to herself. I hope this ends here.
Back in the apartment, Patrick McGee had closed the door and locked it again. He placed the small box on the glass-top kitchen table and retrieved a knife from the drawer. “Wonder what this is?” he said to himself.
He brought the knife down and sliced open the seam. He then pulled back the two edges. The box appeared to be full of packing peanuts. “Hmmm…”
McGee reached his hand into the peanuts and fished around. He hit something firm and grabbed for it. “Let’s see… eee-eee!“
In his hands hissed a large snake. The serpent lashed forward with remarkable speed, biting into his bare arm.
“Aaa-aaa-aah!” McGee screamed, releasing his grip on the animal.
The snake’s fangs held it fast to the arm as it injected its venom into the man’s system.
McGee staggered a bit, his vision quickly blurring, and his balance unsteady. Then he fell forward hard, crashing headfirst into the glass-top table. There was a loud crash as the glass shattered. McGee fell to the floor amidst the shards, bleeding about his face and arms.
In a moment, it didn’t matter. The snake’s poison quickly killed him.
A dead silence fell in the apartment.
Then, both the snake and the package vanished into thin air. The Tattooed Lady’s special tattoos had done their work, and thus faded from sight.
Crusher Crock was not happy to have been pulled from line before breakfast. He was miserable without his morning cup of coffee, and he complained so to the guard. “Can’t I at least have one to go?” asked the red-haired felon dressed in prison grays.
“Shut it, Crock!” the armed guard said as he opened the door to the small room. “Don’t keep your visitor waiting.” He shoved the man into the small room.
Crusher straightened himself and then glanced over to the small table with two chairs in the center of the sparse room. There was a man in a suit with slightly graying hair. The criminal grinned. “Smithy! What brings you all the way out to Arkham to see me? Tell me you’ve got news of a mistrial or something!”
“Sorry, Crusher,” Randall Smith said.
“Then how about the ball scores?” Crusher replied. “I can’t tell you how frustrating it is in here. I never get to watch the sports channels anymore. They’ll let Ivy check out gardening shows, but can Two-Face and I sit through a Metros double-header? No way.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Crusher,” Smith said, opening his leather briefcase and pulling forth a piece of paper. “Here, you’ll want to sit down and read this.”
“Yeah?” Crock asked. “What is it?” He moved over toward the vacant chair.
“Read it,” the man said. “You’ll see.”
Crusher Crock took the paper and began to review it. It was a very brief note from Paula.
“Crusher,” he read softly to himself, “I’ve had the baby. It turned out to be a boy. He is healthy. I am fine. Please don’t be worried, and don’t try to find us. Just thought you should know. Paula.”
Crusher Crock’s eyes went vacant as he pushed the page together and balled it up in his hands. His mouth twisted a bit. “Where is she, Smithy?”
“I don’t know,” the man in the suit replied.
“Bull! Where is she?” Crock was getting red in the face.
“I said I don’t know. She sent me a telegram and indicated the exact words of her message to you. Even if I knew where she was, I can’t reveal that to you. She has always been as much of my client as you have.”
“Don’t give me that attorney-client confidentiality crap!” Crock threw the balled-up paper at his lawyer. The man deflected it. The paper fell to the floor. “Tell me where she is!” He lunged for the man, grabbing for his neck.
“Guards!” Randall Smith called out.
Suddenly, the door at one end burst open. Two of the guards rushed in, grabbing at Crusher Crock and pulling him off the lawyer. “I’ll kill you!” Crock yelled out. “I’ll kill you, and I’ll kill her, too!”
“Restrain him!” one of the guards said.
Another nodded to a third. Together they wrestled the man to the floor and into a straitjacket.
“I’ll kill her!” Crock was raving. “I’ll kill her and the child!“
Randall Smith adjusted his necktie and then picked up his briefcase as the guards hauled his client back to his cell. He shook his head. The man was loosing his sanity without his wife.
Famed novelist Alexander Kingsley could not sleep. This was not uncommon when he was working on a new novel.
Dressed in a stylish bathrobe, the middle-aged African-American man went downstairs in his San Francisco home to get a glass of warm milk. He thought maybe that would help some. He then carried the glass into his large study, which was decorated with ornate, original African sculpture and artifacts. His generational saga of the plight of the black man from slavery to modern times served as a foundation of his works as well as his cultural interests.
Alex sat down at his large desk where his old but reliable typewriter sat. He put down the milk glass and pondered. Maybe he would write a bit after all. Maybe get in a chapter or two before the sun came up.
He reached down to the drawer on the left to get out some paper. When he pulled it open, he noticed a small plastic sphere about the size of a baseball sitting atop his paper supply.
Odd, he thought. What’s this? He reached for the item and picked it up. It was smooth. Turning it about, he noticed a painted smiley face on the other side.
Suddenly, from a small hole in the painted mouth shot forth a stream of greenish gas. Alexander Kingsley got a mouthful of the stuff.
The man coughed, choking on the gas. “What is this…?”
Suddenly, his face began to convulse, and his eyes bulged out. The corners of his mouth began to upturn, the muscles no longer fully in his control.
Alex began to chuckle and then laugh, loud and hard.
Tears streamed from the corner of his eyes as the man fought to stop laughing.
He could not.
Finally, in a huge fit of laughter, he fell over on his desk. His hand dropped to his side, the smiley-faced ball falling to the floor and rolling across the way.
A small closet door at the far end of the room then opened. A figure watched from the shadows as the man died. Excellent, the figure thought.
The figure glanced about the room, eyeing the ornate artifacts. Time for stage two. He saw a pair of jeweled asps entwined about wooden tree sculpture on a platform. Perfect!
The figure snatched the item and shoved it in a sack.