“Who’s Next?” was crossed out as the headline and replaced by “Who’s Left?” The story underneath told the tale of the escalating territorial conflict of the past few days. More and more of Gordon Hart’s extended family and business associates disappeared. The Mad Waxxer himself skimmed the story again before turning to the man he’d caught. Some lawyer, next in line with power of attorney. He crumpled the newspaper up and stuffed it in the man’s mouth as he squirmed in the spiderweb of wax strips he’d run into while fleeing.
“I must apologize, my good man. It is difficult to maintain decorum as quickly as I must work,” he reassured his latest victim. The man was the second in the same day. He had already taken his next logical victim, but this man was the Brazilian’s next target. This had become a farce, one that the Waxxer intended to stop. It had damaged his mystique and that of his operation. He’d had to arrange more hiding places for his own guests. It was becoming a strain to care for all of them. He had to change diapers, deliver food and water, provide entertainment. He never cared for indeterminate detention, nor pets.
So he’d kidnapped the Brazilian’s next prey. He reached into the inner jacket of his smoking jacket and withdrew a pill. He’d paid to have a small GPS tracker encapsulated. He turned to the man he’d ensnared. “I will require you to swallow this. I assure, it will not harm you. If you do so, I will release you. Another man will come along, my rival, to kidnap you. This pill is your salvation from his grasp.”
The Waxxer withdrew the improvised gag and presented the pill to the man. “You’re a criminal!” shouted the lawyer.
“And were I to steal a man every month for the rest of my life, my crimes might someday equal those you committed and abetted,” the Waxxer answered. “A person’s worth or trust is not decided by the number of speed limits they violate. I have bargained fairly in every transaction. Trust me now and it will end this silly game between myself and the man who would kidnap you. You will be the one to defeat him with this.”
The lawyer looked at his captor, defiant, before saying one word. “Water.” The Mad Waxxer grinned and produced a bottle of spring water to help the tracker go down. Then he set about removing the man from the strips as delicately as possible, leaving as little mark and taking as little hair as he could.
The Mad Waxxer would not be without his own setbacks. He was in his home chemistry lab, creating more of his special wax, when his phone began to beep with alerts. As always, he hated the interruption. It took time to get to a safe stopping point. The law had some give to it; the deadliness of the chemicals he worked with didn’t.
Perimeters were breached. The mobile storage pods he’d rented were scattered around the city so that the discovery of one would not compromise the entire lot. Despite precautions, they were being found. Discreet cameras left to monitor the sites provided a view of SWAT teams breaking into all of them. They dragged out every captive, all the way back to Gordon Hart.
The Waxxer clenched his phone, tempted to throw it, but reluctantly set it down. He tossed his mask instead, and decided to settle in with a bottle of his least favorite wine. Some days, sobriety is a curse. And while he could no longer work in his lab while indulging, he was sure he was in no state to further mix hazardous chemicals. The Waxxer reassured himself, as he looked over a bottle of fermented grape juice, that wonderful things can still come from being crushed underfoot. He somehow managed to keep himself from being soused enough to miss the report that soon came out online about the recovery of his hostages.
The victims were telling everyone the Waxxer kidnapped them. He didn’t like to think how little reputation he’d be left with before the day was over. He wished he knew how they’d discovered him. Perhaps so many abductions in such a short amount of time left a trail of suspicious rentals for detectives to figure out. In that case, he counted himself lucky he’d always thought to maintain fake accounts for those purposes. The criminal accountant he relied on didn’t come cheap, especially in days when the man could be snapped up for a White House cabinet position.
His inebriated sorrow-drowning turned to amusement as the news cut in with reports of another shot fired in the war between the pair of them. He had begun to wonder if his bait had been taken. The release of his own captives increased the value of the Brazilian’s, and meant the other villain didn’t need to take the man he’d fed a GPS pill to earlier. Perhaps it was meant as one last insult to him, but the Waxxer was the one who laughed. The lawyer had been nabbed. The GPS showed him in a location he wouldn’t normally go to, an air-conditioned storage unit in an area none within the orbit of the wealthy would visit.
He had enough sense to wait until he’d sobered up more before sending a friendly anonymous email with the signal’s location to Chief Johanssen. He congratulated the man on his success against the Mad Waxxer, and offered him a chance at further glory. At first, his only regret was not having popcorn. When he sobered up, he reflected on the fact that he could have taken the hostages for himself. But he’d been buzzed and humiliated. He wanted to return that humiliation on the Brazilian. And he had. The news that the Brazilian had also been beaten would help alleviate his own woes, and the more recent disgrace would hopefully chase his own from the news.
And besides, he realized, the Brazilian hadn’t stolen his hostages either. That left the board cleared in this game. It also left the Mad Waxxer no closer to a worthwhile payday to maintain his lifestyle or to save up and treat his dear Theodora. With a jolt, he realized how badly this entire rivalry had destroyed his livelihood. People will actually have confidence in the police to rescue the hostages. What is to be done about that?
Chief Johanssen could breath a sigh of relief, if he thought everything was over with. His office had been bombarded ever since the rash of kidnappings began. The game of one-upsmanship the supervillains had been playing with each other had caused him no end of headaches and lost sleep. He never thought transferring to the wealthy part of Connecticut would entail passing out at his desk. It had happened again this night. A glance at the clock showed it was two in the morning.
The calls for attention from the aristocracy soon turned to calls for commendation when they were rescued, but Johanssen knew better than to think they were out of the woods. He suspected the anonymous tips he’d received were part of the war between the two villains. That war wouldn’t end until one or both of them were behind bars or run out of town.
If only he had the first clue to go on that would allow him to do something proactive. He was in no hurry to hire the Pinkertons or to bring in the Feds. The former abandoned duty for a paycheck. They rubbed him the wrong way the times he’d seen them in action. They had their own secrets.
The latter, the Feds, would step on a lot of toes without regard to secrets his local bosses wanted kept. The local gentry saw his duty as protecting their closets from anyone prying for skeletons. They’d have much rather had the Pinkertons. In fact, a few of them had come forward over the past few days offering to pay to bring them on. He’d made it clear that private detectives wouldn’t be tolerated by him and his men.
Even if he had a superhero he could call, how could he direct them? They had fingerprints from both the Mad Waxxer and the Brazilian, but they didn’t match any in the database. He’d chewed the lab techs out and made threats he didn’t like to issue until they expedited DNA analysis of hairs found by the CSI crew. Just like the fingerprints, there were no hits in the system. Neither of the villains had been arrested before, or otherwise entered into a database that shared fingerprints and DNA with law enforcement.
A knock came to his door. “Who would be here at this hour?” he wondered, then shook his head and chuckled. “Other than me.” Louder, he called out, “A moment!” He checked himself over for anything embarrassing sticking to himself, made sure his clothes weren’t too wrinkled, then said, “Come in!”
The Mad Waxxer arrived at police headquarters bright and early to scope it out, having left his costume at home. He found the press there as well, including the local paper. National news was one thing, but they didn’t have the same familiarity or level of access that the locals had with themselves. The families here paid good money to keep their names off the lips of anyone on twenty-four hours news networks. Sometimes, they did so because, like the Vanderbilts, their relative is the reporter for such a network. The Waxxer doubted Anderson Cooper reports too negatively about Gloria Vanderbilt, his own mother. The kidnapper sipped on his cappuccino and cut away from his thoughts on the lifestyles of the rich and famous to wander over to a man standing by himself among the gathering press.
“Good morning,” he greeted the bean pole of a young man in plastic glasses. “Do you know, by chance, what all of this is?”
The man smiled and adjusted his glasses. “Hi. Yeah, there’s been a development in the Brazilian-Mad Waxxer War. The Chief of Police is going to brief the public.”
The Waxxer cocked an eyebrow curiously. “Well, that sounds interesting indeed. I should love to stay and listen.”
“By all means,” the man said. “I’m here with the Gazette.”
“Ah, the local fishwrapper. This has all been good for your business, I suppose,” the Waxxer commented good-naturedly.
The reporter looked down and nodded, then eyed the Waxxer. “When I joined the paper a few months back, the editor made it sound like we wouldn’t have a year. It’s been incredible to see the jump in sales and views from this supervillain fight. I don’t know how it can keep going, but it saved my job.”
“Greetings,” said a man the Mad Waxxer didn’t recognize, from the podium. Perhaps he was meant to introduce the Chief? “I am Acting Chief of Police Martz. I’m here to announce that early this morning, we discovered that Chief Johanssen has been kidnapped. The office was in a state indicating a struggle. The presence of blood leads us to believe the kidnappers may have seriously wounded Chief Johanssen. He appears to have become a victim of the supervillains who have menaced our community for too long now. The ransom note was signed jointly by both the Mad Waxxer and the Brazilian. In cooperation with prominent members of the community, we have decided to cooperate with the Pinkerton Detectives, who will be arriving shortly, in an all-out manhunt for the kidnappers. We will leave no stone unturned in the hopes of recovering Chief Johanssen alive or dead. Thank you for coming out. I will not be taking any questions at this time.”
The Mad Waxxer shook his head. He’d certainly had nothing to do with this. Perhaps the Brazilian had framed him. He himself had come to scope the place out to kidnap the Chief and assert his dominance and seriousness. Instead, the newbie had messed up and injured the chief. He’d tipped the scales enough to bring down the Pinkertons, who didn’t care about due process or prisoners’ rights. He hated the thought, but perhaps it was time the Waxxer took a vacation. He would be abandoning his territory to the Brazilian, but perhaps the Pinkertons would nab him and simplify the Waxxer’s life.
First thing’s first, however. The Waxxer wasn’t going anywhere without paying a visit to Theodora first, and charm her while waxing poetic.