When the Mad Waxxer had been left unemployed after funding cuts to the college lab he worked at, he knew he couldn’t take it. He’d moved across the country for that job with nothing but hopes, and saw himself laid off before he could receive his first paycheck. He had been left with nothing, so he took a formula and basic equipment. His first victims secured his finances. He took revenge on the donor he blamed for his failed career, then he secured a new one. Rather than live as the downtrodden, he wanted to build a life of the finer things that his victims enjoyed.
Falling in love wasn’t part of his plans. He wasn’t entirely sure he was in love, but the Waxxer still found his thoughts turn every day to Theodora Hunnicutt. He never thought the young woman he kidnapped would show herself to be a cunning and intelligent mentor into the world of America’s old money. He owed a great deal of his success to her, and the rise of his savings.
Theodora seemed to value him as well. Perhaps she saw in him a way to take revenge, or perhaps he was another person whose station in life made a mockery of his intelligence. It has not been her story up to this point.
The Mad Waxxer found her staying at her townhouse just as she was leaving on an errand. He waited until she returned to sneak inside and lounge on her sofa in the living room. She jumped when she saw him, her hand reaching for her purse. “Oh, you,” she said playfully, her face alight with a smile.
The Mad Waxxer hopped to his feet and started toward her, arms outstretched. “Like a blinded man whose sight was returned in time for the sunrise, my life is enlightened again.”
“If only every girl had a master flatterer to welcome her home. It’s good to see you again, but I didn’t expect to see you in the middle of the day,” she wrapped her arms around the Waxxer and the pair shared a kiss.
Too shortly for their tastes, their greetings ended and he revealed the purpose of his visit. “I wish I was here to see you for your own sake, but it’s the bad news that brings me.”
“Bad news?” Theodora asked.
“You haven’t heard?” Mad Waxxer asked, then explained. “The Chief of Police was hurt and kidnapped. They say a note was left by myself and the Brazilian, the new villain who steps on my territory.”
Theodora took her phone out to check on the news as he told her the story. “They’re blaming you? Have they paid attention to anything you’ve done?” she asked. She pondered a moment. “No, they’re too busy thinking the worst of anyone who gives offense. The Pinkertons? I see what’s going on here. My father has spoken about them. You humiliate them, but you’re only a threat to their overstuffed bank accounts. Have you ever seen the Brazilian?”
The Waxxer nodded. “I was there when he took the model in the first place. He’s a real person with real powers.”
Theodora’s eyes glazed over as she thought it over. “So he’s real, but they’re taking advantage.”
“To what end?” asked a voice that startled them both. Theodora turned to see a barely-dressed man walk out of a hallway, hairless skin shining in the light.
The Waxxer’s whip was out like a flash and would have caught the Brazilian in the face if he hadn’t rolled beneath the blow and come up with his hands raised. “I mean no harm!” he said, while the Waxxer released the whip from sticking to the hall wall. “I came here to talk about our scapegoating.”
“Did you take the Chief of Police?” Theodora asked.
The Brazilian shook his head. “I was as caught off guard as well.” He looked between them both. “I thought you two would meet, so I waited in hope of a meeting. Mad Waxxer, both our names are being dragged through the mud.”
The Waxxer cocked his head. “We’re criminals who kidnap people. It’s bad if we clear our names solving crimes, too. It’s a win-win for them. We can’t solve the crime for them.”
“That attitude didn’t stop either of you before,” Theodora said. “You turned each other’s hostages over.”
“We did that anonymously,” Brazilian said, Waxxer nodding along. “We didn’t help our reputations, but we hurt each others’.”
The Waxxer thought it over. “They will still have a reason to bring in the Pinkertons anyway, unless we admit we didn’t take him.” He glanced at Theodora, whose smile grew wide across her face. He loved that smile. “Someone has an idea.”
“We still need to find who has him, but once we know that, you two can kidnap him. You expose what the other people did and show you’re better,” she said.
The Mad Waxxer snapped his fingers. “And the ransom is the removal of the Pinkertons, with the knowledge that we can get at anybody if they try to bring them back.”
The Brazilian smiled at Theodora, and the Waxxer noted his brilliant white smile. “As smart as you are beautiful. No wonder the Waxxer basks in your company.”
“Easy there,” the Waxxer said, moving to put himself between the two.
Theodora giggled. “Relax, both of you. I’m perfectly happy already.” She patted Theodora on the shoulder. “Let him waste breath on flattery if he wants to. You two have to learn to get along while I find out what I can from my family connections. You two, behave.”
The Brazilian smiled at her before looking the Waxxer in the eye. “We should check as well. You know more of the underworld than I do in this state. I have my own sources I can speak to.”
“You have sources?” the Waxxer asked.
“I have sources,” the Brazilian reiterated. “They don’t overlap with the people you both know, but I have them. If there was a struggle, there’s evidence that won’t match what they have on file for us.”
“I suppose it beats going to Paradise City in the middle of the Summer,” The Mad Waxxer conceded.
Theodora knew her father had talked about the Pinkertons before. He’d talked about it around her, cautiously at first, then more boldly. She didn’t like the assumption that she was a ditzy party girl. Her family didn’t want her pursuing studies or a career more fitting to her desires and abilities. They underestimated her, and spoke too much around her as a result. She thought it too likely he had some hand in this, or knew who did. She also knew he preferred to keep notes in paper. He claimed to be old-fashioned, but she’d known him to have inconvenient documents burned without a digital copy left to embarrass him.
She thought about what she knew of her father’s schedule. He would be at his office this time of day. It would be wrong to assume he did no work, but it was work in a luxurious office, drink and snack nearby, with hours of his choosing. The family’s fortunes grew and all it required of him was the push of papers and a few words.
She traipsed in like she owned the place. The secretary managed to alert her father before she walked into his office and dramatically dropped her purse on a chair. “Hello daddy!”
“Sweetie!” he stood up and held his arms out. She moved around the desk to give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to see you. Daddy, I want to go on vacation. Everybody’s getting kidnapped here,” she pouted.
He chuckled. “That’s a splendid idea, dear. It would set me at ease. Where did you want to go?”
It was easy enough to giggle and play the spoiled heiress until her father’s bladder got the best of him. She had only a short amount of time, but she knew where he kept papers he didn’t want casual visitors seeing. She just hoped nothing she needed to see had already been sent to the fire.
The tax evasion and embezzlement were common enough. Withdrawal slips didn’t give anything away, which was the point of paying people in cash. Helping to pay the Pinkertons was hardly comparable to those crimes and he wouldn’t keep it secret, but perhaps the payments had connection to the Chief’s disappearance. Then she stumbled across paperwork about a bonded warehouse. She remembered her father laughing at a young lawyer who suggested the investment upon the election of the nationalist a few years back. The younger man had reasoned that the president-elect would turn to tariffs to try and punish other countries, and that the value of a bonded warehouse would go up as importers would rather wait out the tariffs than pay higher rates. Her father hadn’t taken it seriously at the time.
She snapped a photo of the address and continued looking, finding little else of use, until her father returned. She smiled at him, and adopted a flighty tone to excuse herself.
She adopted a more business-like look when it came time to check on the address. It was an inauspicious warehouse, but then she couldn’t expect a moat and a chained up dog with three heads guarding the gates. When she pulled up to the guardhouse at the gate, she rolled the window down and eyed the guard through sunglasses.
The man looked at her, clipboard in hand. “Can I help you, ma’am?”
“My client asked me to check on something.” She presented a card taken from the large law firm her father employed. She’d caught the eye of an attorney there in college. The romance had come and gone, but she’d kept a number of stolen business cards in case she ever needed them to get out, or into, trouble. They did business in every major city in the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe. A few cards wouldn’t be missed, and no one would know all of their staff by heart.
She didn’t know if gaining admittance should reassure her, or lead her to suspect the law firm as well. Her explorations didn’t get far, though. She went to exit her car and enter the warehouse, but men stepped out of the entrance, eyeing her. They were dressed as if unload the house, but she noticed the way they looked at her, and caught the sight of bulges under their clothes. She had experience dating a soldier, too, and he’d taught her how to recognize a soldier in civvies with guns hidden on them. He didn’t know she’d learned that at the time.
“Can we help you, ma’am?” asked one of the men.
She smiled at him. “My client wanted me to check and make sure you boys were on your guard is all.” She got back into her car, firing off a text message to a number that looked like any other friend in her contact’s list. She didn’t get a good look inside, but now her boyfriend and his rival would learn where they needed to check, and that there was an armed guard.
“Luck be a lady,” was the Mad Waxxer’s response in text. “A lady like no other.”
She smiled as she drove off, imagining taking a vacation with him anyway. Perhaps to Paradise City, where they can see if his luck waxes or wanes with his Lady Luck on his arm.