Theodore Hunnicutt the Third hadn’t taken it well after he didn’t hear back from the team of cleaners he sent to eliminate the kidnappers and their hostage. He kept calling his Pinkerton contact. The scene at the Presario was all over the news, with dead bodies and prisoners reported. The devil was in the details, most of which the press weren’t mentioning. Maybe the police were keeping it to themselves. It’s even possible the Presario was using its pull to keep gory information from leaking. In any event, he had no idea if his people succeeded in killing anyone they set out to.
The Pinkertons still hadn’t gotten back to him since the day he received the video. He had to resort to his usual private methods. There were always people with criminal records or a military past who needed money. A little more cash made questions irrelevant. With that having failed, he hoped the Pinkertons would listen to reason and his wallet enough to come in. They could fix this. They had specialists for this sort of thing, and they were supposed to be brought in to take over this job from the police. He could still salvage this, if only they would play ball.
Theodore’s call was interrupted by a text message just as someone knocked on his door. “Police,” his assistant had texted him. He grabbed his burn pile of documents and slid them into his hidden door before standing up. “Come in!”
Uniformed officers entered, people whose superiors owed him favors or owed their positions to him. He thought he’d have this settled in no time. That thought disappeared when Chief Johanssen hobbled through the door using a cane. “Chief, how good to see you!” Theodore feigned happiness at the failure. He held out his hands in greeting, at which point Johanssen nodded to one of the officers. That man stepped forward and slid handcuffs into place. “What is this all about?!” Theodore asked indignantly, face turning red.
Johanssen let out a single laugh, then winced and raised his free hand to press against his side. “Theodore Hunnicutt, you’re under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to kidnap, and any other charges I can damn well remember for the shit you tried to pull. I’m sure your attorney will be along shortly, but not before you see the inside of a cell. Get him out of here.”
Theodore tried to stand his ground, but a second cop grabbed him and helped move his uncooperative mass out of the door. His assistant stood against the wall, looking on sheepishly as if there was anything else she could have done. Theodore called to her as he was dragged out the door, “Ms. Worthing, call my lawyer!”
He turned toward the street to see who was watching this unprecedented humiliation and found himself a deer in the headlight of a newspaper cameraman.
“Hunnicutt In Hot Water!” the newspaper declared. The Mad Waxxer grinned as he looked it over. He’d had the paper copy sent to him, having left town after the arrest of Hunnicutt had gone off without a hitch. He liked the physical version, as old-fashioned as that was, but he’d also wanted to pay back the Brazilian by spending money on the newspaper. The man had saved his life, and sometimes old-fashioned ideas like owing someone weren’t so bad. The Waxxer read the story over before setting it on the towel next to his beach chair and rooting around in the bag he’d brought for his phone. “Just read the good news,” he texted the other kidnapper.
“Good 2 hear! Hope your having fun down there. Im taking care of the Gold Coast. Don’t worry.”
The Waxxer shook his head, but just then his phone was snatched out of his hands. “No work, all play makes Jack healthy, wealthy, and wise,” said Theodora, who leaned over and gave the Waxxer a hell of a view and a hell of a kiss.
“Mmm, two out of three ain’t bad,” he said after the kiss, looking into her eyes.
She booped his nose. “One out of three. We’re not going back home until you’re healthy, and you’ve got me to be wise for you. Until then,” she slid into his lap on the beach lounger. “You’ve got all the money you need by marriage.” She played at giving the phone back to him, then tossed it a short distance away into the soft sand of the beach.
“I hoped to save up so you wouldn’t be marrying so far down. If your father finds out, you’ll be as poor as me. For all that I play at being cultured, dear, I’m but a poor plebeian.” he said as he pulled her legs up further. He held her with one arm while the other traced over her bright blue toenails and the strap of a flip-flop.
She laughed and patted him on the head. “Is that what took you so long? Don’t make the same mistake my father did. I’m a big girl. I know how to do more than spend money, just like you know how to do more than tie people up. Besides, my father’s not going to be in any position to cut us off from anything.” Something buzzed. She reached into the right cup of her bikini top and pulled out her phone. “Daddy’s finally out on bail, so it’s only a matter of time before he finds out the bad news.”
“Bad news?” asked the Waxxer, pretending to pout.
Theodora kissed his forehead. “Bad news for him. Hey!” she reached for the phone he plucked out her hands and tossed off into the sand by his.
“We’ll worry about him later, you gorgeous, smart woman. For now, you have bigger problems to deal with,” he grinned wickedly. The hand at her foot tossed her flip-flop away and began tickling the bottom of her foot.
“Ahh!” she yelled, happily, as the couple fell into a tickle fight on the sands of Paradise Beach, in Paradise City, Florida.
Back in his office, Theodore Hunnicutt the Third cursed the lack of response from his daughter, then tried the Pinkertons. Again. This time, they picked up. “Mr. Hunnicutt, we didn’t expect to hear from you again.”
“This is partially your doing, you know. If you had called me back… ergh, we’re not on a good phone line. I need to meet with you in person!” He yelled. He stomped over to the liquor cabinet of his office and poured himself a glass of Scotch. “I’ll whatever it costs to fix this for me.”
The woman’s voice took an apologetic, mocking tone. “Surely a man such as yourself has other, cheaper ways to get out of this trouble. I was under the impression you were well-connected and could even replace a Chief of Police if need be.”
Theodore set the glass down on his desk, hard. “Nobody’s speaking to me. Things are in the newspaper, but it’s only connecting me. They’re making a scapegoat of me so none of this comes back on them. I have my own leverage, but it isn’t about that now. He marched me out in handcuffs! It was in the news!”
“Have you checked the news today?” the Pinkerton asked.
“I just got out. I’m too busy.” He walked around to his chair and turned on the lamp. He pulled a notepad over and grabbed a pin. “Name a number.”
“Not everything has a price, Mr. Hunnicutt. The integrity and good name of the Pinkertons is one of those things. You paid us and engaged our services without telling us the full story. Whatever else we are, we are not a criminal organization. It’s important we assure the public of that in these chaotic times. That’s why we’re cooperating fully with the police investigation, to clear the name of our agency. We were falsely accused of providing the manpower for that unfortunate business at the hotel. That left us no choice but to set the record straight. In turn, we are unable to contract for any other business with you at this time. Thank you ever so much for your interest, and feel free to call us again if you turn out to be innocent.”
She hung up. Ted almost threw the phone, but settled for tossing his empty glass against the wall. “Everyone wants proof of the record, do they?” he muttered to himself. He reached down for the hidden drawer on his desk and pressed the release. He pulled it out and looked.
It was gone. All of it, except a card-shaped envelop with the word “Dad,” on it in his daughter’s handwriting. He picked it up, looked around underneath as if the proof he hadn’t yet burned could have been hiding. Finally and quite furious, he tore open the envelop to see what his daughter had to say for herself.
The card was a sentimental “Thinking Of You” card, with a message scrawled underneath easily-forgotten platitudes. “Daddy, I know this must come as a shock to you, but it won’t be the only one. You never knew me as well as you thought. You wanted a son. You had me instead. I had to be a pretty, silly girl to attract your real heir. I was used to that, but then you tried to have the man I love killed. I will keep him safe. And speaking of safe, check yours. Love, Theodora.”
He threw the card to the desk as he launched himself from his chair. He pulled a painting of his grandfather open on its hinge to see the wall safe. He kept a large amount of cash and valuables in there for when he didn’t want a paper trail. He punched in the combination and held his handprint to it. It clicked open. It had been emptied, except for a polaroid and a scrap of newspaper. He checked the polaroid first, which showed his daughter in a simple white dress, standing with a tuxedo-clad man he didn’t recognize at a tacky wedding altar. The altar looked like they were in Vegas, but he had no idea who the man was at all. He set the photo aside to pick up the scrap of newspaper.
It was a story with no date attached. It used sensitive information from his documents to pin the blame for the entire fiasco with Johanssen entirely on him. Theodore’s mind raced. Whatever his daughter was talking about, she must have used the information she stole to convince his friends and the Pinkertons to throw him to the wolves. He had to talk her out of this. But first, he was going to visit a country that wouldn’t extradite, like Ricca.
He turned to leave and found himself staring at a shirtless man with dark skin. “Good God, who the hell are you?”
The Brazilian smiled. “Hell of a story, isn’t it?” He snatched the newspaper clipping out of Theodore’s hand. “Think of me as an insurance policy. I’m here to make sure you stick around.”
That concludes our brief intermission. We’ll be back to the usual murder and mayhem soon, folks.
The Mad Waxxer, laying low and keeping an eye on the Chief of Police, did so from the comfort of the hot tub in the bathroom using cameras and a tablet. Modern technology made it so much easier to enjoy simple pleasures like hot, bubbling water on the body while he helped himself to a sirloin sandwich. He’d have preferred a good burger, though not just any fast food. Unfortunately, the Presario’s burgers left something to be desired.
In short, the Mad Waxxer was, at the moment, the Mad Relaxer. He’d even left his mask on the side of the hot tub, further exposing himself to the world consisting of his bathroom. It was a world with only himself in it, though he accepted calls from those who knew him well enough to have his number. That meant Theodora, whose voice made an already-pleasant day all the more pleasant. He pressed a button that took the call while he kept an eye on the cameras. “Have I died? An angel calls me.”
Her words didn’t lighten his mood. She spoke in a rush of concern. “You need to move. Dad has people coming for you.”
“How do you know?” He tried to set his sandwich down, but knocked the plate onto the floor, shattering it. He stood up, tablet in one hand, sandwich in the other, and tried to hit the switch to turn off the jets with the back of his foot. He nearly slipped when loud knocking at the door of the hotel suite startled him. He didn’t ask who it was.
“Housekeeping!” called a gruff voice. Unless housekeeping had taken to wearing nondescript tan and black clothes while delivering a load of shotguns, his visitors were here to clean him up instead. The Waxxer eased himself out of the hot tub, then scrunched up his face and forced his mouth shut before he could yell at having stepped on broken shards of plate. He hopped on one foot over to the sink and counter.
He let out a “Shit!” when he heard the door shatter under the heavy boots of someone meant to kil him.
Relax off, wax on. He set the tablet down, then lifted it back up. He realized that would be more useful than the sandwich. The tablet let him track the men flooding into the suite with guns. He set the sandwich down and dressed in towel and mask.
The door burst in, shotgun leveled at him. The man wielding it took a sirloin sandwich to the face and fired widely. He missed the Waxxer, but not the Waxxer’s ear drums. They fucking hurt. It felt like the pain was embedded deep in the tissues of his ears and causing the intense ringing he heard. Gritting his teeth, he balled up his fist, reached way back, and asserted himself on the man’s face. The soldier’s head bounced off the doorway and he fell down. That left plenty of time for the Mad Waxxer to yell and rub his hand.
The pain in his ears and hand was joined by a sting from a projectile whizzing right past him. He ducked to the side, suddenly wishing he’d ordered a salad, or fries, or anything else he could toss in the face of this assailant. “This diet’s going to be the death of me,” he said to try and cover up the overwhelming fear as more and more shots were fired into the bathroom while he stuffed himself as far underneath the sink as possible. He thought he wet himself at one point, but it turned out to be the water from the perforated hot tub.
At one point, the man by the doorway stirred and tried to stand, but the others didn’t halt their fire quickly enough. The Mad Waxxer was surprised how hot the man’s blood was, but he was quickly getting used to being surprised. He reached back to get whatever was pressing in on him out of the way, figuring he could at least die in comfort, and pulled out the bathroom trash can. He looked around, wondering if there was anything else he could use to help himself. He he saw shards of plate as well as pieces of the broken mirror.
When the shots died off and the first man entered, he shoved the small trash can over the man’s face. He barely even thought when he shoved the mirrored glass up again and again, cutting into the underside of the man’s face, between the chin and throat. He blinked as the man fell, looking down at his bloody, cut hands and the glass. He dropped it, looking at the blood that had covered him.
He had never taken a life before. Now, some man just like himself was… gone. Not disappeared, but he had ceased to be. It all happened so suddenly.
“It gets easier,” said the next man through the doorway, who saw the Waxxer’s shocked expression and met it with the barrel of his gun.
The Mad Waxxer looked him in the eye and puked. He was surprised when the other man didn’t give him a faceful of buckshot in return for the vomit, but after a moment, he realized he could do more than stare at the thing. As the man wiped at his face, the Waxxer grabbed the shotgun, his hand landing on the pump along with the man’s. He moved his body out of the way and tried to pull the gun away. It didn’t come free of the assassin’s grip, so he pushed it. That didn’t loosen it either, so he pulled it forward again to drive it into the man’s belly. He missed the first time and the man tried to take control of it. After a few seconds of struggle, the man threw his shoulder into the Waxxer and knocked him back. He raised the shotgun, squeezed the trigger, and nothing happened. Cursing, the man looked down at the gun’s pump, then at the floor, where unfired shells rolled around.
The Mad Waxxer saw his opportunity. He tried punching the man in the face, reasoning that it went so well the first time except for his injured hand. He was out of his element, though, and the punch nearly missed. It clipped the man’s nose instead, which had more give than the Waxxer expected. When the man glared at him, he realized his nose no longer lined up correctly.
The man yelled and raised the butt of his shotgun for a downward swing. The Waxxer ducked and tried to crawl under the man’s legs as the assassin struck, but tripped the man up instead. He tumbled into the hot tub, the shotgun skittering out of his grip. The Mad Waxxer grabbed the towel rack and ripped it off to beat the downed man over and over.
He was surprised by another shot from behind. It was easy enough to do with as many unprotected shots as he’d heard by now. He thought there would be pain at least. Or holes. He looked down at himself, and while he saw an amazing amount of blood, only a little came from his winged arm. He turned around to see if the person’s warning shot was about to become the non-warning variety and saw the man looking up. The Waxxer couldn’t see what he was looking at, but he saw another shotgun swing from above and smack the man in the head. He dropped. After a moment, a flower pot fell on him as well.
“Hello?” asked the Waxxer, stepping toward the bathroom. He glanced back to make sure the man in the hot tub was in no hurry to get back up, then ducked and looked out.
The Brazilian clung to the ceiling. “Wassup?” he heard from far away and through all the ringing.
The Waxxer let out a breath mixed with a sigh. “I can’t believe I’m happy to see you!”
The Brazilian looked around, then motioned with his hand to lower something. The Waxxer didn’t quite catch what he said next. He turned his dominant ear toward the other kidnapper. “What?”
The Brazilian’s eyes widened and he dropped down, pressing his lips close to the Waxxer’s ear. “I said, stop yelling or you’ll alert the rest.”
The Waxxer pulled away from his rival and looked around. Spotting the tablet down under the sink, he bent to pick it up and checked the cameras he could see on the device’s cracked screen. “I think that was all of them,” he told the Brazilian, who took the tablet away from him after the announcement to check for himself.
He trapped through as well, then turned the tablet toward the Waxxer. The room they were keeping Chief Johanssen in had been breached. The intruder and the Chief were both down, the Chief possibly even dead. “Grab your gear,” the Brazilian said. The Waxxer didn’t argue.
They both rushed into the holding room, Waxxer in his mask and smoking jacket only, to begin checking over both of the men on the floor. The Chief had one hand free of his handcuffs and some bruises forming already, but he was breathing. The other man wasn’t. The Brazilian jumped back as Johanssen lunged at him suddenly, but was able to grab the man’s arms and hold him.
“They tried to kill you too?” the Waxxer asked.
Johanssen swallowed, then grimaced in pain. “Yeah. I identified myself when he burst in, but he attacked anyway.”
“Theodora said her father sent people. He’s trying to clean all of us up,” the Mad Waxxer said.
The Brazilian nodded. “We need to take him down.” He looked between the two other men, then asked Johanssen, “Are you in favor of the Pinkertons?”
The Chief of Police looked down at the body next to him. “I think that answer should be fairly obvious at this point. No. I didn’t get into this so people could do whatever they want without any justice. Even when I came here, I thought I would just look the other way on some harmless stuff. I didn’t think they’d start killing whoever was inconvenient.”
The Waxxer shrugged, “You didn’t stop their small crimes. Why did you expect them to follow more important laws?”
The Chief wiped some blood off his face that had begun to trail toward his eye as he looked at the Waxxer, but the Brazilian spoke up, “Actually, there’s some controversy over the efficacy of Broken Windows Theory. At it’s worst, it’s a neutral-sounding way to be racist. The rich can always pay their way out of being held accountable. I bet they’ve threatened to fire Chief Johanssen here many times.”
“A few. And they could. They bumped me up to Chief of Police out of nowhere,” Johanssen said, then grunted. “Ow… nobody needs all of their lungs, do they?” That got a smile all the way around. “The things they do to control the police around here are legal, because they made sure the politicians left it legal. Someone who cares about law and order can’t do anything to them without breaking that law themselves. I’m sorry. I’ve really fucked up. I let the money go to my head.”
The Brazilian put his hand on the Chief’s shoulder. “It’s fine. We are all just folks here. We’ve been pushed down, kicked down, and, from time to time, we’ve fallen. You have the opportunity to find out if you’re the kind of man who stays down when you’ve been kicked, or if you’re the kind who stands back up and faces it.”
He offered his other hand. The Chief took it and they both stood up, with the Waxxer helping Johanssen when he started to falter and trip over the body next to them. He could have said something snarky about the short speech the Brazilian gave Johanssen, but something about it reminded him of his insecurities over Theodora, and his desire to never be without her. “First, we put an end to Ted Hunnicutt’s plans,” the Waxxer said. “Then, perhaps, I take a long vacation to make my life about that which I love, instead of that which I hate.”
When we last left our heroes, they were nowhere to be found. Instead, the villains had just stolen a hostage from a group of dickweeds who stole him to make them look bad. The Brazilian and the Mad Waxxer escaped successfully, but what of their plot to hold the hostage even more hostage and force the important people in the community to reverse their decision to hire the Pinkertons..
The Mad Waxxer wanted to send a DVD with a video on it to put the screws to Theodore Hunnicutt, but the Brazilian kept ragging him about that being old-fashioned. “You don’t understand,” the Waxxer explained. “We can send the video with Theodora.” Here, he nodded toward his girlfriend and Theodore’s daughter before continuing. “It’s an implied threat toward her.”
“It’s still behind the times. What would we do if she had broken it? She’s supposed to be a ditz, remember? No offense,” the Brazilian said to Theodora, who smiled warmly and gave him the finger.
Theodora spoke up next. “I love this discussion, but how about you two do a video, I send it from my email, and you pretend you got access to it somehow. It’s digital and it’s still threatening. It would even throw them off the scent of how I found where they were keeping the Chief by making it seem like one of you is a hacker.”
“That works,” the Waxxer said, glad he had Theodora.
“Fine by me,” the Brazilian said, glad that at least the Waxxer knew Theodora.
Theodora rolled her eyes at the smoldering intensity of the rivals, wondering how much friendlier the pair would be if they fucked. She concluded it wouldn’t change much, and the pair would probably get into an argument over whether or not Brazilian spanking Waxxer’s ass got her boyfriend off. At least it made an attractive image for her to think about while the pair argued again. “When you two are done showing off your professionalism, we have a video to shoot,” she said.
Theodore Hunnicutt the Third wasn’t having a good day. He had asked to speak to a supervisor, and now that supervisor was in his office, flanked by a pair of guards. “When I hired the Pinkerton Agency, I thought I ws getting the elite of private threat management companies. You have a sterling reputation for dealing with superhuman threats. I fear your reputation is overblown.”
“Mr. Hunnicutt, I appreciate your time and, more importantly, your money. Rest assured, we are the best. And the reason we are the best is because we know to study each unique situation involving the exceptionally-abled and we have the resources to react accordingly. While you did hire a team to deal with the two individuals causing problems for your family, the team hired to obtain the Chief of Police was not chosen in order to deal with them. They were chosen to obtain and hold a trained and experienced police officer. Their failure was due to circumstances outside their control and knowledge they couldn’t have had. Two people with the power to stick to things found the safehouse you provided. There was no leak on our end.”
Theodore leaned forward in his chair. “I didn’t hire you to talk about why you can’t solve the problem. I hired you to solve the problem! Your men were supposed to guard the Chief of Police in a situation where you were hired to deal with supervillains who kidnap people. You said that your job is to figure out what needs to be done to handle the problem. My role is to pay you and tell you what to do. I’ve paid you, so figure it out and get Johanssen back!”
With such an important meeting going on, it’s understandable that Theodore Hunnicutt didn’t interrupt it over an email from his daughter. He figured it was about some silly thing she was doing now. He also thought it would be a good way to take his mind off the failures of the Pinkertons, so he looked at it after they’d left his office. He nearly broke the screen texting his secretary to stop the Pinkerton representative and direct her back to his office when he realized what had been sent to him.
The representative found the whole situation quite amusing when he started up the video. She held her hand out for it as it started up. “May I?” She accepted the phone to watch.
It began with an image of the Chief of Police, handcuffed, sitting in a chair. The man’s head was still red, but the gash had been treated and bandaged. He’d had a bath and a shave as well. “My name is Captain… Chief Phil Johanssen,” the man could have sounded worse while discussing the promotion that had been prompted by the rescue of high profile hostages from the two warring supervillains before they’d joined forces.
The Chief went on, his eyes moving from side to side as he read. “I am saying this of my own free will and am not being forced to read this by my captors, the magnificent Mad Waxxer, whose skill at kidnapping is matched only by his skill at lovemaking and writing. And the Brazilian, who is also present.”
“Fuck you, numbnuts,” the Brazilian said as he stepped into view. “You couldn’t have done it without me. We’re here to say we did not kidnap the Chief.” He looked down at the handcuffed Chief in question, then looked back up at the camera. “…initially. We didn’t kidnap him initially. Someone else took him in order to allow the rich and powerful the excuse they needed to bring in the Pinkertons. A private police force in service only to the rich and powerful? What could go wrong, right?”
“Not only that,” said a voice from off screen as the camera jittered. “But it was one of the area’s rich, favored sons in whose warehouse we found Chief Johanssen here.”
“It’s true,” the Chief said, “These two had nothing to do with attacking me at HQ. They took me from the people who really grabbed me, ex-military people. They’re treating me well, treated my wound, but they have a demand they would like me to pass on. All you have to do to get me back is cancel the plan to bring in the Pinkertons. It saves you money, too.”
“Read the room, dude,” the Brazilian said, leaning on Johanssen’s shoulder.
The Mad Waxxer spoke again, jostling the camera even more. “If a moral argument worked on them, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Sometimes, you have to be pragmatic and appeal to their greed.” The camera turned to look up at the Mad Waxxer’s mask. The man smiled his pearly whites and went on, “Besides, it would be too coarse to resort to obvious threats. Hmm… how to send this to you, though?”
The video cut out there, but Ted Hunnicutt spoke, “That video was sent to me from my daughter’s email account.”
The Pinkerton representative clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “That is unfortunate.”
“We have to get him back,” Hunnicutt said.
The rep raised her eyebrow. “It’s admirable that you’re willing to stick with us after we failed you so badly.”
“Can you find them?” Hunnicutt asked. “This isn’t over yet. They won’t beat me.”
“There is an astonishing amount of metadata available in video and images. If you can provide my people a copy of the video, we can find the phone that shot it and trace its location. You said this was sent from your daughter’s account? The one he keeps taking?” She asked.
“Yes, that’s the threat he mentions at the end. He wants me to know she isn’t safe,” he said.
The rep looked up at one of her guards, then back to Mr. Hunnicutt. “Have you ever considered that she might be involved with him?”
Theodore snorted. “That’s ridiculous. She wouldn’t date some thug like that.”
“Uh huh…” the Rep said. Her other guard leaned down and showed her something on his phone. “In light of the full situation, while we can find where the video originated, we will have to save that for a more formal renegotiation of terms.”
“Vultures! What are you doing?” he called after them as the Rep got up, left the phone on his desk, and walked out. Wasting a second on incredulity that they’d walk out on him, he tried to follow.
His assistant met him at the door, her phone in hand, asking, “Sir, you need to see this.”
When his phone alerted him to the breaking news, the Mad Waxxer very nearly spat out his celebratory wine. Theodora handled it much better, finishing her sip before asking after what happened. She took one look and called out to the other room. “Brazilian! What did you do?”
The Brazilian entered, wearing a shirt and flip-flops now. “You know already?”
The Mad Waxxer very nearly tossed his glass at the man, but set it down. “I have been keeping abreast of developments regarding the wealthy and our little dispute this entire time. Did you think I would miss it?”
The Brazilian smiled, wide but close-mouthed. “Glad to hear you say that. I have friends at that paper. Circulation’s never been better than during this fight we had. Now they get the scoop on us nabbing the head cop and making demands of your dad.” He nodded toward Theodora.
She shook her head. “You work at the paper.”
“You said that, not me,” the Brazilian said, not her.
“This is what you were doing the entire time. It’s not about kidnapping. It’s about keeping your job open,” she said.
“It’s so open, it hung us out to dry. These sorts of negotiations with these sorts of people require privacy. The deal’s going to be off now,” said the Waxxer. The article leaked the contents of their video.
The Brazilian shook his head. “Public opinion will force them to comply.”
The Mad Waxxer started to throw up his arms, remembered his glass, and set it down first. “He’s rich. He doesn’t care about the public.”
“Well see about that. Are we done here, or do you want to yell at me more?” asked the Brazilian.
The Mad Waxxer just shook his head. Theodora shooed him off and said, “We can handle Johanssen for now. We wouldn’t want you releasing him to get an exclusive interview.”
The Brazilian rolled his eyes. “That would raise too many questions. Give me some credit here.”
The Waxxer put his arms around Theodora and rested his chin on her head. After the Brazilian left, he asked quietly, “How do you think this is going to go down now?”
“My father’s an asshole,” she answered. “There’s only so much he cares about looking good. I hope that’s not true of whoever else is working with him from among families here. Otherwise, if it’s just him and everyone realizes it? He’ll have nothing to lose.”
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.