Greetings, Paradegoers, this is the Grand Marshal here. Glad to see you’re back for more pulse-pounding adventures of the MERCURY MEN, a society of heroes out to bring light into a dark world. This is the second chapter of our story by John Simcoe. What you haven’t read the first? Well, check it out!
Mystery of the Blood Devils
Chapter Two – The Ruined Theater
A Mercury Society Yarn
By JOHN SIMCOE
Now I bet yer wondering,“If ole Mack wasn’t out there in the theater lobby, how’d he know all that was going on out there?”
Well, that does bear some explainin’.
You see, I’m a member of the Lawful Order of Mercury’s Lightbearers, a society that through auntie-que-ity, has gathered the world’s greatest men and women to fight against evil and injustice. We don’t even really call ourselves the Lawful Order of Mercury’s Lightbearers — that’s just on the letterhead. In everyday talk, we try an’ make it simple for regular folks. They call us the Mercury Men.… Yeah, I agree with ya, I wouldn’t consider myself one of the world’s greatest men. Just lookit me. I’m a big ole dope with cauliflower ears, tattoos and a mug so ugly the barmaids get in fistfights to take another table.
Compared to some of the other Joes in the society, I might as well be a first-grade dropout. An’ just to set the record straight – I made it to sixth before I sneaked aboard that steamer headed for Auckland.
Anyway, bein’ in the Mercury Men ain’t just about being smart. Just look at Monk. He’s a member, and he’s just a dumb monkey.
Naw, he ain’t gonna get mad at me for saying that. He don’t understand English all that well. Come to think of it, I don’t speak it so good m’self. He’s good with a few words and ideas, but after that, he don’t care if you call him smart, dumb or purple as a plum.
So, yeah, Monk’s in it and so am I.
I got in after I helped Air Ace when he was on a mission to the Bon-Heegi Atoll. He was there tracking down a treasure chest full of platinum. It had been buried there about 50 years ago, and I helped him figger that out because I have a way of getting information outta people.
Naw, I don’t mean that I slug ‘em or pull their fingernails out until they talk. It’s just that sometimes I can see what happened like it was playing out on a stage right in front of me.
They told me it was called post-ignition or something like that.
… No, that ain’t right. Ignition is how you start your car. It’s some dumb word that nobody uses unless your one-a them Swammies who hold seances. Anyway, I’ll try and remember to ask the hypnotist guy in the Mercury Men. He’s always bugging me to help him on stuff, so he owes me.
So, since I can see what happened in the past, I can sometimes help out.
It was a mission to Madagascar where we first ran into Monk. He wasn’t even in the jungle. He was the pet of a snake-charmer who also wanted to be a giant-monkey charmer. He figured the best way to do that was to use Monk in his little scheme.
Well, that didn’t turn out so well for him. I was able to convince Monk that I was gonna be his buddy, not someone who was gonna lock him up until showtime. It costs me a lotta bananas and kiwis, but he’s stuck with me.
Now it’s not that I can’t handle myself in a brawl – I can guarantee I’d be able to lick a page-turner like you – but Monk sure has saved my butt more’n once. He’s real good in a fight. People just aren’t used to seeing a monkey do what he can do.
Now just to show you how my power works, I already knew Andy Michaels’ name once I got down the stairwell in the theater. It just came to me outta the blue.
Some people are like that. I walk close enough to ‘em and their life is like an open book. I know all there is to know in just a few seconds. I guess those are the people that ain’t got nothing to hide. Those people are what they say they are.
Other folks, bad guys especially, have all sortsa corkscrews and knots in their thinkin’, so I can’t see much about them. Their visible past – the part I get to see — is only just a few minutes back or it’s all scattered. I can see the main details – like the little bit of info on a driver’s card – but the rest just leads to cloudy black spots.
The more I get to know them, the more spots I can peel away, but it takes a long time.
But someone like Andy? He’s an honest fella. Watch, I’ll prove it:
“Hey, Andy, where ya from? You said you came inta town for a baseball tryout.”
He’ll say he’s from Mount Wolf, Pennsylvania. His team is the Wolves, and a scout spotted him when they was playing next to the train depot.
“Yeah, I got here yesterday morning from Mount Wolf. The scout got stuck in town one afternoon on his way into Lancaster and watched us during practice. He bought me a ticket and told me to come up for a few practices here. He said the coach would probably like me a lot.”
“Mount Wolf? That’s in Pennsylvania, right?”
“You’ve heard of Mount Wolf?”
“Yeah, here and there.”
Now watch this. His pop works at the local factory where they make screens for doors. And his mom, she cooks up a real good shepherd’s pie most every Wednesday night.
“I bet it’s a big change from Mount Wolf to here. Your parents must be scared outta their wits for ya.”
“Aw, heck no. I been to Harrisburg and Philadelphia before. They ain’t much different than here.”
“What are you gonna do if this don’t work out with the Giants?”
“Just go back home, I guess. Dad says he can get me a job on the line with him.”
“The line?” Apologies. Sometimes it takes a little to guide the conversation.
“Yeah, that’s where you probably heard of Mount Wolf! You ever hear of Mount Wolf Wire? That’s where Dad works.”
“Mount Wolf Wire?”
Yeah, they make ‘wire fabric’ — the kind of stuff you use to make a screen door. They ship it all over the place. There’s probably a million screen doors in New York City that were made in my little town.”
“I bet you’re missing mom’s home cooking though. Out here, you spend every penny on hash. Nothing like sitting down at the table to a hot plate o’ –”
“Shepherd’s pie. My momma makes the best shepherd’s pie. If you’re ever in Mount Wolf, you look me up and I’ll have her make some up for us.”
“You can bet I will,” I say with a smile. Yeah, like I said, it just comes to me.
We had all the time in the world for that conversation because I didn’t know there was any crime scene in the room next door. I figured the big clunker of a robot was all the Alliance had sent out for this doctor fella. I also figured he either wasn’t at the theater in the first place or had high-tailed it at the first sign of trouble. There was no sense chasing after phantoms.
Instead, the first thing I did when all the dust settled was call the Mercury Men headquarters.
You can do it yourself if you want to. We’re always ready to help. Just call your operator and tell her to ring up 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1. That’s 15 ones if you don’t want to count. She’ll tell you there’s no such number. You just go ahead and tell her to plug it in anyway.
It eventually patches into our headquarters here in New York, and we’ll see what we can do for ya — but only use it in emergencies, not if your kitty’s stuck in a tree.
Anyway, I dialed up HQ and they patched me through to Ten, and he promised to get there right away. Now no matter what you do, going 40 blocks in NYC ain’t something you do “right away,” so I chatted up Andy while the police was looking around too.
They were on the scene just a minute or two after Andy socked the robot, which helped us keep gawkers away. The only problem is the police are just as bad about gawkin’ sometimes – and it ain’t every day you get a big old robot showing up on your beat.
One of the flatfoots kicked through the mess, a pad of paper in his hand.
“Say, did you guys see all this? What happened here?” the cop asked.
“That big metal knight pushed in the wall and tore the place up,” I said as I dug through my trouser pocket.
“A big metal knight? C’mon. This ain’t ‘King Kong’ you was watching,” the cop said. “Was this a bomb? Did the furnace explode? What’s all this junk here?” He pointed to the heap.
I fished in my pocket a little more until I pulled my gold card out and showed it to the cop. I always lose that thing. I need more pockets. All the stuff for Monk. Just not enough room, I tell ya.
The cop took the card and mouthed the words to himself:
LAWFUL ORDER OF MERCURY’S LIGHTBEARERS
Member No. 442
And it had our emblem on it. The same emblem you’ll see on a dime, by the way.
“You?” the cop said and then got even more suspicious. “You got some more ID? Where’d you get this?” he added with furrowed brow.
“Ah, blow it, buddy,” I snapped. “The Mercury Men ain’t all eggheads and millionaires. I’m just a working stiff like you.”
The cop scratched his neck with his pencil and stepped back a pace, trying to size up the pile of junk before him. He eyed me again and continued. “A knight? Like King Arthur? Kinda big to be riding a horse isn’t it? Where’s the guy inside the armor then?”
“There wasn’t a person inside. It’s a machine that looked like a person. Just ask the kid here.”
“Yeah, it was a robot. Like in that movie,” Andy chimed in.
“What movie? ‘King Kong?’” the cop asked. I was beginnin’ to think that he’s only ever seen one movie.
“No, the one with the robot lady, only she wasn’t a person, she was a machine shaped like a person.” He paused. “It was a silent one. ‘Annapolis’ or something like that.”
“’Annapolis?’ Are you kidding me?”
Andy was still thinking, not even looking at the guy. “No, it’s not that. ‘Metropolis?’ Yeah, that’s it.”
“Lissen, that don’t matter,” I jumped back in.
This knight – this heap right here – it came bustin’ in the wall. It ain’t no blowed-up furnace. Look, there’s its hand.”
I kicked at its big spiked paw.
“It started sayin’ it wanted some professor. ‘Dr. Emil Freidrich,’ it said.”
“.. And …” I waited to make sure the cop was writing it down, “… it said that it was part of the Anathema Alliance!”
“Oh, geez,” he said, underlining “Anathema Alliance” twice.
“But before it got any further, the kid whacked it. Now we got The Detective on his way.”
“Ten?” the cop asked with a smile. “Ten’s coming here?”
“He’ll be able to figure it out.”
“Do you think he’ll use his belt?” the cop said, his eyes widening.
“If another one of them robots shows up, he just might.”