Monday, January 28, 2013

The Midnight Mallard in "The Villainous Vacancy"

Anas Dabble Drake returned to his home, a quiet little nest on the corner of Greenland and Old French Street. The clock read eight when he retreated to bed, but by the bell of twelve the windows burst and the purple curtains flapped freely on the furious wind. The Midnight Mallard had appeared. At least, that is what one would suspect. It was impossible to tell, because Midnight always disappeared into the shadows.

He emerged from the darkness on a rooftop two blocks away, peering at the street through a thin-slit domino mask. It had been quiet the past few weeks, ever since Kitty Collar was apprehended in the middle of a big time jewelry heist. She was the last of Waldenrove's outlaw family heads, and the newspapers declared the city free of crime. At last it seemed the citizens of Waldenrove could go about their day without threat of bombs, robberies, and malfunctioning cheese-rays. But the Midnight Mallard wasn't so sure.

“What do you think you're going to find, Em-Em?” A velvet voice tweeted through his radio.

Midnight raised the radio to his bill, breathed a heavy sigh, and said: “Evil.”

Static fumbled from the speakers, then Midnight clicked it off. There was no time to talk. And besides, sound would give away his position. The perch, above Polly's Pizza and Crackers, gave him the perfect view of the Waldenrove City Bank just across the street. The bank in which a shadow dashed by the darkened windows.

The Midnight Mallard sprang into action, snatching the grappling gun from the arsenal in his coat. A line capped by a metal three-fingered claw buzzed away with a quiet pop and a small puff of smoke. It reached out for one of the stone gargoyle's guarding the outermost edges of the bank's high walls, fell short, and made a made scramble for anything solid. Eventually the claw latched itself on a low flagpole jutting from the brick building. The rope pulled tight then reeled Midnight off the pizzeria at high speed.

A slight kick as he plummeted toward the dashing red and white stripes landed Midnight safely on the flagpole, though it wobbled uneasily at first touch. He squatted for balance and tried wrapping his toes around the pole, but webbed feet don't bend well. Feeling a trite precarious, Midnight locked a tight grip on the pole, becoming much like a gargoyle himself.

From inside the bank came a thundering roar. The glass doors shattered out, spewing smoke gray smoke into the streets of Waldenrove. A familiar orange tinge licked down the brick steps and across the fresh pavement of Main Street.

Without hesitation Midnight sprang from his perch, using the grappling gun to slingshot himself through the crumpled door frames and into the bank lobby. The air was thick with smoke, but the Midnight Mallard is always prepared. His cape was designed to filter the air, and he wrapped it tight on his bill. All around him fire crackled, merrily munching at the wooden rafters and furnitures of the classy city bank.

A silhouette of the culprit appeared not far away, but it bolted into another room almost as soon as it appeared. Without a word, Midnight gave pursuit, giving up the filter in favor of speed. In no time at all he'd hopped the service desk and rounded into the room, before the door had even swung shut behind the careening criminal. Midnight leaped off his heels, checking the wavering silhouette to the floor. It was a big fellow, with antlers filed into fine points.

“Acting on your own now, Pinhead? I never knew you had the guts.” Midnight grabbed his grappling gun and pointed it at the mingy moose. “Clearly you don't have the smarts.”

Pinhead, or “Antlery” as he preferred to be called, smiled with all his teeth as Midnight stood over him. Suddenly the duck's eyes exploded with colors from all angles. Fireworks of red, yellow and green flashed before him in a dazzling display, each one bringing a throb to his skull. Then the were gone, and Midnight collapsed to the floor.

Midnight stirred some hours later in a room he didn't know. Dawn light passed through the grimy window, showing him the piles of wooden planks and tarp-tied cargo. A warehouse, he rightly guessed.

Ropes burned his ankles and wrists. The more he struggled the more they burned, and he quickly gave it up. His mind worked hard, observing the area around him. There was nothing within reach, and the chair was too unstable to hop in. One of the legs was shorter than the others.

A powerful stench assaulted his nose as a fit of wheezing laughs approached from behind. Midnight swiveled his neck and gazed above his shoulder, barely able to make out the great girth of Elid Must tossing towards him. Must held his gut as he walked, as though he were afraid gravity would tear it away. Midnight speculated it was a justified fear.

“Well, Midnight, it's been fun,” Elid began, looming up behind the daring duck. “And I really owe it to ya for getting rid of the competition. For awhile I thought Kitty was gonna run me outta town! But you put an abrupt stop to that, didn't ya? Well, thank ya, sport! You've been a big help!”

Elid clapped Midnight on the back before pacing around to Mallard's front. A crowbar swung at his side. Without missing a beat, Midnight quietly folded his middle finger to his palm and tapped a small button on his glove. It blipped once, then was silent. Elid didn't notice.

“Unfortunately, even though you've been so kind to me, I can't let you live. It's nothing personal, really. Just busine—actually, forget that. It's personal.” The crowbar flew, cracked Midnight across the head. His chair tossed sideways, falling over on the short leg. “You know how much money it costs me every time you bust one of my guys? Too much. Of course that's all in the past now, isn't it? With the other family heads gone, and you soon out of the picture, I won't have to worry about money ever again. My only regret is that it was so easy. If I'd known you'd fall for the false heist bit, I'd have played that card years ago. Oh well.” Elid shrugged. He raised the crowbar over his head, like a golfer going long. “Gotcha now.”

“Wrong.” Midnight swallowed a small taste of blood before going on. “Got you.”

The skunk's face was dumbfounded. “Huh?”

The warehouse filled with the clatter of boots and the flash of blue lights. Sirens blared, and Commissioner Fowl appeared from behind a crate, gun drawn and finger itching. Elid's lips trembled as the crowbar clanged on the ground. A pair of officers charged the would-be kingpin, restraining his wrists with unforgiving rusty cuffs.

“Good work,” Fowl commended Midnight as he slipped a knife through the burning ropes. “The plan went just as you said. We've got 'em all now.”

“Thank you, Commissioner.” The Midnight Mallard rose and dusted himself off. He looked Fowl dead in the eye and growled: “But more will come. They always come.”

Fowl looked at Midnight and grinned. “We'll get 'em, Midnight. We always get 'em.”

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