SDMJ Classic: Maestro Bellaco
The mighty Thames River, reaching over two-hundred thirty-six miles long, is the longest river in all of England. It channels across the whole of England crossing many of its cities, including London. It is an essential body of water, supplying a boundary and transport through several cities, as well as a marshland that provides home for most of England’s native flora and fauna. To its citizens, The River Thames is a source for waterside entertainment. It has kindled the country’s love for the sports of rowing, sailing, and kayaking.
It was on one fateful weekend at this famed waterside that we found Thaddeus Hedwater and his wife, Mary Jane, enjoying a relaxing private moment. In their identities as secret defenders of the city, The Scarlet Derby and Midnight Jay, they had experienced many daring trials at the hands of London’s supervillains. But with those affairs in order, the duo were happy to take a respite at this most famed of London’s natural wonders.
“Ah, it is an uncharacteristically beautiful afternoon,” Thaddeus sighed as he dipped his fishing rod into the edge of the river, “not a drop of rain to be seen.”
“Certainly dear, and there’s a thousand different water sports you could attempt, though you wish to spend this weekend attempting to fish in the middle of the city.” Mary Jane shook her head. She knelt, opening her picnic basket and setting a pair of plates on a nearby blanket. “You know, we Londoners only just got done using the Thames as an open sewer.”
“You obviously don’t know much about fishing,” Thaddeus said haughtily “I used to do the exact same thing in the East River back in New York. You see, catching a fish where there are lots of fish is child’s play. Catching a fish where there’s just a few fish is a true measure of skill.”
“So, how many fish did you catch in your home, dear?” Mary Jane asked drolly.
“Oh, just about none.” Thaddeus sighed. “Wait a minute, I see something!” Without warning, Thaddeus made a perfect swan dive into the river emerging a minute later and shouted. “I’ve got something, Mary Jane, I’ve got something!”
“You’ve got a lot of trouble if someone finds you swimming in the river!” Mary Jane stood and walked to the river, where she could get a closer look at her husband making a spectacle of himself.
Thaddeus stepped up onto the shore, triumphantly holding a large fish in both his arms. “See! I told you I’d catch a fish!”
“You’re a regular grizzly bear, dear,” Mary Jane said dully as she continued to set out their picnic.
“Looks like some sort of halibut,” Thaddeus peered inside the fish after lowering its lip with his finger. “Suppose you come down here and give me a kiss for the halibut?” He grinned.
“No thanks, dear, I have a haddock,” Mary Jane rolled her eyes, visibly losing patience at all this silliness. “Are you coming up to eat?”
“Wait a second,” Thaddeus looked down at the shore just behind his soaked shoes and socks. On the surface of the water, several fish floated past the water and onto the surface, all of them dead. “This is peculiar. The river must be somehow polluted.”
“I could have told you that,” Mary Jane sighed. “Come along, now. No more of this fish nonsense.”
Thaddeus emerged from the river, holding several of the dead fish in his arms with several more crammed deep into his pockets. “I’m going to need to take these to the lab for testing!”
Mary Jane simply rolled her eyes and began packing up her picnic supplies.
Back in the lab, Thaddeus busied himself over a dissected fish, trying to discover the cause of its death. Wearing a monocle attached to a lever, attached to the center of a brown leather headband, he placed the fish under a dish-sized magnifying glass, magnifying his subject a thousand times. After an intensive search, Thaddeus extracted a sample of strange fluid from the internal organs of the fish, painting it onto the surface of a rectangular glass. “Fascinating.”
“What did you find?” Mary Jane asked as she leaned against a wall of the lab.
“I’ve never seen a substance like this. It has properties of petroleum and lead. The same as crude oil, only more refined.”
“So, someone is attempting to poison the wildlife by tossing refined oil into the river?”
“No, that doesn’t make sense. A compound like this would be too valuable just to throw away.” Thaddeus suddenly lit a match and tossed it over the rectangular cell. A flame and a puff of smoke rose from the glass. “It’s highly flammable, at least as much as a fragment of coal. Perhaps it’s a type of fuel.”
“A fuel,” Mary Jane blinked, “So then it’s being used to power some machine?”
“Indeed. The question is: what kind of machine?”
It was then that Mary Jane took a sideways glance at the grandfather clock in her husband’s lab. She jumped forward, away from the wall. “Oh gosh, is that the time?”
“Accurate to the very millisecond, dear,” Thaddeus replied, as he still focused on analyzing the substance before him. “Why do you ask?”
“I nearly forgot there is a benefit social in an hour that I absolutely must be at.” Mary Jane spun around, lifting her housedress as she carried herself up the steps to the foyer. Halfway, she stopped and turned back to her husband. “Do you care to join me?”
“So I may stand around your hoity-toity rich friends and be reminded through the night about how I am completely unworthy of you? I think not. I’m going to suit up and start investigating this occurrence. The sooner I can figure out where this substance is coming from, the sooner I can put a stop to this.”
“Suit yourself dear,” Mary Jane ran up to her bedroom to change into a more formal dress. She spent her very dwindling time buttoning the many fasteners across her neck and chest. She thought perhaps it’d be helpful to hire a maid for dressing. She could certainly afford it, but it’d be impossible for her to keep her ‘little secret’ with some hired help snooping about.
Dressed to her satisfaction, she stepped out on the street where she hailed a carriage to take her onto the event.
Once Mary Jane stood on the floor of the wealthy mansion where he benefit was held, she found herself silent as the many other notable members of England’s upper crust spoke loudly and lengthily about their various fortunes. As a servant passed with a tray of wine flutes, she took one as she sauntered vaguely towards the center of the room. While she wasn’t as against this lifestyle as her husband was, she admitted it had lost its charm since she got married, and for reasons other than the fact that nearly anyone in this room could toss her a snyde remark about her husband the “eccentric” Yankee chemist.
“Not quite the soiree’ I expected,” A voice from the left of Mary Jane spoke idly. She turned and saw her very close friend Chief Constable O'Gratin. He was holding his tobacco pipe the same way Mary Jane held her wine flute. “To my great surprise, the gentleman of the house doesn’t even own a phonograph.”
“You’re a pleasant sight. Here, your collar is sticking out,” Mary Jane stopped to straighten the Constable’s clothing a little.
“You’re quite the doting one. I suspect that means your husband isn’t about to absorb the attention,” The Constable made his accusation in a manner that was pleasant yet still fitting for a police officer.
“No, he isn’t,” Mary Jane dismissed, “He was too pre-occupied with a project of his to attend.”
“It’s just as well. His presence would only infuriate many of the people here,” The Constable shook his head regrettably. “I’ve taken the time to appreciate the man’s subtle charms, but a lot of the folks around here wouldn’t be able to look past their noses long enough to do the same.”
“If I may ask, what are you doing here yourself?” Mary Jane continued in an idle tone.
“There’s an important foreign dignitary on the grounds. I was asked here to keep a watch on him.” The Constable explained.
“You’re not derelict in those duties?”
“Not at all, he’s right over there,” The constable pointed with the tip of his pipe.
Mary Jane looked over and saw a very thin man with a bird-like nose and pointed moustache. He was dressed in a black shirt, with a lavender vest underneath and a red rose in his lapel. He stood with his pronounced nose in the air, holding one arm akimbo and the other holding up a wine glass, making a wide “V” shape with his extended arm as long as the one at his waist.
“He’s certainly an interesting looking fellow,” Mary Jane said, airing out the faintest hint of sarcasm.
“His name is Hector Bellaco,” The Constable explained. “He’s one of the ambassadors to the Spanish monarchy, and a real hoity-toity aristocrat to boot. You know the type: fancies himself an artist, claims to be on the bleeding edge of some miraculous concept we plebeian civil servants can’t grasp.”
“My ears are burning, Constable!”
Mary Jane looked from the Constable to Bellaco, who had apparently walked up to the two of them as they were talking. Mary Jane was surprised: there were very few people on this planet that could sneak up to her.
“I should apologize for The Constable,” Mary Jane said apologetically. “He was only speaking off-handedly to a close friend.”
“I understand completely.” Bellaco said dismissively. “I know better than to expect a kind word from someone asked to babysit me for an evening.”
The Constable was silent, not wanting to make the situation any more heated, or embarrassing for him. He did, however, raise an eyebrow of concern when he saw the Spaniard take Mary Jane’s hand and give it a kiss. “I don’t believe I’ve yet had the opportunity to meet you, senora.”
“Mary Jane Hedwater, the pleasure is all yours, I’m certain.” Mary Jane took her hand away, holding it aloft in wonder whether the strange foreigner had actually seen the diamond ring on her finger. He simply grinned, and tilted his head back, putting a hand to his chin.
“You know, I only recall hearing of one prominent Mary Jane. She was the holder of the Preston millions.”
“I am exactly the same person,” Mary Jane replied “Aside from my recent marriage. I don’t know much about Spanish custom, but here in England it’s pretty gauche to kiss the hand of a married woman.”
“Is that so?” Bellaco sctached the back of his head, fortunately seeming a bit embarrassed as well. “I’m certain whoever was able to take your hand is a very lucky man.”
“I like to think so,” Mary Jane said with a half grin.
“And where is this husband of yours now?” Bellaco asked in a subtle tone of voice.
“Oh, he’s back home, probably still just in his workshop, tinkering,” Mary Jane said just as casually.
“He doesn’t respect you!” Bellaco said pointedly.
Mary Jane scoffed. “That’s a rather gross assumption to make.”
“No, really, to be in the presence of a woman as beautiful as you, not desiring to walk to the very ends of the Earth with one so lovely. Any man taking you even the tiniest bit for granted is proof of how most unworthy he is.”
Mary Jane shook her head. “You’re making too much of an issue of it. My husband merely prefers his crafts to, admittedly droll, social events like the one we’re standing in.”
“That only further proves my point. A true man of genius should be able to see the potential in all things,” Bellaco leaned in close to Mary Jane and whispered. “I happen to have a bit of my own craft on display upstairs if you’d like to see exactly what I’m talking about.”
Mary Jane had a troubled look on her face. There was something off about this gentleman, something really, REALLY off. But she admitted, she was rather curious as to what the designs of this self-declared artist were, and she was in need of a new perspective on these little social events. She decided to give him a chance, knowing that if he decided to get fresh, she’d show him the 'craft’ she’d learned since becoming Midnight Jay. “Very well, Mister Bellaco, you’ve talked me into it. Lead the way.”
Meanwhile, back at the Thames River, Thaddeus, now in costume as The Scarlet Derby, prepared his investigation. Once he was there he could silently admit to himself that he was this particular problem had to do with a large body of water. It gave him an opportunity to try out his latest invention: an under-water breathing apparatus.
It was an ingenious design, if he could say so himself. It fit neatly on him in the form of a backpack with two wheels attached to a pair of levers tied to his legs. When Thaddeus moved his legs, it pumped the accordion shaped bellows up and down. The bellows filtered air through the case into a pair of rubber hoses which bent in an arc along the sides of the box on both ends and converged into a small mouthpiece. Putting the piece to his lips, he gave a blow, inhaling the air blown back into his lungs by the machine in the back. From the force it took him to kick back the air in his invention, he could tell it was going to take a lot of physical force on his part to work the mechanism, and he hoped he’d be able to do that AND manage to keep himself swimming briskly underwater.
Putting aside the need to wonder any longer, The Derby held his nose and took a step over the surface of the river, slipping deftly into the water with the same splash an ice cube makes when it falls in a drink.
Once fully submerged, The Derby swam about the Thames in search of anything suspicious. His breathing apparatus was working swimmingly so far, though he’d somewhat miscalculated the force it would take to keep an object full of air and made of wood from just floating him back up to the surface. The other thing he noticed was what his wife had mentioned before about the condition of the river: it was downright filthy.
As he swam to the river floor he noticed a very dark, cloudy, mass swirling around in the center of the water, that had to be more of the strange chemical he’d found. The Derby swam further down, trying to meet with the cloud face to face. He pushed a hand into the center of the cloud, feeling something soft and slick just under the surface.
It was a dome. It was transparent except for the dark inky black of this cloudy chemical substance swirling around inside of it. Was it made of glass? No, just like the chemical itself it was a substance nobody had ever seen before. ‘Curiouser and curiouser,’ The Derby thought as he moved down the structure. The dome part of the device tapered down into the shape of a funnel, which was buried into the sea floor, possibly protruding down several more feet into the ground. The two halves of the dome where fastened together by metal rivets, and it was from the narrow slit between the two domes that the chemical was leaking into the river.
The Derby would have investigated further but at that moment he felt a strong hand grip his shoulder. He spun around to find two men in heavy diver’s suits on either side of him, trying to muscle him away from his discovery. The Derby managed to thrash away but it didn’t take long for the divers to grab him by his arm and leg, keeping him from moving.
Obviously, the Derby didn’t have much experience fighting underwater, but these thugs did. The Derby nonetheless tried to thrash his way loose. That was the moment one of the helmeted ruffians put his fist through the Derby’s breathing apparatus. The Derby managed to hold his breath before any water entered his lungs, but regardless, he knew the fight was over.
They took him to what appeared to be a silo built into the wall of the river. It was made of riveted iron and airtight. A large hose, just like the ones that attached to the hoodlums’ divers helmets, jutted out of the ceiling, providing them with air. The Derby was tossed into a corner of the silo as his assailants worked to remove the helmets from their heads.
“What are you trying to hide down here?” The Derby jabbed, using the direct approach.
“We are hiding you,” one of the thugs said, “From our progress.” Underneath their helmets they wore masks shaped like stopwatches, keeping their faces still obscured to the eyes of The Derby.
Mary Jane was led up to the third floor of the mansion, to a room that Hector Bellaco was staying in for the duration of his trip to London. Mary Jane looked past all the ornate deco-rations, paintings, and furniture to fix her eyes on the Spanish ambassador. He’d said nothing until they reached the bedroom on the upper floor. Once he was there, he placed his hand on the doorknob, twisted around towards Mary Jane and asked “My dear, how invested are you in the future?”
Mary Jane shrugged. Thinking of what a proper heiress would say she suggested, “Enough to know there are invest-ments in my future.”
Bellaco leaned in. “That’s not what I meant. Do you think that if you saw something revolutionary right before your eyes, you would know it at first sight?”
“There’s only one way to find out,” Mary Jane said, gesturing at the door. Bellaco looked like he had more to say on the spot, but instead he opened the door. The two of them walked into what appeared to be a mostly empty room, with the exception of a large bulging object in the center of the room covered by a white bed sheet.
“I’m sure by now you wouldn’t be surprised if I told you I had a motive for being here besides being an ambassador from Spain,” Bellaco suggested.
“I wouldn’t,” Mary Jane agreed.
Bellaco moved to the sheet, holding a bundle of the still draped object in a loving embrace. “I have here, the single most important invention of the late 19th century, something that will change the very nature of life as we know it.”
“It looks like a bedsheet.”
Bellaco gave a smirk. “You are certainly a witty one.” He pulled back the sheet. Underneath the veil was a very large object constructed of a silver metallic material. A machine.
Mary Jane watched as Bellaco pulled a cord on the end of the machine, revving it to life. She saw the two protruding corners of the machine vibrate under a sequence of pistons which riveted so fast they made a linear blur in the center of the casing. For all its showmanship, though, the machine didn’t seem to do anything except run itself.
“What is it?” The words fell out of Mary Jane’s mouth before she realized.
“It is a revolutionary new form of engine that works about a million times faster than any coal-driven invention. It uses smaller and fewer moving parts. Part of the reason for my trip was to find a potential investor for mass production of this device.”
“An engine,” Mary Jane said dully “That’s funny, I don’t seem to see any sort of furnace or boiler on it.”
“Ah, that is what is truly what is revolutionary about this device: It runs on a revolutionary form of fuel called petroleum, which is created from refined crude oil. The fuel creates a series of small combustions which power the machine from within without the need for manual application.”
A light went on in Mary Jane’s head, just to be sure her hunch was correct, she continued to question “A fuel from the Earth’s crust, used to create internal combustion. Would it be highly flammable, and have properties similar to crude oil?”
“It would,” Bellaco said in a surprised tone. “I wouldn’t have expected you to know that.”
'Neither would I, if someone hadn’t just told me,’ Mary Jane thought to herself. “And you believe this will change the world?”
“Of course this will change the world!” Bellaco scoffed, his eyes still fixated on the movement of his petrol fueled engine. “With this invention, the steam era will end, every large piece of machinery, every train, every large transport, and every factory device will be remade using these engines. There will be no more coal to stoke, and no more blistering steam factory conditions to endure.”
“But your future will require a lot of this new fuel to power those engines. Do you propose to dig it up all yourself?” Mary Jane asked, although having put it together in her mind, she found it wise not to stick around, and slowly began to move toward the door.
“Well, I have already begun extracting oil from a location hidden here in London, but I admit it would take a good amount of capital in order to create a venture like this worldwide. Alas, if only I were wealthy enough as, say, the Preston family. Then I could use their millions to-”
Bellaco turned away from the visage of his invention long enough to see that Mary Jane had escaped the room. “Oh drat!” he swore, seeing his attempt a kidnapping turned out to be a feeble one, he exited the room in search of her.
Mary Jane, on the other hand, had slid free of the mansion from the nearest second-story window, scaled the accompanying wall, and hid herself behind a pair of neatly cut shrubs. While under the somewhat modest cover, she shimmied out of her formal dress, and slid on her mask, assuming the guise of Midnight Jay. Stepping out of the shrubbery and into the street, she declared “I have to find Thaddeus. Without a doubt he’s already found Bellaco’s oil-extracting site, which means he could also be in terrible danger.”
Indeed, the Scarlet Derby was in peril, for he found himself in these small underwater quarters with the clock-faced thugs closing in on him, still recovering his breath from the near-drowning. In desperation, he reached for the glass vials on his chest, which contained a whole armory of gasses and chemical compounds. Rapdily, he took one in hand and held it aloft for the thugs to see.
“Not so fast! This bottle contains a highly concentrated amount of carbon dioxide! You lay a finger on me and I’ll suck all the air right out of this chamber!”
One of the thugs chortled. “You’re bluffing. If you did that you’d suffocate as well.”
“It’s a small price to pay to take out a crooked operation like this!” The Derby did his best to threaten, but the henchman was right, it was only an empty threat. His eyes darted around, searching for any other way out of this underwater rat trap. ‘What would the Midnight Jay do in a situation like this?’ He thought. Then he looked down and planed the heel of his shoe into one of the diver’s boots.
The diver yelled sharply, and dropped his helmet to hop up and down comically on the foot The Derby stomped on. “Looks like your overseer skimped on the steel reinforcements of your outfits!” The Derby scoffed. Grabbing the dropped diving helmet, he fastened it over his head and swung open the door to the chamber, flooding it with water once again. Without the rest of the suit, the helmet itself would begin filling with water in no time. So, without a second to lose he began to swim, and followed the length of hose that would no doubt lead to the entrance of this mysterious compound.
The Derby swam further upward until he reached the source of the above-ground air hose. Once he could feel his feet on solid ground, he turned around and tossed the diving mask back in the water behind him. He hoped fate would understand he’d had his fill of the river.
Turning back around, his eyes darted feverishly as he tried to get a bead on his surroundings. There were square grey walls and a square grey ceiling. Windows were built into the walls several feet higher than any man could climb. Obviously, this was a warehouse, not far from the river, where an underwater entryway into the oil digging site was built. The Derby walked silently, taking in the various forms of machinery in this factory. Chemistry sets abounded in this room, meant to facilitate the transformation of the crude oil under to that strange liquid he had found inside the dissected fish.
The Derby paused, and spun around at the sound of footsteps approaching. Quickly, he hid behind one of the chemistry sets. The footsteps drew closer. Had he been seen?
There was no time to debate it. He quickly climbed out from under the table with his walking stick ready to strike.
“It’s just me, dear!” The Jay said startled, holding up her hands in surrender. She knew, once she was able to find where Bellaco was hiding his operation, she’d find her husband.
“Oh,” The Derby lowered his staff and stood upright, confronting The Jay in a much more polite manner. “How did you manage to find this place?”
“I checked the first abandoned building I could find right next to the river. It had to be where Bellaco was hiding his operations.”
“Hector Bellaco,” the Jay gave a sigh shaking her head. “I promise I’ll never blame you for never wanting to attend one of those stuffy social events. Bellaco is the man who’s secretly har-vesting the oil to make this strange chemical called petroleum.”
“Petroleum,” The Derby put a hand on his chin. “From the Greek word for oil, why, whoever he is, he’s on par with myself in terms of chemistry.”
“He’s a madman, dear.” The Jay dismissed. “He actually sought to kidnap me and use my fortune to legitimize this little operation.”
“What he’s doing beneath the river certainly can’t be legal either,” The Derby concluded. “So what shall we do?”
“I have no doubt he’ll be on his way here next, we should hide and then ambush him as he comes, then-” The Jay was interrupted by a loud crash. They turned to see the corner of the warehouse wall had swiftly been rendered into rubble. A mechanical hand, holding a mass of concrete and brick moved aside to reveal the clock-face shaped cockpit of a structure so massive, not even the chunk of wall it ripped away gave a clue to its enormity.
The Derby gasped “Wha-what in the name of Josiah Willard Gibs is that thing?!”
The Jay just clicked her tongue, “He must have had more than just an engine in that room.”
“What room?!” The Derby asked in a surprised voice.
There was a crackle. The mechanism moved upward revealing a very large megaphone just below its clock-faced window. The voice that boomed forward was obviously that of Hector Bellaco. “Attention intruders! You shall pay with fresh blood for mangling my operation!”
“I’ll explain it on the way up,” The Jay said as she darted out the door of the warehouse.
The Derby followed, and naturally questioned. “You’re not actually planning on scaling that monstrous mechanism, are you?”
“I don’t see any other way of stopping it.”
As the two of them stepped outside, they were able to see the full width of the devastating mechanical weapon. It was armored and shaped like a train car, made by riveting together several large sheets of metal. A hatch on the underbelly of the device, like that on a submersible, was the most obvious entrance. Shame that it was suspended several feet in the air by a pair of enormous hydraulic metal legs.
The Jay Huffed, and immediately leapt for one of said legs, prepared for a long climb. She wrapped her legs around the long metal shaft, holding her umbrella horizontally and pulling herself up the lengthy metal leg slowly but surely.
“Take my hand.”
The Jay turned to see her husband eye-to-eye with her. She’d managed to climb a good ways up the mechanical leg when her husband fired the grappling mechanism from his cane and wrapped it around the hatch underneath the enormous machine. He was now using it to take the easy way up.
“Are you going to give me another lecture about gadgetry?” The Jay asked in between grunts as she continued to climb up.
“I didn’t even think it,” The Derby stammered “I just reasoned that I nearly drowned in an underwater prison cell all
alone, and you nearly got kidnapped all alone. It’d probably be best for us to stick together from this point on.”
The Jay nodded in agreement, and took the Derby’s hand. She pulled herself into an embrace with her husband, holding her arms around his waist as they continued to ascend towards their entrance to the device.
“Not a bad way to travel, wouldn’t you say?” The Derby asked idly.
“No, I admit it’s a bit easier than my way would have been,” The Jay replied, holding her head on his shoulder.
“You know, I could easily put a mechanism like this on your umbrella, all it would take is an-OOF!” The Jay hit him lightly on his chest, reminding him sharply not to continue his attempted lecture on gadgetry.
“Sorry, dear.” He replied, and they continued upward.
Once they reached the top the Derby twisted the hatch to the left, and sprung it open. They bound down a few inches as they dangled underneath, then the Derby climbed up the remainder of the chain and inside the insidious device.
Once inside, they saw Hector Bellaco at the controls. He pulled on four rows of levers, each making a different leg of the quadrupedal device move forward, and a dial just above which made the device rock left and right, stabilizing it. The Derby glanced at the controls and thought that was the ticket: all he had to do was turn that knob, putting the machine out of balance and stop its rampage. Bellaco would have to somehow be driven away from the controls.
“Hector Bellaco, in the name of all that is good and just, you are under arrest!” The Derby shouted.
Bellaco spun around. “So, you’ve finally decided to show yourself, you masked saboteur.”
“Funny,” The Jay said idly “I was half expecting to fight a few more henchmen up here.”
“Sadly, the red-hatted one took out the last of them when he exposed my underground operation,” Bellaco said regrettably.
“I don’t usually like to criticize, but you’re rather new at this whole villain business, aren’t you?” The Derby said with a chuckle.
Bellaco gave a snort. “I’m not a villain! This operation will herald the world’s progress! It will create a new future of prosperity for mankind!”
The Jay gave a laugh. “And you think you’ll do that by kidnapping heiresses, secretly mining under public land, and building enormous war devices?”
“It’s what has to be done to secure the oil!” Bellaco insisted.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right, Bellaco,” the Derby said, raising his hands for fisticuffs “And we’re two rights which right all wrongs, right?”
“Right! I suppose…” The Jay replied, raising her hands the same way.
“You think I’m going to shy away from a fight? No, this cause is all too important for me.” Bellaco reached back to one of the control levers and pulled loose the round knob at the end, revealing a long pointed sword.
The Jay rolled her eyes. “Why do all of these criminals always have to keep their weapons in such silly places?” The Jay raised her umbrella, and took to fencing. She easily matched Bellaco’s movements, deflecting shot after shot, but surprisingly Bellaco was able to bring his sword back up faster than The Jay could close in for a definitive knockout. One more thrust, and the Jay reared back with Bellaco’s sword thrust just a centimeter before her very nose.
“You’re pretty good at this,” The Jay said, unfazed as she struck the sword back down again.
“Oh, I grew up fencing,” Bellaco said idly.
Suddenly, the two of them felt the ground yank upward beneath them. As they were fighting, the Derby managed to grab ahold of the balance control and worked actively to capsize the enormous mechanism.
“Wait, you fool!” Bellaco shouted back, but it was too late, the entire massive machine began to lurch forward. As the floor they stood on turned on its side, Bellaco flopped forward, first falling against The Jay, and then landing against the sideways wall with his sword plunged dangerously close to her head.
The Jay opened her eyes, and turned her head to see that Bellaco had stuck his sword into the wall of the machine, piercing straight through it. He had missed stabbing her head by just a few inches. Impressive, if it weren’t a complete accident. Raising her head, she saw her husband’s feet dangling above the both of them. He obviously held on to the control levers to keep from falling sideways like they did.
“Thanks for breaking my fall,” Bellaco murmured, his voice low enough for only The Jay to hear. “I knew you were special from the moment I saw you.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” The Jay replied coldly.
Bellaco gave a chortle. “There’s only one person who would have known that I had tried to kidnap Mary Jane Preston, and that would be Mary Jane herself.”
The Jay gave a gasp. She didn’t realize it at the time, but she realized that by accusing Bellaco she’d given away her own secret identity.
“Your secret’s safe with me, but I’m afraid I am going have to insist,” Bellaco’s voice slithered into the Jay’s ear, making her shudder. “You must join my cause. Help me build my new future, as partners, and perhaps even as lovers.”
The Jay slowly thrust both her open-palmed hands over the surface of Bellaco’s chest. “You’re forgetting one thing, Bellaco: Judo.”
“Judo?” Bellaco asked, blinking.
The Jay jerked up a leg, flinging Bellaco backwards through the clock-shaped glass that was his cockpit. He yelled as his body slowly began to fall downward.
The Jay merely stood, pulled her gloves back up to her shoulders, exhaled sharply and said “Judo.”
Seeing that the capsized machine once again possessed some stable ground, The Derby hopped down from the control lever he was hanging from, and went to his wife’s side. “Are you okay, dear?”
“Fine, he didn’t lay a finger on me,” She said, though she bit her lower lip. A lifetime of protecting her secret, and she, just the slightest bit of carelessness gave it away to one of the most despicable men on the planet. Though Bellaco promised he would keep her secret, he really had no reason to, and the treachery that was his sinister plan was proof enough he wasn’t one of the most honest people in the world.
Together, they walked to the shattered clock-faced windshield, and looked down. They were still a couple of stories above terra firma. Bellaco’s vessel had landed sideways against a partially broken wall, destroying the greater part of his sinister petroleum factory. Thankfully the fuel-processing engine of the device had shut off and nothing had caught fire. There was plenty of evidence of Bellaco’s deeds remaining for The Constable to believe their story.
A good amount of the Thames River also jutted out underneath them. The Jay looked down at the floating water below. “No sign of Bellaco. Do you think he-”
The Derby shook his head. “Given the trajectory he probably landed in the river, and, instead of risking another fight with you, he instead decided to swim for it.” The Derby chortled, but the Jay didn’t know whether or not to feel relieved. She continued to question “Do you think we did the right thing by thwarting his scheme?”
The Derby took one more step and took the Jay’s hand. “An underhanded man like him could never rise above the disorder they created and claim they have changed the world for the better. I can only hope whoever discovers this method of fuel in
the future will instead use it with the safety of the environment, and the security of mankind’s future in mind.”
The Derby wrapped the chain from his grappling hook around one of the exposed beams of the mechanism, “We should get going.”
The Jay nodded, and moved into his embrace, gripping him by the waist until they’d safely returned to the ground.