SDMJ Classic: The Three-Headed Mob
The strange circumstances started where most days end: In the parlor, drinking tea, as Thaddeus J. Hedwater, and his wife, Mary Jane made a polite evening for their guest Chief Constable Howard O'Gratin. Their previous date for tea was sadly cut short. First there was a small explosion, which Thaddeus had caused in his basement workshop, then there was the threat of a larger explosion, caused by arch-criminal Silas Monstrosity. He had attempted to destroy Big Ben using several gallons of stolen nitroglycerin. Fortunately for the city, The Scarlet Derby and Midnight Jay had intervened, and brought with them a chemical that was able to neutralize the volatile weapon in time.
“Most of my men are still down in the sewers scraping that goopy concoction The Scarlet Derby left about the walls,” The Constable said between sips of tea. “I wonder what had gotten mixed in with the nitrate to cause such a reaction.”
“Perhaps it was yeast?” Thaddeus offered. Indeed, while disguised as the Scarlet Derby, Thaddeus had thrown a vial of yeast in the nitrate. He had originally developed another chemical compound that would have done the trick a bit neater, but in the heat of the moment the two heroes had thrown in the yeast instead.“
"Piffle,” the constable replied “A common household compound like yeast would not react that way. As a professional chemist, you would know that.”
“Well, perhaps The Scarlet Derby simply got lucky this time,” Mary replied with her lips still hovering very close to her tea cup. Her husband grimaced, and slouched back in his chair with crossed arms.
“Well, at any rate, the city indeed owes a great debt to The Derby,” The Constable stood and went for his coat and cap. “I appreciate you re-scheduling our little tea-time, but I’m afraid I must be going.”
“Already working on another case, Constable?” Mary Jane asked curiously.
“I’m afraid so. It’s the strangest thing as well: Belle’s Tea House at the bottom of Cocoa Road was left in shambles at the growth of some giant beanstalk.”
Mary Jane gave a gasp “The devil you say!”
“I would HOPE to say the devil,” The Constable replied “But I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It was indeed a giant green vine which just sprouted through the middle of the shop. We suspect it’s just a freak natural disaster, but nonetheless we must investigate.”
With that, the Constable tipped his cap at the two of them and walked out the front door. As he left, Mary Jane felt The Constable’s words eat at her. Was The Scarlet Derby really the only one responsible for saving the day? She certainly remembers helping. Maybe it was just his oversight.
“Dear,” Mary Jane addressed her husband “Do you think the Constable was aware that Midnight Jay was also at the scene of the rescue?”
Sadly, Thaddeus had completely ignored what Mary Jane had suggested with her question, for no sooner than the door shut did his deductive mind tinker with the anomaly the Constable had discussed. “There is no possible way that was a natural disaster.”
Mary Jane scoffed, “Do you suspect little boy Jack of the book with the giant has taken to hitting tea houses?”
“I suspect that in reality beanstalks don’t usually grow tall enough to cause such collateral damage, unless they were acted on by some sort of man-made, at-will, instantaneous mutation.”
“I agree with you on that,” Mary Jane replied “But why, of all places, would a supposed plant-mutating criminal damage a small tea house?”
“Because of the tea,” Thaddeus replied simply.
“They wouldn’t care to just walk in and buy a cuppa?” Mary Jane asked drolly.
Thaddeus took to explaining a bit more patiently, “Tea is one of England’s most beloved commodities. Imagine if, at some point, some megalomaniacal fiend decided to destroy tea factories across the nation and create artificial shortages to drive prices up. I say, it’s practically a recipe for total economic takeover!”
“I think your imagination may be running away with you, dear…”
“Well, if we expect to get to the bottom of this case, we’d best run away along with it!” Thaddeus made a beeline for his basement workshop, where he would change into costume. With a reluctant shrug, Mary Jane quickly came after.
And so, Thaddeus Hedwater and his wife Mary Jane were soon exploring the streets in the guise of The Scarlet Derby and Midnight Jay. They had originally planned to head straight for the street The Constable had mentioned, but ended up only going as far as the corner of their own block, when something immediately suspicious caught their eye.
The Derby asked “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”
“I certainly hope I’m not, dear,” Replied the Jay.
Unfortunately for them, they were indeed staring at precisely the same thing. Standing at the end of the block was a green plant, which seemed to stand several miles tall with its multiple branches splaying out in every direction. Looking upwards, they could see the torn-apart remains of a small cottage mingling among the mighty plant’s branches.
“Another tea house,” The Derby idly commented.
“What makes you think so, dear?” The Jay said, still staring upward at the giant vine.
“There’s a lot of broken glass and lids from display jars that had fallen from the windows and cracked upon the street.”
“So there is,” The Jay dropped her head and then moved slowly towards the vine. “Seems like a circumstance best left to science. Care to break out the chemistry set, dear?”
The Derby shook his head. “I’m not much of a botanist. I was sort-of hoping the time you’ve spent in your private garden would help us figure out what it is.”
The Jay spent a few moments looking up and down the stem, feeling the branches between her palms, and running the leaves between her fingers. It was when she pushed her fingers between the knotted stem and pulled loose a small amount of light brown seeds did she come to a conclusion.
“It’s an Arabica.”
“Arabica? I’m not familiar with the t-”
“Arabica, as in coffee, it is a giant, mutant, middle-eastern coffee plant.” She promptly
dropped the seeds onto the street and dusted her hands off, sneering “It’s a good thing I was wearing gloves.”
“I take it you’re not a fan of coffee?” The Derby asked with a bit of smugness in his voice.
“Call me old fashioned,” The Jay replied, “but I still heed my mother’s old warnings about the stuff: dulls the senses, makes people dependent, upsets the head and stomach, and ruin’s a man’s ability to,” The Jay looked up at the Derby, who continued to smile slyly.
“Anyway, I do believe that I’m starting to believe your theory about the tea economy. It’d be easy to usurp the national beverage if…”
“You immediately replace it with another beverage. Yes I was thinking the same thing!” The Derby energetically stroked the bottom of his chin. “The only thing we need now is a suspect.”
No sooner had The Derby said those words did the oddest little man show up pushing a peddler’s cart with a metal tin made for roasted peanuts across the street. He was a thin man with a large, bulbous nose, a thin, curled moustache, and although his clothing was indeed that of a peanut peddler, they draped in strange places about his body, as though they were a size too big or wide for his slender frame.
“You there,” The Jay called across the street “Isn’t it a bit late in the evening to be selling peanuts?”
The peanut peddler stopped in is tracks and stammered as he scratched the back of his head. “Uh, we-w-we-well, I was just ta-taking this to a banquet of a wealthy businessman. Ru-roasted peanuts just happen to be his favorite.”
The Jay curled her lip at the response. “Really, so then you wouldn’t mind,” She held up a nickel between her index and pointer fingers “letting me have a bag.”
“I, uh, I Left the peanuts at the actual party, gotta go!” And then the peddler dashed off as quickly as a man pushing a peanut cart could possibly travel.
Stunned, the Jay turned sideways to the Derby and asked “is that man strange enough to count as being a suspect?”
“Indeed he is,” The Derby clicked his tongue. “Sometimes this job is all too easy.” And with that, the two followed in pursuit.
Soon, the duo found themselves at the corner of Cornwall and Stone, home of the Cornwall-Stone tea house. Hiding in the shadows of the nearby building, they watched the peanut peddler approach another pair of shady characters on the street. One was a woman dressed head-to-toe in a laced-up dark red velvet gown with a matching pillbox hat held on her head by a pair of large hat pins. The other was a large, brutish looking fellow in a painter’s cap, and an olive-colored sweater who had a cricket bat tied over his shoulder with a long piece of twine. They both wore masquerade masks over their faces, and when the velvet-clad lady handed the peanut peddler a third, they matched.
“Did you manage to take out the Springley Brothers’ tea house?” The woman asked.
“I did, Steletta, but I was nearly caught. I knew nobody would believe a peanut vendor was walking around at night,” the peddler peeled away the fake curly mustache he was wearing as part of his disguise. His own lip was hairless except for a few strands of black stray whiskers which jutted randomly from the sides of his cheeks and chin.
“But we needed you to carry ‘dat peanut cart around t’ haul around deh mutant coffee beans, right, Bootsy?” The large one suggested, his voice walking the fine line between sloppy, thug-gish dialect, and pure dimwittedness.
“It doesn’t matter, Heely” Steletta chuckled greedily as she wrung her hands. “As soon as we hit just a few more buildings we’ll have rid the entire city of its tea supply, and we’ll be ready to fill the gap in London’s tea commerce with our own specialty brew.”
“Our coffee houses will stand on every corner of the country!” Bootsy chortled.
“An’ then we can afford a farm with some rabbits, and a boat t’ catch shrimp, an-” Heely’s rant was silenced by rapid blow on his head by Steletta’s fist.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Heely,” Steletta advised. “Why dream of future prosperities when we’re already the kings and queen of London’s criminal underworld?”
“We’re the very masterminds of crime!” Bootsy cheered, linking arms with Steletta.
“Huzzah!” Heely added and linked Steletta’s other arm. Now that they stood arm-to-arm in a three criminal chorus line, they kicked their legs together as they chanted in unison:
“We’re the meanest of the mean, Conniving and cruel! We are the greatest at our jobs! So if you think that you’ve been cheated, You’ve really been defeated By the members of the Three-Headed Mob!”
As the wicked trio connived in their sinister display, The Derby and Jay, still hidden in the shadows of the corner of a building, looked on in awe.
“They’re certainly a theatrical bunch aren’t they?” The Jay said drolly.
“It’s a textbook case of Despicable Triplicate Syndrome.” The Derby, with a smirk on his face, shook his head.
“Despicable Triplicate Syndrome? Oh do pray tell, dear.” The Jay inquired.
“It’s only a theory, but a popular one among criminologists.” The Derby explained. “It states that certain types of criminals, each containing a certain kind of temperament, tend to team up in order to fill out the weaknesses of their own personalities. The leader is always extremely enterprising and ambitious, but also very vain, and frequently female. The intellect of the trio frequently employs the use of science and invention, which is why our skinny little friend here has been making his rounds
with that peanut cart. Finally, the third member of the trio is always a man of great strength but very little intellect, and that’s certainly what we are seeing with that rather gorilla-looking fellow.”
“It doesn’t sound like a theory of criminology to me. It sounds more like some sort of silly villain formula stolen from the funny pages,” The Jay sneered.
The Derby gave a shrug, “At any rate, it means that we are dealing with a pretty varied group of malcontents, and we’re going to need to take great care lest we get caught up in a whirlwind of sinister tactics.”
“So what do you suppose we should do?” The Jay asked.
“We spring into action!” The Derby declared.
“And then?” The Jay said insistently.
“…We take it from there.”
And so they sprung, with the Derby declaring “Halt, you detestable tea-house tippers!”
“Oh drat!” swore Bootsy, “It is The Scarlet Derby and Midnight Jay!
"Who?” Steletta asked with her head quirked sideways at her criminal cohort.
“You know, the Scarlet Derby and Midnight Jay, London’s stalwart defenders of all which is lawful and just,” Bootsy gave a sneer. “I should have known they would have followed me here!”
“And to think they consider you the brains.” The Jay said idly.
“You shouldn’t be so sharp-tongued in front of the very leaders of London’s criminal underworld!” Steletta fumed.
“Even the highest criminal is low before the actions of a noble crime fighter!” The Derby declared.
“Yeah, we’ll just see about THAT!” Bootsy declared as he grabbed a beaker from the peanut truck and doused the two heroes with it.
The Jay sputtered “Ugh, More coffee!”
“I take it you’re not a fan of our product?” Steletta crooned.
“Indeed, but not so much that I won’t clobber your henchman for dousing me with it!” The Jay growled as she drew her umbrella.
The Jay wielded the weapon above her head, ready to throttle the sinister gang within an inch of their lives. However, The Jay came to a halt when she felt a strange sensation crawling up her shoulder. She looked sideways, glancing along her arm where she felt the crawling, and to her astonishment, a vine had been growing along the length of her arm, gathering around her wrist and the hilt of her weapon in long sprouting spirals.
But as soon as she asked, she had already realized that the solution that Bootsy threw on her wasn’t coffee. It was the growth formula for these gigantic Arabica plants which were now growing across her body more rapidly than she could fight against it.
“Uhm, a little help Dear?”
“I have problems of my own!” The Derby hollered in reply. His need to shout became necessary, because the vines that were gripping him had already rooted, leaving him suspended in the air entwined in the center of a giant Arabica plant.
Steletta gave another laugh at the misfortune of the two crime fighters. “You know, Midnight Jay, you may not be a fan of our coffee, but you must admit, it can certainly grow on you.”
With that, the villains split the scene, on their way to hit the last few tea shops in town. The Scarlet Derby and Midnight Jay found themselves suspended several feet in the air, woven tightly into the vines of the monstrous coffee plant.
“Are you feeling constricted at all?” The Derby asked, twisting his neck to the side to try to catch a glimpse of The Jay, despite the multitude of entangled vines around him forced his gaze in the opposite direction.
“Not at all, dear. I think this blasted thing has just about stopped growing.” The Jay heaved a sigh. “I hate to ask, but, do you have any idea how we plan to escape?”
“I have a vial of my patented defoliant in my bandolier. If I could just get an arm free…”
“If you could get an arm free, you could use your powerful defoliant?” The Jay fumed.
“I’m not following.”
“Of course you’re not. I was just wondering when you were going to decide to include me in one of your escape plans…”
The Derby hung his head, though not in shame. He was attempting to reach the bandolier around his chest using his teeth. “So you’re still hung up on what The Constable said, I take it.”
“Well, I just…I don’t know. I feel ignored. I’ve been defending this city for years before we even met, and now that you’ve come back with me, all he seems to talk about is The Scarlet Derby.”
“I don’t suppose I could convince you to have this argument another time could I?” The Derby bent his head around the corner again. The Jay was silent. That was never a good sign.
The conversation hung there, along with the Derby and Jay, for several minutes while the Derby thought extremely carefully about what words would help bring his hampered better half back around.
Finally, he inhaled and began. “Listen…” There was silence for a bit further as the Derby futilely tried to figure out whether or not she was indeed listening.
“I’m not trying to…take advantage of the situation here. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. London is still kind of a new place for me. It’s hard to move in on someone’s turf if you’re walking down the wrong street in search of the market.”
The Derby paused again. He thought he might have heard a laugh. He couldn’t be sure.
“I didn’t come to England to be some sort-of pop-out-of-the-ground thunder stealing upstart new hero. I came here because we met, and you showed me something. You helped me to experience feelings that I wasn’t finding back in Manhattan, where I came from. And before I make this all into some sort of silly rant about how I used to be unhappy about where I came from, I should simply just say: You changed my life.”
The Derby paused again. There still was a lot of silence. He felt tense. Perhaps the Arabica vines were doing it, but he knew for certain that he didn’t have any of those vines around his chest.
“I know you were wary of the idea of our marriage. That’s the only reason that you’d even ask me to make that promise to you. I promised that, if we did get married, I should never get in the way of your duties as Midnight Jay. Whatever happened to us, both in and out of these costumes, I’d never use our marriage as an excuse to change your life. I made you that promise…Even though I know in my own heart, that you’d already changed mine.”
Another pause. More silence. He continued.
“And honestly, I don’t understand quite what The Constable meant either. You truly were his go-to hero for years. I don’t get why he’s changed his mind. But it’s unfair. I think he should treat you special. Because I think you’re special. That’s the reason I asked you to marry me.”
Suddenly, the Derby felt something land on his vine encasement with a thump. For a moment, he panicked. “Oh me, some vulture must have happened upon this coffee plant and now fancies me a piece of biscotti!”
“You sure have a funny way of thanking me for saving you, dear.” The Jay replied, having leaped from her imprisonment onto the Derby’s vine. She clipped away at the tangled vines using the blade at the end of her umbrella.
“But how, d’eh…You were, but…” The Derby stammered.
“I was meditating, dear.” The Jay explained, patting the Derby’s shoulder in passing. “I realized that this little vine problem was an ideal time to practice my ancient Tibetan phasing technique: I slowly became one with the natural growth pattern of the coffee vines and twisted my body along their pattern of growth until I was able to squeeze free.”
After a few strategic cuts, the Derby was able to get free, and the two slid down the vine until they once again stood at street level.
The Derby cleared his throat. “So, if you were meditating, I suppose you weren’t listening to what I was saying at all.”
The Jay picked up The Derby’s hat and ran her fingers along his dark red hair. “On the contrary: I heard every single word, and it was all very sweet.”
“Ah, well then-”
“But we don’t have time for that. We need to catch up to those bourgeois burglars.”
The Three-Headed Mob found themselves before the last-standing tea house in all of London: the Lancashire-style tea house of North Argyle Street. In proper villainess fashion, Steletta cackled amidst the ranting of “Just as soon as we knock over this last tea house, we’ll be the most respected and profitable mob in all of London.”
“That is certainly true,” Bootsy said from the sidelines “But I’m afraid we have another problem: we’re down to our very last coffee bean, and since I threw the last of my formula on The Scarlet Derby and Midnight Jay, I’m afraid I only have enough to create just one more vine.”
“I don’t see how that dampens things at all,” Steletta scoffed, “we may only have one bean, but we only have one remaining tea house to destroy, and once that bean gets planted, we shall rule!”
“Duhhh, yeah…We’ve got one bean to rule ‘em all!” Healy declared from the sidelines. A moment of silence fell between the three gangsters.
“You ever figure out what his malfunction is?” Steletta asked Bootsy in a whisper. “I’ve ruled out trauma. I think it’s very likely it might be chromosomal.” Bootsy replied.
“You don’t suspect the possibility of it being his sloping frontal brow?” Steletta blinked.
“I’m afraid so, most intellectuals have pretty much discounted the practice of phrenology. My latest glance at a medical textbook had informed me-”
“Not so fast you malodorous maladroits!” The Derby declared.
Steletta gave a gasp and spun around, “Oh no, not you two again! How long have you been standing there?”
“We’ve been here about as long as your intelligent henchman’s insidious over-explanation.” The Derby declared “Also, we happened to hear you mention that the bean you hold is the absolute last of its kind.”
Steletta sneered. “Curses, if they catch us, they’ll ruin everything. Heely! You take care of the two of them!”
“Deuh, what do you want me to do!?” Heely asked, baffled as usual.
“Oh, I don’t know…You’re supposed to be the muscle. Why not muscle them?”
“Oh yeah, thanks, Steletta, uh, your evil whims shall be committed on this day…” And with that the Three-Headed Mob’s dumbest member engaged the two heroes, slowly approaching them while taking into his hand the cricket bat he had tied across his back.
“Oh how droll,” The Jay scoffed. “The mighty Steletta hopes to overpower us with the use of strength combined with idiocy.”
“Do you think that we’re ill prepared to handle a mere thug like this?” The Derby scoffed “I bet all we have to do is tell him to look over at the six-eyed raven over there-”
“Where Bootsy an’ Steletta are standing?” Heely replied, pointing over his shoulder with the cricket bat.
“Or tell him that his shoe is untied,” The Jay added.
Heely shook his head. “Nah, I’m actually wearing loafers.”
“Uhhhh, or we could tell him that we’re actually the police!” The Derby stammered, running out of ideas.
“You’re not deh police, you’re a pair of justice-loving do-gooders like Bootsy said.” Heely replied indignantly.
“Egad,” the Derby gasped. “This buffoon is mysteriously baffle-proof!”
“Looks like the heroes are beginning to realize the awful truth.” Steletta said distantly with another chortle in her voice.
“And what’s that?” The Derby asked pointedly at the mob’s leader.
Steletta gave a wicked smirk “That of all the despicable trios now and in history we in the Three-Headed Mob possess the most INTELLIGENT brainless thug of them all!”
“It is true,” Bootsy added “He actually enjoys things like classical music and the occasional novel around bedtime. That reminds me, Heely: you still have my copy of The Canterbury Tales.
The Derby turned to the Jay and murmured, “That could actually be a problem.”
“Piffle, all that means is that this fight might actually be one worth having.” The Jay drew her umbrella and advanced on Heely, who took an offensive stance and clashed his cricket bat against the Jay’s weapon. The Jay swung two and fro, holding the hilt of her umbrella with both hands while Heely merely deflected the attacks by tilting his bat in parrying motions.
“Ah, I can see that you’re a fencer,” The Jay commented as she stood back, adjusting her stance to a fencing one to match the mob’s muscle-man. “Duh, yeah, an’ I’m a pretty good one too.” Heely boasted.
The two continued to clash weapons in fencing style, moving back and forth on the tips of their feet while clashing umbrella-to-bat several times.
“Might I ask who your trainer was?” The Jay said politely when they crossed their weapons again.
“Oh, I trained under deh Marquis de Saabe, in Picardie, when I was very little.”
“The Marquis de Saabe was left-handed wasn’t he?” The Jay asked curiously.
“I think so, why?”
“Just looking for a flaw…”
The Jay suddenly gave a flourished thrust, curving her umbrella around the length of the cricket bat and then swiftly swatting it out of Heely’s fingers, where it landed just inches from Steletta’s feet. The leader of the mob gave a startled hop, and then leered angrily at the Jay, who had the tip of her umbrella pressed against a retreating Heely’s neck.
“Your move, Steletta,” The Jay grinned.
Steletta gave a huff and turned to Bootsy. “Well it’s your turn now, brain. Come up with a proper way to defeat those two.”
“I don’t think it’s worth it to defeat them, really.” Bootsy replied.
“What? Why? Why would you-“
“Listen Steletta, we’re in front of the last tea house in London with the last mutant coffee bean. I say we should just plant the bean in the tea house and wrap all this up.”
Steletta looked stunned. “Suggest that we forgo a climactic battle between the forces of order and wickedness and simply win the dirty way? That’s an incredible notion! Okay, let’s not waste another second in taking control of this city. Deploy the bean!”
Bootsy took the stance of a professional cricket bowler, ready to heave the coffee bean into the tea shop with a well-practiced throw. That’s when he felt a tug on his wrist. He was now bound to a long chain that was fired from the tip of The Derby’s cane.
“I can’t…let you…toss…that bean!” The derby groaned, as he used the whole of his strength to tug back at Bootsy’s throwing arm. Bootsy struggled to move his arm forward, but given that he was the brains and not the muscle of this gang, he couldn’t budge his hand an inch.
“Quickly, Jay, take the bean away from his fingers while I still have him!” The Derby shouted.
“Don’t you dare, that bean is our destiny!” Steletta shouted back. The Jay and Steletta dashed towards Bootsy’s extended hand at the same moment, hoping to reach the destructive kernel in time.
That’s when Heely reared back, gave an “Ah-“ followed by another “Ah-“ and then a “-CHOO!” and seconds before the mutant bean could be caught by the forces of good or evil, it flew from the force of the criminal idiot’s poorly timed sneeze and bounced into a nearby sewer drain.
The five assorted heroes and villains involved in this conflict gazed down in shock at the silent sewer drain.
“What are the odds that lone bean was actually dormant?” The Jay asked.
“My scientific achievements are always foolproof,” Bootsy declared, “So, it’s not very gosh-darn likely.”
The ground began to rumble, Heely leaped back when he felt the tremor. “It’s an earthquake!”
“Worse than that,” Bootsy spoke nervously “The vines have taken to the water in the sewer and are likely growing a thousand times what they would have on the pavement.
“Also, we should probably all run now!” The Derby added, and they did, just as the pavement at their feet began to crack under the pressure of a giant Arabica plant sprouting in the sediment rich sewers underground.
“Well, at least we stopped the vines from destroying the last remaining tea house.” The Jay quipped as the two acrobatically out-stepped the sprouting of branches in all directions.
“Well, there’s still a remote chance they could,” The Derby cleared his throat, and struck down a branch directly ahead of him. “You mean you’re not certain?”
“With a mess like what’s going on now, do you think you could be certain?”
Suddenly, the ground burst open directly in front of the Derby and Jay, a mass of wildly wrapping Arabica vines swirled into view, wrapping around The Jay’s ankle. “Not twice in the same night, you don’t!” The Jay declared, and slashed away at the invading vines with the blade in her umbrella. Moving spryly away from the cacophony of plant matter, she turned to her husband, who was holding multiple
glass bottles between his fingers.
“Is that the defoliant you mentioned?” The Jay asked.
“Defoliant, sulfuric acid, mustard gas, anything I have in my arsenal that can potentially eat at the weeds!” The Derby tossed the bottles one at a time in different intervals wherever he could force the mass of mutant plant to retreat back underground.
“What about fire?” The Jay suggested.
“Of course, fire! Thank you, dear!” The Derby spun around his cane and struck one of the grounded vials, containing some lantern fuel, over the hilt. Then he ran it over the ground enough to make a spark, and viola, instant torch. He took the torch to the vines the Jay had combatted, setting them alight and shouting “Back, back I say!” until they receded.
“Help, we need somebody!” A cry came from behind the backs of The Derby and Jay. They spun around to see The Three-Headed Mob, tangled up in the much knotted vines they had left the heroes in just moments ago.
“Oh you’ve got to be kidding!” The Jay spat. “For all the destruction you’ve caused, you deserve getting hung up in the botanical bundle you’ve made!” “What do you want us to say? That it was a foolish idea?” Steletta said as she writhed in the still growing mass.
“That would be a start.” The Jay said wryly.
“Very well, it was a foolish idea!” Steletta squawked. “We don’t know what we were thinking using mutant coffee plants to try and undermine London’s lucrative tea industry! Now please cut us down. I know as heroes, you’d never leave anyone, even criminals like us, to suffer.”
“As a hero, I don’t have a problem with taking my time,” The Jay chortled.
“They look like they’ve had enough,” The Derby approached the mass, his makeshift torch still in hand. “We have your word that once we release you, that you’ll turn yourselves in to the authorities?”
“I swear! I promise on my own mother’s grave!” Steletta declared.
The Derby gave a nod and then jabbed at the vines with his torch, causing them to curl up and lose their grip on the three villains. When they were loosed, they fell in a heap at the feet of the two heroes.
“So, that’s the end of that, then.” The Jay declared as she crossed over them, holding out her umbrella at the ready. “I hope you’re willing to come quietly.”
“Oh absolutely, Midnight Jay, we’re perfectly willing to allow you to take us straight to-NOW HEELY!” Steletta shouted. Heely sprung up and tossed a mass of dead Arabica vine between them and the heroes, giving The Three-Headed-Mob enough of a blockade to scramble off into the distance. “Until next time you sanctimonious suckers!”
The Jay gave an agitated grunt, kicking the trunk of vine. “I don’t believe it, she swore on her mother’s grave!”
“Yes, but perhaps her mother is still alive,” The Derby added with a chortle. The Derby and Jay returned to the scene of the wreckage. The wildly growing mutant Arabica branches had finally stopped laying waste to the stone pavement. The Derby did an about face and leaped into the jungle of interwoven vines to check the damage.
“Wait! Where are you going?” The Jay caught up to him only to find him standing in the middle of the wreckage with his arms crossed and a relieved smile on his face. “Well I’ll be,” The Derby doffed his hat in awe. Standing between the two of them was the, thankfully, still standing teahouse, with only the smallest wisps of coffee vines clung to its outer walls.
“You might disagree with me, but I happen to think the old tea house actually looks quite a bit better,” The Derby said admirably.
“Downright Ivy League,” The Jay added.
The next morning, Thaddeus Hedwater and his wife Mary Jane, returned to the Lancashire Tea Shop to meet with their friend Constable Howard O’Gratin, who was surveying the damage caused by the Three-Headed Mob’s mutant plant-based path of destruction.
“Ah, Constable, I was hoping to run into you. Here you are.” Thaddeus said, thrusting into his hands a large metal atomizer.
“What’s this, then?” The Constable replied, looking the strange device up and down. “It’s a powerful defoliant of my own design,” Thaddeus explained, “that should go a long way in helping you clean up the damage.”
“Something we were using when dealing with our own unruly gardens last night,” Mary Jane said idly. “Do you think you’ll be starting with this shop, Constable?” The Constable shook his head. “No, I believe that the owners actually prefer it this way. They may be re-naming it into the Central Ethiopian Tea House now.”
“Well, I’m certainly glad they decided to stay in business,” Mary Jane said idly “I can hardly imagine a world where something as pedestrian as coffee is served on every street corner.”
“Indeed. Well, you once again have The Scarlet Derby to thank,” The Constable affirmed.
“Eh-eh, actually, I believe that this day was actually won by The Midnight Jay.” Thaddeus added abruptly.
“Are you certain of that?” The Constable asked, taking a pause to light his pipe. I’m certain as if I were there myself,” Thaddeus replied.
“Oh, well. Should I ever see her again, I will pay her my thanks.” The constable tipped his hat, and returned to his work.
As the two strolled away Mary Jane turned to Thaddeus and sighed. “You really didn’t have to do that, you know.”
“Oh but I did,” Thaddeus said drolly, putting his arm around his wife’s shoulder.
“After all you identified the plant. You freed us. You bested the nincompoop. You very likely did more in solving this case than I did.”
Mary Jane put her head on his shoulder. “I suppose you’re right.”
After a moment of silence, Thaddeus added “After all, I can’t blame you for being jealous.”
Mary Jane shot up and scoffed “I wouldn’t exactly say I was jealous.”
“Well, what would you call it then?”
“I’d call it off, dear, before you say something you regret.”
“Like that you were jealous?”
Mary Jane gave an anguished groan. The rest of the walk home was utterly silent.