The sound of a scream sent the scarlet-clad adventurer running in that direction. “Sorry, pretty bird. No time to talk now. Work calls.”
A woman lay crumpled on the street with her top-half torn and four men leering over her. One of the men turned at the sound of the scarlet-clad adventurer entering the scene.
“Espada Escarlata!” one of the men cried with a trace of fear in his voice.
“She is only a woman and alone, just as this one is,” the leader said confidently as he kicked the downed woman with his boot.
“Si, Diego. We are many, and she is but one.” The sound of an arrow sliced the air as it slammed through the shirt of the rising thug, pinning him to the wall.
“Flecha Verde!” Diego said, now sounding fearful.
On the rooftop, dressed in dark green pants, boots, and half-gloves, with his face hidden by a dark mask and a green hood, stood El Flecha Verde. “Señor. Los Superamigos counts La Espada Escarlata as a valued member of its group. And I do not appreciate your manner in addressing her.”
Flecha Verde smiled as he quickly notched and fired four more arrows with blinding speed at the thugs on his streets. The arrows struck with exacting precision, pinning the criminals to the walls but not harming them.
He nodded to the lady lying on the ground as she looked with awe at Mexico’s most famous hero. He then turned his famous smile on La Espada Escarlata, who seemed far less impressed with it.
“I could have handled those with ease, but you cannot resist showing off,” La Espada Escarlata said as she helped the young lady to her feet. The young lady thanked them both profusely as she ran home, but her thanks was only genuine toward Flecha Verde.
“I am helpless before your beauty, my dear Espada, and did not wish to waste your exquisite touch on such foul creatures such as these,” Flecha Verde said with a flirtatious tone in his voice as he watched La Espada Escarlata, whose name in English was the Scarlet Sword.
“I have told you before that I have no interest in being another of your conquests, Flecha. Now, I have other things to do tonight, so I bid you farewell.” La Espada Escarlata took off, heading to her motorcycle.
Flecha Verde stroked his beard speculatively as he watched the leaving Espada Escarlata. “She is warming to my charm at last.” He laughed and went to inform the police that they had some new customers.
La Espada Escarlata raced back toward the mansion she called home, filled with curiosity over the cryptic message about her cousin. A tug of regret pulled at her for her exile from the rest of her family. Only her cousin and his wife defied the edict to stay away from what the rest of the family considered to be an unnatural woman. Only with the help of CeCe did she manage to keep sane, despite her costumed life as La Espada Escarlata.
Even operating with fellow costumed adventurers such as El Flecha Verde and El Toro Fuerte in Los Superamigos was more comfortable to her than trying to deal with the silence of her uncle and aunt. Her mind put such thoughts aside as she raced down the almost invisible entrance to the underground cave CeCe mockingly called La Cueva de la Espada, or, the Sword Cave.
CeCe stood there waiting with a cold glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a dry towel as Maria stowed the bike and took off her costume.
“Thank you, pretty bird,” Maria said as she took the towel and wiped the sweat off her face before sipping on the orange juice.
“I live to serve you, but if you really want to thank me, I know of several ways,” CeCe said with a straight face, but her eyes conveyed a sense of surpressed wickedness.
“What would my family say if they heard you talking that way?” Maria put the empty glass next to the keyboard of her computer.
“I don’t know why you care what they think, Maria. After all, they are the ones who started giving you the cold shoulder when you said you weren’t turning your father’s business over to your uncle to run. You were supposed to get married and act like a proper woman.” CeCe pointed earnestly at Maria as she spoke with a concerned expression on her face.
“I know, pretty bird, but they are still my blood, and their disapproval hurts me.” Maria sat down in the computer chair and started entering her log for tonight’s events.
“That man who called is some sort of translator who does a lot of free work for both the Hispanic and Asian communities. I called several people that I know up that way.” CeCe picked up the empty glass and then grabbed the discarded towel and put them in the proper place before coming back down to the cave.
“That’s why I hired you — because of all the connections you have, CeCe.” Maria finished up her log and turned the chair around.
“I thought you hired me because of my good looks,” CeCe replied.
“Well, that was the main reason, but the connections you have are an added bonus.” Maria gave her a bright smile as headed toward the shower.
“After I verified that, I tried to get in touch with your cousin, but no one answers the phone, so I called in a favor and had an associate check the residence. She found the home empty and the interior phone line cut. Neither one of us were interested in bringing in the police, so I thanked her and told her to forget all about it.” CeCe assembled a quick outfit for Maria to wear as she listened to the water run.
“Use your contacts to see if you can find what flight our mysterious Mr. Shelley is flying in on. Then I will arrange to meet him at the airport,” Maria said from her shower stall as she washed away the sweat and cleaned the scarlet dye from her hair. Maria came back in, nodding gratefully to her sweetheart as she donned the clothing laid out for her.
“Already set into motion, sword girl. Someone will call as soon as they know this Shelley character gets on his plane.” CeCe sat down in the abandoned computer chair as her eyes watched the woman she loved get dressed.
“Why anyone would kidnap my cousin? He is a painter, not someone who would ordinarily be a target for kidnappers. I wish that I was a detective, such as El Petirrojo, so this made some sort of sense.” Maria combed her damp, now-black hair with a brush.
“Your cousin’s work has become quite valuable in these recent years. You don’t think some sinister plot is afoot to make the painting even more valuable?” CeCe conjectured as she spun around in the swivel chair.
“Most of his paintings are in various family members’ hands. Even my uncle would not consider such a scheme. I am afraid that we are going to have to wait for this Shelley to arrive, but I think his answers will just lead to even more stranger questions. Let us go to bed, and this time just to sleep.” Maria pulled CeCe to her feet, and the two went upstairs to their bedroom.
At the airport in California, Mitch Shelley examined his reflection in one of the bathroom mirrors as he waited for an available flight to Mexico City. His expression was tranquil, even though he had survived an attempt on his life and a two-hour run to the airport on foot. He pulled a brush from a small, nondescript travel bag on the counter to comb his hair back into place.
Two well-dressed men entered the bathroom. One pulled out a wallet-sized photograph and examined it before nodding to his partner. In a well-orchestrated move, the two men locked the bathroom door and then covered Shelley with pistols.
“Our boss wants to teach you a lesson for messing around with his woman. Unfortunately for you, it’s going to be one of those lessons that you just can’t recover from.” The handsome gangster smiled coldly at Shelley, not realizing they had made a case of mistaken identity.
Shelley put down the brush and gave the two men a slight smile. “Woman? I have no idea what you are talking about. I think you have me mistaken for someone else.”
“The only mistake made is thinking you can get away with insulting our boss by fooling around with his woman,” the gangster with the broken nose said to Shelley.
“Let’s just shoot him here and put him on one of the toilets,” the handsome gangster said to his partner.
“The boss said we were supposed to make this painful, so no one else gets the idea they can get away with messing with his property,” the broken-nosed gangster replied.
“I really would love to take time out to chat with you both, but I do have a plane to catch. Perhaps if you gave me a number to reach you, we can meet after I come back.” Shelley raised both hands in front of him as he made this offer. The two gangsters looked at each other and then laughed.
“Kid, you got some moxie, and I gotta respect that, but we got our orders.” The handsome one motioned for Shelley to pick up his bag so they could leave the bathroom.
Shelley shook his head slightly before his hands moved at blinding speed as he leaned forward, snatching the two pistols away from the well-trained gangsters like a grown man snatching a lollipop from a baby. “I did try to be reasonable, even though you have mistaken me for someone else.”
Shelley’s hands moved faster than the gangsters can see as he tapped the two at certain nerve points, paralyzing them. He caught both gangsters and moved them over to the wall before removing the ammo from both pistols and replacing them in their shoulder holsters.
“I’ll make sure to notify airport security about you before you can move again. After all, I wouldn’t want the person you are really looking for to get hurt.” Shelley picked up his bag and gave the two a friendly wave before leaving the bathroom.
Shelley passed by a small cocktail bar, where a man in a dark Italian suit sat writing in a journal. Shelley left word about hearing some sort of argument in the bathroom before going to the ticket counter to inquire about the flight to Mexico.
The man in the dark suit waved at the bartender to bring him a drink before returning to his journal.
My efforts to track down a lead to the current location of Vandal Savage have brought me here, where it was rumored that a criminal network belonging to him was operating. I made contact with one of the underlings using the alias of Michael Waters. I then proceeded to look for sources of information. Fortunately for me, the head gangster was inadequate in servicing his woman.
It took time and a great deal of pleasurable effort on my part to satisfy the lady in question. She got me access to the data I required. Unfortunately, this gangster works for a guy named Ape-Face instead of Savage. I arranged for the lady to relocate elsewhere before leaving a note for her former man, giving him some helpful hints in satisfying a woman. I even included some helpful diagrams, just in case he couldn’t read my note. I am surprised that he hasn’t sent some of his goons after me, since I made no secret of where I was going.
My plans are to return to Italy and close up my villa before exploring other avenues in finding Savage. I never thought I would be happy that Savage has reappeared, but without him around to try to defeat, my life has been boring and dull.
The man put away his pen and closed the journal that he then put in a briefcase. He downed his drink and gave his reflection a cynical smile. His reflection was a mirror image of Mitch Shelley, but his eyes were cynical.
“Thanks for the drink.” The man tossed a crumpled fifty-dollar bill on the counter before rising.
The bartender picked up the fifty and gave his departing customer a big smile. “You come back and see us again, Mr. Rivers.”
“I’ll see what I can arrange, but now I’ve got a plane to check in on.” Rivers gave the bartender a mock salute with two fingers before exiting the bar. Rivers walked past Shelley, who was engrossed in conversation with the ticket clerk. Rivers then boarded a private jet, not knowing that he had just missed meeting his doppelgänger.
The mystery of the man with Shelley’s face and multiple names would remain unresolved as events went forward. In Mexico awaited an ancient mystery that was about to erupt into grave danger for that whole country and perhaps the world.
The flight to Mexico City was uneventful as Shelley divided his time between studying a book on the ancient cultures and talking to the few other passengers.
Mitch Shelley exited the plane, bidding his new acquaintances farewell before going through Customs. One of the agents whispered to his comrade, and Shelley was pulled out of the line to be brought to a secured room. He restrained his curiosity, sensing that the agents would refuse to answer his questions.
An attractive woman entered the room, accompanied by another beauty. She thanked the agents, slipping them both an envelope as she said, “For your family.”
The agents bowed respectfully and left the room. The attractive woman pulls out a chair and seats herself, while her companion moves into position behind her.
“You wished to tell me something about my cousin, Señor Shelley,” Maria de la Vega finally said after she finished her physical inspection of Shelley.
Shelley nodded his head and told Maria de la Vega the full story, only leaving out the bits of his other identity. He finished as Maria and CeCe looked at each other.
Maria finally smiled at Shelley. “Your story is too fantastic not to be real, so you have our help, Señor Shelley.”
To Be Continued in Menace in Mexico