by Dan Swanson
Wizzo the Wizard popped back into existence in a place he knew well, a place he had once solemnly called his secret sanctum. It was actually an extensive cavern outside Fawcett City that had once been used as a campus for the School for Black Magicians, where Wizzo had undergone his apprenticeship in magic and graduated to obtain the title of Master Magician. The Black School, as it was commonly referred to, was an unauthorized offshoot of the White School on the inter-dimensional isle of Tourmaline. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See America’s Greatest: Mary Marvel and Atom Blake: Magic and Demons and Ghouls, Oh My! Chapter 2: Triumph.]
The Black School had been founded by a cadre of wizards interested in studying the dark arts, or black magic, but whose interests had been hampered by the White School’s rules expressly forbidding such practices. Since these so-called black magicians were outcasts in the supernatural community, they had no permanent location, lest they come under attack by meddling wizards such as Shazam or Merlin. Instead, they traveled from place to place, setting themselves up in temporary locations while they taught the dark arts to those who had shown an interest in forbidden practices.
The younger Wizzo had learned about the Black School several years ago and, when he learned that these black magicians would soon be in his area, he offered them the use of this cave, which he’d discovered and explored as a child. But then Captain Marvel arrived at the moment Wizzo received his degree, and captured him and his teachers, sending them all to jail. Only Wizzo spent any time incarcerated, however, since the Black School could not be shown to have broken any laws. The cave was abandoned thereafter.
Now that Wizzo had grown in power, it felt too childish to have a secret hideout in a cave, and Fawcett City seemed too small for a man of his talents. However, a return to home right now seemed just the thing.
Wizzo hadn’t expected his carefully crafted teleportation spell to drop him close to whatever source of magic he had selected on his magical map. On the scale of the floating globe in his cell, if he missed his target by only a half an inch, it would mean a difference of around one-hundred and fifty miles. If he was that far away from the power source in Greenland, it might take him a couple of days to find that source, and his prison clothes weren’t exactly designed to keep him warm when he was flying through frigid air over ancient glaciers.
It had taken him several months to gather enough energy to power the teleport spell. But he had to release that energy quickly, or it might end up harming or killing him. So, instead of jumping blindly to Greenland, he jumped to someplace he knew well — his secret cave. This time, however, he used his power to ward the place against detection, then furnished it lavishly.
After a couple hours of sleep, Wizzo used his powers to disguise himself and to create some illusory money. He headed into town to have a decent meal at a twenty-four-hour diner. It was so good, after months of awful prison food, that he almost felt bad that the money he paid with would disappear in a day.
Although they couldn’t have kept me in prison if I had been interested in leaving! he thought proudly to himself.
He knew he would need a vehicle to carry his upcoming purchases, so he dropped into the Fargo dealership and introduced himself as Harry Blackstone to a salesman he recognized. Ben Smith hadn’t changed much since high school; he was still an arrogant, obnoxious jerk. Smith’s high school nickname had been ‘B.S.,’ but while Smith had always thought it stood for his initials, everyone else knew otherwise.
Before the disguised Wizzo had even had a chance to explain what he wanted, Smith was dragging him across the lot, giving him a spiel about this great low-mileage used car that had just been traded in. Wizzo surreptitiously snapped his fingers, and B.S. tripped on something, and it must have been simple bad luck that he landed in a puddle of mud and oil. At the same time, Wizzo cast a suggestibility spell on him. This was promising to be a very entertaining day.
While B.S. was getting back to his feet, Wizzo explained that he wanted a brand new Fargo pickup truck, and he was going to pay cash. He asked how much, and then pulled out a wad of bills, counting them to make sure he had enough. Wizzo turned back to B.S. “Mr. Smith, you probably want to go get out of those muddy clothes, and I don’t want to hold you up. Could you ask another salesman to help me out?”
B.S. realized he was about to lose the biggest commission of his career, and suddenly his arrogance vanished, and he took a different approach, sucking up to Wizzo instead. Wizzo let B.S. talk him into coming back to the dealership in about an hour. The excited salesman then rushed home to get cleaned up, and rushed back again.
When B.S. arrived back at the dealership, Wizzo was talking with another one of the salesmen, and B.S. became upset about it. If looks could have killed, his fellow salesman would have died right then and there. But Wizzo was only toying with him; he eventually turned to B.S. and greeted him.
“My, don’t you clean up nicely? While you were gone, I looked over all your trucks. I really like this one the best.” He led B.S. to the most expensive pickup truck on the lot. It had all the bells and whistles — built-in A.M. radio, dashboard clock, air-conditioning, locking gas cap, trailer hitch, one-thousand-mile warranty, the works. It was the biggest commission on the lot, too. B.S. started feeling a lot better.
“Except it doesn’t have power windows. Gotta have power windows. Sorry to have taken up so much of your time, friend. There’s a Fargo dealer over O.P. way, isn’t there?” Wizzo asked, referring to Oak Point, a nearby district. B.S. was choking.
Suddenly, he remembered that there was another truck on the lot, with the same model, same color, and power windows. By Gadfrey, if he could get Charlie in the shop to swap doors and do a little wiring, he could still save this sale (and, of course, his big commission).
“Uhhh, Mr. Blackstone, sir? I think I can save you a trip to Oak Point. Charlie, my mechanic, can have power windows on that truck in an hour or so. Tell you what, it’s just about lunchtime. Suppose I treat you to the best lunch in town, and when you’re done, your new truck will be ready for you.”
Blackstone hesitated. He had no plans to go anywhere else, but he couldn’t resist a little more fun at the expense of B.S.
“I’m sorry, friend, I just couldn’t impose on you and your mechanic that way. Maybe the next time I need a new truck…”
“No imposition at all, sir!” Smith said, thinking as quickly as he could to come up with some other incentive to keep Mr. Blackstone from leaving. “In fact, I think I’ll stick around and help Charlie. Hold tight for just a second.”
He practically ran into the showroom, and a few minutes later he walked back out with a very attractive young woman. “Sandy, here, will take you over to Leela’s. Best food in the county!”
Sandy had a charming smile, and for a good reason — this stranger had just got her a free lunch at Leela’s, and a twenty-dollar cash bonus. Blackstone gallantly held out his arm, she took his elbow, and the two headed for lunch.
It cost B.S. another fifty dollars to get Charlie to work through lunch. Charlie would have done it for twenty-five, except that B.S. had insisted on helping him. It wasn’t all that difficult — every truck of this series used the same wiring harness, so once he’d swapped the doors, all Charlie had to do was uncap a few wires and attach them to a jumper strip in the door panel. Charlie reflected that B.S. was probably going to get fired for making this kind of change to brand-new trucks still on the lot, but what the heck? He already had his fifty dollars; prior experience with B.S. had taught him to ask for cash upfront.
So far, Ben Smith had spent almost one hundred dollars (including the meal) of his own money to make this sale. Still, even subtracting that much, he was going to earn the biggest commission of his life. He could afford to be generous.
Wizzo really enjoyed his lunch with Sandy. Besides verging on true beauty, she was smart, sneaky, self-centered, avaricious, had very few scruples, and seemed to be willing to do just about anything to advance her station in life. She was just his kind of people, in fact. He managed to flash his gigantic wad of fake cash when they were talking about his new pickup truck, and this earned him an invitation to dinner and drinks at her place tonight.
He had planned to hit the road today so that he would be a long way away when the spell on the cash ran out, but in the face of this offer, he changed his plans. He had been in solitary confinement a long time. Even though, he reminded himself, I easily could have escaped at any time. And there were some… experiences that he had missed more than others.
He briefly considered using magic to change his appearance and hanging around all day tomorrow in order to see Smith’s downfall. It would be fun, and quite satisfying in a petty sort of way. But no, the sooner he got on his way, the sooner he could return when he had attained the power that would make him the ruler of the world.
When Wizzo and his new and very close friend Sandy returned from lunch, the truck was finished. B.S. proudly showed off the power windows. “What say we go sign the paperwork now?” Wizzo agreed.
Blackstone showed the salesman his driver’s license (another magical forgery) and counted out the cash. Finally, the two shook hands, and Wizzo left, pink slip in hand. He wished he could be here tomorrow, when the cash and his signature were both going to vanish without a trace. He wondered how B.S. was going to explain the missing truck and the missing money to his boss, but he didn’t worry about it for long.
Hopping in the truck, he headed for Sears. In the camping section, he found everything he needed: Ted Williams hunting gear, Ted Williams camping gear, Ted Williams fishing gear, even Ted Williams rain gear. Who the heck was this Williams guy, anyway, to have such a great deal with Sears? Wizzo figured he was probably a politician, but he had never paid much attention to politics.
He paid cash for several-hundred dollars’ worth of cold-weather camping and hiking gear, generously tipped the stock boys who helped him load the truck, and headed for Sandy’s place.
Dinner was very good; she had used her cash bonus to order in. And the “entertainment” was even better. When Sandy let it slip that good old B.S. had been putting the moves on her, and she had been leading him on but had no plans to ever even kiss him, it put the finishing touch on a perfect day.
Wizzo bought Sandy breakfast the next day, and promised to look her up when he returned from his business trip. He was certain that he would be able to find a position for her in his new world order.
Twenty miles out of town, he cast some new illusion spells. The brand-new dark blue Fargo became a beat-up red 1949 Ford half-ton, the camping gear a load of watermelons, and he became an old farmer, partially bald and bent with age.
He didn’t drive fast, instead enjoying the scenery and the feeling of freedom after months of incarceration. Voluntary incarceration! he reminded himself. He thought he’d cross into Canada at Niagara Falls and then drive north and east until he reached Labrador. He ought to be able to find someone with a boat or an airplane he could charter who could ferry him over to Greenland. He would fly under his own power from there on.
Wizzo decided to treat the trip as a sort of vacation. Once he became the ruler of the world, who knew how long it would be until he could break away again? He spent some time daydreaming about his title. “Ruler of the World” was really too difficult to say. “Wizzo the First, King of Earth” sounded sufficiently majestic, but it was too long. He finally settled on “Wizzo, Emperor of Earth.” His subjects could address him as “My Lord Emperor,” or simply “Milord,” he decided.
He spent the night in a small town outside of Buffalo, at a fancy place called The Roycroft. Around ten A.M. the next day, he pulled up in front of the main branch of the Manufacturers’ and Traders’ Bank in downtown Buffalo. He had decided he wanted some real cash, and this was the biggest bank for probably two-hundred miles.
Walking up to the manager while carrying a small cloth sack with a half-dozen items of “expensive jewelry” in it, he asked to open a safe deposit box. He paid the first year’s rent in advance, using cash. The manager left him alone to put his “valuables” in the new box, and Wizzo used the time to cast a weak magic spell on the door of the vault. On the way out, he cast similar spells on all the doors he passed through.
He spent the day touring the city — the Museum of Natural History, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Buffalo Zoo. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra happened to be playing that evening, so he created a tuxedo from an old suit and listened to an excellent rendition of Peter and the Wolf at Kleinhan’s Music Hall.
Shortly after dark, he drove back to the bank, then used his magic to cause a power failure in the center of town. It was nothing subtle — he pointed at the transformer and uttered, “Presto! Explode!” And it exploded. He pulled on a pair of gloves, and then, under cover of darkness, he walked up to the bank. He pointed his finger at the lock on the front door, activating the spell that returned the lock to its unlocked position, and he walked right in, closing and locking the door behind him. He repeated this twice before he reached the vault. The spell on the vault worked just as well, and he walked right in. He quickly filled two duffel bags he had stolen from Sears, and just as easily walked back out, again locking each door behind him. He also dissolved each of his spells as he passed through each door.
This had all been so easy. Why had he even bothered to fight against Captain Marvel in the past? Of course, he had done it in order to complete his apprenticeship in the most showy way possible, by creating a backwards-speaking double of Captain Marvel who was completely under his command. But he quickly put that thought out of his mind for some other time, when he wasn’t involved in more pressing matters.
There were a lot of people on the sidewalk by now, but he had prepared for that earlier. He waved his hand, repeated the one-word spell, and another nearby electrical transformer exploded. He was out of the bank door and safely hidden in the crowd while everyone else’s attention was drawn to the second explosion. He casually made his way back to his truck, and once again resumed his northward drive. With the help of another suggestibility spell on the customs official at the border, he was on Queen Victoria Way and rolling toward Labrador within an hour and a half.
It took him a week of leisurely travel to reach the town of Cartwright in Labrador. With a big bankroll of American dollars, it wasn’t hard to charter a seaplane to fly him to Godthåb, Greenland. He had enjoyed the trip, he was rested and invigorated, and ready to stride confidently into his grand future. Soon, very soon, he would assume his rightful title of Wizzo, Emperor of Earth.