Capin’s sleek black cape loosened, readying for that moment before one of those thugs made a hint of a move.
But that moment never came. Instead, the leather-clad woman standing before him turned her back on him and began walking into the darkness. After a few steps, she paused and looked back over her shoulder at the dapper detective. “Are you just going to stand there looking like all menacing and penguin-like, or are you going to come see my operation.”
“It’s that easy?” Capin asked, his usual wit buried by the surprise of her offer.
“Well,” she answered, the leather of her mask reshaping slightly as she smiled beneath it. “There is that pesky walking.” To emphasize her intent, she held her arms in front of her, signaling a direction. Capin took a first, tenuous step, and soon was walking beside her as she entered the sanitarium from the garage-access door.
Capin really didn’t like the idea of taking their fight so completely into her home field, but if it meant he could stop the kidnapping, save the missing girls…
She led him down a long hallway, the walls a soft eggshell color with plain, fluorescent lighting. He just managed to maintain his composure as one of the lights buzzed suddenly as they passed beneath… this whole situation was unnerving. If she even noticed the sound, it didn’t show.
“So how do you do it?” he asked casually as they rounded a corner. “Do you have a fountain of youth in here somewhere?”
“Somewhere,” she answered absently. “All good lessons require patience.”
Capin nodded, mostly because his attention was rapidly moving between Mistress Psyche and the doors to various rooms, many echoed quietly with the sounds of occupation. “This is a working sanitarium?”
Psyche clasped her hands behind her back, acting professional as if none of this seemed off to her.”Of course. After all, it’s rather expensive to build a secret lair these days.” Capin’s eyes narrowed just slightly. She was enjoying this…
He glanced over his shoulders at the two walking sides of beef behind him. “Patients of yours?”
“After a fashion,” she replied. “Chemically and psychologically conditioned soldiers based on research done in the name of Mussolini. He never perfected the process.” As she finished with that statement, she came to a stop in front of a door marked ‘Housekeeping.’ She reached out, took hold of the handle.
Pulling the handle out, she twisted it clockwise a full rotation, then pushed it back into place. Turning it a quarter turn counterclockwise opened the door. Beyond it was a room, a rather large room, sterile and white. In its center were two stainless steel ‘beds’ surrounded by monitoring equipment. There were two doors out of the room, and two more of Psyche’s bio-modified goons within, each holding a small animal carrier.
“You know Id and Trauma,” she said, noting the two that had escorted them, as she walked into the room. “These are Ego and Crisis.”
Capin smirked. “Cute names. Their parents must have hated them.”
Psyche crossed to the center of the room. “Their parents didn’t want them… I am the only mother that matters to them. Isn’t that right boys?” She asked the last question almost absently, as an afterthought.
“Yes Mistress,” they answered, in perfect unison.
Capin was growing more disturbed by this situation. He’d known some sick criminals in his short career… this woman took the cake… no, the whole bakery. “So is this where you tell me your nefarious plan and offer me fabulous prizes to see things your way?”
Psyche smiled again… the way the reaction twisted her mask would have been comical if it wasn’t so darned disturbing. “Very well… let’s start with the nefarious plan.” She strode over to the two surgical tables as the ones she’d called Ego and Crisis moved over to either side of her. They opened their carriers and, to her right, Ego placed and adult cat. To her left, Crisis produced a puppy.
Capin felt a twinge of his old self creeping back into him. “Let me guess? I can only save one… am I a cat-lover, or will it be the puppy…?”
“You asked me about the Fountain of Youth,” she interrupted, her tone more serious. “You see… that is the easy part.” She raised her arms and placed one hand above the cat, the other above the puppy. Her ‘assistants’ jumped back as if in fear for their mortal lives as her hands began to bathe both animals in a soft, green energy.
When the light faded, the puppy had become full-grown, and the cat was a mere kitten. Capin had to actively fight to keep his jaw off of the floor. “I am the Fountain of Youth,” she said with sadistic glee. Without meaning to, Capin took a half-step backwards, almost bumping into Trauma.
“My clients pay a significant fee for their renewed youth,” she said matter-of-factly. “Unfortunately, the process requires a young person of the same sex to make a… sacrifice in the name of the amorally wealthy.”
“The kidnapped girls…”
“Yes,” she interrupted. “Women do seem to prioritize vanity over avarice more easily than men… though I have had inquiries from the more masculine of the species.”
Capin could feel the anger rising up, overpowering the last of his fear. “After you’ve robbed innocent girls of their youth… what then?”
Psyche straightened up, her posture becoming almost commanding from its previous relaxed state.”Innocent? If you knew the secrets some of these girls kept locked away in their precious little psyches….” She looked almost feral by the time she was finished with her statement, but quickly composed herself.
“Unfortunately, the donors remember everything,” she said, her voice returned to normal.”Fortunately, this establishment was built on a mountain of delusions. When the old woman in her cell tells an orderly that she doesn’t belong here… that she’s really a sixteen year old girl… they don’t give her a second look.”
Capin’s eyes narrowed to slits. “And when the girl she claims to be actually turns up missing?”
Psyche smiled again, more broadly this time. “A couple of days in a meat freezer followed by a quick dump on a street corner… another homeless woman fallen victim to Garrison City’s frigid winters.”
Enough was enough. There were five of them, but he had back-up… at least he hoped he did. He slipped into a fighting stance while doing his best to appear like he was just restlessly shifting his weight. Enry billowed slightly, getting into a ready-position of his own. “You do realize I have to put a stop to this?”
Her laughter chilled him, though he made sure it didn’t show. “Stop it?” she asked, incredulously.”My dear… you’re going to be a part of it.” As she finished her sentence, the right exit door opened and a young woman with small, square glasses, looking more like an office assistant than a nurse, wheeled in a chair. Sitting in the chair was an old man wearing a mask for his oxygen and an IV tube for his nutrients.
“Meet Herbert Newcastle,” Psyche said with a slight snarl to her voice. “Or as he’s soon to be known, young Tommy Newcastle,” she suddenly had a soft, mourning tone to her voice as she finished the thought: “heir to his tragically-departed Uncle’s fortune.”
Capin raised his arms, taking ready. There was no more reason to pretend he wasn’t going to resist.”What about the ‘fabulous prizes’ for seeing things your way?”
“My dear,” she said almost gently. “I only promised a nefarious plan….”
The four man-mountains began to close in around him as Psyche simply stood and laughed.