Wilbur poked the innards of the defibrillator gloves with a soldering iron, one earbud keeping him focused with electronic tunes. Fritz had guilted him into helping replace the prototype he’d taken, with so many municipal governments looking to purchase the devices when they were ready for production. At least it gave him something productive to do until his next board meeting.
He’d always been more like his grandfather than his father. Hans Scholz had started the company from nothing, starting in his garage shed after having moved from the fatherland after the war. His father, Joshua, was more of a hard bargaining salesman, the public face needed to expand Hans’ legacy. Dad never really understood while he prefered dealing with machines to people.
Fritz walked over and sat a bottle of water on the workbench. “I really do appreciate it Wilbur. Between this, that armor Ryan’s working on and of course my magic toaster, we’re going to be looking at a really solid couple of quarters coming up.”
“Seriously, what’s with you and that toaster?”
“Listen. Jesus told us to pray for our daily bread. I’m just doing God’s will here.”
“You’re Jewish, why would you listen to Jesus?”
“He gives good advice sometimes, like Buddha, or Abe Lincoln, or a fortune cookie.”
Wilbur rolled his eyes and took a swig.
“Speaking of God’s will, you surviving must be part of it. Did you really meet Skinnyman face to face?”
Wilbur spun around to make sure no one else was in the room. Fritz and his freaking mouth. “Yes, really.”
Fritz slowly scratched his chin. “Huh. What did he look like? Was he scary?”
“Hell yeah! Guy was like six feet of skin and bones, and he was wearing gray robes like the reaper. He wore a freakish mask with yellow eyes, ulgh, those eyes…”
“Didya zap him one?”
Wilbur shrugged. “I tried. Why are you asking though? I thought you said I was an idiot for going there.”
“Oh don’t worry, you still are. But you’re a stubborn prick and I know I can’t stop you when you’re dead set on something…” Fritz paused, looked straight forward and pointed at nothing. “Hey wait a second, how did you even know where to find him anyways?”
“Oh, I uh.” Wilbur rubbed the back of his neck. “Got kinda hammered and asked this. Girl I know.”
Scoffing, Fritz raised an eyebrow. “This girl you know? And she didn’t delete your number after the second date?”
“We’re not dating. I saved her friend from some thugs.”
“Well maybe you should ask for some pointers rather than getting chased off by little old asian men.”
Wilbur felt the blood rush from his face. “Hooooow do you know about that?”
Fritz rolled his eyes and put a fist to his hips. “Wilbur, buddy, it’s 2023. Everyone has a camera in their pocket and ten social media accounts. If it makes you feel any better, the video only has thirty-two views.”
Wilbur groaned and put a hand to his face. “Ugh. Fine. I’ll see what else I can get from her.”
When the gloves were done and Fritz had left to supervise his peers, Wilbur gave Mouse a call. This time, fortunately, she answered.
“It’s me. Wilbur. So you’ve probably seen the news lately…”
She didn’t seem to know what to say for a moment. “You went right after Skinnyman, didn’t you?”
“You’re not with anyone are you?”
“No, I’m alone. Christ dude, hope you cured your boredom… Heard the cops only recovered a few goons of his, some captives and Detective Higgins. Guess that means Skinnyman got away.”
She sighed. “Figures.”
“Why do you hate that guy so much anyways?” he asked.
“That’s confidential. So what’d you call about Scholz?”
“Do you uh. Have any more information on criminal happenings? I’m willing to pay you.”
She laughed. “You had me at pay. Yeah. I’ll think of something. Meet you outside the Brew at five?”
Wilbur got up from his seat. “Works for me.”
A few things happened before Wilbur went out. First, the pieces of his hero outfit had been delivered, so he wouldn’t look like a hood Jason Voorhees. Bless express mail. He’d also swapped said Voorhees mask out for one of Ryan’s experimental designs, a full faced, featureless black helmet he’d left to collect dust.
Second, he called Jeff, to make sure he hadn’t pissed off the cops too much. Turns out they were grateful enough to ‘Shortcircuit’ – the nickname they were now using internally and with the press – not to put out a BOLO on him. In the future, though, he’d need to cut out the ninja shit and work with them or else their patience would run out. He was fine with that.
He decided to just walk to the Witch’s Brew. It didn’t seem intuitive for a masked crimefighter but it worked in the real world. Sure, he had to deal with a few hecklers and new fans trying to take pictures, but for the most part, folks didn’t really care. The novelty of it probably wore off long, long ago, even in a town not known for superheroes.
Mouse was standing by the street corner, hands in her black leather jacket. Jessica was there too, smoking a cigarette. Wilbur strolled up to her, crossing his arms in that typical hero pose.
“Don’t you know those things will kill you, young lady?”
Unimpressed, she blew smoke in his face. He could smell that junk even through the helmet. “I’m more likely to be killed by one of your products,” she said in a hushed tone, smirking. Wilbur grimaced and glanced around.
“Is everyone intent on blowing my identity?”
“Trust me, with the way you carry yourself the beans will get spilled sooner or later.”
He decided to ignore her. Turning to Mouse he asked “So what do you have for me?”
“You remember those meatheads who were assaulting Jessica? Those were Vitelli goons.”
“The Vitelli Family?” Wilbur repeated. “The Italian Mafia? I thought they’d gone extinct in Blackburn.”
“Yeah, that’s what they want you to think. They all claim they’ve gone legit but they’re still into money laundering, fraud, and of course good old drugs. There are just more mouths feeding from the same trough these days.”
She retrieved a small, folded piece of paper from her coat and handed it to him. He opened it up, revealing a written address.
“Wash Rush. That’s one of their main fronts. If you catch them in an illegal act, well, I guess the city’s new guardian will have to execute a few citizen’s arrests, won’t he? Go ahead and give Higgins a call if all goes well, I know him.”
Wilbur immediately began plugging the address into his phone’s GPS. “Thanks Nisa.” He looked up and handed her a couple hundred dollars. “Uh, should I call you that?”
She smiled. “I guess you’ve done enough for me to get away with it.”