“I’m ready!” I shouted, kicking the door open with a brush in one hand and a bottle of conditioner in the other. “We’re gonna take such good care of Doom’s hair—”
“Heir. Not hair, his heir. His protégé,” Codex whipped. He was at the far corner of the study, staggering studiously over a stuffy scroll. Good thing for him, I’d’ve cold-clocked him for that. He really dodged a bullet there.
Travis was busy making small talk with the lad. First time I’d seen a baby with a 5 o’clock shadow. All those growth hormones in the milk, I say!
I’d hoped to make up for being four hours late by dazzling the good doctor with my fascinatingly, titillatingly scintillating hair ministrations. But now I was apparently charged with cutting his heir’s hair.
That’s when I noticed a familiar glimmer in the boy’s upper left eye.
“Hold him still, but quick,” I ordered solemnly, pulling out my portable guillotine. “I have a barber-ous reputation to maintain.”
The baby giggled. Travis, on the other hand, freaked out. “Give me that!”
“You’ve never given a baby a haircut before, have you?” Codex clucked. Finally! Someone who could understand my predicament.
“Listen to me!” Travis and I both looked sideways. I pulled up his already comically high collar. “I didn’t want you to find out this way, since you’ve already bonded with the child, but…”
He looked down at Baby Doom. Although the child was kicking around some building blocks, the stubble and occasional lapses in demeanor cracked (what to me was) an obvious facade.
“Travis, the child is possessed.”
“What?! Preposterous! You nonsensical coxcomb, if you lay one misbegotten finger on that child’s head—”
I slapped him. “Are you that easy to brainwash? What happened to the master hypnotist, wanted worldwide, from the sultans of Microstan to the Haraguaian junta?” I pulled up my shirt — Travis had hypnotized me into making a relief carving of his GENERIC hometown on my own metallic torso. “What about the people of Anytown, USA? If they could see you now. Tut tut.”
Collapsing in a heap, Travis recited the Hypnotist’s Credo, as all hypnotists do when questioning their own sanity:
“I am not a chicken, I am not a chicken, I am not a chicken…”
“And not a peep out of you,” I scowled at the baby what caused this situation. He grinned evilly, or perhaps gasilly, and drooled like an infant. “I’m onto your game, kid.”
Codex put down his engrossing scroll and glossed over to us, agitatedly. “Could you two keep it down? Doctor Doom has some amazing ancient texts that can help prove my thesis.”
“I thought you forswore writing your thesis until you solved your parents’ murder?”
He stared at me blankly. Some day I would trick him into revealing his past. It was more fun than a thousand Googles.
Travis composed himself enough to ask a thunderously idiotic question. “Can anything be done to save this wretch?”
“Not only can something be done, but in the future it has already been done! Hold the child close to you — we’re going to conduct a highly unorthodox exorcism.”
Travis cringed. “How will it differ from an orthodox exorcism?”
“I was taught the ‘traditional’ exorcism by a heretical bishop, but he had a stroke halfway through. So I added in all his spasms and whatnot, and I’ve been doing it that way ever since. Now…” I kicked off my shoes. “Make sure to hold his mouth open the whole time; if you don’t, the pressure imbalance will cause immediate organ collapse.”
“Should we not, good sir, ask the child’s legal guardian before performing a religious ceremony on him?”
“Sure. And maybe I should bring all the children of the world PRESENTS every year on Christmas eve, flying through the sky on a SLED pulled by gravity-defying reindeer. Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.”
I squeezed the hairbrush; the bristles instantly perked up, transmogrified to hardened Aluminium™, the wondrous new metal that will change the face of industry by 1960.
Imagine it: a world of sandwiches wrapped in an Aluminium™ foil. Houses constructed with Aluminium™ beams and pipes. Aluminium™ telephone rotors that never rust.
Truly, whichever superpower harnesses the awesome potential of Aluminium™ first will become the defining force of the 20th century.
The force I now wielded in my right hand.
“Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” We cleared a circle around the accursed heir. I got my groove on. “All right, let’s clean out his spiritual P-trap. Codex! The electric razor! Travis! Forty gallons of mousse, quickly! We’ve not a moment to—”
“I’m home,” a voice echoed just outside the study, smacking of familiarity.
“Okay, if you guys could just unpack the groceries, I’ve got your money— hey! YOU!”
“You’re off your rocker… I’ve never seen you before…” My eyes darted for a blunt object as Doctor Doom advanced on my position in his casual wear.
“You were here months ago with that alpha-flight whatsit.” His nostrils flared. “You broke my time machine! And the second storey of my castle has been completely inaccessible since that time!”
“Serves you right for not using Aluminium™!” Codex piped, engrossed with the scroll and his own arrogance.
I equivocated. “Things were said and done that cannot be undone… but… Travis here has something that will abate your anger and put you in a happy place!”
Taking my lead, Travis Read with rife speed attended my need for a hypnotic deed.
“Watch me watch you watching my watch,” he bobbed, lobbing the slob to the Land of Nod with a flick of his wrist and a twist of his bod.
Incidentally, Doctor Doom soiled himself. I promised myself I wouldn’t tell people, but it’s not only a funny story — it’s historically accurate.
“I’d say we’re pretty much done here,” Travis announced, sidestepping the prostrate form that once threatened to sue me. “Should we make tracks back—”
“Did I die and leave you in command? Because I thought—” I touched my face, “I thought I was very much alive and in charge of this mission. Underling! Minion! Cretin! We’re done upon my assent! Now… being henchmen, it is our sacred duty to commit crimes, of which we have not done enough. So while I pack up my styling supplies, you two grab everything that isn’t bolted down.”
They saluted me (in my mind) and set off to cavort and caper about the castle. I turned my attention downward, curler in hand.
“Now then, you rascally demonspawn… how do you want your bangs?”