The One and Only

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 2

Captain Caulk stared in amazement at the cache of treasures tucked away in the basement of the Château d’Erfitter. Just like that, the missing Sisley was the least of his concerns. Here were The Scream, The Thinker, The Mona Lisa! The theft of any one of these works could be considered the crime of the century, and yet these acts had gone completely undetected. What mastermind could have executed such a scheme? And what villain would resist taking credit for such a success?

There came a slow clap from the shadows. “Félicitations, Captain.” A man in an opera cape and a domino mask stepped forth to rest a hand on the buttocks of Michaelangelo’s David. “Vraiment, you are the real McCoy. Few others could have uncovered my little enterprise.”

“Who are you?” demanded Captain Caulk, falling for none of this flattery, “and have you done with the Count?”

“Ohhh.” The villain tutted. “And just like that you ruin it. For you see, in truth…” he removed his mask and shook out his silver curls, “the Count d’Erfitter and the soon to be notorious Count Erfitter are one and the same!”

“That’s a pretty poor secret identity,” observed Captain Caulk, who could at a moment’s notice don his heroic Glasses of Obfuscation to become mild mannered reporter Clint Cark.

“Is it?” asked Count Erfitter, passing behind a pillar. When he emerged, he was wearing the mask once more. “Or is it a very convincing copy?”

“Enough!” Captain Caulk whipped his weapon from the holster on his back. “My sealant shooter will make short work of you!”

“I’m sure it will…”

He pulled the trigger. It crumbled in his grasp.

“Unfortunately for you, however, I took the liberty of replacing it with a perfect replica I carved out of Parmesan earlier this morning.”

“I see.” Captain Caulk discarded the cheesy knockoff, taking an item from his belt. “But did you also think to replace my grout grenades?” He pulled out the pin and hurled the weapon at Count Erfitter, showering him with quick-setting gunge.

“Alas, no,” came a voice from right beside him.

Instinctively, Captain Caulk threw a mighty punch. A cardboard face yielded instantly beneath his fist.

“I was too busy crafting several cardboard cutouts of myself.”

Captain Caulk readied another grout grenade, steely eyes scanning the darkness for the source of the voice.

“Now, do be careful what you do with that.” Count Erfitter was on the move, stalking between the paintings and sculptures. “I don’t think either of us would be very happy if you marred a masterpiece with a thoughtless throw.”

“You planned this!” spat Captain Caulk. “You knew I’d have to rein in my powers among the art!”

“Indeed.” Count Erfitter stepped into the open once more, a small but priceless Monet dangling from his pale fingertips. “By all means run off and raise Sergeant Soap or Colonel Clean—I’m sure they’d have no trouble subduing me without doing any harm to my collection—but know that by the time they arrive, I shall be gone, and so shall the art.” A secret escape hatch swung open in the wall.

For the first time in many years, Captain Caulk felt a bead of perspiration upon his noble brow. Beyond his uncanny ability to fashion the likeness of any object, Count Erfitter seemed to have no powers to speak of. However, his was a mind fiendish enough to rival even the Diabolical Doctor Baby.

“There’s no one here to help you now.”

But just then, Captain Caulk caught a glimpse of a spandex suit, and a pair of red redunderpants.

“Now, Captain Redundancy!” he shouted. “Make your move!”

But Captain Redundancy merely stood there, teeth sparkling, hands on lycra-clad hips.

“Ah, désolé.” Count Erfitter put on an expression of mock sympathy. “Alas, your friend too is a cardboard cutout.”

Captain Caulk’s heart fell. But then it rose again! For Count Erfitter hadn’t counted on one thing: where there was a cardboard cutout of Captain Redundancy, the real Captain Redundancy was bound to appear, the better to be very, very redundant. And in that moment, he saw him.

“Now, Captain Redundancy!” he shouted. “This time for real!”

But Count Erfitter merely laughed. “You are a fool!” he cried. “For I crafted two cardboard cutouts of Captain Redundancy, since…hang on, this one should be over there.”

The second cardboard cutout of Captain Redundancy took one fist from its hip and used it to knock Count Erfitter out cold with a single sharp jab. For it was not a cardboard cutout at all, but the real Captain Redundancy!

“Many thanks, my friend.” Captain Caulk approached and shook his hand. “I could never have captured this criminal without your assistance.”

He stopped. A prickle of fear ran up his spine. For the real Captain Redundancy would only intervene in the commissioning of a crime if his help were completely redundant. If there really had been no other way to stop Count Erfitter…

Sensing the unease of his costumed comrade, Captain Redundancy took a step towards the cellar wall.

“This escape hatch?” With the side of his fist, he gave a couple of knocks on the open door. “Painted on.”

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.

Support it here!

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