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Moxie in "Midnight For Everybody!"

It's the Golden Age of Superheroines!

By Eric WolfPublished 2 years ago 9 min read
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Moxie in "Midnight For Everybody!"
Photo by Emil Widlund on Unsplash

Nico Orsini’s last thoughts, as he faced imminent death, were of Myrna Loy, on whom he had bestowed the honor of being, “The greatest dame alive.” He sang her praises, to friends and family alike—until they were so bored by his devotion, he suspected that it might even have hurt her box-office in the greater New York City area!

On the silver screen, she could do it all, but outside of a movie theatre, even Myrna’s Nora Charles couldn’t save him from a man waving a gun in his face!

Make that, men — at least four of them, ranging from the huge fellow with a broken nose and ham-sized fists, to a nervous customer who kept slicking his forelock of hair behind one ear, adjusting his round-framed eyeglasses. Nico was not yet a traveler of the world, but he knew German accents when he heard them, and these four were not just Germans — they were avowed, and loyal, members of the Nazi party!

The hulk with the big fists had, with a backhand, all but knocked him out cold, in a big warehouse facing the docks, on that sweltering July night in 1941.

It was his own fault, in a way, for following up a lead on some hijinks down on the docks, involving the unfortunate fellow already in the clutches of these foreign goons. Steven Heyman was a union organizer, trying to secure more money and benefits for the stevedores. He had been assaulted once before by management thugs, but they were American criminals, and they weren’t selling out their country. Heyman had learned of the repeated payments made to certain employees and city officials, a damning record of which, rumor had it, the manager kept in a red binder at his home.

Now it seemed that the flatfoot, who had tailed his kidnappers here, would likewise suffer premature retirement from the world — by enemy spies who had nothing to do with any of this?

He came to, some unknown time later, to the voice of the bespectacled Nazi: "I am Herr Gensch. As you are a policeman, I afford you a proper execution, with full honors. Germany respects law and order, and we are not without sympathy, for the… position in which you now find yourself.”

“Wh-what the hell are you talking about? I was only after some heavies, trying to shake down the docks.” Nico spit out some bloody saliva. "You cruds picked the wrong fight— with the wrong country. Why don’t you get out of the Apple, while you still can? Maybe, J. Edgar wakes up happy, gives you a five-minute headstart, or… something. I wouldn’t count on it—”

The huge villain loomed overhead, ready to strike him again, before the man in the specs barked, “Wruck, nein.” The big guy— Wruck— stood at attention, a blank expression on his face. Swango and Hafner, the guns to either side of him, took a half-step forward, unsure what to do.

“You see? Discipline, Detective Orsini. I’m sure you Americans value it, almost as well as we do.” Gensch paused to remember something that had amused him: “You are carving likenesses of your presidential heroes, out of the living rock, in South Dakota. There will be need of one likeness, only.”

“Don’t tell me: Uncle Adolf?” Nico’s scornful laughter was a bitter pleasure; it was sure to seal his doom. “You think it’s going to be that easy, do you? You just walk all over Europe, and now America’s going to just let you have your way with us? ‘Crazy’ must be a contagious condition, for you damned Ratzis. We already beat you guys, once. My old man knows — back in '18, he was there!

“Indeed, but history is useful. It tells us not to make mistakes twice. The Reich has taken the precaution of preparing for your government’s characteristic interference in a world that seeks, even craves, logic and purpose. We shall address a veritable nation within your nation, once we take the ledger!”

Heyman groaned, trying to roll over onto his uninjured side; he struggled in vain to free his hands and feet from the heavy rope which bound them. “You can’t let them,” he gasped, in between groans of pain. “Orsini… you can’t let these sons of bitches —”

Gensch, the head Nazi, waved to the imposing Wruck: “Shoot him. Let the fish have what is left. We will then have to decide how to proceed, on the recovery of the item.” Wruck stood over Heyman, and reached for a gun.

Jawohl, Detective,” said Gensch, “we eradicated this babble of ‘unions’ in the Fatherland. Now that our tanks roll on the Soviets, they will soon be freed of it. Call it a small mercy we extend to them. As for mercy to you, Detective — I grant you the honor of outliving this Jewish Communist."

^^^^

Wruck cocked the trigger of his pistol. Nico pointed out, “You crumbs can’t bump him off — he’s got what you’re looking for, stashed away somewhere. Remind me, Fritz: Dead men tell what, again?”

Gensch raised his hand. “Is this correct?” he asked of the union man. Wruck stood by, awaiting his next instruction.

Heyman smiled. “I don’t know why you bums are interested in this, but yeah, I got the ledger — that wasn’t easy, busting into the guy’s place. Hope you won’t charge me for that one, Detective Orsini. The wife would not be pleased.” Nico had to smile at that line.

“Then someone must bring it here, Herr Heyman,” Gensch said, after a painful moment of suspense. “Someone who has your best interests at heart. Is there one who matches this description, available to ‘smooth this out’ for us?”

And just like that, it came to Nico. The answer — the beautiful, blazing answer, to his heartache, and Heyman’s. “I could make a phone call, to a dame I know, no paperwork necessary. If you know what I mean.”

“I suspect this is a tactic, mein Herr," said Gensch. “To play for time.”

“What do you got to lose? Less than me and Mister Heyman. Besides, what are you and the goons going to do, search this whole warehouse yourselves, then start looking in the city, before the sun comes up tomorrow? Big job.”

“You are correct. Very well, you may be permitted to make a single phone call, to a single associate of yours. If you are unreliable —” He threw another hand signal. Hafner and Swango pressed their pistols against Heyman’s head, and chest. “It matters not. At midnight, you will die.”

Wruck escorted Nico to the warehouse office, where the latter placed a call. “Hi, it’s me, Nico,” he said into the receiver. “Yeah, I know it’s late and all. I’m going to put you on with a guy, he’s going to give you some directions. Okay with you, sweetheart?” He offered Heyman the receiver. “My friend’s a real smart cookie, Steven. She’ll take good care of this, I swear.”

^^^^

Herr Gensch,” said a voice, deep and brooding, behind them, about an hour later. “A vehicle approaches. Not a police vehicle.” Then he stepped outside, for another look. “It is a taxicab.”

The lights of the cab pierced the night. Gensch rose from his chair at once, as if by reflex. His men dragged the cop and the union organizer across the floor, until they were much closer to the entrance to the warehouse, beyond which lay the waters of the Hudson. A door flew open—

It was worth all of the pain and fright, Nico thought, just to see her walk right up to these devils. She wasn’t wearing heeled shoes; she had a long overcoat on. “Orsini, you dreaming about Myrna Loy, or are you awake?” she called.

“I’m only dreaming of you, at the moment, Coughlan," Nico answered. “Tell me you got it.”

“Brother, don’t you worry,” said Finola Coughlin, with an “audible smile” in her voice. She was not a tall girl, our Finola, but she carried herself with a certain forcefulness, swinging one arm, then the other, her straight yellow hair aglow. She looked fully grown, yet quite youthful for her twenty-nine years. “Missus Heyman was real helpful — ”

“That is quite sufficient, Fraulein,” Gensch hissed. “Show us you are not armed, and produce the item. Midnight has come to America.”

“Oh, I got your candy right here, mein Herr,” Finola asserted. “No gun, too. As for no arms — that’s a different story.”

“Wruck,” said Gensch, “relieve the Fraulein of the book. After which, you may be of a mind to enjoy her company in private, until it is time for us to depart.”

Finola shrugged off her overcoat. Even in the dimly lit warehouse, her rolled-up shirt sleeves could be made out by average eyes. There was, however, not one thing average about what she had in her hands: in the left, the prized and mysterious notebook, and in the other, a frying pan —

Which she hurled across the room, one-handed. It connected with Wruck’s jaw, sending him crashing. She bolted, like a horse at the Preakness, to deliver a punishing right hook to Hafner’s nose, and a vicious kick to his belly. Gensch scrambled to draw his Mauser pistol —

“Hey, don’t get my Irish up any further, bub,” Finola barked. Wruck grasped blindly for her ankle; she kicked him so hard, it spun him a quarter-turn on the floor.

Swango stepped up to Finola to aim his own punch, which she caught in her right shoulder; she erupted then, pushing him with both palms as she drove the top of her head against his neck, interfering with his respiration.

Gensch stepped around a crate to aim his Mauser at her. Finola froze, raising her hands in surrender. He was astonished by her utter savagery: “Against my men? How can a mere American woman be so formidable?”

“Boy, are you stupid,” said Nico. “There’s nothing mere about Moxie Coughlan, you dummy. She’s been a holy terror around these parts, emphasis on holy.”

Moxie Coughlan, did you say?” Gensch repeated dully. “The vigilante of Hell’s Kitchen! Of the Convincers, these so-called ‘superheroes’? I assure the pair of you, we have heard of you, Fraulein, and of your unladylike super-strength, but true Übermenschen live only in Germany—”

Heyman managed to kick Gensch from behind, throwing off his aim. His pistol spat death — at Hafner; he caught the blast in his upper chest, and crumpled. That was all Finola needed, to end things with the head Nazi!

Seizing him by his lapels, she carried him overhead, with both hands, to the edge of the dock. She stepped over the dozing German lookout, whom she had incapacited on her way inside the warehouse, to pitch a wailing Gensch right into the river! Only then did she roll her sleeves down.

The mighty Moxie quickly freed Nico and Heyman. “Take a nap, big fella,” she sneered at Wruck’s prone form. “You look beat.”

^^^^

One phone call and several minutes later, about a hundred of Nico’s fellow officers from the Tenth Precinct, or so it seemed, swarmed the warehouse. “Looks like the manager was in on it,” Nico speculated. “Thanks, Fin, for missing your movie — Citizen Kane, right? Supposed to be real good.”

“It’s nothing much, kid, being you’re a pal and all,” she said. “I’ll just catch the matinee, next time.” She watched officers push the drenched Gensch, and his surviving confederates, into the back of a paddy wagon.

“Kidnapping, felonious assault, attempted murder. Espionage! They’ll be lucky if they get the chair.” Finola shrugged it off. “Ah, well, we all got to — hey, that reminds me. See you at Saint Ronan’s, bright and early, Sunday?”

“Is there any doubt in your mind?” Nico glanced through the ledger. It was not filled with financial material, after all. “This has names, addresses and phone numbers from all over the country,” he said. “Wonder what Ratzis want with this? Wait, he said ‘a nation within a nation’.” He watched an ambulance, with Heyman in the back, drive off. “Guess we’ll turn this one over to the boys from Washington. You okay?”

She cracked her knuckles, and tapped a crucifix hanging round her neck. She was not a giantess; she merely seemed like one, when she got her Irish up, as many a no-good-nik had learned, these past ten years, in the Big Apple. “I’m okay, just… so broken up about Jelly Roll Morton dying.”

She was, at rest, just another rosy-cheeked, working-class angel. When she was crossed, Finola Coughlan became… something else: “mighty Moxie” — a spirit of Celtic-flavored, American street justice!

Finola turned to exit, her blond hair shimmering in the moonlight. “Hey, Moxie,” Nico called, “did you know, this Gensch fellow tells me, his boss is coming here, too! Ain’t that a riot? Mister Hitler? Like he’d feel safe in New York City!”

“Oh, he did, did he?” Finola turned and gave him a knowing sneer. Then, with a hint of the ferocity she had just displayed against German spies, she added, “If you get in touch with FDR, give him a message for me, will you, Nico? Tell him, if Adolf is foolish enough to come, I, and a million more, just like me, will be waiting for him!” With a lusty laugh, the blond bombshell walked out.

© Eric Wolf 2021.

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About the Creator

Eric Wolf

Ink-slinger. Photo-grapher. Earth-ling. These are Stories of the Fantastic and the Mundane. Space, time, superheroes and shapeshifters. 'Wolf' thumbnail: https://unsplash.com/@marcojodoin.

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