Behind the Mask

By Ed Staskus

   Most law enforcement agencies like the FBI and Interpol thought Dr. Mabuse was long gone and never gave him another thought. They were glad to see him go. They believed he died in 1933 in Dr. Baum’s asylum outside Berlin. They didn’t know that he had been controlling Dr. Baum’s mind for years before his death. Many years earlier, minutes before the minute he went to meet his maker, he had used his powers of body transference to become the asylum’s head honcho.

   Before Dr. Baum died he used those same powers and made a new Dr. Mabuse. The Reign of Crime didn’t miss a beat. It kept up the drumbeat until it crossed the Potomac River. When it did the snare drums played rat-a-tat-tat for his new soulmate, at least until Dr. Mabuse belatedly realized the face on the dollar was chump change. The criminal mastermind hated wasting his time with flat tires who spent all their time complaining and explaining. He was going to have to find somebody new, especially after the ill-fated attack on the U. S. Capital.  

   Dr. Mabuse was able to project his spirit into the bodies of other people. If things got too hot to handle, he could escape his host, leaving him alive but insane, and move on to a replacement. If need be, he could inhabit several people at once and whip up a crime wave. In the 1890s he became Professor James Moriarty, the master criminal running riot in London. “He was a man of good birth endowed by nature with a phenomenal mathematical faculty,” said Sherlock Holmes. “But he had tendencies of the most diabolical kind. A criminal strain ran in his blood. He was the Napoleon of crime. He was the organizer of half that was evil and of nearly all that was undetected in this great city.”

   Dr. Mabuse was sad to see the evil professor go when Sherlock Holmes bested him at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. “If you are clever enough to bring destruction upon me, rest assured that I shall do as much to you,” the professor had warned the consulting detective. “I want to end the world, but I’ll settle for ending yours.” When push came to shove, however, at the end of their hand-to-hand grappling, it was Professor Moriarty who went over the side of the waterfall, and it was Sherlock Holmes who went back safe and sound to Baker Street.

   In 1920 the criminal mastermind briefly body transferred into Dr. Caligari, a hypnotist who employed sleepwalkers to commit murders. Dr. Mabuse was himself a master hypnotist. It didn’t work out, though. Dr. Caligari went off the deep end, got himself strapped into a straight jacket, and became an inmate in his own clinic.

   The next year Dr. Mabuse transferred into Al Capone, where he stayed for more than decade. He was pleased with the ruthless man’s ruthlessness. He especially liked the timing of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. He bid Scarface a fond farewell when he was convicted of tax evasion and sent to Alcatraz. He was later disappointed to hear that Public Enemy No. 1 had taken up playing a banjo with the prison band at their Sunday concerts for other inmates.

   He was looking for somebody new when all hell broke loose. He had to put his plans and ambitions on the back burner during World War Two. He didn’t have the firepower to fight good on that scale, no matter how much he admired the strong men of the Axis Powers. He thought Adolph Hitler was Wagnerian, even in his toothbrush mustache. He thought Mussolini’s chin wag was big and bold. In any  event, he knew when to lay low, and stayed close to home for the duration. When the war ended he got busy again.

   In 1947 Dr. Mabuse body transferred into Tony Accardo, who had become the Boss of the Chicago Outfit, where he stayed until the gangster’s death in 1992. The gang was the most successful crime organization in the country for many years. They realized profits of $1 billion annually and controlled Las Vegas. He never spent a minute in jail. He spread misfortune far and wide. Who says crime doesn’t pay? He lived in the lap of luxury.

   Dr. Mabuse didn’t care about cement overshoes, or the needle and the damage done. What he cared about was creating a Society of Crime. “When humanity, subjugated by the terror of crime, has been driven insane by fear and horror and when chaos has become supreme law, then the time will have come for the Empire of Crime,” he said. If there was anything he believed in, it was that. “I am everywhere and nowhere at once,” he liked to say. It was no childish boast. Everybody walks in the garden of good and evil, light and dark.

   When Dr. Mabuse first became aware of Donald Trump, all he knew about the man was that he was a notorious womanizer and much-rumored fraudster. He didn’t care about the womanizing, but he liked the rumors of shady dealing and crooked doings. He liked the gambling. He had himself once been known as “The Gambler.” He explained to an associate, “Nothing is interesting in the long run, except for one thing, which is gambling with the fates of people.”

   He liked Donald Trump’s braggadocio. Bragging about untruths was a stroke of genius. He was disappointed in himself for not having thought of it first. He went to New York City the summer of 2015 to hear the mogul’s presidential campaign announcement speech. He sat in the front row at Trump Tower. Hardly a soul noticed him.

   “Whoa, whoa, this is some group of people, thousands,” Donald Trump said. “It’s great to be here at Trump Tower. There’s never been no crowd like this. Some of the other candidates, they didn’t know the air-conditioning wasn’t working. They sweated like dogs. Our country is in serious trouble. When was the last time anybody saw us beating China in a trade deal? They kill us! I beat China all the time, all the time. When Mexico sends us its people, they’re rapists. They’re sending us not the right people.”

   “He is going to be silly putty in my hands,” Dr. Mabuse chortled, trying to keep ahead of the big wig’s stream-of-consciousness. “I can finally realize my dream, so long as he doesn’t run off the rails. He knows how to point the Finger of Blame, though. I will give him that.”

   “Hey, I know what I’m doing,” Donald Trump whined.

   “Just remember,” Dr. Mabuse said. “There is no love. There is only desire! There is no happiness. There is only the will to power!”

   “Damn right!” the presidential candidate exclaimed, making small fists with his small hands. His face got red. Flecks of spit landed on his tie. “Humanity’s soul must be shaken to its very depths, frightened by unfathomable and seemingly senseless crimes, crimes that benefit no one, whose only objective is to inspire fear and terror,” Dr. Mabuse said, his thumb on the button. There was a big thumb’s up from the would-be Caesar with the trifling hands. Dr. Mabuse wormed his way into Donald Trump on the spot.

   Dr. Mabuse never committed any crimes himself. He was more careful about that than even Donald Trump. The mastermind’s network of agents carried out his schemes. They never knew they were doing what he wanted them to do. “About to make a fuss, you swine?” he sneered whenever his henchmen screwed up. “What am I paying you for if you flounder around like schoolgirls?” He saw himself in Donald Trump, a real estate wheeler-dealer bred on greed and deceit, who portrayed himself being more sinned against than sinner. Dr. Mabuse liked the topsy turvy nature of the man. What he especially liked about the man was that no matter what, no faultfinding ever stuck to him. He huffed and he puffed, and everything blew away in a cloud of swamp gas.  

   Donald Trump believed he was a Nietzsche-like Superman who could rip open the social fabric of society. He was childish that way in his red tie and smug smile. He wore a MAGA baseball cap at his airport rallies, proclaiming his greatness, whipping crowds into a frenzy, dreaming up straw men and excoriating them. He was going to expose and drain the swamp, he said. His mind was a jack-in-the-box. Confusion and mayhem were the tools of his trade. He was opportunistic and unrepentant. He swallowed Delmonico steaks whole whenever he saw one on somebody’s plate. 

   The Donald’s Loyalty Street was notorious for being a one-way street. He had nothing on Dr. Mabuse, though. The doctor had the market cornered on my way or the highway. The mad mogul was always ready with Twitter in hand to destroy a man. Dr. Mabuse, on the other hand, was always ready with a Heckler & Koch. Insults are one thing. Hot lead is another thing.

  The test of Donald Trump’s reign came when COVID-19 arrived early in 2020. Dr. Mabuse could not have been more pleased. Epidemics and the fear they arouse were part of his game plan. The World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control were urging social distancing and wearing masks in public. Donald Trump waved them away. He had his own ideas. He made sure everybody knew what his ideas were.

   “I think the virus is going to be, it’s going to be fine,” he said in February. “It looks like by April, when it gets a little warmer, it’s going to disappear, like a miracle.” In March the United States had the most confirmed cases in the world. By the end of April POTUS was promoting Hydroxychloroquine as a cure-all. It treats malaria caused by mosquito bites. It does nothing for COVID-19 unless you’re a mosquito. After the national death toll passed 40,000 he recommended trying bleach and shining UV light on people’s insides. He had ideas up the wazoo. “I am the hardest working president in history,” he said.

   “This is going to go away without a vaccine,” he declared while pharmaceutical manufacturers worked around the clock to develop a vaccine. “We’re doing a great job on COVID response. We are in a good place.” Deaths passed 130,000 in May. “It is what it is,” he said. As the year ended, the death toll passed 330,000. 

   “I think we’re rounding the corner very much,” the Donald concluded. He thought he was rounding the corner on a second term, too, but it wasn’t to be. Joe Biden beat him at the polls in November. Dr. Mabuse was disappointed. The still-warm officeholder reassured him, saying he had some tricks up his sleeve. Dr. Mabuse agreed to be patient. When the trick popped its top he found himself more disappointed than ever.

   Early in January POTUS fomented a riot among his supporters to overturn the 2020 election results and put him back in power. “Stop the Steal” was their chant, although the lack of firepower they brought to bear was their downfall. The weapons they brought to the fray were stun guns, pepper spray, and  baseball bats. One of them wielded a flagpole as a club. They stormed Congress. There were Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and Three Percenters.  QAnon was there in disguise. Jacob Chansley, a QAnon shaman, sported a bearskin headdress, horns, and red, white, and blue face paint. “I came with other patriots at Donald Trump’s request,” he said, heating up an old slice of pizza with a cigarette lighter.

   It made Dr. Mabuse sick. He had done consulting work for the Gestapo back in the day. He knew the feeble goings-on at the Capital weren’t going to accomplish anything. They should have burned it down like the Reichstag had been torched in 1933. Then they could have blamed it on the liberal elite and suspended everybody’s constitutional rights. They had taken the capital lawmen by surprise, but by the end of the day they were being chased away and rounded up. Those who weren’t immediately arrested had filmed their antics and posted them on social media. The cops went on social media and wrote down their names. All Dr. Mabuse could do was shake his head. How had he ever believed in the silver spoon boy? The boy had been born on third base and gone through life pretending he had hit a triple.

   Dr. Mabuse swallowed his pride and stuck with his namesake until the 2022 mid-term elections. They didn’t go well for his man. It looked like his kingmaker days were over. After the elections mis-fired he entertained Nick Fuentes, a white supremacist poobah, and Kanye West, a celebrity antisemite, at his mansion on the Florida coast. Dr. Mabuse like that. He floated a plan to rip up parts of the Constitution. Dr. Mabuse liked that, too. But his handpicked candidate for the Senate in a run-off Georgia election stumbled and fumbled. Dr Mabuse didn’t like that. His business corporation was convicted on all 17 counts in a tax-fraud case. Dr. Mabuse didn’t like that, either.

   “I know a lot of people in our party love the former president,” Senator Mitt Romney said in Washington, D. C. “But he is, if you will, the kiss of death for somebody who wants to win a general election. And at some point, we’ve got to move on and look for new leaders that will lead us to win.”

   When he heard that, Dr. Mabuse knew for sure it was time to move on. He hastily body transferred down the throat of a Camp Fire Jewish Laser Beam conspiracy theorist, on the assumption the congresswoman was so dim-witted she wouldn’t notice, biding his time until he found the right host. “Mein Gott, this woman has bad breath,” he muttered. When he became aware of Vladimir Putin, he realized his mistake of taking a flier on the Donald. He asked Tucker Carlson for advice, which the gab show host was happy to supply, for a price. The Russian Federation’s top dog was the man to cozy up to. Dr. Mabuse jumped on the first plane to Moscow. He was greeted with open arms. He was hoisted on to the back of a missile and immediately rocketed to the Kremlin.

   “What can I do for you?” Vladimir Putin asked.

   “It’s not what you can do for me but what I can do for you,” Dr. Mabuse replied. The tyrant slapped the master criminal on the back. They laughed heartily at the inside joke. They both hated idealistic rhetoric, especially from the 1960s. They both knew they were going to be the best of friends, and it was going to be bread, water, and barbed wire in Siberia for their enemies.

Ed Staskus posts on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Made in Cleveland http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com. To get the site’s monthly feature in your in-box click on “Follow.”

Advertisement

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s