Justice Devil Dust
What is time? Just an artificial division between sunrise and sunset, between full moon, between reaching the same spot in an orbit around the sun, only in dreams is its real nature found when past, present and future collide in anarchy.
The figure in the wingback chair rarely slept for fear of what time will show him but when he did it was the full of terror of disjointed time opened before his sleeping eyes.
But now he sleeps, twitching and moaning in fear.
"Zander, you are going back to America then when our exam results are announced?" A plumy voice asked. "Why not come to Cambridge with us? It'll be a hoot."
Peter Duncan lit his Sobranie Black Russian cigarette and took a long drag.
"Yes Zander why not join us at university here? It's not as if this blasted war is going to last much longer." John Noaks, Alexander 'Zander' Dodds other best friend from school asked as they made their way back to their rooms in Sloan Square in the year of our Lord 1944.
"My Brothers going to need my help now fathers gone." They were not far from the sir raid shelter when they heard the spluttering roar of a doodlebug, Hitler's new terror weapon.
They looked up into the sky as the air raid sirens wail cleaved the air.
They prayed the engines didn't cut out that it would pass safely overhead. If the engines did cut out you prayed even harder that it would miss you and someone else will have bought it.
As the siren fell silent they heard the engine still firing for a few seconds more and then it cut out.
They ran as if the hounds of hell were after them toward the air raid shelter, Zander picking up a little girl who had fallen over in the mad rush. Once inside with the door closed they heard a dull clump sound and let out a sigh of relief. It had missed them.
As nervous conversation started up again the second one hit with deadly intent straight on top of them almost obliterating the shelter.
It's outside now watching as the police and fire brigade's tried to make order out of chaos.
"Everyone get back!" The chief fireman called. "The whole area is unsafe it could collapse any minute."
"You can't leave them in there there's still some alive I can hear them." Sergeant Bob Crow gripped his companions arm hard.
"Do you think I can't Bob but if we try and get to them that whole side of the building with collapse on us." Just as he said it a whole section collapsed on top of the shelter with a groaning crash. "There is nothing we can do here but at Mortimer Street we have a chance of finding survivors."
"But there were one hundred and ten people in the shelter John you can't just leave them." Tears ran down the policeman's face unchecked.
"We have no choice. Come on man before there is another wave of them."
The scene shifted to today and outside of where the shelter once was is a memorial plaque with the names of the dead and on it was one Alexander Dodds.
The man awoke with a start, sweat and tears staining his face before he dropped into sleep once more.
The images that flicked over his dreaming eye were terrifying and disjointed as country music played as a nun and a nurse soaked in blood slaughtered gaudily dressed women and old ladies. A naked blood smeared young woman waved an equally blood soaked superhero's comic in the air and caved in skulls with it.
The dreamer woke once more with a puzzled expression on his face. He poured himself a coffee and sat back to continue his sleepless vigil.
Chapter One Dinner at Seven
The room was in semidarkness with a few candles guttering in their candlesticks on the dinning room tables.
Sitting in the darkness was a tall slim man holding a silver owl headed pommel cane lightly between his long fingers.
Beside him sat a willowy blond with the most startling of violet eyes.
He name was Myra Manson a nursing sister at the 'Royal Free' hospital. She was colleague, nurse and companion to the world famous eye surgeon and expert Doctor Charles McNider. The very same Doctor McNider who sat beside her now nervously fingering his cane anxious that they might not come.
"Do you think they will come Charles?" Myra asked voicing his concern.
"I hope so, I really hope so." His hand went up to his red tinted dark glasses.
A tall slim man crossed over to where they were sitting from the doorway with the ease of years of genial servitude.
"Excuse me Master Charles but may I have your permission to light the other candles sir." Alfred Butterworth was a slight man with thinning hair and an impeccable British accent.
"Yes of course Alfred. I'm sorry I should have said earlier." He turned his blind eyes toward the man. "Though I fear we shall be lonely tonight."
"I think you'll be surprised sir. If you'll excuse me Master Wesley's butler, Mr Murphy, has signalled that he needs me." He signalled to the young waiter and waitresses to light the candles. "It seems your guests have arrived sir so I'll leave you to prepare yourself."
Myra helped Charles to his feet and passed him his cane to lean on as the room became brighter and brighter highlighting the scars around his eyes where the shrapnel had cut him and blinded him.
Alfred looked across at Myra for confirmation that Charles was ready to receive his guests while the short bullet headed Murphy arranged the youngsters into line to receive coats and hat whilst the other presented trays of drinks.
"Ready Charles?" Myra asked and she squeezed his hand reassuringly. "See they have come because you asked them."
"We are ready Alfred." Charles called with a broad smile. They hadn't been all together for two years since the congressional hearing into Un-American Activities a year after the war but for him they came.
"Mr Alan and Mrs Mary Pratt." Alfred announced as a short athletic ginger haired man escorted his plump red haired wife in.
They crossed over after collecting their wine. Alan was the leader and manager of a film stunt crew called Havok and part owner of a gym called 'The Battery' and was exceptionally fit.
He took Charles's outstretch hand and shook it warmly.
"Hello Charles it's been a long time." He still carried the slight Irish brogue from his Grandfather.
"Thanks for coming Alan, and thank you for bringing my favourite Colleen with you." Charles's voice was warm, deep and cultured.
"Flatterer. Now you watch yourself Charles, saying things like that to a good married catholic woman." Mary's voice carried its Southern Irish lilt well. She giggled like a little girl being caught out doing something she shouldn't. "But then what can you do with them Myra."
"I've been wondering about that for years." Myra whispered giving Charles hand another squeeze.
As they moved away Alfred announced the latest arrival a tall elegant young woman.
"Her Highness, the Countess of Watford, Lady Shiera Hall."
The tall statuesque blond glided forward her long French designed silk dress flowing behind her with a subtle hiss of fabric on flooring.
"Good to see you again Charles old friend." She said in a refined English accent.
She bent and kissed both of them lightly on the cheek leaving the lingering smell of her expensive perfume behind making Myra quite envious.
The next pair was an odd mix. The woman was a very tall athletically built Afro/Caribbean dressed in a long black dress set with sparkling sequins that sparkled in the candle light, everything about her spelt predator whereas the thin as a rake tall white man looked ill at ease in his Tuxedo and stiff fronted shirt somehow looking shabby.
"Mrs Dinah Drake Lance and Mr Larry Lance Private Investigator."
Dinah slinked across the room like a cat stalking its prey.
"Glad you both could come the pair of you." Charles said accepting Dinah's affectionate hug with one of his own.
"You don't think I would miss a chance to dress up do you? It's been an age." Dinah purred before laughing gently. "When are you going to make an honest woman of poor Myra, Charles? I'd hurry up before she's snapped up by someone else. Besides with I've a darling little hat I'm dying to wear."
"I'd like to know the answer to that one myself." Myra mouthed.
"How's the private eye business going Larry?" Charles asked.
"Patchy to be truthful I'm just grateful Dinah's allowed me to work in the flower shop." Larry confided.
"I'm sure things will pick up. So the florist is doing well then Dinah?"
"Yes, especially now Alan got me the contract to supply the studios with flowers for the stars changing rooms." Dinah spotted the next guest's waiting to be announced and dragged Larry away.
"Sir Wesley Dodds and Miss Dian Belmont."
The debutant walked with a natural ease beside her shorter companion.
Wesley had an intense refined face with the palest blue eyes Myra had ever seen. Deep inside them seemed to be an anxiety that never seemed to leave him.
"Hello Wes have those tablets I prescribed helped you sleep any better?" Charles asked.
"A little Charles but not much I'm afraid." Wesley's voice like Shiera's was English but there the similarities ended. Wesley's was less refined more that of a working man that that of the upper classes. "I've started to have nightmares again Charles. Can I see you afterwards for a chat about it?"
"Of course you can, of course you can old friend."
"Mister Terence Sloan PhD, BA, MA, and Professor of Music and Mrs Anne Sloan." Alfred announced.
A very tall man moved across the floor with a dancer's flowing steps looking very hansom in his pale grey Italian suit. He radiated such confidence that it was hard to believe he'd once considered suicide. In fact it was only the chance meeting with his wife who likewise was on the bridge to end it all that turned both their lives around.
"Hello Charles." He said smoothly in his Boston accent. "Ted is here but he is down stairs signing autographs."
"Mr Rex Tyler and Mrs Wendy Tyler."
A reasonably short slim man entered nervously with his radiant model wife.
"Hello Charles." He stuttered. "Terry and I haven't had any luck as yet."
"I see thank you Rex."
"Sorry Charles." Rex stammered before leading his wife away.
With the next guest Alfred was going to be in his element.
Alfred loved the pugilist art and put on his best MC voice and announced.
"Ladies and Gentlemen in the red corner." Everyone fell silent. "Is the undisputed and first black, heavy weight champion of the world? Presenting Ted 'The Dark Destroyer' Grant O.B.E."
Every one stood and applauded and cheered.
Ted shyly lifted a hand in acknowledgement and gave his trade mark deep chuckling laugh.
"Charlie boy!" He bellowed in his French Canadian accent as he gave Charles a crushing bear hug. He turned to Myra and lifted her straight of the floor and spun her round. "If you don't hurry up and marry her Charlie she made take me up on my offer."
Myra squirmed and playfully hit the man mountain on the arms.
"Put me down you great big lummox you're creasing my dress." She chided good naturedly.
"See I told you she loves me why else would she such sweet words to me?" He roared with laughter and lowered her to the floor.
Alfred watched with an indulgent smile the antics before noticing the cook signal from the door that she was ready.
"Ladies and Gentlemen if you will take your seats dinner is served." He called and wondered if the people in the public restaurant below realised that just above then were collected a good proportion of the mystery men and women that made up the clandestine hero's and heroines of 'Justice'. As he watched them he felt extremely proud to be in their presence.
Unknown to Alfred Charles was thinking something similar.
"How we have all aged." He thought listening to the idle chatter of children and work.
"How's the gym doing Ted, Alan?" Charles asked.
"Keeping its head above water, just." Alan replied
Alan was the co-owner of the 'Battery Gym' that stood on the borders of the relatively affluent 'Kings' and their own version of 'Harlem' with Ted and was the financial brains.
"But we've some good prospects coming through. Angelo Dundee may have Mohamed Cassius Ali but we've got Joe Forman and Henry, The Hammer, Cooper from London, England as well as a couple of light weights ready to turn pro." Ted was the hands on manager and chief trainer at the gym.
"We hope we do." Alan said cautiously
"You're too negative friend." Ted shook his head irritated.
"No not negative just cautious." Alan replied with a grin.
The meal provided by Ma Hunkle was delightful and soon totally consumed.
The candelabra by and on the piano was lit and the man of a thousand talents crossed over and began to play.
After awhile Dinah got up and joined Terry at the piano.
"This is just for you Charles, happy birthday on Saturday." With that she began to hum along with the music before singing in a smooth jazz style. "That old black magic has me in its spell."
Everyone quietly turned their chairs around and listened for the next fifteen minutes totally enthralled and relaxed.
When she had finished Alan gallantly returned her to her seat.
"You, you should be in pictures my dear Lady." Rex stuttered.
"Things have improved but I am still the wrong colour." Dinah replied a little sourly. "We may have over turned segregation thanks to Dr Martin Luther King and the Kennedy Senators but we've a long way to go before a coloured headlines a show or film."
"But it is changing especially should JFK be voted in as president." Alan said.
Charles slowly got to his feet and tapped his glass for silence.
"Ladies and Gentlemen will you fill your glasses for the Royal Toast. Alfred will you refresh the guests glasses please."
"Certainly Master Charles." Such was the man's efficiency that the glasses were soon replenished. "Ready Master Charles."
"If you would do the Royal Toast please Alfred?"
"My pleasure sir." He stood proudly erect. "Be upstanding for the Royal Toast."
Everyone Stood up.
"I give you the Royal Toast. 'To His Majesty King George the 6th and Queen Elizabeth."
Everyone raised their glasses and repeated the toast before being seated once more.
"Do you ever wonder what it would have been like if we had won the war of independence." Mary mused.
"No not really." Alan replied. "Washington did alright out of it didn't he. Our first prime minister no less."
"Yes but we didn't really get autonomy until Queen Victoria created the British Commonwealth after the Civil War. We've a lot to thank President Lincoln for." Mary replied.
"No politics please." Larry said languidly. "You've met the royals Ted what are they like?"
"I've only met them at official functions but they seem okay. The Queen's knowledge of Boxing and Horse racing was amazing but he seemed a little shy."
Charles tapped his glass once more.
"Alfred will you give the apologises for absence if you would please?"
Alfred cleared his throat.
"Master Bruce and Mistress Selina are away in Monaco for fashion week with young Mistress Rachel. It's Mistress Rachel's first fashion show with her six college friends."
"So The Bat, The Cat and Nights Wing are away leaving you holding baby Helena have they?" Ted mused.
"Not at all master Ted baby Helena has gone with them."
"How does it feel to have youngsters in the house again Alfred?" Dian asked.
"Little Helena is a challenge and now that Miss Cassandra Troy, Miss Robyn Greyson, Miss Maria Montez and Master Oliver Queen are Master Bruce's wards it is certainly interesting. But it is certainly pleasant to have the house full of life again. When they have finished there exams they will be joining Master Bruce all save Miss Cassandra who will be rejoining her sister on Paradise Island."
"I should imagine it is nice to have the old place alive again and while we are on the subject I'd like to thank them, you and Murphy and Ma Hunkle for making this evening a success Alfred. Please continue Alfred."
"Miss Jay Garrick and Miss Alison Scott send their best wishes but they are with Master Bruce after flying him down to Monaco." Alfred continued.
"Those two girls are too close for comfort." Ted observed.
"If they are Lesbians I pray that they will one day enjoy the freedoms you and I have." Charles said quietly.
"Sorry Charles you're right of course. Sorry to interrupt Alfred." Ted said a little ashamed.
"Apology accepted Master Ted." Alfred said graciously. "As Lady Sheila knows her husband Mr Colin and Mr Theo Knight are in Karnack uncovering an ancient Egyptian stellar observatory.
Mr Kenneth and Mrs Inza Nelson have vanished along with Detective Sergeant Stephanie Corrigan so we must assume they are dealing with occult matters especially as reservists Dr Occult, Zatara and Miss Sargon are also missing."
He coughed and took a sip of wine.
"Mrs Carla Kent Lane is on Paradise Island with her husband Louis Lane and her sister Linda Kent awaiting the birth of her twins. Mrs Diana Prince is in attendance.
Master Jack Napier apologises for not being able to attend but as he put it now he has lost his lower limbs he hasn't got a leg to stand on.
Miss Halley Quinn is still in Britain recovering from more plastic surgery.
I think that's all sirs."
"Yes it is thank you Alfred." Charles said as he stood up. "If any of you are interested Halley was discharged by the RAF plastic surgery and burns unit three weeks ago and has returned to Boston. Whereabouts I don't know?"
He Paused as Myra gave him his glass of wine.
"In the awful conflict now being called World War Two we lost good friends and colleagues such as the 'Ray' and the "Doll man' who were working with the French Resistance. But none of us can forget that last day of the war when that deluded soul blew himself up at the children's party killing three of our number and seriously injuring 'Joker' and 'Harlequin'.
Please be upstanding as we remember them and our Navaho John Thunder, Oliver's father Alex our 'Archer' and our young heroic 'Star' who at sixteen had so much ahead of her, our Courtney Whitmore.
I give you our lost and injured. The toast is absent friends."
Solemnly they all repeated the toast and it was quite awhile before the buzz of conversations started up again.
Ted Grant lent back in his chair and pulled out his weekly vice, a single Havana Cigar. As he patted his pockets for his matches the young Hispanic waitress leaned forward and with a click of finger against thumb produced a flame.
"Allow me Senor Ted." She said.
Ted didn't react but simply lit the cigar from the flame.
"Allow me Senora Sheila." She waved her free hand over Sheila's wine glass chilling it till condensation formed on the outside of it. "I forgot you like your white wine chilled."
Ted blew a lazy smoke ring in the air.
"Do you want a bit of advice Maria?" He asked rhetorically. "No one likes a smart arse."
He roared with laughter at the girl's chastened face.
"Your time will come girl just not quite yet. What are you going to call yourself anyhow?"
"Senor Bruce suggested 'Firebrand' but I prefer 'Fire and Ice'." She sighed. "Excuse me Senor Ted but washing up chores need my attention."
"What about you Oliver? You going to take up your fathers mantle?"
"I have his spare costume but I think I'd rather be a 'Green Arrow' than an 'Archer'."
"What about you two girls any ideas?" Dinah asked casually.
"My sister 'Amazon' wants to call me 'Wonder Girl' or 'Wonder Woman' but I prefer 'Fury'." Her beautiful African face was jet black in comparison to Dinah's smooth chocolate brown. That and her strange mix of African 'click' tongue and Greek accent making an exotic mix of cultures.
"Mine is simple." Robyn said. "My name is Robyn and mum called me her little bird so I'll be Robin."
"I know it's no compensation but I saw your mother, father, sister and you with Barnum and Baillie's Circus and you were all brilliant. The best trapeze act I've ever seen." Alan added.
"Thank you Mr Alan I appreciate that." She looked behind her and saw she was quite alone. "If you'll excuse me I better join the others in the washing up or I won't hear the last of it."
"Bright kid but cheeky though." Ted smiled and blew another smoke ring. "Well Charlie boy what has tonight been all about and don't give me that rubbish about it being a re-union. I know you too well my friend to fall for that."
Charles looked awkward as if fighting the urge to speak.
"We're all retired after that Congressional Hearing on Un-American Activities fiasco but you need us, you need our help so what gives?"
"Devil Dust!" Charles replied simply.
"Sorry?" Said Alan.
"Devil Dust is a new recreational drug probably brought over by that new hippy movement back in England. Normally it just makes the user calm and not with it but for some it infuses them with great strength, speed, agility and makes them mad before they die of heat death. Their insides literally boil."
Every one fell silent to listen as Charles told the story.
"One such event happened at The Walpole Hotel a week ago at the College Queen Debutant Ball."
Chapter Two The Debutant's Ball.
Place:- The Walpole Astoria Hotel.
Event:- The College Queen Debutant Ball.
Most women, no matter how beautiful, when they look in the mirror dislike what they see, to there own eyes they are fatter, shorter than they really are. All except Sophie O'Day that is.
Sophie was a rather short, plump, plain young woman but to her eye's she was a gorgeous and as tall as any film star or model. Sophie had made vanity an art form.
Her every move was calculated to get her noticed but the sad fact she was getting noticed for the wrong reasons. Most people pitied her and fed her vanity out of that pity.
"Get me some fruit punch will you Michael dear." Her voice was a little shrill and hard on the ear.
Michael was her high schools football quarterback and extremely hansom. But what made him even more attractive to the girls was the simple fact he didn't know how good looking he was.
"Sure Sophie. There's a couple of friends I want to meet up with are you sure you don't mind being left alone for awhile?"
"I should hurry back though as I doubt I'll be alone for very long."
How right she was but for the wrong reasons.
The punch was the usual insipid stuff they served at these functions and made Sophie grimace a little.
"Hi Sophie." A weedy voice said from somewhere near her elbow.
The young owner of the voice was a strange looking fellow and no mistake. Oswald Copperpot was short, rotund, with a narrow face with a long thin beak of a nose.
He lifted his glass displaying his deformed hands. Strangely the index and first finger were fused together as were his ring and little finger giving a strange flipper appearance. Hence his nickname of Penguin.
"Do you want another glass of this slop or something with more brisance shall we say." He pulled out a small bottle of gin from his pocket and poured a liberal dose in to her glass. ""I'd offer you three fingers but that may be too much. Afterwards we could get jiggy with it back in my room at the hotel here."
The Copperpot's were involved in real-estate and oil so weren't hard up for a few bucks. The odd girls that have gone with Oswald reported he was well endowed in the bedroom stakes but Sophie had no intension of being his next conquest.
"Penguin your mind is as vile as your body, thanks for the liquor but scram before anyone thinks I'm taking on social cases." She snipped cruelly.
"I could never be as ugly as you sister." He waddle away back into the crowd just as Michael reappeared with a beautiful girl draped over each arm.
"Why does he want those painted whores when his got me?" Sophie muttered to herself before looking up with one of those insincere smiles that don't reach the eyes.
"Hi Sophie enjoying yourself?" Michael asked.
"Oh absolutely." Sophie replied sarcastically while eying the two girls.
"Sophie this is Julie." He said of the one on the right. "And this is June. Their both becoming Cheerleaders next season isn't that great?"
The girls kissed his cheek.
"Isn't he sweet?" Said June. "Please to meet you Sophie."
"He's a real honey." Said Julie. "Nice to met you Sophie.""Same here I'm sure." Sophie looked at the two blond airheads with horror. "Michael will you get me something to eat please?"
"Say that's a swell idea Sophie. You stay right there and the three of us will get you some." Julie said with an infuriating giggle.
"Oh fine." She replied seething inside.
A few moments later a waitress appeared with a few canapés on a silver tray.
"Would you like something madam?"
"Yes I'd better heaven knows when the others will get back." She reached across. "Oww! Your ring just scratched me. "
"Oh sorry miss." The waitress was beside herself. "I'm not supposed to wear jewellery but my boyfriend proposed to me this morning and I couldn't bear to take it off. You won't report me miss I need this job more than ever if we're going to save up to be wed."
"Yes, yes, alright, now get out of my sight." Sophie barked angrily.
"Are you alright Sophie?" Michael asked reappearing with the two girls.
"Yes fine, don't fuss it's just a scratch."
"Here is yours Sophie." June said placing a full plate on the side table beside her. "I even got you a piece of everything as I didn't know what you liked. I even got you the last piece of quiche I hope that is alright."
"Yes it is, very thoughtful of you." Sophie daintily picked up the quiche and took a bite. She wasn't that keen on it but she was dammed if she was going to show the simpering pair that.
"That's alright." Julie told her before grabbing Michaels arm. "That's my favourite song come on Michael."
The boy gave a helpless shrug as he was dragged away to the ballroom.
June tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to have small talk with Sophie but eventually, after five minutes or so, giving up.
"Is it hot in here?" Sophie asked mopping her sweating brow with a serviette.
"No I'm finding it quite comfortable actually." June was coming to the conclusion that she didn't the woman. "Are feeling unwell Sophie."
"I tell you it's to hot in here you moron." Sophie reached across and laid her hand on the girl's shoulders. "My God your ugly and you dare to come close to me."
A few moments later a breathless Julie and Michael came back to find June sitting in a chair.
Juliet screamed as she became aware that thought June was facing forward her head faced the wall, her neck had been shattered.
"Oh my God where is Sophie!" Michael had spied Sophie's discarded shoes and torn dress lying like a trail on the floor.
Sophie had reached the area where the elevator where dressed only in her underwear. The bellhop got quite a shock.
"Are you alright madam?" He asked and then instantly regretted it as the wide eyed woman swooped down on him. He made a fatal mistake by touching her arm.
"You dare to touch my sacred flesh. You filthy, foolish male." All the anger about the boys ignoring her and the ugly girls laughing at her boiled over. She grabbed the boy and drove his head straight through the wall and into the chain mechanism. She called the lift and laughed as it cut off his head.
"Why is it so hot in here?!" She moaned stripping naked.
The door pinged open and the poor girl inside didn't stand a chance as Sophie screamed at her.
Down in the foyer the Doorman Sean O'Shawnacie admired his hansom features in the huge glass window beside the main glass doors.
Sean as usual was immaculate in his green long coat and top hat that clothed his slightly portly frame.
Sean was coming up to fifty six and a widower of a year, his face was lived in and had a roguish smile and twinkle in his eye.
"To be sure girls I don't know how you can resist me?" Sean was also a harmless tease who hadn't just kissed the Blarney Stone but swallowed it whole. At least that was the opinion of the two young women manning the reception desk. "The strain must be humungous."
"Oh it is Sean, to be sure, it is, but Mary and I are valiantly fighting it." Anne Kirk replied in an appalling copy of Sean's soft Southern Ireland brogue.
"Well its ten minutes before the night porter comes on and I can wearily take me off to my lonely bed." Sean pulled a sad face. "Who is on tonight by the way?"
"Sean, Jackson Poll is the night porter tonight, sorry." Mary called from the magazine rack.
"That lazy bastard! I'll be lucky to be out of here in thirty minutes." Sean turned back to the window and resumed his examination of himself as the elevator pinged announcing its arrival. "I wonder what drunken reprobate we'll have here."
He turned around to face the elevator doors with his professional smile plastered on his face, but that soon vanished as he saw the flushed, naked, young woman leave it.
Working instinctively he whipped of his coat and draped it over Sophie.
"Here my dear put this on or you'll catch your death out there."
"You dare to cover my beautiful body you foul man!" She grabbed his collar and crotch and lifted him off his feet easily, before throwing him face first through the window that he'd just been admiring himself in.
It shattered lacerating his face and blinding him but the pain was short lived as his head smashed into the water hydrant killing him instantly.
Anne screamed and tried to run as the frightening apparition jumped onto her desk but she didn't get far as the telephone lead wrapped around her neck throttling her. Mary made it to the main door only to be hauled back stripped and had her neck broken.
"Where are the beauties's of this world?" She bound out of the main door straight into a young police officer who was instantly impaled onto the parks railings.
She jumped onto the hood of a Cadillac and began to regale the public loudly.
"Bow down to your Queen. Grovel before my beauty!"
She jumped off the hood and picked up the car and threw it effortlessly at a courting couple, just missing them.
In the shadows of a narrow alley stood a dark cloaked figure who watched analytically the events unfold his red tinted goggles of his costume reflecting the light dimly.
He pulled a syringe like dart from the cuff of his gauntlet loaded it into an air pistol and fired. The needle embedded itself into her rump injecting the sedative but to no avail so a second and a third followed. Only then after she had tipped over a patrol car did it take effect bringing her crashing to the floor as the police sirens wailed.
After a few moments a burly police sergeant backed up to where the mystery man stood in the shadows.
"I take it we've you to thank for this Dr Midnite." The figure didn't reply. "These are yours I believe."
The officer opened his gloved hand to display the three tranquiliser darts.
"Yes, thank you." Dr Midnite paused. "Are you going to take me in."
"No. That Congressional hearing was a sham." The sergeant said bitterly. "We need you 'Justice' boys and girls out there not locked up."
He coughed to cover his embarrassment at revealing so much.
"Any instructions Doc."
"Yes. One don't call me Doc, two only let the Star Labs ambulance take the body."
"Will do Dr Midnite." He said but he knew he was talking to thin air he knew that the mystery man had gone. "Coming lieutenant."
"The young woman is now in the secure hospital unit at Star Labs under heavy sedation." Charles told his guests. "It's the only way to stop her burning up. Out of the four she is the only one alive the others died from there bodies boiling from the inside."
"Rex and I have been analysing what samples Charles could get for us but we are nowhere nearer finding out what it is."
"We are using equipment at our old HQ with what the Bat could let us have. We know what it isn't but no closer as Terry says to finding out what it is." Rex's stutter had almost vanished. "We've even invented novel methods of analysis such as Thin Layer Chromatography and High Pressure Liquid Chromatography but still haven't had any luck."
"But I don't know what you expect us to do Charles we're all retired now?" Alan asked.
"If we are to save this woman and any future sufferers we need a sample of the drug. Ted some of your boys are reformed drug addicts they may have heard of something. Alan use your connection at the studio's to see if anyone knows anything the same with you Wes and the party set." Charles sighed. "I'm probably chasing clouds but it's the only chance she's got."
"We'll keep an ear out for you Charles" Wes told him before asking what was on his mind. "Who were the others?"
"A petrol pump attendant with a Nashville fixation, a devout nun and a nurse worried about bed blocking." Charles explained. "The bodies are dead and buried so we can't get evidence there."
"A guitar, a cross, a naked woman and a syringe but no comic book?" Wes said to himself distractedly.
"Sorry Wes I didn't catch that?" Alan said.
"Oh nothing just a dream."
"Knowing you a nightmare I should think old friend." Charles whispered. "A terrifying nightmare."
Chapter Three Mr Sandman
Location:- Back of the 5th 94th Street Precinct House.
Time:- That night.
There is a park behind the Precinct House where the trees throw deep shadows over the street vendor as he sold his last chilli Hotdog with everything to the rotund shape of Officer Mick Flanagan.
"Split your pants yet Flanagan?" An eerie hollow hoarse voice asked.
"Hello boss." The vendor, one Tony Corrioni, called cheerfully with out turning round. "I knew they wouldn't keep you down. What do you need boss?"
The two men then turned as one to face their visitor. In the shadows stood a short figure in a dark green double breast suit and a dark green unbuttoned frock coat with unturned collar and a fedora pulled low over the face and what a face. It was a skull like British gas mask.
"Devil Dust spill."
The Vendor was Toni Corilloni a third generation Italian and ex alcoholic.
"Not a lot Boss, we know about it but no one has seen a seller yet, and as for the manufacturer your guess is as good as mine?" He asked. "Do you want me to officially reactivate the circle?"
"Yes Toni put the word out." Sandman hissed. "Michael/"
"Like Toni we've not much to go on. The group that's dealing with it are pretty tight lipped about it." The Policeman reported.
"Say Officer Flanagan shouldn't you be on patrol?" Toni asked with a disarming smile.
"True, alas to true. If I hear any thing Sandman I'll let Toni know." He gave Sandman a sort of salute before picking up his second chilly dog with everything and wandered off.
"He must have a cast iron stomach that one the muck he puts into it." Toni chuckled. "I'll put the word out on the line and see what comes Boss. Good night Boss."
"Goodnight Toni sweet dreams my friend sweet dreams." Sandman whispered as Toni wheeled his cart away whistling a catchy tune.
A figure in a female cut costume similar to his pulled up in a dark roadster and then adjusted her Columbine gas mask.
"Keep a good eye out Sand but if there is any trouble go home and wait for me there." Sandman hissed.
"I'll be here Sandman." She pulled back her coat to reveal the butt of a gas pellet pistol.
"I haven't taught you how to use it yet! Don't take risks."
"I agree with Sandman for what it is worth." A strongly Arabic accented female voice whispered above their heads.
"You made it then Princess but then I never doubted it."
The figure floated down on spread eagled hawks wings to land in front of them, and what a figure.
Falcon was tall well over six feet with a well proportioned body. Green long boots with a red stripe and red leggings with a green stripe hugged her lower body tightly whilst the red bra top with its falcon logo held back a formidable bust. But it was the head that was incredible, a fully feathered falcons head with forward facing eyes moulded into the neck like an Egyptian Goddess reborn.
Her black wings flicked back into place.
"Where do we go now old friend?" She asked.
"Why up dear lady, up." He pulled a strangely shaped gun from its holster, took aim at the roof and fired in one smooth action. A grapnel and line shot out of the barrel on to the roof where it sprang open and hooked around a guard rail. "See you up there Princess."
He pressed a button on the hilt of the pistol and it began reeling in the line pulling Sandman up the side of the building with it.
Once at the top he climbed over the guard rail and unhooked the line and put it back in to the pistol with a click.
Falcon dropped silently on to the roof behind him.
The young officer sat outside of the captain's office wondering how long he would be required to guard the room.
He didn't see the barrel of the gun poking through the gap in the fire escape door. There was a muffled phut noise and a small capsule landed at his feet. As he bent to examine it a cloying yellow vapour spilled from it straight into his face. Continuing his forward motion he fell to the floor in a deep sleep.
Silently Sandman crossed to his body and checked for life signs. Satisfied he stood up and put the officer back into his chair.
"Sleep and dream sweet dreams my friend and when you awake all this will be a dream too." He shut the man's eyes and picked up the capsule. "Standard sleep gases no need for the truth serum or hallucinogenic. We have an hour before he wakes up possibly less."
He tried the handle to the darkened office only to find to his surprise it unlocked.
He pulled out his gas gun and pushed the door cautiously open.
Sitting in the pool of light from his desk lamp was Captain Paul Monroe.
"Come in Sandman, Falcon, I was expecting Black Canary but your more than welcome." The captain smiled warmly. "I was told by a mutual friend one of you would be coming by to look at our files. I assume my officer is asleep?"
"He's safe. They were right as usual. We need to look at everything you have on the hotel homicides." Sandman was in no mood for pleasantries.
"I'll take that as a yes then. Your diplomacy hasn't improved Lieutenant."
Sandman tilted his head quizzically.
"We need you, the city needs you, and God dam it, I need you!" The captain pulled out from his open draw two badge holders and passed them over the desk. "Your warrant card and Canary's bounty hunters badge. I don't care about the Congressional hearing I need all my officers. If you pick up yours your promotion is immediately active and your salary will be paid to the children's hospital as before. It's down to you son."
Sandman picked them up and pocketed them with out a word.
"These are the files you want." The Captain explained pointing at the papers covering his desk. "I'm not looking forward to this bit but you better put me to sleep with that gas of yours."
"Oh I already have about an hour ago. I hope you enjoyed the replay."
The Captain frowned and opened his eyes to find all the papers neatly stacked to one side with an origami figure full of fine sand on the top. The Sandman's call sign.
"Dam the man." The Captain swore before grinning. "You got to hand it to him he does have style."
The Captain put the files away and pocketed the little effigy before picking up his cap and exiting from the door. The officer was awake but only just.
"I've done all I can Saunders. Will you drive us home lad, take a green and white from the pool."
"Certainly sir." Saunders said all sign of fatigue gone. "Was it profitable sir?"
"Yes, do you know I think in a way it was?" The captain said distractedly. "Arrange while you're at it for someone to pick me up from home at around eight O'clock. I'm sorry I've kept you over your shift time son."
"That's alright sir."
"Well jump too it lad."
"Yes sir!" Saunders scurried away leaving the Captain in deep thought.
Had he done the right thing only time will tell?
The Sandman's speedster cruised effortlessly pass several well to do properties before turning down a narrow lane opposite the macabre named Morpheus Hall and vanishing from sight.
Morpheus Hall was aptly named for the manor house set in extensive grounds was a mock gothic property that wouldn't have looked out of place in any horror film.
If anyone was close enough to see would have seen a shape fly through the open French windows the curtain close and a light go on.
Inside Falcon stood with her hands on her curvaceous hips.
"It was good to fly again. Did you get what you needed friend Sandman?" She asked
"Yes I did." Wes said putting his mask down beside the scolding hot coffee pot.
"When I realised you were out working sir I made a fresh pot and I have taken the liberty of bringing the brandy and warmed the glasses." Murphy called from the doorway in a garish tartan dressing gown. "Will you need me further sir?"
"No thank you. Oh on second thoughts do you know were I can get these photographs developed in a hurry no questions asked and over to Larry Lance."
Murphy caught the microfiche spy camera deftly and twirled it in his fingers.
"I will send it to Alfred by courier sir he has Master Bruce's equipment he can use." Murphy took his leave of them revealing a pair of equally garish red tartan slippers.
Falcon raised her hand up to her hawk face and pulled off the wooden Red Indian Totem hawk mask to reveal Sheila underneath wearing a slightly baggy version of the costume as if she didn't quite fill it. The Hawk wings were gone.
"Will you pour out the brandy please Wes I need to get the bad taste out of my mouth?"
"I'll do it Sheila Wes has that far away look in his eyes." She took the glass off the warmer and poured in some of the fine Napoleon brandy. "Penny for them darling?"
"Hmm. Oh I was just thinking that we should hold a party for the poor souls at the hotel using the same caterers." Wes was stroking his chin thoughtfully. "With a little discreet questioning we might find out something the police had missed."
"Especially if your cousin that well known lush and cokehead the Honourable Shiera Baroness of Watford, England was visiting for a week." Sheila's voice was slurred and carried the pitch of the aristocracy. "I've seen her in action lots of times."
"How come?" Dian asked.
"She was my elder sister but OD two years ago. The family had it hushed up but it does leave me as the next Baroness." Shiera smiled and finished her brandy. "I'll say goodnight as I have a grand arrival to plan."
"Goodnight Sheila and thanks." Wes lifted his own glass in salute.
"Goodnight Sheila." Dian copied Wes.
"You two are made for each other." Sheila laughed.
"I know." Dian laughed back as Sheila vanished from sight. "You coming to bed darling or is it the put you up for me again?"
Wes looked at her sadly.
"That's alright Wes. Pour us a coffee while I get changed please darling." She left the room wearily.
Wes crossed to the bookcase in the corner and pressed a gargoyle on its wooden surround. There was a click and it swung open to reveal a priest hole sized dressing room where two purple and yellow one piece costumes hung unused.
Zander had designed them for the pair of them to wear when he came back from England. He had convinced Wes that he should come out of the shadows in a new costume and with a new sidekick, Sandy the Golden Boy but it wasn't to be.
With tears running down his face he got changed into a robe hanging there.
"I miss Zander too Wes." Dian said from behind him.
Dian looked gorgeous in her long pale green dressing gown and white silk nightdress.
"I know." He said pouring out their coffees and settling down it their wing back chairs.
Soon Dian was asleep curled up in her chair whilst Wesley stared out into the Italian Garden to frighten of what dreams made show him if he slept, if he joined her in the arms of Morpheus.
Chapter Four Canary Song and Night Call.
The 'Song Bird' florist shop was in darkness when Dinah and Larry got home from the meal with Charles and the others.
"Looks like Ma didn't wait up for us? I hope Laurel didn't play her up much." Dinah said as Larry opened the door and muffled the bell with his hand.
It was funny but Larry hated using the door in the back alley, especially at night, and always came in via the shop. He couldn't tell you why though.
They crossed the darkened shop breathing in the delicious odour of all the plants and flowers.
"That one smells nice darling." Larry said stopping at a mass of sweet smelling pink roses in a vase.
"Sheila arranged a shipment from her estate in England. Their 'Bressingham Pink' I think she said." She took an appreciative sniff herself. "They're destined for Liza Garland and her little girl Judy Minelli. They are in a new blockbuster musical so Alan tells me. I suppose I'll have to make a posy for Judy."
"That'll be nice darling." Larry replied distractedly.
"What's up Larry?" She asked with her unerring sense of when something was bothering Larry.
"Oh it's this 'Devil Dust' thing." He explained. "Charles gave me everything he had on it to look over to see if I could see a pattern. But I doubt I'm going to get much out of a few stuffy medical reports and news paper cuttings."
"You're a detective so go and detect." Dinah replied a little tetchily.
"Thanks darling. I go in the morning and see what I can dig up." He gave her a kiss just as a jet black shinny face peered around the inner door.
"Shh! You two are so noisy you could wake up the dead and I've only just got Laurel settled!"
"Sorry ma." Larry apologised before crossing to give the busty coloured woman a big hug.
Later down stairs in the basement after Dinah and Larry had described the meal and the events surrounding it Ma got off her seat.
"I'll make us some coffee as I think it will be a long night." She told them. "You going out honey?"
"No, that is yes, oh I don't know." Dinah said bewildered.
"You know the Prostitutes as Black Canary in the dock area where the nun died. They are more likely to speak to you than to me, a private detective." Larry told her as they listened to Laurel's steady breathing coming over the loud speaker.
"Do you know what you're asking I could get arrested as a communist spy because of that stupid hearing?" Dinah was worried and strangely excited at the same time.
"Yes he does hon. But he knows like I do that without the Canary you are only half alive." Ma said softly, soberly before breaking into the kind of smile that lit up her whole face. "Go on my girl I'll stay up and help Larry heaven help me."
Dinah grinned back.
"Well I do have a new costume and a new bike from The Bat that I'm itching to try out." She crossed to where her make up stand was. "It'll be a shame not to use them."
She stripped off in front of her admiring husband and put on a dark blue body, Basque, affair. Then white fishnet stockings, black high heel boots on her lithe athletic body. Dinah was extremely fit with black belt in most unarmed combat styles as well as a couple of special tricks up her sleeve so to speak.
She put on her make up, the white blond eyelashes and eyebrows, the white lipstick and eye shadow in front of the theatre make up mirror with its set of light bulbs. Mar helped net her own hair as she lifted up a white blond bob wig. Together they teased it in to place.
Satisfied Ma gave her daughter a nod of appreciation.
Larry took the cover off the night black British Triumph Bonneville motorbike with its Canary Logo on its tank where it rested in its hydraulic cradle.
Black Canary took a black bolero leather jacket of its stand pulled on the fingerless gloves and mounted the bike, checking that the foot long quarterstaff was in its place.
She kicked it into roaring life.
"Don't wait up the pair of you." She told them over the bikes mighty purr.
"Don't you worry we'll be waiting for you. Don't take risks darling, you've been out of the game for awhile now." Larry warned.
"I will darling." She triggered the hydraulic ram to retract and dropped out of sight.
A Few moments later they heard her roar away.
"Good hunting Black Canary." Larry whispered to himself. "But come home safe."
"Amen to that." Ma added.
Canary roared down the tunnel to re-appear in an underground car park. With a quick look to see if it was safe she drove out onto the street toward the docks and the nightclubs district.
A little later she glided to a stop not far from where the mobile café of the "Sisters of Mercy" plied its trade. Ladies of horizontal pleasure walked up and down like painted dolls.
She got off the bike, took the quarterstaff and put the protection on. Metal plates slid over it covering it completely.
With the distinctive click of her steel tipped boots and heels she sauntered down toward the café.
A young man pulled up in a car beside her and matched her pace.
Canary stopped and lifted one immaculate eyebrow well aware of how exotic she looked in her six and half inch heels.
"Yes boy?" Sher purred.
"How much for a little jig a jig baby?" He licked his lips nervously.
"If you have got to ask you can't afford me boy. Now go home and get your mother to change your diaper." Canary said angrily.
"Don't jibe me girl I've got the dollar, now much is it for a ride." It was his first time and canary knew it.
"Would you like a song?" She asked sultrily.
Canary opened her second larynx, her syrinx, and breathed out hard. The air in front of her mouth rippled as a wall of sound hit the car and pushed it into the parking lot opposite.
In panic he spun the wheel and roared away.
"Can't be a music lover." Canary sniffed before clicking away.
Up ahead she spotted two old pros she knew. Bethany and Clarisse were of the old school unlike most of the women around them they didn't sell their bodies to feed a drug habit but solely to survive. Both had lost their husbands early in the war and the only way to make ends meet was to sell their bodies to the sailors and dock workers to put bread on the table. They had been hardened by their lives but Canary respected and liked them both.
"Well, well look what the cats dragged in Beth." Clarisse's voice was high pitched and sharp.
"Slumming Canary." Beth sneered.
"With you girls never." Canary grinned.
"What do you want Canary?" Beth asked.
"Excuse me dear would you like a hot drink and a sit down at all." At Canary's hip a diminutive nun had appeared.
"Thank you Sister that would be nice. Would a black coffee with one sugar be to much problem?"
"Not at all my child." With that she bustled off.
"Sit with me girls." Canary crossed to a table and chairs arranged on the sidewalk. She sat down thereby forcing the pair of women to do the same.
"I think I know what you are after sister." Bethany said. "I saw the aftermath but I was with a John in his car at the time."
"I saw the end of it and it wasn't nice. The Nuns were around her but she'd already killed three of the girls. Brains and eyes on the sidewalk everywhere then I was back with a John."
"The sisters had rushed to her but she was already dead by then." Beth concluded.
"Thank you girls I appreciate your help. One word of warning though, avoid the drug Devil Dust, as you saw it kills."
"I don't do drugs Canary neither does Beth!" Clarisse snarled offended.
"I know you don't but other girls here do, so pass the word." Canary told them. "Sorry girls I meant no offence."
"Understood and accepted." Clarisse stood up to leave. "You saying the Nun took this drug?"
"No, I think she was doped, drugged."
"Stay put Canary I'll try and get one of the girls who actually saw it to talk to you. I can't promise thought it's down to them."
"Appreciated. Ah my coffee. Thank you Holy Sister. May I speak with you?" Canary asked politely.
"Well of course my child. What is the matter my dear, do need medical help or is it spiritual?" She smiled up at Canary with a serene smile that made Canary quite envious.
"Neither Sister its information I'm after." She smiled winningly at the wizen little figure. "I am not one of these fine ladies, I am a bounty hunter called 'Black Canary' and I need information about the incident. You may have heard of me, I was a member of Justice during the war."
"Yes I have heard of you my child even us nuns are conversant with the news." The face wrinkled in a smile. "I wanted to speak to you as soon as I saw and recognised you. That's why I asked if you would like a coffee, it was so I could talk to you about it."
She turned her head sideways and peered at Canary reminded her of a chicken.
"I trust you Black Canary find who did this to our dear sister and bring them to Justice."
"We will try."
"Yes 'Justice' is back in action sort of." Canary explained.
"I am glad. I never believed you were communists." The Sister put a hand on Canary's in reassurance.
"Forgive me Sister but I don't know your name?"
"I am Sister Bernice and we will be talking about Sister Ruth." As she paused Canary took an appreciative sip of the scolding brew. "Is the Coffee alright child?"
"Yes perfect Sister, why do you ask?"
"I had just served a Coffee to Sister Ruth and with in minutes she went insane."
"I seriously doubt it was your coffee Sister. Please carry on?"
Canary deliberately took another sip.
"Sister Ruth thought so too. She was the most, how can I put it, holy of all of us. She wanted to pray and save the girls but she found our slowly, slowly, methods hard to understand. She didn't understand that by supporting the prostitutes we slowly change their views and keep them healthy." A single tear trickled down her face. "She was talking to a new girl about Mary Madeline when I left her. I was back in the van washing up when I heard the scream. I looked out of the window and saw her crush a poor girls head. I ran out of the van screaming for help but I was too late she'd killed another. She was yelling that she was banishing the demons within them." She shuddered. "By the time we reached them she had killed the third girl. We tried to drag her off the third but it seemed impossible she seemed so powerful. She was displaying the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, and covered with the girl's blood and fluids. She looked up at us calmly and said. "I had to do it, it was ordained. Oh God have mercy on our souls.' Then she vomited blood and died."
The Holy Sister was crying freely now.
"It wasn't your fault Sister. Some one administered a drug that made her do those things." Canary consoled her. "Do you know who she was talking too Sister."
"No, she was a new girl I had only seen her a couple of times." The Nun sniffed.
"Sorry to interrupt Holy Sister, Canary. Canary one of the girls is willing to talk to you." Beth said apologetically.
Canary deliberately drained her coffee cup.
"Thank you for the coffee Sister it was lovely." She nodded to the prostitute. "Lead on Beth."
Canary was led perhaps two to three hundred yards away to where a scrawny over painted woman stood twitching.
"You got some Heroin or Coke on you. My pimp rations me but I need to score real bad."
"You brought me to see this?!" Canary asked angrily as she watched the woman scratch at her injection scared arm."
"Leave it to me Canary." Beth grabbed the woman and drove her into the wall of the doss house behind her. "Listen scum face, tell Canary what she wants to know or you'll answer to me!"
The threat seemed to do the trick as the woman babbled about what happened.
"Do you know the girl?" Canary asked more in hope than anything else.
"Yeah. She calls herself Columbine after the flower but her real name is Elizabeth Rhodes and she lives off eighty third street at Oleander Heights."
"Can you describe her?" Canary asked.
"Under her war paint she looks average looking, I don't really know. I can even tell you what colour her hair was." The woman was shivering but not from the cold.
Beth released her.
"Get out of our sight scum." She yelled angrily before adding more calmly. "We are getting more and more drug heads here and it's ruining our reputation."
"You going to visit?"
"No point tonight she'll be working I'll try tomorrow. No warnings please girls."
"Okay guides honour." Clarisse said earnestly.
A short distance away the skinny woman got in a Johns car and was driven off.
"Who in their right mind would go with that piece of filth?" Canary asked rhetorically.
"She's cheap perfect for the desperate." Beth told her sadly. "By the way Oleander is where some of the girls have apartments especially the high class ones."
"Oh no that's all we need the brothers Grimm." Clarisse nodded toward were three flamboyantly suited figures were making their way down the sidewalk. "They are three brothers that roust us girls for protection money. No one argues because of Block Buster, he's the man mountain at the back."
The leader's fingers were covered with rings and he walked as if he owned the joint. He was thin and weasel like with a gold medallion on a heavy chain around his neck.
The other two were your basic heavies, well they should have been if one of them wasn't seven foot tall and built like a line backer.
"Well good evening girls I have come to take away the sin of your ill gotten gains, pay up sisters." His voice was as oily as his slicked back hair. "Roger if you would relieve the ladies of their money?"
"Sure Robert." The smaller heavy said whilst the larger looked around with child like interest.
Canary put herself between the girls and the thugs.
"I don't think they will not tonight or any night." She said.
"Another new one, don't you tell them anything girls. Boys teach her some manners." He clicked his fingers and pointed at canary.
"Oh good I hoped you would."
"But bobby ma told me never to hit women." The man mountain rumbled.
"These ain't girls Blockbuster they are filthy whores. Hit her!"
With an audible click Canary's quarterstaff extended to its full length allowing her to trip Roger up.
Robert, with a click of his fingers, produced a flick knife which to his horror and pain shot down a drain as the staff impacted with his hand.
"Naughty, naughty, play nice." Roger got to his feet only to be knocked out by the Canary cry.
He spun through the air knocking Robert of his feet.
"One down two to go. Do you want to give up now or later?" Canary called watching Blockbusters hesitant advance. "No? What a shame."
She rammed the quarterstaff into the ground and rode it upward like a pole-vaulter straight into Blockbusters chest only to bounce off. She twisted in midair and landed deftly on her feet ready once more. She just managed to avoid Roberts clumsy rush and trip him up before the giant picked her up in a bear hug. Though trapped the grip was surprisingly gentle.
Once more Canary opened her bird larynx and began to gently breathe out. A air was filled will sweet bird song that held the prostitutes mesmerised, even Blockbuster had let go and was conducting the invisible orchestra.
"That's very pretty bird lady I like that." His child like face beamed with pleasure.
"What is that appalling din?" Robert said getting to his feet.
Canary, much to Blockbusters dismay cut her song and changed it to the scream Knocking both Robert and the newly awakened Roger out cold.
"Just my luck a tone deaf music critic." She said.
"That's not nice Bird Lady. Bobby will beat me for not hurting you." He said sadly picking her up once again in his gentle bear hug.
"Hay Blockbuster do you want to hear a secret?" Canary asked.
"Oh yes please I like games." He said lowering his head to Canary's lips.
Now Canary had never tried her cries that close to someone before but she had no option.
A little later as the Captain was being driven home he spied Black Canary sitting on two tied up men talking earnestly to a huge man who was sitting cross-legged in front of her.
"Do you want me to stop sir?" Asked the driver.
"No I need my sleep son even if you don't. Radio into dispatch that the Bounty Hunter Black Canary needs a Green and White at, wherever this is, to pick up some suspects. They better send a jail truck."
As the driver radioed in he gave Canary a mock salute and smiled. 'Justice' was back and not a moment to soon.
Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane was a huge gothic monstrosity that sat on an island in the river reached by an equally ugly bridge. On the river side stood its public clinic and wards.
In one of the private ward rooms a man sat in the darkness mumbling to himself.
Outside on the door was a sign that could have said 'Jack Napier Joke Shop Owner' but actually said 'Joker-Hero'.
In the corner of his room stood a pair of artificial limbs dressed in a gaudy pair of yellow and black trousers, green socks and purple spat red shoes. On a hanger behind them hung a multicoloured shirt, western string bow tie and a purple and green long tail coat.
The owner rolled his wheel chair closer to his desk muttering almost incoherently.
"Poop, poop. Tinker, Taylor, Clown, a six pence and pocket full of Blackbirds in a pizza." His hand dropped on to a toy pistol.
He whirled round and pointed it at the darkest corner of his unlit room. A ludicrous as it may have looked he was deadly serious.
"Come out; come out who ever you are?" He sang.
"Hello Jack." A deep voice answered.
"Well, well, well if it isn't the good doctor making a house call." Joker mocked as he turned on the desk lamp to reveal a slim man dressed in a dark body, dark red padded waist coat, dark red gauntlets and gloves. On his forehead was a crescent moon motif.
It was Doctor Midnite the girl's saviour.
"Well doctor how is the patient, still insane?" Joker cackled mirthlessly.
"No but he will be if he carries on down this path."
"Perhaps he prefers it to the reality of life. Perhaps he hopes he will be better off if he was."
"He doesn't believe it any more than I do."
"No perhaps he doesn't but anything is better than having no legs and a badly burnt partner." He said angrily pulling back the blanket to expose his stumps.
"I've seen them before Jack."
"Joker!" He barked before laughing. "Yes of course you have, of course you have."
He covered them back up.
"Halley is back in the US Joker." The Doctor sat himself on the edge of the desk. "The Doctors back in England have done all they could so they flew her home to Boston. Do you want me to find her for you?"
"Yes old friend, yes." The Joker said soberly before making silly noises once more.
"Joker try and use the legs The Bat had made for you. They were made with you in mind."
"Well whoop do!" He pulled out a Christmas cracker razzler and blew a rude note on it. "You didn't call on me at this time of night just to tell me that. What do you really want?"
"Your help Joker." The good Doctor went on to explain what had happened to the girls and the others with surprisingly no interruptions. "Even Hourman and Fair Play haven't cracked it yet. You know mind control drugs and the criminals who use them after all you put most of them behind bars so can they be behind it?"
"Possible but I doubt it. Leave it with me Doc. I'll think it over and let you know." He moved into the light allowing the lamp to show his white face, wide red lipped grin and green untidy hair. But it was the coldest pair of grey eyes he'd ever seen that made Doctor Midnite shiver. "At the moment I haven't got anything to go on."
The Joker laughed a manic laugh but he knew that his visitor had gone.
Later Guard Thompson stomped passed one of the cells in the main building when a patient accosted him through the cell door.
"When will I get my mask back Thompson?" A gravely voice called. "I can't sleep with out my mask moron!"
"Shut up Crane!" He snarled back. "Bloody perverts."
A sheet of paper was attached to the door with the following written on it.
'Jonathan Crane – A.K.A. The Scarecrow'
The rest of the rap sheet was more forthcoming.
Scarecrow :- Guilty of murder, extortion and acts of terrorism.
Modus Operandi :- Invokes terror in victims by narcotics and suggestion.
Age :- 29 Height :- 6ft 6in Weight :- 150lb Race :- White American
Medical Assessment :- Psychosis. Lacking in emotions.
Crane lay back on his bunk pleased with himself for getting under Thompson's skin.
"Naughty, naughty, naughty." A Mr Punch voice squeaked.
"Who's that who's there?" Crane was a bit perturbed.
"Why it's little old me." Joker chortled. "Still playing mind games are we."
"What do you want? Come to think of it how did you get in?" Crane laid back down and relaxed.
"Nothing keeps me out you should know that. Where are you gas canisters by the way?"
"As if I'd tell you." Crane said dismissively.
"Oh you will, haven't you heard I've been registered insane shall I show how much." Joker leaned over Cranes head the moon light glinting off his grey eyes.
Moments later Crane was screaming in absolute terror and pain.
"Shut up you're not getting your mask Crane." Thompson yelled.
"The Joker is in here with me please help?"
"Now I know you're insane." Thompson moved on ignoring the whimpering noise from the cell.
In the women's wing it was no better.
Cell No 69
'Pamela Lillian Isley – A.K.A. Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy :- Guilty of eco-terrorism, extortion and manslaughter.
Modus Operandi :- Poisonous Kiss, uses plant pheromones to control people and has limited control of plants.
Age :- 26 Height :- 5ft 6in Weight :-133lb Race :- White American.
"Well hello Poison Ivy. What no kiss for your old friend." Joker laughed.
"You must have a death wish Joker but come and get it big boy." Ivy grinned evilly as she kissed him. "By Joker have a bad death."
"No I don't think so." His gloved hands removed the thin artificial skin off his lips and put it into a glass vial. "Must dash, things to do, tootles pip. But I nearly forgot your present that will never do."
He dropped an object on to her bed that made Ivy scream, a locus.
"Take it away Joker, take it away." Ivy had backed up to her padded wall.
The locus jumped onto her arm making her scream in terror.
"Filthy destroyer of the green world." She picked up her book and tried to swat it.
"You know what the Doctor's are always saying take two now and another in two hours." Another locust appeared on the bed. "Have fun."
"What do you want Joker?" Her breathing was rapid with panic.
"A sample of your Pheromones, if you please?" He asked politely.
"You're mad! I'm not going to give you any of that." Sweat poured down her green face.
"Now where have I heard that before, oh yes with every visit." Jokers smile vanished and his face went cold. "Just think Ivy two of these darling beasts every hour till dawn no lets make it four. That's forty eight of them by sun rise. And tomorrow night eight every hour from sun down. Oh and don't think the guards will find them because they are trained to vanish when day light or lights come on."
He laughed lowly.
"Just think no sleep just leaf rippers."
"I'll tell the guards you were here." Ivy bluffed.
"They wouldn't believe you after all I have no legs remember. They'll just think it's a scam of yours to escape." He paused to let that sink in. "Now give."
Reluctantly Ivy opened the two special sebaceous glands and allowed Joker to collect the green sap like fluid in a pair of vials.
Once done the Joker collected up the two insects and put them into a box.
"You'll never be able to make it, it is to complicated to do that." She called but it was too late he had gone.
Ivy lay back on her bunk and eventually her breathing returned to normal just in time for the box in the ceiling vent to open and drop its swarm of locust's straight on her.
He visited four others that night leaving them quivering wrecks all accept Jarvis Tench, The Madhatter, who was left in hysterics.
"Please don't let the Joker in again my sides can't take it." He cackled wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes.
"I'd get the sack if they find out anyone got in to them." Thompson told his fellow guard at their night break. "Especially the Joker. There's more than a little animosity there."
"That's funny the Wizard and Madhatter both said the Joker had visited them." Officer MacDraw told him.
"And Phobia and Poison Ivy." Their female colleague added. "Do you think they are up to something, some escape plan?"
"We better tell the Commandant and the Doctors just in case."
"Why chose the Joker for God Sake the man is a cripple, he hasn't got any lower legs." Thompson shook his head in disbelief not knowing that on the status board it had "Joker Day Release."
Chapter Five Atomic Cat
Young Miss Libby Bell looked up from school work as she heard the Pratt's car coming up the drive and allowed herself a smile.
Her charge, the Pratt's son Albert, had been a perfect baby to baby sit even though she had found him under his cot twice fast asleep. How he had gotten out she didn't know but at least he was safe and sound.
She packed up her school work and waited for the door to open.
"Hello Libby as he been a good boy for you?" Mary asked giving Libby a hug and a kiss on the cheek in greeting.
"Yes he was Mrs Pratt. Did you enjoy the reunion?" Libby said perkily.
"Yes we did. It was lovely meeting up with so many old friends after all these years." She smiled warmly at the girl. Did you phone your guardians to explain you were going to be a little later than we said?"
"Yes Mrs Pratt and I told him that Mr Pratt was going to drive me home."
"I bet I can guess Pat Duggan's reaction to that piece of news especially as Sylvia Pemberton and Jessie Quick are doing the same for Mrs Sheila." Alan laughed.
"No he was alright about it especially as Miss Belmont was driving them home." She was bouncing up and down on her toes eager to get away.
"How are the three of you girls getting on, I know it must be difficult?" Mary asked.
"Really well considering, Sylvia and I find it easier because we are about the same age, Jessie gets a little jealous sometime because she's younger but on the whole we get on." She said in a breathless rush.
"Good night Libby and thank you." Mary hugged and kissed the girls cheek again.
"Here is what we agreed and ten dollars more for staying late." Alan passed an envelope across containing the money.
"Thank you Mr Pratt but didn't need to really."
"The cars doors are open Libby so could you let yourself in and wait for Alan as I want a quick word with my husband." Mary let the girl out and watched her enter the car before turning to Alan. "What's wrong dear you hardly said a word after we dropped Ted at the gym?"
"I'm worried that Ted is going to do something stupid on his own." Alan said cautiously. "I can't explain it built I have a sinking feeling in my gut."
"Then you'll better swing by after you have dropped Libby off. You'll need your case just in case" Mary pushed a wooden panel in the wall and pulled out a metal attaché case from the hole it revealed. She passed it to him. "Just make sure you come home safe my lad."
"With you two I have every reason to do so." He took the case and kissed her tenderly.
"You better boy or you'll answer to me." She said as they drove off.
'The Battery' was an old fashioned gym with a training ring, punch balls, weights and skipping ropes, at the point where Harlem, Queens and the more affluent parts of the city met.
At this time of night it should have been in total darkness but a single spot light lit up the solitary figure standing head down in its centre.
The figure was dressed in a black cat suit with the cowl drawn back on to his shoulders.
Ted could smell the liniment, talc and sweat and could here the crowd calling his name in a mighty roar.
He slowly drew up the cowl over his head and his body changed instantly. The leg and arms lengthened the waist narrowed and the chest swelled with muscles. Stubble appeared on his chin and cat eyes of purest blue, his tail flicking irritated over his shoulder.
He sniffed the air.
Ted Grant had gone only Wildcat remained.
"Ya better have good reason to be in here buddy." Wildcats voice was pure Bronx and sounded punchy. "Come were I can see ya."
"My pleasure old friend." Atom replied before somersaulting into the centre of the ring. "What's occurring Wildcat?"
The diminutive fighter was in a deep blue one piece costume with a holographic representation of an atom on his chest whirling quietly.
"New costume?" Cat asked.
"Yes. Fate's magic made it form me. What do you think?"
"Don't like it the thingamajig on your chest, it will give you away."
"Not necessarily." Atoms costume darkened and the hologram vanished. "As I said what's occurring Wildcat?"
"Visiting. You coming." With that wildcat bounded over the ropes to where a disused weight press was and lifted the weights up triggering the hidden mechanism. The whole piece of equipment moved aside to show a steep set of stairs going down."
Without a pause Cat shot down them faster than a polecat down a rabbit hole.
As he vanished the equipment began to slide back leaving Atom only moments to leap over the ropes straight down the hole.
As he landed perfectly at the bottom of the stairs he could see Wildcat, body low to the ground, disappearing down the passageway. Without thought Atom pounded after him. Soon he was bounding up a flight of stairs into a disused factory .
Wildcat was already stride a beautiful gleaming black Goldwing motorbike with a cat mask over the lights.
"Do ya wanna ride wid me or on me old bike?" He pointed at a smaller Bonneville.
Atom grinned and leaped behind Wildcat.
"Show me what it can do cat." Atom roared with laughter.
"You've got it." With a screech of tires it roared away straight at a solid looking factory wall. "I hope the Bat has got this right brother."
The wall vanished as they reached it and they were soon roaring down the back alleys passed the winos and crack heads and they were used to seeing things."
Ten minutes later they pulled up outside the back of a theatre that had seen better days."
Once the Tivoli Theatre was a place were couples came to see off Broadway shows and plays, but now it was a dubious night club come burlesque house, with the florid neon sign declaring 'The Follies Burlesque Revue' beside photographs of scantily clothed young women and red faced comics.
The back of the theatre was untidy with trashcans and a dumpster against the wall even the fire escape was missing its lower half.
At the second landing a light from a window streamed out to light the gloom.
As the hero's dismounted Wildcat pointed at the window and Atom signalled his understanding.
Suddenly Wildcat was off his powerful legs pounding like pistons driving him upward on to the trash can then the dumpster, from there to the wall opposite across the narrow alley. Two strides up the wall cat like to spin across over the rail by the window.
Wildcat looked over the rail and signalled Atom to follow.
Atom gave a mock bow and then with a powerful tumbling sprint catapulted himself upward. At the critical point changed his mass, weight if you prefer, from four times normal to that of a feather allowing him to float over the rail and land beside his team mate.
"dat's new." Wildcat rumbled.
"Due to radiation exposure at Los Alamos." Atom didn't have to mention his fear of cancer he knew his friend understood.
Wildcat put a finger to his lips for silence and pointed at the window. One by one they stepped into the room.
The room was dimly lit by solitary bulb in the ceiling and the array of bulbs around a full length dressing room mirror.
Standing at the mirror was an athletically built blond wearing the tiniest G-string and nipple covers Atom had ever seen. She had the physic of an Olympic gymnast with six perfectly delineated abdominal muscles most boxers would be envious of.
She suddenly spotted them in the mirror and instead of screaming whooped for joy and threw herself into Wildcats arms. He swept her up into his arms and gave her a kiss.
"Cat,cat, you're back I knew they couldn't keep you down." He voice sounded like Betty Boop's on helium.
Wildcat put her down and she pirouetted before him showing him her arms.
"I've been a good girl cat." She said showing of her legs. "I've stayed clean and I don't drink no more. And me and the girls still train with Ted Grant, honest honey. He's sweet but you know you're the one for me."
"I know ya okay Ted told me." Wildcat positively purred. "This is my 'Justice' pal Atom, Atom my girl Angel Cakes."
Angel gave of a high pitched giggle.
"Hi ya short stuff." She said.
"Hi Angel." Atom replied feeling very embarrassed at being that close to a naked woman.
"Angel is fat and ugly in?" Wildcat asked.
"Yeah Cat probably ogling the China twins through that one way mirror thing of his." She shuddered.
"Atom entertain Angel for us while I visit the bum?" With fluid strides he vanished into the darkness of the back stage area.
"What a guy. That bastard Mosel had me shot up with filth to control me when Wildcat busted him. He stayed with me for four days when I went cold turkey. He got me clean and healthy, I owe him big time." She looked up at the clock on the wall and shrieked. "Look at the time I'm supposed to do Lilly's Pocahontas spot." She rapidly got dressed in a stylised Red Indian costume with a full feathered headdress.
"It's Lilly he should be helping, bless him."
"Why's that Angel?" Atom asked as two girls wrapped in towels and very little else entered from the stage.
"She's in a bad place Mr Atom and that's not lie. She's probably selling her body even now to pay for the evil stuff. She's determined to get her hands on some 'Devil Dust'"
"Mr Atom my two baby sisters, Apple blossom and Cherry Blossom, the China Twins. Girls fill him in on Lilly. See ya wouldn't want to be ya!"
With that Angel disappeared vanished through the door down to the stage.
Wildcat prowled toward the managers door which bore the legend etched into the brass plate. 'Alfonso Cabalettas General Manager.'
"What a joke." Wildcat growled before bursting through the door.
"What the hell?!" The portly Italian spun round from the one way window through which he could see Angel going through her routine. "Wildcat!"
"Surprised to see me!" Wildcat leaped onto the desk scattering the piles of coins stacked there.
"All I have to do is phone the cops and you'd be busted; behind bars." Before he could do anything Wildcat had lifted the receiver.
"Go for it Alf, haven't you heard 'Justice' has been absolved." Wildcat lied.
Alf sighed and swung back to face the glass once more.
"Shut the door on the way out."
Wildcat swung him back round and grabbed him by the throat.
"'Devil Dust' heard of it punk?!" Alf nodded. "Peddling it are you?"
Alf shook his head.
"What do ya know?"
"Not much." Alf gasped when Wildcat had let go. "The gang bosses want to know who's peddling it themselves. Either to grab a piece of the action or to punish them for muscling in."
"You still the go between?"
"If you mean I have the ear of the Dons, yes I do, they trust me." He said smugly.
"You're a low life that sucks up to their arses." Wildcat observed. He paused a moment then added fiercely. "If you do have their ears get them here tomorrow night and that wasn't a request."
He looked around at the money scattered over the desk.
"When I go see Toni in the pen I'll make sure he knows what you have achieved with his friendly family theatre." He said sarcastically.
"He was making peanuts I'm making a small fortune."
"Laundering the gang's dirty money. I'll be sure to mention dat as well after all it might make him change his mind about protecting you." Wildcat grinned showing of his cat like teeth. "Then I might not."
"Am I supposed to be thankful?" Alf snipped back.
"Toni was honest far too honest to have a scumbag brother like you. I know he took the wrap for you out of some misguided sense of loyalty and I also know he'd prefer to make a few bucks clean than hundreds dirty." Wildcats gin vanished. "I want the Dons here tomorrow night at 10 O'clock sharp for a hand's off. Get it, got it, good. Must dash see you?"
Down at the motorbike the hero's swapped notes.
"The missing girl is trying to score some Devil Dust that's why she's missing tonight." Atom explained but Wildcats mind was elsewhere. "I've got her address."
"Hmm. Just another poor kid lost to that filthy stuff." He muttered. "Who told ya?"
"Angels twin sisters the 'China Twins'"
"Good kids." He nodded. "Especially now Ted's training them.."
"Angel loves you, you big dolt and you love her so what's stopping you?" Atom asked.
"She loves Wildcat not Ted." He replied simply. "What was the address buddy?"
"Oh! Sorry, what? The address, yes of course." Atom was flustered and took a moment to clear his thoughts. "One hundred and ninety Oleander. We going visiting?"
"Nah. She won't be home if she's out to score some drugs." Wildcat sighed. "We'll talk about it tomorrow old friend. Let's go home buddy."
Back at the gym they found themselves back in the ring.
"Talk to her old friend, talk to her." Atom advised.
"To tell her what?" Wildcat pulled back to reveal the clean shaven face of Ted once again. "That I'm a werecat, that she loves a freak."
"She's old enough to make up her own mind Ted." Alan followed suit and pulled back his cowl.
"Goodnight Alan see you in the morning." Ted told him sadly.
When Alan looked back all he could see was Ted standing all alone in the rings spot light and it made him terribly sad but grateful for his own Mary.
The door swung shut so he never saw the solitary tear roll down his old friends face.
Chapter Six Man of the Hour.
The laboratory in the red brick Justice headquarters was festooned with modern equipment over which the two costumed scientist slaved tirelessly.
"Anything Terry?" Rex called his stutter absent in his intense concentration.
"No nothing. It's not a common alkaloid. You?"
Terry had his white coat over his dark green cat suit with its dark red hood and mask. Over the coat hook hung a black leather bikers jacket with the logo 'Fair Play' picked out in white on its sleeves and breast pocket.
"I know more about what it isn't than what it is. It's infuriating!" He said.
Rex looked up from studying three ten inch by ten inch silca gel chromatography plates. Each plate had a different set of coloured spots on them.
"Well it's definitely not morphine, heroin or codeine neither is it Cocaine." Rex was dressed in his all black grim reaper costume with its yellow edging. The Hourglass symbol on his chest inactive. "There must be something we're missing but what?"
"Are you sure no one can get to your Miraco Rex?" Ted asked a little concerned.
"How many more times? Only I have the key to the drug safe or to the formula. Even my personal assistant hasn't a clue about it." Rex stammered angrily. "My Miraco is clean and not involved!"
"Not involved maybe but clean I seriously doubt. The good doctor and I are worried you may becoming addicted to it, to the change it gives you. You know how it makes you over confident and a little rash." Terry was treading on thin ice and he knew it.
"Rubbish!" Rex stuttered going red in the face. "Yes it helps my confidence; it would help yours if it increased your abilities six to ten fold."
Terry was going to reply when there was an almighty crash from outside and a roaring column of water jetting skyward.
"Miraco time I think!"
Let's go back a few minutes and join young police officer Lionel Grayland.
Lionel was an earnest and dedicated police officer with an equally young family to look after and this was his first week of doing night patrol on his own.
It was his nightly break and as usual he spent it at Larry's all night diner.
He smiled at the new waitress and took his usual coffee and jelly donut at his normal window seat.
He pulled out the latest super hero comic based on Justice and read it through cover to cover twice. He was there in the story in his mind fighting evil super villains and dastardly spies with his hero's.
With a sigh he looked up at the clock, put away the comic had a few words with the waitress, and left to resume his patrol.
He'd barely gone two to three hundred yards when he stared at a water hydrant in the distance as is if it was an alien object.
"Oh my god it's Maxima and the Fateful Seven." He swallowed hard before wrenching the top off a nearby hydrant and threw it at the other one with amazing force.
A jet of water shot up into the air from both of them as the second one buckled and split apart from the impact.
"How do you like those apples?" Larry roared totally unaware that the comic had fallen out of his back pocket.
As the two heroes hit the sidewalk so did the Miraco. It coursed through Rex body like liquid fire setting off the hourglass to lose its sand from its top to its bottom.
Rex roared with laughter his face now gaunt and skull like and covered with sheen of sweat.
"It seems I was right about needing the pill after all." He roared. "Geronimo!"
"Hourman wait!" But Fair Plays words fell on deaf ears as Hourman rushed up to challenge the screaming young man who was now on a cars hood throwing bits of the vehicle at no body.
"You'll never get passed me Tempest or you Halo." Lionel shook his head as if trying to clear it just as Hourman hit and to his amazement bounced off.
With a twisting summersault Hourman landed back on his feet puzzled. Normally the blow he had just landed would have laid the officer low but today it appeared to have no affect at all.
"So you want to rough house it, well that's fine by me." He growled.
Soon the pair of them were swapping round house blows that would have stopped a run away truck no matter a human.
Fair Play had soon realised the folly of attacking the hulking youngster by virtue of being thrown through a plate glass shop window when he had leaped on to the officers back. But his incredible athleticism allowed him to roll up into a ball to lessen the impact besides he hadn't come away empty handed. As he lay there in the laundry basket he looked at the comic he clutched so fiercely in his hand.
He scanned it quickly for any clues before realising that the comic itself was the biggest clue of all.
Staying his distance but in the eye line of both men he yelled to them.
"Stop it both of you Halo's affecting your perceptions. Hourman you're fighting, erm, Supercop. Supercop you're fighting your Justice team-mate Hourman!"
The fighting men separated allowing Fair Play to get in between them.
"Super Cop?" Hourman whispered.
Fair Play gave him the comic and said quietly
"Read and be edified." He turned to the Lionel. "Yes Halo set up a cerebellum contra flow through the synapses making you both see each other as foes."
It was so convincing that it had Hourman half believing it.
"Supercop, try and shake of her influences it's me Fair Play and Hourman." Fair Play pleaded.
The young man straightened up.
"You may think there are just three of us Halo but you are wrong the others will be here soon and then Justice will sort you out. No matter what dastardly plan you have cooked up it'll be your goose that'll be cooked!"
He bent down and tore a fender of a car and threw it at a lamp post putting out the light.
"Put down the Violin Violinsky it won't help you now!" He yelled sweat pouring down his face as he swayed.
"Who have we got Supercop?" Fair Play asked.
The policeman gave him a strange look.
"Are you mad they are right in front of us!?"
"Hawk wants me to co-ordinate the other when they arrive so I need to know who we're up against." Fair Play said sternly with all the authority he could muster.
"Yes, of course. That dammed Halo must still be affecting me." He took a deep breath and shuddered before pointing at a group of trash cans at the side of the road. "The Fateful Seven, Violinsky, the yellow speedster, and over there" he said pointing the spraying hydrant, "is the Enchantress, Freeze and the Angler."
Hourman stood in front of Lionel.
"Who do you want me to take out Supercop I feel like giving them their lumps."
"Look out!" Lionel screamed bundling them to the floor.
Suddenly his back arched and he cried in pain blood pouring from his ears, eyes and nose. He slumped to the floor clutching his side.
"He's done for me this time. A kryptonite violin bow." He pulled the imaginary bow from his side rolled into Fair Plays arms and died.
The man of a thousand talents looked to the sky and screamed in shear frustration.
A little later the Star Labs ambulance took him away leaving a desolate pair to pick up the pieces.
Larry stood in the middle of the road wringing his hands.
"Is he? Don't say it I don't want to hear." He wiped his teary eyes. "He's got a lovely young wife and babies at home. He was so proud of them and of being a policeman so he could help people. He was a good man."
"He died a hero's death saving our lives never forget that, I never will." Hourman said sadly.
"Did he visit your diner Larry?" Fair Play asked.
"Sure. He always has his night break with us."
"Did he eat anything, drink anything?"
"I don't know I didn't serve him my new girl did but I expect he had his usual of coffee and jelly donut why?"
"It could be important Larry. Can I have a word with your new girl Larry?" Fair Play persisted wondering how a gentle giant could become a hero worshiping Juggernaught.
"You could but she took off in fright when it all came down and I can't say I blame her." Larry wiped his eyes again. "I've her address inside Mr Terrific, somewhere in Anatolia Heights I think."
"Thanks Larry and by the way it's Fair Play not Mr Terrific."
"Have it your way but it's what the children call you around here." Larry said leaving an embarrassed Fair Play to follow.
Larry Lance and Ma had just finished their second or was it third cup of coffee when they heard the motorbike return. They waited with some relief as the hydraulics wheezed into operation and brought the bike and Canary back into view. But they were unprepared for the sight of the rather peaky looking colossus sitting meekly on the backseat.
Blockbuster looked more than a little green around the gills.
"Larry tomorrow I want you to find out all you can about Anatolia Heights I'll explain later." She took of her wig and put it on the bust. "Ma, Larry meet the newest member of Justice. He's called Blockbuster. You should see him in action he knocked down a steel door with the lightest of taps." She turned to the shy man. "Tony this is my mother Lydia and my husband Larry. I'm Dinah."
"Please to me you son but just call me ma." Ma looked up into the towering figures face. "What a matter son? What's your name again boy?"
"Bird Lady drives very fast." He didn't have to say anything more as Ma glared at Dinah who just shrugged. "My names Anthony, Robert, Michael McDonald Ma."
"Ma can he stay in the spare room for a couple of days till we get him settled at the HQ?"
"Sure darling. Come on Tony. Tomorrow we'll rustle up a costume for you."
"Thank you Ma."
Dinah carefully removed all vestiges of Canary in total silence.
"Well honey?" Larry asked after a cuddle and a kiss.
"Someone doped the Nun and I think I know who. I'll tell you all about it in bed and you can tell me everything you have found out."
"That won't take long as we have found zilch." Larry gently, lovingly took her hand and led her away to bed.
Chapter Seven The Day after Tomorrow.
Two days after the meal the gym was as busy as usual.
'Stretch' Jim Moir, Ted's right hand man, was putting the young man and boys through their paces.
"Hit the thing boy like you mean it." He yelled at one boy at a punch bag.
Ted was watching a sparring match between two good middleweights in the ring but his mind was only partially on it.
"Hi Mr Pratt." Stretch call as Alan entered the hall. Stretch always insisted in calling Alan by his last name as if he was nobility.
"Stretch is his Lordship in?"
Stretch pointed at the ring.
"Ted got a minute?" Alan called. "I've got someone for you to meet."
Ted looked up and got the shock of his life. Standing beside Alan were a gum chewing coloured woman and a colossus of a man in a pale grey suit.
"Ted, Jessie 'the babe' Jones and Tony her minder."
"Hi ya big boy." The Jones woman purred.
Alan looked nervous and unusually for him shifty.
"Alphonso Scallari wants to stage a fight."
"I've a couple of boys who could fit the bill depends who they would be up against and the weight." Ted replied.
"No you don't understand he wants to stage a fight between women boxers."
"What?! You want to do what?!" Ted as incensed. "Oh no! No way am I going to train her. Him yes her no. What am I saying? No way am I getting involved."
"Ted you need the money you can not afford to turn it down." Alan said hotly.
"The business is going through a bad patch sure but it isn't bust." Ted and Alan rarely argue but when they do it pays to duck.
"Maybe not but I do the books Ted and I know you can't turn down a deal like this. It'll be financial suicide." Alan tried a more conciliatory approach. "Try her out Ted bat least you could do that for me."
"Stretch put her through her paces. I'll be in the office." Ted stormed up the stairs and slammed the smoked glass door shut behind him.
The girl stripped of her coat to reveal boxing clothes underneath.
"Mr Alan I think you better have a talk with him." Stretch looked the girl over. "Joe chuck over a pair of gloves and set up the small punch ball. Let's see what the girls made of."
Alan cautiously entered the office.
"What do you want haven't you done enough damage for one day!" Ted bellowed before adding quietly. "What's the big idea of getting Dinah involved in all this mess?"
"Calm down will you!" Alan yelled for the ears of those down stairs. "Can you think of any one better after all you did train her?"
"Calm down, calm down after the stroke you pulled!" Ted collected a bottle of scotch and two glasses from a drawer. "I'm not getting in to bed with his sort and that's final!" He poured out two glasses and pushed one to Alan who accepted it gratefully
"Get her to talk to Jerry he might know who's trading." Ted added in a whisper.
"Will do. Nice scotch by the way." Alan said.
"Sheila got it for me from Scotland a single malt."
"Fine go bust see if I care!"
"I'm not going bust it's a temporary hiccup that's all, for new equipment."
"Oh fine have you told them outside! No! I thought not!" Alan downed his whisky.
"See you at lunch." He added quietly before handing his empty glass back and storming out of the room with a cry of. "Stubborn mule!"
As Alan stormed down the stairs he was please to see Dinah had caught young Jerry's eye.
"You're on sister. Stretch what's the score?"
"She's good Mr Alan. She's fit and agile with a good pair of fists." Stretch said honestly. "She just needs ring time to be ready."
"See to it please?" Alan crossed over to him. "Ted's fine just a little sore he lost the argument. Just let him cool down a bit."
"You pair okay then?"
"Like brothers most of the time." Alan smiled sadly and looked up at the closed door. "When he gets out of the office tell him I'll see him for lunch will you?"
"Sure Mr Alan."
Dinah was good and impressed the lads with her skill and soon had them eating out of her hands.
"Phew do they normally work you so hard." She plonked herself down beside the equally puffed Jerry. "I've a fight at the weekend so I need some help. A tab with brisance should do it."
"Are you mad Ted will lose it big time if he hears you?" Jerry was genuinely scandalised by the suggestion. "I was into that filth but Ted Grant O.B.E. was bothered enough and saw something in me to warrant taking me in. He got me clean and helped me get a job, he took gutter trash and gave me back my dignity."
"Easy man I was only after some of that Devil Dust stuff to give me an edge."
"You and the whole east side girl. Everyone wants a piece of that action. It's rarer than hen's teeth." He leaned closer. "I know a couple of brothers who have some of that stuff."
"Can you get it for me?"
"Know way sister that stuff is bad, I mean real bad so I'd forget it if I was you."
Canary looked across at the silent Blockbuster and call to him.
"Tony will you bring my kit bag please?"
She prayed that the big man wouldn't give her away but she needn't hyave worried he stayed totally silent.
He just nodded and brought it over.
"Right Jerry." She whispered. "I'm going to tell you a secret and you must keep it to yourself."
She pulled out the Bounty Hunters badge that she had received that morning by courier from Wesley. A strategic thumb and finger obscured the name and photograph.
"I'm a bounty hunter working for the Metropolis police dept to find Devil Dust dealers and suppliers." She flashed the card quickly and retuned it back to her kit bag. "Neither Alan or Ted are aware of what I'm doing. I heard what the mob where planning with female boxers so it wasn't difficult to get Alan involved."
"I still need your help Jerry?"
"The only female Bounty Hunter I know about is the Black Canary and if you're her it would explain why you're so good." He laughed. "I'll give you the names and addresses of two brothers down in the hood who deal in stuff but take man mountain there with you as they'll cut up rough."
"I gave myself away did I?" Canary said a little concerned.
"Just a bit, enough for me to be curious."
Stretch called over.
"Jerry I need you son." He looked at Canary and Blockbuster. "Not you two."
All the boxers crowded around Stretch and had a whispered conversation which led to the old trained mounting the steps to Ted's office.
Stretch normally walked in but today he nervously knocked on the door.
"Who the hell is it?" Ted bellowed.
"It's Stretch boss. Me and the boys want a word if it is okay with you." Stretch's voice showed how nervous he truly was.
Ted opened the door.
"Of course you can old friend why the formality?" Ted said gently.
"See boss the boys and me we had a chat like and they reckon they can pay a little bit more and the freebees reckon they can pay something even if it's only a few dollars." The trainer took a breath. "And I can afford to take a pay cut for awhile."
Stretch stopped very aware of the other gym users standing silently behind him.
Ted didn't look angry he looked more humbled and ashamed.
"I don't know what to say guys. I'm not lying when I say I'm touched but why the offer?"
"We heard what Mr Alan had to say and thought we'd help." One of the heavy weights rumbled.
"Ah yes that. Okay the gym is a bit short this month and I've had to dip in to my personal fortune." The men started to murmur. "But it's nothing to worry about I just bought a new piece of equipment without telling Alan or using the right group of savings. I bought us a bus to take us to and from venues. Well three of you are turning pro this autumn. I'll explain to Alan over lunch if he doesn't kill me first."
He was actually crying tears of gratitude and pride.
He looked around at them all before croaking.
"What are you standing around for? Back to work everything is fine."
The men laughed and went back to their training all save Jerry who scribbled down the address on a scrap of paper and gave it to Canary.
"Jerry get sparring boy. You girl, use my office to change your coming to lunch with Alan and me. You'd better bring big and silent there, mainly because I don't think he'd stay behind anyway." Ted added to the good naturedly laughter around him.
"I hope you like Italian."
Later in Carlo's Italian restaurant the four members shared information over a Ravioli and parmesan.
"Next time you two cook up something like that I'd be obliged if you'd tell me. I should get an Oscar for my performance." Ted laughed. "I had kittens when you came in with Tony Dinah. Welcome, by the way, to the mad house Tony."
"Thank you Master Ted. The bird lady and Ma told me not to speak. Did I do it right?" Tony's face screwed up with concern.
"You did just fine Tony, perfect in fact." Alan told him and received a bright smile in response.
"Your boys are good Ted. They are all clean and loyal to you." Dinah added. "Jerry passed me some possible leads by the way. Tony and I will follow them up this afternoon in costume."
"On the motorcycle?" Tony asked turning a little pale.
"On the motorcycle yes, why?"
"Bird Lady drives very fast." Tony replied looking at his hands.
"Oh!" Dinah said in surprise as the other two laughed. "I promise to drive slowly is that alright with you Tony."
He looked up and let out a breath of relief.
"Yes Bird Lady."
"Charles didn't want us involved in costume. I don't think he will be pleased." Alan grinned.
"Like hell he wouldn't. He set us up at that dinner. He knew we couldn't resist getting back in costume." Dinah said a little hotly. "He was back in costume himself he told us that and as for ordering us not to follow suit was like a red rag to a bull."
"I've been quietly back in costume for months." Ted said with an embarrassed grin. "Well that's you sorted." Ted offered more wine but Dinah shook her head. "L'acqua minerale del Carlo con fuori si intossica per la Dinah se voi prego?"
"One still mineral water for Mrs Dinah coming right up Mr Ted." Carlo confirmed.
"How did you get on with the Dons last night?" Alan asked.
"Well that's quite a story."
The theatre was shut for the evening but it was far from empty as every crime lord was present with there entourage busily sniping at each other.
"Well where is he Alfredo? I can't waste my time with these two bit bums." One fat Don moaned.
"Watch who you are calling bums Masterson." Another cried in a strong Irish accent.
"Shut up Carson!"
"Dat's what I like to hear, you all getting along wid each other. You all getting along like buddies." Wildcat called from the presidential box on the right, his feet up on the rail. "What's a matter dinn't ya think I'd show?"
"No one wants to harm you Wildcat." Alf said sweating profusely.
"Speak for yourself Alf I'd like to turn him into violin strings for calling me here tonight like some snivelling slave." Masterson growled clamping down hard onto his cigar.
"I know you do dat's why your two boys are sleeping it off at the back of the stage." Wildcat's voice was thick with suppressed rage. "Don't look so smug Carson your boys wid them. If they are ya best then help ya."
"What do you want Wildcat!?" Masterson asked.
"Devil Dust!" Wildcat said from somewhere above them as a couple of hoods burst into the box. "I want the scum dat's making it, distributing it and selling it. I want them real bad, understand."
"So do we." Carson called. "None of us know who's behind it Wildcat, We've almost had turf wars over it."
"We've all got boys and girls looking for the stuff and we've all come up zilch." Masterson added.
"Yeah for different reasons though, don't touch it; it boils ya from the inside. It ain't nice. Four people have died because of it so if you hear anything let Alf here know." Wildcat said from the box opposite. "Goodnight gentlemen."
When the thugs got into the box he had gone.
"Well gentleman it seems that 'Justice' is back in action." Masterson puffed on his cigar. "I suggest we set our boys and girls to tail them. After all they are more likely to find it than we are. An when they do we'll off them."
"I agree. Black Canary's been back in action down at the docks." A minor Don told them. "She dealt with some minor league hustlers. They are banged up in the pen doing a ten stretch. But if you think you can kill Superwoman or the Maid of Steel your mad."
"Stop whining! If they we've involved the stuff would probably been found by now."
"I agree with Masterson. My boys and girls will cover the docks." Carlo Bellini said. "Masterson the Eastside. If 'Justice' so much as sniffs we want to know about it."
As Wildcat sped away the Dons made their plans.
"So with their hoods on the ground we should find it." Ted concluded.
"They won't like it" Alan observed.
"They don't but they haven't got much choice."
"I think we should watch our backs just the same."
"Oh I expect a double cross; after all they want it for themselves." Ted said with a wry smile. "Are you going to chase up those leads tonight Dinah?"
"Possibly this afternoon if I can get of training." Dinah laughed.
"Yeah. I'm okay with that besides Alan and I have work to do this afternoon." Ted laughed back. "But I suppose we better go back to the gym first and show we're bosom buddies Alan just to calm the lad's nerves.
I didn't think they would bite on your carrot Dinah but with the threat of being back on the streets you never know. But I'm proud of them."
"That's alright Ted I'm not needed back at the studio's until later."
Soon the four of them were laughing again and the owner of the restaurant was glad. It had been a long time since he had seen Ted Grant look so relaxed, so alive and happy.
"Benissimo." He said to himself and turned away.
Chapter Eight Party Time
In the Star Labs special unit Dr Charles McNider was paying a special visit to an equally special patient.
"How is she Dr Jones?" He asked
"Still under heavy sedation I'm afraid Doctor. Every time we lighten it her body tries to boil itself. As it is I think we have lost one of her kidneys for her." He paused. "I don't know how much longer we can keep her under it's taking more and more sedative to do so. God knows what damage we've done to her mind."
"I know John but do your best that's all anyone can ask of you." Charles after a slight struggle found the man's shoulder and squeezed it.
"I know Charles but sometimes it's not enough." He smiled sadly. "How was I to know that when you talked me out of being a detective I'd be investigating bigger mysteries as a Doctor?"
He squeezed Charles's arm in return.
"How are the eyes, old friend?" He asked.
"Getting slowly worse every week." Charles took off his red tinted glasses to reveal his badly scarred white filmed eyes.
"Come with me Charles and I'll have a look for you."
"Thank you." Charles sighed. "Ironic isn't it. Ever since the attack I've had to pretend to be a blind man and now it's becoming a reality. But not yet, but not yet."
At 'Morpheus' the party was about to begin.
"Are all the guests coming?" Wes asked Dian.
"Yes, save for Martha Brett who has gone on a vacation to Florida with her parents and Oliver Coppelpot who's recovering after some stupid thugs beat him up at a burlesque theatre." She told him.
"We'll have to investigate them separately. Murphy are the staff the same as before?"
"Yes Master Wesley, save for Miss Julie Edge who's at home in Anatolia Heights with flu. I have her address in Anatolia Heights for a later visit." Murphy replied crisply.
"Thank you the pair of you. I couldn't have done it without you." He shook Murphy's hand and kissed Dian's cheek. "Now where is that recidivist cousin of mine?"
"Here dear heart, by the drinks cabinet wondering when you are going to open it." Sheila slurred in an aristocratic voice. "Time for a quick G & T before the off."
"Certainly your Highness." Dian said with a grin.
"That's the ticket old thing." Sheila hiccupped. "Sorry about that. Must have gone down the wrong way."
""The Bat's nose filters in?" Wes asked seriously.
"Do stop fussing dear boy everything is in place and dammed uncomfortable to boot." Sheila teetered away a plain tonic in her hand.
Dian had to admit she looked the part in jewellery borrowed from her museum and a gorgeous lime green evening dress. She made the fashion conscious Dian feel dowdy, which was the purpose of the evenings exercise if truth were told. She was to tempt the bright young thing into digressions why Wes and Dian mopped up the others.
"Someone must have seen something." Wes mused.
Murphy returned to tell them that the guests had arrived.
Soon they were all collected in the ballroom ready for a short speech of welcome.
"Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen my name is Wesley Dodds and I am your host for the evening. On my right is my partner, our district attorney's daughter, Dian Belmont, on my left is my cousin who is visiting for a week, the Baroness of Watford England." There was a general intake of breath. "I am aware how this party previously was curtailed by that poor girl becoming ill. A traumatic event for you all, one I hope you can put behind you. So ladies and gentlemen enjoy yourself."
He signalled the band to start up and stepped down to mingle and gently question his guests.
Sheila was less candid as she got more drunk, apparently.
"There's a good boy go and ask Mr Murphy for one of her Ladyships specials. He'll know what I mean." She hiccupped deliberately to make her breast's wobble in her low cut dress. She was surrounded by the youngsters who were enthralled by her name dropping. "It must have been absolutely horrid at the last party when that poor girl went insane like that. Must have been terrifying."
She saw Michael shudder and walk away and marked him down for a private chat later.
Soon all the young things were all telling wildly exaggerated tales of the events of that night but in them was a nugget of truth.
A little latter in a secluded spot in the bathroom she appeared to sniff cocaine from a silver snuff box.
"Would you like some?" Sheila offered giggling to the other four girls also using the same bathroom to fix their makeup. "You really must try some old things it makes the dullest of parties go with a zing."
She snapped the lid shut and stared at the horrified faces of the girls.
"I say dears you wouldn't have any of that 'Devil Dust' on you I hear it's the bees knees. No? Oh well just a thought."
With that the girls fled taking the story with them to quickly spread.
She staggered out whooping like the devil to the music.
Sheila had baited the trap and now must wait to see if she was going to catch anything.
Thirty minutes later she, Dian and Wes were comparing notes.
"The kids seem clean." Sheila told them. "They seem a nice bunch. I had no takers by the way."
"I got the same impression. You Wes?" Dina asked.
"Yes the same. What about the caterers Murphy?" Wes asked as the Irishman joined them.
"They too seem to be, as Her Highness states, clean. But there is an anomaly." Sheila found his Irish brogue endearing. "The missing waitress was seen serving Miss Sophie canapés shortly before the incident but oddly no one knows her that well. She had only been part time in the job for a month."
"Well if she hasn't long joined that could be why, that and the fact she might be a private individual. Not very odd Murphy." Dian conjectured.
"True Miss Dian but what was odd is that no one could describe her. It may be nothing but it just struck me as odd."
"If you asked ten random people here to describe me you would get ten different descriptions." Wes laughed.
"True Sir but they would attempt to do so whereas with the girl they just couldn't. They couldn't say whether she was short or tall, fat or thin or even dark or fair. I got nothing more than an address."
"Yes that is odd." Wes mused. "I think a little night visit is called for."
At that point the main doors burst open to reveal Master Coppelpot with a four cronies. The Penguin had decided to gate crash the party.
Oswald was dressed as if it was a fancy dress party. Top hat, monocle, long stemmed cigarette holder fitted with the stripped pants, waistcoat and dark tailcoat. A pair white spats and an umbrella finished the ensemble.
"Quack." He squawked as the tip fell of his umbrella to reveal a fencing foil. "Right my little birdies it's time to empty your nests of all your jewellery and money to fund my nest egg. Hand it over Duchess."
"Oh I say that's not cricket is it." Sheila slurred pulling a fencing sword from a display on the wall. "On guard varlet."
The four thugs got a shock when instead of being cowed Wesley turned to Dian and Murphy.
"Shall we?" He said.
Murphy delivered an old one two to the first ones chin, Dian used judo on the second whilst Wesley took on the third with an arm lock and a knee into the groin.
"I say old fruit if I spill my drink I'll be dashed annoyed." Sheila was somehow managing to sword fight with her glass of tonic in the other hand.
The fourth thug had managed to get behind her only to fall to a crashing football tackle from Michael.
"I'll split you interfering old hag." Oswald panted.
"Less of the old my man." Sheila replied.
Noticing the thugs scampering away Oswald decided that discretion was the better part of valour. He pressed a button in the umbrella's handle making it open up and shoot off to block the way allowing him to make his escape.
"That was interesting sir." Michael said breathlessly. "Are your days normally like this?"
"No, sometimes they are quite busy." Wes sniffed dismissively.
"I'm glad to hear that sir." Michael said bemusedly.
"Some boorish gate crashers I suppose. Everyone alright?" Everyone apparently was. "Who were they any ideas?"
Michael looked at his feet in shame.
"The Penguin sir, that is, Oswald Coppelpot. We nickname him that due to his deformity."
"Ah I see." Wes tapped his chin thoughtfully. "A cruel joke it seams."
"Murphy will you phone the police please?" He turned to the now assembling crowd. "Go back to the party please everyone we have dealt with the gate crashers. Thank you."
"Could someone top me up please?" Sheila drained her glass and waved it into the air imperiously much to everyone's disbelief and laughter. She had amazingly fenced Oswald with our spilling a drop.
"Where did you learn to fence like that Baroness?" Wes asked.
"At school of course, finishing school that is. I don't think we need to call in the police over some silly gatecrashers Wesley. We did deal with them ourselves, and can deal with them further ourselves can't we."
She threw the sword to Wes who caught it deftly and put it back in the display.
"Very well as long as you're happy I'll agree. Will you excuse me a moment." He crossed to the phone and dialled a number.
"Ted, Wes here. I need some help old friend; I need you to visit someone for me. A gatecrasher called Oswald Coppelpot, A.K.A the Penguin needs investigating. He may have information useful to us.
You can oh good. Yes tonight will be fine I'll phone you the address later. Thanks Ted.
Yes I'm going visiting tonight and yes it's connected to our problem.
Thanks again Ted."
He put down the phone and smiled tightly at, Dian, Sheila and Murphy. They nodded their understanding.
"I thing the Baroness needs another drink, I know I do, and more information about our Oswald?" He said.
"No problem, tally ho and all that." Sheila gave him a slow wink and returned to the party calling. "Who's going to get me a drink, a gal could die of thirst in this place."
Half an hour later they had everything they needed.
Chapter Nine Evening of the Birds.
It was early evening before Canary and Blockbuster could get away from the gym and travel down town on the motorbike. Both were in costume but thankfully either this area was used to garishly garbed people or news that Justice was back in action had spread.
They pulled up beside a garishly decorated pool hall to find themselves blocked off by six well set up youths.
"Get lost sister." One said.
"Keep moving." Another said.
"Bird lady?" Blockbuster asked but was waved back by the Black canary.
"That's a shame boys just when we have found where we wanted to be." Canary smiled warmly and dismounted.
"Are you deaf?! I said get lost!"
"And so rude." Canary spied a partly broken down wall. "Blockbuster destroy the wall, minimal of force, buddy of mine."
Blockbuster examined the wall before removing a child gently and equally gently tapped it once with his fist. The whole wall collapsed in one dusty shower.
"Sorry little one you'll have to find somewhere else to sit." He rumbled to the little girl.
"That's alright mister." She curtsied and skipped off.
"Badly built wall." He sniffed.
The men had suddenly backed off from Blockbuster and looked at Canary in fear.
"Hey lady no problem." The leader said nervously. "We've no argument with you."
"Oh I am so pleased about that." Canary tickled the man under the chin before slamming him against the street wall. "Are little and large in?"
"Yeah but they don't want to be disturbed." The young thug swallowed and added hurriedly after seeing the look on Canary's face. "But I didn't let you in Okay. They are upstairs."
Canary just gave him a look, a smile and nodded to Blockbuster.
"Oh right. Blockbuster shall we?"
"Yes Bird Lady." He smiled back.
The upstairs room was smoky and low lit, filled with thugs and hangers on. At the pool table two mismatched men were starting a game of pool. The tall one broke off.
Though she had never met them it wasn't that difficult to recognise them as big and little Mac.
"Get rid of them they are ruining my concentration." Little Mac growled trying to take his shot.
"I can pot the nine off the one." Canary said.
"That I'd like to see." Big Mac appraised her like he would a lump of meat. "What's the bet Lady."
"Your Devil Dust." She took his cue and pushed little Mac out of the way. "Oh my anti is not important as I never miss."
She bent over the table and struck the cue ball such that it hit the one ball across the table twice the cue ball hit the nine into its path allowing it to pot the nine into the middle pocket.
"What can I say? Buster the door!" She turned to big Mac. "Devil Dust please."
"Are you mad girl do you know how difficult it is to get that stuff?! No way!" Little Mac signalled to a heavy. "Get them out of here."
The heavy made the serious mistake in laying a hand on Canary and soon regretted it. In a whirl of action she spun and threw the man on to the pool table, scattering the balls. He was swiftly joined by his team mate.
The room fell deathly silent.
"If I don't have that drug a young woman will die and I'm not about to let that happen so give."
"Don't just stand there get them." Little Mac ordered.
Two men hanging over the small bar later the club fell silent once more.
"You've made your point lady." Big Mac conceded.
"No Mac." Little Mac moaned.
"Enough Mac. She's just put our four best boys down easily without breaking into a sweat and he hasn't even moved." He pointed to Blockbuster. "I dread to think what he can do."
"I'll show you." Canary picked up the cue ball and threw it to Blockbuster. "Dust."
Blockbuster caught it and crushed it to dust in one clear action. Big Mac swallowed.
"The drug's yours lady." He pulled a small packet from his pocket and passed it over. "Just leave my place intact."
"Agreed." She took the packet. "Nice doing business with you boys and thanks for the work out."
A few moments later they heard the bike roar away.
"You're an idiot Mac. The other Dons would give us a mint for it." Little Mac moaned.
"Not really." Big Mac pulled out a second packet. "What I gave her was some of the cut drug this is the pure stuff."
"Oh so you were holding out on me. Tch tch." Canary laughed from the doorway. "I'll take that thank you."
"But the motorbike?" Big Mac was stunned.
"Autopilot." Canary lifted up a small electronic device. "Blockbuster, retrieve the packet from the nice man."
Blockbuster grabbed the tall man and lifted him easily off the floor.
"Bird Lady wants packet so give it to her please." He growled ignoring the blow little Mac delivered with his pool cue. His spare hand grabbed hold of little Mac and threw him through the window onto the flat roof beyond.
"Ouch that must have hurt." Canary observed as she retrieved the packet of drugs. "Thank you again. Oh Buster get rid of him."
"Yes Lady." He threw big Mac after little Mac as if he was a rag doll. "We go now Bird Lady?"
"Yes we go now."
"Did I do good?"
"You were perfect." Canary smiled to receive a beaming one in return.
The "Coppelpot Copperpot Fish Cannery" was surprisingly busy for that time of night.
The Penguin was busily marshalling his group of thugs to unload the trucks of the proceeds of his mini crime spree.
"That'll teach them to mock me." He laughed humourlessly. "Hurry my perfidious peons I wish to count our plunder."
On the roof of a nearby crane a pair of cat's eyes watched intently.
Wildcat stretched and signalled to two cat garbed muscular men on a out buildings roof. He signalled to one to circle right and the other circle left. They obeyed with alacrity being replaced by two slighter men.
Falcon glided down on silent wings to land beside him dropping Atom onto the roof.
"Who are they Cat?" Atom asked.
"Some of Ted's boys we've been training them up. They are good to go." Wildcat positively purred with pleasure.
"I've done the same with three of my stunt girls. I've called them my Electrons. Yes I know it's corny but it'll do for now." He paused expecting a comment from the grinning Wildcat but after a moment realised he wasn't going to get one. "They are watching the back."
Wildcats ears twitched.
Down in the yard a driver was tapping the steering wheel impatiently.
"Good Evening." A voice said from the passenger seat.
He swung round straight on to a perfect left hook.
He slumped back over the steering wheel with out a sound of protest.
The forklift truck driver at the back off loaded the last load of gold bars from a truck parked in the shadow of the building.
As he lowered the forks he found a curvy blond in a skin tight blue costume laying provocatively on the other pallet of gold bars.
She beckoned to him. He couldn't believe his luck as a sharp karate chop knocked him out from a similarly clad girl behind him.
This wasn't the only time he hadn't got the girl of his dreams.
"What is our plan of action Wildcat?" Falcon asked.
"Well Cat?" Atom said.
One of the Cat men gave a wave from below.
"Frontal assault with air cover. I want dis Penguin real bad." Wildcat grinned a wide cat toothed smile. "We Go? Now!"
He was off down the girders with cat like ease and speed to hit the ground running with both his compatriots just behind him.
The warehouse doors were opened allowing the trio easy access.
Wildcat took out two armed guards before they knew what had hit them. Atom spiralled after him changing his weight rapidly to take out another two with four swift punches. Falcon took out the one up on the girder as he tried to draw a bead on the other two.
"The good old days Cat?" Atom called.
"Dat's true." Wildcat replied taking out a third quickly with a hay maker of a punch.
To say that Oswald Coppelpot, AKA The Penguin, was surprised as they burst in was an understatement but it didn't stop him from reacting.
He grabbed an umbrella from the rack and triggered it. Whirling blades sprung out of the spines and it flew off the handle straight at them.
The whirling blades cut through the packing boxes like butter forcing them into a narrow aisle.
Atom made a spectacular leap over the top of it courteously of his weight altering. Falcon flapped up ward just out of reach leaving Wildcat emptying the racks of fish cans to slow it up and nothing was slowing it up.
Wildcat thought it was the end of the road but Falcon dropped in front of him, now armed with her electrically charged mace.
She smashed her weapon straight into the spinning machine again and again to the cry of.
Until it was a mangled wreck before them.
Atom dropped from the shelves to join them only to be confronted by The Penguin with a machine gun umbrella.
"You meddling buffoons." He squawked. "You nearly spoilt the party."
As his finger tightened on the trigger a small capsule landed at his feet spilling a greenish yellow gas.
It made The Penguin's head swim a bit before he saw a frightening figure striding through the vapour, the sandman.
The figure kept disappearing and reappearing more devilish looking than before. The figure was skeletal in appearance with flames and smoke pouring out of the gas masks holes.
"SQUAWK." The Penguin looked on in horror before opening fire. "I'm not going that easily devil."
Bullets ripped into the figure tearing great holes that poured fire, but the figure still came on.
Soon the bullets were all spent forcing Oswald to pull out a slim sword out of another of the racked umbrella's.
"Have at you varlet." The sword swung easily between them.
The figure stopped its skeletal body and skull like face so still.
"I am the Sandman, invader of dreams." His voice was echoing a round the space. "What evil lies in your mind Penguin?"
A chorus of voices began singing. Mr Sandman which seemed macabre with the setting.
"You can not lie to me Penguin, dreamers seldom can."
"Disappear you malefic spirit. I do not regret my choices rather I revel in them. Your master Satan should lord me for my actions and my future plans." Penguin was very scared but heroically defiant. "What do you want of me?"
"Where is your Devil Dust?" Sandman asked.
"Devil Dust?" He was obviously bemused. "I wish I had some, I'd make a killing, if you'll pardon the pun, with that stuff. You've got the wrong bird this time, you sinister sobering spectre."
"No I think not your evil is plain to see. Sleep Oswald, sleep the sleep of the guilty."
Sandman removed the unfired machine gun umbrella from his nerveless fingers, stood up and put it back into the rack.
He turned to his friends and spoke quietly but clearly.
"I have been in his dreams and he isn't involved in the Devil Dust murder. Other things, but not that." He tilted his head. "Sorry I was late but the down town traffic was appalling tonight."
"I for one am glad you made it old friend." Falcon said earnestly. "I thought we had serious problems when he aimed that umbrella at us."
The others just laughed.
Sand entered then with Wildcat's Cats and Atom's Electrons pushing twelve thugs between them to the centre of the room, all of them heavily tied up, none of them happy.
"What do we do with these scum Wildcat?" The biggest of the Cats asked.
Police sirens could be heard in the distance.
"Dey can sit by their boss for now. I suggest you blur after dat before the cops arrive." Cat turned to the others. "Your Electrons and Sand better scram too."
"Agreed Cat." Atom concurred. "Thanks Ladies and goodnight."
"Go Sand I'll see you later." Sandman ordered. "I took the liberty of contacting the police on the way over here just in case you understand so you all better leave too. After all I don't want to have to arrest you do I."
There was more good natured laughter before they faded away into the darkness.
When the police arrived they found sandman standing in the shadows all alone save for the crooks and the doped Penguin.
"Stand still hands away from your side's buster!" A young rooky cop bellowed his gun drawn and pointing menacingly at the Sandman.
Sandman lifted his hands up slowly allowing his police badge dangle from his fingers.
"You're making a mistake officer." He breathed hoarsely.
The young officer took the badge and examined it closely before giving it back.
"Yes sir, sorry sir." He said.
"These are the gang of robbers you were after. The fat fellow is the ring leader, the Penguin."
The Penguin sat up slowly rubbing his head.
"Would have gotten away with it to if it wasn't for you pesky 'Justice' people?" He moaned.
"Good job for us they were. They are guilty of three jewel heists and two bank robberies." A voice Sandman knew called.
"It is good to see you too Sandman." The big Irishman beamed at him. "Don't you worry your head about a thing Lieutenant we'll tidy up here, won't we boys."
A chorus of agreement came up from the assembled officers.
"Just one thing Sir could you have a report on the Captains desk for the morning, it'll make things that bit easier." The sergeant grinned.
"I'll do my best Sean. Goodnight gentleman." He stepped back into the shadows and was gone.
The whisper was out 'Justice' was back!
Chapter Ten Short Stops
The room under the stage was dark as the interloper crossed over to the makeup table. With unusual delicacy he unscrewed a bulb and pressed the hidden switch inside. The desk made a popping sound and a hidden draw slid out. The shadowy figure looked in muttering to itself.
Inside the draw neatly arranged were a group of magician's wands, the property of one William Zard AKA The Wizard. A career criminal with a flair for the theatrical.
The white gloved hands examined the wands and selected one and put it in a bag.
With cackling laughter he left.
Mary Pratt passed a coffee across to the young woman at the table of 'The Rehab'.
"Hello Betty how are you today dear." Mary has seen the girl many times and felt she was slowly getting through to her.
"Fine Mary thanks to you. This is my first clean week." The girls face was drawn and gaunt. She was only eighteen but looked more like fifty.
"Well done Betty but just take it day by day. Is the job helping?" Mary sat down beside her.
"Year sort of." She stammered. "There's a dancer who comes to the diner and she is constantly offering me drugs."
"Bring her here we may be able to help her."
"She keeps saying she wants Devil Dust because the others aren't powerful enough.
"Yes I see but there is a but isn't there?" How did she know to come to you anyway?" Mary's ears pricked up at the mention of Devil Dust.
"She said she saw me here getting fresh needles and Heroin substitute. She said she'd tell my boss about my drug addiction. I told her to go ahead as he already knew." Tears glistened at the corner of her eyes. "She offered me a pill but I told her to scram before I told my boss."
"And the but?" Mary persisted.
"She was clean. There were no track marks nothing and her eyes were clear. Not dilated that is right dilated isn't it?" The girl began to cry. "I can smell another junkie a mile off and she was no junkie."
Mary nodded and cradled the poor girl in her arms and rocked her gently.
"I am so proud of you Betty, so very proud of you." And she was too. "A couple of weeks ago you would have give in but now you are stronger much stronger."
"That would have betrayed your trust in me and I'd never do that, besides I don't want to go back to that life believe me. Not now not ever."
The girl was truly sincere.
"Its alright to cry darling I know its hard but it will be worth it in the long run." Mary was crying too. "If you can keep doing as well as you have I might be able to get you the hairdressing job you wanted. You'll have to train in the evenings but it will be worth it."
Mary patted her back
"This woman did she give a name or anything like that?"
"No all she said was she was a dancer in a revue show. Is it important?"
"It might be child it just might be." She paused. "Devil Dust affects people differently some die horribly whilst other just go into a stupor."
Ten minutes later after calming down she phoned the gym.
"Hi Stretch is Alan or Ted there. No? Okay can you get one of them to phone me urgently please. Yes at the 'Rehab'. Thanks." She put the phone down and cursed. "Damn."
"You were right she was injected with it in a scratch on her hand. Does it help?" Dr Midnite told the other two back in the lab.
"Not really Charles but you never know." Rex stuttered.
"It was after being interview by the police over my mystery assailant that Dian Belmont phoned me saying she was scratched and it seemed a possibility." Terry told him. "Wes went off to investigate a possible source with Alan and Ted but I haven't heard anything as yet."
"How's your patient Charles?" Rex asked.
"Very ill, slowly dieing if truth be told. We need this cure as soon as possible which we can do until you can find out what it is and how it works.
"It is a multiple component material which is hard to isolate. It is part narcotic part hallucinogenic, with something to increase the strength of the user. But what those components are we are at a loss to know." Rex said feverishly.
"Go home the pair of you and rest until tomorrow. You're going to make a mistake you're so tired." Dr Midnite decided. "I'll see you both in the morning."
Larry stretched his long legs and slipped his hot coffee watching the people go by outside the window.
He interviewed eight members of the public who were at the petrol pump attendants lethal impromptu concert with out gaining any thing new."
He had forced them to listen to an awful Country and Western concert. When they tried to leave he casually broke their necks and was equally harsh if they didn't appreciate his music. When the police arrived they had no option but to shot him before he killed anyone else. It took several rounds before he laid down and died, and that was after he destroyed two patrol cars and putting one policeman in traction for weeks.
A young woman delivered another coffee.
"Sorry miss but did you this." He consulted his notes. "Jethro Hull on the night of the incident."
"No I was of that night our new girl Sandy served him. I was here with my friend Mary Ann before going to the movies." She paused and looked around for her boss before sitting down opposite him. "She did serve him with his usual coffee and then something odd happened very odd now I think of it. She offered him a cigarette but he turned it down as his only just packed up. But she was insistent really insistent. I think he only took it to please her. We're not supposed to mix with the customers you see. I hope she doesn't get into any trouble. Come to think of it she hasn't come in today."
"Do you have an address for her so I can check up on her later?"
"What's with the questions are you a cop?" She asked starting to panic.
"No a PI but I'm attached to the police force. Thank you, you have been most helpful."
"Anatolia heights. It's not far from here rather swish I gather." She tried to smile at Larry but it didn't quite work.
"Did you see him smoke it?"
"Yes he took a couple of puffs on it just to please her I think. To get her off his case."
"What does she look like?" He pulled out his pad and pencil.
"Pretty ordinary I guess. That's funny I couldn't even tell you what hair colour she is." She sighed. "Must be one of those instantly forgettable types."
"Yes." He replied noting in his book. 'Impossible to describe.'
After she left he lent back in his chair and wrote.
Description Plain (vague)
Administered by inhalation possibly?
Ten minutes later he left for Luke's Hospital the scene of the next incident.
In the 'Toppam Top Hat store for the Gentry Proprietor Jarvis Tench a dark figure was searching for something.
The store was neat and tidy with several hat pegs displaying various types of hats mainly top hats and black derbies. The intruder produced a telescopic hand on a lattice affair. He sprung it to lower the third peg from the right. There was a whir and a click and it slid back to show a small safe.
Chuckling to himself the figure put a electronic affair beside the tumblers and listened as they clicked into place. It opened to show a series of hat price tickets and a receiver.
With a loud belly laugh he collected them up and put them in a cavernous pocket.
"So Jarvis you weren't lieing after all."
With deep chuckles he left locking up as he went.
Bannerman Pharmaceuticals was a modest size factory and research facility not far from town that focused itself on developing innovative drugs.
Its chief researcher was one Rex Tyler Batchelor of Chemistry and PhD. A shy bashful genius.
"Rex" After a gentle knock on the open door the tousled head of his number two came into view. "Visitors coming this way with director Young. Two men one of them blind."
"Blast." He yelled. "You know what to do get everyone looking busy. Do we know them at all?"
Rex had a sinking feeling that he knew them both rather well.
"They don't look like they are the military, hairs to long, and they aren't drug reps either." She smiled at him. "Sorry I can't help."
"Thanks for trying."
"I'll do the usual check up."
"Yes do that and lock up anything sensitive."
As she scurried away to carry out her allotted tasks Rex allowed himself a few colourful curses.
Ten minutes later there was a knock at the door.
The portly sweaty persona of George Young entered followed by two figures he knew very well.
"Rex. Doctor Charles Mcnider and his assistant Terry Sloan from Star Labs medical wing. Gentlemen Rex Tyler our chemical genius." They all shook hands solemnly.
"I leave you in Rex's capable hands." With that the director left closing the door behind him.
There was silence for a good minute before Rex exploded.
"What are you doing here!"
His face was a blood red with anger and even his stutter had disappeared.
"Come to check up on me have you." He hissed quietly.
"To check your security systems Rex. You know one of the components gives increased strength we've got to eliminate Miroco." Charles said calmly. "We've been impressed so far."
"Thank you." Rex visibly calmed down. "My PA is off sick at the moment so if you want coffee or tea it'll have to be made by these fair hands."
"No thank you." Terry said.
"I've had the FDA go over the place with a fine tooth comb so I don't know what you'll expect to find." Rex protested. "And they were worse than the Spanish inquision."
"But they didn't check miraco did they." Charles fingered his silver cane handle.
Rex got up and crossed to a wall mounted clock and turned the hands to twelve o'clock. There was a loud click and the door to the office locked and a hidden door opened.
Terry led Charles over.
"Rex could you dim the lights for me please." Dr Midnite could perfectly in total darkness but was practically totally blind in strong light.
In the semi darkness Charles examined the hidden laboratory.
"Very impressive I take it that you manufacture on a pilot scale and then formulate the tablets using the granulator and the tablet press." Charles's voice floated out.
"Thank you again." Rex said contritely. "The formula is stored in the safe and the tablets out here in another safe."
He turned up the lights and turned the hands on the clock to six thirty. The clock face swung open to show the ranks of six tablet bottles.
"Each bottle contains 25 tablets and I manufacture 100 at a time." Rex paused. "I thought you could see in daylight with those pink lenses."
"So did I." Terry added.
"I used to but I am really going blind in daylight now." He said ruefully. "All I can see are shadows now."
"I'm so sorry Charles." Rex turned on a desk lamp and bathed the room in a dull yellow glow.
"Thank you Rex." Carefully he returned to his seat. "Is the clock the only way in?"
"Yes and it also locks the door out into the laboratories. I'm aware of your concerns over its side effects so I'm trying to find a natural form of it. I've had some success with it but I'm also getting some poisonous taxol's. If I can find the right separation technique I can eliminate the side effects."
"Can you tell if there is any missing?" Charles asked.
"Not from the open bottle no. I don't keep a tally of how many I use but the others yes they all have tamper proof seals on them." Rex looked a little embarrassed. "I have another stock in Justice headquarters."
"So it could come from your stock?"
"A tablet possibly but no more than that otherwise I would have noticed."
"Is that all gentleman."
"Yes I think so Rex." Charles got up and shook his hand. "Try and see if there is correlation with Miraco and this drug. We need to know Rex."
"Understood." Rex shut the clock and reset the time. The hidden door closed and the office one unlocked.
"Could anyone else develop Miraco Rex?" Terry asked.
"Yes anyone of half a dozen military research units and special units like Star Labs but no one has had any success yet. I'll get my PA to do you a list but she of sick so I'll have to use the very next best thing." He opened the door. "Lucy could you get me file Papa Uniform 291 Delta please. Thank you."
He turned to the others.
"I like to keep abreast of my rivals." He laughed.
The tousled headed girl reappeared with the file.
Rex took the heading paper and passed it to Terry who copied down the names and addresses.
"My PA is off with Chicken Pox poor kid, two weeks now, mind you she wasn't that good at her job to be honest. Earnest enough but clumsy, boy was she clumsy."
"Where does she live Rex?" Terry asked.
"I've no idea why?"
"I'm not sure but it might just pay us to have a word."
"Okay. Lucy where does Maggie live?" He called through the door.
"Anatolia Heights I think why?"
"I just think it's about time I sent her a get well card that's all. Oh by the way you're promoted to temporary PA and who knows you may get the job permanent." He laughed at seeing the smile on her face of pure pleasure. "Start tomorrow at eight sharp, no, make that ten O'clock."
After Charles and Terry had left he called Lucy in.
"Do you know they were? Only the worlds leading Eye specialist and the wonder kid that's all. And they could be putting some very lucrative contracts our way." He smiled warmly. "Tomorrow pull everything we have on eye research. Well don't just stand there my girl get on with it."
Lucy looked at the closed office door.
"Eat your heart out Maggie Smith." She whispered then frowned.
Why the heck couldn't she remember what she looked like. She shrugged and got on with her work.
Madam Phobia's mystical parlour where she did her fortune readings and spiritual meetings was empty and forlorn.
The intruder looked under the table and found a full gas canister there. Perfect to give the people that visited her a dose of a phobia good enough to get them to get her to get rid of it. He laughed and put it away.
On the table top he put a small Jack in the Box and a playing card as a sort of calling card.
He screamed with laughter as he left. He'd got everything he wanted and now for some fun.
Larry sat in the matrons office looking casual and calm which was more than could be said for the starchy head of nursing opposite. She was the most fearsome woman he'd ever met.
"Who sent you Mr Lance?" She actually growled.
"The Metropolis PD and that is all I'm at liberty to tell you Matron. Clients confidentiality I'm sure you understand."
"I am sure that you understand I can not discuss what has occurred. Patient and staff confidentiality I'm sure you understand."
"Must I remind you that this is a murder inquiry Matron." He said lazily.
"No of course not." She sighed. "I'll do what I can."
"Can you tell me what occurred."
The matron explained haltingly the events of that night.
Sister Brigit had a graze on her finger and was standard procedure put a plaster on it or to be more exact the student nurse had. The ward round went well but latter the nurse began to harangue the poor old folk on the geriatric ward for being fit and able to go home but couldn't because nobody wanted them. The more angry she got the stronger she became until security had to come and take her away.
Well tried to take her away. She was so strong that she threw them back through the double doors. Injuring more than pride one was out for the count.
Then suddenly she coughed up blood and collapsed and died.
"Could I speak to the trainee nurse please?" Larry asked.
"You could if she was here but she on extended sick leave. The poor girl was in deep shock."
"Do you have her address please?"
"I can't give you that it's unheard of." She blustered.
"Matron!" Larry said simply.
"Oh very well. It's in Anatolia Heights some where I'll get the secretary to give it to you."
"Thank you very much Matron you have been most helpful."
Later Larry wrote in his book.
All roads lead to Anatolia Heights
Anatolia Heights. A rather well to do condo in quite a posh part of town. Only four stories high it gleamed with highly polished metal and glass.
Larry felt quite scruffy beside it.
The janitor was a grizzled man in his fifty's with the shiftiest eyes he'd ever seen. He had the marine service stamped all over him.
"What do you want?!" He said belligerently.
"Answers my friend." He showed his PI badge and warrant card.
"PI are you well the question is still the same. What do you want?"
"I'd like to interview a student nurse called Gladys Pew or Eileen Daily they share a flat here at 110."
The big man began to laugh.
"You want to see 110 do you well be my guest. You won't find them in their though. It's my broom cupboard." He laughed louder. "You have been sold a pup string bean."
There is nothing Larry hates more that being reminded how slim he was so his temper shortened a bit.
"DO you know them or not?"
"What am I their bloody keeper or something. No I don't know them."
"Do you know all you tenants my friend." Larry asked conversationally trying hard to keep civil.
"I don't know any of them." Two couples came in arm in arm. "Hello girls room 81 and 82 are free."
He threw them a bunch of keys.
"If I'm not here just put them on the peg board. Thanks girls."
"Who are they?" Larry asked.
"No idea. They rent the apartment by the hour as for the other address's they are just mail boxes for any number of scams." He shrugged. "I'm not paid to answer questions just clean up. The wife does the laundry and I deal with any trouble makers. Not that we get many. They are all good high class girls."
"So this is a brothel then."
"No nothing like that if the girls want to bring back a man friend its down to them isn't it." He smiled a crooked tooth smile.
Larry was getting nowhere fast. Over the next hour he interviewed the girls and their 'friends' but no one had heard of them. He even examined the so called addresses and came up with nothing more than an embarrassed courting couple.
It was a dead end but not totally, he now new all the missing girls were one in the same. The girl with no description but a deadly MO.Chapter Eleven Jokers Wild.
The red brick building sat incongruously amongst the skyscrapers of the city but it held a secret. Inside high tech equipment once purred and recorded the world outside. This was the headquarters of the now defunct group Justice but it wasn't quite empty.
A solitary figure wheeled himself up the ramp to the notice boards and the large operations area. The conference area was empty but surprisingly clean.
"Halt!" A grating metal voice commanded. "This is a warning. Identify your self."
The figure rolled forward.
"Advance and be recognised I have offensive capabilities."
It was a blockish robot standing about six foot tall on a caterpillar drive.
"Well hello Gernsy baby long time no see." A mans voice said mockingly. "Someone been oiling you wheels boy."
"I have full self preservation abilities." It clicked a moment. "Voice pattern recognised. Member Joker. Welcome master Joker how can I help you would you like a drink."
"Some light would be nice old friend."
"Of course sir."
In moments the room was alight with bright florescent tubes. Displaying the massive status board along one wall.
"A drink sir I have all your favourites."
"A whisky my boy." He said waving a hand dismissively.
"The Scotch or the Irish sir?"
Gernsback was a vague block humanoid shape and was the group's butler and strangely their confidante. A relic from the last world's fair it was rescued and put to work.
The Joker wheeled himself to the operations board.
"I've changed my mind make it a tea. My bergamot with lemon please."
"Yes sir." The robot bowed.
"And power up the board if you please."
With a hum of power the board lit up. The tell tails flickering under the symbols of the hero's. The gasmask for The Sandman, the Atomic symbol for Atom and the Joker playing card for the Joker himself. Three symbols remained dark that of Archer, John Thunder and Little Star a poignant reminder of what had happened.
Joker began chortling blowing raspberries and generally being childish as he flicked switches.
"Time to call in the troops."
"I am afraid sir some will not be able to answer the call as they are unavailable. Your Tea sir." He placed the tray on the table.
The Joker sat back and sipped his tea as the electronic call spread out and summond the hero's one by one.
He drifted off into painful memories.
"Roll up roll up Ladies and Gentlemen and children to enjoy Billy Smarts circus entertainers with special guests Joker and Harlequin, Young Star, Archer and our Navaho hero John Thunder." The creaking tannoy announced to thunderous applause.
The school campus grounds was full to bursting point with stalls and stilt walkers and clowns.
The event was a charity affair for children suffering from physical or mental hardships especially Polio, that had blighted so many. The highlight was Justice and their display.
They all sat in a small tent waiting to be called to the main arena, each dealing with their nerves differently. John sat cross legged in the corner meditating, Archer kept flexing his muscles, Star babbled ten to the dozen and Joker and Harley practiced card tricks and checked over their equipment again and again.
"Ladies and Gentlemen I present for your delectation John Thunder."
Indian drum beats started up as John, in full Navaho costume ran on.
He juggled with tomahawks before throwing them into a board. He did tricks on his horse before coming to the centre and calling out to the crowd.
"Ladies, Gentlemen and children may we have hush please as I call up my Great Manitu, the Thunderbolt."
A pensive hush fell over the crowd.
"Great Manitu, lord of the storms and of great magic. Ceiu (Say You). Come to me."
There was a sudden crack of lightning and a massive figure of a living thunderbolt stood hovering over the ground in full Indian regalia.
The crowd took a great intake of breath before cheering madly.
"What do you wish Johnny."
"Manito we are here to entertain the children."
"Why didn't you say." The Thunder bolt pulled out of no where a saxophone and began playing hot jazz on it.
"T Bolt that isn't what I had in mind."
"Why didn't you say." A drum kit appeared which it played loudly.
The children were roaring with laughter.
And so the comic mayhem continued coming to an end with the thunderbolt giving an impressive display of star bolts after a springing tumbling John.
The applause was thunderous.
The next on was Archer in his Robin Hood clothes displaying incredible archery skill shooting moving targets, through rings and even shooting an apple off a boys head.
Star was next and gave a wonderful tumbling display fit for the Olympics. Like a star gymnast she put on a display on every piece of equipment before taking up her quarterstaff and putting on a balloon busting display.
Then Joker and his toys came in with Harley and the other clowns and gave a comic display that was second to none. He came in one time in a miniature tank playing the star spangled banner firing custard pies it was then that Harley noticed him. A short man swathed in a heavy overcoat on a warm day tends to stick in your mind.
At last they were all together taking their bows and acknowledging the crowd.
The portly man climbed over the barrier and began ranting in German and time for the Joker slowed up.
He saw the explosives around his body and the wire to the controller in his hand. He saw Star rush him throwing him to the floor and John and Alex landing on top of him to protect the children. For some reason he was behind the others but he soon caught up.
He saw Star prizing his fingers of the plunger.
"No!" He screamed but it was to late the plunger sprang upward setting of the explosives.
He felt the force of the blast smash into his legs throwing him to the floor shattering them completely.
As he tried to crawl to Harlequin she burst into flames engulfing her completely. The screams thundered into his ears and realised they where his own.
He never saw Harlequin again.
Guilt at surviving rush through him but he pushed it down out of his mind and away.
The hero's were arriving at his summons.
Hourman and Fairplay exited from the elevator to the lower levels.
"Joker? Welcome back buddy." Terry called.
"Good to see you Jack." Rex stuttered.
"Well well if it isn't the brainy twins." He roared with laughter.
A small model soldier waddled across the table waving old glory.
"Wait." He added.
Soon all the Hero's were assembled.
The Joker picked up the tray.
"My HaHa and Tear gas, Phobias Gas." He emptied his pockets on to the tray. "Mad Hatters control cards. Wizards wand."
Soon a pile of reagents were on the tray.
"Right boys and girls give. Someone is using our stuff for this scam so give. You to Hourman."
"My three different gas canisters." Sandman unloaded his special pistols and dropped the shells on the tray.
"My powder compact." Black Canary offered. "A pack of Devil Dust itself. Got with some trouble to Blockbuster and me I might add.
Reluctantly Hourman dropped a pill out of his egg timer amulet and put it on the tray.
"I think somebody has got to our stuff somehow and that is what they are using." He gave the tray to Fairplay. "All yours boys do your worse."
"You think its Miraco too." Terry asked.
"Don't you. It's the only tablet with that sort of effect. Get analysing boys. How long will it take."
"About an hour to eliminate these." Rex replied.
"Good get going."
The next half an hour was spent catching up with events.
Ted and Alan had joined the others in the Laboratory when Larry came in.
He carried a folder of notes under his arm and thunder on his face.
"We've been sucker punched." He moaned bitterly. "The same girl each time but different names. She using the persons emotions some how coupled with the drug. Whether it makes them more susceptible I don't know but it is effective with the drug giving heightened strength. The nun her piety, the petrol pump Johnny Envy, the Deb Pride and the nurse Anger."
"An empathy or some such. Could be?" Joker conceded. "Anything else?"
"The addresses were fake."
"Naturally." A radio crackled into life.
"All patrol cars to central park immediately super strong people on rampage." Another crackle. "We need urgent assist from Justice repeat urgent assist from Justice."
"You've got it buster. We'll what are you standing here for just go."
Joker watched the tell tails on the status board turn green with satisfaction.
Justice was back.
Central park like New York's ran the whole length of the centre of the city, a green oasis amongst all the steel and concrete.
By the lake three people were screaming and shouting, throwing garden furniture and generally being a nuisance.
Canary pulled up and disembarked a short distance away.
The three people looked terrified.
"Aliens." They cried. "We're being invaded!"
A rubbish bin hurtled over their heads.
"Listen Block Buster." She said to her pillion passenger. "Don't hold back because they won't."
"Yes Bird Lady." He trotted away and confronted a docker who immediately lashed out at him.
The blow to his chin should have laid him out but didn't even phase him.
He blinked and hit back making the man stagger.
"Filthy alien go home this is my planet."
Soon the were trading heavy blows that should have killed each other but did nothing. Blood was spilt but nothing more than that.
Canary circled round and attacked from the rear but made no impact.
Her Canary scream pounded into the man knocking him flying but he was soon at it again.
Sandman picked out a woman as his target. The gas gun delivered its charge dropping the smoking cartridge at her feet.
She staggered allowing him into her dream.
The grass had gone to be replaced by churned earth as alien monsters fired tight laser beams everywhere. The strongest feeling was fear. Heart pounding terror.
He fell to his knees as his psyche was pummelled. It ripped at his very being.
He tried to reason with her in her mind keeping his voice calm and controlled.
"It's alright." He told her. "It's just an illusion."
For a fleeting moment he got through to her and purged the vision but it re-established itself it was so strong.
But still he tried.
Dr Midnight threw a special grenade his patented black out bomb. A smoke grenade that produces large amounts of impenetrable black smoke, but in it he could see perfectly. Dancing around his prey like a ballroom dancer he tried to find the blind spot to hit. His knowledge of anatomy allowing him to find and hit nerve bundles.
He hit one numbing the mans arm then another that added to the problem.
Drawing out from his gauntlet a syringe he injected a strong sedative. And got back to see the effect if any. The figure reeled but still stood firm.
Another needle went in and another till four had pierced the man's skin like a tattooist parlour.
He turned dull eyes on the Doctor and asked plaintively.
"Am I sick Doctor?"
"Yes but we can put you right." Dr Midnite smiled as the man sank down to the ground and stared up at him sadly. "Is that okay."
"Yes Doctor that's fine." He shook and shivered. "When will I go to hospital Doctor?"
"So very soon."
The face was calm and serene.
Sandman still struggled with his charge fighting in his mind to beat the mans compulsion.
Blockbuster and his adversary faced each other exhaustedly over the churned grass looking for away to finish it. Circling each other like to cage fighters looking for an opening. Then it came as the man stumbled on the uneven ground allowing Blockbuster to land a power house uppercut that knocked him out completely. He fell to the ground with a crash.
As quickly as it started it was over and the hero's nursed their hurts.
Blockbuster was blooded but unbowed as he sank to the ground for his 'Bird lady' to attend to his cuts.
"This is Dr Midnite to Joker threat contained." Charles reported.
"This is Joker, understood." The radio crackled with a tinny sound. "Once the situation has been normalised come back to the house. Over and out."
The Sandman walked between the victims using his sleep gas to enter their dreams and relieve the illusion in their minds.
"The dose of drug hasn't been so high this time so there's a good chance they will recover well. At least I hope so." Dr Midnite reported. ""I'm getting Star Labs to pick them up but I've bad news the girl has died. There was nothing we could do, it was inevitable I suppose."
He didn't feel any joy only profound sadness about it, and vowed to go to the funeral to pay him respects.
In the HQ things were quite quiet other than Joker talking to himself. Muttering obscure poems and the like.
"What are they up to I wonder. Do they have a plan other than to attract our attention." He sighed. "Well they have done that alright."
Wildcat stretched in his seat by the radio monitors.
"The police are thanking us for our help which is nice to hear for a change."
"Nothing new from radio news. So it looks like things are calming down." Atom reported from the network board.
"Joker we're dealing with one woman who disguised herself as a serving girl, a petrol pump Johnny, someone we know who we come into contact with everyday." Larry said as Rex and Terry entered. "And they all lived in Anatolia heights and I used the word advisedly."
"Oh God my PA lives in Anatolia Heights." Rex stuttered. "She must have gotten the Miraco."
"Gernsback my lad has anyone else been to the HQ since it was shut down?" Joker asked turning to the Robot.
"Yes Master Joker. A woman called but for some reason I don't have her name recorded. Why is that?"
"Because you were told to forget it that's why." He paused deep in thought. "I have a sneaky feeling that I know who it might be. But I'll keep that to myself for the moment."
"Alan I've found you at last." Mary panted as she entered the room.
"What's wrong honey?" He asked concerned.
"I've had a touch with Devil Dust. Someone tried to peddle it to one of my girls. She said she said she was a dancer from Anatolia Heights."
Wildcats ears pricked up.
"Dats where Angels team mate comes from. She going to hit Angel!" He yelled in realisation.
Before anyone could stop him he was out of the room and away with Atom in his wake.
"Ted stop wait for the others." Alan yelled but it fell on deaf ears
"I suppose someone could explain what that was all about?" Joker moaned.
After Mary explained Joker became decisive.
"Joker to Justice assemble at the Theatre at the corner of third and main. Stat. Falcon top cover, Hourman and Fairplay will join you to guard the doors." His voice was crisp and sharp. "Target and next victim are possibly inside approach with caution."
He turned to Rex and Terry.
"Go boys. I'll meet you there if I can. But be careful we'll be expected. Who ever told the girl knew she'd tell Mary and Mary would tell Alan. She knows who we are!"
Justice was in action once again.
And Joker was proud.Chapter Twelve Emotions, Emotions.
Atom woke up with a splitting headache. He tried to open his eyes but to no avail at first.
"Wildcat?" He croaked.
"Welcome to the house of da living." Wildcats voice said from behind him. "We was sucker punched buddy. The door was booby trapped wid gas."
"I sorta guessed that big man." Atom was tied to a chair quite expertly. "Are you tied too."
"Yeah but wid steel cable but my legs are free hold on." With a waddle Wildcat came into view bound to a huge armchair.
"Cat if I can break the side of the chair with a few kicks the chains should loosen up."
"Who do ya think I am Houdini. No you've a better chance." Wildcat laughed. "I'll go behind your and see if I can break the back of the chair wid me legs without breaking yours."
He shuffled off behind Alan only for his legs to reappear either side of him. The legs strained breaking the wood on one side. With sweat pouring down his face he increased the pressure splitting the wood even further.
"The ropes are easing Cat just a little more."
With a loud crack the chair back splintered under the pressure to release Atom.
Once free it was only matters of moments to release Wildcat.
"Let's go buddy." Wildcat was ready to punch his way out of the room.
"No hide someone's coming." Atom warned hiding himself behind a rail of theatrical costumes whilst Wildcat leaped for the rafters.
Two heavies entered the room followed by a none descript woman around five foot four.
"Ah you have got free. I wondered if you would." She sighed. "I think I would have been disappointed if you hadn't. You can come out now."
"I'd rather not if you don't mind." Wildcat said from somewhere above her. "What's the beef girl."
"I have shall we say abandonment issues. Isn't that sad."
Wildcat watched from his vantage point her put on a sad face and felt a wave of untold misery flow over him.
"What have you done to me, woman?" He moaned rocking in his perch.
"You're so sad but I can take away your sadness, just come to me." She waved a hand in his general direction.
The desire to join her to get rid of the pain was strong. A desire he was barely able to resist.
The two heavies pulled apart looking for the two heros.
Wildcat dropped from the ceiling and took up a defensive stance ready for them though his heart wasn't in it. All he wanted to do was crawl into a corner and cry.
Atom shot out of his hiding point to stand beside his friend ready for the fray when the door opened and Sandman and Dr Midnite entered.
She swung round on them and gave a look of such fear that it drove them to their knees in terror.
She turned her face on Atom and Wildcat driving them to their knees with abject fear.
"Deal with them." She commanded the two brutes beside her.
To her amazement they got back too their feet.
"I was frightened every time I entered the ring, but I used it against my rivals. So this won't stop me." He was unsteady and sweating profusely.
Atom rocked back and forth.
Doctor Midnite regained his feet saying.
"I truly cannot see." He too prepared himself.
The fight was swift and brutal but eventually the two thugs lay unconscious on the floor.
"Not using the drug anymore?" Charles asked panting for breath.
"No not anymore I am strong enough without it." She said lifting her hand to her face. "My mask controls peoples emotions you see making them like me."
Suddenly there was a trumpet sound and a little soldier marched along the floor waving the tattered remains of old glory.
"Harley, Harley. Tsk Tsk." A voice mocked. "You should know better than start a party with out me."
The woman started.
"Poor, poor Harlequin." Joker was sat a short way off on a pile of costumes. "How are you girl?"
"Mr J?!" She was obviously startled but continued in a high pitched simpering voice. "Can't grumble Mr J. The saw bones patched me up as best they could. Do you like my mask by the way with it I can control peoples emotions, like yours."
She turned to him. "I could make you love me."
"But you won't as that would be a false victory and you would know it. It would eat you up." Joker said reasonably.
"Hi Mr J." Another high pitched voice called as a figure dressed in a Harlequin costume bounced into the area. "Long time no see apple dumpling."
The new figure pirouetted in front of them. The costume though of a Harlequin was skin tight and threatening to fall off at any moment.
"Angel?" Wildcat whispered to himself.
"Who's the doll boss?"
The woman was watching in complete bewilderment.
"She says she is my Harlequin."
"She's a fraud boss, I'm already here." She laughed merrily. "Shall I bop her."
"I'm not the fraud!" The woman yelled. "Tell her Mr J, tell her."
"Now who is the real one. Lets see shall we. Eeny Meeny Moe." If the Joker was surprised at there being two Harlequins' he didn't show it. "Now you don't expect me to believe you when you don't even look like my Harley."
Sadly that wasn't quite true as she did indeed look like Harley but in the same way a wax work would. Totally devoid of feelings, of any animation at all.
"It is me Joker honest." She simpered. "I'm wearing a mask a special mask."
Slowly she began to explain.
She told them how she was rushed to England to the special burns unit where she began having skin and bone grafts to rebuild her face. They put a mask on her to hold it all in place.
"Why did no one come to see me?" She asked.
"I wrote you letters but you never replied so eventually I stopped writing."
"I couldn't find anything to write about and I was in such pain." She replied. "Oh but the mask began letting me feel peoples real emotions and I found I could manipulate theirs."
"Why the killings Harley you didn't need to do those did you." Joker said sadly.
"I had to get your attention to show you what you had done to me." She cried. "You abandoned me."
She pulled out a pistol and aimed it at him.
"No you're not my Harley she loved me." He said cruelly. "Harley knows I would never abandon her. I wrote to her every week but I didn't get any replies so I eventually stopped. You don't even look like her."
The woman screeched and put her hand to her face and peeled of the mask to reveal the bone white smooth face beneath. Her face had been repaired but she looked nothing like she did before. Her face was more like a mask than the mask she wore.
"Oh my poor Harley." Joker said as the true Harlequin was revealed.
"It was so painful Jack as they took skin grafts from other parts of the body to rebuild my face. But this mask was so good. I could feel other people's emotions and slowly found I could manipulate them. It was so simple to do.
But when I got back to Boston I wanted to see you but you were disbanded. So I had to get you back together again. I decided to attract your attention but each time the patient died. I didn't want that."
Sadly Joker realised that though she was repaired physically mentally she was very unwell indeed. She put on the mask again.
"I could make you all love me you know." She pulled a loving dreamy face.
Wildcat felt instantly in love with her.
"Harlequin I love you darling. Shall I make the others go away so we are totally alone?" He said.
"No it's me she loves not you so step down ugly." Atom practically swooned. "See the way she looks at me."
"In ya dreams"
"Perhaps I should make you afraid of me again."
"That won't work Harley. We can still operate." Dr Midnite said having regained his breath. "Put the gun down and we will try to help you."
The gun barked twice before the owner fell to the floor quite dead.
With tears in his eyes Joker slid off the stack of clothes and crawled his way to his lover and cradled her in his arms knowing in his heart of hearts that she really died when she got so badly burnt. Her mind had broken at that point and never mended. Now it was too late.
"I've got the drop on Justice and a new weapon to boot. Bring me the mask." Masterson said.
"How can I put this buddy. No." A blackout bomb landed at his feet along with a gas grenade.
Justice went into action leaving a few sore heads, chins and bodies behind.
But it was soon over leaving the thugs disillusioned and defeated.
Justice had won but also had lost. But they were back.
Epilogue 'Justice' reformed
Two Weeks Later.
"Ladies and Gentlemen I call this extraordinary meeting to order." Hawk thumped the gavel down on to the wooded block on the desk. He looked magnificent with his wings unfurled.
Nearly the whole of 'Justices' roster were present.
The Bat stood with arms folded to one side of the others, Nights Wing and the Cat by his side. He looked impressive in his all black bat costume and impassive face.
The ghostly Spectre towered over Police Sergeant Stephanie Corrigan, his host with cool menace whilst the dark red clad Quasar chatted animatedly with the magicians Zatara and Miss Sargon.
Darklight in her tight black cat suit held Lightning Flashes hand affectionately. Lightning Flashes silver costume scintillated gently in the harsh fluorescent light.
"I believe we are all here." Hawk said bringing the meeting to order. "Amazon is the link to Paradise Island working."
On the Amazons magic mirror an image of the Amazon appeared. She was a tall hansom African woman dressed in a Greek military uniform. Beside her stood a equally tall blond woman, Superwoman, holding two babies one in each arm.
"The first order of the day is to congratulate Superwoman on the birth of her daughter and son. Hearty congratulations to you both. What have you called them Clara?" Hawk asked.
"Superboy and Powergirl." She said excitedly.
"No Clara what are their names?" Hawk tried again after all the good natured laughter had died down.
"Oh! Oh sorry. He's." She said lifting the baby in her right arm. "Clark Louis and she." She lifted the second up. "Is Karren Linda."
"Very nice names." Hawk said tactfully. "And now for the second thing on the agenda. Joker?"
Suddenly a circus theme blared out tinny from a toy bandsman as Joker carefully walked in on his artificial legs. He reached a chair and thankfully sank into it.
"Joker was instrumental in dealing with the devil dust situation though the outcome was not as anyone would wish. He was the co-ordinator and did the task so well that I put it to the vote. All those in favour of Joker being our new coordinator say aye." Hawk was gratified that there wasn't one dissenting voice among them. "So be it. Joker is now our co-ordinator and to help him may I introduce two new members."
Suddenly a squeaky voiced woman in a Harlequins costume pogoed into the centre of the room followed by an equally squeaky voiced woman dressed as Columbine on a unicycle.
"Hello Mr J." Said one.
"Hello Mr J." Said the other.
"Two of them!" Joker moaned. "I didn't know when I was well off."
"Harlequin and Columbine." Introduced Hawk. "And now our third new member Blockbuster."
The big man shyly stepped into the limelight and waved a hand.
"Our fourth new member Lynx."
A lithe female form catapulted on to the table top near Wildcat with gymnastic skill.
"Hello Cat." Angel said. "I'm ready to join you on patrol now."
Wildcat stood open mouthed in surprise before dropping down on one knee.
"Angel wood ya consent." He whipped off his mask to become Ted Grant again. "To be my wife."
She looked down at him unfazed by the change.
"Yeah I better. No one else will take ya, ya big lunk." She said tears running down her face.
A huge cheer went up followed by handshakes and slaps on the back.
Hand in hand they followed the others into the large conference room for refreshments till only Myra and Charles remained.
Myra looked at Charles sadly before plucking up the courage to speak.
"Charles will you marry me." She said simply.
"Myra I really am going blind. I'm finding it hard to see in daylight even with my lenses. Could you take on a blind man?"
"Yes I think I could. I did for all those times I though you were blind." She kissed him tenderly. "You haven't answered me Charles."
"Hurry up you two before Blockbuster eats all the food and leaves you nothing." Ted called from the doorway.
"There's only one answer I can give you Myra." He paused very much aware of Ted watching. "That's a resounding yes. I will marry you."
Ted roared with laughter making Myra blush.
"Angel honey looks like a double wedding. Charles and Myra are getting spliced too."
A roar of approval split the air.
Charles took Myra's hand and led her into the room to meet the happy crowd.
'Justice' had reformed and was happy and strong so evil doers despair.