Jack Cole's Higrass Twins 1940: Money Madness! - It's been far too long since I've posted anything new here at Cole's Comics. Most of my comics scholarship and writing energy has been directed towards bo...
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Dusty Video Box Presents: Wedding Blitz: Prologue
By M. Hadley
Two vicious crime waves dominated the Bluff City at the present time. One, the heat wave, was a crime against nature, or at least perceived as such by the citizens staggering about in record high temperatures, powerless to deviate from their daily routines. The other, the theft of air conditioners, was a manmade epidemic, tangible and potentially controllable. But the police were not omnipotent. As much as they stood behind the veneer of invincibility, they were far from infallible.
The Police Director realized this when he entered his office and practically threw the door against its frame with all of his might. For the first time in his decade-long career, he was apologetic for failing to protect an unrepentant criminal.
Granted, the air-conditioner thief was alive, but as far from well as one could get. Most of the bones in his body were broken, and he was still a mess even after the paramedics and doctors patched him up. He was the latest in a string of battered and broken criminals, crimes ranging from peddling drugs to gangbanging, which had begun to stack up in ICUs across the city.
With each hospitalized victim came a sliver of a story. The initial idea of the perp being a man was dashed by the second survivor, nearly beaten half to death while attempting to hold-up a gas station. With wired-shut jaws, he could only pantomime a description of a masked young woman in scanty, sexy clothing and platform sandals, with long, glittering purple hair. The various detectives on the case assumed the obvious: it was a vengeful prostitute. The local sex worker population was brought into law enforcement’s crosshairs. Arrests, far more than necessary, were made, and many had their civil rights ignored.
But the ultraviolent vigilante struck again, nearly crippling victims three (drug peddler), four, five, six (members of various street gangs), seven and eight (car thieves). It seemed to be a game to her…almost crossing the life-taking rubicon, only to draw back just enough to leave them wishing they were dead. Over the subsequent weeks, what had much wounded the Police Director was not the sheer impossibility of catching this newfound menace.
It was the approval the public had for this supposed crimefighter. This was especially evident in the crime-infested inner city areas, the textbook examples of urban squalor. The thousand-plus calls of weeks past had dwindled to a mere hundred or so, and these had more to do with medical or fire emergencies than anything dealing with criminal elements. In one month since the appearance of the enigmatic individual, unlawful acts had dwindled into the single digits. The city’s drug empire was nearly eradicated. The local gangbangers and hoodlums hid in their homes, and some even turned themselves over to the police for protection. Thieves thought twice before going through with their misdeeds. Even sagging pants, once the epitome of cool to the city’s youth, became obsolete, for fear of the metropolis’s new guardian targeting them as well.
The Director returned from his torturous reminiscence starring at his desk. A small glass of stark brown returned his glare. He downed the liquid courage in a flash, wiping his bearded lips with an audible sigh as he returned both glass and bottle to the top drawer of his desk.
“Bring her in.” he shouted, quickly popping a handful of peppermints to mask the Scotch.
The door to his office opened, accompanied by a chorus of chains. Two officers entered, escorting what seemed to be an employee from one of the strip clubs in town. She was a beautiful young woman, dark skinned, with lengthily purple ringlets that glittered and shimmered with every step she took. A silver domino mask hid her identity, but only slightly so; the Director was sure his officers would discover it in due time. A dark red halter top, with a silver trident insignia, and a matching fringed skirt clung to her sleek supple frame, both accentuated by a glowing blood red neck chocker and silver studded belt around her waist. Sparkling silver platform sandals graced her feet, coordinating with glittering silvery biker-style gloves on her hands and thin silver chains that entwined her slender arms. The chains were connected to two large silver bracelets on her wrists.
Her glossy pink lips twisted into a smirk. “First time I received a reaction like that.”
The Director guiltily closed his gawking jaw. “I was confused…didn’t know if you took coins or just dollar bills.”
She guffawed loudly, brazenly. “Don’t let sexist remarks ruin our relationship before it gets off the ground, Director.”
“Says the spokesmodel for Christal’s.” The Director sneered. “And what relationship? Between officer and prisoner?”
“Seriously?” she snorted, visually annoyed. “Seriously?! That explains the ‘Chained Heat’ scenario here.”
She held up handcuffed wrists before her bosom, and shuffled slightly, showcasing the legcuffs clamped on her ankles.
“That will be all, officers.” The Director nodded to his subordinates flanking the vigilante. They snapped to attention guiltily, embarrassingly caught within their own leering, and slowly retreated from their superior’s office, gaping at the scantily clad perpetrator as they went. As the door quietly closed behind them, the Director sighed, rubbing his eyes wearily with his index finger and thumb.
The masked beauty fidgeted slightly, gently biting her lower lip. “Speak your mind.”
“Excuse me?” the Director could not hide his annoyance at her boldness.
“If you have something to say, it’s time to be honest.” She said in a wondrously clear voice, her words enunciated perfectly. The Director could detect an overwhelming Southern American twang, however. She was clearly local, and more importantly, from the greater metropolitan area.
“Honest?” he repeated her last word.
She nodded, her shimmering ringlets bouncing. “That’s how partnerships work, right?”
The Police Director raised an eyebrow, staring at the stunning woman in silence, before exploding into laughter.
“What the hell is going on?” he gasped between chuckles. “What is this bullshit about ‘partnerships’ and ‘relationships’? You charge by the hour or minute?”
Her forehead wrinkled slightly in annoyance, but she maintained her smirk. “You need me.”
“I need you?” the Director snorted. “I’m married, sweetheart. I can get what you’re offering for free at the hous-”
“God…” she sighed, her golden brown eyes rolling in the slits of her mask. “I knew this was a stupid idea, but I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt…”
“Yeah, walking into the top cop’s office and surrendering yourself, the object of a city-wide manhunt…” The Director nonchalantly reclined in his chair, folding his fingers together before his chest. “I definitely did not count brilliance among one of your virtues.”
The masked woman held up her cuffed hands. “These, I can take. But don’t you dare lump me in with those dirtbags you refuse to collar. I’m the one out there cleaning up the streets, while you and your men cruise around, terrorizing the innocent people while in bed with the guilty ones!”
“All you did was violated civil rights, lady!” the Director spat back, nearly jumping from his seat. “You gave those criminals the weapons they need to play the system!”
For the first time, the woman seemed visually taken aback. “I…I don’t understand…” she whispered, uncertainty revealed in her eyes.
“Attempted murder. Assault. Reckless Endangerment. Wrongful Arrest. Kidnapping.” He paused after each offense. “Yes, you defeated the perps, left them broken and bleeding in the gutter. But did you think about evidence? Testifying in court? Miranda Rights? Or were you all about the glory? You were too busy trying to show how much better you were than the big, bad cops, right?”
“It…it was never about that.” She said quietly.
“And that makes only one person thoroughly convinced.” The Director snarled. “Because I’m not. My subordinates are not. And the judges won’t be. And the criminals are counting on it. All of those charges I listed are levied at you, by them. By chasing the so-called ‘bad guys’, you became one yourself.”
“But…that’s…impossible.” She stared down at the desk, avoiding the Director’s piercing gaze. “It’s not…supposed to be…like this…”
The Director’s tone and glare softened as he witnessed the bravado melt from the vigilante’s demeanor. “Child…what did you expect?”
She sighed, her defiant shoulders drooping in disillusionment. “Justice. I expected the law to be…well, the law. Protecting us. Everybody.”
“I…I get it.” The Director nodded his head in sudden realization. “That’s why you were crazy enough to waltz in here, with my men looking for you. Batman.”
“My…my dad…he loves Batman.” A small smile of embarrassment crept across her face. “I’m not just talking about the TV show from the 60s. I’m talking about the comics. My dad had the very first Batman…Detective Comics #27. He read me Batman comics every night before I went to bed-”
The Director leaned back in his chair, rubbing his eyes again and sighing. “I don’t know whether to laugh or be insulted.”
“How can you be-?”
“Don’t you think I feel terrible about our crime-rate?!” the Director growled, slamming a fist on his desk. “No, it’s not that bad! I’m not going to start depending on an untrained, unlicensed civilian to do the job of honest, fucking cops!”
“Civilian?!” the masked woman half snarled, half chuckled. “I put those creeps in the hospital, without much effort! Memphis needs me! You need a dozen of me, but you only have one. One! Why can’t you see that?!”
“Because I’m not going to be some idiot, twiddling his thumbs, and at the sign of trouble, call you on a red phone! How dare you…the sheer arrogance! Who the hell to you think you are?!”
The masked woman opened her glossy lips to respond, but closed them slowly. Her legcuffs clinked as she turned her back to him, facing the door.
“I used to live in Harpercrest, years ago.” She said slowly. “Do you know where that is?”
“Yes, in eastern Tennessee.” He answered. “That was where one of the major gang operations was, wasn’t it?”
“They ran the city.” She continued. “And the police could do nothing. The Commissioner was helping them. The law had been twisted, warped, for their benefit. My father and I…we sat there, watching this wonderful neighborhood we lived in and this beautiful city that the people had helped built, turn into a drug-infested mecca for gangbangers. And the law would do nothing. We were helpless. People tire of helplessness, Director. They tire of being afraid, of hiding in their houses, cowering before a dark world.”
“Yeah, the imagery is nice.” The Director said impatiently. “But what this has to do with anything?”
“My friend was named Demetria.” She stared down at her wrists, seemingly ignoring him. “She was a he, really…a pre-op transsexual, who was in love with the leader of the Disciples. They had…they had killed…a few people I knew about…that I cared for…loved. But it was my friend…when she and that guy…when they were murdered in that drive-by-shooting, no cops came to rescue us. It was me, it was my dad, it was my neighbor, left alone…to fend for ourselves.”
Her resolute voice was wavering now, on the verge of tears. The Director’s plush seat creaked loudly as he shifted uncomfortably, not knowing how to respond. The conversation between them was definitely the most bizarre he had experienced as a public servant.
“But...but…the Feds…didn’t they crack down…?” he stammered a reply.
She glanced over her shoulder. “Who do you think handed them those gangsters on a silver platter?”
The Director could do nothing but lean back in his chair, his mind absorbing the information.
“Harpercrest needed hope in their darkest hour.” Her attention returned to her wrists once again. “They needed a symbol. Something…above the law. Something that represented the extremes of morality…an unrepentant good for relentless evil. The problem with laws is…in the end, they protect everyone…the good and the bad. I’ve watched ‘Law And Order’, Director, and even they lose…and that’s fantasy. Real life is a hundred times worse.”
“So…you’re proposing that I leave my city in your little manicured hands?” the Director sat up, cocking his head to the side with eyebrows raised.
“Oh…so possessive. ‘Your’ city…”
“I’m proposing nothing of a sort.” The masked woman turned around slowly. “Just offering you a Batman for your Commissioner Gordon.”
Her slender shoulders stiffened with determination, and the self-assured smirk reappeared on her glossy pink lips. Temporarily overwhelmed by her charms, it took the Police Director several seconds to realize that the mysterious female was twirling the pair of unlocked handcuffs around a silver manicured finger. Before he could move a hair, she was a blur, moving faster than a human thought. Her lean, muscular legs wrapped around the Director’s neck, the legcuffs’ chain trapping his startled gasp while simultaneously pinning him to his chair.
“You have a job to do, Director.” She whispered harshly, staring down at him from her bizarre sitting position. “You’re the ultimate representative of the law in this town, so let’s face it…you’re not going to let me go and do my thing. I am going to leave, and I am going to be what the police can’t be…an unfettered symbol of hope. A manifestation of wish fulfillment. I’m going to stand up to the drug pushers, the murderers, the rapists, the gangsters, those bullies of society…and I’m going to break them. I’m going to break them without all the politics, without all of the red tape…but I will leave them in one piece for you and your cronies.”
Arching her upper body backward, the masked woman leisurely unraveled her legs and somersaulted rearward in one fluid motion. She landed neatly before the Director’s desk, her arms crossed against her chest, the ubiquitous grin on her gorgeous covered face. The Director’s throat thundered in a coughing fit as he embarrassingly rubbed his raw throat.
He furiously fumbled with his desk phone before snatching it up and screaming. “Summon all units, now!”
Tauntingly wagging a silver fingernail, the vigilante knelt down, inserting it into the keyhole of one of the legcuffs and jimmying around with the lock for a second. She chuckled as she was rewarded with an audible click. The legcuffs fell to the ground just as the door to the Director’s office was thrown open, revealing a phalanx of uniformed officers, all hoisting sidearms.
“Hands above your head-” the first officer through the door screamed, his service revolver aimed at the purple-tressed crimefighter. However, his mental facilities, as well as his physical actions, were merely human; he faced a being that could move well beyond that. Before he realized it, her hands were wrapped around his wrist and he was hurled over her shoulder as easily as a feather, head over heels. His unexpected flight took him towards the Director’s desk. The city’s top cop barely was able to leap out of his seat and to the ground, missing the resulting collision by inches. From a sideway view from the floor, he watched helplessly as the vigilante laid waste to many of his cops.
“What do I call you, ‘Batman’?” he shouted over the violence.
She lanced out with a neat high roundhouse kick, sending a female officer spinning through the air. The poor civil servant’s descent was unseen, but the resulting cacophony of furniture breaking was definitely heard.
“‘Guardian Angel’ would be a little too dramatic…and trademarked.” She said over her shoulder as she stepped out of the office. “So let’s stick with ‘Gossamer’ for now.”
“‘Gossamer’.” The Police Director repeated as he watched the retreating figure make her escape from police custody. In the end, it was useless to compete with a champion of the people. He was left with an irony, a choice between two fictional roles to play. He could be the Gordon figure of the Batman mythos, and serve as an ally within the realm of legality, bending it to help achieve Gossamer’s seemingly impossible goals. Or, he could be the Sheriff of Nottingham, doggedly pursuing the masked beauty because, as the ultimate representative of Memphis law, he would be a hypocrite not to do so.
Of course, no one ever knew the Sheriff of Nottingham’s real name.
On to The Blitz!