“I always hated that guy,” said Cully Morrigan, smoke rolling up from the barrel of a .45.
“Blowing his brains out tends to demonstrate that,” said the shaky Paul Twitchell.
“Do you mind?” asked the shaken Kathy Kane Carson from under her pillow muffler.
“Do you think the jig is up?” Twitch asked his partner as he knocked the pillow.
“Getting rid of witnesses is standard stuff,” said Morrigan, holstering his weapon. “Must have figured Bobo would go along quietly as long as he thought the broad was alive.”
“I am not a ‘broad,'” said Kathy. She worked her wrists for a second and slid her hands from the clumsily tied rope.
Men began to flock to the door of the trailer. Morrigan grinned at them evenly as he thought of their next move.
“Burkowitz is long gone with Bobo,” said Cully Morrigan as he pushed past the roustabouts.
Paul Twitchell followed right behind, using his partner’s shark grin to clear the way for him. “I still have that phone number,” he said.
“I know you two,” Kathy said from behind them. “You gave me the twenty for a cab in Gotham.”
“I’m sure you’re mistaken,” said Cully.
“You must be joking,” said Kathy. “No one is going to forget that grin.”
“What do you want, lady?” asked Twitch, cutting through the exchange that was bound to follow smoothly.
“I want an explanation,” Kathy said irritably. “Who are you guys, for one thing?”
“I am Paul Twitchell, and this is Cully Morrigan, and we’re looking into this clown-snatching with our chief.”
“Are you here to pay the ransom?” asked Kathy.
“No,” said the gunman evenly.
The three of them had been walking, and Kathy found herself at the front gate. The odd pair climbed into a car and drove away, leaving the motorcyclist to stare at the back of the rented sedan.
“Oh…” said Kathy as she ran to the place her motorcycle was stored between shows. Those buffoons weren’t leaving her out of this without a reason.
Kathy Carson pulled her bike out of its storage rack. She kick-started it and roared off after the black sedan. She watched them pull into a diner, and took the time to top the tank off while she waited. She was uncomfortably aware that she was wearing a dress and heels, which were not a good choice for riding. But there was nothing she could do about it now that she was following those two around. At least she had presence of mind to bring her purse along this time so she could pay for gas.
Finally, Blake’s aides came out of the diner. The sun had nearly gone down as they drove into Augusta. They headed for one house in particular on the edge of the city.
Kathy was right behind, thinking that she had time to secure riding clothes, but hadn’t because those two goofs could have given her the slip while she was shopping. She pulled the bike behind a tree when she saw the sedan slide to a halt.
The two men got out of the car and jogged to the dark house. Twitchell tried the front door and found it unlocked. He walked inside, stumbling at the last second. A silenced bullet passed through the place his head would have been if he hadn’t stumbled to one side.
Cully Morrigan leaned in the doorway and blazed away with both hands. Kathy winced in her hiding spot when she heard the loud roar of the cannons. The trick rider ran up to the house as Morrigan entered the place. I thought Blake was a top-notch investigator — a professional, she told herself as she ran.
Kathy paused at the door of the house. Cully Morrigan had the barrel of one of the pistols pointed at the door when she looked inside the place. “Don’t do that again,” the gunman said as he lowered the weapon. “You almost got ventilated.”
“Looks like Lefty told them we were on the case,” said Twitch, looking down at the four bodies on the floor.
“He didn’t tell them — it was us,” said Morrigan as he examined a chair off to one side. “That’s Joey Wexxon, and he wouldn’t try to ambush me if he knew it was me coming.”
“Point taken,” said Twitch. “What you got there?”
“I think it’s a clue,” Cully said. He passed the chair over to his partner.
Kathy peered over the slim man’s shoulder. H.H. Aero black box in case 12, said the message. “What does it mean?” Kathy asked.
“It means you need to butt out,” said Cully. “Go back to the circus, and we’ll get back to you.”
“You’re crazy,” said Kathy. “You wouldn’t even be involved if it weren’t for me, so you can just stuff it in your ear.”
Twitch shook uncontrollably, hand over his mouth. “Laugh it up,” said Morrigan testily.
“Let’s go,” said Twitch. “I don’t want to be answering questions from the locals when they get here.”
“Where are we going?” Kathy asked. Cully glared at the cyclist.
“Come on,” said Twitch. “We can argue about this later. Bobo needs us.”
Blake’s associates walked out to their sedan and pulled away. Kathy jumped on her recovered cycle and followed.
Kathy Carson rode behind the automobile on her motorcycle to the local airport. The sedan rolled around to a rental hangar just off the landing strip. She rolled to a stop just outside the door.
The two men were greeted by a blond man sitting on the entrance ladder of the hangared plane. The stranger smiled when he saw the trick rider.
“Hello,” said Hop Harrigan with a smile.
“Did Blake leave anything here with you, Hop?” asked Morrigan.
“Sure,” said Hop. “One of those equipment cases he lugs around.”
“Good,” said Morrigan, boarding the plane. He already knew there would be a black box in that case. He made sure to disarm the security measures on the locks before opening the case and pulling out the desired object.
A simple finger push turned the screen on. A red arrow pointed with a numerical range finder spinning upward in one corner.
How did Blake get this stuff? Morrigan thought as he ran down the ladder. “Time to go,” he told his erstwhile companions. “Not you, sweetheart,” he said to Kathy. “You’re staying.”
“No way,” said the cyclist. “Bobo is my friend, and I hired you to help him. So I’m going.”
“No,” said Morrigan, and disabled her bike with two spaced shots. “You stay.”
The men got in the car and drove away, leaving Kathy fuming with anger.
Kathleen Kane Carson will not be balked from her goal by some lackeys, she fumed. My days as Batwoman might be long behind me, but I’m not about to give up so easily! Climbing the ladder into the Jenny, she went to the back looking for something to help repair her cycle. She saw that the equipment case was open and decided to look inside.
There were numerous gadgets, but none that looked useful to her, except a can labeled sealant. She took the can and went out to her injured motorcycle.
When I get my hands on him… she thought as sprayed the can’s contents on the holes from the bullets that had been fired through the bike’s wheels. She smiled at the results as the foam hardened into a rough patch over the ruptures. She would be able to ride in a matter of minutes.
Kathy went back inside the plane and dumped the contents of her purse out next to the equipment case; it was too bad she didn’t have any of her old Batwoman gadgets with her, but she would make do with what she found. She took everything small and mobile and packed it into her bag, then she placed a box similar to the one Morrigan had been holding on top. She smiled when a finger push showed her the way to go.
A coverall in a utility closet attracted her attention. She quickly pulled it on over her dress before she left the airport, then found a cap and tucked her long dark locks into it. Now she didn’t have to worry about her skirt or hair flapping in the breeze.
Kathy mounted the repaired bike and started after Blake’s associates. She would show them not to push her around when it was her show. They wouldn’t even be horning in if it wasn’t for her.
The repaired tires gave Kathy a bumpy ride, but she was riding behind the black sedan as it rolled toward its goal. She guessed that Bobo had some kind of homing beacon on his person, and that’s what the black box indicated. She had not seen anything like it before, but she knew it was leading her toward her goal. Where had Blake gotten such a device?
She thought about that television back at his headquarters in Gotham. No one she knew had a device like that, unless it was a thinking machine of some kind, but it would be years before they could be miniaturized like that. Maybe someone like Superman or the retired JSA would have something like that, but surely not a common adventurer.
Kathy found that the trail led to a small hotel. The car drove right on past before pulling into a roadside diner. The cyclist did the same thing, but pulled into a gas station on the other side of the street. She asked the attendant for some new tires to replace the patched old ones. He told her he would have to call around to find a set. She smiled and said, “Thank you,” as she waited for Blake’s men to do something.
Her husband Jack was in Europe visiting family and had brought their little son Phillip with him. She would have been there with them if it hadn’t been for her prior commitments with the circus. She decided not to tell him about her adventure until he got home; there was no need for the poor dear to worry over nothing.
Night came, and the injured tires had been replaced before the three men crossed the street and walked into the hotel. Kathy kickstarted the motorcycle and rode it down to the hotel. She pulled up next to the building. The black box told her that her quarry was inside the compact structure. Killing the engine, she dismounted and climbed a drain pipe to the roof. She entered the building through a roof access.
Kathy walked the carpeted halls until she suddenly saw Morrigan and the others. She ducked back out of sight. As the men prepared to break down one of the doors, others along the hall opened, and men poured out with weapons drawn. Blake’s men held their hands up in surrender. The trio were disarmed and pushed into the indicated room without fanfare.
She leaned against the wall quietly as she thought about what she was going to do. Evidently, Bobo had been used to trap any rescuers, and it was up to the former Batwoman to save the day.
Kathy ran down the hall to where a window led to the face of the building. She opened it, judging hand and footholds with a practiced eye. An easy swing out, and she was making her way around the outside of the hotel. She paused when she found the room where Blake’s men had been herded.
The kidnappers seemed to be waiting on something. The three had been tied next to a fourth man, whom she recognized as Bobo from his slumped profile.
Kathy checked the room next door and found it empty. She knew anyone could see her if they just happened to look up at her perch, so she slid into the hotel room to wait like the others.
Whatever was going to happen was going to happen soon. There was no doubt about that. That had to be the only reason that the men had been kept alive. The former Batwoman had recognized one of the thugs from a case she’d once shared with Batman, and she figured the Joker was behind the snatching. (*) They must be waiting for him to arrive, she reasoned.
[(*) Editor’s note: The Earth-One version of this story, upon which the Earth-Two version is loosely based, is “The Great Clayface-Joker Feud,” Batman #159 (November, 1963).]
About an hour later, Kathy heard footsteps in the hall. She went to the door and listened. A small group of men were coming down the hall, talking in whispers. She ran to the window and wished she knew enough about the equipment she had stolen from the plane to use it properly.
She swung out to look in the window of the neighboring room. Kathy gasped when she saw the leader of the newcomers. It was Bobo, still wearing his clown makeup, in a purple suit and a dark coat. The supposed victim raised a hand to his face. A few wipes, and the grinning face of the Joker was revealed.
He walked over and punched Cully Morrigan in the jaw hard enough to rock his head back. “I owe you a lot more for that bullet,” he said, hate dripping in his voice.
“@#$#@ you,” the gunman said with equal venom.
The Joker half-turned away, then brought his hand back in a swing for the bleachers. Morrigan was thrown on his back as the chair tipped over.
“Who have we here?” the Joker said as he raised the other Bobo’s head to look him in the face.
The false Bobo smiled. Then, with a single heave of his arms, he snapped his bonds. One hand ripped a false face away to reveal a familiar cowl and lantern jaw.
“Batman!” said the Joker and Kathy simultaneously.
The sudden appearance of the underworld’s nemesis had thrown the crowd in a confusion. Kathy slipped into the room unnoticed and began freeing Blake’s men as Batman fell upon the gathered thugs with powerful blows.
Paul Twitchell stood up, the rope falling away from him. He ran over to where Cully was struggling on the floor, and a simple swipe of his pocket knife freed the gunman. Morrigan jumped to his feet and threw himself on the Joker with the ferocity of a wildcat and twice the noise.
Kathy, Hop Harrigan, and Twitch joined the fray as men flew through the air from the open-handed slaps Batman delivered. The Joker’s men tried to retreat, but several powerful hands grabbed the unwary, and weaker punches and their kicks soon settled the contest.
Only two men still struggled in the room. Cully Morrigan had the Joker by the neck and was throttling him like a cook preparing a chicken for dinner.
Batman put his hand on Cully’s shoulder. “That is enough,” he said quietly but sternly.
The gunman looked at Batman in anger, then slowly calmed visibly. “You’re right,” he said as he dropped his longtime enemy to the floor.
The Joker went for something under his coat as he rubbed at his neck. A swift kick from Cully’s shoe banged his head against the floor, putting the Joker to sleep as effectively as the Sandman’s gas.