Floyd Lawton sat in his cell in the Gotham State Prison. Night had long since fallen, and he lay on his bunk, trying to sleep.
Lawton was somewhat excited. Tomorrow he would have a parole hearing, and he might be able to get out, if things went well. He was also a little worried. He had tried to kill Gotham City’s most famous resident. (*) His model career as a convict would have to stand against that and the fact that ninety percent of Batman’s other foes hatched scheme after scheme upon release or escape.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Man Who Replaced Batman,” Batman #59 (June-July, 1950).]
The man once known as Deadshot thought his chances were less than zero as he considered things. He knew he was steeling himself against disappointment and failed expectations. It was better to think his parole would be denied than to think he would be free again. Lawton didn’t want to consider the loss of his parole.
A light played on the outside of Lawton’s cell. He walked over to the window, wondering what was going on. A helicopter had come over the wall and was running a light over the outside of the cell block. It paused when it fell on Lawton’s window.
A man leaned out of the helicopter and aimed a rifle at the cell wall. Lawton recognized the rifle grenade a moment before it was fired at the cell block. He threw himself under the bunk, and pulled the mattress down as a weak shield. The grenade blasted the wall in with a thunder that set Lawton’s ears to ringing. He crawled from his cover as hands gripped him and carried him out of his cell.
Alec Swan and Professor Carter Nichols drove through Australia’s famed Outback. Swan pointed out markers as they passed.
The Luna Foundation had found a burial site unlike anything Swan had ever seen. They had asked Nichols to come over from the United States to look at it in the hopes that his knowledge of human history would give them some insight as to how long it had been buried in the desert. Nichols was glad to get away from wintery Gotham City for warmer temperatures.
The jeep topped a low hill, revealing a pit dug out of the earth. Tents had been thrown up around the edge of the pit for the people at work. Swan paused to allow his colleague a chance to see the extent of the excavation before driving down to park beside the main tent.
Adam Blake stared at the hole in the Gotham State Prison cell block. His metallic green eyes gleamed slightly as he examined the wreckage. “You say a rifle grenade did this?” Blake said quietly.
“That’s right,” said the warden. “They came in and took Lawton out as pretty as you please. I haven’t seen anything like it since I’ve been in charge here.”
“If it makes you feel better, Lawton resisted his rescue,” said the mystery-man. “I think two, maybe three men dragged him out to their transport. Either he was injured in the blast or stunned by the men when they kidnapped him. There was a struggle involved.”
“What will you do now?” the warden asked.
Adam Blake stood in the empty cell for a second. “I am going to find out what this abduction was about and get Floyd Lawton back,” he said in his quiet way. “If you will excuse me, I will get started.”
Blake walked out of the cell, ideas formed and discarded in the three steps he had taken to the entrance. He was ready to begin as soon as he had walked by the warden on his way to the outside of the prison.
He was allowed through the multiple doors to the outside. He got into a black sedan and drove to his headquarters in Gotham City. He had many things to do if he wanted to get to the bottom of this.
Blake pulled his car into a concealed entrance at the end of the altered block of buildings he owned. He cut the motor and walked through to his lab. He hung up his coat while he waited for his television to warm up on its table. A typewriter was hooked to the television. Lightning-quick typewriting produced an image in color. Blake nodded to himself as his eyes gleamed at the new information.
Some more typing, and a sheet of paper began feeding out of a black box hooked up to the typewriter from the floor. Blake took the list and studied it intently. Paul Twitchell was perfect for the job that he needed done. He picked up the phone and placed the call to bring his associate on board the investigation.
Paul Twitchell walked through the airport with the chief’s list in his hand. Only one really stood out to him, so he wanted to check that one first. He had an unbeatable eye for that kind of thing. That’s how he got banned from the horse and dog tracks.
The clerk saw Twitchell walking toward him and tried to smile without laughing. He was shaking like a man in a cold wind. She imagined the chattering of teeth as he approached.
“Hello, ma’am,” said the aptly nicknamed Twitch. “I was wondering if you could tell me about this flight to Australia. I noticed that it left later than usual.” He indicated the flight from the list he held.
“That was a private flight,” said the clerk. “If I remember right, they had to wait for their passengers to be delivered from out of the city.”
“Were they delivered by a helicopter?” asked Twitch.
“They sure were,” said the clerk. “I remember they said one of the passengers had gotten drunk because he didn’t like to fly. They were carrying him across the runway by his arms.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” said Twitch with a smile. “You wouldn’t happen to remember what the drunk looked like, would you?”
“He was tall, with brown hair and a thin mustache. One of the men called him Floyd, I think.”
“Thank you,” said Twitch. He handed the woman a bill and walked away. Yep, lucky on the first time, he thought as he headed for the terminal door. He knew he would be back soon enough get his own flight to Australia. Blake was probably already talking to Hop Harrigan and telling him to have the Jenny ready to fly. Twitch smiled slightly.
Twitch arrived at Blake’s headquarters an hour later. He held his cab as the mystery-man loaded two cases in the trunk. “Hop’s?” Twitch asked. The chief nodded.
“Back out to the airport, bud,” Twitch said to the taxicab driver.
“What?” said the cabbie.
“The airport,” said Twitch. “There’s an extra twenty in it if you can get us there in fifteen minutes.” The cab obediently turned around and headed back to its previous stop.
“Lawton was on a flight?” asked Blake.
“Yep, to Australia. The clerk said he was drunk.”
“Right. Nichols and Swan are out there for the Luna Foundation.”
“What?” asked Twitch.
“An archaeological dig in the Outback,” said Blake. “Supposedly groundbreaking and historically revolutionary.”
“Coincidence that Lawton is headed to Australia where they just had a lucky strike?” asked Twitch.
“I don’t believe in a coincidence that big,” said Blake.
The two men were silent the rest of the way to the airport. Twitch paid the man an extra twenty before heading to the hangar of Harrigan Aviation Services.
As night fell, a note arrived at Gotham City Police Headquarters. It was addressed to Gotham’s most famous citizen and was ferried to Commissioner James W. Gordon’s office with some haste. A signal light was activated over the night sky soon after the commissioner received the note.
Soon, a blue-cloaked individual swung to the top of the building. He landed lightly behind his friend and said, “What’s going on, Jim?”
Startled, Gordon turned. He smiled when he realized who his visitor was. “You’re going to give me a heart attack one day doing that,” he said with half a smile.
“What’s going on?” repeated Batman, returning the smile to his old friend.
“This came in the mail today,” said Gordon, handing over the letter. “We ran it through the lab and came up with nothing.”
Batman took the piece of paper from its envelope. He frowned at its contents. “This doesn’t sound like Lawton,” he said.
“I know,” said Gordon. “I talked to the warden. He said someone took Deadshot, according to the investigator they hired.”
“Still, we can’t dismiss the threat,” said Batman. “Threatening to shoot a random person a day for money is still serious, if whomever wrote this is telling the truth.”
“I know,” said the commissioner. “I can’t take the chance that the threat is not real, so I have already put an all-points bulletin on the lookout notice for either one of Lawton’s identities until we know one way or the other.”
“I’d like to examine this back at the Batcave,” Batman said, replacing the letter in its cover.
“Go ahead,” said Gordon. “Good luck.”
Alec Swan showed Professor Carter Nichols around the dig site. The expedition had uncovered numerous artifacts that didn’t seem to belong to the area where they were digging. It was a puzzle that Nichols enjoyed examining as he looked at the mysterious implements that had already come out of the ground.
A group watched the academics and students go about their business from a hill a mile away. “Lawton’s here,” reported a newcomer. “He is in Sydney, and they are bringing him out here as soon as possible.”
Hop Harrigan sat at the controls of the new Jenny, with a smile on his still-boyish face. This was his second trip to the land down under in two months. He hadn’t flown so many hours in a single trip like this since he had lost the All-American Aviation Company.
He wondered what was in it for Adam Blake. The man was an instinctive pilot and really didn’t need Hop at the controls. Why did he bother with hiring a pilot when he could pilot himself?
Numerous other questions nagged at Hop. He knew Blake would never answer any of them. He wore his silence like a shield.
Alec Swan and Carter Nichols worked among the ruins carefully. This was the first find like this anywhere on the continent. The implications were enormous to have a civilization in the Outback that almost predated the Aborigines.
Swan didn’t quite grasp all of the importance, but then he wasn’t an archaeologist. He just kept an eye on things for the Luna Foundation. Still, he was excited as any of the others to be digging up the past.
A dust cloud billowed on the horizon. Jeeps appeared and then circled the expedition. A man with the build of a bulldog got out of the lead Jeep.
“Everyone, my name is Joshua McCabe,” he said in a loud voice. “Put your hands in the air and remain calm, and you won’t get hurt.” When the people didn’t respond quickly enough, the stocky man fired a bullet at the ground. “Put your hands up and gather here at the collection tent,” he shouted even more loudly. “I don’t want to have to shoot anyone before I get what I want.”
The expedition gathered in the shade of the tent. Swan made sure he and Carter Nichols were at the back of the group. The bandit’s henchmen secured each member’s hands and legs with rope and laid them in a line.
“Let’s take a look and see if this place is what we’re looking for,” said the bandit. He and his lieutenant walked down to the base of the pit. He took some measurements with a tape and frowned. “Wrong place,” he said to himself. “Should be a kilometer to the west.” He turned to one of his men and ordered, “Make sure everyone is kept supplied with water until we pull out. We want them alive… for the moment.”
“What do you think this is about?” Carter Nichols whispered to Alec Swan.
“Hijacking,” said Swan. “What worries me is, how did they know anything was here? Only members of the Foundation should know this location.”
“Obviously someone let the cat out of the bag,” said Nichols irritably. “What can we do about it?”
“Nothing for now,” said Swan. “We’re tied up and outnumbered for the moment. We will just have to play along until we can think of something.”
The Jenny floated into a gentle landing about ten miles from the dig. Hop Harrigan let the plane roll gently to a stop. His passengers had already moved to the side door.
Blake undogged the hatch gently after the plane halted. He kicked the ladder out. He let Twitch descend while he pulled two of his equipment cases from the cargo bay.
Opening the cases, Blake pulled out several sheets of cloth. He draped the sheets over the plane and staked them down.
“Camouflage?” asked Hop.
“I expect we will not be the only airborne presence in the area,” said Blake.
They had gotten him out of jail on bail, shipped him back up north, and given him a tuxedo, mask, top hat, and a special rifle. All he had to do was shoot some poor schmoe on the street and get away undetected. Sounded easy enough.
The only problem was where to begin. After all, Gotham City was full of roosts to look down on the streets and inside other office buildings. He picked one at random and got in place. He took aim at a guy in a building across the way with the special rifle. He was a fair shot, so he knew he could hit the guy at the range he took aim.
He aimed and then took a deep breath. He let the breath out slowly before drawing another, and then he fired. He smiled when the man fell over. A new Deadshot was in town.