Floyd Lawton was a tall, regal-looking man with a pencil-thin mustache on his upper lip. Although he’d been born into wealth and looked the part, he used the sniper skills he’d learned as an officer in World War II to become Deadshot, posing as a mystery-man and rival to Batman even as he was secretly setting himself up as a master criminal. His plan was to kill Batman and blame it on criminals, thereby becoming Gotham’s new hero even as he was secretly its biggest gang lord.
But when he tried to shoot Batman, his unsurpassed marksmanship failed him, and he lost his nerve. It wasn’t until Batman arrested him that he learned the truth: that Batman, having discovered his true identity, had tampered with his revolvers and caused them to shoot wildly off the mark. (*) After a speedy trial, he was sent to prison and served nearly five years.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Man Who Replaced Batman,” Batman #59 (June-July, 1950).]
Floyd looked out the window of the Luna Foundation plane, watching for the coastline of Great Britain. He had been working for the Foundation in Boston since his release from Gotham State Prison. When he got out, he’d moved to Boston to get away from his old life. The new job entailed a lot of looking into the kind of strange phenomena popularized by Charles Fort, and a lot of it turned out to be bunk, but Floyd didn’t mind. It took him everywhere and kept him busy enough that he had little time to dwell on the things he had done that had sent him to prison.
Madeline Oak sat in the seat beside him. Volumes of reports had been sent to the Boston office, and she now had them spread on her lap, analyzing the language in her careful way.
Mark Sloan was Luna’s man on the spot in London. He had sent his available people to look into his problem. When they hadn’t returned, he’d gone himself. It was a violation of policy, according to Justin Adams, the Boston coordinator of the Foundation. And Sloan hadn’t returned, either. So Floyd and Madeline had packed their bags and headed across the big pond to see what was going on.
Floyd saw sparks form on the wing of the plane. Frowning as the wing began to shake under the dancing motes, he bolted into action, shoving Madeline to the floor as he ducked down. The metal of the wing rippled like an ocean wave before it tore loose and flew into the fuselage, smashing the window and cabin wall apart. Floyd heard screaming in his ear before something hit him on the forehead in a shower of lights, and everything went black.
Adam Blake was a man of mystery who had appeared seemingly from nowhere last November, when he hired a group of men to act as his assistants to look into a problem involving a mad scientist named Hector Milo — brother of the more-famous Professor Achilles Milo of Batman’s rogues gallery — on a supposedly deserted island used for A-bomb tests in the South Pacific. The men who joined him on that case were scientist Professor Carter Nichols, pilot Hop Harrigan and his mechanic Tank Tinker, underworld gunman Cully Morrigan, stoolie Paul Twitchell, and troubleshooter Alec Swan of the Luna Foundation. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Adam Blake: Times Past, 1954: Blake’s Seven.]
In the nine months since then, Blake’s assistants had learned virtually nothing about him other than what they’d discovered at the beginning: that he had exceptional intelligence, strength, and speed, that he never used contractions when speaking, that he possessed incredible technology like something out of a science fiction magazine, and that the name Adam Blake was a pseudonym. There had been hints that he had operated under other names in the past and had led other groups of assistants in past years. But beyond these few tidbits of information, all that his men knew about Blake was that they could trust him with their lives. Perhaps that was all they needed to know.
Adam Blake sat at his strange television. A typewriter keyboard rested under the screen. A small white box, connected to the back of the typewriter by a cord, rested on a foam pad to one side. Blake’s metallic green eyes scanned the sheets of paper he had gotten from Commissioner James W. Gordon. He looked at the lit screen, nodding in satisfaction at the picture he had created.
Hearing the phone ring in the entry hall, he listened as Paul Twitchell’s nervous steps went to the phone and picked it up. He listened to Twitch’s half of the conversation before his aide came to the door of his lab.
“There is a Justin Adams calling from Boston,” Twitch said, peering around the corner of the door frame. “You want me to brush him off?”
“No, Mr. Twitchell,” said Blake. “I will talk to him.” Blake picked up the flat extension he kept in his lab.
“This is Blake,” he said, then listened to the problem Adams was calling about. “My associates and I will look into it, Mr. Adams.”
“Look into what?” asked Twitch.
Twitch was nerves personified, giving those who saw him the impression he would run from his own shadow. He was constantly on the move, even when standing still.
“We are going to England,” said Blake. “The Luna Foundation has had some unexpected problems, and their coordinator in Boston has no one else he can spare at the moment.”
“You know Hop is busy with this marriage thing,” said Twitch, seizing a chance at not flying. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Adam Blake: Times Past, 1955: Blake’s Pilot.]
“I know,” said Blake, shutting off his television. “That is why I will pilot the plane when we leave the city.”
“OK,” said Twitch. Then he added, “Hey, wait a minute. You never said you could pilot a plane!”
Blake left a message on the recorder hooked up to the phone before he and Twitch left for the Gotham City International Airport. He drove one of the automobiles he had purchased and worked on when he had first started his agency.
“We will talk to Adams in Boston first,” said Blake, driving smoothly through traffic. “Then Sloan. Then we will look at the problem area.”
“What about the others?” Twitch asked.
“Mr. Morrigan is the only one at loose ends besides you, as far as I know,” Blake said. “We will ask Adams to check on Mr. Swan.”
Twitch settled in his seat as much as he could. That was the bad thing about working with a guy like Adam Blake. He didn’t talk unless he needed to, didn’t guess without evidence, and drove like he was in the Indy 500 even when he wasn’t in a hurry. Twitch closed his eyes, trying to enjoy the ride to the airport, as he knew it might be the last ride of his life.
The black car rolled smoothly around the Gotham terminal and pulled up to the private hangar Blake maintained. The mystery-man pulled to a stop inside the hangar next to a small plane parked in a maintenance bay.
“I don’t remember you saying anything about this,” said Twitch, hopping out of the car. “I think I would remember something like ‘I have a private plane at Gotham Airport.'”
“It never came up,” said Blake.
“Sometimes you play at this mysterious stuff a little too much,” Twitch complained.
“I will answer anything you ask. What would you like to know?” Blake said reasonably, walking around the plane as he did his preflight check.
“Where are you from, for starters?” asked Twitch, watching the man’s mechanical movements.
“I am from the future,” Blake said.
“Hey, if you don’t want to tell me,” said Twitch, rolling his eyes, “you could just say so.”
Blake smiled slightly as he hooked up the fueling hoses.
Floyd Lawton awoke to a blinding headache. His wrists were chained to a stone wall, and the complaints in his shoulders suggested that he had been hanging for a while. He looked around the room cautiously.
He was in a dungeon that reminded him of his cell back at Gotham State. Madeline Oak was chained to another wall. The small room was crowded with other people whom Floyd didn’t recognize. He decided that the first priority was to get everyone out of this place as soon as possible. Then he would work on figuring out what was going on. Better yet, he would get the local cops.
Footsteps echoed hollowly down the hall. They paused with a rattling of chains. The wooden door creaked open. A stout man who resembled a bulldog stepped into the room. One of his hands was missing, the wrist scarred as if cauterized by some terrific heat.
“Mr. Lawton,” Joshua McCabe said, smiling widely. “I see we meet again.”
“How did you get out of prison?” Lawton asked.
“There isn’t a prison built that can hold me,” McCabe said, a grin stretching across his face unpleasantly. “Especially not a prison in Australia.”
“What are you doing here?” Floyd asked.
“It’s funny that you should ask,” said McCabe. “I’m looking for another lost artifact. The personnel from the Luna Foundation are generously helping me in my quest.”
“I’ll bet,” said Floyd. “What now?”
“I guess you can help me in my search, now that you’re here,” said McCabe. “Good luck has been following me since I got out of jail, and I’m sure it will continue.”
Floyd wondered if McCabe had expected him to cross the Atlantic to investigate the missing London staff. “You seem to have quite an offensive ability with that thing that snagged the airplane,” said Floyd.
“I snagged it from the property room in Metropolis,” McCabe said. “Luthor won’t mind, I’m sure.”
Lawton’s thoughts drifted back in time as McCabe waved two of his flunkies to unlock his manacles. Maybe he should have aimed higher the last time they had met.
McCabe had blown up the wall of Lawton’s cell and snatched him from the prison. He’d been put on a plane to Australia, where had McCabe forced him to search for something buried under the desert while holding hostages, including a woman Floyd had loved when he was younger. While the former Deadshot was busy down under, a man named Lefty Burkowitz had been appointed to keep the police busy by terrorizing Gotham City. That was supposed to convince everyone that Lawton had resumed his criminal activities as an enemy of Batman.
Investigator Adam Blake was hired by the prison warden to recapture Lawton. He had managed to track the ex-villain to Australia, where he had freed the hostages and confronted McCabe, who was wielding a jewel that Lawton had recovered from some desert ruins. The jewel absorbed sunlight and changed it to a beam of destructive energy. Lawton had shot a ray-pistol he had also found in the ruins at the jewel, and the resulting explosion had burned off the bulldog’s hand. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Adam Blake: Times Past, 1955: Blake’s Bullet.]
McCabe had been sentenced to jail in Australia, while Lawton had been returned to Gotham to complete his sentence. Floyd received a pardon only a few weeks later. Shortly afterward, a letter of recommendation from Blake had helped Lawton get his current job at the Luna Foundation.
The flunkies locked Lawton’s hands behind his back. He didn’t put up a struggle, as he didn’t want anything to happen to his coworkers; McCabe never bluffed about killing hostages.
“Now,” said McCabe, “shall we discuss what you can do to get your friends out of here in one piece?”
“Let’s do that,” said Lawton, falling in step between his two wardens. “Then we can talk about which body part you are going to lose next, fat man.”
“I doubt you’ll do that if you want to see your coworkers in the morning,” said McCabe, laughing at the threat. “When we finish our business, all of you will be allowed to go free.”
Yeah, I believe that, thought Floyd, but he said nothing.
They led Lawton through a maze of halls. The walls were constructed of rough-hewn stone with no doors, and several of the rooms they passed were filled with debris. Everything he could see indicated that this was some kind of ruin, perhaps one of the mysterious barrows in South East England that had not yet been explored, and perhaps had not yet even been discovered. McCabe must be searching for another ancient artifact. The hall terminated in a central chamber. Documents littered a rough stone table. A partially drawn map rested on top of everything else.
Adam Blake coasted his plane to a gentle stop at Boston’s Logan International Airport after an hour in the air. He rented a hangar in which to park the plane until he interviewed Justin Adams. He would handle the refueling later.
“What do you think is going on, chief?” asked Twitch. “A lot of missing people sounds bad to me.”
“I think someone has targeted the Foundation’s personnel,” said the investigator. “I could be wrong, so we are going to check that assumption with Adams. Depending on what he can tell us, we might find a motive for the targeting.”
“This isn’t dangerous, is it?” said Twitch, his hands twitching visibly.
“We will see,” said Blake, metallic green eyes swirling slightly.
The two men walked across the terminal and hailed a cab. The man in black gave the driver the address for the Boston branch of the Luna Foundation, then settled back in his seat.
The cab paused at the steps of a large house. A campus sat across from the building, but Twitch couldn’t name it. Blake went to the door, knocking on it quietly. A man opened it, smiling when he saw the two men.
“Adams,” the greeter quickly introduced himself, gesturing them into the house.
“Blake and Twitchell,” said the investigator quietly as he crossed the threshold.
“Let’s go to my office,” Adams said. “My assistant is in the library going over what we know of the region. As soon as we talk, we can go over things with him.”
“Agreed,” said Blake, following the other man in his mechanical way.
“This is the situation as we now know it,” said Adams. “We have lost eight people from the London branch, including their director. We lost Lawton and Oak from our branch yesterday. Their plane went down as it crossed over the coast line.”
“Floyd Lawton?” asked Blake.
“Yes, I understand you know him,” said Adams.
“We have met,” said Blake.
“Witnesses reported some type beam hitting the plane,” said Adams. “Then it crashed. The local authorities hadn’t found any of it.”
“No wreckage at all?” asked Blake, glancing about suddenly and breaking eye contact for the first time since he entered the room.
“None,” confirmed Adams.
“Mr. Twitchell and I will look over this matter as soon as we get there,” said Blake, standing. “Could you ask for the whereabouts of an Alec Swan? He works for your institution in Australia. I would like to meet him in England if he can be spared.”
“Let’s talk to Reed,” said Adams, standing also. “Maybe he will have a place for you to start.”
“Why don’t some of you guys go?” Twitch asked. “It is your problem.”
“Only Reed and I are left in the city,” said Adams. “There are some things going on that we can’t stop to go look into what is going on in England.”
“I got it,” said Twitch, “I guess.”
“No need for explanations, Mr. Adams,” said Blake.
The three men went into a large room down the hall. Books lined every wall from floor to ceiling. A young man with sandy hair sat at one of the tables studying maps of Britain.
“This is Reed Horton,” said Adams. “Reed, this is Mr. Blake and Mr. Twitchell. Have you found anything useful?”
“I am afraid not,” said Horton. “There isn’t anything in any of our records as far as I have been able to determine.”
Twitch walked around the library, opening books at random as the others looked over Horton’s maps. Something was wrong with the man, in his opinion. That feeling kept him moving around the room on watch.
“As far as I have been able to determine, there is absolutely nothing where the plane went down,” Horton said. “No ruins, no stories, no legends, no recent occurrences until our people disappeared.”
“Do you mind if I look at the map?” Blake asked.
“Be my guest,” Horton said, standing up.
Blake slid into his seat, one hand on the map to hold it in place. The other hand’s slim fingers went over the margin notes Horton had written. Metallic green eyes glared at the paper.
Twitch picked up a book titled in Latin, flipping through it with his thumb.
“Do you mind?” Horton asked. “That book is an antique.”
“Sorry,” said Twitch, putting the book back on the shelf. “Who would have thought?”
“Thank you,” said Horton.
Blake nodded, standing up. “Thank you both for your time and trouble,” he said placidly. “I will get back to you as soon as I have something to report.”
“Thank you for your help,” said Adams. “If there is anything else, don’t hesitate to ask.”
“If you can have Mr. Swan meet us at the Tower Hotel in London,” said Blake. “That should be all that I need.”
“I’ll call his branch and see what I can do,” said Adams.
“Thank you,” said Blake, leading the way to the front door. “Be seeing you.”