Sammy Gerald wasn’t scared of mystery-men. He had fought one called Air Wave years ago, and he considered them as a whole to be nothing more than Air Wave had been: guys in fancy costumes with gimmicks. Thus, when the aging jewel thief considered the fact that his attempt to score a big haul by robbing the wealthy Prescott family of their rare diamonds might end with him facing one of the members of the Justice Society of America, he was still willing to risk all for the wealth.
He smiled when the shiny gems were in his gloved hands. He even chuckled softly when he timed his silent exit perfectly and watched the back of the estate’s lone security guard disappear around a corner. “You gonna be on easy street from now on,” he said to himself.
Then the darkness fell. Oh, of course it was already night; Sammy never would have risked robbery in daylight. However, the darkness of normal night was not like this inky black darkness that seemed to swell up from the thin air and smother the old thief with a personal effectiveness all its own.
“Who’s there?” he muttered as he groped blindly for his knife.
“Justice — a name you have long escaped until now,” said a harsh voice. “Now it has found you, and you’ll pay for your effrontery in daring to steal from good people.”
Sammy lunged with the knife, only to have it deflected and knocked from his hand with ease by the costumed man in the darkness. “Doctor Mid-Nite — oh, man!” he gasped.
“Correct, and this doctor prescribes a long rest for you — an eternal one!” said the green-hooded mystery-man as he suddenly smashed the old man’s nose with a left hook.
As Sammy fell to the ground, Doctor Mid-Nite turned to an unseen ally. “Well, mein freund, he has met his end,” he said.
Minutes later, the guard rushed up. “Doc Mid-Nite! Glad to see ya!” he said, panting. “This mug must have robbed the safe. It’s open and empty. Cold out here! Kinda foggy, too. Bet it’s gonna snow!”
“Don’t worry,” said Doctor Mid-Nite. “He won’t trouble you anymore. I killed the swine!”
The guard stammered. “Ya k-k-killed him?! But you Justice Sassiety guys don’t kill! Must have been an accident.”
“No. I have been too soft for years. Now let the word reach the streets — if you commit a crime, then Doctor Mid-Nite will perform his own brand of euthanasia!” He ran for the gate and vanished into the heavy fog.
The guard glanced at the still form of Sammy Gerald and shuddered. “He killed the poor mug! Doc Mid-Nite killed him!” he said incredulously, over and over.
Myra Mason McNider, wearing a pink sheer teddy, rolled over next to her husband and smiled contentedly. She was young once more, beautiful, and now had the man she had loved for decades. Their marriage was blissful. Her daughter Amanda had recovered rapidly from her own injuries and was doing nicely. (*) Circumstances boded well for the pretty little girl’s total recovery.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Junior JSA: The Junior Injustice Society.]
Myra stroked Charles McNider on the chest, and he murmured happily, “Myra, is it time to get up?” In the pitch-black darkness of their room, he turned and looked at the clock, using his night-vision ability to see perfectly. “No. The clock says 2:56.”
“Show-off. You could put an illuminated clock in here for me,” she teased, and her husband smiled up at her with love.
“Sorry,” he said softly. “I sometimes forget how darkness bothers most everyone else. But we can do many things in the dark…”
The phone rang, and Myra answered with a bit of a pout in her voice. “Hello?” After a moment she said, “Charles, it’s Wes.”
He sat up and listened as his friend Wesley Dodds reported the news of the so-called Mid-Nite Murders. Three other criminals in addition to Sammy Gerald, ranging from a mugger to a pair of arsonists, had been found murdered apparently by Doctor Mid-Nite. Witnesses had spotted him leaving the scenes in each case.
“Look, Wes, lately it seems like all you do is find crimes and accuse your friends of doing them!” he said. “Sorry, I don’t mean that. I know you never really believed Rex’s Miraclo was involved in the recent Z-solution case. (*) I know you also know I did not commit these violent murders, either. Thanks. I do appreciate the news. Nobody has topped your special radio yet. We owe Lee Travis a big debt.” He then hung up.
[(*) Editor’s note: See All-Star Squadron: The Return of Captain Triumph.]
“Myra, Wes just learned of some crimes and police reports that indicate someone has been active in my costume and with my name. I’m being framed!” he said, a grim look on his face.
The killer once known as the Tarantula was being released from jail after thirty years. Julius Gardner was old, tired, and likely had little time left. The media did not really care about the ex-crook or his clever gas bombs from the 1940s. He had lost the fame and notoriety of his name to both a masked hero and a different villain who had attracted more attention in his fight against the Sandman. So no one really would have cared about his parole except for the fact that the sensational Mid-Nite Murders made him a bit of a celebrity again, since he had been approached by desperate or eager newsmen for comments about how he had also once faced the deadly Doctor Mid-Nite.
“I dueled with the man of the night and nearly won before,” said the old man. “However, his luck was almost uncanny, and he tricked me. I admit that Mid-Nite is the shrewdest mystery-man I had ever heard about or seen. He lacks super-powers or even the showmanship of others, but he has a mind like a steel trap. He thinks at super-speed, if you’ll allow me the figure of speech.”
The newsmen nodded appreciatively. “Was it scary to fight man-to-man like that?”
“He was alternately silent and smart-mouthed,” said Gardner. “He could rattle off some inane pun while swinging over a vat of bubbling acid or face down seven thugs without saying a word. You just never knew what to expect from Mid-Nite. I recall that infernal owl swooping at my head. Ach! How I hated that bird!” The reporters laughed and ushered him to his car.
Gardner closed the door and wondered if a book on his old life as the Tarantula could earn some fast bucks. He didn’t really consider his old foe a killer. Doctor Mid-Nite, the Flash, Green Lantern, and the others were all glorified Boy Scouts — do-gooders with the soft hearts of school girls deep down.
He started the car and gasped as blackness enveloped him, and he froze from the icy cold. “Mid-Nite!” he gasped, coughing and choking painfully until finally he died.
Then the car steered into the lot where the remaining media men slowly packed up their gear. It screeched to a halt, and the old man was tossed at their feet as black clouds covered the lot. One man shouted, “Those goggles! It was Mid-Nite — he killed the poor old man!”
The car was empty, and fog covered the crowd.
Myra McNider wore a black blouse with a pleated gray miniskirt. As she combed her blonde hair, she thought about the current problem. Someone was impersonating Charles. He had to be agile, strong, and capable of seeing in the dark. That last part was hardly as difficult to duplicate now as it had once been. Batman, Mister Terrific, and Phantom Lady all had the high-tech know-how to do so at times, as Charles had told her before. However, they were each either dead or on another world, as far as Myra knew.
So who could have posed so successfully as Doctor Mid-Nite? The authorities weren’t ready to haul in the famous hero just yet. His reputation was great enough that he could still remain free on the words of luminaries like Hourman, Wonder Woman, and Red Robin. Still, how long could even a JSAer escape the law if a killer continued to murder using his image and weapons?
She rubbed her chin thoughtfully. Niteshade could see in the dark and was obsessed with Mid-Nite. She even knew his secrets, since she was his former clinic ally Dr. Louisa Soliz. However, the madwoman was locked away on Transformation Island, according to no less a source than Mala, the Amazon mistress of the correctional facility. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Doctor Mid-Nite: Nite Fall.]
Myra glanced up and realized that surely there had been criminals as well as mystery-men who could generate darkness or see in the dark. The nurse combed through her husband’s files. “Criminals and the ability to see in the dark,” she said. “Perhaps one of them like the Dean of Darkness or the Night-Owl could well be behind the crimes!”
Charles had gone to confer with Rex Tyler, and she wished he would hurry home. She wondered if she could help him somehow. She had been his aide for years before he had even known that she had discovered who he was behind the mask. She had also been kidnapped by thugs as bizarre as the Gorilla Boss of Gotham City and the Sky Raider. So she truly had little fear of criminals. She decided to take action herself.
Myra slipped on one of Mid-Nite’s red tunics and dark hoods and added black pantyhose and boots. She decided to take action into her own hands to clear her husband, and on a personal note to prove to her heroic husband and daughter that she could also be a mystery-woman if circumstances warranted it.
“Miss Mid-Nite,” she mused as she was soon driving toward the last known address of the former villain called Night-Owl.
Luckily he lives here now, she thought. I guess Metropolis held too many bad memories for someone who lost to Superman. (*) If he is trying to use his ability to see in the dark to frame Charles, then my sudden appearance and use of the Mid-Nite weapons may draw him out.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Man Who Put Out the Sun,” Action Comics #53 (October, 1942).]
Feeling nervous, she checked the bag she wore at one hip. “Blackout bombs, scalpel, tranquilizer patches… I’m set as long as I get the drop on him.”
The Night-Owl was old and weak. The renegade scientist had lived long past his prime when he fought the Man of Steel, and he had retired to a small house in the city. He was known to live there due to medical records that she was able to access as a nurse through an old friend.
“I owe Debbie a dinner, but she delivered the data quickly enough,” she mused. “It’s nice to think even a super-villain can have a regular doctor and office records! Of course, Night-Owl may be on the up and up now.” She smoothed down her hose and slipped up to a window.
She frowned as she saw him. He had the same bald and owlish look of his youth, along with deathly pale skin from a nocturnal life. However, he also looked all of thirty years old.
“Oh, my!” she sighed. “He’s been rejuvenated, like many of the foes Charles and Rex used to fight seem to have been! (*) They should really look into that soon.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: JSA Reserves: All This and Earth-Two, Chapter 3: Villains Rejuvenated.]
A snap from her high heels on a branch in the yard brought her up sharply. The Night-Owl suddenly rushed to the window and said, “Well, a girly show version of Doc Mid-Nite!”
She reached for her bag, only to be grabbed from behind. She gasped as heavy hands closed off her nose and mouth, and she pitched forward in a faint. She was carried inside by a goon who turned to his weird-looking boss. “What should we do?” said the goon. “Do you think this dame heard us planning your return to crime?”
The Night-Owl grinned fiendishly. “I think not. But for old times sake — practice, you know — let’s kill her anyway! Ready the deathtrap!” He cackled aloud.
Myra woke up to find herself tied to a wooden stake like a shapely scarecrow. A large owl stared back at her blue eyes behind the goggles she wore. She saw clearly via the goggles, although the room was black with darkness. She had no fear of owls due to her long association with Mid-Nite’s pal Hooty, but she did scream when Night-Owl’s ghastly face suddenly loomed up in front of her own.
“That’s right, scream for me!” he said. “You are much better looking than Lois Lane, but she screamed in a deeper tone. Rather husky-voiced, don’t you know? You, my dear, scream more like Fay Wray. In any case, you have better legs than Miss Lane did! I don’t know what you hoped to accomplish by sneaking here in that delightful little costume, but I so hope it means you are associated with that daring Doctor Mid-Nite! He would be a natural foe for me. What with the use of darkness, the pet owls, why, we would be each other’s opposite numbers! I could be his ‘player on the other side,’ as Ellery Queen put it.”
“You should expect to see him after using your darkness technology to frame him!” said Myra.
He clutched her chin and squeezed, “No, no, no, I’ve done nothing yet! I plan a wonderful crime spree — you see, I’ll extort money from the city by plunging it into darkness and refusing to allow light within until they pay me well! I call my little invention, there, the atomic blackout bomb because it is so much stronger than the ones your beau uses. Plus, the duration is permanent until I dilute the chemical with a separate formula!”
Myra shivered. Great! I’ve put myself in the hands of a real fiend who has nothing to do with Charles and his current plight! Why didn’t you stay home baking, Myra? Some women or men just can’t be heroines or heroes!
As the Night-Owl caressed her a final time, he walked off and left the pretty blonde alone with the menacing owl.
This couldn’t hurt, thought Myra as she began making odd noises like those of an owl. She had heard Charles do the same when he summoned Hooty, as all of the owls he’d owned over the years were named, including the current one. Sure enough, the owl landed on her arm, and she tried to command him to cut through her bonds with his talons as she had witnessed Hooty do for Mid-Nite before. The owl had been trained to do such things for his criminal master, and to her delight, he obeyed her commands as well.
She ripped free and smiled. “First thing I’ll do when I get home is reward Hooty for hours of Owl 101!”
Reaching down to her bag, she pulled out a tranquilizer patch, then ran toward the rocketlike atomic blackout bomb and scanned the device. “Oh, my! I can’t make heads or tails out of it! Maybe the principle is at least somewhat like Charles’ work.” She slipped open a slot and gazed down at a weird lens. “Nope! This looks like it projects some type of ray. Perhaps it’s like Rex Tyler’s old black-light device. How they would love to tinker with this thing!”
She knew from the files she had read that the Night-Owl had also experimented with black-light projection of his own. Before she could react, she was startled by the approaching footsteps of the madman. She tore a wire loose and whirled as she shut the device.
The Night-Owl led in the same hulking thug she had been attacked by before long with a pretty young woman.
“My dear, I have brought you a playmate!” he cackled. “Miss Tyler, here, is my other hostage!”