Crime Alley in Gotham City was completely silent, with the exception of the sound of hurried footsteps. A woman rushed through the narrow street, eager to break out of the confines of the dark byway and emerge safely into a more brightly illuminated and better patrolled street. She knew she had no good reason to take the dangerous shortcut, but she had taken it anyway. She had the feeling that nothing bad could really happen to her. She was wrong.
Three young men with hungry looks and hardened souls stepped out of the shadows and blocked her path. She nearly crashed into the nearest one in her heedless dash through the shadows.
“Why the hurry? You got to take time to pay the toll,” said one with a sneer.
The other two watched silently with knowing grins. They felt in control, and they relished playing with other people. She turned and felt a heavy hand fall across her shoulder. She was yanked into their arms, and they tore her bag out of her hand. “Please!” she cried.
“Good manners! I like that!” laughed the bald thug who seemed to be the leader of the trio.
“Well, you’ll love me. I always say ‘excuse me’ before I break someone’s nose!” said a voice from above.
They glanced up with fear as their victim looked up with hope. A caped figure swooped out of the darkness to confront them. “Blackwing!” gasped one punk in dismay.
“Right. And I’ll just call you inmate zero-seven-six-five-eight to save time,” said the black man as he dropped down and tackled the nearest man. He swept him directly into another of the thugs and spun to kick the third one aside. He connected with three blows and left two of them stunned as he turned to see the final thug ran away.
“Miss, are you hurt? I’d avoid this area from now on. Even with the police and folks like me on patrol, these areas can be dangerous!” said Blackwing as he helped her to her feet and handed her her bag.
“Thank you! I owe you my life! You really saved me! What would this city do without people like you and Red Robin?” she gushed.
Blackwing smiled and waited with her just long enough to be sure she was safe before he caught a metal railing and swung himself agilely upward. He crossed the rooftops and spotted the figure of the final fleeing thug. That punk is in for a rude awakening, he thought. Crossing a few blocks doesn’t help much when you can use the roofs as shortcuts!
He smiled as he moved. The woman’s words had pleased him greatly. Charles Bullock was dedicated to making things better. He lived his life as a lawyer with that goal, and he sought to make a difference as the costumed hero Blackwing as well. He knew that, while he was less likely to take down some colorful and notorious villain like the Joker than he was to catch a mugger or a pusher, his actions did help. Batman, I hope you’re smiling down on me up there. That’s one less crime in your city this night!
Twisting through the air, he bounced off a taut line to land in the street below. “Hold it, pal! We have unfinished business!” he said in his best imposing tone.
The thug screamed and pulled out a knife. The blade gleamed in the moonlight, but another figure shifted in the sidelines as Blackwing’s infrared contacts enabled him to see clearly through the shadows untouched by the moonlight. “You found some help, huh?” he said, disarming the punk with a deft kick and connecting with a series of jabs that left him dazed. “Now, what about you? Are you his backup or something?” he said.
The man who emerged from the shadows was no ordinary street thug. He was tall and confident. He had long black hair and wore a colorful costume of gray, blue, and yellow. “His kind are beneath my concern. You, however, are precisely the chosen prey I prefer!” he said through clenched teeth.
“That costume!” began Blackwing. “Who do you think you are? Robin gave up that look–!”
Before he could finish his sentence, the newcomer had struck with blinding speed. Three spinning kicks left Blackwing groaning with an injured rib. He raised one hand to hurl a gas pellet at his attacker but received a pellet of his own as the man dropped a tiny capsule. The night exploded into daylight as a magnesium flare blinded Blackwing in spite of his special contacts. He staggered backward and gasped as his powerful foe pounded him again and again. He wiped at his eyes and fought to see through the spots that danced in front of him.
A bat-shaped mask came into view as his foe gripped him by his cape and choked him. He also saw a bat-winged letter R encircled and crossed by red lines. “Don’t ever call me that name! Do you hear me? Never say that name to me! I am the Scourge!” he shrieked. He slammed Blackwing into the wall and left him as he fired a line skyward and swung away into the night.
Blackwing tried to get up and did so slowly. He had just received a painful lesson in underestimating a foe. He strained to hurl a small round device into the air after his foe; it hit his cape and stayed attached. “I don’t know who that creep was, but we’ll meet again, thanks to my tracer,” he muttered.
He wore a copy of Red Robin’s old costume, but that emblem suggests he’s anti-Batman and Robin, he thought. Guess that’s why he did such a number on me. My costume and slowly growing rep mark me as being dedicated to their ideals.
The next morning found a weary and sore Charles Bullock sitting on the sofa at his family home. He had really only bought the suburban home for his parents a few years ago with help from his sister Whitley. He knew his childhood home had been an apartment in a bad part of Gotham City. Still, surrounded by the comforts of his youth in their relatively new environment, it was easy for the lawyer to feel at home.
“Son, I can’t say I’m happy that you got such a hiding from this fellow. I taught my boy to fight,” said Sam Bullock.
Charles nodded ruefully as his father chided him in jest. “Pop, I know,” he said. “You would have been ready; I was cocky. I’m still more bookworm than boxer. Of course, Meg and the Huntress have given me plenty of lessons, not to mention Ted Grant. Still, I’m glad my partner Redbird was out of town. The plucky Officer O’Connor might have fought better than I did, but she also might have been killed. Her costume is a lot closer to the one first worn by Robin than mine is, and this nut seemed to have a real mania about that hero.”
Sam smiled and placed one hand on his son’s knee. “Charles, you know this old man is just ribbing you. I am thankful that you weren’t hurt more than you were. How are those ribs?” he asked.
Charles shrugged. “Mom patched me up. Good to have a nurse in the family. She says I’ll be OK if I rest. That’s just what I can’t do. I followed that tracer I planted on our mystery man, but it died right after it led me out of the city. He either found it or broke it, or it lost range when he reached the woods on Gotham Ridge.”
“You know, back when I was pushing real estate, property in those woods cost a tidy sum,” said Sam. “Do you think your attacker lives out there? He must be loaded, if that’s the case.”
“He had fancy equipment,” said Charles. “I know how much it costs to make gear like he used. If a certain female JSAer didn’t help me out by giving me some of my own gear, I’d be hurting in more ways than one. I’d say he’s either wealthy or has a rich backer. Still, what was his motive? All he did was appear and beat me silly.”
Sam nodded. “Yet he didn’t seem to be waiting on you in particular. I wager his grudge is against the costume and not the man inside it. He may hate all mystery-men!”
“I agree,” said Charles. “I’ve arranged to meet with Red Robin tonight at Gotham City Police Headquarters. Commissioner O’Hara said he would try to summon him for me.”
Sam smiled. “Well, if you two find the guy who jumped you, give that thug one for your old man. Teach him not to mess with the Bullock men.”
That night, Sgt. Harvey Hainer Jr. watched the skies as he activated the famous Bat-Signal from the roof of Gotham City Police Headquarters. He knew that he was, in fact, carrying on the traditional duty of his late father who had operated the signal before him during his own days on the force. He had a genuine respect and affection for Gotham City’s costumed defenders like the Huntress and Red Robin. Power Girl made him a bit nervous, though, since he never could predict what the fiery blonde would say in any given situation.
He saw Blackwing swing into view and waved him over. “Blackwing! The commissioner himself said Red Robin called to say he would be here,” he announced.
Blackwing shook hands with Hainer and said, “Thank you, sir. I appreciate your help.”
Red Robin stepped out of the shadows and smiled. “As do I,” said the hero. “Sgt. Hainer is practically indispensable, just like his father was.”
Hainer smiled and said, “Thank you, Red Robin. I’ll just leave you gentleman to your business.” He left the signal on as a source of illumination for their meeting, and exited down the steps.
“Blackwing, what can I do for you?” asked Red Robin.
“I need your help,” said Blackwing. “Last night I was ambushed — or, more accurately, ran into a dangerous man who handed me my head before departing. I traced him to the Gotham Ridge area and then lost the signal. He was a skilled fighter and expressed a real hatred for you. He called himself the Scourge. He also wore a version of your second costume. It was the one that mixed elements of your costume with Batman’s. His modification was a slash across the R bat-wing emblem.”
Red Robin frowned. He had grown to have a respect for Blackwing, since the Huntress had spoken so well of the hero. However, he had not always felt that way. He had dismissed Blackwing as an impudent pretender to the mantle of the Bat when he had first learned about him. It had seemed an insult to Batman’s memory and his legacy for what appeared to be an upstart to copy his mentor’s costume in any manner. Now he had developed more respect for Charles Bullock and could offer his help willingly.
“Blackwing, I think I know who your attacker might be,” he said. “I also have an understanding of what motivates him. I first encountered him in 1975. He is a sick man with rather impressive fighting skills. That is a deadly combination. Let me check via the remote link to the Batcave in my car below and determine if my suspect is out of his psychiatric ward.”
Red Robin did exactly what he had intended to do, and soon he turned to Blackwing as they stood by the colorful car. “Tim Harris escaped from a psych ward in Nebraska. He’s had time to get here from there since the escape. I fear Harris is our man. He hates all mystery-men. He hates me most of all. Let me tell you his story while we head out to Gotham Ridge.”
Blackwing entered the car, and they drove off as Red Robin told the story of the man called the Scourge.