As he walked up the front steps of Maggie O’Toole’s apartment building, Roy Harper again tugged at the bow-tie imprisoning his neck. The athletic blond man hated tuxedos and hated formal situations. He felt more relaxed when super-criminals were trying to kill him than he did in a roomful of men in tuxedos and women in evening gowns. But he resolved himself to enjoy the evening.
“Come on in,” Maggie’s voice called after he rang the bell of her apartment. “I’m just about ready!”
“OK,” Roy answered, opening the door. Maggie’s apartment was tastefully furnished, with a couple of movie posters behind glass frames on the walls. Roy especially liked the Wizard of Oz poster; he had been eight when that film first came out, but as he had spent that year and several more stranded atop a deserted mesa, he had missed it.
“What do you think?” Maggie asked, stepping out of the bathroom. The attractive Asian girl was wearing a short-hemmed, low-cut, black strapless dress. She did a slow pirouette to show Roy all sides of it; the dress was practically backless. Her golden skin shimmered in the flourescent light.
Roy whistled. “I think you’d better be careful; you might get a traffic ticket.”
Maggie’s brow wrinkled in confusion. “Traffic ticket? What for?”
“Turning on Red Arrow,” Roy joked. Maggie laughed with him, sharing the private joke of their confidence. Roy was still new to the idea of someone outside the business knowing about his double life, but it felt damn good.
“So, you like it, huh?” Maggie asked, when she stopped laughing. “I’m glad; you don’t want to know how much this thing cost! But it was worth it.”
“I’ll say,” Roy remarked. Then, in a deeper voice, he added, “That’s a honey of an anklet you’re wearing.”
Maggie looked down at her feet in confusion; she was wearing no anklet. Then she looked back up at Roy, a knowing smile on her face.
“Fred MacMurray to Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity, Paramount, 1943,” she said. Roy and Maggie, both ardent fans of classic cinema, loved this game they played.
“’44,” Roy corrected.
“Are you sure?” Maggie asked.
“Pretty sure,” Roy said, remembering back to that sunny October Saturday in 1944 when he had seen the movie. He and Sylvester Pemberton had escorted two teenage girls, daughters of a bridge partner of Syl’s mother. What was the name of his date? Lisa, or Laura, or something like that? Roy reflected on how old she must be by now — old enough to be Maggie’s mother, in fact, possibly even her grandmother.
“Let’s get going,” Roy said, pushing such thoughts out of his mind. “We don’t want to be late.”
Holding the door of his Ford Taurus open for Maggie, Roy said, “Hope you don’t mind that I didn’t rent a limo.” Thanks to his inheritance, he could have purchased outright a fleet of limousines, but he found them pretentious. His Taurus got him from point A to point B as well as any limo, he would be quick to point out.
“Not at all,” Maggie said. “I’m so excited to be going to the Silver Sphere Awards, I’d be happy to arrive in the Partridge Family bus! Tell me again how we got tickets; I forget.”
“My friend Jenn,” Roy reminded her, sliding into the driver’s seat. “She signed up for a recurring role on Space Trek 2022: The Next Generation, and they gave her four tickets.”
“She’s Jade, isn’t she,” Maggie asked, “in Infinity Inc.?”
“Right; she’s one of us who doesn’t maintain a secret identity.” Roy shook his head; that was another thing he had trouble getting used to. In his day, a super-hero guarded his true identity like the Hope Diamond. Nowadays everybody knew who half of them really were; shortly after forming their team a few years ago, Infinity Inc. had held a press conference a revealing their true identities. (*) And even some of the members of the Justice Society of America, from the old days, had revealed their identities to the world.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Press Conference,” Infinity, Inc. #12 (March, 1985).]
“I’ll have to thank her,” Maggie said. “Be sure and point her out to me.”
Roy chuckled. “I’ll do that. I think you two are going to hit it off.”
“Right,” Maggie said, enjoying the laugh. “You know, not long ago, I would have been just as thrilled at the prospect of meeting a real, live super-hero as I am at going to the Silver Spheres. Now, she’s just someone my boyfriend works with.”
“I guess dating me has, you’ll pardon the pun, jaded you,” Roy said.
Maggie elbowed him in the ribs for the pun.
At the lavish hotel where the awards ceremony was held, the valet wrinkled his nose at Roy’s Taurus, but Roy let it pass in stride. Arm in arm, he and Maggie entered the lobby. It was packed with actors, directors, and other show business luminaries; Maggie was starstruck.
“Roy, look!” she’d gape. “There’s Bruce Willis! And, oh my God, is that Emilio Estevez?”
“He seems taller on the screen,” Roy commented.
“Everybody does,” a new feminine voice said from behind them. Roy and Maggie turned to see a beautiful young woman in an emerald green evening gown. The green gown offset her chestnut brown hair brilliantly.
“Hi, Jenn,” Roy said. “Jenn, this is Maggie O’Toole. Maggie, Jennie-Lynn Hayden.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Maggie said, shaking Jenn’s hand. “I can’t thank you enough for the tickets! This is like a dream come true for me!”
“Hey, you’re welcome,” Jenn said. “Roy’s told me all about you; he praises you to the skies, you know.”
“Jenn…” Roy said, a bit embarrassed.
“He is a doll,” Maggie agreed. “So, how do you and Roy know each other?”
“Oh, I met him when Infinity Inc. did a YMCA fundraiser,” Jenn said, maintaining their cover story for any nearby listeners. “Roy does great work with those kids.”
“Say, Jenn, where’s your date?” Roy asked. “Wasn’t Hank coming with you?”
“Oh, there was a last-minute emergency,” Jenn said. “Fusebox and Sky Angel are tearing up the San Dimas Mall.”
“What?” Roy gasped. “Shouldn’t you be over there, then?” Jenn knew that by you he meant we.
“Naw. The others have it under control,” Jenn said, waving her hand dismissively. “I mean, it’s Fusebox and Sky Angel, for crying out loud. Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys could take ’em.”
“That’s true,” Roy admitted. He thought, too, that he had perhaps been tactless in what he had said, since Jenn had lost her Jade powers recently. (*) Then the lights in the lobby began to flicker.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Green Lantern: Total Eclipse.]
“I guess they want us to take our seats,” Jenn said. “Come on — we don’t want to miss anything!”
“Excuse me,” a middle-aged man said in a low, sepulchral tone as he sidled up to them.
“Yes?” Roy asked, his muscles instinctively tensing.
“Pardon me for interrupting,” the man said. “My name is Wilkes. I’m one of the chairmen of tonight’s festivities. May I ask if you three are together?”
“We are,” Jenn confirmed.
“No one else in your party?” Wilkes asked.
“No,” Roy said. “Why?”
“How would you like to sit in the second row?” Wilkes asked.
Maggie’s eyes lit up like a child on Christmas morning. “Would we?”
“Oh, I’ve heard of this happening,” Jenn said. “This is broadcast on live TV, so naturally they don’t like to have any empty seats. So if they get any no-shows near the front, they ask someone to fill their seats.”
“Precisely,” Wilkes said with a smile. “I didn’t think I’d find a party of three! Please, come with me.”
“Mind if I ask whose seats we’re filling?” Roy asked.
Wilkes hesitated, as if reluctant to release the information; then he shrugged slightly, perhaps realizing that it would all be in People magazine next week, anyway. “James Melvin and his party,” Wilkes said. “He was due an hour ago, but he hasn’t shown up or called.”
“James Melvin, huh?” Roy repeated. The young star, barely into his twenties, already had quite a reputation as a Hollywood party animal. One comedian had remarked that he made the Brat Pack look like a junior high math club, with his various indulgences. “I guess he could be anywhere.”
Wilkes showed them to their seats, then left to attend to other responsibilities. Maggie was overjoyed at how close they were to the stage. “I could practically reach up and touch them!” she effused.
“Just see you don’t,” Roy warned.
Maggie favored him with a smile. “Don’t worry, tiger,” she teased, squeezing his leg.
“I wonder why Melvin is in a party of three?” Jenn, on Roy’s other side, wondered. “I mean, I saw on ET that he’s dating Beth Malo, but who’s the third wheel?”
“Beth Malo?” Roy asked. “Isn’t she on that syndicated show, what’s it called? Monsters something?”
“The Mansters Today,” Jenn corrected. “An updated version of an old sitcom from the ’60s.”
Roy shrugged. “I spent the ’60s as a centaur.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “And One of Us Must Die,” Justice League of America #102 (October, 1972).]