by Dan Swanson
“So, Lily, let’s assume for a moment that this is the work of the Oculist,” Libby Lawrence whispered to me. “What happens next?”
I was thinking fast. I had no idea what this was all about. Biff Redondo did have a grudge against me, but why show up today? We couldn’t sit around here and wait to find out. We needed to do something right now, and we could always figure out the why later.
“His range used to be about two hundred yards, but he was getting stronger, and that was years ago. My guess is that he would walk to the center of the main courtyard, take off his eye-patch, and spin in a circle to knock out everyone on campus. For whatever reason, we seem to be immune to his power. He won’t be expecting anyone to be awake, so we can probably surprise him.”
Libby easily slung the unconscious Lois Lane over her shoulder. “Let’s get out of this dead end, then, and see what we can do about this mess.”
I could probably have carried Lois, but not nearly so easily. Libby had super-strength. Suddenly, it all came together — a bell ringing, a beautiful blonde, action-oriented and possessing super-strength, and even without her mask, I recognized that Libby Lawrence was Liberty Belle.
She saw the surprise in my eyes and winked. “Liberty Belle is retired. Besides, that’s classified information.” So I dropped the subject.
“Why are you taking Lois? If this is Biff, he’s probably looking for me.” We both took off our heels so we wouldn’t click when we walked. I went first, and peered cautiously out the door; there was nobody in the hall either way. I turned toward the center of campus, and Libby smiled.
“The best defense, eh? A surprise attack sounds like fun. But don’t make assumptions about what’s going on here, Lily! My guess is someone has plans for Superman’s girlfriend, here. Whenever super-villains are involved, and Lois is around, it’s almost always about her. It’s why most of us ‘super’ types keep our private lives private.”
We headed down the corridor, with me scouting ahead. I let Libby catch up to me as I peeked around a corner in the hall. “If these guys are after Lois, they must think they’re prepared to deal with Superman.”
She gave an approving nod. “Good thinking! I hope it’s not magic! I hate dealing with magic! Kryptonite would be ever so much easier.” She shook her head.
“Libby, there’s someone in the next corridor. Quick, up the stairs!” At the top of the stairs, we hid ourselves as best we could and watched about a half-dozen armed men, one with an army-issue two-way radio, walk around the corner. The radioman seemed to be giving an update to someone on the other end.
They looked like typical gangsters — mean-looking guys in cheap suits, carrying pistols and tommy-guns. You’ve seen them in any number of gangster movies, extras who don’t have speaking parts and get gunned down in battles with other mobsters or the police. They weren’t exactly being quiet, and they weren’t too alert. They never even looked up the stairs. I guess they trusted Biff’s powers. Well, that was their mistake.
“We need to knock out the guy with the radio first,” I suggested. “We can take them pretty easily.” As long as I’m with Liberty Belle, I added inwardly.
With a quarterstaff, I might have been able to take on that many unarmed bad guys, especially the way I felt at that moment. Guys that used guns all the time often depended on their guns too much, and they had trouble believing a girl with a stick could be dangerous. But I didn’t have my staff, and they definitely weren’t unarmed.
Libby looked at me questioningly. “Are you sure you want to fight these guys? Guns change things! I can help you get off campus, and then take them myself.”
“Lib, I worked for weeks to help set up today’s events, and these guys, whoever they are, ruined everything. Of course I’m going to fight!” I hadn’t realized just how angry I was — I had to be careful with that. “Don’t try to keep me out of this!” She started to protest, but I interrupted her. “OK, then why don’t you call some of your All-Star friends? Johnny Quick or one of the other men could be here in no time!”
Libby smiled. “OK, I get your point. These guys are our problem, and we’ll take care of it ourselves.” She placed Lois down. “We’d better wake up Sleeping Beauty, here. If they are after her, she won’t be safe no matter where we stash her, and besides, she’s a pretty tough lady. We can use her help!”
“Does she know?” I asked. “I don’t want to give away any classified secrets!”
Libby smiled. “She must, but if she doesn’t, she’ll figure it out soon, I’m sure. Don’t worry about it. We need our full attention on the bad guys.”
She took one of Lois’ hands with one of hers, and rubbed her belt buckle with the other. Because I was prepared, I could faintly hear a bell ringing, a big bell a long way away.
Lois sighed, then spoke dreamily. “Ah, Clark, that was nice!”
“Hey! I thought you were Superman’s girl!” Libby chuckled gleefully. “You must have been dreaming! Wait ’till I tell Clarkie!”
Lois was clearly puzzled about where she was and how she’d gotten there, not to mention why she’d been asleep and dreaming. But that could wait — this was important. “You say one word to anyone, Lawrence, and you’re toast — crispy toast.”
“Yeah, like that’s something to worry about,” Libby said, teasing her back. “Now, are we gonna sit here and bicker, or do you want to help us beat up the bad guys?”
Lois was immediately interested. “Bad guys? Shouldn’t we call…?”
“No!” Libby and I responded at the same time. Lois ignored us, continuing her sentence.
“…in the story?” We should have known. Lois wasn’t any more interested in getting outside help than we were, even though she had no idea what was going on. Now that was self-confidence.
“Lois, we don’t know the story yet. We think the Oculist is trying to kidnap you, and there’s a bunch of thugs with heaters running around the halls.” I was pretty sure that was the full story, so far, but then Libby added some details.
“We saw seven thugs, one of ’em with a walkie-talkie, so there is at least one other group,” explained Libby. “They had only a general idea of where they might find you, and they’re going to meet with another team near the dining room. They don’t expect to find anybody still awake. From their conversation, I think they’re working with the Oculist, but I doubt if he’s the boss — probably just another hired hand. And they’ve got a tight schedule. Biff is going to make another sweep in fifteen minutes!” She winked at me. “Oh, yeah, we also figure their boss, whoever it is, has some way of dealing with Superman.”
Boy, was I impressed. I had tried to listen in on those mugs, but it just sounded like gabble to me.
Lois didn’t even question our assumption that the bad guys were after her. I’ve since tried to imagine what her life must be like, and I didn’t like the thought. Just as cool as she had been over cocktails, she responded to Libby.
“I sure hope it’s kryptonite!”
Libby nodded. “So, I suggest we take out the boss, whoever it is, and then worry about the hired help later. Let’s go!”
She was quite a take-charge gal, that Libby Lawrence. I could see why she’d become world-famous in both of her identities.
Three people were standing in the shade of the clock tower in the Opal City University quad. One of the men was wearing blue jeans and a shirt, and had a patch on his eye. The other two, a man and a woman, were both wearing costumes, though hers was much more exotic than his. The big guy in a costume was listening to the two-way radio.
“Boss, we found the sleeping beauties, but dat Lane dame ain’t one of ’em. Are we in a hurry? Some of the boys could use a little R and R.”
The black-haired woman snatched the walkie-talkie from the hands of the boss, a big man in a funny mask. She actually hissed when she spoke; it wasn’t a humorous sound. It was a very dangerous sound, and the danger was real. “Haston, you slimy weasel! If you or any of your boys even touch one of those women, I’ll rip your guts out and laugh while I watch you bleed to death! Or maybe I’ll get a little R and R myself first! Rrr-rrrooowww-wwwlll…”
That growl might have sounded funny, coming from an ordinary woman, but this woman was anything but. Statuesque, lithe, beautiful, and deadly, she was wearing an outfit of tiger skin, which included gloves with long, nasty claws. Her growl, rather than her attire, convinced everyone listening that she was part big cat, not that they’d had doubts before.
She turned back to the big man. He was wearing a baseball uniform with a cloth hanging down in front of his face from under the cap. He was carrying a golf bag, but it contained more than golf clubs — a baseball bat, hockey and lacrosse sticks, and a tennis racquet, along with things that were less readily identified.
“Well, big shot, it looks like another one of your plans messed up! It was going to be so easy. We’d just march right in, your new lackey would put everyone to sleep, and we’d snatch Lane before anyone knew what happened! Right! I should know better than to follow your lead by now! Oh, and did I ever tell you just how stupid that mask looks?”
“In fact, you have — probably a thousand times since yesterday. Shut it, will ya?”
In turn, he faced the third person. “OK, Redondo, what’s the deal? You said Lane was going to be here!”
“And she is — I saw her myself earlier,” said Biff Redondo. “I’ve been watching DeLuna a long time, waiting for a chance like this! If you’d let me act alone, I could have caught Lane for you and DeLuna for me! And I’m no lackey!” The man known as the Oculist drew himself up. He was a big man and well-built, an ex-high school football star who kept in shape, but he still looked like a boy next to the Sportsmaster. “You couldn’t have pulled this off without my power.”
The Huntress responded. “Then it looks like maybe Lane wasn’t affected by your precious power, little boy. Crusher?” She turned back to the big man. “I say we get out of here now, and leave Doctor Occult, here, behind!”
“Agreed!” Crusher Crock turned back to Redondo. “Your tryout for membership in the third incarnation of the Injustice Society of the World is over, and you failed.” (*) The two turned and headed toward the main parking lot.
[(*) Editor’s note: For the second incarnation of the Injustice Society earlier in 1948, see “The Case of the Patriotic Crimes,” All-Star Comics #41 (June-July, 1948).]
The Oculist turned toward them and reached for his eye-patch, but chilling words from the Huntress stopped him cold.
“Try it and you’ll die with your entrails stuffed in your mouth, punk! Remember, I’m immune to your power, even if tall, dark, and ugly, here…” She jabbed Sportsmaster with her elbow. “…swoons over you!”
“I know you’ve always wanted a Cord, babe,” Sportsmaster said, talking to the Huntress as if they hadn’t just been screaming at each other. “There’s a really nice one in the parking lot — I guess they’re paying some professor too much!”
I don’t know how she could possibly have known, but I guess she hadn’t been called the Tigress for nothing earlier in her life. Somehow, she sensed the ambush Libby and I had set up.
“Look out!” The Huntress pushed Sportsmaster aside, with surprising strength, and leaped the other way, just as I dropped on her from the arch through the wall.
Libby was rushing them from the side, and as she smashed into Sportsmaster, they fell in a tangle. His bag went flying, throwing sports equipment all around.
The Huntress managed to take a swipe at me as I fell through the space she had just vacated. I was able to avoid it, but I landed awkwardly. I used my momentum to roll away from her and stood upright a good fifteen feet distant. Unfortunately, the passage through the wall was floored with cobblestone, so I was a little bit battered already, and the fight hadn’t even started. I was more than a little nervous, fighting a super-villainess. I realized that this might be a little out of my league.
“Ah, dearie! You must be that DeLuna witch that poor Biff hates so much? Slapped him down for getting too frisky, did you? I sympathize — he’s really a worm. He says you’re some kind of great fighter, though. Think you’re a match for the Huntress?”
Actually, without surprise on my side, I wasn’t sure. What was I thinking, only three minutes ago?!
We had been cautiously circling each other. From the corner of my eye, I caught sight of Lois Lane tackling Biff out on the green, and Libby Lawrence was squaring off with the Sportsmaster. We had hoped to end this in a hurry, but it looked like we weren’t going to be that lucky.
The six of us were pretty busy for the next fifteen minutes. I didn’t see the whole thing, so I had to put together the whole story afterward from their accounts. Still, I think it happened pretty much in the following way. You’ll have to forgive me for switching mid-story from first-person narrative to third-person; the story simply called for it from this point on.