Gotham City’s nocturnal cityscape was justly celebrated around the world for its unique nature. The city’s commercial district contained the typical stores and shops found in any large metropolitan area. However, Gotham City boasted a rather bizarre, if effective means of making those businesses attract attention. Oversized props that matched the goods or services offered by each respective store crowned most of the buildings. Thus a huge working model of a typewriter loomed over the store front of the Gotham Office Machines Company while a neon inkwell and pen rested on the roof of the Johnson Stationary Store.
The idea for the signs had originated in the mind of a rather eccentric city councilman who approved the concept and encouraged its execution by all the businesses that subsequently came to the region. Still, for everyone who viewed the theme as a quaint reminder of times past, there were others who hated the concept.
The new Page One boutique seemed to combine the best of old and new. It was a modern dress shop with an old-fashioned logo above the door, but it lacked any prop on the roof above.
Linda Page Owens was not the kind of woman to disrespect the past, but the shapely blonde was also a forward thinker. She had made a name for herself in several different fields. From nursing to fashion design, she had been both successful and capable. She was happy to be back in the city she associated with the most exciting years of her youth, and she was more than a little nervous about opening a new store in the famous city.
She had been very successful with a string of boutiques that sold her own designs, and her husband and daughters were justly proud of her. However, she had never opened one of her Page One shops in the east before. She wondered if being in Gotham City would automatically attract criminals. This was not paranoia. She knew from personal past experience that life in Gotham City could involve running into any number of colorful costumed criminals at any moment. She also knew the city was well-protected from those felons by Red Robin, the Huntress, and other defenders of the Batman’s legacy.
So Linda took one final stroll through the closed shop in anticipation of the grand opening the next day. She gazed across the store and smiled sadly as she recalled an old friend. Bruce, may your soul rest in peace, she thought. I’ve always wondered if marriage brought you a measure of contentment, or if the old demons never allowed you to know tranquility.
Before the elegant blonde woman could shake the old memories of her onetime romance with the late Bruce Wayne and of the shadows that always kept them apart, she heard a sound at the back of the shop. She picked up a pair of shears and walked toward the rear of the shop.
“Who’s there?” she demanded even as she cursed her nerves. She peered around a row of chic dresses to see nothing. “I’m getting jumpy in my old age. Seeing the Joker around every hemline!”
She turned around and headed back to the front when two strong hands grabbed her from behind and wrestled her back into the shadows. She struggled to no avail and passed out in the same strong arms that continued to hold her.
The man who held her wore a solid black costume. His face was masked, and there were apparently no openings to allow him to see. Still, he certainly moved with silent agility and ruthless efficiency. “She is ours, although once more your victim’s beauty is like a wan moon next to a morning sun when compared with your own,” he said.
His companion emerged from the shadows and inclined her head slightly in acknowledgement. She moved with a regal grace that befitted her aristocratic manner and slightly old-fashioned, long gray gown with gloves and a veil. Her blonde hair was gleaming, and her figure was exquisite. She spoke in a soft voice with a heavy accent.
“Oui. Eet is so,” said the mysterious blonde girl. “Still, she will serve my purpose.” She lifted her veil to reveal a delicately boned face with nearly a complete absence of facial features. She leaned forward over the still form of Linda Page Owens, and her blonde curls cascaded forward around her nape of her neck and her strangely featureless face.
The faceless woman held a small device over Linda’s own face and miraculously erased the other woman’s features as well. “Eet is done,” she said. “Now for the compliment.”
She looked up at the black-clad male as her own face gradually took on the exact features of the stunned Linda.
“I still marvel at your powers, Mademoiselle Fantome!” said the man in admiration.
That same night found a weary Dick Grayson sitting in front of a large television. He smiled slightly as he watched an elegantly dressed beauty exchange barbs with a lounging but dapper actor. “I really like these old Thin Man movies,” he said. “Myrna Loy had a profile nobody could touch.”
Alfred Beagle nodded and said, “Indeed, sir. Although the addition of the child marred the series, in my humble opinion.”
“Yes, nothing like a bratty kid to mess up a good thing,” said Dick with a grin.
“I won’t take that remark as a veiled commentary on the worth of junior sidekicks,” said Alfred.
Dick smiled and said, “No. Don’t do that. Batwing has been worth his weight in gold. I’m sorry he’s busy with his own team, but I’m proud to see how he’s branching out. I worked solo occasionally during my years as a kid partner, but I never knew what it was like to be a regular part of a big team until I joined the JSA as an adult. I’m just happy that, after that raid on the smuggling ring near Bayside, it turned out to be a pretty quiet night, if you don’t count bringing in the Red Devil Gang.”
He held out a tray of refreshments to the older man, who nodded and sat down beside his friend. Alfred cared deeply about the proper proprieties between employer and employee, but the two men were more like family to one another than associates, and at times even Alfred enjoyed a comfortable familiarity.
They watched the old film and little imagined that the quiet night had not been so silent or peaceful for Linda Page Owens.
In a luxurious suite at the Gotham Arms Hotel, a beautiful woman reclined on a sofa and snuggled up against a plush pillow. She sighed with contentment and rested her slipper-covered feet on a table. She ran a hand through her auburn hair and smiled as she also turned on the Thin Man movie on cable.
“Seeing the bantering between Nick and Nora makes me miss Carter, but I couldn’t miss a chance to buy some Page One originals!” said Shiera Sanders Hall. “He’ll just have to enjoy his night of roughing it with the boys.”
She referred to her husband, Carter Hall. He was her soulmate in every way, but he also enjoyed time with his male buddies as well. The fact that the wealthy archeologist also shared time with those same pals in his costumed role of Hawkman of the Justice Society did nothing to lessen his own enjoyment of a rare night away from his wife. Shiera knew this, since she knew her husband well. She also understood that such moments apart allowed her to spoil herself with spa trips and shopping. Perhaps because the two lovers had been destined to be together since a past life in ancient Egypt gave her added insight into how her husband thought.
Picking up an invitation, she said, “Shiera, you lucky girl, you! Tomorrow will be a day to remember!”
The next morning found a smiling Linda Page Owens standing on a slightly elevated platform in front of a dozen specially invited wealthy women. They had been selected because of their status as high society, idle rich women who craved the latest fashions at the highest prices. Linda wore an elegant old-fashioned gray gown with gloves. She seemed oblivious to the fact that her outfit looked like something out of Victorian times.
Shiera sat near the front row and wore an elegantly styled light blue dress with high heels. She glanced appraisingly around the room at the other customers and the models who waited for their cues to display the designer fashions.
Linda Page briefly gained Batman’s mental and athletic prowess during that bizarre Mars case in the ’40s, thought Shiera. (*) I wonder if she also was tinged with the chronal energy he and several of us absorbed during the Karkull case? She certainly doesn’t seem to have aged very much. She may just know a good plastic surgeon. She leaned forward slightly as Linda began to speak.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice Society of America: Times Past, 1943: Society Girls.]
“You have come here to shop,” she said. “You will be allowed to do so. However, the commodity you will pay for will be your individual identities!”
Shiera heard muted laughter as the other women tried to make sense of the odd statement. Shiera frowned. “I never knew Linda to have such an odd accent! Something is wrong here! I know French fashions have a certain mystique, but Linda’s a Southern girl!”
She stood up and slipped swiftly to the front of the store, moving quickly as if she had forgotten something in her car. She turned to see a white light flash from the stage and wash over the other women, including the models. As the light faded, she gasped to see the frightened crowd now had one striking similarity. None of the women had distinctive facial features. They could see, hear, and breathe, but they lacked even a hint of individuality.
“Ladies, I have stolen your identities!” said the false Linda. “If you ever wish to regain your features, you will pay me a very nice sum. I require one million dollars from each of you before I shall restore your faces! Do not fear — we shall make arrangements for the proper transfer of funds as necessary!”
Shiera slipped off her dress and removed a tiny ball from her purse. She spread it open to reveal her Hawkgirl costume. She slipped into the suddenly full-sized costume, and then she pressed a spot on her shoulder blades, and her wings enlarged behind her. She slipped a feminine version of Hawkman’s helmet over her head and raced forward.
The miniaturization of my gear worked like a charm, she thought. Jay was a dear to develop it for me. He knew the principle would work, because the Flash of Earth-One used something like it. This gives me the same advantage Carter gained from those real wings Odin gave him.
As she soared over the startled crowd below her, she attempted to grab Linda, only she was intercepted by an agile figure in black who jumped out of the shadows to grab her legs and hold her back. Linda darted aside and watched from a safe distance.
“No one will harm my mistress!” growled the man as he climbed up Hawkgirl’s legs and reached for her upper body.
Hawkgirl struggled with the stronger man and managed to connect with a right hook. He grunted in pain and clawed at her torso. He managed to release her wing harness, and as her wings fell to the ground below, he began to choke her.
Bringing her knees up, she flipped him over her head to the ground below even as she veered sharply into a hanging light fixture. “Can’t steer with any accuracy without my wings!” she muttered as she kicked away from the light and grabbed her wings.
She gasped in pain as a blunt instrument struck her head. She saw stars as the room began to spin around her.
Hawkgirl bravely stood up and staggered toward her attacker. He held a truncheon as he circled her silently with a grim finality about his every movement.
She knew that she had no time to slip back into her wings, so she merely used them as a shield and kept them between her body and her foe. He moved swiftly and with a violence that was all the more disturbing because of his taciturn relentlessness.
The blonde in the gray gown stepped closer and shouted, “Ladies, if you want my help, then first I require you to ground the Hawkman’s lover!” Hawkgirl no longer had any illusion that she was the true Linda Page Owens. This strange impostor was clearly someone far more sinister in every way.
The women hesitated, but several of them obeyed the command. They were desperate to be cured. They charged at Hawkgirl and began to batter her from all sides. She hated to harm anyone who was in truth a helpless victim, so she did the only thing she could do. She clutched her wings to her chest and soared away. She crashed through the display window and landed outside.
Slipping into her wings, Hawkgirl tried to get her bearings. “The wings protected me from the glass,” she said. “I just have a few minor cuts. My helmet absorbed most of the impact from that truncheon. Still, I don’t think I’m up to a brawl with that group in my current condition!”
She decided to activate her JSA communications device in her belt buckle when a voice from above stopped her in mid-motion.
“Shiera, before you do that, let me see if I can’t be of help to you,” he said. “We don’t need the team for this!”
Hawkgirl glanced up as an acrobatic figure in red dropped down to steady her. “Robin! I’m glad to see you!” she said. “The store is in chaos! People have lost their faces! It’s like a nightmare!”
“I was on patrol when you crashed through the glass,” said Red Robin. “Let’s go back in and see if we can bring order to the place with a few well-placed gas pellets!” He hurled three pellets from his utility belt into the broken window, and as the knockout gas filled the store, he handed Shiera two small nose-plugs.
They entered the store, and in moments the gas had knocked all of the altered women out. There was no sign of the mysterious Mademoiselle Fantome or her male servant.
Red Robin gently lifted one woman’s head in his hands and frowned grimly. The gas had wafted away by then, and he ripped off his protective devices. “I know who did this,” he said. “I’m going to call in some of O’Hara’s men and let them take care of these poor women. I think we can restore them in time. In the meantime, you and I have to track down the woman behind this weird scheme.”