Hawkgirl and Red Robin quickly acted upon his plan, and after helping the local police tend to the victims, the pair of heroes went to the Batcave beneath Wayne Manor. Shiera Hall had only been inside the massive cavern once or twice before. She smiled to herself as she watched the caped crusader at work. He seemed to possess a boundless confidence based entirely upon a justified awareness of his own abilities. She also knew that any praise she might offer him would be deflected by a remark that he owed all he knew to the late Batman.
Red Robin sat in front of a computer screen and spoke in a calm authoritative tone. “A few months before I first met him, Batman fought an aristocratic villain called the Duc d’Orterre in Paris,” he explained. “The duc led a gang of ‘apaches’ and had invented a ray that removed all facial features from his victims, yet still allowing them to breathe, eat, and see. Batman had thought him dead after their first encounter, but he apparently survived. (*) Shortly after, the duc’s ray somehow backfired, ironically making him as featureless as his would-be victims.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Batman, Detective Comics #34 (December, 1939).]
“From what the Huntress told me, this Mademoiselle Fantome was born to the duc in his old age completely without facial features as a result of the duc’s accident with his ray. But as the girl grew up, she learned that she could alter her facial features at will, changing them to anyone she chose to mimic. She’s as brilliant as her father, and by the time she fought the Huntress last year, she’d modified the ray to cause only the victim’s mind to be wiped clean. (*) She’s a spoiled aristocrat living off her dwindling wealth, and she’s using this new scheme to extort money from wealthy women in exchange for restoring their identities. She will only tarry long enough to rob them, then vanish like the phantom she poses as.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Huntress: Night Moves.]
“Do you think she killed the real Linda?” said Shiera. “What do you know about her male ally? He gave me a really rough time!”
“She was freed from prison by a mysterious man,” said Red Robin. “I’d wager this guy helped her then as well. He is not known to me, but I’m sure her family had its share of retainers, so to speak! As for your first question, I think we can assume that her first move will be to try to cash in on the fact that she has Linda. I doubt she’s killed her. She’s never murdered before.”
“I think her boyfriend has no such compunctions,” said Shiera. “He wore a weird mask that didn’t appear to have any openings for his eyes. I suppose the fabric was some type of special cloth that allowed him to see out while appearing solid from our side. You know, call me a shallow, spoiled rich girl turned heroine, but I have always wondered why so many crooks don’t just use their wonderful inventions commercially to make a fortune legally.”
Red Robin smiled and said, “A woman with your sense of style should know the answer. They just get a kick out of dressing up in a fancy costume.” He added, “I think Mademoiselle Fantome will try to steal Linda’s own assets and then get away. That’s why I want to head out to the old Page estate. Linda’s late father owned it. She used it when she moved to Gotham, but her industrialist father never sold it after she married.”
They headed out into the night and swiftly made their way to a large house outside the city limits. The grounds were not well-maintained, and the place appeared forlorn and vacant.
“Linda might reopen it if she decides to stay here a while,” he said. “I think she was planning to decide that after she determined if her new shop was going to be a hit here.”
“You knew her pretty well, didn’t you?” said Shiera. “I’d almost forgotten how close she and Bruce were.”
Red Robin nodded. “She called me before she arrived. I meant to meet her for dinner, but other duties called.”
They approached the old house, and he said, “Her ray that removed the facial features can also restore them. I have no doubt we can get her to do just that when we bring her into custody.”
“Too bad she could not alter that ray so it improved one’s looks,” said Hawkgirl. “A facelift in an instant would be a real money-maker!”
They drew closer, and Red Robin shoved Hawkgirl flat as a ray blazed through the air where she had been hovering. “I saw that flicker just before she fired the beam!” he explained.
Hawkgirl nodded ruefully. “Thanks! That’s what I get for being distracted!”
They moved apart, and Hawkgirl swooped skyward. She exulted in the sensation of flight, and she moved with grace and speed. I wish the babies were old enough to experience flight, she thought. Still, I know Lyta and Hector wouldn’t be reckless enough to carry them aloft while they are so little. I guess it’s the grandma — yuck! — in me speaking.
She glanced down at the old brick chimney and sighed. I’ll send Linda Owens the cleaning bill for my costume, she thought. Plunging down the narrow chimney, she erupted out of the old, empty fireplace to confront only an empty room.
Hawkgirl sputtered in annoyance and rubbed away some soot. “Correction,” she said. “I’ll bill her for costume cleaning and hair styling!”
The feathered femme fatale flew through the rooms and heard a sound at the end of the hall. She swooped inside a room and saw a bound Linda Page Owens. Linda appeared weary but unhurt.
Shiera withdrew a thin knife from a sheath on her hip and sliced through the ropes. She rubbed Linda’s wrists and whispered, “You’ll be OK. Come with me!”
She slipped her arms around Linda and carried her out the nearest window. In flight, she could lift more than she normally could carry due to the power of her anti-gravity Nth-metal belt.
Hawkgirl gently lowered Linda to the garden below and said, “Run down the garden path to the red car. Wait for us there!”
Linda nodded and said, “Thank you!”
As she raced off, Hawkgirl returned to the house. Now to teach that duchess not to mess with a princess! she thought.
Meanwhile, Red Robin had managed to slip into the house unseen. He disabled the energy beam that had been fired at Hawkgirl upon their first approach and now stood over a stunned guard.
Mademoiselle Fantome’s hired helpers aren’t very good at fighting, he thought. For that matter, they aren’t very good at observation, either. I guess our man in black is an exception, based on how Shiera described him.
He bound the man quickly and expertly before moving through the house. He recalled a few visits there years ago. He glanced around the dusty rooms and recalled the period in his life when he had been a bright youngster by the side of the greatest mentor and partner a boy could ever want. He and Bruce Wayne spent plenty of evenings in such ornate settings among the city’s wealthy and elite. They spent many more evenings out in the excitement and danger of the vibrant city with the worst and most colorful criminals any society could produce.
Hearing a soft noise, he whirled to send a bat-shaped projectile spinning through the air to disarm a man in black. His truncheon clattered to the floor as he faced Red Robin.
“You! You are the scion of the Bat!” whispered the man. “He disgraced my late master! He caused pain to my mistress!”
Red Robin noticed the mask he wore lacked any slits for his eyes, but he knew the thug could obviously see. “What do we call you? No Eyes? The Faceless Fiend? Dr. Can’t See?”
“I am known as Tenebres!” said the man in black. He jumped forward to grapple with Red Robin, but the faster man was already in motion.
Red Robin dodged the French villain and connected with a swift flurry of blows. He managed to send the villain reeling backward on his feet, and he moved forward to complete the job.
Tenebres staggered and raked at Red Robin’s face, trying to compensate for his lesser skill with sheer brutality. The ploy failed miserably.
Red Robin twisted and sent the man crashing to the floor. Before he could get up again, he was caught in a hastily drawn and tossed bat-line. “You gave Hawkgirl a real struggle. Too bad she didn’t have my years of intensive training. She’s a bit rusty. I’m not!” declared Red Robin. Tenebres remained silent as the hero bound him tighter.
Red Robin darted up the stairs and called out loudly. “Duchess d’Orterre! You may as well surrender! We have your servant. We also know your M.O. very well. You can’t catch us off-guard with your facial alterations!”
He nodded as the woman herself stepped out on the landing. She lifted her veil and revealed her customary featureless face. She held a small gun in her gray-gloved hand. “You may be deluding yourself, mon ami,” she said. “You can’t be prepared for this.”
She did not fire the gun. She just brought one dainty high heel down on the floor as if she was stomping in a fit of anger. A pulse of energy suddenly washed through the house, and the sheer expansive nature of the energy caught even Red Robin by surprise.
He grabbed his head in pain and fell forward. He had not lost any of his training. It was all intact. He merely had no recollection of it nor of his own name, purpose, or identity.
“I set up my old memory-sapping ray here upon arrival,” explained Mademoiselle Fantome. “It was a final precaution. I removed all standard shielding from the device, so upon activation its energy would saturate the entire house. I am immune to it, as you can see.”
Red Robin shook his head. “I don’t know who you are! I don’t understand what’s happened. I can’t even tell you my own name!”
She approached him and laughed a musical laugh as she placed one petite hand on his lips. “Hush,” she said. “You are my loyal servant. That is all you must know.”
A loud scream echoed through the house as a flying figure appeared from upstairs and streaked toward the pair. It was a fighting-mad Hawkgirl. She crashed into Mademoiselle Fantome and struck her again and again with a fury that allowed the smaller woman no respite.
“You tried to kill me!” she cried. “You serve Hath-Set! You have taken Prince Khufu from me! Where is he? Tell me, or I’ll end your miserable life, you spawn of Set!”
She battered the Frenchwoman until she collapsed at her feet. She gasped for air, and slowly her own memories returned to her. She called a paramedic for the injured Mademoiselle Fantome and placed her hands gently on Red Robin’s arm.
“It’s OK,” she said. “Your memory has been stolen, but you have a cure in the cave. Your friend Alfred and I will fix things. The Huntress worked up a way to counter this particular effect of the duchess’s weaponry. We can use what she put together to cure you. Just take my hand and trust me!”
Red Robin nodded slowly and followed her into the night.
Later, back at the Batcave, a restored Red Robin expressed his thanks to Hawkgirl. “You and Alfred brought me back to normal, and I can’t thank you enough,” he said. “I can use that gun we took from the duchess to reverse what she did to all those poor women. I owe you an apology, too. I was a bit condescending to you back at the house. I guess I was thinking of you as a debutante and not as a heroine.”
Shiera laughed and said, “I’m glad to see you still have that laughing daredevil side to you. When you were a boy, you always had a quick quip or pun at the ready.”
“I have never completely shaken off those old habits,” said Dick Grayson. “The jokes are part of my nature.”
“I know,” said Shiera. “I also think you should not suppress that part of your personality. You went through a rough time when you first joined the JSA. I know you tried so hard to seem like a junior Batman. (*) Carter was not very nice to you back then. He viewed you as a boy in spite of your age and your skill. I gave him a real tongue-lashing, since I knew exactly how his treatment made you feel.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Super-Crisis that Struck Earth-Two,” Justice League of America #55 (August, 1967).]
“When he refused to team up with me on a case when we all divided up, I admit I was pretty bitter,” said Red Robin. (*) “We worked past that in time. Still, unlike Terry Sloane, Rex Tyler, and Clark Kent, Carter didn’t trust me when I first joined the team in that bad costume.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Earth, the Monster-Maker,” Justice League of America #91 (August, 1971) and “Solomon Grundy, the One and Only,” Justice League of America #92 (September, 1971).]
“When I first talked him into letting me use a pair of his wings, he literally grounded me after the case ended!” said Shiera. “He acted like I was too immature to handle them. Oh, I settled that little matter soon afterward! He means well. You have to expect a man with such a devotion to the past to be a bit old-fashioned.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Justice Society of America, All-Star Comics #5 (June-July, 1941).]
“You won’t hear me complaining,” said Red Robin. “After all, it was the very fact that you had a past life to draw upon that allowed you to keep your fighting instincts intact when Mademoiselle Fantome’s ray wiped out your memory as well as my own. You forgot you were Shiera Hall, but you reacted as if you were Shiera the ancient Egyptian, who would later be reincarnated as a modern-day socialite and heroine!”
“Watch who you call ancient!” said Hawkgirl. “It’s odd, though. Something about the way her ray stripped away my memories of my current life seemed to put me more fully in touch with my former one than I previously had been. I fought more fiercely than I normally do!”
“Well, you saved the day, and Linda and I both appreciate it,” said Red Robin. “I think she’ll be happy to give you a private viewing of all her new designs. I know you love to shop.”
They headed out into the Gotham night in the Red Racer and Shiera winked at him. “I do love a good outfit,” she said. “Oh, and about that bad costume, you should have talked to me before you put that gray one together!”