“Wait, say that again, slowly,” Clint Reynolds said, holding up the tape recorder. “M and M stands for–?”
“Morbidity and mortality,” Dr. Charles McNider explained, enunciating carefully. “It’s a conference usually held when a patient dies under less-than-clearcut circumstances, to determine if the hospital personnel did everything in their power efficiently and correctly.”
“I see. It’s a dressing-down kind of thing?”
“Not at this stage, no,” Dr. McNider explained. “Merely a fact-finding mission. Of course, if it is discovered that the death resulted from any hint of negligence or incompetence, steps are taken.”
“What steps?” Reynolds asked.
“What they are is confidential,” McNider explained. “Doesn’t the studio have writers and research staff that handle all this, anyway?”
“Oh, sure,” Reynolds said. “But I always like to put my own suggestions in to jazz up the script. They love it when the star takes an interest in the script.”
“I’m certain they do,” McNider said. “Do you mind if we stop by the cafeteria? We have time for a glass of juice before the conference, and I’m somewhat parched from talking.”
“Oh, sure, Doc, sure. Lead the way!”
As they walked, McNider wondered how he could lose this fool long enough to contact his fellow JSA members. It was true that the Icicle was powerless to escape the hospital on his own. It was also true that he was a longtime member of the Injustice Society, and they were sure to make a try at freeing their colleague. McNider had turned down Carter’s offer to use Justice Society members as guards, feeling certain that he could handle anything that occurred on his own. He hadn’t counted on being unable to assume his Doctor Mid-Nite identity.
“Excuse me, Mr. Reynolds?” a young woman in nurses’ uniform said nervously, stepping up to Reynolds as they stood in the cafeteria line.
“Yes, what can I do for you?” Reynolds asked, turning a dazzling smile on the young nurse.
“I hope you don’t mind, but — well, I’m a big fan; I’ve seen all your movies! I was wondering… would you — if you don’t mind–?”
“Not at all, not at all,” Reynolds said, taking a handy pen from his jacket pocket. “How should I make it out?”
“Ohh! Oh, to Julie, please,” the young nurse gushed.
Dr. McNider fought to keep his expression calm, when all of a sudden a shrill, metallic shriek pierced the normal din of the hospital.
The security alarm, Dr. McNider thought grimly. It’s happening.
“What’s that?” Reynolds cried fearfully. “What’s that alarm? What’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” McNider said tensely. “It could be any number of things, a fire alarm, a violent patient–”
“Run!” a young orderly cried, running hell-bent through the hall past the cafeteria. “The Injustice Society is attacking! Run for your lives!”
“Or that,” McNider said, dryly.
“Oh, my God, I knew it!” Reynolds cried hysterically. “I’m going to die! I’m going to die!”
“Get a grip,” the autograph-seeking nurse said contemptuously, shocked at the action star’s obvious terror.
“Mr. Reynolds,” Dr. McNider said firmly, grasping the frightened actor by the shoulders firmly, “the security office is around the corner and down the hall, on your right. That’ll be the safest place for you right now. Get there as fast as you can, and don’t move until you hear it’s safe. All right?”
“O-OK,” Reynolds stammered, and took off like a shot.
Silently cursing the day Stanislavksy was born, Dr. McNider raced through the hospital corridors. Everyone was running and shouting in such a panic, no one bothered to notice the “blind” doctor maneuvering so well through the hospital. He came to a stop just around the corner from the hall where Joar Makent recuperated. He saw three costumed villains hugging the wall, heard the shouts of the police officers from around the corner. Two of the men were regular members of the Injustice Society of the World, the Gambler and the Sportsmaster. A third was a villain Dr. McNider had not seen in many years. What was his name? Deadbolt?
“Some first assignment you guys thought up for me,” the green-and-purple-clad villain snarled. “When I joined up with your outfit, I told you I needed money for John’s hospital bills! Where’s the money here?”
“I thought you’d appreciate the irony, Deathbolt,” the Gambler said. “Attacking a hospital. Once we get the Icicle back, there’ll be plenty of lucrative opportunities. But if you’re going to be a member of the Society, learn now that we take care of our own.”
“Let’s wrap this up, already,” the Sportsmaster growled, waving the Indian club in his hand menacingly. “Paula will kill me if I’m late for dinner tonight. We’re supposed to be playing bridge with the Cobblepots.”
McNider frowned and rushed back to his office, quickly shutting the door behind him.
Deathbolt, that was the man’s name. With his electrical powers, he was easily the most dangerous of the three. There was a lot more havoc he could cause in a hospital than just zapping people. He had to be stopped before he realized that. With great swiftness, Dr. McNider opened the closet in his office, pushed aside the false back, and took out the colorful costume of Doctor Mid-Nite.
“Doc!” Reynolds’ voice cried from the doorway. McNider started in alarm. In his haste, he had forgotten to lock the door. “Doc, are you in here? I–” The actor stopped, staring at the “blind” doctor he had come to learn how to imitate. “Doc — that costume! What are you doing?!”
Dr. McNider stood frozen like a deer in headlights, holding the costume of Doctor Mid-Nite in his hands as the astonished actor gaped at him. For a split second, he had no idea what to do.
For a split second.
“Mr. Reynolds!” he cried. “Is that you? What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at the security office?”
“I-I came back for you,” Reynolds stammered. “Doc, that — that costume! It isn’t — you’re not–”
“It’s a masquerade costume,” McNider said. “I went to the hospital charity ball as Doctor Mid-Nite last year. I figured it was a good joke, a blind doctor playing a super-hero who can see in the dark.”
“B-but what are you doing with it now?” Reynolds demanded.
“Somebody has to stop those villains before they hurt somebody,” McNider said bravely.
“What?!” Reynolds gaped. “Doc, you’re not serious! Y-you can’t even see!”
“I’m hoping,” McNider said, “that I can bluff those villains into thinking I’m the real Doctor Mid-Nite, scare them off, or at least hold them off until the real JSA can get here,” McNider explained. “Now, you stay here. It’s too late to get to the security office, but maybe they won’t–”
“Doc, you’re not serious!” Reynolds declared. “Those villains will kill you! I can’t let you do it!”
“It’s my responsibility,” McNider said. “The safety of this hospital’s patients! I have to do it!”
There was a tense silence for a moment, and then Reynolds spoke. “Give me the costume, Doc.”
McNider did a double take. “What?”
“I said, gimme the costume,” Reynolds said forcefully. “I’ll do it! I’m an actor — I can make them believe I’m the real deal! Until the real heroes show up, like you said!”
McNider was truly amazed. “Mr. Reynolds, are you sure? I mean–”
“Doc, just give me the costume before I think better of it!” Reynolds demanded.
With a newfound respect for the man, Dr. McNider handed over his costume. Fortunately, the blackout bombs were still in the closet.
Minutes later, Clint Reynolds stood in Dr. McNider’s office, fully costumed as Doctor Mid-Nite.
“It’s a little snug across the chest,” he said. “And these goggles are weird! Makes everything look… red and fuzzy.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” McNider asked.
“No,” Reynolds admitted, and raced out the door.
“About time you guys showed up!” Makent complained as his colleagues stepped over the unconscious police officers. “Hey, who’s the fin-head?”
“‘Fin-head’?” Deathbolt snarled. “Why, you washed up ice-cream man, after all I went through–”
“This is Jake Simmons,” the Gambler interceded, “better known as Deathbolt. He worked with the Ultra-Humanite a few times back during the war.”
“Oh, sure, now I remember,” Makent said. “Good to have you aboard.”
“Thanks,” Deathbolt muttered, grudgingly.
“Come on, let’s get Joar out of here before more cops show up,” the Sportsmaster suggested. “Or, God forbid, the JSA!”
“Married life has softened you up some, Crusher,” Joar laughed.
“Hold it right there, villains!” boomed an authoritative voice from the doorway. All heads turned to see, apparently, Doctor Mid-Nite standing there framed in the doorway, pointing a finger at them accusingly.
“Doctor Mid-Nite!” the Sportsmaster cried.
“Correct,” Reynolds declared in a very basso profundo voice. “Surrender, or feel the might of the man of the night!”
The Gambler and Makent looked at each other, then back at Reynolds.
“Good grief, man, why the corny dialogue?” the Gambler asked Reynolds. “Are we on Candid Camera, or something?”
“Will you surrender?” Reynolds continued, silently praying that they would buy it. “Or must the cloak of dark justice descend on your evil–”
“Oh, cram it,” Deathbolt snarled, flinging out his arm. An electric bolt shot from his fingers toward Reynolds. The costumed actor screamed in terror and leaped aside, the bolt sizzling past him.
Just down the hall, Dr. McNider had opened the electrical service panel on the wall. With deft fingers, he located the switch controlling the corridor in which Room 101 lay. As there were no patients relying on life-support machines in that corridor, McNider flipped the switch that killed the power. Instantly, the whole corridor went dark.
“The lights!” the Sportsmaster cried out.
“He must’ve thrown a blackout bomb!” Makent snarled. “Fan out — don’t stay together, or he’ll get you!”
In terror, Reynolds cowered in a dark corner. He didn’t wonder how the room had gone dark; he was too fearful for his life.
“Wait a minute, there was no bomb,” Deathbolt declared. “The lights just went out! I can fix that; I’ll feed power to ’em!” Deathbolt raised his hands above his head and willed power to flow from his supercharged body into the light fixtures. Instantly, the room was brilliantly lit again, and then the light bulbs burst with loud pops.
“Simmons, you fed them too much power!” the Gambler declared. “You blew ’em out completely!” The room was now dark again.
Unseen by all, Dr. McNider crept silently into the room.
The three costumed villains stalked around the room, feeling their way in front of them, trying to find their unseen foe. The Gambler had his gas-firing Derringer out, while the Sportsmaster brandished the Indian club like a sword.
McNider maneuvered around between the two. As their circuits of the room brought them close to each other, McNider reached out and tapped each man on the shoulder simultaneously.
“Yaa!” the Gambler screamed and lashed out with his Derringer, firing its full load of gas.
“Ahh!” the Sportsmaster cried, swinging the Indian club in a wicked arc.
The club slammed into the side of the Gambler’s head, just as the Sportsmaster got a face-full of gas. Both villains sank to the floor, unconscious.
“Gambler! Sportsmaster?” Deathbolt called. “Damn!” he cursed when there was no reply.
“Mid-Nite already got two of you!” Makent snarled from the bed. “If only I had my cold-gun–”
“Shut up,” Deathbolt growled. “I just got an idea. Hey, Mid-Nite!” he called out. “Did you see what my powers did to the lights in here? Well, I’m gonna do that to the whole freakin’ hospital! Either you let me an’ the snowman walk out of here, or the whole building goes dead! That means life-support machines, lights in operatin’ rooms, everything! You got one minute to decide, hero! What’s it gonna be?”
Reynolds, back flattened against the wall, strained to see. The strange goggles allowed him to see… something — fuzzy red shapes in the darkness. But he couldn’t make them out. What was going on? Had the real Doctor Mid-Nite arrived?
“Thirty seconds left, Mid-Nite!” Deathbolt declared. “Better make up your mind!”
Behind him, McNider crept silently closer, holding up a rubber sheet from the supply closet.
“Fifteen sec — hey!” Deathbolt cried as the sheet was suddenly thrown over him. Dr. McNider’s powerful arms kept the writhing villain enclosed in the rubber sheet, until his mighty fists pummeled him into unconsciousness.
“Simmons!” Makent yelled from the bed. “What’s happening? Simmons! Simmons!”
Minutes later, the lights out in the hall came back on, sending a little light into the room with the ruined bulbs. Uniformed policemen arrived with guns drawn to find three defeated super-villains lying on the floor, and Clint Reynolds standing with his back to the wall, leaning against it, totally befuddled.
Dr. McNider came into the room. “Mr. Reynolds!” he called out. “Are you all right? I heard what happened!”
Reynolds turned to Dr. McNider. “What happened? What — did happen?”
“Why, Doctor Mid-Nite arrived and saved the day,” McNider said. “But you did a wonderful job, holding them off until he could get here. You’re a hero!”
“I — I am?” Reynolds stammered. Then a grin spread across his face. “I am, aren’t I? I’m a hero!”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Makent scowled, “just take me to jail, will you, please?”