by Sandy Hausler and Vendikarr DeWuff
“Why, Dick, how nice of you to call,” said Kathy Kane Carson into her phone as she curled up on the couch of her spacious living room.
“Just returning your call, Kathy,” replied Dick Grayson. “I know I should call more often, but what with my engagement and Gotham’s crime situation, you know how it is.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Red Robin: Auld Lang Syne.]
“Oh, do I,” snickered Kathy. “Though it’s been a long time — over twenty-five years since I wore the costume… well, except for that one time.”
“Has it been that long?” wondered Dick. “I can’t believe it.” Dick Grayson was in his mid-fifties, but due to the kind of fortuitous circumstances that only happened to super-heroes, he looked like he was in his thirties or forties. That, plus the fact that he had become engaged earlier this year, had a tendency to warp his perception of time.
“Believe it,” replied the former Batwoman. “I’m a grandmother. You know that. My granddaughter is turning sixteen next week.”
“Beth is sixteen,” marveled the Red Robin. “Unbelievable.”
“So, of course I have to be the doting grandmother and go overboard on the gift.”
“What have you done, Kathy?” asked Grayson.
Betty cackled. “Oh, nothing much. Just a classic Thunderbird.”
“You’re kidding me! Bruce didn’t get me a car until I was twenty. And I can assure you it wasn’t a Thunderbird, or the 1940s equivalent.”
“Cheapskate,” replied Kathy.
They both laughed. The Bruce to whom Dick referred was the late Bruce Wayne, alias the Batman, who had raised Dick after his parents were killed. Bruce had trained Dick to be his partner, Robin, not that those rats had ever told her. Of course, she had suspected — she’d have to be a moron not to have suspected — but she was never quite sure until after Bruce’s death, when she and Robin had an adventure with the Earth-One Batman five years ago, and Dick broke down and told her. (*) And he had the nerve to be surprised when she told him that it was no real surprise to her. You’d think he believed that he and Batman were the only detectives in the Bat family.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Interlude on Earth-Two,” The Brave and the Bold #182 (January, 1982).]
“I had an ulterior motive for calling, Dick,” confessed Kathy.
“How disappointing. I thought you just called for my scintillating conversation,” replied the former Boy Wonder.
“Well, you’re improving. At least you don’t make those dreadful puns like you did in the old days,” laughed Kathy.
“I leave that to Batwing these days. And for your information, puns are the height of wit,” replied Grayson.
“Maybe on some planets,” quipped Kathy. “Anyway, I’ve been training my granddaughter.”
“Don’t give me any of your lip,” said Kathy.
“Can we expect a new Bat-Girl?” asked Dick.
“Nothing like that; we’re happy to carry on together as Flamebird, though we haven’t been very active since last year, when we fought the Thinker. (*) But she is good, even without powers. I thought part two of her birthday present would be a chance to spar with a JSAer — maybe you or Wildcat.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Flamebird: At Grandmother’s Beck and Call.]
“Sure. I could set up something like that. I’ll see who’s available.” Grayson paused as if he were forced to think the thought. “Kathy, whatever happened to Betty, anyway?”
“Betty,” said Kathy. She paused, forcing herself to think about the last time she had spoken with her niece. “I haven’t heard from Betty in years.”
She shook her head, and all thoughts of Betty were gone, and she and Dick finished their plans for Beth’s present, neither of them thinking any longer about Betty Kane, the Bat-Girl of the 1950s. It was as if she hadn’t even been mentioned at all.
A week later, Beth Kane turned sixteen, and Kathy gave her granddaughter the first part of her birthday gift and told her about the second. Beth was ecstatic. She hadn’t even dreamed that her grandmother would spring for a classic car. Of course, Beth wouldn’t have been able to drive the car until she got her license, but she had already made sure that there would be little delay on that score. Over the past couple of months, Beth had been taking advantage of her learner’s permit by getting Kathy to teach her how to drive every chance she got, all in anticipation of receiving her license on her birthday.
So when she and Kathy came back from the DMV branch that morning, Beth was surprised by the classic 1965 Ford Thunderbird convertible parked in the driveway and wrapped in an oversized bow. And her training session with a JSAer-to-be-named was set for later that same day. It was a birthday she could never have dreamed of before.
When the time for her training appointment came that afternoon, Beth jumped in her new car and sped down the Gordon Expressway, heading for the JSA Brownstone, clearly in heaven as she drove unsupervised for the first time ever. She also loved the feeling of the wind rushing through her hair — a feeling she couldn’t get as Flamebird, seeing as she had a head of flames in her heroic persona. And she couldn’t wait to get to JSA Headquarters.
Beth hoped that Wonder Woman or maybe Power Girl would train her. Both were just too cool for words. She also hoped she would run into some of the Junior JSA members. She had the biggest crush on Batwing and really hoped to see him on her birthday.
She turned off the expressway and made her way to the Brownstone. Parking about a block from the building, she walked over to the door. Before ringing the bell, she fixed her makeup and then pressed the button.
The door opened, and before her stood an elderly woman.
“Can I help you?” asked the woman.
“Umm… My name is Beth Kane, and I have an appointment,” Beth said to the woman she assumed was the housekeeper. She hadn’t been aware that the Justice Society of America even had a housekeeper, but then someone had to clean up after all these super-heroes.
The older woman motioned for Beth to follow her, and she led her into the library. “Just have a seat, and I’ll be back in a few.”
Instead of sitting, Beth wandered around the library, examining the various books and trinkets available for display. Beth had the idea that the Justice Society should start a museum. She bet they could make a ton of money charging people to have a look around. She decided to mention it to her grandmother later.
“I’m ready,” the older woman said from behind her. Beth turned and saw the woman wearing a pair of red long-johns and a pot on her head. The teenager feared that the poor old woman was addled.
“Uh… ready for what?” asked Beth as she moved toward the woman, heading for the hallway to be able to get help in case the poor woman needed it.
“Why, for your training, of course,” said the woman. “I’m the Red Tornado. Didn’t they tell you?”
Beth stood there, stunned. And she thought about it for a moment. “Isn’t the Red Tornado an android?” she asked, wondering if this old woman was actually an android. But why would anyone make an android hero in the shape of a really old woman?
“Nah. That’s the second-generation Red Tornado. I’m the original.”
“Well, I thought a member of the JSA was going to help me,” said Beth.
“Well, I was a member, and the active members are all busy on cases and such. I’m on duty here, so I figured I’d take care of it. And you can call me Ma. Everyone does. You ready to get started?”
“Sure,” said Beth, resigned to go through with this waste of time. This wasn’t going to be as cool as she had thought. What could this old lady show her about self-defense that her grandmother, the former Batwoman, hadn’t already taught her?
“Great! Then let’s head down to the training room.”