“Oh, thank you, thank you!” the young mother cried as the man in yellow and black delivered the crying infant into her arms. “Oh, you wonderful man! I can never repay you! You’re a hero!”
“Of course he’s a hero,” the grimy-faced fire captain said, smiling under his moustache. “Don’t you recognize the costume? That’s Hourman of the JSA!”
“Delighted I could help, folks,” Hourman said humbly, shaking soot from his cape. “Captain, is that everybody now?”
“Everybody’s out and accounted for, Hourman,” the fire captain said, staring at the blazing wreck of the apartment building. “Thanks to you. I don’t think we can save the building, but buildings can be rebuilt. People can’t.”
I have a friend named Bob who’d disagree with that, Hourman thought but kept it to himself. “I’m just glad I was in the area when your engines went by,” he told the captain.
The grizzled smoke-eater turned a contrite face to the hero. “I have to confess something, Hourman. For years I thought you super-types were just all flash and glamor, fighting things from outer space and bozos in costumes like your own. I never thought you guys, well, gave a crap about something as mundane as a residential fire. I guess I’ve been proven wrong. I’m man enough to admit that.”
Grinning, Hourman wrung the fire captain’s hand firmly. “Think nothing of it, Captain,” he said. “A lot of folks get that misconception of us. The truth is, we’re just ordinary men and women like you… who happen to be able to pick up cars and fly.”
The captain shared a laugh with Hourman. “Yeah, I guess you guys are all right. Still, it must be nice to be above some ordinary concerns, like taxes and Valentine’s Day.”
Hourman’s eyes bounced wide open. “Valentine’s Day?”
“Hell, yeah,” the captain said. “Twenty-two years of marriage, and I’d still get chewed out by the wife if I forgot Valentine’s Day! Stupid little Hallmark holiday! Who comes up with these things, anyway?”
“Uh, Captain, I just remembered something. Important business. I-I have to go. You’re sure I’m not needed here anymore?”
“Naw, like I said, everyone’s out. Unless you can huff an’ puff an’ blow the flames out, we can take it from here.”
“OK, then I’m going. Thanks!” Hourman pelted off into the smoke-blackened night.
“Hey, thank you!” the captain called after him, but the man of the hour barely heard. He ran as fast as he could, cursing himself all the way. Valentine’s Day! How could he be so stupid as to forget that? Wendi would kill him.
Hourman’s speed gave out three blocks away from his destination. It had been long, hard work getting the occupants out of the burning apartment building; his hour of power was gone. He didn’t dare use his Miraclo power; he no longer needed to pop pills in order to summon super-strength and speed for an hour, but it was still too dangerous to use the power too often in too short a time span. But no matter, he could travel the rest of the way at normal speed.
Valentine’s Day! He continued to chastise himself. It was tonight. He had prepared nothing — no surprise, no gift — for Wendi. He couldn’t show up empty-handed. Thank heavens for the fire captain’s remark!
The man of the hour turned a corner and saw his destination in sight — Eisenberg’s Jewelry Emporium. He knew the owners well. Back in 1941, Dr. Togg’s gombezis — a walking, talking animal hybrid of a wolf and an eagle created by the mad scientist — had looted the store. Hourman had captured the evil doctor and returned the stolen gems, and the Eisenbergs had been eternally grateful. (*) Super-villains were still a new thing then, and their insurance would not have covered theft by a pack of wolves with the wings and talons of eagles; they would have lost the store. Hourman had kept in touch after that; the Dr. Togg affair had been one of his first big cases, and the difference he had made in the lives of the store owners had been a source of personal pride. The old couple had retired to Florida years before, and their son now owned and managed the store. He hated to impose on friendship for a favor, but he knew Jack Eisenberg would open the store late for him. And this was an emergency.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Hourman, Adventure Comics #57 (December, 1940).]
As Hourman approached the darkened store, his keen eyes noticed something amiss. While the store was darkened for the night like all the stores around it, the security gate was not down. Peering hard into the darkness, Hourman made out that the door was open just a tiny crack. And he saw a shadow moving around inside.
With all the speed possible in his non-Miraclo-boosted state, Hourman burst through the door. His hand flew to the light switch he knew was on the left side, and instantly the room was flooded with light. The would-be thief looked up in a start of surprise.
“Hold it, buddy!” Hourman growled before his mind registered the identity of the thief.
“Aw, you?” the Sportsmaster snarled. “Cheese and rice, I can’t get away from you longjohn types! If it ain’t Green Latrine or Star-clown, it’s you!” The masked villain brandished the baseball bat he held in his left hand, waving it menacingly like a sword. “Well, I got news for you, Flourman — you’re about to get tagged out at first!”