Charles Bullock and his date Monique Renoir sat in a fancy eatery as music played softly.
“Charles, this is wonderful!” she said.
He smiled. “Nothing but the best for my lady.”
She frowned. “Charles, I care for you dearly as a partner… as a friend… but there can be no romance between us.”
“Why?” he asked. “Is it because…?”
She cut him off. “It is because I have other commitments that will ever take top priority in my life. I can’t even articulate them… I just feel them strongly.”
“Mon, that makes no sense.”
“I see… I feel I have a past beyond the vague memories I can conjure up,” she said. “I can’t explain it any better.”
“OK, I’ll be here for you as a friend and partner,” he said. “To Redbird, best legs in the biz!”
She laughed. “And I was going to say that about Blackwing!”
Then shouts echoed.
“Trouble!” cried Charles.
Monique nodded and slipped off, as did Charles. They emerged as Blackwing and Redbird to face one screaming woman.
“Harriet Makepeace! She’s the society page darling!” said Monique as she vaulted a table to confront the gray-gowned Mademoiselle Fantome.
“She tried to hit me with some ray!” cried the woman.
The slender, blonde Mademoiselle Fantome was upset. Never had her ray failed before. Yet this time when the demure duchess had skillfully lured the heiress outside unseen, the ray had had no effect, and Harriet had grabbed her.
“This must be the elusive brains behind the Earthworm’s scheme,” said Blackwing.
Mademoiselle Fantome said in French, “You delay me! I cannot allow that!” She kicked Harriet with one pointed high heel and rushed out.
Batwing reached for the sexily dressed blonde, who lifted her veil to reveal… a nearly featureless face.
He gasped, and she turned to escape. “Au revoir!” she laughed.
Then Redbird dropped through the air to block her path. “Not so fast, moi petite!” she said.
Mademoiselle Fantome cursed and fired her ray. It struck Redbird, and she gasped, touched one hand to her head, and recalled all. She whirled a rope as her foe twisted away, and she brought the long-gowned beauty down hard. “Mademoiselle, we need a long talk,” she said.
The Huntress had felt all her memories flood back when a second exposure to the amnesia-ray broke down the first one’s barriers. She tied the struggling Frenchwoman up and turned to Blackwing.
“She has no face,” he said.
“Neither did her father,” said a now-confident Huntress beneath her red, green, and gold costume.
Later that night, the Huntress — still wearing the short green skirt, slippers, and red vest of Redbird — explained the entire situation to a troubled Blackwing.
“Batman once fought a mad French aristocrat called the Duc d’Orterre,” she said. “He used a ray that literally robbed his enemies of their facial features. They could still breathe, eat, see, et cetera, but to the observer they appeared like a virtual blank slate.
“In their initial battle, the duc was believed dead after falling off a cliff. (*) But he apparently survived, only to be made permanently featureless after an accident with his own ray. From what our gray lady told me, she is the heir of the duc from his very old age. She was born without features as an effect of the energy he absorbed from the accident with his original ray. However, she found that she could make her facial features resemble those of any person she chose to mimic. She modified his ray so it made the victim’s mind a blank slate instead of his face. She is quite brilliant and apparently sane but ruthless. She grew up a spoiled aristocrat living off her family’s shrinking resources. This scheme allowed her to eliminate wealthy woman, claim their I.D.s long enough to rob them, then vanish like the phantom she poses as.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Batman, Detective Comics #34 (December, 1939).]
“So why did her ray not hurt this Makepeace lady?” asked Blackwing. “That was the only error she made in a perfect plan.”
“She had suffered memory-loss years before during a car wreck,” she explained. “The ray could not affect anyone already suffering from amnesia, such as Harriet… and me.”
“So Monique was just a ruse,” said Blackwing. “You retained her fake memories when Mademoiselle Fantome, or Duchess d’Orterre, struck you because of your own strong mental discipline. And that initial dose of memory loss was why her second ray restored your mind.”
“Exactly. A while ago I was victimized by a foe who attacked me through my dreams,” she said. “He turned me into a different person of sorts. After that ended, I began self-hypnosis to instill certain mental safeguards. They helped me keep my Monique surface memory when I lost my true identity to her ray.”
“You were the best partner I could wish for,” he said. “I feel like a dolt, trying to put the moves on the Huntress!”
She caressed his cheek. “I meant it when I said you were my friend. Anytime you need me, let me know… partner.”
“So, the ray Mademoiselle Fantome uses will cure her victims, too?” said Blackwing.
“It should,” said the Huntress. “It worked on me.”
She smiled and swung off, leaving Charles to think over the weird turn of events. “I hope she’ll come back sometime. I was really falling for her. At least we’ll have Paris!” he joked.
As Charles Bullock made his way home that morning, he felt a bit dejected. He wondered if he had made a fool of himself in spite of his best intentions and exceptional circumstances. He frowned and leaned against a wall. “Man, some hero I am,” he said. “I can’t even take down a petite woman in an antique gown!”
Hearing a groan, he rushed into the alley. “Oh, no!” he cried as he found a battered woman face down in the alley.
She was very pretty but badly beaten. “Officer O’Connor — Meg!” he gasped as he recognized the blonde girl.
“Wraith!” she moaned as he called for help.
The Huntress stood over the bedside of the injured policewoman at Gotham General. She had rushed over after gathering her costume and calling Alfred.
Commissioner Clancy O’Hara said, “I’m glad to see you! Meg seems to have been meant as a message to you. You noticed her costume. He dressed her as Huntress after beating her!”
The Huntress had already spoken with Blackwing, and she was grim. “He is a killer,” she said. “Psychotic, like his gangster father before him. This is more the style of someone else who is using him as a weapon… against me.”
O’Hara nodded. “He left her alive to identify him, the devil!”
“He wants me,” said the Huntress. “I’m more than willing to oblige.”
“But, lass, where can you find him?” said O’Hara.
“This badge he left behind was not Meg’s,” she said. “It was his mother’s. He wants me where she died.”
“Well, of all the sick perversions!”
“Sick, but methodical,” she replied. “I’ll be there tonight. Keep your men away. This is a fight that can be best fought by one woman and not a squad. They would slow me down, and I won’t be responsible for any more pain coming to Gotham’s finest.” She swung out the window.
O’Hara said to himself, “She’s Gotham’s Finest, like her father before her!”
Crimelord smiled to himself as Lady Crimson sat at his feet.
“Milord, why didst thou allow Wraith to send the summons to Huntress?” she said. “It goes against your planned joust!”
He stroked her red curls and said, “He is a wild man. No place for his kind in our fellowship. I felt it better to allow him to go to his own doom, if he must. A good ruler knows when to leave his subjects to their own destiny. His anger threatened to burn down my domain around us. He is better off as a free agent.”
“Huntress will defeat him,” said Lady Crimson.
“Yes, she will, my pet.”
“Then I’ll kill her!” she vowed.
That night the Huntress walked into the abandoned warehouse where Shirley Holmes Bishop and her crooked spouse Tiger Bishop had met their deaths. She didn’t like the atmosphere. It reminded her all too much of her own parents’ final meeting.
She wore a newly mended costume coated to resist the Wraith’s acid and his goo, and as she carried a crossbow, she looked magnificent. Her basic swimsuit costume revealed bare arms and thighs above long gloves and boots. The shadow of Batman loomed over her as her stylized cape and mask mirrored her late father’s image.
“Wraith!” she called. “Come out! I know you are here, Jake!”
Her foe dropped down from the rafters to face her. “I knew you’d come. All it took to bait you was to dress that dolly in your feathers!” he said madly.
“Officer O’Connor will live, which is more than I can say for your other victims, you sadistic punk!” she said.
“You know… those are weird last words!” said the Wraith. He hurled two blades at her as she spun between them and punched him in the throat. He clawed at her mask and kicked her in the side. “You bring out the worst in me. You represent the society that took my folks from me!” he shouted.
The Huntress dropped to her knees and sprang into him. She said nothing as she fought relentlessly. She slammed her boot into his head three times.
The Wraith reached for her leg, and she struck him backward. She rolled backward and fired her crossbow. It struck his hip, and he groaned.
“You witch! Drugged, huh?” he said.
“Yes,” said the Huntress. “You’ve lost already.”
The Wraith jumped on her and slammed her head against a wall. “This may be my end, but I’m taking you down, too!” he cried. He gripped her around the hips and leaped through the warehouse window.
They plunged toward the street, and she realized that he had locked his arms so tightly around her in his mania that she could neither free herself nor swing to safety.
Then she tried a risky move. She arched back and deliberately sent them spinning into Gotham River below, gasping for air before they hit.
The Wraith, expecting only death, made no such effort.
The Huntress gasped and kicked upward even as he released her and began to choke. His body was becoming sluggish from her bolt, and he was sinking fast. “Let me die!” he said after she pulled him above the surface.
She gritted her teeth and kept pulling his arm. “Not while I live!” she said, struggling to shore before collapsing beside her opposite number.
The Huntress then rose again and performed CPR as sirens echoed and police drew closer to her. She forced new air into his lungs as her lips closed over his mouth.
“We got your signal! Well done!” said O’Hara.
“He’ll live,” said Corrigan. “That breath of life you gave him did the trick.”
“Be careful with him,” said the Huntress. “He’s sick. His mother was one of your finest.”
“So was yours,” said O’Hara.
She smiled sadly and swung off.
Sally, Dr. Stephanie Strand’s secretary, frowned as she heard her employer’s stiletto heels echo within as she paced.
“Barrows is broken,” said the blonde. “It will take months to get him back to where he could challenge the daughter of the Bat. Wraith is too far gone to trust. This leaves me but one choice.” Sharon Stephanie Strange slipped on a black costume and cape with a hood.
“Father, Lady Bane shall take matters into her own hands once again,” she whispered madly. (*) “Pawns were ever your way, but I have made myself into a living weapon. It is best this way. When I am ready, I shall kill the Batman’s child for you!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Law’s Legionnaires: The Deadlier of the Species.]
Even as Stephanie Strange plotted against her enemy and Wraith and Vengeance rested in their respective cells, Mademoiselle Fantome regally allowed a costume man to lift her out of her own cell.
“I have silenced the alarms and the gendarmes, my mistress,” he said.
She nodded her blonde head in approval and extended her hand. He led her to freedom as if they were strolling along the park on some picnic. She would return to Gotham one day.
Crimelord and Lady Crimson plotted their planned Grand Joust as well.
“May I duel with the Huntress?” begged Lady Crimson as her antigravity boots lifted her skyward.
“Not yet. The Table Round is still not full. Wraith left us short one peer, but I have one in mind. He is a second-generation rogue like yourself. He calls himself the Penguin!”
But that would be another tale.
Back at the Batcave, Helena Wayne smiled as Alfred Beagle said, “I returned from the hospital. The officer on duty says Jake is no better. I fear he is lost to us in madness.”
“But you’ll still keep visiting him, won’t you?” she said.
“You know me too well,” said Alfred.
“And I love you, too!” Helena said. “You never give up on anyone, do you?”
“No, Miss,” said Alfred. “I share that quality with your own noble family.”