Al Pratt kissed his bride Mary James while a crowd of encouraging onlookers clapped. The small Calvin College Chapel was full of the happy young couple’s friends and family. It had been a beautiful wedding, and the June sunshine filtered through the glass windows in lovely patterns.
The groom gazed at his new wife, Mary Pratt, and admired her laughing eyes and stunning blonde hair. That took some getting used to, since she had only gone blonde in the last few months or so. Still, she looked wonderful. Al didn’t even let the fact that Mary stood a few inches taller than he did in the wedding photos bother the short but sturdy hero.
He was feeling wonderfully happy on this summer day in June, 1952. He had known Mary for many years now since their first meeting at Calvin College over a decade ago. She had been like the other students on campus in her disdain for “Atom” Al, the shortest man on campus.
It had been Mary’s very scorn for him, along with bullying classmates like Truck Bronson, that had motivated the diminutive young man to devote months to training his body until, under the able tutelage of Joe Morgan, he had turned into a real powerhouse. He had donned the mask and costume of the Atom soon afterward, and soon made a name for himself as a mystery-man and a member of the legendary Justice Society of America.
Now, after years of slowly earning Mary’s respect as Al and the Atom, as well as finishing grad school, he had won his true love. She had accepted him and his long-kept secret identity, and now he looked forward to a long life with his blonde bride.
His JSA buddies had wished him well, but only three had attended the actual wedding. Carter Hall (Hawkman), Terry Sloane (Mister Terrific), and Ted Grant (Wildcat) were his closest pals in the group of heroes.
Hawkman had been an inspiration to him from their earliest days together in the Justice Society, and Al looked up to him as a heroic example. Mister Terrific had been a close friend as well; the scholarly man of a thousand talents had been a surprisingly good friend for the physics major. Their mutual pal Wildcat shared their more down-to-earth style of crime-busting, and Ted Grant had unknowingly even shared Joe Morgan as a mentor, though neither knew this until a couple of years after the fact.
Al’s friends watched happily as the ceremony and reception closed. But trouble loomed in their immediate future.
“Carter, where’s your better-feathered half?” asked Ted Grant as the reception died down.
“Shiera needed a new wardrobe, so she’s raiding New York’s fashion district as we speak,” said Carter Hall. “She sends her best to you and Mary, Al.”
“If she’s anything like my Lysette when she spots a sale — look out!” said Terry Sloane.
The pretty blonde Lysette Andrews Sloane punched her husband and said, “I do quite well at resisting sales, thank you very much!”
Terry hugged his wife and said, “Just kidding. I’d really like you to spend more. My business earnings keep us secure, even on a professor-writer’s pay!”
“Any new books in the works, Professor Sloane?” asked Al.
“Always in the works. Just not ready for publishing,” quipped Terry.
Ted Grant grinned. “I guess that means, coming from you, that they’re only best sellers, not Pulitzer Prize winners, huh?”
He and his friends continued to laugh and talk, wishing the newlyweds well.
“Not much action these days, huh?” mused Ted.
“With the JSA pretty much disbanded, and this new Mystery Squad making the news, we don’t get out all together in costume much,” said Carter.
“What kind of dopey name is Mystery Squad?” asked Ted.
“Don’t laugh!” said Carter. “They may be oddly named, but the press loves them, and even the government seems unconcerned about them.”
“No wonder,” said Al. “They don’t wear masks! They look like one of those new perfect TV familes we see these days.”
No family is perfect, thought Carter.
The newlyweds Al and Mary drove off happily enough, eventually reaching Las Vegas.
“I’m not a gambler,” said Al as he snuggled against his new bride. “Ted’s told me enough about the corruption involved in that activity to ever want to partake myself, but it will be nice to catch some shows.”
“I just hope we can get a nice few days alone… without any masked party-crashers!” said Mary.
“I doubt we’ll have that problem,” said Al. But as he spotted police cars surrounding a casino, he added, “Of course, I’ve been wrong before!”
“Al, let them handle it!” insisted Mary.
“Ah, Mary, I honestly think they need me!” he said. “That many squad cars usually means big-time villains. I’ll be really quick, OK?”
“Oh, all right, if you promise to be fast. I want to go dancing later,” she said with a flirtatious smile.
Al pulled out of sight to change, and a few moments later he raced up to the police in his yellow and blue Atom costume.
“The Atom! We sure can use you about now!” said a cop.
The former JSAer ran inside the brightly lit place where people screamed, and helpless police were held back by both panic-filled fun-seekers and a group of weird costumed crooks who were “beating the house” in their own crooked way.
The Gambler! That figures. But who are his pals? wondered Al. He saw a pretty redhead wearing an antebellum-style gown with a parasol and a large, flowered sun hat. Her bare shoulders were pale and her makeup heavy. She was gathering cash while card-emblazoned thugs waved guns at the crowd.
“I do declare, the men heah are not gentlemen!” she cooed in an extremely thick Southern drawl.
“Don’t worry, Magnolia, honey, you can buy your own plantation with this loot!” laughed a fierce-looking man with a riverboat gambler costume and a monstrous-looking smile.
“Cardshark, I do believe y’all’s right!” said Magnolia.
The Gambler himself watched approvingly as his gang worked the room. He was a dapperly dressed man with the look of an old Southern gambler as well.
“OK, Twain — the war is over, and your side lost!” quipped the Atom as he faced them.
“The JSA’s runt of their infernal litter!” roared the Gambler. “Get him, my Full House! Forget all else, but kill the Atom!” he ordered.
The Atom ducked under a roulette table and heaved it over. “Let the chips fall where they may!” he joked. With a quick jerk he pulled the wheel loose from its table and charged forward behind it like a shield. He slammed into the gun-wielding Card Men and forced them into a wall with screams and a crash. He whirled around and sent the huge wheel rolling oddly across the floor until it knocked the parasol-spinning Magnolia flat. “Will the South rise again?” he joked.
The fierce Cardshark clawed at the JSAer with razor-sharp claws. Al gasped in pain, then slugged him with an atomic punch that dropped him through a solid oak table.
The Gambler aimed his own guns at the Atom, and he ran out of range. “Come on! I’ve got the dead man’s hand for you, little man!” drawled the villain.
“I’m all flushed!” punned the Atom as he made a huge leap and swung across the room on a tinkling light fixture. He jerked it, and it crashed down on top of the Gambler with a smash of crystal and glass.
The Atom saw the other six Card Men surrounding him and wished for some backup. He charged into them, and fists flew from every angle. They outnumbered him, but they lacked his strength and skill. He kicked and punched until he stood alone amidst the bodies. “I guess they know when to fold!” he announced.
Then, from behind the red-headed Delta Queen, alias Magnolia, sprayed a red gas from the tip of her parasol. He choked and fainted in dismay with his wife’s name on his lips.
As time passed with no sign of her husband, Mary Pratt began to worry. The police had admitted that the gang had escaped, and may very well have taken the Atom with them. Mary didn’t know what to do, so she called the Calvin City Hotel where the JSAers were staying after the wedding.
Ted Grant answered and soon assured Mary that the Atom’s friends would be there quickly. “C’mon! Al’s in trouble at Vegas,” said Wildcat.
Hawkman said jokingly, “What did he do? Pick a fight with Vegas Vic?”
“No, it’s serious!” said a grim Ted Grant.
“Let’s go!” answered a now-serious Carter Hall.
“I’ve got the car ready,” said the always-prepared Terry Sloane.
After reaching Las Vegas and having a hurried consultation with Mary, the heroes did their best to reassure her, and then traced Al’s trail via the police department’s information.
“They know it was the Gambler, so I placed a few calls to do a paper trace,” explained Mister Terrific. “He owns an old house outside of Las Vegas under a few disguised names and dummy ownership papers.”
“Good job!” replied Wildcat.
The Justice Society trio soon reached the secluded old house. “Let’s divide up. I’ll take an aerial path, and you two close in from the sides,” suggested Hawkman.
“Sounds good,” said Mister Terrific. “From what I learned from the police, he’s got about twelve people in this Full House Gang.”
“The odds are in our favor,” said Wildcat. “Foolish for a guy called the Gambler!”
With a practiced ease born of years of teamwork, they each found an entrance point — through the skylight, the window, and the back door — and crashed through almost simultaneously.
Mister Terrific found himself in a room with three gang members. “Who?” asked one in shock.
“I’m here to take a census,” he said. “How many awake people are in the house? Three? Two? One?”
Mister Terrific tossed a skilled right hook that knocked out the nearest thug. A second reached for a gun, only to be tackled by Terrific before he could get it out. A swift left dropped him as the third leveled his gun at Terry Sloane’s back.
Glancing up into the ornate mirror on the wall, Terrific saw his danger and scooped up a vase. He tossed it over one shoulder using the mirror to aim. It slammed into the last gunman’s hand and disarmed him. Mister Terrific sprinted across the floor and jerked the rug out from under him. He hit the floor, and a final punch kept him still.
As the man of a thousand talents ran down the plushly carpeted halls, he met a beautiful blonde with perfectly styled hair and a short green dress on. An M was emblazoned on her costumed chest.
“Mister Terrific! Nice to meet you!” she said with a smile.
“Mystery Lady! I’ve read much of you lately,” replied Mister Terrific.
“Call me Mary Weaver,” said the pretty blonde. “We’re here to bag the Full House!”
“So are we. Plus, our chum the Atom is here as a prisoner.”
“Don’t worry, my family will help you all, and he’ll be free in no time!” she said perkily.
Wildcat charged into a room full of costumed figures. The savage Cardshark was one, while four other Card Men made up the rest. He found himself immediately engaged by the almost animalistic Cardshark, who bit at Ted Grant’s arm with monstrous fangs.
“You got to work on that overbite!” quipped Wildcat as he twisted out of the biting thug’s path.
A powerful right landed on those raking teeth, and one shattered. Cardshark’s friends held back, not out of fear, but out of necessity. A handsome, green-suited man was pummeling them with amazingly dispatch. Mystery Man! thought Ted as the strong hero sent the thugs to a swift rest.
“Ah, Wildcat,” said Mystery Man. “This is an honor. Bill Weaver, alias Mystery Man.”
“Yeah. Pleasure’s all mine,” replied Wildcat as he swung a hard left to Cardshark’s gaping mouth. He spun and landed a kick that floored the bestial man.
When Cardshark tried to grab the ebony-hued avenger, he received a sudden blow to the top of the head by the boxing legend, and he, too, moved no more.
“Hey, Buzz! Come meet a real hero,” called Mystery Man.
A huge boy — Fred “Buzz” Weaver, who actually towered over both his father and Wildcat — entered dragging a stunned Card Man. “Yes, Pop?” he asked as a boyish grin filled his freckled face.
“Mystery Boy, meet the famous hero Wildcat,” he said. “Son, he was a hero in the last war. He was also in the All-Star Squadron and the Justice Society for a short spell. Remember them from your lessons?”
“Gosh, Pop! He’s almost as good as you are!” gushed the boy.
“Excuse a son’s paternal pride,” said a modest Bill Weaver.
Hawkman soared down to see the rest of the gang. Three Card Men, Magnolia, and the Gambler himself reclined in leisure until the feathered fury crashed in on them.
The Atom was spread-eagled on a card table near them. “Hawk!” he murmured groggily.
Hawkman flew straight for the Gambler and lifted the man off the ground. “You won’t mind this trip, since you’re the original high roller!” he said. The struggling Gambler fought, but made little progress against the muscled Hawkman. He dropped the Gambler into the frantic Card Men with ease.
As he started to free the Atom, a pretty teenage girl ran inside. She wore a green short skirt and had an M on her chest, while her blonde locks were held back with a green hair clasp. “Hawkman! Oh, wow!” gushed Patty Weaver, alias Mystery Girl. As she pointing at the remaining Card Men, they found themselves trapped in icy bonds.
The Atom sat up with Hawkman’s help. “Look out!” he called to his buddy.
The flirty but deadly Magnolia the Delta Queen had pulled a fan from her low-cut gown. “Ah have the vapors!” she cooed. The fan was razor-sharp, and she suddenly cut at Hawkman’s arm. He blocked her with his wings and disarmed the lethal Southern belle. “Gambler, help me. Ah’m in distress!” she cooed.
Her parasol came up, only to be blown out of her manicured grip by a strong wind, which came from the gesturing Mystery Lady, who ran in with Mister Terrific. Wildcat, Mystery Man, and Mystery Boy followed.
“Can I, Pop?” asked the boy.
“That’s ‘may I,’ Fred,” corrected his mother, Mystery Lady.
“Right, Mom,” he said.
“Go ahead, Son,” she answered with a demure smile.
Buzz ran up to the Gambler, who instantly grabbed the big youth. “Arrrgh!” screamed the Gambler as the green-costumed boy glowed with sudden electricity.
“I guess you didn’t know about current events!” he punned as the stunned villain fell.
“Atom, are you hurt?” asked Wildcat.
“No. Just my pride,” said the Atom. “Thanks, fellows.”
Introductions followed, and the Mystery Squad led them out.
The Weaver family explained that they, too, had been tracking the Gambler’s Full House Gang for some time now.
“We appreciate the help. We may be a bit rusty,” offered Hawkman.
“Your Mystery Squad sure has been in the news lately,” said the Atom.
“We know. It’s all a bit much for an ordinary family from the suburbs,” said Mystery Lady as she patted her blonde hairdo.
“I guess you know our story,” said Bill Weaver as he put an arm around his daughter, Patty.
“Tell us. I’ve missed the details,” said Wildcat.
“We were driving near a government base when our car stalled,” began Mystery Lady. “It took us just a moment to pull over to let Bill check the engine, when we were caught in some weird atomic… is that the word, honey? You know what a featherbrained blonde I can be.”
“Yes, darling,” continued Mystery Man. “An atomic test site was where we inadvertently parked. The blast gave us our powers, and as Americans we felt it would be best to suit up as the Mystery Squad and help fight crime.”
“Oh, Mom, he’s just dreamy!” cooed Mystery Girl as she stared at Mister Terrific.
“We appreciate the aid,” said the Atom as they departed.
“Oh, wait! Could our daughter Patty have your autographs?” asked Bill. “She’s too shy to ask.”
“Oh, Daddy!” said the pretty teenage girl.
“We’d be happy to oblige such a lovely young woman,” said Mister Terrific.
This was not to be the last time the Justice Society members crossed paths with the Weavers.