Deep in the bowels of the library at Gateway University, a strange sight went unseen as books seemed to fly off the shelf of their own volition. They quickly flew over to a desk where they fell, opened to the first page. Then all of the pages were quickly turned in sequence, with an occasional pause, before the book closed itself again and flew back to its place on the shelf.
The animated books were all housed in a seldom-used section of the library that dealt with the occult and the arcane. In the dim light of the ancient bulbs hanging above, the careful eye might have occasionally caught a glimpse of a blurred red and blue figure.
On the morning of Terry Sloane’s funeral, his wife arose early, even though the service was not scheduled to take place until three in the afternoon. By 8:00 A.M., she was at the office of her lawyer, having requested an immediate meeting with him. Recognizing her and knowing of her loss, his secretary ushered her into his office.
“Michael, I have something to take care of before the service. With Terry gone, I need to change my will.”
“Of course, Lysette, but this is most unusual. Are you sure you don’t want to wait a few days to allow the shock to wear off?”
“I’m a retired police officer, Michael. Death doesn’t bother me, even at close range.” She pulled a folder from a tooled-leather briefcase. “Here are the changes I want made, and I want you to take care of it right now.”
Michael Higgins looked over the information she had given him. “But, Lysette, you’ve not left anything for Geri! And what about the Fair Play Club? You had planned to leave most of your estate to the society that administers them, but they aren’t even mentioned in here.”
“Look, do I pay you to be my conscience, or do I pay you for legal services? These are the changes I want made. How soon can you have this ready for my signature?”
“Within the hour, ma’am. If you wish, I can have it all filed and official before I leave for the funeral.”
“You do that, Michael. You do that.”
“Wait in the car, Mary. I’ll get them.” Al Pratt walked up to the door of the Sloane home, which opened as he approached.
“Mom will be ready in a few minutes, Uncle Al. She overslept this morning, and she’s getting dressed now.” Geri Sloane, dressed in a calf-length black dress, flashed a forced smile for her uncle-by-association.
“You OK, honey? You look tired.”
“I’m fine. I was just up late last night, reading some plans for the space shuttle that I found in Dad’s study.” Like her father, all fields of study interested the teenager.
“Sheesh, when I was your age, I was still going to sleep reading Popeye comics or Shadow pulp magazines.”
“Awww, you’d probably like this stuff. Right in your field, actually. All the calculations that went into the engine design, specs for the fuel tanks. They’d better be careful, though; I don’t like the looks of the O-ring design on the fuel linkage. One of those could go bad sometime, if they aren’t careful.”
“Don’t worry about that, Geri. I’ve met some of the NASA people, and they’re all top-notch. And speaking of top-notch, here’s your mom.” Turning to the widow, Al offered his arm. “Ready to go, Lysette?”
“As ready as I can be, I suppose.”
As might be expected, the funeral service was crowded. The great cathedral was filled to overflowing, mostly with those whose lives had been touched in one way or another by the generosity of Terrence Sloane. Near the front of the church, however, sat a most special group of people.
“Are you OK, Wes? I know you’re not comfortable in places like this,” whispered one of the men to the one next to him.
“I’m fine, Rex. I don’t mind being in a church. I just follow a different set of beliefs,” replied the tall, slender Wes Dodds, alias the Sandman. “But thank you.”
“I just can’t believe he’s gone,” said Rex Tyler, alias Hourman. “Just last week, he brought Geri over for a tour of my lab. Bright kid; she spotted an error one of my assistants was about to make.”
“Yes, I found her a delightful student of philosophy as well. I don’t know about you or the others, Rex, but I intend to keep in touch with her, if possible, to keep educating her the way Terry wanted.”
At the other end of the row, a tall blonde man came down the aisle and sat next to an attractive, middle-aged woman sitting by herself.
“Good afternoon, Joan,” said Alan Scott. “Still no word from Jay?”
“No, Alan,” said Joan Garrick. “After the service, could you and the others start searching for him? Jay’s a real homebody; he’s never taken off like this before. After Terry’s death, I’m afraid the same guy went after my Jay.”
“I’ll tell the others when we leave here for the cemetery.”
Since Terry Sloane was a well-known philanthropist and known friend of Mister Terrific’s, no one questioned the presence of a few costumed JSA members at his funeral. And since Mister Terrific had publicly retired several years earlier, making only a couple of rare appearances in costume since then, there was no simultaneous disappearance of Mister Terrific at the same time of Sloane’s death to raise any suspicions about his secret identity. Only his friends and his murderer knew the truth about his death.
In a back corner of the church, a man with curly black hair and a Van Dyke beard sat quietly as he idly fingered the amulet that hung on a chain around his neck.
After the funeral service, the casket carrying the mortal remains of Terry Sloane was carried down the main aisle to the back of the church. It was followed by his wife and daughter. As they reached the back of the great chamber, a figure moved toward them from the side, pushing his way through the crowd.
“I say, mister, no need to push!” said one woman as she was shoved into the wall. She started to say more but fell silent as she saw the pusher start to vanish before her eyes.
However, before his now-ghostly form could merge with her own body, there was a rush of movement from behind the altar. The more observant in the room caught a glimpse of red and blue moving through the crowd as it approached the woman and her attacker in an instant. Suddenly, there was a loud snap, a piercing scream, and the ghostly figure became solid once more. Before he could realize what is happening, Roger Romaine, the Spirit King, was being pummeled into unconsciousness by a now-visible Flash.
“Damn you, Romaine! First Terry, now you go after his family! No! You won’t get away with it!” Most of those gathered around had no idea what Jay Garrick screamed at super-speed as his fists continued to pound the now-senseless Spirit King. None of those immediately around him made any attempt to stop him, and the gathered members of the Justice Society simply took steps to evacuate the crowd, leaving the Flash to take care of the murderer.
Finally, the Flash collapsed to his knees, his body shaking with sobs of anger and relief. He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Superman standing over him.
“It’s over, Jay. It’s all over.”
A week after Terry Sloane’s funeral, the assembled JSA heard Jay Garrick’s story.
“I don’t think the Spirit King realized that while he could read the thoughts of the people he possesses, they can also catch some of his stronger thoughts and emotions. That’s how I realized that he wanted a more complete revenge on poor Terry than simply his death.”
“So why did you disappear when we came back from Earth-One?” asked the Huntress. “Did the Spirit King still have control of your body?”
“No,” said the Flash. “He released control of my body immediately after returning to our Earth, and as Doctor Fate verified, I was freed by the time I returned to Earth-One to rejoin all of you for the return trip. But I didn’t know if he would come after me to clean up a loose end. I figured Joan would be safe, since she didn’t have any direct involvement with the case. Plus I knew Green Lantern would look after her. That allowed me to track down Terry’s files on all his old cases and villains.”
“They weren’t at his home. We checked,” said Wildcat.
“I know. I was there at the same time you were. Lucky thing, too. That’s how I found out about Terry’s apartment. That’s where he kept everything related to his career as Mister Terrific. And that’s how I found out about the Spirit King’s background.”
“Terry told us that he was an old enemy, but none of us except you had ever heard of him,” remarked Hawkman, recalling the seance on the Justice League satellite.
“They only fought once, and I fought him much later, with Terry acting as my man Friday after his retirement. Back in the late ’40s, Roger Romaine was a petty art thief. He broke into a museum in Gateway City, killing a guard. During that robbery, he took the Amulet of the Succubus. He thought it was just another piece of medieval jewelry, but when he slipped it around his neck, he found that he could possess other people’s bodies for short periods of time. He only used it twice, though — the first time before Terry caught him, and the second time a few years ago when I stopped his last crime spree in Gateway City, which I did with Terry’s help, since he’d already retired for good as Mister Terrific by then. But I never knew anything about Romaine’s background at the time.”
“And once you knew about the amulet, you knew how to stop him, right?” asked the Atom.
“Yes, but timing was critical. That’s why I hid out at the church. I checked and found that Lysette Sloane changed her will that morning, leaving everything to Roger Romaine. He possessed her, changed the will, then left her sleeping in her own bed, none the wiser.”
“So I guess that wraps it all up. Good detective work, Jay. I’m sure that, somewhere up there, Terry is smiling down on you right now.”
And the gathered heroes all lifted their glasses toward a newly completed portrait of the late Mister Terrific with a hearty, “Hear, hear!”