Ted Grant returned to his New York City apartment after he and the JSA rejoined the real world after being in the realm of Odin and his mad blood-brother Loki. He found his answering-machine blinking away, with the indicator showing ten messages. When he played them back, all but one were from the same person, repeating what the first had said.
“Mr. Grant, my name is Joshua Redman with the FBI’s New York office. We need to speak to you on a very urgent matter as soon as possible. Please come down to our offices on East 39th Street as soon as you receive this message.”
“Odd. Usually if they’re looking for Wildcat, they contact me through the JSA. Wonder what the Feds want with Ted Grant?”
An hour later, Ted was sitting in the office of Joshua Redman, hardly daring to believe what he was hearing.
“This is most unusual, Mr. Grant. Usually, if a missing person case goes more than two years without a solution, we expect that it never will be. We keep them open, of course, and they are reviewed periodically, but it is most unusual that anything comes of it.”
“I understand, Mr. Redman. Still, you think that you have found Jake?”
“We do, though only by sheer chance. He was on a flight, inbound from South Korea, and he was selected at random as he came through customs. His fingerprints were checked against our files on known terrorists and undesirables and came back clean. However, and we don’t know how it happened, his prints were also routed over for comparison with the missing persons files.”
Ted smiled, thinking he knew how this odd coincidence occurred. Sneaky little bugger, aren’t ya, Odin? he thought to himself. Addressing himself again to the FBI officer, he asked him, “Do you know where he is now?”
“That we don’t know. The prints were passed on to missing persons after he had left the immigration office. We do know that he is only here for three weeks, though, to compete in an international gymnastics competition at the University of Southern California in Berkeley.”
“What’s his name? I don’t expect that it’s still Jake Grant, after all.”
“No, the name on his Visa is Jake Soong. Still, as this picture clearly shows,” Redman passed a photo taken from a video camera to Ted, “he isn’t likely to pass himself off as native Korean.”
The photo showed a young man in his early twenties with thick, black hair, a dark olive complexion, and brown, almost black, eyes.
“Well, it looks like I’m going out to California, doesn’t it?”
“What in the Sam Hill was I thinking yesterday?” Ted Grant paced around his hotel room in San Francisco. “That FBI agent starts telling me they’ve found my son after all these years, and I let myself get caught up in it! Jeez, that picture should have tipped me off by itself. Poor Jake would be in his late thirties now, not his early twenties.”
Twenty-four hours had passed since Ted had met with Agent Redman in New York City. In that time, he had caught a red-eye flight to the West Coast, driven a rental car to U.C. Berkley, and combed the ranks of the Korean National Gymnastics Team. When he at last identified Jake Soong, it was immediately apparent to him that this was not his long-lost son. It was like a cloud was lifted from his brain. He made his apologies and left the arena, leaving behind a very confused group of Koreans.
“Nothing to do for it except enjoy the trip, I guess.” With that, Ted grabbed his jacket and went out to wander the city.
Near Chinatown, he found a section of cluttered streets and dark alleys. The sun was setting, and the shadows were growing long. He was starting to look for a place to grab dinner when he heard a woman’s voice cry out from down a side alley. Without thinking, and without a chance to change into costume, Wildcat dashed into the alley.
In the shadows of a crumbling building, a middle-aged woman was being held by two street hoods. Another was holding a knife and demanding that she release the portfolio case she was carrying.
“No, please, not my work! Let me get my wallet — you can have the money. Not the paintings!”
“Right, lady. We’ve had that scam run on us before. I’ll bet you got all the money in the bottom of the case. Either that, or we can start searching your clothes. Can’t we, guys?”
The two holding her grinned, and one started to reach for the buttons of her loose-fitting blouse. Before he could touch them, however, he was knocked unconscious by a fist that slammed into the side of his head from the shadows.
“You boys should have taken the cash. Going for the hidden prizes will get you in trouble every time!” Ted grabbed the wrist of the other kid holding the woman and twisted. As he did so, his foot lashed out to send the leader’s knife spinning into the gathering darkness. The woman slipped out of her attacker’s grasp, freeing Ted to spin him into the now-weaponless knife wielder. Grabbing them both by a handful of hair, he slammed them together, sending them both into the darkness of unconsciousness.
He turned to check on the woman, and she froze in her tracks with a look of astonishment on her face. “T-T-Ted? Is that you?”
Ted Grant stood in shocked silence, looking at the woman who was the mother of his long-ago-kidnapped son.
“Ted! How did you find me? Why were you looking? I asked you–”
“I know, Irina. I still have the note you left.”
Thirty-seven years earlier, Ted had come home to his cottage on the Northern California coast to find it empty, with all of his lover’s belongings gone. On his pillow had been a note:
I cannot take this anymore. Since our baby was taken from us, every minute I spend with you seems like an eternity that could be spent trying to find him. I know that you have tried and done all that you could to find him. I fear that he can never be found, can never return to us. He took with him something that can never be found again, and without it, I cannot bear to be with you.
Please don’t try to find me. Let me start my life over, a life without you, without memories of Jake.
Even after the JSA disbanded, Ted had continued his search for their kidnapped son. The only thing he was ever sure of was that Jake had been taken by an old foe, the Yellow Wasp. Where they had gone, what had become of them, remained a mystery even now.
“Irina, I had no idea you were here. I was wandering around, half-lost, when I heard you scream.”
“And you came charging in, ever the hero.” The timeworn face, framed by waves of graying brown hair, smiled at him for the first time. “A mighty fit hero, I might add. Instead of the older, more experienced lover I once had, now I feel as if you are the younger man.”
“I, ah, had a little run-in with Green Lantern’s power ring a while back.” Ted’s face turned a bright shade of red. “He tried to heal my spine, and when he did, it was like the clock turned back on me.”
“Perhaps he should open a spa, then.”
“Look, Irina, this isn’t about my age or looks. All I know is, now that I’ve found you again, I’d like the chance to know you again, to maybe take up where we–”
“Shhh, Teddy, it’s OK. I’ve been thinking of you a lot lately. Maybe, just maybe, enough time has passed.” Irina reached up to take Ted’s face between her hands. She pulled him down to her and kissed him. As she did, they were enveloped in a shimmering glow.
The glow subsided as their kiss ended. Ted looked at his long-lost lover and smiled. While captured in the glow, Irina’s features had smoothed, the color returned, until she once again appeared to be about ten years younger than Ted himself.
“Ted, I feel strange…”
“Relax, darling, I know what’s going on. A friend of mine has just played his hand. The rest is up to us.”
“So, Ted, what do we do now?”
“First of all, we get out of this alley and call the police to pick up these lowlifes. Then we find a nice little cafe to sit down and figure out if we can make another go of it together.”
It was many hours later that Ted thought to call into the JSA Brownstone and let them know where he was in case of an emergency. When he did, Jay Garrick — the Flash — asked where he was, and whether he could take delivery of a package. Five minutes later, there was a stirring of the wind, and a heavy envelope appeared as if from nowhere. He opened it and read the cover letter that accompanied an old, crumbling diary. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Nemesis: Beyond Redemption.]
“Irina, I think you’d better read this, too.”