“And with that, the game is tied in the eighth inning at four runs apiece!” the announcer’s voice came over the television set, over the image of excited fans in the ballpark seats cheering the home run. “This is Harry Kalas, the Voice of the Phillies, and we’ll be right back!”
“All right, go Phillies!” Sylvester Pemberton cried excitedly as he watched the baseball game in the recreation room of Infinity Inc. Headquarters. The super-hero team’s headquarters was in Los Angeles, but the group’s communication experts had set up a satellite feed to bring in television stations from the greater Philadelphia area, so that Sylvester could watch his beloved Phillies.
“Isn’t that an odd name for a baseball team?” Jennie-Lynn Hayden asked, taking a sip of Diet Coke. “I mean, isn’t a filly a female horse?”
“Not that kind of ‘fillies’!” Sylvester snapped, with all the righteous indignation of a devoted baseball fan. “With a P-H! Short for ‘Philadelphians,’ get it?”
“Oh,” Jennie-Lynn said. “I’m glad that didn’t catch on. I mean, we’d have the New York Yorkies!”
“Yeah!” Jennie-Lynn’s boyfriend Hank King, Jr. chuckled. “Or the Miami Meemees!”
“We could do this all day,” Jennie-Lynn giggled.
“But please don’t,” Sylvester asked.
“The big story on tonight’s Action News,” a mustachioed, avuncular-looking news anchor on the television screen said, “the manhunt continues for the fugitive police are calling the Sunset Killer. According to witness reports, the unidentified man entered a nursing home in Wilmington, Delaware, claiming to be the son of resident Andrew McKone, aged eighty-five. When shown to McKone’s room, the man produced a sawed-off shotgun, murdered the resident in cold blood, and fled the scene. More on this story tonight on Action News at eleven.” The news anchor’s face dissolved from the screen, and a commercial for Maaco auto repair began.
“Wow,” Jennie-Lynn said. “That sounds like a bad movie.”
“McKone,” Al Rothstein mused aloud. “McKone. Where have I heard that name before?”
“Sounds like an ice cream man,” Hank suggested.
“Cute,” Sylvester replied, in a tone that suggested he thought it was anything but.
“McKone!” the altitudinous Al Rothstein exclaimed, then bolted from his chair and ran from the recreation room. His three friends quickly glanced at each other’s faces, then hurriedly followed Al out of the room. Sylvester glanced longingly over his shoulder as the coverage of the baseball game resumed on television.
The three friends found Al in the headquarters’ communication center, busily typing at a computer console.
“Al?” Sylvester asked. His friend did not answer, absorbed in his search for information; his large fingers flew over the keyboard with surprising deftness. A few moments later he stopped; a second or two after that, an image appeared on the computer screen.
“Lady and gentlemen,” Al said, “I give you Andrew McKone.”
“That’s him?!” Jennie-Lynn exclaimed in surprise.
Jennie-Lynn, Sylvester, and Hank stared at the image on the computer screen. It was of a hideously ugly man, apparently in his forties, with a bald head, sunken eyes, and crooked teeth. He was wearing a blue sharkskin suit of pre-World War II cut, and his body shimmered with a golden glow.
“Doctor… Glisten?” Jennie-Lynn said, reading the legend beneath the image. “Andrew McKone was a super-villain?”
“Sure was,” Al said. “There’s no data on how he acquired his powers, but his body emitted a radiant glow that allowed him to control people’s minds.”
“Like hypnotism?” Hank asked.
“More than that,” Al corrected. “What we call ‘hypnosis’ can’t force someone to do something they normally wouldn’t do. McKone, or Glisten, could.”
“Didn’t have a very long criminal career, did he?” Sylvester asked, noting the short paragraph in the history section of the readout. He was silently picking his brain, trying to remember something.
“Not very, no,” Al agreed. “He was first encountered in March, 1942. He was planning to build a ‘super-submarine’ of sorts and use it to plunder ships on the high seas, hoping his raids would be blamed on enemy U-boats. Uncle Rex ran across him when he was shanghaiing his crew, and stopped him.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Hourman, Adventure Comics #72 (March, 1942).]
“Hey, I read something about that!” Jennie-Lynn exclaimed. “His power could defy gravity, too, couldn’t it? Didn’t Rex try to jump down on him from above, and Glisten ordered him to stop, and he did?”
“That was the comic-book version,” Al said distastefully. “Anyway, Charlie and Wes fought him the following year in London. He was working for the Nazis that time, helping them kidnap H.G. Wells.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Brave and the Bold: Doctor Mid-Nite and the Sandman: Times Past, 1943: Assignment: London.]
“So he was willing to work for the Nazis, as well as letting them take the blame for — wait, what? H.G. Wells?!” Hank asked.
“Long story,” Al said. “Anyway, abetting the enemy in wartime is considered treason; McKone did thirty years in Leavenworth after that.”
“I’m surprised he didn’t order the guards to let him go,” Jennie-Lynn suggested.
“That’s how he got out of prison so fast the first time,” Sylvester said. “I’m starting to remember this guy; scuttlebutt around the Perisphere, back in the day. As I recall, Rex and Charles devised a technological defense to Glisten’s power.”
“Oh?” Hank asked. “What was it?”
“Uh-huh. Charles got the idea, because Glisten’s power didn’t affect him at all; something about invading the brain through the optic nerves. All the guards and other staff wore sunglasses whenever they were around Glisten, and he couldn’t affect them.”
“Guess that’s why they called them Ray Bans,” Jennie-Lynn joked.
“Anyway, his power, however he got it, started to fade with age,” Al said. “By the time he got out of Leavenworth in ’74, it was about half as strong as it had been. He tried one last foray in super-villainy a couple of years later; teamed up with a couple other vintage villains named Doctor Clever and Doctor Doog. The newspapers called them the Three Doctors.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: This is an untold story.]
“I heard about that,” Hank said. “Weren’t they all killed during that fight, though?”
“So it was thought,” Al said. “No bodies were found, though, and you know how that is. But none of them had ever been heard from again… until now.”
“So this Sunset Killer guy killed Doctor Glisten in a nursing home,” Sylvester said. “The Delaware police likely don’t even know who McKone was. We’ll advise them of what we’ve learned.”
“Right,” Hank agreed. “Although we don’t know what the killer’s motive was; it could have been personal, nothing to do with McKone’s former vocation.”
“Doesn’t make sense to me,” Jennie-Lynn said. “Why would someone want to kill a retired super-villain who hasn’t bothered anyone in years?”
“Oh, Steve,” the middle-aged man in clerical collar called out. “The bread baskets are empty on the tables by the window; could you refill them, please?”
“Right away, Father McCaffrey,” the sandy-haired young man said with a smile, grasping a box of plastic bags of hard rolls.
“And, Steve,” the priest said with a smile, “I want to thank you again for volunteering here. It means a lot to us!”
“Well, it’s my pleasure, Father,” Steve said, producing two empty salt-shakers from one of the pockets of his canvas apron and placing them on the counter for refilling. “Like I said, I have an unexpected week off work while the office is being fumigated, but I couldn’t afford to go anywhere, so I figured I’d help out a bit.”
“I wish more young men thought like you,” Father McCaffrey said. “We always get a lot of volunteers around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but folks seem to forget that there are needy people all year round.”
“Indeed there are,” Steve said, smiling back. “Let me get those bread baskets!” The young man carried the box toward the tables nearest the window of the small soup kitchen.
At one table, an elderly man with long, stringy hair the color of cigarette ash was telling a joke to the other clientele. “So the lady says, ‘Doctor, I want a second opinion!’ And the doctor comes back with, ‘OK. You’re also very ugly!'” The other diners burst into laughter.
“God, Vic, you’re a panic!” a middle-aged black man wearing the sun-faded jacket of an Army corporal laughed.
“Vic?” Steve asked, stopping by the table. “Excuse me, are you the one they call Vaudeville Vic?”
“That’s me, young fella,” the elderly jokester said, smiling up at Steve. “My reputation precedes me, huh?”
“It sure does,” Steve said with a smile. He reached into one of the pockets of his apron, pulled out an automatic handgun, and shot Vic three times in the head and face.
Amid the screaming and chaos that resulted, Steve ducked out the back of the kitchen.
“First, I’d like to thank you all for attending this emergency session on such short notice.” Hawkman stood at the head of the meeting table in the Justice Society of America’s conference room, his powerful ninth-metal wings spread out behind him like an imposing mantle. “Those few members not in attendance will be considered unavoidably detained on cases of their own. I would like to begin with a brief summary of the minutes of the previous meeting. Wonder Woman?”
Wonder Woman rose at her seat. “Last week, an elderly man named Andrew McKone was shot to death at the Wilmington, Delaware, nursing home where he resided, by an unknown assailant who gained entry to his room by claiming to be his son,” the Amazon warrior said. “Shortly after, we received a telephone call from Sylvester Pemberton, known to us all as the Patriot, leader of Infinity Inc. Albert Rothstein, the Atom’s godson and a member of Infinity Inc. as Nuklon, had recognized McKone’s name from his studies of the JSA’s past cases; we were reminded that McKone had been a super-villain named Doctor Glisten, who had fought several members of our group in the past.” Wonder Woman returned to her seat.
“That’s my Al,” the Atom said with a smile of pride.
“Thank you, Wonder Woman,” Hawkman said. “We then, of course, informed the Delaware State Police as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation of McKone’s identity, to assist in their investigation of what the media has dubbed the Sunset Killer, owing to a remark reportedly made by the gunman. There is new information regarding this matter, and for that I will turn the floor over to Green Lantern.”
Folding his mighty wings, the Hawkman took his seat. The Green Lantern rose at his own to address his longtime friends. “Thank you, Hawkman,” he began. “A few days after the incident in Delaware, a somewhat similar killing occurred in New York City. A young man who had volunteered to work at a soup kitchen, ostensibly during an unscheduled week of absence from his job, produced a handgun and fatally shot a regular customer of the kitchen, known to the staff and other clientele as Vaudeville Vic. This nickname, according to all reports, came from the old man’s habit of entertaining others with jokes and clever stories, and his general sense of humor and upbeat attitude. Owing to the similarity of the methods of operation, we wondered if the crimes were not linked; while there is still no definite proof of that, I have uncovered information that makes it at least very highly likely.”
Green Lantern paused to moisten his throat with a glass of ice water; the rest of the team hung on his words with tense anticipation. “The man known as ‘Vaudeville Vic’ was really Victor Sturbridge III. He was born into a wealthy family, the third generation of a line of what used to be called ‘robber barons.’ His grandfather was a railroad magnate, of the kind Frank Norris used to write about. His father sold weapons to both sides during the Spanish Civil War, and went through the Great Depression untouched.
“Victor the Third was groomed to follow in these men’s footsteps, but somewhere along the line he decided that a society that allowed men like his father and grandfather to profit from the misery of others, and in fact life in general, was nothing more than absurd joke. Deciding to ‘play along,’ as he saw it, he donned a garish costume and began a life of crime as the Fool, committing stylish crimes for the humor in them rather for the financial benefit. (*) His family, of course, used their considerable influence to keep his true name out of the papers and any court records; I put him away a few times in the late ’40s without ever knowing who he really was.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Fool Comes to Town,” Green Lantern #28 (October-November, 1947).]
“Wow,” Wildcat whistled. “I’ve heard of the Fool! He was a moneybags? Who’d have thought?”
“Who indeed?” Green Lantern agreed. “The last time I battled him was in 1950; what happened to him after that, I was unable to learn. But somehow he ended up living on the streets and frequenting the soup kitchen where this Sunset Killer, presumably, was able to find him.”
“Thank you, G.L.,” Hawkman said. “Well, ladies and gentlemen, it appears that we have a serial killer on our hands, one who targets super-villains.”
“We should contact the news agencies and reach an agreement to keep a lid on this,” said Superman. In his other role, he had learned firsthand the heights to which journalism could rise, as well as the depths to which it could sink. “Some disreputable paper is likely to ennoble this killer, make a sort of ‘Robin Hood’ out of him for dispensing summary justice.”
“An excellent point, Superman,” Hawkman agreed. “And I feel that you would be our best choice to spearhead such efforts, both for your experience with the news media and your status as our most iconic member, most likely to convince the press to go along.”
“Point noted, Hawkman. I accept the assignment,” Superman said, nodding.
“What about the guy who’d been working at the soup kitchen?” asked Johnny Quick. “The killer, I mean. He must have given the kitchen a name. I assume that’s been checked?”
“Of course,” Hawkman said. “Phony as a three-dollar bill. Wouldn’t have stood up to the most perfunctory scrutiny, but these charitable institutions are usually so short of help, especially at this time of the year with no feel-good holiday around, they don’t ask too many questions.”
At that point, the conference room door opened, and a lithe, muscular figure walked in amid a swirling ebony cloak.
“Sorry I’m late,” Doctor Mid-Nite apologized. “What did I miss?”