Red Arrow: Reel Life, Real Death, Chapter 3: The New Clayface

by HarveyKent

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“Hi, Maggie,” Roy Harper said, coming up behind the young film student.

“Oh! Hey, you startled me,” said Maggie O’Toole. Then in a lower voice she said, “Did you call your friends?”

“Uh-huh; told them what we’d learned. We’ve now got three main suspects: Carlinger, Gene, and Darwin Crump.”

“Speak of the devil, and he’ll appear,” Maggie said. “Look.”

Roy watched as none other than Darwin Crump himself bulled his way through the set to the director’s chair, demanding to speak to Carlinger. The two men instantly began arguing, hurling curses and accusations back and forth.

“Oh, my,” Gene Frontis said, coming up to Roy and Maggie. “Did I wander onto the set of The Morton Downey Jr. Show by mistake?”

“No, Gene,” Maggie giggled. “The financier and the director are just have creative differences, that’s all.”

“What a pity,” Gene said. “I was hoping to bend John’s ear some more about the language in this film.”

“Language?” Roy asked.

“Gene doesn’t like the actors using the F-word so much,” Maggie explained.

“We never did in the old days,” Frontis said. “I know, I know, we couldn’t. But the film still became a classic without it. You can’t argue with that.”

“It looks like King Kong and Godzilla are going to be slugging it out for some time to come,” Maggie said, folding her arms over her chest and watching Carlinger and Crump shout at each other.

“Oh, well,” Frontis said, “I’ll try to talk to John later. I think I’ll have a little lie-down in my trailer. My medication makes me sleepy sometimes, you know. You’ll get me if I’m needed?”

Maggie promised that she would, and Frontis walked off.

Roy was listening intently to the argument between the two men. His childhood training by the Native American Quoag had taught him to tune out all other sounds than the ones he was listening for, so he was able to pick out most of the conversation, even though he stood far away. The argument, of course, was about money. At one point, Crump said that he had never wanted Ron Highe in the role at all, and had wanted Chuckie Gleem all the time. Roy found this very interesting.

Finally, the argument broke up. Crump stormed off the set, headed for a meeting with his West Coast bankers. Carlinger, exhausted by the duel, called for a break and stalked off himself.

“So those are our suspects,” Maggie said, long after the two men had gone.

“Them, and Gene,” Roy added. Maggie looked up at Roy questioningly.

“Roy, you don’t honestly believe that sweet old man could have anything to do with this?”

“I don’t want to,” Roy admitted. “But we have to keep an open–”

“Look!” someone screamed. All eyes turned in the direction of the scream and saw the script-girl pointing up. The astonished crew then followed her pointing finger to the roof of the observatory. They saw a human figure racing along the edge of the rooftop, a figure in a slouch hat and cloak.

“Clayface!” someone shouted.

The set was a flurry of frenzied activity then. Someone shouted for security; another demanded someone call the police. Without a word, Roy broke out in a dead run, straight for the observatory doors.

“Where are you going?” Maggie shouted.

“I’m going inside to call the police,” he shouted over his shoulder without stopping.

“But — but there’s phones here!” Maggie called, but Roy had vanished into the observatory. Maggie kept her eyes glued to the figure on the roof, praying he would not go inside the building and find Roy.

As he raced up the observatory stairs, Roy Harper shed his outer clothes and revealed the uniform of Red Arrow. He quickly stuffed the clothes into the duffel bag he carried, drew out his quiver and bow, and sped to the roof. He slowly pried open the door, trying not to make a sound. He saw the figure in the cloak bent over some small device, making adjustments to it. A single word flashed through Red Arrow’s mind like lightning: Bomb.

“Hold it right there!” Red Arrow shouted, drawing an arrow and notching it to his bowstring. “Don’t make a move!”

The new Clayface looked up, turning his hideous face on Red Arrow. His hand flew into the folds of his cloak and drew out a pistol. Red Arrow fired, and the arrow sank into the barrel of the pistol expertly. Disgusted, Clayface threw away the gun and rushed at Red Arrow, arms out.

Roy did not have time to notch another arrow; he threw up his own arms to block the villain’s assault. They grappled like wrestlers, grunting, fighting to gain ground. Red Arrow grimaced at the hideous makeup his opponent wore; it was ghastly, gruesome.

Finally, Red Arrow managed to force his opponent back, letting him get in one solid punch to the jaw. Clayface staggered backward a few steps; Red Arrow took advantage of the moment to draw and notch a net-arrow. But before he could fire, Clayface leaped over the side of the roof, out into space.

Red Arrow raced to the edge of the roof, looking out over it to see what had happened. Why had the man committed suicide rather than risk capture? It didn’t make sense. But when the archer looked, Clayface was nowhere to be found.

“The telescope!” someone on the ground shouted; Red Arrow looked, and saw it was Maggie. “He landed on the telescope, and slid down it into the observatory!”

Red Arrow dashed back inside the building and raced down the steps. He searched every room in the place, but it was no use. Clayface was gone. He had escaped. The archer cursed himself for having let him get away.

He heard the sounds of many people entering the building; the police had arrived. He quickly grabbed his duffel bag from the corner where he had stashed it and ducked into the men’s room to change back to Roy Harper. As he pulled off his boots and gloves, he pondered what had happened. Carlinger, Frontis, and Crump, their three main suspects, had all been absent from the scene when Clayface had struck. Now they would have to get each man to account for his whereabouts at the…

Roy looked down at his right hand as he was pulling the glove off it. Good Lord, could that be? It was incredible. And yet there it was, right there, plain as day. Roy’s mouth set in a grim line.


“And you say you ran into the observatory to call the police?” the detective asked Roy.

“That’s right,” Roy said. “I remembered later that we had phones out on the set; I guess I panicked.”

“Uh-huh. And did you call the police?”

“Well, no,” Roy admitted. “When I got inside, I saw Red Arrow heading for the roof. I figured there was going to be a fight, and I wanted to stay out of it. So I–” Roy glanced at Maggie, who was watching him, listening to his story. “–I hid in the men’s room.”

“Probably a smart move,” the detective said. He turned away from Roy and questioned his officers.

“Have we rounded up everyone yet?” he demanded.

“Not quite, sir,” a uniformed officer said. “We reached Darwin Crump on his car phone; he’s turned the car around and is coming back here. We’ve got John Carlinger, the director, over there waiting to talk to you.”

“What about the old guy, Frontis?” the detective demanded.

“He’s in his trailer, according to the girl,” the officer said, indicating Maggie. “It’s locked. We’ve pounded on the door, but nobody’s answered it.”

“Well, get it open!” the detective demanded. “Somebody around here must have a key, right?”

“The head of security has a key to all the trailers,” a prop man pointed out.

While an officer was sent to get the key, Maggie came up to Roy. “Roy, I — I want you to know I understand.”

“Thanks. I appreciate that,” Roy said, not wanting to meet her eyes. God, how he hated lying. “Come on; let’s see why Gene didn’t answer.”

“Captain Miller?” one of the officers said. “We got the trailer open. Nobody’s inside, sir.”

The detective turned to Maggie. “I thought you said he was in his trailer.”

“That’s where he told us he was going,” Maggie said.

“That’s right. I was there,” Roy corroborated.

“Captain, I think you’d better take a look,” the officer continued. The detective strolled purposefully toward Frontis’ trailer; Roy and Maggie followed him. They looked inside, and Maggie gasped in awe. The trailer was adorned with mementos of the original Hoodlum Without a Motive — a copy of the original script, a framed lobby card, the original soundtrack album, even a framed photograph of Jack Masters autographed “To Gene: Happy Father’s Day! Your Movie Son, Jack.”

“Oh, wow,” Roy said.

“Looks like a motive to me,” Miller said.


The set and observatory grounds were combed, but Gene Frontis was not found. His home was searched and had come up empty. An all-points bulletin was put out for him to be picked up for questioning relating to the murder of Ron Highe.

That night, Red Arrow returned to the observatory. He wasn’t satisfied with the direction of the official police investigation. He had his own avenues to pursue.

As he crept around the darkened movie set, he noticed something — something only eyes and ears like his, trained by two highly skilled hunters and honed by years of practice, would pick up. It was a slight rustling sound, coming from Gene Frontis’ trailer, and a dim light, barely enough to be caused by a pencil flashlight, from within the trailer. Red Arrow moved quickly but silently to the trailer. He quietly made his way to the door, drew an arrow, notched it to his bowstring, and kicked open the door.

A scream from within almost made him let the arrow fly.

You?” he demanded. Then he remembered that Red Arrow had not met Maggie O’Toole. “You were on the set today, weren’t you? What are you doing here?”

“I’m trying to prove that the police are after the wrong man,” Maggie said defiantly. “There’s no way Gene Frontis could be doing this! They won’t listen to me, so I’m here on my own!”

“I’m sure Mr. Frontis would appreciate your faith, Miss,” Red Arrow said, “but I think you should leave the detective work to the professionals.”

“Oh, please,” Maggie said. “Come off it, R–”

Suddenly, a muffled explosion sounded from outside on the set, followed by another and another, flickering orange light spilling into the darkened trailer.

“Fire!” Red Arrow declared, running out onto the set. He found the prop van, Sally Vreedy’s trailer, and the sound truck all ablaze. He quickly drew and fired a volley of fire-extinguisher arrows to put out the blazes. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Maggie emerge from the trailer.

“Call the Fire Department!” he shouted to her. “And the police!”

“Look!” Maggie cried, pointing up. Clayface stood on the roof, hurling firebombs down onto the set.

“Not this time,” Red Arrow promised himself. He fired a net arrow that covered the small gap where the telescope emerged from the observatory, plugging that exit for the villain. Then he fired a fork-pronged arrow that buried itself in the door, one prong in the door itself and one in the door jamb, thus holding the door closed. Red Arrow then fired a line-arrow that struck just below the lip of the observatory roof, and, quick as a mountain-goat, he scaled the side of the wall.

When he reached the top, he saw Clayface disappear into the rooftop door, and he gave chase. Once through the door he saw the villain racing madly down the stairs. He fired a grease-slick arrow ahead of the fleeing Clayface, and it burst into thick black liquid four steps below him. Clayface could not halt his descent in time; his feet hit the oil slick, and he tumbled down the rest of the way, heels over head, landing in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs. Red Arrow descended on an arrow-line to meet him at the bottom.

Maggie waited anxiously outside for the police to come, for Red Arrow to come out, for anything to happen. Finally, the door burst outward with a mighty kick, the arrow holding it shut popped from its frame. Red Arrow walked out with Clayface slung over his shoulder. The villain was unconscious, but Red Arrow had taken the precaution of binding him with an arrow-line, anyway.

“You called the police?” he asked Maggie.

“They’re on their way,” she said anxiously. “You got him!”

“Yes,” Red Arrow said simply. “He won’t hurt anyone else again.”

“Let’s get that makeup off him, so we can see who he is!” Maggie said as Red Arrow set his burden down on the ground.

“That won’t be necessary,” said the archer.

“What?” Maggie demanded. “Not necessary? I want to see who he is! I want to prove he’s not Gene Frontis!”

“He’s not,” Red Arrow assured her. “This man is Jack Masters.”

Maggie gaped silently for a moment. “Th-that’s impossible!” she stammered. “Jack Masters died thirty years ago!”

“No,” Red Arrow said. “He didn’t die in that car crash. He was horribly disfigured, too horribly for plastic surgery to completely repair. His career died, but he lived on to spend the remainder of his life in the shadow of his own former greatness. I suppose it drove him insane. The announcement that his greatest achievement would be remade was too much for him.”

“He — he told you all this?” Maggie asked, dumbfounded.

“He didn’t have to,” Red Arrow said. “I figured it out after our first fight on the rooftop. I punched him hard in the face, but when I examined my glove later, there was no makeup residue on it. So I figured out that he wasn’t wearing any; that really was his face.”

Maggie was silent for a moment, staring down at the cruel killer who had once been a matinee heartthrob. “What about Gene?” she asked weakly.

“I believe Masters kidnapped Gene, probably killed him, to divert suspicion from himself,” Red Arrow theorized. “He figured to give the police a suspect to chase, to keep people from asking the right questions about Jack Masters.”

“Damn,” Maggie hissed. “That’s probably the saddest, cruelest story I’ve ever heard.”

“Hollywood created an icon,” Red Arrow said, “but he was all too human in the end. He couldn’t stand not living up to the image he had created.”

Maggie smiled at him. “Pretty clever… Roy.”

It was Red Arrow’s turn to gape. “Wh-what?”

“Oh, come on,” she said. “How dumb do you think I am? You run into the building, and two minutes later Red Arrow is on the roof? Then Red Arrow disappears, and you’re back? And all those probing questions you asked about who would have a motive. Friends in law enforcement! Yeah, friends like the Patriot and Nuklon, I’ll bet!” Maggie was grinning. “Don’t worry, Roy. I’ll keep your secret. At least… for a while.”

“A while?” Red Arrow asked. “How long?”

“As long as you continue to make me happy,” she said coyly. “You know, there’s a George Raft festival at the Odeon tomorrow night…”

The End

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