by GDL 629 19136
“Absolutely not! No Goddamned way we’re lettin’ those two f***in’ freaks go!” howled Clem Burke as the Sandman paced across the precinct floor.
The Sandman was torn between his concern for Dian by complying with the Monk’s demands or upsetting the uneasy truce with Lieutenant Burke. He cradled his gas-gun, trying to decide what to do.
Finally, he put the gas-gun down, his hands trembling in a mixture of rage and fear. Burke was right. The two vampires, now held in a makeshift vault downstairs, were the only chance of finding the Monk and stopping his plans.
The Sandman turned to his new reluctant ally. “Burke, we’re going to need some help. I have some calls to make.”
Dian Belmont couldn’t move.
The limbs of her body felt like lead weights. Her body felt so weak, and she was terribly parched. The thirst was unbearable. Her throat felt raw, as if it was lined with desert sand.
She strained to take in her surroundings amidst the weak candlelight, giving flickering glimpses of a scene from one of Bosch’s more cheerful paintings. A sickening stench filled the room. In the corner, Dian thought that she saw a pile of bodies — many more than the police reports had discovered.
The rats that paraded in the room tended to avoid the stacked corpses, as well as the two robed figures that floated into the room.
“Ahhh… so our guest is awake, my brother,” cooed a husky feminine voice.
Dala and the Monk hovered directly over her; the Monk’s fetid breath stank of decay.
“And just in time… for dinner.” Dala let out a dry laugh, clearly reveling in Dian’s discomfort.
Dian didn’t like the sound of that. She struggled to push away from them, weakly flailing at Dala, who just laughed even louder.
Dala grabbed Dian’s arm sharply, making Dian wince in pain. “Oh, don’t worry, dear… we need you alive a little while longer…” said Dala as she rolled down Dian’s shirt sleeve.
“Not too much, now, Dala! We don’t want to turn her yet,” advised the Monk, who, it had seemed, had already fed; droplets of blood slowly trickled down the corner of his cruelly shaped mouth.
“But we can ssstill have a tassste, while we await your Sssandman in shining armor! He won’t ssstop usss. You sssee the bodies — our army growsss each and every night! Thisss city is just the ssstart!” Dala paused for a moment, as if to savor it. Then she savagely bit Dian’s wrist.
Dian fought the sensations as the blood throbbed out, making Dian lose consciousness again.
“Is he all right, Rex?” asked Dr. Charles McNider, lifting his gaze from the microscope. Both he and Rex Tyler had answered Wes’ call this morning, despite the fact that it meant cutting his honeymoon with Myra a couple of days short. (*) The others would be coming later. Even in all his years as Doctor Mid-Nite, Charles had never had the opportunity to examine actual vampires. The Spectre was one thing, but this…
[(*) Editor’s note: See Doctor Mid-Nite: Nite Fall.]
Wesley Dodds had finally settled down enough to go to sleep, while Rex and Charles tried to analyze the creatures for any possible weaknesses.
As the morning came, the two hysterical vampires had collapsed in a corner of their cell; apparently, the Monk had decided not to make his move yet.
The tests had confirmed many of the legendary characteristics of the vampire. Inhuman strength, resiliency to harm, aversion to sunlight, and heightened senses all checked out. No signs of bat transformations or aversion to crosses or garlic, though. Transmission of these properties was like that of rabies, and apparently took three days to fully metamorphosize. Since they now knew this, all of the bodies infected by the Monk and Dala were placed in isolation, in case they arose.
Rex Tyler sighed. “I don’t know, Charles. I’ve never seen Wes this upset! Dian’s been missing since last night. But at least our two guests went to sleep. Makes it easier to run tests on them that way.”
Charles nodded grimly. “Jim and Kent aren’t available, and just when we could really use their abilities, too.”
The dream came again, swirling around, a liquid reality that ebbed and flowed with the tides. Names, words, events past and present were all to behold, to be forgotten by mortals upon waking.
Except for one.
The steam rising up from the ground seared Wesley’s face. He heard a voice, urging him forward.
Wes plowed his way through the dank mists, then froze in his tracks.
He saw a scale model of the city, much like the World’s Fair diorama he and Dian had seen in ’39, with snakes pouring out of the sewers — hissing, sliding throughout the streets and the buildings. It made his flesh crawl.
As he moved closer to get a better look, he saw that the snakes wore peoples’ faces. And as he backed away, the snakes slid off the scale model and slithered toward him.
“Wesssley… helllp usss…”
Wes shut his eyes and covered his ears, for he knew the voice that called to him. He opened his eyes and saw one of the snakes had a very familiar face.
As the heroes prepared for the Monk’s next move, the shadows of nightfall crept up like a spider upon New York, blanketing the city.
Dian lay still, so weak she couldn’t even open her eyes. Her entire being felt like a dried husk; she burned with a high fever that consumed her paralyzed frame.
And all she wanted, so badly, was a drink.
As she moaned, she thought she heard voices, and felt claw-like hands running over her.
“Get away from her!” snarled the Monk, brutally slamming the seven new vampires across the dilapidated room that served as the Monk and Dala’s headquarters, as well as the new vampires’ incubators — and as Dian Belmont’s prison.
“But… we thirssst!” said the boldest of the fledglings, speaking for the rest. They cowered and hissed at the Monk and Dala, who were clearly in command of their new recruits.
“You’ll feast… very soon! But you will do so when we say!” Dala addressed them. She added softly, with a calculating cold smile, “You’ll have a whole city to drink from, my darlings, once we’re ready!”
Rex Tyler and Dr. Charles McNider were so engrossed in their analysis of the vampire physiology that they scarcely noticed the oncoming of night. The sudden crash and bang from inside Stephanie and Antoine’s cell hit them like an alarm clock.
“I see our guests are awake,” Wesley Dodds said, entering the room. He looked pale and unshaven, but his eyes blazed with determination. The outfit and mask of the Sandman were in his hands.
“Wes, are you OK? You haven’t slept that much,” said Rex, concerned.
“I rarely do,” Wes replied. “I’ve had another dream. We have to act now… every second puts Dian and the city in danger! The Monk and Dala… I realize their plan.”
“From your dreams, Wes?” Charles asked, curious as always about his friend’s prophetic somnambulism.
“They’re going to infect the entire city. They need to create a haven for themselves and their kind!”
Antoine and Stephanie howled and shrieked as they clawed and pounded at the cell door. And as they did, the door began to buckle.
The massive door burst open, and Stephanie and Antoine rushed out toward their captors. The Sandman was nowhere to be found; instead there were two other costumed mystery-men.
“No Sssandman… oh, well… you’ll do!” cackled Antoine.
“Get back, Doc! I can handle this!” Rex Tyler instinctively glanced at the clock on the wall as he rubbed the hourglass hanging from a cord around his neck and spoke the words, “Man of the hour.” He felt the rush of power that would sustain him for an hour as the creatures started to slow down before his eyes. (*) Hourman then landed an uppercut to Antoine’s chin, sending him headfirst into the drop ceiling.
[(*) Editor’s note: Hourman no longer needs to rely on his Miraclo pills to gain great strength for an hour; see Justice Society of America: Ragnarok Aftermath, Chapter 3: Miracles.]
Stephanie went for Doctor Mid-Nite, alias Dr. Charles McNider; as she pounced, Mid-Nite braced his legs under her midsection, flipping her over him into the lab table.
Suddenly, an owl crashed through the window, tearing after Stephanie; the owl’s instinct to help his master had taken over.
“Hooty, no! Go back!” Mid-Nite shouted, aware that the vampire would be too much for his trained owl to handle.
Stephanie swatted at the attacking owl as Doctor Mid-Nite tossed a blackout bomb, obscuring her vision. At least my new bombs even obscure a vampire’s vision, thought Mid-Nite, who deftly sidestepped all of Stephanie’s attempts to catch him.
“Outside, Hooty!” commanded Mid-Nite. The owl flew out the window to await further instructions.
Stephanie whirled around, trying desperately to grab Mid-Nite, to no avail.
Hourman wrestled with Antoine as the blackout bomb plunged the room into absolute darkness. “Unnghh… you’re… a… tough… mosquito… aren’t you?”
Antoine’s fangs went for Hourman’s throat and bit into his neck.
“Owww! That hurt, mosquito!” Hourman pulled Antoine off him and slammed him to the floor.
Antoine suddenly got up and, grabbing Stephanie — whose cries gave away her location — crashed through the window. Hourman and Mid-Nite went to the window, exchanging a grim look.
Doctor Mid-Nite’s owl flew in to roost on his gloved hand. “Whooo-ooo-ooo?” Hooty whistled, giving his customary response.
“All right, Hourman, they got away. I just hope that the Sandman can handle this from here.”
“Well, Doc, the others will be along soon. I have faith in Sandman’s plan; he’s the best one to track them down to the Monk’s hideout.”
Across the city rooftops, the pair of Stephanie and Antoine rushed across, heading instinctively to the Monk’s lair.
“Yesss, Monk, he followsss usss. We’ll bring him there sssoon!” whispered Stephanie as they tried not to look back at the Sandman, who was silently stalking his prey.
Suddenly, Dian Belmont felt herself lifted up, and she weakly opened her weighted eyelids.
The Monk held her up with one claw-like hand; his rancid breath made Dian’s stomach churn. He drew his pointed fingernail across his wrist and brought the dripping liquid to Dian’s lips.
“The time isss here, my ssweet. I need you awake enough to take care of Sssandman once and for all…”
Dian tried to push her face away from the vile red liquid, yet felt drawn to it.
“Her will is extraordinary. What an exquisite vampire she will make. Dala, come here and assisssst your brother!”
Dala came up from behind Dian, grabbing her head, then held Dian’s nose and squeezed her jaw open, letting the drops hit her tongue.
“Nnnooo!” Dian felt her limbs come back to life; she had never felt anything as sweet and delicious as this. She shoved Dala aside and grabbed the Monk’s wrist, drawing off droughts of the blood.
“Yesss… and now… you will kill the Sandman when he arrives.”
Stephanie and Antoine had reached the abandoned tenement housing, leading the Sandman into the trap.
The Sandman perched above on the rooftop, his eyes never leaving his quarry. The pair went to the sewer manhole outside the dilapidated building and descended.
“So, they are hiding out there!” The Sandman reloaded a fresh gas cartridge into his gas-gun, then fired his wirepoon at a nearby lamppost. Reaching the ground, he cautiously lifted the manhole. No sign of the two undead creatures.
The Sandman then touched a small switch on the eyelets on his gas mask. The corrective lenses that allowed him to see with his mask on rotated, and two infrared lenses clicked into place.
He descended into the sewers.
In the tenement housing above, amidst the nighttime noise of the city, the pile of bodies stacked in the corner began to twitch and rise.
The Sandman trudged his way through the putrid underbelly of New York City, the watery sewage up to his knees. At times like these, he was thankful for the gas mask that was his trademark.
He was somewhat distracted by thoughts of his lifelong companion. If anything happens to Dian, I’ll never forgive myself! But he remained as focused as he could under the circumstances.
The Sandman spotted a light down one of the tunnels and slowly crept forward. From a corner of the tunnel, he was horrified to see the room filled with undead creatures. Just as he had suspected, the Monk and Dala had been hiding most of the victims to conceal their numbers.
This was too much to handle by himself. He could only hope that the Justice Society of America could handle the onrush of vampires that were lurking under the city. The Sandman stepped back into the darkened tunnel and activated his JSA signal device.
Just then, the vampires heard the noise from the Sandman’s pager.
“Who’sss out there?” one of the vampires shouted.
“Oh, that would be the Sssandman!” rang out the voice of the Monk. “After him, my beauties!”
The horde of vampires poured out of the slime-covered corridor as the Sandman prepared for the attack.
Reaching into his suit jacket, he removed a small cylinder and hurled it at the ceiling. Gas suddenly filled the room, making the vampires drop gasping and choking to the floor. The Sandman removed his cloak and hat and prepared himself for the fight of his life.
As the gas dissipated, the Sandman aimed his wirepoon at the ceiling and hoisted himself up. Then, holding onto the cable, he disconnected it from the gun.
Antoine leaped up at the Sandman, his claw-like hands aiming for his chest. The crime-fighter swung his body around and landed a double kick to Antoine’s jaw, hurling him down into the filthy waters of the New York City sewers.
The other vampires now began to climb the filth-encrusted walls, lured by the scent of human blood pumping through the Sandman’s veins. The gas-masked crime-fighter took a new wire cartridge from his suit jacket, quickly loading it into his wirepoon gun.
Then the Sandman fired the wirepoon into the liquid sewage below.
The vampires in the water cackled their inhuman laughter at the Sandman’s actions. “What good is that going to do, Sssandman? Come down and feed usss…”
The Sandman smiled beneath his gas mask. “Oh, you’ll see what good…” Then he flipped a switch on the wirepoon gun.
The water bubbled up as electricity arced through it. The vampires that remained in the sewage wailed as their bodies twisted and writhed, their skin turning a charred color, their hair sticking out like quills.
Then the Sandman tuned off his gun and dropped to the pool of floating undead. The vampires that had clung to the walls dropped down, furious at the sight of their kindred fallen.
There was quite a bit of activity at JSA Brownstone.
“Can you pinpoint that signal, Rex?” asked Doctor Mid-Nite. The Sandman had just activated the JSA emergency signal, alerting all active and inactive members.
“It’s coming from under the city, just as Wes thought — the sewers!” Rex Tyler confirmed as he traced the signal to its source.
“When the alert sounds, that means that the vampires are ready to attack New York,” the Sandman had told them before he left to trail Antoine and Stephanie to the Monk’s lair.
“Who’s available, Chas?” asked Rex.
Charles McNider replied, “Well, so far… Carter, Dick, Karen, and Ted. No one else yet.”
“Damn. I was hoping for Kent Nelson or Jim Corrigan to respond. This is more up their alley!” sighed Rex. “Well, good thing Power Girl’s available — she’s almost as strong as Superman!”
“Except she’s as vulnerable to magic as Clark is, don’t forget,” added McNider.
“That’s OK, Chas. I have an idea.”
“You’ll wissssh you were dead, Sssandman!”
Even though the Sandman had decimated the ranks, there were still some vampires left to contend with. They formed a circle around the Sandman, intending to cut off his escape, spinning furiously around, going faster and faster, until they were a blur.
As they encircled the crime-fighter, their talon-like fingers lashed out, tearing his suit and protective undergarment to shreds. They uttered guttural sounds of approval as they tore at him.
Like wild animals, not even human, the Sandman couldn’t help but think as he tried to fend off the vampiric wheel of rotating knives. Despite his best efforts to dodge the razors that shredded his protective outfit, he bent down, arms over his head, trying to avoid any excess injuries.
As he felt the dulled throbbing of his cuts multiplying, he tore open his last gas bomb. The entire sewer seemed to fill with the greenish gas as the vampires in the circle fell, one by one.
The Sandman painfully rose up, his suit in rags hanging off his bleeding frame. Every move was agony as he went down the corridor.
His only thoughts were of Dian.