by Doc Quantum
The two crime-fighters and the Nordic god with them burst into the lair of the vampires…
And found nothing.
“Could the clerk have tipped ’em off?” Sandy Hawkins said, puzzled.
“He did not have the chance,” the Sandman replied, cautiously looking around the darkened apartment. “Besides, they probably saw us enter the building. One thing for sure…” The crime-fighter dipped his gloved finger in a spill of fresh blood and held it up for inspection. “…they haven’t been gone for long.”
“Yea, I can still smell the fresh, foul stench of the nosferatu in this place,” the thunder god said grimly. “Verily they have disappeared under the cloak of darkness.”
The Sandman walked over to the open window and saw a trail of quickly drying blood on the fire escape. “Sundown was two hours ago. They’re bound to be at their peak very soon. We have no time to lose.”
It was a simple matter to follow the trail of the vampires in order to discover where they had gone. Thus the Sandman and his two companions prepared to enter the building that welcomed all creatures of the night.
“It be a very house of sin and debauchery,” remarked Thor, “a charnel house. What else could cause that caterwauling, that cacophony of screams and laughter most vile?”
“I’d agree with you there, chum,” said Sandy, patting Thor on the back. “Kids nowadays, huh?”
“Come on,” said the Sandman, who led the two around to the back of the discotheque and in through the kitchen entrance in the back alley, where several people were standing outside and smoking. They hardly looked twice at the trio, who looked no stranger than anyone inside.
The three entered the dance floor filled with drunken twentysomethings who were dancing like there was no tomorrow. The Sandman gestured to the other two to go right, while he went left.
“Hey, cutie,” a pretty brunette said to Sandy, “wanna dance?”
“Uh…” Sandy started, looking around. Thor was still walking on, and he seemed to be attracting attention of his own. And the Sandman seemed to be hot on the trail of the vampires on the other side of the room. What the hell? Sandy finally figured; he could blend in with all the dancers and keep his eye open for the undead while he was dancing with this girl. “Sure!” he finished, and began dancing with her.
Thor, meanwhile, continued to stalk the dance floor, suspicious of all these young partygoers and on the lookout for nosferatu. Without realizing it, he walked up to the bar, almost crushing a bar stool with his leg. He looked up. There, along the back wall, were rows upon rows of alcoholic beverages of all kinds, and all colors.
“Mmm… meeead…” Thor found himself saying.
“Hey, pal, what’ll it be?” a bartender shouted to him above the din of the so-called music playing in the background.
Thor looked back at him, and his eyes glazed over. He almost gave in, but he gained control of himself as he thought of his father Odin One-Eye’s words again, and replied, “I say thee nay! Mead I must not touch, else I be banished from fair Asgard forever!”
“Hey, no prob, man. In fact, we encourage the Designated Driver program. How ’bout a Coke or somethin’, then?”
“Aye…” Thor replied glumly.
“A teetotaler, huh?” said a pretty platinum blonde who sat closely next to him. “I know you said you can’t drink yourself, but how about a nice fella like you buy a girl like me a drink?”
A brief, guilty thought of his wife Sif the Fair came to his mind, but soon vanished. “Aye,” replied Thor as he set down two gold coins to the surprise of the bartender, who accepted them gladly and, after biting at them with his teeth and finding them satisfactory, pocketed them when no one was looking.
The Sandman, meanwhile, was on the second level of the nightclub overlooking the dance floor. The vampires he sought were not there. Perhaps they had already left, he considered. Perhaps they had already found some new victims and were on their way to a new lair. He needed to search more carefully for tracks.
Minutes later, the Sandman saw a set of scuffed footprints leading into a washroom that had a sign saying Out of Service, and he pushed the door open. He reached his gloved hand around to turn the lights on, but nothing happened. Thus he adjusted his mask to see in infrared light and cautiously walked into the empty washroom. He checked one stall after another, but they were all empty.
The Sandman was startled by a dripping sound at first, but he figured it was probably from one of the taps. He knelt down, however, and saw two dark spots on the floor before him. He looked up.
“Raaahhhrrr!” the vampire screamed as he leaped straight for the crime-fighter through the ceiling tiles above.
The Sandman was startled out of his reverie and flipped the vampire over using a technique he’d learned in the far east as a young man. He reached into his coat pocket and produced a wooden stake and a mallet and reached for the vampire.
A heavy object fell upon the Sandman’s back, and he was forced to the ground. He threw the corpse (for that was what it was) off of himself and reached out for the vampire again, but it had already slipped past him and out of the washroom.
The Sandman took a second to confirm that the body was indeed dead and rushed out in pursuit of the nosferatu.
“I’m psychic,” the brunette said to Sandy as the two danced. “Want me to tell you your fortune?” she said, looking him straight in the eyes.
“Uh…” Sandy stammered. He felt very uncomfortable right now. He hadn’t been with any girl since Minnie was killed, and he knew he should’ve been doing something other than dancing, but he couldn’t remember what that was. “You wanna see my palm or something?”
“I don’t need to see your palm to tell you what awaits you,” she said, her eyes still locked on his. “Come closer — I’ll whisper your future in your ear.”
Sandy looked at her and, without much consideration, bowed his head down for her to whisper to him.
The brunette brought her lips to the side of his head and lifted up his headgear, revealing his ear and neck. “I see… a woman in black…” said Erin as she bared her fangs.
A mallet came out of nowhere — Just like in the cartoons, Sandy thought idly — and slammed the vampiress Erin away from Sandy. A second later, a wooden stake was plunged through her heart and hammered carefully through this vital organ.
“Keep your mind on your work, Sandy,” said the Sandman as several people screamed at the sight of the writhing undead. New Yorkers were used to this scene by now after so many months, but it still chilled anyone to the bone to see it. The Sandman stopped a still-sober young man dressed casually and shouted, “Call Lieutenant Burke at NYPD and tell them where they can find this vampire.” The man nodded and rushed off to the telephone.
“Wes, I–” Sandy began.
“Not now, Sandy,” the Sandman replied, and pulled him along with him quickly.
“You’re such a big, strong, brute of a man, aren’t you?” the platinum blonde giggled as she ran her fingers up and down Thor’s muscular arm with one hand. With the other hand she reached for her glass of Bailey’s Irish Cream and imbibed a mouthful of it. As she swallowed, she closed her eyes and breathed, “Ahhh…”
“Ahhh…” Thor breathed as well, intoxicated by her beauty and imagining what that drink would feel like falling down his throat. His eyes began to glaze over.
“What say we go back to my place and continue our chat there, huh, big guy?” the platinum blonde said seductively.
“Aye…” Thor replied in a daze, already thinking about how good he would feel if he only had one drink. Y’know, just to take the edge off.
Sandy plunged his own wooden stake through the heart of the other vampire nearby named Roger, and looked up at the Sandman.
“Sandy,” he said, looking around, “where’s Thor?”
“Umm… well, he was with me for a while,” Sandy replied sheepishly.
The Sandman looked around, and a realization suddenly kicked in. “Dammit! This has got to be the worst place in the world to bring a recovering alcoholic!”
The platinum blonde led Thor hand-in-hand through the dance floor and toward the front exit. Thor couldn’t help thinking how beautiful her hair was. Just like Sif’s, he thought. Except there seemed to be something dangling by her ear. Thor reached his hand up to her ear and brushed her hair back slightly, but found something soft and wet. He tugged at it to take a closer look. It was a human ear. And, moreover, the hair and scalp appeared to be connected to it.
Thor looked down at the ear. Then he looked up at the formerly platinum blonde woman still walking toward the exit, still holding his other hand. Thor looked back down at the scalp of platinum blonde hair he held in his hand. Then he looked back up at the woman and thought she looked more familiar now. He stopped.
The woman turned around, still smiling that seductive smile, and looked at Thor — then at the scalp in Thor’s hand. She stopped smiling. “Ah… heh.”
“Lo-kiii-iii-iii!” Thor bellowed at the top of his voice in stark realization and horror, startling the entire discotheque in the process.
The trickster of olde turned on his heels and ran out the exit, but not before Thor had slammed a meaty fist into the back of his head.
“I am the mighty Thor!” he screamed, holding up his short-handled hammer. “I will not be made a fool!”
The Sandman and Sandy rushed up to the thunder god just then and held back. Thor’s anger was legendary.
“Thor? You all right, buddy?” Sandy said.
Thor turned around, fire still raging in his eyes, and he almost struck the young man without thinking. But his manner soon began to change as he regained control of himself. “It… it was Loki the Trickster,” Thor finally said. “He… he almost tricked me into the consumption of mead by which I would be condemned to the same punishment he is supposed to be under.”
“Everything’s gonna be OK, all right, Thor?” Sandy said, patting him on the back.
“Our work here is completed,” the Sandman said. “Let us return home.”
Thor ran his hands through his hair as he finished telling the two crime-fighters exactly what happened in the bar and of the involvement of Loki.
“I’ve fought him before myself, Thor,” Wesley Dodds said. (*) “If he’s still out there, he’ll be up to no good. The JSA will–”
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Sandman: Season of Mists.]
“This is my problem, friends,” Thor interrupted. “My responsibility. I appreciate thy help and… and friendship. I did not realize how hard it would be to stop drinking. Tis a very hard thing, indeed.”
“There’s someone you should talk to,” Dian Belmont said as she passed the thunder god a steaming cup of coffee. “Someone who could show you what true character means.”
“Right,” said Wes, having talked with her earlier on the subject. “He has more experience than the rest of us do through the many lives he’s lived, in each of those lives the hero of his age. Everyone looks up to him, and the JSA has had the honor of his leadership for over forty years. He could teach you a lot about what it means to be a hero again, as I know you once were.”
“Who is this man of valor?” asked Thor.
Sandy grinned at Wes and Dian, who both nodded at him. He turned to Thor and said, “Hawkman.”