Maty Lopez spun to the beat of the music, wearing a daring hot pink minidress with heels. All eyes were upon her as what seemed to be the entire staff of Rock Music magazine celebrated their tenth anniversary issue with a grand party. She tossed her reddish brown hair and enjoyed the sensation. Cries rose as cheers began to fill the room.
All right, I’ve got them! I bet Rick Devon’s sure to ask me out after this performance, she thought with a smile.
She turned, only to see the other staff members cheering the dancing form of Yolanda Montez. But Yolanda was not on the dance floor. Instead, the beautiful writer was dancing on the club bar, her strapless gold lame minidress shimmering as she shimmied.
One of the most appreciative males was indeed the editor Rick Devon. “What a woman!” he laughed. “All that, and she writes like Lois Kent crossed with Hunter S. Thompson!”
A jealous Maty stalked out of the club. “She always steals the limelight, that hussy! No doubt Rick will give her the Duran Duran premiere party story, too. It’s not fair! I’ll make her sorry she ever crossed my path!” vowed a tearful Maty Lopez.
In a fashionable manor, an elegant, elderly woman listened with interest.
“Our success is assured,” bragged a graying old man in a white coat. “By combining your unique talents with my science, we have created a truly superior… product, shall we say?”
The regal woman wore all black with a spider emblem blazed across her gown. “But we need the perfect subject to maximize our results,” she said. “Perhaps the Huntress?”
“No, too dangerous, too clinical,” he said. “We need passion, someone full of animalistic energy. The Huntress is, from all reports, totally in control at all times. I suggest the obvious choice — Catwoman!”
The Black Widow smiled and said, “She is dead. You need to leave the lab more often.”
The scientist shook his head. “No, no, I refer to the newest woman to wear that costume. There is a successor to the title of Catwoman.”
The woman smiled coldly. “Then by all means, bring her to me.”
“I took the liberty of sending for some special agents to do just that,” he said.
Lew Ruby was a busy man. With three boy bands and the next Debbie Gibson all on his label, the record executive had little time for a quality meal. Thus he ate fast food at his desk. The burger was greasy, the fries cold. All in all, it made for a poor final meal.
He grunted as the office door swung open. “Doris, hold my calls,” he said. “I gotta line up a tabloid story to promote Stacy’s new single. How about an affair with the leader of the Romantics?”
“Ruby, you have hurt me,” said a silky-voiced, black-haired beauty. “While other musicians claim to suffer for their art, Deathknell lets others do the suffering for her!”
She pursed her lips, and a beautiful sound filled the room. Tears poured from Ruby’s eyes, as he was moved by the passion and drama he heard and felt within her song.
Then she reached a crescendo, and he sat there dead to the world around him. In fact, he was just plain dead.
Deathknell smiled and walked out with all the air of triumph of a true diva.
In a seedy gym, a heavyweight wannabe worked out, slamming the punching bag with amazing force. He was dedicated. He was talented. He wanted to be the next Mike Tyson.
The old man who encouraged him was tough, too — tough, bitter, and dangerous, to be exact. “Not bad, Rocko,” he said. “Not bad at all.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Rocko as he toweled off. “That’s why I’m leavin’ ya, King. I got my hopes set on signing with a better trainer who can get me to the top.”
The old man frowned. “Disloyalty! I don’t like that. If ya can’t depend on your pupils, then what’s left in the noble art for a broken-down pug like me?”
“We ain’t got no contract,” said Rocko. “I was underage when I signed. Big Sal says you can’t hold me.”
The man nicknamed the Diamond said, “No, you’re right. Legally, I can do nothing. However, it is fortunate that I abandoned any pretense to legality before you were born. Delilah, take care of our errant pupil!”
A pretty woman with short blonde hair entered the ring. She looked fragile, almost frail, but that was where appearance proved deceiving. She smiled eagerly. “I’m going to enjoy this. Haven’t killed a man with my fists in what… days?”
She caught Rocko with a left hook and began battering him, moving with the grace of a dancer and the savagery of a butcher. In a matter of minutes, the blonde had beaten an outclassed Rocko Minelli to death. He had never even connected once.
Rolling him aside with one foot, she smiled at her father. “Good, Daddy?” she asked.
“Very good, darling. Very good, indeed,” smirked Dan “The Diamond” King. “I got news for you,” continued the evil old man. “I should like you to visit a gentlemen for me. His name is Skinner.”
“Is he the one I think he is?” asked Nina Diamond. “I’ve trained so long for this! Is it finally time?”
“It is time,” he said. “The men who put the Diamond away all those years ago are gonna regret it.”
Diamondback smiled eagerly. “I do love a fight!”
Yolanda Montez yawned, hopped out of bed, and dressed quickly. She entered her family kitchen and smiled at the sight of her mother, Maria Montez.
“Mama, you don’t have to keep breakfast waiting for me,” she said as she kissed her mother. “I got in late last night!”
“Yolanda! You still move as quietly as a cat!” said Maria. “I suppose that is appropriate, right? I wanted to talk to you, so sit, eat!” Looking at her outfit, she chided her, saying, “Is that what you are wearing to work? The fishnets are tacky and torn!”
“It is the style,” Yolanda began with a smile. “In fact, the truth is, to really fit in at some of the concerts I cover, I would need to pierce my–”
“Enough with your teasing!” said Maria. “I must speak seriously to you for once. It says something, does it not, about our family, that our rooftop-prowling, crime-fighting daughter is the one we do not worry about!”
“Is something wrong with Jose? Or Poppa?” asked Yolanda as she spread jelly across toast.
“Si! They both worry me. The men of the Montez line think they must carry the world’s weight alone. Carlos is worried about something. He won’t say what it is. I found this in his bag.” She held out a note with pasted-on letters. It was an obscenity-filled death threat.
Yolanda curled it up in her hand. Brightly painted nails gleamed in the morning light. “Poor Papa,” she said as she held her mother’s hand. “As the boxing ring’s Mauler, he made his name and apparently a few enemies. I shall follow him just to be safe. Also let me take this note to a friend.”
“Such a good girl!” said Maria. “As for your little brother, ah, no! Your brother, he forgot his lunch! Plus, his grades are down. He is in trouble at school!”
Yolanda smoothed down her leather skirt and grabbed the brown paper sack. “Worse still!” she said. “He didn’t just leave his lunch bag. He accidentally took a bag in which I had tossed my Catwoman costume! I needed you to sew it after my fight with Lionmane. (*) I’d better catch him. By oversleeping, I’m already too late to stop him before he got to school, but if I take my scenic route, I can just get them before his lunch period!” And Yolanda raced out the door.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Huntress: Ninth Life.]
“What a good girl, but those clothes!” said a concerned Maria.
Having kicked off her heels and taken a shortcut of truly vertigo-inducing nature across several high-rises and a highway, Yolanda had made record time to the school and back out.
Jose skipped today! He must be at the skateboard lot. He never leaves home without that board, she mused as she climbed across the rooftops and slid effortlessly down a drainpipe to land above a paved lot. There, kids were yelling and skating in rare abandon.
I skipped school often enough, but I don’t want Jose to risk his future that way. If I had not been spotted dancing at that club, I’d never have been put in the Kryptonite Kiss video. That led to my first-person account being bought by Vibe. That, in turn, helped launch my journalism career. Not that a couple years of night classes didn’t pay off, too. My framed degree is like a shrine in our home!
She spotted Jose and whistled. “Over here, now!” she said.
“What a babe!” said a redheaded kid.
“It’s that honey from MTV!” said another.
“Naw, it’s just my boss big sister,” said Jose as he hurried over. “She thinks she’s so hot!”
“Here’s your lunch,” she said as he pushed him forward. “Now grab your board. I’m taking you back to school. This skipping is serious. Think how Papa would react. You’d get the belt for sure!”
“OK, OK. I don’t see why you had to stalk me!” he muttered.
“It’s for your own good. Come on; you know I would not steer you wrong,” she said.
“Yeah! If a guy can’t trust Catwoman…” sneered Jose.
Yolanda whirled about. “Tell me you didn’t show that suit to anyone else!”
“No way,” he said, grinning. “I can keep a secret, if…”
She laughed. “No deal. You keep still about my hobby, and I’ll keep mum this time about the playing hooky.”
“Deal!” he said.
Later, at a pay phone, Yolanda called to say she was running late and would be at the magazine later. Then she hurried to her father’s little gym.
Good — no sign of trouble, she mused. How do I help Papa when he’s too stubborn to admit that he needs help? That threat looked serious. Meg says no prints were on it, and I guess that’s typical, but you can’t blame a gal for trying.
“Hey, good-lookin’!” said a smiling old man. “Come to take me away from all this?”
“Come to add pep to Pep Morgan himself!” she said with a wink.
“Your old man is in his office,” said Pep Morgan. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: Pep Morgan first appeared in More Fun Comics #12 (August, 1936), and his last appearance was in Action Comics #41 (October, 1941).]
Yolanda walked by the ring, where a couple of kids were practicing. Wolf-whistles! I should get cat-calls! she joked to herself as the men greeted her arrival. “Papa, how about lunch?” she said.
Carlos Montez grinned. “I’d like that, but I have bad news. Sammy Skinner was attacked today — beaten to an inch of his life before the cops arrived. He’s in bad shape.”
Yolanda frowned. “He’s Uncle Ted’s old buddy, right?”
“No, his buddy’s son,” said Carlos. “Stretch’s boy, the private eye. Ted taught the kid.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Team Justice: Times Past, 1959: Justice in the Making.]
Yolanda wondered if Sam Skinner had also received a threatening note. The feline femme fatale would not rest until she could be sure her father was safe.
Lindsay Skye was a V.J., and she made the distinction between V.J. and D.J. with fierce pride. She considered herself a pioneer in the transition from print media to broadcast media coverage of music, and she was right. She was also about to die.
The young woman with a spikey blonde hairdo bobbed along until she was stopped by a woman in long green robes over a jumpsuit.
“Do you want an autograph?” she said, then gasped. “You!”
The raven-haired beauty sang. Lindsay fell forward in a swoon and died.
Deathknell kicked her aside. “You mocked my video on your insipid countdown show,” she said. “I guess I cancelled you!”
Yolanda felt safe in leaving her father at the hospital where he was joined by Ted Grant, the Wildcat. If Uncle Ted isn’t protection enough, then no one is, she mused. I can use this time while they visit Sammy to finish some last-minute tasks at Rock Star.
She reached the magazine’s office and quickly thumbed through some messages on her cluttered desk. Prince again! That guy won’t take no for an answer! Hate to Purple Rain on his parade, but enough is enough, she thought. All right! My interview with Billy Idol made front page!
Then she spotted the busy photo editor, Parker. She called his name and rushed out to catch him. As she exited her office door, another staffer entered from the other door.
“Yolanda!” called Maty Lopez in a catty tone. “Rick wants to see you, if you can make time with… I mean make time for him.” She looked around, but Yolanda Montez was already out of sight. “Cheap perfume. Just missed her. Hmm, what’s this? Maybe a lead on a story that won’t fall in Miss Hot Leg’s lap.”
She pulled out the Catwoman costume and smiled. “If this isn’t some kinky nightwear, then Yolanda might be the story of the day,” said the smiling Maty. “I could expose her for all the world to see!”
Slipping the costume back in the bag, she rushed out with it under one arm. This action would change her life.