Danny Leong looked at the old shop in New York City’s Chinatown. His face, his whole demeanor, was perfectly still as he stood on the sidewalk. It was a trait trained into him by his teacher. The place had been sealed with wood after the death of his father. His mother had passed shortly before that. His Uncle Greg had looked around but had found nothing for his trouble. Danny had moved to Texas when his father’s friend had adopted him, but after all this time, Danny was ready, more than ready, to move in to the old place and see what happened for himself.
He crossed the street, key in hand, unlocked the webbed door, and let himself inside. The dust stayed where it was as he walked across the room without leaving footprints. He placed his bag behind the counter as he surveyed the room.
This shop had once been his father’s home back when a Japanese secret agent had tried to start a tong war, framing old Lin Choo and his White Lotus tong for violence committed by white gangsters dressed as Chinese hatchet men. Victor Leong, Lin Choo’s grandson, had believed in his grandfather’s innocence and vowed to track down whoever was responsible for the frame-up. The Vigilante, in Chinatown for a publicity stunt as Greg Sanders at the Far East Club, met young Victor and his grandfather and was convinced of the old man’s innocence. So Victor, nicknamed Stuff, the Chinatown Kid, partnered up with the Vigilante and uncovered the conspiracy and unmasked the Head as a foreign agent. (*) The Vigilante, with his guns and fisticuffs, and Stuff, with his jiu-jitsu moves, became a formidable team from then on.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Case of the Bamboo Death,” Action Comics #45 (February, 1942).]
But it wasn’t long afterward that violence struck Stuff’s family once more. Victor Leong’s parents were murdered by gangsters after refusing to allow them to turn the family shop into an opium den. The Vigilante and Stuff tracked down the gang and discovered its ringleader to be none other than the Dummy, a foe the Vigilante had fought a few months earlier, during the formation of the Seven Soldiers of Victory. (*) After the two left the criminal hanging from a lamppost at the 4th Precinct, the Dummy vowed his revenge for the indignity, and he became the Vigilante’s arch-enemy. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Stone People,” Leading Comics #1 (Winter, 1941-1942) and “Son of a Gun,” World’s Finest Comics #246 (August-September, 1977).]
Victor Leong, now an orphan, was left in the care of his maternal great-grandfather, Lin Choo, while he continued to assist the Vigilante as his sidekick. After Greg Sanders disappeared in 1948, Stuff worked with the second Vigilante, a man whom Victor knew only as John, for a few years until that man retired to start a family with his beautiful wife, Jeanne. This was a man who was a legend in his own right but who owed a favor to the original Vigilante for long-ago deeds. The second Vigilante assured Stuff that Greg Sanders was alive and well but living in another time period, and he was sure that eventually the Vigilante would make his way home.
Unfortunately, it took over twenty years for that day to come. In that time, Victor Leong had a family of his own and a son he named Daniel before the original Vigilante returned to the twentieth century time after a long absence. Greg explained that, after the battle with the Nebula-Man, he had been sent to the Old West, where he lived for a few short years and met such legendary lawmen as Johnny Thunder, Nighthawk, and the Trigger Twins, amongst others. And then, after exposure to a chunk of the Nebula-Man that had traveled back in time with him, he was sent back through time nearly a thousand years, landing in an era long before European colonization had begun. He lived in that time period only a short while before he was rescued by Johnny Thunder of the Justice Society of America, Black Canary, and the Green Arrow of Earth-One. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “And One of Us Must Die,” Justice League of America #102 (October, 1972).]
The Vigilante’s return in 1972 brought back old hatreds as the Dummy, now based in Gotham City, was finally able to obtain the revenge that had been denied him for decades. Men working for the Dummy murdered the former Chinatown Kid and hung his body in a deserted tenement for the Vigilante to find. A note pinned to his chest read:
Vigilante — took the liberty of eliminating your Oriental sycophant. Was great fun. Your move.
— The Dummy
The police found the Vigilante, crazy from grief, and the corpses of several gangsters in that tenement, and it was only the intervention of the elderly James W. Gordon — police commissioner until his retirement later that year — that he wasn’t arrested for murder or manslaughter himself. By way of explanation, the Vigilante showed him Victor’s body and the Dummy’s note, and the commissioner assigned Detective Lieutenant Philkar to aid the Vigilante against his old enemy.
But when the Vigilante tracked down one of the Dummy’s lieutenants, Mr. Kingston, only to find him dead, he discovered that someone else was hunting the Dummy, someone who had used a shuriken, or throwing star, to kill Kingston. That was when the Greg Sanders finally met Danny. Tearfully, the boy explained that his father had been Stuff, the Vigilante’s old partner.
Victor and Danny had spent several days tracking down the Dummy in Gotham City, until the Dummy managed to capture and kill Victor. Danny, having managed to gain access to Kingston’s office by posing as a messenger boy, had confronted Kingston and been forced to kill the man in self-defense after he’d drawn his gun.
Together, the Vigilante, Danny, and Detective Lieutenant Philkar stormed the Dummy’s Gotham City headquarters and managed to stop his entire gang until police reinforcements arrived. And the Vigilante sent the Dummy back to prison. After that day, Greg Sanders took in Danny Leong as his foster son as a favor to his old partner, and Danny never saw his family’s old shop again, until now. (*) He became Stuff Junior for a time, accompanying the Vigilante on his adventures just as his father had over two decades earlier.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Son of a Gun,” World’s Finest Comics #246 (August-September, 1977), “Deathmaze,” World’s Finest Comics #247 (October-November, 1977), and “All the Dummy’s Men,” World’s Finest Comics #248 (December, 1977-January, 1978), which we place on Earth-Two in 1972 rather than on Earth-One.]
But neither Danny nor the Vigilante had never discovered the identity of the man who had been hired by the Dummy to murder his father, and the diminutive criminal refused to talk. It was only recently that Danny learned it was apparently common knowledge that a Chinatown connection was involved in his father’s murder. That made sense, because he knew his father — a martial arts expert in his own right — would not have gone down without a good fight, and only another fighter of equal skill or better could have bested him.
Turning stiffly to inspect the rest of the place, he settled in, cleaning the years of dust away with his usual calm. He knew Uncle Greg had not allowed the place to be sold in case Danny ever wanted to return here. He had grown up, learning what he could from his mentor and others, until finally he had met the wandering fighter known as the One.
Danny knew that his return would have to be some kind of impetus to hopefully draw out the people who had threatened his family many years ago, leading to his father’s murder. Otherwise, his effort was doomed from the start.
A knock on his glass door drew him to the front of the building. He was not surprised to see his fellow team member, Billie Gunn, standing on the sidewalk. The two had worked well together since their first case with the Law’s Legionnaires, but the team had met only infrequently since last year. (*) He opened the door to let in his fellow Law’s Legionnaire.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Law’s Legionnaires: Soldiers of Victory.]
“Sanders called to let me know you were hanging out on the East Coast,” said the beat cop. “So I decided to drop in and see what’s up.”
“I’m getting ready to reopen the shop,” said Danny, locking the door. “Would you like some tea or soda?”
“Do you want to talk about it?” asked Billie, waiting for him to lead the way to the back. “A cold case almost never gets solved.”
“Nothing to talk about,” said Danny. “I’m just a businessman trying to succeed in my first venture.” He glided into the living quarters he was fixing up with the rest of the place.
“Pull another one, buddy,” muttered Billie.
Danny poured water into his tea kettle and put it on the stove. He had taken care of the utilities before doing anything else. He set the water to boil, placing two clean cups on the counter next to the sink.
“I thought you and Sanders were glued at the hip,” Billie said. She leaned against the doorframe, watching his movements. He struck her as a rock, immovable and unrelenting.
“Uncle Greg was my guardian,” said Danny. “I think I can take care of myself now.” The flash of green in his dark eyes came and went.
“Excuse me,” Danny said. “Someone is entering the shop.” He stepped around her and glided to the front of the building. Three men waited for him, one holding a vase that had been sitting on a pedestal for the last ten years.
“We’re from the neighborhood protection agency,” said the one holding the vase. “We insure your shop against accidents and such.”
“Really?” said Danny. “I already have insurance.”
“That’s too bad,” the spokesman said, dropping the vase and watching it shatter violently on the floor. “So, it’ll insure against things like that?”
“No,” said Danny. “It insures against this.”
Suddenly, Danny was across the room before anyone could move. Green flames lit up his eyes for a brief second as his open hand came around. A crack like a door slamming sounded. The spokesman spun in the air once before dropping to the ground.
“You see, I have all the insurance I need,” said Danny placidly. “That will be twenty-five dollars for the vase.”
The other two men looked at each other. None of their other marks had slapped one of them silly before. One paid the money while the other helped their fallen comrade out of the door.
“You could have just pressed charges,” Billie said, hands in her jacket pockets. “Those men were from the White Tigers gang, and that was a clear case of extortion.”
“Hopefully they’ve learned a lesson,” said Danny. “But if it will make you feel better, you can take the broken ceramic away and have it printed. Then you can start making a legal case if you want.”
“What about you?” Billie asked.
“I’m going to finish setting up,” said Danny, retrieving his broom and dustpan. “Then I’m going to look around, learn the neighborhood again.”
“If you need any help,” said Billie, holding out a bag for the pieces. “Let me know.”
“I can take care of myself,” Danny said, stiff as ever, as he dumped the pieces in the bag. “Let me know what the print check comes back with. It might be interesting.”
“Sure.” Billie closed the bag, writing on the outside with a pen. She walked out the door, glancing left and right as she turned, and headed to her car.
Danny went back to the kitchen as the kettle began to boil. He poured out some water and placed a tea bag in the cup to steep. It would be interesting to see what the prints came back with. He wondered if the extortionists had tried to pressure his father. Had they wanted to kill him when he wouldn’t pay? If so, had they taken the contract on his life issued by the Dummy?
Pushing the speculation aside, he drank his tea. He still had to finish cleaning the place up to use as his cover. When the night came, he would have a look at the police files himself. Maybe a suspect would be listed, even if there was no evidence. The police often learned things they couldn’t act on.
That wouldn’t stop Dragonmage.
Danny showered off the dirt after he finished work for the day. He dressed in the two-tone green costume he wore and painted his face green and green. A window let him bounce out and to the roof of the shop.
Dragonmage paused to listen. Sounds drifted to him, telling him of life in the neighborhood. The Law’s Legionnaire listened, quietly looking around. It was a consequence of the training he had undertaken. The One referred to it as being one with the world, using chi to enhance his senses. The sensory input was the only thing that he could use without thought. The rest required effort.
It would be years before he reached the type of mastery the One displayed like a fish in a river. What he had would do until he grew into the rest. He was patient enough to walk that path in the years ahead. For now he had things to do.
Dragonmage flexed his legs, then leaped to the face of the building next to his. He bounced, pushing himself up to the taller structure’s roof. He vaulted the edge of the cornice and moved across to the other side.
The city had a precinct on the edge of Chinatown. That was his destination at the moment. Crossing the rooftops with his speed only took minutes. The Law’s Legionnaire dropped on the police station silently. Now all he needed were the records he sought. He knew Billie Gunn would have helped him if he’d asked, but Danny didn’t want to take any chances. A police officer requesting documents from a cold case might tip off the wrong people.
Dragonmage gained access to the precinct by popping open the grill on a fifth-floor window and slipping inside the room. He had picked an empty room for ease of movement. He jimmied the grill so that it would look like normal.
He listened to sounds within the building, easily slipping from room to room. He worked his way through the busy place until he reached his destination: the records room at the bottom of the building. He opened the cabinets and went through the files of his father’s murder; since Victor was from New York City, the Gotham City Police Department had copied all their files on the murder for the NYPD.
There was precious little in the GCPD case file for Victor Leong’s death, other than what everyone already knew — that the Dummy put out a contract on his life. There were no living witnesses, no suspects, and the method was a knife in the heart in a professional manner, before Victor’s body was hung for the Vigilante to find. Danny’s father also had some bruising on his arms, probably from blocking the attack on his person.
Dragonmage returned the file and made his way back to the room where he had entered. He climbed out of the window and slammed the grill back in place over his exit, then flipped back up to the roof. He made his way home, thinking about what he had read. He didn’t have a place to start, much like his Uncle Greg and the police back in ’72. The only thing he decided was that the killer must have been a fighter who was better than his father. Danny wondered if that man was still alive.