A suave man with graying hair and a distinguished manner frowned as he fingered an odd-looking monocle and adjusted it nervously. “I suppose I have no choice but to forsake the pleasure of your company for now,” he said. “I need to monitor the others constantly, since none of them can be trusted. Even Alanna only serves me out of her desire to gain more of my optical technology!”
“Don’t worry, my love. We will be together soon. I will secure the means by which we can be more to one another than we are now. The same fate that brought you into my life will help me achieve total victory over any obstacle!”
The man sighed, and then a grimly determined look came across his face. “I will assemble our minions and justice — the justice that must surely govern those who love as we do — will be served!”
Had any observer been watching Jonathan Cheval as he spoke, they would have assumed the brilliant inventor-turned-criminal known as the Monocle was completely alone. They would have only been partially correct.
Elsewhere within his spacious mansion, other more colorful costumed figures entertained themselves in various ways.
A handsome man in black casually shot arrows into a tiny target without bothering to do more than glance in the direction of his target. Every shaft struck the bull’s-eye or the end of a previously fired arrow.
“Are you bored, honey? Surely seeing your man execute such flawless feats of marksmanship stimulates you, even though we are a married couple!” he said with a roguish grin.
A pretty woman in a white fluffy miniskirt and brief white top laughed with pleasure and said, “Now, Connor, you know I love everything you do, but then again, since I can match your every shot with my own darts, why should I be especially surprised by your talent?”
“Goldie, we need to face it — we need to have kids, so they can be astonished at our skills,” said Connor Hawke, alias the Black Arrow. “After all, we know how good we are, don’t we?”
Goldie Mallory Hawke, alias the Dart, nodded as she stepped into his embrace. “Our fathers were the best at their respective pursuits in their day. We are the best of our generation, and our kids will be equally great. Don’t you just love genetics?” She giggled.
“Oops! Sorry, Stephen — I guess genetics is a sore subject with you!” she said to a muscular man who sat brooding in a darkened corner of the room.
The man replied in a guttural growl, “Very funny. Nearly as funny as an open grave!”
Black Arrow smiled ingratiatingly and said, “Now, now, old man, you mustn’t be so surly. Your unique gifts make you the strongest one here. Why, sheer brute force has its place, right alongside superb marksmanship!”
A lovely woman in a striking purple costume that left her legs bare above high-heeled boots said, “I never thought of you as a peacemaker, but then you did start off your criminal career by posing as a dead hero’s son. (*) I suppose you do have certain P.R. abilities.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Arrowette: Legacies.]
Black Arrow smiled and said, “I posed as the late Green Arrow’s fictional son, but my real father, the original Archer, dueled with Superman, no less, so I aspire to great, or should I say, ignoble things?” And as for you, Harlequin, you are not the woman you pretend to be, he thought to himself. You don’t claim to be the original Harlequin, but I have my doubts that you are even the second or third woman to use that nom du crime! I know for a fact that the second or third Harlequin is working elsewhere with the Dummy, no less! Underworld gossip says so. You may have the power and the figure for the role, but you are all new to the part!
[(*) Editor’s note: See 2nd story, Superman #13 (November-December, 1941).]
The Harlequin shook her flowing white hair and smiled as if she could read his thoughts, but she said nothing. She was trying to avoid sharing anything about herself with her new allies, since she had a contempt for them that she only partially managed to conceal.
At that moment, the Monocle entered and cleared his throat to attract their attention. “It is time to act,” he said. “I see our newest recruit has arrived!”
Stepping aside, he revealed a lithe young woman with long platinum blonde hair and a pink and white costume. “May I present our final ally, the lovely and lethal Artemis!” he announced.
She shifted her weight from one leg to another and smiled seductively. “Charmed, I’m sure,” she said.
The Harlequin frowned as she stared at the Huntress and then thought, What in the world? Maybe I can use this to my advantage. None of the others, even Monocle, seem to have noticed what my special glasses revealed. Or does Jonathan know, and is he testing us? Am I in over my head?
But the Harlequin kept her concerns to herself as she watched Artemis mingle with the other villains. None of them have noticed what I have, she thought. I suppose I’ll just keep quiet for now. I need these losers if I’m going to achieve my own goals!
She frowned as she observed the others. Black Arrow may be smarter than he seems to be, but his ego is so large that he doesn’t seem to be able to get beyond admiring his own skills and making out with his adoring wife. She watched the couple as they kissed passionately and showed no concern about being watched.
Staring at Stephen, she shook her head. He was nearly flawlessly handsome, but there was a darkness about him. Perhaps it was because of the source of his own powers. His father’s condition made him what he is today, she thought. I suppose I could say something similar. I am the woman I am today because of my own father’s actions and what he did to my mother.
The Monocle cleared his throat again and said, “I hate to break up this little gathering, but we must act if we wish to secure the target. My contacts and the hours spent employing my optical monitors around the country have led me to a decision. We must claim our prize today, if we are to eliminate unwanted opposition!”
Artemis smiled and said, “I’m a girl who enjoys a bit of opposition. Mother always told me to play hard to get!”
Black Arrow and Dart laughed, while Stephen glowered at all of them with equal amounts of malice in his gaze. Clearly, he didn’t like anyone. Black Arrow swaggered forward and said, “Fine, old man, lead us to our chariot!”
“Excellent!” said the Monocle. “I appreciate your spirited ways, son!”
The team hurried into a small aircraft and soon made their way into the city. The Monocle piloted the craft and admired its smooth handling.
“Buying this from Sky Pirate was a stroke of genius. He certainly doesn’t need to stylize every vehicle with a Jolly Roger theme in order to design a proper craft. This beauty is remarkably effective!”
Dart giggled and said, “Monocle, you lack showmanship! I like a bit of flash and glamor myself!”
Black Arrow nudged his wife and said, “Sounds like us, eh? Flash and glamor!”
Artemis rolled her eyes but said nothing unless she was spoke to. She didn’t like the way Harlequin was staring at her from behind those weird illusion-casting glasses. Can she see through me? she pondered. I can’t act until the time is right, even if she is on to me!
Soon, they closed in on a rather modest apartment in the Greenwich Village section of the city.
Dart crossed her legs and leaned forward as she said, “Is this it? She doesn’t use her powers for herself, does she? If I had her abilities, I’d live like an heiress!”
“Your late father named you well, Goldie,” remarked the Monocle. “You do crave the finer things in life.”
“Don’t you know appearances don’t count for anything?” said Stephen. “Look at me! I look like an Adonis, don’t I? However, I know the truth. Beneath this perfect body is what my cursed father doomed me to be — a savage! A killer! A monster!”
“Easy, son. Easy,” said the Monocle. “We accept you as you are. You have a place here with us. None of us care about your special nature.” He adjusted his eyeglass and said, “She is inside. I detect a heat signature and the item we want!”
Black Arrow grinned and reached for his bow. “Allow me to announce our arrival!” he said.
Climbing out on the deck of the hovering craft, he took aim before firing an arrow that sailed through the open window of a modest apartment, then released a cloud of gas.
“That should subdue her, but it won’t take long to dissipate,” he said. “We can snatch and grab her in a matter of seconds!”
“Harlequin, Dart, keep your eyes open for police or super-heroes,” said the Monocle. “Her friends may be closer than we think. Their breed travels in packs all too often!”
Dart winked as she saluted him and said, “Aye-aye, sir!”
Harlequin scanned the skies. I hope my father does show up! Why not punish him here and now? she mused.
“Artemis, I want you to go in and get her with Stephen when the gas clears away,” said the Monocle.
“Why wait?” roared Stephen. “As the only son of the Monster, I’m immune to such petty things as toxic fumes!”
Stephen leaped off the deck and executed a perfect acrobatic flip to grasp the window ledge, then swung himself inside. He wore a simple black jumpsuit, but his expression was fixed in a terrible scowl.
Artemis cursed and then followed him by copying his exact motions. She held a small mask over her nose and mouth and ran inside.
Through the clearing gas, she saw a pleasantly decorated apartment with many large framed photos lining the walls. She’s good, thought Artemis. I can’t let them hurt her. Maybe I can make them think she has escaped on her own if I take down the Monster fast enough!
She ran forward, but before she could do more than adjust her special wig, she saw the amazing Monster charge back into view. He ignored the fading fumes as he emerged from within the apartment with a female figure slung over one shoulder.
Bounding back aboard the craft, he said, “I have her!”
Artemis followed reluctantly. He was too quick for me. Plus, she didn’t put up a fight. The gas must have taken her by surprise!
Black Arrow thought, The beast has the beauty!
Artemis touched her own crossbow but stopped. This isn’t the time or place for a brawl, she told herself. I can’t take them all down without a little help. My own allies are too far away. I was stupid to act on my own, but I was so blasted cocky. I thought I could show the real Artemis how a heroine should act!
The group flew off as Dart and Black Arrow secured the lovely young woman they had kidnapped. She was pretty with reddish-blonde hair, and wore a pair of white pajamas. Her feet were bare. Had she been awake, she would have studied the odd group with the trained eye of a gifted photographer.
Alex DeWitt groaned softly as the villains flew off.
“She’s coming around! I guess her ring shielded her from some of the gas!” said Dart.
Black Arrow nodded and said, “She is a pretty thing. Not in your class, dear, but still attractive in her own right!”
Dart casually stuck the woman in the leg with a dart. “Another sedative will keep her calm.”
“Guard her closely,” said the Monocle. “Her power ring could bring disaster upon us all!”
Harlequin looked closely at the drugged girl and thought, A power ring. I wonder if things had been different for mother if that ring might have been mine. Would I have been Corona instead of Harlequin?
The Monster brooded as he looked down at the captive Alex DeWitt. Her beauty is impressive, but beneath it all, she is no better than anyone else, he thought. We’re all monsters beneath the skin.
The Monocle smiled as he thought, My love, her ring will bring us together at last!
Meanwhile, a woman with bright blue hair and a blue body stocking typed furiously on the keyboard in front of a monitor, then stopped and confirmed what she saw on the screen. “Paul, I have her!” she said into a small headset with a speaker. “The tracer you sewed into her costume is on-line again! Artemis, the real one, is closing in on the gang’s headquarters. Too bad for her the gang has already left. She is too late!”
A male’s voice replied on the other end of the circuit. “Affirmative,” he said. “Good work, Blue. Keep monitoring her signal! I don’t want anything to happen to her. You know what she means to me.”
The mystery-man who had spoken sat in a large room in a ranch in a lonely region of California. He grasped a cane and pushed himself to his feet before moving across the room to another desk.
Although he had a severe limp, he also possessed grace in his movements. He had clearly learned to move with his handicap and minimize its effect on his speed.
He glanced down at an old photo of a vivacious, dark-haired woman and a handsome man with keen eyes marked by intellect and determination. “I lost you both so early,” he sighed. “I can’t do much for you except try to carry out this crazy plan!” Even so, he thought, you’re both beyond my help in your own ways.
Returning to the communication device, he said, “White, do you read me?”
Elsewhere, a woman with stark white hair responded. She wore a solid white body stocking that covered her from neck down.
“I read you, Paul. I’ve lost her signal. Bela’s tracer is dead. Either they’ve blocked it automatically via some security system, or–!”
“Or they’ve discovered she’s not the real Artemis. I know. Keep trying to find her, White.” He sighed again.
“She’s like a daughter to me. Yet she is so impulsive. Why’d she take action into her own hands? I think I was getting through to Artemis.”
Nodding to himself, he sat back down. “Sit and wait. That’s all I can do. How I wish I didn’t have the desire for thrills and action my parents had.”
A gray-haired man with a pencil-thin mustache entered the room and watched the other man with concern in his own eyes. “Buck up, son,” he said. “The game isn’t over yet. I was in worse scraps back in the day and made it through, and that was before I met the golden gorilla! She’ll be OK!”
Paul nodded and said, “Thanks, Bill. I hope you’re right!”
Back at the base the Monocle had been using, the real Artemis Crock had assembled her own uneasy allies. She glanced over at Oleander and Sumac. They had been fairly obedient, but she knew that her promises of wealth held them more than any real sense that they owed her for helping them defeat their female foe.
The brassy redhead in the red croupier’s costume with fishnet hosiery was easier to understand. Hazard, alias Becky Sharpe, was a third-generation criminal. Her grandfather was the infamous Gambler, and her own entry into the criminal world had been spurred on by a desire to please him and rouse him out of a brief depression that had temporarily rendered him inactive. He was better now, and the girl was making her way on her own, using her own remarkable powers to alter chance.
She is no killer, thought Artemis. I can use that. After all, I don’t want my gang to slaughter the Monocle’s group. I may have to work with some of them again after this mess is sorted out!
“Sorry, honey,” said Hazard. “I guess we missed them. You got us here too late.”
A lively woman with short brown hair combed into bangs stood nearby. She wore a light blue tunic with matching hosiery and a darker navy cloak with golden zodiac symbols decorating the rich fabric. She was eager to please and anxious to make a good impression. Zabora, calm down. They’ll think you’re a nerd if you don’t act cool! she told herself. She assumed a confident demeanor, although in truth she was still nervous. “The stars are in our favor. We’ll be ready for them upon their return!” she vowed.
“Can that chick read the future?” asked Oleander.
“Who cares?” said Sumac. “She’s hot!”
Artemis knew Zabora Zodiac, alias Alchemy, was another second-generation adventurer. Her father had been a lesser-known Justice Society of America foe known as Professor Zodiac. (*) Zabora seemed all too eager to assert family pride. If my folks had failed to become infamous, then I’d have a lot to prove, too! she thought. But she frowned as she realized what she had thought. That’s stupid. I am my own woman. I don’t need to live in their shadows.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Man Who Hated Science,” All-Star Comics #42 (August-September, 1948).]
“We’d better search the place again,” Artemis said aloud. “I think I took care of all security devices, but I might have missed something.”
Oleander and Sumac glanced at each other, and Oleander said, “You know, that’s not necessary. The place is empty.”
“How do you know?” said Artemis.
A slightly smug Oleander said, “The plants told me!”
“Don’t worry none, sugah,” said Hazard. “We’ll come up aces this time!”
Artemis nodded and smiled briefly before starting to examine her weapons. She wanted to be ready for anything. She had a life to save.
The pink-and-white-clad beauty sank down into a chair and remembered how she had begun this wild exploit.