Jim Corrigan watched in horror as the van holding his wife and daughters was consumed in flames. The windows shattered, and he could hear their final cries of pain, which were suddenly, mercifully, cut off.
“Scalzo, you bastard! I’ll kill you if it’s the last thing I ever do!” Corrigan strained against the arms of the two men holding him. Two more stepped up to help restrain him.
“Corrigan, I’m disappointed in you. I thought that once you saw that I will stop at nothing to reach the top of Gotham’s criminal food chain, you might be more cooperative. For instance, scrap that raid that you were planning for tomorrow?” Scalzo tossed away the flare pistol with which he ignited the deadly inferno and pulled a nine-millimeter pistol from the waistband of his running pants.
“You’re insane, Scalzo! Do you think I could possibly cooperate with you after you’ve killed my family?” The veins on Corrigan’s head stood out, and he managed to lift two of his captors off the ground with his efforts.
“Why not? That lovely little secretary in your office has been most helpful since I killed her father. Of course, her mother is still alive, so long as Miss Templeton cooperates.” Scalzo’s grin was like that of a shark, gloating in one kill, while contemplating the next.
“Go to hell, Scalzo!”
Scalzo raised the pistol, positioning the barrel a scant two inches from Jim Corrigan’s face. “Of course, Detective. After you.”
The first shot exploded into Corrigan’s head. The three that followed were unnecessary and only served to kill two of the men still holding the corpse of Police Detective James Corrigan.
The cry went on forever. Jim Corrigan was not even aware of screaming, but he heard the scream all around him, and there was nothing else — no light, no dark, no feeling, no smell. Nothing but the sound of his own voice screaming forever.
Then, there was nothing. The scream ended. And a Voice spoke:
James Corrigan. Once more, you seek justice where justice has been thwarted.
“No, not justice. I want revenge. Not for myself, Lord. For my family. For Anne Templeton’s family. For all of those victimized by Scalzo and his kind.”
It is possible, if you are willing once more.
“Yes. Without my family, there is no reason for me not to take it on again.”
It is done, then.
In the abandoned oil refinery owned by Anthony Scalzo, the scene was a bloody one. Scalzo and four of his enforcers stood over the bodies of Jim Corrigan and two of their own, all executed by Scalzo’s hand. The deaths of the enforcers were not questioned — in this business you accepted death, regardless of the source. Below them, the smoking wreck of a van was all that remained of the inferno that consumed Andrea Corrigan and her daughters Libby and Diana.
“All right, boys, get the mess cleaned up, and dump that wreck in the river. I don’t want it found for at least six months. Got it?”
“Yeah, Mr. Scalzo,” replied one of them. “What about the cop and our boys?”
“There’s an incinerator in the back of the building. Shouldn’t leave anything but ashes. I’m heading home.”
“Not before I get the real mess cleaned up, Scalzo!” The voice was low, barely audible, yet it froze all of the men in their tracks. “And this mess will remain cleaned up!”
Scalzo turned toward the refinery tank. There was a green haze over it, a haze that swirled and gathered, gradually taking shape. Within the whirling mists, a human form became visible, stark white, in dark green trunks, boots, and gloves. Its head was covered in a green cloak that swirled out and became one with the gathering haze.
“No more shall you prey on the lives and souls of the innocent, Scalzo. Your crimes end here!”
Green flames erupted from the Spectre’s form, enveloping Scalzo’s four remaining aides. He covered his ears to block out the shrieks of terror that were torn from their throats, from their hearts. “Even as you committed innocents to death by flame, so shall you men burn in the fires of Hell! And for you, Scalzo, a different hell, one to burn your soul all the deeper!”
Suddenly, Scalzo found himself looking at a small, closed space, as if peering through its walls. Within, he saw all of his wives from the past thrity years and the children he fathered by each of them. They struggled to escape, but there was no exit, and he knew what would come next. And it did; the flames rose around them, burning the flesh from their bodies, consuming them. Yet they did not die; even as they burned, they were renewed, to suffer again, and again, just for him.
Silence fell in the refinery, broken only by an occasional whimper from the trembling body of Anthony Scalzo on the floor. The ghostly form of the Spectre coalesced next to him, then appeared to split apart. One part, retaining the green and white appearance of the grim ghost, turned to face the other, Jim Corrigan.
“You let him live, Spectre?”
“Yes. He will live a long life, constantly reliving the experience he forced upon you.”
“Yeah, well, that doesn’t bring my family back.” Corrigan bowed his head in grief.
Elsewhere, a benign figure watched through his own means. “Don’t be so sure, Jim Corrigan.”
“Odin, can you do this? Doesn’t this fall out of your purview?”
“I was able to negotiate something, my dear. I owed the Spectre a boon, and what better gift than the lives that he and his alter-ego hold dear? He will find them at home, completely unaware of tonight’s events.”
Further elsewhere, New York City, Earth-One:
“Doctor! You’d better get in here!”
“What is it, nurse?” The doctor stopped and looked at the man now sitting upright in bed. “Well, Mr. Corrigan, welcome back to the world of the living! How do you feel?”
“Good, Doctor, and yet somehow I feel like something is missing. I think I have some catching up to do.”
Finally, back in Gotham City, JSA Headquarters:
“I don’t get it, Spectre. You mean you won’t be inhabiting me full-time like you did before?”
“No, Jim. I need a human host to maintain my contact with humanity. When I was revived forty-five years ago with you, I needed that contact more frequently. However, over time, my powers developed back to their fullest, and I now only require the willingness of a living host. Much unlike the period in the ’40s when you were off at war, and I was left unable to touch humans because of your absence. For the most part, you will be able to lead your life as normal now.”
“Not that I have much life to lead now. It will be strictly police business.”
“I wouldn’t count on that, Jim.”
Just then, the phone rang. The Spectre gestured for Jim to answer it.
“Daddy? What are you doing there?”
Corrigan’s shock at hearing his daughter’s voice was almost eclipsed by his shock at the sight of the Spectre smiling.