The Specter of Easter
by Gamma Xmen
The Spectre’s mission on Earth is one of vengeance, but what form does that vengeance take on the sacred day of Easter?
April 16, 1987:
Police Detective Jim Corrigan stood at the edge of an old pier, remembering the past.
“Why have you returned to this place, Corrigan?” said a familiar voice.
“I don’t know, Spectre,” he admitted. “Do you remember what happened here?”
The Spectre was silent for several long moments before he finally said, “Yes. This is where you died, and I was born.”
“Yeah, encased in a barrel full of cement,” Corrigan said, nodding his head. “Y’know, until now I only ever came back here just once after that night. (*) Yep. Gat Benson and all his creeps are long gone. I even heard Benson passed away in the prison hospital after I brought him in almost thirty years after he murdered me. (*) You remember what happened that night, before I took a cue from all those mystery-men and put on a costume, Spec?” He took a long swig of the bottle he brought along.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Spectre, More Fun Comics #75 (January, 1942) and “The Spectre Means Death?” The Spectre #5 (July-August, 1968)]
The Spectre became increasingly worried for his human host. It had been almost a year since his second death and the renewed bonding. In that time he had become more and more distant, and started drinking more than usual. The Spectre knew that Corrigan’s wife and daughters were becoming worried about him, especially since he’d been unable to explain why he needed to make this sudden trip to his old stomping grounds in Cliffland.
Whatever was troubling Corrigan couldn’t be caused by his family, the Spectre knew. Thanks to a boon granted by Odin, they had been resurrected and returned to Corrigan. (*) No, the Spectre thought, he is this way because he has chosen to bond once more with an undead spirit. And because his family are as yet unaware that he is once more a dead man.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Spectre: Lingering Spirit.]
The Spectre remembered that Corrigan had always been a hard-boiled detective with a temper that was comparable to the his own. “Corrigan,” he began again, “this is no way of dealing with our rejoining, my friend.”
“Screw you, moon-face,” Corrigan growled. “You might be the almighty spirit of vengeance, but even you got no right to know my business.”
“I am a part of you, Corrigan,” the Spectre replied. “I cannot help but know it. Your family is worried about–“
His words were cut off as Corrigan threw the empty bottle against the wall.
“Shut up, Spectre!” Corrigan snarled at his spectral counterpart. “Don’t ever bring my family into this!”
“When you… broke your engagement with Clarice Winston, Corrigan, you did so because you could not believe that a life could exist between a living woman and an undead spirit.” He paused for a moment before he continued. “Now you find yourself in a difficult situation. Perhaps if you had died years ago before you married Andrea Winslow, it would have been easier for you, but now you have a family to care for, and you do not know how to adjust to being a dead man who has a family.”
“Yeah.” Corrigan looked up, his unshaven face clear to the moonlight. “You might just have hit it right on the nail, moon-face. It was a lot easier the first time I got stuck with you, because I resigned myself for a lonely existence.”
“Perhaps, Corrigan,” the Spectre said thoughtfully, “it was an error in judgment when I went to you. By rejoining with you, I may have destroyed any hope you had for a normal life.”
“Now you listen to me?” Corrigan asked bitterly. “Too late, I guess. We’re stuck with each other.”
“But you must readjust to this new life, Corrigan,” the Spectre said, putting a hand on his human counterpart’s shoulder, “because I am going to need you in my mission, and because your family still loves and needs you.”
Corrigan was silent for a long time. “You’re right, Spectre. I s’pose I should be grateful for it. Despite what happened to me, I still got Andrea, and I still got the girls.”
“Always remember that, Corrigan,” the Spectre said as he began fading away. “Always remember…”
“Yeah,” Corrigan mumbled. “Remember.”
As Jim Corrigan walked to the train station for his trip home to Gotham City, he remained unaware that a figure was watching him remotely.
“So… James Corrigan is once more bound with the accursed Spectre who once defeated me. He thought me destroyed, but I managed to eventually escape — despite some unfortunate setbacks — to lick my wounds, and rebuild my power. (*) Thus far I have only tested my limits by granting powers to mere proxies, but soon I will be ready to take direct action! (*) On that fateful day, at long last I shall have my revenge, and destroy everything both James Corrigan and the Spectre hold dearly.”
And the laughter of Zor, the evil mage known as the Anti-Spectre, echoed into the ether. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Spectre, More Fun Comics #55 (May, 1940) and The Spectre, More Fun Comics #57 (July, 1940).]
April 19, 1987:
The Spectre flew through the night skies over Gotham City in search of something.
“There,” he said to himself. “There is where Joseph Kemper said it would be. But I sense that men have arrived ahead of me. I must get what is inside. Lives depend on it. And an unrestful soul depends on me to get it.”
He recalled what happened earlier in Purgatory. Although he sensed that the soul of a murdered victim named Joseph “Joey” Kemper was no longer in Limbo, the place where the murdered dead cry out for justice and revenge not granted to them in death, it still was not at rest.
“Joseph Kemper,” the Spectre said, approaching the soul in Purgatory, “your murder has been avenged. I have seen to that, yet your spirit is not at rest. I bid you to tell me why you have not yet gone on to your eternal rest.”
Kemper turned to the Spectre. “It’s my family. I’ve gone to loan sharks, when I lost all in gambling. I can never rest, knowing I’ve failed to provide for my wife and children. I saved money so I could do that, but I’ve hidden it from these who wanted their money back. That is why I was killed, but they’ve discovered where it’s hidden.”
“Tell me, then, Joseph Kemper,” the Spectre said nodding, “where it is hidden. I shall make certain it is left to your family who rightfully deserves it.” Kemper nodded and told him.
Back in the present, the men the Spectre sought went into a warehouse.
“C’mon,” one of the thugs gruffly barked, “split up and find the money. And everyone keep your mouths shut. We want to get gone before five-o get here.”
“Yeah, Sparky,” a second man laughed. “Too bad the boss ain’t alive to enjoy it.”
“More for us, Johnny,” Sparky laughed back. “And nothin’ for him.”
“What I don’t get, Sparky,” Johnny asked nervously, “is how he died. It was pretty grossed out. Leeches all over him, like they showed up on him from nowhere.”
“Shut up, Johnny,” Sparky growled. “Don’t talk about that. Worry about finding the damn money, and let’s get gone.”
“The money shall be found, foul scum,” said the Spectre’s ghastly voice. “But it will not be by you.”
At that moment, an earthshaking sound came from above, and the crooks all stared in shock as a giant, green-gloved hand ripped the roof from the warehouse to reveal the ghastly face of the Spectre.
“You are all foul, murdering creatures,” he hissed, “who think yourselves so invulnerable that you can get away with foul crimes. You will pay a price for your wrongful hubris and more.” He dissolved into mist just as the criminals all pulled their guns.
The Spectre merely waved his hand, and two guns transformed into ice, another into handcuffs, and another into a snake. With a yelp, the thugs threw them to the floor.
The Spectre grew once more, his face transforming into a skull. “I can smell the scent of murdered blood on all of you. I can see into your souls and know what sins you have committed — sins that demands just vengeance at the hands of the Spectre.”
Then, quite unexpectedly, he reverted to normal size, and his features once again became normal. “But this day is a day of sacred blessing, and on days such as this, vengeance has no place. Be thankful for the reprise I am giving you. But know this — if you continue to sin again, I shall not be so merciful when next we meet. Do not give me any reasons for us to meet again.”
With another wave of the Spectre’s hand, the gangsters found themselves in the local police precinct.
Back at the warehouse, the Spectre waved a third time, and a briefcase of money passed through the side of a crate toward him.
Later, at an old, decaying building, Amanda Kemper sighed in despair. With Joey gone, there was no way to support herself and the children, short of a miracle. She closed her eyes and downed the tequila shot, opening them only to find a briefcase on the table appearing from nowhere.
She started in surprise at the sight of the briefcase. Curious, she opened it and almost fainted at the sight of thousands of dollars of cash. She didn’t know how, but somehow she knew that Joey had saved all this money for her and the children.
She looked around, seeing nothing. She then looked again at the briefcase of money. She had wanted a miracle, and now she got one. But she would likely never know how she got it.
Meanwhile, the Spectre and Joseph Kemper were walking toward the pearly gates.
“Thank you, Spectre,” Kemper said, smiling. “Now I can rest easy, knowing my family will live on.”
“Do not thank me, Joseph Kemper,” the Spectre replied. “I have done my duty in this, and that is enough.”
They arrived at the gates, which opened for them.
Kemper started to go in but then stopped and turned back to the Spectre. “What about you? Don’t you want to go in?”
The green-cloaked spirit shook his head. “I cannot. I have a mission of vengeance. I sacrifice eternal rest so that others may go to theirs. I may never rest in peace, but I can help send souls on to their reward. Farewell, Joseph Kemper, and rest for all eternity.”
The Spectre had to avoid his eyes as a beautiful bright light engulfed the spirit of Joseph Kemper. When the light dimmed, Kemper was gone, and the pearly gates closed.
The Spectre returned to Earth.
“And now, Corrigan,” he said to his human half within, “we have a dinner we must not be late for.”
He dissolved into mist once he arrived at the Corrigan house and formed once more inside as Jim Corrigan, straightened his tie, and carried the bucket he had with him. He walked into the living room, only to be assaulted by two overexcited daughters named Diana and Libby.
“Did you get what we wanted, Daddy? Huh? Did you? Huh?”
“Down, girls,” he said, laughing. “I got what you wanted, all right.” He presented the bucket of Easter eggs to them. They snatched the bucket and ran off, giggling.
He went into the kitchen and kissed his wife Andrea on the neck. “Hello, beautiful.”
“Hi yourself, handsome,” said Andrea Corrigan, turning to kiss him back. “Nice day at work?”
“Not too bad, sweetie. Helped some people in need. Caught some bad guys. Nothing too special.”
“Well, you better set the table, honey. Dinner’ll be ready.” Andrea then pushed her husband out of the kitchen.
A few minutes later, as the Corrigans all bowed their heads in thanks as they sat at the table, Jim realized how lucky he was to have a family. Living an existence where you had a half-life and a half-death wasn’t easy, but his family kept him sane. And the Spectre might have been wrong about one thing. While it was true his mission of vengeance might have a reason to stay earthbound, his family gave him another reason to stay there, and he thanked God for that.
“Happy Easter, Jim,” Andrea said, smiling at him, and raised her glass.
Jim clinked his glass with hers. “Happy Easter, sweetheart.”