by Dave Barnowski
April Catrella was wondering why they weren’t going for an arrest warrant. When she asked Jim Corrigan, he told her he’d seen too many judges tell him that he didn’t have enough evidence for a warrant. He wanted proof of Kazinski having super-speed. Corrigan had called for backup for their talk with Kazinski, which they were going to insist take place at the precinct. Again, Catrella wondered why.
Corrigan told her, “If we’re going to be the ones to solve the case, we have to do it now. We’ve already involved both the Atom and Jesse Quick. We’re just lucky the Flash is running for president and Evans asked the Treasury Department where the Whiz Kid was, or we’d have the Junior JSA in on this case, too.”
“We just asked where they were.”
“No, we involved them. And once you involve a mask, even in the most peripheral way, they come in and take over. They can’t help themselves. And their very involvement, I’m sure, has the higher-ups aware that there is a murder involving a meta, even if it is the weekend.”
“Then why isn’t dispatch calling us in? You requested backup from the Meta Unit.”
“I don’t know,” lied Corrigan, having used the mystical powers at his disposal to delay the sending out of their recall.
He was right about the Atom and Jesse Quick, too. At this moment, the Atom was talking to the ever-opinionated doorman, Schwartz, who was telling how this big Mick cop named Corrigan with this weird lock of white hair in the middle of his carrot top was pushing him around. The Atom was thinking how he had to find the killer before the Spectre did.
Jesse Quick almost ran across the country when she first heard about the question of herself being involved in a murder, but she was calmed down by the Patriot, who proposed sending out a team to investigate the case consisting of Red Arrow, who besides himself was the best detective, Jesse Quick, whose honor was questioned, and Brainwave, because he could read the thoughts of the officers investigating the case if they were uncooperative. Sylvester called Yolanda Montez, alias the second Catwoman, and asked if she would help by meeting the team at the Gotham International Airport and then lead the team, as she knew Gotham City well. They were just now disembarking from the Star-Rocket Racer.
Corrigan and Catrella arrived at Marie Kazinski’s apartment house with a backup from the Meta-Human Unit. Corrigan told them that they wanted to take Kazinski down to the precinct for questioning, but that she was both a dangerous suspect in a homicide and a speedster. He wanted one Meta Unit to cover the back and to come with them.
Kazinski’s apartment was on the top floor, the sixth; there was no elevator. Just as they reached the top, Marie Kazinski came out of her apartment. She was a small woman of four feet, ten inches, at ninety-eight pounds, and she had blonde, curly, shoulder-length hair. She was wearing running clothes, which made them all nervous.
Catrella raced to the top of the stairs and asked, “Are you Marie Kazinski?”
“Yes. Who are you?”
“Police,” piped in Corrigan, who was purposefully standing off the stairs instead of coming up to the other side of Kazinski.
“What’s this about?” The detectives could tell by the sound of her voice that Ms. Kazinski was beginning to panic.
“The murder of Louis Marlon. You did know Mr. Marlon, didn’t you?” Catrella asked.
“Louie’s dead? When did that happen?”
“Let’s go downtown to the precinct and talk about that and a few other things,” said Corrigan.
“What other things?”
“Super-speed,” Corrigan and Catrella said at the same time.
Just as the word left her mouth, Catrella was slammed into the wall behind her and felt something break. Worse, she saw her partner go flying down the stairs. The pain almost caused her to black out. Her knees buckled, but she didn’t fall. She saw that Kazinski’s apartment door was open.
God! The pain in the back of her shoulder was incredible. She instinctively reached for her Glock but then remembered the STAR Labs laser. She started to move toward the open door when a blur came charging out. It raced by her out the fire escape toward the roof. But an amazing thing happened to the blur as it went through the fire escape door — the blur turned into Marie Kazinski.
Damn $!^@#! She can’t maintain super-speed that long, thought the wounded Catrella as she chased after Kazinski.
Up the flight of stairs they ran. Kazinski was a runner, but she also carried two suitcases, which slowed her down. She was also tired; using her powers always tired her out. She was running on pure adrenaline. She hoped no one saw her head up to the roof. If she hid up there for a half-hour, her power could kick in again, and she’d have another thirty seconds of super-speed and maybe get far away from Gotham in short bursts.
Corrigan went flying directly into the backup Meta Unit officers, and they went tumbling down the stairs. He made sure no one was harmed. He feigned that he twisted his own ankle but told the others to go and assist his partner. As they rushed upstairs and called for assistance with a meta, James Corrigan disappeared.
Catrella was moving as fast up the stairs as she could. Her training said she should be cautious, but this speedster just killed Jim. Damn it! she thought. Why didn’t we follow procedure? Catrella was more angry than scared, and that was affecting her judgment. She wanted the bitch that killed her partner.
As she reached the roof, she smelled sulfur. When she opened the door to the roof, she saw neither the roof of a building nor the skyline of Gotham City. Rather, Catrella saw and felt what Hell must be like. There was a blur running that had to be Marie Kazinski; but every time the speedster tried to get away, a large, chalk-white ghost garbed in a green cloak would block her path. Kazinski finally collapsed into a fetal position, and the ghost spoke to her.
“Hell and damnation are your fate, murderess — unless you surrender yourself to the authorities — and confess your crimes. Then, and only then, do you have a chance at redemption and avoidance of this fate. If not, this will be yours for eternity.”
Catrella, who had had lowered her laser from an aim position as she saw Kazinski crumple up into a ball, raised it back up again when she looked and saw the ghost was coming toward her. As the scene of Hell began disappearing, the roof was becoming the roof once more, and the Gotham skyline was appearing, and the Spectre was coming ever nearer to April Catrella. She could hear the footsteps of the other officers coming up the stairs, but they’d be too late.
“Stop! Stop, or I’ll shoot!” she screamed painfully, pulling the trigger on her laser. The laser beam didn’t pass through the Spectre, but neither did it bounce off him; he just absorbed it like a sponge. Then she saw something unexpected in the green-garbed ghost and whispered, “Jim?” The Spectre passed through her, and then both the pain and the Spectre were gone.
The uniforms from the Meta Unit led Kazinski away and informed Catrella there was a change in plans as they heard from dispatch that she was to be taken to Police Headquarters.
Jim Corrigan came limping up the steps just then, saying that the other team of the Meta Unit told him that he and Catrella were wanted at Police Headquarters, too. Dispatch had finally gotten through.
Catrella numbly went along with what they were all saying and proceeded down to the car, where she and Corrigan drove to Police Headquarters. After a while, she confronted Corrigan with the fact that she knew he was the Spectre.
He didn’t deny it. Instead, he told her how he had once been a detective in Cliffland, Ohio, where he was murdered by a thug named “Gat” Benson back in 1940. A Voice gave him a chance at life to avenge his death and save his fiancée. He took it. He came back and slaughtered the gang. For five years he fought crime and then was given a chance to become alive again. He took it as well. What he didn’t realize was that he wouldn’t age. For thirty years he didn’t look a day older than the day he died in 1940.
The Spectre and he drifted apart for a time in the mid-1940s but then, in 1945, the Spectre found himself utterly trapped inside Corrigan’s body when an evil spirit who was the Spectre’s opposite number likewise came to Earth and found itself similarly trapped. Both were freed twenty years later at the end of 1965, by which time Corrigan had relocated to Gateway City, and for a time Corrigan again acted as a host for the Spectre. (*) Those were good times; the Spectre wasn’t so cold and cruel then, and against his earlier nature as a spirit of vengeance, he never killed.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “War That Shook the Universe,” Showcase #60 (January-February, 1966).]
In 1970, during a Justice Society of America case in which that team worked with the Justice League of America of the parallel world called Earth-One, the Spectre was seemingly destroyed while preventing the collision of Earths One and Two. (*) And Jim Corrigan was an ordinary man again, completely divorced from the Spectre. He met Andrea and was married, and he continued his career as a police officer, now based in Gotham City. (*) He even began to age normally again as he became a family man.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Where Valor Fails, Will Magic Triumph?” Justice League of America #83 (September, 1970) and “A Parting of the Ways,” All-Star Comics #70 (January-February, 1978).]
Unbeknownst to him, though, the Spectre had not been destroyed after all but had been stranded on Earth-One. There, he became bonded with Jim Corrigan’s Earth-One counterpart, a man who had reached his prime in the 1970s. (*) The Spectre remained on Earth-One for a few years, becoming ever more powerful as time increased. Finally, in 1985, the Crisis on Infinite Earths struck all worlds, and the Spectre was called into action, eventually being instrumental in changing the origin of the universe itself, collapsing all remaining parallel universes into one combined universe. (*) When the universes were divided once again after a twenty-four-hour period, the Spectre found himself back on his original universe of Earth-Two and unable to ever return to Earth-One thanks to a mystical barrier that even he could not pierce. (*) Still, the Spectre and Jim Corrigan lived completely separate lives.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Wrath of the Spectre,” Adventure Comics #431 (January-February, 1974), “Death at the Dawn of Time,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #10 (January, 1986), and DC Universe: Crawling from the Wreckage, Book 1, Chapter 2: Rich With Hope.]
That changed two years ago, a few months after the Crisis, when a drug runner named Antonio Scalzo killed Corrigan once again. And after more than fifteen years, Corrigan was once more the host of the Spectre. (*) When he was first bonded to the Spectre again, they were separate entities, but now Corrigan was finally again in charge. His aging had even begun to quickly reverse itself, returning him to the same age he had been when he died in 1940, the same apparent age he had been when he became a normal man again in 1970.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Spectre: Lingering Spirit.]
“So you’re a ghost?” she asked.
“No. I’m as alive as you. I just don’t age.”
“Must be nice.”
“Yes and no. It was a really lonely existence until Andrea and the kids. I could never get close to anyone for long, because I’d have to watch them get old. But Andrea, she’s persistent and wore me down. Still, I’ve moved from city to city and job to job, because cops are sharp, and they pick up on someone not aging quick.”
“I won’t tell anyone, Jim. My dad is a detective back home, and I always knew there was something special between partners on the force, but — but today when I saw you fall down those stairs, I felt it.”
“Good thing, partner, because we’re going to get spanked, you know. Nothing major. Nothing in our personnel jackets. We did catch the perp, after all. But we’ll earn the enmity of a deputy chief, and it’s not fun having a big wig out to get you.”
“How do you know that?”
“I’m the Spectre. Listen, that’s something you can’t ever tell anyone.”
“I won’t, Jim.”
When they arrived at Police Headquarters, they were ushered into an interrogation room where detectives Evans and Bling were already waiting. They quickly brought the two up to speed on the capture of Kazinski, while Evans and Bling told them that they received a call from Lieutenant Peters to meet him down here.
Deputy Chief O’Malley, with a sour-faced Lieutenant Peters following, entered the interrogation room just then. O’Malley verbally tore into the detectives like a Marine drill instructor. He asked them if they hadn’t heard of the proper procedure when receiving a green-flagged coroner’s report. And if they did know, why didn’t they follow proper procedure? Were the detectives of the 78th Precinct special? If they pulled a stunt like this again, he’d have their badges. They were just lucky they caught the perp. With that, he left.
“Well that’s that,” said Evans. “I guess the Meta Unit took away your collar. Sorry, Jim, April.”
“I wouldn’t say that. It’s the 78th’s collar. As soon as an ADA shows up, we’ll interview her and get out of here,” said Peters.
What Peters didn’t say was that O’Malley had indeed tried to take the collar away from Corrigan and Catrella and give it to his own officers, who had backed them up. But Peters would have none of it. He told O’Malley that it was against regulation and that he, Peters, would call the commissioner himself if he had to, but O’Malley wasn’t taking away a good bust from his detectives.
“Just remember to follow the regulations next time you run across a meta, because he’s after all our badges.”
The detectives didn’t miss that Peters said the word our. They all nodded in agreement, and their respect for their superior grew a bit, as they knew he sided with them.
It was a Saturday night, and the assistant district attorney who showed up was a very young and very junior assistant district attorney named Harriet Kent. She was a second-generation ADA, however, and Deputy Chief O’Malley was going to add one more name to his ever-growing $*%# list.
Before the actual interview took place, the Atom also arrived at Police Headquarters. Although he was quite surprised to find Kazinski alive with Corrigan on the case, he did not let his surprise show. Nor did he let on that he knew Corrigan. He did ask if as a courtesy he could sit in on the interview. O’Malley, who didn’t like masks as a rule, surprised his men by saying it was up to Peters, because it was the 78th’s case. Peters, who wanted to get the Atom’s autograph afterward, agreed as long as he didn’t interfere and the ADA didn’t object. Peters’ terms were fine with ADA Kent. Unbeknownst to all, a quartet of heroes was also eavesdropping in on the interview of Marie Kazinski, thanks to the amazing telepathic powers of Brainwave.
Marie Kazinski had waived her rights and confessed to the murder of Louis Marlon. She and Marlon were lovers, and he was her first lover. They met about six months ago, and as far as she knew, they were monogamous for the last four. Yesterday, she discovered she was pregnant. She raced over to Louie’s apartment to show him the good news. But Louie didn’t think it was good news; he thought it was horrible news. He told her to get an abortion; he didn’t want no freak for a kid. It was all right for a good time, he said, but a freak for a kid — was she nuts? That’s when she hit him. Her super-speed kicked in of its own volition. It did that sometimes. She just wanted to hit him — hurt him, not kill him. She had hit things with super-speed before, and she knew what she could do to someone.
She went on to tell them that she had developed her super-speed by age eleven and that it lasted up to thirty seconds, and then she was dead tired afterward and couldn’t use it again at least for a half an hour. That was until tonight, when she tried to run away from the ghost. But last night she was there with poor Louie’s body; it was during that half-hour she thought that if she made it look like a suicide, no one would ever come looking for her. No one knew she was even in the building.
After the interview, they left Kazinski to her tears. And O’Malley said, “Peters, have your men finish the paperwork, and I’ll have my men book her for murder two.”
“Manslaughter one is all she’s guilty of, though the state she’s in right now, she’d plead to murder one,” said ADA Kent.
“Listen here, Miss Kent, I’ve heard enough to know that we’ve got enough to convict on murder two, and if you don’t charge with murder two, I’m going to call the DA right now and tell him he’s got an ADA who mollycoddles murderers.”
“Go ahead. The DA doesn’t like the police department interfering with the work of his ADAs, Deputy Chief O’Malley. And I will tell him verbatim how you tried to charge this girl who is only guilty of manslaughter with murder.”
“Don’t threaten me, girl. I know the DA personally.”
“So do I.”
“I know the mayor.”
“Me too. I also know the governor. I’m also right, and it’s my call.”
After Corrigan and Catrella finished the paperwork, they got their car and went back to the 78th Precinct and went their separate ways. The entire time Corrigan could feel the rage of the Spectre burning inside him. As soon as he went off duty, he went to that timeless void where the Spectre now dwelt.
“I hold you responsible for this travesty of justice!” yelled the Spectre.
“What travesty of justice?” asked Corrigan.
“Kazinski! Kazinski should be burning in Hell. Yet she lives. She could be free in just ten years.”
“Get used to it. This state has no death penalty.”
“Don’t mock me, Corrigan.”
“I’m just stating the facts. Here’s another — Louis Marlon’s soul wasn’t crying out for vengeance last night; it was already on the plane of the newly dead. The only one crying out for vengeance was you.”
“Marlon was, I swear it.”
“No, Spectre. I would have heard it.”
“You have deaf ears.”
“Actually, they’re yours. But enough of that. Did you know that Kazinski was pregnant?”
“What of it?”
“Well, I was just wondering. I’m Catholic, you know.”
“Bah. You didn’t go to church for years. You didn’t believe,” the Spectre interrupted.
“But I have ever since the girls were born. But I was getting to one of the teachings of the Church — the one about when life begins. I think you believe the same thing, don’t you?”
The Spectre turned away from Corrigan and remained silent.
“Answer me, spook. If I have to ask again, it’ll be a command.”
“All right, then think about this, Spectre — if you’d killed Kazinski like you wanted to, who would have avenged the innocent life of the unborn child she carried inside her? Who would have answered his cry for vengeance?”
Silence permeated the air between them, when suddenly the Spectre raged at Corrigan. “Damn you! God damn James Corrigan!”
Corrigan looked at the Spectre with pity and said, “You’re too late, Spectre,” as he faded away to leave the Spectre to his anger and shame.
A weary James Corrigan came home that night pleased to find his wife still awake. He asked her how the day went for her and the kids, and found joy in just being a part of their lives. Andrea then asked him how his went, and he told her.
“Well, I guess when it comes to the Spectre, it’s going to take a long time to break through, though it sounds like maybe you made some progress, Jim. But what about April? Are you going to let her keep the knowledge that you’re the Spectre?”
“Yeah, I think so. She figures it out every time we investigate a homicide.”