Wonder Woman made her way to Eric Monroe’s estate and waited outside until a portly butler ushered her inside. “You’ve come about the master’s death. I had no idea it could have been the type of thing that would attract the attentions of you… costumed individuals,” said the butler with a sniff of disdain.
She smiled. “Oh, we costumed types do get around. I was hopeful that I could see Mr. Monroe’s relations.”
“His only close connection is not a family one,” said the butler. “Mr. Monroe’s female companion, Miss Deborah Ashton, will be handling the arrangements. She is indisposed. The shock of the tragedy took her rather suddenly.”
A soft voice called down from### above. “Wait, Bancroft! I can speak to Wonder Woman! I’m not feeling too weak right now!” said the woman who appeared on the landing above a large flight of stairs. She was demure with dark hair pulled back severely in a bun. Her eyes were vibrant, yet heavy glasses almost obscured them. She wore no make-up, and her delicate hands clasped one another timidly as she slowly made her way down the stairs. She spoke with a soft lisp, and she glanced at Wonder Woman with a look of surprise and fear. “What is it? That that brazen girl who hurt poor Eric didn’t escape, did she?” asked Deborah Ashton.
Diana noticed the timid woman was wearing a heavy blouse and a floor-length skirt with plain, flat shoes. She was visibly shaken by her loss and seemed unable to cope with life without the dead club owner.
“Miss Ashton? I am sorry about your loss,” said Diana. “I am here to talk to you about Eric. It is no secret that the Darnells are family friends of mine. Holly could not have killed Eric. Can you help me find out just who did hate him enough to harm him? It is only right that the true killer is brought to justice. You must see that.”
Deborah Ashton nodded. She leaned on the sofa and sank down slowly. “I don’t know! I just don’t know!” she said in a broken tone as she stared vacantly into space. “Eric was a good, dear man. He and I were so very close. I know of no one who would want his death!”
Wonder Woman looked at the mousy girl and nodded. “I suppose you will become the heir to his holdings?” she said. “You’ll own the clubs, for example?”
“Yes,” said Deborah. “Still, I’d trade them all away to be able to hold him once more! I never approved of his show business properties. The club attracted some rather vulgar types.”
Wonder Woman stood up and said, “I am sorry to have troubled you. I am sorry about your loss!” She departed swiftly, ignoring the contemptuous look on the butler’s face. “Well, this does put things in a new light entirely,” she said to herself.
Meanwhile, Etta Darnell sat across from Holly and questioned her. She said, “Holly, we’ve been talking and talking about any possible enemies Eric Monroe may have had. Perhaps we should be looking at the possibility that you are the target and not Eric. Could someone have killed him merely to frame you? Do you have any enemies? You could have angered someone with your rather colorful personality.”
Holly Darnell smiled and shook her head. “That’s mom-speak for saying I’m a real pain in the neck. I did get a singing job recently over a rather weird woman. She and I both auditioned for a run at the Serpent Club. She won the job. Still, she lasted less than one full show. The owner called me in and begged me to take over. She was pretty mad.”
“This was before you got the work at Monroe’s club, right?” said Etta.
Holly tossed her multicolored hair and said, “Yeah. I never understood how the other gal won the audition and then turned out to be such a bad singer. It was like she cast a spell over the trio who held the auditions, but then performed for the real crowd without her magic wand.”
“I know you are being sarcastic, but there may very well be something to what you say,” said Etta. “Di and I encountered some villains with powers based on such limitations. You know what I mean. Some could mentally dominate one or two people within a certain range, but they could not control a whole crowd.”
“Say, such a witch could have forced me to shoot Eric in order to incriminate me or remove him!” said Holly.
Etta sighed. “No, I can’t see any hypnosis making you kill. Perhaps she shot Eric and merely made you believe you did it. She could have pressed the gun in your hand and walked out before the cops arrived. She might even have made them not see her. Wonder Woman fought a creep named Hypnota back in the war that had those kind of super-hypnosis powers. She was even a French performer who loved the spotlight.”
“The woman I beat was named Michelle Velour,” said Holly. “She was French. Her picture was in the Georgetown Press around eight weeks ago. It’s an ad for her very short time at the Serpent Club.”
Etta kissed her and said, “We may be getting our hopes up, but I have a feeling about this!”
She ran to her car and soon reached the private school she operated with her husband. He had been talking with lawyers for hours and had finally retired for the night. Etta ran into the library and tossed aside a pile of papers, searching through several issues in a frantic haste.
“Woo woo! These are still waiting to be sent off for microfilming! That’s the ad in question, and that’s Hypnota, all right!” she yelled in a manner that recalled her upbringing in Texas more than her more recent proper demeanor.
She glanced down at a photo showing an alluring, dark-haired woman with pouting lips and striking eyes. “That’s her! Of course, she always wore a male disguise during her super-villain days, and she sure hasn’t aged much,” mused Etta.
Running to the mental radio in her office, Etta concentrated and thought, “Diana, I need you! If you can hear me, reply!” The amazing device allowed her to send her thoughts to a similar set in the robot plane in which Diana was flying after her visit with Deborah Ashton.
Hearing Etta’s hurried thoughts about the entire matter, Wonder Woman said, “Etta, you are right! It has to be Hypnota. No doubt she received the same rejuvenation process many of my old foes received not that long ago! (*) I’d failed to recognize her for reasons I’ll explain later, but I’ve learned a woman is behind both Holly’s supposed crime and another one I discovered. I’m going to Monroe’s club. I think we’ll find Hypnota there.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: JSA Reserves: All This and Earth-Two, Chapter 3: Villains Rejuvenated.]
Reaching the small club, Wonder Woman saw a light upstairs. “Someone is inside,” she said to herself. “Knowing Hypnota’s love of the stage, I’d wager she is there. It is amazing that all my old foes keep coming back. You’d think one or two would have retired or reformed by now! Still, Hypnota looks as young as she was back in the ’40s.”
Wonder Woman walked up to the club after ordering the plane to hover above. She jumped into the air and smashed through a window to face the sultry woman she expected to find. “Sorry I didn’t knock. Perhaps I could just knock you around a bit to make up for my rudeness!” she said as she faced the dark-haired beauty called Hypnota.
Hypnota pursed her lips together in disgust. “You! How did you know I was here? How did you learn that I was involved?” she asked. She wore a red gown and high heels with long red gloves. Her black hair cascaded down around her shoulders, and she glared at Wonder Woman with eyes that seemed to glow with passion and power.
“Simple,” said Diana. “You used your hypnotic wiles to seduce or charm Eric Monroe while disguised in your new identity of Deborah Ashton. You used those same wiles to captivate Richard Henry Gray while posing as Linda. You wanted to force Gray’s daughter to kill herself in her speeding limo so you’d be his only possible heir. You also shot Monroe to get his fortune, and you framed Holly because she just happened to be working for him and because she’d made you mad by beating you in your Michelle Levour role as a singer!”
Hypnota scowled. “I could not control the crowd who hated my singing. I could control those who did the hiring as I can control small numbers of people. That group of idiots failed to appreciate my voice and my style! But how did you know I was all three women? My acting skills are flawless!”
“You are as modest as ever,” said Wonder Woman. “You did fool me, too, until I realized that your plain Jane role of Deborah Ashton could not hide your basic features, and this fact enabled me to see you were also Linda in a blonde wig and flashy clothing. See, I know a bit about how to mask my looks behind a demure, mousy façade, too! You would have fooled most people!”
Hypnota smiled and drew closer. “You knew I was all three women. Still, even you can’t resist my hypnotic power!” she hissed.
Wonder Woman gasped as she felt her every muscle freeze. She could not move in any way.
“You can’t speak or move. My hypnotic power is greater than that of my late mother. She was the first Hypnota. You assumed I was her because of how much I resemble her. She was not strong enough to control you, but as you now see, I am!” She laughed as she ran one slender finger along Wonder Woman’s face.
“I am not a rejuvenated Hypnota. I am her child,” repeated the alluring woman. “You will not be allowed to clear that talentless girl who embarrassed me. I will also claim the wealth of both the Monroe estate and that of Gray when I force the old fool and his daughter into killing themselves or placing themselves in some certain peril. Before I send you to some final and bloody end, I will gloat, oui? Is that not the custom?”
Wonder Woman could not move. She had wrongly underestimated her foe, having wrongly assumed this Hypnota was the rejuvenated original. Still, she was a legend, and she was never beaten that easily. She concentrated, and her still-active mind summoned her hovering invisible plane. She mentally ordered it to lower the rope ladder, and then she had the plane dip until the rope ladder crashed into the broken window and knocked Hypnota across the room. She forced herself to react, although a lesser being would have remained sluggish under the potent mental spell. She tackled Hypnota and bound her in her golden lasso.
“Now we’ll see the truth!” she said. “Did you shoot Eric Monroe and force Holly Darnell to believe that she did it?”
The furious Hypnota hissed in a deep voice, “Yes, yes! I did, curse you!”
Wonder Woman frowned and reached over to touch the woman’s hair. She lifted it up, and the entire glossy mass came off to reveal an androgynous male in expertly applied makeup. “Great Hera! You are not Hypnota’s daughter!” she cried. “You are her son!”
Hypnota nodded and smiled smugly. “As my late mother affected a male disguise complete with false beard, so have I lived my life as a woman,” he said madly. “You realized I was all three women, but even you failed to see that I was a man beneath a female disguise! I am that good an actress!”
Wonder Woman shook her head in sorrow. She wondered if the legacy of hatred and violence would ever end. It seemed as if her old enemies and their heirs could only repeat or revise their original patterns of crime and evil.
Later, Wonder Woman sat across from the overjoyed Darnell family. “The Magic Sphere showed the truth,” she said. “Hypnota shot Monroe while a mesmerized Holly watched, and then she pressed the weapon in Holly’s hand and fled. Holly was left to be caught, and she was forced to think that she had been the killer. Now Holly’s cleared, thanks to Hypnota’s confession and a bit of well-placed influence on my part.”
“We owe you more than we can ever repay!” said Etta.
Wonder Woman smiled at her old friend and said, “You can take Steve and me out to a movie when he gets back. Only, Etta, let’s not make it Tootsie!” Laughter echoed, and all was well.
Still later, as she tried to catch some sleep, Wonder Woman felt a presence in her room. She sat up and saw a majestic woman in the room.
“I am Rhea of the Titans! We are pleased with your efforts on behalf of the mortals. You may consider this to be your second completed labor!” At that, she vanished.
Wonder Woman sighed in relief. She was getting closer to her goal. Perhaps her life would soon return to what passed for normal.