That night in the Batcave, Red Robin studied lab results. He looked up and said, “Vampirism. I thought that ended when the Mad Monk and Dala met their third or fourth demise a few months back.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Sandman: Crimson Tide.]
“And I thought you liked necking,” said Power Girl. “Sorry, just trying to lighten your mood. I don’t take loss of life lightly, either.”
Red Robin nodded. “I know. That’s why I made with the puns back then. I fought the night with humor, and it usually worked.”
“So this victim was bloodless and marked by signs of hypothermia,” said Kara Zor-L. “Did she have the two puncture marks you associate with vampires?”
Dick Grayson nodded. “It’s like a typical vampire attack with the Mister Zero-styled marks. Listen to me — typical vampire attack! Does that say something about our lifestyle, or what?”
She grinned. “What’s next? Patrol the city? I’ve done that twice at super-speed.”
“I aim for quality, not quantity,” said Red Robin. “Still, I’d like to follow up the Mister Zero lead. If he’s not the vampire — and let’s face it, maybe he is — his technology needs to be accounted for.” He touched the computer. “Zero had a daughter and a son. The son is in jail for theft. The daughter is currently at large, as they say.”
“Cool,” said Power Girl. “Excuse the expression.”
Ducky Mallard had led his gang for decades. He was not new to Gotham City, and thus he refused to bow down to the Crimelord.
“This goon demands forty percent of my take? He’s crazy!” muttered the fat mobster. He studied a ledger of accounts and rolled up his sleeves as he worked.
“Cold in here. Ain’t Roscoe payin’ the bills?” he said as he shivered.
“Not as cold as the unending touch of the grave!” whispered a beautiful woman who swept into the room from the deck.
“What the–? You hidin’ out on the deck? What are you, some type of hit-woman?!” he yelled.
“Indeed, but of a type beyond your puny comprehension,” she hissed. “Mallard, you should have paid the Crimelord. Now you must die that I may find warmth!” Her ruby lips parted to reveal fangs.
She crossed the office before the fat mobster could stir. He whipped out his gun and fired directly at her. She moved resolutely forward as if untouched by the bullets.
When she smiled, it was an alluring, yet frightening smile. She took the gun out of his shaking hand and crushed it.
She jerked him close, and her hands left damaged skin wherever she touched him. He was freezing even as she took his life’s blood.
Frostbite left him on the floor and departed into the night. “Cold… so very cold,” she whispered.
Charles Bullock turned to the pretty woman beside him. She wore a very short red dress and mask, while he wore his Blackwing costume. Together, they fought crime in Gotham City, and he was very proud of his new partner.
Meg O’Connor was a Gotham cop. She had been found by Charles after the mad Wraith had dressed her as the Huntress and left her for dead as a message for the heroine he hated. (*) He had become her friend in weekly visits to the hospital, and soon he had dared to share his secret identity with her. She had surprised the lawyer by begging to join his nightly crusade as his costumed partner. He gave her a costume briefly used by the Huntress herself, and Meg became Redbird.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Huntress: Night Moves.]
Now, they dropped down to face a bizarre figure who darted across the midnight campus of Gotham University.
“That’s the Scarecrow! I’d know that costume anywhere. As a girl, Dad used to use that crook as a bogeyman of sorts. Comes from having a cop as a dad!” She grinned.
“He died recently,” said Blackwing. “Must be a new model!”
They confronted the grimly menacing figure as moonlight bathed the scene in a garish light. “You looking for a brain? Came to the right place!” said Blackwing as he charged the villain.
“Spare me the insipid comments about winged monkeys that I’m sure you’ve got planned!” said the Scarecrow as he waved a gun toward the heroic pair.
Redbird kicked it from his grip even as he clawed at her mask.
“Fear of public exposure is called social phobia,” he said. “That also includes fear of looking foolish in front of your peers. You best not suffer from that one, my dear!”
Redbird gasped as gas blasted from his gloves into her face. “Make them stop looking at me!” she screamed. “They’re all laughing at me!”
“Easy, Redbird, there’s no one here!” urged Blackwing. “It’s his phobia gas.” He clipped a mask across his nose and tossed a rope toward the Scarecrow.
I’ll have this would-be Scarecrow hog-tied soon enough; then I can tend to Meg! thought Blackwing as his partner writhed on her knees.
He gasped in turn as a heavy weight crashed down on him from above. Groaning, he saw another costumed figure through blurred eyes.
“Two of them!” he gasped as he passed out.
Power Girl hurled a paper across the room. “These Gotham journalists steam me!” she said. “You put away every pickpocket or mass murderer that hits the city, and they give you grief over the vampire killings and these new Scarecrow sightings!”
Dick grinned at her passion. “Easy! They just want what we want: peace and security in Gotham. I hope we can end both problems quickly enough. I have little doubt we’re dealing with successors in both cases. Zero’s daughter Ingrid vanished months ago, but the family’s property is worth checking out.”
That night, Power Girl wrenched a metal gate open and led Red Robin inside a warehouse. “Funny how these creeps always buy a warehouse when they hit a big score,” she muttered. “I’d love to be the warehouse broker. I’d make you look poor!”
Red Robin scanned the scene with night-vision lens. “I see cryogenic equipment. Zero stored his gear here. He owned it legally enough. No doubt he planned some new cold wave of crime with it before his death.”
“Ingrid must be behind these new killings, but is she really a vampire?” pondered Power Girl.
A sudden blow sent her reeling as the black-clad Frostbite revealed herself. “I am both less and more than a vampire,” she hissed. “That enables me to travel by day or night and do this!” She grabbed Kara’s hair and pulled her head back.
“She’s super-strong!” cried Red Robin as he reached for his belt.
“Tell me something I don’t know, Sherlock!” snapped Power Girl as she kicked back and tried to break the woman’s hold.
“I do not create vampiric followers like a true vampire, yet I’d enjoy seeing this one as a daughter of the night!” she hissed.
“I do look good in lingerie, but I’d rather just stake you here and now!” said Power Girl as she blasted her foe with heat-vision.
“Ah, warmth! That is what I crave the most!” cried Frostbite.
“Exactly — Ingrid, here, needs warmth, and she gets it via human blood,” said Red Robin as he dropped a flare.
Ingrid gasped and turned away. “My eyes cannot abide light, although it does not slay me.”
Power Girl smiled. “Let me really turn on the heat, then!” She blasted the woman with heat-vision and saw her revel in the experience.
Red Robin dropped a pellet that exploded in Frostbite’s face. She cried out and curled up in a fetal position.
“Freon! Cold hurts her. Ironic, isn’t it?” he said.
“Why?” asked Power Girl. “What’s her story? She almost broke my neck. She sure has something supernatural about her.”
“Ingrid was Zero’s daughter,” explained Red Robin. “She was also a victim of the Mad Monk or some other vampire. He or she bit her, but did not drain her dry, so Ingrid did not die. Mister Zero found her and placed her within one of his cryogenic units in an effort to save her life. Little did he know–”
Frostbite raised her blonde head and interrupted. “Little did he know he was dooming his only daughter to an endless existence between life and death. Unlike other vampiric victims, I was neither cured by the destruction of the vampire who attacked me, nor was I made one of the living dead. Father’s device turned me into a creature with vampiric thirsts and a desperate craving for body warmth that comes only from blood!”
“After he died, one of his lawyers checked out the property holdings, found Ingrid, freed her, and paid the price,” said Red Robin.
“Frostbite! Call me by that name and no other!” she shrieked. “The woman I was is lost to me… lost to freezing and ceaseless ice!” She spun to turn over the machine.
“Look out!” cried Red Robin as he leaped for her.
Power Girl caught the machine and groaned as the liquid within poured over her. Red Robin turned to his love with concern.
“I’m fine!” said Power Girl. “Just call me ice-maiden… and don’t even think what I bet is going through that pun-happy mind of yours! Little Miss Popsicle escaped. No sign of her with my super-vision, either.”
“I knew the machine could not hurt you, but I reacted on sheer concern,” said Red Robin. “Forgive me?”
She nodded. “I understand. The stuff can’t even chill my alien body, but it clings like super-glue. I’ll be picking this gunk out of my hair for hours!”
“Poor woman. She is a victim, too,” said Red Robin.
Back at the O’Connor home, Meg sat on the edge of her bed, wearing a blue teddy and slippers. She frowned at her own reflection.
“I wept like a baby,” she said. “I’ve been on the force for five years, and the Scarecrow made me look like a fool. I let Charles down, too. Some partner. Redbird? More like Chicken Little!” And she tossed a pillow down in anger.
“Maybe I can redeem myself by tracking down this Scarecrow, mark two!” she mused. “The fear gas enabled him to loot the entire rare manuscripts collection of Gotham U.’s library. Imagine, a gas that makes students afraid of books! I’d never even heard of bibliophobia before. He emptied the place in minutes and carried off all he wanted! The same trick could work anywhere. What else could he want? Scarecrow didn’t try to sell the books, so he must be a lover of books like the last one. Maybe I’d better work that angle.”
Elsewhere, Jonathan Crane Jr. glanced nervously right and left before rushing into Gotham Police Headquarters.
Forgive me, mother! he thought.
Meanwhile, there was a panic raging at Gotham General Hospital, where hoards of patients suffered from nosemaphobia, the fear of illness. Though artificially created, the phobia drove them in hoards to the clinic, while the artificially developed nosocomephobia, or fear of hospitals, sent the doctors and nurses running out of the building. Chaos ensued, and a shapely female, clad in the straw-stuffed costume of the Scarecrow, laughed in appreciation.
“Wonderful!” she said as she saw the mass panic.
Later, Meg O’Connor made her way through the rare book shops of Gotham City until she encountered the right man. That guy could be Jonathan Crane’s twin! No doubt that is his son, mused the lively blonde. She tried a bit of flirting and soon engaged him in conversation.
“Perhaps I could show you my collection?” he asked as they talked about books.
“I’d like that. It’s a date!” said Meg eagerly.
This guy is so timid, mused the cop. If he is the new Scarecrow, he must be scared to death every moment he is in the suit. Of course, I’ve read about the liberating effect of masks. I’ve even experienced it as Redbird!
Meanwhile, the other Crane siblings were in heated debate.
“Jonathan Jr. refused to join us in honoring father’s last wishes,” said Frank Crane. “Father wanted us to create total panic in Gotham, and we’ve done just that. By stealing the chemicals and making enough of his fear gas to rob the Gotham U. rare books collection, terrorizing the hospital, and what we’ve planned for the other city offices, we’ve done well. If only–”
“If only we could kill Red Robin or the Huntress!” said Lilith Crane.
“More to the point, our lily-livered sibling may betray us to the police. I fear we must punish him,” said Nicholas Crane coldly.
“I never liked the punk, anyway,” said Frank.
Lilith sneered. “He was always the odd one, wasn’t he?”
“He is not dead yet, but he will be,” said Nicholas.