by Christine Nightstar
It had been three weeks since the death of Professor Emil Yatz, and the yellow-skinned, green-haired wild man had been dubbed the Creeper by the media, mostly for his tendency to visit Fawcett City University’s sorority and women’s dorms to watch them undress. He never harmed the girls, or anyone else for the most part. He’d just act like a perverted Peeping Tom until he was noticed and the police were called. Then he’d run away into the night, laughing maniacally like a modern-day Spring-Heeled Jack.
The police and the mob alike were no closer to catching him than they were three weeks ago. Though reports of his actions were everywhere, neither side of the law had found much success in the chase. The Creeper would make a game of tag out of it with the police cars, letting them get close enough to think that they might actually catch him this time, than take to the rooftops and disappear, then reappear long enough for them to see where he was.
The mob wasn’t so lucky. If he caught sight of a mob car, he’d raise an unholy noise, causing the police to get called to investigate it. The sight of police cars in the area usually chased off the gunmen tailing him, and the Creeper could go about his business of being a civil nuisance.
Detectives and patrol cars hated getting calls concerning the Creeper. Following the Creeper was a royal pain in the butt, since he’d play his game of tag with them for hours before finally tiring of it and disappearing for the night. There was nothing that they could do, it seemed, to catch him.
The police and the district attorney didn’t want to call in the Marvel Family or any of Shazam’s Squadron of Justice to handle him. The police chief instead suggested that they form a task force to go after this nuisance.
The young blond man who was the Creeper had gotten a phone call from his father. With his father, it was always the same story. He needed to take responsibility for his actions and his life. He needed to aim his life toward something and make something of himself.
The young blonde man was greeted by the guard as he walked into the Chambers Communications Inc. building.
“Good morning, Mr. Chambers,” said the guard, who wore a cap with the CCI logo on it. “Your father is waiting for you in his office.”
The young man mumbled something under his breath, pushed the button for the elevator, and turned the key. He just knew that Jessica would be lurking about as well.
His older sister Jessica wasn’t someone he could confide in, either. She had always been the ideal child in their father’s eyes. Having graduated high school early, she then went through college and law school. Working her way through their father’s communications corporation, she had pushed CCI to diversify into real estate, research and development, and two casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. And she had done all this by the age of thirty.
The nineteen-year-old young man didn’t like being reminded about his older sister’s accomplishments. His father held them over his head, just as he held his mother’s accomplishments over the young man’s head. Elisabeth “Libby” Lawrence Chambers had been a motivated woman throughout the 1950s, a time when women weren’t encouraged to be so, and she’d broken so many stereotypes for what women should and shouldn’t be. Her daughter had followed her mother’s footsteps.
Then there was Jonathan Chambers, Jr., known as Jonny to his friends. He didn’t have the drive his mother or sister had at this stage of life. He didn’t even know what he wanted to do with his life. At his high school graduation last June, he had convinced his father to give him a year to figure these things out before being forced to go to college. That was what this summons was about. He had almost exhausted his year and still had no idea what he wanted to do with his life.
Jonathan Chambers was a very accomplished man himself. Having started out as Korean War correspondent, with a lot of luck and some degree of planning, he had founded CCI in 1970. He subsequently became one of the first cable television pioneers, and currently few others could rival his wealth.
Jonny couldn’t see himself working either as a reporter, like his parents had been at the beginning of their careers, or as a business tycoon like Jessica or his father. He didn’t have the stomach for medicine, and he had poor science skills. His father didn’t even acknowledge his son’s talents for problem-solving and working with people. Jonny had looked into teaching but had found it to be a waste of time, because there was no money to be made in teaching. He also thought about consulting, but discounted it because he had better things to do than play toady for some other rich fool. And then there was law enforcement, but considering the last few weeks and the way he had harassed the police in his alternate identity, law enforcement didn’t look so good, unless he became a private detective.
Just then, the elevator door opened to Jon Chambers’s office. There, Jessica was standing next to her father, while their mother was standing behind the bar in the corner.
“I’m glad you got my message, Jonny,” Jonathan said as he dropped some files onto his desktop.
“Nice to see you too, father,” Jonny responded, keeping things formal. If his dad wanted to treat him like a little kid, Jonny would treat him like an old man.
“That’s uncalled for, Jonny, calling Dad that,” said his sister.
“Drop dead, Jessie,” said Jonny. “I don’t need all three of you telling me how I’m screwing up your master plan for my life, least of all you, Miss Vice President.”
“Both of you stop that,” Libby cut in. “It’s just that we’re concerned about you, Jonny, and we want the best for you.”
“Then why the triple team, Mom?”
“I’m only here as a spectator today,” said Libby. “Your father promised me that he’d listen to you, and then we’d have a nice, civil brunch. Isn’t that right, hon?”
It was nice to see that his mother hadn’t lost any of her influence with Jonathan Chambers, Sr., even though she didn’t exercise it as much any more. Jonathan just looked at his wife, then at his daughter and son, and said, “Jessica, go set up the reservations for our flight to Vegas at your new casino.”
Jessie Chambers looked at her father and got a stern look that told her that he didn’t need her help to talk to her brother. “Private jet or commercial airline, Dad?”
“Private jet will do, Jessica. Now scat,” said Libby, pointing her daughter out the door. When Jessie Chambers had left, Jonathan Chambers began to speak.
“Jonny, I know that you’ve been trying to find yourself and even examining various careers for the last year. But the year that we agreed upon is almost up, and you are going to have to live up to your end of the bargain.”
“I know, Dad, but it’s not easy,” said Jonny. “You, Mom, and even Jessica already knew what you wanted to be when you were my age, but I haven’t a clue, and it doesn’t make it any easier with the deadline coming up, either.”
“All it takes is the proper motivation, Jonny, and you have to find yours,” said Libby. “We all found ours early in life. But you take after your Grandpa Lawrence. He had several jobs in his life before he found the one that would allow him to use all of his talents.”
“Grandpa Lawrence was an auctioneer,” said Jonny. “I know that.”
“But did you know he worked in a factory, served some time in the army, tried professional boxing, and even door-to-door sales?” said Jonathan.
“No, I didn’t, but what does that have to do with me, Dad?” asked Jonny.
“You have a lot of him in you — fiercely independent, curious, good with people, and good at solving problems,” Libby said, and Jonathan nodded in agreement.
“We just don’t want you to waste your life trying to find something you already possess,” his father said.
“What do you mean, Dad?”
“You already know what interests you, but are afraid to pursue it because you think it will disappoint us,” said Jonathan. “Don’t worry. As long as you work hard at it and do the best you can, we will always be proud of you.”
“Well, I was thinking of studying criminal justice and psychology,” said Jonny.
“What brought this interest on?”
“Been trying out some newly acquired talents, I guess you’d call them,” said Jonny, “and they seem almost perfect for some sort of investigator.”
“You know, son, it has been a long while since there has been a good crime reporter at QUCK here in Fawcett City,” Jonathan suggested.
“I don’t think I can be a reporter, Dad,” admitted Jonny. “I’m not that good on a typewriter or computer. I tend to be biased, and there are two major networks in Fawcett City — yours and WHIZ-TV. If I go to work for old Sterling Morris at WHIZ, the tabloids will have a field day with the story. If I go to work for you, you know what will happen there as well. I’m the boss’ son. They won’t treat me like a real reporter.”
“So you are going to college to study criminal justice, but for what, John?” asked Libby.
Jonny shrugged. “Maybe try my hand at being a bounty hunter or a private investigator.”
“Those are dangerous professions, Jonny,” his mother replied.
“More dangerous than being a Korean War correspondent, like Dad was?” countered Jonny. “Or the only female reporter at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement?”
“But you will be putting yourself in danger consistently,” Libby protested.
“I’ll do an field-training period with one of the best in the business, if you want,” said Jonny, “a sort of junior partnership after college, so I can learn how to not get myself killed.”
“He’s got a good idea, and he seems pretty well decided on it, Libby,” said Jonathan.
“But I… couldn’t live with myself if he did so and got killed,” said Libby with an uncharacteristic display of emotion. “He’s our baby.”
“Libby, we have to let him at least try. It’s his life, not ours.”
On the airplane to Las Vegas, Jessica Chambers walked over to her brother. “I don’t know what you said to Mom and Dad to let you go ahead with that foolishness about criminal justice and being a detective or bounty hunter, but just don’t expect CCI to bail you out when you fail, Jonny.”
“It’s not any of your business what I want to do with my life, Jessie.”
“Yes, it is, because I’ll have to clean up your mess, like I always do,” replied his much-older sister. “Or have you forgotten?”
“Forgotten that you are an overbearing pain in the ass who doesn’t know when to butt out, Jessie?” he replied.
“You know what I mean, Jonny.”
“Go bug the pilot, Jessie,” he replied. “Or better yet, take a walk outside for your health.”
“I won’t allow CCI to clean up any mess you make again, Jonny.”
“Well, it’s a good thing that you aren’t in charge of CCI, then, Jessie. Now go away.” Jonny then began reading a magazine, purposefully ignoring her until she finally strode away. Since his big sister was more than a decade older than him, she had always either treated him like he was a nuisance or like he was still a child.
“Sounds like the kids are getting along better, Jon,” said Libby.
“Sounds like,” agreed Jonathan. “He told her to butt out once, commit suicide once, and get lost a couple of times, and she only threatened him twice. That’s the best they’ve gotten along since the Bicentennial.”
“Well, she is a great deal older than he is.”
“It’s not my fault you’re the one who wanted to put off on having another kid for so long, Libby.”
“It’s nobody’s fault, Jon, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t fight like that,” Libby said.
“Jessie and Jonny fighting means everything is right in the world,” replied Jonathan. “If they didn’t fight, I’d be very worried.”
“I’m just glad that he wants to go to college nearby, at FCU.”
“You know that’s only because all his friends are going there,” Jonathan replied.
Coincidentally enough, that night was one of the few since the Creeper had burst onto the Fawcett City scene that there were no Creeper calls anywhere in the city. The city sighed in relief for a night. The next day, however, the Creeper was back.
The significance of the Creeper being gone during that night wasn’t lost on Inspectors Dominguez and Scully, but because of their stunt with the listening device in Knuckles’ hospital room, they were assigned to desk duty indefinitely. Their lieutenant had gotten tired of putting up with Dominguez’ bending and breaking of the rules.
“You know this is all your fault, Dom.”
“Oh, shut up, Scully.” Dominguez threw a wadded-up ball of paper at her partner.
“Unless we can solve this case before Muldar and Bridges, we’re pretty much stuck here,” Scully stated.
“And present it to the captain before the lieutenant give them credit for solving it,” Dominguez added.
“While stuck here at our desks for who knows how long.”
“Sounds like an interesting challenge.”
“You’re going to cost me my pension yet, Dom.”
The board of trustees at Fawcett City University had contacted Shazam, Inc., looking for help from the Marvel Family to prevent the Creeper from making any further visits. The board was concerned that the police didn’t have the university’s best interests in mind.
That was why Mary Marvel had arrived. “I don’t really know what I can do to stop him,” she stated.
“We don’t care what you do to stop him, as long as you do stop him,” said one of the trustees.
“Here’s the list of crimes that he’s committed on university grounds,” said another.
Mary Marvel looked over the list and frowned. “The majority of these are misdemeanors, you know, and could have been caused by any student.”
“The fact that he’s using our sorority and women’s dormitories as his own private peep show is the most disconcerting fact of all, and if it continues, we will lose students,” said one of the trustees.
“So call the police,” said Mary. “Why call in the Marvel Family?”
“Because the police do not have the university’s best interests in mind, and besides, they have been unable to catch this… Creeper.”
“All right,” said Mary. “I will coordinate my actions with both your campus security and the police.”
“Just stop this pervert before we lose all our young women students,” insisted one of the trustees.
“Your concern for their safety is so overwhelming,” Mary Marvel stated sarcastically before flying off.
The prowler had jumped over the university walls and had begun to head to the women’s dormitories. He was observed from above as he made his way across the campus.
“This has got to be our Creeper,” Mary Marvel said to herself. She swooped down on the prowler in yellow and red and grabbed him. But at the last moment she saw that it wasn’t the person she had expected it to be. The figure in yellow and red wasn’t the Creeper, but a male student in a yellow wetsuit and red vest.
From behind her, as she held the student in place, she heard a voice.
“Thanks a lot for finding this jerk for me. He was giving me a bad rap!” the voice said, laughing.
“So, you’re the Creeper!” said Mary Marvel.
“And you’re beautiful, toots!” the Creeper replied.
“The police want to have words with you about the death of Emil Yatz,” said Mary.
“I’m betting they do, but they won’t get it until they stop slandering me,” he replied. “No, they won’t.”
“Slandering you? In what way?”
“Blaming me for every little crime that they can’t solve or don’t want to waste time on,” replied the Creeper. “Though it is funny, me who never did anything worse than public intoxication before three weeks ago.” He laughed maniacally.
Mary Marvel was about to let the college student go and chase after the Creeper, when he jumped a good twenty yards away and shouted.
“You can keep the student or chase me — you can’t do both, unless you know how to keep him or me from escaping.” The Creeper blew a kiss to Mary Marvel and ran off to parts unknown.
Later, after turning in the college student, Mary Marvel used her abilities and a few connections to track the Creeper down again. She found him perched on the Fawcett City Museum, watching the cars go by.
“Hello, beautiful. Fancy meeting you again,” he said without turning around.
“I have to take you in to the police for questioning,” she said.
“I’d love to take you out on a date,” the Creeper countered.
“I don’t date criminals.”
“I’m not a criminal,” he replied. “Just your run-of-the-mill fruitcake out on the town. Now, how about a kiss?” The Creeper puckered, and as Mary Marvel was about to slap his face, he pulled it out of the way. “I’m not a bad yellow-skinned guy. Just ask any yellow-skinned guy.”
“You’re the only yellow-skinned person I’ve seen recently,” said Mary.
The Creeper sighed and said, “It’s true I’m too sexy for my skin, but I can’t help it.” He then jumped off the side of the building, yelling as if he were plummeting to his death. When Mary ran over to see if she could stop it, his head popped up, and he kissed her on the lips. He hadn’t fallen farther than four feet to a ledge below the rooftop.
Mary was flustered by the kiss, and angry, too. The Creeper laughed and ran away before she could recover her wits, and he again disappeared into the night.
The Creeper entered Jonny Chambers’ apartment around midnight, still totally pumped about kissing Mary Marvel. He bounced off the walls for a few moments, then sat down.
“That was totally worth it. After kissing me, Mary Marvel will most certainly turn down that Captain Marvel Junior.” His voice then imitated Mary Marvel’s as he said, “I’m sorry, CMJ, but my heart belongs to a handsome, yellow-skinned fruitcake I met.” Then he imitated Captain Marvel Junior’s voice and added, “But Mary, I won’t be able to hero without you!” The Creeper then imitated Captain Marvel, the Bullets, and other Squadron of Justice heroes before laughing himself hysterically off the couch.
“Being a villain would be the obvious way to get Mary’s notice, but that is so 1940s. Besides, she’ll love me more if I am a heroic figure and fight side by side with her against the forces of evil.” The Creeper then heard the doorbell and hit the button to change back to Jonny Chambers. Draping a bathrobe over his outfit, he answered the door.
“Is there a problem, Officer?”
“We thought we heard something weird coming from your apartment,” said one of the police officers.
“Sorry, Officer,” said Jonny. “I had my television on a little loud. Just getting ready for bed.”
“Sorry to disturb you, sir.”
After he closed the door on the police officers, Jonny Chambers said to himself, “If I’m going to be a super-hero, I’m going to need a place the Creeper can… ugh… be the Creeper and not get me in trouble.”
And so it began.