by Dan Swanson
Bulletgirl zoomed quickly into the air. This bar, like many bars, had a high ceiling in order to try to keep the floor level relatively clear of smoke. Her nose twisted in distaste as she flew through the smog. When she was as high as she could get, she dived toward the fight, picking up as much speed as possible, and slammed into a group of thugs at high speed. She managed to hit the first one with her helmet in the chin, and he flew backward, knocking down the two thugs behind him. He was out of the fight. She passed between the next two, and her shoulders impacted them in their chests, causing to to both stagger backward. She thought she heard some ribs break, but didn’t have time to worry about it right now. She lowered her head just in time, and smashed into the stomach of a final opponent, driving him backward into a wall.
Her momentum was used up by this time, and she landed. Two thugs fired pistols at her. “You guys don’t know much about us, do you?” she said, laughing at them. They were stunned when their point-blank shots bounced off the magnetic field around her helmet. She turned to the first one and slammed a swift right to his chin, and with her enhanced strength she knocked him out.
Before she could turn around, the other man jumped on her back. He swung his right arm down over her right shoulder and tried to drive his knife into her stomach. The strike was deflected by her belt buckle, and instead of stabbing straight into her stomach, the knife slid across her right thigh. If she had been wearing the uniform with the long pants, she would have escaped unscathed, as the material in their costumes was designed to resist knives. But she had on her short pants outfit, and the blade sliced into her upper thigh, cutting a long laceration. Still, it wasn’t the first time she had been cut in the line of duty.
Bulletgirl was unable to stop herself from shrieking from the shock and pain, but she was in no way disabled by the wound. She quickly grabbed the arm draped over her shoulder and pulled down hard, bending further forward as she did so. The thug’s arm was pulled out of his shoulder socket, and he was screaming as he started to fly over her shoulder. At just the right instant, Bulletgirl straightened up with all her strength, pushing the thug forward and into the air. He slammed into the wall back-first, feet high, his head about two feet off the floor. He then fell onto his head and collapsed into a crumpled heap. Sue hoped he hadn’t broken his neck in the fall, but she was already turning her attention to her leg.
It was a long, ragged slash, not deep enough to have caught an artery, but she was going to have trouble walking on that leg for a while, and she would need stitches for sure. She could worry about that later, but she realized she was going to be in trouble if she didn’t stop the bleeding soon. She flew behind the bar and found some clean bar towels, which she used to make a temporary compress. She pulled the belt from the unconscious bartender and used it to hold the makeshift bandage in place, then turned back to the fight. As she had half-expected, it was over.
She had left four men unconscious. The men she had knocked over had fled. She had rammed her helmet into the stomach of another, and he was still rolling on the floor, moaning. By her count, she had taken out seven in exchange for a slash on her thigh; she must have been getting careless. Bulletman had apparently accounted for just about the same number, and Red Rocket, even without the enhanced strength and agility of the Bullets, had knocked out three more.
There was a door behind the bar that led into the rest of the building. Bulletgirl kicked it open with her uninjured left leg, wincing just a little from the pain in her right. The three of them were through it quickly, and found a short hallway, with two other doors and a stairway. Bulletman flashed up the stairs, so Bulletgirl and Red Rocket each smashed open one of the doors. There was a storage room on one side, and an office on the other, but nobody in either. So they headed up the stairs, and found that Bulletman, as usual had more luck.
A man had been sitting behind a big desk on which there were half a dozen phones. Papers were scattered all over, and there were a couple of ledgers that had been knocked to the floor. The man behind the desk seemed to have a broken wrist, and there was a gun on the floor. Bulletman was standing in front of him in the act of picking him up by the front of his shirt.
“I hope you’re Lenny!” Bulletman said to the man, shaking him slightly.
“Ow! Ow! Ow! Oh, $#!*! Stop!” the man screamed, then began moaning, holding his injured wrist against his body with his other hand. “Please stop! I’ll give you anything! I’ll tell you anything you want to know!”
“Thank you,” Bulletman said gently. “You know, if you had been that agreeable in the first place, we could have avoided this unpleasantness.” He set the man back down in his chair. Opening the bottom drawer of the desk, he found the whiskey bottle he had been sure would be there, popped it open, and handed it to the moaning Lenny. “This might help.”
Lenny put the bottle to his mouth and upended it. After a couple of seconds, Bulletman took it away from him. “You can finish this off later, Lenny-boy. But now we’ve got some questions for you.”
Lenny’s face was as white as a sheet, and he was shivering, crying, and moaning. Bulletgirl stepped closer. “Umm, partner, maybe I can ask the questions instead of you? I don’t think he’s going to give us any more trouble, are you Lenny?” Lenny started to shake his head violently, but that jolted his wrist, and he screamed again. When he quieted down, Bulletgirl spoke again.
“We don’t want much from you, Len, and we aren’t looking to hurt anyone. All we want to do is save some lives — probably some friends of yours. You believe me, don’t you?” Lenny just barely nodded his head. He didn’t believe, but he didn’t dare contradict her, either.
“Good, because that means we’ll be able to get out of here soon, and leave you alone. In fact, we’ve even already called for an ambulance.” When Bulletman heard that, he went outside the room and used his helmet radio to call for an emergency team. He had to use the special Crime Crusaders Club code-word for the day to convince the radio dispatcher he was on the level. When the dispatcher finally realized who he was talking to, he quickly notified a hospital.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Bulletman, but I get calls from kooks all night. The ambulance will be there in fifteen minutes. Say, if you come by police headquarters, could you look me up and give me your autograph? Just ask anyone for Sparks!” Bulletman didn’t think they would be stopping by, but he promised that if they did, he would.
“Sparks, make sure that at least a dozen cops get here before the ambulance! Some of these guys are just groggy, and they could be dangerous. We’ll make a sweep for obvious weapons before we leave, but we don’t have time to tie anyone up.” In the distance, Bulletman could hear police sirens. Leaving Red Rocket and Bulletgirl to question Lenny, he headed downstairs to do the promised sweep for weapons.
Meanwhile, Lenny wanted to shake his head no regarding the ambulance, but he quickly thought better of it. Not only would it hurt like hell, he realized that it was already too late for him to escape the consequences of this evening. Injured as he was, with three super-heroes in his bar and no protection anywhere, he couldn’t possibly get away before the police showed up. So he might as well get treated by a real doctor as soon as possible. Maybe, if he told these awful people what they wanted to know, they’d even go away sooner.
Red Rocket showed him the two pictures. “These two guys lost big betting on the U.C. boxing match last night. Today they busted up an atomic energy research lab and took a critical dose of radiation. If they don’t get to a hospital as soon as possible, they’re going to die of radiation poisoning. If we can find them, they have a chance to live. Big betters like this, you probably know them, don’t you? Where can we find them?”
Lenny moaned in pain. He took a deep breath and visibly attempted to pull himself together. The whiskey was starting to ease the pain a little bit. He tried to make a bargain. “I can’t tell you how to find them, but I can show you. They’s part’a the DeLucranto mob, and they got a sawbones workin’ for ’em. But youse gotta take me wit’ youse! If you leave me here, I spend da next ten years in da big house!”
Red Rocket spoke up. “You know, Bulletgirl, that sounds like a good idea to me. What do you think? That way, if Lenny finks on us, he’ll be right there with us when we find out!” Lenny, who had no intentions of finking on them, tried to smile.
“OK. Lenny, let me wrap your wrist real quick — it might hurt when I do it, but it will save you some pain on the trip. Oh, I really wish you hadn’t tried to pull that gun on Bulletman!” She busted the bottom out of a drawer in Lenny’s desk and ripped his jacket into strips. Surprisingly gently, she straightened the broken wrist and wrapped it tightly. Even with the whiskey, Lenny screamed in pain and almost passed out. Bulletman came back upstairs to see what was wrong, and Bulletgirl told him about the deal they’d made. He wasn’t pleased, but he did help Lenny out onto the fire escape, where he picked him up, and the three took to the sky. The flashing lights of the squad cars and ambulance seemed to be three or four blocks away.
The cold night air rushing past his face revived Lenny somewhat, and the whiskey made the pain seem more bearable. He was slurring his words, but he was able to point with his left hand, and within a few minutes, they were approaching a brownstone building with a sign out front, showing that “Austin Valentine, M.D.” lived and practiced here. They landed on the front stoop, and Red Rocket knocked on the door.
A few minutes later, an older gentleman answered the door, wearing wrinkled butler’s attire and still rubbing sleep form his eyes. He was very surprised to see a trio of super-heroes at his door, but he was used to midnight visitors.
“Oh, my, I sincerely hope you have the wrong address!” Then he saw Lenny and the splint on his hand, and the pain still showing through the alcohol. “Come in, come in! Lay him down here–” He led them into a small examining room that contained a bed and sink. “–and I’ll go get Dr. Valentine!”
“If you don’t mind, Jeeves, I’ll come along with you,” said Bulletman.
The gentleman’s gentleman sniffed haughtily. “My name, sir, is James, and I certainly do mind!”
“Sorry, James, I was just trying to be nice. You’ve got no choice in the matter. Let’s go find Dr. Valentine.”
James wasn’t about to argue with Bulletman. He led the hero deeper into the house. Apparently the doctor and James resided on the upper floors. The back half of the house was fitted out as a clinic, and four of the beds were occupied. Bingo. Bulletman could hardly recognize the two men from the photographs, but he did recognize the symptoms of severe radiation sickness. These men were not getting the treatment they needed from Dr. Valentine. Bulletman made another quick call on his helmet radio.
Bulletman grabbed Dr. Valentine before James could explain anything and pulled him into the examining room. “See to his broken wrist!” he pointed at Lenny. “And don’t try to run away; I’ve got ambulances coming to pick up your patients and take them to the U.C. Med School radiation clinic, and you’re going with them.” Valentine paled and moaned a little himself, but with three super-heroes around, he wasn’t going to have a chance to get away. “Red Rocket, go with James, here, and see if you can find any medical records for the sick thugs, and bring them back here.” The two went off to do those things.
Once again, they could hear sirens approaching. A lot of citizens of Chicago were having their sleep interrupted tonight. Valentine looked over the splint on Lenny’s wrist. “He needs a cast. Do you want me to do that now?”
Bulletgirl asked, “How long will it take?”
“About twenty minutes.”
“Can it wait until we all get to the hospital?” She was sure it could.
“Yes, this splint was expertly applied. He might do a little better with morphine, though.”
“Not on top of all the whiskey he had, Doc. We don’t want to kill him!” The doctor nodded reluctantly. “Good!” she continued. “Now I want you to do something about this!” She showed him the bandage on her thigh.
Red Rocket noticed how white she was. “Bulletgirl, why don’t you sit down? Lenny’s too drunk to cause us problems, and I can make sure the doc doesn’t run out on us. You need the rest.” She agreed, and gratefully sat down. She had been running on adrenaline for the last twenty minutes or so, and she was close to the limits of her endurance.
Valentine was a good doctor, even if he did treat mobsters in secret. In fact, he had to be; if too many of his mob patients died, he knew he would end up wearing concrete shoes on the bottom of the lake. He had started the practice for the money, and now he wanted out, but he knew he couldn’t get out on his own. Perhaps this was his golden opportunity — the Bullets might be able to set up some kind of protection for him if he treated them straight.
He disinfected and bandaged Bulletgirl’s leg. He wanted to put in stitches, but she refused anesthetic, and he refused to do it otherwise. She could live with it the way it was for a while longer, and she would be in a hospital where she trusted the doctors shortly. She noticed that Valentine did an excellent job, and did things carefully and gently, causing her the minimum possible amount of pain.
As they waited for the ambulances, he discussed his situation with her, and she promised to help him as much as she could. He would eventually do some prison time, but with the minimum sentence and in a prison where the mob was unable to reach him. A few years later, when he would be released, the government would help him establish a new identity, and he would remain an honest citizen throughout the rest of his life. Was there magic involved? Bulletgirl was a close associate with Ibis the Invicible, so it was possible, or perhaps Bulletgirl had a magic of her own.
About midway through Sunday morning, the three heroes returned to Todd’s dorm. The Bullets recovered their clothes and headed out to find a hotel. Todd called the hospital and found that Tomas Thomas was awake right now, and he was there in just a few minutes. He was carrying a small briefcase with him. When he walked through the door he stopped, stunned by shock and dismay. Tomas was mostly wrapped in bandages, and there were dark red spots dotting the bandages. Todd could see open sores on the patches of skin that were still exposed. However, Tomas was awake, and he smiled when he saw Todd Drake.
“Hi, hero!” he whispered. “Say, I heard that Bulletman, Bulletgirl, and somebody else in a Bulletman costume brought in those thugs. Thanks!” He stopped talking; the effort of saying that much had worn him out.
Todd walked up to him. “Tomas, I just talked to the doctors. They have no hope. They are giving you another day, no more.” Todd saw the question in Tomas’ eyes. “Nope, I’m not saying this just to depress you even more. I may have a way to help you! I can’t guarantee that it will work, and even if it does, there could be some serious side-effects. I just think you need to know exactly what your situation is, so you can make an informed decision. What do you say?”
Tomas could barely whisper. Todd bent over and put his ear near Tomas’ mouth. He could barely make out the words, “Tell me.” It was painful just to watch him, and Todd had to wipe away tears before he could start talking.