Friday, March 9, 2012

Terror at the Museum

Terror at the Museum...A White Owl Adventure...
“...And the art gallery has a new exhibit of religious icons starting in January. As you can see from the handout, this looks to be a lucrative show.” Cassidy finished her presentation, then sat down.
Ajay Chatterjee, the director of the Queen City Museum of Natural History, harrumphed and glanced down at his watch and the agenda
.“This brings us to our final order of business,” he intoned. Several contented murmurs were heard, causing the director to look up with a raised eyebrow. “I am aware of the lateness of the meeting; but this is important.”Chagrined, I looked down at the long conference table, matching my face to Dr Chatterjee's. Somberly I looked up and saw most of my colleagues had done the same. Except for Professor Zemehd, who was still looking shocked and dismayed. Zemehd was the curator of the large animal exhibits at the museum, responsible for restorations of gorillas, elephants and more.
“And for sixty years of ongoing service to the Queen City Museum Center,” said Chatterjee, “ we want to extend our congratulations and best wishes to Professor Anton Zemehd on the occasion of his retirement...I'm certain we would all want to wish him well...”
“Dammit Chatterjee! You can't force me out to pasture like this! I've been working here since I was fifteen! No one preserves and represents their subjects better. I'm a legend!”
“But you're now a retired legend, Anton,” said Chatterjee, condescendingly. “Take some time to go fishing, visit relatives, relax! And quite frankly, the museum is moving away from taxidermy as a way to preserve exhibits. At 75, my friend, its time for you to...”
“It's time for me to show you! Show you ALL! You haven't heard the last of me, Chatterjee!” Professor Z stormed out of the conference room and we heard the clatter of a cart being turned over in the hall.
Chatterjee took a look then sighed. “I'm afraid the Professor's tantrum has cost us one large retirement cake, coffee and punch. I'll have maintenance come and clean it up. In the meantime, we are adjourned.”
Cassidy caught up to me as I made my way past the cake carnage. “I don't think I've ever seen Prof Z so uptight, Athena” she said.
“No, neither have I. But he has seemed a bit more on edge the last few weeks,” I said. I wonder how long this showdown has been brewing?”
“About 2 months, Dr Nikos,” I heard a heavily accented voice say.
“Good Afternoon, Director,” I said. “So what just happened back there?”
“Professor Zemehd HAS been working in the museum for nearly 60 years. He started as an apprentice with his predecessor, as you know.” I nodded and Chatterjee continued.“But his recent work has been less than exemplary. You know, he's one of the first naturalists to show his exhibits in their native environments?”
“Yes,” I said. “He started doing it ten years before it caught on anywhere else in the States. I consulted with him a few times as we set up a Mound Builders exhibit.”
Chatterjee nodded. “Well his latest work was far too frightening to display. It showed a hippopotamus killing a Zulu hunter in very vivid detail. Needless to say, this led to words, then to my asking for his resignation. He refused.“I could have fired him, and did—but we kept it hush hush, and I agreed to honor his work here, to retire him with some dignity. I THOUGHT we were agreed on that, but apparently I was mistaken."
Cassidy and I stood there dumbfounded at all the politicking that had occurred behind our backs. Foster from Security came up at that moment and nodded. “He's been politely escorted from the building, Director.”
“Will he be back?” asked Cassidy.“I don't think so,” said Chatterjee. “All of his access codes have been revoked and all of his keys accounted for.” He glared at the two of us. “Don't you have work to do?”
I winked at Cassidy and said, “Come on, we'd better get busy.” We made ourselves scarce for the rest of the day.
ELSEWHERE...A While Later
Sergeant Jim Harper had turned down several offers to move to plainclothes. He was a beat cop by nature, and no one knew his beat better than Jim. Costerman's Hill had a reputation for crime, but in Harper's neighborhood things were different. The people knew each other and trusted the beat office. Though he had a cruiser assigned to him, Harper preferred to walk the beat when he could. “It gives me a better picture of what's going on. And it promotes trust,” he'd informed his supervisors. Whatever it was, it worked, because Harper had been cited twice for gallantry and had earned the Top Cop award from his peers three times.He'd finished his shift, and was heading back to the cruiser to change into his civvies and head home for a night of television and reading. An older gentleman caught his eye, however, one who appeared to be having trouble getting into his car.“Can I help you sir?” asked Harper.“Oh yes officer, I think you can. I appear to have locked my keys in the car. Can you hep?”Harper looked into the passenger window. Sure enough, the keys dangled in the ignition lock. Smiling, Harper tried the handle on the back door. “You're in luck sir, the back door is unloc...UNHHHHH!!!”
The bat cracked against Sergeant Harper's skull with full fury, and the police officer saw stars. He reached for the mike on his uniform, trying to call in the assault, but a thick cloth with an ill smelling substance was pressed tightly against his face.
Woozy, Harper couldn't offer much resistance, and soon drooped against the concrete sidewalk, unconscious. The two men who had attacked him hefted the unconscious officer and carried him to an unmarked panel van behind the car.“Well that was easy, professor,” said one of the goons. “For a top cop he didn't even put up much of a fight.”
“Quiet you fool. I may have to reject him if you damaged his skull when you hit him! Why can't you be more careful Rigby? You aren't working for some cheap curio shop! These specimens have to be museum grade!”
The van pulled away from the curb and traveled slowly down Costerman's Hill toward a side street near the museum center. “Those fools frittered away my genius, thought they'd kept me out for good. As if mounting bears, gorillas and stupid birds was my life's work.”
The van turned into a dark abandoned subway tunnel entry underneath the museum. Zemehd and his associates lifted the sleeping policeman gently from the van and carried him to a working, but unknown freight elevator.“This subway was started in the 30's, the professor said. “And abandoned five years later with only a few stations being built. And since the Museum was moved to the old Union Station, this made a perfect extra workshop for me! No one knows about this elevator, or the sub basement I've been working in. That doddering idiot Chatterjee thought he'd seen the last of me. But he'll see. Anton Zemehd's greatest work goes on beneath his large nose!”
The elevator stopped with a gentle bump and Professor Zemehd opened the doors. “Quickly, bring him inside to my table. I must start work on this specimen immediately!”
“Chill professor! The chloroform we gave him should keep him out for at least another hour.”The henchmen set the police officer on the table and set his gunbelt and radio across the way on a counter. Boris went to get some straps, when Professor Zemehd heard a groan from the table. Whirling in shock, he saw Harper rolling, attempting to stand,
“Another HOUR?! Looks like you dosed it wrong. Hurry, give him a sedative before he gets away!”Harper put his hand to his head, feeling the goose egg left behind. He looked around at the unfamiliar setting and saw the two goons and the old man approaching him. He felt for his service pistol and found the belt gone. Rolling to his right, however, he saw a tray full of surgical knives.
Harper grabbed one and shouted in a raspy voice. “Back off! I don't know what game you're playing but I'm not going to play it with you.”He saw an open door behind him and ran into a dark gallery.
“Don't just stand there you imbeciles! Stop him! And don't damage him!”
“Yes, professor.”Harper ran, looking over his shoulder at the retreating light. His heart was racing and his mind still in a fog as he tried to figure out what was happening. He ran into a solid something. “What the devil?” He asked himself. “Feels like I ran into a wall of glass.”“Hey we don't know where he went Professor. Can you hit the lights?” Harper heard behind him.
Suddenly the room grew bright. Harper threw his hand over his eyes, then slowly lowered it as his pupils adjusted.What he saw sickened and shocked him. All around him were glass exhibition cases, filled with street scenes from Queen City. A mother and her daughter crossed at a light. Harper recognized them as two separate missing person cases from the previous year. Other tableau showed a mailman at a relay box, and a bank robbery in progress. The two robbers were on a BOLO that had crossed Harper's desk about a month ago. He stared in morbid fascination.
“Thanks Professor! We found him!” said the goon's voice behind him. “Take it easy Rigby, you know what the Prof said about damaging him.”
“I know Malloy.”
Harper clutched the knife he'd grabbed. “Get back, or I'll kill you both.”
Malloy tapped Rigby on the shoulder. “Look out! He's got one of the professor's knives.”
“I see that Malloy. I'm afraid I have no choice now!” Rigby pulled a pistol from his lab coat and pumped two bullets into Harper's chest. The Policeman folded like wet laundry and dropped onto the floor.
Professor Zemehd came running into the room. “What was that? What happened?” He spotted Harper on the floor and whirled on his associates. “Look at those HOLES! How COULD you? He was a nearly perfect specimen and you RUINED him.”“We know how important he was to you professor, and we're sorry. But it couldn't be helped,” said Rigby.
“Get him out of here! Now!”“Where should we take him?”“That's not my concern. Somewhere he won't be found for a while.”Malloy smiled. “I know just the place.”
The next morning I was yawning, wishing for a cup of dark roasted ambrosia. I was shivering on the pier next to Captain Donald Winslow of the Queen City Special Crimes Unit. Winslow seemed as impassive as ever, but I knew the grisly scene was ripping a hole in the staunch man.
“I trained Harper at the academy, White Owl. Best cadet I'd ever seen. I recommended him three times for SCU and he always turned it down. I'd say he was killed elsewhere and dumped here, since the body is so cold.”
Nearby a nervous man was talking with Detective Yemana. “I didn't touch anything detective! I watch enough cop shows on TV to know that much. Course I never dreamed I'd find a body.”
“You did a good thing Mr Matthews,” said Yemana. “Captain?”Winslow stepped over. “What do you have Nick?”“Something in his hand. Looks like some sort of knife. Ever seen one like that?”
I leaned over to have a look too.Winslow shook his head and lit a cigarette. “Nope, never seen one like that. Looks almost like a scalpel but it's too long. Still I figure Yorba in the lab can figure it out.”
He looked up and saw the hearse pulling in. “Looks like the coroner is here, we're done anyhow. Walk with me Owl?”
Though it was phrased as a question, I knew Winslow's command voice when I heard it. I stepped beside him as we walked to his Taurus.“This is personal,” he said. “Not only was Harper a cop, a top cop; he was also my friend. This is an SCU investigation and I want you up on it too. But it cuts both ways. I know you sometimes have information before I do, but if you get ANYTHING, I want you to share it, OK?”
I was taken aback by the sudden frank tone. “Of course, Captain. I always do.”
He grunted and nodded, then gave me a weak smile. “I'm sorry Owl, its just this is really getting to me.”
“Maybe you should go home, take a couple days off?” I suggested.
“I can't, I owe that much to Harper.” The engine started and Winslow drove off toward Police Headquarters. I flew off toward the roof of STAR labs, where I gathered my duffel bag, then flew on to the museum. I landed in an open bathroom window on the fourth floor, then quickly changed and made my way to my workshop. The lights in Professor Z's office were off, but I could see a gleam of surgical steel through the window.My recall clicked in. Taxidermist tools. The knife Sgt Harper had been carrying was a taxidermist's knife. I got to my workshop and left a message for Captain Winslow. He agreed to check out the shops in Harper's beat. I got to work piecing together an old pot from the Serpent Mound.
Ajay Chatterjee reflected on the changing daylight as he crossed the parking garage. Though it was only 7 pm, already the light was fading. The parking deck was nearly deserted and Chatterjee moved across it with something more than a trudge. Though he would never show it, He was content, as the petty, but benevolent ruler of this little domain. Still he dreamed of better days.He didn't notice the two men in lab coats until they stepped around the pillar. One held a thick cloth in his hand.
Chatterjee turned to run, but saw Professor Zemehd grinning. “I said you hadn't seen the last of me,” he cackled.Chatterjee felt two sets of strong arms around him, and the thick cloth covered his nose. He struggled briefly against the chloroform, then drooped unconscious in his attacker's arms.
“Now gently,” said Zemehd. “I don't want this one ruined like the last one! I have a very special place for him.”
I had been working late myself; losing track of time. I waved goodnight to Foster, then walked out onto the parking deck. I heard a cry for help begin, then stop. I looked around and saw three men carrying a fourth toward the back of the garage.
“No rest for the weary ,” I said. I stripped off my jacket and skirt, revealing the leotard I'd worn all day. My duffel bag yielded my boots, belt, gloves and mask and in less than a minute, White Owl stood in Athena's former place. I tossed my duffel into my jeep and flew across the parking garage. But the kidnappers (and their victim) had gone. I couldn't spot them in the stairwell, then I remembered the old freight elevator. It hadn't been used in years, or so I thought. I found the elevator shaft, unboarded. The lights were working, indicating the car was descending, but it dropped to three levels lower than I knew as the lowest. I waited five minutes, then pulled the doors apart with aloud metal shriek. The shaft was empty, and I glided down, ever lower. Gently I landed on the roof of the car, then slowly opened the access port.I swung into the car, and peered through the open door. I could hear voices in the distance, one of which sounded familiar. “Rigby, I can't find my tools! See if I left them in the elevator!”“Right away professor,” came a voice I assumed was Rigby's. I hovered just above the open door and watched as a stringy blonde haired man bent in for the satchel. With a practiced grace, I landed on top of him, knocking him to the floor, then putting him to sleep with a gas ball. I zip tied him then slipped into the hallway.
I made my way to the lighted room, hearing Professor Zemehd getting more and more angry.“Malloy, go find out what's keeping that pinhead! I'm more than capable of watching our guest here, now that we have him strapped to the table.”
The metal doors swung open and another gangly looking man walked out, a cigarette hanging from his lips. He made it halfway down the hall when my bop ball caught him square in the back of the cranium, dropping him like a Cobras receiver drops a pass.I had just finished zip tying Malloy when I became aware of a shadow looming over me.
Turning I felt a nick in my left shoulder and saw the hypodermic in Professor Z's hand. I struggled to get to my feet, but whatever the drug was, it was faster. I crumpled to the floor.
“You were always meant to be the capstone of my exhibit,” was the last thing I heard.
A bright light glared into my closed eyes, and I played possum a bit longer to get the lay of the land. Professor Zemehd was talking with someone, and from the dialog I could tell it wasn’t me.“You thought you'd seen the last of me didn't you! Get rid of the troublesome old fool., he's bad for the bottom line! But I showed you, Ajay. And soon your arrogance will be on display for the entire world!”
I opened my eyes, stirring a bit. “Hey boss, the Owl girl is waking up!”“What? Impossible! I gave her a triple dose. She should be sleeping for hours!”
“Never the less, Professor,” I replied with more bravado than I felt. “I'm awake, and I'm angry.”
“Bah, so what? You're also bound and helpless! You'll wait your turn to become the final touches of my exhibit of a slice of Queen City's life.” He pointed down into the gallery, and I could dimly see the bank robbery exhibit. “You'll be immortalized, stopping those criminals,” he said.
“N...No Thank You!” I said. With a tremendous tug, I pulled the leather straps holding my arms to the operating table apart. The metal squawked, falling to pieces.
“Stop her you idiots!” shouted Zemehd. But by the time he shouted, I had regained my toolbelt. I waited just a moment, then with a twirl of my wrist, the Bola Balls wrapped Malloy and Rigby together at the ankle. They sprawled forward, knocking the tray of knives across the floor.
Professor Zemehd dropped to his knees. “You wouldn't hurt a harmless old man, would you White Owl?”
“Just look at all this death you've caused! And you dare to call yourself harmless?” I raised my fist to punch the man, feeling it gently restrained .
“Don't lower yourself to his level kiddo,” I heard. Sparing a glance, I saw Captain Winslow and the rest of the SCU coming through the doors. With great reluctance, I agreed and lowered my fist.
“Here's the killer of your friend, Captain,” I said with no satisfaction.“I thought you were going to wait for us,” he said.
“I sent the signal, but a man's life was at stake,” I answered.
“Looks like yours was too.”I nodded. “If its all the same to you, I think I'll take the rest of the night off.”
“Don't worry, White Owl. You've earned it.”

The Dream of Gentleman Johnny

The Dream of Gentleman JohnnyA White Owl Adventure...The state penitentiary in Queen City was old, but strong. No one had ever escaped its walls; except through death, or dreams. The prison was filled with men of all types, the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak. In here nothing mattered except survival; survival until your parole hearing, or until your time was done.One such prisoner was numbered 46112. His name had been Jonathan Foster, but everyone inside and out knew him as Gentleman Johnny. Four years ago, his home had been ransacked and he'd collected several millions of dollars in insurance money for his missing jewelry, art and expensive furnishings.Except a new avenger in Queen City had seen through his plot. And with dogged determination, White Owl had seen justice done, arresting him. It was a case that had helped seal her reputation as a defender of justice. And Gentleman Johnny had gone to prison; forgotten by all his family and friends.Johnny had not forgotten the luxury in which he had lived, however. Not even prison could do that. He stretched, as smiled as the guard entered his cell with deference. “Excuse me Mr Foster, but would you be wanting your morning coffee and the newspaper now?”“I will Price, it will soothe my nerves.” Foster sat up in bed and allowed Price to fluff his pillows before settling back with a steaming cup of Colombian Supreme. Foster studied the financial pages, then the sports. “I see the Gems dropped another one,” he said.Price gently cleared his throat. “Excuse me sir, but the maid wanted to know if she should tidy up in here soon. And the chauffeur wondered if you'd be needing the car this afternoon.”Foster threw the paper on the bed, indignantly. “I don't have the strength to deal with these questions now Price,” he said. “Ask me after two, when I'm well rested!” With that Gentleman Johnny turned his back on the obliging guard. He almost didn't hear the soft rush of the sueded white boots on the floor of his cell. But a pair of delicate, yet powerful hands dragged Foster from the bed.“Get up, rest is for those who have earned it.” Foster knew that voice. It had hounded him until his arrest, spoken against him in court and was the voice of condemnation.“White Owl! Leave me alone!” he howled.“Where do you think you are? An exclusive resort?” The voice was louder, and a gloved fist cracked Gentleman Johnny on the jaw. “Now get up, you have a debt to pay.”Johnny opened his eyes, and instead of the luxurious surroundings, he saw the stark walls of the 6x8 cell he inhabited. And instead of White Owl, he saw Price; no longer obliging.“What's the matter, 46112? Are you trying to pretend you didn't hear the alarm bell again? Get up for roll call and work.“NO White Owl, don't hit me!” said Johnny, then realized who he was talking to. “You'll WISH I was White Owl if you don't get outta that bed NOW!” shouted Price. Foster scrambled to his feet.“Yessir, yessir...”As the work crew marched to the prison gates, Foster's mind stayed focused on his dream. “It was such a lovely dream.” But the harsh realities of the work detail kept him from dwelling on it. But as the day ended, and the inmates reassembled to return to prison, Johnny Foster made a vow.“There's only two things I want out of life,” he said to himself. “To live my dream and to get even with that bitch! And with my brains, and the money I inherited, I can make it come true.”From that day on, one thought alone kept Gentleman Johnny in line. His every waking moment was filled with his dream. “I'll live in a vast suite of cells; but I'll be able to come and go as I please. I'll have guards as my servants. And White Owl...She'll be suffering in solitary on Death Row! And she'll die very VERY slowly.”And with this maniacal thought, Gentleman John Foster prepared for a life outside of prison. It was a madman's dream, but fueled by money and ambition, and without any call of conscience or fairness, it took shape quickly.After the course of a year, Gentleman Johnny was released from prison, his time served. He moved back into his newly renovated mansion, complete with walls of stone and bars in place of doors. His newly hired staff was attired in prison guard uniforms and Gentleman Johnny had a supply of silk jumpsuits in prison orange. Johnny was as happy as he could be.“No one has ever had as much luxury while behind bars as I have,” he told himself. “But I'm lacking one thing. I need to complete the dream. And before the week is over, I'll have my revenge on White Owl.”The Queen City Examiner is an old newspaper, but adapting quickly to stay ahead of new technologies. And one of those is a blind e-mail address for White Owl. People can email problems, reports on criminal activities and requests for help to me. If the issue is something I can handle without disturbing police investigations, then I try to follow up.As one can imagine, a lot of what filters through this system are requests for personal appearances, photographs, and requests from would-be suitors. But every so often I'll find a gem in the system. I was in my apartment near Victory Park one afternoon reading the e-mail, when I found one that piqued my interest.“White Owl; Years ago you sent me to prison. I've been reformed and would like to thank you personally. Would you do me the honor? I want to keep my identity secret, but if you agree, then you can meet my messenger, a prison guard, at Fourth and Elm at midnight.”Obviously, I was curious. And I was also certain it was a trap. Still, I was certain I could handle anything that would come my way.As midnight drew near, I slipped into my high necked leotard, and stepped onto the balcony. I leaped into the night, flying toward the downtown. Below me, I didn't see the large SUV that my tenant and sometimes partner Tiffany drove. But she saw me flying out. “Hmm I wonder where White Owl's going?” she thought. She applied the brake and a few moments later, the Crimson Dynamo followed discretely behind. “It may be nothing,” Crimson thought, “ But if Owl needs backup, she's going to have it.”I scanned the corner from a safe rooftop and saw a nervous man in a guard's uniform staring intently at his watch. He shifted his feet continuously, looking around like someone was about to kill him. I didn't understand his nervousness, and I couldn't see anyone else at hand. I swooped up, then landed at Fourth and Elm, across from the bank and fountain.“I take it you're the guard I'm supposed to meet?” I asked innocently, tapping the guard on the shoulder. He nearly jumped out of his skin, then settled down. His face looked familiar, but I couldn't put a name to it—like when you see someone you know in a completely unfamiliar setting.“Wh..White Owl!” he said excitedly. “I...I didn't think you were going to show up. But I'm glad you did.”“I'm sure you are,” I replied. “So what's all the mystery?”“My boss wants to meet with you,” he replied.“The warden?” I asked.“ it strange to explain,” he said. “Maybe if you'd just follow me.”We walked west down Fourth, to the old manor section of the city, a distance of about five blocks. The guard stopped in front of one home with a high stone wall, and an iron gate.“This is it,” he announced, opening the gate. Just inside, two guard shacks flanked the short driveway, and behind it, a large three story home loomed over a small courtyard. In the moonlight, I could see the glint of bars against the windows.“Is this a prison?” I asked, astonished.“You might say that,” said my escort. “A private prison with a population of one.”I nodded and followed as another guard motioned us into the foyer of the house. The guard lead me up a flight of stairs and into a hallway filled with cells on either side. “Not so fast,” I said. “Tell me what's going on here.”“'ll have your answers in a moment,” he said. He opened a door to a cell block, and stepped back. I looked in and saw a large sitting room, with very plush accommodations. In a comfortable looking chair, I saw the inmate, dressed in a tailored jumpsuit, drinking a snifter of port and smoking a cigar. He looked up and smiled.“White Owl! I'm so glad you took me up on my offer,” he said with genuine enthusiasm.“Gentleman Johnny Foster,” I said. “I wasn't aware you liked prison so much you fixed your home up like one. This is really bizarre.”“Yeah,” he said, running a hand through his curly red hair and slipping me a sly smile. “In a way I have you to thank for it.”“Really?” I asked. “How so?”“Well, I never really appreciated the luxuries I took for granted, until you arrested me and I did four years. So I updated my surroundings. And you have to admit that these bars make everything else seem all the more luxurious by comparison.”“Well, it sounds strange, but I can also see the psychological reasons for it,” I admitted.“Of course its not completely like prison,” said Gentleman Johnny, stepping through the open door. “I can come and go as freely as I like. No locks on the cells, you see.”“I'm very impressed Foster,” I said, beaming. “And if you stay on the up and up, there won't be any reason for me to change them back to the steel ones.”“That's funny, White Owl,” said Foster. “Changing other peoples circumstances should be the least of your worries right now. Look behind you.” I whirled and saw that the guard who'd escorted me had been joined by three others. I suddenly remembered where I'd seen the first guard, but somehow it no longer seemed important. Guns cleared holsters, and I ducked, knowing they'd hold fire rather than shoot Johnny.“This is no deterrent Johnny, I've fought rats with guns before. “I leaped forward, tackling a guard; and with a strong right jab, I sent him to lullaby land. Two more pressed in at me, and I back flipped, kicking each of them in the jaw and smiling as they dropped unconscious to the floor.I was about to attack the fourth guard when I heard a whoosh, followed by a large WHACK! My vision blurred, and I felt my knees buckling. A second blow fell against the back of my skull and I dropped like a rag doll to the floor.“You mean you'll be taking a long nap. A permanent nap.” said Johnny.A few minutes later, I pressed my hand to my head and staggered to my feet. I was in a room covered in steel plate, with a heavy door, hinged on the outside in front of me. A thick plate of glass served as a porthole into the room. Looking up, I could see Gentleman Johnny leering at me through the glass. He held up my tool belt and I looked down to see my bared waist. Through a speaker, I heard him say, “Every prison has a Death Row White Owl. This is mine. You took me out of circulation for a long time, and this is payback.”I stood up, placing my hand on the door. “What are you talking about, Foster. Let me out of here!”Foster continued without missing a beat. “See those tubes, White Owl? In a minute, a slow, poison gas is going to come through there. The room will fill up, and you will die, a slow, agonizing death.”“The law will catch up with you Foster,” I said. “You'll answer for this eventually!”“Then I'll see you in hell, White Owl,” he laughed.An acrid scent tickled my nostrils as the first of the poison entered the chamber. I pounded on the door and walls with all my strength, but soon realized I was burning up whatever oxygen was left to me.“If I have to die, then I'm glad it was in battle against criminals,” I thought. “And I'm glad Crimson isn't here to share my grisly fate.”Upstairs, Gentleman Johnny slipped into his king sized bed and sighed. “With White Owl dying in the basement, I ought to sleep better than I ever have,” he said. His valet merely nodded.“You and the other boys watch the cell,” he said. “And when the end is close, get me. I want to see her turning blue, Gus” “Yes sir, Mr. Foster.”“Oh and Gus?”“Sir?”“Shut out my lights.”The room settled into darkness.The Crimson Dynamo stood patiently waiting as White Owl. “I still don't like this,” she said to herself, “But I'll give Owl fifteen minutes before going in after her.” But her patience ran thin, and Crimson used her jump boots to boost herself to the third floor, where she heard Johnny's grim words.“How odd,” she thought, “This place looks like a prison, but the bars are made out of rubber. She easily bent the bars and slipped into a hallway as darkness descended upon the manor. She crept stealthily through the dark house, looking for the stairs. One thought filled her mind. “He said White Owl was still alive. Hold on Athena, I'm coming for you.”She found the stair to the basement. Shooting a line into the wall across from middle stair, Crimson swung into the room. But her foot hit an aluminum beer can, alerting the guards to her presence.“Hey, its the Crimson Dynamo! Stop her!” Crimson bounced off the wall, executed a well timed cartwheel and came up punching at the fake guards. One of them had his club out and took a swing at Crimson. She ducked and came up with an elbow to his solar plexus. The guard OOOMMPHED, then dropped. But the other three guards dove as one, driving Crimson into a wall. She lay dazed an one guard sat on her legs, ready to punch the gallant heroine in the face. “I don't know how you found this place, but you're about to share your friend's fate.”Crimson lifted her arm, aiming blindly at the glass window. “Hope this works,” she muttered. The fist hammered home and she didn't see the result of her errant shot. But I did. The Flash Bang and phosphorus bombs hit at the same time, exploding and shattering the glass porthole to my gas chamber.I scrambled to my feet, and heaved myself through the glass. There was no time to grab my belt; the guard sitting on Tiffany's legs had her semi conscious and was feeling between her legs with his hairy paw. I drew a deep breath, forcing all the poison from my lungs. My healing factor was rapidly restoring my strength and with a rapid succession of lightning fast jabs, I soon had the fake guards unconscious on the floor.“Are you OK?” I asked Crimson, as she roused herself back to full alertness.“Are you out of your mind?” she asked. “You went off alone, to a home of a known felon. Were you TRYING to get yourself killed?”“I thought he'd reformed,” I began.“Criminals NEVER reform,” said Crimson, her gloved finger in my face, scolding.Chastened, we quickly bound the guards and dragged them out of the basement, away from the poison gas.Upstairs, Gentleman Johnny was waking up. “Ahhh What a nice sleep. Now I'm hungry.” He bellowed out, “Skinny, Gus! Bring me some breakfast”His guards stood looking at him, “Look at him, thinking he can order us around. He must be crazy.”“No no, stop talking like that—you work for me, remember?”“I think he needs some time in solitary, Gus, how about you?”The two guards grabbed Johnny and in no time at all, he found himself locked in a solitary cell. “You can't DO this to me. I'm the BOSS! I run this outfit!” He turned from the door and spotted White Owl! “You? But you're dead! I started the gas myself! I killed you!” He jumped and started.But the awakening was worse than the dream. Gentleman Johnny was back in his king-sized bed. “What a horrible dream,” he said. “But White Owl will never bother me again!”But in the darkness of the room, he saw two female figures, silhouetted in the moonlight.“No! It can't be YOU, you're DEAD!”Crimson looked at me and said, “You look pretty good for a corpse.”“Help! Skinny, Gus! Kill them!” shouted Foster.But there was no answer.“Oh that's right, they're handcuffed and unconscious downstairs,” I offered.Foster reached under his pillow and pulled out a lethal looking automatic. “You'll never take me alive!” he cliched.I looked at Crimson and curtsied. Foster's trembling hand kept moving the gun at her, then at me. Finally, Crimson put her gauntlet up and a flash bang exploded in Johnny's face. As he screamed in pain and surprise, I caught him on the aw with a right uppercut. The villain folded and went back to sleep.And so it was that an old customer was returned to the prison; and his dreams are still haunted by the Crimson Dynamo and White Owl.The end...Based on a story from Adventure Comics 492 (which in itself is a reprint) The original is by Simon and kirby--hey if you're going to swipe--swipe the best!