The Midnight Society : Terror in Kappa City




Chapter 1 - Deadly Cargo

Kappa City, 1939

Jack Foley used to be somebody. He had a good job with a secretary. He had his own office in the corner of the building. And he had a reputation for being one slick ladykiller. But in the blink of an eye, it was all taken away from him.

Since “Black Thursday,” Jack Foley was a has-been living on scraps from the local soup kitchen. Not one for the Dutch act like many of his friends, he figured there was too much to live for. He hadn’t had kids yet; hadn’t met the right gal. He heard that maybe there was some work at the docks lately. He was never good with his hands, but there was always a first time for everything.

For a few weeks, he’d been unloading and loading boats up with supplies. Everyone was talking about this Hitler guy and how he wanted to take over the world. FDR wouldn't send no GI’s over, but he would help out how he could. Translation?


Today, however, something had rubbed Jack Foley the wrong way. Not something, but some thing. He had helped unload some crate whose manifest read “Carpathia.” Jack was an educated man, but he'd never heard of Carpathia. He assumed it was in Europe somewhere, since the manifest was also stamped “Lisbon.” He and a few of the guys had decided to open it. It had no destination and when a freight has no destination, it’s up to the guys to open the crate up and determine where it is going.

Jack Foley and another guy, Mickey Something (Jack had been trying really hard to remember names, but they all seemed to be Irish or Italian), pulled the lid off. Immediately, he had felt his throat seize.

Jack Foley never had kids. He hadn’t met the right gal yet.

And now, he never would.

* * * * * *

“Finally! Midnight!”

The skylight flew open. After an entire day of correcting tests and teaching his students about Mesopotamia, Gabriel Storm was ready for the night. But he would greet it as…

Mr. Mercury!

In the distance, a commotion. “I know the area,” he thought. “It’s the docks. It’s probably nothing. The Navy boys are in town. They’re a rowdy bunch.”

He began to run in the direction of the pier. “Then again, rowdy bunches are never so without reason to be.”

In moments, he arrived to a horrifying sight. Six longshoremen killed, mutilated. The police hadn’t arrived just yet. “Hmmm, I'd better keep a good distance away. Last time I got too close to a crime scene, I almost got put in the hoosegow.”

Suddenly, he noticed something. Even in the dim light of 14th Street, he could see a trail of blood going Uptown. He tried not to worry. He knew his ex-wife, Marla, and his son, Alan, both lived up there with her parents. He tried to imagine they were safe and secure and didn’t need his help right now. No, the entire city needed his help right now.

* * * * * *

All along 23rd Street, known as the Flatiron District, there were lights of many colors. Red, green, and white stars shone over the busy streets below. The smell of pine filled the air. Mr. Mercury made a mental reminder. “Got to leave Alan’s present by next Saturday. Wonder if I should get Marla something.”

He swung from an awning down to the street. The cops liked him, for the most part, but they were uneasy when he was around. It was as if he made them feel inferior. There were few mystery men, as the papers called them, in Kappa City. But their ability to move outside the law made them very effective, and their exploits often commanded the headlines more than those of the police did.

The trail ended somewhere around 19th and Fifth Avenue, but he felt compelled to continue four more blocks north. If he'd had help, some kind of vigilante detective friend, he could trail the killer or killers. But Mr. Mercury wasn’t that lucky. He had to rely on hunches and bets that, to his credit, often worked out. But tonight’s seemed to be a dead end.


The call to arms! He rushed in the direction of the scream. North, through the park and across Meadowvale Avenue. Above, unbeknownst to Mr. Mercury, a pair of eyes watched him run.

An alley. It seemed that he always found trouble in an alley. And there she was. One fine looking tomato with gams that started on Sunday and ended next month. Blonde like Veronica Lake, but with Vivian Leigh’s facial expression
when she saw Tara burn to the ground.

Two bums had her locked in tight. One had a knife; the other had two fists the size of cinder blocks.

Mr. Mercury's eyes narrowed. "Didn't anyone ever tell you low-lifes to be good, for goodness sake?"

“Well, well. If it ain’t ol’ Saint Nick!” the bruiser chortled.

“Saint Nick, didja bring us presents? We got one for you!”

The one with the knife lunged. Mr. Mercury dodged the blade easily and kneed the goon in the gut, then drew his Colt M1911.

“Now, the two of you let the lady go and we’ll settle this with the authorities.”

“Oh, I think we’ll just settle it right here,” said the shadows.

KRAK! From nowhere, Mercury got belted right in the jaw. His gun flew out of his hand and across the alley. THUD! A hard foot square in the ribs brought the cowled crusader to his knees.

A thin man in a long black coat stepped from the shadows, his pale face leering underneath a stovepipe hat. “Mr. Mercury, how long has it been? Months? Days? Have you forgotten your old foe…The Wraith?”

“How could I forget?” Mercury wheezed. “You always announce yourself as if you were Jimmy Cagney!”

“So typical. Laughing in the face of danger." the Wraith sneered. "You are quite the daredevil, Mr. Mercury. Now, prepare to go to Hell!”

“Not if I can help it, buster!”

The criminals gasped in fear and took a step back. Mercury looked up, but his savior was obscured by the street light that shone behind him.

The Wraith clutched his coat tightly against the sudden chill in the air. “Who…who are y-you?”

The newcomer left the circle of light beneath the streetlamp and his body seemed to melt into the darkness, leaving behind only a trenchcoat, battered fedora, and a pair of glowing red eyes. "I am the wisdom you cannot know, the fear you cannot see. I am the cold hand of justice closing around the throat of crime. I am the Man who Isn't There. I am...The Enigma!"

* * * * * *

The dim room of the City Morgue was quiet and deserted, as it usually is at the witching hour. It was evident that the dank room had been doing well in its bloody business, as the floor was filled with tables upon which sheet-covered corpses lay.

Suddenly there was a motion in a darkened corner of the room, as a mysterious figure who was not present before slid from the darkness. The man was strangely dressed, wearing a handsome tux with tails and white gloves. He seemed quite out of place in this house of death, but the silken mask that covered his entire head revealed his identity. Here was the scourge of the guilty, whose dual pistols had often sent blazing death to those who would murder innocents. Here was....the REVENANT!

He moved among the shrouded corpses carefully, halting here and there, seemingly undisturbed by the smell of death that hung in the air. Finally he paused by a still figure that he evidently had chosen for some gruesome task.

"You. You will be the one to tell me." The Revenant drew back the bloody sheet to reveal the slashed and broken corpse beneath. His steely eyes narrowed at the sight of the vicious wounds. He leaned close and held a strangely bright ring up to the face of the dead man, the light from the silver ring seeming to catch and dance in the corpse's staring eyes.

"Tell me what happened... Show me your death!" Revenant whispered to the still form. Then the eyes of the corpse seemed to cloud with whiteness, and images began to make themselves clear.

This man's name had been Jack Foley. His story was not unlike that of many other men. A victim of circumstance, he had found himself working on the docks unloading cargo from ships. A shipping crate loomed large in the Revenant's vision, bearing the markings "Carpathia" and "Lisbon". Foley's voice echoed in the masked man's ears. "Mickey, give me a hand with this."

Calloused hands struggled to remove the crate's lid. It had no destination and when a freight has no destination, it’s up to the guys to open the crate up and determine where it is going. The Revenant could feel Foley's curiosity mirroring his own. What was in the box?

Jack Foley pulled the lid off. Immediately, he felt his throat seize.

A dark, thin form leapt from its mouldy containment and pounced on Mickey, pulling him down and tearing at his flesh with claw and fang. Blood spurted from the screaming man's neck. Jack and another worker tried to pull Mickey away, but when they did, Mickey was pale and limp. Then the thing spoke to them.

"Ffffffflesh! Flesh and....blood!" the creature whispered in a voice like paper. "Come and meet your new master!"

Some tried to fight. Others, like Jack just tried to run. None escaped the dock alive. The creature went at its grisly work with deadly efficiency, slicing flesh, tearing limbs, and bathing in blood.

Soon the images in the eyes of the man named Jack Foley went dark, and the morgue was dark and quiet once again.

The Revenant stood in the darkness, trying to absorb the awful scene that had unfurled before him. Suddenly, a woman's scream broke the stillness! The masked man quickly covered the corpse of Jack Foley with a sheet and moved toward the sound. It seemed to be coming from the alleyway behind the building. With a quiet oath, the Revenant swore to rain fire and pain upon the creature that had killed so many at the docks this night! He walked up to the wall and placed his gloved hand upon it as an eerie transformation took place. All color drained from the Revenant, leaving him looking much like a celluloid photo. He then stepped through the wall and vanished!

The Revenant had his LeMat pistols drawn as he stepped out into the shadows of a darkened alley. His color and solidity returned as he observed the situation before him. Two masked vigilantes were confronting a couple of street thugs, along with a mysterious and sinister looking man.

"Is this a private game? Or can anyone play..." the Revenant whispered.

At the sight of three masked vigilantes, all with guns, the two snarling hooligans pushed their lovely captive to the ground and ran down the dark alley. The sinister Wraith threw an icy glare at the brave trio, now standing shoulder to shoulder.

"Your foolish friends won't be there to save you next time, Mercury! Your hours are wearing says the WRAITH!"

With a violent motion, the villain drew a flask from his belt and hurled it at the feet of the heroes! It shattered, releasing a greenish liquid that seemed to glow in the dim light from the street. It made a horrid hissing sound as it moved toward the trio. Two more flasks crashed nearby, surrounding the mystery men with a moat of green death.

"Look out, it's some kind of ACID!" cried the Revenant as he snapped off three quick shots from his trusty LeMat pistol into the shadows the Wraith had disappeared into.

Mr. Mercury drew back from the foul liquid, the tips of his shoes smoking. "Hey, I don't know who you two are, or what you can do, but are either of you carrying a phospate of any kind?" asked Mr. Mercury.

The Enigma and The Revenant looked at each other and then back to Mercury.


"Not exactly."

Mr. Mercury looked at the hissing lake of acid that was slowly consuming the safe ground they were standing on. "Well, nice knowing ya."



Suddenly the sound of an alarm bell filled the air and a powerful stream of water struck the toxic stew encroaching on the intrepid heroes. They shielded their faces as the unexpected torrent swept the acid along the alleyway and down a sewer grate. In seconds, the crisis was averted.

Mercury turned to see a man in a military uniform and white mask shutting off the firehose he had used to remove the acidic menace. "The sign said 'Break Glass in case of Emergency'. I think this qualified as one."

"Who called in the army?" Mercury asked.

"I was on a midnight patrol when I heard about the longshoreman murders on the police band. I decided to pay a visit to the morgue, and it seems I wasn't the only one."

"Those men were torn apart by some sort of creature hidden in a crate from Carpathia," the Revenant said. "It is intelligent, resilient, and very very deadly. The longer it stays at large, the more the city will be endangered."

"How do you know all this?" the Enigma asked.

"The dead keep no secrets from me," the Revenant replied mysteriously.

William Warr was familiar with the wisdom of the dead. He carried with him the spirits of every Warr that took up arms in the defense of his country. Their voices were a source of great strength, but also of great pain.

"Gentlemen, I suggest we find somewhere else to discuss this matter. Unless, of course, you'd like to explain it to the fire department."

* * * * * *

Meanwhile, back at the docks, a strange event was taking place. A shimmering portal opened in the air and a man dressed in red landed heavily on a pile of crates. The man cursed as the portal winked out of existance and the smell of ruined circuitry mingled with the salt air.

The man's name was Charles Lamb, better known as the Red Crow. He was on the trail of a man named Thomas "Hateful Tom" Odieux, a small-time hood who had stolen a time machine and used it to escape to this city and time period. To prevent Odieux from damaging the time stream, Lamb volunteered to follow the villain using another time-travel device. A device that had just given up the ghost.

Finding Hateful Tom quickly had now become even more important, as without Tom's device, the Red Crow would be stranded in the year 1939. He attached a small explosive charge to the useless machine and dropped it into the bay. The muffled explosion assured him that no one would unravel its incredible secrets, and Charles Lamb headed for a nearby warehouse to hide the rest of his gadgets. Then he'd need to find a place where he could get a few hours sleep.

* * * * * *

"I have a car nearby, and know of a quiet place," The Revenant said. "Follow me."

"What about the woman?" Mercury asked.

"The police will be here soon enough, which is all the more reason for us to make haste."

"You go ahead," Warr said. "I'll follow on my motorcycle."

As the group approached the street, a 1938 Benz slid quietly up to the curb. The back door opened.

"These are friends, Alexei." the Revenant said to the massive figure driving the car, "Take us to Secret's Crossing."

"Da, Revenant. Gentlemen."

As the car sped away from the sidewalk, a powerful motorcycle came speeding up from behind, carrying the heroic William Warr.

A gentle rain began to fall as the car and motorcycle vanished into the city night. Soon the city limits had been left far behind them, and an unremarkable country road led them to a hollow in the shadow of a hill.

Mercury looked out the window at the rambunctious river passing by the hollow, then his eyes widened as the car drove inside the hill! The Benz came to a stop in a hall lit by torches, and the Revenant seemed amused by the awestruck expressions on his companion's faces. "This way, gentlemen."

The Revenant and his hulking chauffeur led the way down a crudely carved staircase and across a natural limestone bridge that spanned the wide white river. "What is this place?" the Enigma asked.

"Secret's Crossing. The name dates back to the Civil War, when Union spies used these caves as a safehouse and information storage facility. It was even a stop on the Underground Railroad. After the War, it was cleaned out and sealed up. I found an entrance purely by accident while hiking in the hills and decided to use it as a base of operations."

"Quite a clubhouse you got here," Mercury remarked.

The Revenant smiled thinly. "A bit more room than one mystery man needs, and I rarely have guests." He led the group into a high-ceilinged chamber and motioned to a large table in the center of the room. "Take a seat."

The mystery men seated themselves at the table and Alexei brought in a tray containing glasses of brandy. Mercury shot suspicious glances at the drink and his host. "Did I miss something? When did this become a dinner party?"

The Revenant sipped his brandy calmly. "I assume we all read the papers and therefore have some familiarity with one another's exploits. Of course, facts sometimes get distorted in the media and thus I thought it would be a good idea for us to tell our own stories. I like to know who I'm working with."

"I work alone," the Enigma stated.

"As do I, normally," The Revenant replied. "However, this new menace is too great for any one man to tackle it. By joining forces, we could save many lives. Including, perhaps, our own."

"How is it you know so much about the murders on the docks?" Warr asked. "You act as if you were there to see them."

"In a way, I was. I have certain powers that allow me to see through a corpse's eyes to witness their last moments. I use that ability, among others, to track down and punish murderers. I have been living here in Kappa City for a couple of months, and have kept my actions undercover...until now."

"I do not court the attention of the papers," said the Enigma, "but men do know my name. I invented a suit that would allow men to pass through matter and used an untried energy source to power it. Since then, this suit has been my protection...and my prison. It sustains me, so that I neither sleep nor eat. But it also leaves me formless, like a ghost doomed to walk the earth."

"So we've got a ghost and a guy who dresses like one," Mercury quipped. "What's your story, Warr? Got any ghosts you want to tell us about?"

Warr gazed cooly at Mercury. "Laugh it up, funny man. I have the souls of every dead soldier in the Warr family inside my head. I have their strength, their wisdom, and their courage. From what I've seen, all you've got is a bag on your head and a smart mouth."

"That will be quite enough!" the Revenant shouted as he grabbed Mercury's shoulder to keep him from leaping at William Warr. "I did not bring you here to argue, but to discuss what's to be done about this new threat to our city."

"This is ridiculous!" Mercury snapped. "I'm a gangbuster. I wear a mask and I fight crime. I don't sit around caves talking to spooks about monsters that may or may not exist! Where's the exit to this place?"

The Revenant sighed. "You're not a prisoner, Mr. Mercury. Alexei will take you back to the city if you wish."

"This crime will not solve itself," said the Enigma. "We need to take this threat seriously. We need to unite and defeat this terror."

Mr. Mercury got up from the table. "Tell you what. We'll meet up again tomorrow night. Midnight on the nose. I'd say here, but who knows how to get here on his own?"

"I will have Alexei pick you all up," said the Revenant.

"How? Where?"

"Don't worry...he'll be there and we'll meet here at midnight. Alexei? Take him back."


"Aren't any of you coming with?" asked Mr. Mercury.

"In our own time. We have much to discuss."

"Well, don't go picking out union suits without me."

A short, quiet drive later, Mr. Mercury was home. He unmasked, and undressed. Standing next to his window, he could do nothing but wonder if the night was just a dream. Was there really a monster out there, stalking the alleys of the city? And if there was, would four men be enough to stop it?




Gabriel Storm had a sound sleep. He almost didn't want to wake up, but his responsibilites were too great. His nocturnal responsiblities...and his daily ones too.

The Kappa City Public Library in McDonaugh Park was where he was employed. A year ago, he was the youngest history professor at the university, but cutbacks due to the Depression cost him that job. Here, he was happy. It was quiet...the opposite of his nightly functions. Occasionally, he would grade papers for the teachers at the local high school or assist Frank Snow in teaching his ancient history class. But more often than not, he was cataloguing old books. Organizing...

If only he could organize his life this easily.

"Excuse me..."

"Yes," Storm answered as he turned around.

"I'm looking for a book."

"A book?" Storm asked. "This is a library, brother. We have tons of books."

"Right. How silly of me," replied the stranger. "I'm looking for a book on mammals. Specifically...bats."

"Sure, right this way." Storm led him away and to the shelves. "Now, we don't have an extensive bat collection, but I can show you a whole row of books on rodents. That should get you started. Here we are."


"You planning on checking any of these out?"

"Checking them out? You mean read them?"

"I mean take them home."

"I would love to."

"Ok. You have a library card?"

"A what?"

Storm looked at the stranger. "You from around here?"

"Not exactly."

"I can tell. I have a good eye for visitors. Well, after you find what you're looking for, just come down to the main desk, and I'll fix ya up with a card."

"Will the card provide me with access?"

"To the books? You bet. To the library? Only when we're open, Mac."

"It's Charles. Charles Lamb." He extended his hand.

"I'm Gabriel." He grasped Lamb's hand and shook it.

"Yes, I know."

"Come again?"

"I' Gabriel?"

Storm looked at Lamb. "Well, I've never met another Gabriel, but I'll take your word for it, bud."

As Storm walked away, Charles Lamb let out a quiet sigh of relief. He'd have to be more careful if he wanted to avoid further altering the future. He'd just been a bit surprised by finding Mr. Mercury manning the library desk. A pity he couldn't share his mission with the mystery man; he could have used the help of someone familiar with the city.

Lamb collected several books about bats and found a secluded corner for his research. From inside his coat he pulled out a monocle and a blood-stained sliver of what appeared to be an animal's claw. He'd found the sliver at the scene of a savage murder on the docks, and wanted to find out if it had any connection to his enemy, Hateful Tom. It looked to Lamb like a claw from a bat, though he'd never seen one that large before. He placed the monocle in his right eye and began to rapidly page through the books. For this was no ordinary monocle but a hyper-phasic informeter, a device capable of absorbing information at an accelerated rate and cross-referencing it. Within a few minutes he had scanned all of the books and the sliver, then waited for the informeter to match the claw to a species of bat.


Lamb's brow furrowed. If the claw wasn't from a bat, what was it from?



'Welcome back to Blue Boy Coal's Adventure Theatre! This week it's another adventure featuring the Sentinel of the Skies, Danger Ace. Our story opens with a mysterious black roadster pulling into a warehouse on the docks...'

'Good work, boys.'

'Tanks, boss. Ya know, I never thunk a daylight robbery woulda worked. But you had da fuzz all figgered out.'

'Yeah, boss. I'll bet they're still wondering where our car disappeared to."

'Just like I planned it, boys. Look at this haul. That jewelry store never knew what hit them! Har har!'

'Hey boss, what's that noise?'

'What noise?'

'I hear an engine. Is it the cops? How'd they find us?'

'It can't be a car. It's comin' from the roof!'

'You're right, bad guys. It's not a car or the cops."

"It's Danger Ace! Drill 'im, boys!"


'He ain't human! Boss, halp!'

'Don't worry, boys. I've got him dead to rights. The Ace's luck has finally run out.'

'Think so? Then do your worst!'


'Not your lucky day is it, chump?' WHAP! AARGH! 'Don't feel too bad about losing all this jewelry, though. The cops will be coming around with a set of bracelets for each of you soon enough! Ha ha! Wait a minute, I'm getting a distress call on my wrist radio! What's up, Nipsey?'

'Boss! Boss! A giant lizard is attacking the airfield! You'd better come qui---'

Danger Ace switched off the radio and shook his head. "Wrist radio...whose brilliant idea was that? I gotta have a chat with those writers. And what's with the guy doing my voice? They're getting younger every week! At this rate I'll be fighting crime in diapers by next month."

Nipsey wiped his greasy hands on a rag. "I think I've figured out what was making that noise in the left engine. Say Ace, was that really what happened when you caught up to the guys who knocked over Gennaro's Jewels?"

"Sure...more or less," Ace replied. He loosened his flight jacket and scarf as he picked up the newspaper. "Hey, Nipsey! It looks like Kane Richmond is going to be playing me in an adventure serial! Hollywood, here I come!"



"Hey pal. It's closing time."

Charles Lamb looked up. His monocle was still in place, as was a grimace of frustration.

"Please...another hour. Two?"

"I can't, Mr. Lamp. Rules are rules."

"It's Lamb. And rules may be rules, but they are merely guidelines."

"What are you getting all bent out of shape for? I told you that you could take them home with you after we get your card ready."

"Card! That's right!"

"SHHHH!" said the little old lady at the next table.


"Mr. Lamb, why don't you come down stairs, bring the books, and I'll have you out of here in no time."

Charles looked down at the stack of books. "Five minutes?"

"Fine." Storm walked back to his desk. He didn't have to teach today, so he'd stayed a few hours extra. That meant he'd have a longer nap before his patrol tonight. He just had to get out of the library first.

The front door opened and a sophisticated man walked in.

"I'm sorry, chief. We're about to close up for the day," said Storm.

"I'm not here for a book."

"Well, we don't sell chocolates, so you might want to click your heels and go home."

"My, my. You are a quick tempered one, aren't you," said the suave stranger. "It's easy to see why you wear that hood of yours."

Storm froze.

"Come now, Gabriel. You can't keep secrets like that from me."

"Who are you? And you better make it fast before I show you why I wear a hood at night."

"My name is William Pallentine. But you know me as..."

"The Reverand."

"That's Revenant."

"Right." Storm turned away and then back quickly. "Two questions. How did you find out and what do you want?"

"Number ring. It's hard to explain, but let's simplify it by saying it found you for me."

"Wish my ex had a ring like that."

"Ex...wife? You were married?"

"Were...was, yes. She left when...well, when things got rough." Storm looked down. "What do you want? Why did you have to find me?"

"I was thinking," started Pallentine. "When we all met in the alley, you seemed not to know there were others like you here in Kappa City."

Storm answered, "Right. I've been doing this for a little over a year, and I've never met any other mystery men."

Pallentine smirked. "Did you ever venture outside of your own neighbourhood? I mean, Kappa City is a big place. And what about the other boroughs? Did you think they were unprotected?"

"Never gave it much thought. I just---"

"You just assumed you were alone."


"You're not. And you don't have to be. There's a part of you that wants to resist teaming up with me and the others in this Midnight Society, but you have to recognize that some problems are bigger than one man can handle."

Storm smirked now. "Your ring tell you that?"

Pallentine answered, "It doesn't have to. I can see it on your face." His expression became more serious. "We are in the midst of a mystery that is bigger than any of us can imagine. Try as you might, you must realize this. If you go it alone, you may not come back."

"I may regret this," started Gabriel, "but that's a chance I have to take. See, you have to understand something. There are only two people I care about in this whole world, and I will go to Hell itself to kick the Devil's keister if he even thought about harming them." Storm looked him dead in the eye. "And I wouldn't need a team to do it."

"Fine," said Pallentine. "But here, take this." He held out his hand, in it was a pocket watch on a fob chain. "I came across this watch in one of my first adventures. It is a signalling device. Should you come across something that you can't handle, wind the arms to 12 o'clock and we will find you."

"Hmmph. 12 O'Clock. You mean, Midnight?"

"Life is not without a sense of irony, Gabriel."

"Nor a sense of humor," replied Storm. "The library is closed."



He had lain for what seemed like an eternal sleep. As immeasurable time passed he sensed others nearby and their great emotional upheaval. His withered snout scented death on an unimaginable scale as he remained untouched, undiscovered for an endless night.

The ice he had fallen victim to had long since been replaced by mud, which hardened to trap him. Then his long dead frame felt change on a much more personal level. The very rock that trapped and protected him vibrated, shaken by others. At first he had feared discovery, that the vibrations were a portent to his doom. But when at last his stone prison broke the smell and heat of the living flooded his dead senses. The lust struck him then, an agonizing need to slake his thirst. But he withdrew deep into his mummified form, for to feed now would prove his undoing.

The archaeologists had chipped, torn and picked at the rocky river bed, discovering at first a number of bronze age artefacts, then uncovering a sunken, dirt shadow. Once the rocky threshold was crossed they found the shadow was the mummified body of a bronze age man. Freeing the leathery, dried flesh took time, but eventually the ancient figure lay on a crude mattress of reeds and dust. What could have once been perceived as an elegant battle dress now clung to the
bones in a sickening embrace; long, matted hairs criss-crossing the once noble face of the bronze man. Carefully he was placed into a crate for shipping to a far-away city for further study.

He had felt himself being raised, then a sensation of the earth being far below him. When he sensed solid earth under him again he was laid to rest once more. But no longer did the earth imprison him, for he had sensed warmth near him. Reaching his senses out further he felt the presence of a small group of humans. Probably villagers, he imagined. They drew nearer, the beat in their veins increasing his hunger. As his new prison was breached he had offered his lips to his rescuer.

The sudden flood of new blood in his mouth and veins had filled him with long lost strength. Pushing himself clear he drained his meal, letting the dried corpse fall to the ground. He was among them then, his hands elongating to terrible talons, his jaw becoming a fang-filled snout. Lunging into his prey, draining and feeding as he took their life from them. The influx of power brought with it the memories and minds of his food. Some had tried to run, before being cut down and reunited with their friends in death.

The memories, although hazed, told him the truth of his slumber. Four thousand years had passed since the Slavs had driven him into the frozen river, the wounds from their swords weakening him enough for the river to drag him down. He also now was aware of his new domain. A vast village, thousands of leagues from his homeland of Carpathia. The village was known by his food and their kind as Kappa City.

The blood had sprayed over him, running from his razored maw with a horrific effect. Where his skin had been dry and taut, it now clung to muscular dark limbs. His body filling out as more blood was absorbed, his hair hung long and black again, framing the dark, angular face. His eyes blazed a deep olive green as his red, wet mouth curled into a smile. Fangs retreated into bloody gums as he remade himself.

Thinking back on his victims, he grunted in satisfaction. He had slept too long and although he felt strong, he was still a mere whisper of his former glory. A good night's hunting would change that. He expended a little of his newfound power transforming to a sleeker form. Raising his now lupine muzzle to the air he howled in triumph, then headed into the depths of the great village. Soon, these ignorant mortals would know the name Protanos Sczirenczy.



The Revenant stepped out of the Benz and scanned the area. The park was deserted and silent in the moonlight, but the signal from Mr. Mercury's watch was coming in loud and clear. There was a rustling in the bushes and Mercury stepped out into the light.

"Pretty good response time."

"I was in the neighbourhood. Warr and Enigma will also have gotten the signal and should be on their way."

"They have watches, too?" Mercury said. "Aww, and I thought I was getting special treatment."

"Can the banter, Mercury. What's going on here?"

"There's somebody I need you to talk to."


"The dead guy on the other side of these bushes."

The Revenant pushed aside the foliage to see a man in evening clothes lying in the snow, his life's blood staining the cold, white ground. A sudden chill and the sound of a motorcycle engine heralded the arrival of his new allies.

"Another victim of the dockside murderer?" Warr asked.

"Well, it is his modus operandi," quipped Mercury. "Throat ripped open, most of the blood gone. Or do you think we might be dealing with a copycat?"

"You know, there could easily be two murders here tonight," Warr growled.

The Revenant's ring shone eerily in the moonlight. "Tell me what happened...Show me your death!" he whispered. The corpse's eyes clouded over, and once again the Revenant was mute witness to a man's final moments.

The man's name was Carey Danvers, a name known to the Revenant. Danvers was one of Kappa City's wealthiest young bachelors. He had been on his way to a social function and was running late. Rather than wait for Fletcher to pick him up in the limo, Danvers had decided to take a shortcut through the park. Just a quick dash, no trouble at all...

Something was waiting for him in the darkness. A sinewy grey mass of teeth and claws and thirst for human blood. It knocked Danvers down and tore him apart. Revenant was nearly overwhelmed by the fresh terror in the man's past, the horror and the blood, so much blood...

A slip of orange paper fell from Danver's coat. The creature snatched at it with a clawed hand and studied its content. A sinister smile wreathed its red muzzle, then it tossed the paper aside and dove jaws-first at Danver's throat. The images faded into darkness.

The Revenant's hands shook as he closed the dead man's eyes, cold sweat gluing his mask to his face. "There is a piece of orange paper somewhere in these bushes. Find it! It may provide a clue to where the creature will strike next!"

The four men began to search the area. After a few moments the Enigma's keen eyes spotted the discarded note, marred by dark stains. "Here it is."

"What is it? What does it say?" the Revenant demanded.

"It is a flyer advertising the 'Women's Social Club Benefit for the Humane Society'." Enigma held it up to the others, revealing an image of two young women with cocktail glasses smiling and laughing.

"A party like that would be easy pickings for our murderer," Warr said. "Those women are in deadly danger!"

"Marla..." whispered Mercury.

"Bria!" cried the Revenant. He pushed his way through the bushes and ran for the car. "Alexei! Get us to Dupont Hall and fast!"

"What's his problem?" Warr asked as Mercury also tore off in the direction of the Benz.

"Men only move that quickly when they have something to lose by tarrying," the Enigma replied. "Let us also make haste."

Yes, thought Charles Lamb as he skulked in the shadows nearby, let us make haste. I knew these men would lead me to Hateful Tom. And when it comes to that villain, every second counts!

* * * * * *

The Woman's Club's annual fund-raiser for the Humane Society was in full swing, the large dance floor filled with well-to-do couples swaying to the music from the orchestra.

Bria MacDonnell made her way along the silent auction table, hoping to find her beau William Pallantine a last minute Christmas gift. She knew that the setting of the sun meant that he would be taking on his alter ego soon, the vengeful shape of the Revenant!

"Bria! Oh, Bria dear, where have you been keeping yourself?"

Bria turned to see Eleanor Davis, president of the Woman's Club, approaching at an energetic trot.

"Oh, Mrs. Davis! I've just been browsing around for a present. How are you?" she replied to the large, much coiffured woman.

"Splendid! This year will be better than last, I'm sure of it." she snatched Bria by the arm and lead her through the crowd. "I have someone I want you to meet, she's just about your age, her name is Marla know, Melenie Farris' girl?"

Bria nodded, although she didn't know any of the Farrises. It was better with Mrs. Davis to make conversations as short as possible.

"Ah, here we are!"

Eleanor brought Bria up to a lovely woman sitting at a table on the outside balcony. She was sitting alone, which was strange for someone so young and attractive. Marla smiled as she watched the two approach.

"Marla, this is Bria MacDonnell. She isn't here with her fella either, and I thought that the two of you would make good company!" chimed Mrs. Davis majestically. "Now if you'll excuse me, I think I see Mr. Haney at the podium! Ta-ta!" With a flash of floral print, Mrs. Davis moved back into the crowd on an attack run at another helpless victim.

"Well, I'm awfully sorry to intrude like this, Mrs. Farris." offered Bria.

Marla smiled warmly. "Thats Ms. Farris, but please call me Marla. And I don't mind at all, actually I was getting a bit tired of sitting here alone." She stuck out her gloved hand. "It's good to meet you."

"Same here, Marla." Bria smiled and took her hand. "It's nice to have someone to talk to at these things. I would have expected for someone like yourself to have a man around.....oh, forgive me for being rude."

"Not at all. Most of the fellows here don't want to hang around a divorcee when there's plenty of unattached women around." Marla smiled and looked into her coffee.

Bria gave her a sympathetic look. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything."

"Don't be, I have a wonderful son, Alan, and he's worth all of the headache. ex...he doesn't cause...too many problems."

Bria smiled a bitter smile. "Well, I have a beau, William, but you can see it doesn't do me lots of good either. He works as much as he breathes."

Marla laughed. "Boy, do I know that feeling! I just got the idea that he didn't want to see me after a while."

"Well, it's their loss. Let's just forget about them, and make a lovely night out of it!" Bria lifted her cup. "A toast! To all of the men without their blazes with them!"

Both of the girls laughed heartily for a few moments, then Marla fell silent.

She turned to peer into the shadows thrown by the trees and shrubs surrounding the balcony.

"What is it?" asked Bria, still smiling.

"I thought I heard something..."

* * * * * *

Protanos had fed well since his arrival in this city.

Loping through side streets and alleys, his body bent at the waist, his movement seemed less man than beast. The few scraps of leather concealing his gender swung as he trotted towards a concentration of humans. His eyes widened, the pupils dilating until almost none of his iris could be seen. As he began to sprint, his claws dug into the damp earth and his jaws stretched unnaturally, his nose flattening against his face. Blood and drool ran from the corners of his impossibly wide maw. As he melded with the darkness of the shrubbery near the hot congregation, he scented two young females.

"Ahhhhhhh yesss, they will do nicely." he thought, his mouth slick with anticipation. Slowing to a crawl he crept closer, his nostrils flaring with bloodlust as the two women sat just mere yards from him.

"I thought I heard something..."

The girl's voice stirred him further, his fangs stabbing outward through his gums. He prepared to pounce.



Dang. I was so hoping for an "Are You Afraid Of The Dark" referance.



great little show from the early 90's - yep I remember that But our group is nothing like that. Pulp stories is our bag! Been writing on the boards here for the last 3 years.



The man stood on the observation deck of the Rockford Building, looking out over the skyline of the city. The night wind tugged at his coat like a malicious imp, delighting in his suffering. He was silently thankful that the deck was deserted on this particular evening. There would be no one to see his despair, his ugliness, and his tears.

The Nothing Man leaned heavily on the railing, the weight of the world seemingly upon his shoulders. It seemed like only yesterday that the accident had stripped him of his humanity, his identity, even his name. The filthy rags that encased his head and limbs seemed to be the only thing keeping his body together, but he was far more resilient than he appeared to be.

His was an ageless body, a body without pulse or breath. All that remained was purpose and pain. The Nothing Man could not stand to live in a world where he would have to watch his daughter grow old and die, never getting too close for fear of terrifying her with his wretched monstrosity. The gun, the rope, and the gaspipe had all failed. He climbed up onto the railing and whispered a prayer to the heavens.

"Please...please, let it end."

A single step plunged him towards what he hoped was eternity.

* * * * * *

Danger Ace gazed out over the city lights with a smile. All was quiet in Kappa City, and his evening patrol was almost complete. Not that he would be taking the rest of the night off. He had promises to keep and miles to go before he would sleep.

Lady Fortune was purring like a kitten as she banked lazily over the business district. The Sentinel of the Skies was scheduled to make a personal appearance at the Women's Social Club Benefit for the Humane Society, and flying there sure beat taking the subway. He might have to press the flesh a little with some stuffed shirts and society matrons, but there'd also be champagne, free eats, and no doubt some pretty girls to dance with. All in all, there were far more unpleasant obligations he'd been forced to undertake.

The sight of an ambulance speeding towards the Rockford Building made him frown, as he saw a crowd had gathered at the building's base. Probably another jumper, he thought. Poor devil. Seeing tragedies like that makes you grateful for all the good things in your own life. I've got plenty to live for, but I guess some sad souls have nothing.

* * * * * *

The pain seared across his body as The Nothing Man lay motionless at the ground floor of the Rockford Building. He couldn't feel his left leg and his nose clogged with bloody mucous as he attempted to breathe through the rags around his face.

He had hoped the church fall had been too short and had just been another miracle or whim of his imagination. Surely, the Rockford Building would claim his life if nothing else would.

His eyes watered in both physical and emotional pain as he came to the realization that this life was not going to end. He would have fully wept and sobbed, but his lungs were too crushed to aid him in breathing like that.

His body gave up, just as he had given up hope. His eyes hung in a gaze as he watched people gather around in horror, believing him dead. It was all slow motion. Something told him not to watch but he couldn't help it. He resented these people for the way he knew they would treat him once his rags were removed. But there was nothing he could do, lying there, bones broken and in severe agony...nothing except lose consciousness.

* * * * * *

That was NOT Hateful Tom.

The Red Crow's zip-line launcher had allowed him to reach the Dupont Hall ahead of the mystery men in the Benz, but he had not anticipated the scene of horror before him. A great grey creature howled in triumph over the cowering forms of two helpless young women as screams of terror replaced laughter and conversation. People were trampling each other in their frenzied search for escape, panic evident in their eyes. Charles Lamb knew that this was the thing that had left the claw behind at the docks. It had killed six men and was obviously intent on adding these two women to its victims.

Not if he could help it.

Red Crow swung towards the creature, his cloak billowing out behind him like red raven wings. He drew from his belt an oddly shaped crimson gun and brought it to bear on his adversary. A shrill squawk filled the air as he pressed the trigger, assailing the monster's ears like the cry of a massive bird of prey. It was this sound, this distinctive "caw-caw", that had caused the newspapers of his own time to dub him the Red Crow. The beast was wracked with pain and turned furiously on its new attacker.

There was a squeal of tires as the Revenant's car pulled up outside the hall. "Who is that?" Warr asked.

"Who cares? He's shooting that thing, so that means he's on our side!" Mercury snapped. He and the Revenant charged towards the balcony, guns at the ready. Mercury gasped at the sight of his ex-wife lying at the creature's feet, a gaping wound in her shoulder.


"Monster!" Mercury shouted as he emptied the Colt into the thing. "Get away from her!" The Revenant's eyes betrayed his own hot anger at the sight of his beloved Bria's blood staining the balcony's bricks. His LeMat spat hot venom at what was now his life-long enemy, a creature whose suffering would be legendary.

The murderous beast snarled as the bullets smashed into its dark flesh, then laughed. "Fools! Your pitiful devices cannot stop Protanos Sczirenczy! I shall feast upon your loved ones' souls!"

"It talks!" Warr cried.

"Then it better come up with some last words!" Mercury snarled.

The Enigma seemed to float through the hail of bullets, speeding towards the being that called itself Protanos. The foul fiend could not pass up such a tempting target and lunged viciously forward. To his shock, Protanos' charge carried him straight through the Man who Isn't There and into the silent auction table. Without a word, the Enigma scooped up Marla and carried her away from the fighting, Warr following him with Bria in tow.

Protanos raised himself up from the wreckage with a roar, which changed to a howl as a bola wound its way around his neck before jolting him with an electrical charge. Red Crow smiled as his devious device brought Protanos to his knees, but his eyes widened as the creature tore the bola to shreds.

Before Protanos could stand again, a heavy chair smashed down onto the back of his head. Mr. Mercury wound up for another swing as the Revenant drew a swordcane and plunged it into Protanos' back. The brutish beast lashed out at the vengeful duo, sending Mercury crashing through a crystal punchbowl and Revenant flying out onto the unforgiving pavement.

Revenant clutched his arm and writhed in agony. He turned his eyes to Bria, lying still and pale on the sidewalk nearby. He reached for her. "Bria...I...I'm sorry."

Danger Ace's eyes widened as he saw the pandemonium issuing forth from the Hall. "What on earth...I'd better get Lady Fortune down on the ground. It looks like trouble!"

Red Crow was rapidly running out of ideas. What would it take to stop this thing? Anything he hadn't tried was too dangerous to use with all these innocent bystanders around. The ghostly figure and the masked soldier had opened fire on the beast, but bullets hadn't been all that effective thus far.

Warr gave a frustrated grunt as each of his bullets struck home without any effect. "It's too powerful! It can't be stopped!"

"Step back! Your weapons cannot hurt him!" cried a strange voice.



The voice came from a mysterious young man in a grey hooded robe, wielding a wooden staff colored a deep earthy brown. The man's face was wreathed in shadow, but a bright light shone from the tip of the staff which he thrust forcefully at the leering Protanos. "Back, foul creature of darkness and death!" the man commanded in a voice thick with a mysterious accent. "Back to the sinister hell that spawned you!"

A beam of pure white light shot from the staff's tip, searing Protanos' clammy grey flesh. Protanos shrieked, the pain from this newcomer's wand felt like sunlight at its hottest. He had no fear of the devices that threw metal, but he was too weak to battle with someone this accomplished in the mystic arts. This interloper had to be a sorceror or holy man; Protanos could sense the magical energies the stranger had at his command. With a malicious hiss, Protanos coiled his body like a spring and shot through a nearby window in a shower of plate glass.

Mister Mercury groggily extracted himself from the pile of broken wood and glass he had helped create. "What happened?"

"Don't ask me," said Warr. "Ask Friar Tuck here."

"The creature is escaping!" the stranger cried. "It will return to its lair to recover its strength."

"Not while I'm still breathing!" growled Mercury as he charged out of the Hall.

"Who are you, stranger?" the Enigma asked. "How were you able to harm this creature that shrugged off our best assaults?"

"I am the Soul Trader," the stranger replied. "I have come to this city to protect it from supernatural menaces. It would seem I have arrived not a moment too soon."

* * * * * *

Danger Ace had set Lady Fortune down in the middle of the street, drawing confused glances from a pair of drunks on the corner. He had his pistol ready when something smashed out of one of the Hall's front windows and into the parking lot. "Hey, you! Freeze!" Ace shouted.

His jaw dropped as the strange grey beast before him began to nearly double in size. Six enormous leathery wings burst wetly from the creatures body and it took to the air with disturbing grace. Danger Ace looked on in amazement as the thing flapped its way past him and then banked sharply as it struggled to gain altitude.

A bloody hand grabbed him by the collar. "Hey, flyboy! That your plane?"

Ace was startled by the sudden appearance of a battered man in a blue cowl.

"Uh, yeah."

"Well then, start that puppy up. We're going after that thing."

"We are? What in blazes is going on here?"

"No time for that, junior. I'll explain in the air. Now hustle!"

Protanos swept down the moonlit street like a cruel shadow, passing over the sidewalk where the women and the Revenant lay. Revenant glared up at the monster, his eyes gleaming with hatred, and a vile voice echoed in his mind.

"Ahhhh yessssss, Deadspeaker! Hate me, for we will cross paths again soon!"

Wings beating faster, Protanos hurtled through the air and into the night.

The two Gypsy Six engines came to life with a cough and sputter, and soon the Lady Fortune circled around the parking lot and headed down an alleyway. Racing forward with a roar as the pilot throttled up, its wingtips nearly touching the brick walls on either side of it. Dead ahead, Mercury saw a line of stalled traffic left in the wake of the monster.

"Uh," Mister Mercury said from the rear seat, seeing a head-on collision imminent, "You sure you know how to fly this thing?"

Moving down the alleyway at a rapid pace, the plane suddenly leapt off of the ground. Its landing gear clipped the top of a stopped cab, removing the 'On Duty' sign atop it with a hail of sparks.

"Sorry about that," Ace muttered.

Pointing the aircraft's nose toward the heavens, he pulled back on the stick, zooming off in pursuit of the flying beast.

"Revenant!" Warr ran to the fallen mystery man, with Crow, Enigma and Soul Trader in tow. "Are you all right?"

"No," Revenant replied, "my arm is broken. And the creature has gotten away. It flew off less than a minute ago."

"It flies now? Terrific. Where's Mercury?"

Revenant pointed to the plane speeding off into the distance. "I think he's on that plane, heading after the monster. I just hope he leaves enough of it for me to deal with."

The sound of sirens heralded the less-than-timely arrival of the Kappa City police. Red Crow let out a sigh of relief. "Finally, some help has arrived."

"Freeze! Drop your weapons and put your hands behind your heads!"

Crow's jaw dropped. "What? What's going on here? Why are they pointing their guns at us?"

"Well," Warr remarked, "some of us are wanted by the police. Plus we're wearing masks and carrying guns, we've got blood on our clothes, and there's no one here to back up our 'monster' story. You have to admit, it looks kind of suspicious."

"You're right..." Revenant said, "it does!" The five desperate men suddenly made a break for the abandoned cars nearby, bullets whizzing past them like angry hornets. Revenant found Alexei crouching behind the Benz, watching over the wounded women.

"The police have surrounded us, tovarisch. And Miss Bria's pulse is growing weaker."

Revenant swore under his breath, then spun and trained his LeMat on the man sneaking up on him and Alexei. The man was wearing dark glasses and a derby hat, and he held up his hands which were clutching a cane and a small black bag.

"Don't shoot! Don't shoot. My name is Jefferson Jackson. I'm a doctor."

* * * * * *

"You're losing it!"

"Pipe down!"

"Make this thing go faster!"

"I said, pipe down!"

Danger Ace was trying to concentrate, but Mister Mercury's backseat flying made it difficult. Despite the distractions, Ace had the monster in his sights and was closing in. Ace knew that he had no mental powers, but when he concentrated...when he set his mind to was almost as if he could will it into being.

"Getting closer."

"What are we going to do when we do get closer?"

"I don't know," answered Danger Ace. "Shoot him down?"

"He's not the Red Baron! He's a vampire bat! How'd they kill Karloff in that movie?"

"It wasn't Karloff, it was Lugosi!"

"Lugosi? Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure! And they killed him with a wooden stake! So maybe..."

"What about silver bullets?"

"That kills werewolves!" exclaimed Danger Ace.

"Any wood in this plane?" asked Mercury.

"No, but you're kind of a blockhead, if you know what I mean."

"Watch out for the billboard!" Mercury shouted. "Who do you think you are, pal? Danger Ace?"

"I AM Danger Ace!"

"What? I thought Danger Ace was somebody the radio station made up to sell coal."

"I get that a lot," Danger Ace replied, "You'd be amazed how rarely people in this town look up."

"Bring us in closer," Mercury said. "I've got an idea."

"Like what?" Ace laughed, "You're going to swing out on one of the cargo straps, jump on its back, and force it down?" When he got no response, Ace chanced a look behind him and saw that Mercury was not in his seat. Then he felt a tugging on the right hand side of the plane, and looked down to see Mister Mercury suspended from a cord, trying to get a hand on the vampire.

"When am I gonna learn to keep my mouth shut?"

* * * * * *

"These women have lost a lot of blood," Dr. Jackson said. "We have to get them to a hospital immediately."

"Are you sure you want to help us?" the Revenant asked. "As you can see, we're not exactly friends of the law."

"That's between you and the police. My interest is in saving these women's lives. St. Vincent's Volunteer Hospital isn't far from here, but we have to move quickly."

"Which brings us to the problem of being pinned down by police gunfire," Red Crow remarked. "Not to mention our possible exits being blocked by squad cars."

Warr reloaded his pistol and stuffed it into the back of his pants. "Cover me. I'll try to draw enough of them away for you to get out." He waited for a break in the gunfire, then bolted from the shelter of the Benz as Revenant and Enigma drove the police back behind their cars. The motorcycle's engine roared to life, and Warr sped past the police roadblock shifting gears with one hand and returning fire with the other. Several cars peeled out of the lot in pursuit of the masked soldier.

"Now!" shouted the Revenant. Alexei dove into the driver's seat and started the Benz while everyone else piled into the front and back seats. Revenant winced as his arm was pressed against the car door, but Bria's pale face chased all thoughts of his own discomfort from his mind. The car sped out of the parking lot and into the street while the police were still fumbling for their keys.

Warr shot a glance at his rear-view mirror and hoped the others had gotten out okay. He'd lead John Law on a merry chase, then ditch them and head for St. Vincent's. He'd made this play before, and so had several of his ancestors. These cops didn't stand a chance.

Warr weaved in and out of the oncoming traffic, putting some distance between himself and his pursuers. A quick trip along the sidewalk carried him through a busy intersection, followed by a bootleg turn onto a side street. He'd lost all of the cars except for two. With a screech of rubber, he faked left then went right down a nearby alley. A classic from the Warr family playbook.

Unfortunately, these cops weren't using that playbook. Warr found himself staring into the headlights of two oncoming police cars while the two pursuing him filled the alley behind him. All of Warr's ancestors suddenly shouted in unison.


Warr flew over the handlebars of the motorcycle and bounced off of the roof of one of the cars in front of him. There was a sickening crunch as all four police cars collided, crushing the motorcycle like an empty can. Warr fell to the pavement like a rag doll and lay still as the sirens of the ruined cars slowly grew silent...



"No, no, no!! Up!! UP!!!" Mercury yelled as he dangled perilously from the cord trailing the Lady Fortune.

Protanos had led Danger Ace and Mister Mercury a merry chase through the concrete canyons of Kappa City, and with a terrific burst of speed pulled out above the ribbon of the West River below.

"Crazy knothead...." muttered Danger Ace as he threw open the throttle and yawed to the right, "That guy had better be luckier than I am to pull this off..."

Lady Fortune accelerated past the flying monstrosity, swinging the cable from which Mercury dangled fully around the creature.

"WOAHHH!!" Mercury shrieked as he swung wildly from the cord.

Protanos felt the cable wrap around his chest and wing. With a snarl and slash of steel-like claws, he sliced through the tether like a wet noodle. The sudden detaching of the cable caused Danger Ace's plane to pitch wildly into a dive.

"Come on, honey, don't do this to me." Ace whispered as he fought the controls and watched the river rise to meet him, a highway of glistening death.

"BANG!" A shot from Mister Mercury's Colt tore into Protanos' ribs, followed by two more. The gruesome figure whipped its head down on an elongated neck of sinewy flesh to look at its attacker, clinging tenaciously to the scrap of cord entangling the vampire's torso.

"Fool!" he barked, "Your efforts will not help you, or your friends! This city will become my new empire of death!"

"'s a little Christmas present from me to you!" snarled Mercury. He whipped out the watch given to him by the Revenant, and with a massive blow slammed his fist, watch and all, into one of the wounds in the creature's side!

"YAARRRRGG!" Protanos writhed in agony from the attack. As he pitched over with a flap of his massive wings, Mercury lost his perilous grip on the cable, grabbed at it with a blood-slick hand....and fell...

"Mercury!" exclaimed Ace, glimpsing the mystery man's perilous drop over the river. Instinctively, he dove the plane after his former passenger. A wall of water rushed up at him, the masked figure turning end over end above it in seeming suspension. Over the roar of the engines and rush of air outside of his cockpit, he was almost certain he heard the vampire lord's evil laughter.

Danger Ace's vision began to narrow into a black tunnel as G-Forces pressed in on him. "C'mon, c'mon," he muttered between his teeth.

The river grew closer in a rush like an express train shooting out of a tunnel, Mercury's form growing larger in the cockpit window. Jerking the stick back to come out of the suicide dive, Ace brought the plane up and under the falling man.

The world was a blur of sky and water. Images of his family, of Marla, spiraled in his mind's eye. Grasping out at anything in his terrifying, dizzying freefall, Mister Mercury found his fingers clamping down on a red fuselage. They slipped and he slid down the side of the Lady Fortune. Then, they found purchase in a port. Digging his hands into it and bringing his feet up onto the relative security of the wing, he slumped against the plane.

Levelling off and slowing down, Danger Ace brought the plane lower over the river. An exhausted Mercury stumbled back into the cockpit, legs rubber, arms numb.

"You maniac!" Ace reprimanded the other man. "What the devil were you thinking?"

"I guess its true what they say, about your life flashing past..." Mercury gasped. "He got away, didn't he?"

"Yes. Are you sure you're--"

"Never mind me. Get back to the Hall. I've got to check on somebody."

Turning the plane back toward the city, Ace asked, "Who was that, anyway?"

"I don't know his name," Mercury mused, slouching and catching his breath. "But he's got plans and I aim to be there to screw them up. So step on it. Or pull it. Or whatever you do to make this thing go faster."

* * * * * *

"Fascinating," Dr. Jackson said, "and you formed this 'Midnight Society' to deal with the creature that attacked the Benefit tonight?"

"It's something of an experiment," Revenant replied. "As you can see, we're dealing with something far too dangerous for one man to handle."

"Indeed. You know, I'm something of an amateur inventor and have often contemplated becoming a mystery man myself. All too often, I end up dealing with the aftermath of violent crime. Perhaps I could do more good preventing crimes from happening. Preventative medicine, you might say."

Revenant reached into his coat and pulled out a pocket watch on a fob chain. "Well, if you ever do decide to take on the mantle of 'dangerous vigilante' like us, turn the hands of this watch to twelve o'clock and we'll find you."

Dr. Jackson turned the watch over thoughtfully in his hands. "Twelve o'clock...midnight...Doctor Midnight?" He smiled to himself as he put the watch into his coat pocket. "How's the sling?"

"It's fine, doctor. What about Bria, will she be all right?"

Dr. Jackson shook his head sadly as he regarded the two still figures on the nearby beds. "I've stopped the bleeding, so they're in no immediate danger. But their breathing and pulse rate are dangerously low, and I can't seem to revive them."

"They are beyond the help of your medicines, doctor," the Soul Trader murmured. "They have been infected with the corruption of the fiend that attacked them. In time, they will become creatures just like him. It would be safest if we killed them now and ensured the sanctity of their souls."

"I'm afraid that course of action is unacceptable," the Revenant said icily, his hand on his pistol. "Furthermore, if you were to attempt that course of action I'm afraid I would have to put a bullet between your eyes."

"Calm yourself, Revenant! There is another option."

"Enigma!" Revenant cried. "Where did you disappear to?"

The Man Who Isn't There had reappeared as mysteriously as he had vanished. "I paid a visit to a friend of mine, an author who has done some research into the supernatural." He set a leather case bearing the initials H.P.L. down upon a nearby table. "I believe he has provided us with a way to save these women and destroy the creature that calls itself Protanos." The Enigma opened the case and retrieved what appeared to be a large wooden stake covered in strange sigils.

"The Thorn of the Lightbringer!" the Soul Trader gasped. "How did you acquire such a powerful relic?"

"It was entrusted to my friend following an adventure he had in Romania. This weapon has sealed the fate of many vampires. Once Protanos is dead, these women will be freed of his influence and whole again."

"So Protanos truly is a vampire?" Red Crow asked. "He doesn't look like any vampire I've ever heard of."

"There are many different varieties of vampire beyond the one immortalized by Hollywood," The Enigma replied. "The hopping vampire of China, the Macedonian vampire of Greece. The creature we are hunting is a type of vampire not seen in centuries, a type long thought to be extinct."

"The vampiric equivalent of a dinosaur," Dr. Jackson mused. "Fascinating..."

"Protanos Sczirenczy was a tyrant who ruled over most of the Slavic territories during the Dark Ages," Enigma continued. "His depravities were so great he was said to be more beast than man. He was finally ousted from his stronghold by the armies of his enemies and driven into a river to his apparent death. It seems the 'Butcher of Carpathia' was more resilient than originally thought."

"At least now we know what we're dealing with," the Revenant said. "I just wish we knew what's happened to Mister Mercury and William Warr."

* * * * * *

"G-I-5-1234 please. Thank you. Hello? Yes, I need to know if you have any information on a patient that has been admitted tonight?"

Danger Ace put his feet up on his desk and stared at the ceiling. When he and Mercury had flown over Dupont Hall, they'd seen nothing but squad cars and news reporters. Eager to avoid both, they had returned to the airfield where Mercury had spent the past half hour trying to track down some dame named Marla.

"Her name's Marla Storm...I mean, Farris. Look, I don't know which name she might be using. Could you just check both? Thank you."

Nipsey had been plenty mad about what Ace had put the Lady Fortune through, but the old girl was a real trouper and had made it through far worse scrapes before. Still, Nipsey had insisted on grounding her for the rest of the night.

"Dammit!" Mercury slammed down the phone and began pawing through the phone book again.

"Calm down, man," Ace said. "It's not worth it giving yourself an ulcer over some dame."

"She is not 'some dame'!" Mercury snapped. "She's my ex-wife. Oh God, what if she's dead? What if that thing killed her? My son...what's going to happen to my son?"

Danger Ace got to his feet, a look of wonder on his face. He'd just seen this man swing hundreds of feet in the air to grapple with something out of a nightmare without batting an eye. But the thought of something happening to his family obviously terrified him. "Listen, I've got some connections. Maybe I'll have better luck tracking her down than you have."

Mercury looked up at the Sentinel of the Skies. "'d do that for me, Danger Ace?"

"Sure," Ace replied, then he held out his hand. "And my friends call me Nat."

Mercury shook it firmly. "Nat?"

"Nathaniel Risk. That's my real name."

"Mine's Gabriel Storm. Look, I really appreciate this. I--"

"Don't mention it. Go grab yourself a cup of java, I've got some phone calls to make."

* * * * * *

Protanos hunched in the shadows and licked at the black wounds that scored his body. The Deadspeaker and his little friends, they would pay for their interference! Protanos would savor every second of their terror, every drop of warm red blood as he humbled them and made their loved ones the slaves of his army of death!

He raised his head as a strange sound was carried to him on the night wind. His face split into a horrifying rictus grin. It was a sound he had never expected to hear again.

It was the cry of his mate.



Thomas "Hateful Tom" Odieux chuckled to himself as he followed the clicking noise the strange device in his hand was making. What a fool he had been! Why had he been content to rob banks and steal paintings when he could plunder humanity's greatest treasures? With Dr. Welles' time travel device and his own extensive knowledge of history, Hateful Tom was poised to make the first of many thefts he and his minions would carry out throughout all of time!

"Soon, mes amis," Hateful Tom chuckled, "soon we weel enjoy ze first of our ill-gotten gains!"

Tom's minions, Red Roger and Denny the Dentist, rubbed their hands together greedily. They had no idea what artefact Tom had located, but it had to be valuable the way he had been going on about it. "How much further, boss?" Roger whispered.

"Not long now. Just around zis corner!"

Denny shone his flashlight on the large crate sitting alone in the middle of the darkened warehouse. The words 'Carpathia', 'Congo', and 'Honolulu' were stamped on the side in big black letters. "Is that it, boss?" the hulking brute asked.

Hateful Tom smiled. "Zis device has picked up ze compounds in ze centuries-old dust and is reading zem loud and clear. Open ze crate and let us feast our eyes upon our new acquisition!"

Roger pulled out a crowbar and jammed it under the edge of the crate's lid. To his surprise, it came away easily. Roger let out a terrified squeak as he saw what was inside the crate.

"It's the night watchman! He's dead!"

"Where's the artefact, boss?" Denny asked. "There's nothing in here but a dead guy."

"Impossible..." Hateful Tom murmured. "Ze signal is still coming in loud and clear." He moved the device around, listening to the tell-tale crackle intently. "Ze coming from...above us?"

Suddenly a dark shape plunged from the rafters onto them with a keening howl. Denny was knocked heavily to the ground, his flashlight spinning out of his hand. In the inky blackness, he could hear Roger's screams, Hateful Tom's curses, and the sound of Tom's custom-built Viper Gyroc pistol firing again and again. His hand fell across something cold and metallic...the flashlight! Denny switched it on and turned its beam in the direction of the noises.

It was rather ironic that the last thing Denny the Dentist would ever see was long, sharp teeth.

* * * * * *

William Warr's eyes swam to the surface of consciousness. He turned his head slowly, gritting his teeth against the pain. The last thing he remembered was hauling himself up off of the pavement and staggering away from the wreckage of the accident in the alley. His ears had been ringing, his shoulder throbbing, and he was leaving a trail of blood from a wound in his leg. He must have passed out...but where was he now?

He was in a hotel room, a nice one by the looks of it. Two beds, fruit basket, a stack of cheesy romance novels on the night table. Maybe his luck was finally beginning to change. Maybe he'd been rescued by some tall blonde Good Samaritan with a great set of...

"Good evening."

Warr sat up on the bed, instantly alert. On the other side of the room, smiling serenely, was the biggest Japanese he'd ever seen in his life. He was wearing a blindingly white suit, but Warr guessed this guy wasn't selling ice cream. "Welcome to my humble room," the man said, and reached into the inside pocket of his jacket.

Warr rolled off the bed, his gun readied in a flash. But the man wasn't there, and Warr suddenly found himself surrounded by white suit and muscle. The man launched Warr into the air, and for the second time that night Warr found himself sprawled on the ground, his gun spinning away. Warr clambered across the floor towards his gun, only to have a huge white shoe come crashing down on it. The man reached into his pocket a second time, pulling out a policeman's badge.

Nope, the ol' Warr family luck was the same as ever. Bad.

Warr rolled aside and sprang to his feet, but the cop was blocking the door. Warr drew his knife and both men dropped into a ready stance. The cop was quick for such a large man, but he kept his distance as Warr's knife flashed and thrust at him. A sudden slash backed the behemoth up a step, giving Warr all the opening he needed to race for the door.

A hard fist came out of nowhere and caught him on the side of the jaw. Warr stumbled backwards, dropping the knife and having his legs swept from under him. He landed on his injured leg and a thunderbolt of pain stunned him long enough for the Japanese to whip off his necktie and truss Warr up like a chicken.

Warr glowered up at the Japanese, who sat down and dabbed at his brow with a small white handkerchief. "Hojo-jutsu, ancient art of knot-tying. Very useful skill for policeman to learn. Please excuse this unworthy detective for not properly introducing himself. I am Inspector Murasami Toku of Honolulu, known to most Americans as Sammy Tsunami."

I can see where he gets that moniker, Warr thought. He towers over everything like a tidal wave. "I take it I'm under arrest, Inspector?"

"I hope it will not come to that, Warr-san. Yes, I know that you are wanted for questioning in the shooting of a man called 'The Brawler' and the unfortunate demise of a man suspected of being a German spy, but those matters are not what I wish to discuss. Prefer to discuss matter of dockside murders on previous night."

"I didn't kill those men."

"I believe you, Warr-san. This humble detective also believes that these murders have some connection to murders that have taken place across two continents. Murders that we have been trying our utmost to solve."

"Who's we?"

A bare foot wearing a bone ankle bracelet padded into Warr's field of vision. He looked up, and up, and up to see a gorgeous amazonian blonde glaring down at him. She was wearing what appeared to be a bikini made from various grasses, leaves, and fronds, and her right hand was still curled into the fist that had nearly knocked him into next Tuesday. Despite the ache in his jaw and the pain in his leg, all Warr could think about was how much he regretted not having any weed-killer on him.

"Please excuse rudeness of this worthless detective," Sammy said with a small bow, "This is Miss Shekla of Africa. She has been most helpful to investigation, being only person on two continents to have seen murderer and lived to tell the tale."

"A foul, unnatural beast," Shekla growled. "It is as your Rudyard Kipling said, 'the female of the species is deadlier than the male'."

"Female?" Warr said. "The thing that killed those dock workers was male. It calls itself Protanos."

Shekla and Sammy looked at each other, then Sammy shook his head. "Darkest suspicions are now all too possible. Not one murderer, but two."

"Will someone tell me what is going on?" Warr snapped. "And how about untying me as well?"

Sammy freed the struggling soldier with a quick tug and proceeded to replace his necktie as he spoke. "There is businessman in Germany with ties to National Socialist party and love of antiquities, gotten legally or otherwise. Recently, man sends team to Carpathia to dig up ancient fortress. Team ships two crates out of Carpathia, one to Lisbon, one to Congo."

"The contents of the crate that reached the Congo got loose," Shekla explained. "It massacred an entire tribe of harmless natives. I fought and wounded it, but it disappeared. It must have somehow made its way back to its crate and shipped out on the next cargo vessel."

"Crate then arrives at Honolulu," Sammy went on. "More murders committed. This unworthy detective is asked to investigate. Encountered Shekla, who had followed crate, and learned that crate had then been shipped here to Kappa City."

"But why send the crates here?" Warr asked. "Why not ship them back to Germany in the first place?"

"Suspect German businessman has American confederates," Sammy replied. "Confederates hold onto artefacts until heat is off, as Americans say. This humble detective had hoped that the second crate contained nothing but harmless antiquities, but it seems that now our difficulties have doubled."

The huge detective stood up and bowed low to William Warr. "Please accept humblest apologies concerning rough treatment, Warr-san, but was necessary in order to detain you. Interview is at an end, so may this most unworthy detective escort you to a hospital?"

"Take me to St. Vincent's Volunteer Hospital," Warr said. "There's some people there who need to hear this story, too."

* * * * * *

Volya Maneshcu licked her bloody lips one final time, savoring the delicious flavor of fear and anguish. These ruffians had been woefully unintelligent, but she had absorbed enough from them to know that she was in a place called Kappa City, thousands of miles and thousands of years from her home.

But Hateful Tom, oh, she had enjoyed the taste of his blood! The brilliant intellect, the overweening pride, the delightful cruelty! She would have savored his death like a fine wine.

But alas, she had only gotten a taste of him. He had shot her with something called a Viper Gyroc, and it had hurt. By the time she had recovered, he was gone, leaving the Viper Gyroc and something else behind.

She stroked the funny little device she had bound to her thigh with the shredded shirt of one of her latest victims. The part of Hateful Tom that she had stolen told her that this machine allowed its user to travel to any point in time or space that he chose to. But she still lacked the knowledge to operate it, and that irked her. Volya decided that she would stalk the streets of this city and track down the man called Hateful Tom. She would drain him of his precious blood, devour his soul, and steal his vast knowledge, including knowledge of the time machine.

And then, oh, what fun she'd have.