Meanwhile, in a brightly illuminated restaurant marked by a contrasting black and white décor with a stylish and romantic 1930s ambiance, elegantly clad people mingled and dined. The most attractive woman present would have perhaps attracted attention and approving stares even if her voluminous blonde hair didn’t create a sensation among the other guests. Dorcas Leigh was enjoying herself, since the grand opening of Whimsey marked a new and hopefully successful period in the lives of the proud owners, her friends Dotty and Bert Sayers.
The heroine of Great Britain known as Godiva was none too certain that the new eatery near West India Quay in Limehouse would bring in the yuppies, dinkies, swells, and jollies needed to make an ’80s business a success.
Still, Godiva herself looked stylish in a green full-skirted taffeta silk crinoline ball dress with puffed sleeves accessorized with diamonette earrings. She smiled to herself. Who would have thought my super-powered mass of hair would become a trendy fashion statement thanks to the big hair and shoulder-pad look made popular by shows from the States like Dynasty and Dallas! she thought as she glanced around the room.
She referred to the fact that, ever since an amazing accident involving the legendary comb of the original Lady Godiva, Dorcas had possessed the ability to alter the length, texture, visibility, and formation of her hair, which had also gained the power to become as hard as metal and even transparent.
The young woman had used her new gifts to become the costumed heroine Godiva, and in this role she had gained fame and occasional notoriety from the British tabloids as well as the traditional press. She had served as one of the Global Guardians and had become a stalwart member of a more locally based team of champions called the Paladins.
She smiled as she saw a few other famous faces in the crowd. Scooter? I thought I saw a motorbike parked out front! she thought as she spotted a slightly shaggy-haired, middle-aged musician.
Before she could return to her friends at their corner table, she heard a scream from outside. She hurried outside but saw nothing out of the ordinary. “This Arabella Pollen gown is not exactly something you’d find at Marks and Sparks, so I hate to risk ruining it, but if someone is in trouble, I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t take a quick look to see if I can lend a hand or a tress!”
She elongated her hair until it formed two wing-like projections, and she slowly flew into the air to gain a better view. Godiva swiftly spotted the source of the scream. A blonde girl was being carried away into a shadowy alleyway by a weird man in a frock coat.
Godiva swooped down and blocked his path. She also gasped as she caught sight of his odd features. He had red glowing eyes that burned through the darkness and revealed a sharp pointed nose and pointed ears. His tattered frock coat hung tightly across broad shoulders and tapered down to an elongated if slightly twisted waist. He screamed at her in a strange gibberish before laughing madly.
“Well, just when I thought this area was attracting a better class of tourist, a fellow like you has to come along and lower property values something fierce!” she said in a mocking tone. She had two long tendrils of hair snake out to grab the woman and pull her to safety.
The attacker scowled and then ran forward with claw-like hands raised in anger. Godiva was ready to sidestep the weird being, but she was completely taken by surprise by his next movement. He spat in the heroine’s face, and she fell backward as a blue-white flame engulfed her features and blinded her.
She shielded herself with solidified hair and caught her breath as her vision returned, and she realized that in spite of being struck directly in the face by the eerie fire, she was totally unharmed. “Cor! What kind of maniac was that?” she said as she slipped into her old habit of assuming a fake Cockney manner.
Godiva rushed over to examine the fallen woman, since there was no sign of the inhuman attacker. “She’ll be fine, but her clothes have been ripped near to shreds. I guess I was just in time.” She glanced down at her own now-muddy dress and sighed. “I can’t say the same for my outfit, though! I hope this lurker in the night has a good income. He owes me for a designer gown!”
The next day, Dorcas Leigh was yawning as she sat up in her comfortable bedroom, when she blinked and then saw a dark-clad figure looming over her.
“What the–? Batman?” she said as she pulled on a robe and faced the hero. “You have to be the real deal, or my security system would have gone off! Even so, I hate to imagine what my snooty old bat of a neighbor will be whispering around the area about my kinky-dressed male visitor!”
“I’m sorry to have to disturb you, but a woman’s life is hanging in the balance, and I could use some help,” he said. “I’ve been to your country several times and had success in every venture alone, but this time I could use some help from someone who knows the terrain. I’m here to ask you to help me find a missing actress named Lynette Anderson.”
Godiva nodded slowly. She knew Batman from a past case involving the Global Guardians and the Justice League of America, and she respected him. (*) Anyone in their line of work had to respect the famed Caped Crusader. He was a professional’s professional and he rarely failed in anything he attempted.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Times Past, 1983: When Comes the Conqueror.]
“Lynette?” she said. “I’ve been away from the telly and the papers, so I didn’t know about the case. I’ve heard of her. She was in a lovely series of period pieces by Dickens a few years ago. I rather fancy the classics. I suppose it goes back to my days as a Lit major.”
“She was abducted from the set of her latest film,” explained Batman. “Her abductor was not your typical stalker. He apparently possesses supernatural powers and incredible agility. He literally vanished with the girl in a puff of smoke!”
Godiva sat on the edge of the bed and crossed her legs as she nodded intently. “I had a run-in last night with something of a goblin, myself. He had glowing eyes, pointed ears, and spat blue-white fire in my face. The odd thing is that his fire didn’t hurt. It blinded me for a few seconds, and that was enough time for him to get away.”
She hesitated for a moment and then added, “This may sound a bit daft, but the maniac seemed to be patterned after an old folk legend. Have you ever heard of Spring-Heeled Jack?”
“Wasn’t that the rather colorful name given by the local authorities to a Jack the Ripper type of the late Regency/early Victorian era?” said Batman. “I didn’t make the connection at the time, but the man in question did leap like a human grasshopper, and he was dressed in an old frock coat that would have dated back to that time as well.”
“Hold on a tic.” Godiva elongated one lock of hair and retrieved a book from one of her crowded bookcases. “Here we go! According to legend, in the first year of Victoria’s reign, around 1837, several women were accosted by a wildly laughing, dark-coated figure who was said to have eyes of fire. He jumped away whenever others came upon the scene of his crimes, and almost all the crimes were directed at young women in a few specific areas of the city! He was given the name Spring-Heeled Jack because he demonstrated superhuman leaping ability.”
Batman said, “The being I fought certainly fits the description.”
Godiva whistled softly and said, “What’s more, I encountered him when he tried to carry off a girl near the modern-day site of one of Jack’s historical sightings!”
“Our modern-day madman is copying this Jack’s legend,” said Batman. “I don’t know why he started stalking Lynette, but it is clear that he was following her for some time. Her ex confirmed that with a tale that including a man with leaping power!”
“Then we’d better hold a stakeout,” said Godiva. “Perhaps he’ll turn up in one of the original Spring-Heeled Jack’s old hangouts. That Jack continued to strike intermittently from 1837 to 1920. He was rumored to have even jumped off the top of a church south of Liverpool in 1904. The locals thought he was a suicide, but when they drew closer to his still body, he laughed madly and bounded away!”
“I rather doubt our man is immortal or supernatural, in spite of the brimstone aura he left in his wake,” said Batman. “He’s likely to be an obsessed stalker who has found some scientific manner to duplicate many of Spring-Heeled Jack’s stunts. Lynette’s body has not been found, nor have we received any ransom note.”
“Let me check some facts,” said Godiva. “We can check out the sites frequented by the original Jack. I wouldn’t expect him to get as far as Liverpool. There were plenty of other Jack sightings around London before the Liverpool one. In fact, rumor has it the Duke of Wellington himself led a citizen patrol to try to catch the Terror of London without any luck.”
Batman nodded as he extended a hand to Godiva. “Well, I don’t mean to besmirch the Iron Duke’s memory, but we’re going to do what he failed to do. We’re going to bring in Spring-Heeled Jack!”
That evening, Godiva, wearing a long beige coat by Zandra Rhodes over her costume, walked down Jewry Street near the Aldersgate bus terminal. Her hair was short and pulled tightly back from her face. This look was the result of a deliberate use of her powers to change the style and normal length of her altered hair.
She rubbed her hands together and fought the chill in the night air. This Autumn’s turning rather cool. I could almost imagine a bit of snow in the near future, she thought, whirling around as a stealthy figure darted across the road to the left. He was several feet away, but that distance meant nothing to a woman with her power.
Godiva concentrated, and one suddenly elongating lock of hair struck the darting figure like a coiled cobra. With a deft twist of her hair, she ensnared him and pulled him closer into the light from a nearby streetlight. She smiled in victory as she recognized the costume and odd features of Spring-Heeled Jack. “I’m not just another bird waiting for the likes of you!” she said, pulling her hair back and then cracking it against him like a whip.
Before he could reach her with his claws, she wrapped more strands of her hardening hair around the struggling man. “Fight all you want, luv, you’re not getting away. I can keep you safely bound and out of reach all night!” she said as she planted her feet firmly.
His struggles continued as he tried to spit his blue-white flame along her tightening hair. Godiva frowned and tentatively touched a slightly filmy substance as it coated one lock of her hair and left the blonde strand glowing in the night air. “This is some variety of luminescence dye or phosphorous. It’s oily, not chalky. You’re not the Jack I fought the other night, are you?” she said as she pulled him closer and reached out to raise his face. “Infrared contacts, a Blake’s Seven-style make-up job, and some kind of exoskeleton! There’s more IBM than BEM about you, isn’t there?”
He nodded slowly and spoke with an Irish accent. “Yes! You got me cold! Look, Lady Godiva, I know this is hard to believe, but I wasn’t trying to hurt you. I was trying to protect you. I didn’t recognize you with your hair like that and a coat covering that Mary Quaint number you usually wear! I thought you were just a woman, and a possible target for someone else!” he said.
The British beauty slowly released him and said, “I’m just called Godiva. I’m going to give you a chance to come clean, here. You’re trying to catch the real Spring-Heeled Jack. I sound starkers saying that, but you get my meaning. You’ve copied the powers of the first Jack, and you’re trying to catch him. You knew one of his legendary sightings occurred near here. That’s why I was parading up and down like a lemming. I was hoping to lure him out.”
The man in the frock coat said, “I can’t explain it. It’s personal. I can’t waste time here if Jack is elsewhere. I have to catch him before it is too late!”
“What’s your connection to Jack?” Godiva asked. “You aren’t going to scarper off like this without telling me more. He has a woman, or perhaps he’s killed her!”
The man buried his face in his hands and whispered, “No! I feared as much! Heaven help me, I’ll be the next one to go mad!”
“What are you talking about?” demanded Godiva. “A woman’s life is in peril!”
Her foe groaned and then looked into her eyes. “Spring-Heeled Jack is my ancestor! My family has cared for him for generations. His insanity may run in my veins, and I can’t live with the idea of becoming a monster like that poor devil!”