Star City Convention Center was host this night to a special meeting. A fast-growing group of political activists calling themselves the New Freedom Party had formed a third party to challenge the stranglehold of the Democrats and Republicans. Many felt their candidate, Jerome Howard, stood an excellent chance of capturing the Presidency in 1988, especially since neither of the other parties seemed to have a strong candidate to offer.
Tonight, the Star City Convention Center held a gathering of the NFP, a fundraising gala to help bring their message of common-sense government to the people. The entertainment portion of the evening over, Howard took the podium and began to speak.
“For too long, the Republicans and Democrats have held the fate of our nation in an iron fist,” Howard began. “Both sides have lost sight of the true purpose of government, which is to serve the best interests of the people. They are only interested in power for themselves and keeping the gravy train of incumbency rolling. Our party truly has the best interests of the people at heart. No more tax-cuts for wealthy fat cats. No more environmental laws written by the polluters themselves. No more trillion-dollar defense budgets and crumbs to education and welfare. With the New Freedom Party in office, America will truly be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people!”
Thunderous applause shook the convention center. Howard held up a hand to silence it, then began to speak again.
“I don’t ask you to put your faith in me, neighbors. I ask you to put your faith in the ideals I stand for. I ask you to — arrgh!“
With a strangled scream, Howard pitched forward onto the lectern at which he stood. Cries of fear and concern went up from the crowd. Several people rushed to Howard’s side, but it was too late. Jerome Howard, the NFP’s best hope for the Presidency, was dead. Embedded in the back of his neck was a tiny dart, crimson in color. The only marking on it was an odd symbol: the letters O.T. inside a circle.
“‘Lo, Arthur?” the familiar voice came through the JLA communicator. “It’s Ollie.”
“Oliver, hello,” Aquaman answered. The king of the seas sat at the communication console of the JLA Satellite. “Wasn’t expecting you for another three hours. What’s up?”
“I need a favor, old buddy,” Oliver Queen said. “I need to beg off relieving you for monitor duty. Something’s come up in Star City.” Oliver explained to Aquaman what had happened at the convention center. Aquaman frowned as he listened. “I was there, covering the event for the Daily Star. If I had been paying more attention, I probably could have stopped it.”
Aquaman heard the bitterness in Oliver’s voice, the anger at himself. “It wasn’t your fault, Ollie. You couldn’t have known.”
Oliver Queen’s anger went very deep, because he had been a supporter of the NFP. Their beliefs echoed his own on many points. “That dart was like a fingerprint,” he went on. “It has to be my old punching-bag, John Mallory, AKA the Red Dart. Dunno why he’s turned political assassin, but when I find him, he’s gonna turn into an intensive care unit.”
“What about the symbol you said was on the dart?” Aquaman asked. “The O.T.? Does that sound familiar?”
“No, it doesn’t,” Oliver said, in a more thoughtful tone. “I have no idea what that means. Ah, maybe Mallory’s buying his darts from a new manufacturer these days.”
“Ollie, do you want some help?” Aquaman asked. “I know I speak for the entire League when I say it’s yours for the asking.”
“I appreciate that, Art, I really do,” Oliver said. “But really, all I want from the League right now is to be excused from monitor duty. This is personal for me.”
“I understand, Oliver,” Aquaman said. “Let’s see, I have Steel listed as your backup tonight; I’ll give him a ring.”
“Much obliged, water-dude,” Oliver said. “Tell the kid I’m sorry if I interrupted Cheers for him.” With that, Oliver rung off. Aquaman could sense the anger seething behind Oliver’s flippant tone. He hoped his old friend caught the Red Dart before the anger raged out of control. He knew only too well what that was like.
“You’ve been a naughty boy, Digger,” Rick Flag chided his charge as he led the curly haired man in prison grays down a carpeted hallway. “Hooking up with Doctor Light and his gang of ne’er-do-wells the minute you tasted freedom. (*) After your time with Task Force X, I would have thought you’d learned better by now.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Fear the Future.]
“Yeah, well, you’d have been wrong, wouldn’t ya?” Captain Boomerang retorted. “Look, what’s this all about? It’s recreation time in the prison, and I don’t want to miss me weekly card game with Captain Cold and the Rainbow Raider.”
“We have something to show you that could prove a lot more profitable than a card game,” Flag said, opening the door to a small room.
Boomerang snorted derisively at that. “I can see you’ve never watched the Raider try to hold a poker face. The pisser has no more self-control than Tobias Whale at a barbecue.”
Inside the room, Flag told Boomerang to seat himself. At the other end of the room was a white screen. Flag stood behind Boomerang, operating a slide projector.
“Slide show, eh?” Boomerang said. “I hope it ain’t yer bloody vacation pitchers.”
“No, I think you’ll find this a bit more interesting.” Flag doused the lights and turned on the slide projector. With a click of the button, an image of the Red Dart shone onto the screen. “This is John Mallory, alias the Red Dart — a common thief with a penchant for gold robberies, turned to costumed crook. Jailed twice by Green Arrow, once by the Atom.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Green Arrow Versus Red Dart,” World’s Finest Comics #95 (July-August, 1958).]
“Met ‘im,” Boomerang said. “The cobber tried out for the Secret Society of Super-Villains once.” The villain shook his head. “What a bleedin’ mess that was! Start an organization like that, and every bloke with a fancy costume and name thinks they’re prime material for it. Lemme tell you, there’s a reason why the Mad Mod never makes the headlines anymore.”
Flag ignored Boomerang’s commentary and clicked the control button again. The image of the Red Dart faded away, replaced by a man in orange and purple costume.
“David Rennington, alias Dagger. Turned costumed crook when the family business of knife manufacture went bankrupt.”
“Never heard of ‘im,” Boomerang said. “No, wait; didn’t the Batman put him in jail a couple years back?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “A Dagger So Deadly,” Batman #343 (January, 1983).]
“That’s right,” Flag said. “He was among the escapees when Ra’s al Ghul blew up the state pen. (*) One of the few among that number who hasn’t been recaptured yet.” Another click; a blond man in yellow and blue costume appeared on the screen.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Resurrection Night,” Batman #400 (October, 1986).]
“Albrecht Krieger, alias Javelin,” Flag explained. “Trained for years to compete in the 1980 Olympic Games; felt cheated when America pulled out of the games and turned to contract assassinations. Captured by Green Lantern.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “I Shot a Javelin Into the Air,” Green Lantern v2 #174 (March, 1984).]
“Hmph. Looks like a pooftah t’me.”
Flag ignored the comment and changed the picture again; this time a man in exoskeleton armor with a baseball glove on one hand.
“Darren Blueberry, alias Fastball. Ex-minor league baseball pitcher, expelled for gambling on his own games. Supplied with advanced weaponry by an alien entity; defeated by the Justice League.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Rebirth: Two, Claws,” Justice League of America #234 (January, 1985), “Rebirth: Three, Heavy Metal,” Justice League of America #235 (February, 1985), and “Rebirth: Part Four, Conclusion: Gypsy Genius,” Justice League of America #236 (March, 1985).]
“Flag, is there a point to all this?” Boomerang demanded. “This is very entertainin’ and all, but why are you showing me this?”
“Coming to it,” Flag said impatiently. Another click, and the picture was again replaced, this time by the symbol of the letters O.T. in a circle. “Does this mean anything to you?”
Boomerang shrugged. “Over time?”
“Close, actually,” Flag said. “That is the symbol of Over-Throws.”
“Would have been me second guess. What the bleedin’ hell is Over-Throws?”
“A contract assassination bureau formed by four costumed villains who specialize in hand-thrown weapons,” Flag explained. “For a price they’ll take out anyone — political targets, celebrities, corporation heads, you name it.”
“Lemme guess: the four drongos you showed me are Over-Throws. Crikey, what a name. And I thought the Crime Champions was nutty.”
Flag raised an eyebrow. “I never knew you were connected with that group.”
“Wasn’t,” Boomerang explained. “Met a couple of ’em in the Secret Society. Chronos, Felix Faust…”
“Yes, well. In the past few weeks, several very important people have been assassinated by Over-Throws. Last night, Presidential hopeful Jerome Howard was slain in Star City by the Red Dart.”
“If you’re askin’ me where to find the cobbers, forget it,” Boomerang said. “Point A, I don’t rat out me colleagues, even losers like the Dart. Point B, I only met the drongo once, a long time ago. I wouldn’t know where to find ‘im if I tried.”
“That isn’t quite what we had in mind,” Flag explained. “We want you to infiltrate their organization.”
Boomerang gaped at Flag, as if unable to believe what he said. “What, join up wi’ ’em, then turn ’em over to you? You’re nuts, Flag! Go pick on the Penguin — he’d sell out his own mother for–“
“Believe me, you weren’t my first choice for this assignment,” Flag said coldly. “You weren’t even on my top ten list. But I’m afraid we need you. The Over-Throws all use hand-thrown weapons. Only another villain with that modus operandi would stand a chance of getting inside the group.”
“And I’m the only one left, eh?” Boomerang sneered. “What, wasn’t there ever a Lawn Dart Man or Colonel Frisbee? Seems like the kind of bloke Batman would’ve fought, when he had his own TV show.”
“You’re the only one,” Flag insisted. “And before you dismiss the idea out of hand, it might be a good idea to listen to our offer. You could profit greatly by it.”
Boomerang’s eyes it up. “That so? Well, never let it be said that George Harkness passed up a chance for profit. I’m listenin’, guv’nor. What’s yer offer?”
“Complete the mission, and survive,” Flag began, “and you will receive immediate release from prison, and a full pardon for all past offenses up to and including any committed during completion of your mission. Short of murder, that is.”
Boomerang lifted an eyebrow. “Survive? You make it sound like a suicide mission, Flag.”
“It may be,” Flag admitted. “These men, as I’ve already pointed out, are killers. If you’re discovered, there’s little question as to what they’ll do to you.”
“It’s a challenge, right enough,” Boomerang said, stroking his chin. “I like a challenge. Fair dinkum, mate, count me in.”
The wind whistled around Eddie Ash’s head as he hurried through the night. He hated winter, hated the cold. He wanted desperately to get inside, into the warmth. Callahan’s Crossroads Saloon was just a block away; soon he’d be getting warm from the inside-out.
“What’s your hurry, Eddie?” a gruff voice from the alley called. Recognizing the voice, Eddie gasped and doubled his pace. He didn’t get far; an emerald-hued arrow sank into the pavement in front of his feet. He let out a yelp and stopped dead.
“Eddie, Eddie, Eddie, you hurt my feelings,” Green Arrow said as he strolled out of the alley. “I might get the idea that you don’t want to see me.”
“Wh-what you want, Arrow?” Eddie stammered in terror. “I ain’t done nothin’! I’m clean, I swear!”
“Eddie,” Green Arrow said, shaking his head, “you couldn’t be clean if you went through a car wash strapped to the hood of a DeSoto. Which isn’t outside the realm of possibility, not at all.”
“Aw, come on, Arrow, give a guy a break,” Eddie whined.
“I’ll give you several breaks, Eddie, all of them bones. Unless I like what you have to tell me.”
“The Red Dart. Chiefly, where he is.”
“Oh, man, no! I couldn’t do that! He-he’d kill me!”
“Only if he finds you, Eddie. You may notice, I’ve already found you.”
“OK, OK! Look, I don’t know exactly where he is. But he’s got a new gig, hits for hire. Contract killings. Got some friends in it with him, too.”
“Friends?” Green Arrow’s eyebrow raised slowly. “Who?”
“I dunno, other costumed clowns like him! I didn’t exactly get his brochure or nothin’! That’s all I know, I swear!”
“OK, Eddie. But if I find you’re holding out on me–” To finish his statement, Green Arrow whipped up his bow, drew an arrow, and let it fly. Eddie screamed in terror as the arrow whistled past his ear. He heard it land with a loud thunk. Turning his head, he saw it had landed in a mailbox clear across the street, directly in the center of the O in the word POST.
When Eddie turned back, Green Arrow was gone.
“Evenin’, mates,” Captain Boomerang said affably as he strolled into the Bar Sinister. This was a drinking hole frequented by men and women of Boomerang’s ilk: costumed criminals, relaxing in each other’s company. Boomerang was wearing a wire, transmitting everything to Rick Flag. He did not mind giving out the location of the Bar Sinister, for it changed frequently to avoid discovery. Many of Boomerang’s colleagues greeted him warmly as he strolled to the bar.
“Digger!” James Jesse, alias the Trickster, cried in pleased surprise, looking up from the pool table. He had been shooting pool with Cameron Van Cleer, the former Killer Moth who a few months ago had become Golden Wasp, the hero of Bludhaven. “When did you get out?”
“Just yesterday, Jimmy, old sod,” Boomerang said, smiling. “And it’s good to be back!”
“I heard that. Listen, Mark is planning a job and needs some help. Want in?”
“Perhaps, Jimmy, perhaps. Let me blow the froth off a cold one first, then we’ll talk.” Boomerang walked up to the bar and slapped a five dollar bill on it. “Beer me until that runs out, Roy,” he said to the bartender. Roy Pinto, a former super-villain himself, smiled as he poured Boomerang’s beer. “Say, Roy, while I was in prison I bumped into an old mate of John Mallory’s. You know, the Crimson Dart or similar? Asked me to take a message to ‘im when I got out. Any idea where I can find the boyo?”
“That’s Red Dart,” a gruff voice from behind snarled, before Roy could answer. Boomerang turned his head and looked at a tall, muscular man with close-cropped blond hair.
“Red Dart, right,” Boomerang said, unruffled. “Would you know where he is, mate?”
“My name is Javelin, and I am no mate of yours,” the blond man said stiffly. “As to the Red Dart, he does not associate with the likes of you anymore.”
“Hey, where do you get off, Krieger?” Roy snapped. “Digger, here, was making headlines while you were still training for the Olympics! Show some respect!“
“Respect?” Krieger sneered. “For a clown whose only claim to fame is getting jailed by the Flash on a regular basis?”
“Oh, right, matey. And you did so much better against Green Lantern,” Boomerang snorted.
Javelin bolted out of his chair. “You dare?” he demanded.
Boomerang put down his beer with a loud bang. “Yeah, I dare. What of it?”
“Go for your weapons!” Javelin snarled, hand whipping to his belt.
Boomerang calmly took another sip of beer, set the mug down gently on the bar, and eased up off his stool.
“Whenever you’re ready, cobber,” he said politely. Every head in the bar was turned to watch the confrontation.
Javelin snarled and hurled a yellow javelin at the elder villain. Halfway through its flight, the javelin split into three, headed for Boomerang from different angles.
Captain Boomerang whipped a boomerang from his bandolier and hurled it. It whistled through the air in a wicked arc; all three javelins speared it as it flew, and they fell harmlessly at Captain Boomerang’s feet.
Javelin stared wide-eyed at the spectacle. Captain Boomerang stifled a yawn.
“Roy,” Boomerang said, “give the kid another of whatever he’s having. On me.”
Javelin strode up to Captain Boomerang, a fierce expression on his face. Tension crackled in the air between them for a long moment; then the blond young man burst into laughter.
“My friend!” Javelin barked, clapping Boomerang on the back. “Come and let us drink together!”
Everyone in the bar laughed at the spectacle, then gradually returned to what they were doing. In one corner, the Signalman was desperately trying to beat his high score on the battered old pinball machine.