by Martin Maenza
In the Central City Police laboratory where he worked as a research scientist, Barry Allen had just returned from lunch. The man removed his hat, placing it on top of the coat rack. Talking with some of the guys at lunch got me thinking, he thought to himself. I’ve really encountered an interesting set of opponents since I began my career as the Flash. He ticked them off one by one on his hand. The Turtle, Mazdan, Captain Cold, Mister Element/Doctor Alchemy, Mirror Master, Gorilla Grodd, the Pied Piper, the Weather Wizard, and most recently the Trickster. He ran his hand through his short-cropped blond hair. Quite a rogues gallery I’m starting to have.
Barry removed his green sports coat and hung it on the rack, then reached for his white lab coat. Makes me wonder what kind of weird or wacky foe I’m going to face next.
“Ah, well, enough daydreaming,” the police scientist said as he slipped his arms into the lab coat sleeves. “I’d better get back to analyzing that evidence from the Connors incident.”
Suddenly, the police intercom that he kept turned on in the lab sprang to life with an announcement. “A robbery has just been reported at the Second National Bank on Fairfax.”
Barry raised his eyebrow. A bank robbery, eh? he thought to himself. I think the Connors evidence will have to wait a little while longer. Glancing around quickly, he ensured that no one could catch him off-guard.
He then pressed the secret button on the ring he wore, which opened the cover. A small, compressed red item popped forth from the ring’s hidden compartment and began to expand, much like an inflatable raft would. In an instant, the familiar scarlet and gold costume of the Flash reached its maximum size, allowing Barry Allen to change into his famous alter ego at super-speed.
In a second, the Flash was moving faster than the human eye could perceive as he darted out the back of Central City Police Headquarters. He made a sharp right onto Sixth Street, then a quick left onto Broadway, and then another right onto Chandler Drive. It took him less than twenty seconds to arrive at the Second National Bank.
The alarms were still sounding, and the patrons were still in a bit of panic. The Flash zipped through them as if they were standing still. As Barry Allen, I bank here, the hero thought to himself. So I recognize the manager, Carl Weinburg. He picked the man out of the crowd and then slowed himself down to a more human pace.
Carl was a man in his early forties who was slightly balding. He wore a dark suit and tie. When he noticed the costumed hero’s arrival, his expression changed from concern to relief. “Flash, thank heavens you have arrived.”
The scarlet speedster nodded. “I understand you’ve had a robbery,” the Flash said. “Have anything I can go on to find the thief?”
Mr. Weinburg frowned. “I was just trying to get some information myself,” he replied. “I was in my office when the alarm was sounded. I rushed out here, only to find the customers and the tellers totally perplexed.”
“Perplexed? How so?”
“When I asked the tellers to describe the thief, they could not! They couldn’t tell me if it was a single person or a gang, man or woman, or even how much money had been taken.”
“That’s strange,” the Flash replied. “How about the customers? Surely someone has something to go on.”
“I only asked one or two, but got the same bewildered response from them as I did the tellers,” Weinburg replied. “Feel free to ask for yourself.”
The Flash nodded and proceeded with a quick, random sampling of the citizens in the building. Much to his dismay, he found the same thing — not a single person could recall anything about the person or persons behind the robbery.
The hero returned to Carl Weinburg, shaking his head. “I had no luck, either,” the Flash said. “But I have another idea.” Glancing up to one corner of the ceiling, he spied a security camera. “Any chance we can take a look at the security tapes?”
“Of course!” the manager replied. “I had forgotten about those.”
“Let’s go to the tape!” the Flash said, and the two men returned to the manager’s office.
After a few minutes, they were watching the film of what had transpired earlier that afternoon in the bank. Everything seemed normal until one particular customer came to the counter. He had black hair, slicked back to the side, and was dressed in a gray suit with a white shirt and gray tie. “Seems normal enough to me,” the Flash said.
On the tape, the man pulled a gun and shot it once in the air to get everyone’s attention. The tellers then quickly emptied their tills into two sacks he provided, and the man started to leave. The man turned as he reached the door, faced the entire room, then nodded before departing. “Surely it is plain to see what happened,” said Mr. Weinburg upon reviewing the incident. “Why could we not get these details from the tellers or the people?”
“I’m not sure,” the Flash replied. “But anyone bold enough to commit a robbery in broad daylight in Central City will no doubt turn up again real soon. And when he does, I’ll be ready for him.” The scarlet speedster bid the manager good day and returned to his work.
Barry Allen was still adjusting his black bow tie as he crossed the parking lot of the Towers Hotel. One of these days I’m not going to get so caught up in my work that I’m late for my personal business, he thought as he entered the hotel lobby. Hopefully, it won’t be the topic of conversation all night.
“There you are,” a stern female voice said. Dressed in a blue gown with tasteful cleavage and a hem line just below the knee, a young woman with her brown hair pinned up approached him. “I should know better by now, Barry Allen. You always show up late.”
“I’m really sorry, Iris,” the police scientist apologized. “By the time I finished in the lab and swung back to my place to change into my tux, time slipped away from me.”
Iris West, ace reporter, just shook her head. “You’ll be late for your own funeral, mister,” she said, handing him a rather large leather bag. “You’re just lucky this isn’t a real date.”
Barry took the familiar bag that held her camera and equipment. “So, what’s Picture News got you covering tonight?” he asked as they crossed the lobby to the elevator.
“Just a society page piece,” Iris replied. “Its a black-tie charity auction.” She pressed the button to call the elevator car. “But don’t worry, you can mingle and sample the food while I work.” She smiled. “It shouldn’t be all that exciting, so you’ll fit right in.” She gently poked him in the rib with her elbow.
“Ha-ha,” Barry laughed flatly as the doors opened. Hooking his arm under her elbow, he gently escorted Iris into the elevator.
Later, while Iris West was taking photos of Central City’s movers and shakers, Barry Allen sat at a small table to the side, drumming his fingers in boredom. It took him a second to realize he was drumming them rather quickly, almost at eye-blurring speed. He placed his other hand on top of the one, stopping the nervous habit. Iris was sure right, he thought. This party is dull.
Glancing around the room, Barry desperately searched for a familiar face with whom to engage conversation. He recognized the mayor and some local television personalities, as well as faces he’d seen on the society pages of the paper. There was also Fred Pearson, noted for his local theater work.
Just then, out of the corner of his eye, Barry noticed a man entering the large room. The newcomer had dark hair slicked back to the side and was dressed in a gray tuxedo. It only took a second for the person to register with the police scientist. That’s him! Barry thought. That’s the guy from the bank surveillance video! Now to do some investigative work.
Rising from his seat, Barry made his way across the room on an intersecting path with the man. The two ended up at the bar. “Scotch on the rocks, neat,” the man in gray requested of the bartender. After getting his drink, he turned to find the blond man right behind him. “Oh, I’m sorry.”
“No problem,” Barry replied. “Some swanky function, eh?”
The man pleasantly nodded in agreement.
Barry continued. “You come to stuff like this often? Big charity auctions, I mean?”
The man realized he would have to say something. “Yes, I do,” he replied.
Not much of a talker. Barry glanced around. “Well, I hope it gets more lively than this.”
The man began to grin. “Oh, I’m sure it will.” He then excused himself and wandered off to look at the items up for bid.
Barry watched him go silently. Oh, I’m sure it will, too, he thought to himself. I’ve got my eye on you, mister. The police scientist refreshed his club soda and made his way back through the room.
It wasn’t more than twenty minutes before the man in gray made his move. Taking the stage during the start of the auction, he pulled a gun from inside his tuxedo jacket and took Mrs. Vandemeer hostage. The older woman, who was serving as the hostess of the auction, screamed, “What is the meaning of this?”
“You be quiet, and no one gets hurt!” the man stated, tossing a large sack to one of the people in the crowd before the stage. “Now, if you all would be so kind to circulate this sack among you and deposit your valuables, I will have little reason to escalate this situation further.”
Barry Allen was in the back of the crowd and was thus able to slip away unnoticed. That’s my cue to get into action, he thought. With all eyes glued on the man with the gun, he was able to slip into his costume unnoticed.
In a moment, he was able to race back into the room as the Flash. “OK, buddy, that’s far enough!” he said as he rushed the stage.
“The Flash!” the man exclaimed. Before he could even consider his next move, the gun and the hostage had been plucked from his hands. The Flash now stood with the quite-shaken Mrs. Vandemeer amongst the crowd.
The man in gray merely smiled. “If you think it is that easy to stop me,” he said as he stooped down and snatched the sack full of cash and jewelry, “you can forget about it.” The man bolted toward the balcony doors.
The crowd was surprised as the Flash just stood perfectly still. Iris West approached the hero. “Flash. Flash!” she called out. “Aren’t you going to go after that guy?”
The Flash’s eyes appeared slightly glossed over, but he blinked twice when he heard his name. He shook his head firmly, like trying to clear his head. “Whoa! What just came over me there?” he said. In another second, he realized where he was and what was going on. He saw the thief head out to the balcony area.
“Not so fast, you!” the Flash said as he zigzagged through the crowd and went after him.
“All right, mister,” the Flash said as he raced out onto the large patio. “You can’t escape from me here. You might as well surrender.”
The man smiled as he prepared to hop over the rail. “Don’t be so formal, Flash,” he said. “You can call me the Fog, because I am as elusive as that weather condition.”
“The Fog? That’s not very flashy, if you’ll pardon my pun.” The scarlet speedster lunged for him.
“I’ll forget the bad joke if you’ll simply forget that we’re twenty stories up,” the Fog said. He dropped over the railing and disappeared out of sight.
“Hey, wait a minute!” the Flash exclaimed and leaped over the railing after the man. His momentum carried him out past the ledge of the building, causing the hero to tumble in the air and drop.
The Fog, who had safely landed on a window-washing platform, laughed as the hero fell. “That’s one landing he won’t forget, if he survives.” The thief popped open a window on the floor below the patio and slipped inside, leaving the hero to plummet to his death.