Green Lantern: The Play’s the Thing, Chapter 1: Smoke and Mirrors

by Libbylawrence

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From Tom Kalmaku’s Green Lantern Casebook, February 14, 1986:

Between stopping Despero during the alien invasion last month and just recently fighting still another invasion of Martian warships and defeating a purple monster called the Creature King, Hal has been really busy with the JLA. (*) After containing the transformed thug who called himself Creature King long enough for Zatanna’s magic to act as a catalyst that turned the big lug back into a human goon, Hal joked that he had no wish to ever watch another Godzilla flick again!

[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Pyre and Justice League of America: Between Sea and Sky.]

“I tell you, Tom, it makes me wonder about the I.Q.s of some of these crooks. Who actually willingly turns himself into a huge purple monster after being defeated in that form once or twice before?” he said with a shrug.

I replied, “It takes all kinds. It makes me wonder if Carl Ferris is actually a meek, happy-go-lucky type who was magically turned into a grumpy old man.”

Hal laughed. “We aren’t that lucky. He’s riding me hard, but I can’t quit. I want to figure out what our mysterious Mr. Smith is up to once and for all. I guess this is one flight jockey who has no choice but to grin and bear it.”

It was soon after this exchange on Valentine’s Day that Hal encountered one of his forgotten foes at a play later that evening. It happened like this:

***

Green Lantern smiled as he spotted two thugs rushing out of a 7-11 store. “A ring magnification shows the store staffers are unhurt, so that gives me a chance to stop those two in a relaxed and imaginative manner,” he said. “Can’t go around relying on big green boxing gloves all the time. Even a member of the Green Lantern Corps is entitled to make his own fun once in a while.”

He flew closer to the frightened pair, who jumped into a red car and gunned the engine. The car zoomed forward, and they grinned eagerly as they left their target behind in a cloud of dust.

“Man, Lenny, we did it! No sign of the cops!” said the driver.

“George, I bet we took in a couple of thousand dollars!” cried the fat man in the passenger seat.

Lenny frowned. “Uh, George? The car’s floating!”

They exchanged startled looks as they realized that their escape vehicle was now several miles above the street. “Yiii!” cried the pair in unison as Green Lantern suddenly flew up alongside the flying car.

“Pull over, boys. You were speeding in a no-fly zone,” he quipped.

They sighed and raised their hands in abject surrender. They were bright enough to know that any resistance could lead to a sudden swift drop out of the sky as the emerald platform that held them aloft faded away at the whim of the Green Lantern.

He turned them in, smiling warmly as a few of Coast City Police Department’s officers gathered around to cheer him on.

“Thanks, G.L. You’re a regular one-man force,” said Officer Stacy Sheridan.

Green Lantern gave a thumbs-up signal and replied, “You fellows are the real heroes.”

“Say, Green Lantern, could you wait a minute?” asked Officer Sheridan. “There’s something we’d like to ask you.”

Green Lantern nodded and said, “My time is your time. What can I do for you?”

Sheridan said, “Tonight is the opening night of Hamlet at the newly restored Grandin Theatre outside Coast City. With all the money pouring in from proud theater patrons who wanted to see the grand old playhouse restored and reopened, it’s a sure target for crooks. Could you swing by and just give it a once-over? With Valentine’s Day, my men are stretched so thin that we’d sure appreciate it.”

“Hamlet, huh?” said Green Lantern. “I’m open to soak up some culture. Consider it done.” Since the JLA’s Secret Sanctuary on the East Coast was three hours ahead of Coast City on the West Coast, he would have enough time to attend both the wedding anniversary for his old friends Katar Hol and Shayera Thal (Hawkman and Hawkwoman) and be back in Coast City in time for the play at eight o’clock.

***

That night, Hal Jordan sat in an aisle seat and enjoyed a fine performance of the Shakespearean classic.

Hmmm, one may smile and smile and still a villain be. Sounds like Old Will knew Sinestro, he thought as he listened and watched the play unfold. Ollie always prefers those social issue plays like Ibsen’s work, but give me a good story like this any time.

He admired the pretty blonde actress who played Ophelia with a slightly mature but assured style. Daphne Dean’s wonderful. Barry Allen’s old childhood crush sure can act! Boy, I wish he could be here to watch her. I still can’t believe my old pal is gone, he thought somberly.

Noticing the actor playing Laertes, he frowned. That guy may just be a good actor playing a pawn in the play, but he strikes me as being crooked. He’s got a certain larcenous look that goes beyond mere acting. Can’t say that his name in the program means anything, though. Baldwin Gray: it sounds vaguely classical, but it could be a stage name.

A scream echoed, and he rose as he realized that the cry came not from the on-stage drama but from the office. Trouble in the main office, he thought. That would be where the contributions are being counted.

A moment of concentration allowed him to use his ring to slip through the floor and emerge near the office door in his famous costume. He saw a woman standing near a heavily cloaked and costumed figure in white and gold.

“Hold it, pal!” Hal said. “That briefcase is revealing its contents at the seams. Green paper makes me assume that you’re robbing the place, since I doubt you just carry around Monopoly money in search of a game.”

The woman nodded. “He’s robbing us!”

The costumed figure turned and said, “Green Lantern! I never pictured you as a fan of the Bard of Avon. Guess you came to the theater to die — literally!”

Green Lantern gasped as light flashed from around the costumed form, and seconds later he was struck with a potent mental bolt. Head reeling! This clown has some form of mental attack, he mused.

Jumping forward, he used his ring to enclose the robber in a solid green cage. “Now he can’t see me, so perhaps his mental bolts are useless,” he muttered to himself.

A heavy crash caught his attention as another costumed figure dropped down on him from above. She wore a short white skirt and a golden top that flowed into a voluminous cape. Her face was masked, as was her male ally’s. “My strength is enough to stagger you, Ringo. Can’t concentrate while you’re in pain!” she sneered.

He flipped her over his shoulder and whirled to shield himself from the attacking form of the first robber who had broken free of the green box. “You can’t hold me while legs, here, works you over. We got you where we want you!” he laughed.

Green Lantern frowned. “Let me even the odds a bit!” In an emerald flash, the Lantern had created a snaking tendril that crept across the floor in two directions and rose up like a serpent to entwine itself around both villains.

“Now, Miss, if you’ll call the authorities,” he began, never completing his sentence, as the box office worker brought a yellow flower pot down on his head. He fell forward as the villains fled.

The woman gasped in shock and bent over him. “Mr. Lantern, I’m so sorry! I thought you were a robber. You looked just like the man for a second. It was like you switched clothes!”

Green Lantern rubbed his head and nodded. “An illusion. I’ll remember that little trick.” He stood up and frowned as the woman began to cry.

She said, “Green Lantern, I think the man in the costume was Reginald Delvine. He’s playing Hamlet and is highly respected, but even with that tough guy voice he was doing while in costume, I think I recognized him! He’s not in the scenes that were going on during the robbery or your fight.”

Green Lantern nodded. “I wonder if that means I was right in thinking that his gal pal was Daphne Dean.”

He thought over the puzzle. She had been on stage when the male robber entered the office, but had exited in character by the time the costumed female attacked him from above. The time factor certainly allowed for the two actors to don costumes and rob the office before returning to the stage in the case of Delvine. Still, why would two noted actors resort to theft, and how did they gain such impressive powers?

“I’ll follow through on this case,” he said.

Confronting the pair backstage, he said, “I’d like to question you two about this robbery. Did you see or hear anything that could help me find the crooks?”

Daphne Dean tossed her flowing red-blonde hair and said, “No! I was changing clothes in my dressing room. I could not hear or see anything.”

Reginald Delvine nodded. He was a handsome man with smooth features and a pale complexion. “I can’t help you, either. I was in the wings waiting for my cue to return. I was lost in the role and could have easily missed a train wreck,” he said with a shrug.

Baldwin Gray and other cast members agreed. None of them had noticed the robbers until they had burst out of the office in flight.

“The play runs for the next four nights,” said Green Lantern. “I’ll be keeping an eye on things just in case my pair of playmates returns.”

As he flew off, he puzzled over the matter. “My ring did a secret lie detector test on the pair, and they were telling the truth. Neither Daphne nor Delvine saw or heard anything. I never believed Barry’s old sweetheart could be a crook, but I couldn’t deny my own senses. The woman who fought me had Daphne’s body language,” he said. Returning to his beach house apartment, he tried to get some rest.

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