Marcia Courtney used to hate her insomnia. Oh, she smiled sweetly and dismissed any comments from the neighbors about why the sprightly housewife was always perfectly coiffed and dressed by five in the morning. But she hated feeling helpless or less than perfect, so she never admitted that she was awake because she just could not sleep.
“I like to get up early in order to add those little extras to Allen’s breakfast,” she would say as she swept the porch or pruned her roses. “A dentist who walks as hard as he does deserves a few treats!”
Beneath that flawless smile (she was a dentist’s wife, after all), she hid mixed emotions. She truly felt that a wife should make a home as comfortable as possible for her husband, and she took pride in how skilled she was as a cook and decorator. What was that popular, if glib, phrase? Domestic goddess — she was certainly that. Still, the insomnia was merely one of her problems.
She would look over at Allen as he was sleeping, and she would remember their dating days when he was charming and attentive, and she worked as his dental assistant in order to help him make ends meet. Of course, they didn’t live together back then. She was certainly not that kind of girl. It was only after marriage, prosperity, and a move to suburban Hyacinth Circle that he changed so terribly.
“Would you like another muffin, dear?” she would ask as she carefully arranged the centerpiece on her immaculately decorated table.
Allen would remain silent for a few moments as if he was lost in his own thoughts before answering in a dismissive manner. His thoughts — how odd the phrase sounded. Did a loving husband really have the right to call his thoughts his own? Shouldn’t a husband and wife share everything as a happily wedded couple?
Marcia had managed to ignore her concerns about her distant spouse. She had busied herself with countless household improvements, and she had prided herself on how effective her various efforts to be the model housewife had been — until the moment she made the discovery that shattered all of her illusions.
She remembered how it had all started. The lovely redhead had kissed her spouse goodbye as he had made his way toward the door one day near the end of October.
“I’ll be in Gotham City for a couple of hours before heading out to Bludhaven,” he had said. “After registration, I’ll be busy with the conference events, but I’ll call you when I arrive, if I find time.”
Marcia had smiled demurely as she watched her husband make his way past the tasteful Halloween decorations that rested upon each end of their porch. It was warm for October, and the golden leaves that still fell from the trees made a beautiful scene — although the fallen leaves irked her since they violated her aesthetic values. She would have to rake them later.
She closed the door and smoothed down her apron. She had planned to do a little baking for the nearest kids in the neighborhood. After all, she couldn’t let the neighbors think store-bought junk food was the best she could provide.
Later, as she had been sorting some of Allen’s suits, she found a receipt for a hotel room from Gotham City. She also noticed a lingering scent of perfume, and it was not her brand.
Allen was having an affair. The perfume was known to Marcia. It was called Crystal Lake, and it was cheap and loud, and Marcia would never have used it, nor had she ever been to Gotham City. She frowned as she remembered that Allen’s pretty blonde receptionist was fond of the exact scent. It all made sense. Her mind raced as she put together various words, looks, and actions from their married life, and the mosaic formed an unhappy picture. She had lost her husband. No — he had betrayed her.
“Gina may very well be going with him this time as well,” she said. “It’s not a work event. It’s a play date with his infantile lover!”
It was a small discovery, but it brought everything else into perspective for her. There was no doubt that Allen was seeing someone else. She suspected that someone was his current nurse, Gina Tomas.
She wept. She yelled. She paced back and forth, and she started to pick up the phone and call the office before remembering that he was out of town.
He’s with that tramp! she thought with a frown, then slowly regained her composure, vowing to be careful. She would not let him get away with betrayal like this, and she would certainly not be shamed by a divorce. There had never been a divorce in her family. She gazed in the mirror and nodded grimly.
I won’t take him back. I won’t demean myself like that. But what exactly should I do? she thought.
Marcia knew that, for all practical purposes, their marriage was a sham. The neighbors thought they were a happy, loving, respectable couple with a bright future ahead of them, but Marcia knew that was only because of her tireless efforts to maintain a façade of suburban marital bliss. Still, she was too strong a woman to give in to such emotions, and if she did, what would the neighbors think? Marcia Courtney would never let anyone make her feel weak, nor would the proud woman allow others to pity her.
She could not sleep at all that night. Her emotions raged, and her insomnia was worse than ever.
However, as Marcia smoothed down one curl and walked over to the window to look out on her brick walkway and white picket fence one early Thursday morning four days before Halloween, while her neighbors slumbered, she saw something that would change her life forever. It was at that moment a newcomer came to Hyacinth Circle, and thanks to her insomnia, Marcia was the only person awake to see his arrival.
A battered green car veered wildly from side to side as it made its approach onto the street. Marcia frowned as she thought about her new trash cans and how vulnerable they were to such a careless and possibly drunk drinker. Unruly trick-or-treaters were bad enough, but this was even worse. She moved toward the front door, as if she could somehow protect her property from the speeding car. By the time the red-haired woman had reached the front steps, the Dodge Charger had slowed to a sudden stop with one wheel dangerously close to her lawn. She hurried across the lawn and looked at the driver through the dusty windows. He was slumped over the wheel.
Marcia scowled with disgust. “Filthy drunk!”
Still, she didn’t want anyone to be hurt — at least not on her yard. She opened the door and gently raised his head. He was out cold. She didn’t smell alcohol, and to her surprise, his green plaid suit was expensive, if terribly tacky.
His hair was sticky with hair oil of an old-fashioned kind, and she frowned as she saw how badly bruised and battered his chubby face was.
“He didn’t get those bruises from a car wreck — at least not here! He didn’t hit anything!”
Her eyes widened as she found a black satchel with a garish, cartoonish label pasted on the side. The label read loot. It was full of cash.
The stunned driver was bleeding as well. He seemed to be missing a tooth, or at a second glance he had a pronounced gap between his two front teeth.
“I know him!” she gasped. “I’ve seen him on Lana Lang’s news before! He’s the Jester! No, the Prankster! He fought Superman — he’s a super-criminal!”
Suddenly, a wicked smile spread across her face as she glanced left and right down the street and swiftly shoved him aside, climbed into the car, and drove it inside her garage.
“We’ll just see who laughs last!” she said.
Oswald Loomis, the short, obese villain known as the Prankster, groaned and yawned and then opened his eyes to find himself in a nicely decorated bedroom. He was sore, and he felt bandages around his shoulder and one leg. His right arm was in a sling, and he shuddered as he recalled his most recent actions.
“Boss Doyle!” he said. “That witch had her goons rough me up! Just because I double-crossed her and kept all the payroll money from the Laff Factory comedy clubs. I guess her protection racket lost credibility with her clients once I pulled the ol’ switcheroo on her! It didn’t help matters that I pantsed her in front of the mob, too!” He began to chortle wildly until his sides ached and he groaned in pain.
“Is that your maniacal laugh? All of your kind have one, right?”
The words were almost a purr, and they came from a pretty woman who stood nearby, glancing down at the wounded felon with a look of superiority.
“Madam, you have the advantage over me! You’ve caught me with my baggy pants down, so to speak!” he said as he glanced under the blankets.
“I’m sorry. Nothing would fit you. I hope you are feeling better. My name is Marcia Courtney. This is my home, and you are safe here. I have had some medical training. The gunshot wound was a glancing one. I’ve cleaned and bandaged it. You also have sore ribs, but nothing seemed to be broken.”
Loomis smiled crookedly and said, “I’m a victim of circumstance, dear lady. I was minding my business when some ruffians accosted me! I was helping a little old lady across the street, when–”
“Mr. Loomis, I know exactly who you are, and I know what you do for a living,” she said as she moved closer and leaned over the bed. “I also know exactly what you are capable of. I will allow you to remain here and rest until Halloween, and then I want you to pay me back for all my care!”
He blushed slightly as she leaned over and whispered in one of his large ears. This lady was alluring but disconcerting.
“I’ll gladly pay you for your trouble!” he began. “You could buy some nice Tupperware with my kind of spending cabbage!”
“Mr. Loomis, I don’t want or need your ill-gotten gains,” she said coolly. “I want you to help me kill my husband.”