The Books of Magic: Ride a Black Horse, Chapter 1: Seeking Abby Cable

by CSyphrett and Martin Maenza

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Continued from The Books of Magic: Curiosity Kills

At the Grimoire Academy of Applied Knowledge, a dark-haired boy of twelve with round wireframe glasses stood at the metal fence separating the bestiary walkway from a small pasture. In that grassy area, cut off from any other, was an elegant black horse. The beautiful creature, with its shiny coat and long mane, and firm muscle tone, regarded Timothy Hunter calmly as it stood tall.

As the boy looked the creature in the eye, the animal looked back in a very un-horse-like manner. “You’re a smart one, aren’t you?” Tim said.

The horse shook its head with a slight whinny.

Tim blinked. It was almost as if the creature had understood him. Then he thought better of it. Nah.

The boy felt a slight chill as a large shadow cast over him. “Detention again today, Tim?” said the dry voice of Adam Frankenstein from above Tim’s head.

The young boy looked up and smiled at the jaundice-faced groundskeeper, who so resembled a monster from the old creature features he had watched with his dad last Halloween. “No, after my time here a week back, I’m trying to stay out of trouble,” said Tim. He turned back to the fence. “Though I do like walking through the bestiary between classes. I can’t wait until I can sign up for Creature Care next semester.”

Adam nodded. “Good class. You’ll enjoy it.”

“What do you know about this one, Adam?” Tim asked, tipping his head in the direction of the stunning black creature he had been observing earlier.

“Not a normal horse,” said the scarred Frankenstein’s monster. “I don’t know what to make of him. He seems to be waiting on something.”

“Really?” Tim said. I wonder what…?

***

A blond man with a solid jaw and handsome features sat in a small diner, sipping the last of his coffee. When he finished, he put some change on the counter to pay for his beverage and smiled at the elderly black woman behind the counter.

“Thank you, kindly,” Maybelle Perkins said as she started to clear the place.

The man closed his large overcoat tightly and stepped out into the street. Dark clouds were forming in the sky, and there was a slight chill in the air. He sniffed. Smells like rain. He smiled. He missed that about Earth.

Adam Strange had arrived in Houma, Louisiana, earlier that January day. He had travelled a long way — light-years in fact — to reach this town. Admittedly, it wasn’t at all as fantastic as that, for Adam Strange was a space traveller.

Many years ago, he had been an explorer, studying in the rain-forests of South America, when something amazing had happened to him. Due to some unexpected circumstances, he had found himself on the edge of a cliff facing certain death. That was when he was hit by a bolt out from of the blue.

Though it was not from out of the blue so much as from deep space — the planet Rann, to be exact. A scientist there named Sardath, searching for some help for his people, had used a transport device he had created called the Zeta-Beam and managed to catch up the Earth explorer in it. Adam Strange was instantly transported to an amazing world of great technology and wondrous creatures. With the help of a jet-pack and a laser pistol, Adam became the greatest champion that world had ever seen.

But today, he was back on Earth on a much smaller mission, but an important one nevertheless. He was in this bayou town to speak to one Abigail Cable, to pass along a message to her from someone who loved her dearly. But there was a slight problem.

Ms. Cable is no longer living here, Adam Strange thought to himself. Found that out from one of her old neighbors. They said she went and took a teaching job out of town earlier in the month and wouldn’t be back until late Fall.

Adam sighed. Luckily, they had just received a postcard from her. Adam was allowed to look at the picture on the card, since the postmark was very cryptic. The picture was of an island, though not one that he was readily familiar with. From looking at the picture, Adam had concluded that the island rested in the tropics, possibly in the South Pacific, based upon the vegetation. In the text, Abby had mentioned the name Grimoire.

Perhaps I can still locate her yet and complete my mission before the Zeta energy wears off, Adam thought. Even without an exact name or map, he was not disillusioned about his task. He still had an ace or two he could play. I hope I still have access.

Finding the nearest phone, Adam made a phone call to a special number. He had been given it by friends many years ago, before he married his lovely wife Alanna. It should still work. He heard a series of clicks as the call was routed and rerouted.

A familiar old voice finally answered the line. “Yes?”

“It’s me, J’onn,” Adam Strange said. “I’m here in Louisiana, and I was wondering if I could ask a favor of the Justice League.”

“By all means, Adam,” said J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, on the other end of the line. “You’re an honorary member of the JLA, after all. I can direct you to a transporter tube in New Orleans, assuming, of course, you need to come up to the satellite.”

“I do!” Adam replied. “I’ll tell you everything when I get there.” He quickly got the information from his green-skinned alien friend and hurried on his way.

***

On Grimoire Island, a beautiful woman with platinum-blonde hair sat her desk, grading papers. Abby Cable’s thoughts, however, were not on whether the students had been able to recite the lessons back to her in essay form. She sighed.

Oh, Alec, she thought. I do miss you so. She didn’t know what bothered her more, that the man she loved was possibly still missing and had not contacted her, or that she had been told by the academy’s headmaster that she would not be able to be granted leave of the island until May. It was the former thought that made her sad, but it was that latter thought that made her angry.

The point on her red pencil snapped. She tossed the pencil down in disgust.

“Hey, go easy on it,” a voice said from the doorway. When Abby looked up, she saw her roommate and fellow instructor, Rose Psychic. “What’d that pencil ever do to you?

“Oh, nothing,” Abby said, pouting.

Rose came over to the desk. “You look like you could use a breather,” she said. “Why not come down to the faculty lounge? They say misery loves company.”

“I’m not sure if I would be good company.”

“You let us be the judge of that,” Rose said, taking Abby by the hand. Reluctantly, she gave in and joined her fellow instructor.

The two women passed by the school’s headmaster, Gareth Gallowglass, in the hallway, and Abby averted her gaze. The man hardly regarded either woman as he made his rounds of the school.

Headmaster Gallowglass often patrolled the school grounds methodically, like clockwork, and scolded students who were late for classes. Eventually, if they got a talking-down or two, he found they would be less inclined to be tardy again.

Today, his path took him along the graduation course that rested away from the main school area. A somber thought came over him as it often did when he visited this place. In the past, he had on occasion buried those who had failed the natural obstacle course; he hoped he wouldn’t have to do so again for any of the current student body.

After pausing for a moment with his head bowed, Gallowglass turned and headed back to the school. There are twelve teachers and three-hundred students, the largest in the school’s history, who need watching, he thought. Some more than others. One particular name came to mind: Josh Cantrell, one of the third-years. At least he appears to have learned his lesson and is staying out of trouble. He shook his head. At least for now.

***

“Hello, J’onn,” Adam Strange said, stepping out of the transparent tube. Seconds ago, he had been standing in a similar tube in New Orleans. Then, in an instant, his molecules were broken down and transported 22,300 miles above the Earth, only to be re-formed again in the satellite headquarters of the Justice League of America.

“What brings you to Earth, Adam?” the Martian Manhunter asked as he stood up.

“I’m doing a personal favor for someone,” Adam explained. “I was seeking out an Abby Cable, but she is no longer where I expected to find her. I need to deliver a message to her from her husband, the Swamp Thing.”

“I see,” said J’onn solemnly.

“Something wrong?” asked Adam as he noted the alien’s furrowed brow.

“About a year or so back, Swamp Thing overran parts of Gotham City and caused a great deal of property damage,” J’onn explained. “The U.S. government thinks he’s a menace that has died or has been destroyed. They will not look well upon his return.”

“I see,” said Adam. “I honestly cannot say when he will be returning from space, though. Putting that aside, can you still help me find his wife?”

The Martian nodded. “What do you need?”

“Can your computers do a match to this picture?” Adam said, producing the postcard he had borrowed from Abby’s friends. “I want to see if there are any known land masses in a tropical environment that correspond to this one.”

J’onn took the postcard and studied it for a moment. “I believe this might work.”

Taking the card to a scanner on the far side of the main console, he fed the photograph into it. In a moment, the image was copied and loaded into the JLA computers. “I am not sure how long the search might take,” J’onn said.

“I have faith,” Adam replied.

“Perhaps I can offer you a refreshment,” J’onn said, indicating the galley.

“I just had some coffee,” Adam replied.

“A cookie, then?” J’onn said, offering a plate with a number of black cookies with white cream filling in between.

Adam’s eyes lit up. “Oreos! I haven’t had these in ages. I love them!”

J’onn smiled. “As do I.”

The two men sat back in their seats, enjoying the treat while the computer worked. Images flickered on the screen as the database tried to match the island in the postcard to one it might have mapped before during its orbit about the blue-green orb.

Finally, one seemed close enough to be ranked as a possibility. “Let’s see what we have here,” J’onn said, taking to the keyboard. A little manipulation of the images revealed they were an exact match.

“Is that it?” Adam asked.

“Yes,” said J’onn. “No name for it, no transporter tube really close to it, either. It’s completely missing from all official maps, as well. Very strange.”

“Not a problem,” said Adam, shedding his overcoat. “Good thing I have my working clothes with me.” The blond man changed from his tan and gray Earth clothes to his form-fitting red uniform. Placing his normal clothes in the duffelbag he had been carrying, he pulled out his Rannian jet-pack.

“I have the nearest tube located,” J’onn said, pointing a map on the screen.

“That should be easy enough to get to from here,” said Adam, checking the map coordinates. He then adjusted the jet-pack, ensuring it was secure. “Once near the ground, I’ll have to navigate by dead reckoning. I hope I don’t miss it.”

J’onn J’onzz prepared to beam his friend back down to the planet’s surface.

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