“It started yesterday,” Green Arrow began. “I was sitting at my desk at the Daily Star, writing an article on drug legalization, when my phone rang.”
“Oliver Queen speaking.”
“Mr. Queen?” the voice on the other end said. “I-I need your help. I’ve heard that you can get in touch with Green Arrow.”
“I’ve been able to get a message to him, sometimes,” Queen replied. “I can’t answer for what he does with the information, though. What’s your trouble?”
“It’s about the Blue Bowman.”
“Blue Bowman? He’s a Gotham City crook. Batman’s on his case. He’ll be caught soon.”
“I have information that could help. And I can’t go to Batman with it. Please, ask Green Arrow to meet me tonight, in Singer Park. Near the statue of General Maggin. Nine o’clock.”
Before Oliver Queen could respond, the caller hung up. It had all the classic earmarks of a trap — one thing Green Arrow could never resist.
Nine o’clock that night found Green Arrow at the appointed place. He saw a lone man in jeans and a brown windbreaker sitting on the bench in front of the statue. He looked around, and listened; as near as he could tell, the man was alone. Always wary of an ambush, Green Arrow approached the man.
“I heard you wanted to see me,” Green Arrow said from behind the bench. The man gave a start of surprise, then turned his head. He neither smiled nor frowned at the sight of the costumed archer.
“Scare a guy to death, why don’t you?”
“Sorry. What’s on your mind?”
“Thanks, I’ll stand.”
The man shrugged. “My name is Cobb. Phil Cobb. You’ve heard of me, maybe?”
Green Arrow thought for a minute, and then his eyes widened a bit. “You’re the Signalman,” he said. “Also the Blue Bowman.”
“I used to be both of those guys,” Cobb said. “I’m retired now. Reformed. Gone straight. Call it what you will.”
“That a fact?” Green Arrow asked. “So what put you on the road to redemption? Not the love of a good woman, I hope; I’ve seen that movie.”
“The love of a bad one, actually,” Cobb said. “I met her when we both hired out for the same job. Seems we were both tired of the super-villain racket, and that wasn’t all we had in common. We quit the game, settled down, started a business. Things are going fine.”
“So, what’s this about the Blue Bowman?”
“That guy in Gotham, it ain’t me,” Cobb swore. “Maybe you didn’t know it, but there’s such a thing as a social community among super-villains, and my retirement was big gossip there for a while. Someone’s using that! Took up one of my old identities, probably figuring that Batman will go after me, thinking it’s me in the suit! I need help, Arrow; that guy’s got to be caught before Batman does come after me!”
“So, why come to me with this?” Green Arrow asked. “I know Batman is a scary guy, but he’s reasonable. Tell him the truth, especially if you’ve got alibis for the times the Bowman struck. He’ll believe you.”
“Maybe he would,” Cobb said, “but I can’t go to him. You see, no matter what costume I wear, my one constant fashion accessory is the outstanding warrant.”
“You’re still wanted.”
“For a couple of things. But if I go back to prison now, I’ll lose everything! And then there’ll be nothing left for me but to go back to crime. I don’t want that. I’ve made a clean break of it, really I have. And I want to keep it that way. But if I get sent back to prison, I can’t do that. Please, Arrow. Help me out.”
Green Arrow thought for a moment, gauging the man’s sincerity. Then, he finally spoke.
“OK,” he said. “I’ll do what I can.”
“And that’s the story,” Green Arrow said. “I came to Gotham in the hopes of catching this bogus Bowman, so the right guy would go to jail, and Cobb would stay free. That’s gospel, Bats.”
There was a moment of silence, and then Batman did something that, in all the years they’d been friends, Green Arrow had never seen him do.
The Batman laughed.
Green Arrow watched in fascination.
“Hey, Bats… that’s kinda creepin’ me out,” he said. “I mean, laughter isn’t your thing, you know? Not the reaction I was expecting, either.”
“I’m sorry, Oliver,” Batman said, regaining his composure. “But I couldn’t help it. Do you know what I thought your real reason was for coming to Gotham City? I thought you and Dinah had had a fight!”
“What?!” Green Arrow exclaimed.
“I thought you and Dinah had your first big argument as a married couple, and you were trying to give her time to cool off by getting out of town!”
“Say… that is funny!” Green Arrow began to laugh as well. “But seriously, Bats, you’ve heard my story — Cobb’s story. What do you say?”
Batman’s face resumed its normal grim composure. “Well… I have to admit it does explain a few things. Not just the lack of clues to the Bowman’s crimes, but he’s added a face-mask to his costume that he never had before. And this Bowman is a better archer than Cobb ever was. As the Blue Bowman he was never that good a shot; he just used the arrows as a delivery system for his gimmicked weapons. But this one is a competent archer. Not in your class, but still. I assumed Cobb had been practicing, but…”
“OK, so you agree it’s not Cobb. What about leaving Cobb alone, letting him try to keep on the straight and narrow? Even though there’s still paper on him?”
Batman looked into his old friend’s eyes. “Oliver,” he said, “you know what you’re asking. I’ve sworn to uphold the law. So have you.”
“Booshwah!” Green Arrow spat. “Don’t hand me that, Bats, because I know it’s bull! You’re not interested in the law, but in seeing justice done! If a guy you knew to be guilty of criminal acts was protected by the law, you’d bend the law to bring him to justice, right?”
“Well, yes, but–”
“But, nothing! Sometimes, seeing justice done means not sending someone to jail. Cobb’s admitted he’s made mistakes, and he’s trying to live a clean life now. Sending him to jail for past crimes would wreck that, and maybe turn him out again worse than before.”
“So he’s said,” Batman said. “What proof–?”
“Bats, you’re not the only one who can tell when a guy is lyin’,” Green Arrow said. “I looked in his eyes, read his body language. He was sincere. Trust me.”
“I don’t know…”
“What’s he still wanted for, anyway? He kill anyone? Anyone even get hurt?”
“Well… no.” A silent pause. “OK, Oliver, you’ve convinced me. I’ll give Cobb the chance to stay on the straight and narrow. But it’s on your head if you’re wrong.”
“I can live with that,” Green Arrow said. He stuck out his hand, and Batman shook it. “I know that took a lot, Bats. Thanks.”
“All right, then,” Batman said, releasing his friend’s green-gloved hand. “What do you say we get back to the matter at hand?”
“You mean catching that blue phony? I’m in!” said Green Arrow. “So what’s our move? How do we find him? He’s probably gone to ground, at least for tonight.”
“Not necessarily,” Batman said. “If this is someone else using Cobb’s identity in the hopes of keeping me off his trail, the knowledge that you’re after him too might tip him off that his cover is blown.”
“So you think he’s skipping town?”
“Probably — but he might try for one more big score before he does. I’ll radio Jim Gordon to have the ways out of the city watched, while you and I check out the two most likely places he’d hit for a quick payout. Luckily they’re only a few blocks apart, so if the Bowman shows up at one of them, we can call each other on our JLA communicators.”
“That makes sense. OK, where are these targets?”
“You head for Merchants Bank at the corner of Eighth Street and Fillmore Place,” Batman said. “It’s about six blocks that way. The bank building was damaged by fire last month, and the bank’s business is being conducted out of a trailer while the building is being repaired.”
“I get it; the trailer would be an easier hit than a bank building, but it’ll have lots of liquid cash! How about you?”
“I’m checking out the Westlake Towers apartment building on Chase Avenue,” Batman replied. “The senior partner of a certain accounting firm lives on the top floor there. He’s not there now; he’s in jail, awaiting trial on embezzling charges. The newspaper account of his arrest mentioned his private art collection worth millions.”
“Good call,” Green Arrow agreed. “Million-dollar knickknacks, owner in the clink… likely target.”
“Good luck,” Batman said, leaping out over the rooftops.
“To us both,” Green Arrow called, firing a line-arrow.
Within moments, Green Arrow was crouched on the rooftop across the street from the Merchants Bank building, watching the trailer where bank business was temporarily conducted. Two armed guards stood watch over the trailer; they were older men, sixty if a day, and probably retired police. They wouldn’t be much help against the Blue Bowman.
Batman swung down to the rooftop of the Westlake Apartments. A few seconds’ work with his toolkit had him inside the building via the elevator shaft, then out onto the top floor. There were not many apartments on this floor, as they were oversized and spaciously designed for the well-to-do. Batman located the jailed accountant’s apartment easily. No light showed from under the door, but Batman used his trained hearing. Blocking out all other sounds, he concentrated on the door and what lay behind it. He heard movement, faint and cautious, but movement where there should be none.
Batman silently bypassed the lock on the door, and entered. He saw the Blue Bowman standing before a glass display case filled with objets d’art. His hand went to the batarang in his utility belt.
“Bowman!” Batman cried, unable to attack a foe from behind. The Bowman tensed at the sound, but did not whirl around as Batman had expected; instead he dived to the side, and tucked and rolled through a doorway into an adjacent room.
Batman silently cursed; now the Bowman had the advantage. Batman had to come after him, or risk his escape through a window in that room. The caped crusader briefly thought of throwing a gas-pellet into the room, but dismissed it as unsure; the Bowman’s mask might have a breathing filter in it. It certainly had night-vision lenses, as he had been looting this room in darkness. Batman opted instead for a two-pronged attack; he hurled his batarang into the room at chest-level, at the same time diving forward himself at knee-level, arms wide to grab.
Both batarang and Batman missed their targets. The Blue Bowman had hidden behind the door, ready for Batman’s entry. A blunt-headed arrow sped from the villain’s bow, catching Batman a glancing blow across the temple. Batman rolled back, dazed. His vision blurred, and a wave of nausea swept through him. He fought it down, marshaling his control, bringing himself back through sheer force of will.
As his vision cleared, he saw the Bowman standing before him, arrow notched in the bow, bowstring drawn to his chin. No gimmicked arrow this time, but a barbed hunting shaft aimed directly at Batman’s heart. Still somewhat dazed from the blow, there was no way he could dodge it.
The Blue Bowman’s fingers released the bowstring, but an emerald flash shot past him, and his deadly arrow went wild. The Bowman’s head snapped to the opposite wall, where he saw a green arrow stuck there, still vibrating. He glanced down at his own bow, the severed bowstring hanging useless. His head then snapped around to the window in time to meet an emerald-gloved fist heading toward him.
“Thanks,” Batman said as the Bowman crumpled to the floor. “I didn’t call you; I’m glad you came anyway.”
“The bank building was dead quiet,” Green Arrow explained. “The Bowman had lots of time to get there ahead of us; I figured he’d be here, if either of your guesses was right.”
“Nice shot,” Batman commented. “You hit his bowstring from the outside window while it was moving. There are times when I think you actually deserve your reputation.”
“Har-de-har,” Green Arrow said. “Well, let’s satisfy ourselves once and for all that Cobb was telling the truth.” The archer bent down and yanked the black mask from the unconscious Bowman’s face, and started in surprise. “Holy smokes!” he exclaimed.
“You know him?” Batman asked.
“Yeah,” Green Arrow said as he bent to secure the Bowman’s wrists with a handcuff arrow. “Name’s Vraney. I fought him years ago, shortly before the JLA first came together. Called himself the Crimson Archer then.”
“He certainly is a good shot with a bow,” Batman commented.
“Yeah, well, he had a good teacher,” Green Arrow said. (*) “OK, he’s not going anywhere. You gonna call the cops to come pick him up?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Green Arrow’s Mystery Pupil,” Adventure Comics #159 (April, 1959).]
“Already done,” Batman said. As he and Green Arrow exited the apartment, Batman said, “And you’re sure about Cobb?”
“That he’s really going straight?” Green Arrow asked. “I think I can tell by now when a guy’s sincere about that. Believe me, he’s not gonna go back to crime.”
“I recall that you once said, with the same confidence, that Star Wars would be a box office failure.”
“I did, didn’t I? How did I put it? ‘Space opera went out with Buck Rogers.'”
“Actually, you said ‘Flash Gordon.'”
“Did I? Well, same difference. C’mon, let’s get a cup of coffee.”
“If you’re buying.”
“Says the billionaire!”