It all started on a balmy night in August in Star City. I was making my nightly patrols as usual, but keeping an especially keen eye on the Elias Art Gallery. Always a tempting target for the criminal class, it had been especially noticeable to at least one of my city’s malcontents for the past two weeks.
A rare and valuable painting called The Rainbow Bridge was being exhibited in the gallery. The property of a private collector named Mendel Hydecker, the painting was insured for something over a million dollars. Hydecker was notorious for keeping his collection close to the breast, but in a rare reversal of S.O.P. he had loaned The Rainbow Bridge out to several museums in a special tour. Elias Gallery in Star City was first on the list, and this had been the last day. The next night it would be shipped out to the next museum on the list.
I knew that such a valuable painting, with such an evocative name and subject, would be a likely target for my old punching bag, Albrecht Raines, failed painter and counterfeiter turned super-villain, the Rainbow Archer. (*) With that in mind, at about two in the morning, I swung on my arrow-line past the Elias Gallery for the third time that night.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Rainbow Archer,” Adventure Comics #246 (March, 1958).]
As the old saying goes, third time is the charm. I glimpsed a flash of light from a basement window in the otherwise-darkened gallery — a flash of multicolored light.
I headed for the gallery with all deliberate speed. Around back, I found the loading platform doors forced open, guards unconscious. The usual setup. I headed for the basement storage area, ready for a battle with the Archer. I wasn’t quite ready for the sight that met my eyes.
A strange bird in a multicolored costume was flipping through the sheets on a clipboard, no doubt trying to determine which crate held the object of his desires. But this wasn’t Raines; this fellow wore a cowl with bizarre goggles, kind of like Doctor Mid-Nite’s. His back was to me, but I knew who he was from the newspaper accounts of Barry’s first battle with him only weeks earlier. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Color Schemes of the Rainbow Raider,” The Flash #286 (June, 1980).]
“Far from home, aren’t you?” I called out.
The Rainbow Raider dropped the clipboard and whirled to face me. “Green Arrow!” he snapped. “I almost expected you!”
“As well you should have,” I replied. “What brings you to Star City? I didn’t think our chamber of commerce sent tourism brochures to Central City Penitentiary.”
“I’m here for The Rainbow Bridge, of course,” the Raider offered. “I figured it’d be easier to steal here, from a city guarded by a would-be Robin Hood, than wait until it gets to Central City!”
“I’ll try not to take that personally,” I said, drawing and firing an arrow.
“Take it however you want to,” the Raider said, “and take this, too!” His goggles blazed forth with a flash of yellow light. I knew from reading Barry’s report that his colored light-beams could affect their victims’ emotions, and that yellow, predictably enough, caused fear. But even as he fired, my trick arrowhead unfolded in flight, spreading out into a pane of highly reflective film. My mirror-arrow reflected the golden flash right back in his face.
“Aah!” he screamed, covering his eyes. He sank to his knees as I walked towards him, keeping one hand over his face and extending the other toward me, as if trying to hold me back. “Keep away — don’t come near me!” he begged, trembling with fear.
“Take it easy, Lionheart,” I quipped, drawing the handcuff-arrow from my quiver. I thought that this was one of the easiest captures I had made in years.
I thought wrong. As I leaned in with the cuffs, the Raider suddenly uncovered his face, and a blast of pure white light hit me square in the eyes. “Blazes!” I cried out, as the world turned to colored spots. I ground my fists into my eyes, trying to clear them. I tensed for the Raider’s next attack, but through my blindness I hear the sound of running feet. He had chosen the better part of valor, and I stayed behind, blinking away the flash as the room slowly resolved itself back into shapes and colors.
“Dumb, dumb, dumb!” I admonished myself. I should have known that the Raider would make sure his goggles protected him from his own weapon. Well, at least I had protected the painting.
First thing the next morning, I placed a long-distance call to an old friend. I wanted to let him know what had happened, and what he could expect.
“The Rainbow Raider, in your city?” Barry said with surprise. “Doesn’t sound like him.”
“Well, it was him,” I said, “in living color. Got the drop on me, too, but he got away without the goods.”
“And the painting is coming to the Central City Museum of Art next,” Barry said. “Well, thanks for the tip, Ollie. And say… Ralph is on monitor duty in the satellite midnight to eight Friday night, and he’s getting up a poker game. I know you’re not a member anymore, but you know you’re welcome.”
“Thanks, Bar, that means a lot to me,” Ollie said. And it did. At the time I disagreed with the direction I thought the League was taking, but I still considered everyone in it my friend. “I’ll try to make it.”
Barry later told me what happened next. As the Flash, he checked in with the curator of the Central City Museum, and learned that the painting was being driven from Star City to Central City by armored car, overnight. He figured the Rainbow Raider likely to make a try for it on the road, so he planned to include the interstate highway between our cities in his nightly patrol that night. At his speed, he could check on the car several times in the night and still be around in case Captain Cold or the Weather Wizard tried to break into the bank, or something.
On his fifth check of the highway, however, he found something unexpected. He had last checked on the armored car an hour before, and averaging sixty miles an hour it should have gone about sixty miles in that time. But sixty miles closer to Central City than he’d left it, no car. A quick sprint down the highway found the car on its side in a ditch off the side of the highway. The windshield was covered with paint, blue and orange paint, completely blocking the driver’s view. Barry quickly saw that the driver and guards were okay, but stunned; he then ran around to the back of the car.
Or tried to; he didn’t get very far.
“What in the world?!” Flash cried out as he came to a sudden stop. He looked down and saw that his boots had hit a patch of thick, viscous red substance on the highway. As he had stopped to check the conditions of the guards, he had not been going full speed, otherwise he’d have plowed right through the adhesive; as it was, he’d become mired like a fly on flypaper.
“Well, this is a sticky situation,” Flash quipped, tugging at his legs. The adhesive didn’t budge.
“Let’s cover all situations!” came a mocking voice from above. The Flash glanced upward in time to see an arrow, striped with multicolored bands, heading down at him. The arrowhead opened, and a large yellow net spread out over him. The mesh of the net was spun fiberglass, flexible yet strong as steel, and gummed with the same kind of adhesive his feet were now stuck in.
Flash looked up through the net at the bearded man perched on top of the armored car. “We’ve never met,” he said, “but I take it I’m in the presence of the Rainbow Archer?“
“In person,” the Archer said, with a slight bow. “Don’t feel blue over getting caught by my traps, scarlet speedster; I anticipated that you would be watching over this shipment tonight, and came prepared for you.”
“A masterful job, I must admit,” Flash said. “I take it now you’re going to kill me?”
“Not at all,” the Archer said. “I’m an artist, not a cold-blooded murderer. Well, if it were Green Arrow helpless in my power, that would be different, but I have no quarrel with you. I’m merely going to take The Rainbow Bridge and be away.”
“Much obliged,” Flash said. “I’ll be sure to mention that at your trial.” And with that, Flash vibrated his molecules, passing ghostlike through the adhesive and the net.
In an atypically wise move, the Archer, seeing Flash escape his trap, chose not to engage in super-villain banter, but dived off the top of the car on the opposite side. Flash, expecting him to fire an arrow at him if he came around either side, vibrated right through the car to emerge on the other side. When he did, however, he was met by a barrage of smoke arrows, each releasing a thick cloud of colored smoke; each one a different color, of course. Flash began spinning at super-speed to whirl away the smoke, which he did just in time to see the Archer flying away on a personal jet-pack.
“This is ridiculous,” Flash muttered to himself. “Where do these guys get their toys, anyway? They probably have to keep stealing just to finance their own robberies.” A quick check of the back of the car showed the painting to still be there; Flash then saw to the medical attention of the guards.
“A jet-pack?” Hawkman asked incredulously. “He had a jet-pack?“
“I’m not makin’ this up, Hawky,” Green Arrow said. “I’m just relating it.”
“Why didn’t Barry just follow him until he came down?” Aquaman asked.
“Maybe he thought getting medical help for the guards was more important at the moment,” offered Wally West. “That certainly sounds like Uncle Barry.”
“So, what happened next, Ollie?” Zatanna asked.
“Well, Barry called me the next morning,” Green Arrow went on. “Two hits by two different villains, both of whom escaped; he figured that called for a parley.”
I caught a commuter flight from Star to Central after Barry’s call, and we met for lunch at a little place near the police lab where he worked.
“Good chicken salad,” I commented.
“Best in the city,” Barry agreed.
“Crowded,” I noted, looking around at the tables filled with lunching young professionals.
“They’ve got the best chicken salad,” Barry reminded me.
I dropped my voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “So what do you make of it?” I asked. “Coincidence, or something else?”
“Two guys who failed as painters, both decided to become color-themed super-villains,” Barry said. “If we accept that much of a coincidence, it’s not too much of a leap to accept they’d both go after the same painting.”
“Point taken,” I said. “So what’s our game plan? Stake out the museum?”
“As luck would have it,” Barry said, “I’m scheduled to make a public appearance at nine tonight. I’m giving the prize for the all-public school computer technology fair. It’s at the Central City Civic Center–“
“Say that three times fast,” I joked.
Barry chuckled. “And that’s clear across town from the art museum. Of course I can get there in a heartbeat, if trouble breaks out, but it’s still emboldening to crooks, to know I’m going to be elsewhere. Some of them count on getting done and gone before I hear of anything going on.”
“I get you,” I said. “But they don’t know that you’ll have a little green guardian angel waiting for ’em at the museum!”
“Right,” Barry agreed. “If one or both of our colorful crooks show up, you signal me, and I’ll be there to help you wrap them up. Not that you need it, of course.”
“Of course. Except I don’t have a JLA signal device anymore.”
“Oh… right. Well, I’ll give you my spare one. Just for tonight.”
“Gotcha. After lunch I think I’ll check out the museum, get the lay of the land.”
“Good idea. There’s a wonderful Seurrat exhibit on the third floor.”
“He’s that guy who made the paintings out of little dots, isn’t he?” I asked, shaking my head. “I never understood how you get the kind of patience to do that.”
“It takes dedication, that’s true,” Barry agreed. “Got room for dessert? The apple pie here is great; they put walnuts in it.”