A week passed, and Cardshark’s fame grew unabated. The most public cases, the most celebrated adventures, found him there and at the ready. Ollie was disgusted when his own newspaper, the Daily Star, ran a cover article on the mysterious new champion with the headline, STAR CITY GETS NEW DEFENDER. He barely concealed his rage at that. That same evening, walking home from the paper office, he passed a street vendor selling Cardshark T-shirts. His frustration grew.
“I don’t see what the big deal is, Ollie,” Black Canary said as they patrolled that night on her motorcycle. “You’ve always claimed to hate the limelight, anyway. Said you’d rather break up a mugging than a high-profile case.”
“I do,” Ollie said. “I just — I don’t know, OK? It just bugs me somehow.”
Before Dinah could comment on that, the radio mounted on her motorcycle, tuned to the police band, crackled to life. “Backup requested!” it barked urgently. “Officer down, Elias and Grell! Repeat, officer down! Request backup!”
Without a word, Black Canary swung the motorcycle sharply onto Grell Avenue and gunned the motor. Green Arrow held on tight. In minutes they were on the scene. A police car stood at the curb on the northbound side of Elias Street, while a shiny purple Firebird was parked across the street. From behind the sports car, dark-haired men in dark suits fired guns at the police. From behind their squad car, the police returned fire.
“The purple bird,” Green Arrow hissed through clenched teeth. “Trademark of the DeCarlo mob.”
“Looks like we’re not the only ones who heard the call!” Black Canary cried joyfully. “Look!” Green Arrow followed her pointing finger upward. Cardshark stood perched on the roof of the three-story building behind the mobsters, aiming his weapon down at them.
“I am so sick of getting upstaged by that guy!” Green Arrow snarled, drawing his bowstring. A volley of blunt-headed arrows fired at the mobsters, speeding straight and true to their chins. Three of them were struck simultaneously; two dropped to the street unconscious, while a third reeled with the blow.
Green Arrow heard the bass-fiddle thrum of Cardshark’s weapon. There were two mobsters left standing by Green Arrow’s attack; the barrels of their guns were neatly sheared off by razor-sharp, steel playing cards. Before the stunned gunmen could make a move, more cards were fired, cards that burst into adhesive film at their feet, gluing them to the sidewalk.
“Wasn’t much for me to do here,” Black Canary commented. “Not with you boys trying to outdo each other, anyway!”
Green Arrow shot her a confused look. “What was that for? I was just doing my job, that’s all!”
“Oh, right,” Canary sniffed. “I’m sure trying to look more macho than Cardshark had nothing to do with it!”
Green Arrow gaped in surprise. Where had that come from?
“Great shooting, Green Arrow!” Cardshark called from the street. He had leaped down to the awning over the entrance to the building, bounced off, and landed on his feet. “I guess you heard the police call same as I did.”
“Yeah, we heard it,” Green Arrow grumbled. Then, grudgingly, “That was good work, kid.”
“Green Arrow!” Black Canary snapped. “Do you have to call him kid?”
Cardshark laughed good-naturedly. “It’s all right, Black Canary. He has been doing this a lot longer than I have. I don’t mind.”
“Was that a crack at my age?” Green Arrow demanded.
“Why, no,” Cardshark said, genuinely stunned. “I was only stating a fact. I never intended any disrespect; if it sounded that way, I’m genuinely sorry.”
“Please forgive Green Arrow,” Black Canary said. “He’s a little edgy these days.”
“Forgiven and forgotten,” Cardshark said.
Green Arrow hastily changed the subject. “I heard you ran into my old punching bag, Bull’s-Eye, the other day. I didn’t even know he was still in the game.”
“No, he hadn’t been heard from in a while, had he?” Cardshark agreed. “Does that happen a lot? Criminals you thought long gone suddenly popping up again?”
“It’s been happening a lot more lately,” Green Arrow commented. “Beats me why. In just the last year I’ve fought the Rainbow Archer, the Wizard, and Johnny Dune, none of which I’d heard from in–”
“Look out!” Cardshark suddenly cried, throwing a handful of red and black discs, seemingly at Black Canary. Canary gasped and leaped backward. Green Arrow tensed, ready to jump. But the discs sailed past Black Canary, and Green Arrow watched as they began orbiting one of the mobsters, the one his arrow hadn’t quite knocked out. The man had his gun drawn, aimed at Black Canary, or rather at where she had been standing. Now, with the discs orbiting him, he seemed paralyzed, unable to move.
“What the heck?” Green Arrow asked.
“My special poker chips,” Cardshark said. “They set up an electromagnetic field around a body, a field that makes it impossible for him to move.”
“You — you saved my life!” Black Canary gasped. “He would have shot me!”
“Glad I could help, Black Canary,” Cardshark said, smiling.
“You can just call me Canary,” the heroine said, smiling back.
Green Arrow did a slow burn.
“Honestly, Ollie, you’re exaggerating!” Dinah insisted the next morning as they both got ready for work. “You’re blowing everything out of proportion!”
“Oh, I am, huh?” Ollie said. “My girl stands there making goo-goo eyes at the new kid on the block, and I’m overreacting!” Ollie put a hand over his heart and said, “You can call me Canary,” in a high falsetto voice.
“Oh, knock it off!” Dinah snapped. “I was just being friendly! What’s the big deal?”
“The big deal is — ahh, I don’t know what the big deal is! I just don’t like it, OK?”
“What, so now you’re going to pound your chest and roar every time I’m friendly to another guy?” Dinah asked. “If you’re that unsure of our relationship, it strikes me that we don’t have very much of one!”
“Oh, hey, wait!” Ollie said, suddenly apologetic. “I didn’t mean it that way! Come on, you know I didn’t!”
“Then just what did you mean?” Dinah asked.
“I meant — I mean, I — oh, hell! You know I’m not good at expressing myself like this! I-I guess you’re right. It was my imagination. I was making more out of it than it was.”
“Hm. I still say you’re acting mighty insecure, Mr. Queen,” Dinah insisted.
“Well, let me make it up to you,” Ollie said soothingly. “How about lunch today? That French place you like? Mason Dixon, or whatever?”
“Maison Dijon?” Dinah asked. “But you hate French food!”
“Yeah, but you love it,” Ollie said. “Meet you there at 12:30?”
Dinah smiled. “It’s a date!”
Ollie smiled back.
“Would Monsieur care to order yet?” the waiter asked Ollie with a touch of impatience.
“No, thanks,” Ollie said. “I’m still waiting for my date.” The waiter cocked an eyebrow, then walked away. Ollie glanced at his watch. It was almost one. Dinah was never this late. What was going on?
A shrill beeping sound startled Ollie out of his worry. He fished in his jacket pocket for the pager the Star had given him. He checked the number; it was them, all right. He made his way to the pay phone in the lobby, leaving his jacket across the back of his chair so that the maître d’hôtel didn’t think he had gotten tired of waiting and left.
“Ollie?” said Lisa Lyman, the secretary to Ollie’s editor. “Ollie, are you still on lunch?”
“Depends,” Ollie said. “What’s going on?”
“There’s been a daylight robbery attempt at the Machinists’ Bank on Alden Avenue,” Lisa said. “George wants you to get right over there — get statements.”
“Is the robbery still in progress?” Ollie asked urgently.
“Oh, no!” Lisa said. “It was stopped by Black Canary and that new hero, Cardstar, or what’s-his-name. If you hurry, you might get an interview with him! Ollie? Ollie, are you still there? Hello?”
“Thanks again, Cardshark, Canary,” the police lieutenant said as they shut the door of the police van into which the prisoners had been herded.
“All in a day’s work, Lieutenant,” Cardshark said, smiling.
“Well, let me say again, welcome to Star City,” the lieutenant said, returning the smile. “Sadly, there’s crime enough for more than two costumed heroes in this town.”
“We’ll see what we can do about that, Lieutenant,” Black Canary said.
“You do already,” the lieutenant confirmed. “I shudder to think what this city would be like without you and Green Arrow, and now you, Cardshark.”
After a few more pleasantries were exchanged, the lieutenant got into the front seat of the van and was driven away. Black Canary turned to Cardshark. “Great work back there,” she said, a little breathlessly.
“You, too,” Cardshark smiled. “It was nice working with you. I think we make a pretty good team.”
“Yeah! I mean, yes, I do, too,” Canary said, a little nervously. A tense silence hung in the air between them for a few moments, until Cardshark broke it.
“Well… see you again sometime, I hope,” he added.
“Definitely!” Canary said eagerly. “I mean, we’re sure to run into each other. Like the lieutenant said, there’s a lot of crime in this city.”
“And like you said, we’ll try to change that,” Cardshark said. He took Canary’s hand, making her gasp a little in surprise. He shook it once and released it. “Goodbye, Canary. For now.”
“Yeah. For now,” Canary breathed. She watched Cardshark walk away. When he turned a corner and disappeared from sight, she let out a held breath and began walking away herself.
Cardshark smiled to himself as he turned the corner, behind the bank. He began humming a little tune to himself.
He was startled out of his reverie by an emerald arrow striking the ground at his feet. “A word in your ear, kid?”
Cardshark looked up in surprise to see Green Arrow perched atop a panel truck parked behind the bank. “Green Arrow!” he exclaimed. “If you want to talk, fine. Come on down.”
“I think I will,” Green Arrow said. “I don’t mind descending to your level for this.” In one jump, the costumed archer was standing in front of the card-costumed crime-fighter.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Cardshark asked.
“In words of one syllable, Cardskunk,” Green Arrow said gruffly, “stay away from my girl.”
Cardshark looked surprised, then his face split into a grin. “In the first place, away is two syllables,” he said. “And in the second place, it seems to me that if you have to tell me that, she isn’t really your girl, is she?”
Green Arrow’s grimace exploded into a snarl of rage. He threw a sudden punch at Cardshark’s face, which the younger man nimbly dodged. He took advantage of the force of Green Arrow’s uncompleted punch throwing him momentarily off-balance to grab the archer’s arm and force it up behind his back.
“I thought you wanted to talk,” Cardshark said, “not throw punches like drunken frat boys.”
“Thought about it,” Green Arrow grumbled through clenched teeth. “Didn’t work for me.” Then he executed a perfect judo throw, sending Cardshark sailing over his head. The younger man landed on the ground, stunned but unhurt.
“Canary taught me that,” Green Arrow said.
“I’ll get her to teach it to me sometime,” Cardshark said, rising awkwardly to his feet.
“You don’t listen so good, do you, junior?” Green Arrow demanded. “I said stay away from her!”
“And I said, she’s got a mind of her own,” Cardshark said. “Or don’t you like your women independent?”
“Why, you snot-nosed little–”
“Whoa, easy, easy,” Cardshark said, patting the air with his hands. “Why don’t we save our punches for Red Dart and the Lightning Bug, OK? Look, I don’t want to cause any trouble. That’s not what I’m about.”
“Yeah?” Green Arrow asked dubiously.
“Yeah,” Cardshark repeated. “I’m not trying to horn in on anybody’s action. But it’s obvious you two have issues. That’s none of my doing. It’s none of my business if you don’t trust your girlfriend. But don’t take it out on me, OK?” Without waiting for an answer, Cardshark turned and left the alley, leaving a very stunned and confused Green Arrow.