by Martin Maenza
In a residence in Star City on the third of March, two old friends sat around a small table with a meal spread before them. “Would you like some bread, Hal?” asked a woman with black hair, dressed in a white blouse and brown slacks. She held forth a basket overflowing with cut slices of fresh French bread.
“Yes, Dinah, please,” the brown-haired man replied. He was dressed in navy slacks with a light blue shirt. His necktie was loosened and his collar unbuttoned. He took the basket, removed a few pieces, including one of the heels, and put them down on his plate.
“Hot stuff coming through!” called out a blond-haired man with a neatly trimmed mustache and beard. Dressed in a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt, he carried a large metal pot to the table. Pot holders kept the handles from burning his fingers. He put the container down on a trivet and picked up the metal ladle he had laid out earlier. “Who’s hungry?”
The woman took a deep breath and let the pleasant aroma fill her nasal cavity. “I am,” Dinah Lance said, raising her bowl.
Her boyfriend took it, filled it to the brim with the meaty concoction, and put it back down before her. “How’s about you, Mr. Jordan?” Oliver Queen asked.
“Of course,” Hal Jordan replied. “How could I turn down an offer to partake in your famous chili? It’s one of the highlights of my passing through town.”
“Oh, go on,” Ollie replied. He handed the bowl back to his good friend, who proceeded to sample the food. “I meant, go on. Go on!” He took his seat after serving himself.
“Trust me, Hal,” Dinah said with a smile. “If you don’t rave about it for at least five minutes, we’ll never hear the end of it.”
Hal chuckled. “It really is good, Ollie. I think it’s even better than last time. Have you changed the recipe?”
“Just made it a bit hotter, is all,” the cook replied. “I like my chili like I like my women… spicy!” He gave Dinah a little knowing wink.
“Definitely good,” Hal said. And he started to work on his portion.
“So,” Dinah said between mouthfuls, “how’s work going, Hal?”
Mr. Jordan wiped the stray sauce from his mouth with his napkin. “Good. Real good. We’ve got a new line coming out that’s very exciting.” Ollie chuckled. Hal looked at him curiously. “What?”
“It’s just funny to me,” Ollie said. “After all those years as a hot-shot pilot for Ferris, it’s funny to hear you excited about a job as a suit. What was it before the toy sales job? Insurance claims adjuster?”
“So?” Hal said.
“So, what’s next? Truck driver?” Ollie joked.
“Ha-ha,” Hal said mockingly. “I seem to recall from our little road trip a couple years back that between the two of us I was the far superior driver.”
“Except the time you almost hit that deer,” Ollie laughed. Hal joined in.
Dinah smiled. She missed seeing Hal as frequently as they used to, and he and Ollie were such good friends. She hoped it would always be that way.
The three friends continued the conversation over dinner. After a while, it was time for their guest to go. “I’ve got an early sales call in the morning,” Hal said as he put on his suit coat that had been lying over the back of the couch since he had arrived hours earlier. Then his eyes grew wide. “Hey, I almost forgot to tell you.”
“About what, old buddy?” asked Ollie.
“I got this the other day,” Hal said, pulling out a folded piece of paper. He handed it to Ollie to read. “It’s a telegram that was sent to me, or to Green Lantern, really, in care of Coast City.”
“A telegram?” Ollie asked. He scanned over the type. “Is this for real?”
“Yup,” Hal replied. “Checked it out the other day. Turns out the Mayor of New York City has invited yours truly to be the guest Grand Marshal for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.”
“Humph,” Ollie said. “I guess they wanted to go all out for the green-theme, eh?”
“I guess,” Hal said. “Say would you care to give them a double thrill? Join me for the festivities?”
Ollie furled his lip. “I’ll think on it and get back to you,” he said.
Four nights later, Ollie was dressed in his famous emerald costume and mask. Green Arrow found himself at the computer consoles in the JLA Satellite, orbiting 22,300 miles above the Earth. “Ugh,” he grunted, pounding his hand on the counter. He lifted his hat and rubbed his forehead.
“Hey, now, easy on the hardware,” a voice called.
Green Arrow swiveled around in the chair, knowing the speaker. “What’re you doing here, Hal? You’re not next up on the monitor duty roster.”
The brown-haired man dressed in green and black smiled. “I was on my way back from a mission in space when I was passing by the satellite. Figured my ring could let me pop in to say hello. Didn’t mean to startle you.”
“You didn’t,” Green Arrow said. “So, those little blue taskmasters keeping you hoppin’ again?”
Green Lantern nodded. “Yeah. When you’re responsible for a whole space sector, things can get a little busy. So, what’s the problem? Why are you beating up the computers?”
“Oh,” Arrow frowned. “I was just trying to get it to follow some leads. Bats hooked up an elaborate system that ties us in with the various police agencies around the world. Pretty fancy stuff. Much better than what I ever had in the Arrowcave or what we had back in the mountain headquarters.”
“So, what’s the problem, then?”
“After having almost a year to get familiar with things, this just throws a whole new monkey wrench into the gears,” Arrow replied. “I know it’s useful. It’s just a matter of sorting out what’s where.”
Green Lantern walked over to the console, hit a few keys on the keyboard, and pulled up the correct module. “There.”
“Thanks so much,” Green Arrow said sarcastically.
“Anything else up? Any big disasters or such?”
“Nah, not really. A nature flag popped up about some insect migration patterns and such near the south of the border. Nothing to worry about, really. Too bad it wasn’t birds, though. With old Bird-beak back, we could just send him down to the south and have him squawk it up with them.” He started to laugh.
Green Lantern tried not to smile. He knew that Ollie and Hawkman had this standing rivalry going. Honestly, he didn’t get it, but he tried his best not to take sides. “Well, I guess I’ll be going, then.”
“Right, the busy man,” Arrow said. “You still going to have time to fit in that parade?“
“I’m going to try,” Lantern answered. “You thinking about taking me up on the offer?”
“Still thinking,” Arrow said. “Got to keep my options open, you know?” He gave his friend a wink.
“OK, gotcha,” Lantern said with a smile. The ring on his right white-gloved hand started to pulse. In a second, emerald energy enveloped his body and allowed him to soar right through the bulkhead of the satellite without any problem.
Green Arrow watched as his emerald energy trail streaked across the star-filled sky and headed down toward the blue-green planet below. He glanced at the monitor before him and then back at the keyboard. “Now how’d he do that, again?”
A week later, as the sun was about to set in the afternoon sky above Star City, two men exited the front lobby of the law offices of Herkimer and Donne. A light snow was gently falling. One of the men flipped up the fur-lined collar of his coat as they spoke.
“You know, you have to keep your nose clean until the trial,” one of the men advised.
“I know, I know,” the other said.
“And you know the conditions of your bail, right?”
“Yeah, yeah, I got it.”
“Make sure that you do! Don’t go skipping town, or you’ll end up back in the slammer for sure. You know how tough it was to arrange this, especially given your past history in dealing arms.”
“Shhh,” the one man hushed. He glanced around and realized there were few people on the street, certainly not anyone within earshot of the conversation. “Don’t go making this public knowledge.”
“Then don’t go causing any more trouble,” the lawyer advised.
“Not me,” the criminal smiled. “Just want to go spend some time with the family.”
“It better be local family,” the lawyer said. “If you go skipping off and get caught, there ain’t nothing I can do to help you out. Got it?”
“Got it! Got it! Sheesh.”
The two men parted ways. One headed up the street while the other returned to his parked car and drove off.
Neither realized that on a rooftop across the way, a figure had been observing them through a small pair of specialized binoculars. Interesting, Green Arrow thought. Good thing I’m skilled at reading lips. I think someone requires some keeping an eye on. And with that, the hero took off, keeping to the falling, early evening shadows.
New York City had a reputation as the city that didn’t sleep. In a lot of cases, that was true.
Take one police officer, James O’Connell, a beat cop who just finished answering a call at three in the morning. There had been a domestic disturbance between an elderly couple. A neighbor called it in, so Officer O’Connell had to check it out. Turned out to be a bunch of elderly folks arguing too loud. He let them off with a warning.
On his way back to the station, Officer O’Connell heard a commotion in a nearby alleyway.
“Hello?” he called out cautiously as he stepped into the darkened, narrow walkway. Snow had been piled up near the entrance when the walks were cleaned recently. Beyond that were discarded boxes and crates and such. Luckily, the air still had a winter’s chill, or else the garbage would start to smell.
There was scurrying in the dark, and a trash can fell over near the back with a loud crash.
O’Connell reached for his pistol, just in case. He cursed the fact he didn’t have a flashlight with him, as that would have helped shine the light on the back before going farther. He realized he would have to go back to where the noise came from.
As he stepped, something quick and fast brushed up against his foot. He spun around but saw nothing. “Probably a cat or something,” he said to himself. The whole thing was probably just a cat, but he was obligated to check it out just to be sure.
He got to the end and turned the corner.
Something fell before him.
“Anyone there?” the officer called out.
Something lunged at him, sinking sharp teeth into his leg.
“Aaahhh! Son of a–!” the cop screamed. Biting back the pain, he shook his leg in hopes to shake free the attacker, but whatever had latched on to him was holding firm. He tried to move out to get some form of light to see what it was. He couldn’t very well shoot it blindly with his gun for fear of shooting himself.
He took a hop-step. Something small got under foot. There was a wailing cry when his foot went down hard on it.
Officer O’Connell lost his balance and fell to the ground. “Ooof!” His chest and face hit the dirty, damp concrete; his gun fell from his fingers.
Before he could move, they were upon him — dozens if not more of small creatures, eyes glowing and teeth and claws glistening. They swarmed over him, biting and gnashing. The man screamed out for help. But it was too late.
The rats tore him apart in record time and dragged the remains back to feed their children.