Dr. Chun To Ling sat on a comfortable chair in the corner of the small room. She had been there for six hours now. She had long since given up looking for any defect in the walls, any relaxing in the vigilance of her guard, any means of escape. All she could do was wait for what would come next.
Finally it came. The one door opened, and a tall, thin man in a maroon blazer and black slacks entered. He had a high forehead and iron-gray hair worn closely cropped in a widow’s peak. He smiled at Dr. Ling, a genuinely warm smile.
“Good evening, Dr. Ling,” he said, in a friendly voice; Dr. Ling detected the slightest hint of a British accent. “I do hope you’ll forgive the manner in which you were brought here. My name is Clivingdon.”
Dr. Ling stared coldly at the man but did not answer. Clivingdon waited a moment for her to speak; when she did not, he turned his gaze to the open door and beckoned. A nondescript man in a black suit wheeled a small cart into the room; the cart was loaded with covered dishes. The man stopped the cart in front of Dr. Ling. Clivingdon walked up to the cart and removed the cover from one of the dishes. Hot roast of beef, thinly carved and liberally coated with gravy, lay on the dish.
“The chef here is one of the finest in the region,” Clivingdon said. “Do enjoy your meal, please.”
Dr. Ling stared at the man, a cold, hateful stare. She did not move.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Clivingdon said. “Of course, how careless of me.” The man picked up a fork and knife, cut a small piece of the roast beef, and popped it into his mouth. He chewed thoroughly, swallowed, and smiled. “As you see, the food is quite safe.”
“I know why you’ve brought me here,” Dr. Ling said coldly.
“Do you?” Clivingdon asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Of course,” Dr. Ling said. “You want my invention, the fuel cell.” She shook her head slightly. “Never.”
Clivingdon shook his own head. “I assure you, Dr. Ling, I have no interest whatever in your invention. You can believe me. I’m sure you’ve had great experience with liars in your country. Am I lying now? I care not a whit for your invention.”
Dr. Ling studied the man’s face, his tone of voice. He was telling the truth. Confusion washed over the young scientist’s face. “Then — why?“
“You’ll find out, Doctor,” Clivingdon smiled. “All in good time, you’ll find out. Now, Please… enjoy your meal.” The smiling man turned and walked out, leaving his prisoner in total confusion.
“And you say Tockman made bail?” Hawkman asked Green Arrow.
“Uh-huh,” the archer said. “The bondsman told me where I could find him, and I trailed him to the warehouse where they were holding Dinah.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Green Arrow and Black Canary: Dealt from the Bottom, Chapter 3: A Dish Best Served Cold.]
Hawkman shook his head. “I’m astonished that a known recidivist like the Clock King was granted bail in the first place. Any competent judge would have ordered remand.”
“Well, you’d think so,” Green Arrow said, shrugging. “A couple of years ago, some judge in Gotham City decided that costumed criminals aren’t a flight risk. It set a precedent that’s been used ever since.”
“What?!” Hawkman gasped, genuinely shocked. “Costumed criminals not a flight risk? Where on Earth is the logic in that?“
“Well, ordinary crooks just want to get away with the loot,” Green Arrow explained. “But most of the costume boys, especially in Gotham, make a game out of it. They repeatedly try to outsmart the resident super-hero, even though they never do. So it’s a foregone conclusion that they’re going to stick around and try again. Sad part is, taken unemotionally like that, it makes perfect sense.”
“I — I don’t know how to react to that,” Hawkman said, shaking his head. “Just when I think I’ve gotten used to Earth justice, I get surprised all over again.”
“Excuse me, sirs?” the pretty young secretary behind the desk said. “Mr. Danneman will see you now.”
“Thank you,” Hawkman said as he and Green Arrow rose from the leather-upholstered sofa in the waiting area of the office. They had decided to ask for an appointment with the CEO of Marshall Motors rather than demand to see him immediately. Best not to put him on his guard right away, they had agreed.
They were shown into a luxurious office; it was larger than Oliver Queen’s apartment, Green Arrow thought. Mahogany paneling, polished cherry wood desk, plush carpeting, full bar in one corner, six television monitor screens built flush into one wall — opulence, everywhere he looked. And Marshall Motors had laid off three hundred workers just the previous month.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Hawkman, Mr. Arrow,” Jack Danneman greeted them, politely enough. He was a tall, powerfully built man. He had a full head of jet-black hair and a neatly clipped mustache under his nose. He regarded the two Justice League champions with an air of impatience. “I believe I know why you’re here, so let’s not waste time dancing around the subject.”
Hawkman and Green Arrow glanced at one another, then back at Danneman. “And what makes you think you know why we’re here?” Green Arrow asked.
“Oh, come now, Mr. Arrow–“
“Make it Green Arrow,” the archer said.
“Green Arrow, then,” Danneman said. “Did you think you were the first ones to consider me a suspect in Dr. Ling’s disappearance? The police and the FBI have already been to see me.”
“And that doesn’t surprise you?” Hawkman asked.
“Should it?” Danneman asked, palms spread wide. “I invested a great deal of money to bring Dr. Ling to this country, and she repaid my benevolence by denying me what is rightfully mine. Of course I would be a suspect in her disappearance. But I had nothing to do with it.”
“And, of course, you’d tell us if you had,” Green Arrow said, sarcastically.
“Arrow–” Hawkman began, sternly.
“No, no, he’s right,” Danneman chuckled. “If A then C; if B then C, eh, Mis — Green Arrow. Of course, if I had arranged Dr. Ling’s kidnap, I would tell you that I hadn’t. Frankly, I appreciate your candor. I’m cooperating fully with the local and federal authorities; I don’t quite understand why the Justice League is involving itself with this, but I will cooperate with you as well.”
“The Justice League is always concerned with injustice,” Hawkman pointed out.
“Indeed,” Danneman said, coolly. “Well, I can account for my whereabouts at the time of Dr. Ling’s kidnap, and up to three hours afterward. Of course I wouldn’t have done the deed myself, I would have hired someone. My bank accounts, both corporate and personal, have been made available to the authorities. I suppose you could have a look, as well.”
“Perhaps you can help us another way, Mr. Danneman,” Hawkman said. “Can you think of anyone else who would have reason to kidnap Dr. Ling?”
Danneman laughed out loud, a mirthless laugh. “Can I think of anyone who would have reason to kidnap the woman whose invention would revolutionize the automobile industry overnight? Would you like the list in alphabetical order?”
“Thanks anyway, Mr. D,” Green Arrow said. “Come on, Hawks. We’re getting nowhere fast here.”
“If you do find Dr. Ling,” Danneman said, as the heroes turned to go, “do give her my best regards, won’t you?”
“We’ll do that,” Green Arrow said, through gritted teeth. “Keep your nose clean, Danneman.”
“Always,” the businessman said, grinning.
“Well, that was fruitless,” Hawkman said as he and Green Arrow left the Detroit building that housed Marshall Motors’ international headquarters.
“Yeah, Danneman is hard to read, isn’t he?” the archer commented. “I can see where he’d be a tough guy to face across a poker table. Or a corporate boardroom.”
“You’ve been at enough of both to know,” Hawkman quipped. “What do we do from here?”
“I’ll show you.” Green Arrow reached into a special compartment of his quiver and pulled out a portable phone, an experimental model much more compact than the typical 1980s cell phone. He dialed a number on it and spoke into it as Hawkman watched.
“Rick?” he said. “This is Green Arrow. This week’s code word is Dunsel. Yeah, how ya doin’? Listen, I’ve got a job for you. Jack Danneman, CEO of Marshall Motors. I want him under surveillance. Yeah, that’s right, the Ling thing. Watching CNN again, I see. Good boy. If Danneman so much as orders takeout from a different restaurant than he usually does, I want to know about it. Uh-huh. Yeah, I know. I know. I said I know! OK, sure. You know where to get me. Hope to hear from you soon. I will. ‘Bye.” Green Arrow snapped the phone shut and replaced it in his quiver.
“Was that the young man you’ve mentioned before?” Hawkman asked. “The computer expert?”
“The once and former Hi-Tek, yeah,” Green Arrow said. “He does little jobs like that for me from time to time. He’s attending Kirkley University now.”
“And he’s going to watch Danneman’s movements? And report to you?” Hawkman asked. “I’m surprised, Oliver. Isn’t that a violation of Danneman’s civil rights?”
Green Arrow eyed his old friend. “I think I’m rubbing off on you, Hawks,” he said. “Yeah, it is, and I don’t feel good about doing it. But just now, I’m more concerned with Dr. Ling’s civil rights.”
“It’s a hard decision to make,” Hawkman said, kindly. “Compromising your personal value systems in the cause of justice. It’s a call we all have to make sometime.”
“Thanks, Katar,” Green Arrow said. “I appreciate that. I still feel like a green-suited hypocrite, but I appreciate it. Come on, let’s get back to the satellite, see if the others have come up with anything.”
“Still waiting for your friend?” the waitress asked the grubby little man seated in the dark booth.
“Uh, yeah,” the little man said, making uncomfortable fidgeting motions. “I’m sure he’ll be here soon.”
“Sure,” the waitress said noncommittally and walked off, snapping her bubble gum.
Donovan stared at the front door of the restaurant. Where is he? It’s not like him to keep a guy waiting! This is nerve-wracking! Wait a minute — is that him, coming in the door? Sure looks like him. But who’s that guy with him? Dark glasses, sailor’s hat pulled down low; oh, man! A cop?
“Donovan,” the red-haired young man said pleasantly, sliding into the booth next to the nervous little man. “Been a long time.” The man in dark glasses slid in next to the redhead.
“Wh-who’s your friend?” Donovan asked, indicating the man in the glasses.
“Who, him?” the redhead said. “His name’s Robbo. He’s harmless. He’s my ride tonight; my Jag’s in the shop.”
“Hi,” Robbo said.
The waitress came over before Donovan could say another word. “What’ll it be, boys?”
“Three cheeseburgers, fries on the side,” Robbo said.
“I-I ain’t that hungry,” Donovan said.
“I wasn’t ordering for you,” Robbo said. The waitress stared wide-eyed as the red-haired man ordered a cup of chili, and Donovan just a cup of coffee. He was too nervous to eat.
“S-so, Gil,” Donovan asked, “what c-can I do for y-you?”
“Mercenaries,” Gil said, coming to the point. “Guns for hire. You know the kind. What do you know?’
“N-no more than anyone else,” Donovan stammered. Gil chuckled; of course that wasn’t true, or else Gil wouldn’t have come to Donovan.
“These mercs wear dark purple body armor,” Gil said, to jog Donovan’s memory. The little man’s piggy eyes got very wide with fear.
“Oh, man!” he breathed. “Y-you don’t wanna mess with them!”
“With who, Donovan?” Robbo asked.
“The Birthright!” the grubby little man said, in a hushed whisper.
Gil started at that. “The Birthright? That white supremacist group in New England?”
“The same,” Donovan said. “They do mercenary work sometimes to supplement their income.”
“Yeah, publishing hate literature can be costly,” Robbo said with disgust.
“Look, you didn’t hear about it from me,” Donovan whispered. “But the only mercs who wear dark purple are the Birthright. And if you’re smart, you’ll forget you ever wanted to know!”
“Well, that’s the thing about me, Donovan,” said Roy Harper, whom the informant knew only as Gil. “Nobody ever accused me of being smart.”
“S’true,” the disguised Wally West said around a mouthful of cheeseburger.
“So this is the place, Ray?” the Elongated Man asked as he and Green Lantern were led by their old friend to the university banquet hall. Yellow crime scene tape was stretched across the doorway; the ruined door still lay in splintered fragments.
“This is it,” Ray said. “The four of them burst through here, grabbed Dr. Ling, and were gone before anyone could do anything about it.”
“Police and FBI already here, I see,” Green Lantern said, noticing the telltale traces of fingerprint dust and other detection devices.
“Something weird about this door,” Ralph said. He stretched his nose and sniffed the wood closely. “It’s got a funny smell to it.”
“Let me check it out,” Green Lantern said. He played the emerald beam from his power ring over the ruined wood, analyzing the molecular structure of whatever was found in the beam’s path. “I should have a readout for you in a second.”
“You can do just about anything with that ring of yours, can’t you?” Ralph said.
“I wish,” Green Lantern frowned. “I wish I could use it to make Ollie make up his mind about his best man!”
“You still harping on that?” Ralph said.
“Well, come on, Ralph, I’m his best friend,” Hal said. “Of course I want the job!”
“Sure you do,” Ray agreed. “No one can blame you for that. But I think it’s a friend’s responsibility to back down, let Ollie make up his own mind.”
“Yeah, Hal,” Ralph said. “How would you feel if it were your wedding, and you had to choose between Ollie and one of your brothers, and Ollie wouldn’t let it go?”
“I never thought of that,” Hal said, wide-eyed. “Damn! I’d probably get so ticked off at Ollie for pestering me about it, I’d give it to someone else out of spite!”
“And you’re the levelheaded one of that duo,” Ralph said with a smile.
“A wedding is a beautiful occasion, Hal,” Ray said. “It shouldn’t be marred by fighting. Let Ollie make up his own mind.”
Green Lantern looked away sheepishly. “You’re right, guys. Thanks for making me see the light.” As if on cue, his power ring started flashing brightly. “Analysis is done,” he said, shining the beam at a table, and a thin sheet of green energy the size and shape of a piece of typing paper appeared there. There were words and numbers on the sheet of energy in darker green.
“I’ll have a look,” Ray said, picking up the sheet. “I’m not a forensic chemist, but perhaps…” The young scientist studied the figures for a few minutes. “These chemical components here are commonly found in industrial-strength detergents and cleaning solutions,” he said.
“Could the university maintenance staff have used something like that on the door?” Ralph asked.
“I doubt it,” Ray said. “These compounds, in this concentration, would take the finish right off the wood. More likely, one of the kidnappers polished his armor with it and then hit the door.”
“Industrial-strength cleansers, you say?” Green Lantern asked.
“That’s right,” Ray said. “Nothing this strong is available at the A&P. It’s of the kind usually sold to professional maintenance crews — hotels, restaurants, like that.”
Ralph snapped his fingers, with a sound like a rubber band snapping. “Hokey smokes, guys! Have you ever heard of the Birthright?”
“That white supremacist group in Massachusetts?” Ray asked.
“They make the KKK look like the Boy Scouts,” Green Lantern said sourly.
“That they do,” Ralph said. “And I remember reading an article about them in the dentist’s office. Their leader is one Don Slicer of Roxbury, Mass. And guess what his day job is?”
“Janitor?” Green Lantern ventured.
“Correct for two hundred points, G.L.,” Ralph said. “At the Minuteman Hotel in Roxbury, to be exact.”