Meanwhile, back at Titans Tower, four women talked in eager and excited tones. Donna Troy Long held up a white shift and smiled. “This is very much like the kind of clothing we wear on Paradise Island. I guess that’s natural enough, since our culture is so based on classical Greek lifestyles,” she said.
Lilith Clay, a girl with long, red-blonde hair, nodded in agreement. “I thought the shifts would make a suitable outfit for my bridesmaids. I am so happy that you three agreed to be in our ceremony. Knowing my true origin as a daughter of one of the mythical Titans has not made me forget my love for you who befriended me when I was just a dancer with foster parents and odd psychic gifts!” she said, embracing Donna, who returned her hug and turned to Kory and Raven.
Koriand’r said, “Now that Dick and I have worked things out, perhaps we’ll have our own wedding one of these days!”
Lilith said, “You and Dick make a fine couple. The balance of light and dark, passion and intellect, is nicely represented. I hope I can eventually lead Azrael into more relaxed relationships with others. As you all know, he has known no life beyond that of experimentation by the real Titans, by Lord Chaos, and then by Brother Blood and his evil cult. He still distrusts most people.”
Kory said, “Don’t worry, honey. He adores you, and he will loosen up in time. You don’t have to defend him to us. We like him, too.”
Raven glanced at her own brief white shift and shrugged sheepishly. “I suppose I am proof that such a gradual loosening of manner may occur,” she said.
They laughed warmly and continued to select various items of wedding finery.
A buzz from the monitor board caught Kory’s attention. She rushed over and saw Gar Logan’s face displayed on the screen. “Hiya, gorgeous! Are you ever a sight for sore and desperately hungry eyes! Could you come over to Jillian’s? Maybe you, Raven, and Artemis? She’s going through some problems, and I figured a woman’s touch could help. Always helps me!” he said.
Kory smiled at his customary banter. “Certainly. I am sure Raven and Artemis would be glad to come over with me. Your friend is special to you, and so she is important to us, too!” said the Tamaranian princess. She waited until he had signed off before joining the other women.
“Gar would like us to come over to the Jackson estate. He says Jill could use another woman to talk over some problem. She has no mother, you know,” explained Kory.
Donna frowned. “I know how rough it can be growing up without a strong female in your life. Without Diana and Mother, I would have been lost — literally.”
Raven said, “My mother was my deepest source of comfort during my own difficult years before I met you all.”
Lilith said, “I have a few things to do here to prepare for the ceremony. Azrael has no interest in any small details. He says I am all he desires.”
Donna smiled knowingly. “Trust me, that feeling fades after a few weeks of married life!” The others turned to stare at her in curiosity. “Kidding! Just kidding! Don’t worry about a thing, Lilith!”
The three women departed from their Tower after slipping back into their costumes.
“Thanks to the spell Aphrodite created a while back, my secret identity is now a true secret,” said Artemis. “Only a few friends know about my double life. Remember that her spell prevents others from even seeing that Donna looks just like Artemis. I want to keep it that way, so remember not to use my real name around Jill. She can only know me as Artemis from now on. I do trust her. I mean, she came to our wedding, but after Marcy’s murder, I can’t be too careful.”
Starfire said, “Dick is also so careful to use disguises when we are together. I suppose it is necessary to keep not only his secret but those of Bruce and Jason, too.”
Raven remained silent. She was thinking of one of her college classmates. She had recently rescued the woman from an abusive husband. She hoped that her actions had been correct. The uncertainty of life alone was frightening, but it had to be better than living with a violent man.
Artemis parked a car near the huge house and led the others around the pool. “Mr. Jackson is not in Steve Dayton’s financial circle, but he must be very close. What a lovely home!” she said.
Raven, in her white gown and high heels, shuddered. “I feel something is wrong. We should exercise care,” she said.
Starfire frowned. “If Gar is in trouble, then we should hurry!” She flew off the ground and gazed inside an upper window. “I don’t see anything amiss, but I could be looking in the wrong rooms!” she said as Artemis knocked on the door.
Jillian answered the door and smiled winningly. “Oh, how nice of you to come. I couldn’t really talk about this with poor Gar. He’s so well-meaning, but being a guy, he wouldn’t understand,” she said.
Artemis said, “What troubles you, honey?”
Jillian said, “It’s my mother. Her murder has never been avenged.”
Donna said, “Murder? I thought she died of natural causes.”
Raven said, “Evil is within this house and in that girl!” She vanished in a cloud of smoke even as Jillian transformed herself into a dark-haired woman who snaked elongated arms around Artemis and wrapped her own lasso around her arms before she could react.
“Madame Rouge!” gasped Artemis as she fell backward into the constricting rope.
“Bound with your own lasso! You are a trusting fool!” she laughed.
Artemis kicked her across the room. “An Amazon fights with her legs as well as with her arms!” she said.
Starfire blasted away as the fallen woman rolled aside and took on the form of Gar Logan. “Stop! I have your precious Logan. Surrender to me, and I shall not slay him yet!” the woman said.
Starfire helped Artemis slip free of the lasso and said, “If you’ve hurt Gar or the true Jill, we’ll make you pay! How did you survive the fight in Zandia? Gar was certain you were dead!”
Madame Rouge resumed her own form and smiled with a cold cruelty all her own. “You’ll know the truth soon enough,” she said.
Artemis said, “Kory, Raven has vanished, too. She may be rescuing Gar as we speak!” They moved closer to the mocking Madame Rouge, who laughed at them.
“You simpletons! My allies have no doubt taken care of your friend in the gown!” she said.
Artemis darted forward, only to fall hard as one small section of the floor directly beneath her high-heeled boots dissolved. She sprawled on the ground and lost consciousness as a hulking figure landed on her from above.
“Mammoth!” cried Starfire as she saw the red-haired Australian brute from the Fearsome Five. She whirled around to drive him away from the fallen Artemis, when her throat tightened and she gasped painfully for air. She fought the yellowish gas that had formed around her and tried to reach the woman who had transformed the air into toxic matter. Shimmer! she thought as Mammoth’s twin sister’s own mutant powers brought her down in defeat.
Shimmer, a malicious-looking woman in gold, kicked the fallen Starfire and said, “Baran, my brother, our new Fearsome Five has reaped benefits Doctor Light and Psimon could never have achieved in so short a time! We have enjoyed a luxurious new base in this mansion and the wealth of our captives the Jacksons as well. We have lured our hated foes here and beaten half of their number.”
Mammoth said, “If you are happy, then so am I. What about the witch?”
An exotic Indian woman appeared at the head of the staircase. She held up a white high heel. “I have bested Raven. She was helpless beneath the assault of my arcane power!” said Jinx.
“You know, her English is pretty good now,” said Mammoth.
“It should be perfect. Our leader did more than just fool around with her during all those private sessions,” said Shimmer.
Madame Rouge glared at her. “I will not tolerate that kind of talk. Respect him or keep your mouth shut!” she said.
Shimmer smirked as she faced the angry shape-shifter. “Sorry. Shall we kill them now? I want to pay them back for our past losses, and I’m not going to be satisfied until I can melt the very flesh from the bones of that Green Lantern and the Dove as well. They were the ones who captured me last,” she said.
Mammoth said, “My sister, I shall crush the Dove for you and break the Green Lantern in half!”
Madame Rouge said, “Enough of your sibling pleasantries. We await our leader, and when he has joined us, we shall put the Changeling on trial for my murder.”
Later, Gar Logan groaned and opened his eyes in disbelief. He saw Artemis, Raven, and Starfire sitting alongside him. All three of them were apparently powerless for some reason. They gazed at him with looks of concern. “I’m OK. I think I’m headed for the nut bin, but I’m OK. How did you girls get here?” he said.
Artemis said, “Madame Rouge assumed your form and lured us into a trap. Apparently she has formed a new Fearsome Five, and they captured Jill and Mr. Jackson some time ago. She’s been posing as Jill. Gar, I’m so sorry!”
Gar shook his head. “I can’t wrap my mind around it. All that time I was making out with Jill, I was really kissing the woman who killed my foster mom! I thought I had killed her by accident during our fight in Zandia.”
Starfire said, “That was no murder. The way of the warrior sometimes leads to loss of life!”
Raven shook her head. “Garfield, I know your heart is not that of a killer. Her death was an accident. You wanted to make her pay for her deeds, but you did not truly seek her life when faced with sudden battle!”
Gar shrugged. “I can’t be so sure, Raven. I was pretty mixed up back then.”
Artemis said, “Honey, it’s not important now. She obviously survived.”
Shimmer came in and said, “But you four won’t last very long. I’ll see to that.”
Mammoth stood behind his sibling. “I shall break them for you.”
Jinx entered with the scent of an exotic fragrance wafting on the air in her wake. “I should enjoy using my arcane arts to end their lives. I also would gladly destroy the Cyborg,” she said.
Madame Rouge had apparently been in the shadows all along. She stepped forward and said, “He shall fall as well. I felt it best to follow our leader’s plan. He wanted to see Changeling suffer first, and these others are but a bonus. We will not be foolish enough to overextend ourselves in heedless combat against the full team.”
She clutched Gar’s face in one hand and said, “None of you may use your powers, either. I’m sure you’ve all tried to escape or attack during our little talk. Our leader has seen to that. Now, prepare to meet the new head of the Fearsome Five!”
She gestured to the stairs, where a man in gold and black stood wrapped in a black cloak. “Dracula? You recruited Dracula!” said Gar.
She slapped him and said, “Even now you make with insipid banter. He is our leader. He is the Crimelord.”
The man walked slowly forward with a regal manner. “I appreciate your loyalty. You herald my approach with a splendor well in keeping with my status,” he said.
Raven said, “He seems to be suppressing our powers, but is it by technological means or some innate power?”
Artemis said, “I don’t know. Why does he hate Gar so much? I don’t get the impression it is merely because of any attachment to Madame Rouge.”
Crimelord laughed. “I enjoy hearing your futile speculations. My hearing and all of my senses are magnified by my armor. There! I’ve given the condemned a clue. Benevolent of me, don’t you agree?”
Madame Rouge said, “Crimelord, allow me to begin the trial. Gar Logan, you are accused of the murder of Madame Rouge. How do you plead?”
Gar said, “You’re nutty as a fruitcake. How can I have murdered you when you’re standing here playing Susan Dey?”
She said, “Very well. Let the deception end, as shall your life. I am not truly the woman you killed. I am her daughter. You ended the life of Laura DeMille — Madame Rouge — but Lauryn DeMille, or Gemini as I call myself, survives to avenge her mother’s loss.”
Gar blinked as she resumed her normal appearance. She was a pretty, dark-haired teen girl with the looks of her infamous mother. “I have inherited her shape-shifting powers and her hatred for you. I used those powers at the suggestion of the Crimelord to take Jillian Jackson’s place and seduce you. It was a role that I loathed, but I stood the indignity of pretending to love you because I knew the truth would hurt you that much more before I killed you!” she hissed.
“You wanted to hurt me?” Gar said. “Well, you did it. You deceived me. You used me. You made me feel like someone loved me. It worked. Now, how about letting Artemis, Raven, and Starfire go? I’m the one who killed your mother.”
Raven frowned. She sensed all too clearly Gar’s pain and his desperation. He was trying to goad Gemini into aiming all her rage at him. It was a heroic thing to do, but not very smart.