Robin, the Boy Wonder: Like a Moth to a Flame, Chapter 2: Partners and Pawns

by Libbylawrence

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Meanwhile, a fat bald man stood before a garishly costumed figure in a warehouse. “You had a good outing tonight,” he said. “It won’t be long before the local mob hires you for protection. The name Killer Moth has a certain reputation. You are lucky to be wearing that costume. Now let me show you a new trick. This light will only be visible with your special moth helmet in place. It’s a type of Moth-signal our clients can use to summon you when they are in need — if they have paid their fees, of course.”

The new Killer Moth grunted and said, “Right, Jenkins. I’m not in this for pleasure. Money is required for this moth to fly.”

His ally nodded eagerly. “Cashing in on the original’s reputation will make us rich men. It doesn’t matter if the law figures out you aren’t the first man to wear those colors, since we will have collected our fees from the criminal clientele by that time.”

Killer Moth nodded and said, “I have no love for the first Killer Moth. If he is dead, then I hope he is rotting in Hell. If he lives elsewhere, he had best not cross my path.”

Jenkins smiled coldly. “I was his aide for years. Now it’s finally going to pay off!”

***

Robin had discussed the case with Alfred Pennyworth after returning from the meeting with Commissioner Gordon.

Alfred had frowned in disapproval. “If Cameron Van Cleef has reformed, then he has a vested interest in seeing that his old alias is not used to ruin his newly clean record. While Master Bruce and Master Dick are away, I suggest you team up with the Golden Wasp.”

Robin agreed readily. “That’s my plan as well. How about a ride to Bludhaven?”

Alfred said, “The car will waiting after school.”

***

The next afternoon found the Boy Wonder sitting across from the Golden Wasp at the Bludhaven police station. The gold-and-black-clad hero was standing tensely as the boy told his story. “This new Killer Moth seems to be copying your old methods and has even duplicated your gear,” Robin said.

The Wasp glanced toward the closed door. “Remember, the locals do not know my secret. I’m glad you have been discreet, lad. Chief Dawson is a good egg to let us use his office for this little talk.”

Robin said, “Do you have any idea who could copy your old image so closely? Have you shared your secrets with any old gang members? How about the Cavalier?”

The Wasp shook his head. “No. Mort is true to me. He would not besmirch my name, so to speak. The Cavalier knows me well, but he is not the man in my old gear. I’ve employed valets before to assist me with my efforts. I wondered if one of them has copied my costume for his own enrichment. I admit that I was not the kindest of employers.”

“That’s a possibility,” said Robin. “I wondered if you might use your disguise skills to pose as a local hood. Maybe in Gotham City you could even lure this new Killer Moth to a trap by pretending to be a mug in need of his protection!”

The Golden Wasp clapped both gauntlets together firmly. “A capital idea. The game’s afoot, as they say! Your mentor has taught you well!”

***

That night, the new Killer Moth struck again. He used his Mothmobile to ram a squad car, thus enabling a gang of jewel thieves to make good their escape.

That evening, the felon divided his money with the bald fat man in their warehouse. “I tell you, Jenkins, this scheme is going well!” said the new Killer Moth. “We’ve collected from half the punks in Gotham City. It doesn’t matter if we follow through and actually help them or not. Now that we’ve been so richly paid, we can clear out of the city. If they hold grudges, then so be it. All they can do is come gunning for the first Moth if he ever shows his face again!”

Jenkins nodded and said, “I equipped you well. Still, we need to do one last job. This guy Malone is a mob enforcer. He wants our protection, or that’s what the word on the grapevine says. Meet him tonight at the dock. Mob money is worth one more night in Gotham City.”

“Sure, why not?” said Killer Moth. “If his money is good, I’ll gladly take it and run!”

***

The next night found Robin lurking in the shadows of the waterfront. He waited in the darkness while the Golden Wasp met with the new Killer Moth. The Wasp had readily adopted a disguise that made him a rough copy of “Matches” Malone. He had a skill for disguise that rivaled that of Batman himself. The irony was that Robin had not told the Wasp that the mobster he was playing was, in fact, a mere fiction used by Batman himself from time to time. All the Wasp knew was that Malone had a reputation in criminal circles. He waited and struck a match idly as a cloaked figure appeared from the shadows.

“Malone? Word has it that you want to hire my services. I warn you I do not come cheap. Here are my terms.” The helmeted Killer Moth handed Malone a piece of paper.

Malone read the document and handed the Killer Moth a small bag. “I knew that. It’s all there. Are you sure you can keep me safe from the cops?” he asked.

The Killer Moth replied readily. “You’re safe now. Just shine this light when you need me.” He handed Malone a small light and raised the bag. “Thanks. You’ll be pleased with my services,” he said.

He turned and vanished into the shadows as Malone slipped into a doorway and shed his disguise to emerge as the gold-and-black-clad Golden Wasp. He flew up to meet Robin, who was watching from above. “Now to trail our little bug back to his base!” said the Wasp.

He carried Robin across the city until they reached an old warehouse. “The place is a dump. This would-be Moth has no style!” said the Golden Wasp.

Robin grinned and said, “You take this side, and I’ll slip over the roof and drop in through the skylight.”

The Golden Wasp said, “Sounds like a plan, my young ally!”

Robin moved silently and swiftly. The Golden Wasp seems to trust me totally. Batman is always so overprotective! A guy could get used to being his own boss.

As he edged near the light, he involuntarily gasped as a heavy blow from behind sent him crashing through the glass to the floor below.

***

When Robin awoke, he was bound to a chair. The Killer Moth stood before him next to Jenkins.

“Well, punk, I’m mighty glad to see you. When I was calling myself the Moth, you and that blonde Bat-Girl gave me real trouble!” he said. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Batwoman’s Junior Partner,” Batman #141 (August, 1961).]

Robin frowned and said, “The Moth! You’ve been in jail for years! You must have decided to use the flashy Killer Moth image when you got out.”

Jenkins smirked and said, “Smart. I secretly copied the first Killer Moth’s gadgets when I worked as his valet. That arrogant playboy was a real pain in the neck!”

Robin craned his neck and tried to catch any sign of a hidden Golden Wasp, but he saw nothing. The criminal pair soon left him alone as they walked away into another part of the warehouse, discussing what to do with him.

The Boy Wonder fingered a thin blade hidden in his glove as he worked to slice through the ropes. He broke free and ran forward to confront the crooks.

Jenkins was nowhere to be seen, but the Killer Moth whirled to face the Boy Wonder. “So, you pulled a little Houdini on me! Too bad for you!” he said grimly. He moved to attack the youth with surprising agility.

Robin dodged nimbly and gasped as a spinning kick connected with the side of his head. He fell hard but rolled to freedom before rising to fight anew. He whipped out a smoke pellet and created a cloud of blinding fog as he swung higher to perch on a pile of crates.

He then heard movement and saw a flash of light as something ignited nearby.

“Kid, are you OK?” cried a voice as the Golden Wasp flew out of the smoke and fire. “I waited outside until now, because I saw them carry you in before I could make my own entrance. I feared any rash act on my part would endanger you. I stopped the former Moth, but Jenkins got away. How I regret every tip I ever gave that swine!”

Robin said, “You can’t leave the Moth here to die in the flames. Help me carry him out!”

The Wasp said, “I fear he’s a goner. I had to use my stunner, and it ignited some powder he was preparing to hurl at you. Still, I suppose you are right.”

They carried the badly injured Killer Moth out of the fire as the Mothmobile and the other weapons and tools went up in flames.

On the dock, the Golden Wasp extended a gloved hand to Robin in appreciation. “I want to thank you. You are a worthy partner,” he said.

“So was the Moth,” said Robin. “He served you well, although he never knew you were Jenkins and he was a mere pawn!”

The Golden Wasp drew back. “What are you saying?

“Jenkins never existed,” explained Robin. “I’m sure a mask and padded suit are burning up in there as we speak. You pretended to be the valet Jenkins, who had been employed by you during your Killer Moth days. As Jenkins, you met the Moth and talked him into joining you in a scheme to resume your former M.O. as a protector-for-hire for crooks. He readily agreed, since he had no idea that you were truly the first Killer Moth. I guess when I became involved, you figured you had no choice except to lead me to him and kill him so you could emerge as a big hero. He could not reveal that Jenkins had suddenly attacked him and taken his Killer Moth costume for one last moment on the stage.

“You knocked me through the skylight and then entered in your Jenkins role. You and the Moth, who was still dressed as Killer Moth, confronted me and gave the obligatory super-villain speech all to better incriminate this fake Jenkins and leave you an out. When you led him away from me, you attacked him and put on your own Killer Moth costume to stall me while the poor Moth lay burning. You had to keep me from getting to him before he died. In the smoke and fire, you regained your Wasp costume in order to tell me Jenkins had escaped and to try to get me to leave your pawn to die.”

The Golden Wasp raised one hand in warning. “Hold it, boy! How can you prove any of this? It’s all wrong!

“My belt receiver recorded all of our fight,” said Robin. “I’d say if we magnify the sound on the tape, we might hear you attack the Moth, too. Plus, when you first fought me tonight as Killer Moth, you used that spinning kick you use as the Wasp. I didn’t forget that move.”

“You can’t understand,” pleaded the Golden Wasp. “I was broke. Being a hero was glorious, but it did not give me the income I needed to enjoy the good things in life. Thus, I duped the Moth into playing the role. I figured I could get a nice sum from the mob and then vanish. I even toyed with the idea of beating him while dressed as the Wasp. I’d turn him in, and no one would know the truth. And I knew Batman had been sighted out of the city. But I never expected you to interfere. Why did you have to mess things up?”

Robin faced the angry man and looked up solemnly. “You were a hero to me.” The sincere look on the boy’s face and the disappointment in his tone stopped Cameron Van Cleef in his tracks. He was prepared for a pun or a mocking comment before a final battle, but this palpable emotion left him uncertain about what to do.

“Me? I’m a hero to you?” he said as he removed his golden helmet. “You live with the great and powerful Batman! I’m just a rogue with an eye for the ladies and a passion for the good life!”

“I mean it,” said Robin. “Batman is my hero and mentor. Still, you have a real style all your own. I like you. Let me help you make amends. The Moth’s suit protected him from the worst of the fire. He’ll recover. You could give the money the mob paid you to the police. We could even bring in the crooks you helped escape.”

Cameron Van Cleef shook his head and said, “Lad, I think you have a wisdom beyond your years. I admit that I dreaded facing the good people of Bludhaven when you exposed their hero as a felon!”

“We could talk to Commissioner Gordon,” said Robin. “Even the Moth does not know you were Jenkins. You never put on your Killer Moth suit until after he was knocked out. We could manage to gain a second chance for the Golden Wasp to fly.”

The Golden Wasp draped one arm across the boy’s shoulders. “You know, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Heard that once in an old film!” he said with a grin.

The End

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