My brother Peter signaled his aide, and within moments the guards returned with a suitcase. I felt a certain tingling sensation, and I knew what was inside the large case.
“My energy-absorber and costume!” I said. “The device is fully charged as well. You really are serious!”
Peter looked sick, but answered me readily enough. “The Coast City Police Headquarters is saturated with the green power from all the times the hero brought in crooks. It was easy enough to charge your weapon!”
“The band on your leg will still activate if you fail to return in five hours,” said one of the guards. “You’ve got a chance to do something good for a change. Don’t mess up!”
I nodded as the comfortable sense of becoming larger than life enveloped me as my hood slipped over my head, and I felt the tight fit of my gloves.
“William, can you find Mary? The ransom demand hasn’t arrived yet. We were told to wait by the phone. Naturally, I’ll pay anything to get her back!”
I bit my tongue as I started to make a sneering remark. Brother Peter’s willingness to pay didn’t seem to extend to any risk of whatever skeletons were dancing in his own closet, after all.
Although I rather relished the irony of the situation, I was also very concerned for Mary’s safety. I had battled Green Lantern enough to know exactly how to make use of his stolen power.
It was all a matter of willpower. I walked out of the study as the observers followed me, and I made my way up the grand staircase to Mary’s room. I fought the urge to relive old memories of our times together and concentrated at the task at hand.
“Her fingerprints are on the closet door,” I said. “My invention and a little manipulation of the emerald energy can scan them and take me directly to the owner of them — to Mary herself!”
The room flared with green light, and in a moment I was gone! I flew out of the room, and I’d like to say that I never looked back. That would sound dramatic, but I was human, and I did look back. I looked back long and hard!
I know Peter isn’t telling me everything, but I’ll rescue my niece, I thought to myself. I’ll play the hero just this once!
The energy trail led me into Coast City itself, to a rather simple-looking house on a crowded street.
I landed in the yard and concentrated for a moment. The side of the house glowed that familiar green and then turned perfectly transparent to my now-green-glowing eyes as I’d willed it to do. I took a quick look before willing it to return to normal.
Within I saw a pretty, dark-haired young woman sitting across from a young man wearing a Great Frog T-shirt. He was pouring coffee and certainly didn’t look the part of a dangerous felon.
I watched the scene for a few more moments with my glowing green eyes before it struck me like a ton of bricks — Mary wasn’t scared of her abductor. Instead of bursting in, I thought perhaps I’d better listen in a little.
Thus I created a listening device. It was easy enough to do so. I already had a gifted scientific mind, and I could recall any design or plan I’d ever seen before. The combination of my memory and the willpower-fueled energy made such creations nearly instantaneous.
“Benny, I love your coffee, and I love you! I wish we could stay like this forever!” said Mary. Hearing her voice, I confirmed that she was indeed the young woman in question. She had her mother’s beauty and none of her father’s somber mien.
Benny smiled back and kissed her cheek. “Mary, are you sure we did the right thing?” he said. “Why fake a kidnapping? Why not just run away together?”
Mary took his hand and pressed it to her lips. “We need the money to get away!” she said. “Without that kind of money, he’d find us! We’d never really be safe!”
Benny said, “Mary, I’ll never let him hurt you again!”
Something was rotten in the state of Denmark. Clearly, my niece was a very willing accomplice. I was glad she was safe, but I wasn’t sure if I knew who the true villain was just yet!
The screech of brakes caught my attention as several cars raced up to block the driveway, and my guards emerged along with Peter himself and five other thugs.
“You’ve found her! Good work, William. We’ll take it from here!” my brother said with a rather overly broad smile.
“You followed me via the explosive band?” I said as I realized I’d been made a fool of by my overly smug sibling.
“It was a precaution. Now allow my associates, here, to handle the situation!”
Mary and her boyfriend emerged from the house with frightened looks on their faces. “Daddy, don’t hurt Ben!” she cried. “I love him! It was all my idea!”
Peter walked over to her as his men closed in on the startled lovers. “You’re coming home!” he yelled. “You don’t think I’d ever allow you to run off with this punk, do you? I have an image to think of! You’ll marry when — and if — I tell you to, and it will be a man of my selection!”
I lowered my hood and said, just loud enough for her to hear, “Mary, it’s your Uncle William. Don’t be scared. I won’t let anyone hurt you or your young man!”
Mary blinked with surprise. Even seeing me in costume had not fully enabled her to conceive all that was happening, and she turned back to lock her eyes on her father once more. But all those portals to the soul revealed was fear and hatred.
“I’m not yours!” she shouted at him. “You make me sick! I’d rather die than have you hurt me again!”
Peter turned to his men and said in a terse voice, “Wrap this up swiftly. We don’t want anyone to report this. I can’t afford to have a scandal!”
The goons moved forward, and I went into action.
My green energy swept upward and sent them tumbling across the yard. As they scrambled to rise and drew guns, I contained them in a sphere of glowing green power.
“William, you did what I wanted — now get in the car,” Peter yelled, trying to command me just as he’d commanded his men. “You’ll be rewarded if you keep quiet!”
“Silence is golden,” I said, “but I prefer green!“
Raising my weapon, I bowled over the two guards with a huge boxing glove like the very one I’d been on the receiving end of on more than one occasion in my duels with the emerald guardian of Coast City.
“Peter, I think I’ve heard enough,” I said by way of explanation. “Your daughter is completely terrified of you. I performed a quick check of her respiration. She’s not lying. You’ve done some cruel things to her. I think I’m not the blackest sheep of the Hand family, after all!”
“Hit the switch!” yelled Peter. “We’ll blame the abduction on William!”
The dazed guard responded swiftly, but I merely smiled.
“The band won’t work. The ring energy won’t work on the yellow band, but the weapon itself now has a secondary function. I made a mental adjustment to my weapon. It will now also absorb other forms of energy. It blocks the signal that triggers the explosion. I’m a free man!”
Ripping off the explosive band, I tossed it aside carelessly.
“William, you don’t know what you are doing!” cried Peter.
I smiled as a green wraith-like figure floated down to hand Mary a thick folder.
“I sent an energy-duplicate of myself to your office. He brought me back these rather incriminating documents. You’ve been a bad boy, Peter. You’ve made a few dirty deals that would shock the good voters you desperately need. You leave Mary and her young man alone from now on, and I’ll refrain from giving the evidence to the honest authorities that you haven’t managed to bribe. But, Peter, if you ever touch her again, I’ll rip you apart!”
Peter gasped in shock as his aide emerged from a car to pull him back inside. At the aide’s signal, the entire group of hired thugs began returning to their cars.
“William, how could you?” gasped Peter at the door of the car.
I pulled my hood over my head and smiled at my brother. “There’s no honor among thieves!” I said. “You, of all people, should know that!”
Peter was speechless for once as his aide finally managed to push him into the car, and almost as quickly as they’d arrived, the cars drove away back to the Hand estate.
Having ensured that they were really gone, I turned to Mary and Ben. She was sobbing on his shoulder as he clutched the documents I’d stolen to his chest.
“Mary, you probably barely remember me,” I said in a gentle voice. “I love you and always did. Keep those files safe, and be not afraid. Peter was always a coward. He won’t bother you again.”
Mary hesitated for a moment, then kissed my cheek. “I’ll never forget you for this,” she said.
With a smile and a wave, I flew off into the clouds above.
Willing myself to be both invisible and intangible, I veered off in another direction to keep from being tracked as I planned my next move. Perhaps I’d look up Sonar and take a vacation in his little kingdom; I knew he had a gorgeous wife now, though it seemed to me, now that I thought about it, his whole operation there could’ve gone belly-up by now. (*) Of course, there was always Zandia, which was rumored to be a safe haven for my kind of criminal. (*)
The family reunion, and everything that had unfolded from it, had left me convinced of one thing:
There’s no place like home… nor should there ever be.