“The phrase ‘a man who needs no introduction’ is trite, bandied about haphazardly,” the tuxedoed master of ceremonies said to the well-dressed crowd. “But I’m about to introduce someone who, to the residents of Star City, truly needs no introduction. For years he has been our guardian, our protector, an invaluable aid to the police, and friend of law-abiding people everywhere. So, without further ado, I give you — Green Arrow!”
Amid thunderous applause, the emerald-garbed archer strode to the microphone. He smiled at the crowd, allowed them a couple of minutes to continue applauding, then motioned for silence with his hands. Gradually, the applause died down.
“Well, thanks for that welcome,” Green Arrow said. “We super-heroes aren’t accustomed to getting a lot of applause. Well, except Hawkman, but that’s when he leaves the room.” The audience responded with polite laughter, and Green Arrow continued. “Seriously, Mr. Murrow painted a pretty glorious picture of me just then, and while I appreciate it, I don’t think it’s wholly deserved. Sure, I fight the bad guys, usually clowns who dress even weirder than I do. But it’s the ordinary people who give a hundred and ten percent of themselves every day to make Star City a safe place for decent people to live, who really deserve your applause. Policemen, firemen, emergency workers, folks like that. Am I right?” Deafening applause.
“And not just them, either, but the people who make the laws, too! The ones who don’t let themselves be corrupted by the toxic waste dump that is modern politics, who roll up their sleeves and work like beasts of burden to write and pass laws that protect the everyday citizen! And I’m here tonight to tell you about such a man. His name is Noah Bosk, and he wants to be your next state senator. Stand up, Noah, and let the people have a look at you!”
A man of about forty, with thick but graying hair and a build on the fit side of average, stood up with a humble smile. The audience applauded, though not nearly as loudly as they had for Green Arrow. Bosk waved once and took his seat again. “Now, some people have called him soft on crime,” Green Arrow continued. “Well, don’t you believe it! Noah Bosk is as dedicated a crime-fighter as I’ve ever known, and I rub elbows with guys like Superman and Batman! What some people don’t understand is the approach Noah wants to take to fighting crime. A preventive approach, to stop crime before it happens, to keep our kids from turning to crime! A major part of this approach, the part that’s drawn the most flak from his detractors, is his plan for legalization of currently illegal narcotics. I know, I know, that’s a hot-button issue. But–”
Green Arrow stopped as he heard sirens roaring past the building outside. Fire engines, lots of them. From the sound of them, it was at least a three-alarmer, probably more.
“Well, I hate to cut myself off,” Green Arrow said to the audience, “but I’ve gotta go! I was about to turn it over to Noah, anyway; he can explain it better than I can. It’s all yours, Noah!” With that, Green Arrow turned and fled the building. Most of the audience watched him go, watching the doorway for long moments after he vanished; then the heads turned to Noah Bosk, who had stepped up to the lectern.
“Um, well, that’s Green Arrow for you,” Bosk said. “After all, we wouldn’t want a super-hero who wouldn’t leave a fundraiser to rush to a fire, now would we? Yes. Well. What Green Arrow was saying about my policies…”
The tiller man kept a white-knuckled grip on the wheel, steering the long ladder truck down the twisting streets of Star City. His jaw was set in a line of grim determination. Ned Sullivan had been doing this for twenty years, and it never got any easier.
Sullivan thought he heard something, a sort of metallic clanking sound, like metal striking metal. He couldn’t be sure, though, over the roar of the siren. He glanced down at the ladder truck and did a double take. An arrow with a metal clamp for a head had fastened itself to the ladder — a green arrow, trailing a long green wire. Sullivan turned his head around to follow the wire and saw a sight that every Star City resident knew, but he had never personally seen before.
“Hi,” Green Arrow called over the siren. “Mind if I tag along?”
Sullivan’s face slowly split into a smile. “Not a bit!” he called back.
“Good to have you along, Green Arrow,” the fire captain said, “although, to be honest, I’m not sure what you can do!”
“Me neither,” the archer admitted, “but whatever it is, I’ll do it!”
Green Arrow stared at the small building, blazing like a yule log. The façade was totally engulfed in flames, but Green Arrow recognized it: Elan Jewelers, one of the many dealers of precious stones along Star City’s jeweler’s row. At least twice that Green Arrow could remember, he had saved the store from robbery, once by the Red Dart and once by a gang of ordinary criminals. “How’d this happen?”
“We don’t know yet,” the captain called out. “But the place is a goner for sure! We just want to get the fire out before it spreads to the other buildings on this street!”
“That’s not gonna be easy; they’re so close together!” Green Arrow cried. His eyes narrowed behind his mask. “The owners, the Figenbaums, they live in the back of the store! Are they out?”
“Oh, geez, I dunno!” The captain admitted. “I didn’t know anyone lived here! I don’t know if they’re accounted for or not!”
“I’m gonna find out!” Green Arrow declared, and broke into a run, ignoring the captain’s cries to wait. The narrow alley between the buildings was choked with smoke and licking flames — impassable. So Green Arrow burst into the building next door, another jeweler’s, and ran straight through the showroom and into the small room in back. It was a living quarters, almost identical to the Figenbaums’. It was deserted, the inhabitants probably frightened away by the sirens. Who’s the Boss? still played on the television set as Green Arrow raced through. He burst out the back door and ran around to the rear of Elan Jewelers. There was an alley between the backs of these buildings and those of the buildings in the next block, wider than the ones between the buildings, but not by much.
Green Arrow noticed that the fire and smoke weren’t quite as bad back here, yet; the fire must have started in the front. In one fluid motion he drew, notched, and fired two arrows, which struck either side of the small rear doorway and bathed it in chemical foam. This kept the flames at bay momentarily, long enough for the Emerald Archer to kick the door in.
“Mr. Figenbaum!” Green Arrow called out. “Mrs. Figenbaum! Anyone?” The living quarters was a mass of smoke; the archer coughed loudly.
“In here!” a weak, frightened voice cried from the bedroom. “Thank God! In here, please!”
In a heartbeat, Green Arrow was upon the bedroom, throwing open the door. He found Kurt Figenbaum, the sixty-something owner of the store, sitting on the edge of his bed, frozen in fear. He stared at the archer in wide-eyed terror.
“Green Arrow, thank God! Again I am owing you my life!” he cried.
“Where’s Mrs. F?” Green Arrow demanded, not seeing the owner’s wife anywhere.
“In New Jersey, visiting her sister, God be thanked!” Figenbaum cried. “I-I know I should get up, try to get out, but — my God, I’m an old man, and I’m terrified! I just — just–”
“It’s okay, Mr. F,” Green Arrow said soothingly. “Come with me; we can get out, but we’ve got to hurry!” As if to accentuate his point, the loud sound of roof timbers cracking shot through the room like a thunderclap.
“Twice, you don’t have to tell me,” Figenbaum said, leaping to his feet. The presence of the mighty archer seemed to lend courage to the old man. Figenbaum clutched a handkerchief across his face; Green Arrow threw an arm about his shoulder, and together they made their way through the smoky room to the back door. Green Arrow could sense the doorway more than see it, through the smoke; could feel the cool March night air as a beacon in the searing heat. Quickly he carried the old jeweler to the doorway.
Just at the edge of the doorway, he was halted by a voice that barked loudly, “Green Arrow!”
Green Arrow tensed, his hand straying toward his quiver. Was this the arsonist, challenging him? Then the voice barked through the smoke again. “Green Arrow! Are you in there? I can’t see a thing!”
“Who’s that?” Green Arrow demanded.
“Hawk!” the voice called again. “Of the Titans! You OK?”
“I will be, once we get out of–” The archer was cut off by a flaming timber falling between himself and Figenbaum, and the doorway. The elderly jeweler let out a squeak of fear.
“Oh, great!” Green Arrow cursed. “Now we’re trapped!”
“Yeah?” Hawk’s voice came through the smoke. Green Arrow saw the outline of a muscular figure charging through the smoke, saw the bright white and red costume of Hawk as the young hero hefted the timber and hurled it aside. “Now you’re un-trapped. Come on!”
Without another word, Green Arrow and Figenbaum followed Hawk out of the building.
“My whole life,” Figenbaum muttered as he sat in the back of an ambulance, taking breaths of oxygen from a breathing mask. “Everything, tied up in that store! Lost!”
“But you’re unhurt, Mr. F,” Green Arrow reminded him. “And your wife is safe.”
“Thanks be to you, young man,” Figenbaum said, smiling up at the Emerald Archer.
“Hey, I helped, too!” Hawk pointed out. “I pulled that burning beam outta the way!”
“Yeah, it wouldn’t have fallen in our way if we hadn’t stopped to answer you,” Green Arrow pointed out.
“The thanks I get for going in to help you!” Hawk shot back, unconsciously shaking his palms. He had paid for that, moving the burning timber; although the power of Hawk made him stronger and more durable than normal, he was not quite invulnerable.
“Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry,” Green Arrow responded. “What are you doing here, anyway?”
“I heard the sirens,” Hawk said. “Same as you, I figure. Oh, you mean what am I doing in Star City? I’m on Jane Foley’s book-signing tour. I offered to be her bodyguard; you know she gets a lot of death threats.”
Green Arrow’s eyed widened. “Jane Foley? That Nazi writer?”
“Nazi?!” Hawk exploded. “No way! She’s a real American! She tells it like it is, and that’s why she draws so much flak from the liberal creeps!”
“Liberal creeps?” Green Arrow echoed. “Oh, right! Creeps with the radical idea that homosexuals are human beings! Foley wants concentration camps for AIDS victims, for God’s sake!”
“Not concentration camps, geez!” Hawk replied. “Sure, she thinks they ought to be isolated. It’s a damned contagious disease, or hadn’t you heard? Besides, Margaret Thatcher said pretty much the same thing.”
“Oh, yeah, Thatcher,” Green Arrow sneered. “Now, there’s a role model for the ’80s.”
“Gentlemen,” Figenbaum spoke up. “I’m not wanting to interrupt, God knows, but for a minute you could stop, maybe?”
“Yes, Mr. F?” Green Arrow asked.
“Thank you,” the elderly jeweler said. “I just thought I’d mention, I was in my room reading when the fire started. When it was started, I should maybe say.”
“What do you mean, when it was started?” Green Arrow asked.
“Through my front window, somebody threw something,” Figenbaum said. “What it was, I don’t know. I heard the glass break, and then whoomp, big explosion, suddenly my store, my home, one big pizza oven. Oy! If you hadn’t have come along, Green Arrow… you too, young man, I’m sorry, your name, it was what again?”
“Hawk, sir,” Hawk said. “Hawk.”
“Hawk. Yes. It fits you. So that’s it. Somebody firebombed my store. Thirty-seven years we’re here, nothing like this. Oh, the usual troubles, bricks through the windows now and then, the occasional swastika sprayed on the door. You expect that, you know? But this!”
“You mean, you think someone did this… because you’re Jewish?” Hawk asked.
“Oy, and what else I should think?” Figenbaum asked. “Why else someone would do this? I don’t hurt nobody. I sell jewels. I fix watches. This wasn’t robbery; nothing was taken, except my livelihood, my peace of mind. What, I fix somebody’s watch badly, they throw a Molotov cocktail through my window? Gevalt! Fifteen years old I am when I run away from the old country, stow away on a fishing boat. The smell of the fish, for five years it stay in my nose. All to escape Hitler. And now what happens? I find the brown shirts have followed me here!”
“Take it easy, Mr. F,” Green Arrow said, laying a kindly hand on the old jeweler’s shoulder. “I’ll find whoever did this. And whoever they are, whyever they did it, they’ll pay for it.”
“We’ll find them,” Hawk corrected.
“We?” Green Arrow turned on the young hero. “What do you mean we, kid? I don’t need any help on this one! Why don’t you go play bodyguard to Eva Braun like you hired yourself out to do, and let the adults handle the important work?”
Hawk sputtered a moment, overcome with rage at Green Arrow’s words. “Why, you overstuffed Errol Flynn!” he finally got out. “Who said I was offering to help you? I don’t do the kid sidekick thing! But I’ve got as much right to investigate this as you do!”
“This is my city, junior,” Green Arrow said evenly.
“That may be,” Hawk said, “but it’s my country, and I’m free to do as I please! What, afraid of a little competition, beard-puss? Afraid you’re getting old?”
“Old?!” Green Arrow exploded. “Why, you wet-nosed little pup! I was protecting this city when you were watching Scooby-Doo! OK, if you want to play grown-up super-hero, I guess I can’t stop you. Just try to stay out of my way, OK?” Without waiting for an answer, Green Arrow whirled on his heel and stormed off.
“A good man,” Figenbaum said, watching the archer pass the line of firefighters keeping the crowd back. “A bit hot-tempered, God knows, but for this city, he works tirelessly. God be thanked we’ve got him.”
Hawk watched Green Arrow leave as well. The years had fled away from him as he bickered with the archer. He remembered his days in the Teen Titans and the shouting matches he’d gotten into with Speedy. And how they’d always been broken up, either by Robin or by… Don.
“I did like Scooby-Doo,” Hawk admitted.