by John Reiter
The lone criminal in the house looked up in shock to see a cavalier flying at him out of the attic. He shoved Camilla Sanchez away and pulled a gun from his waistband.
He never had a chance to level the gun, however. Raphael Montez landed on his toes, the sword already in motion. He swept the gun out of the thug’s hand with the flat of the blade. Then, as if by instinct, he found himself thrusting toward the man’s chest, prepared to run him through his black heart.
No! Raphael made himself pull the shot, thrusting through the man’s shoulder and into the wall instead. I may fight like Don Juan, but I’m still Raphael Montez, and I’m not a killer!
The thief screamed in pain and slumped to the floor, holding his bleeding shoulder. Drawn by the sound, his two friends rushed back into the house, guns drawn.
Raphael dashed nimbly across the front hall to the edge of the doorway, where he would be invisible until the thieves entered the building. Just as the two men passed through the doorway, guns first, he brought his sword down like a bolt of steel lightning on their barrels.
The effect was surprising. He had hoped to interfere with their aim, perhaps knocking the weapons from their hands in the process. Instead, the sword sheered cleanly through the steel barrels like a knife through butter.
While the criminals stared at their now-useless weapons in shock, Don Juan’s own shock was very short-lived. At least part of him had expected this. Springing into action, he stunned the closest man with a blow from the pommel of his sword right between the eyes, laying him out flat. At the same time, he sent the last man slamming back into the door frame with a left cross to the chin.
Turning gracefully, he executed a courtly bow. “Behold, milady,” he said, the words seeming to come naturally to his lips, “your so-discourteous foes are vanquished, thanks to the sword of Don Juan!”
Camilla stared wide-eyed at the battle-scene, then wavered and looked as if she was about to faint. Raphael darted forward to catch her.
Just at that moment, as she slumped in the crook of his arm, Raphael was overwhelmed by several sensations — how beautiful she was, how much he loved her, and how helpless she looked. He wanted to help her, and normally might have run for some water or smelling salts. Don Juan had a different solution, however, and his had a strong appeal in that moment.
He kissed her.
Camilla came to in a flash. With a scream of outrage she slapped his face and jumped back.
“You keep away from me! Keep away!”
“Camilla… I… you…” Raphael felt very confused, and embarrassed. He knew on some level he shouldn’t have done that. When he saw the look of anger and suspicion the girl he loved was leveling on him, he suddenly wished with all his heart to be his old self again.
And, just like that, he was. Before Camilla’s shocked eyes, this romantic figure of legend changed back into her very confused and worried-looking boyfriend. The only evidence he had been anybody else was the sword he still held in his hand, unchanged.
“I think I found it!” Camilla exclaimed.
It was late afternoon, hours after the fight. Raphael and Camilla had been ensconced in the public library for more than half that time, trying to discover the origin of the sword. A search through Juliet’s trunk had yielded only one clue. Buried among pictures and trophies of past romances, they found a photograph of Don Juan himself, floating over a harbor, sword in hand. He looked just like Raphael had looked when he used the magic weapon.
It wasn’t much to go on, but it had been a start.
“What did you find?” Raphael asked, looking up from a book on the history of Spanish sword-making. Aside from confirming that the sword was an authentic fourteenth-century rapier, he had drawn a blank.
Camilla lifted up one of the newspapers she had gotten from the archives so he could see the headline:
INTERNATIONAL CRIME SYNDICATE DEFEATED BY SPAIN’S NEWEST HERO.
Accompanied by the headline was a photograph that looked not unlike the one in his sister’s trunk.
Eagerly, he raced around the long table in the quiet corner they had found for studying, and crowded close to his girl while they read the article avidly.
According to the paper, an international crime syndicate named Thunderbolt had been smuggling a stolen plas-metal supercomputer called WHRRR — a prototype “instant-factory” to be used in construction — through Spain while disguised as gypsies. They were suddenly uncovered in the Mediterranean seaport of Málaga by a flying man dressed as Don Juan. He slashed though their phony gypsy wagon, and then deflected a missile with a parry from his magic sword so that it exploded away from the crowds.
Wow, thought Raphael. I wonder if I could do that? He read on.
Don Juan was about to pursue the fleeing Thunderbolt agents, when he was mobbed by a crowd of teenage girls and disappeared. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Thunderbolt’s Secret Weapon,” House of Mystery #170 (October, 1967).]
Feeling a hunch forming, Raphael checked the date on the paper. It was published in November of 1978.
“My sister was on vacation in Málaga around that time!” The pieces were starting to fall into place. “She must have been one of those girls. Somehow, she got hold of the sword during the chaos.”
“And it didn’t do anything to her,” Camilla added. They had determined through experimentation that the sword didn’t word for Camilla at all, and Raphael was pretty sure that no female could become Don Juan, based on the thoughts he had experienced when he changed.
“I wonder what ever happened to the original Don Juan?” Raphael asked.
“The papers don’t say; he never appeared again. Maybe he never figured out what happened to his sword.”
“Do you think he’ll want it back?”
Camilla shrugged. “After all this time? I doubt it. Plus, we couldn’t give it back and be sure it was to the right person. The sword probably changed his appearance, just like it changes yours.” She cocked her head and looked at him seriously. “Would you be okay just handing it back to him?”
Raphael looked from her to the sword and considered it. True, he had been a little overwhelmed in the beginning. But the more he used the sword, the more he found himself enjoying the power and the confidence that being Don Juan gave him.
“I’d give it back if he wanted it. It doesn’t belong to me, after all.” Then he added, “But not happily. I really like this sword. I bet I can do some real good with it. Maybe I could become a super-hero myself, like the Bowman!”
[(*) Editor’s note: The Bowman is one of the Green Arrows of the World, first seen in “The Green Arrows of the World,” Adventure Comics #250 (July, 1958).]
Camilla was nodding. “You’re a good guy, Raphael. With a magic sword, I bet you could save a lot of people, just like you saved me.” She rested her hand gently on his and looked deeply into his eyes. “I want to show you again how grateful I am for what you did, my hero.”
In one movement they came together and kissed, each drinking in the unique feel and flavor of their partner. Kissing Camilla was an experience Raphael knew he would never, ever willingly exchange for anything. Each time was like the first time.
When they finally broke for air, Camilla gave him a wry smile. “Just promise me that, no matter how many techniques you learn from Don Juan for getting girls, you’ll always save them for me.”
“Always,” he said with comic solemnity. “May my own sword take my life if I break my oath.”
They both left laughed and left the library hand-in-hand, making plans for the future of Spain’s newest hero.
And meanwhile, wrapped in newspaper and tucked under its new master’s arm, the sword of Don Juan hummed quietly to itself. A life of adventure was beginning again.