by Martin Maenza
Lydia Anastasios wore a strange look on her face. “You have a group interested in getting tattoos? This is kind of an odd way to go about it. Why not just bring them here to the shop?”
Camille Fortier shook her head. “Oh, not that! Let me start from the beginning.” She opened up her purse and produced a legal-sized envelope. Removing a color photo from it, she handed it to the woman. “You recognize this man, do you not?”
Lydia took the picture, held it up to see, and her expression changed. Her hand began to tremble slightly. “What… what makes you think I would know this man?” she asked.
“His name is, or I should say was, Abel Tarrant,” Camille explained. “I believe you knew that, though.” Camille could see a slight tear forming in Lydia’s eye. “I also believe that you knew a bit more about him, as evidenced by the common interest in tattoos that you both share.”
Lydia put the picture down and sniffed. “What are you trying to say?”
Camille picked up the picture. “My employers knew Tarrant as well. One, in fact, associated with him quite regularly. You see, I believe we both know that Tarrant was also known as the criminal Tattooed Man.”
Lydia paced back and forth for a moment, then said, “I may know a bit about that, but I only learned of it after the last time we saw one another. We only knew each other briefly.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: The Tattooed Man: Times Past, 1982: Love Inks.]
Camille nodded. “Yes, I suppose that’s true. He was killed a while back by some mobsters.” (*) She put the envelope and the photo back in her purse. “But you do visit his grave regularly, am I right?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Last Picture Show,” Green Lantern v2 #144 (September, 1981).]
Anger welled up in the Greek woman. She touched her left arm, a knife appeared instantly in her hand, and she spun around. “Who are you really, and why are you spying on me?!” she exclaimed, lunging forward.
Camille barely dodged the knife blade as Lydia brought it down. “Hey, watch it!” she protested.
“Who are you, and what do you want with me?” Lydia repeated her question as she swung the knife once more. This time her target was against the closed door and had nowhere to run. Just before the blade hit its mark, a violet surge of energy burst forth from Camille and knocked the knife away. This surprised both women.
Camille recovered first. She held up her hands to try to signify a truce. “Let me answer your second question first, assuming that you have finished trying to kill me.” Lydia nodded and crossed her arms. “Good.” The woman took a relaxing breath before going on. “Obviously, from what you have just demonstrated to me, you know quite a bit about Tarrant’s abilities, in particular about the inks he used for his special tattoos. Since that impressive knife appeared out of nowhere, I can only conclude you used similar inks to create the tattoos you’ve… adorned your body with.”
Lydia reached for the cigarette pack on her desk and lit one up by touching a flame tattoo on her wrist. “You are a regular TV detective, are you not?” she said sarcastically, taking a long drag.
Oh, Mirror Master was going to get an earful about this assignment, Camille thought. “As I said, you have these talents and obviously are capable of using them. That is part of what has brought you to my employer’s interest. The other thing would be your involvement in the Rocco Marchetti murder.”
Lydia practically dropped the cigarette. Her expression could not conceal her surprise. “How…? I mean, what are you talking about?”
Camille leaned forward and continued just as Mirror Master had instructed her. “You can drop the act, my dear. We are not about to turn you in to anyone. As I said before, my employer is interested in your special talents, and we are a group that is all about keeping certain activities a secret. I was sent her today to make you an offer.”
Lydia took another drag on her cigarette, but she was still a bit startled. “So, what exactly are you offering me?”
“An invitation,” Camille replied.
He worked his way down through the tight brick passage. While the space only measured a foot and half square, it posed very little difficulty for the serpentine Copperhead. His costume’s surface was coated with a special polymer film, making it as slippery as the namesake reptile the costume was based upon. He poked his head through the opening at the bottom, and a small amount of soot wafted to the floor. “Piece of cake,” he said to himself as he climbed out of the fireplace.
Making his way across the living area, which was decorated in a contemporary style, Copperhead went over to the two French doors that led to the back deck and undid the lock. He opened one of the doors with a dramatic gesture, and his costumed partner strolled inside the A-frame home at the end of Broad Beach Road in Malibu. “Just call me Saint Nick,” Copperhead hissed. “If Santa can do it, so can this Grinch.”
Mirror Master paid the comments little mind. His attention was focused on a small piece of equipment in his left hand; the device’s upper portion consisted of a pair of mirrors angled toward one another. He turned on the device, and a faint glow appeared between them, growing stronger as its inventor adjusted the settings. The glow took on a slight violet tint. “Hmmm,” was all he said.
Copperhead watched impatiently for a few minutes. Finally, he asked firmly, “So, Scudder, any luck?”
“Patience,” Mirror Master snapped. “I need to make sure of the readings.” He stared at the small readout, watching the output as he paced from one room to another. “After all, it would reflect poorly on us if we did not give our lovely associate an accurate report.”
Copperhead glanced down at the desk and noticed a calendar entry. It mentioned a dinner appointment with Ollie and Dinah, but it was for a Friday night many months past. “So, what’s the verdict?” Copperhead asked.
Mirror Master switched off the device and put it back in his belt. “Well, I have some good news and some bad news for our dear Miss Camille,” he stated. “The good news is that there are indeed traces of energy from the violet end of the spectrum within this dwelling, and those traces match exactly the sample reading that Camille was able to provide us.”
“And the bad?”
“The bad news is that, while I did find some traces, they were very faint. If indeed they had been generated by a similar star sapphire gemstone, it was quite a while ago. The first Star Sapphire was here, but not recently.”
Copperhead shook his head. “She’s not going to be happy about that. You planning on telling her who you suspect possesses the other gem?”
“No, not yet,” Mirror Master stated. He reached into his belt and produced another device. “Until we know conclusively the identity of the woman behind the mask, I think it’s best not to tell Camille anything.” He went to a large mirror behind the couch and touched his wrist. A beam shot out into the mirrored surface, causing it to shimmer.
“What are you doing now, Scudder?”
Mirror Master reached into the mirror as if he were putting his hand into water, the surface rippling as he did so, and deposited the small device. “Let’s just say that, if the Star Sapphire does return, we’ll have a way of knowing it.” He pulled his hand out, and the mirror returned to its normal state. “C’mon, we need to get going.”
The two villains made their exit through the back door and into the dark night.
The pilot climbed down out of the cockpit of the new jet plane and immediately saw the concerned look on the designer’s face. “What’s wrong, Pieface?” he said. “It felt like it was handling quite well. Something show up in your monitoring of the systems?”
“Not at all, old friend,” Tom Kalmaku replied. “The jet fell completely within the expected guidelines.” The Alaskan man directed the brown-haired pilot to a less-crowded portion of the airfield. “Something else from earlier this afternoon is bothering me. A couple guys were at the gate asking about Carol.”
Hal Jordan’s eyebrow rose. “Really? I’m sure it’s not that big of a deal.”
“Perhaps,” Tom replied. “But with Carol off you-know-where, I can’t help but wonder…” His voice trailed off.
“I see your point. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to look into it. You done with me here?” His old friend nodded. “Then I’ll go check on something.” As he slipped behind one of the hangars, Hal Jordan felt the ring on his hand as it pulsed. His clothes were replaced by the familiar green and gray costume of Green Lantern. Emerald energy surrounded his form and lifted him off into the night sky.
I haven’t seen Carol since the Guardians and Zamarons left Oa, Earth’s Green Lantern thought. I tried to convince her to return home with me, but she insisted that her place was back on Zamaron. She said that she had worked so long to receive the title of queen and that there was no way she was giving up her role of Star Sapphire, even if she was currently a queen without subjects. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Five Billion Years,” Green Lantern v2 #200 (May, 1986).]
His ring making the trip from El Segundo to Malibu as easy as crossing town, Green Lantern banked above the surf as the tide rolled in and landed behind the house on the end of Broad Beach Road. He knew the house very well, having spent quite a bit of time with Carol here over the past few years. I haven’t been here in a few months, he thought. It didn’t feel right with Carol gone. Luckily I don’t need a key.
Using his power ring, the hero passed through the wall as if it weren’t there. Green Lantern did a quick check of the house, making sure nothing had been disturbed. Nothing out of place, and the doors are secure. I’ll have to tell Pie to stop being such a worrywart. He exited the house the same way he entered and made his way back to the Green Lantern Citadel.
A week later, in a conference room at the uppermost floors of the Loman Building in San Francisco, four individuals gathered at one end of the large table. On one side of the table sat two beautiful, dark-haired women. On the other side sat the man in the snake costume. At the head of the table sat the man in orange and green.
Mirror Master pounded a gavel twice to get their attention. “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the first meeting of our new Secret Society of Super-Villains.” He turned to the woman with the longer hair. “I’d like to extend a special welcome to the Tattooed Lady.”
Lydia Anastasios fidgeted slightly in her chair. She was not yet accustomed to the code name that she had been given, but realized it came with the territory. “Thank you,” she managed to say.
Camille glanced at her with a scrutinizing look. She was not that comfortable with this newcomer, but the feeling was intensified by her own feelings of vulnerability. “Can we discuss some of our old business?” she asked, attempting to draw the attention back to herself.
“In a moment, Star Sapphire,” Mirror Master stated. He used her other name on purpose, even though the woman currently did not wear her costume. His intent was to keep her mindful of her goal and thus also remind her of her obligation to the group. “I always prefer to start with new business.” The leader stood up and walked toward the room’s door. “Let me first introduce you all to our fifth member.”
He opened the door, and in stepped a four-foot-two man wearing a bulky green suit with lots of large pockets and compartments. The dwarf had a full brown beard and mustache, and his eyes were covered by stylized goggles. He wore a green hood that hid the top of his head. “This is Mikron O’Jeneus,” Mirror Master announced. “He may be known to some of you as the inventive wizard called Gizmo.”
The costumed dwarf nodded to those present, taking extra care to drink in the beauty of the women. “I have to tell you, Mirror Master,” Gizmo said, smiling. “Compared to the last group I worked with, this one definitely has some interesting potential.” He hopped up onto one of the vacant chairs and then sat on the edge of the table. “So, we going to go over the rest of the benefits first, or what?”
Mirror Master looked silently at those he had assembled so far. You are right, my diminutive friend, he thought to himself, some interesting potential, indeed!