by Martin Maenza
Hank Hall and Dawn Granger walked from the parking lot toward the nightclub. Underneath their coats, they were dressed for a party. From the streetlights hung wreaths of holiday green with bows of red. Dawn smiled. “This is one of my favorite times of the year,” she said. “How about you, Hank?”
“It’s okay,” the young man said. “Certainly have the Bowl games to look forward to.”
“Is that all you think about?” Dawn kidded him.
“What else is there?” he kidded her back. She frowned at him slightly. “No, I was just pulling your leg.” He paused for a second. “No, the holidays are all right. But they aren’t the same, you know. Not since Don was killed.”
Dawn put her arm around her friend to comfort him. She knew how hard it was on him. “I know you still miss him a lot.”
“Yeah,” Hank admitted. “It was hard last year, being the first Christmas and all. Sure, we’d spent the holidays apart before, but this is way different. I mean, I can’t even call him to wish him a happy holidays or anything like that.” A tear began to form in the corner of Hank’s eye. He quickly wiped it away, but Dawn had already seen it. “Now don’t go thinking I’m turning all soft or anything.”
“I’d never do that,” Dawn said. “Sometimes it helps to talk about it.”
“Yeah,” Hank admitted. “It just that, well, I just never got a chance to say goodbye to Don, you know. I would have liked to be able to do that. Have that one last talk with him.”
Dawn bit her tongue. For weeks, she had been planning to tell Hank about her visit by Don’s spirit, if you will. How his brother came to her, through a mystically granted means, so he could tend to a last bit of unfinished business. (*) Now Dawn felt awful that Don had chosen to come and speak with her instead of Hank. She knew she couldn’t tell him about it now, at least not when Hank was feeling a bit down about the holidays.
[(*) Editor’s note: See last issue, Titans West: Girl Talk.]
She decided to change the subject. “Say, did I mention to you that today’s my birthday?”
“Get out!” Hank said as he sniffed a bit. “You legal now?”
“Yep,” Dawn said. She took Hank by the arm. “So, how’s about we get to the party so you can buy me my first drink.” The two walked across the street toward Gabriel’s Horn.
Gabriel’s Horn was alive with colors and sounds. Strands of white, twinkling lights had been hung from the rafters with gold and silver garland strung throughout. Mal and Karen Duncan kept circulating to ensure the guests’ glasses were full and that they were all having a good time.
“Say, Karen,” a Hispanic woman called to the hostess of the party. “Been meaning to catch up with you all night.”
“Hi, Carmen,” Karen said. “Happy holidays!” She gave her coworker a hug.
“I know we’re off the clock,” said Carmen Santiago, “but I knew you were interested in that case I was reviewing. Turns out the Jeanne Somner woman was showing signs of a triggered meta-gene, just as we suspected. Appears to have been brought upon by some chemical reaction to the drugs that were in her systems. Her abilities seem to have subsided some since their initial appearance, but we have been able to determine they appear to be telepathic and telekinetic in nature.”
“Think I can take a look at the report next week?” Karen asked.
“Sure,” Carmen said. “I’ll get it over to your lab.” She glanced across the way. “I’d better run and check on Jorge. If I don’t get him away from the three-layered dip, you’ll have a riot on your hands.” She smiled and made her way through the crowd.
Mal worked his way around the bar and gave his wife a kiss. “What’s that for?” Karen asked.
Mal pointed his finger to above them, to the small green sprig hanging from the ceiling. “Mistletoe,” he smiled. “Can’t go breaking the holiday rules, can I?”
Karen laughed. “No, we can’t,” she said. Then she noticed who Mal had brought with him. “Hi, Cindy!” She remembered to call the young blonde girl by her other identity of model Cindy Simpson instead of Arisia, Green Lantern. “You look fabulous.”
The teenager twirled a little, letting the skirt of the white dress furl up. “Just another Mad Mod creation,” she said. “It’s kind of fun having your own personal designer, you know?”
Karen noticed the two young men standing next to the girl. One looked to be in his late teens while the other looked a lot younger. “Oh, you brought two escorts, I see.”
Cindy Simpson laughed. “Oh, no,” she said. “We’re not…”
Mal jumped in. “No, dear,” he said. “I believe I mentioned these two to you before. They’re studying with Mr. Jupiter.” He saw a spark of recollection hit his wife’s eyes. “Karen, I’d like you to meet Hal Jordan.”
The tall young man with brown hair nodded and shook Karen’s hand. “Nice to meet you, ma’am,” Hal said politely. Karen was surprised by his politeness and taken a back a bit by the ma’am comment.
“And this is Edward Bloomberg,” Mal continued as he gestured toward the thirteen-year-old with red hair and freckles. “But everyone calls him Gopher.”
Karen shook his hand as well. “Glad you could all come,” she said. “Enjoy yourselves.” The hostess started to make her way across the crowded room again. While she enjoyed the parties, she wasn’t nearly as good at throwing them as her husband was. She glanced back and took a look at Mal from a distance. He was a good man and did his best to make everyone comfortable, even around their young friends. He was good around children. Maybe it’s time, she thought to herself.
Suddenly, Karen felt someone spin her around and plant a kiss on her cheek. “Hey!” she said. Then she looked up and saw the red-haired man who had done it. “Wally!” She was excited to see her old friend, the Titan formerly known as Kid Flash, who was now the Flash, the Fastest Man Alive.
“In the flesh,” Wally West said. “Merry Christmas!”
“Same to you,” Karen said. “Glad you could make it. Did you come by yourself?”
“Yeah, I did,” Wally said. “You know how busy folks get around the holidays. I just wanted to zip out here and make an appearance. You know how much I enjoy your parties.”
“Well, I’m so glad you came,” she said. “I really miss all you guys back out on the East Coast. We never get to visit much anymore.”
“I don’t get to see them a lot, either,” Wally said. “Between two teams and Frances back in Central City, I’m starting to run myself ragged. But Donna, Dick, and Roy wanted me to tell you they send their best.”
“Please give ours to them as well,” Karen said. Then she noticed two others coming their way. “Hank, Dawn, look who’s here!”
“West?” Hank asked. “Just like you to come all this way for some free food and drink.” He clasped his friend’s hand and gave it a good shake.
“Same old Hank Hall,” Wally replied. He noticed Dawn standing next to him. “So, how’d an old crab bag like you meet such a nice girl like this?”
Karen listened to the two guys work one another over and smiled. The holidays were a good time for old friends to get in touch. It reminded her that she should probably call Sarah Charles. There was a good chance that there would be a spot opening up in the San Francisco STAR facility come spring, and Sarah was always talking about moving west. She made a mental note to give her a call and plant the seed.
Just then, Charley Parker approached Karen. “Hey, Charley,” she greeted him. “I haven’t seen you all night. Having fun?”
“Totally,” the young man said. “But I was, like, looking for someone, too.”
“Oh?” Karen asked. “I saw Cindy arrive a few minutes ago. She brought some friends with her — Hal and Gopher.”
Charley blinked. “Oh, she did? Cool.” He looked about a second, glancing around the crowd. “Actually, I was looking for, like, someone else.”
“Remember your friend Lisa who you, like, introduced me to that one day at STAR? I was looking to see if she, like, made it to the party.”
“Lisa Morel?” Karen asked. She glanced around the crowd once herself. “You know, now that you mention it, I haven’t seen her all night. I can’t recall if she RSVPed or not. We invited so many folks. I swear, I’m going to have to reign in Mal for next year.”
“Oh? So she didn’t, like, call to say she was coming or not?”
“Nope. Sorry, Charley.” Karen could see that the young man looked a little disappointed.