17203RE: The Outsiders -- Chapter 8 -- The First Meeting
- Dec 24, 2013
Sheesh. Realized that I left an important element out of this story. Here it is again:
Tom had been a little surprised to receive the invitation from Natalie Cordway. Sure, he owned a block of Cordway Pharmaceuticals stock, but he had never met her, and, as far as he knew, she didn’t even know he was a stockholder. But the party was a benefit – to provide medications to children in third world countries – so Tom assumed that Natalie was inviting any rich people she had any connections with. He imagined that was quite a list. Well, he had decided to attend; he hadn’t been to a party in ages, not since his Hollywood days (not that he was a big partyer even then). After all, even a super hero is entitled to some fun.
So Tom put on his tuxedo, something he had not done since the incident that destroyed his voice and set out. He took his walking stick with him – not because he needed it (he didn’t), but to give the appearance that Tom Peters had not completely healed from the explosion. It was part of his “secret identity.” He never pretended he was a cripple, but the cane would discourage people from making any connection between him and the Dark – if there were any reason to make such a connection. While he was not a social butterfly, he did go out on the streets of Gotham; people would see him, some of them would talk with him, maybe ask for his autograph. And the slightly damaged image was the one he wanted out there.
He was not a limo guy; most of the time, he would use public transport to get from place to place, at least when teleporting wasn’t wise. But for this occasion, he hailed a cab. Cordway’s party was at the main branch of the Gotham Public Library. He noticed the photographers taking pictures of the wealthy personages as they entered the building. He did not want that. “Go down a block and leave me at the corner,” he instructed the cab driver.
“Whatever you say,” replied the cabbie. “Who are you anyway?”
Tom laughed. “How soon they forget.” He handed the driver a $20. “Keep the change. Oh, and the name’s Peters. Tom Peters."
The cabbie’s draw dropped. “I thought you looked familiar. It’s been great driving you, Mr. Peters.”
“Thanks a lot,” Tom replied. He exited the vehicle, and looked at the building. He was very familiar with the library, and knew there was a bathroom in the far end of the second floor, where there was unlikely to be any of the partyers. He vanished from the corner. Nobody noticed.
Instantaneously, he reappeared in the bathroom. He exited and headed toward the party room. He handed his invitation to the security guard, who looked at him and smiled. “Mr. Peters, it’s nice to see you.”
Tom didn’t know the guard, but he smiled back. “Great to be here.” He wondered how he would ever find his hostess. He hadn’t the foggiest idea what she looked like or how old she was. It hadn’t seemed important enough an issue to research. All he needed to know was the cause and how big a check he was prepared to cut. He had found the cause to be a good one, and he was prepared to cut a large check. He had made plenty of money in the last year, and he was the type who believed in giving back.
He scanned the room. Nobody he recognized, at least no personal friends. But then Tom didn’t have a lot of personal friends, not in Gotham, not anymore. He did notice some big business types whose pictures appeared in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. He definitely didn’t want to speak with them.
“Tom Peters, I’m so glad you came.” The voice was not one he recognized. He hoped the face matched the expectations raised by the voice. Tom turned toward the speaker.
Expectations met and then some. The owner of the voice had blonde hair and green eyes and weighed about 115 pounds. Tom estimated that she was 25 years old. Her black dress, while showing restraint in the amount of flesh it revealed, showed off her curves to their best advantage. While Tom’s brain now allowed him to concentrate on more than one thing at a time, at that moment it was totally focused on her.
“You have me at a disadvantage,” replied Tom. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”
“Natalie Cordway,” the woman responded.
“Oh, our hostess,” said Tom. “I didn’t know if I was going to find you in this crowd.” He took her hand. It was warm.
The warmth spread throughout her body.
Natalie giggled. “I know it’s a stupid thing to say, but I’m a real big fan.”
“Why would that be a stupid thing to say? I like having fans,” Tom replied. He didn’t say, but definitely thought, “Especially fans who look like you.”
“It’s just that everyone must say that to you,” Natalie said.
“Not as much as you’d think. It’s been a few years since my movie days.”
In his Hollywood days, Tom had the opportunity to spend time with the most beautiful girls in the world, movie stars, models, whatever, but in talking with Natalie, who was easily the equal of any of them in terms of physical beauty, he found something else – a level of intelligence that he had rarely seen. Of course, she was head of a major pharmaceutical company; she had to be smart, but she didn’t have to be witty, well read and poised – but she was. Natalie felt the same about Tom. She had stopped dating because no man she met interested her, but Tom did. And it wasn’t because he was a Greek god – though he was, she admitted. He understood politics and business and how to get things done. He had gone from being a movie star to being an investor, and was enormously successful. It was a shame about his voice, but it had an upside. If his voice had been unaffected, he would still be in Hollywood and not at her party.
But this was a party, and she was the hostess, so Natalie had to cut the conversation short. She gave Tom her business card, hoping he would call her. She knew that she was good looking, and, if he were like most guys, he would, but Tom wasn’t like most guys she had met. But still . . . .
Natalie circulated throughout the throng of partiers. Everyone was having a wonderful time, and everyone wanted to speak to her, even if they had nothing to say. In the best case scenarios, the partier pressed a large check into her hand, but even those who didn’t, would. You don’t come to a party like this without expecting to write a large check.
“HIYA, FOLKS. CAN I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION?” Everyone looked to the door of the ballroom, and saw an attractive woman in a clown outfit, holding a gun. The hearts of those in the know fell. The woman was Harley Quinn, the Joker’s daughter. And behind her were her henchmen, all armed.
Natalie eyes scanned the room, looking for a way out, but there did not seem to be one. Tom’s handsome figure caught her eye. His eyebrows were raised, as if he couldn’t believe that someone was doing something so stupid. He moved back to his table and squatted behind it. Natalie didn’t know what to make of it, but she didn’t spend much time thinking about it. There were more important things at hand – like how was she going to get out of the room to change into her Spirit costume.
Tom had it much easier. Once he was out of sight, he teleported home and changed. Unfortunately, because he was in a tuxedo, this took longer than he would like, but within a few minutes he was in his costume, and the Dark teleported back to the library.
While he had been away from the scene of the crime, Harley and her men had not been idle. They were busily taking wallets and valuable jewelry from the partyers and putting them into sacks. Speed was of the essence; the longer they remained, the greater the chance of being caught. While Harley seemed not to be worried, her men had been around the block long enough to know how the game was played.
The Dark had teleported right outside of the ballroom, and could see the lay of the land without being seen. He noted that four of Harley Quinn’s henchmen were converging on an area of the room. That was where the Dark appeared next, and in a matter of seconds, the four henchmen were rendered unconscious. Of course, this could not be done without notice, and when the Dark appeared, one of the partiers screamed.
“Oh, a Batman wannabe, huh?” smirked Harley Quinn. “I wouldn’t make a move if I were you. I can kill some innocent bystander pretty quickly.” And she laughed in her insane way. The Dark knew he was beat, at least for the moment. Harley and her gang would likely get away with their loot. He was over confident, and now he was paying the price.
While the notice had centered on the Dark, Natalie took the opportunity to slowly approach the henchman guarding the door, who under ordinary circumstances would have liked nothing better than to feast his eyes on Natalie, but who now was carefully watching his boss.
“Hey, I got an idea. Why don’t we take the mask off?” Harley said. The Dark liked that. It bought him time. A quick teleport and he could get the drop on her. He waited for the right moment.
“You.” She pointed her gun at a middle-aged matron. “Take off his mask. The woman nervously approached the Dark. “I don’t want to do this,” she told him.
“Don’t worry,” he replied in his distorted voice. “It will be OK.”
It was at that moment that Natalie made her move. The henchman was knocked out, and Natalie ran to the isolated bathroom to change. Cynthia had had a feeling that there might be a need for the Spirit, and her dress was designed to be removed easily. Within a minute, she was in her Spirit costume, racing back into the ballroom.
Of course, once the henchman had been knocked out, it was not long before there was a race toward the door. Harley turned to see what was going on, and before he was unmasked, the Dark teleported in front of Harley.
“Wha?” she said, but she did not get a second word out. The Dark punched her in the fact, breaking her nose, and she crumbled to the ground.
Suddenly, there was a flash of light and Harley disappeared. The Dark grimaced under his mask. "I hate it when that happens." But he couldn't waste time thinking about it now. People's lives were still at risk.
The two remaining henchmen, recognizing that discretion was the better part of valor had grabbed hostages and made clear that any move by the Dark would end up with blood on the floor.
But that did not happen. The Spirit was there, and one of the henchmen was out of action almost immediately. The second pointed his gun at her, and the Dark was ready to teleport, but he found he could save his strength, as the Spirit took him down too. What amazed him was that, at least to him, it was obvious that the Spirit was Natalie Cordway. While there had never been any doubt in his mind that he would be calling on Natalie, this strengthened his resolve.
“Well done. You’re the Spirit, right?” said the Dark, clapping.
“That’s me,” replied the Spirit. “So tell me, did you have any idea what you were doing, or do you just depend on luck?”
“I wouldn’t say it was all luck,” said the Dark. “Harley is pretty ruthless, but I’ve dealt with ruthless before. I would have taken out the lights, but with so many people that would have only maximized the chances of someone getting hurt.”
The Spirit approached the Dark. “Teleportation, huh? Nice trick.”
“I don’t think most people really caught on to that. Too many distractions. Keep it under your hat, if you don’t mind.”
“Your secret is safe with me,” she replied. And the Dark wondered if she might have guessed his real secret, as he had guessed her.
“Hope we meet again, gorgeous,” the Dark said, and he disappeared. He would have to figure out what happened to Harley Quinn. She was too dangerous to be left at large.
One of the henchmen awoke, and found that he still had his gun. He picked it up and pointed it at the Spirit. Suddenly a heavy walking stick knocked the gun from his hand.
“Don’t shoot the pretty lady,” Tom said.
The Spirit turned to see Tom’s act. “Thanks,” she said. “You’re Mr. Peters, right.”
“That’s me.” Tom smiled at her. “Glad to be of help.”
The police entered the room in force, and the Spirit made a quick exit. A few minutes later, Natalie entered the room. She ran to Tom. “Thank God, you’re all right.”
“Why, Natalie, I would almost think you care,” he replied flippantly.
“Jerk, of course I care. It would have been terrible publicity if you wound up dead.” She laughed and Tom laughed with her. But it crossed her mind – could he be the Dark? It was hard to tell, but it sort of made sense. The Dark’s voice was distorted, and Tom’s voice was very distinctive. It would make sense to use some kind of distortion device. And of course, his past as a stuntman . . . . Well, it was all speculation right now, but if she had her way, she would be spending a lot of time with Mr. Peters.
“I’ve got to hit the road, Nat. I’m an early riser and I’ve had a lot of excitement for one day.”
“Wimp. Well, call me when you get a chance.”
“Oh, I think you can count on that.”
* * *
Alexis Luthor was not happy. "Harley, I told you that you had to keep a low profile. Is robbing a major benefit your idea of a low profile?"
"For me it is," Harley retorted. "Besides, I'm not one of those losers you've been collecting. Harley Quinn has to do what Harley Quinn has to do."
"Not anymore she doesn't. I brought you in because I thought you could make a contribution. But if you're just a loose cannon, you can go to the hoosegow or worse, for all I care."
"OK, OK, Lexie, I'll be good. Sheesh. A girl can't have any fun around here."
Lexie nodded. She wasn't confident that Harley would keep her word, but it was better to have her on the inside. Nutty as she was, she was an effective operative. But she couldn't help wondering why Harley couldn't take on those two newby super heroes. Was she losing her edge?
Of course, when things came to a head, Harley wouldn't be acting alone. and Alexis expected the result to be much different.
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