This is the second Home Front story, though it was the first I wrote. I hadn’t submitted it to Greg at Mythic Heroes yet, mind, though I was going to eventually.
The Home Front got its start, more directly than almost anything else I’m putting on here, in Superguy. Superguy, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is a mailing list devoted to superhero fiction. Its heydey was the late eighties through the mid nineties. I wrote in the neighborhood of a million words for it over a period of about seven years.
It was Superguy writers who formed the core of Mythic Heroes. We’d known each other for years, and written together on more than one occasion. And I was happy to adapt a few stories taken far out of ‘continuity,’ for lack of a better term for the new medium. A fellow named Rob Furr had started a “Historical Superguy” project, taking his love of history and applying it to our somewhat goofy superhero list. I wrote about mystery men for it. This story was adapted from the first post I did on the project. Last week’s — “My White Plume” — had been the second Historical Superguy story I wrote, but the first Mythic Heroes story I’d adapted.
Next week’s installment, “Diamond in the Rough,” had also been a Superguy story first but had been heavily edited and changed to fit the new format. And a serial that followed — “Homecoming” — was (mostly) written exclusively for Mythic Heroes, but never had a chance to be published.
One last note: each of the Home Front stories is meant to be told in archival format of some sort. Last week’s was a letter. This week’s is a radio documentary edited from an old interview. The idea is simple enough: all of these are from history. We are supposed to be reading them from some other form.
Just, you know, for the record.
(from Sentinels of Liberty: The Hero at War, part IV, “The Home Front: Spycracker and Torpedo” air date July 14, 1989, NPR)
Dorian Cross (cont): …towards a goal of liberating the South Pacific, it was another matter back on American soil. With known paranormal and extranormal forces drawn into the war effort, one would expect America itself to be devoid of costumed heroes of any stripe. This, actually, was by no means the case. Most American Cities, in fact, had a number of vigilantes who operated without official sanction of any sort, at least until 1944. In many ways, these so-called mystery men were precursors to the more modern heroes of today. Both the German and Japanese High Commands recognized the considerable conventional and technological strength America possessed, and both Axis powers — along with some minor support from Italy — had active intelligence and terrorist agents in America, working to cripple the American Military/Industrial Complex, as well as America’s centers of Research and Development. Often, conventional Law Enforcement was unable to stop these Foreign agents, and it fell upon the outlaw Mystery Men to protect America’s ability to support a war. Though the Golden Swashbuckler and the Sleuth were the first Mystery Men — both having careers dating back to the early Twenties, when they fought organized crime interests — the most famous of the war era Mystery Men remain Spycracker and his boy partner, Torpedo. They remained true Mystery Men up until Ronnie Carlton — Torpedo — gave his first and only interview since the war in 1971, for CBS News Presents. This was later edited into the form you hear today.
The thing that gets me about these Vietnam kids — the dodgers who fled to Canada, burned their cards, and stuff like that? There was a lot of similarities between them and us, back in the thirties and forties. I can’t say I agree with any of them. No sirree Bob. A bunch of shirkers. But remember — none of us were in the Army. None of us had gone behind enemy lines and taken on the Boche.
I shouldn’t even say ‘we.’ On December 7th, I was thirteen years old. I had every intention of joining right up when I turned eighteen. No deferments for me — Danny could survive without me. It’s not my fault the Big One ended in ’45, is it? Besides, I think I did as much for the war effort as anyone my age.
That’s the thing. The brothers — the brothers were all fighting for their country, tooth and nail. No matter why they got into the business, I can’t think of a one who didn’t believe in what he was doing, and gave it his all. Those damn Hippies don’t care about anyone but themselves.
With Danny, it wasn’t that he didn’t march right down and check in. On December 10, he had his physical. No way he would wait to be drafted. He wanted to kick Krauts back to Berlin. But — you’ll laugh. I swear you’ll laugh. He was 4-F. Rejected. Danny Coldman — the Spycracker himself — had flat feet. Those leather boots of his were orthopedic. He begged for them to take him anyhow — he said he’d march on stumps if he had to, but they said no. No no no.
You see, that’s what it was like back then. The real go-getters jumped right up. Every corner had Uncle Sam’s finger on it. And the folks who hung back for the draft had a smell like a skunk to them. If you were of Army age and just hanging around, you were half-kraut yourself. These kids today want to make duty a dirty word.
Danny had flat feet. Minuteman was deaf in his left ear. The Sleuth and the Golden Swashbuckler were — believe it or not — too old. Nightstick had a heart murmur. The only one of us who was draftable was Thomas Sanderson — the Judge. Him I don’t blame at all — he had already been cracking a Jerry Spy Ring when the call came, and his lottery number was real low. He knew he wouldn’t have time to break that spy ring if he marched off. So he made some phone calls — some of that Sanderson fortune — and got himself deferred. It was a perfect cover — a coward. He spent four long years of being branded yellow — his girl threw a drink in his face and didn’t talk to him for months. But he took down that spy ring before they could crack the nuts they were looking for, and stopped them from blowing up key power stations along the Eastern Seaboard power grid. It was only after the war was over, when he had taken a bullet meant for Harry S. Truman and was forced off the field, that his good name was cleared. I don’t know if his girl ever said she was sorry, though.
And of course, there were the women. I’ll tell you, I’m not much for these peacenik types, but I have to go with that equal women’s thing. I mean, those ladies were as tough as nails. Not allowed to fight in the trenches, they fought at home.
And I was one of them. Sure, a kid partner. A sidekick. But still one of them. My mother killed by a spy’s bomb, Danny my uncle, and my Dad in the trenches, of course. The Spycracker and Torpedo, they called us. It was great.
Of course, it was scary as Hell, too. Don’t fool yourself. Those comics — those movies, they all made out the Home Front fight to be a cakewalk. I saw this one — 1952, it had to be, with Johnny West as the Spycracker — where he took on six spies single-handed, and never drew his club. While I — looking ten, I’d add — was tied up in a corner. I never got any licks in in those movies.
In real life, Danny fought like the dirtiest son of a bitch you can imagine, and so did I. Heck, I stabbed six different people. Stabbed them! That didn’t get into the newspapers, of course. Who cared — they were a bunch of spies, and we were the good guys. America’s own Mystery Men.
Here’s another funny one. The bad-apple Mystery Men the Fatherland sent after us? Blitzen, Das Krieger, and those guys? Nine times out of ten it was harder to beat their goons than it was to beat them. I mean, I was sixteen when I took on Siegfried — their so called Perfect Aryan? Well, he may have been strong, but I took him in six punches. He seemed stunned when I gouged at his eyes. Jeez louise, the man had a bomb ticking in the background and he expected Marquis of Queensbury Rules?
But that’s not what you were asking for, was it? I mean, you mostly wanted to know about our big case — the one that got the Mystery Men noticed. The one that got us into the national newspapers. Okay, sure. My point of view.
At the time — this would be late 1943, going into 1944 — ‘Crack and I worked out of Pinnacle. There was a bunch of industrial plants, and a communications hub making Pinnacle City one big target, so Bunds — German sympathizer cells, you know? — Bunds were crawling all over the place. So we had lots to do and stayed pretty well to ourselves.
That seems to surprise a lot of people. They mention the Liberty Brigade and all those comics and movies where Spycracker and Torpedo teamed up with Solitaire and Diamond, or the Sleuth, the Judge, and Minuteman all worked together to take out some crook war profiteers, or stuff like that. Sorry, but it’s a crock. I mean, I didn’t meet half the Liberty Brigade’s members until F.D.R. called us all in to form it. And as soon as we were formed? Well, it kind of spelled the end of our spy-cracking career. I mean, they sent us on promotional work for the most part — getting folks to buy war bonds and the like. And when you’re a thousand miles from your home town, you have no contacts. No insight. No way of knowing when the Hun was on the move. I think the Liberty Brigade actually fought, like, three times total, and they were special missions.
Anyway — we were in Pinnacle City, Spycracker and I, when we got the scent. Danny came home early, one day — daytimes he spent working down at his hardware store. I was sleeping, with my face pressed into my Reader. Hey, I liked School, even if it was dull as dishwater, but when you spent your days in school and your nights prowling around the city beating up crooks and looking for German Spies, you didn’t get a lot of sleep.
“Up and at ’em” he said to me, like he usually did. We lived and operated out of a brownstone apartment on the North Side, and we had settled pretty much into a routine.
“Sorry,” I said. “I was gonna cook, but I guess I just went out.”
“Whip up a couple of sandwiches,” he said. “We have to get an early start.” He looked serious.
I wasn’t sure what he had meant. I mean, it had been a few months since we had really taken on a Kraut worth writing home about. We had spent most of our evening prowls taking on street hoods and other small fry. We were too close to the Atlantic to attract too many Japs. “What’s the story,” I asked.
“Let’s get some food, first,” he said. “I want to get down to the 81st Precinct before Jack gets off duty.” Now that meant business, to me. Jack Baumont was a good copper, and a good American. He cut ‘Crack and me a lot of slack. Gave us tips when we needed them. That was good, because even if the average guy pounding a beat loved us, the Commissioner hated us — thought we were a couple of punks at best, a couple of Commies at worst.
That surprises people too, that the Commies were a threat back then. Hey, Stalin might have been our Ally, but that didn’t mean anyone liked him. Even Hitler claimed he was saving the world from the Commies. Like the S.S. could have saved anything.
We wolfed our roast beef sandwiches down, and Danny explained. A couple of guys in dark gray suits had shown up around three thirty in the afternoon, down at the store. They had poked around, looking for blaster caps and that sort of thing. They had asked about places where you could buy nitro, too.
Danny had said he didn’t know, and why would they want nitro anyhow? He played it real dumb, of course.
They said they were prospecting up in the mountains north of Pinnacle. Looking for tin. Nine out of ten Pinnacle citizens might have bought that line. But Danny wasn’t nine out of ten folks. He had been a Civil Engineer before the war broke out, taking the Hardware Store over when he couldn’t join up. Being a small business owner was a lot better cover than having a boss to report to, and Danny had to keep strange hours, sometimes. But while Danny wasn’t a prospector, he was an engineer, and he knew the land around the city. And he knew any mountains near Pinnacle didn’t have a whiff of metal in them. And that spelled trouble, to him.
We had no idea, of course.
After dinner, when the sun went down, we got ready. I loved suiting up. I felt like a real soldier, buckling on my uniform. Mine was brown, with leather boots and red wristbands. And a Mask, of course. And Danny — well, everyone knows the Spycracker, with his Gray bomber jacket, black trousers and leather boots, and his bandanna cowl. We got our billy clubs and snuck down the back stairs we had. A lot of those old Brownstones had connecting basements, so we could come out of an alleyway quite a few blocks from our place. From there, we got into another basement, and made our way to where we kept the roadster. Seem silly? Hey, in 1946 a wacko blew up our garage. If we had kept it near the brownstone, Danny might have died right there.
We got to the station house, and climbed up to the right floor. Love those fire escapes.
Jack was at his desk, of course, He was a lieutenant, and rated a room of his own despite his hanging with disreputable types — that is, us. He was alert, but crime fighting has a way of teaching you to be really quiet, so when ‘Crack said “Kind of a crummy office. I thought you were a Big Shot,” Jack nearly had a coronary.
“Jeez, ‘Crack,” Jack said, “you want to watch it? If someone hears and Walters pokes his head in here, we’re all sunk.” Walters was the Captain, and a real stooge for the Commish.
“Sorry,” ‘Crack said. “Next time I’ll try to quietly scare the pants off you.”
“What do you want?” Jack said. “You don’t come here if you don’t need help.”
“We need a car traced,” ‘Crack said. “License Plate P3Q113.”
“Call it a hunch. It’s a blue sedan, a Ford.”
“You know how many Blue Ford Sedans there are in this City?”
“Just see what you can find on it.”
“Okay — but it’ll take a while.”
‘Crack nodded. “We’ll be back.”
“Yeah,” I said. I didn’t get to say much else — ‘Crack was always three steps ahead of me, when it came to the thought side of all this.
It was about a week later when the word came through. Remember, records weren’t so easy to chase down, back then. It was okay — we were pretty busy. You see, Jack Baumont was a good cop, but not a neat one. And ‘Crack had a tendency to read things he saw, and a memory like you wouldn’t believe. So we spent the time waiting for Jack’s search to get back to us cleaning up Jack’s case list. We didn’t hang around the busts to take the credit (especially since Walters would have been happy to pick us up at the same time), but the local papers and radio always seemed to get a whiff of who was behind our exploits. And in the War Fever, they were willing to paint any Mystery Man in glowing colors. They really ate us up with a spoon, and since they made a to do about us so did the public. Must have driven the Commish crazy.
But that following week, Jack got back to us, by a mail drop. The Car belonged to a G. Kylie, who lived out of a flophouse in the Southtown district. Coincidentally, a Greg Kylie was wanted by the State Police for taking a shot at a Deputy’s car in a chase. So our ‘prospector’ was at least a small time hood.
And a small time hood looking for big time explosives was worth our time, even if he didn’t turn out to be a Kraut.
That night, we headed down to Southtown. Southtown was a real bad part of town — the sort of place the bums had to beg from the hoods. Danny and I didn’t usually go down there — since the chumps we put away in that part of town got off thanks to their friends in the D.A.’s office. But sometimes you have to take what you can get. Besides, Kylie was looking at a State rap — and it would take more than an assistant D.A. throwing the case to get out of that.
When we got in the neighborhood, we hid the Roadster and took to the shadows. Hey, when you’re dressed like a couple of pirates from a bad movie serial, you tend to attract attention. Well, we had it better than the Golden Swashbuckler, I suppose.
The fire escape took us to the right floor. Man, I loved those fire escapes. From this point, it was going to be simple. All we had to do was listen, find out the scoop, and smack around a few Ratzis. No problem, right?
Right. Tell you what — if you ever decide to take up spy cracking as a profession, remember this. The plan’s always more simple than what happens. We expected to see eight or nine hoods in cheap suits. We were right. We expected to see a few Tommy guns and pistols. We were right.
The blonde girl being smacked around by the head rat, we didn’t plan on. We’d seen her around, before. Abigail Austin, her name was. She was good at making our lives hard. When she wasn’t complicating plans, she was a reporter down at WRLC radio.
If you look up her records today, you’d have to look up Abigail Coldman, of course. But you expected that, right?
Anyway, Abby showing up was the first unplanned occurance. The second was the guy doing the smacking.
“Damn,” ‘Crack said, “it’s Muntz.”
Johann Muntz. The toughest Kraut we ever faced. He made those so- called German Mystery Men look like ballet dancers. We’d tangled with him three or four times before that. We knew he was pretty important — one of the Master Spies Hitler gave the most power to. He always seemed to get away.
“Well, Miss Austin,” he said, “I can see your curiousity has gotten the better of you, this time. Pity.”
“What is this?” she asked. “What are you doing here? If you’re going to kill me, you can at least tell me that!” She sounded desperate. I don’t know how she got on the trail of Muntz, but she clearly knew more about what was going on than ‘Crack and I did.
Muntz laughed — that nasty, cold laugh. When I have nightmares, I have nightmares about that laugh. “Miss Austin,” he said, “I am not nearly as foolish as you think I am. Whether I kill you or not, you can forget my telling you anything. Not that you’ll be in any condition to wonder, much longer.” He hit her again. Not a slap, either. He smacked her hard.
That’s when Spycracker shattered the window, jumping in. “Leave her alone!” he shouted, and slammed Muntz in the face with his club.
There’s a few seconds of shock when you’re attacked by surprise. Those few seconds kept us alive more often than I can count. I jumped in too and smashed the first hood I saw in the side of the head with my club. There was kind a wet thud and he was down. I swung over my head and nailed a second one with an overhand swing, and elbowed a third in the belly as he tried to grab me.
And then there were several gunshots, which stopped everything. Some crooks were diving for the floor. “Nein!” Muntz shouted. “All stop, or I shall shoot again!”
I shook off the goon holding me and forced myself up front. Spycracker was facing off with Muntz, who had Abby in a choke hold, with a gun to her head.
“Just let her go, Muntz — it’s all over now,” ‘Crack said. He was tense, I could see, but he always grabbed control of a situation. Heck, the goons weren’t even hammering on us.
“On the contrary, Spycracker,” Muntz spat back at him. “Unless you want me to shoot, you’ll back off now.” Muntz was tense too. Scared.
I’m thinking of those movies again. Right about now, whern the girl’s in danger and the bad guy Nazi — Blitzen or Siegfried, usually. Or Kamikaze — is calling the shots, everyone’s cool. The bad guys are cocky, the good guys are scared but confident, and everyone’s witty as Hell.
Well, right then I was ready to wet my pants, and I think everyone else was, too. Muntz and the Nazis were scared — they didn’t know if we had backup or what. But me and the Nazis — we didn’t matter. This was all Muntz and ‘Crack.
“She doesn’t mean anything to you,” Spycracker said. “You couldn’t care less about her. Let her go — you’ve got me.”
“I don’t care who I’ve got — this is bigger than each of us,” he snapped. “This is the future of your country versus mine. Do you understand that, Spycracker? I cannot — dare not fail!” He sounded serious — as serious as any man I’ve ever heard.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Muntz, and I don’t care. Just let the girl go. Shoot me, if you have to, but let her be. I can’t imagine–”
“Exactly, Spycracker,” Muntz interuppted. “You can’t.” He barked orders to his men in German. I don’t know what he said, but they beat feet out of the room.
“Where are they going,” Spycracker asked. He sounded surprised. Well, so was I. I mean, he had us over a barrel, and he told his men to scram.
“To do what is necessary,” Muntz said. “And I shall join them, as soon as I have killed you both.” He swallowed. “You must understand, Spycracker,” he said, a strange sort of appeal in his voice. “This is beyond territory and Reich, now. This is survival. And I would happily kill every member of your misbegotten breed if it allowed the Fatherland to survive.”
“Muntz–” ‘Crack said — pure fear in his voice. I felt time close in, as the Nazi lifted the gun from Abby’s temple and aimed it at Spycracker.
A police siren wailed outside. Muntz’s eyes flicked that way for a half-second–
‘Crack’s tense muscles exploded into motion, throwing his billy club as hard as he could. It slammed into Muntz’s gun and hand. The gun went off into the ceiling, and Muntz was stumbling back, dropping Abby–
And Spycracker slammed into him with an uppercut that threw him back through the broken window we came in. He jumped up onto the Sill–
And Muntz jumped. Jumped! Three stories, into a pile of trash cans. It was almost sickening.
And the son of a Bitch got up and ran. ‘Crack started to follow, but Muntz — hurt, it seemed — had reached his buddies in their car, and was up on the sideboard. They roared off.
“Damn,” Spycracker said. “We’ll never catch them without knowing where they’re going.”
About then I started breathing again, and I started to shake. If he noticed, ‘Crack hid it. “Take care of Miss Austin,” he said, and started looking over some papers that were on the table. Like I said, he could read real fast and remember.
I moved Abby to a couch in the room, and tried to rouse her. She had a pretty good goose-egg, so I thought it might be hard to wake her up.
“Wait a second,” ‘Crack was saying. “Torp, these are Architechtural drawings — blueprints for Gannet Hall up at Pinnacle University!”
“Huh? What would they want up there?”
“Something big. Something Muntz is willing to die for,” ‘Crack said.
Just then, the cops broke down the door. Jack was there — but so was Walters. “Freeze!” he shouted. “We have you two now!”
“Captain,” Jack shouted.
Walters shook him off. He looked like a kid a Christmas. “When the Commissioner hears we got you–”
“Captain, there’s no time for that,” Spycracker shouted. “Is there anything going on at Gannet Hall at R.L.U.”
“What? If you–”
“Listen to me!” Spycracker yelled, grabbing Walters’s coat. I had never seen Danny so wired in my life. “If there’s something — anything going on there, I have to know right now! Johann Muntz and a pack of German Spies are on their way! If we delay then the Germans will succeed in whatever it is they’re doing. Tell me!”
Walters had gone pale. “The Germans at Gannet… my God–”
“What?” I asked. “What’s the big deal about Gannet Hall?”
Walters stared for a long moment at ‘Crack. It came down to trust.
“The War Office has commendeered the entire building for some scientific experiment,” Walters said. “All I know is that no one — no one is supposed to know about it.”
Spycracker’s eyes grew hard. “Get every available car up there,” he said. “Torpedo and I will try and hold them off.” He let go of Walters and ran for the window. After a beat, I followed.
I don’t know why, but Walters didn’t shoot us. He didn’t even yell after us.
We got to where we had stashed the roadster and tore up towards the Pick-U campus. ‘Crack was the leader and the brains, but that Roadster was so sweet because of the time I had put in on her. Usually, when we went full throttle, I really got into it.
Today I was staring at ‘Crack. He was deadly serious. I mean, he was always serious, but usually he had this attitude, you know? In that ride, he was driving like the whole country depended on it.
I had the sudden feeling that we might die — that ‘Crack thought it would be worth dying, to save America.
We got to Gannet Hall up on Campus. ‘Crack tore off for it, not caring if anyone saw him or not. I followed him, like I always did. But this time, I didn’t have that rush. I didn’t feel like a solider. I didn’t feel like I hero. I was scared. Scared silly. I guess right then I knew what being a real soldier felt like.
Gannet Hall was the science lab. It didn’t look like a War Office project, but then I guess it wouldn’t. This late at night, it was probably locked tight and everything was shut down.
Everything but one lab on the first floor. We could see lights on from underneath blinds.
‘Crack ran straight for it, and so did I. As one, we threw ourselves at the huge windows.
We exploded into the lab, with a million shards of glass flying around us. I have a scar under my eye where a piece cut me. Spycracker had been right — the Germans were there, along with a bunch of guys in suits backed against a wall.
We tore into the krauts like men possessed. There was no snappy jokes, no epitaths for freedom. Just the two of us fighting for our lives, for our country. There was a thunderclap, and my shoulder seemed to explode, but I drove the point of my club into the throat of the gunman. I yanked and threw my knife with my good arm — bobbling the throw, but nailing another Nazi in the face with the hilt. Spycracker was slamming and slamming and slamming around himself. It looked like he was a soldier for King Arthur, pounding everything that moved with his billy club. It splintered in his hands, but he ignored it.
I sank to my knees. My shoulder was bleeding pretty hard, and hurt something fierce. But I could see it was just ‘Crack and Muntz now. Muntz was hurt. Spycracker was exhausted.
“Well… now….” Muntz said. “We will settle this… settle this like men. Me for my country — you for yours. No weapons. Just you and me.”
Without saying a word, Spycracker coldcocked Muntz. Like I said, he was the dirtiest fighter alive.
But he was still standing.
“My god,” one of the Men said. “You stopped them. Two men against ten, and you stopped them!”
Just then I recognized the man. It was Senator Rothchild — our representative in the capital, and one of F.D.R.’s confederates. There were others there — including a man with short red hair, whose face I recognized instantly, even as he leaned over me and worked on my wounded shoulder.
“You — you’re Arthur Wallace. You’re Mastermind.” The Smartest Man in America, they said.
“True,” Mastermind said. “And you’re a young man with a flesh wound. You should be all right.”
“Senator,” another man — an intense fellow with black hair — said angrily, “I thought you said Pinnacle was secure.”
“Well Jeez, Oppie,” a heavy-set man said, coming to the Senator’s defense.
The sirens of the police cars were getting closer. “We have to go,” Spycracker said. “We’re wanted vigilantes.”
“The boy can’t be moved that fast,” Mastermind said. “Torpedo, isn’t it?” I nodded. “You have to be careful.”
“We don’t have time,” Spycracker said.
“Wait,” the one fellow — Oppie — said. “Hide them in the records room. We can keep the police out of there.” They moved us in the records room, and shut and locked the door.
Great. A room full of files. At least it shared a light switch with the main lab. I looked around. So was Spycracker.
I picked up one of the files, trying to ignore the pain in my shoulder. I tried to read through it — it looked like it was written in Greek, but I tried to follow it. “Hey ‘Crack,” I whispered, joking. “Look at this — the Germans tried to storm the place, and these guys are studying hard water.”
“Hard water?” ‘Crack asked. He walked over, and looked at the file. “No, heavy water,” he said.
“What’s that?” I asked, but ‘Crack was ignoring me. He was looking through different sheets of paper.
Like I said, ‘Crack was an Engineer, if not a scientist. And he read fast, and remembered what he read. And while the scientists were outside, holding the cops off, ‘Crack read a lot of sheets of paper.
“What is it?” I asked, finally.
‘Crack set a piece of paper down, and leaned against the wall. He sank to his knees. “My God,” he said. “My God.”
But ‘Crack didn’t answer me. Not that night. Not ever. Today I can make a guess at what he glimpsed. I can make a guess as to what Project we had saved. But I don’t really think that was it.
I think Spycracker had seen a glimpse of a world where he wasn’t worth a damn.
That was our finest night. Senator Rothchild got our names in the national papers — heroes and Mystery Men who stopped the Nazis from gaining vital, classified research and information. F.D.R. listened to the story and decided that we could be a real morale boost. He called us up and named us the Liberty Brigade, and it was more or less over. We were celebrities, crossing the country — a bunch of guys and girls in costumes, and put on stunt shows. We had a few more adventures, but by then the Brigade was Yesterday’s news.
And what did you expect. Who cared about the Costume Party, when real heroes — near Gods — were storming over the Axis Powers. I had a good left hook, but the Quick could disable an entire Platoon of Krauts in an eyeblink. While Minuteman took down a Nazi Madman with three pounds of dynamite, the Wave was winning the war in the Pacific.
We had our little victories, of course. But it was, for all intents and purposes, over. We were forgotten.
In 1946, after the Judge was shot, most of us hung up our masks. Danny got married, my Dad came home. He found out what I had done during the war and, aside from an argument with Uncle Danny, never mentioned it again. He never mentioned his own service, either. He was a machine gunner, but he left it behind.
Danny sent a letter to the A.P. and the President, expressing that he was in good health, but entering retirement. He made page four of the Pinnacle Times.
When I went to college at Columbia, I kept it up. Broke up a crime ring or two. But when you’re the only one at the costume party, you feel foolish. Besides, Danny was always the brains. I had to stumble into criminal plots to find them. So Torpedo went away too.
Finally, in 1953, the last Mystery Man — the Golden Swashbuckler, who had also been the first Mystery Man — retired. It was over.
Except later that year, Spycracker and Torpedo smashed onto movie screens for the first time. We became seralized, fictionalized — cult heroes. Not bad, I guess.
And, in the late fifties, there was actually another Spycracker and Torpedo. This one was one of those super guys. He had a mace, not a club, and he was damn strong — able to lift a motorcycle over his head. They fought the commies for a few months, and then disappeared.
And that was that. I don’t have any more to say.
Dorian Cross: In 1946, Spycracker disappeared. But Daniel Coldman and his wife Abigail did not disappear. They moved from Pinnacle City to Vermont, where Daniel Coldman opened another hardware store. They spent many years in retirement, until 1970, when Daniel Coldman passed away in his sleep. His nephew, Ronnie Coldman, died in an automobile accident in 1972. Abigail Coldman died in 1988.
For Sentinels of Liberty, the Hero at War, I’m Dorian Cross. Good night.
8 thoughts on “The Home Front: Spycracker and Torpedo”
I remember the Diamond story from Superguy and I think I vaguely recall this one as well. Though for some reason I thought both had been written by whoever wrote Spectrum. Can’t remember the Author’s name now…
Lawrence “Amigoid” Brown does Spectrum (of the West Coast Defenders). It’s one of the “long tail” stories on Superguy, you might even see another installment of it come out at some point.
(As for me, the same storyline that killed Crazy Guy kinda killed Exarchs too when I tried to pick it up, although there was some aiding and abetting by a crossover stall-out. 🙂 )
Spectrum was a recurrent guest star in my own major Superguy stories. Heck, if I ever get around to finishing “There Are Those Who Call Me Bruce,” you’ll see some Spectrum there. Assuming Lawrence is still okay with the guest shot.
Granted, on that mythical day we’ll also all have ponies, but still.
tem — does that mean if I send this one back in time to 1996, you’ll buy it? 😉
Sure, as long as you send it with a note that says: “Buy Google stock and lots of it!”
For the record, I’m loving this war-era superhero stuff (and, for that matter, most of the rest of the stuff on the site). That being said, there’s one moment in this story that strikes a discordant note with me.
“We tore into the krauts like men possessed. There was no snappy jokes, no epitaths for freedom.” That seems a little overwrought for a voice that speaks mostly in period slang, and takes note of how fast people read. Maybe it’s just me, but that choice of language struck me as a bit ornate for the character.
Then again, maybe I’m not giving Torpedo enough credit 🙂
Hmm. Starts slow, but once I got into it it really hit me hard.
It seems like there’s a common theme of… sort of… feelings of uselessness, I suppose, but something beyond that, that I see in much of your writing. I’m missing the precise word, but there’s a very interesting sort of sadness tomost of your more interesting characters.