Thursday, June 19, 2008

Martian Manhunter: American Secrets 2.5 (10/92)

Jones and company made the long trip across country to Nevada. On a night drive, Preston asked, "Are they after us, sir?"
"Then what do we do?"
"We learn who they are. And we go after them."
"What are you, sir."
"Don't ask me that. Just drive."

In a Vegas hotel room, child actor Whitey Bright, nationally famous star of the hit series "It Must Be Skeeter," talked up a couple of working girls while smoking and boozing. Watching an episode of his show, the boy noted "We shot this baby in three days, dolls. No thanks to (co-star) Hubert. What a bender he was on!" The broadcast was interrupted by a special bulletin. "The F.B.I. requests all citizens be on the lookout for the murderer of a Leavitzville insurance agent. He has been identified as Denver Detective John Jones, and he appears to be holding as hostages Hillbilly singer Perkins Preston and child actress Patty Marie."

Arriving at a casino lobby, the Martian arranged a meeting with Mr. Gioconda by posing as Preston's manager, an elderly southern fried colonel. "The Colonel" claimed to want Perkins to perform for the mobster's patrons, but Preston quietly protested, "With all these drunken old people here, sir? I'll never sing in a place like this."
"Without cooperation, young man, you may not live to wrestle with that dilemma!"

The Colonel was more concerned with meeting the management than booking Perkins, so he had his charges shuffled off to separate rooms. He claimed the "abduction" of his talent was part of a publicity stunt he'd engineered, until things got out of hand with John Jones. He also slipped mentions of Cuba and the jukebox business, which grabbed Mr. G's attention firmly.

In her room, Patty Marie was visited by Whitey "Skeeter" Bright, who let himself in with his own key. Still smoking, Whitey pressed himself ever closer to the crying girl. "They call Skeeter a 'message show.' They don't know the half of it. I sell big messages on that show, baby. Stick with me, and maybe I'll let you in on a few. Or maybe you got a few secret messages of your own, huh, Sad-Eyes? What makes another child-star shed such big, juicy tears?" Whitey's hand rested on Patty Marie's prepubescent thigh, as he kept leaning in closer. "Who'd ever want to hurt a sweet little thing like you?"

"My mother! And my uncles! All the uncles she brings home! She lets them hurt me! She always let them hurt me!" Whitey's hand crept ever higher, under the child's skirt, another creep with a perverse agenda. "Tell Uncle Whitey what the bad men did to you... Come on. We've all got secrets. The world runs on secrets. Tell me yours and I'll tell you mine. Come on honey... tell me everything those terrible uncles did to you."

In his own room, Perkins Preston read, with occasional difficulty, some of Keene's comics. In an adventure of the Justice Society of America, Perkins was surprised to find the team battling "Lizard Men."

Exiting his meeting, "the Colonel" was confronted by Inspector Anole of the F.B.I in the hotel hallway. At first he seemed to be enlisting the Colonel's help investigating the "subversive" Gioconda, until his features began to take on a decidedly reptilian appearance. "... nobody's what they seem to be these days. Before the war, you knew the lefties. You knew the thugs. Then it all changed. Gangsters pose as businessmen. Commies work in the state department. Homosexuals pass for school teachers. And that client of yours. Perkins Preston. He has a white man's face but a Negro's soul. Just to seduce our American girls into popping open their little coin-purses. You just can't tell about anybody anymore." Anole knew the Colonel was green in his own heart, and wanted to enlist his services to keep up the "land of the free." That is, "Free for those who are advanced enough to appreciate it."

At that moment, Patty Marie burst out of her room into the hall, crying for Officer Jones to "Make him stop!" Whitey Bright strolled out after, affecting innocence and claiming he was only doing his duty as a "Junior G-Man," plying the poor girl for information. Inspector Anole congratulated the fresh-faced youth as they strolled off together, leaving Jones alone with his shaken charge. "He... he changed, Officer Jones!"
"Yeah. Who hasn't?"

Back in Perkins' room, Patty and Jones learned about the four-color Lizard-Men with crops that controlled racketeers minds. "This is what we need, Sir! Heroes-- like Flash and Green Lantern and Doctor--" John Jones cut him off with, "It'd be nice, if they were real." Perkins assured Jones they were, pointing out the indicia of the comics informing, "Published by arrangement with the Justice Society of America. Melvin Keene, licensing representative." With another item tying Keene to the conspiracy, Jones begins looking for other common bonds. The "Beto E-Z Rip" candy wrapper, "Prize-To-Be," and other clues all contained the same combination of letters, but what did they spell? Before Jones could come to an answer, yet another visitor darkened the refugees' door. "Forgive me, Detective. An inclination to cheap suspense comes naturally to my sort after a while. I'm Charles McNider. Physician, retired. But they used to call me Dr. Midnight!"

Back to Part Three

Forward to Part Five

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