When I opened my eyes again, I was back in good ol' Montclair, NJ. Val looked up from a book -- as God is my witness, she was wading through Hobbes' Leviathan.
"Well! You must have had an exceptionally good time, Patsy," she said.
My head still spun with images of the She-Hulk, the Man-Wolf, the Other Realm, and the freaky micro-planets. [see Savage She-Hulk #13 & #14] I only stuttered, "Wh-what?"
My warrior roommate shut the dusty volume with a small thunderclap.
"You have been gone two days, without so much as a telephone call," she said. "You must have -- what do they call it -- Disco Fever."
I hooked the rippling folds of the Shadow Cloak onto the coat rack, next to my extremely mundane plastic slicker. I couldn't tell if she was joking or angry. Everything was so dadburned serious to the Valkyrie.
"Disco Fever?" I repeated, peeling off the Hellcat mask. "For your information, my sword-swinging friend, I was out saving the universe -- or a universe, anyway -- in the best Defenders fashion."
I started in on a short version of the events of the past couple of days. About halfway through the fight with the Realmites, I started yawning big time.
"A tiny world calling from help, inside the body of the She-Hulk?" asked Val. "You will have to work on new excuses, Patsy. I read Horton Hears a Who last Saturday."
"Horton Hears a Who," I said. "And now Leviathan. Your taste is eclectic, I'll say that."
I yawned again. I was going to crater.
"Anyway, it happened . . . And it was kind of tiring."
Finally a thin smile from the Snow Queen. She rose and set the ponderous tome on the bookshelf. My Danielle Steeles sort of cringed away from it.
"It's obvious you're exhausted, Patsy. Perhaps you should take a hot bath and turn in. You can tell me all about it in the morning."
Just the words "hot bath" nearly put me out. I climbed the stairs, stripped off the black and yellow costume, and turned on the water.
Art: Norm Breyfogle. Avengers Annual 2000
I was out but good when trouble came a-calling. I thought I dreamed the thumps and bumps, and even Val's cry of "Hela's Ghost!" But the sound of a bay window shattering is pretty sharp, and I sat up in bed.
"Wazzup?" I demanded.
I heard an Errol Flynn-ish clash of steel on steel. I looked out the window and added a "Golly!" to Val's "Fafnir's Blood!"
The Man-Wolf, in that green-black armor, was in front yard! Val brought her white Dragonfang down on his long gold sword with another clang. The werewolf/ barbarian god toppled back onto the hood of my new Ferrari with a checkbook-busting crunch. He flipped off again in a white-haired blur, and he swept up with his sword to block Dragonfang again.
"Wait!" I yelled. "Val! Wait!"
I slid downstairs along the banister in my jammies and ran outside barefoot. To my surprise, the Valkyrie held her fire -- or sword-swinging. She still stood, half-crouched for attack, as did the Man-Wolf.
"Val! That's the Man-Wolf! Like I told you!"
My Nordic friend flared her nostrils.
"I have heard only that the Man-Wolf is a destructive beast," she said. "He erupted into the room from your weirdling cloak, Patsy. It is not meet to surprise the Valkyrie in such a fashion."
I heard something in my ear, like the roar of the ocean, followed by pops and hisses of static. The white-haired wolf-man tapped the red jewel in his throat as you might slap an old TV to get it to work.
[I apologize, warrior,] came his wacky telepathic voice. [I was aiming for the Earth, but I did not expect to land here.] He looked at me with luminous animal eyes. [I tried to explain, but I was unable to project my thoughts.]
"I can hear you," I said.
[Yes -- the trouble has passed, Hellcat. You are Hellcat, aren't you?]
He sniffed the air like a hound dog. [Yes. Now I have your scent.]
I felt like I should have scrubbed harder in the tub.
"Look -- can we take this back inside? The neighbors are going to be at the windows soon, and I'd have an even harder time explaining things to them."
"Very well," said Val.
She sheathed her moon-white blade. Wolfie nodded and slipped his sun-gold pig-sticker out of sight. I exhaled loudly and led the way back in.
I made coffee and handed out cups. We sat at the dining room table. Val gave me a curious look as the Man-Wolf lapped his brew like a dog. He noticed us and stopped.
[First of all, Hellcat, thank you for helping me save the Other Realm,] he said without moving his lips.
I gave a pert, trademarked [literally] Patsy Walker smile.
"All in a day's work for us hero types."
The wolf-man studied Val for a moment.
[You don't trust me, Valkyrie.]
"Have I been misinformed about the Man-Wolf, then?" asked my blond housemate.
The shaggy man-beast straightened in his chair.
[Unfortunately, no,] he said. [Perhaps I should clue you in on the whole sordid affair.]
So Wolfie gave us his life story. I can't reveal his real name or even most of the circumstances behind his becoming a furshlugginer werewolf; suffice to say the ruby-like stone stuck in his throat made him change into a ferocious monster whenever the moon rose.
[On Earth,] he continued. [In the dimension of the Other Realm, however, I became the living incarnation of Stargod.]
"Wow! A lot more involved than inheriting a leftover costume!" I commented.
Val gave an unladylike grunt.
"But you seem to be this Stargod on Earth, now," she observed.
[Yes,] said Wolfie. He perked his ears as if excited. [I believe I've touched both bases enough, so to speak, to allow the Moonstone to channel energy from the Other Realm. The days of the mindless Man-Wolf are over.]
"Perhaps," said Val. "But the best laid plans of mice and men -- and wolves --"
"Gee, Val, be Buzz Killington, why don't you?" I said.
The Man-Wolf grumbled.
[She has a point, Hellcat. Maybe I should, eh, test things out before announcing my return.]
He looked around at Mom's old dining room, flaring his nostrils.
[If there were only someplace I could lair for a few days . . .]
"Don't be too obvious, Wolfie."
I glanced at Valkyrie. She lifted an eyebrow.
"The property is yours, Patsy. You can invite whomsoever you like across the threshold."
"Well," I said. "We've had everyone else here, including the Hulk. Why not? I'm just glad Mrs. Donahue's visiting her sister."
We chatted 'til dawn's early light, a lot of top secret stuff, mainly about Wolfie's -- or rather, his human self's -- history.
"You're kidding," I said. "His suit smells like mothballs and potpourri?"
[And Milk of Magnesia. Whoever Spider-Man is, he must live with old people,] Man-Wolf concluded.
Val had turned into a pumpkin a couple of hours earlier. I noticed the growing light at the windows.
"Gee whillikers! Don't you turn back into a -- human -- at dawn?"
The Man-Wolf blinked.
[I did before,] he answered, studying the kitchen window. He let out a querulous puppy noise. [This may prove bothersome. Though this form has many advantages, it could be embarrassing in some quarters.]
"No duh," I said. "Well, we'll work on it. I've had plenty of training on the mind-body interface, you know. I mean, there's more to the Hellcat than Patsy Walker in tights. I bet you could change at will, eventually."
Wolfie nodded. Then he squinted like a coyote.
"I'm America's Teenage Sweetheart -- or I was. I have my wholesome reputation to uphold."
I blinked innocently several times. The Man-Wolf yawned. I read that in Bulgaria or someplace they believed a huge wolf swallowed the moon during a total eclipse. I imagined this wolf could. I had to yawn, too.
"Looks like we all need our beauty sleep," I commented. "We'll take this up later."
I woke sometime in the afternoon and waddled down the hall like a little kid reluctant to go to school. I reached the bathroom door: locked. I heard the shower's hiss, and I heard an odd caterwauling: coughs, barks, wails, and a low urrrrrll.
"What the hell?"
Valkyrie appeared at the other end of the hall in a thick bathrobe. She crossed her muscular arms.
"I believe he's singing in the shower," she said.
"Singing?" I asked. "More like strangling a bobcat."
I banged on the door.
"Come on, Wolfie! Hot water's as hard to come by as Chianti in these parts."
The shower dribbled off.
[Just a minute,] he called mentally.
Long minute. I tapped my little foot until the door opened and the fog rolled out. The Man-Wolf appeared, white lupine head perched atop an oak-brown robe with a gold "KR" embroidered over the heart.
"That's Kyle Richmond's cashmere smoking jacket," I said after a second of shock. "You'd better hope he doesn't catch you in it. He's added lasers to his Nighthawk costume."
[Sorry,] apologized M-W. [It was in the room you gave me.]
"I should've given you a rug in the garage," I muttered.
Wolfie wore a beach towel over his head like a burnoose. His big ears formed two tents in the terrycloth. I smelled lilacs -- strong.
I pushed past the werewolf and entered the steamy swamps. I gasped at the chaos within.
"You used up all my shampoo!"
The beast-man gave a picket fence of a smile.
[Well -- I wanted to wash -- and washing and shampooing are sort of the same, now.]
"Did you have to use it all?" I demanded, tossing plastic bottles into the wastebasket.
[I -- eh -- have more to shampoo that before.]
I looked over dripping sheets of terrycloth on plastic rods. I choked on my choler, as Shakespeare or someone once said.
"You used every goddamn towel! They're sopping wet!"
I spun. The Man-Wolf stood a foot taller than I, easy, but he hunched and cringed like a scolded mongrel.
[I -- had more to dry than before.]
I snatched up a rag that bristled with white hairs. I shook it under his black-button nose.
"And they're all full of your ____ing fur!"
The Man-Wolf's ears sank under his makeshift cowl.
[What happened to America's Teenage Sweetheart?]
"She lies in state in the attic in a crate marked 'COMICS'! I'm feeling very Hellcatty right now!" I finished.
I heard an unfamiliar noise. Down the hall the grim Chooser of the Slain giggled behind a half-raised hand.
Shopping (and cutting a piece of plywood for the window) ate up much of the afternoon. Val took Aragorn flying over the Barrens. The Man-Wolf, of course, kept inside. He puffed up like a Persian cat after his shower, and, after getting back from Food Acres, I found him sniffling and red-eyed in the living room.
"What's the matter? Catching cold?" I asked.
He sneezed into a tissue.
[No. I think I used too much shampoo.]
"Well, duh," I said as I set the bags on the table.
[The artificial stink of lilacs is ruining my sense of smell.]
"Serves you right," I snapped. "Next time stick to Irish Spring."
I set several pounds of hamburger in the fridge. For MW, of course -- and it would be rare. I also stocked up on napkins, towels, Bounty, and other clean-up items. Just a hunch.
[Hellcat -- I'm sorry about the mess.]
"Patsy will do when I'm off duty. And it was nothing major."
The beast-man filled the kitchen entrance. He was dressed differently today: a sleeveless and legless bodysuit, yellow lined with red. He no longer wore boots, either, but padded along bare-pawed.
"Where'd you get that outfit?"
[It was under the armor, like a lining. It resembles a pressure suit I used once, trying to keep the moon's rays from affecting me.]
"I gather it didn't work."
[No. But the suit just seems to appear for the Man-Wolf when I change, as the armor materializes for Stargod.]
I caught movement behind Wolfie. A white fluffiness.
"Er -- did you have that tail before?"
I had the feeling he blushed, as if you could tell.
[It just seemed to appear, also.]
I made a noncommittal noise. Why wouldn't a wolf-man have a tail? I pushed aside cans of baked beans to make room for less starchy fare.
[Why all the beans?]
I clacked a few cans down on the shelf.[Patsy -- I have a favor to ask.]
Boy. Well, in for a penny --
Man-Wolf looked over the old linoleum of the floor. His tail swept from side to side like a metronome.
[I was wondering if you could make a phone call for me. I can't really talk -- and I don't think my telepathic voice would work.]
I drew in my lip.
"I guess I could. Who to?"
The man-beast's eyes, a strange gold-green, rolled up to meet mine.
[A woman named K___ S___.] (Remember, I have to keep things secret!)
Oh, boy. Here we were playing Cyrano, with Wolfie all set to coach me psychically.
The phone buzzed somewhere in NYC. "Click" and a languid "Hello?"
"Uh -- Miss S___?"
"This is -- a friend. I have a message for you from --"
Wolfie waved his furry hands.
[Don't tell her I'm here. Not yet.]
"-- Another . . . friend."
I swear, the receiver blew cold air like an A/C unit. My intro could have been better.
"Who is this?" demanded Miss S___ (I'll call her "Kay" for short).
[Tell her you have news about John.] (Hey, it's a common name.)
"I have news about John."
I heard an intake of breath.
"Is this some sort of prank?"
"Kay, John is alive. But --"
"Delayed," I repeated [These are not the droids you're looking for]. "I mean, he's having to iron out a few problems before he can get back home."
I thought I heard a frickin' growl over the phone.
[Did she just growl?] asked Man-Wolf.
"Is this another trick, Sister?" said the voice on the phone. "Another scheme for a tabloid smear? Isn't it enough that John is gone forever? Must you people torment his loved ones?"
[Tell her, I remember the time she mussed my hair in the NASA cafeteria --]
"Now, look, lady, John is not gone forever. I'm serious as a heart attack."
Wolfie whimpered and clapped his hands over his snout.
[Hellcat -- Tell her I remember the sketch she made of me hoisting the flag on the moon, when I didn't --]
"Who are you working for?" demanded Kay. "Who's paying you to torment me? Kraven the Hunter? Simon Stroud? Arisen Tyrk?"
A bomb seemed to go off in my head. That last name was about the last thing I expected to hear from Wolfie's girlfriend.
"You know Arisen Tyrk?" I asked.
Wolfie's ears and tail popped up.
[You know Arisen Tyrk?]
"Ha!" barked Kay. "It's obvious you do!"
"Now, look, Miss S____," I said with deadly calm. "I'm on your side. My name is Patsy Walker, better known as the high-flying Hellcat."
"A superhero. Telling me your real name over the phone?"
"Evidently you missed Dollar Bill's expose on the Defenders," I remarked. "Live on national TV. I didn't think anyone could avoid that."
"I don't watch much TV."
"Well, the Defenders came out of the closet big time. Not willingly, but I was never too good at the secret identity bit. As for Arisen Tyrk, he was about the nastiest scuzzball the Defenders ever faced."
I gave Kay -- and MW, who bobbed like Hippety Hopper at my side -- a brief overview of Professor Harrison Turk of Empire State University, aka Arisen Tyrk, God-Emperor of some dimension or other, who fused himself with a bunch of Tyrk clones scattered across time and space and became nigh invincible.
"But the Defenders defeated him, and these wacky creatures with twelve eyes imprisoned him in a magic crystal, and everybody lived happily ever after."
I wondered for a moment if we'd lost our connection, but then Kay spoke.
"Well -- What you say must be true. I mean, who else could know so much about Tyrk?"
"How do you know him?" I ventured.
"He was -- er -- an enemy of John's."
[I'll explain later,] promised Wolfie. [She doesn't want to tell you I'm the Man-Wolf. And I don't want her to know I'm here until I can appear to her as John. Please?]
God, he'd start whimpering next. I waved him off as I spoke to Kay.
"I'll take your word for it. He was just about everybody's enemy. But, please, don't lose hope. John will be back as soon as he can. I really can't say more than that, Okay?"
". . . Okay. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, I guess."
I gave her my number and hung up. Wolfie didn't look happy.
[Damn! I wanted to pass on more than that.]
"Next time write a script," I suggested. "Anyway, you couldn't send on too many private thoughts without letting the wolf out of the bag. At least she knows you're on the way."
The Man-Wolf nodded, but his ears sagged.
"Now, what do you have to do with Tyrk?"
Wolfie gritted his teeth.
[He was the tyrannical ruler of the Other Realm. Stargod's antithesis. He wanted the Moongem and the power it held. He kidnapped K____ , trying to force me into submission. But he -- and I -- underestimated the gem's power. I thought he was dead.]
"A whole kingdom of wizards are keeping him on ice. He won't bother anyone any more."
Wolfie grumbled skeptically.
I stepped out the back door at ten PM, flexing my hands within my clawed gloves. The costume held an energy of its own; I jumped and climbed and pounded bad guys in my yellow and midnight blue suit as I never could in my civvies.
Val and the Man-Wolf stood there with Aragorn. Wolfie patted the winged horse's snout. I did a double take; I would have expected the modern Pegasus to rear and snort at the presence of this toothy werewolf. And Val rarely let anyone touch the sky-stallion, anyway.
"You ready?" I asked.
[I was going stir crazy sitting in there all day. Lead on.]
Aragorn shifted his attention to Val. The Nordic warrior patted his neck as she spoke.
"Are you sure you do not require my presence, Patsy?"
"Trust me, Val, this sneaking through alleys bit is just not you. I think Man-Wolf will be great at it, though."
Val shrugged within her black tunic.
"As you will."
"Maybe you can catch up on your Thomas Hobbes," I suggested.
"I have finished that volume," said Val. "I believe I will study your television-box."
"Anything but Three's Company. We're living that."
I climbed an old warehouse downtown. No rat or squirrel could beat me, with the steel claws of my gloves and boots.
Man-Wolf scrabbled up behind me. He was a lot stronger than I, and his claws were real. He pulled himself up on the roof next to me.
[Old tarpaper,] he telepathed, flaring his nostrils. [Rust, mice, mosquito larvae in stagnant water, ancient rolls of pulp paper. And asbestos.]
He gave another grin.
[I have all the sensory gifts of a real wolf.]
"Must come in handy."
[Not always. New York City confused the hell out of my old self. Montclair's not as bad, but I still prefer the country.]
We padded across the rickety roof. A few ominous creaks came from the rafters.
"I don't go on patrol often," I admitted. "Usually I wait for the Defenders' call to action. We both need practice."
We reached the edge of the roof.
"Let's see if you can descend as quietly as you ascend."
This high I didn't need the cable-claw. I hopped to a jutting roof, then to the top of a bakery van, then to the street.
I looked back up at the roof. I didn't see Wolfie.
"Man-Wolf!" I hissed. "Hey!"
A clawed finger tapped my shoulder. I jumped with a little "Eek!"
[How was that?] he asked.
How did he --? He must have jumped right over the roof, truck, and me, the show-off.
"That was okay, for a beginner," I conceded. "Uh -- Now we should keep our eyes and ears -- and noses -- open. You'd be surprised at the crime rate in this town."
I trotted into an alley. Man-Wolf whuffed and followed.
"Something wrong?" I stage-whispered.
[I don't think I'm cut out for the superhero schtick. I actually gained super-strength once -- I became an egotistical dork.]
We slipped through the shadows as MW explained. We shimmied over a fence behind an old factory.
"Power corrupts, but not that fast," I said. "Sounds like these 'space spores' messed with your head. Hardly your fault."
Wolfie joined me in the shadow of the factory.
[Anyway, I studied the whole subject in my civilian life. I'd almost agree with my father on one point: Superheroes make ordinary people -- cops, firemen, and soldiers as well as the general populace -- feel small. Helpless. Like window dressing on the stage of life.]
"Well! My life was forced on the public as that of THE ordinary high school girl. Even now I'm no building-buster like Thor, but I've stood side by side with the best of 'em, and I don't back down from the worst."
We paused before jumping out by a revealing streetlight. MW gave me a long grin.
[Patsy, you're anything but ordinary.]
I gave a thin smile back.
"Flatterer . . . Seriously, if you've got it, there're times you ought to use it. Regular people don't have access to jet fighters and tanks, but there are times they're glad somebody does."
MW made no reply. We trotted across the street and hopped behind a smelly garbage bin.
"Whew! What do they have in here?"
[You don't want to know,] said Man-Wolf. [I feel like a crook myself, ducking around like this.]
"Hey, you go where the work is," I quipped. "And, not to be insulting, but I'm afraid the Man-Wolf is the sort of guy who'd better stick to the shadows."
We crept past a few store fronts and found another alley.
[True,] agreed Wolfie. [I wish it could be otherwise, but I remember the mutant scares. And some people still think Spider-Man is some sort of monster.]
Wolfie perked his ears. I heard it, too: Shots fired.
"Well, we also pop out when we have to, whether people like it or not," I said. "Let's go."
We ran at an easy pace -- loped, if you want to keep the wolf-motif -- down alleys of varying degrees of accessibility.
[I smell antiseptics. Alcohol. Old blood -- and new.]
"The hospital!" I hissed.
True enough, we had traveled in a wide circle and approached Glenridge Hospital, a scant two blocks from the house. We padded onto the wide parking lot, scanning the main entrance, the emergency entrance, and a third door that led to the Doctor's clinic. People gathered around a prostate figure in front of the main entrance, the bright lights from within making solid silhouettes out of them.
"Man-Wolf, you watch the entrances. I'm going to ask what's up."
Wolfie grinned. He knew I'd get answers where he'd probably get screams.
[Very well. I hate the smell of hospitals, anyway. Be careful.]
"hey -- I'm this century's answer to Betty and Veronica. I've got plot armor."
I hot-footed it to the entrance. Looked like a security guard caught one in the gut. At least there were interns and nurses to care for him. They looked up at me with the worried expression of those unused to costumed heroes.
"I'm Hellcat -- one of the good guys!" I called.
A nurse, stern lines in her otherwise young face, rose.
"Hellcat? I heard you were in town," she said. "Two goons in leather jackets and blue jeans came in. One's clean shaven, the other's got hair and beard like a lion's mane. They've both got handguns."
She led me to the double doors and pointed down a corridor.
"Be careful," she said. "There are few enough women in the cape and tights set."
"Thanks," I called.
I padded along the cold, whitewashed hall. Speaking of super-women, I wished Val were there.
Come on, Patsy, give MW a chance!
I met an intern who directed me towards another hall.
"They said something about the lab -- the floor above Emergency," he added.
More thanks and I headed for another set of double doors. Covered walkway ahead, then the next building.
Blast! Floor-to-ceiling windows on the outer wall, and with the powerful hospital illumination, they might have been painted over, to my point of view! But you could bet anyone outside could see me as if under a spotlight. I just hoped the baddies were deep in the lab area.
Man-Wolf's telepathy cut through distance and glass but good. I dropped just as a bullet cracked a window.
I jumped forward. This hall was a damned shooting gallery. I dashed for the doors; outside I'd at least be rid of this snow-white backdrop!
I leapt out onto the walk. I somersaulted and rose up behind a roof support, unfortunately one too narrow to provide real protection.
I took in the scene. Two goons, one leoninely haired and bearded and one shaved smooth, halfway across the parking lot. They ran for a pair of Harleys-- at least, I think they were Harleys; they looked more like big black buffalos with wheels instead of legs.
The thugs each carried a satchel in one hand and a gun in the other. As long as they were running, I jumped for cover -- the Emergency building, a hefty structure like a medieval tower. I grabbed the handles of a thick metal door. Locked.
One baddy turned. Up came a pistol. Amazing how fast you can figure: Couldn't get in here, the hall behind me was a shooting gallery, no good cover between. I'd have to cartwheel like crazy.
The yellow-clad werewolf dropped in front of me from the lab roof. He swung up his arm, and poof! the huge Stargod bracers appeared out of nowhere, snug on his wrists. BANG and a slug cracked off the outstretched bracer, like something from a Wonder Woman comic.
Lion-Beard jumped on his hog and watched as Smoothie fired again. Wolfie ducked that one. Smoothie fired a third time -- right at me!
The Man-Wolf leaned forward, his jaws cracking shut inches from my face. He snapped his head away with a "Faugh!", as if spitting out something foul.
Across the lot something ping, ping, pinged on the concrete. The spent slug rattled up to the gunman's feet. The goons called out their favorite four-letter words. Lion-Beard burned rubber, with Smoothie right behind.
The gunmen turned right toward the built-up embankment of the Erie-Lackawana railroad. The Man-Wolf let out a husky "Huff" and charged off at an angle.
Beastie boy could run, and he ignored my cries. I couldn't catch him or the crooks on foot, but I was only two blocks from the house. . .
I dashed across the parking lot and Poplar Street. I looked east, straight down the road, which passed beneath the raised railway. the bikers roared under the trestle.
Simultaneously, a white flash topped the dike. Man-Wolf had climbed the artificial ridge in seconds, and now he leapt --
Landing in front of the second bike. He caught Smoothie with both hands and lifted him deftly off. A sharp chop on the neck, and Wolfie held a limp sack of bones that he dumped onto the shoulder.
The white werewolf caught up the Harley before it scraped to a halt. He swung his fluffy tail onto it and roared off.
"Someone needs a little lesson in teamwork," I muttered.
There was still a dent in Helen Wheel's hood, but the Ferrari still purred as a Hellcat's ride ought. I stopped by Smooth-Shaven to make sure he was alive. He was only unconscious. I hog-tied him and shot off again.
I clicked on my police scanner. Helen Wheels ate up the road, but Wolfie and Lion-Beard had a big head start.
". . . A monster on a motorcycle? You're not seeing that guy with his head on fire again, Clements?"
"HQ -- This is Unit Three. Confirm sighting by Unit Eight -- Man in werewolf costume pursuing WMA, both on motorcycles."
-- crackle -- "Unit Eight in pursuit."
Great. Wolfie was the sort who needed a bit of introducing. Now he was jumping into the spotlight. It didn't help that it was the spotlight of the New Jersey Highway Patrol.
I poured it on, but I hit the brakes as I heard, "Suspects turning north on 155." I'd live hereabouts long enough to know a shortcut.
I turned left and roared down a narrow country lane. It wasn't in the best shape; I gritted my teeth at the bumps and potholes. I should have gone for performance rather than looks when buying a set of wheels, but I still had my vanity.
"Unit Eight -- Unit Five proceeding south on Hawthorne."
I poured it on, damn the shocks. Man-Wolf so far had his emphasis on the man -- most of whom were big boys playing with big toys. Ninety percent of the heroes I knew were so damned proud of their capes or suits or guns or flying cars . . . Wolfie would fit right in.
I roared up to an intersection. Lion-Beard flashed through the headlights, looking scared. The Man-Wolf shot past next, hunched over the borrowed Harley, tail trailing like the white exhaust, tongue hanging like a dog with his head out the window. I pulled on and floored it to keep ahead of the first HP car.
I flashed my lights and honked. I rolled down the window and yelled his human name. He lifted his head and perked his ears.
"Yes, dummy!" I yelled into the wind. "Your dance partner for the evening, remember?"
MW looked back.
[I've almost got him.]
A bug hit my teeth. I spat.
"The cops are after you! And if it's a choice between you and the ugliest Hell's Angel, I'm afraid they'll shoot you!"
He craned his neck, looking past me at the patrol car.
[I see. What do you suggest?]
"Amscray! Lay low! I'll explain!"
With eminent bad timing, however, a hypo car bounced into view from some hiding spot ahead and flashed its blue and red overheads. Lion-Beard swerved around it, but it straddled both lanes as Wolfie caught up. My "Look out!" drowned in his telepathic cursing.
MW roared over the shoulder, down the embankment, up the wall of the ditch, and did an Evel Knievel into the scrub oak.
They'd have hauled me in if it weren't for my Avengers I.D. I was lucky I still carried it.
Four or five cars crowded the shoulders of the highway, and half a dozen patrolmen beat the bushes, flashlights ablaze. A sergeant named Friedrich and I stood on the shoulder watching them.
"I applied to the Jersey HP so I could get away from this sort of crap," muttered Sgt. Friedrich. "My uncle quit the force after he had to face a bunch of dinosaurs on Broadway with only his .38. Dinosaurs!"
"It's usually quiet hereabouts," I admitted. "But we couldn't stand by when there was a robbery and shooting at Glenridge."
Friedrich grunted. A thin rookie stumbled out of the thicket.
"No sign of him, Sarge. Looks like he forced his way through to the turnpike."
"Cycle and all?"
The rookie nodded. The sergeant eyed me.
"A white wolf-man. I take it he's new at this?"
I gave my most All American Girl grin.
"He's just a little overanxious."
The sergeant grumbled.
"All right. I'll tell the boys not to shoot any albino werewolves they might see."
A patrolman approached from the cars.
"Sergeant? We spoke with the hospital. Seems the only things stolen were germ cultures."
Friedrich blustered to make General Thunderbolt Ross proud.
"Yes, sir," said the patrolman. "Typhoid, measles, smallpox -- disease germs."
Sgt. Friedrich eyed me again.
"For germs they shoot a man?"
"Hey -- They get nuttier every year."
"Yes? Okay. Thank you, Dr. Pym."
I hung up and turned to Val.
"Hank says they might have mistaken the cultures for really nasty diseases. Biological blackmail. It's the new thing."
"By Mimir, Patsy, I sometimes wonder at the wisdom of this world's science. It breeds more weapons, villainy, and dangers than ever sprang from the mind of Loki."
"Yeah. Well. The bearded guy got away, but all he had was chicken pox. I'm not too afraid of that."
The garage door creaked up.
"Man-Wolf!" I snarled. "I hope he's all in one piece, because I'm going to rip that white hide off him and spread it in front of the fireplace."
Val smiled as I headed for the laundry room. I pointed to the hearth.
"Seriously. His mouth propped open and everything."
I opened the door to the garage. Wolfie lumbered in carrying the massive Harley on his shoulder. He set down the mangled motorcycle and grinned sheepishly.
"Where have you been?" I demanded.
Man-Wolf pursed his lips -- as near as he could, with that muzzle of his.
[Trying to get back without being seen. You told me to lay low.]
"I hope you don't intend to run off half-cocked like that again. You don't abandon your partner in the heat of battle."
Val stepped into the garage as well.
"It was unprofessional, Man-Wolf," she said.
[Sorry,] said the white wolfman. [I was caught up in the moment. It was like -- like -- chasing deer.]
Our eyebrows rose. Wolfie's lowered.
[I'm not going feral or savage, if that's what you're thinking. But it was rather exciting for my first time as an -- er -- shadow-stalking crime fighter.]
"Okay. Well. Maybe you should take a cold shower, Wolfie. At least I stocked up on shampoo and towels."
MW nodded, his tail and ears lowered. He stepped past us toward the door.
"Incidentally, Man-Wolf," said the Valkyrie. "Thank you for saving Patsy's life."
Whose side was she on? Up went MW's tail and ears again.
"Yeah, I owe you one for that Wonder Woman thing, Wolfie," I conceded. "And biting that bullet out of the air was pretty nifty. But don't let it go to your head."
He showed us a big ol' dog grin before he stepped inside.
[I'll do better.]
That sounded like a threat, but I let it go.
John Jameson, Man-Wolf, Patsy Walker, Hellcat, Valkyrie, and all related characters are copyright © by Marvel Entertainment. The articles and fiction on these web pages are not for profit and are not meant to infringe on the copyrights of Marvel Entertainment or the Walt Disney Company.