One Life, with Boomerangs

by Leo David Orionis

The life of a superhero is crazy. Time-travel is even crazier. When a super-hero goes travelling through time, absolutely anything can happen.

I should know, it happened to me.

Off to war

I was 18 years old in 1938, so naturally I enlisted in the Army, like most of my generation. My parents wanted me to go to college, instead, and get an education rather than "wasting my life" in the War, and maybe getting killed! I tried to explain that I had enough education to point a rifle and pull a trigger, and that I felt a mission to take down Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito. Oh, we had some splendid arguments! In the end, however, they gave me their blessing, begged me to be careful, and off I went.

Boot camp was tough, but in many ways it was easier for me than most of the other recruits. As a rich boy from New York, I'd kept fit with baseball and other sports, but never approached my limits. The Army did its best to break me down, so they could build me back up as a soldier, but I took all they had and came back for more. According to the docs, I was just naturally stronger, hardier, and faster than most people. I couldn't lift a truck, but a Jeep was possible. I wasn't bulletproof, but man, could I take a punch! I wasn't super-fast, but I could run 40 miles an hour, for an hour or two. I couldn't fly, but I could leap onto the roof of the mess hall, or into a third-floor window.

The other boots were jealous, of course. It was bad enough that I was a rich, blond pretty-boy from the big city, but then I turned out to be some kind of a super-human. A lot of my "powers" I discovered when other recruits jumped me, either one on one or in a bunch, including the part about not being bulletproof. After I recovered from that, I stopped playing around. The next time a bunch of trainees ganged up on me, I picked up the whole pile, walked to the nearest artillery crater full of rain and mud, and dumped them into it. SPLOOSH!

"Fun's over, boys. From now on, I break bones," I said.

"Say, can't you take a joke?"

"Give it up, Houseman. You wouldn't like my sense of humor."

After graduation from Basic, my company was shipped off to Europe. I went overseas a little bit later, after some advanced training I hadn't asked for. The Army didn't care what I wanted, of course. "You'd be wasted as an ordinary soldier," a colonel told me, and assigned me to training as a commando, operating behind enemy lines. I worked with Free France cells, destroying German equipment and supplies, rescuing captured Allied spies and Resistance members, assassinating Nazi officers whenever I could, and other stuff I can't talk about, even now. I had a nominal rank of Captain, just so any military I had to deal with would take me seriously. I didn't let my "rank" go to my head. It was just another tool, like my pistol, or my fluency in French, Italian, and German.

I went home after V-J Day. My mother cried on my shoulder, and my father shook my hand. "What are your plans?" he said.

"Rest for a few months, then start college, I think, if they'll take an older student." I was 25 years old in 1945.

"Don't worry about that," he said. "I'll talk to the Dean of my own alma mater. They'll be happy to have you."

"Sure, why not? I've earned a break or two."

Here comes Daredevil

I began my super-hero career as Daredevil in college. After what I'd done in the War, I took crazy chances, hence the name. I had a form-fitting suit that covered me from head to foot, plus boots and gloves, everything black on my right side, red on my left. When I wore it, you couldn't tell what color my hair or eyes were, or anything else about me. Obviously I was a white man, but I took care to speak like a regular Joe, not a rich fellow.

Classes weren't hard for me, fortunately, because there were a lot of ex-Nazis around, and American fascists like Lindbergh. J. Edgar Hoover told me I was supposed to be fighting Communists now. I told him, "Hell with that! Just because the War's over, doesn't mean Nazis and Fascists stopped being the enemy. As for Russia, if they hadn't been fighting the Germans on the Eastern Front, we might not have beaten Hitler."

The FBI didn't like that, or me breaking up Ku Klux Klan meetings and saving Negro soldiers, who came back home from Europe and the Pacific, only to find lynch mobs waiting for them. To Hell with the FBI and the KKK both! I might've been a rich white boy, but I knew right from wrong.

I stopped carrying a pistol after the war. Instead I learned to make and throw small boomerangs. Thrown with my strength, they made a hell of an impression. Some were sharp, and some were blunt. I could cut a lynch rope, or knock a goon cold, from twenty feet away. Besides the boomerangs, I still threw a mean punch, and in France I'd learned savate, so I had a mean kick, too.

Despite the time I spent as Daredevil, I stayed in college and did well. There were a bunch of us older students, who'd put off college until the Axis was licked. We congregated at Bob's, a restaurant near campus, which was open until 10 at night, and didn't care what color you were, as long as your money was green. Sometimes I helped fellows who were having trouble with their classes. Mostly we had dinner and a beer or two.

The regular late-shift waitress was Sherry, a grey-eyed blonde my own age. Others came and went on that shift, but Sherry was there every night, it seemed. She was friendly, but didn't invite passes. She was there to work, her attitude said. Working at Bob's was how she supported herself.

One night, when I was helping Tom, an ex-Marine, she refilled our coffee cups, then looked over my shoulder at the book we were sharing. "Calculus? What's that about?"

"Just math," I said. The hand that wasn't holding the coffee pot was resting lightly on my right shoulder. "You just have to read the book and work through the examples." Her hair, cut just above her shoulders, was tickling my cheek. "It's not hard."

"Not for you, Professor Einstein!" Tom said. "It's sure got me buffaloed!"

While I was explaining to Tom what a differential was, Sherry went about her business. Tom said, "Ask her out, man!"

"Who, Sherry? You think she'd go out with me?"

"You kidding? You think she paws everybody like that?"

I did ask her out, and she accepted. After a couple of dates, she asked me, "What took you so long, John? I was beginning to think you weren't interested in girls."

"I dunno. Just slow, I guess."

"Hmmm. Slow and steady, maybe." She kissed me. "I like the steady part."

Sherry and I dated regularly in 1946-1949. I took her home to meet my parents, and we had dinner there a few times. Mother and Father didn't approve of her. She wasn't "our class", meaning she worked for a living. "So all of her ancestors were honest people," I said. "What's wrong with that?"

Early in 1949, late one night in her place, I told her that I was Daredevil. She didn't believe me at first, but I put on the suit; then, while she watched from the window, I lifted her little car over my head, and did some tricks with boomerangs. When I'd convinced her, she was pleased. "My boyfriend's a super-hero!" she said, and kissed me.

"I'll have to introduce you to Jack Be Quick," I said. "You and his girlfriend would get along like a house on fire, I bet."

"You know Jack Be Quick?!!!"

I held up two fingers. "We're like that," I said.

Then I produced the ring I'd bought, and asked her to marry me. She shrieked, and cried, and finally said yes. My parents made up for their misgivings by insisting on a big Long Island wedding. Big enough, in fact, that a dozen super-heroes whom I knew attended in their civilian identities, including several that I'd only met once. Jay Garrison (Jack Be Quick) was my best man, and his girlfriend, Joan, was Sherry's maid of honor.

The Menace of the Claw

In 1950, after I'd graduated from college, and Sherry and I'd been married not quite a year, I ran across a monster called The Yellow Claw. He looked like a comic-book stereotype of an evil Oriental, with yellow skin, pointed ears, long hair in pigtails, long sharp fingernails, a green robe, eyes slanted at 30 degrees, and a mouth full of sharp fangs, like a shark's, but so long they stuck out of his mouth.

From the first time I saw him, I figured that his appearance was phony, because he had the power to change his shape. I saw him grow into a giant, shrink down and run under a door, and turn into a huge snake with that "Chinee" head on the front. So who knew what he really looked like?

He boasted a lot, like a movie bad guy. He bragged that he had a time machine, and he planned to go back in time, stop the Japanese takeover of eastern Asia, and use China as a base to conquer the world himself, Japan first. The FBI said it was impossible to change the past, but that was just theory. When the Claw jumped into the past, I hitched a ride. Daredevil or not, I didn't dare miss the chance to stop him.

So as far as the world was concerned, the boomerang-throwing, hard-hitting super-hero called Daredevil disappeared suddenly, in 1950, after a career of five years. Some of my super-hero friends knew what had happened, but it's not like they could follow. Time machines were never a dime a dozen, especially not in 1950!

I also left behind my parents, now in their fifties: Father had been born in 1898, and Mother in 1899. Then there was Sherry, pregnant with my baby; there was no way, back then, to know what sex the baby would be. I could only hope that my parents would take care of her, and vice versa, until I could come back.

See what I mean about the craziness of super-heroes and time travel? I hoped to beat the Claw quickly, and then return to just after I left, so that I wouldn't be gone more than a couple of days, or maybe a week. Just another adventure as Daredevil, right?

I wound up fighting the Claw in the past for eight years of me-time! Every time I destroyed his plans, he ran away, either by changing shape, or using his time machine to go to another time, another place, or both. For a long time, he was reluctant to go back farther in time, since he'd determined, long ago, thant 1930 was the best time to stop the Japanese and begin taking over the world himself. After six years of being unable to kill me, and unable to stop me from wrecking his plans, he grew desperate. He jumped again, back to 1920, so as to have control of China before he had to deal with me in 1930, and I couldn't follow him. There was still only one time machine!

The Futurians

That was when the people from the far future showed up. They were funny-looking fellows, both of them between 7 and 8 feet tall, bald and bare-faced, very slim and long-limbed, one in a blue robe, one in red. I guess all the races had bred together by 10,000 A.D., because they weren't White, Negro, Indian, Oriental, or Pacific Islander in their skin color or their features.

These futurians told me that the Claw was one of them, but his unique power to change his shape made him feel feel like a freak, even though (they said) no one bullied anyone else in their time. He also had a tiny bit more Chinese blood than most people, so he got interested in viewing Chinese history in their chronoscopes, instruments for seeing things in the past. He was horrified at how the Chinese people had suffered under their emperors and warlords, under the Japanese and Russian invaders, and under their Communist leaders after the War, so he stole a time machine and went back to make it all better. First to 1949, to round up (steal) as much military surplus as he could, then back to the '30's to use it, and the ex-G.I.s he'd hired, for conquest. Hiding in the warehouse holding his mountain of supplies was how I'd been transported to the past in the first place.

"So where've you been, all this time?" I asked them. "I fought the Claw for half a year in 1950, and I've been chasing him all over China for seven years or so. I've lived in 1929-1931 three times over, hiding in equipment depots and troop formations to hitch rides back to the past! Why didn't you guys stop him in your time with a company of your troops, or your futuristic jets or tanks, before he could get started? Did it take you this long to track him down?"

"You don't understand," said the one in blue, who did most of the talking. No matter how long it took to find the Claw in the past, once they'd done so, they could jump to when he was, so that wasn't a problem. They were afraid of changing the past, themselves; there was no way they could disguise themselves as men of the past. But worst of all, they were all devout cowards; no one fought anyone else in 10,000 A.D., not so much as a bloody nose or a raised voice!

"Fortunately," said the one in red, "you've been there to stop him, every time. You've made it your mission to fight him, and you've been doing a wonderful job."

I thought of all the fights I'd been in against the Claw, his goons; all the times I'd gone hungry, or marched or run across China to stop him in a new place, of how long it had been since I'd seen Sherry, while these future folk sat in comfort and watched me. "So glad I could help," I growled.

They flinched at that, as if I'd raised a fist to them, or drawn a pistol. After a moment, the blue one said, "But now the Claw has retreated further in time, and you weren't able to hide in his men or supplies. So we decided we'd better help you, despite the risks."

He looked like he was expecting me to be impressed with his courage. I bit my tongue to keep from saying, "What do you want, a medal?" Instead I said, "So what've you got for me, a future-gun and a time machine?"

No joy there. They didn't have guns in the far future, or planes, or tanks, or an Army. And they didn't dare give me a time machine, in case it got lost and someone else started messing around in time. They were willing to take me to where the Claw was, which I accepted. They offered me some food, first. There was a square, about the size of a sandwich, that was green; one that was yellow; and one that was black, shiny like plastic. I took a bite of each, then told them thanks, I wasn't really hungry/

Chinese food was bad enough, but at least you could tell whether it used to be animal, vegetable, or fruit, sometimes. The future-food was tasteless, textureless, and left a chemical after-taste in my mouth. It made Chinese food seem like steak and potatoes, by comparison!

Anyway, the futurians took me to 1920 and dropped me off, and promised to keep watching, to help whenever they could. It took me most of a year, as near as I could figure with the weird Chinese calendar, but finally I got the chance to sneak up to the Claw, put a pistol I'd stolen to the back of his head, and blow his brains out before he could grow so big that pistol bullets couldn't hurt him. Then I emptied the clip in his heart, dropped the gun on the ground, and said, "Hey, future folks, I'm ready to go home now."

That was when my troubles really started!

My visit to 10,000 A.D.

I've been shot three times in my life, which isn't too bad considering the life I've led. The first time was when I was "accidentally" shot in the foot in Boot Camp. The second, when a German sentry in France dropped me with a rifle bullet that glanced off my skull; that was one time that the Resistance saved me, rather than the other way around. The third time, one of the Claw's men nailed me with a bullet to the gut. I would have died in 1920, the same year I was born, if my futurian allies hadn't appeared instantly, and carried me away.

Even with futurian medical technology, it took me a couple of months to recover from the gut wound. Besides the gross physical trauma of the wound itself, I was worn down and ill-nourished from years of constant fatigue, not enough sleep or rest, and Chinese food, so-called.

I learned that my two "friends" were actually siblings. Ja Ri, the one who always wore a blue, green, or black robe, was the brother of Jo Ru, who always wore red, yellow, or orange. Ja Ri was a man, and blue, green, and black were male colors in the future; Jo Ru was a woman, wearing robes of the female colors red, yellow, or orange.

I'd had no idea; they both looked effeminate to me, with no hair, no bulges at the crotch, and figures like stick puppets. I probably looked like a hairy beast to them, just as they looked like plastic toy people to me.

Apparently a futurian woman could somehow fall for a hairy animal from a past age, however. Late one night, just before they were going to return me to 1920 to have another go at the Claw, Jo Ru propositioned me.

She'd worked herself up to a highly-emotional state, which I didn't know her kind could do, and wasn't making a whole lot of sense, even to the machines they used to speak perfect English, because the translation came in fits and starts. Basically, from what I could make out, she wanted me to forget my wife and baby in 1950. After I killed the Claw, she wanted me to come stay with her in 10,000 A.D., where we'd live happily ever after.

Right, like a chimpanzee marrying a Boston blue blood! Were they even the same species as people in my time? They didn't look or smell human, and I had no desire to find out what they tasted or felt like.

I tried to let her down gently, but I'm afraid I made an awful hash of it. I was taken completely by surprise, and I don't think I did a very good job of hiding my revulsion. I did make the perfectly reasonable, and true, point that Sherry and I were married, and loved each other; but I don't think the lady in the red robe was in the same county as reason, just then.

At that point Ja Ri came in and spoke to Jo Ru sharply. His speech gadget was off, and he apparently turned hers off, too. They both left my sick room, and had a screaming and shouting match outside, but I couldn't understand a word.

When Ja Ri took me back to 1920 the next day, he spoke to me as little as possible, and only with stiff formality. I started to get a little pissed off, as they say. I hadn't done anything wrong. Hell, until she flung herself at me, I hadn't even guessed that Jo Ru was female!

But when I finally killed the Claw, and called for the two to come get me, both of them showed up, in a time-machine big enough for all three of us. I nearly giggled with relief that my long mission was over. "A Time Machine Built for Three" was running through my head.

"Get in!" Ja Ri said urgently; Jo Ru was steering the machine. As soon as I was aboard, we jumped into the time stream.

"Back to my time now?" I asked.

"Yes," said Ja Ri. "Good job."

"Thanks," I said. "What about Claw's men and materiel?"

He frowned. "I'm not sure. What do you think?"

"Why don't you lift the equipment with a time machine, just as the Claw did, and dump it into the Pacific somewhere? Then, if you drop the men off in 1950, they'll just be a bunch of unemployed guys with no cash, lost 20 years after their time. Jack Be Quick, S.O.S., and I can round them up and turn them over to the FBI."

"That sounds feasible," he said. "Gather your friends, and when we see that you're ready, we'll bring them to you."

"Done!" I said. I didn't offer to shake hands; it wasn't a custom they had. Ja Ri nodded to me. I looked at Jo Ru. She was staring fixedly at the controls. Ah, well.

Twentieth-Century buildings took form around us. We were in an alley in a city, was all I could tell right away.

"Quick, before anyone sees us!" Ja Ri said.

"Right," I said, opened the door, and jumped down onto the pavement. Never had dirty concrete looked so good!

"Here!" he said, and a duffel bag fell out of the time machine.

"Aw, you shouldn't have," I said, but I was speaking to the empty air; the futurians were gone. Then I looked in the duffel.

They really shouldn't have.

Abandoned in time

The duffel was used but clean, with someone else's name stencilled on it. You might find a dozen like it in any Salvation Army or Goodwill store. Inside was a new, clean Daredevil costume, including boots and gloves and a dozen boomerangs, which was nice to have handy; new black shoes; blue men's slacks, 3 pairs; 6 new white long-sleeved shirts; 6 pairs of plain black socks; 6 briefs; 6 white cotton handkerchiefs. No hat, no tie, no belt, no wallet. No gun, which was good; it'd be more trouble than it was worth, unless they'd included a license for it. A small sack puzzled me; it was too small to be a pillowcase, but that's what it looked like otherwise. It had no fastenings or markings. When I opened it, I got my first tip that something was wrong.

It was full of bundles of money, but the money was wrong. Not counterfeit; no counterfeiter would try to pass bills so different from U.S. currency. To begin with, the bills were too small, and they felt like plastic, not paper. One bundle was twenties, but they were light blue, and instead of Andrew Jackson's picture on the front, they had Harriet Tubman's. At least, that's what the caption under the picture said; I had no idea what Harriet Tubman had looked like. Her picture, instead of being in the center, as off to the left, and on the right, there was a transparent oval in the bill, that displayed the U.S. seal when you held them up to the light. On the back was a scene from Uncle Tom's Cabin. Shaking my head, I looked around. The alley was still empty. Slipping the band off the bundle, I counted twenty-five bills. If this was real money, that one bundle was $500!

But where were these bills legal currency? Or rather, when were they?

I didn't take the time to count the bills themselves. There were five bundles of blue twenties, five of bright red fifties, and five of green hundreds, all plastic, all with the little windows. The fifties had a picture of a male Negro named Jesse Jackson, with a picture of the Presidential seal in the transparent section, and a picture of two men in spacesuits, saluting an American flag! The hundreds were still good old Benjamin Franklin. The pyramid, eye, and motto that was on the back of U.S. currency, in my time, showed in the transparent section, and on the back was the Liberty Bell.

If this was real money, and each bundle had 25 bills, I was looking, by a quick calculation, at $21,250! Over twenty thousand dollars cash in a pillow case from the future. Quite a reward for the Claw's head, until you remembered it'd taken me eight years to blow him away; then it was less than $3000 a year. Ah, well. I hadn't gotten into the Daredevil business for the money.

I put five of the twenties in my right front pocket, put the pillowcase in the duffel bag, zipped it shut, and lifted it to my shoulder. It would've been quite a hoist for anyone else, but it wasn't a problem for a man who could hold up a small car.

I stepped out of the alley into the early morning sun. Everything was subtly wrong. The streets were full of cars, but there was no engine sound, and no gasoline smell. The street lights had an upraised hand in red, instead of the word STOP; a picture of a stick-figure man walking, instead of the word WALK; and people and cars were actually obeying the lights! They might be illiterate, judging by the lights, but they were law-abiding illiterates! There were a hundred details like that, that said I might be in New York, but not my New York!

Hell, no one even tried to knock me down, as I stood gaping, or steal my duffel!

A WHUP-WHUP-WHUP sound overhead made me look up. Something was cruising by, perhaps fifty feet up? I'm good at judging distances, but not so good at guessing heights. Whatever it was, it had a globular body hung from a propellor, and a boom sticking out behind, with a small propellor mounted sideways on that. Not an autogyro, the shape was all wrong, and it moved funny, too. Most of the body was transparent, like glass, and it had skids, like a sleigh, instead of wheels.

"What the hell is that?" I said out loud, before I could stop myself.

" 'Smatter, Mac, they don't got traffic copters where ya come from?" said a little man standing on the sidewalk nearby. Well, I guess he was 5-5, but that made him a foot shorter than me, and he was skinnier, since I've been building muscle all my life. While I'd been looking at the "copter", he'd been looking at me with a typical New York eye, trying to figure how to scam me for money.

"You lost, boss?" he said.

"Yes," I said. Once I was looking up, I saw how tall the buildings were. We'd called the Empire State Building a skyscraper, but it seemed like all the towers in sight were much taller than that. I'd been intimately familiar with the New York skyline, but this one was strange to me. For a moment I felt claustrophobic, as if all the structures around me were about to fall on me.

"Hey! Hey! You all right, boss?"

"I'm OK," I said. "Listen, is there a phone booth nearby? I need to make some phone calls."

My little buddy cracked up. He didn't fall on the ground laughing, but it was an effort for him not to. "Phone booth? Phone booth? Shit, I ain't seen a phone booth in thirty years! Who ya gonna call, yer boss at the buggy-whip factory? Phone booth!"

Then he offered to let me use his phone, and handed me a rectangular thing with rounded corners, about an eight of an inch thick. This was a phone? I remembered the field radios we'd had in the War, that weighed fifty pounds and filled a back pack. I put down my duffel, automatically putting one foot on it, and looked at his "phone". One side was plain black, with a lens in it. I turned it over. Glowing numbers on it showed the time and date.

The year, it said, was 2015.

I sat on my duffel, and put my face in my hands. If this was the year 2015, my whole life was 65 years in the past. In 2015, my parents would be dead, and Sherry would be 95 years old, if she was still alive.

Ja Ri and Jo Ru had done it on purpose, I realized at once. Whether it was a case of a woman scorned, or just cleaning up all the evidence of time travel, it was no accident that I'd wound up so far in my own future. I could live in this time, and they'd given me money, my costume, and civilian clothes. But everyone I knew, probably, was dead.

Sometimes people will take an unwanted dog out in the country, and turn it loose to fend for itself. Sometimes they won't even stop the car before throwing the poor mutt out the window. Well, to hell with that! I was no dog, to be abandoned by the side of the road. If I had to start over, I would, that's all.

My futurian "pals" no doubt dumped all of the Claw's men, as well as all of his gear, somewhere in the ocean. Dead men tell no tales, or mess with the time stream. I guess I should be grateful they spared my life and dropped me off somewhere I could start over? I could only hope that someday I'd have a chance to show them my gratitude!

"Boss? Can I have my phone back, please?"

"Sure," I said, and gave it to him. "Sorry. I just realized how far from home I am, is all. Listen, what's your name, anyway?"

"Call me Jeff," he said.

"I'm John, Jeff." I stood up, and we shook hands. I took one of the twenties out of my pocket. "Tell me honestly, Jeff, one New Yorker to another — is this real money?"

"If it looks funny to ya, ya should take it to a bank," he said, but he took it, rubbed it, smelled it, and looked at the rainbow-colored picture in the transparent part. "I'm no expert, but it looks real to me," he told me. He held it out to me.

"Keep it," I said. "In fact, here's another to keep it company."

"Thanks, boss! Forty more would get me a room for the night," he hinted.

I whistled, both at the suggestion that a room cost $80 a night, and his gall. "You're a New Yorker, all right! What the hell." I gave him the other bills in my pocket.

"Take it easy, Jeff," I said, hoisting my duffel again. "I gotta catch a cab to a friend's house — if he's still there."

"Wait, boss!" Jeff said. He held out a slip of paper. "Here's my number. Call me if there's anything I can help ya with."

"Sure, why not?" I looked at the number, expecting something like BROoklyn-4856. Instead there were three numbers, a dash, three more numbers, another dash, and four more numbers. Well, science-fiction numbers for science-fiction phones without cords, why not? I shook my head, and put the slip of paper where the twenties had been. "Take care of yourself, Jeff," I said, and hailed a taxi coming my way.

The taxi driver was evidently a Sikh, with his long beard, mustache, and turban. I leaned in the passenger-side window. "Good morning. Mr. Singh, I presume?"

"Just so, sir. Have we met?"

"Just a crazy guess," I said. We grinned at each other.

"How much to—?" and I gave him the address of my parents' place, in town.

"One moment, sir." His dashboard was full of futuristic gadgets. He punched the address into one, and frowned. "What are the cross-streets, please, sir?"

I told him, and he punched that in. "Ah!" He said. "That would be $65, sir."

"Does that include the tip?"

"Indeed sir, a standard 15percent tip is included."

I handed him four twenties. "Let's start with this," I said. "I have a feeling it's going to be a long day."

"Very good, sir" As I put my duffel in the back seat, and climbed into the passenger seat, he pushed a couple of buttons.

"Meter engaged," said a female voice. The dash displayed the route, with a blinking dot at one end to show where we were. As Mr. Singh pulled out, the dot began to move.

You can't go home again

I thought I was braced for my parents being dead, but it was worse than that. When the taxi took me to their town house, the whole neighborhood was gone! Sometime in the last 65 years, all the brownstones had been torn down, and all the little stores, replaced by more skyscrapers. I mean to say, the streets were the same, but everything between them was new. The entire block where we'd had our New York house was now taken up by a single building. Even the street address of the new building was a different number than our old place!

The security guard at the huge desk in the lobby wasn't glad to see me, though he was distantly polite. Without a word, he made me realize that I hadn't a chance to clean up since shooting the Claw. I was unshaven, my hair was long and uncombed, and I'd been living in these clothes for a week. But he answered my questions anyway. The present building had been built in 2000, and was fifty stories high. It replaced two buildings from the "Seventies", by which he meant sometime between 1970 and 1979, I supposed. He had no idea where the people had gone, who'd lived in the brownstones before that. He hadn't known that there'd been brownstones, I judged.

"Thanks for your patience," I told him, and handed him a twenty, since I had nothing smaller.

He made it disappear. "Not at all, sir. Have a nice day."

"Not so far," I said, and got out of his hair.

Getting respectable

"Where now, sir?" said Mr. Singh.

I plucked at my coat. "I need to clean up and change clothes before I try anything else. Can you recommend a good hotel, but not too good, if you understand me?"

"Certainly, sir. You mean one for ordinary people, not for billionaires."

"Billionaires???" I shook my head. "That's a word I never heard before!"

He didn't react to that, but named a couple of hotels. "They aren't in downtown," he said, "but they only charge a hundred, or a hundred-twenty dollars a night."

"Not eighty?"

He looked disapproving. "In Brooklyn, or the Bowery, perhaps. You don't want those. There are roaches and bedbugs, and a risk of fire."

"You've convinced me," I told him. "Take me to one where you might stay yourself."

He took me to a place called the Carlisle, and we settled up. He handed me a business card that said, Jasleen Singh/Taxi Driver, and another 10-digit phone number, black embossed letters on a textured white background. "I hope you will call me in the future, sir."

"Thank you, I will. Hang on a minute, in case that frowning doorman won't let me in the lobby."

But the doorman said, "Hey, Mr. Singh," to Jasleen, said "Good afternoon, sir," to me, and held the door for me and my duffel bag.

They had a restaurant right off the lobby, which made me realize how hungry I was, but I thought I'd better sign in first, take a bath, and change clothes. The desk clerk, or concierge as she was styled, wasn't sure of me until she told me a room was $115 a night, and I didn't cringe. "Very good, Mr. G.", she said; I didn't know if that was informality, or that was all she could read of my last name. With my signature, it could've been either.

"How long will you be staying with us?"

"I'm not sure, Sierra," I said, reading the name from the little tag on her blouse. "I just got back in town, and I need to check with my people and get settled in. Probably at least a week."

"Very good, Mr. G. Got back from where? I really shouldn't ask, but I'm very nosy." And she wrinkled the organ in question at me. I do believe the little brunette was flirting with me!

"Call me John," I said. "Listen, until I can check with my bank, can I give you a week in advance, in cash?"

She bit her lip. "That's very irregular, John. We much prefer a credit card,"

Now what the hell was a credit card, and where would I get one? "I lost my credit card in China," I improvised. "I can give you cash now, or pay you later after I replace my credit card. Which would you like?"

In the end, she had to get the head concierge to approve cash, especially such a large amount. He was a slim man with a receding hairline, a pencil mustache, and a supercilious expression, about halfway in between Sierra and myself in height. He got much friendlier when I pulled out nine hundred-dollar bills, which covered the week and $95 left over, for room service, phone calls, and other odds and ends I might run up. I gave Mr. Lawrence a twenty for his help, and one to Sierra, and took an elevator to my room, duffel bag on the spot it was digging into my shoulder.

Finally I could put it down, in a big, luxurious hotel room. Granted, anything would've seemed that way just then, after the time I'd spent in coolie shacks, or sleeping on the ground. After putting out the "Do Not Disturb" sign, locking the door, and putting a chair under the doorknob for good measure, I shucked out of my clothes, leaving them in a heap just inside the door.

It appeared that people in 2015 didn't take baths, only showers. But there was soap, shampoo, hot water, and towels, so I didn't care. I got thoroughly clean, and the hot water didn't run out; what more could a man ask for? I put on a pair of socks, a pair of briefs, a shirt, and a pair of pants that Ja Ri and Jo Ru had provided, and the shoes, which fit perfectly. Everything fitted perfectly; I guessed they'd taken all my measurements when I'd been in their time. I combed my hair and beard; I'd have to find a barber. Perforce I had to use my old belt, which was cracked and shabby. I had no tie or hat, but that could wait; Mr. Lawrence, and the security guard where my parents' house used to be, were the only ties I'd noticed so far. I hung up my clean clothes in the closet, and put my duffel, with my costume inside, on the closet floor. Then I sat at the desk, and counted my cash, instead of just assuming 25 bills in each bundle. That was correct, however.

Despite throwing twenties at everyone in town, and cab fare, I still had four bundles of Harriet Tubmans, for $2000; five bundles of Jesse Jacksons, for $6250; and four of Benjamin Franklin, for $10,000. All told, including eleven loose twenties and the sixteen hundreds from the bundle that I'd broken to pay my hotel room in advance, I still had $20,070!

That seemed like a lot! My family'd been rich for a couple of generations, but I wasn't used to walking around with twenty thousand on my person! I wondered how many fights I'd avoided today by looking like a bum.

With the loose twenties in my pants pocket, my room key in my shirt pocket, and my pillowcase in my hand, I went downstairs. Sierra was talking with another concierge, a Negro girl named Taneesha, by her name tag. Well, if America could have a Negro president named Jesse Jackson, why not any other job? Maybe the Ku Klux Klan, and the more common kinds of racists, had finally been wiped out, like the tapeworms they were!

"Excuse me, Sierra?"

"John, meet my friend Taneesha."

"Pleased to meet you, Taneesha." We shook hands.

"Lookin' good, Mr. G.," she said, in a West Coast accent.

"Thanks! Call me John."

"Maybe you ladies can help me," I continued. "I need to replace this belt, and get some luggage, a wallet, and a haircut and a shave," I said, rubbing my chin. "Can you recommend places?"

"You can get most of that right here, in the hotel shops," Sierra said. "There's a mall on the second floor."

Now what the hell was a mall? "Thanks, I'll check it out."

"There's a beauty shop in the mall, too," Taneesha added. "But if you're shy about going into a beauty shop, a male barber will come to your room. You can bill it straight to your hotel room, like room service."

My stomach growled. "Thanks, ladies, you've been a big help. Right now, though, I need to get some food in me."

"A long time since breakfast, John?" Sierra asked.

"Breakfast, hell! I feel like I haven't eaten since 1920!"

A big meal of bacon, eggs, hash browns, English muffins with butter and jelly, orange juice, and coffee convinced my stomach that my throat hadn't been cut, after all. It had been eight years, by my time, since I'd had a meal like that. If there was a downside, it was that the meal cost over twenty dollars! In 1950, I could've had the same food for five dollars. Before the War, three dollars!

At least they made it painless to part with your money. The cashier asked me if I were paying with cash, credit card, or charging it to my room. I chose the last, out of curiosity. She asked for my "room key", the rectangle of plastic that locked and unlocked my room door, and stuck it in a slot on her fancy console. It beeped, and printed out a receipt, including, I saw, a 15 percent tip for the waitress. After I signed it, she gave me a copy, and returned my room key.

After that, I went to the second floor, and got everything I needed, including a haircut and a shave in their beauty shop. I even let them give me a manicure, though I drew the line at the barber shaving my ear lobes! I got a new belt, and threw away the old one. I bought a new leather attache case, with a combination lock, and put my pillowcase of money it it; and put my loose twenties in a new wallet.

I got a medium-sized suitcase, just big enough for the clothes I had, including the costume, with a combination lock. They had models that rolled, and had pull-out handles, something I'd never seen or heard of before; but I passed on those, not feeling elderly yet. Chronologically, I was 95 years old, but in actual years lived, I was only 38, and only looked about 30, after the haircut and shave.

I got a watch in the same store. Most people didn't wear one; they got the time from their phones. But I was used to wearing a watch on my wrist. 2015 watches were all electric, no winding, and their batteries were good for a year or so. They set the time and date automatically, from a broadcast. The sales girl said I could change the way the time and date were displayed, change the time zone if I wanted to keep track of the time somewhere else, or set alarms; and offered to show me how to do all that..

"Thank you, Jill," I said warmly, "if I can't figure out the instructions that come with the watch, I'll take you up on that." I tipped her a twenty for my hundred-dollar watch, and left before she could propose to me, or just knock me down and jump on me. Every woman I'd met today acted like she'd never seen a man before! It was flattering, and a little scary, too.

Even with all the cleaning up, eating, and shopping, it was only 3 p.m. I went back to my room, put my costume in the suitcase, and locked it. Then I called Jasleen from the room phone. When he arrived at the Carlisle, I gave him the address of my friends Jay and Joan, hoping against hope.

Visiting the museum

Jay's place had been replaced by a two+story building with public architecture, like a library or an art museum. After confirming with my Sikh friend that this was the address I'd given him, I got out, asking him to wait. "As long as you wish, sir," he said. "Just remember, the meter's still running."

"Fair enough," I said, and went in, attache in hand.

The first thing I saw was a statue of Jay, in costume as Jack Be Quick, standing on a waist-high pedestal, under a skylight. The statue was in full color, displaying Jay's fair skin, blond hair, and the red and blue colors of his costume. His cap of Mercury was tilted back a little, as if he'd just pushed it back a little with one thumb, a gesture I must've seen him make a million times. He had both hands on his hips, and was grinning in a friendly way. A lump rose to my throat. "Oh, Jay," I whispered, "now I know that you're dead." Alive, he'd never have stood for such hero worship.

"Welcome to the Jack Be Quick Museum, sir," said a smiling security guard. "Is this your first visit?"

I thought of all the hours that Jay and I had spent in his place, or my place, and of all the times I'd had dinner with him and Joan, or they'd had dinner with me and Sherry. "Yes, it's the first time I've visited the Museum," I said out loud.

"Could I get you to sign the guest book, sir? We like to have all of our visitors do so, at least on their first visit. And could you check your brief case while you're here?"

"Why?" I asked, curiously.

He grinned. "Well, if we don't, we have a problem with people leaving little tokens, notes, ribbons and suchlike around the place, and some other people trying to steal souvenirs. It's less a problem for the cleaning crew if we check all bags, and some of our exhibits are irreplaceable."

So I signed the register, with my real name, "New York" as where I was from, and added, in the comments space, "He was a great man and a good friend." The guard put my attache in a room behind his desk, which he locked and unlocked with a key, and gave me a numbered piece of plastic, blue and red with the number in white on one side, and "The Jack Be Quick Museum" on the other.

"This room is a general overview of his life and career," said the guard, a middle-aged Negro with medium-brown skin and grey hair. If you start over there to the right of the door to the rest of the museum, and follow the exhibits around the room, you'll get the general picure. There are relics of Mr. Garrison's career in the next two rooms, and a gift shop."

So Jay's identity was public, now. I wondered if mine was. "Forgive me for not asking before this, but what's your name, sir?" I was raised to say "sir" to anyone older than myself, and it looked like the man had twenty years on me.

"I'm John Lewis, sir. No relation to the president, I'm afraid. Call me John."

"My name's John, too." I gave him my full name, and didn't see a flicker of recognition. So maybe my "secret identity" was still secret. We shook hands, and then I started around the room.

The first exhibit spoke of Jay's birth, a couple of years after mine, and his happy childhood as a normal boy. Then it described the lab accident that should've killed him, but made him super-fast, instead. I happened to know that the real accident involved things much more dangerous and hard to procure than was generally said, but the "official story" was what the exhibit provided, to keep people from killing themselves trying to become another Jack (or Jill) Be Quick.

There was a picture of me, throwing a boomerang and knocking out a bank robber, in an exhibit labeled "Daredevil, Jack's Best Friend." It said I disappeared in July, 1950, and hadn't been seen since. There was one for Jim, with the caption, "S.O.S., Fast As Radio." It showed Jim popping out of a radio set and shocking two men with his electric touch. S.O.S., the card said, retired in 2000, the last year of the 20th century, without revealing his civilian identity.

"Jack Gets Married" said that Jay married his long-time girlfriend, Joan, in 1952. Damn, I was sorry I'd missed that, but I was two years gone in 1952. There was a picture, which I gazed on for a while. Jay's best man was a Mr. Jim Jourson, and Joan's matron of honor was Mrs. Sherry Grosvenor. Of course, in 1952 Jay's identity was still a secret, and whoever had provided the information for the displays hadn't revealed anything. But I knew that Jim Jourson was my buddy and Jay's, S.O.S., and Sherry Grosvenor was my wife, and a good friend of Joan's.

"Is a copy of this picture available in the gift shop, John?"

"I'm not sure," he said. "But it's in Mrs. Garrison's book, "Life with Jack," and that's in the shop, in hard cover, paperback, or ebook form. All of the information in this room comes straight from her book."

"Great! Let me buy a copy of that, then come back for my attache."

"No need for all that trouble," John said. He took my check, brought out my attache, and said, "I hope you'll come back some time to see the rest of the Museum."

"Oh, you bet I will."

I bought the book in hardcover. The money for everything sold in the museum shop went to the Jack Be Quick Foundation, I noticed. Then I went back out and asked Jasleen what time he started working in the morning.

"I need to read this tonight," I said, waving the book, "and then go see the FBI in the morning."

He raised one bushy eyebrow; Sikhs never cut their hair. "You are not in trouble, sir, I hope?"

"That's what I need to find out. I don't think so, but best to learn what they think." And what they know, I said to myself.

We arranged to meet the next morning at 9 a.m., after I'd had a chance to have breakfast; he'd send word up to my room when he arrived at the Carlisle.

Me and the FBI

"I notice," said Special Agent Armisted, looking over his notes, "that you haven't mentioned your family name, the names of your mother and father, where you went to college…"

"Well," I said, "if I'm in your files, perhaps you have that information already. If I'm not in your files, then I'm wasting my time here, and you don't need to know too much."

"You seem hostile, John."

"Do I?" I returned. "The last time I had dealings with the FBI, it was pretty hostile to me, as I recall. Your organization was calling me a Communist sympathizer because I stopped white trash from murdering Negro soldiers and sailors, and kept cops from breaking up union picket lines."

"Times change," Armisted told me. "We've had three black presidents since then, and the unions are strong. By the way, you want to stop saying Negro. Today the polite term is black, or African-American. Anything else is pejorative."

"So we're back to Black, are we?"

"Or African-American."

"Thanks, I'll remember that. As for proof, why don't you move back from that desk?"

"My desk?" he said, looking at it like he'd never seen it before. It was a typical piece of FBI furniture, metal, painted gray. No doubt the higher-ups had brand-new furniture in the style of the day, light-weight, light-colored wood, if the desk in my hotel room was any indication. Special Agent Armisted was barely in his thirties, I guessed, and he got the Bureau hand-me-downs: an office no one wanted, and a desk that went back to 1950, or 1930, for all I knew.

"Move!" I cried, and he got up and backed away hastily.

Desks aren't meant to be picked up. Two men can do it, one at each end, if it isn't too heavy. For one man, there's no place to get a grip. If you hoist it quickly, and you're lucky, you might hold one end of the top in your hands, and lean the rest against your chest. Then the trick is to ignore it digging into your hands, and refuse to let it overbalance; assuming, of course, that you can lift it at all. And then you couldn't see where you're going, could you?

But I'd done this trick before. Armisted's desk was a big one, which was more important than its weight. It meant there was room for me in the space between its two sets of drawers, and the privacy panel in front. Facing him, I crouched down, and backed under the desk. There was just enough room for me to get all the way into the furniture's center of mass, put my back and hands in the right places, and stand up.

I smiled into the FBI agent's stunned face. "Want to play catch?"

"God! Put it down!"

"Well, at least you didn't say, 'Drop it!'. Say, as long as I'm here, would you rather have your desk somewhere else?" I turned around, looking at the room, careful not to hit anything with the desk's corners. Door to my right, file cabinets behind me (more old steel relics), a window with blinds.

"Maybe over here, where you could look out the window?" I started to walk that way.

"Please!" he said. "Just put the desk back where you found it!"

"Well, OK, if you're sure." I walked back, and knelt. When the feet of the desk were still an inch off the floor, I lined them up with the slight dents in the cheap linoleum (another relic of olden days), and set them in their accustomed places.

I got up from under the desk, and flexed my hands a couple of times. "Don't say I never offered to move your desk for you," I told him.

"Fuck! You're not even breathing hard!"

I smiled at him. "Of course not. I'm Daredevil!"

When we were both seated again, he said, "That doesn't really prove that you're Daredevil. There are other strong men around. You wouldn't even have to be a super-hero."

"What, you want your file cabinets moved?"

"Leave the furniture alone!" he said, hastily. He stood up. "Let's go to a room with a confidential terminal, and look at some records."

"Now you're talking!"

"Whatever happened to old J. Edgar, anyway?" I asked, as we walked down the hall.

"Jesse Jackson fired him," Armisted told me. "Officially, Hoover retired because of his age, but he'd been spying on the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement, acting like blacks wanting to be treated like other Americans, and college kids wanting to end the war in Vietnam, were criminals. So Jackson got rid of him."

Out of all of that, I picked a question. "Where the hell is Vietnam? I never heard of it."

He looked at me skeptically. "You never heard of Vietnam? I thought you were in China all this time."

"There's no place in China called Vietnam," I said positively. "Heck, that's not even a Chinese word."

"South of China."

"You don't mean Korea? It's not a Korean name, either."

"Farther south and west. The capital used to be called Hanoi."

"OK, I've been to Hanoi," I said. "But it was French Indo-China then."

"Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, now."

"Man," I said, shaking my head. "I've got an awful lot of catching up to do."

"If it's an act," said the agent, "it's a good one. In here."

Armisted tapped his ID to a gadget on the door, and a little red light on it turned green. The overhead lights came on by themselves as we entered. There were four panels in the room, like free-standing picture frames, or signs in a store's display window, each on its own table. The panels, which showed no pictures and had no words about prices or sales, were about twenty inches tall, and about thirty inches wide.

"What are these panels?" I asked.

"Thirty-six inches," he said. "Damned budget cuts." He pulled out a kind of tray underneath the table top, and pressed his right thumb to something. Lines of white letters started appearing on the panel, each below the one before. When the lines reached the bottom, the new ones stayed put, while the old ones moved up. Then the screen turned light blue, with a picture of the FBI seal. Below that, it said, Password:, followed by a white space, with something blinking in it.

"Wait, I don't get it. What is that?"

The agent paused. He'd sat, in an office chair, and looked like he was about to type on something. Now he swiveled around to face me. "Don't tell me you've never seen a computer before!"

"Sure I have! But this room isn't freezing cold, and the floor isn't reinforced, and I don't see a computer, which I could hardly miss. And where are your key-punch machines, and your tape drives?"

"You know," Armisted said after a moment, "the things you don't know, or say you don't know, are almost convincing in themselves, without any other evidence. For now, remember thinking how the cell phone of that guy on the street compared with a World War II backpack radio?"

"Yes?" CELL phone? World War TWO?

"Well, the computers you might've seen in 1950 are the distant ancestors of a setup like this, or a cell phone, or the card reader on the door outside, for that matter. Did you type instructions on cards on a keypunch machine, and hand them over to the people behind the counter, or did you use an actual terminal?"

"The first one," I said. "Terminal what?"

"Never mind," he said, "Our actual computer is somewhere else in the building, for security, and if we need to, and have the security rating, we can access other computers in places like Quantico. We do that with a screen," he touched the panel in front of him, "a keyboard," he lifted a flat board with keys on it like a typewriter, less than two feet wide, five inches deep, and a quarter inch thick, "and a mouse."

I laughed hard, taken by surprise. "A mouse? Where are its whiskers and ears?" I laughed some more.

"The man's never seen a mouse before," Armistead said to himself.

"Only ones that squeak, and eat cheese. Do you call that thing on top of the screen a roach? And I suppose those things on either side are bookends?"

"What? Oh. No, that's a cam, and those are speakers." He scowled again. "Damned budget cuts."

"Now that sounds like a well-practiced complaint," I said.

"Damn right! We were supposed to get 60-inch screens this year, with the cam and the speakers built in. Instead, they cut our budget for office equipment, and we're stuck with these old 36-inchers, and separate cameras and speakers."

So cams were cameras. I could stop looking for gears, then. But, "60-inch? 36-incher?"

"Screens are measured diagonally, like TVs. These old clunkers are 36 inches from lower left corner to upper-right corner. The ones we're supposed to have, measure 60 inches."

"Sounds impressive. Five feet across?"

"Meh. The one I have at home is 80 inches." He grinned, looking for a moment like a kid in his twenties, instead of an FBI agent. "I was a computer major in college," he added.

"It shows. Listen, what's your first name, if it's OK to ask?"

"Jordan," he said, and we shook hands.

"Pleased to meet you, Special Agent Jordan Armisted. Maybe we'd better verify my bonafides."

"Fuck it, I'm convinced." But he started typing on the keyboard, and got the FBI's file on Daredevil on the screen. There was a lot in it.

All about Daredevil

Their computer was fantastic. Instead of white letters on a black screen, like computers I'd seen, or black letters on white, like a typewritten report, the letters were different styles and sizes, like typeset letters from a print shop, or a Linotype. They were different colors, too, and could be italic, or bold-faced, or both. There were special characters, like é in French or ñ in Spanish, and other alphabets, like Greek and Russian and Korean, were available, according to Jordan. The background of a page, or part of a page, could be a different color, and there were photographs, drawings, and maps, in color as well as black and white. It was like reading a special Sunday supplement of the newspaper, or a special issue of The Saturday Evening Post. all about my life up to 1950.

"It says here that your name is Grosvenor. Your parents were both born in the U.S., and lived on money from both sides of the family. Your paternal grandfather, Jonathan, made his fortune as a profiteer during the Civil War."

"I never met the old gentleman; he died before I was born. My mother's father made his money from a fraudulent railroad." I shrugged. "Selling shoddy goods to the government, or claiming money for a railroad that never laid track—there's no honest way to get that rich."

"I guess every family has its shame," Jordan said. "My grandfather was a Grand Wizard in the KKK, and disowned my father when he discovered Dad was dating "a damned nigger", as he called Mom. Of course, the fact that Dad bloodied the old bastard's nose for calling her that might've had something to do with being disowned, too."

"Good for him," I said. "So it's legal for Whites and African-Americans to marry, now?"

"Anybody can marry anyone, as long as both parties are of age, and give their consent," he said. "Blacks and whites, whites and hispanics, men and men, women and women." He looked me squarely in the eye. "I'd be prouder of my old man for punching his father, if Dad hadn't thrown me out of the house when I was 15, after I told him I was gay."

"Wow," I said. "Thanks for sharing all that. But, you know, you don't have to tell me any of your secrets."

"None of it's secret," he said. "I forget if it was Obama or Sanders who signed the bill that made discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals illegal. The Equal Rights Amendment, making discrimination against women unconstitutional, was passed by Carter; a similar amendment, for our community, is working its way through the states now, and is expected to be ratified before the 2016 election."

I shook my head in wonder. "Brave new world," I said. "Obama?"

"Barack Obama, our third black president," Jordan said.


"Bernie Sanders, our first Socialist president, also our first Jewish president."


Jordan grinned. "Jimmy Carter, our first peanut-farmer president."

After I laughed, he said, "Joking aside, you'd like him. He's one of the most decent men we've ever had in the White House. He was a submarine officer in the Navy during the same war you were in, and he met his wife, Rosalynn, on a shore leave back home. They got married on another leave, and they're still married all these years later."

"You're a fan, I see."

"I am. He's a great man."

A little later, he said, "Hey, we have your fingerprints!"

I was reading over his shoulder. "Those are fingerprints, all right. Where did the FBI get them?"

The agent shrugged. "It's routine to fingerprint people when they join the military."

"Not in my day," I said. "Hell, it wasn't even a verb then!"

"Did you let the Bureau take them?"

"I was very careful not to. The point of a secret identity is that it's secret. I wasn't about to give Hoover a handle on me."

"Well, I don't know, then. Did you never lean on a polished desk, hold a glass of water. or anything like that?"

"Look at the suit again," I advised him. "I was covered from head to foot, including gloves that didn't come off."

"I really don't know, then. Want to see if these are really your prints?"

"I suppose so. Bring on your ink pad."

"Ink? Not in this century, old-timer." He pulled a package, about an inch square, out of pants pocket. "Here. Wipe your right thumb clean with this, then wave your hand a moment until it dries."

I ripped the paper open, then sniffed. "Smells like rubbing alcohol."

"That's right. No, don't do that!"

Too late. I'd wiped my thumb with the alcohol, then wiped it with my handkerchief.

"God, you're as bad as a field agent. Why can't anybody follow simple instructions?"

I grinned. "It's a clean handkerchief," I said.

"Says who? Particles of dirt, pocket lint, stray cotton fibers from the handkerchief—the point of the instructions is to clean the thumb, and dry it without touching it to anything else, while the wind of motion brushes off small bits of dirt, hair, and other contaminants."

"Oh. Should I do it again, the right way this time?"

"That was the last wipe I had on me. Well, let's see if the scanner can read it anyway."

He showed me an oval area on his keyboard, and told me to press my thumb to it, and hold it still. A light appeared at the top of the oval, above my thumb, then moved down, showing around my thumb as it went. The light reached the bottom of the oval, and went out. An image appeared on the right side of the fingerprints shown on the screen.

"There! See that? Damn cowboys!"

"I see it. What is it?" There was a white line across the black loops and whorls of the fingerprint.

"Cotton fiber from the hankie, most likely. Good cotton, the fiber's long and straight. Clean, too; see how there aren't any smudges or black dots on the fiber?" As he spoke, he worked. He moved the "mouse" to the image, and did something that put a black rectangle around it. Then he did something that made a box appear with a list inside. The line that said, "Remove defects" went from black letters on a white background, to white letters on a blue background. The image blinked, and the fiber was gone; the lines ran right across where it had been. Then he moved the mouse, and the image moved also, to the right thumb print of the set that was already in the file. After a couple of seconds, letters appeared in the middle of the screen: 99% Match.

Special Agent Jordan Armisted looked up from his computer screen. "Congratulations," he said. "You're John Grosvenor, and you're Daredevil."

The news after 1950

Since the FBI had known, or suspected, that John Grosvenor was Daredevil (70 percent sounded pretty sure to me, but Armisted said it was little more than an educated guess), there was a lot of information in the Daredevil file about his "known associates".

Sherry never remarried. She died of cancer in 1995, at the age of 75. Our daughter, whom she named Jean, married a man named Charteris in 1971, when she was 21. They had a daughter, Joan, in 1973, which made her 42 this year. Jean died of a heart attack in 2005, at the age of 55.

So Sherry was dead, our baby had lived and died, and my baby's baby was 42, almost the same age that I was, in terms of years lived, even though she'd been born 53 years later than I. "Time travel," I muttered, and it was a curse.

"Joan married a lawyer, and supported him through law school, with her share of the family money. Three years ago he served her with divorce papers, and married a trophy wife."

"A what?"

"A replacement wife who's younger and prettier, usually much younger."

I touched my grand-daughter's picture. "She looks great to me. The man's a fool. You know who she reminds me of?"

"Allowing for the different hair, she looks like her grandmother," Armisted said.

"She looks like Joan Garrison, Jay's girlfriend when I knew them, later his wife. I wonder if my grand-daughter Joan is named after Jay's wife."

"Could be. Your wife, and Jack Be Quick's wife, were close friends; Joan Garrison was Sherry's maid of honor when you and Sherry got married, and Sherry was Joan's matron of honor when the Garrisons wed. Sherry was still alive when Joan was born, too. When the cancer took Sherry, Joan was 22 years old."

"Also, Jean and Joan are both female forms of John," he said.

"Hmmm, that's true. What about Mother and Father?"

"Your mother died in 1988, just after her 88th birthday, and your father passed away the next year, just before he turned 90. Natural causes."

"I wish I could've seen them again. They loved each other, and they loved me. And they raised me right, and I loved them."

"Yes, well. In 1973, the same year your grand-daughter was born, your parents sold their town house. Sherry was living with them, and none of them were going into NYC much; the older folks were having a hard time getting around by then. They took the money, and set up a trust with a Scottish bank.

"Glasgovian National, I expect. That was their bank."

"You got it. They took the money from the town house, 4.5 million, and put it in the trust, "for the support and benefit of the direct descendants of John D. Grosvenor."

"Damn," I said. "Excuse me a minute." I took out my handkerchief again, and wiped my eyes.

"What's the D. stand for? David? Donald? Douglas?"

"Deodato, actually. It means 'Given by God'."

Jordan considered. "Sweet. Ready to go on?"

"Hit me."

"OK. Well, your parents had their own trust funds, and they paid the family bills from that, not touching the Scottish trust fund. Sherry was paid a salary by Glasgovian National to make decisions about the JDG trust, and used the joint account you and she had established in 1950. Your daughter Jean supported herself, but she got a monthly check from the trust, after she turned 21; and your grand-daughter, Joan, did the same. After your parents died, their wills put their personal trusts into the Scottish trust; and when Sherry died, the family house was sold, for 30 million, and that money went into the trust as well."

"So I suppose Joan has all that money now. Nice! Or did her bastard ex-husband lawyer it away from her?"

"Let me see…" Jordan said, and began typing and moving the "mouse" around. "You know," he said in the middle of all that, "we're getting into actions that are technically illegal. I'm operating on the theory that it is, in some sense, your money, and Joan's your grand-daughter, but I could go to jail for this."

What was I supposed to say to that? Thanks? "So why are you doing it?"

"Well, if my superiors call me on the carpet, I'm trying to get you to join the FBI, or at least work with us when we need you. But mostly, I'm just a nosy son-of-a-bitch. And I like you, John."

"Thanks," I said. "Do we kiss now?"

He looked up and grinned. "I don't think my husband would approve. I'll have to introduce you to Jason some time, and see how you hit it off."

"Ah, here we go. Bastard Husband tried to get half the trust money, claiming it was community property. But the Glasgovian squashed that. It's a trust for your direct descendants, so any collateral descendants; or in-laws, are out of luck. B.H. didn't get a penny. He'll have to squeak along on the paltry $50,000 a year he makes from his law firm, poor baby."

"I'll contain my tears, somehow. So what's the trust worth now? 50 million? 60?"

"Oh, much more than that. 4.5 mil from the town house, 30 from the mansion, 32 from your Mom's family trust, 40 from your Dad's, that's 106 million in principal, plus income from investments over the years, plus interest. Call it forty years of interest at 3 percent, that would be in the neighborhood of another 100-120 million. No way to know what the investments that the bank's made have brought in, without the bank statements. Want to know exactly what the trust fund is worth now?"

"Not really," I said. "Once you've got 50 million, 3 percent interest is 1.5 million per year, every year. Anything over that is just pointless."

"Oh, come on! I'm dying of curiosity over here!"

"Can you do it without setting off alarms in Scotland?"

"Sure, I can cobble up an FBI query."

"Can you do that without getting fired, or busted down to the guy who cleans the toilet in the Fargo, North Dakota office?"

He licked his lips. "Pretty sure."

"All right, go ahead. But no snooping. In and out, current balance, that's it."

"All right!" He turned back to his terminal and began typing and mousing away.

"How long will this take?" I asked.


"Half a hour, an hour, three hours?"


After fifteen minutes of looking over his shoulder, and not understanding anything he was doing, I got bored. There wasn't a couch in the room, just the tables with the terminals on them, and a swivel chair for each table. But an old soldier can sleep anywhere, under any conditions. I curled up under a table, where I had shade from the overhead lights, pillowed my head on one arm, and drifted off to Nod.

"Got it! Got it got it GOT IT!" Jordan's shout woke me from a dream where Joan was Daredevil, too, and was busting into an office building demanding to know where I was. An odd dream, considering I hadn't even met her yet.

I rolled our from under the table, and stood up. "What've you got?"

He turned a face to me full of accomplishment and excitement. "The JDG trust is worth 271 million dollars as of the last quarterly statement!" he said.

"Over a quarter of a billion dollars!" I said. "I guess I can forget about supporting my grand-daughter. Mother and Father really did well by the family."

"I should say so!"

"It's kind of late to call on a total stranger," I said, looking at my watch. "Could you write down Joan's address for me, please?"

He wrote it on the back of one of his FBI business cards, and gave it to me.

"Thanks. One other thing. Is S.O.S. still alive?"

He was, and the FBI knew his address. I got it on the back of another business card.

Jordan shook my hand as I was leaving the building, and said, "You'll come back and talk to my boss, won't you? I'm sure that he'll want to talk to you. Hell, Director Harris will probably want to talk to you in person!"

"Sure, but don't make any appointments for me just yet. I need to talk to Jim, and meet my grand-daughter first. I'll call you in a few days."

I visit an old friend

Singh pulled up alongside me a couple of blocks from the FBI office, and I got in. "How did it go?" he asked. "Will you be having any problems with the gentlemen of the Bureau?"

"Not from that gentleman, at least. In fact, I think I've made a new friend. If his attitude is typical, a lot of things changed after Hoover was fired."

"I am glad," he said. "Will you wish to return to the Carlisle now?"

"Actually, if you don't mind, could you take me to this address? It's outside the City," I said apologetically. I handed him the card with Jim's address.

"If you have no problem with the fare, I have none with the driving," he said. "I'm making a lot of money from you, you know."

"And I appreciate it," I told him. "Once I have identification and a driver's license, I'll see about getting a car, but first things first."

We drove out of the city and headed north. Neither Jay nor Jim had been wealthy by birth, but it appeared that Jim had done all right by himself. He had a mansion in a rural area, a little over 40 miles from New York City. Of course, if he still had his powers, anywhere in the world was, at most, seconds away.

"Nice place," I said.

"Very nice indeed. I hope your friend has a direct link from his alarms to the nearest police station."

I smiled slightly. Unless Jim had lost his powers, he could shock or even electrocute anyone who broke in; and if he had to run, he could do it as a lightning bolt, at the speed of light. I didn't explain this to Jasleen, because it wasn't my secret to give away. I just asked him to pop the trunk, and got my attache case out, that he'd been holding for me while I was in the FBI office.

"Listen, why don't you go back to the City, have dinner with your family, and relax? I'll call you tomorrow morning, and you can take me to my grand-daughter's place, if that's OK."

He said it was. so I paid him for the trip, and watched him drive away.

It was 7 p.m. of a beautiful September day, the Sun pouring a golden ocean of warm light over everything as it sank in the west. Jim's house, north of White Plains, faced east, little hills all around it. The highway from New York City to Albany was wide and straight, but no one had re-engineered the smaller road that led to the west, and meandered among the hills where Jim's mansion nestled, and others like it. Peace had long resided here, and I took a long, deep breath of it.

Jim Jourson had been born in 1933, 5 years old when I started boot camp in 1938, and only 12 when the War ended. Jay met him on one of his adventures, and introduced him to me. The boy could turn into lightning, and move at the speed of light, which made him a natural partner for Jay, who claimed he could run faster than that. Either of them could feel the touch of a bullet on his skin, or the blast from an explosion, and be gone before he could be hurt. I was tough, and strong, but those two were fast!

In 2015, Jim would be 82 years old. The last time I'd seen him, he was 17. I thought I was braced for the shock when I knocked on his front door. The man who opened it was white-haired, and bald on top, leaving a fringe like a monk's tonsure. He was still lean, but slightly stooped. Wrinkles radiated from the outsides of his eyes, jowls hung on either side of his mouth, and he had three chins. He wore a white shirt with long sleeves and a narrow black tie, and good black slacks and black shoes.


I smiled ruefully. "Hello, Jim. It's been a long time, kiddo."

He looked puzzled, then the light dawned. "John? Where have you been, man?" He took a step forward and folded me in his embrace; I was still taller and bigger than he was. "We waited and waited," he said, shedding the easy tears of the aged on my shoulder, "and now there's no one left but me, Johnny."

I held him tightly, and patted him on the back. "I couldn't help it, Jim," I protested.

"No, I'm sure you couldn't," he said. "You'd've returned to Sherry the first moment you could. How I envied you and Jay your marriages."

"It's good to see you, Jim. I've been gone eight years by my time."

He held me off at arm's length, a hand on each shoulder. "Damned if I can tell. You look just as I remember you, maybe a little tired. Were they rough years, John?"

"Pretty rough. I was fighting the Yellow Claw the whole time."

"Come in and tell me all about it," Jim said. "Have you eaten yet? My housekeeper always makes enough supper for two of me."

"I could eat," I admitted, and we went inside. He made me a roast-beef sandwich, with lots of good hot mustard, on thick rye bread; and heated some mashed potatoes and gravy, some peas and corn, in a device he called a "microwave oven", which made things hot by pouring energy into the water molecules in them. This heated them all through, instead of applying heat to the outside!

He told me everything that had happened to him since 1950; the two marriages, both ending in divorce, and his huge relief when he finally admitted to himself he was gay; the long super-hero career, from being Jay's partner at the age of 12 until retiring in 2000, including his membership in the Society of Super-Heroes from 1970 on. He'd made his fortune from patents; he could travel a circuit personally, seeing it first-hand in his electrical form, intuitively seeing a thousand ways to improve it. The brains of modern computers, their processor chips, were just another kind of circuit to him, and he held the basic patents to the multitronic technology that had replaced electronics around 1980.

"Do you still travel?"

"Constantly," he said. "I can be in Paris to have breakfast by the Seine, Japan for lunch in Osaka, back here to compliment Mrs. Schumacher on dinner, with a thousand other stops around the world."

"I've been to the Moon hundreds of times," he said, leaning forward with his hands between his knees. We'd moved to the living room after I'd eaten, and sat in armchairs before a wood fire he'd lit with a touch. "I have a pressure suit that NASA gave me, and whenever I wish, I make sure the air tanks are full, put it on, and go to the Moon. It comes with me, just as my costume did, and when I change back, so does it. If the lunar settlements need an emergency delivery of medicine, a multitronic component, or anything else I can carry, they call me."

"Cool!" I said, surprising myself with some Wartime black slang. "Mars? Venus?"

"I went with the first Martian expedition. They took along some unmanned vehicles, rovers they call them, which I can occupy in my electric form, exploring and sending photos and signals to Mars Base. I've operated probes in the asteroid belt, missions to comets, to the moons and atmosphere of Jupiter, to the rings of Saturn, and its atmosphere and moons. NASA gets the machinery there, and I pilot it. If there's an emergency on the way, I can fly to the device, and if it's not a mechanical problem, I can often save the mission with programming on the spot."

"And Venus?"

His face clouded. "Forget the oceans of Venus we used to dream about, John," he said. "Under those clouds, the temperature is hot enough to melt lead, and the pressure is insane. We have a solar observatory orbiting Venus, and that's about all the use we can get out of the planet."

I told Jim everything that had happened since he and I, the FBI, and the National Guard had fought the Claw in 1950; the time I'd spent in the past in China, in the far future, how I'd been dumped in 2015, and what I'd done here so far.

"So you're pretty much broke right now," he said. "Listen, I have more money than I could spend in a hundred years. Why not let me give you half a million to live on for a year? It takes money to make money, and you're starting over from scratch."

"I don't know what to say," I told him, flabbergasted. "I don't know when I'd be able to pay it back, either."

He just waved a hand. "Skip it. You're my oldest living friend, and I owe you and Jay more than I could ever repay, for getting me off to a good start as S.O.S. Pay me back in a year, if you feel like it. Or don't. Seriously, John, I'll never miss it."

"Well, if you're sure, what can I say but thanks?"

So Jim transferred $500,000 to an account at his bank, and gave me the account number and codes to it. I put the card in my attache case, and Jim surprised me with a knapsack, as for hiking, big enough for the case.

"You could crash here for the night," Jim said. "I've got a couple of guest bedrooms here."

"Thanks, Jim, really. But it's been at least a week since I've had a good run, and I have business in the City in the morning."

"All right." He hugged me again. "Take care of yourself, John."

I hugged him back. "You too, kiddo, you too."

"Don't worry about me," he said. "I'm a super-hero!" We grinned at each other.

Then, my knapsack on my back, I ran back to town under the Moon and stars, doing a steady forty miles per hour over the shining road. In an hour and a half, I was in my bed at the Carlisle.

I meet my grand-daughter

My third day in the 21st Century began when my watch alarm woke me at 8:00. Right after I'd gotten it from the nightstand and turned it off, my phone rang. I thanked Mr. Lawrence, and told him I wouldn't need wake-up calls from now on. After showering, shaving, and dressing, I took the elevator to the lobby. Sierra greeted me warmly. Today she was sharing the front desk with an eastern colleague, whom she introduced as Carol. "Anyanghaseyo, Carol. Chuheum bepgetseumnida," I said to her.

Carol's face lit up. "Pleased to meet you, too, Mr. G! How'd you know I was Korean?"

"Call me John. It was an educated guess. I've spent time in Japan, Korea, and China, and you don't look Chinese or Japanese to me. And you use an English first name, which I haven't seen a Japanese or Chinese person do. So I took a chance."

She laughed. "Well, it was very nice." She put her hands on the fronts of her pants legs, and bowed slightly. I returned it. "Later, ladies," I said, and headed for the restaurant.

As I was approaching the restaurant, out of an ordinary person's range of hearing from the concierges' station, Carol said, "What a hunk!"

"Hey, I saw him first!" Sierra protested.

I smiled, and went into the restaurant. My hearing has always been very acute.

After a breakfast of pancakes, which I hadn't eaten in years, Jasleen drove me to Joan's address, a condominium tower on the Upper East Side. I told him not to wait for me, as I had no idea how long I would be. "You have my number, sir," he said. "Good luck."

"Ms. Charteris requires us to notify her before sending anyone to her condo," said the desk clerk, a light-skinned young black man. "Whom shall I tell her is calling?"

"My name is Grosvenor," I told him.

"Just a moment, sir." He dialed a number, or rather, he punched some buttons on his console. If he'd actually been dialing a rotary phone from 1950, I could've picked up the number by ear. As it was, all I could hear was the click of five buttons.

"Ms. Charteris, this is Paul in the lobby. There's a Mr. Grovener here to see you. Shall I send him up? Yes, ma'am." He looked at me, and said, "How do you spell that, sir?"

"G-R-O-S-V-E-N-O-R. Tell her it's about her grandfather."

Paul repeated that, then said, "Yes, ma'am, right away." Then he told me what elevator to take. As soon as I got in, the doors shut, and it went straight to her floor without any stops. There were only five doors in the hall. When I knocked on the right one, it opened with a snap.

The picture of Joan in the FBI's Daredevil file had misled me. Her hair was the same color as Jay's wife, or mine, and worn short, as Joan Garrison had worn hers. But she had Sherry's grey eyes, Sherry's cheekbones, and Sherry's crooked half-smile, when she suspected someone was trying to pull a fast one. It made my heart hurt to see it. She had a trim figure, and wore green slacks and a short-sleeved yellow top, no jewelry, slip-on soft black shoes.

"Do I pass inspection, Mr. Grosvenor? What's your real name, anyway?"

"My real name," I said deliberately, "is John D. Grosvenor. Can we speak in private?"

She looked me up and down with those clear grey eyes. "I suppose," she said, and opened the door wider.

After I was inside, and the door was shut, she demanded, "What's the D. stand for?"

"Deodato," I said. "Don't I look like my family pictures, Joan? Didn't your mother, and your grandmother, tell you I might be coming back someday?"

"Mom and grandmom told me lots of crazy things," she said. "Who told you my grandfather's middle name?"

"My parents told me, when I was seven or eight. It means 'God-given.' They loved me, you see."

"You do look like him, back when he ran out on my grandmom," Joan said, bitterly. "But he'd be a hundred years old now. It's stupid to claim to be him!"

"I was born in 1920, so I'd be 95 years old, if I'd lived through all the years since then," I said. "But for me, it's only been eight years since 1950."

"And what's this about running out on Sherry?" I said, as Joan stared at me. "She didn't believe that, did she? Didn't she and Jean tell you who else I was, besides John Grosvenor, and what happened to me?"

"Grandmom had a wild story she told Mom and me, explaining how she hadn't been abandoned, and you, I mean her husband, would come back when he could. I think she really believed it, right up to the end. Mom believed it, too, until Grandmom died, but later decided it was a crock. It doesn't take any elaborate fantasy to explain a man getting cold feet, when there's a baby on the way, and running out on his wife."

"But I didn't run out on Sherry," I said. "I loved her, and was looking forward to the birth of our baby, and other babies after her. She told you I was Daredevil, didn't she? The fight against the Yellow Claw should be part of the public record. The police were there, and then the National Guard, and Jack Be Quick, and S.O.S., and I. When the Claw jumped back in time, I was in the store of material he'd gathered, and went back with him."

"Super-heroes are a fact of life," Joan said. "There was a Yellow Claw, and Jack and S.O.S. and Daredevil did fight him. But no one ever said what happened to Daredevil after that; he just vanished. Mom thought that her mother used that fight to explain why her husband disappeared."

"I guess Jean grew bitter about growing up without a father," I said. "Such a shame, because I really wanted to be her Dad. But I couldn't let the Claw escape, kill thousands or millions of people, and change history. I'm sure Sherry understood that. I hope she did, anyway."

"Can you prove any of that?" Joan demanded.

"Only partly. I went to the FBI yesterday, and they had my fingerprints, which proved I was John D. Grosvenor from 1950. And then I went to visit my old friend S.O.S., whose address they had, and he recognized me. Do you trust the FBI to vouch for me?"

"Show me, if you can."

We were still standing inside her door. I put down my attache case, and pulled out my new wallet. I drew out the cards Special Agent Armisted had given me, with her address on the back of one, and Jim's on the other. "Will this do?"

She looked at the official, embossed side of one card first. "Who's Special Agent J. Armisted?" she asked.

"Just the FBI agent I talked to at the New York office yesterday," I replied. "He's the one who looked in their Daredevil file, found and matched my fingerprints, and gave me your address, and Jim's."

"Jim?" She turned the cards over, and her breath caught. "You know Uncle Jim?"

"I've known him since 1945, kiddo, when he was 12 years old. He recognized me at once."

She tapped the cards against her cheek. "You might've said that in the first place."

I spread my hands. "I didn't know that you knew him. Do you also know his other identity?"

"Oh, yes," she said. She took a "cell phone" off a table, and hit two buttons. I heard a noise like a phone ringing, then Jim's voice said, "Hello, Joanie. How are you this morning, sweetheart?"

"A little confused, Uncle Jim. Could you come over sometime, and clear something up for me?"

"No time like the present," Jim said. "Put the phone down and stand back, I don't want to shock you by accident."

After Joan did that, there was a flash of light, and Jim stood on the carpet next to the table with the phone on it. He embraced her. "How's my god-daughter?"

She returned his embrace. Joan was my height, though leaner, taller than Jim, but no wider. "Fine, Uncle Jim, now that you're here. Do you know this man?"

He smiled at me. "I should say so! Joanie, this is your grandfather, John Grosvenor. He and Jay and I used to do the super-hero thing together. He was called Daredevil."

Joan looked at me as if she were seeing a ghost. "It's all true. then? Everything grandmom said?"

I spread my hands again. Jim said, "Your grandma wouldn't lie to you, Joanie."

"But… Then… Where have you been, all these years? And why didn't you come back sooner? My poor Mom! My poor Grand-Mom!" She burst into tears from the sorrow of it all,

I felt like weeping myself. While Jim held his god-daughter, I murmured, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Joan."

After she recovered, and washed her face, Joan brought us coffee, and we all sat down. I told her my story, in more detail than I'd told Jim, because Jim had already known it, up to my disappearance in 1950. But he asked a few questions, mostly about my fight against the Claw in the past. Joan asked a lot of questions. She was less interested in Daredevil's life, and more in the Grosvenor family history. I told her what I knew, and she dragged out the family albums. I recognized most of the pictures before 1950. Jim and Joan laughed and told me about the ones since then. It was heartwarming to sit on a couch, Joan in the middle with the photo albums, with Jim on her left, and me on her right. It was the best day I'd had since Sherry had told me she was pregnant, nine years ago in 1949.

Joan still hadn't removed the pictures of her ex-husband, who looked like a lightweight phony to me. Of course, I might've been a bit biased. I tapped the picture of his graduation from law school. "I'm glad he didn't get any of your money," I said.

Joan looked startled. "Your money, you mean."

"What? No. Father and Mother set up the trust for Sherry, and Jean, and you. It's your inheritance from them, even if my name's on the title."

"Not exactly," Joan said. "There's a clause, that says if you should ever present yourself to the Glasgovian, and prove your identity beyond a doubt, all the money reverts to you, and the trust is dissolved."

"That's insane!" I said. "Surely there's a time limit, and surely it's past? What a nightmare that would've caused, if I'd come back in, say, 2100! Is such a clause even legal?"

"I don't know," Joan said. "It's never been tested. As far as I'm concerned, if you're really my grandfather, it's really your money."

"Insane! Joan, you're far too altruistic to live!"

"How much money are we talking about?" Jim asked. "Don't tell me, if you don't want to," he added. I stayed silent, and let Joan tell him. He whistled in astonishment.

"With that much money, you could split it between you, and each of you would be tremendously rich," Jim said. "Each of you would receive 4 million a year in interest alone!"

Joan looked at me. "I'm willing, grandfather."

"Call me John," I said. "You calling me grandfather would raise a lot of questions, since we're the same biological age. As for the money, let's not do anything hasty. There's no hurry, and I don't want you to do anything you'll regret later."

"The same age?" Joan asked.

"Well, nearly. I was born on March 24, 1920, so I was 30 in 1950, then I spent eight years of my time in the past, so I'm 38. Your birthday is August 15, 1973, right? So you turned 42 last month."

After that, we went out for lunch. Joan let Jim pick the restaurant, but insisted on paying. The three of us went down to the resident's parking levels, got in Joan's blue Hyperion electric convertible, with Joan driving, Jim in the front passenger seat, and me in the rear. It was another lovely day, and we ate practically in the shadow of the U.N. General Assembly building, which hadn't been finished in 1950.

After lunch, we went to Jim's bank, and Jim made the account he'd given me yesterday over to me. With him present, I didn't need to show any identification, though they took my picture and had me fill out a signature card. Then I deposited the money the futurians had given me, except for five twenties, and got a bank card. Since I didn't have to show ID, I put the account in the name "John Gloucester", and that was what appeared on the card. I put down March 24, 1973 for my birthday, to make myself the same age as Joan.

Then we drove to the Jack Be Quick Museum, where Joan and Jim, as paid members, were admitted free. I put the $50 for a lifetime membership on my new bank card as well, establishing myself as "John Gloucester" at another place. The same guard, Mr. Lewis, accepted the card without asking for any identification, only remarking, as he returned it to me, "Don't forget to sign your card on the back, sir." I did that on the spot, and he issued me a membership card for the museum.

"I have to run," Jim said, He gave Joan a hug, and a kiss on the cheek, and hugged me, too. "You kids have fun."

"Thanks, 'Uncle Jim'," I said. He grinned, and vanished in a flash of light.

Joan and I spent the rest of the afternoon going through the museum. She was intimately familiar with it, having been a member most of her life, and having known the Garrisons. Jay had been 51 when Joan was born, and his wife 50. Joan confirmed that she was named after the other Joan.

Jay had retired from being Jack Be Quick, and resigned from the Society of Super-Heroes, when he turned 60, in 1982. Five years after that he died of an arterial blockage, one thing he couldn't outrun. The Garrisons had founded the Museum, anonymously, in 1980; Joan's book had been published in 1990, revealing Jay's identity, and her own as his wife, but no one else's. She had died in 2002, of natural causes.

It was bittersweet to tour the museum dedicated to my old best friend's career. But it was pleasant to do so with Joan. I could tell her a lot about Jay and Joan and Jack Be Quick, up to the middle of 1950; she could tell me a lot about them after that, either from exhibits she'd memorized over the years of repeated visits, or from stories the Garrisons had told her in person. And, of course, we'd both read the book.

All in all, it was a nice afternoon. There weren't too many people there on a weekday, and we were careful how we spoke when others were nearby.

After the museum, we didn't want to part yet. Joan took me to a phone store, and we bought me one. It was another purchase I could make with my bank card, requiring no other proof of identity, and it got me a phone number, besides the phone in my room at the Carlisle. Joan showed me how to use it, since my questions baffled the sales people at the store, and I put her number and address into the device's memory, and Jim's; also the numbers of the Carlisle, my bank, and Jasleen Singh.

In the evening, we went out to dinner at a club. None of the ones I knew were still around, but there were places you could go to eat, listen to a live band, and watch people dance. The music of my time was gone, replaced by something called rock and roll, which in my day had been a black slang term for sex. Now, it seemed, it was a form of music, which had gone through lots of changes since 1950. Joan told me about it, but I barely followed. Naturally, I'd never heard any of the music before, nor knew the names of the singers or bands.

Then again, watching the couples on the dance floor, maybe rock and roll still meant sex. Dancing in my day meant two people holding each other and moving together. These people were all over each other and flinging themselves in all directions; I couldn't make any sense of it. I told Joan so, apologetically.

"Never mind," she said. "Next time I'll take you to a Big Band place."

"Big Band?"

"Glenn Miller? Tommy Dorsey? Henry Mancini?"

"Well, I know the first two names."

One nice change was the lack of tobacco smoke. It seems that science had proved, in 1964 or so, that smoking nicotine caused cancer. So people quit smoking, addictive as it was. Without cigarettes, pipes, and cigars, the air in 2015 was much cleaner. Replacing gas-powered cars with electric ones, and coal-powered power plants with with windmills and solar panels, had also cut the death rate and made the air sweeter.

After dinner, Joan drove me to the Carlisle, got out of her car, and gave me a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Call me," she said.

"I promise," I said, and kissed her on the forehead. She got back behind the steering wheel of her blue convertible, and drove off with a wave.

"Who was that, John?" said the doorman.

"My…" What could I say? "My cousin," I decided.

"Damn! I wish I had a cousin like that!"

"Down, boy! She's 42, too old for you."

"Maybe I like older women, John. Anyway, she doesn't look 42."

"Well, then, you're too young for her." He mimed being mortally wounded, and I went inside, and up to my room.

I meet Director Harris

The next morning, I called Jordan Armisted, and told him I was squared away, and ready to talk to his boss or whoever in the FBI hierarchy wanted a meeting.

"Great, John!" he said. "Would you be willing to go to Washington, and meet the Director? She wants to meet you, but she's tied up in D.C. all this week."

"Fine with me," I said. "Can someone meet me at the airport there, and take me to her office?"

"Oh, no, my friend, you get the royal treatment. Stay right where you are. I'll make the arrangements and call you back."

Twenty minutes later the phone rang. It was Sierra saying, "John? Your car to the airport is here."

The car waiting in front of the Carlisle was a big black sedan with government plates,

The rear compartment was large enough for two seats facing each other. The heavy-set white man in the front-facing seat, with florid features and muscles like an ex-jock, held out his hand to me. "Mr. Grosvenor? J. Thompson, Director of the New York office, FBI. Pleased to meet you, sir." We shook hands. The car was already moving.

"Call me John," I said. "What's the program, Mr. Thompson?"

He grinned widely. "Well, if I'm going to call you John, you can call me Flash," he said.

"All right, Flash," I said. "Are you famous? I'm sorry, but I'm out of the loop for anything that's happened since 1950. Jordan explained that, right?"

He deflated slightly. "Right, right. I was the quarterback for the San Francisco Forty-Niners. We went to the Series three times when I was with them, and won the Series twice."

"Congratulations, Flash. I'm sorry I missed that."

"Thanks," he said. "We should be at JFK in half an hour. There's a Bureau jet waiting for us. We should arrive in D.C. around 11, and meet the Director at noon."

I looked at my watch. "40 minutes to fly to D.C., but an hour to drive from the airport to the Director's office?"

"Traffic," he grunted. "Also, the Director has appointments until noon. If we get there sooner, we'll have to wait anyway."

"Fair enough. You know, I've never ridden in a jet. Is it very noisy?"

"Never ridden in a jet!" Thompson said, staring.

"No commercial jets in 1950," I reminded him, "and damned few military ones."

It was an amazing experience. The planes landing, taking off, and rolling down the runways were huge, and carried hundreds of passengers — and not one of them had a propellor! They looked like flying whales compared with the airliners of my time.

It was a relief when we pulled up at a terminal away from the commercial ones. The FBI plane waiting for us was only twice as big as a Wartime fighter — though it didn't have a propellor, either. Its wings swept back at an angle, instead of sticking straight out, and it had two cylinders at the rear, which I guessed must be the engines. It looked a lot like a spaceship from an old pulp magazine, to me. Welcome to the future, John.

Inside, behind the cockpit for the pilot and co-pilot, was a cabin that seated twelve, in three rows of four seats each, with plenty of leg room between the rows, and an aisle down the middle of the plane. There were two other agents already aboard, so we were six total, including the air crew.

One of the agents asked us if we wanted a drink. Flash got a whiskey over ice. "Thanks," I told the agent, "I had breakfast only a couple of hours ago."

At 10 a.m., a dinging sound drew my attention to a lighted sign above each seat, which I figured out was a picture of a seat-belt buckle. They hadn't changed a bit since the War, so I made sure mine was still fastened, then ignored it.

We began to roll. It was a short distance to the nearest main runway, with the pilots touching switches and talking to the control tower on their head sets. We waited a few minutes for nothing I could see, then it was our turn. We turned left, and began accelerating down the tarmac. Did they still call it that, I wondered. Then we left the ground so fast it seemed we leaped, and climbed steeply, like a spaceship, with a definite acceleration pushing me into my seat. In just minutes the nearby airport buildings shrank, then the airport, then Queens, then all of New York City. I heard the wheels retracting as we swung left, heading for D.C.

Thompson was green. He took another gulp of his drink. "God, I hate flying," he muttered.

"Really? I thought that was fun! The old prop jobs took forever to leave the ground, and longer to climb after that."

By 10:40 we were soaring down from the clouds at the D.C. International Airport, and three minutes later our wheels touched the ground. After that things slowed down. We taxied to the terminal for small jets, the doors were opened, and a small portable set of stairs was waiting for us. "Just one moment," I said to Director Thompson, and poked my head into the cockpit. The pilot and co-pilot looked up, startled.

"Thanks, guys, that was great!" I said, and stuck out my hand.

They shook my hand, surprised. "You're welcome, sir. Glad you enjoyed the flight."

"You bet!" I said. As I stepped onto the top of the portable stairs, I heard one of them say, "Who the hell was that?"

"Damned if I know," said the other. I grinned, and got into the car. It was identical to the one we'd ridden in New York. Flash and I occupied the rear, and the two agents sat in front, one of them driving.

Things went a little faster than predicted. We were in the outer area of the Director's office by 11:45, but we still had to wait for her previous appointment to finish. Two overweight, middle-aged white men came out, one in a suit and tie, the other in an Admiral's uniform, with two stars on each shoulder. I wasn't in uniform, and my Army days were long behind me; I didn't salute, or even stand up.

I did stand up, however, when a lady came out of the Director's office. Director Harris, Director Thompson had told me on the flight, was a black woman who'd served a term as Attorney General for California before President Sanders had offered her the Vice-President's post for his re-election. After that, she'd been appointed the Director of the FBI. She had a husband and two children, and was trim and elegant. She shook hands with both of us, then Flash stayed outside while she ushered me into her office.

No FBI leftovers for the Director. Her desk was little more than a computer table, with a terminal, classified and secure I assumed, on one end, and a rolling two-drawer file cabinet for anything that actually needed to be kept on paper. The light wooden color of the desk, and the beige metal of the little locked file cabinet, contrasted nicely with the deep carpet, a deep blue in color. The light blue walls were interrupted by framed certificates and photos, including one of her and President Sanders.

She got right to the point. "So, Mr. Grosvenor, what can you do for me?" She was standing in front of her desk, leaning her hips against it, with her arms folded.

I was sitting in one of the cream-colored visitor's chairs, with my ankles crossed. "Well, I don't know, Ms. Harris. I never set out to be an FBI agent. In fact, J. Edgar generally disapproved of me. But I did the FBI a few favors, from time to time, and sometimes they reciprocated."

"The Bureau has improved a lot since Hoover's day," she said, not defensively, but matter of fact.

"Clearly," I said. "I don't believe there were any women in the FBI back in 1950, or blacks, let alone a black woman as Director! I'm glad to see it."

"Could we interest you in becoming an Agent? It wouldn't be easy; you'd have to go to college again, to catch up on all you've missed, and then go through Bureau training on top of that."

"Aren't I a little old to become an agent?"

"Yes," she said. "But you're strong, fit, and you have a good altitude. Frankly, you were way ahead of your time in 1950; I think you're going to like the 21st Century just fine. And I think you'd be an asset, Daredevil."

"Call me John," I said. "It's a great offer, Ms. Harris. But I've only been back from the past four days, now. I want to see the world, and study what's happened in the past 65 years, before I make any big decisions."

"That's fair enough, John. Let me show you what the Bureau can do for you. For instance, have you thought of the problem of establishing a new identity?"

"I've taken a few baby steps, but I'm not sure how to set one up," I said.

"Take a look at these," she said, and handed me a 9x12 envelope from her desk top.

The first item was a driver's license from the state of New York. It had a color photograph of me, the name "John Gloucester", and the birthdate 3/24/1973. Next was a U.S. passport, good for ten years from 3/24/2015, with the same picture, name, and birthdate. There was a Social Security card, with a number I'd never seen before, and a birth certificate.

"I hope that shows our good intentions," Director Harris said.

"These look real!"

"They are real. The facts are false, but the documents are genuine. The FBI can do a lot of good for our friends."

"Where did you get a color picture of me? How did you get the new name and birthdate I've only been using since yesterday?"

"The picture was easy enough. When you visited our New York City office, you were under constant surveillance, as all visitors are. One of our agents combined several different images to create this one. I believe you've met him, Jordan Armisted?"

"And the name and date of birth?"

"Banks have to report deposits or transfers over $250,000 dollars," the Director told me. "Jim Jourson turned over twice that amount to you."

"Is this legal?" I demanded, waving the papers.

"Perfectly. You are now John Gloucester, born in 1973, with a Social Security number, birth certificate, New York driver's license, and U.S. passport to prove it. In fact, you'd be unable to prove you were John D. Grosvenor, born in 1920. Even your fingerprint records have been deleted from your old name and attached to your new one."

"Well, thank you very much. I'm only sorry, I think, that you left out my middle name."

"You were the one who left it out of your new name, and off the signature card at your bank," she reminded me. "But if you want it back, you can apply for a name change. I'd advise you not to do that; "Deodato" is a really old-fashioned name, and not having a middle name makes your old name and your new one more different from each other."

"I guess you're right," I said slowly. I looked up from the documents. "Thank you, Ms. Harris."

She smiled warmly. "Call me Kim. There's just one more thing, John."

"Oh? What's that?"

"You wouldn't have noticed, because you were fighting the Yellow Claw, but various rewards were offered for stopping him before he demolished all of New York. The total amount was roughly ten million dollars."

I whistled. "Damn! Oh, excuse me."

"No problem," she said. "The point is, you did stop the Claw, right? You blew his brains out in China in 1920, right?"

"Um, I plead the Fifth," I said.

"Don't worry about a murder charge. The Claw killed hundreds of people, and the Governor had declared a state of emergency. You were acting as a soldier in defense of your country, legally speaking."

"I see."

"Look me in the eye and tell me you killed the Claw," she insisted.

I stood up. I was only a couple of inches taller than she was. "Lady," I said, "I not only blew his brains out, but I shot his heart to pieces with the rest of the clip. He's gone, and he's not coming back."

She nodded. "Good, I believe you. Here."

She handed me a check. It had my new name on it, but that wasn't the startling part. "This is a lot more than ten million dollars!" I said.

"it's sixty-five years of compound interest, at 3 percent, based on ten million dollars compounded annually," she said. "68,299,827 dollars. The government always rounds off to the nearest dollar, so you lost 35 cents."

"The IRS will take ninety-five percent of this," I said. "I don't mean to sound ungrateful. I didn't do it for money, anyway."

"You earned it, just the same. And the highest tax bracket isn't ninety-five percent any more, or anything like it. Nor does this income put you in the highest tax bracket, anyway."

"What should I do, then?"

She held up her hands in a fending-off gesture. "I'm not a tax lawyer," she said. "You don't have to declare this until April 15, 2016. Put it in your bank account, and find a top-notch tax attorney. There are a lot of exceptions and loopholes in the tax code, put in so crooks can keep all their dirty money. No reason why they can't work for one of the good guys, too."

"Well." I put the check in the envelope, shifted the envelope to my left hand, and held out my right. "Thank you, Ms. Harris. You didn't have to do any of this for me."

She shook my hand. "If you want to thank me, give the option of joining the Bureau serious consideration." She looked at her watch. "Now I have a working lunch at the Department of Justice. Let me speed you on your way back to NYC."

Flash and I had lunch in D.C. at a posh restaurant, then we went back to the airport. By three p.m. I was back at the Carlisle. I called Jasleen, and he took me to my bank. I deposited the check, and got a safety-deposit box, into which I put all the documents except the driver's license, and a copy of my Social Security number. Those I put in my wallet.

I was getting so blasé about the 21st Century, I hardly blinked at the "copy machine". It did explain why the money was plastic, and had 3-D pictures in plastic sections on each bill.

Planning a new future

After that, I called Joan and told her I had good news, and did she want to hear it over dinner?

"Great, I could use some good news."

"Why, what's the matter?"

"Later, John. You tell me your news, and I'll tell you mine, all right?"

"OK, see you in a little bit."

It was only about five miles from my bank to Joan's condo. I could've run from one to the other in about eight minutes, but I could afford to be inconspicuous. I called Jasleen, and he took me there. When she came down to the lobby, I escorted her out to the curb, and introduced her to my Sikh friend. She said all that was appropriate, but she was distracted by his car.

"Is that a '95 Shamrock?"

Jasleen smiled. "Indeed it is. I'm surprised that you recognize it. It's an old car."

Joan was peering in the windows. "I bought one of these when they came out. I just loved that car to pieces! I have a Ford Hyperion now. It's a newer car, with better batteries and all kinds of options, but it just doesn't excite me like my old Irish car did."

"Well, why don't you give Jasleen the address of one of those Big Band places you mentioned, and Jasleen can take us there in style?" I suggested.

So Joan and I sat in the back seat, and the old car paraded us with pride, as if aware of Joan's appreciation. If a car could have Irish blarney, that car had it.

But later, in the club, she wasn't so happy. I had pork chops and lima beans, creamed corn, and dinner rolls, and cream soda; Joan had a martini and a big salad, and she didn't do justice to the salad. She mostly pushed it around on her plate, occasionally popping a cherry tomato in her mouth, while I told her about my visit to D.C.

"So you're all set up with enough money of your own, and good identification. That's great, John. I'm glad for you."

"I wish you looked gladder, Joan. What's troubling you?"

"My dirty rotten fucker of an ex," she began. It seemed her ex-husband's second wife, Joan's "replacement", had caught him with another woman, and was sueing him for divorce, and demanding half of his money as community property. So naturally, this classless clown was sniffing around Joan again, trying to get her to take him back, or give him money. She wasn't happy, and I let her vent, encouraging her to tell me all about it.

"I hope you told him to see your lawyers, or maybe just to go to hell," I said.

"Of course I did," she told me. "But it pisses me off that he thinks he has any chance with me. Every time I think of it, I get angry all over again." She stabbed a crouton as if it were at fault.

"Well, if he tries to get physical, let me know at once."

She smiled. "Oh, he won't do that."

"Raised right about hitting women, was he?"

"Hardly. But the one time he punched me, when we were married, it felt like a tap. I turned around and punched him back, and broke his jaw."


"Really," she said, and took another sip of her drink. "I'm stronger than I look, John."

"Well, good for you!"

Over dessert, I said, "Listen, why don't you just walk away from all of that, and come live with me?"

"Is that a proposal, granddad?" she joked.

"Don't me silly, Joan. But you're all the family I have in the world, and I hate to see you troubled, just because you married an idiot."

"Serves me right," she said bitterly.

"No, it serves him right," I said, "If he weren't such a colossal fool, he could still be married to you. Why don't you come share my new life with me? We could have a lot of fun."

"But where would we live?"

"Anywhere you like," I told her. "But first let's see the world. Ever been to Paris, Rome, Istanbul, Berlin, Oslo, Helsinki, Buenos Aires, or Tokyo? Have you ever seen Kilmanjaro, Fuji, or Everest? Or the Louvre, the British Museum, or, hell, even the Grand Canyon?"

Wide-eyed, she shook her head.

"Well, I have, but it was 65 years ago, and most of them were showing serious war damage. Also, I was in uniform, or in costume, with no time to do any proper sight-seeing. Let's see it all together! It's no fun to see them by yourself. And then we'll settle down wherever you want to live. You and I both grew up here, but New York City isn't the whole world. It's not even very big. If you go eighty miles in any direction, you're in another state. I can run to Philadelphia in two hours."

She looked at me. "It sounds great. But you know everyone's going to think we're an old married couple — unless they think we're an old unmarried couple, instead."

"Hell with them!" I said. "It's none of their business!"

"All right!" she said. "I'm in! Just one thing, John..."

"What's that, Joan?"

"Ditch the boomerangs. No more Daredevil craziness."

"You got it, sweetheart. I'm done with that life. Too old for it, for one thing."

She looked at me with a half-smile just like her grandmother's.

"Famous last words!" she said.

Copyright © 2018-2020 by Green Sky Press. All rights reserved. The original Daredevil and The Yellow Claw are in the public domain.