Too Many Long Boxes!
   
   

End of Summer
 
Midnight Mail Madness!
by David R. Black

    My name's Dave Clark. I report the news for a living, but sometimes I make the news too. April 15, 1945 was one of those days… err, nights I should say. It all started around 11:30 that evening….




"…and the Yankees beat the Tigers 6-4 on Etten's home run. To recap our top stories for this evening; Allied forces are pushing deeper into German territory, the Mayor will be in attendance at tomorrow's war bond rally at the opening of the New York Public Library's newest branch, and last minute taxpayers around the country have flocked to post offices in droves to file their income tax returns by tonight's midnight deadline. I'm Dave Clark for WXAM radio saying good evening and God bless."

As I stepped back from the mic, I watched as my engineer, Effie Whitestone, cued up the recording of The Star Spangled Banner. She'd been doing a great job filling in for my regular engineer, who had been drafted a month or so ago. I grabbed my suit coat and was about to leave when Effie stopped me.

"Mr. Clark?" she asked.

"No need to be so formal, Effie," I said smiling. "You know you can call me Dave."

"Sorry" she blushed. "Anyway, I was wondering if you could do me a favor. Could you drop these off for me at the post office on your way home? I know its on your way…"

She handed me two white envelopes, both addressed to that beloved agency, the Internal Revenue Service.

"Ah ha!" So you're a late filer too!" I teased.

"I know," said the girl as she blushed again. "I needed to help my mother do her taxes too. Those forms can be so confusing, you know?"

I laughed. "No kidding. Seriously though, I haven't mailed mine in yet either. I need to go to the post office anyway."

"Thanks Mr. Clark!" said Effie as she turned to leave. "Just make sure you get there before they close at midnight. I don't want to pay a late penalty!"

"No problem!"


The post office is only six blocks from the station, and being only 11:35, I figured I had plenty of time. As I was walking down Kane Street, I passed the new library that was opening tomorrow. Stopping to look at the large signs and fancy ribbons that adorned the building for tomorrow's war bond rally, I happened to notice a light coming from inside the building.

Now, I know that I should've kept on going, but something about that light didn't seem right to me. I crept into the alley alongside the library, hopped up on the metal fire escape, and looked in the window. I sure didn't like what I saw.

Four men, dressed head to toe in black, were busy planting what looked like tiny explosives under several of the floor boards. These saboteurs, fifth columnists, or whatever they were, were definitely up to no good.

Remember how I said that I sometimes make the news too? Well, this was one of those times. I pulled the black mask out of my suit coat pocket, and put it and my pair of black gloves on (It's best if us mysterymen don't leave any finger prints, you know?). I don't wear any fancy, long-john type costume, so I was set to go. Midnight was about to make his grand entrance.

As I silently opened the window, I remembered the tax returns. Glancing at my watch, it was 11:43, and I knew I better break up theses baddies fast, then skedaddle to the post office.



    All four saboteurs were in the library's central room, a large lobby in which rows of folding chairs had been set up for the war bond rally. No time to develop a strategy, so I leaped into action, sprinting towards the saboteur closest to me. Halfway to him, a squeaky floorboard betrayed my presence, and he swiveled to face me.

"Ahhh!" the man hollered. "It's….Its' the Spir--…."

Before he could finish, I hit him with a haymaker, and he crumpled to the ground.

"Close, but no cigar, fella!" I announced, knowing what he was going to say. "It happens all the time though, I look just like him!"

"It's Midnight!" hollered one of the others, this time getting my name right. "Stop 'im!"

While the head honcho looked on, the other two saboteurs charged towards me. One was roughly my size, and the other looked to have a couple of inches and at least 30 or 40 pounds on me. Having been a boxer during the Depression, I can't help but notice these things.

"Two on one?" I admonished. "Didn't your mothers ever teach you to fight fair?"

The saboteurs had no witty replies though; they must've been in a hurry like me. I got in a few good punches on the one my size before the big saboteur grabbed me from behind in a bear hug. I struggled and squirmed, but couldn't free myself.

"Hold 'im still!" growled the one as he picked up a metal chair and prepared to swing. "This oughtta fix 'im!"

I shook my head sadly. Bad guys never seem to get any smarter. They must come from one big mold marked "Dummies." As he swung the chair, I simply ducked and let the big guy take the hit.

SMACKKKKK!

The big guy, and the dented chair, both hit the floor while the other saboteur stood there with a dumbfounded expression on his face. He didn't stand there much longer though as I quickly pummeled him. Now then, where did their leader, the last saboteur, go to?

"Don't move!" came his voice from behind me. "Or I'll detonate the bombs right now!"

I turned to face the leader (villains never really mean it when they say "don't move"), and I could see the metallic detonator device in his hand.

"You blow me up, and you die too!" I warned as I stalled for time. "What do you hope to accomplish by that?"

My bait worked. Hook, line, and sinker. As he rambled on and on, as villains are prone to do, I slowly removed my vacuum gun from it's holster on my belt. It's a pretty neat gizmo my scientist friend Doc Wackey made for me, and it fires a super strong suction cup that I can reel in like a fishing line.

"….and that's why we're blowing up the library!" finished the lead saboteur.

"Fella, you're one heck of a lousy storyteller….." I said as I fired the vacuum gun. I watched as the suction cup landed on the detonator, then I pulled it right out of his hand. "….and an even worse saboteur!"



As I was tying them up for the police, one of the saboteurs handed me a white envelope.

"Hey, Midnight?" he asked. "Could you mail this for me? It's my tax return, and I don't want it to be late."

"Uh sure," I said as I began to laugh, "But you've got bigger problems than a late tax return!"

"Please? I don't want the IRS after me too!" he pleaded.

I took the envelope, and as I made my exit, I glanced at my watch. Damn! Only four minutes till midnight!

No time to change my clothes or even take my mask off! I ran as fast as my legs could take me towards the post office. I kept looking at my watch nervously….11:57….11:58….11:59, and I burst into the post office.

"Hey! It's Midnight!" one of the clerks announced.

"What?" I groaned, momentarily forgetting I was in costume. "I still have a minute to spare!"

"Umm….I meant you, sir, not that it's 12 o'clock." stammered the clerk.

"Oh, sorry," I mumbled as I handed her all the tax returns. "Then I'm not too late, am I?"

"No sir!" she said cheerily. "Right under the deadline!"

"Great!" I replied as I gave the clerk a wink. "Because even mysterymen have to pay their taxes!"

About the Character

    Midnight was created by Jack Cole in the 1940's and debuted in the 18th issue of Quality Comics' Smash Comics. He eventually became the lead feature in Smash Comics, but his golden age adventures came to an end in Smash #85. Midnight was essentially a "copyright double" of Will Eisner's popular character The Spirit, and with his blue mask, blue fedora, and blue business suit, Midnight looks just like him. Midnight later appeared in the 1980's DC series All Star Squadron.

All characters are ™ DC Comics
This story is © 2000 by David R. Black.

David R. Black is Fanzing.com's magazine editor and chief archivist. A big fan of "The Warlord," he has a cat named Shakira and is looking for a girlfriend named Tara....

 
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