Birdmen - Fatal Booze
Chapter 1

Karl Steele was walking back to the lot where he had parked his Stutz Bearcat. He had just left his karate class, and he was carrying his practice nun-chuck at his belt. As he walked, Karl was practicing the art of perceiving the entirety of his surroundings as taught by his mentor at the karate school. The idea was to know what was going on at all times so that an enemy could never catch him by surprise. Though karate is an "empty hand" art, Karl's mentor, Ichiro Watanabe, was not such a purest that he disdained the use of weapons; thus the training with the nun-chuck.

Karl's widened perceptions warned him of the disturbance in the alley he was rapidly approaching. His interest was piqued by the sight of some school books, a woman's hat, and a woman's shoe lying at the entrance to the alley. Karl hurried to determine the reason for this odd combination of items on the sidewalk at the entrance to the alley. He looked into the alley and was absolutely amazed at what he saw.

A young woman of near his age was standing with her back to the filthy back wall of a brick building. She was facing 6 men of various ages, none over 20 and none under 14. Three of the men were writhing in pain on the ground, while 3 others were facing her in a very threatening manner. She was holding her other shoe in her right hand with the heel pointing away from her body, obviously brandishing it as a weapon. Her left hand was spread in such a way that it looked like a very dangerous claw.

One of the young men stepped toward her and reached out to grab her blouse. Just as he grasped her shirt, she pivoted on her heel in a full 360 degrees. This caused the man to fall toward her, since he couldn't release her blouse in time. As he fell toward her, she whipped out her other foot to slam into his crotch with a crushing force. The man screamed and joined his fellows writhing on the ground.

One of the two men remaining standing, growled, "That's enough of that shit, bitch!" and pulled a knife from his belt.

Karl stopped admiring the woman's self-defense technique and ran to her aid. On his way, he pulled his nun-chuck into position and crashed it down on the wrist of the hand holding the knife. The wrist shattered at the blow and Karl's back swing caught the man across the face. There was a strong possibility that the man was dead; if not, he was certainly blinded by the bone chips that were thrust into his eyes.

The last man turned to flee and was caught in the knee by a blow from the nun-chuck. This man screamed as he collapsed, unable to move from the pain in his leg.

Karl turned to the young woman and inquired, "Are you all right, Miss?"

"Yes, I am, thanks to you. But I wonder why you didn't help me the moment you showed up?"

"Truthfully, I was admiring your fighting technique and was sure that you didn't need any help until that cretin pulled the knife. Where do you study martial arts? You move as smoothly as a ballerina!"

"Why, thank you sir! Actually, I am studying to be a ballerina. I have no martial arts training. I was just doing what I thought was the right thing to do."

"Hummm! Maybe I should study ballet. I have never seen such smooth and coordinated fighting movements from a woman. I am in awe!

"May I be of further assistance. Perhaps I could offer you a ride home in my car."

"That would be very gallant of you, and I would certainly appreciate it. I have my own car, but I am really too keyed up to drive safely for a while. I live in Grosse Pointe; is that too far out of your way?"

"Absolutely not! I live in Grosse Pointe, too, so it would be no problem to drive you there. By the way, my name is Karl Steele."

"I'm pleased to meet you, Karl. My name is Helen Gardner. Shall we be on our way?"

Over the years, Helen and Karl became very close friends and, eventually, fell in love. They were constant companions when not compelled by circumstances to be separated. Helen went to a "finishing school" designed to turn her into a lady of the highest society; Karl went to the University to learn all he could of the technicalities of business. In both cases, they made their parents very proud of them and graduated at the head of their classes. They were married and took up residence in a mansion of their own in Grosse Pointe.

They had the usual number of servants, hosted and attended the usual number of parties, and supported the usual number of charities. Karl's father owned a significant portion of one of the major automobile companies and decided to retire, and to tour the world before he and his wife got too old to enjoy the experience. He sold out for, as he liked to say, "more money than God, and possibly more money than the pope."

Karl's parents were in Switzerland at a ski resort when there was a major avalanche which wiped out the resort, the associated town, and most of the adjacent country side. Of course, Karl was devastated. He went through the period of mourning, but couldn't shake the feeling of sadness and general melancholia which settled over him. Helen did her best to shake him out of his funk, but nothing seemed to work until she was able to get him to return to his study of martial arts.

Even though he loved martial arts, he couldn't seem to stick with it unless Helen was there with him. To her amazement, she found that she, too, was mesmerized with martial arts and couldn't get enough. This filled the void left when she had given up ballet, because it stretched her body to its physical limits while taxing her mind and spirit at the same time. Thus, Karl and Helen began to spar with each other, each driving the other to push their limits higher and higher. They never competed in public contests, though, since this was not something done by people in their social class, but it was not long before they had pushed themselves to be among the top experts in karate and the use of many of the associated weapons, particularly, the nun-chuck.

Prohibition had been enacted and had become the bane of the country. City after city, town after town, and neighborhood after neighborhood was afflicted by the curse of illegal alcohol corrupting the people and the government. Karl and Helen were appalled by what had happened, but didn't know what they could do to alleviate the situation. Everything they tried to do was an abject failure. The social pressure to go along with the corruption was well neigh impossible to combat. What could they do? Then the impossible happened!

Helen's parents were shopping at a major department store in downtown Detroit for Christmas gifts when they were caught in the crossfire between two rival gangs trying to monopolize the city's liquor sales. They were chopped to pieces by the Thompson submachine gun and BAR bullets that were fired indiscriminately among the innocent bystanders by the two gangs of criminals as they tried to wipe each other out.

In a caricature of justice, none of the criminals were killed, but 37 innocent civilian Christmas shoppers were mowed down by the shooting spree. This time it was Helen's turn to be devastated by fate. Karl did everything he could to overcome her distress, but it turned out that the martial arts were the means to relieve her pain. Therefore, both of them labored harder and harder on their studies and training.

One evening after supper, they were talking about the latest atrocities committed by the criminal gangs and the inability or unwillingness of law enforcement to slow down the rampage, much less stop it. They wished that they could do something personally to stem the tide of lawlessness. This led to a long discussion lasting into the early morning hours about what they might do as vigilantes to combat the criminal element.

At first, it started out as a joke, as they discussed becoming masked avengers, similar to those in the fiction they had read as children. Then, as the discussion continued, they got more and more serious about the subject. Karl pointed out that they couldn't let other people know of their real identities, or many of their relatives and friends might be harmed. Helen said that was easy to solve, they only had to wear outlandish costumes and to assume false names to hide their identity. She eventually suggested the name of Eagle for Karl and Hawk for herself.

This was turning into a great adventure as they prepared to assume the roles of Eagle and Hawk. They "vacationed" in Los Angeles where they had their costumes made, 3 copies each, by an expert in outfitting movie stars. The costumes were form fitting of a stretchy material, such that they were practically a second skin. Both were colored a matte black, so that they were nearly impossible to see in a low-light situation. Even the hands and feet were covered, and there was cowl which only exposed the face below the nose. The entire surface of the costume, except for the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, were covered with a semblance of feathers, which made it impossible to see the actual outline of the body.

The boots that were part of the costume were very supple, except for the sole, which was a very hard material to protect the feet and the toe, which was encased in a metal shell. Woe unto the malefactor who was kicked by this boot with all the force that Eagle or Hawk could put behind it.

The gloves were a unique design which gave complete freedom of movement to the fingers, yet, when the fist was clenched, a series of metal plates slipped into place to provide the effect of the "brass knuckles" of popular fiction. When the hand was open, these same metal plates would provide a backhanded slap with bone crushing impact.

A full suit of light chain mail was to be worn under the costume to provide protection against knives and such, but, of course, could not prevent the penetration of a bullet. Skill and agility would have to do that. Likewise, the chain mail could do nothing to prevent injury from clubs, since there was nothing to distribute the blow over a wide enough area; they would just have to be careful.

They realized that some means of transportation would have to be provided, so they went to Germany, England, and Italy to find the bits and pieces which were fitted together into a truly spectacular car which they dubbed "Black Widow." The body and windows were completely bullet proof, yet the engine was powerful enough to propel the car to 100 MPH!

A hidden port behind the grill covered three parallel .50 caliber machine guns, one armed with incendiary bullets, another with armor piercing bullets, and the third armed with hollow-point bullets interspersed with tracers. Each machine gun could be fired independently or they could be fired in any combination from the passenger seat beside the driver. The guns moved together, controlled by the passenger. There was a periscope aiming device, or the tracers could be use to guide the shooter. The recoil from all three guns firing at the same time caused a noticeable slowing of Black Widow, even running at full power.

Black Widow was fitted with a dispensing system for a smoke screen and an oil slick. There was a hopper at the rear which could drop calthrops (a small spiked device) which would puncture the tires of any pursuer. There were other offensive and defensive systems on board Black Widow, but these were thought to be the major ones.

It took seven months to gather all these items and others, but finally they were ready to start their campaign of terror among the criminal gangs of Detroit and environs. They decided to start small and build their way finally striking the seats of power; their first foray was to be against a delivery of "scotch" made from wood alcohol and water, colored with tincture of iodine.

One night, very early in their career as crime fighters, they had been skulking around in a disreputable part of Detroit when they chanced upon a gun battle between a single police officer and 5 assailants. It appeared that he had been driving down the street when he was fired upon by the thugs.

The policeman had not been injured, but his car had been disabled. He jumped out of the car and rolled under it for what protection he could get from the Tommy guns being fired at him. All he had was his service revolver and 12 rounds of ammunition, so he knew that he stood little chance of surviving this encounter. Nevertheless, he refused to give up hope and proceeded to defend himself as well as he could. He did manage to wound one of his assailants, but he was nearly out of ammunition by this time.

Suddenly two apparitions showed up and began to fight on his side. He held his fire for fear of hitting one of his allies by accident, and he watched in awe as they dispatched the thugs. The larger of the two rescuers jumped and landed with both feet on the shoulder blades of an attacker and drove his face into the concrete hard enough to knock him out. It wasn't known until later that the thugs back had also been broken by the impact.

Meanwhile, the smaller of the rescuers hit an assailant in the head with a jointed stick and cracked his skull. This person then kicked another thug in the breast bone hard enough to cave in his chest. Meanwhile, the first rescuer backhanded the last mobile crook in the face hard enough to smear his nose nearly to his left ear.

The two rescuers held up their empty hands, palms out, and walked slowly to the car where the policeman was forted up under his disabled car. They really looked weird! They were wearing costumes that suggested birds, but in no way restricted their movements. He couldn't see enough of their faces to identify them, but he could see that the larger one was a man and that the smaller one was a woman.

They introduced themselves as Eagle and Hawk and asked if he was injured. They talked for a while and explained their odd costumes as disguises, since they thought that they could be more effective if they could score some psychological points against the crooks.

Eagle and Hawk had advanced their crime fighting careers a giant leap: they had made friends with that rarest of finds--an honest sergeant on the vice squad of the Detroit police. The contact paid off very soon; he tipped them to a liquor run being made on a back road to the north of the city.

They were in position in Black Widow on a lonely stretch of road well before the convoy of booze was due. They had a description of the trucks, so they would not make a mistake and attack the wrong ones. The convoy consisted of 4 trucks, all emblazoned with the logo for "Windsor Bottled Water, Ltd." The trucks were painted gray with the logo in bright yellow, so they would be easy to spot.

Their intent for this raid was for it to be a simple "find and destroy" mission, so they were only going to destroy the trucks. It was quite possible that the drivers had no idea that they were hauling anything but drinking water for water coolers in offices and factories.

Black Widow was parked at a curve in the road, facing the oncoming traffic. They expected to see all of the trucks at once, so they planned to shoot incendiary bullets into the packed booze and let the booze, itself, do the rest. Hawk was manning the machine guns, so she was intent on doing a good job.

Hawk let all four trucks come into view before shooting. She popped the last truck in line to keep the trucks from escaping in that direction. It burst into flame with the first four rounds, so she quit shooting at that truck and quickly switched back to the first truck in line.

The driver didn't know that anything unusual had happened until he was hit by the incendiary bullets. A 3-shot burst was sufficient to light the cargo and frighten the driver nearly out of his wits. He bailed out of the truck and ran off into the woods. Hawk proceeded to put 3-shot bursts of incendiaries into the remaining two trucks with comparable results.

None of the drivers were injured in the raid, so Eagle and Hawk were satisfied that they could chalk this raid up as 100% successful. This raid had to be credited for it to have its maximum psychological effect, so Eagle drove to the front of each burned-out truck hulk, and Hawk leaned a large placard with a logo of an eagle and a hawk silhouetted in black on a white background against the front of each vehicle. Then they drove home to await results.

Their escapade made the next day's newspapers, but there was no mention of illegal booze anywhere in the article. The Steeles expected this, so they weren't disappointed, but there was not any mention of the Eagle and Hawk logo. Now that was disappointing! They had hoped for some publicity for their new names, but somebody had decided to suppress that bit of information. Oh, well, there was always a next time!

Karl had detected some instability in the stock and bond market, so he had liquidated their assets and "retired" to the life of a carefree socialite. His public activities centered around several charitable organizations he ran and Helen did the same with some of her own charitable groups. They both were still active in the country club set, so their friends and the general public had no inkling of their other persona. As much as possible, they both converted to a nocturnal life cycle, so that they slept during the day and fought crime at night.

Sergeant David Alexander had no idea who it was he was working with, but he trusted them, so he kept feeding them whatever information he had. The next tip to reach Eagle and Hawk was a report of a speakeasy that specialized in serving teens. Eagle and Hawk vowed to shut it down immediately, but there was a small problem.

They had to hit the speakeasy when it was not occupied; otherwise, they might injure the very ones they were trying to save. The speakeasy operated from 9:00 PM to 4:00 AM, so they only had a narrow window of time to strike. They wanted to get in after the joint closed, but before daylight. They weren't concerned about hurting the workers this time, since they had to know what they were doing.

Eagle and Hawk parked Black Widow in the alley behind the "Lucky Swinger," and broke in a window to the cellar. They crawled in and looked around. The extra liquor was stored in a section of the cellar fenced off by heavy wire and a locked gate. They cut the lock away with a bolt-cutter and dispersed some small explosive devices around among the crates of booze. They weren't trying to burn the building down, just destroy the liquor. They left the fuse unlit; they would light it on their way out.

The stairs led to a small kitchen where small snacks could be prepared. This was also a great source of income for the Luck Swinger, because teens wanted to eat all the time, at least the boys. They found four workers doing a minimum clean up after the evening's business. These employees were overpowered, tied and gagged, and dragged into the alley. They were propped against the wall of the opposite building and left to be discovered in the morning.

Reentering the building, Eagle and Hawk went into the main part of the speakeasy and interrupted the cleanup crew at their work. One woman screamed at the sight of the invaders, and this attracted the attention of a guard. He pulled a gun and started shooting. The fool was not a very good guard, nor was he a very good shot. He was using a revolver with a stubby barrel, so it was less accurate than the average sling shot. He looked rather stupid after he had fired 6 shots and not hit anything except the ceiling twice, the floor once, and the walls three times.

He threw his pistol at Hawk, who was closer to him, and turned to run. He hadn't taken two steps before he was caught by a grappling hook tied to a rope which had been thrown by Eagle. Hawk had taken exception to his shooting, so she severely beat the man before Eagle stopped her, and they bound the five people they had encountered. After dragging these people outside, Eagle and Hawk searched the office for what they might find.

They found several ledgers and a large sum of money. They hauled the books and money out to Black Widow and returned to trash the place. They didn't want to start a fire, because they didn't want to harm the innocent neighbors, but they had no compunction about setting off small explosive charges to destroy as much of the equipment as possible. While Eagle was finishing up in the office, Hawk detoured downstairs to demolish the liquor supply.

Before they left, they liberally scattered their Eagle and Hawk calling cards around and made sure to leave one with each of the bound workers in the alley.

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Story tagged with:
Historical / Humor / Violent /