Title: The Marvels of SHAZAM!: Mystery of Zombie Island
Category: Comics » Captain Marvel/Shazam
Author: Cyn Finnegan
Language: English, Rating: Rated: T
Published: 06-05-04, Updated: 06-05-04
Chapters: 1, Words: 2,149
Chapter 1: Bad News Comes In Small Packages
Marvels of Shazam & related characters © 2003, DC Comics, Inc. Used without permission and not for profit.
Warning: there are some violent scenes and graphic depictions of Black Magick and the shambling dead that are not for the easily grossed out. Rated 14. Reader discretion is advised.
Chapter One: Bad News Comes in Small Packages...
Sterling Morris, owner of WHIZ-7, knew that the letter he held in his hand was bad news before he ever opened the envelope. First off, it was from a probate lawyer. Secondly, it was unusually thick. Third, it bore the postmark of the town in Louisiana where his cousin, Alexander, was last seen alive.
He'd held the envelope for close to an hour after his secretary handed it to him, wondering why in Heaven's name it was sent to the station instead of to his suburban home, and debating whether or not he should even open it. Finally, after several more minutes of internal debate, he picked up his letter opener, sliced the thing open and removed the contents, which included a pair of house keys.
Slowly, he unfolded the thick packet of papers and began to read the note attached to them.
My name is Robert Dupree. I regret to inform you that your cousin, Alexander Morris, passed away last week. He died peacefully in his sleep from a long illness, and his funeral mass was held on Sunday afternoon.
The reason I'm writing is because he made out a new will just before his demise, naming you as heir to his estate, Zander Island. He and I were not just lawyer and client, but friends, and I felt you should hear this from me rather than the Parish Sheriff, because in spite of the autopsy results, some folks here believe your cousin was murdered.
Although he spoke of you often, it was I who suggested to him that he leave the island to you, since you were his only family. I've enclosed a copy of his will and the key to his home with this note, and I hope to see you on Zander Island very soon.
Robert L. Dupree, Esq.
"'Zander Island', eh, Alex? One last little joke at your own expense?" Morris said to himself, picking up the keys. He was becoming suspicious of the whole deal, especially the "you were his only family" line. How could Alex have forgotten his own second-cousin, Darryl, Sterling's nephew?
That moment, Morris heard the happy-sounding chatter of three young voices just outside his office door. The voices belonged to his star reporter, Billy Batson, Billy's twin sister, Mary, and their friend, Freddy Freeman.
"Billy, could the three of you come in here for a few minutes?" the station head asked.
"Okay, Mr. Morris," the boy reporter replied. Mary and Freddy both gave Billy a quizzical look, wondering what was going on, and all Billy could do was shrug in response.
Noticing that Mr. Morris was perturbed about something, the trio walked into Morris' executive suite and made themselves comfortable on the sofa. Whatever was on his mind, they were about to find out.
"Kids," he started dourly, "I've just found out that my cousin, Alexander, passed away last week, and he left me his home in Louisiana... near a small town called La Belle Bayou..."
Billy, Mary and Freddy all had looks of shock and concern on their young faces as they gave Morris their condolences. After he thanked them, he went ahead and made his request.
"There's something wrong with all of this. I want to look into Alex's death, and I want to take the three of you along with me in case there's trouble. Since you're all on break, this trip won't interfere with your classes."
"But what about my newsstand, sir? And Mary's foster parents?" Freddy asked.
"I'll call the Bromfields and let them know about this trip, and I'm sure I can persuade your distributors to put a hold on your deliveries until we get back.
"Now Billy, I want you on this case because you're my best investigator. I need you to dig up any information you can on Alex's lawyer, Robert Dupree. Something about this just doesn't feel right..."
"Okay, we're game," Billy answered for all of them. The kids knew that, in his present state, there would be no talking Mr. Morris out of this.
"Thank you. I'll have my driver take the three of you home so you can pack, and meet you at the airport in an hour and a half."
Knowing a dismissal when they heard it, Billy, Mary and Freddy left Mr. Morris' office and headed for the elevator. After the doors closed and the car descended to the parking garage, they started talking again.
"I feel bad for Mr. Morris," Mary said softly.
"Me, too," Freddy added. "I'm glad we're going to help him out with this."
"There's definitely something screwy about all this," Billy replied, "and if it's as bad as Mr. Morris thinks it is, he's going to need the kind of help only we can give him."
Several hours later, Morris and the kids were in La Belle Bayou trying to secure transportation to Zander Island, only to be turned down by the only water-taxi service in town. They had landed in New Orleans, where Mr. Morris rented a car, and drove the rest of the way to La Belle Parish
The owner of the service warned them that the island was a dangerous place, but Morris was undeterred. He tried explaining to the man that he had to find out how his cousin died, but his words fell on deaf ears.
Billy, Mary and Freddy noticed several people around them giving what could only be called warding signs, especially when they heard where Mr. Morris and the kids were going, and even overheard some of the townsfolk calling the late Alexander Morris' estate "Zombie Island", claiming that strange, evil rituals had been going on there for nearly 300 years.
It was getting late, and Mr. Morris had almost resigned himself to the fact that they would have to find a hotel and wait until morning before they could get out to his cousin's estate. The owner of the water-taxi service recommended a "nice" bed and breakfast just down the street, but before they could leave, he and the kids were confronted by a tall, thin, soft-spoken man in a white suit.
"Hello, sir," the soft-spoken man drawled, holding his hand out in a friendly manner. "You're Sterling Morris, aren't you?"
"Who...?!" Morris asked, alarmed at the stranger's sudden appearance.
"I'm sorry, where are my manners? I'm Robert Dupree, your late cousin's lawyer. I've been expecting you for the past couple of days."
Mr. Morris heaved a sigh of relief. Finally, a friendly face! He took the lawyer's hand and shook it vigorously.
"Excuse my rudeness, Mr. Dupree, but we didn't exactly receive a friendly reception here."
"Quite understandable, sir," Dupree said with a slight chuckle. "Folks 'round these parts aren't exactly known for their Southern hospitality. They're very superstitious."
"So that's what up with all the warding signs," Freddy whispered to Mary.
"Yeah," Mary replied, "but look at these folks! They aren't "superstitious"; they're scared of whatever's on that island."
"Now, these enchanting young people are...?"
"This is my star reporter, Billy Batson. The young lady is Billy's twin sister, Mary, and this young man is their friend, Freddy Freeman."
Billy visibly winced at the words "young people". He didn't know why, but those words sounded almost like an insult coming from the attorney. However, the boy reporter overcame his unease and shook Dupree's proffered hand.
"Hello," he finally said, then thought, I can't put my finger on it, but there's something fishy about this guy, and it's not just his handshake.
I'll tell Mr. Morris about it later. Meanwhile, we're going to have to watch our backs around him.
Dupree went on to welcome Mary and Freddy, giving the back of girl's hand a peck, greeting her with an "enchante, Ma'amselle".
"So," Dupree said, interrupting Billy's thoughts, "were you headed for Zander Island?"
"We tried to hire the water-taxi service," Mary chimed in, "but he refused to go anywhere near the place."
"Well, I have a swamp boat. I could take you there myself, if you'd like."
What a phony putz, Freddy thought, finding Dupree's solicitude just as annoying as Billy did. He quickly hid his feelings and said, "That would be great, sir. Thank you."
A few minutes later, Mr. Morris, the kids and their bags were cruising towards the island on Dupree's swamp boat, a watercraft with a huge wind machine attached to it. The giant fan pulled at everyone's clothes and hair back, but they were making good headway and would arrive at their destination in a few more minutes.
The closer they came to the island, the better the view they got, but it was nothing like they expected. The place looked like it hadn't been lived in for years, rather than the few weeks Dupree claimed Alex Morris was in the hospital for.
Instead of neatly-clipped lawns, beautiful landscaping and an immaculately whitewashed home, there were waist-high weeds choking out what had once been a lovely rose garden and a run-down hulk of a home with broken windows and the shutters knocked off their hinges.
Dupree moored the swamp boat at the island rickety-looking pier and, starting with Mary, helped his passengers disembark. After that, the lawyer handed them their bags, including the groceries Mr. Morris thought to buy then departed quickly, using the old "my wife has dinner waiting" excuse.
"Whoever named this place "the Beautiful Swamp" 300 years ago needed to have their head examined," Billy grumbled as they headed for the house.
"You said it, Billy," Freddy replied with a strange look on his almost pretty face. "The whole place smells like something... or someone... died."
"It is pretty creepy-looking out here," Mary commented, goose bumps spreading up her arms as she hefted her weekender. "Darn, I wish I'd left my jacket out! It's starting to get chilly out here!"
"We'll be inside soon enough, kids," Mr. Morris said tactfully, then shepherded the three youngsters up the path.
When they reached the door, Morris fumbled for the keys that Dupree sent him and put the one marked "front" into the lock. The deadbolt protested with a loud squeal, as if they hadn't been oiled in ages, but Morris' perseverance paid off and the bolt unlocked, but the door was another matter entirely.
The front door was swollen shut from the high humidity of the swamp. It took Morris and the kids working in unison to force it open, and they found, to their dismay, that the interior was worse that the exterior. Dust and cobwebs seemed to cover every surface. The dust was so thick, it caused everyone to sneeze and choke.
Not really hungry and weary from travelling, they decided to forego dinner in favor of sleep, determined to make an early start of it.
Later that night, while everyone else slept, the sounds of a window breaking and a door being forced open woke Mary Batson up. Thinking it might be a burglar, she grabbed the flashlight from the nightstand and turned it on.
The strong beam shone in near-total darkness, blinding her for a few precious seconds. She swung it from right to left, trying to spot the burglar so she could say the old wizard's name and catch them red-handed. Finally, someone was caught in the pool of light and Mary shrieked at the gruesome sight of the things that broke into her room.
Can our young heroine escape these undead monsters, say her magic word and change into her other self? Or will the evil forces that have targeted them win? Find out in Chapter Two... Death Stalks the Bayou!