Penthouse Legend

New York – Transient Hotel

The faceless, the nameless and the forgotten inhabit the square box rooms. Paint peels and flecks off the water stained walls. A constant din of moans and cries shatter the silence throughout the night.

In room 116, an old man struggles for breath. He was someone once, but now he's reduced to this. He's just a shell. His body has turned against him. The cough rips through him, threatening to tear him apart.

There's a knock at his door, but he doesn't have the strength to answer. The door opens and a shrouded figured enters. The old man struggles to sit up. Just this simple exertion causes him to sweat. He looks at the shrouded figure through hollow sunken eyes.

"Did you bring it," he asks. His voice is thin and reedy, barely above a whisper. The figure nods and holds up a case. The old man briefly smiles, then bows head and slowly nods.

"It will happen tomorrow night, just as you asked."

The shrouded figure sets the case down on the only table in the room and leaves. The old man sits there for several minutes just staring at the case. Finally he reaches for his cane and struggles to stand. His steps are unsteady as he shuffles over to the table. His dry, cracked, boney fingers reverently stroke the case and a smile once more spreads across his aged lips.

New York – The Courtroom

The packed gallery is buzzing with anticipation. Reporters take their seats, while news crews go live with updates. At one table is District Attorney Flint, along with his three aids. His well-tailored suit speaks of success and power. His tanned, even features play well on camera with the voters. In his middle forties, there is talk of higher offices in his future. Part of his popularity is his unusual practice of trying cases himself. They are always the most high profile cases, but it sends the message to the voters that he's not afraid of roll up his sleeves and do the dirty work.

At the other table are Defense Attorney Moor and his client. Attorney Moor is from the public defenders office. He's been assigned this case. He's a small man in a plain black suit. He has a world weary look about him like someone that has seen their dreams slip away. The sweat shines off his balding head. He nervously watches his client, even though the older man completely ignores him. The client wears what appears to be a brand new suit that hangs off his skin and bones frame. He insolently looks around the court, but says nothing.

The bailiff stands and a hush goes over the crowd.

"All rise!"

Everyone in the courtroom stands as the judge enters the room.

"Superior court no. 27 of the State of New York. The Honorable Judge James T. Gable presiding."

The judge sits down and the crowd immediately does too. The air is electric, everyone has been waiting for this moment. The judge looks down at the papers in front of him and then at the district attorney and the defense.

"The People of New York versus …. Dr. Macabre," The judge reads and then looks over at attorney Moor. "Is this a joke, Mr. Moor? If it is, this court is not amused.'

Moor quickly stands and looks nervously at the judge.

"That-That's my client's name, Your Honor. He had it official changes fifty years ago," Moor explains.

"Damn unusually," the judge mutters. "All right, if that's his name. The People of New York versus Dr. Macabre. Are both parties ready?"

"We are your honor,' district attorney Flint replies.

"Yes, your honor," Attorney Moor says. The judge nods in acceptance and turns to address you, the reader.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, you are the jury in this case. I instruct you to listen to the testimony carefully and pronounce your judgment to the best of your ability and integrity. You are to determine if the defendant is Guilty or Not Guilty and his fate rests in your hands. The district attorney may now proceed."

Flint slowly rose from his chair, buttoning his jacket and moved towards the jury. He flashed a brief smile and then seemed to consider his words carefully.

"Your Honor. Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury on the night of December 22nd, while most of us were enjoying the Christmas spirit, a desperate struggle between life and death was happening fifty floors above the city. The body of a man came crashing down through space and landed at the foot of the Rand apartment tower. The man's name was David Merryweather. The name might not mean anything to you now, but Mr. Merryweather was a hero. In another life he was known as Cat-Man. In that alter ego, he served this country in World War 2 and beyond. He was there to fight the criminal masterminds, both big and small, that tried to grab power for themselves. His whole life was dedicated to freedom. In the early days he fought with his sidekick and loyal friend, Miss Katie Conn, who was known as Kitten."

Flint turns and points to an attractive older woman sitting in the front row.

"They were symbols of what was right about this country. Even after Miss Conn stepped away from crime fighting, Mr. Merryweather continued. The costume heroes we all have come to rely on today owe a debt to Mr. Merryweather. So do we all.'

District attorney Flint turns away from the jury and walks back towards the center of the courtroom. He stops right in front of Dr. Macabre.

"Don't let his appearance fool you," Flint says. He points a finger at Macabre. "One of those criminals that Cat-Man stopped time and time again was none other than Dr. Macabre. This man was Cat-Man's archenemy. He tried to kill him and countless others over the years. It was only through his constant vigilance that Cat-Man, Mr. Merryweather finally triumphed and put this man away for twenty years."

Flint looks in disgust at Macabre, but he insolently returns the look. Flint shakes his head and moves over the railing in front of the jury.

"Yes, David Merryweather was a hero, ladies and gentlemen. He defended this country until age and injuries finally caught up with him, as they do us all. He finally took his well-earned retirement. Even at his advanced age, he still had a zest for life. He finally took a wife, Mrs. Lisa Merryweather."

Flint turns and points out the young widow dressed in black in the front row. Lisa Merryweather is twenty-eight, almost sixty years younger than her husband. She is a strikingly beautiful, with long blonde hair and a slender, eye catching figure. She has tears in her eyes, as she looks over at the jury.

"David Merryweather thought he'd found peace and happiness at last. A beautiful young wife, money and time, things were good for David. The recent revival of interest in the Golden Age heroes gave him a new career. Through appearances, conventions and card shows, he made a sizable income. There was even talk of a movie of his life. Alas, all that ended December 22nd. It seemed David's past caught up with him."

Flint's face shows his sadness, as if it is difficult for him to tell the next part. Taking a deep breath, he turns his gaze back to the jury.

"The evidence will show on the night of December 22nd, while Mr. Merryweather was spending the evening catching up with his former partner, Miss Conn, that man sitting right there, Dr. Macabre knowingly and viciously attacked them both. He was determined to kill, ladies and gentlemen. David Merryweather was a hero to the end. He saved an unconscious Miss Conn from certain death, but in the process, Dr. Macabre performed his final evil act. He pushed David off the balcony of his penthouse apartment and to his death far belong."

Flint turned and pointed at Macabre.

"That man murdered a hero, ladies and gentlemen and it's your duty to see that he's punished."

Flint took one long last long at the jury and slowly walked back to his seat.

"Is the defense ready with its opening statement," the judge asks.

Defense attorney Moor nods and stands up. He adjusts his wrinkled suit coat and picks up a legal pad before walking over to the jury. He puts his hand to his chin as he reads something from the pad and nods.

'The defense agrees with some of what the District attorney said in his opening statement, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. It was December 22nd and David Merryweather did die from falling off his penthouse balcony, but other than that, we respectfully disagree."

Moor looks at the jury for the first time. Another thought seems to occur to him.

"Oh, and yes, David Merryweather was a hero from the Golden Age."

Moor begins to pace back and forth glancing at his notes.

"As far as the evidence goes, well, that is still to be decided. There was no confession, ladies and gentlemen. In fact, my client, Dr. Macabre hasn't spoken a word to anyone including me about that night. It makes you wonder, doesn't it? If he were really the archenemy of Mr. Merryweather, wouldn't he be proclaiming his triumph? After all, he'd won after all these years, yet not a word."

Moor turns and looks at the jury.

"The district attorney failed to mention there is no physical evidence that my client pushed David Merryweather over the railing. The only witness, Miss Conn was unconscious when it happened. The district attorney wants this to be a simple morality play, good versus evil, hero versus villain, but we all know life isn't that simple."

Moor stops and looks over at his client. Dr. Macabre wasn't even paying attention. Moor sighs and turns back to the jury.

'I'll let you in on a little secret, I don't like my client," Moor said. "It's easy not to like him. He's a villain, right? It seems so natural and reasonable that he did it. We're all thinking it. There's just one thing, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, in our system you have to prove it. That's one of those rights heroes fight for. You don't hear it mentioned much, what with terrorists, Super villains, alien invasions and all the rest of the threats out there. Innocent until proven guilty, it doesn't sound as sexy as battling the Joker, but it's more important. It protects you and me, even people like Dr. Macabre, from the rush to judgment. The state has to prove Dr. Macabre killed David Merryweather beyond a reasonable doubt."

Moor walks over and puts his note pad down. He turns around, his hands in his pockets and walks back over to the jury.

"David Merryweather died on December 22nd,' Moor solemnly says. "Who, if any, are responsible is what this trial's about. I only ask that you keep an open mind as you listen to the evidence. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen."

Moor takes one long last look at the jury and then walks back to his seat.

"We'll take a thirty minute recess and then the prosecution will call its first witness," the judge says. He bangs his gavel and court is adjourned.