Chapter 9: Moving From The Day of Rest to Monday
Earlier this Sunday evening, Iron Man had not answered Captain America's assemble-signal. He had left his Avengers Monitor in his bedroom. That was a very human error that resulted from hastening. The hurrying, in turn, was due to a very human alarm over a faithful friend and employee. As soon he heard about Harold "Happy" Hogan's one-sided encounter with a departing employee from Stark's Science Development Division, he ran out of his Suffolk County waterfront mansion. Stark jumped into his car and zoomed to Mather Memorial Hospital, in Port Jefferson.
It would be for less than an hour, he thought when he reached the hospital driveway and remembered that he had left the communicator behind. What harm would it do? Besides, there were four other capable members of the group who would be there to solve any problems.
Tony Stark had wealth-a-plenty. He had a sapphire-blue, customized 1965 Shelby Cobra Daytona sports car since March. And as of this date, June 21, 1964, it still wouldn't be available to luxury car dealers for another 3 months. He had invitations to every high society party for years. What he didn't have was the patience to go a second time around the small Mather Hospital parking lot to find a parking spot.
Tony turned off the ignition of his "muscle" car in front of the main entrance of the hospital. His vehicle stretched across the top of the painted letters "NO PARKING." A janitor for the hospital had finished his work tour and was heading home when he recognized the tycoon. He offered his assistance to the multi-millionaire. Having little interest in anything else but his pal, Stark flipped him the keys and said, "I hope you're good at babysitting."
Minutes ago, Happy had finished undergoing x-rays for possible skull damage. He was being wheeled to his room when Tony caught up with him in the hallway. Staying to chit-chat, Tony appeared upbeat in front of his trusted chauffer.
When he finally prepared his goodnight, Tony wanted to add a lighthearted dig.
"This is the second time in almost two months that you ended up here, at Mather. If you want a vacation, just say so, big fella."
"Like I said, I'm okay, boss. Just a knot on my head. In my ring years, that was sort of a crown of achievement saying that I survived the fight. Listen, I can get out of here and drive you—"
"Whoa, pal. No, you don't. You stay here for the night, get your x-ray results, and rest. Tomorrow, if there are no after-effects from your head wound, you can come out. Then I want to send you and your empty skull on a five-day vacation to the place of your choice. I'll pick up the tab."
"Don't need it, really."
"I'm still in charge, Hap. What I say goes, understand?" Tony winked and left the room.
Walking down the hallway, his cheery demeanor melted away to reveal a grim face. People in the elevator and corridors sneaked a side-eye admiration at the strong, confident strider who hid nearly a bottle of bourbon inside of his system. Some thought that his face looked familiar; others recognized him as the world's most enviable man. But all-in-all, only Tony Stark could pull off a quick clothing assemblage and still look great.
The local police lieutenant joined Tony as he walked out of the front door.
The officer took a deep breath and nervously addressed the man whose considerable financial influence could move a Town Council to fire cops.
"We contacted the Hauppauge Police, sir. They went to Herman Schultz' rented home and they found nothing but the furniture that the landlord had provided for him. He and his stuff are gone."
"As I suspected," Tony said as he approached his sleek Shelby Cobra that gave off a magnificent shine under an overhead driveway light. Tony smiled at the off-duty hospital worker who volunteered to look after his expensive toy.
Turning back to the police officer, Tony said, "Thank you for your efforts, Lieutenant. Since Mr. Shultz took a weapon that was supposed to be sold to the government, he has stolen a highly sensitive National Defense property. Obviously, the Federal Government has enlisted the FBI to look into this; so any info that you can contribute to the Feds would be appreciated. …. Good night, sir."
The sports car's door closed and Tony took out of his wallet the first two bills that his fingers could pinch. He snuck a bill of twenty and another of ten into the guardian's hand within a handshake.
Driving away, Tony smirked. Besides the FBI, Iron Man was going to get involved. And when the legendary hero gets his hands on the coward who turned that weapon on Happy …
At the 59th Street Bridge, Captain America stepped back from the Wasp. He followed the Wasp's stare, only to find no one. Perhaps she wasn't looking at anyone— she was just remembering "Hank." He didn't know who Hank was, but he'd bet his life that it was his Avenger buddy, Giant-Man. Funny how that sounded: he bet his life. For all he knew, if Giant-Man got a hold of him right then, there would've been nothing for him to bet.
Whistles and cheers came from a small number of the newly arriving cops who leaped out of four vans. These noise-makers appeared not to have fully processed the damages and deaths.
"Allll right, Cap," one cheered. Another said, "You two go. I can let you have my apartment for the night, you know."
Jan hid her face in her hands and then disappeared. She flew as fast as she could away from the scene.
"It's not like that guys," Cap said. "Come, on. There were so many emotions going through her. She was upset and relieved and confused, at the same time."
"Yeah," one cop shouted. "Upset that you two didn't do it, relived that you didn't push her away and confused that—"
"Shut up! That's enough. I mean it. You have dead police officers on this bridge and B.S. is all you can think about? Good God, aren't you ashamed that you've lost all decency?!"
The men were suddenly embarrassed into a solemn frame of mind. Those who were the first responders were grateful for Cap's words. One who had no need of Captain America's reprimand was the young, lone figure who hung high up on a vertical supporting cable from his feet. His ankle to his knee was horizontal. He sat on that portion of his leg to keep the rest of him upright. This youth was trying to sort it all out.
There was the unnecessary slaughter, the desperation, the victory, and now the apparent betrayal. Perhaps in the time it took for four quick, repetitive eye blinks, the thing happened: Giant-man appeared, saw the Wasp and Cap, and then vanished. … That couldn't be good.
Peter remembered months ago sitting with Aunt May in front of the TV after the Avengers stopped the Lava Men invasion. Captain America, Giant-Man and The Wasp were sitting with Tony Stark during a live press conference. While Cap and the normal-sized Giant-man were answering the majority of questions, the camera occasionally caught something off to the side. Aunt May remarked that the Avengers' financier and the Wasp were having inappropriate moments with themselves during a serious session.
Peter also felt uneasy when he spotted the two leaning into each other and giggling. Aunt May was especially irked when the faces of Stark and the Wasp were inches away from each other and she put her index finger on Stark's lips. If she honestly wanted him to stop saying something, it didn't look like it— she was wrinkling her nose and grinning widely.
Spider-man sadly shook his head as he shot a line towards one of the bridge's supporting towers. He said to himself, "The Wasp was Giant-man's girl— everybody knew that. Well, maybe she was everybody's girl, and the big guy had better know that."
From Giant-man's reaction to the two affectionate Avengers, he was either a spineless enabler or an unsuspecting fool who was caught blindsided and retreated out of embarrassment.
As the youth cleared the bridge on the Queens side, he ignored the cheers from the folks below him. Peter Parker was lost in thought. He considered how he would feel if he found Betty with someone else.
Devastated, humiliated, below worthless, dehumanized were only a few of the feelings that he could describe. Then it dawned on him. He always thought himself victimized by Betty's dumb jealous reaction to Liz Allen. Right then and there, Peter understood her insecurity, her fear. His self-view was turned around to look at it from Betty's eyes.
Part of him said that he should wait until morning. Betty had a hard day. After she had a restful sleep, then Peter would re-affirm to Betty that she was the only romantic love in his life. Another side said, no— tell her tonight. The girl I love shouldn't spend another night burdened with doubts.
The inner battle continued in Peter's head for several blocks during his travel. Then a victor arose. The burst of speed in which he moved gave evidence as to which sentiment won.
Jan circled the Kurtzberg penthouse an innumerable amount of time. Part of her wanted to talk to Hank, to beg for his forgiveness. That was the brave part. Jan's cowardly half didn't want to go in there.
What would she say to Hank? Was this the end of them? Had she given Hank's sister, Erica, the ammunition to finally shoot down their relationship? He won't love her now, will he? Oh, why the f- - k did she attempt such a stupid, brain-dead, selfish, a- -hole thing, to begin with?
She said to herself, "Henry is a good man, a great catch. Millions of girls would stampede over my body for a chance to be his lover. One of them currently sleeps on the same floor where his bedroom is.
"I can't believe what I did. I'm such a stupid, stupid, stupid…."
If that hungry hawk that had chased her hours earlier appeared now, maybe Jan wouldn't even put up a fight.
She landed on the roof of the penthouse and sat down at the edge. That spot offered a great view of the city, but it didn't interest her one iota. She covered her face and sobbed loudly. She had no problem thinking about Henry when she needed help. But when it came to surrendering to animal lust, she wailed, "This wonderful man wasn't even in my thoughts."
"How could I hurt him this way? I had a great thing going with a magnificent, forgiving man. How could I stupidly step on— no, spit on the many chances he gave me? How could I just throw it all away? What's wrong with me? What the f- -k's wrong with me?"
Backtracking in time, when Spider-man began dodging Stilt-man's missiles in New York, in Washington, D. C., Erica Pym Collingsworth had her face and chest rammed against the side of a building.
"Don't move and you won't get hurt," a young male voice said.
After the initial fright and the self-reprimand for being careless, Erica began to think back to the family motto: solve this. Now Erica was exceptionally strong, and at 5 foot, 11inches, she was tall for a woman. Depending on the hood's age, she could attempt to out-muscle him. But there was the question as to the type of the weapon that he held and that prompted his confidence to rob her? Was it a gun?
Only one forearm was pressing against her. So there HAD to be a weapon in that other hand, she figured. Judging from his voice he should be in his early to mid-teens and a novice at this. That was a calculation that could be wrong because criminals could start arming themselves as young as eight, but it was all she could go by right now.
Erica's eyes looked down at the rustling noise. A slim dark hand was going through her pocket book even as the straps were still around her shoulder. A second voice hurried him. Two against one, she reasoned… She hoped. Finding nothing but an ID and unsellable items, the first thug ripped the bag off of her and threw it on the ground. He cursed her for not having money like any other white person would have. He demanded that Erica surrender, if she knew what was good for her.
The two hoods began to go through her spring coat. One of them was sure to find her money in the inner lining.
But that wasn't the big problem. Being a Pentagon official had one particular item-carrying privilege that she surely didn't want them to take away.
"Okay, okay," she said with an alarm that wasn't too far from the truth. 'I'll give you my watch and my money, just please give me room."
When the young thugs took a few steps back, she saw a cheap gun in one perpetrator's hand— at close range, it was still accurate. She visually measured the height of both thugs' heads and the distance between them. She took off her watch and then reached into her spring coat. The criminals' eyes were centered on the watch that she was extending to them with her left hand. That was all she needed.
Side-stepping the aim of the cheap gun, Erica whipped her own semi-automatic 9mm Beretta M 1951 pistol out and up from her under-arm holster. The metal handle was sticking out past her pinky and palm giving it a brass knuckle effect.
The gun handle made contact with a "crack" sound and the gun-totting thug's face jerked back as he dropped the watch and his weapon.
True to her assumption, he wasn't experienced; the first rule of a seasoned slime-ball thug was never lose the gun. The young piece of crap had dropped it in favor of using both hands to stop the blood from springing out of his nose.
The quick, ballet-like movement brought her spinning around to the front of the second hood. The same flow of movement that cracked the first fellow's nose hammered the gun against the nose of the wide-eyed, frozen-to-the-spot partner. Typical for slime that attack a woman from behind, the two creeps screamed out in pain like wimps and fell to their knees.
Erica knew combat strategies— sophisticated and primitive. Attackers, especially cowardly ones, always have a look-out. In a split second, she found the third partner. An older crap-eater— about twenty-five— was running towards her. He started to reach for something strapped to the back of his belt.
With lightening speed, the gun nozzle flipped and Erica was pointing the gun barrel at the oncoming threat.
One quick shot to the knee sent the older attacker down. On his way down, the sewer rat's elbow went up and a small gun jumped out of his hand and into the air.
If it were a lighter movement, Mrs. Collingsworth would've tease that both the quick gun maneuver and the precision shot could be attributed to growing up a Roy Rogers-Dale Evans fan … oh, and many hours at the practice range.
Threat disposed. She wasn't going to hang around. Erica knew that Pentagon folks hated newspaper investigations into their employees. The sound of a gunshot was going to attract pedestrians and police. A police report— in itself mercilessly time-consuming— invited nosey press people. Anyway, right now life was looking too precious to waste time on any of that.
Erica kicked the first attacker's gun into a sewer drain— she didn't want to be shot in the back as she rushed away. The other gun that belonged to the older creep had slid under a car, and it was doubtful that any of the three scums knew that.
She picked up her purse and her watch. As she began to walk away, Erica saw lights being turned on from behind tenement windows. She also heard an army of footsteps coming her way. The noise was, most likely, a crowd of thrill-seekers. Neither the people at the windows nor the on-comers would have lifted a finger to help her, but they were sure anxious to come for the entertainment value.
She ran towards the approaching crowd shouting, "Someone, call the police. Those three guys were shooting at each other."
She had put her hands on her face during her act, leaving only her eyes and forehead exposed. It was supposed to appear like a reflex action of fear and astonishment— she hoped it was convincing. It was. No one saw, nor was anyone interested, in her facial features. The people just zipped by her after she added more fuel to their entertainment desire.
As Erica predicted, two foot patrolmen were racing towards the area where the gunshot rang out. Erica stepped in front of them repeating her act . She explained to the police that one of the guns used in the violence could be found under an old car; third car from the corner, to be exact.
She thought it was unwise not to over-explain. The officer should have known enoughnot to smear the fingerprints on the gun with their careless handling. As the police sped off, she continued her long walk back to the hospital.
That little adventure was nerve wrecking, but it ended well, she sighed. It took a while, but during her walk, Erica's heart returned to a calmer beat and she was able to focus on the pleasant near-future.
She thought that the Pentagon, no doubt, would give Barry and Erica a leave of absence after his stroke. They needed to get away, Erica decided. Hmm, the ever-busy other man in her life needed some time off also, if she knew him (which she did for all of his 26 years). When Barry could manage walking, Erica was going to take him and Henry somewhere. They weren't the lay-in-the-beach type, so…
Hey, the New York World's Fair! It was a change from Arlington, Virginia and Washington, D.C. And it solved Hank's problem of not liking airplane travel. The Fair was perfect. Yeah, they'll both probably make excuses not to go. But even when the two had teamed up, Erica always managed to get her way.
She looked at her watch as she came to the entrance of the hospital. She thought Nee had probably finished getting information from the scum who had tried to kill him. Unlike Erica, Henry looked like he had taken the incident in stride. Erica wanted to phone him and tell him of her idea, but decided against it. He was probably in his bed sleeping comfortably like a baby.
The borough of Brooklyn was situated on the southern part of the same land mass that hosted Queens. Just north of the forgotten Brooklyn Navel Yard, there was an undeveloped land where the river's wave slapped against the shore's cold, hard rocks. Because the lonely area saw no use, the only available lights came from the river reflections of the lights from Manhattan. It was an unlikely place for Dr. Henry Pym, but there he was.
Minutes before midnight, the two-inch Avenger sat on a rock. His knees were up to chin level. Hank's forearms were placed on top of his knees. His eyes hid themselves behind his forearms.
It was a good thing that he left the bridge quickly. His first impulse was to… he couldn't believe it … smash their heads together. That primitive compulsion was subdued under the thin ice of reason, but his heavy sorrow could not be restrained by an ocean-full of logic.
The dark, deserted riverside area could be home to rodents. Pity the stupid rat who thought that the Ant-man was an easy meal. At this point in time, Hank was a hair-width away from a rampage that would rival any of the Hulk's worst flare-ups.
Several times his head bounced hard on his forearms as if he was castigating himself. He asked, what had he done to deserve this betrayal? Why did she do it?
His mind was the second betrayer as his imagination dragged his thoughts where his normally rational mind refused to tread. Things that could not be proven as factual became real.
Visions of her gasping out pleasurable noises while riding on top of Steve violently ripped through his mind. How many times did those two do it? Did they talk about him after they did it? Did they laugh at the faithful, but totally foolish clown who thought that he had her love?
"Lab work and obligations limited our time together," he said holding back the tears. "But I never let her believed that there was anyone else but her."
But it came down to the really simple conclusion: Cap, … the other men that she had flirted with, were more exciting to Jan than he was.
Hank raised his eyes to search for the moon. Jan had used the moon earlier as an incentive for a romantic get-together. Appropriately, the moon veiled herself now. Her silvery light weakly seeped through clouds, leaving him in almost darkness. But even if it left him in pitch black, if didn't compare with the dark despair that was inside of his heart.
Hank hated himself—he should have taken that moon-lit stroll with Jan. He should have spent more time with Jan. He should have never complimented Yolanda Vanko.
Maybe there was still time. Maybe he could still win her back. Yes, he'd fight for her affection. It was all his fault, after, all. He'd … He'd…
Henry stopped. In his head he heard Erica; it was a culmination of their past verbal confrontations.
Should he fight for Jan? Why. This wasn't the first time her affections wandered. If he beat out Steve Rodgers there would always be the next secret lover.
Erica was right— no one who lived that life-style fully changes her ways even after proclaiming her commitment to a partner. The search for thrills, for the departure from the constant, would eventually call to her. Come to think of it, when Tony Stark came to the Avengers mansion as his playboy persona, Jan never felt repulsed by his guttery innuendos the way Hank did. Maybe in secluded moments, Jan and Tony took time out to share more than just a low class humor.
Hank shook his head, not wanting to think about it. How could that be proven? But one thing was sure— he was a fool for not listening to his older sister.
Hank' head continued hearing those month-old talks with Erica. What had he done to cause this? He had to stop beating himself up. Erica had known many good and faithful spouses that ravaged themselves and took on all the blame. But it was the wayward partner who was the culprit— no one forces another to cheat. If Jan was unhappy she could have done the honorable thing and called off the relationship. She didn't… she preferred to skank-around behind his back.
What if he abandoned everything else for her, and got a lesser-paying job that would free-up more time for them to be together? Erica had recounted a similar sacrifice that an FBI Supervisor went through. His wandering-eyes-wife ultimately left him for someone who made as much money as he previously did.
At least he and Jan weren't married. Even more important, they didn't have children.
Again, the image of the Jan and Steve being intimate daggered his mind. Again, he had to repress his savage anger. He had to cast away images of the proposed brutality that he could have easily inflicted upon them. It was good that he left. Very good.
Okay, Hank made mistakes, but he was a good man. He deserved better than Jan. This was just the push he needed to do what he should have done long ago. It was time for him to be a man and break away from Jan.
He would regain his dignity, and besides, it made all the sense in the world. Still, dignity and logic were no healing balms for a destroyed heart.
He buried his face in his hands. The manly dam broke and a current of tears gushed out, unstoppable. His devastation was apparently infectious. The clouds released their own tears. The tiny figure was oblivious to the droplets that were striking him. He could do little, but rock himself where he sat. And between sobs he repeated, "Jan … Jan."
Miles to the south from where Ant-man was lost in sorrow was the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn. It also had strips of unused land. Wild bushes sprang up just yards away from where the East River joined the Atlantic Ocean. After a 4 minute rain shower, Wilbur Day immerged from the bushes. His soggy exercise outfit could be explained away by the recent rain, but that wasn't the cause.
His eyes had conditioned themselves to the darkness. He looked back to the area where his powerful metallic boot had dug into the dirt and rocks. Wilbur was satisfied that he had buried his secret well enough. He had arranged the surrounding rocks to form a marker for the eventual retrieval of his armor.
Wilbur was weary, but still determined. Stilt-man would return, but with changes. The propellers under his boots were installed because he envisioned a river escape in his original plan— the take-down of that worm, Reginald Kaxton. It worked brilliantly tonight, so they will stay. The explosives…. Well, his hydraulic legs were just as destructive, but far more predictable than those damned missiles. One of his own explosives hurled him into the water; how humiliating. Then he had to find a way to keep the ability of electrifying his armor without straining his battery. That fight with Spider-man took longer than he had planned. In minutes, the power drainage would have resulted in Spider-man's victory.
In the bigger picture, Wilbur would return to his original plan. He'd get the Molecular Condenser back from Kaxton. It belonged to Wilbur— he masterfully stole the proto-type and blueprint from Vanko's workshop, after all. Then the Stilt-man will turn it on Kraxton. After him, The Wasp and Spider-man will get their just desserts.
He walked towards the passing headlights on the distant road. He dipped into his jogging pants pocket for change to take the subway home. The tired man's steps became invigorated as he went through his plans in his head repeatedly.
The Green Goblin had silently made a hole in the second floor bedroom window of Gregor Shapanka's modest house. It was big enough for him to reach in and undo the window's lock.
In seconds, he pulled his glider's "wings" close and it hummed into the room. The vehicle descended to the floor and the intruder stepped off. After adjusting a dial on the side of his belt and another on the back his right glove, his index finger could now shoot a skin-burning, muscle-paralyzing "Goblin Flare." He had great accuracy within 10 yards.
The Goblin froze, attempting to hear some activity that gave evidence of Gregor's presence. He heard nothing. He took an eye patch equipped with an inferred lens out of his bag. He slipped it over his head. Now he could see in the dark— he wasn't going to give away his location by turning on room lights. He carefully walked through the darkened upper hallway and checked the two adjacent rooms. Again, he found no one.
He moved stealthy down the stairs, as he headed to the lit living room. His boots pressed down slowly on each of the step. In the event that the stairs began to creak, he'd lift up his foot and try the next step.
The Goblin peaked into the living room. The sofa had a lamp on an end table at each end. The lamp on the right was on. But again, there was no sign of Shapanka.
He searched the remaining areas of the house with growing frustration. Finally his anger could not be contained— he kicked open the door connecting the kitchen to the small garage.
Where was that miserable pile of… ? Wait, the note pad he originally dismissed. The Goblin had to return to the kitchen table.
The mask he wore fit tightly against the bottom of his face for the purpose of providing a chilling realism. The man's mouth movements were strikingly copied by the mouth of the mask. At that moment his face depicted a satanic grin.
Among the almost intelligible writings on the pad were a "UA" number and a gate number. The Goblin used the kitchen phone to call up United Airlines 24-hour service center. The flight in question had left LaGuardia Airport at 4:40 PM., bound for Washington, D.C.
A man with little financial resources taking a flight? It was probably that counter employment offer that Osborn warned the incompetent Arthur Shapiro about. Most likely if he had a spare freeze gun, Shapanka took it with him.
Even if the inventor wasn't there, the Goblin still had a target. The green menace was going to find the blueprints to Shapanka's freeze gun. Starting again from the bedroom, the Goblin turned over drawers. He knifed upholstery, looked for secret compartments in walls and closet.
He was in the kitchen, huffing mightily, with his back to the living room. Suddenly, the living room light shut off. He turned around ready to strike, but there was no one there. The light was on a timer, he figured. Using his inferred vision, he found it. What a joke— why would a supposedly great inventor use a simplistic store-bought timer?
There was a notable difference between the unmasked Norman Osborn and the demon-faced Goblin when boiling anger reached a spill-over point. The first man would cuss and yell and throw things about in releasing his frustration. The other, the Goblin, tilted his head back and let out an unearthly, ghoulish laugh as he turned around to see the fruits of his unsuccessful search. He was surrounded by a junk heap.
This wreckage was nice, but hardly the calling card worthy of the Green Goblin. It was a small effort to return to the timer and open its compartment. He then "fixed" it so that when it was next activated, it would shoot out sparks. He reset the timer for twenty minutes— 2:10 AM. Reflecting on the time, he thought. I've been here too long.
The Goblin then moved to the kitchen, kicking away from himself the debris that he had caused. The demented man lifted the stovetop up, extinguished the pilot light and then opened all the valves on the stove and oven.
The Goblin nearly danced his way back up to the bedroom where his glider waited for him. He sang in a moderate voice:
"Gregor, Gregor, you damn idiot, Gregor.
Could have been rich, now I'll make you a beggar.
You were smart and invincible, you had thought.
But oh, the disaster upon you, you brought.
I'll torture the sanity out of your head
When I'm finish with you, you'll wish you were dead."
The Goblin mounted the glider and made it pass the window into the warm night air. Unlike his cautious ways at his arrival, he didn't seem bothered at the prospect of being seen. As he lifted off into the sky he concluded,
"Refused my offer, didn't you Shapanka?
That's like ocean swimming tied to an anka.
You'll find yourself drowning- WAIT!
"ANKA?! No, no that will not do. I need to stop making limericks on the fly."
It then occurred to him. He looked down on the houses that began to shrink before his eyes.
"On the fly," he eerily howled as he soared away. "That was a good one."
The Wasp had spent almost hour sitting and wailing on the penthouse rooftop. She finally mustered the courage to go inside and talk to Hank. She had to apologize for blanking out their relationship in her mind and acting like an alley cat.
She zipped in through her bedroom window that she had left slightly open when she first ventured toward the bridge. She got to the bathroom and quickly discarded the Wasp uniform that was involved with in that disgraceful, heartless act.
Jan looked into the mirror. She noticed that she had dark circles under her very red eyes. She had to fix that. No wait, she thought. Wouldn't this appearance be proof of her deep regret? Yeaaah— that had to soften Hank.
Jan quickly showered with the finest scented body wash rehearsing her remorseful presentation. She dried herself and put on a skin-colored, thin negligee while tweaking some words in her apologies. She rushed out of her room and paused a few feet from Hank's door. Of course, it meant that she was rehearsing one last time. He would say that they were finished, so she had to be the one to talk first and permit no interruption to her sobbing.
If it were possible, she would look sadder than her face appeared. Yeah, that should win him ov-.
Wait. That's nuts, she told herself. She already was fearing the end of her world.
Her heart was pounding as she tiptoed to his bedroom door. Every imaginable negative scenario passed through her mind. But she had to do it. She couldn't just live here and ignore him every minute of the day? … eh, she hoped that she could still be living here.
She knocked gently at his door. After seconds that seemed like hours, she knocked louder.
"Henry? Henry, dearest, are you in there?"
She knew that his door was always unlocked. She turned the knob and entered. His bed looked as kept as if the house keepers left the room seconds ago. The attached bathroom showed no light coming through its slightly opened door.
Jan raced down to the laboratory floor. Lab F still had the lights on, but it was locked. She knocked and repeated his name as sweetly as she could. No answer. She could have tried again, but she went back to her room. Some thirty seconds later, with her Wasp hood on, Jan enacted her shrinking ability. The negligee-wearing Jan was on her hands and knees moving under the door and into the room.
The Lab was as desolate as the growing, fearful emptiness in her heart. She regained her normal size and walked out into the dim hallway. If Hank had allowed alcohol in the home, and if she hadn't finished the stronger-than-the-typical vermouth that she sneaked into her room, she would have slugged down a few glasses. She made a quick trip up to her room and retrieved her bathrobe.
She returned to the first floor where she typed "000" into the keypad of the main controls by the foyer. Under the keypads were a few one-inch liniar buttons. She pressed "unimped".
There— now every access into the penthouse to be monitored. She would be alerted the second Hank returned.
Jan sat on the couch and rolled herself into a ball. She was relived a bit. She now had more time to rehearse her pleas.
Then something disturbing entered her mind. If the roles were reversed, Jan would probably do something stupid to get revenge. It was a good thing that Hank had a moral upbringing. Despite being awfully hurt, he'd never visit a brothel.
No, he wouldn't. No…. Oh God, please no.
Back at Freeport, Long Island, a rotund, middle-aged, unshaven man wearing only his pajama bottoms was in the middle of the street. He was waving a police car to a stop. The driver's side window rolled down.
"Off-a-sa, I saw it, but my wife won't believe me. I saw a witch ridin' da sky on a big bat."
The driver turned his face away due to the man's breath.
"You've been drinking, sir?" the officer asked as he stepped out.
The man frowned, "Yeah, so? I drink in my house, that's no crime."
At this point the policeman on the passenger side got out to join the driver. They surrounded the chubby, half-naked man. The officers asked him his name. The citizen complained that his name had nothing to do with reporting his observation.
Suddenly the air screamed with the sound of an explosion. The ground surrendered a small shake. The trio looked all around them. Then they saw an unnatural illumination about two blocks away. By the time the other home-owners on the block opened their windows to investigate, smoke was rising into the night sky.
The rotund man's eyes widened as he gasp, "…The witch!"
30 dollars in 1964 : One can use the internet to obtain prices of certain items from the 1960s. Today the same things are priced at 16.7 to 19 times higher. Translated into today's currency value, Tony Stark handed a hospital worker who watched over his car more than $500 (not bad for less than an hour's work).
Mrs. Collingsworth: Perhaps you may find a fair number of 5 foot, 11 inch women today, but back in mom's days, Erica's height was considered rare for a female.
If her heroics took the reader by surprise, turn back to Chapter One where Erica was introduced as a former C.I.A. agent.
The second time Happy Hogan was in the hospital: This story takes place weeks after Happy's hospitalization in Tales of Suspense # 56 (1964). At that time he tried to stop the Unicorn's intrusion into Stark Industries.
Thanks and Apologies: Personal time restraints have forced me to suspend this writing. My deepest thanks to the few (actually VERY few) faithful readers of this story. I am writing this on September 7, '12. Hope you think that Vanko & Pym, Inc: BOOK ONE will be worth the wait, because the collection of villains, along with Hank, Jan, Peter, and especially Paige and Sam will return sometime in November '12. Again, my deepest thanks.