[ASH] Coherent Super Stories #10 - Aunt Jane's Bible

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Thu Oct 25 20:22:19 PDT 2007

     The cover shows a wooden tabletop up close, and on the table is a small
blue booklet, about 3" tall by 4" wide to judge by the nearby items on the
table.  The cover shows a grainily-reproduced line drawing of a winking
mysterywoman.  An errant wind is starting to blow the cover open.

 .|, COHERENT                                            An ASHistory Series
 '|` SUPER STORIES                        #10 - Aunt Jane's Bible
        Featuring Red Widow               copyright 2007 by Dave Van Domelen

     [Editor's Note: The subject matter of this story will drift into areas
of prurient interest.  While not graphically presented, certain parts may be
inappropriate for minors or those of sensitive dispositions.  One scene in
particular, presented in script format, may bother some readers, who are
invited to skip over it.  While important to the plot, everything in that
part that's vital should be summarized in the following scene.]

[August 31, 1946 - Miami, Florida]

     Laverne strolled casually down the space between tables at the swap meet
as the usual house-sized mosquitos flitted through the humid late summer
air.  She might've moved to Florida as a kid, but she didn't think she'd ever
really get used to the way August went so muggy.  Not a proper dry heat, like
West Texas.
     Still, it was good to stretch her legs after a few hours behind her own
table.  Bill was watching the stuff for now, hopefully he wouldn't make too
many bad deals.  Laverne dearly loved her fiancee, but a ten-year-old could
out-haggle the man.
     "Hey, Howie," she nodded as she passed a booth dominated by alligator
leather goods.  Probably obtained under shady circumstances, but she was
hardly in a position to be ratting her fellow swappers out to the law.
     "Hey, Miz Bishop," the gator-tanner waved with a slightly gap-toothed
smile almost hidden behind a bushy gray beard.  Unlike a lot of the oldtimers
at the swap, he'd never tried to put the moves on Laverne, something she
appreciated.  She never got unwanted attention twice from the same guy, but
it was easier to work the swap meets when half the men in attendance *didn't*
have old bruises and old grudges thanks to her.  "Seen the new book guy?" he
asked as she moved past.
     "Hm?  Someone here got literary pretentions?" she asked.
     "Nah, he don't got any of that in stock, far as I can tell.  Mostly
funnybooks, old Geographics, a bunch of that scientifiction junk," Howie
replied.  She wasn't quite sure if he was joking about the first part, or if
she'd simply been talking over the old-timer's head.
     Laverne chuckled, tossing her mane of red hair.  "Thanks, I'll give it a
look.  Maybe find a little nostalgia."
     A few minutes later, she'd found the table Howie must've been talking
about.  Stacks of newsprint and magazines, cheaply bound paperbacks, and the
usual assortment of random "out of theme" stuff that anyone who worked the
swaps tended to pick up.  It was a swap meet, after all, not a cash market.
Some money changed hands, but most of the deals were barter.  And almost no
one stuck to just trading for what they wanted themselves...three, four or
even seven-deep trades happened every day, eventually most of the stuff ended
up with someone who wanted it, even if the original owner and the final owner
never saw each other.
     Unsurprisingly, most of the people around the table were young men,
jabbering about old stories and arguments about who was stronger, that sort
of thing.  Then something caught her eye.
     "The Red Widow - Bound For Trouble!" screamed the cover.  Unlike most of
the other books, it wasn't in color, or even very large.  It looked like a
couple pieces of typing paper run through a mimeo, cut in quarters and
stapled together.  Like a kid might make because he couldn't afford the dime
for a real comic.  Genuinely curious, she picked it up.
     "Whoa, who left that out?" the table's owner tried to snatch it away
from Laverne, but she was too quick for him.  She still had the touch.
     "I didn't know Red Widow made enough of a splash to rate a comic,"
Laverne smiled.  "Although I guess it's just somethin' a local put together,
or it'd be in color."
     One of the customers chuckled.  "Oh, she made a splash," he leered.
     "Seriously, lady...you don't want to read that."
     "Why not?  The art looks pretty bad, but no worse than any of the other
stuff on your table.  And pa always did call me a tomboy, it's not like I'm
worried it's unlady...like...."
     Under her summer tan, her face went totally pale.
     "Um, I warned you," the owner muttered.
     "What.  Is.  This?" she demanded.
     "It's, um, called a Tijuana Bible.  Guys make these under the counter,
they're kinda illegal in most places."
     "It's disgusting!" Laverne sputtered.
     "And how!" another customer grinned.
     "I'm sorry, lady, but I warned ya.  And it's pretty tame as those things
go, it's mostly tyin' up with her lariat and stuff.  Whatcha so steamed
     "Because that," she shook the pamphlet, "is ME!"
     It was like a bubble of silence formed in the middle of the noisy swap
meet.  A long moment stretched out, no one quite sure what to say.
     Finally, as such things always are, it broke.
     "Um, would you autograph it?" the stall owner asked.

               *              *              *              *

     "Yes, I had to buy it," Laverne sighed.  "Paid cash, even.  Had to get
it out of circulation."
     "Now what?" Bill asked as he helped pack the day's trades into the back
of the truck.  "Gonna burn it?"
     "I was gonna, but I realized when I cooled down that this is just a
copy, burnin' it won't stop 'em from tradin' other copies.  I wanna find the
original artist and see if I can teach him a lesson about usin' someone's
image and good name without permission."
     "The Red Widow rides again?" Bill smiled.  "And here I thought I was
gonna be the only guy to see you in that outfit anymore...."

               *              *              *              *

[September 3, 1946 - Miami, Florida]

     Laverne licked the envelope and smoothed the flap closed, then reached
for the stampbook.
     "Paying the bills, honey?" Bill asked as he got ready to leave for work.
Strictly speaking, the couple was living in sin since they weren't married
yet, but they both figured that being engaged was good enough, and while two
couldn't really live as cheaply as one, it did save money they'd need to buy
a house big enough to have kids in.
     Laverne shook her head.  "Writin' a letter to Lady Lawful, care of, um,
the War Department.  So who knows when it'll actually get to her?"
     "Other leads on your artist fan going that dry, then?"
     Laverne sighed and nodded.  "Turns out 8-pager artists don't really want
anyone knowin' who they are, given how this kind of stuff can get you tossed
in jail most places," she patted a short stack of Tijuana Bibles.  "I did
some askin' around and found that, whoever the perv was, he only did
Malscripto books, and stopped right after makin' the one with me in it."
     "So, you have the complete works there?" Bill grinned, reaching for the
stack, only to have his hand swatted away.
     "Yes, and hands off.  Lady Lawful's the one Malscripto goes after in all
the other ones, and if I don't want you seein' *me* drawn naked, I sure don't
want you seein' HER!  Anyway, her bein' the usual star makes 'Bound for
Trouble' even odder.  I'm writin' Lady Lawful to see if she knows anyone
close to Malscripto who might've made these.  And, um, to warn her about the
horrid little things in case she didn't know about 'em herself.  No sense in
lettin' a fellow hero have her own 'swap meet moment' like I did," she
     Bill scratched his head.  "You know, if someone close to a guy like
Malscripto was making these, and Malscripto found out..."
     "...that'd explain the sudden stop, yeah," Laverne nodded.  "That's one
of the things I asked ell-ell about.  Did he have any henchmen who he offed
     "Which, at least, would save you the bother of teaching him a lesson, I
guess," Bill shrugged.

               *              *              *              *

[September 9, 1946 - Miami, Florida]

     The short stack of bluebooks stared back at Laverne from the kitchen
table as she fussed over dinner preparations.  She hadn't gotten anywhere on
the mystery in nearly a week, and it was starting to bug her more and more.
     "I'm gonna have ta read you, ain't I?" she sighed, closing the oven on
the roast.  So far, she'd only skimmed the little booklets in search of a
signature, or a publisher, or something she could use to track down the
artist, avoiding as much as possible the actual "story" inside.
     Frowning, she sat down, mentally gritting her teeth and bracing for the
task ahead.


[Tijuana Bible - Cover and 8 single-panel pages - This is the scene we 
     warned you about]

     Cover: Head and shoulders of Red Widow on a white background with a
black triangle along the lower right that covers part of the figure.  Title
reads, "Bound for Trouble!" in the upper left.  In the lower right is a
random scribble in the place of a creator's name.

     1. Red Widow enters a strangely-lit warehouse, pistol at the ready and
lariat coiled at her hip.  Her costume is a bit skimpier than what the real
Red Widow wore.
     SPEECH 1 (Red Widow): Okay, Malscripto, time to ring down the curtain!
     SPEECH 2 (off panel): Now, my players!  Enter stage right!

     2. A trio of thugs swarms Red Widow, taking away her pistol and lariat.
Her costume tears, revealing her left breast.
     SPEECH 1 (Red Widow): Oh!
     SPEECH 2 (Thug): Time for the casting couch, boss?

     3. Malscripto stands before a tied-up Red Widow, apparently bound in her
own lariat.  Her costume is even more torn now, but her mask and boots remain
in place.  Malscripto is dressed in Shakespearean garb, but without pants.
     SPEECH 1 (Malscripto): The PEN IS mightier than the sword, my dear!
     SPEECH 2 (Red Widow): And me without my pen knife.

     4. Red Widow is orally servicing Malscripto, still bound, although her
hands seem to be struggling with the knots.
     SPEECH 1 (Malscripto): Crack winds, and BLOW thou HURICANOS!
     SFX 2 (Red Widow): glub
     SPEECH 3 (Thug): Looks like the boss is in the eye of the hurricane.

     5. Red Widow's costume is now completely gone other than mask and boots,
and she's been draped over a chair with an elaborate pattern in the
upholstery that barely reproduces in the cheap mimeograph.  Malscripto
approaches her from behind.
     SPEECH 1 (Malscripto): I think I shall dip my pen in your inkpot!
     SPEECH 2 (Red Widow): Fair enough, I took a dirt road to get here too.

     6. Red Widow gets loose from the ropes, posing dramatically to show off
her well-toned body.  The thugs gasp, mostly in fear.
     SPEECH 1 (Red Widow): You don't use ropes as long as I have without
learning a few tricks, boys!
     SPEECH 2 (Malscripto): She's slipped the surly bonds!

     7. Thugs run as Red Widow (still essentially naked) recovers her pistol
and fires at them.  Malscripto starts moving to sneak away.
     SPEECH 1 (Red Widow): Come on boys, the party's just getting started!
     SPEECH 2 (Thug): Z-Man didn't pay us enough for this job!

     8. Malscripto is hanging by a rope from the rafters, the rope being
connected to his privates.  Red Widow is winking at the reader.
     SPEECH 1 (Red Widow): That about ties things up here!
     SPEECH 2 (Malscripto): Hoist by my own petard!


     She was still puzzling over the odd choices of phrasing and design when
the phone rang.
     "Hello?" she asked, putting the receiver to her ear.
     "Collect long distance call from...Lady Lawful," the operator said, more
than a touch of disbelief in her voice.  "Do you accept?"
     "Yes!" Laverne agreed.  This was getting to be an expensive little
investigation, but in for a penny and all that.
     "Connecting now."
     "Miss Bishop?"
     "Speaking," Laverne nodded, carefully enunciating the "g" that she
normally clipped.  "Thank you for getting back to me so quickly.  I wasn't
sure my letter would even get to you."
     Lady Lawful laughed.  "It might not have, but the mailroom boy at the
Pentagon is a fan of Mysterymen, and happened to recognize your name from the
return address."
     "Wow, I sure made a big impact on people, considering I was only
running around in that bathing suit for three months," Laverne goggled.
"This has certainly been the month for finding delayed fame."
     "It might have had something to do with the bathing suit.  But this is
your dime, how's the hunt for your mystery artist going?"
     "I haven't really gotten anywhere since what I wrote in the letter.  I
was just buckling down and reading the awful little thing when you called, to
see if I could find any clues in the, um, story.  Did Malscripto have any
henchmen who might've been the creator?"
     "He had a number of artistically inclined thugs, mostly to help him with
set dressing and the like.  Malscripto has a tremendous ego, but knows his
craft, I'll give him that.  And he knows that part of it is having
professionals to help with the visuals.  But there's one who might be your
man, he went by the nom du crime of 'The Scribbler'.  He did newspaper
funnies, if you can believe that, and was sort of a spy in the newsroom for
Malscripto for a while.  Then he just vanished...I figured at the time that
he might have tried to take over the gang and found that Malscripto wasn't
quite as out of ink as he seemed."
     "Written out of reality?  Brrr."
     "Exactly," Lady Lawful concurred.  "It's a good thing for me that he's
always been obsessed with besting or humiliating me, rather than killing me.
With his ability to rewrite reality, he could be truly frightening if he
didn't have some rudimentary code of ethics and fair play.  But I suppose he
wasn't so fussy about morality with underlings who tried to cross him.  Come
to think of it, though, it's sounding more like he found out about the
Scribbler's little sideline, rather than fending off a power play.  Being
featured in an endless succession of smutty books would probably outrage
Malscripto's authorial sensibilities to the point he'd use his powers to
     "Well, not really endless," Laverne eyed the small stack on the kitchen
table.  "Five in total.  Although I'm told they've been recopied quite a bit,
since the quality is a lot higher than usually seen in an 8-pager."
     "Not about to do some comparison for yourself, I hope!"
     "Heavens, no!" Laverne gasped.
     "So, any clues in the story itself?"
     "I think so.  There's at least one obvious one...a background thug says
that Z-Man isn't payin' them enough for this job, but Z-Man doesn't show up
anywhere else in the story, and I don't remember him ever tryin' anything
down here in Florida.  Then again, I don't remember seeing Malscripto around
     "Hmm," Lady Lawful pondered.  "I know Malscripto takes on occasional
jobs for whoever will pay him enough, or supply him with the rare ingredients
he needs for his magic ink.  Usually little things, altering reality in
stable ways that will benefit the person hiring him.  He tends to stick with
helping crime bosses rig the ponies, simple things where he doesn't need to
use a lot of ink to make the necessary change.  But he's never been
particularly patriotic, and I suppose taking Nazi money would have been
another way to poke me in the eye.  But I can't remember Z-Man ever
benefiting from any sort of reality rewrite.  Anything else about the job?
Was it about kidnapping you?"
     "Nope.  Near as I can figure, the story starts with me having figured
out the job off-screen and bustin' in to arrest him.  They get the drop on
me, tie me up, and, well...after a bit I break loose and leave Malscripto
hangin'.  Lemme pry off these staples and lay out the whole thing, see if I
can pick up any patterns."
     "You might have to look pretty carefully," Lady Lawful cautioned.
"Thinking back, I seem to recall the Scribbler was notable for hiding lots of
little details in his newspaper cartoons, background jokes and the like."
     Laverne laid the pages out in a single long strip across the table.  "I
dunno.  The printing quality's pretty bad, if the hidden...wait, something
about the shadows.  Lemme rearrange...oh my God."
     "I just put the cover and the eight pages in a three by three, and the
shadows in the backgrounds make a big swastika.  And some of the other
details make an outline of Florida, as if the swastika is striking Miami!"
     "Like a hurricane?"
     "Oh, hell, that's exactly what it is.  In the middle page, Malscripto's
quoting that line from King Lear about huricanos, *and* the background thug
is talking about the eye of the hurricane.  Could Malscripto have written
about a hurricane hitting Florida, and the Scribbler wanted to warn me?"
     "Maybe...but his powers don't work like that, not so far in advance.  He
could, I suppose, have made a hurricane happen at the time, but he has to
concentrate on big things like that, and he's in jail at the moment, without
his ink.  If this is meant to be a warning, it'd have to be something you'd
have a chance of stopping, or the Scribbler wouldn't have taken such a
roundabout way of sending the warning.  And, no offense, he probably would
have contacted me or one of the other Mysterymen with powers."
     "No offense taken.  I could barely keep up with unpowered criminals and
Nazi spies, that's why I hung up the mask.  Y'know, you might have a point
about the small details thing, too.  There's some weird upholstery on a chair
in the fifth page, looks almost like a section of map.  And there's a
reference to a dirt road in that panel, so maybe it *is* a map.  I'll need to
do some checkin', get my hands on some road maps at the gas station or
somethin'...I don't think I wanna bring this into the library to check the
county maps."
     Lady Lawful laughed.  "No, I imagine you don't."
     "Where can I call you later, once I find out more?" Laverne asked.
     "I'm not currently in a position to give you a number, sorry.  I'll call
back tomorrow, same time, is that okay?"
     "Should be."

               *              *              *              *

[September 10, 1946 - Everglades, Florida]

     Of course, it turned out not to be okay.
     The map had been a quick hit, copied from a section of a 1939 map of
roads in the Everglades near Miami.  But while she'd been out getting maps,
she'd heard a hurricane warning.
     Sure, it was hurricane season.  These things happened.  But reports were
coming in on the radio that this was a big one.  Really big.  And moving
weirdly, to boot, as far as maritime spotters could tell.
     It was just too much of a coincidence.  Maybe Lady Lawful was wrong
about how Malscripto's powers worked, but Laverne had gotten a brainstorm:
Z-Man was into all that weird future science stuff.  What if he had a device
that could act like a hurricane magnet?  And just hired Malscripto to hide it
in Florida?  That would be the sort of threat the Red Widow could be trusted
to handle...find a dingus and break it before it could do more damage.
     So, here she was, in costume and riding the old motorcycle down a rutted
dirt road at the edge of the big swamp, ahead of what looked like it might be
the biggest hurricane to hit Florida in years.
     "I am a total idiot," she muttered to herself for what had to be the
tenth time that morning.  Bill hadn't been around to restrain her burst of
enthusiasm, and she didn't want to wait for Lady Lawful to call back.  No,
she'd dug out the costume, done a quick gassing up on the Indian, and headed
out for adventure.  Well, she'd left a note on the table for Bill, including
the map, but that wouldn't help much if she were caught out when the storm
     Nor did it really help that the clue in the Tijuana Bible only narrowed
things down to a few acres, she still had to search those herself in the
hours or maybe even minutes remaining....

               *              *              *              *

     "Nice handbags..." Red Widow said in her most "good doggy" tone as she
slowly edged past the nest of gators.  On the one hand, they could apparently
sense the storm coming and were just looking for a bolthole.  On the other
hand (the hand in danger of being bitten off by a territorial alligator),
Malscripto had written the hurricane magnet's location into the middle of
their favorite bolthole.  So, while not really looking for trouble, the
gators didn't really want her going where she needed to go, either.
     The first drops of rain started to fall as she eased her .38 revolver
out of its holster.  "Just let me past, boys, I don't wanna get violent.  I
just need to get to that hatch over there."  Her boots squelched in the boggy
ground, and she knew they were pretty much goners at this point.  Red patent
leather didn't really care for swampwater.
     In response, one of the alligators hissed and snapped its jaws open and
     Red Widow glanced at the branches overhead.  They seemed sturdy enough
to let her get a rope around one and just swing over the gators, but even if
the dogged-down hatch wasn't locked somehow, it'd take her several seconds to
open it, seconds that would be more than enough for an angry gator to come
have toothy words with her.  She might have to just start shooting and hope
there were no more than six gators lurking in the area...she wouldn't have
time to reload.
     Wind plucked at her sweat-damped hair, mixing in the increasingly heavy
rain and turning it into a sodden, unruly mop.  Any more rain, and the road
flares she'd brought along wouldn't help deter the scalies.  She inched a
little closer to the hatch, the only thing she'd seen in the whole area of
the hidden map that might conceal a Nazi vengeance weapon.
     "Come to think of it, you boys look pretty lean and hungry," she
muttered under her breath.  "Did Malscripto write it so you'd have to hang
around here and protect the entrance, so you couldn't go huntin' anywhere
else?  Wow...what a jerk!"
     Almost there.  The gators hissed their warnings even more loudly, but
she couldn't turn back now.  If things were getting this bad here, miles
inland, the shore must be getting pounded by storm surge already.
     One last step....
     And then she was atop the concrete cap, a good foot above the water of
the swamp.  But once the surge made it inland, the whole thing would probably
be underwater for hours or even days.  Maybe.  She didn't really know exactly
how the swamp reacted to hurricanes, she had the sense to stay indoors during
Mother Nature's hissy fits.
     Well, she *usually* had the sense to do that.
     A gator made a half-hearted lunge, but didn't get within range of a
booted kick.
     "A lock.  Of course," Red Widow sighed, holstering her gun.  She'd tried
shooting a lock off once, and the ricochet had nearly hit her.  Fortunately,
the hairpin trick worked a lot more like in the movies than the gun trick
did, and she fished a pin out of her now-soaked hair.  A minute or so of
cursing and fiddling as visibility dropped and the wind threatened to hurl
her into the gators, and she had the padlock open.  Then, with a wrenching
against the rusted mechanisms, she had the hatch open and dropped inside,
closing it behind her and sealing it.  She didn't need a gator deciding to
     It was dark, naturally.  Pulling a flare out of the oilskin bag hooked
to her gunbelt, she snapped it open before continuing down the ladder, and
saw that the bunker was small and shallow, the ladder only going down about
ten feet to hit floor level.
     When she reached the bottom, the flickering red light revealed a
strange, humming device connected to some sort of lead box.  Maybe it was
powered by one of those atomic piles she'd read about...made sense, really.
If you wanted a vengeance weapon to operate undetectably, hooking it into the
city power mains wasn't a great idea, and a gas-powered generator would run
out too quickly.  Batteries went flat, but atomics kept on going.  Of course,
that also meant it might go up like an atom bomb if she did anything wrong.
     "Terrific," she sighed, then started examining the device more closely,
hoping to find an obvious switch or dial or something.
     Then something hit her.  Other than the rain she'd brought in with her,
it was awfully dry in here.  Even concrete or cinderblock usually let in a
little moisture, especially in a swamp like this.  But it was bone dry, to
the point that her skin was no longer damp after only a few minutes inside.
Maybe they needed to keep the machine dry, or it'd break?  
     She climbed back up the ladder and undogged the hatch.  It felt
sluggish, though, and when she tried pushing it open she met resistance.
     "Ah, hellfire and damnation," she swore.  "I guess storm surge does
effect the swamp, at least today.  Underwater already."
     For Lady Lawful, this wouldn't be a problem.  She could shift a ton or
more, and the water couldn't be so high yet that it'd be heavier than that.
But heavy enough to give the Red Widow a problem?  Sure, easy.
     Worse, the systems that kept the place dry probably didn't care about
keeping the air breathable, so she could suffocate in here even if she found
another way to turn the thing off and save the day.
     She tried again, bracing against the ladder.  "There!" she gasped, as it
opened a crack.  Water only trickled in, rather than flooding, so the hatch
wasn't underwater.  No, it must have been under-GATOR.
     "Move it, suitcase!" she shouted through the crack, hammering on it with
the butt of her pistol.  There was an angry hissing and growling, but then
she felt the burden ease and shoved the hatch open.  Rain started to cascade
down the hole, and the flare she'd left on the floor hissed and spat as
angrily as any gator as the water came in.
     "Now I just have to avoid being drowned or eaten and hope the damn thing
doesn't explode like a Hiroshima bomb...."

               *              *              *              *

[September 11, 1946 - Miami, Florida]

     It has been a very unpleasant midday out in the swamp, and at the worst
of the storm she'd been forced to tie herself to a tree to keep from being
blown away by the winds, but unpleasant was all it had been.  The gators had
actually crawled into the bunker to get out of the storm, and then been
electrocuted for their troubles when the water finally rose high enough to
short out the device.  No earth-shattering kaboom, though, and the wind was
enough to keep the stink of roast gator away.
     The Indian had been a loss, smashed against a tree by the storm, so
Laverne had been forced to hoof it back to a main road, where she hitched a
ride back into Miami.  Being soaking wet and dressed in a torn bathing suit
probably helped her hitch that ride.
     She'd briefly told Bill about what had happened, then collapsed into
     Now morning had come and almost gone, and there was a knock at the
     "I've got it," Bill called out from elsewhere in the house.  Laverne
groaned and sat up in bed, feeling all sorts of aches and pains she knew
would take a couple of days to fade.  Normally, he'd be at work on a
Wednesday, but either the storm closed down the shop, or he took the day off
to keep an eye on her...how sweet.
     "Is Miss Bishop in?" an unfamiliar male voice asked.
     "I'm afraid she had a rough day yesterday, got caught out in the
hurricane.  She's still in bed," Bill demurred.
     "No, I've slept in enough," Laverne called back.  "Gimme a minute to get
     She could hear Bill leading the visitor into the living room while she
stripped off the remains of her costume, giving a wry smile to the thought
that it had stood up to a lot more abuse without completely falling apart
than the Scribbler had given it credit for.  She grabbed a clean slip and a
housedress out of the closet, slid on some slippers, and headed out.  Her
hair was a total wreck, so she just wrestled it back into a sort of bun while
she walked.
     Bill was sitting with a nondescript man who she felt she'd seen before,
but maybe he just had that kind of face.  "Good day, Mister...?" she extended
a hand.
     "Doe.  John Doe," he replied, taking her hand and nodding over it, but
not going all old fashioned and kissing it.  "I'm here about yesterday's
     "You with the weather bureau?" she asked.
     "Not exactly.  To be more specific, I'm here about the hurricane magnet
that you managed to disable, Red Widow."  His use of her codename was totally
matter of fact.  Of course, she'd let any number of people know who she was
back when she officially retired, but aside from things like the other day at
the swap meet, she didn't generally noise it around.  "I'm currently attached
to a top secret project devoted to studying superhuman powers and advanced
technologies for the government, and we're interested in having a look at
that machine now that it's no longer calling a chain of hurricanes to the
     Laverne blinked.  "A chain?"
     Doe nodded.  "Spotter planes out of Fort Lauderdale identified at least
three more hurricanes, easily as strong as yesterday's, forming in the
Atlantic and lining up to strike Miami.  But today they're either losing
strength or drifting off on other courses.  You probably saved southern
Florida from annihilation, Miss Bishop."
     "Wow," she sat down with a thump on the sofa.  "Those Nazis don't kid
     "Indeed.  After Lady Lawful contacted me two days ago, we interrogated
Malscripto and found that he'd been hired to use his powers to hide a
vengeance weapon.  It was expected to take two years or so to build enough
power to go into operation, and Hitler felt that that if he hadn't turned the
tide and conquered America by then, he wanted no one to have Florida.
Malscripto didn't particularly care, being based in the Chicago area and paid
quite well in money and materials for his work.  In any case, could you lead
me to the machine?"
     Laverne let out the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding.
"Whoof.  I don't know, really.  I could get us in the right general area, but
the storm's bound to have messed up a lot of landmarks.  And it'd be
underwater now anyway...I stopped it by just lettin' the swamp in to flood
it.  They didn't provide a convenient 'OFF' button.  Oh, and there's probably
some alligators down there with it."
     "Hm.  Not a rush, then, if it's already as disabled as it's going to
get.  It can wait until you're more fully recovered," Doe shrugged.  "Oh, and
I have one other thing to ask of you.  I know you haven't exhibited any
superhuman powers, but would you be interested in coming to work with my
organization?  We've been trying to recruit retired Mysterymen to help us try
to understand how the whole phenomenon worked."
     Laverne shook her head.  "I'd say I was hangin' my costume up for good,
but I think it's just going to have to go in the trash after yesterday.  I
never fought anythin' too weird, and you're right about me havin' no powers.
Frankly, I hadn't even thought about the whole Mysteryman thing until it got
dropped in my lap last month...I'd rather just lead a normal life."
     Doe stood.  "Very well.  But the offer remains open in case things drop
in your lap again," he pulled out a business card and laid it on an end
table.  "I'll be in touch some time later in the month to see about that
little tour of the swamp.  Good day."
     Bill stood as well, and showed the government agent out.  When he
returned, he found Laverne slumped back in the sofa.
     "So, you really gonna toss the suit in the trash?  With the hurricane
damage, it was starting to get really interesting," Bill grinned.
     "Tell ya what, sport," Laverne winked.  "If you can figure out how to
get the swamp stink out of it, maybe I'll wear it on our honeymoon...."


Next Issue:

     A hero of the First Age inspires one who felt the call to action in the
interval between the Second and Third, in "Minutes of the Man"!


Author's Notes:

     You know, I originally conceived of this as a backup story, something of
about 100 lines to tack onto another piece.  I didn't expect it to hit 530+
lines on its own...but that just sort of happened as I looked for ways to
make it more than just "Heroine finds Tijuana Bible, is shocked".

     The red widow spider's taxonomic name is Latrodectus bishopi, making
Laverne Bishop a typically punnish name.  There's plenty of widow-spider-
themed golden age heroines (Black Widow, Spider Widow), so what's one more?
The red widow is native to Florida, hence Laverne's choice.  It doesn't
actually have an hourglass pattern, but her costume does anyway.
     http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH/gallery/redwidow.JPG shows our
heroine.  *In* costume, of course.

     Contrary to the name, Tijuana Bibles were not generally from Tijuana,
odds are the term was just an association with the kind of vice commonly
found in border towns.  _Tijuana Bibles_ by Bob Adelman (1997) is a good
primer on the little 8-page feeelthy comics, with an educational introduction
by Art Spiegelman.  It has the looks of a coffee table book, although not a
lot of coffee tables *I* know of would display it.  :)  It cheerfully admits
that while scholarly validity is all well and good (and it does have a fair
amount of that), sometimes "appealing to the prurient interest *is* a
socially redeeming value" (as Spiegelman quotes Paul Krassner).
     Tijuana Bibles largely died out in the 50s and 60s, although I can
attest to the fact that they lived on as a fannish underground minicomic
thing well into the 1990s (i.e. the somewhat skeevy comic shop I went to
early in grad school had plenty, starring both American charcacters and
anime/manga stars, plus I'd see 'em at conventions every so often), blending
seamlessly into the seamier side of doujinshi.  These days, though, people
just go straight to the webcomic format when they want to create slash or
'ship of a visual and explicit sort.  But if you think slash is relatively
new, keep in mind that the Tijuana Bibles back in the 1930s had things like a
threesome with Popeye, Olive Oyl and J. Wellington Wimpy....
     And yes, I will cop to some inspiration from the denounment of Watchmen
here.  I'm pretty sure Watchmen was my first exposure to the term (and idea
of a) "Tijuana Bible," in fact.
     Finally, I don't plan to actually draw "Bound for Trouble!" and I hope
none of you do either.  Pervects.


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and more, go to http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH !

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post, or check out our Yahoo discussion group, which can be found at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ash_stories/ !

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