The following story is a work of fiction...which should be obvious, since super-heroes aren't real. The heroes contained in this story first appeared in various MLJ Comics titles back in the 1940's. They are now property of Archie Comics (although, Red Rube might be in the public domain, but why chance it?). This story was written for the fun and enjoyment of the writer and the fans of the Mighty Crusaders who may stumble across it. No money is being made from this story. The story is property of the writer. He can be contacted by emailing him at Bradley.Cobb2@verizon.net . Please enjoy the story!
Mills Port was a small seaport town that made its living by being conveniently close to New York City, but without all the hubbub and delays associated with the Big Apple. Shipping companies preferred her nice, quiet docking areas over the congested traffic jam that was found just 20 miles north. The town was full of little businesses and nice people.
Being near the big city, however, also came at a price. It was both a blessing and a curse. While they got more than they could ever possibly need in business from the seaport, the citizens got more than they could ever want from the criminal element.
World War II was in full swing, and many of the young, able-bodied men were overseas serving their country. That was when the mob moved started to take over the quiet little town. Extortion, blackmail, racketeering, and more became an all but accepted part of life after the first year. Some tried to speak out against them, but the mob's grip on the city was far too firm and tight, and it showed no sign of loosening.
Then came 1944.
The beginning was simple enough, and seemingly inconspicuous. A fixed boxing match, covering up for some other crimes being committed elsewhere in the city, was the backdrop for the first sighting of Mills Port's own protector. He was an odd sight, to be sure. He had baggy red pants with a blue stripe, bright red hair, a cape...and no shirt. He entered the boxing tournament and blew the lid off the whole operation. While at first it seemed to be nothing, this man kept showing up to help the police--who had been in a losing battle for some time--in their battle against the mob.
A cub reporter at the Daily Gazette newspaper, named Rueben Ruebens, was the one who gave him his 'super-hero' name: Red Rube.
In the summer of 1944--July 12 to be exact--Red Rube had the biggest adventure of his brief career. It was the day that Steel Sterling came to town.
Steel Sterling had hit a brick wall--figuratively speaking of course--on a case he was working on. A series of murders in New York City had prompted the NYPD to call in a big gun. All of the victims were high-ranking political leaders in the city, including five of the city council members.
Sterling, a detective in his own right, came in to town and tried to strong-arm the local gangsters but got almost nowhere. The only information that he could get out of one of the two-bit hoods was that something big was about to go down, and that somehow it was connected to the seaport town of Mills Port.
Being only 20 miles from New York City, Mills Port was always cognizant of what was going on in the Big Apple. The Mills Ports police chief was actually a retired NYPD officer who still kept in touch with many of his buddies in the department there. The news of Steel Sterling's imminent arrival in town spread quickly. When he finally arrived, the whole town was there waiting.
It was as if the President himself had walked into town. To some people, this was an even bigger event. It was quite a sight to see Steel Sterling, big and famous as he was, pulling up to the town square in the back of a New York City taxicab. He got out of the car and was immediately surrounded by the mob of people that clogged around him. Many people saw him as the answer to their prayers. With Sterling's arrival, they could almost sense their freedoms from the mob returning. They all started speaking at once, telling him of all the injustices they had endured almost daily at the hands of the Giambi crime family.
Sterling fought his way through the crowd towards the uniformed chief of police, Robert L. Conners, Sr. Before Steel Sterling could even reach out his hand, a shot rang out that echoed across the town, silencing the crowd that had gathered there.
Then Rob Conners fell to the ground.
The citizens of Mills Port, who had been so eager to talk just second before, suddenly became mute. They slowly dissipated, and then broke into a run towards their homes and businesses. A loud noise was heard from behind the police station, and then the sound of a rushing tornado filled the air. Sterling looked up from Conner's rapidly fading body to see Mills Port's own super-hero, Red Rube.
Sterling's first words to the red-headed hero were, "Take him to the hospital, quick, and then come back here. I'm going to need your help." Rube did as he was told, picked up the chief, and flew him to the Methodist Medical Center in New York City, and was back in a matter of two minutes.
He reached out his hand to shake Steel Sterling's and said, "Mr. Sterling, I'm--" but he was cut off.
"Red Rube, I know," said Sterling. "I need your help, or else I fear the President may die!"
All the while, the Giambi Crime Syndicate was plotting, planning the demise of not only Mills Port, but also the bigger fish, New York City. Big plans, indeed, but ones that were completely obtainable for this mob family.
With their hit men already in place as some of New York's finest, security for the President's visit was no longer part of the equation. The plan had already been set in motion. The President was to give a speech on national radio, live from Times Square to update the nation on the War effort. Many members of Congress and the Senate would be on hand, as well as the mayor of New York City. If things went according to plan, none of them would live to see another speech.
Antonio Giambi, head of the largest crime cartel on the Eastern Seaboard, had worked his way to power during prohibition days. Where there was demand, "Tony" Giambi had the supply. He had started as a two-bit hood that had a knack for avoiding the cops. When he was finally caught, however, he struck a deal with the down-on-his-luck officer, and agreed to split some of his proceeds in return for protection from being arrested.
Later on, Shelton Birger--a gangster from Brooklyn--hired Giambi to pick up his shipments of whiskey and other alcohol, and then drive it back to the Mills Port area for distribution.
Giambi had been skimming some of the booze and selling it on the side. After a while, Birger discovered the extracurricular activities, and a shootout ensued. Giambi lost most of his right ear and had a bullet rip through his left shoulder. Shelton Birger took three shots square in his chest, and died in a pool of blood and whisky.
Giambi quickly took over the operations and expanded them to include blackmail, protection rackets, slot machines, and even a legit chain of restaurants. When prohibition ended, Antonio's restaurant still had plenty of business.
He set up the base of his operations in the southernmost edge of Mills Port, and slowly started taking over the town. Giambi had gotten cozy with most of the town's few police officers, and they were quick to accept his offer. He paid them close to twice their regular salaries to keep him and his cohorts out of any legal trouble.
Everything was going smoothly for him until some New York City officers transferred into town at the request of the mayor. The first, and most troublesome to Tony Giambi, was Robert Conners and his son Robert, Jr. The two men took it upon themselves to clean up the town, but met with a hesitant populace who were afraid of retaliation on their families and businesses if they talked.
Michael Jones was the next cop to transfer to Mills Port. He was originally from Boston, but had spent his last few years working on the south side of Chicago. His athletic skills rivaled that of Jim Thorpe. Because of that ability, he had acquired the name "Super Cop."
Red Rube and Steel Sterling met inside of the police station to discuss their strategy. Rob Conners, Jr. had already told them about the officers on the take from Giambi, and so they knew that whatever plan they had would have to be one that could be accomplished with the four of them.
The President and the senior senator from New York had recently been taking a very hard-line stance against the mob. The FBI, at least publicly, spoke tough against the mafia as well. The President had even go as far as to mention Giambi by name to a reporter.
The President was planning on making his speech in Times Square a memorable one; one that would begin his "Domestic Fight For Freedom: Freedom from worry, Freedom from bullies, Freedom to live our lives as we see fit!" Sure, it all sounded good, but it was heavily rumored in political circles that his new stance against the mobs was in fact a way of getting back at one of the crime families who had refused to 'persuade' one of his opponents to drop out of the previous Presidential race.
Sterling, Rube, Conners, and Mike Jones had their plan finally formulated, and were prepared to set it into motion.
Steel Sterling had met the Black Hood a couple times before, and trusted him based on those meetings alone. With only a few days to go until the big speech, Sterling wasted no time in contacting him through a friend at the FBI.
The Hood was not fond of politicians, but it was the President, so he agreed to go along with the plan. The country could not afford to have their leader assassinated, especially with the war still ongoing.
Two days before the speech, the Mills Port police, what was left of it that was still legit, pulled a daring--some say stupid--stunt. Conners and Jones raided Antonio's and arrested Mickey Giambi, the son of the infamous crime boss. The ensuing fight left tables splintered, glasses shattered, and bodies broken. The only name to show up in the obituary columns the next day was that of the mob boss's 25-year-old son, Mickey.
From that day on, Big Tony Giambi swore vengeance. He had the police station shot up on three different occasions that day alone. He also instructed his men to kill any Mills Port police officer on sight.
Sterling's plan failed. He had hoped that they could get Tony Giambi to call off the assassination attempt in exchange for his son. It was obviously naive, but it would have at least bought them some more time. With Mickey dead, 'plan B' had to be set into motion.
On the day of the speech, everything was set--for both sides. Giambi's man were working security for the event along with the Secret Service. The hit men were in place in the crowd, dressed in their NYPD uniforms, and they had no doubt that at the end of the day, the country would be less one President and at least one senator.
Steel Sterling, Red Rube, Rob Conners, and Mike Jones had not been seen since the shootout at Antonio's. Some had speculated that Giambi had got them all, but one look at his worried face proved that theory completely false. One look at his nervous henchmen eased their fears for the time being.
Robert Conners, Sr. was still in the hospital, recovering. The bullet had torn into his side, and punctured his stomach lining, but the doctors worked quickly and saved his life. He was still in no shape to help with the plan.
The day of the speech had arrived, and Tony Giambi had a huge shin-dig planned for the townspeople of Mills Port. It was mainly a way to provide him with an alibi, but also to bring out any Mills Port officers who would immediately become suspicious of such a move. The only officers left in town, however, were those already on the take from Giambi. It didn't help them any, as Big Tony had grown tired of the local badges, and they obviously weren't worth keeping on his payroll after the debacle a few days earlier at his restaurant.
The Secret Service was everywhere, apprehending anyone who looked the least bit suspicious. The mayor of New York City stood up and walked to the microphone. He began speaking, trying not to sound like he was giving a campaign speech, but most people saw through it rather easily. After he concluded, he sat down on the chair he had just left, which was on the middle of the 27 by 27 foot stage that had been built two days before.
The senior senator from New York got up to introduce the President, but he also seemed to feel the urge to get in his own shots at the various crime families, specifically mentioning Giambi for the world to hear. After finally finishing his piece, he raised his hands for silence, and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America!"
The President never got a chance to even approach the microphone before gunshots split the silence ad he fell to the ground. The Secret Service men rushed onto the stage, only to be blocked by uniformed members of the New York Police Department, who all had their guns raised and ready to fire at them.
Giambi's men had the upper hand, so it seemed. The President had been killed, they were certain, and two senators, the mayor, and the governor of New York would soon follow. Shots continued to pour on the stage, sending wood shrapnel flying in all directions.
The crowd was in a panic, running around in circles, trying to get away from the carnage going on in front of their terrified eyes.
The officers herded the Secret Service men onto the stage. One of the men stopped to check on the President. "Sir, are you alive?"
The man laying on the ground slowly opened his eyes, smiled, winked, and said "shhh...."
"Get away from him!" yelled one of the officers. The Secret Service man got up and slowly walked away from the President's body, and kept glancing back to see if he was imagining it, but the body didn't make a movement. The President's bodyguards were all forced to a corner of the stage, along with the politicians. One of the cops pulled the President's body towards the group, but finally gave up, complaining about how much the fallen leader weighed.
Many of the cops were still at the edge of the stage, dissuading any of the brave souls who wanted to see what was happening on the stage. They trained their guns on the crowd and forced them to leave. The other cops on stage were preparing to finish off the political leaders.
Back in Mills Port, Tony Giambi was holding a fair of sorts at the town square. He was very visible, with a fake, gleaming smile for all to see. There was music, food, a petting zoo, but there was a noticeable shortage of townspeople attending.
Giambi pulled aside one of his henchmen and said, "Well?"
The man replied, "He is dead sir, and they have the senators as well as the mayor and governor sitting and ready for execution, awaiting final instructions from you."
Giambi smiled. None of the heroes could stop him now. "Kill them," he said, "Tell them to kill them all!!!"
A red-haired kid hiding in a nearby tree fell down from his perch. Giambi grabbed him by the neck, lifted him up and said, "Ahh...young Rueben...always sticking your nose where it doesn't belong!"
"Let me go!" screamed the redhead.
"I don't think so. You know too much already." Giambi nodded towards his goon, Gino, and said, "Kill this kid first, and then radio our men to finish the job."
"No, I don't think so." The voice came from behind the two mobsters, who turned around just in time to see a pair of fists. The fists moved quickly and both men lay unconscious on the ground within two seconds.
Red Rube stood above the two men and smiled towards the red-headed boy, "Thanks, Billy, you've been a great help today!"
Glad to be of service to the town's protector, Billy saluted with a snap and ran off back to the fair.
Red Rube reached down and grabbed the two-way radio that was still in Gino's oversized hand. "Skrrttttzztt....We are still awaiting word.....Gino.....are you there?"
Rube pushed the button on the radio and spoke into it, "Finish them off."
On the stage in New York City, the cops all raised their guns and aimed them towards the politicians and the Secret Service men. The senior senator gave a questioning look, "Did he just say 'Finish them off'?"
The cop who held the radio smiled evilly and said, "He sure did!"
The senator only grinned and then said, "I was hoping so."
With a blaze of speed, the senator ripped off his jacket and shirt, as well as a false face, revealing the cowl and costume of the Black Hood, who quickly disarmed the four men closest to him. The Secret Service men sprang into action, taking on the supposed protectors of the city. The mayor gasped in astonishment at the sights unfolding before him.
Almost as soon as it started, it seemed over. The Black Hood stood, guarding the mayor and governor, and the Secret Service hovered over the two dozen officers who were either unconscious or sitting in defeat. Only five shots had been fired in the fight, two of which his the Black Hood in the left arm. He hurt, but he didn't let it show.
They were so winded by their quick victory that they were taken by surprise by the 40 other NYPD officers that had made their way to their side of the sage.
The good guys had spent all of their energy on the first wave of bad guys and had nothing left in the tank to take on another 40 men. They kept their composure, however, and put forth a somewhat convincing face, even if they had no way of backing it up. The heroes were quickly surrounded. One of the Secret Service men said, "You'll never take us alive!"
"That was never part of the plan in the first place!" came the reply from one of the cops. The rest of the officers laughed at the statement. The large group of armed thugs came slowly toward the encircled heroes. Their guns were trained mostly on the Black Hood, but also on the President's guards. "Let them have it!" came the cry from one of the bigger cops.
Strangely, none of the cops fired a shot. They were all standing in awe, staring at the form on the ground; that of the President, which was slowly rising to its feet.
"Shoot him now!" cried one of the cops.
"Now, that wouldn't be a good idea," said the President. "In fact, it'd be a pointless one." The President threw off his jacket, ripped off the toupee, and removed some false facial features to reveal the imposing presence of Steel Sterling.
Everyone--well, except for the Black Hood--was shocked at this new development. That brief moment of shock turned the tide for the good guys. The Black Hood, lame arm and all, along with Steel Sterling, jumped straight into the fray. Bullets flew, and so did bodies as Steel Sterling and the Hood fought with reckless abandon. The Secret Service quickly moved the other politicians off the stage.
At first, it looked as if Steel Sterling and the Black Hood couldn't be beat, but slowly the mob of cops overtook them. It was then that a loud noise, like a tornado, stopped everyone in their tracks. Sterling nodded at the Black Hood and they took advantage of the distraction. Sterling, while punching out one of the cops, said, "I was beginning to wonder if you were going to join us, Rube!"
"You try to lug that fat slob Giambi around to the jail! He must weigh at least 375 pounds!" Rube said this as he picked up two rather large goons with relative ease.
With the three heroes fighting together, the battle ended quickly. The Black Hood stood after it was all over, with blood on his lips, and his left arm hanging limp. He was smiling.
After explaining to the Secret Service what was going on--especially where the President REALLY was--they gathered up all the hired cops and dropped them off at the closest police station, then they went on to Mills Port.
The town erupted with cheers as Red Rube and Steel Sterling arrived in a New York City taxicab. They weren't sure who the guy was who rode in front, but since his arm was in a sling, they assumed he was part of the team that helped save their town--and the President.
The three heroes (including Black Hood in street clothes) finally made it into the Mills Port police station after greeting all the people who were showering them with thanks. Upon arriving, they discovered Mike Jones and Rob Conners watching over Tony Giambi, Gino, and all of the former Mills Port officers who were on the take. All of them had been arrested during the fair.
The heroes plan had actually worked. Steel Sterling said, to no one in particular, "I wonder how they're going to explain all of this to the newspapers..."
Red Rube said, "I'm sure they'll think of something...they always do!"
The Black Hood laughed, and slapped Rube on the back, "You sure look goofy, Rube, but you're one heck of a hero. I'm glad we're on the same side."
After saying their goodbyes, Sterling and the Hood both got in the cab and left, but not before Sterling said, "You know, that Rube could be one of the greats."
The next day, headlines across America read: PRESIDENT SURVIVES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT, Black Hood and Steel Sterling take down mob! The byline on the story was that of young Rueben Ruebens. Red Rube was only mentioned in passing.
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