Appearing in "Hide and Seek!"
- Teddy Remsen
- Dr. Lita Mercado
- Dr. Lucian Ballad
- Dr. Henry Salinger (First appearance)
- Gnome (Horst Kleinmann) (First appearance)
- Direktor of the Kleinmann Institute (Udo) (First appearance)
- Gian (First appearance)
- Mr. Deke Griswell (First appearance)
- Mistress Midnight (Vivienne) (First appearance)
Synopsis for "Hide and Seek!"
A month ago, Keith Remsen thought dreams would be the death of him; now they have become work. Currently he is in the dream world, standing beside a red dotted line leading up to a booth marked "TOLL". Along the line stand people of every walk of life, stretching back to the horizon, each waiting his or her turn. The Nightmask seeks only one: a boy named Henry. He finds him hiding in a drainage ditch near the front of the line. Henry begs Keith not to make him go to the front of the line, and Keith tries to calm him: after all, he's helped Henry before, and how could a man dressed like a Saturday-morning superhero steer him wrong? Keith suggests they just walk along the ditch, out of sight, so Henry can sneak a peak and know there's nothing up there to scare him. Henry runs away screaming when he sees the toll-booth operator has no eyes. "Henry! Wait! Nothing's back there that's as bad as you think! I've had to face some really terrible stuff and... miserable little wimp!"
"Teddy, he didn't actually say that, did he?" questions Lucian Ballad, a doctor of psychology and Keith's legal guardian ever since his parents died, who is keeping in contact with Keith through his sister, Teddy. Teddy says it was more like "thinking aloud", clear to her, but she's not sure if he was heard by the boy, who is actually the dreaming persona of Dr. Henry Salinger, the most respected man in modern medicine and scheduled to soon receive a lifetime humanitarian award from the President of the United States! As the boy dives back through the drainage pipe in the dream world, Lucian tells Teddy to recall Keith; nothing more productive will be achieved today. Keith listens to his little sister, his psychic anchor, and returns to the waking world.
Vowing to himself that the plight of Dr. Salinger -- the man who introduced him to medicine, and gave him a way to rise above the oppression of his native Haiti through the free clinic Salinger founded -- will not go untreated, Dr. Ballad snaps his fingers and brings Salinger out of his hypnotic slumber. As he shows Dr. Salinger out, Lucian reminds his mentor that depressions like is are both very common and very treatable, but only if Salinger actually takes the prescribed anti-depressants. Lucian begins to suggest intravenous injections, thinks the pills may be difficult to remember, but Dr. Salinger grows horrified by the mention of needles, and swears he will not return for another of these foolish experiments. As he departs, Salinger wonders aloud why they can't understand that he simply neither needs nore want awards, while Lucian is privately more concerned with his mentor's condition ending in catatonia or suicide than he is about the elder man's unwillingness to accept a lifetime achievement award. A car has been sent for Salinger, but the old man just walks past, lost in his depression.
Keith wheels Teddy around to the front, running with renew joy over being free for the day. They are stopped by Lucian, who is still upset by Keith's rough handling of the delicate patient. Keith and Teddy both agree: Salinger's dreams are always the same, and it's starting to get pretty boring. They are joined by Dr. Lita Mercado, who says it's far too soon for the pair to get bored. "Three weeks ago, I quit a very secure hospital job to join two kids I like in a wild, but challenging little venture proposal by your guardian there! Awful soon for bored. I want to hear excitement! Earn a footnote in psycho-analysis texts... Estrellita Mercado, physical therapist to the stars!" Teddy invites Lite to join them on their jaunt down down to first street, but Lita reminds them about her orders for Teddy to start making trips on her own. Teddy rolls on off on her own, while Lita decides to toughen Keith up by dragging him to the gym. As he, Lita, and Lucian workout -- with Lita lecturing on the importance of fitness if he's going to keep putting himself at risk of shock by travelling into dangerous dreams, and Lucian reminding him of the importance of the work -- Keith reveals it's just hard for him to maintain interest. He expected more encounters to be like the first, in which he not only discovered, but confronted his parent's killer, Horst Kleinmann, the Gnome. With Kleinmann's fate unknown, Keith resolves to continue training, to make sure he remains ready.
At the Kleinmann Institute in Zurich, Kleinmann is in fact recovering slowly after his last encounter with the Nightmask. While Udo, the institute Director complains about the loss of patients due to his low visibility, Kleinmann is only concerned with his machines. Kleinmann's man Gian informs the doctor that the machines have all been repaired or replaced, but warns it is the aged, infirmed Kleinmann who will need luck to continue with the experiments. Kleinmann, now seen to be a disfigured, white-haired man with mechanical replacements for a hand, arm, and other parts unknown, is unconcerned, saying it will take him mere weeks to recover. In the meantime, he knows of the perfect agent to act in his place, in the war to protect the thing he has created. She is unstable, but also perfect for the job and indebted to him.
Back at the Ballad Dream Clinic, Teddy arrives home in tears. She tells Teddy she was ready for how tough the trip would be: there are never enough ramps on the way there, the way places don't have room for her, the way people are overly polite because they're so uncomfortable, but she never realized how often people don't even both to look down at her. It's as if being no longer on their level, it's like she no longer exists. Keith hugs her, tears welling up in his eyes, and offers to take her in. Teddy rolls of on her own, saying the last thing she needs is her brother acting guilty and uncomfortable. Later, Teddy apologizes for snapping at Keith. Keith mentions that he's been reading up on Salinger, who, despite his boring dreams, is practically another Albert Schweitzer, establishing clinics across the world. In the course of their casual chat, Keith mentions that their Guardian takes a little nap around this time every day.
Keith talks Teddy into helping him, and he travels into Lucian Ballad's dream, a colorful memory of a Haitian carnival. Spying Ballad with two showgirls, Keith is glad to see his guardian at least dreams about cutting loose. At that moment, several revelers begin to overturn a large totem (which bears a more than passing resemblance to Salinger). Ballad runs to stop them from destroying the sacred behemoth, and is narrowly pushed out of the way by Keith when it falls. Back in the waking world, Ballad rips into Keith for his "psychic joyriding" and Lita threatens to make his workout periods a nightmare if she catches him in any of her dreams. Lita rushes out the door to get ready for a big date, but stops in her tracks when she sees a limo with a presidential seal pulling up to the clinic. It has to be Deke Griswell, of the White House public relations staff. Ballad is forced to put off the lecture while he gets on of his own.
Griswell is not pleased about Salinger's reluctance to accept his award. The presentation has been pushed hard in the press as some positive news to soften the blow to public opinion that the latest round of welfare cuts are sure to bring. If Salinger doesn't accept, the President will look foolish. Ballad is put on notice: if this new technique of his can't get results, then that federal funding that the clinic depends on will go to some other needy cause. Seeking to make amends, Keith and Teddy wander off, determined to help Salinger. It's gotten easier for him to enter someone's dreams once he's already done so, and he can even tell that Salinger has recently drifted off to sleep.
Nightmask enters a dream of a war zone, a dream far more dramatic than Salinger ever produced in the clinic. The controlled conditions of Ballad's hypnotic sessions must make Salinger suppress more, Keith reasons, keeping his dreams bland. Spying the red-headed boy Henry, Keith takes off after him. Henry tries to run, saying he doesn't want to go near the familiar line which stretches through the war torn land, but Keith grabs him by the collar, saying the sooner he faces his fear, the sooner they can help him. Even Keith is disturbed, though, when he notices the Empire State Building, and sees that it is New York that's been destroyed by war. Taking Henry's hand, he pulls the boy over a mound of debris to the front of the line. There he sees the people marching forward into a blasted out tenement, where they are being gunned down by a soldier in red as he constantly calls "next!" Keith rushes forward tackling the soldier in red, ignoring Henry's screams and objections, only to find the soldier's face is that of the bespectacled Dr. Salinger. Henry begins sobbing "not me! not me! The shots didn't come from me! I'm innocent! Innocent as a child!...innocent..."
Keith is already fleeing the mind of Henry Salinger as the doctor wakes, fleeing the pain of a man on the edge, pushed too far, and too hard. Keith, Teddy, and Lucian rush to Salinger's clinic, with Keith cursing himself for thinking like some sort of dumb super-character expecting to fight a tangible monster instead of facing something terrible about Salinger himself. There they find Salinger on the ledge of the seventh floor. Keith jumps up to the fire escape, hoping to reach him before he jumps. Reaching the ledge, Keith tried to convince the doctor that things may not be as bad as he thinks. Salinger says that the way he thinks is exactly why it's so bad -- keeping his memories repressed until the award brought on the dreams.
Salinger thinks back to years ago, when the Vietnam War raged, unrest was worldwide, and he ran a clinic in Central America. When the government came at him with an offer of unlimited funding he jumped at the chance. He had developed an experimental serum to curb violent behavior, which he hoped could be used to reform criminals. His sponsors had broader ideas for its usage, but Salinger thought that it still didn't seem that bad. He needed a broader test base, and the villagers were all willing, knowing of the good his clinic provided. Except, they all died. Maybe it had been tampered with to increase it's applications in crowd control, or perhaps it was just more lethal to anyone more violent than his previous test subjects. His sponsors covered the incident by burning the village to ground, saying local rebels would be blamed "Snap out of it!" they barked, "think commies or terrorists don't do worse? It's war with them! They had your serum, probably unleash it back home! would've been New York... not this backwater!" Unable to take anymore, Salinger allows himself to fall.
Keith grabs his coat sleeve, saving him. Saying he can't hold on long, Keith begs him to grab his wrist. It's too late to save that village, but not too late to save Keith from bearing the burden of his death. Salinger reluctantly grabs hold, and Lucian pulls him back towards the fire escape. Once they have him on the ground, Griswell is there, saying he wants whatever it takes to get the old loon in shape to receive that award, or his funding is done-for. After what he heard today, Lucian is glad to be rid of their funding, and goes to tend to his patient.
Elsewhere, on the Riviera, a cowboy businessman from Oklahoma boasts his over his own good luck, not just with stocks or bonds, or even in the Riviera's many casinos, but in getting the lovely, almost-too-proper looking young lady to join him for the evening. The young woman says that she could tell he was a man with dreams, and the cowboy confirms he's already been a bit of a dreamer. Mistress Midnight jumps the man, and he lets out a horrible cry, falling unconscious. A voice from behind her chastises her for being so lustful, so careless; that, after all, it was led to her first stay at the Institute. Turning, she sees Udo and Gian, and knows that Kleinmann wants her, and for something big if he sent his most trusted staff as mere errand boys. "I'm intrigued. It will not even be necessary to blackmail me."
- In this issue, Keith claims that he and Teddy have always had "this psychic link". If this is true, and if Keith's dream-walking powers actually come from his head injury, then it is unclear if the White Event actually imparted Keith with any powers, if it magnified existing powers, if it only pulled him out of his coma (last issue), or if it was just a coincidence of timing.
- As this comic is set in the year 1986, it predates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, making Teddy's difficulties with her disability all the more understandable.
- In this issue, Teddy wears a tee-shirt with the distinctive "Ghost-Busters" logo.
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- 4 Images from Nightmask Vol 1 2
Links and References
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