Editor's Note: This story takes place before M2K's Amazing Spider-Man #17
New York City, the city that never sleeps, and within this city lies another city within itself, Manhattan, the epicenter of business, money, news, and daily New York life. Many who live in this city have no time to catch the news on the television, radio, or through the local paper. But when they do find the time to pick the paper, they have many choices. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Globe, and The Daily Bugle. All of these papers are prosperous, well-informed, and as close to the truth as it gets... all except for one, that paper being the Bugle. At one time it was the foremost leader in the newspaper business. Until the publisher's personal vendetta with a certain friendly neighborhood wall-crawler cost the paper the readership and sales that it once enjoyed. Although the Bugle is still profitable, it isn't the same paper it once was. Yet, the Bugle enjoys a quality that the other papers don't possess, the closeness of its co-workers.
"I don't want to hear it Ellis!" publisher J. Jonah Jameson screamed at Bugle reporter Ken Ellis. "I want you to play up this Frogman angle, I don't care how much you dislike it!"*
(* See recent issues of M2K's Amazing Spider-Man for amphibian-related details - Russ)
"Jonah." Ellis complained once more. "The Frogman is nobody! I should be out getting all the great stories. I don't have time to be looking for some nut in a frog suit." Jonah glared at Ken angrily. He'd just returned from the hospital after being injured.* He didn't have time for this.
(* As shown in M2K's Amazing Spider-Man #16 - Russ)
"Ellis, if you don't go get this story, it's your job. If you don't stop arguing with me, it's your job. And if you don't get out of my sight in the next minute, it's your job!" Ken finally saw this was a no-win battle. Besides, if Jonah would fire interns for making his coffee wrong, he would certainly fire him. And Jonah only let his interns bring him coffee on his bad days. He took his coat and started towards the elevator.
It sure was good not to not get sent on those minor stories anymore, Ben Urich thought to himself after the scene had ended. A few years ago, it was him that Jonah sent to the ridiculous stories, and Ellis had been the star reporter. Ken had only been the star because he named the Scarlet Spider character when he first showed, but was discredited when he supposedly went evil. Now Ben was engrossed with his research on the apparent emergence of the Green Goblin.* He sat and began to type.
(* The Green Goblin has been seen in recent issues of M2K's Amazing Spider-Man - Russ)
"What, no work for you Urich?" asked a female voice who had just approached Ben's desk. Ben couldn't help but smile as he looked up to see Betty Brant, another renowned Bugle reporter.
"After tonight, I don't want anymore work. Of course, who knows?" Ben replied as he stole a look at a still rampaging Jameson. "He's going to be sour the rest of the night."
"You were expecting him to sip tea and say how do you do to everyone he passes?" Betty offered. "When have we ever known him not have something stuck up his..."
"When have we ever indeed." Joe Robertson finished for Betty. "But it wouldn't be Jonah if he wasn't like that."
"Like what Joe?" Jonah asked as he approached the group.
"Like the outstanding publisher you are Jonah!" Robbie covered. Ben and Betty could barely contain their laughter.
"Sure, sure," Jonah grumbled. "Now why are you all standing around like your posing for pictures and not working?" he asked as he lit a cigar.
"We were about to brainstorm on topics for tomorrow's front page." Ben answered. "We were thinking about letting Betty delve into her Rose Goblin story a bit."* Ben didn't like Jonah's expressions after he said that.
(* The Rose Goblin has been making noise in the Amazing Spider-Man too - Russ)
"I already know what's going to be on the front page, my most recent article about that wall-crawling freak!" Jonah announced matter-of-factly. "I've been working on it all night."
"Jonah," Robbie started. "Don't you think we should lay off of the Spidey hating for once in a lifetime? We need to report the news, not biases." The four grew deathly quiet. It wasn't everyday that Jonah was told no about something. How he responded was detrimental to their jobs right about now. Jonah put out his cigar and soon had brought out a new one and lit it. He exhaled the thick smoke and spoke.
"Then I guess I'm brainstorming with you." Ben, Betty, and Robbie all let out a collective sigh of relief. Even though he would never admit it, Jonah had a soft spot in his heart for these three, not including that freelancer Parker, who wasn't here at the moment. They were the closest things he had to a second family at times and for that, J. Jonah Jameson was grateful. The four then took up chairs and began to throw ideas around when an interruption occurred.
"Mister Robertson!" a security guard from the first floor yelled in mid-run. His breath was labored as if he ran the flights of steps and his face looked as if he had seen a ghost.
"May I help you Mr. Timpson?" Jonah said, rather annoyed. Robbie waved his hand at him.
"Yes Jacob?" Joe asked.
"T-T-T-Tombstone's...in the...elevator" Jacob stuttered out of exhaustion and fear. "He said he had a score to settle with you." While the rest of the group's expressions showed fear for Joe's safety, Robbie smiled.
"Thanks for the warning Jacob." He then watched the young man start back down the steps.
"Joe, get into my office, now!" Jonah demanded. "You'll be safe in there while we get the police down here."
"No thanks, Jonah." Robbie replied as he started back for his desk.
"Are you nuts Joe?" Betty asked as she chased after him. "He wants to kill you!"
"I know," Joe said solemnly. "But I'm going to face him like a man." He then started stacking the piles of papers on his desk. Just then the elevator rang, announcing Tombstone's arrival.
"Please go to my office Joe," Jonah pleaded, as his eyes filled with the fear they only showed whenever a real threat approached his vicinity. Joe patted him on the back, took a sip of his coffee, and leaned against his desk facing the corner where Tombstone would emerge.
"And I said no thanks Jonah." Robbie said flatly. It was then that Tombstone rounded the corner.
"I'm looking for Joe Robertson," Tombstone whispered as he entered. It was Jonah that spoke first.
"Now hold on there," he said as he rushed up. "I have a newspaper to run and if you need to see Joe, it can wait until he gets off of work!" Jonah surprised himself with his tone of voice and anybody else would've listened. Not Tombstone. He pushed Jonah over and continued to enter the main newsroom where he soon spied Joe.
"Joe! Just the man I've been wanting to kill." Tombstone said as he moved closer to the seemingly unshakable Robertson. Betty and Ben now rushed up to Tombstone, astounded by their own bravery.
"Look," Ben said with his voice wavering. "You don't need to do this. What's done is done. You don't need to kill Robbie, what purpose would it serve?"
"And what would you gain from it?" Betty added. "You should be out robbing a bank, knocking off a crime boss, you know, fun stuff." Tombstone looked at her and began to laugh. Betty and Ben joined him in laughing. Then they found themselves on the floor.
"You can tell a joke lady," Tombstone replied. "But a convincing person you're not. Now Joe, tell me what you been up to lately." He smiled as he moved in for the kill. Suddenly a wad of bills was thrown at him. He turned to see Jonah standing with another 5 or so wads.
"You can have that plus this if you just leave." He said in a completely serious tone. Betty was wide-eyed. Jonah never liked to part with his money, for any reason. "Just leave Tombstone, you can clean me out if you want. But you're not killing Joe." Once again Tombstone laughed.
"It's not about the money little man," He said as he threw the money back at Jonah. "I want Robbie dead and if you want to try to stop me, you'll be dead too. Are you really ready to die?" he whispered with a sinister smile. All Jonah could do was stand quiet. "I thought so." He said as he grabbed Robbie around the throat and pushed his back against the nearest wall.
"And are you ready to die my good pal Joe?" Joe could barely speak but he somehow managed a quiet response.
"Do your worst, but leave my friends and family out of this."
"It's the least I can do for an old friend." Tombstone answered as he raised his left fist level with Robbie's head. He was surprised with he felt two small arms encircle his large one.
"Please don't do this," Betty pleaded as she almost dangled from the villain's arm. "Joe's like a father to me and I've lost so much in my life so far, please don't add to it."
Tears began to run down her face. If Tombstone had had any feeling left in him, he would've released Robbie, but Tombstone was a cold, uncaring person now.
"Look, you need to let go now," he ordered. "You're crying all over my leather. Now get off me and... hold on. I recognize you now. You're the original Hobgoblin's widow! No wonder you're crying like the fat cow you are. It's not my fault he couldn't take care of himself or you for that matter. So enough of the pity party and get off." And Betty let go.
"Now where were we?" Tombstone said turning his attention back to Joe. Betty stood there, no longer with tears in her eyes, but with a type of fire. Tombstone must not have known that Ned was cleared of being the Hobgoblin. She couldn't and wouldn't let Ned's name be dishonored anymore. All the years she'd had to put up with the heckling, and the phone calls, and the labels, but now, she wouldn't take it lying down. She slowly inched her way towards the wall.
"Any last words Joe, before I finally get even with you?" Tombstone asked sarcastically. He knew Robbie couldn't answer if he wanted to, thanks to the firm grip he'd had on his neck for a good 3 minutes. Once again his fist rose.
Joe fell from Tombstone's grasp as he went to hold his head. Upon turning he saw Betty Brant barely holding onto an old-fashioned fire extinguisher with a look of determination in her eyes. "You little tramp," Tombstone managed. "You're gonna get yours now!" He started strutting his way towards her.
From a few feet away Jonah and Ben watched. "She's nuts!" Jonah said. "She'll get her fool self killed." All Ben could do was marvel at her strength. "The way you keep that relic of a hydrant full, she just lifted 100 pounds over he head!"
Betty was almost against the far wall, with Tombstone closing in. "Time's running out cow," Tombstone growled. "Time to clock out." Betty tried to lift the hydrant again but Tombstone easily knocked it away. "This is a lesson you won't soon... er... um... but I'm not sleepy mommy." Suddenly Tombstone hit the floor with a thud. The men came rushing over.
"Are you okay?" Ben asked. Betty nodded. "It must've taken a minute for the signal to reach his brain. That is one heck of a nervous system." He quipped.
"I just couldn't let him talk about Ned like that," Betty announced resiliently. "I don't have to take that anymore."
"Jonah!" Glory Grant called form across the room. "The police are on their way now!"
"Thanks Glory," he replied as he bit on a cigar for lack of a lighter. "Now back to the front page, I still say my story is the front page." They all looked at him in disbelief. Finally J. Jonah Jameson gave in.
"Okay!" he said raising his hands. "The front page will be about Betty's heroics. I can wait awhile before I keep the public updated on the Spider-Menace." This brought laughter from the three, something they all feared they would never get to do again. Why were they laughing? Jonah wondered the same thing as the night sky radiated moonlight into the window behind him.
Spider-Man had just swung by.