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'Go Set the Watchmen' by Harper Lee

02/18/2015 11:20 am ET | Updated Apr 20, 2015

Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, is to publish a second novel, according to the New York Times.

I guess it all started the night the Comedian was murdered. Of course Jem said it started much earlier than that, with Ozymandias. Doc Finch said we were both right: "It all depends where you are in the space/time continuum." He said things like that a lot ever since a freak nuclear accident transformed him from a simple country lawyer into a living cyclotron.

Anyway, I'm telling this here story, so I reckon I get to decide when it starts. And I say it started when the Comedian was murdered -- or more precisely, when Boo Radley called me. "You better come over quick, Scout," he said in that ghostly voice of his. "There's been an accident."

I'd given up crime fighting a long time ago. And the Comedian was never a close friend of mine, on account of an unsavory incident I prefer not to discuss. But he had been one of us -- one of the Watchmen -- so I figured I owed him something. I squeezed into my Silk Spectre costume, simultaneously pleased that I still fit into it and annoyed that I was pleased, and headed on over.

Boo met me at the door of the Comedian's apartment. "As you can see," he said dryly, "there was a struggle." I'll say there was -- the Comedian's apartment was trashed, and there was blood all over the place.

"Where's the body?" Boo nodded at the broken living room window. Steeling myself, I looked down sixteen floors. There at the bottom, in an alleyway, was what was left of the Comedian. He had taken his final pratfall. "Who could have done this?"

Boo looked at me -- or at least I think he looked at me. It was hard to tell with that weird mask of his -- constantly shifting black patterns on a white background, like a Rorschach test. How exactly it worked was one of his many enigmas, as well as how he came and went so mysteriously. "The Comedian had a long list of enemies. He wasn't exactly Mr. Popular, you know. Nite Owl is bringing Moloch the Mystic in now for questioning."

That made sense. Moloch was one of the Comedian's oldest enemies. But I was annoyed that Jem -- Nite Owl -- had beat me to the punch. Sibling rivalry runs deep, even in the superhero biz. A thought occurred to me: "Do you think Moloch murdered the Comedian?"

Boo maybe looked at me again. "No," he said.

***

The trial was over almost before it began. Moloch had a criminal record a mile long, and the public is prejudiced against supervillains. Doc Finch did his best to defend him, but the results were a forgone conclusion. Especially after Ozymandias finished testifying against him. Ozymandias was once an illiterate piece of white trash named Bob Ewell until a freak nuclear accident transformed him into the world's smartest man: "Moloch hated the Comedian. He always swore one day he would get revenge. I'm just surprised it took so long."

"Ozymandias seems really eager to put Moloch away," Jem whispered to me. We were sitting in the gallery, up with the civilians, because there was no more room down on the courtroom floor. It was was packed with every imaginable superhero, even those from other universes -- Avengers, X-Men, Justice Leaguers -- for the big trial.

"Yes, he does," Boo added.

"I ain't entirely convinced." Moloch seemed tired, old, hardly in shape to beat the Comedian to death; it was rumored he had cancer. And anyway, his powers were magical, not physical; he might turn the Comedian into a newt or a toad, but throwing him out the window just wasn't his M.O. That was my superpower -- empathy -- the ability to walk a mile in another man's shoes, even if he was an arch fiend.

The jury deliberated for a full hour, then returned a guilty verdict. Doc Finch momentarily shrunk down to subatomic size as Moloch was led away in shackles. Then he regrew and called up to us in the gallery: "Scout, Jem, let's get out of here."

Boo Radley, as usual, had already disappeared.

***

We had no sooner walked in the lab when a police car pulled up outside. Doc Finch went out to talk to the officers. When he returned, his color had changed from cobalt blue to ashy gray. "The damn fool! He tried to make a run for it, and the police shot him dead! And I saw in most of the future timelines a good chance of him getting out on appeal!" Then he teleported to Mars -- he did that a lot when he wanted to be alone with his godlike thoughts -- leaving me and Jem on our own.

"Well, I guess that's that," Jem said. I must admit he looked good in his old skintight Nite Owl costume. And I could tell by the way he was gawking at me that he thought I looked good in my Silk Spectre uniform, which left little to the imagination. We fell longingly into each others' arms. It was difficult being raised by a single parent -- especially one with the power of the Almighty. He might be a benevolent god, but he was still a god. And we needed some human contact.

"Ahem," Boo Radley said. Jem and I sprung guiltily apart.

"Don't you ever knock?" I said irritably. Jem turned to hide his -- I was pleased to see -- sizable bulge, a difficult feat to accomplish in a leotard, and I had to laugh despite my vexation.

"No time for canoodling," Boo Radley said. "I want you to use your empathy powers on Ozymandias."

"What makes you think he's behind the Comedian's murder?" Jem said with equal irritation. I didn't need psychic gifts to tell his manly orbs right now were the color of Doc Finch's skin.

"Just a hunch," Boo Radley said. "But I've learned from Scout to trust my feelings."

***

We flew to Ozymandias's secret lair in Antarctica in Nite Owl's futuristic airship, the Mockingbird. He christened it the Mockingbird because it was suppose to do no harm to people, just bring happiness. All too soon we would have to put aside such childish notions.

As usual, Ozymandias was drunk when we arrived -- drunk with power. In my opinion, he spent way too much time with that weird genetically modified lynx of his, Bubastis, and not enough time with real people. I try not to be judgmental about such things, but there are limits. Maybe if he had spent more time with just plain folks he wouldn't have done what he did.

"Of course I killed the Comedian," Ozymandias said without any probing from me. "He was going to expose my plans."

"What plans?" I said, stalling. I could see Jem and Boo were positioning themselves to jump him.

"Look around you, Scout. The world is torn apart by racial hatred. The only way to end racism is to unite whites and blacks against a common enemy -- in this case, greens. I've created a space monster to attack New York City. Millions of people will die, but the races will join together to defeat the alien invasion."

Jem and Boo leapt at Ozymandias, but with his super reflexes he easily defeated both of them, breaking Jem's arm in the process. "Remember, world's smartest man? You're already too late. The attack started fifteen minutes ago. Now all you can do is sit back and watch the fireworks."

I didn't know what to do, but as usual when I was morally confused, Doc Finch suddenly appeared in a blinding flash of blue light. "Ozymandias, I'm very disappointed in you."

Ozymandias was unperturbed. "Look into the alternate future timelines. I've raised my tachyon shields. You'll see I'm right. This is the only way to prevent an all-out race war."

Doc Finch did. What he said next shook me to the core of my perception of myself as an ethical being. "Ozymandias is right. This is the only way to prevent a race war. Of course, we'll have to keep it a secret to ourselves."

"No," Boo Radley said. "Ozymandias is a mass-murderer. He must be brought to justice. You can't build a new moral order on a foundation of lies."

"I'm sorry," Doc Finch said, and disintegrated Boo. Then he teleported to Mars again. This time I knew he wouldn't be coming back.

That was decades ago, way back in the fifties. Things turned out the way Ozymandias predicted: the races united to fight the alien invasion, and bigotry ended. There's a black man in the White House now, and he's universally respected and admired. Jem's arm eventually healed; it feels good wrapped around me on lonely nights. I published a book that was wildly popular, a thickly disguised version of the true events. But I keep being haunted by Boo's final words. That's why I've decided to write a sequel, and lay out in plain English what really happened. I hope folks are ready for it. And I hope wherever he is now Doc Finch is looking down on me and Jem and smiling.