The bleak, labyrinthine halls of Alpha Omicron Pi reek of estrogen, stale perfume, and the faint aura of girls desperately trying to prove themselves as women. But one lone resident shines through this darkness. He is Alpha Omicron Pi’s protector. Its hero. Its Houseboy.
Home to dozens of budding young women, Alpha Omicron Pi is also a home to secret rivalries, fierce social pressures and appalling moral decadence.
And on this night, it will be home to murder.
ALPHA OMICRON PI. NIGHT.
“Don’t tell me you have a crush on Houseboy!” Shannon McIntyre laughs heartily, lounging in the common room with sorority sister Tanya Tiffler and handsome, mild-mannered Sean Smith, who also happens to live somewhere in Alpha Omicron Pi, for reasons no one can quite figure.
“You would too, if he’d saved you,” Tanya counters. “I almost had to go to a party without taking my pill.”* (*Vol. 10 Ish. 7! –Ed.)
Sean Smith nods. “He sounds like he’d be a pretty great guy. If he were real.”
Tanya shoves Sean playfully. “Don’t give me that ‘house myth’ crap, Sean. I saw him with my own—”
DING-DONG. The ominous chimes of the doorbell fill the room.
Tanya goes to the door. Opens it. And screams.
Before her eyes, a wounded stranger crumples to the ground. It is the first time she will see a man die.
A crowd. Always a crowd. Vultures.
A dozen sorority girls stare baffled at the dead man in the entryway. Police officers take statements.
After years on the force, Officer Galvan is a hard man. But here, in a sorority house, he is ill at ease.
Galvan rubs his temples. “I hate the weird ones.”
The House Mother takes a long drag on her cigarette. “I’ve got a friend coming,” she says. “He might be able to help.”
ALPHA OMICRON PI. HOUSE ROOFTOP.
House Mother’s overcoat flaps in the icy wind of night. But the smoke filling her lungs, along with the thought of evil brought to justice, warms her from the inside.
Suddenly, silently, he appears beside her. “I heard we have a mystery on our hands,” says Houseboy.
House Mother nods, not bothering to turn her head. “You heard right, old chum.”
ALPHA OMICRON PI. SECOND FLOOR.
Room 203. Alpha Omicron Pi’s “bad girls.” And its richest vein of gossip. If it’s happening in the house, these girls are the ones to ask. But information never comes easy.
Shrieks. Giggles. Chaos. Houseboy knows what waits beyond the door. Brightly colored, overpriced undergarments and nubile female flesh. A pillow fight.
With one powerful kick, he sends the door smashing to the ground.
The scantily-clad girls shield themselves with pillows as the caped, masked figure enters the room. “Houseboy!” someone gasps.
“I apologize for the intrusion,” Houseboy says dryly. “I’m looking for information.”
Leslie Cohn pipes up. “We already told the cops, we don’t know anything.”
“I wish I could believe that,” growls the Houseboy.
“Why don’t you talk to Sean Smith?” Leslie snaps back.
Houseboy flinches, ever imperceptibly. “Sean Smith? Why him? He seems like a nice enough lad.”
“He was there when the dying guy showed up. But then it was like he disappeared.”
“Plus nobody seems to know why he lives here. That’s a little weird, don’t you think?”
“Um,” says Houseboy. “No.”
ALPHA OMICRON PI. BASEMENT.
Houseboy stares intently at the massive screen of the crime-solving supercomputer at the heart of his cutting-edge basement lair.
Having hacked the police computer, he is now privy to the coroner’s report on the dead man.
The dead man has a name: Wayne Drummond.
Houseboy’s eyes narrow. Wayne Drummond. Wayne Drummond.
ORANGE COUNTY. THE SMITH HOME. FIVE YEARS AGO.
Shannon Smith is crying. Sean Smith, sympathetic little brother, at fifteen still a boy, sits by her side.
“He said he loved me,” sobbed Shannon. “So I slept with him. And now he tells me he’s moving to Oakland. And doesn’t want to see me anymore. Promise me you’ll never treat women that way.”
“I won’t,” says young Sean. “I swear a solemn oath to do everything in my power to protect young women from emotional harm, and to make sure their living spaces are clean and comfortable.”
Shannon’s eyes widen. “Sean, how are you going to do that?”
“I’ll find a way. So, what’s this creep’s name?”
ALPHA OMICRON PI. BASEMENT.
Houseboy’s keen mind races. So the man is connected to Sean Smith after all. A frame-up? But how? And why? And more importantly, is the target really Sean Smith? Or Houseboy?
DURANT AVENUE. NIGHT.
Here. A former Tower Records, now a sad, vacant shell, used up and discarded, like too many girls with shattered self-esteem. How appropriate. The police report says this was the site of a scuffle. Shortly before Drummond showed up at Alpha Omicron Pi. It might be nothing. But it’s worth checking out.
Something on the ground sparkles, catching Houseboy’s eye. He crouches. Picks it up.
SIGMA EPSILON. NIGHT.
Houseboy moves soundlessly through the foyer. The air is thick with the stink of long-spilled beer, vomit and body odor. Once-grand antique furniture, now abused, stained, in disrepair. An unholy place. A world whose inhabitants live to use and abuse, heedless of the damage in their wake.
In short, a world without a Houseboy.
“Well, well, well,” brays a familiar voice. “What took you so long?”
“I found the fraternity pin you left at the scene. Of course, I should have guessed long before that. A plan this diabolical could only be hatched by my old nemesis… Walt Conroy. Or should I say… Frat Guy?”
“Well done, Houseboy,” says the voice. “But this time, you lose.”
A bare light bulb clicks on, revealing Frat Guy in the dining room. Standing next to a helpless girl, tied to a chair.
“Tanya!” Houseboy takes a step forward. Three frat brothers emerge from the darkness and grab him.
Frat Guy calmly levels a gun at the hero. “Always playing the nice guy. The protector. And yet you’re the one living a lie.”
“Houseboy, what’s he talking about?” pleads Tanya.
“Why don’t you tell her? After all, it’s your double life that left you so vulnerable. It was just a matter of connecting the dots. And soon I had the perfect scheme to get you kicked out of that sorority forever. Best of all, I knew you’d solve the mystery that would lead to your own undoing.”
“You’re mad,” says the Houseboy, through gritted teeth.
Frat guy laughs. “Mad? No. Just angry. Now let’s show Tanya who you really are.”
A frat brother reaches for Houseboy’s mask. As he touches it, a spark lights up the room with a crack as the brother is stunned with forty thousand volts. Houseboy head-butts the second brother in the face, flattening his nose with a sickening crunch. A judo kick takes the third guy down. Houseboy dives for cover as Frat Guy opens fire.
Houseboy throws a Houserang, cleanly knocking the pistol from Frat Guy’s hands. He dives at Frat Guy. Tackles him. Savagely beats him unconscious.
He knows he shouldn’t enjoy this.
But he does.
SIGMA EPSILON. LATER.
House Mother and Houseboy watch the police lead Frat Guy into a paddy wagon. From across the yard, Galvan nods at House Mother gratefully.
She turns to the Houseboy. “These never end well, do they?”
“It could have ended worse.”
ALPHA OMICRON PI. ROOFTOP. NIGHT.
Houseboy stands on the edge of the roof. Surveying the house. His house. Tanya, wrapped in a blanket, steps out into the night air.
“You all right, ma’am?”
“I’m fine.” She steps close to him. “Houseboy?”
“What was Frat Guy talking about? Back there.”
Houseboy looks into her eyes. They are deep with love and gratitude. But clouded by doubt. This pains him.
Slowly, Houseboy removes his mask.
“I’m sorry I never told you. I didn’t want to put you in danger. I--”
Tanya interrupts with a gentle kiss.
“Tanya… I always…”
Sean stops. Behind Tanya, an Omicron-shaped searchlight illuminates the sky. The signal.
Tanya smiles knowingly. “Go get ‘em, tiger.”