"One Thing is Certain...": Black Orchid has been undercover within an organized crime syndicate for months, using the guise of Emma Haliwell to get closer and closer to the top of the chain, waiting to meet a man they call The Principal. However, after getting so clo
- Something's missing... Flowers half stare from cool, familiar faces. A slow deep place, the garden. This is where I come from... Where do I go?
Synopsis for "One Thing is Certain..."
Black Orchid has been undercover within an organized crime syndicate for months, using the guise of Emma Haliwell to get closer and closer to the top of the chain, waiting to meet a man they call The Principal. However, after getting so close, she is found out during a board meeting. Rather than interrogate her, it is simply decided that she be killed. Though her ability to change the density of her body prevents her from being killed by bullets, she is not immune to fire. They have her doused with gasoline, and set the room ablaze. Desperately, she breaks through her bonds and tries to get out of the room before the flames take her, but she is caught in an explosion and killed, just as she thinks she is free.
In a prison, Carl Thorne brags to his cellmate about his success as an arms dealer, and promises to get that man anything he wants when he gets out of prison in just two hours. His cellmate asks only for the chance to go to a bar.
A black orchid wakes from a green dream in a greenhouse, unsure of where she is, why, and who she was just moments before. Absently, she wanders out of the greenhouse and into a nearby house, apparently belonging to some kind of botanical scientist. She wanders straight into his living room, where he sits reading a newspaper, and interrupts him, asking who she is. Looking up, he seems confused that she doesn't know who she is. The other one had known immediately.
Elsewhere, Mr. Sterling watches his office burn and pays the police chief to let it burn a little longer.
Uncomfortably, the man wishes that the other one he spoke of was there, introducing himself as Dr. Philip Sylvian, and hoping that hearing his name will ring some bells. She is confused, and he explains how her predecessor Susan had often sung to her, calling she and the others her sisters. Unexpectedly, his visitor collapses in his arms, just as Philip sees news on the television that Susan - the Black Orchid - was just killed in an explosion.
At the bar near his former office, Mr. Sterling calls his boss - Lex Luthor - to report back about uncovering the mole in their organization.
Philip places his guest in the bath, and when she wakes, he explains that she has been using much more water and carbon dioxide thanks to her new-found mobility than she had while rooted. Fortunately, he says, orchids are epiphytic, which means they get most of their nourishment from the air alone. Questioningly, she looks up, asking whether she is an orchid. Unable to fully explain it quickly, Philip agrees to tell her the whole story from the beginning.
When he was three, Philip had seen his father Harry receiving the news from his neighbour Jarret Linden that he was having a daughter, who he hoped his wife would let him name Susan. Susan had been a cute baby, and the two of them grew up like brother and sister, playing in each others' yards. Philip would teach her all of the names of the plants they had in the garden that they had grown themselves. Susan was always better at growing things than he was. They had built a tree fort together, but one day, some bullies had burnt it down. That was the first time that Phil had seen Susan cry. After that, she had waited for four hours to follow those bullies to their clubhouse, and when they were inside it, she shot out the windows with her slingshot, and scared them away from ever bullying Phil and her again.
Unfortunately, Susan had more to worry about from her own father, who had become abusive. Though Harry Sylvian had wanted to talk sense into Jarret, nothing ever came of it. Susan attempted to run away from home, and Philip helped her by giving her money and food. In the lab that Philip's father had let him build, the two of them shared a kiss for the first time, but it was witnessed by her father, who burst in and took her away, warning Philip never to touch her again. He had heard her being beaten that night.
Some months later, he received a postcard from her, explaining that she had gone to Holland and was doing alright. He didn't see her again until he was in college, and then later when she was married to Carl Thorne.
Meanwhile, Carl Thorne tries to get an audience with Lex Luthor, but the secretary and security will not let him up. Lex has plans to go to the opera, but when he learns that Carl Thorne is out of prison and is there to see him, he makes an exception, and has the opera house delay the opening for him. Despite letting Carl up to see him, Lex is disinterested in helping him, pointing out that Carl's stealing from him and involvement with Susan Linden nearly ruined his armaments division. Carl had failed him, and he would not make that mistake again. Making his way down to the lobby, Lex warns him not to come back.
Philip explains that - in a way - he is his visitor's father, but he is not the only one. He and Alec Holland had planned her birth for years. He and Alec had partnered with Jason Woordue and Pamela Isley in their research, but only Philip remains his old self. Woodrue ended up in Arkham Asylum, Isley became Poison Ivy, and Alec and his wife Linda were murdered. Hearing of this tires his guest, and she decides to go to sleep in a tree outside. She has strange dreams of Susan Linden's life, that she is not sure are her own.
Drunk, Carl complains of his slight by Lex Luthor to a fellow patron of a nearby bar - his making good on the promise to his cellmate. Carl still traces all of his failures back to his marriage to Susan. He had met her when she was a croupier in Vegas, and had ripped off the house. In order to escape her fate, she married him. He hadn't treated her very well, but it came as a surprise to him when she had left him, leaving only a note behind saying she'd gone back to see Philip Sylvian. When his jobs gone wrong led to a grand jury trial, Susan testified against him - and she knew enough to send him away for seven years. Angrily, Carl resolves to find Philip and show him that nobody screws with Carl Thorne. Susan, on the other hand, he already killed her.
Meanwhile, Mr. Sterling is notified of the discovery of Susan Linden's charred corpse, and he orders the fire chief not to touch it. He has his own people remove it, and then calls Luthor to inform him that whatever Susan was, it wasn't human.
Sadly, Philip returns to Susan's room, and closes the windows she left open, unable to contain the grief that he knows she wouldn't have wanted him to feel. He spends the evening going through old memories, stopping to look over his old photo albums of Alec, Linda, and Jenet. They all went away to work for other corporations, while he just stayed behind to study his orchids. It had been lonely for him, until Susan came back. It was a shortlived relief from that loneliness, though, because, one night, he and Susan's cab had pulled over in the middle of nowhere, and a masked man had shot her dead.
Philip wakes from his half-asleep state to banging on the door, and stumbles to answer it. When he opens the door, though, he is clubbed over the head with a wine bottle by Carl.
Appearing in "One Thing is Certain..."
- Mr. Lerner
- Jason Woodrue (In a photograph only)
- Alec Holland (In a photograph only)
- Pamela Isley (In a photograph only)
- Linda Holland (In a photograph only)
- Marilyn Monroe (In a photograph only)
- Ronald Reagan (On a TV or computer screen)
- Swamp Thing (Mentioned only)
- This issue is reprinted in the Black Orchid trade paperback.
- First professional DC Comics work for British writer Neil Gaiman.
- Whilst flipping through his scrapbook, Sylvian comes across a cast list of the opera Patience. He performed the part of Mr. Bunthorne's sollicitor, which had no lines. His co-stars include established names.
- Reginald Bunthorne (a Fleshly Poet) - Jonathan Rose
- Archibald Grosvenor (an Idyllic Poet) - Daniel Cassidy
- The Lady Angela (Rapturous Maiden) - Janet Klyburn
- The Lady Saphir (Rapturous Maiden) - Wanda Wayland
- The Lady Ella (Rapturous Maiden) - Clare Stafford
- The Lady Jane (Rapturous Maiden) - Dorcas Leigh
- Patience (a Dairy Maid) - Carolyn Woosan
- Black Orchid Recommended Reading