By IRC Round Robin
Submitted February 17, 1998
Summary: The mysterious death of a close friend brings out the newshound in Perry again. Meanwhile, Jimmy, teamed with a new partner, and Lois and Clark try to solve the mystery and help out the Chief.
An IRC Round Robin Fanfic
by Anne (AMCiotola@aol.com), ChrisM (firstname.lastname@example.org), Doris (email@example.com), Eileen (Eraygun@aol.com), Nekanuq (Nekanuq@aol.com), and Zoomway (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lois and Clark heard about the award Perry was going to receive almost by accident.
The Chief Editor of the Daily Planet was a man who was accustomed to receiving awards. Over the years he'd garnered his share of Kerfs and Merriweathers and others almost too numerous to mention. But there was something special about being honored by your alma mater—to be chosen above classmates whom you'd respected and once competed against, and he'd been looking forward to that day with great anticipation. He had been. Until, that is, he'd heard about Richard's death.
Richard Thomkins. A guy he'd known most of his life. A guy he'd shared some tight spots with back when they were both fledgling reporters, and whose career had mirrored his own in awards won and accolades received. He'd loved Richard like a brother … and now he was gone.
So, Perry's best friend would not be coming to this awards dinner and now Perry wasn't looking forward to it anymore. That's why he hadn't told anyone at the Planet about it.
Lois heard about it, though, through some of her connections and decided that something had to be done to help Perry celebrate his big day. She wasn't sure why he'd been keeping it a secret, but she knew he'd been down in the dumps lately. Maybe he was still brooding over Alice. All Lois knew was that she was proud of Perry and wanted to do something special for him. She talked it over with Clark and he agreed that they should do something.
She began to make plans.
What they didn't know was that Perry had come up with a way of his own to mark his special day … and to honor the memory of his friend. He was going to work on a story again.
There had been something mysterious about Richard's death. A man in his 50s and in good health, his death had come as a surprise to all around him. There had been a coroner's investigation, but in the end his death had been put down to natural causes.
Perry wasn't satisfied with that. He was suspicious and his reporter instincts had become aroused. The old newshound was sniffing the scent of a story and picking up the trail. Thus, he had begun to make discreet inquiries into what Richard had been working on before he died. Richard had been an editor, too, but of a smaller local paper. Still a reporter at heart, he had used his rank to get himself a byline as often as he could. The latest investigation he had been working on was a supposed bribery affair involving a local construction company and some government officials.
Richard had taken Jenny, a young cub reporter, under his wing and was using the opportunity to do the streets once again, officially teaching her hands-on, but, Perry was sure, also just enjoying the fresh breeze of an investigation again.
Perry had spoken to some of Richard's friends and colleagues, but it was known that he and Richard had been close. So he knew he had to devise an undercover plan if he wanted to get to the truth behind Richard's death.
The solution had presented itself right under his nose when a bleary-eyed Jimmy had finally found his way into Perry's office and, after a second cup of coffee and some fatherly coaxing, had spilled the story of how he had been out of luck with his latest girlfriend yet again.
While he felt a few qualms about using Jimmy's situation to get to the core of the story, he hoped that at the same time, he would give the young man something to do and maybe, just maybe, even help him meet somebody who shared some of the same interests. He had met Jenny, and while she wasn't the striking blonde that Jimmy had been favoring lately, she was a bright young woman and, to Perry at least, very attractive in her more subtle way. He hoped that by working with her, Jimmy might finally be able to get himself into a deeper and more lasting relationship. He didn't consider himself a matchmaker per se, but Lois and Clark hadn't been the only team that Perry had brought together and that eventually ended up in a partnership that went beyond the professional. Filling him in on the details, he had sent the young man off to familiarize himself with the case and the personnel on at the Northside Gazette while he himself set out on a more covert investigation of his own.
In the meantime, Lois and Clark were trying to decide just how to get Perry's mind off the death of his friend and looking forward again.
"You know," Lois said one morning over breakfast, "I've been thinking. If we could just get Perry's attention focused on something … something that grabs his attention, it might be enough to snap him out of this."
"Yeah, he's never been one to resist a good story," Clark nodded slowly. "There was something mysterious about his friend's death, or at least that's what I've been able to pick up. If only we could get him interested in it from this angle, it might help him over his morbid thoughts."
Lois suddenly grinned. "I think I have just the perfect idea for how to go about that."
Clark smiled at his lovely wife. "If anyone could come up with a good angle for a story, Lois, it would be you."
She grinned back at him, with that certain twinkle in her eye which told him she was on the scent, but not too involved to appreciate a good compliment from her favorite superhero.
"I know some people at City Hall who might be able to help out. You know how these government types stick together …" Clark nodded. "…well, I was thinking that I could use my contacts to find out about the officials Richard was investigating."
Clark thought about that for a moment.
"That could work, Lois. I also may have a way to approach someone in construction. You remember that story I was working on some months back about how housing costs have gone up really fast in Metropolis?"
"Sure, Clark, but …"
"I know what you're thinking, Lois. None of those guys I talked to are on the list of possible suspects in Richard's death. But it's a place to start."
"Okay, Clark, you're right," she admitted. "We shouldn't overlook any possibilities."
The two reporters made some more notes and divided up the leg work. They had a lot of people to talk to and knew they wouldn't be seeing each other for several hours.
"Keep in touch, okay, Lois? Maybe we could try to meet for lunch or something."
He was rewarded by a sly, sweet smile. Lois leaned forward and kissed him. "Count on it."
"Maybe we could go for coffee first," Clark suggested a little breathlessly. Lunch was just too far away.
Lois giggled softly.
"Don't tempt me, farmboy," she whispered.
Clark smiled, lifted Lois's hand to his lips, and placed a small kiss in her palm. "You can't blame a guy for trying," he said in response.
"Not at all, you get extra points for it, trust me," Lois teased.
Then she picked up her bag and dashed for the door.
Meanwhile, across town at the Northside Gazette, Jimmy and Jenny were beginning to bond as a team.
"What kind of a hairbrained idea is that!" Jenny snapped.
"Hey, don't get so angry, I was just suggesting that we take some of your leads and run them past Lois and Clark at the Planet. What's the harm in that?" Jimmy replied.
"I'll tell you what the harm is. I'm a * real* reporter and I follow up on my own leads. I don't need any help from them and especially from you! I don't need a partner! I can find Richard Thomkins's killer on my own!"
With that, Jenny turned to walk away, then thought about what she'd said and turned back to Jimmy. She immediately softened when she saw the hurt expression on his face.
"Jimmy, I'm sorry."
"No, it's not. I never think before I speak …"
Jimmy interrupted her, "No, really it's OK. It's just that maybe Lois and Clark may be able to help out. That's what partners are for. If there's one thing I've learned with working with them, it's that you can accomplish more together than alone. And if anyone can break this story open, it's Lois."
Jenny sighed, "That's just it. I am not used to working with anyone. But I'm willing to give it a chance if we could find Richard's killer."
"OK," he smiled at her, "let me give the Planet a call to see if we can maybe hook up with them." Jimmy picked up the phone and punched in the Planet's number. After a minute or two he hung up. "They're not in, but I can page one of them. Maybe they already have something cooking."
And he picked up the phone again. They then heard the sound of a pager going off nearby, as Lois walked up to the two of them. "Hi, Jimmy." She looked at her pager and added, "You rang?"
"How did you know I was trying to reach you?" Jimmy looked at her in surprise. "And how did you know I was here? The Chief said this was going to be kept really low-key."
Lois smiled back at him. "I have my sources." Looking at Jenny, she added, "You must be Jenny, Jimmy's temporary partner. Perry spoke highly of you."
Jenny blushed in spite of herself. She had heard a lot about Lois Lane and also seen her at some official functions, but had only really met her once at the Planet when she had done an internship there.
She had grudgingly had to admit that Lois was talented, but she had not been too impressed with her as a person. Yet she had come to realize that in order to be able to compete and get recognition in her field, she had to be tough. Thus, without wanting to, she had become a lot more like the Lois she had met a few years ago than she cared to admit.
Looking at Lois now, she seemed to be different somehow. There was still an air of efficiency and confidence about her, but at the same time the appraisal she had given her was warm and seemed to come from the heart.
In addition, she had seen the admiration and warmth in Jimmy's eyes as he spoke of Lois and her partner, and in spite of her earlier gruffness towards Jimmy, Jenny trusted him to be a good judge of character. Eventually, she murmured "Thanks," and briefly shook Lois's hand.
Lois then turned to Jimmy. "Can we speak privately for a moment? This isn't so much about your investigation …"
Jimmy looked askance at his new partner, who nodded in the direction of an unoccupied office. Leading the way, Jimmy turned to Lois once he had closed the glass door behind them. "What is this visit about if it's not about the investigation? That was what I was trying to get in touch with you about."
"Well, it's connected. I only found out you were involved in this when I called the Planet a little while ago. Clark and I were really trying to get Perry involved in this … only to find out that he was already three steps ahead of us."
"Well, you know Perry what says. An old newshound can never resist the scent of a good story."
"We were concerned about the Chief. He has this … event coming up, something he ought to be really proud of, but he seemed to be really troubled by the death of his friend."
Jimmy nodded. "Yeah, I know. The Chief has been preoccupied. I even wonder about his conviction that his friend didn't die a natural death … I haven't found any evidence so far, but there must be *something* there."
"Right. And that's what we want to find out about. But we also have this other secret mission: We're thinking of a way to surprise him, to get him to enjoy the upcoming event after all. I guess you should know that he has been given special honors by his alma mater. We just need to figure out a way."
"His alma mater …? Lemme think …" Jimmy frowned in deep concentration for a moment. "I think I remember something there that might be helpful. Her name was Gloria, I think, and they …"
"Gloria Wingate?!" Jenny said from the doorway.
"You know, this was supposed to be a private conversation," Lois said with a trace of irritation in her voice. "Why were you listening in?"
"I… er, well, er," Jenny began.
"Never mind. I would have done the same thing," Lois joked. "But you need to get a little faster with your excuses or, if all else fails, just brazen it out."
With that she gave Jenny a good-natured smile that the younger woman reciprocated.
"Now who is Gloria Wingate?" Lois asked.
"Gloria Wingate Thomkins, to be exact, and she's Richard's not-so-grieving widow," Jenny explained. "She gets his stock in the Gazette now that's he's gone and I just don't trust her. I didn't know that she and Perry used to be an item," Jenny continued. "That puts a whole new light on things."
"Now wait just a minute," Jimmy said defensively. "Just because Perry may have dated Richard's widow in college doesn't mean that he had any kind of connection to what happened."
"Well, it sure looks like a possible motive to me!" Jenny countered. "And I'm going to follow up on it! Coming, *partner*?"
Lois watched the young reporting team leave the office, the headstrong young woman commanding her male counterpart as if he were a disobedient puppy. Lois suffered a mental wince at the all-too-familiar imagery.
Lois looked around the Gazette's conference room. It wasn't that different from the Planet's, but it didn't have half the history. There was a case holding several journalism awards. The administrators at the Gazette, though not insisting, strongly suggested that all journalism awards be displayed at the paper, and not privately.
Lois shuddered. The idea of not taking her Kerth awards home was unnerving. She looked a bit closer and noticed several of the awards had gone to Richard. Despite a competitive spirit, she felt a grudging kind of admiration.
Lois looked closer at one of the awards and noticed he'd received it just a week before his death. It was for excellence in investigative journalism. Odd, Lois thought, that wasn't usually the purview of someone in Richard's position. Still, old news hounds never die, as Perry was fond of saying.
Lois felt her stomach growl and looked down at her watch. "Finally," she whispered. "I have a feeling lunch will be the high point of my day."
Lois started toward the Gazette lobby when she noticed the elevator did go to the roof. She stepped in and hit the button. Being something of a living beacon to her husband was one of the perks of being married to Superman.
She stepped out onto the roof and walked near the edge. She knew he was up there, scanning the city. She wasn't sure how she knew that, but when he swooped down and then carried her aloft, it was all the confirmation she needed.
He was holding her in a face to face position. "Hi," he said softly.
"Hi," she smiled. "You're the best limo in town."
Clark placed his forehead against hers. "Want to open my sun roof?"
Lois laughed. "Don't tempt me. I feel just guilty enough to give you whatever you want today."
Clark raised his eyebrows. "Really? Then maybe I'll whip up something for us at home."
Lois and Clark drifted through the window of their townhouse. Lois smiled with admiration. "I've always liked that door-to- door delivery feature you came with."
"Well," Clark shrugged. "It's become window-to-window lately, but still the same principle. Any leads?"
Lois tossed her purse on the sofa. "Zip." As her blazer followed her purse, she leaned in for a kiss. "And we don't need to worry about getting Perry on the story anymore. He's in it big time. Sent Jimmy to work at the Gazette temporarily. And it turns out that Richard fella's wife was an old flame of Perry's."
Clark sucked in a breath. "That would explain some things. I found out that there had been some very discreet inquiries by the police into Perry's involvement with the Thomkinses."
"I thought there was no police investigation. And the coroner's report said that he died of natural causes."
"True," Clark nodded. "But Inspector Henderson said that since the death was so mysterious, they had to follow every trace of a lead that might be there to exclude any possibility of foul play."
While they were talking, they had made their way over to the kitchen, where Clark was inspecting the fridge's contents quickly. "How about some stir-fried vegetables with soy sprouts and fried tofu?"
"That sounds almost too healthy." Lois smiled. "But anything *you* cook is great. I'm game if you fix that chocolate mousse for dessert."
Then she sobered. "It sounds like Perry might be in for some trouble. That cub reporter Jimmy is partnered with at the Gazette has set her mind to investigate if Perry had hidden motives. Turns out that Thomkins's widow seems to be a not too mournful one, and she's inheriting the paper plus a not-so- meager allotment of stocks and bonds. She's convinced that Perry might be interested in that …"
Clark shook his head. "I've been following some leads there on my own. The widowed Mrs. Thomkins's holds a good number of shares in a construction company that was involved in a bribery affair a few months previously under another name. Her husband had been investigating that scandal that also involved some government officials. The company is said to be close to bankruptcy."
"That must be Ajax Construction. I've heard they were in trouble even before the scandal. But how were you able to trace Gloria's holdings?" Lois asked.
"I know guys who know guys," Clark teased.
"Very funny. Seriously Clark, that gives her two motives for wanting Richard out of the way and ample opportunity to do it as his wife. Gloria looks more and more like a prime suspect to me."
"But, Lois," Clark countered, "in order for there to be a suspect there has to be a crime and as things stand now there hasn't been one committed."
" I know it looks like Gloria has covered her tracks this time, but what if we tricked her into trying it again? With a different target, of course."
"Lo-is. What are you planning to do?" Clark asked warily.
"Have you ever seen Body Heat, Clark? Sweatiest movie I've ever seen, and sexy, too … hot, humid, and sexy, you know?" Lois tipped up on her toes and kissed him. "That movie always makes me want to do that."
"Okay, Lois, it's a hot movie, but what's it got to do with Gloria and Perry? We should really keep our concentration, here … and besides, Cool Hand Luke is the sweatiest movie ever."
"Okay, okay, can't I just get a kiss from my husband once in awhile? It's just this, Clark. In the movie, she completely suckers this guy into killing her husband, and making it look like arson, and he thinks they're going to take the insurance money and escape to Tahiti or somewhere, but she leaves him to take the fall for the murder, and she gets away … see where I'm heading with this?"
"See, Kathleen Turner really did a gaslight number on William Hurt. The guy that had an alien erupt in his chest, or is that the guy that was the Occasional Tourist?"
Lois rubbed the bridge of her nose. "That's *Accidental* Tourist, and the star isn't the point!"
Clark grabbed her and laughed against her neck. "I love how you puff up when you're frustrated."
Lois pulled back. "*Puff* up?"
Clark grimaced, "Well, you know…" He then exaggerated the movement of his shoulders rising and falling as he took deep rapid breaths.
"ANYWAY," Lois interjected, finding the flaw in the 'sincerest form of flattery' supposition. "She set the guy up from beginning to end, and it was one of those movies where the bad guy, well … woman, gets away with it."
Clark nodded. "Gotcha. The guy saw her through a telescope stripping, and then he was set up to witness a murder that did … but didn't really happen."
Lois patted Clark's shoulder. "That's Body Double, Clark. I think we should just eat and I'll type out some flashcards for you."
Clark blushed. "Good idea." They walked to the kitchen. "And it's not like I have a whole lot of time to watch movies anyway, honey."
"Oy," Lois sighed.
Across town, and under less comfortable circumstances, Jimmy and Jenny were trying to break into the long-closed Ajax Corporate office.
Jimmy had tried sheer muscle strength as well as several methods of lock picking he knew. None seemed to work on the old rusty lock. Jenny was growing more impatient by the second and shortly shoved him aside, not too gently.
She took the wire hook that he had been using from his hand and inserted it into the lock again. Turning it quickly, she pushed against the door gently at the same time, and the door came open with only the slightest of screeching protest.
Once inside, they quickly scanned the room. Here Jimmy's instincts and longer experience took over, and he immediately spotted the file cabinet. Quickly running through the files, he brought one forth with a flourish.
"Bingo! They have her labeled under Wingate! Didn't even care to fake her identity."
Jenny looked on dubiously, but then read over his shoulder as he quickly skimmed the pages.
"I guess this clears your boss," she admitted grudgingly as they found evidence of several transactions between a Wingate and Ajax company bank accounts.
"And look at this here," Jimmy said. "She sent photocopies of her husband's latest research into the government bribery involvement. Looks like some bigshot got paid handsomely to give those building contracts to Ajax."
"Even though Ajax had been in trouble before," she continued. "I ran a series of articles on that about a year ago. They used low quality materials on crucial projects. The investigation was dropped eventually for lack of definite evidence, although foul play was suspected, too. They haven't been able to get too many contracts since."
"Then we should just take this folder to the police," Jimmy suggested.
"No," she shook her head. "They might just suspect we forged the evidence here, which we got by breaking in here in the first place. Plus her involvement with the bribery affair doesn't prove that she is responsible for murdering her husband. He officially died of natural causes anyway."
"Then what do you suggest?" Jimmy felt a growing admiration for his younger partner.
"She needs to be caught in the act." Jenny shrugged. "We'll just leave a few suggestive pieces of evidence here that show that …"
"What use would that be?" Jimmy asked. "Nobody is using this office."
"You see, but you do not observe," she countered. "Most of the office hasn't been used. But there is no dust on that desk there and the photocopy machine has been in use recently. You can smell that. We just have to lay the bait."
When she told him the plan she had in mind, he didn't like it at all, but had to admit that it seem like a good shot to nail down the suspect. He was beginning to understand Clark's concern about Lois's daring. He made a mental note to have a talk with him, as he was beginning to feel he wanted to continue this relationship with Jenny even after their professional involvement ended.
Meanwhile, back at the Planet, Lois and Clark had made secret arrangements for a surprise party for Perry while he was out in pursuit of one of the leads he himself was following about his friend's demise.
Everything was set up, and the Planet's newsroom staff were squirming in their seats, waiting for their boss to return.
As they heard the elevator approaching the newsroom someone turned off the lights.
The elevator doors sprang open and the entire staff of the Planet, led by Lois and Clark, yelled "Surprise!"
"Great shades of Elvis, what is this all about?" Perry exclaimed.
"It's a party, Chief," Lois replied.
"I know that, honey. I may be old but I still have a firm grasp of the obvious. But what's it for?"
"Your award, Chief," Clark interjected. "We wanted to let you know how proud the Planet was of you and this seemed the best way."
"Well now … y'all didn't have to do that," Perry replied, somewhat sheepishly. Then he turned to the strikingly beautiful middle-aged woman standing next to him. "Oh, I almost forgot. Lois, Clark, everybody, I'd like y'all to met Gloria Thomkins. We were just going to dinner when I realized I needed to stop off here."
Gloria gave an artificial smile to Lois and Clark as she extended her hand.
"It's so nice to meet both of you."
"The pleasure is ours," Lois replied. "We were both admirers of your husband's work. He was a good journalist."
"Yes, the newspaper business was his life," Gloria replied evenly.
After exchanging a few more pleasantries, Perry and Gloria began to mingle with the Planet staffers and the party kicked into high gear.
About an hour or so later, Jimmy and Jenny arrived on the scene.
"I told you she'd be here," Jenny said.
"Jenny, I hope you're not going to do anything rash," Jimmy replied.
"Just watch me!" Jenny responded as she made her way through the crowd to Gloria's side.
Jimmy watched as the two women talked and talked, moving to a quiet corner of the newsroom floor and then finally away from the rest the party entirely.
Panicked when Jenny didn't return after a few minutes, Jimmy went looking for Lois and Clark.
"Lois, have you seen Jenny?!" Jimmy asked quickly, his voice and face reflecting growing alarm.
"No. Why, Jimmy?"
"She decided she was going to confront Gloria Thomkins with the evidence she found and force her to confess. Now they've both disappeared!"
"Don't worry Jimmy, we'll find them," Clark replied.
As Jimmy headed off in the other direction in search of Perry, Clark grabbed Lois by the hand and pulled her into the stairwell leading to the rooftop.
"Clark, where are we going?" Lois asked.
"Shsss," Clark whispered. "I've found them." He took Lois quietly up the stairs and they crouched down in the slightly cracked doorway to listen to the conversation.
"… doesn't matter what you do to me, the evidence is on its way to the police." It was the youthful, excited voice of Jenny, trying valiantly to show the older woman a brave front.
"You. What do you know about anything? Meddling in grown-up affairs can be dangerous for someone so young." Gloria asserted superiority with every syllable she uttered. Lois could imagine her looming over the girl on the other side of the door. She looked at Clark. He was concentrating his x-ray vision through the door, and she felt relief for Jenny's safety.
Jenny's voice was angrier, this time. "Don't underestimate me, Mrs. Thomkins. I'm not as innocent as you think." Lois smiled. *I wonder what Jimmy'll think of that?*
Gloria spoke. "I think you're bluffing. You've guessed a lot of circumstantial ideas, and you think you can solve some sort of fantastic crime, and win a Pulitzer before you're old enough to vote. You live in a fantasy world."
"Oh, no, we have the proof …"
"*We*? I hope you aren't trying to get your boyfriend into hot water with you here. It could be very dangerous to all concerned … life threatening, perhaps."
Lois grabbed Clark's arm, and communicated silently, *Don't let her get hurt.*
Clark's face was full of reassurance before she finished her thought. *Don't worry.*
"This is as good as a confession already," Lois said. "Lets do something."
Clark shook his head silently. "Jenny has her right on the spot. We should hear this out. She would need time to get her weapon out."
"She has a weapon?" Lois asked, taking an involuntary step towards the door.
Clark placed a restraining hand on her shoulder. "It's inside her purse. She would need several seconds to get it out. You know I can get there faster than that. However, we can be prepared," he said, spinning into his super-suit.
Meanwhile, the voices on the roof had gotten louder. "You know what you just said there, don't you?" Jenny asked in a firm voice.
"Yes, dear," Gloria said. "I warned you not to stick your pretty little nose into things that are of no concern to you. But you nosy reporters never learn. My husband didn't either. And what did it earn him? A couple lousy awards, fame. Yes, financial security, too. But all he ever did was sit on his money, and continue to hunt those stories. He didn't know when to stop, either."
"When do you think he ought to have stopped?" Jenny inquired calmly.
"Well, when he was on top of things … or, since he didn't seem to be able to leave the newsroom alone, at least when he was getting where he didn't belong. He had ample warning, several times." Her voice was rising in pitch. "He could have had all he wanted if he had just been willing to step down in time and let those who knew better … invest to make the best profit."
"Meaning you, of course." Jenny made no effort to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. "Well, you seem very talented indeed. To pick the Ajax company for investment, a company that's known all over town to be on the losing side. But that doesn't matter, of course, if one is willing to invest in a little bribery, too, does it?"
"Who do you think you are talking to like that?" Gloria's voice had taken on a hysterical note. "I'd been involved with Ajax for over three years. Things were going just fine and would have continued that way if that husband of mine had not decided to meddle. And he got plenty of warnings. In the end, his death was tragic, but unavoidable."
Jenny tried to stay calm as she watched Gloria fiddle with the clasp of her purse. She was slowly beginning to walk backwards towards the door while she kept her eyes and attention focused on Gloria, trying to keep her voice steady as she continued speaking.
"You are admitting then that your husband didn't die of natural causes. How did you do it then? The coroner's report didn't show any evidence of an outside influence."
"Well, that was easy enough," Gloria laughed. "He was responsible himself for placing the weapon right into my hands. He was into terrariums of all things. His favorites were snakes, poisonous ones. There is that kind whose bite is absolutely deadly, but you won't find any trace of the poison unless you know specifically what you are looking for. Knowing the right people, it was easy to get the poison and easy to mix it in his drink." She laughed again. "You see, and even if somebody had stumbled across the cause of his death in the autopsy, they would just have suspected that he had died of a snakebite. He had been bitten by another harmless one recently. The bite marks were still there. It was just perfect."
"There is no perfect crime," Jenny said as she was approaching the doorway.
At that, Gloria finally got her purse open and fumbled for her gun.
Superman was bursting through the door before Lois had even blinked, and crushed the gun Gloria had barely gotten a hold of before he took it away from her.
The ungrieving widow shrieked in anger at having been caught, and futilely slapped and clawed at his chest before collapsing in a heap near the stairs.
She was wracked with sobs, but there was no sympathy for her there, in the stairwell, nor would there be from any other source anytime soon. She'd played her hand, all four aces, and come up short, beaten by a royal flush. Her mind was on the verge of snapping, her failure too much to bear.
Jenny leaned against the wall near the door, stunned by her sudden rescue. *Just in the nick of time,* she thought, and realized how lucky that was. She suddenly admired Lois all the more for her investigative prowess, her ability to get answers to any story. Jenny would be just like her, pursuing the truth just as relentlessly. She only hoped she would find her own personal superhero, just in case things got a little sticky.
As if in answer, Jimmy came bounding up the stairs just then. "Hey! What happened? Jenny? You okay?" He was breathless, and excited, and Superman's presence told him everything was all right.
Jenny launched herself into his arms, hugging him tightly. "Oh, Jimmy, I did it! Well, we all did it. And I couldn't have gotten this far without you! We make a great team." She pulled back just enough to look at him, then hugged him tight again.
Lois looked at Clark, and winked. He nodded. They were going to enjoy watching this young pair establish themselves, professionally and personally.
Jimmy was still somewhat startled by her sudden change in attitude, but as he returned the hug, a huge grin began to spread across his features. When they finally pulled apart, he placed an arm around her shoulder and looking at his friends, beamed at them. "If you guys don't mind, I'd like to show Jenny around the Planet. I've called the police. They should be here any minute."
As if on cue, police sirens were heard in the street below. Clark nodded at his young friend. "Sure, Jimmy. I don't think this lady here will give us any trouble at the moment," he said, indicating Gloria, who was still wracked with sobs, her appearance becoming more disheveled by the minute. "I will wait for the police to arrive while Lois can go and look for Clark." He gave her the tiniest of winks that went unnoticed by everyone else.
Lois smiled at him. "I'm sure he'll be glad to hear that all is well here. But don't you want to stay for Perry's party, Superman?"
"I wish I could, Lois," Clark smiled. "But duty calls. I talked to Clark earlier. He'll pass on my congratulations."
Jimmy and Jenny took their leave after Jenny promised to be back to talk shop with the Planet's top reporter team, who she had come to admire. After they had left, Lois winked at Clark once again, her eyes holding a silent promise of her own way to express her admiration for a job well done.
Then she turned and made her way back to the newsroom where the party had come to a standstill as the sirens were heard and the absence of Gloria and the two reporter teams had become noticed.
Perry was pacing up and down in the middle of the newsroom, raking a hand through his hair and continuously glancing in the direction of the entranceways in search of the people missing.
As Lois entered the room, he shoved several people out of his way as he all but ran towards her. "Thank God, Lois, there you are! Are the others all right? Where are they …?"
"Yeah, everybody's fine, Chief." Lois paused for a moment, unsure of how to break the news to Perry that his old college flame and possible renewed love interest had turned out to be the prime instigator in a major crime. "They're fine, but I'm afraid that Gloria …"
"That's a relief! Have they got her?"
"Yeah, they got her. In fact, Chief," she placed a hand on his arm. "Maybe we should talk in your office for a minute."
At that, the elevator doors opened and Clark, still arranging his tie, walked up to join them.
Perry gave him a look of slight alarm. "Where are Jimmy and Jenny?"
"They're fine, Chief. Jimmy is showing her around." He grinned and stole a questioning look at Lois, who silently shook her head.
"Chief, about Gloria …" Clark began.
"I hope the police have her," Perry said.
Lois and Clark both stared at him in silence for a moment, then spoke simultaneously, "But we thought…"
"That I was smitten with her?" Perry grinned. "I may be getting a little gray, but I can still smell when something's foul. And her facade was fairly brittle. It didn't need much to find out that she was behind all of this. I'm still missing some details, but we can compare notes on this between you guys, Jimmy and friend, and myself. Not now, though."
Perry's face brightened as the elevator doors open.
Lois and Clark turned around to see Alice emerge from the elevator and walk down the incline towards them. When she got there, Perry greeted her with a kiss on the forehead, then wrapped his arm around her.
"You see, I brought Gloria here only to confront her with the evidence I had collected. Seems that you guys have accomplished the same. Now, however, I have a date. You kids have fun at the party." Kissing Alice again, he looked at his top reporter team for a moment. "Or whatever."
He then turned and, never taking his arms from Alice, walked with her back to the elevators.
Lois and Clark watched the older couple disappear into the elevator. Then they embraced and kissed deeply. When they drew apart finally, Clark, aware that they had become the center of attention in the newsroom, grinned at Lois. "What shall it be then?"
"Or whatever," they chorused, smiling and turning towards the elevators themselves.