By IRC Round Robin
Rated PG Submitted October 1998
Summary: Lois and Clark's business trip to colorful New Orleans takes a dangerous detour into the realm of the supernatural when Baron Sunday returns with a new plan.
An IRC Round Robin by Missytoo <Missytoo@mindspring.com>;Misha <Mhall@firstname.lastname@example.org>; Lansbury <Lansbury1@aol.com>; Eraygun <Eraygun@aol.com>; Zoomway <email@example.com>; Mackteach <Mackteach@aol.com>
Lois closed the closet in their hotel room, thankful she'd not packed as much as she usually did. If she was flying "Superman Express" she didn't care, since all Clark had to do was fly back for the bags, but dealing with luggage in airports and worrying about carry-on sizes was for the birds.
She felt a warm, strong pair of arms wrap around her waist. Clark quietly held her for a moment, just enjoying the feel of her in his arms.
"You finally done?"
She giggled. "Yes. I know you men don't ever have to worry about what to wear, so you'd never understand."
"Well, since we've been married, I'm definitely getting an education."
She grinned at his words, thinking he meant a lot more than women's fashion.
She turned and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing his chin. "We have about an hour before the 'Meet and Greet' session. What do you suggest we do?"
He pulled her closer, and kissed her passionately. "Well, room service should be here in about thirty minutes, so we've got time for a shower."
She smiled at him, remembering how insistent he was on conserving water wherever they went.
He picked her up and carried her into the bathroom, the door shutting behind them with an audible click.
On the street below, a tall stranger stood looking up at their windows, then turned away to stroll down the crowded street. Jazz music from the band on the corner moved through the balmy air of the French Quarter. The smells of a dozen different types of cooking crowded together on the breeze, and he dismissed them all as merely atmosphere. New Orleans was not his native land, but it was a place where he and others of his kind could be found.
No longer a mere mortal, for him worldly pleasures were a bit dim in comparison to the heady seduction of power. His greatest satisfaction was in vengeance and mayhem, heaped upon the lives of those he considered to be responsible for the loss of what once was John Hendrix.
Hendrix had been a fool, and had trusted the wrong men. His only gain had been the means to exact his revenge on those who had destroyed his life. Now that it was almost complete, he wondered what he should turn his attention to next.
A young man stepped up to him, not heeding the warning in his cold brown eyes.
"Can ya spare sumthin', sir?"
He merely flicked his hand toward the man and strolled by.
The unfortunate man momentarily thought he saw a gold coin tossed by his shoulder, but as he turned to see where it landed, he was suddenly unable to breathe. It lasted only a moment or two, but he realized that he'd escaped with something even more precious… his life. The bocor was someone everyone knew about, but no one ever wanted to meet one. To look death in the eye was a chilling experience indeed.
Baron Sunday grinned icily. Soon, Clark Kent and Lois Lane would pay for their interference in his plans. Very soon indeed.
Ralph slumped against one of the marble pillars in the hotel lobby, pressing more wrinkles into the back of his polyester suit jacket. He checked his watch. Exactly forty-three seconds had passed since the last time he had looked.
None of the women passing through the lobby spared him a second glance unless it was accompanied by a fairly contemptuous sniff. Finally, he recognized someone who had to pay attention to him.
"Yeah, Ralph?" Jimmy wandered toward him.
"Did you get that list I asked for?"
"Sure." Jimmy handed over a few sheets of paper. He wished that Ralph would do his own dirty work. Asking about strip clubs was embarrassing, even in a strange city.
Ralph checked his watch again. It was still a few hours before the good shows started, but he could visit a few bars first and see how his luck fared. He glanced at the list. 'Serena's Snake Dancers' sounded promising. He'd try that one first.
Ralph headed out the revolving doors, stumbling for a moment on the polished brass rim of the circle.
"Was that Ralph?" Perry asked as he came up behind Jimmy.
"Yeah. He wasn't invited to any of the panels so he was going to have a night on the town." Jimmy tried not to laugh out loud.
"Well, he didn't sign up for any of them." Perry turned towards the panel rooms. "Come on, Jimmy."
"What about Lois and CK?"
"They're hosting their own panel. We'll meet them for dinner afterwards."
In the alley behind the hotel, a serpent's eyes glittered in the shadows.
Jimmy and Perry entered one of the conference rooms set up by the Historical Society of New Orleans for the visiting news people from across the country. Each looked the crowd over as they tried to find a seat.
"Chief? Something tells me we aren't in the 'Urban Renewal Conference'.
"Son, I was having the same thought. Would you look over at that woman in the corner? She didn't have a doll with pins sticking in it, did she?"
"Yeah, she did. I thought she was making it until I saw her stab it a few times with one of the needles. Where in the heck are we?"
Both looked around confused. None of the others looked like newspaper people. Just as they were about to leave a loud voice came booming from the front of the room.
"Will everyone take a seat. The lecture is about to begin."
Quiet settled over the room as people hurried to find a chair. The only seats Jimmy and Perry could find were in the front row.
A tall man came forward and stood in front of the lecturer's podium. "It is my honor to introduce a man who is a leader in the study of voodoo here in New Orleans. He has built a huge collection of artifacts dating back over 500 years, which has been on display at The New Orleans Museum of Voodoo for the last two months. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Hendrix Jack."
The crowd applauded as the elegantly dressed man came forward.
Jimmy leaned toward Perry to whisper, "What do we do? This isn't where we're supposed to be."
"I know. Just sit back and let's hope this is one short lecture."
The man looked over the room as the audience once again quieted.
"There are two of you here today who feel you might have entered this room by mistake. But let me assure you, there has been no mistake."
Perry felt Jimmy's elbow dig into his side as the man continued. "In the world of vodoun chance never plays into a meeting. I am honored to have before me the famous Perry White of the Daily Planet."
Perry's head jerked up and met the gaze of the lecturer.
For a few disconcerting seconds Perry thought he knew Hendrix Jack. There was something eerily familiar about the eyes and the posture, the almost regal bearing of the man.
Perry shook his head slightly and stood up. "Do I know you?"
Hendrix Jack smiled a reptilian kind of smile, and moved closer to the edge of the stage until he was almost face to face with Perry, but before he could utter a sound, a sharp piercing scream came from the lobby.
Perry broke off eye contact and headed for the lobby with Jimmy close behind.
"Chief, what do you think happened?"
"I don't know, son, but I'd rather face whatever's going on in the lobby than whatever the heck was going on in there!"
As they reached the lobby they found Lois and Clark standing next to the weeping hotel concierge.
"It was horrible, I tell, you, just horrible," she sobbed. "I've never seen anything like it in all my life!"
"Calm down," Clark soothed while Lois fished a tape recorder from her purse. "What was it? What happened?"
The woman took a deep breath, and held it a moment on seeing the tape recorder.
Lois shrugged. "I'm a bad speller."
"Well," the woman said. "It was a … a vision."
Clark raised his eyebrows. "A vision?"
"I love this city more and more," Lois whispered.
Perry stepped forward. "Can you describe what you saw?"
She looked up at Perry White, her eyes widening. "You! It was you!"
"Me?" He smiled. "We've never met before."
Lois looked at the terrified woman. "What was Perry doing in your vision?"
Jimmy shook his head. "Oh man," he said, wondering if leaving the lecture was better after all.
The woman pointed to Jimmy. "And he killed you!" she shouted and let out a blood chilling scream.
Clark winced as a couple of police officers entered the lobby.
"Some trouble, Miss Elaine?" the shorter officer asked, his partner standing back and looking at the quickly growing crowd.
"I .. I—" was all she could say before she fainted.
A shadow passed at that moment. Perhaps it was only the lights dimming. The revolving door spun empty and unnoticed.
Clark shivered as the police officer hurried to aid the woman.
Lois touched him. "You okay?"
"Hm? Yeah, I just had this weird feeling. Like the old expression about someone walking over your grave."
Lois tugged his sleeve. "Come on, let's take a stroll."
Clark seemed better the instant they were back in the sunlight and took Lois's hand. "I feel bad leaving Jimmy and Perry in there to fend for themselves."
"They're big boys," Lois smiled. "Maybe the woman was a little … potted. It's a boring job … maybe one too many mint juleps or whatever they drink around here."
Clark laughed. "I think they have most modern drinks here, honey. Why, you need one?"
"Lois would never drink this early," a familiar voice said cheerfully.
Lois beamed. "Star!"
"Hello, Star. It's good to see you! It's been a while…"
"…since the wedding. I know, Lois." Star reached her hand towards Lois'. "I wanted to ask you about that- you didn't seem yourself and- oh, but I should tell you first…"
All three turned as a young black woman launched herself into Star's arms.
Star just had time to say, "My oldest sister's girl Luna —" when she was interrupted once again.
"There you are! I've been waiting all afternoon! Mama told me that you'd be here, but she just couldn't tell when!" The girl took a breath. "Come on, Mama's waiting, and Uncle Leo's here and Granmere and…"
Luna tugged at her aunt's arm and steered her away from the hotel. Star gave Lois and Clark one last glance over her shoulder before she disappeared into the crowd.
"I wonder why she's in town," Lois mused.
Clark shrugged. "Sounds like a family reunion. Now, about that stroll." He offered his arm to her, and Lois slipped her hand under his elbow with a smile.
As they walked down the street arm in arm, a woman slipped after them, a blank expression on her face.
"Did you ever find out what that woman was talking about, Chief?" Lois asked over her blackened catfish.
Jimmy answered. "Nope. The police had to call an ambulance after a few minutes because she went catatonic."
Perry finished his mouthful of crawfish and reached for his water glass. "She was still unresponsive when I called the hospital before dinner."
Their waiter paused to refill the water, and all four leaned back for a moment. None of them noticed the fine sediment that settled to the bottom of the glasses.
"The nurse on duty told me she'd call when the patient is able to talk." Perry took another sip of his water.
Clark reached for his wine glass, holding it while he spoke. "That's all we can expect right now. The manager told me this is the first sign of …'instability', he called it. She's supposedly an exceptional employee."
"Well, what I want to know is how you ended up in that voodoo room, Chief." Lois redirected the conversation with a wave of her fork.
Perry looked at Lois and tried to answer her question. He could hear everything around him but he could not get the words to leave his mouth. A numbing sensation had begun at his toes and was moving quickly throughout his body. Panic, don't panic, White. Someone will notice you're in trouble.
Clark was the first to realize something was wrong. "Perry, are you all right?"
Perry tried to answer him but all he could do was stare back with a look of horror as he began to fall forward.
All three jumped up. Clark lifted the chief's body off the table where it had collapsed and laid him on the floor.
Lois and Jimmy knelt beside him.
"Perry, talk to me. Are you all right?" Lois grabbed his hand in hers. "Come on, Perry. Come back to us."
Clark was loosening his tie and belt. Jimmy tried to find a pulse.
"I can't find a pulse!" Jimmy dropped his wrist and pressed his fingers to Perry's neck.
Jimmy felt his own heart pounding in his chest. "We got to do something."
Before Lois or Clark could stop him, Jimmy raised his fist to place a shocking blow on Perry's chest and began to administer CPR.
Clark moved Lois slightly to the side as he counted with Jimmy. "One, two, three, four, five…stop…"
He bent to place his mouth over Perry's and gave a strong puff of air. For the next five minutes they kept up the routine until an ambulance arrived. The whole time Lois talked to Perry, trying not to let the fear and her own panic get in the way.
The paramedics pushed their way through the crowd around the table and Clark stood and helped Lois up to make room for them.
A hand came down on Jimmy's shoulder. "Come on, son, move out of the way. We can take it from here."
A stunned Jimmy rose to let them do their job. Fifteen minutes later the body of Perry White was removed from the restaurant.
Clark, with an arm around Lois and the other around Jimmy, watched as the lifeless body was placed in the ambulance. As the three stood in shock, a female voice came from behind them.
"He isn't dead." Star reached to touch her old friends. "He is Not-Dead. You must go to him immediately."
The ambulance pulled from the long hotel drive.
Lois grabbed Star's arm. "What do you mean he's not dead? Is this one of your psychic … things?"
"No, it's voodoo, Lois. Remember the last—"
"Yes, believe me, I remember. So some kind of doll was used?"
"No, not a doll .. a zombie."
"This is crazy!" Jimmy sobbed. "Perry is dead, and you're talking about—"
Clark put a hand on his shoulder. "He's not dead, Jimmy. He's going to be all right. Bring the rental car around, and we'll go to the hospital."
Jimmy wiped his eyes. "Thanks, CK."
Clark then turned to Star. "Okay, all I know about 'zombies' comes from cheap movies. What *really* happened to Perry?"
"It's a powder prepared by a bocor and sprinkled on food or into a drink. It was fugu powder, Clark."
Star nodded. "Too much, and it can kill; just the right mix by an expert and it puts them in a trance, but it resembles death—"
"I'll phone the hospital!" Clark said and began loosening his tie.
Lois sighed with relief and hugged Star. "Thank you."
"I'm glad I was here," she said, pulling from the embrace, "but it wasn't an accident, Lois. I felt like I was *called* here."
"Yes, a strong feeling I had to be here. I was needed."
Lois smiled. "You were definitely needed, but who would be after Perry? Now me, I can understand. I could go to Outer Mongolia and there would be someone trying to kill me."
"Well, Lois," Star sighed, "a good way to get to you would be through your friends, and it was you and Clark I felt were in danger."
"Clark," Lois whispered. "Like when Baron Sunday—"
"Yes. Powerful magic … so strong, those of us sensitive to it can feel it casting out .. reaching for its target."
Crawfish swam before Perry's eyes, flitting backwards in short sharp bursts. Steaming sauce dripped from their red shells, pooling in the bottoms of his eyelids.
His lids fluttered, and Perry caught a brief glimpse of a dim room. His eyes closed again, swimming with crawfish, and he hauled them open. His vision blurred, then focused suddenly on the man across the room.
"Mr. White. Good, you're awake." Hendrix Jack stood only a few feet away, a small python coiling around his hands.
Perry started with surprise, but his body didn't move. He was standing upright, frozen like a statue.
"It's a pity my agent didn't manage to acquire your companions, but that can be and has been arranged." Jack's smile matched the curves of his pet snake. "You may speak now."
"What in the Sam Hill is goin' on here?" Perry growled. His head hurt, his ribs hurt, and this voodoo maniac was sitting there with a slithery grin on his face.
"Quite simple, Mr. White. Your friends think you're dead. Oh, I stopped the fugu before it caused any permanent damage. But don't worry, you're still completely under my power. As soon as I have all of you, he'll pay."
Perry tried to respond and found himself frozen as before. His eyes fixed forward, and he realized sleep was overcoming him again. Voicelessly, he screamed. Powerlessly, he beat against the bonds of his prison.
Hendrix Jack strolled leisurely from the room.
Ralph stared into the caiman's eyes. "I see you staring at me." He took another sip from his drink, bumping his nose again on the paper umbrella.
He nodded. "You don't scare me." He blinked. The caiman's glassy eyes didn't move.
"Hey, buddy." The bartender moved in front of the stuffed reptile. She was a petite Latino with an odd accent. Her twin sister was standing next to her. "I think you've had enough there."
"Nah, sweetie. I haven't even gotten started!" Ralph wished she and her sister would stand still. They kept swaying from side to side.
"Sure you have."
Ralph leaned back into the bouncer's wide chest. He looked up as he sipped, and barely managed to swallow the last of his drink.
"Anyone starts talking to the 'gator and they've either had too much or they shouldn't be here in the first place."
The bouncer's shoulders looked like they belonged on a bus. Ralph kept looking up and finally, squinting against the light overhead, saw his head up in the stratosphere.
"Ai…Ai…Ai…" Ralph stuttered, "…I…was just on my way out."
The bouncer nodded and stepped back, opening an escape route.
Ralph shoved a piece of paper at the giant. "Can you tell me how to get here?"
The bouncer paled. He shoved Ralph roughly toward the door. "Not here!"
Ralph stumbled out of the bar, colliding with a lightpole, and hung there for a moment. He straightened himself crookedly, still leaning against the pole, and started a weaving way down the street. 'Serena's Snake Dancers' was around here somewhere.
Around a corner, Baron Sunday smiled in the darkness. Serena was a good little pet. This one was his without a doubt.
Jimmy jabbed at the elevator button once more. "Come on!" He looked up at the floor indicators, willing the machinery to move faster. He began to pace, his hand moving to the back of his neck, rubbing at an imagined twinge. He stopped his pacing long enough to push the call button once more before resuming his restless movement.
Lois and Clark entered the hospital and walked to the information desk, but before they could ask the nurse anything, Jimmy spotted them.
"Lois! CK! Over here!" They walked toward Jimmy even as he met them halfway. "The elevators in this hospital don't work! They —"
Clark placed a hand on Jimmy's shoulder. "Jimmy! Calm down. Getting all upset isn't going to help the Chief one bit." He squeezed Jimmy's shoulder gently but urgently.
Lois stepped to Jimmy's side and began to walk him away from the elevator. "Clark's right, Jimmy. Perry's in good hands right now. The best way we can help him is to try and figure out what happened."
The tone in her voice caught Clark's attention and he looked at Lois over Jimmy's head. She signaled with her eyes that she would explain everything in a minute.
"Why don't you get some coffee, Jimmy?" she said soothingly. "Then we can sit down and put together a plan."
Jimmy's shoulders sagged as their words sank in. "You're right, Lois. CK." He sighed. "I'll be right back." He smiled weakly at them before heading off in the direction of the hospital cafeteria.
Clark watched Jimmy turn the corner before turning back to Lois. "What's up?"
Lois looked at her husband, letting her concern and fear for him show in her eyes.
Clark frowned. "Lois?"
She took him by the hand and led him to a pair of chairs in the waiting area. Sitting down, she pulled him down next to her. She held his hands in hers, squeezing them, feeling his natural warmth and strength.
She sighed once, letting out her pent-up tension. "Clark … Star told me some things …"
Clark frowned once again, not understanding. "Things? What things?"
Lois' eyes brightened as she felt tears forming. "Clark, I came so close to losing you the last time …"
"Last time? Honey, what is it? I have no idea what you're talking about."
Lois took a deep breath and moved closer to Clark. She reached up and caressed the side of his face. "Star says that a powerful … magic … is at work … something that even she can feel reaching out … for you." Her thumb gently caressed his cheek as she watched his face for his reaction.
"Magic?" Clark thought for a moment. "As in …" His hand reflexively moved to his chest, gently rubbing it as if he could still feel the snake brand that had appeared there twice before.
Lois nodded. "Baron Sunday. I think he's behind this … Oh, Clark!" She momentarily gave in to her fear and flung her arms around his neck.
Clark pulled her into a tight embrace, stroking her hair and murmuring soft words of reassurance, a reassurance that he didn't necessarily feel himself, but one that he knew Lois needed from him. He closed his eyes and willed himself to be calm, to control the rising panic in his chest.
"Shhh. It'll be okay, Lois. We defeated Sunday once before. We'll do it again."
Lois pulled away to look at him, her eyes searching for answers to the questions that had been nagging at her ever since Star had told her about the magic she had felt.
"Did we, Clark? Did we *really* defeat him before? The police never found him. Clark, what will we do?"
Clark stared at her a moment, his eyes echoing her questions. He pulled her once more into his arms.
"First, we're going to stay here and be with Perry. Once we know he's stable we need to find the type of drug used on him."
"Yes, we have to try and trace the distributor and who might have bought it." Lois was feeling her strength return. She felt herself go into "fight mode" once again.
Jimmy walked over and placed coffee on the table. "That's going to be hard to do. Trace the drug, that is. This is New Orleans, voodoo is everywhere here. It lives and breathes in the walls, streets and people."
The three were silent. Lois looked into the black liquid.
Then something caught her eye down the long hallway.
As Lois looked up, one of the police officers from the hotel approached them. He was accompanied by another man who, based on his world-weary expression, Lois assumed was a detective.
"Ms. Lane, Mr. Kent. I was hoping you'd still be here. This is Detective MacPherson from the Vice Squad," the uniformed officer said quickly.
"Since when does the Vice Squad investigate attempted murder?" Clark asked.
"This has nothing to do with Mr. White, I'm afraid."
"It's about a Mr. Ralph Munch …" Det. MacPherson drawled as he opened up a small notebook.
The detective nodded. "Yes, ma'am. We picked him up in an alley off Bourbon Street 'bout half an hour ago. He seemed like your basic drunk who'd been rolled at one of the local strip clubs, but he still had his wallet on him. And when he didn't wake up we brought him here."
"How is he?" Jimmy asked.
"Well, he went into cardiac arrest on the way here, son, and he's barely breathin'."
"Oh my God," Lois whispered. "One by one he's picking us off."
Clark pulled her to his side. "Officer, where do they have Ralph now?"
"Admitting said he's in the ICU with the other patient, a Mister—"
The officer nodded.
"Come on," Clark said, leading Lois and Jimmy up the corridor and leaving the two policemen staring after them.
"CK, maybe I should phone Alice. I mean, they've been dating again, and she… she was flying down here tomorrow."
"Okay, Jimmy, but do *not* eat or drink *anything*. This is more chemistry than magic."
"No problem, CK. I don't think I'll be hungry or thirsty again until I'm back in Metropolis," he said and trotted back the way he had come.
Lois made it to the Intensive Care Unit. Machinery hummed in the background. They were the only things keeping both Perry and Ralph alive at the moment.
Clark had taken advantage of Jimmy's departure to change into Superman. He often got access where others were denied, sometimes only because no one wanted the responsibility of stopping him.
He entered ICU in time to hear Lois arguing with the frazzled duty intern. It was an argument of whispers, exaggerated arm movements and facial grimaces.
The intern was about to phone security when he saw Superman standing, just peering into the IC units containing the two men.
The floor vent stirred the cape … rather regally, Lois thought.
"Su..Superman?" the young intern said. The awe in his expression was all too familiar to Lois.
"I need to speak to these men," Clark said authoritatively.
Lois smiled crookedly. She loved how he got away with that.
"Well, I .. I guess it would be okay."
"Thank you. Ms Lane, I'll need your help."
Lois started walking by his side, but glanced over her shoulder long enough to mouth 'ha!' to the intern.
As soon as they were in the unit they both approached Perry.
"Oh, Clark, he looks worse than before. How can he be deteriorating? They know it's fugu poisoning now. He should be getting better, not worse!"
"I know, honey, I know," he said and lightly placed a hand on Perry's shoulder. "Mr. White," he whispered.
Perry's mouth gaped. "You're too late," he said, but it was not *his* voice.
Perry's eyes opened. The room was unchanged, uninteresting in its blandness. Directly across from him Jimmy stood at attention, his eyes fixed on nothing. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see a form, possibly human, slumped against the wall. The faintest scent of alcohol and stale sweat reached his nostrils. Perry tried to wrinkle his nose, but failed. He could breathe and he could move his eyes. There was nothing to see.
Except for the slither of a snake on his shoulder. The heavy weight of a large python settled on him. The dry rasp of scales, the slightest of noises, filled the room. The weight shifted across his shoulders, down his arm, and the snake slid off him to the middle of the room.
Hendrix Jack stood there, his back to Perry. Over the man's shoulder, Perry saw Jimmy's eyes snap to Jack's face.
"Welcome, Mr. Olsen," he said, and then turned, as if aware of the weight of Perry's gaze.
"Interesting. You have more will than your friend over there." His eyes darted to the slumped form and back to Perry's face. "It doesn't matter. One more and he'll be completely crushed."
Perry blinked again, and met Jimmy's eyes. They were alone again, but for the faintest sound of dry scales over stone.
Lois stared at the third still form through the glass. Behind her, she could feel her husband's presence dominating the huddled group of policemen. The addition of Jimmy to the ICU had instigated the appearance of a pair of FBI agents, and the resulting scramble for jurisdiction. Their arguments were beginning to intrude on her silent guard over her friends.
They had found Jimmy's body halfway down the corridor less than ten minutes after he had left them to call Alice. Superman had spotted the nearly invisible mark of a dart on the back of Jimmy's neck. Apparently the bocor had been prepared for their futile attempt to avoid the fugu poison.
She frowned. Star had told them to go to Perry. But that hadn't helped any, and now Jimmy and Ralph were in just as much danger. She shivered.
"What did you mean, Star?" she whispered to the glass.
"Why don't we ask her, Ms. Lane?" Superman had left the officials to their squabbling. He stood beside her, and she could see the need to hold her close shimmering in his eyes.
He held out a hand instead, and she took hold of it. It was as much comfort as she could take from him in public.
"Where would we find her?"
He solemnly nodded. "I'll find her."
He patted her hand in his, then turned and quickly walked to the window at the end of the hall. Lois bit her lip to keep from crying out for him not to leave her. She felt as though it might be the last she ever saw of him.
She turned and went back to her silent vigil for her friends.
Lois felt a chill down her spine, as if a door had opened from somewhere beyond the here and now. She turned and gasped as she spotted Baron Sunday strolling toward her, his hand outstretched.
A door? Why would she think that? She …
She suddenly shook herself awake, realizing she'd fallen asleep.
She turned at the sound of Star's voice. He'd found her. Hopefully, it wasn't too late.
"Are we too late, Star?"
Star looked at the still figures in the other room. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, seeming to reach somewhere far down inside.
"Maybe… maybe not. The only hope is to reach them from the other side."
Clark stepped up behind her. "Other side?"
"Yes. They don't know me as well, so I can't help them, but you could. Both of you."
He hugged Lois tighter to his side. "Both of us together?"
"Yes. The strength of your love will protect you, but only together."
Lois looked at Clark, uncertainty in her eyes and Clark returned her look with one of his own, a look that Lois drew strength from. There wasn't any uncertainty in his eyes, only confidence. Confidence in his love for her and her love for him.
She smiled as he brought his head close to hers, their foreheads touching.
"Once more into the breach?" he said wryly.
"Being with you is stronger than me alone," she reminded him.
Clark smiled, remembering that soft campfire confession. He kissed her gently. "I love you.
Lois looked Clark directly in the eyes. "Ditto." She winked and hugged him to her, drawing more strength from his embrace.
They broke apart and turned to Star. "How do we do this?"
Star studied them both for a moment before nodding and smiling.
"Now, you have to understand, I've never really had any dealings with voodoo magic … and this one is strong, very strong … It's not like you can just click your ruby-red slippers and chant—"
Star opened her mouth and quickly shut it. "Right." She took a deep breath. "Ever been to a seance?"
Lois and Clark looked at each other for a moment before turning back her. "Guess we're about to, right?"
"Kinda … sorta … I mean, there aren't any crystal balls and we don't have to dim the lights or anything like that … although, I've never really understood why the room had to be dark … sure, the levers and switches would show, but really—"
She ushered Lois and Clark into an empty room. Closing her eyes for a moment, she concentrated. Lois was about to say something when Star's eyes widened.
"We'd better hurry!" She took Lois' and Clark's hands in hers. "Hold hands."
They complied, their fingers intertwining.
"Now, remember. Your love is stronger than *any* magic that you'll encounter. Remember that."
At Star's words, Lois tightened her grip on Clark's hand. He squeezed hers in return.
Star closed her eyes once more and began to chant. The words were slurred together and Lois strained to hear what Star was saying. Only one word came through loudly and distinctly.
"Erzulie … Erzulie … Erzulie …"
Lois turned to Clark. "What's she saying?"
Clark whispered, pitching his voice so he wouldn't disturb Star. "Erzulie is the voodoo loa — god — of love …"
Anything else Clark said was lost as Lois felt her reality turn inside out for a moment. When she opened her eyes, she saw only blinding white.
"Clark?" She could still feel his hand in hers.
The blinding glare gradually resolved itself into the familiar view of the ICU — familiar but not quite the same. The walls faded away into indeterminate shadows; the air was thick. The constant hum of the medical apparatus seemed muffled and faraway. A dark shape stretched across the room, like a barrier between them and the beds which held their friends.
Clark and Lois walked into the unit, their hands intertwined. The lighting dimmed, the machinery faltered. They exchanged glances and then Clark concentrated on the machinery and Lois on the overhead lights. Both surged back with power.
The serpentine figure recoiled. Perry, Ralph and Jimmy all stirred momentarily.
"It's over, Sunday," Clark said flatly. "Let them go."
"The mighty Demballah is not so easily swayed." The voice spoke, but with less confidence than before.
"Neither is Erzulie," Lois said, and the snake slithered towards a darkened corner.
It seemed to gather strength from the darkness.
Lois removed Clark's glasses.
His vision reflected off the aluminum instrument tray, flooding the corner with light. The creature turned its head, but there was no escaping the brilliant beam. It seemed to writhe under the unforgiving brightness, its shape twisting, morphing, unable to hold its form.
Finally a man rose up in the creature's place. His eyes were like those of a viper.
Baron Sunday, beads of perspiration dotting his upper lip, produced a doll. A doll in the image of Clark Kent. He held a needle at its head.
"This will strike you down, Kent."
Lois reached for the doll, but a wall of flame stopped her. Clark blew out the flame.
Lois high-kicked the object from the sorcerer's hands. "You're too old for dolls," she smiled.
Sunday, his magic matched and outmatched, drew a knife and stepped next to Jimmy.
Lois shook her head. "When all else fails, turn into a street punk."
Clark sighed in agreement and concentrated his heat vision. The blade of the knife turned liquid and literally dripped from the staghorn handle.
Perry moaned and held his head. "What the devil is going on here?"
Jimmy, rising up on one elbow and seeing Sunday nearby, swallowed. "I think 'devil' says it all, Chief."
Ralph snored loudly.
Sunday, desperate and panicky for the first time in a very long time, charged Lois and Clark. When he grabbed their joined hands he screamed in agony.
"You didn't say 'Mother, may I'," Lois said evenly, as Sunday crumbled slowly to the floor.
Lois once more felt that disorienting sensation of reality twisting around her as the light blazed and then quickly faded. The air felt cleaner as she drew in a deep breath and let it out again in relief.
Star entered the room. "I felt him .. leave," she said, looking at Sunday's body.
"So, it's over," Lois asked, but kept looking in Clark's eyes. "Can we be 'dispossessed' now?"
"Well," Star hesitated. "You never really were 'possessed'."
Lois suddenly felt faint. "Excuse me?"
"Well, I said voodoo wasn't my specialty, but you have to remember it's 'sympathetic magic'. If you *believe* it will work, it will work."
Clark smiled and pulled Lois to him. "Fortunately, Sunday *believed* it."
Lois returned his smile with one of her own. Bringing her hand up, her fingers traced his lips. "I never doubted it for a moment … I never doubted *us*."
Clark chuckled softly as he bent his head toward her, his lips tingling >from her soft touch, intent on kissing her senseless. Just as his mouth brushed against hers, a painful moan drew their attention.
Lois turned and looked first at Perry. He was looking at Jimmy, a frown on his face.
"Jimmy? Are you all right, son?"
Jimmy shook his head, trying to dislodge the cobwebs that had seemed to gather in his brain. "I … think so, Chief. What happened?"
"Beats me, son. Beats me. But I know one thing …"
"I don't think I'll *ever* look at a crawfish again."
Jimmy smiled weakly as Lois and Clark hugged each other. Another moan of pain made them all turn to the slouched figure against the wall.
Ralph moaned once more and struggled to stand. Finally, he gave up and sat, his head leaning against the cool metal folding chair.
He blinked once in an attempt to focus on the five people looking at him. "Wassamatter? Where am I?"
Ralph looked down at his hand and slowly opened it. The paper that had been in his fist began to uncrumple. Bringing it close to his face, he read what was written. He looked up.
"D'ya know how I can get to 'Serena's Snake Dancers'?"
Clark's eyes widened in surprise. Lois rolled hers in exasperation. Perry glared.
Jimmy looked around the room. "Snake? Where?"
Star just smiled.
A knock on the door drew their collective attention. A hospital worker looked in. "Sorry, folks. Visiting hours are over." She looked past Lois and Clark. "I'd better have maintenance come over here and clean up that pile of dust."
Puzzled, Lois and Clark turned and looked behind them. Where Baron Sunday's body had lain a few minutes ago, now only a pile of dust and ashes remained. Lois shuddered as she remembered how Sunday's assistant Ziggy had died in her apartment. She raised a questioning look to Star.
Star shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. "He just … left, Lois. His magic wasn't strong enough."
Lois took a step toward Star. "But … will he be back?" She turned to look at Clark, her hand reaching out to him.
Clark took her hand in his and gently squeezed. He pulled her to his side and brought his arm around her. "I don't know, honey. I don't think any of us know."
He looked at Star for confirmation. She just shook her head.
"All I know is that he's gone, Clark. Whether it's permanent or not …" She shrugged her shoulders. Closing her eyes, she concentrated briefly before opening them once more. "I can't sense him."
She smiled at her two friends. "That's some powerful magic you two have."
Pushing her concerns aside for the moment, Lois wrapped her arms around Clark's waist. Looking into his eyes, she smiled softly. "Yeah. Pretty powerful."
Clark winked and smiled his easy smile. He leaned toward Lois and whispered against her lips before kissing her. "Yeah. Pretty … super."