By IRC Round Robin
Submitted April 12, 1998
Summary: Lois is off from work, taking it easy with a sprained ankle but still manages to find a body, upset her mother, get kidnapped, and help Clark take four showers! An IRC Round Robin fanfic.
An IRC Round-Robin by Zoomway (firstname.lastname@example.org); ChrisM^ (email@example.com); CrystalW (JCWimmer@aol.com); Eraygun (Eraygun@aol.com); Kirshnera (Kirshnera@aol.com); Lansbury (Lansbury1@aol.com); DorDor (firstname.lastname@example.org); Mackteach (Mackteach@aol.com)
"Clark, I'm fine!" Lois snapped.
Clark fluffed up her pillow and placed it under her swollen ankle. "Honey, you're *more* than fine, but your ankle isn't, and the doctor said a few hours of bed rest with your foot elevated for a few days." Lois folded her arms and stared out the window. "I've got to get to work, but your mom should be here soon."
"A swollen ankle, no work, and now my mother. When you get the time, Clark, write a memo to Kismet, or Fate or whoever is having this big grudge against me!"
"Well," a familiar voice said, "I had no idea I was such a burden, Lois. Maybe I should just turn right around and—"
"Ellen," Clark said, plastering his best fake smile on his face. "Great to see you."
Ellen shrugged and removed her gloves. "Being in the same welcome league as a swollen ankle is too touching for words," she said and glanced at Lois. "What have you done to your hair?"
"Good to see you too, Mother."
"And this pillow is too high," Ellen fussed, removing the pillow and replacing it with a chair cushion. "Now, that's much better, sweetie. Of course if you didn't spend your life trying to be Emma Peel, this wouldn't happen."
Clark stepped in quickly and kissed Lois. "Good-bye, Mrs. Peel."
Lois managed a smile. "Good-bye, Steed." Clark departed with all due and grateful haste.
Ellen smiled down at her daughter. "So, what can I do for you, sweetheart?"
"Well, I would like—"
"Of course it's been my experience if you coddle a patient too much, it hampers healing. It creates a cycle of dependency where the patient becomes less motivated to get better. Being waited on hand and foot is just too appealing. So, what do you need?"
"Nothing, Mother. Nothing at all," Lois said.
"Well," Ellen sighed. "If you can't think of anything, I'm going in the other room and watch "Emergency Room Interns." It may just be a soap opera, but it has so much compassion and caring, it's hard not to be moved."
"Go ahead. I'll just sit here and not be dependent."
Ellen, the comment sailing over her head like a squashed beer can, smiled approvingly. "That's my little tiger."
Lois shook her head, but had to smile. Her mother was her mother. She looked around the room, then picked up a book and began to read. She looked up as she heard a car backfire, but saw no car.
"Hmm." She reached for her purse on the nearby end table and got out her tiny pair of binoculars.
Lois studied what she could see of Hyperion Street from her vantage point on the living room window seat. Thank goodness Clark had suggested she perch here instead of over on the sofa. She wouldn't have been able to see anything from there.
It was amazing how much activity there was in this block during the day. People walking their dogs or pushing baby strollers. Delivery vans, taxis, bicycles, as well as an assortment of other vehicles, continually passed by her townhouse. She was used to all the traffic downtown near the Daily Planet building but she was surprised to learn just how busy her own little block was, too.
Anyway, she couldn't readily determine from where that "bang" had come, so she amused herself with watching her neighbors as they went about their daily business.
There were the new people who had moved in across the street last week. She could see a pile of boxes on the curb, evidence that they had been busy. With the windows open she could hear the Morrises arguing again, an interesting contrast to Mr. and Mrs. Evans, the elderly couple who lived down the street and still held hands during their evening strolls.
A car she didn't recognize pulled up in front of the building across the street, and she used her binoculars to get a better look at the two men who were getting out of it. Nicely dressed … suits … shiny shoes … wonder what they're doing?
They went into the building and Lois turned her attention to a group of kids rollerblading. They were yelling and laughing, shouting at one another in order to be heard over the noise of their wheels as well as the noises of the street. As she afterwards explained to Clark, that was why she almost missed hearing the scream.
Lois smiled at the laughing children, then glared at her painful ankle. She should be out there, with them. It was a beautiful day, and if she couldn't work, she should be able to have fun. As she looked more carefully out the window, the last sound she had heard finally registered. That hadn't been a playful scream, it had been different.
Lois scanned the street with the binoculars, and attempted to locate the source of the sound. Foot by foot she covered the area, and had just about convinced herself that she had imagined it when she heard it again. It was a scream, a real scream. The sound was shrill and frightened, and she knew that she couldn't ignore it.
Raising herself carefully onto her one good foot, and grimacing at the pain present despite the medication Clark had given her before he left, she pushed the window open and leaned out. She searched in vain for several moments before finding something out of the ordinary. The screams had stopped, and others on the street seemed oblivious, but she was sure something was wrong. She saw the well dressed men that had entered the building previously gathered into a small huddle near the alley down the street.
She used the binoculars to see what they were up to, and just as she got them into focus saw that they were beginning to disperse. She was able to see beyond them to a beautiful woman who was dressed as well as they were. Unfortunately, the woman was not leaving the gathering as the men were, but was lying in a crumpled heap on the ground. Lois found it amazing that no one had stopped to see what the problem was, that no one had heard the screams. She searched for signs of life with the binoculars, but quickly became frustrated with the people passing between her and the woman.
"Mother," Lois yelled urgently. "Mother, I need you." She attempted to reach the telephone to call 911, but it was placed so far away from her she was unable to reach it. She called for her mother once more as Ellen entered the room looking more than a little miffed at being interrupted.
Lois turned her back to the window as she commanded her mother to give her the phone. Ellen, more shocked at this demand than at the request, stood there with her hands on her hips. "Young lady, what do you think you are doing up?"
"Mother, someone has been hurt. Go out there and see if you can help." Lois was breathless with urgency. "Mother, now!" she commanded when Ellen still didn't move.
Finally sensing her daughter's panic, Ellen picked up the cordless telephone and handed it to Lois. Lois dialed 911 quickly as she reached to tug her mother in front of the window. "There's been an assault," she told the emergency operator. "I need the police and an ambulance." She waited while the operator processed the necessary information, and finally noticed that her mother was leaning forward to look out the window as well.
Lois was eager to point out the victim to her mother, grateful that Ellen was showing some indication of action, but as she looked to where the woman had been lying, she saw only the asphalt of the alley.
Lois used her binoculars, but still she saw no body. Where was it? Just then, the voice of the operator came back on the line.
"Miss, I need your address."
"Huh?" Lois replied.
"Your address? You know, so I can send the police, an ambulance, the Marines, all those things you were just asking for."
"Oh well … never mind," Lois said absently as she hung up the phone.
Ellen turned from the window to look directly at Lois.
"Mother!" Lois interrupted before Ellen could utter a sound. "I know what I saw."
Ellen eyed Lois sceptically. "You've always had a wild imagination, you know. You inherited that from your father's side of the family. Heavens knows no one in my family ever.."
"Mother … " Lois said tightly in a voice laced with irritation.
"All right, why don't I just go outside and take a look. Maybe I'll see *something*. Will that make you happy?"
Lois nodded and leaned against the window seat as Ellen proceeded out of the townhouse and on to Hyperion. A few minutes later she returned.
"Well, did you see anything?! Did you find that poor woman that was assaulted?" Lois demanded as she limped over to Ellen's side.
"No but what I did find was a film company," Ellen replied as she handed Lois a business card.
"November 4th Productions!?"
"Yes. I bet they were filming the latest episode of that hit TV show "Metropolis Blue" here in your neighborhood, and you just saw the crime of the week."
"Well … er … ah, anyone could have made the same mistake."
"That's right dear," Ellen said soothingly. She picked up the bottle of pain medication. "How much of this have you had?"
Lois grumbled a little bit.
"Too much?" Ellen suggested. She was rewarded with a glare. "Well, be that as it may, I'm going back in to finish my show. Unless you need anything else, that is … ?"
"I'm fine," Lois replied. Ellen left, and Lois sat on the couch, brooding. She was an investigative reporter! How could she make such a dumb mistake?
But then she realized something that gave her pause. The cameras. There were no cameras there. Also, if they were shooting a popular TV show, where were all the fans? There should have been crowds of people all around, just outside the area they were filming in, hoping to catch a glimpse of a star. Even if the show's directors had managed to keep people away, there were no cameras or trucks. That was the big thing here. There was no way that all those trucks and equipment that MB used could be gotten rid of so quickly.
Therefore, there must be something else going on. Something other than the filming of a TV show. And if there was, she was going to find out.
But now, she had a problem. She couldn't very well ask her mother to go out there again. And she wasn't about to call Clark yet. She stopped to think for a second. And then a small idea popped into her head. It wasn't the best thing to do, but it was her only real option. She moved over to the closet that was under the stairs and opened the door.
Sure enough, the crutches that she had hung there when they moved in were still there. She had used them long ago when she had broken her ankle skiing. She had kept them because she figured they'd be useful in her line of work — if not to help her walk, then at least to hit a bad guy with.
She pulled her coat on and used the crutches to help her walk out the door. Ellen was still glued to the television set, and didn't hear her.
Lois couldn't do much like this, but at least she could poke around. She hobbled out the door and crossed the street. By the time she reached the spot where she had seen the body, she was already becoming exasperated with her slowness.
Just as she had expected, there were no clues indicating that a television crew had ever been there. No trash, no footprints, nothing. So she looked around for a different kind of clue. She walked over to where the body had been, and looked around the immediate area.
She regretted not asking her mother where she had gotten that card. Lois had noticed that the corner had been a little muddy, so maybe it had been partially in a puddle. There was one about a foot away from where the body had been. So this was *probably* where the card had been. The big question was had it been dropped by the victim or the attackers?
Lois carefully searched the area around where she had seen the body. She scanned for any signs of a struggle but could not find any evidence of one.
She manipulated the crutches with the ease of a bull in a china shop. She was almost completely exhausted from her search when she heard the familiar whooshing sounds from behind her.
Clark, dressed as Superman, came towards her with fire in his eyes, took the crutches without saying a word to her, and unceremoniously picked her up and began carrying her back towards the main street.
"Lois, I can't believe you're down here on that leg." He did not give her a chance to respond. "Didn't anything the doctor said in the emergency room sink in?"
"Clark, will you stop and listen to me for a second. There was a woman hurt in the alley and I —"
Clark cut her off. "And you what? How did you think you could help her? You barely made it down here? Why didn't you tell your mother or phone for help?"
"I did, but she was gone before Mother could get to her and since the body was moved I canceled the 911 call for help. I had to come down and see what had happened for myself."
Clark gave the alley a thorough scan and saw no evidence of an assault. He continued carrying her into the townhouse and when he opened the door he walked right into Ellen.
"I just missed her, Superman. Where did you find her?"
"Mrs. Lane, if you are here to keep an eye on Lois you haven't succeeded." Ellen was taken aback at the criticism in Superman's voice.
Clark carried his wife to the sofa and placed her on it. He leaned forward and quickly said, "Don't get off here for the next three hours or I will —" but was interrupted before he could finish his threat.
"Superman, I know you're a busy man. I promise to keep a closer eye on her."
"Mrs. Lane, I hope you do. It's a severe strain now, but can very easily become broken if she doesn't stay off it."
Superman walked to the window and leaped out.
Ellen turned back to her daughter. "I'm going to make you a cup of tea. I want you to stay still until I come back."
Lois felt as if she were a naughty child and had been caught doing something wrong.
She still wanted to see out the window. Lois pulled herself to the edge of the sofa and very slowly stood to gain her balance. She had to reach the window seat. She placed her weight on her good leg and began the journey to the across the room. Halfway there she stumbled and put far too much weight on her injured leg.
Ellen came running out of the kitchen just as she made it to the window seat. She was gripping her leg and Ellen could see her daughter was in pain.
Ellen helped Lois back to the sofa. "Were you trying to get Superman to catch you this time by flying headlong at the window?"
"And where did he get off telling me how to do my job? Is he a mother?"
"No, he just—"
"Is he trained in medicine?"
"Of course not, but—"
"Is he your husband?"
"Ye..you have a good point."
"You bet I do!"
Lois sighed as her mother stormed back toward the kitchen. She grabbed back her binoculars and made do with them. Maybe she was being paranoid. Her mother saw nothing, Clark saw nothing. Oh well, maybe it was nothing. She focused the binoculars. A light went on in a room across the street.
Silhouettes played back and forth past the curtains. It was hard to tell what they were. Looked like a man and woman, but—
"Where are your tea bags?"
"We don't have any, Mother. We have a tea ball. The tea gets put in that, and—"
"Since when do you turn your nose up at tea bags?"
"Since you gave us a tea set with a tea ball for our wedding present, Mother…"
"Well," she blushed. "That's what I get for letting your father pick the present. I just … did you see that?"
Ellen shook her head vigorously. "Now you've got *me* imagining things are happening out your magic window."
Lois, forgetting about the big tea ball debate, picked her binoculars back up. There was a blur of shadows at the curtains. Obviously more than one person, but doing what was impossible to tell. "Could be two people struggling," Lois whispered.
"Or *dancing*," her mother countered and grabbed the binoculars.
"Hey!" Lois protested.
"You get some rest, young lady, and I'll be back with your tea if I figure out that 'ball' thing."
Lois doubled her hands into fists and pounded them to her side in frustration. "I'm going to go *stir* crazy!" Lois let out a long breath noisily. She really felt a scream would do her good. Then, her mother, quite ashen, stepped back into the room.
"I just looked out the kitchen window with your binoculars."
"And..and?!" Lois said, barely able to contain her excitement.
"And," Ellen replied, "I think I'm going to be sick."
Lois looked at her mother's pale face, and instantly lifted her aching foot into the air. Hopping quickly, with absolutely no regard for her injured ankle, she snatched the binoculars from her mother and went into the kitchen, Ellen close behind.
She leaned against the window to catch her breath, and used the binoculars to examine the area. Just as her mother had said, the body Lois had seen earlier was crumpled against a dumpster. The sight shook Lois, even after all of the grisly scenes she had seen in her career. This was quite literally too close to home.
Not taking her eyes off the body, she tried to reach for the phone. She considered calling 911 again, but was unsure whether or not they would have logged her previous call, in which case they most likely would disregard a second one. She used the autodial to page Clark, following their home number with the universal "911", indicating it was an emergency.
She then considered an earth-shattering scream to bring her husband running, but a loud and hearty "Help, Superman!" would be a little too obvious if the assailants were still in the area.
As she turned to Ellen who was still looking ashen and stunned, she heard Clark's whoosh towards the living room window. He wouldn't be able to see her without x-raying the townhouse, so she called out to him. He flew in at only a slightly greater speed than she had hopped, and came to a halt before her.
"Clark, the body, it's out there," she said excitedly. She forgot completely for a moment that Ellen was present, and that her husband was not in his usual suit and tie.
Clark, seeing how dazed Ellen still looked, decided to try to brush over the goof. "I can get Clark if you need me to, but I think that I am better qualified to handle this."
Lois looked up into his eyes, and suddenly realized what she had said. Quickly, she reinforced Clark's fib and showed him to the window. "Of course, he'll need to know. She's right out here … "
Lois stepped aside to allow Clark a good look out the window. He scanned the ground and the surrounding area well. He gave Lois a quizzical look.
"She's gone, Lois," he told her.
Lois snapped her head around to the window, and nearly fell as she put too much weight on her bad ankle and lost her balance. Clark caught her with one arm, steadying her, and allowed her time to look. "But, she was there … " Lois said in a plaintive voice.
Lois was more than a little upset at the situation, until Clark looked her in the eye. "I know she was. There's blood on the ground. However, I couldn't find a trace of a body anywhere!"
"But that's impossible. No one could move that fast!" Lois replied.
"I know, but it's true. There's absolutely nothing out of the ordinary in the alley or any of the surrounding buildings."
"So what can we do?" Lois asked.
"I think you should call the police … "
"But … "
"I'll wait here until they arrive and explain what I've seen. We can at least put them on notice and maybe they'll start an investigation."
Lois nodded in agreement and placed the call.
One hour later she sank down in frustration on the sofa in the living room. Metropolis's finest had listened patiently to both her and her mother, but the final result was the same. No body, no crime. Even Superman's report about finding blood stains failed to have much impact. But at least the technician took some samples.
Ellen had left the two of them and gone up upstairs to rest, complaining of shattered nerves and muttering to herself. Something about " … so typical … " and " … death of me yet … " but Lois pretended not to hear.
What the heck was going on here? Lois thought glumly as she shifted positions yet again. Who the devil is playing hide and seek with a dead body? And more importantly, why oh why did it have to be in her neighborhood?
"I'm cursed, that's it," she mumbled out loud. "Cursed!"
"What did you say, honey?"
"Clark, I am not going crazy and I did not imagine a body by the dumpster. You saw for yourself there was blood on the ground. Why do I get the feeling you and the police think Mother and I are being two hysterical females about this?"
"I don't doubt you, honey. But maybe what you thought you saw was really a by-product of the painkillers you have been taking."
Lois's head shot up and she looked her husband in the eye. "Okay. That explains my seeing the body but what about Mother? She has seen it too."
Clark looked at his wife. "Maybe she had a little tip in her afternoon tea?"
"Clark, my mother doesn't do that anymore and you know it. She may be a lot of things but that is one thing I know she would never do again. It caused her too much grief in her life and she wants to put that completely and totally behind her."
Clark looked like the child who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "I'm sorry, Lois, I guess I was grasping at straws. But the time for guessing has got to stop. If there has been a murder *we* are going to find the body and find out who did it. Partners," he said as he bent over her to place a kiss on her upturned lips.
"Hmmmm … partners. Always partners. But leave my Mother's sobriety out of the equation from now on. I know I saw a body in the alley from the living room window. Fact! I know I later saw strange shapes in the empty apartment across the street. Fact! I also know I saw a body beside the dumpster in the back of our townhouse. That is another fact! Now we have to use these facts to lead us to the truth."
Clark nodded in agreement. "How about I go over and check out the apartment across from us for any clues?"
"Good idea, Partner."
"Except," Lois added. "You're taking me with you."
"I'll sit on the floor, or you can hold me in your arms, which I prefer actually, but your call. Either way … I'm going."
Clark shook his head. "Didn't we go over this before, that sometimes it's easier for me to work alone?"
"Yes, but unless that vacated apartment is haunted—"
"Wouldn't be the first time in this neighborhood."
Lois, a bit bold on the painkillers, hopped easily into his arms with one foot. "Shall we?"
"Well, it looks like I don't have a choice," he sighed.
"You have a choice, but I don't think you want my mother staying here say … a month."
With a non-hesitant 'whoosh', Clark transported them across the street.
There was a packing barrel in the vacant room. Clark x-rayed it, but it contained only some old clothing. He set Lois on top and began x-raying the room. "Nothing," he shrugged.
"Well, before we got married, well, even way before that when my social calendar was drowning in red ink, I watched a lot of movies, and there was this one—"
"Gee," Clark smiled. "To think I ruined your viewing habits."
Lois grabbed his yellow belt. "Well, we still have the movies on. I just don't watch them anymore."
"I know," he laughed and stroked her hair. "They all star FBI Warning, and I never see much after that."
"He's overrated," she smiled, and then their eyes locked for a moment. The room felt hot. She cleared her throat. "Anyway, this movie had something to with magic, and the magician said that if you want to find out how a trick is done, you ask yourself how *you'd* do it."
"Our vanishing woman."
"Okay, how *would* you make a grown woman disappear?"
"The 'I Can't Believe it's Not Butter' commercials does it for me, but somehow I don't think Fabio is involved. You sure you found no secret passageways, hidden closets?"
"Lois, there's a manhole cover in the alley."
"And nothing in the sewer line?"
Clark fidgeted. "Well … "
Lois folded her arms. "Clark."
"Okay, well, it was lead pipe, I couldn't x-ray it."
"I'm sorry, honey, but at the time I thought you were … well … "
He blushed. "Yeah."
"Okay," she said, smiling at him so he'd know he was forgiven. "If there's a manhole cover, there must be a manhole. A body could disappear down that very nicely."
"Yes, it could," he agreed. "Would an apology suffice or do I need to grovel?"
"I'll have to think about it, but I think a "super" apology, later on, when we're alone, might do the trick." He grinned and she could see an expectant gleam light up in his eyes. "In the meantime, Superman, just promise that the next time I tell you I see dead bodies, you'll believe me."
"You got it."
"Let's check out that manhole."
Ellen Lane, downstairs once more and in search of Lois, was passing the open front window when she saw Superman landing in the alley and carrying her daughter. She watched in amazement as the Man of Steel lifted a manhole cover and then began to help Lois descend into the sewer.
Well! She wasn't going to stand by and let *that* happen! Charging out the front door and down the steps, she crossed the now quiet street at an angle.
"Superman! Have you lost your mind?"
Clark was so surprised, he nearly lost his grip on Lois. "Mrs. Lane! I — I didn't see you there."
"Mother! We're investigating."
"Investigating? Investigating what? Mysterious sewer rats?"
"Mo-ther!!!" Lois exclaimed. "Superman will look after me."
"And what do you think Clark will have to say about this, young lady?"
Lois looked over at her brightly garbed husband and saw that he was avoiding her eye. "I'm sure Clark wouldn't mind, Mother. He knows Superman wouldn't let anything happen to me."
"Well, just the same, I'm going to call him. You wait right there."
Lois waited only until she'd seen her mother enter the house. "Quick, before she gets back. Let's go!"
Clark didn't need any persuasion. Bad guys were one thing, but a mother-in-law in a righteous wrath was something else again. He lowered Lois through the manhole opening and then followed her down below.
It was damp and smelly down there, but Lois was safely tucked into her husband's arms as he floated above the shallow water in the bottom of the huge pipes.
At first it looked like any ordinary, run-of-the-mill sewer line, but after they'd explored for a few minutes, Clark's "vision gizmo" picked out a place where the wall of the pipe appeared to have been repaired. Could this be what they were looking for?
They continued for a distance down the disgusting pathway, and saw little besides the occasional rat and a good deal of garbage.
Lois was just beginning to think that this was probably a bad idea, when they heard what sounded like voices a little further down the tunnel. Clark stopped for a moment and set Lois down gently on the driest spot he could find, but continued to support her weight. He motioned for her to be silent so he could tune in to the sounds.
He had some difficulty filtering the voices from the overpowering sounds of the local subway and the traffic above them, but he was finally able to tune himself into the discussion.
"Why did you leave her there, you idiot!" The voice was gravelly and low as it continued, "I told you to drop her down the hole. Can't you follow a simple instruction?"
Clark attempted to see who was having the conversation, but the tunnels appeared to be coated with lead. He supposed it wasn't unusual, as the city had once used the material quite freely in its construction, but it was extremely inconvenient. He heard a mild grumbling reply, not clear at all, then the first voice was speaking again.
"I realize that woman was watching, but that was no reason to leave a job half finished. You have no idea what kind of a mess this presents." With a sound of exasperation, the voice trailed off.
"What is it, Clark?" Lois inquired as he shook his head in frustration. "I've got to get you out of here," he told her. "There is most likely a killer down here, and you can't even run."
"You'll keep me safe," Lois told him with confidence.
"You bet I will," he told her as he lifted her again into his arms. "I'll put you back up on the street."
Lois was just beginning to protest when they were interrupted by a low growl. Clark turned slowly, Lois still in his arms, to face the situation.
The growl turned into a loud roar and Clark and Lois were suddenly faced with a contingent of employees from the Department of Public Works, complete with the latest mechanical scrubber machine.
"Gosh, Superman, what are you doing down here?" the supervisor of the men asked.
"I was just about to ask you men the same thing," Clark replied.
"That's right," Lois interjected. "Since when do you guys clean sewers?"
"Well, we're not here actually to clean the sewer lines. We're planning to clean the tunnels."
"Yes, this whole area is ringed with tunnels. Left over from Prohibition days. Some bigwig down in City Hall has this idea that they can be turned into an attraction. You know, like Underground Atlanta? So he sent orders for us to start work down here. Didn't you read about it? It was in all the papers."
"Gee, I must have missed it," Lois said sheepishly.
"Anyway, first the clean-up, then we start the excavation. So now that I've answered your question, Superman, maybe you'll answer mine. How come you're down here?"
"This doesn't have anything to do with those stories about that SuperRat I've been reading in the National Whisper, does it?" one of the men chimed in nervously.
Superman's laughter could be heard echoing down the sewer walls.
"I have heard rumors of a SuperRat but I've never seen one myself," piped in another worker.
Lois gave him an elbow to the ribs as a signal to wrap things up. "Superman, I don't think we need to gather any more information for my story. I need to check in with Clark to get his slant on the details. Gentlemen, it has been a pleasure talking with you." She looked over her shoulder as Superman lifted them both up towards the opening. Two tiny red glares caught her attention just beyond where the men where standing. "Naaah, it can't be."
"What? I didn't understand what you just said."
"It was nothing, honey. Just get us out of here."
Superman flew out of the sewer and landed them both beside the back door of the townhouse. Lois looked down at herself and wrinkled her nose. "I stink and so do you. We need to clean up before we see Mother."
Clark looked down at himself and at Lois and shook his head in agreement.
"And I don't want any muddy tracks on my clean carpet," Lois added. She opened the door carefully, and called, "Mother, Mother, it's me and Clark."
There was no answer. Lois stepped to one side to let Clark scan the kitchen and on the counter was a note. 'Lois, I couldn't reach Clark and I decided that you probably are in good hands. I went to the grocery for some decent tea bags. Be back soon. Love, Mother.'
Clark grinned down at Lois after he read the note to her. "Well, since we can't make tracks on the carpet, there's only one way to get to the shower."
Lois smiled as she leaped into his arms and said, "I like your ideas, Mr. Kent."
Clark flew them both to their shower upstairs but en route he thought he would do them both a favor. He spun them both out of their clothes just before he landed in the shower.
"Oh, Mr.Kent, you do take good care of me," Lois said as she turned on the water and began to wash her husband's chest.
"I was thinking," Clark said, but his voice dropped an octave just as the washcloth lowered to his abdomen.
"I'm thinking too," Lois smiled.
"No, seriously, Lois."
Clark smiled. "I mean, maybe whoever was in that old tunnel knew it was being reclaimed, and had to move … oooh."
"Oops, sorry, go on."
"Had to move faster on some … proj … ect."
"Turn around," Lois said, re-soaping the cloth. "So maybe there was something hidden in that Prohibition pipeline," she said, making large circles with the soapy cloth on Clark's back.
"Oh, honey, that feels so good."
"Earth to Clark."
"Hmm? Yeah, yeah, that's what I was getting at. The whole thing is lined with … just a little lower … lead. It'll take a more thorough search."
"Or maybe you can use a little buzz-buzz and find the terminus points. Maybe we can search there first," Lois suggested.
Clark turned around and took the cloth. "Your turn."
"Lois! I'm back!"
Lois put a soapy hand over Clark's mouth. "Your costume, it's lying on the floor in the bedroom!"
"Lois, I'm nude!"
"Okay, I can move fast enough, but this is so—"
Ellen opened the bedroom door, felt a stiff, rather moist breeze, and heard the bathroom door slam loudly.
"Can't they shut their bedroom window?" She walked to the window, but noticed it was already shut. "Well," she shrugged, "I warned them about these drafty old buildings."
"Now what?" a wet and unhappy Clark asked.
"Now I go out and distract mother and you hide that dirty suit, get into a fresh costume and check out the terminus points."
Clark sighed. "A man can take just so much."
She patted his bare chest. "Well, you're Superman, you can take more." She wrapped a towel around her and left the bathroom.
Lois felt that her ankle could now bear a little weight and so she gingerly hobbled into the bedroom. "Mother, just in time. I'm dying for some of that good homemade, tea bag tea."
"You could have broken your neck in the bathtub with that bad ankle."
"Always looking on the bright side," Lois smiled and ushered her mother to the door. "You brew, and I'll dress."
Once Ellen was on her way back downstairs, Clark didn't waste any time getting into a clean suit and returning to the sewers. It occurred to him that he'd need another shower after this and he hoped that Ellen wasn't planning on spending the evening with them.
On the theory that whoever was hiding out in the sewer wouldn't be doing so in the same area as the City crew, he went in the opposite direction from the one he and Lois had taken earlier.
It didn't take him long to search the entire area, and he found several places where it was obvious that something had been stored … probably caches of bootleg whiskey, if these tunnels dated from the Prohibition era. But would bottles of illegal hooch be worth killing for? Clark didn't think so, but then he'd been surprised more than once by what people had been willing to kill for.
A thorough search revealed the existence of several possible hiding places, bits and pieces of old crates, various other odds and ends, including part of an old Tommy gun, and a small pool of blood.
No doubt this was where they'd hidden the body. However, there wasn't anything here now. He figured it was time for Clark Kent to do a little digging of his own.
Taking advantage of the fact that Lois had Ellen out on the back deck, Clark sneaked into the house for a shower and clean clothes then headed for the Daily Planet. Once there, he got out his notes from the story they'd done on Katie Banks Before he and Lois had only been interested in the story from Katie's point of view. Now he wanted to do some more checking on her two-timing husband.
He kept in touch with Lois over the phone. In fact, it was through some of her sources that they were able to piece together as much as they did about Mr. Banks's shady past. Apparently, he'd had several affairs in addition to running one of the biggest bootlegging operations in the city. He'd been a busy boy.
They also found evidence of at least one illegitimate child … a girl. But that's where they ran into a brick wall. There weren't any pictures of her to be found and no one seemed to know of her current whereabouts.
Surrounded by mounds of papers and file folders, Clark phoned Lois again. She could hear in his voice how discouraged he was … they had been so close.
"Come home, Clark. We'll work on it some more tomorrow."
"I don't know, Lois, I think if I just—"
"I had Daddy call Mother, Clark, and she'll be leaving in two minutes."
"I'll be there in three."
Exactly two minutes and fifty-nine seconds later, Clark was standing behind her, bending over the back of the sofa and leaning in for a kiss. Afterwards, Lois pulled back just a little, wrinkling her nose. "You smell a little like … SuperRat," she grinned.
"There is something I could do about that," he smiled. "Or we, depending on your mood. I got some platypus milk shampoo on the way home."
"It's not so much a matter of my mood," she said with a grin. "You know what that stuff can do. But I am starving."
"Didn't your mother feed you lunch … ?"
"Oh, well, she did … Would you care for some soy sprouts on jellyfish eggs … ? Her latest fad. She said it will help my ankle heal." She grinned. "It's in the fridge if you care to try."
"Well, then it's good that I also stopped by Tony's on the way home. I'll be back in two minutes."
He made it in less, returning from his third shower since seven, smelling clean and just slightly of the shampoo that she liked so much on him.
Putting the pizza box in the middle, he sat at the opposite end of the sofa. They started eating, laughing as they fed each other slices of pizza across the cardboard box sitting on Lois's outstretched leg.
"Your leg is in the way," Clark grinned. "What can we do about that … ?"
"I don't know. Usually it doesn't bother you." She smiled innocently, running her hand down her leg and pushing her skirt up just a bit on the way back up.
By then, the pizza box was empty save a lone slice that was sitting there forgotten as Clark returned her smile. Discarding the box, and easily lifting his wife into his arms, he carried her up the stairs. "Care to get more comfortable?" he asked.
"I promise my foot won't be in the way." She winked as her husband opened the bedroom door.
Clark was wakened by the sound of unearthly groans that seemed to echo from the alley behind the townhouse. Lois woke as he was getting out of bed and spinning into the suit.
"What is it?" she asked sleepily.
"I'm not sure. It sounds like some of Katie's cronies are having a party in the alley or rather underneath it. I'm going to check it out. I'll be right back."
"All right," Lois replied groggily, "but hurry back. You've spent so much time in the sewers lately I'm beginning to feel like I married one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."
Clark chuckled and sped out the window and into the still open manhole cover, trying to focus in on the banging and clanging noise that he'd initially thought originated underneath the alley, but now seemed to be much further away. The search proceeded slowly as once again the lead in the pipes and the tunnel walls had a dampening effect not only on his super vision but also on his superhearing.
When Clark didn't return immediately, Lois, still a little restless, decided to get out of bed and wait for him. She snagged the crutches and slowly made her way downstairs and back to her perch on the window seat. And gazing out the window at the vacant apartment across the street she saw …
… Superman slowly move in front of the window. She waved frantically trying to get his attention. How in the world did he get over there? she asked herself.
She watched as he moved along the wall and vanished. Lois screamed "Clark!" and scanned the room with the binoculars only to find he was still gone.
Panic was beginning to set in for she had never felt so unable to help him. She was just about to rise with the aid of the crutches when a figure in the alley below caught her sight.
To her relief it was Clark. She leaned over the windowsill and called out, "Up here!"
Clark turned and looked at his worried wife hanging out of the window. "Lois, get back, move out of the way." With a single bound he leaped up and through the window to land at his wife's side.
"What happened?" she asked as she was about to throw her arms against him. But he stopped her.
"Honey, I'm okay, but I need another shower — those sewers really stink."
Lois stood by the bathroom door and watched appreciatively as Clark stripped out of his suit and stepped into the shower.
"Any ordinary man who'd been in water as often as you have today would be prune-y," she said, "but you … " Her voice trailed off as her gaze moved over him.
His hand on the door, he turned and winked at her. "Wanna scrub my back?"
She smiled indulgently. "Not right now, Clark. Maybe later. What happened down there?"
"See? That's what I love about you, Lois. Your tenacity. Your bull-doggedness. Your single-mindedness. Your —"
"Enough about me, Clark. What happened?"
Clark started the shower and began to soap up. He left the door ajar so they could talk. Lois kept her eyes focused on the shower head, determined not to be distracted by the sight of Clark. In the shower. Soap suds running down …
"Not much happened, honey. Just a close encounter of an unexpected kind."
"Uh huh. Define 'unexpected.'"
Clark stepped under the shower to rinse off. "Let's just say that for a while I thought Katie Banks wasn't the only ghost in town."
Lois took a quick look at Clark's backside. "Are you telling me that Casper and friends have taken up residence in the sewers of Metropolis?"
Clark looked over his shoulder at his wife. "No, not Casper."
He turned off the shower and reached for the towel. "Honey, you wouldn't believe me if I told you. In fact, I'm not sure that even *I* would have believed what I originally thought, and I saw it … er, them."
"Clark! You're not gonna tell me that Sky Masterson and the floating crap game are down in the sewers singing 'Luck Be A Lady,' are you?"
Clark toweled himself dry and walked across the floor to stand before Lois. "No. I didn't see Sky or Nathan Detroit, even."
Lois watched as a bead of water dripped from his hair and ran down his chest. Without thinking, she reached out with her finger to trace its trail. "Then who, Clark?"
Clark's sharp intake of breath caught her attention. Her hand dropped to her side. "Sorry. You're just so hard to resist."
Clark reached out for Lois and picked her up. "So are you. Let's get back under the covers and I'll tell you all about the sewers and who was there."
Lois traced her fingers through Clark's damp hair. "Tell me now, or you can forget the covers."
Clark frowned. "Ouch, and you say *I* obsess. I mean, you seemed pretty interested watching me in the shower."
"That's just because I didn't want you to throw the soapy washcloth on the ceiling repeatedly to see what pattern it makes."
He laughed and set her on the bed. "I only did that once."
"You did it six times. Now who was down there?"
Clark shrugged. "Sorry, honey, I was just teasing you a bit. It was the reclamation workers again. Their taste in music is what made the weird noises."
"At this hour?"
"Honey, it's only six o'clock."
"But that's time and a half pay, Clark. Metropolis is so anxious to have this project done they're working crews around the clock at increased wages?"
Clark frowned. "I see your point."
Lois sighed. "Well, I guess you should head to the Planet, and I'll go back over these notes—"
Clark put one knee on the edge of the bed, his towel gaping slightly. "Now?"
Lois averted her glance … with effort. "Yes, now. Remember, you're Superman. You can take it."
"I can *take* it, I just can't *get* it."
Lois tugged playfully at the towel. "Please, Clark."
"You don't have to beg, just tug harder."
Lois smacked his rump. "Go!"
Clark folded his arms. "I don't like having to mess with the staff that puts out the morning edition of the Planet."
"And why is that?"
He made his irresistible puppy dog face. "Because you're not one of them."
Lois got up on her knees and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Just bite the bullet, and the quicker you get it done, the quicker we can get under the covers, and then I'll put on that black teddy —" [whooooosh] "—you like so much," she said to the rustling curtains.
Lois sighed with satisfaction and wiggled her little finger. "Sometimes he's easier to wrap than others." She walked over to the window to close it, but saw a shadow down in the alley. She grabbed her binoculars, but in the gathering dusk they did no good.
"I get a tea set for a wedding gift, but does anyone give me something practical like night-vision goggles? No!" Lois decided to take a closer look.
A few minutes later, she was standing on the sidewalk in front of the house. She wrapped her coat snugly around herself as the wind picked up and hobbled across the street in classic Long John Silver gait.
As she neared, the silhouette was all too familiar. "Mother?"
Two men leaped out of the shadows and grabbed Lois. She literally didn't have a leg to stand on, and so Tae Kwan Do was out.
Clark checked in at the Planet, finished up his assignments and after making a quick side trip flew back home with a bouquet of tulips. He hoped she didn't mind just this once that he'd taxied down the runway to Holland. Unfortunately, Lois wasn't there to scold or to kiss him. Her coat was gone.
"You never listen to me, Lois, even as a little girl you never listened."
"Mother, please. We're tied up in a sewer. Can't this lecture take place later when I'm not bound to a pipe and can run into another room and slam the door?"
"Enough!" a man in a sanitation outfit shouted.
"Look, Mr …" Lois squinted at the name tag on the jumpsuit. "Biff. This being tied up underground, as funny as it may seem, is not new to me, but it is new to my mother, so would you please let her go?"
Ellen looked dejected. "I know you meant that to sound altruistic, but I know the *real* reason you want me to leave."
"*No* one is leaving," Biff said and rubbed his temples. It was reminiscent of something Sam did often. "You're here because you know too much, and to keep you from telling anyone until we're done."
Ellen glanced at Lois. "So, what exactly do *we* know too much about?"
Lois kept her eyes on Biff. "That these people aren't really with the sewer reclamation program."
Ellen laughed and shook her head. "Well, I can understand that. My goodness, think of the good tables they'd get at restaurants walking in with grubby overalls. Please, Lois," she sighed. "If you don't want to tell me, don't."
"They're after something buried in these old tunnels. It seems Mr. Banks, a former owner of some of the Hyperion property and some nice mob connections, has something to do with all this."
"How about the Kinsey jewels, Miss Lois?" Biff offered.
Lois raised her eyebrows. "They were stolen over twenty years ago, and never found."
"Until now," another man said as he entered the tunnel. He tipped his head to the side indicating Biff should exit. "We're pulling out soon, tell the others."
Ellen swallowed. "So now that you have the jewels, you'll let us go?"
"Not exactly, grandma," the man said, and opened a crate near a wall and extracted some dynamite. "I'm paid, for the time being anyway, to get rid of pests in these tunnels, and that's just what I'm going to do."
"You're not very bright," Lois said. "If you set that stuff off, you'll be taking out this tunnel, and your own … people."
"Oh, the lady gets a gold star. I have my own little escape hatch, but if it makes you feel better, their widows will get nice city pensions."
Lois nodded. "Just once, I'd love to see honor among thieves. Cliches give me a headache."
"Don't get him upset, Lois!"
Lois's eye's widened. "You mean he'll give me a pillow for my head to land on if I'm nice?"
"Maybe I would," the man shrugged, and set the dynamite in place. "Well, I hate to run, but time's nearly up," he said, and pushed a hidden grating above his head. "Hey! It won't budge. Some jerk must have parked a car on it!"
Lois shrugged. "Yeah, imagine, a car on the street. What a concept." The man pushed frantically at the grating. "Then again," Lois added, "maybe somebody really, really strong is holding it closed."
The grating suddenly flew out of its setting and the man fell backward. Superman floated down gently. "You spoiled the surprise, Lois."
"Sorry," she said nonchalantly. "But I'm tired, I'm dirty, I smell like the sewer yet again, and so I just want to go home, take a shower with my husband, and make love … hopefully in that order."
Ellen's mouth gaped. "Lois!"
"Mother, you wanted me to share, suffer the consequences. And speaking of consequences, what were you doing back here anyway?"
Clark grabbed the dynamite. "Excuse me, I'll be right back." He blurred out of the tunnel, a distant explosion was heard, and he returned. "The police have already raided the rest of the gang, so if you'll excuse me once again, I'll just be a second." He picked up the man and vanished.
Lois smiled. "I'm glad he did that in the right order."
"Well, if your father had met me when he said he would—"
"Clark said there was a phone message on the answering machine, Mrs. Lane," Superman said upon his return. "Dr. Lane is at the Starlighter Hotel awaiting your arrival … with chocolate covered strawberries."
Ellen blushed. "Really?"
Clark untied her and lifted her up to the street where there was a waiting taxi. "Have a great time, Mrs. Lane," he said, and flew back down into the tunnel.
"I never knew Daddy could be so romantic."
Clark untied Lois and took her into his arms. "Neither did he until I lifted him out of a traffic jam and flew him there. I said we'd pay their expenses … darn, I didn't order the strawberries yet."
"Ooh," Lois cooed as Clark flew them back to the townhouse. "And what about us?"
"A bubble bath — no more showers. Candles all around. Champagne chilling, and … "
"And soapy washcloths to throw at the ceiling."
"Well, three out of four isn't bad," Lois smiled, as she was set on the floor. "I think my ankle is better … oh, what about that woman?" Lois asked as she removed her jacket. "Do they know?"
"Sarah Witkin, daughter of—"
Clark smiled admiringly. "You're good."
"Wait till you see me in the bubble bath."
Clark removed the third (or was it fourth?) filthy Superman costume for the day and followed Lois into the bathroom. "It seems her father had told her about the jewels, and she was killed for the information."
"That's too bad," Lois said, disrobing the rest of the way, and slipping into the tub.
Clark floated down behind her. "Well, she did help her father steal them, and a guard was killed at the heist."
Lois tossed a washcloth at the ceiling. "Pour the champagne, blow out the candles, and—"
"Make a wish?"
"I have a feeling it will come true."
"Great," Clark growled. "I've been wanting a ham sandwich all day."
Lois splashed water over her shoulder as Clark blew out the candles.