By Bella <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted December 4, 1997
Summary: A murder case inspires a quick friendship between Lois and the rookie journalist, Clark. Or: What happens when life turns out to be a movie?
Author's note: Not so long ago I had the good fortune to stumble over one of the most endearing love stories Hollywood ever produced.One sentence made me immediately think of Lois and Clark. So I sat down and began to write a story for that one sentence and suddenly the entire movie was somehow involved. Anyway, I hope you like what I did with these eternal characters and their love stories.
BTW: This is a story I wrote without my cherished co-author Trish aka Deandreamer. But stay tuned, it won't take too long to read the next one by both of us. Just look into s5. Praise is highly welcome, flames get returned automatically to their sender's address. So don't bother in the first place <g>.
Time frame: Very early first season. Maybe you could consider it as a substitute for 'The green, green glow of home'.
The taxi's passenger looked surprised at the little building in front of him; he looked back at the small piece of paper in his hand and then at his driver.
"Don't look at me like that, mister. This is the address you gave me."
The man paid the driver and took his suitcase. These Americans were surely a crazy bunch of people.
"Hey, sir! It's still closed. Use the delivery entrance at the back," a little boy, a street kid? instructed him. The man sighed, thanked the boy and, carrrying his heavy suitcase, went down the little passage to the back of this strange building. He had imagined his very first day in the United States of America very differently. The back door was open and he entered.
"Hallo? Is anybody in here?"
Amazed, he took in the furniture and the whole atmosphere. It realized the promise of the outside to its fullest extent.
"Yeah? Hey, what do you want here?" A second man entered the large room.
"Oh, the name's Ole Jasperson. The lady from the agency gave me this address. I'm looking for Greta Turling … I'm from Sweden. She said something about a change in plans."
"Oh, certainly. I'm awfully sorry for being so rude. Welcome to the United States. Please have a seat. I'm Peter Turling. Can I offer you something to drink? See, normally my wife does these things, but something came up and she had to change her schedule. So tell me, do you have any plans yet? Do you like it here? I know there is some difference between Sweden and the States." A bit helpless, Pete started to babble ahead. Greta was so much better at things like this.
Slowly Ole Jasperson began to tell the other man of his hopes, dreams and expectations. He was thankful that this nice man took the time to talk with him. His feeling of absolute loneliness vanished a bit.
"Y'know what? I think you must be pretty tired. I'll drive you to your new apartment and tomorrow morning you can call my wife and she'll help you to settle in. Okay?"
"Yes, that would be really kind, Mr. Turling. Greta is such a nice person, as much as I know her from the letters she has sent me. Such a great help. You must be a very lucky man to have her."
Pete narrowed his eyes for a moment, but then he said cheerily "Yes, I am. Now, let's go. First of all: something to eat and to drink. There's a mart a few blocks down."
In silence the two men drove down the street, but after a while Ole began to get worried.
"Pete? Where's this mart? I don't know much about the cities here, but I think this isn't the right area for any marts." He observed the buildings suspiciously. One warehouse after the other. No mart.
"Don't worry, Ole. We're almost there. We're going to the back entrance." Pete turned right and stopped in an deserted little alley. "We're here."
"Pete, I don't like this at all. What's going on here?" Ole was alarmed, clutching the address the helpful lady at the agency had given him a couple of hours ago.
"I'm sorry, but the journey ends here. Leave the car." Amazed Ole looked at the revolver in Pete's hand. Numbly he obeyed. "Go a bit further … Stop … Again, welcome to the USA."
A shot echoed, unheard, in the alley, and a body fell heavily to the ground.
Early the next morning Lois Lane and Clark Kent stepped through the crowd in the no longer abandoned little alley.
"Daily Planet … coming through … Daily Planet … " Lois repeated at regular intervals. Clark followed her, apologizing to the angry people. Lois wasn't subtle in making her way through the noisy mass. At the yellow tape of the barrier an officer held her back.
"Lois Lane, Daily Planet."
"Sorry, m'am, but no press allowed. Please stay behind the barrier."
"What? You can't be serious! The public has a right to be informed about this latest murder. Let me pass." Lois tried to force her way, but the officer gripped her arm.
"As I said, m'am, no press allowed. There will be a press conference in two hours."
But Lois Lane wasn't one to give up that easily. "Henderson!" she shouted at a man talking with someone who appeared to be the coroner "It's me, Lois Lane."
Clark smiled. Typical Lois. He'd known her for only a short time, but he had already learned that she never backed away or gave in.
A young red-haired woman observed Lois' attempts to attract Inspector Henderson's attention. "Come on, Lane. Be a good loser for once and wait till the press conference like all of us mere mortals."
"Oh, yeah? Why should I, Langston? Wanna know why I work for the Planet and you work for the Post? Because I *never* give up that easily … Henderson!" she raised her voice again.
"Lois, why don't we just wait for the conference. You can see that the Inspector doesn't want to talk to you now," Clark interfered.
"Kent, shut up. Who asked you in the first place?"
"You belong to her? Poor you. Oh, hi, my name's Cindy Langston. I work for the Met-Post," the young woman introduced herself.
"Hi, I'm Clark Kent. And yes, I work with her." He smiled at his new acquaintance.
"You're Clark Kent? The one who wrote about the theatre at 42nd Street? My mother was one of the people who tried to stop them. She was really moved by your article; I read it, too. What a fine piece of work. So tell me, what have you done to get punished like this?" She pointed amusedly towards Lois.
Clark blushed a bit and nervously adjusted his glasses. "Thank you, I wish I could return the compliment, but I'm afraid I haven't read the Post yet. Sorry. And it's not punishment to work with Lois. In fact, I consider it a reward."
Cindy looked at him wide-eyed. Finally she laughed. "You're a strange one, Clark. But it's nice to have you in the circle. I'll see you, bye."
Lois, who had divided her attention between Henderson and Clark's conversation with Cindy Langston turned to him and asked ferociously "Why did you talk to her?"
Clark was surprised. "Lois, why shouldn't I talk to her? She seems to be a nice person."
"Kent, listen well. She's *not* a nice person. She's competition. And you don't chat with competition, you beat it. By the way, she's not a natural redhead," Lois gave him a sickly sweet smile.
Again she turned and tried to ensnare Henderson, who finally had the grace to give her some attention. Maybe he was just looking for peace, and talking to Lois might be his only way to achieve it.
"For heaven's sake, officer, let her pass … "
But Clark wasn't finished with his remarks. "Oh really? I think it was a good decision. Red suits her well." He loved to tease and get a rise out of Lois, but she had already focused on Henderson and didn't pay any further attention to Clark. With a satisfied smile she crossed the barrier.
"Mad Dog Lane. What a pleasure to meet you again. What can I do for you today?" Henderson asked her sarcastically.
Lois attacked immediately, "Tell me everything about the murder."
"Lane, why should I? Wait for the conference like everybody else. And who's that?" He pointed towards Clark, who had followed her to Henderson.
"Hi, I'm Clark Kent and I work with … " he shook hands with the Inspector. " … and he works at the Planet." Lois hurried to finish the sentence.
"Lane, you have a partner?! Has the world come to an end and somehow everybody forgot to mention it to me?" Henderson quipped good-naturedly. "By the way, I liked your article about the space station. But somehow I got the feeling you know more than you wrote." He observed Clark with interest.
"Now, Henderson, what can you give me?" Lois steered the atttention back to herself. "And don't tell me to wait for the conference again. Otherwise, unfortunately, I'm forced to write an article about police chief Walters and why he didn't get charged with driving under the influence of alcohol after the last police wallow."
Henderson started. "Lane! How do you know about that? Listen, Walters is a good cop and chief. And about to retire after a long time of serving the city and the law. Do you want him to lose his pension?"
"No, certainly not, but under the circumstances … ,"she threatened.
Henderson looked at her speculatively. "Ok, ok, I give. This man's the third victim. Caucasian, about 35 years old. And again we don't know who he is. No papers, no nothing. We pressume he's foreign like the other two before. His clothes aren't manufactured in the States. We sent his fingerprints to Interpol, but we don't expect them to be positive. In short: he's a Joe Doe."
"How was he murdered?"
"A bullet in the back. The coroner says it even hit the heart. It was a .45."
"No, as always."
Clark listened with only one ear. He had pulled down his glasses to scan the immediate area and the dead man. Finally he spotted a little piece of paper a short distance from the crime scene. He looked closer. A name. 'Rick.'
"Inspector?" his voice rose. "Would you like to take a look at that?"
"What is it, Kent? … A piece of paper? Come on, Kent, the street's dirty. Who knows who lost it?"
"Yes, but look at the other papers around. They're dirty and moist. This one is fresh and white. And it's not complete. I think the dead man had it in his hand and the killer snatched at it and overlooked this piece. Obviously the man didn't die immediately; he opened the hand in a last movement and the paper whirled away in the breeze and fell down over here."
"Whoa, Kent. You've seen too many 'Colombos'. I don't think it means much, but the lab will take a look. Satisfied?"
Lois had followed Clark's theories silently. Sometimes he was a smart one. Unlike the Inspector, she thought it might be important, even if it was unwillingly.
"Thank you, Henderson. I don't think we're needed at the conference anymore. Come on, Clark." She dragged him away, leaving him almost no time to say goodbye. Away from the crowd he looked at her reproachfully.
"Lois, you've blackmailed a police officer!"
"No, I got a headline, Kent! You should try that some day. And what was written on that piece of paper?"
"A name, 'Rick.'"
"Clark, do you know what that means? It means, I can write the story before deadline and mention some evidence that no one else has, since Henderson thinks it's unimportant. We'll scoop all the other papers!" Lois bounced joyfully up and down. Her big smile brightened her normally serious face.
"*You* can write the story? Remember, without me there wouldn't be a 'Rick' and when someone writes the story it's *us*."
"What? Don't be ridiculous. You don't have the experience to write it properly!"
"Maybe, but Perry teamed us up."
"Yes, and it was his biggest mistake! I don't want and I don't need a partner and I certainly won't spend my days with a rookie from nowhere."
"What you want or don't, Lois, doesn't matter in this case. And even if *you* don't like working with *me*, *I* like working with *you*."
Lois stared open-mouthed at Clark, observing how he took her keys and opened the driver's and the passenger's doors, took his place on the latter side, put the key into the ignition and leaned back. How could he dare to …
"Lane, what are you waiting for? We have to write a headline before deadline."
Greta looked at her husband. "You've taken care of him for me?"
"You're just the best, honey. Thank you." She held him in a warm and loving embrace.
"Ole said, 'thank you very much for everything.' He wants to take his new life into his own hands. He said he had bothered you enough already. But he'll stay in contact with us. Either for an SOS or to say that he's doing fine. So don't worry if you don't hear from him too soon."
"Pete, it makes me so happy when I can help people to find a new home here in America. Like you found and helped me when I was lost. And now in a few days, Pavel comes. He's such an awfully nice young man. But he needs all the support I can give him. But do you know what makes me a bit sad? That they don't keep their promise to stay in contact. Once they are here they seem to vanish all of a sudden. Like Jose and Alexei. It seems so ungrateful to me sometimes."
"Shh, hon. They aren't ungrateful. Just eager to start a new life and to prove themselves worthy to America. I'm convinced they'll call some day and say thanks to you. Some day when they've settled into their lives. Give them a bit of time." He tugged his wife's head under his chin. *Would really surprise me, if they did call.* He swallowed a grim chuckle. "When does Pavel arrive exactly?"
"Why? Have you tasted blood?" She joked. "I'm going to phone Edna and tell her I've found a new member for Welcoming Hands. She smiled up at him."
"No, I'm just curious. That's all."
"Edna will give me a call when his flight lands in Metropolis. Now, change your clothes. Our guests will arrive in short time." She kissed him and pushed him away playfully when he reached for her for more.
Perry looked up to see Lois and Clark exit the elevator. One look at them and he groaned inside. Not again! Obviously they had argued … again. Sometimes he thought they'd do nothing but argue. What was it with the two of them? Lois should have known by now that she was stuck with Kent indefinitely, whether she liked it or not. Why did she keep fighting against it? Why couldn't she see what he had seen the very first moment he had held Kent's story in his hand? They would make a great team. They complemented each other on style, approach, on everything there was about writing a good story. He had never seen her so upset about anyone. Had something happened that he didn't know about? And Kent. Perry had honestly thought he would get along with Lois pushy demeanour. But even Clark's patience and easy going nature seemed to have limits, and Lois broached them, fully. Kent had understood what he had been given with Lois, and he appreciated it. But who was this Clark Kent? Not long ago this young and promising man had stepped into his office, fresh from some obscure newspaper in the antipods and expecting to get a job. Well, he didn't know any better then and he had the same stubborn streak as Lois. Perry sighed, again. Maybe it had been a mistake to team them up. Lois always had been a loner. Maybe she just wasn't partner material. They were good alone, but together they were great. Why couldn't they stop fighting? His thoughts were going in circles. He sighed.
Okay, he silently decided. This was the last story they would write together. Either they achieved a viable working relationship or it was over forever. Period. The only problem was that the Planet wasn't big enough for two kings. They would enter into a cut-throat battle over the throne. At least Lois would. There was no way he'd give up Clark Kent. Not with his potential. But someone would have to go … even if he loved Lois like a daughter and regarded her as his favorite. He wasn't sure … which one to keep if there was no way to keep them both. Why did they have to fight? What were they fighting against? Or for what? On Elvis' life, he didn't know. He sighed. One last chance. That was it. One last chance for Lane and Kent. Period!
Lois and Clark looked at their boss, each wondering what he had been thinking about when he had observed them entering the newsroom. Had Perry had a shadow of doubt about teaming them up? Obviously he knew they had been fighting again. Both sent a silent prayer; Lois for an end to her suffering, Clark for one more chance. He vowed to himself he wouldn't get into an argument, again, with this stubborn, brilliant and beautiful woman.
"Okay, you two, what have you got so far?" Perry greeted them.
Clark cleared this throat. "Well, Perry, it's like this … "
Lois cut in and stopped him effectively. "Henderson says that there seems to be a connection to the two other murders last month. The victims all happen to be foreigners. That's why nobody's reported them missing. Let's check the hotels about missing guests. If they were foreigners, they had to stay somewhere … Anyway, they have no clues so far about anything. But we found something promising this time, a name on a piece of paper, 'Rick.'"
"'Rick'? That's not much.. In fact, it's nothing at all. Do you know how many Ricks are running around in Metropolis? Not to mention shops, bars, cafes … Just for example this new and crazy imitation of Rick's Cafe Americain. That's another Rick."
His voice softened. A smile replaced his I'm-the-boss-and-give-the-orders- expression. "You know, Alice and I went to this Rick's Cafe Americain last week. It's fantastic. Just like in the old classic. The tables, chairs, the bar, the gambling room, the band, the piano, the plants, the stairs up to Rick's apartment. Even the outside is a copy. The only thing that's not copied are the prices of the drinks."
"It goes so far that you have to be dressed in the old forties' style. But what an atmosphere! You could really forget that we're in the nineties in there. The old standards … you know I'm an old rock'n'roller at heart, but there … Alice and I had a wonderful evening."
Perry snapped out of his soft mood and once again turned into the editor-in-chief of the greatest newspaper on this Earth. "Go, write me this story! But no 'Rick'. Just mention this piece of paper. I won't have a 'Rick' in my newspaper when I don't know who he is."
"So, Clark, let me write this story … "
"Lois, I thought we had agreed on writing it together … "
"You agreed. I never said anything about … "
Perry sighed again.
"Hey, Lois, CK, have you already heard? There has been another murder down at the docks. A press conference will be held in three hours."
Jimmy nearly ran into a young, but a bit frightened and seemingly confused woman, standing at the elevators.
"Excuse me, but where do I have to go when I want to insert a 'Please call me' advertisement? I'm missing several people."
Jimmy was about to direct her to classifieds, when he looked closer at the tastefully dressed woman. Her voice clearly indicated her anxiety.
"You've lost several people? How's that? I think I should introduce you to Lois Lane and Clark Kent. Maybe they can be of more help than an ad."
He lead her down the ramp and to Clark's desk, where Clark and Lois were deeply in discussion about the latest murder. Jimmy cleared his throat.
"Sorry guys, but this lady is looking for help. She's missing several people. This are Lois Lane and Clark Kent."
Clark stood up and greeted her, throwing questioning glances in Jimmy's direction. Lois turned around to study the woman. "Jimmy, she should go to classifieds and insert an ad. I'm sorry, but I don't think we can help you." With that she turned back to Clark, Really, the nerve of some crazed people!
But Clark had already noticed the stranger's worried and confused state of mind. Even if accepting ads wasn't his job, he could at least offer her some attention and comfort.
"Please have a seat and tell us what your problem is. You've missed several people? And please, call me Clark."
Thankfully the woman sat down on the offered chair next to Clark's desk.
"Thank you, Clark. I know I'm probably better off going to classifieds, but I feel there's more to this. My name's Greta Turling."
"Greta, why don't you just tell us … "
Lois looked at Clark exasperatedly. Why hadn't he just sent that woman down to classifieds? No, he had to offer her a seat and his time. Maybe in Smallville this kind of behaviour was normal, but in Metropolis you hadn't the time to care about strange people. You tried to ignore them before they drove you crazy as well.
"Yes, right. I'm sorry, but I'm so worried about them … " Greta tried to pull herself together. "I came to the States as an immigrant from Denmark five years ago. Last year I got married to a wonderful man." Greta smiled happily for a moment. "About three months ago I began to work for Welcoming Hands. You know the organization, don't you?"
"Yes, Welcoming Hands takes care of immigrants. Helps them to establish their new lives in the USA," Lois informed Clark.
"Exactly. I feel I have to give those people a welcome and a helping hand. I know how it is to be completely alone in a new and strange country. The last few weeks I got addresses of people who want to immigrate to the States. I get in contact with them, say hello, help them with the last formalities. Sometimes I get whole families, women, but mostly men. And they are all so thankful. It's such a satisfaction to help other people."
Lois rolled her eyes; another Mother Theresa. And couldn't keep this woman herself from going off on wild tangents? "Greta, please, what's your problem?"
"Didn't I mention it already? Four of my proteges have vanished. The three my husband promised to take care of for me, because I had been too busy to welcome them, and now Pavel vanished as well. Normally they stay in touch with you for support or to let you know how well they're already doing after a short time. Those four never called. I called Edna, my superior, about Pavel, and she said she had released him into Peter's hands. So I asked Peter about him. Pavel's such a nice man from Poland. I got to like him a lot over the letters. Anyway, Pete says Pavel wanted to make it on his own, just like the other three. So I want to insert a "please call me" ad, so that I can shake loose this terrible feeling something happened to them."
"That's a fine idea, Greta." Clark smiled. "Where do they have to call?"
"Oh, you can take our number from our new cafe. It's 'Rick's Cafe Americain.' Pete loves that movie and … is something wrong?"
She gave the two reporters a puzzled look. Clark exchanged glances with Lois, who jumped off Clark's desk and whirled around. Hesitantly Clark began, "Greta, I don't know how to put it, but there have been four men killed over the last few weeks. The police think they were all foreigners. And on the third victim the police found a piece of paper with 'Rick' printed on it. Possibly those men are the men you're looking for. And your husband may have been the last person to see them alive."
"Oh, my God, no. That can't be possible. Why should someone kill those men? They have nothing anyone could want." She started to cry.
"Shh … , Greta. We don't have any proof. Maybe it's just a stupid coincidence." Clark crouched in front of her, taking her hands, and offering a kleenex. "What if we come to your cafe tonight, and since we know what one of the victims looked like, we'll ask Peter to describe his proteges. Then, if the victims really are your missing immigrants, we'll call the police, and Peter can help them."
Greta pulled her hands away. "I'm sorry for making a scene. but to know that maybe those four men are dead because I hadn't had the time for them … "
"Hey, it's not your fault. No one can be in two places at the same time. Believe me, I know what I'm talking about."
"Yes, tonight. But don't tell Peter about us. We want to surprise him, so he'll remember more clearly," Lois said.
Greta stood up, smiled a weak smile and said goodbye. Clark watched her step into the elevator and turned to Lois. "So, what was this nonsense about surprising him to improve his memory?"
"Clark, this Peter has killed those men. I know it and you know it as well."
"What? Lois, maybe it *is* a coincidence."
"Clark, don't tell me you really think that."
"Why not? There are a lot of Ricks in this city; maybe those immigrants have already left the city, eager to begin a new life, not knowing that Greta is worrying about them. It would be a tragedy for Greta if Peter really commited those murders. She's so in love with him. Her eyes brightened up every time she mentioned his name."
"Kent, you're a dreamer, an idealist, a big marshmallow and hopelessly sappy."
"Just because I hope that Peter is innocent for Greta's sake?"
"Oh God, next thing you'll wish them all the joy one can get and a long and happy married life. Stop being so nice." Lois was really annoyed. Not only did she have to work with this hick from Nowheresville against her will, he had to be a complete softie as well.
Clark was amused. Lois always wanted to see and confirm her prejudice about people being bad in general. But he harboured the suspicion that it was just a kind of protection for her.
"Come on, Lois. I don't see what's so wrong with being nice to other people."
"Clark, being nice is just a waste of time."
"I don't think so. Lois, I know I can live this life just once. So I intend to make the best out of it. If work is enough for you to fill it … fine. But I want more. I want sun, friends and love in my life."
"Clark, please, you're pathetic!"
"Oh, yes? Well, I don't know what you want or dream about, but someday I want to sit on a park bench, holding my wife close to me and hear … I mean feel, her heartbeat next to mine as we watch our children play and laugh on the playground. And in 50 years I want to sit on the very same park bench and watch other people's children laugh and play, while my wife and I snuggle together even closer under an afghan to keep our old and aching bones warm. And when I look into her face, I'll still see, beyond the grey hair and wrinkles, the young woman she once had been. And if you think that's hicksville or pathetic, then I feel very sorry … for you," Clark finished quietly. He looked at her, and for a single moment he thought he could feel her respond to him.
Lois was confused. She had felt this echoing need in her while she had listened to him, open-mouthed. But she rapidly fought the feeling down. This Clark Kent was dangerous. He could almost make her believe that something like true love could really exist. So she raised her defenses and protective walls again, in order to quench this scary feeling inside of her, and shot back to hurt him: "Yes, and when she's dead you'll be mourning over her like a dog over his master. And eventually you will die of a broken heart … Oh, Clark, please! Wake up! You come into this world alone, you live alone and you die alone. And that's the plain truth about it! You sound like a cheap novel. It's disgusting. Life is not a fairy tale." A poor feeling of cold satisfaction flooded her when she saw his face fall. She turned on her heel and headed toward the elevator. She had to get out of here, away from him. Really, he was a silly ass. Didn't he know that life didn't work that way? In fifty years he'd probably spend his days in an old people's home, like herself, embittered and hated, asking himself, after one or two failed marriages, what had been wrong with his beliefs. And she would polish her Pulitzers. Lois laughed a satisfied bitter laugh, but it had something else in it, that sounded suspiciously like a sob. No, the idea of love was something for fairy tales and romance novels and for keeping warm on long, cold nights, dreaming of superheroes. Work and respect were real life. And she intended to make her life successful through work. Another step would be the exclusive interview with Lex Luthor. It was time to remind Lex of her. After shaking her head for the last time over the foolishness of her wannabe partner she had composed herself back to being the respectable Lois 'Mad Dog' Lane. Toughest and best jounalist in Metropolis and soon in the entire country. She stepped out of the elevator and headed home to watch "Ivory Towers" and get ready for the evening.
Meanwhile Clark watched her leave, glasses slipped slightly forward. He felt sad. 'Oh, Lois,' he sighed mentally. 'What made you so hard and cold towards the world and especially towards yourself?'
"Hi, Clark. Good evening, nice to have you here. Where's Ms. Lane?" Greta greeted him at the bar of the Cafe.
"Good evening, Greta. Lois will be here a bit later. She called me and said I should meet her here. You didn't talk with Peter about your missing proteges and their possible deaths?"
"No, you said you wanted to surprise him, although I don't see much sense in that. If I had told him, Pete would have had enough time to think properly about it and maybe remember something he wouldn't otherwise think of."
"Ahm, sometimes it's better to surprise someone." Clark felt uncomfortable. Lois was a more convincing liar than he. He changed the topic. "It's absolutely amazing here. Peter has done a great job. It's really like the old movie."
"Yes, isn't it? We're pretty proud of the Cafe. We want our guests to feel as if they had been transferred back in time and it's 1941 again."
"Greta, after you left. I was thinking it's about time that your organization got some publicity. I already called your superior Edna Hamrock. Maybe you could give me an interview as well? About your work, your motives … "
"You're really interested in that? Certainly. When?"
"How's about now? Lois isn't here yet and I don't want to talk with Peter without her being here as well. If I do, I'll never hear the end of it," Clark smiled, amused, and Greta joined him. "Where can we do this interview?"
"Here, over there's a table in a quiet corner. Normally that's Pete's place. From there you can observe the whole cafe. You won't miss Ms. Lane this way."
"Great." They sat down and were soon engrossed in their task.
"Oh, Clark, look up. There's Ms Lane. God, where did she find *that* dress?" Greta was awed.
Clark looked up and felt his throat constrict. Lois looked breathtakingly beautiful. She stood in the entrance area and observed the crowd. Obviously she was searching for Clark. The light in the Cafe accentuated the ivory color of her satiny evening dress. The left shoulder was bare, the other one was covered by a short sash that had been lightly knotted on the left side of her waist. Clark stood up.
"Excuse me, Greta. I would like to get Lois." Lois smiled when she saw him approaching. A tiny part of her, over which she hadn't much control, couldn't help but notice how nice he looked in a tux. He filled it to his advantage. Clark felt a bit dizzy, knowing she smiled this smile just for him, as a greeting, and not for any other man in this room.
"Here's looking at you, kid … and you're looking incredible."
"Clark! You're crazy. But thanks. Have you already talked to Peter Turling?"
"No, but I interviewed Greta about Welcoming Hands. Would you allow me the next dance, Lois? Before we start?"
"What? Kent, we're here for work and not to amuse ourselves."
"Come on, Lois. One tiny little dance. Please?" He smiled his special smile. The one that made people do what he wanted them to do. Normally he never used that weapon, but with Lois the felt he needed every weapon he had in his arsenal. Lois hesitated. Dance with Clark? The tiny uncontrollable part of her took over.
"Okay, but just one. We have to catch a killer."
"And don't you dare step on my toes."
"Haven't I already?" Clark replied, smugly, and led a surprised Lois onto the dance floor.
"Play it again, Sam!" A voice commanded loudly. Suddenly the atmosphere was charged with anticipation.
"Oh, no … " Lois groaned.
"Oh, yes … " Clark grinned and hold her a bit tighter.
And then the timeless melody of "As Time Goes By" drifted through the Cafe, putting a spell on the guests.
" … You must remember this A kiss is still a kiss … "
Clark couldn't help but remember the almost magical moment he had felt Lois' lips descend on his as part of her ruse to distract the men from the Bureau 39.
" … A sigh is just a sigh The fundamental things of life As time goes by … "
Clark had been sick of travelling around, always searching for something he had never been able to define or give a name to, until he came to Metropolis and met HER. It had been just a feeling, a yearning. He had been sick of fleeing from disappointed hopes, sick of hiding from his loneliness among a crowd, sick of having his life dictated by his differences, always afraid of getting exposed as some kind of frightening creature.
" … And when two lovers woo They still say 'I love you' On that you can rely No matter what the future brings As time goes by … "
It was as if the whole Cafe held its breath to savor this song. Lois and Clark moved slowly over the dance floor, lost in each others eyes and to a perfect moment in time until … the rest of Lois got back control over herself. She stiffened and stepped back from Clark's embrace. "Lois? What's wrong?" Clark asked quietly and confused.
"Ahm, I … we need to interview Peter. I think he's the man beside Greta. This is a good opportunity."
She left the dance floor. Disappointed, Clark followed her. It had been so incredibly wonderful to hold her in his arms. He didn't even know if he just felt like floating or if his feet had really lost the ground.
"Mr. Turling? Greta. Hi, my name is Lois Lane and this is my … Clark Kent. We're from the Daily Planet and would like to write about your Cafe."
The last notes of " As Time Goes By" went by.
"Oh, really? That's great! I know people talk about us, but now even the press is interested. Wow! Certainly. When do you want to interview me? And I'm Pete to my friends."
"Well, why not now? Here, to catch the atmoshpere."
The background noise again returned to the old standards and the spell was broken.
"Ahm, yes. Why not? Over there's my little table. I like to sit and watch the crowd like the real Richard Blaine."
"That leads to my first question. Why Rick's Cafe Americain?"
"Well, that's easy. My parents worshipped Bogart more than anyone or anything else in their lives. That held their marriage together. At least once a week they gathered us children in front of the tube and we all had to watch his old movies. By the age of 14 I knew all the dialogues by heart. And when I finished college and was about to enter into the family business, I spent an evening at a bar. Two men were talking about old movies and said it was a shame that there wasn't a Rick's Cafe Americain. It would make the bar scene much more interesting. I never forgot the conversation, and about six months ago I said goodbye to my father's contruction company and opened this cafe. And it's booming as you can see. You just witnessed the highlight of the evening."
"'As Time Goes By'?"
"Yeah. I just let it play once an evening. Sometimes early, sometimes late and sometimes, like tonight, in the middle of the evening. People never know so they come early and stay late; they don't leave until they've heard it," Peter Turling grinned.
"Why the old-fashioned clothes?"
"Well, it would be a blasphemy if I built up the atmosphere of the forties and my guests were dressed for the nineties."
"I see. It's just a pity that your prices aren't from the forties as well."
"Good point, Mr. Kent. Unfortunately my drinks get delivered by a company that hasn't discovered the charm of the forties yet." They laughed, and the interview went on.
"Personally I think the Cafe is a great idea. I like the old standards very much. My parents used to dance to them," Clark said to end this topic and start the real one.
"Greta came to the Planet today to place a classified ad. She said four of her proteges were missing. We have four murders of unknown men. Nobody misses them; police say they may be foreigners. So we made the connection to Greta's proteges. Near one of the dead men we found a piece of paper with 'Rick' written on it. Maybe those four missing men are really those dead men. Please, could you give us a description of the four immigrants?"
Lois picked up. "We saw one of the victim, to be exact the third one. If they happen to be the same people, you could give the police some information about them. Where you left them, their plans, what they wanted to do with the rest of the day … ?" She left the sentence unfinished.
Clark tuned to Peter's heartbeat. While Lois had been talking, Peter's heartbeat frequency had steadily accelerated and his body heat had risen. He felt sorry for Greta, but again Lois had been right. Obviously, Peter Turling had committed those murders. But what was the motive? As Greta had already observed hours ago … the immigrants had nothing that would have been of interest to Peter.
"Well, well, I have to say, that would be horrible, if what you're assuming is really true. Certainly I will go to the police with my information. Maybe they'll even want me to identify those men. Unfortunately, or better fortunately, Greta never met those four immigrants she's missing. Although personally I don't think that our men are the dead men, 'Rick' or not. They told me they wanted to start their new lives as soon as possible. Probably they just bought a train ticket and left Metropolis in whatever direction."
"Yeah, we don't know for sure. Please, though could you give us a description?"
"If you want … okay.." Peter described four men, but none fit the description of the dead man Lois and Clark had seen. But in trying to remember the third man, Peter seemed to have difficulties.
"Well, that description doesn't fit our man, Lois. Probably it's just a coincidence and Peter is right. They have left the city. And Ricks aren't uncommon in Metropolis. Thanks, Pete … Lois, will you allow me one more, this time, uninterrupted, dance before we leave?" He turned to Greta. "Thank you very much for your kind help. I'll send you a copy of the interview to verify that we didn't misunderstand you. Okay?"
"That won't be necessary, Clark. I know we are in best hands with you. It has been a pleasure to help you." Greta smiled heartily at him, which Clark returned with one of his own.
"Goodbye, Pete, Greta." Surprised by the sudden parting, Lois let herself be guided onto the dance floor. But she recovered quickly.
"Clark Kent! What was that all about?"
Clark swung her around to keep an eye on Peter Turling, who was observing them as well. He whispered to Lois, bending his head low, "Lois, I'm convinced he killed those men. But we needed to make him believe we bought his story. If he gets suspicious … he could hurt more people, even Greta, or leave the city. And we don't want that, do we? After we've had this dance, we'll leave, call the police and write the story."
"We'll write the story first and then call the police. Turling doesn't know anything. He won't leave. And I hate to admit it, but sometimes you show signs of becoming an acceptable journalist."
Despite the serious situation Clark laughed at her muttering and pressed her to him for a short moment.
Hours later, all guests were gone. Peter and Greta turned off the lights and said goodbye to their employes. Suddenly, in the midst of their tasks, Peter turned to face Greta, who was counting their receipts for the evening.
"Who was that earlier this evening? This Clark Kent? He seemed awfully curious about you."
"Pete, you know him. He's a reporter. And he's writing about Welcoming Hands. And his collegue Lois Lane was interested in our cafe." Greta resumed counting.
"Why did he have to come to you when it was about Welcoming Hands? He could have asked Edna. But probably he's just too stupid for that. You know those guys. All muscles, no brain."
"Peter Turling! Clark is a nice and polite man who wanted to write about Welcoming Hands and Edna thought it would be convenient if I did this interview with him, since I was an immigrant as well."
"Oh, so now he's nice and polite! Are you seeing him, again?"
"Pete, what's wrong with you? He's a journalist and does only his work. Are you jealous?" Greta shook her head. Men could be so stupid sometimes. But nonetheless, she got a bit frightened. Her Peter was surely acting strangely, jealous or not.
Peter Turling was furious. "Jealous? Is that it? Do I have reason to be jealous? But since you already mentioned it, I guess I do. You just revealed yourself."
"Are you crazy? He's nothing to me! All we did was this interview. He's already in love with Lois Lane. Didn't you see? And *jeg elsker dig*!"
"Stop telling lies, slut! How can you say you love me when you talked for hours with Mr. No brain?"
"I didn't talk for hours. And you know that, too!"
Peter stepped menacingly towards Greta, hand lifted, ready to strike.
"Pete, no. Please, don't. What's wrong with you? Don't you trust me anymore?"
"No! Slut! Whore! I've seen you with him. It's not the first time you left me for him, Ilsa! But this time, I won't let you go again!" He gripped her.
Greta broke away and ran, fearing for her life. Peter Turling had gone crazy.
Clark stepped hurriedly up his stairs to answer the frantic knocking at his door.
"Greta?" He looked puzzled at the disheveled woman, who held almost no resemblance to her young and caring self he'd seen a few hours before. This woman looked at Clark with horror and sadness in her eyes. Her clothes were a bit dirty and her blouse had one or two tears. Had she been involved in a fight?
"What are you doing here in the middle of the night? Has something happened with Peter? Can I help you?"
"Please, Clark. I … It's Pete. He's gone … insane! He really thinks he's Richard Blaine and he killed all those men because he believes that I'm Ilsa Lund … and they are Victor Lazlo. And that they want to take me away from him … Can I come in?" she blurted, nerves on edge.
"What?! That's incredible … Oh, certainly. Come in. Really incredible. Lois and I already thought your husband had killed those men, but we couldn't imagine why … sorry for being this blunt."
After a quick safety check around the neighbourhood he shut the door and led the frightened woman to his couch.
"Please, have a seat. Can I offer you something? A calming herbal tea?"
"No, thanks. All I need is some rest. Please, let me stay for the night. I'm afraid of Pete. I think he's going to kill me, too."
"Where's Peter now?"
" I left him at the Cafe. I don't know where he is right now."
"Ahm, I'll call Lois and she'll pick you up. You can stay with her." He avoided Greta's stare for a moment. He always felt bad when he had to refuse his hospitality, but what if he was needed as Superman? No, the risk was too big.
"Excuse me for a moment."
He took his cell phone and went into the bedroom. He dialed Lois' number and hoped she wasn't asleep yet. Finally he heard her blurry 'Lois Lane'.
"Lois? It's me, Clark. I need your help. Now!"
"Kent? What happened? Do you know how late it is? Have you sat on your glasses?" She joked.
"Lois! No. Greta's with me, she says Peter has committed all those murders from jealousy. He's gone insane. She needs a place where she can stay for the night. I don't want to send her to a hotel, but she can't stay with me either."
"God, that's horrible … that's a headline, Clark! But why can't she stay with you? You two got along better than she and me. I don't see any problem."
"Well … she just can't."
"Clark, that's childish." Suddenly a thought popped into her head. Awake by now, and amused by his fidgetting she asked him. "Why can't she stay with you? I mean, you don't think it would be improper for her to stay the night at a bachelor's, do you?" Lois giggled.
"Lois! Certainly n … Yes. As a matter of fact." Certainly that wasn't the problem, but he couldn't afford to tell her the real reason yet, so he'd have to accept her amused assumption of his faked conservatism.
"Kent! I don't believe it! These are the nineties after all. Are women allowed to vote in Kansas yet? … No, don't answer that. I'm not too sure I want to know. Anyway, I'm already on my way to help you out of moral distress. See ya in a few minutes. Bye."
"Bye." he said to a disconnected line, hung up and went back to Greta. She still sat as he had left her.
"Lois is on her way. She'll take you in for the night. Now, do you want to tell me exactly what happened tonight?" He sat down in a chair across from her and listened to her hesitant narration.
Suddenly the door burst open and a very furious Peter Turling stormed into the apartment, waving a gun. Clark and Greta jumped to their feet.
"Ah, here you are … I knew you'd eventually run away with Victor. Finally I caught you in a crime. Seems as if I came in the nick of time to stop you."
He aimed at them. Clark stepped forward to cover Greta with his body, but Greta didn't let him. She stepped out of Clark's range to divert Peter's attention from him.
"No, Peter. I won't run away from you. It's not as it seems. You need help. You're very sick. And I will take care of you, but take away the gun. You don't want to hurt me or Clark."
He looked at her for a moment and put down his right arm. Clark breathed deeply in relief.
"I don't want to hurt you, but … " His head and arm shot up again. He aimed at Clark. " … Victor has to die. I know deep down inside you don't want to go away. But he'll make you. I can't let that happen."
Clark felt as if he had stepped onto the set of a bad B-movie. At any moment, either the cops would enter the apartment to save the heroes or it would be time for the commercial break. He pondered the third alternative. He'd show his superness and rob Peter of his gun and himself of any future. He hadn't counted Lois into the calculation as a fourth alternative. She entered the appartment in the nick of the time, analysed the situation, launched herelf onto Peter from behind, and tackled him. He lost his gun and Clark jumped to grab it.
"Lois, are you alright?"
She pulled herself up off Peter Turling. "Yes, I'm fine. Are *you* allright? Hi, Greta, " she acknowledged the presence of the other woman, and tucked her hair behind her ears.
Peter didn't move. He had knocked himself out when his head had made contact with Clark's coffee table.
"I think it's time to call the police or the guys with the white jackets or both. Oops. Sorry, Greta. I know you must feel reallly bad now. I haven't been very tactful. Forgive me, please."
Clark reached for his phone. Greta began to cry silently.
"Henderson? … Clark Kent … I know it's late … We've got the killer … Peter Turling … The owner of Rick's Cafe Americain. He's at my apartment, 344 Clinton, right now … It's a rather long story. Seeya." He turned towards the women. "And to think that the real Richard Blaine sent Ilsa Lund actually away with Victor Lazlo."
While they silently waited for Henderson to show up, Clark relived the situation in his head. What had he been about to do? He had wanted to put Lois in danger by making her take in Greta for the night. Instead Lois had come to him and saved their lives. Greta had said Peter had gone crazy, but all Clark had considered was his own safety as Superman. What if Peter had shown up at Lois' apartment? No, he vowed himself, never again. He would never again put Lois into danger for his own safety. Never!
After Henderson had shut the door behind him silence settled on the apartment. Clark turned around to face Lois. For a long moment, he simply looked intensely at her, then into her eyes. Finally Lois could no longer stand the silence.
"What?" she asked nervously, fiddling with her shirt hem.
"Lois, you've just saved my life and Greta's too and you ask me 'what?' You're amazing!" Clark smiled warmly at her, shaking his head. "I want to thank you. I'll never forget what you've done for me. Never!"
His smile had vanished, leaving a more serious expression. His eyes pierced into hers, reaching down into her soul. At least, that was Lois' impression as she stared back.
"I guess I couldn't let you die after all. Even if you are just a farmboy from Hicksville, in the middle of nowhere, who plays journalist." She tried to lighten the mood. When had this tension develope between them?
Clark grinned back. "It's Smallville, Kansas, Lois. And actually I'm the best you've ever worked with."
She grinned back, "Well, that remains to be seen." She looked speculatively at him. Real talent for journalism, tall, muscular, with an unruly lock of black hair that tended to fall into his face, dark brown eyes behind sparkling glasses and a nice smile. Maybe he wasn't really that bad after all. In fact, maybe they could be …
She stepped up to him, close, craning her neck to look into his face.
"Clark, y'know what I think? I think this is the beginning of a wonderful friendship."
By now you should have figured out by which movie I had been inspired. And for those who still haven't a clue … it's 'Casablanca' with Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart and surely available in your videostore around the corner. Have a nice evening watching it. Bella