By Betsy R.
Original Air Date: May 3, 1998
Summary: Not everyone appreciates the revitalization of the Kingston neighborhood, but what will Jimmy risk to investigate it? It's Luthor versus Church — winner take all. Episode 20 of S5.
"Greetings and salutations." Jimmy bounded into the main newsroom of the Daily Planet.
Lois raised one eyebrow as she looked at Clark. "Sounds like he's been watching 'Heathers' again"
Clark groaned. "Christian Slater trying to do Jack Nicholson imitations is bad enough. We have Jimmy Olsen imitating Christian Slater imitating Jack Nicholson."
Jimmy tried to look hurt. "Jeez, you take two reasonably fun reporters, put them through a couple of Lamaze classes, and POOF, there goes the sense of humor."
"Jimmy," Lois said haughtily, "no one accuses me of being fun and lives to tell about it." After a brief silence, the three of them burst into laughter.
"What in the Sam Hill is going on out here? Lane, Kent, I thought you were going to get me that by-line before the twenty-second century." Perry's best editor-in-chief-and-don't-question-it voice boomed across the room. Lois and Clark looked a bit guilty and bent back over their computers, Jimmy slunk back to his cubbyhole to look at some negatives, and Perry smiled to himself at this reaction and turned back to his office.
As Lois and Clark wrapped up their stories, Jimmy quietly approached their desks. "Hey, guys, do you have any stories you need me to take pictures for? Or maybe you need some research from the morgue? Lois, you seem to be out of coffee. Let me get you a fresh cup. Decaf, right?"
As he babbled, both Lois and Clark looked up at him, at each other, then back at him. As he reached for Lois's coffee cup, she asked, "What do you want, Jimmy?"
"Well … I didn't want to bother you, but as long as you asked … I'm moving. Tomorrow. I had the moving company all set up and they backed out at the last minute. I mean, I thought $100 was a steal but this leaves me in a bind. I know that tomorrow is kind of short notice. But I have others coming. Jack is gonna help … and Mike and Tad. My dad said he'd be in town, but you know how he is. There are a few others, but every little bit helps … "
"Hold on," Clark interrupted. "You can definitely count me in, if Lois doesn't need me at home tomorrow." He looked at his wife for approval but got an irritated frown instead.
"Clark, I can help, too." At his look of concern, she continued. "Well, of course I can't lift a couch or anything, but I can clean and I can direct traffic and all sorts of other things. Pregnant women aren't exactly helpless, you know."
Jimmy smiled gratefully. "You guys are great."
"Hey, it's no problem," Lois said, smiling back at him. "So, where are you moving, and why?"
"Well, I'm moving into a recently renovated townhouse in Kingston." At the mention of the slum-filled, crime-ridden borough of Metropolis, Clark and Lois exchanged worried looks. Although the Superman Foundation was trying to improve the area, Lois and Clark were still leery. They'd had a bad experience in that end of town, with the crime re-enactment Lois had participated in, and it left them both with some apprehension.
Jimmy continued, "As you can imagine, I can afford a whole lot more over there. It's just down the street from the old garment district. And I have a whole house! My own dark room. My own laundry room. My own living room. I mean, sure, it's a small house, but I'll be paying less rent there than for my efficiency downtown."
"There's a reason for that, Jimmy. On second thought, my job in this move might be to guard the truck!" Lois could feel her stomach tighten with worry of Jimmy's housing.
"Well, at least I won't have to worry about my car getting stolen. I don't have one! And I can pull my bike right into the living room." Jimmy's attempt at light humor fell flat. He tried to reassure his friends. "It will be fine, just watch."
Clark, always the worrier, just grimaced. "I hope so, Jimmy."
"What's with all the sad faces, people?" Perry walked through the newsroom, sporting a big grin. "Turn those frowns upside down! It's =46riday afternoon, we've scooped every paper in the nation two times this week, and I'm feelin' like a hound dog on a rabbit hunt!"
"Hot date with Alice tonight, eh Chief?" Jimmy winked at Lois.
"Yeah, well, take time to smell the roses, that's what I always say. Now what's got Kent all gloomy?"
"Jimmy has found himself a new house … in Kingston."
Perry turned accusingly toward Jimmy. "Kingston! Can't you stay out of trouble for at least one week? Hell's Bells, son, even the Superman =46oundation can't seem to make a dent in that area."
"Chief, it's not that bad, honest. It's not a bad area. Really! Just hold the verdict 'til you see the place at my house-warming party next weekend."
Perry gave Jimmy his sternest look. "Don't think this conversation is ending here. I have to go, and I have the feeling when Alice hears this, she may decide to give you a piece of her mind, too."
"Chief, don't worry. Everything will be fine. Anyway, my dad looked at it before he went back to work, and he said it looked fine. He's a security pro, and if he's not worried, you shouldn't be." Jimmy escorted Perry to the elevator.
Lois got up from her desk and stretched. In a flash, Clark was behind her, helping her with her chair. "What kind of supper would you and Junior be craving tonight, my dear?"
Lois giggled and leaned back into Clark. "How about pizza? I hear Little Nero's has some cool little bread thingies with cheese in them." She turned and ran her hands up around his shoulders and neck. "They deliver, too."
"Hmmm … when you put it like that, how can I resist?"
Lois laughed and pulled away from him. "Ha, farmboy, you can't!"
Clark grinned easily and followed her up to the elevator landing where they managed to catch Jimmy and Perry's elevator at the last second. On the way down, Clark asked Jimmy, "What time do you want us there in the morning?"
"Is 9:30 too early? We'll be packing the truck at my old apartment."
"We'll see you then."
As they walked out of the elevator, Lois looked up at Clark. "At least he's not starting TOO early. Hopefully, it won't be too hot by then. Now, what movie do you want to watch with our pizza? Do you think that you could stand watching 'While You Were Sleeping' with me? I really like that Sandra Bullock."
Clark smiled. "Mmm. Me, too."
Lois nudged him and laughed. They spun through the revolving door and headed for her Jeep.
A group of men and women met in a back room at a local Kingston bar called The Tap Room. They were mostly quiet, watching each other carefully. Some told raunchy jokes to one another while others quietly tried to set up a few lucrative deals. Still, as quiet as it was, a deathly silence fell over the room as Enrico O'Reilly stepped in.
"Ladies and gentlemen, and I use those terms in the most general sense, I want to thank you all for comin' out here tonight. There have been a few things that have come to our attention that need to be explained." The man looked around the room. "Now, we all realize that there is no honor among thieves, so I'm not gonna ask for any volunteers for blame. But some things have been going down without permission from above. Big things. Like the robbery of the armored car last month, or the kidnapping of Senator Santorum's daughter.
"You are here to be given fair warning. All people in the alliance are on standby for the next few weeks. NOTHING is to go down without EXPRESS say so, and the boss's private army will be insuring that is the case. Consider yourselves and your people warned."
With this proclamation, the man exited the room, leaving behind a subdued group of organized criminals. Though they were all thought highly of, even feared, in their own circles, they knew better than to cross the man. The streets of Kingston would be safe, temporarily.
Mindy Church sat on the balcony of her penthouse apartment, admiring the scenery. 'As far as I can see — it's all mine. It's been a long way up, but I'm here, and I'm staying.' She gave one last glance around before turning back inside. It was time to put the final touches on the new drug producing ring she was forming in Kingston. Kingston was the one area of the city she didn't completely control. She had a feeling that Lex Luthor had something to do with that. But she would win. She always did. Mostly because she didn't play by anybody else's rules. She smiled to herself and sauntered into her conference room, where a few of her associates were waiting for her orders.
"Jimmy, this place is actually great!" Lois was amazed. She had seen Clark's old neighborhood transformed while he lived there. This seemed to be a similar case. There were un-assaulted "neighborhood watch" signs, and community gardens, and children playing in the street. "Double-Dutch … I wonder if I can still do that?" She looked down at her expanded mid-section and laughed. "Nah, don't think so."
Carrying in the two house plants she and Clark had brought, Lois took another a look around. The house was something she wouldn't mind living in. It had a bedroom, bathroom, and small office upstairs(that Jimmy had designated as his rec-room — for his computer and his weights). The first floor had an airy living room and a nice kitchen that looked out over the back yard. The basement had laundry facilities and a room, once a wine cellar, that Jimmy had already converted into a small darkroom.
She looked out the kitchen window at the tiny, enclosed back yard. It had a high, serious looking, yet not-quite-ugly fence. There were urns with what looked to be fresh herbs planted in them. "Looks like the previous tenants left you some nice plants, too. If I were Clark, I might even know what to do with those herbs."
Jimmy opened a fruit juice and handed it to Lois. "Those are basil plants, and I make a mean pesto. At least, that=92s what I told Penny. And I will as soon as CK gives me some pointers."
"Hey, Jimmy, where do you want this bed?" Jack shouted across the living room as he and Tad lugged the double-bed box-springs in the front door.
Lois raised her eyebrows. "Why is it that when men have to do physical labor, they revert to Neanderthal thinking. In the BEDROOM for goodness sakes! Really."
Jack chuckled, mumbled something about pregnant women being so touchy, and hurried, as much as one can hurry, carrying a box-spring up a flight of steps, out of Lois's reach.
Lois blew her bangs out of her eyes and shook her head. She headed out to get some of the lamps that had been placed in her Jeep for safe keeping. She turned as she heard her name being called.
"Lois! Good morning!"
"Hey, Penny! Good to see you!" Lois smiled to greet Penny Barnes, Jimmy's latest, and seemingly enduring, girlfriend. Penny was a bright girl who had decided to go back to school and study journalism. Perhaps it was because she had a natural talent for investigative reporting. After all, she had, at one point, almost discovered the true identity of Superman. She was certainly picking up a lot of tips, since she spent so much of her time with Jimmy, and, as a result, with Lois and Clark also.
"What are the macho men up to in there?" Penny asked, motioning to Jimmy's house.
"You know. Same old, same old. Testosterone levels are running pretty high. I think I heard Clark and Jack discussing the plumbing. At that point, I decided the kid and I needed some air."
Penny chuckled. She and Lois continued to chat as they made their way to the front of the house. Lois continued, "So, Penny, what do you think of Jimmy's new house?"
"Me? I like it. I mean, it's not the best neighborhood, granted. But things are getting better. With the Superman Foundation taking an interest, some of the local residents are trying to clean up the place." She stopped and looked around her before continuing.
"There's some really neat buildings around here — you should see this old victorian mansion down the block. It's some kind of quirky museum, with all these bizarre things this rich guy collected over the years. Jimmy and I went there last week — when we were taking a break from cleaning this place. It has *so* much stuff, you could spend a week there and not see it all!" They had reached the door, and Penny opened it for Lois.
Jimmy ran to the door with an exuberant smile on his face. He grabbed Penny in a big hug and swung her into the house. "Welcome to my humble abode, madam." He set her down and took the lamps from Lois. Penny looked around the jumbled house. Jimmy smiled apologetically.
"The place isn't in the best of shape right now. We just got the last of the furniture in, and the air conditioning finally came on. You're welcome to take a seat if you can find one!" He turned to yell in any direction. "Hey guys, if you want refreshments, come to the living room." He turned back to his guest. "They're noisy, but mostly nice. I'm going to go get the drinks out of the fridge. Help yourselves to the food before the guys scarf it all."
The others had entered the room, but were ignored by an oblivious Jimmy. It wasn't until Jack loudly cleared his throat that Jimmy noticed them. "For those of you who don't know, this is Penny. And please, I'd like to keep her as a friend, so no lewd remarks, okay?"
After some good-natured hooting, the crowd settled to the food and drinks. When most of the food was demolished, Lois caught Clark's eye. "Hey, big guy, what do you say we take off?"
His eyes warmed with appreciation of the inside joke. "Whatever you say, partner."
As Clark maneuvered the Jeep through the narrow streets of Jimmy's neighborhood to the main streets of Kingston, Lois noted the almost war-torn look of the buildings around her. "Will you look at this place? I can't believe we are letting Jimmy commute through here everyday. It looks like a bomb went off here! And the people all seem to have this hopeless … helpless … almost dead look in their eyes. What could cause that? Why can't they do what the people in Jimmy's neighborhood have done?
"Lois, there are some areas where poverty and crime are so high that not even Superman can make a dent. Every drug dealer I help arrest is replaced with two fresh ones. And it's not only drugs. There are so many weapons on this street, I couldn't stop half of the bullets here. Most of them are shot through gang warfare or something like it."
"Maybe we should do some kind of expos=C8 on it. I mean, there has to be something we can do."
"Believe me, I've tried. It's too disheartening for me. At least downtown, my efforts have some benefits. Here, they only seem to make things worse. If someone has benefited from my help, it's like they become a target."
"That's what I mean. What if there is something larger at work here? Something trying to keep you out? That'd be the perfect way. Look, it's working! Since your help seems to hurt the victims even more in the long run, you're staying away!"
"Lois, I think you're reaching. The only thing at work here is poverty and depression. Superpowers can't solve those things."
"Maybe you're right." As Clark drove onto the expressway towards downtown, Lois tried to change the subject. "So, honey, what should we do this afternoon?" The conversation accompanied them on their trip out of the most depressing part of the city.
"Why didn't you nab that Jeep, man? It looked like a honey. We coulda got a grand for it at least."
"Word come down that we're supposed to chill for a while. Somebody's been puttin' their fingers in the cupboards. Somebody that ain't supposed to be here. So unless you want to be pushin' up daisies, I suggest you watch it for a few days, at least."
"Got it. Hey, Rico gave me these, wanna try one?"
"No way, man. I'm stayin' clean 'til sundown from now on. I been thinkin' that I better watch my back, ya know?"
"Yeah, man, that's cool. Rico says to meet tonight at the Tap Room. We got some business to be gettin' to."
"Something's going down? What time?"
"Ten o'clock. Pretty important, from what he said."
"'Kay, man. I'm there. Later."
"So, Lois, looks like that bun in the oven is getting over-cooked, if you know what I mean."
Lois looked up at Ralph, mentally rolling her eyes. He had perched on the edge of her desk, making himself comfortable. Where was Superman when you needed to defend yourself from such creatures?
"Ralph, did you have something *work-related* that you wanted to discuss, or are you just here to pester me?"
"Calm down. Calm down. Sheesh — must be those hormones. Though you've always been a fiesty one, haven't you? No, I'm actually here to see if I can … lighten your load a bit." Ralph started to sift through the papers on Lois's desk. She looked on, too horrified to do anything. "You should be taking off to pop out that kid any day now, right? I figure you can hand those stories right on over to me. That way you don't have to worry your pretty little head about them when you're home taking care of the kid."
As usual, Ralph had completely ignored the mutinous look in Lois's eyes. She was about to give him a piece of her mind when she heard Clark interrupting.
"I think, as her partner, I'll be in on the decision of what stories we keep, and which ones we can pass on to the junior reporters. So you can worry about it then, Ralph. And stop bothering my wife in the meantime." Clark pulled the papers from Ralph's hands as Ralph hastily got off Lois's desk.
As Ralph stood up, he measured Clark. When Clark Kent had first joined the Planet staff, he had been written off as a pretty-boy. But since then, most of the staff had realized that Clark was made of much stronger stuff. Ralph shrugged, wisely deciding not to push it any farther. "You know where to find me when you need me." He walked away.
"Yeah, under the nearest rock." Lois answered to Ralph's retreating form.
"Now, Lois." Clark was smiling, trying to get Lois back in a good mood. He thought about suggesting brunch so he could catch her up on his latest super-escapades, but then her phone rang and their slow morning picked up its pace, once again. Clark knew better than to eavesdrop, so he went back to his own desk. He heard Lois give a series of monosyllabic answers and ask some brief questions before hanging up the phone. She got up and walked to his desk.
"That was interesting. Another anonymous caller. Anyhow, he says he has a tip for me on a large PCP production operation going on out of his neighborhood. He's seen twice the traffic in recent months. Says that he's tired of the smell. Anyway, we've got some possible names and locations to check out."
"Looks like we got our first big lead of the week, partner."
"Let's split this list." Lois got down to business. "I'll start researching the names here, you go investigate the places, if that's okay. See if you can *see* any traces of anything around there. If we find anything, maybe we can go to Inspector Henderson and pool information."
Clark looked at the list of possible buildings. "Lois, some of these are just down the street from where Jimmy lives."
Lois looked grim. "Yeah, I know. Let's hope it's an empty lead."
"Did I hear my name mentioned?" Lois and Clark looked up to see Jimmy, with Penny beside him. "Did you need something? I'm on my way out of the office, but I'll get to it first thing when I get back."
"No, Jimmy. We're fine. Where are you going?" Lois asked.
"Penny and I are going down to City Hall to check out something on the Milhaus Museum — the place we were asking you about the other day — so I suppose we could look up some extra stuff."
"You mean that museum that's only a few blocks from where you live? Why do you have such an interest in that all of the sudden?" Clark asked.
"It's a really nice neighborhood landmark, and word on the street has it closing. Penny wrote a story about the museum for the local Kingston paper last week. You know, a piece to show the place's high points. She didn't say anything about the possible closing. And just doing that piece made the rumors fly around more."
"Now Jimmy has an idea to write the same kind of piece for the Planet," Penny added. "We went there to take more pictures of the place and its exhibits. The regular manager has been fired, and the new guy refused to let us in with a camera. They've also made their hours very strange and unpredictable. Almost as if they want an excuse to close."
"Why don't you do a piece in the local paper about the rumors? Discredit them with all the facts you find," Lois asked curiously.
"I don't have any hard proof. I just want to bring attention to the museum — get more people to visit it. Then, they won't be able to close it without anyone noticing."
They discussed the museum story a bit more, then Jimmy and Penny went on their way.
As Jimmy entered the Planet foyer late the next morning, he met up with Lois as she made her way to the elevator.
"Jimmy, what did you find out about your museum?"
Jimmy was surprised and flattered at Lois's interest in his story. He started to explain as he held the elevator doors for her. "Well, all of the additions we found have been put through the proper channels. Permits, certificates, paperwork — it's all there. So we've shot down both of the major rumors: financial troubles and improper building permits. If that museum closes, then we have a big story to go after. We also tried to trace the ownership, but I think we may have hit a brick wall there."
"Well, if you have a gut feeling there's something wrong, go with it. That has always lead to my best stories. Of course, it sometimes leads to two weeks of wasted time, but hopefully this won't."
"So, what are you working on?"
"Um, an informant called me with some information on a new drug operation. Clark is busy trying to track down locations while I'm verifying sellers."
"A new operation?"
"We're not sure. It's in a terrible part of town, so I guess it would be nearly impossible for an outsider to tell if it's new or simply *improved*." Lois spoke without thinking, and as soon as the words were out of her mouth, she regretted them. Now she dreaded the inevitable question.
"What part of town?"
"Uh, actually, um, Kingston."
"Lois, Kingston is not *that* bad. You saw my neighborhood."
"Yes, I'll admit that your neighborhood is nice. But, Jimmy, most of that area is so dangerous. I realize you could afford more living space there, but do you really think it's worth the risk?"
"I weighed the factors, Lois. I'm an adult and I *can* make these decisions for myself, you know," Jimmy answered, trying to keep frustration out of his voice. The elevator doors opened, and he began to walk away. Lois caught his arm.
"I'm sorry, Jimmy. I know that. It's just that we worry about you — Clark and I. You're one of our best friends, and we wouldn't want anything to happen to you."
Jimmy smiled. "I appreciate the concern, Lois. I do, really. But I'll be fine." He turned and walked away, leaving Lois to watch him. She began to walk to her desk.
"I hope so," she whispered. She stared into space for a minute before settling at her desk. Her back gave a slight twinge as the baby gave a big kick. "You don't like him living in Kingston either, do you, Junior?" She got a few more flutters in answer, then rubbed her tummy, smiling.
Clark walked into the room to see Lois in this position. 'My family,' he thought, and smiled. He walked over to her desk. She looked up as he approached, smiling at him.
"What's up?" she asked.
"Well, Superman found definite traces of activity in an old warehouse. So I want to start digging on who owns and who leases it." Clark booted up his computer as he spoke.
"I did some backgrounds on some of these dealers," Lois picked up a print-out and walked over to show it to Clark. "The number of arrests, as well as the amount of drugs recovered at the time of arrest, has increased significantly over the last three months. But that doesn't prove anything." She sighed and furrowed her brow.
"And if we want to stop whatever is going on, we have to catch the ring leaders. Not just expose the factory or uncover scary statistics. So =2E … " Clark let his thoughts trail off.
"Back to the paper trail." Lois smiled at Clark. The paper trail had never been her favorite part of research for a story, but now it gave her a chance to sit down and take care of herself while doing her job to the best of her ability.
"I think one of us should go to Henderson and tell him what we've got. He may be able to shed some light on the situation. Do you mind if I go?" Clark asked.
"Fine with me. I'll get to work on who could be occupying this building."
Mindy Church sauntered into her boardroom with a pout on her face. She had heard them complaining about female leadership, grumbling about a lack of real projects. There was a sense of ennui in the ranks, and they needed some shaking up.
"Boys, I'm not pleased." She sat in her chair at the head of the table and looked at each of her head associates. "Things in Kingston are not taking shape, and Lex Luthor is still out there. I want to know what's going on."
"Luthor is old news; everybody knows that." Paul Anderson spoke up. He was the only one in the room who outwardly challenged Mindy's authority. The others were waiting to see how he would be dealt with.
"Do you really think that, Mr. Anderson? Perhaps you came up with that theory during the time you should have been covering our trail in Kingston?" She fixed him with a glare and watched him squirm. It was obvious that he didn't know what she was referring to.
"Sorry?" he asked.
"Mr. Reynolds has informed me that certain reporters have been investigating key people in your part of the operation, Anderson."
"Nosy reporters. Word has it one of their friends moved into the area. They're probably just trying to clean it up a bit for the pretty boy."
"Do you really think so Anderson? Whoops. Silly me. I forgot, the word 'think' can't be applied to you, can it, Anderson?" Mindy stared at Anderson for a moment, and the tension in the room soared. She gave him a small, chilly smile and moved on. "Now, boys, onto other business … "
"Lois!" She jumped, startled by Jimmy's call. "You'll never guess what! Penny just called — the Milhaus Museum just put up a sign saying that it's closing its doors permanently — in three days!"
"What? Why? Did they give any reasons?"
"According to her, the sign doesn't give any reasons. And we still haven't been able to figure out who is behind all the dummy names that supposedly own it. We have found that many of the trustees have been changed over the last two years, so we're gonna start researching them."
"Are you going to write up the closing in the paper?"
"Better than that, we're gonna hold a protest in front of the museum and put *that* in the paper. It's a much bigger story that way. We've already organized some speakers to come. Penny's spreading the word at school today and we're going to go through Kingston tonight."
"You are *not* going through Kingston tonight, James Bartholomew Olsen. Either this afternoon or tomorrow morning, but not tonight."
"Better watch it, Lois. Your maternal instincts are showing." Jimmy grinned and quickly ran out of projectile range. "Besides, we're not going alone. Jack and Penny's roommate Jane are coming along. Jack's printing up the flyers today."
Lois glowered at Jimmy for a moment as he got on the elevator, then she sat back and sighed. She knew that Jimmy was a big boy, but she couldn't help being protective of him. And it wasn't just her "maternal instincts" showing … she'd always been protective of Jimmy. He was like her younger brother and she worried about him. But she couldn't tell him how to live his life, and she was sure that Clark would keep an eye on him tonight.
With a shake of her head, Lois went back to studying the documents in front of her and absentmindedly picked up the phone when it rang. "Lois Lane."
"Hi honey. Just wanted to tell you that I might be a bit longer than I had expected."
"Did you get to talk to Henderson yet?"
"Yeah, as much as that's worth. He's hush-hush on whether or not he has anything on a possible drug bust. What's going on there?"
"Well, I'm up to my eyebrows in paperwork, and Jimmy has decided to put his life on the line by parading himself and his friends through the streets of Kingston tonight."
"I'll tell you when you get here."
There was a large conference room, referred to as the 'War Room' by most insiders, located in the top floor of an old, abandoned-looking hotel in Kingston. In actuality, the hotel was far from abandoned. It was a part of the new headquarters of Lex Luthor, who, despite his recent return to the criminal circle and the relatively sharp monitoring system the police of Metropolis had on him, had become the overlord of all of the major criminals in Kingston. He had come to a mutually beneficial agreement with Enrico O'Reilly, and this man was his second in command in that section of the city. O'Reilly had learned that Lex was a man to respect, and deferred to his elder's judgement in most things.
"In conclusion, Mr. Luthor, all is going according to plan. Intergang seems to be too busy covering their tracks to barge in on our territory any more at this point in time."
"Good, good. As I have always said, we don't get even, we get ahead. I want to put the permanent imprint of my foot on Intergang's behind. Preferably Mrs. Mindy Church's behind." He smiled around his cigar. "Now," Lex continued, "on to other business." He turned to Asabi. "How's the acquisition of the museum coming along?"
"Well, sir, the news on that front is not so good. A few of the locals have decided that the museum is a good cause. One of these people is a young man who happens to work at the Daily Planet."
Luthor picked up the article Asabi had put in front of him. "Olsen. Well, I almost hate to say this, since the Planet's doing us such a big favor in the Intergang arena, but I think Olsen is a problem. Get rid of him. Before he can do anymore damage."
Luthor got up and walked to the window, surveying the ground below him. "Arrange the blame for Olsen's demise to fall on Intergang. Hire one of their assassins for the job and make it look like a mugging. We'll make it look like the Church group is behind the closing of the museum.
"Also, I want to make a contingency plan in case the museum deal has to be abandoned. I don't want to lose that property, but I'm willing to wait a few months for the furor to die down over its closing. We need to slip information to the Planet about the closing, and I want that information to point to Mindy Church."
"Are we still trying to steal the red jewel from Mrs. Church, sir?" Enrico asked.
"No, Enrico. I've found something better than the red jewel. Just keep working on the museum deal. That's the priority now, understood?"
Luthor walked away. "Get to work then. Enrico, hold off your men for a few more weeks. Keep business at a minimum. I'll meet with you again in two weeks, barring any major problems."
"Two weeks. Yes, sir."
Back at the Planet, Clark had arrived and was busy compiling the information Lois had handed to him. Sitting at his side, Lois rubbed her back and admired his speed. She had uncovered a list of dummy companies and enterprises — some part owners of the warehouse Clark had said was suspicious, and others who seemed to be backers of those owners.
"Lois, what about this one company? It seems to be a key factor. Most of the major holders are major holders in at least one of these other companies."
"Really?" Lois looked down at the chart Clark had formed. "But what's the connection?"
"That's not obvious. But I think we're closer. I'm gonna start doing backgrounds on these people tonight."
"No, you can't do that tonight. I'll stay and dig a bit more. You have to follow Jimmy, Jack and Penny to make sure they're okay."
Clark considered the plan. "All right. You'll be okay getting home alone? You don't want me to come back here for you?"
Lois smiled; Clark was trying not to be overprotective of her. However, now that she had this life growing inside her, dependent on her for its future, she was beginning to feel a little of that protectiveness, too. "I'll be fine. But if I need any help, I'll call out for Superman, okay?"
Clark grinned. "It's a deal," he said. He kissed her and left the newsroom. Lois searched the computers for an hour or so before deciding to go home and work from there.
"So, Mikey, what do you have for me?" Mindy Church sauntered to her chair and, disregarding the extremely short length of her skirt, put her feet up on her desk. She lowered her head and looked up through her lashes at Mike Reynolds, her most trusted — and undoubtedly her smartest — executive.
"Well, Mrs. Church, it goes like this. There are at least three groups in Kingston alone that want us neutralized for our efforts to gain territory there. It's nearly impossible to determine which, if any, of these are behind trying to bring us down. The situation is getting worse. Henderson knows the location of the warehouse, too."
"But, Mikey, you still haven't told me who snitched to those lousy reporters."
"As I said, Mrs. Church, it's impossible to tell. Our leak in the police department says that Lane and Kent aren't revealing their source, and Henderson won't press the issue, since the evidence he's gotten doesn't depend on that information."
"Well, I think it's time get out of the kitchen, Mr. Reynolds. It's getting pretty hot. Do you think your friend at the police department could manage to find some incriminating evidence that points to Mr. Anderson as the organizer behind the operation? He always seems to want that kind of power, anyway."
"Of course Mrs. Church."
"Goodie. I like teaching the boys a lesson once in a while." Mindy stood up slowly and gracefully, never taking her eyes off Mike Reynolds. He held her gaze steadily, not backing down.
She sauntered over to him.
"What are you doing tonight, Mike?"
Reynolds fought the urge to clear his throat. He replied in a slightly raspy voice, "I had planned on getting started on Anderson, Mrs. Church. But, as usual, I am at your disposal."
She searched his eyes for a moment and leaned toward him. Just as her lips came close to his, she reached up a hand and tapped his cheek.
"You may as well get to work, Mike. I'm going to try to follow that rule of not mixing business and pleasure, for now." She smiled and turned away.
Reynolds watched with mixed emotions as Mindy turned and gracefully exited the room. He let out the breath he had been holding. Life in the Church group was never this exciting under the other Churches. He smiled and went to make some phone calls.
Lois hummed along with the CD that was playing. She smiled and took a quick peek at the lasagna she had thawed earlier, mentally thanking her mother-in-law for providing such nice care-packages. It was just about done. She was waiting for Clark to come so she could put the garlic bread in the toaster oven. 'All this domesticity. Who'da thought I'd be doing this? Well, anything to avoid a paper trail … ' Lois sighed and went back to the papers she had on the table.
Just as she was about to give up for the night, she noticed one name on the charter of the small key corporation. A name she had seen before. She jumped up and plugged in her laptop. After hooking into the Planet's main computer, she located her own notes file and did a search. Sure enough. Gemco was a subsidiary of Famfare. And two guesses as to who owned Famfare. Lois impatiently looked to the origin of her Famfare information, just to check herself. There it was in bold, black writing. William Church.
"Did I get here just in time?"
Lois looked up to see Clark letting himself into the front door. She got up and greeted him with an exuberant hug. "We got it!"
"What exactly is it that we got?"
"Bill Church. Intergang. We got the connection. They own the warehouse!"
"Really?! That's fantastic!" He twirled her around and hugged her.
"I'd take you out for a celebration supper, but it smells like you've already taken care of that. What is that great smell? Lasagna?"
Lois patted Clark's tummy. "Yeah. Your mom's lasagna. And some garlic bread."
As he placed the napkins under the forks and lighting the candles, Clark started talking about Jimmy and Penny's crusade. "And most of the people in the neighborhood were glad someone was organizing a protest. So it's set for tomorrow afternoon."
"Were there any close calls tonight?" Lois started dishing out the food while Clark poured the drinks.
"Nope. Not one. In fact, I did a mini-patrol of the area, and the entire section is quiet. Like the calm before the storm."
"Or the eye of a hurricane."
Lois straightened in her chair and rubbed her back. It had been a long, tiresome day. He could tell the heat was affecting her, as well. As he studied her pale face, Clark noticed the muscles around her mouth tighten in pain.
"Honey?" He asked with concern in his voice.
"Oh, it's nothing. I've been getting contractions. I called the doctor, and she said that it's common this far along to get them once in a while. I think maybe I've overdone it the last couple of days." She made a move to stand up, only to sit down immediately. Clark rushed to her side. "Lois? What can I do?"
"Nothing, I just need to rest some more." She closed her eyes briefly, then opened them and started talking about work again. "I think we need to try to get more of an angle on what's happening in Kingston. I'm going to call Bobby." Bobby Bigmouth, one of their best informants, was often quite knowledgeable when it came to Intergang.
Clark started to clean up the dishes. When he came back into the living room, to find Lois talking animatedly into the telephone, all signs of fatigue washed away as she attacked the story from another angle.
"Bobby, you have a cousin that lives in Kingston, right? All I am asking you to do is get some information from him … Yeah, yeah, I know that's a dangerous place. Tell you what, you get me what I want, or point me in the right direction, and I'll get you a full sushi meal at the Geisha Palace … Yes. With the full treatment. You bet. But the information first. You only get Chinese for trying … Bobby, when have I ever stiffed you … Okay, okay, you'll get it in writing. Regular time, regular place? Got it."
Lois ended the call with a satisfied smile on her face. She had a good feeling about this one. Bobby said his cousin Marvin had access to certain information in Kingston, so maybe he could get something for her. Anything that pointed her in a direction would be good.
"You asked for an emergency meeting with me, Enrico. Please make it quick," Lex Luthor snapped at the head of his small, private army of thugs.
"Yes, sir. I have some information for you. I overheard one of my crew talking to one of his cousins from uptown today. The guy was asking all sorts of questions. Now my man, Marvin, ain't too bright. He doesn't know anything important to tell his cousin Bobby. But Bobby sounded pretty bright to me, even if he does eat like a pig. Maybe he's an agent for Intergang. I thought you should be aware that somebody might be snooping around."
Luthor tapped his forefinger thoughtfully against his lips. The name Bobby … big eater. This might be that snitch who could be bought by anyone with a fine-diner card. It could be that some reporters were about to do Lex Luthor another favor. He smiled. "Yes. Very good. Now, this is what I want you to do. Marvin knows he's been given orders to keep things quiet. Tell him the truth — that we've wanted to see how much Intergang has been doing in Kingston."
"Yes, sir. Anything else?"
"To tell Marvin? No. But I do want you to go on a patrol down to the old munitions factory."
"Down next to the museum?"
"Yes, that's the one. You might mention that you've seen something going on down there. Maybe some weapons being moved around."
Enrico had a confused look on his face, but he knew better than to ask questions. He had taken up enough of Luthor's time; he didn't want to press his luck. "Yes, sir. I assume you just want a patrol, not any sort of fireworks."
"You assume well. Oh, and we'll be needing your men's services in a few weeks again. We seem to have some new businessmen in the area who don't know the rules yet."
"They're at your service as always, sir." With that, O'Reilly left the office the same way he had come in — through a hidden panel. Lex Luthor didn't want to take any chance of being connected to anyone like Enrico O'Reilly, but he also needed information that Rico had.
Luthor watched him leave then got up and walked to his private suite. It was time to cut his losses. Too much was at risk. He put a call through on his secured line. "This is Alpha Wolf. The sky is falling. Take care of Chicken Little. Repeat. The sky is falling. Out."
Luthor went back to the upper floor of his suite and into the bedroom. "Sorry about that, my darling. Business calls at the strangest hours. But there shouldn't be any more interruptions tonight."
"Lex, it wasn't anything that I should worry about, was it?" Beth's eyes pleaded with Lex. She wanted so badly for him to be honest.
Lex sighed inwardly. Sometimes he almost felt bad about deceiving her. But business was business, and if she really loved him, he was sure she'd understand that. As it was, what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her.
"No, darling, it was just a small labor issue. They wanted my input on it, that's all. Nothing for you to worry about." He encircled her in his arms and tenderly kissed her forehead. She closed her eyes and sighed, letting herself believe him one more time.
"Lois, Lois. Motherhood agrees with you. I've never seen you looking so radiant."
"Can it, Bobby. What's the skinny?"
"Where's my Geisha?"
Lois waved a gift certificate for a full meal at the Geisha Palace — with *all* the trappings — in front of Bobby. As he reached for it, she snapped it back and smiled wryly. "Tut-tut. Information first, my voracious friend."
"All right, all right. But wait til you get a load of this. Marvin says that a few weeks ago, word came down from his boss, a guy by the name of Enrico, that he and the rest of the gang weren't supposed to pull any jobs until further notice. He asked Enrico what the deal was, and Enrico said that it was nothing big. Just that there was a big downtown crime syndicate, Intergang, that was trying to get a foothold in Kingston. If all the boys were cool, they would know just how much Intergang was doing."
"Are you sure he said Intergang?"
Bobby Bigmouth looked shocked. "Lois, how could I mistake a name like that? Now don't interrupt again, or I won't tell you the most interesting thing. Last night, Marvin and his gang were told to make a survey of what was going down at this formerly abandoned munitions factory. It seems that someone was moving a whole lot of weapons through there — crates of the stuff. And none of the movers were part of Enrico's gang. In fact, Marvin had never seen any of them before."
"Bobby, that's music to my ears." Lois gushed as she handed him the meal coupon. "Enjoy your Geisha." She strode away with a grin on her face and a plan forming in her mind.
Lois exited the elevator with more spring in her step than she had had in weeks. Clark viewed her with a relieved smile. "Lois, you look like the cat that got the canary. Good news from Bobby?"
"Mmmm … well, I have to check into it, but it looks like Intergang may be more involved in the Kingston area than we first thought. We need to go out there and check out a building." She went to her desk and gathered a few necessities, waiting for Clark to get his own things.
"Do you need to stop for lunch?" Clark asked Lois, with concern in his voice.
"I had salad and pasta after my meeting this morning. It *was* kind of early for lunch. Of course, I could eat again … "
They got into the elevator and Lois started to explain all that Bobby had told her and that she had found the only possible site which matched the factory description he gave was behind the Milhaus Museum. "Don't you see, Clark? They can't afford to have people walking around that warehouse all the time. If people are always there, it could threaten the security of that site. So they need to close that museum. It makes sense. And it means that Jimmy could be in more danger than he imagines."
"So I guess we're gonna go see what we can find at the factory," Clark stated with a resigned sigh as he closed the door to the Jeep. He wouldn't even bother to mention possible danger or law violations. He resignation turned to pleasant surprise as he listened to her proposal.
"Do you think lifting prints off of the door, which Superman could find for us, and taking them to our friend the Inspector for identification, would work? And while he's looking for prints, Supes might just accidentally peek through the walls and maybe see some contraband weapons?"
"Supes?" Clark was overjoyed that Lois was being cautious, and decided to skim over it. He latched instead on his newly acquired name.
"Supes. You know, a nickname. I like it. It has a nice ring to it."
"Lois, don't you think three names are enough?"
"Oh, you hardly ever use that Kal El thing, and besides, I'm sooo good at making up nicknames. Remember how well Superman caught on? But if you don't like Supes … well … I'll think of another one."
Once in Kingston, they located the Milhaus Museum, then drove slowly down the alley behind it to find the suspected building. They glanced covertly around to see if they were being watched.
"Well, this looks like the place. Do you see anything, Clark?"
Clark surreptitiously lowered his glasses and quickly scanned the building. "There are signs that some things — like lots of crates — were stored here and moved recently. There are traces of what could be gun powder and other explosives on the floor. And plenty of good quality fingerprints. I guess they figured there weren't enough materials left behind to other assigning a guard, so we should have plenty of time to gather evidence."
"Clark, there's no possibility of … shall we say lead poisoning in that building, is there?"
Clark grinned a little grin. "No, I don't see any blurry areas. Let me take care of the prints." He jogged back to the car and grabbed one of Lois's bags of "handy stuff for investigative reporters to have around." He pocketed some evidence bags and the fingerprint-lifting kit. Whistling, he jogged back to the warehouse and gathered all he thought would be needed for the police to get a search warrant.
Lois held some of the bags as they walked back to the car. "Let's take these to Henderson. Maybe if we give him this, he'll give us the information on the drug ring."
Clark glanced down at his watch, trying to alert Lois to the time and hinting that she had already put in a long day. He looked back up and encountered a wry smile.
"Okay, Daddy. I'll go home and try to rest. But I do have other stories to work on. You know, those things we write while we're chasing down all the good leads?"
Clark smiled. "Just try not to work too hard, okay, honey?" He kissed her cheek gently, helped her into her seat, and closed the door for her. Lois watched Clark get smaller in her rear-view mirror. When he was out of sight, she let down her guard. She sighed loudly and rubbed her back. 'I just need a bit of rest, that's all.'
Lois drove home slowly. Her entire body seemed to throb as she walked up the stairs. She knew she should eat something, but she just didn't feel like making anything for herself. She poured herself a glass of milk and grabbed an apple from the basket on the counter. Looking at the kitchen clock, she smiled. 'Just in time to see what the amateurs are calling *news* today.'
Despite her efforts to relax, though, Lois became increasingly uncomfortable. When Clark came home that night, late because Superman had been in heavy demand that afternoon, he was concerned at how worn she looked.
"Lois? Honey? What's wrong?" He was by her side in an instant.
Sweat formed on her brow. "Nothing. I don't think. I just … OW … it hurts, Clark. Something's not right!" She started doing the breathing exercises they had learned in the Lamaze classes.
Clark fought the panic rising in his throat. "Lois, I'm going to call your doctor and have her meet us at Mt. Sinai hospital. We can be there in 10 minutes if we drive. Just hold on."
Seconds later, Clark carried Lois to the Jeep. They drove toward the hospital, forgetting their beepers and cell phones. Connection with the outside world was not a priority. Even Superman turned a deaf ear to the city that night — his wife was much more important to him.
At the same time that Lois and Clark were rushing to the hospital, Penny and Jimmy were deeply involved in what threatened to become a shouting match.
"Penny, I didn't want you coming with me. This is a dangerous section of town."
"Yeah, and not having a Y chromosome automatically makes me a victim, right?"
"No, but it's 9:30. There aren't a whole lot of nice people walking around at this time of night."
"Kind of makes me wonder what kind of sources you have, Jimmy."
"I explained all that to you. This guy just called me for the first time when you were at my place tonight. He said he had some information about the museum, but that he was scared to come forward. He probably feels safer on his home turf. Jeez, I never would have told you about it if I'd have known you would want to come along."
They stopped as they reached a small run-down corner park. Penny looked up at Jimmy. "Did you ever think that maybe I wanted to watch out for *you*?" Penny reached out for Jimmy's hand. "Besides, we're partners in this. It wouldn't have been right for you to hold information from me. And reporters shouldn't let danger get in the way of a story."
Jimmy smiled slightly. "You've been talking to Lois too much."
Penny smiled and decided a change of subject was called for. "You know, Jimmy. It's an awfully nice night. Let's go back to your place, take the portable radio and a bottle of wine, and hang out on your roof."
Jimmy was about to answer when he heard someone approaching from behind him. He turned quickly.
"Too bad," the man's voice was threatening, " but I don't think you two will be partying anywhere tonight." The man made a strange gesture with his arm. Jimmy was startled to look into the barrel of a handgun. "I got an idea for you lovebirds. Why don't you give me your wallets. Those earrings, too, sweetie."
Penny and Jimmy knew better than to argue. Penny took out her earrings, and Jimmy handed over his wallet. Penny handed the diamond studs to the assailant.
"Get on your knees. Now! And put your hands behind your heads."
The pair dropped to their knees as they watched the man walk behind him. Time seemed to slow to a stand-still. Jimmy had never felt so helpless. He didn't know what to do, so he simply followed the orders.
"This should teach you to stay out of the Churches' business."
It came without warning. Jimmy shouted as he heard the first bullet fire from the gun, then felt the world disappear as his head met the pavement beneath him.
"So this was just a warning, Lois. You have to take it easy. Even paperwork is stress on your system if you do it 18 hours a day. I'm going to prescribe a 2 hour mid-day rest for you. At the *slightest* hint of trouble, I want you to start your relaxation exercises." Dr. McGrath wrote something on the chart, nodded to Clark, and left the room.
They had spent the night in the hospital. After the doctor had gotten the initial episode under control, she wanted Lois in for observation the rest of the night. Clark, of course, was not about to leave his wife's side, even for a minute.
By the time they walked through their front door of their townhouse, it was no longer morning. Clark was surprised to look up and see the hour hand on twelve. "Lois, the protest is in half an hour."
Lois looked up from the couch. "Hmm? What? Oh, jeez. Okay. We've gotta go! Wait, I can't go! " She was still dithering when the phone rang. She grabbed it.
"Lois? This is Alice White."
"Alice, how are you?"
"Not so good. Is Clark there with you? I've been trying to get a hold of you kids for hours!"
"Yeah, well we've been out and haven't had the chance to check messages. What's wrong?"
"Perry's at Met Hospital."
"What?! Is he okay?" Lois felt fear in the pit of her stomach. 'Please don't let anything be wrong with Perry!' she prayed.
"Perry's fine. It's Jimmy Olsen. He and his friend Penny were mugged last night. Jimmy is in the intensive care unit in critical condition."
Lois closed her eyes as she listened to Alice's explanation. "Oh, God," tears were welling up in Lois's eyes, and she was trying hard to think straight. "All right. Thanks for getting a hold of us. We're on our way." Lois quickly hung up the phone and turned to Clark. "Clark," she began.
"I heard. Let's go to the hospital — make sure to take your pillow for support in those waiting room chairs. " Clark was trying not to think the worst. "I'll call the Planet and have them send a staff writer and photographer to the protest. Jimmy wouldn't want this whole museum protest to fall apart." He organized as Lois gathered the things they needed for the long wait they would have in the hospital waiting room.
Lois saw Perry White sitting in the waiting room of the surgical wing at the hospital. He looked up at her with tears in his eyes. "Lois, Clark, I'm so glad you're here."
They hugged briefly and sat down.
"Chief? Were you able to get in touch with Jimmy's Mom or Dad?" Clark asked.
"Alice is trying. Penny's roommate found her parents."
Lois looked up at Perry. "Do we know what happened?"
"No. All I've been able to find out is that he and Penny were mugged last night in a pretty bad section of Kingston."
"Is Penny here, too?"
"Yes, but she's in a coma. She had a severe head injury, and it's a miracle she's alive. Whoever held them up took their wallets, jewelry, even their jackets. Apparently, that didn't satisfy him, so he shot Jimmy, anyway." He stopped talking as if he just couldn't go on. The anger was choking him, and his fists pounded in to one another in silent frustration and anger.
Lois felt tears rolling down her face. Clark was strangely silent, anger and guilt both echoing in his mind.
Perry continued. "A witness saw the mugging and interrupted the shooting. That's the only reason those two kids are alive. A jogger was coming by, just as the mugger was about to fire on the kids. He was startled, apparently, and didn't get to finish his work. He shot Jimmy in the back. He ran away, knocking Penny on the back of her head with his gun as he did, and he shot at the jogger to stop the jogger from following him. The jogger stopped to help Jimmy and Penny, and phoned the police from a local pay phone.
"No one even knew who they were until this morning, when their pictures were passed out to the media for ID. No one had reported either of them missing. The fools in that 32nd Precinct didn't even attempt to get in touch with me until about an hour ago. Alice promptly told them we already knew about the shootings — no thanks to them — and were attempting to find Jimmy's next of kin.
"Of course, we can't track down the witness. He's probably at the bottom of Hobbs Bay by now. There's nothing to do but wait for word from the doctor."
A few hours later, the head surgeon walked into the waiting room and approached Perry with a serious look in his eye. "Mr. White, have you been able to reach Mr. Olsen's next of kin yet?"
"Yes, doctor. His father, Jack Olsen, is on his way here. But he's coming from out of state, so it'll be a few hours before he gets here."
"Well, since he isn't here yet, I'll discuss James's prognosis with you. The next few hours are going to be critical. He's lost a lot of blood. There was a great deal of internal damage. We still aren't sure whether or not we'll need to go back in. He's stable, but we're going to have to keep a close eye on him for the next few hours."
Perry looked the doctor in the eye. "That boy is a fighter. If anyone can live through this, he can. "
Lois smiled a sad, relieved smile. "Yeah, Chief. He knows that if he doesn't get better fast you'll kick his butt."
"How long before we can see him, doctor?" Perry asked with concern.
"Tomorrow … if he's still stable and his conditions improve, he'll be allowed one visitor. I have to go, but the nurses in ICU are the finest around and will be more than willing to answer any more questions that you have." With that, the doctor strode off to tend to another case.
Lois turned to Perry. "Listen, Chief, why don't you go home? Clark and I can keep an eye on things here. We've got some research to do, and we also want to check up on how the protest went today. We'll be occupied but still able to keep watch in case something happens. Which nothing will, but just in case. You know."
Perry smiled wearily and rubbed his neck. "Yeah, kiddo, I know. We'll take turns. I want to check in with Alice, but I'll see you later."
Clark hung up his cell phone and massaged his neck. He looked up to see Lois resting in a chair, hand on her belly, looking thoughtfully out the window.
Lois noticed Clark watching her, waiting for her. He looked like he needed a hug. Heck, she knew she needed one. So she got up and put her arms around his chest, as far as her condition would allow.
Lois pulled back a little from Clark so she could look in his eyes. "How did it go?"
He started to lightly massage her back and answered enthusiastically. "Jack said it went really well. I think that the museum has a fighting chance, thanks to Jimmy and Penny."
Lois started thinking about the museum and the protest and the awful mugging. "I just can't believe it's coincidence. I mean, Jimmy's a smart kid. He wouldn't take Penny through a section of the city he didn't think was safe. I just can't believe it." Lois rested her head back on Clark's chest as they both pondered the situation.
Lois looked up at her husband. His eyes were sad and he had a guilty look about him. "Clark Kent. Look at me."
Clark hesitated, drew a deep breath and looked Lois in the eye. "I know what you're going to say, Lois. Superman isn't responsible. From the witness account, there wasn't even time for him to get there before the shooting, if he had heard anything at all. In fact, even if I had been able to hear him, I was where I needed to be. With you. I feel so awful that this has happened, and that I couldn't help. But I don't feel guilty, not because of that. I'm feeling guilty about something else."
"That we shouldn't have even let him move into that neighborhood at all? We knew the risk and should have warned him more strongly? Maybe. But we can't second-guess ourselves all the time, Clark. Jimmy's an adult, and he made that decision himself. Do you think we won't be facing problems like this all the time with this child? If Junior here has even one ounce of my personality, he'll be in trouble constantly. We'll do our best to protect him, but we can't live his life. Or her life. Whatever."
"Yeah, yeah. My head knows it. But my heart doesn't. I'm so scared, Lois. Scared for Jimmy, scared for us, and now, scared for this new life we've created. I don't think I've *really* thought about how much responsibility this is going to be."
"Clark, it's like that for every new parent. Do you even read any of those books you got on parenting? This child is ours, but it is also a life of its own. We are going to do our best to raise him or her in a safe, healthy environment. We can only hope that we've given our child a good start on making wise decisions."
Clark smiled sadly down at Lois and put his hand on her growing belly. "It's so amazing. A part of you and a part of me, together for always. I just wish I could protect her, forever."
"You can protect *him*. You can love our child as much as you love me. That will be the best gift and protection you could ever give. How many times has that love saved you and me?" Lois rested her hand on top of his.
Clark lowered himself and rested his head on Lois's tummy, listening for signs of life inside. He smiled as he heard Lois's stomach growl. "Sounds like Junior's hungry again. Lucky for you both that this bag of mine has your favorite granola bars in it. Ooh, ooh, look at this. A nice juicy orange, too."
"Well, it's not hot pastrami, but it'll do, I suppose." She ate the orange and granola and washed it down with a carton of milk that Clark purchased from the hospital cafeteria. After a while, they started to work on the battle plan.
Lois sat at her desk the next day, following doctor's orders, and limiting her schedule. Clark was on the phone with someone, typing furiously as he spoke.Without the benefit of superhearing, Lois would have to wait for the call to end to find out who he was talking to. She was going through her mail when Clark walked over.
"That was Inspector Henderson. He's given us the ID's on the prints — Intergang associates. Mostly low-rung people. But enough information, with Superman's testimony, to get a search warrant on that munitions factory. As a reward for the tip, we've been given a break." Clark walked to the printer, where his copy had just printed. "Here, a preview of our copy for tonight's edition."
"'Police make arrest in drug operation.'? Paul Anderson? I haven't heard of him as a big player before." Lois read the page, chewing her lip asher eyes skimming the text. "Do you think it's all legit? Or do you think Intergang's set him up?"
"Funny you should ask that. Henderson smells a setup, too. Even if it isn't the case, Intergang seems to be having a hard time with their associates lately. I was going through the obits, you know, just checking for news, when I came across this." Clark handed Lois a sheet of paper outlining the drug overdose of a male Caucasian.
"James Calan? The hitman who works for Intergang?" Lois asked with surprise.
"The one and only. The thing is, this guy was clean and he was careful. Never convicted of ANYTHING. No previous drug record," Clark read from a file he had on known and suspected Intergang associates. "Calan had a rep of being straight in everything. Anal almost. He would never mess himself up with drugs. Thought too much of himself. According to the source, anyway. Doesn't quite add up, does it?"
"No, it doesn't add up at all. If Calan did this, and it was a hit, they should be dead. He was a pro. Maybe he doesn't have anything to do with it at all. But it's such a coincidence … " Lois thought out loud.
The two were puzzling this out when the elevator opened and Perry stepped out.
Crossing the newsroom from the elevator with purpose in his stride and a glint in his eye, Perry called out, "Lane, Kent. In my office. Pronto."
As he closed the door to Perry's office, Clark covertly studied Perry. Perry was sitting at his desk, paging impatiently through the stories that had been submitted to him for the evening's late edition, accepting a few but critically rejecting quite a few more. As Lois and Clark positioned themselves opposite his desk, Perry looked up at them.
"Jimmy's condition has stabilized. The doctor isn't talking to me anymore, now that Jimmy's folks are here, but just the look of relief on Jack Olsen's face as he talked with the doctor was enough for me. Penny seems to be doing better, too. I just talked to her mother, and she said that Penny is out of the coma and sleeping normally now." Perry went back to viewing his monitor. "Ahh, here's the mugging story."
Perry skimmed the story before him as Lois and Clark waited. "This states the police have found no evidence to suspect anything but petty theft and assault."
"Does anyone have a clue as to why Jimmy and Penny would have been walking around at that time of night?" Lois asked. "Superman told us that he followed them through Kingston as they distributed the information about the protest and watched them go home. Why would they need to go out again?"
"We really need to talk to them. And until one of them wakes up, and the doctors and their parents let us ask them the tough questions, that's not going to be possible. I want to know what's going on with that museum story," Perry answered.
Lois filled him in. "We've got a lead that Intergang may be working over there — using an old weapons factory next door to the museum. We're going to check on the background of that building and keep on Inspector Henderson. He's searching the place today."
"What about the drug story, Kent?"
"That's pretty much tied up."
"I don't see your copy on my desktop."
"I promised Henderson I'd hold it until he gave me the go ahead."
Perry shook his head. In spite of the old cliche 'nice guys finish last', he knew Clark would never press an advantage. You could never take the Kansas out of Kent. And maybe that was a good thing. His work certainly hadn't suffered from it so far. Perry shook his head and mumbled what he hoped would sound like words of disappointment.
"All right, you two. You should get to it."
Lois turned to Clark as they crossed the newsroom.
"Let's take this Calan stuff to Henderson. He probably hasn't thought about Jimmy Calan and his ties to Intergang. If he was hired to take care of Jimmy and Penny, he might have been killed to shut him up. Especially if Intergang is having such troubles right now."
The next afternoon, Lois was working away at her desk in a better mood than she had seen in days. Both Jimmy and Penny were doing better, though visitors still weren't allowed.
Lois had just gotten access to Jimmy's documents, and searched for any clues as to why he would have been attacked. She found her motive in a strangely encrypted e-mail. Its contents were beyond her greatest expectations. She was piecing together the final revisions to the museum story in her head as she re-read the note.
"Good news, honey?" Clark asked when he got in speaking range.
"You won't believe it. Check out this e-mail that Jimmy received the night of the mugging, from a Rosemary Silverton. It turns out that she's on the board of the museum. Has been, for years. Apparently, whoever has been making changes there has overlooked her, thinking she's too old to pay attention to details.
"Well, it seems Mrs. Silverton noticed that lots of strange things were going on with the board of directors, so she kept her eyes open. And you won't believe what she found. Here — check it out. A scanned copy of a note, ordering the immediate closure of the museum and its complete turnover to a certain Church."
"Bill Church?!" Clark asked incredulously.
"Nope. Mindy. Mrs. Mindy Church. Behind the whole museum thing. I *knew* she was fake," Lois smiled, then she began to speculate. "Mindy Church wanted Jimmy off of the museum story. So she sent Calan after him. When Calan didn't finish the job, she finished him, so he couldn't be identified. It all fits. This note proves the Mindy Church — museum connection. Now we just need to connect Calan to the whole thing, and we'll have Mindy Church tied to Intergang."
A few days later, in the aftermath of the breaking story, Perry congratulated his star reporting team. "Lane and Kent do it again." Perry chuckled as he looked at the four headlines in front of him:
"Kingston Drug-Ring to Church Group Official."
"Organized Crime Spreading? Possible illegal munitions operation in Kingston linked to Intergang."
"Museum Madness — Churches Linked to Vicious Attack in Kingston."
"Church Group Crumbling at Foundation — top associate admits Intergang connection and agrees to turn states evidence."
"Four brilliant by-lines in as many days. I don't believe in overt praise, but you kids done good. Putting Jimmy as co-writer and Penny as staff writer on that third story was a nice touch."
"Well, Chief, it was Jimmy's research that gave us the proof we needed for that story. It's really his story, anyway," Clark said.
"Things certainly did fall together well," Lois admitted. "Calan was so arrogant that he didn't even dispose of the weapon he used. He also left a lot of incriminating evidence against Intergang."
"Now, with this 'Mike Reynolds' guy turning states' evidence, Mindy Church and Intergang are effectively neutralized. To top it off, the museum may be saved after all." Clark added.
"Speaking of the museum, Chief, Clark and I were wondering if we could go break all this to Jimmy … "
Perry smiled. "Say no more, Lois. You and Clark take the rest of the day off — the week, even. I'll see you two on Monday."
"Jimmy!" Lois warmly greeted the young man who looked so pale against the hospital sheets. There were still tubes running into and out of all parts of his body. But seeing his eyes open and cognizant was good enough news for the time.
"Lois, Clark. It's good to see you. Even if you did steal my story." They all laughed at the weak attempt at humor. The laughter was one of relief: of having seen the dark side of life and coming back mostly whole to tell about it. "Now I want the complete low down. Even though I did miss most of the exciting stuff, I did do a lot of the hard work."
Lois, Clark, and Jack settled around Jimmy's bed. Lois and Clark told the complete story. They answered all of Jimmy's seemingly endless questions. Then they asked a few of their own.
"Why were you out there Jimmy?"
"I got a call from a source. I guess it was just Calan setting me up. At the time, I thought he was some kind of cultist. He warned us about "church" business. Now I understand it's Church with a capital 'C'. Penny was just unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time." His eyes shadowed at the thought of the close call he and Penny had been through. She had only woken up that morning.
"Jimmy, you can't blame yourself. She's an adult. If she's anything like Lois here, she would have gone with or without your permission. She was in on the stories and the protest, too. So they probably would have come after her, anyway."
Two weeks later, Jimmy glanced one last time around the place. All of the food was in place, and most of Penny's close friends, as well as several of his own, were gathered. The party was set to begin as soon as he got her to come over. It was a "surprise, welcome home, glad you're back, anything-else-we-can-celebrate" party.
If she suspected anything, Penny didn't say a word. Tears welled in her eyes at the big "Surprise" and all the smiling faces around the room. It was so good to be with all of them.
It was so good to be alive.
No one stayed very long, since both Penny and Jimmy were still recuperating and tended to get tired fast. But the party was full of warmth and friendship.
Discussion eventually turned to the ill-fated Milhaus Museum. The hours had been changed back to normal and the board of trustees had been re-arranged under the supervision of the descendant of the original owner. Things still didn't seem quite right, however. Though museum records showed quite a large increase in patronage, there wasn't a great deal of cash flow going back into the displays and exhibitions. Penny said that she hadn't been scared off and that she would get to the bottom of the situation.
Jimmy put his arm around her and corrected her. "*We'll* get to the bottom of it, Penny. Together." He hugged her close and leaned his head on hers.
Eventually, Lois pulled Clark aside. "I'm getting tired, Clark, and I think Jimmy and Penny are, too. Why don't we go home?"
They sat in the parking spot for a bit for the air conditioning to make a dent in the car's heat. Lois switched on the radio to the all news station. "This just in, Paul Anderson, major suspect in a recent Kingston drug ring, was found dead in his jail cell tonight of apparent suicide. The trial of Mr. Anderson was set to begin on July twenty-fifth. Anderson had pleaded not guilty to all charges. Metropolis police have not commented, but it is assumed that the case will be considered closed … "
Clark sighed heavily.
"What? You still don't think he was guilty?"
"I don't know, Lois. It was too convenient. It reeks of a fall-guy set-up."
"Did the Intergang guy who gave state's evidence … Mike Reynolds … mention Anderson?"
"He said that if Anderson was behind the drug ring, it hadn't been on Intergang's say so. But he also said that Anderson was a loose cannon. Often complained because a woman headed up the group. Then again, Reynolds has disappeared off the face of the earth since testifying at Mindy Church's indictment last week. Maybe he's trying to hide something."
"Maybe he's just smart enough to stay hidden from Mindy Church."
"Oh, he submitted enough evidence to keep her and most of the other Intergang associates behind bars for quite a while. He also pointed several hidden Intergang money sources out to the IRS, so Mindy's real power, her money, is mostly gone. Rest assured, he took anything else he could get a hold of."
"Well, well, well, look who's gone and gotten himself a new face. I must say, it suits you. That make-up artist taught you well." Luthor lifted his scotch in a mock salute to his top administrator. The war room was quiet, the big spring meeting for planning the major activities of the new fiscal year had just ended. He was celebrating.
"Yes, sir. I thought it prudent. I'm thinking about making it a permanent change. We may have put Mindy Church behind bars, but Intergang still has some power. Not much, mind you, but some."
"Sit down, have a scotch. Do you think she suspects you?"
"No. And it wouldn't matter if she did. She won't find me. But for all her faults, she was a brilliant and beautiful lady. Too bad. "
"You did a beautiful job with Calan. That's one man the world is better off without. I liked the personal touch with the arsenal, too. It clinched that museum cover."
"Thank you, sir. I thought you might appreciate that. Of course, I secured the weapons for us. Did you get that message?"
"Yes, yes, I did. It's too bad about that museum, though. We did get the weapons out of the factory, and its cover is blown for a while. The meteorite the museum is built around, well that's another story. I still want that. And I can't start digging holes in the foundation of the building if it's still open for business. Even if it's not pure kryptonite, it would certainly be of some use. Are you sure it's real?"
"Not sure, sir, no. To the best of my understanding and based on what the scientist told me, it is true that the rock, if not pure Kryptonite, is pretty close. A small piece was tested on Superman a few weeks ago. It seemed to work then, although he, of course, didn't know what caused him to lose altitude."
Luthor chuckled as he refilled both scotches. "The straight-laced Milhaus must be rolling in his grave — to think that the piece he built his museum around, his 'artwork from the stars' may well be the most important weapon of our time? Makes you feel all warm and tingly inside, doesn't it?
"Well, a toast." Both men raised their glasses. "To the new fiscal year and all the prosperity it will bring. To good associates and to killing bad ones. Most of all, to you, Mike Reynolds, for being the best con-artist of our time."
"Thank you, sir." They drank in silence for a minute before going over the plans of action for the coming year. The troubled times for Kingston were just beginning.
Characters in this episode are copyrighted by DC Comics, December 3rd Production and Warner Brothers. No infringement is intended in any part by the author or the Season 5 group, however, the ideas expressed within this episode are copyrighted (c) 1998 to the author.