By Genevieve Clemens (NightSky@erols.com)
Summary: When Lois discovers a neighbor is abusing his wife, she gets involved, but will her investigations hit too close to home? This story deals with a problem not even Superman can solve — spousal abuse. (Episode # 17 of The Unaired Fifth Season)
Lois Lane stretched out her feet luxuriously as her husband's hands massaged her calves and ankles. If she were a cat, she would have purred. Her arms rested upon her swollen belly; she leaned her head back and closed her eyes. "That feels soooo good," she said.
Clark Kent slipped her shoes off and began massaging her feet as well. "You worked awfully hard today, covering that press conference at city hall," he said. "You probably should have let someone else cover it, maybe Jimmy."
Lois's eyes flew open. "Oh, Clark, don't be silly. It was a boring conference, true, but it was my turn to take the next boring, nothing important, news assignment. No one can say I'm not a team player. And it's not as if we had anything more important to cover. No mad scientists trying to destroy the world…"
"No vampires flying through the city," Clark picked up on her train of thought.
"And no nosy corporation planting fake relatives on us," Lois continued.
"And no major crime waves — unless you count these department store robberies," Clark finished. "But you're on your feet too much, running around all day," he went on. "I can see how tired you are, when you finally get home at night."
"Clark, I'm pregnant — I'm supposed to be tired. All the books say so. I'll let you in on a secret, though, if you promise not to stop doing that." She gestured towards his hands, still moving methodically on her legs.
"Promise," he said with a smile.
"Pregnant ladies are never on their feet too much," she said. "Everyone offers me a chair — even rude, obnoxious Donald Stuart from the Star offered me his front row seat today at the press conference. People give you seats in the subway, let you take their taxis…"
"Better enjoy that now," Clark said with a smile. "I understand that ladies close to delivering have trouble getting cabs; the taxi drivers are afraid they'll have the baby in the cab."
"That's terrible!" exclaimed Lois, outraged. "Discrimination. And besides, we have weeks to go before we get to that point."
"Getting closer every day," Clark said.
"Don't remind me!" said Lois. "I've got way too much to do before this baby gets here. It's much less trouble where it is now — inside and quiet."
"Well," said Clark, standing up. "Right now, what you have to do is rest while I go into the kitchen and start din…ner." Lois looked up as Clark's voice trailed off. With a feeling of resignation she recognized the distracted look on his face.
"What do you hear?" she asked.
"I'm not sure," he replied. "Someone's in trouble — and it sounds really close — on our street maybe." Lois stared as her husband disappeared into a whirlwind of blurring colors, to be replaced by a familiar figure in red, blue, and yellow. "Stay right here and rest," he said. "I'll be right back to make dinner." A whoosh of air stirred the curtains and her hair. Lois found herself alone in the room, although a blanket had magically appeared over her. With a heavy sigh, Lois snuggled into the pillow and closed her eyes, content to rest and wait for her husband to return.
Superman hovered in the air outside the house, listening intently. He finally focused in on the third-floor apartment in a converted brownstone, two houses down the street from the Kents'. Focusing his eyes inside, he saw a large man backhand a woman, knocking her against the table. Without another thought, he flew through the open window and caught the man's arm just as he was about to hit the woman again.
"That's enough," he said, in the cool, emotionless voice he had cultivated as Superman, although he could feel anger bubbling deep inside him. He looked at the woman, staring at him stunned, her cheek bright red where she had been struck. "You'd better call the police."
"Yes, I…I will," she answered. "Thank you."
As she went to the telephone, the man found his voice. "You got no right!" he exclaimed angrily. "No right bursting in here and…"
"Be quiet," Superman said. He spied a chair and used just enough force to propel the man into it, noticing with a guilty enjoyment that the chair moved a few inches under the impact. "We'll see what happens when the police get here."
"Yes," said the man ominously, staring at the woman. "When the police get here." The woman wouldn't meet his eyes. She moved slowly, painfully, walking without a word to a chair, where she sat down, staring at the floor.
It wasn't long before they heard the police coming up the stairs. Superman listened to their conversation as they came up the stairs.
"Dispatch said *she* called this time?" a female voice asked.
"Yep," was the succinct answer.
"Maybe this time she's decided to do something," the officer replied.
A second later, came the loud knocking at the door. "Police!" The woman stood up and answered the door. The female police officer looked quietly at her bruised face.
"Mrs. Chiswick," she said. "Are you willing to press charges? We can arrest him."
"Yes," said the woman defiantly. "I want him arrested. He came barging in here and assaulted my husband. There must be laws against that. I want him arrested.
Superman's mouth dropped open in shock, as he realized the woman was pointing directly at him.
In the sudden silence that followed the woman's frenzied accusation, the police officers seemed to notice Superman for the first time. The second police officer, who had been standing quietly in the doorway, entered the room.
"Superman," he said, "I'm Officer Potter. This is Officer Heelis. The Chiswicks already know us. Can you tell us what happened?"
Superman somehow managed to find his voice. "I was…passing by," he said, not willing to admit that he lived two doors down the street. "I heard the sounds of violence and saw this man," he gestured at Chiswick, "strike her. So I came in, restrained him, and suggested that she call the police. She did."
"And I want *him* arrested," Mrs. Chiswick said. "He can't just come busting in here, interrupting a private moment between husband and wife, can he?"
Officer Potter shook his head. "Superman, would you step outside with me? I'll get your statement." He glanced at his partner. "Talk to her," he murmured, nodding his head towards Mrs. Chiswick.
Superman walked with the officer down the stairs and out into the street, still shocked by the turn events had taken. "He hit her hard enough to knock her into the wall," he said incredulously.
Potter grimaced. "We've been here before. Sometimes it gets too loud and the neighbors call. She never admits what happens." He looked up at Superman. "Don't worry about it. You did the right thing, especially since you didn't know what was going on."
The other officer came out. "She decided not to have you arrested, Superman," she said. "Wants to sweep the whole thing under the rug, as usual."
Superman looked up towards the building in concern, listening, but all was quiet. "There is nothing we can do, is there?" he asked.
"No. I try to give her the name of a shelter, but she won't listen. He hasn't put her in the hospital yet. Until she decides to take action, our hands are tied."
Superman didn't want to hang around any longer than he had to. From their faces, he could tell that the two officers were also frustrated and wanted to forget about this situation as soon as possible. Helplessness didn't sit easily with any of them. Superman nodded to the officers in farewell and slowly rose into the sky.
Ron Chiswick watched Superman take off from the window of his apartment. Behind him he heard his wife setting the table for dinner — his *late* dinner! — but somehow, right now, he just didn't feel hungry.
"Who does he think he is?" he muttered under his breath. "Coming in here and acting like he's some sort of God. This is *my* house." He turned around and glared at Sarah. "Gettin' to be like a man's not boss in his own home," he said angrily. "Every Tom, Dick, and Harry's comin' in here to tell us what to do."
"Ron," Sarah pleaded. "The police were just here. We don't want them back."
"What are you sayin'? That I don't know how to act?"
"No, Ron! That's not what I'm saying at all." Tears stood in her eyes, as she looked at him apprehensively.
"Damn it!" he exclaimed. "Police, Superman — now even my *wife* is tellin' me what to do! This is *my* house, woman, and I'm in charge here. Me! The man! Do you understand?" He stalked over to her, anger apparent in his eyes. Sarah flinched as he came close, but stood her ground. Experience had taught her that running didn't help. Chiswick raised his arm as if to hit her, but the memory of the police came back. With a cry of rage, he swept the dishes off the table. The sound of the dinner crashing to the floor seemed to satisfy him. He grabbed his coat and headed to the door. "I'll be back."
"Ron," Sarah timidly reminded him, "you've got that job interview tomorrow. Please don't get…" The door slammed shut behind her husband, and she whispered the last word to herself. "Drunk." She closed her eyes and bit her lip, feeling the tears welling up. Ron was so much more irritable when he was unemployed; he had more time to reflect upon life's unfairness and her own shortcomings. He hadn't gotten the last two jobs he'd interviewed for, and Sarah had put all her hopes on this job with the Albion Cleaning Service. Not only was he calmer when he was working, but he'd also be out of the house all night, cleaning local office buildings and department stores, giving her some much-needed privacy.
Praying that her husband wouldn't get too drunk to show up at the interview tomorrow, Sarah Chiswick knelt down on the floor and began picking up the broken dishes. One eye was rapidly swelling shut; she could still taste the blood in her mouth from where her lip was cut, but as she put the larger pieces of glass into the trash, she told herself again that once her husband had a job, everything would be normal again. Resolutely, she silenced a nagging voice deep inside her that told her things were as normal as they were ever going to get.
About ten minutes after he had disappeared into the Metropolis sky, Superman landed quietly on the Kents' patio, a brown paper bag in his hand. Going into the kitchen, he set the bag on the table and whirled around. In an instant, Clark Kent stood there, holding his glasses in his hand. He stared intently at the wall for a moment and saw that his wife had dozed off on the sofa. Moving quickly — so quickly, in fact, that human eyes would not have registered anything more than a blur — he dumped out the contents of the bag. It was still early spring in Metropolis, and he'd taken a detour to warmer climes to get fresh vegetables. He heated water to boiling in a second, added rice, and set it to simmer on the stove. Even super- speed couldn't cook rice quickly. But it made short work of chopping and dicing the vegetables, and he made a quick stir fry for dinner. He brewed a herb tea that Lois had learned to…well, to tolerate. He couldn't actually say she liked it. He did, though; it was one he'd drunk when he'd traveled in the Far East. With the rice almost finished, he set the table and called his sleeping wife to dinner.
Lois had finished her first serving and was reaching for seconds before she asked what had called him away earlier. Clark took a deep breath and thanked his lucky stars that his pregnant wife wasn't having any trouble with high blood pressure. They'd been together long enough — as husband and wife and as partners at the Planet — for him to know exactly how Lois would react to this story.
"You mean, this woman — whose husband is beating her to a pulp — not only refuses to do anything about him, but tries to have *you* arrested?"
"Well, honey, I wouldn't worry about that part of it. The police didn't take her very seriously at the time, and they did talk her into forgetting about pressing charges."
"Well, I should think so," Lois said. "I mean, of all the ridiculous things — but I'm not really upset about that. It's the fact that she's just staying there, letting him treat her like that and doing nothing! You said they live on our street? Which house? What's their name?"
"Chiswick. They live two houses down, across the street. You know, the one that's obviously been turned into apartments. That building is terribly rundown, though. I've seen better apartments in slums like Hobbs Bay.
"Rich, poor, whatever." Lois found that irrelevant. "I don't care. Things like this just shouldn't happen. There ought to be something we can do or…"
Clark interrupted. "Lois, I understand how you feel. But sometimes there's nothing anyone can do to help someone who doesn't want to be helped."
"Sometimes people just need to be told they need help. I'm a reporter. An article in the Planet may open her eyes."
"I'll bet the Planet has published about a hundred articles on domestic violence over the years," Clark said.
"She hasn't read my story," Lois answered. "There are no new stories, Clark," she went on to quote, "only…"
"New angles," they finished together, with a smile.
"My wife, the crusader." Clark said proudly. "But I should warn you, I didn't see a single newspaper in the apartment."
"Maybe someone will read it to her," Lois said hopefully.
The next morning at the Daily Planet, Lois used that old quote again, trying to convince Perry that it was of earth-shattering importance that she write this article. Perry was skeptical. He'd seen Lois in her "change the world" mode before. Lois's work was always good, no question about that, but when she wrote this kind of article it tended to be emotional and ended up showing a decided bias that had to be edited out. And Lois had never really taken it well when he had to rework her articles. He considered, and decided that no matter how biased this article was, he'd publish it. There really was only one side in this case. He tuned in again to her tirade.
"So if we could look at why these women just sit there and take it," she was saying, "instead of fighting back or…"
She stopped as Perry held up his hand. "Lois," he said, "you're a good reporter; I know you can do a good story. It's not news, but if you want to write it up, go ahead. I'll keep it for the next time we need filler."
"Thank you," Lois said, her voice getting higher as it tended to do when she got her own way.
Perry stopped her as she turned to go. "Hey! Don't forget, this is secondary to your *real* job of writing the *news*. I want you and Jimmy to look into these department store robberies. There was another one last night."
"Jimmy?" Lois questioned. "Why not Clark?"
Perry raised his eyebrows. "In case you've forgotten, I leave at three this afternoon for London. That newspaper convention where I'm supposed to speak, remember? And when you all drew straws to see who'd get stuck in this office…"
"Clark lost," Lois remembered, still feeling grateful that she hadn't. Her time spent editing the paper was not something she remembered with pleasure.
"So work with Jimmy on this one." Perry said. "You're a great teacher; remember you taught Clark the ways of the big city, didn't you? And Jimmy has the same spark the two of you do. He's been doing great since his promotion."
Lois nodded and Perry continued. "If you can squeeze the abuse story in, go ahead. There is no hurry on that one, so take your time. Don't overdo it, honey."
Lois gave him an annoyed look as she left his office. Perry hid a smile. She was so prickly these days, taking umbrage at any hint that her pregnancy kept her from doing her job. And Perry had to admit, she hadn't slowed down a bit. Still attacking each story with the same enthusiasm she always had and positively glowing with health, she looked as striking as ever, more so perhaps. Perry turned back to his computer, secure in the knowledge that he'd soon have two great stories — one breaking news with the byline "Lois Lane and James Olsen," and the other a tear-jerking filler story "by Lois Lane" — and he'd bet even money that he'd have both stories by the end of the week.
Lois left the office, looking for Jimmy. Not seeing him, she went over to Clark's desk.
"Perry says I can write the spousal abuse story if I can fit it in with those department store robberies, too," she told him. "Where's Jimmy?"
"You going to be working with him?" Clark asked. "Go easy on the boy, Lois. He's nervous about writing, and you demand perfection."
"And I get it too." Lois leaned closer to Clark, happily. "My everyday partner is perfection in all things." She leaned against his shoulder, for all intents and purposes looking at his computer screen. But Clark bit his lip and took a deep breath as Lois's breast brushed up against his shoulder and he felt her warm breath against his cheek. "In the office, and in the bedroom," she murmured, so softly that even he wasn't sure he heard her. He looked away from his computer screen, meeting her eyes as they shared a look that would have been more appropriate in the bedroom than in the office. Lois ran her tongue over her lips slowly and took a deep breath.
The sound of someone clearing his throat brought them back from their fantasy. Jimmy Olsen, dressed in a sports jacket and a tie, stood watching them, an amused look on his face. Unembarrassed, Lois and Clark drew apart.
"Perry's assigned you to work with me on these department store robberies, Jimmy," Lois said briskly, in her all-business voice. "Find all the police reports and put together the stories that have already been done on them and meet me at my desk. And don't take all day about it, either." Clark's eyebrows shot up as he watched the transformation of his bedroom-fantasy wife into the no-nonsense reporter. Jimmy was stammering out some sort of acknowledgment as Lois walked back to her desk, her heels clicking on the floor.
"Whew!" Jimmy exclaimed. As he saw Clark looking at him with sympathy, he asked, "She used to treat you like that, huh?"
"Uh-huh," answered Clark succinctly.
"How long did that last?" asked Jimmy.
"Until I learned to anticipate her. I'd have the police reports and summaries in my hands when she asked for them. Oh, and scooping her once or twice didn't hurt."
"That'll be the day. I'll never be as good as you two."
"Sure you will. You have the talent, and the intuition. And you'll learn a lot working with Lois."
"If I survive," said Jimmy glumly. Clark laughed.
"Man, I wish I had what you have, CK," said Jimmy enviously. Clark looked at him questioningly. "You're on top of your profession; everyone respects you, even Lois, and you have a beautiful wife who looks like she'd like to seduce you right in the middle of the newsroom. I'll never have that."
"The only perfect thing in my life is Lois, Jimmy," Clark answered sincerely. "And she wasn't easy to get. You're young yet. I was 28 when I met Lois, and it took years before we were married. They weren't easy years, either. The rest of my life is like everybody else's — some good times, some bad."
"Maybe," said Jimmy unconvinced. "But I'll bet when you were my age, you had girls crawling all over you. I can barely keep a girlfriend for one week."
"You'd be surprised, Jimmy," Clark said softly, turning back to his computer. "You'd be surprised." Jimmy looked at Clark pensively for another second before turning away to go rustle up the police reports and background stories.
A few minutes later, Jimmy arrived at Lois's desk with his arms full of folders. She waved him to a seat and continued talking on the phone to the Planet's librarian.
"That's right, Helen. I want a list of shelters for abused women as soon as possible. Thanks."
Jimmy looked at her inquiringly. In spite of Clark's parting comment that Jimmy didn't know all there was to know about Clark Kent, he refused to believe Lois was seeking shelters for herself.
Lois pursed her lips. "It's for a story," she said, sounding slightly annoyed as always when she had to explain the obvious. "A *different* story. Now what have *you* got on these department store robberies?"
Jimmy took a deep breath. "In the last three weeks, five different upscale department stores have been robbed, mostly jewelry, watches, stuff like that. No one knows how. The staff closes up for the night just like always; when they open the next morning they find the stuff gone. No alarms are tripped, no doors broken, nothing to indicate how anyone got in. The police are baffled."
Lois looked at the folders in his hand. "And those are…?"
"Police reports." Jimmy set a stack of folders on Lois's desk. Another stack followed. "Inventories of all missing items." Jimmy set down the final pile of folders with a flourish, "and finally, insurance claims."
"So what we have to do," Lois said, "is find out what they all have in common, besides the obvious. There's always a link. Any ideas?"
Jimmy looked apologetic. "Well, uh, I haven't actually looked at any of these yet. I just rushed them over here as fast as I could."
Lois bit her lip. She wanted to be patient with Jimmy, but her mind wasn't on this assignment; she really wanted to get on the phone and concentrate on the shelters. "Tell you what," she said to Jimmy, "why don't you read the reports, find out the similarities, check into every possibility, and, when you've done that, come back and we'll see what we have."
Jimmy, abashed, picked up the folders again. He'd worked so hard to get them all together, and even that wasn't enough. As he turned, he caught Clark's eye. Clark had overheard the whole conversation. Jimmy felt slightly better as Clark winced in sympathy. With a weak smile, he headed back to his desk. Lois turned to her computer and saw that the librarian had already sent her the list of shelters via e-mail. Scanning the list until she found one that was only a few blocks from Hyperion Avenue, she picked up the phone and called to set up an interview.
The next day found Jimmy sitting at his desk at the Planet, still reading all those reports, although by now he'd included the financial reports of all the department stores in question. He was looking a bit worn; he'd stayed at the office till eleven the night before, gone home, and returned by six that morning. Lois had stopped by his desk briefly, seemed to approve of what he was doing, and suggested he also look at any and all business contracts the department stores had. She then headed out for her interview at the abused women's shelter. Jimmy sighed and turned back to the computer screen.
Lois stopped by Clark's desk on the way out. "I'm off to the shelter," she said. "It's right in our neighborhood; I think I'll go home for lunch. Care to join me?"
"If nothing comes up, either here or — " he made the hand motion they used to indicate Superman. "By noon, I'll be glad of an excuse to get out of here."
"I'm leaving early today, too, Boss," Lois said, jokingly referring to the fact that with Perry away at the conference, Clark was nominally in charge. "Doctor's appointment at four-thirty."
"Don't forget your parents are coming to dinner." Clark laughed as Lois's panicked expression showed him she had indeed forgotten. "Don't worry. I'll cook."
"You usually do," answered Lois. "See you at home for lunch." She turned and headed up the ramp to the elevator. With a sigh, Clark turned back to his computer screen. During the budget crisis a few years ago, someone in upper management had decided that when Perry was absent, his editing duties could be handled by one of the senior reporters. Since then, the role of "Editor pro-tem," as it was jokingly referred to, was rotated among Lois, Clark, and two others. All of them were grateful that Perry wasn't gone very often. Lois, remembering her brief time in Perry's office, told them they were lucky that Perry's other duties were all handled by someone upstairs, but Clark found reading and correcting others' work far less interesting than writing his own material. He also disliked the feeling of claustrophobia being stuck in the office all day gave him; he'd gotten used to being able to come and go as he pleased. Whenever he drew editor duty, he was terrified that some major crisis would require Superman's presence, and he would be hard-pressed to leave.
Lois paid the taxi driver and looked around her. The brownstone in front of her looked amazingly like her own house, except for the sign on the door which proclaimed it the "Sawrey House." Lois walked up the steps and rang the bell. The door opened, and a young woman looked out.
"I'm Lois Lane, from the Daily Planet. I have an appointment with Beatrix Warne." The young woman opened the door fully and invited Lois inside. Ushering Lois into a small office just off the hallway, the woman asked Lois to wait just a minute while she went and got Ms. Warne.
Lois looked around the office. Snooping had never bothered her, and she glanced at all the papers on the desk (bills, mostly, and letters waiting to be answered), picked up the journals and flipped through them, and then began to study the diplomas and certificates on the wall. She found that Ms. Warne had graduated with a BA from Metropolis University and had completed a number of continuing education courses. She noticed a plaque on the opposite wall near the door. She moved closer to read it. It was handmade, with beautiful calligraphy showing the stanzas of a poem.
Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word.
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
Lois heard the sound of children playing in the house as the door opened and Ms. Warne came in. She was a young woman, probably about Lois's age.
"Lois Lane? I'm Bea Warne." Lois shook the woman's hand and took the seat she was offered, as Ms. Warne seated herself behind the desk. "I was surprised to get your phone call," Ms. Warne continued. "Domestic abuse is everyday sort of news. This is a shelter for abused women. We do a lot of good here, and we need money to operate. That's about all there is that's newsworthy here. Somehow this is not the sort of story I'd expect the world-famous Lois Lane to be covering."
Lois smiled at the flattery. "Sometimes I do this kind of story too, especially if something piques my interest. A woman on my block is being abused by her husband, but she won't leave him or seek help. That got me thinking, and I decided to try to write a story about it."
"So you want to focus on the women who put up with the abuse, rather than on the shelter itself?"
"Perhaps. I haven't thought that far ahead," Lois admitted. "Right now, I'm just trying to find out more about it."
"Well, spousal abuse occurs throughout our society; it's not confined to any particular race, nationality, or economic class. About the only common factor is that just about every victim of abuse has a very low self-esteem. Many of them can trace their low feelings of self-worth back to their childhood. In other cases, the partner has managed to erode their self-esteem over the years of abuse. They generally feel very alone in the world; they either have no family or feel they can't ask their family for help. There's really not much anyone can do until the victim decides it's time to make it stop. Even the police can't make an arrest without a complaint. In some places the law permits the police to press charges; the victim doesn't have to. We have a law like that pending in the legislature now. But in any case, many women tend to stay with an abusive or controlling partner for a long time. There are many reasons. The more subtle the abuse or controlling behavior, the more likely the woman is to stay."
"What do you mean, 'subtle abuse'?"
"Physical abuse, beatings, is the most obvious and gets the most press. But even more epidemic than that is what is often termed 'emotional abuse.' This can range from out and out threats to constant criticism. 'A bitter look,' a 'flattering word,' or a 'kiss,'" she quoted, and Lois glanced at the poem on the wall. "Over the years, all of those can by used by a controlling partner to destroy the other's confidence and feelings of self-worth just as effectively as a pair of fists. We have a number of support groups here for women who have been in that kind of relationship. Many of the women are still with their husbands, but they come to the support group anyway. We try to build their self-esteem, let them know they have alternatives, and show them some of the patterns of their spouses' controlling behavior. And we have support groups for the children of such marriages as well."
"I heard the children earlier," Lois said. "Witnessing this sort of thing must be terrible for them."
"Yes. And many of them are abused as well. They carry the scars well into adulthood. You hear that abused children are more likely to become abusers in adulthood. That's true, but many do not. Many of them are straight-A students in school and at the top of their professions as adults, terrified to be anything less than perfect. If they are not perfect, they give someone the opportunity to punish them, or to snipe at them. And they keep a brittle shell around themselves, unwilling to let anyone get too close. Much of their energy goes into maintaining this shell and their perfectionism."
Lois shifted in her seat, suddenly uneasy for no reason she could fathom. Ms. Warne reached into a drawer and withdrew some brochures.
"Perhaps you'd like to visit some of our support groups?" she asked. "And would you like a tour?"
"Yes," Lois answered, glad of the change of subject. She rose and prepared to follow Ms. Warne out of the room.
The newsroom at the Daily Planet was bustling with activity. Phones rang, reporters talked, messengers rushed about delivering mail to each desk. Still glued to his desk, Clark yawned and stretched, more from boredom than tiredness. As he looked around the office, he saw Jimmy yawning as well. Clark got up, went over to the coffeepot, poured two cups of coffee, and carried them over to Jimmy's desk.
Jimmy took it gratefully. "Thanks, CK," he said. "I'm beginning to see double." He sipped at his coffee.
Clark glanced at his computer screen. "What have you got?"
"These are all the business contracts of the department stores that have been robbed. You want to know where they buy their clothes hangers? I can tell you. I was just about to run a comparison program and see if anything pops out."
"Let's do it," Clark said, perching on the side of Jimmy's desk and getting comfortable. Jimmy typed a few more keystrokes and then, with a flourish, pressed the enter key. They both stared at the hourglass that appeared on the screen and waited impatiently for the results.
"I like your tie," Clark said to Jimmy, after they'd watched the hourglass for a bit.
Jimmy's hand went self-consciously to his new tie. "You know, I feel kinda silly, dressing up like this after all those years. I mean, everybody knows me."
Clark shook his head. "Clothes are important, Jimmy. People see the clothes before they see the person. Put on a different set of clothes, and it's amazing how differently people treat you. I still have trouble believing it sometimes."
"Yeah, I guess you and Lois dress up a lot, when you are investigating something, don't you? So you don't think I wasted the money, buying the new jackets and ties, then?"
"Not a bit. You look just like a trustworthy young reporter ought to," Clark said with a smile. Then he gestured at the computer screen. "Look, it's done." The hourglass had finally disappeared, leaving only one company's name on the screen.
"Albion Cleaning Service," Clark read out.
"They all have the same cleaning company," Jimmy pondered out loud. "The cleaning crews are probably there after hours, when no one else is around. What do you think?"
"Bears looking into," Clark responded, finally getting interested in something that morning. "Let's check it out." But as Jimmy turned to begin digging into Albion's background, someone clapped Clark on the shoulder.
"Hey, Clarkie," Ralph Claremont said in his jovial fashion. "Looked at my story yet?"
Clark straightened up, resigned to going back to his editing duties. "Story's too long," he said and motioned Ralph to follow him back to his desk, so they could figure out how to shrink it into the allotted space. As he sat down, Clark snuck a peak at the clock — an hour till he was supposed to meet Lois for lunch. He hoped he'd be able to finish up here and still have time to walk home. After a morning stuck at a desk, he needed the exercise.
Leaving the shelter with her briefcase filled with program literature and group schedules, Lois walked quickly towards home. The noon sun was shining brightly down on Hyperion Avenue as she walked, and she unbuttoned the top button of her coat. Sometimes she wasn't sure whether the fact that pregnancy made her feel warm all the time was a good thing or a bad thing. As spring approached and the weather in Metropolis warmed up, she was starting to realize that what had been an advantage all winter could be a handicap in the summer.
In front of her a large, heavyset woman was walking slowly, carrying a bag of groceries. Lois veered towards the inside of the sidewalk, hoping to pass the woman, when the woman suddenly turned, heading in towards the building. The collision between the fast moving Lois and the woman was inevitable, and the groceries were scattered around the sidewalk.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," Lois squatted to pick up some fruit and a box of pasta. "I was going too fast; if they gave out speeding tickets for walking, I'd get one."
"It's OK," said the woman quietly. Lois drew her breath as she saw the bruised face and the black eye and realized that they were in front of the house where the incident had occurred only two nights before. "Here, I can manage," the bruised woman continued, as she noticed Lois's gravid condition. "It must be hard for you to get down and pick things up, these days."
"Getting harder every day," Lois admitted, as she sat down on the steps in front of the house, preparing to be her most charming self. "I'm Lois Lane; I just live down the road. We must be neighbors."
"Sarah Chiswick." She turned away from Lois to pick up a few more items and put them back in the bag.
"Are you OK? It looks like you haven't had an easy time of it either."
"Oh," laughed Sarah, embarrassed. "That was nothing, just a silly accident."
"I'm a friend of Superman's," said Lois quietly. "He told me what happened."
"He doesn't know anything," Sarah said, a belligerent tone coming into her voice. "Comin' in there, and tryin' to tell us what to do."
"He was only trying to *help*!"
"They're all trying to *help*, but none of them know what'll help. Tellin' me to leave, that won't help nothin'."
"Then what will help?" Lois asked. As a reporter, she'd learned a long time ago when to stop talking and start listening.
With a heavy sigh, Sarah sat down beside her on the step. "Look, Ms. Lane, Ron don't mean nothin' by this. He just gets frustrated, that's all. Everything's going wrong on him right now, and he gotta hit out at something. If it weren't me, it'd be the wall, or slamming the car door or something. And it's not his fault. He lost his job a couple of months ago. It wasn't fair — he was doing fine, but then they found out he'd been in jail years ago and let him go. And now he's got nothing to do but hang around the bar all day. He has a bit too much to drink, and — and that's all."
"So what would help?" Lois asked again.
"Not me leaving him, that's for sure. Nor me having him put in jail, neither. He's my husband; I took vows, and I'll stay with him come what may. What would help is for someone to help him get a job. He hates it so much when he isn't providing for me, when I have to scrape pennies together for food. He's got a job interview this morning, though. If he gets the job, he'll be fine."
"But you can't just stay here and let him hit you!"
"Look, Ms. Lane, it's none of your business, but my husband loves me. He really does. And he takes good care of me. It's just when he's down, then he drinks. And then when I do something stupid he gets real mad — that's all. It's not his fault."
Lois was quiet for a minute. "Mrs. Chiswick, he could seriously hurt you some day. Even if you don't want to leave him, there's a shelter for women like you just a few blocks away. They have support groups for women; you could talk to other people about it…"
Lois broke off. Sarah was shaking her head. "He wouldn't like that much. We don't mingle much with other people; we keep to ourselves. Ron, he needs for me to be at home when he is. Besides, places like that — they'd just try to talk me into leaving him." Sarah stood up. "I gotta go in now. He'll be back any minute, and I need to get lunch ready." Sarah stood up and struggled with the grocery bag. As she looked down the street, she saw her husband coming. "Oh, there he comes now."
Lois looked and saw a big, hefty man walking down the street. As he climbed the steps they were sitting on, he smiled. "Sarah, everything went great! I'm sure I'll get this job," he exclaimed. He took the bag of groceries from his wife. "Let me help you with that. Just getting back from the store?" he asked.
"Yes," Sarah answered. "Ron, this is Lois Lane. She lives just down the street. She bumped into me, and the groceries went everywhere. I think we got them all, though."
Everyone glanced around the sidewalk, looking for stray cans of vegetables. Chiswick looked back at Lois. "So, after picking up the groceries, you two just got to talking? What about?"
Lois got to her feet, her antagonism towards Chiswick oozing from every pore. He seemed to sense this and stiffened. "Nothing in particular," Lois answered. "I'm a reporter for the Daily Planet. I'm just coming back from an interview at the shelter for abused women a few blocks away from here."
Chiswick met Lois's eyes defiantly. "That's got nothing to do with us. C'mon, Sarah, let's go inside. I want my lunch."
"Mr. Chiswick, I think your wife needs to have this information. They have a lot of programs at the shelter that could help her." Lois pulled some of the brochures out of her purse, ignoring the pleading look in Sarah's eyes that begged her to drop the whole topic. Instead she went to hand the papers to Sarah, only to find her arm grabbed roughly by Chiswick.
"Just who do you think you are?" Chiswick was furiously angry, and as Lois looked up into his face, she could easily see the beast that would hit a woman. She tugged mildly at her arm, but Chiswick held it tightly. "I got the police, I got that do-gooder *Superman*, and now I got *you* comin' in here and tellin' us how to live our lives." The grip on her arm tightened. "Now listen and listen good." Chiswick shook Lois slightly. "Sarah is *my* wife, and I can take care of her. She doesn't need outsiders givin' her ideas. We don't need other people tellin' us what to do, and my wife does not need *friends* like you…" another shake…" tryin' to turn her against her husband."
As Chiswick's grip tightened on her arm again, Lois moved. She freed herself from Chiswick's grip with a movement practiced dozens of times in the dojos and gyms of Metropolis and upon the more unsavory citizens of Metropolis. Chiswick grunted slightly and stepped back, surprised by the sudden pain where Lois had accurately hit a pressure point to make him loosen his grip.
"You can take care of her?" Lois was incensed. "Look at her. She has a black eye, that *you* gave her, and she moves as if she is bruised all over. Is this how you take care of her?"
Chiswick took another step towards Lois. Lois immediately dropped into a defensive posture. She'd seen violence in men's eyes before, and she was seeing it now. But Lois was no Sarah Chiswick, who stood passively, staring aghast at the entire scene. Lois Lane was prepared to give as good as she got. But as she stood there, ready to take on all comers, she felt a touch on her shoulder and looked up into Clark's spectacled eyes.
Clark shook his head slightly, warning Lois to desist. Rebellion flared in her eyes, but when she turned back to Chiswick, she saw that Clark's presence had defused the situation. As Chiswick looked from Lois to Clark and back to Lois again, the wild furor left his eyes. With a muttered curse, he turned and stormed into the building. Sarah, with a reproachful look at Lois, followed him silently.
Lois, the adrenaline still flowing through her veins, looked up at Clark crossly. "Clark! I could have handled him. I…"
Clark shook his head again. "If you intimidate him too much, Lois, he'll just take it out on her." Lois bit her lip and looked back towards the building. "This is one of the times when violence is not the answer, honey. Trust me on this one." Lois looked up into Clark's face, seeing a sad resignation in his brown eyes. How many times, she wondered, had the strongest man in the world realized that not all of his strength could solve a particular problem? Silently, she permitted Clark to take her arm and turn her towards home.
As they walked, Lois was thinking. "Clark," she asked. "Does it bother you?"
Clark blinked. He knew Lois didn't mean the Chiswicks, but what she actually meant was beyond him. He looked at her questioningly.
"I mean my independence. Chiswick doesn't want his wife to be apart from him, to have an idea that he didn't have first, and he resents that he can't care for her the way he feels he should. He has this vision about what his role should be and what hers should be. Do you feel that way at all?"
Clark thought for a minute. He was skating on thin ice here, and he knew it. "I never wanted a slave or a servant, Lois," he finally answered. "Your independence, your spunk, and your intelligence were some of the things that drew me to you in the first place. That doesn't bother me. But…"
Lois looked up from fishing in her purse for their keys. "But?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's some instinctive male thing. But you are my wife; you're carrying my child." Clark opened the door, and they stepped into the warmth of their house. "When Chiswick started threatening you back there, I wanted to protect you, to hit him or something. But I knew you wouldn't appreciate it. *And* I knew you could take care of yourself. But it's still hard. I want to be with you all the time, taking care of you, making sure you're all right. But I can't be. And you'd get annoyed with me being there, all protective. So I just bite my fingernails instead.
Lois hung up her coat and looked at him with a smile. "*Can* you bite your fingernails?"
Clark smiled back. "Not really, no. But violence is never an option for me."
Lois looked at him. "When I get mad, I'll slam the telephone down or push the books around on my desk. But when you lose your temper — and you do, you can't deny it — you just get very quiet and still. Don't you ever get the urge to just hit something?"
"Oh," Clark said quietly, "I get the urge." He was quiet for a moment, remembering, and then he looked up at her.
"When I was 14, my parents wouldn't let me go see a movie — I can't even remember what it was now, but all the other guys were going to see it. But they said 'No, absolutely not.' It was rated R or something. I was furious. We were sitting on the steps outside the house, and I stormed off. There was an old shed where Dad kept his tools, and I went over and kicked it. That's all. I just kicked it. Not even very hard. The whole thing collapsed."
Clark paused, wrapped up in the memory. Lois waited silently.
"I'd been getting stronger, faster for about a year then, but this was the first time I'd broken anything really big. I remember standing there stunned at the noise and the dust. I turned to look at my parents. For a split second, I saw the panic in their eyes, before they covered it up with 'normal parents angry at normal kid' response. But now I knew that that was a facade. I knew they were just as scared and unsure at what was happening to me as I was.
"They treated it normally, like I'd just broken a window or put my fist through the wall or something. Dad came over and told me it looked like rain, and I'd better get all the tools into the barn real fast before they got wet and rusted. And I obviously wouldn't be going to any movie the next day, because I'd be busy rebuilding the shed. It took us three days, working together, to rebuild that shed. I was scared to use a hammer, and I did misjudge a few times and shatter the boards. But by time the shed was built, I had a bit more confidence that I could control my strength.
"I knew then that I could never give in to an urge to lash out at anything. It's hard sometimes. Once I just had to let it out; I had to yell or scream or something. Where could I go? You can't yell in outer space or under water. I flew up to the Arctic. I stood there all alone, on top of an ice floe, and yelled at the top of my lungs. It started avalanches. I worried a bit about the wildlife. But it did feel good. Didn't accomplish anything, but it felt good."
Lois moved over to stand behind Clark, where he was sitting on the sofa. She was curious about what had caused the ice floe incident, but some sixth sense warned her not to go there. She put her arms around him and kissed the top of his head. "My poor Clark. All the emotions of a regular man, but none of the outlets."
Clark raised his hands and placed them on top of hers. "There are compensations," Clark said, leaning his head against the inside of her arm. "I'm happy with what I am; I'm proud of what I can do." He turned his head and gently kissed her arm, before looking up into her eyes. "And I'm proud of you. Even if you do make me bite my fingernails."
That afternoon Jimmy proudly showed Lois everything he had discovered about the Albion Cleaning Service. Each of the stores robbed used Albion as their custodial service. Jimmy was quite pleased with the fact that he had also thought to provide a list of the stores that Albion had contracts with that had not been robbed. They reviewed the list.
"And look," Jimmy was excited. "These two stores — McGregor's and Benjamin's — are really, really upscale stores. I mean, like, only the upper crust of the upper crust could afford to shop in either of them. They haven't been robbed yet. I think we should go and check them out…"
"Now? Jimmy, they're filled with shoppers right now. You're not going to learn anything."
Jimmy would not be discouraged. "Tonight then," he said. "We can hide out and watch the cleaning company at work."
Lois almost yawned at the thought of watching people dusting and sweeping the floors. She knew that the chances of finding anything out that way were slim. But Jimmy's enthusiasm was not to be denied. "OK," she began. Then she remembered. "Oh, no, not tonight. My parents are coming over for dinner. Tomorrow, OK?"
Jimmy's disappointment was obvious, but Lois got him to promise that he wouldn't go on his own. "In the meantime," Lois said, "we'll go over to Albion and interview the owner."
"About what?" Jimmy couldn't imagine an excuse.
"Oh, we'll think of something," Lois said breezily, grabbing her purse. "That's what taxi rides are for."
Exulted, Ron Chiswick waited in the outer offices of the Albion Cleaning Service. After months of unemployment, he finally had a job. It wasn't much of a job; he'd be working nights cleaning stores and office buildings, but it was a job. During the interview, he'd thought about lying when they asked him if he'd ever been in trouble with the police, but when he told them the truth, they seemed pleased and hired him on the spot. He was going to buy Sarah a new dress and take her out to dinner with his first paycheck.
He stood as his new boss, Jeremy Fisher, came in. Fisher gave Chiswick a T-shirt marked "Albion" and told him to wear it with jeans when he was at work. Chiswick then glanced quickly over a checklist of things to do — vacuum, dust, clean the restrooms. No problem.
"There's one more thing," the supervisor said. Chiswick looked up questioningly. "When you leave, I want you to forget to turn the alarms back on." Chiswick felt the exultation start to drain away and a tension began to replace it. "You won't have to steal anything. Just leave the alarms off."
Chiswick thought quickly. He was no fool. He might not be going to steal anything, but somebody else would be. Except for the police bothering him about Sarah, which didn't count, he hadn't been in any trouble for years. Did he want to get involved in this? And yet, it was a job. A man needed a job; he needed to support and care for his wife and family.
Slowly Chiswick looked at Fisher and nodded. "I understand, Mr. Fisher. I won't let you down."
"Good." Fisher looked at Chiswick appraisingly for a second. "If you do a good job here, Chiswick, we might find something else for you in the organization. You start tomorrow night, ten o'clock, at McGregor's Department Store."
Chiswick had barely left when a taxi pulled up, and Jimmy and Lois got out and entered the building. Forty-five minutes later, they were coming out again, frustrated and angry. All of Lois's skill and excuses hadn't managed to procure an interview, and when she'd tried snooping, they had been discovered and pointedly shown the door.
"What now?" Jimmy asked. "Do we go back in?"
Lois grimaced. "Not today. They'll be watching for us. We'll have to get really sneaky now." She glanced at her watch. "And I have a doctor's appointment in about forty minutes." She thought for a moment. "Jimmy, can you go back to the Planet and find out everything you can about Albion? Who owns them? What are their debts? Everything! Next time we go into that office — and we will — I want to make sure we have ammunition."
Jimmy watched Lois's cab drive off down the street. Anticipating another all-nighter, he headed off towards the nearest Starbucks to stock up on caffeine before going back to the office.
The doorbell rang at 438 Hyperion Avenue. In the kitchen, Clark was holding a tray of cheese and crackers in one hand and a plate of vegetables in the other, while balancing a bowl of ranch dressing in the crook of his elbow. Turning to face the swinging doors which led into the living room, he took a deep breath, pursed his lips, and blew gently. Slowly, as if pulled by invisible ropes, the doors swung open. Continuing to blow until he was safely through the doors, Clark placed the food on the coffee table. The doorbell rang a second time as Clark headed over to answer the front door. As soon as he opened the door, Ellen Lane flew in.
"Whew!" she exclaimed. "I thought we would never get here. Sam was late picking me up, and then there was some ghastly traffic tie- up crossing the bridge. Why on earth do you suppose they have to do construction at the dinner hour? I'm starving. Something smells delicious. What's Lois cooking?" Depositing her coat and purse on the chair in the foyer, she headed nonstop towards the kitchen.
Sam Lane entered at a more sedate pace. With an indulgent smile at Ellen, he handed Clark a bottle of wine. "Ellen and Lois shouldn't drink it, but I don't see why we should deny ourselves, eh?" he nudged Clark in a conspiratorial way. Clark could think of lots of reasons why wine shouldn't be on the dinner table, basic politeness being the most obvious, but before he could open his mouth, the doors to the kitchen flew open, and Ellen was back in the living room.
"Clark! Where's Lois? Isn't she here?"
"Not yet, Ellen. She had a doctor's appointment this afternoon. The doctor frequently gets way behind schedule. She'll be here shortly."
"Isn't that just like her? Invites her parents over to dinner and then she isn't here. So who cooked? Clark, she didn't leave you with the cooking, did she?"
Clark considered telling Ellen that he cooked dinner about ninety percent of the time but decided not to. "It's no big deal, Ellen. It's just a simple dinner, not a seven-course gourmet meal. Come and sit down. Can I get you something to drink?"
"Club soda, for me. Sam?"
Sam gestured at the wine bottle that Clark was still holding. "I'll have a glass of that, if you don't mind."
Ellen asked for a club soda, and Clark went into the kitchen to pour one glass of wine and two glasses of club soda. He came back out, served the drinks, and settled himself on the sofa, taking a sip of his club soda. Sam frowned at Clark's choice of beverage and made a big show of drinking his wine — twirling the glass, sniffing the bouquet, and finally tasting the wine.
"Marvelous!" he declared. "You don't know what you're missing."
Ellen set down her glass with a decided "clink" and got up to begin nervously pacing around the room. An awkward silence ensued, as Sam sipped at his wine and Clark watched Ellen inspect the living room. Clark tried desperately to think of some subject for conversation. When he saw Ellen run her finger over their bookshelves, looking for dust, he asked semi-humorously, "Can I get you a pair of white gloves?"
"Oh," Ellen was flustered. "No, I'm just surprised, that's all. Lois never kept her room neat as a child, yet her house is as neat as a pin."
Clark hid a smile. It wasn't Lois who kept the house spic and span, and it didn't take him more than a few seconds a day to dust. "Was it hard to get her to clean her room?" he asked, trying to keep the conversation going.
"Oh, wasn't it just!" Ellen answered, coming back over to the sofa to sit down. "I remember one time when she was about ten…"
"I'm starving," Sam interrupted. "If Lois isn't back in about fifteen minutes, let's start without her." Silence reigned again, and Clark found himself listening for Lois's arrival. There were times when Sam and Ellen were quite pleasant to be around and he was sure that Lois had exaggerated all of their problems during her childhood. At other times, like this one, he was sure the most horrific of her stories had barely scratched the surface.
The three of them had just sat down and begun their salads when Clark finally heard Lois coming up the stairs. The sharpness of her steps and her infuriated muttering as she searched in her purse for her key warned him that something had happened to put Lois Lane in a very bad mood indeed.
The door closed behind Lois with a resounding bang, as she stormed into the dining room. "Clark! There you are! I am not going back to that doctor again. I don't care what you say; I don't care what we do. I am not going back to him again. You can…" As she saw her parents she checked herself and caught her breath. "*Superman* can fly me to *Australia*, and we can find a doctor down there. I don't care, but I am not going back to that *medieval* doctor again. I'm just not."
"Lois, dear, what happened?" Ellen asked concerned, while at the same time Sam said, "Lois, don't rush into anything. The doctor undoubtedly knows best."
"Knows best! Knows best?" Lois focused on her father's words. "Do you know what he said?" She stared at Clark. He shook his head mutely, raising his eyebrows in silent inquiry. Long experience had taught him that Lois would listen best after she had gotten all of this out of her system.
"He started telling me what things would be like when the baby was born, you know — in the hospital? He told me when I should call him and when I should come to the hospital, things like that. Then he said that the whole time I'd be in the hospital, I'd be in bed, attached to the fetal monitors and with an IV."
"That sounds reasonable," Sam began, but Lois didn't even stop for a breath.
"So I told him that I'd been reading, and that a lot of the books said that it was more comfortable, and that labor progressed more quickly, if the woman was up and mobile. And *he* said…" Clark didn't think Lois had ever said "Lex" with more venom than she had managed to put into that "he" when she referred to the doctor.
"*He* said that he didn't want me reading books, that they would only confuse me. I'm a *journalist* for heaven's sake. Confuse me!" Clark winced slightly when he heard that. As he imagined the invective that Lois had undoubtedly poured out upon the doctor at that point, half of him was sympathetic for the doctor and the other half wished with all his heart that he had been there to see it.
"But Lois," Sam's voice of reason wafted over the table, "he didn't mean it that way. These popular books aren't based on sound medical fact; they are frequently contradictory, and as a doctor myself, I can tell you there is nothing more annoying than a patient who insists on telling me how to do my job. You just have to trust him; he has a good reputation, doesn't he?"
"Reputation? What's that worth? My doctor for the amnesia had one of the squeakiest clean reputations there was and look what happened then!"
"What, what happened?" Ellen was looking between her husband and her daughter, trying to follow the fast moving conversation. As usual, she felt that she was the outsider, missing the one crucial piece of information that the others had. And, as usual, the others ignored her.
"Now, Lois, that was an aberration." Sam was desperately trying to get the conversation back on track, sorry he'd brought up the whole question of trust. "Temporary insanity or something. Surely your OB hasn't fallen in love with you. And he's got a lot more experience in delivering babies than you have."
"Experience! I'll say. 'Now, Mrs. Kent,' he said." Lois looked towards Clark. "And how many times have I told him I'm not Mrs. Kent; I'm Ms. Lane?" Clark opened his mouth to answer, then shut it again when the question proved to be rhetorical and Lois continued mimicking the doctor without stopping. "'I've been delivering babies since before you were born. You won't want to be walking around.' Well, I may not know how I'm going to feel then, but he sure as hell doesn't either. I want a doctor who will at least listen to me!"
"Now Princess…" Sam began, when Ellen interrupted.
"Lois has a point, Sam. I've had lots of doctors in my day, and you need a doctor who respects you." Sam gave her a look of disbelief. "I'm serious," Ellen continued. "Lois needs to do what she is comfortable with."
"Ellen," Sam said in an aside. "Lois and I are talking."
"Well, I know that, Sam, but I want to say something," Ellen began doggedly. "I may not be a doctor, but I've had two babies."
Sam shook his head disparagingly. "Oh, come off it, Ellen. They had you drugged to the teeth with Lois, and you were *drunk* when Lucy was born. You don't know about childbirth; you can't even remember it. Now, this is a medical decision, and it has nothing to do with you. Why don't you just worry about what to serve your bridge club next week?"
Ellen opened her mouth to start to say something else, but Sam intervened. "Hush," he said in a vicious stage whisper, "Just be quiet. Nobody cares what you think."
Ellen stared at him for a moment in confusion, then dropped her head and stared at her plate, twisting her hands together. Silence ruled around the table. Lois looked quickly at her father and her mother, and then glanced quickly over at Clark. He was staring at his plate, pushing the food around with his fork. She looked at her mother again. Lois was reminded of the women she had seen at the shelter, who had also been unable to meet her eyes. Memories of other dinners, other disagreements, came back to her, and she glanced at her father with a dawning suspicion in her eyes. Suddenly Ellen pushed back her chair and stood up, her trembling apparent.
"I'll…I'll be right back," she said quietly, as she disappeared in the direction of the bathroom.
Sam watched her leave. "She'll be all right. Now, Lois, you have to consider…"
"Daddy," Lois protested. "I wanted to hear what Mother had to say."
Sam looked up, surprise apparent on his face. "That's a surprise," he laughed. "Let's be serious about this, Lois. Changing your doctor at this late date is not a decision to make lightly."
"I don't make any decision lightly. And in this case, I think Mother's right."
Sam blinked. He and Lois had had arguments before — countless times — and Lois probably disregarded his counsel and went her own heedless way more often than not, but there was one thing he had learned to count on. Lois *never* agreed with her mother. He looked at Lois again. She was regarding him steadily, but she wasn't looking at him with the adoring look of a child, or with the bewildered look she had bestowed upon him during her teens when he and her mother fought. Instead, she was looking at him with the appraising, probing look of the reporter. He'd seen that look once before, when his former partner had gone crazy and tried to use his cyborg patients to fix prizefights.
He had gained a grudging respect for his daughter during the cyborg affair, watching her skillfully unravel the threads of the mystery. He'd learned a lot about Lois in the years since then, as he tried to ingratiate himself back into her life. And now he saw clearly that her mind was made up and that she was rather displeased with him. Sam had no objections to losing this argument, but he had no intentions of losing his daughter again — not while she was bearing his grandchild — his grandson. As quickly as the wind can change direction, Sam changed his stand.
"I just wanted to say that you are pretty far along, Kitten. It might be hard for you to find a new doctor. Let me know if I can help."
Lois looked at him pensively for a moment longer. Her eyes went to her mother's empty chair and then to her husband. Poor Clark! Scenes like this always made him uncomfortable, and this time, she had to admit, she was feeling more than a bit uncomfortable too.
"I'm starved," she said, in a desperate attempt to change the subject. "Are those potatoes still hot?"
Clark started slightly, surprised at a question addressed to him that needed an answer. Adjusting his glasses slightly, he looked around the table, staring blankly at the potatoes for a moment, as if he didn't remember what he was supposed to do with them. He pushed his glasses back up on his nose. "I think they are warm enough," he said, as he passed Lois the bowl.
"I'm sure they are," Lois smiled covertly at Clark, as she began heaping potatoes on her plate.
Dinner conversation stayed banal after that. Ellen rejoined them in a few minutes, but didn't join in the discussions. They talked about the weather, about Jimmy and how he was coping with his new job, about the new thing-a-ma-jig Sam had been working on, and about the cost of maternity clothes. Clark had to leave briefly — he remembered he'd promised Miss Moffet down the street he'd feed her cat — but he was back within fifteen minutes.
After the Lanes left, Clark zipped around the house cleaning up, while Lois went upstairs to take a shower. When she came out, Clark was sitting in the chair in the bedroom, reading a book. Lois walked over and sat on the edge of the bed, looking at him. Eventually, he looked up.
"Clark," she began quietly, "what did you think about tonight?"
"Whatever doctor we use is your decision, honey. I'll support you in whatever you decide to do."
"Darn right! No, I mean about my parents."
Clark was quiet for a second. "Things were pretty tense from the moment they arrived," he said. "Something must have been going on earlier that we don't know about."
"They've been doing so well lately. I cannot believe the way he talked to her tonight! He just cut her down, no tenderness, no love, no *respect* at all."
"Lois, your father has never treated Ellen with much respect. He can be indulgent and tolerant, but he always acts like he thinks she's rather silly."
"I know," Lois admitted, "and so do I, don't I? But tonight — he was actually cruel."
"It was a bit below the belt, even for Sam," Clark agreed.
"Clark? Maybe I've just got abuse on my mind, but at the shelter today, they were talking about emotional abuse — where one partner attacks the other with words instead of physical force. Daddy's words — and Mother's reactions…this was almost like a kind of abuse." Clark looked at Lois intensely, thinking about what she was saying.
"This may have been going on for years, Clark," Lois continued. "Maybe the reason I think my mother is silly is because I've heard my father say so all these years. And Mother's an alcoholic — she always seems to want to drink more when Daddy's around. And look at me! I'm just like Bea Warne described the children this morning — I'm a perfectionist, driven to be the best in my profession, and I keep people at arm's length. Clark, what do you think?"
"I think it's something to consider. But I'm not sure we have enough facts to base anything on right now. One little fight at dinner…"
"I can remember hundreds of fights — big and little. All those times she complained he was cruel, and I thought she was just whining." Lois was quiet for a second, remembering. Then another thought struck her. "Clark! What if I turn out to be like my father, nasty and vindictive towards our child?"
Clark rose and walked over to her. Was this where her insecurities about parenthood had started? He couldn't count the number of times he'd reassured her. "You won't."
"You can't be sure. Look at the way I treat Jimmy! He practically runs from me now and will barely look me in the eye. I've been nasty to him, snapping at every turn."
"It is not! I'm pushing him, and belittling his work…"
"No, you're not. You're pushing him, true, but it's because we both know he can do it. He knows it too. He's not afraid of you, he doesn't hate you, he respects you, and he knows he has to earn your respect. And when he does — and he will — you'll tell him so. You play hard, Lois, but you always play fair."
"I'm sure. And you'll be fair and loving with our child too." His hand went to her cheek, and she leaned into the caress. "Just wait and see." She moved towards him, and he gathered her into a reassuring hug. After a moment, he lifted her up and carried her over to the bed.
"Aren't you coming to bed?" Lois asked, when Clark made no move to get into bed himself. He shook his head.
"I thought I'd go out and see what's going on. I've been so tied up in the office that Superman's hardly put in an appearance. You'll be all right?"
"Oh, sure. I'm so tired, I'll probably be asleep before you're airborne."
Clark tucked Lois in and kissed her goodnight. He spun into the suit, kissed her again, and was gone. But contrary to her expectations, Lois stayed awake thinking far into the night.
At the Daily Planet the next day, Lois hung up the phone for the twelfth time. She got up and went looking for Clark, finding him in Perry's office.
"I've called at least a dozen doctors. None of them are willing to accept me as a patient. If I hear another nurse say, 'I'm sorry, Doctor doesn't accept transfers after the fifth month' I'm going to scream. Do you know what I think? The real reason they won't accept me? They think that any woman who dumps her doctor after five months isn't going to be the mild and biddable patient they want."
Clark smiled at the image of an amenable Lois. "Well, Lois, mild and biddable aren't exactly the words that jump to mind when one wants to describe you," he teased.
"Very funny, Clark." Lois wasn't amused.
"Your father warned us last night it might be difficult," Clark reminded her. "But I'm sure that somewhere in Metropolis is a doctor who is just waiting to accept Lois Lane as a patient."
"Yeah. I guess I'll just have to keep looking. Oh, I almost forgot. Jimmy and I are going to hang out at McGregor's Department Store tonight."
"Uh-huh. They signed a contract with Albion Cleaners about two weeks ago, and they haven't been robbed yet. We thought we'd go over about seven, hang around till they closed, maybe even let ourselves get locked in, and see what happens."
"Sounds like a real long shot to me," Clark commented.
"Tell me about it. But Jimmy's so excited. Seems to think 'Lane and Kent' always get stories by breaking into places."
"You'll be teaching Jimmy bad habits," Clark grinned. "Want me to come and be bored with you?"
"That's why I'm telling you. I always appreciate your company on a stakeout, Mr. Kent."
"Unfortunately, with Jimmy there, our normal 'while away the hours' activities will be curtailed."
"I'm sure we can manage to find a way to ditch him," Lois smiled.
But as luck would have it, it was Clark who got ditched that evening. To everyone's surprise, the FBI arrested one of the city councilmen late that afternoon. Clark was knee-deep in late breaking news, rewrites, and redesigning the front page when Lois stuck her head in Perry's office.
"Jimmy and I are off," she announced. "We'll be fine. I'm taking Jimmy on a field trip."
"Be careful," Clark said. "I'll be keeping my ear tuned, listening for trouble."
Nothing was quieter than a deserted department store after everyone had left. Jimmy and Lois had entered McGregor's about half an hour before closing and had found hiding places. Now the store had been closed for fifteen minutes, and their echoing footsteps and the buzzing overhead fluorescent lights were the only sounds in the cavernous building. Jimmy had wanted to inspect the way the jewelry and furs were locked up, so he and Lois had gone to inspect the cases.
The sudden sound when the cleaning company arrived made them jump and scurry back to their hiding places. From there, they could hear the sounds of the vacuum cleaners and listen to the gossip of the employees, learning more about their families than either Lois or Jimmy really wanted to. Lois tensed suddenly when she recognized Ron Chiswick as one of the cleaning crew. If anyone else discovered them, it wouldn't be too difficult to come up with some sort of explanation, babbling something about being locked in, but Chiswick wouldn't be fooled. And after the scene on the street the other day, he would probably make things as uncomfortable for her as possible.
Her fears were for naught, however, as after about three hours of frenzied activity, the cleaning crew left. Jimmy and Lois both stretched as they emerged from their hiding places, and Jimmy went over to check the jewelry cases again. Lois, stifling a yawn, went to check the main alarm system. Her eyes widened at what she saw.
Lois's stage whisper of "Jimmy" brought him rushing to her side. "The alarm system isn't turned on."
"Not at all?"
"No. They must have neglected to turn it back on when they left."
The sudden sound of a door opening caught them both by surprise. Too far from their secure hiding places, they scurried behind a nearby rack of women's dresses.
The three individuals who entered the store this time were obviously not part of the cleaning crew returning to retrieve a forgotten vacuum cleaner. They were dressed all in black, down to the gloves on their hands and the black ski masks over their faces. Carrying large black satchels, they headed straight for the jewelry section. Somehow, they unlocked each case and began systematically filling their bags.
Jimmy took a small camera from his pocket and began slowly inching forward, planning to document what was going on. Lois, on the other hand, had begun to crawl towards the offices, intent on finding a phone and calling the police.
Both of them would forever swear it was the other who bumped into the mannequin, causing it to totter and fall over. It didn't matter who it was, however, as both were discovered in short order by the gentlemen in black, who continued to fit the stereotype by holding large black guns.
Jimmy and Lois watched helplessly as two of the thieves continued to fill the satchels, while the third held the reporters at gunpoint in a corner of the store. When the satchels were filled, the leader turned and looked at Lois and Jimmy.
"I should have known there would be trouble when you two showed up at the office," he said, and Lois recognized the voice as one of the people who had shown her and Jimmy out of the Albion offices the day before. "Now, what am I going to do with you? The night watchman will be making his rounds in about thirty minutes, and I'd just as soon not have the police after us that fast."
Jimmy and Lois were herded down the stairs to the sub-basement of the store. Mindful of the child within her, Lois was loath to take any action that might cause one of the thieves to fire his gun. Even yelling for help might have spooked one of the men, who didn't look all that sure about what to do in the first place. She and Jimmy were shoved through a small door and locked in.
"Where are we?" asked Jimmy, feeling around in the dark. "Cables, gears…" he reported on what he found.
"Sounds like the bottom of the elevator shaft," said Lois, reaching into her pocket for her lock picks. A sudden grinding sound made them both look up in horror as the elevator started to descend. As the dark shape grew larger and larger, Lois took a deep breath and yelled, "Help! Superman!"
Clark was putting the final touches on the morning edition when he heard the cry he had half-expected to hear all night. In a flash, he was moving down the corridor, loosening his tie. The sole reporter who was still in the office looked up as Clark sped past, shaking his head in wonder. For a man who never took a day off sick, Kent sure seemed to have a number of urgent calls of nature.
A blue blur was all that could be seen as Superman flew towards McGregor's Department Store. Scanning the store from the sky with his x-ray vision, he quickly located Jimmy and Lois at the bottom of the elevator shaft. In a second, McGregor's large, famous plate- glass window was history. Superman flew through the store, pried open the elevator doors and grabbed the cables, holding the elevator suspended a few feet above the two reporters. Seconds later, he had secured the car and then moved quickly to the basement to free Jimmy and Lois.
"Superman!" Lois didn't give him a second to ask what happened. "Three men, dressed in black. They've got a lot of jewels, and they were here not two minutes ago."
Superman nodded and zipped back outside, hovering just above the store. He easily spotted the three men getting into a car on a side street. As the car started off, Superman dropped to the ground and lifted the entire vehicle. He carried the car around to the front of the store, where Lois and Jimmy were just emerging, stepping carefully around the broken glass.
"These the three men you mentioned?" he asked, setting the car down.
"They certainly are." Lois was unable to keep a triumphant note out of her voice and a self-satisfied grin off her face. Jimmy just nodded.
"Jimmy," Superman said, "Why don't you find a phone and call the police to come and pick these 'gentlemen' up? I think they'll wait in the car until then."
"Uh, right. Phone, police. Got it." Jimmy was off on a run.
Lois walked over closer to Superman. "Thanks for keeping an ear out for me," she said softly.
"I always keep an ear on you, Lois; you know that. And a good thing too."
"Hey, it's not my fault they decided to pick tonight to rob the store! Besides I taught Jimmy two important things tonight."
"Oh, really? What?"
"How to phone the police and how to yell 'Help, Superman!' when the elevator's about to turn you into anchovy paste." Half exasperated, half amused, Superman found himself smiling in spite of himself. Lois's ability to bounce back from impending death had always impressed him. He had never quite been able to rid himself of a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach after a close call. Lois, however, was usually cracking jokes immediately afterwards.
Shortly afterwards, the police arrived and took the thieves away. The manager of McGregor's had also arrived, and had seemed to cope with the destruction of his plate-glass window fairly well. He and the night watchman had gone inside, and Jimmy, Lois, and Superman were standing alone on the sidewalk.
"Why don't I take you home, Lois?" Superman asked. "It's almost three in the morning."
"I'm going back to the Planet," Lois looked at Superman as though he had lost his mind. "I've got a story to write."
"Lois," Superman led her away, out of earshot but not out of Jimmy's curious gaze. "It's late; you're exhausted. You're not going to make the early edition anyway — I am *not* redoing the layout again. Let Jimmy go back and write up the story. You can edit it to death in the morning."
Lois scowled, but headed back to Jimmy. She told him in minute detail what to write and how to write it, before seeing him into a cab. She turned back and her eyes widened. Superman was standing where she had left him, disconsolately biting his fingernails. She smiled tenderly as she walked over to him. Looking up at him, she whispered, "Let's go home."
It was after ten before Lois awakened the next morning. She scowled at the alarm clock, sure she'd set it before she tumbled into bed at three-thirty. Clark was already gone, and she'd muttered a few choice phrases about him, assuming he'd switched off the alarm so she'd sleep longer. It wasn't until she saw the note in the kitchen that she realized he'd only turned it off after it had been blaring for ten full minutes. "You must have needed the sleep, honey," he'd written, "or else you couldn't have slept through the noise."
As she stood in the kitchen reading the note, she felt the child inside her flutter. She put a hand on her stomach and pressed gently in response. "This is your fault," she said. "I never had trouble getting by on three hours of sleep before you showed up." The baby moved again, more vigorously this time, and Lois envisioned the child rolling over. She smiled tenderly. "Good morning to you, too," she said, and pressed gently on her stomach again. As she felt the child move in response to the pressure, she wondered what the child thought of her touch and of the sound of her voice.
It was another hour before she got to her desk at the Daily Planet. Jimmy's draft on the events of last night was waiting for her on her computer, although there was no sign of Jimmy. A note informed her that he'd gone home around six and would be back in the early afternoon. She got herself a cup of decaf and began reviewing his story.
As usual when she was engrossed in her work, the hustle and bustle of the busy newsroom faded from her consciousness. Gradually, however, she became aware that someone was watching her. She looked up and was surprised to find her mother standing by her desk.
"Mother! How long have you been standing there?" Lois stood quickly and began moving the piles of papers and books that covered the chair next to her desk. "Sit down."
"I just stopped by to see if you'd be free for lunch. But it looks like you're busy, so — we can make it some other time."
Lois glanced at the clock. "Oh, I'm sorry. I got in real late this morning, and I'm trying to finish this up before Jimmy comes in. We had a bit of an adventure last night. I'm not really hungry, just finished breakfast, in fact. We could go get coffee downstairs, if you'd like?"
"No, no. It's obvious you aren't ready to stop. I just wanted to talk about the other night. If you were really serious about changing doctors…"
"Quite serious. I called at least a dozen yesterday. Daddy was right; no one wants to take me on."
"One of my friend's daughters had a baby recently." Ellen put a card on Lois's desk. Lois glanced at it: Women's OB/GYN of Metropolis. "She recommends them," Ellen went on. "Two female OB's and two midwives. Maybe you could give them a call."
"Sounds good. I'll give it a try." Lois put the card in her Rolodex.
"I've had so many doctors over the years, Lois; you know my health isn't good. It's important to find a doctor that treats you with respect, one that acknowledges that you are an intelligent woman, not one that soothes you with 'just trust me, deary, and everything will be all right.'"
Lois laughed bitterly, and shook her head. "That Neanderthal doctor actually said that once or twice. I can't believe I put up with him as long as I did."
"From the stories you've told me over the months, neither can I. One of the things I've always admired about you, Lois, is the way you've demanded respect from everyone you've met. You're so like your father, determined to be at the top of your profession, whatever the cost. I'm very proud of you, Lois. The way you've excelled in journalism — all the awards, and the dedication you show. You'll never get caught like I did — putting all my faith and effort into the handsome young doctor I caught for a husband, and ending up with nothing. You have so much that I'll never have."
"Have you ever thought of a career, Mother?"
Ellen shook her head. "No. I didn't much like being a nurse. I did think of getting a degree in interior design, once, but that didn't work out."
"I would never have finished up all the requirements. Your father was right; it would have been a real waste of money. He knew all I ever wanted to be was a wife and a mother. I'm almost embarrassed to admit to you that the only reason I studied nursing was to find and marry a doctor. But I failed as a wife, and I failed as a mother…"
"Oh, Mother, you didn't fail…"
"I was divorced, Lois. A wife can't be more of a failure than that. And, let's call a spade a spade. I'm neither your friend nor your confidant — I'm just your mother. You put up with me out of sense of duty, and not much more. I'm just grateful your father's giving me a second chance at being a wife."
Memories of her father's infidelities flashed through Lois's head. "He's giving you a second chance? I would have thought it was the other way around."
Ellen blushed. "No, no Lois." She looked away, biting her lip, then looked back, straight at Lois. "What you saw — your father — What he did…" Ellen took a deep breath and started again. "It was all my fault, Lois. Everything that happened was my fault. You know nothing. I — I really was a failure as a wife." Ellen looked away again. "I'd rather not talk about this, Lois. I'll just say hello to Clark, and then let you get back to work. Where is he, anyway?" Lois pointed towards Perry's office. "Oh, I see him. I'll be right back."
Lois watched her mother walk towards Perry's office. "Your fault!" she whispered unbelievingly. She began rooting around her desk, looking for the papers she'd brought back from the women's shelter the day before. Finding them, she opened her mother's purse and slid a copy of the schedule for the support group inside.
It hadn't been a good day for Ron Chiswick. He'd gotten home from work just before dawn and had barely managed to fall asleep before the police were banging on his door. They'd taken him downtown for questioning about the events at the store. They'd let him go early in the afternoon, but not before he'd figured out that his bosses at Albion Cleaning Service were in a lot of trouble and he was out of a job again. He wondered if being employed for almost two days would help when he applied for unemployment benefits — again. Breathing in short, controlled bursts and clenching his fists in frustration, he stormed out of the police station and headed for the nearest bar.
At the end of the day, Lois and Clark were walking home from work. It wasn't quite dark yet, another sign that spring was coming and that the darkest days of winter were behind them. As they walked, they talked of everyday things: work, how glad Clark was that Perry would be back tomorrow, plans for their next day off. Suddenly Clark stopped for a second, then continued walking. Lois, who had her hand resting on his arm, noticed that his whole body tensed.
"What is it?" she asked. "What do you hear?"
"Nothing. Nothing at all." Clark continued walking, although the tight set of his lips betrayed the lie.
"It's them, isn't it?" Lois had just realized they were in front of the Chiswick's house. "They're fighting again, aren't they?"
"Lois, there is nothing we can do," Clark sounded tired. "Let's just go home. It'll be easier to ignore there."
"Clark, we can't just ignore it! We have to do something!"
"What? Lois, Sarah Chiswick made it very clear that she didn't want me interfering with her life last time I tried to help. I can't go barging into her apartment just because I want to. She has some rights, and I have to respect them."
"Even if one of the rights is the right to be beaten up by her lout of a husband?"
"Even then. Lois, Superman is not a vigilante. I have no more right than Chiswick does to use my strength inappropriately."
A muffled crash came from the building. "Even I could hear that," Lois exclaimed, "and I'm not going to stand out here and do nothing." Lois went up the steps to the building two at a time and barged in, Clark following more slowly at her heels. The noise was much louder in the building, and Lois was able to locate the Chiswick's apartment with no difficulty. A thin man stood at the landing, staring at the door.
"They're at it again," the man said. "I wonder if I should call the police. I've done it before, and they manage to break up the fight. But it doesn't solve anything."
Lois stared at Clark and the man. From the apartment they could hear Chiswick yelling and ranting at his wife, but there were no feminine sounds at all. Suddenly there was an extra loud crash, followed by a sharp scream. It was all Lois could take.
"Sarah! Sarah! Open this door!" Lois was banging on the door and yelling. "Sarah! Are you all right! Sarah!"
After a moment, the door opened an inch or two, caught on its chain. Sarah's face, blood pouring from her nose, looked out at them. "Call the police!" she gasped, before she was pulled back and the door slammed shut again. That was all Clark needed. One shove from him and the door burst open. Clark was inside.
Lois looked at the neighbor who was still standing on the landing. "Didn't you hear her? Call the police! And tell them to send an ambulance." As the man disappeared into his own apartment, Lois followed Clark through the door.
To someone who didn't know his secret, the sight of the slender Clark easily holding back the larger, hefty Chiswick would have looked incongruous. Lois just glanced at them before heading over to where Sarah Chiswick huddled on the ground, holding her arm close to her body. Lois dropped to her knees beside Sarah, ignoring Sarah's instinctive flinch away. "The police are coming," she said quietly. "It's going to be all right."
The police and the ambulance soon arrived. Based on Lois and Clark's statements, the police took Chiswick into custody, although how long they could hold him would depend on whether or not Sarah would make a complaint. Lois walked over towards the stretcher as they were loading it into the ambulance.
"Ms. Lane," Sarah was speaking slowly and carefully, as though it hurt to move her jaw, "thank you for everything."
"What are you going to do now, Sarah?" Lois asked. She looked down at Sarah's bruised and bloody face. The paramedics had splinted her arm, and they suspected she had some broken ribs.
Sarah shook her head slowly, tears running down her cheeks. "I don't know. I don't want to go back to him, but — I don't want to send him to jail either. Maybe that shelter you mentioned…"
Lois smiled in sympathy. "I'll have someone from the shelter get in touch with you at the hospital." She walked back to Clark and took his hand as they watched the ambulance drive away.
Later that night, Lois leaned her head on Clark's shoulder as he reached for the remote to turn off the television. "It seems like a month since this morning," she said. "I can't believe it was only last night that those thugs almost killed Jimmy and me, and you rescued us."
"Then you turned around and rescued Sarah this evening," Clark said.
"Oh, and I found a new OB," Lois announced. "You and I have an appointment with her next Monday morning."
Clark raised his eyebrows. "And does she call you Mrs. Kent?" he asked, remembering how that had been one of the sticking points between Lois and her ex-doctor.
"No, she calls me Lois. And she suggested I call her Judith. She's nice, Clark. It's not just the name thing; she treated me with respect. She acted like she knew I had a brain, and that she expected me to use it. I liked that."
Clark rose to his feet, and in one smooth motion, he picked Lois up. "Well, I suspect that this new doctor would agree that my pregnant wife, who in one day has been a helpless damsel in distress" — Lois made a face at him — "and also been a gallant knight, *rescuing* a damsel herself, should get enough sleep."
"Sleep! Clark, it's only nine o'clock!"
"Is it? I hadn't noticed. I guess we'll just have to find something else to do to occupy us till 'Lights-out.'" Lois relaxed in Clark's arms, more than willing, as Clark carried her up the stairs.
Copyright, 1998, Genevieve K. Clemens. All rights reserved.
The problem of family violence is not a simple one; it is far too complicated for even a Superman to solve. It is too complicated, in fact, for me to adequately address it in this story. I remember the frustrations I felt, hearing a woman tell the police "No, no — everything's fine", when ten minutes before had been shouting "You're killing me!" The next time they started fighting, I sat upstairs in my apartment, listening to the screams and crashes, and wondering what to do. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to see what Superman and Lois would do in the same sort of situation. Lois, especially, I felt, would not handle helplessness well. It is only recently that family violence has been seen as a problem in our society; the name Chiswick comes from the first shelter for battered women and children, which opened in Chiswick, England in 1971. In less that 30 years, we've moved closer and closer to a zero-tolerance ideal for family violence, but, in reality, of course, it is still a major problem. For more information on Family Violence, check out The Family Violence Prevention Fund at <http://www.fvpf.org/fund/>.
I wasn't the first person to envision Lois and Clark in this kind of situation, and I need to acknowledge Louise Simonson and Dan Jurgens, who wrote the splendid comic book story "The Crisis at Hand." I would highly recommend this story (Superman: The Man of Steel #16 (Oct. 92) and Superman #72 (Oct 92) to anyone looking for back issues of Superman stories in their local comic book store. I must admit that the first scene of this story comes directly from this story.
I also need to thank my editors and proofreaders: Patty Macy, Kat Picson, Janeen Grohsmeyer, and Pat Heidkamp, who not only found countless grammar and punctuation errors, but offered comments, suggestions, and some really good ideas.