By Gerry Anklewicz <email@example.com>
Submitted October 1999
Summary: As Lois and Clark investigate what might be happening to some street kids, certain events seem awfully familiar…
Clark tapped on Lois's window. He realized that it was early in the morning, but he wanted to pitch the new idea to Lois before she went into work. It was the first time that he was presenting a possible story as Superman rather than Clark, but it was Superman's patrolling of the Richmond Street area that clued him into the need for the investigation.
He heard Lois approaching the window and watched her open it. He wasn't quite sure why he was presenting the story to Lois as Superman. Maybe it was because he liked the way she was responding to him now. She accepted him as a friend without being moony-eyed about him. It was a refreshing change.
"Good morning, Lois."
"Good morning, Superman. Is anything wrong?"
"No. Not really. I wanted to talk to you about a story idea."
"A story idea?"
"Okay. Come on in. Would you like some coffee?"
"Thanks, Lois. That would be nice."
Lois poured coffee into a mug and brought it to the table where Superman sat. She felt slightly uncomfortable having him in her home doing such a mundane thing as sitting at the table and having coffee. She watched him put three heaping teaspoons of sugar in the coffee and look disappointedly at the carton of non-fat milk sitting on the table.
"Sorry, I don't have any cream. I usually have some if I know that Clark is coming over. I don't touch the stuff myself."
Superman caught his error and said, "That's OK. I don't usually take cream or milk."
"I didn't even know that you drank coffee, or anything for that matter."
"Would you like some toast or a pop tart?"
"No thanks. I'm not hungry. Let me get to the point. Last night I was out patrolling around the Richmond Street area. You know, where the street kids hang out. I try to do a fly-by at least once a night. I'm worried about the kids there. There was one girl that caught my attention. I've see her before. She's about 15 or 16. Petite, pale, mousy brown hair, really thin. She once was pretty."
"That's a sad commentary."
"Yes, it is." He paused. "Well, anyway, last night, as I was patrolling, I saw her talking to some men. That didn't surprise me because I know she solicits on the streets. But these guys didn't look or act like your average johns. There was something about them that made me want to check them out further, so I used my x-ray vision. They were carrying concealed guns. I heard them telling her that she could finally get out of the area and live it up. The money was extremely good. All she had to do, they said, was make some small deliveries. She looked like she was interested in their proposition. "
"Why didn't you stop her or talk to her?"
"I couldn't. I'm Superman."
"Impressions count, Lois. If I'm seen talking to a teen-age prostitute… street kid, people may get the wrong impression. 'What is Superman really after?' they would ask themselves. Even though I don't let what people say or think bother me, the ramifications are bigger. Kids and adults have certain expectations of Superman that I have chosen to live up to."
"I guess that's the downside of being an icon."
"It's not always a downside, but in this case it is."
"So you want me to investigate this problem and help your street kid out."
"Exactly. I don't like the look of those men and I trust my instincts that something very unscrupulous is going on. There's also a large turn around of kids down there, and I don't want this girl to get lost between the cracks."
"Do you know her name?"
"I've heard her tell johns that her name is Lizzie."
As Superman sipped his coffee, Lois thought about the story, not sure that there was anything new that her investigation could add to the information that the public had about street kids. The only new angle was that Superman took an interest in a particular child. This seemed more like the kind of story that Clark would be good at handling. She wondered why Superman hadn't gone to Clark in the first place. But, did Clark brew a mean pot of coffee in the morning? Lois was beginning to enjoy this exchange with Superman. There was a familiar and comfortable camaraderie that she hadn't felt before with Superman. He wasn't whisking off as he usually did.
"I'm not clear about why you want me to write a story about this?" Lois asked.
"I really think that something is going on. I don't trust those men who were talking to Lizzie."
"Have you mentioned this to Inspector Henderson?"
"I thought about it, but I don't think he can do anything unless a crime has been committed. I don't have evidence for that. I also can't hover around all the time. I'm needed in other places. I really believe that the kind of work that you and Clark do, could be really helpful."
Superman watched Lois observe him. He realized that the star-struck, infatuated look that he had come to expect from Lois was gone. She was all business. Clark liked the idea that Lois was getting over her fascination with Superman.
"All I can do for now is pitch the story to Perry and see if he'll let me run with it. Can I tell him that you told me the story? That'll stress the importance of it to him."
"Sure, go ahead." Superman got up and walked toward the window. "Thanks, Lois." And with a swoosh, he was gone.
"I guess you don't want another cup of coffee." Lois sarcastically stated the obvious to the open window.
Lois had to leave pitching the story to Perry until later in the morning. It was his birthday and the city staff were throwing him a small party. As she stumbled down the ramp into the pit, Jimmy walked over and handed her a wrapped box.
"Checked suspenders," she said to Jimmy. "Didn't I get him that last year?" Lois felt as if she was experiencing deja vu. Everything that happened in the newsroom until Perry walked in seemed to be an instant replay. She'd even seen Clark's red, white and blue tie before. She had a strange feeling that she was supposed to know something, but she wasn't sure what it was. It had to do with Clark, but it just stayed at the tip of her tongue. She felt so off centre that she forgot to get a card for Perry or put a note on the gift she gave him.
Lois decided that she was foggy because of her visit that morning from Superman which, at this moment, seemed so long ago. He had never come to visit her the way he had that morning. He came in, sat down, drank coffee, and told her his story idea. Well, it was more than a story idea because there seemed to be something illegal going on beyond the prostitution. Maybe that was the angle that she could start on. Was organized, or at least adult crime, taking advantage of street kids to boost up adult coffers? From that point of view, she could leave Superman out of it, for now. Perry, rightfully, would assume that because the story came from Superman that Lois was still chasing after her dream. Unbeknownst to him, Lois had realized that she understood her obsession with Superman. She could have a crush on him and be safe. She didn't have to deal with real emotions or real people because she knew, mainly from Superman's behaviour over the last year or so, that he wasn't interested in her romantically. It was like having a gay guy for a friend. There were mixed messages every so often, but those messages came at fleeting moments. Superman carefully controlled his relationship with her and, after all, he was the Man of Steel.
Her next problem was whether she should talk about the story to Clark. Did she want to do this alone, or did she want to be partnered? She realized that if this was a simple human interest story, then Clark would be the better person to follow it up while she went after the meat of the story: the link between organized crime and street kids. And that was a change for her too. She recognized her strengths and Clark's strengths. Sharing the story, being partnered with Clark, was acceptable and even preferable. When did she change?
"Clark, can we talk?"
Clark had a strange expression. He also seemed confused and looked at Lois in a curious way.
"What's the matter?" she asked.
"I don't know. I knew Jimmy picked up those checked suspenders for you. It's like this is all deja vu. That's a weird feeling."
"Duh! Tell me about it." Lois and Clark looked at each other.
"Duh? You say 'duh?' Since when have you started using teenage colloquialisms?"
"Never. But I do want to talk about teenagers."
Clark sat on the corner of Lois's desk, as she told him the story. "Superman came to me this morning and sort of pitched a story concept. I think it has some merit and I'd like to pitch it to Perry. I even have the ultimate angle."
"Superman pitched a story concept to you?"
"Yes. Why are you so surprised? He knew I was the best person for this story. He could've come to you, but he didn't."
"He came to you?"
"Let it go, Clark. It's a good story idea and I am sharing it with you."
As Lois explained the idea to Clark, he reluctantly agreed that it was a good story idea and he liked her take on it.
"Lois, let's pitch it to Perry and then go take a walk on Richmond Street"
Lois and Clark walked into Perry's office where he and Jimmy were packing up the dozen ties that he received for his birthday.
"If you guys keep this up, I'll have more ties than Clark," stated Perry.
"Can never happen, Chief," quipped Jimmy. "CK's got the market cornered."
"I seem to misplace a lot of my ties," Clark rationalized.
"Clark, you have a tie fetish."
"Chief, Lois has a story idea that she got from Superman."
The partners pitched their idea to Perry who liked the concept and agreed that both Lois and Clark should work on the story from two different perspectives. That left the partners to plan out their tactics.
"I think that walking around the Richmond Street area to get a feel of it and to find that girl that Superman saw is a good idea," suggested Lois.
"Works for me."
When they left, Perry turned to Jimmy, "Now that's what team work is all about. They go together like Elvis and the Colonel."
Lois drove downtown a few blocks away from Richmond Street and parked her jeep. Men and women in business suits rushed through the streets from one office tower to the next. As they proceeded to the next block, the scene changed to street side boutiques and small bistros. Well-dressed people sat in sidewalk cafes sipping iced coffee and eating designer salads. As they walked further down the street, they began to see scruffy-looking young people dressed in black. The stores gradually changed to thrift shops specializing in second-hand clothes, music and books. The crudely painted shops were sprayed over with primitive graffiti. The entrances were dark and dingy. The basic colour was black, both for the stores and for the young people who congregated in the doorways. Several of the young people were stopping passers-by asking for money.
"Lois, do you think Superman's girl is one of these here?"
"He described her as 'petite, pale, mousy brown hair, really thin, once pretty.' There're at least a dozen girls that could fit that description. How are we supposed to find out which one is named Lizzie? If that's her name."
"None of them look like her," Clark fumbled and recaptured the ball. "At least none of them look like the girl you described. Let's talk to one of them. Perhaps feed her and find out what she knows."
They found one girl sitting on a door stoop, her hand holding an empty can of Coke with its top off. She shook the coins in it as Lois and Clark walked by.
"Any change t'spare? Just wanna buy myself some lunch," she intoned.
"Are you going to use the money for lunch?" asked Lois.
"Yah wanna budget or somethin'?" she bounced back with a bite.
"No," said Clark calmly. "Actually, we'd like to take you out for lunch, let you buy whatever you want to eat."
"What else do you want from me? You guys into a threesome or something?" she asked lasciviously.
Startled and embarrassed, Lois and Clark looked at each other and simultaneously said, "No! Us? No! Definitely no!"
Clark quickly composed himself and calmly smiled at the girl. "No. We're reporters with the Daily Planet working on a story. Lois Lane," he said pointing at Lois, and "Clark Kent" pointing at himself. "We'd just like to take you out for lunch and ask you some questions about life on the streets from your point of view."
"Questions?" the girl stared at the two reporters. Lois imagined that the girl whose eyes were darting between the two of them was debating whether to go or not.
"Lunch. Anywhere you want to go. Some talk. That's all," said Clark.
"None of your middle class morality lectures," she demanded.
"No. Just lunch and questions," promised Clark.
"Oh," she paused, "OK. We'll go over to the donut shop at the corner. Just some soup and a sandwich."
"Fine. Whatever you want."
Clark looked at Lois and grinned, "A girl who's read Pygmalion."
"Or watched My Fair Lady," countered Lois.
Lois and Clark led the girl over to the donut shop where she ordered a bowl of thick vegetable soup and a tuna sandwich filled with vegetables. Clark ordered a ham and cheese sandwich filled with the same vegetables, wrapped to go.
"Are you hungry now?" Lois whispered.
"No. We'll leave this with her at the end so she'll either have something to eat later or she can share with one of her other friends on the street."
"He's so nice," Lois thought. "I don't think that anyone I know would have thought about what she'd need after the interview. Lois looked at the way Clark politely treated the girl. Everything he did had grace and class. He really was a special person. She liked working with him and being with him. She felt complete in a way that she had never felt before.
After lunch, Lois and Clark watched Jade, the girl who was with them, take the bag with the second sandwich and head out to the storefront where they had found her. She told them some interesting things. First, they had a better description of Lizzie and where they could generally find her in the early evening. They also heard about the rumours that there were street kids who went missing. Because they were nomadic by nature, disappearing runaways didn't seem like an oxymoron. Nonetheless, Jade said that she and her friends were concerned that they were missing. The missing kids had come into a lot of money before they vanished although most of them were getting food and drug money from hooking.
As Lois and Clark talked over the information and tried to make some sense of it, Clark turned his head and stared out the donut shop window.
"Uh, Lois. I've got to go," he said as he nervously pulled at his tie. "I told my friend, uh, Mark, that I'd meet him at uh," he looked at his watch, "11:30 which means now. I'll meet you back at the office in about half an hour or so."
Before Lois could say anything else, Clark rushed out of the donut shop.
Lois decided to snoop around the area in hopes of finding Lizzie before she went back to the office. But first, she accessed her voice mail. There were several messages, so she rummaged through her purse for a pen and her note pad which seemed to have gotten lost in her bag. She really wanted to get out, so she pulled out the blue envelope in the front compartment. Something was scrawled on it. "CLARK IS SUPERMAN." She looked again. What? "CLARK IS SUPERMAN." What does that mean? It was her printing, but she didn't remember when she had written that or even when she got the envelope. She looked in the envelope and found the birthday card, probably for Perry, and her signature. When did she do this? Where did the card come from? Clark is Superman? She felt like she was hit on the head by a hammer. Clark is Superman?
Is it possible? Whatever made her write that down? She rummaged through her purse for her radio and listened to the all news station. They were reporting an overturned tractor-trailer containing chemical waste that had careened and spread out over the four lanes on the main highway at the north end of the city. Superman was there helping to get people out of the area and to clean up. Superman was there; Clark wasn't here. Wait. That wasn't enough to prove anything. They didn't look alike although they had the same hair colouring and complexion. If Clark took off his glasses and slicked back his hair, they might look like brothers. But they looked different and Superman was broader and taller than Clark, wasn't he? She had never seen them standing side by side or even in the same room together. Clark did have a great body. That was evident even under those suits that he wore. And she had seen him without his shirt on. Well defined to say the least.
Lois packed her cell phone, the envelope, her pen and the radio into her purse and left the donut shop. She had to walk.
"Think about this rationally and logically. What evidence do I have to prove that Clark is Superman? They arrived in Metropolis at almost the same time. Clark is really the only person who can get hold of Superman in an emergency. Clark always runs off to get the police which gives him the opportunity to change into Superman. Clark always runs off somewhere with some stupid excuse and returns when everything is over. When Clark is out of town, Superman isn't around. Why did Trask go back to Smallville to find Superman? He thought Clark had information about Superman. Clark had done some pretty senseless things that now could be explained. During the heat wave, Superman was asked to leave the city, and Clark got a job offer from the Smallville Gazette. Superman comes back; Clark comes back. There were so many other examples like that."
And then for some reason Lois pictured Clark's hands. They were large manly hands with long fingers made for playing a musical instrument. His nails were cut square across. They didn't have any blemishes or marks and just a fine covering of hair at the wrist that was generally covered by the crisp shirt cuffs of his shirt. She closed her eyes and changed the shirt cuff for the spandex blue of the Superman suit. "Omigod," she thought, "They were the same hands. Is my mind playing tricks or do they have the same hands?" She always watched hands and thought about how people's hands were such a powerful extension of their personalities. "They are the same," she confirmed outloud.
"Clark is Superman. How stupid am I? How incredibly stupid am I to miss something so obvious? How galactically stupid am I?" Lois shuddered. Deja vu again.
"Next problem? Where did that envelope come from and what prompted me to write the message on it? Blank. Someone could have slipped it into my purse, but I'm sure that it is my printing. Who? Where? When? How? Blank. It's as if I wrote a message to myself." Lois pictured herself in a poorly lit barn or shed looking at Clark and a funny looking man and quickly scribbling the message so she wouldn't forget. "How could I even conceive of forgetting that Clark is Superman? No real answer. Weird. Skip that for now.
"Next question. What am I going to do about it? Simple. I'm an investigative reporter for a large metropolitan newspaper. I'm working on rumours based on a piece of paper. That's not enough to go on for now. I need corroborative evidence. I'll observe and track down as much proof that I can get that Clark is Superman. Then, when it can't be denied, I'll confront him with it. There, that's a plan."
Lois stopped walking and looked around. She was surprised to find herself across the street from the Daily Planet building. She had been so wrapped in thought that she hadn't even noticed the twenty blocks she had walked. She couldn't even remember crossing streets or waiting for stop lights. That was a bit scary, but obviously she made it all right. She glanced at her watch. More than a half an hour had passed.
"Where've you been?" Clark asked Lois as she came down the ramp into the pit.
"Uh! I walked here. I was so wrapped in thought that I even left my car down there. But with all thinking," Lois caught herself, "I don't feel any further ahead. What are you working on?"
"Superman just helped clean up a chemical spill on the highway, so I'm writing it up."
Lois realized that she would have accepted that explanation in the past. Her assumption was that it was phoned in and she needn't bother asking about it. But now she was in investigative reporter mode. "How did you manage to get that assignment?"
"Well, I , uh, bumped into Superman on the way back from seeing Mark, and he told me about it."
"You do tend to bump into him fortuitously, don't you?"
"I guess I do. I also put a call into missing persons and spoke to an Officer," Clark glanced down at his notes, "Laurent about the kids that Jade said are gone from the area. According to her, they don't have a record of these kids. No one keeps a record of who hangs out in the Richmond Street area and who doesn't. Parents will register their kids as missing, but the police don't always find out who goes home, never mind who goes missing."
Good deflection, thought Lois. "Okay, so what do we do now?"
"I suggest another stake out tonight in the area. We can also look for Lizzie…"
"…and ask around about the missing kids. I'll write up my notes now and you can keep working on your Superman piece."
Lois frequently glanced over at Clark as he wrote his article without referring to his notes. She'd have to look at the completed article. There was a section in the Daily Planet where people could read up on the Superman stories that didn't make page one. It would be interesting to find out the percentage of articles that Clark wrote. Most of hers appeared on page one because she seemed to be in the middle of breaking news. She'd have to collect the information she wanted without Jimmy's help because she didn't want Clark to suspect that she was up to anything. She'd wait for him to leave the office.
"I've been thinking about this Lizzie girl. Let's say that she is dealing with the criminal element. What would it be?"
"Intergang, drugs, prostitution?"
"Jade said that the kids who disappeared had a lot of money before they disappeared."
"Kids could get paid for running errands, dealing drugs especially to other kids, smuggling…"
"Kiddie porn or snuff films."
"I hope you're reaching there Lois."
"The question is how do we find out?
"It seems that all roads lead us to Lizzie. We can conjecture all we want, but at this point, we have nothing."
"Let's go out to Richmond Street tonight and check it out again. Maybe we'll see those men."
"We can grab dinner at that donut shop where we were this afternoon. A lot of the kids seem to hang around there."
"Great idea," said Lois. "I'll meet you there in two hours. It's been a long day. I have to go home and change. I feel like I've been wearing this suit for a week."
"Yah. I know what you mean."
Before the appointed dinner hour, Clark, alone, took another walk through the Richmond Street area. He went to the general area where he found Lizzie the first time. There were several young people hanging around the entrance to the alleyway.
Clark spotted Lizzie, walked over to the young girl and started speaking to her.
"I charge $50 bucks, mister. Yah want it or not?"
Clark stepped back. "No. No. That's not what I meant," he said softly. "I have a different offer for you."
"Yah?" asked Lizzie. "Your friends made a similar offer the other night. I've decided to accept it. I wanna get outta this place as fast as I can."
"I'll let my boss know," Clark fished for the right words. "He just wanted me to find you again. Do you know what you're supposed to do?"
"I'm a street kid, not a moron. I'm supposed to take the package and deliver it."
"When did the men say that they're coming back?"
"You're supposed to know that. What? Are you a cop or something?"
"No. Nothing like that. I just want to help you."
Lizzie stared at Clark and realized that she may have given away too much to the wrong person.
"Get lost or I'll scream rape."
Clark was surprised by Lizzie's hostility. He was used to people warming up to him quickly and confiding in him. Lizzie was one of the first people to be afraid of him. It surprised him.
"Please, I don't want to hurt you. I want to help," he said as he reached over to touch her arm. Lizzie started to scream.
Clark, startled at first, decided that he had an unexpected opportunity. He ran off into the adjoining alleyway, spun, flew over the building and landed beside Lizzie.
"What's the problem, miss? asked Superman.
"There was a man here before. He tried to hit on me. He ran away when I started to scream," answered Lizzie.
"Do you want me to go after him?" Superman asked hoping that she would say no.
"No. It doesn't matter. He wasn't really all bad. I just wanted to get rid of him," she stared at Superman with reverence. "You're real, aren't you?"
Superman smiled. "Yes, I'm real."
"I've seen you flying by sometimes, but I didn't think that you were like a real person that someone could talk to," she stared up at him. "You were flying around here last night weren't you?"
"Yes I was. I usually patrol around these streets because I'm worried about the kids that live here. It's not a safe place."
"You're sounding like a social worker."
"Who were those men that you were talking to last night?"
"Johns. Just a couple of johns," she looked around as she answered.
"I don't think so."
"Yah that's all. Go away please." Superman realized that she was on the defensive, just as she was earlier with Clark.
"I'm going to go, but I want you to contact a woman named Lois Lane at the Daily Planet. She may come here looking for you. Talk to her. Don't be surprised if she comes looking for you. She can always get in touch with me. Or, when you need me, just yell for help."
He flew up a few feet and turned around to look down at her. "Be careful of those men." He continued to fly up over the top of the building and hovered for a while. He didn't want to leave her alone, but he also had to meet Lois at the donut shop.
"I'd like you to help me get outta here," he heard Lizzie whisper as he flew off.
"How come you're late, Clark? You're never late."
"I had an adventure." Clark proceeded to tell Lois what happened and added the information that he learned as Superman by saying that Superman came to him after he spoke to Lizzie. "The girl is spooked by those men."
"Yah. Why does Superman always find you to tell all this information to?"
Clark thought quickly. "He brought you the story, didn't he?"
"Once. How many times have you gotten the interview?"
"Are we keeping score?"
"Not really," thought Lois. She knew the score already. Ninety percent of the inside page stories of Superman were credited to Clark Kent. Lois didn't want to feel like a snivelling child. She realized that she wasn't getting anywhere with this conversation. "Let it go, Lois," she thought and felt a gnawing deja vu moment.
"I have a suggestion. Let's shadow her and see if those guys show up again tonight."
"If they do we can turn around and follow them."
Lois and Clark followed Lizzie. At around three in the morning, she went to another alley where she made herself a bed in a doorway with some other kids. Lois and Clark realized that she was going to sleep and she would be relatively safe for the night. Clark let Lois drop him off at his place, but as soon as she drove off, he spun into the suit and flew over the Richmond Street area. All was calm and quiet. He found Lizzie asleep in her doorway surrounded by her buddies. She was okay for the night. He went and circled around Metropolis. It was a quiet night.
Lois reached home.
"Clark is Superman. It's starting to make more and more sense. He's so good at the lies. They can role off his tongue fairly easily even though I saw some discomfort as he spoke. For him, it's just a matter of equivocation. I wonder if it's a game." Lois thought about that. "Superman stands for 'truth and justice', and yet, he lies. How does he live with that? Can you lie if it's for a greater cause or a lesser harm? Well, when I finally confront him with my knowledge, then we'll have this great philosophical discussion.
"Why do I need to confront him? Why hasn't he told me? He's supposed to be my best friend. If he can't trust me, who can he trust? Can I trust him? What would I do if I had as monumental a secret? At what point would I tell him? Probably at some point before it would ruin our relationship. But if there was a possibility of there being no relationship, what happens if I know that he's Superman. Moot question. I know that he's Superman. But he doesn't know that, does he? He's the one who has to tell, not me. How far can he trust me? How far can I trust myself? Clark is my best friend. I can't do or say anything that could jeopardize his life. If people knew that he was Superman, Clark Kent couldn't exist anymore." Lois thought about that and didn't like the idea that Clark wouldn't exist.
Lois heard a conversation in her head. Clark said, "And it was partly for your protection."
"Don't patronize me," she heard herself challenge him.
"I'm not patronizing you. If you knew and somebody found out that you knew, you'd be a target."
And there was that deja vu feeling again. She'd heard this conversation before. Lois was getting a bit scared. As she kept thinking about Clark and Superman, the deja vu feeling kept repeating itself. Glimpses of incidents. The Kent farm. Smallville. Lyndon Johnson. A pasture. A baby surrounded by green stones…kryptonite? Martha and Jonathan Kent, twenty-five years younger. Were these Clark's memories or thoughts? Lois wondered if the Kryptonian psyche allowed other people to get realistic glimpses of their lives or experiences. That would explain a lot, but not the blue envelope.
Lois looked at the kitchen clock. It was four in the morning. She needed her sleep.
Lois headed straight for the coffee pot when she entered the office the next morning. Just as she was pouring herself a cup, Perry came out of his office and yelled, "Lane. Kent. Drop the street kid article for now. Something just came in last night and I want you two to work on it. Use Jimmy here to take pictures. The police are out at the Durham landfill site where they found at least four decomposed bodies. Check it out!"
"We're gone, Chief," said Lois as she grabbed Clark's arm and pulled him out of the city room while signalling Jimmy to hurry up and get his camera.
Once at the landfill sight, Jimmy walked around taking pictures. His complexion paled as he zoomed in on the bodies. Whenever he could move his hand away from the camera, he brought it up to his nose to block out the smell. Lois knew that it didn't do any good. The smell was pervasive.
Lois went over to Inspector Henderson. "What've you got?" she asked as she watched him collect possible evidence.
"Four dead bodies. Possible homicide."
"Possible homicides. Come on Henderson. It's got to be homicide. Why else would you find them here?"
Henderson ignored the sarcasm. "According to the coroner, they're quite young. Bones look young or something. He's not sure of the cause of death. Too much decomposition."
Lois looked over to Clark who, it seemed, had finished speaking to the coroner and his assistant and was looking around. Out of the corner of her eye, Lois saw Clark lower his glasses to the middle of his nose and look around. "He hasn't got a stigmatism. He's x-raying or whatever he does," she thought. Clark took a pair of gloves from the coroner and moved over to another section of the landfill. He began digging, but he didn't get far when he called Henderson over.
"Take a look at this, Inspector."
Together Henderson and Clark dug out another body. Both men stepped back and looked nauseous.
"X-ray vision or something, Kent?" asked Henderson.
"Uh. Just good glasses."
Jimmy hovered around Clark and Henderson snapping pictures of the body among the garbage in the landfill.
"This is really gross," he muttered to himself.
The reporters stuck around, off to the side, while the police and the coroner kept on working.
"The coroner thinks they're teens…" Lois began.
"…and Jade mentioned that street kids are missing," finished Clark.
"Too much of a coincidence. Have we ever worked on two separate stories at one time when one wasn't…"
"…linked to another?" Clark paused, "I'll check out the missing kids with Jade…"
"…and I'll follow the coroner back into town."
Lois and Clark drove Jimmy back to the Planet building. She walked over to coroner's office while Clark walked over to Richmond Street. He found Jade sitting in front of the store.
"Hi, Mr. Kent," Jade said when she saw Clark approaching. She called over two of her friends and introduced them as Johnny and Stinger. She told Clark that they'd help him out with his article in exchange for some burgers. At the Burger Palace, Clark started asking about their missing friends.
"I got here about six months ago. There were a coupla guys who hung around the Gazebo. Jake and Bobbo. Good guys. Knew the ropes and helped me out a bit. One day, they had money. Brand new twenties like they struck it rich at an ATM. Bought us dinner, smokes and some dope. Next day they were gone."
"Where'd they go?" asked Clark.
"Don' know. I guess they cleared outta here in a hurry. Once ya got some cash, ya don' need to stick around."
"Ever hear from them again?"
"Not me," said Jake.
"Me neither," added Bobbo.
"Ya know," said Jade, "Before CB disappeared, she had money too. She gave me a coupla twenties to get some clothes. Then she left."
"Do you know their full names?" asked Clark.
Jake and Bobbo shook their heads. Jade thought for a moment. "CB really hated her name. She thought her parents were really cruel when they named her. Her real name was Claire A. Bell. Can you imagine?"
"Ouch," winced Clark.
"No wonder she left home," said Jake, "That's nasty."
"So, these people had some money, usually twenties, and then they disappeared. Do kids who hang out on the street just disappear like that?"
"I don' think so," said Bobbo. "Most o' the time they tell someone that they're goin' or we see them hangin' around Covenant House where the social workers are. When they're at Covenant House they start goin' back to school or get some kinda job. Once they're there, they usually stay off the streets. "
"But these kids that disappeared didn't follow the Covenant House pattern, did they?"
"No. But sometimes," added Jake "They let a friend know that they're goin' home or movin' onto another place."
"So what you're saying is that too many of your friends just disappeared."
"Other than CB, what other friends disappeared without a clue?"
"Chuck did," offered Bobbo.
"Remember Salmon. He disappeared too. Quiet guy," added Jake.
"Do you know their full names?"
"Not really" said Jade.
"We use street names so no one can trace us," Bobbo explained.
"Maybe that's not such a good idea," Jake muttered.
Clark glanced at Jake and nodded. "Thanks a lot guys. I think you've helped me a lot. Do me a favour. I think that something dangerous is going on around here. The guys with the money may be killing kids after they use them. Tell your friends to watch out. You know, don't take candy from strangers."
"Like don't accept lunch from reporters?" asked Jade.
"I hope you can trust me and Lois, Jade, but maybe you should be more careful," Clark paid for the lunches, thanked the kids again and headed toward the Planet building.
At the Daily Planet, Clark told Lois about what he found out and that he believed that there was a connection between the two stories. Lois didn't have too much to offer since the police and the coroner didn't have any new information. Clark sent Jimmy to research information about Claire A. Bell.
"I can understand why the girl ran away. If my parents named me Clarabell, I'd be out of the house in a flash," Jimmy laughed.
"Jimmmee…" threatened Lois. Jimmy moved off toward his computer where he started searching in the missing kids file.
"Clark, I think we're really onto something here. Those twenty dollar bills that the kids told you about. What do you make of them?"
"Well, there hasn't been a rash of ATM robberies that we know of, and we'd know I think. The only other thing that I can think of is counterfeiting. Those kids deliver packages of counterfeit money and are a good way of spreading the money around. Think about it. CB gave Jade a couple of twenties. She goes and spends them. The money gets around and no one can trace it."
"I'm scared for Lizzie. She's next in line. We need her to get the money, but I don't want her doing it without being watched."
"Maybe it's time to let Inspector Henderson and the police in on our suspicions."
"This is our story, Clark."
"Lois, the scoop is ours. But the police have to be in on it. It's their job, not ours. We investigate. They protect the city."
"Superman can help us."
"You're getting starry-eyed, Lois. Superman can't be everywhere at once. This is a job for the police."
"Lois, Clark," Jimmy interrupted. I found her. Her name is Clara Beldisarrio. She's from a small town named Heckersville about 75 miles north of Metropolis. She's been missing for a year and a half."
"Now, Lois. Let's take what we know over to Henderson and let them get to work."
After they spoke to Henderson, Lois drove Clark home. She was getting used to thinking of his dual roles: reporter, partner and friend, and superhero. It made sense to her. She could see for the first time, little personal quirks of Superman in Clark and of Clark in Superman. It was interesting to watch how he separated his two selves. "Superman is what I can do; Clark is who I am," she heard his voice in her head.
"How could I have been so stupid?" she asked herself. "No, not so stupid, so blind to what seemed so obvious now. Deja vu. What is this deja vu thing I keep on seeing? experiencing?"
"Clark?" she interrupted her private thoughts, "I've been having a strange couple of days. I've never experienced so much deja vu."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I'd hear or say a phrase or something and then I'd feel like I've heard it before."
"That happens to everyone."
"But this has been going on for two days. I was really glad when you changed your tie. It set the deja vu going at least a dozen times. I saw images in my head that didn't make sense."
"Well, like a copy of the Smallville Press with a picture of Lyndon Johnson. I saw your mother in a saloon, and your father with longish hair. I saw myself holding the most adorable baby… I don't know how to hold a baby, but I was doing it right…and…and H.G. Wells."
"H.G.Wells. What were you reading?"
"No Clark. A short man with a moustache who said he was H.G. Wells."
"Tell me about it. I'm living this." She wanted to tell Clark about the note, but she wasn't ready to do that.
"Some of those images make sense. I've had these images pop into my head that I thought I had dreamt about. I can picture you holding a baby in a blue blanket and taking him from you. I can picture you hitting this weird looking guy and giving him one mean karate chop. And I can picture a little man with a bowler hat, but I can't make any sense of it."
"Strange. Let's explore this further when we're not so involved in a story."
"Are you hungry or anything?"
"No. I'm tired. I'm going home. Good night, Clark."
"Good night, Lois. I'll see you in the morning."
She really wanted him to move over and kiss her good night, but …
Clark watched Lois drive away. He wasn't ready to admit to her that he shared a lot of her deja vu. He wondered about that too. He remembered Lois handing him the baby and saying that the baby looked just like him. He believed and hoped that it was their baby. He also saw her picking a little bit of shmutz off his S. He remembered Lois kissing him and how good it felt. He didn't understand what these images were. His young parents, Shuster's Field, and this mysterious little man, H.G. Wells. "Do you think it's been easy for me watching you swoon over Superman while at the same time ignoring me?" he heard himself ask Lois. But now he felt that Lois was no longer swooning and he didn't feel ignored. In fact, there were times when he felt that Lois looked at him in a tender way, maybe even in a provocative way.
It was pleasant thinking about Lois in this way, but Clark didn't have time to dwell on these thoughts. He needed to go and check out Lizzie and see if the men were around. He looked around the dark and quiet street, found a corner where he would not be seen, spun, and turned himself into Superman. He flew up into the air over the rooftops of Metropolis toward the Richmond Street area. He flew around until he found Lizzie. Knowing about the bodies in the landfill made him feel the urgency of the situation.
He hovered over the Richmond Street area until he spotted Lizzie. He quickly changed and landed so that he could approach her. But before he could get to her, he saw that one of the men from the other night approached her and began speaking to her.
"Come with me, sweetheart and I'll show you where the packages are. You can pick them up there."
"Can't you bring them to me here?" asked Lizzie. Clark hoped that this meant that her street sense had kicked in.
"No. You come with me. We'll take you to the warehouse and fill you in there."
Lizzie looked around nervously, but let herself be led to the car that was waiting for her. Clark looked into the car and saw that the other man sat in the driver's seat and behind him, tied up and gagged, was Jade. Clark stopped himself from swooping down and freeing the girls. He knew that he had to see where they were taking the girls. He kicked himself for involving Jade in this whole mess. He wondered if the men knew about his involvement and Lois's. Clark was so intent on listening to what was going on in the car that he didn't hear the man approach him from behind. He felt the barrel of a gun in his back. Clark decided that he would let himself be taken captive with the girls. That way he could keep an eye on them without giving himself away.
Clark, Jade and Lizzie were sitting tied up and gagged in the back seat of the car. They were driven to what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse on a dark corner of Hobbs' Bay. As they were being forced out of the car, Clark x-rayed the warehouse. There he saw a printing press, reams of paper, Bill Church, Jr. , and who else, but Lois Lane.
"Why aren't I surprised?" he mumbled to himself.
The threesome were led into the warehouse.
"I think we've got them all, Mr. Church," said one lackey.
"They didn't give us no trouble," said the other.
"Well, Miss Lane, Mr. Kent. Do you see with what I have to deal? Bad grammar from bumbling idiots. Well, I'm going to make this simple. All four of you die and become landfill fodder. And if I put you in these barrels marked toxic waste, no one's going to open them up to check what's there."
"That's great, Church" challenged Lois. "So, what exactly are we going to be dying for here?"
Clark couldn't believe Lois's brashness. He couldn't even perceive a difference in her heartbeat. She wasn't afraid or worried. She's confident that Superman will show up.
"Miss Lane, it's very simple. This is a counterfeiting set up. We make beautiful copies of twenty dollar bills of which there is an overabundance thanks to ATM machines. We use these young children as our couriers. When we don't need them, we get rid of them. Landfill fodder. By talking to that snippet, you jeopardized the operation. Very simple. Put them in the barrel," he ordered.
While Clark looked for the best way of getting out of the situation, he heard cars approaching and the voices of police officers whispering about tactical positions. He may not have to do anything as Superman. That would be a first. As he was thinking, the men pushed him and Lois into an oversized rusted barrel which was lying on its side. It was long enough to give him head room. Lois and he were facing each other, tied up with their hands behind their backs. He hoped that the police would arrive before he needed to do anything.
Meanwhile, the men were fastening the lid on. Lois's calm puzzled him. Just as Clark heard the police breaking into the warehouse, the men rolled the barrel and pushed it. The barrel rolled along the floor until both Lois and Clark felt it fall into water. The sea. Clark looked at Lois. She still looked calm. She hadn't said anything. She hadn't babbled. She hadn't screamed. Clark felt some water leak into the barrel.
As Clark felt the barrel sink into the bay, Lois said in the calmest voice he'd ever heard her use, "Clark, now would be a good time for Superman to do his thing."
"I'm sure he will, Lois."
"No Clark. I think Superman should do whatever he does now. Right now."
"Yah. But he's not here." Clark was trying to figure out the best way to save Lois without revealing that he was Superman. Perhaps, he could wait until…
The barrel was filling up with more water.
"Clark!" Lois said calmly but emphatically, "You…Superman… Now…Do it!"
She knew. Lois knew that he was Superman. He had no idea how she knew or how she found out, but he decided the most expedient thing to do would be to use his powers. Clark flexed his muscles and broke the ropes that tied him up. He lifted his arms and pushed the lid off the barrel. At almost the same moment, he told Lois to take a deep breath. He grasped Lois around the waist and flew up through the cold and salty water. In mid-air, slower than usual, but fast nonetheless, Clark held onto to Lois and changed into his Superman suit. He floated into the warehouse with her and placed her gently on the floor. He looked around. Inspector Henderson and his officers had Church and his flunkies tied up. Lizzie and Jade were giving their statements to the police.
"You did it again, Lois," said Henderson.
"So I did."
Lois hesitated for only a fraction of a second, "Superman went back to get him. He'll be here soon." Just as she finished speaking, Clark came back into the warehouse dripping wet.
"By the way, Lois" added Henderson, "Clara Beldissario's fingerprints and dental x-rays match up. You were right. Change into some dry clothes and come back to the station so we can get your statements. Lois, don't go back to the Planet until you've spoken to us."
"And after we've spoken to the police, Lois, we have to talk," Clark whispered.
Superman tapped on Lois's window. Lois had been waiting for him but hadn't been sure whether he would come through the door or the window. Once Superman stepped into her living room, he backed into an open area and spun around. When he stopped he was putting on his glasses and wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Lois stared. "Wow!" was all that she managed to say.
Clark took her hand and led her over to the couch. "I think we have to talk, Lois."
Lois was staring into space and her mouth was still open.
"Lois? Earth to Lois."
"Yes. Right. We need to talk. But that last move left me speechless. It's one thing knowing that you're Superman; it's another thing seeing the change. Wow!"
"How did you figure it out?"
Lois took the envelope from her purse. "I'm going to throw this out, but I wanted you to see it first. I found this in my purse two days ago. I don't know where it came from, but I know that it's my printing. Once I saw this, I put two and two together and it made sense."
"And you don't know where this came from?"
"No. But I found it around the same time that I started experiencing really strange visions. I've been calling it deja vu."
"We've shared some of those visions. I can't figure it out either. Something happened to both of us that neither of us can remember."
"But, I must've learned at that time that you were Superman."
"And knowing that you were going to forget it…"
"…I wrote it down. H.G. Wells told us that he would bring us back to a time before. Oh my goodness! I'm beginning to remember."
"H.G. Wells took us back to Smallville because this man…"
"…was going to kill Superman as a baby. And you saved Superman."
"Clark, we travelled in time. We went back in time."
"That's not possible."
"Neither is a man who can fly."
"You got me there."
Clark and Lois sat on the couch in silence trying to digest the information that they just untangled.
"Are you angry?" Clark asked, a bit afraid of the answer.
"No. I think I understand. Maybe, I just spent all my anger in the past. I remember that I called you the lowest form of life imaginable. I keep hearing you say, 'I want to lead a normal life' and it all makes sense. But then I think that you lied to me, and Superman stands for truth. How can Superman say he stands for one thing and then turn around and lie. On top of that, I thought we had an honest relationship. But then you had to lie. I'm mad. I'm hurt. I don't know. Clark, this is very confusing."
"I didn't want to lie, Lois. I've never told anyone what I can do. My parents know because they watched me as my powers developed and I learned to live with them. Admitting that I'm really different, as in a strange visitor from another planet, is hard. How do people act when they're around someone who is different? I also wanted you to know Clark and not the superguy. I hoped to create a phantom character who didn't have that much depth. But, you were interested in Superman so he developed. I never thought that I was lying in this case, but if I was, then I lied to save a life, Clark's life. First and foremost, I am Clark. That's the person I want the world to know. That's the person I want you to know."
"Clark, I'm getting to know you better and better everyday. I think that knowing that you became Superman to help out the world adds another dimension to you. I also understand how dangerous it would be for the world to know that you are Superman. It's dangerous for you and dangerous for me. It's a secret that I'll keep. I promise, Clark, that I will keep your secret."
"Lois, I never worried that you would reveal that I was Superman. I was more worried that your knowing would be harmful to you."
"Maybe my knowing that you're Superman may make things a bit easier for you."
"You don't have to make excuses. I can cover for you. I can be Superman's partner as well as Clark's partner. I felt like I was Superman's partner for this story."
"Sounds, good. Are we just partners?"
"Right now, we're partners and best friends. I have to get used to the idea that there are three of us in this relationship. Now, I'm going to make some coffee. I've started keeping cream in my fridge for both of you."
Lois got up and walked into the kitchen. Clark watched her, smiled, and followed her.
Lois turned around and faced Clark. "Clark, I remember H.G. Wells saying, 'Utopia was founded by Superman's descendants' and Tempus said that he recognized me from holograms from the future that Superman and I created."
Lois and Clark looked at each other understanding what those statements implied.
Clark walked over to Lois, took the coffee pot out of her hand and placed it on the counter. He wrapped his arms around her. Lois looked up and kissed Clark.
"This looks like the beginning of an interesting friendship," Clark said.