By Dawn <email@example.com>
Submitted: September 2001
Summary: In this LnC/JAG crossover, suspicious deaths at a veterans' hospital are investigated by two undercover reporters from the Daily Planet and also by officers from Jag Headquarters. Which team will uncover the truth first?
I've wanted to write a JAG crossover for quite some time, but the right idea for a B-plot for the JAG characters hadn't presented itself until the May 8th episode "Lifeline". The idea just seemed to click then.
This is set after Mac and Mic's engagement party. If LNC:TNAOS had continued, Lois and Clark would now be married for about five years. Those of you not familiar with JAG, Patrick Labyorteaux, who plays Lt. Bud Roberts, also played the computer guru Bob Fences in Contact. If you'd like to see what the rest of the cast looks like, go to the official JAG web site (http://www.cbs.com/primetime/jag/) or this one, (http://www.paramount.com/television/jag/) which has better pictures of the entire cast, or this one (http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Network/7035/) which has some good individual pics.
Thanks to my editors, AnneD and Carolyn, the folcs on Zoom's board for comments on this story, and folcs who have sent me comments on my other stories.
Usual disclaimers for both series. Please do not redistribute without my permission. Constructive comments welcome.
Falls Church, Virginia
"Sir?" The voice penetrated the silence of the room from the doorway of Cmdr. Rabb's office.
"Yes, Tiner." Harm looked up from the case file he was concentrating on at the sound of the Petty Officer's voice.
"The Admiral needs to see you and Col. MacKenzie in his office ASAP."
"Thanks, Tiner." Rabb rose to obey his commanding officer's orders, current case forgotten. Leaving his office, he went in search of Mac, dodging through the activity of the large main room. After poking his head in Mac's office and finding it empty, he stopped at one of the many desks in Ops. "Gunny, have you seen Col. MacKenzie?"
"Not for some time, sir," Gunnery Sgt. Galindez replied, glancing up from his computer research.
"Rabb!" The bellow from the Admiral's office interrupted the query.
"Sir." Rabb turned to address the Judge Advocate General of the United States Navy. "I was just looking for the Colonel."
"Oh. Okay. As soon as you find her, I need both of you in my office."
"Yes, sir!" he replied to the retreating back.
"Sir," Gunny spoke again to get Rabb's attention. Lowering his voice, he continued, "you might want to try the ladies room. The colonel looked a little upset when she came in this morning."
Harm's expression turned to one of concern. "Thanks, Gunny."
As he made his way through the office to the restrooms, he hoped Mac wasn't upset over what had happened last night at her engagement party. He'd never meant to hurt her; he just wanted her to be really sure before she took that final step and married Brumby. Maybe he shouldn't have told her he was in love with her. For some reason he couldn't fully explain, he'd wanted her to know, needed her to know how he felt about her. It was crazy, really. She had Brumby, he had Renee, they'd worked together for over five years, and he'd never said anything before to her about how he felt. So why now?
Sarah stared at her reflection in the mirror, the signs of a sleepless night clear around her eyes despite her attempts with makeup. Why had Rabb chosen now to tell her how he felt?! She did love him, too, but she also cared for Mic. Mic was a good man, and he'd been good for her. He'd patiently pursued her when she had wanted nothing to do with men, and he'd won her over.
Harm's timing always had been lousy. Like the time he'd told her he was returning to flight status just when she was losing Chloe. She'd had no control over that situation, but he had come back. And now? What could she do?
A knock on the door interrupted her musing.
"Mac? Admiral Chegwidden needs to see us." He hesitated a moment before continuing. "Mac, are you okay?"
"Yeah," she called back. "I'll be right there." Returning to her reflection, she took a deep breath. "Buck up, Marine. Time to get back to work."
She exited the restroom and fell into step with Harm as they walked to the Admiral's office. She kept her eyes focused straight ahead, but she could feel him sneaking glances at her. As they reached the Admiral's door, a bark to enter came at Harm's knock. He opened the door and she preceded him in, both standing at attention once he'd closed the door behind them.
"Reporting as ordered, sir," Sarah spoke as the senior officer.
"At ease, and take a seat." The Admiral motioned to the two chairs in front of his desk before taking his own.
"I need you two to follow up on some mysterious deaths at the Metropolis Veterans Administration Hospital. At the least we are looking at a charge of neglectful manslaughter." He handed each a case file. "But there may be more. And I can't tell you how little the military needs another scandal right now." He gave them a moment to take a cursory glance at the file. "Keep me posted on your progress. And take Roberts with you. Any questions?"
"No, sir," they responded in unison and rose to stand at attention.
"Aye, aye, sir," MacKenzie acknowledged, then preceded Rabb out of the office.
Once outside the Admiral's office, Mac turned to Harm. "Can you tell Bud? There's something I need to take care of."
"Sure, Mac. Hey, are you sure you're okay?" He made as if to touch her arm, then hesitated, pulling back.
Sarah couldn't help but notice the gesture. She didn't want him to be uncomfortable with her now. "I'm fine. Let's get to work." With that she left him to find Bud.
After closing the door to her office, she reached for her phone as she sat down, punching in familiar numbers. Her fiancˇ answered on the first ring.
"Sarah!" The way the Australian said her name sent a thrill through her, but she couldn't let that distract her now.
"Mic, I'm sorry to have to do this, but I have to go out of town on an investigation. I'm going to have to cancel dinner tonight."
She couldn't help but hear the jealousy in his voice, and feel guilty that he had reason to be. "And Lt. Roberts. I don't know how long it will take, but I'll call you."
"I'll miss you, Sarah."
"I'll miss you, too, Mic."
"Sarah, I love you."
"Me, too, Mic." With those words, she hung up. She hadn't been able to bring herself to say the words back to him this time.
"Lois, Clark, my office!" Perry rumbled as he made a beeline through the bullpen.
Lois and Clark exchanged glances. They'd been working at her desk, gathering information on their current story, bouncing ideas back and forth as to the best way to proceed. The chief must be onto something big from that tone. Dropping their current investigation, they hurried to follow. As they closed the office door behind them, he motioned for them to take a seat as he sat on the edge of his desk.
"I got a tip from an old war buddy of mine about some mysterious deaths at the VA. I want you two to go undercover and get the scoop for the Planet. You know how they feel about the press over there after the bad publicity they've gotten recently about possible improprieties from the President. I've made arrangements for you two to get in."
"What do we know so far, Chief?" Lois asked as she leaned forward, smelling another possible Kerth. Every story had possibility as far as Lois was concerned. Clark couldn't help but smile at her enthusiasm, loving the way she dove right into things.
"It wasn't until the third death that some suspicions were raised, so now my contact is wondering about the other two. The first one was found in his bed; he'd apparently died peacefully in his sleep, but what raises questions is the guy seemed to be a bit too young for that. The second and third one would be neglect at best, which is the kind of PR the VA doesn't need right now. One was found in his wheelchair on the grounds and the other in a tree, both apparently having died of exposure. Both were Gulf War vets."
"Were autopsies performed?" Clark spoke for the first time.
"No, because nothing seemed out of the ordinary."
"But you think there's something to it."
"Yes, Lois, I do. This old reporter's instincts tell me this is bigger than neglect. But if it turns out not to be, we have a responsibility at least to look into it. Three veterans have died and we owe it to them to find out why." Perry paused, reaching to retrieve two files from his desk and handing one each to his star reporters. "Clark, you will report tomorrow morning at 8 am for orientation as their new orderly, Tom Scott. Lois, I will check you in at 10 as my niece, Becky, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I'll leave your disguises up to you."
"Clark, we should have Jimmy pull everything he can on the VA, see if there is anything unusual that might give us an idea why this happened." The reporting team stood to leave. "We'll get right on this, Perry." Lois led the way as the pair left their editor's office to return to their respective desks. Lois asked Jimmy to find what he could, and the team spent the remainder of the day finishing up as much as they could of what they were currently working on, putting what they could on hold until this investigation ended.
Several hours later, Lois glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was nearly 6. Turning her gaze to her partner, she noted that he was still working. She watched him for a few moments, catching his eyes dart around the room making sure no one was watching before applying a bit of super-speed to his task.
"That's so unfair," she complained as she sidled up to his desk.
Clark paused and smiled up at his wife. "I don't hear you complaining when it helps us with a story."
She smiled back before saying, "Speaking of stories, how about we get some take-out and head home so we can go over this new one?"
"Sounds like a great plan. How about you take the jeep and I'll get the take-out? What about Italian?"
"Better make it Thai," she whispered as she leaned in to give him a quick kiss in a pre-emptive apology. "I know what pasta does to you and we really have a lot of work to do tonight to get ready for tomorrow."
Clark glanced around the bullpen before pulling his wife onto his lap. Not that most of the Planet's staff weren't used to their displays of affection since the early days of their engagement, but Clark still tried to retain some level of professionalism in the office, even though it was a challenge with a wife he found more attractive and loved more with each passing day.
"True, but we don't know how long this investigation will take, and do you know how hard it will be knowing I can't do this," he lightly nibbled at her ear.
Lois couldn't help but giggle. She'd never imagined she'd find a man who would still act like a newlywed after five years of marriage, and with Clark there didn't seem to be an end in sight. She sighed happily before relenting.
"Well, maybe we can find a little time to work that in. We also need to find time to call your folks and see if they can keep CJ for us." Their rambunctious four year old was just beginning to show that he'd inherited some of his father's genes. Though Lois's parents were now happily remarried, they couldn't chance leaving CJ with the Lanes for any length of time since he'd begun doing unexplainable things. Fortunately, it hadn't become an issue, yet.
"I'm sure Mom and Dad wouldn't miss an opportunity to spoil their grandson. Let me give them a call, then I'll pick him up at the day care and take him to the farm. Then I'll pick up dinner. Why don't you head on home?" He reached to kiss her again. "I bet I still beat you there."
Lois laughed again. "You're on! But give me a minute head start to say bye to CJ." Getting up, she headed back to her desk to collect her things as Clark reached for the phone. She glanced his way as she headed up the ramp to the elevator. He winked at her as he finished up his conversation with his folks. With her husband in a playful mood, she knew they wouldn't get much work done until he got that out of his system. Not that she minded, a plan forming as the elevator took her to the underground garage.
Clark landed on the patio of their brownstone a short while later. Lois had obviously won his challenge, which didn't surprise him given her competitive nature. The terrace table was set with dinnerware and the centerpiece candle was lit, casting a romantic glow over the area.
After setting the food containers on the table, he spun into jeans and a blue button down, not really sure what Lois had in mind, but knowing he could always make a quick change if he needed to. Reaching to lower his glasses, he changed his mind, instead focusing his hearing to locate her. That she wasn't waiting for him out here might mean she wanted to surprise him, and he didn't want to spoil that for her.
Both the kitchen and the living room were silent. Next, he tried the bedroom. There she was, and, from the sound of it, she was putting finishing touches on her appearance. He pulled out a seat and sat down with his back to the balcony door so she'd see him first. Looking into the night sky, he waited for his wife.
He didn't have to wait long. He could hear her footfalls even on the thick living room carpet. She stepped up behind him, encircling him in her arms. He could feel the soft rustle of silk against his neck. Kissing her arm, he pulled her around so he could see her. She was wearing the burgundy silk nightie he'd bought her their last anniversary.
Pulling her onto to his lap, he nuzzled and nipped at her ear, whispering, "Dinner's gonna get cold."
She sighed at his touch. "That's what heat vision's for."
"Mmm. Dessert first. I like a woman who has her priorities in order."
It was some time later when Lois said, "As much as I'd love to stay here with you like this the rest of the night, we have to get ready for tomorrow."
He returned her kiss before agreeing. "I know. Me, too. But we do have a lot to do, and Superman could get called out, too."
"True," she acknowledged as she got up and headed for the bathroom. "Which reminds me," she called, "I was thinking earlier about your disguise, for tomorrow, that is. You could wear a fake mustache, comb your hair a little differently, and let your five o'clock shadow grow in a bit. You'd look really different," she finished from the doorway.
Clark considered that a moment. "That could work. Then if Superman gets called I can shave, but it'd grow back fairly quickly. What are you going to do, honey?"
"I haven't decided yet, but I have a few ideas. Right now I'm famished. How about we have dinner and talk about it more as we eat?"
"Okay." Clark levitated off the bed and moved to the bathroom door to give his wife a kiss before spinning into jeans and a t- shirt. "How about you finish getting dressed and I'll finish up dinner."
"Deal." Lois smiled as she returned his kiss.
When she stepped out on the patio a few minutes later, Lois found the table set, plates heaping with steaming Thai food, the containers gone, and the center candle re-lit. Clark was already seated, as if he'd been waiting for quite some time for her.
"I wasn't that long, was I?"
Clark reached to pull her into his lap, laughing. "Nah, I was just teasing you." He picked up a set of chopsticks and proceeded to feed his wife dinner. Lois followed suit. They'd nearly finished all the food before Clark's super hearing picked up alarms.
"What is it?"
"Warehouse fire. I better go check it out. Sorry."
Lois leaned closer to kiss some sauce from his lips. "S'okay, just bring Lane and Kent back some good quotes."
"You got it. Thanks, honey." Sliding his fingers through her beautiful brown hair, he pulled her closer and kissed her thoroughly before gently rising and placing her in the seat he'd just vacated.
Spinning into his suit, he kissed her once more. "I love you."
"I love you, too, sweetheart. Be careful."
"Always." And with that he took off into the night sky.
Lois sat looking in the direction he'd gone for a few moments before getting up to clear the table.
"Guess I'd better work on my disguise," she mused out loud as she ascended the stairs a short while later. Reaching her wardrobe, she reviewed the role she needed to play, based on the file information that Perry had given her earlier. "Okay. Perry's niece, medically discharged from the Army due to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome from serving in the Gulf." She spotted a green material in the back of the closet. "I still have those fatigues I borrowed when Clark and I were tracking down Ryan — wow, that was quite a few years ago — but would she still wear Army regs? Hmm. Maybe jeans would be better. Now. " She moved into the bathroom.
Studying her reflection she lamented, not for the first time, "At times like this I'd like to throttle the person whose bright idea it was to plaster mine and Clark's image all over the city. How am I supposed to go undercover?!"
Sighing, she looked through her supplies. "Too bad I can't wear a mustache. I've done that before and Perry didn't even recognize me, twice. Couldn't he have made me his nephew?" She sighed again.
"Come on, Lane, you can do this. You like a good challenge. Maybe…" She reached for her makeup. "If I changed a few things… but not too much. I doubt someone with psychological problems would be overly concerned with her appearance."
She made a few adjustments until she was satisfied. "There. But I still look too much like Lois Lane." Trying various styles with her hair, nothing seemed to work that made enough of a difference. Sighing yet again, her eyes drifted to a box in amongst the other assorted items spread out on the counter. She really hated to take that step, but there didn't seem to be much of a choice.
Reluctantly, she picked up the box of red hair coloring. She'd had it since all that mess with Jefferson Cole, about five years ago. She'd thought of dying her hair red then to change her appearance after she'd been framed for murder, but opted instead just to cut it shorter. "I wonder if this stuff is still any good. Maybe just a few highlights'll do it."
Carefully following the instructions on the box, she added the mixture to her hair and waited the required time. Stepping into the shower, she quickly rinsed off the dye and the makeup she'd experimented with earlier. Toweling off and drying her hair, she surveyed the results. Trying again various styles she thought someone about five to ten years younger than herself would wear, she still couldn't find anything that seemed to work.
"I guess there's only one other thing to try." And with that, she reached for the scissors.
The fire had threatened to spread to a neighboring warehouse containing flammable materials, which, though legally stored, would have been fatal to MFD personnel and others at the scene. Clark stayed long enough to make sure the fire was well under control, which was longer away from Lois than he wanted to be, but he knew how he'd feel if anything happened. Satisfied that he'd done enough, he flew home to his wife.
Landing on the patio, he spun back into the jeans and shirt he'd had on earlier. Glancing at the table, he noted that Lois had taken care of cleaning up the remains of their dinner. They should probably spend the rest of the evening preparing for their investigation tomorrow. He walked into the living room, expecting to see Lois there with files spread all over the couch and table. The files were there, but there was no Lois.
A smile spread across his lips. She'd obviously been here right before he'd arrived; he could still smell her unique scent in the air mixed faintly with the perfume she'd worn today and something else he couldn't quite identify. She must have taken off upstairs with a speed to rival Superman.
Not wanting to spoil any surprise she had for him, he climbed the stairs at regular speed, resisting the urge to use any of his super senses to assuage his curiosity. As he got closer to their bedroom, he could see the lights were out, but he knew Lois was in there. He couldn't turn off his sense of knowing when she was near, of being able to hear her heartbeat.
Stopping in the doorway, he knew she'd be able to see his silhouette reflected from the light downstairs, letting her know he'd found her. Moving to the bed, he removed his clothes, then slid under the sheets and pulled his wife against him. He kissed her thoroughly, his lips then moving to her neck where he could now detect the faint smells of the dye. Trailing his lips back to hers, he framed her face with his hands before moving them into her hair. There was a lot less of the soft waves than there had been before.
"Lois …?" His whispered question hung unasked between them.
"Just love me, Clark," she whispered in response.
He needed no further encouragement.
The change had been more than Lois had anticipated, but something she'd felt necessary to pull off the disguise. Now she just needed Clark to love her, no matter what she looked like. Deep inside, she knew he did; she just needed that assurance now.
His fingers played with her shorter hair as they made love, getting used to the length, and trying, in a small way, to let her know that whatever she'd done, which was obviously upsetting her some, was okay with him.
The following morning Clark awoke to the sound of the shower. Remembering last night, his curiosity was now getting the better of him. He'd told her before he didn't make a habit of invading her privacy unless he thought she was in danger. She'd responded that she'd thought it was rather sweet, and sexy, that even after five years he enjoyed watching her. Besides, how many other husbands could do that, and other things that their wives benefited from? And there were times she'd wished she'd had that skill back!
Focusing on the wall between the bedroom and bath, he saw his wife's beautiful body coming into view. Water cascaded over her soft curves as his eyes moved up her body. Her hands were in her hair, smoothing out the soap. It was definitely shorter, about as short as it had been a few years ago when she'd needed a change. And were those red tints?
The shower shut off, and Clark got up to take his turn. Lois emerged from the stall with a towel wrapped around her head.
"Did you peek?" she asked, as she dried herself.
"I couldn't resist," he responded as he leaned in for a kiss, "though I didn't get a good look at your hair."
She swatted him with her towel as he stepped in the shower, laughing.
"Hey," he called over the sound of the water, "I have to be at the VA at 8 for orientation. Are you meeting Perry?"
"Yeah, we're meeting at the Planet before going over at 10."
"We have time for breakfast, then," he suggested as he stepped out of the shower. "Why don't you finish getting dressed and I'll get something together."
"Thanks, sweetheart." She reached up to kiss him before going back to her morning routine.
Clark swiftly dressed in jeans and a button down shirt, then headed to the kitchen. Lois had never been one for much breakfast, but he figured she might not get a chance to have a good lunch today. Starting coffee, he decided on omelets, bacon, and toast, working slowly on the preparations to give her enough time to get dressed. The meal was just about ready when she appeared in the doorway.
Wearing jeans and a thin pullover, with her makeup different, she looked about ten years younger. But it was her new hairstyle that really completed the change.
"So what do you think?"
"I'll be glad when this investigation is over and I can get my wife back." He walked over to her and pulled her into his arms. "Don't get me wrong. You look great. You just don't look like you."
"I know what you mean. I hated to do it. It was a last resort, believe me. Now how about that breakfast so we can get started on this? The sooner we start, the sooner we can wrap it up and get on to our next Kerth story."
After breakfast they both left together; Clark to head to the VA and Lois to the Planet. As Lois arrived in the city room, she made a beeline for Perry's office, ignoring the stares and whispers of her colleagues. It wasn't like she hadn't done drastic things before in pursuit of a story.
"Okay, Perry. We should probably get our story straight," she began before she'd even closed the door behind her or gotten her editor's attention.
Perry's gaze moved from the mock up for the evening edition to acknowledge the sudden presence of half of his star reporting team, not letting her appearance or that her barging right in without knocking phase him. This was his Lois, and he enjoyed watching her when she got that "Mad Dog" Lane attitude. Usually meant good things for the Planet, as well.
"Have a seat, darlin'." He motioned to a chair in front of his desk. "I guess we had better make sure we're on the same page."
Clark was being shown around by a staff member when a petite redhead and her 'uncle' passed by them, heading the same way Clark had just come to the residents' rooms. Clark couldn't help but notice the look of interest on his companion's face.
"I hope she's not too screwed up like most of them around here," he confided to Clark as he watched Lois walk down the hall. "She's a real looker."
Clark just smiled and nodded, determined to keep an eye on this guy as long as his wife was here, even though he knew she could take care of herself.
They were walking back toward the front entrance when he noticed another petite brunette with two men enter the building. All were dressed in military uniforms. Curiosity piqued, he tuned in to them, only half listening to the orderly.
The trio approached the front desk and the woman addressed the receptionist. "I'm Col. MacKenzie; this is Cmdr. Rabb and Lt. Roberts," she indicated her companions. "We're here from JAG to see Dr. Johns."
Phyllis Vest tried not to look startled as she picked up her receiver to announce the visitors to the hospital administrator. It wasn't uncommon for military personnel to visit, but it certainly was for JAG lawyers. Speaking briefly to Dr. Johns's secretary, she then addressed the officers. "He is in Building 5, which is three buildings to your left. Once you enter the front door there, his secretary, Ms. Banister, will show you to his office. He is expecting you."
"Thank you," Sarah paused to look at the nameplate on the desk, "Ms. Vest." And with that the group left.
Clark mulled over what had just occurred. These JAG lawyers were obviously here to investigate the deaths he and Lois were looking into. He'd somehow have to let Lois know.
As promised, Laura Banister met the officers in the front hallway and escorted them to her boss. This building, though not excessively decorated, was a bit nicer than the main residents' building they'd just come from. The carpet was newer, the furniture less used looking, and, as they approached the secretary's area, they noticed it had the definite appearance of an executive's office.
Ms. Banister opened the door and motioned the trio into Dr. Andrew Johns's office since he was expecting them. He rose from his chair in greeting as they entered, indicating they should take a seat in the chairs in front of his desk. Once they were seated, he turned to his secretary.
"Ms. Banister, please bring refreshments for our guests." As she closed the door behind her, Dr. Johns turned to his visitors. "I want to make it clear up front that you will have the full cooperation of myself and my staff in your investigation. These deaths are a tragedy, and, if you discover someone is responsible, that person or persons must be brought to justice. I have personally conducted interviews with each of my staff, and find it hard to believe that any of them would be involved. I'm sure you will want to question them as well."
"Yes, sir, we will, and thank you," Sarah spoke for the group as senior officer and head of the investigation. "What can you tell us of the situation?"
Ms. Banister returned at that point and handed coffee to each of the room's occupants. Once she'd left again, Dr. Johns sat forward in his chair before beginning to impart the information he knew.
"The first death," he consulted a file on his desk, "was a Captain Phillip Lawrence. Lawrence was sixty-one, and apparently died in his sleep from natural causes, which I'm sure you've read in the case file." He paused to look at his guests as all three acknowledged his assumption.
"Is there a reason to believe his death is connected with the other two?" Lt. Roberts asked.
"Not initially, but, with the other two deaths occurring so close, we didn't want to over look anything."
"An understandable precaution," Rabb supplied.
Johns continued, "The second, Lt. Michael Jeffers, was a quadriplegic. He was found on the grounds a few days later."
"Wasn't he missed? What about a count when the group returned inside?"
"Those are very good questions, Lieutenant. We don't treat our patients, especially the ones who are cognitively aware, like they are patients. Even though this is a hospital, they are free to move about as they please. We know which patients we need to keep a close eye on. I can assure you that that policy has now changed. On the day in question, it had been an unseasonably warm early spring day, so the ward had been outside, but the temperatures dropped significantly during the night." He paused to take a sip of coffee.
"Was he not able to get to a door or window to let someone know he was outside?"
"Yes, Lieutenant, he had the means, but when we found him, it didn't appear as if he'd even tried. There were no signs of apparent stress or struggle, nor trauma or foul play. We weren't aware of any desires to commit suicide. Staff and patients who'd talked with him last were adamant on that point; yet we could draw no other conclusions as to why he didn't try to seek help."
"An autopsy didn't reveal anything?"
"No, Commander." Johns turned to address Rabb. "There was no evidence of any outside influence. The official cause of death is listed as exposure." Johns felt a momentary pang of regret. Maybe if he had ordered the autopsies earlier, something might have been found, but, as it was, they had only just been completed that morning, indicating no leads.
"What of the third individual?" Sarah asked, making a mental note to question the pathologist.
Johns consulted his file again. "2nd Lt. Jason Powell. He was found in a tree a few days after Jeffers was found. Once it was discovered he was missing, an immediate search was conducted. The staff psychiatrist had diagnosed Powell with acute paranoid tendencies and was treating him. That he was in a tree was not unusual," he explained when he noted the surprised expressions on his guests' faces. "Dr. Richards postulated Powell could have been thinking he was hiding from the enemy, wanted to try to climb the fence, or just wanted to see beyond the grounds. It is unfortunate that these things happen, but, with this type of population, they do. We have found no one person responsible for these accidental deaths, though more rigorous staff training and policies have been put in place to prevent this tragedy in the future."
Sarah stood to leave, extending her hand to the director. "Thank you for your time, Dr. Johns. I trust you will be available should we have further questions?"
"Certainly, Colonel. Gentlemen." Johns acknowledged each visitor with a parting handshake.
The trio thanked Ms. Banister again on their way through her office, assuring her they could find their own way back to the front lobby. Once outside the building, Sarah turned to the others to plan their next move.
"Harm, you set up meetings with the staff. Bud, see what else you can dig up on these three. See if they have anything in common. I'm gonna go talk to the pathologist. Let's meet in the cafeteria at 1300 to compare what we've come up with."
Lois had been shown to her room, which by hospital standards was tolerable. At least she wouldn't be here for very long. Her reporter instincts told her that she and Clark would be able to get to the bottom of this and have another front page exclusive for the Planet soon.
Dropping her bag in her room, she headed for the common room to see if she could get a lead from any of the patients. Three people were dead — surely there was some talk about this among the staff or patients, and maybe someone would let something slip when they didn't think anyone was listening.
Lois checked her watch. She had an hour before her first appointment with one of the staff psychiatrists. She really wasn't looking forward to this visit. Granted, the chances were slim that this doctor would make a double of her and try to have her kill Superman. Hopefully she, or he, would be more like Dr. Friskin. Though the woman had asked her tough questions, she'd made Lois really examine how she felt. She might not have gone over to Clark's that night if Dr. Friskin hadn't forced her to evaluate her feelings. She was sure she and Clark would have still gotten together, but how much more time would they have wasted if Dr. Friskin hadn't pushed her in the right direction?
But this was different. This was for a story. Shaking off the memories, Lois entered the common room.
Clark wondered how Lois was getting on and if she'd discovered anything useful. He sure hadn't, except that there were now three JAG lawyers who could interfere with their story. Although, in the end, he hoped the deaths would be explained, and that if someone were responsible for them, they would be brought to justice, he hoped he and Lois would be the ones to uncover the story.
Jeff, the staff person who'd been showing him the ropes, didn't seem to know much about what was going on, or, if he did, he wasn't saying. The deaths were big talk among the staff, each wondering who would be blamed for what all were claiming were unfortunate accidents. No one had anything ill to say about any of the men, and they couldn't imagine any of the other staff harming any of the patients.
Glancing at his watch, Clark hoped he'd find more useful information during the remainder of his shift. He couldn't come up with any reason, at least not yet, that would justify his needing to remain at the hospital past his assigned time, but that wouldn't prevent Superman from keeping an eye on Lois from above. He couldn't risk blowing his cover yet by sneaking back into the facility, so he'd have to rely on his partner to carry on the investigation from the inside after hours.
Veterans Administration Medical Center Cafeteria
Metropolis, New Troy
Bud entered the cafeteria, spotting the other JAG officers already seated and with their meals.
"Sorry I'm late," he explained, dropping his notes off at their table.
"That's okay, Bud. I just hope you can make up for it with some leads," Rabb teased.
"I can," Bud began as he started to sit down.
"Bud," Sarah interrupted, casting a reprimanding glance at Harm, "why don't you go get some lunch first."
"Yes, ma'am. Thank you." Bud hurried off.
"Harm, you should give the poor guy a break. He's still getting over a really tough time."
"You're right. I hope this investigation can take his mind off that some."
They returned to their meals, not wanting to embarrass their colleague by showing their concern.
Bud returned with his meal, eager to share what he'd learned, but allowing the senior officers to impart their information first.
Sarah began. "The pathologist couldn't tell me much. Autopsies weren't performed on any of the men until after the third one was discovered. There appeared to be no evidence of any outside influence in any of these deaths."
"The day staff I've talked with weren't much help, either," Harm began. "No one has seen or heard anything. None of these men had any enemies that anyone was aware of. No altercations between these men and any of the staff or other patients occurred prior to the deaths."
"What have you got for us, Bud?" Sarah was hopeful the junior lawyer had had more luck than she and Harm had, and, by the way he'd been champing at the bit to share what he'd found, she guessed he did.
"Well, I couldn't find a link between the first victim and the other two, but Lt. Jeffers and 2nd Lt. Powell both served in the same squad in the Gulf. That was the only connection I could find between them, so if they were being targeted, that could be it."
"That doesn't explain the connection with Captain Lawrence, but that is something. Good work, Lieutenant."
"Thank you, ma'am." Bud smiled at the praise.
"Now if these are targeted killings, we need to figure out who the next victim could be. Bud, can you go over the service records of everyone here, including the staff, to see if anyone else served in that unit? It could be a staff person, or they could be the next target, but we need a direction."
"I'll get right on that, Colonel."
"In the meantime, Harm, why don't we continue with the staff."
By dinner that evening they were no closer to finding a solution. There were over a hundred staff and thousands of patient files to search through.
Mac had spoken with the staff psychiatrists, but not before commenting to Harm that she'd take those as well, since he'd had the same luck with that profession as with pathologists.
"Very funny," had been his reply.
None had been able to give her any insight on any of patients who might be capable of such acts. Those who might have been were medicated at varying levels and monitored to control their symptoms.
Harm was skeptical. "You know how Palmer had everyone else fooled."
"Harm," Mac laid a reassuring hand on his arm, "Palmer is gone. And he was a unique case.
"It's not likely that another person would have that level of demented intelligence to pull off such a scheme. No, I think this is someone less intelligent, who wants to be caught, wants to be helped, and will trip up. I just hope it's sooner."
"You're right, Mac."
"I know I am," she replied glibly, smiling at her partner.
After getting ready for bed, Sarah slid between the sheets and stared at the phone on the bedside table for a full thirty seconds before picking up the receiver and dialing the often called number.
"Hello?" came the familiar Australian drawl.
"Sarah! It's good to hear your voice!"
"You, too, Mic."
"So how's the investigation going?"
"Mic, you know I can't talk about that," she replied, with a smile in her voice, hoping to take some of the sting out of her words.
'Another reason to dislike Rabb. He can talk to her any bloody time he likes about the most important thing in her life.' Out loud, he teased, "Sarah, if we can't talk about our work, what are we going to talk about, at least until the kids arrive?"
Kids? Did she even want kids? Maybe. Someday. She'd consider it, for Mic, if that's what he wanted. After all, he'd given up his commission in the Australian Royal Navy to be with her. If Harm had … Where had that come from?!
"Sarah," Mic interrupted her thoughts, interpreting her silence as fear that he would ask her to give up more than she was willing to. "I was only funning with you, Sarah."
Sarah laughed nervously. "I know, Mic. Maybe we can talk about it when I get back."
"Definitely. This is something you and I will decide, together."
"Thanks for understanding, Mic." He really was such a wonderful man.
"I love you, Sarah."
"I love you, too, Mic. I better go."
"Good night, Sarah. Sleep well."
"You, too, Mic."
She slowly hung up the receiver, then settled in to sleep, cradling the other pillow against her chest, thinking how lucky she was to have someone like Mic want to be with her.
They were sitting on her sofa, enjoying each other's company.
Mic had just finished the last piece of pizza and relaxed back into his seat. Putting his arm around her, he pulled her against him, leaning toward her for a sweet kiss.
She willingly returned it, closing her eyes, letting the sensations his nearness and kiss were bringing her wash through her. Gently, he broke the kiss, and she slowly opened her eyes to look into the face of the man she loved.
It wasn't Mic's face that was inches from hers. It was Harm's.
The pin light danced around in the dark office, coming to a rest on a stack of new cases on the doctor's desk. A hand reached for the one on top, the name on the tab read 'White, B.' Opening the file, the light shown on the pretty redhead looking up from the stark white pages. Her eyes appeared troubled. Soon her pain would be gone.
Sarah awoke with a start. Why had Harm told her that he loved her? At her engagement party, no less. But, somehow, she knew. Deep down inside, she'd hoped.
Not wanting to admit where that dream had came from, she glanced at the clock. It was nearly 0500. About time to get up anyway. Maybe a jog would help clear her head.
Going outside, she took in her surroundings. There was a sidewalk that disappeared around the last building in both directions. Taking off to her right she surveyed her path as she went. The sidewalk dropped off in places but for the most part it was a nice run. Coming back around to the sleeping quarters, her internal clock told her she'd gone about half a mile. Satisfied, she continued her run, concentrating on the problem at hand.
There had to be something she was missing. Images of Harm and Mic suddenly appeared in her mind before she could push them aside. She didn't want to deal with that issue, at least not yet. No, there was something about this case she wasn't connecting.
About two hours later she'd still not come to any conclusions, but she had had a nice run.
Noting cars coming and going she figured it was about time for the shift change. As she approached the patients' wing, someone suddenly ran from the building yelling, "He's missing!"
When Clark arrived at work early the next morning, the ward was in chaos. Spotting Jeff, he rushed over.
"What's going on?"
"Tom. Good, you're here. Petty Officer Allen Fitzpatrick disappeared sometime last night. There's an all out search hoping we can find him before it's too late."
Clark knew he could search better from the air. "Okay. I'll be right there. I just need to …" He jerked his thumb in the direction of the restrooms.
"Sure. I'll meet you outside."
Clark watched Jeff start off toward the exit before making a dash for the restroom. Lowering his glasses, he checked to make sure no one was using the facilities. Quickly he spun into Superman, careful to X-ray the immediate area outside the restroom to assure he wouldn't be seen leaving.
Taking to the air, he shot straight up until he was out of sight of those on the ground searching. Scanning the area, he thoroughly searched the buildings and surrounding area for the missing patient.
Next he searched bushes, trees, and anywhere else someone could possibly hide. No luck.
Could Fitzpatrick have gotten out? Carefully he scanned the perimeter. The fence was too high, and, with the barbed wire at the top, there was no way anyone could make it over. Next he scanned for holes and weaknesses. There were none.
What could have happened? There was nowhere else he could have gone.
There was a small pond the patients liked to fish from. The hospital kept it stocked with trout and bass in the spring, and many of the men would spend hours out here.
Reluctantly, Clark's gaze penetrated the dark, murky waters of the lake. There, on the side closest to the hospital buildings, was a body. Focusing more closely, Clark saw it was Fitzpatrick. He sighed heavily, wondering if there was any way that he could have prevented this.
In the meantime, he needed to alert the staff that he'd found the body. But Clark Kent, or rather Tom Scott, couldn't just suggest they search the lake without something to back it his suggestion. It might raise too many suspicions.
But Superman could.
Spotting Dr. Johns and the three JAG lawyers, he headed in their direction, gently landing in front of them.
"Excuse me, but can you direct me to who's in charge here?" Superman wouldn't have known who these officers were, only that they looked official.
"I'm Dr. Johns, and these folks are from JAG investigating the recent deaths. What can I do for you, Superman?"
"I was sorry to hear about the other deaths. I was flying over this morning when I noticed what appeared to be an organized search. I listened in to confirm, then began searching from the air. I regret to tell you this, Dr. Johns, but you'll find the latest victim in the pond."
Dr. Johns went visibly pale before he was able to compose himself. "Thank you, Superman, for assisting us in this matter. I regret it greatly myself. I'll immediately have him taken care of."
Superman nodded to the group before taking off to the air again.
"Wow," Bud breathed.
"Bud." No response. "Bud." The more forceful admonition got the Lieutenant's attention.
Sarah motioned him closer. "See what you can find out about Fitzpatrick."
"Yes, ma'am." Bud hurried back to his room to check his laptop.
"Colonel, Commander, you'll inform me what your Lieutenant finds?"
"We will, doctor," Sarah assured him.
Once the administrator was out of earshot, Harm turned to his partner. "Hey, you should lighten up on Bud," repeating back to her what she'd told him yesterday. "He probably misses Harriet and little AJ, and he's had a rough time since … " he broke off, not wanting to remind either of them of the death of Sarah's namesake.
"Yeah, you're right." Wanting to fill the silence with something while they waited for Bud, she asked, "So, have you talked to Renee?" Maybe, if she reminded herself of Harm's girlfriend, she could forget her dreams easier. There'd been others like last night's that she wasn't ready to deal with yet.
Harm chuckled. "Yeah, actually. She's on her way to New York to shoot a commercial."
"Huh. New York."
"So … have you … talked to Brumby?"
"Yeah, last night. He's been working on wedding plans." The reminder of her fiancˇ and last night brought memories of that vivid dream she'd had back. Not able to look at her partner, Sarah turned away.
Seeing Bud returning gave her something else to focus on before Harm could see there was something more. 'And he would notice,' a little voice reminded her. 'Best friends are like that.'
"Bud," she called before the voice could convince her to say something she'd later regret, "what have you got for us?"
"Still no link with the first victim," Bud replied as he reached them, "but Fitzpatrick was in the same unit as Lt. Jeffers and 2nd Lt. Powell."
"Good work, Bud. How's the search of the patients and staff coming?"
"Slow, sir. There's a lot of records to go through, but I have found four others, staff and patients, who served in that unit. I should know more later today."
"Keep at it. And check to see if there have been any other unexplained deaths from this unit outside the hospital. In the meantime, Harm, why don't you take the two patients Bud's found and I'll talk to the staff, see if we can't get a step ahead on this. And, Bud, good work."
"Thank you, ma'am." Bud smiled.
Lois watched Clark as he went about his duties on the other side of the common room later that day. She was pretending to work on a puzzle in one corner of the room.
"Clark," she whispered, and looked to see if she'd gotten his attention and noticed him pause briefly in his task to focus his hearing on her. She looked back down at her puzzle. "I talked with a lot of the patients last night, and this morning. No one saw this one coming. Have you had any luck with any of the staff?" She looked up to see him shake his head, barely perceptible. "Then we keep digging. There's something here, I can feel it." This time when she glanced at him, she caught him trying to hide a smile.
When Clark looked back up, he noticed that Jeff had entered the room and was striding determinedly towards Lois. He knew Lois could take care of herself, but he hadn't liked the way Jeff had been eyeing his wife since she'd gotten here.
"Petty Officer White, please come with me." Jeff didn't totally understand it, never having served in the military, but the patients all seemed to respond better when addressed by their former rank.
Lois rose and followed Jeff out of the room, knowing Clark would be listening in.
Mac handed two files to her partner. "I'll take the staff, you've got the patients."
Harm nodded at the files in her hand, "Who've you got?"
"A PFC Porter and a Corp. Ayers."
"I didn't get a chance to talk with either of them. They were both off duty yesterday." He motioned to the room next door with his own files. "I'll be in the next room. How about we meet for lunch afterward and go over what we've got?"
"Fine." She barely glanced his way.
Harm started to ask her what was going on, then decided to leave it to later. Glancing down at the two files in his hands, he headed to the next room. Lt. Eric Bowles or Petty Officer Becky White could already be waiting for him.
As he reached for the knob, he noticed a pretty redhead heading in his direction with a staff member. He raised an eyebrow as she was led into a room across the hall. Could that be Bowles or White?
He opened the door in front of him to find someone already inside waiting.
Extending his hand, he introduced himself. "Cmdr. Rabb."
Across the hall, Lois was running through all the possibilities of why she'd been called in to a meeting with these JAG lawyers. Was her cover blown? Were they planning to expose her to the administration and then send her on her way? She wouldn't let that happen! At least if it did, Lane and Kent would still get the story. Unless Clark's cover had been blown as well. But how? They'd both been so careful! Just because they were talking to staff and patients didn't mean they'd given anything away or raised any suspicions. Maybe the JAG officers were just fishing? Or conducting their usual interviews? They were, after all, investigating these deaths, too. Maybe this was just part of their routine. Maybe she could interview them, find out what they knew, get the story and the headline for the Planet, and maybe another Kerth for Lane and Kent. They were probably like any other lawyer she'd ever dealt with. She should easily be able to outsmart them and find out what they knew.
A short time later, the door opened to admit a tall, dark, handsome man dressed in casual Navy whites, smiling at her.
'Wow. Not as wow as Clark, not as built, a little taller, but not bad.' She stood to accept his extended hand.
"Petty Officer White, Cmdr. Rabb."
"Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?" he began as he took a seat across the table from her.
"Not at all." 'And I'll ask a few on my own.'
Harm referred to the chart in his hands. "Petty Officer White, you've only been here about a day, correct?"
"Yes, I checked in yesterday. What's this about, Commander?"
"I'm sure you're aware of the patients who have died recently."
"Couldn't miss it, but I'm not sure what all this has to do with me. Like you said, I've only just arrived."
Rabb debated for a moment. She did have a right to know that her life could be in danger.
And from what he'd read in her file, she was here to help her work through post-traumatic stress associated with dreams caused by her war experience. She did seem pretty lucent to him, though he was no psychiatrist. Her right to know won out.
"We have reason to believe that you may be in danger as well."
'Come on, Commander. Give me just a little bit more to work with here.' "In what way?"
"Three of the four victims served in the same unit in the Gulf as you did."
'Bingo! Clark, I hope you are listening so you can get right on this.' "It was a big unit, Commander. What makes you think I will be next?"
"The only victims so far have been in this hospital, and there are only a few of you here now."
"Why are we being targeted?"
"We don't know, yet. I was hoping you could help us with that. Did you know any of the victims? Was there anything out of the ordinary that you can tell me about your time over there?"
"No, nothing really. It was war, Commander. Who are the others?"
"That I can't tell you, to safeguard their privacy. But I can assure you that you and the others will receive protection until this person is caught."
"How do you plan to do that?"
'Good question.' "We're investigating all angles." Harm stood to leave. "Please let me know if you think of anything else."
"Certainly, Commander. Thank you." She smiled at him as he left the room. 'Thank you for giving me a little bit more to work with. You guys may be JAG lawyers, but Clark and I are Kerth award-winning investigative journalists, and we have some contacts you don't.'
"Clark," she whispered. "I hope you were listening. Contact Bobby and see what he can dig up. I wish there was some way you could let me know, but we can't take the chance of blowing our covers. Good luck, honey. I love you."
Clark smiled at Lois's last words. He wished he could tell her he loved her, too. And to be careful.
When he'd noticed Jeff escorting Lois out of the common room, he followed at a safe distance, and discovered a men's room about half a hall away from where the lawyers were meeting with the patients and staff. It wasn't as close as he wanted to be, but it was close enough that he could filter out all the other noises in the hospital and hear clearly what Lois was saying.
Just hearing her voice made him realize how much he missed her already. The townhouse just hadn't been the same, so he had made an extended patrol around Metropolis last night, not wanting to go back to that empty house and spend the evening alone.
He hadn't liked what he'd heard. She was now a potential target and he'd worry about her safety even more. Wonder if anyone would notice Superman flying even more patrols over the Veterans' Hospital? But, he also knew his little tornado could take care of herself pretty well, and it was comforting to know the military would be looking out for her as well. Not that that would stop Lois from getting into trouble.
Glancing at his watch, he noted he was due to get off work in about an hour. As soon as he was far enough away where he couldn't be seen or heard, he'd contact Bobby.
Several hours later, the phone in the living room of the Kent brownstone rang.
"Hello," Clark answered, keeping a surreptitious eye on the dinner he had going in the kitchen.
"Clark. You're gonna owe me that buffet at the Peking Palace yet."
Clark couldn't help but laugh. Bobby had come through for them again. "What'cha got, Bobby?"
"Not much yet, but I'm still asking around. I did want to let you know that I may have discovered the how. There's a new drug making the rounds — cetabarbital. Rather nasty and untraceable. I'll get back to you when I have more."
Somehow he had to warn Lois.
Veterans Administration Medical Center Cafeteria
Metropolis, New Troy
"Cetabarbital," Bud blurted out as he joined the Colonel and Commander for dinner.
"Gesundheit!" Mac teased. Harm laughed at his young friend's enthusiasm.
"No, ma'am," Bud smiled. "Cetabarbital is the substance the pathologist found in Fitzpatrick's system. In small doses it can incapacitate the victim for up to twelve hours and it is completely out of the system after twenty-four hours. It's a new experimental anesthesia. Unfortunately, this population is used a lot to test new drugs."
"How was he able to detect it after this long?" Sarah asked.
"He'd already isolated the compound and had it on his computer searching for a match when he noticed it degrading in Fitzpatrick over several hours. Adding that property narrowed the search and he was able to identify it."
"Why wasn't it found in the other victims?" Harm inquired.
"Dr. Patterson guessed that it had to do with the period of time elapsed from injection to when the victims were found, and that the Petty Officer was a much larger man than the others and so needed a much larger dosage to knock him out."
"That explains why the killer had to put Fitzpatrick in the lake and not just leave him on the grounds like the others," Harm added.
"With the increased attention to these deaths, he couldn't take that chance. Good work, Bud. We have the how. Now if we can just get the who before there's another victim."
Harm compiled his case notes for the day, hoping to find something to focus his attention on next. He looked over his interviews and the files of the two patients. Something wasn't quite right about one of them, but he couldn't put his finger on it. Yet.
Lois glanced at clock on the bedside table. 10:55. The staff had come through for bed check about an hour ago at lights out and she knew they'd check periodically throughout the night. Maybe she had enough time to sneak over to the psychiatrist's office and snoop around. At least she had something more to go on now.
Exiting her room cautiously, she looked in both directions down the hallway. All clear. Moving as quietly as she could, she headed for the stairwell at the end of the hall, constantly listening for any sounds.
Reaching the exit, she carefully pushed it open, wincing at the squeaking noise it made. Slipping to the other side, she eased the door closed, then listened again for any sounds or signs that she had been heard. Nothing. She lightly jogged the few flights to the first floor.
Here she was faced with two options. To her left was the door that led outside. While the outdoors would give her plenty of places to hide, there was the possibility she'd get trapped out there like the others. Though she felt sure she would fair better than they had, she still didn't relish the idea of spending the night outside.
The other option was the tunnel system that connected the buildings so patients and staff could move about in rainy and cold weather in relative comfort. There weren't as many places to hide if she were seen, but it was preferable to the alternative.
Taking off down the tunnel, Lois stayed as close to the walls and in the shadows as she could. The lighting was minimal at this time of night, giving her plenty of cover. Hearing strained, she kept watch ahead, listening for any sounds. She could hear her own footsteps echoing in silent darkness.
As she neared the office area, the echo changed. Was that another set of footsteps, or just the different building? She took a few more steps. No, those definitely sounded too different to be the change in building structure. Someone else was in the tunnel with her.
Sarah couldn't sleep. She was still haunted by last night's dream. Now wasn't the time to have that distracting her from her work. What she needed was to put those feelings aside and concentrate on this investigation. Then, when it was over, and she was back in Mic's arms, she could put this all into perspective.
Or could she? Did she want to?
Shaking her head to clear that thought, she decided that a walk in the fresh night air would be just the thing to help her sleep.
Lois hurried the rest of the way to the office. Trying the knob, she wasn't surprised to find it locked. Extracting her pick, she made swift work of the lock then quickly stepped through the door, closing it quietly behind her. Pulling out her penlight, she began to search through files, wanting to get out of the enclosed space as soon as she could before she was trapped by whoever had been following her. Maybe she could find a clue as to who he was before he found her, so she would be better prepared to face him.
Sarah strolled the grounds outside the main office building. It was such a nice night out. It was unfortunate for those men that they had not been trapped out here on a night like this. They probably would have survived until morning.
A movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. There it was again. A very faint glow coming from one of the offices. She knew she shouldn't go in alone, but she didn't have time to call Harm or Bud to back her up. The intruder might get away.
Pulling out the master key Dr. Johns had given them to use during their investigation, she opened the door and entered the building. The light had come from the third floor in about the middle of the building. Taking the stairs at a run, Mac slowed when she reached the third floor stairwell. Opening the door slowly so as not to alert whoever was there, she made her way down the hall to the room. Occasional glimpses of the small light were now detectable under the door as the trespasser shone the light around, obviously looking for something.
The name on the door didn't really surprise her. Dr. Christoph was the psychiatrist who oversaw all the cases at the VA, and somehow she'd known this was related to the murders.
Drawing her gun, she slowly opened the door, pointing her weapon as she commanded, "Hold it right there!"
Harm hadn't been able to sleep. He couldn't stop playing over and over in his mind what he and Sarah had said to each other at her engagement party. He'd had to tell her he was in love with her. Didn't he? Didn't she have a right to know before she married someone else? They'd avoided confronting their feelings for so long. Maybe it should have stayed that way. He didn't know. But he did know that at that moment he'd had to tell her.
This wasn't helping him sleep, or get Sarah out of his mind. Maybe a walk would help. The fresh air might help him focus on the job at hand.
Lois dropped her penlight at the unexpected sound, shielding her eyes from the light Sarah now shone in her eyes.
"Petty Officer White! What are you doing in here?" Sarah recognized the redhead from the picture in her file.
Lois could barely make out the features of the female JAG lawyer behind the light. Could this have been who was following her? Somehow she doubted that. But she could use that now to her advantage.
"I couldn't sleep so I went for a walk through the tunnels. There was someone else there. At first, I thought it might be another patient taking a walk, but he wouldn't respond to my calls, and I got scared and came in here to hide." Okay, so she changed a few details, but hopefully that would get her out of this with her cover intact. She just hoped she'd sounded convincing enough.
Sarah lowered her light when she realized there was no danger. She wasn't totally convinced that Petty Officer White was telling her the truth. Why this office? There were certainly closer ones. But there was nothing obviously out of place, not enough that she could hold the other woman. She hadn't caught her in the act of doing anything other than being in the wrong place. Sarah decided that at this point she'd keep a closer eye on this one, and have Bud run a check on her.
"Would you like me to walk you back to your room?"
"No, thank you. He's probably gone by now. I'm sure I'll be fine."
Sarah stepped aside, motioning that she would follow Lois out of the room.
As she walked past, Lois mentally kicked herself for getting careless, and caught, before she could find anything useful. In a way, she hoped the guy was still in the tunnels, waiting for her. If he was, maybe she could get some answers from him.
Sarah exited the building, nearly running head first into her partner. After watching the Petty Officer long enough to ensure that she'd headed back to her room, Sarah had returned to the office to see if she could determine why the redhead had come in here, and to make sure she didn't return. After about half an hour of finding no clues, or the other's return, she'd locked the door again and left.
"Harm! What are you doing out here at this time of night?"
"I guess neither of us could sleep. I thought the air might help me get a focus on this."
"Well, I just … "
Sarah was interrupted by a scream piercing the night.
Lois had left the office after being discovered, trying to figure out a way to get back in without getting caught this time, or what other approaches she could take.
She wondered how Clark was making out. She missed working side by side with him, bouncing ideas back and forth. They worked best that way. But she'd understood why they'd had to approach this from different angles. They would definitely write the story in their usual way, each bringing a unique perspective to write one terrific, coherent piece. Perry would be pleased, she was sure. This might get them another Kerth. They were close to solving this one, she could feel it. Her reporter's instincts told her this case would break wide open and soon.
With all of these thoughts running through her head, Lois momentarily neglected to be on alert for the person who had followed her earlier. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she hadn't heard the soft footfalls behind her until she'd felt the strong grip on her arm. Startled, she took a deep breath to confront whoever it was, only to take in enough chloroform to cause her to pass out.
The room started to come into focus. Taking in her surroundings, she realized she was in the boiler room in the basement just off the tunnel. She didn't think she'd been here long since she wasn't too stiff yet. Her hands were tied behind her back and her feet were bound to the legs of the straight back chair she was sitting in. The figure with his back to her across the room was definitely a man. But she couldn't tell what he was doing.
Her eyes widened in horror as he turned towards her and she realized what he had in his hand.
"Ah. I see you are awake. I'm sorry you had to go through what you did, Petty Officer White. But I promise you, it will all be over soon. Soon the pain will be gone," he said as he approached her with a syringe.
Fortunately for her, he hadn't expected her to wake up before he was ready so he hadn't gagged her. She seized the opportunity.
Clark had been patrolling the skies over Metropolis, not wanting to be home without his wife, but also not wanting to go too far in case she needed him. Fortunately he hadn't been needed elsewhere, so when he heard Lois's scream he dove toward the VA.
Harm and Mac drew their guns and ran into the building, heading in the direction the scream had come from. As they approached the room, Harm motioned that he would enter first.
"Watch my six."
Mac nodded, poised to confront whatever situation they encountered when Harm kicked open the door.
What they saw wasn't what they had expected.
Each quickly swept the room, lowering their weapons after taking in the scene before them.
A man, whom Harm recognized as Lt. Bowles, was tied up on the floor. Superman was untying Harm's other interviewee from earlier today, Petty Officer White.
Superman walked over to the dazed officers and handed the syringe to Mac. "You might want to have this checked out. He was going after her with this when I heard her call. It may prove to be the murder weapon in the other cases. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've gotta fly." Clark wanted to leave as Superman and return as himself. This had been a close one, and Superman couldn't very well take his wife into his arms and comfort her, and himself, that all was okay.
"Thanks," Sarah mumbled, carefully taking the needle.
"Lois!" Clark ran back into the room to take his wife in his arms. He'd changed into a casual shirt and jeans, though not in his Tom Scott disguise.
Harm and Mac exchanged a questioning glance. Lois? Wasn't her name Becky? "I'm okay."
"I think you have some explaining to do," Harm interrupted.
Clark released Lois as they turned to acknowledge the room's other occupants. Lois held out her hand and approached Harm.
"Cmdr. Rabb, ma'am," she'd never gotten the female lawyer's name, "Lois Lane, Daily Planet. And this is my partner and husband, Clark Kent. Our paper sent us to uncover what was behind these deaths."
Harm was impressed with how quickly Lois seemed to recover from her near death experience. And she had a direct line to Superman; at least he sure arrived quickly. She must find herself in need of his service frequently in her line of work.
"So you have," Harm acknowledged as he nodded toward the man tied up against the wall. "As this is a military matter, we'll take care of him. And that," he nodded at the syringe, not wanting to give these reporters any more. He couldn't order them not to write the story, but he could keep as much confidential as he could.
"You mean the cetabarbital?" Clark asked.
Lois threw her partner an approving look. That bit of information would add a lot to their copy.
"How did you … ?" Mac began.
"We have our sources," Clark replied with a smile.
"Did your sources also tell you why he was doing this?" Mac asked.
"Well, before he came after me with that syringe, he apologized for what I'd been through, and said that my pain would be over soon," Lois supplied.
"Any idea what he meant by that, honey?"
Bowles had remained quietly on the floor since Superman had apprehended him. Lois walked over to him "Why did you do this to me? Why kill those others?"
As expected, Bowles refused to answer or look at her.
"I don't think you are going to get anything out of him. Cmdr. Rabb and I will take custody of him from here and see how the Admiral wants us to proceed. We may never know why he did this, but that he did isn't in doubt." Mac indicated for Harm to help her assist Bowles to his feet to take him with them.
Once they'd left the room, Lois turned to Clark. He could tell by the look in her eyes that she wasn't satisfied to let it drop. She confirmed it.
"Clark, I have an idea."
"I'm not sure I like it."
"You haven't even heard it yet."
"Yes, but I know you." He took her in his arms to soften his words. "Okay," he sighed, "what's your idea?"
"I think I need to get back into Dr. Christoph's office. I'm sure the answer is there, and I would have found it if I hadn't been interrupted earlier."
Clark was momentarily alarmed. "Bowles grabbed you there?" What might have been, with her in the hands of a killer for that length of time, frightened him, even though he knew she was safe.
"No, no, honey. He caught up with me in the tunnel. That female lawyer walked in on me."
Knowing Lois like he did, he knew she'd do it with or without his support. "Okay, but I'm coming with you."
"I was hoping you would." She smiled up at him.
A short while later Lois was again picking the lock on the office door, not surprised that the lawyer had locked it after catching her earlier.
"Okay, what are we looking for?"
Lois pulled out her penlight, careful to avoid shining it towards the door and window this time. "You remember what Cmdr. Rabb told me. I had just started going through patient files when I was interrupted. There must be something in Bowles's file that'll tell us why he did this."
The file they found was thick with several months of sessions recorded. Clark quickly read through the notes.
"Look at this." He showed her a note made a few days before the murders began. "'PO Bowles seemed more agitated than usual. Hypnosis revealed extreme concern for service personnel from his unit who witnessed war atrocities'," he quoted.
"What's his diagnosis?"
Clark flipped back to the beginning of the notes. "Severe post traumatic stress disorder with delusions."
"Wonder what triggered him to start murdering?"
"Could have been anything."
"But something had to push him over the edge." She dug through a stack of files until she'd pulled out the three victims' and her own. "Maybe the answer is in one of these." She began leafing through the files as Clark continued with Bowles's.
The next sheet in Bowles's file was a list of the unit members with a note from Dr. Christoph to prompt during hypnosis to ascertain source of increased agitation.
"Clark, what was the date on that first note?" He showed her. "Look, that's the day after the second victim was admitted."
"And here's the list of his unit."
"But that's not enough. We need to find some hard evidence to link all of this together. We need to search his room."
"Lo-is." But, even as he said it, he knew she was right. Turning back to the front of the folder where the basic patient information was kept to look up the room number, Clark made another discovery. "He worked for the janitorial staff."
"Which gave him access to the drug."
Putting the files back in order, they hurried to the patient ward.
As a staff member, Clark had been given a key that would open most doors that staff were allowed access to, which included patient rooms. They encountered no one on their way through the tunnels, and Clark had X-rayed the floor the room was on to make sure they wouldn't run into anyone there.
Once they reached Bowles's room, he quickly unlocked the door and let them in. Using his x-ray vision, he scanned the room for clues while Lois used her penlight to search the bookshelf. With the way Bowles had obviously felt about war, she was surprised to see a copy of War And Peace on his shelf.
Picking it up, she leafed through it and it quickly fell open to a well-worn, folded piece of paper. Carefully opening it, she saw it was a copy of the list from his file, with four names crossed off, including B. White.
She held it up to show Clark. "I think we have our story."
"Should we tell those JAG lawyers what we found?"
"Let them read it in the Planet."
Perry walked out of his office, head shaking. "This is the damndest thing," he said, reading the copy in his hands.
Lois looked up as her chief stopped between her desk and her partner's to discuss their story. "Best we can figure, he was doing what he thought he should, upholding the military code. Never leave a man behind and stick together. In his own warped way he thought he was helping the others by relieving them of the memories they had of the atrocities of war they'd witnessed."
"Good work, you two."
Lois and Clark smiled at their boss.
Falls Church, Virginia
The following day Harm walked into Mac's office, laying a copy of the previous day's Daily Planet evening edition on her desk.
"Have you seen this?"
"Actually, neither of us should read this until we know if we'll be assigned this case."
As if on cue, Tiner poked his head in the door. "Colonel, Commander, the Admiral wants to see you in his office ASAP."
Mac threw Harm an I-told-you-so-look which he returned with a grin.