By Betsy R.
Submitted: December 2001
Summary: This is a short short in which the author takes some time to right some old wrongs. She's sure Lois will thank her for it.
Please note that this story takes place in S5 continuity, but it isn't necessary to have read that series to follow this.
"Lois, my office, ten minutes," Perry called as he walked across the newsroom floor on a gloomy Thursday afternoon.
Clark looked over at his wife and partner, wiggling his eyebrows as if to say, "What did you do this time?"
Lois stuck her tongue out in reply, eyes glowing with humor. She had a good relationship with her editor. She knew that this was no calling-out-on-the-carpet. There wouldn't have been a ten-minute delay for that. No, this was more likely a new assignment, but Perry was probably giving her yet another 'mood' piece. She wrinkled her nose in distaste.
As she turned back to the piece she and Clark were currently working on, she put the meeting out of her mind. It was only Perry's voice bellowing her name across the floor that brought her back to the present. She stood up slowly, rubbing her aching back and stretched stomach muscles, then grabbed her notepad and a stray pen. As she waddled to the editor's office, she could feel her husband's warm glance on her. She smiled and shook her head, wondering that he could still want to watch her when she waddled across the floor like a duck.
She stopped slightly at the door of Perry's office, and sighed. *No putting it off, I guess,* she thought to herself.
"Sit down, Lois. Sit down." Perry didn't look up from his screen, where he was busily typing. He muttered something about ineptness and Ralph knowing better by now before impatiently hitting his mouse button that sent an edited copy on to print. Then, he sat back, tented his fingers with his elbows resting on his chair arms, and smiled at Lois.
Lois immediately became suspicious.
"Lois, this series of stories is definitely one of the best we've had in a while." He held up the articles from the series of medical stories she and Clark had finished a few months previously. "Your sidebar on infertility and its effect on the women and men you interviewed was particularly well-written. It went along well with the expos‚ of Dr. Daniels, but I think it also demonstrates a maturity in your writing that you rarely use outside investigative journalism."
Lois could feel herself blushing. She was used to praise for unearthing corruption, or for getting the bad guys. But this piece had meant so much to her; it still did. She remembered all too clearly the inadequate feeling that infertility gave her. Not that, in the end, it had been a problem, she mused, as she rubbed her belly.
"Thanks, Perry. I guess being… connected to the story made it a bit easier for me to write." Lois spoke carefully, not wanting to give her editor any ammunition to put her on yet more non-investigative stories. Just because she was pregnant didn't mean she was ready to trade in her press pass!
"Well, I've been thinking along the lines of entering it for the Curtis prize." Lois stopped fidgeting with the paper in her lap and looked at Perry. The Curtis prize was an international journalism prize for non-investigative journalism. It was quite prestigious, and Lois had never thought she would be in the running for one.
"Do you really think it's good enough for that?"
"Lois, this is one of the best pieces you've ever written. The senior editors agreed, as did a friend of mine from Metro Magazine. The entry forms are ready to go, we just need your signature here." Perry tossed the form across the desk, and Lois signed without any hesitation. She smiled up at Perry.
"Well, even if the committee doesn't look twice at it, it's flattering to know that two people in the know think it's worthy. Thank you, Perry."
"Lois, you know I think you're one of the best reporters I've ever worked with. Keep up the good work."
Lois got up and started back out of the office. She turned, and with a raised eyebrow, asked, "One of the best?"
Perry chuckled. "Scoot. I want that piece by the end of today!"
Lois laughed and headed back to her desk.
Two weeks later…
"Lois, Clark. In my office. Pronto." Perry had opened his door and shouted across the bullpen. The two reporters looked at each other, each with a question in his eye. The rest of the reporters in the room watched as Lois and Clark locked their computers and headed to the editor's office.
Perry had a grim look in his eye as the two reporters sat in the chairs opposite his desk. He handed each of them a copy of a newspaper article. Lois scanned the article quickly nodding as she read it. "Yes, Perry, this is my article."
Perry raised his eyebrow and pointed out the top of the paper.
It read 'The Belfast Intelligencer'.
Lois started to speak. Then stopped. Had her article been picked up by another paper? Had they not gotten the Planet's permission? Did Perry think she was selling her work outside the Planet, contrary to her contract?
Then she noticed the byline.
That sneaky son of a …
"I take it you didn't give Claude permission to reprint your work?" Perry asked, gruffly.
Tears of rage filled Lois' eyes. Clark rubbed her back. He wasn't sure Perry knew that this was not Claude's first trip down plagiarism lane, but he knew just what Lois was thinking.
"No, I most certainly did not. What's going on here?"
"Well," Perry answered, "I got a call early this morning from one of the Curtis prize committee members. She remembered reading your article, but she doesn't read the Planet often. She's more concerned with European papers. She was sure you had stolen the article from Claude. We checked the publication dates, however, and yours came first. By twelve hours."
Clark and Lois were silent. Both were angry — Lois because she had been betrayed yet again, and Clark because the scum known as Claude had reared its ugly head into his wife's conscious again.
At that moment, Jimmy knocked on the door.
"Chief, I got the rest of the articles that you requested."
Jimmy handed Perry a stack of papers. Perry muttered a thanks, leafed through the stack, and smiled grimly.
"Well, seems like it wasn't the first time, either. I recognize two of these articles as yours, Lois, and one of the others from Bill Underwood from the San Francisco Herald. Jimmy, you matching them up now?"
"I sure am, Chief," Jimmy said, without his usual enthusiasm, before leaving the room. This kind of betrayal was so rare in the newspaper business. You were only as good as your next story — why would you steal someone else's? It was a lack of integrity that you didn't see in quality establishments like the Planet and the Intelligencer.
"He even got an award for one of these?" Clark asked with shock in his voice.
"Wouldn't be the first time," Lois muttered.
Perry looked at her. "What does that mean, Lois?"
"I never told anyone. Anyone but Clark, that is. Claude — the Kerth he got should have been mine. It was my story. My research. My tips. My trail. My writing. He submitted it — stole it while I was sleeping. Taught me the hard way that not all reporters have integrity — even if they work for a paper like The Planet." She couldn't keep the bitterness out of her voice, though time, and working with Clark, had eased the pill somewhat.
Perry shook his head and sighed. "Cripes. I should have known. Boy never could write that well."
There was silence for a moment as the reporters and their editor looked at the stolen work in front of them. Then the phone rang.
Lois and Clark got up to leave but Perry waved them to sit. He turned the phone on to speaker setting.
"Yes, Ms. Leahy. I have Lois and Clark with me here. Lois, Clark, we're talking to Siobhan Leahy, from the Intelligencer. She's Claude's employer."
"Mr. White, I'm pleased you're taking my call. You and your reporters will be receiving in writing, as well as in print, a full apology for this. We hadn't any idea Claude was capable of such chicanery. We've our hands full tracking down all the offenses."
"Well, Ms. Leahy, we can't hold you responsible. Claude's the one who committed the foul. You'd best warn that boy not to come within a mile of the Planet! We want to say we're glad you've corrected this so quickly."
They could hear the sigh over the international line.
"In the meantime, our lawyers will be contacting Claude. The Planet doesn't take lightly the theft of some of its best work."
"I'm by the way of understanding that, Mr. White. We at the Intelligencer will do everything we can to aide you." Ms. Leahy sounded rather worried, as she was the managing editor and was ultimately responsible for the actions of her reporters. "Be assured we're doing everything we can to track down all the stolen work. I'm finding it hard to figure which pieces were really his!
"Anyway, I did want to say, Ms. Lane, that this piece was one of the best I've read in this area. I do hope that you get the Curtis for it."
"Thank you, Ms. Leahy."
"Well, then. I'd best be going. I do apologize again."
The call ended awkwardly, but with a small sense of triumph for Lois. The world would soon know what a worm Claude really was. It was about time. Plagiarism was theft and theft of the worst kind — and Claude would finally be found out for what he really was — no more than a common thief.
Begun 15 May 2001, Finished 3 December 2001
This story is dedicated to all those who found themselves ripped off this summer. In a way, I guess you can feel flattered that someone felt your work was worth stealing. In another way, you can insult the worms… But remember, it even happened to the best of them, Lois Lane herself, and find comfort in the rich company.
Thanks again to Kathy for the words of encouragement and the quick proofing.