By Jen D <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: August 2002
Summary: Just who is behind all the crime in the South Side part of Metropolis? Will Lois and Clark be able to solve the mystery on their own or will a street-smart orphan help them along?
Notes: Well, I hoped to finish by the end of the summer. And technically I did. It just turned out to be the summer of the next year <g>. But finally I got off my lazy bum and typed the darned thing up after first throwing out the first 120 pages of written material thinking, 'Did I write this?!' So anyway, here goes…
This is A-plot driven, and takes place during the first season. For those who want some mushy romance tale, this isn't it cos I'm terrible at writing them. The only thing you need to know really is that I might have painted a darker account of South Side than in the TV show. *Shrugs* Anywho, this has no spoilers, btw. It's totally original, straight out of my zany head. I don't remember, but I may have borrowed a line or to from the L&C show scripts—not claiming them as my own. Feedback is always welcome. Big thanks to Emma for BRing for me! Yay, it was much appreciated:) None of the Lois & Clark: NAOS characters are mine. I'm just borrowing them for a while.
"Sarah, where's my jacket?"
"Riley, you *still* owe me ten bucks!"
"I do not!"
"All right, everybody hush up!" a fourth girl shouted getting up onto a coffee table in a poorly decorated living room. "We have more important business here— who has my camera?"
"Aww…" The others moaned and groaned, throwing magazines at the journalist- wannabe. Then the morning chaos began again. Kelsey Wells jumped off the table with a rueful grin.
"Wells, the camera's on the back porch." Kelsey grabbed her well-worn denim jacket and left the house, stopping only to pick up the camera. <Shoot! It doesn't have any film left.>
"Death to whoever used up my film!" Kelsey flung her camera over her shoulder.
"Give me my ten bucks!"
"I paid you last week!"
Kelsey laughed to herself as she listened to the fading argument. There was never a dull moment to be found at the Steven K. Wilder Orphanage for girls. A sudden thought flashed to mind, and she ducked behind the bushes as the head of the orphanage strolled through the door clutching the morning paper of South Side that Kelsey had swiped earlier that morning. The mayor's press conference was starting at 10:30 this morning, and she wasn't about to miss it. Amongst the chaos, no one would notice she was gone. Shaking her head, she looked both ways and leaped out of the bush, jogging toward the nearest drug store for her film.
<Hard facts. It's the name of the game, kids.> This echoed in Lois Lane's head as she poured over the Church files. "There just has to be a connection between the crime in South Side and the Cost-Mart owners. There just *has* to be!" Lois exclaimed.
Clark Kent frowned in thought as he sat perched on the side of Lois's desk. "Well, if there is, I'm not seeing it," he replied. "I stopped by one this morning to check out the one on 4th and 26th, and it's a regular 9 to 5, mom 'n pop joint. or in this case, pop and disgustingly young wife."
Lois wrinkled her nose at that. "Forty-two years younger. ugh. Anyway, I left a message on Bobby's answering machine this morning, but he still hasn't called me back yet."
Inspiration suddenly struck Clark. "Has Jimmy pulled up the financial records yet?"
"Yep. Clean as a whistle." Clark sighed disappointedly.
"LANE! KENT! My office now!" Perry White shouted.
"You bellowed, sir?" Lois quipped as Clark followed her in.
"Have a seat, you two," he replied, waving his hand at the chairs. "I've only got a minute before my meeting." They sat down. "Now, whatcha got on the Church thing?"
Lois bit on her bottom lip. "We're working on it, Chief. Whatever's going on is pretty well hidden."
"Did you check their records?"
"Absolutely nothing incriminating," Clark contributed. "Not even a parking ticket."
"Well, you've got two hours until the mayor's press conference, and if you don't find anything, I've gotta put ya on something else. Is that clear?"
"I guess so," Lois replied, sulkily.
"Good. Now get on outta here, and dig up a front-pager. I want to put these South Side crooks away as badly as you guys do."
"Inspection time!" shouted Rachaele. "Hurry up and get dressed!"
Pounding on several of the bedroom doors, she ducked into the one she shared with Riley and threw together her side of the room. Mrs. Sanders, the head of the orphanage was due down the hall any second, and heaven-forbid the girl whose room wasn't clean first thing in the morning. But there wasn't any time for that now. Rachaele shoved her dirty clothes under her bed and hoped 'the Warden', as they called Mrs. Sanders, wouldn't notice. She zipped up her backpack and stood to attention.
After Mrs. Sanders inspected two rooms, then she pronounced, "In dire need of the vacuum." She knocked she knocked on Rachaele's door.
"Come in, Mrs. Sanders!" Riley exclaimed over- enthusiastically.
"Good morning, girls," Mrs. Sanders replied sternly. "Are you ready for school?"
"Yes ma'am. We sure are," came the chorus.
"Fine." The Warden gave the room a quick once-over. "You're side of the room looks respectable, Riley, although, next time, *Rachaele*," she said, giving her a look of disapproval, "I suggest you not throw your dirty clothes under the bed."
"Yes ma'am," Rachaele responded contritely.
"Good." Mrs. Sanders abruptly turned around and exited the room, closing the door behind her. "Who's next?" she bellowed down the hallway.
"How *does* she know?" Rachaele asked, amazed.
"She just does," Riley said. "Like last week I left some dishes in the sink and didn't wash them. *No one* else was home, and she still managed to pin it on me."
"So," Riley started, changing the subject, "Five bucks says the Warden grounds Kelsey for a month after she discovers she's skipping work today."
"You're on. Kelsey hasn't been in since last Tuesday, and nothing's happened so far."
"But she stuck around for inspection up until now. Man, I miss school for one day, and I get busted. How's Kelsey sneaking out so good?"
"I don't know, but I want her secret." Rachaele let out a low whistle. "So, are you ready for school?"
"Yeah," Riley said, less-than-excited. "Let's go. I don't wanna be around when the big ugly hits."
They slung their backpacks over their shoulders and clattered down the stairs and out the door. <As boring as high school is, the orphanage isn't exactly a picnic either,> Rachaele mused.
Rachaele Westley, Riley Hart, and Kelsey Wells had been friends for probably as long as any of them could remember. They'd all entered Wilder's Orphanage for abandoned girls at pretty much the same time. Rachaele and Riley were 16, and Kelsey was 17. Rachaele and Riley were both juniors at the local high school, and Kelsey, having already graduated, worked some measly 5- dollar an hour job at the corner market. Soon enough, though, when they turned 18, they would be able to move into their own house. At least, that was the plan. It was the only thing that cheered Rachaele up these days, but the way things were going, she wasn't so sure about anything anymore.
It was hard not to notice the shift in crime these days. The rest of Metropolis was actually doing better, but South Side was pretty much a disaster now. <Of course, Riley pretends not to notice now,> Rachaele thought bitterly. <She just lives her life in black and white like nothing bad can happen to her.>
Rachaele was only too aware of the problems spiraling around her and so was Kelsey. Rachaele convinced herself a couple of months ago that she couldn't do anything about them. So she just lived her life as normally as she could, watching her back, but hanging on to the hope that she could move out of South Side in a year and a half.
<Kelsey, on the other hand, is a totally different story.> Rachaele smiled at this, as she and Riley turned a left into the high school's parking lot. <Kelsey just seems to think that it's up to her to change the world and South Side. What a crock. I keep telling her to just go to college and study to be a journalist someday, but she runs out into society with a pencil and a camera, convinced that she can write a couple of articles and make everything better.>
"Rachaele, you okay?" Riley looked over at her, concerned.
"Oh, yeah, Rachaele replied, shaking herself out of her reflections.
"Just thinking about things. Come on, before we're late." Rachaele charged up the school steps and pushed open the door.
"Okay." Riley shrugged and followed her
"Hey, Riley?" Rachaele said, coming to an abrupt halt in the hallway.
"Do you ever wish things were different?"
"Yeah, I do, Rachaele. All the time."
Lois parked her silver Cherokee jeep in the lot. She and Clark walked over to Centennial Park for the Mayor's conference.
"Why do we even have to be here?" Lois complained. "Eduardo could have covered this. The mayor's gonna say that crime's down two percent, we're going to cheer excitedly, and then we're all going to go home."
"I know," Clark agreed, good-naturedly. "We *should* be working on the South Side thing. Something's going on there. I can just feel it."
"Me too," Lois said as they sat in the back. "Hey, Clark," she said, suddenly. "What if the Cost-Marts really aren't involved as much as we think they are? What if something else is going on?"
"I don't know. But I'll figure it out."
"Probably through one of those 'Lane Leaps of Logic'," Clark replied.
"Oh, you've named them now?"
"Nope. Jimmy did."
"Excuse me." Lois looked over as another reporter tapped her on the shoulder. She had a camera around her neck. "Is this seat taken?"
"Does it look like anybody's sitting over here?" Lois replied, her words laced with sarcasm.
"I'll take that as a 'no'," the girl with red hair replied dryly. She sat down next to Lois as the mayor and his staff made some last minute discussions on the platform. Lois looked around and noticed that every last seat was taken, plus people were standing in the background.
"What *is* this sudden interest in press conferences?" Lois asked to the world in general. "The mayor's gonna say that the crime's down two percent, we're going to cheer excitedly."
"I know, I know, and then we'll all go home," Clark finished for her.
"Actually," the reporter sitting next to Lois commented, "I think all these people are interested in what the mayor is going to say about the crime-rise in South Side."
"Oh. No kidding."
"Yeah. A mystery, it is."
"Say," Lois broke in, looking at the camera. "Is that the brand-new Nikon with the special flash and those digital features?"
"It sure is," the reporter replied. "Just came out yesterday."
"I heard those things sold out before they even hit the shelves. How'd you get one?"
The reporter shrugged. "I guess you just have to have the right connections."
"Well," said Clark, extending a hand. "I'm Clark Kent and this is Lois Lane. We work for the Daily Planet. Who are you with?"
"I'm Sara Carter. I work free-lance these days. I'll sell to anyone who wants a story. Nice to meet you," she replied shaking his hand.
"Attention, everyone! Attention!" one of the staffers cried into the mike. "We are ready to begin! I give you Mayor Michael Dorres of Metropolis, New Troy!"
"Thank you, everyone for coming," Mayor Dorres said after the applause died down. "Now I just want to say that I'll make this brief, and then afterward, the floor will be open for questions. It is with great pride that I report Metropolis is at it's lowest crime rate since 1973, and has gone down 2.17 percent. Now, of course, we recognize Superman in his efforts to make our city a better place. But I would also like to congratulate the citizens of Metropolis for their efforts: everything from a citizen's arrest, to simple programs that keep kids off the streets are a big contribution. The floor is now open for questions or comments."
"Mr. Mayor, Link Sanders, National Inquirer."
"What trash," Lois muttered.
"Now that the crime rate is down, do you expect Superman to move to another city? Obviously, Metropolis isn't the only place who needs help." Clark rolled his eyes.
"Well," the Mayor replied slowly. "He did say and I quote: 'Metropolis is my home. I am here to stay.' So, no, I don't believe so. Any other questions? Anyone?"
Sara Carter finally stood up. "Mr. Dorres, I thought the real reason we're all here was to discuss the status of South Side."
"And you are.?"
"Sara Carter, free-lance. So what's the answer because there is no way that this decrease includes South Side."
"Oh, really, and how do you know?" Dorres was getting impatient and annoyed. He clearly did not like the idea of some nosy reporter questioning his statistics.
"Because I live there. In the last week and a half alone, two people I know were mugged and three stores were robbed, and you're telling me this is not a problem worth mentioning?"
"Fine. I will address the South Side issue now. As far as I know, the police force is training two hundred more officers for the sole purpose of patrolling South Side. Once they are in place, this will no longer be an issue. Satisfied?"
"No!" Carter answered and sat down.
"Very well then. Before we all go, I would like to mention—"
"HE'S GOT A BOMB!"
"What?! Where?!" The crowd scrambled around in an uproar. "Everybody run!"
Amidst the pushing and shoving to get away from the scene, Sara Carter snuck away. If the camera crews were going to start filming the crowds, she'd best not be seen again. Sneaking around the corner, she snapped a few pictures, and then stuffed her wig in the pocket of her jacket. With any luck, she could high tail it over to work before anyone noticed her absence today. Then she could type up this piece for her leaflet during her break.
The rest of the conference cleared out literally in seconds as everyone ran for his or her life. Lois, having sat in the back, was the first one to the street, but as she pulled out her keys, she noticed that her passenger wasn't there.
"Clark!" she shouted looking frantically around. Just then, Superman landed. He quickly scanned the area, and his gaze landed on a closed manhole several feet from the mayor's platform. He rushed over and flung the top of it into the sky as it exploded. Heaving a sigh of relief, he looked around to see if anyone was in the immediate area. Then he spotted Lois.
Clark remembered that, as Superman, he wasn't supposed to know anything that happened before the bomb. "Lois," he said, as she rushed over to him with her pad and pencil. "What happened here earlier?"
"The mayor's press conference was in progress," she replied, catching her breath. "He was arguing with some free-lance reporter about the condition of South Side, when someone shouted about a bomb."
"Do you think it has something to do with South Side? The crime rate is definitely increasing there. Maybe the residents are angry enough to do something drastic to get attention."
"I don't know," Lois said in deep thought. "That's a pretty harsh statement to make, but it does make sense. The question is — who is mad enough to do something like that? And I'm gonna find that out."
"Just don't get burnt in the process, Lois. Look," Superman continued, noticing the stream of witnesses coming cautiously back to the scene of the crime, "I gotta fly. Be careful."
"Okay, okay. I better find Clark."
Superman soared into the air, and that too familiar sonic boom sounded. As Lois trekked back towards her car, Clark came rushing out of the crowd.
<Fumbling with his tie, as usual,> Lois thought mildly.
"Where've you been?" she asked curiously.
"Oh, I, ah, went to call the police, and then on my way back, I caught a couple of interviews with eye-witnesses. I saw Superman on my way over, but he said he couldn't find the culprit in the immediate area," Clark replied.
"Oh, okay. Well, I'm hearing sirens now. Let's go get a statement from the sheriff."
Out of the dark shadows, a figure emerged from the alley. Looking both ways, she raced over to the nearby dumpster and opened the lid. Then she dropped a brown paper bag in, which landed with a thump.
"Ow! Be careful with that stuff; it's radioactive!" The man's voice whisper- shouted.
"Oh, sorry," replied the girl in the trench coat. "Didn't know you'd actually be in here. You know what to do?"
"Yeah, yeah. How'd you get a hold of this?"
"Believe me. You don't want to know."
"Fine. Now get outta here before someone catches you talking to dumpsters."
Furtively searching the area, she dropped the lid shut and took off, running as fast as she could to the next block. Shedding the hat and sunglasses, she slowed down to a much more casual speed, whistling a tune.
"Okay, Clark, I've basically finished my part. What do you think of this lead?" Lois asked, chewing on the end of the eraser.
"Well, remind me not to borrow any of your pencils, for starters," he relied as he looked over her shoulder. "And you spelled 'intuitively' wrong." He matched her glare with an All-American smile.
"Ugh! Do you purposely try to get under my skin?"
"All the time."
"And the lead?"
"It's fine, Lois."
Lois LAN'ed the bomb story over to Perry and picked up the bulging South Side folder. "So, who would have the most to gain by bombing the Mayors' conference?"
"One of the South Side residents," Clark answered immediately. "They'd want to draw attention."
"I agree. But they couldn't have known that the argument would flare up. Do you really think it's a coincidence that the bomb went off during the South Side discussion?"
"No, but…who could have known that the argument would even happen in the first place, *when* it happened? Maybe it was someone who knew when the mayor was going to bring it up."
"True, but if that reporter hadn't pushed his buttons when she did, the times of the discussion and the bomb wouldn't have coincided." Lois countered.
"So, maybe someone knew that the reporter was going to bring it up?" Clark suggested.
"Or…maybe it was the reporter herself who planted the bomb. JIMMY!"
"What's up, Lois?" he asked, striding over to her desk.
"Did you take any pictures at the mayor's press conference?"
"Nope. I was out with Eduardo, so Chief sent Steven over."
"Can you get them for me?"
"Are you sure she's the bomber, Lois?" Clark asked carefully.
"Cla-ark! Look at the evidence. She lives in South Side. She's upset at the fact that the city's dragging its feet, AND she was present at the conference so she knew when the bomb had to be set off!"
"Look, I'm just saying we can't charge over and accuse her. A *lot* of other people were at the event, and a *lot* of other people had a reason to make a statement. I think we should check the sign-in list and see who else was there that's from South Side."
"Fine. But I at least want to find out if she knows anything…what, don't look at me like that! He *does* live there, you know. She can at least give us a perspective of what it's really like. You heard her tirade, too."
"Okay, we'll interview her."
"Hey, Lois, I got those pictures," Jimmy called jogging over to her. "Do you think the bomber's in here somewhere?"
"I don't know, maybe. What the heck is this?" she inquired, waving her hand at the huge stack.
"They're Steven's pictures. He didn't want to miss anybody, so he took three roles."
"Great. Well, I never thought I'd actually thank stupidity. Here, Clark," she said, thrusting him half. We can spread out if we go into the conference room."
Kelsey sighed. Only another two and a half hours to go before her shift ended. Then she could finally go back to the orphanage and write up the bomb piece.
<How could someone be so stupid as to set a bomb loose? It was the worst possible way to voice one's opinion. There were other options…like writing a newspaper article. Heck, even screaming on the street corners was better than that.>
"Excuse me, miss, where are your tomatoes located?"
"Aisle four," Kelsey replied, not turning around to see who it was. Of course, she probably should have, considering the state South Side was in.
Only half a year left until she could move out of this wasteland and finally find a real apartment in Metropolis. It wasn't her first choice, considering all she'd been through, but it was a start.
Kelsey could hardly wait until her eighteenth birthday. She could finally put out some job applications and dump this pointless job. But it was either this, or go to college, and four more years of school was just something she wasn't interested in. That meant that wherever she worked, she'd have to start at the bottom and work her way up, though. Kelsey didn't care.
"Hiya, Kelsey." Kelsey turned around and her eyes widened.
"What are *you* doing here, Bobby?"
"Just a little shopping. What aisle are the green beans on?" Bobby asked.
"Cut the crap. What do you want?"
"Just a little favor."
"Uh huh. Who's getting whacked this time?"
Bobby frowned. "I really don't know. I don't think anyone's getting Killed yet, but word is there's gonna be some more 'situations' in Metropolis, like what happened with the bomb."
"What kinda stuff?"
"I don't know. You know South Side better than I do."
"So the favor is to find the 'who' and 'where', right?"
"Look, I know it could be dangerous, but."
"Forget about it. I'll do it. Have you talked to Lane and Kent, yet?"
"No," Bobby answered, flatly.
"Look, I know they've helped in the past, but South Side's no walk in the park."
Kelsey rolled her eyes. "They can take care of themselves," she pointed out.
"Fine. I'll talk to them. But it's up to *you* to give 'em a crash course about hanging around these areas. They're kinda conspicuous, ya know, and these aren't your normal South Side areas. It's rough here. And I think we both know that the culprit is in this neighborhood."
"Thanks, Kelsey," Bobby finished. "Look, I really do want some green beans."
Kelsey laughed. "Aisle Two."
That's her!" Lois exclaimed suddenly, pointing at the picture. She stuck her head out the conference room door. "Jimmy!"
"Yes, Lois?" he asked.
"I want you to find everything you can on. on." she snapped her fingers. "Sara Carter. Where she works, who she lives with. I want to know she eats for breakfast. Everything."
"I'm on it, Lois." She handed him the picture, and he went back to his desk. He started typing rapidly on the keyboard gazing intently at the screen. About ten minutes later, he printed out a couple of pages and brought them into the conference room.
"So what'd you find?" Lois asked excitedly.
"Oh, plenty," Jimmy answered. "First of all, there is no Sara Carter. That's the name she'd signed under, though, at the press conference."
"I knew it!" Lois exclaimed.
"You did not." That was Clark. She glared at him as Jimmy continued.
"So then I scanned in the picture, and it came up in the database. Her real name is Kelsey Wells. She works at a corner market in South Side, and her address is 4410 Wayside Lane."
"Pretty tough neighborhood after dark," Clark commented. "Especially for them."
"Hah. That's tough during the day, too."
"Wait, who's *them*? Lois asked, using her fingers as quotation marks.
"4410 is the Wilder Orphanage."
"Oh. Well, are you ready to do some interviewing, Clark?"
"I…" he started helplessly as he heard a cry for help. "I could use some real coffee first. How about you?"
"Well, sure, we could stop by the latte stand on our way-"
"No, no. I'll get it. Be right back." He was out of the conference room before Lois could protest.
"Does he do that often?" Jimmy asked curiously.
"Ugh. Constantly. I have yet to figure out where he can pack all that latte fat."
Superman landed on the scene in South Side just as the muggers started to beat the terrified man. He grabbed them both by the arms and tied them up with nearby rope. The guy got up off the ground, and winced as he moved his shoulder.
"Thanks, Superman. I was just walking to work, when those guys snuck out of the alley and grabbed me." A police car then rounded the corner on a patrol.
"I'm gonna go flag them down," Superman said. "You'll be all right, sir?"
"Yeah, sure. Shame, really, what South Side's turning into, these days." Superman halted in mid jump and thunked back on the ground with both feet.
"Do live around here?" he asked the victim.
"Yeah-two blocks over, he replied, jerking his thumb to the right. Last week alone there were three stores robbed right down the street, you know, where the fancy homes end and our stuff begins. They think it was the same person, but who knows."
"Oh, right. You know, we can't get copies of the Star or the Planet, so there's this girl, uh, don't know her name, but everybody knows her, she puts out a weekly thing, lets us know what's going on. I'd probably ask her."
"Really?" Superman's eyebrows shot up. This was the biggest lead he'd had yet on the South Side case. "Do you think this robber might have set off the bomb in the park?"
"Maybe. Like I said, who knows."
One of the victim's muggers finally opened his mouth. "One thing's for sure, y'ain't catching her. It's some babe in a trench coat. I've seen her around. She talks to dumpsters a lot, but I always kinda thought she was nuts. Maybe there's someone in these dumpsters, ya know."
"Shut up, Frankie!" exclaimed the second mugger. He stomped on Frankie's foot and Frankie kicked him back.
"Hey man, the more I talk, the easier those cops go on me, right, Supes?" he asked, indicating the patrol car that stopped in front of the men.
"Wrong," Superman replied. "Just think of it as being a good citizen." Frankie sneered at the superhero and clamped his mouth shut. Then Superman turned to the victim. "Thanks…"
"Johnny," he supplied. "And don't hesitate if you need anymore info."
"Right. That goes for you also, Frankie," said Superman firmly, nodding at the mugger. He rocketed into the sky, and disappeared from sight.
"Are you all right, sir?" the police officer asked as he approached the muggers.
"Yeah, I'm okay. These two guys grabbed me when I was walking home…"
The elevator opened ten minutes later, and Clark hurried into the bullpen carrying two steaming containers of mocha lattes.
"*Now* are you ready to go?" Lois asked, exasperated.
"Yup. Here you go," Clark said handing her a latte. They marched up the ramp and pushed the button for the elevator.
"You know, this is really good!" Lois exclaimed as they entered it. "Where'd you get it?"
"Oh, just a little place I know," Clark replied as the elevator doors closed. <In Milan,> he added mentally.
Lois knocked on the door and a teenager with light red hair, Janet, answered it.
"Can I help you?" she asked curiously.
"I'm Lois Lane, and this is my partner Clark Kent. We're from the."
"Daily Planet, I know," Janet replied, holding up the paper in her hand. "What can I do for you?"
"You know who we are?"
"Lois," Clark replied, rolling his eyes. "These people don't live in caves, you know. They get the paper just like you do."
"Uh, actually we don't. We've been sending one of the girls out for the past five years to steal them off other peoples' porches."
"Oh. Anyway, is Kelsey Wells here?"
"Yup. Come on in." Janet led the reporters into the living room and sat them down on the couch. "I'll be right back."
"Kelsey!" she called walking down the hallway. "There are some people here to see you!"
"Not now! I finally found some free time to write this up. Tell them to come back later."
"I don't think they'll go without a fight. It's Lane and Kent."
Kelsey sighed. "Fine."
Janet led her into the kitchen, where the old crack in the wall was just enough to spy on their guests. They were talking away, but neither girl could make out what they were saying. "So what do they want with you, anyway?" Janet asked curiously.
"What do you think?! They probably think *I* was the one who set off the
"Were you involved in it?"
"Do you know who did it?" Kelsey was silent at this, and Janet sighed heavily. "I'll take that as a *maybe*."
Kelsey took in a deep breath. Sucking in all the courage she could manage, she strode confidently through the kitchen door into the living room. Lois and Clark immediately stood up.
"Hi, Kelsey Wells," she said extending a hand.
"I believe we've already met," Lois said coolly, already in reporter-mode.
"Hi," Clark replied shaking the hand warmly. "How are you?"
"Fine, thanks," she replied with a surprised grin. "Can I get you anything? Coffee, tea?"
"Thanks, but no." He gestured towards the nearby chair, and all three sat down.
"Kelsey, can we assume you were present at the conference four days ago?" Clark asked, although it really wasn't a question anymore.
"I guess. What do you want to know?"
"Well, you *do* live in South Side," Lois cut in. "Do you know who set off the bomb?"
"No," Kelsey answered. It wasn't a total lie.
"Are you sure about that?" Lois asked closely.
"Yeah," she replied. There was silence. "Look, if that's all your here for, I really have a column to get out, and."
"Actually, I've got a couple of questions, if you don't mind," Clark interrupted.
"Okay." Kelsey replied warily.
"When was this orphanage founded?"
Kelsey blinked twice, clearly surprised by the shift in questioning.
"Well, the Steven K. Wilder Orphanage for the Abandoned was founded around 1890. His sister left his niece, or something, and he took her in. Then his house just sort of evolved into an orphanage. Every house has its own story. You want to take a look around?"
"Sure," said Clark, following her into the den.
"We don't have time, Clark," Lois pointed out.
"Yes, we do," he threw over his shoulder. She did not follow him.
"This is the den," Kelsey said, starting the tour. "It wasn't added on until 1937. It used to be all back yard, but then so many kids were coming in that they just ran out of room."
"Is this real alligator rug?" Clark asked, squatting down to feel it.
"Sure is," Kelsey replied proudly. "Mrs. Sanders, that's the head of the orphanage, she caught it herself in a Delta a while back. She has lots of neat stories to tell if you can sit through the lecture first."
"I hear they call her the. Warden, or something? That's what your friend Riley said."
"Yeah. But there's a lot they don't know about her. All they see is some stiff, middle-aged woman running a household. They never really took time to look under those frigid suits of hers. There's a lot more underneath some people. You just gotta look for it."
"I couldn't agree more."
Two hours later, Clark emerged back into the sitting area with Kelsey, where he found Lois still sitting on the couch, looking slightly-more-than irritated.
"Thanks for the tour, Kelsey," Clark said, handing her his card. "And if you remember anything about the conference, you'll give us a call, right?"
"Absolutely. Well, I do have a column to finish, so it's been nice talking to you."
"Who is this column for?" Lois asked as she gathered her things.
"I'd rather not say at the moment." She ushered Lois and Clark out the door pretty quickly, amidst their questions about it.
"So, what exactly did you two *do* for *two* hours?!" Lois spat out as she stuck the key in the ignition. "Do you know what you left *me* doing?! Small talk with teenagers!"
"Lois, we had to gain Kelsey's trust," Clark stated firmly. "If she does, in fact, know what's going on, she's not going to risk her neck until she knows she can trust us."
"Okay, fine," Lois grudgingly replied. "Did you actually find out anything useful during this 'getting-to-know-you' event."
"Great. So, where does that leave us now? We've got nothing."
"Well, technically not. I've still got clue-half sitting around," Clark ventured. At Lois' questioning look, he continued, "I saw Superman on my way back into the newsroom today and he mentioned saving a guy named Johnny, who might have an idea or two."
"And how do we find him?"
"That's the hard part. I don't know. Oh, hey! Did you ever hear back from Bobby today?"
"Not yet, but he'll probably call back tomorrow." Lois pulled up onto the curb on Clinton Street. "Listen, I've got Tae-Kwon-Do practice tonight, so I'll see you tomorrow."
"Great! See you."
There was no such luck with Bobby. By the time Clark got into the newsroom after helping with a train derailment, Lois still hadn't heard from her snitch and was getting irritated. Clark typed up the Superman piece with the "exclusive interview," and wandered over to her desk to plan out their next step.
"This is getting ridiculous, Clark! Last night alone, there were two more robberies and a bomb threat. Bobby still hasn't called back yet…you look terrible, by the way."
"Yeah, I know. Didn't get enough sleep last night, I guess. So now what do we do? We've got no leads, no suspects, and the only one who knows anything won't talk to us."
"What about that guy Superman saved?"
"He can't find him," Clark replied.
"Great. Just great. Well, Jimmy's been investigating the cases and seeing if anything fits a pattern or a previous criminal, but so far it's a no go. It's just a mish-mash of vandalism."
Clark sighed. "I don't know about you, but I'm completely stymied."
"Me too. I move that we have a stake-out," Lois stated suddenly.
"In South Side?!" Clark nearly shouted. "Are you kidding me?!" Several curious heads turned their way, and Clark lowered his voice. "Lois, that's insane!"
"No, it's not," Lois countered. "What else to we have to go on?"
"Nothing, but not having any leads doesn't constitute a stake-out in quite possibly the roughest neighborhood in the state."
"Clark, you're exaggerating, and you know it!"
"We're still not doing this."
"Fine, I'll do it by myself."
Lois slowed her car down, and started inching towards the South Side district. Sitting next to her amidst the undercover gear, Clark sighed. "I cannot believe we're doing this."
"You could have stayed home," Lois pointed out.
"Yeah, right." Silence followed. "So where exactly are we going?" Clark asked after a minute.
"I thought we'd watch some of the smaller shops, see if anything happens." She glided up to a curb about a block away from a convenience store on a corner. They set up the camera in the back and waited as some black clouds rolled in.
"Gin," Lois said triumphantly throwing down her cards.
"No way," Clark replied. "I just dealt 'em!"
"Guess that means you don't know how to shuffle," Lois said smugly. "My deal."
She dealt out another round. They were about halfway through the deck when a group of guys turned the corner and strolled down the street in their direction.
"Clark, look!" Lois whispered. "Get down!"
Interested, the group wandered over to the car, and Clark flattened himself down on top of Lois on the floor of the car. He watched them with his special vision as they circled it and shrugged, apparently not seeing a driver. Then the punk with no hair grinned. He whipped out a baseball bat and smashed in the windshield, shattering glass everywhere.
Clark kicked the backseat door open and screamed, "Lois, run!"
She scrambled out, and flipped the guy who grabbed her from behind; Clark himself was busy battling two others. Then the guy who she had flipped, jumped back up and grabbed her around the waist. Holding a gleaming knife in his hand, he raised it up as rain started to fall. Clark looking stricken, glanced in her direction; he wasn't going to make it to her in time. Out of nowhere, a figure dressed in black leapt from the trees, and took out the knife with a roundhouse kick. Lois sucker-punched him from the ground, and Clark finished off the other two fighting him. The gang finally fled into the pitch-black night.
"Ugh," Lois grunted as Clark pulled her up. "Thanks."
The figure in black sighed with frustration, and pulled off the mask. "*That's* why Bobby didn't call you back, Lois."
"Wells? How'd you know we were here?" Lois demanded.
Kelsey snorted. "Don't thank me for saving your life or anything. I've been following you since Tuesday's bomb."
"Because I knew you'd do something stupid, that's why," she scoffed.
Clark elbowed Lois and said, "Really, Kelsey, thanks for your help. I guess it *was* a little rash driving out here at midnight." He shot a look at Lois.
"Okay, fine, thanks," she grudgingly admitted. "Great, now can we high-tail it to the precinct before they come back?"
"Yeah, sure, and how exactly do you expect to get there without getting us all killed here?" Lois asked sharply.
Kelsey looked over at Clark, her plain look asking him, <How do you work with her?>.
"Look, I live in South Side; you want to get to the station, you stick with me. Otherwise, you've basically signed your own death warrant at this hour."
Lois looked skeptical, so Kelsey turned to Clark and said seriously, "She actually thinks I'm kidding."
He got the hint. "Fine, we're coming with you," he immediately agreed.
Lois looked none-too-pleased. "She clearly doesn't like me," Kelsey whispered to Clark. She confidently wove her way down the various streets; some were packed, some deserted. Lois and Clark actually stuck with her, after having seen some of the violence going on around them. Some shouted at her, and she studiously ignored them, never slowing down her pace.
South Side was basically a dump. Streets were littered, trashcans spilling into roads everywhere. Broken glass was present at every store; windows were smashed, buildings splintered. No one dared to look down the darkened alleyways, for fear of being attacked. Gangs hung in the condemned buildings and closed-down shops, waiting for their next victim. Lois gripped tightly onto Clark as they passed yet another misfit with a knife.
The trio rounded another street corner, and Kelsey slowed down.
"Hey, why'd we slow down?" Lois demanded, darting her eyes everywhere.
"Good question; you're actually paying attention. Stick with me, and this street's pretty safe," Kelsey replied.
"Yo, Kelse!" Various people shouted from the doorway of a diner.
"Hey guys, 'sup? Can't talk now; doing business." She picked up the pace again.
"Hey Kelsey, when are you gonna put me in your column?" Somebody slurred from behind.
"When your stories stop putting me to sleep!" she threw over her shoulder.
"Wells, you gonna go out with me sometime?"
"Yeah, in your next lifetime! He reincarnates," Kelsey whispered to Clark sarcastically.
"Kelsey!" A middle-aged man shouted from one of the diners. She nodded her head at Lois and Clark, and the three strode over to him.
"Is it important? I'm kinda busy here."
The man dropped his voice to practically a non-existent whisper. "Deep throat's here, and he says he gots important information, if ya catch me drift."
Kelsey looked over at Lois and Clark, then glanced back at her friend with a frustrated shake of the head. "Can't stick around here tonight. Too dangerous for them," she said, indicating the Daily Planet reporters. "He can meet me at the 'you-know-where,' usual time."
He shrugged his shoulders. "Okay."
Kelsey pulled back together her confident stride, and quickly walked to the end of the block with the reporters in tow. They made a left, and the police station suddenly loomed in view. Slowing down, Kelsey grabbed the front entrance door and opened it.
Nigel St. John opened the door to Lex Luthor's office and slowly strode in.
"Good, Nigel, you're here," Luthor stated. "What's the latest report of our current…project?"
"Moving along quite nicely, sir," he responded. "Although a few…reporters…are getting quite nosy. Two, in particular."
"Yes, yes. Lane and Kent I presume?" Nigel nodded. "Obviously, that is to be expected. Watch them, Nigel. If they get too close, they may need to be eliminated."
"One attempt has already been made, sir," Nigel commented. "A gang last night broke into Miss Lane's car. I believe they were on a stakeout."
"Hmm." Lex thought this over. "Bring this 'gang' in, Nigel. They may be. useful at some point."
Clark was already at his desk shifting through paperwork when Lois arrived at the newsroom. She grabbed the last doughnut out of the box and ate it on her way down the ramp. "Clark, I talked to the body shop today," Lois informed him as soon as she reached his desk. "There wasn't much damage other than the windshield, but it looks like we'll be taking cabs for the next couple of weeks."
"That's fine," he said, finally looking up from the grunt work. "So, where exactly do we go from here? Obviously Kelsey isn't much help, and all this paperwork on my desk has gotten me nowhere."
"What*is* all that?" Lois asked incredulously.
"Everything we know on South Side: who owns what, financial statements, convicted felons."
"Oh. Well, I got a call from Bobby today. He said that whoever the culprit is, he or she definitely answering to a higher authority. No one is willing to say who though. They're too scared."
"Interesting." Clark mused. "Well, who do we have left to talk to?"
"Hmm. We've already done Henderson, the chief of police, several store owners, and of course, Ms. I've-Been- Following-You-Since-Tuesday," She finished, making a face. "I guess the only other person left is Superman's friend, Johnny. Oh, right, Bobby gave me an address for him, too."
"Okay, why don't we interview him? Maybe he can give us a lead on whoever is putting out that South Side 'paper'."
"Right, I'd forgotten about that," Lois replied. "What do we know about it?"
"Well." Clark consulted his notes. "From what I gathered from the store owners, it comes out every Thursday. It's been sort of a coverage on the crime in South Side lately. It's particularly popular for its articles that rally the city councils to take care of South Side's problems."
"I hope we can get a copy of it. I'd really like to look it over. Maybe we can talk to its staff and see what they know," Lois thought outloud.
"Staff?!" Johnny asked incredulously. "That paper ain't got no staff!" He roared with laughter.
"Well, if it doesn't have a staff, who's putting it out on the street corners? Who's writing it? Who's chasing down the leads and doing research?" Lois countered.
"Beats me. Alls I know is whoever's doing it is all by himself. I talked to some people about it, and they said it's definitely a 'he'. They say he rides by on a bike everyday at 5am, dropping off the papers. He wears a black baseball cap and he has red hair."
"But you've never seen him yourself?"
"Where can we find a copy of this paper?"
"Well, I get mine at the corner of Southeast and 2nd. Probably it's the safest place to get 'em for people like you. But they're usually all gone by 10am."
"So Johnny," Clark said, changing the subject. "I talked to Superman the other day and he said you were mugged."
"That's right. I was on my way to work and some thugs jumped me. Superman saved me. Got my stuff back, too."
"What were the robbers like? Did it seem anything like part of the recent crime wave?"
"Not really. But they seemed to know a lot about it. Said some dude in a trench coat was talking to dumpsters or somethin'. I gots the impression that someone was inside those dumpsters."
"Now *that* is interesting," Lois remarked, making a note on her pad. "Did they say anything else?"
"Sorta. After Superman left, they made a comment to each other while they were being' booked. Said that…oh yeah. They said, 'Shoulda followed the babe.' And then the other one replied with somethin' like, 'Warehouses aren't my style.'
"Thanks for you help, Johnny," Clark said, shaking his hand.
<This is dangerous. I shouldn't be here. This is really, really dangerous. I should have told someone where I was going. Oh, be quiet.> Kelsey finally admonished herself, as she moved the manhole cover aside. Making sure that no one was watching, she quickly jumped in and grabbed a hold of the ladder.
She moved the cover so that it was lightly resting on top, and then climbed down the ladder. Kelsey hit the ground with a soft thud and found her flashlight after searching her pockets. She held the map up to the light and started following the path she marked.
Kelsey had been planning this expedition for weeks, ever since she started investigating the criminal. Whoever was planning all these bomb threats and vandalism was pretty good. Kelsey had a good idea of who it was, though. She just didn't know who was actually performing them. Logically, she started following her suspect and that eventually led her to his meeting spot. But it was too dangerous to spy on him from ground level. He had spies everywhere. Which is why Kelsey had mapped out the sewers.
She made a face as she stepped in a gunky-looking puddle. Whatever it was, she really didn't want to know. Scraping her shoe against the concrete, she kept on moving. It wasn't too far now. Spotting her exit to ground level, she positioned her flashlight on the ground so she could see the top. Kelsey grabbed the crowbar she was holding and ever so slowly poked it up, so she could see what was going on.
She couldn't see much, but she did recognize that it was the alley by 12th and Main. It was the only purple dumpster in the city. Also, it was pretty close to Centennial Park. <Which explains how the bomber was able to know when to detonate the explosive at the mayor's conference,> Kelsey thought hurriedly.
"So, you're here. On time for a change," A male voice said. It was British. <Just as I suspected,> Kelsey said to herself.
"Yeah, I am. Why did you call me here? Do you have another job for me?" This female voice was vaguely familiar but Kelsey couldn't see its owner.
"As a matter of fact, I do." Kelsey raised her eyebrows as St. John handed the girl a gun.
"Who do you need me to threaten?"
"Not threaten. Kill."
"K-kill?!" The girl's voice raised itself to a mere squeak.
"Yes, kill. Some nosey street bum is poking around, investigating what she shouldn't. My Boss gets irritated when his…projects are tampered with."
The girl gulped. "So, who is it?"
"I can't whack Kelsey!"
"Of course, you can. Or you could die a very slow and painful death. Your choice."
A car pulled up and someone from inside opened the door for him. He got in and it drove away. All that was left was the girl holding the gun in shock. Kelsey's eyes widened as she recognized her best friend, Rachaele. She knew that Rachaele was pretty upset about living in crummy, old South Side, but she didn't know that Rachaele was radical enough to take action. <Just the sort of thing that The Boss would prey on,> Kelsey thought bitterly.
It suddenly dawned on her that she was the next project. A cold chill came over her and she slowly closed the manhole cover. Even if Rachaele didn't try to kill her, St. John wouldn't hesitate to finish off both Rachaele and herself. There was no escaping him. She lost her grip on the ladder and fell to the ground, her flashlight rolling into the sewer stream. She slumped into on the ground shaking. <Get yourself together!> her mind screamed at her.
She was still shaking, but she managed to stand up. Her eyes were pretty adjusted to the dark, which was a good thing, because her one and only flashlight had just taken a lethal swim. Picking up her crowbar off the ground, she took off down the tunnel as fast as she could.
The elevator doors to the Daily Planet newsroom opened. Kelsey stepped off, shivering from the rain. She was soaked from head to toe. Spotting Clark Kent at a desk, she rushed down the ramp to him.
"Kelsey, what's up?" Clark asked concerned. "You look terrible… and you're limping."
"Twisted ankle. grocery cart. not important," she answered, out-of-breath. She paused, collecting herself. "Clark, I found out some things today. actually, a lot of things."
"What kind of things?"
"I can't tell you here. Too many people around."
"Let's go into the conference room," Clark suggested. He escorted his guest in there and shut the door. He realized he had to be extremely careful here. One wrong move, and she might leave with whatever information she has. They both sat down. "So, what sort of things did you find out, Kelsey?"
"Things like…who the press conference bomber was, who hired her, and what her next job is."
Clark raised his eyebrows to the ceiling. "Um, don't you think Lois should be here for some of this? After all she is working on this, too."
Kelsey sighed. Finally she replied, "I guess so. But she doesn't seem to like me that much."
Clark stood up. "I'll take care of that; don't worry about it. Be right back." He exited the conference room, and Lois looked up with interest as he came over to her desk.
"Clark, what's going on? Why is Wells here?" Lois asked him.
"She'll answer all our questions on one condition," he answered.
"What's that?" Lois asked suspiciously.
"That *you* be nice to her."
"What?!" Upon Clark's look at her she said grumpily. "Oh, okay, fine. But it won't be easy. We haven't exactly gotten along."
"Just keep it professional and everything should be okay."
Clark re-entered the conference room with Lois, and they both sat down.
"So," Lois started crisply, "Clark says you might have some helpful information for our investigation." She pulled her notepad and a pencil out of her purse.
"Uh, yeah, I do. Look, you never heard this from me, okay?"
"Of course not," Clark jumped in. "We never reveal our sources. Um, so why don't you start with how you found this stuff out?"
"Okay," Kelsey started slowly. She wanted to make sure she remembered everything. "This criminal has been at it for a few weeks now. She never made herself so exposed until she planted the bomb. I suspected from the start that everything was planned out. I wasn't really sure why, so I just started investigating to see if anything came up. I figured out pretty quick that this criminal was answering to someone else, so I started following this someone else. I was pretty sure I knew who it was.
"Well, after a few days of following this someone else, I found his meeting spot. But he had never met with the girl there; it was always his assistant. His assistant is a dangerous guy, so I knew I couldn't follow him on the street level. I've spent the past few weeks mapping out the sewer system. I used that map today, and followed him. I saw him meet with the girl. They discussed the plan, then he left her and jumped into The Boss's limo."
Kelsey stopped and took a breath. Lois jumped in excitedly with questions. "Who's the criminal?" she asked.
"Rachaele Westley. She lives in Wilder with me."
"Who met with her today?"
"Nigel St. John."
"What? This is incredible. Why would Nigel St. John get mixed up in this stuff?" Lois wondered out loud?
"Lois," Kelsey answered slowly, "Can you think of anyone who is benefiting from all this South Side nonsense? Anyone at all?"
Lois was silent at this, so Kelsey continued speaking. "Okay, think about this then. You're an established store owner. You've been at it for, oh, five years. But your neighborhood starts going downhill. The police aren't responding, and it's getting worse. You're looking for a hero-someone with money, with contacts."
"Are you saying that someone is willing to bring havoc on the already oppressed South Side just so they can look like a hero and save it?"
"Exactly," Kelsey replied. This was starting to get painful. "For God's sakes, Lois, can't you think of *anyone* like that associated with St. John?!"
"Not even…Lex Luthor?" Clark asked quietly.
"You're kidding," Lois replied haughtily. "Look, Clark. I know you don't like him, but that's no reason to."
"Now who's kidding?" Kelsey interrupted. "Lois, he was behind the Messenger explosion, Toni Bate's murder, the Toasters. What on *earth* makes you think that he wouldn't be behind the South Side incidents?"
If it was at all possible, Lois' eyebrows crawled even further up her forehead. "Actually," Clark broke in. "I hadn't mentioned to her the possibilities of that list yet."
"What?!" Lois exclaimed. "You *knew*, and you didn't tell me?!"
"I couldn't! I didn't have any proof; I still don't. You wouldn't believe me."
"Where did *you* hear all this, Wells?"
"Lois, I'm a street kid. Always been a street kid. I know what goes on. Granted, there's no direct proof yet. Luthor never leaves a trail. But we can discuss who is or is not involved in what later. Right now we have a job to do. I haven't exactly finished my story yet."
"Oh, right," Clark replied. "Continue."
"Okay, well, on my way here, I saw my contact. You know, the one I was told to meet the night your car got broken into? He said that there's this meeting I might want to check out tonight at a warehouse in Suicide Slum. But he didn't know which one."
"I'm game," Lois said excitedly.
"No way. Absolutely not." Lois looked at Clark and shook her head.
He continued, "I'm serious, Lois. We have no idea what we're up against. These people are dangerous!"
"Now that's just ridiculous, Clark. Do you know how many *dangerous* stake-outs we've done in the last month?"
"Right. And we're still alive."
"Yeah, barely. But that's beside the point. We're not doing this."
"Why?! Because you 'said so'?"
Kelsey rolled her eyes. "Okay, okay. Fine. Now that the 'Absolute Power' has spoken," she broke in sarcastically. "I do have things to do. I'll catch up with you guys in a few days." She stood up and turned to walk out the door when Clark caught up with her.
"But you're still in danger. Where do you expect to go?" he asked.
"I don't know. I'll think of something. Later."
"I think you should stay with me 'til this whole thing blows over," Clark suggested.
"Aw, I don't know about that…"
"Hey, I wouldn't knock it, Wells," Lois commented. She looked up from her notes on the conference room table. "He's a great cook, and he has reliable air conditioning."
"Well. Okay, I guess. But just for a few days."
"I have to get back to work. I'll see you later. Key's under the mat, right?"
Clark shot her a surprised look. "How did you…?"
"You country guys are *so* predictable," Kelsey said as she closed the door behind her with a smile.
Clark sat back down with a furrowed brow. After a moment he asked, "Am I really that predictable, Lois?"
She started to laugh. "Can I plead the Fifth on that?"
When Clark finally got home, Kelsey was already there napping on the couch. Before he even attempted to close the door quietly so as not to wake her, she flipped over and slowly opened one eye. "Oh, it's only you," she commented.
"Sorry. Did I wake you?" Clark asked.
"Nah, I'm a light sleeper. It's a South Side thing." She stood up and stretched.
"Oh, okay." He took off his jacket and tossed in on a nearby chair en route to the kitchen. "Have you eaten tonight?" he called.
"Not really. I was going to wait 'til you came home to raid your fridge," Kelsey replied.
"Well, come raid away."
"Cool." She opened the fridge and started poking around.
"Um…last I checked, there's leftover pasta, sandwich fillings…and oh, yeah. My mom brought some frozen meals last time she visited."
She closed the refrigerator door and opened the freezer. "Her chicken is really good," Clark commented, pointing inside.
"Sounds good to me," Kelsey replied. "You want some? Looks like enough for two."
"Sure." He started setting the table, and Kelsey closed the freezer door and put the chicken on the counter.
"Oh, here, I'll take care of that." Clark set the oven and put the chicken in. "Shouldn't take long. I'm going to turn on the news in there", he said, indicating the den. Kelsey followed him in. They weren't sitting for too long when Clark's pager went off with a 911.
"Shoot! I have to go back to the office. You'll be okay while I'm gone?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. I'll save some dinner for you."
"Great, thanks." He rushed out the door and locked it.
<Wow, I thought he'd *never* leave!> Kelsey exclaimed in her head.
She snuck over to the window and made sure he was gone. Running into the bathroom, she shed her work clothes and put on her black garb that she previously hid in his bathroom. Black long-sleeved shirt, black jeans, black cap, black gloves. Stuffing her other clothes underneath the sink, she re- entered the living room.
The phone rang, and she picked it up. "Hey…thanks, Frankie. Just keep him occupied for, oh, an hour. If I don't call back then, you can tell him where I went."
Kelsey hung up and left Clark's apartment. She returned ten seconds later after remembering to shut the oven off. Now it was time to shut down these criminals.
Cutting her eyes to each side, Kelsey pronounced the area deserted and dashed down the street. Suicide Slum was *not* what she had in mind for tonight. Well, actually it was, but it was the last place she wanted to be.
Catching her breath, she slowed down to a trot as she approached the next warehouse. There were only five that Lex Luthor owned in this area, and this was the only one left. Kelsey wondered if he would actually be there, or if he would send St. John to do his dirty work again. Spotting a window on one side of the building, she crept towards it and hid in the surrounding bushes. Ever so slowly, she peered up into it.
She didn't see Lex Luthor. What she *did* see was St. John, Rachaele Westley, and two other thugs from her neighborhood. She cupped her ear to the wall hoping she could catch a few words of the conversation.
"So which buildings we hittin' tonight, Boss?" the first thug asked.
"First, *never* call me 'Boss'. Second, this conversation never happened. There's a strip of stores on 2nd and Hyde that have faired out well, despite the crime wave. That's about to change, if you get my drift."
"Yeah, we gotcha," replied the second thug. "When do we get paid?"
"That's for me do decide."
Kelsey raised her eyebrows. *Very* interesting. If she tipped off the police tonight, they could stake out the place and catch these guys. <They probably wouldn't mention St. John, though> she mused. <But even if they did, it would be impossible to trace everything back to Luthor. If only.>
Suddenly a hand clamped on her shoulder. Kelsey whipped around and roundhouse kicked the intruder, who ducked just in time. The intruder punched her in the face as she knocked him on to ground and immediately dove for his ski mask. Slapping a hand over his mouth, she took a good look at his face.
"Lois?!" She quickly pulled her up off the ground and took her over to the bushes.
"Ugh. Who did you think it was for god's sake?" Lois whispered as she rubbed her shoulder.
"One of St. John's thugs!" Upon Lois' raised eyebrows, she continued, "They're in there."
Kelsey pointed at the window and Lois took a quick peek. "They're gonna hit the strip on 2nd and Hyde soon."
"Good, good. Anything else?"
"Not so far." Kelsey peeked in the window again and started thinking out loud. "Although, I'm really not sure why Rachaele is there. I mean, he's already talked to her.
"Probably just keep tabs on her," Lois suggested.
"Yeah, probably…I wonder where his thugs went, though…Lois, where'd you go?"
"Same place you're goin', toots. Only don't getcha hopes up about getting out." The first thug grabbed her shoulders and she elbowed him in the stomach. He fell to the ground with a grunt. She pounded the pavement running as fast as she could as he chased after her. Seeing that he was slowing down and giving up, Kelsey congratulated herself and slowed down to a walk.
"I wouldn't have slowed down."
Kelsey turned around ever so slowly. She would know that voice anywhere. She froze in fear as she faced Nigel St. John and the gun he pointed at her.
"Come with me."
Clark Kent groaned in agony as he watched his flannel- dressed source trot off to the bathroom. He would have loved nothing more than to escape at this point. But the guy just wouldn't go away! He just kept talking and badgering and talking and badgering. Clark's skuzzy looking guy came back to his desk and sat down.
"Look, Frankie," Clark started. "I appreciate the fact that you felt the need to tell me what you know about Nigel St. John. It's helped, really. But that was forty-five minutes ago. We've been sitting here for over an hour now. I want to go home and eat."
Frankie's dark eyes widened. "Crap! It's been over an hour now. She was supposed to call!"
"Who?" Clark asked, concerned.
"Wells! She snuck over to find some warehouse in the Slum!"
"Well, yeah. She sent me over here to getcha outta the way for a while. Something must have happened to her," Frankie finished determinedly.
Not even bothering to get his jacket, Clark practically flew to the stairwell, leaving Frankie in the dust.
St. John shoved Kelsey through the warehouse doors with his gun still pointed at her back. In the far end of the room, Lois was tied to one of the many wooden crates with a very annoyed look on her face. With one final kick, St. John pushed Kelsey over to Lois' corner, and one of the thugs tied her to the crate as well.
"This is all your fault," Kelsey spat out angrily.
"What?! If *you* didn't have to play 007 all the time, we wouldn't be here!" Lois exclaimed.
"Oh, whatever. I've been doing fine on my own up until now. Do *you* know any better than to clamp hands on people in the middle of Suicide Slum?!"
"Ladies, ladies," St. John interrupted. "Is this really how you want to spend your last few minutes?" he asked, gesturing with his gun.
"Oh, fine," Lois remarked. "It's obvious you're going to kill us off anyway. So you might as well tell me why you're so bent on these South Side *incidents*."
"You've certainly done your homework," He commented. "But alas, not well enough. Let's just say that with all of these *incidents* occurring, business owners are…more than happy to sell their property to…certain buyers."
"So what's it gonna be?" Kelsey cut-in. "Bullet to the head? Starvation? Suffocation?"
"Heh. Oh no, I won't be around when you die." St. John snapped his fingers, and Rachaele stepped slowly over to a nearby covered box and picked it up.
"Hurry up!" She rushed it over to him and pulled off the cover. "Unfortunately, this warehouse is about to go up in flames and in the process, killing two nosey reporters and their friend."
"Friend…" Rachaele stated slowly. "Me?! After all I was willing to do for you?" One of the thugs appeared behind her and tied her to the crate.
"Silly girl," St. John said. "Hasn't anyone ever told you not to trust me?" Turning to his two thugs, he said, "Come gentlemen. Our business is finished here." Nigel St. John and his two thugs exited the warehouse, locking the door behind him.
"SUPERMAN! HELP!" Lois screamed.
"He can't hear you," Rachaele said quietly. "It's soundproof."
Lois struggled against her ropes unsuccessfully. "Great. *Now* what?" she asked in general.
"Hell if I know," Kelsey replied. "Rachaele, what in god's name were you thinking?!"
Tears started to form in Rachaele's eyes. "I-I-I don't know," she finally answered. "It was getting worse, and you and your stupid editorials weren't doing anything, and the police weren't showing. I figured I might as well. join the other side."
"That was stupid. Really stupid," Kelsey said. She looked over at the bomb, which was now ticking. "Well, looks like we've got about three minutes left. Anyone got any last words?"
Lois sighed. "Yeah, I do…I really don't like you, Kelsey," she commented. "I think you're sarcastic, you don't think before you speak, and you seem to be up on some high horse because you know the streets better than the rest of us."
"Oh, what a relief!" Kelsey exclaimed. "I don't like you either! I think you're manipulative, bossy, and pig- headed!"
Rachaele raised her eyebrows. "*These* are your last words?"
"Hey, some people get lovey-dovey; we get irritable."
"*We*? There is no 'we'," Lois stated. "There is 'you', there is 'I'. No 'we'."
"Fine. Whatever." The three of them sat in silence. "One minute countdown," Kelsey observed dismally. "Hey Lois?"
"Thanks for giving me a taste of a real newspaper business. This past week has been pretty awesome, considering."
"Well, if you'd gone to college, you could have worked for some place like that…"
"Yeah," Kelsey said wistfully. "Rachaele, I'm sorry I got on your back about all that crap. It really doesn't matter now."
"Don't worry about it," Rachaele replied.
The clock started to countdown from thirty seconds. Then twenty-five. Then fifteen. Then ten…
Suddenly with five seconds left, Superman crashed through the roof of the warehouse. Taking a quick scan, he spotted the bomb and heaved it up into the sky as it exploded.
"Crap, he really does exist," Rachaele commented as he untied the three ladies.
"'Course he exists," Kelsey replied. "What d'ya expect? Batman?"
"Well, no," she replied as she stood up. I mean, he's in the paper all the time, but reading and. actually seeing are two different things."
Superman untied Lois and Kelsey, and they stood up. "Are you three okay?" he asked. "You look like you're going to bruise," he said as he studied Kelsey's face and shoulder.
"St. John kicked her good a couple of times," Rachaele contributed.
Kelsey snorted. "Yeah, in the back." She crossed her arms and stared hard at Lois. "Someone else has a pretty good left hook, too."
Lois glared back, and the two started laughing. Superman glanced back and forth at them, clearly confused.
"Long story," Kelsey said.
"Is St. John still around?" Rachaele asked.
"He's in police custody, as a matter of fact," Superman stated. "One of his thugs squealed on him and told me where you guys were."
"Awesome," Kelsey said. "Well, I think we're all okay here. I bet the three of us can walk home safely."
"You're kidding, right?"
"Aw, come on. After Nigel St. John, two thugs, and a bomb? Man, you guys wimped out in your old age."
"Old age?! I'm 27!"
"Uh huh. Whatever."
Lois and Kelsey walked outside the entrance of the warehouse, still arguing, while Superman and Rachaele pulled up the rear.
"Hey, Kelsey, you coming back to the house?" Rachaele asked, nodding her head in the opposite direction.
"Yeah, I'll be there later. I have to go back and let a certain, uh, Planet employee kick my butt first," Kelsey said with a slight grin.
"Okay, see you." Rachaele jogged off into the darkness.
"Well if you two don't need me, I have some other obligations to attend to tonight. But I'll keep an ear out for you," Superman stated.
"Cool. Thanks, dude," said Kelsey.
"Yeah, thanks. I'll see you around," Lois said.
Superman flew off, and a sonic boom could be heard in the distance.
"So why is Clark going to kick your butt?" Lois asked curiously, as they resumed their pace.
"Oooh. Well, first I promised not to go anywhere," Kelsey started. "And then I got my friend, Frankie, to keep him occupied at the Planet so I could sneak out. But when time passed, and I didn't check in with him, he told Clark where I went."
"Oh, that's even worse than me! But I wouldn't worry about him. He's too much of a softy to really get mad. He'll probably fuss over you for the next week and a half."
"Great. I think I'd rather have him mad at me." They rounded another corner and exited the Slum. "So are you going back to your place?" Kelsey asked.
"Nah, I thought I'd head over to Clark's with you. We can fill him in on our adventure."
Clark was pacing outside his apartment when Lois and Kelsey got there.
"Thank god, you're all right!" Clark exclaimed as they approached him. "Frankie told me what happened, and fortunately I saw Superman at the police station."
"Yeah, St. John and his thugs are in custody right now," Lois said. "The police are probably waiting for Westley at the Wilder place."
"Well, come on in, you two. I've still got some tea left…and some clean clothes," he finished as he observed their dirty appearance. They entered the apartment and when Clark shut the door behind him, he asked, "Uh, why don't you go get us some tea, Lois?"
Lois got the hint. "Right. Tea. Be right back." She disappeared into the kitchen, and Kelsey sat down on the couch.
"Kelsey, what were you thinking?!" Clark started pacing again.
"Okay, so Frankie wasn't my brightest idea. But, hey, no one got hurt."
"If I hadn't seen Superman at the police station, you would have been killed!"
"I know, I know. I'm *really* sorry that I worried you. For god sakes, stop pacing already; it's driving me crazy!" Clark plunked down in a nearby chair and said nothing. "Clark, please don't be mad at me."
Lois came in with three cups of tea and some ice. Setting them down on the coffee table, she whispered to Clark, "You know this isn't half as bad as the things I've done." She sat down on the couch. "Remember all those 'errands' that I ran when we were tracking Miranda? And do you really think all those nights that I really went to sleep?"
"God, you're right, Lois."
"Oh, right," Lois suddenly interjected. She tossed the bag of ice at Kelsey. "Stick this on your face; it looks terrible!"
"Gee, whatever could have happened to it!" Kelsey said sarcastically, but she was smiling.
"Did St. John do that to you?" Clark asked.
"Haha nope. *She* did," Kelsey replied, pointing at Lois as she held the ice- pack to her head.
"Now that's a story I'd like to hear…"
"NIGEL ST. JOHN IN CUSTODY; SOUTH SIDE BACK ON ITS FEET by Lois Lane and Clark Kent, contributed to by Kelsey Wells," read the bold headline of the Daily Planet.
"Kids this has to be one of the damnedest stories you've broken this year," Perry commented.
"Sure is one of the weirder ones," Lois agreed.
"Whatever happened with Rachaele Westley?" Clark asked, walking over to her desk.
"Police dropped some of her charges for testifying against St. John. I think she still has community service, probation…and, oh yeah, some counseling, too."
"Well, that's good. It can't be easy having to go through and ordeal like that."
"Yeah, Wells said Rachaele seems happier now that the counseling sessions have started."
"Good, good." Clark reached into his pocket and tossed a letter onto Lois' desk. "Thought you might be interested in reading this."
"What is it?"
"Kelsey's acceptance letter to Metropolis University."
"Oh, I'm so happy for her! What made her decide to go?"
"This week's investigation. It really showed her the kind of stuff she'd get to do if she had a college degree."
Perry laughed at this. "Only if she's working with Lois Lane."
Clark shook his head. "That's for sure."
"Well, excellent job, you two. Am I gonna be seeing some follow-ups soon?"
"Absolutely," Lois replied.
"Good…Well, what are you waiting for? Hop to it!" Perry White strode back to his office and shut the door behind him.
"Well, you know what they say, Lois," Clark commented as he went to his own desk and sat down.
She sat down at hers and finished his thought. "You're only as good as your next story!"
"So, what about Luthor?"
"What about him?"
"I still think he's worth doing a serious investigation on! Granted, I can't find anything by myself, but if the two of us work together…"
"I don't know. I really don't know. I just have no frame of reference for anything of these accusations. But I'll tell you what. IF, and that's a really big 'if', you can find even one shred of evidence linking him to *anything*, then well launch an investigation. Okay?"
Clark thought about this. "Yeah. Okay. I can deal with that."
"Good. Now lets get cracking on our next assignment before we're both out of a job."
"Right…But you know…something tells me we haven't seen the last of Nigel St. John.
Deep in the shadows of his office, Lex Luthor blew smoke out of a pipe as he lounged back in his chair. Asabi knocked and strode into his penthouse office.
"I trust you have seen this morning's paper?" Asabi asked.
"Yes. That doesn't bother me, though."
"Why is that, sir? St. John is in custody, the D.A. has an eye witness, and the nosy reporters are still alive!"
"I know, I know. But as troubling as that sounds, the Daily Planet hasn't met the full wrath of Lex Luthor yet. *No one* stands in my way."
Asabi raised his eyebrows as we
TO BE CONTINUED?…
Yay, if you made it to the end <bg>, thanks for reading! I hope you liked it.