By Dandello <email@example.com>
Submitted: February 2007
Summary: In the midst of the Nightfall crisis, Inspector Henderson puts the pieces together.
Copyright Jan 25, 2007
Country of first publication, United States of America.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: In nearly every one of my Superman stories, Henderson knows Superman's secret due to Nightfall — So here's his story.
William James Henderson looked over at the disheveled young man sitting meekly on the bench in the Combat Zone precinct house. That wasn't its official name, of course. Its official name was Precinct 4, and it was located near Suicide Slum, the worst part of Metropolis, the part of the city the police didn't normally even enter without traveling in pairs AND in full combat gear.
The young man seemed to sense his gaze and looked up at him, eyes confused and worried behind glasses that didn't fit his face. His clothes didn't fit, either. The shirt was too small, the pants too big. Both had seen better days. The sneakers he was wearing didn't fit. They were so large it was a wonder he could even walk in them .
Sergeant Joe O'Malley shrugged as he turned to Henderson. "Smullins and Green found him over at the Fifth Street Mission. The kid was trying to break up a fight between two of the old druggies down there. Green thought he looked familiar, brought him in. That's when I called you."
"No ID on him?" Henderson asked.
"No nuthin'," O'Malley told him. "Smullins asked around. Henry O. was the one who brought him down to the mission for a flop and some breakfast. Claims he found the kid in an alley off of Prescott and that he was buck naked in the bottom of a crater." O'Malley chuckled. "I'm beginning to wonder what else they're giving away down at the mission."
"Has the medic looked him over?" Henderson asked.
O'Malley nodded. "Not a mark on him. No scars, not even old ones. I'd've at least expected to find a bump on his head."
"Thanks, Joe," Henderson said, clapping the officer on the back. He stepped closer to the young man on the bench and crouched down to be on eye level with him.
"Clark, can you tell me what you were doing in Suicide Slum?"
"Is that my name?"
"Is that what that place is called?"
Henderson nodded. "What were you doing there?"
"I don't know. I don't remember. I remember Henry… that's his name, right?"
"I remember Henry giving me some clothes and telling me to put on the glasses 'cause they would make me look smarter. Then he took me someplace to sleep and get food, and then the two officers showed up, and here I am…"
"Officer Green said you'd gotten into a scuffle."
"The two old guys started fighting. I didn't want them to hurt each other."
Henderson stood up. "Let's you and me go downtown and I'll have you talk to somebody, okay?"
"Am I under arrest?" he asked.
"No, but you do need some help," Henderson said. "And I know some people who can do that."
"Am I supposed to know you?"
"We've run across one another from time to time," Henderson admitted. The young man watched him pensively, as if trying to place the officer. Henderson beckoned for him to accompany him.
The young man obediently followed Henderson to his unmarked car, and sat quietly in the passenger seat as the officer steered his car into traffic. Henderson tuned the car radio to a commercial news station.
*"Despite loss of communications with the Man of Steel, EPRAD officials feel confidant that Superman did survive impact with the Nightfall asteroid, and has made his way safely back to Earth."*
"Superman?" the young man asked. He ran his fingers through his longish dark hair, a nervous habit Henderson was familiar with.
"He's an alien who's adopted Metropolis as his home," Henderson explained. "He flies, has super strength, other abilities. He went up to break up an asteroid that was heading straight for Earth."
"There's a man who can fly, without a plane?" The disbelief was obvious and overwhelming.
"Yeah, he flies without a plane," Henderson told him with a smile. He pulled into the Metropolis Police Headquarters parking garage, parking in his reserved space. He led the young man into the building, stopping at an open interrogation room. "I want you to stay here, okay? I'm going to have somebody come talk to you."
"Okay," he agreed. Despite his obvious worry, he was trusting, almost like a child. A child who happened to be over six-feet tall and built like a quarterback. He looked around the worn room with its wooden table and chairs, taking it all in, then he sat down to wait.
Henderson went to his office and placed two calls.
Henderson watched through the one way mirror of the interrogation room, watching and listening to Jerri McCorkle as she worked, asking questions, noting down the answers. McCorkle was one of the MPD staff psychiatrists. She did initial evaluations of suspects who seemed disturbed, or just plain strung out. She also counseled victims and their families.
"Do you remember having a favorite color?" she was asking him.
"Blue. No, wait a minute. Red. I don't know, Doctor. Maybe yellow," he answered, frowning in his effort to remember.
"Don't try so hard, there's no right or wrong answer," McCorkle told him. "Let's try something else. Everything you remember about the last few days."
"Only the shelter. Then the police officers taking me to the police station and the officer bringing me here. That's it, I'm afraid."
"Have you eaten?"
"Fine. Now, if I told you your name was Clark Kent and that you were a reporter for the Daily Planet, what would your reaction be?"
"Clark Kent? Do you know that for a fact?" he asked, his expression hopeful. "The Daily Planet. That's a newspaper, right?"
McCorkle just made another note, and Clark's expression turned worried again. Henderson heard footsteps approaching and looked over his shoulder to see Lois Lane coming toward him.
"Henderson, this better be good," she started. "I'm working the asteroid story with my partner AWOL and…" She paused as she looked through the glass into the room beyond. "What's he doing here?"
Henderson shrugged. "He doesn't know. We picked him up at the Fifth Street Mission. I got a call telling me he was over in the Combat Zone. I brought him over here and I gave you a call." He reached out and pressed a button on the intercom beside the door. "Doctor?"
McCorkle looked up at the summons and made a quiet comment to Clark. Beside him, Lois waved at the glass. "Clark!"
"Can't see you, Lois," Henderson explained. "It's a one-way. Wouldn't matter, though. He doesn't remember a thing. His name, where he works, me, you."
The door opened and McCorkle emerged from the interrogation room. "Doctor Jerri McCorkle. Lois Lane," Henderson introduced the two women. "Doc's one of our department shrinks."
"What could have caused this?" Lois demanded.
McCorkle shrugged, glancing at her notes. "Several possibilities. I'd guess anxiety caused by this asteroid could be a factor. On the other hand, these cases are often triggered by some kind of physical trauma."
"He got knocked down by a car and hit his head. But that was the day before yesterday…" Lois told them.
"It could be a delayed reaction."
"Is he going to be okay?" Lois asked. She sounded worried.
"Physically, he's fine. Whether he's going to regain his memory immediately, I don't know. Based on the battery of questions we ask, it seems Clark suffers from what we call the 'Superman Complex,'" McCorkle explained.
Lois gave her a wry smile. "Don't we all?"
McCorkle shook her head. "What I mean is that he's a chronic do-gooder who thinks he can handle anything. This kind of setback can be very frustrating."
"Tell me what to do," Lois demanded.
"Clark needs to be surrounded by familiar people, and do familiar things. It will come back to him in time. Be patient with him," McCorkle told her.
Henderson chuckled, looking at Lois. "That's asking a lot, Doc."
Lois glared at him. "I can be patient," she said. "I can be. I can be patient."
McCorkle opened the door to the room and stuck her head in. "Clark, could you come out here please?"
Clark stood and came to the door, curiosity written across his face as he emerged. He peered at the slender dark haired woman waiting with McCorkle and Henderson.
"Clark, this is Lois Lane, your partner at the Daily Planet," Henderson said.
Henderson watched as he looked at her more closely. "My partner?"
"We're a reporting team," Lois explained.
"I'm releasing him to you," McCorkle told Lois before turning back to Clark. "If you have any physical symptoms — blurring of vision, headache, anything like that — get over to the emergency room. I know you check out fine physically, but Miss Lane said you hit your head and it's better to be safe than sorry with a possible head injury."
"I feel fine," Clark assured her.
Lois took his arm and led him away. "Let's get to work."
Superman's initial attack on the approaching asteroid had not been as successful as hoped. A large chunk of nickel-iron, combined with something else, was still heading to Earth. Current projections had its impact point in the north Mid-Atlantic. The resultant tsunami would destroy all the Atlantic coastlines north of… well, north of Antarctica for all intents and purposes. Unless there was a miracle in the shape of Superman, Metropolis was doomed.
The countdown clock to the end of the world was on every television station. The headline of the Daily Planet read: *Superman Came Home, Where Is He Now?* The byline read Lois Lane and James Olsen.
*Clark must still be out of it*, Henderson thought to himself.
He was home with his wife, Patricia. With doomsday hanging over their heads, those that could had left the city to go inland, away from the ocean. Metropolis was virtually a ghost town. Those who remained — police, fire, medical, media — were spending as much time as they could with their loved ones.
Their youngest child, James, was off with friends. The schools had been closed since the first announcement of Nightfall. He'd checked in with his parents, given them his love.
"Penny for your thoughts," Patty said.
"Just wondering what really happened to Superman," he told her. "If he'll be able to pull it off, if he even knows what's going on."
"He'll come through," Patty assured him. "If he's alive, he'll come through."
He read through the Planet article. It had been Clark Kent who'd asked the emergency task force people if they were looking for Superman. It was the Daily Planet that had taken on the job of doing the search. They hadn't found him, but they'd found evidence of his return in an alley in Suicide Slum. They'd found a piece of his uniform in a crater in the alley.
The countdown clock said 1:45.
"Hon, I want to check something out," Henderson told his wife.
"Will it take long?" Patty asked.
"I'm not sure," he admitted. "It's in Suicide Slum."
"I could come with you," she offered. "I figure it should be safe enough. Even the rats are hiding out till the end."
"Sure, why not?"
The city streets were emptier than Henderson had ever seen them. There was no one on the streets. No cars, no pedestrians, not even looters. They drove down Prescott, Patty keeping an eye out for any evidence of anything having fallen from the sky. She didn't ask him what he meant. He knew she understood they were looking for where Superman had fallen to Earth.
"There!" Patty called out, pointing to a metal fence spray-painted with 'The End is Near'. Below it, in a different hand: 'No kidding.' The fence had a large hole punched through it, a hole whose edges were scorched and bent in and *down* towards the ground beyond.
Henderson stopped the car in front of the fence and got out. Patty followed him into the alley. In line with the bend in the fence was a large crater punched into the asphalt and gravel. It resembled a bomb crater, but Henderson knew that no bomb was responsible.
"What are we looking for?" Patty asked.
"I'm not sure," Henderson admitted. The alley was filthy, filled with garbage and debris dumped into it over days, weeks, months. Patty picked her way around the dirt and gravel splashed up around the crater, then she stopped, looking down at her right heel. There was a bright piece of blue spandex caught on her shoe. She knelt down and pulled the fabric out of the dirt.
"Bill, is this it?" she asked, holding up a blue spandex shirt with Superman's emblem on the chest.
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure it is," Henderson told her. He came around to where she'd found the shirt and in a few minutes they had uncovered the rest of the uniform — tights, boots, belt, briefs. They also found pieces of the red cape, but that was tattered and scorched, falling apart as they tried to retrieve it.
"This is where Superman fell, wasn't it?" Patty asked.
Her husband nodded. "I wonder why he buried the uniform?" Henderson asked, not expecting an answer.
"Maybe he was hurt," Patty suggested. "But I don't see any blood."
"You won't find any, either," Henderson assured her. *He has amnesia and there isn't a mark on him. Dear Lord, if there are miracles, we sure can use one now. Give Clark Kent back his memory so Superman can save the planet.*
Aloud he said: "Let's take these and get home. Maybe there's some good news."
It had taken them forty-five minutes to get out to Suicide Slum and back. The countdown was at 1:00 when they turned the TV on. One hour to the end of the world. If there was to be a miracle, the announcer for EPRAD said, it had to be soon.
"I'll make some coffee," Patty announced. "With brandy, I think."
"Sounds good," Henderson agreed.
She came back in a little bit with two mugs of coffee. She handed her husband one, and he took a sip as she sat down next to him on the sofa in front of the TV. They watched in companionable silence, cuddled up together on the sofa, an old married couple, old friends.
"This is EPRAD Ground Control. We are fourteen minutes and counting from the impact of the 'Nightfall' asteroid," the carefully controlled voice of the ground control announcer stated. The picture on the screen was of the control center, the technicians watching their screens, waiting for the end.
"Mission trackers reporting an anomaly. Switching to back-up computers for corroboration… Roger, confirmation. Asteroid velocity is decreasing."
The technicians were scrambling to double, triple check their readings. There was hope on their faces as they nodded to one another.
"Incredible. We seem to be… the asteroid appears to be reversing course… We are stopping the countdown clock at this time," the announcer said calmly. But his next words resounded with joy. "It's gotta be Superman!"
Patty Henderson looked at her husband, a sly grin on her face. "He must have had a spare uniform."
"He must have," Henderson agreed.
"Do you think we should give him back the one we found?"
"I don't think we need to bother," he said. *No sense scaring the boy out of his wits now that he has them back. Who'd've thunk it. Clark Kent is Superman.*