By ML Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: October 2007
Summary: Life is not easy if you're a paparazzi who has been discredited in front of the entire world. So… how do you get back on top? By proving you're right, of course.
This is a fanfic based on the television show, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm borrowing these characters for a little fun and not for any profit. For complete disclaimer, go to: http://www.thompsonlawoffice.ca/Disclaimer.htm
As always, thanks to both Gerry Anklewicz and Carol Malo for their beta reading skills. They worked hard to keep this story moving along — and provided me with direction and a different perspective at various points, definitely helping to shape this story. Also, thanks to Nan Smith for coming in at the last minute to review the story and give me feedback on one element that was of particular concern to me. And thanks to everyone on the fanfic message boards for answering all my silly and sometimes invasive questions. More acknowledgments can be found at the end of this story — so as not to give away any elements of the plot. I'd also like to thank Erin Klingler for editing this story for the archives.
Warning: I decided that the best way to tell this story was from the villain's point of view. However, don't worry, given her fixation with our couple, you should get an adequate dose of Lois and Clark by the time the story is complete.
Point of Order: The episode 'AKA Superman,' during which Lois tries to throw a surprise birthday party for Clark, originally aired on March 16, 1997. However, since Clark's birthday is actually February 28th, I moved the date of that episode forward to correspond with Clark's birthday. The other dates are close to the original air dates of the episodes in question, except that I changed them slightly since not everything in this story takes place on a Sunday, or further along, on a Saturday. My thanks to Zoomway for providing the original air dates on her site.
JUNE 16, 1997
Clark crawled into bed, gathering his wife against him.
"Well, my parents are back to their old selves," Lois said, cuddling close to her husband's broad chest. "Clueless that their son-in-law moonlights in tights."
"Knowing I'm Superman brought them nothing but unpleasantness, so that memory's gone," Clark added, seeming to enjoy the extra attention his wife was giving him.
"I don't think Mother remembers why she was mad at Daddy."
Clark smiled. "Apparently not. I caught them kissing on the terrace."
Lois' smile met his and they shared a soft kiss.
"Clark, I'm sorry," Lois said when the kiss broke.
"For what?" Clark asked confused.
"I'm sorry Daddy couldn't find anything wrong with the Star Labs data. He doubts there's a way we can have kids."
Clark shifted so that he could look fully at his wife. "Lois… I've never for a minute doubted in 'us.' We live the impossible. A child is something brought about by love, isn't it? Then that, of all things, has to be possible for us."
It was such a naive way to see the world, she knew. But she couldn't believe how much she adored him for his words — or for how much he believed them. She moved in, the need to kiss him almost overwhelming. It was everything she loved about Clark. His blind optimism softened her almost jaded outlook on the world. It was just one more way this particular man completed her.
The kiss was deep and real, silently communicating all of their emotions to one another. Suddenly, Clark pulled back, his head tilted to the side as he listened in confusion to something only he could hear.
"What?" she asked in resignation. Another night of sweet love-making was obviously about to be interrupted. "What are you hearing?"
Slowly, Clark disentangled himself from his wife, getting out of bed. "I'm not sure," he said in confusion.
What? Lois moved to a seated position as she watched Clark's strange behavior. Normally, he'd be halfway to the emergency by now. "Well, what does it sound like?"
"I can't actually believe what it sounds like." Instead of spinning into his suit, he grabbed his robe.
Huh? Lois moved quickly as Clark made his way to the door. She wrapped her robe around herself and followed as he headed unexpectedly down the stairs.
Light coming from underneath the door to the dining room directed her and Clark's attention to that room. Clark had been responsible for turning out the lights. Had he possibly left…
Her thought trailed off when she heard what he must have heard earlier. Like him, she, too, was unwilling to put a name to the sound. After all, it couldn't possibly be what it seemed to be. Could it?
They slowly pushed open the door to the dinning room together. As they moved silently towards Clark's old bassinet, neither dared to voice any thoughts. When they arrived they stared inside, stunned.
The most adorable baby Lois had ever seen was staring up at her, his or her eyes watching her curiously. The baby was wrapped in a blue blanket with the famous 'S' symbol stitched to it. Lois' heart did a small flip in her chest. She felt an unexpected surge of love flow through her as she watched the defenseless baby observing her with such openness and trust in his expression.
Clark reached into the bassinet, removing a piece of folded white paper. After opening it, he read aloud. "Lois and Clark, this child belongs to you."
No words would come to Lois' mouth as her mind struggled to grasp the meaning of the note. It seemed Clark was having the same problem as he stared at her in stunned silence.
They might have simply stood there staring at each other all night if they hadn't been snapped out of their disbelief by the sounds of voices coming from the direction of the living room.
"Son? Everything all right?" Jonathan called.
"We saw lights on," Martha added.
Jonathan and Martha had obviously entered the living room.
"Everyone okay?" Sam's voice was added to Martha and Jonathan's.
"Lois?" her mother asked.
Lois quickly reached into the bassinet, gathering the baby into her arms even as she slipped the Superman baby blanket under the mattress. Superman baby blankets were common enough nowadays. Still, no point taking the risk that her parents, who had so recently forgotten that Clark was Superman, would make the connection.
As Lois adjusted the baby in her arms, Clark turned towards the living room, seeming in a daze as he stumbled towards the door.
"Yeah… Yeah… Everything's alright," Clark said, stepping through the doorway. "Uh… Mom, Dad… And Mom and Dad…"
His voice trailed off when Lois stepped into the doorway behind him, holding the baby.
"We've got something to tell you," Clark said to their stunned parents.
THREE AND A HALF MONTHS EARLIER…
FEBRUARY 26, 1997
Samantha Richards absently rubbed the ache in her breasts as she watched the television from the couch in her darkened living room. Her eyes narrowed when Superman escorted President Elect John Doe onto the steps of the Regent Hotel. As she waited for the press conference to begin, she felt a wave of resentment roll through her stomach.
Part of it, she had no doubt, was due to the fact that President Elect Doe was just such a darn nice guy. His election had left her with a warm fuzzy feeling. It was hard to believe he'd tried to blow up the entire planet.
But the biggest part of her resentment was due to the fact that she should have been in the crowd of reporters covering the breaking news — snapping pictures and yelling out questions. And she would have been, too, if it wasn't for the lying, cheating, so-called superhero holding tightly to Doe's arm as he handed him over to the secret service.
Superman? Please! Super-liar was more like it. Or maybe Super-seducer. Or even Super-home-wrecker. Or worst of all Super-destroyer-of-careers.
Okay, so maybe the photo she'd submitted to the Dirt Digger of Lois and Superman lying on a bed kissing had been fake. But that didn't change what she had seen in that hotel room. He may have denied it. The world may have even believed him. But she'd seen it with her own eyes. Superman was, or at least had been, having an affair with Lois Lane — the wife of Clark Kent.
When she'd first published the fabricated photo, she'd managed to keep her name out of it. Not an easy task, given the notoriety of the photo. But she'd been trying to protect herself — just in case the world found out that the photo was a fake.
Although, by keeping her name out of it, she hadn't benefited from the fame of the photo, she'd certainly suffered the consequences when Lois Lane and Clark Kent had printed the whole story after Superman's press conference.
Well… not exactly the whole story. Clark Kent obviously didn't even know the whole story. Poor sap.
Superman. Symbol of Truth and Justice? Samantha snorted. Symbol of Deception and Duplicity was more accurate. In truth, he was no better than that snake of an ex-husband of hers.
Okay, so maybe they had taken things a little bit too far on the Superman story. Not that she'd expected Goode to suggest murdering anyone. She'd just intended to set up Superman and Lois Lane, keeping him out of the way in some love-nest long enough to miss his scheduled press conference. Killing President Kasparov and General Navance had been Goode's alteration of her plan.
So why had she gone along with it? She'd just been so scared that Superman had discovered that the photo was fake. In the heat of the moment, she'd panicked. Okay, so maybe afterwards she had been grateful that Superman had stopped the bomb from blowing up the leaders of Latislan and Podansk. After all, she doubted she'd have been able to work out that deal with the D.A. to drop the charges against her in exchange for her testimony against Randy Goode if anyone had been killed.
Not that it hadn't been a stressful couple of months trying to work out the deal. And at a time when she had desperately wanted to be out in the field, seeking vindication. She was right. She knew what she had seen. The photo might have been fake, but the story itself wasn't. Superman was having an affair with Clark Kent's wife. And this time, when she got the proof, she'd make damn certain there was no way for that slippery superhero to slither out of it on some technicality.
Reaching over, she slid a tape into her VCR and pressed record. Another Superman sighting. Another incident to record. Another chance to expose him as a fraud.
Not that anyone was likely to believe her.
After all, that was the reason she wasn't in amongst the reporters, pushing and shoving to get the story. Ever since Super-fraud and his mistress had exposed Samantha's picture as a forgery, no one had been willing to buy any of her pictures or stories. The board of directors of Goode International had fired her so fast, it had made her head spin.
All she'd ever known. All she'd ever wanted to be was a reporter. To get that million dollar photo or that story that would have the world press clamoring. And she had! Okay, so her camera had come open and her film had been exposed. But she had gotten it — and with it a promotion to vice president of the Dirt Digger with the seven figure salary that went with the new position. Only to lose it again because of Superman's lies.
And so, if it was the last thing she ever did, she would find a way to prove that she had been right all along. To prove that Superman was a fraud. To be vindicated at last.
Her mind was brought back to the present when she realized that Superman was addressing the crowd. She'd missed the first part of his comments because she'd been so lost in her thoughts. So she turned her mind to the matter at hand — listening to every word the superhero uttered, determined to find something, anything to bring him to his knees.
"So John Doe was a myth created by Tempus, an escaped criminal, and planted in your brains by a sophisticated method of brainwashing. He'll return now to prison where he'll do no further damage."
"Any last words, Tempus?" the President Elect asked himself, proving that he was, in fact, the Tempus character Superman claimed he was.
When Samantha had first heard that Superman had stopped the President Elect from blowing up the world, she'd been skeptical. Superman's claim that Tempus was an escapee from an insane asylum had seemed much too convenient. After all, she'd heard about John Doe's efforts to make the Man of Steel accountable to government agencies such as the IRS and Immigration — just like every other person in the country. And since she knew that Superman wasn't as 'honest' as he claimed, she'd suspected that his assertion that John Doe was really an escaped felon who had tried to blow up the planet was all an elaborate lie to deal with an obstacle to his life.
But with one word — 'Tempus' — John Doe had confirmed his real identity, and thus Superman's claims. So much for her theory.
A sudden knock at the door redirected her attention. She quickly hit the mute button on the television. Given that it appeared that this was going to be another pointless press conference, she could watch it later.
After all, if this was who she thought it was… She rose to her feet and made her way to the door, looking through the peephole. She quickly unlocked the door when she saw the man on the other side.
"Do you have it?" she demanded the moment the door was open.
"One VSA, as requested," said the bulky man with unkempt, sandy blond hair on the other side of the door.
"Great!" she said, grabbing the device and heading back into her apartment. Since the scenes now showing on the television indicated that the press conference was over, she quickly ejected the tape and inserted another one.
"I've got the cameras and listening devices you wanted, too."
"Just set them over there," Samantha said, gesturing to the kitchen table.
"So what do you actually need a Voice Stress Analysis device for?" The man moved further into the room, closing the door behind him, before taking his other package over to the table.
"A VSA measures the stress levels in a person's voice — to find out if they are lying."
"So you want to prove that someone is lying?"
Her back to him, she rolled her eyes. Bryan might make a great gofer, but his mind was not exactly the stuff of brain surgeons. Still, he'd been her 'go-to' man while she'd been working for the Dirt Digger. And in that regard, he was the best. She briefly wondered what his last name was, but quickly dismissed the question as unimportant as she plugged in the VSA and waited for the tape to load.
"So when did you start wearing maternity clothes?" Bryan asked as he plopped himself down onto the couch.
"About a month ago," she said.
"I guess I haven't seen you since you got fi… Uhh… since you quit working for the Dirt Digger. I didn't even know you were pregnant."
"Well, I wasn't exactly announcing it back then."
"Hmm. So was this a planned pregnancy?"
She shot him a look that instantly silenced him. Getting pregnant had not been part of any plan she had. At least, not with that no-good shmuck of a husband who had left her with a baby on the way so that he could run off with his eighteen-year-old 'so called' secretary. Oh, she'd certainly considered having an abortion. But she hadn't been able to make herself go through with it. When she'd fallen off the balcony after taking the incriminating photo of Lois and Superman, she'd wondered if she would lose the baby. After all, she'd been at the beginning of her second trimester at the time. Whether it was good luck or bad luck that she hadn't… she was still undecided.
After all, she wasn't finding pregnancy a whole lot of fun. And the thought of raising a child without a husband, any savings or even a source of income, terrified her. After all, she wouldn't wish her childhood on anyone.
She directed her mind back to her current task when the tape in the VCR began playing.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, first and foremost just let me say that I have always stood for truth above all else. It's our moral compass. The only thing that stands between right and wrong. Everything that I am… everything that I do is a reflection of that truth. As Superman, I have never, nor will I ever dishonor that. I'll take your questions now."
She narrowed her eyes, watching the VSA carefully. No sign yet that he was lying. However, that speech about truth, although not exactly a lie… She'd expected to see some hint that he was trying to deceive the public. Still, this wasn't the part she was really interested in.
There was a rush of questions before one stood out above the others. "Are you having an illicit affair with Lois Lane?"
Samantha leaned forward in her chair.
"The truth is…" Superman paused.
Samantha kept her eyes on the VSA, anxiously awaiting the evidence she needed. It wouldn't be enough to convince the world of Superman's deception, but it would be a start.
"…no," Superman continued. "I am not having nor have I ever had an illicit affair with Lois Lane."
Samantha hit the side of the VSA. His response didn't show as a lie. How was that possible? "Are you sure this thing is working?" she asked.
"Then how do you explain the photograph?" she heard one of the reporters call out over Bryan's claim that it had been working when he brought it over.
"The photograph in question is a fake. I have proof that shows that it's all part of a very, very carefully orchestrated smear campaign."
She wasn't surprised when the machine didn't register this comment as a lie. After all, he was telling the truth about that.
"If nothing's going on, how come Clark Kent isn't here?" came another question.
"He is here."
The machine showed this to be true as well. Although, that was sort of surprising given that his explanation afterwards was sort of a dodge of the question — at least in Samantha's opinion.
"Right there. Next to Lois. That's what that ring on her finger symbolizes. Clark and Lois trust each other. And that's the only truth that really matters. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some peace talks to negotiate."
She returned her eyes to the television set just in time to see Superman's smug expression before he flew off. She scowled at the television screen.
"I don't know why you're still trying to prove that Superman and Lois Lane are having an affair," Bryan said. "Everyone knows you faked the photo." At her look, he continued. "Okay, I'm going."
He rose to his feet and headed for the door while Samantha looked in frustration at the VSA once again. What was wrong? Why hadn't the device shown that Superman was lying?
After a moment, she let out a breath and moved back to the VCR, removing one tape and reinserting another. The VSA wasn't working. That was the only logical explanation for why it hadn't registered Superman's lies. Either that or Superman was just such a consummate liar that there was no stress in his voice when he did.
She decided the second option was the more likely scenario. After all, in her opinion, anyone who would lure a married person into having an affair had to be a completely without conscience.
She turned her mind to the tape she'd just reinserted in the VCR. Superman's press conference from earlier in the day. She was just about to press play when she was interrupted by another knock on the door. Looking through the peephole this time, she sighed. Still, she opened the door.
"I need a few more days," she said to the balding man standing on the other side.
"That's what you said a few days ago," the man responded. "If I don't have the rent by the end of the week, I'm going to start eviction proceedings." As he said this, he pointed his finger at Samantha, driving home the point, before turning and walking away.
She watched him go before making her way back into her apartment. If she didn't manage to prove that she had been right soon, she was going to need a job. But since the only thing she knew was reporting, and given that she was pretty much blacklisted with every news organization in the world, where did that leave her? Without an occupation. Pregnant. And without her husband — who, last she'd heard, had run away with his slut to some tropical paradise.
She pushed the thought to the back of her mind. After all, she was right about Superman. He was having an affair. She'd prove it and then… Then all of those news organizations that were giving her the cold shoulder now would be clamoring all over themselves to get her story. And she would make them pay, and pay a lot, for it. She'd get both her revenge on Superman and Lois Lane and she'd make a pretty penny in the process. Life would be good.
Settling back on the couch, she began the tape again. She fast-forwarded through the first part of the press conference before slowing the tape to regular speed so that she could watch the end.
"So John Doe was a myth created by Tempus, an escaped criminal, and planted in your brains by a sophisticated method of brainwashing," Superman said. "He'll return now to prison where he'll do no further damage."
"Any last words, Tempus?" the President Elect asked himself, before continuing. "Why yes. Glad you asked. It's time you chowder-heads got let in on a little secret. This Superman of yours… This chiseled god…"
Samantha leaned forward in her seat. Superman looked really nervous. Tempus must have something on him.
"…is in reality Clark Kent of the Daily Planet."
Samantha's jaw dropped. Could it be? The cameras zoomed in on Superman's face. He looked like a deer caught in the headlights, unable to respond. Suddenly, his expression changed to the cocky expression Samantha hated so much — the one that told her he'd discovered a way to wiggle out of another situation.
She watched with interest when the camera swung again, this time to follow Superman's gaze. Damn! Clark Kent and Lois Lane were walking, hand in hand, towards the crowd of reporters. Their outward show of affection made her sick. Had the woman no shame? Bedding Superman while, at the same time, acting all lovey-dovey with her husband.
When microphones were stuck in their faces, Clark spoke first. "Honey, I think the media would like us to comment on Mr. Tempus' last remark."
Lois instantly responded. "We regret that Mr. Tempus' mental health has not improved. He's obviously…" She glanced at Clark, appearing almost amused by the situation. "…still delusional."
The cameras swung again, once again focusing on Superman and Tempus. Samantha tipped her head to the side when Superman, looking as smug as she'd ever seen, leaned over and whispered something to Tempus, something the microphones were unable to pick up. A moment later, Secret Service men began leading Tempus away.
"No!" Tempus exclaimed, struggling uselessly as the men began pulling him down the stairs. "You Cretans! He is Clark Kent. One of them is from another dimension. I mean, it's obvious. Duh!"
"Damn," she said quietly to herself. Tempus was quite obviously seriously unbalanced. She'd really thought she was on to something there. Suddenly, she crinkled her eyebrows. Maybe she was on to something. After all, there were a number of things about that press conference that bothered her. How nervous Superman had looked when Tempus had begun to speak. The cocky expression on Superman's face when he'd whispered a parting comment to Tempus.
What had he been saying to Tempus in that moment? Had he been gloating that Tempus' attempt to expose him had failed? It couldn't be that juicy — could it? After all, what were the chances that Clark Kent was…
Her thought processes stopped suddenly. In a flash, she was out of her chair, pulling this tape out and putting the other one back in. If Superman was Clark Kent… She had to hear how exactly he had answered the various questions. What words had he used?
She fast-forwarded the tape until she came to the first question.
"Are you having an illicit affair with Lois Lane?"
Samantha leaned forward in her chair.
"The truth is… no. I am not having nor have I ever had an illicit affair with Lois Lane."
Samantha hit the pause button on the VCR and stared at the screen. If Superman was Clark Kent, that answer was true.
"Then how do you explain the photograph?"
"The photograph in question is a fake. I have proof that shows that it's all part of a very, very carefully orchestrated smear campaign."
Okay, that would also be true. He didn't say that he had never had sex with Lois. He just said that they weren't having an 'illicit' affair and that the photo was a fake.
"If nothing's going on, how come Clark Kent isn't here?"
"He is here."
Samantha cocked her head to the side, this answer taking on a new significance.
"Right there. Next to Lois. That's what that ring on her finger symbolizes. Clark and Lois trust each other. And that's the only truth that really matters. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some peace talks to negotiate."
Samantha leaned back in her chair, stunned. Could that really be the answer? It still didn't explain how Clark Kent had managed to be at that press conference as himself. She certainly didn't believe Tempus' explanation about alternate universes. Tempus was obviously nuts. But… She suddenly had another idea.
Switching the tapes again, she started watching today's press conference again, fast forwarding through it until she reached Lois Lane's response to Tempus' comment. She found it interesting that Kent had referred to his wife, letting her answer for him. Could that be because he didn't want to lie himself?
She again switched on the VSA and watched it closely as Lois gave their response to Tempus' comments.
"We regret that Mr. Tempus' mental health has not improved. He's obviously still delusional."
Samantha's breath caught in her throat when the VSA clearly indicated that Lois Lane was lying. She didn't believe he was delusional at all. So that meant…
This was a bigger story than Superman and Lois having an affair. Clark Kent was Superman.
No. No. No. No. That couldn't be the answer. There was something going on here — something Lois Lane didn't want the world to know. But there was no way even Superman could be in two places at once.
On the other hand… She thought back to the way they had discredited her. Who would have thought that Lois would have even considered the possibility that the photo was a forgery? Still, she'd somehow managed to find the one chink in the story, the one thing that could exonerate Superman. And if Lane had done it to her, what was to say that she hadn't done it to Tempus?
Samantha began flipping through the folders spread out on her coffee table until she found what she was looking for. One photo of Superman. Another of Clark Kent. Laying them side-by-side, she studied the two men. Change the hairstyle. Take away the glasses… Oh, yeah. They could definitely be the same man.
No. That didn't make any sense. After all, Clark Kent had been at that press conference. So Kent and Superman were definitely two different people. If it hadn't been for that one small detail, she'd have been convinced that she was on to something. But as it was… No. All the other pieces might fit, but…
She had to keep her focus. Superman and Lois Lane were having an affair. And since she couldn't follow Superman, her investigation would have to be directed at Lois Lane — following her, finding out everything she could about the woman Superman was bedding. One of the few benefits of not having a job was that she had all the time in the world to pursue Lois Lane — or at least she would until the manager kicked her out of her apartment for not paying the rent.
FEBRUARY 28, 1997
Samantha was in the lobby of the Daily Planet when she spotted Lane and Kent coming through the revolving doors. She quickly grabbed a magazine from the magazine stand and watched from behind it to observe their entrance.
First, Samantha watched as Lois and Clark spilled out into the lobby from where they'd come together through the door. Kent's arms were wrapped firmly around her waist as he walked behind her. They moved, as if one person, smiling and giggling, sharing little kisses, all the way across the lobby.
Samantha rolled her eyes as she watched them head towards the elevators, not releasing their intimate hold. She almost threw up when, after summoning the elevator, Kent pushed Lane up against the wall, leaning in to kiss her. That woman was unbelievable. Her act so credible. No wonder her poor shmuck of a husband had stood by her throughout the entire Superman scandal — never seeming to believe that his wife would cheat on him.
Still, it made Samantha sick. The only one she would have any sympathy for when she finally exposed Lane and Superman for the lying piles of sh… Well, whatever. …that they were, was Clark Kent. He obviously was very much in love with his cheating spouse. And given what Samantha was seeing tonight, it was no wonder that he believed she was in love with him, too.
But even if Lane hadn't been cheating on Kent, their behavior was entirely inappropriate for the work place. In fact, they were acting like a couple of horny teenagers. Watching almost made Samantha feel as if she were in some dark and dingy theater watching a dirty movie. Any moment now, they were likely to drop to the floor of the lobby and just get down to business. One would think that, as professionals working for one of the greatest papers in the world, they'd be more discreet.
She watched as Lane broke away — finally — to head for an open elevator. She had just stepped inside when Kent unexpectedly stopped and began backing away. The last look Samantha got of Lane, just before the elevator doors closed, had her looking annoyed.
Samantha immediately turned to follow Kent out of the Daily Planet. Wherever Kent was going, it hadn't been planned. She was certain of that. Otherwise, why would Lane have looked so annoyed by his sudden disappearance?
So… what was going on? Was Kent having some sort of affair, too? Whatever it was, it was probably worth checking out. Maybe Kent wasn't quite as clueless as he appeared. Maybe he had his own action on the side — and so wasn't particularly concerned about his wife's behavior. Maybe the marriage was already on its last legs. Or maybe this was something new. Maybe this was Kent's revenge for his wife's infidelity.
Stepping outside the building, she looked around. She couldn't see Kent anywhere. She headed down to the corner of the building, looking around the side to see if he was in the alley. Nope. How had he managed to disappear so quickly? Only a matter of seconds had passed since Kent had left the building. Was there possibly something to Tempus' rant during his press conference a few days before, after all?
She shook her head, disgusted at herself. No. It just wasn't possible. She couldn't afford to let herself get sidetracked. The story here was Superman's affair with Lois Lane.
Turning, she headed back inside the Daily Planet. Her plan to follow Kent might not have worked, but Lois was still inside the building. Maybe it would be worth finding out what she was up to while her husband was absent.
Carefully pushing the door of the stairwell open, Samantha looked through the crack. Some sort of party was taking place. A banner strung across the newsroom provided the explanation. Clark Kent's birthday.
No wonder Lane had looked so annoyed at Kent's disappearance. He had run out on his own birthday party. It made no sense. Kent didn't strike her as exactly a shrinking violet. Okay, so maybe he was a mild-mannered reporter who was obviously being completely snowed by his duplicitous wife. But he didn't seem the type who would be so inconsiderate as to miss his own birthday party — unless, of course, he hadn't known about the party.
People seemed somewhat subdued as they consumed the perishables they had brought for the occasion. Believing the way was clear, she pushed open the door and entered the newsroom.
"What are you doing here?"
Samantha spun around, surprised to find Lois Lane standing behind her, arms folded across her chest in an unconscious imitation of Superman's famous pose. Just one more indication of her affair with Superman — subconsciously mirroring each other's body language.
Samantha raised an eyebrow. "Just looking for the truth," she informed the other woman.
"Truth? You don't care about truth. You're just looking for sleaze. Something that will sell papers. Don't you care at all about the innocent people you hurt along the way?"
"And how is that different from what you do every day?" Samantha demanded. "Are you saying that your boss doesn't have you out chasing down stories so that you can sell papers?"
"What Clark and I do is different. We are working to make this city, this world a better place. And we certainly don't publish fake photos to destroy innocent people!"
"So tell me, Lois, is the fact that the photo was fake the first thing you thought when you saw it for the first time?" When she saw Lois visibly flinch, she stepped closer. "Or did you think: 'Oh, my god. Someone found out. How am I ever going to explain this to my husband?' Maybe the photo was fake. But I know what I saw at the Chateau Roberge. I was there when Superman landed on the balcony of your hotel room and walked in as if he owned the place. I even saw him look around first to make sure he wasn't seen."
"That doesn't mean…" Lois began, taking a subconscious step back from Samantha.
"I got up to the balcony outside your room just in time to see everything in that photo," Samantha continued, cutting Lois off. "And let me tell you, there was no mistaking what was going on. Maybe I had a problem with the photo I took — but its contents were one hundred percent authentic. So don't even start trying to tell me that you're not having an affair with Superman. I know you are. And by the time I'm done with you, the rest of the world will too."
"So you'd bring down the one person who has given us all hope, just because you think he's having an affair?"
"You mean, because I know he's having an affair, don't you? Come on, Lois. You're a reporter. What do you think?"
"That I wouldn't bring down a man — even if I thought something, which has nothing to do with any of the good he does, was going on."
"So what are you saying? That you don't think it's relevant that the very symbol of truth and morality is, himself, sleeping with his best friend's wife?"
"No. Uhh… Yes," Lois said, looking more and more uncomfortable.
"Oh, please! Come on, Lois. Are you honestly trying to claim that if you found out that some politician was having an affair you wouldn't print it?"
"I wouldn't. It wouldn't be relevant to his ability to do his job."
"Come on, Lois. I've read your work. I remember a story you did about six years ago. You know. The one on Congressman Beck."
When Lois shifted uncomfortably, Samantha pushed on, driving home the point. "I remember how you destroyed his 'family-values' image by exposing his affair. Brought his entire career crashing down around him. Destroyed his family. How is this any different?"
"It just is."
"How, Lois? Come on. Fill in the trashy tabloid reporter on how exactly you are so much more noble than she is."
"There were other things going on with Congressman Beck — things I couldn't exactly prove."
"Well, maybe there are other things going on with Superman. If he's willing to lie about this, what else is he lying about? He holds himself up to the world as the symbol of truth. Yet in reality, he isn't that at all, is he? It's all a lie. An act. So what's his real agenda? He's got to be lying about other things, too. I'm doing the world a favor by exposing him. I'm sure that once he's lost that Teflon coating and people start seriously digging into his life, they'll find he's lied about a lot of things."
"You don't know that. All you had on Superman was an affair — or… would have had on Superman if I were actually cheating on my husband. Which I'm not."
"No? Then tell me, what does Tempus have on Superman? Why did Superman look so nervous when Tempus started to speak at the press conference after he was arrested?"
"Tempus is a nut," Lois said, taking another step back. "He doesn't have anything on Superman."
Samantha gave the other woman a half grin. "Really."
"Yes, really. You heard him. Talking about alternate dimensions. The guy's a loon."
"Hey! What are you doing here?"
Samantha spun around to see the editor of the Daily Planet approaching like an enraged thundercloud.
"Get the hell out of my newsroom!" Perry demanded.
"Later," Samantha said to Lois. "I know what I saw." With that, she turned, heading back to the stairs.
Once she got into the stairwell, she pulled the tape-recorder out of her pocket and flicked it off. Lois hadn't exactly confirmed the affair, but there were times when she sure looked uncomfortable. When she got home, Samantha would listen to the tape to see if there was anything Samantha could use — maybe even use the VSA on it to determine exactly what Lois had lied about during that conversation.
Sticking the recorder back in her pocket, she hurried down the stairs and through the lobby of the Daily Planet. She had just stepped outside when she heard someone yell, "Hold up there!"
Turning around, she saw a somewhat short man, probably in his early thirties with a seriously receding hairline approaching. She stopped and allowed him to catch up to her.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
"I heard you talking to Lane," the man said.
"So?" she asked, folding her arms defensively across her chest.
"You know, about your theory that she's having an affair with Superman? So… is it true?"
"What's it to you?"
"I've just always sort of wondered about their relationship myself. When he returned to New Krypton, she was seriously broken up about it. It didn't seem natural."
"Really," Samantha said, dropping her defensive stance. "So why are you telling me this?"
The man shrugged. "I was just curious. Are they really having an affair?"
"Yes. Not that I can prove it, of course."
"I knew it! That's probably why she turned me down."
Samantha raised an eyebrow. She could imagine one or two other reasons Lois might have turned this man down — but for now, she wouldn't mention it.
"She even made me sound like some sort of sleaze for even suggesting it," the man went on to say. "I can't believe that. Acting all outraged when all the time she's doing the nasty with Superman."
"What's your name?" Samantha asked, dragging the man's mind back from where it had obviously taken him with his final comment — images of what 'the nasty' might look like, no doubt.
"Well, Ralph, what would you say about helping me out with this? You saw what happened when I went into the Daily Planet. I'm not exactly welcome there. But you are. So… what do you say that you keep me informed of anything that Lois does inside the Daily Planet?"
"Why would I do that?"
"To show the world what a hypocrite Lois Lane is, of course." She smiled at the man, stepping forward to play with his tie. "Come on. Wouldn't you like a little revenge?"
She saw Ralph swallow hard before nodding. He looked down at where her hands were playing with his tie before his eyes drifted upwards only as high as her chest.
"Great!" she said, releasing his tie and stepping back. "Here's my card. Call when you have something."
With that, she turned and made a quick escape, worried that if she stayed around any longer, Ralph would make a move on her. And she doubted turning him down would make him exactly… eager to help.
Samantha pulled the car to a stop down the street from Lois and Clark's brownstone. She wanted to be there before they left for work so that she could be sure they were gone before planting the surveillance devices Byron had brought her a few days before.
As she sat there, she did her best to massage the cramp in her leg. Being five and a half months pregnant sure took more out of a person than she'd previously realized. She'd gone home the night before, listened to the tape of her conversation with Lois again, even running it past the VSA, and then had crawled, exhausted, into bed.
She still couldn't make heads or tails of what she'd heard. Lois seemed to be lying at the oddest times. On the other hand, she seemed to be telling the truth when she said she hadn't cheated on her husband. But one thing had come through loud and clear. Lois Lane didn't believe that Tempus was crazy. So once she got these surveillance devices planted, she was going to take a trip over to The Metropolis Hospital for the Criminally Insane and have a little chat with Tempus.
Not that she was exactly hopeful on that front. After all, even if Tempus had something on Superman, and even if he was prepared to tell her, she couldn't be entirely sure that she would be able to sort out the lunacy from the truth. Still, it was worth a shot.
She sat up straighter when she saw Lois come out the front door and make her way to her Jeep. But… where was Clark? Didn't they normally work the same shift? Samantha thought they were partners. It didn't make a lot of sense to have partners who worked different shifts.
Still, she watched as Lois started the jeep and pulled out onto the road without as much as a backward glance at the brownstone.
Samantha ducked down behind the dashboard of her car as Lois drove past, before looking up at the brownstone again, frustrated. Where was Clark Kent? She didn't want to risk getting caught. So unless he came out, too, there wasn't much she could do about getting the listening devices planted.
Somewhere high over-head, she heard a sonic boom — not exactly an uncommon sound in Metropolis since Superman's appearance. She glanced up hoping to determine where the superhero was coming from or going to, but couldn't see any sign of the Man of Steel. On the other hand, since he was traveling faster than the speed of sound that was hardly surprising.
She turned her attention back to the brownstone. "Come on, Kent," she whispered. "Time for work."
Still, no matter how hard she wished it, Clark Kent didn't appear. Maybe he was sick, or something. She waited another hour before giving up. Starting her car, she headed back to her apartment. She couldn't risk getting caught. So maybe it was best if she put this off until she could be certain that neither Lois nor Clark were in the building.
Samantha was just putting her key in the lock on the door to her apartment when she heard someone coming down the hall.
"Oh, great," she muttered to herself when she saw her landlord approaching. Taking a deep breath, she turned towards the man. "Mr. Stevens. I'm afraid I'm going to need just a little bit more time to get that rent for you. But I should have a lot of money coming in any day now." And she would — just as soon as she proved the Superman/Lane affair. "And I promise you're first on my list when… What's this?" she asked when Stevens thrust a card in her hand. She looked down to see a man's business card for The Jade Chinese Restaurant.
"That, my dear, is how you're going to keep the apartment," Steven's announced. "And I'm only doing this for your baby." He gestured to her expanding waistline. "Either you have the money for me by tomorrow, or you confirm that you've got a job…"
"But I've got…"
"A paying job!" Stevens said. "Now, Mr. Chan is a friend of mine. He says he'll take you on as a waitress. It might not be as glamorous as seeing your name on stories in the tabloids, but it will pay the rent! So, this is your last chance. If you can get the rent money or have another job lined up by tomorrow, great. Otherwise you will either be the newest employee of the Jade Restaurant or you will be without a place to live."
Without waiting for her response, he turned and walked away, Samantha staring after him, open-mouthed, until he disappeared around the corner.
Turning back to the door to her apartment, she unlocked it, muttering curses under her breath. How dare he presume that she would 'ever' work as a waitress? Entering, she immediately made her way to the garbage can, tossing the card unceremoniously into it before stopping and looking around.
She'd only been in this dump of an apartment for a couple of months. She'd had no choice but to move from her luxurious, penthouse apartment when her louse of a husband had emptied their bank accounts before running off with his slut for parts unknown. Her first thought when Goode had told her she was about to become vice president had been that she'd finally be able to find somewhere decent to live.
But that promotion had lasted all of ten seconds, and the board of directors of the Dirt Digger had refused her any sort of severance pay when she'd been informed she was being 'dismissed for cause.'
Now… Now she couldn't even afford this dump. Her hand went to the small bulge in her figure and she sighed. What, realistically, were the chances that she'd get the proof she needed that Lois and Superman were knocking red boots before tomorrow? After her run in with Lane last night, it was likely that she and Superman would cool things off until they were convinced that she'd given up her quest.
Confronting Lane had certainly been satisfying on one level. Seeing her squirm, Samantha had to admit, had been fun. But it had been a mistake. She was going to have to be a lot more discreet in the future.
She turned her mind back to the problem at hand. Stevens had said that he wouldn't kick her out if she had a job. Surely there must be some job, even if it was at one of the small papers, that she could get. Because there was no way, none whatsoever, that she was going to become a waitress.
"Uhh… you must be Samantha," said Mr. Chan.
Samantha was surprised when she saw the man as he entered the restaurant's lobby, wiping his hands on his apron as he approached. She'd expected someone… a lot older. But Mr. Chan was a Chinese man in his mid-thirties. His dark hair was slightly rumpled and contained a trace of what appeared to be flour. There were smiling eyes behind his glasses, as if he thought the mere act of living was something to be savored.
Samantha hated that type of person.
"Roger said you coming by. I understand you looking for job," Chan continued, proving, at least to Samantha, that his first language wasn't English.
Samantha forced a smile onto her lips. After all, she'd spent the majority of the day being rejected by every paper in the city. It seemed she had become persona non grata in the publishing community. Not even 'obits' were hiring the woman who had faked the photo smearing their hero. Only a couple months ago, when her photo had first appeared, those same papers had been salivating like ravenous sharks circling blood-infested waters looking for their own piece of same 'hero' to devour. What hypocrites!
But she needed a job. Either that, or she was going to be living in the woman's shelter — or worse.
"Yes, Mr. Chan. Mr. Stevens said you might have an opening."
Chan smiled. "It Sonny. Mr. Chan is my father. And, yes, it so happens I do. And even if I not…" He glanced down at her stomach. "…I not a man who ever let a little one go hungry."
Samantha forced her grimace to look like a smile.
"So… it settled then. You work here," Chan continued, clapping his hands together once in sheer delight, obviously oblivious to exactly how humiliating this was for her.
In fact, pulling that business card out of the garbage can had probably been the single lowest moment of her entire life — or well, if she didn't count her childhood or the moment her husband had announced he was leaving her for that teenager or… well, to tell the truth, there had been numerous moments that were just as low.
"You first shift tomorrow," Chan continued. "You be here by six and we tell you your duties." Chan smiled. "You going to love working here. We all just one big, happy family. Everyday something different. You not believe the weird things people do when they come for dinner. Always something keep us amused."
Samantha strained to keep smiling. In fact, she forced herself to smile wider until she feared her face might crack in two. This was going to be hell on Earth.
Samantha pulled her car to a stop in front of The Metropolis Hospital for the Criminally Insane. She turned off the car and took a moment to rest while she rubbed her breasts. How come no one had ever told her that pregnancy would make her breasts tender? She thought it was supposed to enhance those particular attributes, not make them hurt so much.
If she was supposed to be starting work tomorrow, she really needed to get this interview today. Whatever happened, she couldn't afford to take her eyes off the prize. And right now, Tempus seemed to be her best lead — at least until she got the surveillance devices set up in the Kents' home.
She wasn't entirely sure how she was going to handle this meeting. Tempus was obviously unstable. Still, it couldn't hurt to try. She examined her tape recorder, ensuring that she had a fresh tape in it, before exiting the vehicle.
Tempus looked up, examining her critically when she entered the small room containing two cells.
"Mr. Tempus, I'm Samantha Richards. I'm…"
"The woman who published the picture of Superman and Lois kissing. Yes, I remember," Tempus said. "Good try, but ultimately fruitless." He came over to the bars. "Did you know that in the future, you will be nothing more than an amusing footnote in the history of Lois Lane and Superman? School children will laugh at your attempts to smear Superman by claiming he had an affair with Lois Lane."
Samantha bristled. "And how do you know this?"
"Well, duh. Obviously, it's because I'm from the future."
"You're from the future?"
"Yes, and I must admit, you got the whole thing spectacularly, mind-numbingly wrong."
"So then… why don't you enlighten me?"
"And why exactly should I do that? What's in it for me?"
"Credit. You can be the one to go down in history as having set me straight."
He studied her for a moment. "No, Ms. Richards, I don't think so. I've given you more than enough to expose the Man of Steel already. Not that you're likely to believe me."
"You mean your comments at the press conference about Superman being Clark Kent?"
"Oh, very good, Ms. Richards. And yes, that is exactly what I mean."
"And the reason that Superman and Clark Kent both showed up at the same press conference was because one of them was from an alternate dimension."
"Sounds like a bad television show, doesn't it?"
"And you honestly think people are going to believe this?"
"No, Ms. Richards. I don't. But then, this time period is filled with mindless cretins who close their eyes to anything their puny minds can't comprehend. But why don't you ask Lois? She knows all about alternate dimensions. I even took her to one just before her first wedding attempt. Tricked her into creating her 'hero' there, too."
Samantha studied him in silence for a long moment. Could it be… Nah. That was crazy. Tempus was crazy. "So you think you're from the future?"
"No. I know I'm from the future. The twenty-second century to be precise."
"So then what's it like?" she asked.
"A mindless, boring Utopia created by Superman and Lois Lane. A world of peace — without greed and crime. A world so boring you'd blow your brains out but there are no guns. There are nine thousand channels and nothing on! Did you know that in the future there is even a breakfast cereal named after Lois Lane? Imagine. Thousands of brainless children sitting down to eat Lois Lane Crunch every morning. Just about enough to make you want to throw up, isn't it?"
This was pointless. Samantha rose to her feet.
"What? Still don't believe me?"
Samantha gave him a long hard stare. "Frankly… no."
"Your loss," Tempus said, unconcerned as he made his way back to the cot in his cell.
She watched as he sat down on it before turning towards the door.
"Cretin," she heard Tempus say under his breath as she walked out.
She stopped outside the door, thinking hard about what he'd said, when she was approached by a short, older man with a gentle face.
"Fascinating, isn't it," the man said.
"What?" she asked.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm Dr. Dussel. Tempus' doctor. Anyway, I was referring to Tempus' delusions. He's completely convinced that he's from the future and he sees it as his task to keep Superman from creating this Utopian paradise — which I must say, he really does make sound excruciatingly boring."
Samantha nodded. It had been a waste of time coming here. Tempus might know something about Superman. But whatever it was, he likely couldn't even remember it beneath all the delusions.
The next few days were exhausting. In fact, she'd never felt quite this tired. Starting a new job was taking a lot out of her, but given that she'd never had this problem before, she had to assume the fatigue was due to her pregnancy. And her feet… Never had she known that feet could cause a person so much pain.
As a result, each night, after work, she'd found herself sitting in her apartment, soaking her feet in Epsom salts and watching mind-numbing shows on television rather than hunting for the proof about Lois and Superman. And then, in the morning, she was off to work again.
Unless, of course, she was on the evening shift. Then she'd get home from work only to fall into bed exhausted, only rising again in time to get ready for her next shift.
Of course, there wasn't likely much to find at the moment. After her confrontation with Lane, she suspected she and Superman would keep their distance from each other for a time. No. Samantha could only hope that once she settled into the new job, she'd be in a position to prove it when Lois and Superman relaxed, quit being so cautious, and resumed the affair. Because given the passion she'd seen between them in that hotel room, she had no doubt it would resume — provided, of course, that it had even stopped.
Sighing, she made her way back into the crowded restaurant to clean off a recently vacated table. Suddenly, she spotted something she hadn't expected. Lois Lane and Clark Kent, together with a young couple she didn't recognize — although she heard someone refer to the young man as 'Jimmy' — were being escorted to one of the tables. Samantha quickly turned her back to them, keeping her head down as she cleaned the dishes off the table in front of her.
Not that she didn't have every right to be there. But there was no way she intended to give Lane the satisfaction of seeing the depths to which she had fallen. She couldn't stand the thought of watching that woman gloat.
She quickly picked up the container of dirty dishes and headed back into the kitchen. Peeking through the swinging doors, she was just in time to see Lois knock her chopsticks off the table and then crawl under the table after them.
"Uhh…" Sonny said from where he had quietly crept up beside her. "I see you notice Ms. Lane. She and husband come here a lot. Usually, they just get takeout. But sometime they stay. She very funny."
Samantha looked at him, wondering about the last comment, but he just pointed back to the sight of Lois' back end protruding from under the tablecloth.
"Anyway, you wipe off table twenty-two?" Sonny asked.
"Oh… right. I'll get right on it."
She grabbed a cloth before slipping back into the dinning room, keeping her head lowered so that neither Lane nor Kent would get a clear view of her face. Making her way quickly to table twenty-two, she began to wipe while, in the corner of her eye, she kept an eye on the dinner party a few tables over.
She was shocked when Lois almost appeared to throw her chopsticks to the floor this time before crawling back under the table to find them. A moment later, she was equally shocked when her husband joined her there. What the hell was going on?
Not that the couple with the Kents seemed particularly concerned. After a moment of shock, they focused their attention on each other, sharing little touches and kisses.
When Lois and Clark finally emerged, Clark unexpectedly excused himself. Samantha watched as he grabbed his coat and headed out of the restaurant. Trouble in paradise?
Samantha's hand stilled on the table when shortly thereafter, the other woman in the party abruptly left. Although, in her case, Samantha had heard a beeper go off the moment before she had excused herself. So she had probably been called unexpectedly away.
What kept Samantha's attention riveted to the table, however, was the look on Lois Lane's face. She seemed completely distracted, as if she was thinking very hard about something. Had she just realized that she'd managed to ditch her husband and was wondering if now would be a good time for a little tete a tete with her lover?
So Samantha wasn't at all surprised when Lois suddenly rose from the table, excusing herself over her only remaining companion's objections and headed for the door.
This was it!
Rushing back into the kitchen, she grabbed her camera and tape recorder and headed out the back, ignoring Sonny's questions about where she was going. She'd deal with him later. If at all. After all, if everything went as planned, she wouldn't be working here after tonight anyway.
She appeared around the side of the building just in time to see Lois pull her Jeep into the street and take off. Rushing to her car, Samantha tried to follow. But the trail had already gone cold.
So… where would Lane have gone? If Kent were out doing… whatever, would Lois be so bold as to go back to her brownstone and call for Superman there? It was worth a shot.
Deciding she really didn't have any other ideas about where Lois and Superman might be inclined to meet, she headed in the direction of the brownstone. She sighed when she finally arrived to find the place still in darkness.
Damn! If Lois was meeting with Superman, it wasn't here. That meant… Sonny! Quickly, she turned the car around, heading back to the restaurant. Perhaps she could just claim she'd suffered a bout of morning sickness and had needed a break from the smell of cooking food. Okay, so she hadn't actually suffered morning sickness since her first trimester. But he didn't need to know that.
Yes. That would work. After all, Sonny asked about the baby almost every day.
"Where you been?" Sonny demanded the moment she stepped back inside the restaurant. "I run business, here. I can't have people run off whenever they want."
In spite of his usually easy going, relaxed and even jovial demeanor, this time he looked serious. Still, unlike other men Samantha had known in the past, his voice remained soft, telling her that having to play 'the heavy' was not a comfortable role for him, but he felt that in this case it was necessary.
"I'm sorry," Samantha said, trying to install an apology in her voice that she didn't feel. After all, she was annoyed, too. Annoyed that she was still working here. Annoyed that Lois hadn't dropped a clue as to where her rendezvous with Superman was taking place.
Still, Samantha needed this job — unfortunately. So she reined in her pride and began her prepared explanation. "I just had a touch of morning sickness." She forced herself to look sheepish. "I don't know why they call it that. It's not morning after all."
"So then, where you go?" Sonny asked, seeming less agitated now, although still somewhat confused.
"I needed to get away from the smell of cooking food — so I took a walk around the block."
"But you better now?" Sonny asked, suddenly seeming more concerned than annoyed.
"Much. And…" She grabbed her apron. "…ready to get back to work."
"You sure? If you need greater time…"
"No, I'm fine."
"Because we don't want to do anything that hurt baby," Sonny said.
"No, really. It'll be okay."
"Okay, then. But…" He stopped and looked around until he spotted a woman, slightly younger than Samantha, who also worked the main room. "…Jun?"
"Yes, Sonny," Jun said making her way over.
"Samantha having a bit of problem because of baby. You keep eye on her. If she look like she doing too much, you make her rest."
Samantha was moving very quickly from relieved that her explanation had been accepted without question to feeling like a bit of a heel. "Really, Sonny. I'm fine. You don't have to…"
"No. I feel better if I know you taking care of baby," Sonny said before turning his attention back to Jun.
"Don't worry, Sonny. I'll look after her," Jun said.
Samantha was exhausted when she returned to Lois and Clark's brownstone after work that night. She wasn't sure why she hadn't taken advantage of the abandoned home earlier. It had been an oversight on her part. After all, if she had surveillance devices installed, she wouldn't have to make pointless trips, like the one she'd made this evening. She'd know if Lois and Superman had been at the brownstone by simply checking the recordings every day.
Still, she was back now — determined that if both Lois and Clark were still out… wherever — she'd use the opportunity to install her surveillance devices.
As she pulled the car to a stop, she saw Perry White talking animatedly to someone as he made his way up the steps to the darkened brownstone. A moment later, he was pulling out a key and opening the door.
Okay, maybe White wouldn't be long and she could still… Her thought trailed off when more cars pulled up and more people made their way into the building. Lights came on as people continued to arrive.
And then, much to Samantha's surprise, all the lights went out. Yet no one left the building. What on Earth was going on?
She sat there, attempting to come up with a rational explanation, when she saw Lois and Clark pull up in the Jeep. At some point since she'd last seen them, they must have hooked up together again.
She watched as they headed into the brownstone. And then, suddenly, all the lights came on and even inside her car, she could hear the distant shout of multiple people yelling, 'Surprise!'
Kent's surprise birthday party. She groaned. Well, there was hardly any point hanging around any longer tonight. She'd have to plant the surveillance devices another time. So, once again, she started up her car and headed back to her own darkened apartment.
The next morning, Samantha was just about to step into The Jade when she saw the headline on the paper staring out at her from a newspaper dispenser for the Daily Planet located next to the entrance. 'Annihilator Annihilated: Superman Saves Day.'
Reaching into her pocket, she quickly extracted a dollar for the dispenser and pulled out a copy of the paper. Continuing to stand in front of the dispenser, she began to read.
So that was where Lois had gone last night. Diticom Technologies.
Samantha smirked. Only to be saved, once again, by… In her mind, Samantha produced the necessary drum roll. …Superman.
How utterly predictable. Given how often the Man of Steel rescued that woman, it was absolutely unbelievable to Samantha how quickly the world's press had accepted Superman's denial of an affair.
She tossed the paper into the trash can and headed into the restaurant, dreading the thought of another day at this demeaning, dead-end job. She was so much better than this. And she was determined that some day, she'd once again prove it.
APRIL 10, 1997
Samantha had spent the past month and a half pouring over everything Lois and Clark had ever written, digesting every word either of them had ever uttered in a public forum, watching press conferences and reading articles — taking particular interest in everything that had ever been written about the Man of Steel. Today, she was planning to recommence the surveillance phase of her mission.
Following her second failed attempt to plant surveillance devices in the Kents' home, she'd realized she was rushing things. After all, following her run-in with Lois Lane at the Daily Planet, Superman and Lois were likely on full alert.
So Samantha had backed off — hoping to give the lovers time to relax and get careless. As hard as it was, it had been a time for patience. Let the two of them think they were safe and pounce when their guard was down.
Not that she'd wasted the time. She suspected she now knew almost as much about Lois Lane, Clark Kent and Superman as they knew about themselves. She'd been surprised to realize that Lois Lane had not gotten the first interview with Superman. That dubious honor had gone to Clark Kent. Still, Lois had gotten more than her fair share of interviews ever since.
Samantha had studied everything down to the tiniest detail. The kiss Lois Lane had given Superman before he'd gone to destroy the Nightfall asteroid. The press conference Clark Kent had given after Diana Stride had claimed that he was Superman. It had surprised her to realize that Tempus wasn't the first one to make that claim. On the other hand, considering the number of Superman stories Kent had written over the years, it was something of a surprise that there were only two press conferences where Clark Kent and Superman could both be seen — even when the crowd of reporters had been shown for background. And both of these conferences taken place when someone had claimed that they were the same person.
Still, those two public appearances together had managed to convince her conclusively that Superman and Clark Kent were two different people — in spite of Tempus' ridiculous claims. Which left only one conclusion. Superman and Lois Lane were having an affair. And now that the surveillance part of her investigation had begun, she was going to prove it.
She was just about to leave her apartment to go to work when her telephone rang. One shoe off and one shoe on, she headed towards the telephone, groaning as a result of the pain in her lower back. She'd just entered her third trimester, and was beginning to feel as if this pregnancy had taken over her life. Finally arriving at the phone, she snatched it out of its cradle.
"I've got some information for you," said a man's whispered voice on the other end of the line.
"What kind of information?"
"We can't talk over the phone. Too many ears."
"Ralph? Is that you?"
"Shhh… No names. Just call me Mr. X."
Samantha rolled her eyes, but still couldn't help but be somewhat more interested in the conversation now. What information had Ralph found?
"Meet me under Hobbs' bridge off the corner of Simpson and Main immediately. And come alone."
Samantha wanted to scream. Who did this guy think he was? He sounded like something from a B-movie. "Fine. Should I be carrying a red rose and a folded newspaper so that you'll recognize me?"
"Never mind," Samantha said with another roll of her eyes. "I'll see you there."
Without a goodbye, Ralph hung up the phone.
As she went back to put on her other shoe, she fought against the excitement rising in her stomach. With anyone else, Samantha might have thought that his behavior indicated that he had come across something big. The location where Lois and Superman met to be alone, perhaps. Or maybe the time of their next rendezvous. With this guy… well, who knew? After all, he'd called her a dozen times in the last month — each time with a tip that had gone nowhere. This, on the other hand, was the first time he'd insisted that they meet in person — well, other than his clumsy attempts to ask her out which she had deliberately chosen to misunderstand or dodge.
As she steered her car in the appropriate direction, Samantha listened to the radio — shocked when she heard the news. It seemed there was a new 'superhero' in the city. A woman. There was speculation that she was a leftover from the Kryptonian invasion the previous year.
Still, why hadn't she revealed herself before now? Apparently, so far, she hadn't stayed around long enough after a 'rescue' to answer questions. They had managed to discover that her name was Vixen and that she seemed to know Superman. At least, according to the report Samantha was listening to, they had been spotted together in China, wrestling together in what was being described as a 'playful manner.'
Did this mean Lois Lane was yesterday's news?
What if Samantha was too late? What if publishing that photo had ended their relationship permanently? How did she prove the affair if it was over?
No. It couldn't be over. Samantha would never be able to get her career back and clear her name if it was over! Fate couldn't possibly be that cruel, could it?
Maybe if Lane had been thrown aside for this new super-chick, she'd finally be prepared to talk. Samantha could pretend to sympathize, presenting it to Lane as her chance for revenge and…
No. That would never work. Lane would continue the deception no matter how much she might want revenge. If she didn't, her marriage would be over. Maybe that was why Superman had gotten involved with a married woman in the first place — they couldn't kiss and tell. Besides, who would want to be forever known as the woman Superman had dumped?
So how did Samantha go about getting the proof she needed? There had to be a way.
She was so lost in thought that she almost missed the turnoff that would take her under the bridge. Slowing down when she reached the bottom, she saw a car sitting across the way, flashing his lights at her.
"Please," she muttered to herself as she turned off the engine and got out.
"Did anyone follow you?" Ralph asked, nervously looking back at the way she'd come.
"No," Samantha said. "What do you have for me?"
"I assume you've seen the news today."
"Are you talking about this Vixen character?"
"What does she have to do with anything? I don't care about some new superhero. You're supposed to be looking for indications of Lois Lane's affair with Superman."
"Okay, what am I missing here?"
"Okay," Ralph said, sounding excited. "Well, there was a report on television that showed Superman wrestling with Vixen."
"I heard about that. So what…"
"I was there when Lois saw it. Boy, you should have seen her. She practically had a meltdown in the newsroom."
"What exactly happened?" Samantha asked, not prepared to accept Ralph's characterization of Lois' behavior. Ralph seemed to take over-exaggeration to a whole new level. How had this jerk ever obtained a position at the Daily Planet, anyway?
"Well, everyone seemed to get the impression that something was going on between Vixen and Superman. I remember someone saying 'Way to go, Superman.' I think someone else said that it looked as if Superman had found himself a mate. Then Perry commented that it was about time.
"Anyway, I was watching Lois. She was getting more and more upset. Suddenly, she sprang to her feet and… get this. She said she didn't think it looked like Superman had found a mate and then…" Ralph looked around, as if assuring himself that they were still alone. Lowering his voice another notch, he continued. "She said, 'Superman would never cheat on his…'"
"His what?" Samantha asked when Ralph didn't immediately continue.
"That was when she hesitated, like she realized at that moment that she was about to incriminate herself. So she concluded by saying, 'principles.' But that wasn't what she had been thinking. I think she was upset at the implication that he would cheat on her."
Ralph concluded his piece of news, looking very pleased with himself.
"So then," Samantha said thoughtfully as she processed what she'd been told, "the relationship must not be over. If it were, her immediate thought wouldn't have been that he was somehow… cheating. How did everyone else react to this outburst?"
"They backed down right away — saying that they just meant that Superman seemed to have made a new friend."
"I don't suppose you happened to get any of this on tape?"
Ralph smirked. "You're not dealing with an amateur here. When we started working together, I bought myself a video camera. And as soon as I realized what was going on, I flicked it on — discreetly filming Lane."
He handed her the tape. "So…" he continued, moving closer to her. "…I was thinking that maybe we…"
"I gotta go," she said quickly, heading towards her car before he could continue. "I want to follow up on this immediately. We'll talk later."
Samantha sat in her car in front of the Daily Planet building, wondering if she should risk going inside. After the incident today, Lois would likely be seeking some sort of reassurance that Superman was still in love with her.
With a normal stakeout, Samantha would have been content to wait for Lois to emerge from the building. But, even now, Lois Lane could be on the roof, yelling for her lover. So… did she risk it? Or did she wait and hope that Lois would decide to meet her lover elsewhere, allowing Samantha a chance to follow?
The question was answered for her when Lois unexpectedly emerged from the building with a man Samantha didn't recognize. They were obviously deep in conversation.
Then her hopes of following Lois to some sort of secret rendezvous with Superman were dashed when Clark approached, quickly joining the group. Obviously, if Clark were there, Lois would have to put off her plans of contacting Superman.
Before Samantha could process this development any further, a car sped by, skidding to a stop in front of the trio. Samantha heard someone yell, 'Luckabee!' — wasn't that the name of the new owner of the Daily Planet? — before the sound of gunfire filled the night air.
Samantha ducked down behind the dashboard of her car, peeking above it in time to see Vixen standing between the car and the trio, deflecting the bullets at superhuman speed. A moment later, the car screeched away. Samantha's mouth fell open when Vixen, instead of stopping the car, shot something that appeared to be balls of fire out of her wrists, blowing the car up.
Samantha finally found her breath again just before Superman showed up, floating to the ground next to Vixen. It seemed the two of them were arguing about something. Suddenly, Vixen turned and simply disappeared into the night.
But none of that was what caught Samantha's attention. After Vixen was gone, Samantha saw Lois rising to her feet, taking a couple of steps towards Superman before stopping. The look of longing on her face was unmistakable. Superman's gaze met Lois' — and a spark, an understanding, seemed to pass between them.
Grabbing her camera, she quickly captured a couple of shots.
Lowering her camera, she watched them share eye contact a moment longer, as if assuring each other that things were alright between them, before Superman took off. Lois' eyes followed his departure until her husband began pushing through the crowd to join her.
Without a word, Kent took his wife's hand, escorting her back inside the Daily Plant — completely oblivious to the small drama that had taken place between his wife and Superman only moments before.
Oh, yeah. Samantha's guess was that they hadn't dared meet again since her photograph of the two of them had forced them apart. But there was no doubting that they still wanted each other. And it was only a matter of time before they would find a way to be together again. Samantha had every intention of being there when that happened.
When Lane and Kent disappeared from view, Samantha knew her surveillance was over for the evening. During the past month, Samantha had learned how overprotective Kent was of his wife. There was no way the man would let her out of his sight for the rest of the evening.
Besides… Samantha glanced at her watch and groaned. She'd completely forgotten. She had to get to work. And, boy, was she late! How many times could she get away with being late anyway? Well, once she proved that Lois and Superman were having an affair, it wouldn't matter. At least, she doubted it would be long now before Lois would be unable to resist a meeting with Superman — not if the look of longing they'd shared tonight was any indication.
But for now… how did she explain the fact that she hadn't even called to Sonny? She sighed. Another baby story, no doubt. Still, she hated the way everyone hovered over her when she claimed complications from her pregnancy.
Oh, it might have been nice if she was really in need of the help. But as it was, when she was just using her pregnancy as an excuse… She'd never known she could feel like such a heel.
Suddenly, she had an idea. She'd call and say she wasn't feeling well tonight. And that she hadn't called earlier because she had finally managed to get some sleep, but that she was really sorry that she had left them a person short.
Once she arrived back at her apartment, Samantha called the restaurant and told her prearranged story, trying to sound as sick and tired as she could. She felt a brief flash of guilt, but quickly pushed it to the side. She'd done what she had to do.
Bending down next to the television, she inserted the tape Ralph had given her earlier. She groaned as she rose again to her feet and made her way to the couch. Truly, she was sort of glad that she'd called in sick. After all, she felt completely drained.
Sitting down, she picked up the remote and pressed 'play.' An image appeared on the screen. She squinted at the television. Was that someone's chest?
The image suddenly moved upwards to capture Lois' face. Well, sort of. About half of her face was on the screen. The image moved in and out of focus for a moment before fixing on a setting.
Obviously, Ralph wasn't a professional cameraman.
"Testing. One. Two. Three. Testing. One. Two. Three."
Samantha rolled her eyes when Ralph's voice conducting his 'test' drowned out the voices of the people speaking. However, by listening carefully, she thought she could hear the sound of a man's voice saying, 'Looks like he's found himself a mate.' And then she heard the unmistakable sound of Perry White's southern drawl responding, 'Well it's about time.'
Even with the poor camera angle, Samantha could see enough of Lois' face to realize that she was becoming more and more agitated.
She saw Lane suddenly spring to her feet and begin to speak, but Samantha was distracted by the realization that due to Ralph's poor camera handling — or was it possibly some other motivation? — the camera had once again focused on Lois' chest.
Growling, she reached over and backed the tape up again. Whatever Lois had started to say, she'd missed it.
Pushing play, she forced herself, unlike Ralph, not to lose focus.
"I don't think it looks like Superman has found a mate!" Lane said indignantly. The camera again moved to her face. "Superman would never cheat on his…"
Samantha's eyebrows rose. Oh, yeah. Lois Lane had been about to say something incriminating. Her look of fear when she realized what she was saying made that abundantly clear.
"…principles," Lois concluded.
Samantha watched the remainder of the tape, but nothing else stood out quite as clearly as Lois' near blunder. No, it wasn't proof. But once she had proof… she had no doubt she could make good use of this tape. Too bad Ralph was so incompetent with a video camera.
Getting up, she switched off the television and slowly made her way into her room, not feeling up to much more this evening than a long soak in a bathtub. She changed into her robe and made her way to the washroom, standing with her hand under the faucet as she monitored the temperature of the water.
As the tub slowly filled, her mind drifted back to her phone call to Sonny. He'd sounded so concerned when she told him she wasn't feeling well. This really had to end soon. It wasn't fair to Sonny — although, why it mattered to her, she wasn't entirely certain. He was just an employer. And she'd had employers before. And never had lying to any of them bothered her.
Maybe it was just because he was such a kind soul, caring for all of his employees like family.
Yes. This had to end soon.
Suddenly, she froze. She'd come back to her apartment thinking there was nothing else she could do tonight, but… if Lane and Kent were still at the Daily Planet, now might be the perfect opportunity to plant her surveillance devices in their brownstone.
Quickly turning off the water, she returned to her bedroom to change into a dark pair of slacks and top. She could get this taken care of tonight — and then… tomorrow she'd be in a much better position to put an end to this.
Turning, she headed for the door, opening it quickly. She stopped in shock when she saw Jun standing on the other side, hand raised to knock.
"What are you doing here?" she gasped out in shock when she saw her fellow waitress.
"Sonny asked me to come by, make sure you were all right, and bring you some soup," Jun said, holding up a brown paper bag. "He was afraid you wouldn't be eating right if you were feeling poorly." She looked down at Samantha's clothing. "Although, you look fine to me," Jun concluded, a slightly sarcastic edge in her voice.
"I was feeling a bit better, so I thought I'd come in and help out after all," Samantha said.
"Oh." The sarcastic edge left Jun's voice. "No, don't do that. We're doing fine. And Sonny will just worry about you if you're there. Would you like me to come in and heat up the soup for you?"
Samantha squirmed slightly. "No. That's okay. I'll be fine. Like I said, I'm feeling a little better."
"Okay, then. I'll just leave this." She handed Samantha the bag. "But please, don't be afraid to call if you have any problems." Jun smiled. "We can have someone over here right away if there's a problem."
When she turned to leave, Samantha spoke. "Jun?"
The other woman turned back towards her.
"I'm just… Well, why go to all this trouble for me?"
Jun smiled. "I've worked at The Jade since my parents died. We watch out for one another. The world is a pretty scary place when you lose your parents in your teens. Sonny was there for me. He's been there for all of us. I think being down on your luck is a prerequisite for working at the Jade. So… please call if you need anything."
With those final words, Jun turned and headed back down the hall. Thoughtfully, Samantha watched her go. She'd never known people like this before — people that truly cared about one another, and about her. She couldn't believe how touched she was — or how ashamed.
She waited until she was sure Jun was gone before heading out herself. She had to get the proof on Superman and Lois soon. She couldn't continue taking advantage of these good-hearted people. She simply couldn't handle the guilt.
Samantha groaned in frustration when she pulled onto Hyperion Avenue and realized that the lights were on inside the Kent's brownstone. She pulled the car to the curb and sat inside for a moment before deciding to get out.
Sneaking into the house to install the devices was out of the question again. Still, given that she was unlikely to be spotted in the dark, now might be as good a time as any to check out the area. She started by making her way slowly past the front of the house, trying to determine how much she could see through the cracks in the curtains.
Not much. The angles were all wrong. No. Unless Lois and Superman were making love on the living room ceiling — not exactly an impossible feat, given that this was Superman, but also not likely given how conscious they would be of getting caught — this was probably not the best place to see what was going on inside. On the other hand, if she walked up the steps to the front door, she could get a partial view of the end of the sofa.
Not exactly the best place for spying. After all, she was far too exposed here. Quickly she descended the steps and moved into the shadows.
She glanced at the homes across the street from 348 Hyperion — wishing, and not for the first time, that she could afford to rent one of those for her surveillance operation. Not only would the angles be better, but she wouldn't have to keep driving across town to find out what Lois was up to. But one might as well be wishing for the moon.
Slipping between two buildings about half a block down, she made her way to the alley that ran behind the houses. From there, it didn't take her long to make her way to the Kents' back yard. A tall fence surrounded it. Still, she found a small crack between the boards and worked at it a little until, by standing at just the right angle, she could see inside the barrier.
Her eyebrows rose when she saw Lois, sitting alone at a table on the patio in the backyard. On the table were two place settings and two candles. Yet no one other than Lois was there — wearing what appeared to be a pair of elegant satin pajamas. Perfect for a romantic, late-night dinner? Samantha's eyebrows rose. Could she possibly be expecting… company? Could she possibly be expecting… Superman?
After all, it was the perfect set up. Superman could drop down into this walled back yard for a romantic rendezvous with Lois and then disappear again afterwards so fast that no one would ever know. Had Lois thought of that when she and Kent had bought the place? How long had this affair been going on, anyway? Had she ever really loved Kent or had he always been the 'beard', so to speak — the disguise to keep people from knowing that Superman had a girlfriend, someone who could be used against him. Was Kent in on it? Or was he just the poor sap Lane had chosen for this role?
Given what she had seen between Lane and Kent in the Daily Planet the previous month, Kent was the sap. He was in love with Lane, and she, heartless bitch that she was, was letting him believe she loved him, too.
Directing her mind back to the romantic, candle-lit table in the back yard, Samantha watched as Lois turned a page in her book before reaching over to pick up her glass of wine. It was a lonely picture, really. Having an affair with someone whose schedule could never be counted on, someone who might have to take off at the worst possible times. Lois probably spent lots of lonely nights just like this one — waiting for a lover who might never appear. 'Sorry I couldn't come last night, my love, but I was out holding up the Golden Gate Bridge.'
She wondered briefly where Clark was. Had Lois sent him off to find her ice cream, telling him that she absolutely had to have some hard to find kind so that she could have this time to meet with her lover?
When Samantha thought about it, it made sense that they would meet at the brownstone. After all, this scene would be a hundred times more frustrating if Lois was waiting in a lonely motel room for her absent lover.
Not that Samantha was exactly sympathetic. Still, it did make her wonder why Lois even bothered. She had a husband who adored her. A job Samantha would kill to get. What did she need Superman for, too?
The image of making love on the ceiling flashed briefly through Samantha's mind before she quickly pushed it away.
Okay, so this was where they probably met. Samantha checked to be sure she had the small video camera she had purchased. There was only one problem. Would the built-in microphone pick up any conversation or other, more expressive, noises at this distance? She doubted it. She would correct that problem tomorrow. She should have thought of that sooner. Even after she got the surveillance devices installed in the house, she might end up getting the evidence she needed somewhere else. So she really did need some long-range listening and recording devices. Maybe even some more powerful cameras. She'd talk to Bryan tomorrow.
In the meantime, though, she had no intention of leaving this spot until… whoever, joined Lois for dinner.
Samantha silently cursed. Her ankles hurt. Her breasts hurt. In truth, her entire body hurt. Not only that, but her bladder was beginning to protest. Hadn't she just gone to the bathroom before leaving her apartment? This surveillance stuff had been so much easier before she'd gotten pregnant. It had been half an hour now and it seemed, as Lois finally blew out the candles, that she'd given up on having a dinner companion.
Thank, god. Samantha wasn't entirely sure how much more she could take this evening. Perhaps Superman had been tied up at some disaster or other.
Inside the house, Samantha heard the phone ring and then, after a conversation between Lois and… someone that Samantha was unable to overhear, Lois headed upstairs. When she came down again, dressed to go out, Samantha hurried back to her car. Maybe Lois had received a call from Superman, suggesting another meeting place.
Her anticipation rose as she followed Lois' jeep through the streets of Metropolis — only to fall again when Lois pulled into the parking lot at the Daily Planet.
Damn! So many false leads. She should have known that Lois wasn't meeting with Superman when she saw the professional business suit she had chosen. Not exactly the sort of thing one wore to a romantic encounter.
Still, if Lane was at the Daily Planet that meant the house was empty. And that meant…
She turned the car around. Maybe getting her surveillance devices installed tonight was suddenly not completely out of the question.
Samantha didn't see him go in. Still, she had just climbed back into her car when the lights in the brownstone began coming on. A moment later, she heard Kent calling for his absent wife over the newly installed bugs, planted in strategic locations around the brownstone.
Then she heard another voice, a man's voice, which sounded canned. The television? The radio? The answering machine maybe?
"Hello, Lois. Umm… It's Leslie Luckabee calling." Followed by Lois' breathless response. "Leslie, wait. Hi. Hi. It's Lois."
Well, at least that explained the mad dash into the Daily Planet. A call from her boss.
Samantha smiled. Not only was the trip out now explained, but the surveillance devices were every bit as effective as Bryan had promised. The only problem had been the cameras. They were too big to hide effectively. But for now, it seemed the bugs were working wonderfully.
She could even hear Kent punching a number into the phone and then…
"Clark, hi." Lois' voice. "I was getting worried about you."
And then… a rush of wind followed by silence. Samantha tapped the recorder. The system couldn't have failed already, could it? Maybe for some reason the phone line had gone dead.
She sat there for a long time, waiting to hear what would happen next. Unfortunately, nothing did.
Had Clark just decided to go to bed? Had the phone line gone dead and he'd gone across to the neighbor's to try again?
No. She would have seen that.
Unless… she groaned in frustration. He probably knew a neighbor located somewhere in back and had gone out through the back door. Why hadn't she thought of that possibility?
Even though she knew what must have happened, she was still slightly surprised when, half an hour later, Lois and Clark pulled up in front of the brownstone together.
"I still don't think this is a really good idea," Clark said as he and Lois entered the building — proving that the bugs were still working. "What if Superman can't defeat Vixen?"
"He will," Lois responded. "He defeated the creature sent to kill him just before the New Kryptonians arrived, after all. If he could defeat him, he'll figure out a way to defeat Vixen."
Samantha rolled her eyes when she heard what sounded like kissing.
"You really are his biggest fan, aren't you?" Clark asked, his voice slightly muffled as if he was nuzzling at her neck while speaking.
"You have no idea," Samantha muttered to herself even as Lois spoke.
"Always," Lois replied seductively. "In fact, right now I wish Superman would…"
"Wait!" Clark said, his voice instantly clear. "I just remembered. When I called you from here earlier, I heard…"
Samantha pressed the earpiece in her ear, as she waited for the answer. But all she heard was what sounded like a dial tone — informing her that the bug she'd placed in their phone had been activated. But then, instead of hearing anyone make a call, she heard a gust of wind and then… absolute silence, as if none of the bugs were transmitting at all anymore. There wasn't even static.
She checked her equipment, turning it on and off, adjusting buttons and turning the device slightly in hopes of picking up a wayward signal.
Damn. Now what did she do? It wasn't as if her finances were all that great these days. It probably came down to a choice between getting long-range surveillance equipment or getting more of those high-tech bugs.
She sighed. She hated this type of decision. If only she knew what had happened to all the surveillance devices she'd planted less than an hour before…
APRIL 21, 1997
Samantha pulled her car to the side of the road and rubbed her sore breasts. She'd been driving by the brownstone every night this past week. She'd snuck around to the back on most occasions, only to find Lois and Clark there together.
The problem was that working full time she couldn't give her surveillance of Lois Lane her full concentration. And for all she knew, Lois and Superman were enjoying a little afternoon delight. But she'd been working the day shift at the restaurant — making nights the only time she could follow up on her Lane surveillance.
She'd been so certain, when she'd seen the look Lois and Superman had shared following Vixen's heavy-handed dealing of the would-be Luckabee killers that a rendezvous was imminent. The more time that went by, the more likely she'd missed that particular encounter. She could only hope there would be more.
From her thoughts of the look between Lois and Superman, she began pondering other Vixen events, in particular the death… or was that destruction? …of Vixen. Lane and Kent's story had claimed that Vixen was some sort of machine. But Samantha wasn't so certain. After all, nothing had been left of Vixen after her encounter with Superman for the police to examine.
Superman claimed he hadn't meant to destroy her. But considering what a consummate liar Superman had proven himself to be, that was hardly surprising.
Was Vixen a threat to him? Was she some sort of threat to his 'superhero' status? After all, as Goode had commented so many months ago, how many awards and accolades could one man receive? Was Vixen some kind of threat to that? Maybe Superman simply didn't like sharing the glory.
She saw Clark step up to the window and pull the curtains.
Sighing, she restarted her car. With Kent home, there would be no late night rendezvous for Lois and Superman tonight. She might as well head home to get a good night's sleep.
Stepping into her apartment, she noticed the red blinking light on her answering machine. She walked over, pushing the play button.
"Hey, I guess you aren't there, babe," said Ralph's voice. "Well, apparently Lois and Clark are going to some big press convention in Atlantic City. Just thought you'd want to know. Call me. We can get together."
Samantha made her way over to the couch and took a seat. Nothing there. After all, Superman wasn't likely to show up to a convention Lois and Clark were both attending.
Still, she ran through in her mind a list of possible conventions they could be attending. Wasn't the International Association of News Writers convention taking place in Atlantic City this year? Figured. If something good could happen, it would have to happen to Lois Lane. After all, the IANW was the most exclusive news convention in the world.
Her feelings of resentment were replaced with confusion when something seemed to move through her stomach. She gasped in excited surprise when she realized what it must be. She'd felt fluttering before, but nothing like this. She could honestly feel the baby moving inside her. In awe, she lowered her hand to her stomach.
She felt a thrill of excitement before being swept by a wave of sadness. This was the type of event that was supposed to be celebrated with someone — preferably the father.
She had no one.
She quickly rose to her feet. It didn't matter. Soon she'd have the evidence that would give her vindication. That was all she needed. It would secure both her and her child's future. And really, what else could she possibly want?
She was at work the next day when she got a second phone call from Ralph. This time, the message was slightly different. And this time, it did get Samantha's attention.
Apparently, Clark was not going to the convention after all. He was going to be trapped in a cell with Peter Masse in San Francisco, getting the interview of a lifetime.
This was it. This was the chance Samantha had been waiting for. Purchasing a ticket to Atlantic City after the long-range surveillance equipment she'd purchased earlier in the day would pretty much wipe out her bank account. But there was no way either Lois or Superman would give up a chance like this to be together. And Samantha was determined to capture every intimate and disgusting image and word for posterity.
But according to Ralph, Lois was already on her way to Atlantic City, which meant…
After hanging up the phone, she turned to Sonny who was busy slaving over tonight's specials. "Sonny, I need a couple days off," she said, even as she undid her apron.
His forehead crinkled together. "What? Starting now?"
"I'm sorry. But this is important."
"I short handed tonight. You go tomorrow?"
Samantha shook her head, even as she began making her way towards the door, picking up her coat on the way.
"No. Jun call in sick. I need you tonight."
Samantha stopped in her tracks, turning back to Sonny. She opened her mouth to give him some excuse — a dying mother, a sick friend. Something. When she found herself hesitating. No more lies.
"This might be the only chance I get to redeem my reputation," she said. "I've got to take it. I'm so sorry. If you feel you have to fire me… I'm sorry. I do need this job. God knows I need this job. But I've got to go. I promise. I'll explain it all when I get back." Without waiting for his response, she turned and headed out the door.
The hotel was exactly what Samantha would have expected. Huge. Luxurious. Everything one would expect for a meeting of the International Association of News Writers.
Her first step upon arrival, however, wasn't to gaze at her opulent surroundings. No. What she needed was Lois Lane's room number. And with almost five hundred rooms in this hotel, that wasn't necessarily going to be an easy task. When the front counter refused to give her that information, she pondered her options.
Maybe she could find a way to get access to a hotel computer — by distracting someone, or perhaps, bribing someone. Or she could go to the 'get to know you' reception for the convention and attempt to follow Lois when she went back to her room.
Problem was, if she waited to follow Lois, she wouldn't have time to set up a proper surveillance. She needed time to sneak into Lois' room to set up her surveillance equipment. If she waited until after the reception, she would be too late to get anything set up for tonight.
She had brought the cameras she hadn't been able to set up in the Kent brownstone. She wanted to plant them in Lois Lane's room — although that didn't give her any audio. On the other hand, her long-range cameras and microphones might work from a competing hotel located to the East. She would book a room there, one with a good view of Lois' room and be in a perfect position to get the information she needed. That plan, of course, was contingent on Lois' room being on the East side.
Suddenly, her problem of finding Lois' room was solved when she spotted Leslie Luckabee standing at the elevators. A slow smile made its way across her face. The Daily Planet contingency was likely all staying on the same floor so…
She crossed the lobby and took up her place beside the good-looking man in his late twenties to early thirties who had recently purchased the Daily Planet. From what she'd heard of him on the news, he even had a charming Australian accent. She was pleased to note that after a quick look where they exchanged polite smiles, he went back to watching the numbers above the elevators as they moved from floor to floor. He quite obviously had absolutely no idea who she was.
Perfect. Bloody, awful perfect.
An elevator arrived and both stepped inside, once again exchanging polite smiles. Samantha let Luckabee push the elevator button first before stepping up, as if she would hit a button. Then, as if she had suddenly realized that he'd pushed the button to her floor as well, she stepped back. They exchanged another round of polite smiles before the elevator doors closed and they rode in silence to their chosen floor.
Samantha casually moved to the back of the elevator, leaning against the banister that ran around the back and sides. So it was only natural, when the elevator doors opened, that Luckabee stepped off first. She waited until the door was about to close before stepping off herself. Then she stood, pretending to look through her purse as, in the corner of her eye, she watched Luckabee head down the hall before coming to a halt in front of a door.
But instead of moving to find a key, he knocked.
Samantha's gasp almost gave her away when she saw Lois open the door, a black teddy swinging from one hand and a sultry, "Hello, sweetheart," coming from her lips. Shock that Luckabee could be having an affair with Lane turned to understanding when Lois, upon seeing who was standing on the other side of the door, quickly hid the teddy behind her back and looked in mortification at her boss.
Bingo. Not only did she now have Lois Lane's room number, but she also knew for an absolute certainty that Lois was preparing for a secret rendezvous with Superman. After all, her husband was half way across the country, locked in a cell for the next twenty-four hours with a convicted murderer. Besides, they'd been married now for over six months and had been involved for a year or so beyond that. So they weren't exactly newlyweds anymore. The overt act of sexuality had to be for her lover not her spouse.
Coming here had definitely been the right decision. Even the room was on the right side of the building.
She hesitated for a moment, before pushing the button to the elevator. She waited until the doors closed again before sorting through her purse. After a moment, she pulled out her Master Card. This was her big chance. And yes, even if she had to spend every last penny she had, and even more than one or two that she didn't, she was going to get this story. She'd be well compensated afterwards, so it wasn't as if it would matter in the long run.
So since money wasn't an issue, she knew exactly what to do. Samantha was going to be sure that the cameras were properly installed inside said room. No problem. She just had to enlist help from the right employee.
Samantha pushed open the balcony doors on her hotel room and stepped outside. She took a moment to look at the building across from her, counting floors as well as windows until she located Lois Lane's room.
Getting the cameras installed in Lois' room had been easy enough — although the dumbass had required more money than she'd anticipated. She'd had to practically max out her Master Card to pay the bribe. But at least she'd received a promise from the same employee that he would be working when Lane checked out — so that she could claim the cameras again.
Easy as the Americans and their proverbial homemade apple pie.
Now all that was left for Samantha to do was to get her equipment set up and then wait first for Lois to return from the reception and then for Superman to put in an appearance. She quickly began her task, a bounce in her step and a twinkle in her eyes. This was the night she'd be waiting for. Probably what would turn out to be the best night of her life. Certainly, it would turn out to be more satisfying than her wedding night. Maybe she should have bought a package of cigarettes to enjoy afterwards.
She paused when she felt the baby move again, reminding her why a cigarette was out of the question. "We'll soon have everything we ever wanted," she cooed softly to her unborn child.
Samantha was half asleep when the long-range microphone picked up activity in Lois' room. It had been so easy to doze since she hadn't dared turn on the lights, fearing that just as she could see into Lois' room, Lois could see into hers.
Perhaps not as easily. After all, all her lights were out and, at least to her knowledge, Lois didn't have the surveillance devices she did. On the other hand, Superman would have no problems spotting her if he looked in the right place. So keeping the lights out was not only prudent, it was a necessity.
After awkwardly rising to her feet, she made her way back onto the balcony and sat down in a chair she'd placed behind the long-range camera. Taking a look through, she found Lois moving around the room, quietly unpacking her clothes and putting them in the dressers. She saw Lois pick up the black teddy and run it through her fingers thoughtfully before glancing longingly towards the balcony window.
A moment later, Lois was making her way to the balcony, the black teddy still in her hand, as she pushed open the sliding glass doors. Stepping onto the balcony, she didn't look at the city lights. No, her gaze was focused elsewhere.
"I miss you," Lois whispered softly as she looked up into the night sky.
Samantha smiled at how that small whisper came though so clearly with her long-range microphone. This stuff had certainly been worth the price she'd had to pay for it.
She wondered if the object of Lois' current thoughts was able to hear her softly spoken words as clearly as Samantha. Was that his signal that the coast was clear? Still, after a moment when he didn't appear, Lois made her way back into the hotel room, sat down on the bed and turned on the television, flicking through the channels until she found the news.
Samantha smiled. Obviously, Lois was checking on her lover's current whereabouts.
A sudden knock at the door startled both women. Lois clicked off the television and rose from the bed.
Could Superman have decided to use the door anyway? Probably not. After all, he had a perfectly discreet way into Lois' room. Still… who else could it be?
Leaning forward, Samantha looked through the camera as Lois made her way to the door. A moment later, the door opened to reveal Leslie Luckabee.
"Do you have any idea how to tie one of these?" Luckabee asked, twirling a bow tie in one hand while holding a glass of what appeared to be whisky in the other.
"Lucky for you my father was all thumbs. Come on in," Lois said gesturing him into the room.
Samantha had to admit she found the whole thing a little odd. Hadn't Luckabee been born with a silver spoon in his mouth or something? Wouldn't he have had many occasions before now to need a bow tie?
As she pondered the question, Samantha opened a bottle of water and took a sip.
"You'd think a man in my position would know how to dress himself," Luckabee said, as if reading Samantha's thoughts. He raised his glass to his lips and took a drink.
"Bow ties are much more complicated than corporate takeovers," Lois responded, moving a chair over in front of the mirror. "Here. Have a seat."
No, something was very odd about this scene. Why didn't Lois seem suspicious? She seemed to believe Luckabee really was there to seek help with his bow tie.
"You made quite an impression out there today," Luckabee said as Lois leaned over him, working on his tie.
"What do you mean?" she asked absently as she concentrated on her task.
"I've had at least a dozen editors tell me how fortunate I was to have you — so to speak."
Samantha's jaw dropped when she realized what was really going on. Whether it was because of the alcohol he was consuming or… whatever it was, Lois' boss was about to make a pass at her. If that wasn't what this was leading up to, Samantha would eat her hat. She wasn't entirely sure why Lois seemed so oblivious.
"This end under," Lois was muttering to herself as she continued to fiddle with the tie. "Nope. This end over; this end under."
"You really are quite extraordinary. Award winning reporter. Worldly. Can tie a bow tie."
Without batting an eye, Lois continued. "Windsurf. Roller blade. And play the piano." How could she still be so oblivious to what Luckabee was really after? "It's all listed on my resume under special skills."
"You're an idiot if you think she's going to throw Superman over for you," Samantha said towards the other room before taking another sip of water.
"Clark's a very lucky man," Luckabee said.
Still, Lois continued to work on the tie, seeming oblivious to her boss' intentions. "Wake up, woman!" Samantha exclaimed although she knew Lois wouldn't be able to hear her.
"Okay, turn around," Lois said, bending down in front of Luckabee to put the final touches on his tie.
"It's a wonderful feeling when you finally find that special person."
Although from her current angle, Samantha couldn't see exactly what Luckabee did in that moment, it seemed Lois had finally clued in about what was going on because she suddenly jumped back, out of Luckabee's reach, quickly making her way to the far side of the room.
"You'd better go, Mr. Luckabee." Both disbelief and anger came through in Lois' abruptly spoken words.
"Please, let me apologize. I don't know what got into me. This is a terrible mistake," Luckabee said, quickly rising to his feet.
"You're damn right it's a mistake!" There was no mistaking the anger in Lois' voice.
Samantha took a sip of water.
"Because, number one, I love my husband."
Samantha spewed the water still in her mouth all over the camera. She was busy cleaning it off as Lois continued.
"And number two, Clark is not someone you want mad at you."
"Not to say anything about her lover," Samantha added.
"I don't want either of you to be mad at me," Luckabee said.
For a moment, Samantha thought Luckabee had heard her, until he realized he was talking about Lois and Clark.
"I honestly don't know what came over me," Luckabee continued. He seemed to spot the glass of whisky that was still sitting on the desk in front of the mirror. He picked it up, as if to show her. "Maybe it's the liquor."
"Well, that's convenient," Samantha said. "Is that why you brought it with you — so that you could claim you were drunk?"
Lois sounded equally unimpressed. "Then maybe you shouldn't drink."
"You go, girl," Samantha said, unaware that she was siding with Lois, having forgotten about the whole Superman issue in light of this 'solidarity among women when dealing with scumbags' issue.
"You're absolutely right," Luckabee continued. "And I am absolutely humiliated."
"Good!" Samantha said emphatically as Los marched directly to the door, Luckabee trailing along behind.
"I guarantee you, Lois. Nothing like this will ever happen again."
"It better not," Lois said, holding the door open for Leslie.
"Lois, is it possible to keep this just to ourselves?" Luckabee asked just as Samantha raised the water bottle.
"Clark and I don't have secrets."
Samantha was only glad she hadn't had time to take a sip.
"It's Clark I'm thinking of," Luckabee said.
"Yeah, right," Samantha responded sarcastically.
"Putting aside my… humiliation," Luckabee continued, "I wouldn't want him to leave the Planet because of a moment's stupidity on my part. He has a brilliant career ahead of him there."
Lois didn't respond.
Finally realizing that discretion really was the better part of valor, he gave a brief nod before heading out the door.
Samantha watched as Lois closed the door behind him and returned to her bed, once again picking up the television remote and turning on the news. Samantha smiled. Good. Any time now, her lover would arrive.
Nothing. Absolutely, bloody nothing.
How was that even possible? A discreet balcony entrance. An open door — an obvious invitation. A husband trapped in a prison cell in San Francisco.
And yet… no Superman.
Samantha tossed the paper on the seat beside her in disgust. She'd scoured half a dozen papers this morning in an attempt to see if Superman had been otherwise occupied. But still nothing. No out-of-control forest fires in Canada. No mud slides in Chili. Not even a cat being rescued from a tree in Metropolis. Not one single, solitary Superman sighting and yet he'd not shown up at Lois' room.
Perhaps the affair really was over.
No. That didn't make sense either. She'd seen with her own eyes the look they'd shared only the previous week. Longing like that was never denied for long.
So where the hell had Superman been?
She picked up the final paper and flipped through it. There must be something, anything that would explain why Superman hadn't come.
"Can I take those for you?"
Samantha glanced up at the flight attendant. It took her a moment to realize that she had been asked a question.
The flight attendant gestured to the discarded newspapers on the seat beside Samantha. "Oh, yeah, fine." Samantha said, gathering up the papers and handing them to the flight attendant.
She quickly dismissed the flight attendant from her mind. She had bigger problems to worry about. She'd maxed out her credit, spent all her money and didn't even know if she had a job to go back to — all to get a story that still eluded her.
Superman. She felt a wave of resentment roll through her.
Turning her head, she looked out the plane's window as the outskirts of Metropolis rolled past and the pilot announced that they would be landing momentarily.
Great! And then what?
The phone was ringing when Samantha stepped into her apartment later that morning. Dropping her bags inside the door she made a mad dash towards the phone, grabbing it before the caller could hang up. Maybe it was Sonny. And boy, did she need her job — given what had transpired in Atlantic City.
"Hello?" she asked breathlessly into the phone.
"What happened in Atlantic City?"
Ralph. Samantha's heart dropped.
"'Cause whatever it is, hell has sure broken loose over here," Ralph continued.
"Yeah, Clark is sure fuming — well as much as he ever does. And Lois looks so guilty — I'd almost think 'vulnerable' if this wasn't Lois Lane we were talking about. So when you got the proof about her and Superman, did you show it to Clark? Is that's what has him so upset?"
"Wait. Wait. Slow down. What exactly happened?"
"I was hoping you could tell me. All I know is that Lois and Clark were having some sort of heated discussion. Lowered voices and all that. But still heated. Clark looked mad. Lois looked as if she'd just been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. And when I walked past I heard Clark say something like, 'So something did happen.' So… what happened?"
"I… Look, Ralph, there's something I have to do. I'll talk to you later." With that, she hung up the phone. What had happened? What had she missed?
Maybe this wasn't a total loss.
Okay, so what did she do?
She wasn't entirely sure. Lois and Clark were obviously at the Daily Planet at the moment, so that at least gave her time to come up with a plan. In the meantime, she had some bridges of her own to mend because unless she was able to find whatever she'd overlooked in Atlantic City, she was going to need a job.
And to that end, her unpacking could wait.
Samantha paused, letting out a long slow breath, before opening the door to The Jade. She'd chosen to come in now, after the lunch crowd but before Sonny would be swamped in evening preparations, to be sure that he would be relaxed enough to hear her out. Because if she lost this job now, she was in serious trouble.
She still wasn't exactly sure how much to tell him about what she was doing. But one thing she had decided, had actually decided even before she left the previous evening, was that she would tell him the truth.
"You back," Sonny said emotionlessly.
Samantha winced. He wasn't yelling. He didn't even sound particularly angry. But for a man who seemed to find pleasure in everything, the lack of emotion in his voice was like a smack in the face.
"I'm back," she confirmed. "And I'm hoping I still have a job." She bit her lower lip, waiting for his answer.
"You owe me explanation," he said.
"I sort of hoped you'd forgotten about that." At his look of rebuke, she instantly felt slightly sheepish. "Sorry. It's just… Okay. But… can we sit down?" She gestured to one of the empty tables.
She waited until they were both seated before beginning. "I'm not exactly sure where to start here. Okay, well before I came to work here, I used to be…" Her voice trailed off. When he found out about the fake picture she'd published of Superman, he was going to hate her — just like the rest of the world did. And that thought troubled her — although she couldn't say exactly why. After all, as a tabloid reporter, she'd been hated by lots of people. It had never bothered her before now.
"You woman who publish that fake photo of Superman and Ms. Lane," Sonny said, preempting her.
"You knew?" Samantha gasped.
He nodded. "You landlord tells me when he says you need job."
"And you still gave me a job?"
He shrugged. "What you do not right. But everyone needs job."
She had to swallow the lump in her throat.
"But what this have to do with you leaving other night?"
"I…" She hesitated. He already knew about her past. And he'd forgiven her for what he believed she'd done. He'd never believe that, although she had forged the photo, the contents of the photo were true. "I had a chance to get back into the reporting."
"You still want to be reporter."
"It's not that I don't appreciate everything you've done for me. But all I've ever wanted to be is a reporter. So when this opportunity came up, I had to take it." Okay, so that wasn't exactly a lie. It just wasn't the whole truth.
"Okay, I understand that. But why you back, looking for old job again?"
She sighed. "I thought it was a chance to get back into reporting. I was wrong. And please, Sonny, I really need this job. I'm completely broke. I've maxed out my credit cards. If you let me go…"
"I not let you go," he said, cutting her off.
She let out a breath of relief. "Thank you."
"Just… don't be doing that to me again. I run business here. I need to be able to count on my employees — just like you need to count on me."
She thought about that for a moment before responding. "I'll try," she finally said. At his look, she continued. "I'm sorry. That's the best I can do."
He clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth before smiling. "At least you honest," he finally said, looking faintly amused.
She instantly relaxed. The man she'd come to know over the past couple of months was back, finding amusement in the strangest places.
She hadn't realized until that moment just how much she'd hated it when he was disappointed in her.
It was dark when Samantha arrived at the brownstone. She was glad when Sonny had told her that her first shift would be in the morning. After all, she really had wanted a chance to follow up on what Ralph had told her.
What had caused the rift between Lois and Clark? Had Clark discovered something about Lois' affair with Superman? Maybe if she could get close enough, could use her long-range listening devices, she could get something after all. Maybe even figure out where she'd gone wrong with her surveillance in Atlantic City.
In fact, depending on what Kent knew, and given what Lois might admit to, this might turn out to be her chance for vindication.
She had just turned off the car's engine when the door to the Kent residence flew open and Clark stormed down the front steps and headed down the street. He looked upset, all right. She got out of the car and began to follow but his pace was far too fast for her, especially with the extra weight she was carrying these days. And it wasn't long before she lost him.
She headed back to Hyperion Avenue. It was obvious that Kent had some emotions to walk off.
She was practically limping when she rounded the final corner to the Kent brownstone.
Okay, so what now?
She made her way back to her car, reaching into the back seat to get her camera before, after looking around to make sure no one was watching her, heading up onto the Kent stoop so that she could look between the curtains.
Oh, this was good.
Lois Lane was seated on the couch, looking completely devastated. Samantha raised the camera and took a couple of quick shots before heading back down the steps, glancing around again to make sure no one had seen her. There was a coffee shop nearby, so after returning her camera to her car, she headed there.
It was going to be a long night. And she was going to be there until either she had everything she needed or it became obvious that nothing more was going to happen tonight. And for that, she definitely needed caffeine.
An hour or so later, the sound of a sonic boom somewhere nearby jolted Samantha out of the near sleep the soft music from the radio had lulled her into. The noise was followed by a brief flash of red and blue streaking in the front window of 348 Hyperion Ave.
Her heart began to pound. This was it. This was really it.
"Don't screw this up, Richards," she said as she turned up the volume on the long-range microphone she had already directed at the living room window. She struggled to hear the voices, but they obviously weren't in the living room. Lights seemed to go on and off, but only in one room. She redirected the microphone just as the light seemed to brighten to unnatural proportions in the Kent's dining room before going out entirely.
Whatever they were doing in there… Damn! She wished she'd been able to plant those cameras.
Finally, she got the angle right on the microphone.
"I think he said he was working late at the Planet tonight." Lois' voice came through loud and clear.
Bingo! Superman must have wanted to know where Kent was, to make sure they had time to talk or… whatever.
Samantha continued to listen, but she couldn't hear anything else. On the other hand, how was she to know how loud Superman and Lois Lane were when they were… together.
And there was no way she intended to miss another chance. She grabbed her equipment and quickly headed out of the car, ignoring the ache in her feet and back as she carried everything down to the path between two of the buildings and sneaking, once again, into the alley that ran behind the brownstones.
She was breathing heavily by the time she reached the Kent's backyard. Peering through the crack, the only thing she could know for certain was that neither Lois nor Superman were in the back yard.
Okay, so now what?
Putting the equipment down, she found the gate that Clark Kent had used to leave by the back when she'd been here one night about a week ago. She looked around, spotting a small piece of wood. It appeared to have come off one of the nearby fences. Perfect. She picked it up and carefully worked it in the crack in the fence, using it to lift the latch that held the fence closed.
Damn. This was taking far too long.
Grabbing her camera, she headed through the gate. She snuck up to the back of the house where she had a clear line of sight into the main part of the Kent home.
Most of the lights were still out. She could see a lamp lying in pieces near the door.
Had Kent broken it when he'd found out about Superman's affair with his wife? Or perhaps Lois and Superman had broken it during their passionate interlude.
Still, there was no sign of either Lois or Superman.
They must have gone upstairs.
Damn. Could her luck get any worse?
She glanced up at the top floor windows. None of the lights up there were on. Of course, given what Superman and Lois Lane were likely doing, that wasn't necessarily surprising. Still, it didn't help her get the evidence she needed.
Okay, well, maybe they were making noise now. And if they were making noise…
She hurried back out to where she'd left the rest of her equipment. There had to be a better way to handle all this stuff. Some sort of solution that would keep her from having to drag all this stuff back and forth. After all, she was six and a half months pregnant and she was fairly certain all of this wasn't good for the baby.
Besides, if he knew, Sonny would kill her for doing anything that might hurt the baby.
Where had that thought come from? She pushed away the small question. She'd just spent so much of the day worried about whether or not Sonny was going to let her keep her job that he'd been the first one she'd thought of when she'd wondered if she was doing too much heavy work.
She had to keep her mind focused now. She pulled the gate so that it was almost closed and proceeded to move her long-range microphone into position, aiming it through the crack in the gate towards the upstairs windows.
It took her quite some time to satisfy herself that it was working. Problem was, it still wasn't picking up any sound. Lois and Superman couldn't be that quiet, could they?
A sudden bang brought her back to the present. It was the sound of a door closing coming from inside the house.
Peeking through the partially open fence, she was just in time to see Clark closing the front door.
Oh, now this could get good.
Her eyes flashed up the bedroom windows. Had Lois and Superman heard him?
"I'm going to make us something to eat." Clark's voice came through over the microphone. "Why don't you get the wine?"
Who was he talking to? Had Lois heard him come in and rushed downstairs? Still, he sounded subdued, tired even.
"Why don't we take it out back?" Lois asked, at least answering the question about whom Kent was talking to.
Samantha's eyes darted to the upstairs windows, expecting at any moment to see a half-dressed Superman fleeing, red boots in hand. She raised her camera, hoping for half a chance to capture the sight.
But she could see no signs of life. Perhaps he'd used the windows on the other side of the house.
Why did she have to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Still, that didn't prevent her from now having a first hand account of the now long-overdue talk between Lois and Clark about what he'd discovered about her affair with Superman.
Unless, of course, Superman was still there. It was no longer a secret, after all. So maybe they had all decided it would be best to talk it out together.
Probably not, but a girl could dream, couldn't she? After all, to have a recording of that conversation would be worth millions.
Samantha pulled the gate a little further closed when Lois opened the sliding glass doors and stepped out onto the deck with two glasses and an open bottle of red wine. She'd just finished pouring the wine, when Clark joined her with a plate of crackers and some sort of pates.
Her heart began to race. Even without Superman there, this could be the recording of a lifetime. The final accounting of the marriage of Lane and Kent.
"What a day," Lois said.
Samantha glanced down to make sure this was being recorded, even as the coffee she'd had earlier began to make its presence known on her bladder. She wasn't all that big yet, so why did she seem to have a bladder the size of a pea these days?
"What a week," Clark responded, plopping himself down onto one of the chairs.
Oh, yeah. This was it. They were about to have the 'You're having an affair with Superman so where do we go from here' conversation. It hardly mattered if she needed to go to the bathroom, she wouldn't miss this conversation for anything.
Samantha was surprised when Kent reached out, pulling his wife over to sit on his lap. That hardly seemed the right way to start this conversation.
"Honey, I'm sorry I got a little crazy about the whole Leslie thing," Kent said, before raising Lois' hand to his mouth to kiss it.
Leslie? Huh? Was he talking about Leslie Luckabee? The jerk Lois had put in his place in Atlantic City?
"Well, I'm sorry that I drive men so wild that it even became an issue."
Samantha rolled her eyes. Still, Kent seemed amused. It almost made Samantha want to shake him, to tell him to wake up, that Luckabee wasn't the issue — Superman was. So was that what the big fight between Lane and Kent was about? Some trivial pass Luckabee had made?
God, if Kent was so paranoid about Luckabee, why couldn't he see what was going on between Lois and Superman right under his nose? After all, Lois and Superman had been together only this evening. How could he be so blind?
"Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. I saw Dr. Klein," Kent said.
"And?" Lois asked.
Samantha's ears perked up. Why was Kent seeing a doctor? And why did Lane suddenly sound so interested?
"And he's going to run some tests and see if we're compatible."
"We're compatible," Lois responded, stroking his cheek affectionately.
"You know what I mean."
Samantha puzzled over that small tidbit of conversation as Lois rose from Clark's lap and walked around to get a cracker. A moment later, Samantha completely zoned out when Clark wondered what was going to happen to Walter O'Neill's holdings.
Samantha didn't know who Walter O'Neill was, but she couldn't say she particularly cared either. Not when her bladder was demanding even more of her attention. Besides, it obviously had nothing to do with Superman. Kent was still as oblivious as he had been from the beginning.
She wouldn't have believed it was possible for her to pack up her equipment and get it back to the car and herself to a bathroom as quickly as she did if she hadn't experienced it for herself.
Obviously, another fun-filled fact about pregnancy that was going to continue to get worse as the weeks went by.
And there were just so many of these wonderful new developments. She wasn't entirely sure why every woman didn't want to constantly be in this state bliss. Not.
To the outside observer, Samantha was the model employee as she bustled around The Jade, cleaning tables and taking orders. But the outside show hid the turmoil playing in her mind.
The night before had been a total bust. No big confrontation between Lois and Clark. No proof of the visit by Superman when Clark was absent. No pictures of the Man of Steel sneaking out of a married woman's house half naked when her husband arrived.
Every time, she'd get so close — only to have it all fall apart in the end.
In fact, the entire evening's efforts had netted her only one small lead. Dr. Klein.
When Samantha researched the name, she only located one Dr. Klein in Metropolis — which she found a little odd. How could there only be one Dr. Klein in a city the size of Metropolis? Still, unless Clark Kent was seeing a doctor from outside the city, which didn't seem likely, these 'tests' he had referred to the night before were being done by a Dr. Bernard Klein.
What was so odd, and what had Samantha so obsessed with it now, was that although Dr. Klein had a medical degree, he didn't have any sort of medical practice. He was, in fact, a researcher for Star Labs.
So what type of tests could he be doing on Clark?
There was something there. She could feel it in the pit of her belly.
So what did she do about it? Bryan. If anyone could get her into Star Labs to find out what was going on, it was Bryan. She'd give him a call later.
"Samantha, table seventeen need water," Sonny said, busting into her thoughts.
With a nod, she turned her mind back to her job.
APRIL 29, 1997
Samantha shuddered as she watched the press conference on television while getting dressed. There was something about that guy that just didn't sit well with her — and it was not only the pass he'd made on Lois Lane the previous week.
Okay, so maybe it was the name. Lex Luthor Jr. The very name had the power to send chills down her spine. She could well remember her encounter with Lex Luthor during his reign of power. And it was not what she would call a pleasant encounter. Involuntarily, her mind slipped back to a particular evening in 1993.
OCTOBER 6, 1993
Samantha slid slowly forward, silently pushing herself through the air vent until she arrived at the grate. Looking into the warehouse, her heart began to pound. Something was up. Something big. There was no way a man like Lex Luthor would come to a place like this for anything but big.
When she'd first arrived from England, she'd submitted her application to all of the big American papers. And had not even gotten a nibble in reply. So she'd come up with a plan. Find a story, something big enough that no one could ignore her. Something that would land her a job with the Washington Post or the New York Times or… and this one was at the top of her list… the Daily Planet.
So she'd begun to look for a story. And what bigger story was there in Metropolis, other than Superman of course, than Lex Luthor. He was elusive with the press. He was building an empire. And he was gaining a reputation as one of the biggest philanthropists in the world. He was the one she wanted to investigate. He could give her a story that would land her a job with one of the big papers.
So she'd begun her pursuit of Lex Luthor — determined to land that first one on one interview if it killed her. What she'd been shown instead was the door.
Not that her attempts had been totally without success. After all, it had landed her here. She'd overheard a conversation that had eventually led her to this warehouse on this particular night. Why would a man like Lex Luthor show up in this part of town, in this rundown warehouse? There was one obvious answer. Lex Luthor was dirty.
It was the story that was sure to land her dream job. She raised her camera and snapped off a couple of pictures when an attractive, well-dressed blonde, flanked by a couple of large, heavy set men entered the warehouse and made her way to Luthor.
"Ms. Taylor," Luthor said, charm oozing out of every pour as he brushed his lips over her cheek almost as if this was the most opulent ballroom rather than a dingy warehouse. "I'm so glad to finally meet you. I think we are in a position to help each other out." He gestured the woman to a table that had been set up in the open space.
"It's Toni," the woman said as she took a seat. "But I'm still not sure what you think we can do for each other. Or do you want something from the Metro Gang? If so, my brother is the one to talk to."
Luthor smiled. "Let's drop the act, shall we? I'm fully aware that you are not happy with your brother's leadership of the Metros. I also know that you have been pushing him to take the Metros out of the backroom and into the boardroom. I can help you make that happen."
Toni narrowed her eyes and sized him up for a minute before speaking. "And why would you do this for me? What's in it for you?"
Luthor smiled. "Let's just say that I have plans for the West River area. Plans that your brother isn't exactly supporting. I'm hoping that your leadership of the Metros will change that."
Toni smiled. "So what exactly did you have in mind?"
"I was thinking… fire sale."
Toni tilted her head to the side even as Samantha clicked off a couple more pictures.
Luthor looked around and Samantha froze. Had he heard her? He summoned over one of his people. If she recalled correctly, his name was St. John or something. The man bent down and Luthor whispered something to him before directing his attention back to Toni Taylor.
"Let's talk in my limo," he said, rising to his feet.
"Why?" Toni asked.
"I just don't think this place is as secure as I'd like it to be."
A moment later, the two of them headed for the doors.
Damn! Still, she'd heard enough to give her something to follow up on. Just as long as she was able to get out of this warehouse alive.
Samantha rubbed the crink in her neck as she sorted through her pockets looking for the keys to her apartment. It had taken hours for the men in the warehouse to finally leave, allowing her to slip out without notice. Opening the door to her apartment, she stepped inside.
Where they came from, she never knew. But out of the darkness of her home came two men. A hand was covering her mouth before she had a chance to scream. And then the first blow had landed, followed by another and another. Any efforts that she made to fight back went practically unnoticed as she was delivered a beating the likes of which she'd never known before.
Pain. Terror. The taste of blood. The fear of death competing with the desire for this nightmare to end.
"Keep your nose outta things that don't concern you," a voice finally whispered in her ear just before she lost consciousness.
APRIL 29, 1997
Samantha shivered. Even now, the memory of that night, the half-conscious trip to the emergency room when she'd finally regained consciousness, the pain from her broken ribs, cracked jaw, the bruises and the cuts still had the power to make her tremble.
She'd been a naive, young fool, filled with blind optimism. She'd actually believed that anything was possible. She'd bought the American dream hook, line and weighted sinker. That night had ended the dream.
The police had investigated, of course. But there had been no clues, no trails, and no evidence that had led to a perpetrator. Not that she didn't know it was Luthor. Still, without proof, she could do nothing. She didn't even know how they had found her.
It wasn't even as if she had the support system she would need to continue her investigation. No. She'd been completely alone in the world. And how could one woman stand up to the most powerful man in the city and the third richest man in the world?
She'd been approached on the day she was released from the hospital with an offer to work for the Dirt Digger. When she'd politely declined, she'd been informed in no uncertain terms, that it would be in her best interests to accept the job. She hadn't been entirely sure of what that meant until, when she'd been heading out of the Dirt Digger after giving them her answer, she'd seen Randy Goode and Lex Luthor talking together.
Fearing for her safety, when they contacted her again, she accepted the job, letting her ambitions of a real reporting job at one of the great newspapers fall by the wayside. After all, what were the chances of any respectable paper ever hiring her with 'Dirt Digger' on her resume — let alone a newspaper as great as the Daily Planet?
She'd come to understand Luthor's motivation when she'd soon found herself so busy with 'trivial' investigations and fabricating stories that she didn't have any time to continue her investigation of the relationship between Lex Luthor and Toni Taylor — not even when a rash of fires had started on the West River area.
Not that Luthor had managed to stop her completely. Knowing she would never have time to follow up on the story, nor the courage, she'd placed a single phone call to give an anonymous tip to a certain ace reporter at the Daily Planet. Her tip had simply been that there was a connection between the fires and the Metro Club. After all, it seemed likely that Luthor's comment 'fire sale' had something to do with the fires that had followed — especially when Samantha heard that Luthor was buying up land in the West River district at fire sale prices.
Still, she hadn't dared mention Luthor's name. Not after that beating. She'd not dared for fear that somehow the tip would be traced back to her.
Ironic, when she thought about it now. That tip had led to Lois Lane and Clark Kent breaking open the story about the Toasters — the very story that should have been Samantha's 'in' at the Daily Planet. But at the time she'd seen no other choice. Too many lives were being endangered; too many family businesses were being destroyed. And if she hadn't given that tip to Lois, more might have followed.
Had she ever really been that idealistic? Or that naive?
Still, when Toni Taylor had been arrested for her connection with the fires and Lex Luthor had walked away scot-free, Samantha had known there was more to the story than even Lane and Kent had printed. But there was nothing she could do about it.
Her mind was brought back to the present by the sight of Lex Luthor Jr. behind the podium, seducing the press with the same phony charm his father had been so famous for.
And if that was how she felt, she could just imagine Lois Lane's reaction. She'd nearly married the father. Then Luthor Sr. had kidnapped Lois from her first wedding attempt to Clark. How creepy must it be to know that his son had made a pass at her? And worse, how must she feel to find herself working for the man?
She pushed away the unexpected feelings of sympathy she suddenly had for the other woman. A reporter had to remain unbiased.
Still, it was with a shudder that Samantha turned off the television and headed for the door. Today she had a new job. She was the newest member of the janitorial staff for Star Labs. Bryan had really come through for her big time.
With any luck, however, this would be her shortest period of employment ever. Just one good, lucky break and she could get the information she needed from Star Labs tonight and be back in time for her day shift at The Jade tomorrow.
At first blush, security at Star Labs seemed impressive, but as Samantha pushed the janitorial cart through the hallway on the floor where Dr. Klein had his office, she found herself revising her opinion. Still, she kept the brim of her cap pulled down to ensure that the security cameras didn't get a clear view of her face. No need to get cocky.
She stopped to empty out a garbage can, when a couple of geeks in lab coats and wearing bow ties walked past. One of them, an older man with a receding hairline, was speaking.
"Oh, and I need those samples brought back afterwards."
"I don't understand what's so important about fertility tests, Dr. Klein. I mean, I know why it might be important for the individual having the tests done; what I don't understand is why you're the one doing them."
Samantha risked a quick look at the older of the two men. The one who had been identified as Dr. Klein.
"Oh… Uhh… Well…" Dr. Klein glanced around, as if to be sure no one was listening.
Samantha wasn't surprised when his gaze didn't stop on her. After all, wandering through the halls, she'd come to realize that in this janitorial outfit, she was practically invisible. A piece of the furniture. A phantom creature.
"I probably shouldn't tell you this, Jake," Klein said.
Samantha paused to pick up a rag and began cleaning off an imaginary spot on the wall.
"But one of our board of directors came to me and… well, he's got a new girlfriend. Almost forty years younger than him. And he wants to know if he's still… well, you get the picture. But he doesn't want his kids to know what he's up to. He thinks they're all a bunch of reprobates and wants a new heir to leave all his money to. And if they find out, he says they'll have a fit and try to stop him."
"Really?" Jake asked.
Dr. Klein nodded solemnly before glancing around again. "That's why he didn't want to go to a regular fertility clinic. And that's why it's so important to keep these tests a secret."
"Oh, don't worry, Dr. Klein. I won't say a word."
Samantha narrowed her eyes as she watched the two men continue on down the hall. There was something about Dr. Klein's answer that didn't ring true to her. Not that she was sure why she should care. Still, if he was lying, she found herself wondering what the truth really was.
Still, since Dr. Klein was currently standing with Jake, waiting to board an elevator, it seemed this might be her chance to do what she'd come here to do.
She took a quick look around before abandoning her cart and heading around a corner to one particular door. She took a look at the nameplate — Dr. Bernard Klein — before turning the door handle. She was slightly surprised when it opened.
Making sure she was still alone, she darted into the office, closing and locking the door behind her.
Taking a breath to steady her nerves, she headed for the desk, and in particular for the computer on the desk. It was in standby mode, so moving the mouse quickly brought up the screen. 'Enter password' blinked at her.
She'd expected this. Reaching into a pocket on her uniform, she pulled out a small disk and quickly inserted it into the machine and then waited. Just as Bryan had promised, it began to work immediately, filling in number/letter combinations at an amazing speed.
She glanced up at the door nervously, wondering if she should have started by trying a few guesses of her own. Still, she didn't know enough about the man to really have any good guesses. So she looked again at the monitor, hoping that it would be quick.
When 'Password Accepted' flashed on the screen, she let out a breath of relief. Getting into Klein's files from there was simple enough. She began by searching for anything related to Clark Kent or Lois Lane. What she found instead surprised her. Superman.
She clicked on the file, gasping when she realized that she was now looking at Dr. Klein's complete medical file on Superman. She ran though the files quickly, just out of curiosity. She doubted that Dr. Klein had anything that would prove an affair with Lois Lane, after all. Still, it couldn't hurt to take a quick peek.
Her heart gave a small leap when she suddenly found herself staring at the latest entry. It was marked simply, 'Fertility Tests.' And, according to his notes, Superman had just come in to give a sperm sample earlier today.
It couldn't be. The conversation she'd overheard between Dr. Klein and his assistant hadn't been about some member of the board. No. Dr. Klein was doing fertility tests on Superman himself.
But why? Was he planning on having children with Lois? No. That didn't seem right. After all, if Lois were to have a superbaby, the secret of their affair would get out. Or… maybe Lois had just discovered that she was pregnant and was concerned that she didn't know who the father was.
Oh, god. Poor Clark Kent. Superman and Lois must be hoping to find out that Superman couldn't impregnate her so that she could be certain of the paternity of her baby. The old saying, 'Oh what a tangled web we weave…" flashed though her mind.
It wasn't evidence of anything — especially since it didn't appear the tests were completed yet. Still, it was something worth keeping an eye on — especially if Lois started showing before Samantha found the evidence she needed to prove the affair. After all, if Superman could procreate with an Earth woman, they could have created the ultimate proof. Surely a simple blood test of any such child, even if it weren't a superchild, would show… abnormalities.
But for now… She closed the file and looked once more for any entries for 'Clark Kent' or 'Lois Lane.'
Damn. There didn't appear to be anything. So where did that leave her?
The sound of someone trying to open the door quickly got her attention. Where did it leave her? In a locked room with someone standing outside the only exit.
She looked around in desperation as she heard Dr. Klein's muffled voice from outside the door.
"Damn! I locked my keys inside again. Jake would you mind running down and asking security to come up and unlock my office?"
"Again? This must be the third time this week."
"Fourth," Dr. Klein corrected absently.
All during their conversation, Samantha looked around for a place to hide. A small closet was located next to a large bookshelf that ran along one entire wall of the office.
When she opened it, she was relieved to find only a few items inside, including what appeared to be a leather jacket with 'The Lab Rats' emblazoned on the back and a motor cycle helmet. She quickly glanced at the door, trying to readjust her image of the geek she'd observed only a few minutes before to this new information about him.
Pushing the thought aside, she quickly squeezed into the small closet and pulled the door until it was almost closed, succeeding in her task just as a man in a security uniform opened the main door to the office.
"I'm sorry for being such a bother," Klein said.
"No, problem, Dr. Klein," the guard replied. "Unlocking your door after you lock yourself out is actually written into our job description."
She heard Dr. Klein give a small grunt and then watched as he made his way to his desk. She could only hope he wouldn't be long. Her bladder was once again reminding her of its presence.
"Wait!" Klein said suddenly.
"Someone's been in my office!"
"Are you sure?" the guard asked, his voice taking on a sudden all-business quality.
"They broke into my computer! Of course, I'm sure."
"Uhh… Do you have any idea when?"
"How am I supposed to know when?"
"Well, when would you have last used your computer?"
"Before I started the tests on the Elbert Processor."
"And when was that?"
"After Superman brought it to me."
The guard let out a breath before pushing the button on the walky-talky affixed to his shoulder. "We've got a break-in in Dr. Klein's office," he said, even as he exited the office and began to look up and down the halls.
Samantha cringed when she heard the alarm go off. Then she crossed her legs. If she didn't find a way out of here soon, Dr. Klein was going to make a very nasty discovery the next time he opened his locker.
"Oh, damn. Someone accessed my Superman files," she heard Dr. Klein say as he rushed out of his office after the guard.
Well, it was now or never.
It was ironic, Samantha thought later. What had saved her, kept her from becoming a suspect after they found her abandoned cart, was where they had located her. The bathroom.
Not exactly the place she'd intended to go when she exited Dr. Klein's office. But some things were just too urgent to delay.
Still, when she'd explained that she was sorry for leaving her station, but that she'd just had to go, they'd taken one look at her expanding waistline and sent her on her way. Well, at least this pregnancy was good for something.
She still was confused, though, about what she'd found.
Superman was having fertility tests done. Her first thought had been that Superman wanted to know if he had made Lois pregnant — and that was still a workable theory. But what she hadn't discovered in Klein's file was also worth consideration. And what she hadn't found were any files on Clark Kent.
So… what did that mean?
She drew a blank.
A ringing phone pulled her out of her thoughts.
"Samantha, I'm glad I caught you."
"Hi, Ralph," she responded without much enthusiasm.
"Listen, something just happened here."
"Well, Leslie… Uhh… Lex just came in a few minutes ago and cleaned out Lois' desk."
"She got fired?" Samantha asked in disbelief. "When? Why?"
"Slow down. No, she didn't get fired. This is even better. Apparently, she left Clark and ran off with Lex. Everyone here is still shell-shocked. Do you think this means her affair with Superman is over?"
"She ran off with Lex?" Samantha asked, certain she must have misunderstood.
"Yeah. Wild, huh? Anyway, I was wondering…"
"I'll talk to you later," Samantha said, hanging up the phone.
What? No, that didn't make any sense. She'd seen the finality with which Lois had turned Luckabee… Luthor down only the previous week. There was no way she'd run off with him. No, there was only one possibility. She'd been kidnapped.
And if she had been kidnapped, there was one thing about which Samantha could be absolutely certain. Superman would rescue her.
Grabbing her coat, Samantha headed for the door.
What made her choose the Daily Planet as her destination, she wasn't entirely certain. But she had just pulled to a stop when the ground began to shake and rubble tumbled off the building as an explosion shook the ground.
She stayed in the car, watching the people on the street in front of the Planet running for cover. But cover was illusive. And suddenly, he was there. Superman, flying around, steadying pilings, catching falling rubble. He seemed to be everywhere at once until the shaking stopped and the building and people were again secure.
She was just catching her breath when she saw the blue uniform and red cape disappear into the adjoining alley.
She grabbed her tape recorder and camera and got out of the car, making her way as quickly as possible towards the alley, getting to the corner just in time to see Superman kneeling beside a prostrate Lois Lane. She wasn't moving. Not a single muscle.
Was she dead?
Samantha saw Superman sweep her a couple of times with his heat vision. She snapped a couple of low-light pictures and turned on her tape recorder.
Superman didn't even seem to notice, his concentration being focused on the woman next to him.
"Come on, Lois. We've done this before."
Done what before? What exactly was going on?
Superman leaned over, putting his ear next to Lois' mouth, as if trying to determine if she was breathing.
"Lois?" he asked. When there was no response, he began mouth to mouth.
Again the click of her camera was lost on the Man of Steel.
"Come on. Breathe. Breathe!" he commanded when she still failed to do so.
Samantha's heart stood still until… She let out her own breath when she heard Lois gasp for air.
The tension in the alley instantly cleared as the fear on Superman's face was replaced with relief. She watched in awe as Superman, ever so gently, gathered Lois into his arms.
"Did it… did it…?"
"Yeah, it worked," Superman responded. "It's over. It's over."
Samantha took a few more shots until, without ever seeming to notice her, Superman lifted his precious cargo into the air and flew her away. Judging by the direction he took, they were headed for the Kent brownstone.
She quickly returned to her car in order to follow.
She was just pulling to a stop on Hyperion Avenue when she saw someone in the living room of the brownstone, someone wearing glasses, pull the curtains closed before turning off the lights. The only light left on was in the upstairs master bedroom.
She let out a breath. It seemed that whatever had happened was now over. And it appeared that Superman must have returned Lois to her no-doubt grateful husband.
Okay, so maybe she had pictures of Superman leaning over Lois, kissing her. But it would be far too easy for Superman to talk his way out of these photos. No. This time she was not going to give the Man of Steel any wiggle room. No cut corners. No rushing to judgment. After all, the pictures were of Superman administering mouth-to-mouth — not some romantic interlude. He'd easily walk away from such photos. Besides, even though she knew Lois and Superman were having an affair, the part of her that was still a reporter rebelled against misrepresenting what she had seen in that alley.
Superman's behavior when he realized Lois wasn't breathing had been far too intense, and the way he'd gathered her into his arms had been far too intimate to be 'just a friend.' But that was just her interpretation. There wasn't enough there to prove the affair.
Still, it had been a good evening's work. And after she did get the definitive evidence, these latest pictures would just add more fuel to the fire. Satisfied, she headed back to her apartment. She had to go into work first thing in the morning. And so, tonight, she needed her sleep.
A couple days later, Samantha was still obsessing over her discovery at Star Labs. It fit into all of this somehow. She just wasn't entirely sure how.
She attacked the dirty grill with extra gusto. There had to be a clue there. There had to be another angle to follow up on. She just had to put the pieces together. What did Clark going for testing have to do with Superman having fertility tests? Or was there any connection at all? She was missing something — something that was staring her right in the face.
"Ugg!" she suddenly cried out when it felt as if someone had punched her in the stomach.
"Are you okay?" Sonny asked, rushing over from his food preparation to help her as she stumbled back into a chair. "Angela, call doctor."
"No!" Samantha gasped out before Angela, a woman quite a few years older than Samantha, could reach the phone.
Angela stopped, looking back and forth between Samantha and Sonny, unsure what to do. Samantha hardly noticed her as the same pain hit her stomach again. She gave a small gasp when she suddenly realized what it was.
"Oh my god," she breathed, her hand going down to cover her stomach.
"You in pain? You need help?" Sonny asked anxiously. "We help."
"What is it, honey?" Angela asked, squatting down on the other side of the chair from Sonny.
Samantha gave a small laugh when the pain happened again.
"What?" Sonny asked, his voice still anxious.
She looked up, meeting his troubled eyes with laughing ones of her own. "Here," she said, grabbing his hand and placing it on her stomach. For a moment, he looked shocked and then…
"Wow!" he said, his eyes lighting up. "Baby?"
Samantha nodded, grabbing Angela's hand and placing it on her stomach, too.
A big smile graced all three of their faces when the baby kicked again.
"This one is going to be a boxer," Angela said.
"Is that a fist?" Sonny asked.
"I suppose it could be a foot," Samantha said. "So maybe he's going to be a football player."
"You know it boy?"
Samantha shook her head, releasing both of their hands. "It's just hard saying 'it' when…" She gestured to the movement in her stomach, which now felt as if the little guy was dancing. "After all the swollen ankles, the tender breasts, the loss of bladder control, the mood swings, the ever expanding waistline…" She looked at Sonny, smiling when she realized she'd embarrassed him. "…this sort of makes it all seem worthwhile, doesn't it?" Her final words were definitely a question, as if seeking reassurance.
Sonny smiled and nodded, ever so tentatively reaching out his hand again. When he hesitated at the last minute, Samantha again took his hand. Their eyes met as she placed it on her stomach and then they both smiled when the baby kicked once again.
"What's going on? Is everyone all right?" Jun asked, entering the room in search of the next order.
Sonny, Samantha and Angela all laughed even as Samantha grabbed Jun's hand, showing her what she had already shown the rest.
MAY 31, 1997
Samantha was starting to feel like a beached whale. Just one more month to go and then… She pushed that thought away, not willing to think about what would come then.
Since her adventure at Star Labs, she hadn't made any real progress on her investigation of Lois and Superman's affair. Part of it was due, she knew, to her increasing fatigue. She even woke up tired these days. But the other part of it… Well, she wasn't quite sure what to think. She just didn't seem to be quite as enthusiastic about the project these days.
Why, she wasn't sure. After all, she still desperately wanted to be a reporter. Actually, she couldn't remember a time when she'd ever wanted to be anything else. And the only way that was ever going to happen was if she cleared her name.
Maybe she was just frustrated. She'd certainly spent enough nights staking out the brownstone — with no results. She'd followed up on all of Ralph's leads — which seemed to get more ridiculous by the day.
Still, in her spare time, when she should have been working on the investigation, she'd often find herself at The Jade. She'd tell herself that it was just cheaper to eat there because of her 'employee discount.' In point of fact, Sonny never charged any of his employees for eating there. He called it part of their employee benefit package.
She suspected he did that because so many of his employees wouldn't have had enough to eat without the option of coming to The Jade. It was a wonder Sonny even made enough money to stay in business.
After all, as Samantha had come to learn over the past month, there were a number of single mothers on staff — including Angela whose husband had passed away leaving her with nothing but bills, except, of course, for their three children. Angela and all of the children ate at Sonny's on a regular basis.
In fact, over the course of the past month, Samantha had found herself unexpectedly becoming close to all of The Jade's employees. Angela was a fount of information about pregnancy and was willing to answer all of Samantha's questions on the subject.
Then there was Jun. She often found herself being dragged out to 'window shop' with Jun. Since both of them were completely broke, these shopping trips, as Jun liked to call then, seldom resulted in any purchases, but Samantha wasn't sure that she had laughed so much in her entire life. They would often go to the most expensive stores, try on outfits that they could never afford and then joke about how the clothes just weren't 'rich' enough for their tastes.
And then there was Lee and Chen and Rachel and Alexa. And all of them cared about the others. And the oddest thing of all was that she was beginning to care about all of them, too.
And then there was Sonny… She sighed. He was such a sweetheart, but… She wasn't entirely sure what to make of Sonny. Ever since that day that he'd felt the baby moving, she was fairly certain that something had changed between them. She saw… an interest there. As if, for the first time, he'd noticed her as a woman.
She'd looked at him differently, too. Oh, she'd always known he was a good-looking guy, but he was her boss.
But after that day… She sighed again. No, nothing was different. Everything was exactly the same. After all, if he had been interested, surely he'd have made some sort of move on her by now. He was just a sweet guy who cared about all his employees.
Besides, she wasn't at all interested in getting involved with any man at the moment. No, she knew only too well what men were capable of. Her husband had taught her that. So had her father. And if she'd needed any more proof, there was always Superman.
So she was just as well pleased that nothing had come of that day. After all, she wasn't entirely sure how she would turn Sonny down if he did ask her out. Not that she thought he'd fire her or anything. He just wasn't that type. Still, it would have made things incredibly awkward.
She sat up straighter in her car when she saw Clark Kent pull open the curtains on the living room window. It was almost nine o'clock and he was still dressed in his robe. Obviously, they weren't working this Saturday morning.
On the other hand, Samantha was. And she'd better remember that. After all, this surveillance stuff was only going to get harder when she had a little one to look after.
Kent seemed to head through the house, in the direction of the door to the back.
Samantha opened the car door and grabbed her bag, groaning as she lifted the heavy accessory. Time to get to work.
Lois was lying out in the sun reading the paper when Samantha arrived at the hole in the fence. After setting down her equipment, she held her lower back as she stepped up to the fence just in time to see Kent emerge, coming up behind his wife and putting his hands over her eyes.
"Guess who," he said.
Samantha rolled her eyes. That could be a more difficult question for Lois than her husband realized. After all, Kent's voice and Superman's voice weren't all that different — except that Superman's was a little bit deeper and slightly more formal.
"Give me a hint," Lois responded playfully.
Or was it playful? Maybe she was still trying to work out which one of the men in her life had just joined her in the back yard.
"Okay, but no peeking"
Kent removed his hands from her eyes and she kept her eyes closed as he slowly tilted her head back and softly planted a kiss on her lips.
"I know you," she responded, still not proving to Samantha that she really did.
Still, Kent chuckled as he came around to join her on the lounger. Please, could these two be any more nauseating? Especially when she considered that, at least on Lois' part, it was all fake.
Samantha watched as Lois reached up, carefully removing Kent's glasses before giving her head a slight shake.
"What?" Kent asked.
"I can't believe that the first time I looked into your eyes, I didn't instantly know you were the man I'd spend the rest of my life with," she said, gently stroking his cheek.
Samantha rolled her eyes. Boy was this woman good at sweet-talking her husband. That thought was confirmed when Kent leaned in for another kiss.
When he pulled back, Samantha got her first good look at Kent's face. He looked a lot different without the glasses. And yet, he looked familiar somehow, too.
"So did you find what you want to see?" Kent asked.
They must be planning to go out to a movie or something.
"No," Lois responded. "Actually, I wasn't able to get past your piece on the Zarate Crime Family." She looked back at the paper. "It's first rate."
God, Samantha wasn't entirely sure how much more of this drivel she could stand. Kent was looking suitably flattered, too, which only made Samantha even sicker.
"Meanwhile, I'm stuck with page three novelty robberies," Lois continued.
"Oh… you're piece on the museum robbery was excellent," Clark interrupted.
Okay, that was enough. Samantha picked up her bag and headed back to the car. There was no way she intended to spend another minute listening to the mutual admiration society gushing all over each other. Besides, she was tired and cranky and her feet hurt.
She loaded the equipment back into the car and then awkwardly crawled in herself. Maybe she would sit out here for a little while longer, and then… this was her day off, too. And the last thing she wanted to do was to upset her already fragile stomach any further.
Besides, maybe it was time for her to start thinking about getting some things for the baby — or at least checking out how much a second hand crib might cost. Because if things kept going the way they were, she wasn't likely to have the proof on Superman and Lois before the baby was born. So she'd have to work within her extremely limited finances.
An hour later, she was still sitting in front of the brownstone when Kent suddenly appeared, dressed for work. Her eyebrows went up. She'd thought Lois and Clark were settling in for a day spent in each other's company. So what was Kent suddenly doing out and about?
Not that there was likely anything there. Who knew, it was a long shot, but it might even prove informative. Besides, if it looked as if Kent were planning to spend the day out, she could always go back to the brownstone to check up on any 'visitors' Lois might have.
Samantha crept the car down the road, staying about a block behind the Jeep and was surprised when, instead of heading in the direction of the Daily Planet, he pulled the Jeep over beside the entrance to one of the downtown parks.
She pulled her car off the road and watched as he began walking through the park. She heard someone call his name before seeing a grey haired man making his way over to Kent. Kent didn't look overly anxious to stop and talk, but he did. Obviously, that polite Kansas upbringing had kicked in.
Still, while he responded to the man's comments, he seemed to spend his time trying to extradite himself from the conversation. But when after a minute or so, the man extended his hand to shake Kent's hand, he offered his hand in return.
Samantha leaned forward in her seat when both men suddenly froze, standing, hands clasped, staring into one another's eyes.
Suddenly, she knew where she'd seen the grey haired man before. He was Woody Samms — the two bit hood Little Tony Zarate had taken a contract out on years ago. What was he doing back in town? And more importantly, was he the source who had given Kent all the information for his story? It was surprising that he'd agreed to meet out here in the open in downtown Metropolis.
She watched as the men finally released each other's hands and seemed to stumble back. Suddenly, a young woman rushed from behind one of the trees, carrying a needle.
Samantha gasped in shock when the woman seemed to attack Woody Samms with the needle causing her to collapse in the young woman's arms. And then, instead of rushing to help Samms, which is what she would have expected from a boy scout like Kent, Kent picked Samms up and literally tossed him twenty feet into some bushes on the edge of the park.
She grabbed her camera and began snapping pictures with one hand, even as she fumbled to remove her long-range microphone from its bag. She had to know what was being said.
Kent looked as surprised as she was. So did the young woman with him. The two of them rushed together towards the man in the bushes, looking over at him. After a moment, the woman disappeared behind the bushes with Samms while Kent made his way over to a nearby bench and took a seat.
Samantha quickly affixed her zoom lens to the camera and, the microphone now ready to pick up the smallest whisper, took a couple more pictures as she waited to see what would happen next.
"Okay, Woody, just play it real easy," Kent said.
Huh? Who was he talking to? Woody Samms? But that didn't make any sense. Samms was lying unconscious in the bushes.
"You're Clark Kent. Reporter."
Well, duh! Why would anyone even tell himself something like that? Okay, unless he was meeting with a source and was really nervous.
She watched in fascination as Kent began looking around, a somewhat startled expression on his face. She watched his gaze move in quick succession between the New Troy Bank on the corner and a nearby taxicab from a woman putting money in a parking meter to staring up into the sky to a nearby tree. Oh, yeah. He was nervous all right. But then, Kent probably wasn't the type of guy who normally went around drugging men and then throwing them into the bushes.
What the hell was going on?
Just when she thought things couldn't get any weirder, Kent pulled the arm off the park bench, looking at it in horror.
"Dad? Are you all right?" Samantha saw the young woman who had drugged Samms, peeking over the bushes.
Dad? Kent couldn't possibly be old enough to have a daughter her age. He was thirty-one which meant, even if she was younger than she looked, he would have had to be no older than fifteen when he'd fathered her. Not exactly impossible, she guessed, but not likely either. Still, she had called him 'dad.'
Okay, so assuming that he did have a kid, did Lois know?
Maybe it wasn't on topic, still… the whole thing had her very curious. She snapped off a couple pictures even as Kent spoke to the young woman over his shoulder.
"You don't have to shout. I'm fine."
Samantha didn't think the kid had been shouting, but… no matter. With all the other weird stuff going on, this comment was definitely on the mild side.
"What kind of drug is this Kent guy on?" Kent asked, staring at the broken piece of railing.
Multiple personalities? Was it possible? She hadn't seen or heard any indication of it before now. Was that the type of thing that could just come on suddenly without any warning? She couldn't say she knew.
She gasped, although until that moment she wouldn't have thought anything else could surprise her, when Kent suddenly tossed the piece of handrail into the air — and it didn't come back down.
No. That didn't make sense. She just hadn't seen it come back down. Still, Kent looked completely freaked out.
A car pulled up in front of the park entrance, obstructing her view. She was about to roll down her window and inform the driver, in none-too-polite terms that he needed to move his car, when she suddenly saw who was emerging. Little Tony and a couple of his henchmen. She quickly decided they could park wherever they wanted.
"Kent, I got a bone to pick with you," Little Tony said. "What's wrong?" he continued when Kent didn't answer.
Samantha couldn't see Kent due to the parked car with its darkened windows, but she could still hear the conversation. And if Kent was still looking as freaked out as he had a moment ago, Tony's next question came as no surprise.
"You got this look on your face."
"You know what?" Kent suddenly said. "I gotta go. Why don't you guys feed the pigeons or… or… whatever. I have to get some air."
"What are you talking about?" Little Tony demanded of Kent's retreating back. "What's he talking about?"
Still, Kent was already half way out of the park.
Samantha quickly dropped her camera on the seat next to her and restarted the car. She slowly followed Kent as he walked unsteadily down the street and directly into the middle of a street fair that was taking place on the Saturday morning.
She watched him lean against a wall and pulled her car to a stop once again, directing her cameras and microphones at the man.
Her mouth fell open when Kent pulled off his glasses and pushed his hair off his face — and suddenly she knew why he looked familiar.
Tempus had been right all along.
Clark Kent was Superman.
She could hardly believe how stupid she had been, not seeing it before. But he'd completely snowed her. It had to have been those press conferences where Superman and Kent had both been present. She still wasn't certain how he had managed that. Although… Her mind flashed back to an invention that had been used, according to a story by Lane and Kent, to create a hallucination of Perry White. The hallucination had even testified at Lois' trial earlier this year — and no one had been the wiser. It had to be something like that. Because, there was no denying what she was seeing. Clark Kent was Superman.
She began snapping pictures, capturing every moment as Kent noticed his reflection in a mirror one of the street venders was selling. He walked slowly closer, examining what he saw. Then she gasped in shock when Kent suddenly tore his shirt open revealing the symbol known throughout the world.
Oh, this was good. This was just so, so good. And she was capturing every moment of it on film. Superman might not be having an affair with Lois Lane, but that wasn't because her picture was wrong, it was because Superman wasn't who he pretended to be. In fact, he was nothing more than a mild mannered reporter who told the world he was from a small town in Kansas.
She didn't even bother with getting the microphone. In this case, a picture was definitely worth a thousand words.
She watched as Kent pulled his shirt back together again and headed towards a phone booth across the street.
Samantha shook her head. He almost seemed shocked by the realization that he was Superman. Or maybe that was how it worked. Maybe Superman and Clark Kent didn't know they were the same person.
Better and better. Two distinct personalities in the body of the same man. One never knowing about the other. Yet both in love with the same woman.
Did Lois even know they were the same man? Or was she as clueless as Kent?
Oh, yeah. This was the stuff that Pulitzers were made of.
When he entered the phone booth, she pulled out her video camera. Unable to get a good shot inside the phone booth as it shook back and forth, she climbed out of her car, and with great difficulty, managed to get up on the roof.
Balancing herself carefully, she raised her video camera and began recording. From her new angle, she could see Kent changing into Superman in the tiny space. However, his movements were not fluid or easy at all. In fact, he was rocking the phone booth back and forth as he struggled with the change of clothing, causing people to stare at it as they passed by.
When Superman finally stepped out, fully decked out in the Superman costume, carrying Kent's jacket over his arm, even Samantha gasped.
She sank down onto the roof of the car, cradling her video camera gently in her hands. She had it. She actually had it.
The story that would, not only give her vindication, but would finally put her on top. No one would ever be able to ignore her again, or question her reporting skills. Papers and television shows would be fighting each other to get her story. Hollywood would undoubtedly be calling, suggesting actresses to play her in any upcoming movies.
It was a heady feeling.
Still, Superman wasn't flying off. Instead, he had walked down the street and around a corner into an alley.
She slid off the hood of the car and rushed as fast as her very pregnant body would carry her towards the corner.
"Okay," Superman was saying as she stepped around the corner, her video camera with it's built in microphone capturing every word. "How the heck does he do this part?"
Did he have to relearn everything every time he made the switch? There was still so much to discover.
She watched as Superman closed his eyes, raised his hands slightly, as if balancing himself, and suddenly floated upwards. As he drifted back down again, his look of surprise and pleasure were obvious. He floated into the air a second time, much more confidently before saying, "This is going to be so cool!" and disappearing in gust of wind.
Samantha sank down onto the sidewalk.
She'd done it. It was over. She might follow up on some of the new questions her investigation had raised today. Or she might let others do it. The important thing was Clark Kent was Superman. And she had more than enough evidence to prove it.
This time she wasn't going to lose it. She rushed back to the phone booth Superman had used earlier and darted inside. Bryan had a dark room. And she had to be the one to develop these pictures. After all, no one else could know what she had until she made the deal that would guarantee her future and that of her child. This time she wouldn't mess it up.
Forget the concept of a million dollar photo. She was going to get at least five million for this story!
Samantha stared at the front entrance, almost scared to enter a building she'd gone into practically every day for three years. Still, no other papers were willing to publish her work. And she'd sought out all of them — every paper in the city and every major paper in the world. There was only one paper she hadn't approached — other than this one. The Daily Planet. She knew better than to take it to them, have them tip off Lois Lane and Clark Kent. They'd be scrambling to cover their butts before the first paper ever rolled off the press.
Not that any of the papers she'd spoken to had even looked at her work. The simple fact that her name was on it was enough to send them running for the hills.
"Not interested in more of your garbage."
"We don't print made-up stories."
"We have our reputation to consider."
"We have no intention of getting sued."
Please! She hadn't been sued after publishing the Superman/Lois kissing story. Didn't anyone ever wonder why one or both of them hadn't pursued that angle? Didn't they think it the least bit suspicious given the damage, even if only for a short time, that she'd done to Lois and Superman's reputations that neither one had brought a lawsuit against her nor the Dirt Digger for damages?
Obviously, they hadn't sued her because they were afraid of anyone digging any deeper into the story.
Well, she had. And, boy, did she have a scoop!
The only problem was finding a paper with the guts to print it.
And that was why she'd come full circle, standing outside the entrance to the Dirt Digger, hoping, beyond hope, that they would have the guts to print the truth.
After all, it was the story of a lifetime. Superman was, in reality, Clark Kent — mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper.
JUNE 6, 1997
Samantha suffered through another annoying pain in her back as she waited in the Dirt Digger's main conference room. These stupid pains had been happening all day. She really wanted to get home and put her feet up to take the pressure off her back. She really would like to be able to consult a doctor about these pains, but she had to get this story sold first. Then she could not only have enough money to consult a doctor, but she could also take as much time off as she wanted while she leisurely perused all the offers that would come flooding in. So she took a few deep breaths and waited until Johnson limped into the room.
Johnson had become president of the Dirt Digger after Goode's arrest. In fact, he'd added an attempted murder charge to the other charges Goode was facing. He claimed that Goode had pushed him down an empty elevator shaft and that if the elevator hadn't been closer than Goode had realized, Johnson would have been killed.
Samantha suspected he'd been given the job of president, not because of his talent, but to keep him from suing the Dirt Digger for Goode's actions. It amazed her that even in that new suit and tie he still looked like a common thug.
Great. She had sort of hoped that she might be meeting with one of the vice presidents — someone who would at least know a real story when they saw it. They would probably have to get Johnson's approval before running a story like this. But at least someone whose opinion Johnson might take seriously could have presented the newsworthiness of the story.
Still, she rose to her feet and offered her hand to the man.
"Sit down, Samantha," he said, not taking the offered hand as he lowered himself carefully into the chair. Obviously, the injuries he had suffered had still not healed completely. "I should warn you, I'm just seeing you because I thought it might be good for a laugh."
Not the most promising start. "Mr. Johnson," Samantha began carefully, "I know you don't like me. You don't like that I took your place as vice president during those last days with Goode. But I have a story here that will have the Dirt Digger flying off the newsstands." She tapped the brown envelope sitting on the table in front of her.
He raised an eyebrow. "That's the other reason you're here," he said. "I saw the figures. Even though you forged that photo, even though Superman was eventually exonerated, there is one thing that can't be denied. The Dirt Digger made a fortune with that story.
"And I don't know why," he continued, "but Superman never sued us which meant, of course, that we got to keep all those profits."
Samantha smiled. "Well, this story is guaranteed to sell just as many papers, maybe more. And this time, every bit of it is real."
He looked greedily at the envelope and then reached across towards it.
"Not so fast," Samantha said, pulling the envelope out of his reach. "First… the price."
"Without even knowing what you have?"
Samantha smiled. She'd been to this point with enough people over the past week that she knew what she would tell him — and what she wouldn't. "Well, let's just say that I know why Superman could claim that he wasn't having an illicit affair with Lois Lane."
"Because he wasn't?"
"Not exactly," she said. "What if I told you that Superman has a secret identity?"
He narrowed his eyes. "And what would this secret identity be?"
"Well, that's what you're paying to find out. And what I've got the pictures to prove," she continued, tapping the envelope with one well-manicured finger. "And this isn't all I've got. I've got a video tape showing him changing from one identity to the other."
He suddenly sat up straighter. "How much?"
"Ten million dollars."
He snorted. "Don't be crazy. I don't mind paying for a made-up story. But not to that…"
"It's not made up."
He studied her in silence for a moment. "I'll give you a thousand dollars for whatever you have."
"A thousand dollars!"
He shrugged. "Come on, Samantha. Don't try to con a con-man. I know these photos… even this supposed video of Superman changing… are fake. Now, if they were real, maybe your offer…"
"They are real. Every last one of them."
He smirked. "Right. And while you're at it, why don't you try to sell me the Hobbs' Bridge?"
She glared at him. "You can have your experts examine them all you want. They are real. But I want a contract before you do saying that if they're real, you'll pay me the ten million."
"Samantha, Samantha, Samantha, Samantha. I know you do good work. In fact, I'd have sworn that picture of Lois and Superman kissing was real. The whole world believed it. And if Lois Lane hadn't managed to track down the people who did the work, no one would have believed Superman's denial. So I know your work will be top notch. Good enough, even, to pass our experts' inspection. So why don't I just write you that cheque for a thousand dollars and…"
"What would you consider proof if you won't trust your own experts?" Samantha asked, interrupting him.
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe having Superman publicly verify their authenticity." Johnson smirked at her.
She rose to her feet, causing the chair she'd been sitting on to skitter out from behind her. "And then you'll pay me my ten million dollars," she said, anger flashing from her eyes.
"Tell you what. Just because you were such a great asset to the Dirt Digger when you worked here, I'll give you a million — provided that you can get Superman to publicly verify their authenticity," he said, his smirk only widening.
She didn't respond. Instead, she snatched up her photos and headed for the door. If he didn't think she could do it, then he was… She slammed the door on the conference room as she exited. And suddenly, all the fire drained out of her. If he didn't think she could do it, then he was probably right.
She stumbled into the stairway, not willing to wait for the elevator and headed down as fast as her very pregnant condition would allow.
She didn't halt until she was outside the front doors of the Dirt Digger.
She collapsed to her knees, panting heavily, oblivious of the stares of those passing by. She'd done it. She'd gotten the story. Months of dedication and persistence. Draining her bank account. Running up her credit. Putting her life on hold. She'd done it. She'd gotten the story.
And it was only worth… a thousand dollars.
The first tear rolled down her cheek, and she angrily brushed it away. The second one started and she raised her hand to give it the same treatment when suddenly a pain shot through her back, making her feel as if someone or something was trying to snap her in two.
"Aaaa…" She cried, wrapping her arms around her middle and bending over so that her forehead was almost touching the sidewalk. After a minute, the pain passed and she was about to try to rise to her feet when she felt a warm wetness on her inner legs.
"Are you okay, miss?" asked a stranger who had rushed over to her.
"Sonny," she gasped out. "Please. Call Sonny." Something was terribly wrong with the baby. He would know what to do.
She grasped the envelope containing the single picture she'd brought with her to the Dirt Digger to her chest. Fortunately, the rest of the photos and the videos were tucked away in a safe place — under one of the floorboards in her apartment. Still, she couldn't risk having this photo fall into the wrong hands.
Samantha had to admit, she felt a little sheepish when she saw Sonny's car screech to a halt in front of the greasy diner across from the Dirt Digger. Angela and Sonny jumped out, hardly taking time to close the doors as they rushed into the cafe, Sonny practically tearing the door off the front of the building as they hurried in.
"What wrong?" Sonny asked the moment he spotted her.
"Nothing," she said immediately. "I'm fine. It was just… I had a pain, but it seems to have gone away."
Sonny looked her over and Samantha blushed when his gaze took in the wet spot on her skirt.
"I sort of had a little accident when the pain hit," Samantha said, attempting to adjust her jacket to cover up the stain.
"What happen?" Sonny asked, pulling a chair over in front of her to sit down.
"I saw her on the sidewalk a few minutes ago," said an older man who, by the apron he was wearing, obviously worked at the cafe. "I brought her here. She said to call you. She's had a couple of pains since then."
"What type of pain was it?" Angela asked.
"Just a back pain," Samantha said. "I feel a little foolish. I've been having back pains on and off all day, but this one… I guess I just sort of panicked." She shrugged.
"All day?" Angela asked again, her mind working overtime.
"Yeah. But the one outside was a bit… intense. I guess I just panicked. I'm sorry that I worried you. When it passed, I called back, but they said you'd already left." She struggled to rise to her feet. "So I guess… ahhhh!" she said again, grabbing at her back when the same pain ripped through her.
She was so concentrated on the pain that she was barely aware of Sonny's arms around her, holding her up or Angela's question to the man in the cafe‚ about how long ago her last pain had been.
Still, after a moment, this pain passed as well.
"I think you're in labor," Angela said. "And…" She pointed at Samantha's wet skirt. "…I think your water broke."
"I can't be in labor," Samantha objected. "I'm only eight months pregnant. Besides, this pain isn't in my stomach; it's in my back."
"Sonny," Angela said, coming around to take one of Samantha's arm. "Help me get her to the car. We've got to take her to the hospital."
Sonny looked panicked as he rushed to obey. But instead of simply grabbing her arm to provide support, she felt herself being swept up in his strong arms before he headed for the car.
"But it's too early," Samantha objected even as he placed her in the back of his car. "I can't be in labor."
In Samantha's mind, the trip to the hospital would always be remembered as a series of flash cards. Moments of clarity followed by moments of blinding pain. The car, its shocks taking a beating as it swerved in and out of traffic. The pains, which seemed to be intent on ripping her in two, coming in regular intervals now. Sweat, soaking her body as she struggled between each successive pain to catch her breath. Angela's voice, alternating between telling her everything would be all right, telling her to breathe — what did she think Samantha was doing, holding her breath? — and timing the contractions.
Samantha tried to convince them she wasn't in labor. It was too soon. She wasn't ready to do this now. She didn't even have the slightest idea how to do this.
Besides, there was the baby to consider. She couldn't have the baby a month early. Babies were supposed to take nine months, not just over eight. It wasn't ready yet.
And, God, what would she do if anything were wrong with the baby? Tears pulled at her eyes. Pain pulled at her back. The pains came closer and closer together as Samantha became aware of the sound of police sirens somewhere nearby. Still, the pains didn't stop, clogging up her ability to think about anything but getting through them to the small, exhausting breaks they were giving her.
But the sirens must not have had anything to do with them, because Sonny didn't stop. Still, the sound of sirens stayed with them, piercing through the horrible pains. It felt as if her back was about to snap in half.
"The baby," she gasped out between pains. "Tell them not to let anything happen to the baby."
"Shhh…" Angela cooed. "It will be okay."
"Promise me," she insisted, grabbing on to the lapel of Angela's jacket. "Promise me you won't let them hurt my baby."
Before Angela could answer, she felt the car screech to a halt. She heard Sonny get out and a number of male voices arguing before the door to the back was flung open and Samantha felt his strong arms pulling her gently from the car. Once she was out, a police officer was helping her into a wheelchair and together Sonny and the officer began steering her towards the front entrance of the hospital just as another pain hit, this one worse than the rest.
She grasped onto Sonny's hand, using it as a lifeline, her only grip with reality. Sonny would make sure everything was all right — just like he always did.
"How far along is she?"
"About eight month."
"Are you the father?"
"No. I her friend."
"How far apart are the contractions?"
"For the last few minutes they've been coming about two minutes apart," Angela said.
"Move her in here."
"I'll call the restaurant. Tell them we won't be back anytime soon."
"The doctor will be here shortly."
"Okay, on the count of three. One. Two. Three."
Samantha felt herself begin lifted onto a bed just as another pain racked her body.
"It be okay," Sonny's voice said into her ear. "Can't you give something for pain?"
"We've got to see how far along she is first. Okay, let's take a look."
She felt a sheet being draped over her and her panty hose being stripped off and for a moment she felt Sonny pulling his hand out of hers. No! She tightened her grip. She needed him there.
"I stay," he whispered into her ear, telling her that he understood her unspoken command.
She was sure she must be hurting him, digging her fingernails into the malleable male flesh in her hand. Still, he didn't object. And she didn't let go.
"It be okay," he continued to repeat into her ear. She could almost believe him.
"She's already at ten centimeters and she's starting to crown. Tell the doctor to get right in here. Sir, you'll have to come with me."
"No! No," Samantha managed to gasp out through the pain. She needed him there. She needed to know that he was nearby.
"It okay," Sonny said reassuringly even as he tried to get her to release her death grip on his hand.
"We'll let him come right back, honey," the nurse said.
Her panicked eyes flashed between Sonny and the nurse and he nodded his reassurance.
"I be right back."
Tears came to her eyes as she released his hand and watched him slowly back away.
And then he was gone. She was all alone. Just like she always was. To face this alone. She couldn't do it. She just couldn't. It was too early. Didn't anyone understand that she was completely terrified?
She gasped in relief when a moment later, Sonny returned, this time garbed in a green hospital gown. He hurried back over to her.
"You came back," she whispered just before another pain hit.
"Breathe through it," the nurse said.
"I don't know how," she objected, her chin quivering slightly.
"Just don't push. Short breaths. Like this… Hee-hee-hoooo. Hee-hee-hooo. Hee-hee-hooo." A moment later both Samantha and Sonny picked up the rhythm.
Samantha smiled, looking up from where her newborn son had fallen asleep in her arms when Sonny stuck his head into her room.
"May I come in?" he asked.
She nodded before looking back at the small miracle in her arms.
"Hi, huzi," Sonny said, looking wonderingly at the child.
"Huzi?" Samantha asked, looking at Sonny as he took a seat in the spare chair.
"It mean tiger," he said. "So you decide on name?"
She gave her head a slight shake. "I guess I just wasn't… I guess it just didn't seem real somehow. So I didn't…"
He smiled. "It no matter. You have time now."
She let out a breath and looked at her son. "Problem is, I don't really have any men in my life that I would want to name him after." She looked up immediately. "Except for you. Maybe I'll name him Sonny."
Sonny laughed. "I tell you how I got name, then you decide. In China, I learn English. All students got English name that teacher chose. My teacher name me Sonny and the girl beside me Cher. She like Sonny and Cher music very much. Play in class all the time. I got you, babe…"
"So why don't you use your Chinese name?"
"I got use to Sonny." He shrugged his shoulders.
"But you must have father," Sonny continued.
She let out a breath. "Not really."
"Everyone have father."
MAY 18, 1969
Samantha sat on the window seat, staring absently at the rain streaking paths down the outside of the window. It matched her mood. On the table behind her, untouched, sat a homemade birthday cake bearing five candles, all of which had now melted into the cake.
She raised her hands, placing them over her ears when she heard the sounds coming from behind the closed door of the single bedroom. They continued to rise in intensity. The high-pitched moans of a woman — her mother. The deep, guttural responses of the man who had interrupted her birthday party.
Not that she understood what had brought him to their home today. He had never said as much as two words to her. It was as if she didn't even exist. And today wasn't any different. She doubted he even remembered it was her birthday. No, he'd simply come in, the way he always did, and, without as much as acknowledging that they were about to blow out the candles on her cake, had taken her mother into the bedroom.
Soon he would be gone. Once again heading back to the big house. Back to the place where Linda lived. The girl who tormented her on a daily basis, making sure she knew that Samantha was no one — just the bastard daughter of the hired help.
The girl who was her sister — except that mother said she must never know that.
Tears trickled slowly down Samantha's cheeks. He would be gone soon. And, as always, they would pretend he had never been there.
JUNE 6, 1997
Samantha squirmed slightly when she saw the look of sympathy on Sonny's face when she finished her story.
"I so sorry," he said softly.
"It's not important," she responded, looking down at her son. "I promise no one will ever hurt you like that," she said softly. "June 6th will always be your day." She looked up at Sonny. "I'm just glad he's okay."
"He perfect," Sonny confirmed, reaching over and gently brushing a strand of dark hair off the baby's forehead.
"When you brought me to the hospital…" Her voice broke. "I was so scared that something was wrong with the baby. I don't think I realized how much I wanted this baby to be okay, until…" Her voice trailed off.
"…until you thought he had problem," he completed softly.
She nodded, not looking at him, slightly ashamed of the moisture that seemed to be clouding her vision. With everything that had gone wrong with her life, in her arms was the one thing that was perfect. She couldn't say she had the slightest idea how she was going to give him all the things she would need. Heck, she didn't even have a crib. As for the hospital bills… She supposed it was going to be just one more debt she couldn't quite pay.
"Oh, right," Sonny said, handing her a brown envelope. "You forget this in car on way to hospital."
Samantha took the envelope, astounded to realize that she had been so concerned about the baby that she'd forgotten all about the picture she'd taken to the Dirt Digger. She turned the envelope over, amazed to realize that it was still sealed. "You didn't open it?" she asked.
"No! It yours," Sonny said as if that was perfectly obvious. Before she could respond, another voice entered the conversation.
"Hey, you're up!" Jun said, coming into the room, her arms carrying the biggest teddy bear Samantha had ever seen.
Angela, Chen, Lee, Rachel and Alexa, all of them bearing gifts, followed her. Conversation and laughter seemed to follow in their wake and Samantha suddenly began to wonder if just maybe all was right with the world.
Samantha was still smiling as she watched her son sleeping peacefully in the bassinet next to her hospital bed. Huzi. Well, until she could think of another name for him, it would do. After all, she had to think of him as someone.
She glanced up at the sounds of a person entering the room. She gave a small groan.
"Hello, Ralph," she said in resignation.
"Hey, I heard you had the kid," Ralph said, coming over to look in the basinet.
"So what are you doing here?" Samantha said, pushing away the urge to grab her son and keep him as far away from yet another male slimeball as possible.
"Nothing. I just thought I'd stop by, see how you were doing. But, boy, it's funny how things seem to go, isn't it? I mean, you have your kid and Lois and Clark are meeting with some woman from an adoption agency." He looked back at Huzi. "Listen, kid, you get a little older and Ralphie here will teach you everything you need to know about bagging babes."
"What's this about an adoption agency?" Samantha asked, bringing Ralph's attention back to her before he could completely corrupt her son.
"Yeah. They met with some woman. When they left, Lois looked pretty upset. Guess Kent must not have what it takes to get her knocked up."
Samantha leaned back into her pillow as the pieces began to come together. That was why Kent/Superman had been going for fertility tests. They wanted to find out if they could have a family. Obviously, the tests had come back negative if Lane and Kent were talking to an adoption agency. And from what Ralph was saying, it seemed that wasn't going well either.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a plan began to form in the corner of her mind. But as quickly as it came, she pushed it away. No matter how broke she was, no matter how much she needed the money, she couldn't do that.
She glanced at Huzi.
She just couldn't.
Samantha paced the small room, impatiently looking at the clock every thirty seconds. Where was he? Sonny had told her he would be coming by at one to take her and little Huzi home. It was almost ten minutes after one. So where was he?
The door suddenly opened and Samantha spun around, about to demand to know what had taken Sonny so long, only to stop dead in her tracks when she realized who was standing in the doorway.
He was still as tall and handsome as he had ever been — and she was suddenly conscious of the fact that she looked a mess. He had a tan on him that, given his short shirt, she suspected covered his entire body.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded.
"Doesn't a father have the right to see his own son?" the man responded, making his way over to the car seat she'd already strapped Huzi into for his trip home.
"He's not yours. He'll never be yours."
His eyebrows raised, he looked up from where he was focused on the small baby. "Oh, he's mine. And you know it."
She felt the bile begin to churn in her stomach. Why was Tom here? Why the sudden interest in her son?
"I've done a little asking around," Tom continued, "and from the sounds of it, you're barely making ends meet."
"Oh, so you're here to live up to your child support obligations?" she asked bitterly.
"Not exactly. But I am beginning to think that maybe our son would be better off with me."
"Over my dead body," Samantha hissed.
"Oh, come on, Sam. Be reasonable. Cindy and I are a couple. We have money…"
"Only because you emptied out our bank accounts."
"…and we can give him a real family. What can you give him? A crappy hole-in-the-wall apartment? A waitress for a mother? What kind of life is that for a kid? Face it. He'd be better off with me."
The door crashing open behind them caused both Samantha and Tom to turn instinctively towards the sound.
Samantha wouldn't have said that Sonny was a big man, but at this moment he looked like a giant, towering in the doorway, glaring at her ex-husband in a way that caused the other man to quickly look away. "Samantha? You ready to go?" Sonny asked, never taking his eyes off Tom.
"We'll talk later," Tom said, quickly retreating from the room in the face of Sonny's anger.
The moment he was gone, Samantha watched in fascination as the anger faded and Sonny's countenance transformed before her very eyes to the gentle man she'd come to know over the past few months.
"You okay?" he asked softly.
"I am now," she said, still slightly awed by the way this man had so easily dealt with her ex-husband.
"Surprise!" everyone yelled in unison as Samantha stepped into her apartment an hour later.
Samantha looked around in shock. Everyone from The Jade was present, as well as a few of the people who dealt with The Jade on a regular basis. Delivery people. Suppliers. Even a couple of customers. The place was crowded — mostly with women.
"We didn't have time to throw you a baby shower before Junior was born," Jun explained. "So…" she gestured around her.
"Yeah," Angela added. "So next time, how about giving us a little warning that you're planning to have the kid early?"
Laughter followed her comment.
"Anyway," Jun continued, "we know you're probably tired so we won't stay long."
"And we'll be sure to clean up after ourselves before we leave," Lee added, amidst more polite laughter.
"But we wanted to make sure you got the stuff you'd need for the baby," Jun finished.
Angela quickly expropriated the car seat and its precious cargo from Sonny as Jun led a still stunned Samantha over to the couch.
"Now, the important thing to remember here," Angela said as she unstrapped Junior and, with the ease of much practice, pulled the little one from his car seat, "is that we expect you to bring this one with you to work when you come back. We've already worked out how we're going to take turns watching him. And you better get used to the fact that no one is going to want to see you anymore. Just Junior here."
Again laughter filled the dreary apartment making it, for the first time, feel like a real home.
Samantha looked around in awe when she and Huzi were finally alone in the apartment. They had been as good as their word, taking all traces of their presence with them when they left. Or… well, maybe not all. They'd brought everything she could possibly need for the baby. Diapers. Bottles. Formula. Lotions. Wipes. Even baby clothes, blankets and toys. There was even a bassinet set up in her room, next to her bed.
Some of the stuff was obviously new. Some was second hand, but still in very good condition. In fact, she was fairly certain Angela must have dug out all her old baby stuff to make sure Samantha would have everything she needed.
They'd assured her that they would be there, acting as babysitters or whatever else she might need them for. They had been so incredibly kind and supportive. In some ways she felt unworthy of such kindness.
Still, in spite of all that, she knew deep down that Tom was right. What court would grant her custody? She was a waitress, living by herself in a run down apartment. And she was so in debt that it would take a miracle to ever be able to give this child what he needed in the long run. Okay, so maybe she did have great friends, but still…
Besides, Tom would have the best lawyers money could buy. And she… she didn't have the money for a short custody battle, let alone a long one.
No. As much as she hated to admit it, there was only one solution. It was risky, to be sure. But she knew that Huzi would be in no danger. In fact, he'd be as well cared for as she could ever manage. And then, after a short separation, she would have the money to ensure that they would be together permanently.
She grabbed a pad of paper and sat down at the table, outlining her plan, revising it, looking for pitfalls and flaws. Soon she was sitting back, looking at her notes.
It would work. Even if it was going to hurt like hell in the meantime. But, it was the only plan she had. So it had to work.
There was only one danger that Samantha could see and that was that they might call social services. But she doubted they would do that. After all, it seemed that they were desperate to have a child and, by what Ralph had told her, adopting one was probably not an option.
Still, she would check into that further. Make sure that was the case and that Ralph was not simply reading too much into the situation.
But once she'd confirmed that they both wanted a child and couldn't have one, she'd proceed with her plan. They would keep Huzi, bond with him, treat him like their own son. And that was exactly the leverage she would need when the time came.
She dug through the blankets the gang from The Jade had brought her until she found a blue baby blanket with the Superman crest stitched to the front. As she studied the blanket, she slowly nodded her head. This would work. It had to. After all, it was the only chance she had.
JUNE 16, 1997
Samantha adjusted the long-range microphone until it was pointed towards the upstairs window, the only room in the house that still had the light on — well, except for the dining room light, which she herself had left on a few minutes ago.
It had been the perfect opportunity. She'd banked on the presence of two sets of parents to cause enough of a distraction in the house to keep any super ears from detecting her presence when she'd broken into the Kent brownstone. And it had. She'd seen neither hide nor hair of either Lois or Clark. She hadn't even seen a flash of red and blue. She'd been in and out, delivering her precious cargo, without any interference.
Still, she couldn't leave here until she knew that Huzi was safe. And that meant… She moved the microphone slowly until she finally picked up voices.
"…clueless that their son-in-law moonlights in tights," she heard Lois say.
"Knowing I'm Superman brought them nothing but unpleasantness, so that memory's gone," Clark responded.
Well, Samantha supposed that at least answered the question of whether Clark Kent knew that he was Superman. Although, it did leave some odd unanswered questions about what Clark Kent had been thinking the day she'd obtained the pictures proving his secret.
"I don't think Mother remembers why she was mad at Daddy," Lois said.
"Apparently not. I caught them kissing on the terrace."
There was a brief moment of silence before Lois spoke again.
"Clark, I'm sorry."
"For what?" He sounded confused.
"I'm sorry Daddy couldn't find anything wrong with the Star Labs data. He doubts there's a way we can have kids."
So her research had proven to be accurate — both in that fact that they wanted kids, and in the fact that they couldn't have them.
"Lois… I've never for a minute doubted in 'us.' We live the impossible. A child is something brought about by love, isn't it? Then that, of all things, has to be possible for us."
Samantha smiled. Well, if that was how they really felt, then they were about to get the shock of their lives. And not only that, Samantha could rest assured that Huzi would be safe.
But there was still the question of whether or not they would find Huzi. Samantha was not sure what she would do if they didn't realize fairly soon that he was there. But with the sound of rustling sheets and kissing-type noises, that was becoming a more and more remote possibility. So what did…
Her thought trailed off when Lois suddenly spoke.
"What? What are you hearing?"
Samantha's heart began to race.
"I'm not sure," Clark responded.
"Well, what does it sound like?"
"I can't actually believe what it sounds like."
When she heard them begin to move, Samantha quickly redirected her microphone to the dining room — and waited with her heart in her mouth.
It seemed to take forever before she heard Clark reading the note she had left.
"Lois and Clark, this child belongs to you."
For a long time, no one said anything. And then, almost out of nowhere, other voices, voices Samantha didn't recognize began to speak.
"Son? Everything all right?" a man called.
"We saw lights on," a woman added.
"Everyone okay?" a second man said.
"Lois?" a second woman asked.
"Yeah… Yeah… Everything's all right," Clark said, still sounding a little stunned. "Uh… Mom, Dad… And Mom and Dad. We've got something to tell you."
There was a pause before everyone seemed to begin talking at once. It took her a few moments to sort out what everyone was saying. Voices overlapped voices. Comments like, "Is it a girl or a boy?" or "Oh, aren't you a sweetie," came through loud and clear and Samantha felt a sharp pain in her chest. How exactly was she going to live through this?
Finally, the question was raised that Samantha had been dreading.
"Shouldn't you call Social Services?" The question had come from one of the women.
"No!" Lois' abrupt response silenced the room.
And Samantha's heart started beating again. She had been right. Her one true fear, that Lois and Clark would contact Social Services upon finding her son, was quelled with that single word. Lois would not let that happen.
Starting the car, she silently drove off into the night, tears trickling down her face the entire trip back to her now empty apartment.
JULY 2, 1997
Samantha paced the small living room in her apartment impatiently. It had been just over two weeks since she'd left her week-old son with Lois and Clark. Sonny had told her that she could take six weeks off with full pay. The problem was that she probably made more money from tips than she did from her regular salary. And, boy, did she need that income. It seemed that every day she just got further and further in debt.
Besides, Samantha was actually experiencing something she hadn't really experienced a lot of before. Guilt. She was taking money for maternity leave when her baby wasn't even in her custody. She promised herself that when this was all over and she had been paid for her photos, the first thing she was going to do was to pay Sonny back.
Not only was there the ethical question of taking money for maternity leave, but it was getting more and more difficult to hide Huzi's absence. How many times could she say that he was at the babysitters before she got called on it?
But more than all that, she missed Huzi. She'd only had him here for a few days, but everyday without him felt like a year. The apartment had gone back to that cold and lonely place it had been before his arrival had breathed new life into it. It was as if a part of her was missing without him there.
So although she realized that, ideally, she needed to give Lois and Clark more time to bond with Huzi, to ensure their cooperation, everything inside her, every instinct she had, rebelled against the very thought. She wanted her son back. She needed her son back.
Not that she hadn't seen him since leaving him with Lois and Clark. In fact, she probably spent more time parked out in front of Lois and Clark's brownstone now than she had before his birth. She'd even managed to sneak into the Daily Planet day care on a couple of occasions. That was one place that truly did need better security. Still, she'd not dared approach her own son. As a result, it had almost been harder seeing him and not being able to touch than it was not seeing him at all. Almost.
Not that Samantha had any idea how Lois had managed to get Huzi into a daycare — given his age. But then again, it wasn't really that surprising, given that if anyone could move mountains, Samantha suspected it would be Lois Lane. She obviously had everyone at the Daily Planet wrapped around her little finger. And it did suit Samantha's purposes, so in this case, Samantha was grateful that Lois Lane seemed able to accomplish the impossible.
Finally, there was Tom. He'd only come by once. But he hadn't been happy to discover he could not see his son. New threats had been made. Something about when she was no longer breast-feeding… Maybe a lawyer had told him that as long as she was breast feeding, he wasn't likely to get custody.
And that was another problem. Keeping her breast milk from drying up was a major pain in the butt. But she so desperately wanted to be able to breast feed Huzi when she got him back — not that she was sure that would be possible since he'd spent the past couple of weeks on formula. Still, she could hope.
She'd actually been surprised at how much she enjoyed breast-feeding. It was the one time when she truly felt she was doing something right. He was her son, and the simple act of watching him suckle at her breast proved that to her on a level that was hard to put into words. She didn't want to lose that just because she had to be separated from him for a time. And so she worked patiently to pump the milk. Still, enough was enough.
The time would have to be sufficient, because everything inside her screamed at her that it was time to get her son back.
She glanced at the door to her apartment again. So where was her expected visitor?
As if waiting for her unspoken command, a knock suddenly sounded. She rushed for the door, not even bothering to check on who was outside, before opening it.
"It's about time," she said.
"Hey, I got here as fast as I could," Byron responded, stepping inside. "So… where's the rug rat?" he asked. "I heard you had the kid."
"He's with the sitter. So what do you have for me?"
"Okay, I've got a name and phone number." He held out a slip of paper.
She grabbed it, opening it immediately. "A woman?" she asked.
"One of the Amazon Women."
Samantha crinkled her eyebrows and shrugged her shoulders, prompting Byron to explain.
"They use to work at the Stoke Club as bouncers — or whatever else Lenny Stokes wanted them to do. When he went to jail for that whole blow-up-the-city-with-sound thing a couple of years ago, the women struck out on their own, hiring themselves out as a team. They've been gaining members ever since. From what I've heard, to get into the group, you have to be a woman and you have to be over six feet tall.
"I think they might have tried at one point to make a deal to do some enforcement work for Intergang, but they weren't taken seriously. Since then, they've taken on all sorts of jobs. Trust me, these women can do whatever you need them to do."
Samantha nodded slowly as she looked at the name again. Considering that Huzi was involved, having a woman do what was necessary was probably a good idea anyway. She found it easier to trust that a woman would not hurt a child.
Still, one could never be too careful about these things. So as soon as Byron left, she turned on her computer. She knew just how to go about getting a criminal records check on this woman and she'd make damn sure there was nothing to indicate that she would be a danger to Samantha's child.
Jane Sycamore was easily six foot, two inches and built like a Mac truck. Clothed from head to toe in spandex and wearing a bandana and combat boots, she definitely cut an intimidating figure.
Samantha felt slightly nervous as she stepped back, allowing the woman to enter.
"You said on the phone you had a job for us?" the woman said, not looking at Samantha. Instead, her eyes were evaluating every inch of the run down apartment.
"That's why I called you."
The woman looked at her then, taking in her appearance with the same practiced eye she'd used to evaluate the apartment. "So what's this job?"
"Uhh… yeah. It's… kinda sensitive."
"That's our specialty," the woman responded.
Samantha hesitated briefly. Maybe she should just do this herself. No. No. That was a bad plan. In fact, she wanted to have an alibi for the time this little job took place — just in case Lois Lane decided to try to trace it back to her. After all, if this was going to work, then neither Lois nor Superman could be allowed to put the pieces together until it was too late. "Uhh… yeah." She gestured Jane to a chair. "I need you to… retrieve something for me."
"Don't worry. It's mine. I just…" She pulled in a deep breath, breaking away from the other woman's intense stare. "I'm involved in a custody fight and… I need you to help me get my son back. My lawyer tells me that in cases like this, possession is nine/tenths of the law."
"So you want us to steal your son from your scumbag of an ex-husband?"
"Something like that."
The woman smiled. "No problem. Just tell us where and when."
Samantha let out a breath. Could it really be that easy? "I also need you to leave an envelope behind. And whatever happens, you can't let them catch you."
"Sure. We can do that. I assume Byron told you we need our money up front."
"How much?" Samantha said hesitantly.
"For something like this… I'd say five thousand dollars."
"Five thousand dollars?" God, she wished she could take back the surprise she could hear in her own voice. After all, by the look Jane was giving her in return, it was obvious that her response had told the woman she didn't have anywhere near five thousand dollars at her disposal. So much for bluffing, convincing the woman to take a small retainer now and then getting the rest on delivery.
"Hey, I'm giving you the discount price. I got a thing about scumbag ex-husbands. But if that's too much," Jane said, rising to her feet, "maybe you'd be better off doing it yourself."
"No! No! It's not too much," Samantha rushed to say. "It will just… take me a couple of days to get it."
Jane shrugged. "Call me when you've got it." Jane walked to the door and opened it, leaving without as much as a backward glance.
Samantha sank down onto the couch. Where the hell was she going to find five thousand dollars? There really was only one possible place.
Samantha paced nervously outside the back door of The Jade. It had been about half an hour since the last customers had left. And she had, from a position of obscurity across the street, watched as one by one the employees made their way home for the night.
She could have gone across the street, could have gone inside, but she didn't want to see anyone — except for one person. And she wanted to see him alone. Soon this whole nightmare would be over and she'd have everything she wanted. Then she was going to take the time to prove to each and every one of the employees of the Jade just how much she appreciated them. Jun would have a whole new wardrobe. Angela's kids would have scholarships for college. And everyone else would be taken care of.
But for right now, she didn't want to answer the inevitable question: where is Huzi?
She was so lost in her thoughts that she almost missed it when Sonny stepped through the back door, pausing to be sure it was locked behind him.
She hurried across the street. "Sonny?"
Sonny turned immediately, his face lighting up in a blinding smile when his eyes landed on her. "Hey. Look who finally decide to make appearance."
She squirmed slightly. "Yeah, well, it's been sort of hectic lately. Getting used to being a mother. You know."
"No, I not know," Sonny said teasingly. "I never been mother."
Samantha couldn't help but smile. "I suppose not."
"So where the little one?"
"With a sitter," Samantha said, not quite able to meet Sonny's eyes as she lied. Why was it, anyway, that of all the people in the world, Sonny was the one who she really hated lying to? "But listen," she continued, not wanting to think too hard about her last question, "can we talk?"
Sonny's face became serious. "Sure." He turned, unlocking the door to the restaurant and reaching in to flick on the light before gesturing for her to enter ahead of him while he held the door.
"So tell me what going on," Sonny said as they settled on the stools by the bar.
She chewed on her lower lip as her fingers traced absent patterns on the bar in front of her.
"Samantha," he said softly when she didn't respond. He reached over, using his hand to gently turn her face towards him. "What you need?"
"I need to borrow five thousand dollars and I can't tell you why," she suddenly blurted out. And then she waited, looking into his eyes, trying to read his mind as he considered her request. But she couldn't tell what he was thinking.
On the other hand, what had she been thinking? She'd had this whole speech prepared about unpaid hospital bills and expenses for Huzi. But when push came to shove, she just hadn't been able to do it. She hadn't been able to lie to him.
Her heart fell when, without saying a word, he got up and walked out of the room.
"Well, you certainly blew that," she muttered to herself. Okay, so where was she going to get the money? She supposed that she could kidnap Huzi herself. But if she left behind the smallest clue, Lois and Superman were sure to find it, and if they found her before she could force them to do what she needed them to do, everything was sure to fall apart. Being arrested for extortion would not be the worst of it, because she had no doubt that Tom would jump in and use the opportunity to take her son.
That was why having a third party do this was so important. But to do that, she needed money. Problem was, she didn't have any friends, other than Sonny, who had money. Jun didn't. Angela certainly didn't.
Maybe she should just tell Sonny the truth: that she needed the money so that she could kidnap her son back, leaving Lane and Kent with a photo and ransom note saying that if Superman didn't publicly verify the authenticity of the photo — leaving her with a couple dozen more to sell — they would never see the boy again.
It wasn't as if she was actually doing anything wrong. Huzi was her son, after all. Although… what was it they were calling him again? Jon.
She supposed it was after Superman's adopted father — Jonathan Kent. Jon. She smiled. She sort of liked that name. Jonathan Huzi Richards.
Still, she couldn't tell Sonny why she needed the money. Even if there was nothing illegal about taking her own son from a couple of people with no legal claim to him, Sonny would still be horrified. That was why he must never know. So… where could she get the money?
She glanced up, startled from her thoughts, when Sonny came back into the room. She looked at him in shock when he handed her a thick envelope.
"I not get to bank today to make deposit," he said.
In disbelief, she looked down at the envelope in her hands, slowly opening it to reveal what his words had already told her. It was full of money. She raised her moisture filled eyes to his. "Thank you," she whispered.
Samantha read through the letter written in letters carefully cut out of a copy of the Daily Planet one more time.
'Lois Lane and Clark Kent,
'If you want to see the boy again, hold a public press conference by noon tomorrow, validating the authenticity of this photo.'
Taking a deep breath, she went over the checklist in her mind. No fingerprints. No saliva in sealing the envelope. Nothing that could link this envelope back to her. She would have to make sure that Jane knew not to touch the envelope without gloves. The paper was generic. 'Lois Lane and Clark Kent' was taken from a byline for one of their stories from a copy of the Daily Planet and affixed carefully to the front of the envelope with gloved hands using a generic brand of tape. Nothing unusual about the envelope — just one of millions like it in the city.
She checked the photo she was about to enclose. A picture of Clark Kent becoming Superman printed on generic photo paper. No way that she could see of tracing it. It wasn't one of her best shots, but then she didn't want it to be. Publicly identifying one of the photos should be enough to validate all of them. And then she would get her million for the rest. She'd gone in the day before and actually got Johnson to put that in writing. No way was she leaving anything to chance.
Which brought her back to the photo. Okay, so what about him tracing the photo back to her? Nope. She'd done the developing herself so she didn't see how he could do that.
Now, all she had to do was to give this to Jane in a sealed envelope, tell her when the best time would be to snatch Huzi, and then head over to The Jade to see everyone, establishing her alibi, in case they did link this back to her.
She had just sealed the envelope, being sure not to use saliva, when there was a knock at the door. Getting up, she made her way over, opening it to admit her guest.
"You got the money?" Jane asked, not bothering with formalities.
Samantha nodded, walking over to the table and picking up the envelope Sonny had given her the previous night.
"Okay, so where do we find this kid you need snatched?" Jane asked after counting the money.
"Wait a minute," Samantha said. "This has got to be done in a particular way. Now, I know how you can do it, but you're going to have to trust me here."
Jane eyed her for a minute before shrugging her shoulders. "It's your money."
Samantha let out a breath of relief. She'd been concerned that Jane might not be willing to do things her way. She gestured the other woman to a chair and waited until they were both settled before speaking.
"The baby, a little boy, is currently in the care of a couple of reporters for the Daily Planet," Samantha began. "A Lois Lane and a Clark Kent." She thought she saw something, some recognition of the names flash in Jane's eyes, but dismissed it. After all, Lois and Clark were well known amongst the criminals of Metropolis, so it wasn't unusual that she might recognize the names. "Here's his picture." Samantha handed Jane a picture she'd taken of Huzi in the child care at the Planet a couple of days ago. It showed not only what he looked like, but where he was in the nursery. "They will take the baby to the day care at the Daily Planet today. He's always put in the same crib. I've been there. There is almost no security.
"Now, what I need you to do," Samantha continued, "is to wait in the coffee shop across the street until you get a phone call from me. I will contact you when it should be safe to go in." After all, it was probably best if Jane waited to attempt this until Superman was out on a rescue. So Samantha would call her when she heard about some Superman rescue on television. There were usually a few every day. "I've got the number of the coffee shop's pay phone."
"I've got my own cell phone," Jane said. "It's the same number you used to contact me before."
"Okay, good. Now, I can't say for sure how much time you're going to have at that point so you should move quickly after that. And you need to remember to leave the envelope behind. Meet me back here with the baby half an hour later." She gestured to the plain brown envelope sitting on the table. "Oh, and wear gloves. Not only when you go into the Daily Planet, but also when you handle the envelope."
"I know how to do my job," Jane said, irritated by Samantha's last comment.
"Right. Of course you do," Samantha said backing down immediately. She rose to her feet, and carefully using a tea towel, placed the envelope in a plastic bag and went to hand it to Jane before stopping. "And don't open the envelope. It's for Clark Kent or Lois Lane's eyes only."
Jane rolled her eyes. "Obviously," Jane said, reaching out and taking the bag.
"Okay, I think that's everything. So… good luck."
Without another word, Jane walked to the door, opened it and stepped outside. What Samantha didn't see was that as soon as Samantha closed the door, Jane opened the envelope and looked at the contents in disbelief for a moment before a slow smile spread across her face.
Samantha paced her apartment anxiously, checking her watch for what felt like the millionth time. They were already an hour past the time she had agreed that Jane should meet her.
So what had happened? She'd seen a report that Superman was out, helping clean up a multi-car pileup on the expressway, and had called Jane. When she'd gotten off the phone, she'd headed out to The Jade, establishing her alibi. She'd even taken care to make sure the people she spoke to took note of the time. So when Jane was snatching Huzi, Samantha was being seen by the employees of The Jade — just in case anyone might ask.
Twenty minutes later, she was headed back to her apartment. So Jane couldn't have missed her.
Well, this was crazy. She picked up the phone and called Jane's cell.
"The number you have reached is not in service."
The canned reply left Samantha suddenly feeling cold. Even if Jane had been stopped in her attempt to kidnap Huzi, even if the police had caught her, her cell phone should have been working. So…
She quickly hung up the phone and called the Daily Planet. "I need to speak to Ralph Lewis," she said impatiently into the receiver.
"One moment please."
Samantha listened to the soft rock playing on the other end of the line while she counted off the seconds.
"Ralph! Thank god. What's going on over there?"
"Oh, hey. I don't know how you knew something was going on, but all hell has broken loose over here. Apparently, someone snatched that kid that Lois and Clark are taking care of. They literally tore the place apart trying to find him. I don't know if you've seen Lois on a rampage, but this time…" He gave a low whistle. "…it was off the charts.
"Now they're holed up in the conference room with Perry White and Perry's pet, Jimmy. Apparently, the kidnapper left some sort of brown envelope behind. Guess they are trying to figure out what to do.
"By the way," Ralph continued, "how did you know something…"
But at this point, he was talking to a disconnected phone line.
Huzi had been taken. The envelope had been left. So… where were Jane and Huzi?
It well past midnight and yet every light in Samantha's small apartment was still on, brightly reflecting the hope that some how, some way, Jane and Huzi would be along any minute.
But unlike the bright lights, Samantha's hope had faded. Jane wasn't coming. Jane had Huzi and… she wasn't coming. So where was her child?
Her hand trembled as she picked up the phone and placed the call she'd been dreading for the past few hours. But she was a mess, couldn't even think in a straight line anymore. She needed help. And there was only one person she thought might be willing to help her — even if he was sure to hate her when she told him what she'd done.
Not that it mattered. Not really. The only thing that mattered now was finding Huzi.
Sonny took one look at her tear-streaked face and immediately stepped forward, pulling her into his arms. She wrapped her arms around his waist and sobbed into his shoulder as all of her defenses came crashing down around her.
He maneuvered her further into the room, not loosening his embrace, so that he could kick the door closed. And then they stood, him slowly stroking her back, whispering words of reassurance in her ear, along with a word she didn't know — baobei — while he waited patiently for her to calm. After a time, her sobs turned to hiccups and then quieted all together.
"Okay," he said, finally releasing her to lead her over to the couch. "Tell me what wrong. Is it Huzi?" He glanced around, looking for any evidence of the baby. "Did something happen to Huzi?" he asked, his voice suddenly betraying his fears.
And she instantly burst back into tears. "I did…" Hick. "…something really stupid…" Hick. "And I'm scared that Huzi is in terrible danger."
"Where is he? Is he at hospital?"
Hick. "No." Hick. "He…" Her mouth twitched down as she tried to tell him. Oh, God, he was going to hate her. He was never going to understand. Hell, she wasn't sure even she could understand. How could she have entrusted her child to someone she didn't even know, someone with a less than stellar record? How could she have been so stupid?
Sonny got up, making his way to the kitchen, returning a moment later with a glass of water. "Drink," he commanded as he handed her the glass.
Then, as she did, he walked into her room. Through the door, she could see him looking inside at the empty bassinet. He stood there in silence for a moment, obviously thinking, before returning to the living room and taking a seat on the couch.
"Tell me," he said softly.
"You're going to hate me," she whispered, not able to look at him. "I was so incredibly stupid. How could I have been so stupid?" She searched his face, seeking the answer to her question there.
"Just start at beginning. I not judge you. Now… what happen to Huzi?"
And so she began her story, slowly outlining everything that had happened. Starting from the beginning with her discovery of Lois and Superman in that hotel room, to her subsequent problems with the film, to her fall from grace in the publishing world. She talked about her investigation of Lois and Superman and how that had led her to a startling discovery — that Superman was not having an affair with Clark Kent's wife because Clark Kent was, in fact, Superman.
He listened patiently, stopping her only to ask for clarification. Never pushing her to what she knew he was waiting for, an answer to where her son was, what had happened to him, and what kind of danger he might be in. But she needed him to know everything. Otherwise, he wouldn't be much use in helping her figure out what to do now.
"So what this have to do with Huzi?" he finally asked after she finished telling him about her meeting with the president of the Dirt Digger.
"I was desperate. I so wanted to give my son a better life than I had. And…" She gave a humorless laugh, gesturing around her. "…this isn't exactly what I had in mind. I'm so far in debt now…" She let that thought trail off. "And then there is Tom. If he sues for custody…" Her voice broke. "What does that matter now?" she asked. "Maybe I should just give him to Tom. He'd certainly be better off without me."
"Stop that!" Sonny said, sounding cross. "You his mother. He need you. He no care about where you live. All he need is you love. And I know you love him."
She let out a shaky breath. She wasn't at all certain he'd feel that way when he heard the rest of the story.
"Now… what exactly happen?"
"As a result of my investigation, I realized that Lois and Clark wanted children. But I guess because Superman isn't from Earth, they found out they couldn't have them. And I have a source inside the Daily Planet that told me that discussions with an adoption agency weren't going well either so I…"
"So you…?" he prompted.
"So I sort of snuck Huzi into their house one night with a note saying that he belonged to them."
"I don't understand. You thought he be better off with them? But you his mother."
"No, I didn't think he'd be better off… Well, he would be better off with someone like them than he is with me, but that's not why I did it. Oh, I knew he'd be safe with them, that they'd take good care of him, but… that wasn't the plan."
"What was plan?"
"I was going to let them bond with him, think of him as their own child, and then kidnap him back."
Sonny's face went pale and so she rushed to continue before she could lose her nerve.
"I thought that I could use him as… sort of a bargaining chip. I'd have them publicly identify one of the photos, so that Mr. Johnson would give me my price for the rest of the photos. And I would have let them see him again. I just needed to prove that I had gotten the story, that I was a good reporter. I couldn't just stand by and watch my entire career go up in smoke because…" Her voice trailed off. "God, how could I have been so stupid?" she said, her voice now small. "Even if we do find him, I don't deserve to be his mother."
"Find him? I thought you say he with Lois and Clark?"
"He is… or was, but… Oh, god, this is where I got really stupid. You thought I was a terrible mother before…" She rose to her feet, standing with her back to him. She couldn't bear to look at him, couldn't stand to see the revulsion she knew would be in his eyes. "You know that five thousand dollars you loaned me last night? I used it to hire a woman to kidnap Huzi from the Kents and bring him back here. Well, she did the first part. She kidnapped Huzi, but…" Samantha gestured around her to the empty apartment, vividly illustrating the point she was trying to make.
"I haven't seen him since," she completed on a strangled whisper before bolting to the bathroom. She couldn't stand to look at Sonny. She needed time, time to come to terms with how much he must hate her, what he must think of her. After all, it couldn't be any worse than what she thought of herself. How could she have used her own child that way?
She couldn't continue to hide out in the bathroom. She knew that. After all, it didn't matter what Sonny thought of her. He would most certainly despise her. But she'd been despised by men before — starting with her own father. What was one more? What mattered, the only thing that mattered was getting her little boy back.
And so, after splashing some water on her face, and taking a moment to get herself under control, she headed back into the living room.
It took a moment for her to find Sonny. He was standing by the window, looking out on the street below. As she approached, she realized that the sun had risen without her knowing it. They'd been talking most of the night.
And there could be no doubt now that Jane had no intention of bringing Huzi home. No, for whatever reason, the woman had taken Samantha's son and… Oh, god. Who knew what was happening to him at this very moment?
She pushed that thought to the back of her mind, knowing that if she let herself dwell on that question she would surely go mad — and that wouldn't help Huzi.
Slowly, she made her way towards Sonny, taking up position slightly behind his right shoulder. He glanced at her over his shoulder before looking back at the street.
"I call police while you in bathroom," he said.
"What?" she managed to choke out.
"I know officer over there. Not tell him what going on. Just ask if the reporters find their baby."
"And?" she asked, her heart in her throat.
"They do not. Also ask about any accidents today involving young babies. He say no."
She let out a breath of relief at his last comment.
"But I thinking," Sonny said, turning towards her. "We got to see what we find out about this woman you hire."
"I don't even have a clue where to start on that," Samantha said. "All I have is a cell phone number, and it's out of service."
"Well, how you find her in first place?"
Bingo. Why hadn't she thought of that? She was about to turn towards the phone when she suddenly stopped, turning back to Sonny. "Are we all right?" she asked quietly.
A sad sort of smile briefly graced his face before fading. "Why not we first find Huzi?"
She chewed on her lower lip for a moment before nodding and turning back towards the phone. She didn't let him see the tears slipping quietly down her cheeks as she picked it up and placed a call to Byron. She'd lost Sonny. Just one more person in her life that she'd managed to drive away.
Samantha growled in frustration. It seemed that all she could come up with were dead ends. And they had been working on this for hours now. "It's no use," she said softly. "I'm fresh out of ideas."
"You said something about a note — you send Lois and Clark a note. Did woman deliver it?"
"Uhh… yeah. My source inside the Daily Planet mentioned it. Why?"
"What it say?"
"Just that if they wanted to see the baby again, Superman had to give a press conference validating the photo by noon today."
"Did woman know about photo?"
"No. I didn't tell her anything. I said we were in a custody battle and that she was just bringing my baby back to me."
"And you sure she didn't know?"
"But then, who deliver note?"
"She did, but it was in a sealed envelope. Oh, you don't think…" She stopped, considering the implications of what he was saying.
"If she have other plans for Huzi, why deliver note?"
"Because…" She hesitated. Why indeed? If her intention was to… perhaps sell the baby on the black market, why would she leave the note? "Maybe to throw Lois and Clark off her tail?"
"Or maybe she open note, see what inside, realize that she had Superman baby and decide she could make lot more than five thousand dollar."
The penny suddenly dropped in Samantha's mind. She grabbed the remote, turning on the television.
"We still don't know what Superman is planning to say at the press conference. He was very closed-lipped about it. But considering his good friends, Lois Lane and Clark Kent, had their child kidnapped last night, we can only assume there is a connection."
Samantha looked at the clock. It was quarter after eleven.
"If he make that speech," Sonny said, "you child becomes most valuable thing in Metropolis. Every bad guy in city willing to pay top dollar to have Superman son. You never see him again."
Samantha sprung to her feet. Sonny was right. Pulling on her shoes and grabbing her coat, she rushed for the door, her heart pounding so loud she was certain Sonny had to be able to hear it. She had to stop the press conference. She only hoped she had the time.
And for the first time since she was a young child, Samantha silently cried out to God for help.
The trip to the Daily Planet, where the Superman press conference was scheduled to be held, was a nightmare. They kept the radio on, listening for tidbits, some indication that the Man of Steel had shown up. But so far, it seemed that he was leaving it to the last possible moment, hoping for some miracle to redeem him before he had to reveal himself to the world.
The very fact that he was willing to reveal his greatest secret to the world for a child he'd known a little more than two weeks, a child he had no blood ties to, was somewhat humbling for Samantha. She'd carried that child for nine long months, and yet this man who had known him for only a matter of weeks was willing to give up every semblance of a normal life in hopes of getting him back.
Problem was that it was exactly the wrong move. Sonny was right; if the woman who had Huzi was able to provide proof positive of his connection to Superman, her son would become a bargaining chip, a tool to get Superman to do what they wanted. He would be sold to the highest bidder, held in shadows, behind lead-lined walls well beyond Superman's ability to find him. The only indication that he was even alive would be those odd times when they had to prove his continued survival to Superman in order to obtain his cooperation.
The good news was that they would not kill him. On the other hand, he would never be free. Never. They would never risk letting him out of their sight.
How could she have been so stupid? She'd pay the million dollars that she'd so desperately wanted just to have her son back in her arms.
Horns screeched and tires squealed when she darted between two cars in an effort to get to the Daily Planet quicker. She had to be in time. She just had to.
"And it seems the Man of Steel is finally making an appearance," the announcer's voice said over the radio.
Samantha hit the gas and a moment later the Daily Planet came into sight. She screeched to a halt, half on the sidewalk, half on the road, threw the car in park and jumped from the vehicle, letting Sonny worry about turning the car off.
Once out of the car, she began running. She could see Superman clearly now, standing on the platform looking as grim as she'd ever seen. Near the foot of the platform, she spotted Lois. Red rimmed her eyes, as if she'd been crying and Samantha felt a pang of guilt. But she pushed it aside, pushing her body as fast as she could towards the crowd gathered to hear what the Man of Steel had to say.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Superman began as Samantha began trying to push her way through the crowd, "thank you for coming here today. I have a brief statement prepared and I'm afraid that when that's done, I will not be taking any questions." In his hand, he held the envelope.
There were just too many people. No! She was never going to make it in time.
"This is not an easy thing to do, so I ask that you…"
"Don't do it, Superman. It will put him in even more danger," she whispered in desperation as she continued to push and shove.
She looked up in surprise when Superman stopped speaking in mid-sentence and instantly caught the superhero's shocked eyes. He'd heard her.
"I have information about Hu… Jon," she whispered. "Don't make your statement. Please. Give me a chance to explain."
Superman stared at her for a moment more before addressing the press. "You'll have to excuse me. There's an urgent matter that requires my attention. I'll be back as soon as I can."
And then he was gone. Samantha looked around, startled, until she felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to find herself looking into the glasses of Clark Kent.
Her gaze darted to somewhere in the middle of his chest, unable to hold eye contact as the shame of everything she'd done, not only to Huzi, but to Lois and Clark, swept through her. "We need to talk," she said quietly.
Lois' eyes took in Sonny, her eyebrows furrowing slightly, before coming to settle on Samantha. Her eyes instantly narrowed.
"What is she doing here?" Lois demanded, looking accusingly at her husband.
"Superman told me that she said she has some information about Jon," Clark responded, reaching over and taking one of Lois' hands, soothing it until it relaxed from the tight ball it had wrapped itself into when she'd first recognized Samantha.
Lois' eyes darted back to Samantha. "Where is Jon?" Lois demanded.
"I don't know," Samantha admitted.
"Then what are we doing talking to her?" Lois again asked her husband. "If Superman doesn't give that press conference…"
"Giving that press conference is exactly the wrong thing to do," Samantha interrupted. "It will only make Huzi's… uhh… Jon's position more precarious. Please. You have to trust me here."
"Trust you?" Lois asked incredulously. "You've got to be kidding me."
"Honey," Clark said softly into her ear.
"Why? Why should we trust you?" Lois demanded.
"Because I'm Hu… Jon's mother," Samantha answered softly.
Lois and Clark stared at her in silence for a long moment.
"You're his…" Lois began in disbelief, only to be interrupted by Clark.
"Listen, this is obviously going to take some time. Why don't we all have a seat? I'll get us some coffee and then we can talk."
The door to the conference room had been closed. Clark handed his wife a cup of coffee and took a seat.
"I guess it's my move," Samantha said. She really was dreading this. But only by working with Lois and Clark was there any chance of finding Huzi. And no matter what happened in the next few minutes, she was determined to keep her cool, set aside her pride and tell them everything. "I guess I should start by…" She pushed a large brown envelope across the conference room table to Lois and Clark.
Lois was the one who picked it up and opened it.
Samantha watched the expressions on their faces as they realized what they were holding — an entire series of photos showing Clark Kent becoming Superman.
"That picture we got when Jon was taken," Clark began, "it's part of this series, isn't it?"
"So you had something to do with it? But…" Lois looked at Samantha and then at Clark, obviously struggling to put the pieces together but unable to make them fit.
"Maybe I should start at the beginning," Samantha said. "Well, you know about the forged photo that I submitted to the Dirt Digger of Lois and Superman kissing. And, Lois, after our last talk, you must know that I was actually at your hotel room that night, that the picture was only a recreation of what I knew I had seen. So…" She paused, glancing over at Sonny. He gave her a reassuring nod, giving her the courage to continue.
"After you exposed the fact that the photo was a fake, I became persona non grata in the publishing community. I couldn't give stories away. No one would touch me." She turned her gaze directly on Lois. "How would you feel if tomorrow, you suddenly found yourself out of the news business? Let's say you published a story, a big story, and you knew that it was true. But someone managed to find the one flaw in the story and suddenly your reputation is in tatters. You can't even find some lousy, backwater paper that will let you write obits." Samantha gave a humorless laugh. "But you know you're right. I mean, you saw it with your own eyes."
Lois looked away uncomfortably and Samantha realized she'd made her point.
"Wouldn't you do everything you could to prove you were right in the first place? To be vindicated?" Samantha let out a breath. "So I've been investigating you — or well, at least I've been investigating Lois and Superman. I figured you'd find a way to be together again. And when you did, I was going to be there to get the goods, prove to the world that I was right all along. I wasn't quite prepared for what I found out instead." She gestured to the photos.
"I guess Tempus isn't as crazy as I first thought," Samantha continued. "Anyway, then I tried to sell them."
"Are you telling us that you've shown these photos to one or more papers?" Clark asked, his face pale.
"No. I'm not stupid. I wasn't going to show them the goods until I had a deal in place," Samantha continued. "I did tell them, however, that Superman had a secret identity. I just wouldn't tell them who it was. Not that it matters anyway. No one was the least bit interested in any story with my name on the byline. Well, except for the Dirt Digger?"
"So you've sold them to the Dirt Digger?" Lois asked. In contrast to the lack of color in Clark's face, Lois' face was getting flushed and her tone betrayed her anger. "Do you have any idea what that will do to us? Oh, I get it so I destroy your career so you figure, what the hell. I might as well make sure that she can never work again, too?" Lois was on her feet now, leaning across the conference room table, hands planted firmly on top so that Samantha pushed her chair back slightly in fear that Lois was about to spring across the table at her. "Superman has done nothing but try to help this world out and you… you… How dare you? Do you think he will even have a life anymore? He'll be hounded everywhere he goes. What does the alien eat for breakfast? Corn Flakes or Coco Puffs? What type of toothpaste does Superman use? And does he neatly roll it up from the bottom or does he just squeeze it in any old fashion? Guess what we found today in Superman's trash can. He…"
"Lois!" Clark interrupted rising to his feet and placing a hand on his wife's shoulder.
When she turned as if she would direct her anger at his interruption, he spoke a single word that instantly took the wind out of her sails. "Jon."
Lois' mouth continued to work for a moment more before Samantha saw tears well up in her eyes. Lois nodded as she remembered why they were there and what was really important. She sank back into her chair and turned her eyes back to Samantha even as she reached over to grasp onto her husband's hand, seeming to seek his support.
For a moment, Samantha felt a twinge of envy watching the unconditional support Kent gave his wife. She quickly shook it off. Clark was right. What mattered here and now was Huzi.
"So what does all of this have to do with Jon?" Clark asked.
"Well, the president of the Dirt Digger, rocket scientist that he is, offered me a thousand dollars for the photos."
"You sold away our lives for a thousand dollars?" Clark asked in disbelief.
"No. Of course not," Samantha said. "But the reason he only offered a thousand dollars was because he didn't believe that 'secret identity' story any more than anyone else had. On the other hand, he figured that my 'photos' would probably sell a few papers."
"Figures," Lois muttered sarcastically.
"But he did tell me that he'd meet my price if I could get Superman to publicly verify the authenticity of the photos."
"So that's why you wanted the press conference," Clark said. "But then… how does Jon fit into all this?"
"After he told me his 'terms', I went into labor and my son was born. A lot of things happened afterwards and… Well, I came up with this idea…" Samantha watched her fingers tracing abstract patterns on the table. "I knew the two of you desperately wanted a child. So I figured I'd leave him with you, let you bond with him and then I take him back, making sure that you'd verify the photos so that I could sell them."
"You what!" Clark began.
"How could you use your own son like that?" Lois demanded. "Don't you have an ounce of human decency? Is the almighty dollar the only thing you give a damn about? What are you — some kind of monster?"
"Hey!" Sonny's loud interjection into the conversation startled all three other people in the room. "She not have to come here and tell you any of this! She could have let you verify photo and collect her money if that all she care about. She came because the woman she hire to get Huzi kidnap the boy. Now, I not have you stand there and call her monster!"
Samantha was watching Sonny in stunned silence, almost as stunned as Lois and Clark by his sudden defense of her.
"Now," Sonny said much more calmly, "Suggest we all calm down. We need work together to get Huzi back."
There were several minutes of silence as Sonny's words sank in. Clark was the one who broke it.
"So his name is Huzi?"
"That's what I've been calling him," Samantha said. "But I know you've been calling him Jon — I take it that's after your adopted father?"
"I sort of like the name. I'm sort of thinking of calling him Jonathan Huzi Richards… if that's all right with you."
Lois pulled in a jagged breath. "So even if we get him back, we still lose him," she whispered softly.
Samantha instantly looked back down.
"Honey," Clark said, moving his chair closer to his wife's before leaning over and resting his forehead against her hair, "we always knew that this was a possibility. That his mother or father would show up."
"I know, but…"
The silence in the room was suddenly deafening, and Samantha felt it in every pore of her body. These two people had fallen in love with her child as if he were their own — and she was responsible for that. And now she had just ripped him away from them.
God, why hadn't she thought through the consequences of her actions? How could she have failed to take into consideration the amount of pain that she would cause these two people? Why had it never occurred to her before now what she was doing?
Truth was, she'd not worried about the effect this would have on Lois and Clark because in some convoluted way she'd considered it part of her vindication. After all, they had hurt her with their half-truths, so why should she have any sympathy for them? What she hadn't counted on was sitting here, with them, seeing their pain.
But she was here. And suddenly, she didn't want them to be hurt. She didn't want any of them to be hurt.
"I'd never stop you from seeing him," Samantha suddenly blurted out. "I know that you've been wonderful to him. And if I could take back…" Her voice trailed off. She couldn't take back what she'd done, so what was the point in saying it?
"The important thing right now," Clark finally said, "is to find Jon. And Lois and I will do everything we can to help you do that. Won't we, honey?" When Lois nodded, Clark continued. "So… what can you tell us about this person you hired?"
"Just answer me one question first," Samantha said. "Do you have the envelope that the picture was delivered in?"
"Uhh… yeah. Of course. We checked it for fingerprints, but there was nothing. Why?"
"Can I see it?"
Lois and Clark shared a look before Clark rose to his feet and left the conference room. He returned a moment later with the envelope, handing it to Samantha.
She looked at the front. "That's what I thought."
"What?" Lois and Clark asked in unison.
"This isn't the envelope I used."
"Are you sure?" Lois asked.
"Yeah. I pasted your names in letters I cut from the Daily Planet on the front. This one doesn't have anything on it."
"Which means what?" Clark asked.
"Obviously, the woman opened the envelope and then put the pictures and note in a different one to keep us from knowing that it had been opened," Lois said, understanding immediately where Samantha was going with this line of thought.
"Exactly," Samantha said. "Which means that…"
"…she knows about Superman's connection to Jon," Lois concluded. She looked at Samantha. "That's why you stopped the press conference, isn't it? If people find out that Clark is indeed Superman that will make it almost impossible for us to get Jon back. They will sell him to the highest bidder — as a pawn to get Superman to do their bidding. And if Clark publicly admits who he is…"
"…that will only increase Jon's value," Clark completed.
There was a moment of silence while everyone digested this.
"Okay," Samantha finally said. "Where do we start?"
"What can you tell us about the person you hired to take Jon?" Lois asked.
"Uhh… Lois… Clark…" Jimmy said, sticking his head in the conference room. "Do you guys have any idea where Superman is? The press corps is waiting outside and they're really getting restless. Perry figures in another ten minutes they're going to start inventing their own news if they don't get something real to report."
Clark looked at Jimmy for a moment before saying, "Just give us a minute, Jimmy." He waited until Jimmy closed the door before turning to the others. "I think Superman better put in an appearance." He rose to his feet.
"Wait a minute!" Samantha said, jumping to her feet. "You can't give that conference. Right now they might suspect that Jon is Superman's son. So they won't harm him. But if you give that conference, if they know for sure, he'll be the closely guarded secret in New Troy. Or if you deny it, Jon becomes expendable."
Clark reached out, gently touching her arm. "Trust me," he said before turning and heading out of the conference room, pulling at his tie.
Samantha fiddled nervously with her hands as she stood in front of the podium, waiting for Superman to make his appearance. She looked over in surprise when, without looking at her, Sonny took one of her hands and held it between both of his, stopping the fiddling.
Still, she couldn't help the nerves in her stomach. What did Clark Kent have in mind for this press conference? What could he possibly say that wouldn't put Jon in even more danger than he already was?
Samantha looked around in shock at the sound of Lois' reassuring voice. She gave the woman a half smile — hoping she knew what she was talking about.
Then her breath caught in her throat when the crowd fell silent as they all watched the brightly clad superhero float down to land on the podium in front of them.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Superman began, speaking into the numerous microphones that had been set up on the podium, "I thank you for your patience. But something came up that required my immediate attention." He paused for a moment before continuing. "I'm not sure how many of you are aware, but a little boy was kidnapped yesterday from Daily Planet. Now this boy is the son of a friend of mine. And so I've asked you here today because there is someone here who would like to make a plea for the boy's safe return."
Samantha felt her heart sink. He'd revealed that neither he nor Clark Kent were the father. That meant, her son was now expendable. Still, there was nothing she could do about that now except give an impassioned plea to the kidnappers to return him to her care.
She was about to go to the podium when she felt Lois' hand on her arm, stopping her.
"Lois Lane, would you please come up here?" Superman said.
And suddenly, Samantha understood. He hadn't said that Jon was Samantha's son. He also hadn't said that Jon was Lois' son. Nor had he said that Jon's mother would like to address the kidnappers. He had just said Jon was the son of 'a friend of his' — which, perhaps, was stretching the truth a little — and that there was 'someone here' who would like to make a plea.
By then calling on Lois, he was forcing the public to draw certain conclusions. But he'd never actually lied.
Still, it was hard to stand back and watch as Lois stepped onto the podium, knowing it should have been her. How could anyone else make a truly passionate plea for the safe return of her son?
Those thoughts vanished when she caught a glimpse of Lois' face. Lois was hurting as much as Samantha. But then, for the past two weeks, Lois had acted as Jon's mother and had obviously harbored the hope that at some point she would truly be Jon's mother, legally as well as in deed. In fact, Lois had spent more time getting to know Jon since his birth than Samantha had — and quite obviously, she had fallen in love with him.
"Thank you, Superman," Lois said, her voice trembling. Superman gave her arm a squeeze before taking off into the sky. "I hope you'll give me a moment. My husband will be out shortly and…" Her voice broke. "I'm sorry. I just don't think I can do this alone."
Samantha watched as Clark Kent immediately began jogging up onto the platform to join his wife. And then watched, tears rolling down her own cheeks as Lois and Clark, together, made an impassioned plea for Jon's safe return.
She felt Sonny put something in her hand and looked down to discover that she was now holding some tissue. As she brushed at her eyes, she glanced around, surprised to discover that she was not the only one crying while listening to their supplications.
"Okay, Jimmy, what have you got?"
Samantha looked up in surprise at the sound of Lois' voice. She hadn't even seen the young man enter the room, so caught up was she in the information she was currently reading. If it hadn't been for her constant fear for Huzi, she might have actually enjoyed working with Lois and Clark in this fashion. Never had she been involved in a real investigation before and it had been fascinating watching how Lois and Clark both seemed capable of putting all feelings aside to concentrate on what they were doing. Although, Samantha was not unaware of the stress lines that were very evident around the corners of Lois' eyes, or the way her husband's reassuring hand often found its way onto her arm or back as a gesture of support.
Still, after the initial awkwardness, they'd been able to get down to the business of finding Huzi. First, Clark had made sure that any phone calls made to their brownstone or her apartment were rerouted to the Daily Planet conference room — just in case anyone tried to contact either of them with a ransom demand. Samantha had immediately kicked herself for not thinking of that herself.
Not that a ransom demand was likely — not when Jane Sycamore knew that she was holding 'Superman's son.' Still, it was an aspect that could not be overlooked. And it had only taken Clark a moment to accomplish both tasks.
However, Samantha hadn't seen anything. One moment, Clark had been making the observation and asking for the keys to her apartment before leaving the conference room, and minutes later, he'd been returning to the conference room, announcing that the task of turning on their call forwarding was complete. She hadn't even had call forwarding before this, but when she'd inquired about the quick installation of the service, Clark had merely replied that Superman still had pull in certain circles.
Then they had dug up everything they had been able to find about the Amazon Women. There hadn't been much so far. But Clark had assured her, when she'd started to panic, that if there were anything to be found, the young man who had just entered the conference room would find it.
"Okay," Jimmy said, breaking into Samantha's thoughts. "First off, I managed to find two Jane Sycamores." He held up a couple pages which Lois practically snatched out of his hand, looking briefly at them before handing them to Samantha.
"Recognize either of them?" Lois asked.
Samantha looked down at what were obviously printouts from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Included was not only their pertinent data but pictures of both women. "No. Neither of these women is the woman I dealt with."
"Are there any other Jane Sycamores?" Clark asked. "After all, we don't know for sure that she has a New Troy driver's license."
"These were the only two Jane Sycamores I could find any record of in New Troy," Jimmy said. "I checked phone records and rental records. I did as thorough a check as I know how to do. If it isn't either of these two women, I'm afraid I'm at a dead end."
"What about phone number she give Samantha?" Sonny asked.
"It was a pay as you go number," Jimmy responded. "No name. No address. Very temporary. Sorry. There is just no way for me to trace it."
"Did you find anything about the Amazon Women?" Lois asked.
"I'm still waiting for some stuff to print up. But I'm warning you, it's pretty skimpy. But don't worry," he continued when he saw the grim expressions on the faces staring back at him, "I'm going to keep looking."
"Thanks, Jimmy," Clark said just as Jimmy turned to leave the room.
"Clark," Lois said as soon as the door closed behind Jimmy, "do you remember the women who worked at the Stoke's Club?"
"Could you… you know… sketch their pictures?" She held her lower lip between her teeth as she waited for the answer.
Clark blew out a breath. "It's been years since…" His voice trailed off when he seemed to take in the plea on his wife's face. "I can try."
He reached over, picking up a pad of paper and then closed his eyes in deep concentration for a long time before his hand began to move.
Samantha was completely transfixed as she watched the images appear on paper, one after another, as Clark's hand flew over the surface. When the movement finally stopped, the room was completely silent.
"Wow," Samantha finally breathed, breaking the silence. Somehow, knowing that Clark Kent was Superman and seeing him do something 'super' while dressed in a suit and tie were two completely different things.
Lois gave her a quick glance, before turning her attention to the drawings.
"I can't be certain they are completely accurate," Clark said as Lois studied the pictures.
"Well, if they aren't, I'd say they're pretty close." Lois turned to Samantha. "Recognize one of these?" she asked, handing Samantha the pictures.
Samantha didn't have to look beyond the first picture. "I could have drawn this picture this morning," she whispered as she stared at a spitting image of the woman she knew as Jane Sycamore. "If I could draw, of course," she quickly added, looking up at Clark.
"That woman… I don't think I ever heard her name," Lois said, "was the one who seemed to be in charge of the women at the Stokes Club." She turned and looked at her husband. "Maybe we're going about this backwards. Maybe what we need to do is get a list of employees from the Stokes Club back when Lenny Stokes was in charge."
"And then use that to figure out which woman is the one now posing as Jane Sycamore," Clark completed.
Lois and Clark stared at each other for one long moment before yelling the same thing simultaneously. "Jimmy!"
Samantha was startled when, almost instantaneously, Jimmy opened the door to the conference room and stuck his head inside. It was almost as if he had waiting just outside for their summons. On the other hand, one probably didn't work for the Daily Planet without learning to be in the right place at the right time.
"I suggest we start by looking further into the backgrounds of these six women," Lois said as the four of them were studying the employment records from the Stokes' Club in 1994.
"Why those six?" Samantha asked. The employment records didn't list any job titles, so what was it about those four that had caught Lois' attention?
"Look," Lois said, pointing to the salary column beside each name. "Each of these women were paid significantly more than the majority of the women on the payroll. And they are also paid amounts that are quite close to each other."
"And it makes sense," Clark continued, "that bouncers would get paid more than regular waitresses — especially given that they seemed to do more than normal bouncers."
"Of course, if that search doesn't find us what we need, we can always expand our search," Lois concluded.
At just that moment, the door to the conference room opened and Perry White stepped into the entranceway. "Have you guys found…" His voice trailed off when he saw Samantha sitting at the conference room table. "What's she doing in my newsroom?" Perry demanded.
Samantha immediately founding herself shying away from the look of disgust he was giving her.
"She's helping us find Jon," Clark said, immediately rising to his feet and inserting himself, almost protectively, between Samantha and his boss.
Samantha was slightly surprised. It seemed, no matter the guise he was in, Clark Kent naturally took over the roll of protector to anyone he saw as vulnerable — which in this case was her. Although, that he should consider her worthy of his protection, given what she had done to both him and Lois, she found incredibly humbling.
Perry looked around Clark to take in Samantha's attendance in his newsroom one last time before letting the subject drop. "So… any leads?"
"A few," Lois said. "Thanks to Samantha."
Samantha studied the table in front of her. The fact that both of them appeared to be coming to her defense made her feel ashamed.
"Okay, well I leave you to get on with it," Perry responded, not asking more questions although he was obviously bursting with curiosity. "Although I'll expect a full accounting later," he added, leveling a meaningful look at Lois and Clark. "Oh, by the way, there was a call for you a moment ago." He stepped up to Lois, handing her a pink phone message, before turning and leaving the room.
Lois read the message and instantly jumped to her feet.
"What?" Clark asked as Lois headed for the door.
"Bobby Bigmouth," she said.
Clark obviously understood the cryptic message — although Samantha had to admit, she was slightly baffled. What the heck was a Bobby Bigmouth? Surely that wasn't someone's name.
"Let's go," Clark said, grabbing his suit jacket from where it was hanging on the back of one of the chairs.
"No," Lois said, stopping to turn towards her husband. When his face registered surprise, she continued. "I need to get out of here for a while. You need to keep doing what we've been doing."
"But…" Clark said, but then stopped.
For a moment, Samantha watched as some sort of silent communication took place between husband and wife, and she found herself envying the relationship she could clearly see between these two. No wonder none of their friends had believed that Lois could cheat with Superman — if this was the relationship they witnessed between Lois and Clark on a regular basis.
She wondered if she'd ever have a relationship like that. Her eyes, of their own volition, drifted to Sonny, who she realized with shock, was also watching her. She quickly looked away.
"Okay," Clark finally said. "But be careful, okay? If something happened to you, too…"
"I'll be fine," Lois said softly, placing a hand on his chest and leaning in for a soft kiss before turning to leave the room.
"Can I come with you?" Where Samantha had found the courage to voice her question, she wasn't exactly sure. Lois' eyes met hers as Lois stopped in the doorway. For a moment, Samantha was certain that Lois was going to refuse and so she spoke again. "I need to get out of here and just do… something, too."
Lois' expression softened. "Come on," she said, turning back to look at Clark. "You and Sonny keep digging through the stuff we've found so far. We'll be back soon."
"Can I ask you a question?" Samantha asked as Lois drove her jeep through the city streets. Samantha's voice shocked even her. Up until now, the silence between them had been so all-consuming that the intruding noise took her by surprise even though she had been the one to make it.
"What?" Lois asked cautiously.
"Why did you agree to let me come?"
Lois was silent for a moment, as if having to contemplate the question. Samantha was beginning to think that Lois wasn't going to answer when she finally spoke.
"Maybe Clark is rubbing off on me."
Lois glanced over at Samantha before looking back at the road. "I was going a little bit crazy in there. I just had to 'do' something. If I hadn't gotten that message from Bobby, I'd have probably found another excuse to leave. I guess you sort of had that same look." There was a long pause before Lois continued. "Besides, I really wanted to ask you something."
Samantha tensed. Still, it seemed impolite not to respond so she said, "Go ahead."
"How could you do it?" Lois asked. "How could you do that to your own son? God, if he were my son…" Lois' voice trailed off when she seemed to realize that her voice had risen in volume.
Yes, Lois was angry. That was obvious. But underneath, Samantha could hear something else, some desire to really understand. But how could Samantha explain what she didn't exactly understand herself?
On the other hand, Samantha needed to do this — needed to talk to another woman about what she'd done. But was this the woman? She glanced over at Lois, seeing her white knuckles as she gripped the steering wheel. Yes. This was the woman. This woman loved Huzi, too. She needed to know why Samantha had done what she had done. And Samantha hated to admit it, but in many ways Lois was her hero. She had been long before the Superman affair story. After all, Lois had made it in a world that Samantha had always longed to be part of.
So Samantha took a deep breath and began as honestly as she could. Maybe voicing these thoughts would give her some perspective on what she had done, maybe even allow her to understand it — not that she would ever be able to forgive herself. That was something that she knew would never happen.
"I've asked myself the same question a thousand times since Sycamore didn't show up with Huzi," she began softly. "God, how could I have been so stupid? It just never occurred to me that Huzi would be in any danger."
When she saw Lois roll her eyes, Samantha quickly continued. "Well, I knew he'd be safe with you. Or are you telling me you'd have done something to harm him?"
Lois shot her a withering look and Samantha instantly backed down. "Sorry. I just…" She sighed. "You don't know what this last six months have been like for me. I can't work as a reporter anymore." She gave a humorless laugh. "I even tried for obits. But no. Apparently, the woman who claimed that Superman was having an affair with a married woman can't even be trusted to write obits! All I ever wanted to be was a reporter. And look at me now… No job. No money. Debts coming out my ears. And an ex-husband who shows up at the ninth hour wanting to take my son. How was I going to stop him? I can't pay my hospital bills, let alone hire a lawyer for a long custody battle. This was the only shot I had of keeping my son, giving him a good home."
She laughed again. "Not that it did any good. After all this, though, I should probably just give Huzi to my husband. He couldn't do any worse a job than I have." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "I just wanted a good life for my son."
There was silence as Samantha finished and for a long moment neither woman said anything. Lois was the one to break the silence.
"I'm sorry," Lois said softly.
"For what?" Samantha asked, genuinely confused.
"Look, what I'm about to say to you isn't something that exactly… comes easy for me. But after our run-in a few months ago, I've been thinking about what you said and… Well, if I did come across a story about a prominent politician espousing family values while cheating on his wife… I can't say I wouldn't print it." She glanced briefly at Samantha before looking out the front window of the jeep once again. "Before we discovered that the photo was actually fake, we had decided that Superman would tell the world that Clark Kent was Superman. It was the only way to redeem his image. Of course, it would have basically ruined our lives. It would have meant both Clark and I giving up our careers and… I don't know. Going into hiding or something.
"So when I discovered that the photo was fake," Lois continued, "I didn't even think about the damage it would do for us to simply point that out to the world press. I mean, your story was wrong. Superman would never cheat on his wife." She gave Samantha a lopsided grin. "I should know — after all, I am his wife. But what that picture showed… it was the truth.
"You should probably know that I wanted him to simply deny that it was us. Clark wouldn't do it. Still, after his press conference… he did admit to me that he wasn't entirely comfortable with his answers. But he'd decided that there was a greater truth to protect."
"Like making sure that no one would ever be able to come after Superman through his wife or kids," Samantha said.
Lois let out a breath. "Well, not his wife or parents anyway. It doesn't look as if we'll ever be able to have children."
"The Star Labs results," Samantha said knowingly, causing Lois to glance at her sharply. "I did my research," Samantha immediately explained.
"And you proved that you're a great reporter. After all, you got the story of a lifetime. Clark Kent is Superman," Lois said before falling silent for a moment. "When this is all over," she finally continued, "have you decided what you're going to do with your evidence that Clark is Superman?" There was a slight tremor in Lois' voice as she asked the question.
Samantha paused. "I guess…" she finally said hesitantly. "…maybe I need to rethink my plan to publish those photos. I'm not making any promises. After all, this story is big." She paused, thinking. "Still, if I do publish those photos, if people realize that even if Huzi isn't Superman's son, that he cares about him…" Her voice trailed off. "I guess I just need to think about it some more." She shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe they need reporters in Timbuktu. Surely they don't know who I am there."
"Thank you," Lois breathed.
"I haven't made any promises yet," Samantha warned.
"I know, but thanks anyway — for at least thinking about it. But… Timbuktu? What about Sonny?"
"Well, you and he…"
"He's just my employer. Well, and my friend, I guess — or at least he was before I pulled this stunt."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought…"
"Never mind. We're here."
Lois pulled her car over to the side of the road. Samantha looked around, surprised when Lois jumped out of the jeep and headed for a nearby pizza parlor. Well, maybe this was where she normally met this mysterious source.
Still, as she got out of the car and started to follow the other woman, Samantha thought back on their conversation. She could hardly believe she'd just agreed to think about walking away from a million dollar story. Still, by Lois' reaction to her comments, it was obvious that the other woman now believed that she wouldn't publish the photos. So was she right? Samantha really wasn't sure. It was a million dollars after all — along with the biggest scoop since Superman had come along.
Assuming, of course, that they ever found Huzi. Samantha bit her lower lip as she fought back tears. Now was not the time to fall apart. There would be time enough for that later.
"I don't get it," Samantha said, looking around.
She'd gone into the pizza parlor with Lois, ordered a fully dressed pizza, and then left again, pizza in hand, to sit in a parked jeep in the middle of Centennial Park.
"What we're doing sitting here? I thought we were supposed to be looking for some guy named Bobby Bigears, not picking cheese off the top of a fully dressed pizza in a parked car."
"Hey! Are you eating the cheese off my pizza again?"
The unexpected sound of a man's voice coming from the back seat caused Samantha to drop the small piece of cheese she'd stolen off the pizza.
"And it's Bobby Bigmouth," the man continued. "I mean, really! Bobby Bigears? What do you think I am? A dog?" As he spoke, he reached over the seat and confiscated the pizza. "So where's my drink?" he demanded even as he pulled a piece of pizza from the box and stuffed half of it in his mouth.
Lois reached onto the seat between them and handed him a six-pack of Coke, which he used his free hand to confiscate.
"What do you have, Bobby?" Lois asked.
"Now, I probably shouldn't say anything at all… considering what you did to my pizza."
"Bobby," Lois warned.
"But considering the little gaffer is missing, I'll let it pass this time. By the way, Lois, who's the new side-kick? Did you dump Clark?"
"This is Samantha Richards," Lois said. "Now spill."
"Okay, okay," Bobby said, continuing to eat as he talked. "You're not in a mood to fool around. I get that. Your kid's missing. You almost remind me of my mother when she thinks I'm in trouble. Lioness, I tell you. I never saw you in the role of a mother before, but I gotta say, you take to it naturally."
"Bobby," Lois said in exasperation.
"Right. Anyway, word has it that you're looking into the Amazon Women."
"You got something for us?"
"Well, they've been around for a few years now. But they tend to lie pretty low. Made efforts a few years back to do contract work for Intergang, but you know how those guys are. Never wanting to contract out. Makes it somewhat strange that they stay as out of sight as much as they do. After all, they really aren't big enough fish for anyone serious to be after them.
"Anyway, today there seems to be a lot of buzz that Intergang may be reconsidering their position. Seems they think your kid might be the perfect way to control Superman. And word on the streets is that the Amazon Women have him." Bobby's voice trailed off as he looked at Samantha again. "Say, aren't you that woman who published the photo claiming that Superman and Lois here were knocking red boots? Or…" He looked back at Lois. "…was there something to her story? Is that really Superman's kid or something? How did I miss that?"
"I didn't have an affair with Superman, Bobby," Lois said in exasperation. "Besides, last time you saw me, did I look pregnant to you?"
"No, I guess not. But you know, not all women look pregnant. Hell, I knew this girl once who managed to keep her own family from knowing she was even pregnant right up until the night she went into labor."
"Can we get back on point?" Lois asked. "Where can we find these Amazon Women?"
"I don't know."
When Lois reached back as if she would confiscate the pizza, Bobby quickly continued. "But I can give you a lead."
"Word on the streets is that one of the Amazon Women has a brother who works at Star Labs." He opened the door and got out of the jeep. "Oh, and I'll keep my ears open — let you know if I hear anything else. By the way, hope you find the kid."
"Thanks, Bobby," Lois said even as she started up the jeep.
"So what do you have?" Lois asked the instant she and Samantha stepped back into the conference room.
"Not much. We got the names and pictures of the women we thought might be involved," Clark said, handing the photos to Lois. "The names are there. It seems the woman who called herself Jane Sycamore is actually Kim Gaines. We've also got the names of the others. But when Superman checked out the addresses on their driver's licenses, he found out that each and every one of them have moved — no forwarding address. Jimmy looked, but there is no sign of any of them renting another apartment."
"They disappear," Sonny added, "into thin air, as you might say."
"Okay, well, Bobby gave us another lead. Apparently one of the woman has a brother who works for Star Labs. So if we look at the names here, hopefully we'll be able to cross check to find out the name of the brother."
"Assuming, of course, that he's the brother of one of the original women," Clark added. "And from what Jimmy was able to find out, and he was right, it isn't much, they have been adding to their numbers since then."
"Then we find every woman in the city who is over six feet tall and we interrog… uhh… interview then," Lois said. "I don't care what it takes, Clark. We've got to find him."
Clark immediately stepped forward, gathering his wife into his arms. "We will, Lois. I swear we will. But… rather than interviewing every woman over six feet, why don't we just have Jimmy check the employees at Star Labs to find out if any of them have a sister who is over six feet tall. Surely there can't be that many."
"Jimmy!" Lois instantly bellowed, stepping out of Clark's arms and rushing to the conference room door to call for their young assistant.
"You bellowed?" Jimmy said, quickly appearing in front of her.
"We need some more research done," Lois said without any introduction.
It didn't take them long to find their target. Kim Gaines had a brother — Stanley Gaines who was a young research assistant at Star Labs. A moment after they had found that information, Clark had been in the air on his way to Stanley Gaines' address.
"Who are you calling?" Samantha asked when, without even watching her husband's departure, Lois reached over and picked up the phone before dialing an obviously familiar number.
"Dr. Klein. I'm hoping he can give us some more information about this Stanley Gaines."
"Do you trust him?" Samantha asked. "After all, we don't want him to tip off our only lead."
"Of course I trust him," Lois informed Samantha before speaking into the phone. "Dr. Klein please. It's Lois Lane calling."
"So you're sure that he couldn't accidentally let something slip? This guy is our only lead, if we lose him…"
Lois stared at her for a moment, wondering exactly that, before obviously hearing a voice on the other end of the line. "Uhh… Dr. Klein. I'm sorry. Could you hold for a moment?" Lois said into the phone before covering the mouth piece.
"I just want you to be sure," Samantha said.
Lois clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth before taking her hand off the mouthpiece. "Dr. Klein, I'm sorry. I'll have to get back to you," she said, seeming to prepare herself for hanging up the phone.
"Wait!" Samantha said.
"Uhh… could you hold one more minute, Dr. Klein?" Lois asked before placing her hand over the mouthpiece one more time. "What?" she demanded of Samantha. "You're right, okay. What we might be able to get from Dr. Klein isn't enough to justify the risk of losing our lead. Stanley Gaines is our only lead, and if we lose him, we lose any chance of finding Jo… Huzi."
"I just wanted to suggest that you find out if he knows anything about the Amazon Women."
"Why would he know anything about the Amazon Women?" Lois asked incredulously.
"He's part of some motorcycle gang, isn't he? The Lab Rats or something? Maybe he'll know. After all, in the information I was reading about the Amazon Women, it said something about them having connections with a number of the motorcycle gangs in the city."
"He isn't going to know…" Obvious squawking coming from the other end of the phone line cut off whatever Lois had been about to say. She quickly moved the phone back to her ear. "Uhh… Dr. Klein, did you happen to hear all that?" she asked cautiously into the receiver. "That's what I thought," she responded a moment later, grimacing as she did so.
"So? What did he say?" Samantha asked when Lois got off the phone.
"Well, he's quite offended that I didn't think he could be discreet. Guess I'm going to have to think of a way to make it up to him when this is all over. Do you think he might enjoy a nice array of cheeses? After all, Clark belongs to this stupid cheese of a month club. No, I'm not kidding. He actually gets these different cheeses in the mail from all over the world when…"
"Lois!" Sonny said, snapping Lois out of her ramble, although Samantha got the distinct impression that although Lois' mouth was running off with irrelevancies, her mind was thinking furiously.
"Huh? Oh, right. Nothing really interesting about Stanley Gaines. Apparently, good employee. Sort of quiet. Keeps to himself a lot. But you were right. He has heard of the Amazon Women."
"He has?" Samantha asked her voice filled with excitement. Maybe one of her ideas had actually paid off. She'd been feeling like such a failure watching Lois and Clark work.
"Yeah. He thinks some of them may hang out at a bar called 'Aphrodite's' down on Simpson Street. As for how he knows about a bar called Aphrodite's… well, he was a little vague on that point. Seemed kind of embarrassed about it actually."
"So… what are we waiting for?" Samantha said, jumping to her feet. "Let's get down there and check it out."
"Uhh… yeah," Lois said, following Samantha's actions.
"Wait minute!" Sonny exclaimed causing both women to stop their rush towards the door and look at him. "What you going do? You can't just go march in there. You…" he said, pointing at Lois. "…they going recognize you from press conference. And you…" He pointed at Samantha. "…you met woman once. You think she not recognize you?"
"So what do you want us to do?" Samantha demanded. "Just sit here and wait?"
"No. You wait until Clark return. He check it out. It too dangerous for you."
Samantha and Lois shared a look.
"He's right about them recognizing us," Samantha said.
"Yeah," Lois replied thoughtfully. Suddenly, her face lit up. "I've got an idea."
"I not think I like the sound of that," Sonny said, frowning.
"You sound just like Clark," Lois said. "Besides, Superman can't just go waltzing into Aphrodite's. Dr. Klein said it's an all girls bar. Uhh… you know what I mean by all girls?"
Samantha nodded, slipping her arm through Lois' "So I take it today…"
"…we're just a couple of lovers out on the town," Lois completed for her. "And I've got some disguises that will work great." Lois turned to Sonny. "Feel free to stay here and let Clark know where we've gone."
"Oh no, you not," Sonny said, jumping to his feet. "We leave note for Clark. I might not able come in, but at least I be outside as backup."
"Which one of us is supposed to be the butch one?" Samantha asked as she and Lois looked over each other's disguises of dirty jeans and ratty blonde wigs.
"There's supposed to be a butch one?" Lois asked.
"I thought so. You know, a butch one and a feminine one. Isn't that how it works?"
"Why are you asking me?"
"I don't know. I thought you might have some experience in the area."
"You think I'm gay? I'm married to Clark. Why would I even consider being gay?"
"Well, I suppose even a gay woman might find Superman intriguing enough to change camps. Besides, you're the one who knew what we were supposed to wear."
"Actually," Sonny interrupted, "I not sure you wearing what gay woman wear."
"What would you know about it?" Lois asked, starting up the jeep and pulling them out into the road.
"More than you, I think," Sonny said. "Woman I know who gay dress like everyone else."
"Well, next time we go out to a gay bar, you can choose the disguises," Samantha responded. "I think Lois did great."
"Well, at least no one think you two beautiful women that you are," Sonny said.
Both Lois and Samantha opened their mouths to respond with some smart come-back when, at the same moment, they both seemed to realize that they'd just been complimented — sort of.
"So what happens now?" Samantha asked, turning her mind to their assignment.
"We go into the bar. Order a couple of drinks and then play it by ear."
"In other words, you not even have plan," Sonny said.
"Is he always this negative?" Lois asked, looking over at Samantha.
"He's just nervous," Samantha said, instantly jumping to Sonny's defense. "He's not used to 'dangling over the jaws of death' unlike some people."
"What? Did you really have to read every word that horrible woman from social services wrote about me?" Lois asked.
"Sorry," Samantha said. "So… no plan. We just wing it?"
"I no know why we no wait for Clark," Sonny said again.
Lois simply rolled her eyes and stomped down on the gas, leaving Sonny too terrified for his own survival for the next few minutes to worry about theirs.
Samantha wasn't entirely sure what she thought Aphrodite's would be like. But it certainly wasn't the little hole-in-the-wall place she and Lois were entering a few minutes later. Dark and grimy. Samantha wasn't sure she wanted to touch anything, let alone order a drink. Still, she said nothing, simply following when Lois, after a brief look, determined which direction they should go.
"I'll have a draft," Lois said to the waitress when they were finally settled in a booth that gave them the best overall view of the darkened bar. She'd deepened her voice just a notch or two and looked at Samantha in startled silence when the other woman ordered the same thing, but using a voice that was a notch or two higher than her normal voice.
"I'm being the feminine one," Samantha whispered across the table when the waitress moved on.
"Who gave you the right to be the feminine one?" Lois demanded.
"Well, I assumed that you were trying to be butch with that deep voice," Samantha whispered back.
"I was just trying to sound different, make sure no one recognized my voice," Lois objected. "You didn't have to go all 'baby doll' on me as a result."
"Why don't you learn to relax about…"
"What?" Samantha demanded, turning towards where Lois was now looking.
"Don't look!" Lois demanded, sending Samantha's eyes back to Lois. "It's her."
"Yes, her her. Uhh… quick. Try to look inconspicuous. She's coming our way."
"How do I look inconspicuous?"
"Just… Shh." Lois voice dropped even more, making Samantha have to strain to hear her. "She's sitting down right behind you."
"Here are your drafts." The sound of the waitress' loud voice startled both of them. "That will be nine ninety."
"Nine ninety?" Lois choked out.
"Nine ninety," the waitress repeated.
"That's highway robbery!"
Samantha cringed at the way Lois' voice had risen. They were trying to be inconspicious; so what was Lois doing? She was going to attract the attention of everyone in the bar.
"That's the price. Now, you gonna pay up or do I have to get someone over here."
"Lois," Samantha hissed under her breath.
Lois caught her eye before seeming to realize that she was attracting attention. Mumbling to herself, Lois reached into her pocket and withdrew a ten.
"Keep the change," Lois said, refusing to meet the waitress' eyes.
"Wow," the waitress said sarcastically. "A whole ten cents. Where am I going to spend it all?"
Lois ignored the woman who turned and walked away, before turning her attention back to Samantha. "You could have always jumped in there. Why did I have to pay?"
"You're the butch one. It seemed only…" Samantha's voice trailed off when the sound of the voice of the woman who only yesterday had stolen her son was heard clearly behind her.
"So it's done," Kim said to the woman she was joining.
"You're sure they're still interested?" the other woman asked.
"I'm sure. After all, who is going to give up an opportunity to control Superman?"
"Even though the press conference didn't go exactly as you predicted?"
"Yeah. Well, they seem to have some problems with that. But I managed to convince them that it was still worth a look. They are going to send someone by the place later to talk."
"Good. So… what do you say? You got time for a glass of wine?"
"They get to drink wine?" Samantha whispered, setting down the flat draft they had just been served.
"Shh," Lois answered.
"No. I better not. I've got to get over there."
Samantha kept her face down, appearing to concentrate on the foam in her beer mug, as she heard the sound of someone rising. A woman bumping against her arm almost brought her eyes up to Kim Gaines' face, but she caught herself just in time.
"Sorry," Kim said.
"It's okay," Samantha squeaked back, holding her breath until she heard the woman move off.
"Come on," Lois said, quickly getting up and grabbing the grubby coat she was wearing.
"Oh, right," Samantha responded, grabbing her coat just in time to follow Lois out of the bar.
"Did you see which way she went?" Lois asked, rushing over to the jeep to ask Sonny when she didn't immediately spot Kim upon exiting the bar.
"No, but it okay," Sonny answered quickly as Lois and Samantha jumped in the jeep.
"What do you mean, it's okay?" Samantha demanded. "We can't lose her now."
"No, I mean, Clark show up. He listen in on conversation in bar. He said he follow from air and get us when he see where she go. He look in bar. Huzi not there."
Lois and Samantha both immediately relaxed.
"Okay," Lois said. "He's probably better at trailing her. After all, he can do it from half a mile up. No way she'll know she's even being trailed."
"So we just sit here and wait?" Samantha said.
"Can you think of a better plan?" Lois asked impatiently, informing Samantha that Lois wasn't any happier about being left out of the chase than Samantha was.
In fact, she suspected Clark Kent would be having words with his wife when he finally returned.
"So did he tell you if he found anything when he searched Stanley Gaines' place?" Lois asked.
"He say nothing there. He say he search it thoroughly."
"But he's Superman? Doesn't it violate some sort of law to have him… I don't know, invading people's privacy like that?" Samantha asked.
"I don't think he's thinking about the legal ramifications too much at this point," Lois said, staring stoically out the front windshield. "I think he's too concerned about your son to be worried about too much else."
Samantha suddenly felt thoroughly rebuked. She hadn't meant her comment to sound like criticism. She'd just been curious as to how all this worked.
"Thank you," she suddenly said.
"What?" Lois asked, looking over at Samantha.
"Thank you," Samantha repeated. "I mean, when I told you Huzi was my son, you could have just… I don't know. Walked away. You didn't have to get involved."
Lois looked back out the front window. "Yes, we did," Lois said softly.
Samantha again felt at a loss for words. "I just meant… I guess I'm sorry about that, too. I knew how much you wanted a child. And I used that, knowing it would hurt you, no matter how this all turned out. And… I guess I just wanted you to know that I am sorry."
Lois continued to look out the window for a long moment, before suddenly opening the door. "I'm just going to take a moment to call the Planet," Lois said, jumping out of the vehicle. "Maybe they've heard something new." With that, she quickly closed the door, making her way towards a phone booth located across the street.
"She really hurting," Sonny said, directing Samantha's attention to the back seat. "She not need to call Planet. She need to keep you from seeing how much she hurting."
Samantha looked back to where Lois was standing in the phone booth, before nodding. "Yeah," she said softly. "I really hurt a lot of people this time. Including you." She looked back at Sonny. "I'm sorry, you know. And not just because Huzi is missing. I'm just… I'm just sorry." She looked down at her hands. How could she have caused so much pain without for one moment thinking about the consequences of her actions?
"I know," Sonny said softly, reaching out to give her shoulder a squeeze.
Samantha felt tears spring to her eyes. How could Sonny be so understanding? Why couldn't she have met him years ago, before her life had gotten so complicated? She'd have been so crazy about him if she'd met him back before she'd become so jaded by life. He was kind, caring, compassionate — and not that bad looking, either. Everything she'd ever wanted in a man.
But it was too late now. Even if she got Huzi back, she'd lose him in the battle with her ex-husband. She suddenly understood how Lois must feel — the pain of losing a child. Still, at least Lois had Clark. Samantha would, once again, find herself alone.
Her self-pity session ended when Lois suddenly looked up at the sky and yelled at the top of her lungs, "Help! Superman!" She waited a moment before yelling again. When the superhero still failed to appear, she ran as fast as her legs would carry her back to the jeep.
"What's wrong?" Samantha asked when Lois jumped in and immediately fumbled to get the jeep started with one hand while fumbling with the seatbelt with the other.
"Dr. Klein. He called the Planet. Left a message. Jimmy said he sounded frantic to get a hold of me," Lois said between gasps for air.
"Why? What happened?"
"I called him back. Apparently, someone has stolen the kryptonite they keep in the safe at Star Labs," Lois said as the sound of rubber being left on pavement was heard as Lois swerved the jeep out onto the street.
"I have to speak to Dr. Klein," Lois demanded of the security guard behind the glass for a second time.
"I'm sorry, Miss. But as I said before, Star Labs is currently under lockdown. No one is being allowed in or out."
Lois reached up, pulling out the bobby pins holding her blonde wig in place, before pulling it completely off her head. Her dark tresses tumbled around her face in a somewhat haphazard, although much more familiar style. "Look," she said with dwindling patience, "Dr. Klein called me. He won't take it as a favor if you don't tell him we're here."
"Oh, sorry, Ms. Lane," the guard said. "I didn't recognize you. I'll call him immediately."
It still seemed to take forever before the man Samantha had previously identified as Dr. Klein appeared in the lobby and an eternity more before he managed to get the door unlocked to allow them into the back. A quick introduction by Lois, which consisted of no more than a 'they're involved here, too,' and they were heading down the hall.
"Have you questioned Stanley Gaines?" Lois asked as they continued to move along.
"Yes. But I honestly don't think it's him," Klein responded.
"Why's that?" Samantha asked.
"Because he wouldn't have stayed behind if he'd taken the kryptonite."
"Unless that is exactly what he wants you to think," Lois said. "When did the kryptonite go missing?"
"Well, we can't be certain. After all, it's kept in the vault. And I myself haven't seen it for a couple of days, but…"
"Well, our security systems failed for a brief period of time this morning. When they came back up on their own, and we didn't find anything missing, we thought it was just a bug in the system. But it could have been taken during that time."
"Has Gaines left the building since then?"
"Well, maybe. He would have had a lunch break. But I don't know."
"Then it could still be in the building."
Dr. Klein brought the small crowd to a stop outside a metal door.
"I suppose that's possible," Dr. Klein said. "In fact, it's for that very reason that the building is on lockdown."
Lois nodded. "I want to speak to Gaines."
"We want to speak to Gaines," Samantha corrected.
Lois looked at her for a moment before nodding. "We want to speak to Gaines," she corrected. "And while we do that, why don't you find out if he left the building at any time since the security laps?"
"Lois…" Klein's voice trailed off as his gaze shifted between Lois and Samantha, obviously seeing something in their respective faces that changed whatever he'd been about to say. "Okay, well, I figured I wasn't going to be able to talk you out of it. That's why I brought you here." He gestured to a nearby security guard who immediately came over and began unlocking the heavy metal door. "But I've got to tell you, I don't think it was Gaines."
The door opened and Lois and Samantha got their first look at the scared young man sitting alone at a single table inside. He was everything a geek should be from his bad haircut to his horn-rimmed glasses. Even the legs of his trousers seemed slightly too short and his pocket, together with pocket protector, was so full of pens that it was in danger of pulling out the stitching in his shirt.
He sat up straighter as Lois and Samantha entered the room. When Sonny began to follow, Samantha stopped, placing a hand on his arm and shaking her head. She didn't want him here right now. After all, she couldn't be entirely certain she wasn't about to kill Stanley Gaines. And if she did, for reasons she couldn't name, she didn't want Sonny to witness it.
She wasn't sure he understood, but he did stop, stepping back out the door.
"We'll knock when we want out again," Lois informed the guard, who in turn looked at Dr. Klein. Klein looked nervously between the women and Gaines before nodding. And a moment later, the large metal door closed with a clang, leaving the two women alone with Gaines.
Sonny and Dr. Klein were standing, nervously looking at the door when a knock finally came from inside, instructing them to open it. It was with great trepidation that they pulled it open, seeing for the first time what was inside.
In a corner, huddled against the wall, was Gaines. Although he looked no worse for wear, he was whimpering like a baby. In front of them, waiting to be let out, were Lois and Samantha, both with a fire in their eyes. They looked flushed but very pleased with themselves.
Both women followed the men's concerned gaze as it rested on Gaines.
"Don't worry," Lois said, speaking first, "we didn't touch him. Anyway, Mr. Gaines had a change of heart when he realized just how important this information was to us."
"You find out where is baby?"
Samantha nodded. "Apparently, he's being held on an estate just up the eastern hills. It's located at…"
"7392 Wickmore Street," Lois concluded.
"Well, we saw a video tape of Stanley taking a large duffle bag out of the building at lunch time. Did he say anything about the kryptonite?" Klein asked.
Lois nodded. "He said he snuck the kryptonite out of here at lunch time. So that tracks. I guess you can call off your search of the building. He gave it to his sister. He thinks she was taking it to the Wickamore Estate."
Lois turned as if she would leave when Klein stopped her.
"Are you going to inform Superman?" he asked.
Lois hesitated a moment. "I tried calling for Superman when you first informed me that the kryptonite had been stolen. He didn't come."
"You called for Superman and he didn't come?"
"He didn't come when 'you' called him — as in Lois Lane yelling, 'Help, Superman!' got no answer," Klein clarified.
Klein turned a deathly shade of white causing Samantha instinctively to reach for him to ensure he didn't collapse.
"So…" Klein's voice shook slightly on the single word.
"I think Superman is already aware that they have kryptonite," Lois said.
Unlike Dr. Klein, Lois' voice was rock solid and there was something in her stance, something in her entire demeanor that reminded Samantha of a lioness about to attack. On the other hand, given what she'd seen in that room with Gaines, the way Lois was able to reduce the man to a puddle of trembling goo without so much as laying a finger on him, she wasn't surprised. This was a woman who was practically as formidable as Superman when her loved ones were threatened.
"So what are you going to do?" Klein asked nervously.
"I'm going to go get him," Lois said with absolute certainly.
Samantha kept looking, almost in awe, at Lois as she drove the jeep through the winding road up the eastern hills of New Troy until they reached Wickmore Street. Lois hadn't said more than two words to her or Sonny since leaving Star Labs. And although Samantha was certain that Lois was scared out of her mind, it seemed Lois was managing to direct that fear into anger because on more than one occasion Samantha was certain she heard Lois mutter some curse about 'pig-headed, obtuse, over-confident husbands and their tendency to accuse her of jumping in the pool without checking the water level' under her breath.
The sun was beginning to set when Lois finally slowed the jeep at number 7392. Three heads swivelled to look as they passed the long, tree-lined path leading to a dark imposing mansion. By the level of growth that was left unattended on the property, it appeared that the mansion had been abandoned for quite some time.
Lois drove on past, pulling onto an overgrown service road about a hundred meters further on. She turned, looking at her two passengers.
"Look, if you don't want to come with me, I'll understand. You could just wait here, be ready to go for backup if I don't come out in about an hour. After all, Clark is my husband, so there's no need for you…"
"What are you talking about?" Samantha interrupted. "My son is in there, too. There's no way I'm not going with you."
"I come too," Sonny said, being the first to pull open the door.
Lois looked at them both before nodding. "It's just that this could get a little dangerous. And it isn't as if we are just a 'Help, Superman' away from rescue this time."
"We understand," Samantha said. "And we're still coming. At least…" She glanced at Sonny. "…I am," she added, realizing she had no right to speak for Sonny or expect him to risk his life in this fashion.
"I say I come too. Now, we sit here all night or we go get you husband and you son?"
Lois finally smiled. "We go," she said, getting out the jeep.
Making their way through the trees, over uneven ground, through unknown landscape in the dark was not an easy task. Lois had tripped early on and although she was not letting it slow her down, Samantha could see pain in every step Lois took. It gave Samantha determination to continue — even as another tree branch swiped across her face.
Their first full view of the house left Samantha thinking that Stanley Gaines must have lied to them. After all, in spite of the setting sun, the house was still shrouded in darkness. The apparent lack of security was also a discouraging sign. If Superman was trapped here or they were holding 'Superman's son' here, wouldn't there be more security?
She wondered if that thought had occurred to the others, but like them, she said nothing. After all, there was nothing to say. This was the only lead they had and Samantha was determined that she would only leave this place once she was completely convinced that her son was not there.
She could hear what sounded like a breath of relief come from Lois when they rounded the corner of the house and saw lights coming through one of the basement windows. Obviously, Lois had been struggling with the same doubts.
She saw Lois rise from where she was crouched down at the tree line, as if about to make the final dash across to the house. At the sound of a vehicle approaching, all three members of the small group suddenly froze, watching as the vehicle rounded the corner and pull to a stop next to the front door.
The dark colored van sat there for a moment before the door of the house opened and a tall, imposing woman, one Samantha had never seen before, stepped out, an Uzi held firmly in her hands.
Okay, so security was not exactly non-existent. She glanced briefly at Sonny, for the first time wishing that he hadn't come. What if something happened to him?
"Why don't you go back and wait for us in the jeep?" she whispered to him. "This isn't your problem."
"It you problem, it mine," he responded.
"Shh," Lois hissed at them.
After one final look of appeal at Sonny, to which he just shook his head, she sighed, looking back at the house. A number of other armed women had joined the first one to greet the van.
The back door of the van finally opened and Kim Gaines hopped out. "Help me here," she yelled, sending a number of the women scrambling in her direction as they began dragging something out of the van.
A slight gasp coming from the woman next to her informed Samantha of what… or more accurately who was being pulled from the van. An unconscious Superman. Her gasp followed Lois' when another woman stepped out of the van, holding a baby.
"It's a good thing we had the kryptonite," Kim said to her companions as they dragged their prisoners towards the house. "I don't know how he found us, but the moment I met up with Jennifer and the kid, he came bashing in. I only just managed to get the kryptonite out in time to stop him."
"Is he dead?" one of the women asked. "It won't help us much if he's dead."
Samantha felt Lois stiffen.
"Nah, he's just unconscious," Kim replied. "Didn't want to close up the kryptonite, though. Didn't want his powers returning. Still, we'll have to find a way to bring him around, to make sure that he understands his role in all this before we close up the kryptonite. It's going to be a little bit tricky."
Samantha thought she heard Lois mutter some muted curses concerning Kim's parentage.
The doors of the house finally closed, leaving the three observers to breathe once again. Still, Samantha felt no inclination to move closer, knowing how many people in that house were carrying guns. So she was somewhat shocked when Lois began to move, dashing across the empty space between the house and the tree line. Sonny moving next suddenly propelled Samantha forward, even as her heart began to pound deafeningly in her ears. Didn't they need a plan here? Shouldn't they discuss the best method for attacking the problem? Maybe they were out of their depths, after all. Maybe they should be calling the police.
It really wasn't until she got to the window and saw Huzi that these thoughts vanished. She could tell that Huzi was crying and that the woman holding him was becoming impatient. She tensed when the woman gave Huzi a shake, obviously yelling at him to shut up. As expected, the action had the opposite effect, causing Huzi to scream even louder.
"I'm going to kill her."
Samantha wasn't even aware that she'd said the words aloud until she felt Lois' hand reassuringly on her arm and looked over into understanding eyes.
"I'm going to try the door," Lois whispered before leaving the rest to creep along the wall. She reached the door and was about to grab the doorknob when…
Samantha heard it first. The sound of another vehicle making its way down the path to the house.
Without thinking, Samantha sprang to her feet, running for Lois and grabbing her arm, practically dragging her towards the trees before Lois seemed to hear the car as well. They had just ducked back into the cover when a long, black limo turned the corner, pulling to a stop in front of the door. Like the other vehicle, this one received an armed greeting.
But the guns were quickly lowered when a man stepped out of the back of the limo.
"What?" Lois whispered, glancing over at her.
"That's my ex-husband," Samantha said in stunned disbelief. What if they were wrong? What if this wasn't about Superman at all? Could Tom have found out what she'd done and acted accordingly?
No. No, that didn't make any sense either. After all, the women's comments about Superman when they'd been carrying him inside not to mention the conversation they'd overheard in the bar, made it clear that this was related to Huzi's connection to Superman.
"Is it possible that he's involved with Intergang?" Lois ask.
"What? No," Samantha immediately responded. That was crazy. She'd been married to the man, for crying out loud. She'd know if he was involved with Intergang. On the other hand, she hadn't known he was having an affair with that slut of a woman he called a secretary until he'd left Samantha for her. So… what else didn't she know about her ex-husband? As she watched, she couldn't keep her mind from drifting back. To a charity ball she'd attended with Tom a couple of years back. Hadn't he introduced her to Bill Church at that ball?
At the time, she hadn't thought anything of it. But hadn't Bill Church Sr. been the head of Intergang at the time? Could Lois be right? Could Tom have been a member of Intergang all this time?
Not realizing the sudden questions going through Samantha's mind, Lois began to move.
"Come on," Lois said, sneaking around through the bushes as Tom disappeared inside with the women.
"Where are we going?" Samantha asked. Questions about Tom would have to wait.
"The chauffeur is staying in the car. We need another way in. Besides, it will probably be easier to get in through another entrance."
Samantha immediately agreed. After all, Lois was right. If they could get inside at a different point in the house, they might be able to bypass some of those armed women, hopefully giving them a fighting chance.
"Are you sure no one is going to hear this?" Samantha asked nervously as Lois placed her jacket up against the window and raised the hand holding the stick.
"Look, I can't be sure of anything," Lois said. "But this is our only chance. The doors are locked. The windows all seem to be bolted or latched from inside. If you have any better ideas, I'll be happy to listen."
Samantha immediately fell silent. Breaking a basement window did seem their only option — except, perhaps, going back to the door that was being used and seeing if it was unlocked. Only that wasn't an option since the limo that had brought Tom to this little party was still sitting outside.
But none of that stopped Samantha from cringing and looking around nervously when Lois' hand came down, causing the stick to break the window. Even though the sound was slightly muffled by Lois' use of her jacket, it felt as if the dead were about to wake. Samantha was convinced that at any moment there would be the sound of barking dogs and gun fire as spot lights lit up the entire area. She was surprised when there was only silence.
After that, Lois moved quickly, shaking out her jacket before using it to cover her hand as she reached inside, fumbling with the latch until she could push the window open. She took a moment to sweep the more obvious chunks of glass out of the way before looking at the others.
"Here goes nothing," she said, making ready to climb through the open window.
"Wait," Sonny said. "I go first."
"What is this?" Lois asked. "Some sort of macho thing. Because, truly, Sonny, I've been doing this sort of thing most of my adult life and I suspect that my self-defense skills are more honed than yours are. So I think…"
"I taller. I get in; I help you down. You ankle hurt. Drop to floor hurt it more."
Lois fell silent as she took in Sonny's words as well as the distance to the floor on the other side of the window frame, undoubtedly thinking about her already sprained ankle. After a moment's hesitation, she moved aside, giving a sweep of her arm as she let Sonny pass.
The room inside was dark, except for the small amount of light coming in through the window. It took a moment for all three of the intruders' eyes to adjust.
Lois was the one to move first. As she did, Samantha noticed that she was favoring her left foot even more noticeably than she had before. Sonny's help had obviously not completely prevented further injury. Still, not one word of complaint passed Lois' lips. She continued to move forward, relegating her damaged ankle to some part of her mind she was refusing to acknowledge.
Then began the long trek through the darkened building until everyone's movement came to a halt when they finally heard voices coming from up ahead. Then, without speaking, they all began creeping silently forward once again.
The voices ahead continued to get louder the closer the party of three got to the lights ahead. Soon they were clearly understandable as they echoed slightly in the long hallway attached to the room beyond.
"Intergang isn't particularly interested in a dead Superman."
Samantha instantly recognized the voice of her ex-husband. Lois was right. Tom was the Intergang connection they'd been hearing about. Samantha felt as if she'd left the real world to enter some sort of twilight zone. She could almost hear the eerie music of the television show playing in her mind.
But then she was sneaking into a house empty handed to do battle with some of the largest women she'd ever seen, all of whom seemed to be armed with fully automatic weapons. Twilight Zone had nothing on her.
"He isn't dead," Kim Gaines objected.
The next sound seemed to be that of a kick. A soft grunt by a male voice obviously in pain followed. Samantha saw Lois' step falter for a moment before moving on. Samantha found herself wondering exactly how this kryptonite stuff worked. Kim Gaines had seemed concerned that his powers would come the instant they closed the box. Samantha could only hope that was true. After all, it meant all they had to do was close the box, and Superman would be able to, once again, save the day.
But that also meant that Superman was still being exposed to the kryptonite. Hadn't Samantha heard somewhere that kryptonite could actually kill Superman? Did that mean that time was running out for the Man of Steel even as they crept slowly closer.
Samantha noticed that Lois' steps were getting slightly wobbly. "Are you okay?" she whispered.
"I'm fine," Lois growled softly.
Samantha didn't think Lois was fine. Her steps were faltering more the closer they got to the room and she looked pale. Still, Samantha said nothing more. It was probably just Lois' fear for her husband that was causing the reaction.
"Still," Tom said, bringing Samantha's mind back to the task that was still to come, "how do we know that he'll be receptive to work for us just because of the kid?"
"Trust me," Kim said, sounding certain. "He'll be receptive."
Samantha's eyebrows rose. Obviously, Kim was keeping the Superman/Clark Kent connection to herself at the moment.
"My employer is going to want a whole lot more evidence than 'trust me,'" Tom responded.
There was a moment of silence before Kim spoke again. "Okay, I'll tell you what. I'll let you take a look at the evidence, the proof that Lois Lane and Clark Kent's kid is the leverage we need to control Superman. But I'm not letting you take it with you."
"Fine," Tom said in exasperation.
The party had just reached the door. Glancing around Lois, Samantha could make out the sight of Tom being handed an envelope.
"Even some of my own people haven't seen this yet," Kim said. "So I would strongly advise you to refrain from reacting to what you're about to see."
Tom seemed to hesitate, looking at her skeptically, before returning his attention to the envelope. He opened it, withdrawing the enclosed photo.
"Holy mother of…"
"I told you. Keep your voice down," Kim hissed back, reminding Tom to hold his tongue.
"Are you sure of this?" Tom asked.
"Absolutely positive. So… what do you think now? Do we have a deal?"
"I think I can safely say…"
"Well, well, well. What have we here?" The sound of a woman's voice coming from behind, along with the sound of a gun being cocked, quickly informed Samantha that they had all been too engrossed in the scene playing out in front of them to watch their collective backs.
Samantha turned, slowly raised her hands and was straightening out when she was alarmed by some sort of noise behind her. Her head snapped around in time to see Lois running at full speed across the room, startling both Tom and Kim.
A gun sounded and Samantha gasped at the sight of Lois, spinning slightly, before resuming her course, making it to the lead box sitting open on the table. She grabbed it, closing it in the process, trapping inside the sickly green glow that had been emanating from the box only moments before, and continued her run to the door on the far side of the room. She managed all this before the shooter, the woman standing behind Samantha, could get off a second shot.
"No!" Kim yelled at the shooter. "Trust me. This will work just as well. Stop, or I'll shoot Superman."
What bullets flying in her direction had been unable to do, the quiet threat did. Lois stopped, still clutching the box in her hands as she slowly turned, her eyes showing indecision. Samantha practically gasped. In the light from the hallway, she'd not realized exactly how pale Lois was. But under the harsh lights of the room, it was clear that she was white as a ghost.
On the other hand, it was obvious by the blood beginning to accumulate on the sleeve of Lois' shirt that the bullet had winged her.
"Now bring it back here," Kim said.
When Lois still hesitated, Kim fired a shot, a bullet burying itself into Superman. The involuntary cry of pain emanating from his half-conscious form was reflected in every line of Lois' face as she stood, eyes transfixed on the form lying on the ground.
"Stop!" Lois begged, quickly holding the box out in front of her as she moved slowly forward. "Please just… stop. I'm not going anywhere. I… Just don't… Don't shoot him again. Please. You can see he isn't any sort of threat at the moment."
Two women rushed forward, seizing the box from Lois even as they forced her to her knees. Samantha and Sonny were forced to join her and soon all three of them were kneeling on the floor, hands on their heads.
Only when the box was handed back to Kim and she began to open it, did Lois again speak.
"Please," Lois said, her eyes darting between Superman and Kim, "you can see he's not any threat. I don't think he can take much more. And if you kill him, what happens to your grand plan?"
Kim hesitated, as if trying to determine the truth of Lois' words. Then she stepped closer to Superman, kicking him once more. She smiled in satisfaction at the moan he gave in return.
As if realizing the hopelessness of the situation in which the three rescuers now found themselves, Huzi took that moment to once again announce his presence.
"Would someone make that kid shut up?" Kim demanded.
"I'll…" Lois began before falling silent when Kim's gun was directed at her.
"I'll do it," Samantha said, slowly rising, surprised when no one stopped her. It seemed none of the women wanted to deal with a screaming infant. That suited Samantha just fine. She didn't want any of them laying one more hand on her son anyway.
In the corner of her eye, she could see Tom's surprise. He'd obviously not noticed her presence before now. She ignored him, and what he must be thinking, as she carefully made her way over to the box they had put Huzi in. She reached in, giving a sigh of relief, in spite of the circumstances, when she finally had her son back in her arms.
The small infant gave her a curious look but instantly settled down.
"Okay, so you can be in charge of the kid," Kim said before looking at her own women. "Watch them," she said as she led Tom from the room. "Now, it seems to me that we have some details to work out," she said to Tom as the door closed, trapping three very scared would-be rescuers, a half-unconscious superhero, one obviously hungry baby and four very large, very armed women in the room.
Some time had now passed since the doors to the room had been closed. And the four women guarding the rescue team had settled down at each of the two doors.
Samantha supposed their decision made sense. After all, the only other exit from the room was the small window high on the exterior wall. And although such a window was large enough to get out of, getting to it would require time — time they didn't have when those women were in the room with them. So grabbing chairs and settling down beside the two doors made sense. But since the doors were located on adjoining walls, the woman's position didn't give them a clear view of what was going on in the small circle of captives.
Thus, Samantha turned her back to the women and with Sonny positioning himself beside her, was able to get her shirt up enough to allow her hungry son to eat. Huzi had chomped down on her more than once, obviously frustrated that his dinner wasn't coming as easily as it had when he'd been using a bottle. But still, after biting back her startled gasps, she'd managed to make him nurse.
Lois had used her jacket to tie up the wound on Clark's leg. After pulling the injured leg into her lap to keep it elevated, Samantha noticed Lois glance over at her a couple of times, her eyes focused longingly on the baby at her breast. Knowing that there was nothing she could say or do to lessen the pain Lois was obviously feeling, Samantha kept her mind focused on tending to Huzi.
Samantha glanced over her shoulder, judging the disinterest of the women, before adjusting Huzi to the other breast.
"Are you okay?" Samantha asked, finally looking at Lois and realizing that she was now focused on Clark.
Lois nodded. "I feel a bit nauseous. But then…" She glanced at where Sonny had tied a cloth around her arm. "I guess getting shot can do that to a person."
"But you seemed… I don't know. A little out of it even before you got shot."
"I think that was just from listening to them kick Cl… Superman," Lois said.
Samantha wasn't entirely convinced, but she let the subject drop.
"How long it be before he has strength back?" Sonny whispered.
Lois glanced at the women and, apparently satisfied that they were unable to hear, answered. "It depends on the length of exposure and the size of the kryptonite," she whispered, looking down at her unconscious husband. "But in this case, I'm thinking a couple of days at least."
"A couple days," Sonny groaned. "We need him now."
Lois' eyes flashed in angry defiance of the words and Samantha rushed to fill the void before Lois could.
"It'll be okay. We'll think of something," she said.
"Yeah," Lois said, her eyes moving back to her husband. "At least I'm here with him," she said, reaching over to clasp Clark's hand, almost as if she'd forgotten about her audience. "That's one of my greatest fears — that some day he'll just disappear, that someone will kill him and I won't even know where to start looking — that I'll never know what happened to him." She glanced up then, startled by her admission. "Don't ever tell him I said that," she instructed harshly.
Sonny held his hands open in a gesture of supplication. Samantha only smiled. Not that she had any intention of telling Clark what his wife had said, but in admiration of this woman. She suspected there were a lot of fears that Lois didn't share with her husband, not wanting him to worry about her. Most women wouldn't be able to stand living like that. But then, Lois Lane was not most women.
"What do you mean we… no deal?"
"We're not stupid… Intergang isn't about… So you can take your… con game and… it!"
The captives turned to look at one of the doors. It was still closed but Kim and Tom were obviously right outside, and Kim's last question had cut through the air like a knife through butter as had Tom's answer. The voices were somewhat garbled, but still distinct enough to the attentive listener.
"What do you… not a con game! …have a way to control Superman!"
"…no way to control Superman. …not even his kid."
The three captives shared a look, both disbelief and fear. It seemed that Tom must have put the pieces together and realized whose child had been kidnapped. In spite of everything that had happened between them over the past year, Samantha could hardly believe that he would betray them like that. After all, if these women knew that Superman had no real connection to Huzi, not only were all of them expendable, Huzi was expendable, too. She could hardly believe that Intergang was more important to him than the life of his own son.
"You're all in it together…"
"What… hell… you talking about?"
"You. This whole set up. Lois. Superman. All… find out who the leader… Intergang is these days! Well, we're not…"
"You're mad! A fu… lunatic!"
Suddenly the door swung open and Tom gestured to the captives sitting on the floor. "Well, if you're not working with them to find out who the leader of Intergang is these days, I'd suggest you get rid of all of them. After all, they know who you are."
"Where do you get your crazy ideas?"
"My crazy ideas? You're the crazy one if you think I'm going to buy this. And the 'Superman has a secret identity' thing… Please! That's what pushed the whole cockamamie story over the top. I know lots of people who could fake photos like that." His gaze momentarily landed on Samantha before he turned, heading down the hallway.
"You're crazy!" Kim yelled after him. "I don't give a damn who the leader of Intergang is."
"Then why'd you demand a meeting?" Tom yelled back without turning around. "Forget it, bitch. We're not buying!" There was the sound of a door opening and closing with a bang. And suddenly the entire place was encased in stunned silence.
"What are you looking at?" Kim suddenly demanded of all the people in the room before turning to address her women. "Time to put phase two into motion," she said. "Time to prove that we control Superman."
With that she turned, storming off in the direction that Tom had taken only moments before. There was the brief sound of gunfire coming from outside the house and then, an eerie silence.
"Does anyone else get a bad feeling about this?" Samantha asked.
Lois and Sonny both raised a hand.
"Listen," Lois whispered, "I've been thinking about this and…" She hesitated, her eyes drifting down to Huzi. "…I'm not going anywhere — not without…" Her eyes took in Clark. "…but if either of you have the chance to escape, take it."
"Look, Lois, we're in this together," Samantha said.
Lois was already shaking her head by the time Samantha finished speaking. "Samantha, you have to get Huzi out of here."
Samantha looked down at the baby sleeping contentedly in her arms, conflicted. It felt as if she was being told to run away.
"If either you or Sonny get that chance, take it."
"But you and Clark…"
"Clark would want you to save Jon," Lois said, her mouth twisting down at the corner for a moment. "So do I. So… promise me. If you get out, you can call for the police. Clark isn't going to be able to run. And given his dense molecular structure, we aren't going to be able to carry him and make any time. I can't leave him. That means it's up to the two of you. So… promise me. If the chance comes to escape, take it."
Samantha felt Sonny's hand on her arm.
"She right. Huzi most important right now."
After another moment, Samantha nodded. "But we will get help. I promise."
"I know," Lois said. Her gaze drifted back to Huzi. "And thank you for giving us a chance to get to know him."
Samantha swallowed past the lump in her throat. That had felt dangerously close to a good-bye. And although she could certainly remember a time when she wouldn't have minded seeing Lois and Superman in this position, something had changed over the last couple of days — something she would never have believed possible. She now considered both Lois and Clark very dear friends.
Samantha glanced up, surprised at the soft edge in Lois' voice until she realized that Lois was looking at Clark who was just starting to come around. Samantha felt a moment of hope before she remembered what Lois had said. A couple of days before the return of his powers. Hope immediately faded.
And as Lois had said, they all wanted Huzi out of there. That had to be her first priority.
Clark was barely conscious when two women entered the room, one of them carrying a large duffle bag. Hadn't Dr. Klein mentioned a large duffle bag being taken out of Star Labs earlier in the day? Before Samantha could ponder the question too deeply, Kim reentered the room.
"Well, good, you're awake," she said. "That will make this easier." She nodded to the woman holding the duffle bag who immediately tossed it towards Superman.
Lois had to reach out to prevent it from hitting her weakened husband.
"What's this?" Lois asked suspiciously.
"Why don't you open it and find out?"
Lois hesitated for a second before pulling the zipper open to reveal what appeared to be a Superman suit.
"It's good to have a brother who's such a brain," Kim said. "This suit is going to be Superman's new costume. It's installed with cameras and listening devices, not to mention tracking devices. Once it's activated, it will tell us where Superman is and what he's doing twenty-four hours a day. And he'll wear an earpiece, so that he can get instructions. Don't worry, if there is a mudslide in Chili and we don't need him here, we'll give him permission to go."
"He'll just take it off as soon as he gets out of here and come back for us," Lois said dismissively.
"Oh, I don't think so. After all, it's completely tamper proof. If he takes it off, messes with any of the surveillance or tracking devises, or does anything, talks to anyone who is the least bit suspicious, we kill one of you. It was just going to be the kid, but with your arrival…" Kim looked directly at Lois. "…especially yours, Ms. Lane, it seems we even have a few backup hostages to use as leverage. Now, he might not care much about these two…" She gestured to Samantha and Sonny. "…but I have no doubt he'll do whatever it takes to prevent anything from happening to you."
"He'll never work for you," Lois said. "No matter what you do to me."
"Really? And does he feel the same way about the kid?" She looked at Huzi. Samantha instinctively held him tighter against her breast.
Lois instantly paled. It was one thing to play with her own life, but she obviously felt differently when it came to Huzi.
"Now, enough chit chat. Time to get him dressed." She nodded towards two of the women.
"I'll do it," Lois said instantly, halting the forward motion of the two women, who looked at Kim for guidance.
Kim smirked. "I thought you might see things that way."
If looks could kill, Kim would be a pile of ashes on the floor. Fortunately, at the moment, Lois was not blessed with heat vision. So instead, Lois rose to a squatting position and turned to Superman.
"Can you get up?" she asked softly.
Clark, who had obviously been following the conversation silently and realized what was going on, gave her a nod and then began struggling to rise to his feet.
Samantha felt his pain when not only Lois, who had to hobble to her feet on a sprained ankle, but one of the other women had to assist in getting the superhero standing. He was obviously still in a lot of pain.
"Okay, just lean on me while I…" Lois reached under his cape at the back and began pulling down a zipper before stopping and turning back to their audience. "Could we have a little privacy here?" she asked, anger evident in her words.
"No, I don't think so," Kim said.
Lois narrowed her eyes for a moment, looking at the other woman defiantly.
"Of course, if you want some privacy, I suppose if he were a little less of a threat…" Kim cocked her gun.
"No," Lois said through clenched teeth, her eye on the gun. "That won't be necessary."
As Lois turned back towards the Man of Steel, Samantha caught a glimpse of the apology in her eyes as she again reached under his cape to pull the zipper down far enough to get the top of the suit off his shoulders, revealing the straps for his cape.
Samantha was entranced, and horrified. It was obvious to her that Lois was well acquainted with how to remove Superman's suit. She just hoped the other women, who had obviously not been told the whole story by Kim, weren't noticing. She wished Lois would fumble a little more, be a little less certain, but she seemed intent on simply getting the task done as quickly as possible.
As the cape fell in a puddle around Superman's feet and Lois began pulling down the material covering his chest, Samantha looked around at the other women, a couple of whom seemed to be watching the scene with intense pleasure. Remembering the bar where they had first found Kim, she found this rather odd. On the other hand, not all of these women were likely to be lesbians, she supposed. Or at least, some might be bisexual.
Suddenly, Samantha felt ashamed. They were ogling Superman. It didn't take long for them to begin making comments describing in rather colorful detail his attributes, and exactly what they would like to do to him.
For the remainder of the time that Lois worked to help Superman change into the new suit, Samantha kept her eyes diverted. She would not be party to this degradation of Superman — no matter how much she wanted to see the superhero's body, or how curious she was about whether he wore boxers or briefs under the costume. On the other hand, the fact that he did wear something was obvious by the women's exclamations of disappointment while Lois was helping him change.
"Okay, so now what?" Lois finally asked.
Samantha immediately looked back at Lois and Clark, seeing what she expected to see. Superman was once again dressed in a red and blue uniform. This one seemed a bit more bulky, but still amazing when one considered all the devices apparently made part of the suit.
"Now…" Kim said. "…it's time for him to leave."
"Really," Lois said flatly. "And just how do you expect him to do that? As you can see, he can barely stand, let alone fly."
"Not a problem, Ms. Lane. My people will drive him back to… oh, why don't we say… your place?" The smirk in her voice was obvious. "We'll give him some time to get better before he gets out first instructions."
Kim walked closer to Superman, making sure she had full eye contact, before speaking again. "But be warned, if you take off the suit for any reason or do anything, and I mean anything, to make us suspicious, then someone dies. And if you intend on flying back here faster than we can react, well, forget it. Because we still have the kryptonite. And I can promise you, none of these people… not the kid… not your precious Lois Lane… will be kept anywhere without kryptonite. You try to come for them, and I can assure you, whoever you try to rescue first will be the first to die.
"Now…" She gestured to her women who instantly stepped forward. "…say your goodbyes because this is the last time you'll see each other again for quite some time."
Without waiting for their goodbyes, the women began pulling Superman away. Lois hesitated for a moment before her eyes fell on Samantha. She gave her a small nod and then turned back to the women.
"No!" she yelled before throwing herself at one woman who was attempting to drag Superman towards the door.
Samantha hesitated for a moment as both Lois and Superman began struggling against the women. What had Lois been trying to tell her? Did she want Samantha to get involved in the fight? But to what purpose? What was the plan?
And then it hit her. With everyone trying to control Lois and Clark, the path to the door was clear for her and Sonny to get Huzi out of there. She hesitated only a moment more before reaching over to where Lois' car keys had somehow mysteriously ended up on the floor. She grabbed the keys and cautiously rose to her feet. In her peripheral vision, she could see Sonny doing the same. A moment later, she and Sonny were slipping out of the room and then running through the house as fast as their legs, and their precious cargo, would allow.
She could hear shouts and gunfire behind them, but had no idea if that was meant for Lois and Superman, or if someone had noticed their departure. Still, she didn't stop to look. Only one thing mattered at the moment — to get Huzi to safety. That was what Lois' final look had been trying to tell her.
They had lost their pursuers by the time they arrived at the jeep. Handing Huzi to Sonny, she quickly fumbled with the keys, opening the back door of the jeep so that she could place Huzi into the baby carrier Lois and Clark had there. She didn't dare take the time to strap him in, not when they had no idea how far behind the Amazon Women might be. Then she turned to Sonny who was settling into the driver's seat.
"Hurry!" Sonny said. "They not be long!"
"I'm going back," Samantha said.
"What?" Sonny gasped. "You not!"
"I've got to. Don't you understand that? Lois and Clark are there because of me."
"Then I come too."
"No. You've got to get Huzi to safety. Please. Send back the police or the National Guard, but please… go."
He was fumbling to get his seat belt off. He stopped when Samantha suddenly grabbed his head between her hands, giving him a fierce kiss, surprising them both.
"Go!" she said again, pulling out of the car and slamming the door shut before Sonny could react. Then without waiting to watch him leave, she turned, running back into the trees surrounding the estate on her way back to the house.
The window was still broken. The way was still clear. But this time, without Sonny standing below, the distance to the floor looked much more intimidating. Still, after taking a deep breath, she lowered herself inside, finally letting go of the windowsill and dropping to the floor.
She remembered to bend her knees on landing to keep from spraining her ankle, but her fall didn't stop there. A moment after her feet first touched down, her knees and hands found themselves hitting the floor. She stifled a cry of pain when she felt broken shards of glass embed themselves in her knees and hands.
Still, she didn't let it stop her. She quickly rose to her feet and rushed for the door. She opened it, heading down the hall when she suddenly smelled something different… something sweet. And then the world seemed to spin around her and everything went dark.
The world was cool and dark and… smelled like grass?
The last thought brought Samantha out of sleep and instantly into a seated position.
"Hey, careful there," Sonny said from where he was kneeling next to her.
"They caught you," she said in despair. It was over. Not only had she failed to get Huzi to safety, but she'd failed Lois and Clark.
"No," Sonny said. "After you leave, some motorcycle gang show up. They recognize Lois jeep and stop. I recognize Dr. Klein."
"Dr. Klein?" Samantha said, trying to take things in as quickly as possible. She'd been in the house when she'd smelled something sweet and then… That was all she could seem to remember. And yet now she was outside, lying… or more accurately sitting on the grass. It was dark and the entire area seemed to be lit with nothing more than a couple dozen motorcycle lights, set up in a circle around a bunch of people.
"Where's Huzi?" Samantha asked.
Samantha looked over to see that Lois was approaching, Huzi tucked safely in her arms.
"That was really brave of you to come back for us," Lois said as she gently transferred the sleeping infant from her arms into Samantha's.
"I didn't have a choice," Samantha responded as she shifted slightly to get a better hold on her son.
"Yes, you did," Lois said. "You could have just left. But you didn't. Thank you."
"So what happened?" Samantha asked, feeling cautiously optimistic.
"Dr. Klein's biker buddies," Lois said, gesturing over to where Dr. Klein seemed to be finishing up treating Clark's bullet wound. "I think I'll let him explain." She looked over at Samantha. "After all, I don't think I could even if I wanted to."
A couple of minutes later, while wiping his hands on a cloth that looked to be in worse shape than his hands, Dr. Klein approached.
"Superman should be fine," he said to Lois. "He's asking to see you."
Nodding, Lois rose to her feet. Samantha watched as Lois hobbled towards her husband. Samantha's eyes drifted down to Lois' ankle to see that someone had wrapped it for her, providing some modicum of support.
Samantha could practically feel Lois' frustration when she got to her husband and had to take a seat on the grass beside him, trying to maintain a professional distance. She saw Lois' hand reach out, as if it would touch him, before seeming to realize that it couldn't, and dropping, once again, into her lap. They were talking quietly, but in the light from the motorcycles, Samantha could see the expression on Lois' face. It was a good thing she wasn't still trying to prove that Lois and Superman were having an affair, because there was no mistaking what could be seen there. The slight sheen of moisture in her eyes. The look of longing on her face. She was a woman, looking at the man that she loved and thanking every one of her lucky stars that he hadn't been taken from her.
"So what happened, Dr. Klein?" she asked, trying to get the doctor to look away from the sight. She had no idea if Dr. Klein knew that Clark Kent was Superman, but if he didn't, it was best that he not be watching Lois and Superman at the moment.
"Oh, right. You weren't awake yet when I told the others. I'm sorry. You got a bigger dose of the gas, but we didn't know anyone was in the hallway. Still, don't worry. There won't be any lasting effects."
"So where is Kim Gaines and her Amazon Women?" Samantha asked first, hoping they weren't just lying somewhere waiting to wake up, too.
"Oh, they're all tied up. Don't worry."
"So what happened?"
"Well, after you, Lois and Sonny left to come up here, I started worrying. I mean, I know that Lois isn't exactly an amateur, but without a 'Help, Superman' at her disposal… Anyway, I called my club." Dr. Klein gestured at the men wandering around.
A motley gang if ever Samantha had seen one. One even appeared to have forgotten to remove his lab coat before putting on his leather jacket. It flowed out around him.
"They might not look like much," Dr. Klein said, obviously reading her mind, "but they are some of the most brilliant men I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. And in my experience, brains beats out brawn every single time.
"At first, I was just going to call the police, but then I worried that the police would come storming up here and get everyone killed. So I called the Lab Rats. Of course, once we were all together, we had to figure out what to do. And that proved a challenge. After all, none of us own any weapons, so we had to come up with our own.
"Sean suggested using a large lens he was using in one of his experiments to turn the sun into a weapon. But of course, that idea was scrapped when we realized it was night. Grady thought about bringing the laser he's been using for his spectroscopy tests," Klein said, pointing at one man. "A good idea, but what were we going to do with just one laser against… who knew how many bad guys? Michael suggested modifying it using the magnetron from the break room microwave. But we were concerned that would take too long. Then, Hamid suggested using his trash can."
"His trash can?" Samantha said, not entirely sure she'd heard the good doctor correctly.
"Yes, it's a matter disintegrator. He rigged it together a while back. Saves landfill space, you don't have to buy trash bags and it's much more effective than a paper shredder."
"Oh, okay," Samantha said, not sure the explanation had been any more helpful than the original comment.
"It was when Roddy suggested using his mouse trap…"
"Mouse trap?" Samantha asked in spite of herself.
"Yes, he's been working on it for the past several months. He thought that if we worked together we could increase the amplitude on the electrostatic stun pulse emitter…"
"Dr. Klein!" Samantha interrupted impatiently.
"Oh, sorry. Well, anyway, that was when I realized that maybe we were over thinking things a little bit."
"So I came up with the idea we eventually went with. We released a volatile anesthetic agent into the ventilation system of the house."
"Was that what I smelled?"
"Yes. We decided to use sevoflurane, which has a sweet smell and is known for its quick induction of total unconsciousness. It's relatively safe and others often have an unpleasant odor, which we were afraid the kidnappers would detect and then… Well, it could have gotten dangerous. They could have started killing everyone instead of going harmlessly to sleep.
"Anyway, we used a new, mini plenum vaporiser in reverse order to provide enough gas to anaesthetize the entire house. Usually, they are big machines, but fortunately, Star Labs has been working to perfect a small, pocket-sized copy. We have created a mini anaesthetic machine, too. After all, really… what's the point of having a mini plenum vaporiser without having a mini anaesthetic machine? This was our first big trial run. Got to remember to make a note when I get back to the lab. After all, those bean counters up in accounting have been complaining for months that there is no justification for creating either the mini plenum vaporiser or the mini anaesthetic machine. I can hardly wait to see the looks on their faces when I submit my report on how…" His voice trailed off and he looked at them sheepishly. "Well, I guess you don't want to hear about that.
"Anyway, it worked. Everyone fell asleep. Then we went in with gas masks, tied up the bad guys and pulled everyone out here while Sonny here used my cell phone to call the police. Once everyone was outside in the fresh air, they began coming to. It was only thanks to Sonny here that we realized that you were still missing. I have to tell you, he was impressive. He went in looking for you and encountered one of the women who had been outside during our initial gassing of the place. Never seen moves like that outside a Jackie Chan movie."
Samantha looked over at Sonny who looked a little embarrassed as he simply shrugged.
"Guess he was a little panicked because of our failure to find you," Klein continued. "Anyway, we found in one of the back hallways. But because it took us a little while longer to find you, you got a greater dose of the gas."
"So all the Amazon Women are safely tied up?" Samantha said, even as the sound of police sirens began to be heard in the background.
"And the police are on their way," Dr. Klein continued, stating the obvious. "When we all get out of here, you might want to get those hands looked at."
Samantha looked down at her hands, noticing for the first time that they were wrapped in what appeared to be torn pieces of someone's shirt.
"We seem to have forgotten to bring a first aid kit," Klein said apologetically. "Ken treated your hands, and he thinks he got all the glass out, but he couldn't be certain under these conditions." Klein gestured around. "Anyway, if you don't have any more questions, I should probably go check on Superman again. He lost a lot of blood, and since he doesn't have any relatives on Earth that can give him blood, we're going to have to keep a close eye on him for a while.
"As you can see, we've managed to hook up a sort of intravenous concoction using items from the house to administer a saline solution, but… I'd really like to take another look at him."
"Thanks, Dr. Klein," Samantha said. "You saved our lives."
Klein looked embarrassed at the complement and after a quick nod of acknowledgment, hurried back to his patient.
"So… all's well that ends well," Samantha said hopefully, directing her gaze to Sonny.
"Well, not all. You ex-husband dead."
Samantha blinked. Tom was dead? How?
"It seem woman kill him when he try to leave," Sonny continued. "Both driver and Tom found dead."
Samantha nodded slowly, taking in the news. After everything that had happened, she felt surprisingly numb. She'd never wanted Tom dead. Still, she couldn't say she was exactly saddened by the news.
She looked back at Sonny. "And us?" she asked. "What about us? After everything that's happened, are we all right?"
A slow smile settled on Sonny's face before he reached over, pulling her head towards him so that, ever so slowly, his lips could find hers in the most toe-curling kiss Samantha had ever experienced. It was gentle and reassuring, and so full of promise. One kiss quickly led to two. And then her lips were seeking out his even as her free hand ran slowly over his cheek.
Becoming aware of Lois hooting and cheering from her position next to a smiling Superman, they reluctantly pulled back.
Samantha blushed and looked down, suddenly very interested in studying the oh so very precious infant in her arms. For the first time in her life, suddenly thinking that life looked very, very good.
She was brought back to her surroundings at the sound of the police officers as they began escorting the Amazon Women to waiting cruisers. Samantha watched when Kim was finally brought out, hands cuffed behind her.
She seemed to catch sight of Lois and Clark and suddenly the curses she'd been directing towards the police officers were turned in their direction. "I know what I saw in that photo," she yelled. "And don't think I won't tell the world about it."
"You mean the photo suggesting that Superman has a secret identity?" Samantha yelled back, ignoring the look of horror Sonny was giving her. "Well… I'm not sure if you know me. Name's Samantha Richards and… Surely you've heard about the photo I faked of Superman having an affair with Lois Lane. Trust me, the one showing Superman with a secret identity was even easier to fake. Can't believe you fell for it."
By the curses Kim Gaines had now turned in her direction, it seemed the other woman had bought her lie. Her eyes caught sight of Lois' face and the relief she saw there, the unspoken words of thanks, were more than enough reward.
Feeling a little punch-drunk, Samantha turned to Sonny. "Didn't particularly want that million dollars anyway," Samantha whispered softly, causing the man in her life — she liked the sound of that — to give a full belly laugh before pulling her back to him for another kiss.
As she reveled in the feelings he was stirring in her belly, she thought about how happy she was. She might still be unemployed and as poor as a church mouse. But she hadn't lost Sonny. Her son was back in her arms. And for the first time in… who knew how long… maybe forever… she felt really good about being her. Regardless of what the world might think, she'd finally gotten her vindication.
"So… how did it go?" Lois asked anxiously while reaching for Jonathan Huzi Richards.
Samantha quickly released her son to the other woman before setting his carrier beside her in the booth and taking a seat. "As if you don't know," she said, picking up the menu.
"I don't," Lois objected. "What did he say? Did you get the job?"
"All right," Lois said, beaming from ear to ear.
"Thanks to you."
"I'm not so sure about that," Lois responded. "Clark just told him how helpful you were in the investigation, and he couldn't wait to meet you. I just wish we'd been able to get Perry to come around."
"Come on, Lois. Perry made the right decision. My only real experience was at the Dirt Digger. I don't have the qualifications to rate a job at the Daily Planet. But… a real reporting job. I can't wait."
"So did Chen Chow say when you'd be starting?"
Samantha nodded. "Beginning of next week. You are officially looking at the newest reporter for the China Town Daily. Well, thanks to you and Clark — and Sonny. Seems they use the same optometrist."
"Funny. That's what Clark always says, too."
Lois nodded. "So tell me… what happened?" Huzi started to fuss and Lois, quite happily, handed him back to his mother who immediately prepared to nurse. "Come on. I want all the juicy details."
"Well, at first, he seemed so distant. I guess he was just being professional, but I started thinking that even though he was the one who called me, he wasn't entirely sure he should be doing this. He grilled me pretty good about the Superman photo and then told me that, even if they are a small ethnic paper, they don't appreciate that kind of tabloid reporting."
"Well, he was right. I mean, I did forge that photo. And my story was completely wrong."
"Anyway, I told him I understood and was about to leave when he said that any stories I wrote for them would have to be strictly factual. I have to tell you, I was stunned. Well, until he told me that Clark had called him and suggested he give me a chance."
"I'm so happy for you," Lois said.
Their conversation was interrupted when the waitress came over to take their orders. Once she left, Samantha again looked at Lois.
"I'm so glad that we ended up as friends," Samantha suddenly said, almost surprising herself at the admission.
"I am, too," Lois said. "It's been really hard making friends. Clark's secret seems to get in the way. We tried once. Bob and Carol. You don't want to know what a disaster that turned out to be. But you and I have so much in common…"
"…and Sonny was telling me the other day how much he likes Clark. It's just too bad that it started out so… mixed up."
Lois laughed. "Most of the best things in my life have started out 'mixed up.' I figure it just means that our friendship has a fighting chance of succeeding. But… Speaking of Sonny. How are things going between you two?"
"Oh, in all the excitement of the new job, I forgot that you don't know," Samantha said, holding up her left hand to reveal the glittering diamond that had found a home there.
"I thought you told me that you and Sonny were just friends," Lois said teasingly.
"Well, you know what they say… Friends make the best lovers."
Lois laughed. "You're preaching to the choir here, sister."
Clark crawled into bed, gathering his wife against him.
"Are you okay?" Lois asked, noting that he looked slightly sad.
"I guess I was just thinking about Jon."
Lois nodded. "It was a fantasy, Clark. We always knew that someone might turn up to claim him. I'm just glad that when she did, it was someone who loves him as much as Samantha does. And we get to see him whenever we want."
"I know. It's just…"
"He felt like ours."
She hugged him tighter. "It will work out for us, Clark. Aren't you the one who told me that we live the impossible? And since a child comes from love, then that, of all things, has to be possible for us."
He gave her a half-hearted smile.
"I love you, Clark Kent," she whispered, running her hand softly over his cheek. Their eyes met. There were traces of tears blurring both of their visions as Clark moved in, capturing her lips in a kiss. The kiss quickly deepened as each sought release for their emotions in the other.
Suddenly, Clark pulled back, his head tilted to the side as he listened in confusion.
"What?" she asked in resignation. It hurt that he could even think about going out tonight. His comments about Huzi had stirred things up for her, too. Tonight she needed him. Still, she would never try to stop him from doing what she knew he needed to do. "What are you hearing?"
"I'm not sure."
"Well, what does it sound like?"
"I can't actually believe what it sounds like."
Huh? "No, Clark. Please, not again. I can't handle finding another baby in our dining room — only to have to give him back when his mother finally shows up."
"Well…" He pulled back further, sitting up in bed, his eyes running down her body in disbelief.
"What?" Lois demanded.
"What if I told you I don't think we're going to have to give this one back?"
Lois stared at him incredulously for a long moment, her mouth moving slightly although no sound would emerge. She hardly dared to ask the question. On the other hand, it would certainly explain why she'd started to feel so sick during her brief encounter with kryptonite a few days before. But still, could it really be that she was… that she was… "I'm… I…" she finally managed to get out.
A smile slowly lit up Clark's face, like the sun coming out from behind a cloud. "Yes, Lois. You're pregnant," he said softly.
No other words were heard for quite some time as Lois and Clark chose another method of expressing their delight at the news.
I got the name huzi (tiger) from this website:
http://laowaichinese.net/ . I hope I used it correctly.
To see where I got the Lab Rats's ideas for coming to the rescue, check out this site:
I even stole some of their wording, since I could barely understand what they were saying, much less be able to figure out how to say it in my own words <g>. So thanks, guys.