By Dandello <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: December 2007
Summary: What if Clyde Barrow had really shot Clark that night in the club?
Copyright: February 28, 2007
Country of first publication, United States of America.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. No money is being made from this.
The banner read: 'The Daily Planet. 60 Years #1 in Metropolis.' Clark Kent watched the caterer and his assistants with barely concealed bemusement. The caterer, Jacques DuMond, of Jacques' Catering, caught sight of his assistants taking a break by the vending machines in the elevator lobby of the newsroom floor.
"Come on! Come on!" Jacques told them. "If we're going to turn this dreary little work place into a grand ballroom by Friday night, we can't sit around sipping lattes!"
"Uh, Lois, do you know where Perry and Jimmy took off to this morning?" Clark asked. His partner had just settled down at her desk, a cup of coffee in her hand.
"Perry said he had car trouble," Lois told him. "I guess he figures Jimmy's a mechanic now, too."
The elevator doors opened and Perry and Jimmy came out. They both looked disheveled and upset.
"Lois! Clark! In my office!" Perry yelled, crossing the floor to his office. Jimmy was following on his heels, fairly bouncing with excitement or an overdose of caffeine -- sometimes it was hard to tell. Shrugging, Lois and Clark got up from their respective desks and followed the pair into Perry's office.
"What's up, Chief?" Lois asked as Perry moved to his desk.
"You're not going to believe what happened to us this morning!" Jimmy said. If he were any more excited, he'd have been bouncing off the walls. "We were almost killed, but I was able to save us."
"The boy's leaving out a few details," Perry said. "But bottom line is, we were carjacked."
"Are you all right?" Lois asked, worry written across her face.
"Yeah, we're fine. But they got away with that vintage Ford we were using to promote the celebration," he told them. It was known all around the Daily Planet that Perry had managed to borrow a 1934 vintage Ford Coupe in perfect condition.
"Let me tell you how I saved us! Picture this! We were locked in the garage..." Jimmy began.
"Jimmy! Go slap some cold water on your face," Perry ordered. Jimmy's expression turned stubborn. "Go. Now," Perry told him with a flick of his hand.
Deflated, Jimmy headed for the office door. "I'll tell you about it later," he said quietly, closing the door behind him.
"Did you get a good look at them?" Clark asked. He was worried about Perry, but this was also news.
"Sure. I gave the police a detailed description. And then they looked at me like I had three heads," Perry told them.
"Why?" Clark asked.
"'Cause I told them I'd been carjacked by Bonnie and Clyde," Perry said. He sounded like he didn't quite believe it himself.
"Chief, Bonnie and Clyde died over sixty years ago," the voice of reason said in the form of Lois Lane.
"I know that, Lois. My car was taken, not my senses," Perry told her with a touch of exasperation. "But these two were dead ringers for 'em. They did quite a job. Make-up, costumes, the whole shebang."
Lois paused, thinking. "Do you remember anything specific about the costumes?"
Perry sighed. "Lois, I'm not real big on fashion accessories. Especially when there's a gun pointed at me."
"It's just, well... there was this call on the police scanner last week," she said. "A man in a brown felt fedora and alligator spats held up a private gun collector."
"That's right," Clark confirmed. As Superman, he'd checked out the collector's story. "He got away with an arsenal of antique weapons. Tommy guns, Colt forty-five automatics..."
"There could be a connection," Lois suggested.
"See what you can dig up," Perry ordered. "That car was a piece of this paper's history. It belonged to one of our great publishers. And more important... it's not insured."
Sammy Davidson ran one of the less successful look-alike agencies in Metropolis. His office was in a run-down building on the outskirts of Suicide Slum. The office itself was small, and crowded with a single desk, several tall file cabinets and racks of clothes. The walls were covered by 8X10s of famous people. Sammy himself was seated behind his desk, a phone to his ear.
"That's right... he's a dead ringer for Elvis... Of course before he died," Sammy was saying to the person on the other end of the phone. He waved to Lois and Clark as they stepped closer to the desk. "Have a seat, folks. I'll be right with ya."
Lois looked around at the shabby office and the two worn vinyl covered chairs in front of the desk. She gingerly sat down, glowering at Clark. "This is the last one of these places you're going to drag me to. Somehow I don't think carjackers register with agents."
"Lois, who would know better than a look-a-like agency about famous impersonators?" Clark asked reasonably
"The name's Sammy," he introduced himself after hanging up the phone. "So, what can I do for you nice people?"
"I'm Clark Kent and this is my partner, Lois Lane. We're from..." Clark started.
"Vegas, right?" Sammy asked, cutting him off. Clark shook his head. "No? Wait. I know. Don't tell me. I never forget an act. I got it. Kutsher's, the Catskills."
"We're reporters from the Daily Planet," Clark explained.
"Sammy looked disappointed. "Reporters. Oh..." He turned to Lois. "A babe with a face like yours should be in show business."
Lois grinned, flattered. "Show business? Me?"
"Hey, I know talent when I see it," Sammy said, grinning back at her.
"Sammy, we were wondering if you represented any Bonnie and Clyde look-alikes," Clark asked, trying not to roll his eyes at Sammy's blatant attempt to flirt with Lois.
Sammy thought for a long moment. "Bonnie and Clyde... Nope. Sorry. But, it's funny that you mention them. I had a guy in here a couple of weeks ago looking for gangster costumes."
"Do you remember his name," Clark asked. "Or what he looked like?
"Sure. I keep a record of all my business transactions," Sammy told them, rummaging around in one of the drawers in his desk. "How do you think I got to where I am today? Uh... here he is. Emil Hamilton. Rented a whole rack of gangster costumes," Sammy said. "I don't usually let my costumes go out the door without one of my people inside 'em, but business has been slow lately."
It should have been an easy job. Run in, get the money, get out. Everybody knew John Dillinger, Clyde Barrow, and Bonnie Parker, right? In the old days, just walking in and being recognized was enough for everyone to do what they were supposed to. Not that Dillinger ever actually worked with Barrow or Parker in the old days. But now, Dillinger wasn't sure if everybody in Metropolis had amnesia or they were just stupid.
They'd chosen one of the branches of the Metropolis Savings and Loan. Savings and Loans were always good for quick cash. Barrow drove the coupe up to the front of the building and parked, leaving Parker at the wheel. Dillinger and Barrow walked into the bank and pulled their guns out from under their overcoats.
"This is a robbery," Dillinger announced. "Everybody down on the floor."
For a long moment the tellers, the bank customers, even the armed guard by the vault stood staring in blank incomprehension at him.
"Down on the floor!" Dillinger yelled, sending a round of shots into the ceiling. They all obediently dropped to the floor. Dillinger bobbed his head at Barrow as he went over to the teller cage. He peered in at one of the tellers, a young, pretty blonde one.
"You. Sister," Dillinger said, getting her attention. "Give us all your cash, and no funny business." He pushed several canvas bags toward her.
The teller climbed to her feet and started to fill the bags. Barrow kept his machine trained on the bank customers on the floor.
"Take a good look sister," Dillinger told her. He turned to the customers. "All of you! 'Cause this is the face you're gonna see smilin' back at you from your evening paper. This is the face of John H. Dillinger."
The teller just stared at him. The bank doors slammed open and Parker walked in, heels clicking on the marble floor.
"Hey! What's takin' so long?" she complained. "I'm gettin' wrinkles waitin' out there."
The teller and the customers looked up at the sound of a familiar 'whoosh.' Suddenly, Superman was standing in the doorway and a sigh of relief went though the room. He stepped closer to Barrow and Dillinger, cape fluttering behind him.
"Aren't you boys a little late for Halloween?" Superman asked in apparent bemusement.
"Look who's talkin'," Barrow said with a laugh, looking the newcomer up and down. "Who are you supposed to be? 'Little Boy Blue?'"
"Put down your guns," Superman ordered, no longer amused.
"Oh, my. Now he is one hunk of man," Parker murmured, loud enough for Barrow to hear. She smirked at him.
Barrow pulled the trigger on his machine gun, aiming directly at Superman, spraying him with a barrage of bullets. The bullets simply bounced off his chest.
"What is this... a cap gun?" Barrow yelled at Dillinger. What he'd seen was simply impossible. The bullets had simply ricocheted off the man in blue tights.
"You can't hit the broad side of a barn," Dillinger groused. He reached into the bag he'd brought with him and pulled out several sticks of explosives.
Superman took a step forward, but Barrow grabbed one of the customers, a middle aged man, and pulled him to his feet. Barrow put a gun to the man's back. "That's far enough pal," Barrow warned. "I ain't gonna miss from this close."
Dillinger lit the fuse on the explosives and tossed it behind the teller's counter. Customers screamed and scrambled for cover as Barrow shoved his hostage away and ran for the door after Dillinger and Parker. Superman threw himself over the counter and onto the explosives as they went off. Smoke billowed from his body as he got to his feet. He started after the three gangsters, but stopped at the sound of a groan.
The bank guard was on the floor, clutching his chest. He was pale, skin clammy. Superman watched after the Ford coupe for a moment as the car disappeared into the midday traffic.
"I better get you to the hospital," Superman told the guard, scooping the man into his arms.
Lois watched and took notes as the police investigation team dusted the bank for prints, took photos, and statements. She caught sight of Clark ducking beneath the yellow police tape, flashing his press pass.
"Nice of you to show up, Clark," Lois snapped at him. "While you were putting money in the meter, the bank was robbed by someone posing as John Dillinger."
As she spoke, Clark spotted something on the floor. He bent down and picked the item off the floor.
"Oh, and Bonnie and Clyde put in an encore performance as well," Lois added. "What's that?" She'd noticed the small slip of brightly colored cardstock in his hand.
"A ticket stub from the Cineplex. It might be a clue," Clark told her.
"A clue? It's a movie ticket stub," Lois told him. "You know how many people came in here today? It could belong to anyone."
"It fell out of Dillinger's pocket."
"How do you know that?" she demanded.
"I... um... saw Superman on my way back here. He told me what happened."
She was suddenly mollified. "What does he make of all this?"
"Believe me, Lois, he's as baffled as I am," Clark told her.
Jimmy ran up as Lois and Clark left the bank, ducking back under the yellow tape. Jimmy had a camera slung over his shoulder.
"Hey, C.K., Lois!" Jimmy yelled as he approached them. "I got some information you're gonna' love. Turns out that vintage car the Chief borrowed once belonged to the real Clyde Barrow! That got me to thinking, so I called the cemeteries where they're buried."
"Jimmy..." Lois warned.
"I know it sounds weird but get this," Jimmy said. "Both cemetery directors said that a few years ago a scientist had their bodies dug up and took bone and hair samples. Pretty creepy, huh?"
"Did you get the scientist's name?" Clark asked.
"Professor Emil Hamilton?" Lois asked. She sounded like she didn't quite believe it.
"Yeah. How'd you know?" Jimmy asked, puzzled.
The building had seen better days, as had the neighborhood it was in. The sign above the entrance door read 'LC Storage.' The sign in the window read 'closed.'
The interior of the building was little better. The former office had been converted into a day room. Dillinger and Clyde sat at the battered table, dividing up their ill-gotten gains while Bonnie Parker sprawled on the broken down sofa, watching the old television.
"We got a pretty sweet future in this town, so long as we don't keep running into that clown in the blue tights," Dillinger commented.
"I'd be happy to keep him occupied any time you boys want to go out and knock over a few more banks," Parker told them with a grin. She swiveled her hips to accentuate her offer.
"That's enough!" Barrow warned. Parker pouted at him.
The inside door opened and Emil Hamilton walked in wearing a lab coat that was once white, but now sported indelible stains in multiple colors. "What have you done? You were to go nowhere without me!" Hamilton hissed at the three gangsters.
"What are you talkin' about, professor?" Dillinger asked innocently.
"I just heard a news report!" Hamilton told them. "Do you realize you could have ruined years of my work?"
"Pipe down," Barrow ordered.
"I will not pipe down!" Hamilton responded in a near screech. "This experiment is the most significant scientific breakthrough in modern history!"
"Oh look," Parker commented, glancing at the television. "This new fangled box even shows cartoons!"
Dillinger and Barrow turned back to their chore of counting the cash, ignoring Hamilton.
"I will not be ignored! I didn't give up seven years of my life to bring you back so you could rob banks!"
"Don't be mad, professor," Parker said, coming up to Hamilton. She smiled at him seductively. He backed away from her as his upper lip twitched. He started to sneeze repeatedly, eyes watering
"You can't keep us locked in here forever," Parker pleaded. "What is it that girl sings on the radio? 'Girls just wanna have fun.'"
"You must understand. I've brought you back to life to help civilization... not hurt it."
"We gotta do something, professor," Barrow said, waving at the television. "We're goin' nuts in here watchin' that contraption."
"I'm sorry, but you must wait until I've completed the genetic altering of your personalities before you can go back out into society," Hamilton explained. "Until that time, you have to live by my rules."
"The rules have changed, Professor," a cultured male voice informed them. Hamilton looked over to the open inner door to see a tall man with a neatly trimmed beard walk in. Behind him was another man, shorter, stockier, wearing a brown felt fedora and chewing on a cigar.
"No one makes the rules for Al Capone, but Al Capone," The second man remarked. "And now that I'm back... I'm taking over Metropolis."
The taller man chuckled and Hamilton's blood went cold. "I really don't care what you do to Metropolis, Mister Capone, so long as you and your friends do three little favors for me."
"Who do you want missing?" Dillinger asked. "And what do we get out of it, Mister...?"
"St. John," the tall man told them. "Nigel St. John. And what do you get out of it? My people continue funding Professor Hamilton's experiments."
"And who do you want dead?" Parker asked. She sidled up to St. John, ignoring Barrow's glower at her.
"No one important," he said. "Just two annoying journalists and one flying busybody."
"And just how do you expect us to do that?" Barrow asked. "Bullets bounce off the guy."
"Don't worry," St. James assured them. "I have a way around that little problem."
The electronic headline scrolled past: 'MOB IMPOSTORS MOVE IN ON METROPOLIS.'
The reporters on the floor ignored the scrolling headline, just as they were studiously ignoring the caterer and his assistants as they worked to transform the newsroom into a ballroom.
"Mr. White, I know you have a paper to run, but I have a reputation to uphold," Jacques was saying, trailing Perry around the room. "Now I just need a decision!"
Perry turned on the little man in exasperation. "Look, Jacques. I don't really care what kind of napkins you put out. So long as the guests aren't wipin' their mouths on their sleeves!"
Clark watched the byplay between Perry and the caterer, smiling a little to himself as he retrieved his bag of chips from the vending machine. He spotted Lois entering the bullpen from research.
"Morning," she said, beckoning him to follow her over to their desks. "I got some information on Hamilton. He's a real science nerd, spends twenty-four hours a day working in his lab. No family, no friends. Used to work for LexLabs, before they were acquired by Wayne Technologies. Every penny he has goes to fund his experiments."
"I'm not surprised. DNA modification is very expensive," Clark told her. She gave him a puzzled look. "I found an article in the library. Hamilton believed he could restructure DNA and short circuit aggressive behavior. He hoped to eliminate all anti-social impulses in man."
"Did he ever talk about actually bringing criminals back to life?"
"Not directly," Clark admitted. "But he did say he thought they'd be the best people to experiment on. He even claimed he'd found a way to accelerate the maturation process of the embryos. The sidebar said his theories outraged the scientific community. That's probably why he dropped out of sight. If he is involved with these 'mobsters,' I wonder where his funding is coming from. I also wonder if he was involved in the Superman clone thing last year." He pitched his voice low so only she could hear him.
Jimmy ran over to them, waving a sheaf of papers in the air.
"Get a load of this," he announced. "It just came over on the fax." He handed the sheets to Lois.
"The cops got a good make on the bank robbers," Jimmy told them, translating the report. "The fingerprints aren't good matches with the real John Dillinger, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. More like what you get with identical twins. But get this, the other biometrics -- skull, ears, palms -- all match exactly. They can't explain it, but it's their opinion if these three aren't the real thing, then they're as close as anybody's gonna get."
"What are we dealing with here?" Lois asked. "Some kind of Jurassic Park for humans?"
Clark shrugged. "Let's see if we can get hold of Bobby Bigmouth. If Hamilton has created these -- whatever they are -- he's the person who'd know about it."
"Make sure you tell Perry about the fax," Lois ordered, leading Clark to the elevators.
Lois parked her jeep in the alley Bobby had designated for their meeting. The alley was in midtown, not all that far from her uncle's restaurant. She and Clark had stopped at Leonardo's for Bobby's payment.
"Mmmm. That ravioli smells great," Lois commented. They'd skipped lunch again and her stomach was starting to grumble at her. She started to reach for the take out bags Clark was holding on his lap. Clark pulled them out of her reach.
"Lois, it's for Bobby," he warned.
"He won't know."
"Oh yeah? Remember what happened that time you picked some of the cheese off his pizza?" he asked. "He got all pouty and wouldn't tell us anything."
"I still don't know how he knew that cheese was missing. I was very careful not to disturb the pepperoni," Lois said.
"Maybe he has his own superpowers," Clark suggested as his beeper went off. He checked the number. "It's the office. I better call in."
He got out of the jeep, putting the take-out bags on his seat. Lois watched him head to the drugstore on the corner to place his call. Then, she reached out and began to open one of the bags.
"Hey, hey, hey!" a familiar, nasal voice warned. Startled, Lois looked over her shoulder to see Bobby Bigmouth in the backseat of her car. He looked as he always did, rail thin, wearing a safari jacket with multiple pockets.
"Bobby?" Lois asked, trying to regain her composure. "How did you get back there?"
"Trade secret," he told her with a grin.
"And how dare you eavesdrop on my conversation."
He kept grinning at her. "I can't help it. I'm a professional snitch." He reached over and grabbed the bags off the front passenger seat. He sat back and peered inside. "What'd you bring me?"
"A wide variety of culinary delights," Lois said flatly. "As always."
Bobby chuckled. "Hey, do I detect an attitude? You know, I don't have to snitch for you. There's a reporter at The Star who'd give me my own chef if I started working for them."
The passenger door opened and Clark slid in, nodding to Bobby, who had just started chewing on a breadstick.
"That was Jimmy," Clark told them. "You're not going to believe this. Al Capone paid Perry a visit."
"What? How many more of these characters are out there?" Lois asked.
"I don't know," Clark said. "But Capone tried to bribe him. Apparently, the Mayor got the same offer and so did some union people." He turned to look back at Bobby. "Bobby, what do you know about all this? Who are these people?"
"From what I hear, they're an experiment gone bad," Bobby told them.
"Hamilton really did it?" Clark murmured in awe disbelief.
"Oh, and this regenerated Capone character? Not a big fan of the no smoking laws."
"What else?" Lois demanded.
"For this food?" Bobby told her. "That's all you get. You didn't even bring me dessert."
"Lois..." Clark said, shaking his head. He wasn't altogether fond of the games Lois played with Bobby.
She sighed and pulled one more takeout bag from beneath her seat. She handed it to Bobby.
He opened it and gave her a big grin. "Tortes!" he said happily, taking a bite of the pastry. He ignored the crumbs that were getting all over the jeep's backseat.
Lois watched him for a moment. "So talk."
Bobby wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "Okay. There's this guy, runs an illegal gaming club down on Hobs Street -- Georgie Hairdo. Capone's thugs have been leaning on him pretty hard."
"What's Capone's interest in the club?" Clark asked.
"He wants a piece of the action. Like the old days," Bobby explained. He held up a wilted looking pickle. "Anybody want the pickle?"
Lois took his offer, snatching the pickle out of his hand and taking a bite out of it.
"Look, there's something goin' down tonight at the club. That's all I know," Bobby told them as he opened the back door. "Except for one more thing. Word is on the street that whoever's put up the money for Capone's resurrection, well, he wants Superman out of the way and he's not real fond of you two. So, let the big guy know, okay. And watch yourselves."
Bobby closed the back door behind him and disappeared down the alley.
"So what do you think?" Clark asked after a moment.
"I think this pickle's awful," Lois told him, making a face. "I think we should visit that club, and finding out who's been financing Hamilton should be pretty high on our list as well."
"Not to mention warning Superman?" Clark suggested.
"Jimmy," Clark called as he and Lois came out of the elevator on to the newsroom floor. Clark noted the changes Jacques the caterer had already accomplished in the newsroom. With the plants and bunting, it looked like the caterer might actually have a chance at pulling it all together in time for Friday's party.
Jimmy looked up at the sound of his name. "Yeah, CK?"
"See what you can dig up on Professor Hamilton's finances," Clark ordered. "Especially large sums."
Jimmy handed him a file. "Already done. Chief ordered it after that bribe attempt. Basically, after Hamilton left LexLabs, someone started picking up the tab for his research. And get this, the reason he left LexLabs was a difference in opinion on the ethical use of human cloning. He didn't like where LexLabs was going with their research."
"But he's the one cloning mobsters," Lois pointed out. "Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?"
Jimmy shrugged. "That's what I found out."
"Anything on who's doing the financing?" Clark asked.
Jimmy shook his head. "Numbered Swiss accounts, Germany, Argentina, you name it. That money's been washed so much it's a wonder you can read the numbers."
"So, we know the money's coming from someone with international resources," Lois observed. "Someone who doesn't want to be associated with Hamilton's research. Someone who wants Superman out of the way."
"Superman?" Jimmy asked.
Clark nodded. "That's what Bobby told us. Somebody who's also not too fond of a certain pair of Daily Planet reporters."
"Uh, CK, the list of people who aren't fond of you and Lois is almost as long as the list of people who aren't fond of Superman," Jimmy pointed out. "In fact, it's pretty much the same list."
"But how many of them have the resources to fund Hamilton?" Lois asked.
"Not many," Jimmy admitted. "If it wasn't that Lex Luthor's dead, I'd say it smelled of something he'd be behind."
"But a lot of his top level people haven't been picked up," Lois reminded him. "Nigel St. John, for one."
"You don't think he's still in Metropolis, do you?" Jimmy asked.
"I don't know if he is or not, but we all know a lot of people still don't believe how evil Luthor was and blame Superman for not saving him when he jumped," Lois reminded him. "I know St. John can't have been real happy when Luthor took his dive." She looked over at Clark. "We'd better get ready if we're going to check out that club tonight."
"Club?" Jimmy asked, his curiosity piqued.
"Georgie Hairdo's club over on Hobs Street," Clark explained. "Seems Capone is interested in getting a piece of that action."
"Hey guys, be careful," Jimmy warned. "Capone and his gang used to play for keeps."
"Aren't we always careful?" Lois asked. Jimmy and Clark just stared at her. "Well, Clark's careful enough for both of us," she amended. "We'll be fine. A quick look around, ask Georgie a few questions, leave. No brainer."
"In the meantime, Jimmy," Clark said, watching Lois head for the elevator. "See if there's anything out there explaining how Hamilton's clones can have the memories and personalities of the originals? Is it some sort of programming, or is there something else going on?"
"I'll see what I can find," Jimmy promised with a shrug. "I wasn't planning on going home tonight anyway."
Clark grinned at him. "Thanks, Jimmy," he said, clapping the younger man on the shoulder. Lois was standing at the elevators, tapping her foot as she waited for him. "I'm coming, I'm coming."
Georgie Hairdo's place was in a non-descript building on Hobs Street. The windows were barred and painted over. The neighboring buildings also sported barred windows and signs indicated their use -- warehousing mostly. There was a plumbing supply, a couple of import-export businesses, and a seafood distributor.
Lois had checked out one of the Daily Planet sedans and now she and Clark sat in the front seat watching as limousines stopped in front of the unmarked building. Couples in expensive clothes got out and went to the door. After a moment, they were allowed in.
"Pretty classy crowd for an illegal gaming club," Lois commented. Another limousine, another couple dropped off at Georgie Hairdo's.
"Wasn't that Congressman Haines and his wife?" Clark observed.
"Nice to know how our taxes are being spent." Lois sounded disgusted.
Clark watched as Haines approached the unmarked door. The old-fashioned spy hole opened and Clark listened in on the exchange.
'The fat lady sings,' he heard Haines say. The door opened and Haines and his wife walked into the club.
"Show time," Lois murmured, opening the passenger side door. She climbed out of the car and waited for Clark to join her.
"Did I remember to tell you how hot you look tonight?" Clark asked. He grinned at her. The red dress she had chosen accentuated her figure and contrasted nicely with her dark hair. The skirt was short enough to show off a lot of leg.
She grinned back at him. "You clean up pretty good yourself, farmboy," she told him. "I like the tie." He was wearing the simplest, most conservative tie he owned along with a new tailored jacket.
They crossed the street.
"You think they'll let us just walk in?" Clark asked.
Lois snorted. "Give me some credit, Clark. I'm smart enough to get around some stupid bouncer."
She knocked on the metal clad door. The little spy hole door slid open and a pair of disinterested eyes peered out at them.
"Hi. Um," Lois began. "We have a reservation."
"We don't take reservations," a bored voice said. "What's the password?"
"Joe sent me?"
The man on the other side of the door shook his head.
"The eagle has landed?" Lois tried again.
The man just shook his head again.
"Swordfish?" There was a touch of desperation in her voice.
"Swordfish?" Clark repeated in disbelief.
The man on the other side of the door chuckled. "I saw that Marx Brother's movie too, lady," he said. "Nice try." He started to close the little door.
"She was just kidding," Clark announced. "The fat lady sings."
The door opened for them. Lois stared at Clark in amazement before she stepped inside the club. Clark shrugged as he followed her through.
"I saw it in an old Untouchables episode," Clark explained softly. Lois just shook her head. Clark was just so weird sometimes.
Georgie Hairdo's club had everything. Slot machines, craps tables, cards, roulette. There was no sign of Georgie Hairdo himself; assuming Lois or Clark knew what he looked like. Apparently, Georgie was camera shy. The Daily Planet did not have a photograph of him more recent than his senior high school photo and that was twenty years old. All they really knew was his real name: George Papadapoulis.
Lois stationed herself in front of a nickel slot machine and started feeding coins in. Clark stood beside her, watching the crowd.
"Lois, we're here to work," he reminded her. He was getting annoyed at her apparent infatuation with the one-armed bandit.
"Just a few more nickels," Lois told him. "I just got it warmed up."
Clark just shook his head and looked over to the craps table, only a few feet away in the crowded club. A group stood around the table watching a well-dressed woman roll the dice.
"Four's the point," the croupier announced.
Clark watched with interest. He didn't really gamble. Dice was too easy for him, ditto roulette, and cards -- well, he knew he didn't have a poker face and cheating just didn't sit very well with him. The woman rolled the dice.
"Seven," the croupier said. The croupier cleared the table as the players and onlookers watched in disappointment. The next player tossed the dice.
Clark peered over to top of his glasses at the dice. As he suspected, the dice were weighted -- the game was rigged. He pushed his glasses back into place and smiled to himself as he watched the man toss the dice again. A two and a one, this time. But a quick breath rolled the one over on its side -- a five, making seven.
"Cra...," the croupier began. Then he looked at the dice. "Seven." Around him, the players and onlookers screamed in delight, pocketing their winnings. The croupier picked up the dice, hefting them suspiciously.
Clark wandered away from the table, heading, more or less, back toward Lois who was still feeding the slot machine.
"Hey, handsome," a familiar woman's voice said in his ear. "How about some company?"
Clark turned around to see Bonnie Parker standing at his shoulder. She was eyeing him seductively, leaning into him to show off her cleavage in the little sequined dress she was wearing.
"Um, sure," he said. He stepped over to the bar and took a seat. "So, uh, do you come here often?"
She sat facing him, playing with his tie. She grinned at him, coyly batting her eyelashes.
"I haven't been here in years," she said. "I guess you could say I haven't been anywhere in years."
"What would you like to drink?" Clark asked her as the bartender noticed them.
"Why don't you surprise me?" she told him.
"White wine for the lady," Clark told the bartender. "Club soda for me, thanks."
"So, you look a little wound up," Parker said. "Why don't you loosen your tie and relax?" She reached for his tie and started to loosen the knot. He brushed her hand away.
"Whatsa matter?" Parker asked, pouting.
Clark considered her a moment. "I'm, uh, kinda shy."
Clark looked over to the slot machines. Lois was still plugging in nickels. An older woman was standing next to her, watching. Lois pulled the lever one more time. This time, she hit the jackpot, nickels pouring into the tray, spilling onto the floor. She bent down to retrieve the fallen coins, then stood to follow a man sporting an outrageously bouffant hairdo. As Clark watched she tapped the man on the shoulder.
"Excuse me. Mr. Hairdo?"
The man turned at looked at her. "You talkin' to me?"
"Yes, aren't you Georgie Hairdo?" she asked.
"Do I look like a bald dead guy?" he asked back. She looked at him blankly. "Georgie Hairdo was found floatin' in Hob's River a couple of hours ago."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Lois said eyes wide with consternation.
"I'm not. I owed him twenty large," the man said with a chuckle.
"You got nice hands," Parker was saying to Clark. She was caressing the back of his hand. She was also making him more than a little nervous.
"Thanks," he said. "So, do you live nearby?"
She chuckled. "That's a pretty forward question for a guy who won't take off his tie."
"Back off, pretty boy. The lady's taken," a man's voice said. Clark looked up to see Clyde Barrow standing over him. Barrow sounded annoyed. No, more than annoyed. If looks could kill, Clark would have been writhing on the floor in agony. As it was, he was feeling a headache coming on.
"Knock it off, Clyde," Parker told Barrow, glowering at him. "After sixty years, I still don't see no ring on this finger."
"Could we discuss this later? In private?" Barrow hissed at her. "You're supposed to be watching the door."
Clark stood, suddenly anxious to be away from them both. "Look. Um, it was nice meeting you. Both of you. But I have to go... find someone." He dropped a few dollars on the bar to pay for the drinks, and headed off to find Lois. She appeared out of the crowd and grabbed his arm.
"Clark. I just found out Georgie Hairdo's dead," she reported.
"Yeah. Well, Bonnie and Clyde are here," he told her, taking her arm and heading for the door. "We've got to call the police. Let's go." He had the uncomfortable feeling that there were eyes on him, watching. His headache hadn't gone away. Kryptonite, here?
Lois broke free of his hand. "You go," she said. "I've got to find a gray-haired lady with a bucket of my nickels." As she turned, the front door burst open. She and Clark both froze at what they saw. Capone, Dillinger, and two thugs had come through the door. All four men carried antique Tommy guns and all four looked ready to use them.
Dillinger fired a short burst into the air and the club's customers began to scream. The club bouncers both reached for their guns, but Barrow and Parker were right there to disarm them. The two thugs waved their guns at the crowd and the screaming stopped.
"My apologies, ladies and gentlemen, for this little interruption," Capone announced. "I just came by to announce that Georgie Hairdo has wisely decided to retire from the hospitality business. So from now on, this club belongs to Al Capone."
Clark and Lois backed away, trying to hide themselves in the stunned crowd. The movement caught Dillinger's attention and his eyes found Lois.
Dillinger turned to Capone, a sneering leer on his face. "Hey Al, how 'bout we name this little cutie our new head hostess?"
Lois backed away from him, trying to ignore his leering gaze in her direction but Dillinger just moved closer. "You know, I always was partial to a lady in red." Dillinger started to run his hand down her cheek. Clark felt her stiffen and try to back away from the mobster.
Clark grabbed Dillinger's hand away from Lois's face. "Leave her alone," he ordered.
Dillinger glared at him. "Who are you? Her big brother?" The mobster shoved Clark aside and made a grab for Lois. She jerked away from Dillinger's hand and Clark moved forward to intervene, to protect her.
"Clark, no!" Lois yelled. The crowd around her watched in horror as Clyde Barrow leveled his forty-five at Clark and pulled off three shots. Clark simply looked stunned for a moment, and then dropped like a marionette whose strings had been cut. "Clark!"
She dropped to her knees beside him, trying to staunch the blood she knew had to be pumping from his chest. But his blood wasn't pumping from the wounds, it was seeping. In the distance she could hear sirens. They sounded like they were coming closer.
Lois looked at the blood on her hands, the three bloody holes in Clark's white shirt. He wasn't really bleeding. *His blood isn't pumping. His heart isn't beating. He's dead. Clark is dead.*
"You moron. What did you do that for?" Capone hissed at Barrow.
"He's one of the guys the limey wanted out of the way," Barrow defended himself.
"He wanted the other guy first, you numbskull," Capone told him, furious. "Let's get out of here. And take the stiff. I can't afford to be linked to a murder."
The two thugs Capone brought with him grabbed Clark by the arms and dragged him away. His glasses were jostled off his face and fell to the floor, unnoticed by anyone aside from Lois.
She started to follow them but one of the women, Haines's wife, held her back. "There's nothing more you can do, honey," she said. "There's nothing any of us can do."
Detective Derek Wolfe watched the dark-haired woman seated across from him carefully. She'd made her statement. It was clear and concise, without any of the additions and suppositions witnesses usually added when describing events they'd seen and heard. Her statement was to the point and added absolutely nothing new except for identifying the alleged victim. Privately, Wolfe figured they'd find Kent's body when it washed up somewhere along the shore of the Hobs River.
Her eyes had been unfocused when she spoke of what had happened in the club, her hands kneading the fabric of her skirt. Dark bloodstains marred the bright red dress where she had wiped a man's blood off her hands. "They murdered my partner. The bastards murdered my partner," she had told him when she had finished her story.
Wolfe wondered a little at her reaction. Wolfe hadn't been with the Metropolis Police for very long. He'd moved to Metropolis from Dallas. But he'd heard of 'Mad Dog' Lois Lane, the brash, no holds barred Planet investigative reporter. But her reaction was more what he'd expect of a girl friend, not a co-worker -- unless Kent was more than just her work partner. "Miss Lane, how about I have an officer drive you home?" Wolfe offered.
She nodded. They both jumped when her beeper went off. She checked the number. "May I use your phone, please?"
He pushed his desk phone closer to her. "Dial nine for the outside line," he told her. He left to give her some privacy. It was going to be a long night and already Wolfe knew that he and his investigative team would be getting little rest until Kent's killers were in custody.
Pain. Incredible, searing pain that made it impossible to breathe, impossible to move. Every breath he took was like an ice pick stabbing his chest, twisting in his heart, his lungs. He was in an alley, somewhere, but he had no idea where he was or how he got there. All he knew was that he was in pain, and Lois was in danger.
He tried to climb to his feet, but was overcome with nausea, vertigo. He managed to crawl to the side of the alley, to the nearest building, ignoring the glass on the ground that slashed at his hands and shredded the knees of his slacks. He finally got to his feet, leaning heavily against the rough brick of the wall. Slowly, keeping one bloody hand on the wall for support, he headed for the lights on the street beyond.
Officer Joe Murphy and his partner, Leo Brazzel, sat at one of little tables in the all-night diner, drinking coffee and finishing up their dessert. Murphy had his radio between them on the table, listening to the reports coming through. An all points bulletin had been put out on Al Capone, John Dillinger, Bonnie Parker, and Clyde Barrow.
"What are they smokin' downtown?" Brazzel wondered aloud. Murphy just shook his head. He had stopped wondering about the lunacy that surrounded Metropolis years before. Heck the city was home to a man who could fly -- without an airplane.
"Hey, didn't you guys hear?" the night cook asked. "There were a couple murders not far from here tonight. The owner of some sort of gambling club was found dead in the river and then some guy was shot to death in the club. The radio said the shooter was positively identified as Clyde Barrow."
"Clyde Barrow's been dead for sixty years." Brazzel said.
The night cook shrugged. "Maybe the radio guys are smokin' the same thing as that guy out there." He nodded to a dark-haired man who had fallen against the Metropolis P.D. panda car parked in front of the diner.
Murphy and Brazzel both swore as they headed out the door, pulling out their batons as they approached their car. The man had fallen to the ground beside the cruiser. Murphy realized with a start that there were dark streaks across the white of the car doors, but the light from the street lamps was too dim to see much else. He pulled out his flashlight. The white light showed the stains on the car to be red, blood red, drying to blood brown.
He turned his light on the man on the ground. He was young and he looked familiar, somehow. Someone Murphy had seen before, but Murphy was pretty sure he wasn't someone he'd arrested. The man's clothes were of good quality, at least they had been. Now they were torn and filthy, like he'd been dumped in garbage. The front of the man's white shirt was also stained with blood.
With Brazzel standing just out of arms reach, Murphy knelt down and checked for a pulse at the man's throat. He didn't seem to be breathing, and he was deathly pale but, to Murphy's astonishment, there was a pulse. Not a strong one, to be sure, but a pulse nonetheless.
"Leo, we need an aid car here on the double," Murphy ordered. His partner pulled out his radio and placed the call while Murphy attempted to clear the man's airway so he could breathe.
"Lois, where have you been?" Perry demanded as soon as he heard Lois's voice on the phone. "A report came over the scanner of a shooting over at Georgie Hairdo's club. That was a more than an hour ago."
"I know, Perry," Lois said, fighting back the tears she had refused to shed in front of the detective. "I was there."
Perry sensed something was wrong. "Lois, hon', was Clark with you?"
"Clark was the one shot, Perry," she told him. "Three slugs, point-blank range to the chest. He's dead, Perry. Clark is dead and it's my fault." The tears had started. "If I hadn't worn this damn red dress, if I'd listened to Bobby and to Clark, we'd've waited, found out what Capone was up to..."
"Honey, you're sure Clark's dead? The radio report said that the perps took the body with them," Perry told her.
"Perry, he wasn't bleeding, not really. I've seen enough to know that living people bleed. Dead people don't bleed and Clark wasn't bleeding," Lois told him. "And chances are, they won't find his body. Capone said he couldn't afford to be linked to a murder." She stopped trying to control her sobs.
Perry snorted. "And to think, people used to think Capone was a smart cookie," Perry said. "Lois, do you want me to come down and give you a ride home?"
"No, Detective Wolfe is going to have an officer drive me home," she told him. "But somebody needs to call Clark's parents, let them know what happened. I don't know if the cops called them or not."
"I'll give them a call," Perry promised. *Clark was the one shot tonight? Oh, my God. Clark is dead?*
"Who would be calling at this hour?" Martha Kent complained as she reached over to pick up the phone. She and her husband had just gotten settled into bed.
"Answer it and find out," her husband suggested.
She made a face at him as she picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Missus Kent?" a man with a slight southern accent asked. "This is Perry White, from the Daily Planet. Clark's boss?"
Martha motioned for Jonathan to pick up the extension phone. "Yes, Mister White?"
She heard him take a deep breath. "Have the police gotten in touch with you yet?" he asked.
"No, why?" she asked. Her breath caught in her throat. "Has something happened to Clark?" *Something's happened to Clark? Something's happened to my baby? How? He's invulnerable. He's Superman.*
"Lois and Clark went to check out an illegal gaming club. There were shots fired," Perry told them. She could tell he was fighting to maintain control as he spoke. "Clark was shot. Lois is pretty sure they killed him, but the perps took his body with them, so we can't be a hundred percent sure."
"Why would anyone want to shoot Clark?" Jonathan asked.
"I don't know all of the details, but I can promise you that when I find out you'll be the first to know," Perry told them. "Clark was a good kid."
"Thank you," Martha murmured as she hung up the phone. "Jonathan?"
"I'm sure it's just a mistake," Jonathan assured her. "Something happened and he's trying to get things figured out and he'll show up here any minute."
"So why do I feel so scared for him, Jonathan? It's not like him not to call or show up when something's happened."
Her husband of thirty-five years simply took her in his arms.
"Okay, what've we got?" Doctor Andrew Bryant asked as he trotted beside the gurney that had just come out of the elevator onto the trauma floor. Bryant was the senior trauma surgeon at Metropolis General Hospital and had been recruited away from Atlanta only three months before. He took the paperwork that was handed to him by one of the nurses and glanced through it.
"Multiple gun shot wounds, three anterior thorax, no exit wounds we can find. Looks like a forty-five," the trauma nurse told him. "Pulse 125, BP 80 over 60." The rest of the team was following the protocols as they wheeled into pre-op. The patient had been stripped down for examination and treatment, IVs started with large bore needles. He'd been intubated in the aid car on the way to the hospital, but now the anesthesiologist was replacing the ambu-bag with the fittings for the respirator. Electrodes had been placed on his chest and the green blip on the small ECG screen bounced along in an abnormal but merry way.
Bryant checked over his new patient... Male Caucasian, twenty-five to thirty years of age, one-eighty to two hundred pounds. He had the body of an athlete but Bryant knew that looks could be deceiving. He could be riddled with arteriosclerosis, who knew what else. He raised a questioning eyebrow at the injuries to the man's hands and knees.
"The cops who called him in think he was shot and left for dead in an alley," one of the nurses said. "Apparently he managed to crawl away from them."
"He's damn lucky, then," Bryant said. "He should be dead."
The team started draping the patient for surgery, working quickly, efficiently. The anesthesiologist was speaking reassuringly to the patient as she worked. "Do we have a name on him?" she asked. One of the nurses shook her head. The anesthesiologist shrugged. "Hopefully he'll be able to tell us when we're done here."
Bryant stepped over to the light box with the x-rays clipped to them. The films were not as clear as they normally were. "What gives with these?" The film was actually foggy in places, as though it had been exposed to radiation other than the x-rays.
"Just another one of those things," the trauma center radiologist. "That new digital x-ray system we're testing did a better job. Looks like two of the slugs shattered, sent shrapnel all through his chest, but managed to miss the major arteries. The third one is lodged against his heart. What I don't get is why the pieces are showing up like this." The metal was showing on the films as hard bright stars. "Unless the slugs were radioactive."
"Dear God, I hope not," Bryant said, heading in scrub up for surgery. "This kid is going to have enough problems as it is. That last slug is in a real bad place."
*Clark is dead.* Lois found herself repeating in her head. A uniformed officer drove her to her apartment, made sure she made it inside before heading back to headquarters. Once inside, she took off the red dress and placed it in a garbage bag. They hadn't asked, but she was sure the police would want to check the blood on her dress, match it against Clark's blood.
*Clark is dead.* She stripped to the skin and took a shower, scrubbing away the feel of Dillinger's hand on her, scrubbing away the dirt from being close to the animals that killed her friend, scrubbing away the blood -- Clark's blood -- on her hands, on her body. Scrubbing away the guilt for talking him into going to the club even though she knew he hadn't really wanted to be there.
She knew he had gone to humor her, to keep her safe when she decided to jump into an investigation without really thinking it through. That was the way he was. He was her spear-carrier. He followed and helped, advised and warned. Why had he started towards Dillinger? He knew she could handle herself. She'd done it for years before he came along. Was it some macho over-protectiveness? He wasn't Superman, after all. Bullets didn't bounce off Clark Kent.
She washed her hair three times to get the stink of Capone's cigar out of her nose, her hair, her skin. The water helped hide the fact she couldn't stop crying. Finally she climbed out of the shower shivering, threw on an old nightgown and crawled into her cold bed. After a moment, she climbed out from under the covers and grabbed the black and white teddy bear from the corner of her dresser. It was the one Clark had won for her in Smallville the year before. Before the horror with Jason Trask.
She hugged the bear to her chest as she went to the unlocked window of her balcony and looked out, straining to see a blue and red flash in the darkness. "Superman," she said aloud to the darkness. "I know you can't be everywhere at once, but why couldn't you be there for Clark? I thought he was your friend, too."
There was no flash of blue and red. No sign of Superman. Tears started down her face again and she padded back to her bed.
"Oh Clark, what do I do now?" she murmured as she cried herself to sleep.
It was a beautiful morning but Perry White didn't notice. He had hardly slept at all and he knew he looked like hell. Everyone in the newsroom looked like hell this morning. Clark had been well liked, well respected. Perry looked over the front page mock-up on his desk. 'Reporter Presumed Killed In The Line Of Duty' the headline read.
Jimmy Olsen knocked on the office door then walked in carrying some papers. "CK asked me to do some research for him and Lois. On Hamilton's clone project." He dropped the printouts on Perry's desk. "I guess he won't be needing it now."
"We don't know that," Perry said. "What did he want you to find?"
"How Hamilton was able to give the clones the personalities and memories of the originals."
"And?" Perry prompted.
"Well, Hamilton used to work for LexLabs. LexLabs had this weird research project going on soul transference, had gurus brought in from India even," Jimmy explained. "Hamilton had this idea that a clone would be able to tap into some sort of soul memory thing since it wouldn't have any memories of its own. It sounds weird, but I guess Hamilton was right. Not that it helps CK any." If possible, Jimmy looked even more upset than he had before. "It's not fair, you know. It's not right for somebody to check out before he's thirty."
"He is, was, one of the best journalists I've ever had the privilege to work with," Perry told the young man. He fought the lump he felt growing in his throat then he smiled sadly. "I remember the first time he walked in here looking for a job, full of that confidence you get when you don't know any better. I remember thinking... this kid is me. And now..."
There was a knock on the door. Gil opened the door and stuck his head in. "Mr. White, the caterer's on the phone. He wants to know when we're going to reschedule the party."
Perry sat back in his chair as he considered the message, the caterer, the already scheduled party. "Tell him it's still on for tonight."
Gil gave Perry a surprised nod and closed the door.
"Chief," Jimmy said. "I don't think anyone's really in the mood for a party."
"Jimmy, the Daily Planet is more than just paper and ink," Perry told him. "It's people like Clark... and you... doing what's right for the city and getting damn little in return. By honoring the Planet tonight, we honor Clark... and everything he stood for." Perry looked down at the dummy front page on his desk one more time before handing it to Jimmy. "Now, take this down to the press room. We got a paper to put out."
Derek Wolfe's eyes were already gritty with fatigue but he knew he wasn't going to get a break until Capone and his cronies were behind bars. He already had twelve possible locations on them throughout the city. If the locations had been centered in one area, that would have been helpful, but calls had come in from all over and each one needed to be checked out.
He organized the growing file on the case. Both Clark Kent's and George Papadapolous's murders had been assigned to him and his team on the belief that they were linked. It was a logical assumption, considering both cases dealt with the club. Chances were good that Capone and his gang were behind both of them.
Wolfe glanced through the statements. Lois Lane hadn't signed hers. That, at least, was an easy fix. He needed the dress she was wearing last night anyway. The forensics team hadn't found a lot of blood at the club -- at least not as much as they'd expected to find considering the type of injury Kent had to have sustained.
He checked the new memos in his computer inbox -- the list of John and Jane Does admitted to the city's hospitals overnight. Most of them weren't police business, really -- mostly homeless people suffering from exposure. But one caught his eye and that one was police business -- a gunshot victim, male Caucasian, late twenties, dark hair, around six-feet tall. *Could we be so lucky?*
Wolfe didn't want to get his hopes up that he had only one actual murder on his hands, but maybe God was smiling on him just this once.
Perry stood outside his office door, watching his people as they went about their work. Nearly everybody was out working on their assignments, both the ones he had assigned them at this morning's briefing and those they had assigned themselves -- corruption in various city departments, corporate malfeasance in various forms, the plight of the homeless. The people who remained in the bullpen were going about their work as if dazed.
It was at the morning briefing that Perry had made the announcement that Lois and Clark had been at Georgie Hairdo's club during the shooting and Clark had been the victim. He'd seen the surprise, the shock in their faces. It would be a long time before his newsroom recovered. Lois hadn't shown up at all, but Perry hadn't expected that she would.
The elevator doors opened and Lois stepped out. She looked like she hadn't slept at all and she was dressed in an oversize Kansas State sweatshirt and dark pedal pushers. Clark's sweatshirt, Perry realized. Clark had graduated from Kansas State.
He watched as she came down the ramp, pausing at Clark's empty desk before going to her own. Perry had never seen her looking so lost, not even after that fiasco with Claude Dupre. She'd been hurt and angry when that had happened, not lost.
"Lois, you didn't have to come in today," Perry said gently. From a distance she had looked worn out. On closer inspection, she looked like she had aged ten years. Her skin was sallow, eyes bloodshot.
"I couldn't stay home. All I could think about was Clark lying there," she said. "I can't help feeling it was all my fault Clark was killed."
"Honey, you can't blame yourself," Perry told her. "You had no way of knowing what was going to happen."
Lois didn't seem to hear him. "Clark died trying to protect me. In one lousy second, they took away my partner and my best friend," she said. Perry had to strain to hear her, she was speaking so softly. "You know the worst part? Clark died without ever knowing..."
Lois and Perry both looked up to see Detective Wolfe walking down the ramp towards them.
"Sorry to bother you," he said gently. He nodded to Perry. "I'm Detective Wolfe. Homicide." He turned back to Lois. "I need to get your signature on the statement you gave last night. And if you could bring the dress you were wearing down to headquarters, that'd be appreciated too."
Lois took the paper he pulled out of his notebook and signed it, handing it back to him. Somewhere on the floor, a phone rang and someone picked it up.
"Got any leads on these animals yet?" Perry asked.
Wolfe sighed. "Not yet. But we will." He paused, as if contemplating his next words. "There is something. I don't want you to get your hopes up, but a report came in of a John Doe over at Metropolis General. A gunshot victim. The description is pretty close to the one you gave me on Kent."
"You mean, he might be alive," Perry demanded.
"Like I said, don't get your hopes up," Wolfe warned them. "But if you could identify him, that would be a good thing."
Jimmy came closer. "Detective Wolfe? There's a call for you on line two."
Wolfe nodded and picked up the phone. "Wolfe. Yeah..." He grabbed the message pad off Lois's desktop and started writing down the message. "Has it been confirmed?" he asked. "Look, we've now got fourteen possibles on Capone's whereabouts... Okay. Add it to the list."
He tore the message from the pad and pocketed it as he hung up the phone. "Look, let me know one way or another on that John Doe, okay?" He pulled a business card from his pocket and handed it to Perry. "You can leave a message at the number. You know we're gonna be working on this round the clock. I'll keep you posted."
He gave Perry and Lois a small smile and headed toward the elevators.
"Shall we go see who it is at the hospital?" Perry asked.
"Why not?" Lois asked. "At least we can tell them who it isn't."
"No answer," Jonathan told his wife. They'd been trying Clark's number in Metropolis ever since Perry's call telling them Clark had been shot. They hadn't believed it. Clark was Superman and only one thing could hurt him physically -- at least as far as they knew -- and that was kryptonite.
After Perry's call they had expected Clark to show up, explaining what had happened. But he hadn't shown up and he hadn't called. That wasn't like Clark. He was a considerate boy. Even when he was traveling around the world after college, he checked in to let them know where he was, how he was doing.
"There haven't been any Superman sightings since yesterday afternoon," Martha told him, turning off the television. "At least none that reached the news services and there was a train derailment in Italy that should have caught his attention."
"So, what do you want to do?" Jonathan asked. He already had a suspicion.
"Let's leave Clark a note, in case he does show up here," Martha began. "I'll let Rachel know what's going on, in case somebody calls her to get in touch with us."
"And I'll get us a flight to Metropolis," Jonathan finished for her.
"How did his parents take it?" Lois finally asked Perry as they walked through the main entrance of Metropolis General Hospital. Perry had driven them both over from the Planet. He knew she wasn't in any shape to be driving. He wasn't in much better shape but it was his car.
"I'm not sure they believed me," Perry admitted. "It wasn't anything they said, really. But I was expecting more questions, something."
"Maybe they were in shock," Lois suggested. "Clark was an only child. It can't be easy getting news like that over the phone."
"Well, I know I sure as hell never want to get that call," Perry admitted.
They stopped at the front desk to ask directions and explain their mission. The woman at the desk directed them to the trauma center on the eighteenth floor.
The elevator doors opened onto a wide lobby that faced the nurses' station. Two white uniformed women looked up as Lois and Perry stepped closed. "Yes?"
"I'm Perry White and this is Lois Lane," Perry introduced himself and his companion. "We're with the Daily Planet."
"I'm sorry, but hospital policy forbids..." one of the nurses began.
"You don't understand," Perry interrupted. "The police told us you had a John Doe here, a gunshot victim. They thought we might be able to identify him. He might be one of our people."
Mollified, the nurse checked the list of patients on the floor. "He's in the isolation ICU. You'll have to gown and mask before you go in." She turned to the other woman who was watching the monitors. "I'll be right back," she said, coming out from behind the counter.
She led the way to the intensive care unit, to a side room with one glass wall looking onto the ICU nursing station.
Perry looked into the room, to the man in the bed. Dark-hair, late twenties. "Oh dear Lord," he murmured to himself. Lois had gone pale.
"Do you recognize him?" the nurse asked.
Perry nodded. "He's one of my people. His name's Clark Kent. He's a reporter for the Planet."
Lois had stepped closer to the window, placing one hand on the glass. "Clark?"
"Is he going to be okay?" Perry asked.
"It's too early to say," the nurse admitted. "I'll let the attending know you're here. He can go into more detail." She stopped and turned back to Lois. "Are you his wife?"
Lois shook her head. "He's not married. We're partners at work," she said. "But we're very close."
The nurse nodded. "I'll let the doctor know."
Jimmy checked the carbonless copy of the note Detective Wolfe left on the memo pad against the address of the building in front of him: 1500 Old North Road. He'd taken the note from Lois's desk after she and Perry left for the hospital. He knew Perry would never have agreed to let him be part of the investigation into Clark's shooting.
He looked the building over. It was badly in need of paint, and the address was barely legible. The sign above the door 'LC Storage?' LexCorp? Jimmy didn't remember seeing a storage building in the list of Lex Luthor's properties, but he knew the accountants and auditors were still up to their elbows figuring everything out after the billionaire's suicide death.
He tried the door and found it locked. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a lock pick set. "Reform school was good for something," he murmured to himself as he looked around before setting to work.
The door opened with a satisfying snick. He paused a moment before swinging it open. The room beyond was almost dark. The only light came from the one window, high on the outside wall. It was a small room that was probably once an office. Now it appeared to be a shabby sitting room that stank of cigar smoke and stale perfume.
Light came from underneath one of the inside doors. The door was locked from the outside with a deadbolt. Jimmy listened at the door for a moment before slipping open the deadbolt and stepping inside. He stopped, astonished at what he saw in the brightly lit room.
It was a cheap lab straight out of a bad science fiction movie. Two worn wooden tables with mysterious tubes and burners, glass beakers with blue ooze and goo that bubbled and churned. There was a vat large enough to hold a medium-sized man lying down. The vat has filled with blue ooze that seemed to be churning around a pulsating glob the size of a man's torso.
Jimmy spotted a thin miserable looking man wearing a stained lab coat. The man was filling a glass beaker with more of the blue slime.
"Professor Hamilton?" Jimmy asked.
The man jumped, startled. He dropped the beaker in his hand and it shattered against the concrete floor. Slime splattered everywhere.
"Jimmy Olsen, Daily Planet," Jimmy introduced himself, taking a moment to pull out his camera.
Hamilton went pale. "Oh, no. Not the press. Are the police with you?"
"No," Jimmy admitted. "Is it true? Did you really create Capone and the others?"
"I'm afraid so," Hamilton admitted. "But I can't control them anymore. They're... it's... I..." He stopped, staring at the lab around him, a look of horror on his face.
"Professor Hamilton. Why are you locked in here?" Jimmy asked. He wasn't a reporter, but he'd been around Lois and Clark and Perry enough to be able to fake it. He hoped. Maybe Perry would give him the byline if he pulled this off.
"It's Capone and Dillinger," Hamilton began. "They're making me regenerate more of their gang."
Jimmy took a photo of the vat and its glob. "What's in the vat?"
"Baby Face Nelson. Or at least, it will be," Hamilton said. Jimmy started feeling queasy. Weren't clones supposed to grow like normal people, only faster? What was in the vat certainly didn't look like a human being, not even an unborn one.
"Please. You must believe me," Hamilton protested, obviously mistaking the look of confusion on Jimmy's face. "This wasn't supposed to happen. I just wanted to help mankind."
"There're a dozen versions of Frankenstein out there and you still didn't get the point?" Jimmy asked in disbelief. "One of those monsters murdered my best friend." Jimmy paused at the horrified look on Hamilton's face. It wasn't the scientist's fault, not really. He sighed. "C'mon, we've got to get out of here."
Jimmy opened the door slightly and listened for a moment, then beckoned Hamilton to follow him as he headed to the outside door. Suddenly, there was the sound of a key in the outside lock and the knob began to turn. Jimmy motioned for Hamilton to hide as he opened the door to what should have been a broom closet. It was filled with gangster clothes all neatly hung on hangers. Hamilton ducked under the wooden desk in the corner as Jimmy closed the closet door, leaving only a crack to see out of.
The outside door opened and Jimmy saw Al Capone leading Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow, and two thugs he didn't recognize from the history books into the room. Capone plopped into one of the armchairs and Barrow settled onto the broken down sofa. Parker perched on the edge of the desk, watching Capone's two recruits with avid interest.
"What's the matter with this town?" Capone complained. "The boy scouts take over? A hundred grand and nobody's interested in selling out?"
"I remember when you could'a bought three congressmen and a judge for half of that," Parker commented.
"Well, I guess they call them the good old days for a reason," Nigel St. John said, entering the room.
"I'm through playing nice with these people," Capone said, puffing on his cigar. "If I can't buy them, I'll eliminate them."
"Interesting management tactic," St. John commented wryly. "But you haven't completed the task you already agreed to. And you've already used half the ammunition I gave you."
"The hunk in the blue tights didn't show up in the club like you promised," Parker told him.
Capone picked up the afternoon edition of the Daily Planet, looking at the headline about the man, the reporter, Barrow shot at the club. He turned the paper over to read the lower half of the front page. There was a secondary headline reading: Planet Event To Honor Slain Journalist.
"It was expected that he'd show up when Mister Kent and Miss Lane were threatened," St. John told them. "Obviously we miscalculated. But there will be other opportunities."
"There's gonna be a little get together at the Planet tonight. And anybody who's worth owning will be there," Capone said with a smirk, tossing the paper aside. "I wonder if it's still bad manners to crash a party?"
Barrow shrugged off his jacket and crossed the room to the closet. He grinned at Capone and St. John. "Not if you bring a gift," Barrow said. "I figure three slugs apiece should be enough."
Clyde opened the closet and reached in for a hanger. He touched a warm body instead. "What the...?" He jerked Jimmy out from behind the coats.
"Well, well, well," Capone said, eyeing Jimmy. "We have a snoop."
"Actually, I'm a reporter with the Daily Planet," Jimmy said. "I'm looking for an interview."
Capone slowly approached him, taking a long draw on his cigar. He blew a trail of cigar smoke across Jimmy's face. "About what? My overcoat?"
"He's lying, Al," Parker said. "You how these guys stick together. We shot his buddy. Only thing he wants from you is a confession."
"Bonnie doubts your motives," Capone noted. "And to be honest, so do I."
"Look, I don't care about the guy you killed," Jimmy lied. "He was just someone I worked with. But I do care about my career. And an exclusive interview with you can help take me to the top."
Capone studied him for a long moment. "You're still a snoop." He motioned to an empty chair. "Take a seat."
Jimmy hesitated as he glanced over to where he knew Hamilton was hiding under the desk. He watched as Parker pulled a vial of perfume from her purse and dabbed some behind each of her knees.
"Um... you know what?" Jimmy said hurriedly. He wanted to distract them. "How 'bout I take you all to this little sushi place I know? We can get better acquainted over lunch."
"What's a sushi?" Barrow asked suspiciously.
"It's fish. Raw fish. You eat it. It's really popular," Jimmy explained.
"Sounds yummy," Parker commented, eyeing Jimmy speculatively.
Suddenly there was a barrage of sneezes from beneath the desk. Parker hopped off the desktop as if it were on fire. Barrow ran around the desk and pulled Hamilton out from under the desk. The man looked terrified.
"Well, well, well, how'd you get out of the lab, Professor?" Barrow asked unpleasantly.
Capone looked over at Jimmy. "Y'know, the morals in this country have absolutely gone to pot."
St. John chuckled. "I've no doubt you'll find a way to adapt."
Doctor Bryant had come out and introduced himself to Perry and Lois. He briefed them on Clark's condition -- still critical. His heart had stopped twice during surgery while they were repairing a damaged coronary artery. Then his temperature started spiking and they didn't know why, yet. The lab tests had come back with nothing aside from some blood anomalies -- his patient was fairly seriously anemic, and there was no indication of a cause for that either.
Then Bryant asked Lois questions about the shooting.
She told him of the shots being fired, Clark falling to the floor, her attempts to staunch the blood with her hands. Perry actually went pale at her description. "He wasn't bleeding a lot," she explained. "Not at much as I expected. And what blood there was I think ended up on me." She shuddered at the memory. *Clark wasn't really bleeding, but my hands were red with his blood.*
"Lois, I'm going to head back to the office and I'll call Clark's parents, let them know what's happening," Perry told her as soon as Bryant left to attend his other patients.
Lois nodded. "I'll stay here," she said. "I'll call you if there's any change." She remembered something. "Perry, Clark found a movie ticket stub from the Rosebud Cineplex at the bank Dillinger robbed. He said Superman told him it fell out of Dillinger's pocket."
"Did Clark tell the police?"
"I don't think so," she said. "I don't think he had a chance to. I didn't think it meant anything."
"Lois, hon', don't you know?" Perry asked. "That's how the FBI caught Dillinger sixty years ago. He was coming out of the Biograph Theater. He was a real movie buff. Do you know what Clark did with the stub?"
She shook her head.
"Never mind," Perry said. "But you're sure it was the Rosebud?"
Wolfe hung up the phone. Reporters on the city beat were generally bad enough when it came to cooperating with police investigations. The ones from the Daily Planet were in a league of their own. Kent had simply picked up a piece of evidence at an active crime scene and put it in his pocket? Then he 'forgot' to mention it to anyone besides his partner in crime, the even more infamous, Lois Lane.
He contemplated the information Perry White had given him. One, Kent was the John Doe at Metropolis General, and two, Superman had seen a movie ticket stub fall out of John Dillinger's pocket while at the first bank job. A ticket stub that was from a theater only four blocks from one of Capone's suspected hideouts.
Wolfe checked the entertainment section of the Daily Planet for the film listings. The Rosebud was hosting an Edward G. Robinson film festival all this week. The matinee feature for today was 'Little Caesar.' He ordered two detectives to check out the theater on the off chance Dillinger had resumed his old movie going habit. He sent another team to check out the address on Old North Road.
It might have been a coincidence, but Wolfe didn't believe in coincidences.
Gowned, gloved, and masked, the nurse finally allowed Lois to enter the small ICU room -- the room where contagious, or possibly contagious, patients were kept. She'd been told by the nurse that he had to stay quiet, that he'd been sedated to help with that. A clear tube was tied across his face, two prongs feeding him oxygen. Plastic bags hung on a pole by at the side of the bed, with tubes that dripped colorless liquids into veins in Clark's left arm. Both of his hands were covered with white gauze bandages.
Lois stepped closer. He was pale, paler than Lois had ever seen him. Paler than he'd been when Trask had beaten him and then tried to kill him. She had a hard time believing it was just over a year ago that Trask had accused Clark and his parents of being part of an alien invasion that Superman was allegedly the front man for. Aside from letting Lex Luthor fall to his death, Superman had only done good for the city, the world. At some point Lois knew she would find out where Superman had been when Luthor fell. But not today.
A group of electronic monitors occupied a rack on the wall beside Clark's bed. There was a sensor on the index finger of his right hand with a wire that ran to one of the monitors. Various lines and wires attached the other monitors to Clark's body. There were a lot of wires. She glanced at the monitor readings, although she knew she probably wouldn't understand what any of them meant. The EKG beeped with a persistent rhythm of 80 beats per minute but the tracing on the little screen didn't look quite normal, assuming she knew what normal looked like aside from what she saw on TV. She was the daughter of a physician and a nurse, but science had never been one of her best subjects.
His dark hair was mussed, over his forehead. She reached out and brushed his hair away from his face. He was warm to her touch, too warm, fever hot even through the gloves. He was covered only by a thin sheet and a faded hospital gown. There was a cold pad on the mattress beneath him. Another readout caught her eye. She recalled reading somewhere what anything over 106º Fahrenheit was incompatible with human life. The internal temperature monitor read 107º. That can't be good.
His eyes were half open, unfocused, unseeing. Lois didn't know if he even knew she was there. "Clark?" she asked softly.
To her surprise he moved his head to look at her. His expression was puzzled as he tried to focus on her. "Lois? What happened? Where am I? Why...?" His voice was weaker than she'd ever heard it, barely above a whisper.
"You're in the isolation ICU at Metropolis General Hospital. You were shot three times by Clyde Barrow," Lois told him. "We thought you were dead." As she spoke, his eyes widened in terror and he tried to sit up. He gasped in pain, clutching one hand to his chest. She grabbed his shoulders, forcing him back onto the mattress as one of the monitor alarms began to shrill. "Clark? What is it? What's wrong?"
"I can't be here," he said in panic. "I can't stay here. They'll... they'll..." He was trembling under her hands.
"Clark, you're hurt, you're running a high fever, and you need to rest," Lois told him. He was still trembling but was no longer actually fighting her.
"I want to go home," he said. There was a waver in his voice but his expression had turned stubborn, as though he were trying to overcome the pain, the fear, by sheer force of will.
"Clark, you're not out of danger," she said firmly. "You have to stay and let them help you. If you leave, you will die."
"You don't understand," he told her. The fear was still palpable in his voice. "They had kryptonite."
"Clark, we knew they were gunning for Superman," she reminded him. "They shot you instead. So, please, just do what the doctor tells you, okay? I thought I lost you and I don't ever want to go through that again. I don't..."
He was watching her, breath ragged as he listened.
"When I thought you were gone, I did some thinking about my life. You know, what it would be like without you in it..." she continued. "It's not a life I want to deal with. I want my life to have you in it, and if that means I have to sit on you to keep you here so the doctors can help you, I will."
"You don't understand," he repeated.
"So, explain it to me. Explain to me why you're willing to die to get away from here."
"They're going to find out I'm not normal and..." he began.
She opened her mouth to ask another question when the door opened and a brightly uniformed nurse rushed in. She grabbed a mask and gloves and put them on before hurrying over to the hospital bed. "Mister Kent?"
Clark nodded to her, his eyes still filled with worry.
The nurse checked the readings on the monitors and turned off the alarm before turning back to him. "How are you feeling?"
"When can I go home?" he asked her.
She chuckled. "Doctor Bryant will be in shortly to talk to you. In the meantime, he has ordered complete bed rest."
Lois answered with a sigh. "Because one of the bullets damaged a coronary artery and bruised your heart. It's kind of like you had a heart attack. A major heart attack on top of everything else."
Detectives Pat Sheehan and Gina Monroe looked around the worn storage building. City records showed that the building had been condemned over a year before and had been scheduled for demolition and through a paper work snafu had managed to stay standing. They noted the beaten down weeds in front of the front door, the relatively fresh tire tracks around back. The tracks appeared to belong to an old car with narrow tires. A car from the late thirties, early forties, maybe. At least two cars of that vintage had been stolen from collectors around the city in the past few days. Monroe called in for a search warrant.
Sheehan tried the door. It was locked and the lock looked fairly new, but it was also cheap. He made quick work of it. He carefully opened the door and peered in. There was no one in the office/sitting room. He pulled out his service pistol and pushed the door open. Monroe was behind him, her own pistol out.
"Police! Come out with your hands over your heads!" Sheehan called out. No answer. He stepped into the room, motioning for his partner to check out one of the doors. She jerked open the closet door and checked behind the clothes. Nothing except the thirties' style suits and overcoats, along with one sequined dress.
"The reports said the woman with Capone was wearing a gold sequined dress last night, didn't they?" Monroe asked her partner.
"Yep," Sheehan agreed.
Monroe pulled out the dress. "How much you want to bet this is it?"
"Not taking that one," Sheehan said. He spotted something shiny on the floor. "What's that by your foot?"
Monroe crouched down and peered at the object. It was a laminated card with a clip and it had a Daily Planet logo printed on the side that she saw. She turned it over using a capped pen. "It's a press pass from the Daily Planet, someone named James Olsen. He's a photographer."
"That's not the guy that got shot last night, is it?"
Monroe shook her head. "That was Kent." She straightened up.
"Let's check out the back room," Sheehan said, nodding to the other door.
This time, Monroe took point, opening the door fast as her partner covered her. Again, there was no one there. But Monroe's jaw dropped at what she saw. A mad scientist's lab straight out of a fifties science fiction movie. Monroe stepped closer to the large vat filled with blue goo and something that almost looked like a human body. "Holy mother of God," Monroe murmured. "That's not Olsen, is it?"
"I sure hope not." Sheehan pulled his radio out from beneath his jacket. "Dispatch, this is unit twenty-five. We need the lab boys out to 1500 Old North Road. And some backup would be nice." He turned to his partner. "Just in case they come back."
"Let's wait outside," Monroe suggested. "This place gives me the creeps."
Lupe Leocadio-Escuderio smiled toothily at the youngster manning the ticket booth at the Rosebud Cineplex. The kid couldn't have been more than eighteen and was quaking in his boots at the sight of the three panda cars, and the SWAT team van, parked in the truck zone in front of the theater. The kid didn't know about the teams already stationed at the back of the building, covering the emergency exits.
The kid had already identified John Dillinger from one of the bank holdup photos. "He's been here everyday for the past four days," the kid said.
"You're sure he's here?" Leocadio asked. The kid nodded, staring at the Kevlar vested and helmeted officer. "How many people are in the building?" she asked.
"About a dozen customers. It's been a slow week. Then there's Joey, he's the projectionist, and Lindsey at the counter. And me, of course."
Leocadio nodded and walked over to the SWAT team van. "About fifteen people in the building, three of them employees. We have to assume Dillinger is armed and dangerous," she told them before waving her people into the building. One of the probies, Flint, kept looking up in the sky. "If the Blue Boy Scout was going to be here to help, he'd already be here," she told him.
"Do you think he's okay?" Flint asked.
"For somebody's who's not a cop, yeah," Leocadio said with a chuckle.
"No, I mean, nobody's seen him since yesterday and there's a rumor that Capone had something that could hurt him."
Leocadio shrugged. "We're talkin' about Superman, here. I don't know anything that could hurt him, do you?"
"You're probably right," Flint admitted. "But it'd be nice to know where he is."
"He'll show up," Leocadio promised. "In the meantime, we have a killer to catch." She gave him a push through the doors, into the building. With or without Superman's help, they had a job to do.
"Mister Kent, I don't believe you understand the seriousness of your condition," Doctor Bryant was saying.
"I really don't want to be here," Clark repeated more than a little petulantly. "I just want to go home. I'll be okay." He was betrayed by the heart monitor as his pulse jumped.
"Clark, we've been through this before," Lois said, almost yelling at him. He could be so stubborn sometimes. She knew he was feeling a little better. His fever had broken earlier and the refrigeration blanket was now gone. She'd given him his glasses, the ones he'd lost at the club and he almost looked normal now.
"You are not going to go home and miraculously be okay," she told him in her most commanding voice, the tone that usually got him to cooperate even if he didn't really want to. "It doesn't work that way. You are going to stay here and get better!"
"Lo-is," Clark hissed at her. "You don't understand."
"You keep telling me that, but you won't explain it so I can understand," she told him angrily.
"Mister Kent, if you're worried Capone and his people are going to find you here," Bryant began calmly, "you should know there's been a police guard outside the ICU ever since the police got confirmation of your identity."
Clark shook his head. "That's not it."
Bryant sighed. "Can I convince you to stay overnight so we can do some more lab tests?"
"No more tests," Clark said, lips pulled thin. Lois could see the tension in his jaw. Despite the bandages, he was clenching his fists.
Bryant gave him a curious, speculative look. "What if the tests were done by an outside lab? A number instead of a name?"
"You can do that?" Clark asked. The fear was still in his voice, but tempered with a touch of hope. He unclenched his hands, splaying out his fingers as if to stretch them, trying to force himself to relax.
"I know some people over at STAR Labs and Bernie Klein's a good guy. So yes, I can do that," Bryant assured him. "Provided you stay and cooperate with us. You can always change your mind later."
Clark nodded but he didn't look happy about it. Lois had the feeling something important had just happened but she couldn't quite put her finger on what or why.
"So, since I'm supposed to stay in bed and rest, what am I allowed to do?" Clark asked. There was still a little boy petulance in his voice and expression.
Bryant grinned. "I recommend sleep, mostly. We can't allow TVs, radios, or computers, in the ICU. They interfere with the equipment. And I don't recommend you reading any newspapers for a few days at least. No sense getting upset about things you can't do anything about. However we're reasonably confident that given time and rest, you will make a complete recovery."
"So, how long do you think that'll take?" Clark asked.
"It depends on how fast you heal. For you, it may be a couple weeks, for somebody else, maybe several months. And just so you know, I have you scheduled for another CAT scan this afternoon to make sure we got all the shrapnel out of your chest," Bryant said. "Also, hospitals are no places for heroes. If you have pain, let the nurse know and we'll take care of it. Pain is not a good thing. It's a sign that there's something wrong. You've had major surgery and your heart has been damaged and I have no idea what sort of long term issues we can expect from the green crystals that were in the bullets. By the way, we've sent those over to STAR Labs for analysis."
"Have you got anything back on them, yet?" Lois asked.
"They confirmed it was kryptonite," Bryant told her. "The stuff that may or may not be able to hurt Superman?"
Clark was chewing on the inside of his lip, a habit that Lois had noticed he fell back on when he was contemplating admitting something he really didn't want to. "We have reason to believe that kryptonite could be fatal to him," Clark said softly. "I'm not a scientist. I can't tell you how or why, just that it is."
Again, Lois had the feeling she was missing something. All the pieces were there, she just couldn't quite see the big picture that would make it all make sense.
"Doctor, just out of curiosity, who ordered the police guard?" Clark asked.
"A cop named Henderson," Bryant told him. "Bill Henderson? I gather he's a friend of yours." He chuckled and walked out of the room.
Clark lay back on the bed pillows and closed his eyes, not bothering to take off his glasses.
"Clark?" Lois asked.
"Yeah?" He didn't open his eyes.
"How about I go to your apartment and bring back some books for you?"
"Thanks," he said. She turned to leave. "Lois?"
She stopped and looked back at him. He was watching her again, eyes dark behind his glasses. He looked worried and tired, face drawn and pale. He was picking at the bed sheet.
"I'm sorry I've been so... difficult?" he said. "It's just that I've never really been hurt or sick, at least not bad enough to end up in a hospital. I, ah..."
"It's okay, Clark," she assured him. "Everybody acts a little weird when they're scared. And this is a pretty scary place." She started for the door again. "I'll be back in a little bit. So try and get some rest. And no trying to get in touch with Superman to get you out of here, either," she joked.
He gave her an odd not quite worried look before saying: "Not much chance of that happening, is there?"
As much as Monroe and Sheehan would rather have been sitting in their brown nondescript department car as they waited for the forensics technicians to show up and back up to arrive, they grabbed the Polaroid camera and several film packs from the trunk instead. They went back inside to take the preliminary photographs and measurements.
Monroe had just finished taking photographs of the back room, taking care to note the position of the vat with the 'body' in it, when the crime scene people arrived and took over. They took samples of everything they could find, especially the blue slimy goo that seemed to be everywhere. There was broken glass on the floor and more of the goo.
"What do you think this is all for?" Monroe asked one of the techs.
"Not being a mad scientist, I can't say," the tech replied. "But that thing in there is still growing and getting more human looking all the time."
"Who do you think it's going to be?" Monroe asked.
"Another of Capone's cronies, no doubt," the tech said. "I wish we could find this Hamilton guy's notes. He's pulled off one hell of a trick, bringing back dead gangsters. How many bank hold ups is in now?"
"Four. And yeah, we still need to find the live ones that are already around," Sheehan said bitterly. "Not to mention that missing reporter and that Hamilton character."
The house lights came up in the nearly empty auditorium, to the groans of the several teenagers in the seats who had not been watching the screen. A few older people also groaned, but because their entertainment on the screen, or their naps, had been interrupted.
Leocadio scanned the area. All the exits were covered, as were both restrooms, the office and the stairwell that led to a maze of tiny storage and dressing rooms that dated from vaudeville days. Two men were already behind the screen, searching the old stage. She gestured for her team to begin searching the rows of seats, starting with the back. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is the police," she announced loudly. "Please remain in your seats until we ask you to move, then leave the theater in an orderly manner."
She could see the confusion in their faces, except for one man in a camel colored coat. He'd put on sunglasses as soon as the house lights had come up and was now hunkered down in his seat. While the rest of the people in the theater had turned to look at her when she gave her instructions, this one man had turned away.
"Pete?" Leocadio spoke to her current partner, Pete Quinn, over the radio link. "See him?"
"Got him," Quinn replied, stepping over to the row where the man in the sunglasses was sitting. Other officers were clearing out the other rows, directing the people to go one by one up the center aisle. Outside the building, other officers would take their names and addresses, ask for ID. Inside the theater, officers put up the fold-down seats, checking under them for anything unusual.
Finally, the man in the sunglasses spoke to Quinn: "Hey, flat-foot, what about me?"
"May I see some identification, sir?" Leocadio asked as she stepped closer. She had unclipped the safety strap on her holster, keeping one hand close to the butt of her automatic.
The man hunkered further into his seat. "Since when do cops dress up like...? What sort of getup is that, anyway? Not exactly lady-like, but then, I never met a female cop who was a lady."
Quinn chuckled, earning a glare from Leocadio.
"John Dillinger, you are under arrest," Leocadio said. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you if you wish. You can decide at any time to stop answering questions if you wish. Do you understand what I've just told you?"
"Yeah, yeah. I got rights," the man said, straightening up in his seat and putting a hand inside his coat.
Quinn was immediately behind him, his standard issue 35 automatic just out of arm's reach of Dillinger's head. "Hands were we can see them, nice and slow. Then hands on your head."
Dillinger pulled an empty hand out of his coat and put both of his hands on his head. Leocadio came closer and snapped a hand cuff on around Dillinger's right wrist. "Lean over," she ordered, keeping hold of the restraint and pulling Dillinger's right hand behind him as she reached for his free hand. Dillinger started to stand, then began to move away from his seat.
"Both hands were we can see them," Quinn ordered. Leocadio was still holding onto Dillinger's wrists and he started to pull her across the back of the seat. She let go of him and pulled out her automatic. "Stop or I shoot," she announced.
Dillinger kept moving. "Hey, who you kiddin'? You won't shoot an unarmed man," he announced with a sneer. "You're one of the good guys."
She pulled off a single shot that just missed his ear. Dillinger spun around and stared at her. "I'm real sure I saw a gun under that coat. Didn't you see a gun, Quinn?"
"I'm real sure I did, Lieutenant," Quinn agreed.
"And I have been known to miss, on occasion," Leocadio added. "So, what'll it be? You come along quietly, or do I try again? Believe me; I wouldn't mind saving the taxpayers some money."
Dillinger went pale. "You wouldn't."
"Is Jimmy back yet?" Perry White yelled into the newsroom from his office.
"No chief," Gil Truman told him. "And he hasn't called, either."
"Blast that kid," Perry muttered to himself. "I swear I'll fire him if he shows up dead." He stalked over to Gil's desk. "Has anyone heard from Clark's parents?"
"You'd be the first to know chief," Gil told him. "I swear. You know, I bet they're already on their way here to find out what happened."
Jimmy Olsen tried to get more comfortable despite the fact that he was stuck in the trunk of a stolen antique car with his hands tied behind his back, his feet tied together, and a smelly rag in his mouth. Capone and his thugs had taken him and Professor Hamilton away from the office, shoving Jimmy in the car trunk. He had no idea what they had done with Hamilton. Jimmy was afraid the older man was already dead.
'If I can't buy them, I'll eliminate them,' Capone had said. *He's planning on having a killing spree the party tonight and I have no way to warn them. I can't even yell for Superman.*
The car had been driving around for sometime, over bumps, maybe railroad tracks. He'd lost track of the turns. He didn't know if they were trying to confuse him, or they had something else in mind. He went back to working on the ropes that secured his hands.
Lois unlocked the door to Clark's apartment and walked in. She'd gotten his key from his clothes before they'd been turned over to the police for examination. His wallet hadn't been found yet and probably wouldn't be.
She closed the door behind her and walked down the steps into his living room. Oddly, she smelled fresh coffee brewing in the kitchen.
"Clark?" Martha Kent called, coming out of the kitchen. She seemed surprised when she caught sight of Lois standing in the living room, but covered it quickly. "Jonathan, Lois is here," she said. She looked worried as she glanced back into the kitchen. Clark's father came out. He looked tired and even more worried than Martha did.
"Lois, Mister White called us yesterday night and said Clark had been shot," Martha began. "Do you know where he is?"
"Oh, Martha," Lois began, almost crying in relief. Clark's parents were here, in Metropolis. They'd be able to talk some sense into him, tell him to stay in the hospital. "Perry's been trying to get in touch with you since this morning. The police found Clark last night and he's over at Metropolis General. They've upgraded his condition to serious and I came over to get some books for him to read, to keep him occupied, 'cause he's not supposed to move much or get upset and they don't allow TVs or radios in the ICU..." She was babbling and she knew it.
She walked over to Clark's bookshelves to pick out some volumes to take back with her. He had an impressive book collection. Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Tolstoy, Aristotle, Dante, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Nietzsche both in their original languages and translations. History, literature, science, politics, religion. There was even a copy of Perry White's *Reports from the Ground.*
There were the classics as well, of course. She wasn't surprised to find a the complete works of Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, several Mark Twain books, Joseph Conrad's *Heart of Darkness*, Mary Stewart's Arthurian trilogy, C.S. Lewis, Dante, Homer, Victor Hugo. She recognized the names, if not the titles on some of them.
There were authors she had never heard of before, and some books had no visible title at all. Russian, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese... and was that Arabic? How many languages does Clark read? She was of the opinion that you could tell a lot about a person by the books they read. Eclectic was the best description of Clark's collection -- Tolkien and Jane Austin, sports almanacs and poetry, Tom Clancy and Andrew Greeley, Starhawk, Bishop Spong and Matthew Fox. An old copy of *The Saints* was tucked in next to a copy of the Qur'an.
"Clark's in the hospital?" Martha asked. "How...?" She turned to her husband. "Oh, Jonathan, we've got to get him out of there."
"Martha, he's in the ICU. He was shot three times," Lois told her, wide-eyed in disbelief. *Don't they understand?* "He can't leave the hospital yet. I mean, he was shot. One of the bullets bruised his heart."
"Lois, honey, you don't understand and...," Jonathan began, but he stopped at Martha's warning look.
Alarms started going off in Lois's head as the puzzle pieces started to come together -- Clark with his hair slicked back and no glasses. "Perry said he wasn't sure you believed him when he told you Clark might be dead," she murmured to herself. "You were expecting Clark to show up here, not me... You didn't think Clark could have been hurt..."
'They're going to find out I'm not normal and...' Clark had said. *And what? 'You don't understand,' he said. 'They had kryptonite.'*
"They had kryptonite. They shot him with kryptonite," she said aloud and watched Martha Kent flinch. "Oh my God. Why didn't he tell me?" She felt the blood drain from her face and she started to feel faint. "Why didn't he tell me?"
"Tell you what, honey?" Martha asked quietly.
"He's been my partner all this time and he couldn't tell me?" Lois went on, not looking at them. She sat down on the sofa, clutching the books she'd selected in her hands.
"Lois, what didn't he tell you?" Jonathan rumbled softly, coming closer.
"It explains so much -- all those idiotic excuses, how he knew so much about what Superman was doing, about the rescues. It all fits. How could I be so stupid?"
"Lois, what didn't he tell you?" Jonathan repeated the question. Lois finally looked at him. His broad face was filled with concern.
She chuckled, although it was a bit on the hysterical side. "He said his mother made his suit. That was you, wasn't it? Are you from Krypton, too?"
"We're from Kansas," Jonathan said.
"I'm from Ohio, actually," Martha corrected, giving Jonathan an indulgent smile. "But I live in Kansas."
"He's not from around here," Martha admitted.
"How long? I mean...,"
"How long has he been here?" Martha filled in the question for her. "Lois, you saw his baby pictures when you stayed with us last year, after that nightmare with Trask."
"But who is he?" Lois asked. It was just too much. Clark Kent and Superman were the same person? Her not always reliable partner was the Man of Steel?
"Our son," Jonathan told her. "Clark is who he is, who he's always been, at least since we found him. He was, maybe, three months old. The other part, that's just something he does, something he can do."
*'I've been in love with you for a long time... You must have known,' Clark had told her.*
*'I knew... well I knew that you liked me, were attracted to me, but... I'm sorry. I don't think about you in that way... romantically,' she had told him. 'Clark, you're my best friend, the only partner I could ever stand to work with. I admire you, respect you, and I do love you, but only as a friend.' *
*'If you had no powers, if you were just an ordinary man leading an ordinary life, I'd love you just the same. Can't you believe that?' she had told him as Superman. *
*'I wish I could, Lois. But, under the circumstances, I don't see how I can.' *
"Why didn't he tell me?" she asked.
"You know what happened with Trask and his bunch," Martha reminded her. "That madman was ready to kill all of us. He nearly killed Clark."
"I won't say anything, you know that," Lois told them.
"I know, Lois," Martha said quietly. "Would you like some coffee, or maybe some tea? Clark has some herbal tea around here somewhere and some Lapsang Oolong."
"Coffee's fine," Lois said.
Luthor had jumped from the penthouse. She was in her wedding dress, in Clark's arms, watching the drama unfold above them. He had tried to move away, bunching himself like Superman did before taking off to fly. 'I can't,' he had said. There had been anguish in his voice. She had seen how pale he was, the marks on his hands like he'd been burnt, but she hadn't asked why. It never occurred to her to ask why.
"He couldn't save Lex that day," she said aloud. "He wanted to, but he couldn't. He couldn't fly."
"He told us later that Luthor had put him in a kryptonite cage, down in one of the subbasements," Martha said. Jonathan had disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a mug of black coffee which he handed to Lois.
Martha's voice was shaking as she continued. "He said Luthor had speakers installed so he could hear the wedding, then he said he was planning on taking you, by force if necessary, then personally hacking Clark to pieces with an ax. He had it all planned out."
"Only Henderson and Perry got there first with an arrest warrant," Lois said softly. "I'd already told Lex I couldn't go through with it though." She took a sip of the coffee. "How did Clark get out? I mean, I'm sure someone would have said something if they'd found Superman in a cage."
"Luthor was so vicious, so arrogant, he left the key just out of reach, but where Clark could see it," Jonathan told her. "Clark managed, by some miracle, to get the key. He got himself out of the cage before Luthor came down to finish the job."
"So, that's where Luthor disappeared to when the cops were chasing him," Lois said. "They knew he didn't go straight to the penthouse, but they never figured out exactly what he did just before that. How could I have been so blind? I'm supposed to be the hottest investigative reporter in the city and I couldn't see what was in front of my face?"
"People only see what they expect to see, Lois," Martha told her. "Clark's an ordinary guy with parents and a job and bills to pay. Superman's an alien who showed up, what, eighteen months ago? He doesn't have bills or an apartment. He doesn't go to coffee or movies with his friends. He doesn't really have any friends. He can't."
"I thought I was his friend."
"You're Clark's friend," Martha corrected her. "Superman can't afford to have friends. Look at what happened when Trask thought you were special to him. And don't forget Luthor. Do you really think he'd have gone after you so hard if he didn't think he was getting back at Superman for humiliating him? If he didn't want to take down the woman who was arrogant enough to prefer an alien in blue tights to one of the richest men in the world?"
"I've tried not to think about that," Lois admitted. "Plus there was the whole thing with Miranda and that pheromone stuff. I figured that had something to do with it. We don't know if Miranda sprayed Lex with the hundred percent solution when she tried to get him to fall in love with her. But it explains why Clark wasn't affected. I thought it was because he wasn't attracted to me."
"Lois, the first day he met you he came home and told us about you," Martha said. "It was like a light had come on in his soul. I think he was in love with you from that first moment."
Lois looked down at the books she'd selected to take to the hospital. "I told him I'd be right back," she said. "He wasn't real happy about being in the hospital."
"Let's all go," Jonathan suggested. "We need to get our boy away from those quacks."
"Doctor Bryant might object to that description," Lois told them. "He's one of the best trauma surgeons in the country."
Monroe watched as the forensics techs finished their work. They had confirmed there were traces of blood on the dress. Further tests would determine whose blood it was. The medical examiner's office had sent a van to pick up the vat with the 'body' in it. The M.E.s people were waiting for the site team to release the 'body.'
Suddenly, the 'body' sat up, blue goo sliding off him to reveal a small man with a smooth, boyish face, and brown hair. "What the devil's going on here? Who are you people?"
"I should ask the same thing of you," Monroe said. The technicians had stopped their work, packing away their equipment. "I'm Detective Monroe, Metropolis Police. And you are?"
"George Nelson," the man said. "Why am I in this goo? What's going on here?"
Monroe shrugged. "Let's get Mister Nelson here some clothes before we take him down to headquarters," she instructed.
"Why are you taking me down to headquarters?"
"Routine questioning," Sheehan said, walking in. "Oh, and welcome to 1994, Mister Gillis. And in case you didn't know, there's still no statute of limitations on murder."
Dillinger's first and only demand was for a lawyer. He refused to talk to anyone any further.
Leocadio muttered imprecations under her breath in Spanish as she watched the lawyer in the expensive suit walk in and demand to speak with John Dillinger. She personally led the way to the small interrogation room where Dillinger was being held.
"How can Dillinger afford somebody out of Crane, Steele, and Associates?" Wolfe asked her as they waited outside for the lawyer to finish. She shook her head.
"Probably getting the money from the same place Capone did for his bribes," Leocadio pointed out. "There wasn't a hundred grand in all the bank jobs they pulled all together. If Luthor wasn't dead, I'd be seriously looking at that bastard."
"We have complaints about Capone from at least ten different people," Wolfe told her. "And that includes four union officials."
"And have you noticed all the people on the list had issues with Luthor or LexCorp before the breakup?"
"Yeah, I noticed," Wolfe told her. "The NIA's looking into some stuff and they've promised to share their findings, so has the FBI."
Leocadio raised an eyebrow at him. "The Feds are letting us handle four bank robberies?"
Wolfe shrugged. "Go figure."
"The Feds don't just hand us cases. Not high profile ones like this," Leocadio told him with a grimace. "If Kent wasn't in the hospital, I'd ask him and Lane to see what they come up with."
"Hey, he's the first time one of my murder cases turned into 'assault with a deadly weapon' instead of the other way around," Wolfe told her. "I'm waiting for his doctor to give permission for me to question him. The DA's ordered protection for him and for Lane, too. Apparently the bullets Kent took were meant for Superman, but Kent and Lane are on the hit list of whoever it is that's footing the bill for Capone and company."
"Lane with a bodyguard?" Leocadio chuckled. "That's a laugh. Superman would have a hard time keeping up with Mad Dog Lane."
Lois led the two Kents onto the eighteenth floor of Metropolis General Hospital. She walked over to the isolation unit and peered through with large window. The bed was empty and neatly made. There was no sign of Clark. No sign Clark had ever been there. Even the police officer who'd been assigned to protect him was gone.
Lois ran to the nurse's station by the elevators. "Where's Clark? Where's Mister Kent?" she asked in near panic. A nurse she didn't recognize looked at her curiously.
"The man in the isolation ICU this morning, where is he?" she asked as Martha and Jonathan caught up with her. Her heart felt like it was in her mouth as she waited for the nurse to figure out who she was talking about. *He couldn't be dead. He couldn't. He just couldn't be dead. *
"Miss Lane, right?" the nurse asked. Lois nodded. "He should be in post-op by now."
"Post-op? Why?" Martha asked.
Another curious look from the nurse.
"They're his parents," Lois explained. "Why is he in post-op? Why did he need more surgery?"
The nurse shook her head. "The doctor should be out shortly."
The elevator doors opened and a uniformed police officer stepped out. "Miss Lane?" the officer said, spotting Lois at the nurse's station. "I'm Joe Murphy," he introduced himself, shaking her hand. "I didn't get a chance to talk to you this morning. My partner and I were the one's who found him last night."
"Mister and Missus Kent, Clark's parents," Lois introduced them to the officer. "What did you want to tell me?"
"The DA's office has ordered police protection for both you and Mister Kent," Murphy explained.
"I'm aware of that. But I can't do my job with a body guard hanging around," Lois told him.
"Lois, you can't do your job if you're dead," Jonathan reminded her.
Murphy nodded. "Look, Kent was shot with bullets obviously meant for Superman. We haven't been able to get in touch with Superman to warn him..."
"Clark got in touch with him before... before we went out to the club," Lois told him. *Yeah, Clark knew someone was gunning for Superman. He just hadn't believed it could really happen. Or did he know it was possible and chose to ignore the fact that he really could get hurt? *
"Have you talked to the big guy since then?" Murphy asked.
Lois shook her head. "The world's a big place," she said. "He could be anywhere. But I'll remind him when I see him."
One of the elevators opened and a rough looking man with the face of a boxer stepped out and looked around. He was wearing green scrubs and his eyes were hard and cold. Lois was certain she had seen him before, somewhere.
The club. He was one of the thugs with Capone. He was one of the ones who dragged Clark away.
"Murphy," Lois pitched her voice low. "The man that just came out of the elevator was with Capone last night at the club."
"You're sure?" Murphy asked. Lois nodded.
"Hospital personnel wear photo ID and I don't see his tag," she added.
Murphy walked closer to the man. "Can I see your ID please?" he asked.
The man looked confused, frowning at Murphy.
"Your ID... Can I see it?" Murphy rephrased.
Instead then man placed his right hand behind his back as though reaching for something at his waist.
Murphy pulled his gun. "Hands where I can see them, nice and slow," he ordered.
Lois watched the unfolding drama as though mesmerized. One part of her brain screamed for her to run. Another part watched, fascinated. Martha grabbed her arm and broke her out of her trance. The two women backed away from the elevators, toward the nurses' station. The nurse pulled them behind the counter, hunkering down by the back wall. Jonathan joined them, trying to squeeze his bulk into the small space.
Lois knew the counter wouldn't be much protection, but it was at least a little protection if shots started being fired. The nurse was already on the phone to hospital security. Satisfied that Martha and Jonathan were as protected as they could be under the circumstances, Lois peeked around the corner of the counter.
Two shots rang out in the confines of the elevator lobby. The man in scrubs grabbed his belly and ran for the stairwell beside the elevators. Murphy ran after him, even though Lois saw blood running down his left arm.
Lois uncoiled herself from behind the counter and started toward the stairwell.
"Lois?" Martha called. Lois stopped short. "Let the police handle it, please?"
"Martha, I'm a reporter," Lois told her, heading for the stairwell again. "This is what I do. I'll be back soon."
She followed the trail of blood down the stairs to the floor below. She jumped as two sharp reports echoed through the stairwell. The trail led to the fire door. She opened the door and peeked around it into the elevator lobby. Capone's goon was nowhere to be seen. But the rest of the lobby appeared to be in controlled chaos as nurses and orderlies tended to two more victims. Murphy was talking to two men in hospital security uniforms while a nurse bandaged his arm.
"What happened?" Lois asked, opening the door wider and stepping into the lobby.
"The goon shot two nurses and disappeared into one of the patient wings," Murphy told her. "Hospital security is starting a room to room search and backup's coming. They'll find him. He's not going very far." He peered at her. "I need to get back to my post. Want to come with me?"
Lois nodded and helped Murphy to his feet.
He was back in the ICU room, attached to the monitors once again. He heard the beeps and chirps and hums and wondered fuzzily how anybody could get any rest with it being so loud and bright. He distinctly remembered the doctor telling him he needed to rest. He had a vague memory of being wheeled into another room with more loud machinery, being told to stay very still while the machine moved around him. Then he'd felt light-headed and dizzy, more than he had before, and panic seemed to ensue all around him.
Another brightly lit room, a mask that smelled of latex over his face, then nothing. Now his chest hurt like hell and his back ached worse than it had before. He hadn't noticed the pain on the inside of his thigh before either, or was that new?
He kept his eyes closed as he tried to block out all the noise, the light that stabbed through his eyelids. He tried to go back to sleep in hopes that when he woke up for real, all this would turn out to be a horrible nightmare.
"Clark?" A familiar voice called to him. A woman's voice. *Mom? *
"I'm right here, honey," she said. He wasn't sure if he'd spoken aloud or not. He managed to crack open one eye and then the other. She was here. Mom was here, watching him with worried eyes.
"Mom?" He was sure he'd said it aloud this time, although his voice sounded weak even in his own ears. He felt her hand running through his hair, brushing it away from his face.
"What...?" he asked, not quite sure what he was asking. His brain didn't seem to work quite right. He recognized the fact, but wasn't sure what to do about it.
"Perry called us last night and said you'd been shot," Martha explained quietly. "We got worried when you didn't get in touch to explain what had happened, so we flew out."
"Lois told us what happened," his dad's voice rumbled softly over the noise of the monitors. He moved his head to see his father's broad face peering down at him from the other side of the narrow bed.
"Hurts," Clark managed to croak out. "Why? What happened?"
"Don't you remember?" Jonathan asked, keeping his voice low.
He managed a nod. "I remember going to the club with Lois and getting shot." He remembered that very clearly. Dillinger had grabbed Lois and he had stepped in to defend her. He remembered Barrow pulling the trigger on his gun, being astonished at the burning in his chest, the sudden dizziness he felt. Then nothing except nightmares.
"I remember waking up and Lois being here, I think. Maybe I was dreaming it. I keep hoping I'm dreaming this." He gestured vaguely to the monitors beside the bed then dropped his hand back on the mattress. He had no strength left to do any more than that.
"Doctor Bryant wasn't sure he got all the radioactive material out of your chest," Jonathan explained. "Turns out he hadn't. Then you started bleeding internally. Apparently it had burned a hole in one of your arteries. He had to do a graft to repair it."
"When can I go home?" He was so tired. The lights were too bright overhead and the noises too loud, even without super-hearing.
"Doctor Bryant wants to see how fast you start to heal," Martha answered. "You could be home in a few days."
"Clark?" another voice, Lois's voice. He looked over to the door and saw her standing there. She was still wearing one of his old sweatshirts and she looked absolutely beautiful.
"How are you feeling?" she asked.
"Like I got shot," he answered weakly. He saw the concerned look Lois gave his mother.
"Bryant found more kryptonite in his chest," Martha explained simply. Lois nodded and Clark had a sense than something had passed between the two women. Something he didn't understand.
There was a tickle in his chest, like the beginning of a cough. Martha peered into his face. "Clark, is there something wrong?"
Clark shook his head as the cough broke through. It felt like his chest was tearing apart from the inside as he tried to sit up. He started choking, trying to keep from coughing, trying to keep the pain away. Jonathan pulled the pillow off the bed and handed it to him.
"Hold the pillow tight against your chest while you cough," he instructed. Clark followed his instructions and was surprised to find that it helped.
"How did you know?" Clark wondered aloud as soon as he'd caught his breath.
"We all have secrets, son," Jonathan said. "Remember your last quarter at college? When your mom told you I spent the night in the hospital from the flu and she ordered you not to come home from school?"
Clark nodded. He remembered being worried because his mom's order was so unusual.
"It wasn't the flu. I was in for a double bypass, and your mom was bound and determined you weren't going to blow your last quarter at school worrying about me," he said. "I've got a pretty good idea of what you're going through."
"But, why didn't you tell me?" Clark asked. He was feeling a little stronger, but what they were telling him was leaving him completely lost.
"Clark, was there anything you could have done?" Martha asked.
"I could have been there for you," he protested weakly. "You should have told me."
"You would have worried yourself sick and probably failed your classes," Martha told him. "If things had gotten bad, I would have called you and had you come home. But everything went fine. Your father was home only a couple days after the operation."
The bumps grew less and Jimmy had the sensation that the car was slowing. Finally the motion stopped and he heard car doors open and then slam. Getting his hands in front of him had been harder than he'd thought it would be. It had been hard to curl up tight enough in the confined space of the trunk to pull his tied hands past his feet. It looks so easy in the movies, he thought to himself. By the time he was done, his left elbow was throbbing from hitting the bottom of the trunk as the car bounced.
He got the gag out of his mouth, then used his teeth to loosen the rope that tied his hands. His jaws were aching by the time he was done, but finally he was free, except for the part of being in the trunk of Capone's car.
Jimmy had no idea of how long he'd been in the trunk. But he did know he had to get away, had to get back to the Daily Planet, or at least to a phone, to warn them of Capone's planned attack. He also knew it was something akin to a miracle he was even alive. People died in car trunks. He felt around in the darkness for a weapon, a tool, anything to help him. To his surprise, he found a tire iron.
Prying open the trunk didn't take very long. He realized it was nearly dark out. There were voices nearby, angry voices. He thought he recognized Capone's voice among them, arguing with someone. He slipped out, into the shadows, cautiously shutting the trunk lid behind him. He could smell the river, the stink of the riverside factories. *Somewhere near the Hobs River, I think. *
The voices were coming closer, growing louder. Jimmy ducked behind the car, peering out at the gangsters. Capone was with Parker and Barrows and one of the other goons. They were followed by a group of burly construction workers who were jeering at them, at least until the goon pulled out his gun. Capone made him put the weapon away and Jimmy breathed a sigh of relief.
"I'll be back," Capone warned. "Nobody but nobody says no to Al Capone." He turned to his companions. "We have a party to go to."
Jimmy watched as Capone, Parker, Barrows and their unnamed accomplice climbed into the car and drove off. He breathed a sigh of relief as he came out of the shadows.
"And who the devil are you?" one of the workmen groused, catching sight of Jimmy.
Jimmy straightened up and took a deep breath, searching through his jacket pockets to find his press pass. "James Olsen, Daily Planet."
The workman eyed the young man suspiciously. "Jake Mooney. I'm the project foreman. So, what are you doing here?"
"Capone and his goons... they caught me at their hideout," Jimmy explained, looking around. "I think they were looking for a quiet place to get rid of me."
"They picked the wrong place," Mooney commented. "We're already behind schedule. I'm not about to let some gangster wannabe mess us up more than we already are."
"Hey, haven't you heard? The FBI thinks that's really Capone, Parker, and Barrow."
"I wish I was. They've already shot one Planet reporter," Jimmy told him. "Look, I've got to get hold of the Daily Planet. There's a party there tonight and Capone and his gang are going to kill everyone there."
"The cops are going to be here any minute," Mooney said. "Come in to the office, you can call the Planet from there."
"Capone sounded angry," Jimmy noted. "What did he want?"
"A piece of our action," Mooney explained. "He was demanding we change our vendors to ones of his choosing and give him kickbacks or else."
"Or else what?"
"We didn't give him a chance to explain."
Lupe Leocadio looked over the plans to the Daily Planet building spread across her office desk. "You're sure the intel is good on this?"
Detective Wolfe shrugged. "According to the Olsen kid, Capone stated flat out that he planned on raiding tonight's party at the Planet. Olsen claims he barely got away with his life."
"And you believe that?" Leocadio asked.
"He believes it," Wolfe pointed out. "But yeah, based on what we know about Capone, this one's acting like the real thing. The real Capone would have had no compunctions about offing the kid and dumping the body in one of the rivers."
"Which means Capone let him escape so we would find out what was going down. The question then becomes 'why'? And I can only come up with only two reasons," Leocadio said. "The Planet's guest list included everybody we know who was offered a bribe by Capone as well as a bunch of other important people in the city, none of whom had any love for Lex Luthor after all that stuff about him came out. And that many people being threatened should just about guarantee Superman will show up to save the day."
"Lupe, you've read the report on the slugs they dug out of Kent?" Wolfe asked.
The dark-haired woman nodded. "Laced with Kryptonite. The stuff that can kill the big guy. And we have no way of warning him that Capone's attack is going to be a trap." She gave Wolfe a toothy grin. "But if we're lucky, we won't need him and he won't show up."
"And if he does?"
"Then we may have to save the Blue Boy Scout, too."
"How're you feeling?" Lois asked. Clark had been drifting in and out of sleep all afternoon. His color was getting better, but he was still pale.
"Still tired," Clark admitted. "It's like all my energy is gone." He closed his eyes and Lois thought he'd fallen back asleep once again.
"Your mom and dad will be back in a bit. They went to get some sandwiches," Lois told him.
After a moment he opened his eyes as he rallied his strength. "Mom said there was some excitement around here and I missed it."
"One of Capone's thugs was here. Officer Murphy shot him, but he got away, shot two nurses before the cops and hospital security caught up with him outside the obstetrics unit," Lois told him. "I've already phoned the story in. Murphy's going to be okay. Perry wants me to do some follow ups. Hospital security, how the staff reacted, how they acted to protect the patients. Should make for a good series."
"What happened to Officer Murphy?"
"The thug winged him."
"And why was Officer Murphy even here?" Clark asked. She looked back at him solemnly.
"Clark, there's a policeman out by the elevators and one sitting outside your door to make sure Capone, and whoever he's working for, don't finish the job they started," she finally admitted. "The cops have assigned a body guard for me as well. They don't even want me to go home tonight. In fact they're threatening protective custody."
"How are you supposed to do your job with a police guard?"
"That's what Perry and I've been arguing with them about," Lois told him. "Our concession is that I'll spend the night in a hotel and I'll just lay low, play it cool for a few days, until Capone and his people are pickled up. Or until Superman shows up. He hasn't been seen since that first bank robbery, you know. People are starting to wonder where he is."
She watched him as he tried to figure out what she meant. It was now so obvious. They looked alike, even their expressions were the same, although as Superman, he tended to be more formal, more aloof. Clark wasn't aloof.
She was still trying to come to terms with the fact that he didn't trust her enough, didn't have enough faith in her, to tell her the truth. Not the truth that he was Superman, but the truth that he had lied when he'd told her outside of the Daily Planet that day that he cared for her as a friend and nothing more.
'I'm not in love with you... I would have said anything to stop you from marrying Luthor... I want the same thing you do, Lois. I want us to be friends, and partners. Forever,' he'd told her that day.
Not telling her about Superman she could understand. She wouldn't have trusted her when they first met. And then her fawning all over the hero while ignoring Clark -- Clark had probably been too embarrassed to admit the deception.
"I'm sure he'll show up eventually," Clark said finally.
Lois patted his hand. "I'm sure he will too. In the meantime, I'll just have to be careful, won't I?"
The door opened and Martha stuck her head in. "Lois. I brought you a sandwich," she announced. "And there's an Officer Sawyer here for you."
"Tell her I'll be right there," Lois told her. She turned back to Clark. "Perry's party is tonight, remember? I have to at least make an appearance."
"Be careful," Clark said. She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead.
"I'll be as careful as I need to be," Lois promised. "I'll be back in the morning."
Perry scanned the party. Jacques had outdone himself. The flower arrangements were subdued and tasteful. The band was competent. Jacques's assistants mingled with the guests, carrying trays of champagne glasses. The buffet wasn't nouvelle or overly fancy. Roast beef and ham, cheeses, bread and crackers, fruits and vegetables with dip, salads. The table for the desserts was by the ramp along with Jacques's true masterpiece, the five-foot high cake in the shape of the Daily Planet Building.
The party was subdued, despite the free flow of liquor. The Daily Planet staff was still stunned by the news that it had been Clark that Barrow shot at Georgie Hairdo's club. After the initial relief of discovering Clark was alive, came the realization that the young man was still in danger, could still die from his injuries and that Capone was still after him.
The other guests were also subdued. Capone's threats had made everyone edgy and suspicious. Perry knew that at least half of the businessmen and community leaders on the guest list had been approached by the gangster. The other half Perry wasn't sure of. Either Capone hadn't approached them yet, or he didn't consider them worth approaching, or worse, they had caved to his threats and taken the money. Perry suspected that the plainclothes police officers who were mingling with the guests weren't just there to keep an eye out for Capone.
Lois hadn't shown up yet, although she had promised she would and Jimmy had called in from MPD headquarters to let Perry know he was still alive.
"Do you see them?" Lupe Leocadio asked into her headset microphone as she peered though a pair of night vision binoculars at the loading dock at the back of the Daily Planet building.
"We've got 'em," a voice came over her headset. "Moving in..."
"Louie, did you get a look at the tall man with them?"
"Looked like one of Luthor's guys," the voice replied. "That English fellow, St. John."
"Bingo. At least now we know where the money's coming from," Leocadio said to herself as she backed away from the edge of the roof she was on. She headed down to join the rest of her people.
Capone grinned at his companions as he pressed the button to call the elevator. He looked around the main floor elevator lobby. "Too quiet around here," he complained mildly "You know what this place needs? Some fireworks."
"You do remember our bargain?" St. John asked, eyeing the gangster and his companions.
"Yeah, yeah," Parker said in annoyance. "First Clyde takes out the flying blue hunk then we can have our fun."
"Precisely," St. John said.
"And if this Superman character doesn't bother to show?" Capone asked.
"He'll show," St. John promised. "He always does."
"Jimmy, are you okay?" Lois asked. She'd just gotten out of her cab and spotted Jimmy crossing the street to the main entrance of the Planet Building.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Jimmy told her as they both crossed to the entrance doors. "But Capone's planning a raid on Perry's party and I don't think the cops believed me when I told them."
"Capone's coming here?" Lois stopped and stared at the young man. Jimmy nodded. She gave him a speculative look. "How do you know?"
"It's a long story and I'm not sure even I believe it," Jimmy explained. "Let's just say I spent most of the afternoon experiencing the worst roads in Metropolis from the trunk of a car. I told the cops I was heading straight home otherwise I don't they would have let me go."
Lois chuckled. "I owe Maggie the minder a stiff drink and an apology. The cops don't want me here either and I managed to lock my guard in my bathroom."
The elevator doors opened and Lois reached in and pressed a button before the ornate brass doors closed. "Let's take the service elevator," she announced.
Perry raised his glass and tapped it with a spoon to get everyone's attention. "Ladies and gentlemen. May I have your attention please? I'd like to propose a toast... Clark Kent. A man who has been an inspiration to us all and one of the best damn reporters ever to have a byline on the Daily Planet. Here's to his rapid recovery."
Everyone in the room raised their glasses, including the police officers who Perry knew were drinking tea or soda.
The elevator doors opened and Perry looked up to see Capone and his little group of thugs step out into the elevator lobby. One man didn't seem to fit in with the gangsters -- a tall, distinguished looking man with a neatly trimmed goatee. The face clicked into place -- Nigel St. John, one of Luthor's henchmen. *Luthor's been dead for months and still his legacy of evil lives on.* Perry noted that St. John stayed well in back of the others.
Capone stopped and looked around at the crowd, cradling his tommy gun against his chest and puffing on his cigar. "Good evening ladies and gentlemen!" he announced loudly. The crowd quieted and Perry saw the plainclothes officers getting themselves into position. "My name is Al Capone. And we'd appreciate it if all of you would just line up."
Parker, Barrow and the other thug moved down the ramp, swinging their guns threateningly as they went. Jacques had turned red in the face and ran up the ramp towards them. Perry tired to grab him, but Jacques pulled out of his grasp.
"What are you doing!? This party is bad enough without you! Get out!" Jacques was screaming. Barrow grabbed his bow tie and began twisting it. Jacques's eyes started to bug out. "Or perhaps you'd like to stay and have some hors d'ouvres," he continued meekly. Barrow shoved him back down the ramp. Parker snorted as Jacques fell, landing on his behind.
Watching in stunned silence, the partygoers shuffled toward the wall. The fourth thug started grabbing some of the men, pulling them aside, away from the others. Then Perry realized the ones being pulled out were the police officers. Parker went over to them, swinging her tommy gun from side to side as the thug searched the men, finding their weapons and radios.
"Not very polite, bringing guns to a swanky shindig like this," Parker commented.
Leocadio swore to herself. "Our guys've been made," she announced into her headset.
"How?" Louie responded.
"Good question," Leocadio said. "But Capone's people have separated out our guys and disarmed them. Plus I think I saw Lane and the Olsen kid enter the building."
Louie swore. "What else can go wrong?"
"Don't ask," Leocadio warned.
Lois and Jimmy peered around the corner into the newsroom. Capone was standing on the upper level, watching his thugs as they watched the crowd that was lined up against the wall. They held their guns easily, carelessly.
"Capone, this isn't nineteen forty. The police are probably already in the lobby. Don't make things worse for yourself," Perry was saying.
"The only person things are about to get worse for is you... Chief," Capone sneered. "Unless of course, that flying freak shows up." Capone made a show of looking around. "Where is he anyway? I was sure he'd show up." After a moment's thought he went to the edge of the landing and leaned over, holding out his hand. He nodded to the radios on the floor. The thug picked one up and handed it to his boss.
Capone pressed the transmit key as he held the transmitter to his mouth. "This is Al Capone. Just letting you guys know. If Superman isn't in front of me in five minutes, we're going to start shooting hostages. Starting with Metropolis's finest."
"So, what do we do now?" Jimmy whispered.
"Pray that Superman's smart enough not to show up and that the cops are," Lois responded.
Doctor Bryant nodded cheerfully as he removed the gauze bandages from Clark's hands. "I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself."
Except for the faintest tracing of red across his palms, Clark's hands were healed. One of the nurses had already pulled out the IV lines and Bryant had supervised the removal of the various catheters. Even the oxygen had been removed. Only the cardiac monitor remained, cheerily beeping along.
Bryant tapped the monitor. "We want to keep an eye on this, though. I ran the printout past one of my colleagues. He said it does indicate some heart damage. He suggests you take it easy for a while, nothing too strenuous. Remember, we had to do a graft." Bryant tucked his clipboard under his arm. "Now, how are you feeling?"
"A lot better than this morning," Clark told him.
"And your special talents?"
Clark froze, staring at him wide eyed.
Bryant didn't need to read minds to know what was going on in his patient's head. "STAR Labs confirmed my suspicions. Doctor Klein even sent over special full spectrum lighting for you, which I had installed while you were undergoing the scans this morning. I have to tell you, he was disappointed I wouldn't let him come over and examine you personally. He's a big fan."
"I'll thank him later," Clark promised. "It sometimes takes a while for everything to come back. Then again, sometimes it doesn't take very long at all. I'm not sure why that is."
"Maybe that's something Klein can look into for you," Bryant suggested. "At the rate you're healing, I should be able to release you tomorrow. Normally I'd have you transferred to the surgical ward, but that might raise questions, doing it so soon. Of course, if you were able to leave under your own power, I wouldn't be able to stop you now, would I?"
"Probably not," Clark admitted. Suddenly he winced, raising a hand to one ear.
"What's wrong?" Bryant asked. Clark shook his head. The privacy curtain hid the bed from the door, but Bryant heard the door open and footsteps approaching. Mrs. Kent put her head around the edge of the curtain. She looked worried.
"Clark, there's a problem at the Planet," she said.
"I heard," Clark admitted. "A hostage situation."
"Wasn't Perry throwing that big party tonight?" she asked.
"Yeah, he was. And Lois was going to it," Clark told her. "And I'm betting that it's Capone."
"I packed your suit in the suitcase," she said. "Clark, be careful."
"Thanks Mom," he said. "And I'll be as careful as I need to be."
With that he was gone. Bryant looked down at the bed and saw the cardiac sensors lying on the sheet. The monitor was flat-lined. Bryant reached over and turned it off.
Capone checked the time on the clock above the elevator. "Time's almost up," he announced. "I guess your buddy Superman isn't going to show." He nodded to the thug watching the police. "Pick one."
"I guess Superman didn't hear," Jimmy said quietly. "So I guess it's up to us."
"Jimmy, they're armed and we're not," Lois pointed out. "This isn't some movie thriller where the good guys can outrun a bullet."
"I can," a deep voice said from behind them. Lois and Jimmy both whirled to see a figure clad in blue spandex and sporting a red cape standing behind them. "How much time is left?" Superman asked.
Lois just stared at him a moment. "About thirty seconds," she said once she found her voice.
Superman nodded and floated up to the ceiling. Lois watched as he peered around the corner at the gangsters. The cape hid his shoulders, but Lois could see the tension in his jaw, in his clenched fists.
The stairwell door opened behind Lois and she turned to see Lupe Leocadio and several other SCU team members in full gear come into the hallway, semi-automatic rifles ready as they surveyed the area and the situation.
"How long has the big guy been here?" Leocadio asked.
"A few seconds before you got here," Lois told her.
"He knows it's a trap?"
"I hope so."
Suddenly there was shouting from the newsroom and Lois stuck her head out to see the thug, Parker, and Capone swearing and blowing on their hands. Their weapons had been dropped and Lois could see the heat rising off of them. The thug dove for one of the police pistols, but he was tackled before he could reach them.
Parker took off for the elevators at a dead run, but Superman was there ahead of her. Parker backed away from him but Perry and several other members of the Planet staff started up the ramp after her.
"You wanted to see me, Mister Capone?" Superman asked, turning to Capone.
"Yeah," Capone said, all bluster. "Yeah I did. I want you outta my town."
"Metropolis isn't your town, Mister Capone," Superman said quietly. "It was never your town. And I'm pretty sure Chicago doesn't want you back either."
"I don't see Barrow or St. John," Lois said quietly to Leocadio as they both came out from behind the corner. Leocadio gave instructions to her team who disappeared down the hallway.
In the raised elevator lobby, Parker was backing away from Superman and Capone. She turned and ran, heading for the stairway behind Lois.
"Not so fast," Lois snarled, grabbing Parker's arm and spinning her around. Parker aimed a kick at Lois's legs, but Lois evaded her, throwing one arm around the other woman's neck and snaking a leg out to trip her.
"Hey! That ain't very lady like!" Parker complained, trying to dislodge Lois from her back.
"I'm a woman of the nineties, and you're not much of a lady!" Lois shot back, holding on. Angry didn't describe Lois's emotional state at the moment. Furious was only halfway there. Their momentum carried them over the railing, onto the dessert table and into the five-foot cake. Lois's hold on Parker finally broken, she picked up a slab of white cake and slammed Parker in the face with it. "That's for setting up my partner to be shot!"
Capone turned and ran, away from the newsroom, away from Superman. Lois stifled a smile at Capone's look of astonishment at finding himself a foot off the ground, held up by the back of his collar.
"Hey! What's going on?" Capone fumed. Superman turned him around and looked him in the face. Capone's cigar dropped from his mouth.
"Alcatraz is closed, Mister Capone," Superman said. "But I'm sure they'll find something nice for you."
Two of the plainclothesmen came up and pulled Parker off the table, handcuffing her as they helped her to her feet and read her her rights. A third helped Lois to her feet. Another had taken custody of Capone.
Lois looked around the room. Still no sign of Barrow and St. John. Superman was standing in front of the center elevator door, arms crossed over his chest in his traditional stance. *How did I ever miss it? How did I miss that he really is Clark?*
"Superman, are you okay?" Lois asked quietly, walking up to him. He nodded but Lois could see, probably better than most, the strain in his face, in his posture. A grimace flickered across his face, almost too fast for her to see.
The center elevator door opened and Superman and Lois stepped aside to let the occupant out. Barrow! He had his tommy gun ready, finger on the trigger. Lois heard a gasp beside her as she lashed out at Barrow with one foot. His shots went wild, dislodging plaster from the high ceiling. Another shot rang out and Barrow suddenly looked astonished at the blood turning his shirt and vest red.
His eyes rolled up as he hit the floor. Lois looked over to the source of the shot to see Leocadio in a wide legged stance, holding a standard issue automatic pointed in the direction of the elevators. Leocadio straightened up and put her gun back in its holster. She nodded to something behind Lois.
"How is he?"
Lois whirled to see Superman sprawled on the floor, eyes closed, deathly pale. Lois thought she was imagining it, but there seemed to be a green cast to his skin. She checked his pulse at his throat. Weak, but present. But he didn't seem to be breathing. She looked around, spotting Barrow's gun beside his body. She shoved it away from Superman with her foot.
He gasped, and grabbed his left arm, hugging it to his side. Lois could see the muscles in his jaw clench as he tried to keep from moaning.
"Try to relax," Lois instructed. "I don't think he managed to hit you, but there's kryptonite around here, somewhere." She looked up to see Leocadio standing over them. The policewoman nodded to one of her people, who pulled out a dark blanket and placed it over Superman's body. Another of Leocadio's people took Barrow's gun, placed it in a heavy bag and walked away with it.
On closer inspection, Lois realized the blanket was actually was a cape with a hood. Lois felt the fabric -- it was far heavier than it looked. Superman's color started to improve and he was breathing more easily.
"Kevlar woven with lead," Leocadio explained. "Courtesy of STAR Labs. Somehow I figured you'd show up."
"Hostage situation over the police band? How could I miss it?" Superman asked. "Have you found St. John, yet?" He started to sit up and both Lois and Leocadio pushed him back down to the floor. Lois grinned at him.
"Have you any idea what a maze this building is?" Leocadio asked.
"Point taken," Superman replied. He looked up at Lois. "It was only a short term exposure. I'm fine now, okay?" He sat up while keeping the lead-lined cape around him, but Lois noticed he was still holding on to his left arm as though it hurt. She and Leocadio watched as he scanned the building. Finally, he shook his head. "He's not here." Superman got to his feet, folding the cape over his arm.
"Damn," Leocadio said, taking the heavy cape from him. "I was afraid of that. I swear Luthor's rats know every bolt hole in the city."
"He'll show up again," Superman assured the officer. "And we'll catch him when he does." With that he disappeared out the window.
Perry walked up the ramp to where Lois was still standing. "I guess I don't have to tell you that I'm going to hold the entire front page of the next edition for you and Jimmy."
"I'll be in first thing to work on it, Chief."
Perry nodded to the window where Superman had disappeared. "It would have been nice if he'd stuck around for an interview. Are you sure he's okay?"
"It's hard to keep Superman down," Lois responded with a little laugh.
Bryant had gone ahead and moved Clark to a private room in the surgical ward and had promised him he could leave sometime today, so long as he promised to take it easy for the next few weeks. Even Superman needed a little time to heal after being shot. He was back on the heart monitor and it was beeping away. Bryant had not been well pleased with his little jaunt of the night before, and the cardiologist the trauma surgeon had called in had not been pleased at all.
"I don't care if you think you're Superman," the cardiologist had said. "Your heart has been traumatized. You've had an arterial graft. All that takes time to heal. So take it easy! No jogging around the hospital."
"Yes, sir," Clark had agreed meekly. He had been very tired when he got back to the hospital after his last exposure to kryptonite. Tired enough not to argue with his parents or his doctors. Superman was grounded, by his mother, at least for a few days.
Bryant had agreed he could do a little work, so Lois had brought him his laptop computer. She'd been unusually pensive ever since she came in. She paced the room and finally settled to stare out the window.
"Lois, what's wrong?"
She just shook her head. There was a quiet knock on the door and Lois opened it, ushering in Perry and Jimmy.
"CK, it's really good to see ya," Jimmy said, pulling Clark into a hug. He looked embarrassed as he pulled away. "When I left to look for Capone's hideout, I thought you were dead," he explained.
"I was lucky," Clark admitted. "I should have been dead."
"How you doin', son?" Perry asked.
"Good, really," Clark replied. "Detective Wolfe was by earlier, took my statement. Filled me in on what happened with Capone and his bunch. I guess they haven't found Professor Hamilton yet."
"Capone was pretty unhappy when I tried to get Hamilton away from them," Jimmy told them. "I can't believe I did that. I gotta hand it to you guys, doing that sort of thing all the time. But it made a great story."
"Jimmy, it's not normally that exciting," Clark told him. "In fact, it's usually a pretty good idea to stay away from things like that. That's what the police are for."
Lois chuckled. "And Superman?"
"And Superman," Clark agreed. At least Lois had started talking.
"Dillinger's in the hospital now, too. Under police guard, not that they're going to have much to do," Perry said. "He's dying, multiple organ failure. Apparently Hamilton's cloning technique wasn't as perfect as he'd led everyone to believe."
"Or maybe it was his way to keep control of his creations," Lois suggested.
"Either way, the guys over at STAR Labs figure it's only a matter of time before the rest of them are dead, too. I almost feel sorry for them. First they wake up in a world that has no patience for their kind then they won't even live long enough to do much of anything," Perry told them.
"Except commit murder, a couple bank robberies, nearly murder my partner and Superman," Lois reminded them. "Not bad for less than a week in Metropolis. Let's hope that wherever Hamilton is, he isn't making any more clones."
"I second that," Clark said.
Perry studied Clark for a long moment. Long enough for the young man to feel uncomfortable at the scrutiny. "Son, you know I don't hold much stock in flowery speeches..."
Clark chuckled. "Actually, you do, Chief. You give speeches all the time."
"Well... I guess once you've been through what you have, there's no reason not to be completely honest," Perry said. "Fine then. Here's my speech. We miss you, we want you back at work as soon as you can, and by God don't make us go through anything like this again!"
Clark grinned. "I'll try my best."
"So, when does your doctor say you'll be ready to come back to work?" Jimmy insisted.
"A couple weeks," Clark told him. "One of the slugs lodged against my heart and they want to make sure it heals up properly before I go back to work full-time."
Perry nodded. "You keep me posted," he ordered as he and Jimmy headed for the door.
Again the room was quiet except for the insistent beep of the cardiac monitor.
"Lois, what's wrong?"
After a long moment she began to speak. "Clark... when I thought you were gone, I did some thinking about my life. You know, what it would be like without you in it..." She glanced at him as if to make sure he was still listening and added quickly, "I know what you're thinking: 'Gee Lois, how self-centered can you be?' But just hear me out. I know our relationship has always been... difficult to define. But when I thought about how much I missed you, how much I was going to miss you for the rest of my life... well, I started to think, maybe there's more to our relationship, than just friendship..." She paused and turned to face him. "Clark, you nearly got yourself killed again last night."
Clark felt his jaw drop. "Uh, Lois, what are you saying?"
"Don't deny it, Clark," she told him. "Your mom told me you left here without Bryant's permission. And you knew St. John gave Capone and his thugs kryptonite bullets. But you went ahead anyway. Just flew in to save the day without giving any thought to the possibility it might be a trap."
She'd started crying. "Dammit Clark, you lied to me."
He hung his head. He wasn't sure if he should be relieved that she knew, or upset. "Lois, I'm sorry I lied. At first I didn't know you well enough and then it just got complicated. I've been trying to find a way to tell you about..."
"That's not what I'm talking about, Clark. I understand you not telling me about your other job. I wouldn't have told me either."
Now she was confusing him. "You're not mad about...?" He made a slight sideways motion with his hand, mimicking something flying.
"I'm more mad at myself for not seeing what was right in front of my eyes," she said, coming over to him and slipping his glasses off his face. "All those weird excuses, all the times you ran away. I thought you were running away from me."
"Lois, I never meant..."
She put her hand up to stop him. "I know. But that's not what I'm mad about." She sat down on the edge of the bed and took his hand. "You know that I told Lex no at the altar, even before Perry and Bill Henderson showed up with warrants for his arrest."
Clark nodded, afraid to say anything that might break the mood.
"I don't think I ever told you why," she said softly. "While I was getting ready, I realized I didn't want to be Lois Luthor or even Lois Lane Luthor. I didn't want it to be his face that I woke up to in the morning. I didn't want it to be his hands on my body. While I was getting ready, I realized the name I wanted to share, the face I wanted to see, the hands I wanted to feel, were yours. Not Superman, but Clark Jerome Kent. And then you told me you had lied when you said you loved me, and that you only wanted to be my friend and partner. And I know now that was the lie."
"I thought you... You said you didn't care for me that way," he said. "I didn't want to make things worse."
"I don't think 'just a friend' would have taken three bullets for me."
"I didn't think I could get hurt," he reminded her.
"Clark, even if the bullets hadn't hurt you, Clark Kent might have still died," she told him. "I love you too much to risk that. Please promise me you'll be more careful."
Clark swallowed hard. "Mad Dog Lane is telling me to be careful?"
"They do say that turnabout is fair play," she said with a tremulous smile, wiping away her tears with her free hand.
"So, where do we go from here?"
"I have some ideas," she said with a grin then pulled him into a kiss he hoped would last forever.