By Jon B. Knutson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Famous archaeologist Lewis Lang and his daughter, Lana, come to Metropolis with an Egyptian mummy and artifacts in tow — perhaps even a curse. And one of the women in Clark's life confronts him with a secret.
Metropolis is noted for being one of the busiest cities in the United States, even on a Sunday evening, when many cities appear to calm down en masse, as if preparing for the beginning of a new work week.
In his apartment on Clinton Street, Clark Kent, a reporter for the Daily Planet, was speaking on the telephone to his parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, who live in Smallville, Kansas. Clark was dressed in a tank top T-shirt, gray sweatpants, and worn sneakers. His glasses were sitting on an end table, which would enable anyone present (although there weren't any aside from Clark) to recognize him as being Superman.
"So, Clark, how are you and Lois getting along?" Martha asked with a devilish grin, ignoring Jonathan's dirty look. Martha and Jonathan were both dressed casually, as was their wont. Martha was using their standard phone this time (she and Jonathan usually took turns when Clark called or when they called him).
Jonathan put his hand over the receiver of the cordless phone he was using in the conversation to say, "Martha…"
"All right, I suppose. We are starting to settle into a routine, though… she teases me, and I tease her," Clark answered. "It's fun, but…"
There was a knock on Clark's door. "Hang on a second, Ma…" Clark said as he peered through the door with his x-ray vision. "Speak of the devil."
"Lois is there now?" Martha guessed.
"Yeah," Clark said. "I'll call you back in a few days, Ma. Goodbye."
After Clark's parents said goodbye, Clark hung up the phone and went to the door. He had nearly begun to open it when he realized he'd left his glasses on the end table. He rushed back to put them on, and returned to the door. Opening it, he didn't even get a chance to say, "Hi, Lois" before Lois pushed her way in. Lois lane, a vivacious dark-haired woman, had the knack for making nearly any outfit she wore look good on her, and Clark was appreciative of the black jeans and Navy blue sweatshirt she was dressed in.
"Hi, Clark, I know you're surprised to see me, but I was in the mood for Chinese food tonight, and you know you can't get the best combination dinners unless you order two or more, right, so anyway, I was ordering, and I decided that I was tired of throwing out leftover Chinese food after it's been sitting in the refrigerator for a week, so I thought, 'Who could I get to help me eat all this food,' and of course, I thought of you, since you treated me to Chinese food that last time we were both working late at the Planet, so anyway, as I was waiting for the food to get cooked, I noticed there were some new releases available at the video store next door, so I thought, 'Why not rent a few tapes to watch while we eat,' and I know you probably didn't have plans for tonight anyway…"
Lois took a breath. "So here I am!" She walked to the dining room table and started unpacking the food.
"Here you are," Clark agreed. "Well, I had a late lunch today, but I suppose I could force myself…"
Lois looked hurt. "Did I come at a bad time or something?"
Clark walked to the kitchen and pulled two plates from a shelf. "No… but next time, you might call first…"
"I did call, Clark… and your line was busy… so I knew you'd be home. You've got to be the only person in Metropolis without Call Waiting."
"Well, Lois, I…"
There was another knock at the door. "I'd better answer it," Clark said as Lois continued unpacking Chinese food and opening the small cardboard boxes.
Clark opened the door. On the other side was a strawberry blonde woman, about Clark's age, with blue eyes, wearing a tan blouse with slacks under her safari-styled jacket. "Clark!" she squealed as she hugged him. "It's been way too long!"
Lois looked over at the two. "An old friend, Clark?"
"I'm sorry… Lois, this is one of my best friends from Smallville. Lois Lane, meet Lana Lang."
A short time later, Clark, Lois and Lana were finishing up the last of the Chinese food. "Thanks again for letting me share your dinner, Lois," Lana said. "My flight just got in two hours ago, and I can't stand airline food."
"My pleasure, Lana… I haven't had many chances to meet any of Clark's old friends from Smallville. I take it you don't live there anymore?" Lois asked.
"Lois and I were in Smallville last year on a story," Clark explained.
"Oh," Lana said. "Actually, I do live there… I've just been away assisting my father on a dig in Egypt."
"Egypt? Wait a minute, I know who your father is," Lois started.
"Professor Lewis Lang, the pride of Smallville," Clark offered.
"I don't know about that, Clark," Lana said. "It seems like you've given daddy a run for his money… at least until now."
Clark took a bite of moo goo gai pan. "I take it the dig was successful, then?" Clark asked.
"Good grief, Clark, haven't you been following the stories in the Planet?" Lois asked. "Our Cairo correspondent's been covering the story for the last year! This was one of the biggest joint digs of the century!"
"Sorry, Lana," Clark apologized. "I guess I've been a little too busy to read the paper from cover to cover."
"Well, that does explain why you were so surprised to see me," Lana said. "Although I didn't exactly give you any advance warning I was going to be in Metropolis."
"No… you didn't. So, this was a joint dig?" Clark asked.
"The biggest one daddy's been involved with… there were professors from all over the country joining forces for this… the Nelsons from Salem, the Batsons from Fawcett City, Dr. Garrett from Hub City, the Halls from New York, Professor Jones from Chicago, and Dr. Littlejohn from New York… as well as experts from all over Europe."
"That must've been quite a dig," Lois offered, "If that many archaeologists were involved."
Lana finished her tea. "Only the most important dig ever. Clark, you wouldn't believe what we've found! There's such a variety of objects uncovered that don't fit into any previously-discovered styles… this could mean a whole new understanding of ancient Egypt."
"I'm looking forward to seeing it," Clark said.
"Well, why don't you and Lois come down to the Metropolis Museum? Part of the find is being put on display there tomorrow… it's being brought into the museum tonight as we speak. Might be a good story in it for you, too."
Lois noticed that all the cardboard boxes were empty. She started gathering the debris. "Well, I'm sure you old friends have a lot to talk about… so I'll just clean this up and get going."
"You don't have to leave, Lois," Lana protested.
"No, I should," Lois said, dumping the packages into a garbage can and gathering up her videotapes. "I've got to watch these tonight or I'll have wasted my money," she said, giving Clark a dirty look. "I'll see you at the office tomorrow."
After Lois closed the door, Lana said, "Ouch. I thought you two were just friends?"
Metropolis Museum was one building that didn't seem to fit in with the sleek, futuristic lines of most of Metropolis' larger structures. Amidst the art deco and chrome of the Daily Planet building, Lexcorp, and other of the city's landmark buildings, the Metropolis Museum's stark, gothic design made it appear formidable… even in the daytime.
The museum's facade was missing the traditional columns of most museums, instead favoring an appearance that reminded one of a cathedral more than a museum, but it was just this unique quality of the museum that made it beloved to the city's intellectual and cultural elite, which, in turn, ensured that the best exhibits in Metropolis would be housed there.
At the Metropolis Museum, a large number of crates were being unpacked. Professor Lewis Lang was supervising the work crew. Professor Lang was a relatively short man, whose hair was the same strawberry blond color as his daughter's, with some white mixed in spots. Dressed in a brown suit, he pulled a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and cleaned his glasses. "Careful with those… these are irreplaceable pieces!" he warned.
A tall, gaunt Egyptian man dressed in a white suit and narrow black tie approached Professor Lang. "You should be more careful yourself," the man said to Lang.
Professor Lang looked at the Egyptian with a stern look. "As much as I respect your right to believe what you want, Turhan Bey, you must agree that David Marks' death was an accident, and not the result of any curse."
"David Marks was too young to have died so tragically," Bey intoned. "It has shaken his teacher's confidence considerably. But I warned you… all of you… when the tomb of Om-Ha-Tep was unearthed that the curse was strong. The pictograms clearly stated it was a place of strong mystical power."
Lang turned back to the work crew. "You sound like an actor in a 1940's mummy movie. You have had the best education Egypt has to offer, and none of your contemporaries believe as you do…"
"Not that they will say to western men, Professor Lang," Bey informed.
A forklift, driven by one of the work crew, approached the crates, and lifted one up. As it turned to bring the crate into the museum, the driver turned too fast, and the crate began to tip over.
"Professor Lang!" Bey called as he rushed to the crate. Between he and Lang, they were able to stop the crate from tipping over completely.
As they righted it completely, Bey straightened up. "You see, Professor Lang? If it were not for my being here, you may have been injured or killed. It is the curse in effect."
"Nonsense, Turhan Bey," Lang dismissed. Turning to the driver of the forklift, he continued, "It was nothing more than an idiot who is not capable of operating machinery safely."
The driver of the forklift, a young man with black hair and blue eyes, looked crestfallen. "I'm sorry, sir… I wasn't trying to turn that fast… it was as if the forklift accelerated by itself!"
"Stuff and nonsense! You will no longer be driving a forklift while I'm here," Professor Lang demanded. "Peter, take over here," he called to a short, squat man. Turning back to the forklift driver, he said, "You may help unload the crates from the truck… if you can do such a simple task safely."
Turhan Bey turned his back to the professor. "You are being unfair to the boy by blaming him for the curse's work…"
Back at Clark's apartment, Clark and Lana were enjoying a cup of coffee and conversation.
"…and Ma's gone back to college now," Clark finished. "I don't think she's trying for any specific degree, she's just trying to expand her knowledge."
Lana laughed, a lyrical laugh. "I'll bet she's giving her instructors hell, too!"
"Not as much as she gives Pa sometimes… but as long as she doesn't try to drag him with her, he's not complaining too loudly."
Lana got serious for a moment. "So, Clark, how's your love life?"
Clark nearly choked on his coffee.
"Um… what do you mean?"
Lana set her cup down. "Relax, Clark… I'm not trying to start anything with her. We may have dated in high school, but we both acknowledged that we were better as friends than lovers… besides that, your going off to travel the world, and now becoming a famous reporter for a major metropolitan paper…"
"You make it sound like the beginning of a TV show…"
"…shut up, Clark. As I was saying, you went your way, and I went mine. I love you like the brother I never had, and I wouldn't want to change that. But that doesn't mean I can't be concerned about your relationships now. So, how's your love life? Seeing anyone special?"
"Not really… I haven't been dateless, but…"
"It's Lois, isn't it? You've fallen for her."
"I don't know how I… wait a minute! How did you figure that?" Clark asked suddenly.
"Look, Clark, you haven't changed that much since graduation… and I think it's safe for me to say that I know you better than anyone else, aside from your parents. I could tell within seconds after I arrived here. Besides, letters from your ma have hinted there was someone here you were 'sweet on,' as she put it. It didn't take much to put two and two together."
Clark didn't know how to respond to that.
"So, Clark… are you two dating, or are you just loving her from afar?"
"Actually, we're just friends. We do things together sometimes, but it's mostly related to Planet stuff."
"Then she doesn't know?"
Clark got apprehensive. "Doesn't know what?"
Lana topped off her coffee cup. Sitting down at the table again, she took a breath, and said, "Doesn't know that you're Superman."
At the museum, Turhan Bey was walking by a suite of offices when one of the doors opened to reveal a young intern, a pretty blonde woman with the largest glasses Turhan Bey had ever seen worn by someone not for laughs. "Mr. Bey!" the girl called.
"I am Turhan Bey," he answered.
"You have a telephone call on Line 3… we've been going crazy trying to find you around here!"
"I shall take the call in my office… and I do not wish to be disturbed." Turhan Bey entered an office temporarily assigned to him and closed the door.
" 'I do not wish to be disturbed.' Hmph," the intern said. "Like I'm your personal secretary!"
In his office, Bey picked up the telephone and pressed the button for line 3. "Turhan Bey," he announced.
"All is in readiness," a voice at the other end answered. "The curse will…"
Bey got suddenly angry. "I have told you time and time again not to mention that on the telephone! Suppose someone overheard you?"
The voice at the other end belonged to Turhan Bey's associate, who was assisting at the Smithsonian, where another portion of the objects recovered from Om-Ha-Tep's tomb were to be exhibited. Although the office he was calling from was air conditioned, he was sweating profusely. He pulled a handkerchief from his jacket and mopped his brow, unaware that he was parroting Professor Lang's actions of earlier. "I am sorry, effendi. I will no longer mention it."
Turhan Bey calmed somewhat, but there was still an edge in his voice as he said, "See that you do not. You will not contact me again."
Bey hung up the phone and allowed himself a quiet, chilling laugh.
"Superman? What gave you the idea that I'm Superman?" Clark asked, surprised.
"Clark… as I just got finished saying, I know you better than almost anyone else. Even back in Smallville, while we were dating, you'd do things that nobody else could do… you tried to be discreet about it, and nobody noticed… nobody but me, that is. I knew there was something different about you, but since you didn't choose to say anything about it, I didn't push it.
"Not only that," she said as she opened her purse and pulled out a newspaper, "once, I saw this, I knew for certain." She opened up the paper, one of the Daily Planet International Editions, that had a picture of Superman on the front page. Penciled over the face were a pair of glasses. "The cheaters may fool everyone else, but not me."
"It's just a coincidence," Clark insisted.
"I don't think so, Clark," Lana said.
Clark got up to refill his coffee cup. He noticed that the coffee in the pot had gone cold, so he reheated it with a brief flash of heat vision.
When he turned to go back to the table, he realized Lana was standing right behind him. "That coffee was stone cold when I refilled my cup, Clark… now it's steaming. Obviously, you used your heat vision on it, right?"
"Uh… you must've been mistaken," Clark stammered.
"Sure, and I was mistaken about this," Lana said, holding up a long pin that was bent out of shape. "You didn't even feel this when I poked it at you… and look at it. You can't lie to me about this."
Clark suddenly relaxed. "Okay, Lana, you're right… I'm Superman. And Lois doesn't know, okay?"
"Okay… if you want to keep it a secret from her, you may want to stop this casual use of your powers. I'll bet you do it all the time without even thinking about it."
Clark thought about it for a few moments. "You're right… I should be more careful." Clark couldn't help but be reminded of some of his less careful use of his talents… like using his super-breath to hail a taxi.
"Well, now that we've got that established," Lana said as she stood and stretched her arms, "I've got to get back to my hotel room and grab some z's or I won't be in any condition to help out daddy tomorrow morning. What time should I expect you and Lois there?"
"I don't know… it'll depend on Perry… my editor," Clark said as he walked Lana to the door. "It's good to see you again, Lana."
Lana gave Clark a friendly hug and a peck on the cheek. "Same here, Clark." She opened the door. "See you tomorrow."
After Lana left, Clark went back to his kitchen to clean up the coffee pot and cups. Pouring the leftover coffee down the drain, the phone rang.
Clark picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Hi, Clark… it's me."
Clark looked at his watch. "It's 11:30, Lois… why are you calling so late?"
There was silence at the other end. "This isn't a bad time, is it?"
"No… Lana just left for her hotel room, and I was just cleaning up a bit before going to sleep. Again, why are you calling?"
"Um… I just wanted to say… Lana seems like a really nice person."
Clark wondered to himself if Lois was jealous… which made him smile. "Yes, Lois, she is. Is that it?"
"I guess so. See you tomorrow at the office," Lois said.
"Good night." Clark put the phone down, glad that Lois wasn't making a habit of calling him at 11:30 at night… except when she sees another woman in his apartment. Clark smiled again and got ready for bed.
Clark arrived at the Planet the next morning a little earlier than normal, but Lois had beaten him there anyway. "Morning, Lois," Clark greeted as he reached for his coffee cup.
"Morning, Clark," Lois answered as she read a printout from the newswire. To Clark's (and nearly every heterosexual man who'd seen her that morning) delight, she was dressed in her Navy blue suit… the one with the skirt that was just long enough to look professional, but still displayed her legs to their best advantage. A light blue blouse and Navy blue pumps completed her ensemble.
"You're in early this morning," Clark said, filling his cup, being careful not to spill any coffee on his blue suit, beige shirt, and ubiquitous dinosaur tie.
"Mm.. had to bring the car in to Pop Sibly's garage for a tune-up… he couldn't get me in any later if I wanted it done today, so he decided to come in early to start on it… figured as long as I was already doing that, I may as well get into the office…"
"Pop's business is that good?" Clark asked.
"Nnnn… Pop, Jr.'s off at a computer hacker's convention, so Pop, Sr.'s working double-duty today." Lois knew neither one of the Siblys, elder or younger, was named Pop… although she'd be damned if she knew either one's name… both of them were called "Pop" interchangeably, as far as she could tell. The elder Pop owned the garage, while his son worked there part-time or full-time, depending on when he needed extra money to pay for a new upgrade to his computer or not. Lois had made extensive use of Pop, Jr.'s knowledge of the information super-highway (or as Jimmy had once called it, the super-information highway) in the past, and once Pop, Jr. had recommended his father's garage to her, she hadn't had her car maintained anywhere else.
"Oh," Clark answered, returning to his desk. "So you took a taxi in the rest of the way?"
"You know how hard it is to get a taxi this early in the morning?" Lois said, looking up from the newswire printout. "Pop Sibly provided a loaner."
"I see," Clark said.
"Say, Clark, didn't Lana say that Professor Daniel Garrett was one of the people involved with the expedition?" she asked.
Lois showed Clark the printout from the newswire service she was reading. The headline read "Archaeologist Dies in Freak Accident."
Clark grabbed the printout from Lois and read it at superspeed. "Oh my god…" he said as he read.
"What's going on?" Jimmy Olsen, the Planet's cub photographer and general "gofer" asked as he passed the two. Jimmy dressed in his finest Generation X attire, which Clark had suggested privately might be best left at home if Jimmy wanted to get taken more seriously by Perry White, the City Editor for the Planet.
"Someone a friend of mine knows died late last night," Clark said. "In some kind of car explosion… it says here the police are still investigating it, but apparently there was a fuel pump leak…"
Lana arrived at the Metropolis Museum, sipping a latte. Coincidentally, she was wearing an outfit that was nearly the twin of Lois' outfit that day, save that Lana's was brown with a tan blouse. One of the museum interns saw her, and called, "Lana! Your father wanted to see you as soon as you got here."
"Thanks… Kathy, isn't it?"
"Actually, it's Katy, Katy McCall," Katy answered, "but you were closer than your father was." Katy then continued across the Museum's foyer. Lana noted that Katy wasn't in her usual intern's "uniform" of jeans and a Metropolis Museum T-shirt or sweatshirt… instead, she was dressed in a sedate gray pantsuit. Lana decided Katy had to fill in as a guide that day.
Lana walked to the office her father was temporarily occupying to find her father in tears. "What's wrong, daddy?" she asked.
"Dan's dead… his rental car blew up," he said, shaken. It didn't appear that Professor Lang had slept at all last night, as he was in the same clothes, albeit much more wrinkled than they were when Lana had last seen her father the day before.
Lana felt her throat constricting, and tears began to well. She gave her father a hug, which was returned. "I'm sorry, daddy… I know you two were good friends."
"It was the curse, striking again," a low voice intoned from the doorway.
Lana and Professor Lang turned to the door to see Turhan Bey, again dressed in a white suit and narrow black tie… Lana had often wondered if Turhan Bey's closet held nothing but white suits and narrow black ties. Lang stood up and began to shake. Pointing a finger at Turhan Bey, he ordered, "If I hear you say one more thing about that damned curse of yours, I'll personally see that you are thrown out of the museum… and out of Metropolis, too!"
"Daddy, you're upset… you don't mean that," Lana insisted, drying her eyes.
"I apologize, Professor Lang… I should have realized that you were still disturbed over the death of your friend. If you wish, I will cover your duties today so you may have adequate time to mourn," Bey offered.
Professor Lang took his glasses off, dried his eyes with his handkerchief, replaced his glasses, and stood straighter. "That won't be necessary… I will carry on… Dan would have wanted it that way." He turned to his daughter as Turhan Bey left the office. "Lana, will Clark be stopping by this morning?"
"Sometime… he'll probably bring his partner, Lois Lane," Lana answered.
"Lois Lane? Sounds like competition to me," Professor Lang said, making a half-hearted attempt at humor.
"Not to me… I'm not competing for Clark at all, and you know it. Now, Professor Jones… that's more my type!"
"Professor Jones is old enough to be your grandfather!" Professor Lang responded.
"And I'm old enough to pull your leg when you need cheering up!" Lana said, smiling. "Now, weren't you saying something about carrying on? Don't we have some displays to set up?"
"Yes, you're right… so let's get started!"
The two began to leave the office, but after Professor Lang was through the door, the phone on his desk rang.
"I'll get that daddy," Lana insisted. "You get to work!"
"And I thought the pharaohs were slave-drivers!" Lang called over his shoulder as he continued down the hallway.
Lana pressed the "speaker" button on the phone. "Lana Lang here."
"Lana, it's Clark… I just heard about Professor Garret's death… I'm sorry."
"We all are, Clark. But we're continuing onward anyway. When are you and Lois coming by?"
"Hang on a sec, and I'll find out." Clark put his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and leaned over towards Lois. "When are we going to the museum?"
Lois looked up from her computer. "I thought we hadn't finalized the museum visit yet."
"What's this about the museum?" Perry White asked from the coffee bar. "You two have a story you haven't told me about yet?"
Lois rolled her eyes up. "Clark's got a friend from Smallville who's part of the Om-Ho-Tep party."
"That's Om-Ha-Tep," Clark corrected.
"That's the group that Professor Garrett… the man who died last night… was part of, right? See what kind of story you can get… but if it's not going to pan out, I want you two back here as soon as possible. Take Olsen with you and get some pictures… we could use them for the Sunday edition, if nothing else."
Perry took his coffee and returned to his office.
"Thanks a lot, Perry," Lois grumbled under her breath.
"What was that, Lois?" Clark asked, knowing full well what she said.
"Ah… sounds like a hot story… might as well take care of it right away," Lois answered. "Jimmy, grab your camera," she called across the office.
"And don't forget the film," Clark teased. As Jimmy collected his camera bag, grimacing at Clark, Clark put the phone back to his ear. "We should be there in ten to 15 minutes, depending on traffic."
"Okay," Lana said. "I'll meet you out front."
Lois saved the story she'd started on the computer and took her purse out of her desk drawer. "Well, let's get going!"
"Okay," Clark said. "I assume we'll be taking your loaner car?"
Lois looked pained. "Can't we just take a taxi?"
Clark looked over at Lois. "Do you know how hard it is to get a taxi this early in the morning?"
Jimmy, having collected his camera, said, "I'm ready!"
Lois gave Clark a resigned look. "Okay, we'll take the loaner…"
When Clark, Jimmy and Lois reached the Planet's parking garage, Clark looked around for the loaner… when he spotted it.
"That's your loaner car?" he asked.
Lois' expression looked even more pained. "That's it."
Jimmy began to snicker. The loaner was a blue-green 1960 Ford pick-up truck, with "Pop Sibly's Garage" emblazoned on the sides. "Stop laughing, Jimmy," Lois ordered. "We can always take the bus, if you don't shut up."
The trio from the Planet paused in front of the museum before entering. "This place always gives me the creeps," Jimmy said.
Clark immediately hunched over and closed one eye, and doing his best Boris Karloff impression, said, "What's the matter, Jimmy, afraid the hunchback is going to appear on the ramparts and spill boiling oil on you?"
"Give him a break, Clark… I don't like to drive by this place at night myself," Lois insisted.
"I thought everyone in Metropolis loved the museum," Clark said, straightening up.
"I don't," Lois and Jimmy said simultaneously.
"Let's just go in, okay?" Clark suggested, taking the lead.
Lana met them at the door. "Hi, Clark… Lois."
Clark and Lois returned her greeting, after which Lana and Lois looked over each other's outfits. "Nice suit," they said at the same time, followed by a simultaneous "Thank you."
"Who's this?" Lana asked, indicating Jimmy, who was obviously impressed with her.
Jimmy stood there silently for a moment until Lois nudged him. "James B. Olsen, Planet photographer."
Lois and Clark looked at each other. "James?" they asked each other.
"Funny, you look more like a Jimmy than a James," Lana said. "Come on in."
Jimmy took up the rear. "Thanks a lot," he grumbled.
"Daddy's getting the exhibit set up," Lana explained as she lead them to the Egyptian wing of the museum. "There's still quite a bit to unpack, but there's lots to look at."
They entered the wing in time to see an ornate mummy coffin being uncrated by Professor Lang and Turhan Bey. Professor Lang had taken a few minutes to change into a clean set of clothes and shave.
"Wow!" Jimmy enthused.
Professor Lang turned. "Clark! Good to see you, my boy!" he greeted.
"Good to see you, too, Professor Lang."
"Please, Clark, call me Lewis… I think you've earned that right by now by dint of your age. And this lovely young lady," he said, taking Lois' hand and kissing it lightly, "must be Lois Lane."
"Daddy, you don't have to be such an outrageous flirt," Lana teased.
Clark indicted Jimmy, "This is our photographer, James B. Olsen." Clark emphasized "James."
"Good to meet you. This gentleman is the Egyptian liaison to the excavation and exhibit, Turhan Bey," Lang said. Bey simply took a second to deliver a short, quick bow.
"This must be Om-Ha-Tep's mummy," Clark said. "Can I give you a hand?"
"Thank you, Clark… I could use an extra pair of strong arms here," Lang said.
With Clark's help, Turhan Bey and Professor Lang finished uncrating the sarcophagus and set it on a display stand. While they did this, Lana pointed out some of the other treasures already on display to Lois and Jimmy.
"This was one of the more interesting items," Lana said, picking up a crystal dagger and showing it to the two. "According to the hieroglyphics depicting this, this crystal dagger, when used to kill a man, would force his spirit to wander the land endlessly, never moving beyond the vale."
"Creepy," Lois commented as she took notes.
Lana set the dagger down and picked up a large azure colored scarab carving. "This is another object that has magical ability claimed of it. This scarab was worn by the best of Om-Ha-Tep's warriors… it was supposed to give the wearer great powers, including flight."
"So ancient Egypt had their own Superman, eh?"
"You could say that. Many of the smaller objects we found were supposed to be mystical in nature, but what's strange about all of them is that there was no mention of any of these in previous excavations. Usually, we'll find variations on a theme, so to speak, such as statues of the gods, but the symbols on these objects are completely unlike any ever encountered before!" Lana picked up a jeweled necklace and pointed out the largest medallion on it. "Take this, for example… a stylized lightning bolt, the symbol of Om-Ha-Tep's wizard. We can't even guess at the wizard's name, because all of the hieroglyphics naming this wizard simply used this insignia."
She set the necklace down and directed them to a different display case. "This was an interesting pair of items here… very unique." Inside the case was a gleaming golden helmet which would cover the wearer's face, with only two small slits to see through. It was accompanied by a golden amulet.
"They're beautiful," Lois breathed.
"Yes, and they're also unlike any other helmets or headwear associated with ancient Egypt. For that matter, there is no reference to Om-Ha-Tep at all in any other discoveries prior to this."
"So how did you find Om-Ha-Tep's tomb?" Jimmy asked.
"Professor Littlejohn of New York was translating some scrolls that had recently been unearthed that outlined the location of the tomb. In fact, the original dig was just William and a small party of his associates. Once he realized how large a find this was, he decided to call in daddy and the others."
"Where did the scroll come from?" Lois asked.
"Nobody knows for certain… they were sealed in a ceramic container for several years without anyone knowing they were in there. The container was awaiting classification, when Professor Littlejohn's assistant accidentally dropped it, shattering it and revealing the scrolls. I guess you could say it was a happy accident."
As if realizing what she said at the end of her mini-speech, Lana's mood suddenly darkened.
"Feel free to look around, Lois… I need to talk to Clark for a few minutes, if you don't mind."
"Go ahead… this is interesting," Lois said, distracted by the beauty of the helmet. Lana walked over to where Clark, Turhan Bey and her father were checking over the sarcophagus. "Clark, can I talk to you in private for a moment?"
"Sure," Clark said, following Lana to her father's office.
As they walked away, Turhan Bey approached Lois and Jimmy silently. "Beautiful, isn't it?" he asked in his low tones.
Lois and Jimmy both started. Turning to Turhan Bey, Lois complained, "For such a tall man, you certainly move quietly!"
"I humbly beg for forgiveness, Miss Lane," Turhan Bey apologized. "The helm and amulet are beautiful, though, are they not?"
"They sure are," Lois agreed. "I don't think I've ever seen such a finely polished gold anywhere before… I can see reflections in it!"
"That is due to the mystical properties of the helm," Bey intoned.
Lois gave him a look of disbelief. "You can't possibly believe that helmet has magic powers," she said.
"It is written that whoever wears the golden helm shall be possessed by Nabu, an ancient enemy of Om-Ha-Tep's. Nabu was a great and powerful wizard."
Lois gave Bey a "you can't be serious" look. "Right. Jimmy, are you finished with your pictures?"
Jimmy took one final picture, then lowered his camera. "Last one… until more of the crates are unpacked," he confirmed.
In Lang's office, Lana and Clark had begun their conversation. "I was willing to consider Steven Lang's death an accident, but with Professor Garret's death last night… there's something fishy about that," Lana said.
"I read the newswire report on Garret's death… it said that his car had a leaky fuel pump, which caused the explosion," Clark countered.
"But that's completely ridiculous… Dan Garret was one of the most anal-retentive people in the world when it comes to cars. He won't even take a rental car until he's checked everything over himself. In fact, it was he who kept up the maintenance on the vehicles at the dig."
"So you think he was murdered?"
"To hear Turhan Bey tell it, it's the curse of Om-Ha-Tep at work," Lana said.
"I don't remember hearing anything about a curse," Clark said.
Lana looked directly at Clark. "That's because we didn't say anything about that to the media… until right now. Only the expedition members knew anything about it."
"Okay, Lana, why don't you start from the beginning? Why does Turhan Bey think there's a curse?"
"When we opened up the tomb, Turhan Bey discovered hieroglyphics stating that the tomb and its contents were protected by a curse that would doom those who desecrated it. Of course, nobody outside of Turhan Bey believed it… and we decided as a group not to tell the media about it."
"Otherwise there might be comparisons to the supposed curse of King Tut, right?" Clark asked.
"That's the size of it. That's one of the reasons that daddy insisted that Metropolis be one of the first cities to have the exhibit presented in… because I knew you would handle it more responsibly than most of the other reporters we've talked to."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I think you may be underestimating some of the other newspapers… although I can see you wouldn't want any of the tabloids to get a hold of this information."
"Thanks for understanding, Clark. Anyway, I really wanted to ask you a favor."
"What's that?" Clark asked, but before Lana could answer, there was a scream from the Egyptian wing, followed by a loud crash.
Clark and Lana ran from the office to where Lang, Lois, Jimmy and Turhan Bey were. Professor Lang and Jimmy were on the floor of the Egyptian wing, and the debris from a scale mock-up of a pyramid, which was hanging from the ceiling. Lana rushed to her father's side.
"Lois, what happened?" Clark asked.
Lois was visibly shaken. "Professor Lang was looking over the sarcophagus… suddenly, there was a sudden snapping sound… if Jimmy hadn't pushed him out of the way, he would've been crushed!"
Turhan Bey didn't appear disturbed by the incident. "It is as I warned… the curse of Om-Ha-Tep has struck again."
Clark, Lois and Jimmy headed back to the Planet after they were certain that Professor Lang was okay. As they entered the city room, Lois said, "I don't like that Turhan Bey… he looks very suspicious to me."
"Come on, Lois," Clark countered, "Just because he acts like a character in an old 'mummy' movie, you think he's behind it? What about Professor Garret's death? You can't tell me he traveled to Washington, killed Garret, and returned to Metropolis that quickly? He's got an iron-clad alibi."
"The whole thing gives me the creeps," Jimmy said. "I swear, if the sarcophagus had opened and Om-Ha-Tep's mummy started walking around, I wouldn't have been surprised."
"Go develop those pictures," Clark said. "We'll be making a return trip this afternoon once the rest of the exhibit is ready."
"Great," Jimmy said unconvincingly as he headed to the Planet's photo lab.
Clark and Lois returned to their desks to begin writing up the story. Lois found a message waiting for her. "Thank god!" Lois said, reading it.
"What's that?" Clark asked.
"It's from Pop Sibly… my car's ready." Lois checked her watch. "I think I'll take an early lunch to pick it up… I don't want to chance having to drive his antique pick-up any more than I have to! Cover for me, will you?"
"Thanks!" Lois said, rushing to the elevator.
Clark checked his watch. "I think I'll take an early lunch myself." Clark headed for the stairs, having missed the elevator by seconds.
Shortly after Clark left, Perry stuck his head out of his office. "Clark! Lois! Jimmy! I could've sworn I heard their voices. Great shades of Elvis."
Clark headed for the Planet's rooftop at super-speed, changing into his Superman outfit en route, and thanking goodness that most Planet employees were too lazy to use the stairs, preferring to wait for the elevator instead. Upon gaining the roof, he took off, angling his flight for Washington, D.C.
Superman landed in front of the precinct headquarters nearest the Smithsonian, figuring the odds were Garret's death was under investigation there. He strode into the building and headed for the front desk. To his surprise, in the bustle of activity, no one in the station seemed to notice him.
"Excuse me?" he asked of the desk sergeant, whose back was turned to him.
Without turning, the desk sergeant asked, "What can I do for you?"
"I'd like to speak to whoever is investigating Professor Garret's death."
"That would be Lt. Hansen… his desk is over there," the sergeant answered, pointing in the general direction of Lt. Hansen's desk.
Superman started towards Hansen's desk. Finally, someone noticed him, and he could hear whispers of, "It's Superman!" "Nah, just someone in a Superman costume," and "I don't think so, it looks like him," as well as variations on the theme.
"Lt. Hansen?" Superman asked the plainclothes officer at the desk the sergeant had indicated, who was reading a file.
"If not, I've been collecting the wrong person's paychecks," Hansen said, looking up from the file. "Holy… you're Superman?"
"If not, I've been wearing the wrong set of tights," Superman said, smiling.
"I don't believe you… anyone can put on a set of shiny blue tights and a red cape," Hansen said, eyes narrowing.
"Does this convince you?" Superman said, rising a few feet from the floor, eliciting whispers of "I told you it was Superman!"
"That'll do it," Hansen said, putting down the file. "What can I do for you, Superman?"
"I understand you're investigating the death of Professor Garret?"
"That's right… don't tell me you flew all the way here from Metropolis to check out the death of an archaeologist?"
"It's sort of a favor to a friend. I understand his death was accidental?"
"It certainly looks that way… the fuel pump started leaking, and some gasoline splashed onto a hot surface on the engine, blowing the car up. We were lucky to figure that much out."
"Can I see the fuel pump, or what's left of it?" Superman requested.
Hansen stood up. "I don't see that there's anything wrong with that. Follow me."
Superman followed Hansen to where the debris of the car had been moved for the investigation. Hansen handed Superman a mangled piece of the car. "This is what's left of the fuel pump."
Superman took the twisted mass and examined it with his microscopic vision. "There's no prints… but they would've probably been burnt off anyway…" Hansen offered.
Focusing his microscopic vision deeper, Superman spotted some fragments of crystalline material. "This is interesting."
"What?" Hansen asked.
"There's some kind of crystal in here… I think the fuel pump had been tampered with before Professor Garret got in his car. Someone could have used some kind of crystalline material to damage it, and conventional examination wouldn't have spotted it."
"It's an unusual configuration… but I may be able to match it." Superman handled the remains of the pump back to Lt. Hansen. "Thanks for your cooperation. I'll be in touch."
Superman began to leave the station. "Wait a minute, big blue, you fly down to Washington, tell me there's some kind of crystal material in the fuel pump, and then take off to Metropolis again without telling me anything else?"
Superman stopped and turned back to Lt. Hansen. "Once I know more, I'll let you know. One more thing… if you can keep this information from the media, I'd appreciate it."
"I suppose I can swing that… we'll tell the newshacks that you were just stopping by to offer your services if we need 'em, okay?"
"That'll be perfect. Thanks again."
Superman returned to the Planet and changed back into his Clark clothes, re-entering the city room to find an angry Lois Lane steaming at her desk.
"Something wrong, Lois?"
"Oh, no, Clark, everything's fine… I went to pick up my car, and didn't get more than ten feet away from Pop Sibly's Garage when a fanbelt broke on me… and Pop Sibly doesn't have the right size in stock… he's going to have to track one down from one of the auto parts stores in Metropolis."
"So, you're stuck with Pop Sibly's pick-up truck for a while longer, eh?"
Lois winced. "Don't remind me… when we return to the museum, we take a cab… got it?"
Clark couldn't help but smile. "Got it."
Perry White, hearing Lois and Clark's voices in the city room, stepped out of his office. "There you two are… is there a story at the museum?"
Simultaneously, Lois and Clark said, "Yes." Then they looked at each other and said, "Go ahead."
Perry, knowing full well this could go on for a while, put his hands up and suggested, "How about Clark tells me about it?"
Lois gave Clark a "take it" gesture, so Clark told Perry about the exhibit, as well as the "curse" Turhan Bey insisted was striking.
Perry listened to Clark's explanation, considered it for a moment, and said, "Stay on the story… but keep it factual… I don't want to see a tabloid-style story cross my desk."
"Got it, chief," Clark agreed.
Jimmy burst into the city room waving a manila envelope. "Got the pictures, CK!"
Clark, Perry and Lois looked over the pictures. "That's funny," Lois said, looking at the photo of the helmet and amulet of Nabu, "It looked shinier in the museum than in this picture."
Clark and Jimmy gave her a strange look. "Shinier, Lois?" Clark asked.
Lois lowered one eyebrow at Clark. "What, you think I've fallen for Turhan Bey's talk about it being magical?"
Clark gave Lois an innocent look. "You, believe in magic? I wouldn't consider it for a moment!"
"Very funny, Clark…"
The phone at Clark's desk rang. Picking it up, Clark answered, "Clark Kent."
"Clark, it's Lana… I just got a call from Chicago… the Nelsons are in the hospital!"
"According to the doctors, it's food poisoning. They were setting up their part of the exhibit when they both collapsed!"
Lois looked at Clark and asked, "What's going on?"
Clark put his hand over the receiver. "Two of the other archaeologists, the Nelsons, are in the hospital… apparently, they're suffering from food poisoning."
"Clark, I would really appreciate it if you came back here… Turhan Bey's making his 'Curse of Om-Ha-Tep' speech again, and I'm getting scared."
"Lana, you know there's no such thing as a curse!"
"I'd still feel better if you were here."
"Okay, Lana… Lois and I were going to come back in an hour anyway, I suppose we can leave early."
Clark hung up the phone to discover that Lois was giving him a look that told him she wasn't happy about going back to the museum right away. "What?" Clark asked. "I already agreed that we could take a cab this time around!"
After fifteen minutes of waiting, Lois, Clark and Jimmy still hadn't been able to flag down a taxi. Clark was getting tempted to use his super-powers to get one to stop when Lois finally threw her hands up.
"Okay! Okay! We'll take Pop Sibly's truck! I give up!"
"Fine," Clark said, distractedly. Surreptitiously, Clark lowered his glasses and used a combination of his telescopic and x-ray visions to check on Lana. Seeing that she was okay, and that her father was okay as well, he followed Lois and Jimmy to Pop Sibly's truck.
As they proceeded to the museum, he continued to occasionally check on Lana, just to be safe. They made it to the museum in 20 minutes. They had no trouble finding Lana and Professor Lang in the Egyptian wing, completing the final touches on the exhibit.
"Clark!" Lana called, rushing towards them. "I'm glad you're back."
Lois looked pained for a moment, but as if she realized her expression, she quickly put on her "reporter's face." "Well, let's get back to work… Jimmy, start shooting some photos," she ordered. "Let's start over here," she said, indicating a display just past the case holding the helmet and amulet of Nabu.
Lana and Clark just stared at Lois as she and Jimmy walked across the floor. "Who kicked her puppy?" Lana asked.
"She's just uptight about her loaner car… er, truck," Clark answered. "You haven't heard anything from any of the other professors, have you?"
"No, thank god… I don't know how much more of this I can take… daddy's threatened to fire Turhan Bey if he doesn't stop his 'curse of Om-Ha-Tep' schtick, but Bey has friends in high places in Egypt… if he was let go, the Egyptian government would immediately demand that all the artifacts be returned… and that could spoil everything."
"Maybe you can find something to occupy his time?" Clark suggested.
"I can try… I'll suggest that to daddy."
Professor Lang took out his handkerchief and lightly dusted the artifact he was preparing… a golden plaque encrusted with gems that appeared to represent the planets. "Well, that's everything," he said. "That's one advantage of splitting up the find between several cities at a time… less work all at once."
Clark added, "Plus you can change the exhibit as soon as everyone in that city is tired of the last one, right?"
Lang adjusted his glasses, which had begun to slide down his nose. "Eh? Oh, certainly, Clark… I know how short the attention spans are in these big cities. Not like in Smallville. Everyone around here just wants to rush, rush, rush."
Lana whispered to Clark, "He doesn't mean that… he's just in a cranky mood."
"I understand," Clark whispered back.
"By the way," Clark whispered, "I made a short trip to Washington and took a look at Garret's fuel pump… I saw some crystalline structure on there. I'd like to take a look at that dagger to see if it's made of the same material."
"It's right over here," Lana pointed. They walked over to the case the dagger was in, and Lana opened the case. Clark glanced over at Lois and Jimmy, who were busy with the newer exhibits, then looked back at the dagger. He lowered his glasses and examined the dagger with his microscopic vision. "It's the same material… were there more than one of these daggers found?"
"I think so," Lana answered. She turned to her father and called across the wing. "Daddy, how many of these daggers did we find?"
Lang stroked his goatee for a few moments. "There were three of them… different hilt designs, of course."
"Where are the other two?" Clark asked.
"One of them's at the Seattle exhibit, and the other one's down in Washington at the Smithsonian."
Clark turned back to Lana. "I wish I'd known that while I was down in Washington… I could've checked it out then."
"You can't go back there now? Oh, I see… you'd need an excuse to leave," Lana whispered. Speaking louder, she said, "Clark, would you like to see some of the photos we took in Egypt?"
"What?" Clark said, then brightened. "I mean, sure, Lana. Where are they?"
"In daddy's office… maybe you'd like to use some of them in your story." Lois called across to Clark. "Go ahead and look them over, Clark… Jimmy and I are almost done here anyway. If you're not done by the time we're finished, you can take a cab back to the Planet."
"Thanks, Lois," Clark said as Lana escorted him to the office wing.
When they entered Professor Lang's office, Lana turned her back on Clark. "You don't have to do that, Lana," Clark said. As Lana turned back around, Clark opened his shirt to reveal his Superman uniform underneath.
Clark finished changing to Superman, and started walking to the window of the office, but stopped, realizing Lana was staring at him. "What?"
"It's… you look so impressive in your Superman outfit. If I didn't know it was you, Clark, I wouldn't have figured it out."
Superman turned back to the window and opened it. "I should be back in about half an hour," he said, and flew out.
Lana waited in her father's office until Superman returned, having one close call when Lois stopped by to say she and Jimmy were returning to the Planet. Thinking fast, Lana told Lois that Clark had to use the bathroom.
True to his promise, the Man of Steel flew back through the window of Lang's office about half an hour after he left. As he donned his Clark Kent clothing, Lana asked, "So?"
"It panned out… the dagger in Washington wasn't the same material I saw in the fuel pump," Clark said, putting his glasses back on. "I guess they weren't the same materials after all."
"That's funny," Lana said, "Daddy said they were the same crystalline structure on all three daggers."
"Could he have been wrong?" Clark asked.
Lana gave Clark a "are you kidding?" look. "Daddy? You know him better than that, I thought."
"You're right… could it be that the Smithsonian dagger was replaced with a duplicate?"
"I don't see how… it would have been spotted as a fake immediately by Professor Garret… "
"Unless Professor Garret wasn't around to spot it as a fake… since he's dead, there's a good chance it wouldn't be spotted until one of the other members of the expedition saw it."
Lana looked very concerned. "So Professor Garret was killed so that nobody would notice that the crystal dagger had been stolen and replaced with a duplicate…"
"And whoever's behind it may have given the Halls food poisoning, as well as arranged for that pyramid model to drop on your father. The only problem with that theory is that I'm the only person that I know of who can move that fast… except for some strange rumors I've heard from Central City."
"What?" Lana asked.
"Never mind. We're looking at some kind of conspiracy… we've got to find some connection between the various people associated with the expedition."
"How do we do that?"
"Leave that to me… I'll need a list of everyone associated with the project, people who were at the dig, and involved with the various exhibitions here in the States."
Lana opened up one of her father's desk drawers and pulled out a file. Handing it to Clark, she said, "This is everyone… I hope it helps."
Clark took the file. "It should… in the meantime, you and your father need to be extra careful."
"What about everyone else? The archaeologists around the country?"
Clark thought about this for a few moments. "We can't say anything to them… for all we know, one of them might be responsible for all this."
Outside the door of Professor Lang's office, Turhan Bey, who had been walking by, overheard part of the conversation… fortunately for Clark, Bey hadn't heard anything that would reveal Clark's dual identity. Nodding sagely, Turhan Bey stealthily walked away from Lang's office, and entered an office that was temporarily empty. He picked up the phone, dialed a local number, and said, "This is Bey. I need to meet you in the usual location." Without waiting for a reply, he hung up.
Clark returned to the Planet shortly after that. Upon entering the newsroom, he noticed that Lois' mood was greatly improved. "Hi, Lois," he greeted.
"Hi, Clark… I finally got rid of that barf-green pickup truck, and got my own car back!"
"I thought you looked happy… congratulations. Now, I need your help…"
Lois said, "Sure, anything!"
Clark showed Lois the file he'd received from Lana. "We need to check these names with the Planet's database and try to find whatever connections we can."
Lois took the file and looked over it. "These are people from Professor Lang's expedition… why are we trying to establish connections?"
Clark leaned in closer to Lois and whispered, "There's a group of people, probably on this list, who were responsible for Professor Garret's death, giving the Halls food poisoning, and the accident that almost killed Professor Lang earlier today."
Lois simply said, "Oh."
Clark explained further to Lois what had been discovered, with the exception of telling her that he was able to contact Superman to check out the fuel pump and dagger at the Smithsonian.
"So if you can run a cross-check on this list, I can try to flag down Superman again so he can fly Professor Lang to Washington to confirm that the dagger at the Smithsonian is a fake."
"Why can't I look for Superman?" Lois asked.
"Because you're better at using the Planet computer database than I am," Clark said, rushing to the elevator.
Fortunately for Clark, Lois uncharacteristically started inputting the list into her terminal immediately, rather than complaining until Clark entered the elevator… otherwise, she might have noticed that he took the elevator up, instead of down.
On reaching the roof, Clark changed quickly to Superman, and flew to the Metropolis Museum. Once he arrived there, he met up with Lana and Professor Lang.
"So you are the famous Superman?" Professor Lang asked. "I have read about your exploits for some time… it is a pleasure to finally meet you."
"Professor Lang, Clark Kent told me that you have a crystal dagger here that's supposed to be the same type of crystal as one currently at the Smithsonian. I think the one in Washington may be a fake, but you're the only person available who can tell for certain."
Professor Lang considered this for a moment. "I'm with you so far."
"For expediency's sake, I'd like to fly you to Washington to confirm whether or not that dagger is the real one."
Professor Lang's eyes widened. "You're going to fly me…?"
"That's right, sir. You don't have anything to be afraid of… I've got the best safety record of anything flying in Metropolis," Superman replied with a grin and a glint in his eyes.
"I suppose that will be all right, then. But what about Lana? I don't want her to be here alone."
Superman thought about this. "Miss Lang, you would be safest if you take a cab to the Daily Planet… I understand Lois Lane is still working there, and you might be able to help her with a project Clark Kent told me about."
"But I could just take my car…" Lana protested.
"That might not be safe… if someone booby-trapped Professor Garret's car, they may have done so to your own car."
Lana gulped. "I'll call a cab right away."
"No… wait… just hail a cab… it's possible the phone lines are being tapped," Professor Lang said.
"Good idea, sir," Superman replied. "But go now… I won't leave until I know you're safely on your way to the Planet."
Superman, Professor Lang, and Lana walked out of the museum. Superman flagged a cab for Lana by standing in the road. Once Lana was safely away, Superman picked up Professor Lang, and lifted into the air, flying towards Washington. To protect Professor Lang from windburn, he wrapped his cape over the professor's head and hands.
Flying at top speed, he made it to Washington in a few minutes. Ignoring the stares of the Smithsonian personnel and visitors to the Institute, Superman escorted Lewis Lang to where the artifacts from the expedition were being displayed.
Lewis Lang took one look at the crystal dagger in the display case and announced, "This is not the dagger we found… it's a reproduction. If you look here," he indicated a spot on the hilt, "you can see where it's obvious that modern-day tools were used to fashion this."
"It may be obvious to you, Professor," Superman noted, "and to other members of your team, but to the average person, it looks the same."
At the other end of the exhibit room, Turhan Bey's associate, to whom he had spoken to the day before, listened to Professor Lang telling Superman the dagger was a reproduction. "Turhan Bey will not be pleased," he mumbled to himself. He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a small pistol, took aim at Professor Lang, and fired.
In the split-second that Superman heard the gun fire, he was able to spot where the shot came from, and track the bullet. Reaching out, he caught the bullet in his hand… preventing it from striking Professor Lang in the chest, surely a fatal wound.
Superman opened his fist, and the flattened bullet dropped to the floor, the sound echoing in the suddenly-silent exhibition room.
Turhan Bey's associate, seeing this, turned the gun on himself, broke the silence again by killing himself before Superman could react.
Superman rushed to the man's side, catching the now-limp figure before it could fall to the floor. Checking the man's vital signs with his super-senses, Superman knew no emergency measure could save him.
"That's Ahmad, the Egyptian liaison assigned to this part of the exhibit," Professor Lang noted.
"I'm afraid he's taken himself off the assignment, sir."
After calling an ambulance and giving a statement to Lt. Hansen, who had responded to the call, Superman, Lang and Hansen searched Ahmad's office, where they found the real dagger. Superman's microscopic vision revealed the crystalline structure of this dagger matched the structure of the fragments he'd seen in Garret's fuel pump… and also that the dagger hadn't been cleaned completely of oil residue and Ahmad's fingerprints.
"So, Ahmad killed Garret to cover the theft of the dagger, right?" Hansen asked.
"It looks that way," Superman agreed.
"But that's so stupid!" Lang shouted. "He didn't need the money… his family is one of the wealthiest families in all of Egypt. What possible motive could he have had? And why did he go to the trouble of making a duplicate?"
"Trust me, Professor Lang," Hansen said, "I've seen instances where a criminal acted even more irrational than this. Whatever his reasons, he obviously didn't want anyone to know them."
"This probably involves several other people," Superman noted. "Professor Lang, I understand that the Halls have recently been stricken with food poisoning?"
"That's right… they're in Chicago."
"If I'm right, and other people are involved with this, some of the exhibit items in Chicago may have been stolen and replaced with duplicates as well."
"That's if someone managed to give the Halls, whoever the hell they are, food poisoning," Hansen pointed out. "Geez, writing up the report on this one's going to be a major headache."
"Professor Lang, I can fly you to Chicago if you wish so you may examine the artifacts there."
"By all means, Superman, if there's a conspiracy afoot, I will cooperate in anyway to foil it. But first," Lang said, "I believe I should examine the remaining items here. And perhaps we should warn the others."
"I don't think that would be a good idea… one of them may also be involved."
Lang considered this. "You're right… but I don't like it."
"With luck, we'll be able to wrap this up fast enough to deal with any possible danger to the rest of your team."
One of the Smithsonian's staff, a mature woman in a gray outfit, walked into the room, saw the bloodstains from Ahmad's suicide, and gasped. "What happened here?"
Hansen turned to her. "Your man Ahmad killed himself… hadn't you heard?"
"Oh, my goodness, no… I was just trying to find him… he has a call from Turhan Bey in Metropolis."
Superman and Lang looked at each other. "Turhan Bey?"
In Metropolis, Turhan Bey grew impatient, and hung up the telephone. Picking up the receiver, he dialed a cellular phone number. When it was answered, he said, "This is Bey. You have Lang's daughter under surveillance?"
The voice at the other end answered, "It is so. She is at the Daily Planet building."
"It is time she was elsewhere," Bey intoned. "Make it so."
"It will be done."
Turhan Bey hung up the phone, and gathered a few items from his desk. After putting the items in a briefcase, he left his office, and walked out of the building, entering a late model sedan, and driving away.
Outside the Daily Planet building, two men dressed in dark brown suits exited a white van, and walked into the building. In the lobby, they were stopped by a security guard. "I'm afraid I can't let you go any further unless you have an appointment," the guard said.
The men looked at each other. One of them said, "We do have an appointment, with Mr. Jones."
The guard went over to his desk and consulted a book there. "I don't see any appointments listed for Mr. Jones…"
"That's too bad," the man said, drawing a gun with a silencer and firing it. The security guard dropped to the floor. "Make sure nobody can see him," the man said to his partner." As his partner moved the body, the first man looked over the sign-in sheet, and saw that Lana Lang was in the city room, visiting Lois Lane. A quick check of the directory showed him what floor the city room was on. Without another word, the two dark-suited men entered the elevator.
In the city room, Lana and Lois were awaiting the results of the computer search. "I thought this would've been done faster," Lana said.
Lois sighed. "It took some time to enter the names, especially the Egyptian ones… it wouldn't have helped if their names were misspelled, and the spell checker won't help much with proper names."
In the empty city room, the "ding!" of the elevator echoed clearly. "Maybe that's Clark," Lana said.
The doors opened… revealing the two men, who had tied handkerchiefs over their faces to disguise themselves. They both had drawn their guns.
"I don't think so," Lois said.
Perry White and Jimmy Olsen had decided to have dinner together that evening. Perry had explained that his wife, Alice, had her bridge club that evening, and that he hated to eat alone. Since it was Perry's treat, Jimmy took his editor up on the offer.
What Jimmy didn't realize was that Perry wanted someone to tell stories about his days as a cub reporter, hoping to give Jimmy the benefit of his experience. Jimmy surreptitiously glanced at his watch from time to time, hoping Perry would finish and decide it was time to leave, but Perry was on a roll, and one story would remind him of another. Jimmy was thankful that Perry wasn't telling Elvis stories, but he still found himself wishing that he had thought to set his VCR on timer recording, since he was missing the broadcast of a basketball game.
Finally, after a marathon session, Perry decided it was time to leave. Since Perry had driven Jimmy there directly from the Planet, he offered to drive Jimmy back there so the cub reporter could pick up his motorcycle. The two of them arrived at the Planet in time to see Lana being escorted into the white van. Jimmy pointed Lana out to Perry.
It was obvious that Lana wasn't happy about it, and when Perry spotted a gun in the hand of one of the two men, he knew something was wrong. Rather than driving to the parking garage, Perry pulled his car up by the curb and got out of the car. "What do you think you're doing?" he demanded.
His only answer was a gunshot from the man holding a gun that blew out the windshield of Perry's car. Perry and Jimmy ducked behind the car, and Perry reached for his cellular phone. Pressing the activation button, he didn't near a beep from the machine. Glancing at it, he said, "Damn… battery's gone dead. First time I need to use the thing, and it's not working!"
Jimmy glanced over the car to the van, and saw the doors closing. With a squeal of tires, the van pulled away, one of the men shooting a few more times at Perry's car.
"Let's go, kid!" Perry said, getting behind the wheel. When he tried to start the car, nothing happened. "Damn… they must've hit something with those last shots. We'll call the police from the security desk phone!"
Perry and Jimmy charged into the building, where they found the dead guard. As Jimmy called the police, Perry checked the sign-in sheet. "Jimmy, your friend Lana was here with Lois… I'm going to check on her." Perry ran to the elevator, which was fortunately waiting there.
Impatiently, he pressed the button for the city room's floor. "Why does this damn thing run the slowest when I'm in the biggest hurry?" he asked.
Finally, the doors opened, and Perry ran into the city room… to find Lois tied to her chair with extension cords, her mouth gagged with a handkerchief. Perry rushed to her side and pulled her gag down before untying her.
"Perry, Lana Lang's been kidnapped!" Lois gasped.
"I know… Jimmy and I saw her captors put her in a van and drive off."
"What? Didn't you stop them?" Lois said, suddenly angry instead of simply frantic.
Perry stopped untying Lois long enough to give her a patronizing look. "Honey, I would have loved to stop them, but there's only one man in Metropolis who can stop bullets and survive."
Lois looked down, chastised. "Sorry, Chief."
The elevator "ding!" sounded again, and Jimmy rushed out of the car. "Lois! You're okay?"
"I guess so," Lois said, standing and shaking her arms to restore the circulation. "But I'll tell you, I've never been happier that I'm not a man in my life."
Jimmy and Perry gave her a quizzical look and asked, "Huh?" at the same time.
"If I was a man, they would've killed me. I guess neither of them was willing to shoot a woman."
"Oh," Jimmy answered. "The police are on their way, Chief, but I couldn't give them a very good description of the van… I didn't notice the license plate number."
"BSL 138," Perry said, without even thinking about it. He noticed Jimmy was staring at him. "Kid, didn't I just get finished telling you about the most important thing a reporter has to develop?"
Jimmy thought about this for a few seconds. "The power of observation?"
"Damn right. Now get back on the phone and tell the police the license plate number!"
Rather than flying to Chicago, Superman decided it was best to return to Metropolis with Professor Lang, flying directly to the museum. After instructing Lang to call Inspector Henderson at police headquarters, Superman dashed to Turhan Bey's office and searched the room at super-speed. He returned to Lang just as the professor was hanging up the telephone. "Turhan Bey is gone… probably for good, since there aren't any personal items left in his office."
"Maybe he's in his hotel room," Lang suggested.
"That's too obvious," Superman dismissed. "I'm sure he'd realize that would be the first place we'd look for him. I know he did make a phone call before leaving."
Lang looked quizzically at Superman. "How?"
"His fingers left a little bit of oil on the keypad… unfortunately, there were only five numbers pressed, so two of them, at least, were repeated. We can puzzle that out later, though. We should meet your daughter at the Planet."
Superman and Professor Lang started towards the front door of the museum in time to meet Inspector Henderson and some of his men, followed shortly by an ambulance and paramedics.
"Good evening, Inspector," Superman greeted.
"Hmph. Is Professor Lang here?"
"I'm Lewis Lang," the professor answered.
"On the way here, I found out that your daughter's been kidnapped, and her kidnappers killed someone to get to her."
Superman felt his throat tighten. "Who did they kill?"
"The security guard. They'd tied up Lois Lane, but she's okay."
Superman breathed a sigh of relief. He still regretted the guard's death, but knowing Lois was okay helped.
"Is there any other information, Inspector?" Superman asked.
"We got a license plate number on the van the kidnappers used, and we're running a trace on it now. What about you, can you give us any information that would help?"
"There's a phone number that was dialed from here… if that was traced, that might help," Lang offered.
"What's the number?"
"We don't know the number completely," Superman said. "I can only tell you it was comprised of 2, 4, 6, 7 and 0… apparently one or two of those numbers were repeated."
"We can start a search on that, too, then. Anything else?"
"Professor Lang can fill you in on what happened here," Superman told Henderson. "If there's nothing you need from me immediately, I'll be off."
"And if I need to contact you?"
"Contact Clark Kent or Lois Lane at the Planet… they'll be able to find me," Superman said as he lifted off the ground and flew off.
Superman made a direct flight to the Planet, taking time to change into his Clark clothes before entering the city room.
"Clark! Where the devil have you been?" Perry asked as Clark entered.
"I was checking out some leads. I heard Lana was kidnapped, and the police are looking for her kidnappers."
Lois was sitting at her desk. "Lana said something about what you were doing when she got here… Clark, I'm so sorry!"
Clark walked to her desk. "You couldn't have done anything to stop it, Lois… I'm just glad you're okay. Superman's helping out, too, so I'm sure Lana will be fine."
"You saw Superman?" Lois asked.
"I sort of ran into him on the way back here." Clark filled Lois in on what he had been doing as Superman.
When he finished, the computer on Lois' desk beeped.
"What's that about?" Perry asked.
"It's a computer search Clark had me start on," Lois said. "All connections between everyone involved with the exhibits around the country."
"You can narrow it down to any connections involving both Turhan Bey and Ahmad Kharis," Clark suggested as Lois began to check out the information. The resulting list showed what Clark had already begun to suspect.
"According to this, every one of the Egyptian liaisons were hand-picked by Turhan Bey… I'd be willing to bet Turhan Bey's the ringleader of this whole operation," Lois said. Turning to Clark, she said, "I told you there was something about him that bothered me!"
Clark conceded to Lois with a nod. "Now all we have to do is figure out where Turhan Bey is."
Turhan Bey and his men, with their captive, Lana, were in an old warehouse in the Hob's Bay district of Metropolis rented under an assumed name. Lana was laid out on a large stone slab… which reminded her uncomfortably of a sacrificial altar.
From Lana's limited viewpoint, she could see that several artifacts she thought were still in the Metropolis Museum were in the warehouse, displayed near the slab she was lying on. She also noted that artifacts from the Chicago exhibit were also there… as well as several items from the Washington group.
She tried to sit up, but her body wouldn't obey her. Suddenly, Turhan Bey leaned over her, dressed in robes. "It will do you no good to waste your energy, Miss Lang. You have been given a drug that saps the will."
Bey turned from Lana and to his men, also dressed in robes. "We do not have all the artifacts of power, but we cannot wait any longer. Ahmad has already paid the ultimate price of failure."
He looked at his watch. "In 20 minutes, the hour will be upon us." He drew the crystal dagger from the Metropolis Museum (which had been stolen while Superman and Professor Lang were in Washington). "At that time, once Miss Lang's blood has been spilled by this crystal dagger, the objects of power will be charged with magical energy, and I will have ultimate power… power unknown since the time of Om-Ha-Tep!"
One of his men turned to the other and whispered, "He really believes in this stuff? I thought he was just trying to make a buck!"
The other tried to hush him, but was too late. Turhan Bey looked into the man's eyes, and said, "Light of Horus."
The man stiffened suddenly, and then dropped to the floor. The other man kneeled at his side, feeling at the man's wrist and neck. He then looked up at Turhan Bey and said, "He's dead!"
"A fatal heart attack… brought on by post-hypnotic suggestion. When I said the key phrase, he died. Do not force me to speak your own key phrase," Bey warned.
At the Daily Planet city room, Lois, Clark, Jimmy and Perry were finishing off another pot of coffee. The list of persons likely involved with the conspiracy had been transmitted to Inspector Henderson, who was informing the police departments of the various exhibit cities to have those persons arrested.
"This waiting is driving me crazy!" Lois announced. "How long does it take to run down a license plate number?"
"Too long, apparently," Clark said. "And the phone number Superman gave them hasn't turned up anything, either."
The telephone rang, startling all four persons.
"Daily Planet, Clark Kent," Clark answered, being the first one to a phone.
"Clark, this is Lewis Lang… I think I know what Turhan Bey is up to!"
Clark put Lang on speakerphone. "Go ahead, Professor."
"After the police left, I looked over photographs of the hieroglyphics from the tomb… I'm certain that Bey believed that many of the artifacts were objects of power, but in order to activate the power within them again, a blood sacrifice will have to be made…"
"I think so. If I'm interpreting these correctly, in about 12 minutes, the time will be right for the sacrifice to be made… but it'll have to be done somewhere starlight and moonlight can illuminate the sacrifice."
"So they're either somewhere outdoors, or some place that has a large skylight?"
"If I'm interpreting these correctly… it's difficult to do so from the photographs, due to the smaller size."
"Thanks, Professor. I'll contact Superman and the police."
Clark hung up the phone. "Lois, call Inspector Henderson and tell him what Lang just told us."
"Me? Why don't you call Henderson?"
"I'm going to contact Superman."
Lois frowned. "Why is it that you're always the one who contacts Superman?"
"Do you know how to contact Superman?" Clark asked.
"There you have it," Clark said, dashing to the elevator. Pressing the first floor button, Clark quickly changed into his Superman uniform, and flew out of the elevator car through the trapdoor in the ceiling.
Flying high over Metropolis, Superman first began scanning parks and other outdoor areas, including penthouses, using his telescopic and infra-red visions. Not finding Turhan Bey and Lana there, he began scanning buildings with large skylights.
On a clock tower near the Lexcorp building, bells started ringing to announce the hour.
In the warehouse, Turhan Bey heard the chimes. "It is time!" He strode over to Lana, and began chanting in ancient Egyptian.
As he got further into his chant, he drew the crystal dagger, and took hold of the hilt with two hands, point downward. Raising the dagger over his head, his voice began to raise in pitch and volume, his eyes looking up through the skylight to gaze at the moon and stars… which began to be obscured by a strange shape.
Turhan Bey's voice faltered as the shape grew larger and larger… until it broke through the skylight, shattering the glass, and revealing the form to be Superman.
Superman landed in front of Turhan Bey, whose eyes seemed to grow bigger at the sight of the Man of Steel. Superman reached out and plucked the dagger from Bey's hands. "I'll take that."
Bey just stood there, shocked. His remaining henchman, on the other hand, started running for the warehouse door, which had been left wide open. A gust of super-breath slammed the door shut, causing the henchman to run into the closed door, knocking himself out.
Turning to Lana, Superman asked, "Are you all right?"
Lana could only blink, unable to speak. Superman turned to Turhan Bey and gripped his robes with one hand. "What have you done to her?" he demanded. Turhan Bey looked into Superman's eyes and knew fear.
"She… has been given… a drug… to sap her will."
Superman raised Bey off the floor. "What is the antidote?"
"It will wear off… in a few moments."
Superman set Bey down again, but Bey found his legs would not support his body, and he slumped to the floor.
The following day, after the stolen objects had been returned to the Metropolis Museum, the exhibit officially opened to large crowds. Turhan Bey had confessed to the police everything that he had done, and confirmed the names of the other persons involved in his conspiracy. Those persons had been arrested by the police forces at the other exhibit cities.
Word came from Chicago that the Halls had been successfully treated for their case of artificial food poisoning, as well.
Lana had decided to repay Lois's treat of Chinese food from Sunday night by taking her and Clark out to lunch, where Lana regaled Lois with stories of what Clark was like in Smallville.
"You should have seen Clark the first time he asked me out," Lana said with a smile. "He was so nervous!"
"Lana, please…" Clark begged.
"What's the matter, Clark?" Lois asked. "You've heard plenty of embarrassing stories about me from my friends… turnabout is fair play!"
Clark felt himself wanting to disappear as Lana continued.
"He had to ask me five times before he could get the words out," Lana said. "I knew what he was asking me, but I wanted to hear it for myself. It must have taken him half an hour to finally spit it out!"
Lois laughed at this as Clark cringed. Clark thought, "There's never a job for Superman when you need one."